Friday, January 26, 2007

The Pursuit of Happyness

Just came in from seeing the Pursuit of Happyness (yes, I know that "happiness" is spelled with an "i" and not a "y" but this is how the movie spells it) with my son John. We actually began the father-son outing by seeing an absolutely horrible movie - Epic Movie. We were in the mood for a movie and it fit our time schedule - so we picked it. In a word: pathetic!. In two words: not good!

We made it through the first 30 minutes of it and then got up and walked out. I wish I could say that it was solely on the film's sinful content, but I can't. It was as raunchy of a PG-13 movie as I've ever seen, but there were other contributing factors:

- It wasn't funny
- The person who sat behind us had a doctorate in obnoxious behavior with a minor in annoying laugh.
- It made us uncomfortable.

So, we kindly excused ourselves (the 8 million other teens in the theater were nice enough to let us go) and headed to ask the manager if we could see another movie. We would've paid, but he was courteous enough to exchange our tickets for two to see, The Pursuit of Happyness" Because it started a while later, we grabbed some dinner and then sat down to enjoy the show.

It wasn't a "show" ... it was a story. A sad, brilliant, inspiring, joyful, brutal, and powerful story.

And we didn't "enjoy" it ... we engaged it. Or it engaged us. It was an emotional, mental, and spiritual experience.

I cannot tell you how highly I recommend this movie. Put it this way: I will be taking Kim tomorrow and seeing it for the second time within 24 hours. It is that good.

Here are some of my favorite quotes from the movie:

Christopher Gardner (Will Smith's character) : "It was right then that I started thinking about Thomas Jefferson, the declaration of independence, and our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and I remember thinking; how did he know to put the pursuit part in there. That maybe happiness is something we can only pursue, and maybe actually we can never have it, no matter what. How did he know that?

Christopher Gardner (Will Smith's character): "Don't ever let someone tell you, you can't do something. Not even me. All right?"
Christopher ( - Jr. - His son in the movie ) : "All right."

Martin Frohm (CEO of company Christopher is trying to get a job at> "What would you say if man walked in here with no shirt, and I gave him a job?"

Christopher Gardner: "He must have had on some really nice pants."

The movie stirred a question in my soul that I want so share with you:

"What is the 'one thing' that you would work so hard to accomplish/attain and let nothing stand in your way?"

Answer that and then pursue it with all you got.

You just might find "happyness"

Friday, January 12, 2007

Gone. And Yes...Forgoten!

Our dear sweet friend, Carolyn Shook passed this morning from earth to heaven. She was one of Kim's closest friends throughout our time in California and they grew even closer as God moved us from Redwood City to Abilene to Trophy Club. Her death will be painful for Kim in so many real ways. For her faithful husband, Jim and beautiful children, Laurie and Dan, this will be a valley that is surrounded by more than a shadow, but by death itself. Carolyn's life on this earth was claimed by cancer but her life in eternity was claimed long before by Christ. While we knew this day was close (Jim called me on Monday and asked if I would officiate her funeral), it does not ease death's sting.

However, we are certain of the one truth that does remove the sting from death: Christ.

Jim called me a few minutes ago and shared the sweet/bitter/sweet news. The conversation began like this:

Joel: "Hello"

Jim: "It's me, Jim Shook."

Joel: "Hey brother."

Jim: "You probably already know by now (I did, Kim had just called me) but...that...

(at this point there was a brief pause as his heart searched for the right words)

that...Carolyn is in heaven."

Joel: "She's with Jesus."

We spoke of life and death. We talked of love and even some logistics. And the phone call eventually ended like this:

Joel: "I love you brother. If you need anything..."

Jim: "I know Joel. I love you too. And so did Carolyn. Well...Carolyn is in heaven."

Joel: "She's with Jesus."

I proceeded to get off the phone and bow and pray. However, it wasn't long until I got back to what I was doing before the phone call which was reading about a plane crash in Los Angeles (and other bad news - see screen shot below)

Then it hit me!

Carolyn doesn't have to deal with any of this junk anymore. Gone is the day of plane crashes, cancer and wars. Gone is the promise of pain, tumors and tears. Gone is everything that Jesus meant when he said, "in this world you will have trouble." Gone is the Goliath of grief, goodbye and the grave.

And yes - forgotten!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Tools of the Trade

As I prayed this morning to be used by God, my mind kept thinking of how I am nothing more than a simple hammer - a tool in God's hands. I felt God wanting to use me - to put me to work. He has a message for my brothers and sisters this morning and He's going to use me to share it.

As I continued my conversation with God, I kept arriving at a beautiful truth: when God became human He chose to become a carpenter. How amazingly appropriate - the Creator spending his sun-ups to sun-downs creating...building.

Then suddenly, I remembered a wonderful little chapter I had read about the Creator-Carpenter back as a freshman in college. The book: On the Anvil. The author: Max Lucado. The message: on and find out!

Out of the Carpentry Shop
Written by Max Lucado

The heavy door creaked on its hinges as He pushed it open. With a few strides He crossed the silent shop and opened the wooden shutters to a square shaft of sunshine that pierced the darkness, painting a box of daylight on the dirt floor.

He looked around the carpentry shop. He stood for a moment in the refuge of the little room that housed so many sweet memories. He balanced the hammer in His hand. He ran his fingers across the sharp teeth of the saw. He stroked the smoothly worn wood of the sawhorse. He had come to say good-bye.

It was time for Him to leave. He had heard something that made Him know it was time to go. So He came one last time to smell the sawdust and lumber.

Life was peaceful here. Life was so . . . safe. Here He had spent countless hours of contentment. On this dirt floor He had played as a toddler while His father worked. Here Joseph had taught Him how to grip a hammer. And on this workbench He had built His first chair.

I wonder what He thought as He took one last look around the room. Perhaps He stood for a moment at the workbench looking at the tiny shadows cast by the chisel and shavings. Perhaps He listened as voices from the past filled the air.

"Good job, Jesus."

"Joseph, Jesus - come and eat!"

"Don't worry, sir, we'll get it finished on time. I'll get Jesus to help me."

I wonder if He hesitated. I wonder if His heart was torn. I wonder if He rolled a nail between His thumb and fingers, anticipating the pain. It was in the carpentry shop that He must have given birth to His thoughts. Here concepts and convictions were woven together to form the fabric of His ministry.

You can almost see the tools of His trade in His words as He spoke. You can see the trueness of a plumb line as He called for moral standards. You can hear the whistle of the plane as He pleads for religion to shave away unnecessary traditions. You can picture the snugness of a dovetail as He demands loyalty in relationships. You can imagine Him with a pencil and a ledger as He urges honesty.

It was here that His human hands shaped the wood His divine hands had created. And it was here that His body matured while His Spirit waited for the right moment, the right day.

And now that day had arrived. It must have been difficult to leave. After all, life as a carpenter hadn't been bad. It wasn't bad at all. Business was good. The future was bright and His work was enjoyable. In Nazareth He was known only as Jesus, the son of Joseph. You can be sure He was respected in the community. He was good with His hands. He had many friends. He was a favorite among the children. He could tell a good joke and had a habit of filling the air with contagious laughter.

I wonder if He wanted to stay. "I could do a good job here in Nazareth. Settle down. Raise a family. Be a civic leader." I wonder because I know He had already read the last chapter. He knew that the feet that step out of the safe shadow of the carpentry shop would not rest until they had been pierced and placed on a Roman cross.

You see, He didn't have to go. He had a choice. He could have stayed. He could have kept his mouth shut. He could have ignored the call or at least postponed it. And had He chosen to stay, who would've known? Who would have blamed Him?

He could have come back as a man in another era when society was not so volatile, when religion wasn't so stale, when people would listen better. He could have come back when crosses were out of style, but His heart wouldn't let Him.

If there was hesitation on His part of humanity, it was overcome by the compassion of His divinity. His divinity heard the voices. His divinity heard the hopeless cries of the poor, the bitter accusations of the abandoned, the dangling despair of those who are trying to save themselves.

And His divinity saw the faces. Some wrinkled. Some weeping. Some hidden behind veils. Some obscured by fear. Some earnest with searching. Some blank with boredom. From the face of Adam to the face of the infant born somewhere in the world as you read these words, He saw them all.

And you can be sure of one thing. Among the voices that found their way into that carpentry shop in Nazareth was your voice. Your silent prayers uttered on tear-stained pillows were heard before they were said. Your deepest questions about death and eternity were answered before they were asked. And your direst need, your need for a Savior, was met before you ever sinned.

And not only did He hear you, He saw you. He saw your face aglow the hour you first knew Him. He saw your face in shame the hour you first fell. The same face that looked back at you from this mornings mirror, looked at Him. And it was enough to kill Him.

He left because of you. He laid his security down with His hammer. He hung tranquility on the peg with His nail apron. He closed the window shutters on the sunshine of His youth and locked the door on the comfort and ease of anonymity.

Since He could bear your sins more easily than He could bear the thought of your hopelessness, He chose to leave. It wasn't easy. Leaving the carpentry shop never has been.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

My Celebrity Look-alikes

Surfing at Starbucks and ran across this gem.

I've often thought of myself as a light P.Diddy.

Enjoy and keep your comments kind.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Peace of the Pie

Lawrence Welk, The Wonderful World of Disney, George and Wheezy Jefferson fighting...these are the TV memories of my childhood.

Last night, Kim and I joined about twenty other families (10 from our church and 10 from the community!) and experienced our first class session of Financial Peace University. So far today, I've paid off all our debt (including our mortgage), saved enough money for our girls to attend Harvard, and given a sizable check to the local homeless shelter. Well...actually...I've not spent any money at Starbucks (notice I didn't say - I've not drank anything from Starbucks...), I went home and ate lunch instead of going out to eat, and I decided not to play golf today (despite the fact I only have to pay $15 cart fee) in an effort to tighten our financial belt. (My physical belt needs no tightening.)

Anyway, all this to say I'm so excited about this class and the way I'm confident that God will use it to liberate my family and so many others in the area of finances. The borrower is a slave to the lender and I must confess that despite making more than ever, Kim and I have borrowed more than ever. This will change! Although the changes won't be easy, they will be right. Although they won't come quickly, they will come! Although we might be eating beans, they won't burn on the grill!

We're moving on up!
Sing with me:

We're a movin' on up,
(We're a movin on up.)
To the east side.
(Mo-vin on up.)
To a de-luxe apartment,
In the sky-.
Mo-vin' on up
(Mo-vin on up.)
To the east side,
(Mo-vin on up.)
We finally got a piece of the pie.

Fish don't fry in the kitchen,
A beans don't burn on the grill.
Took a whole lot of trying
Just to get up that hill.
Now we're up in the big leagues,
Gettin our turn at bat.
As long as we live
It's you and me baby.
There ain't nothing wrong with that.

We're a moving on up
(Mo-vin on up.)
To the east side,
(Mo-vin on up.)
To a de-luxe apartment
In the sky-.
Mo-vin on up
(Mo-vin on up.)
To the east side.
(Mo-vin on up.)
We finally got a piece of the pie!

One final thought: If George and Wheezy made so much money, why couldn't Wheezy afford a throat lozenge?

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Caught in the Act

I’ve heard a couple more stories recently of preachers “caught in the act.”

No — not THAT act. Not adultery, but plagiarism.

Just recently I heard the sad story of a beloved minister who, perhaps in his exhaustion, began lifting sermons in whole from a great Christian Church preacher. Word-for-word. He even told the man’s personal stories as if they were his own personal stories. Even more sadly, once he was confronted about it, he continued to do it.

There is no excuse for that. It’s wrong.

We all borrow from others. I’ve been impacted by the books of Wright, Brueggemann, Crabb, Willard, and Peterson — books that have seeped into my bones. I’m sure there are times that their words come out — not verbatim, but in essence — without my even knowing it. We’ve heard good stories and illustrations that we’ve retold. We’ve retold humorous quips. We’ve gotten sermon thoughts that proved fruitful later in our own planning.

There’s nothing wrong with that. Who, after all, has a truly original thought?

But that must not be an excuse for the stealing involved in lifting sermons. When you cut-and-paste someone else’s message while pretending it’s yours, that’s wrong. When you tell another’s story as if it happened to you, that’s wrong.

I remember as a young man hearing about an older minister in the South who was confronted because he was just buying Swindoll books and preaching his sermons — without even bothering to disguise it. His sermon series carried the title of the book and the individual sermons had the titles of the chapters. When challenged about it, he simply replied: “I bought the book. It’s my material.”

That is grounds for dismissal.

Here’s the thing: a story doesn’t lose any power by giving the source. It doesn’t have to be YOUR story. It never diminishes the impact to say that you were deeply impacted by a book you read or a sermon you heard.

When we were first married, I went through my Jim McGuiggan stage. (I’m still sort of in that stage — I just don’t get to hear him often enough.) I listened to his tapes . . . until KIM cut me off. She said I was developing an Irish accent.

Some need to be cut off from sermons. They need to quit listening to the tapes, quit downloading the MP3s, and unsubscribe to the podcasts. They’re not wrong in themselves; but if they become your shortcut that takes the place of arduous, prayerful preparation, then drop them!

Perhaps part of the blame lies with the pressure that some churches put on their ministers. They expect them to be pastoral, to be witty, to be insightful, to be humorous, and to be deep. Part David Letterman, part N. T. Wright.

If you’re a church leader, affirm the leadership and teaching of your ministers that is solid, biblical, and congregationally pastoral. Make sure the ones preaching and teaching are given time to prepare. Consider giving them an allowance so they have resources to buy good books and journals. Think about offering them sabbatical time each year just for study and prayer–time that is added to their regular vacation time. These resources and this time are not only for the benefit of the minister; they’re also for the good of the church! (By the way, these are things I’m generously offered at LAKE CITIES. I’d just like to see others follow that practice.)

But, having said that, the blame can’t be placed primarily at the feet of the church. What I’m talking about is unethical. It is a red flag — just as an affair is — that something is deeply wrong.

If I hear you preach, I don’t want to hear a Bob Russell sermon. I’m sure it would be solid and biblical. But if I want to hear a BR sermon, I’ll listen to BR. If I hear you preach, I want to hear YOU. Maybe it’ll include a point or an illustration you first heard from Bob Russell. But the sermon — the heart of what you’re saying — is what you’ve agonized over. It’s what the good news of Christ has said to you on behalf of the church that week. It is passionate, prayerful, and gospel-formed. That’s what I want — and need! — to hear. For me it doesn’t have to be funny; it doesn’t have to be a home run.

In reality, it may include a LOT of things you’ve heard and read from others. But it is YOUR message. It bears your sweat; it is birthed from your confrontation with text and gospel; it is geared toward your community of faith. It is God pouring through you the gift of preaching.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Losing It!

I received an email yesterday from my good buddy and close friend, Rick Warren. Yeah, he sends me an email every week to mentor me and encourage me. Me and about 763,459 other friends I think get an email. So I find out that Rick has left the "fold" and joined the "dark side" and of course, I immediately email my other good buddy and close (best) friend, Mitch Wilburn and let him know of Rick's betrayal. You can read of what transpired below:

From: Joel G.Quile []
Sent: Wednesday, January 03, 2007 9:35 PM
To: Mitch Wilburn
Subject: We're Jacked!

Our hero has betrayed us.


Joel G. Quilé
Senior Minister
Lake Cities Church of Christ

to which Mitch replied:

Ah yes, but has he considered the biblical truth in it's totality. Proverbs 9:17 - "Food eaten in secret is delicious".

To which I say:


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Macro Missions

I reminded our staff this morning that the Church doesn't have a mission. The mission has a church. It is so hard to keep our focus on the big picture and not get bogged down in "church work" Only God has the energy needed to fuel the mission that he initiated. And it is so much bigger than how we often use the term. Mission is not simply evangelism and church growth. It involves joining God in his work of social justice, redeeming the lost, loving the lonely, healing the hurting, and restoring creation to it's rightful relationship with it's creator.

I want my days to be consumed with something bigger than programs or even people.

I want the presence of God. It is His mission.

I want to be His man!

Monday, January 01, 2007

Another Year, Another Cut

New Year's Eve is the time of year where I step out of box for a minute, adjust my gloves and grip, stare down the pitcher and take a breath before getting back into the box.

New Year's Day is when I to take another cut. Another 365 cuts to be exact.

I'm ready for a great '07!

Happy New Year!

You are so loved.