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.