Thursday, May 28, 2009

Summer Reading Lists

Many schools, in preparation for the coming year, provide their students with required reading lists for the summer.  Last night at dinner I asked our youngest daughter what was on her Summer Reading List – it hasn’t been released it.  Later it got me thinking:  

What would be on the Summer Reading List for the Grace Staff to prepare us for ministry this fall?

Here’s what I’ve come up with:

7 must read (or re-read) books for the summer + 1 web site 

Simply Christian by NT Wright – We will launch the fall with an “apologetics series” based on the second section of the book.  Reading or re-reading Simply Christian will help reinforce the message series.

Communicating for a Change by Andy Stanley – Anyone who communicates to groups as part of their ministry would benefit from the book.  It’s in two parts – a parable and an explanation of the parable. 

Basic Christian Leadership by John Stott – I’m convinced that anyone in leadership should read this book at least once a year.

 They Like Jesus But Not the Church by Dan Kimball – Dan will be our guest speaker on Sunday, October 4.  This is a great read and would be good preparation for welcoming Dan.

Think Orange by Reggie Joiner – Orange thinking will shape the direction of our children, student, parent and family ministries this fall. Chapters 2 – 4 are essential reading for anyone in leadership at Grace.
The Present Future by Reggie McNeal – Some of you will remember that I brought Reggie in to spend a day with our staff 4 years ago.  The Present Future remains a great reminder of the shifts that are taking place in churches today.

Killing Cockroaches by Tony Morgan – Tony is among the most creative strategist in the church world today.  This is a great read!

Advent Conspiracy –will be released this fall (I’ve pre-ordered a few copies). Advent Conspiracy is our theme for Christmas. For the summer lots of infor

mation can be found at

Then I added 8 additional summer reads (or re-readings) that will support our work this fall
Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell
The Starfish and the Spider – by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom
Pop Goes the Church – by Tim Stevens
Confessions of a Pastor – by Craig Groeschel
UnChristian by Dan Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons
Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni
Blue Like Jazz by Don Miller
Made to Stick by Chip and Dan Heath

Finally here are the titles among those I have on my own Summer Reading List (summer is my time to catch up on reading)
Quitting Church – Julia Duin
It – Craig Groeschel
Ten Stupid Things that Keep Churches from Growing – Geoff Surratt
Crazy Love – Francis Chan
Outliers – Malcolm Gladwell
Surprised by Hope – NT Wright
Less Cluttter - Kem Meyer

Finally if you are looking for a fiction read, a good friend is publishing her first book, which she describes as a great “beach read.”  It comes out next month and you can pre-order it at Amazon.  If enough people purchase her book maybe she’ll spring for dinner the next time our families are together!

Mourning Becomes Cassandra by Christina Dudley

So here’s the question:

What’s on your Summer Reading List?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Random Act of Witness

It’s become a fairly common story – the person in front of you in line (at a toll booth or Starbucks) anonymously pays for you as a random act of kindness.  This morning it happened to a member of our staff, Angela, while she was getting her morning Diet Coke at McDonalds.  As happens a lot, she responded to the gift by paying it forward and paying for the order of the car behind her in line (part of what I love about that is that Angela’s car has a big Clemson sticker on the back window – I hope the driver behind noticed – Go Tigers).  

I also hope the car behind did the same and that even now at the McDonalds on Westheimer people are spreading acts of kindness forward.

As Angela shared the story with me she commented that the person most impacted by this act of kindness was the McDonalds employee working the Drive Thru window.  He remarked, as she passed on the gift:

This is the sort of thing that makes it all worth it.

What a great reminder.

When we share Christ love, we are blessed, those receiving love are blessed but so are those who observe.

People are watching – which leaves a simple question:

What are they witnessing?

 PS: speaking of witnessing and thinking of Nike ads – I sure don’t want to jinx it and the LBJ is certainly talented enough to power the Cavs to come back from a 1 – 3 hole – but I am a witness to the Orlando Magic’s amazing resilience and desire!  Go Magic!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Heart and Soul

In the Scripture text that is the basis for this Sunday’s message (1 Samuel 14) there is a moment where Jonathan’s armor bearer indicates his support

I am with you heart and soul.

As beautiful as that sounds, the English barely captures the depths of this affirmation. The original Hebrew is much more eloquent:

I am with you like your heart is with you.

Take a moment and reflect on that image:

I am with you like your heart is with you.

It’s a picture of intimacy and of life giving power and I’m convinced it’s just a glimpse of the way that God is with us through the gift of His Holy Spirit.

You’ll have to come Sunday to get the rest of Jonathan and his armor bearer’s story (hint: God prevails against all odds) but you don’t have to wait until Sunday to experience God’s power at work in your life.

Today Jesus Christ is with you – like your heart is with you.

That makes all the difference in the world.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Simply Christian

Today we finished a sixteen week staff study of N T Wright’s Simply Christian.  It’s a amazing book and led to some great conversations.  I thought I’d mark the completion of the study but just the beginning of a conversation by posting to final paragraph which captures what it means to follow Jesus:

 Made for spirituality, we wallow in introspection.  Made for joy, we settle for pleasure.  Made for justice, we clamor for vengeance.  Made for relationship, we insist on our own way.  Made for beauty, we are satisfied with sentiment.  But new creation has already begun.  The sun has begun to rise.  Christians are called to leave behind, in the tomb of Jesus Christ, all that belongs to the brokenness and incompleteness of the present world.  It is time, in the power of the Spirit, to take up our proper role, our fully human role, as agents, heralds, and stewards of the new day that is dawning.  That, quite simply, is what it means to be Christian:  to follow Jesus Christ into the new world, God’s world, which he has thrown open before us.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

15 Books in 15 Minutes

I typically don’t respond to the facebook notes stuff – or the quizzes on which cars should be in my garage or which city I should live in (though I do find all that fascinating to read about you). But listing 15 books that will always stick with me captured my imagination – but it was really hard to do - a lot harder than I thought.

I limited myself to only one book by an author, counted multiple volume series as one, didn’t include the Bible and still ended up with 16 books on my list of 15:

Prince of Tides – Pat Conroy (Conroy’s My Losing Season really should be on the list too)
Velvet Elvis – Rob Bell
Simply Christian – NT Wright
Banner in the Sky – James Ullman (my favorite book in 4th grade)
A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson (really any Bryson book could be on the list)
The Fountainhead – Ayn Rand
The Lord of the Rings (the three volumes together) - J.R. Tolkien
The Seven Lamps of Architecture – John Ruskin
The Agony and the Ecstasy – Irving Stone
Learning from Las Vegas – Robert Venturi (if I had to leave one off to get to 15 I guess it would be this one)
Blue Like Jazz – Don Miller
The Chronicles of Narnia (all seven volumes) C. S. Lewis
Same Kind of Different as Me – Ron Hall and Denver Moore (the last book that made me cry)
Run with the Horses – Eugene Peterson
Basic Christian Leadership – John Stott
Life and Holiness – Thomas Merton

Monday, May 18, 2009

Orlando Magic

OK I can’t let yesterday’s Orlando win over Boston go by without a quick post.

Kim and I were in the O-rena 20 years ago for the Magic’s opening night.  We suffered through the really lousy years every expansion team must endure.  Rejoiced with all of Central Florida for the back to back drafts of Shaq and Penny.  Still remember the pain of Nick Anderson’s two missed free throws against the Rockets in the first game of the Finals.  Became Laker haters when Shaq was “stolen.”  Struggled through the Grant Hill surgeries and the T-Mac years.

Watching Dwight Howard and company beat Boston last was a perfect ending to a great day.

And I know I’m a fan but I actually believe the Magic match up well against the Cavs.

For 20 years I’ve loved this game and the Orlando Magic.

The Magic used to have a store called the Fan-Attic (maybe they still do).  I’m reminded of a Winston Churchill quote:

A fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.

Count me a Magic fanatic!

Prediction:  Magic over the Cavs in 6

Lessons from Apple and Orange (Orange 1)

Finally, as promised, I thought I’d start a series of posts on reflections from Orange 09.  Here’s the first.

Tim Cook, COO of Apple Computers, summarizes Apple’s business philosophy this way:

We believe that we are on the face of the earth to make great products

We believe in the simple not the complex

We believe that we need to own and control the primary technology behind the products we make

We believe in saying no to thousands of projects so that we can really focus on the few that are truly important and meaningful to us

We believe in deep collaboration and cross-pollination of our groups, which allows us to innovate in a way that others cannot

We don’t settle for anything less than excellence in every group in the company, and we have the self-honesty to admit when we are wrong and the courage to change

We only participate in markets where we can make a significant difference.

Apple is in the business of selling computers, phone and iPods but what is fascinating is how much they are also shaping culture.

I’ll have to confess the Apple cultural influence is why I am sitting in a coffee shop writing this post on my MacBook.

So here’s the thought / question:

What lessons might the church learn from Apple?


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Ping Pong Balls

The other day I posted a twitter tweet asking the question:

What would be the required diameter of a six foot tall cylinder in order to hold 1,000 ping pong balls?

Pretty quickly a member of our Grace family responded on my facebook page (thanks Ed):



1.575 in = D of a ping pong ball

V = 4/3 * 3.14 * r^3 4/3 * 3.14 * .7875^3 = 2.045 in^3

2.045 in^3 * 1000 balls = 2045 in^3

Spheres have a theoretical packing efficiency of 74% against themselves so

2045 in^2 74
_________ = _______
x 100

(2045 * 100) / /74 = 2763 in^3

2763 in ^ 3 = 3.14 * r^2 * 72 inches

12.22 in^2 = r^2 r = 3.50 inches

Diameter of 7.0 inches

But, this really breaks down, because this assumes 100% efficiency of the spheres against the cylinder walls. As the cylinder walls get smaller, the packing efficiency breaks down big time. so, realistically it would probably be around 10 inches or so.

To get the best answer, you would need to figure out the minimum size of a circle that could hold 22 1.575 diameter circles.



The response reminded me:

1. Communication is increasingly varied. The question posed on twitter was answered on facebook and is now being shared with you by email.

2. People with so many different gifts make up the family of Grace and each gift has a part to play in advancing the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Kingdom needs people who are great at:

  • Teaching
  • Organizing
  • Singing
  • Encouraging
  • Welcoming

And thousand of other activities (including calculating the diameter of a cylinder to hold 1,000 ping pong balls.)

When they all come together, empowered by God, earth becomes a little more “as it is in heaven” and the Kingdom is advanced!

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

created for justice, spirituality, relationship and beauty

In Simply Christian (which our staff is almost finished reading together) N T Wright says that we are:

Workers for justice,

Explorers of spirituality,

Makers and menders of relationships and

Creators of beauty

What an incredible picture of who we can be and yet I find myself so often lost in the midst of a week tempted to spend my time:

Working on the mundane

Exploring mediocrity

Making people happy and managing expectations and

Creating a mess.

We were created for justice, spirituality, relationship and beauty – I don’t know why we settle for less and ignore the whispers of our true identity.

 That’s the struggle we are exploring in our current message series – Identity Theft.  Last week Brian Mann created a great video on moving from consuming to serving.

Beast of Burden

Last week I was so overwhelmed by experience/information overload at the Orange Conference that I nearly shut down blogging and twitter.  As it all begins to process I am slowly reengaging.
I’ve been encouraged to start writing again mostly by
my friend Lynn who keeps bugging me that she is tired of reading about Timmy (see previous blog).

I’ve discovered that Lynn is not a big fan of Timmy or of Lassie (that last part troubles me – who doesn’t love Lassie).  Her childhood memories are of too many rescues from too many forest fires – to this day she gets nervous around fire and barking dogs. Ironically, she owns a Miniature Collie that looks exactly like a scaled down version of Lassie.

Anyway – she is right and it is definitely time for a new post – so she even supplied the topic.

Lynn is a counselor and shared with me the observation that sometimes we are like camels – we let people load stuff on our back.  They burden us with things like “shoulds” and values and expectations.  Lynn suggests that we get loaded down with all these things and all we can do is spit (like a camel). I’m not exactly sure what that means but she’s a counselor – people pay her money for this sort of wisdom – so I guess it’s worth repeating.

I do agree that too many of us are burdened by expectations that aren’t always realistic and aren’t always healthy. (ever since Lynn shared that thought I can’t get the Rolling Stones out of my head):

I’ll never be your beast of burden

My back is broad but it’s hurting…

I’ve walked for miles my feet are hurting….

I’ll never never never never never never never be…

So here’s the question as we begin Wednesday:

How am I letting people burden me with unrealistic expectations?

Bonus question:  How many fires did Lassie rescue Timmy from?

Lot’s of thoughts on Orange to follow in future posts but at least now I am writing again!