Monday, November 30, 2009

Nothing to Say. Something to Do

The photos below are from The Seattle Times. They were taken as people mourned the killing of four police officers in Washington state.

Mark Hall, the leader of Casting Crowns, wrote a great book called "Lifestories". In the chapter "Love Them Like Jesus", Mark writes about several boys in his youth group dealing with the death of their friend's father. They had no idea what to say to their grieving friend. Mark gave them a simple yet powerful suggestion:
"Guys, you've just got to go love him," I said. "Don't think you have to have all the answers. You don't have to make some great spiritual pronouncement when you see him. You just have to be there for him and tell him you're sorry for what happened to his daddy and that you love him. And then you just hang out with him. You've just got to love him like Jesus-love him like He would, and love him to Jesus."

Later in the chapter Mark writes:
"All of the self-induced burden to make everything better creates a fear that causes us to pull away from our hurting friends. We heap all the pressure on ourselves. This is true even in a friendship between believers because we always want to have a spiritual answer for everything. We want to have the bow tied at the end. We want the quick resolution and immediate assurance that everything is going to be fine. Guess what? Sometimes it's not just fine. Sometimes you don't understand what's going on, and you're not going to know for a while, if at all."
"I had learned during a few such scenarios that there is really nothing to say. But there is something to do."

What should we DO when someone we know and love is grieving?
"You don't need the answers to all of life's questions. Just know that He loves them and stay by their side. Love them like Jesus."

(Today's post is part of the Blog Carnival hosted by Peter Pollock on "Grief")

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What Did We Serve?

On Thanksgiving day we served the homeless of Daytona Beach, Florida Thanksgiving dinner. We served turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, pumpkin pie and more. We served about 80 people. Along with the food, what else did we serve on Thanksgiving day?

Safety: We served 2 hours of safety. Homeless men and women live in constant fear of having their property stolen, being hit over the head or other physical and verbal abuse. It was great to see our homeless guests sitting down and relaxing. You could see in their eyes that they felt safe.

Listening: We served the gift of listening. The homeless want us to look into their eyes and actually listen to what they have to say. I was so impressed with how many of our volunteers actually sat down, listened and entered the real world of our homeless guests.

They weren't called Bums: We served respect. On the streets they are called "bums" or "losers". When our dinner guests arrived we asked what their name was so we could say, "Bill, what would you like to drink?" or "Diane, would you like more gravy?" The homeless have names just like you and me.

Love: We served love. There isn't a lot of love in the lives of the homeless. After the day was over I smelled like cigarettes, alcohol, body order and urine. Why? I hugged them. Have you ever hugged someone and they didn't want you to stop or they didn't want you to let go? That happened many times as I hugged the homeless on Thanksgiving day. I saw volunteers putting hands on their shoulders and shaking their hands. We wanted our guests to feel welcomed and loved.

The Gospel: We tried to serve the Gospel. The homeless HEAR the Gospel day after day just to get a free sandwich. I pray that our homeless guests SAW the Gospel while we were serving food, safety, respect and love. Isn't that the kind of Gospel we all need to SEE on Thanksgiving day and everyday?

Thanks to all of the volunteers and donations from First United Methodist Church, Tomoka Christian Church, Covenant United Methodist Church and my friends from Twitter: @ChristineBlake, @PaganKelly, @JohnBeattyArt, @BtotheEtotheN @EdenSalon and @BebeLeStrange68

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanksgiving Movie Tradition

Every Thanksgiving we watch "Home For The Holidays". It was directed by Jodie Foster. There are so many magic moments in this comedy. The clip below comes near the end of the movie. It contains a touching moment between father (Charles Durning) and daughter (Holly Hunter). My father died suddenly when I was 19 years old. As I watch the clip below I realize that I mourn the fact that I never had the opportunity to have an adult relationship with my father. It doesn't have to play out the same way with my daughter and son. This Thanksgiving I'm thankful for many things. One of the things I am thankful for is a God of second chances.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

I forget

Today God led me to Halifax Urban Ministries on Bay Street in downtown Daytona Beach, FL. What did I see? Hundreds of men and women standing in line. I saw the old and the young. I saw the poor, the broken, the unemployed and the disabled. Some couldn't stand. Some sat or leaned while they waited in line. They all had one thing in common. They were all standing in line to get ONE free frozen turkey.

I forget about the people who need to stand in line for free turkeys. I forget how it would feel to stand in line to get a free frozen turkey. I forget about how much I have. I forget about how much I waste and throw away. I forget about how much money I have in my wallet. I forget about the job I have. I forget about the home that I live in. I forget that I have two cars and a motorcycle. I forget about how much food is in the pantry and in the fridge. I forget how much God has given me. I forget and then God helps me to remember.

What have you forgotten? What do you need to remember?

Friday, November 20, 2009

Which One Are You?

Which One Are You?

 9-12He told his next story to some who were complacently pleased with themselves over their moral performance and looked down their noses at the common people: "Two men went up to the Temple to pray, one a Pharisee, the other a tax man. The Pharisee posed and prayed like this: 'Oh, God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, crooks, adulterers, or, heaven forbid, like this tax man. I fast twice a week and tithe on all my income.'

 13"Meanwhile the tax man, slumped in the shadows, his face in his hands, not daring to look up, said, 'God, give mercy. Forgive me, a sinner.'"

 14Jesus commented, "This tax man, not the other, went home made right with God. If you walk around with your nose in the air, you're going to end up flat on your face, but if you're content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself." (Luke 18:10-14, The Message)

Which one of the people in the story above describes you? Which one do you want to be? Which one are you like the most? Which one are you like the least?

Me? Most of the time I think I've got it all figured out. I'm the one that "gets it" and others don't. I'm the one that postures and positions myself to look good in front of others. I have actually said things like this to my wife, "You know honey, I know that I'm not that great of a husband but have you heard about what Dan has been doing to his wife and family?" I want to be more like the tax man. He examined his heart and admitted his sin. He humbled himself. He wasn't a poser. He confessed his sin to God and to others.

In my opinion, the tax man is the person that Jesus describes below:

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God"
--Matthew 5:8

I want to be more like the tax man.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Get Primal

Got a tweet yesterday giving me the opportunity to download a chapter of "Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity" by pastor Mark Batterson. After reading one chapter I can't wait to get my hands on the book. Here are some quotes and thoughts from Mark's book.

"An enormous amount of damage is done in the name of Christian living by bad Bible reading."

"The Bible is the place where God bares His soul. And it’s no Sunday school flannelgraph. It’ll make you wince and cringe and blush. But it’ll also make you marvel. Nothing speaks to the soul like Scripture. It’s the way God reveals His wonders in written form."

"Not unlike the radio waves that transmit voices and pictures and signals at different frequencies, the Spirit of God is always broadcasting.But we’ve got to tune in to His frequency."

"When we open the Bible, it’s like God opens His mouth. That’s how we get on His frequency. That’s how we tune in to His voice."

"I recently read about a musical trainer hired to work with opera singers who could not hit certain notes within a particular octave even though the notes fell within their vocal range. It was a musical mystery. The trainer did extensive testing on their vocal chords, but he couldn’t find any reason why they couldn’t hit those notes. Then, on a whim, he tested their hearing. And what he discovered is that these opera singers could not sing a note they could not hear. The problem wasn’t singing. The problem was hearing."

"Until you hear the voice of God, you won’t be able to sing His song. Why? Because you’re out of tune."

"When you love someone, you love the sound of his or her voice. If you’ve ever had a long-distance relationship, you know whereof I write. A relationship with God is a lot like that. To love God is to love His voice. Or to put it another way, to love God is to love His Word."

"There are days when reading through a book like Leviticus feels like driving through Nebraska. No offense, Nebraskans, but long stretches of flat land can be mind-numbing. Truth be told, some parts of the Bible are more exciting than others. Is that okay to say?"

Download your free chapter by "clicking" here

You can follow Mark Batterson on Twitter by "clicking" here.

You can follow Mark's blog by "clicking" here.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I've Changed The Name

For as long as I can remember I have been beating up on myself. I don't need critics. I am my own worst critic.

Today my "talking doctor" said, "Mike, look at what you've accomplished! Celebrate. Stop beating up on yourself."

I've got a lot to celebrate. This Friday will mark 30 days since I have had a drink of beer, wine or any type of alcohol. That is something to celebrate!

I am going to start the "celebration" early by changing the name of this blog. This blog used to have the title "Mike Is Messed Up". That title has been replaced by "Mike In Progress". I'm not perfect. I've got a long way to go. I'm on a journey. I'm a painting that is not finished. I'm a work in progress.

"I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back."

Philippians 3:13-14 (The Message)

Whatever there be of progress in life comes not through adaptation but through daring.

Henry Miller

Friday, November 13, 2009

Get Into Their Skin

For some nutty reason God has been sending me to the "Beatitudes" and "The Sermon On The Mount" over and over again. This week God led me to the verse below:

"Blessed are the merciful,for they will be shown mercy"
--Matthew 5:7

"Mercy is a hard word to pin down. Most people understand it as an odd mixture of compassion, grace, and forgiveness. But the Greek word for mercy, "eleos", refers to compassionate action: instead of turning a blind eye to the misery and misfortune of others, the merciful feel it in their bones and then are motivated to respond with action." --Mars Hill Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan

So how do we become "merciful"? One pastor suggested that we need to get into the skin of others. We need to see like them. We need to think like them. We need to feel like them. Don't understand the homosexual who lives across the street from you? Get into their skin. Don't like the old folks from the traditional service? Get into their skin. White folks drive you crazy? Get into their skin. No sympathy for Poor folks? Get into their skin. Are you scared of alcoholics, addicts and the homeless? Get into their skin. Think that Mormons and Muslims don't get it? Get into their skin.

Getting into their skin will mean much more than throwing money at them or praying for them. That's the easy way out. Getting into their skin will mean that you'll have to hang out with them. Spend time with them. Look into their eyes and listen to them. You can't get into the skin of others without acting, moving or doing. Getting into the skin of others has nothing to do with sitting on a pew or laying on the couch. Getting into the skin of others is all about "compassionate action".

"Those with "eleos" see the world differently. They see misery and misfortune in light of the grace they have received, and they respond compassionately out of the overflow of that same grace."--Mars Hill Church, Grand Rapids, Michigan

- Who's skin do you need to get into?

- Who's shoes do you need to step into?

- Who do you need to try to understand better?

Like Jesus did when He got off the throne of heaven to understand you and I.

A pastor's thoughts on "Mercy"? Click Here.

Want an example of "eleos" from the Bible? Read Luke 10:25-37

Want to hear the sharp words of Jesus for the "merciless"? Read Matthew 18:32-33

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Pastor's Tweets Not So Sweet

Scot McKnight wrote these words in a recent blog post:

"I’ve spent some time observing pastors who tweet or regularly update their status on Facebook, and I’m far from convinced it’s simply self-absorption or an attempt by little people to make themselves famous."

"We hear about (pastors) accomplishments but almost never any failures or disappointments, making the Twitter world largely a happy face community."

I agree with Scott's thoughts. What about you? Is Scott wrong? Is he right?

Read Scott's complete post by clicking here.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

What Do We Need To Cut Off?

Remember hiker Aron Ralston? He set out for a carefree desert hike through Blue John Canyon in Southeastern Utah when, with no warning, he had descended into hell. The young man's arm was trapped by an 800-pound boulder and he was forced to make an unimaginable decision in order to survive. Five long days after becoming trapped, Aron lost hope. He could do nothing and die or he could cut off his arm and live. On the morning of his final day trapped inside the canyon, Ralston knew what he had to do to survive. He had to cut off his arm that was pinned by the heavy boulder. He cut off his arm, escaped the canyon and lived. Aron describes the amputation of his arm in the YouTube clip above.

What do you and I need to cut off or out of our lives? Pornography? Alcohol? Drugs? Selfishness? Negative Thoughts? Bigotry? Over Eating? Hurting others? Lying? Cheating? Friendships? Relationships? Over Spending? Stealing? Anger?

What do you and I need to cut out of our lives that is hurting others and ourselves? What is holding us back? What has us pinned in the canyon? We can either hang on to it and die or cut it off and live.

If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.---Matthew 5:29-30

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner 4 the Homeless at FUMC

On Thanksgiving Day at noon we will open the doors of First United Methodist Church and serve the homeless a complete Thanksgiving dinner. We will be serving 30 to 40 men and women who otherwise would not have a Thanksgiving dinner on this special day. How can you help? What do we need? What are the details? See the information below.

We will be serving dinner at noon on Thanksgiving day.

We need large vans and van drivers. The vans will leave FUMC at 11:15 am and pick up our homeless guests at approx 11:30 am near the corner of Ridgewood and Bay Street in Daytona Beach, FL. After Thanksgiving dinner, at approx. 1:30 pm, we will drive our guests back to downtown Daytona Beach, FL.

We need paper plates, forks, knives and napkins. Plastic cups. Foam cups for hot drinks.

We need loving men, women and children to serve the meal to our guests. Servers should arrive at 11:15 am for instructions and last minute set up.

We need any and all food donations. What kind of food do we need? Turkeys, ham, potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, dressing, rolls and all of the other things you and I typically enjoy during Thanksgiving dinner. Whipped Cream and Pumpkin pie. Pecan pie and other sweets and treats. We also need drink donations. Lemonade. Coffee. Ice Tea.

Musicians. Can you play the guitar? The bongos? The piano? Get my drift? We would love to have music during dinner.

People willing to clean up during and after dinner. Clean up is not a glamorous job and has the least bit of glory but it is very important.

Need the church address? It's 305 Dunlawton Ave, Port Orange, FL 32127

Need the church website? Click here.

Why do we serve Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless? Last year Ron came for Thanksgiving dinner. He felt uncomfortable with the clothes he was wearing. Someone from our church gave him a clean shirt and a tie to wear for dinner. Look at the smile on Ron's face in the photo below. That's just one of the reasons that we serve Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless. You, your family and friends are invited to join us.

For more information give me a call on my cell phone (386)295-7739.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Men: Open Table Sundays at FUMC

Men, Sundays (starting November 8th) at First United Methodist Church in Port Orange, FL we're doing a weekly series called "Open Table". We meet Sundays at 10am in Room 15 at FUMC. You are invited to bring any and all questions, doubts or thoughts about Christianity, Church, God and Jesus. The clips below will give you a good feel for what we'll be discussing. Questions? Give me a ring at (386)295 7739 or send me a tweet through Twitter @MarketerMikeE

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

What Churches Can Learn from AA Meetings

My "talking doctor" said, "Mike, either go to Celebrate Recovery at a nearby church or go to an AA meeting!" I went to a Celebrate Recovery meeting at a church. I almost went insane listening to nearly 20 woman talking about being "enablers". That was not my cup of tea. Since last Friday I have been to two AA meetings. Now that's my cup of tea or should I say "coffee"? Man, they drink a ton of coffee at AA meetings. I've only been to a couple of AA meetings but I think ALL of us church folks could learn a thing or two from them.

Honesty, Transparency and Being Real
Let's admit it. We church folks are not known for being real. As a matter of fact, we can be downright fake and phony. I've done it myself. My wife and I get into a major fight in the car on the way to church. We park. We put on our "we've got it all together masks" and walk into church like nothing has happened. What do you hear at church on Sunday morning?

"How are you doing brother?" "Fine brother, how about you?" "Terrific, my perfect brother in Christ!"

That kind of fake and phony crap doesn't happen at AA meetings. Just like church you'll hear people talking about God. Except at AA meetings you'll hear the "F" bomb and the "S" word mixed into the same sentence as God. Example?

"I can't believe the F_ _ _ing things God is doing in my life since I started coming to AA meetings!" "Thank God I am coming to these meetings! I can't believe the S_ _ _ I'm dealing with this week!"

At AA meetings every person who opens their mouth is real, gritty, dirty, messy and honest about what is going on in their life. After doing the small group "let's stay extremely close to the surface" church thing, these type of raw and down to earth conversations are extremely refreshing. Going to AA meetings reminds me of one of my favorite quotes.

"The truly holy people I've met in my life are really interesting people. They're a mix of the most incredible godliness and at the same time, the most unbelievable earthiness. I know a woman who curses like a sailor, but she's the most holy woman I know. She is! I'm not kidding. We've created this image of what holiness looks like that's just nonsense. Good holy people probably drink too much some times, and have colorful language, and there's plenty of room in the Bible to see people like that. We have to see life for what it is, entirely more complicated then simple. Spirituality is not simple; it's complicated. It gets messy sometimes." - Mike Yaconelli

The Greatest Greeters
Okay church folks. How many of you can guarantee that everyone who came to your church for the first time on Sunday felt like they were greeted, welcomed and thanked for coming? Be honest. We all know that some or all newcomers slip in and slip out of our churches without at least one person acknowledging their presence. That doesn't happen at AA meetings. At the end of my first AA meeting I was ready to run out the door like an Olympic sprinter. It didn't work. A large older man stood in front of me, reached out his hand and said, "Thanks for coming. Glad to see you. What's your name? Can I give you some advice? How can I help you?"

At both of the AA meetings several people greeted me, made me feel welcome, offered their help and called me by my first name.

My suggestion? Each and every church leader should go to an AA meeting to see how total transparency and great greeting is done.

"When people look at the Church and see only impostors, they conclude that Jesus is an impostor. But when they see followers of Jesus who are real, they see a Jesus who is real." - Mike Yaconelli