Gratitude, Hope, and Hospitals

Today my brother, Roger has travelled down to Lake Jackson by himself to visit us. (We’ve been in this house for close to 15 years and this is his first time to see it.) I’m grateful for the time we spent going to church, watching football, going out to eat, and just hanging out. He is not out of the woods yet, but he has come a long way. Today, he a different man than he was just a few months ago. He has a renewed faith. We are able to carry on great conversations.

Today, I’m grateful. I’m grateful for my brother. I’m grateful for our new relationship. I’m grateful for his effort to come down to see us. I’m grateful to God for progress and for hope.  Today, I praise God for all He has done and for His promise to be with us through all of our circumstances.

Matthew 28:20b – (Jesus speaking) – I am with you always, even to the end of the age.

1 Corinthians 13:7 – [Love] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Romans 5:3-4 –  . . . we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Little Shovel

ShovelOn his blog, Seth Godin writes “If you want to dig a big hole, you need to stay in one place.”

I wonder how this applies to evangelism? He explains that if you take your little shovel all over town, you’ll end up with a bunch of little holes – little impact. As a marketing guru, he applies this to sales: If you make 1000 sales calls, you’re likely to get 1000 rejections. On the other hand, if you work on one person and call him ten times, you might make a sale.

Back to evangelism: I think Jesus understood the “Law of the Little Shovel” pretty well. Think about it. He spent lots of time with the same 12 people (the disciples). He used his shovel digging into the lives of the same folks every day for three years of ministry. Those guys ended up changing the world and bringing Jesus’ message to the world as we know it – big impact.

I think it’s important to realize that when we truly invest our lives in people, (the same people year after year) we will dig much deeper in transforming both them and ultimately, the world around us. We should think in terms of changing a few people greatly rather than changing a great number of people in small ways.

A Bump in the Road

I’m 9 Weeks into this whole weight loss/exercise/diet thing and I guess I hit a bump in the road. Last week I weighed 227.5lbs and this week I was back @ 230lbs. I don’t really think I gained 2.5 lbs. I think it has to do with when I weigh myself. I didn’t eat as well this past week (and I have no excuses – well, maybe I could blame Shana’s visit for one meal, but. . .well. . . that’s just me playing the “blame game” that I learned from my ancestors back in Genesis.) Anyway, I think there are probably gonna be weeks where I feel like I’m getting nowhere. This is one of them, but regardless of what the scales say, I can still say I feel better. I feel like I’m really doing well. I’ve been on the cholesterol medication for just over a month now and taking “fish oil” for about as long. The lifestyle change that I’m really seeking is well underway and it really hasn’t been as difficult as I had imagined. If I can just make my feet hit the floor in the mornings, then after that, the exercise part comes easy. Eating better will always be difficult, but I’m finding more things that I enjoy that are “healthy.” (By the way, Miranda made some great pork chops last night!)

Here are the pics:

Week 9 - 230lbs
Week 9 - 230lbs

Week 1 - 240lbs - Yuck!
Week 1 - 240lbs - Yuck!

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5 Life-Changing Experiences – Education

Romans 12:2 says that it’s the renewing of our minds that leads to transformation. That means education has the potential to be a transforming influence – and for me, it truly has been.

I might, however, define education a little differently than most. True education doesn’t happen in a classroom. Transformational education isn’t necessarily formal. As a matter of fact, to our knowledge, Jesus never taught the disciples in a classroom. He taught them wherever they were using their surroundings and situations as springboards to teach lessons which were easily applicable to their circumstances. He taught them by showing them. As a model for them, he didn’t seek to have them ascend to some greater knowledge or understanding but to have them actually become like Him – to apply the things he taught and live them out – he was interested in their transformation, not mere knowledge.

Me and Mike @ the Dead Sea
Me and Mike @ the Dead Sea

The education I’m speaking of (that which has been life-changing and transformational) has come in many forms in my life. Mike Mathews (my father-in-law and ex-boss/Pastor) discipled me and led me to go deeper in my spiritual life. He challenged my status quo by showing me that there was more. He sent me all over the country (and overseas twice) to go to conferences where I could see new ministry methods, and gain valuable insight into culture. These conferences enlarged my thinking, but when I’d return, it was Mike who came alongside me to encourage new efforts – this is where true transformation happened – in the daily grind of ministry – in working to live out the things I’d been learning.

My time at CBS (College of Biblical Studies) has also been transformational. Dr. Loken, Dr. Shockley, and Dr. Ayers have each stretched my brain capacity, but it has been the experience of working on staff in full-time church ministry which has guided me to transformation. The ideas and concepts which they taught have played out over and over in different circumstances within the church. Through their teachings, I’ve been able to “know what to look for” in order to recognize the real issues going on within the church. My growth has come as I have sought to “be like Christ” in every circumstance. Watching God work in these situations and feeling my way through/learning my role is what has been transformational.

True education (not just knowledge) changes us. The things we learn inform our decisions and affect our behaviors. I have been changed by the education God has granted me – and I’m grateful to Him. I hope to continue to be a student – to continue to be changed/transformed throughout my life.

I’ll close with a quote from Leonard Sweet from his book “Soul Tsunami.”
“In the medical world, a clinical definition of death is a body that does not change. Change is life. Stagnation is death. . . . Skin replaces itself every month; the stomach lining, every five days; the liver, every six weeks; the skeleton, every three months; cheek cells, three times a day. Ninety-eight percent of the atoms in your body are replaced every year – your whole body every five years (men) or seven years (women).”

If “education” = “change/transformation” and “no change” = death, then it only makes sense that we should all be concerned about our continued education/transformation. 

Changing a Culture

09-01-22-icebergSome of the church leadership people met with Dave Herman, (our “Transformation Coach”) this morning and I created a few diagrams to help explain some of the things he shared. Although we talked about quite a few other topics, most of the conversations centered on changing a culture.

I think it’s important to first define culture. For the purpose of this conversation, we are not talking about the culture at large but rather “organizational culture” and specifically our own church (Lake Jackson FUMC) culture. In my “Christian Leadership” classes at CBS, we learned that organizational culture is defined as “that which is assumed.” People assume things to be a certain way because a culture has told them so. Assumptions are made based upon the way things have always been done within the culture of that particular organization. Culture is an understood (and mostly agreed upon) set of rules by which everyone plays within that organization. Culture was also described like an iceberg. The way an organization does things (what is seen) helps us understand it’s culture, but there’s usually a lot more under the surface. You can change what is seen, (like core values or mission statements) but without changing the cultural support, nothing will really be different. The look may change, but the direction and momentum remains fixed because culture carries so much weight.

Anyway, here’s the first diagram:

01 Changing a Culture

The congregation is represented by the blue line and the leadership by the green.


Church/organizational culture is portrayed by the purple wave which flows in and out of it’s members as a story. The church culture is very difficult to define (a wave) because it is ever-changing and organic in nature. Culture is created, reorganized, and understood by the average member throughout their lives. When they hear stories of things going on in the church or are reminded of memories of the “good ol’ days,” they instinctively define the church by those stories. Although it changes often, the church culture is mostly defined by who the people are, and what they’ve done in the past. This results in a status quo or good ol’ days mentality. Some of the members, are also leaders. They may not hold positions, but they have influence and others hear their stories with greater appreciation.


03 Changing a Culture

The leadership of the church is called by God to direct, empower, and equip it’s members to live out the story of God rather than the story of the status quo. They should be mostly concerned about the future of the church and should speak a new story into the lives of it’s congregation. A story which represents the calling they believe God has placed upon them collectively. The red wave represents this “God story.” It’s also important for this story (vision) to be clear, concise, and compelling. (not like a wave)

I should be clear to say that the purple wave may very well be Godly too, but it is fluid in nature and much less defined. Setting a church on a specific course requires strategy which calls for definition and focus.


05 Changing a Culture
Too many church leadership teams function the wrong way. They call members to join them. Yet, in the servant leader model, the leaders are called to serve their members – step out of their positions to work alongside them. In doing so, they build relationships which allow them to gain influence. Once that influence/relationship is built, the leader can tell the new story and begin to have an impact on the culture from the ground up. A leader serves. That means culture is formed as leaders kneel.

06 Changing a Culture

As those relationships grow, the members, become leaders/interpreters/proponents of the new story which they have seen lived out in their leaders. Pretty soon, enough members have become a part of the new story that the church culture approaches a tipping point. Then the culture truly begins to be shaped by the new story/vision as it ripples through the congregation. Unfortunately, there will always be a few people who will never join the new story. When the whole culture changes around them, they find themselves trapped. Some will leave the organization. Others will just go into hiding, hoping that the new story will fail so they can come out and say “I told you so.” Some will just live out the rest of their lives in bitterness – always trying to regain their personal story. The good news is that God’s story has room for everyone! Some (the disciples) will choose to follow while others (the Rich Young Ruler) will hold on to their own and miss out on God’s best.


I’m excited to be a part of a new story here at Lake Jackson FUMC. I pray that I can be one of those green X’s who will serve this church family by humbly telling a new story and seeking to love in such a way that the culture, community, and my friends will know Jesus more.

Just a final note of thanks to Dave Herman. This is very insightful information, which will benefit us greatly as we seek to be a part of God’s work in the transformation of His church. I also want to apologize if I have misrepresented him in any way. The explanations are a combination of his words and my own thoughts. Dave, if you’re reading this, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Did I get it mostly right?

Indiscernable Change

WaterdropThe other day, I had lunch with an old friend who I hadn’t seen much of in a couple of years. As we talked, I realized how much of life has really changed. Not only has Kasen become a part of our lives, but I have also started school since then. We’ve also seen quite a few changes in our church since then – we’ve gotten involved in a small group and begun investing our lives in some other people, and we’ve been a part of some youth growing in their relationships with God.

Anyway, before we got together, I kinda wondered what we’d talk about, but now that it’s happened I realize how much we had to catch up on. I guess when you’re in the middle of change, it always seems really small, and like you’re not really getting anywhere, (like a drop in the ocean) but when you step out of it a while. . . .well, you realize how big the changes really have been.

Kinda like Kasen – everyone keeps talking about how much he’s grown. He still seems like the same little boy to me, but when my new niece (Kallie Grace) was born a few weeks ago and weighed almost the same that Kasen did, I realized how much he has grown.

They say that in 7 years our bodies have completely reproduced themselves. We don’t have one single cell in common with the body we had 7 years earlier. It changes at such a small rate that we don’t ever even realize it.

Anyway, all this is to say that sometimes I get discouraged that we’re not really making a difference in people’s lives or that God has not been doing much in our church. When this happens, it’s good for me to find a way to step out and get a better perspective on things ’cause the truth is that God is ALWAYS at work around us – changing and molding us into His image.

My Beautiful Bride Today

Miranda was exceptionally beautiful to me today. I’m not sure what the deal was, but today she looked even more incredible than normally. Maybe it’s this “radiant glow” thing that people say happens with pregnant women. Maybe it was what she was wearing today or the attitude/outlook she had on life today. Maybe it was my outlook on life today. Maybe it was the way that God shined His light on her today or how all the planets aligned to cause a special gravitational pull which subtly pulled on me causing a heart palpitation within my chest cavity blah, blah, blah. Bottom line. . . . I don’t know what it was today – I just know that I’m so blessed. God has given me such an incredible gift in my bride. I’m so excited about our future together. It’s gonna be so cool to watch her as a mom to Kasen. I’m excited about the team that we’re going to be in raising him.

Our lives are about to change in huge ways once Kasen is born and I must admit that my excitement about the future also has a tiny little hint of sadness/fear about those changes too. I mean, I love my bride and the relationship that we have. I love that we can just get up and go to dinner or travel to Houston to do something fun. I love hanging out with her and cuddling in front of the TV for a quiet night at home together. I’m a little fearful that these days are almost over. Of course I’m excited about what’s coming and how we’re gonna be changed, but I’d be completely clueless to not recognize the beautiful thing we have now.

I thank You God for everything you’ve given me – for my bride, and these incredible early days or marriage, and for the amazing future You have in store for us with Kasen. It’s gonna be so good!!! I love You God!!!

Change

In his book "SoulTsunami" Leonard Sweet says this about change:

Body
"In the medical world, a clinical definition of death is a body that does not change. Change is life. Stagnation is death. . . . Skin replaces itself every month; the stomach lining, every five days; the liver, every six weeks; the skeleton, every three months; cheek cells, three times a day. Ninety-eight percent of the atoms in your body are replaced every year – your whole body every five years (men) or seven years (women)."

This is amazing stuff to me. It means that the church oughta be the same. If we’re not changing, we’re dying. Robert E. Quinn says the same thing, "None of us can avoid the confrontation of slow death. We all must choose the strategy of deep change." He also describes the deep change process as "walking naked into the land of uncertainty." I love that image ’cause it so clearly communicates the fears that we have going into the change process. We are vulnerable – scared – unsure of ourselves. But isn’t this where faith gets to exercise? Isn’t it when we are weak that He is strong? Isn’t this also the place where we feel fully alive? Where we are fully present in the moment? It’s frightening – but oh – it’s also exhilarating!!

A Mentor

Our study materials suggested that we find a mentor and so I asked my Father-in-Law, Mike Mathews. He and I were friends long before I even met his daughter (my beautiful bride) and he was influencing/leading me into new places spiritually from the first day I met him. We have traveled all over the world together learning about Jesus and the church. We have been to Israel, Soul Survivor in England, Brooklyn Tabernacle, and Phoenix Church of Joy together. He also sent me to Willow Creek, Saddleback, and Ginghamsburg UMC in Ohio for more training. As much as I learned from each of these places, I have probably learned more from watching him in both the way he lives and in his vocation as Pastor.  I’m excited that he has agreed to talk with me and our first meeting was great! He shared much with me about his personal “Deep Change” over this past year.

Prayer:
Thank you God for preparing the way to make this day possible. Thank you for this friendship and for the ways that You have worked in Mike’s life to bring him to this place in life where he is finding His purpose and meaning in You in new and profound ways.  Use these times that we meet together to help us encourage one another and be the “body” that You’ve called us to be. Use these times and experiences to speak into our lives and move us to maturity in You. AMEN!