January 2012


Whatever you do, you can do it with flair.

If you lead a ministry, there’s a little something extra that will lavish grace on those you’re reaching. If you manage a team, there’s a way you can interact that will build cohesion. If you’re raising kids, there are tiny touches that will make lifelong memories out of otherwise mundane moments.

The key is to figure out the tiny tweak that will set your specialty apart. Sharon Al-Doost did. If you’ve never heard of Sharon, you should. She’s better known as the Lunch Lady, and every day she sings and jokes her way through the menu on her cafeteria’s phone line. Stop what you’re doing right now and call her: (510) 351-7654.

No seriously. Call her. Now. I’ll wait. And you’ll thank me and add her to your speed dial and call her up every once in a while just to check in.

Sharon is not a singer. Far from it. But her off-key, pitchy songs and offbeat banter has endeared her to thousands of people who call her each month. (I recently rediscovered her and now force my kids to listen to her every morning on the way to school.)

She’s remarkable.

Seth Godin talks about the remarkability factor in his bestseller Purple Cow. In the followup The Big Moo, he says

Good enough isn’t good enough, because now everything is good enough. Our expectations of quality are unrealistic – and are being met every single day. We don’t just want to be satisfied, we want to be blown away.

Remarkable isn’t up to you. Remarkable is in the eye of the customer. If your customer decides something you do is worth remarking on, then, by definition, it’s remarkable.

So what are you doing that’s worth remarking on? What’s the memorable moment you’ll create for your kids today? What’s the takeaway your team will talk about? How are you going above and beyond in caring for the people around you?

What makes you remarkable?

Last night in our super-awesome small group, we were going through part four of the super-awesome curriculum our super-awesome small group staff put together. We spent a few minutes talking about a wee little man named Zackeus. Um, Zaccheous. Uh, Zack, and our leader asked us to make some observations from the text.

This is a story I’ve read all my life. I’ve preached on it. I’ve sung the song (AND done the hand motions). But I noticed something last night that I never really thought about before.

Jesus ignored the crowd in order to single out Zack.

Picture it: hundreds of people. Huge crowd. All wanted a glimpse of Jesus. All wanted a piece of his time. All wanted a miracle from his hand.

But Jesus chose the least likely, the most hated, the greatest outcast among the crowd, and it was to him that he gave his full attention.

That’s so like Jesus. And so unlike us.

Unlike Jesus, we fail to minister to the one because we’re overwhelmed by the many. We get caught up in “fairness” and “balance” and lose sight of the needs immediately in front of us.

Could Jesus have cared for the entire crowd? Of course he could have (he was Jesus. Pay attention.). But he pulled away from the masses and brought a miracle to one man.

And Zack was never the same.

Andy Stanley calls this, “Doing for one what you can’t do for all.” There will always be crowds. There will always be seemingly insurmountable needs. And when we look at the masses and fail to see one man, then there’s no doubt we’ll hesitate and struggle with taking action.

There are plenty of “one” people in my life. Folks that I’ve overlooked for far too long because I want to do for everyone what I’m called to do for just them. Maybe that’s you, too. Maybe you have a co-worker or a neighbor or a teammate that needs you to pull away from the crowd and provide the grace that they’re looking for.

Who’s your Zack?

We’re forever on the cusp of cutting edge here at Connective Tissue (the name of this blog. Pay attention.). Three weeks ago I introduced you to Thursday Three For All. Today we begin Flashback Friday. Pretty soon I might do Microwave Popcorn Monday or Water Buffalo Wednesday, just as soon as I can figure out how to make that happen.

But I digress. Flashback Friday is a new feature for newer readers. If you’ve just been around these parts for a short time, there are nearly 600 archived posts sitting around collecting dust. I say blow off the dust and bring ‘em out of the mothballs. Why not? What’s the worst that could happen? You’d tell me that I’m losing my edge, getting lazy, and recycling content?

Oh. Well, I guess there’s that.

Our first Flashback Friday deals with a current series that we’re working through as a church. Pastor J.D. is reaching new depths (get it?) with Castaway, a group of messages out of the book of Jonah. The following post was written a few years back, but is just as applicable to me today. Here’s a sample:

So picture it: it’s Saturday night, 10 PM.  I’m sitting in my bedroom on the phone, listening to horrible on-hold music as I wait for the people from Dish Network to stop fixing other people’s problems so they can fix mine, and I have the cartoony fume lines coming out of my head at a rather rapid pace, and I am muttering Yosemite Sam style cuss words under my breath (“Bracken frackin racken varmits…”), and I am absolutely furious that I was the recipient of a random good deed, and…and…and…

…God spoke.

Check out the entire post here. And tune in next week for Microwave Popcorn Monday. Or maybe Tie-Dye Tuesday. You never know.

 

The T34A is back…three links to stuff I’ve been reading and think might be of some interest to you. Enjoy.

 

So not too long ago, we sold our house after five years on the market and moved into a rental while we continue to search for just the right Casa Del Franks.

Editor’s note: You keep referencing this move. Are you ever going to address the move itself, like how you drove what was possibly the first U-Haul truck to roll off the assembly line in 1925, or how you broke a window roughly 42 minutes after you signed the lease on the rental, or how you ventured into the attic to breathe in so much asbestos you could actually feel the mesothelioma growing in your lungs or whatever it is mesothelioma does?

Um, no. At least not today. Nope, today I need to wax eloquently about the electrical outlets in this house. And by “wax eloquently,” I mean complain that these are the most freakishly annoying conglomerations of plastic and wire that have ever graced God’s green earth.

This house was built in the 1960’s, which means it has what I can only assume are 1960’s outlets. I don’t know which government official decided somewhere along the way that receptacles should be a different size than the things they are…um…receptacling, but we are facing the constant issue of trying to plug something in, only to walk four feet away and hear “WHONK…”

Receptacled Device: “WHONK.”

Me: [plugs Receptacled Device back in]

Receptacled Device: “WHONK.”

Me: [plugs Receptacled Device back in with a little more force this time]

Receptacled Device (pauses for dramatic effect and lets me get eight feet away this time): “WHONK.”

Merriem (from the other room): “What IS that?”

Me: [Yosemite Sam-style cuss words that are not fit for your kids to read.]

It all comes down to the fact that the recaptacled devices’ plugs are not as wide as the little holes in the receptacles. And when I say, “Not as wide,” I’m not talking about .0001 of a millimeter’s difference. Nope, this is like trying to cram a kiwi into a basketball hoop.

(To my wife who’s not a big fan of fruit: a kiwi is a very, very small fruity thing that would easily fit into a basketball hoop, with room for a few dozen of it’s kiwi friends. That’s why that was a funny sentence. Go back and read it again and laugh this time.)

Receptacled Device hangs on for dear life

The larger receptacles means that it’s really hard to successfully plug in my phone or other receptacled devices on the first try. Usually it’s a several-minute process which involves a prayer asking God not to allow it to thunder, or a truck to drive by, or a butterfly to flap it’s wings on the other side of the globe.

And speaking of butterflies, should we blame the little creatures that are painted on some of the receptacles in the house? I also have faux brass receptacle plates, if you need them.

I don’t want to be too overdramatic about this [Editor's note: too late], but this has changed the fabric of our family. When I became a father almost sixteen years ago, I would never have been able to envision a day when I’d yell out, “Stop walking so heavily! THIS POT OF COFFEE HAS TO FINISH BREWING!”

So, smarty-pants readers, how do I fix this? Is this the ultimate purpose of electrical tape? Do I reinstall all of our receptacle plates into the floor so that gravity works with me and the WHONK is not so pronounced? Do I just sit back and forget about the receptacled devices for a moment and worry instead about my impending bout with mesothelioma?

And most importantly, do you have fights with inanimate objects like I do? Comment below.

Last fall I had the opportunity to spend a week with about 80 church planters in Nairobi, Kenya. As part of that week’s agenda, I got to tag along on a safari in the northern part of the country.

Side note…I’ve avoided telling this story on this blog for a few reasons, the primary one being that if you found out how much fun short term trips at the Summit really are, then you’ll want to go on the next one, and then you’ll probably sit next to me on the plane, and then instead of me zoning out and tossing on my noise canceling earphones and watching Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Anticlimactic Movie Franchise on the four-inch screen, I’ll feel obliged to talk to you for eleven hours. So it’s probably best that you don’t know about the fun side of these trips.

But I digress. This trip’s “free day” topped all the other free days in the history of free days. This was not the run of the mill shopping experience in a third-culture tourist trap. Nor was it an archaeological tour of a pile of rocks that the Apostle Paul may or may not have driven his donkey by. Nope, this free day was music to this guest-services guy’s heart.

We found out mid-week that our safari experience would be two days (rather than the one we originally thought). And instead of leaving our retreat center in the morning and coming back that evening, we’d be spending the night in the bush. THE BUSH, people. As in, a tent. With lots of nature. That I would sleep in.

And so, I steeled myself to be a big boy and not complain like a whiny germophobic American. And for five hours I rode in a cramped van with no air conditioning on Kenyan roads with potholes so deep you felt like you might be driving in Dante’s outer level of hell and roads so rough that sometimes the driver just swerved onto the shoulder because it was a smoother surface. The last twenty or so miles was on a dirt road that kicked up dust and poured it into our windows so that by the time we arrived it felt like someone had knitted tiny sweaters for my teeth. Not my idea of a fun day.

But then we arrived at the campsite for the safari. And as we left the vans and walked into this…this oasis, I realized we’d hit the jackpot. There were Kenyan ladies with baskets of hot washcloths, there for us to wash the dust off of our faces. There were fresh-squeezed fruit juices to wet our parched dusty throats. There was a five-star restaurant with some of the best food I’ve eaten in my life.

And then there was the tent.

The only thing tent like about this structure was the canvas walls and the zippered doors. Everything else…well, I can’t explain it. I can just show you:

That’s right. You’re looking in a tent, and you’re seeing tile floors, a hot shower, terry cloth robes, and one of the most comfortable beds ever. It was – in short – paradise. I stayed in some of the nicest accommodations I’ve ever been in, and I was in a TENT.

But the greatest surprise was yet to come. After a safari that afternoon and a meal that threatened to make me have to buy a second seat on the plane, I went back to my presidential suite – um, tent, and crawled into bed, only to realize that OH GOOD HEAVENS WHAT IS THAT IN THE FOOT OF THE BED IS THAT AN ANACONDA IT’S AN ANACONDA ISN’T IT AND IT’S GOING TO SWALLOW ME WHOLE WELL MAYBE NOT “WHOLE” BECAUSE I JUST PUT ON 48 POUNDS AT THE RESTAURANT BUT AIEEEEEE WHAT IS IT WHAT IS IT WHAT IS IT?!?

Seriously, that’s what went through my mind. Only it wasn’t an anaconda. Nope, it was a hot water bottle that the camp folks had slid under the sheets while I was at dinner. Since it can get chilly on the savannah, they wanted to make sure my toes were comfy-cozy. And boy, were they ever.

The reason that ranks as the greatest surprise is because it wasn’t expected. It was an unseen detail. It was something that – had it been left undone – I would never have noticed.

But my hosts noticed. And they made sure that every single need – creature comfort or otherwise – was provided for.

What are the hot water bottles in your ministry? What are those things that you can do…and maybe should do…but because nobody notices their absence, you don’t do?

My hot water bottle wasn’t a necessity, but it created a much-appreciated impression. I believe that churches can small, inexpensive, non-necessary touches to create the same effect.

So help me dream: what are the “hot water bottles” that are accessible to us? Comment below.

Yesterday was the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, as well as the observation of what the evangelical church refers to as Sanctity of Human Life Sunday. For 19 years of ministry I’ve observed SOHL Sunday. I’ve prayed on it, read scripture for it, written about it, and in one semi-odd occurrence, participated in a skit about it. But for the first time yesterday, I experienced it in a brand new way.

Yesterday I realized that our family has a daughter because her biological parents chose life. She was conceived out of wedlock, born into poverty, and could have easily become a statistic. Mainstream society wouldn’t have batted an eyelash if they had chosen to abort rather than to bring a child into an unsure situation.

Thank God they didn’t pick that option.

A few months after our daughter was born – when they realized that they could no longer care for her physically or financially – they selflessly allowed her to be adopted. They chose her needs over their wants and gave her a second chance at life.

Thank God they did.

Last night I read my sweet Haven a bedtime story, I prayed over her, and I held her for a moment longer than usual in my arms. The full weight of reality sunk in – I was able to put my daughter to bed because her birth parents refused to take the easy route. She was in my arms because they released her from theirs.

Had they chosen the road that “made sense,” my family would have been robbed of one of our greatest joys. I wouldn’t be able to hold her when her fever hit 104° from a bout with pneumonia. I wouldn’t be able to experience the sheer bliss of messy kisses from Cheerio-coated lips. I wouldn’t come home to a beautiful brown-eyed baby girl reaching up with chubby hands and excitedly calling out “Daddy!”

There will be those who would criticize this post. There will be detractors who would argue that a termination of an unplanned pregnancy was the wisest choice. There will be people who will say that for every story involving a “Haven,” there are hundreds of other children that won’t be put up for adoption but also can’t or won’t be cared for by their birth parents.

And to those critics, I will say that I do not have all the answers. I am neither an expert ethicist nor an astute apologist. But I do believe in life. I do believe that every child conceived has the right to live. I do believe that the Bible is mankind’s highest authority, and while we may not always agree with it, we must always submit to it. I do believe in the sovereignty of God, and I do not believe that any pregnancy – planned or unplanned – is a mistake.

As I type, my mind is filled with images of families throughout our church who have children because the birth parents chose not to terminate the pregnancy.

I think of parents of special needs children – children with severe mental and physical deformities that were detected in utero – and the parents’ refusal to abort because it was “easier.”

I think of dear friends that I’ve prayed for this weekend who have been told that their unborn son will have no viability outside the womb, and yet they are letting the pregnancy go to term because they know that they are not the authors of their child’s life, but they serve and fear a God who is.

I think of childless couples in our church who have saved for adoption and completed home studies and and ready, willing, and able to help a child – any child – regardless of age, race, gender, disability, or need.

I think of couples that I’ve met with who have experienced the aftermath of abortion firsthand. The decision that once “made sense” is one that now haunts them. And while God freely and generously offers forgiveness, grace, and mercy to those who run to him, they still struggle greatly with that painful part of their past.

This year more than ever, I’m grateful for life. I’m grateful for two selfless parents that gave my little girl a chance to live. And I’m more committed than ever that Christ’s church must stand in the gap to defend those who cannot defend themselves.

Maranatha!

It’s that time of year again, when college students come back and the 12th day of Christmas is officially over and Summit pastors get a dazed look in their eyes and start muttering near-unintelligible things about what seminary didn’t prepare them for.

That’s right: I’m talking about what we affectionately refer to as Crisco Sunday (a term I just now affectionately made up), when we have to affectionately grease people up to get them all in the building.

This weekend, we’ll see 1000 more people attend the Summit’s campuses than last weekend. At the Brier Creek campus, we have extra chairs stacked and ready. We have volunteers standing by with a plan in their back pocket. And we’ll have me standing by, muttering near-unintelligible things about what seminary didn’t prepare me for.

But how can you be prepared? Easy. Follow these steps:

  • Go somewhere else. Seriously. We love you. But consider making room for our guests for the next six weeks. If you go to Brier Creek North, check out our South Venue at 9 or 11. If you’re extra-awesome, go to Brier Creek Saturday at 4 or 6.
  • Don’t go somewhere else, but arrive early. Again, seriously. Don’t show up late. Don’t show up “on time.” Show up 15-30 minutes early.
  • Do what you’re told. Those guys in the orange vests? They ain’t eye candy. They want to help you find parking. Park on the Summit side of Presidential Drive to make room for our friends at World Overcomers across the street.
  • Front and center. This ain’t the weekend for elbow room. Go to the front. Scoot to the center. Get cozy. Those chairs in Brier Creek North are extra-wide, so consider making room for a new friend.

Want more? Check out one of my favorite posts from this time last year (but don’t get confused, some of that info is dated). Building Cool Points at Church.

Last week we started T34A, a horribly-named new feature that hands over three links as freely as I’d hand over Peanut M&M’s. (ie, if I had 300 Peanut M&Ms, I’d freely hand over 3 of them to you. If you’re nice. And if you snatch them when I’m not looking.)

Here we go…some of the good stuff I’ve stumbled on this week:

Is A Laborer Deserving of His Wages? A great article on why bad tipping promotes a cheap gospel.

Fifty Rules for Dads of Daughters. If you can read this without getting a little misty-eyed, you have no soul.

Can Mountain Dew Really Dissolve a Mouse Carcass? ’nuff said.

Yesterday in our monthly staff meeting, we talked about burnout. Yes, burnout. For pastors. The guys who only work one day a week and whose idea of “a tough day at the office” involves dropping a Leviticus commentary on our foot.

But believe it or don’t, pastors burn out. They take on too much. They have more plates spinning and more irons in the fire and more noses to the wheel and more analogies in a sentence than you can shake a stick at.

I’m as guilty of it as any. I don’t like to say “no” (unless the question is, “Would you like to drop a Jeremiah commentary on the other foot?”). I like to produce. I like to commit, to feel like I’m worth something because of what I do.

And sadly, that’s a recipe for disaster.

Our staff counselor Brad Hambrick wisely walked us through our commitments, helping us to realize that we all have the same number of hours, and we serve a fair God. He’s not going to require one more hour of time than what we currently have in a week. And there are times when we may have more capacity than others to take on certain tasks.

If you’re a stay at home mom with stay at home kids, your capacity to run the children’s ministry at your church may be diminished.

If you’re a retiree who spends the day deciding who would make a great replacement for Regis, your capacity to put down the remote and reach out to your neighbors is huge.

If you’re an 80 hour a week exec who also has a family, your capacity to be a capable mom or dad is always going to be challenged by the time depletion you face at work.

There are seasons in my life when I have a greater capacity to say “yes” than others. Conversely, there are seasons where I have to be very careful of what fills my calendar. There will always be opportunities to speak, to teach, to train, to officiate weddings, to pray at the 6 AM Men’s Pancake Breakfast and Water Polo Tournament, but saying “yes” to those things I can do always means a “no” to something I must do.

So what is your capacity? What are you giving time to that you shouldn’t? What needs the time that you have to give?

Next Page »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 265 other followers