intentional hanging out


Over the last couple of weeks, Letha and I have had several opportunities to spend time with a variety of friends. These were mostly casual settings – enjoying a meal with another couple, gathering at the church for some fellowship or just spending a couple of hours talking with some guys. The thing is, these events were strategically planned. The calendar over this span has been typically busy, we just decided to make it a priority to be around more people in more settings.

Sounds kind of sad, doesn’t it? We have to be purposeful and intentional about spending time with friends. But that’s the point. Until we made the decision to do so, our time with other people had taken a back seat to the demands of life. And we were paying for it.

I tell people all the time that we were not created to do life alone, that isolation leads to disaster. If you are a leader, you are probably going to have to schedule in some friend time. Look ahead now and plan something. Meet someone for coffee. Plan a meal together with a neighbor. Invite a new family at church over for dinner.

It feels really good to be making more friends, getting to know some old friends better. Give it a shot – intentionally.

Stepping it up technologically

In the last few weeks I have started this blog and also made the switch to an iPhone. Admittedly, I am a slow adapter when it comes to tech but surprisingly, I am having fun. When I do finally take the leap, it is usually because of pressure put on me by friends and family. I get tired of people making fun of me just because my phone is the size of a shoebox.

My daughter, Jessica told me that I am now edging toward being cool. That’s what I want to be . . . cool. But she also is one who is always bugging me, wanting me to text message back and forth. What does she know? Everyone knows that texting will never catch on!

I gotta go. If you need me, I’ll be at my typewriter and on my land line phone.

Critics: Ya gotta love ‘em!

Donald Rumsfeld said, “If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much.” We shouldn’t be concerned if the critics line up at our door, waiting for a chance to shoot us down. We should worry if what we are doing and who we are is resulting in the sounds of chirping crickets. It goes without saying, sometimes the critics are correct. They can be our best friend in that they sometimes point out areas that, when addressed and improved upon, can result in growth and progress. But I’d be lying if I said that critical people don’t really bother me. So I collected a few classic quotes, (OK some of them aren’t yet classics) to help inspire you. If you are leading and you are being criticized, (one in the same) be inspired by a few of your colleagues:

Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” Aristotle

Fans don’t boo nobodies.” Reggie Jackson

He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.” Abe Lincoln

Don’t pay any attention to the critics-don’t even ignore them.” Samuel Goldwyn

Pay no attention to what the critics say. A statue was never erected in honor of a critic.” Jean Sibelius

Criticism is an indirect form of self-boasting.” Emmet Fox

A critic is someone who never actually goes to battle, yet who afterwards comes out shooting the wounded.” Tyne Daily

Come now mothers and fathers throughout the land, and don’t criticize what you can’t understand.” Bob Dylan

Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain and most fools do.” Ben Franklin

So, be encouraged. If you are being criticized, you must be doing something right! Don’t get too caught up with those who tear you down. These are not the people who are changing the world for the better. In fact, many of them have no greater calling in life than to hold others back.

You, however, have the call to change the world!

passion

I am getting stoked about our next missions project. If all of our plans work out, this summer (June 29-July 5) some friends and I will be traveling back to Central America to serve two orphanages. We plan to visit New Life Nicaragua in Managua and Casa Shalom in Guatemala City: casashalom.net. I wish the trip was tomorrow.

These trips help keep me focused on the important things. These babies born in adverse conditions are our chance to express love. It is amazing, although these kids have been abused and neglected, they are very receptive to our care and a little effort on our part makes a HUGE difference for them. It is simply a great way to serve and hopefully change the future for at least one child.

This won’t be a vacation. It won’t be a sightseeing tour. It won’t be a chance to be a hero. It will be a chance to be a servant.

If you have interest in making a trip to Nicaragua and Guatemala, contact me.

Someone Should Do Something!

Somebody has to step up. There are too many hungry kids in the world. There are too many people dying because of a lack of clean water. Too many people lacking basic health care. Who is going to address the problems the people in our world are facing? With all the talk about showing the love of God to people, do we think that maybe Christians could do something? Should the church be more outspoken, more energized toward action?

In his position paper, A Theology of Social Action, Jerry Redman writes:
All of this points us to popular culture, and many of its leading faces and voices that have decided to use their celebrity, wealth and influence to engage those who value their creativity so that the plights of orphans, AIDS patients, the victims of the Darfur crisis, the homeless, the hungry, etc., are no longer ignored or forgotten. It has been especially true of the Church in America over the last quarter century that we have not been nearly as engaged in changing the fortunes of the socially marginalized as scripture calls us to be, but many of the key figures of popular culture (musicians, actors, artists, and athletes) have drawn significant attention to these unfortunate groups. Beyond the attention they have been able to create, they have also created significant momentum and action on behalf of various social action initiatives. The Church, especially the evangelical segment of the Church in America, can no longer sit on the periphery of these issues and the initiatives that seek to solve them. To do so any longer not only lessens our missional opportunities, but also shows popular culture we do not believe the totality of all we say our faith is about and built upon, especially the specific words of Christ.

Although it addresses may other issues, I love Bridget Willard’s quote about the church: “Church isn’t where you meet. Church isn’t a building. Church is what you do. Church is who you are. Church is the human outworking of the person of Jesus Christ. Let’s not just go to church, let’s be the church.”

Maybe we can stop waiting for someone else to do something. Maybe we can step up and make a difference. One person at a time.

Beautiful

A wonderful lady and member of our church just passed away. She has been sick for some time with cancer. I went to visit her again the day before she died, to say goodbye and to comfort her family. As a pastor, I have had the privilege of these experiences several times, but this one was a little different.

When I got to her home, especially her room, it just seemed beautiful. There was a lot of peace there. I was reminded of a scripture and shared it with one of her daughters: Psalms 116:15 The death of one that belongs to the Lord is precious in his sight. (NCV) This entire process, though painful, is precious. It is precious because God loves her so much and precious because He is taking her home.

She was a woman of grace. She lived her life with dignity. She died the same way. Although she never said a word the morning I was there, while we were praying and worshipping, she lifted her hands in praise to God and wore a big smile. She is now in the presence of God. Beautiful!

Worship Together

I am continually blown away by how many Christ followers have so little interest in worship. This sounds judgmental and legalistic, I know, but a regular occurrence in my week is speaking with people who miss corporate worship opportunities for other events. Obviously, not everyone feels this way but lots of people approach worship services like they are their last option. If no better offers presents itself, they will worship God with fellow believers. If there is an opportunity to skip church, you can count on it!

I am reading again Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together, A Discussion of Christian Fellowship. Bonhoeffer was a Christian martyr, giving his life for the cause of Christ, in a German prison camp in 1945. In this classic book, Bonhoeffer deals with the idea that Christian gatherings are a privilege that should be treasured. Some quotes: “It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visibly in this world to share God’s Word and sacrament. Not all Christians receive this blessing.” (p. 18) “The physical presence of other believers is a source of incomparable joy and strength to the believer”. (p.19) “Let him who until now has had the privilege of living a common Christian life with other Christians praise God’s grace from the bottom of his heart. Let him thank God on his knees and declare: It is grace, nothing but grace, that we are allowed to live in community with Christian brethren.” (p.20)

My nephew, Rich, spent three years in China working as a missionary. While he was there he was not able to attend public worship services, the only time he could gather with other believers was in secret, underground worship services. When he returned, I had the opportunity to take him to an outdoor worship service on the beach, (one of our regular services). He was overwhelmed at the freedom, at the pure joy of being able to worship God openly, without fear, with other believers.

Worship should be so much more than an obligatory, perfunctory religious exercise. Worship is encountering God, interacting with Him. When we meet for worship with other believers, it is a family celebration, a time to be treasured.

I guess my prayer is: “God, give us a glimpse of what corporate worship really is, a gift of God’s grace, let us approach it with anticipation and let us treat it with great respect.”

What are you doing on Sunday?