Pictures of our Vacation to the Northwest USA

These are pictures of our vacation.   Keep in mind, that pictures only tell part of the story. They never capture the true beauty or the emotion in seeing part of God’s handiwork. 

This is Sherman’s Chapel. Supposedly it is really, really old and famous.  Some cool stuff probably happened here. You can research it online (and if you find out anything please comment here.)  There was a sign telling all about it but it looked like it had a bunch of details so I didn’t read it.

This is Flathead Lake.  Yea, I know. 

This is the sweet car we are driving this week. The temperature got in the upper 40’s one night, but we still had the top down.  Cheryl was shivering a little bit, but I reminded her that we paid extra to be cold.

 

Another view of Flathead Lake.

 

 

 

 

 

These is some of the wildlife we are seeing along the way.  I didn’t actually see these, so I can’t guarantee that we saw them, but the picture was on my computer so I’m assuming Cheryl saw them.  Pretty tall deer, huh?

 

We arrived in Spokane, Wa., spent the night in Couer d’Alene, Idaho, drove to Missoula, MT, then came to Kalispell, MT where we will spend two nights. Tomorrow we leave for Glacier National Park and then into Canada for a couple days.

10 Things Still on my “To Do” List

I’m on vacation. It’s been too long since Cheryl and I got away for some extended time to relax. I’m not good at relaxing, and for me, sometimes relaxing is being free to think about what I want to think about. (So quit responding negatively to my Twitters about my thinking!) Anyway, Cheryl and I are accomplishing a goal. We’ve traveled now to every corner of the great USA together. She and I had both been here previously, but never together. (I’ll blog some pictures later.)

I have other things on my “Still To Be Done List”. Here are the first ones to come to mind:

1. Write a fiction book.

2. Sky dive.

3. Live in a city of over 1,000,000 people.

4. Live in a city with less than 10,000 people.

5. Travel Africa.

6. Do mission work in Africa.

7. Travel Asia.

8. Do mission work in Asia.

9. Develop patience (Notice that’s near the bottom. If I never get there…oh well…)

10. Wrestle a bear. (Okay, I’m just kidding about that one. Sort of.)

What’s in your “Still To Do” list? I’d love to hear from you.

My Humbling Experience Today

Today I had a humbling experience. I’ve learned that humility is an art.  Pride is easier to attain than humility. Throughout God’s Word He tells us how much He hates pride. 

 

I have worked all week on my message for today, just like every week I’m up to speak. It wasn’t a difficult message.  We have been mirroring our children’s ministry all summer, so the passage was already laid out for me.  Today’s story was the resurrection; a message I’ve preached many times before. I could probably tell you most aspects of the story without my Bible in hand. The challenge is to bring freshness to a story most people think they already know.  I decided to go simple; realizing that because of the newness of our church that there are many who aren’t familiar with the story. 

 

I put together a scripted, verse-by-verse account from Luke 23.  Yesterday I did my final edit. What normally takes me 3 or 4 hours on Saturday to edit my Sunday message took only about an hour. I left frustrated with myself thinking it was a horrible message, but frankly I didn’t know what else to do with it at that point.  I went out to eat with friends last night complaining to the guy who is also in the ministry that I didn’t want to do this message. It just wasn’t that good.  I woke up at 4 AM this morning ready to scrap the whole thing and start over, because I didn’t feel it had anything to offer people.  I made a few changes, but really walked into church thinking this would be the worst message I’ve ever done at Grace. It’s still summer, I thought, maybe I wouldn’t scare too many people off and we could rebuild next week.  I even shed a few tears of frustration before I went on stage. 

 

Within five minutes of beginning today I knew I was no longer in control.  I’m not saying I had a great message; it may have still truly stunk, but I left knowing God used it in someone’s life today.  That’s a humbling, incredible, wonderful feeling.

 

It reminds me of a story told years ago about a young pastor fresh out of seminary who showed up to preach his first sermon at his first church.   He was so confident, but his message simply bombed and he knew it.  He walked off the stage deflated. A senior deacon in the church gave him some great advice, “If you had went up on stage the way you came down, you’d have come down the way you went up.” 

That’s a good principle for me to remember every week. 

 

Thanks God for allowing me to work for you and thank you for humbling me today!

5 Things To Do AFTER the Crisis

Hopefully if you are in crisis-mode right now you are beginning to see the end of the tunnel.  I pray God brings you through this time quickly.  It’s important to know what to do AFTER the time of crisis has passed.  Here are 5 things to do AFTER a time of crisis:

 

  1. Rejoice – Be thankful the crisis is over and a time of peace has come.  I have many times prayed fervently during the hard times, but forsaken my “God-time” when everything is going well. Don’t follow my example in this. 
  2. Share – The Bible is clear that we are to use our struggles to help others in theirs.  Often because of fear or embarrassment we don’t allow people to see our past hurts.  This denies God the opportunity to use the experiences He has given us for His glory.  (Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-7)
  3. Prepare – If you have lived long enough you know that seasons of crisis come many times in life.  During the quiet times when all is going well is when we should be preparing for harder times.
  4. Rest – To borrow from the Cheers theme song, “Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot.   Many people never enjoy the peaceful times because they are too paranoid about the next crisis that may or may not even occur.  We should prepare for times of trouble, but we should never live in a state of worry. 
  5. Grow -   I have grown spiritually more during the hard times than in the easy times of life.  Crisis-mode teaches us valuable insight into the character and heart of God.  Use the down times to evaluate God, your life, and see how the two connect.  Work on the places you are out of sync with God’s will for your life.

 It would be nice if you never needed these blogs.  My sense is, if your life is anything like mine, that some of you will. 

5 Things TO DO In Times of Crisis

In my last post I shared 5 things not to do in times of crisis.  I began with the negative, because in my experience that’s where most people begin when crisis occurs.  (Read: 5 Things NOT To Do In Times of Crisis)  We often tend to run in the opposite direction from where we should run.  Some of the worst decisions I have observed people make (including me) are during the crisis-mode times of life. 

 

Obviously knowing what to do in these times is equally important. So, here are 5 things TO DO in times of crisis. When crisis comes;

 

DO:

 

  1. Stay – I love Seth Godin’s book “The Dip” where he explains how important it is to know when to quit and that time may come.  At the beginning of the crisis is not that time.  Until you have been able to evaluate the crisis from every angle and you clearly know there is no way out, stay the course.  Godin’s book also talks about how those who succeed learn to push through the hard times.  Stay in it long enough to know which time it is for you. 
  2. Stand – Stick to your moral convictions and the vision you have for your life.  Don’t allow the crisis to keep you from doing the right things, even if that seems to be the quickest solution.  Stand with the moral and personal convictions you had before the crisis began. 
  3. Glean – Learn from others who have gone through similar crises. Someone else’s past situation may not be identical to yours, but the emotional and decision-making process they went through probably will be.  Most people after a crisis can tell you things they wish they had done differently.
  4. Examine – At some point you’ll need to ask yourself how you got in the crisis in the first place. If it was a matter of bad decisions, how can you keep from making those same mistakes again?  If you keep finding yourself in the same crisis, shouldn’t that tell you something?  (Sometimes the answer will simply be because we live in a messed-up world.  Don’t be afraid of that answer.) 
  5. Learn – Allow every crisis to teach you something about life. If you go into the crisis with this mindset you will be surprised how different your approach to solving it and dealing with it emotionally will be.  God is always willing to use the hard times to teach us important principles about life, ourselves, and about Him.

 

I’ve got one more list to come about the times of crisis. Next post I will share 5 things to do after a crisis. 

 

(Note: I realize that these are general suggestions and your situation is unique and specific.  Hopefully the generic helps some, but as I wrote yesterday, don’t be afraid to ask for help.) 

5 Things NOT To Do In Times of Crisis

In my profession I end up encountering a lot of people in crisis mode.  It seems to be more often than not lately. For the next few blogs I want to address this issue with some thoughts on how to respond during these times of life.  If you don’t need them now, store them away for future reference. In the world in which we live those times are sure to come. 

 

So, to begin the dialogue, here are 5 things NOT to do in times of crisis:

 

DO NOT:

 

1.       Panic – Panic is “a sudden overwhelming fear, with or without cause, that produces hysterical or irrational behavior” (Dictionary.com) If you panic when crisis occurs you’ll most always make the wrong decision and cause yourself more pain. Calm down; come to your senses; and think and pray through a wise decision. 

2.       Give Up – When I was in a business that was struggling the worst reaction to my situation, which was the one I chose most often, is to run from the problem.  That never solves anything. Looking back I wish I had stayed the course, because when I gave up, so did those I was supposed to be leading. 

3.       Blame Others (This includes kicking yourself.)  Figuring out who is at fault when you are in crisis- mode is probably not as important as figuring out what to do next. 

4.       Refuse Help – I have learned by experience that the same time God is allowing a crisis to occur He is rising up people to intercede on behalf of the suffering.  Don’t deny someone their opportunity to be obedient to what God calls them to do, even if that means swallowing your pride and letting them help. 

5.        Deny God – People either run towards God or away from God in times of crisis.  You can probably figure out which option works best. 

 

In my next post I’ll share 5 things TO DO in times of crisis. 

 

 

 

Where Are You Investing Your Life?

Last fall I was running on a country road in the middle of Kansas and was stopped dead in my tracks with this scene.  Instantly thoughts flooded through my mind.  One day I suppose a man came home from work and said to his wife, “Honey, the house is ready. The place you dreamed of is complete.  It has plenty of room, there is an upstairs like you wanted and wait until you see the rock I found with which to build it.  This house is what we’ve been working so hard to get!   We are going to be so happy in this place.”  Today, this is that same house.

 

This is where most of what we invest in on this earth ends up someday.  If we buy the nicest car with the best warranty; someday, unless extreme care is taken, it will be in a junk pile.  The greatest house money can buy will one day no longer be the greatest house.  Have you ever acquired the “latest” technology? Is it still the latest?  How soon did the Apple iPhone need to be upgraded to be the “latest”?    In the end, the things in the material world just don’t last. 

What’s the moral here?  Well, Jesus said it best.   (Matthew 6:19-21) “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where they can be eaten by moths and get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal.  Store your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves.  Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be. “   

 

Someone’s dream house sitting abandoned 100 years later was a good reminder to me to make sure I’m investing my life into things that outlast time. 

 

Here’s a great evaluation question: Are the places where you are investing the best part of your life in the areas you most want to grow and build something that lasts?

I Am Not Black Enough for this Party

Okay, forgive the poor attempt at humor here, but I’m not even sure this is funny. Today I got a letter.  I won’t tell you who from, but I think it’s too good (or too something) not to share.  (My wife says I share too much.)  What would you think if you got this letter? 

 

Dear Pastor,

 

You recently received a letter of invitation to the Pastor’s Update held at _________________ September 10th-12th.

 

Please disregard this invitation – this is a training/informative seminar for Black Pastors and Planters.

 

Sincerely,

____________________

 

Wait a minute!  I already had it on my calendar!  Not really, but I am disappointed I don’t qualify.  Plus, how do they know I’m not black.  I am not aware that I ever indicated that on any documents this organization would have.  I’m sure it was a huge error to send out the original invitation, which I don’t even remember receiving, but the retraction is hilarious.  So much for bridging the barrier lines in our churches. 

 

Just for that, I’m not going to their little party.  You can take me off the list!

Model T’s are Here to Stay

Today begins a week long 100th anniversary celebration of the Model T Ford in Wayne County, Indiana. Is anyone living that could say today, “That was my first car. I bought it new.”? Probably not; this is a really old car. Affectionately called “Tin Lizzie” it was America’s first “affordable” automobile.

To most of the world, really including me, this celebration will not be a major event in our lives. As an observer of culture, however, and someone who truly loves change, I’m reminded today that “the more things change, the more they remain the same. The author of Ecclesiastes said, “There is nothing new under the sun”.

There is no doubt that the world is changing fast. I saw the phrase “temporary contemporary” recently and that seems very true about our society. Nothing seems to stay the same for long. Cultures and paradigm shifts that used to be measured in decades will soon have to be measured in years. Just to keep up these days it is important for organizations to be continually adapting. We should be changing before the next paradigm shift gets here if we are to be successful. Futurists and others who monitor trends and can predict where society will go next are in high demand and will remain valuable to any organization.

While all that is true, we must never forget that there will always be those who resist change and there will always be elements of society that places a high value on tradition and things of the past. (Keep in mind, things of the past is a very relative term these days.) The balance of celebrating “retro” and adapting to “modern” will continue to be a true art in the days to come.

Front Porches

The issue came up today about the lack of front porches. Years ago every house had a front porch and we knew all our neighbors. Now fewer homes have front porches; in fact many neighborhoods have none; we invest most of our money in our backyards with pools, patios, gardens, etc. and most of us couldn’t tell you our neighbors names, much less anything about them.  Yet, interestingly, we are evidently desiring more than ever community, as evidenced by the dozens of social networking websites that are so popular.  We have become introverted neighbors and extraverted bloggers. 

Which reminds me that our oldest son, the extraverted Jeremy has said many times he wants a big front porch on any house he owns!  Go Jeremy!  Bring back real community!