Friday, October 29, 2010

Faith in Home.

Quite literally.

This past month has been a journey, one that has offered us growth and revealed more about who we are as individuals, as well as a family.

It begins with the regular hobby of my wife (and some other women too?) of exploring open houses.  Dreaming about what it'd be like to have a bit more elbow room, closets in each bedroom, and sidewalks to teach our girls how to ride their bikes.  It's not about being unsatisfied with our current home, realizing there are areas of the world, and even the U.S. where to have a home like ours is beyond the largest dream.

Which highlights one of the first major differences.  One of the things I've loved about my wife ever since we began dating in college, was her desire to change things.  She does not become complacent easily, and always asks the question "What could be?".  Usually, for a guy with the personality that would be quite fine surviving in a house of any size as long as the dishes are done (my OCD coming through)...I haven't traditionally responded well immediately.

But a few weeks ago, she was "ooooh"-ing over a particularly nice house in the historic end of town.  She even convinced me to come with her.  I went through the motions, and tried to "do" what was asked, without quite taking the endeavor seriously.  The house, after all, was beyond our "budget", and it was a pipe dream.  I don't enjoy looking at a car unless I'm going to drive it...that sort of thing.

Later that week, the price of the house was reduced in such a way that it became a possibility.  I caught my wife's vision for "What could be?", and we immediately transformed life into that of house-selling/buying.  Had a contingency offer accepted, based on selling our current home.  Then the waiting began.  We heard all sorts of advice, from "claim the property in prayer, and it's yours", to "if it's God's will, it'll happen", to the much more preferred by me - "guess you can just pray, and wait, and see if it happens".

But these range of responses, along with a recently renewed practice of praying together regularly, added to the recent study of Luke 18:1-8, and we've had some good times.  What is the will of God, in regard to my home?  I teach that God cares about the smallest detail, and encourage teens to pray about anything their hearts are impacted by, no matter how silly.  All of this points to the fact that God hears our hearts when we pray for this move to happen.

Perhaps He will still actively move in a way that opens the door to this move.  It seems the door is closing, however, tempting us to ask the question - what was/is God up to?

In moments like this, we cling to the fact that God continues to be faithful.  Even the passage in Luke 18 doesn't emphasize the widow "got her way" eventually.  It points to the fact that that faith was found, God's complete Justice is coming, and encourages the disciples to not lose heart.  To keep praying, and that is the point.  We continue to be incredibly blessed, not simply because we have a home and other material comforts...but because we have a God who hears when we pray.

Like I said...maybe it'll still happen.  But no matter what, I look forward to continuing to pray often with my family toward whatever may come....God with us. :)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

man.

This past weekend I attended "Wild At Heart", a 24-hour retreat designed to help men re-capture their God-given masculinity...and have fun while doing it.  I have to admit, I'm not the first to raise their hand when it comes to "Who wants to come to this manly man of a man thing, where we'll do manly stuff, and discover how God made men different from women?"  So when this opportunity presented itself, I didn't exactly race to the table.

I was raised by my mom for a good portion of the "growin' up" years.  As captured pretty good in Donald Miller's book "To Own A Dragon", he talks about growing up without a father as always feeling like the rest of the world knew something you didn't.  Now, my mom did a pretty spectacular job raising 5 kids by herself for a while.  And if I would've allowed my dad now, to be my dad when he married my mom....well, I wish I would have. :)

I realize by now, there's nothing actually missing.  In fact, through life's difficulties I've probably grown a lot more, and added to the characteristics I would have otherwise naturally acquired.  I'm thankful for what God can use, even if it wasn't what He desired for our lives.

But even with all that, when it comes to "typical" man categories (women, sit down...don't get offended....I realize there are plenty of you who are "into" this stuff...much more than me.) like fixin' cars, shooting animals, and knowing every sports statistic that is currently and historically relevant....I'm generally uninterested/inexperienced.  But I still love the guys in my life, who do naturally enjoy these things for some reason.

That was my main reason for going, and the same reason I've been attending "Mens' Fraternity" here in Decatur every Thursday morning.  There is a HUGE group of men out there who relate really well to sport and hunting analogies.  And in the midst of analogies I'm not a big fan of (Emphasizing over and over again how much we need to utilize humility as some type of tool/weapon in order to "win", etc.) there are definitely things worth hearing/talking about.

Guys being vulnerable, and pursuing the heart of God.  Recognizing it's not about dominating the home or workplace, but serving it as Christ.  Discovering what risks/adventure God is calling in your life specifically, and having faith to step forward.   Surrounding yourself with a "band of brothers" who can support each other in these things.


Not sure these are specifically "manly" callings....but it sure helps for men to be honest about them when they're separated by gender for a bit.  Good relationships being built, and God is receiving glory. :) 

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Beyond the Lions

This week's Old Testament reading comes from the book of Daniel.  I'd confess that beyond the popular story of the Lions' Den, and short passages here & there in my studies of Revelation and other apocalyptic writings, I've not spent much time with Daniel.

The readings are short (7:1-3, 15-18), and just enough to get a dream and its' interpretation.  Daniel sees four great winds "churning up the great sea", and four great unique beasts coming from that sea.  In the 2nd section we get the interpretation: "The four great beasts are the four (kings) that will rise from the earth."

Before we get caught up in wondering which current or future governments will rise from the earth, we recognize there were four primary oppressive governing bodies over the Jews.  This isn't news, as we can find this interpretation in several commentaries, and it definitely fits with the message of Daniel/scripture.

1. Chaldeans
2. Persian Monarchy
3. Grecian Monarchy
4. Rome? Turkish Empire? Syria?  (the jury seems out, but sure seems like Rome)

But the primary focus, even beyond these debates, seems to be found in verses 13-14, and verse 18:

"In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.  He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence.  He was given authority, glory, and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him.  His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed....But the saints of the Most High will receive the kingdom and possess it forever - yes, for ever and ever."

A good reminder, for sure. :)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How Many Minutes Do You Have?

Recently I was given a copy of "The Seven Minute Difference", along with a soon-to-be-released companion daily planner.  I smiled, automatically relegating these things into the "won't really impact me, but I'm forced to write something about 'em so I'll give it a go" category.  I was somewhat wrong.

Turns out, the "7 Minute Difference" is simply using a few short moments a day to make sure what you're doing with your day is connected to what you ultimately hope to do in life...both short and long term.  The planner itself is organized in such a way as to remind you to be taking those small steps on a daily basis, and staying on task with them on your mind.  Being honest, the planner was too much for my ADD.  Anytime you need 11 pages to explain HOW to use a planner, you're over my head.  Turns out, it's easy to use...if you use planners.   Maybe there will be an app for it someday...I might try that.  For more information, I encourage you to check out the Seven Minute Life System yourself.

One of the things that frustrated my wife over the past several years, is my lack of "dreaming" when it comes to our home.  Sure, I would agree when she asked me, I want a house where our girls can have closets.  I would like a house with sidewalks so we can teach them how to ride a bicycle.  I'd love a street with less traffic...etc.

But none of my actions/words ever conveyed that I intended to do anything other than live where we were for the rest of our lives.

This book pointed out to me, I may be doing the exact same thing in other areas of my life.  Allyson Lewis points out the importance of putting our "Life Purpose" into words, and then making lists of Goals and Micro-goals that move toward that purpose.  Although I will confess, I had a hard time coming up with a "Life Purpose".  Mainly I think I was trying to see through her lens, which seemed optimistically too much about the vague notions of "success", "security", and "growth"...all business-oriented phrases that I'm not really motivated much by.

My "Life Purpose" would probably sound something like "My purpose in life is New Creation.  To experience being made new by God, & to be involved in His making all things new in Christ.  Desiring the same for my wife, our marriage, my children, my family, my relationships with those I love, and those I need to be reminded to love.  I pray the ministry God allows me to be a part of to be actively growing New disciples of Christ, and connecting believers in relationship across families and generations...toward the coming of God's Kingdom."

Now...that's always been there in the background.  But not really in words.  And even now that it's in words, I find myself critiquing and wanting to reword it.  Yet, there is a solid beginning.  A purpose that my daily actions, large and small, should be united by and part of.

I love the ministry God allows me to be a part of.   But I'll be honest - I would probably be just fine if it looked very similar 10 years down the road.  Just as I'd be just fine if I lived in the same house.  But "just fine" doesn't imply that's what I want.  I want stronger relationships with my volunteers.  I want to be more connected with the families, and see teenagers deeper connected to the discipleship happening at home.

I think that often because I fight the mentality seen throughout this book of professional "success", "growth", and "security", I forget that "content" doesn't necessarily mean things have to remain the same.  I am thoroughly content, and thankful for where I am in so many areas of my life.  But I desire what can be...

Monday, October 18, 2010

My Fantasy Hockey Writers Application Sample. :)

And so it begins. We've kicked off the last bit of off-season dust, and have begun the journey toward awarding the 2011 Stanley Cup. Maybe you're new to this fanatical experience of the NHL. Perhaps you're a long-time fan with records of every Gordie Howe Hat Trick ever made. And possibly, you think a “hat trick” is probably something the goalie does involving taking off his protective head gear.

But what you all may have in common? Fantasy Hockey.

Personally, I've grown up watching hockey as far back as I can remember. I love it. So did most of the people I grew up around. But then I moved to the middle of Illinois. Now I find myself surrounded by basketball, football, and even a few baseball fans, many of whom have never watched a full NHL game, unless you count Chicago's win last season.

So what do I do? I trick as many local guys as I can to put their ego's to the test in the realm of Fantasy Hockey. Sure, sometimes I do alright. But overall, my “win” comes in the form of having a group of guys I can talk hockey with...both online, and in person.

And what a season it's already turning out to be.

In the West, the 2010 Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks are fighting to make a statement. What statement? “Even though we lost some great players due to salary cap issues, we are still as much a team to be reckoned with.” Watch for Marian Hossa to continue gaining productivity as the season moves forward. He may have finally won a Stanley Cup after an emotional chase, but now he's tasted victory and has more time on the ice than last season.

But that's not all the West has to offer. This week saw the match up between the “Old” and “New” regimes of hockey, and it was VERY close. The Detroit Redwings took on the Colorado Avelanche in Detroit. The team captains age at 40 and 39, respectively, but only one truly represents the age of the men behind him. Nicklas Lidstrom, backed by a Detroit team aged mainly 25-40, and isn't available in your fantasy league for a reason. He's solid.

Adam Foote on the other hand, is surrounded by so many young whipper snappers starting at age 19, you wonder if Colorado will keep him around for another season? Yet even with much less experience, the Colorado Kids gave Detroit a pummeling on Tuesday night, tallying 38 shots to the Wings total of 28.

Any team that can give a performance like that in Hockeytown USA, is worth checking into.  You might take a chance on David Jones if you've got a deeper league, with an open RW position. Ousted by an injury mid-season last year, it's hard to know what he would have accomplished. But the 20 minutes a game he's playing right now says Colorado has confidence in his ability to produce, and they were rewarded for that confidence Tuesday night.

Friday, October 15, 2010

After "After You Believe"

Whether due to a busy summer, a large amount of books I've taken on all at once, or simply wanting to spend more time working through it....I've finally completed "After You Believe" by NT Wright.  I don't think I'll surprise my 2 readers by saying.....I enjoyed just about every page of it.

As a quick side note, I found myself wondering if people around me (because the world revolves around me, right?) notice the title of my book, and think perhaps I've just recently become a "believer" in whatever the topic is.  Sometimes I'd purposefully flash the book, in hopes that an energetic evangelical would strike up a conversation about how great Jesus is.  No such luck, this time at least.

I've already posted some thoughts while reading the book, and it's important call to reclaim the activity of Jesus in our world as the Church.  So much of what Wright has said, is painted wonderfully in such a context that to remove it from, would be like taking a single star from "Starry Night", and wanting you to see how beautiful it is.  I encourage you...if you've ever found, or find yourself in a place where you want "more" from Christianity, and church shopping isn't quite filling what you thought it would.....or whatever method you've explored to bring personal revival.....allow God to use this book in your journey.

God is doing some pretty incredible things, and I want the language, song, and dance of my life to be something that I've practiced so often when it felt unnatural - that when moments requiring the response of someone genuinely following Jesus to bear God's presence into the world in a transforming way....I am able, by the Spirit's presence in my life.   That my very mind would be transformed/renewed, so that Faith, Hope, and Love would be virtues I've not only practiced in the grace of God...but are also becoming my very "New" nature.  That the fruit of the Spirit (all 9 aspects of it) would be obvious both as difficult decisions, as reflex actions, and as truly supernatural gifting as my life seeks the coming together of heaven and earth.

I'm thankful for Wright's words on the work of humanity that has begun, and will continue into New Creation.  The gathering of creations' praises to present before God, and the bearing God's image and nature into that same creation.  I pray that God will be with me, as I desire these things not only for myself, but for my marriage, my family/children, and the church community I've been blessed to be called to serve God among.

Yes...it's a bit dense at parts.  The fact that he talks about Aristotelian themes of virtue, etc...can be intimidating and discouraging to some of us who would prefer an easier-to-swallow pill.  But just as the spiritual "disciplines" can lead to some pretty amazing transformations toward New Life.....taking the time to invest in the words on these pages...can open the Word and Life that Jesus Christ has inaugurated...may you be blessed as well....and if you wanna borrow my copy - just let me know. :)

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Holiness - Mark Van Valin

The 2nd primary speaker mentioned in yesterdays' post was Mark Van Valin, from Spring Arbor, Michigan.  Whereas Barna talked to us mainly as ministers and churches, VanValin spoke to us as children of God; and offered new insight in our conversations on "Holiness".

He began by offering 3 main "traditions" of salvation:
 - Proposition - we believe the right things
 - Behavioral - we do the right things
 - Relational - we know the right person.

Obviously, his desire for us was the third understanding.  That we might come to know an intimate experience of Jesus Christ.  From John 17:3 "Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."  We see the trinity relating to each other in places like Jesus' baptism, exhibiting Love and Joy and Family.

Many of us have been asked the question "If God is complete, in need of nothing, why did he make us?"  Mark reminded us it was out of His fullness, not loneliness, that God created.  A fullness that He desires to share with us.

Van Valin compared our approach to our lives in regard to holiness like an island with overgrown plant life.  That holiness is not simply "weed-wacking" around our island, taking care of the small manifestations of outward sin.  Sin generally comes from some sort of "self" focus:

 - Self-promotion - "what about me?" mentality
 - Self-protection - "always being safe", "not me!" mentality, disguised as humility
 - Self-indulgence - "please me" mentality, easier to spot this one, seeking pleasure/avoiding pain, addictions
 - Self-sufficiency - shies away from mystery, "let me" mentality, not willing to be broken/vulnerable

 These fear-based "larger issues", destroy relationships and our ability to relate well...to God, or others.  All of this pointing to the real enemy often not being satan, but ultimately myself.  Van Valin offered reminders to yield ourselves to Christ for each of these areas, in order:

 - Humility
 - Obedience
 - Suffering/Intimacy/Self-control
 - Trust

These 4 things not only deepen, enrich, and help build relationships...they also REQUIRE community.  Church is much more than an hour on the weekend that you can choose whether or not you're interested in attending this week.  It's a community experiencing life-transformation together, and transforming their world as those lives are lived out together in mission and God's presence. 

May we invite those around us to participate in the intimacy of genuine life together in the same way we've been invited to participate in what the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are actively doing...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Journey to Wholeness - George Barna

Last month I was privileged to attend conversations on the topic of holiness at the pastors' day hosted by the "Wesleyan Holiness Consortium".  The two primary speakers were George Barna, and Mark Van Valin.  Today's post will focus on the message from Barna.

He was speaking on the topic of "How to partner with God more effectively toward genuinely transformed lives."  Toward lives that naturally bring about the virtues of faith, hope, and love...and yield the 9-fold fruit of the Spirit.  Statistically speaking (which is Barna's forte), we currently have some very unhealthy churches.

Barna gave us the important reminder, that no matter gifted we are...no matter how well prepared the sermon is, and no matter how tight/seamless the service goes....WE cannot transform lives.  We need the Spirit of God to move in New ways.

He talked to us about his current research journey, that will be released as a new book, focusing on the "Journey" most believers (or communities of believers) experience.  He found 10 primary stages, or "stops" on that journey:

1. Ignorance (of sin)
2. Indifference (skeptics, etc.)
3. Concern (so what do I do about this?)
4. Ask for initial forgiveness. (often "fire insurance" type decision)
5. Involved (developmental, service, "what's next" questions begin to be asked)
6. Spiritual Discontent (been involved a while, but realize the change is outward, wanting more)
7. Recognize the need to be broken (by sinful nature - need for God's work)
8. Healing (once we've surrendered to God, restoration & growth can come)
9. Love (from and for God)
10. LOVE (for others - a very distinct step apart from #9)

Some important notes on the above:
 - These are not always sequential...especially the first 5.
 - Most people stay within the first 5 stops.
 - #6 is often the place where people want to "change environment" (go church shopping), but retain the issue at heart.  Often seen in young adults who are used to age-segregated "youth group" mentality consumer-driven church experiences...and now find themselves without a section on the menu for them specifically.
 - #7 is crucial, and often missed.  Majority of believers say they accepted Christ without brokenness.  The consumer-driven (avoid hell, or gain better life) models of salvation miss out on what Jesus is up to!

Barna then gave 4 important "next steps" for us as churches/ministries:
1. Recognize that EVERYONE is on this journey somewhere.  Where are you?
2. Reflect on what "transformational ministry" means?  We are reminded the "endgame" is NOT "heaven".
3. We need to invest more church resources in steps 1-4 than we do currently.
4. We are called to be vulnerable in realizing these things.  To partner together, and find fellowship with others seeking a better understanding as well.

May we find ourselves on the journey, and locate those we love as well....as we seek the Wholeness that Jesus Christ is offering even now...

Monday, October 11, 2010

"The" Session - Final D6 Post

The final speaker of the conference was, in my opinion, the one that provided the vision/framework/calling that the other sessions made you thirsty for.  Rob Rienow, of "Visionary Parenting", spoke to us on "How to change the DNA of our church?"

He gave a great presentation, beginning with Genesis and going through both Old and New Testaments, on how the Bible is not just "meat" for great messages, but is also full of "method". (at this point, we Methodists smile a bit at our cleverness)  Rienow called us, as churches and in our own families, to "reclaim" the connection between the Great Commission and the institution of the family.  He gave us 3 main points in the midst of it:

1. God created FAMILIES to be discipleship centers.  Not speaking about a mom, dad, 2.5 kids and a dog, either.  Talking about great-grandparents, grandparents, aunts/uncles, parents, cousins, kids, etc.  The automatic expectation throughout scripture was the impact a transformation had on not just one person, but on the direction of their family's lineage/heritage. 

2. The biblical purpose of parenting & grand-parenting is to impress hearts of children with the love for God.  This purpose never fades or is reduced simply because they "move out" or seem to stop paying attention, which leads to point number 3:

3. God created family as an essential engine of world evangelism/cosmos transformation through the power of multi-generational faithfulness!!!  We see God's vision for Abraham and his family in Genesis 18:18-19.  That multi-generational faithfulness begins with NOW.  Regardless of what has happened in the past, and what you've inherited, you can begin a LEGACY of several generations all transformed by New Life, and impacting the world with your own home/family/preparations for family. 

The calling of much of this comes down to Deuteronomy 6:5, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength."  To impress this upon the hearts of our children, to model it as we walk together, and to talk about it in a way that reveals how important it is to the very fabric of our lives.  But it can be hard to achieve, if we don't understand/think about what it means ourselves.

To love the Lord with all our heart, means to Love God in regard to "What I Love".  What captures my heart?  What has the power to tug on my emotional strings?  How are we helping the "heart" of our family to be directed toward the God who has given us His Love?

To love the Lord with all our soul, means to Love God in regard to "Who I Am".  Where does our identity come from?  Our confidence and reason for getting up every morning?  Do we humbly give thanks to a God who gives us an identity as sons and daughters of the Most High?  How are we helping our family receive it's identity not from finances, social status, or culture...but from the Word of God?

To love the Lord with all our strength, means to Love God in regard to "What I Do". What have we accomplished recently?  What work have we done?  What have we created, and where have we joined with God in "making all things new"?  How are we helping our family to be involved in things that matter to the Kingdom of God more than things that will fade in a few years?

Malachi 2:15 reminds us that God has given us marriage for a purpose. He makes two into one, and hates divorce, because he desires "Godly offspring".  And no, this is not a call toward parenting "Duggar-style".  This is simply the Truth...that God desires that following Him would be a multi-generational family together thing, and in/through this....His purposes continue to be accomplished.  How hope-filling and exciting...to anticipate together with many generations..the completion that God promises, and that we have all been living toward together!!

Whether this simply means we continue what we've been doing, or calls us to allow ourselves and our families to be changed...may God bless the generations and extensions of each of our homes/families this week....and may He begin with you and yours...

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Matthew 25:14-30

Last night we talked a bit about this passage, and the insight felt like something very worth sharing.  Many of us have heard this story before.  It's an illustration of the Kingdom of God....a parable that points to what Jesus is bringing about.

There are two main messages we often hear, associated with this story.  Both miss the point by quite a bit.  Usually, when these verses are quoted or read, we hear one of two messages:

1. "Well done, good and faithful servant.." Usually it's only these words we hear.  Often as the goal of their life...a romanticized notion of arriving at the pearly gates, and to have Jesus with a long flowing white robe (kinda like a Snuggy, actually), offering us our own Heavenly Snuggy, and ushering us into a giant cloud-themed living room saying "Well DONE, good and faithful servant."  God finds that we've accomplished His "work" well in this lifetime, and we've proven ourselves faithful despite all of the temptation we had to work to avoid during our days on earth.  Our emphasis is on being "done", and now being able to get on with what all Christians really want to do, which is to say lounging around drinking coffee and chai, and playing musical instruments from the 2nd Century....basking in the sunshine (which is actually the light radiating off of Jesus), and working on our son-tan. :)

2. "You have been faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things!"  When we hear these words, many times today it's in relation to a "prosperity gospel" type message.  That if we are faithful with the few bucks we make right now, by giving tithes/offerings sacrificially, donating to worthy causes, and managing our affairs with Jesus at the center....God will no doubt increase our wealth, our success, and our empire of sorts.  This is very popular.  We with little money would love to believe this, because it's an easy path to success and financial peace (right?).  Those with lots of money love to believe it, because then it's easier to rest easy with lots of money, as it is God's reward for the sacrifices already made and done with.  But the truth is, you could be incredibly faithful with the little bit of money you have right now....and a tornado could still hit your home, and insurance refuse to pay for much.  But don't tell Joel Osteen. :)

The Truth is, the story remains a parable about the Kingdom of God.  The words "Well done, good and faithful servant..." do come at THE END OF THIS LIFE, and are immediately followed by the next phrase "You have been faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things!"

We will be given tasks/work in the Kingdom of God, just as we have many tasks at hand right now.  If we are found faithful with what we've been given in this life, God will respond to that in the coming Kingdom!  Not by giving us a large crown or mansion, or a "time off" couch and Snuggy....but with more responsibilities!!!  A word given negative connotation by an earthly existence that is often way too imbalanced....but how glorious will be our responsibilities when God has been revealed fully, and made all things New!!!!  Our tasks as priests and rulers will continue, and take New forms in the ages to come....I look forward to it all....and pray that God finds I've been faithful with what I've been given here and now....

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Main Session - Carey Casey

One of our speakers was Carey Casey, from the National Center for Fathering.  Seemed like a very nice/fun guy, with an impressive arsenal with which to name drop.  One of the "real life" members of the "Remember the Titans" final game.  He's met with President Obama, and several other famous people I didn't write down.

He talked about an obvious dilemma for any of us who want to engage an entire family that attends our church.  Many times, the father takes a "back seat" to the spiritual development of the children, and often parenting altogether.  In recent days, I'm hearing more and more of these statistics, as I've attended the local "Men's Fraternity", and will be heading on a "Wild At Heart" weekend later in October.  I've not had a huge interest in these types of things before.  I was raised much of my life by just my mom, and don't really enjoy hunting, playing sports, or working on cars as perhaps I should.  I usually end up cringing at statements like "Real Men enjoy/are wired to ________"...usually because it puts me out of the group.  But as much as I poke fun at some of the overly macho enthusiasm, and apparent need to associate every analogy with sports, hunting, or some other obviously masculine endeavor...I recognize there is truth in some of what they're saying....men need to be called on differently than women.  We need to be reminded that it's not about money, strength, "success" as defined by the world, and it's not something that happens automatically.  Being a father, a husband, and a man God is using....takes effort, practice, Love, humility, etc., and dependence on/seeking God.  Ministries like this ARE reaching men across the country...and God can use that.

So, once we've gotten their attention, how do we engage fathers (myself included) in the spiritual development of their families and children?

By reminding them, there is a purpose to being where they are.  By ministering to their marriages as a top priority.  By helping dads to pursue unconditional love.  Teaching/guiding fathers to "coach" their children.  He used the illustration of asking a father, "Suppose you were asked to be assistant coach for your child's team?  Think of the energy and enthusiasm you would put into preparing your child, and how they interact with the team as a whole...etc.  Now...how much energy/enthusiasm do you put into your child's eternity (which has already begun)?"

Good point.

To model the life we want to guide other men toward, in Christ.  To encourage a fatherless child ourselves...he reminded us of the words in James 1:27...the call to look after orphans and widows, for this is religion God accepts as pure and faultless.  He reminded us to enlist other dads in all of this as well...referring to the well-known proverb about iron sharpening iron.

I look forward to connecting with other young fathers in the next years specifically.....on purpose...and without having to grunt or shoot an animal to do it.  But if they wanna shoot something near me....that's cool.  I'll bring a book.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Main Session - John Cannon & Ryan Rush

Cannon and Rush came out to do a tandem interview on the topic of "Yeah, but...", offering practical ways the "D6" concept was happening in actual churches.  Because of the back and forth, and the difference between their churches and ours....I didn't take a ton of notes.

They reminded us to be intentional about involving children in God's worship, Word, and work each week.  I can more than get down with that.  Something about children being visible during worship motivates coming before God with more humility/childlike-ness.  At one of the worship services, a motion song was done, that I honestly had very little motivation to wave my arms around during.  However, the same song was done at another time with a small group of children on stage, and I jumped right in.  Not because one service was more "genuine" or whatever than the other....but simply seeing children enjoying the physical expressions of the song...led to a more natural involvement in those expressions myself.  And that's not even scratching the surface on what it offers both the Christ-community and those children involved. :)

They gave the acronym "HOME" as we ask ourselves how we can realistically start to see changes/movements in our approach to ministry.  To begin and desire "Healthy Homes".  To pursue and instruct "Ongoing Obedience".  To provide and resource for "Meaningful Milestones" in the lives of those moving from child to adulthood.  Finally, to be "Engaging Everyone", connecting our ministries and efforts to and between every generation/background present.

Much of this goes against popular thoughts (at least thoughts that I've heard) that are content to label as "healthy" churches that are growing in number....when all the growth is happening with young adults, making friends with more young adults, who are inviting their young adult friends. (seriously, young adults, did you know you were a hot commodity among churches?  I say demand a gift card and free babysitting, at least. ;)  )  On the flip side, I've also heard some speak of churches filled to the brim with only elderly, content to let those churches fade quietly into the sunset.  I think both sides of this coin are unhealthy, and at worst damaging to a community seeking all that God has for us.

At this point in the conference, I was getting just a little weary of all the bragging about how "God is at work through a movement called D6", and wanted to say that D6 was just our latest (pretty good) attempt to join God in what He is already moving toward and desiring to accomplish.  I think it had something to do with the sales pitches for all things D6, and the relentless advertising by this publication or that must-have ministry tool.

Nevertheless....good things. :)

Friday, October 01, 2010

Main Session - Doug Fields

I've heard Doug speak a number of times, and read several of his books both in preparation for, and in the midst of ministry.  You probably have too.  What I haven't heard him speak on much until this, was the aspect of parenting...other than talking about "boundaries" he has to protect his wife and family, and other random stories from his podcasts.

That seemed to be a large part of his focus here as well.  When we think of the question "Okay, so now that we're all on board as pastors, desiring for more to be happening in the homes of our church members in the way of making disciples and living out faith throughout the week.....what do we do next?", Doug brings the not-so-obvious answer - "Start in our own homes."

I'd confess that prior to this conference, praying with my spouse had not been something we thought about fitting in somewhere.  Sure, we'd pray together at meals.  We'd pray as a family during the girls' bedtime ritual often.  But to actually pray together, apart from our kids/meals....and not just because there's an emergency? 

It's already been a nice change...and reminds us, sometimes through desire, and sometimes through ritual...that our marriage is a priority.  Both for us...and for the God who made two become one...and continues to hold us.

The fact that our families as Christians can be examples for those who are seeking a "New" way of being a family.  A path apart from the destruction and self-motivated maneuvering found in the world.  That a family can also exhibit how the church body can exist...freed from self and positioning, practicing self-less Love, Hoping together toward what comes next, and sharing common Faith in the God who is making all things New.

Although I'd have to say I was a little disappointed in one of his main points ("Focus on Your Own D$&* Family"), that seemed to be popular with much of the crowd...simply for it's crudeness.  Nevertheless, the point was...before we begin trying to "fix" other homes in our church, we need to be aware of how much priority our own family has.  As pastors, we need to change the expectations that we're overworked and present at every single event our church has.  When "off" or "on vacation", or even home after work...to "unplug", and disconnect from communication avenues to focus on family. 

He called us to "serve ice cream" at home, putting as much energy into making your home attractive as you do your church/ministry.  Which, as someone not too particularly motivated to make our youth ministry "attractive"...I still get what he's saying.  And finally, he asked the question of us as pastors, "What are you doing to make sure it's a privilege that mom/dad is a pastor?"  Offering stories of things he's done...kinda "all-access" type, movie night, friends lock-in, swim in baptistery, etc.  :)