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Lessons from Grass

October 21, 2009
the grass I finally have growing

the grass I finally have growing

I mowed my yard recently and realized something…I have a good looking yard.  Seriously, my grass is green, thick, and looks great.  The bare spots I had in the back yard at the beginning of the summer are almost gone.  The holes and patches of uneven ground are almost non-existent at this time. I have become one of those “guys” with my grass.  I’m proud of it and I tend to compare it to the other yards in the neighborhood.  Now understand, once you enter the flower beds, the grass doesn’t matter, but the green stuff…it looks GOOD!

Funny though, 5 years ago I didn’t have any grass at all in my yard.  I had the bright idea to completely till my entire back yard.  With the help of a borrowed rototiller and a friend or two, I tilled the yard, sewed seed, rolled it as flat as possible with a giant roller, and strawed it.  I watered and watered it until the grass began to come up.  The fall and winter came and I had a pretty good sign that grass was coming.  Then the bad stuff hit.  For the next 2 summers we were in for the heat and without a lot of rain.  In fact a couple of summers ago, where we live was put under a water ban.  You couldn’t water your grass any more.  That meant certain doom for my poor pitiful but growing yard.

After the drought, I decided to do something.  I called in the professionals.  Seriously, I called Scott’s Lawn Service and got the pros to come.  They came out 6 times the first year and fertilized, treated, and sprayed my yard.  The key though is they brought nutrients I wasn’t giving my grass.  They reminded me to water, water, water, and they would take care of the rest…but I was still responsible for getting the lawn the most important need…WATER.

So when I looked at my yard after mowing it, I realized how much I am like the grass in my very yard.  I didn’t get to where I am in my journey with Christ overnight.  I’ve been through some seasons of drought.  I’ve been scorched and left for dead.  I have even been completely turned over.  I am in a spot Spiritually where I have never been before.  I’m not dying from the heat rather, I’m living in a place of constant water.

Ever wonder why Jesus refers to “Living Water” (John 4:10)?  I think after spending some time in the yard anyone can realize NOTHING grows in Middle Tennessee without some water.  Sure a cactus might be a great desert plant, but around here we need to water the flowers, the plants, the shrubs, and the yard.  We get some amazing rainfall occasionally (especially this year) which takes care of it for us, but most of the time we’re responsible for watering what we want to grow.

I think that’s very similar to where we need to be Spiritually.  We need the LIVING WATER to bring LIFE to our dry souls. Ever spent time AWAY from the LIVING WATER…Christ?  You know what drying up and dying feels like…

Also, I think it’s important to realize it takes a while to develop Spiritual maturity.  Of course we know that and even teach that, but remembering that when things are going so fast can be difficult.  At times, it feels like it’s a little overwhelming and if you’re not focused on Christ, well…let’s just say it’s gonna getcha.

Consider this:

6“All men are like grass,
and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.

7 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
because the breath of the Lord blows on them.
Surely the people are grass.

8 The grass withers and the flowers fall,
but the word of our God stands forever.”  Isaiah 40:6b-8

Don’t get so caught up in the grass you take your eyes off the LIVING WATER…

I wanna be a Secret Church Shopper!

October 16, 2009

I think a great job would be a Secret Shopper.  Businesses use them all the time to bust employees and get a fresh set of eyes into their environment.  I think it would be BEYOND awesome to be a Secret Church Shopper.

Come on in...

Come on in...

Can you imagine a church contacting me and asking for my fresh set of eyes to look at what they do and give them feedback?  What would they say when I gave them honest feedback about their staff, programs, building, grounds, services, friendliness, coffee, or more?  How many churches have forgotten what it’s like to be the one visiting and SEARCHING for a church home?  Would they want me to come back for a few weeks or would I be a one-time visitor?  I could handle either one.  If you’re interested in honesty and fresh eyes…gimme a call.

My bet is more than half of the churches out there don’t think about those people coming for the very first time.  When they do, they make sure they put their best foot forward and are presentable…much like our family does when we know guests are coming.  We throw the basket of un-folded laundry into the bedroom closet and swear we won’t let that get out of hand again…

My experience as a staff guy was always to look at things through the eyes of a first time guest.  What did they see, what did they notice, what did they hear, what did they SMELL (seriously), what are we giving them, etc.  I was good at it.  I know I was a part of more than one church which tried to make sure guests felt welcomed.  Then what happens when the sights, smells, sounds, and swag was good?  What did they begin to notice once they were looking at the church as a place to become a member of?

Did they expect me to contact them?  Most of the time they never acted like it.  I HATE COLD CALLS.  I really didn’t like contacting first-time visitors either.  I know as a minister it was part of my job and I did it with a smile in my voice, but the reality was…most people didn’t want that call.  They wanted to connect with me and get to know me personally, not have me give them the laundry list of who we are and why we’re better than the church down the street.  They want to FEEL connected not be told to connect.  They wanted INVITING not an invitation.

When was the last time you seriously visited a church with the thought of actually visiting it again.  I know a ton of ministers who visit other churches when they are out of town, on vacation, or even during their sabbatical.  The question I have for them though, is how much do you really get from that?  Sure you get some great ideas to take back home, but do you even consider looking past what transfers to YOUR church and feel comfortable and invited?  Would you even consider wanting to be a part of something like it?

Think about it…we work so hard in the church world to make things APPEAR inviting and the reality is they do…APPEAR inviting.  It’s what happens when someone walks through the door and doesn’t care how big your screens are, if you are in HD,  if you have PS3’s in the Youth area, or if you have a Disney-rivaling children’s area.  What happens when people are looking past all the fluff for the REAL?

Here’s my proposal:

I’ll come to your church (I’ll even bring my family if you want me to give you the complete package review) and observe.  You have certain areas you want me to give you feedback on, I’ll pay extra special attention to them for you.  You want my unfiltered opinion?  I’ll be MORE THAN WILLING to give you that. I will be discreet, quiet, and completely private with you.  I won’t even use your name as I blog about you or I will brag on you with your permission.

Here’s what I want in return: I want to meet with you afterward.  I want to meet with whoever was willing to bring me in…one on one.  You want me to present to the staff?  I can do that.  I just want to make sure the person who wanted to bring me in gets a chance to ask questions.  I will present you my findings, thoughts, and opinions in written or verbal form.  I just want you to know I’m serious when I talk to you.  I might offend you by letting you know your church ISN’T as friendly as YOU say they are.  I might say my kids didn’t like your $20 million Children’s Mega-Mall Building.  I might let you know as a parent of a special needs child, you have NOTHING for me.  I might say my teenage son had a complete blast in your youth group but couldn’t tell me a single thing he heard about the Bible.  I might tell you your preaching was some of the best I have heard in my LIFE, but the music made me long for an ear infection that clouded my hearing…or at least an ice pick–I’m not kidding here.

I want churches to be the link to God on this planet.  I want them to be successful and not stuck in ruts.  I want them to flourish rather than flounder.  The problem is, when you get so in-trenched in the inner workings of a church, you have a tendency to forget what is real.  People like me who are searching for a church are serious.  I didn’t buy a car just because my friend had one…I might have test-drove one like his, but I didn’t buy it until I was SURE I wanted it.  I want to make sure you’re seeing it through the eyes of a person who is looking…something most staff people aren’t doing.

When was the last time you CHOSE where you went to church?  For me, July 21, 2008 was the first time in almost 15 years of marriage (at that time) we had CHOSEN where to go as a family.  It was tough and painful, but man oh man has it opened my eyes to some amazing and amazingly BAD things.

Let me know if I can be of help…

I’m a proud Dad…

October 16, 2009

I have been debating about whether to brag about something or not.  I seriously have.  I know a few people who read this will immediately say, “If you’re a Dad, BRAG on your kids!”  I know it’s ok and I know it’s great for their confidence.  The bottom line though is I don’t want to come across sounding like “THAT” relative you have.  You know the one.  The one who says, “Oh, your little Sally rode her bicycle all by herself without training wheels?  I know when MY LITTLE _______ was that age, she rode a dirt bike at the X-Games and won the silver medal, finishing second to Travis Pastrana.”  (follow the links for the humor and irony to find out what’s WRONG with that sentence) I LOATHE THOSE PEOPLE!!!  Yes, I know I used the word LOATHE, but it’s a euphemism, not an actual, so congratulate me for my restraint.  I know I share a lot about our lives with Lane, but here’s some info on the others…

So, at the risk of sounding a little like a bragging Dad, here goes:

The past few weeks have been awesome in our world.  We are struggling in some areas–like finding a church to call home, waiting patiently on our adoption, and watching the time fly by WAY too fast as our boys grow up.  BUT, we are having some amazing moments that are building memories like crazy.  In the past month our kids have done the following:

Dyllan singing at Disney on Ice

Dyllan singing at Disney on Ice

Dyllan: He’s stood up on stage and sang in front of tens of thousands of people over the past two weekends  in Nashville and Charlotte  (and will be doing it again this weekend in Atlanta).  He has been singing a song he wrote, called, “Let’s Get This Party Started.”  It’s been an unbelievable ride.  You can check it out on Facebook HERE.  He has been doing what God has gifted him to do.  It’s a little more than amazing.  He created a Facebook Fan Page (at the urging of his agent) and on Monday, October 5, had 164 fans.  As of last Friday he had over 500 and today over 700!  He has had kids who have been negative in days past come to him to tell him he’s doing a good thing.  They are even fans of his!  He has t-shirts he designed on his own and CD singles!  My son is awesome!  I’m a proud Dad–oh yeah, he’s 13!

E-Dub after a 32-0 win!  His team is 5-1 so far.

E-Dub after a 32-0 win! His team is 5-1 so far.

E-Dub:  He doesn’t have a website…YET.  He’s amazing.  He’s my hip hop dancer.  He’ll spin on his head, break it down, and then strap his helmet on for football practice.  This year when he started football, he was a little more than timid.  The last 2 years for him haven’t exactly been “amazing” on the football field.  He was the kid who played 5-6 plays a game and was happy with it.  This year, he’s starting at tight end, getting  the chance to catch the ball occasionally, and he is doing AWESOME.  That’s right, He’s doing AWESOME.  He’s getting to play some on defense and even run the ball some.  It’s so cool to watch him come into his own.  He is really an incredible athlete.  Seriously could be good…as long as he wants to.  E-Dub is my “do what I want to do when I want to do IF I want to do it” child…and I couldn’t be a more proud Dad!  He is a featured back in the new “WILDCAT” offense and on his first run got tackled by the facemask…needless to say, he was NOT amused!  Nevertheless, he is back running the ball…something I think he’s always wanted to do, just didn’t want to draw a lot of attention to himself about it.

Happy 12th Birthday LANE!

Happy 12th Birthday LANE!

Lane:  He’s doing awesome.  His 12th birthday party turned out to be AMAZING. Even though we had to scrap the plans last minute for the party to be moved to the garage at the house, He had fun.  He is doing great in school and is one of E-Dub’s biggest fans on the field.  He has learned the COWBOY cheers and shouts them out at the game.  Those of us who speak “Lane” understand him and smile on the outside and IN!

Kate-Dawg at her 21st Birthday Party!

Kate-Dawg at her 21st Birthday Party!

Katie:  She’s doing great.  I know some of you don’t know Katie well, but she’s our unofficially official daughter.  She’s lived with us for 5 years now and is every bit a part of our family.  She’s getting ready to move to Haiti for 6 months.  That’s right, she’s going to be in Haiti.  She’s going to be going to the orphanage where Missy and I are adopting from and living there and working with the babies (how ironic Tia is there…) and teaching them English.  The truth is, she’s going to be doing a ton of stuff and we are so proud that she slowed down, got quiet, and heard God’s call.  She’s going to do some amazing things in Haiti and will help the children there so much.  We will be taking Mission teams there through BGM and she will be such a huge help in getting those groups to feel at home…since we’ll be coming to her home!  We are so proud to have her a part of our family and she’s another reason I’m such a proud DAD!

Tia:  She’ll be here soon…whenever  that is.  We are constantly praying for her and looking forward to her joining us at the house.  Keep up with the journey on the Adoption Blog.

Finally, Missy:  She’s an amazing Wife and MOM.  She’s pressing close to God these days and as her husband I couldn’t be more proud.  I’m watching God take her and mold her and stretch her into something amazing.  It’s a joy to be around her and watch God change her into an even GREATER person.  I think she’s pretty amazing!!!

YES!!

YES!!

Sick of the DEBATE!

October 8, 2009

As I take Dyllan and Lane to school each morning, I listen to the Rick and Bubba Show.  I love it.  It’s a great show with a great message and more often than not I find myself agreeing wholeheartedly with the guys and guests.

Yesterday I heard the guys talking about Michael Moore, the movie director…liberal…and political pot-stirrer.  They played a snippet of an interview Mr. Moore had done with Sean Hannity (you’ll have to find the clip on YouTube…too many exist for me to link to).

Now, I must provide this disclaimer:  I HATE POLITICS!  Literally HATE it.  I hate what I see it doing to good people.  I hate what it does to our country.  I hate what it does to my friends.  Politics is one of the few catalysts in the world which can cause groups to argue, fight, and war…all in the name of the political system.

Now I want to add this disclaimer:  I completely support our Country, our troops fighting on behalf of me around the world, and our government.  I might not agree with much of it, but I’m called to suck up my thoughts and support the authority over me.  I have a chance to voice my frustrations properly, but in the end, I’m not living under a Nero or Pilate…

I  began to think, after hearing Mr. Moore describe himself as simply, “Christian,” How many people just associate themselves with the word, “Christian” because they believe it’s right, but have NO Christ or His teachings within their version of Christianity.  This is not an indictment on Mr. Moore, rather an observation as to what we’ve become.

I think it’s pretty safe to say we have become a people of opinions.  We like to debate others who don’t share our opinions.  We challenge everything and everyone who opposes us or even suggests something we don’t like…it’s our God-given American right!  We ain’t gotta put up with that nonsense from ANYONE…

…the problem as I see it, is we have transferred that opinion to EVERY aspect of LIFE.  We don’t respect authority any longer…especially around other believers and in the church.  A lot of this is seasoned with dealing with so much at a church going through a lawsuit from members…er well EX members now.  I see the whole thing transpired because people didn’t like what they saw, who was in a position of perceived power, and the only way to get “THEIR” way (or their perception of what God wanted) was to revolt.  In this particular case, they decided legal action was necessary.

So, let’s just carry out this little scenario further.  What happens when we read something in Scripture we don’t understand or better yet, something we don’t agree with?  Seriously, what do YOU do when you read Jesus’ HARD WORDS.  Check this out:

60 On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”
61 Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you? 62 What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before!  63 The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life. 64 Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. (emphasis mine)

65 He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled him.”

66 From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

John 6:60-66

Do you think we will ever get to the point where we can look at Jesus and say, it’s just too hard?  Will we look at His holiness and perfection and say with our whole hearts, I don’t agree with you on this.  Will we tell Jesus, I think you need to change for me.  I do.  If a person who could walk with the physical Jesus, see Him, hear Him, witness His miraculous LIFE, could look at Him and say it’s too hard, I believe we will be there.

I believe we’re already there in many cases.  We change and mold and adapt to a friendlier version of a Christ-less Christianity so others will have a “say-so” in what happens.  We have become a people who love to DEBATE and who love to hear the sound of our own heads roar.  Many look forward to gathering with other believers only for the hope of a good argument.  Let’s face it, many church activities and things done in the name of church “business” are nothing more than a train-wreck waiting to happen.  Catch the wrong person on the wrong day with the wrong words and you’ll have threats and name calling…all in the name of Jesus!  What a bunch of CRAP!!!

I admit, Christianity IS hard.  It’s COMPLETELY counter to the old LIFE we lived.  It’s a NEW LIFE which springs up in us.  It causes us to come in conflict with our old selfish desires and thoughts.  It causes us to stand up against wrong in places and stand for right in other places.  It causes us to be radically different.  But it also causes us to listen to Him and let Him be the ultimate.

Do you like to debate? Do you find yourself debating Him?  Do you accept what He says or is He leaving so much “up for interpretation” for you?  Maybe it’s time for a real LIFE gut-check.  BE the Gospel.  You want to see lives change and know Christ?  Let YOURS be first.

Just some thoughts I’ve been thinkin…

Celebrating 12 Years of LANE!!!

September 30, 2009

IMG_4991If you know us at all, you know how passionate we are about our kids.  I don’t know that we ever thought we would be here.  As I write this, I am the father of 3 boys…13, soon to be 12,  and 9…the unofficially official father of a 21 year old semi-adopted daughter, and a 4 year old on the way!  Times like this make me contemplate quite a bit.  So in thinking and reflecting, I thought I would give you 12 things Lane has taught us:

Almost 2 weeks old

Almost 2 weeks old

1.  It NEVER hurts to ask for help. I can’t tell you how much I could learn from this.  Lane gets himself into predicaments often and can’t figure out how to get himself out.  He lets out a cry or scream and someone comes running.  Maybe I should ask for help more often…with a little less screaming and crying.

2.  When you get yourself stuck, sometimes it takes someone else to help you get out. That’s right…get some help.  Lane was stuck the other day between the dresser and the wall.  He physically couldn’t get out on his own.  When I came into the room and offered to help him, he accepted my help and went right on playing.  I wasn’t mad at him for getting stuck…so why do I think everyone will look at me funny if I ask for help?first born being held

3.  Peeing your pants is NOT the end of the world. At first glance, that statement seems so simple, but the reality of it is accidents happen.  Even with a soon to be 12 year old who isn’t potty-trained and wears diapers.  We take every precaution available and even sit him on the potty as often as possible; but even with our preventive measures, he still has accidents.  I don’t care.  I still love him.  Good to remember…

halloween tigger4.  Don’t trade the convenience of riding in a stroller for the exercise of walking with a walker. I tell people all the time, “We’re the people you HATE to get behind at the mall.”  Whenever we get the chance, we take Lane out of his stroller and let him walk beside us.  It’s happening less and less lately because it seems we’re always in a hurry, but we don’t have to be.  He gets so tired walking, but we have noticed the more he walks, the better he sleeps, the more active he is during the day, and well…he just likes it.

school is a scream5.  If you feel like letting out a scream of excitement…others WILL look at you and wonder what’s up. It’s ok to be excited!  Sometimes when we’re out eating, Lane will let out this shrill shriek that lets everyone around us know he’s there.  Most of the time it’s his way of being excited and he doesn’t know how else to share his excitement with others.  I however, err too often by keeping my excitement and joy to myself, wanting to be reserved rather than real.

6.  Music makes the day go better. How many times have you found yourself riding in the car or walking down the street and hear a song that makes you smile?  How about that song you hear that brings back some of the funniest memories ever?  Do you have a “go to” song when you feel down?  Lane is rarely away from

Daddy's ring on my arm

Daddy's ring on my arm

music.  He has the piano in his room, the iPod, and the car seat with speakers.  He knows the power of music and just how music makes the day go better.  That’s why I’m listening to the Zac Brown Band right now…a little diddy that makes me tap my toes and smile…

7.  You will say “Hi” to some people, who will completely ignore you…it’s OK. Some people don’t listen for your voice.  I know it’s hard to believe others don’t think as highly of you as YOU do, but they don’t.  Not one person has entered our house in the past few years that Lane hasn’t said, “Hi…Hi…Hi…Hi…Hi…” to.  I mean he will say it over and over and over…until either we recognize him or the person does.  It used to embarrass me that he wouldn’t be quiet when “official’ visitors came…like the lady who did our home study for our adoption, but I have learned over the years…he is a part of our family and that’s just his thing.  He’s not going to outgrow it, IMG_6585but he’s going to want to be recognized.  I have decided I’M going to recognize him…after all…he’s the man…just ask him.  Our friends make their way straight to him and have recognized him as the official Wilson family greeter.  Who knows…maybe he could work at Wal*Mart one day as a professional greeter.  Never thought about that…but maybe.

8.  Some days are better when you have a few minutes to yourself to unwind.  Every day Lane has the happy lanesame routine.  He comes home from school, gets in his floor, and immerses himself in things he likes.  He plays the piano, with toys, or just chills out.  He doesn’t care about anything until he unwinds from a day at school.  I cant’ imagine what goes through his mind during the day, but I can see him calm down and refresh every afternoon over a 30 minute stretch.  I have taken notes on that…

9.  Every day can not be Tuesday, no matter what I think. Ask Lane what day it is…regardless of when it actually is…and he’s going to answer Tuesday.  It doesn’t matter what you tell him…it’s Tuesday to him.  Do I ever get stuck refusing to learn what’s going on?  He has an excuse…I don’t!

10. When othIMG_6600ers stare at you, it’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes people don’t understand what’s going on and they stare.  I used to hate it.  I tried to manipulate them in messages and conversations by telling them the stares got on my nerves.  The reality is, I stare too.  When I see something out of the ordinary, I have a tendency to stare.  I wonder to myself, “what’s wrong with that person?  Why is that kid acting like that?  Why???”  I can’t hold it against people who stare…but I can make sure I’m not intimidated into acting like I don’t.  I will go and talk rather than sit and stare.

Off ventilator11.  Humans have an innate desire to survive. This is NOT an abortion rant, but after watching a 23 week and 5 day old “baby” survive outside the womb, I have no doubt that God created us with the ability and desire to live.  Sure, junk gets in the way, but NO CHILD should be denied that right.  I saw it.  I watched him fight for the first breath when his lungs collapsed.  Some call it spasm and reflex but I call it LIFE.

12.  Sometimes the only way to get through things is to face the ugly reality of what has to happen. One of the worst and best things ever for Lane was when he received an intraosseous in his left shin bone.  That’s how he got one of his 36 blood transfusions while he was in the hospital.  They stuck a needle into his shin.  I would NEVER want to see that in an ordinary day, but on this particular day, it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.  That ugly procedure saved his LIFE.

There you go…some things I’ve learned from spending 12 years with Lane…

The Wilson Boys...

The Wilson Boys...

Things I’ve learned while LOOKING…for a church home.

September 24, 2009

Missy and I have been looking very hard for a church home lately.  Since leaving church staff over 15 months ago, one of the biggest concerns in our family is a church home.  Since I travel and spend so much time in churches, having a church home for my own family is extremely important.  We have visited 14 churches in the past 15 months.  Some have been a single visit and others have been a couple of months.  We have felt at home a couple of places, but the needs of our family (Spiritually and physically) weren’t met.  Since we don’t feel called to Children’s Ministry, we need to have people involved in the LIFE of our 4th grade son who DO feel called to minister to him.  As a staff member, I would have dismissed families like ours as not Spiritual enough and needing more Spiritual discipline.  I confess!  I used to think that.  I REPENT OF THAT NOW.  I’m that guy who can’t find a church.  I know what I’m looking for but I can’t find it.  I am on my knees constantly begging God to show me where we need to wind up, but we’re not there yet.  God has a place for us to attend, soak from, pour out in, and partner with.

So, in our infinite hunt for the proper church, I thought I would take a few minutes and share some things I’ve learned while looking for a church home.  I’ve gone back and read this post.  It’s pretty sharp and pointed.  I come across sounding like a guy who only finds fault and won’t settle.  I don’t know if things will change soon for me or not.  I don’t know if I will trim my non-negotiables to where they will include your church but I do know I will not give up until I find the place God wants us.

1.  Great communicators are common. Most teachers and/or speakers feel their communication gift is second to none.  I would have to say I have put myself in that category.  I might not be the best, but I’m good.  I’m confident in my abilities to communicate the truth of God’s Word in a way that is understandable and applicable in the lives of people today.  After visiting different churches we have heard unbelievable communicators.  Some were beyond expectation and a couple were…ehhh…so so.  I have been challenged to grow, been amazed at the exposition of these communicators, and been humbled at the amount of great communicators out there.  I USED to think you could build a great church around a great communicator, but I have seen the absolute “bunk” in that thinking.  It takes so much more than a great communicator to keep a family at a church.  If you’re a teacher or teaching pastor, take your job for the utmost sincerity.  You really are the front door of the church, but you are not the ONLY front door.  I can love listening to you, but if you don’t have a team around you that owns the church’s vision, mission, and passion you speak with…you are nothing more than a weekly guest speaker with a regular paying gig.

2.  Your Children’s Ministry is the front door invitation for me and my family to COME BACK. I ask my son every week what he heard…not what you taught!  Have you ever taken the time to listen to one of your teachers?  I would recommend you do it.  You might be surprised.  I ask my son what he hears because that’s what he’s learning.  He doesn’t catch necessarily what you mean for him to hear, instead, he catches what you say and what his 9 year old brain comprehends.  He might like the couches, the video games, or the songs you sing, but what is going to get us back is hearing the Bible come to LIFE in him.  We are doing everything we know how to do to make our house a safe Spiritual place.  We are looking for a place to call home that will partner with us and a place that has a vision for how a child should grow in Christ.  If he can tell us all about the ball game from Friday night, who your niece is dating, or why we shouldn’t watch television, that doesn’t mean anything to us compared to him getting in the van saying, “Dad, do you know about the  guy who worked as a tax collector and was called by Jesus to be one of His disciples?  You do?  You knew it was Matthew?  Why haven’t we talked before about it?  Let me tell you what I learned about him today…”

3.  Don’t advertise something you don’t have. I have fallen so much for a flashy website or even a video that makes your church SEEM so inviting.  I have seen a slick piece that introduces a top-notch Children’s Ministry with a Disney-esque stage and light show…only to be let down.  If you advertise Six Flags over Jesus I expect to see at least one roller coaster.  If you say your student ministry gathers students from all over middle Tennessee, understand I believe that statement for face value.  To have one student outside your community isn’t really what I would say reaching a region.  Be who you are.  Present yourself honestly and accurately.  I don’t want your laundry list of junk, I will find that, but understand I really do take things to heart.  I guess I’m too trusting and would be horrified to think you would mislead me or even worse, that you would think you really are something you aren’t.  Just like your LIFE, your church speaks tremendously as to who you really are at the core.  One side note to this…if you advertise a ministry on your website and don’t have it, intend to get it started, or are going to let it die a slow painful “church” death…take if off the website, don’t send me a computer generated email stating you will get back to me if things ever shape up for hat ministry.  It really is a chaffing point for guys like me.

4.  Special Needs Ministry…ever heard of it? Ever thought of it?  Yep, I’m one of THOSE parents.  I have a special needs child and I can’t find a place where both he and “we” fit in.  It’s difficult knowing my sixth grade son can get people in the public school system to work with him and teach him how to spell words, but we can’t find a church willing to partner with us and teach him about the Bible.  Imagine bringing your child to a ministry and being met with, “we don’t have a place for him.  He’ll have to go to service and/or class with you.  Give me your name and if we can find someone to take him we will get in touch with you.”  NOT GOING TO HAPPEN.  Don’t call me, text me, email me, and promise me you have something “in the works” when you don’t have a clue what to do.  Don’t let me think people are chomping at the bit to get involved in the LIFE of a special needs kid, when the reality is you’re bribing them with a 50% off next month’s tithe if you help out in this area deal!

5.  Student Ministry is either regional or communal. Face it, your student ministry is either based around kids in your area or kids in your region.  If it wasn’t you wouldn’t do the things you do.  A community church can invite the neighborhood schools to wear their colors and not have 35 different combinations show up.  A regional church will encourage students to go and make a difference on their campus without promising the Student Pastor will be at everyone’s See You at the Pole event.  I don’t care which one you are, I simply want to know which one you are.  If I want my 13 year old to have friends at church he has at school I will choose a community church.  If it doesn’t matter to me I will choose regional.  I have a 13 year old son who is off the charts intelligent, who is friendly, and who has talent that blows me away.  He WANTS to plug into your ministry and I of all people want him there.  I want to plug in too.  I spent 12 years doing what Student Pastors do.  I LOVE Student Pastors and want to be their source of encouragement and love.  I want a student ministry that is more than games and hang outs.  I want something that will FORCE my teenager to come face to face with what he’s hearing at home…the importance of Scripture, God’s plan, and following Him as closely as possible with friends that hold you accountable.  If you have a vision that includes or adds to that, let me know.  I want to be a part of it.  Don’t make your student ministry a hide and seek with truth.  I shouldn’t have to worry at the end of the day if my son is being challenged to grow in Christ or not.  If he doesn’t get to stuff marshmallows in his mouth or isn’t picked for the dance off–that’s fine.  I want ministry over fluff.  Disclaimer:  that last section was written to me 10 years ago.  If it fits someone you know, pass it on to them.

6.  If I ask you to contact me, feel free to do so. As a staff member one of the weakest points of ministry for me was follow-up.  I hated getting treated like a telemarketer selling coagulated blood.  I’ve had so many phones slammed in my ear for calling a “visitor” I really hated doing it.  When you hand me a piece of paper, I actually CHOOSE to fill it out or not.  If I choose to give you my personal information I’m giving you permission to call me.  I’m really surprised at how many churches have never contacted us after visiting.  It’s become a game now.  I fill out the card just to see if and when you will call.  I might ask you questions about your church, ministries, or even what you would want me to know about your church.  I will be polite and I will be honest.  I won’t promise you I’m coming back…because I don’t know if I will or not…

7.  Parents really do care about what their kids are learning. I say this again, I ask my sons every week what they HEARD!  Do you?

8.  Music matters…even to those of us with no musical talent. I’ve been to churches that sang for 20 minutes and it felt like 3 hours and I’ve been to places where they sang for an hour…notice I said “they” sang…because I didn’t…where it felt like 20 minutes.  It doesn’t mean I don’t connect with God through music, it means I have my own issues during music.  I’m self-conscious and hate my own voice.  Don’t scowl at me if I don’t sing along.  I notice things like that.  I have often wondered why God gives musical talent to so many (especially in Middle Tennessee) while I get NONE.  I also wonder why someone feels it necessary to add a little more “spice” to a song than the church down the street.  You’re BOTH singing the exact same song!  It’s ok.  I don’t expect you to write your own songs.  I don’t mind if you do though.  I notice how your up-front people act.  Why would you put the guy with the perpetual frown in front of me to lead me?  Do you think I want to worship the God of frown-guy?  You think that makes me think what he’s getting from God is going to help me?  I don’t expect fake and super happy, but have you watched your own worship service lately?  Why would you let the lady who has absolutely no personality on the praise team?  “They have good hearts,” you say.  “You put your best foot forward?” I ask…  As a non-musical person, music still matters to me.  It moves me.  It encourages me.  It even draws me closer to God and leads me to worship Him.  Don’t fall into the trap of filling a position with a warm body.  Remember, your music is a front door to who your church truly is.  If you’re traditional…be honest about it.  If you’re contemporary…great!  If you’re confused…chances are I will be too and won’t be back.  One recommendation.  Watch your worship service with your staff team.  Let the non-music guys critique the music.  See what the people on your staff REALLY think.

9.  Did I mention Special Needs? Seriously, it’s an overlooked area people.  Yes, we talk to “others” in “our” circle.  Make one of us feel welcome and you’ll probably have a bunch of us.  THAT is scary and most churches truly don’t want to go there.  Don’t lie to yourself or me because you think you can fake it.  I KNOW IT’S HARD…don’t fake it.  You’ll fail if your heart isn’t in it and I’ll leave madder than ever.  A group of parents of retarded kids adds a whole new dynamic to your church…they’re needy, hurting, and messy.  The wrong combination for most churches today.

10.  The welcome begins in the parking lot…seriously!! If you describe yourself as a friendly church, how would visitors describe you?  I have visited places that made me feel like a long lost brother and those who have made me feel like the weird Uncle no one wants to admit to having.  My favorite visit was one where I was really excited about going to a specific church.  One I knew was gonna rock!  When we asked someone (with a giant “Let me help you” name tag on), “Where do we take our fourth grade son?” and the response was a stare, a point, and her turning to a child beside her and resuming her in-depth conversation about breakfast cereals…I was immediately turned off.  It didn’t matter that she turned to us as we walked off and said, “is this your first time?”  To which we replied, “Uh, yeah.  We’ve never been in the door before.”  The damage was done.  Even her complete about-face and 180 change of tone and, “Welcome to ____________ where nobody is a visitor, just a member who hasn’t joined yet,” could turn things around.  She didn’t care about us when she had the chance to…again…GUILTY I have been, but man oh man am I aware of it now.

How in the WORLD do people come to know Christ?  In spite of me rather than because of me?  NO!!  I will continue to BE the church!

11.  Your tech-savvy world might impress me in the beginning, but remember, what you win me with, you have to keep me with. I love a church with a great website.  I look in the ceilings during the worship service.  I notice whether things are “cued” properly or if things look like they were put together by Frank and Danny out in the parking lot 20 minutes before the service started.  If you do things well, I’m going to notice and if you stink, I’m going to notice.  If you hit the ball out of the park one time, I’m going to be looking for it the second time.  If you don’t measure up to the first time, it’s ok, I’m going to give you another try.  If you were a one-hit-wonder…I’ll find you out eventually.  So remember, you represent Christ…nothing less nothing more.

Finally, I know it’s been a laundry list of stuff.  It all boils down to one thing:

I don’t care how awesome you think you are, nor do I care how awesome you want to be.  I want to know YOU KNOW and TRUST the awesomeness of Christ.  I want to be a part of a growing (Spiritually) body of Christ who won’t be satisfied until they have drained every ounce of Jesus out of LIFE.  I don’t care how big you are, how many you have, or how cutting-edge you are if you don’t fit my family.  It doesn’t mean you’re not good enough for me, it means I need to be somewhere else.  I need to be in a place where my family is partnering with you, not attending your services.

Just some thoughts…

10 things I have learned from coaching Football

September 17, 2009
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1. Some people love to blind-side you. It makes them feel more powerful.

2. You can never take anything for granted.

3. Never stop trying.

4. Bigger doesn’t mean better, faster, or even stronger.

5. Experience matters.

6. Be teachable.

7. NOBODY likes a quitter.

8. The way you practice sets the tone for how your TEAM plays.

9. One superstar doesn’t make up for ELEVEN willing workers.

10. When overtime comes, whoever has prepared harder will win.

shoes…that made me think

September 8, 2009

Last weekend I had the opportunity to speak at the N-Side Out Retreat for Middle School students at Springdale Community Church in Louisville, KY.  It was an awesome time, but I saw something that really made me think.

While I was there, instead of a group recreation time, the Middle School students scattered around Louisville for service projects.  Some went to a homeless mission to help clean, some went to a shelter to paint, others to help sort toiletries at another place.  I was supposed to go with one of those groups but wound up getting separated from the group.  Since I had no idea where they were going, I thought I would have  few hours to myself to burn.  I called the director of the weekend and told her my predicament and she sent me the address to the Children’s Home where she was serving.  I plugged it into my GPS and I was off.

When I arrived at the Children’s Home I realized a difficult truth.  These kids were there because of some sort of abuse, neglect, or they had been taken advantage of in one way or another.  Mostly guys, I saw in their faces the eyes that told the story…always be on guard.

I joined the group while they were playing dodgeball.  I jumped in and we had a blast…with the exception of me hitting a kid in the leg with the dodgeball.  He went down and cried.  I apologized profusely and immediately decided this was not a matter of LIFE or death.

After the dodgeball matches, we went to the dining room and shared snacks, crafts, and most importantly time with the guys who live there.  I had the chance to share a message of hope in Christ (IN A STATE FUNDED CHILDREN’S HOME!) and then I saw something that changed it all for me.

I met a young man there who had on his football cleats…because he had just left football practice.  I noticed the cleats because they had red tape on them.  They looked like something from the past…like YEARS past…like you would see in the original “Longest Yard,” “Invincible,” or “We Were Marshall.”  I couldn’t take my eyes off his shoes.

I don’t remember his name, but I remember the look on his face.  He was so proud to be on the football team, to have a uniform, and to have cleats.  They were cleats most of us would have NEVER worn.  They were old, worn, and coming apart.  They had red duct tape on there because they NEEDED it.  They were hand-me-downs, JUNK…shoes that most of us wouldn’t let our own kids wear.  They were the cleats we got rid of because they weren’t Under Armour or Nike.

I had to think, would I be happy with someone else’s hand-me-down cleats?  Would I have even worn them?  Would I give my worn-out cleats when I could have afforded to get HIM some new ones?

Just thoughts…

September 1, 2009

If you are looking for the current myLIFEspeaks Blog, it's been moved. Check it out at http://www.myLIFEspeaksblog.wordpress.com

moving the blog

August 19, 2009

well, after having the myLIFEspeaks blog over at blogspot for so long, we finally moved it to wordpress.  i hope it works well…