Friday, April 30, 2010

City Lights...

(View of Syndey & the Harbour Bridge @ Night)

My wife recently added a new ring tone that is for calls & texts so needless to say i hear this song ALOT. Its "Life Light Up" by Christy Nockels. The line that i hear over and over is the first line of the chorus: "Let my life light up like the city lights...".

I heard this ring tone probably 20 times before i really paid attention to the lyrics (and how often does that happen in other places too). Then it dawned on me that this song just so happened to line up with what i had been studying on Thursday's at lunch with my good friends Derrick & Chris. We were walking through Proverbs together and one of the verses that really resonated with me and became a repeating chorus in my head was from Prov. 13:9 -- "The lives of good people are brightly lit streets; the lives of the wicked are dark alleys."

For me illustrations and visual learning is a great way for something to sink into my head and soul. And this verse jumped off the page because i could clearly see a beautiful city lit up at night (see picture above) and i could also easily imagine a dark alley that would fit the description of wicked.

The take-away for me was the question: "So which one describes your life? Which one is a good picture for how i am living? What am i actually illuminating with my life, words, thoughts, actions?"

I challenge you to imagine a brightly lit city -- and then imagine a dark alley. Which one more accurately represents your life? Which one would you want people to associate with thoughts of you? Which one are you most like right now?

If its not the answer you really want and hope for -- do something about it. Now.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

You have stayed here long enough...get moving.

(A pic from my hike up to 7K ft elevation in the Mission Mtns of Montana)
Recently i have been studying Deuteronomy with 2 great friends who also happen to be 2 great teammates, Derrick Purvis & Chris Hahn. In the first chapter we read a passage where God speaks to Moses and says: "You've stayed long enough at this mountain. On your way now. Get moving." After telling him where to go God goes on to say: "I've given you this land. Now go in and take it."
That passage really jumped out to me and caused me to ask myself a couple of very important and challenging questions.
1) Will i be able to discern when i need to move on to another mountain? And for me i don't mean the "mountain" necessarily has to be a physical move of location -- it could just be a new challenge in my life or something new i need to be working on.
2) Will i have the courage and confidence to move to the next mountain? So often it is much easier to just stay in places of comfort. Admittedly, i am right now in a place of comfort. Now believe me i have challenges in my job and in my life -- but overall i feel pretty comfortable. But were a change asked or required of me how would i approach it?
This story of Moses and all of Israel moving from place to place in the desert for 40 some years and NOT entering into the "promised land" that God had given them makes it very easy to critique them and even laugh at how silly they were. I mean seriously, if you read about their exploits and the foolish things they did and said it can be comical. They would be literally and metaphorically on the mountaintop one day and down in the valley (again physically & metaphorically) the next.
But if i stop for only a moment and examine my own life i find that i am just like them. However, i am using these 2 questions that came quickly to me to alter that habitual behavior. God often gives us an invitation -- but its also usually followed closely behind with a challenge. We love the invitation but we often don't embrace the challenge.
So as i challenge myself to be open to not just the invitation but also the challenge -- i lay the same dare out to you.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

A happy heart is good medicine...

(My boy Jackson - he makes my heart happy)

I am currently in Rockford, IL visiting some great friends, TD & Jen Oakes and their kids, with my wife Emily and our friend Taryn.

From the moment we got in the car to head this way on a 7-8 hour drive we have been laughing. And then last night after we arrived the laughing only intensified. And it was capped off by us watching comedian Brian Regan at the Improv. Seriously, if you have not checked out his stuff it is an absolute MUST! I had seen a bit or two of his but last night we watched for an hour.

When we finally ran out of "bits" to watch we had sore stomachs and cheeks from laughing so much. It is safe to say we all had laughed until we cried. Part of the joy was just being together with friends -- but there is no doubt that Regan is one of the funniest comedians alive today.

But as we were sitting there (more like rolling around doubled over) it occurred to me that the old Proverb "a happy heart is good medicine and a cheerful mind works healing..." is completely true! If there was a way to bottle up laughter and sell it this invention would make more money (and actually do more good) than all the other anti-depressants combined. And i don't doubt for a second that this laughter would cure many things beyond just depression.

(I recommend that you read this article on the actual effects of laughter on the brain and the body. It will give you some great insights into the importance of it and why the Proverb about a happy heart being good medicine is scientifically true.)

The effects of laughter and joy on a person(s) can NOT be overstated or overvalued. It can really heal and transform. Where can you find opportunities to add more laughter and joy to your life? Think about the things that put a smile on your face and work as natural stimulants -- how can you find more time to work these things into your daily routine?

I challenge you to figure this out and actually do it. Your life depends on it.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A good leader or a good follower - which is more important?

Recently Ella, my almost 4 year old daughter, and i visited our neighborhood duck pond. Its a place that we like to frequent for some fantastic father & daughter time. We did our usual of walking to different areas of the pond to feed the ducks & geese, our favorite being the large gazebo that juts out into the water.

After we had overfed the birds with old hot-dog buns Ella decided that we should take a walk on a paved trail leading away from the pond (and our car). It was a beautiful day so i was all for it. This trail eventually ended at the entrance of a neighborhood. Ella again decided that we should explore the neighborhood.

At this point i began to weigh our options (classic ISTJ behavior). How long had we been gone? How far were we going to get from the car? Would i have to eventually carry her all the way back? Etc. So i began to formulate in my head the best thing(s) to say to lure her back toward the direction we came (using great logic of course - again ISTJ). And then (cue dramatic music) i decided to just let her lead. Where ever she wants to go that's where we'll go! I am just going to follow. No questions asked. Just follow the cute curly headed girl on an adventure.

This is when our time together really began to get rich and memorable. I am not kidding. It was so incredibly fun to simply let her lead and go where she wanted to go because of her whims and 4 year old logic. Our adventure was fantastic. (i would love to take the time to describe to you how we moved about the sidewalks and streets and yards but it would take too many keystrokes to explain it all - just trust me)

As we were getting back to the car (yes we made it back) it struck me that in our society we are ALL about leaders & leadership. Google it, check out Joseph-Beth bookstore, search for a conference on it, the topic is everywhere. Its worshipped and revered. Heck i even have a Master's Degree in it (i have the diploma to prove it). But we don't spend any time or ambition on followers & followership (the blog editor is indicating i just invented this word). But we should.

In fact, a couple of years back Brandon Schaefer, a co-worker of mine at Southland and oddly enough now has the title of Follow Team Minister, and i began exploring the idea of hosting a "Followers" Conference. What would that look like? What we would challenge people with? Who would speak at it? Would anyone come to it?

The truth of the matter is most of us are followers most of the time. But are we any good at it?! Do we read about it, do we go to conferences on it, do we study it, do we focus on it, do we work on being better at it, do we have ambition to become it? Something certainly worth pondering.

A good leader or a good follower - which is more important? You tell me.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Have U Thanked a Volunteer Lately? No really...

I am constantly amazed when i think about the number of volunteers that put in time, effort and energy around Southland. It particularly struck me this past weekend as i walked around and noticed how many volunteers were serving all over the church so that "guests" would have an excellent and memorable experience here for Easter.

There were volunteers doing the following things (and these are just the ones that i saw): helping with our Production Team, serving in the Children's Ministry areas, counting the offering, preparing and serving communion, greeting guests, parking cars, praying with people to make decisions, singing on stage, playing in the band, serving food & drinks in the Cafe, teaching classes, answering questions about the church, helping guests find a seat, offering their expertise as a medical volunteer. And again these are just the things that i saw which does not include our mentoring program, the backpack food program, the medical clinics, homeless outreach, etc. Wow, how amazing!

These volunteers are people that have a heart to give back and they do so not for recognition but because they feel a purpose in it. It comes natural for many of them. And the ones that venture out cautiously almost always come back saying it was well worth it.

Volunteerism is certainly an integral part of our culture here at Southland and i am so thankful and proud of that fact. Without these wonderful volunteers we would not be the same. It would be impossible to pull of the weekend services or the outreach that we are able to do because of them.

So take some time and give a heart-felt and genuine "Thank You" to a volunteer. And be specific -- tell them why you appreciate them. Let them know that you notice and appreciate what they do. It will be well worth it to you and them.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The difference between a Cynic & a Skeptic...

Recently i had a blog post regarding Cynicism and the damage it can do to your leadership abilities and frankly just you in general. Since then i have had several people engage me in conversation regarding cynicism and the most common topic has been the difference between cynicism and skepticism (which i too have wrestled with).

Ironically, just yesterday Derrick Purvis, our Communications Director, sent me a link to an article discussing this very topic. I want to share it here with you. I hope that you find it helpful. I know that i did.