I'm too young to remember the Cuban missile crisis. I really don't remember much about the cold war at all except for President Reagan's "tear down this wall." My mom told me a story about how tense things were during that time. So much to the point that when a car had a blowout while driving down their street they thought a bomb had gone off. People were stocking up supplies and building rooms with two feet thick walls of concrete. That's what you do when you anticipate a bomb, build a bomb shelter. (read more)
I had a friend that had a hat that said that, "healing comes to the broken places first." I always thought it was a cool saying. It's taken me a long time to really begin to grasp the magnitude of that statement.
Two years ago today one of the greatest tragedies of my life occurred. My mom suddenly passed away. My mom was in great shape and very healthy, played piano at church every Sunday up to that day. In fact, that night she had gone and had dinner and went to a movie with her small group, went to bed and never woke. My mom was a tough woman who had walked through a lot but to this day is one of the most godly women I've ever met. I wouldn't be where I am if it weren't for the hours on her knees for me. I believe with everything I am God simply said, "well done my good and faithful servant" and allowed her to quietly enter into His presence. (read more)
I've been in student ministry for a while now but whether you're a lifetime student pastor or a parent volunteer for a month, it's safe to assume there's some trends in student ministry that are kind of scary. For some time now I've wrestled with some of the biggest hang ups Christian students are facing. Here's a few thoughts:
STOP TRYING TO EMULATE WHAT YOU SEE
It's a tough thing to live out what John 17 says about being in the world but not belonging to it, especially for a student trying to find their identity. After all, it's the nail that sticks out that gets hammered, right? I understand you want to be liked and accepted but at what cost? Mark asks us, "what does it profit a man to gain the whole world but forfeit his soul?" (Mark 8:36) I'll be the first one to tell you I love a good parody or satire but what has happened is there's a Christian subculture of mimicking clothing, videos, music, etc to look like everyone else. You weren't made to look like everyone else, you were made to look like Christ. Remember, you were "bought with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:20) and a high price it was. (read more)
I've heard it said that leadership cannot be taught, it can only be learned. I've tried to be a student of leadership and even though I lead teams, there's still a lot I can learn from them. There probably aren't too many new ideas that I can share but I hope to continue to present this in a fresh way to a fresh audience.
We try to do leadership evaluations at the beginning and end of school years. Currently I am journeying through doing evaluations with my team as we head into a new ministry year. I always start out by asking how their time on our leadership team has been, what they've learned, how they feel about the direction we're heading, etc. (Read more)
In July of 2012, God began stirring my heart towards hosting my first ever discipleship conference. I had no idea what I was doing or getting myself into. I began to talk to people in my life; family, friends, and even people that I barely knew. I was asking what I needed to be doing and how I needed to be praying for what God had in store for this conference and for me. I had so many people speak into me, offering me great advice and praying for me and with me. In August of 2012, the Ordinary Discipleship Conference was born on the premise of we’re ordinary people serving and extraordinary God. We felt like we were not going for flash or big names but for substance and depth. The theme for that first discipleship conference was, “there is nothing ordinary about discipleship except the people."
That is just as true today as when I initially spoke it out then. (continue reading)
It's been a while since I've sat down and written anything. It's been a tough year for me, in my family and in my ministry. Throughout this season I've had moments where I felt like I didn't want to do this any more and I've had moments where God was so incredibly present in my life that despite the circumstances, I felt like I could take on anything. Many of the thoughts through this are from this past season of life and ministry and while they are not new thoughts, I believe they are good reminders of things leaders need. (continue reading)
I have a friend and coworker who has the gift of encouragement. I've never seen a person that can find the means to encourage others no matter the circumstance. Those that know her know exactly who I'm talking about and know the embrace of her hugs. Me personally, I'm not that great at it, or so I think.
I've been spending some time in Hebrews lately (resisting the urge to make a coffee joke) and was reading in chapter 3 today.
"But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today,' that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin." (vs. 13 ESV)
I've had some level of knee pain most of my adult life. I was diagnosed with patela-femoral pain syndrome while in the Marines and have sprained or twisted my knees numerous times. Recently, I've found myself leaning on a crutch again, literally. I've reinsured my left knee which means I have trouble just getting around much less walking up on stage and teaching. On top of that, I've had a couple days where the medicine I'm having to take has not left me in a great place. The thing about it is, we have to continue to press on. So how do I lead when I can't be out front? (read more)
Like many parents, I've sat and pondered at what things may be like for my children as they grow up. Probably more than that, I wonder how can I be teaching them now so that they're prepared for that time. I have a seven year old son and a six year old daughter and like many parents, my wife and I are trying to teach them about honesty. I think everyone would agree that lying is a bad thing, that's what we were told when we were younger and that's what we tell our kids now.
Then where did that change? At what point did we decide lying could be justified with a victory or a profit? (keep reading)
Waiting. That's something that is so hard to do sometimes. Last week as I was mowing our pasture at Ardizzone Acres, I saw a number of our pear trees had small, yet beautifully shaped pears. In just a few short months, these pears are going to be sweet, juicy and ready to be picked and enjoyed. In the mean time, we have to let the process of growth and maturing take place. To pick them now would interrupt and short circuit that natural process. There are many things in our lives that can require us "waiting through" the process until God's timing is perfected. To rush the process will limit the beauty of what only time can bring. May we each have the gift of grace to "wait through" trusting and knowing God's best is right around the corner. #gracetowait
This all stems from a teaching series I'm currently developing. There are many words and ideas over the years that have been hijacked for the lack of a better word. That have come to either mean something they were never meant to or like currency, there's been some type of inflation causing those words to be worth less. Think about how we sling certain words around with little regard to their meaning. (read more)
I came across this quote a couple years ago: "The church doesn't have a mission. There is the mission and she has the church."
I've spent a lot of time on this, pondering it's heart. On Wednesday night's our student ministry has been journeying through understanding biblical worship. It's been an incredible series. It's got me thinking though, about what worship looks like in church settings. What it should and shouldn't look like. Some of this also came from some material I was reading at the time from an organization a friend of mine is a part of called 10,000 Fathers, which is a discipleship based worship school. (quick plug - check them out at 10000fathers.org) (read more)
The season of Advent allows our hearts both time and space to take in the full miracle of Jesus’ coming to be our hope, peace, love, joy and a millions others things. We pause in the moment of reflection to breathe in the truth that a Redeemer, a Beautiful Rescuer was sent from heaven to earth for us.
The glory of the coming of Jesus goes beyond all nations, creeds, tribes and tongues. In fact, the glory of His coming was indeed for them all.
For all who have ever lost their way, for the brokenhearted, the hopeless, the overwhelmed, the captive, the one who has ever felt rejected, betrayed or abandoned, for the orphaned, the homeless, the weary, the lonely and disappointed.
His coming speaks the universal language of “you are seen, you are loved, you are held, you are known, you are accepted, you are chosen, you matter, you count………… You. Are. Mine.
Never again, do we have to grope in the darkness, grasp in desperation. We have been found as scripture prophesied. A Savior has been born and His name is Christ our Lord.
He who was humbly cradled in a manger as the King of the Universe can now be cradled in our hearts, received as our Deliverer and worshiped as our Lord. His humble grace has collided with our emptiness and never-ending shortcomings. His grace says lay down the striving to be. I already accomplished that for you both in the cradle and on the cross.
Yes, the divine love story of all time has met our reality. Jesus Christ, the Savor of all, sent from the foundation of the world as the spotless lamb that was slain, came. He simply came and He will come again.
So lift it up, lift it up, endless praises to our God. Full of grace, full of love and He’s reigning over us. Yes, we know He is faithful. He is worthy. This is our God!
On the heels of one of the most gorgeous autumns I have ever experienced, I find myself right on the doorstep of December and the first Sunday of Advent has quietly come and gone. This year, the autumn in southwest Louisiana romanced the deepest places of my heart with the timeless beauty of rich hues of golds, reds, yellows, and oranges. I took many morning and evening walks here at Ardizzone Acres amidst the brilliant array of twirling leaves free falling to carpet our walking path with breathtaking color. Seeking to make eucharisteo a part of each walk, I focused on the many blessings that saturate my life daily. Even the hard places have been blessings these days because I am learning deeper measures of God’s faithfulness and kindness on my journey. It seems as though the brilliance of this year’s autumn has been an overture to one of the most sacred seasons of the year – The Advent.
Overtures can be heard at symphonies and many musical events as they prepare the way for the music pieces that follow. An overture is much like an introduction to a larger and often more dramatic work. We see God’s overtures all through His creation but none are more stunning than the coming of Jesus into this world on our behalf. That beautiful sacred overture has set the stage so that every human soul has the opportunity to experience a personal relationship with their Creator. The coming of Jesus, the Advent, spilled over heaven’s gates at just the right time. It prepared the way for the greater work of the cross, the resurrection and the ascension. The grand overture of heaven will climax with the return of Jesus as He gathers us to His heart forever. The spiritual song of our hearts will then be returned to the place it originated, to the very heart of God Himself. May the overture of heaven gently serenade you this Advent Season and remind you of the most beautiful love song of all time. It was personally written for you and me.
Comfort can be a tricky thing if you're not careful. Recently my leadership team and I started noticing some trends we weren't too excited about and started asking the tough questions and having the tough conversations. What was going on? Why are some of these things happening?Are we doing something wrong? Every leader has found themselves there at some time or another. It's not fun.
Throughout those conversations we quickly realized something: we, as the leaders, had not only gotten comfortable with where we were but also had started generating apathy to what we were doing. We got lazy. Really cool things were happening. We were having awesome dialog about scripture and really living the life of a forgiven person. It was really great! But something still wasn't right. During one of our meetings Elisabeth, one of our student leaders spoke up and called it. "We've just stayed in the box way too long. We used to always try different things and be innovative but now we're routine." It was a truth that cut straight to us all but also a breath of fresh air. It's like we knew it but couldn't speak it out. Once it was out there though we all knew it to be true and immediately moved to what do we need to do to get back and began praying God's favor on us. (read more)
Today is Friday, an overcast, humid morning reluctantly welcoming the sultry heat to follow later this August afternoon. I love how true friendships are characterized by relational honesty. This morning I received a text from a precious friend asking me if I ever got stumped with this whole prayer thing. What you will read below are some of my heart’s musings as I pondered and replied to her question. I’m thankful for questions and for the opportunity to process. I’m grateful for the moments that I don’t have all the answers. Moments that are often the exit ramps that lead to a destination for restating truth to my heart- the truth that God is always bigger than I can comprehend. ........the truth that God is always much more good than I can fully take in. This morning took me to an unexpected exit ramp that affirmed my faith afresh and anew that God can be trusted in this whole prayer thing, no matter.
These were the overtures that followed my friend’s text. It is a beautiful mystery and invitation to know God’s heart through prayer. An opportunity to join Him where He is working on this planet and find our places, and the places of those we love, in this grand and divine love story of the gospel and sacred relationship. What I am finding these days is that prayer is more of a journey for me than the outcomes that I am actually praying for. It’s in the dailyness of prayer communications that I see God’s heart and hear His yes, no or wait. His hand is at work weaving this beautiful tapestry called life where He sees the design and I see only glimpses. My perception fails me more often than not. I tend to see more of the underside that can look like random threads. Yet something within drives me to choose to hold to His hand and commune with Him daily for I know His heart to be good even in the midst of this crazy mystery of life and faith. For me, prayer continues to be that divine umbilical cord that connects me to Father the way that Jesus connected with Him while walking this sod. Prayer remains a place where I share my heart big and small, good and bad, personal and kingdom. There is more, always more to be revealed in that exchange. One day we will see with clarity what those grand strokes painted on canvas, what those loving hands wove together for good. Until then, let us hold His hand and walk with Him to receive what He lovingly gives and wait for the rest that is to come. I don’t pretend in the slightest to know the answers, but I continue to eagerly seek and pray for divine grace to trust His heart and His track record of faithfulness. Sometimes I feel a distinct flow and rhythm of prayer but at other times my heart can feel frail and uncertain; yet, I can hear Him say...... “Fix your eyes again on me, dear one, not on what your eyes see around you. Fix your eyes on things above not on what your heart always feels. You have a true enemy battling your prayers but you always have a Savior interceding for you defeating the enemy. Praying from the power of My Son’s cross, resurrection and ascension will move your prayers into My spiritual territory and realm where I work miracles beyond your understanding. Press in and press on and keep praying for I hear every word and respond to every prayer even if it’s a sigh or tear. Your Heavenly Daddy.”
I’ll never think of an exit ramp exactly the same again in the future. You never know, an exit ramp might be what takes you straight into a fresh reminder of truth and into a Daddy’s embrace on a hot August morning.
You've probably seen a cartoon or a picture of a single rain cloud hovering over just one person, following them around. That cloud is raining on them and them alone. It's almost comical unless, of course, you're that umbrella-less soul caught in that storm.
We've all at one time or another felt that way. When you're in the midst of the rain it very much feels like it's just raining on you. It's hard to accomplish simple things sometimes. It's really difficult to continue to lead a team through it. Recently, my family found ourselves in such a storm. There were many tough days and long nights but the thing is, I still have a team, a ministry, to lead. Here's a few thoughts I'm learning towards leading through these situations: (continue reading)