Are You Feeling Unqualified For Today?

This morning, as this is posted 8 hours after it is written, I will speak to a group of Lithuanians who mostly do not speak English.  In fact, my talk will be translated into Lithuanian and Russian.  There is a part of me feeling a bit unqualified.  I am reminded of the story of Moses.

Then the Lord said to him, “What is that in your hand?” “A staff,” he replied. Exodus 4:2 NIV

Moses had plenty of excuses. He couldn’t do what God was asking of him. He was not the right choice to carry out the mission of God. If God really wants to achieve victory….well…He’d just better pick someone else. Moses had the excuses, but God already had the plan…and it included Moses!

God said to Moses, “What is that in your hand?” Moses responded, “A staff”, but he must have looked at the staff and thought, “Well, it’s just a stick God. You’ve seen one before! After all, you made them. I just can’t walk as well now in my older years. This helps me climb over the rocks. Gee, I thought you knew what a staff was…”

Then, Moses observed God do miracles with that ole stick right before his eyes. And that was only the beginning. Moses would see God perform many other miracles with the “ole stick” in the days ahead.

Moses was not eloquent in speech. He did not command a great army. He was in exile from his people. He was not the most obvious choice to lead this great exodus from Egypt, but He was God’s man. And, Moses had everything God needed to complete the task!

You and I do too! Sometimes we may not have what we think we need to accomplish the task of the day or to get through a trial; to conquer the mountain ahead or to see victory, but God has a plan! God asks of you and I today, “What is in your hand?”

God has fully equipped us to do the work in which we are called!

If you do not have confidence in your abilities today have confidence in your Creator! He has prepared you for this day!

Should I Even Bother To Come Home?

n678929877_43Cheryl and I are in Lithuania this week.  Read that story HERE.  We plan to update more later.

Nate and I were commenting back and forth on Facebook.  I told him I was getting up early here in Lithuania, because it is daylight from about 4 AM to 11:30 PM.  Here was his comment back:

“i’ve been up a while too.. since about 1 PM. I have to wake up early tomorrow though so I should probably go to bed soon.. I’m working on some new music stuff. The house is still in one piece… except for the giant hole in the garage door from where I forgot to raise it before backing the mower out.. thankfully the mower is more powerful than the garage door. It was about time we replaced that ole thing anyway… also the yard looks good. A couple of the neighbors stopped by to compliment how good it looked.. a few others stopped by when I wasn’t here so they left notes about it. Also the kitchen was smelling a little funny so I sprayed this stuff in there, but it turns out it was for wood services only and now the kitchen floor is really slick. Hopefully it will get better before you get back. I called the wooden floor guy to come over and fix it.. so it should be fine.. also Paw Paw has a Yugoslavian Pride hat for you.. I told him you were in Lithuania but he didn’t listen.. see ya!”

Should I be worried?  Should we bother to come home?

PS.  I love my boys!

Where Have Common Courtesies Gone?

Quick question: What has happened to general common courtesies?

Do you miss words such as:

  • Thank you when you hold the door open for someone?
  • I am going to be late when someone is running behind schedule?
  • I am sorry when someone hurts another’s feelings?
  • No, go right ahead when you have one item and they have a cart full at the check-out line?
  • Excuse me when someone bumps into you?
  • I forgive you when you apologize to someone?

Have you noticed these courtesies disappearing from our society?  What words or phrases do you miss?

Michael Jackson’s Death Reaches Lithuania

michael-jacksonI am in Lithuania on a mission trip. This country, for the most part, was cut off from Western civilization for the many years of Soviet occupation/Communism. In the first few days we have been here I have heard numerous accounts of how sterile an environment the country was during those years. Apparently, however, one part of the Western world managed to find it’s way through to this culture. The name is Michael Jackson.

We were saddened to hear of Jackson’s passing, but word hit the streets of Lithuania quickly also. It is amazing that he is a legend here as well.  This morning on my run I passed a couple of shrines to Jackson. I wish I had a camera with me. They had printed Internet pictures of Michael Jackson and put them in clear plastic binders, taped them to park benches, and surrounded the benches with burning candles and flowers. The man’s legacy lives here also!

I am wondering now if Michael Jackson’s memory/death will be forever immortalized as Elvis Presley’s has been. What do you think?

Differences in men and women (Typical email home)

Cheryl and I are in Lithuania.  Read other posts on this blog.  Cheryl and I differ on what an email home should look like.

Typical email home from me:

Hey guys, made it fine. Love to all.
Ron

One paragraph from a typical 12 paragraph email home from Cheryl:

The bathroom where we are staying is small, but comfortable.  We have plenty of hot water, which makes it nice.  There is not a lot of shelf space around the sink, but Ron and I have managed to each find a place for our toothbrushes.  Ron will put his on the small shelf above the sink and I will place mine on the small shelf at sink level.  The tile in the bathroom is white and red squares and is quite pretty, but doesn’t really match the rest of the décor in the room.  There is a towel warmer in the bathroom, which we have never seen before, but I am afraid to keep towels on it very long.  It does make the towels nice and warm though when we step out of the shower.

Which email would you rather receive?

God made us different for a reason.  It is just one more reason to celebrate the mystery of marriage.  (Ephesians 5:32)

Are You A Rule Follower? (Welcome to Lithuania!)

If you read my previous post you know that Cheryl and I and another couple are in Lithuania for a mission trip. As I am able I will be sharing experiences from here. If you need a refresher you can read it HERE.

We have been in Lithuania for about 18 hours, but I am just now having an opportunity to write anything about our experience.  Unfortunately I do not have the ability to post pictures yet, but maybe soon.  I wrote 7 blog posts on the plane ride from Dublin, Ireland to Vilnius, Lithuania.  One of them is this one about the plane ride.  It was the weirdest plane rides I ever experienced. I think our culture training began early.

Perhaps the biggest culture shaper in Lithuania is the fact that for years they were under Communist rule and have only recently had the freedom to do the things they do today, such as travel, enjoy other cultures, explore the latest trends and fashions, participate in capitalism, go to church, etc.  Giving someone freedom can have all kinds of crazy reactions, which we are seeing constantly, but I suspect we started to see the results on the plane ride here.   Rule followers need to beware; here are a few highlights I thought were interesting from our trip here:

  • The plane ride started like every other I have been on in recent years. The stewardess gave us the standard safety procedures and read the list of rules for take-off, such as about seat belts, tray tables being in the upright position, no electronic devices, etc.
  • One man was told to put his bag under the seat in front of him.  He started to, until the stewardess walked by, then he placed it back in his lap.
  • Just as the plane started to leave the ground, one man jumped up to get something from the overhead bend.  No one said anything.
  • Dozens of seats were reclined during take-off, including the ones in front of us.
  • The girl next to Cheryl had her headphones blaring.  She never did turn the music off.
  • One stewardess had an exit row seat just behind us.  She was reading/reviewing the safety cards of what to do in an emergency during take-off.  (I wondered if it were her first time.)
  • There was a guy across the aisle in front of us sending text messages during take-off.  He continued until he lost service.
  • While we were still ascending a young girl who looked to be about 10 years old got up to go to the bathroom. The stewardesses were not up yet and the fasten seat belt sign was still on, but I guess she “had to go”. This started a trend.  Soon lots of people “had to go”.  At one point there were half dozen people waiting at the front to go.  We were still rapidly ascending…
  • I looked down the row during take-off and there were dozens of seat belts hanging towards the ground. The plane was full.

It was like people knew the rules, but ignored them, because they wanted to and the rules were never enforced.

That brings up an interesting question:

If you were in this situation and you knew the rules would not be enforced, would you still obey the rules because they were the rules or would you take advantage of the situation and break the rules?  Are you more of a rule-follower or a rule-bender?

Do you see any correlation here between the issue of grace and the law?  I do and you will read more about it in the days to come.

By the way, in our short time here Cheryl and I have already fallen in love with the people of Lithuania…rule breakers or not!  Stay tuned!

Younger Employees Should Honor Older Employees

Recently I was in a restaurant and listened to some bickering between waitresses. One of them has worked in the restaurant industry and this particular restaurant for many years. The other waitress is in the first year of her first job. The younger employee refused to take suggestions or advice from the older employee. Although they did not handle this situation correctly in front of customers, it did remind me of an important principle.

Here is a special word of encouragement to younger employees in an organization or to those who are just entering the workforce. I see it all the time in today’s work environment.

If you are the newest person in the organization, you should be willing to listen to whoever has more experience than you have, even if they are equal to you or outrank you in superiority. For that matter, even if they are report to you consider listening to their advice. This does not make it right for an older worker to treat the younger worker with disrespect, but my momma always said, “Two wrongs don’t make a right!”

You should do this for several reasons:

  • It will build their trust in you.
  • It will honor their years of service.
  • It will make the work environment more congenial.
  • It will be a great example for others in and outside the organization.
  • It is the right thing to do.

Have you seen this occur in your organization? Have you been the older or the younger employee? Do you agree?

Use The Summer To Prepare For Fall

SummerSunOne quick reminder.  Don’t kill a summer.  Use it to plan for fall.

Summer is often a time for church leaders (unless you are youth leaders) to take vacations, chill out, and rest up.  While I agree with that need, the fact is that fall gets here quickly and we need to be prepared for one of the best growth opportunities of the year.

Take some extra time before summer is over to spend some time dreaming, planning and implementing steps to help your church have a great fall!

I would love to learn from you.  What are you doing this summer to prepare for a great fall?

Leading People To Make a Positive Impact

I have been writing this week about the need to plan as a church for the future.  I shared yesterday about three questions our staff worked through at a recent staff retreat to brainstorm.  You can read that post HERE.  Another exercise we went through was the 20-60-20 Principle. (Some will say this is 10-90-10)

This can be a controversial principle, because it appears at first glance that an organization is strategizing to leave a group of people out of the equation, but really this strategy helps the entire organization be more successful, eventually improving things for everyone involved in the organization, even those in the last 20%.  This principle assumes that in any organization:

20% of the people are on board with what the organization is doing and wants to see the organization reach its full potential.  These people understand and believe in the vision and are usually willing to contribute to its success.

60% of the people are just along for the ride and can be pulled in either direction towards a positive or negative view of the organization.  They can be new to the organization or they have never been challenged to get involved.

20% of the people tend to be negative, uninterested or just passing through.  They typically will resist any changes and do not contribute to the overall success of the organization.  They are complainers by nature in any environment in which they are a part.
 

The problem is that most organizations (especially churches) tend to cater to the last 20% in an attempt to make them happy or keep them quiet.  The challenge and goal for any organization should be to spend energy and attention developing the top 20% so they will pull the 60% in their direction.  With this approach the last 20%, those who are currently creating negative energy in the organization, will either join in the excitement or be forced to look for an organization they can fully support.  Unfortunately, some of these people will leave if they do not get their way and will most likely join the same negative 20 % in another organization.

Is your church or organization concentrating most of its energy on people who really are never going to support the success of the organization?

Results of Brainstorming At Our Staff Retreat

Yesterday I posted about the need for a church to plan for the future.  You can read that post HERE. In that post I shared three questions our staff worked through at our last extended staff retreat at Grace Community Church.

The questions were:

  1. Missing Holes
    What needs developing?
  2. Dying Momentum
    What needs tweaking or killing?
  3. Gaining Momentum
    What needs energy/additional resources right now?

Here are some bullet points these questions led us to think through.  While I realize you will not understand some of them, they will help to see the types of thoughts generated with this type of brainstorming.   (Thanks to Christy Crosby on our staff for these notes.)

Missing Holes

Systems

  • Recruiting Volunteers
  • Surveys
  • Networking
    • Mentoring

    Communication

    • On Stage (in message, announcements, worship leaders, videos)
    • Bulletins
    • Grace Weekly
    • Website
    • Blogs, Facebook
    • Flyer/Handout

    Scheduling

    • Overlapping
    • An update at the beginning of the week of what is coming, a briefing email?

    Fellowship

    • Creating an atmosphere for people to fellowship on Sunday mornings
    • Are we friendly on the surface but hard to connect with
    • Ask Me? button

    Dying Energy

    • Dead Zone in the Hall, after service starts
    • Set up & Tear Down
    • Core Momentum
    • Dream session?

    Gaining Momentum

    • Gathering – excitement is back
    • Relevant Student Ministry– Camps, Remix
    • Cross Street Live-Promotion in Clarksville Family, Billboards
    • Evangelism/Baptism Effort – Re-enforcing it in EVERY area
    • Community Presence – Rivers and Spires, Operation Serve
    • Stickier – Not as big of a back door
    • Credibility – In community and in the church circles
    • Volunteers – Ready to invest in other volunteers, training
    • Community Groups – Learning from each other

    Of course, the key now will be actually implementing some of this, but that will need to be the subject of another post.