Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas! Doesn’t it feel like we just said this a week ago? Now I am beginning to understand the old adage of being over the hill. It is not so much that a person is declining in usefulness but everything has sped up. Now I do sound old!

Once again, Barb has given the order to write a Christmas letter, so here I go. 
Barb and I know we live in many blessings...our children and grandchildren are close by...
really close and we are so blessed by that. 

Stacy is still working at Springfield schools, running a class for those who are expelled from school to try to help them keep up on their work; she continues to teach workout classes for the Y; and she is one of our church’s great worship leaders...just saying. One of Eric’s former students and track athletes, Eric Kynard, won a silver medal in the Olympics this summer. That was cool. Stacy’s oldest, Ian, sits with us every Sunday for worship and that is so much fun; He is becoming a first class drummer. I didn’t see that coming! Eric’s oldest, Bradley, is still working on becoming a basketball star and is doing quite well in that quest. Will, the youngest, is...well he is...he is Will!. He loves anything with a ball. I even took him the driving range a couple of times this summer. He and his cousin Jace are best friends, most of the time, and love to play with cars together. 

Corey is still working with Ford and has moved to a different area that draws from some of his tool and die skills. Nichol is home schooling Evelyn and Cole, and I am sure that is keeping her busy. Corey and Nichol are expecting baby boy number 3 in January...keep the grandkids coming is what we always say!  Our kids are our greatest source of pride...Corey and Stacy are awesome...and the grandkids are even more awesome!  Evelyn is still our red head, beautiful, little princess with an amazing smile. I think she has some of her mom’s artistic abilities which result in some great drawings from her. Cole is doing well in school and I think is going to be like his dad with skills to build things; to be able to look at a problem and solve it; and to be a real helper. Jace, who I mentioned earlier, is a three year old who is sure he is at least ten. Not much fear in him.

Barb and I had lots of fun this past year...too much for one letter. We did a motorcycle trip with five other pastor couples down the Blue Ridge Pkwy, and it was a blast. Fun rides and great fellowship! She and I also did a ride to Green Lake, WI by ourselves for a retreat and then a 40 year anniversary celebration. We both said the whole trip was one of the most fun times ever...and we have had lots of fun over 40 years. Also jammed into our lives this year were our mission trips. Barb spent a little over two weeks in Zimbabwe with four other ladies. It was a spiritual adventure for sure...she took over 400 pictures. (This will be important in a moment.) In November I was able to go to Zimbabwe with a friend, and I too had an incredible trip. We both fell in love with the people and the Church there. And I goes...I took one picture! Barb was not too happy with me, but I figured how many more pictures of Zimbabwe does anybody need? A few more I guess.

Monday evening dinners with our kids are such fun...trips with friends are great...a wonderful church family...we are so blessed to have you all in our lives.

We recently lost a friend, and that makes you realize life is short...just a today...gone tomorrow. We are grateful for and treasure each moment God has given us.

Have a great Christmas...and an awesome New Year.

Bill and Barb...  

Friday, December 21, 2012

OK then...I have had a strange week or so as I look back and try to embrace leadership.  I was reading on Facebook the other day...and a friend posted...a really smart friend posted and I felt so out of my league as a leader of a small area of churches. I swear as  read...he did speak English...but I could not decipher what he was trying to say. Then when I did begin to understand I realized I did not agree...but how does a former factory worker approach a highly educated and intelligent person and disagree? I feel like in my simple approach to God and Jesus and His word and His church whatever I had to say would come out like a kindergarten student debating with the high school captain of the debate team.  It won’t be pretty and all I could hope for would be sympathy points...called another friend and said, “I am outta here!” He talked me off the ledge. (figuratively speaking) All of you who read this and struggle with confidence and self esteem issues know there always seems to be a voice saying, “See, I told you, you can’t do this.” Always. 

I have to admit the voice is not as authoritative as in the past...not as in control as before. We might still hear and begin to listen but then another voice comes in and reminds us we can do this...and we are not alone. In time my hope is the other voice dies of completely...and I will give him a proper burial. 

A couple of Sundays ago, at our worship celebration, I confessed I still struggle with fear of man...hard to lead with that one for sure. Then I had other brave cowards stand with me and we prayed for God to set us free. We prayed for a better view of God.  We prayed to live from Gods’ love for us. I know for myself I had some breakthroughs the next week and I hope the same for my brave friends who stood with me. Now some of you might ask why would I confess something like that to my church family...and I wonder why wouldn’t I? I was struggling to lead...they deserve a better leader...I knew others struggled with the same stuff...and I wanted them to be free from it. As a leader I felt like I had to lead them in this area...I am one of them not above them or way ahead of them. I am on the journey also. And it is always more fun to travel with others!

Then on the positive I had a couple of cool things happen...encouraging words.  Alice, from Zimbabwe e mailed and told me how things were going over there since I had visited. It was all so cool...baptisms happening this week end...stories being told. Then she told me how she has been “leaking” out recently. Now before you jump to conclusions let me explain...if I can. When I was there on a Sunday one of the things I mentioned was out of 2 Corinthians 4 where Paul says, “We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all surpassing power is from God and not us.” We are cracked pots...clay jars...not meant to store this amazing power but to let it leak out of our cracks...even to be tipped over and poured out. What spills out is not us but God...His power...His love. So Alice and others have been leaking, allowing God to use them in very naturally supernatural ways. Conversations with some that seem so stand offish. Small touches of kindness that do not seem very big a the time but over the course of time they add up. Cowards like me and spurs us on to take more risks. The encouraging thing is to hear stories of people hearing my story or the message God gave me and then running with it. They listened, heard and believed it was true! How cool is that?

 We were with some friends this week having dinner with their small group. The friend began talking about her 16 year old son and a story he told her. First we realized that when they began hanging out at the Vineyard since he was about 3 years old. Other than a few years when they helped with a church plant and then felt lead to help another church in the area of worship they have been with us. (Some of my favorites but don’t tell them) Anyway the son is taking voice lessons and after one of the sessions he told his mom about this conversation he had with his teacher. Somehow they got in a God conversation and the son told his teacher about how the important thing in church is loving God and others...and I am sure much more but this was the gist of it. His mom looked at me and said, “That is you Bill...that is what he has heard over and over.” His teacher e mailed the mom and told her about the conversation also...I do not remember all the details but he was so impressed with how her son confidently carried on this conversation and that he had never had anyone lay it out so simply and clearly. Well, after I brushed the tears out of my eyes I had to say it was such a blessing to hear this story. So encouraged that maybe the next generation will get it done better than we have. So encouraged to know he has been listening...and buying it...getting it. 

I stand back and grandson worshipping and then praying for adults because God told him to. Another young guy leading a small group to head out to the malls to pray for people...sick people...anyone who will let them. A really young girl writing down a vision God gave her to tell her how she will minister to abused children...especially girls. So many signs that even a regular guy can have an impact...could lead...and some will follow. 

It can be so easy to be intimidated by others...those smarter...bigger...with more hair. What I am beginning to see though is this...God is not all that impressed with all that. He is not looking at degrees...He is not looking at positions and titles and being impressed. He is still looking at hearts...for willingness...for servants. Will a person hold onto the truth in scripture or bend it a bit to help culture feel better? Will scripture hold a greater place than mans reasoning?  Will the Church ever influence culture again or will we bend to culture to try to be relevant? It seems to me that at times the Church or rather some of its leaders want to apologize for God and His word and His old fashioned ways. He is quite old you know...always has been...always will be. Old. Ancient. 

I still agree with my young is about loving God...and loving others.  We can use many big words in between there but that is the story...and loving others might mean having to tell might mean you have to be truthful with just might have to tell might have to tell them, no you are wrong about that. That breaks God’s heart what you are breaks His heart. I think it is more loving to tell them the truth...even if it hurts...than to try to make the truth help them feel better about themselves...and leave them living a lie. That never helps.  You know a person can use big, ambiguous words...sound really, really smart...and still be wrong. Yep...that is right...could really be intimidating...and little guys in the world...lead on...we need you.                

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Get Off the Plane Bill!!

OK so after the plane landed in Zimbabwe...continuing on from last blog...pretty smooth huh? By the way I want you all to know...all 30+ of you reading this...I have an international following. Yep. I do. Readers in Africa...and maybe even Brazil...amazing. Anyway, before I got sidetracked and bragging about my blog, I was going to tell you a little about my trip to Zimbabwe.First of all I know people say the world is getting smaller but sitting on a plane for over 15 hours going and 18 hours coming back it sure does not feel small. Of course I get a seat that will not recline I got the guy in front of me in my lap as I sit straight up, looking forward. All I can say is I am sure my tail bone was bruised by the time we landed in South Africa. I must stop my whining for a moment to thank Carol for getting aisle seats for Ray and I as we traveled...huge blessing...THANK YOU CAROL!!! Though I don’t think she reads the blog I needed to say thanks...someone else can tell her. Maybe Ray will...he reads sometimes...I think just to check up on me...see if I am slipping back into my old grumpy ways.  So where was I? Yeah...going to Zimbabwe. 

Well, my traveling companion and the guy who asked if I wanted to go had a plan for when we got there and that plan had many meetings in it. Many...meetings. I think I am allergic to meetings but I was afraid to let Ray know, so I went along with his plan.  I will meet people...and I will like it...or try. He made a small mistake right away...he said to me, “Bill, if on any of these days you want to do something different from going to one of my meetings...go ahead. Do what you would like to do.” A loop hole if ever I saw one...I tried not to take advantage of it...too much. One day he had an important one on one meeting...since it was one on one not two on one...I went golfing. Who could pass on a chance to golf in Africa? A friend made the arrangements...I was going golfing with a stranger...worse yet he had coached golf at a high school.  Wonderful of the worship leaders at the church in Harare...awesome story...we had a great time. I golfed incredibly bad even for caddy, yes I had a caddy, kept saying to me, “Don’t worry boss.We are just having fun.” Did not help much but was kind of him.

   When, or if, you struggle with insecurities and self esteem issues you just cannot bring yourself to believe you have much to offer. On this trip I had settled in my heart I did have something to offer...I could just be myself and allow God to spill out where ever He would choose to do so. Let me say this before I go much further, my friend Ray was amazing on this trip in so may ways. Brilliant! First we were meeting with the Vineyard pastors there on Monday and it was going to be a tense meeting...feelings had been was waning...and we were getting together to try to reconcile. It was one of the most God kind of moments I have ever witnessed. Ray and the other leaders talked and listened and apologized and repented where needed.  There was a real sense of honor and respect there.  The churches there have been through so much just like the whole country has been. They have been in a constant season of transition as people leave Zimbabwe after losing everything...or need to move to another community to try to survive. Tough place to lead in for sure...but they do.

Also Ray was to meet, well me also, another group that was a group of young leaders who might want to plant churches for the Vineyard.  Kind of a recruiting trip...and again Ray was on point...relaying what we were looking for and relating it to a dating process...weirded me out a bit but they understood where he was coming from. We met some great people...prayed for many them and drank much tea with them. It was great fun...but I sensed I was there for a little different reason. I really wanted to connect with Bob and Alice and their church family.You might remember Bob and Alice from an earlier blog...maybe not. I could use their real names I suppose but I like the fake names...adds a little suspense don’t you think?  We were staying with another friend, I will call her Pat...well Pat got me hooked up with Bob and Alice real quick. She invited them and her neighbors over for tea...Ray had one of his important meetings to go to, so I had tea with Bob, Alice, Pat and friends. Brilliant, as they would say...loved the time hanging out with all of them. Bob and I had a good chat by ourselves and I was struck as I heard his story. Bob has struggled with taking the reigns here as pastor...the story of how he got the role is so similar to mine...but truth be told...he is a trainer for executives in people skills and management entrepreneur..really the kind of person we would look for to plant or lead a church. He struggled a bit with being a pastor...leading...but I also sensed he was really beginning to find his footing as a leader and take the role and the calling to heart. As the days went on I had more opportunities to spend time with them and just get to know them.  Alice was such a great hostess, I felt sorry for Ray a little bit...not a lot, just a little. I got fed way better than he did for sure...Alice sent a picture of a sandwich she had made for me to Barb and Barb said I need to cut back or I would not fit in the seat on the plane ride back...not nice. 

So many more stories to tell, I will write more soon but let me wrap this first one up with this thought. Well, a couple of I had a wonderful was really the first time I had ever gone out on my own without Barb alongside. That is just how we do things...together....unless she goes out on her own:)  A great trip to meet great people.  What I saw was this...I knew it but grew more comfortable with it I suspect...I am a is what I is the call on my life. 
Ray has much stronger leadership skills and that is awesome...those skills allowed him to go places and meet people that might have great affect the Church in Zimbabwe. My time with Ray was time well spent...I enjoyed watching and listening...and my time with Bob and Alice...Pat and her neighbors...her sister...hearing her story...praying for her...the twin daughters...and Guido...married to one of the girls and owner of a couple of sweet motorcycles. Victor the golf coach/worship leader and all around great guy. Zechariah..(not his real name either) a young domestic worker who senses a call to do ministry and has many great questions...and so many more. Time really well spent.

These people were not necessarily our target group...Pat was relentless in making sure no one was overlooked or forgotten. Yes, there were leaders to be discovered...and there were others to be listened to...cared about...encouraged to keep on moving forward in the kingdom...healing needed...people set free...relationships began. I realized I was sent to the regular person...not the strong new leader...the regular guys and gals. Some in leadership...some not...but all players in the Kingdom of God. Makes sense...doesn’t it?  Thoughts from a Regular Guy...great title for a blog don’t you think? 


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Leavin' on a jet plane!

Well, I am getting ready to leave later today for Zimbabwe...not a vacation destination but not a mission trip either.  It is a ministry trip for sure, meeting other pastors, potential church planters, and other ministry leaders. I guess as I sit here thinking it just does not seem real on many going to Africa?  This guy who lives in the very same neighborhood he grew up door to the house he grew up the house we built 35 years ago and rebuilt 7 years ago...with my daughter and grandkids five houses down the street.  My sister and her family four houses down same son and his family two neighborhoods, I am going to Africa? I spent most of my life working in auto plants...not in executive roles but common jobs...running machines and setting things up. Me...I am going to Africa...with Ray...I think I may get mad at him...he invited me to go. 

 I have been to Brazil and spent days, well weeks on the Xingu and Amazon Rivers and that amazed me also.  I would be sitting on the boat in the middle of nowhere thinking, “How in the world did I get here?” OK, I know a plane or two helped get me there...but how did I get there?  I think I will blame Barb for that one...that usually I will be angry with a couple of guys named Rick...they invited us to go.  Yep...I am ticked at them now!  Really that does not answer the question I have...why am I going to Africa now? Barb is not going and I know she would love to go...I am not sure I “love” the idea of going...anywhere.  I think if it was not for her and my kids I could easily be a hermit...well and my church family...hard to be a pastor and a hermit. I do think I could hide...never leave a spot...never be uncomfortable...just sit and wait for Jesus to come back I suspect.  But noooo...I am going to Africa.  Oh boy.

I am not sure why I am wired like I am...I understand life shapes me and I know I am in a much better place right now than even a couple of years ago. As I sit here and write my thoughts down...tears spring up as I think about not seeing my kids...MY GRANDKIDS!! church family for a couple of weeks. What is wrong with me??? Doesn’t it seem kind of strange? Probably to many of you it does seem strange...maybe I should cancel the trip to go see a shrink...kidding. This is just who I am...and I am OK with that.  I really am not the best dad in the world for my kids or Papa for my is not like I spend every day with them...but I suspect one of the reasons I enjoy being a pastor is this...I love being a dad and it! I will miss my why am I going?

The only explanation I have right now is this from Paul in second Corinthians...”For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.” It really is the first five words...For Christ’s love compels us...not other reason to go to leave an easy factory job with sit on a boat in the pour concrete in leave behind those you love the most...His love compels us. His love for me...His love for others compels me to be fight feelings of being really believe I carry something with me that can make a difference. His love compels...not dreams of an international thoughts of being someone special. My love for Christ...and His Body...that compels me. The thought of encouraging other leaders to continue on and not give lead with joy. That motivates me. He motivates me...when I sense His love for could I not go?  

So what I realize now more than is not me that anyone in Zimbabwe is Jesus in me...this is what is off to the plane I go. I will cry when I think of missing my daughters birthday...missing golf with Corey...dinner with all the kids and grandkids...and I will wonder over and over why God would choose to send me...and I will thrive in the mystery of His love and is not about me right is all about Him.


PS..By the time this is posted I am back in the states...I wrote as I prepared to leave but did not have time to post.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Shift happens!!

I am going to write a few blogs on the lens I see is changing...but what it can look like to look through the lens of feeling insignificant.  The journey to leave that behind and move on is my journey...leading while feeling like you have nothing of value to share or that your voice will never be heard is next to impossible.  I could teach others how much God loved them and how He wanted to set them free but was a struggle to find it for me...

Seems to me like I really am going through a major shift in my life...deep inside. I have struggled for as long as I can remember with thoughts of not being good enough, strong enough, smart enough, or spiritual enough. Never really feeling like I could ever make a difference no matter what it is concerning.  One night driving home on the turnpike in a pretty big snow storm, I noticed on the other side of the road an accident had happened.  It was pretty recent as there were no police or any other help there. As I started to drive by, I noticed the truck was beginning to burn, and I pointed it out to Barb but with no intention of stopping.  Why would I stop? I am not a fireman...a medical person...I would just get in the way.  Now Barb begins telling me to stop and immediately jumps out of the car and runs to the wall dividing the road...I sit in the car...what could I do?  What could I offer?  She grabs blankets and whatever else she can get her hands on and all the time her understanding. 

This is an over the top illustration I think and yet this scene demonstrates what I am talking about in a physical picture...she sees a need and runs to it...she is not a fire person...a medical person...she is not thinking she will be in the way...there are people in need. It is kind of over the top but when you are pretty sure you have nothing to offer you think more about yourself than others...or maybe the overwhelming feeling you just don’t have what it takes paralyzes you.

I also have discovered thinking you really do not matter or have anything to offer can impose itself when you want or need to show compassion or sympathy to others. Recently a a leader close by went through a hard, emotional time as they suffered loss. As I wrestle with how or even more real, do I reach out, I can be struck by how little I have to offer...more important people will step in...why would they need or want to hear from me. The low self esteem stops even the most simple of efforts just to say I am sorry to hear about their pain. Maybe they don’t need to hear from me...maybe they do...or maybe I need to go beyond my self preservation and show kindness.  Again this is a pretty dramatic scene but imagine when you feel this way how you respond to other invitations or opportunities.  Invited to go on mission trips I wonder why...what is the is just me...I really don’t do much...or have much to share.  I guess you have to wonder how I even came to be a too...the only thing I truly know is God  looks for someone to say yes to Him. I think that is how...I said yes.  

But the shift...ahhh the shift...shift happens. (sorry I could not pass that by) I am pretty convinced in our ministry journey we begin with much of ourselves being involved, mixed with God, knowing all things are possible with God.  I think where we end up is...we know without God we go no where. It is all Him...Maturity is, in my eyes, this journey from being independent to being dependent...on Him... for all things. So lately I see God bringing people...young and older, probably none older than me, but older, and He is bringing them towards I am finding I feel like I have stuff to offer is the strangest feeling I have ever had. How do you transition from feeling totally useless to being your own see, this is where it has to finally settle in.  God knows who you are...others see it way before you do...but you have to see it. You have to own it. I could tell others about it for themselves...affirm them...encourage them...but not for myself.  I think if I did begin to go there, I was convinced I was then becoming prideful...and I did not want that.  Wow! I sure am complicated aren’t I? See I am drifting back right now...

So I see these people coming my way and my first thought is!  They will find out I am a fake...I will discover I was right all along...I have nothing to offer. But instead I want to lean into this new discovery...this new sense of belonging...this sense that I can make a difference.  The good thing is when you come from way over on the other side of that, you know you have to give it is not mine to profit off let it leak out...pour out...because it is not yours anyway.  Then in God’s kingdom, others will draw it out of you, pull it out when you aren’t looking...their hunger...their faith draws it out. In conversations...just hanging out...doing life. I am talking with young leaders who are so much more gifted than I and it is such an honor...and they just want to hang out.  They are hungry and they pull the best stuff out of you...and then I meet with senior leaders who, by the way we measure things in church culture, are so much more successful than I, but we talk...about God...what I might know about Him. 

Such a paradigm shift for me...strange...humbling. I really don’t know when the shift began in earnest...I sense it began as I sought to be healed by the One who knows me the best...healed of deep stuff.  It began as others believed in me before I did...saw things I could not see...challenged me to be a pastor...a leader.  Recently we were in a setting where others in our circle were asked to speak words of affirmation to us...not just made us stuff but what they me.  Right towards the end one of the leaders asked me if I had heard all the things spoken to me and I nodded that I had but not in a very convincing manner I suppose.  He looked at me and said, “This is what we see...not what we made up...what we see. You need to hear it!”  Now that shook my world a was not make was real...for them...for me.  Shift happens...the Spirit takes one who will say yes and heals and moves them along the path of life.  


Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Does Jesus really need the help?

I opened my e mail inbox a while back and found two interesting e mails waiting for me to open.  The first had a catchy heading that said, “Christian marketing that get results,” I guess as opposed to Christian marketing that does not. Well, I immediately deleted it but then went back and got it out of my trash to see what Christian marketing that works looks like...wouldn’t you?  So I read how I could advertise our church on this Christian e mail newsletter thing that gets sent out to keep other like minded evangelicals informed on what is happening in the Christian world. I have tried to unsubscribe from this newsletter myself without much success, so they are pretty tenacious if nothing else.  But marketing that gets results kind of leaves me a bit our our worship of our values...our very relationship with God.  Doesn’t that seem weird? So I did re-delete it...then went to the next e mail, “Outreach tips, ideas, and SPECIAL OFFERS.”  I have been trained to never, ever miss out on a special offer so I had to look.  

I was so relieved to find out it was not too late to down load the special kit for, “Back to Church Sunday.”  I was sure I was too late...lots of great things to welcome those who maybe took the summer off...or the last decade off from church, back to the building!  All for a small fee of course...well it got much larger if you got the door hangers, the posters, the 30 days of preparation, and the best thing of all the Pastor rap video! I am sure that is quite inspiring...but then I began to feel a bit did Jesus do all He did with out a marketing plan...and banners...and door hangers.  How did He get along without “ Marketing that gets results?”  How?  I think of a couple of stories in the NT that just scream to me that the Holy Trinity really does not understand marketing at all...not even close.  A rich young guy comes to Jesus and asks a simple do I get in?  Jesus plays along and gives him a few rules he should follow...and the guy smiles wide and says, “ Been there and done that!” I am pretty sure Jesus disciples are watching and beginning to think this whole thing is about to get much better...once Jesus welcomes this guy in, no more sleeping outside for us, no more praying for the food to get bigger, this guy will pick up the tab and it will be good.  The Jesus says, well fine and dandy, now go and sell everything, give it to the poor, and then come and follow me.  Can’t you hear Peter screaming in the background? What??? And the guy went away sad...for he had lots of stuff.  

Any marketing person with any sense would have pulled Jesus aside and told him getting this guy on His team would make life so much better.  He was well known, maybe even a celebrity, and would bring other people with him to Jesus team.  They could live better...everything would be better.  But Jesus does not go for bigger and better...He goes for the guy...his heart. The young guy went away sad because the call was more than he could handle.  Mark wrote, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” It was not because Jesus was angry or having a bad day, he loved this young guy...enough to tell him what he really put his trust in God...not his stuff.  Hard.  We spend so much energy trying to make it easier for people...more safe...not confrontational...but sensitive to the persons needs.  Are we really nicer than Jesus? It seems odd to me people of all kinds came to Jesus and we don’t really see that same thing happening with the Church and yet we continue marketing the church.  Jesus loved him enough to say to him, “Your religious acts are not enough...come and follow me.” 

Enough of Jesus lack of marketing skills, let’s look at this new entity called “The Way‘ or “The Church” that was forming in Acts. Acts 5 has to be a mistake...doesn’t it? A couple sells some property and is going to give some of the the money to the church because that is what was going on.  The husband walks in, plops down the cash, I guess pretending that this was all the money and wasn’t it grand this good thing he was doing.  Peter looks at him and asks, “Why would you lie to the Holy Spirit?” and BOOM! The guy drops dead...not good for church growth if you ask me.  Not a good marketing tool at all!  The news papers will be all over this...and it cannot be good. The story goes on...his wife walks in and agrees with the charade...Peter says the same thing to her and, well you know, down she goes. What in the world is God thinking here?  This Church thing can be dangerous to your health I guess...well playing church can be for sure.  

Marketing promotions...really.  Doesn’t it make your heart sad? 

A young woman at our church told her story on Easter Sunday...she told of her struggle in an area of her life.  She told of choosing, for a while, to satisfy that area of her life, all the while professing her love for Jesus. Then a friend challenged her with a simple question...”Do you love that part of your life more than you love Jesus?” Her actions said she did...until confronted with the question...and her love for Jesus won out.  She left that behind and moved forward with Jesus...I am sure there are still struggles but as long as she puts her love for Jesus first, she will win.  Church is where Jesus and His people are...where we hang out together...and where we are He is...and people are changed. I am not looking for marketing that gets results...because I know a God who gets results.  Way more fun...and much less stress.  

I know I am not a cutting edge leader...looking for the newest and the best...I am a leader whose edges have been cut off...who believes Jesus when He says those who follow Him have to die to themselves...


Friday, August 3, 2012

This Will Scare You

I have a few friends that are in high places in the corporate world...really I do. The thing that amazes me is that it really can be a brutal today...gone tomorrow. I am glad to know that there are people like my friends in those places because of their moral and ethical beliefs and life styles but I have seen from the outside the coldness of that world.  And I am amazed that the Church and its’ leaders would look to that world for help in leading...but we do.  I know it is not all bad and there are things we can learn from anybody...but still...I wonder.  I probably wonder because I was never a part of that world or wanted to go into fact is was always much further down the food chain.  At the bottom I suppose you would say...and I was good with that. Really. 
In my head I have this funny image of Jesus sitting with His disciples right before He ascended into heaven...He looks at them right in the eyes...stares at them...and calmly says to them...”Before I leave tomorrow I need to have your five year plans for growing the church turned in so I can evaluate them.” Peter probably would have screamed at that and asked for it to be scaled back to a two year plan...based on how he had run his fishing business. Maybe Jesus would have relented and said, “OK, two year plan turned in by later today.” Some of you might not know what I am talking about but if you are going to plant a church one of the things you will be asked for is a two year plan...used to be a five year plan.  You know why they only ask for two years now? God always blew up the five year plan within the first two years!  Anybody you ask will tell you their five year plan was in shambles in a short time.  Now being a simple, bottom of the food chain kind of guy I only have one reason for that in my mind...there may be more...but in my simple way of thinking it is this.  Even God does not like two year plans!  You think? Maybe He would have liked to see the marketing plan to build this do you market the Son of God?  Well the resurrection was cool...and all those healings and with it John...really?
But we continue to borrow from the business world their way of doing to run a tight ship...get all the right people on the bus and the wrong people off.  I do understand the need for organization and for doing things well but I struggle with the idea that maybe the person I have doing this role might not be able to get us to the next level so I have to can them to get the better person in place. They are a C level person and to get to A you have to get the right person in! Well...OK...maybe...but what if I am the C level person?  Can I grow to a B?  Or am I hopelessly forever a C and I need to be replaced? Scary if I am the one in that wrong seat on the bus...really scary.  What happened to us being a body?  With Gifts from the Spirit?  What happened to Jesus being the Head of the Church?  How did we go from being an organism, filled with the life of Jesus, to an organization filled with flow charts and graphs? What happened? 
I have seen, in the church, good men and women kicked to the curb because the leader thought they just were not good enough to get them to the next level, whatever that means.  Been on the job for five or ten years and they walk in and BOOM! your are done...gone...with best wishes and I hope you will stick around the church and continue to tithe. Really, I am  not making this up...a business plan for the church...a business mind set to run the church...a CEO at the top.  Excuse me if I seem to be out of it here...if what I think is so looney it seems weird to you...but I do think I hear a voice calling from a distance...a still, quiet voice...small and yet strong...can you hear it?  I think I can...scary voice...scary request...I think I hear Jesus and this is what I hear Him don’t have to believe me....listen for yourself...but listen.  I think He is saying, “Can I please have me Church back?”  
PS...Part of the reason for my writing this is my recent experience with a person on staff with me. They have been with us for over ten years and in that time I could have and maybe should have let them go.  Personal conflict and stuff...hard stuff.  Not coming from a business mindset I just could not do I wanted to on many occasions. But could not.  Now some of it was my own stuff for sure...baggage...healing needed. Well in the past couple of years God has done amazing things in me, first of all.  Some much needed healing and growth.  Then He has done amazing things in the person on staff...amazing things...healing and growth. Awesome stuff!  I,we, would have missed this if the corporate mindset had been our mindset. It was difficult before and maybe I should have been the Boss and made the cut...but I would have missed seeing a miracle happen right before my eyes. Transformation me...and them.  I don’t know about you but I really like miracles.           

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Looking up!

  I was thinking the other day, as I am prone to do, more leadership thoughts and how I still cannot seem to wrap my head around being a least a leader like the ones in the popular books out there. I have nothing against the books I just feel different...and I know many of you do also.  Then as I thought and meditated on how God has called me to this role I saw the image in my mind of the person who would stand on a sidewalk and begin to look at something in the sky...real or imagined.  Then how others begin to look up to try to see what they are looking at...real or imagined...and how a crowd can form because one person stopped and looked up. In a weird way this person became a leader...others followed. It then dawned on me that this is how I lead...and why some will follow.  No, I don’t just stand around looking up at random things to get others to look up also.  But...I am looking...pursuing...going after...God...His ways and His stuff. And others will follow because they are looking...pursuing...going after...God...His stuff and His ways.
John Wimber used to talk about leadership and he would say that on many occasions he was not way out front leading and urging people to follow but he might be just a half step ahead of those following. He might not have all the answers but he had one or two more than the others he lead. I see life with Jesus as a journey I am on...with in some areas I am a step or two ahead and others who are on this journey follow along. I do know the destination is God and becoming like His Son but the journey takes us to many places we had not planned on going.  And every place...a hurt...some success...forms us and makes us.  
Barb and I love riding our motorcycle and we really love to ride with others...just more fun.  Also we like to stay off the highways and the roads that are bigger and quicker...and find roads where there is more beauty and adventure in the trip. Instead of being surrounded by cars and trucks in a hurry to get from point A to point B you get off to see what all is around you.  The small town that no one visits since the free way went through...the lakes and rivers that help make the roads wind.  The beauty of the journey...enjoyed instead of passed by.  Now it takes much longer to get from A to B but the journey forms memories and gives us places to go back to explore on another day.  We rode back from up in the middle of Michigan on a Saturday and what should have been a three and half hour trip turned into a ten or twelve hour trip...but we ate lunch on a beautiful beach...explored amazing sand dunes...had dinner at a quaint restaurant (food destinations are important to bikers:) and so much more. New experiences experienced together...the journey was so much more than just a trip to get was an adventure.  Fun!
Now I am rambling...what I am trying to say here is that for some of us who lead, and there are many like me out there, well for some of us we realize we are on a journey...maybe we are even minding our own business just wandering through the countryside of life and before we know it...someone is following.  Not because we are the smartest (thought we might be), the tallest or best looking, the most powerful or most confident person around.  Mostly because we are heading some where. We are on a  beautiful journey towards a beautiful God...filled with discovery and awe.  It seems like every day there is a new discovery...a new leg of the journey...and others are coming along. I hear the Spirit say “Don’t fight it really is not about is about Me...and what they see in you is your desire to find me. Keep leading.”

Thursday, May 31, 2012

A letter to another reluctant leader

Recently Barb was on a short mission trip with some women and met some incredible new friends.  I am going to focus on one couple that lead a church.  I am going to make up a couple of names here, again for their privacy and to show some respect.  Alice made a comment that caught my wife’s attention.  She said that they became leaders of the church because they felt like they were painted into a corner and there was no way out.  Barb jumped in with, “That is what Bill says about the way we were called into being pastors. It was like a game of musical chairs, and Bill said he was the last guy standing with no he got picked!” Definitely not a Paul on the road moment or Isaiah moment with coal and an angels. I tend to joke about it but that is how it felt!  Now I am going to say this...even though that is how I felt it does not mean it was a bad was a God thing. So I am going to write a letter to Alice and her husband, Bob, the two painted into the corner leaders.
Bob and Alice, welcome to the club! When you saw where this all was heading did you ever ask God this one? “You want me to do what?” If I ever get around to writing my leadership book that is going to be the title.Or, “What Are You Thinking Up There?” Another good one.  So let me guess, I really do not know your story, but I would guess it goes like this, you are minding your own business just serving the Lord and His church and all the sudden, BOOM, you are in charge.  You now have the title pastor. You are not even sure how it happened and, if you were like me, you really never wanted to be a pastor.  I was a worship leader and a small group leader and that is all I wanted to do. (Between you and me I had kind of come to not really like pastors. Don’t tell anyone.) I wonder if, also like myself, you did not have any letters after or around your name or really pretty pieces of paper framed on a wall. Maybe you do...not me...I was a factory worker all my adult pedigree here.  So every time you walk into a room with the people with all the letters and degrees you tend to feel a little out of place like you really, really do not belong here.
So then it is hard to lead just because you yourself do not feel qualified...deep down you wished God would send a real pastor, leader.  Do you tell those you lead how unqualified you are?  And are you really charismatic? In more than one sense of the word?  Are you the person everyone wants to be around because you ooze charisma?  Or would you prefer to stand back out of the light. Since you are a Vineyard leader how is your prophetic gifting? Your power ministry?  Have you raised the dead this week yet? Do you happen to be in close proximity to the biggest church in the area?  That only can help. 
So Bob and Alice if I have missed describing who you are then do not worry someone else will read this and understand what I am talking about.  If I am tracking along OK then let me talk to you personally here for a moment.  First you need to get over this, “I was not called but forced into this feeling.” Well, don’t get over the called thing but let’s jump to were not only called but what is more important you were chosen.  That is right! Can you believe it? He chose you. Matt.22.14 For many are called, but few are chosen.” Sure lots of people seem to be called but Jesus says few are were chosen...hand picked by the Father to pastor.  I would guess if you were painted into a corner it was the only way God could corral you to call you.  You would have continued to let someone else go ahead of you, to point out the real leader in the room and then step aside.  Did He choose you because you were the best and brightest?  The most handsome and gifted?  The gung-ho leader who could solve any problem and take any hill? Maybe...but not likely.  He chose Israel...not because of how imposing they were but rather because He loved them and wanted someone to display His glory to the rest of creation.  David was not the biggest and the strongest...Moses stuttered...Peter fished...Paul...well Paul was not a nice guy at first.  I love 2 Cor.4:7But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not us.” is not about us at is about Him. I suspect you could do a wonderful job pointing at Him...directing people towards Him.  I suspect that as you fall in love with Jesus all over others will follow you and do the same thing.  You might struggle with two or five year plan but I figure God chose you because what you really want is Him. You didn’t ask for a title, you asked for Him...more of Him and less of you.  If you will lead from there others will follow...really they will.  You or I may never pastor the biggest churches but I think we can pastor the best churches.  A wise person here in the states told us as we began, “Just plant a church you would want to be a part of and others will join you.” That is what we did...and others joined us in this journey.  
Now a part of the challenge for us reluctant types is this...we have to realize if we do not lead someone or something else will.  If we do not lead with some clarity you will notice some being angry with you and you don’t know why and even weirder yet neither do they, but they are ticked.  It is because of the fuzziness of the appears to be distorted to them and it cause them irritation.  You have to lead but not like someone else would, rather you have to lead the way you lead.  You have to be you and like it.  The one God created...the one God called...the one God chose. You.  No one else.  I am in the same state where the two largest churches in our movement are located with two really good leaders.  Very different leaders but great leaders...and I am not like either one. So what? You have to quit telling people how under qualified you are or how ungifted you really are.  God did not have to choose you He “chose” to choose you! (Does the make sense?)    
Lead from what you know, be genuine, be transparent and be in love with God.  He so loved you He called and chose you.  He is not punishing you He is caring for His church and He is doing it through you...if you let Him. Alice and Bob...yes you are in over your head...way over probably...and you might not be the ones you or anyone else would have chosen...that is fine.  God has different criteria than we do and He sees much deeper than we ever could.  He sees your hearts...He hears your prayers and He captures your tears in His hands as you weep over your church family and your country.  You are NOT sinking!  You are walking hand in hand with the One Who loves the best.  Let Him do it...please. Let me encourage, challenge you...and hand the Church back to the Father and His Son and His Holy Spirit. Let’s take it back from a corporate, management mind set that has so deeply influenced His Bride and let Him have it.  It is His, you know.  Jesus said He would build it...not me...not you...Him.  Be encouraged and are so loved and so highly regarded.  Bob and Alice...close your eyes and listen for the voice of the Father right quiet...listen...listen.  You hear Him?  Can you hear Him whisper to you?  What I can hear Him saying right now is I hear Him moving from angel to angel in heaven and He is bragging on you...telling all of heaven how precious you are to Him...How proud He is of you have His heart.  Hear it?  Listen...then go and be...His hands and feet...His voice of love and reconciliation. Rest in Him.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Stand up Moses!!

I feel like God has me reading the books of history in the OT and I kind of wonder why.  I mean the books of Samuel and Kings and Chronicles can be pretty interesting with lots of drama...and violence...but now Numbers?  I am not even sure Moses would want to read Numbers.  So I am working my way through...skipping much names and lists...who did what ...this many cows sacrificed for who...that kind of stuff. (I am sure one day I will get why they are there)  But then I began to see some things that were kind of subtle but, I believe, important...especially to leaders.
Last week I wrote about a Bishop and this odd ceremony held to promote him and it was very strange for me to watch.  Then I read this in Numbers concerning know the guy who is leading a whole nation out of captivity...the one who God says, “ I talk with him face to face.” Yeah, THAT Moses.  12:3 (“Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble that anyone on the face of the earth.”)  It was written with parenthesis around it like it was added but someone else.  Look at what it said...very humble...more humble that anyone else on earth...this leader...called by God...humble.  I watched the video of this guy being toted around on a throne type of chair...and I have to confess...the word humble never entered my thoughts...never.  Other thoughts did but I will not share those...but Moses...he was humble. 
You might think, “Of course he was humble...that was a huge job leading all of those people.  And then talking to God face to face...humbling.” I find we tend to go two directions during times like that...yes, we can be humbled...but we can also begin to see ourselves as being someone know God’s chosen. Pretty heady stuff...that could call for a parade...maybe a real title with some pizzazz to it.  Moses stayed humble.  
As I read further I began to see something that I had not noticed before, well it is not like I read the book of Numbers a lot.  I began to see Moses do something and sometimes Aaron with him, in front of the people, that might be one of the greatest leadership techniques I have ever run across. I don’t think you will see it many books on leadership...but you will read it in my  Oh, wait that sounded very un-humble on my carried away. The first time I see it is where the people are rejecting going into the promise land because the people there are too stinking big.  They begin to cry to go back to reject God. The scripture says this, “Then Moses and Aaron fell facedown in front of the whole Israelite assembly gathered there.”  THEY DID WHAT??? Leaders don’t do that do they?  Shouldn’t they have waded into the crowd and began slapping people around...shouting about what the vision is...jumping on a camel shouting for the people to follow’s go take the land!  They fell on their faces right in front of the  Well, OK this one time of will be OK. Sooo later in chapter 18 some guy named Korah is stirring up trouble...challenging Moses leadership...probably did not like a leader who falls down a lot. Korah asks, “Why, then do you set yourselves above the Lord’s assembly? When Moses heard this, he fell facedown.”  Come on Moses...stand up to him...put your finger in his face and let him know who is boss here! YOU ARE GOD’S ANOINTED GUY!  Don’t we want leaders who will lead...lead with strength...even forcefully lead?  Moses falls facedown...then he stands and says, “In the morning the Lord will show who belongs to Him and who is holy, and He will have that man come near Him.”  Wow!  I think when Moses was facedown He and God were talking...and God whispers, “I got this Moses.” (Bill’s paraphrase)  
I am beginning to think Moses is giving us some leadership tips here...maybe...verse 22 of chapter 16 gives a little insight on what happened when they were facedown, “But Moses and Aaron fell facedown and cried out, 'O God, God of the spirits of all mankind, will you be angry with the entire assembly when only one man sins?”  You really should look into this story is you like extreme action...the earth opens up and...well I don’t want to give it all away. Moses is being challenged...his leadership is being questioned...and he prays for the people...face down.  Just so you know he does it again in verse 45...”And they fell facedown.” 
So why does this get my attention?  What is so impressive about all of this falling front of the people?  I guess I see a couple of is Moses is definitely humble...he knows he cannot do what God is asking and he keeps going right to Him for strength and wisdom.  Then he is doing something that is subtle but so important for a leader...he is modeling for the people what a humble and holy life would look like.  He is not afraid to fall on his face in front of the people...and I suspect he did it behind the scenes also.  He is saying, without using words, humble yourself before the Lord and He will lift you up.  That being strong in the Lord means being weak in lead he had to follow.  I read lots of leadership books geared towards Pastors...never saw this in any of them...if you keep reading you will find another leader picks up where Moses left off.  Joshua...go ahead and look in tot he book of Joshua...yup...he falls down...face first. Hmmm wonder where he picked that up?

So I really, really like Moses...a real stand up guy...Oh wait...a real facedown guy.  A leader.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

What in the Church is Going On? Part 2

A few weeks back I shared a blog called “What in the Church is Going On” or something like that anyway. Found myself getting a little frazzled and frustrated with what I saw and heard going on in the church and the leaders of the church.  Pulled myself together...took a deep breath and moved on, realizing I have my own stuff to deal with.  Then...someone sent me a link to a video...a video of a pastor...Bishop Eddie Long and now a few more titles...and a ceremony that was unlike anything I have ever seen or experienced in my life as a follower of Jesus.  Or even as a non-follower!  I am not going to put the link out...if you are interested, go to You Tube and look for Eddie Long will find a lot of stuff but if you look through the rubble you will find the service where Bishop Eddie is called a king and some other stuff...carried around the platform by four very strong guys as he sits in his big chair.
I only bring this up because it is so confusing to contrary to how I see leadership in the church...I feel like an outsider looking in at a secret ceremony.  Like maybe it is a Masonic ceremony where only insiders understand...or me looking at a Islamic ceremony...maybe even a Mormon ceremony.  And I wonder, “what are they doing?”  As I watched the video I think my mouth was open the whole time in wonder at what was going on...and I also wondered how come the people there were not running out of the building as fast as they could.  (listen there is so much more to this story...I would not even attempt to coverall the baggage involved here.)
One thing I have found as you lead is that you are always tempted to believe whatever you are doing is the best thing...the really right thing...the truly God thing.  You want to be the guy getting it really right...don’t you?  You surely don’t want to be the guy who is so wrong that in the end everyone looks at you and wonders, “How could he get it so wrong?”  And I do not want to ever hear these words, “Depart from me....I never knew you...says Jesus.”  Hey wait a minute...this is remember me...I got it right!  So I live in the tension of leading in what I know to be true...not more than that...not less...what I see in scripture to be known and practiced.  
It gets hard at being at a family reunion and seeing one part of the family that is acting crazy...maybe too much to drink...or too mean and always fighting...too loud...and people are beginning to stare because of the turmoil and noise...and there you are one of them!  You might yell out that you are not really one of them...just kind of related...but a distant relationship for sure...really distant.  But you are are seen as one...of them...and them could be...a right wing republican...a wild, chandelier swinging charismatic...a fundamentalist...a gay hater...a conservative...well, you name it...that may be the label handed to you. You love Jesus...that is all you ever wanted was to love and follow and act like did not know what the whole family would look like...or act like.  We thought it would be about looking and acting like Jesus...what happened?  How did we get here?  Don’t you want to yell at our Father and tell Him to do something about our family...correct them..make them act better...make them like me...I mean, like Jesus!  
So I am back to...I don’t know what in the world those guys were thinking on that day...why it seemed good to them when it seems so weird to me...not sure why God did not pull the plug on that one. Just pull the plug on the camera or turn the electricity off for and hour or two...PLEASE!  No one from that side of the family is asking for my opinion...I would love to give it...and I could do it in a loving manner because I do love this thing called the Church.  But no e I will go on with the expression of the church God has called me to...and I know to some out there, we are one of the strange relatives...we act a little odd to some of the family...they are not comfortable around us. But it is what I I read the Bible...see the church...I think we are pointing to Jesus more than ourselves...I think we are trying to live more like more like Him.  So maybe that is why, even as I watch this stuff and think it is goofy...kind of give me a sick feeling...and also it makes me cry...and pray...because we are so not like Jesus...what else could you do?  
I also have a challenge to throw out there...this goes out to all you out there that have great titles...Prophet...Apostle...Evangelist...Bishop...whatever your self inflicted title might be...(self inflicted might be a bit harsh...but it is my blog) STAND UP AND SPEAK OUT...IF THIS TITLE YOU HAVE MEANS ANYTHING...SAY SOMETHING!!!! (yes I was yelling...sorry)  Use your so called authority or turn your badge in...there now I feel much be honest most of what I have seen around me, as you see guys and gals with spiritual sounding titles, is a competitive world that causes good men and women to strive for titles and forget what the title was for.  Bless me clubs who basically say, “I will make you a bishop if you make me a prophet...or an apostle...”I dislike titles...big time...titles equal entitlement on many levels.  I don’t even really like being called “Pastor” for the most part, because it can create a division between members of the body...can create levels of esteem, I guess, where one is more esteemed than another.  It is what I do...not who I is my role in the church body...but God knows me as Bill...or even His best friend Bill...
Wow! Think I ended a little is my blog...I have to keep reminding you...but my love for Jesus...His Church causes me at times to say what I am thinking...and I am never saying here, I am right and they are wrong...I am just working out my frustration with parts of this family that make me cringe...

Thursday, January 26, 2012

someone is turning 60!!

This will be a bit different from my usual...well I am not even sure what the usual or normal even is.  Anyway I am going to spend some time here talking about someone wife Barb.  She turns 60 in a couple of days and I thought I would reminisce about our life together. We will have been married for 40 years this coming June...40 YEARS!!! Most of my church was not even born yet!  OK I am over that...When we began dating I was not a fact I was very lost...and her dad was a pastor...a Baptist pastor at that.  He was a hell fire and brimstone preacher...a screamer...a sweater(not clothing, he sweat a lot)...and I had never even been to church before.  Talk about jumping from the fire to the pan..or the pan to the fire, however that goes. (I am 60 you know) Anyway to shorten that part of the story, I gave my life to Jesus in that little church and things have never been the same. The kind of cool thing is it was right in the middle if the Jesus Movement and God was doing cool stuff all over the place... we came to Jesus in a country, blue grass, singing church filled with people from Alabama, Kentucky, West Virginia, and other parts south.  Not really hip or cool...but it was good.
The thing is this was the real beginning of our journey with God together...we did every job known to man and, hopefully God, in the church.  Ran a bus ministry, taught Sunday school, lead youth group and so much more.  I even led a choir at one time in our lives...I could not read music..was just beginning to sing myself...but we did it.  That is the thing...we did it.  Many times I got the recognition but we did know the old saying, “Behind every good man is a great woman” but for us it has always been side by side...well when I could keep up!  I can remember one time sleeping on the couch and waking up with her hand on my chest praying for be open to the things of the Spirit of God.  She was hungry for all that God had and would never leave me behind...and wanted me to lead our family in these things.
Another funny but also sad thing was on a couple of occasions I had pastors of churches we were in, come to me in secret and ask me what was I going to about her? Could I control her? I asked what was the problem? They both said something to the effect that she was just so passionate and kind of vocal.  She was not or did not appear to be the quiet, submissive woman who only spoke when I gave her permission. Well, they were right about that I guess...but I always wondered how you could not want a passionate, fully in love with Jesus person in your church body?  She was not a gossiper or complainer...she was not trying to be in charge...she just wanted Jesus and everything He wanted for her.  Now was she perfect? Of course not but believe me she was never a problem...unless you were intimidated by someone who wanted Jesus over religion or going through the motions.  If that intimidated you...then it was a problem...but honestly she was not the problem.
So we have walked together doing Jesus stuff for 40 years...I would like to say it has been easy...well it has been pretty easy really.  She is an extrovert...I am an introvert.  She processes out loud...really loud with her hearing loss...and I process myself...quietly.  So we have the normal, you married someone opposite of you things going on, but the one thing we have had in common from the beginning is our love for Jesus and His Church...serving His Church...serving together...for 40 years.  The last 17, well almost 18, have been in the roles of being pastors and while there have been some difficult times it also has been the most fun we have ever had in the Church.  I can honestly say today...though I have not always felt this way but through some healing I have received recently, we were made to do this...together.  Being pastors was never really on our radar...well I suppose on a couple of occasions we felt the twinge of a call...but it was not a goal out there to be grasped, it was just a call we surrendered to together.  And really we surrendered to this call as a family...I can remember asking the kids how they felt about planting a church...they had been through enough church stuff in their lives without us adding more stuff to them.  They both said yes and I can remember Stacy saying, “What else are we going to do?”  (great kids too) 
Anyway lots more could be said...but I was right when I questioned what the other pastors were thinking...why wouldn’t you want someone like Barb in your church?  The passion and the love for Jesus is bigger than ever...I am still trying to keep up on many occasions...but we do this thing together...and it is fun!
Happy Birthday will love being 60!  Many great discounts...and naps are expected!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

What a ride!

Have you ever had one of those Aha! moments?  One where you realize something is different...or you finally understand what your spouse is saying...well that is kind of big, but you get the drift.  A time where something becomes clearer to you or you are just kind of stopped in your tracks as you see something that, even though you have seen it many times before, it seems brand new.  Got it yet?  Well, I kind of had one last week, and you would think at 60 you might not have those moments again. With God all things are possible.
Anyway Barb and I were at some formational prayer training classes and in one of the small group activities I had an Aha! moment...kind of.  We were doing this exercise where we draw an outline of our bodies (that is not the me...think Michelin tire man:) on paper and then we stand in front of the form and write on the paper things said about us that have left a mark, or dysfunctional behaviors we might be involved in...then we write false beliefs we have about ourselves...then over all of that we write what Jesus would say about all of that stuff.  We did this last spring at a retreat we were at and it was kind of painful and emotional at the time...but this time what I noticed was much different this time.  I had to work at remembering things that hurt and false beliefs about myself...they were there for sure but not with the same intensity as in the past. As I pondered what was going on I realized...I am not the same guy was last year at this time.  Oh I look the same for sure...still miss my hair...still need to lose weight...but inside much different.  
Why would I share this?  To encourage anyone out there who feels like there is not much hope out there for them.  That there are some things that will never change...we are doomed to be this way until Jesus comes back. I have to believe if God can rewire me He can rewire others also...but I wonder how often we give up right before our healing comes.  Many times I felt like giving up in any pursuit of wholeness...Now I am not trying to tell you I am now going to challenge  Bill Hybels or John Maxwell and begin writing books on leadership...but I do feel comfortable in my own skin.  Barb will ask, “Why don’t you write a book?” and I will just shake my head and ask, “Who would ever read it?”  So am I going to write a book?  Not sure but now I have this sense of why not me? So we will see.
Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5 that we are a new creation...old things things come to us.  I knew this...I know this...and I am knowing this...I have always believed that as long as we follow Jesus, we keep being changed, we keep growing in is a journey not a sprint. I love this journey.  I am so blessed to be a part of a local church that has never expected perfection from me...but they deserve to have me continue to grow and experience God...and to pass that along.  
I have always questioned God why He called me to be a pastor...what was He thinking...why me?  Now I can say...why not me?  It is about Him not me...I would laugh and say, “He used a donkey, He surely can use me.”  Now I can see how He used fishermen and tax collectors to change the if I surrender all to Him, He can use a factory worker to change the world too.  What a ride! What a thrill! How thankful! How grateful! If you are not having fun chasing after Jesus...sorry.  I am having a blast...hope you will join me on this amazing journey.

Friday, January 6, 2012

what in the Church is going on?

In our small group the other night we were reading in Luke and Jesus sermon on the plain...(or the mount) We came across verse 37 of chapter 6 which reads, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  Do  not condemn, and you will not be condemned.  Forgive and you will be forgiven.”  You know trying to figure out what is considered to be judging can be kind of difficult...that day, earlier, I had written another blog and had it ready to post and then quit.  Something said, don’t do see I had written about some stuff I had read online about a famous TV preacher taking over another church...former pastors ex-wife suing church...(so much would have been funny if it was not so sad)  Another article about a churches “gay” nativity scene being vandalized...hate crime? And more...
Now I can honesty say that most of it was just embarrassing and it does make me crazy when I read these things...because I do love the church...the whole church.  I don’t think I am always right and they are so wrong...I am concerned about the health of the church in the U.S. We are celebrity driven...people look for churches like they look for restaurants...or a consumer...and we, as leaders, have bought into that on so many levels.  What can we do better...cooler...newer...shorter...etc?  Can we make God look good??? 

Back to my problem...yes I was frustrated...(I only gave you a small, brief sampling) and I have to say, deep down it probably does make me feel better about myself...I may not lead a mega-church, be on TV, and all that other stuff...but I am still married...I truly love the church God has graced me to lead. I was trying to write from a humorous perspective but I found making fun of such hurtful situations did not feel very humorous. So I had to stop and think a moment...or two.  Then I had to repent for such prideful thinking...yes I truly dislike what some do in the name of the expense of His church...but it is not my job to condemn or judge. Now if they would ask me my opinion I would love to give it:) but they did not. 
So I heard the Spirit take something Jesus said and spin it around on me a bit...He said one time, “Why be anxious about has enough stuff to worry about.”  I heard the whisper, “Why worry about their got enough stuff of your own.” it. 
I will ask this of any of you reading this...and you are an elite group for sure:)  Pray for the church...the whole church...Bill Hybels says, “The church is the hope of the world,” and when I read this other stuff, I feel bad for the world, really.  Are we bringing hope?  Are we showing hope?  And then as we read the soap opera in some of the US church...we also read about the rest of the world...people dying in Nigeria...because they follow Jesus. North Korea has the worst record of all in the way followers of Jesus are persecuted...Islamic extremist are taking over many governments and Christians are being persecuted.  So we need to pray...pray...and pray.  My heart is broken for the church and it is not my job to mock and make fun of judge and is to pray.
I repent for my prideful attitude...and cry for His people...His leaders...of which I am one.