Sunday, December 18, 2005

Getting Ready for the Party

It started a few weeks back. I got ready for the first Christmas Party of the season. I went through my usual pre-party warm up:
Leave the office at 5:10
Arrive home @ 5:15
Shave, shower, brush teeth by 5:25
Dress and book it out the door by 5:30

Not too much prep there. It wasn't a big deal.

But as the season has progressed, so have the scale of parties. Tonight Kim and I are attending one that requires considerably more preparation. It is a big party. Suffice it to say that I had to rent a tux and will engage in a tad more grooming prior to my departure. To be honest, I haven't always been overly excited about all the parties & functions I've attended this year. This one is different. I've been really looking forward to it.
But this won't be the biggest party of the season for me. Neither will the all church party this upcoming Wednesday and I'm really looking forward to that one! No, the party I'm most excited about is tomorrow night. Kim and I are having the staff and shepherds over and we can't wait! They don't know what is going to happen, but I do. And it will be a very special evening.

But this morning as I met with God, I was reminded that all these parties with the party prep and the anticipation that comes with them is really small beans.

Reading in 1 Corinthians, I unwrapped this gift:

"as it is written:

'No eye has seen,
no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
what God has prepared for
those who love him'

but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit."

I've read it many times prior, but today the realization of that truth was stronger than ever. We can know, through the Spirit, what awaits us. We are privy to the plans of the Party Host.

I'm not waiting until 5:15 to get ready. In fact, I'm not waiting to go to it either.

Let the party begin today!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

1400 Things That God Told Me

Trust me on this one.

Just click here.

Then click BOTH the phone call and the remix version on Dan's post.

Again, trust me. This is funny stuff!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Minister: the Verb.

One Word: Minister. Two primary functions:

Noun: (Main Entry: 1min·is·ter Pronunciation: 'mi-n&-st&rFunction: nounEtymology: Middle Englisministerre, from Old French, from Latin minister servant; akin to Latin minor smaller1 : AGENT2 a : one officiating or assisting the officiant in church worship b : a clergyman especially of a Protestant communion3 a : the superior of one of several religious orders -- called also minister-general b : the assistant to the rector or the bursar of a Jesuit house4 : a high officer of state entrusted with the management of a division of governmental activities5 a : a diplomatic representative (as an ambassador) accredited to the court or seat of government of a foreign state b : a diplomatic representative ranking below an ambassador)


Verb: (Main Entry: 2ministerFunction: intransitive verbInflected Form(s): -tered; min·is·ter·ing /-st(&-)ri[ng]/1 : to function as a minister of religion2 : to give aid or service )

I like the verb better.

Don't get me wrong, I'm good with the noun function too, but being called a servant isn't as fulfilling as serving when called.

A constant blessing of sowing service is reaping the witness of other people who serve. In other words, my antenna are most up to the servant nature of others when I'm the least concerned with myself (i.e. serving). I have no shortage of wonderful examples in my life.

My wife Kim is, in my unbiased opinion, a master servant who has the "other chromosome" in her DNA. Some people remind me of Jesus. Kim is often Jesus to those to whom she ministers.

My kids, John, Laura, & Emily take after their mother. John is always ready to help someone with a computer problem. Laura serves her youth group by leading praise every Wednesday night. Emily is our gift maker who blesses others with handmade creations. Were I to list 10% of the times my family has modeled Christlike service, you'd be in for an hour-long-blog read.

When I leave home and arrive at the office I am surrounded by three more servant hearts: Stephen, Matt, & Karen. Working with them is my weekly sermon on service!

A couple of Sundays ago a team of 30+ helped our family move. I'm sure there were people with greater needs but we were sure grateful for their incredible service. Those of you who have experienced the "joy" of moving can agree! Matt brought a chunk of the youth group and they rocked! Mike & Tammy made a meal and Kevin and Lisa blessed us big time!

Last week I saw incredible acts of service done by Amy & Brian as they brought a blessing to Kevan and the kids. Stephen walked along that road of real relationship with us too. And praise God for Mike who is one of those strong soldiers who exemplify "extra mile" service. And Alex is a tremendous servant. Both of their help on Thursday night was awesome!

One of the powerful images of service burned into my mind is that of a talented team of ladies who lead our Children's Ministry: Melanie, Jenny, Rhonda, Leslie, Laura, Cindy & Jimma. They lead by serving and our children are blessed by their loving sacrifices.

I could go on and on with stories of people "pouring out" themselves for the sake of others. Our church is full of people who pick up crosses; a fact that does not surprise me. Our shepherds, Bob, Ron, David, Steve, & Rick are people who lay down their lives daily for their flock.

Like I said earlier... I like the verb better.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Hunting for a Star Buck!

I was reading recently that going on a morning hunt was the norm for most American families in the early 1900's. Well, at least for the men. The women, of course, were slaving away in the kitchen. Below is a picture of a "hunt" of a different kind. Our forefathers would hunt for a trophy buck. Here is what people are looking for early this Thanksgiving morning: Starbucks.

We are in Houston (Crosby) for a quick Thanksgiving visit with family. We arrived after nine last night and will be on the road after lunch on Friday. It is always a good time to be with family. My only complaint with my in laws is their lack of broad band wireless internet. Hence, my morning trip to Starbucks to get my fix.

I have so much for which to be thankful. I could list the very obvious (family, friends, church, health, etc) but I want to share my greatest blessing I'll be counting today:

I am so thankful that I have someone to thank. God.

I was struck today in my quiet time with the horribly sad thought that so many people will say "thanks" today to no one in particular. Seriously, who does the atheist thank? I don't know about you, but I don't make it a habit to just say thanks to nobody. I praise God that He has shown himself to me as the giver of all good things.

I am a man, so richly blessed.
And I'm so thankful!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Redd with Generosity. Green with Envy.

What a great article! What a better story! In an era of selfishness and within a league of greed, Michael Redd stands out like a sore thumb. He is really a holy hand. The hand of God. Read this story of giving and you will receive a blessing.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Danger, Crack, Rock, and an Intercom. Amen!

Hello Friends,

Read a wonderfully dangerous post on my spiritual blood brother, Matt Ritchie's, blog a while back. This is awesome!

Mankind was born for worship, for communion with God. Our hearts where designed for wild worship, yet we're offered liturgy. Our minds designed to dream big the heart of God, we're offered building plans. Our bodies were designed for dangerous service; we're offered biblical commentaries from the safety of a pewÂ…or a comfortable theatre chair. There is nothing wrong with liturgy; the bible is filled with ceremony. There's nothing wrong with building plans, I like to be dry as much as the next guy. And we need the word, its absolutely essential. But at the end of the day, if we haven't touched the heart of God, if we haven't basked in His Glory, then the gathering is irrelevant. We don't need Sunday school; we need Jesus.

Matt's blog can be found here or more articles can be found on the website for the new e-zine called Precipice:


Just Let Me Finish My Crack.
A North Carolina man didn't speed up when police started chasing his car — he slowed down.
That's because he wanted to finish smoking his crack cocaine, Dunn (N.C.) police told the Dunn Daily Record. Read more.


The following is a logo and an excerpt from a flier I sent out to our church announcing our new sermon series on the life of Peter. Much love to Mark Weather's for his mad word smith skills.

"Peter's hands bore the callouses of a fishermen's life. Pulling in bowline as the sun drifted below the rocky hills in the distance, stitching up the holes of his wind tattered sail before the next work day, scaling fish on the Sea of GalileeÂ’s shores, silently taking count of that days catch. But one day, pulling in nets beside his brother Andrew, a distant figure called out from shore, offering an invitation, and in accepting this call life for Peter, called Simon, would be radically altered.

Centuries later, we still tell the story of the fishermen who became the very foundation of the Christian Church. We remember the foolhardy promises he made to Christ, we reflect on the bitterness of his denial of the very one he had sworn allegiance to and we look with admiration at ‘The Rock’ who would stand before the world with a testimony that could not be quieted, not even unto death. But we do not retell his story because of our love for nautical characters, or simply because we are endeared to tales in which victory streams from the dark waters of failure. The story of Peter must be told because, we too have accepted an invitation from a mysterious figure who stands in the distance, and we have a lingering sense that maybe the triumph of his life might become our own.

This Sunday, October 2nd, Lake Cities Church of Christ will 'put out into the deep waters' of a four part study on the life of Peter, the one who didn't get away. I hope to catch you there.

Following with you.


I read a great piece on leadership the other day. You might enjoy it - you might not...
I loved the part about being an intercom! So true.


I was researching the word "Amen" the other day (because I have that kind of time...) and found out that it has roots in IsJudaismudism and Christianity. Want to know more? Click here:
And finally, strange bit of trivia here - Amen is the last word of the Bible. Didn't know that.


Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Biggest Loser

At our staff retreat a few days ago, Stephen Bailey and I started singing an old school (make that - an old "private Christian" school) favorite, Amy Grant's, Fat Little Baby. The tune is catchy. The lyrics are convicting. The message is concerning.

Read for yourself:

I know a man, maybe you know him, too.
You never can tell; he might even be you.
He knelt at the altar, and that was the end.
He’s saved, and that’s all that matters to him.
His spiritual tummy, it can’t take too much.
One day a week, he gets a spiritual lunch.
On sunday, he puts on his spiritual best,
And gives his language a spiritual rest.

He’s just a faaa...
He’s just a fat little baby!
Wa, wa, waaaaa....
He wants his bottle, and he don’t mean maybe.
He sampled solid foods once or twice,
But he says doctrine leaves him cold as ice.

Ba, ba, ba,,, ba!
He’s been baptized, sanctified, redeemed by the blood,
But his daily devotions are stuck in the mud.
He knows the books of the Bible and john 3:16.
He’s got the biggest king james you’ve ever seen!
I’ve always wondered if he’ll grow up someday.
He’s momma’s boy, and he likes it that way.
If you happen to see him, tell him I said,
He’ll never grow, if he never gets fed.

He’s just a fat, fat, fat, fat, fat, fa-at, fat...
Fat, fat, fat, fat, fat, fa-at, fat...
Fat, fat, fat, fat, fat, fat,

Here is the part that rings so true with me:
"But he says doctrine leaves him cold as ice."

It is true, isn't it? Doctrine doesn't cut it. The sad thing is that for so many, they judge their spiritual fitness by their doctrinal diet. Diet is only part of the equation of spiritual health. The other is exercise. In other words, "Doing"

Doctrine plus Doing is the key to sheding that baby fat.
May we all lose a few pounds this week!

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


My friend Bart Phillips has a great post about the tragic and triumphant passing of the young pastor in Waco who died last week.

Below are Kyle's final sermon notes exactly as he wrote them:

Live. And live well.

BREATHE. Breathe in and breathe deeply.

Be PRESENT. Do not be past. Do not be future. Be now.

On a crystal clear, breezy 70 degree day, roll down the windows and FEEL the wind against your skin. Feel the warmth of the sun.

If you run, then allow those first few breaths on a cool autumn day to FREEZE your lungs and do not just be alarmed, be ALIVE.

Get knee-deep in a novel and LOSE track of time.

If you bike, pedal HARD and if you crash then crash well.

Feel the SATISFACTION of a job well done a paper well-written, a project thoroughly completed, a play well-performed.

If you must wipe the snot from your 3-year olds nose, don't be disgusted if the Kleenex didn't catch it all because soon he'll be wiping his own.

If you've recently experienced loss, then GRIEVE. And grieve well.

At the table with friends and family, LAUGH. If you're eating and laughing at the same time, then might as well laugh until you puke.

And if you eat, then SMELL. The aromas are not impediments to your day. Steak on the grill, coffee beans freshly ground, cookies in the oven.

And TASTE. Taste every ounce of flavor. Taste every ounce of friendship. Taste every ounce of Life.

Because it is most definitely a Gift.

Appropriate words for one who would soon meet their Giver of Life.

You can read the entire article by clicking here.

What an amazing message!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Team Time. Dream Time.

Our Staff Retreat was this past weekend and we had a blast. It was a great mix of productivity and relaxation. I thought I'd share a little bit of the weekend (really just a Sunday afternoon through Monday night) with you. I've included an "open" letter that I wrote to my staff prior to departure as well as some pictures from the retreat itself. Our primary goals for our time together were to conduct a ministry analysis and increase our constantly growing staff unity. We have such a close staff and absolutely love each other. There is such a high level of trust and respect among us. We are committed to "pratice what we preach" as we attempt to call our church to function as a beautiful faith family and serve each other as Christ did. It has been an incredible first 2+ months.

I've been out of the blogging loop for so long. I hope that this entry will spring board a more consistent pattern of posting in the future. I just had to post about our staff. They truly are a blessing!

The letter I sent to the staff:

To The Best Staff in the Solar System, How does one express what an honor it is to serve arm and arm, back to back with fine servants like you? Your talent is amazing and yet it is your passion that I find so encouraging. I have to pinch myself every morning as I pull into the parking lot. The blessing given to me by you is an undeserved gift for which I thank God regularly.

Almost 30 years ago, a father of four and a machinist named Jerry Carroll made me an offer I could not refuse. He told me right before I took the mound of the biggest game of my short life that if our little league team, The San Carlos Reds, won the city championship he would pay for me to go to Church Camp. We won. I struck out 13. I went to camp. My life has never been the same.

A decade later God made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. He asked me to follow him. I was baptized and for almost 20 years I have known the love, hope, presence, and power of Jesus Christ. I could have no greater blessing.

I wake up each morning passionate about the vocation to which God has called me. Whether I am preaching, encouraging, serving, or leading, I get to do what I love most. I love Christ’s church. I love communicating the work of the church, the hopes of the church, and the struggles of the church. I am blessed to be able to do that which is my passion.

It is because of my passion for the local church, and specifically OUR local church, Lake Cities Church of Christ, that I’m am beyond excited for our little retreat the next two days!

I hope you are equally as hope filled about the potential progress our time together can produce. Thank you for your willingness to participate with me in the strategic thinking process. Your partnership in this task not only benefits me, but I am confident that it will produce plenty of fruit in our entire faith family.

While our time together is brief, I truly believe that it will be blessed. I have provided you with a “tentative” time map of the next two days. As you know by now, the combination of my being chronologically challenged and open to the Spirit makes for a need to be very flexible. I do hope to stay on track as much as possible as I want to accomplish every objective and get us home at a decent hour on Monday night. That being said, this process is open to suggestions and if you feel the Spirit moving in you a need for us to pause or take a different direction, by all means, share that with us. This is “our” retreat, not Joel’s retreat. We are so blessed!

May the blessings we have received be used to bring glory to God, the only one who is worthy of the glory! And may we, the Lake Cities Staff, be blessed as we take the pilgrimage of which the next two days hold, the journey on which good is never enough.

“On this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it!”Matthew 16:18

You are loved!

Loving and Serving,


Here are some pictures from the weekend:

Emily & Rainey play in a sand trap

Matt chips around

Stephen & Stephanie relax by the pool

Kim & Karen chit chat

Stephen & I hard at work

Some quiet time by the lake

A Great Staff!

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Irregular Heartbeat

If I had a dollar for everytime someone in my family said something so wonderfully beautiful you might be shopping at Qu-Mart.

Kim, John, Laura & Emily surprise me often with their insight, humor, and compassion. Tonight it was Emily. Here is a brief quote from some of our conversation:

Emily: Dad, is everyone in Trophy Club rich?

Me: No, not everyone. But a lot of people have more money than most people do.

Emily: I think that most people are rich here.

Me: Yeah, a lot of folks are honey.

Emily: That is not good!

Me: Why?

Emily: Because I can't be friends with poor people and live here. Well, I can, but I will just have to drive far to go play.

Me: Long awkward pause as I reflected on the depth of her answer and the often shallowness of my world view.

Emily: Hey Dad?

Me: Yes Emily.

Emily: I'm going to be president someday.

Me: You'd be a great one.

Emily: I want to help poor people. If I was president I could make things right.

Me: Yeah...

Emily: I'd make it "Square and Fair"

Me: Yeah you would!

Emily: Plus you and mom can live in the White House when your old and stuff.

Me: That would be great! (my heart skips a beat as I ponder the beauty of her heart!)

Emily: Do you have to be rich to be president Dad?

Me: (thinking - "do I tell her the truth?" I don't - I lie.) No, you don't.

Emily: Good, cause I'm just a regular girl.

Me: (thinking - "do I tell her the truth?" I don't - I lie again.) Yeah, you're just a regular girl Emily. (with an amazing heart!)

Emily: Thanks Dad.

I'm glad that I have a family whose hearts beat for others. It makes me want to care so much more.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Elected Officials Keep Promise. Sounds Fishy.

Just read this world changing article and have some brief comments at the end to help you, the reader, make sense of it all.

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. (AP) — A couple of Washington state teens are in a bit of trouble for eating seafood, of sorts.
Two boys swallowed live goldfish during an assembly at Todd Beamer High School (
search) in Federal Way. A school district spokeswoman said the kids were apparently fulfilling a promise they made if one was elected a class officer.
The boys got a stern talking-to and a letter to their parents.
But some animal rights activists feel the boys should be in hot water for eating live fish.
A spokeswoman for PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (
search), said the stunt deserves harsher punishment. PETA said killing fish in the name of school spirit is unacceptable.

Some Thoughts:

1. That is why we always had our students eat dead fish at our youth ministry retreats...

2. The boys should have been commended for keeping their promises. That is rare among elected officials these days.

3. Man how things have gone done hill since I was in high school. We never had problems like that. That is scary. Just plain frightening I tell you. Sends a shiver right up my spine. Those horrible boys should be locked up!

4. A stern talking to? A letter home? Boy that ought to discourage future fish felons! Nothing sends a message like a stern talking and a letter. Poor teens are probably emotionally scared.

5. PETA might do well to consider that their view of "unacceptable" is not necessarily "accepted" by the rest of the emotionally competent free world.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


Kim and I traded cars this morning and when I got back into mine I looked down at my previously semi-empty tank and noticed that I now had a full tank of gas.

Thank you Kim.

And as far as my spiritual tank goes...


Some time with God, a breath of fresh air, dinner with the family, gathering with my brothers and sisters in Christ, teaching (okay, so Kim does most the work) 2-5 year olds on Wednesday nights, putting out a fire or two (ministerially speaking), praying with my kids, getting a good night sleep, the beautiful cool weather, talking with a friend and mentor, making progress on a project, finding out a friend is coming to town, lunch with an encourager, a time to talk with the world's most amazing wife, and a whole lot of God's presence will do that to you.

I'm full.

For now.

ps: Thanks Keith for praying.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Moving to the Metroplex has had numerous positive financial advantages. No complaining on my part. However, purchasing gasoline is not one of them. In fact, neither is conserving it. I left Abilene at $2.34 per gallon while filling up about once a week. A month or so later I fill up about every 3 -4 days for a few cents short of $3.00 per gallon. Consequently, no matter how hard I try my gas tank is usually running closer to empty than to full. It is a bummer to have to keep getting gas so often. Today I've got about 1/4 of a tank in regular unleaded.

Most of you saw the analogy coming in the title of this post...

Today I'm running on empty and it has nothing to do with a petroleum based fuel that runs my car.

Holy Spirit Come.

Creativity, smiles, passion, focus, hope, patience, effectiveness, joy, and the list goes on, are approaching fume like levels.

So I will pull into the pump of God's presence and pray that He fill me.

He will.


Thursday, September 15, 2005

Broken Levees, Hugged Necks & Shut Mouths

I just read a newsletter from Mission Alive and was hit hard by the following quote:

"Today the storms of postmodernity have slammed into our modern shores and the levees of modern Certainties have been breeched. As a result, our churches have been flooded, and many left dead and homeless. Many churches are stagnating, some dying, because of nominalism, disequilibrium, loss of message, anger and sin, lack of spirituality. But renewal is occurring."

That is a perfect description of the current spiritual climate in North America today!

I ran across another quote from my good friend Greg Kendallball's blog:

"So here I am again, working late at night on a paper, reading through some pretty heavyweight material. I realize that I, in training myself for ministerial leadership, have a need to wrestle with these things. I need to understand words like “ontology” and “epistemology.” I need to understand the history of the church, the doctrinal differences over the substance of Christ, over the Eucharist. I, myself, me, need to study theology."

I agree with Greg. Usually do. Let me tell you what else those of us in ministry need to understand. Pain. Pride. Power. We also need to know how to put our arms around someone's neck who is hurt and look them dead in the eye and speak words of comfort, healing, and hope. I did this just last night. I held and prayed over a wounded brother (wounded by "friendly fire") and held his neck as he fought off tears. I don't know what kind of "ology" that falls under but it is the ology that I find myself needing the most. (I know that Greg knows this too so this isn't a rebuke of his point. His point just got me thinking about what else we should wrestle with as leaders) I need to study theology more. I also know enough about God to know that sometimes holding people is the most God-like action you can take.

And finally...

Kim and I stepped in and taught 2-5 year olds last night. We taught the story of Daniel. I'm preaching from Daniel next Sunday and let me tell you that I learned more about Daniel from those little kids than from a stack of books. My favorite came from a cute as a button little boy named Matthew. Kim asked why we should trust God and he said, "cause he sends angels to shut lions' mouths!"

In case you forgot, let Matthew remind you: God can be trusted.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

A Cog In My Blog

I take comfort in the simple fact that while attempt to lead my family through transition and begin a new ministry there are a million other blogs to keep you entertained, informed or encouraged. I also know that I miss blogging and miss the interaction with others through the comments.

So today, because of the hustle in my bustle there will continue to be a cog in my blog.

I do want to leave you with these words from Casting Crowns' latest release, "Lifesong" which is an amazing CD:

I was sure by now
That You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say
"Amen"and it's still raining

As the thunder rolls
I bearly hear
You whisper through the rain"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise God
Who gives and takes away

I'll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For you are who you are
No matter where I am
Every tear I've cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise you in this storm

I remember when
I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry
You raised me up again
My strength is almost gone
How can I carry on
If I can't find You


I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The Maker of Heaven and Earth

Now go read Psalm 121.

Be blessed!

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

My Part

The past 24 hours have been much like the past 24 days which have been much like the past 24 months which have been much like the past 24 years. I walked through my waking hours and realized countless moments that I'm not God and can't be and shouldn't be. I must admit, every time I realize this, there is a bit of dejection that I experience. It is almost always with a hint of shock that I make this discovery too. "Ah man, I wanted to play God today...bummer"

Yesterday, when I woke up after my 17th consecutive night of 5 hours of sleep and felt like I could go back to sleep until mid November, I wished that I could be God so I didn't have to shut down and could stay up 24/7. Apparently, God is the only one qualified to do that (and didn't he say something about a Sabbath deal in Gen?) and so that stinks. I went into the office and realized that my small church has more need than one man can provide. Now you think I would realize this since in my own life God uses many people to help me transform spiritually. So I sat at my desk and kept wishing I was God. Good thing we had a staff meeting yesterday so I could at least be in charge of something. That feeling of power quickly faded after our amazing administrator, Karen Black, beat me bad in bowling yesterday. (this just in...Stephen Bailey bowled a 155!)

Last night Kim and I attended a fund raising dinner for Eastern European Missions with our friends Alan and Donna Phillips from MRN) and watched a video of people who are hurting and hungry for Bibles. I wanted so badly to heal and help them all! At one point I leaned over to Kim who had either been covertly cutting onions for an hour or was her usually compassionate self and was crying a Niagara of tears and said, "should we not unpack the boxes?" (implying that we move to Russia and help these people) to which she said, "yes!" Bottom-line is that we could move to Russia and still the need will be overwhelming. Why? Because try as I might, I am not God. Kim is a lot closer but even she is not God.

And then this morning I was hit again with the reality that I can't play God's part as looked at photos online of the devastation caused by Katrina in the Gulf Coast states. Horrible! For some powerfully painful pictures click here. As I scrolled through those pics I was just overwhelmed to the point of grief with the destruction and wished so badly that I could have stopped it or at least fixed it with a snap of my fingers. But I couldn't. I can't. I never will be able to.

But I can play my part. I can do my part in the grand play of life for the one act that I get to live. I can serve with all I've got for the hours that I'm awake. I can lead and encourage the staff and church with which God has blessed me. I might not be cast in the part of missionary in the Ukraine but I can give of my money and prayers. I can't stop a Hurricane (and apparently it shouldn't have been stopped?) but I can start a collection at our church to help raise funds for the victims.

I can do my part. You can do your part. God is on His throne! Amen.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Have a Blessed Day!

Yesterday was Kim's last day at work as the Senior Switchboard Operator for ACU. For the past 21 months, Kim has been the most amazing example of Paul's admonition to the church in Collosse, "Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lor, not for men."

Throughout her time at ACU, Kim has received plenty of praise for a job well done including these kind words from Mike Cope:

"I'm going to do you a favor here. Need a lift? Think of someone you need to speak to at ACU, but don't dial them direct. Instead call 674-2000. You'll likely get Kim Quile who says in the kindest voice you'll hear all day, "I hope you have a blessed day."It's amazing that one kind voice saying something so simple as "have a blessed day" can make life more enjoyable. But it's true.(Now -- only do this once -- so I don't add to her workload!)" - Wednesday, February 04, 2004

The past couple of days people have emailed their appreciation, stopped by her office to say thanks, and even called her and said something like this, "I don't need a number Kim. I just wanted to tell you how much you mean to the university and to hear you say, 'Have a blessed day' one last time."

And yesterday a co-worker, Chris Campbell, (from a completely different department) wrote these amazing words:

"A Sad Farewell
Today, Abilene Christian University says "good-bye" to its most prized employee. No, I'm not talking about President Royce Money. I'm not talking about our VP of Development, John Tyson, or any other member of the President's cabinet.I'm not talking about any member of the faculty...though each of them are extremely valuable in their own right. I'm not talking about anyone from Campus Life or the other organizations that so ably guide and mentor the young people on this campus.I'm talking about our campus operator...Kim Quile.Those of you who don't work at ACU might think this is a failed attempt at satire on my part. But for those of us who work at ACU, it's quite easy to defend this claim. After all, Kim, to many folks, is the voice of ACU.Before I came to ACU I worked for seven years at EDS in Plano. The majority of my customers were small credit unions in the Midwest -- simple and friendly. So I shuddered every time they would call in through the EDS toll-free they were always greeted by the familiar hurried, impolite, brash, I-just-got-off-my-8th-15 minute-smoke-break voice of the EDS operator. What a way to start a phone call!I don't have any statistics to support how many phone calls Kim Quile fields in a day...but I would dare say it's well into the hundreds. And each of those folks are greeted with the same cheery, Spirit-filled, joyful voice of Kim Quile.It's quite likely that each person Kim Quile spoke to was not happy. But I am confident that by the time Kim had rerouted their call they couldn't help but be in a better she always signs offs with familiar, "...and I hope you have a blessed day."I don't think we'll have to work in Heaven (PRAISE GOD!!!)...but if we do, I hope the Lord employs Kim Quile as Heaven's official receptionist." Tuesday, August 16, 2005

When we first arrived back in Abilene, Kim was known to many on the ACU campus as, "Joel's wife." It wasn't long after she started working for ACU that I became known as, "Kim's husband." Words cannot express how proud I am to be Kim's husband!

Thank you babe for setting an example for all of us!

One of the blessings of my new job is that Kim will not have to work outside the home. Today she will take both girls to school (Emily's starts at 7:50 and Laura's at 9:00) and then head up here to the church for her first Wee School (Pre-School) meeting.

I know that whatever she does, she will work with all her heart to bring a blessing to others!

Have a blessed day babe!

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

I Stretched. The Lord Drove.

"Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the Lord drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on the left."

Those of you who read my previous post know that something happened to me and my family last week that was cause for great joy. I have accepted an invitation to serve the Lake Cities Church of Christ as Senior Minister.

Due to the fact that I actually began work yesterday (yes, that is right, Monday, Aug 15th) and am in the middle of a tornado of transition I will not have time to share the story of the past weeks and months. To call it crazy is an understatement. It would be kinda like the Israelites watching God release them from Pharaoh’s captivity, send a bunch of bizarre plagues, lead them with fire and cloud and then at the last minute part the sea and then trying to describe that journey in a blog (while walking across the sea at that!).

God has blessed our family with the desires of our heart. The family of believers at Lake Cities is a perfect fit for our family. I am so blessed! It is always an honor and privilege to tell the Story and share the Good News in any church in any city. However, I feel a deeper level of amazement in my situation. I literally feel like the Israelites must have felt as they walked down that dry path that was normally occupied by the sea itself while looking up to their left and right at walls of water!

I really hope to share more soon. I am also dedicated to starting my ministry here right so that means less talk and more rock! If you would be so gracious as to keep lifting up our family in your prayers. You can pray specifically for our girls (they started school last Thursday) and for our home situation (we need our house to sell in Abilene before we can buy in Trophy Club) and for all the other details that go with transition.

I love you all. Even the "comedians" who felt compelled by God to act the fool on my previous blog. God is good! Stretch out and let Him drive!

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Yeah, Like That Kind!

Do you remember the kind of smile you had on your face when you were like four and your mom or dad would tickle you?

Do you remember the kind of smile you had when you were eight and got that bike for Christmas?

Do you remember the smile your face dawned when you were twelve and you hit the winning home run in the bottom of the 7th with two outs?

Or the smile after that first kiss from "that girl" at age 16?

Do you remember back in college - that grin you wore after getting that A on the final of your hardest class? (I don't - I thought I'd ask you)

If you can remember all the times that you smiled a huge smile because you were so happy that you could hardly contain yourself...

You remember that smile?

Well, I have a smile on my face today.

Yeah, like that kind.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Good Times at Medieval Times

Last night our family was treated to an evening at Medieval Times by a wonderful couple from Lake Cities. It was a blast! Another really cool family went with us and we just laughed and laughed and really enjoyed ourselves.

God is so good! We experienced another really comfortable week at Lake Cities and it is just exciting!

I will write more tomorrow!!!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

1 Billion Dollars. (and a Roll of Duct Tape)

Am I the only one who finds it a bit odd that after spending 1 Billion dollars (yes, Billion with a "B") NASA had to resort to using DUCT TAPE to further fix the shuttle? Duct Tape might be fine for a leaky pipe or to repair a box or something, but the shuttle?

Can you imagine that conversation?

"Houston, we have a problem."

"Just slap some duct tape on it!"

These guys are going to be entering the earth's atmosphere at like a gajillion miles an hour and they are counting on duct tape to keep them from becoming human briquettes. I'm not making this up either. I've attached the article below for you to see for yourself.

In all seriousness, I really feel that we should be praying for the entire Crew and even those in the re-entry path on the ground. I really hope that we don't have another tragedy! If the Shuttle makes it safely (which NASA expects) I can honestly say that my already high appreciation of Duct Tape will get even higher.

Employing the kind of NASA ingenuity seen during Apollo 13, an astronaut prepped for an emergency repair job Wednesday on Discovery's exterior with forceps, scissors and a hacksaw fashioned out of a blade and a little duct tape.Stephen Robinson's mission was to remove two short pieces of filler material that were sticking out of the shuttle's belly. NASA feared the material could lead to a repeat of the 2003 Columbia tragedy during Discovery's re-entry next week.He could simply pull the stiff fabric out with gloved hands. If a gentle tug did not work, he was to pull a little harder with forceps. And if that didn't work, he was supposed to use a hacksaw put together in orbit with a deliberately bent blade, plastic ties, Velcro and the handyman's favorite all-purpose fix-it: duct tape. (photo credit: NASA TV)

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Blow Open The Doors!

I preached on Acts 20:7-12 last week at Lake Cities. Towards the end of the sermon I shared a poem that God put on my heart a while back. I thought I would share it with you and have also included a short excerpt from my message. I plan on putting the entire text on my website soon so check it out.

Here it is:

Remember the little rhyme you learned as a kid?

Here is the church.
Here is the steeple.
Open the doors
And see all the people.

Last night as I was lying in bed the following little poem came to my heart.

There are the people.
And there is God.
But the church is over here
Now isn’t that odd?

What if the church moved?
From over here to over there
Joined God in His mission
of redemption and care?

We could sell the old steeple
And blow open the doors
And run to embrace
Those who’ve fallen three floors

Our actions our sermon
His justice our voice
Now that would change lives
And be cause to rejoice!

Paul was concerned about the lost. Jesus is concerned about the lost. God is concerned about the lost. Concerned to the point of action. Concerned to the point of change. God is calling us to do the same. I believe this text is calling the church to be a community where people will do whatever it takes to save some. He is calling us "Christians" to "wake up" and rise up and descend into greatness and engage and embrace those in our world who lay broken and left for dead. He is calling us to go to them and to love them back to life and share with them not only the gospel but our lives as well. Only then will we earn the right to break bread with them and live with them in community. And only the revolution of changed lives is enough to cause the church to greatly rejoice. The reality of changed lives is what really brings God glory.
Changed lives. It is the story of the Bible. It is the story of Acts. And it is the story of Eutychus. It should be our story too.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Good Question, Rick. Here Is My Yearbook Answer.

"So what will you say about your visit to Lake Cities in your blog?"

The question was a good one. Good enough to quiet a usually gregarious guy like me.

But not for long...

This past weekend our entire family made the quick trip to Trophy Club (DFW Metroplex) to interview for the Senior Minister position at Lake Cities Church of Christ. To say that we enjoyed it would be a gross understatement. This church loved us and blessed us to a degree that we had not previously experienced on our journey. I will attempt to express my feelings in a manner similar to how we use to write our senior memories in our yearbooks back in the day. This might not make any sense to anyone else besides me but this is my blog and hey, the question was asked to me in the first place. So here I go. Lake Cities Yearbook Style:

Decent drive - nice hotel - Chili's was good (grilled Salmon) but the company was great (didn't get grilled)! Karen, Steve, Alan, Donna, Brenda and (I forget the other guy's name...) - kidding! & Rick were great people. In fact, they still are great. Karen & Steve, thanks for the tour...what a beautiful building! Cruising Trophy Club with Liz Maddox - fun and exciting. Macaroni Grill was delicious (all 5 of us got dessert - yummy!) All 5 of us praying on Saturday night in the hotel will be a memory I will never forget. Sunday morning was so beautiful. So were Brian & Bailey for that matter. Got one answer right on the way. Church Sunday am...what can I say? Kevin the Tech Master - amazing and seamless. Bob Beustring...coming in and hugging me and praying for know how much that meant? A total blessing! Class went well (a chatty group - I love it!) and the message, well, aside from my calling Stephen "hot" and referring to myself as "ruddy" ... went well too. We met so many wonderful people and to try and list all their names would for sure leave some great people out. Lunch - let's just say I was the first to get seconds - grubbin! The inquisition, I mean interrogation, I mean interview, went fantastic. Kathy, Jaime, Stephen, Rich, Alan, Ron, Rick, & Cindy all were a delight. The questions? Tough. The answers? Just me being me and Kim being Kim. Who else could we be? Favorite moment was when Coach brought me to tears with describing his love for the church. After three hours of questions ranging from my dreams for the church to fantasy football we left feeling really, really good. The word "fit" really fits how we felt. Sunday night at the Morgan's was amazing. Fiesta Salad baby! Scott had us rolling. I loved that dude. "I'm no Prentice or Acthley apparently!" :) Loved listening to their hearts. The Quad Z's (Morgan kids) are cool! Again, left feeling so good. The word "right" seems right on to describe how we feel the connection is. Monday morning - golf w/Bailey and Matt (thanks for the use of the car for the kids) and John. While Bailey was drumming us three, the 8 chicks (and Connor the Great!) were chilling at Red Robin. Hated to leave. Tough drive home. So many much emotion. Pure anticipation.

Last night Kim and I went for a walk. I told her I felt like Moses standing on the edge of the Red Sea just waiting for a "Raise your staff and stretch out your hand" moments.

I'm trying my best to hear it. The roar of chariots and the waves is loud. God is moving and speaking. I believe He is saying "move on" (Ex 14:15). We'll have to wait before we sea!

Friday, July 29, 2005

Big G. A Little Odd.

They say we use about 10% of our brain. A few thoughts come to mine: (get it? mine? my brain? okay...)

*Who is "they" anyway?

*10% is biblical - isn't it? Kinda like "brain tithing" or something...

*I hit for an average of .327 in baseball and thought that was decent. I don't know what to think about hitting .100 in brain-usage.

*I'm really hoping that I'm a double digit guy in the big picture. I've been to Walmart past 11:00pm and seen the guy wearing the overalls and no shirt. That can skew an average quick.

and finally...

*What if we did use the other 90%? What would that be like?

All this brain-percentage-talk caused me to consider the following question:

How much of God do I use? Maybe another way to ask that is how much do I believe God? Or better still - how big is my God? Do I believe in a 100% God or a 10% God?

I know...tough question. The answer is equally as brutal.

I think my God is too small. I know I don't live for gods. You know, like "little g" gods...

I believe that my life has been surrendered to the one and true God. You know, like "Big G" God...

But just how much of that "Big G" God do I believe? How big is my "Big G" God really?

I find it odd when my God is anything but Big. I'm going to pray that my God is really big in my life today!

It is bad enough to only use 10% of your brain. Believing, loving, and following anything less than 100% of God is more than a little odd. It is completely sad!

I leave you with the words from a contemporary psalmist from Waco, David Crowder:

I'm so bored of little gods
While standing on the edge of
something large
While standing here, so close to You
We could be consumed
What a glorious day
I give up, I lay down
Rest my face upon this ground
Lift my eyes to Your sky
Rid my heart of all I hide
So sweet this surrender

How great Your love for us
How great our love for You
That grace could cover us
How great Your love

How marvelous, how brilliantly
Luminous, You shine on me
And who can fail to give You awe
To fear You, God, so sovereign and strong

What a glorious day
What a wonderful day, today
What a glorious day
What a wonderful day, today
Glorious day

-the song is "How Great" and is by David Crowder

What about you? Are you bored of little gods?

Friday, July 22, 2005

Take a Peak

Greetings from Quaker Ridge Camp just outside of Woodland Park, Colorado (1/2 west of Colorado Springs)! How amazing! I don't have time to write much. We've made a quick trip into town to Starbucks (praise God for T-Mobile!) and I wanted to share a couple of pics that I snapped during my quiet time this morning. I confess I struggle with a consistent time with God but oddly enough, it has not been real hard this week. I look forward and see Pike's Peak, behind me a calm little pond, and no more than four feet from my feet is a little rabbit eating breakfast.

The week is going great. Jeff and the band are so incredible to serve with and I praise God for their hearts. I hope to post some pics and thoughts later. This church (First Baptist Boerne - Boerne, TX) is absolutely beautiful. The youth pastors, Jason and Angie Brown and Danny Phillips are the real deal and love teens out of an overflow of a love for Jesus. I am so blessed. Spoiled blessed! I miss my bride and my kids so much and wish that they were here with me. God is so faithful and his love endures forever. My heart has found "home" in Him.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Longing For a Homeland

I don't travel much. Much, I must admit is a very relative term but suffice it to say that I'm no Jeff Berry or even Mike Cope. By that I mean that I don't travel near as much as they do. And besides, I can't sing like a witch (plus I don't shave my legs and arms!) nor can I preach my pants off (plus I don't speak Spanish) so anyway....

But I was in Houston last Friday through late (as in 2:00am on Monday morning late!) Sunday night. I was in Nashville on Wednesday and spent all of Thursday trying to get to California. I made to California Thursday night and left Sunday night after seeing good friends, performing a wedding, and preaching on Sunday. I arrived in Dallas at 1:00am on Monday morning to the most amazing sight for sore and tired eyes, my beautiful bride Kim. I drove us home to Abilene and fell asleep shortly after 4:00 am. Yesterday was a blur and today has been spent trying to prepare for this next week. I'll be leaving Abilene tomorrow morning for Colorado Springs from Wednesday through the following Monday. I will spend Monday in the Metroplex and then come back to Abilene on Tuesday. The next weekend (30th-31st) I'm preaching back in the Metroplex at Lake Cities Church of Christ and then the weekend after that I'm back preaching in California. Bottom-line is that I've become a mini "Road Warrior" this summer and I'm not entirely sure of what to make of it.

A few miscellaneous ramblings, travel stories and hopefully some encouragement for your journey:

This past weekend with the Cinco Ranch Church of Christ was incredible. I know I'm guilty of calling a hot dog at a ball game incredible but I mean it when I say that it went way beyond my expectations. This church is one of the most missionly minded faith communities I've crossed paths with to date. They have a vision for the future which flows from their heart for the lost. They treated me like royalty and our entire family loved everything about the church. Brandon gave my name to them and a true gentleman named David was my contact. This guy was the real deal. Just as nice as the day is long. I felt like I was being loved by God in his company. The elders are amazing and have evangelism in their DNA. One of the hightlights of the weekend was meeting Raymond and Luree Key. So godly and so good. They gave Emily butterflies (see Kim's blog) and have been married almost 60 years. Incredible folks. It will be exciting to see where we end up at the end of the road of change.

Our house went on the market last Wednesday morning and while we don't know where God is going to lead us next we know that we want a bigger house but not necessarily a newer house or nicer house. One of the proverbial fleeces that we have thrown out is that Kim won't have to work and that we could have a house big enough for our kids to have a room and be able to have guests often. Kim has the spiritual gift of hospitality and yet I don't have a strong gift of financial earning. We both have trust that wherever God leads us He will provide the house that we need.

Nashville was incredible! I had never been there before and totally loved it. Of course I'd love being in Nowhere Nebraska (probably a real city...) with Brandon and his beautiful family. Hanging out with Brandon was a blessing and while there I got to watch a film called Most. Our friend Matt Duncan is doing some amazing things to bless the conversation between the church and the art community at large and this movie was a great step. Hopefully, I will be writing more about that film. Brandon and I bawled like babies for most of the movie. I'm talking audible crying! It was sad enough and then when Sheryl brought baby Sam to Brandon it made it all the more pathetic. It was terrible and beautiful, horrible and holy at the same time.

I don't have time now to write in detail about Redwood City but the wedding was great and Rachel and Freddie were totally awesome. Preaching was a blessing and I spoke on the Sabbath. Of course I always speak on the Sabbath! (bad joke). I love the Redwood Church and as much as I hate to admit it, this was a sad trip of sorts. I can't (or shouldn't) explain it on this blog, but I felt really sad for the church. I did get to spend time with Seth and David and the Stevens' and that is always a blessing!

Travel is cool for about a day. And while I'm so pumped about going to camp tomorrow and the other opportunities that await, I am looking forward to settling down, getting a new home and spending time with my family.

I am reminded of some powerful words from Lynn Anderson in his great book, Longing for a Homeland:

"Moses, did you once feel that Egypt was really your home? What's that? Never completely so? Deep down inside, Moses, under all the regal trappings, did your child-heart sense that you didn't really belong to that place? Somehow you knew that you were not a true son of Egyptian soil. Did that slumbering awareness burst wide-awake that day you fled as a fugitive from your forty-year childhood homeplace? That first night beside the desert refugee trail when you pillowed your head on the sand - what dark, sad, homeless soliloquy flooded your mind?"

When we all get to heaven...

I'm reminded that the majority of my travels are for the purpose of increasing the number of the "all" above.

And that makes it better.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Good Night Church

I had a headache yesterday. In fact I had a backache too. I was tired. At times during the day, I was short with people, especially my family. I was more reactionary and unintentional in my moment to moment interactions with others than I care to be. I didn't experience much abundance. I was alive and yet there was a "deadness" that encircled me like a bunch of vulchers.

Then I went to sleep.

I rested.

I gave up control.

The next 7 hours were filled with dreams.

I woke up this morning and I feel great!

What if "the church" got some sleep? What if we traded activity for abiding? Swapped the rat race for some rest? What would we look like if we spent a little less time doing and a little more time dreaming?

Good night church.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

What If?

What if a group of people taught one another how to be serious disciples (apprentices) of Jesus, as they represented Him to those around us (2 Corinthians 5:20).

What if making "disciples" (as Jesus called it in Matthew 28:19) was the primary ultimate goal of this group of people in all they did?

What if a group of people taught one another how to be serious students of the Scriptures, not content knowing the Bible only at a surface or shallow level, but to desire a deep understanding of the entire Bible?

What if a group of people had a leadership that was committed to seeing that Scripture is taught deeply and a goal of seeing the group of people were becoming "self-feeders" of the Scriptures (Hebrews 5:11-14)?

What if those who are part of this group of people committed to serve each other so that they experienced true community (Acts 2:42-47; John 13:34-35)?

What if this group of people was passionate about helping other people discover how God desires each to have a very valuable part of being in the "body of Christ" (1 Corinthians 12:27)?

What if this group of people truly believed that the "family" should be highly valued, taught about and supported with the various ministries developed (marriage, family, children etc.), as the family is critical in the shaping of our society and culture (Matthew 19:4-6, Deuteronomy 6:4-9)?

What if those in this group of people learned to have their hearts break for those who have not yet experienced the love and grace of God and joy of knowing and following Jesus (2 Peter 3:9)?

What if this group of people attempted to learn to see people and love people as Jesus did (Matthew 9:35-38)?

What if those in the group had a heart for being involved in their local city or town and in activities that express the love of God outside of the group's own internal activities and events. What if this group truly believed that they must be a local community-a very focused and involved group that engaged their neighbors?

What if this group decided that they will not measure success by group attendance, their degree of professionalism or production related factors, but instead will measure what they do by how they constantly seek to increase the degree of our love for God and for people (Matthew 22:37-39)?

That group would be the church.

Not the "church" as in something you go to, but something you are.

And I would want to be a part.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Dead Meat: Second Chances, Third Stories & the Gospel According to Harold

I am preaching tomorrow night at Highland and coming out of a text that I have never preached and never heard a sermon on in my life. That is often a bit risky and yet always rewarding. The story I am leading us through is found in Acts 20:7-12 and is the account of young Eutychus falling asleep during Paul's message.

I am planning on using the following illustration in order to communicate that Paul knew the secret that we must never forget: We must love others so much that we don't just share with them the gospel but our lives as well. His lesson was important but his love was life changing. The church in Troas had just seen a miracle. They had just witnessed a physical transformation as young Eutychus had been loved back to life. That was enough to rejuvenate them for the rest of the night.

A lot of us in Abilene have been to Harold's right? A business contradiction of sorts: Bad location. Crowded. Long lines. And his BBQ sauce isn't the only thing in that restaurant that is hot! I'm serious. I can sweat off more calories than I can take in at that place. It's like a big BBQ sauna. But yet Harold's is always packed. Why? The food. The product. The meat! Not the fancy building - the meat. Not the convenient location or speedy service it's the meat! The prices are not the draw - the product is. Advertisement is non existant. But the word of mouth - can't stop it!

The church would do well to learn a lesson from Harold. Our focus cannot be on our buildings, budgets, and bureaucracies. Our product is Jesus. His redemptive love must always be our missional meat. Jesus came down and loved us on Calvary. He knew we were sick and so he threw his arms around us and healed us. He knew we were lost and so he ran from Heaven to the hill of Golgotha to find us. Paul left a house, stopped a sermon and descended three flights of steps to awaken the dead. Jesus left heaven, stepped into the constraints of time and descended into hell for three days to awaken the dead.

God is calling us to do the same. For the church to be a community where people will do whatever it takes to save some. He is calling us "Christians" to "wake up" and rise up and descend into greatness and engage and embrace those in our world who lay broken and left for dead. He is calling us to go to them and to love them back to life and share with them not only the gospel but our lives as well. Only then will we earn the right to break bread with them and live with them in community. And only the revolution of changed lives will cause the church to greatly rejoice.

Our "meat" must be our willingness to "meet" others where they are at and love them back to where they belong - with God.

Monday, July 04, 2005

4th and 249 from the 2005

Happy Fourth of July!

A few thoughts on America's 249th Birthday...

I agree with Brandon's post from Saturday -- you don't have to hate other countries to love America. In fact, you don't have to think that God loves America more than everyone else to love America. I would go so far to state that I can love America less than I love God, my wife and kids, and anything else I want.

I find it odd though that we (read: "conservative Christians" -- broad stereotype...) look down our noses at those who have a problem with our government (read: Bush) and its policies (read: Iraq) and do something about it such as protest or just plain voice their concern and yet, today, we are celebrating a legal holiday commemorating the REVOLUTION that resulted in independence from a government that good people FOUGHT against because it found it oppressive and ungodly. Am I the only one that sees the irony in that deal? I doubt it.

I ran across two other good posts this morning (different perspectives but good nonetheless) that I would recommend that you check out. Bart's blog and Larry's blog both offer thought provoking material to consider on this day.

And finally, when the greatest risk I will face today is accidentally blowing off my own hand due to the deadly combination of too little common sense and too many fireworks, I came across some of the realities and risks that our forefathers faced by signing the Declaration of Independence. You might want to check it out.

Regardless of your level of patriotism, I would urge you to remember that while we eat hamburgers, corn on the cob and homemade ice cream, while we enjoy sleeping in and a day off of work, while we watch parades, play with sparklers and oooohhhh and aahhhh over tonight's fireworks that much blood was given over the past 249 years to protect our freedom. Our freedom as citizens of American was bought with many lives. Yes our ultimate freedom comes from Christ's sacrifice. No disputing that fantastic fact. But living in America is also a great gift. I don't think it is a sin to be thankful for this truth.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

A Piece on P.E.A.C.E.

Get ready.

Don't say I didn't tell you.

It's coming.

P.E.A.C.E. -- Saddleback's next big thing.

In an era when there are a few churches that truly threaten the gates of hell, Saddleback has declared war by accomplishing P.E.A.C.E.

Check it out:

And to think that there is a church somewhere arguing about a guitar, grape juice, and guest parking...

Pretty sure hell isn't shaking over those issues.

But planting churches, equipping leaders, assisting the poor, caring for the sick and educating the next generation?

The gates don't stand a chance!

Thursday, June 30, 2005

Don't Think and Drive

Today I woke up at 6:58am.

I prayed at 7:13am.

I worked on a sermon for next week at 8:25am.

I worked on my Pastoral Skills Final project from 9:30 - 10:45am.

I went and saw War of the Worlds with my son at 11:15am.

I took my daughter Laura to the doctors at 2:15pm.

I got a haircut at 3:23pm.

I visited with my wife at work at 4:12pm.

I went to Sam's Club for one of those Y2K-don't let Dad ever buy groceries alone-mega shopping sprees at 4:49pm.

I never heard God once. Not one time.

As I drove home from Sam's, I felt Holy Spirit urging me to turn off my radio. My radio was blaring "Christian" music (well music with Christian lyrics!) and good stuff too - I'm talking Casting Crowns. But I felt Him saying turn it off.

So I turned off the music.

And then it got really quiet. Uncomfortably quiet. Like "hear my heartbeat" quiet.

And then I heard God.

As I passed our local golf n games fun park and noticed that it was for sale, I heard God say, "you put too high a price tag on fun and games."

As I merged onto the loop, I heard God say, "You try and fit in way too much."

As I passed a pretty bad wreck and the emergency crews, I heard God say, "Life's short. Love hard."

As I passed ACU's Allen Farm, I heard God say, "You know nothing about the farm and it's principles of sowing and reaping. You should learn."

As I passed a team of 6 man football players practicing in 100 degree weather, I heard God say, "I made men to be warriors and this wasn't what I was talking about either."

As I saw the vastness of the West Texas skyline, I heard God say, "Earth is so small. You, Joel, are even smaller. I am Huge!"

As I passed a new home being built, I heard God say, "This world is not your home."

As I passed the fire station, I heard God say, "your job as a minister should be a lot more like a fireman than the president of a company."

As I passed a young couple jogging, I heard God say, "the way you take care of your body hurts both of us."

As I pulled onto my street, I turned the radio back on.

I didn't hear God anymore.

I dare you right now (right now!) to get up from your computer/desk and walk outside and find a good place to stand for a minute and just get still and don't say a word.

You will hear Him. Don't think you won't.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Who Is This Man?

Today, for a reason I can't explain, I pulled off of my "beaten path" and dined in one of Abilene's finer eating establishments, "The Branding Iron" I had never seen this place before, let alone eaten there. But I pulled over.

I entered the small, dark, greasy cafe and was immediately overcome by two things:

1. smoke
2. Sadness

The smoke was terrible. I mean it. Cope would have died before reaching the booth. There are casinos in Vegas with less smoke. The inside of Harold's pit on Sing Song weekend was less smoky. By the time my eggs made it to the table (they were raw enough to walk themselves there) my eyes had shriveled up and fallen out and I almost ate them, mistaking them for some type of sausage product) But despite the smoke what affected me most was the man that sat, slumped not more than several yards away.

The man was old and tired looking. He was doing his best to contribute to the Forrest fire air quality of the restaurant and must have polished off several packs while I was there. The look on his worn face stated that life had beat him up pretty bad and he was no longer interested in fighting back. It wasn't a look of disdain or depression but rather defeat.

Not being afraid of much, I went ahead and secretly shot a picture of my fellow patron with my phone. (see below -- bad quality -- I mean the room was smoky!) I really don't know why I even took the picture because I knew then that this man's face would never vacate my memory.

The question kept calling to me from within my soul, "who is this man?"

Other questions came: "Did he have a family?" "What did he want to be when he was seven?" "Did he ever know love?" "Could a face so full of hurt ever feel the hope of heaven?" "Had anyone ever told him the good news that there was one who valued him so much that he went to a hill outside of Jerusalem and did some eternal banking on behalf of his soul?

Then the questions became deeper:

"Was I supposed to come here to eat to see him?" "Should I get up and talk with him?" "Is he an angel?"

Other than to take a drag on his cigarette, the man never moved. Neither did I. I never spoke to him. I barely made eye contact.

The sad truth is that if he had just made his way into my smokeless church when I was sitting comfortably on the third row, I might have given him a hug.

If he had made his way into my Bible class on Sunday, I would have told him that good news.

If he would have found my website and paid me to come preach to him I would have done that too. But he didn't. He just sat there.

I finished my eggs and paid my bill. I returned home to take the second shower of my short day and rid my body of the curse of smelling like an ashtray. The smoke came off. The smell left.

The vision of this man still hasn't.

I hope it never does.

Monday, June 27, 2005


Brandon Scott: Legend and Hero!

The following is my blogtribute to good friend and worship leading guru, Brandon Scott Thomas. Earlier this month I said some kind words about Mike Cope and Brandon has begged me every single day by phone, fax, email, and text messages to give him some blog love. Basically, I'm sick of him bugging me!

I'm just kidding!!! (Not about the good friend and worship leading guru part)

I did want to share with every cyber connected resident of this beautiful globe how much I admire and appreciate Brandon's ministry at Otter Creek and around the nation, his love for his wife and kids, and his personal commitment to living like Jesus every day.

Like a man with a way too full cup of java, you cannot bump into Brandon without getting some joy spilled on you. His passion for God is contagious and while he is best known for his worship leading of public praise, it is his private worship that I admire most. Like a little kid who is belting out "I'm in the Lord's Army" at the top of his lungs, Brandon offers his entire self as a living sacrifice.

Brandon is een weinig Nederlands, een kinsman, zanger en danser. Hij heeft een enorme zin van stijl. Hij heeft een cruise schip gewerkt aan. En nog is hij een hetrosexual. Is te verbazen het niet? Hij is ook iemand is dat ik hou van.

Yes, make no mistake about it - I love you Brandon!

Even if you do secretly love Sallie Strothers!

Friday, June 24, 2005

Trust Me On This One

I'm going to do you a favor here. I have posted some material from my good friend Mark Weathers on my website. Mark is brilliant. I'm not using that word lightly. He is to Christian writing what Lebron James is to the NBA. What Anurag Kashyap is to spelling, Mark is to spirituality. Trust me on this one. Surf over and read the first article in the news section (home page) and follow the instructions. I just read his Bleeding Woman Sermon again tonight and my arms and neck became a field of chills although I heard him preach just two days ago. Creative, bold and eloquent, Mark is a surgeon and words are his scalpel and the Spirit his hands. To find out more about Mark or view some of his material click here.

If you would like to know more about Mark or his ministry just drop me a comment to this blog and I will make sure he gets it.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Easier Said Than Done

I've made a good living and hopefully brought God a little glory by encouraging, reminding, and inspiring others to do such things like:

- Confront people who engage in gossiping.
- Share your faith.
- Don't let circumstances dictate your attitude.
- Forgive people quickly and completely.
- Serve sacrificially.
- Consider others better than yourselves.
- Don't worry. Trust.
- Be grateful and don't covet. Learn contentment.
- Don't complain and do compliment.
- Read the Word. Live the Word.
- Pray dangerous prayers.
- Love hard.

Today, I've felt terrible physically. Probably a virus. I've done battle with the enemy all day. Circumstances have determined my disposition. I've been worried and full of doubt. I never opened the Word and wouldn't you know, struggled to live it. My prayers have been selfish and safe and my love weak.

I love speaking for God. It is an uncontrollable fire that burns within my soul.

I really love living for God. Today, that fire needs some serious stoking!

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Tengo a un gran predicador

The following post will be in Spanish in honor of the person that it honors.

¡Tengo a un gran predicador! En este momento él es hacia abajo en Costa Rica, no en vacaciones, no haciendo el trabajo de la misión (aunque estando seguro que él es es ligero), sino aprendiendo español. Mike quiere aprender español, no para su gloria, pero para la gloria de Dios. La mayoría de los predicadores adoran a Dios (una cosa buena adorar en ese campo) pero Mike es también un amante de personas y especialmente de vida. Su pasión por cada día es contagioso y él es un gran ejemplo. Mike es un revelador de personas y vierte su tiempo y el talento en predicadores más jóvenes. El atributo de Mike quizás sea su ejemplo de adorar a su esposa y niños. Veo el amor de Dios para la humanidad en el amor de Mike para su familia.
En un tiempo de la incertidumbre verdadera para nuestra familia, uno de las posibilidades más espantosas que encaramos, no obtiene para escuchar y el reloj (el sermón más poderoso) Mike cada semana. El es un gran y gran predicador. ¡El es una persona aún más asombrosa!

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Mister Rogers with a Beard

I'm re-reading the first part of Wild at Heart again in hopes of actually finishing it this time. Not that I got really far the first time. And I'm loving it!

Eldredge (the author) is talking about our (society, the church, my own) proclivity for taming Jesus and thus reducing our own willingness to take risks and find ourselves in an adventure bigger than ourselves.

Two quotes at the start of the second chapter jumped off of the page and into my soul:

"How would telling people to be nice to one another get a man crucified? What government would execute Mister Rogers or Captain Kangaroo?" - Philip Yancey

"Safe? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good." - C.S. Lewis

I had to agree with the author, sometimes I'm guilty of picturing Jesus as a cute little Mister Rogers (with a beard of course) and sadly, my brand of discipleship is a good imitation - so safe it makes me sick. Too little real life adventure and risk and too much time in the churchy and academic neighborhood of "Make-Believe"

Instead of King Friday I'm often Henrietta Pussycat.


Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Good Decision Mike...

I read the following headline today and couldn't believe my eyes:

Lawyer: Jackson Won't Share a Bed with Kids

SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Michael Jackson's lawyer said Tuesday that the pop star is going to be more careful from now on and not let children into his bed anymore because "it makes him vulnerable to false charges."

A few thoughts on this brainiac decision:

1. Referring to "not letting children into his bed" as "careful" is like referring to "wearing a parachute when jumping out of a plane" as "cautious."

2. If you are a grown man and the children are not your own, letting children into your bed doesn't make you "vulnerable to false charges" it makes you vulnerable to being a sick, sick freak.

3. Carnival's in Southern California can once again operate at full steam now that the "jury of Michael's peers" is finished with their civic duty and can return to work.

In all of this chaos, Michael has inspired me. I'm happy to share with you, my blogging brethren, that I have decided to no longer coat myself in honey and walk into a den of grizzly bears because the honey makes me vulnerable to acne.

Who's Bad?

Monday, June 13, 2005

Good Questions

I've only been awake for about 3 hours and yet I have been asked (or asked myself) some really good questions.

7:01am "Are you going to lie in bed all day?" (by my wife Kim who had just finished 48 loads of laundry, painting the house, curing the common cold, and praying for 84,356 people by name prior to my waking.)

7:59am "What are you doing?" (again, by my lovely wife, who was inquiring why I was sitting comatose in front of my laptop and still hadn't showered.)

8:24am "Does the car have gas in it?" (by Kim who was about to leave for a week with L'nae Jensen to take 6 Treadaway Kids (lower income kids of single parents) to a camp in Austin and somehow felt that my contribution to the cause was filling up the car.)

8:43am "Then why isn't He telling us?" (by far the best question of the day from our 8 year old, Emily. We were discussing our future ministry plans and Emily was wondering if she would get to have a certain teacher next year. Here is a portion of that conversation:

Emily: "Will I have Mrs. Francis?"

Dad: "I don't know Honey."

Emily: "That's right, we don't know where we will be next year." (kinda bummed)

Dad: "But God knows." (also kinda bummed but able to hide it better than kids)

Emily: "Then why isn't He telling us?"


8:55am "Why are you laughing at that?" (thought to myself when I was with Kim at the church helping load up the car for the trip to camp and overheard one 4th grade girl called her 5th grade brother a 'peckerwood'.)

9:29am "Do they know what year it is?" (thought to myself after being told by the donut lady at Jack & Jill's that they don't take credit cards.)

9:45am "Why isn't the milk up here?" (thought to myself after walking through the front center isle at United that is filled with alcohol of all types on my way to the far back corner of the store to get some milk for above mentioned donuts.)

9:56am "Why didn't you just go somewhere else?" (by my daughter Laura, 15, when she found out that the donut shop was out of sprinkles.)

10:02am "Where will I be serving the Lord three months from now?" (thought to myself after I typed the above question.)

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Talking Tag Lines

I was just checking out some blogs and was impressed by the diversity and creativity of some of the tag lines (the descriptions, sub-titles, etc) and thought I'd share them with you. I'm betting that 90% of readers of my blog read these ones as well. If your feeling up to it, go ahead and rank the tag lines from 1 -5 with 1 being your five and 5 being, well - just ok. I'm interested in these kind of trivial pursuits.

Mike Cope: Sniffing out the work of God in this world.

Grant Boone:'s boring, but it's part of my life.

Sam Middlebrook: It's my brain. On your screen.

Bart Phillips
: I have a "Giant Cavernous Aneurysm" behind my left eye. I went to Dallas for treatment May 6th. It was uninvasive and unsuccessful. I will have open brain surgery 6/15. I trust the Lord holds my head in His hands. God has been putting words on my heart that I feel I must put on paper. The following thoughts are those I feel that the Lord is speaking to me lately. Enjoy.

Greg Kendallball: rants, ravings, reflections, randomness.

I've only given 5 but if others know of some really good ones, feel free to add them in the comments.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Prayer Request

Please pray for a friend of our family from our days in Redwood City, Marissa Douglas. Marissa was in a serious motorcycle accident and is unconscious but stable in ICU at Stanford Hospital. Her parents are asking for prayers and specifically called me to ask me to get the word out. Please forward this plea to as many as possible.

I suggest that you pray three things:

1. That Marissa would be completely healed physically.
2. That this accident would serve as her "carob pod" experience and she would come to her senses and head back to her Father.
3. That God would get the glory for both healings!

Thanks friends.

Advice Would Be Nice

Okay, without going into a lot detail here, I am asking for some input regarding some choices that are currently facing Kim and I. Hopefully the counsel I receive will come from ministers/pastors who have actually been through this dilemma/desert, but I am opening up the discussion to anyone who cares enough to offer their opinion. So let's hear it!

I have several irons in the fire for future ministry at no less than 5 churches. Kim and I are soaking this situation in prayer and are confident that God is leading and we are learning so much in the process. Here is my question: Out of the five criteria below, which do you feel is the most important factor and which is the least? Please rank the following from 1 - 5 with 1 being the most important consideration and 5 being the least. Feel free (read: please do it) to explain why you feel what you feel about each criteria.

Thanks so much!

Please rank the following considerations from 1 - 5 for someone deciding whether or not to go work in ministry at a church:

Feeling :: The Spirit factor. Your gut feeling. The intangible, mysterious. The whisper.

Fit :: Theological match up between minister and church. Pragmatic match (i.e. Saddleback or house church) salary, dreams, etc...

Function :: Right job at the right church? What is your role? Will I be serving within my giftings and in line with my passions?

Fruits, Faults, Freedoms :: Church health. Their stability. Their past. Splits? What can I do or not do?

Future :: Where is this church headed? What is their vision? Who do they want to be?

Alright, there you have it. I know that all five are important (maybe equally important) but if you had to rank them, what would they be? Why?

Friday, June 03, 2005

The Three Cs

I picked up a great book yesterday written by a great man, Carley Dodd, entitled, Managing Business and Professional Communication. I've been communicating publicly for almost 20 years. I've taken Dr. Dodd for communication. I identify myself on my website as a communicator. And yet, I needed to read this book. There on page 272 tucked away in the second paragraph are the foundations of speaking that are referred to as the "three Cs" - Credibility, Confidence, and Consultation of audience analysis. Due to the limited space of this blog and the fact that I'm writing this during a Maymester class on Pastoral Counseling and really should be paying attention. (Of course we are only talking about simple issues like dealing with conflict, homosexuality, marital affairs, and treatment of the dying which ministers don't ever have to face in reality.)
But I do have a question for us to consider, kick around, and get our arms around:

Of the three foundations which is the most important?

Credibility? Confidence? Consultation of audience analysis?

Do you want your preacher to live his subject, know his topic, or know his audience? Why?

Of course we all want to say "all three!" or make a new one like "Christ" but don't. Pick only one of the three and make an argument for it.

I look forward to your views.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Without A Thought

Two days ago my family and I were traveling West on I-20 in Arlington on our way to meet a friend. It was pouring rain and traffic was bad. Kim had no sooner said, "be careful" when the brake lights came on in front of us in unison. I was in the slow lane and immediately pulled over on the emergency lane when I noticed a car ahead of me do the same. The driver from the vehicle opened the door and and began running towards our car and I looked to my right and saw a Nissan Armada that had rolled over only seconds before and was laying upside down, tires still spinning, 20 feet off the highway down an embankment.

I yelled to the kids, "don't look!"
I opened the door and ran down the hill toward the car just steps behind the other guy. He ran to the front passenger door and then stopped. He turned and looked at me and yelled, "call 911!"
I ignored his reasonable request and tried to open the front passenger door. It was stuck. Again this guy yelled out, "call 911" and mumbled something about the door not being able to be opened. And again, I tuned him out like a guy watching the Super Bowl. I then proceeded to open the rear passenger door.
The door opened up and there on the floor (which was the roof) was a young teenage girl crying uncontrollably and up in the front of the vehicle was her mom. I asked the girl if she was OK and she replied yes and I proceed to climb into the car and pull her out. I handed her off to that 911 yelling guy and went back into the car to get the mom out. I asked the mom if she was OK as she was crying even harder than the daughter. Through her tears she told me that she was seven months pregnant with twins. My heart stopped. I asked her if she hurt anywhere and she said no. I told her to grab onto my neck and I began to pull her out. Once outside of the vehicle she was still holding onto my neck and I held her as she shook and continued crying. Again I asked her if she hurt anywhere and she said that her stomach hurt just a little but she thought it was just upset due because she was so worried about the health of the twins inside her womb.
I asked her if I could pray for and she said, "yes! please! please!" I placed my hand on her stomach and began to beg God for the safety of those babies. Kim stayed in the car with Emily but had Laura run down and give us blankets and my golf umbrella. Laura began to gently cover up the young girl and I continued to hold both of these scared sisters. It wasn't long (maybe 3 minutes) before the firetrucks and the ambulance arrived. Once the ambulance arrived they were put inside (neither of them had a single scratch on them) and I headed back up toward the car, soaked, muddy, and very quite.
I got inside the car and sat there for a moment very still. I relayed the story to Kim and the girls and then I pulled the car back onto the highway. A few miles down the road it hit me that I had not once thought about anything I just had just did. The entire experience took less than 5 minutes and cost us being a little late to our meeting, three blankets, and my shoes remaining clean and yet I will never forget it.

If you had asked me a minute before that vehicle flipped if I would want to get muddy and soaked I would have said, "no way!" If you had asked if I would want to be late to my meeting or give up three blankets I would have said, "no, not particularly." If I had thought for a second about what I might have (could have) been the scene when I opened that door I honestly don't know if I would have done it.

I do plenty of selfish and stupid things without thinking.

I wish I did more for others...without a thought.

Friday, May 27, 2005

The Living Reminder

This week I should have been pre-reading for a Maymester I'm in next week. Instead I read Blue Like Jazz. Today I should be finishing my PowerPoint for my sermon this weekend. Instead I started reading The Living Reminder by Nouwen (1977).

Check out the first paragraph!

"What are the spiritual resources of ministers? What prevents them from becoming dull, sullen, lukewarm bureaucrats, people who have many projects, plans, and appointments but who have lost their heart somewhere in the midst of their activities? What keeps ministers vital, alive, energetic and full of zeal? What allows them to preach and teach, counsel and celebrate with a continuing sense of wonder, joy, and gratitude, and praise?"

Miller then Nouwen. It's been a good week for reading!