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A Humble Request

Here’s my humble request: Please keep your political email forwards to yourself. 

Nobody checks their email in hopes of being convinced about how they will vote in an upcoming election. No one goes to their inbox in order to come away with more outrage about some political happening in the world. People do not get their political worldviews from email forwards.

Extreme political emails have little to do with the desire to increase conversation; rather they are about fueling anxiety, anger and division. They are about stereotyping, denigrating and humiliating others. Simply put, rhetoric-laced emails are not helpful.

So here’s a humble recommendation for this next election cycle. DO read, study and be involved in conversation that includes both sides of the issues. DO select a candidate based on your judgment, values and beliefs. DON’T be an amplifier of hatred, fear and division. DON’T allow politics to trump loving others as Christ loved us.

And when it comes to those unhelpful charged emails: There’s a button right next to the forward button called “delete.” Use that one instead.

 
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Posted by on June 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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A Moment for a Mentor

Charles Siburt is a mentor for me. He has been struggling with an aggressive form of cancer. I want to take some time to share my thoughts about Charles so that you can understand why I thank God for Charles Siburt. The qualities reflected in Charlie’s life give clues to the traits of a mentor.

1. Charles cares for my family. Charles was the minister at the Glenwood Church of Christ in Tyler, TX. My grandfather was a member of Glenwood before he moved to live close to my family. I was a sophomore in high school when my grandfather passed away. Charles preached his funeral. His care for my family continues on to this day. He always wants to make sure my wife and my children are doing well.

2. Charles makes me feel special. I know that there are hundreds of people that Charles has mentored. But I have a secret…he likes me the best. This is how all who have been mentored by Charles feel. He takes time to check on me personally. I have had seasons of difficult times in ministry and during those times, he has called me to talk to me. He has words of affirmation for me that let me know he believes in me.

3. Charles speaks truth. Truth-telling is often a lost skill. Many people who “speak truth” use this as a smoke screen to be mean-spirited. Others will not say the truthful thing because of a fear of wounding the pride of others. Charlie speaks the truth in love. Because he loves, he can say what needs to be said. Although Charles has advanced macular degeneration, he sees things clearly and reveals that which must be seen.

4. Charles laughs. My wife and I were talking about Charles last night and she said, “He just delights in you!” I am a bit of a goofball. Charles loves it. He would stop lectures to make me tell jokes or to recite embarrassing humorous stories. He laughs and laughs at my humor. We have certain recurring jokes that have endured for over 15 years now. And still he laughs at them. While in grad school at ACU, I once nabbed a WW2-era German helmet from a library display and wore it into his class. Because of Charlie’s vision impairment, he could not tell what I was wearing. Eventually, I imitated Sgt. Schultz from Hogan’s Heroes. (I know nossink!) Charlie put it together and laughed hysterically. He made me put on the helmet and wear it the next class session and do the impersonation again. And again. And again. This is an example of humor that endures.

5. Charles is a true believer. He believes in Jesus. He believes in God. He believes in the Holy Spirit at work in the world. He believes in the Church. He believes that even though we fall short, the Church is still the bride of Christ and the agent of reconciliation in this world. His belief inspires me and calls me to further depths of belief. Charles has faced the most difficult situations with grace that comes from the Spirit.

There are more qualities that I love about Charles. I want to ask you to join with me and others this Friday, February 3 to enter into a day of prayer and fasting for Charles and his family. Charles and Judy Siburt have dedicated their lives to giving to others. I want to pray for Charles in his final days for there to be peace and courage. I will also be praying a prayer of thanksgiving for all that Charles has given to the Church, and especially what he has done for me. I also pray for Charles’ ministry of blessing churches and church leaders that God would raise up more to take up the call.

UPDATE EDIT: The day of prayer and fasting was a blessing as hundreds from around the world prayed to our Father. God worked by allowing Charles to have more time with his family, more time blessing others and he even got to teach another group of young ministers. Charles went to be with the Lord Wednesday morning, July 11. He will rest, and he will rise.

Thank God for Charles Siburt.

[Update]

Here is another blog from my good friend Dan Bouchelle talking about Charles’ impact in his life. And another post from Jim Martin at Godhungry.org. Bobby Ross at the Christian Chronicle put up this post about the day of prayer for Charles.

How have you been blessed by Charles Siburt? Take a moment to comment here.

 
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Posted by on February 1, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Why I’m not watching Game 7

I’m a Texas Rangers baseball fan. And I’m not watching Game 7 tonight. Here’s why:

On June 18, 1997, the Rangers faced the Colorado Rockies. The Rangers (who started Darren Oliver) took a 10-7 lead into the bottom of the 9th inning. In comes John Wetteland to close the game and get the save. Wetteland followed with a terrible outing, giving up 3 hits and a walk to load the bases. He then walked in the winning (or losing) run. The Rangers blew a lead and lost one of 162 games. The Ranger players went from there, got cleaned up, ate dinner, got a team flight to their next opponent’s city and went to bed.

But not me.

I stewed over the loss. I recounted in detail every pitch and at bat from the 9th inning. I obsessed over the borderline calls from the umpire. I replayed each swing and thought about what should have happened. I didn’t sleep that night thinking about the Texas Rangers.

About 3am, the realization came to me: Somewhere along the way, I gave my passion to something that could never love me back. I cared more about Rangers Baseball than I did about God’s mission on this world and my involvement in God’s mission. In a holy moment, I found for me some sanity and peace. I had to step back from this addiction if I wanted to be better follower of Jesus.

My Rangers consumption reduced. My baseball fever declined in the following years. (Living without ESPN for 4 years made it hard to follow baseball religiously.) I got to where I enjoyed following the Rangers from a safety buffer of box scores and live updates rather than joining in the TV crowds.

And besides, I found that whenever I watched the Rangers they did very poorly.

Last night, when the Rangers had a 3 run lead late in the game, I decided it was okay to turn on the TV. Big Mistake. I went to bed late, and when I got in bed, I couldn’t sleep. I thought of Cruz misjudging the ball in the 9th, the managerial decisions late in the game, the inevitability of the Cards win, and all of those things. If only, if only, if only. It was June 18, 1997 all over again. That part of me that wants to tie my identity, self-worth, and self-esteem to a team of men who don’t know me, don’t love me, and play for “my team” because they get paid, is still there. I’m not watching Game 7 because I don’t trust my heart to not allow this game to encroach on the part of me that is reserved for the things that can love me back like my family, my faith community, and my heavenly Father.

What I am not saying:

  1. I am not saying you shouldn’t watch the game. I am saying I shouldn’t watch the game.
  2. I am not saying all sports are always bad. I am saying pay attention to what possesses your passion.
  3. I am not saying the Rangers won’t win. I am saying they have a much better chance without me watching.

And that should make all Ranger fans really happy.  Go Rangers. I won’t be watching.

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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Parenting with the Examen- A Spiritual Discipline for Family Faith Development

This guest post is written by Lance Bolay. Lance has worked with me at the Connect Minister at the Belton Church of Christ. In the year I’ve worked with Lance, he has become a good friend and a source of wisdom. Lance completed his certificate in Spiritual Direction this past summer and my church is benefiting from his ministry in Spiritual Direction.

What is “the Examen?”

My family incorporated the Examen into our nightly routine about a year ago. The Examen is a simple process of discovering the way of fullness versus the way of emptiness. It consists of asking two simple questions: “For what am I most thankful today?” and “For what am I least thankful today?”

Where did it come from?

The Examen comes from Ignatius. The young Ignatius (1491-1556) was a self-indulgent Spanish soldier from Loyola who eventually traded the way of the sword for the way of the cross and a life of nobility for a life of poverty. Ignatius was wounded in battle. During the long process of healing, Ignatius began to notice within himself that the thoughts, motives, imaginations and dreams that had fueled his early life actually seemed to drain him of faith, hope and love—the three core virtues of human vitality and fullness (1 Cor. 13). This he referred to as desolation.  Alternatively, when he read and meditated on the way of Jesus and the lives of the saints he found himself filled with faith, hope and love.  This he referred to as consolation.  This experience of self-examination, the Examen, was at the heart of Ignatius’ conversion, the point at which he became a radical follower of Jesus.

So what does this look like in your family?

After brushing their teeth and putting on their nightclothes our seven-year-old son and four-year-old daughter crawl into our bed (actually, most of the time it’s more like jumping into bed like a couple of wild monkeys).  After settling down, either my wife or I will ask the first question,  “What was your favorite part of today (ex: what made you feel good and happy)?” followed by the second question, “What was your least favorite part of the day (ex: what made you sad, mad, or scared)?” Sometimes we follow up with questions like “when did you see love today and when did you show love today?”  But the first two questions are the core of the Examen.  Recently, we began journaling our answers so we can have something to reflect on as our kids grow older but also for the purpose of discerning patterns and habits in our lives that either fill us or empty us of faith, hope and love.

How has this helped you and your family in your faith development?

Most of the responses are simple and mundane.  But it is precisely here where we find God.  This practice helps my family check our fuel gauge and nurture both a deeper self-awareness and a greater awareness of God.  Furthermore, God sometimes penetrates and transforms the hearts of parents through the honest answers of our children.  This occurred most powerfully one evening when my four-year old daughter confessed that her desolation was when Daddy failed to play with her that day after promising he would. Being a dad who keeps his word cultivates faith, hope and love in my little girl! I would have missed this had I not asked the question. Practicing the Examen as a family makes us aware of God’s movement in our lives.

YOUR TURN: What questions about the Examen would you ask? What significant routine have you established with your children to build faith?

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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What I love about my church today (September 11, 2011)

Each week, I want to share something I appreciate about my community of faith, the Belton Church of Christ located in Belton, TX.  Each week, I will highlight one “bright spot” in my congregation.


We marked the 10th anniversary of 9/11 with a special service at BCC. I want to briefly discuss why we did it and what it looked like.

1. 9/11 was THE defining moment of the generation. With this in mind, we felt it was important to bring the tragic aftermath into worship rather than to ignore it.

2. Everyone is thinking about it. We could have chosen to not address 9/11 but the moment that someone read September 11 at the top of the newsletter, their mind would be on that day. We felt it was important to acknowledge the deep seated hurt found in our people.

3. Bell County is a military community. Because of the events of 9/11, BCC families have been at war. Several of our body have served multiple deployments and have brought back wounds of various kinds. Our families have suffered the absence of parents and children not knowing if they would be safe. We need a way to bring this kind of hurt before us all.

all of these things bring us to a bigger reason.

4. We choose, as Jesus did, to engage the World rather than to ignore the World. The anniversary of 9/11 is a point of engagement with our community and our people. Jesus and Paul often chose points of engagement to bring to light Kingdom principles. We did the same.

The Service

1. Centered out of the reading of Romans 8:18-39. The framework was a move through a central portion of scripture where Paul moves his audience from hurt and pain to the ultimate source of hope, the Resurrection in which no force can separate one from Christ’s love.

2. A time for prayer. We prayed for the 2977 victims’ families, our first responders, our government, President Barack Obama, our military, and our enemies. The prayers were very moving.

3. Inspiring worship through song. We are an acapella congregation, and when we really sing, we sing our hearts out to God. The worship to God was thick and Spirit-filled.

4. Ended at the Lord’s table. The Lord’s supper is an ancient ritual for Christians that serves to re-enact the core of the Gospel message, the life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. The Cross is the answer to the question, “God, where were you when the towers fell.” He was at the same place as he was that day of crucifixion.

(You can listen to the whole service here.)

I love my church this week because we engaged our pain and hurt, brought it to the Lord and allowed him to exchange hurt for hope. May this be the rhythm of our lives.

YOUR TURN:

HOW DID YOU REMEMBER THE 9/11 ATTACKS?

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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What I love about my church today (September 6, 2011)

Each week, I want to share something I appreciate about my community of faith, the Belton Church of Christ located in Belton, TX.  Each week, I will highlight one “bright spot” in my congregation.

 

I love my church because of the grace I witness.

A couple of weeks ago, I concluded preaching through a series over the parables of Jesus. The final parable was the parable of the Good Samaritan, found in Luke 10. (I will confess that I selected this parable to conclude the series because there were many difficult parables that we tackled, and I wanted one that was “easier” to interpret and understand.) As I approached this parable, through prayer and study it became clear that the radical call from Christ to my congregation is to acknowledge the fence that separates one from another, the barrier of racism. The call of Jesus is to understand the division and tear that fence so we can truly be a neighbor to one another. The crucifixion of Jesus declares the love of Jesus for all humanity. When Jesus was crucified, Pilate ordered Jesus’ crime for which he was executed to be displayed on his cross in 3 languages, Aramaic, Greek and Latin. Any person from any race or language in Jerusalem could read and understand the claim that Jesus was “The King of the Jews.” The Cross itself crossed racial, political and language barriers. The Cross is a fence torn down.

After preaching, I had several conversations with African-Americans from my congregation. These men and women approached me after service and called or emailed me throughout the week. The men and women I encountered were older than me. Most were in their 50’s and 60’s with one person being in the 70’s. These were people who experienced racial divisions and Jim Crow. One recounted how her mother was asked to not attend a church in her small home town because it would seem “unseemly” for a black woman to attend and commune with white people. The people I talked to appreciated the words and the acknowledgement of racial division. To me, the Civil Rights movement is pre-history. I see black and white TV and read accounts of this like I do World War II documentaries or old photos of Lou Gherig and Mickey Mantle. But my brothers and sisters lived this struggle and have personally suffered. They have known (and still know) the fear of walking into a church building unsure if they will be accepted because of the color of their skin.

Here’s the amazing thing to me: Not any of the men and women to whom I spoke were angry. Instead, to an individual, I heard nothing but gratitude and grace. These men and women serve as amazing examples of how Jesus forgives. I am deeply humbled by their witness and testimony.

I love my church because of the grace and forgiveness I see in our midst. We are not perfect, but we are being perfected through God’s Spirit and God’s Word. I believe that when we do the hard work of tearing down fences, we will be surprised when we find the pieces of the fence can be built into bridges of grace and healing.

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Why I Started Running part 2

Last week, I ran a 5K. I signed up for this event because I knew I needed the accountability to discipline myself to run. I heard a quote recently that said, “The most difficult distance any runner crosses is from the bed to the front door.” I have been asked recently why I have been crossing that distance. I gave my first three reasons here. Here are more reasons why I started running.

4.  Confidence- Running has given me increased confidence in other areas of my life. I find myself entering other stressful arenas with a more relaxed mindset and a more positive attitude. This confidence makes me a better leader and a better speaker. Also, this is confidence, not arrogance. I cannot compare my accomplishments to anyone else, and I surely don’t think I am a better person than anyone else because I run!

5. Healthy Modeling to My Family- I am passionate about healthy churches and healthy leaders. My exercise habits are forming an example to my children. I want them to choose healthy habits in their life and I know that neither the school’s teachings, a TV campaign nor a lecture from me will ever replace my walking in the door having exercised. I want them to know this is a healthy thing to do and to participate in this because I want my three children to lead healthy lives.

6. Healthy Leadership to My Church- Ministers are notorious for being health risks. Disability insurance companies rates ministers in the same categories as construction workers and other physically intense laborers. Ministers are stereotyped for being out of shape and sedentary. This lack of health combined with the stresses of ministry leads to ministers having shortened careers and, in many cases, shortened life spans. Modeling healthy decisions makes one a better leader because one will be around to lead longer. Also, modeling these healthy decisions gives a leader more integrity. Modeling is an important and integral part of ministry.

7. Stewardship- I am not a “good” runner. People won’t ever look at me as an exemplar of graceful athleticism. I just don’t have those gifts. I want to do the best with what God has given me. God has given me this body. I will do the best I can with this one. In the past I have thought that our physical bodies are not important to God. I thought, “Why would I waste energy on this body when it is destined for death?” I have come to realize that Jesus redeems every aspect of our lives including our physical bodies. One cannot divorce the physical body from the spiritual condition. We are unified creatures! Because of this, I see physical health as a response to the Lordship of Jesus Christ over my being. I will be a good steward of everything God has given me, including my physical body.

These are some of my reasons for choosing to start running. I hope that perhaps you will chose to start doing the best with what God has given you. If that includes running, I believe you will find some benefits as well!

What would you add to this? What is the biggest benefit from healthy physical practices that you know?

 
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Posted by on July 24, 2011 in Uncategorized

 
 
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