Friday, January 29, 2010

Tea With Hezbollah

Tea With Hezbollah by Ted Dekker is one of the most fascinating reads I've encountered in a long time.
Dekker and his courageous guide, Carl Meaderis (who is listed as co-author) recount their adventurous pilgrimage through the Middle East, meeting with various muftis, sheikhs, ayatollahs, chieftans, and other significant shapers of thought in the Arab world.

The primary aim of this quest was to discover the meaning of Jesus' words, "Love your enemies" in the context of the Middle East conflict, and in circles considered to be "enemies" of the west.

The journey starts in Cairo, winds through Saudi Arabia, proceeds through Beirut and Damascus, before finally ending up in Jerusalem.

Throughout the experience, Dekker takes the reader right along with him with vivid recollections of his adventures, observations and feelings (most of the time wondering, "What on earth am I doing here??")

It is truly amazing that Dekker and Meaderis landed these interviews which offer rare insights into the Muslim mind. The interviews are provided exactly as they were recorded, without editorial comment, leaving it to the readers to form their own conclusions.

I thought Dekker's unusual interview questions were outstanding:
- What makes you laugh?
- Can you tell me a good joke?
- What makes you cry?
- What misconceptions do people in the West have about the Arab world?
- What misconceptions do people in the Middle East have about the West?
- Jesus said, "Love your enemies." What does this mean in the context of your situation.

Fortunately, Dekker came back home with his head intact, and excellent book to boot.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Speaking Trip

I am heading out after church on Sunday on a journey to Bethany Bible College, where I will be speaking for their Holiness Advancement Week. Luke and Wes are coming along, which really makes it extra special.
Looking forward to seeing their beautiful, new chapel.

Please pray that God will use me to bless the students and encourage them to a deeper love and devotion to Christ.

The Power of Prayer

I found this little poem handwritten in the back of a book published more than one hundred years ago -- powerful:

We kneel, how weak! we rise, how full of power!
Why, therefore, should we do ourselves this wrong,
Or others, that we are not always strong?
That we are ever overborne with care,
That we should ever weak or heartless be,
Anxious or troubled, when with us is prayer,
And joy and strength and courage are with Thee!

-- Richard Chenevix Trench

Friday, January 22, 2010

Lessons from Favre

I'm going to be (gulp) cheering for the Vikings this weekend. Yes, that's right -- and for one reason only. I'm rooting for the old gipper!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Stay Sweet

A good friend sent this to me the other:

Happiness keeps You Sweet,
Trials keep You Strong,
Sorrows keep You Human,
Failures keep You Humble,
Success keeps You Glowing,
But Only God keeps You Going!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Holiness that is not missionary is BOGUS
-- Seth C. Rees (a Wesleyan forefather -- founder of the Pilgim Holiness Church)

Monday, January 18, 2010

I Have a Dream

The Empty Chair

I am a chair from buckheadchurch on Vimeo.

How to Get Things Done

I discovered a long time ago, that a wish or desire is not enough to get something done. Every accomplishment starts with an idea, of course -- but the idea, alone, won't make it happen.

Even a very strong "want to" won't bring the follow through. If you want to get something done, you have to DO something about it ahead of time!

1. What Gets Scheduled Gets Done.
The other day, I shared a great vacation idea with my wife, Cathy. "Hey, we oughta go to Florida next January!" (I think the arctic temps had something to do with that inspiration.)

"When are you thinking we should do this?" Cathy wondered.

"I dunno. Just sometime in January -- or maybe February . . ."

Cathy replied, "The only way that's going to happen is if it gets on the calendar."

For years, I've been saying I want to write a book, but never seemed to have the time to write it. This year, however, it's different. I'm really writing the book!

How did things change? I scheduled a definite writing time each week -- and it's working!

If you want to get it done, get it on the schedule!

2. What Gets Planned Gets Done.
I have a lot of ideas, and most of them don't pan out. The primary reason most of my ideas end up on the scrap heap is because they are not accompanied by a good plan.

An idea is like a semi trailor. The plan is the truck. If the trailor's not hitched to the truck, it's not going anywhere!

My brother, Tim, bought a semi trailor a while back, and put it behind his house. It became his wonderful storage shed! You can find lots of fascinating treasures in there! Unhitched ideas are like that. Instead of taking the payload down the road, they become storage sheds for interesting and unused possibilities.

If you want to achieve something, you have to make a plan! If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.

You'll end up like Sir John Harvey Jones who observed, "Planning is unnatural. It's much more fun to get on with it. The real benefit of planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise and is not preceded by months of worry."

3. What Gets Started Gets Done
Well, maybe. I have a lot of unfinished projects sitting around my house. Getting started doesn't necessarily get it done but I can guarantee this -- You'll ever get it done if you don't get it started!

A mountain of work won't disappear by staring at it, or wishing it away. You jut have to roll up your sleeves, jump in and take it on! My friend, Robyn Bjork, who recently climbed Mount Kilimajaro remarked, "You get to the top of big mountains by taking one little step at a time."

4. What Gets our Attention Gets Done
At our church, we celebrate missions. We love to touch the world from Hayward. It's thrilling to me to see people bringing a blessing to their neighbors and the nations. We make a big deal out of it. Hey everybody, pay attention! This is good stuff!

There are a few other important areas, however, where we've fallen short. (No church is perfect.) I've come to realize that we get more of what we recognize, applaud and celebrate.

Note, this works on the negative side as well. For instance, if a school teacher focuses on misbehavior in the classroom, she'll get much more of it. It would pay her better to pay attention and recognize the behaviors she WANTS to see displayed by her students. Then, she will get more of that!

5. What Gets Appreciated Gets Done.
People want to be wanted, they need to be needed, and they certainly appreciate being appreciated. A primary task for the effective leader is to involve people and then walk around saying, "Thank you!"

6. What Gets Finished Gets Done.
Although starting is half the job -- finishing is the other half. The job is not over until it's really been completed. It's time to finish it with a flourish! Roll up your sleeves, and get it done!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Heart of Gold

"People judge you by your actions, not by your intentions. You may have a heart of gold, but so does a hard boiled egg."
-- Anonymous

Friday, January 15, 2010

If What You Have to Say is Stupid, Don't Say It

As I was watching the heart wrenching news from Haiti this evening, an alarming thought crossed my mind: Some preacher is going to say something really stupid about this.

Sure enough -- Here it is.

Of course, this nothing new. Every time we've had a national or international tragedy, some reverend's mouth opens wide enough to insert a foot.

Instead of trying to fix the blame for such human suffering, (insinuating they deserve it somehow) we ought to be responding with compassion.

I like Craig Uffman's compassionate and Christlike response to the question, "Where Was God in the Earthquake."

Theologian David Bentley Hart offers the best answer I know in his book The Doors of the Sea: Where Was God in the Tsunami? He wrote it upon reflecting on the great tsunami that struck Asia in 2004.

Hart reminds us that "we are to be guided by the full character of what is revealed of God in Christ. For, after all, if it is from Christ that we are to learn how God relates himself to sin, suffering, evil, and death, it would seem that he provides us little evidence of anything other than a regal, relentless, and miraculous enmity: sin he forgives, suffering he heals, evil he casts out, and death he conquers. And absolutely nowhere does Christ act as if any of these things are part of the eternal work or purposes of God."

(HT Chuck Warnock)
Church Giving: Top Ten New Year Resolutions to Make Giving Go Up in a Down Economy

Out of Business

"If your organization shut down next Tuesday, who would miss it and why?"

-- Pat McLaughlin asked this probing question a a recent training event.

Hang Out at the Well

"Jesus didn't hang out in synagogues. He hung out at wells. Wells were natural gathering places in ancient culture." -- Mark Batterson

Ponder this. Where are the "wells" located in your community? Where's the place where your church can naturally cross paths with your community?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

A Call to Compassion

Our hearts go out to those suffering from the recent earthquake in Haiti. It is truly a call to prayer and compassion.

The epicenter of this earthquake has directly impacted five Wesleyan congregations in the greater Port-au-Prince area. One of these, the largest Wesleyan church in Haiti, is located in the area that seems to have been hardest hit.

Also, Northern Lights Christian Center, here in our own community, has significant connections and mission work in Haiti.

My good friends from Pilgrim Wesleyan Church in Brooklyn all have beloved family members who were in the earthquake.

Two appropriate responses:
1. Pray for our suffering brothers and sisters.
2. Give in response to the need.
A great place to give is World Hope International ( They have a good method of aid distribution connected to local churches. They are also compiling a list of volunteers who are willing to go down and lend assistance.

Another good way to help is through Northern Lights Christian Center's Haiti Mission. (

Happy Birthday Cathy

Happy Birthday to my beautiful bride, Cathy!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


"Planning is an unnatural process. It's much more fun to get on with it. The real benefit of not planning is that failure comes as a complete surprise and is not preceded by months of worry."

-- Sir John Harvey-Jones

Labor On!

In the gleaner’s path may be rich reward,
Tho’ the time seems long, and the labor hard;
For the Master’s joy, with His chosen shared

Labor on, labor on,
Keep the bright reward in view,
For the Master has said
He will strength renew;
Labor on till the close of day.

(More Here)
-- Christopher R. Blackall (Civil War Surgeon, 33rd Regiment, Wisconsin Volunteers. Later, a prominent and tireless soldier for Jesus in Baptist Sunday School work.)

Why Trampolines are not Safe in Wisconsin

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mosaic's Doritos Super Bowl Commercial

Mosaic Church in southern California is one of the six finalists in the Doritos "Crash the Super Bowl" Commercial Contest. Three of the six will air during the big game.

Some may question the appropriateness of such a commercial being done by a church -- but you have to hand it to them for innovation and creativity!

Boards are Like Cats

I am in the Twin Cities today, for a Wesleyan Native American Ministries Board retreat. The purpose of our time together is training for more effective board practices.

Our trainer is Pat McLaughlin, president of The Timothy Group.

The idea that a board can be trained is foreign to me. It's going to be a fascinating experience.

From my experience, boards are like cats -- fairly independent and highly resistant to fetching, begging or rolling over.

But in a couple of days, I'm heading back to Hayward, just in time to try out my new skills at our monthly church board meeting.

"Here kitty, kitty, kitty!"

Monday, January 11, 2010

I Spy Something With My Little Eye

You Can't Get Back to Normal

In times of transition, people often wonder, “When will we get back to normal?”

The answer to that question is “Never.”

Normal is not something you can go BACK to. Regardless of how comforting the thought may be, you can’t get back to normal. The old normal doesn’t exist.

You can only go forward to a new normal.

Life is a river. It flows continuously forward, not backward. It changes as it flows. You cannot step into the same river twice. It’s different every time.

Our moments and relationships are like that too. We all are changing, growing, moving forward in time. We can’t go back to the way it was.

Of course, we can understand our present situation by reflecting on the past. As Winston Churchill said, “The farther backward you look, the further forward you are likely to see.” Pondering the past brings clarity and understanding for the future.

A stroll down memory lane recalls experiences both good and bad. We realize that in the end, everything seems to work out somehow. Everything we’ve experienced has brought us to where we are today. The things we’ve gone through have shaped, instructed and molded us.

The good times have brought us joy. The bad times, though painful, have shaped our character.

It does us good to remember the past.

When it’s all said and done, however, we must clear the cobwebs of yesterday, and live. Embrace today! Pining for “what was” doesn’t bring it back. We cannot live in the past. It is impossible to go back to reclaim it.

The better course is to appreciate and draw meaning from the past, then, with courage, live fully in the present. If we do that, the best memories of life are still to be made!

Friday, January 08, 2010


MultiSite Forecast

Jim Tomberlin, founder, president and senior strategist for MultiSite solutions, recently shared an insightful list of trends in the multisite church movement for Outreach Magazine. #8 on his list is of special interest to the small town-rural pastor.

Three Humors

Reviewing my journals, I came across an interesting entry from a few years ago. I had written a couple of stupid poems, that I thought were really funny, but when I shared them with Cathy, she was totally unimpressed.

So, I ended up writing another poem about the use of humor:

Three humors of the human heart
Interpret reality.

Humor inspired by heaven above,
Sustaining the soul
Abundant in love.

Humor devised of earthen clay,
Resulting in hollow
And shallow dismay.

Humor forged in hellish flames,
Exalting abasement,
Mired in shame.

O, which shall MY humor be?

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Marriage Tax

Sundays in the Country

Here's a delightful article, written a few years ago (in Touchstone) by my friend, Joel Tate, who pastors a wonderful congregation in rural Vermont.
I believe small places, though often overlooked and neglected, are close to God's heart. After all, Jesus, himself, was a country parson.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

They Can't Eat You!

"My father would tell me early on, when I was struggling and losing my shirt trying to get Parsons Technology going, "Well Robert, if it doesn't work, they can't eat you!"
-- Robert Parsons, Founder and CEO of GoDaddy, in his 16 Rules for Survival. (Note: The entire list is an excellent resource for leaders.)

Driver's Ed Student Crashes into Snow Plow

"So, does this mean I have to take the course over?"

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

What Brings the Most Joy

A powerful thought I gleaned from Mark Batterson's new book, Primal: (an awesome read, by the way)

What brings the most joy to God's heart: singing songs to Him, or caring for the poor?

Monday, January 04, 2010

Fourteen Inches of Opportunity

"In the bleak midwinter, snow on snow, snow on snow." That's how the old song goes, and peering out the picture window, I identified completely.

"Arrgh!" I grumbled to no one in particular, "fourteen inches of obligation!"

My kids looked out the same window.

"Yippee!!" they shouted, and rushed to put on their snow clothes.

For them it was fourteen inches of opportunity!

Same snow -- two completely different perspectives. I wish I could be more like my kids.

I wish, my first response to winter would be snow angels rather than shovels.

When severe adulthood squeezes out childish play, the snow becomes an unpleasant burden.

Snow on snow on snow.

The other day I muttered something about "bleak midwinter" to my wife Cathy. She rebuked me gently. "It's not so bleak, honey. In fact, it's like a beautiful post card out there! Just look, the snow sparkles like diamonds!"

I guess it is true that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder.

Bishop Tutu observed that each day is a gift, and that is why it is called the present! Whatever the day brings is part of the gift, and that includes snow!

As we approach the New Year, it would do us well to remember this -- to focus the opportunity, rather than the obligation.

Whether you look for the positive or the negative -- either way -- you'll find it.

Joy comes with gratitude. Misery accompanies grumbling and complaint. "In everything", the Bible says, "give thanks." That includes the bleak midwinter!

Today, I'm going to surprise my kids and make a snow angel!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

The Jamestown Parson

"A clergyman of persevering fortitude and modest worth."
Description of Rev. Robert Hunt, chaplain of the Jamestown Colony in 1607, and first English clergyman in America.

Captain John Smith's obervation of Hunt's skills as a peacemaker and comforter:
"Our factions were oft qualified, our wants and greatest extremities so comforted that they seemed easy in comparison to what we endured after his death."


Christ Lives in You! Happy New Year!

Friday, January 01, 2010

March to the Manger

Hayward Wesleyan Church's March to the Manger (Dec 20) was featured on the Wesleyan Denomination's website today.

Seven Margin Maxims

Loved what Mark Batterson wrote recently about building margin into the schedule. If you don't master your calendar, it will master you!

Here are Mark's Seven Margin Maxims:
1) Put Your Family First
2) Guard Your Day Off
3) Don't Check Email During Peak Productivity Hours
4) Get Out of the Office Whenever Possible
5) Start Your Day With Devotions
6) Put Together a Stop Doing List
7) Use All Your Vacation Days

Good advice for pastors who tend to overdo it.

A New Year Prayer

My good friend, Elisabeth, sent me the following New Year prayer written in 1883 by the pastor of St. Lamberti Church in Munster, Germany. Elisabeth translated it into English for me -- and I'm passing it along to you! Happy New Year!

Lord, set limits to overly high spirits
And let those limits be unneccesary.
Let the people not make false money,
And let not money make false people.
Take the last word from the wives,
And remind husbands of their first.

Give to our friends more truth,
And to the truth more friends.
Improve such officials, business people and
workers who are doers but not good doers.

Give the Government better Germans,
And the Germans a better Government.

Lord, please take care that we all go to heaven
But not right away!