September 2011


Let’s stretch this out just a bit longer…if you didn’t see the recap in one of our weekend services, here’s a link to it, courtesy of the lovely and talented Josh Sliffe:

 

Church at the Ballpark from Josh Sliffe on Vimeo.

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Photo credit: Brian Fleming Photography (Except for the first three photos. Those were taken by me with the help of Steve Jobs.)

We’re too doggone busy.

We max out our schedules, stay too long at the office, try to cram too much in our off hours, and microwave our pop tarts.

But nowhere do we exemplify “busy” more than at church. Specifically, the Summit Church. Specifically, the Brier Creek Campus of the Summit Church.

Every Sunday, we tend to get there late and rush out immediately after. We want to beat the traffic, beat the Methodists to Bojangles, beat the childcare workers who sugared our kids up on Cocoa Puffs and now they’re climbing the walls instead of taking a nap. (The children. Not the childcare workers.)

Something tells me that’s not the way church is supposed to be. And this weekend, we’d like to introduce you to the antidote.

It’s called Church at the Ballpark, and it’s a rare opportunity for you to practice the spiritual discipline of relaxing. All five of our campuses will come together for a great worship service, and we’ll have plenty of margin before and after to do a whole lot of nothing.

If you’re thinking about arriving in time for the service, don’t. If you’re thinking about heading out immediately after, don’t. Plan to get there early (9:30 at the latest) and hang out afterward (we’ll have cotton candy). Meet some old friends. Make some new ones. Clear your calendar and enjoy your Sabbath.

I’m excited about the worship service, but I’m almost more excited about the opportunity to see the church be the church to one another. I hope to see you there!

You can’t really live in the Triangle area and not know about Church at the Ballpark. For the first time in a long time, the Summit Church will gather together in one location for worship. All of our campuses from across the Raleigh-Durham area will gather at Durham Bulls Athletic Park this Sunday, September 18th. We’ve spent months planning this event, and in four days…it’s here.

Fun stuff for kids? Yep. Wool E. Bull in a go kart? Uh huh. T-shirts fired at high velocity into the crowd? You betcha.

And that’s just before the worship service. We’ll worship as a family, learn as a family, celebrate Jesus as a family, and proclaim the gospel to our city as a family.

Boom.

I just heard from one of our young professionals who said she’d planned on being out of town for months, but the appeal of this weekend has caused her to cancel her plans at the last minute. Perhaps you should join her! Grandma will understand. Your boss won’t fire you. Your team will play another game on another day.

You can help us promote the Park by changing your Twitter picture or Facebook profile using one of these logos. Send a Facebook invitation here. Hand out inviter cards like a crazy person. Point people the website for up-to-the-minute information. Make this sucka go viral.

That’s right. I said sucka.

We put together a brief video so you can find out all you need to know about Sunday. Yes, that’s me. No, those aren’t skinny jeans. And yes, I think I needed a slightly looser shirt or a tighter camera angle.

Church at the Ballpark INFO from The Summit Church on Vimeo.

See you at the park!

There are so many details we’ll never forget about that day: where we were when we heard the news. How we heard it. Who we were with.

We’ll never forget the shock, the horror, the tears. We’ll never forget holding our kids just a little closer. Calling our parents to check in with them and tell them we love them.

We’ll never forget the days and weeks of endless news coverage. Stories of loss. Stories of heroism. Revelations of who had done this to us.

We’ll never forget how our lives changed in an instant. Even if we knew no one who perished, we know that some of our freedoms did. Much of our naivety did.

There is much we’ll never forget, but there is much we’ve already forgotten.

We’ve forgotten that America didn’t lose its innocence that day. None of us have ever possessed innocence to begin with.

We’ve forgotten that we possess in ourselves the same impulses that drove our enemies. We may not act on those impulses, but we most certainly have them.

We’ve forgotten that this wasn’t only about hijacked planes and falling towers, but that those things pointed to something deeper within the human condition.

We’ve forgotten that this wasn’t us vs. them. America vs. a terrorist cell. Christian nation vs. Islamic radicals.

We’ve forgotten that our hope doesn’t lie in secure borders or stronger airport screening measures or a new and improved executive branch of government.

The gospel points us back to what we’ve forgotten. It reminds us that – just like the men who flew planes into buildings – we are the owners of idolatrous, deceitful hearts. We crave power. We lust after control. True, that may never manifest itself the same way, but the self-seeking desire is most certainly there.

The gospel reminds us that we don’t find our hope in the heroic efforts of the brave men and women who ran into crumbling buildings, who took controls of a doomed plane, who comforted those who were mourning. As deep as our gratitude runs towards those heroes, they must point to a greater Hero…one who died to save us, but then rose to rescue us.

The gospel reveals that terrorists needed a Savior. Heroes needed a Savior. Victims needed a Savior.

And so do you.

And so do I.

Today we mourn those who were lost. We give thanks for those who sacrificed for others. We show honor to those who are still fighting for our freedom a decade after the attacks. But we also must remember what we’ve forgotten:

Jesus is our hope.

I realize that our adoption news is so last week, and I also know that some of you are afraid that this is going to turn into an adoption crusader blog. You know: the kind where I tell stories where Russell Moore and I team up as a Batman and Robin-like duo, making baby runs to third world countries where we steal mopeds and raid orphanages and bring back infants by the dozen.

(Sorry, too much pizza too late at night. I’m having those weird dreams again.)

But I had to say one final word about our Haven and then I’ll leave the subject alone until at least the next blog post. Or until she does something cute. Whatever.

The following is the video of our announcement on Sunday, August 28. This was the last service of the day, so we’d seen two sides of Haven. The first side was 10:30 AM Haven: bright-eyed, cheery, grinning at the crowd. The second service was 12:30 PM-is-past-my-naptime Haven…and you’ll see what that looks like in a moment. (Hint: it’s cute.)

This video actually serves as a mashup of the two services. The full director’s cut of the 11:00 service is first, followed by the latter half of the announcement in the 9:00 service.

Yes, I know many of you who read this were there, but this is much cheaper than mailing our families a DVD.

 

Haven’s Intro from Summit Brier Creek on Vimeo.

Thanks to Julian Milano for capturing the footage, and Josh Sliffe for the edits!

I’m usually not a huge fan of chain Mexican restaurants. Oh sure, the food is usually good and my family digs ’em, so I’m there quite a bit. But overall, it’s not what I’d choose. I can’t handle the cacophony of “Welcome to our Mexican restaurant with the catchy one-word title!” being yelled every time someone walks in the door. I think the menus are far too complicated when the reality is you have two choices: rice / beans / chicken on a tortilla or beans / chicken / rice on chips. Why not just say, “I want it on chips, in whatever order you choose to serve it up.”?

Editor’s Note: Congratulations. You’ve just become your own grandfather. Lighten up, old dude.

But recently we tried the newly-opened Qdoba in Brier Creek. (Is it Cue-Doba? Kwadoba? Silent Q, just “Doba”? The world may never know.) Our experience there was good: the service was fast, the food was presented in an acceptable order of layers, the people were nice, and Jason Gaston didn’t get us thrown out of there by demanding a venison burrito.

But it was the experience after the meal that really caught my attention. As we were taking our trays to the trash, the young employee that was cleaning that area simply asked, “Sir, how was your meal today?” He stopped what he was doing, looked me in the eye, asked a clear question, and upon my answer, continued to engage: “I’m certainly glad you enjoyed it. I hope you’ll come back soon!”

That was it. But that was enough. In a segment of the food industry that typically hires solely based on a person’s ability to mumble and avoid eye contact, this particular fast food place won me over with that simple interaction. When the guy who collects your plastic baskets out of the trash can has the ability to focus on the win, then your entire restaurant will win. This kid was not the manager, nor the assistant manager, nor the son of either of ’em. But he was polite, he was proactive, and he engaged customers until the very last moment.

How about your organization? Whether you run a Mexican restaurant or serve the local church, can your people focus on the win and capture vision from top to bottom? Is everyone from your CEO to janitor bought in to serving your guests and keeping them coming back?

 

I’ll be honest: I’m not sure I understand Labor Day. Memorial Day? I get that. Veterans Day? Yep. Independence Day, Presidents Day, even Arbor Day…those all make sense to me.

But I’ve always been befuddled by Labor Day. Are we celebrating the American worker? Celebrating the American worker’s ability to have one final day off before summer officially ends? Celebrating the fact that we’re just adding to the bottom line of the Greeting Card Cartel?

Labor Day is here again
We thank you for your work
(Except for Bob who works down the hall
He thinks you’re a royal jerk)

So today I thought it would be fun to take Labor Day a different direction, since none of you readers know what we’re celebrating either (and no, you can’t Google that and get back to me). I’ll ask the question, and you get to answer with the story of your choice:

What was your worst job ever?

I’ll go first. In college I landed a summer job working for the English department. Well, not the entire English department. Just one very rotund, very goateed professor within the English department. He carried with him the musty smell of a first-edition Edgar Allen Poe book. He could have hidden Anne Frank in that beard of his. His personality was so dry, he made War and Peace look like an episode of Phineas and Ferb.

And my job for the summer was to take stacks of his old literature books and copiously transfer the notes…are you ready for this?…into stacks of new literature books.

That’s right. For an entire summer, I took up residence in one corner of his dark, musty, goatee hair strewn office, and transcribed every single jot and tittle. Where he’d underlined, I underlined. Where he’d highlighted, I highlighted. I took the notes from decades-old, dog-eared tomes and gave them new life in volumes that hadn’t yet had their spines cracked.

It was horrible. And I barely survived to tell the tale.

So that’s my story. Now it’s your turn. Yes, I realize that about 120% of my readers check out the blog while they’re at work, so this could go very, very badly since no one is working today, therefore no one is reading today, therefore no one will comment today. I also realize that one of my current or former direct reports could just write “I work for Danny Franks. ‘Nuff said.”

But on the off chance someone is reading this in between flipping burgers, or you’ve never worked for me, it’s time for your story.

What was your worst job ever?

(By the way, if you really want to know what Labor Day is all about, Trevin Wax breaks it down for you.)

This has turned into Adoption Week here on the blog, which is kind of like Shark Week, only cuter. (Although if you haven’t been exposed to Haven’s razor sharp teeth…)

We’ve told Haven’s story, and told a bit of the rest of our stories along the way. But there’s one more thing that needs to be said:

My sons are real men. And I don’t deserve them.

Like their freakish athletic ability, there are some other characteristics that they didn’t get from me. They’ve been supremely selfless through this whole process with Haven. When I was their age, I would have been appalled if my parents had tried to add one to our nest. I remember freaking out the year my dad invited a homeless guy for Christmas. (It’s not that hard to remember. I was 33 years old. No seriously.) I flip out when my peanut butter jar gets disturbed. I am – in short – selfish. My boys – in short – are not. And for that I’m grateful.

Has it been easy? Nope. After the novelty of having a new baby in the house wore off, Haven has moved from being the fragile princess to being the little sister. She has an uncanny knack for finding the “off” button on Austin’s Playstation just when he’s about to make the high score, causing him to fling her into the front yard. (That’s hyperbole, social services people. No babies were flung in the making of this story.)

It’s not easy to go from a house with a 15 year old, 14 year old, and 9 year old – all very self sufficient – to a house with a toddler. They have had a crash course in changing diapers, making bottles, and clipping hair bows. They have mixed her formula, fed her smashed carrots, and snuck her ice cream. They’ve been puked on and peed on and pooped on more times than they can count. And through it all, they have led her and loved her well.

Nothing has made me prouder in this process than to see my boys become protectors. They hold her when she’s scared at the beach and hug her when our “attack monkey” game goes too far. They make sure her car seat is tight and her sandals are strapped and the kitchen cabinets are latched.

I feel sorry…very, very sorry…for any young man that shows up at our house in the future. Though I may be too old and senile to intervene, I know that three big brothers will work him over a few times before he gets close to their little sister.

People have frequently asked them, “So what do you think about having a little sister?” Last Sunday after church, one of them said, “How should we answer that? ‘We don’t like her, but I guess we’re stuck with her’? What kind of question is that? What do they expect us to say?”

Since they don’t know how to articulate it (especially after the 150th time), I’ll answer it on their behalf: they love her. They adore her. They want what’s best for her, and they wanted her. She lights up when they walk into the room. She loves her Jachub and her Ya Ya and her…well, she’s working on getting Jase to come out just right…but she loves him too.

She may never know how they’ve changed her life, but Merriem and I do. What’s more, we know how she’s changed theirs.

My little girl may have taught me what it looks like to be wrapped around her finger, but my sons have taught me what true selflessness is. I’m grateful that they’ve made room for one more at our table. I could learn from them.

We all could.

Jacob (15) at Wrightsville Beach, just after Haven decided she hated Wrightsville Beach.

Austin (14), probably just moments before she peed on him for the 28th time.

Jase (9), not bitter that Haven can’t pronounce his name yet.

Our family is so grateful for your kindness and encouragement this week as we’ve shared Haven’s story. We’ve received messages from all over the US and around the world, and our hope is that her story – our story – has instilled in you a deeper awareness of God’s grace and a deeper desire to care for the fatherless.

But this is not just our story.

We are standing on the shoulders of heroes who have walked this road before us. We’re thankful for couples who have spoken into our lives and made adoption less of a novelty and more of a normality. We couldn’t have done this without having those people as a resource to answer our questions and calm our fears and point us over the next hurdle. Their story helped to shape our story.

But this is not just our story.

We now have just a minuscule taste of what other friends are going through. Friends who are currently pursuing international adoptions, which can often be an excruciatingly painful, draining process. I’ve found myself feeling guilty about God’s timing, wondering why this has happened so quickly for us and not for them. We’ve watched and prayed and ached with them as they’ve prepared dossiers, waited on home studies, seen foreign governments change all the rules, and wondered when their son or daughter will finally be home.

We’ve wept for friends who have pursued domestic adoptions. They’ve ministered to birth mothers, provided care for them, and received promises from them, only to have the child they’ve been promised given to someone else. Nurseries have remained empty. Clothing has stayed folded in the drawer. Dreams have remained shattered.

This is not just our story.

My prayer is that this week’s posts have opened your eyes to the world of adoption. Just as I never really understood international church planting before I went overseas for the first time, I never really understood orphan care before I dove into that pool myself. We don’t know what’s next for us: Haven may be the first of many children we bring into our home, or she may be the one and only. Perhaps our story has raised those same questions for you.

The obvious application of our story is a personal question: “Has God called me to care for the orphans?” (the correct answer is “yes.”) Maybe he has, in a huge way. Maybe your heart has been inclined toward orphan care, so much so that you need to begin praying about bringing a child into your home. Contact your local department of social services. Download the application to become a foster parent. Start reading anything you can on the subject (I recommend Adopted for Life by Russell Moore, a book that has helped shape our journey tremendously).

But perhaps a less obvious application is a generosity question: “Has God called me to help fund an adoption?” Somebody in your circle is trying to bring home a baby. Maybe they’re a small group member, a young couple that sits across the auditorium from you in church, or a friend of a friend who you know by name, but not much else. It seems that they’re raising money at every turn…having yard sales, selling handmade crafts, sending letters, you name it. Perhaps you could give to them so they can give to others.

Our church has set up an adoption fund through Lifesong for Orphans. The fund provides matching grants to couples who have been called to adopt, and who are nearing the completion of that process. You can find out more about that here.* If you don’t attend the Summit, you can just give directly to a couple you know who is adopting. The greatest honor that could come from our story is that you’re inspired to give to others. If Haven’s story has made you laugh, write a check. If it’s made you cry, write two checks. If it’s made you do both, just toss a brick of twenties through the window of an adopting couple.

Because this is not just our story.

This is not just their story.

This is your story.

 

*I want to be clear that this is not a veiled attempt for you to fund or donate to our adoption. Through some personal savings, very generous gifts from friends and family members, and a generous God who made it all happen, Haven is fully taken care of. All funds you give through the Summit will go to other couples.