Friday, April 24, 2009

youseetimmy

One of my all-time favorite movies is a 1994 romantic comedy Speechless.  Michael Keaton and Geena Davis star as speechwriters for political opponents (sort of a James Carville and Mary Matalin story).  Turns out they are also both insomniacs (which makes it one of the perfect sleepless romantic comedy trifecta:  Sleepless in Seattle, While You Were Sleeping and Speechless) and in the course of trying to find cures for insomnia they fall in love.

Maybe my favorite scene is Michael Keaton trying to explain to Geena Davis what her candidate is 

missing in his speeches.  He tells her that he needs a youseetimmy.  Then he explains:

At the conclusion of every episode of Lassie there was a moment where the moral of the story or the lesson learned was explained to Lassie’s owner 

Timmy (as if anyone could own Lassie).  Often it was Timmy’s dad who would sit and now and begin, “You see Timmy….

This week I’ve been working withour creative team on upcoming messages for our kids and introduced them to the idea of using youseetimmys.

A youseetimmy is a great communication tool.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

MS 150 Final Thoughts

On Sunday afternoon my assistant Jenny (along with her husband Doug and son Dillon), Katelyn (one of our Student Ministers), David (our Seminary Intern) and I (along with 12,000 others) successfully completed the MS 150/75.  I think we represented the Grace staff very well.  There were also lots of Grace members riding and I spent most the day talking about a Grace Team for next year’s ride – so be prepared!
 
I spent a large potion of the day changing flat tires.  Katelyn had 4 and I had 5 – frustrating on many levels especially since “operator error” may have resulted in a few of the flats – but now I am quite proficient at changing the tube on a road bike.
 
We are also all now well seasoned for managing hills and a strong headwind – which we experienced for most of the ride and especially over the last 40 miles.
 
That aside the entire day was a blast and I AM looking forward to a two-day ride next year – and some rides between now and then.
 
There were two highlights that stood out (among many).
 
Riding into Austin along a line of cheering people and crossing the finish line was a rush and a memory I won’t soon forget.  But the stronger memory is of a woman standing in her yard as we drove through Bastrop (which btw is a really cool little town).  The woman held a poster board sign that read: “Thanks for riding to save my life.”
 
It was a great reminder that as fun and challenging as the day was, we were engaged in serious business – raising support for people suffering a terrible disease, multiple sclerosis.
 
My hope is that as we engage in ministry at Grace we also experience a lot of fun and laughter amidst the challenges.  And I hope that we never forget that we are engaged in serious business.  Imagine if each member of our community was holding a poster board describing that challenge they are facing.  Jesus said that He came that we might know abundant life and He’s entrusted the proclamation of that life to us.
 
This is serious business.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Disappointing Leadership Decisions

I just learned that the MS 150 - a two day bike ride from Houston to Austin is going to be the MS 75 - a one day bike ride from LaGrange to Austin.  Severe weather in Texas is forcing the ride organizers to cancel day 1.

I'm disappointed.  

I've been training since last November and felt ready to try a long two day ride.  A final 74 mile tuneup last Saturday was a great confidence boost.  I was even prepared to deal with rain and wind if needed.

I also understand the decision.  There are more than 12,000 riders registered for the MS 150.  The logistics of managing and caring for those riders is a huge task.  I've been impressed by everything the MS 150 folks have done and if they've decided it's too dangerous to ride - I trust that it's too dangerous to ride.

Still, I'm disappointed and my disappointment is a great leadership reminder. 

Almost every decision a leader makes disappoints someone - that simply comes with leadership territory.  And sometimes the right decisions can disappoint everyone and still be the right decision.  I suspect there are 12,000 disappointed riders this evening in Houston... but canceling day one is still the right decision.

Good leadership is not defined by making everyone happy.  I love to point out that only twice in the Bible did a leaders ask the people which decision would make them happy.  The first time resulted in a golden calf - the second time a crucifixion.  

It's o.k. for leaders to disappoint people - in fact it's actually a sign of good leadership.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

If Jesus wanted to feed 5,000 today

Some of my friends serve churches where if Jesus wanted to feed the five thousand today I imagine part of what He might hear would include:

We don’t have the resources – just a couple of fish and a few loaves of bread (ok He actually did hear that one).

We don’t have a permit for food distribution.

I thought we were in the Sermon on the Mount business not the fish and bread business.

There aren't enough volunteers to distribute the food.

Some people don’t like fish.

Who is going to clean up the mess?

Wouldn’t it be easier to just send people home to get something to eat (ok He actually heard that one too).

I am so grateful to be serving a church that believes with Jesus we can still do miracles.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It's just Mexican food

Today I had lunch with a group of men who are no longer interested in programs and committee meetings but who are all convinced that God is on the move and very interested in being a part of that movement.

We met at a Mexican restaurant owned by one of the guys (and just a quick aside: it’s great eating at a restaurant with the owner). This guy decided awhile back to use part of what God has blessed him with – Mexican food – to bless others. He regularly provides “teacher appreciation lunches” to local public schools with large populations of at risk students (he’s also encouraged his restaurant managers to do the same). I’ve noticed that whenever anyone shows appreciation for the gift he will typically shrug his shoulders and tell them. “It’s just Mexican food.”

What a great reminder that the everyday blessings in our lives can be used in incredible ways in the Kingdom – if we would only make them and ourselves available. What might seem to be small acts or blessings to us can make big differences in God’s economy.

By the way, it’s not just Mexican food… it’s really good Mexican food.
Below are the thoughts I shared with the Grace staff this morning as we got back to work after an amazing Easter

This Saturday months of preparation will conclude as I ride in my first MS 150 – a 180(ish) mile 2-day bike ride from Houston to Austin to raise support for Multiple Sclerosis. (
Jenny, Katelyn and David are also riding from staff along with a dozen or so Grace members).

Last Saturday I participated in a final tune-up ride – the 74 mile Katy Ram Challenge. It was my first time to be part of a large ride (several hundred riders). I discovered there’s a lot of excitement and energy when that many riders are together. My sense of anticipation for this Saturday increased as I tried to imagine the sort of emotion 12,000 riders will generate. Saturday’s start promises to be a festive occasion and I can hardly wait to be a part of it all. I am expecting to be carried away by the joy of the moment.

On Saturday we only ride half of the route to Austin, so Sunday morning we will wake up with a lot of riding still before us. I am told that the first leg on Sunday, which takes us through the hills of Bastrop State Park, is among the most difficult stretches of the ride. Just as I am anticipating being carried along by the joy and excitement of Saturday I suspect getting up Sunday morning and climbing back on the bike to be a challenge. But that’s what I and 12,000 other riders will do because, in a sense, that’s our job.

Last week at Grace was incredible. Thursday and Friday evenings were powerful. As I gave the benediction at Friday’s Life of Christ I was nearly overcome with emotion. Later that evening as I listened to our choir and pastors retell the story of the crucifixion I was captivated again by the depths of Jesus’ sacrifice. Sunday morning was absolutely glorious – I’d go so far as to say the best Easter celebration I’ve experienced.

Over four very special days there was laughter and tears. There were moments when we got everything just right and times when we stumbled just a bit (though hardly anyone noticed). Throughout it all I found myself constantly becoming caught up and carried away by the joy moment.

Now it’s Tuesday (and it feels like a Monday) and its time to resume the journey, because that’s our job.

My prayer is that as we get back to business we might carry with us the knowledge that the resurrection story doesn’t end on Easter morning, in fact that’s just the beginning. We live in the world filled with new potential and possibility. God is on the move and we have the privilege of joining in His Kingdom work.

Sometimes when I am on the bike, riding into the wind, with my 46 year-old knees feeling the effect of the miles, it helps to remember why it is I am riding in the MS 150 – to raise support for people like my friend Kelly who deal with the pain of MS each and every day.

As we continue the work God’s entrusted to us there will be head winds at times – and even sore knees (hopefully sore because we’ve spent so much time on them asking for help). It helps to remember why we are doing what we do. We are here so that the world might know love, hope and the life that is truly life – a life that can only be found in Jesus Christ.

Thanks for all you did to help proclaim that life in glorious celebrations last week and for all you do to keep proclaiming it each and every day.

To the glory of God!

T Doug

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Recalibration

Astronomers tell us that it takes the earth 365 days 5 hours 48 minutes and 46 seconds to make a trip around the Sun. Since that doesn’t fit neatly into a calendar (not even iPhones have an “app for that” – at least not yet) every four years we recalibrate our calendars with a leap year. It’s a practice that began in 1582 when Pope Gregory XIII wiped 10 days off the calendar and established leap years every 4 years (except for years divisible by 100 but not by 400).

It’s a bit confusing but it’s a great reminder that on a regular basis our lives require recalibration.

In recent years I’ve found the four days beginning today and through Sunday to provide the sort of recalibration or course correction my life and ministry requires.

Over the centuries Thursday has become known as Maundy Thursday. The word "Maundy" comes from the Latin for 'command' (mandatum). It refers to the command given by Jesus at the Last Supper, that his disciples should love one another.

Today we remember Jesus’ command to love – a command we live out in our vision of loving God and loving our neighbors. I need this reminder that life and ministry is not about me but rather about loving others.

Tonight our Founders Chapel will be open for prayer and communion from 5:00 – 7:00. There will be an opportunity to pray with one of our pastors and to reflect quietly on the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Then at 7:00 our 9:30 Worship Team will present an evening of worship and reflection. The Life of Christ is an hour of scripture, music and testimony telling the story of Jesus. Following the presentation the chapel will remain open for prayer.

Tomorrow, Friday, is traditionally called Good Friday (there’s not a Latin word to explain while we call it “good” but it clearly was good for us). On Friday, as I remember Jesus’ sacrifice, I am reminded of the depths of God’s love. I am also reminded that demonstrating that love requires sacrifice.

On Good Friday there will be three opportunities to remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
• At noon the churches across West Houston will gather at First Methodist Houston (Westpark and Beltway) for an ecumenical service.
• At 6:00 p.m. a repeat presentation of The Life of Christ in the Founders Chapel.
• At 7:30 p.m. in our Sanctuary our Chancel Choir is joined by an Orchestra to present a powerful service of hymns, scriptures and anthems.

Easter Sunday becomes of a celebration of love and life and the power that makes possible a life worth living.

We will celebrate with 3 worship services in our Sanctuary:
• 8:00 a.m. and 11:00 (led by our Chancel Choir)
• 9:30 a.m. (led by our Worship Team)

Kolaches, biscuits, cinnamon rolls and other refreshments will be served throughout the morning. Please bring flowers to place upon our “living cross” in the courtyard. The nursery will be open from 7:45 a.m. until 12:30 p.m. No reservation is necessary.

I pray that everyone will discover these services and celebration a way to recalibrate and to celebrate how much God loves you.

Identity Theft

Two weeks after Easter we are beginning a new message series Identity Theft.  Our creative team talked me into a promo video that... well you just have to watch it to understand.

Last night we decided to "sneak preview" the promo on facebook and I thought I'd try posting it here as well. 


video

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Reasons to Twitter

I came across this post on Kem Meyer’s blog (which by the way is a great blog http://www.kemmeyer.typepad.com/ )

Kem reposted comments by Michael Hyatt, CEO of Thomas Nelson, Inc. Hyatt answered questions my family and frinds ask a lot abot Twitter. So I thought I’d repost Kem’s repost of Hyatt’s post: 12 Reasons You Should Start Twittering.

It will enable you to experience social networking first-hand. One of my pet peeves is people who pontificate on new technologies but have never actually used them. This is particularly annoying—but common—among CEOs.

It will make you a better writer. Twitter only allows you to post 140 characters at a time. As a result, you are forced to be concise. In my opinion, this is one of the hallmarks of good writing. Short messages. Short paragraphs. Short sentences.

It will help you stay connected to people you care about. This is one of the few technologies I’ve found that actually contributes to community-building. In today’s busy world, it’s difficult to keep up with others.

It will help you see a new side of your friends. In an odd sort of way, Twitter “humanizes” people and provides a context for better understanding them. If you follow me on Twitter, for example, you’ll quickly see that I get excited, bored, frustrated, and confused—sometimes all in the same day. You’ll also learn what is important to me and what drives me crazy.

It will introduce you to new friends. I have now met several new people via Twitter. These have contributed to my life in small but significant ways.

It is faster than text-messaging. In a sense Twitter is a universal text messaging system. You can broadcast to people who subscribe to your Twitter feed or send a direct message to just one.

It will make you think about your life. You start to see your life through the lens of the people following you. Interestingly, it has made me more intentional and thoughtful about my life.

It will help you keep up with what people are talking about. Via Twitter, I have learned about hot books, cool software, breaking news, and even great restaurants. Because the information is coming from real people who care enough to Twitter about it, I have found it more valuable and authentic.

It can create traffic for your blog or Website. I have noticed a 30% uptick in my blog traffic in the last 30 days. It may be related to the fact that I have been in the news more or have been writing on more controversial posts. However, I also think it is related to the fact that I am Twittering every time I post a new blog entry. This seems to have a viral effect.

It requires a very small investment. Twitter itself is a free service. In terms of my time, I probably invest less than 10 minutes a day. Since “tweets” (i.e., posts) are limited to 140 charters or less, you can scan them in a second or two. Writing them usually takes less than 30 seconds.

It can help build your personal “brand.” When people hear your name, what comes to mind? What is your reputation? What is the “brand promise”? Brands are built incrementally, one interaction at a time. Twitter gives you one more way to build your brand, one tweet at a time.

Twitter is just plain entertaining. Following your family and friends is kind of like watching reality TV. The difference is that you know the people and actually care about them. In this sense, it is even more fun, because you know more about the people from other contexts.

I love Kem’s final comment:

You see, Twitter is one practical illustration of how we've moved past the industrial age through the information age to the interconnected age. But, naysayers are still calling it silly and dumb. Hello. Anything can be silly and dumb--depending on how it's used.

Monday, April 6, 2009

The Carolina Way

Tonight UNC is playing Michigan State for the NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship – it’s my favorite night of the year!

I enjoy it even more when it’s an ACC school (usually Duke or UNC) playing for the championship and tonight I will be a Tarheel fan!

Dean Smith, legendary UNC coach, wrote a great book on leadership, The Carolina Way. I thought today would be a good day to quote Coach Smith on leadership:

“We couldn’t have had the long run of success that we enjoyed if we’d been too stubborn to change and come up with new ideas and different ways to play the game.

Don’t fear change. Sometimes change can refresh a stale team; sometimes it’s mandated by changing personnel; sometimes the rules of the game change. We adapted each year to hide our weaknesses and accentuate our strengths.

Although we didn’t have a system at North Carolina, we certainly had a philosophy. We believed in it strongly and didn’t stray far from it. It was our mission statement, our strategic plan, our entire approach in a nutshell: play hard; play smart; play together.

Hard meant with effort, determination and courage; together mean unselfishly, trusting your teammates and doing everything possible not to let them down; smart meant with good execution and poise, treating each possession as if it were the only one in the game.

I’ve long been convinced that college basketball coaches offer the best wisdom for church leadership. Typically they lead and serve institutions with great history and traditions (just like our churches). There are fans (students and alumni) with high expectations for a team’s performance (just like our congregations). For the most part their players are volunteers. Although the stars are certainly scholarship players – money is not available as an incentive to reward performance (we can’t use money to inspire our staffs or congregations).

College basketball coaches and pastors depend on a commitment to a common vision and goal, a love of the institution and dedication to teammates. That’s why Smith’s The Carolina Way and Mike Krzyzewski’s Leading with the Heart are two of my most read leadership books.

So tonight, as I am pulling for an ACC/UNC victory, I’ll also be thinking about how the Grace team might play hard, smart and together.

Friday, April 3, 2009

I'm so excited!

In the immortal words of the Pointer Sisters:

“I’m so excited and I just can’t hide it!”

I’m so excited that Project 180 2009 is ready to launch (and in a way already has with a teacher appreciation lunch at both schools).  We are looking at great weather for a weekend of loving God and our neighbors. 

Our missions director Melissa Brown and her team have done an amazing job and it promises to be an amazing experience of sharing (and sharing in) God’s love. To those of you’ve who’ve registered, thank you! We’ve reached our maximum number of volunteers! If you haven’t registered and want to be a part of this incredible event join us at the community festival - 1:30 at Paul Revere Middle School.

I’m so excited about our upcoming Easter Celebrations which begin this Sunday, traditionally known as Palm Sunday.

On Palm Sunday or 9:30 Sanctuary Service welcomes 7 time nominated Grammy jazz saxophonist Kirk Whalum as part of the worship band. I don’t want to give too much away but the service concludes with I Saw the Light and When the Saints Go Marching In.

On Maundy Thursday our Founders Chapel will be open for prayer and communion from 5:00 – 7:00. There will be an opportunity to pray with one of our pastors and to reflect quietly on the love and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Then at 7:00 our 9:30 Worship Team will present an evening of worship and reflection. The Life of Christ; an hour of scripture, music and testimony telling the story of Jesus. Following the presentation the chapel will remain open for prayer.

On Good Friday their will be three opportunities to remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross.
  • At noon the churches across West Houston will gather at First Methodist Houston (Westpark and Beltway) for an ecumenical service.
  • At 6:00 p.m. a repeat presentation of The Life of Christ in the Founders Chapel.
  • At 7:30 p.m. in our Sanctuary our Chancel Choir is joined by an Orchestra to present a powerful service of hymns, scriptures and anthems.
On Easter Morning we will rejoice together for Jesus’ resurrection that offers us a Life Worth Living with celebration services at 8:00 a.m., 9:30 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. Click here for more details.

God is on the move at Grace and I’m so excited I just can’t hide it!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

200 Pomegranates

This afternoon I picked up a book that's been sitting on my bookshelf for a few months - 200 Pomegranates and an Audience of One by Shawn Wood.  Shawn is a pastor at Seacoast Church whose main campus is in my hometown, Mt. Pleasant, SC.

The book takes it's inspiration from the brief account in 1 Kings 7 of a bronze worker named Huram (not to be confused with Huram the King of Tyre - I'm sure lots of you were confused by that).

Huram is summoned by King Solomon to participate in the construction of the Temple which included two large bronze columns.  At the top of the columns - more than thirty feet up in the air (where no one would be able to see it) Huram added the detail of 200 pomegranates cast in bronze.

It's a great book and a great story and one that is inspiring a potential teaching series (beware Band of Brothers).  Here's the main point:

Huram paid just as much attention to the details no one would ever notice as he did to the things more visible.  Huram was working for an audience of one - the only one who would ever see the top of the Temple columns - God.

And it makes me think about how careful I am with the details that no one will ever see.  


Wednesday, April 1, 2009

New Creation

This week I've been seriously working on the message for Easter morning.  I'm using a passage out of 2 Corinthians and reading it over and over to let it sink into my bones has been part of my preparation.  I thought I'd post it as well so that it might be a blessing to someone else.

This is The Message version of 2 Corinthians 5: 14 - 21:

Christ's love has moved me to such extremes.  His love has the first and last word in everything we do.

Our firm decision is to work from this focused center.  One man died for everyone.  That puts everyone in the same boat.  He included everyone in his death so that everyone could also be included in his life, a resurrection life, a far better life than people ever lived on their own.

Because of this decision we don't evaluate people by what they have or how they look.  We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know.  We certainly don't look at him that way anymore.  Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new.  The old life is gone; a new life burgeons!  Look at it!  

All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other.  God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins.  God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing.  We're Christ's representatives.  God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God's work of making things right between them.  We're speaking for Christ himself now.  Become friends with God, he's already a friend with you.

How? you ask.  In Christ.  God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.