Tuesday, October 30, 2012

God of Heaven Come Down - Into Our Homes

On September 30, I was given the opportunity to preach in worship, for the first time in several years.  I've given talks, read devotionals, and lead a lot of worship in public, but this was the first time in a long time I'd been given the opportunity to preach the word.

Several weeks back, I wrote a post on the new mission statement we were rolling out as a church family and that I was tasked with the second Sunday, bringing heaven down to earth - in our homes.

I had high hopes for the content of the message, but my outline set the bar pretty high in the time-consuming department.  I wasn't ready to give, nor was the congregation ready to hear, an hour long message dealing with my limited experience in the marriage/dad department.

So, I took some advice from Gospel Lesson for the day and focused on the one thing: dinner.

Before going any further, pull out your favorite translation of the Word, and read Luke10:38-42.
Lord God, steady our hearts this morning.  There's so much to be worried about, so much to do.  Help us at this time, to settle down and listen.  Help us to know what you would have us do, right now.  In your son's precious name we pray, amen.

You may have heard that we’re launching a new mission statement for our faith family … As we’ve been listening and praying for discernment in the way forward for FUMC Duncanville, we chose to get back to the basics of the faith, the reason Christ came down among us to begin with … to usher in the Kingdom Time, to come down as the incarnate Word of God and bring heaven down with him.  The new vision for our church family is the same vision that Christ laid down before us when he taught the disciples to pray that night, “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven …”  As we seek to do the Lord’s will together here, to bring down the Lord’s will into this place, we’ve broken down the goal of what it means to bring heaven down to earth in five ever-widening and interconnected circles – starting with ourselves, then to our families, to our church family, our community, and then to the ultimate goal, the transformation of the world in which we live.  Today we bring our focus to the family, families that come in all shapes, and all sizes. 
The story of Mary and Martha is one that often comes to mind when I’m in my own home.  Spend five minutes in our house on a normal day and it won’t be hard to guess who in our home has tendencies towards being Mary or Martha.
I’m not going to lie here … Much of my day is geared towards getting back to my couch, putting my feet up, turning on the TV, and chilling out.  I especially love my Fridays, my day off, my time for me and me alone.  Time to catch up on the DVR, all those that I don't have time to get to during the week … I should say though, that changed a lot when I got married, and then changed again when Wesley came along.  I feel like I’ve adapted pretty well along the way, though.
But there was no time more evident that Leanne and I had different takes on relaxation then a certain Friday, about six months into our marriage. 

A little background is necessary here ...  After I graduated from Perkins in 08, I didn’t have anything holding me back from doing something crazy with my life.  I had worked at my home church in Farmers Branch for three years, and as I was wrapping up my Masters studies I was interviewing for the Music Directors job at my church as my boss and mentor was retiring after 25 years in ministry with my church family.  I was brought in to learn the ropes in Farmers Branch, but then an opportunity came up in Slidell, Louisiana and when the job in Slidell was offered, I took it.  It was an opportunity to get out on my own and have fun.  I had no girlfriend at the time and my family was supportive, so I made the big move.  And then, Leanne and I connected back in Dallas. 
Long story short, as soon as Leanne and I got started, we knew that this was it.  Even though we had known each other for a couple of years, circumstances had never lined up for us to get to know one another.  Between her having a boyfriend when she came to seminary, to my frequent naps in the basement of the seminary library, things just hadn’t come together for us.  We reconnected before a friend’s wedding, started talking non-stop, and next thing I know she’s visiting Louisiana.  Two dates, an evacuation, a Halloween party, and a change in my phone plan because I kept running out of minutes and text messages, and I asked her to marry me. 
And then, here's the real magic, I somehow convinced her that moving to Louisiana was a good idea.  She wasn’t too happy about it at first.  My career was just getting started, so I needed to stay put for a bit.  As she was just finishing seminary, she had a little bit more career flexibility than I had, but she knew no one in LA beyond my circle of friends.  We settled into our new life together after we were married, but the first job she landed wasn’t the best fit for our family.  Happy wife, happy life, right?
After a hard couple of months at that first job, we talked, argued, and eventually prayed together – we knew she needed to quit it.  In the following months, Leanne made work for herself – putting together 3 or 4 part time jobs during a bit of an in-between time.
It was during that time that we had to have little come-to-Jesus meeting regarding our Fridays.
One of the jobs Leanne worked was out of the home, taking customer service phone calls out of our home office in the morning.  It was all good Monday through Thursday while I was in the office, but things got a little hairy when I was home on Fridays.  Like I said, I need my chill out on the couch time.  Leanne, however, is a mover.  She’s always on the move during the day.  That’s not to say that she doesn’t know how to relax, but she took a little offense to my sitting on the couch while she worked.  In between calls Leanne would do chores, cleaning the kitchen, vacuuming, putting things away.  So of course, I needed to be doing that too.  Which of course, I didn’t.  That’s not to say that I don’t pick up after myself, but clutter does tend to follow me around.
One day things came to a head.  Things got heated.  Big time.  But when things cooled off we sat and hashed things out.  You see, we had competing sets of expectations.  I expected to get my Sabbath time in on Friday, my time of rest.  And she expected not to do all of the housework on her own.  So how do we deal?  One night a week we take 30 minutes and do our chores, clean the bathrooms, really clean the kitchen, vacuum and pick up the house.  Her Martha, and my Mary (I guess), coming together to peacefully coexist.  That’s not to say it’s not a lot of crazy hard work, but we prayerfully work as a team.  I’m of the thinking that bringing heaven down into our families looks like teamwork.
And I tell you what, it’s good that we had these debates early on, because bringing a baby, even a baby as good looking and happy as Wesley has further turned our life on it’s head.  I mean that in the best possible way.
To bring it back to Mary and Martha, I know that there are probably a lot of moms, and dads if you like to cook as much as I do, that would probably raise their hands and say, “Well, Jesus, who’s going to cook dinner if I don’t?”  And I would say that that’s not necessarily the point here … In speaking to Martha, he offers words like ‘distracted’ and ‘worry’.  He’s not saying that offering hospitality isn’t important, but that here at his feet, Mary is learning how to be a disciple.  He wanted Martha to join them. 

But even then, there’s a lot to unpack here in these five verses.
Number one being that Jesus really knew this family.  These are the sisters of Lazarus, the one whom Jesus loved, his friend.  He took his lumps from these sisters when their brother died, and he wept for their brother before calling Lazarus out the tomb, foreshadowing Christ’s own mastery over death.  Mary is also the wise one who anointed Christ’s feet with perfume and her own tears, as if anointing him for his own burial.  These women, this family, they knew Jesus.  So it’s not out of the realm of understanding to see the familiar way in which Martha addresses, to Jesus, her problems with Mary.  She knows who he is, teacher, healer, Son of the Most High, but she still speaks to him as if he’s her own brother. 

The part that was missing here, though, the step that Martha didn’t take before getting upset was to take a moment herself and ask Christ, “What should I be doing right now?”  It’s not that she was doing anything wrong, and we know that Christ doesn’t see anything wrong with what Mary’s doing either.  But Martha didn’t take the time to ask, “What does the Son of God need from me right now?”  Jesus needed her to take some time, and chill out, and listen – as family.
Christ wasn’t just an honored guest in her home, he wasn’t just there as teacher, either.  He was there as a member of the family.  And much like for Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, Christ wants to be a member of our family, and a presence in our own households.
So how do we know that we’re keeping Christ a presence in our home?  How do we know that we’re seeking his will for our families?  As a friend in ministry put it to me, “How do I know that I’m living in God’s perfect will for my life?”
Do you pray as a family?  Do you read scripture as a family?  Do you break bread together as a family?  Do you support the church’s mission with your prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness as a family?  It’s the challenge before us to seek the Lord’s will together as families.
I could spend all day speaking to you of family spiritual disciplines, and as I was discerning a way through this message, I nearly planned a sermon that would have.  But I’ll take a little advice from Jesus on this one, and focus on one thing …
Is there a room in your household that you consider to be it’s heart?  That room is usually the kitchen.  If you’re like Leanne and I, we spend a lot of time in the kitchen.  And when we were looking for a place to live when we were moving here, having a good sized kitchen was high priority, but we were also seeking an open floor plan (like many of you, I’m guessing) where the kitchen, dining room, and living room were all connected and open to one another.  We love having people over, so having a large space to host our family and friends was high on the list.  After moving in the first major purchase we made, after buying the first couch for either of us that wasn’t a hand-me-down from college, was a large outdoor grill to make sure I could grill for the neighborhood.  Gathering as a family with plenty of food to share is our very favorite things to do together.  Our kitchen is truly where the heart of our home is.  It’s a place where we can model Christ’s love for one another, Leanne, myself, and Wesley.
Would it surprise you to know that in households that eat dinner together fewer than three times per week, teens are 3.5 times more likely to abuse prescription drugs and to have use illegal drugs other than marijuana, 3 times more likely to use marijuana, more than 2.5 times more likely to smoke a cigarette, and 1.5 times more likely to try alcohol, according to a recent study done by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.  In families that eat dinner together fewer than three times per week, teens and children are 20% more likely to have C’s or lower on their report cards.  In households where families eat together at least 5 times per week, teens are 81% more likely to actually tell parents what’s going on in their lives.  With fewer than three dinners per week that stat drops by half*.
I know a lot of parents out there can get out the family calendar on the phone and say, "There’s no way we could eat more together!".  But the stats are what they are.  And parents, it might surprise you to know, but of the 2,000 teens that were interviewed for the CASA study, 60% said they wanted to eat with their families more often.  When you look at statistics, wouldn’t you say it’s worth the time?  They say that especially for young children, family meals are essential to learning how to interact with adults and building their vocabularies.
The family meal creates a time for holy conversation.  It provides an opportunity to get off the spiritual milk that Pastor Josh mentioned last week in his message and move toward the spiritual food that the Lord wants to nourish us with.  I asked you earlier, Do you pray together as families?  Don’t many of us, when we’re gathered at the dinner table, first say grace?  It is at that point that we’re inviting the Lord down to take a seat with us, much as Christ was offered a seat at the table of Mary and Martha’s house.
I like even better how Eugene Peterson translates our lesson for today in the Message:
38-40 As they continued their travel, Jesus entered a village. A woman by the name of Martha welcomed him and made him feel quite at home. She had a sister, Mary, who sat before the Master, hanging on every word he said. But Martha was pulled away by all she had to do in the kitchen. Later, she stepped in, interrupting them. “Master, don’t you care that my sister has abandoned the kitchen to me? Tell her to lend me a hand.”
41-42 The Master said, “Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing. One thing only is essential, and Mary has chosen it—it’s the main course, and won’t be taken from her.”
I would challenge us as families not to underestimate the power of the dinner table.  We can find nourishment there, not just for our bodies, but our souls as families.  It’s a place where we can live out the Gospel with one another, to talk with one another, to pray with one another, to dig deeper in the faith with one another – to get to the spiritual food that will grow us into our faiths.  But we can’t also forget to make sure that we invite Christ to that table.  We can’t forget to ask Heaven to come down and dwell with us – because when we ask for heaven to come down to us, it will.

Is it any wonder that one of the most important ways in which we remember Christ is to join together in the Holy Supper that Christ instituted?  He calls on us to remember him in simple foods of bread and wine, things that are staples of the dinner table.  Christ reminds us through the sacrament that he is an essential part of our lives and he is meant to be shared with the family, as a family.
I would be missing an important opportunity if I didn’t share with you one more important way that we, as families in the faith, can make sure that Christ is front and center and supported with our prayers, presence, gifts, service, and witness.
When we were first married, Leanne and I went through a pretty lean time financially.  But we felt convicted, even during that tough time to tithe to the church of which we were members.  The Lord taught us that, and told us of the requirement in the Holy Word.  Giving a tenth of our income, from our first fruits, is part of being a member of Christ’s Own Body.  We worked our way up to that tithe over the first few months of our marriage, making it a budgetary priority.  And now that tithe is a non-negotiable part of our budget.  When we sit at the table to chat about the budget each month, the tithe is one thing that we don’t need to talk about – that 10% of our income isn’t even ours.  It belongs to the Lord.  It’s not a tax, it’s a requirement of the Lord.  We give it up to the Lord, to the faith family of which we’re a part to make sure that the Lord’s work of bringing heaven down to the earth is able to be sustained.  But, this isn’t a sermon about tithing, so I’m going to prayerfully leave it at that.
You may have been wondering during this time, “What’s the music guy doing giving a sermon?”  Well, a couple of months ago I let Reverend Marie know that if there ever was a time that she needed a break, and Josh or Jim weren’t available, I wouldn’t mind the opportunity to preach the message.  It’s been since then that Leanne and I, and the rest of my family have been doing a lot of praying together and doing some call discernment.  It’s with great joy this morning that I get to share with you some good news – God has put a new call on my heart and I’m now a candidate for ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church as an Elder.
God has been working this on me quite a while, and you never know what can happen when you turn yourself to God and say, “Lord, here I am, what would you have me do?”  I did that 10 years ago when I first felt my call to ministry, and as a musician I’ve had wonderful opportunities to live out the Gospel and share God moment’s with people of the faith.  But as I’ve asked the question of the Lord again, I feel God calling me to seek out people that aren’t of the faith, people of my generation who don’t know that healing touch that Christ can bring to our lives.  People who don’t know that they need the Lord.  As I’ve felt out the candidacy process for the last several months, Leanne and I know that we’re called to do church in new ways, through church planting.  The UMC is waking up to the needs of the local community, to meet the needs of the world block by block if necessary.  We don’t know what the future holds, we’re just beginning the process as a family, but we’re so excited to see what the Lord has in store for us, here at FUMC Duncanville and abroad.
Leane and I, with Wesley, are in constant prayer with one another, praying for the Lord to show us the way to give God the Glory through our life together.  Our families goal is to join with God in bringing that Kingdom Time to pass, to help God in bringing that heavenly, peaceful, kingdom down to earth.  It starts in our own hearts, and then it takes us working together as one, keeping Christ in the family to keep things on track.  Our deepest desire is to aid God in making disciples for the transformation of the world, and God’s desire for us is to work together as a family to make that happen.  It’s hard work to make sure we’re keeping Christ as a member of our household, and from our family to yours, we give thanks to God that we have a church family to help us along the way.
Thanks be to God, Amen.

I'd love to hear your thoughts!  How do you bring heaven down into your home?

*for more information on these stats, check this out

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Christmas Prayers of Intercession

I've been planning this year's annual Christmas cantata since last December.  Literally.  It's one of my favorite things to plan, our annual big-choir event, a chance to dwell on the music and message of the Christmas season.  I love putting things together, but as a student of Perkins School of Theology, I'll never be able to put together a simple concert.  We always strive together to put on an evening of worship, with a point threaded through from beginning to end.  Sermons in sounds to celebrate the birth of Christ.

This year I felt convicted to bring a message of peace, to sing for it, to pray for it - to remember Christ's purpose in coming down among us to begin with: bringing down the Kingdom time with all of the peace, love, hope, and joy.

In planning for this year's program, I came across the following prayer.  If you haven't heard of the Iona Community, I highly suggest you Google them to see what's what.  Our prayer for this weekend comes from one of my favorite resources of the community, Cloth for the Cradle.  When we offer it in worship during the cantata, we will be singing (praying) the Taize chorus Jesus, Remember Me between the stanzas of the prayer.

It's not to soon, even in October, to pray for Christ to come down and intercede on our behalf just as he did at Christmas.  Let us call Christ down to us again, and show us the meaning of the incarnation, to bring the world the healing and wholeness that we have always longed for:

When the World Was Dark
When the world was dark
and the city was quiet,
you came.

You crept in beside us.

And no one knew.
Only the few
who dared to believe
that God might do something different.

Will you do the same this Christmas, Lord?

Will you come into the darkness of today's world;
not the friendly darkness
as when sleep rescues us from tiredness,
but the fearful darkness,
in which people have stopped believing
                       that war will end
                   or that food will come
                   or that a government will change
                   or that the church cares?

Will you come into that darkness
and do something different
to save your people from death and despair?

Will you come into the quietness of this city,
not the friendly quietness
as when loves hold hands,
but the fearful silence when
                    the phone has not rung
                    the letter has not come,
                    the friendly voice no longer speaks,
                    the doctor's face says it all?

Will you come into that darkness,
and do something different,
not to distract, but to embrace your people?

And will you come into the dark corners
and the quiet places of our lives?

We ask this not because we are guilt-ridden
or want to be,
but because the fullness our lives long for
depends on us being as open and vulnerable to you
as you were to us,
when you came,
wearing no more than diapers,
and trusting human hands
to hold their maker.

Will you come into our lives,
if we open them to you
and do something different?

When the world was dark
and the city was quiet
you came.

You crept in beside us.

Do the same this Christmas, Lord.
Do the same this Christmas.
My prayer is that we give ourselves the freedom to be bold in our prayers, not just in the time of Advent and Christmas, but at all times.  Peace be with you as you worship this weekend!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Looking to the Door

My boy first stood himself up a little over a month ago.  It was a crazy experience.  We had some friends over for dinner, and one of the families at our house has a one-year-old little girl - who's a walking maniac.  So, my boy, stood himself up for the first time while she was looking - you know - showing off for a chick.  We all cheered and cheered for him.  Which then got him upset.  Too many loud noises.

Of course, now my wife and I know that our lives are over.  He's standing all the time now, and is even shuffling a long the couch a little bit.  Walking isn't too far away.

Just after he stood up for the first time in our living room I had to lower his crib mattress, because it wasn't two days later that he was standing up in his crib.

But he, of course, has never missed an opportunity to use his new skills to manipulate mom and dad.  What's sadder than a sobbing baby standing in his crib and clinging to the rails wanting us to come in and get him out?  Invariably he's facing the door to his nursery - crying with the assurance that we'll come to door, feel sorry for creating this silly thing called 'bedtime', pick him up and take him to play all night.

I say invariably - but there was one exception.  A heart-breaking one.

My wife and I try really hard to let him cry it out.  Once the door closes on bedtime, we do our best to wait out the sobs.  But one night he just wouldn't stop with the crying.

It was my turn to calm him down, so I went in, expecting to see my boy grin when I opened the door. 

But this time he was facing the back of the room.  He was clinging to the back rail of his crib and sobbing.  He was stuck - standing was still really new to him, and he didn't know yet how to get out of it.  So he was stuck, crying, and facing the wrong direction.  He couldn't face the door - he didn't know how.  He couldn't face the door that his help comes from.

God taught me something about God's parental love that night, though.  I went and picked him up, rocked him, calmed him down, and put him back down to bed.  But it's stuck with me ever since.

I hope that when I get stuck, crying, and facing the wrong direction, I can remember that I do know to face the door my help comes from.
I raise my eyes toward the mountains.
   Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
   the maker of heaven and earth.
                                   Psalm 121:1-2

Monday, October 22, 2012

Fling wide the gates!

Mighty gates:
   lift up your heads!
   Ancient doors: rise up high!
      So the glorious king can enter!
                            Psalm 24:7, CEB
I've been thinking a lot about open doors lately ... and not the philosophical ones that we UMCers claim are open.  I'm thinking of the actual, physical doors that open up to bring the people into our Narthexes and Sanctuaries.

My wife has taken on the responsibility of co-chairing our new hospitality team, and if you've been following along with me the last few months, you know that hospitality is a frequent subject of mine.  I wrote about some of the issues of my faith family here, and then again here.  I am so excited to see her taking on this vital ministry of the church to help oversee how we welcome the strangers in our community and guide them along the path to making them part of our faith family.  It's a large undertaking, but it's exciting because the team is starting from scratch for the most part.  We've had some things in place, but now their team is working hard and debating their way toward a real layout for the hospitality system this community needs.

But there's one starting place where we're having to be the most critical right off the bat - and that's the aforementioned front door.  For a visiting family, our new guests, the hardest step they'll make is actually parking in the parking lot and getting out of the car.  It's daunting.  Imagine you're a visitor for a moment - that first step is crazy hard.  So it behooves us as faith communities to be there to greet our guests from the second they arrive on our campuses - and yes, the parking lot is absolutely where the campus begins.  But the next crucial place, a hospitality choke point, is the front door.

Do you have somebody on your hospitality team there to open doors and let people in?  Seriously ... do you?

I often get the front door report from my wife at lunch after church.  Like many clergy/ministry spouses (husbands, too)  my wife is a single parent on Sunday morning.  After I leave at the crack of dawn on Sunday morning, she's all on her own.  Feeding the dog, feeding our boy.  Getting everybody out the door in time at least get a little bit settled in the Sanctuary before the celebration of worship begins.  And, I tell you what, she does a great job.  Her service of choice is at 9am, and it's no small feat for any parent in my book to make it to worship that early and have it all together.

But I'm always shocked to hear her tell me that no one opened the front door of the church for her, which wouldn't be so bad, except that the Narthex is always full of people before worship. 

So there she is, 9-month old in hand with a diaper bag and a purse - and most of the time she has to open a door for herself to come in.  There is in fact only one greeter who ever opens the door for her, and if he's not there, she's on her own.

It just makes me wonder - she's not an anonymous guest in our midst.  She's the wife of the worship pastor.  If she doesn't get the door opened for her, what happens to the guests?  She's prayfully tackling the issue as I write, and not just for her - for the community we serve together.

Psalm 24 is one of our great scriptures of the Advent season.  It's a call to get ready for the glorious king, the powerful one, who's coming to bring heaven down to us.  I'm not saying that my son is the king of the church or anything, but didn't Christ say something like, "When you serve the 'least of these', you serve me?"

Who's holding open your ancient doors on Sunday morning?  Have you thought about it?  When you hold that door open, you have an opportunity to do something really great - don't miss the moment. 

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Prayer for True Singing

As we prepare ourselves to worship, let us remeber that we were never called to be pew-sitters.  As those who call ourselves Christian, we are called to model the Way of Christ - a way of love in action.  Let us pray that we can put that love into action during this weekend's worship - that the Body might pray together in the songs that we sing and wholly engage our hearts and minds to hear the Spirit's call:
We are people who must sing you,
    for the sake of our very lives.
You are a God who must be sung by us,
    for the sake of your majesty and honor.
And so we thank you,
    for lyrics that push us past our reasons,
    for melodies that break open our givens,
    for cadneces that locate us home,
    beyond all our safe places,
    for tones and tunes that open our lives beyond control
        and our futures beyond despair.
We thank you for the long parade of mothers and fathers
    who have sung you deep and true;
We thank you for the good company
    of artists, poets, musicians, cantors, and instruments
    that sing for us and with us, toward you.
We are witnesses to your mercy and splendor;
    We will not keep silent ... ever again.  Amen.
                                                    -Walter Brueggemann*
*pg. 185 in Worship and Song

Saturday, October 13, 2012

A Prayer for Strength in the Midst of Change

My faith family is in the middle of something, of course, who's faith family isn't?

We're in the process of reestablishing our identity has a community of believers.  We're asking hard questions, and preparing to hear the hard truth.  I offer this prayer today, reminding us that no matter where we are today, God does have good things ahead for us, for those who wait, for those who work:

Almighty God, change is bittersweet.  In order to change we are forced both to leave something behind and to embrace something new.  Grant us the grace on this day to do both with humility.  Help us affirm the good things of our past as we lean into a future where there will also be good things.  As we contemplate the changes that will come, remind us that all good things come from You.  Today we commit ourselves to the necessary work ahead.  Be present with us, work in us and through us, we pray.  Amen.
-Safiyah Fosua

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

One-liners from #li2012

I went back to school last week.  Or should I say - I got schooled. 

I'd heard of the Church of the Resurrection Leadership Institute, but it wasn't until this year that I really felt the need for a real continuing education experience.  I'm very grateful that my church gave me the resources to make the trek from Dallas to Leawood, KS.  My mind is still reeling in mighty ways from the week, and I've found myself regurgitating random tidbits into conversations.  I've already posted once on the week, but I thought here I'd just share some of my favorite quotes from the institute.  The institute is broken up by workshops, general sessions, and a keynote session.  It was a wicked lot of info.

My apologies to Revs. Hamilton and Acevedo if I didn't write down your stuff exactly right, but you both talk pretty fast. 

"Leadership starts with a radical commitment to Jesus Christ."  Rev. Adam Hamilton

On how they plan at Resurrection ... "We need to think of everything we do from the perspective of fishing for people."  Rev. Hamilton

On evangelism and hospitality ... "Are you intentionally reaching out to people and then are you following up?"  Rev. Hamilton.

On criticism of leaders, reminding us of when Jesus' family and friends tried to throw him off of a cliff ... "Sometimes everything you said and did was good ... and still people won't like it ... Moses, Paul, and Jesus were all criticized, why do you think you won't be?"  Rev. Hamilton

On contemporary worship ... "We've got to get it into our heads that this is what's happening ... God chose this generation to bring is this new thing ... and its tough."  Lance Winkler, Workshop: The Future of Contemporary Worship

On intentional evangelism ..."Who are you inviting?" Rev. Scott Chrostek, Workshop: Creating a Culture of Invitation

"If Jesus needed to step away and pray, how much do we need to?" - Rev. Hamilton

"If you're supposed to make disciples, you should probably know what one looks like."  Rev. Hamilton

"Leading a church is dangerous work."  Rev. Jorge Acevedo, Lead Pastor, Grace Church in Southwest Florida, Keynote Session

On who Grace Church seeks, their prayer ... "Lord, can you send the people to us that nobody else wants and no one else sees."  Rev. Acevedo

"Vital congregations create an incubator for the Holy Spirit to work on people."  Rev. Acevedo

"Exegete the community."  Rev. Acevedo

On preaching your story ... "Are you telling your story for God's glory, or yours?"  Rev. Acevedo

"Have you created a safe place for dangerous truth?"  Jim Lucas, Workshop:  Ten Timeless Prinicples for Next Generation Leadership

"It's never the wrong time to do the right thing."  Jim Lucas

"Jesus has friends in low places."  Rev. Hamilton

On loving your neighbors ... "Who are the lepers in your community?  Ask yourself:  what will happen to me if I help?  Or [more importantly] what will happen to them if I don't do anything?"  Rev. Hamilton

On being indispensable in your community ... "Do non religious people see you as important in the community by the work that you do?"  Rev. Hamilton

"If we have this many people here, we ought to be able to change the world."  Rev. Hamilton

There's so much more.  Just the tip of the iceberg here.  But I got a couple of little (maybe big) ideas to implement and share.  I feel energized.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

#li2012 Benediction

As I write this out my wife and I are sitting in the Southwest Terminal of the KCI airport, decompressing from a long but wonderful continuing ed experience at the Church of the Resurrection Leadership Institute.

While there will be much to break down in future posts, I thought it would be great today just to leave you with the simple benediction that Rev. Adam Hamilton closed worship with at the final session.  There will be more to come, but for now, here's this:
Lord, I offer my life to you.
Help me to walk in your way.
Make me the person you want me to be.
Lead me in your path that I might lead your people.
In your name, Amen.