Barcelona…

Teresa and I will be married for 26 years in June. We had made plans to go to Hawaii for our 25th, but due to the loss of her dad, we sadly had to postpone our quarter century celebration. It was worth the wait.

Our plane landed in England and as a foreshadowing for the rest of the trip, was 5 hours late. We sprinted to our connecting flight to Barcelona, only to discover that the connector was also late. We boarded and were on our way!

We landed in Barcelona and took a taxi to our friends apartment where we had great conversations with two of their sons. They showed us the best places to shop, eat, and buy famous Spanish pastries. They also showed us the “Metro”, Barcelona’s extensive underground rail system. This was the start of our adventure!

Teresa and I freshened up, and took on the Metro as our first outing. Obviously, we didn’t quite get it right. We popped up and found ourselves in a busy intersection of town where every corner boasted of the best tapas, wines, and cafes. I could tell that I was going to like Barcelona. The architecture made me wonder if France stole it from Spain or Spain stole it from France! Ancient Roman aqueducts stood in the Gothic Quarter as a reminder of that great empires influence. The gates and towers of the city’s entrance still stand as well, and we could almost see the generations of old selling their wares and bustling through the city. I touched as many stones as I could. I could imagine the men that built them, and the time it took to carve, assemble, and place each stone in it’s place. Something moves me about time, history, and knowing where we come from.

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St George the Dragon Slayer is the patron saint of Barcelona. I was intrigued of history and you can find many architectural manifestations of the people celebrating him throughout the city.

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The Cathedral of Barcelona reminds me of the incredible pains our ancestors took to honor God with the works of their hands.

The attention to detail, and the beauty of which builders took time in crafting their architecture is second to none. Grand courtyards and marketplaces drew large crowds of people to share in the wealth and culture of the city,  (everything from old Spanish coins to Rolling Stones albums) were offered as we perused the open air tents of the vendors.

One day, while we were roaming around the Gothic Quarter, we thought the choir was singing in the cathedral with a professional soprano at the lead. It happened to be an operatic street singer that was moving people to tears with her voice. It was incredible. This happened every day. We would be surprised by every corner, every street, and every person.

I met a guy in an old Jewish pub there who said, “Barcelona cannot be experienced with the mind.” He was right. Barcelona get’s into your spirit and soul. It connects our past and present, and forces us to slow down and look around. When you realize there are streets and walls and facades that are older than our nation, it puts things into perspective for us.

We were fortunate in that every evening we were treated to another section of Barcelona by our friends that lived there. Tom and Emily Davis were our tour guides and let us in on the best kept secrets of the city. One of my favorite memories is of Tom and I shaking fresh oranges off of trees that lined one of the city streets. Although they were unfit to eat, they were a lot of fun to harvest. Every evening was an adventure in finding the secrets of the city and enjoying the friends to share it with.

We visited the Picasso Museum, La Sagrada Familia, and found as many cafes and little off the wall pubs and restaurants as we could. We walked along the Mediterranean Sea and had the best seafood of my life. One night, we ran into a perpetual celebration of second Easter. This included a myriad of bands and singers and dancers that went on into the night and never seemed to end. There were grandpas and grandmas dancing and singing with generations apart. This showed me the true nature of Barcelona’s family culture.

Every night was alive with people and family’s bridging the gap of generations. I could tell they were telling stories of ancestors and honoring the past as well as celebrating the present. We saw billion dollar yachts along with simple fishing vessels, all seemingly living along side of each other in beautiful harmony. It didn’t seem people were jealous of what another had.  I had a sense that people were content with their lives and culture, and were not ashamed to share it with whomever passed by.

We walked the Rambla,  a large tree-lined pathway that celebrates Barcelona’s architecture and open markets. There were places that were selling lobsters so fresh, they were still crawling on ice!

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Teresa and I kept imagining what it would be like to live along such a lively part of the city. The architecture kept coming up in conversation as we continued our discussion of how timeless and beautiful it was. It is hard to walk fast in Barcelona. Everything is designed for you to enjoy the moment, of course, our American way was always showing it’s culture of fast and now. When you are in Spain, you learn to go slow, eat slow, sip, slow, and enjoy all the city has to offer.

One of our most special places that we visited was the La Sagrada Famila. I had heard so much of this architectural marvel that I had no idea how I would respond when I was finally able to see it with my own eyes.

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Its hard to express what I felt as I walked in. Tears came to my eyes as I was witnessing one man’s vision of putting the gospel in building form…

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It is impossible to express the beauty and revolutionary design of this Basilica’s architecture. It was another thing to realize that this has been in process for over 100 years. I tried to put in perspective that one man’s vision has carried on for generations. He realized he would only see one facade completed, but like so many wise men before him, he would “Plant trees under who’s shade he would not rest”. It reminds me of real discipleship. People who get this understand that even the Sagrada’s designer has disciples. Gaudi’s design was impossible to complete in his lifetime. Our’s should be too.

Dear Barcelona, You captured our hearts. Your people, your culture, your life, your passion, and your beauty has forever been engraved in us. You’ve made a deep impression upon us, and we cannot wait to return to your streets, your cafes and hidden gems that are tucked into the most discreet places. Your history and future excite us. I know that you are not without your own problems, but we will return soon to kiss your face and embrace your people!  

Last night I asked Teresa what she thought about Barcelona. She said…”We needed more time!” I couldn’t agree more.

Next Blog…Mijas and Malaga. Our adventure in Southern Spain.

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The way I see

 

How I see

Growing up on an upstate NY farm, bailing hay, feeding cows, and working the earth, my worldview was very simple, “pray for rain when we need the hay and crops to grow, and pray for sun when you want to harvest them.” What I saw was pretty black and white. That is not what usually happened. It would rain when the hay was cut and trying to dry, and rain when we were trying to get the crops in. The life of a farmer. So many things were out of our control, and we simply had to adjust to the weather.

Having left farming life a long time ago, those memories still mold my thoughts in today’s culture. I see things as I saw them in the days of my youth. It will rain and it will shine, that is a guarantee, and our job is to adjust to the conditions to make our product work. I see this happening in our world, however deeply divided it may seem. In my mind, it is either going to rain or shine, and in our civilization our job is to adjust to make it work.

I am not sure there are many former farmers on this site, however, I think that the point I am making can cross into any “field”. Whether we are talking about immigration or gun control, there has to be a middle ground for people to come together on. I think that the product of 24/7 news has made millions of dollars for some, and we have been the duped audience. The one side battles the other for ratings, and it seems the ratings are based on how much we disagree rather than on how much we agree.

When it’s time to make a decision, we tend to blame the other side rather than come together with the other side to come up with a solution. What if the gun issues or immigration issue would become a problem to solve rather than an issue to divide? What if we came together and worked the problem versus blaming the other side to boost our ratings?

I made a decision quite a while a go to not listen to a talking head that didn’t have any solutions. As you can imagine, this limited my media intake. I guess my farming days once again come into play. I can’t yell at the sky for raining, or for shining. I simply have to make the adjustments and solve the problem. Likewise, I can’t seem to stomach someone who wants to blame rather than solve.

In the business that I am in now, I work with lots of people from lots of different points of view. Some are conservative and some are liberal. This doesn’t seem to matter when we come to the table with the sole purpose of solving a problem. It’s amazing when we apply disciplines like active listening or common respect to one another. I may still be a naive farm boy from NY, but I am pretty sure this will still work with the massive issues that we are facing today.

Thanks for reading. Let’s make this our time to solve some of the greatest issues facing our culture. Let’s come to the table again, have a meal, and share our concerns. Let’s meet our neighbors again, and have them over for a beer and conversation. Let’s not forget, that we agree on much more than we disagree on…

I suck at this…and that’s OK…

If there is one thing that I have learned about blogging, is that I suck at it. I always have these amazing thoughts and ideas and “what if” questions and tell myself that I am going to write about, and then watch them trend and go viral. Then I get distracted and start playing candy crush.

Over the last few months, I have taken on some personal challenges, (no I didn’t resolve to blog more) however I did begin to meet with a life coach. I knew this was something that I wanted to do, and finally got the nerve to reach out to a friend of mine who was working with a pretty cool organization. He started out by telling me that I needed to take the Strengths Finders.  It was one of the most enlightening times in my life. We went through the process, and I discovered a lot about myself. But here was the biggest thing: Most of my life I have been told to work on all the weaknesses in my character and life. But very few, if any, people have told me to focus my attention on my strengths! I have spent so much energy trying to be someone that I am not, that I have totally ignored the strengths that I naturally possess…for instance, I am:

  1. Positive
  2. Relator
  3. Strategic
  4. Activator
  5. Futuristic

 

I am not:

  1. Consistent
  2. Harmonious
  3. Analytical
  4. Deliberative
  5. Disciplined

I have focused so much energy on the bottom 5 and have pretty much ignored the top 5! Now here comes the irony of all of this. When I learned to pour energy into what I am gifted in, the bottom 5 strengths have naturally risen with the tide! You know that old adage, “A rising tide lifts all boats.” This has proven true.

Recently,  a position opened up in my department. I thought I might be good at it, although I wasn’t sure of all the details of what the program did. I applied. Now in my past life, I would have tried to convince the hiring manager that I was perfect for this job. This time, I simply slid over my strengths and said, “This is who I am. If you think that I would be right for this position, then this is who you are getting.” I can tell you that for an instant, I thought about selling myself to fit the position. But I stayed the course and trusted the process. Instead of trying to squeeze myself into a role, I simply relied on how God had made me, and rested in that! There were no lies, or manipulation. I rested in my strengths…I got the position.

Since then, I have continued this process with the team that I am responsible for. I have applied the strengths to our team, and we are able to learn the same language. It’s a process to be sure, however we are learning that by recognizing each others strengths, we can work interdependently with each other, instead of being in a toxic “it’s all about me” environment.

One of the biggest problems in our culture is lying. We lie or twist the truth to try and get what we think we need. We lie to ourselves, our bosses, our families simply because we have not been given the permission to be ourselves. When you find out who you are, the stress of trying to be something you are not will wash away. You can really have fun with how God made you!

We’ve also applied this in our home. It has given us a language in which to speak with each other. We know our strengths, and that helps us recognize how we think about situations…it’s helped my marriage and my relationship with my kids…

I suck at being consistent. I suck at being disciplined. But I am pretty good at being positive! I am pretty good at seeing the future and help others get there! I think I’ll stick to what and who God made me, maybe you can too. Being who you are can set you free. It may sound odd, but it’s true, and that’s OK.

At KeyStone, we are going through another amazing study of the Enneagram. This is incredible as it unpacks the 9 types of humans in context of interacting with other fascist of strengths and weaknesses. Wherever you land, find out what makes you unique. Find out what makes you…you. When you do, chase it down and never regret being someone you’re not!

 

 

What Would You Say?

Every Friday morning, our church doors are open at 5:30 am for anyone who wants to come and pray.  We pray for our city, our people, our church, and a myriad of other issues that may arise during our conversation with the Father.  Today started just like most other Fridays.  I would love to say that I jump right out of bed in the early morning hours, but that would be a long stretch of the truth.  I usually have a convincing debate in my head, and begin to make up all kinds of excuses of why I deserve that extra hour of sleep.  Nevertheless, I force-ably swing my legs over the side of the bed and just get moving.

I am never disappointed in the decision to get up and get moving. The times that we have in prayer are never the same, but always rewarding. This morning was a little unusual in the way that we started. There was about 30 minutes of people silently praying and meditating, sipping on coffee, and walking around the room. Others were sitting quietly by themselves, connecting with the Father in their own way.

When the silence finally broke, there were the encouraging words to stay focused on the things that God has asked us to do, to honor His word, to exalt His name…all really good things. I began to hear my prayer in my head, the same words that I have prayed in times past like; “Oh God, fill this place with Your glory.” and “Oh God,  touch your people and help this church grow.”and “Oh God, please bless the works of our hands.”  Then  I stopped. I began to hear the words as if they were spoken out loud. It’s not that they were bad, or untrue, or wouldn’t sound good to the rest of the pray-ers in the room, it’s just that all of a sudden I imagined the Father sitting in the room with us.  I thought, “Are these the words that I would really say to Him if He were here?” “Do these words even make sense?” “Am I treating my Friend like some magician to come and wave His magic wand and make things better?”

As I began to meditate on these thoughts,  I realized that most of my prayers would sound ridiculous if I were speaking to Him as a friend.  Where did this odd way of speaking come from? If He is truly with us, then He is really listening, and He wants to have a conversation with us.  If I were to approach Him from this point of view; what would I say?

The odd religious words faded. The King James version rhetoric ceased. I was able to connect with Him as a friend, and I simply said,  “Is your heart happy? Are you happy today? Are you pleased with what I am doing with my life, and the gifts that you gave me?” “Am I allowed to encourage You? The source of all encouragement? Do you like that?  Is that OK?”

Things shifted for me this morning, and I could almost literally see Him smile and say, “Yes, I love what you are doing,  I am pleased with your life. I love the way you are using your gifts. Nothing brings my heart more joy than to see you take risks for me, and trust me, and talk to me, and have adventures with me. I love that you ask questions, and that you are not afraid of not having all the answers. And yeah, I like to be encouraged.  I am proud of you, and thanks for spending some time with me this morning.”

I’m not sure I have ever really connected to Him like that before. I’m not sure the church has.  I think that we look at the Father as some distant icon,  and need to address Him like an old English professor using words we wouldn’t normally use when speaking with our friends.

If you could connect with Him in this way, what would you say? You might be surprised at the reality of this truth.  He is here, and we have total access to Him.  You might be surprised at what you would talk about. Start a conversation with Him. Let’s see where it goes!

Is Church Planting Really the Answer?

Easter, as we know it in the Western Church, has almost become more about who has more plastic eggs spread out in a field and who can give away the most prizes to kids who already live in absolute opulence, and who can outdo the church down the road with helicopters, horse rides, bouncy houses, and a myriad of exhausted volunteers that hope that what they are doing has a lasting effect on someone, or hopefully will draw some of these people into their church building on a Sunday morning with the hopes that they make a decision for Jesus, fill out a card, get baptized and eventually be a part of the cycle that has gone on since D.L. Moody….breath…rather than truly celebrating the reason we are all here in the first place. (Nothing against ol’ Dwight)

I’m not mad,  I’m not even a little jealous,  it’s just that the more I see our American version of church play out,  I wonder if it is really making a long term impact on our culture. I see the that Emperor isn’t wearing any clothes, and I just want to help the brother get dressed!

Is planting churches really the answer? Is it having the effect on our culture like we think that is should? Or more importantly, like Jesus said it should?

On Easter weekend,  I was driving around on some streets hear in our city that I haven’t spent a lot of time on. I saw at least 4 new church plants represented by the familiar sandwich boards that we have all become accustomed to; dotted on every corner to give the greatest advantage to the passing cars.  It was rather comical after seeing one new church try and use the same corner for their boards as another one. Hip Church was pointing one direction and Cooler Church was pointing in the other. This is when it dawned on me,  “Is planting churches really having an impact on our culture?”  After all,  aren’t we supposed to making disciples?

Now I know what you’re thinking, “Lonny, aren’t you being a little hypocritical since you came here to plant a church?” yes, I suppose in some ways I am,  This is why I hope the tone of this isn’t critical but from a disposition of humility, and from what I have learned in trying to plant a church.

When, in my mind and heart and actions,  I stopped trying to plant a church,  which basically means developing a marketing strategy just a little better that the one down the street,  and started creating a space of true community, I saw something really amazing happening.  I saw people reaching out and caring for one another. They were taking meals to people who were sick without even having sister so-in-so set up the meal train. They were taking children into their homes so that worn-out, single moms could catch their breaths, they were getting together in their homes for meals, and games, and prayer, and fasting without even being asked!! WHAT IS GOING ON? They were praying for revival in their own hearts, and families, so that true revival could catch fire in their neighborhoods, and schools, and businesses. Suffering in the body was becoming our greatest teacher! It was something that no one had ever taught us! While we as a church were in this weird, hidden, liminal space; we were learning to lean on each other, people with true pastoral gifts were stepping to the plate visiting people in the hospital, caring for the sick, and loving on the marginalized.

So what happens when we stop trying to plant a church and begin to invite people to be a part of this family? We make disciples…When I asked my Friend, “Is planting a church really the answer?” He was quiet for a while. I asked Him again. Still no answer. Finally,  a couple of days later, I got the answer, I felt like He said, “You. You are the answer. Harlan Hobson is the answer, as he works with people at Goodwill, and loves them unconditionally even though they believe completely differently than he does. Joe and Sheena Courtney are the answer, as they gather people into a space where they can be real and share a meal together.  Darren Keiffer is the answer, as he invites people that won’t normally come to a church service around a poker table in his basement and talks about his three beautiful girls, his wife Erin, and how to parent and husband,  and juggle a full time career. Carl and Amy Holmes are the answer as they serve our kiddos and visit people graciously in the hospitals. Gary and Lisa Black are the answer as they serve the next generation on the mission field, teaching them the true meaning of simplicity. Daniel and Katherine McCray are the answer, as they invite people around their table for a meal and encouragement and teach couples how to pray for one another. You are the answer, you are the hands and feet.”

I know it’s vague, it’s sounds pretty simple. But that is the answer I got. I love that Jesus never criticizes what other people are doing,  He always asked me,  “What are you doing?  How are you being Me here on the planet in the time that I have allotted for you?”

I’ll be honest. Making disciples looks like a lot of different things to a lot of different people. One thing is for certain. Making disciples isn’t fast, it’s a lifetime investment.

On Easter, (we meet on Saturdays) we had a night of worship, with the opportunity to take communion with our families and pray and let the Holy Spirit do what He loves to do. We were not disappointed. People were healed, encouraged, loved, and most importantly knew about the unchanging power of resurrection. My sister and nephew were with us, and for the first time ever, I got to sing with my nephew…I asked him if he knew the song, he said, “never heard it before, I am just going with it!” I had communion with my sister for the first time in about 30 years! Then on Sunday morning, people from our church were gathering in their homes for meals, brunches, community, playing catch, playing basketball, watching our kids grow and play together, and sharing our lives with one another. For us, the evening ended with a Colorado style bonfire, (in a controlled fire pit) talking about the day, the lives we are living, and the powerful love of Jesus.

This is what I am looking for, and I didn’t even know it. Life on life as my friend Brock always reminds me of.  If you want to plant a church, I am sure that Jesus won’t mind.  Just keep in mind that what really changes people is not your light show, smoke machines, fancy graphics, catchy, tweetable phrases, or even the strategically placed sandwich boards. What people remember is grabbing a ball and glove and talking about life. It’s the everyday, mundane moments that are littered with encouragement and love.  This is what changes people. This is what will change the world…You, loving like Jesus did. You will change the world.

Want to see what the power of you loving others can do?  Watch this: https://vimeo.com/213000451/5521328d6a

 

14 things I’ve learned (and still learning) as a church planter.

My family and I left the security of a great family,  awesome church, exciting job, wonderful home, and and incredible community to pursue the adventure of church planting.  This was something that through a series of events was Providential and not of my own accord.  Although, I tend to have wanderlust,  this was something that I felt God was calling us to do.  After several confirmations,  and a resounding yes from my wife,  we packed our U-Haul and headed west to the most beautiful city I had ever laid on eyes on- Colorado Springs.  Colorado  wasn’t really on my radar,  I have to give credit to someone else for that,  but however we got here, here we are.

It’s been 4 years since we planted KeyStone Church, and if life lines up with a college degree, then I have been on the fast track to a doctorate in what to do and not do in church planting!  If you’re a church planter out there,  then maybe some of these things will make sense to you.  If you’ve ever thought about planting a church,  then maybe some of the lesson’s I’ve learned can help you navigate these tricky waters. Whatever the case,  I thought I’d write down a few things that I’ve learned as a church planter.

  1.  Stop trying to plant a church;  start making disciples.  One of the most important phrases that any “church planter” can learn is this:
    “If you start out planting a church,  you’ll usually end up with consumers, if you make disciples,  you’ll always end up with a church.” ~ Mike Breen. Sounds a little weird coming from a church planter, but it’s true.  It will take you longer,  but it will be worth it.  By the way, this is what we are supposed to be doing anyway!
  2. Stop comparing.  I had to stop comparing what I felt God called us to do with what other people were doing.  I was called to do something unique and in line with my gifts.  This is all I can do.  I can’t be someone else…I had to let that insecurity go, and just be who God created me to be. My ego had to die, so will yours,  but you will resurrect as a broken person,  and God likes that.
  3. Get rid of expectations.  I thought that KeyStone was going to be the next Mega-Church that had the spinning globes, cafes, bookstores, flags,  huge entry…you get the picture.  What KeyStone ended up being was small, healthy, strong, and community driven. We grow slow on purpose!
  4. Allow for failure.  One of the pillars at KeyStone is that we will allow for failure.  If something’s not working,  then we give each other the permission to end it immediately.  It doesn’t matter how sacred the cow we think it is,  if it ain’t working,  we get rid of it!
  5. Be Flexible!  Not everything is going to go the way you expect.  I had to bite my tongue,  and allow for change in things that I was trying to accomplish.  Plan on things not going like you thought they would.  It’s OK.  The sun is still going to rise in the morning.
  6. You can’t people please.  Looking back, I can see a lot of this in my life. I had to find the balance of what honoring people (sometimes even those in authority) looked like compared to what listening the the Lord looked like.  I know that I can’t please everyone,  nor is it my call to do so.  You may have to let some relationships go,  or at least put them on pause for a while so that you can clearly hear what God is telling you to do.  People will get mad at you, leave you, and disagree with you,  you will have to get over that!
  7. Stop looking back.  The missionaries of old would burn their ships when they landed on the country of their calling. This is not to say that you can be open to new things that God may call you to do,  but until then,  stay the course.  The grass is not always greener in the other church.
  8. Stay humble, be teachable.  I don’t know everything,  and sometimes,  I don’t know anything. It’s so important for me to be teachable and ever learning. I am constantly learning from people that think differently than I do.
  9.  Keep people around you that challenge you. Contrary to many leadership books,  it’s good to have people around you that generally disagree with you.  This will not hinder your growth,  but actually enhance it.  Surrounding yourself with people who always think like you eventually grows into spiritual inbreeding.  Healthy conflict always fosters growth. Challenge the way you think, it will help you, I promise.
  10. Let people come, let people go.  When I first planted KeyStone,  I was looking for anyone who could “fog a mirror”;  and once they came to a service, I would try so hard to “keep” them. I can tell you that it made them feel uncomfortable, and I felt weird too.  I have learned that KeyStone is not for everyone,  and I had to learn to let them go if they didn’t feel like they  fit in our community. It’s not that I didn’t want them to stay,  I just figured out that there may be a better place for them to grow.
  11. Realize church is not a franchise,  it’s a living organism.  You may have seen the “all-in-one package for church planting” kits!  What I have come to realize is that “one size does not fit all”.  Church is not supposed to be franchise-able.  It’s a living organism that ebbs and flows within the culture that it is in.  When I tried to make KeyStone a Hoosier (that’s a fancy term for people from Indiana) church, I realized quite quickly that it wasn’t going to work in Colorado. People in Colorado think differently,  act differently,  and have a pioneering spirit. Some people call this rebellious,  I like to think of it as free. It’s not that Hoosiers way of thinking is bad,  it’s just not Coloradan! Find the rhythms of your culture and learn to flow with them.
  12. Embrace the suckage!  This is a real phrase here at KeyStone.  Sometimes life just sucks…you can kick against it, try to manage it, change it,  manipulate it or you can simply embrace it.  Pain is a great teacher,  suffering brings us in close proximity of Jesus and the ones He is trying to reach.  At times,  church planting sucks…there’s just no sugar coating it.  Embrace it. You may not be able to change things,  but it will change you.
  13. Have fun! On the heels of embracing the suckage…have fun!  Look,  if you’re not having fun,  then you probably should find something else to do.  It may take a minute for you to realize this,  but I am pretty sure that God wants you to be fulfilled in what you are doing.
  14. Pray, and have people you trust pray for you.  This involves a whole bunch of being real and transparent. You don’t have to have all the answers or feel like you are superman.  Real, transparent, and vulnerable leaders are in it for the long haul.  Once you think you’re on top of the pyramid,  get ready, you’re gonna get your ass kicked.  Be honest with your prayer partners.  Be honest with the people that God has entrusted you with.  Be honest with yourself.

 

It’s certainly not an exhaustive list,  but it’s some of the things I have learned. Hopefully it helps a few of you out there.

Always be learning,  always be ready to discard what you think you know, but keep what is true.   Always be listening, make disciples, have community; build lifelong relationships.

 

Get on the DiscipleSHIP!

A lot has been written recently about the discipleship movement, I think it could be because with all of our mega-everything, we have realized that we have done a poor job at making true disciples, which most of the time comes in the hidden and small. We are pretty good at making consumers, (vis a vis Madmen), but we seem to miss it when it comes to giving our life away for the benefit of another.

My wife and I had the privilege of hosting my friend Gary Black’s 50th birthday party in our home this weekend, and as in any gathering with Gary and his family, there is always great topics being discussed in just about corner of the house. Gary’s wife, Lisa and I have had great conversations about life, kids, healing, great midwestern homes…(we both like brick houses with big porches) and the best wines on the planet. This night, our conversation led to true discipleship. In an almost instant, she said, “We need to realize that this thing Jesus called us to do is DiscipleSHIP, not DiscipleCANOE, or DiscipleDINGHY, or DiscipleRAFT! This thing is strong, and slow, and takes a lifetime to build!”

We had a good laugh about the tongue in cheek statement, and then I realized the truth in what she was saying. Of course, she was honoring her husband for the years of time and pain and patience that he has invested in generations over the years. My heart heard her words, and they echoed in the truth that I was trying to say. Discipleship isn’t a thing…it is The Thing…it is The SHIP that we all need to be building.

My mind wandered to the great “ship” movies I have seen over the years, from “The Perfect Storm” to “Poseidon” and of course the most infamous, “Titanic”. I thought about shows like “Deadliest Catch” and “Wicked Tuna” and how these vessels are able to withstand incredible storms. I thought this is how true discipleship is.
When we take our time, invest our lives in each other, we are able to build amazing “ships” that can withstand the most dangerous and treacherous seas. I also realized that it wasn’t always the biggest ships that withstand these storms. It is the design of the ship, and the wisdom of the captain to keep her off the shoals. Do you see how this all ties into DiscipleSHIP? We need family. We need kitchen table conversations. We need community, you know, the real kind, where you can really be real…(that was really redundant!)

This “Sea” called life has recently began to blow up a pretty good storm. I see a lot of blogs and articles and posts of people living in fear. And out of fear they do and say some pretty stupid things, especially believers. I think it is because our lives look more like inner-tubes floating down a Tennessee creek than a Ship that can withstand the torrential storms of life. 
Ask yourself, “Have I really reproduced disciples the way that Jesus did?” I can tell you that you will have to slow down, and throw out all your “How to make a disciple in 9 months” books. Discipleship is a lifelong calling. It requires your life. But I can promise you there is nothing more fulfilling than spending your life building the DiscipleSHIP!

Simplify: De-Clutter

In his book  An Unhurried Life  Alan Fadling writes, “If you had one word to describe Jesus, what would it be?” He then goes on to say, “Relaxed”.

I have to admit I have never thought of Jesus as relaxed, but then as I read through so many of his stories, through that lens, I realized that this word fits him perfectly.

Imagine  Jesus anxious, or worried, or running behind because he was late for an appointment! I think we know in our heads that Jesus was always on time, and never in a hurry, there’s even a few songs about it. But do we really realize that he was modeling the best life for us? Have we been able to translate his life to ours? 

In our series, “Simplify: Living in the Rhythms of Jesus” we began to unpack this unhurried, simple life that Jesus showed us.

Think about it, he was in no hurry to start his ministry. He told his brothers it wasn’t his time, (John 7:4-6) He was in no rush to heal the synagogue leader’s daughter, (Mark 5:22-43) And perhaps the most famous stories of Jesus modeling of an unhurried life, was in the death of his friend Lazarus, where Jesus delayed two days before reaching him. (John 11:1-43)

As the new year begins, many of us have made commitments to change something in our lives. I hear the word “simplify” the most. It has become a movement of sorts, with Tiny Homes, and smaller spaces all the rage, we seem to have a cultural shift in living a simpler life. One that can slow down to enjoy the simple things, rather than racing to our deaths.

John Ortberg states, “…hurry is not just a disordered schedule. Hurry is a disordered heart.” As with all things, life change begins with a mind shift.  A different way of thinking. Hebrew people would call this, “Tearing down the high places” or “having a change of heart.”

As we move toward this life change of living simple and unhurried, we must start with a fundamental change of heart. De-cluttering your life is not simply cleaning out your closets, it is cleaning out your mind. It is allowing yourself time to sit and think and contemplate, and meditate. It is unplugging, and musing on the mysterious. It is catching the first rays of the day, and taking in the last moments of a sunset. It is so many things that require nothing of you, just moments of…sit.

Think about it, many of us are uncomfortable with just sitting, we must be doing something. DOING things has become a habit, it gives us our identity. We are embarrassed when we are doing nothing. So we tell ourselves that in order to really matter, we must be busy about something.

Consider Mary and Martha. Martha was busy “doing” Mary was enjoying Jesus. (Luke 10:38-42) This is fun to teach on, but rather hard to implement.

Please don’t think that I am suggesting that we sit all day and accomplish nothing, an unhurried, simple life is just the opposite. When we take time to slow down, we actually become more productive! Don’t sprint past Jesus when we are supposed to be walking with him. 

What takes up most of your mind space? Are you able to de-clutter your mind by taking time to enjoy the things around you right now? Do you find yourself always in a rush, late, or running behind? Perhaps the de-cluttering of our minds will enable  us to live a more productive, healthy lifestyle. Jesus seemed to think so. (Matthew 11:28-30)

Cluttered mind

How are you de-cluttering this year? Look around you. What are some things that you can release? Once you have been able to de-clutter your mind, the rest of your life will become simpler, more healthy, and in actuality, more productive!

 

 

Simplify

I just finished up a series called “The Hard Things” in our church. We tackled the issues that we as believers wrestle with, and cause tension in our lives like Jesus and politics, miracles, prayer and other things… Through the journey of this series, we discovered that a lot of what we have been taught collides with what we believe and what we have actually experienced.

“When you sit in tension, beautiful things happen.” Donovan Steinberg

For all the efforts that we spend in trying to get out of tension, the best things happen when you sit in them and try not to escape… beautiful.

“No stringed instrument can be played correctly unless the strings are under tension.” Kevin Rose

Simplify

I just launched a new series is called, “Simplify: Living in the Rhythms of Jesus”. Of course, the night I was going to introduce this series we had to cancel service due to a quick winter storm that blew through…hmm…probably a good sign.

I thought this would be an appropriate message for this time of year, when we are scrambling to buy the perfect gift, making sure we spend enough money on each person, and worrying if they like our gift or not. The stress around the holiday season is multiplied exponentially, when in actuality it should be about family, time, adventure, and living a better story. Remember what Jesus said, “Take my yoke (Hebrew for lifestyle) upon you, and learn of me….and you will find rest for your souls”  Jesus

What are the things in our lives that are causing more stress than they are worth?

My cousin Josh just did something that I am so proud of. He traded his high tech smart phone in for a simple flip phone…his reasoning? The “Smart Phone” was taking up too much of his time. He found himself on it all the time, checking FaceBook and other social statuses, playing games, and surfing the web. This left little room for the things that really mattered to him: Family, Life, and real productivity.

I wonder how many languages I could have mastered by now if I were to take all the time that I’ve invested in conquering levels on “Angry Birds” or “Candy Crush” and spent them on things that really mattered?

“Do our kids really need another plastic race car, fake toy dinosaur, or video game? What they really need is culture, travel, adventure, and a better life story.” Brock Meyer

Can you take a look at the things in your life that are supposed to make it easier, and it reality it steals more time than it’s worth?

If you think this is about tech bashing, or living a life without technology, then you are missing the point. Technology is inevitable, that box has been opened, and it will increase as we roll along. The true message in this is “Can we manage our time, resources, and families in balance? Can we live simple lives and in reality live freer?”

“Instead of piling on more stuff this Christmas, we want to invest in experiences. so our kids have  adventures, stories.” Brock Meyer

I’ll be honest with you, this is going to be a challenge to speak on. I am plugged in to the “grid” just about as much as one can be. Ironically, the message of simplicity is being blasted all over our church FB page…which is connected to just about every other social website out there…weird.

As a pastor, I have asked God to always give me “fresh ideas and messages” to give to His people. He pretty good about fulfilling this request. But in doing so, I have to be taught, challenged, and changed by the very messages that I bring…I’ll be honest. It sucks sometimes…

I’ll keep you all posted on the progress of our simplicity. There’s really nothing new under the sun. People were busy with the “stuff” of life in Jesus’ time just as they are now. the key to true life fulfillment, is to live in the rhythms and patterns of Jesus.

“It’s all about freeing yourself to live the purpose of why you are here!”            Brock Meyer

 

I’d love to hear the ways that you are simplifying your life…Please feel free to leave comments!

Prudence: The Fourth Pillar

I’m trying to space these thoughts out a little, seems like it gives us time to digest and really take to heart this journey to discover the 7 pillars of wisdom. If you have been reading these, then you know by know that this has been a holy crusade, if you will, through the book of Proverbs to discover what Solomon meant when he said, “Wisdom has… hewn out her seven pillars…”

To” hewn out” is to carve out of something…something strong enough to sustain the building of the pillars.

“The Fear of the Lord is the beginning of Wisdom” This is the foundation on which everything is built…Fear of the Lord: “To live a life in awe of God”

This is the beginning. When we can live a life in the utmost awe and glory and happy of God, then we can begin to understand the true heart of God, (Yes, I said Happy of God!)

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Here’s a quick review:

Integrity: It is the future of who you are, do what you say and say what you do!

Humility: Walking in True Identity

Honor: Value Relationships over Title or Position

Prudence: To possess insight and sound judgment, to be able to discern the entire scope of a thing.

It’s not a surprise that Prudence is the “middle” pillar. The Fourth of Seven. It sees what has been and what will be.

“I, wisdom, dwell together with prudence {sound judgment, insight}; I possess knowledge and discretion” Proverbs 8:12

St. Ignatius said this,

“Prudence has two eyes, One that foresees what one has to do, the Other that examines afterward what one has done.”

It sees what needs to be done, and it sees what that deed has accomplished. Prudence can also be compared to being shrewd or witty in any given situation. It’s being able to see what others cannot about a certain thing.

Have you ever known someone like this? Someone that could see what was and then see what is coming because of a certain action? Perhaps we can see this in the life of Joseph. His ability and gifts brought the greatest nation on the earth at the time to be prepared for something that could have been incredibly catastrophic. We need the gift of prudence, certainly in our lives today.

We live as if we can do anything we want, without considering the repercussions of our actions. We can take any number of issues today that are plaguing our world today. “Do not move the ancient boundaries” Proverbs 22:28 In other words, when we start messing with things that have been written on the hearts of men by the Creator, we have no clue what will happen to culture or society when these things are tampered with. It’s like removing the rudder from a ship and expecting to be able to navigate treacherous seas. It cannot be done. “You are meddling with powers you cannot possibly comprehend!” ~Marcus Brody from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

Prudence sees this. It can detect what will happen when we start messing with boundaries, things set in place by the ancients. There is a reason that these things are in place. The key is not to simply move them, but to find out why they are there in the first place. 

We could make a laundry list of these boundaries.Killing the Unborn, Marriage, Sex, Drunkenness, Gluttony, Not having sex with your step mom…(Yeah it’s in there). We have spent a lot of time lately telling the american people and the church for that matter that these things are wrong and shouldn’t mess with the boundaries that God has set for His people, But what we haven’t spent a lot of time on is the reasons why…God wants the Best Life for His people. These boundaries aren’t meant to bind us, but rather set us completely free! Prudence sees this.

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God is giving us more than a long list of DO NOTS. Since He is our Creator, He knows how we should live. Why would the creation shake it’s fist at the creator? Prudence understands that “for every action there is a reaction” I think Einstein must have had the fingerprints of the creator on his heart to be able to come up with that statement.

“The simple believe anything, but the prudent give thought to their steps.” Proverbs 14:5

Most of our Prophetic voices today seem to carry the gift of Prudence. They can see what must be done, and the results of what has been done. We can look to the history of any nation and see that sometimes the prophets were adhered to, and the results were amazing. Then other times, nations would not heed the word, and were punished and sometimes even completely destroyed.

Make no mistake, we are not immune to the same justice that ancient nations have experienced. Most of you who know me know that I believe that there is always hope. There is always the promise of redemption and restoration. But lately I fear as though we have completely lost the gift of Prudence. To be sure, America is not immune to the judgement of God. Most of the loudest voices seem to think that Government is the answer. Yes, I get it, trust me. I know that good government is healthy for the people. But this is about 4th in the list of priorities that we need to be focusing on. God is always teaching us to build a colony of heaven on earth, That’s really what the nation of Israel was supposed to be. A mirror of how God wanted his “own special people” to live. While I believe that government is essential and established by God (I mean he is carrying it upon his shoulders) this is not the ultimate answer. Unless we learn to govern ourselves, we can vote D or R or I or the whig party, it won’t change anything!

Prudence…is isn’t talked a lot about today, but so needed. Pray for the gift of Prudence, “for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young”

“The path of life leads upward for the prudent to keep them from going down to the realm of the dead.” Proverbs 15:24

Here are some closing thoughts:

Without Prudence we cannot see what must be done.

Without Prudence we cannot see what has been done.

Don’t move the ancient boundaries, we don’t know the repercussions if we do.

Culture and society are built on fundamental truths by God, govern yourself first.

Two-faced head fire and ice statue

Prudence: Be able to see the whole scope of a thing!

The Fourth Pillar