Tuesday, September 30, 2008

An Open Letter to People with Migraines

I'm sorry.

I never knew.

I'm a fairly compassionate guy. I'm empathetic by design.

I'm "intuitive" off the charts.

But honestly, when people with migraines told me they had a migraine headache, I mean...yea...I felt bad for them. But my primal reaction was, "Ah, suck it up. We've all get bad headaches. Take an Advil and get on with it."

Until today.

Today I had my first migraine.

Oh my Lord.

So, I'm honestly still a bit "fragile." I'm terrified of anything that might set this thing off (and I just looked up Migraines and I had a short one -- about 5 hours). But a few quick words:

1. To people, particularly my staff and friends, who put up with this on a regular basis, I'm so sorry. It really sucks. I hope I never find out what it is like to have this problem often. I hope and pray this is not a sign of things to come.

2. My apologies to my staff, who got the brunt of this as I was about to enter into a staff meeting (a rather important one at that) and then just lost it. Special thanks to Sue who drove me home and Jim who drove my car home. You all are the best.

3. I'm buying Betsy S. dinner to celebrate her thesis. I don't know what she is writing on exactly, but I think it has something to do with migraines. And maybe she is working to get rid of them. I LOVE you. May children everywhere rise up and call you blessed.

4. I'm sorry to Ian, who honestly, I love like a son... or at least a MUCH younger brother. He called me to ask where I was just before the staff meeting. I answered the phone and honestly was in so much pain that... well... um... I just thought really bad things about the idea of talking with you.

Let's see: I felt like someone took a sledge hammer to my head, I wanted to throw up, I was breaking in a sweat, I was stuck in traffic, behind a truck pumping out exhaust fumes, with 10,000 students crossing the road going between a long line of cars (waiting patiently for them to do so), with the sun blaring in my eyes, with construction equipment all around me rumbling and pounding -- and oh yea, my phone rings. There was almost anything else I would rather have been doing in that moment than being in that place talking on the phone.

In short, I'm sorry if you picked up on the fact that I wanted to kill you.

I really don't. I really do love you, brother.

5. To the makers of Advil. I am forever indebted to you. I will give you my first born, as right now she is yelling at the top of her lungs, "DADDY, WHERE ARE YOU?" Please come and take her now. And turn off the lights when you come in.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The interest of others

From a favorite blog of mine


Here's the quote of the day: "We're all worried about losing our jobs," Rep. Paul Ryan, a Republican, declared in an impassioned speech in support of the bill before the vote. "Most of us say, 'I want this thing to pass, but I want you to vote for it — not me.' "

What else could you expect from an economic system predicated on the notion that everyone acting in their own self-interests will always lead to a win/win situation. Somehow, I wonder: WWJT. What would Jesus think?

He'd think that we should put the interests of others before our own. He'd think we should put the interests of the kingdom before our own. He'd think we should live generously. He'd think we should open our homes, share our food, and care for those who can't care for themselves, and that these kinds of things should be our priorities.

We've been trying to reconcile Adam Smith and unregulated economics with the gospel for a long time. Can we please stop? What's needed is a new model where the government rewards, not self-interest, but service and sacrifice. This might be an opportunity to build a new energy and technology infrastructure. Maybe America can begins producing goods again, rather than trying to live off fabricated wealth. Maybe, but I'm not sure. If Christians, who have the very words of Christ about money refuse to altar their view of self-interest economics, how will the rest of world do?


Feel free to share your thoughts.

Friday, September 26, 2008


WARNING: the following post makes statements that may appear partisan. They are not to be construed as such, but rather simple observations of the political process.

With that said, here is the headline on NYtimes.com:

McCain Decides to Participate in Debate

Well, duh.

I just want to say, I think Obama called his bluff and won.

They played "chicken" and McCain flinched first.

First, no matter what you think of McCain, I thought his "I'm not going to debate on Friday, I'm going to go and save the United States" was just plain arrogant. "Ooooo look, McCain hasn't showed up for months to vote, but now he will come riding in to save the day!"*

Really, get over yourself.

It was a political move and it backfired.

Obama's response was perfect [paraphrased]:

"Well, I'm going to be at the debate, even if I'm there alone. You know, alone. Yep. Just me and those TV cameras. And all those voters who want to hear a debate on issues. Yes sir, I will be there!"

Did anyone think that McCain would be able to pull this off?

So, now he has to back peddle.

"Oh, I guess the world will keep turning even without me for just this one night. I guess I can make the debates after all."

Come on. We expect better than that from you, Mr. McCain.

*I do realize Obama has been absent from the voting process as well. But he didn't pull this stunt, McCain did.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

ARG! Again!

So tell me again.... seriously... when did it become socially acceptable to answer the phone, and, talking full voice, carry on a conversation IN A LIBRARY?

Seriously! What is up with this?

Did they change some standard of etiquette and not send me the memo? Am I really that out of touch?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008


"At times the strength of spiritual comunity lies in the love of people who refrain from getting caught in the trap of trying to fix everything for us, who pray for us and allow us the pain of our wilderness, our wants, so that we may be more deeply grounded in God."

Rosemary Dougherty

Monday, September 22, 2008

Day off?

So I worked most of my day off. I could not turn my mind off. Yet I accomplished nothing that anyone will "see" in the next several months... it was all long-term stuff. Strategic, behind-the-scenes stuff. The stuff everyone assumes just happens.

Now, I'm smart enough to know that it's the long-term "important" work that often keeps an organization moving and healthy. There needs to be someone dreaming and planning. But when you have weekly "urgent" deadlines, sermons, budgets, appointments, stresses... yet all you do while working all day (on your day off) doesn't move you any closer to those "urgent" things... arg!

Most of my readers know by now that I LOVE my job. But just so you know... even people who love their jobs and feel called to do them have bad days. I feel a bit overwhelmed. Okay, maybe more than a bit. And although I know I will feel 100% better tomorrow, tonight I would trade this job for warm Diet Coke. It is definitely a Monday. (Funny, I dislike Mondays for a very different set of reasons than most people... but poor Monday always gets a bad rap.)

Of course, all this job stress will go away when I get elected president. Thankfully.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Best Magician, part 2

I've said in a previous post that I think David Copperfield is the best magician in the world.

I can't begin to tell you how hard this is to do.

No. Really.

Michael Phelps at an Exceedingly Young Age

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I'm Running for President!

I didn't know this, but according to my friend Andrew there has been an underground swell of people who have decided that I should run for President!

Whoooooooooooo hoooooooooooooooooo!

Free Air Force One flights for everyone!

Party in that big round room in that white building!

I would so rock as the Pres. Cause I'm so hip and relevant.

Check out the news here! and don't forget to vote!


Lean into life

"Balance is not a goal. Someone who is balanced is standing still. You don't want to be balanced, you need to be leaning. Lean into your marriage. Lean into your relationships. Lean into God."

Mark Beeson, Granger Community Church

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

FRESH Blog Meat!

Dear Blog Readers,

Meet Joel. Joel is one of my best friends, a fellow pastor and an all-around nice guy (I don't care what they all say). He's new to the blog thing, so if you would do me a favor and surf over to his blog. and just show him some lovin,' that would be great. I think you will like it if you do!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

An Open Letter to New People Coming to Central from Other Congregations

Dear New Person from another local congregation:

First, I want you to know that I'm excited you are considering being a part of the community of Central. I have often said (and I really believe), there is no place I would rather be, and no other people I would rather be with than this community you are "checking out." I'm certainly biased, but I love the people and vision that is Central Avenue. I think you will as well.

With that said, you need to know, up front, that I'm more than a bit nervous you are coming.

1. I've never been much of a fan of what we pastors call “the annual sheep shift."

Consumer Christians. Transfer growth.

Now, to be clear, not everyone who transfers from one local congregation to another, does so for the wrong reasons. I believe there are right reasons to change local churches (I may hit on some of those in a later post).

But there are also wrong reasons.

And that is what makes me nervous.

You know, we pastors actually talk to each other. And we notice that some people just shift from one congregation to the next -- looking for better music, better preaching, better children's programs, the next "better" thing. And if you are coming to Central just because we are “better” than your last congregation, I have some news for you: soon you will find another congregation in town “better” than us. So I would just as soon give you some names of those churches and have you keep looking.

2. If you are coming to Central simply to have your needs met and “consume religious services,” please don't come.

No. Really.

I’m not kidding.

We need the seats.

This is the Church, not a shopping mall.

And honestly, it MAY BE that the children’s program (or whatever) at your last church would have been better if you had volunteered or given of yourself to make it better. Our children’s program is good, not because we are a “better church” but because of Serena and Sarah and Mike and Barb and Mary Ann and Linda and ... (on and on... ).

The church is people.

More than that, the church is people willing to lay down their lives for one another. It’s not always convenient.

It's not always easy.

It's not always about you.

Sometimes you have to take some nails.

So here is my suggestion: hang around for a while. Let’s “date” a bit. Find out if you like who we are and what we are about.

But then discover your gifts, roll up your sleeves and get to work. We have a world to change.

To be clear, we all have times when we need to heal and rest. We have seasons where we feel we just can’t make a contribution. Maybe we are wounded. Maybe we are in a period of transition with our families. Maybe we need a safe place to ask questions. But those times are not the norm, and they should be temporary. And they should lead you to deeper service and relationships, not apathy.

So, if you are coming to Central just to consume, honestly, I would rather have your chair for a person who is either ready to make a contribution or just checking out Christianity. And that goes for any of you current Central folks as well. Play ball or get off the field.

I’m serious.

I would rather have 100 sold out “sacrificial followers of Jesus” than 1000 spectators who think we are “relevant” and love our music.

BTW, I “love” when people call us "relevant."

3. If you are coming to Central because you like my preaching... you are a very wise person. ☺

Okay seriously... just kidding.

I am honored when people tell me that my preaching impacts them. One of the times I’m most alive is when I preach. It is what I love.

But know that I’m not the ONLY voice you will hear. We have an ever-expanding, gifted team of teachers that I love (and learn from) at Central. God speaks through different voices – the key is a gifting to teach (which our teachers have). But don’t mistake style with substance.

And since this is my blog, let me just rant a bit (as if that would surprise any of my readers!).

I think there are too many expectations placed on most pastors. We are not the paid Christians to do all the work. We are called to “equip the saints for ministry.” (Which means, if you are not doing ministry... ah...er... um... I guess you are not a saint. ☺)

People who know me well will tell you, I don’t do a lot around here. [“Amen!” from my staff]. That gives me time to focus on my sermon prep and those few things I do okay.

So before your put down your previous pastor’s preaching to me, know that I’m not a big fan of that. You don’t have to tell me I’m good by saying that another person is bad. And if you are saying that about that person now, what will you be saying about me in 3 years?

It may be your previous pastor’s preaching would have been better if the congregation didn’t place such unreasonable expectations on his or her time. Central has invested hundreds of hours in me -- and thousands of dollars. They have pushed me (yes, pushed me) to take sabbatical and study times. They’ve paid for me to go to conferences and given me money for books and resources. Yes, I believe I have a spiritual gift of teaching. But that gift has been nurtured and fanned by this community.

Please hear me: you are very welcomed here! Really. If you happen to be new and stumble on these posts, know that I’m not trying to talk you out of this community.

But know what you are getting into.

We are the Church. Not some club.

What makes Central attractive to you (or, as one of you said, “this place seems different!”) is that...um... this place... these people are different. There really is a hunger for God here. And hopefully an authenticity.

We are a people who don’t have it figured out (and aren’t afraid to say that) but we really do believe the Jesus Christ is the hope of the world and for some stupid reason he wants to us as channels of that hope.

So, we really only have 600 available seats (with 200 of them on a Saturday night) -- 450 were filled last weekend. We would love you to be a part of this body... but only if you are willing to BE a part of this body. We could use your gifts. Otherwise, we could use your chair.

Part 2 is coming soon... so don’t get ticked at me and quit reading.

But if this ticked you off... you probably wouldn't like Central anyway.


“I firmly believe that truth communicated with arrogance and hatred is no longer truth.”

So I read this quote. And initially I loved it. But then I asked myself, "Is it true?"

Sunday, September 14, 2008

More is never enough

So I write this post with a little fear of potential comments. I don't want to take this into a discussion of the evils of the "institutional church" or "church growth." So please don't go there if you decide to comment. Fair?

So this weekend Central had a total of just over 450 people at our worship gatherings. A couple of things about this:

1. It is a record attendance for us. (It's about 50 over our previous high attendance which was on a special event Sunday years ago). But this is a lot of people for Central.

2. I am really not a numbers guy (other than the obvious truth that many anti-church-growth-people just can't escape --that numbers are people and people matter to God.) But I really don't put all my identity and value in "nickels and noses." You'll just have to trust me that I've worked this out with God and I'm pretty clear on this. I'm not into numbers for numbers' sake.

3. There was an excitement that was palatable in the conversation between the services. New families and people who just said to me, "Man, we hear that God is doing something here and we wanted to check it out." Which I found to be a strange comment: I agree... but I have always thought that the case. I LOVE this congregation. I'm the luckiest guy in the world. But it seems that several other people are picking up on this as well.

So here is the thing. Honesty time.

As I was driving home from our gatherings, I knew had a staff meeting in the evening, so I called my administrator and asked for the attendance numbers. She added them up and told me, "452."

My first thought: "Wow, that is really great. That is a new high attendance for us. That's exciting."

HONESTLY, my immediate second thought: "Man, I wonder if we could break 500?"

Now, let me put this out there: I think it's okay for a congregation to grow. I think it's even okay for a pastor to WANT a congregation to grow (for the right reasons). I will even go out on the edge and say that I think setting numerical goals can be okay (not in that you are trying to reach them, but in setting them you begin to think about what is beyond yourself.)

But what bothered me about this incident was that I was not satisfied.

More was not enough.

And I know my personality type. It will never be enough.

There is an addiction that comes with "success." I'm so thankful for what God is doing at Central. And not just the numerical growth. I love the stories of life-change. I love the community that is being formed. I just love being a part of this congregation.

But I never want to be at this place in my life where God is working and I can't enjoy it because I'm thinking of the next thing. And this is how I'm wired. And honestly, sometimes it just bugs me.

This was a vulnerable post for me to write. Be kind. :)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Um... well... ah... restraint, part two

For those of you who enjoyed my previous musical contribution and just can't get enough, here is another.

For those of you who didn't, don't watch this. No, really. You really don't want to click on that arrow.

Noooooo! too late! You are going to, aren't you?

I warned you.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


I feel a rant coming on. But I don't have time to rant. But this is... er... mppp.... [must.....show.... restraint!]... one of the reasons.... [holds back rant]


A moment for the history books

Although I'm sure there will be constant mud-slinging even after the election is over, this recent discovery about Barack Obama by ABC TV news anchor, Terry Morgan is going to cause a lot of discussion and controversy.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

No Fruit?

This was a day of a lot of effort expended and yet little work accomplished. The week in and week out task of preaching means that you give birth on Sunday only to find you are pregnant again on Monday. "Labor" is a common analogy used by those of us who preach (yes, even the women). It was one of those days when I sit in front of a screen and type a lot of words but never really get anywhere. It was really, really frustrating. I hate when I'm not productive.

And yet...

Today, I also worked with some good friends at a food pantry. A very pleasant surprise, as I wasn't expecting any of them to come and they are some of the people I enjoy hanging out with the most. (4x4=16 peaches).

I talked with a fellow pastor about a dream I have for ministry and plan to call him again in about 25 minutes to ask him more. He is doing what I want to do. I am betting I can learn a lot from him.

I picked up my daughter from pre-school. Her eyes lit up and she ran to me yelling at the top of her lungs, "Daddy!!!!!"

I pushed her little body on the swing for what seemed like forever but went by in seconds as I realized that the day will come when she won't want me to push her. But I was aware of every push. The feel of my hand on her body. The look of the wind blowing her hair. Her 4-year-old smile and laugh. The rhythm of her shadow playing on the grass.

I made her dinner.

I played with Play-Doh.

I tucked her in and read her a story.

We prayed and talked about God.

She asked me to snuggle her and she fell asleep in my arms. Her last words were, "I love you daddy."

All in all... a pretty productive day.

I am blessed.

The meaning of life


Pre-Game Coin Toss Makes Jacksonville Jaguars Realize Randomness Of Life

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


"To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

2 Cor. 12:7-10


I grew up as a magician, doing magic shows before very large crowds from a pretty young age. I loved being in front of people. I loved to "perform." I loved figuring out the timing of making people laugh. My dad and I would critique each show, often as we drove to the next one. In the car, we would methodically walk through the show and hone each routine from the opening words to the closing ones. We would add jokes (even "ad libs" that weren't ad lib). We would craft the "patter" of each effect.

Occasionally we would be doing a show and I would get nervous. My dad's advice? "Fake it until you make it." He really was of the school, "Don't tell them you are nervous and they will never know. But if you tell them, it will make you seem less professional and you will be all the more nervous."

Now, it's funny; I don't remember having "stage fright" all that much growing up. I spoke in front of hundreds of people at a time, and never really gave it much thought.

That was then.

When I did magic shows.

And it worked.

Now, to be clear, I think much of my life has been to prepare me for what I do now. I've been speaking in public as a magician since the age of 5. I spent hours upon hours a week learning how to engage an audience and craft a routine. I did four years of drama while in High School, acting in plays and musicals. I did several years on the debate team. In college I was a speech communication major. There is no doubt that I have been trained as a speaker (often I think I should be MUCH better at this than I am!).

Then I became a pastor.

And something happened.

While I was in seminary, I was a youth pastor in this small church. This church hired me... and to say I was "green" would be an incredible understatement. I had this little youth group. And I did the best I could do at being their pastor -- knowing absolutely nothing about being a youth pastor.

I remember I did this bible study. It was on forgiveness. And as I was speaking, I felt this strange sense that something "bigger than me" was going on. I have no other words than that -- but the strange mix of confidence and heaviness was overwhelming.

What surprised me is that I would teach on something... and dang it... the students would go and do it. They would forgive people who hurt them. They would reach out to people they wouldn't normally have reached out to. They would share their faith with their friends.

It was weird.

Sometimes their parents would call me and ask me what happened to their child.

I will never forget the first time I spoke before a church. (Sermon title: "If I am a part of the body of Christ, than why do I feel like a toe?") It was this very odd mix of incredible excitement -- and nothing short of terror. I wasn't expecting that.


I've been doing this "preaching" thing for 17 years now. And the excitement... and the terror... have never gone away. I get sick before almost every time I speak. I'm a mess the day before. Moments before I walk on the platform, most of the time it would not take much to talk me out of it. I can't describe it. But I don't like it.

And yet, at the same time, while I'm teaching, I feel most alive.

There is an old movie called, "Chariots of Fire." In it, Eric Liddell (who is a runner), says something like, "I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast, and when I run, I feel God's pleasure."

When I teach, I feel God's pleasure.


I'm writing this because after taking 4 weeks off from preaching, I started again this past Sunday. I felt like I hit a brick wall. I felt like I got ran over by a train. I took a 4-hour-nap afterward and, really, would have slept through most of Monday and most of today if I didn't have a job to do. Fortunately, it usually gets easier in a few weeks. My body gets back into a groove.

But until then...I don't like it.

I'm not complaining. I'm so thankful to God that He distributes spiritual gifts to his Church. And I'm actually pretty thankful that I have a fairly good sense of my gifts. But gifts come at a cost. The giver of the gifts paid a price... and there is a "price" that is paid whenever we are broken open and poured out. There really is a difference between a gift and a talent. And maybe this is part of the difference.

So, do others of you struggle with this? In what areas? And if not.. I wonder why not?

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

God's power made perfect in weakness.

Power made perfect in weakness.

Power... perfect... weak.

Power. Weak.


Sunday, September 07, 2008

Did I really just nap for 4 hours?

ahhhh.... Sunday afternoon. Love it.

Saturday, September 06, 2008


“We must be perfectly clear about one thing: Jesus never expected us to simply turn the other cheek, go the second mile, bless those who persecute us, give unto them who ask, and so forth. These responses, generally and rightly understood to be characteristics of Christ-likeness, were set forth by Jesus as illustrative of what might be expected of a new kind of person—one who intelligently and steadfastly seeks, above all else, to live within the rule of God and be possessed by the kind of righteousness that God himself has.”

Dallas Willard, "The Spirit of the Disciplines."

Wow. I hope someday I can write something that profound.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Note to self

A 20-hour work day is a bit excessive.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

So when...

When did it become socially acceptable behavior, IN A LIBRARY, to answer your cell phone (turn the @#$% ringer off!) and then talk at FULL VOICE FOR 7 MINUTES about anything you want to talk about?

People! There is a volume button, a vibrate feature AND a hallway! Learn to use any of those.


Okay, I feel better. Sorry for the rant.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Sarah Palin

I can see why many Republicans are excited about Palin. Good speech. Okay, it was a pretty great speech... even if you disagree with the McCain/Palin vision. I realize that the best candidate for president is not necessarily the best public speaker, but as someone who is "kind of into the whole speaking thing"... this has been an amazing election.

Do realize that we have seen, (according to many), some of the best public speakers in the history of this nation. (Obama, Huckabee, Palin... all are excellent). It really has been great year for speeches. Without watching commentary... I think a star is born. It really was an amazing speech.

Curious for those of you who watched it... what did you think?

Monday, September 01, 2008

Christmas is just around the corner

Buy one for you pastor and you will be blessed.

Come to think of it... hummm... staff Christmas gifts!