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11/30/12

OWNERS & CUSTOMERS

Walk into any place of business, and it's not difficult to differentiate the OWNERS from the CUSTOMERS.

     *The OWNERS are looking for the CUSTOMERS to serve them in any way possible
     *The CUSTOMERS only look for the OWNERS when they need something

     *The OWNERS are there to serve
     *The CUSTOMERS are there to be served

     *The CUSTOMERS loyalty to this place extends only as long as they get exactly what they want
     *The OWNERS loyalty to this place is set and permanent

     *The CUSTOMERS are there to see what they can get
     *The OWNERS are there to see what they can do to help the CUSTOMERS get what they need

Read over that list one more time, but this time, don't read it thinking about the store down the road.  This time read it with your church in mind.  Then ask yourself the question, "Am I a CUSTOMER or an OWNER?"  The answer to that question may tell you more about yourself and about the way you look at your church than you ever wanted to know.

Jesus said, "WE are his body".  Not the we attend, or that we're served by, or that we should stop by and pick up a few things we might need.  He said WE'RE IT!  

BOTTOM LINE:  Are you a CUSTOMER or an OWNER?

11/29/12

PLAYING FROM THE TIPS

OK, so if you're a golfer, that means something to you.  If you're not, it probably means nothing.  Recently, I've made the attempt, taken the time, made the effort...not sure which one of those fits...to "pick up" the game again.  CONCLUSION:  You don't just "pick golf back up".  It's a frustrating game.  But, an enticing game, all at the same time.  But, again, I digress.

Back to "playing from the tips".  That's just a term that refers to hitting from the longest (hardest) tee boxes.  Why would you want to do that, you ask?  Because these are golfers, and in most cases, these are men.  Testosterone.  Nuff said.  It's basically for those who want the ultimate challenge the golf course can provide them.  It's "extreme" golf, so to speak.  It's taking it to its greatest limits.

Yesterday, I played from the tips.  No, I didn't go anywhere near a golf course.  I just experienced the extremes of life.  I made two stops, back to back.  STOP ONE:  Funeral home.  Picking up an obituary for a funeral I will perform today.  STOP TWO:  Hospital....Labor & Delivery.  Having the joy of seeing a beaming mom and dad and holding a newborn baby in my arms.  That's about as extreme as it gets.  I was definitely playing from the tips.

Heres how we see these two events:  One is the ultimate joy, the celebration of life and new birth.  The other is the ultimate sadness, the termination of life, the pain and finality of letting go and saying goodbye forever.

However, from God's point of view, two things that seems so diametrically opposed to one another are more alike than any of us realize from our very finite and limited vantage point.  As much as birth is the beginning of life, so death, for the believer, is equally a new birth...a beginning of a new life, a new existence, the perfection of the eternity God has been planning for us ever since Jesus said, "I go to prepare a place for you".  That was quite a while back.  Must be a nice place!

11/28/12

IT'S OFFICIAL!

Yep, it's now officially the Christmas season at the Allen casa'.  We got the tree.  We got all the furniture arranged where its almost impossible to watch a football game.  We got the nativity scene.  We got your little pieces of fake greenery twisted around everything that's up all year anyway to somehow mysteriously make it "Christmasy" now.

Susan asked me if I was going to hang lights outside on the house.  I told her I had had a little talk with Jesus and he had told me, "Tom, for my birthday, I don't want you to hang lights.  I want you to be the light".  (UmmUmmUmmm...wow)  And I told him, "OK, if that's what you want...I'll do it!"  Nix on the outside lights.

My favorite Christmas decoration, hands down, are the stockings (well, they're actually boots...cowboy boot shaped stockings) hung on the mantle with everyone's name on them.  It started with two...just Susan and me.  Then along came Caleb Brady Allen and we were suddenly three.  Then four.  Later five.  Then six.  Fast-forward to today...we're 15!  I can't believe it!  Seems like yesterday I was a single guy in seminary, all alone.  Then, I met a girl, and shortly, for the rest of my life I was never alone.  I couldn't find any place to be alone.  Now, there's 15 of us.  But, most have left the nest and we're adjusting to the semi-quiet again.  Just me and Susan.  But, those stockings on the mantle remind me of my most precious inheritance.  My wife.  My kids.  My kids' kids.  That mantle represents my treasure of great price.  And, of all the things we decorate our home with, that is, by far, my favorite.

11/27/12

IBSick

I have succumbed to the dreaded CRUD.  It came upon me without warning.  The fact that "everybody's getting it" has not provided much solace for me at this time.  I find that sickness has phases, just like anything else.

Phase One:  Something's not quite right
Phase Two:  Something's definitely wrong
Phase Three:  I'm afraid I'm going to die!
Phase Four:  I'm afraid I'm not going to die!!!
Phase Five:  I feel better, but really want you to feel sorry for me, because I certainly do
Phase Six:  All better...that was no big deal!

Yeah, that was a little dramatic.  Funny, but that's from a man's perspective.  I find a woman's perspective on sickness to be a little different.  Most women just have one phase...I'm sick...leave me alone!  When it comes to being sick, men revert back to being babies and need someone to hold their hand or give them a bell to ring and make them chicken soup.  Whereas, women just want you to keep the kids, the phone and yourself as far away from them as possible.

I wonder if the phases of physical sickness have any correspondence to the spiritual sickness we call sin?  Really is the same thing, isn't it?  Just the spiritual version of what we actually see in the physical realm.  Maybe the phases of our sin sickness goes something like this...

Phase One:  I think that may have been wrong
Phase Two:  I'm sure that was wrong...I feel terrible
Phase Three:  I'm sorry.  I promise never to do it again.
Phase Four:  Oops, I did it again.  Actually, it was a little easier this time.
Phase Five:  I feel bad and just want to be left alone.  If you're God or one of His friends, I really don't
                    want to talk right now.  Maybe never.
Phase Six:  All better...that's my story and I'm sticking to it!

Not sure if you can relate to this or not.  Probably so.  Without sounding corny, isolation is not the answer for a sick soul.  Nor is chicken soup.  Boldly coming before a merciful God, admitting our guilt and receiving forgiveness and healing is (even for the 1,000th time).

11/26/12

CYBER MONDAY

Welcome to CYBER MONDAY!  For anyone who may be lost, today is the online version of BLACK FRIDAY.  Today, those who overspent on Friday (and even on Thursday this year) will have the additional opportunity to compound the problem with the click of a mouse.  Ah, the wonderful times we live in!

Someone wrote on Thanksgiving Day, "And now begins the Christmas season, when each one of us can worship at the mall of our choice".  How true is that?  How sad is that?  We celebrate the arrival of the KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS who came to set the captive free by spending ourselves into bondage.  How ironic is that?

Around here at the Allen house, for years we've celebrated the 12 days of Christmas.  For each of the 12 days leading up to Christmas Day, we've given some small gift to each of our children.  My wife, (she's the smart one in the family) suggested that this year we continue the tradition, but with a twist.  That instead of buying things to give to our children (only one at home, and only now and then), that we look for 12 other ways to give.  Possibly provide a meal for a family.  Maybe, just the gift of time with folks we never get to spend time with.  Possibly serve someone who has a need.  The opportunities are endless.

I think the idea is to make sure we're doing what Jesus would want, rather than just making sure everybody else gets what they want.  It's zeroing in on the Spirit of Christ more than the spirit of Christmas.  It's recognizing that the birth of Christ and Christmas have come to be very different things. It's about opting for worshipping Christ, rather than worshipping Christmas.

I'm not sure what your plans are for this season.  But, I do invite you to simplify....de-pressurize...think giving, not just spending...they really aren't the same.  One is so much better than the other, with long-lasting results.

11/21/12

MY REP

I have a reputation.  I'm the "DRESSING GUY".  It's just not a holiday if Tom doesn't make his dressing.  You know, dressing...the kind that goes with a turkey.  I'm not totally sure if everyone really loves it, or if they just found someone dumb enough to make the stuff year after year.  It's somewhat labor-intensive.  Just one year, I'd like to be the cranberry person.

People always ask me, "What's your recipe?, to which I respond, "I don't have one".  Not trying to be a smarty pants, I just don't.  I just put some of this and some of that and some of this other thing and it works out.  No recipe.  No measurements.  Just throw it all in and hope for the best.  It's probably a little different every year, but basically the same.

So, how do I know what to put in?  Well, my dad made the dressing in our house growing up.  I never asked him for a recipe (not sure he had one either).  I just watched what he did and then did it.  Now that I write that, it sounds very spiritual.  Not the dressing part...the watching my father part and doing what he did part.  In case you don't know, that's what Jesus said he did.  He watched his father and did what he did.  Then, he told his disciples to do the same.

It's a process that's worked really well for me with the dressing (got a reputation), it worked really well for Jesus too.  And when his disciples actually followed his lead, it worked really well for them as well.

"Watch me and do what I do".  Pretty simple.  Worked with the dressing.  Worked with the disciples.  Pretty sure it will work with us as well.  It's called DISCIPLESHIP.  "Watch me and do what I do".  PERIOD.  Then you can have a reputation for something more than dressing....like FOLLOWING JESUS!  Very cool.

11/20/12

PET PEEVES

Do you have them?  Pet peeves?  Those certain things that effect you like fingernails on a chalkboard?  I started to write this and realized I have TOO MANY!  Here is a very shortened, annotated, Cliffs Notes version of my PET PEEVES:

1.  People who drive northbound in a parking lot on a lane where all the parking spaces are obviously southbound (really?)
2.  People who can take a 30 second explanation or question and turn it into a 5 minute experience (I'll never get those 5 minutes of my life back)
3.  People who call your cell phone, don't leave a message, and get mad when you don't call them back
4.  The extensive overuse of emojicons (translation: any use of smiley faces in emails)
5.  Stupid people who aren't aware they are stupid (it's SO HARD not to tell them!)
6.  People who use the turning lane as their own personal HOV lane
7.  Christmas decorations prior to Thanksgiving and past Valentine's Day

Trust me, this is a very abbreviated list, but it has been extremely cathartic.  I feel better.  Happy Thanksgiving.  (Merry Christmas in a few weeks...oh, and stop with the carols already!!!!!!)

11/19/12

TOP REASONS PASTORS WANT TO QUIT ON MONDAYS

I read this, and thought it was a wonderfully honest and insightful look inside a pastor's head (scary, right), and thought I'd share it:


These are their top responses:

1. To Protect my Family.

Sometimes, the pastor’s family will sacrifice in ways that make the pastor want to give it up for an easier or, frankly, more lucrative job. One pastor, discouraged by his young church’s inability to pay him a decent salary, responded that he feels like he is being a “terrible provider.”

Another friend who has moved into a difficult neighborhood to be an incarnational presence there cited drug dealers in his neighborhood as a reason he’s wanted to quit.
Difficult days can make you question your call to take the Gospel to the hard places.

2. Criticism.

Often, pastors feel attacked on all sides.
One friend of mine replied to my question with simply the words “sinful criticism,” which he later described as “criticism that is nit-picky and comes from a consumeristic church culture.”

3. The Hard Work of Shepherding.

For one church planter, it was the difficult realization that after you “launch” the church, you have to actually pastor people.
His response: "Coming to the reality we can’t just make cool websites, network in the community and launch a church. We actually have to do the hard work of shepherding."

4. Restlessness.

Some of the time, the issue is simply that entrepreneurial church-planting pastors have a hard time staying in one place for very long.
"Restlessness and feeling a desire for another city," was one pastor’s response to my question.

5. Coveting Others’ Gifts.

Even though only a small percentage of the churches in the world see rapid numeric growth, it is these stories of fast-growing churches that get promoted the most in the church world.
Add to this, because of the connectivity of the Internet, that everyone has access to the most gifted preachers and teachers around.
One pastor named his struggle for what it is: "coveting others’ gifts, leadership, fruitfulness."
If you are a "normal" pastor of a "normal" church, this can lead to great discouragement. It can cause you to question if you alone are struggling with difficult people or a difficult context.
One pastor responded (ironically, via Twitter) to my question on what’s made him want to quit recently: "Twitter. Following people who always seem to have the momentum and success and few struggles. Seriously—it has gotten to me."

6. Lack of Change.

"Stagnation in the church that won’t change gets me down a lot," was one pastor’s response to my question.
The single most discouraging issue for pastors is a sense that things in the church are not changing or progressing.
One pastor cited a "lack of change … doing the same things the same ways without vision for the why behind it all."
Pastors are pouring out their lives in order to see transformation—change in people, a neighborhood or an entire city. When things seem stuck, it can feel like it’s time to throw in the towel.
One pastor described it as a "lack of mission: feeling as if we’re just spinning our wheels. Spiritual apathy among leaders who were 'with' us."

11/16/12

ANTICIPATION VS. REALITY

These two things are rarely the same.  Remember your wedding?  The anticipation of it (especially if you're a chick...guys really anticipate the honeymoon more) captivated you for months.  For some of you, it was more like years....some decades, long before you ever met your husband-to-be.  You were in love with the idea of being in love and being a bride and having your knight in shining armor sweep you off your feet and meet you at the altar and.....blah, blah, blah...  Then you get married and don't even remember half the wedding.  THAT'S why they take pictures...so you can see everything you missed.

We've anticipated growing as a church and reaching people for Christ and, yes, building to make that growth a possibility.  We didn't think it would work at our Old Alvin location, so we moved to a school.  Who goes from a permanent location to a school?  NOBODY!  But, we did.  Then God, (yes, I truly believe it was an act of God directly in response to our faith to move.  I don't throw around the "God thing" line a lot.  Almost never.  SO overused.  But, this was God.) provided for us in a miraculous way.  We had the place, we designed the building, all we needed was $4mil.  No biggie.  SOMEDAY this might happen.  SOMEDAY.

I walk outside every day and watch the goings on of construction.  Massive construction.  Constant motion.  Things being torn up.  Things being built up.  Trucks and trucks and trucks...a constant stream of trucks bringing things in and carting things out.  It's REALLY, REALLY HAPPENING!!!

We're building a building.  That's important.  But, not in and of itself.  What's important is that it's just the vehicle that allows us to build a CHURCH.  That's HUGE!  HUGE!!!

Just don't get lost in that.  A building will make it EASIER, not POSSIBLE.  It's already POSSIBLE.  We'll have a building in a few months.  Let's build a CHURCH RIGHT NOW!!!!!!!!!!!

11/15/12

NUMB

As most of you know, I was in a pretty bad motorcycle accident a few years back.  After a lot of time and healing, I'm pretty much back to as normal as I can get (with me, normal is a relative term).  There are a few things that are lasting from the accident.  I have a few scars here and there to remind me of my exploits.  Also, I have a couple of places on my body where there is no feeling.  No pain...just, nothing.

Pretty weird to rub your fingers over an area of your body and feel them...then suddenly, nothing.  Takes some getting used to.  But, it's been several years and, to be honest, it's still weird.

Numbness isn't normal.  It's a state many people actually seek out.  When the pain of life is too overwhelming, some people actually opt for numbness over reality.  They seek it through drugs or alcohol or some other addiction.  Call it what you like, it's just seeking emotional numbness above the reality of the emotional pain that it replaces.  It's addictive because it wears off, the pain's still there and we have to repeat the cycle all over again.  Therefore, addiction.

Another way that emotional, or even spiritual numbness happens is when we are overly stimulated in a particular area again and again.  Kind of like if you scraped a knife across an area of your body over and over, or burned a portion of your body again and again.  If so, the nerves would die and the pain would finally subside.  NUMB.

I think that happens to us on the emotional and spiritual level as well.  Maybe its an area of sin in our lives.  We sin...we get convicted...we feel pain...we confess...the pain goes away.  But, sometimes, we sin...we feel pain...we sin...we feel less pain..finally, we sin...we feel no pain.  In fact, we feel nothing.

Here's another example.  We see the world we live in and how far it's moved away from God and how it calls right, wrong and calls good, bad and it breaks our heart.  And we wake up the next day and it happens again.  And again...and again...and again...and, suddenly, without our even knowing it, we start to feel less pain over the condition of our world...and less pain...and finally, without even knowing it...without being able to pinpoint when it happened...things that bothered us don't bother us as much anymore.  Things that broke our heart don't break our heart any more.  Without even knowing it, we've become NUMB.

No one likes pain.  But beware...pain is better than NUMBNESS.  God designed us to feel, and when we get NUMB, we not only dismiss the pain, we also miss out on the joy.

May God's needle prick your heart today and restore whatever feeling has been lost.

11/14/12

CHECKLISTS AND ADD

Checklists are wonderful things.  They let us know exactly what we need to do.  They help us remember what's important.  They put things in the order in which they need to be accomplished.  They give us, not only the items that need to be accomplished, but also the dates by which they need to be completed.

Recently, our staff did what staffs often do...we retreated.  We thought and prayed and strategized and planned and made lists and looked at calendars and drew flow charts and re-drew flow charts...all the stuff you do on retreats.  That's often where it all ends.  Right there.  GREAT RETREAT!  Now, it's back to business as normal.  Six months later, someone...some over-achiever...asks "Didn't we decide to do such-and -such on the retreat last year?"  Don't you just hate those guys?!

Not this year, Mr. Smarty-Pants.  We wrote it down AND we wrote out Action Items AND we assigned people to each Action Item AND we gave a "Due By" (not Dubai...easy mistake) date for each item.  Very organized.  Very productive.  Very professional.

I saw my list.  I had an Anxiety Attack.  It was overwhelming.  In the immortal words of the great Peyton Manning, "I think I peed just a little in my pants".  I started four things at once...simultaneously. Anxiety Attack #2 (& #3).

LESSON LEARNED:  I'm ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder)...(among other initials).  I don't need a Post-It Note with 14 things on it.  I need 14 Post-It Notes, each with one thing on them.  Can I get an AMEN?  Are there any brothers and sisters out there who feel my pain?  OK, let's face it, if you are, you probably haven't read this far.  You took one look and said, "Why does he write so much?  It's too long.  I can't do it."  

Maybe that's why Jesus told Martha, "There's only one thing required".  Maybe he meant just one thing at a time.  Martha needed Post-It Notes.

11/13/12

I'VE GOT NETFLIX!

I never see bills.  In our house, my wife is the bill payer.  At least, I assume she does.  OK, she does.  Anyway, that's not what this is about.  The other day I picked up one of the credit card bills and looked it over.  (Just wanted to see what I was buying)  I saw a charge on there from Netflix.com.  I asked Susan, "What's this for?".  Of course, she didn't know, so I decided to play junior detective and find out.  First to the website, then finding the number to call and, finally, getting to the bottom of case.  (OK, case is a strong word, I know, but I felt like one of those guys on CSI anyway)

The BIG BREAK IN THE CASE OF THE MYSTERIOUS NETFLIX CHARGE:  The man said, "Yes, Mr. Allen, you have an account with us...you've had it since May".  Are you kidding me?!  I could have been watching bad movies for 6 months now and didn't even know it?!  Wonder what else I'm missing out on?  Do you think there's a long-lost relative out there that left me millions that I'm totally in the dark about?

What's your point, Tom?  Well, only by accident did I happen upon something that was mine all along. Something I didn't know existed.  Something I wasn't putting to use out of my simple ignorance.

Do you ever wonder what God has provided for you...just sitting there with your name on it...waiting for you to pick it up or activate it.  It's not written on your bill, but in His Word.  I don't want to get to Heaven and have God ask me, "By the way, why didn't you ever put________ to use.  It was there for you.  I made it available to you.  I told you about it.  You read my instructions, right?  Were you just not interested?  It cost me a lot, but I was happy to provide it for you.  I just wondered why you never took advantage of it?

That would be sad.  That would be embarrassing.  That would be.....well, you get the picture.  Check your bill, or in this case, His Word, to see what all accounts you have.  Activate them all.  Trust me, God's got better for you than just old movies.

11/12/12

FIVE THINGS

Yesterday, I talked about 5 things that God uses to build your faith.  In case you missed, or dozed off, let me recap:
1.  Practical Teaching
2.  Private Disciplines
3.  Personal Ministry
4.  Providential Relationships
5.  Pivotal Circumstances

I'm interested.  Which one of these 5 has God used to grow your faith?  For me, as I look back over the last 40 years or so, I can see examples of all 5 that jump out at me at a particular juncture of my life where God drilled down deep in me through one of these.

As a Junior High student, I built relationships that have challenged and changed me to this very day.  As a young pastor, I traveled to the Yucatan jungles on a church-planting adventure where I was challenged to do ministry way outside my comfort zone.  I remember my first pastorate.  I thought I knew pretty much everything a pastor should know.  But, I sat glued to the radio for 30 minutes every morning listening to every word that Chuck Swindoll had to say.  I began my introduction to practical teaching, as the Word of God became alive for me like never before.  Later, I attended a conference where this young guy from California spoke.  Never heard of him.  But, this guy named Warren introduced me to ways of taking the idea of practical teaching to a whole new level.

Then there was Dr. Gray, my Missiology professor.  I assumed Missiology was all about missions.  Well, he wanted it to be more and it was.  He challenged us to pray for an hour each morning.  I thought I'd been praying for an hour...only to find it was actually, 15 minutes.  But, I learned the importance of private disciplines from him.

As far as pivotal circumstances go, there are too many to recount, but the one that stands out the most was a motorcycle accident I had.  Life Flight and the whole 9 yards.  I see more and more how God used that incident to change me and light a fire under me and in me.

I wonder one more thing:  Which of these 5 is God using RIGHT NOW to grow your faith?  Can you name it?  If not, today's a good day to figure it out.

11/9/12

MARGIN

Remember that series?  It was a few series back, but not so long ago.  Done anything about it?  Me...well, I have good intentions.  But this weekend....whoa.  I've got some MARGIN.  How'd I do it?  I ADDED one thing to my life.  Sounds really backwards doesn't it?  MARGIN isn't about adding, it's about deleting,...prioritizing.

OK, here's what I added.  NO.  That's it.  I added it to my vocabulary.  Yes, it was tough, but I persevered, even if it only lasts one weekend.  I said NO to a trip out of town.  I said NO to two great days of golf. (ouch!)  I said NO to a lot a smaller things.  WHY?  Because I promised my wife I would.  Made it a lot easier.

We've had nothing but one thing after another thing after another thing.  No down time.  No together time.  Lot's of DOING time.  No BEING time.

Wanna do something?  Here's my number...call me maybe...Just not this weekend.  I'm getting some MARGIN in my life.

11/8/12

ACORNS

Anyone notice it?  ACORNS.  Millions...Billions...Trillions of ACORNS.  Everywhere.  I don't even have any Oak trees (sometimes referred to by me as Acorn trees, but again, I digress), but it's hard not to notice the massive amounts of acorns being created this year.  They're everywhere.

Anyone know why?  (Oh, oh, my hands up...pick me!!!)  In the life-cycle of trees there is something called a "Mast Year".  That's when the tree produces about 5 times it's usual amount of "fruit".  In this case, acorns.  It's the way God designed trees.  It's to assure that the trees not only produce a substantial amount of fruit, but assure that other trees will be produced in the process as well. This year is a Mast Year.

However, the previous year followed a drought, which saw little production, and this season follows a good wet season.  That's resulted in about a 3x greater crop than usual, to make up for the previous year.  3x5=15.  Yep, we're experiencing the perfect acorn storm.  Mast Year (5x) coupled with a wet season following a drought (3x), and there you have it, 15 times the usual output!

The CHURCH needs a MAST YEAR.  We've seen the drought.  Taken the spiritual temperature of our nation lately?  More people than ever consider themselves "Nothings" than ever before.  In the census, Americans are asked their religious preference.  Most people at least mark something, even if they aren't really associated with a Church or with God or with anything spiritual.  But, recently there is an unprecedented escalation of those catagorizing themselves as "nothings".  However you want to spin that, God and His Church are having less and less impact on our nation and our culture.  We're in a drought, spiritually.

We need RAIN.  We need a MAST YEAR.  But one more thing...what do you think about all the ACORNS?  Do you grumble and complain that they are there?  Do you get mad that they're messing up your yard or your driveway?  Do you just ignore them and hope they'll just go away or get picked up by the lawnmower?  (by the way, if left in your yard, they will deteriorate, produce excess tannins and do long-term damage to your soil and anything you're trying to grow in it)  What the acorns need is someone to harvest them.  Takes time and attention.  Takes work.  But, it's necessary.

My fear is that if God gave the Church a SPIRITUAL MAST YEAR, we would do exactly the same thing with the spiritual harvest that we do with the Acorn harvest...complain and ignore and watch it rot.  "These people are messy.  These people are ruining our church.  Are we really going to allow these people to serve here?  Are they really welcome here?  Aren't you going to preach about their particular brand of sin that we find repulsive" (while we've become quite comfortable with our own brand)?

We need a MAST YEAR.  I'm just not sure we'd know what to do with it.

11/7/12

NOW WHAT?

The election is in the books.  Some of you are happy.  Some of you are sad.  OK, let's be honest, most of you who are reading this are sad.  It is what it is.  Might as well admit it.

I had a conversation with a young Christian man the other day.  He was very high on the current direction of our country (thought the government should be the supplier of healthcare, pay for college, pay his electric bill, and provide a litany of other things).  I asked him how he rectified his faith with the stance on social issues (federally funded abortion, redefining marriage, etc.).  His response was "I don't think social issues have a place in government".  That's kind of like saying, "I don't think noses have a place on faces", or "I don't think the sun has a place in the sky".  I could go on and on and on, but I think you get the picture.  The head is inserted totally in the sand.

So, now what?  What is the Church's response to this?  Do we wring our hands?  Do we pray for Jesus to come quickly?  Do we look for someone to blame?  If so, the mirror would be a good place to start.

The LIGHT got put under a basket and the SALT lost it's saltiness.  Didn't Jesus warn us about this?  Weren't we listening?  Did we think he was kidding?  Is it because he said it so long ago we thought it was obsolete?

Here's a start: All those people you want to blame...the _______ (you fill in the blank) are the ones we need to be reaching with the gospel.  The Church needs to stop filling itself with saints from down the road and start filling itself up with sinners from next door.  How many homosexuals are making their way into our churches each Sunday?  How many Planned Parenthood advocates are gracing our pews?  How many of the folks that are looking to the government for their hope and provision are we reaching out to and loving into our fellowship?  And, if they did come, how well would they be accepted?

Jesus: "I have come to seek and save that which is lost".  Can we say the same?  John writes, "God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him".  How we doing with that?  Are we doing more saving or more condemning?

Think about it.

11/6/12

YOU TOLD US TO VOTE, BUT WHAT IF WE CAN'T?

Sunday, I basically shamed all the Christians who don't vote, especially those who don't even register to vote.  My reasoning wasn't just to make you feel bad (although, I must admit, initially, you should....OK, now you can come out of Time-Out), but to move you to proper godly action.  Get registered if you're not.  Go vote, even if you didn't plan to.

OK, that's great.  But, what if you're not registered and can't vote.  What do you do about this election? Is your punishment just to feel really bad for the next 4 years?  Of course not.  Just because it's too late for you to vote doesn't mean you have to sit on the sidelines this time.  There are other ways to get in the game.

1.  Encourage others to vote (You can even tell them, if you feel like it, "I made the mistake of not registering to vote, so my voice can't be heard.  I just don't want to see you make the same mistake as me".
2.  Make some phone calls and encourage your friend to vote.
3.  Offer to take someone to the polls that might otherwise not have the opportunity to make their voice count.
4.  If you're really serious, show up at the campaign headquarters of the candidate of your choice.  I GUARANTEE YOU, they'll have something for you to do.

The right to select our government and the path our nation choses is a sacred trust.  Whether you are a democrat, republican or independent (or otherwise), exercise your right to vote.  Otherwise, when it's taken away, you, unlike the rest of us, won't even miss it.

11/5/12

THE COUNTDOWN HAS BEGUN!

I don't know about you, but I'm in countdown mode.  I've got my calendar circled and I'm marking off the days till SUNDAY, MARCH 10, 2013.  That's the day when DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME returns.  Yes, I'm aware that we're only one day into the countdown, but that's one day closer to the sun reappearing past 5:00PM and possibly me not feeling I should put on my PJs at 8:00.

In case you don't have your own 2013 calendar yet, I'll try to keep you updated.  I actually started a hunger strike yesterday to bring back the sun, but when it started getting dark at 5:00, I got depressed and needed comfort food.  I may be 300 lb. before the light returns.  Just consider it a "hibernation period".  I'm storing up for the winter.  (wink, wink)

So, apparently, this is going to continue, despite my rantings and protests.  (Who knew?)  So, how do we make the most of it?
     *Read more
     *Spend more time with the family (actually learn your kids names)
     *Invite people over
     *Pray more (that this will end soon)

Got any other ideas how to cope with the "Alaska Effect"?  Share them.  We all need the help!

11/2/12

CASH IS IN THE HOUSE!

OK, that's my grandson from OKC.  Blog or Cash?  No contest.  See ya!

11/1/12

PEOPLE

The great theologian, Barbara Streisand once sang, "People who need people are the luckiest people in the world".  She has a point...but then, she missed the point entirely.  People who need people...are just people.  In essence, all people need people.  Obviously, some people have never figured that out.  Some people live in complete denial.  Some people are just clueless.  But, the truth is ALL PEOPLE need people.

Some live their lives and never realize it.  Some people never realize it until something traumatic happens, and for some that's a wake-up call and for others, it's just the realization that they've missed out on the most important part of life.

The fact is, we were designed for relationships.  That's how God made us.  Simon and Garfunkel sang, "I am a rock...I am an island", but in reality, none of us were designed to be rocks or islands.  We were designed for community.  We were designed to love and be loved.  To care and be cared for.  To give and be given to.  To give the gift of ourselves to others, and to have others give the gift of themselves to us.

Interesting, Jesus didn't just come to gather followers.  He came to create the Church.  His hands, His feet, His Body, made up of his followers living in community, bearing one another's burdens, caring for one another.  In fact, if you read the New Testament, one of the terms you hear repeated again and again and again is "one another".  These are commands.  "Love one another.  Encourage on another.  Forgive one another.".  But, none of those commands can be obeyed without living in meaningful relationships with one another.

BOTTOM LINE:  People who need people aren't the luckiest people in the world...they're just people. People who have figured out what it is to be human...the way God created us to be.