Running With The Wind

RunRunning with the wind is never linear. It twists and turns. It rises and falls. It accelerates and de-accelerates. To run like the wind, we must run with the wind. Running against the wind, may get us where we want to go, but not necessarily to the correct destination. And upon arrival, we are tired… fatigued.

The Spirit of God is like the wind. And yet, we try to corral His power. We seek to control his twists and turns, his rising and falling, his speeding up and slowing down. And though our desires may be pure, they are still our desires. We ask God to bless what we are doing. Instead of discovering what He is doing and running with the wind.

When was the last time anyone you know listed the steps of your churches spiritual transformation strategy as their pathway for spiritual growth? Do you know anyone who ever listed class 101, 201, 301 and 401 as the process of their growth with Christ? Or how about the individual who lists the front porch, foyer, living room, and kitchen as their journey to spiritual awakening? Or how about the “Six S’s”? Or the “Five C’s”?

If people came in one shape, one size, one personality, one gift-mix, one economic package, one IQ, then a prescribed spiritual growth track might work. But it would also possess the qualities of boring and mundane. As would all facets of life.

Jesus’ model of spiritual growth is much more random. Much less strategic. Far more simple. A farmer went out to sow his seed. Some fell on good soil. Some on rocky soil. Some on a path. And others among the thorns. The seed fell where it was thrown and where the wind carried it. The only intentionality in the story is the farmer going out to sow seed.

We never again need to sit at a table with men and women delicately scripting a spiritual growth plan for others. Instead, let’s labor to create healthy environments where people can heal and thrive. Environments that are intentional, yet random. Environments that are simple, yet profound. Environments that are unscripted by man, yet directed by God. Environments that encourage people to run with wind.

A New Normal

Narrows 9In the fall of 2011, my wife (Stefani) and I awakened to reality. We only have 12 short years left to shape our children’s lives, to teach them the way of Jesus’ mission and the values of His Kingdom. And these are the years they will remember. These are the years where stories are created – where memories are made – where trust is forged. The stories we create today will live beyond our last breath. These stories will shape our children’s futures and change our lives forever. When our kids are grown, we will revel in great adventures shared; laugh at our mistakes, and dream of adventures to come. If the stories are never created, they are never told, and life remains mundane.

Every great story requires risk, demands sacrifice, and defies comfort. Realities Stefani and I embraced while planning our first in a series of life shaping adventures with our kids.

“I look forward to going home, but not returning to normal.” After 26 nights of camping on the Colorado Plateau, my 12 year old daughters’ frank statement pierced my heart. There was nothing normal about the previous three-and-a-half weeks. We only had four changes of clothing, two tents, sleeping bags, showers every few days, two days food at any given time, and limited cell reception.

Life was simple. Electronic entertainment was replaced with imagination – movies replaced with books around the fire – the office chair replaced with hiking boots – the school room replace with nature. Our children’s ages? Noelle, eight. She is our risk taker. Ryan, nine. He is our genius. Karena, twelve. She is our care giver.

We have been training our children in the outdoors for years. And yet, we knew we were pushing the limits when all other families with young kids retreated from the trail prior to completing the first mile. We kept pushing on. Most trails are packed dirt, rock, and sand. Not this one. This was the Virgin River. For four miles, we fought against her strong current – the water a chilling 48 degrees. At times, we firmly held our children so they wouldn’t be swept away. The canyon walls of “The Narrows” towered hundreds of feet around us with moss hanging like garland above our heads. Every turn presented another world of wonder. The walls narrowed the further we went. Our shoes filled with sand. There was nothing comfortable other than the beauty and serenity of our surroundings. At the end of the day, we were physically and emotionally exhausted. Cheep ice cream never tasted better.

DSC_0269Days later we took off to find Hidden Canyon. And it was hidden well. A one mile trail twisted up a 1000 foot cliff. At times the trail was no wider than 24 inches. A chain bolted into the side of the cliff served as a hand rail. Tripping could result in a several hundred foot fall. Stefani and I gripped the back of our youngest children’s shirts in an effort to catch them if they were to slip. This futile act seemed to diminish our anxiety. Risky? Yes – with the reward of breath taking beauty.

Retreat! Sometimes this is for self-preservation. While driving into camp through the endless desert of Navajo Country, a storm built in the western horizon. We hadn’t seen rain in weeks. We could only imagine how refreshing a desert storm would be. It would clean the dust off our tents and filter the air – bring coolness after scorching days. This was no night to sit around the fire. After dinner, we moved into our tents waiting for the storm to hit. And it hit hard. But there wasn’t rain. It was dust. Wind was ripping through our tents bring with it gobs dirt – layering our sleeping bags like unwelcome snow. Our head lamps revealed the dust swirling in the air that choked our lungs. To say we were miserable is an understatement. The weather forecast predicted the storm to last 7 hours. In seven minutes, camp was torn down, and we were back on the road. Retreating to where nature would perhaps be less harsh.

DSC_0649“I look forward to going home, but not returning to normal.” There was nothing normal about this trip. These are only a few of the stories we created. After pondering the depth of this statement, I responded to Karena, “I look forward to going home too, but we don’t have to return to normal. We have the ability to choose a new normal.” Sitting down with our children, Stefani and I invited them to define the “new normal”. Our children didn’t hesitate. First – spend more time as a family. Second – spend more time with friends. Third –play more. Our son added a fourth for himself – do more school. He is our genius.

I am amazed at the simplicity of the “new normal” – relationships, recreation, and learning. And Jesus says, “Unless you become like children, you will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” A lesson from God, taught by children, found in the simplicity of life. In our pursuit of a discipleship adventure for our Children, God taught us.

And now, we are redefining our lives to create a “new normal”.


Pre-script Your Life Story

Take a long look at a new 2012 calendar. Let the realities of 2012 sink in. What do you see? An open schedule? Opportunity? Excitement? Fulfilled dreams? An unwritten story?

It is likely you have only a few days accounted for in 2012 with vacation or meetings. This leaves you a few hundred blank days to write the story of your life. Think about that… YOU get to write your life story!

What story is your calendar going to tell about you 12 months from now? Will you be out of debt? Will you have obtained financial margin? Will you generously meet the needs of others? Will your generosity, compassion, and love write you into the story of a neighbor or stranger’s life? Will you have given your children positive memories? Will your spouse be passionately in love with you? Will you be eating better and living healthier? Will you have a job you love?

What are your dreams? What are the deepest desires of your heart; your core longings? What story do you want your calendar to tell by the end of 2012?

The course of our lives should flow from our desires. When we delight in God, His desires, become our desires. And God longs to give us the desires of our hearts when they align with His desires for us.

“Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this….” (Psalms 37:4-6)

Pre-script your life story for 2012. Take an hour this week, in a quiet place, and ask God to give you the desires of His heart. As dreams and desires come to mind, write them down. Then go back to each idea and write a plan for accomplishing your desire. Some of your dreams will not be able to be accomplished on their own… it will take God’s intervention for them to become reality.

Now for the best part, commit your desires to God daily, begin working the plans you wrote, and see what God does in 2012. The story will be amazing!

“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed.” (Proverbs 16:3)

4 Spiritual Positions

What is your spiriutal position in relation to God?

Which group do you most desire to live Jesus’ mission with?

America’s poor are its most generous givers

America’s poor are its most generous givers

This is an incredible article…

By Frank Greve | McClatchy Newspapers

WASHINGTON — When Jody Richards saw a homeless man begging outside a downtown McDonald’s recently, he bought the man a cheeseburger. There’s nothing unusual about that, except that Richards is homeless, too, and the 99-cent cheeseburger was an outsized chunk of the $9.50 he’d earned that day from panhandling.

The generosity of poor people isn’t so much rare as rarely noticed, however. In fact, America’s poor donate more, in percentage terms, than higher-income groups do, surveys of charitable giving show. What’s more, their generosity declines less in hard times than the generosity of richer givers does.

“The lowest-income fifth (of the population) always give at more than their capacity,” said Virginia Hodgkinson, former vice president for research at Independent Sector, a Washington-based association of major nonprofit agencies. “The next two-fifths give at capacity, and those above that are capable of giving two or three times more than they give.”

Poor give most to charity Indeed, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest survey of consumer expenditure found that the poorest fifth of America’s households contributed an average of 4.3 percent of their incomes to charitable organizations in 2007. The richest fifth gave at less than half that rate, 2.1 percent.

The figures probably undercount remittances by legal and illegal immigrants to family and friends back home, a multibillion-dollar outlay to which the poor contribute disproportionally.

None of the middle fifths of America’s households, in contrast, gave away as much as 3 percent of their incomes.

“As a rule, people who have money don’t know people in need,” saId Tanya Davis, 40, a laid-off security guard and single mother.

Certainly, better-off people aren’t hit up by friends and kin as often as Davis said she was, having earned a reputation for generosity while she was working.

Now getting by on $110 a week in unemployment insurance and $314 a month in welfare, Davis still fields two or three appeals a week, she said, and lays out $5 or $10 weekly.

To explain her giving, Davis offered the two reasons most commonly heard in three days of conversations with low-income donors:

“I believe that the more I give, the more I receive, and that God loves a cheerful giver,” Davis said. “Plus I’ve been in their position, and someday I might be again.”

Herbert Smith, 31, a Seventh-day Adventist who said he tithed his $1,010 monthly disability check — giving away 10 percent of it — thought that poor people give more because, in some ways, they worry less about their money.

“We’re not scared of poverty the way rich people are,” he said. “We know how to get the lights back on when we can’t pay the electric bill.”

In terms of income, the poorest fifth seem unlikely benefactors. Their pretax household incomes averaged $10,531 in 2007, according to the BLS survey, compared with $158,388 for the top fifth.

In addition, its members are the least educated fifth of the U.S. population, the oldest, the most religious and the likeliest to rent their homes, according to demographers. They’re also the most likely fifth to be on welfare, to drive used cars or rely on public transportation, to be students, minorities, women and recent immigrants.

However, many of these characteristics predict generosity. Women are more generous than men, studies have shown. Older people give more than younger donors with equal incomes. The working poor, disproportionate numbers of which are recent immigrants, are America’s most generous group, according to Arthur Brooks, the author of the book “Who Really Cares,” an analysis of U.S. generosity.

Faith probably matters most, Brooks — who’s the president of the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative Washington policy-research organization — said in an interview. That’s partly because above-average numbers of poor people go to church, and church attenders give more money than non-attenders to secular and religious charities, Brooks found.

Moreover, disproportionate numbers of poor people belong to congregations that tithe.

Less-religious givers such as Emel Sweeney, 73, a retired bookkeeper, say that giving lights up their lives.

“Have you ever looked into the face of someone you’re being generous to?” Sweeney asked with the trace of a Jamaican lilt.

That brought to mind her encounter with a young woman who was struggling to manage four small, tired children on a bus.

They staggered and straggled at a transfer stop, along with Sweeney, who urged the mother to take a nearby cab the rest of the way. When the mother said she had no money, Sweeney gave her $20, she said. The mother, as she piled her brood into the cab, waved and mouthed a thank-you.

“Those words just rested in my chest,” Sweeney said, “and as I rode home I was so happy.”

Pastor Coletta Jones, who ministers to a largely low-income tithing congregation in southeast Washington, The Rock Christian Church, thinks that poor people give more because they ask for less for themselves.

“When you have just a little, you’re thankful for what you have,” Jones said, “but with every step you take up the ladder of success, the money clouds your mind and gets you into a state of never being satisfied.”

Brooks offered this statistic as supportive evidence: Fifty-eight percent of noncontributors with above-median incomes say they don’t have enough money to give any away.

What makes poor people’s generosity even more impressive is that their giving generally isn’t tax-deductible, because they don’t earn enough to justify itemizing their charitable tax deductions. In effect, giving a dollar to charity costs poor people a dollar while it costs deduction itemizers 65 cents.

In addition, measures of generosity typically exclude informal giving, such as that of Davis’ late mother, Helen Coleman. Coleman, a Baltimore hotel housekeeper, provided child care, beds and meals for many of her eight children and 32 grandchildren, Davis said.

Federal surveys don’t ask about remittances specifically, so it’s hard to know how much the poorest fifth sends back home. Remittances from U.S. immigrants totaled more than $100 billion in 2007, according to Manuel Orozco, a senior researcher at Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington policy institute, who specializes in remittances.

By comparison, individual giving to tax-deductible U.S. charities totaled about $220 billion in 2007.

Much of the money remitted comes from struggling U.S. immigrants such as Zenaida Araviza, 42, a Macy’s cosmetics clerk and single mother in suburban Arlington, Va.

Araviza, who earns $1,300 a month, goes carless, cable-less and cell phone-less in order to send an aunt in the Philippines $200 a month to care for Araviza’s mother, who has Alzheimer’s.

“What can I do?” asked Araviza, an attractive, somber woman. “It’s my responsibility.”

Carmen De Jesus, the chief financial officer and treasurer of Forex Inc., a remittance agency based in Springfield, Va., said low-income Filipino-Americans such as Araviza were her most generous customers.

“The domestic helpers send very, very frequently,” she said. “The doctors, less so.”

Why are they so generous? Christie Zerrudo, a cashier who handles Filipino remittances at Manila Oriental, a grocery/restaurant/remittance agency in Arlington, offered this explanation:

“It gives the heart comfort when you sit down at the end of the day, and you know that you did your part,” Zerrudo said. “You took care of your family. If you eat here, they eat there, too. It would give you stress if they couldn’t. But you love them, they are your family, and your love has had an expression.”

Read more:

Why start a Community Based Organization while or before starting a new church?

Why start a Community Based Organization?

1) God is a sending God – He sent Jesus to restore us – and Jesus sends us to restore the world
2) It is time for the church to leave the building to share God’s love intangible ways in the larger community
3) It gives the church credibility in a skeptical world
4) It expands the churches relational network into government, business, and social sectors to have spiritual influence into all aspects of the community
5) It provides opportunity for the church to empower the church community to engage their community
6) It provides new opportunities for the church to lives Jesus in the community

Is there room in the church?

Jesus went straight to the Temple and threw out everyone who had set up shop, buying and selling. He kicked over the tables of loan sharks and the stalls of dove merchants. He quoted this text:

My house was designated a house of prayer; You have made it a hangout for thieves.

Now there was room for the blind and crippled to get in. They came to Jesus and he healed them.

Matt 21:12-14

(from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)

My friend Dave Drozek wrote in response to this passage…

As I read this passage this morning, I was struck with the way The Message put this.  It changed my whole thinking about what Jesus did in the temple.  Maybe he wasn’t so upset about what was being done as he was about what was NOT being done in the temple.  Business and organization had pushed out those in need, those who were inefficient, those who drained our resources, rather than serving them!

Is this what we do today?  Are we all about expediency?  Do we really want “those people” in the church who are emotionally needy, who want to monopolize our time and conversation?  Do we want those who are on the margin of society to sit next to us, to require that we smell them, maybe even to help them in some way?  Don’t we rather prefer to sneak in, talk to our friends, and leave quickly, avoiding eye contact with the unlovely?

What would Jesus do if he came to our church today?  Hmm….