December 21, 2012

Looking Back...and Ahead!

Be back in 2013. But first, allow me to share a few things with you...

I'm looking forward to an incredible new year of challenges and opportunities to share the love of Christ with others and make an impact for the Kingdom of God. Our family is currently walking through the journey of adoption - asking the Lord in His perfect timing and in His perfect way to bring our lives together with this child that He has planned to graft into our hearts. Morgan & I have been constantly reminded, broken over, and at the same time overjoyed by the fact that we have "received the Spirit of adoption as sons (and daughters)" - that we can cry out to the Father because of the work of the Son. God isn't just in favor of adoption; it's His heartbeat! We appreciate your prayers as we walk this road, seeking His will and waiting on His direction.

Moving on, I've never openly revealed this, mainly because of the accountability that would come with it, which I just wasn't ready for. That said, it's time to lay the cards on the table and let you know that I'm writing a book. I'm not sharing this because I think you should be thrilled, impressed, or overwhelmed by this earth-shattering news, but mainly to ask for your prayers as I try to articulate this message the Lord has laid on my heart over the past five years. This is a great part of the reason why this blog has been neglected over the last months. I'm praying it bears fruit. And to be specific with you - further heightening the accountability - my goal is to have this written by my birthday, August 6. So here we go!

I think I have read more books this year than in the last 2-3 years combined. There are days I almost battle frustration at wanting to ingest way more than I possibly have time for. As a result of one book I am currently wrapping up, I am considering a couple of things in my life that I am almost certainly convinced need change. And by change I mean complete transformation and overhaul. Rather than go into great detail on that, I would simply say that if you want to know more - and if you're ready to have the Lord pick up your worldview, turn it upside down, shake the mess out of it, and pour it out like salt on french fries - pick up a copy of "7" by Jen Hatmaker. But I warn you, do NOT open this book if you're content with staying right where you are spiritually, emotionally, habitually, or relationally. The Holy Spirit will take his invisible, hot finger, press it in on the areas of excess in your life, and cause you to examine and inventory what it is that you've allowed to occupy the throne in your heart. Fasten your seatbelt!

I could not be more excited about the team we have leading at The Brook. Our church family constantly causes my heart to explode because of their generosity and hearts of service. And our staff encourages, challenges, and pushes me constantly to be a better leader and pastor. We have some very strategic and intentional crossroads we are approaching together, very slowly moving our church body toward missional community and working with Auxano over the coming months to gain clarity over our mission, vision, and how the Lord has uniquely gifted, equipped, and called our church to advance His Kingdom in Madison, Huntsville, and around the world. Much more to come on that...

What an incredible year this has been. It's felt like a constant uphill climb, which has been insanely difficult at times. But the reward - the view of not only what's behind but what's ahead - is so worth it. I'm looking forward to the next 2 weeks of renewal and retreat, and can't wait to see what the Lord has ahead.

See you in 2013!

October 26, 2012

Kids Worship

Churches all over the place frequently struggle and wrestle with the issue of having children in their worship services. If you simply attend a church (which is another issue for another day) you may wonder, "Is this seriously an issue?" Absolutely! And many hours of many staff meetings are spent hashing it out each week. In fact, Newspring Church in Anderson, SC, does not allow younger children in their worship services at all. On there website they let newcomers know this:

"We are so passionate about kids learning about Jesus in a way they can understand that we do not allow them in our service designed for adults and students (6th grade and older). All kids (babies through 5th grade) attend Kidspring each Sunday."

I bring this up because I think it's worth having the conversation and helping people understand why this is such an important issue to consider. At The Brook, there are not many things we openly, publicly FORBID. We don't have any signs that read: NO KIDS IN THE WORSHIP SERVICE! At the same time, I (and all of our staff and leadership) would completely agree with Newspring's philosophy and reasoning behind this. I want to explain WHY we think this is the best option for everyone.

First off, as Newspring puts it on the website, kids don't learn like adults. I know most people read/hear that and think, "Well, duh." But the fact is, while most people believe that they don't always act on it. Not only are our worship services designed to draw in and reach people 16-18 and older, our kids worship service is completely geared toward them. And if you took a Sunday and joined in on what happens in Faith Factory (our service for kids K-4th Grade), you'd see that kids not only learn differently than we do, they seem to worship differently as well. A very GOOD differently! They aren't inhibited. They aren't worried about whether or not someone cares if they bust out in dance. I think they figure, "The Bible says to dance, sing, shout, and celebrate who God is!", so let's do it. Why would we want to squash that? If we allow a generation or two to truly learn what it means to freely worship the Lord, maybe they'll come into our services and start to shake the place!

On this same note, we hear all kinds of reasoning behind why parents sometimes bring their kids into the worship service. Here are a couple:

"My kid just doesn't feel comfortable in the kids service." 
Guess what? If they never go, they never will. Consider this: Could it be much more to their benefit for YOU to go with them for awhile, until they become more "comfortable", rather than bringing them with you so they can draw on a bulletin or play Angry Birds for 45 minutes? Something to think about.

"My son/daughter just seems to be more mature than what they're doing in the kids service."
Really? If that's the truth, then for the sake of all the other children, please allow them to GO to the kids service and rub off on all the other children! If they're that "mature", then they'll certainly see the role of spiritual leadership that the Lord is calling them on to as a mature believer. You know, like it says in Hebrews 5:11-6:1. There are a TON of ways they can be leading! 

Another factor in all of this is a concept that I think we often fail to consider: other people. When a child starts talking - squirming - yelling - it distracts everyone around them. And we're not just talking about the person in the seat behind you. People on the complete opposite side of a sanctuary start bending their necks, trying to figure out, "Where is that noise coming from?" The pastor or preacher, attempting to deliver a message that they've (hopefully) spent a LONG time preparing and praying over is stopped dead cold in the middle of a train of thought, often left fumbling to remember, "What in the world was I saying?" Are we considering the 100-150-300 other people who are present?

One last thing I think is worth discussing. I firmly believe that there are some parents - and I think (hope & pray) that they are few and far between - who bring their kid(s) with them to the worship service as an excuse. An excuse to not pay attention themselves. An excuse to get up and walk out early. An excuse of "They need to hear this more than I do!" If you've struggled, wrestled with, or been guilty of this, I hope you'll begin to understand: Your child is not an excuse. Don't use them as one. You will regret it and so will they.

We work incredibly hard at The Brook to craft an opportunity every single week for our kids to fully experience the power and presence of God - and to do it in an environment designed uniquely for them. As a parent, we encourage you to take full advantage of this. And remember: ALL KIDS WORSHIP. It's our responsibility as parents to teach them WHO it is that they were made and designed to worship. 

October 19, 2012

Posture

If I had to guess, I would say my posture probably isn't the best. I have a tendency to be sway-backed, stress out my neck and shoulders, and most likely slouch a bit. (And by "a bit", I mean "a LOT") And of course I love sitting in my recliner, where slouching is the whole purpose. But with a herniated disc in my lower back and a bulging disc in my upper back (neck), the reality for me is that posture is an enormously important thing. Yet, most of the time, I don't care. It's not like I don't CARE, but the fact that I do nothing about it and keep on slouching and stressing reveals that I really don't care. At least enough to do anything about it. It would do me a world of good to start paying closer attention to my posture. What about you?

How about in your worship? Does our "posture" matter?

Psalm 95:6 says, "Come, let us worship and bow down. Let us kneel before the Lord our maker, for He is God. We are the people He watches over, the sheep under His care." Paul tells us in Philippians 2 that one day "every knee will bow" before Jesus Christ, giving Him the praise and glory and honor that only He deserves. Throughout scripture, there's evidence that our physical posture - the way we physically come into the presence of God to praise, celebrate, revere and adore Him - has significance in our worship. When David's son was ill (due to David's own sin) he "went without food and lay all night on the bare ground." David is found leading the nation to "fall down with their faces to the ground" and another time, in celebration of the victory the Lord had given the nation, dancing through the streets. (A bit naked, from what I understand.) Our physical posture says something. What it reveals is the posture of our heart.

On any given Sunday in any worship service at any church gathering, you're likely to find all sorts of postures. I often have opportunity to observe this from 2 different perspectives: sitting behind everyone in our worship center, seeing the posture of their bodies, and from the platform, with the expressions on their faces in full view. I am almost always moved by seeing a woman, standing to her feet, arms stretched to heaven, as if to say, "Lord, all I have is yours! All I am is yours! Take it all Lord!" I'm equally stirred by seeing a man, on his knees at the altar or the foot of the cross, knowing that he's pleading to the Lord on behalf of his wife, children, and family. Posture matters. Posture says something.

It also says something when you see the individual - in the midst of a mass of worshipers, pouring out their hearts and lifting their voices singing, "Your love never fails, it never gives up, it never runs out on me!" - slouched down in their chair, arms folded, eyes rolled back in their head like mine were in College Algebra class. What their posture says is something to the effect of, "I think I'm in hell, I'll never cheer up, you ought to give up on me." That posture says, "I don't care. I have no idea why I'm here. Please put me out of my misery."

What does your posture say?

Please hear me: If someone doesn't know the Lord and they've come to check things out - skeptical - observing - guarded - and we expect anything different from them, we're kidding ourselves. If their heart hasn't yielded to the Lord, then why on earth would their face or their actions? This is about us. Those of us who claim the name and the shed blood of Jesus Christ over our lives! Those of us that have been eternally, radically, forever transformed by the life-changing news of the Gospel! What does our posture say?

Before you gather for corporate worship this weekend - as you hopefully withdraw for private, intimate communion with the Lord - ask the Holy Spirit to prepare your heart, and as a result, to take control of your posture. 

May our body language say, "Bless the Lord, oh my soul. And all that is within me bless His holy name!"

October 18, 2012

Bad Advertisers

I'm currently reading The Tangible Kingdom, by Hugh Halter. I will very soon be writing on, reviewing, and regurgitating much of what Hugh has to say about missional community, it's biblical foundation and origin, and its powerful return as the main driver of the gospel to the lost world we live in. And when I say "lost world", I'm referring to the very culture, city, and neighborhood where you set your security system and shut your garage door. If the church - not "the place where" but "the people who" follow Jesus Christ - doesn't return to missionary, exile living (and abandon our sheltered, attractional ways), we will very quickly see that the Lord's main sending agent into the world has rendered itself irrelevant in America. But on to the real reason for this post.

In The Tangible Kingdom, Halter makes this statement:

"Advertisements by their very nature are intended to coerce thinking and behavior. They are needed when there is no personal relationship between the seller and the potential buyer. This type of coercion is expected when you're trying to decide what beer to drink or car to buy, but it's highly offensive when people try to tell you important truths without any tangible relationship."

In my first 2 years of college (when I was a Telecommunications/Marketing major at Texas Tech University), I was armed with just enough marketing and advertising knowledge to be dangerous - to myself and others. That said, it has actually been of enormous help to me as a pastor and as someone who knows that the power of influence is crucial. The above statement is spot on. And here's why it's important to those of us who are already IN the church: 

We're quickly becoming "advertisers" with NO credibility to sell a product.

NO. I am by NO means suggesting that Jesus is a "product" (OR) that we are door-to-door salesmen. But that's my point. We act like we are. And the worst part is we really suck at it. What we ARE good at is the old "Bait & Switch". Of course the above billboard is going to get some folks attention. But when they show up and the Jesus you sell them is only half as interesting as Justin Timberlake, they're done. Seriously? Jesus is bringing sexy back? 

If you don't agree with me, or you're just plain agitated with what I'm saying, then think about this question for a moment: Why do churches need to "advertise"?

Shouldn't the lives of "the people who" call themselves "the church" be so powerfully impacting the lives of those around them that the idea of needing to put a mediocre commercial on cable TV borders on absurd? Should we be "coercing" people to visit "the place where" or should "the people who" be influencing them in such a way that they just long to be a part of this thing called the family of God?

This is not a post against commercials. I have friends who make commercials.
This is a question about HOW we're attempting to reach people. 
Are we even making an attempt?
Are we broken for those around us who are walking in darkness, bearing the weight of hopelessness?
Are our lives building credibility to the message our lips should be speaking:

"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has appointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the downtrodden will be freed from their oppressors, and that the time of the Lord's favor has come."

October 16, 2012

The LAST Thing Should Be the FIRST Thing

I don't know about you, but it seems like most of the time the LAST thing I do winds up being the FIRST thing I should have done. Whether it's taking action, caving in to worry and anxiety, assuming the worst about someone or something (or some circumstance that's even more out of my control than what I really realize), or even planning for the future, I often tend to walk these paths only later to look behind me - catch a glimpse in my rearview at the wake of what I've left behind - and wonder, "Why didn't I pray?" Have you been there? Are you there now?

I don't just mean throw up a few "Hey, God...if you're listening..." heaves of desperation, I'm talking about communing with the Father. Coming "boldly to the throne of our gracious God" and begging for His wisdom, discernment, guidance, and simply to rest in His presence. Why is this often the LAST thing we do?

This morning I was reminded that in "church work" (whatever the heck that actually means) we are sometimes more guilty of this than anyone. We get so entrenched in the DOING that we run away from the Lord, like a little kid at the mall. Only kids at the mall run ahead of their parents. We don't get AHEAD of God, we just wander off in what we think is the right direction. "Hurry up, would you, Lord! We don't have all day!" Where the Lord got my attention this morning was in Matthew 9:35-38. Jesus took pity on the crowds because they "were like sheep without a shepherd". So his instruction to the disciples was to "pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask Him to send out more workers for His fields." Take a minute and study those words carefully. Seriously. Read them again.

Notice a few things:

  • Jesus did NOT say, "Men, get your butts in gear and start recruiting more people. Come up with a better way to market this, fellas. Stop sitting around, waiting on them. Go get'em!" The FIRST thing He tells them do is PRAY.
  • Those of us in "the ministry" often get delusional - almost dizzied - and start confusing things, thinking that WE are in charge of "the harvest". We would be wrong. As Paul says in Corinthians, it is "God, not us, who make it grow... You are God's field, God's building - not ours." We're the workers. HE owns the field.
  • It is the Lord who does the sending - the calling and drawing - not us. The Spirit of God speaks, lures, breaks, captivates, and calls to the heart of the Father. We can't do that. Yet, if we're being honest, we often live, act, preach and lead like we think we can.
What are we called to do? PRAY.
What is NOT a means to end - a desperate cry for the greater work to take place - but actually the greater work itself? PRAYER.

Where is the need around you? Are you seeing that "the harvest if plentiful"? Have you prayed? Have you asked the One in charge of the need to do something about it?

We are called to make disciples.
We are called to "equip the saints to do the work of ministry".
We are called to plant, to water, to cultivate, and yet to always remember that it is ONLY the Lord "who makes it grow"

Let's return to the mandate of our Savior and consistently, constantly, fervently "pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; asking Him to send out more workers for His fields." Let's stop allowing the FIRST priority to be our LAST resort!

October 12, 2012

Come early. Park far. Sit close.


Come early. Park far. Sit close.

We came up with this little mantra earlier this year, preparing our people to actively make a difference for the guests who would show up at our services on Easter Sunday. When we first began challenging our church family with this idea, it was almost overwhelming how many people responded. We had several individuals and families who not only took the exhortation seriously; they even switched to our early (9:00) service to make more room for guests in our late (10:45) service. It was incredibly encouraging.

Since that time, knowing that the newness and impact of the phrase (and with it, the idea itself) has worn off, many people have drifted back to the way things were before; showing up late, parking as close as they can (since they’re already late and need to get in quickly), and coming in and filling up the back seats. Old habits die hard.

I’d like to take a few minutes and explain why this is more than just a catchy mantra or passing catch-phrase; that it’s actually a window into our worship.

First off, why “Come early”? Our consumer culture (even penetrating into the church and Christianity) believes that it’s “all about me”. We would never say this, but most folks come shopping (call it hunting, if it makes you feel better) and looking for a church that “meets my needs” or that does music the way we like it. It’s initially about ME. That said, it can’t stay about me. At some point, it has to become about others. And to take it a step further, it’s actually all about God! So when we encourage our people to come early, it’s for several reasons:
  • ·      If we discipline ourselves to come early, then we are much more likely to discipline ourselves to prepare our hearts before we even arrive.
  •     When we come early, we’re here – ready and available – to greet guests who come in, creating a welcoming environment of hospitality. Most of us forget what it feels like to not know anyone.
  •     Do you show up for your job late? (If your answer is “Yes”, then we have another conversation that needs to take place.) What about sporting events? My son and I arrive at Tennessee Football games 2-3 hours before the kickoff! We don’t want to miss a thing that happens! It’s a matter of priority. Are you making corporate worship a priority?
  •     Our worship team spends 3-4 hours preparing for what they’re going to do to lead us on Sunday mornings. When you miss the first 10 minutes, you are saying to them without ever uttering a word, “I don’t care about your time.” You might not mean this, but it’s the message that’s being sent.
Moving on, why does it matter where we park? The answer is simple, really. Our desire is not only to honor our guests – to make them feel welcome and wanted – but to make things as easy as possible for them. The more parking places there are at the front, the better. It also leaves room for pregnant mothers, senior adults, and families with special needs. (And do we even need to mention that most of us probably need the exercise?)

You came early, and you even parked in the north 40, but why should you “Sit close”? The answer to this question is much like the last one. The people we expect to come in a few minutes late are our guests. Maybe they couldn’t find The Brook, they got lost, or they just wanted to slip in unnoticed their first time here. We extend them this opportunity when we leave the back few rows empty and open. But when the first place people gravitate is toward the back, those guests – or anyone, for that matter – who walk in late are forced to feel as though they’re “making a scene”, parading in front of everyone. And it can actually be a huge distraction, not only for those sitting around them, but also for those leading.

Come early. Park far. Sit close.
This is way more than just bumper sticker material; it’s a worldview. It’s a window into how you look at life, your hunger for God, and your love of others. I want to ask you to prayerfully consider taking this challenge with us. And even if you don't go to The Brook, I know this would apply at your church as well. I have overwhelming evidence that as you take this step to bless others, you will be blessed in the process.

October 10, 2012

Don't Waste the Whiteboard

Over the past few years I've become a fan of the whiteboard. In our offices we keep a stocked arsenal of dry erase markers. I like to be ready at all times! In most cases when my chicken scratch winds up on the wall, it's for one of a couple purposes: 1) to take notes of a conversation our staff is having on a current issue or 2) for brainstorming. (I've been known to bust out the whiteboard during my sermons now and then, but that's mainly just to put a visual to the teaching. Different scenario.) When we use the whiteboard to keep a visual record of our dialogue, I now take a picture with my phone and clip it into Evernote so that I can follow up with it later. It's incredibly helpful. But then...there's the brainstorming. What about the brainstorming? What do we do with that? Maybe an even better question for us to ask is WHY? Why do we brainstorm? This is something I've been thinking about a lot lately.

Humor me, if you will, but I've recently wondered, "If the whiteboard could talk, what would it say?" After our staff - or one of our teams - or you and your team - huddle together, attempt to let our minds go "outside the box", spew our humble, yet hopefully creative musings all over the wall in full color display, what would the whiteboard say to us? Here are a few things that I think we might possibly hear:
  • Is that all you've got?
  • They're never going to say everything they're thinking for fear of your criticism.
  • Why did you quit? Right when you started to get somewhere...you quit.
  • What's the point if you don't risk something? What's the point if you don't go out on a limb and put this to the test?
The definition of brainstorming could be described as "an exercise in which members of a group attempt to creatively solve a problem by gathering a list of spontaneous ideas". (I borrowed a morsel from the Wikipedia definition) So a few things have to actually happen for brainstorming to occur:
  1. You have to have a group. Rarely can brainstorming be a solo activity.
  2. Members of the group can't enter the session with preconceived ideas. This would not be spontaneous.
  3. Members of the group have to trust each other. NO ONE will feel the freedom to spout out off-the-wall or (potentially) crazy or risky ideas when the fear of criticism or rejection hangs looming over their heads.
  4. There has to be an understanding that for a certain period of time - even if it's just for a few minutes - anything goes. If you're really striving for "spontaneous creative thought", you can't be afraid of the ridiculous. [And there has to be an understanding that a vital part of brainstorming occurs afterwards: weeding out the ridiculous to find the potentially real game-changer. While I have to feel the freedom to inject my thoughts without limits, I also have to be mature enough to see them thrown out later.]
  5. And finally, if you're the leader - if you're the one organizing, moderating, and leading the brainstorming session - and you're not really at the end of the day wanting the creative input of others - if what you actually want is for someone to rubber stamp or affirm your own ideas - don't waste the whiteboard! Don't waste the time and energy and brain-power and God-given courage for spontaneity of those who are willing to lay it out there. Just do it the way you want it done and be done with it.
Brainstorming is risky. It's time-consuming. It's work. But if you're willing to do the work, take the time, and (most importantly) take the risk, it will be worth it in the end. Because if all you come away with is ONE really good idea, you've got so much more than what you started with. So do the work. Take the time. And take the risk!

October 4, 2012

The Church & The Children

Parenting. There is no job on earth like it. You don't punch a clock or get a lunch break. In fact, it's not a job at all; it's a God-given honor and responsibility. So much so that scripture says in Psalm 78:5-7 that the Lord "commanded our fathers to teach their children, that the next generation might know...and arise and tell their children, so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments." The greatest calling of discipleship that God has placed on us happens in our own home - our children. There is no greater calling. (See also Deuteronomy 6)

How does the church fit into this? This is a question I addressed in my sermon this past Sunday. [You can listen to the podcast here: The Next Generation
2 important points I made were:
  • It's the church's responsibility to equip/train parents to equip/train their kids.
  • It's the parents responsibility to teach their children WHO God is and WHAT He's done.
Church - train parents.
Parents - train children.

Obviously close to nothing on earth is actually this simple. Yet, we tend to make it a whole lot more complex than it is. Traditionally and culturally - if you've "grown up" (and I use that term loosely) in the church - the tendency is to think  that the local church needs to provide all kinds of opportunities, events, and programs for kids. If there's a void, we tend to look to the church to do something about it. But I would challenge that, while the void felt is real and legitimate, the seemingly natural solution to the void is not. It's not the church's responsibility to train your children. It's yours.

At the end of the day, I think most Christians believe this. At least, they'll say they believe this. Which is why it's incredibly confusing that some Christian parents seem determined to find one more thing for their kids to "do". As if one more program at the church is going to radically transform their life. (And while I know that there are actually some parents that are ultimately just looking for a safe place to "dump" their kids, I operate under the hopeful assumption that this is NOT the motive of most.) I would ask: Isn't the greater possibility that the void is in the home? Could it be that the void being felt is that we feel completely inadequate and ill-equipped to train these little people up in the ways of the Lord? Yes. This is the more likely source of our frustrations. So the real question becomes, "What are we going to do about it?"

While I can only speak for myself and our church, we have determined that we are going to continue taking steps to train and equip parents. At the same time, we're going to lead, encourage, challenge, and exemplify to them what it means to leave margin in your life (lives) to actually be able to LIVE OUT the faith that we are teaching them. We are not going to create more calendar chaos to inhibit or paralyze our people from actually "training up their children". We're going to do the opposite. I believe that if we take the guidance and mandates of the Lord from scripture (Deut. 6, Psalm 78, Matthew 28) and read them as one, we can hear Him telling us, "As you're going to soccer practice, as you're having breakfast together, as you're cooking out with your neighbors, as you're tucking them into bed - everywhere you go, as you go - teach them. Train them. Tell them WHO I am. Tell them WHAT I've done! Show them the evidence in your own life that I am Almighty, most Holy, Sovereign, Faithful, Wonderful God. Tell them WHO they are in me - sons and daughters. Show them what to do - follow Jesus. And let me know that this life is ONLY lived through the power of my Spirit working through them. Train them. Teach them. Show them. Always!"

This is the relationship between the church and the children.
This is the greatest burden and responsibility we bear as parents.
This is the greatest honor and privilege we know.
We bear this burden together. No one can do it alone.

Have you felt this burden or void? Do you feel this inadequacy? 
Is your church train you to train them? Or are they just "taking care" of your kids?

More to come....

September 7, 2012

The Other Side


NOTE: This is the first post I wrote for Relevant Magazine's God Column. It was an enormous blessing to see the Lord use trial, sorrow, and the valley in my life to be an encouragement to others. I think that's a vital part of our journey as Christ-followers - our suffering and sorrow shaping our hearts and drawing us to the great Comforter. I hope you are encouraged.

Have you ever had that moment, that experience, that phone call that you won’t forget for the rest of your life? I have. It was Friday night, January 9th, 2004, at 10:15pm. I was at one of my former students homes; he had just returned from boot camp and a group of us had gone over to hang out and hear the stories. My phone rang and it was my brother. He asked me where I was and if I could get somewhere private. “Are you sitting down?” This immediately pushed the panic button. I went into a bedroom, closed the door, and said, “What’s going on?” Here is the point where life changed…and has never been the same.

A sidenote for background purposes: My parents had just a year and a half earlier built their last house; the one they would retire in, have the grandchildren playing in the backyard, host BBQ’s and dinner parties – the house was great. And it wasn’t anything ridiculously extravagant. It was just what they needed. One of the details about my parents home that added so much to its beauty was the 12-foot ceilings. This made the house seem so much bigger than it probably was. I loved that house.

So I sat down and asked my brother, “What’s going on?” Very calmly Brent told me that Dad had been in the attic and fallen through the ceiling. And when he fell (12 feet down) he hit his head on the island in the middle of the kitchen. They were in the ambulance, headed to the hospital and Dad wasn’t conscious. I kept waiting on the “good part”, the part where he says, “…but the paramedics think he’s fine…he’ll be OK….” The good part never came.

That night was filled with phone calls, prayers, tears and 15-minute segments of sleep here and there. It seemed eternal. The next morning I got on a plane with my wife and daughter and took the Wichita to Dallas flight. We were at Harris Hospital in Ft. Worth before 9am. As I entered the hospital, I remember being awestruck by the hundred or so people gathered in the lobby from my parents church. Yes, hundreds. You see, my dad was a pastor. Not a preacher…a pastor. And for years, if you were a member of Fielder Road Baptist Church and you were in the hospital, or your spouse had suddenly passed away, or your child was lying in NICU with a breathing tube, or your daughter had run away in anger, or your marriage was being torn apart – my dad was there. You would be hard-pressed to find a handful of people at the church (and we’re talking out of thousands) who had not been touched or impacted by my dad and his ministry. And now suddenly, HE was the one in need. It was as if this countless army of people who were part of our family had no choice but to come…to be there. And I remember standing there in the lobby at one point that morning, being touched by people with tears and smiles, and someone suddenly breaking out into my dad’s favorite hymn, “The Love of God”. I was moved.

I remember my mom taking me into my dad’s room in the Trauma ICU and not being able to do anything but stand there, hold my dad’s hand and cry. I remember as my mom left the room, leaning over on my dad’s chest and weeping, asking him to wake up. You are never the same when you’ve seen someone you love strapped to a bed with wires coming off of every part of their body and a breathing tube snaked down their throat. It changes you. Instantly.

The next day I was in my dad’s room, with my head again on his chest, and all of a sudden I heard a man named Don joyfully and confidentally praying over my dad, claiming his life and ministry could not possibly be coming to a close. Don put his hand on me at one point and I lost it. I believed everything he was praying, I just couldn’t get those words out of my own mouth. I didn’t feel that I could say anything to God without screaming. I would re-live this moment and many like it over and over again the next weeks. And then, something happened.

I remember, after returning to Wichita and attempting to return to life as normal, the phone call from my mom saying, “Dad’s opening his eyes!” You don’t know the power of those words until you’ve lived everything that came before them. This was the beginning of a very long road; a road with twists, turns, hills, potholes, detours and passers-by, oblivious to the baggage we were towing. It’s also a road that my family remains on today. You don’t walk this mountain and return the same. Things don’t return to normal. But I think one thing I’ve discovered is, normal is a mirage; it’s a figment of our imagination. Normal is a sedative we allow ourselves to swallow that makes us think we’re untouchable and that life as we know it is in this invisible bubble. Well, my bubble was popped.

I’ve realized that there was so much God had done through my dad’s accident, recovery, and his new life, that would never have happened without walking through this trial and experiencing everything that came with it. I think of the countless times I’ve been able to put my hand on someone, pray with them, and feel their pain in my heart. I KNOW what they’re going through. I know what it’s like to feel powerless, wanting that person you love to wake up, get up, go back and to have never gone into that attic, or gotten in that car. I drive by people now and realize that I have no idea what might have been thrown their way today. I just don’t know, and neither do you.

I’m not sure if you’ve gotten that phone call or had that moment, but if and when it comes, know that you will be changed. Know that the things you see and the way you will look at life could never have been seen from the other side. And know that the times when we are rendered powerless, we are never hopeless. Those are the moments God made us for.

September 6, 2012

Using Your Own Fork


NOTE: A few years ago I had the privilege of writing a couple of posts for Relevant Magazine's website. Recently I've had several conversations not only about these issues, but the posts themselves. So I thought I'd repost them in hopes that they might be an encouragement to someone. This is the first. (My son is now almost 8 years old. I guess a few years means 5-6!)

Recently, I dialogued with someone who shared with me of their plan to find a new church. This person felt that he could no longer attend our church because he was not “being fed”. Due to the fact that I have heard these words countless times before, it got me wondering, “What does that actually mean? Why are there so many Christians out there leaving their churches because they are spiritually starving?” Am I missing something?

The writer of Hebrews boldly confronts the church by saying, “You have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things a beginner must learn from the Scriptures. You are like babies who drink only milk and cannot eat solid food. And a person who is living on milk isn’t very far along in the Christian life and doesn’t know much about doing what is right. Solid food is for those who are mature, who have trained themselves to recognize the difference between right and wrong and then do what is right.” (Hebrews 5:11-14, italics mine)

My son is 2 years old and is moving into the “I want to be a big boy” phase very rapidly. We’re working on potty training right now. What fun! But as we were teaching my son how to eat –  how to chew his food, how to use a fork, why we don’t throw the green beans, we eat them – without question, the most difficult task my wife and I faced was getting him to the point where he fed himself. He would devour a mouthful of mac & cheese, but we had to put it on the fork and put it in his mouth. This wasn’t really going to help him in the long run. After all, if you can’t feed yourself, you starve.

Considering this, it makes me wonder: Could it be that so many get to this place of feeling they’re not “being fed” be due to the fact that we haven’t taught them well enough how to feed themselves? Should we have new classes in church like Feeding: 101 and Using Your Own Fork? Seriously. Should it be reduced to this? Or could it also be that there are many who never get beyond the contentment and complacency of having someone else feeding them? Doing the work for them? Surviving on milk?

Acts 2 is a description of the early church. Luke tells us that the people “…joined with other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles’ teachings….” (Acts 2:42, italics mine) Somewhere very early in the journey these people went from “being fed” to doing the feeding. They may have continued to be taught, led, fed, discipled and cultivated, but they also began to teach, lead, feed, cultivate and make disciples. And I believe they also figured something else out: if I’m not serving – putting my gifts to use – then I’ll eventually wind up starving. The cup gets full and has to be poured out. Otherwise, it cannot be filled again.

Most often, it seems that those who feel they are not “being fed” are the ones who have failed to feed anyone else. After all, Jesus wrapped a towel around His waist, washed His disciples feet and told them, “This is what it looks like to follow me.”

It seems to me that if someone has “counted the costs” as Jesus tells us to in Luke 14, and we understand that we must “take up our cross” – something no one else can do for us – then there has to be a point when we begin taking responsibility for our walk. There must come a day when we pick up our own fork and begin to feed ourselves.

I am not saying that we have no need for listening to sermons, hearing God’s word taught and proclaimed, or attending bible study. These are tools that we have as the church – His Body – that assist us in our walk. In fact, these tools actually further the point. If you’re attending a church where the Word of God is being accurately proclaimed, where the Bible is being taught, where the fellowship of the believers is present, where the Body of Christ is being the church and still, somehow, you’re not being fed…could it be you just haven’t learned to use your own fork?

Paul prayed for the Ephesians, “May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. And may you have the power to understand….” (Ephesians 3:17-18, italics mine) “Let the words of Christ, in all their richness, live in your hearts and make you wise.” (Colossians 3:16, italics mine) He says that the church should “equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church…until we come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature and full grown in the Lord….” (Ephesians 4:12-13, italics mine) Paul makes references in Colossians, Philippians and elsewhere about being “mature” in our faith. Are you striving for this? Are you “straining to…receive the prize…”? Or are you still wanting someone else to feed you?

It’s like I tell my son, “If you want to be a big boy, you’ve got to pick up your fork.” If you feel like you’re not “being fed”, I encourage you to wrap a towel around your waist, wash someone else’s feet and pour your life out into someone else. I bet you’ll start feeling full real soon!

Dig Deeper:
Romans 12:1-2
Colossians 3:1-17

August 30, 2012

Why We Retreat

This week our staff took a 2-day retreat together. We rented a lake house about an hour from home and got away for some team-building, leadership training, and spiritual renewal. I know that I personally had a blast hanging out with the people I have the privilege of leading and serving with and felt like the Lord really encouraged us and challenged us - as individuals and as a team. I wanted to share with you some of the highlights of what we experienced, discussed, and came away with.

First off, here are some of the main quotes, topics of discussion, and ideas that we wrestled with and hammered out together:

  • If we're never failing then we're never taking any risks either. We have to give ourselves, each other, and our team members permission - even encouragement - to fail.
  • Are the people serving and leader with us clear about 1) their own gifts and strengths and 2) what they're called to do on the team? Without clarity, things get "fuzzy". People will only put up with "fuzzy" for so long.
  • As leaders, there are times when one of our major responsibilities is to "make up our mind". 
  • How do we move from delegating tasks - creating followers - to delegating authority - creating leaders?
  • Our communication should be consistent, clear, and courteous. We should impress people with our straightforwardness.
  • If we are not in the business of leadership development, then we can't say we're "making disciples".
  • We have to constantly be reminding ourselves and those we're leading and serving with: It's not about OUR church, it's about HIS Kingdom!
We devoted an entire session to talking about our spiritual gifts and personality profiles. As a staff team, I think we benefitted most from gaining insight into each other's personalities; specifically, better educating and equipping ourselves on how to effectively communicate with one another. We're wired differently. We receive (and extend) communication in unique ways. It's takes time and effort to figure this out and capitalize on it. I think we came home much more aware of this and ready to make it happen.

In all honesty, one of my favorite parts of our time together was Tuesday night. We played the game "Imaginiff..." If you've never played it before, it's a great way to not only get to know each other better, but to have some serious laughs at the same time. We had a blast!

Yesterday it was an incredible blessing to spend our morning out on the dock, praying for each other, our families, our church, and for God to move and work in our lives for the sake of His Kingdom. This is always time well spent!

Our last session together we spent time pinpointing the strengths of our church - isolating the things that we do really well - and brainstorming the idea or question: If we spent the next year doing nothing but building on our strengths, what would that look like? On one hand, it was incredible how tempting it was to start veering into thinking & talking about our weaknesses. (And don't get me wrong; you have to do that. But it's interesting how apparent it is that we have been trained and taught by our culture to focus on these shortcomings.) But fighting through that, it was incredibly inspiring to dream about and envision the God-sized potential of what could happen if we take the strengths He has given us as a church and allow Him to keep strengthening and growing those areas. What an awesome thought!

I can't even begin to share everything we experienced and learned in such a short time, but this is a great window into just a few of the vital reasons why we retreat

August 27, 2012

In Spite Of...

On Saturday I wrote a post about something that happened on the way to our soccer game. Long story short, I watched a guy in a truck get mad at some people who were simply trying to tell him the light had turned green. His response: he flipped everybody off. Let the bird go flyin'! And in what was an incredibly awkward situation, when we pulled up several minutes later at the soccer field, so did the guy in the truck. And it wasn't just "a guy"; it was one of the dads on our team. Thankfully, I'm pretty sure he had no idea we were one of the 12 cars behind him that got saluted. Nevertheless, it was just a bit awkward for a moment. And that was the point of my post: sometimes awkward stuff happens. What are you going to do about it? It's part of life.

What an incredibly stupid blogpost. 
So stupid that I deleted it. 

I completely missed the opportunity to start a conversation about the most important part of the whole story. Sure life is full of awkward situations. We're human. We do dumb stuff. The point is that in the midst of people's mistakes, failures, shortcomings, and lapses in good judgment, we still have the opportunity - better yet, the calling and responsibility - to love them. People are going to flip you off. (Hopefully you're not always going to wind up actually knowing the person who flips you off. But if you do, what are you going to do about it?) Aren't we called by Jesus to take people's anger - their attacks and insults and slaps and obscenities - and absorb them? That's what "turning the other cheek" is about. (See Matthew 5:38-48 for more on that subject.) The point is not the awkward situation; the point is the PERSON! As Christ-followers, we should constantly be ready to see and love the person, in spite of their failure. That's what (I hope) we did on Saturday. I just failed to tell you about it.

Are you allowing the Lord to prepare us to diffuse these type of situations rather than further ignite them?

Is there an opportunity in front of you now to love someone not because of something, but in spite of something? Big difference.

August 23, 2012

Quantify & Control

A couple of weeks ago I preached on missional community - that Acts 2 is a picture of Ephesians 4 being carried out - and that in Acts 2 you don't see anyone actually striving or working for "community". They were on mission, together. I had several interesting conversations following that sermon, many of them that morning right after our services. But one conversation resonated with me because I think it highlights one of our obstacles and barriers to seeing biblical, missional community actually take place in our lives and through our churches. This invisible wall has to do with the fact that what we're describing - this movement that's beginning to take place - is much harder to quantify and control. Let me explain a bit further.

My friend sat down with me and seemed to be a bit distressed. He began explaining to me that he thought what I was describing - missional community - was already happening in his life. That one of his neighbors (who happened to be a minister at another church) and a guy across the street (also a Christian) had started getting together. They had even been talking & strategizing ways to begin reaching out to their other neighbors. "Should we have a block party? Maybe a cookout and invite everyone." What was happening was they were on the cusp of "doing life together". But here was his dilemma: This wasn't happening with people from The Brook. It wasn't something HIS church had stamped their name on. We weren't hovering over it. He wasn't turning in numbers to us. At this point it was undefinable - he couldn't even fully explain what was happening. And he wasn't adding numbers to OUR church. Again - he couldn't quantify all of this. There was no "church" category for what was going on. Here's what I told him:

"It's not my calling to equip you grow our church. I'm called to equip you, prepare you, and lead you to grow the Kingdom! If some of those people wind up being part of the fellowship of our church, great. If they're led to go somewhere else, great. My main concern is that right where you are - right in your own home and your own neighborhood - you're living on mission for the Kingdom."

That's the quantification issue. Now let's talk about control. 

In the Western (American) church - clergy, pastors, ministers - we not only have this driving need of knowing how many people were in our services, in Sunday School, or at an event and how many raised their hand, we also need to know that we're somewhat in control of how it happens. (Sidenote: This "control" we think we have is a full-on mirage. It's elusive and seductive. And the need for the mirage winds up controlling the very ones trying to contain it. And I know that numbers represent people. Many are just trying to ensure follow-up. That's not the issue.) This is NOT what we're called to. Ephesians 4:11-16 gives us very clear instruction and guidance on what, how, and why. It tells us we're called to "equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes." Here's the thing: We are called to equip people to do the work of the Kingdom of God - for the building up and discipling of those in the church - and to reach those who are "outside" and need to know Christ. We are NOT called to control people, to manipulate people, or even to shape them into a bunch of us's. As I said in my sermon last week, "We've been telling our leaders, 'Here's our box. Let's figure out how to reshape you so you fit in our box.' And the thing is, they aren't shaped like our box. They're not supposed to be. We're supposed to equip leaders to BE who the Lord has made them and to SHINE and GROW and REACH OUT where God has planted them. 

Right this moment - somewhere in America at a church - one more program is being added to the weekly schedule to lure people TO "the church" (which is really NOT the church, it's simply where the church meets). And in doing so we will further excuse and exempt our people from the actual mission. We will give them an escape route rather than an in-road. Yes, Jesus said, "Come to me all who are weary". And then he said, "Go and make disciples..." The church just keeps saying "Come". It's time we started saying, leading, and living "GO!" Not just on a weeklong trip to Guatemala or Haiti or New Orleans, but on Tuesday to your job as a software developer or a dental hygienist. THIS is where we're called. We're called to coach ball teams and host parties and serve on our homeowner's association. Exactly how much training do you need before you don't need another class and you're ready to just do it? I'll tell you. You're ready now!

The Lord is doing some incredible and miraculous things in the lives of churches right now, where people are no longer being coaxed into conforming to the church, but are being led by the Spirit of God to dangerously follow Christ on mission. If you're a follower of Jesus Christ, isn't this what you're longing for? PRAY and ask God to ignite a fire in your heart for His glory and His mission! 

August 22, 2012

Common Interests

If the WHAT and the WHY are Common Mission - the catalyst, growth engine, and reason behind community - then there has to be an initial HOW. How do we propel this into action? How does the Lord lead us to others with a common heartbeat for the mission? This is not concrete. It doesn't always happen this way. But often, it's as simple as finding people around you with common interests. 

Look at your life - your everyday, weekly, gym-work-home, homeowners association, ball practice, weekend, church services, rhythms in your life. There are people in that rhythm with you. There are individuals - couples - families that if you just took notice are one step away from you "doing life together". (You may even already be doing it, and just haven't realized it.) As a Christian, the key then boils down to a simple question: Are the rhythms of your life centered in the mission of the Gospel? And remember, it's not about trying to figure out how to shove Christ into your busyness and your schedule. It's the realization that EVERYTHING in my life revolves around Him, His mission, and His calling on my life. For instance....

These ladies that I run with every Tuesday morning: Could we be reaching other ladies who need to know Christ simply by inviting them to begin running with us?

These guys at church that I go fishing with one Saturday a month: Are there other guys we know that need to know Christ who could be part of this with us?

That couple from your church that lives in your neighborhood: Could you be getting together and cooking out every other week, inviting other neighbors, praying for them, carrying their burdens with them, loving them, sharing the Gospel with them? 

Sometimes, finding the people the Lord has placed in our lives to carry out this "common mission" with can be as easy as realizing who He's already placed in your life with "common interests". Some common interests include: kids, sports, gaming, gardening, college football, where you're from, the neighborhood where you live, what you like to eat, surfing, music, scrapbooking, photography, running, stage of life.... You get the point.

So, HOW do we help people better make these connections, find others around them with common interests, and allow the relationships to be centered in and focused on the common mission of the Gospel?

One conclusion we've come to as a church family is that we have to begin providing more environments and opportunities for people to simply connect on a social level, like a picnic, bunco night, or service project. You can find a vast resource of ideas for connecting points and missional community from Verge Network. What are your thoughts on making these simple connections? Would love to hear your input.

August 21, 2012

Common Mission

Community - A group of interacting people, living in some proximity (i.e., in space, time, or relationship). Community usually refers to a social unit larger than a household that shares common values and shares social cohesion.

We all need community. We need interaction with people who share our values and convictions. We need to know we're not alone. In fact, we are wired with an innate need of doing life together. You can see it throughout history. You can see it in your own life. And you can see it exemplified in Acts 2 with the account of the first New Testament church. It says that "all who believed were together and had all things in common." If one person or family had a need, other people would give them what they needed - even sell off some stuff to make sure everyone else had enough. (NOTE: This wasn't enforced or regulated by the government. It was propelled by the Holy Spirit!) They prayed together, ate together, went to the temple together. They were doing life together. And at face value this sure seems like the prime example of community. That's because it was. But it didn't get this way because everyone set out to "cultivate community". Community wasn't their aim. There was something of much greater importance that fostered, cultivated, and grew that community: MISSION.

The verses beforehand (Acts 2:41-43) tell us that the first "Christians" were "devoted to the apostles teaching, the fellowship, and prayer. And awe came over everyone, and wonders and signs were being done..." The driving force of life for these first followers of Christ - the first recipients of the Holy Spirit - was mission. The thing that brought them together - the thing that fostered, cultivated, and grew their "community" - was the all-consuming power of the Holy Spirit and the mission that Christ had set before them: "Go and make disciples".

That mission He gave them is still our mission today.
The Great Commission is what draws us and binds us together.

Yet, we still so often set out from square one trying to build community. This is completely redefining "putting the cart before the horse". This is staring at your cart that has NO horse attached it, wondering why it won't go anywhere. As Reggie McNeal pointed out in his book Missional Communities: The Rise of the Post-Congregational Church, "When we (the church) aimed for community we got neither mission nor community. But when we started to aim for mission - community that is centered around the Gospel - we got both mission and community."

When we talk about common mission, most certainly this may manifest itself in some tangible way: building wheelchair ramps together, feeding the poor, tutoring at-risk kids after school. We may all come together in some way to serve others. But this is not THE mission. The mission is the Gospel - that Jesus Christ's life, death, and resurrection has brought us from death to life and that He longs to do the same in others lives. When you read Matthew 28, Acts 2, and Romans 10 you get this distinct idea that the mission isn't something that we figure out where to squeeze in after the fact. Everything else has to conform to it. The mission isn't a slave to our extra-curricular activities and hobbies and busyness, they are slaves to the mission. At least they're supposed to be. And this is for a very good reason:

The mission is JESUS!

Thinking in terms of community - your need for it, your pursuit of it - are you aiming at and focusing on community, or are you beginning to understand that it all begins with the mission? Common mission. The Gospel. 

What does this look like in your life?

July 18, 2012

The Method & The Message

In my lifetime, it seems the church has almost always been at war with the culture over something. In the 70's it was sexual promiscuity. Then came the 80's: divorce. In the 90's it migrated to abortion. And as we entered a new millennium, the target moved to homosexuality. Don't misunderstand me; these are all things we should be opposed to because God is opposed to them. Where the problem lies is in the "war". Paul makes it clear that we are at "war" with "the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places". PEOPLE are NOT the enemy. SIN is the enemy! And while we are called to preach (and live) repentance of sin, if our message is preached through (what sounds and looks like) venom, it won't be heard. I have a friend who will argue that it's not our method that matters, but that the Word is preached so that the Spirit of God has the opportunity to be heard and do it's work. But if that's the case - that the method doesn't matter - and Paul has stated that "the greatest of these is love" - then why not preach, speak, write, and communicate in love? Why not err on the side of love rather than loathing?

I watch ideologies and bad theology being shot down on Facebook and Twitter all the time. I not only watch it, I take part in it. I'm called to "...reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching". But the problem I'm seeing is that the method - the HOW - with which the message is being communicated is often not attacking the ideology or the bad theology; it's attacking the person holding the misguided idea or believing the twisted scripture. If we step back for a moment, I think many of us would realize it's as if we've drifted into this thinking that every person who's misguided woke up that day and wanted to be. And sometimes it's not even misguided; it's just that they hold a different opinion than we do. We take it personally. We don't write blogposts or Facebook posts attacking Liberalism - we attack Liberals. We speak as if every person who's taken scripture out of context did it because they wanted to be deceived or to deceive others. Could it be possible that they've just misunderstood?

When's the last time you put yourself in the position of the person with whom you disagree? I mean, isn't the point of your argument, your preaching, your blogpost that you want to show them the truth? Because if it is, it might work wonders to start attempting to communicate in love, blowing holes in the misguided idea, rather than communicating in (what appears to be) anger, blowing holes in the person.

Do you think someone struggling with homosexuality is going to repent because of your blogpost, rant, or sermon? In reality, God may choose to use those things as a tool. But at the end of the day, they're only a tool. It will ONLY be because the Holy Spirit and the Word of God have come in power (as Hebrews 4:12 tells us they can) and pierces the heart, revealing the sin. And if by chance God chooses to use you (or your message) as a tool, keep in mind: "God's kindness is meant to lead to repentance". And yes - for those who want to jump on the next verses from Romans 2, Paul is addressing the demand for repentance of sin. But as he does, he reminds us that God's approach in leading us to repentance is the fact that His kindness, mercy, grace, and love are overwhelming! So the question is: Why aren't ours?

Are we just looking for an excuse to be pissed off or vitriolic?
Do we just need someone to debate, argue with, and attack?
If so, the harsh reality is that there is sin in our own life that (at this point) we're still too prideful to confront, admit, confess, and leave behind.

Or maybe for some of us, we just don't even realize how we sound. Maybe you've been yelling so long it sounds like whispering to you now. One thought: Stop yelling for a few minutes. Is God speaking to your heart about this? Really? Or are you so busy yelling, posting, debating, and hating that you've stopped listening? Are you even listening now?

Do you see this? Is the METHOD totally clouding the MESSAGE?
Because the most important message we have to communicate - that the God of the Universe has saved us from sin and offers us new life ONLY in Jesus Christ - needs to be heard.

Dig Deeper:
James 1:19
Romans 10:14-17

June 25, 2012

Switch to INPUT

It's Monday. How's it going for you so far?
What is it with Mondays? It's just a day, right?
Normally - as a pastor who preaches twice on Sunday - I drag a bit on Monday. Sort of like I'm imitating a turtle. An excited turtle, anyway. 
But today.....forget about it! It's like Monday on Loritab!

OUTPUT = ZERO!

You're going to have these days when it seems like your brain, your sense, your decision-making are all in the tank. You keep trying to write, craft, plan, create - trying to muster an ounce of productivity OUT of yourself - and it's like you're that rolled up tube of toothpaste that's been squeezed for the last and final time. NOTHING! So here's my theory:

When OUTPUT = ZERO, stop trying to produce. Switch to INPUT!

Read. Listen. Watch. Meditate on scripture. Maybe the Lord is trying to tell you something. Heck, maybe it's just your own brain saying, "I need a break! I need a refill!" Stop trying to FORCE something OUT and ALLOW something IN! When the tank is on EMPTY, you've pretty much got one sensible and realistic choice. INPUT. It just might send your productivity to a new place. Your Nowhere Monday just might lead to a Somewhere Tuesday. Been there?