Archives For September 2008

Producers 3

Mike —  September 24, 2008 — Leave a comment

“Making Donuts” follow up #3

“Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.”
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Back in May, our students held a talent show we called the Biteback benefit. Sam had been wanting to do a talent show for some time and when I heard about Compassion‘s BiteBack ministry, it seemed like a good fit. We had a fun night with quite a few families coming to watch – and raising about $600 to stop kids from gettting malaria.

It was a simple thing.
It really wasn’t difficult.
But it was productive.

God gave our kids here a lot of different talents. We had everything from pole vaulting to singing and dancing… and a lot of stuff in between. The talents were entertaining and the generosity of the audience met an urgent need for 60 families in Africa.

But not all talents lend themselves well to a talent show/benefit. I believe though, that all talents are given to benefit others. If we’re committed to doing what is good, Christ will live in us a productive life meeting the needs of the people who surround us everyday. Make sure you’re keeping your eyes open for those needs around you – and use your talents to meet them.

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On a related note: I put new brake pads on my wife’s van yesterday. I’ve never done this before, but I knew the pads were worn down and I didn’t want to pay through the nose to get the brakes done. (Local estimates started at $150 – one place wouldn’t even give a ballpark price without me paying $35 for an inspection.) So for about $30 I bought new pads and a c-clamp, and replaced the pads myself. (No mom, the rotors are not warped or grooved – they’re still safe.) I was kind of surprised at how easy it was and I got to thinking about hundreds of people who pay for automotive stuff (or just ignore maintenance issues) because they don’t know that they can do it themselves. I’d like to put together a mechanically inclined team to teach some basics to our students (even stuff like changing a tire and oil and filters and spark plugs) by doing some basic maintenance on cars that need it. If you’d like to help, or learn, or if you have a car that could use some attention give me a call and let’s see if we can be productive together.

Producers 2

Mike —  September 19, 2008 — 2 Comments

“Making Donuts” follow up #2

“Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.”
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A couple years ago, I was feeling like lots of stuff was bottled up inside me that wanted out. I thought painting might be a good outlet/release. I’m the kind of person who can’t draw a straight line without a ruler and art as it’s usually thought of has never been my forte. A wood planter I made in 8th Grade ended up as a pencil holder – but that was better than the clay pottery bowl that became grandpa’s ashtray/coin cup. (Don’t ask.)

I’m not sure I’ve ever really painted anything, so I’m not sure where the desire to paint was coming from. My mom made me do fingerpaints with my brother once, but I’m way too tactilly defensive for that I guess. Seriously, have you felt that stuff squishing between your digits? And for some reason, the fingerpaint smell has always made me gag. So naturally, with my newfound desire to paint and a little Christmas money I bought a paint set and a couple brushes and some little canvas boards to start out with.

I still haven’t painted anything. The set is in the woefully misnomered ‘work’shop in our back yard. Sad.

How often do we bottle up the creativity God’s placed within us?

A friend of mine who is the worship leader here at WestWay recently uncorked. He’s an insanely gifted musician and has been leading worship about 10 years or so. Actually, I remember him playing drums for worship back when churches didn’t allow drums… a bit more than 10 years ago! So he collaborated with some friends with the equipment & talent to pull the project together, and released a CD of music he’s written for worship over that time. It’s fun to hear people commenting on how they’ve enjoyed or been touched by what he’s allowed to bubble up. (You can hear some of Shane’s music here and buy the CD as well.) When we release the God given creativity within us, He is producing tools that will benefit those around us.

Got a CD in you? A painting? Books or stories?

What is it that’s building pressure?

Let it out.

Producers 1

Mike —  September 17, 2008 — Leave a comment

*This post is the first of a few of follow ups to last week’s “Making Donuts” post.

“Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.”
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Last Sunday, I got to take a group from WestWay to a new church plant’s launch service over in Laramie. The church plant is a great example of people who are making sure they’re not living unproductive lives. Church planting itself is always exciting to me, but this plant in particular has some extra interest due to several factors:

1) It is in Wyoming, where I grew up. Many churches in WY seem to struggle (both with external, ‘hard soil’ issues and internal, ‘stuck in a rut we created’ issues) so it’s exciting to see this new endeavor taking shape. I haven’t lived in WY since I left for college almost 15 years ago, but I still have a heart for the church in WY.

2) My parents and brother are a part of the plant team. After 15 years in one place (which is by far a record) my dad closed his counseling center, sold his buildings and has moved the family. (The house has not sold yet, so if anyone is looking to move to Cody, WY let me know!) He and my brother have been playing with the worship band – with mom back at the sound board. I love that my parents are still willing to jump over the edge into another adventure with God. “Always try new things.” right Brian?

3) WestWay is one of the supporting churches. Our people have been praying for the church plant. I’m hoping the close proximity and connections we’ll develop will breed an excitement among us at what God can do through new church work and that their innovative approach will provide the “old dogs” of the area some new tricks to learn. Also, though we’ll miss him and his guitar being on our stage, it was great to see Adam leading worship in Laramie and exciting to see him grow in his role in ministry there.

4) The church is making adventurous living a part of their DNA. As a new church, there is no pattern of placation to follow. They are there to take a new trail as God leads. This may lead them to make decisions that most churches cannot or will not make. Even their name is a reflection of this spirit of adventure: White Water Christian Church.

Things seem to be beginnning well for White Water. At the service, a lady and a couple early teen boys were sitting behind us. During a moment of introduction after some upbeat songs, the boys commented that they were surprised by seeing “that many people having fun… at church.” Church doesn’t have to be boring… Happy Birthday White Water. I’m excited to see God continue to work in you and your community as you live productive lives.

"Time to Make the Donuts"

Mike —  September 10, 2008 — 2 Comments

When I was a kid, my dad owned a bakery. About that same time Dunkin’ Donuts came out with an ad campaign where a sleepy guy stumbled about in the dark or through the snow and ice because it was “time to make the donuts.” Commitment to doing what must be done. I remember wanting to wake up early and go to work with my dad – but I just couldn’t drag myself out of bed at 3 or 4 in the morning. I liked to eat donuts (understatement), but I wasn’t committed to making them. As cheesy as it may sound, I think in the church today, it’s “time to make some donuts”.

“Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order to provide for urgent needs and not live unproductive lives.”

These words from Paul to Titus provide a strong directive for the church today. Maybe it’s just a Western issue, where wealth has lulled us into complacency – but it seems that a lot of us are much better consumers than producers.
I buy all my clothes…
I buy all my food…
I buy cars and books and windows and shinguards…

But what do I produce? What exists because I made it? I’m not talking about some “look what I did and pat me on the back” kind of production, but about a natural outpouring of creative activity that benefits others. The same Spirit that lives in me is the one who hovered over the waters in that instant before “Let there be light.” and “Let us make man in our image.” God instructed the first people to “be fruitful”. We are intended to be creatively productive – not passively consumptive. (It’s interesting that the word ‘consumptive’ has to do with consuming food or drink OR being afflicted by a disease like tuberculosis where you physically waste away.)

I’m challenging my students over the next several weeks to be more productive in their spiritual lives, but I’m also being challenged myself. The Spirit within us who are in Christ is an active Spirit. He wants to do something. I wonder if “quenching the Spirit” has a lot to do with stifling His work in our lives in order to simply consume the religious morsels set before us?

Have we settled for less?

Mike —  September 5, 2008 — Leave a comment
I don’t read a lot of fiction, but I read The Shack a couple weeks ago, and a review on Relevant Magazine’s site caught my eye. (If you haven’t read the book, the review gives a good synopsis – without playing the spoiler role.) I enjoyed the book and the way it made me think about how I relate and pray and converse and commune with God. The last line of the review really stood out to me: “Before Scripture, God was felt, talked about and experienced by people.
Shouldn’t the same be true to a people who have Scripture? Even more so, given our written advantage? But too often Scripture has been made into some kind of quasi-idol. We’re taught to read our Bibles and pray, but do we learn to really talk with God and talk about God? Do we really experience His presence? Do we teach our kids how to “feel” God?

It seems simpler to memorize verses and recite 4 points from a tract. I learned very early in my church upbringing how to spit out the right answers. Many kids do. But in conversations with friends and co-workers, I wasn’t being asked the same questions! Outside the walls of church, my list of answers was insufficient – maybe even insignificant.

It’s risky to start talking about the feeling and experiencing of God outside the black and white and red-lettered bounds our rational minds have become so accustomed to. People may fear that we’ve opened doors to the spiritual world that are better left closed… Feelings may trick us. A touchy-feely gospel may leave too much wiggle room for sin. But as I see Jesus (in Scripture, mind you) I see someone willing to risk. He had a message of His Father’s grace to share with humanity and risked everything to bring it. As His Ambassadors now, do we have that same will to risk and bias to act? I believe that if we do, the richness of relationship with our Creator awaits.

My prayer is that today, as in the past, “God is felt, talked about and experienced by people”.

Do Not Hinder Them

Mike —  September 3, 2008 — Leave a comment

I was listening yesterday to this message from Chap Clark of Fuller Youth Institute (formerly known as the Center for Youth and Family Ministry). I can’t get the audio to post right, but if you’re involved in youth ministry or any kind of leadership of the church you should follow that link and listen.

Clark does a good job of detailing how youth ministry as usual just isn’t a healthy way to develop young disciples and offers a better way of assimilating young people into the life of the church. Traditional youth ministry does a much better job of connecting lots of students with the youth group than connecting them with Jesus and His Body. It’s time for new benchmarks for success. (Actually it’s way past time.) I mean, how hard is it really to get a kid to connect with a bunch of his peers? We need refuse the complacency that often comes with shiny, well attended programs… we need to go deeper.