Good To Great

I recently read what I will go ahead and call the best leadership book I've ever read - Good To Great by Jim Collins. I also just finished his follow-up monograph entitled Good To Great and the Social Sectors.

I have a lot of thoughts to share about this book and I probably won't share them all in this post. You may remember I recently reviewed the book Natural Church Development by Christian A. Schwarz and was also blown away by that book. Both G2G and NCD had a similar approach: Study great organisations and find what common traits they had that contribute to their greatness (churches for NCD and businesses for G2G). What I found extremely interesting is that their findings are quite similar. In fact, so similar that there are striking similarities in the diagrams in which they share their principles.

I'll give a brief synopsis of G2G here, but I'd like to go ahead and follow it up by teaming it up with my follow-up posts on NCD that I never finished. Hopefully, I'll find time to do this over the next few weeks.

Collins' research team found that all the companies that made the jump from being merely a "good" company to being a "great" company had these qualities in common, whether intentional or not.
  • Level 5 Leadership - Leaders who display a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.
  • First Who...Then What - They get the right people in the key seats before they decide where to take the bus.
  • Confront the Brutal Facts - Have faith that you will prevail, regardless of your difficulties, and at the same time have the discipline to confront the brutal facts of your reality. (i.e. - "We'll be great. Maybe not this year, but we will be great.")
  • The Hedgehog Concept - Greatness comes with consistently making decisions around a simple coherent concept. Your Hedgehog Concept is the intersection of 3 things: what you can be the best in the world at, what you are deeply passionate about, and what best drives your economic engine (or resource engine if you operate in the social sectors).
  • Culture of Discipline - People doing their work with excellence because they believe in what they're doing and they're allowed to operate with freedom within a framework of responsibilities.
  • The Flywheel - In building greatness, there is no single defining action, no grand program, no miracle moment. Rather, the process resembles relentlessly pushing a giant, heavy flywheel in one direction, turn upon turn, building momentum until a point of breakthrough, and beyond.

Honestly, whether you're a leader in a business, church, school, or anywhere - you should read this book. I believe G2G along with NCD will be required reading for anyone who is ever on staff with me, should I ever be the lead pastor of a church. Both books are simply foundational, but neither prescribe programs or trendy ideas. They both emphasize the power of people evaluating their circumstances and creatively, practically seeking their own solutions.

By the way - if you're out there thinking that churches have no business learning from business models, allow me to quote the first line of Good To Great and the Social Sectors. "We must reject the idea - well-intentioned, but dead wrong - that the primary path to greatness in the social sectors is to become 'more like a business.'"

Best of 2007

2007 has been an epic year for me, so I thought I'd do a "Best of..." post. Here goes:

Top 5 Books I Read in '07
5. Natural Church Development - Christian A. Schwarz
4. They Like Jesus, But Not the Church - Dan Kimball
3. Good to Great - Jim Collins
2. Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows - J.K. Rowling
1. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

Top 5 Albums Listened To in '07
5. Mexico & Mariachis: Music From and Inspired by Robert Rodriguez's El Mariachi Trilogy
4. Jungle of the Midwest Sea - Flatfoot 56
3. KFOG Live From the Archives, Vol. 14
2. We Shine - Fee (or Steve Fee)
1. Remedy - David Crowder Band

Top 5 Movies Viewed in '07 (some of these are older, but I watched them this year)
5. Amazing Grace
4. Transformers
3. Pursuit of Happyness
2. Blood Diamond
1. Pan's Labyrinth

Top 5 Favorite TV Shows of '07
5. Everest: Beyond the Limit - The Discovery Channel
4. Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares - BBC America
3. Man vs. Wild - The Discovery Channel
2. Lost - ABC
1. The Sopranos - HBO

Top 5 Favorite Experiences of '07
5. God & Country Celebration (12,000+ in attendance)
4. Two Mission Trips to Panama
3. Catalyst Leadership Conference
2. Scotland Vacation with Jamie
1. Birth of Isla Kae Myers

Well, that's about it. 2008 is already shaping up to be another great year. You never know what to expect when you're living for Jesus. I think if you really want to make Jesus laugh, just tell him your plans for this next year.


Christmas Gifts!

I love getting gifts! I'm a big kid when it comes to gifts. I love getting stuff I want and I love buying gifts for my wife & kids. This year I made out great.

Jamie got me a new Krups Espresso Machine. I love it. It does a forced steam brew and has milk steamer/frother on the side. I'm loving my lattes. I'm finally putting my Panamanian coffee to good use. It's every bit as good as the high-end shops and in the convenience of mi casa. She also got me a new ESV Bible that I love!!! I'm loving the ESV. I bought one on Amazon several months ago, but when it arrived it was a little mini-Bible with teeny-tiny print. Great for trips and such, but a little tough to preach out of. The one Jamie got me is a very attractive normal-sized one that will definitely be my new preaching Bible. As if that weren't enough, she also got me Go Put Your Strengths To Work by Marcus Buckingham. I can't wait to read it.

Mollie got me a great new money clip that I really like. It's a little leather pouch with a clip on the outside. I'm definitely a money clip man. I can't imagine going back to a wallet. If you've never tried a money clip, you should definitely try it. You won't regret it!

Isaiah piggy-backed off of Jamie's gift and bought me a frothing pitcher to use in my coffee making. It's stainless steel of course, and is the perfect touch!

Thanks for my gifts, family! Merry Christmas, everyone!!!


"They Like Jesus..." Video

I posted a review of this book a while back. They Like Jesus But Not the Church was definitely one of the best books I read this last year. I still highly recommend it to anyone concerned with reaching young adults. This is a video that Zondervan released promo-ing their new 6-week small group DVD-based curriculum based on Dan's book.


Online Personality Test

I saw this test on marko's blog. It's a shorter version of the Myers-Briggs test. Looks like I'm an INTP.

Click to view my Personality Profile page

"INTPs are relatively easy-going and amenable to most anything until their principles are violated, about which they may become outspoken and inflexible. They prefer to return, however, to a reserved albeit benign ambiance, not wishing to make spectacles of themselves.
INTPs contribute a logical, system-building approach to their work. They like being the architect of a plan, because of the scheming and thinking involved, far more than being the implementer of that plan. Implementation tends to be drudgery. They are content to sit back and think about what might work, given their view of the situation. INTPs may ignore standard operating procedures. The hours that they spend are not what is important to them, but rather the completion of their thought process."

I'm always amazed at how closely these things can peg you. I think I'm probably a little more extraverted than this would indicate, though.


What a Difference a Year Makes

We took our family Christmas picture this afternoon. I was thinking of how much has happened this year and how much our family has changed. I was also thinking about how happy everyone's Christmas pictures always look and wondering if they have as much yelling and crying right before that moment as we do.




Compassion Testimony

This is the testimony of a former Compassion International sponsored child. It was recorded at this year's Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Convention. Very powerful!


"I Was in the Neighborhood..."

I've been blown away lately at how often God stops by for a visit when I least expect it.

When Joe Wilson and I were at the Catalyst conference we seriously considered skipping the last day and going home because there wasn't much of anybody we were interested in hearing and because the first two days had been so great. We assumed the last day would be kind of anticlimactic. We were blown away even more. The speakers we were least familiar with were some of the best.

The Monday evening before Thanksgiving we had a Thanksgiving meal at the church for our Celebrate Recovery ministry. I'm not actively involved in this ministry but I love the lady who heads it up. She's a fireball and she has a tremendous heart for the lost. I agreed to be there and provide a little music for the evening. Honestly, when the night came, I was kind of tired and not really looking forward to it. But God showed up in such a mighty way! One of the ladies in the program shared her testimony about how she was dealing with anger issues. She went into some pretty personal details of events from her childhood that brought her to where she was. Long story short, she was incredibly inspiring. I love it when people have the guts to get up and be so transparent and vulnerable. It's an incredibly courageous thing. I don't think anyone there was expecting God to show up on a Monday night, but he did.

Then yesterday, Joe and I attended the funeral of a sister of one our deacons. I had never met the woman, but it was especially tragic because she was only 37 yrs old and was leaving behind a husband and two teenage boys. She had MS. God sent these two incredible servants to that funeral, her pastor and a older female preacher that was a family friend. As they spoke and attempted to give the family comfort - I was blown away. Each of them in their own way was comforting, funny, heart-broken, and the mouth-piece of God. It was honesty an honor to hear them speak. They ministered to my heart as well. It's crazy how you go to a funeral to be of some kind of support to a few people, and instead God shows up and ministers to me in a big way.

Finally, last night my son, Isaiah, and I had a father/son night out. He's been going through a really tough time lately. His self-image and world-view is at an all-time low. Sounds weird to say that about a 9-year-old, but it's true (please pray for him). Anyway I thought an emergency night away was in order so we went to Spingfield and ate crab legs and shopped around town all night, stayed in a hotel and swam in the pool, and got up today and had breakfast together. It was great spending time with him. He really loved it, but I think I loved it more. Once again, God shows up and gives me reason to spend some meaningful time with my son. It's amazing how spending true quality time with your family members feels remarkably similar to spending quality time with God.

This time last year, Rob Morgan, author and pastor of The Donelson Fellowship in Nashville, was in service with us. I only remember one thing from his sermon - he said, "Ministry happens in the interruptions of life." It's true. Meaningful minstering to the hearts of people is rarely ever scheduled. I thing the same is true of God. He tends to show up during the interruptions of my life.


Natural Church Development, Part 2


"The key distinction is probably best expressed by the word 'empowerment'. Leaders of growing churches concentrate on empowering other Christians for ministry. They do not use lay workers as 'helpers' in attaining their own goals and fulfilling their own visions. Rather, they invert the pyramid of authority so that the leader assists Christians to attain the spiritual potential God has for them."

Most church leaders are either relationship-oriented or goal-oriented. Schwarz's studies found that the majority of growing church leaders are partnership-oriented. They view their ministry as a partnership with other Christians on all levels. They partner with lay-people to develop their gifts and develop them as leaders. They also partner with peers and mentors for encouragement, advice, and wise counsel.

Two statistics that blew me away: 85% of pastors of low-quality/declining churches were seminary grads, while only 42% of pastors of high-quality/growing churches were seminary grads. Now before anybody gets too upset, here's the flip side of that coin (the inverse, if you will): Only 12% of pastors of low-quality/declining churches say that they "regularly seek counsel from a trusted outside source", while 58 % of pastors of high-quality/growing churches state that they seek outside counsel on a regular basis.

It's obvious that the problem is not seminary itself. But for some reason, seminary grads are less likely to seek outside help. Just as we preach about the importance of spiritual accountability relationships, we also need to realize the value of professional accountability relationships. I think every pastor needs to have other pastors or organizations in their life that they bounce ideas off of and ask for ministry advice.

It's been my opinion for quite a while, that the thing that keeps most churches from growing to their potential is weak or unhealthy leadership. Unfortunately, leadership is not given a strong enough emphasis in our Bible colleges and seminaries. As Andy Stanley has said, "Leadership is a stewardship. It is temporary and you're accountable." So goes the leader - so goes the organization. One of the best things that pastors can become students of, is leadership. There are fantastic leadership resources out now. There are also some that go against Biblical principles, so buyer beware.

Two fantastic conferences are the Willow Creek Leadership Summit and the Catalyst Conference. Both of these use the wisdom of strong church leaders and strong leaders in the business and sports world in their training. Catalyst also puts out a regular leadership podcast on iTunes that is great.

My favorite leadership books are:
  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team - Patrick Lencioni
  • Visioneering - Andy Stanley
  • The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership - Stephen B. Sample
  • FISH! - Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul, & John Christensen

What are some of your favorite leadership resources?


Natural Church Development

Sorry it's been so long since I posted. Thanksgiving was great! Loved spending time with my family. When we returned home, we had no heat, so we've been displaced. Thanks to Frank & Debbie Webster for hosting us the last few nights. Hopefully we'll have heat sometime tomorow.

I've been reading a truly thought-provoking book called Natural Church Development by Christian Schwarz. It is the result of the largest ever sociological study of churches (world-wide). What Schwarz found was that all healthy, growing churches have 8 qualities in common (whether intentional or not).
  • Empowering Leadership
  • Gift-based Ministry
  • Passionate Spirituality
  • Effective Structures
  • Inspiring Worship Service
  • Holistic Small Groups
  • Need-oriented Evangelism
  • Loving Relationships

NCD is not a program. It's a tool for measuring the health of your church. They don't offer solutions, programs, or models. NCD is big on unleashing the unique make-up of spiritual giftedness that God has blessed your church with. Don't copy other models, because you only copy what you see. The problem with that is that what you see is rarely the cause of that church's success. The leaves don't make a healthy tree - the roots do.

I want to spend the next several posts commenting on this book, because it is blowing my mind. Feel free to put your own two cents in.


Great Weekend!

I had a terrific weekend in the Bay Area. It was really great spending time with friends and catching up. Everyone was a huge encouragement to me. The retreat was a lot of fun. The campground is stunning. I love being around redwoods. That has to be God's favorite tree. At Redwood Christian Park there is this one truly incredible spot. It's a little out door meeting area. There's a small stage and some simple benches. There's also a simple wooden cross nailed to a tree behind the stage. The things that makes this spot so special is that it sits in the middle of a small circle of redwoods. The trees are pretty close together so they form a natural cathedral. They shoot 70-80 feet into the air (or more) and the top branches criss-cross with each other forming a kind of God-made fresca. It's one of the most beautiful spots on the planet.

I had a blast preaching at the retreat. I spoke on discipleship and used a poker theme. The theme was All In: Are You Willing to Risk it All? My messages were:
  • All In: Am I a Disciple?
  • The Flop: A Life Without Accountability
  • The Turn: The Priorities of a Disciple
  • The River: Making Disciples (with an emphasis on discipling your family)

One of my favorite parts of the trip was my quick tour of restaurants. Before the retreat started I tried to hit as many of my favorite spots as possible. I landed around noon on Thursday and had:

  • Lunch at In-n-Out in Pinole (my all-time favorite burger joint)
  • Afternoon Snack at Noah's Bagels in Pinole (Asiago Cheese Bagel w/Sun-dried Tomato Shmeer & Plain Bagel w/Pumpkin Shmeer)
  • Dinner at Hunan Villa in San Pablo (my all-time favorite Chinese restaurant)
  • Evening Snack at Central Perk in El Cerrito (This one was new to me, but I loved it. Coffee shop with wall-to-wall pop-culture memorabilia. Very kitsch.)
  • Breakfast at Cafe Soleil in El Sobrante (Best breakfast in El Sob. I had an omelette that included avocado. I was surprised how much I liked it)
  • Lunch at Chevy's in San Pablo (Decent Mexican food. They call it Fresh Mex. But I really love the little pile of smashed up sweet corn they put on your plate - yummy.)

Anyway, it was a great time!


Men In Trees

Please pray for me this weekend. I've been invited back to the Bay Hills Community Church in the SF Bay Area to be the guest speaker for their annual men's retreat. I'm honored to be there and I'm looking forward to reconnecting with old friends. We'll be at a retreat center in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It's so beautiful there! I can't wait. But I have to get up at 4am to get to my flight in St. Louis on time.

Please pray for Jamie she'll have all 3 kids to herself this weekend (and the baby's sick). I know it's no fun to wrangle the kids with no help, but she's more than capable.


The Air Car

I LOVE THIS!!! I can't wait till this technology is available stateside. Last night I caught a glimpse of a report about a new car that's powered on compressed air. I looked it up tonight and sure enough it's true. This is far superior to electric car technology because the engine is extremely light-weight, it will travel long distances on a single fill, and will also run about 70 mph (most electric cars are only 30-35 mph). Oh yeah, and it's cheap too. Around $15k. I found this Australian video on YouTube about the MDI Air Car. It's really fascinating. The second half is about a different compressed air engine but it's pretty cool too. This looks like the future to me!


Sittin' Pretty

Isla has recently started sitting up by herself. Tonight she sat and watched a whole 30 minute episode of Classical Baby sitting up with no assistance. I took a ton of pictures. In the middle pic, she is definitely giving me a "Quit interrupting my show!" look.

One Semester of Spanish - Spanish Love Song

This is AWESOME! It could also be called the "One Short-Term Mission Trip - Spanish Love Song". There's another version on YouTube with subtitles (if you need them). Heads up to Marko for this one.


The Theology of "How Long...?"

I have to follow up my last post with some thoughts that struck me late last night. There is an element of worship you find in the Psalms that is pretty much completely absent from worship in the church today. The element is "How Long?". It comes out in two different forms in the Psalms. I'm going to list all the examples.

The first is God asking "How long...?"
  • Ps. 4:2 - O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame? How long will you love vain words and seek after lies?
  • Ps. 62:3 - How long will all of you attack a man...?

The second is much more prevalent and is the psalmist questioning God.
  • Ps. 6:3 - My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O LORD— how long?
  • Ps. 13:1 - How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
  • Ps. 13:2 - How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
  • Ps. 35:17 - How long, O Lord, will you look on?
  • Ps. 74:10 - How long, O God, is the foe to scoff?
  • Ps. 79:5 - How long, O LORD? Will you be angry forever?
  • Ps. 80:4 - O LORD God of hosts, how long will you be angry with your people’s prayers?
  • Ps. 82:2 - How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?
  • Ps. 89:46 - How long, O LORD? Will you hide yourself forever? How long will your wrath burn like fire?
  • Ps. 90:13 - Return, O LORD! How long? Have pity on your servants!
  • Ps. 94:3 - O LORD, how long shall the wicked, how long shall the wicked exult?
  • Ps. 119:84 - How long must your servant endure?

When I read some of those statements, they strike me as having the kind of attitude that we are often told NOT to have towards God. Questioning God's timing, judgement, and wisdom is something that is generally discouraged in the modern church. I think the line of thought is that this kind of openness toward God lacks faith and trust and borders on being sacreligious.

But as I was meditating on these passages last night, I realized how healthy this attitude can be. By asking God, "How long?", we express an expectancy that is often lacking in the modern American church. We are so content with now and so caught up in now, that we forget how flawed the now is. We have something to hope for that is so much greater than what we're experiencing now. This is the "American" problem. We generally have it so good, that we don't really look forward to what will be ultimately better.

I also believe by openly questioning God, it can be an honest admission that God is in control. "How long?" is us coming to grips with the fact that we don't know it all or even know how to solve the problems of life. The solutions to life's problems are entirely in God's hands - all we can do is wait for God to reveal them. But, of course, because we're human, we struggle with being patient and waiting on God's timing. This is when "How long?" comes to the surface in those who walk close enough to God to ask such a bold question.

We need to re-embrace the "How long?" in our worship, in our quiet time, and in our overall view of the Kingdom.


How Long...?

I just finished watching U2's Vertigo Tour: Live from Chicago (recorded in '05) on the HDNet Channel. What an incredible show! I've always been a fan of U2. They are such a powerful band. I love the spirituality that comes out in their lyrics. They closed this show with their song "40". I have to say I was seriously moved by it. I was moved by the lyrics (which come from Psalm 40 and other Biblical texts). I was moved by the worshipful atmosphere they chose to end their concert with. I was moved by such a large number of people crying out "How long - to sing this song?" What a reminder that someday we WILL sing a new song! How much longer must we continue to sing imperfect, inadequate praise? I think I might add this song to our worship line-up at church. I found the clip on YouTube - ENJOY!


In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day

I'm reading another great book right now called In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson. In a Pit... is about seizing opportunities and chasing down your fears. Batterson is the pastor of National Community Church in Washington DC and is a tremendous pastor. I recently opened up a dialogue with him via email and he's been a HUGE encouragement to me.

In a Pit... centers around 2 Samuel 23:20-21 which gives an account of Benaiah, one of David's mighty men. Scripture records that Benaiah "went down and struck down a lion in a pit on a day when snow had fallen." Benaiah went on to become the captain of King David's bodyguard and the commander of Armies for King Solomon. The book is a lesson in how God can use our fears and obstacles to prepare us for our life's great successes. It really is a terrific read that I would recommend to everyone. Check out Batterson's blog (http://www.evotional.com/) and his church site (http://www.theaterchurch.com/).

On a side note: I walked into the living room with this book in my hand the other night and my son, Isaiah, asked, "Whatcha reading, Dad?" I replied, "In a Pit With a Lion on a Snowy Day." To which Isaiah says, "Dad! Seriously...whatcha reading?"


Good Things

I just thought I would take a little time to list a few things that are making my life a bit more enjoyable lately. It's the little things in life that make you smile on the inside that sometimes help you get out of bed.

Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte
Had my first one tonight and WOW was it good. I've always loved the Starbucks Peppermint Mocha. It's like Christmas in my mouth. The Pumpkin Spice Latte is a similar experience, but maybe better. It's like Thanksgiving and Christmas in my mouth!

Steve Fee
Steve led worship at the Catalyst Conference and I believe he leads on a regular basis at Andy Stanley's NorthPoint Church. He absolutely blessed my socks off in Atlanta and has continued to do so through his CDs since I've been home. Check him out. Some of his older CDs are just called Fee. We've been doing one of his songs recently at church - Glorious One. I get so excited every time we sing it, because I just know it's going to be one of those POWER moments.

The News from Lake Wobegon
Former president of Hillsdale FWB College, Jim Shepherd, turned me on to Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion weekly radio show back in '97. I've been a huge fan ever since. The highlight of each week's two-hour show is his fictional News from Lake Wobegon. I've recently been getting my Wobegon fix via podcast. Keillor's smooth voice and artistry of words is honestly something to be savored like a fine wine or a juicy steak. I usually don't listen unless I'm totally alone and get to just "soak" in it. It's funny, it's heart-breaking, it's honest, and I don't think there is anything that represents America better.

Cool Air
I love that Fall is here and the air nips at your skin and helps you remember you're alive. I think I've posted about it before, but for the last 10 years or so I go through a pretty serious period of depression every October. Even though I love the Fall, I inwardly dread it because I know I'll be feeling low. It happens every year like clockwork. Every year, except this year. I've had a great October and haven't been depressed at all. I'm very thankful for that! I think a big part of it was attending the Catalyst Conference at the beginning of the month. I was telling Jamie earlier tonight that I've never had a "conference high" last as long as this one has lasted. I feel the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life like never before. Every day He nips at my heart and reminds me I'm alive.

Driscoll on the Afterlife

I just heard this great quote from Mark Driscoll's sermon this last Sunday. He's preaching on death and Heaven and Hell and said this:

"If you are a Christian, this life is as close to Hell as you will ever experience. And if you are a non-Christian, this life is as close to Heaven as you will ever experience. For the Christian, this life is as bad as it can possibly be, and for the non-Christian, this life is as good as it can possibly get."

I love quotes that instantly put life into proper perspective!


Small Talk & Sinners

I'm almost finished reading The Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson. I've intentionally taken my time reading this one. The chapters were hitting me hard enough that I needed to let them ruminate in my mind for a while between readings.

As I was reading tonight, two things stood out to me. First, was his chapter entitled "The Ministry of Small Talk". Peterson writes about how important it is for a pastor to develop the art of small talk. This one hurt me. I've always been honest with people about how I hate and suck at small talk. I love talking about spiritual things or even political things. I can go on for hours about these things. I even enjoy sharing my own spiritual failures and victories. But small talk is difficult for me. When guys get together and start talking about the weather, the price of gas, traffic patterns, NASCAR, auto mechanics, home repair, etc... it's hard for me. It's not always that it's boring to me, but more that I have a hard time starting and maintaining those conversations. The closest thing I do to good small talk is discussing entertainment - movies, music, TV, etc... I can go on and on about that stuff. Peterson states, "I do not want to be misunderstood: pastoral conversation should not abound along on mindless cliches like gutter water. What I intend is that we simply be present and attentive to what is there conversationally, as respectful of the ordinary as we are of the critical." He even states that in some instances pastors can be snobbish in their conversation - not wanting to come down and communicate on the level of the masses. That is certainly never my intention. I've just always viewed "small talk" as a personal weakness. I admire guys who are good at it. However, I am (and rightly so, I think) critical of Christians who have known each other for years and never moved beyond small talk. What a waste of time and fellowship! But I definitely need to develop the art of small talk more in my life.

In the next chapter, Peterson discusses the importance of never ceasing to view yourself and your parishioners as SINNERS. He states that the reason most pastors become so frustrated or even bitter with their congregations, is that they lose sight of the fact that they are only sinners. If we constantly accept them as sinners, then we will spend more time celebrating even the smallest victory and be more understanding of the weaknesses. He used a great quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer - "A pastor should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men."


Father, forgive me.


Proud Week for Dad

My kids have made me quite proud this week. Mollie and Isaiah both came home with straight A's on their report cards and Isla had her 4-month check-up. The doc said she was "advanced" (his words, not mine). This week we conquer Lebanon, MO - tomorrow, the world!!! (insert evil genius laugh here)


Sickness and Suffering`

Sorry I haven't posted in so long. I've been laid up sick since Sunday. I still feel like crap, but that's actually a step up from feeling like death. Hopefully tomorrow I'll just feel awful.

I've listened to several sermons while I've been recovering. The whole podcast thing is one of my favorite pieces of new technology in a long time. It's really awesome that I can listen to sermons from pulpits all over the world every week (totally free). Used to, a pastor did all the feeding and was never able to be fed himself. This has totally changed. I'm listening to 5-10 sermons every week from some of the best preachers in the nation. It's like I have several online mentors, or pastors, that keep me fed, refreshed, motivated, and challenged. My favorites are Mark Driscoll at Mars Hill Seattle, Mark Batterson at National Community Church, Rob Bell at Mars Hill Michigan, Francis Chan at Cornerstone Community Church, David Fasold at Bay Hills Community Church, Matt Chandler at the Village Church, and Andy Stanley at North Point Church. Just download iTunes and search for them in the iTunes store.

Several sermons I listened to this week were about suffering. How we can know that when we're going through suffering, God works all things together for our good. Even in the worst times, God is shaping us and making us into the image of Himself. There was much more, but it's all been very encouraging (in a dark sort of way). It's not a matter of "if" we go through suffering, but "when", and when we do, how we will respond.

I'm always a little worried when several sermons or messages of other types come together in my life with the same message. Usually God is preparing me for something. Then again maybe He's explaining situations I've been through all ready.


Sweeney Todd

Probably my all-time favorite broadway show is Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. It's dark and comedic and beautiful all at the same time. I had heard that Tim Burton was making the story into a film starring Johnny Depp, but I just saw the trailer and found that it's not just the story, but the musical, too. Comes out this Christmas! Can't wait.


The Unbusy Pastor

Last night I started reading The Contemplative Pastor: Returning to Art of Spiritual Direction by Eugene Peterson. Peterson's books on pastoral ministry are so powerful and convicting (I posted about one of them before here). They are not best-sellers because you will not find any grand ideas on how to grow your church from 50 to 5,000. There's not much marketable about them in this era of the 21st century church. But everytime I read one, there is something in my soul that cries out to be the kind of pastor he writes about. There's no mention of modern marketing or leadership trends. No mention of being _______-driven or ________-sensitive (fill in your own blank). Just this simple plea to be the kind of spirit-filled pastor we find in the New Testament. (And if you read "spirit-filled" and think of anything soft, ineffective, or irrelevant, then you don't really understand the Holy Spirit.)

One chapter I read last night was called The Unbusy Pastor. This statement rocked my world: "The adjective busy set as a modifier to pastor should sound to our ears like adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to describe a banker. It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemous afront."

He goes on to say that generally a pastor is busy for one of two reason: vanity or laziness. Our vanity causes business that makes us feel important. Or sometimes to try to somehow justify our salaries. When people notice our business, they acknowledge our significance, and our vanity is fed. Our laziness causes us to be busy because we don't take the time to train up lay-leaders or delegate work to others.

Peterson then says the proper work of a pastor is threefold: praying, preaching, and listening. By listening he's referring to taking the time to hear the hurts, needs, and even victories of our congregation. And also listening for God's direction.

I found this reinforced in my Bible-reading today. I'm studying Acts and I come across Acts 6:2-4. "And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, 'It is not right that we should give up preaching the word to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.'"

There is so much good and valuable pastoral advice out there in the way of books and conferences. I think it goes back to balance, though. We do need to be good leaders and we do need to make sure the church is reaching out to the lost. But most pastors expect too much of themselves. We need to spend more time training people to BE the church so that we can spend more time equipping them to BE the church.

Peterson closed the chapter with this: "Years ago I noticed, as all pastors must, that when a pastor left a neighboring congregation, the congregational life carried on very well, thank you. A guest preacher was assigned to conduct Sunday worship, and nearby pastors took care of the funerals, weddings, and crisis counseling. A congregation would go for months, sometimes as long as a year or two, without a regular pastor. And I thought, All these things I am so busy doing - they aren't being done in that pastorless congregation, and nobody seems to mind. I asked myself, What if I, without leaving, quit doing them right now? Would anybody mind? I did, and they don't."


Today's Great Quotes

I love coming across great quotes. They're like little nuggets of spiritual manna that God just drops in your mouth. It's awesome to savor them for a while. I heard two great ones today.

Mark Batterson, Pastor of National Community Church in Washington DC
Mark was preaching on sex. His sermon was titled "The Sexy Elephant" (Great title! I'll let you check out his sermon series to discover why he gave it that title.) His blog is www.evotional.com and church website is www.theaterchurch.com. The quote was something to the effect of:
"Before you're married, Satan spends a huge amount of time trying to get you to have sex with your girlfriend. After you're married, he spends a huge amount of time trying to keep you from having sex with your wife."

Dan Kimball, Pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, CA
Dan's sermon title was "Don't Close Your Mind - Be a Theologian". His blog is www.dankimball.com/vintage_faith/ and his church site is www.vintagechurch.org.
"Give a man (or woman) a sermon and you feed them for a day. Teach a man (or woman) to study Scripture on their own and you feed them for a lifetime."

Amen! (Two times)



Check out http://www.junkycarclub.com/. This is a new thing from the guys that brought us xxxchurch.com. They are challenging the masses to give up their sweet rides with big car payments and settle for a paid-off ride that might be junky. Why? They want us to live with less so we can give more. Sacrifice some bells and whistles and sponsor a child instead - that sort of thing. Great stuff.

I knew there was a really spiritual reason that I drive around the piece of crap that is the Jeffmobile ('95 Chevy Corsica - 180k miles - paid off).


Kid Nation - Religion

If you haven't been watching the new CBS reality show, Kid Nation, you really should be. It's a great one to watch with the kids, too. It has sparked some interesting discussions with our family. If you don't know, the premise of the show is 40 kids (age 8-15) for 40 days in a ghost town with no adults. Basically the experiment is let's see what kind a civilization they build for themselves and how they handle life without supervision.

This week's episode seriously should be shown to every church or at least the leadership of every church. The whole episode was basically what to do with the question of religion. The kids come from diverse backgrounds - mostly Christian, a handful of Jews, a handful of atheists, 1 Hindu, and a handful of "other".

Four kids serve as the town council and each week are given a suggestion from a fake journal supposedly left behind by the town's former old west inhabitants. This week's suggestion was to consider providing a religious service (or services) for the town. The council decided to schedule a religious service where everyone could come and share about their own religion and then spend time in prayer/meditation together. When this was announced, it was flatly rejected by the entire town and nobody showed up to service that was organized by the council. However, later that night, a grass roots sort of thing happened and a big number of the kids decided to meet together for prayer. It was mostly Christian, but a Jewish kid said a Jewish prayer and the Christian kids were really moved by it.

Every week there's a team challenge and if all teams finish the challenge in an allotted time, the town gets a reward. This week the town could choose either to have a miniature golf course in the town or a library of "holy books" (the Bible, Torah, Koran, and others). The town was not happy with the council's decision the previous week, so the council let the town choose this week. To my surprise (and the council's) the kids overwhelmingly chose the holy books. Many of them spent time reading them later. They saw them as an important way to better themselves.

The reason this episode is so important is because it shows us as a church that the "coming storm" of postmodernism is here - NOW! These kids that represent a cross-section of American adults 10 years from now flatly rejected "organized religion", but enthusiastically embraced "faith". If the church is going to influence the culture, it must undergo a serious facelift. Organized religion needs to be left behind and the church needs to become more of a grass roots type of movement. We are going to have to stop going to church, and start being the church. The hand-writing is definitely on the wall and we need to respond.

I hope you'll be able to see more of this episode on YouTube in the future, but until then, here's the promo clip for it. (Thanks to D. Scott Miller who pointed out that the entire episode can be viewed at CBS.com.)


Catalyst and Foreskin's Lament

To follow up on my last email, Catalyst was truly an epic experience for me. I heard more great speakers on the final day, had the greatest worship experience of my life, and really had God speak to me. I've never been to a conference where every single speaker just hit it out of the park and cut right to my heart. I just felt emotionally exhausted and spiritually alive and refreshed at the same time.

By far my favorite speaker was Francis Chan from Simi Valley, CA. He is a truly gifted preacher. Check out his church's website here: Cornerstone Church. You can watch and/or listen to his sermons online.

Chris Seay played this video at the beginning of his message and it just cracked me up. It's a promotional video for a book called "Foreskin's Lament". It's a memoir of a young orthodox Jew and his personal struggles with his spiritual upbringing. Funny stuff. It's just a great reminder that we don't all have the same spiritual upbringing. Somewhere beyond our white, Christian, heterosexual, suburban life, there are always people who see God from a different perspective (and we rarely consider them).


Catalyst 2007

I'm in Atlanta right now attending the Catalyst Leadership Conference. So far it's been incredible! My favorite speakers so far have been Mark Batterson, Chris Seay, Matt Chandler, Leonard Sweet, Andy Stanley, Frances Chan, and this really cool hippie from East Tennessee, Shane Claiborne. All these guys are really inspiring, God-touched speakers. Everybody should google them and see if you can find some of their messages online. I would highly recommend this conference to anyone who is interested in being apart of the future of church.


David Crowder Band: Remedy

This last Tuesday, the new David Crowder Band album, Remedy, released. I am a HUGE fan of the DCB. I find their music to be innovative and their lyrics tend to cut to my heart like no other band. I have literally listened to nothing else but the Remedy album all week this week. It's truly incredible!

Most worhip albums you buy contain a few songs that you listen to and think, "Wow, that was a nice song. We need to add that to the line-up at church." Remedy has 10 songs that are all great, but the thing that has struck me the most this week is this thought that I am listening to the future of worship music. Crowder masterfully blends rock, pop, electronica, and worship in a way that no one else has before or can. I have heard some electronica or techno offerings in the past and they came off at most like an interesting novelty (including Crowder's own remix albums), but when you listen to even the most innovative stuff on Remedy, you can hear them being done in a church worship setting. In fact, I have felt myself hungering to hear this stuff in church! Churches everywhere are going to start looking for musicians who have talent in DJing, MIDI, keyboard programming, etc... Everyone these days has the typical guitar-bass-drum-keyboard band. The DCB has raised the bar (thank God, it's about time!) and will send us all scrambling to do the same. GREAT, GREAT, GREAT CD!


My Favorite Sound

My favorite sound in the world is the sound of my kids laughing. And, yes, I will totally humiliate myself to hear that sound. Here's a quick shot of my new favorite laugh.



How Many Paths?

Here's a little something to roll around in your head. We know that the Bible teaches in John 14 that no one can come to the Father except through Jesus. Other passages in the Bible emphasize this as well. No debate here - the only path to God is Jesus Christ.

Here's the bit I want you to consider. How many paths are there to Jesus Christ? Does everyone get to Him by saying the sinner's prayer (or the 4 Spiritual Laws), or are there other options? Is salvation a moment or a process? Do you have to be able to point to a moment in time when you got saved, or is it possible to begin a process of discovering Jesus Christ, and then reach a point when you realize you are a totally committed disciple but can't point to a specific moment when the transformation took place? Obviously, we must be drawn by the Holy Spirit, but does that mean there's a formula that must be followed?

I'm not going to give my answers or ideas yet, but I am interested in yours. Let me know what you think.


The Littlest Lebanon Yellowjacket Fan

Here's a pic of Isla at her first football game. Thanks to Joe Wilson for snapping the shot.


Ramsay's Kitchen (Church?) Nightmares

My current favorite TV show is actually a cooking show, of sorts, called Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares. It airs on BBC America and it's fantastic. The star is Chef Gordon Ramsay of the UK (he also stars on Fox's Hell's Kitchen). He is a huge star in the UK and fairly popular here, too. In the show, he shows up at failing restaurants all over Great Britain and stays for one week, showing the owners and staff how to turn their flops into successes. The thing that makes this show so entertaining is Ramsay's method of completely demoralizing them, screaming at them, and cursing at them for a solid week. It's really hilarious. Ramsay is truly an artist of two mediums. He is an artist in the kitchen, but his other art would definitely be profanity. Those of you who have been exposed to people in your life that can masterfully string together curse words in a rant in a way that is both awe-inspiring and funny will know what I'm talking about. (I, myself, dabbled a bit in this art in high school, but became truly proficient in it during my 3-year stint in the Army.) But he is almost always successful at turning the restaurant into a true successful business.

The good news is that Fox is bringing this show to the US, but will have Chef Ramsay working his magic in US restaurants. It starts in a few weeks and is called simply Kitchen Nightmares.

However, I have a much better idea I would like to pitch. If there are any network execs out there reading this or if any of you could forward this to a network exec, it would be appreciated. Here's the show: Church Nightmares. I would go into a truly failing church (you know, rejects outsiders, a little racist, refusing to change to meet the needs of a modern culture) and just rip 'em a new one for a week. I believe this could end up being the most popular show on TV. The general public would enjoy seeing the stereotypical church folk getting told off. Open-minded church folk would get a kick out of seeing someone say the things to this church that they were always too "Christian" to say. And I think God would enjoy seeing a true modern-day prophet come into these churches and putting the fear of Him in them. And how awesome would it be if the viewing public could actually see some of these churches change (or shut down). It's a great idea! Let's get it made. Maybe we could start a letter-writing campaign. Send one to Fox because they'll air anything and one to ABC because I think they hate Christians a little more than the others.

Alive Day Memories

I just watched another incredible documentary. It was HBO's "Alive Day Memories". It was produced by James Gandolfini (the actor who plays Tony Soprano in The Sopranos). The hour-long doc features him interviewing wounded US soldiers from the war in Iraq. It is very powerful, eye-opening, and moving. If you get HBO and have the opportunity to watch this, it's well worth it. Otherwise, it's worth renting or buying when the time comes. Below is a story about the doc that Brian Williams did on NBC's Nightly News this last week.


Hold Me, Jesus

I am in a very odd place in my life. I am both stressed and at ease. I am both angry and happy. I literally feel contentment and anxiety at the same time. The funny thing is all of my friends that I've talked to recently are feeling similar emotions. There is no other song or songwriter that can express this better than "Hold Me, Jesus" by Rich Mullins.

To all of my fellow psychotic friends - I hope these words both bless and sustain you!


The Bridge

Jamie and I watched a very powerful, chilling documentary last night called The Bridge. It is a documentary about the large number of suicides that take place on the Golden Gate Bridge. It was made in 2006 and the film maker spent one year filming the GG Bridge during daylight hours from multiple angles. He actually caught most of that year's over 20 jumpers on tape. More people choose to end their life on the GG Bridge than any other location in the world. Sometimes they actually fly in to San Francisco from all over the world just for that purpose.

The film is really a study on the emotions, mental instability, and circumstances that lead to a suicide and the emotions of those left behind. The thing that makes this an incredible documentary is it is absolutely beautifully shot. And it is filmed with almost no "hollywood drama". There's no musical build-up to the jumps. No crazy camera tricks. It's simply filmed from a distance with a decent zoom lense. It's a very honest look at a very troubling subject.

Suicide is one of the most troubling things in life to me. It's hard to imagine a seemingly normal individual coming to such a state of hopelessness. This is one of the reasons it's so important for us to be Jesus to as many people as possible. You never know when you're going to be that God-sent lifeline that someone desperately needs.

The Golden Gate Bridge is probably my favorite location in the world. It's stunningly beautiful. When we lived in the Bay Area, I tried to visit it as often as possible, but I wish I would have visited more. Below is the trailer for the film.


The Old Guard

One of the things in my past that I'm most proud of is serving in the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard). I served for 3 years from '93 - '96 as the Regimental Chaplain Assistant. They have really strict selection guidelines and I was selected for the honor straight out of chaplain school and it was a teriffic assignment. The Old Guard is the official ceremonial unit of the Army and official escort to the President of the United States. Their mission includes funerals at Arlington Cemetery, White House arrival ceremonies, guarding the Tomb of the Unknowns, Army Drill Team, Caisson Platoon, Army Fife & Drum Corp, and more. While their primary role is ceremonial, they are also an active infantry unit.

This is on my mind because the Military Channel aired a special the other day that highlighted The Old Guard and I got to show it to my kids yesterday. It was neat to show them exactly what Daddy did in the Army. I even got out my old uniform and medals and such and they thought that was pretty cool, too.

I found out today there is an Old Guard Association for former members. Here's a link to a really good Old Guard video they put together.


Severed from Christ

"You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace." - Galatians 5:4 (ESV)

This verse hit me like a ton of bricks while in Panama. It was one of those verses that I've read a thousand times but never really read. Some of you may find some way to dismiss this, but I have this nasty habit of believing the Bible to be true even if it doesn't fit into my theology or chosen doctrinal statement. For instance, when Jesus uses a parable to teach that God will yank your forgiveness if you can't forgive others, I think that's true (Mt. 18). And while I believe every bit of my Free Will Baptist doctrine, I think we're a bit off-base by requiring our members to be tee-totalers. You won't find that taught anywhere in Scripture and I'm personally of the opinion that it's hard enough to obey what IS in the Bible without adding more to it. However, since I believe our doctrine is the most accurate and because I love our denomination, I'll wait till heaven to start my drinking.

Back to Galatians: the strength of this statement just bowled me over. How many people (yourself included) do you know that try to improve their standing with God by trying to improve their morality. In our nonsensical minds, it is much easier to keep a checklist of do's and dont's than to simply enter into an authentic relationship with Christ. And I don't mean relationship in the pansy, feminine way that most preachers today speak of. I mean entering into a relationship with Christ where you place all your hope, faith, devotion, dreams, everything. I believe one of the many reasons American faith is so weak is because we've sold this idea of a romantic relationship with Jesus. I think romance is only one small part of our relationship with Jesus. The problem with romantic relationships is that they are controlled and driven by emotions. So if Jesus is not making us happy on any given day, then our faith falters. Jesus is your friend, but he's not just your friend. He's your counselor, but not only your counselor. He's much more than your homeboy. He's your God, your example, your Savior, your boss, your master, your companion...what he is is everything you need (even if you don't think you need it).

The idea that in all this effort of trying to get closer to Jesus by being a moral person, we are actually seperating ourselves from Him is so sad. I want to live in total dedication and submission and love to Jesus. He will work out my morals as he shapes me into the shape he has planned for me. I will be moral, not because I'll get closer to Christ that way, but because it's the only reasonable response to the love he's shown me.


Join the BC United!

For those of you who know the awesome people who are Micah & Becky Derby, here's a great way to help them out (and look good, too!). The Derby's are missionaries to France who minister specifically to the Muslim population. They had been home on furlough for a year and as they were preparing to return to France, they found out Becky had breast cancer. Their return to the field has been postponed indefinitely while Becky undergoes treatment.

Micah was sick of all the girly breast cancer t-shirts out there and wanted to show his support without wearing pink all the time. A friend of Micah's in Nashville, designed a very macho t-shirt. It's a soccer tee and looks great. Everyone who purchases one will have their own unique number on the back. The cost is $25 and your can contact Joel Gibbs at (615)871-4610 to purchase your shirt. Proceeds go to support the Derby's.


Great Performance Idea

Sorry I've been so sparse in my blogging recently. I am finishing up my busy Summer season this week.

Props to Ron Hunter for sending me this video. This is a great idea for a youth performance. Very cool stuff!


Flatfoot 56

Totally by chance, I heard one of the best albums I've heard in a very long time. The band is Flatfoot 56 and the album is "Jungle of the Midwest Sea". Flatfoot 56 is a hard-driving Christian celtic punk rock band based in Chicago. You can check them out here on their Myspace page. They've definitely got a great punk sound, but they masterfully mix in bagpipes, mandolin, and accordion to create a super-cool adrenaline-raising sound. I especially love the manly chorus in the background giving the "OI, OI, OI..." shout-outs. I've had their CD sitting on my desk for several weeks and hadn't listened to it. I got it in the mail through this youth pastor Christian music subscription service called Interlinc. I had to drive to Springfield yesterday and grabbed a couple of CDs to listen to on the way. I was totally blown away by these guys. I ended up listening to it like 4 times. Seriously, if you're tired of listening to 24-hour Tomlin on Christian radio, you need to pick up this album. Good stuff!


Pics from Panama

Well, I'm back from Panama. It was really a great week. It's a little sad being back. If the weather was a touch cooler, I wouldn't mind living there permanently. The people are so kind, the pace of life is so much slower, and the church seems to be so focused on reaching the lost. It's inspiring and refreshing. Here are a few pictures:

This is me with my friend, Gabby (Gabriela). She is so much fun to be around. When I was in Panama this last January, Gabby was my shadow. She teased me relentlessly because I couldn't roll my r's. When I tried she laughed and said I sounded like a turkey (pabo). This trip she picked up where she left off and immediately called me pabo again. She's a great girl and was incredible leading the younger children during our VBS. I told her she should be a teacher when she's older.

I met Randall on my previous trip as well. He's a total ham. He's got a great sense of humor and loves being the center of attention. Randall had great fun tricking me into saying Spanish cuss words. He wants to work with computers after he graduates next year, but I'm secretly praying he'll hear God's call to ministry. He'd be a great preacher!

Panamanian children are very well-behaved. But there was one boy at the VBS that was definitely the exception to the rule. Oscar was a sweet boy, but wanted nothing to do with the rules or anyone's affection. He would flip everyone off and yell profanities all the time. It was obvious he came from a rough home life. We found out that his parents weren't together anymore and his mother was an alcoholic. Despite the tough front he put on, he was always the first one there and the last one to leave. I believe he really felt safe and cared for at the church, but he didn't know how to respond to the affection. Pray for Oscar and his family.

There were 34 people on our team, but above are the 14 who went from our church. (L-R: Marty & Ann Robertson, Joe & Julie Wilson, Austin Moore, Karlee Wilson, Gary & Katy Fry, Jon & Becky Chastain, Jeff Myers, Katie Poletti, Debbie & Frank Webster, and our host missionaries, Stan & Brenda Bunch) I was extremely proud of everyone from our church. They worked very hard and accomplished alot. But most importantly, they allowed God to use them and speak to them in Panama. It was definitely a trip we'll all never forget.


Praying in Parita

Most of our efforts have been centered around the church in Chitre, Panama. However, today we went to offer some assistance to the church in Parita. Parita is the second oldest city in Panama. It's small and the gospel has never been widely accepted there. The missionaries and nationals have tried everything they can think of to reach the lost, but so far nothing has worked. The congregation is small and struggles. The pastor is a true hero of the faith, but struggles to stay encouraged. They have decided to simply commit the town to prayer. We went today and did a "prayer walk". We divided into groups of 5 and simply walked the streets of the town, bathing it in prayer. We would occasionally stop and talk to people. Once we stopped and played basketball with some boys. It was a lot of fun.

Pray for the church in Parita that they will see their town changed for Christ.

Team Panama Blog

Here's the link to our Team Panama Blog. You can view lots of pics and if you click the podcast tab you can see my handsome face in a video. Enjoy!


Panama Update

Just a quick update. Sunday's flights had to be rerouted due to weather in Atlanta. This caused us to run late so our luggage didn't make it to Panama. I had 1 shirt and 1 pair of underwear in my carry-on. We were hoping for our luggage to arrive last night, but it didn't. Many of our supplies for projects we were going to work on were in our luggage so now we're doing some serious improvising! All in all everyone's in good spirits. Unfortunately, I traveled in jeans. I may end up cutting them up for some relief from the heat. Pray for all of us - we're going to need it. Everyday without our essentials, increases the stress level just a touch. But despite our circumstances, God is blessing and using us. We had a great teen fellowship with the Panamanians last night. I got to joke around with some of the teens I met when I was here in January. God is good - all the time!!

Jamie & Kids: I was unable to check email for some reason. I haven't had a chance to purchase a phone card yet. I'll call asap. I miss and love you guys. Respond to this if you need to get a message to me. Kiss each other for me! Mollie, quit bossing your brother around. Isaiah, quit pestering your sister. Isla, quit thinking about quantum physics. Jamie, relax. I love you guys.



I'm heading out on a mission trip to Panama early tomorrow. I'll be gone just over a week. I doubt I'll get the opportunity to blog, but who knows. Hope to share lots of great pics and stories with everybody upon my return.


Lovin' the Movies

I've seen some great movies lately. Jamie and I watched the new Harry Potter flick again last night on our date night. Today we took the kids to see The Simpsons Movie. It was excellent! Very funny. The animation was a little better than the weekly series, but overall it had the same great feel of the genius that is The Simpsons. I've said it before, and I honestly believe it, The Simpsons is probably the greatest comedy series EVER on TV. The writing has been consistently good for 19 years - no other show can say that.

I finally saw Little Miss Sunshine a few days ago, too. Another great movie. You should definitely rent this one if you haven't seen it. It was funny and gut-wrenching all at the same time. There were several times I was a little weepy during the movie, but the ending had me lauging harder than I've laughed in a long while. Some language issues and some illicit drug use, but the story of this beautiful little girl blows all that stuff away.

I am also super-excited that production has finally started for the new Indiana Jones movie. It's set to release Memorial Day 2008. They've set up a great website at indianajones.com where you can keep track of the progress through photos, news, and videos. It's worth going to the home page just to let that theme music get you all amped up! Karen Allen, Indy's love interest in Raiders..., is back for this movie and she looks unbelievable! That movie came out over 20 years ago and she doesn't look a day older. Anyway, can't wait! Let me know what great movies you all have seen recently.


Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Review

I'll try to review this book without giving anything away. I have been looking forward to reading this book since I read the first book back in 2000. And now that it has finally released and I've read it, I feel a little sad about it. I know it might sound cheesy, but Harry Potter came to me at a time in my life when I was going through a pretty serious depression. The books (the second one had just released at the time) gave me a bit of a bright spot in my life when I was having a hard time finding one. It's always been frustrating for me to watch some overly-conservative Christians attack the books, because I think they're brilliant and loads of fun to read. They sparked a love/obsession for chilren's books in me that lasted several years. Some of the best literature being written today is being written for a 10-12 year old audience. You should seriously check out Rowling's Potter books if you never have. They're great food for your inner child!

Deathly Hallows is far and away the best of the seven Potter books. Almost every other chapter has the excitement of the last couple of chapters of all the other books. It's intense, funny, sad, and a remarkable story. The ending was not a disappointment. It felt like it ended the way it should. In fact, the ending was so good, I've gone back and re-read the last chapter three times. I seriously don't have a negative criticism for this book. It was absolutely perfect. My only regret is that there will be no more Harry Potter books to look forward to. READ THIS BOOK (and the other six, too)!


Harry Potter and the Wobbly Canoe

We had a great day yesterday. I took some teens from the youth group floating down the Niangua River. It was a perfect day for it - not too hot, a little overcast. One of the few perks of being the child of a youth pastor is that occasionally Dad takes you along for teen events that no other kids get to go to. So yesterday I took Mollie and Isaiah along and they had a blast. It was their first float trip. Isaiah was with me and we maneuvered the river like old pros. Mollie, on the other hand, was with a 7th grade girl who had never floated before. They spent most of the day stuck or banging into every rock, tree, stump, or other canoe on the river. But they had a great time - lots of screaming and laughing. It was about 7 miles worth of floating and it took us about 5 hours.

Last night we grilled brauts and played Bohnanza with our friends, Jay & Naomi Burns. It was a good time. Bohnanza is a German-made bean-trading card game that Micah and Becky Derby taught us. Lots of fun and you can purchase it on Amazon.

Then at the crack of midnight, Isaiah and I were standing in line at Wal-Mart to purchase the new Harry Potter book! There were about 200 people in line and they gave out posters, bookmarks, and wristbands. I actually chose to go there because I thought there would be less of a line than at our local bookstore. I was wrong. But I'm glad I went, because the cover price on that hefty book was $35 and Wal-Mart sold it for $18. Wal-Mart - Always Low Prices - Always.


The Five Dysfunctions of a Team

I read a great leadership book today - The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni. I know I'm probably one of the last people who hadn't read this, but I finally got around to it today and it was great! I love the leadership books on the market that start off with a leadership fable and then develop the principles laid out in the story. Lencioni's books are of this sort. I think it makes them highly readable. I look forward to reading his other leadership books.

Without going into too much detail, the five dysfunctions are 1) absence of trust, 2) fear of conflict, 3) lack of commitment, 4) avoidance of accountability, and 5) inattention to results. I love the topic of teamwork. Very few organisations do it well. But when it's good, it's awesome.

Death of a Princess

There's been a lot of programming on the telly lately regarding the death of Princess Diana. This year marks the 10th anniversary of it. There are a handful of events that have happened in my lifetime that I can remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. I remember walking home from school when another kid ran by and screamed something about President Reagan being shot. I was walking up the steps at Houston Jr. High when some kids passed and told me the Challenger exploded. Of course, we all remember where we were on 9/11. I have a similar feeling about Princess Di's death, but for different reasons.

I wasn't a huge fan of Di's. Her life didn't impact me in any particular way. (But I do remember my brother and I sleeping on my Grandma & Grandpa Myers' bedroom floor so they could wake us up early and watch her Royal Wedding.) The reason Di's death stuck with me had very little to do with her.

I had transitioned out of the Army and had gone back to Hillsdale College to finish my degree. Jamie and I were living in a tiny house in Moore, OK. Mollie had just been born a few months earlier. I was working an evening job delivering pizza for Pizza Hut in a not-so-great area of OKC. I remember very specifically driving a pizza somewhere with my windows down. The DJ on the radio said something to the effect of, "Sad news, folks. Tonight a princess has died." The words were no sooner out of his mouth when I pulled up to a four-way stop and a teenage prostitute walked to my window and leaned in and propositioned me. The irony hit me immediately and I spent the remainder of that delivery fighting back tears. More than one princess had been lost that night.

I've had one princess for 10 years now and have just been given the gift of another. The thing that keeps me up at night is a fear that I will do something as a dad that will send one of my princess's looking for love in the wrong place. Study after study has shown that a father's relationship with his daughter has a very direct impact on her future dating and sexual decisions.

I tell guys this all the time and now seems like a good time to say it again. One of your primary responsibilities as a father of a daughter is to romance her. If you're not dating your daughter, somebody else will. You should be her knight in shining armor. You need to make her laugh, hug and kiss her, hold her hand, take her on dates regularly, and teach her by example what kind of man she needs to look for one day.

I'm a typical father. I am probably too tough on my kids a lot of times - in fact, I can be a real jerk. But I try to make a conscious effort to drop all the macho b.s. and be what my daughter needs me to be. Some days I'm more successful than others.

Say a prayer for me today as I try to raise my princesses and I'll say one for you and yours, too.



This is a great little test to take. In case you've ever wondered.