Thursday, January 30, 2014

Why is God mad at me?

As we thaw out (and in some cases tow our way out) from Tuesday’s storm we have perhaps an even greater appreciation for what it means to find ourselves in places where we are out of control of the events impacting us.  Sometimes life can feel a bit like trying to control a car skidding on black ice and in those moments we may find ourselves wondering: “Why is this happening to me?”

That query is at the heart of a new message series we begin this Sunday.  In coming weeks we will be searching for answers to the question: Why Is God Mad At Me?

Perhaps you’ve asked that question during a difficult season of your life.  The Old Testament character, Job, asked it repeatedly.  Job experienced tragic loss, grief, financial ruin, failing health, betrayal of friends and perhaps most cruel of all – the apparent silence of God in response to Job’s cry, "Why?”

As we seek answers we will discover how to keep moving forward, weep with one another and hold on to hope. A recurring theme throughout the series will be how to trust God in the darkness.  In preparing for the messages I came across this challenging thought from the British theologian, Arthur Peake:

To trust God when we understand Him would be but a sorry triumph for religion.  To trust God when we have every reason for distrusting Him… is the supreme victory of religion.
Arthur Peake, The Problem of Suffering in the Old Testament

If you’ve ever struggled to trust God, if you’ve ever wondered, “why is this happening to me” or if you’ve ever faced a season of loss or grief this is a message series you will want to attend.

It’s also a great series to extend an invitation to someone to you so that together we can be learning and sharing a better way to live (and to survive) in Christ.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Thank You Snow Angels

I've loved seeing posted pictures of kids making snow angels.  Even more I've loved watching Mountaintop's Snow Angels at work.  As of just a few minutes ago we have been able to get all of our kids, parents and most of our staff and teachers home and now it’s time to begin saying THANK YOU to some of our Snow Angels!

Thanks to some awesome angel drivers (the ones I know of include Chuck Bates, John Bates, Fred Miller, Phil Salter and Philip Oswald) we have successfully gotten almost all of our staff who were stuck on the mountain home.

Thank you angels Laird Crump and the teachers who remained to make sure all our kids where reconnected to their parents (many who struggled all day to get there).  There are a few Chambers tenants who are also still stranded so thank you angel Willie Dillard who volunteered to stay to cook dinner and breakfast for those who can’t get home and to make sure the heat stays on all night.

I will certainly miss some names but to mention just a few of the many angels deserving of thanks:  Willie - along with Jeff Beard – have been amazing.  Chris Conner and Scott Mains turned the Student Center into a home away from home.  Kristen Oswald and Jen Crowell made the atrium a hospitality suite. LaDonna Rausch found toothpaste and toothbrushes – that was an amazing gift this morning. Craig Peterson made sure we got paid and I even learned how to make coffee (look out coffee bar team here I come)!

Mixed into that were hundreds of acts of simple kindness that reflect the Good Samaritan stories we are hearing from all across Birmingham.  I overheard (or was part of) dozens of great conversations and I expect we will have a few guests checking us out on a Sunday because they were our guests in the storm last night!

As we head into the evening there is much to be thankful for and much to continue to lift up in prayer.  Pray for staff, parents and others who, along with so many others, are still trying to make their way home this evening.  Pray for those whose only home is a shelter.  Pray for those who like our staff who are still “on the mountain” caring for someone else tonight.  Pray for first responders and all those serving to protect us. 

And finally as I look toward the weekend and the launch of our series on Job the verse I can’t get out of my mind is:

To the snow, He issues the order: “Go! Fall on the earth!”
Job 37: 6


Mountaintop Church Offices will remain closed Thursday.

We will open as we are able on Friday to make sure we are ready for Sunday. Sunday is a big day kickoff to a new series and we want to be ready!

Mountain Tots will be closed Thursday AND Friday.

After truly exceptional efforts Laird and his staff need to get some rest!  Mountain Tots will reopen on Monday.

PS - If you are stranded around 65 and 31 Mountaintop Community Church is still open for anyone in need.

Leadership Lessons from Another Frozen Expedition

The events of the past 24 hours have reminded me of  one of my favorite leadership lesson from history that resulted from the 1914 Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition led by the British polar explorer Sir Ernest Shackelton.  When he was assembling a crew for the expedition Shackelton posted the following announcement:

MEN WANTED for Hazardous Journey. Small wages, bitter cold, long months of complete darkness, constant danger, safe return doubtful. Honour and recognition in case of success.

He received 5,000 responses for the 27 available positions!

In January 1915 his ship the Endurance became trapped in an ice deep in the Weddell Sea.  After waiting 11 months hoping the ship might be set free, the Endurance – crushed by the ice pack – sank.  It would be August 2016 before the entire crew was rescued without a single loss of life.  The journey to rescue required traversing ice packs, open seas and across an “impassable” mountain range.  Survival required tremendous courage, resilience and leadership.   Shackleton’s leadership principles included:

Hire an outstanding crew
Overcome fear and anxiety
Draw on the power of personal example
Stay optimistic, yet grounded in reality
Reinforce the message of team unity
Deal productively with conflict and dissent
Use appropriate humor to deal with tension
Step up to appropriate risks
Build a culture of tenacious creativity

Our Snowpocalplse isn’t anywhere close to what the crew of the Endurance experienced (of for that matter what the best man from my wedding experiences every Chicago winter) but it’s been a great reminder of the importance of leadership to survive the storms that come our way.

And I remain so proud of the way our “crew” is continuing to care for those entrusted to us here “on the mountain.”  I feel confident we will get everyone home safe and that it won’t take years!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Stranded on the Mountain

I probably shouldn’t have joked about “bread and milk runs” earlier this week to our Grownups Bible Study as I – along with 14 of our staff and 9 MountianTot teachers -am stranded here with a chance for all of us to serve “on the Mountain.”  We have as guests about 25 MountainTot kids plus their parents, a half dozen kids without parents, a dozen of our tenants from Chambers and a random collection of motorists who became stranded nearby (and who are still trickling in).  Thanks Leon!

In the midst of our “Snow-PocalypseI am so very proud of our staff.  Some immediately turned our atrium into a hospitality suite with hot cider and snacks and the Frozen soundtrack playing in the background.  Another group trudged through the snow to get enough groceries so that we could cook dinner for all our kids and guests this evening (and breakfast tomorrow morning).  The MountainTot teachers volunteered to stay with kids throughout the night.  Staff members have helped parents walk kids up and down the hill and now (as we are settling down) are helping everyone find a place to spend the night.  I just finished a great conversation with one of our guest who teaches an 8th grade Sunday School class about his Sunday School “homework” – there are a lot of great conversations taking place.  AND we are even showing an 80’s classic on the big screen in the Sanctuary (you will have to guess the title – hint:  everyone needs a hero).

Our vision is to learn and share a better way to live in Christ.  Tonight we are living into that vision – sharing what we have with neighbors in need – that’s a better way to live!

If you or a friend are stranded near 65 and 31 we are open with warmth and wifi (I think we are out of beds) and what’s true on Sunday morning is especially true tonight – EVERYONE IS WELCOME!

PS – As you pray for everyone impacted by the storm add a prayer that the roads clear enough tomorrow that we will be able to get the kids, our guests and our staff home safely.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Some People Are Worth Melting For

Last weekend I had a chance to see Disney’s latest animated film Frozen.  I absolutely loved it!  As a dad of daughters I liked that the princess is no longer dependent on a prince to rescue her (sorry if that’s a spoiler).  The music is amazing (and ready for Broadway) and the dialogue is witty for both kids and adults.  

That is especially true of the very likable character, Olaf the Snowman.

One of my favorite scenes had this exchange between Olaf and Kristoff (the heroic ice merchant):

Olaf the Snowman: I don't know why, but I've always loved the idea of summer and sun and all things hot.

Kristoff: Really? I'm guessing you don't have much experience with heat.

Olaf the Snowman: Nope.

Olaf provides great humor and also one of the movies most beautiful moments. In a pivotal moment (and after gaining some experience with heat) Olaf expresses his love for Anna (the princess) when he tells her: Some people are worth melting for.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot since seeing the movie. 

Some people are worth melting for.

When ordinary people realize that people are worth melting for it can lead us to places where God does extraordinary things.

One of the ways you can show someone that they are worth melting for is to invite them to join you at church – where you can introduce them to Someone who believes that they are actually worth dying for.    A simple ordinary invitation can lead to an extraordinary transformation.