Photo Friday: A Mere Speck

Last weekend my son invited me to go off shore fishing with him and two of his friends.  We left early in an effort to try to beat the heat.  It’s been brutally hot this year in North Florida so getting out early really helps.  While riding out as the sun was coming up and riding out past the point where you can no longer see the shore, I was struck with the size of the ocean and the relative small size of the boat.  Really just a mere speck in the vastness of the ocean.

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I think we sometimes give ourselves more credit that we deserve.  We are all just a speck on the earth.  You might think you are a bid deal, but the truth is the world’s a big place and your really not all that extraordinary.  So how can we make an impact when we are just this speck on the ocean?  I spent some time catching up with my son and his friends.  I found out what’s going on in their lives.  We laughed a lot.  But sometimes it was just quiet and we enjoyed each others company without even saying a word.

The way you make the little speck big is by making your world smaller.  Reach out to the ones that are closest to you.  Connect on a deeper level.  Offer yourself to them.  You will make a bigger impact when you discover how to put others needs above yours.  This is how you will actually become the big deal.  In a small way and backwards to our thinking and reasoning.  One connection at a time in a great big world.  Just a speck in the middle of the ocean!

Six Ways The Church is Missing the Boat

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I hate when I miss an opportunity to do something great. Something that will result in real change. Many times these opportunities will just present themselves and then be gone in an instant. I feel like the Christian church is at a time when She can be a real force for good. The Church has a huge amount of resources and some of the greatest people that the world has ever known. Yet the impact is watered down. I think we are missing the boat. There are many reasons but here are a few:

Division Between Denominations: The continued lack of a cohesive force between all denominations has neutered the impact of the Church worldwide. Do you really think that when you reach heaven that the Father will tell you “well done faithful servant” because your theology/doctrine/way of doing church was correct? We spend way too much time and effort trying to be “right” and miss the boat on what the focus should be. Serving others. Feeding the poor. Helping others. Sharing your faith. Mentoring the next generation. Being a united force for good. Right? Do churches cross over? Rarely. It’s like the Tower of Babel. Churches want to talk- but have a very difficult time listening.

Super Christians: Every church has them. The super spiritual. The ones that have memorized the Bible or can sling the bible darts on command. They do two hours of quiet time each day. Searching out the next great awakening or the latest prophet. This dedication sounds good, but the result is that these distinctions lead to cliques and division in the local church. Are they really better?  The rest of the congregation just doesn’t “get it”. They are lesser Christians. They are just not dedicated enough. They can’t be a leader or have real influence. They are not as close to the Father as the rest of the extra spiritual group. Doesn’t this sound like a Pharisee? Does to me.

Inwardly Focused Churches: Many churches are great at the Sunday morning experience. They have great worship teams, children’s ministry, coffee bar, etc. I get it. The Sunday morning thing takes a lot of resources and the average Christian family expects a pretty high level of service. But aren’t we called to reach others? Aren’t we called to get out of the church? Why do we spend so much of our resources on the Sunday morning experience? We are missing a great opportunity for good instead we are spending huge resources on facilities, staff, utilities, etc. just to do Sunday morning.

Inwardly Focused Christians: Many Christians are very dedicated to intimacy with the Father but they do not get out and serve. If Jesus on earth is the perfect model, Jesus did spend time in prayer and time with the Father, but he spent much more time ministering to the poor and needy. Experiencing God is part of the journey, but the highs can be like a drug. You want more and more and this want is completely focussed on yourself and not on others. We are called to disciple and serve others. You are here, not heaven. You need to get out and serve!

Fractured Community: The most powerful force in joining people together is serving together. When you minister together to help others, you form a strong and powerful bond. The act of serving provides a great opportunity to share your experiences, gifts and passions. This is a very natural way of sharing your story with others. Serving as a church can bring bonding across age groups, genders, cultures and economic differences. Without a way of providing a cohesive bond that crosses these barriers, the church will look like a bunch of distinct groups. New folks will struggle meeting others. The young will not learn from the old. Discipleship will not occur. A sick church.

The 80/20 Rule: Last but not least, the Church is not mobilizing the congregation. The old adage says 20% of the people do 80% of the work in the church. Can you imagine the power of 100% participation? It’s time to mobilize everyone is the church. This means finding the passions and gifts of every member and getting them marching forward in the work of the Kingdom. Everyone is equipped for a special purpose to advance the Kingdom. This might not be your vision.  We need to encourage others to walk into that purpose. Instead we are trying to coax them into whatever the vision is of the church as outlined by the leadership. What about their special calling? Aren’t they uniquely designed for a special purpose from the Father? If you don’t recognize this then where are they? Following your vision????

We have a long way to go. We have been entrusted with the most powerful force on the planet. When will we step into the role we were made for? When can we stop the power games? If we truly believe that He will take care of us, then the rest is our pride our insecurity? Right?  Can we own up to that? What will you do? You tell me! Please! Please!  Please! I want to know what you think!

Photo Friday: The Little Things

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Photo Credit:  Snapwire Amarpreet Knur- CC Public Domain

I’m traveling again on business. At the TSA check today, I pulled out my toiletries out of my bag and spotted a little note card that my wife put in my bag about five years ago. I was leaving for a men’s retreat and she snuck the note in my bag along with some other stuff. The note is now yellowed and showing the wear of thousands of air miles

I looked at the note and smiled. The smile came at the right time. I was tired, just out of gas and getting on another airplane. Heading out again. But there was that note…again. Reminding me that I have someone who is supporting me. Someone who is on my side. Someone who I can count on no matter what happens.

These little things are big. They have weight- at least to me. I also have come to realize that some folks go through life kinda clueless. They don’t have any idea what is going on around them. They are rushing through everything. They are missing so much of what is going on around them.

But I see the little things. And they brighten up my day. And that makes all the difference!

Photo Friday: Overwelmed

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Here is a picture of a gentleman who is convinced that one trip is much better than four! Do you feel a little like this guy? Carrying the weight of the world on your back?

Trying to be supermom, superdad, superfriend, superemployee…

The fact is: This never really works! There are consequences. You will suffer from problems like health issues. You will sacrifice other things like time with your loved ones. And many other things that are very important.

So why do we do it? Why do we take on so much stuff ourselves? Why can’t we give it up?

Generally its plain and simple pride and control. We can’t let someone else take care of things. Can’t give it up. Your convinced that you are the only one that can do it right. Can’t take our hands off the wheel and let go. You feel like disaster will happen if you don’t steer things in the right direction.

The fact is: It’s your problem.  Don’t blame it on everyone else. You are the only one that can fix this.

Say no sometime.  Off-load some stuff.  Learn to delegate.  Let others take over.  Let things run by themselves. It will be ok. The world will keep spinning. Your life will be better. You’ll see!

Photo Friday: Invisible

UntouchablesThis is a picture of Gerardo and Margarite, a couple that we met while ministering in downtown San Jose, Costa Rica.  Gerardo’s father abandoned him on the streets when he was nine tears old and he has lived on the streets of San Jose his entire life.  This picture was taken at their “home” in front of a store with a large overhanging roof that keeps them dry at night.  There were about twenty others sleeping in this same location.  Around the city of San Jose there are hundreds of others sleeping on the streets at night.  I wouldn’t necessarily say “homeless” as the streets are their home.  But the streets are not like your home.  They are a very tough place.  They fight every single day to survive.

Homeless people are found throughout the world.  Rich countries and poor countries.  The last attempt at an estimate was 100 million people worldwide.  Getting accurate numbers is impossible.  We passed over a bridge in San Jose and the pastor told us that more than 100 people lived under that bridge!  These are the invisible people.  They live in the shadows.  And most just look away.

When we returned to the street of San Jose we looked for Gerardo and Margarite.  They were not invisible to us.  They were our friends.  They were enjoyable to talk to.  They appreciated that we stopped to talk to them and hear their story.  The food we provided was really secondary.  They wanted companionship and company at their home.

We understand the truth- we are all one bad decision from being where they are.  Abandoned and forgotten.  Living day to day.  Afraid and lonely.

Look around, you will see them.  Stop and talk to them.  Hear their stories.  They are there.  They are not invisible.

Question Mark

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Years ago when I was training new tradesmen on the construction site, I would tell the new recruits to do as I do- exactly– for a month or so until they could come to me with new ideas or better ways of doing things. After the waiting period, they generally would respond with comments like, “Now, I see why you do that! I couldn’t see why that was so important.” They could see the wisdom in the action, but it was invisible when they first started. They had to go through the entire process to see the value in the smaller action or the movement.

Our nature is to question everything. This inquisitive nature has led to great innovation and changes that have provided new products and ways of thinking. For the most part this has been healthy. In the quest to provide better life for ourselves and our families, questioning has provided an explosion of new thinking. But is it always healthy? What is the damaging aspects of this questioning?

There are times when we need to be subject to authority. This is part of providing order to the world and allowing leaders the ability to think and lead. If the leader is constantly dealing with unrest, it becomes impossible to provide room for strategic thinking. We have been so conditioned to question everything that its becoming increasing difficult to accept something due to authority. We have become a society where we have been conditioned to be subject to no one.

This is particularly damaging as we parent our children. If we have developed a habit of continually questioning or rebelling against authority, we are teaching our children to do the same through our actions. The result of this kind of parenting could be young adults who are not equipped to take direction. Not equipped to be managed. Not equipped to follow.

Parents often leave really important decisions to their children. For instance, whether they should go to college or not. Kids don’t have the life experience to make a quality decision and they will often take the easy way out. It’s not only wise, but necessary, to push your kids for excellence. Don’t give up on your kids!

There is a time to blindly follow authority. You will not explode if you do something simply because you were told to do so. There is typically great wisdom and experience behind the direction. Be a good follower. You will learn to be a better leader!

So what do you think?  Do we question thing too much?  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me what you think!

The Power Of Your Story

 

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Yesterday, we visited a women drug and alcohol rehab center in Alajualita to minister to the women at the center. Kathy had been there many times, but this was my first visit. During our time at the center, our group shared some of our own personal stories of addiction, rejection and shame. As we shared through an interpreter, you could visibly see the connections being made between their situation and our struggles and our stories. This instantly broke down the walls between our cultures, our distances, our languages.

I’ve seen this before. Being transparent has a way of connecting people together. Having the courage to share a painful story or your personal struggle confirms that you are not alone in your struggles. There are others that are just like you. You are not weird. You are not broken. You are not alone.

If you don’t tell your story, how will they know?

One of the persons in our group shared a miraculous story of deliverance from a very serious drug addiction. They came to the end of the rope. They were tired of the cycle of failure. They gave up the struggle, asked the Lord for help, and finally surrendered. Completely. None of this “one foot in and one foot out”. Quit trying to do it one their own.  They realized that it was impossible without His help. And like the gracious father that He is, in an instant, it was gone. No more hunger for drugs. No more depression. No more shame.

They were glued to every word. I sensed that the ladies were most afraid of failing again. You could see the fear in their eyes. They had all tried to stop before. One woman shared that she was a “rehab expert”. She had been in rehab twenty times. They all wanted it to end.  They desperately wanted this instant transformation and change.

Radical transformation is what they are seeking. A new beginning. Freedom from the slavery of drug and alcohol abuse. Freedom can be instantaneous or it can be a process. We want it quick, in an instant, but the Lord may have other plans. The key is to surrender. Completely. Give up the fight and give it to Him. You cannot do it on your own, with your own will. It’s the Jesus story. We couldn’t live the perfect life so he sent His son to the rescue. To give us a way out. He is the good, good Father!

The good news is that in the end He always wins. He wants the very best for you. And, if its not in an instant, you will get stronger each day. You can do this. Wash away the old and fill yourself up with the New. The Lord is gentleman. He won’t do anything without your permission. Move towards Him. Surrender. He’s waiting for you!

So what do you think?  Have you experienced the power of your story?  Have you seen the walls come down?  Why do we try to hide?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think!

Photo Friday: Wonder

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Photo Credit- Snapwire- Greg Rakozy

I love the stars. I remember some special moments in Northern Michigan away from the city lights just sitting and marveling at the amazing number of stars and contemplating the vastness of the universe. So many stars you couldn’t begin to count them. The milky way was a vivid strip running from one end of the horizon to the other. You can easily pick out the North Star at the end of the Big Dipper. The Little Dipper and Orion.  You can also see Venus and Mars if your timing was good.

I really miss the stars. There are few areas where I live that you can really see the stars. Some friends will comment, “Wow, look at the stars tonight!” All I can think is that they really haven’t seen stars unless they are up north and far away from the city lights that choke off the incredible display.  I am seriously thinking about taking a trip just to see the stars. The real stars. Am I crazy?

There is a hunger in me to see the wonder of creation. Whether its perfection in a  flower or the gaze of a billion stars, we are bathed in an amazing display that seems to be endless. Go ahead- count the stars! Measure the width of the ocean. Look out at the expanse of this great country. We have so much to see, consider and enjoy. It makes me feel small, but also gives me encouragement. Although I am but a speck on the earth and my time here is but an instant, I have so much more that I need to do. So much more to see. So much more to enjoy. So much more to explore.

Don’t ever loose the ability to wonder and enjoy the vast and endless beauty of this earth.

Maybe its time for a trip to see the stars?

Searching for Home

Kathy and I had the privilege to serve in a refugee camp on the Panamanian border. The camp has several hundred Africans and some Pakistanis who are stuck in the camp due to issues with the Nicaraguan government letting them pass through their country. We spent time hearing the stories of their journey through the Amazon rainforest and being robbed by the mafia in Columbia. These were men looking for a safe place for their families. They risked it all to find a place that is safe and secure. Some told us stories of walking through the jungle with a compass simply pointing them north. They spent days walking through swamps with water up to their chests.

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An incredibly dangerous journey.

They shared the struggles back home and the reasons why they left on this journey. Stories of killings and brutality. Corruption and political struggles.

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As I sat and listened I realized that the conditions back home were so bad and dangerous that it was actually better for them to risk traveling through the jungle with the hope of finding home. This is not a story about money. This is about safety for their families. Searching for a place where they can live without fear. They were searching for home.

They are risking their lives to help provide a safe place for their families.
There is no guarantee that they will make it.
Yet, they will put it all on the line for a chance to make it to the U.S.

How about you?

The U.S. certainly has its problems, but we have justice and peace. The Pakistanis knew it. They knew that the U.S. was a good place. A place with good and caring people. A safe place with opportunity.

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So as we as a country discuss “walling off” our country in I can’t forget about the faces of these people. They are risking their lives to find something better for their families. They will continue to point their compass north. They will continue to struggle to find safety. Something we take for granted. A place where they can sleep at night without worry. A place of peace and security.

The march will continue.  Heading north. Searching for home.

Photo Friday: Walking in the Clouds

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This is a picture I took about 8 years ago in Costa Rica while on a mission trip.  I shot this picture while walking on a mountain above the central valley above San Jose on a magical and verdant ridge that connected two mountain tops.

Have you ever walked in the clouds?

Most folks will not get the chance to do it.  Not because they can’t- but because they won’t. They will not step out of their comfort zone to see the world.  They will continue to tell themselves the lie that they can’t do it.  We get so caught up in our little corner of life and miss that we live in a great big world.

Are you ready to step out?

Kathy and I have seen some crazy stuff while seeing the world.  We travel and explore every chance we get.  We made a point to show the world to our kids as they grew up and I am convinced that it helped to open their eyes to the world.  The great big world.  No matter where you are or what your financial situation is you can see the world.

You need to take the time and resources and make it happen.  Now.  Not later.

It’s time for you to walk in the clouds!

So what do you think?  Have you ever walked in the clouds?  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me your story!