An unguarded moment

Randall O’Brien has a book entitled, “I Feel Better All Over Than I Do Anywhere Else”.  A friend of mine is full of all sorts of corny sayings.  One I remember him saying most is, “Wherever you are there you’ll be.”

I recall working for an electrical contractor in Albuquerque.  It was “just a job” to help pay the bills and support my work at Harvest Church now named Soul Rio

The company I was working for had a job site trailer at Intel.  One afternoon I was cleaning the office and had an experience that will last a lifetime.  I had worked my way to the Foreman’s office.  While in his office I was vacuuming and muttered the following words to God, “I am better than this!” Wrong words! In that instant the vacuum cleaner bag exploded and the Foreman’s office was filled with a cloud of dust.  There I stood wishing I had never muttered that to God and in walks the Foreman… There was so much dust in the air I think he thought the trailer was on fire.  He and the rest of the guys that walked in with him got a good laugh at my expense.  It would have made a great American Express commercial, “Want to get away?”

As I think of this I am reminded of my friends saying, “Wherever you are there you’ll be.”  I was there for a reason.  I didn’t understand why I was there most days.  But there were many days while working for that company God had someone in my path that needed to hear about Jesus.

Sometimes we experience things in life that make us wonder where is God in this… or wonder what did I do wrong to get me in this position… there are so many thoughts one can have.  Nothing we experience catches God off guard.  It’s up to us to stay on guard and in tune with God – our Father.

“Set you mind on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.” (Colossians 3:2-4, NIV).

 

“Got to get better at this”

I am still thinking through all of the processes that go on into “The City” (my churches children’s ministry).  I was asked to take on the task of overseeing “The City Crew”.  This will be a team of 4th and 5th graders who volunteer to help within the Children’s Ministry at our church.

Yesterday all of my children were helping out in some capacity.  Jacqueline was with the 2 and 3 year olds (I don’t recall the name of their area).  But the other four (Valerie, Alexa, Lucas, and Walker) were helping out in The City as greeters.  I am loving the enthusiasm of my own kids right now as they get involved in the ministry. 

I had one of those priceless moments yesterday and I don’t want to let it get away from me.  Walker is standing out there greeting.  (He is a kindergartener that looks more like a 2nd grader). His wording for greeting goes something like this: “Good morning, hey, how are you?”  It’s all one big statement that runs together.  I told him he didn’t have to say all of that… Just say, “Good morning and welcome to Oakleaf.”  He started working on it.  So, the next family to walk up came and went.  He said, “Hey!”  And there was no response back to him from those he just greeted.  They were still close enough to hear what he said next, “I’ve got to get better at this!”

The next family walks up and he states, “Good morning!”  Everyone smiled back and said, “Good morning!”  His first words out of his mouth were, “See, I can do it.  I’m already better.”

It thrills my heart to see him work at something like this.  It’s a thrill to see him want to get better.  It’s amazing that after the next try he already felt like a success!  I’ve wondererd about how as adults sometimes we get so timid and afraid to venture out and do new things.  We may try something once and think, “This is not for me.”  When maybe our response needs to be, “I’ve got to get better at this.”

I’m real proud of the leadership I see in The City.  My hat is off to Michelle who has pulled off a great team of people to serve each week.  I’m amazed at the talent of those I have watched these past couple of weeks.  I’m blessed just to watch God’s gifts at work as they each communicate to reach these children!

Would I have denied Christ?

I’ve debated whether I should write about this or not.  The debate is over and I have chosen to write about it.  It’s going to be difficult to keep it short.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Peter today.  He did so much as a disciple and follower of Christ.  So much is written about all he has done.  He gets made fun of for a lot of the bone-headed things he did.  The one thing that I have been thinking about today is Jesus’ statement to Peter that he would deny Jesus 3 times that day.  I have wondered what really went through his mind and emotions that led him to deny Christ. 

I had an experience this weekend that my good friend Joel brought to my attention that was not much different than Peter’s denial. 

Our church held what I hope will be the First Annual Egg Drop.  I missed the entire event while I was out at the back entrance to the park directing traffic.  When the Sheriff’s deputy showed up to help with traffic – as people were beginning to leave – I began to walk back to the football field where the egg drop took place.

As I made my way to the field, I encountered several people who had just attended the festivities.  I heard comments like, “Needed more planning.” “Next year don’t let the adults on the field.” “Thank you!!  It’s amazing that you all would do this for the community.” “My child only got 2 eggs… this was ridiculous.” “Fine job…”  That last comment was not a happy one… it was with much sarcasm and anger.  I didn’t realize it until I laughed and smiled and started to say thank you.  I listened and asked questions of this individual.  Apologized and told him I would relay his comments to the leadership.

As I made my way to the stage, all I wanted to do was take off my yellow t-shirt that labeled me as a volunteer.  I didn’t want to hear any more comments like that one.  I was a little un-nerved by that last individual. 

I think everyone was rather overwhelmed by the event.  There were some 5,000 people there.  Way more than what was anticipated.  After we loaded up the gear that was on the trailer Joel pulled with his vehicle we headed off to unload and drop off the trailer.  We were debriefing the day.  I was hearing really for the first time what all happened while I was still out at the street directing traffic. 

I told him how at one point I wanted to take off my volunteer shirt so I wouldn’t have had to hear anymore comments like the last one.  Joel reminded me of Peter and his denial of Christ prior to the crucifixion.  When he made the comparison internally I froze.  And the thought of that has stayed with me all day today.

I’m reading Erwin McManus’, The Barbarian Way and am being challenged.  I highly recommend this book!! McManus states, “God’s will for us is less about our comfort than it is about our contribution.  God would never choose for us safety at the cost of significance.  God created you so that your life would count, not so that you could count the days of your life.” (44-45).

After telling you the story of what I experienced at Saturday’s Egg Drop – I still wonder what would I have done if I had been wearing Peter’s shoes.  Would I have denied Jesus?  Would I have wanted to take off that which labeled me a follower of Christ?  Would I have wanted to walk a much easier road than the one chosen for me?  I want to live a radical life for God… but how far am I really willing to go?  Is it just to the point of being uncomfortable?  Has my faith become “civilized”?

I’m reminded of Galatians 2:20 where Paul states, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”(NJKV). 

The Message reads, “I identified myself completely with him.  Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ.  My ego is no longer central.  It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God.  Christ lives in me.  The life you see me living is not ‘mine,’ but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I am not going to go back on that.

Paul was marked by Christ.  100% identified with Jesus.  He was known without shame or compromise as a follower of Jesus!  He chose the dangerous road.

I’m thankful for the insight Joel brought my way on Saturday.  It’s been a tough lesson to learn.  God wants nothing less than my full unashamed attention… for me to be identified with Christ.

it’s all about being a servant

I served at a church in Albuquerque along with a guy named Mike.  I learned a lot from him in those few years. One of the things I admired most about him was his servant heart.  I could ask him do do anything and he was all over it!  What a heart and passion he had and still has for people.  He was a natural fit to be our Connections Pastor…. leading all of the volunteer teams.

Mike also used to tell me to read the Bible until God speaks.  It may be a verse or it could be a chapter or more.  Sometimes when I sit down to read the Bible I will have a specific book in mind to read.  At times I will read the same book for several weeks over and over.  Right now I am reading mainly Philippians.  Today while reading these verses stood out.  Kind of keeping in line with a theme that goes with some other verses I posted the other day on love.  These verses from The Message also go along with conversations I have had lately.

“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care – them do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends.  Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet talk your way to the top.  Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead.  Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.  Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.” Philippians 2:1-4.

why 2?

One may ask, “why attend two small groups?”

 I’m glad you asked!  One group I attend is a men’s small group early in the morning.  I have been meeting with one of the men (Randy)  going on 2 years. 

During our time together we have reached out to several men.  We had a couple of other guys join in from time to time but we never really experienced any “numerical growth.”  I know why… it was all about God’s timing.  I was serving on staff in a church while going through a divorce.  That was a lot to go through.  While at the same time trying to cope with the emotions of not being with my children daily (I still deal with that)… this was more than I could ever bare on my own.  Randy saw me through a lot. 

I knew it was time to step aside from “the ministry” (for a season) as I struggled with my personal life.  I told my former pastor Brad (who is still a great friend), “I just can’t do this (ministry) right now because I have nothing to give.”  Every-time I tried to get filled up there was nothing left to spill-over or to give away.

So, Randy and I kept meeting together.  Back in August of ’07, I for the first time in 1-2 years began to experience a breakthrough.  God began to overpower the hurt and darkness that had me bound.  Simultaneously, God was also at work in the lives of several of my friends.  As a result, numerical growth began to take place.

Joel was asked by Tim (our small groups pastor) if we would come and be a part of the small group network of our church.  So here we are.  It’s been amazing to see the guys who have come to be a part of this group.  Guys coming to know Jesus… reunite with Jesus.  Today, we are always on the look out for other’s who may come and get to know Christ.  Through our one-on-one relationships and through the group.

The second group is a couples Journey Group from our church.  Five months ago I got married again.  Me and Lori attend this one together.  This week was our 4th week (I think).  It is something we need for each other.  What a miracle it is to be a part of this group!!  I feel like I have known these folks for much more than 4 weeks.  The great thing about our journey group is that it is not about us.  It’s about Christ.  It’s about the “one”.  It’s about prayer.  It’s about accountability.  It’s about serving our community.  It’s about celebrating life’s victories.  It’s about serving our church.

“Doing life” with other believers is awesome and it is something that I would never forsake.  Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name – I am there too.” 

But we should never forget the “one”.  Who is the “one”?  It is the person you work with that does not have a relationship with God.  It is the neighbor who needs to be reached with God’s love.  It’s the person who waits on our table.  It’s the person at the checkout stand in the grocery store.  It’s the stranded motorist on the side of the road. 

The beauty of building relationships in group life is for the “one.”  On my own, God can use me to lead someone to Christ.  But when I can get the “one” connected with other believers there is so much more that can occur in that life. This person will get a much bigger picture of God through others.

God didn’t call us to come together just to sit, soak, and sour and be a bunch of spiritually over-weight stinky Christians!  He wants us to be filled up with his fresh water so that we may spill over onto others.  To impact other lives in the name of Jesus.  We need to care for the lost.  We need to not only pray for them but we need to be with them.  Make time to be with them.  Matthew 28 tells us to go into all the world…