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1/31/13

COFFEE & KOINONIA

OK, I'm not trying to be Mr. Smarty-Pants.  Using a big word like koinonia.  It's a Greek word that simply means "to share".  In other words, to share a meal, to share time together, to share what one has with what another needs...to share life.

There are many places and many people with which we can share koinonia.  No place is better than LifeGroups.  I've been together with a group of people for a while now.  Some longer.  Some just recent additions.  We gather on Wednesday evenings and share life.  Some are better at it than others.  Some are worse.  Some are terrified of the sound of their voice.  Some, not at all.  Some share deeply.  Some, not so much.  Some are an open book.  Some are closed, locked and hidden under the couch.  But, together, we share life.

Last evening, we watched our video (handsome gentleman) and answered the questions.  It was all very neat, nice and polite.  Then, someone went off the script.  They asked a question...that was not scheduled to be asked!  It was GREAT!  The dam burst.  The sharing started in earnest.  We shared struggles and questions and concerns and answers that worked and answers that blew up in our face and how we approach things and how others approach the same thing differently.  We shared LIFE.

That's koinonia.  That's what the first Christians had.  That's what Jesus longs for in the life of every one of his followers.  If you don't have it, get it!  Don't do life alone.  Don't watch reruns when there's life to be experienced.  Come out of your comfy cozy place and risk knowing and being known.  It's part of what Christ died for.  Don't blow it!

1/30/13

NUMBER FOCUS

Numbers are funny things.  I'm more of a word guy than a numbers guy.  At elder's meetings, when they pull out the Financial Reports, I pretend to understand, care and pay attention.  Sometimes I pretend to be in prayer mode.  It's just that my eyes are rolling back in their sockets and I don't want anyone to notice.

What's amazing to me are the numbers we (I) choose to focus on.  For example, Numbers from this weekend:

Super Bowl Bash:  575 men

Sunday Attendance:  1087

Baptisms:  5

New Members:  30

Giving;  $ 21,715.78

Lots of numbers there.  Lots of really good numbers.  Lots of numbers to celebrate, be excited about, praise God for, high-five all around the room for.  But, those aren't the numbers I'm staring at.  Maybe I'm just a Negative Nellie, a Debbie Downer.  Maybe just the eternal pessimist.  A cup half-empty with a small leak and fear of evaporation guy.  Wow, that sounds bad!

Of all the numbers listed there that are shout from the rooftop numbers, I can't get past the fact that I've been preaching my guts out on getting BALANCE in our personal finances, and the fact that this HAS to start with God's Lordship over our finances and that His portion should come first....only to see attendance go up and giving go down.

This is my blog.  This is not a devotional.  It's not where I write to feed you or encourage you or teach you.  It's where I write.  Sometimes my joys.  Sometimes my failures.  Sometimes my frustrations.  Today is the latter.

When you commit your entire life to see people find God and grow in that relationship and in faith and they don't it is always frustrating.

So, now you know.  I'm just a guy.  A guy who loves God and wants others to experience all that He has.  When people settle for less than that I get frustrated.  I'm just a guy.  A guy who trusts God fully (most times) and wants others to experience the joy of that.  I pray you don't miss it.

1/29/13

THE ART OF THE NAP

This is something I've never learned.  I took naps when I was a baby, so I'm told.  Since then, not a napper.  Even when I've decided it sounds like a good idea, I just lay there with my eyes shut for a long time, then get up and think to myself, "I just wasted 30 minutes of my lifetime that I'll never get back".  Bummer.

So, if I go to sleep during the daylight hours, there's got to be something terribly wrong.  Even then, I tend to fight it.  Seems like such a waste of time.  There's so many things I could be doing.  So much productivity I'm missing out on.  I think I even feel guilty when I even think about it.  I need to be working.  I need to be producing.  I need to be doing.  Yep, I've drank the Kool-Aid.  I'm a Human Doing rather than a Human Being.

I've been sick, and after many attempts to deny and postpone the obvious, I succumbed to slumber.  Yep, right there in the middle of the day...while the Sun was shining.  I did no work.  I had nothing to show for 2 hours of my life but a little drool in the corner of my mouth.  It may have been the wisest decision I've made in months...maybe years.

Why?  I listened to my body.  It needed rest.  It was telling me that, loud and clear.  But, my ego said otherwise.  I listened to my body and submitted to it's needs, desires, demands.  I'm the better for it today.

I know you couldn't care less whether I take a nap.  So, what's my point?  My point is this: I believe that listening to our bodies is a lot like listening to God.  There was no audible voice.  I didn't read it in the Body Manual.  I even argued with it.  But, there was a nagging sense that this was what I needed to do.  It cut against the grain of what I thought I should be doing.  What my flesh (not my body, my flesh, my stupid nature, my sin nature, my ego) was telling me was that I needed to work...just power on through...be tough...be a man...work...don't be a sissy.  My body was saying, "Hey idiot, if you ever want to get well, STOP...SLEEP...REST!"  

My body was right.  I listened.  (miracle!)  And today, I'm better.  When we listen to God and obey, it's always better.  We're always better.  But, there's always a fight.  I guess that's why they call it SURRENDER.

1/28/13

AUTOGRAPHS

What a great event we had this weekend.  This was Crosspoint's FIRST ANNUAL SUPER BOWL BASH!  And, what a great start.  We fed 575 men breakfast, then moved to the auditorium for a great, entertaining and insightful program.  John McClain is one of the most knowledgable football minds in the country, Butch Alsandor is local celebrity leading Channel 11 Sports, Ted Johnson has played in 4 Super Bowls and come away with 3 rings, and Spencer Tillman had a great college career with a national championship, a Super Bowl ring with the 49ers and an even greater career in television.  These guys were awesome.  It was a GREAT event.

We threw out tons of miniature footballs, and the guys hung around and signed autographs for as many as wanted them.  Ted even took off his ring and put it on a young man in a wheel chair and it made his day.  How awesome was that?!

One surprise...a man approach me and asked if I would sign his football.  I thought he was joking, so I said sure and grabbed the Sharpie.  But, to my surprise, he wasn't joking.  He was dead serious.  I asked him, "Why in the world would you want me to sign your ball?".  He looked at me as serious as could be and said, "Because you transform lives.  Those guys just played football".  

That caught me off guard.  I was rather speechless. (hard to believe, I know)  I signed it proudly.  We live in a culture that worships sport.  Put up a guy that's been to a Super Bowl, and you can draw a crowd in a heatbeat.  Fortunately, these were guys of high character.  But, in today's world, that doesn't matter if you can run a 4.3 forty.

Someone reminded me what really mattered.  That I play in a huge arena.  Bigger than any Super Bowl.  And, as the writer to the Hebrews says, there are not thousands, but millions who are cheering me on.  And, cheering for you too.  Can you hear them?

1/25/13

MOVIE MADNESS

Q:  How many times can a 2-year old watch the same movie?
A:  Trick question.  No one's lasted long enough to find out.

My grandson, Cash Allen, is here.  He brought his mom and dad and sister with him, as well.  On the road from OKC, he watched The Sandlot 3 times.  Last night, he and I started it together.  We finisher it this morning.

We just finished lunch.  What did he want to do?  Watch The Sandlot.  What are we doing now?  Watching The Sandlot.  How many times will this go on?  No one seems to have that answer.

Seeking the answer,
Tom (Big Papi) Allen

1/24/13

MISSING INFORMATION

The other evening, prior to an elders meeting, Robby Aylor, our staff member in charge of facilities, and, thus, in charge of our building project, decided to take us all on a tour of the new site.  We walked, single-file, out onto the construction site.  Basically, wooden forms where that had been filled with concrete.  In other words, the foundations of the buildings.  Or, at least, that's what we all assumed.

Then, Robby, shared a piece of information with us that was missing from our understanding.  We weren't standing on foundations, as we thought.  We were standing on the walls.  Sure, the foundations were under there. But, that's not what we were standing on.  He explained, they pour the foundations, then rebuild forms on top of the foundations, spray them with a special non-stick substance, then pour the wall right on top of the foundation.  Then, they repeat that process again and again, sometimes with several layers of walls on top of the foundation.  In fact, they're pouring more this morning as I write.

When they have dried and cured, they bring in a big crane and stand them all up.  In other words, in two weeks, every wall will be up and erect and a building will suddenly appear out of nowhere.  That boggles my mind!

But, here's my point.  We all assumed we were just walking on the foundation, the floor, the bottom, the beginning.  But, in reality, we were WALKING ON THE WALLS!  If no one had been there to explain to us what we thought was fact, wasn't really fact at all, we would have had a nice walk over what we thought was one thing, when in reality, it was something else totally different.  We weren't bad.  We were just wrong.  Just uninformed.  Just ignorant.  We needed someone with much more insight to say, "I know what you think you're walking on.  I know what it looks and feels like.  I know what you think...you're just wrong...just uninformed...you just don't have the right information and perspective.

Isn't that exactly what God does in His Word?  He basically tells us, "I know you think you know what's going on here, what reality is and how you should respond...but you're wrong.  Not bad or evil.  Just misinformed.  You operate by sight.  But, I've been around a lot longer than you and know what's really going on beneath the surface.  So, you need to decide whether to trust your eyes and your wits that you're walking on the foundation, or trust Me and my word by faith, that what you're walking on are really walls.  Sight or faith?  You or me?  Your limited perspective, or my limitless perspective?  Trust me, I know better.  Trust me, I'm right...I'm God.  I know, I know, it really looks like one thing.  But, you have to trust Me, it's not.  Trust me over your eyes, over your wits, over your feelings, over what you really WANT to be the case.  Trust Me to get it right and NEVER lead you wrong."


1/22/13

AN INTERESTING CONTRADICTION

Yesterday was Inauguration Day.  Our country inaugurated President Barack Obama for his second term of office in the highest position in the land.  I find it interesting that our first African-American president is inaugurated for his second term of office as President of the United States on the same day we honor Dr. Martin Luther King.  Most would think how appropriate it is that history has blessed us with honoring these two men on the same day.  Dr. King fought, and even gave his life for equal rights for men and women of all colors.  And, on the day we honor him, we celebrate our first African-American President.  The stars have aligned.

May I offer a different view?  While I believe Dr. King, like myself, is proud that his nation has come to the place where a black man can be elected to the highest office of leadership possible, I believe that these two men could not be more different.

Our President, who I honor as my President and the leader of our country, believes that government should play an ever-increasing role in providing for the needs of its constituents.  That the populace should look more and more to the government for its sustenance.  More dependence on the government is a good thing.

Dr. King, on the other hand, believed in independence and taking personal responsibility for ones self and ones family.  He preached hard work, personal responsibility and looking to no one but ones self for provision.  In one famous speech, Dr. King said, "Even if it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, go on out and sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures; sweep streets like Handel and Beethoven composed music; sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry…"

I see quite a contradiction in Dr. King's philosophy and President Obama's.  President Obama has taught our nation that if things aren't going well and you feel you need something, look to the government.  Dr. King would have said, "Look in the mirror".

1/21/13

ADDICTION

I do not struggle with addiction.  I've seen those that do, and it's a sad sight.  I am sure I don't struggle with addiction.  I was certain that I didn't, until this morning, when Susan announced that the coffee maker was on strike, that it refused to make any coffee until it had vinegar run through it, followed by water twice!  The vinegar took several lifetimes to make its way through, then the water and the water again.

BOTTOM LINE:  I've been up for over an hour, and awake for....well, the coffee's not ready yet, so the awake part is still on hold.  I'm even having trouble running two sentences together.  I guess I'm an addict.  Although, I'm still pretty much in denial that the coffee has any real affect.  So, I'll just finish  this blog and dmck844 glg89ehmws09..mdio9376^%8ne9.....Sorry, guess I dozed off.

Maybe a 12-Step Program is called for.  Better yet, a new coffee maker.  It's not an addiction.  It's just fuel.  Every fine-tuned machine runs on fuel.  This bad boy runs on high-octane caffeine.

Coffee done.  Blog over.

1/18/13

MARRIAGE COUNSELING

That's where we went yesterday...the MARRIAGE COUNSELOR.  Guess I have your attention now. You thought this was your pastor's blog.  Doggone...it is!  Did you misread what I just said?  Nope.  You read it right.  Susan and I have been seeing a Marriage Counselor for the last month.  Are we getting a divorce?  Is our marriage in big trouble?  Was there infidelity?  No to all questions.

Marriage is not a static thing.  It's always changing.  We've never been at this juncture of our marriage, and we found that our marriage was OK.  But, we knew God's plan wasn't for OK and we loved each other way too much to settle for OK, so we swallowed our pride, (OK, I swallowed MY pride) and we contacted a marriage counselor, for one reason...we weren't satisfied with OK.  We wanted GREAT.  We wanted AWESOME.  We wanted nothing less that EARTH-SHATTERING.  We refused to settle for OK.

Unless one of us croaks and the other re-marries, we're only doing this once.  Hopefully, for a long time...a lot more years.  Why on earth would I want to come home to OK for the next 30 or 40 years? (I'm planning on living a long time)  I want to shoot out of that office at 5:00 and head home as quick as my 4 wheels will get me there (without breaking any laws) because I know what's waiting for me there.  I want her to count down the minutes till I get there.  I don't want to have to answer the question, "Are you happy or married?  I want to be both.  I want to be happier because I'm married.  And, thus, I will do whatever it takes to make that happen, because there is NOTHING I won't do to assure that happens.

I've been in a lot of marriage counseling sessions during my life as a pastor, but never from this side of the desk.  It's a little weird.  It's a little awkward.  I'm more than a little uncomfortable.  But, more than any of those things, I'm DETERMINED.  BEST or BUST!  And busting is not an option.

1/17/13

DIVINE APPOINTMENTS

I'm over 50 (way over).  That means several things are added to you life, among which is a semi-annual visit to your Urologist.  (I will not be graphic.  I'll just say this guy sees you in a whole new way)  Yesterday was the day.  I go to a big-shot in the Medical Center. (We live in a city with the greatest Medical Center in the world, so why not take advantage of it?)  So, you hardly see the big guy.  He sends in one of his fellows to do all the dirty work. 

So, I make nervous conversation.  "Where you from originally?"  "North Carolina", he says.  "Oh, where?"  "Chapel Hill".  "So, you a Tar Heel?"  "Sure am".  "I have some Tar Heels in my church.  Got a kid who played football there".  "Really?  What's his name?"  "Pelc".  "I know of him.  He was a lineman, wasn't he?"  "Yeah"  "And, where's he from?"  "Pearland."  "Really, I live in Pearland".  "So, you like football?"  "Sure do.  Wanted to come to some of the High School games, but never really knew the schedule."  "Oh, you should come.  They're great.  Even JJ Watt comes".  "You're kidding.  Why?"  "Because he lives in Pearland, too".  "Really?"  "Yeah, so you're a football fan?"  "Oh yeah".  "If I gave you a ticket to this Super Bowl breakfast, would you use it?  Here's all the people that will be there".  "Absolutely.  That's awesome!"  "Great.  Can I pull up my pants now?"

Is this guy going to show up that Saturday?  I have no idea.  But, God took me all the way to the Medical Center, to the OQuinn Tower, to the 17th floor, to an exam room to meet a guy from North Carolina who lives in Pearland, Texas who loves football and knows someone who played football at his college half a continent away a week away from a Super Bowl Bash for which I had tickets in my pocket which I offered and he gladly received.

There's a lot of coincidences there.  But then, I don't believe in coincidences.  I believe in DIVINE APPOINTMENTS.

1/16/13

UP CLOSER & MORE PERSONAL WITH THE "TO-DON'T" LIST

Yesterday, I told you the things I'm going to stop doing in 2013.  The last thing I noted was that today I would share with you the WHY behind the WHAT.  The rationale behind my decisions to stop some things is not based on the fact that I just want to do less...sit around and eat bon-bons and watch everyone else work around me.  It's based on the fact that I believe I have elevated the URGENT above the IMPORTANT.  That, in some ways, I have become like the display at the Texas State Fair many years ago, with bells and whistles and belts and pulleys and gears, etc.  It ran like a top.  But it also had a sign posted beneath it that read, Doesn't Do Anything, But Doesn't It Run Well.  

Oftentimes, I feel like that sign should be posted front and center on my desk.  But, that's still no answer for the "TO-DON'T" List.  My reasoning has nothing to do with a desire to stop doing anything (I actually REALLY enjoy everyone of the things that I listed yesterday), but, rather, a sense of calling and urgency to DO more of other things.  Here's what I feel is the IMPORTANT rather than the URGENT that demands more of my time and my attention:

1.  To PREACH MORE.  Some of you may be asking, "Don't you preach a lot already?".  Yes, I do. But, I've also taken big chunks of time away from the platform in order to try to plan and organize for future message series.  I'll still take time off, but not in huge chunks.  This is my love, my calling and my element.  I desire to do more.

2.  To WRITE MORE.  I believe this is an area where God has gifted me and something that I love.  But, it has been relegated to quick posts and has become something I dread more than love, simply because it's one more thing on the proverbial list...an ever-increasing, ever-consuming list that consumes my days and makes me look for anything to cut out.  Writing usually ends up on the Cutting Room floor.

3.  To READ MORE.  Reading has gone the way of writing.  I do what I can and what I must.  Reading for enjoyment and personal growth is limited or nonexistent, except for the assigned books that the staff reads and discusses together.  I want to read more.  I need to read more.

4.  To PRAY MORE.  I spend time with God daily.  I want to spend more.  I want my life, my ministry and my church to be totally God-driven and God-powered, not Tom-powered.  The only way to do that is to spend more quantity and quality time with God.  We need more than moments...we need conversations.  We sometimes need days set aside for nothing but me speaking to and listening for God.    Whole days.

5.  To SPEND MORE TIME WITH MORE LOST PEOPLE.  Not sure where, when or how, but I know it's a must and it takes time.

6.  To EXERCISE WITH IMPUNITY.  I need to be able to schedule time at the gym or on the bike or running bleachers...whatever...and not feel guilty about it.  It's part of what's required to keep me going, keep me sharp and keep me healthy.  Plus, it allows me to be a proper example to my church.  My body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit.  I need to treat it as such.

Why is a TO-DON'T LIST so important?  Because it makes the IMPORTANT STUFF POSSIBLE.  I invite you to join me.

1/15/13

UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL WITH THE "TO-DON'T" LIST

I mentioned some time back that I was really convicted to have a "TO-DON'T" LIST this year.  I am famous (or infamous) for my "TO-DO" Lists.  But, at some point, it becomes apparent that the only way to continue adding things to your list of "DO'S" is to scratch off some things and label them "DON'TS".

The main reasons I haven't done this already have already been discussed.  Basically, I want to be SUPER-PASTOR, I fear disappointing anyone, and I feel guilty ever saying "no" to anyone or any thing (that's pathological and has devastating results).

In other words, every "good" thing I say yes to, means there is a corresponding "great" thing that I say "no" to.  So, with great fear and trembling and knots in my stomach, I present to you my list of things I feel I must stop doing.

1)  COUNSELING.  Does that mean I'll never sit and listen to anyone and provide counsel for them?  Not at all.  But, I can no longer be the "first-responder".  God has given us a tremendous staff.  All of them have tremendous compassionate hearts and insightful wisdom.  Some have more experience in counseling than I do.  Most are better counselors than I am.  If I'm needed, I'm there.  If not, there are great people to give more time and better insight than myself.  That includes Pre-Marital Counseling.  Does that mean I will no longer perform weddings?  NO.  I still plan to do those when asked.  But, the prep work goes to others.

2)  HOSPITAL VISITATION.  So, I'm never doing this?  No, I didn't say that.  According to those who know these things, a human is able to handle about 60 people in their span of care.  Jesus basically handled about 12.  Go figure.  Again, I have great LifeGroup leaders that provide care for their small group and a great staff that can be on the spot and provide great pastoral care.  Not only that, but they communicate with me the status of every situation, how I should pray and when I should be present.  In other words, if I come to see you in the hospital, you may be worse than you think. (just kidding...sorta)

3) TV.  No, I'm not going to stop watching TV altogether.  It's just that I have a bad habit of turning it on (for no reason) and leaving it on (for less reason).  Sometimes I watch junk, because junk is all that's on.  I will be selective.  Turn it on when there's something worth my attention.  Off when there is not.

4)  SKIPPING A SABBATH.  God has made it clear that man has 6 days to work and needs one day devoted to anything but his job.  For most people that day is Sunday.  I work Sundays through Thursday.  So, to be obedient to God and to keep myself healthy, refreshed and in this for the long-haul, I need to take a Sabbath every week.  That means every week, without exception, there needs to be one day I do no pastoring, no studying, no counseling, no anything-associated-with-the-church.  The SUPER-PASTOR mentality has caught up with me more than once.  In order to do this for another 20 years, in order to not make the church my mistress, and in order to be healthy in mind and body, I will observe a Sabbath, just like God commanded.

So, WHY AM I DOING ALL THIS?  I'll tell you that tomorrow!

1/14/13

CLOSE, BUT NO CIGAR

     Were you like me?  Did you perch yourself in front of the television and await, with anticipation, hope and extreme trepidation the Texans now-annual attempt at greatness.  Hey, this is not a bash-the-Texans exercise in catharsis.  I got my gear.  I root loud and strong.  I remember 2 years ago, and 3 years ago, and 4 years ago, etc., etc., etc.  I know what it's like to wish the season would just mercifully end, and I know what it's like to go to the play-offs...and I'll take the play-offs any day.  Great job, guys.
     There are so many differences between the two teams that played yesterday.  Coaching, play-off experience, schemes, home-field, ....we could go on and on.  But, bottom-line, the most glaring difference between those two teams boiled down to who was standing behind the center.  Who was the on-field general.  Who was directing the team.  Who was making the mid-course corrections.  Who was pulling the trigger.  Who was making the plays.
     1.  This is not a love-fest for Tom Brady.  He's the guy I love to hate.  I believe he's sold his soul to
          the devil.  No other explanation.
     2.  I'm not writing to vent and jump on the band-wagon of Schaub haters.  I believe he has obvious
          limitations, but I still remember where we have come from.  Compared to all former Texan QBs,
          all-hail Matt Schaub.
     3.  This is not a blog about football.  If you don't like football, you probably haven't made it this far
          to read this part, but at least I wrote it as further proof for later, when someone will say I talk  
          about football too much.
     My point is this, the NFL is, for the most part, a Quarterback-driven league.  The Colts were pathetic last year, drafted Andrew Luck and became a play-off team.  The Redskins  were almost as bad, drafted RG3, and did the same.
     Bottom-Line:  Although many variables exist, who's leading the offense on the field really matters.
     It's the same in life.  If, indeed, a team is only as good as its Quarterback, then we might confer that any team is only as good as its leader.  Your church will be as strong as the guy leading it. (Ouch!)  Your family will be as strong as its Spiritual Leader. (not to be sexist here, but if there's a dad, you better step up, dude!).  If you're a leader at your company, your company will rise and fall on your leadership.
     I cheered my heart out for my Texans, but in my head, I knew the most likely outcome.  Why?  Because as much as it gnaws at my gut to say it, their General is better than our General.  And that makes ALL the difference.
     Where are you the General?  What are you the General of?  And, are you giving your troops the confidence that success is possible...imminent?  Or are they just showing up and hoping?

1/10/13

ARRIVAL ANNIVERSARY

58 years ago today I made my arrival on Planet Earth.  Very little pomp and circumstance was associated with that event.  Hopefully, even less will be today.  However, my entry was not without some drama.  (I'm sure that comes as quite a shock to many)  My mom was a single woman from St. Louis.  In 1955, if you were single and pregnant, it was certainly not something to be celebrated.  In fact, there was a great deal of shame and disappointment associated with such a predicament.  Although abortions were illegal at the time, they were still readily available.  However, my mom chose to "go away", to save herself and her family the embarrassment and ridicule that accompanied such an indictment of her morality.

For some reason, unknown to me, she ended up in the Houston/Galveston area.  Her intention was to give birth, place the child for adoption, and, I suppose, head back to St. Louis like nothing had ever happened.  On January 10, 1955, I showed up.  Nine days later my adoptive parents took me home.  I became an Allen.

My dad was from Missouri (quite the coincidence) and my mom was from East Texas, only to land in Houston.  Dad was about 5'7'' and mom was 4'11".  Who knew I'd sprout up to 6'2".  Needless to say, we made quite the trio.  They loved each other, loved me and taught me about Jesus.  They were the tools God had foreordained to make me the man I am and prepare me for the calling he had on my life.

People ask me, from time to time, "Why would God keep a woman from having a child, who wants one so desperately, while at the same time allowing women to get pregnant who don't want or need a child".  I tell them they just answered their own question.  That way, every child born into this world is a "WANTED" child.  There are unwanted pregnancies, but no unwanted children.  There are pregnancies that are "mistakes", but no children that fall into that category.  So that every child born into this world can be wanted, desired and loved, it requires some empty arms and empty wombs.  I, personally, am eternally grateful for the empty arms and empty womb of my mother.  Although it seemed a curse to her, I'm sure, it was the greatest blessing imaginable to me.
Because one lady from St. Louis let me be born and one lady in Houston had a place in her heart for me, I get to celebrate  58 years, one wife, 4 kids, (actually 7 with my additions by marriage...I consider them my kids too) and soon-to-be 6 grandkids.

God knew me before I was even conceived...loved me...had plans for me...and today I celebrate those plans.  To God be the glory, great things He has done!

1/9/13

DRIFT, Pt. 2

Yesterday, we talked about DRIFT, how it happens without us being aware of it.  We don't notice it, and suddenly, we find ourselves somewhere we never intended to be, totally unaware of how we managed to get there.

So, if these currents that want to slowly take us far away from where we thought we were and intended to be are invisible...beneath the surface...if we don't know when we're drifting until it's too late...then what do we do?  How can we combat an invisible foe?

Here's some suggestions:

1.  Have a REFERENCE POINT:  If you were off shore in the Gulf, you might have a landmark of a house that would mark where you started out and where you should be.  In every area of our lives we need these landmarks, these reference points.  In our marriage, it may be our communication, our intimacy, the priority we put on time together.  In our spiritual life, it might be the regularity of the time we spend in God's Word, the regularity and depth of our prayer life or the joy and consistency of serving Him in new ways.  With our health it may be as simple as stepping on the scales on a regular basis.  Or how many times each week we have exercised.  Or look back at our diet for the week.

Whatever area you are concerned about, there should be some markers that you can look at and say, "That's where I am now".

2.  Pay ATTENTION:  Drift happens for that very reason...we're not paying attention.  We get busy with the busyness of life and don't pay attention to the things that matter.  We're too busy being busy to ask ourselves the hard questions or take the time to pay attention to the reference points of our lives.  We ASSUME that everything will just stay the same in the pillars of our lives.  But, that's where we are totally wrong.  Nothing living stays the same.  Nothing living stays alive without attention.  It must be fed.  It must be nourished.  It must have time and attention, or it begins to slowly die.  That's the catch...slowly.  Sometimes so slowly that is is undetectable to the naked eye.

Whenever we assume we can just put it on auto-pilot and forget it, we're taken a much bigger step than any of us realize.  That has opened the door to drift.  That can become the beginning of the end.

3.  Make CONSTANT CORRECTIONS:  When you see that your reference point has moved up the shoreline (actually, it didn't move...you did) NOW is the time to take action.  If your daily time with God had become a little sporadic, say 5 out of 7 days, instead of what used to be 7 out of 7, it would be so easy to just say, "That's not so bad.  We still talk.  I'm doing better than most."  And that would be true...but that's not the point.  You've identified DRIFT.  And once DRIFT starts, it doesn't stop.

If your HEALTH has drifted, if your MARRIAGE has drifted, if your FINANCES have drifted....the worst thing you can possibly do is to ignore it.  It's not about HOW FAR YOU'VE GONE, it's about the DIRECTION YOU'RE HEADED.  Once drift starts, it doesn't stop.  It requires constant course corrections.

DRIFT happens.  (should be a bumper sticker) But, we're not powerless against it.  Rather than being the victim who says, I just have no idea how we got to this place, set your REFERENCE POINTS, pay ATTENTION, and make CONSTANT CORRECTIONS.  You can defeat drift.

1/8/13

DRIFT

Ever been in a boat on a lake, or maybe just chillin' in a inner tube, not paying attention to anything but the fish you aren't catching or the the rays you are catching?  Suddenly you realize, "Where am I and how did I get here?"  The landmark you expected to see is now clean out of sight.  You didn't see it coming.  You didn't mean for it to happen.  You never felt a thing, but suddenly, without notice, you're somewhere you never intended to be and totally puzzled as to how you got there.  

What happened?  You DRIFTED.  You didn't even notice until it was too late.  The surface of the water may have seemed totally still and serene, but below the surface, out of sight, there was a current that carried you where you never intended to go.

Unless you are aware of it and take steps to consciously combat it, DRIFT happens in almost every area of our lives.  The diabolical aspect of DRIFT is that it is almost unrecognizable.  We don't see it.  We don't feel it.  It's almost as though it wasn't really there.  And since it's not noticeable, we ignore it...until we can't any longer.  How does it work?

In MARRIAGE:  We rock along thinking everything is pretty much the same today as it was yesterday which was very much like the day before that one....until, out of the blue...we've drifted far away rom our spouse and we have no idea why, how or when it happened.  And no clue how to get back to where we were.

In our PHYSICAL LIFE:  We pretty much do the same thing today as yesterday and the day before, but suddenly we get weighed at the Doctor's Office and are pretty sure there's something wrong with those scales.  Or we go play ball with our kid and wonder why we're huffing and puffing.  We never did that before.

In our RELATIONSHIPS:  We have lunch with that old friend that we go way back with only to realize that the conversation is not the free-flowing banter we used to enjoy, but real work.  Who is this guy?  What happened to my friend?

In our SPIRITUAL LIFE:  We know we've missed a few days in our God time.  Everything's gotten so busy.  But, now we have a New Year's resolution to spend time with Him daily.  But, for some reason, His Word is tough to grasp and you really have to work to find something to talk about.  Prayer time is like pulling teeth.  

What happened?  DRIFT.  

How do we combat DRIFT.  I'll tell you that tomorrow.

1/7/13

THE "TO-DON'T" LIST

I'm a list guy.  Right now if you were to look in the notes section of my iPhone, you'd see a collection of lists.  There's the WEEKEND list (all the things that I should accomplish the following weekend).  There's the STAFF MEETING list (things to cover with my staff).  Goals for 2013.  My measurements.  Message Series.  Systems.  Church Goals.  Home Goals.  Personal Goals.  Other lists I'm not sure what to entitle.  Are you getting the picture?  I LIKE LISTS!

Well, this year I'm adding one more list...The "TO-DON'T" List.  Most of my lists, although varied, fall under the heading of things "TO-DO".  I'm convinced, however, for me to have any chance of achieving my growing lists of things to do, there needs to be a corresponding list of things I need to quit doing.  One problem:  I've found this list to be, by far, the most difficult list I've ever had to make.

Why?  Several reasons:

1.  I think too highly of myself.  I feel like the things I do, can and should be done by me and me alone.  I think thats more of a self-image issue than anything.  You have to be pretty comfortable in your own skin to let things go to somebody else.  It doesn't lessen your importance or necessity.

2.  I fear disappointing anyone.  I know that if I stop doing anything that I have done in the past, I will surely disappoint someone.  Someone will misunderstand.  Someone will misinterpret.  Someone will be unhappy.  Someone will judge me wrongly.

3.  I am, by nature, (sin nature, for sure), a people-pleaser (as opposed to a God-pleaser).  Those two things are counterintuitive.  If you are one, you cannot be the other.  You have to pick ONE,  and stay with it.

4.  It involves change.  Say what you like, no one really likes change, especially in their personal lives.  It stretches you, makes you think, creates discomfort and makes you think before you act.  And it's true, the older you get, the harder it becomes.

Does any of this resonate with you?  Then maybe you need a "TO-DON'T" List as well.  WARNING: It can be painful and challenging, and easier to write than to carry through on.  But, according to Jim Collins, it's one of the requirements to move our lives from pursuing GOOD to targeting GREAT.

And so, a new motto is born....JUST DON'T DO IT!

1/4/13

LIFE PLAN FOR 2013, Pt. 5


Today we have our final step…and it’s a good one…in fact…it’s my favorite….
Possibly yours too!
The last step in our life plan is to….CELEBRATE THE WIN!
In fact, you must! It’s critical to any long-term success.
Build a reward in for the completion of each of your goals… The size of the reward can be based on the size of the goal and the size of your budget, but it should be enticing enough to keep you motivated.
It’s been said that what gets rewarded gets repeated…and that seems to be true from my experience.
Find a way to celebrate achieving your goals this year.

Here’s some examples of what this might look like:
Lose 20 pounds - Buy a new outfit…or two…
Improve my marriage communication – Plan a special vacation together or eat at your favorite restaurant…
Pay off my credit card – Buy a new couch…but pay cash for it…
Read through the Bible - Give a Bible to someone who needs one.

These are just hypothetical. You can come up with something better for you for celebration. It is important that you reward yourself though. Obviously you may need to get help accomplishing some of these rewards, but that’s part of the beauty of Step 4. As others are included in your progress they will be enticed to help celebrate your win.

That’s the planning process. Simple enough?
I’d love to hear from you if you are going to attempt this process. Leave me a comment. Let me know your plan...and how it's going!
Here’s hoping for an extra productive this year!

1/3/13

LIFE PLAN FOR 2013, Pt. 4


Today we add another step in the process…Accountability
If you want to see your goals become reality, you need to build a system of accountability into your plan. If you are confident you want to complete the detailed goals you’ve set, and you believe the action plan you have written will help you meet them, then you must find a way to hold yourself accountable to completing the action steps.
You’ll need to add accountability you are comfortable with and makes sense for your goals and action steps, but here are some suggestions to consider:
  • Put action items on your calendar for the next year….I have some items that repeat throughout the year.
  • Print your life plan and share it with someone….give them permission to check in with you throughout the year.
  • Find a partner…this is especially helpful when exercising or in weight loss. (This is what makes Weight Watchers successful.)  It is impossible to overstate how important this step is.  
  • Use an application/program, to schedule tasks and set alarms to remind you of your action steps
  • Comment on this post with your plan, or post it on your own blog…there’s something about going public that builds a stronger desire for completion
  • If you want to be successful, you have got to give someone the right and the responsibility to butt into your life, call you on the carpet, ask you the tough questions and tell you what you need to hear, even when you least want to hear it.  No accountability=Certain failure.
The key here is to build a system that will hold you accountable to completion of your goals. As you repeat the actions and see results towards your goals, you will develop habits in these areas and in the process of doing so you'll find you are completing more of your goals.

Let's be honest and face the facts...most of your goals are things you've wanted to accomplish for years, but you never have.  What gives you reason to think this year will be any different?  There WILL come a time when you fail.  There will come a time when your desire to see these things happen is less than your desire to quit and throw in the towel.  What will make success possible then?  ACCOUNTABILITY.  The fact you know someone lovingly and firmly will say and do just what you've assigned them to do.  Without this piece of the puzzle, it's just that...a Puzzle.

1/2/13

LIFE PLAN FOR 2013, Pt. 3


Today we add another step.  Let me be honest.  This step is not as fun as setting goals…at least for people wired like me.  This is a little more difficult and will take a little more time to complete, but it is a vital step to the success of your plans.  Chances are good that if you fail to keep your New Year’s resolutions, not doing this step well is the more likely reason.
In this step, we will write some action steps, which will help us reach our specific goals.  The question you should attempt to answer here is: What specific action steps do I need to take to ensure I reach my goals?  Be specific here.  The more specific the action step the greater chance you have of completing it.  Below you will see the specific goals followed by the action steps.
Lose 20 pounds – I want to lose 20 pounds by June 1, by eating less and exercising more.
  • Exercise on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays
  • Limit eating fast food at lunch to once a week
  • Stop drinking diet soft drinks and drink more water
  • Keep track of calories, attempting to eat less than 2,000 calories per day
Improve my marriage communication – I want my wife and I to argue less about things, simply due to poor communication.  I want to understand her better and find more times when we are on the same page without arguing to get there.  I want us to be able to talk through issues without raising our voice at each other.
  • Write out questions for our date nights to answer together…
  • Read one marriage book together and do one Bible study together
  • Attend a marriage conference this year
  • Have a date night every week
Pay off my credit card - I want to pay off $7,000 worth of debt by Thanksgiving.
  • Limit eating dinner out to once a week
  • Work to refinance the house
  • Write a realistic budget by Jan 30th
  • Read the book “I Was Broke and Now I’m Not” by Joe Sangl
Read through the Bible - I want to be able to say I have read the entire Bible and finish all of it this year, without losing interest in three months.  I want to read the Bible consistently throughout the year at least 5 days per week.
  • Use one of YouVersion’s daily reading plans
  • Not check Facebook or email until I’ve read the Bible
  • Follow along with my small group curriculum
  • Get the YouVersion smart phone application
Do these steps assure your success?  No.  But, they make it a whole lot more likely.  This is planning, the element that is usually the missing link in our yearly attempts.  Write it out.  Be specific.  Be practical.  Plan your work and work your plan.

1/1/13

LIFE PLAN FOR 2013, Pt. 2

Yesterday we talked about setting some goals for the coming year.  Goal-setting is a great thing...a great first step.  But, if that's as far as it goes, most likely, that's as far as you'll get as well.

That's the problem:  We usually stop right here.  We state 5 or 6 things we HOPE will mysteriously happen during the coming year.  Inherently, we know we have to make some changes to make it happen, but we're not really sure what, when or how.

OK, let's move on to STEP TWO:  MAKE THEM MEASURABLE

Here's some examples.  If you want to lose 20 lbs. this year, why not make it more measurable and specific?

Instead of this:  LOSE 20 LBS.

Try this:  LOSE 20 LBS.  I will do this by changing my diet, exercising 3 times a week and averaging
                                          1.5 lbs. of weight loss each month.

Here's another...READ THROUGH THE BIBLE THIS YEAR.

Try this:  I will read trough the Bible this year by choosing a Bible-in-One-Year Plan on YouVersion
               and read my assignment every morning at 6:30 am.

Goals are great, but if they're not specific, measurable and have a plan of how they will be realized, then you've just set yourself up for failure.  When you write out your plan, you may realize it's not something you're willing to do to accomplish.  If so, you need to either rethink your goal or change your attitude.  If not, you've failed before you get started.