Apr 29, 2006

Nashville - Day Three

So we began the day in Nashville and ended it in Chattanooga. Today was absolutely incredible. We talked to a bunch of ministers today and now have several events set up for the next few months - a men's event in Pennsylvania, a few college events in Canada, a couple more in Florida. It had already been a great weekend. Then we drove over to Chattanooga to meet with a church in Hixson. They look like they are going to bring us in next Spring.

It is amazing how fast things have started to move. It is kind of scary because the opportunities and workload are outpacing the money. But we know that will get itself together at some point. Well, we have one more day before heading home. Tomorrow we meet with another church in the Chattanooga area. I'll give another update on Monday, since we'll be travelling late tomorrow. Until then.

Apr 28, 2006

Nashville - Day Two

First of all, let me say that I am an idiot. I just realized I misspelled Nashville on my post from this morning. I fixed it so no one had to be horribly offended. So, we just finished day two at the College Ministers' Summit and are now chilling in our La Quinta (Spanish for "Triple Bonus Points") room. A quick recap of the day.

I was worried today would be a downer since yesterday was so great. But it wasn't. We made some great contacts and talked to college ministers from all over the country - Indiana, Arkansas, Texas, Alaska, Montana. There has been a great response to us and our ministry. So that is very encouraging. I went to a fascinating session taught by Dr. Chap Clark of Fuller Seminary. He spoke on the changing face of college ministry in light of the changing stages of adolescence. Good stuff. We stayed until about 3pm, and then went to work on some Bible study writing.

Tonight, we decided to go ahead and take the night off and kind of be tourists. The next couple days are going to be tiring, since we'll be getting up early to drop our fourth guy off at the airport by 6am, hitting the conference, and driving to Chattanooga after the conference. So we went to dinner at Ted's Montana Restaurant. I know this isn't where I usually review restaurants. I'll say this, though. Ted's is AWESOME. They sell bison burgers, steaks, ribs. Mmmmm. I love bison. It tastes like very lean beef, but the calories are usually about half of beef - and the fat can be from 1/3 to 1/5. We really enjoyed it. Then we decided to walk around downtown Nashville.

I have a hard time hating Nashville after tonight. Yes, it is the home of both country music and contemporary Christian music - which should naturally get it docked numerous points. But it is a very pretty city. The downtown is really cool - kind of like a clean New Orleans. There are clubs and restaurants everywhere with live music. We got to see the riverfront and lots of old buildings. JP and Charles got all excited because we went and saw the Ryman Auditorium. I had no clue what that was - apparently it is THE Grand Ole Opry. Ooooo. But we had a great time. I do like the city, and the weather is extremely mild for us Florida boys.

So we've had fun. The biggest annoyance is the traffic. Goo. I live in Orlando, but the traffic here is more of a pain. There are lots of cars, construction, interstates everywhere, and none-to-bright drivers. Not a good combo. Well, I'll try to post something tomorrow if I can. If not, I'm sure both of you will be upset.

Nashville - Day One

So Day One in Nashville has been great. The flight was surprisingly smooth and fast. Got our kickin' minivan, checked into La Quinta (Spanish for "Free High Speed Internet" - which I'm using right now). Had a bison burger at Ruby Tuesday's. Went over to Sheraton Music City and set up the Defender table. We're in a prime spot - right in the walkway between the lobby and the meeting rooms, across the walkway from Lifeway's store, and literally right outside the door from the large group meeting/dining room. Awesome. We've already had some great responses from people seeing our stuff.

Then we went to hear Clay Crosse speak about his new ministry - Holy Homes - and his personal testimony. We were really excited because we knew that his testimony included a battle with the same stuff Defender fights (inappropriate Internet stuff - worded that way to not trigger your online filters). Well, his session was super - it sounded like he had been reading our stuff.

But the best part was that we had - through a series of bizarre connections and "coincedences" - we were actually having dinner with Clay and his wife, his manager, and songwriter Steve Siler (I Will Follow Christ, Begin with Me, about 400 others). It was a beautiful time of fellowship where we all agreed that we are fighting the same fight, and we should work together. WOW! I have to say, I was blown away. I'm a HUGE fan of Clay Crosse. Yes, I know that I'm huge, but I really love Clay's music. So I was thrilled to meet him and talk to him. It was a great night!

Nashville is very pretty. It's downtown skyline is pretty ugly, but the city is pretty. The weather has been great - very mild. That's a nice change of pace from the oppressive Florida heat. It's nice to see that the traffic problems of Orlando are not isolated - great googidy moogidy. So, that's about it for now. I'll update later with today's news. Later y'all.

Apr 26, 2006

Heading to Country Music USA

So, I know that this should make everyone thrilled beyond belief. I'm heading up to the Country Music capital of the universe on Thursday. My Defender Ministries peeps and I will be hitting the College Ministry Summit, and then speaking at some churches in Chattanooga. I will try to update daily with the exciting activities from Naishville.

Apr 12, 2006

The Truth

You ever have one of those expereiences where you keep hearing the same thing over and over again? You know what I mean? You go to church, hear a radio show, hear another Bible study, talk to somebody and they all say the same thing? I've been going through that lately. I have been listening to a bunch of sermons via Podcast from Dallas Theological Seminary. Already three of them have touched on the same issue - one that I am teaching right now in Sunday School, as well as something that has come up in conversation with several different people.

I'm talking about the importance of teaching The Truth. We are teaching through 1 Timothy - which on three separate occasions brings this up. It also comes up in 2 Peter, which I heard someone speaking on today. They repeat again and again that first, we must know the truth. Then, second, we must make sure that The Truth is being taught. Finally, we must defend The Truth.

That made me think about how we are called to serve and the role that The Truth plays. I want you to read Isaiah 61:1. The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, Because the LORD has anointed me To bring good news to the afflicted; He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to captives And freedom to prisoners; What is this good news? It is The Truth - The Gospel of Jesus Christ. Now take a look at those groups that are spelled out. GOOD NEWS TO THE AFFLICTED - BIND UP THE BROKENHEARTED - LIBERTY TO CAPTIVES - FREEDOM TO PRISONERS. Think about who The Church is called to minister to. The Afflicted, The Brokenhearted, Captives, Prisoners. People who are afflicted by the disease of sin, people who have broken hearts because of their sin or their loved one's, people who are captive to sin, people who are prisoners of Satan. The Truth is what can free them.

As we focus on how to reach people, we must remember that more important than events, buildings, organizations is The Truth. We must hold on to and provide The Truth. That will be what sets people free. It is easy for me to think how important it is to get projects I'm working on done. But it is not those projects that will do anything - it is The Truth contained within

The Truth is the undeniable Word of God. It is the light that will be shined into the dark places that Satan has claimed as his own. It is the fire that will cleanse the impurities in our soul. It is the water that will wash away our sin. It is the one thing that Satan and his lies cannot stand up against. The Truth will win out. Satan cannot fight The Truth, for The Truth is that he is already defeated. And his lies and tricks will melt away in the face of The Truth.

We must be on our guard, and make sure that we are sure in our understanding of God's Word. We must study it and continually check ourselves. For we hold a powerful weapon, and we must know how to use it. I am excited about what God has been showing me. Just like the great heroes of the faith have shown us, it is not about the vessel - it is about The Truth that is contained within. Gideon, Peter, David were all flawed servants - but the power of The Truth they carried overcame their flaws. What a wonderful message. So, let's get ready to do this amazing thing God has called us to do.


Apr 6, 2006

Who I Am

This is going to be one of those highly self-involved posts that most blog readers can't stand because it projects the belief that the blogger is arrogant enough to think that everyone cares about their personal introspection. However, I need to do this - to get my head straight, to help me break through a doldrums, for a hundred reasons. So, I apologize in advance for offending anyone by being such an egomaniac.

I have been in a bit of a lull personally lately. I haven't posted on here since the Oscars, even though I've had a ton of things I have wanted to say. I can't get myself to work on computer projects I have laying around at home. I even have been very hesitant to keep pursuing Christ actively, choosing instead to just coast on my good reputation. As a result of all of that, I have become a bit of a churlish twit lately. I get irritated often, mope around when things don't go my way when I want them to. I have not been lifting people up and encouraging them. In fact, when they are teetering on one leg on the edge of misery, I find myself softly kicking them in their one good ankle - hoping they will fall off and join me. I'm not being a jerk - just not being a non-jerk. The worst part to me is that I am not blind to all of this. Rather, I am sitting there quite aware - not pleased, mind you - but very cognizant of my pitiful state. I want to change, but I'm too lazy to do anything about it. I have painted quiet a purty picture for everyone, haven't I?

Well, last night I was sitting there and decided to read John Maxwell's The 360 Degree Leader. It talks about being an influence and leader no matter where you fall on the corporate ladder. I wasn't reading it because I am one of the millions who swear by Maxwell's every thought. Rather, I know that this is one area that I need some help - how to be content and succesful while being a cog in the machine instead of operating the machine. I like to be the big shot, pulling the strings. It isn't a power trip - rather it is only there that I feel I can truly reach my full potential. My ideas and plans get shot down so often by everyone that I can't really do what I fell needs done. I don't honestly believe that I know everything, but I'm a relatively smart and insightful guy. So I think some of my stuff should be considered. So I hate being subordinate to somebody who doesn't have the same vision, outlook, opinion as me. They aren't bad people - we just aren't on the same page, or in the same book.

Anyway, I was reading the book and it comes with a free online assessment of youself and your capabilities. So I took the test, and it verified what I have been thinking. Which is why I need to write all of this. I need to take inventory and list Who I Am. That may help me to prioritize my thoughts and actions to actually fulfill my calling. I truly believe that God builds every one of us with specific and unique talents, spiritual gifts, and passions. When these three things come together, they form a special place where we are going to excel and truly be the most effective for God. We may still be doing good and being effective in other places, but that special zone is what we were built to do. And when we land there, we need to just bust our tails for Christ. Which maybe is why we take so long to get there - to get us ready so we don't flame out and screw up when we get the chance. So, here's my inventory and some thoughts about each.

I AM A LEADER - I know this. I have the qualities to lead. People follow me, and have a strong loyalty to me. I don't ask for this or demand it. In fact, in the opportunities I have had to lead, I can only remember a few incidents where I needed to even remind someone that I was in charge. Being a leader is not glamorous. I have done it - I was a College Minister in charge of an entire ministry and budget. The decisions all came from me. And the criticism lands on you, as does the sleepless nights and the broken heart. Being a leader is hard and tiring and painful. It also is incredible and amazing. And it comes with a huge price and a huge responsibility and a huge warning (Jesus' millstone comment). So if I truly am a leader, I need to lead. If I can't lead by position, I need to lead by example. Instead of griping and waiting for a chance to come, I need to make the most of my current place and lead those who are willing to follow.

I AM AN INFLUENCER - John Maxwell will say those two things are synonymous. But they also are very different. I have learned this about myself. I can change the mood of a workplace in a very short period of time. When I worked at Rhodes, I saw that happen. As my attitude eroded over a period of months, the entire workplace went with it. Everyone got angry and bitter. There were arguments and rebellions. It was awful. I was the only person that got along with everyone - so my poison went everywhere. I've seen the same thing happen several other times. I need to be more aware of that, and be more conscious of what I say and do. People are always watching and listening.

I AM A FATHER - I will be honest when I say I am not sure what exactly that means. I didn't have the best dad (who did?). And so I'm learning as I go. One thing I had to come to grips with last week is that I am not very good at this role yet. I have had to totally rennovate how I approach being a father. I was being too reactive and too easily frustrated. As a father, I am going to be held responsible for how I led my kids. And I have to be a godly example ALL THE TIME. My son recognizes my bad attitudes and actions all the time. He calls me on it too. He needs me to be what I never had - a living model of being a godly man. And my daughter needs me to show her what kind of man she should want one day when she turned 42 and gets married. I need to pray for them - more than just at bedtime.

I AM A HUSBAND - The last two may seem obvious, but they need to be a part of any list I construct. My first allegiance to any human must be to my wife. I need to help her to be the woman God has called her to be and to be fulfilled as well. This can be hard. My wife is a science-minded person. And she loves the medical field. How do I help her to become all that God meant her to be while at the same time being sensitive to our family? Trust me, this has been the source of many, uh, discussions over the years. I want her to do well in school (which she does) and to find fulfillment and be excited about her life. And I want her to grow in God. That last one is also hard. I love serving and teaching at church, but if my family isn't growing - then I am hurting the most important people I have in my world. That is going to lead to hard choices, but they have to come first.

I AM A TEACHER - I know that I am built to teach. That is what I do, what I have always wanted to do, and what I will always want to do. I can't just sit still and listen. I want to share what God shows me. I want to give that to everyone. I see people who are blindly putzing around and I want to help them get moving. This is the one of these six things that I have not neglected lately. I still am teaching. I admit my preparation is not the best every week, but I still give my all on Sunday. I can't give this up - but it can't come at the expense of being a dad and husband. Again, a hard choice must be made.

I AM A WRITER - I love to write. Things come to me and flow through me so easily. I read a fascinating post by Malcolm Gladwell a couple of weeks ago that really stuck with me. He was asked by someone if he did a lot of prep work on his writing - basically asking about his writing process. Gladwell said that he doesn't think about that very much. He just writes because he loves it. He doesn't care if it is a first draft, a review, an abstract, a post. He loves the writing. He went on to say how he was amazed when he heard of athletes complain about practice because it shouldn't matter WHY they are playing basketball - it should just be that they love playing. He went on to say that is why Tiger Woods will always be better than Phil Mickelson at golf. Phil takes two months off. Tiger never stops playing because he loves it that much. He loves practice, driving range, putting green, playing. He just loves golf. I feel that about writing. I just love it. But I don't do it because I'm afraid I'll get "too into it." I guess that's my reason - seems pretty stupid. But I for some reason don't get that car into gear. But God built me to do this, and I need to stop making excuses and just write whenever I can. Don't worry if anyone reads it. Just do it.

All of this is obviously covered by the fact that I AM A CHRISTIAN. I do not hide that. I may write on things that aren't "spiritual." But how will I influence my culture if I refuse to engage it? That's why I review movies and listen to music. I see how I can link those things of the world to show Christ. At times in my past, I could justify watching movies with pretty bad stuff in it. But no more. I do not allow my desire to reach the culture to compromise my commitment to obey God's Word. So I am careful about what I watch and hear. But I will not hide my head in the sand and let Satan run away with the world because he has no opposition. In China a few years back, one man stopped a convoy of tanks. I need to be that man. Yes, I may get run over. But God will use that to.

So, that is Who I Am. I make no apologies. I cannot deny those things. I need to start being serious. I'm going to turn 32 in a few weeks. I need to stop playing games and get serious about doing what God told me to do. I guess that was what I needed to get to.