Sunday, May 31, 2009

New Orleans: Dry Ground

In about 7 weeks, we are headed down to New Orleans. it has almost been 4 years since Katrina hit. i cannot believe that it has been that long ago. At the time, we were living in Birmingham and we "felt" the effects of the storm and our church made several trips down to the coast. I remember going down there about 6 weeks after the storm and was amazed.

Please take a few minutes and watch the video as it explains that, yes, there is dry land, but that is just the beginning.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Live Openly & Expansively

This morning, I took some time to reflect on yesterday and I have to be honest that I am a little sad and my heart is broken a bit. I am not sure if it should be, but at the present time it is and there was a scripture that came to mind. I am going to share that scripture with you and then I am going to share a little bit about what occurred, what I observed and what ticked me off. But, first, the scripture. Please read with fresh eyes:

Companions as we are in this work with you, we beg you, please don't squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us. God reminds us, I heard your call in the nick of time; The day you needed me, I was there to help.

Well, now is the right time to listen, the day to be helped. Don't put it off; don't frustrate God's work by showing up late, throwing a question mark over everything we're doing. Our work as God's servants gets validated—or not—in the details. People are watching us as we stay at our post, alertly, unswervingly . . . in hard times, tough times, bad times; when we're beaten up, jailed, and mobbed; working hard, working late, working without eating; with pure heart, clear head, steady hand; in gentleness, holiness, and honest love; when we're telling the truth, and when God's showing his power; when we're doing our best setting things right; when we're praised, and when we're blamed; slandered, and honored; true to our word, though distrusted; ignored by the world, but recognized by God; terrifically alive, though rumored to be dead; beaten within an inch of our lives, but refusing to die; immersed in tears, yet always filled with deep joy; living on handouts, yet enriching many; having nothing, having it all.

Dear, dear Corinthians, I can't tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn't fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren't small, but you're living them in a small way. I'm speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection. Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!

Maybe my bolds interfered with you reading it freshly. But, the bold is what stood out to me and that I needed to scream.

Yesterday, we had our Guiding Coalition ( Board of Directors ) meetings on the Bridges out of Poverty. Overall, it was a very good meeting and the updates from the family meetings ( there have been 3 ) were fantastic. I cannot wait to be at the meeting tonight, meet the families going through the support system and hear their stories. From what I gathered, they have already taken big steps and that is just unbelievable and rockin' news.

The part that turned my stomach however was the report from the faith community and their lack of response in my opinion or the strings that they want to attach for them to be part of the partnership.

I really wish that we, as a faith community, would see this "program" as an opportunity to help 10 families who are willing to commit to make a change and get out of poverty. We are not asking a great commitment from you. But yet, you want to raise numerous yellow and red flags and you want your hands ( it seems ) in the program for interior motives which just makes me want to go ugh.

The aspect that I guess that makes my heart break is that as I look around the room and see all the folks working on this program and the bad taste that they are getting in their mouth about churches, Christianity and religion. That is sad.

There was a letter that was read/outline about why some of the churches are not willing to help. I have to say that I did not "react" to the letter too well. I asked the board if I could address the letter and comments that were given as a person who is a "paid-staff-person" in the faith community.

I may have given a 5 minute rant, I am not sure. There were numerous shaking of the head in agreement. Which is good and bad. The reason that it is bad, I wish there would have been stop sighs going up saying, "Jeff, no that is not how we see the faith community ...."

I am really not even sure how to put this feeling down, it is very odd. Also, I have been getting flack from some locals when I put things on my blog or facebook status about the faith community in our county.

We, I believe, are putting up walls that we do not need to be putting up and I am afraid that the walls that we are putting up are hurting our image in the community and to me that is sad. Let me "list my bold highlights"

please don't squander one bit of this marvelous life God has given us.

Friends, God has given us a great life. Too many times, I think that we squander it away and we focus and put time & energies into things that do not really matter. I want to encourage you to take a look at your life and ask the question: am i squandering my life away?

People are watching us as we stay at our post

Folks are watching us and they are making decisions and determinations about Christianity, religion, church and spirituality based on what they see in you. I can tell you that there are a lot of people who are turning their nose to the church because how they see us reacting to community issues. I know that there are many that say, " but we are called to focus on .... " All I am saying is that people are watching; let us try to make sure that we are not the reason they do not want to give Jesus a chance.

I can't tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life.

I think that is still the case today but too many times we are in our gated fence, we do not live out the call to wide open spaces.

Your lives aren't small, but you're living them in a small way.

As Paul says, these are simple words and pretty straight-forward. Our lives are lived so small, so many times and that should just not be the case. With Christ living in us, our lives are large, live large.

Live openly and expansively!

I just want to close my eyes for a few minutes and dream. Dream what our lives would be like, what are friends lives would be like, what our churches would look like and what would happen in our communities if every Christ follower lived openly and expansively.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Examine the Role of the Family

In Think Orange (pg. 47, 48), Reggie gives three statements that I have been mulling on the last few weeks. Here are the statements:

1. What would happen if parents began to see the family in the same way believers should view the church, as a human part of God's design to demonstrate who He is to the world.

2. It is important to help parents understand that their role is not to impress their children or anyone else with their ability to parent. Their role is to impress on their children the love and charachter of God.

3. God is at work telling a stroy of restoration and redemption through your family. Never buy into the myth that you need to become the "right" kind of parent before God can use you in your children's lives. Instead, learn to cooperate with whatever God desires to do in your heart today so your children will have a front-row seat to the grace and goodness of God.

To me, these are some very powerful statements and it comes to me at two levels. One, it comes to me as a parent. How is this playing out in our familiy ? The second one is the church. How are we as a church guiding parents and letting them be the spiritual leaders ?

One of the things that has occurred over the last 40-50 years ( I think ) is that we have become a very "professional" society. We, as parents, turn everything over to the professionals and let them guide and lead them. Parents find coaches for everything in their lives; thus why not in church and religious/spiritual life.

We, as the church, in return; have bought into this full-line and sinker and have begun to offer everything and we have tried to take it under the guise of we know what is best and then at the other angle the consumerism mindset. Let us provide a service for you that you cannot die and we will "help" your family.

The question is the following: Are we helping our families or hurting our families ?

My initial gut reaction is that most of us (churches) are hurting families. Now, here me out, I do not think that we are intentionally doing so; but I think that "in the name of the church", we are hurting them.

I wish that I had the answers. I am struggling with these issues and how this can truly be played out in the church and specifically in my context. For so long, I have done ministry in a "yellow" setting ......

I will finish with a Reggie quote:

The heart of God was communicated primarily through the heart of the family

Friday, May 22, 2009

Church & Parents Partnering

Casey has put together a great video about the influence/impact of church & parents:

Ending Poverty: Listening

One of the things that is occurring in our National Gathering meeting is that the students are picking up on one big word. That word is LISTENING. We need to hear the voices that come into our lives. Too often, we do not listen and ignore their voice and their stories.

We are also stressing that an important part of listening is hearing their story. Now, this post is not about our youth, our gathering preparation or what my hopes and dreams are for the 36,000 folks headed to New Orleans ....

This is about me listening to voices and stories. Poverty is an issue that is close to me and I need/want to hear individuals stories. I came across a charity video on poverty recently that "highlighted" stories. Take a listen.

37 million living in poverty in the US ..... that is 37 million too many

Adam + KISS

I am a "rocker" so I liked the video. I caught most of it as I was flipping around during the Cavs commercials.

Bethany wants to know, why & how that Adam did not win.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

New World Order .....

it is coming !!!!

We were walking home from the park and turning up our street, which is under road construction and that is when we got the confirmation. I have the picture to prove it ... Don't say, I did not warn you:

Leaving A Legacy

Most parents can't give their child a lavish inheritance, but every parent will leave a personal legacy.

I know that this is going to be the case for my kids. I will never be able to leave them a great inheritance. I mean, i might have to leave them a big debt; even though Stacey and me will try not to do that.

But, we are like a lot of people, we will not leave an inheritance but we will leave a legacy, whether that will be a good one or a bad on.

I love how Reggie puts it, he put the words down in this manner:

Sometimes, I just have to be reminded that what I give to my children or what I do for my children is not as important as what I leave in them.

I hope and pray that I foremost leave in them the notion that we need to love god and we need to love others. There are also other virtues that I want to instill in them or "leave in them" and they are the following:


Those are a few.

In conclusion, what I give to my children or what I do for my children is not as important as what I leave in them

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Where Is Mommy ??

As of 1:58, this is her flight ....

Bethany is enjoying watching her flight.

Act versus ReAct

These words have been ringing in my head the past week or so and they came to the forefront as I was sitting in our synod assembly meeting on Saturday and at church council meeting last night.

We, as a church, generally REACT.

Something occurs and we react. Our meetings and discussions are consumed by this occurred, now what are we going to do. We can almost phrase it as the following:

How are we going to react to the situation that we find ourselves in.

The unfortunate thing in my opinion is that normally, the react decision that we come up with is not that good. So, not only do we react but we react poorly.

I am struggling with coming up with situations that I can place out here to try to explain it in a clearer picture if those reading don't "track" what I am writing. The situation will not be in this post but it will be something that I will ponder and use for a future post.

Some way, some how, we need to ACT. Let us be on the forefront, make a decision and act toward a end in mind. Let us make a difference in our lives, our friends lives and the lives of our community.

As I sit here and am ready to go into staff meeting and then to work on a few projects this afternoon, a lot of what I am going to be doing is "reacting" to a few situations. Yes, things occur and we have to "react" at times, but the majority of things --- should be on the other end.

So, this afternoon, I am setting down some time/space to work on projects and plans are will be about acting and not reacting. As I do that, I think that I may have the following thought going through my mind:

Leadership is not about giving people what they want; it is giving what you as a leader know they need.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

If Only .....

There is a house downtown that just went on the market. It is a house that I pass everyday walking to and from church. They had an open house today and I walked through it. It was beautiful and I was shocked to be honest with you. But, the living room, dining room and kitchen were excellent and it had a very nice half bath / laundry room off the kitchen.

Upstairs it had 3 bedrooms and a full bath. The bedrooms were not huge but they were good enough size and the colors and paint was very nice and there was a very large walk-in-closet.

There were small winding steps to a 3rd floor room that would make a very nice den/office/family room/additional BR or ....

The windows were good. It has a two car garage and a nice yard, even though the yard was behind the garage. The price is also very good.

If I had the money, we would make an offer today. This is where I get a little upset.

Our mortgage payment at this house with taxes and insurance would be less than our current rent. But, I do not have a down-payment and our credit is shot AND it has nothing to do with credit cards or outrageous school loans.

The house is beautiful and a very good deal at $ 88,000. I know some do not like the downtown area, but we do and if we could do it, we would.


The good thing is that we do like the house that we are renting though and we do live downtown already, if only ...... we would definitely make an offer.

Time to quit dreaming and time to quit kicking myself in the butt because I cannot do it. I just wish that I could do it for my wife and kids

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Scriptural Thought

Jesus said, "'Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.' This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' These two commands are pegs; everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from them."

Today, I am dreaming and imagining what would occur if we as individuals and then ultimately the church would be like if we lived this verse out as Jesus expected.

Stages of Life

The ReThink Group has three sets of curriculum. These curriculums are built around one strategy. Within this strategy, there are three stages of life, yet there is one end in mind.

Here is a breakdown of the curriculum:


God Made Me
God Loves Me
Jesus Wants to be My Friend Forever


I need to make the wise choices
I can trust God no matter what
I should treat others the way I want to be treated


I am created to pursue an authentic relationship with my Creator
I belong to Christ and define who I am by what He says
I exist every day to demonstrate God’s love to a broken world

As a church, we began with 252 Basics in January. It was a "quick" decision because of the resignation of the Children Director and I had to oversee the ministry. The CD had been writing her own curriculum and doing a rotation model. I could not continue with that and we have been laying the foundation for "orange", so we jumped in with it.

We will be adding the preschool and teens piece in the near future. Most likely we will be adding both of them come September. However, we will need to see what a few of the volunteers are "feeling" before we launch the Preschool model (piece).

The curriculums names are the following:

first look
252 Basics

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Orange .....

Orange is a secondary color, created when you combine two primary colors. Those two colors are red and yellow. Thus, Orange is what red and yellow can do when they combine efforts. When you think Orange, you see how two combined influences make a greater impact than just two influences.

On the side bar, I give an explanation of the colors. Red ( the heart )is the home and Yellow ( light of God ) is the church. What we need to do and what the driving principle of Orange is about is to combine red and yellow.

When we combine them, the impact will be greater.

However, too many times the church is so accustomed to painting bright yellow that they have a difficult time thinking Orange. Rather then synchronize their efforts, they attempt to convince parents to start painting yellow.

I know that over the years, I have led ministries that were very dominant in yellow. There are many times that I wish that I could have a "do-over". There were times that we mixed and showed a splash of orange but overall, it was painting yellow and trying to make the biggest and best yellow that we could.

Yes, we made an impact. Yes, there were many teens that came that may have never come before but our influence and impact in the long run was diminished greatly because we did not partner with the parents and we did not use their influence. Not using a parents influence is a great mistake --- their impact is much larger then ours will be.

Tomorrow, I will share the dangers of not going Orange as I work my way through Think Orange by Reggie.

Monday, May 11, 2009


Tune in to watch the ads (all times Eastern Daylight Time)

Fox News - Glen Beck
Mon., 5/11, 5-6 p.m.

HGTV - House Hunters International
Mon., 5/11, 10-10:30 p.m.

DIY - Kitchen Renovations
Tues., 5/12, 9:30-10 a.m.

HGTV - Designed to Sell
Tues., 5/12, 1-1:30 p.m.

CNN - Situation Room
Tues., 5/12, 6-7 p.m.

Fox News - Greta von Susteren
Tues., 5/12, 10-11 p.m.

HGTV - Designed to Sell
Wed., 5/13, 1-1:30 p.m.

The Story Behind The Ad

At around 5 p.m. every Thursday, rain or shine, the guests start arriving outside of Trinity Lutheran Church, Bismarck, N.D., for a banquet. Volunteers -- the true cornerstone of the Trinity community -- begin to greet the guests, visiting with them outside the doors that open promptly at 5:30.

Regulars fill each other in on their weeks. Smiles are contagious. When the doors open, more volunteers will be waiting to escort guests to a table for a hot and delicious meal, free of charge.

Unlike most of the meals they've had this year, this one will be enjoyed on a beautiful table setting, complete with colorful decorations, menus and real china and silverware. Sometimes there's even live music provided by the Strolling Strings.

Hosted by churches and business groups from around the Bismarck area, and with dozens of volunteers organized each week by Banquet Coordinator Tudy Fennern, Trinity's Banquet welcomes any and all homeless and hungry members of the community with open arms each and every week. Founded on the belief that "the needy should never be served poorly," the Banquet's goal is simple: to nourish the body with food and the spirit with dignity and respect.

The tables, which seat eight, fill quickly with seven guests, escorted by yet another volunteer. The final seat remains open for one of the volunteers who has cooked and served the meal to join them in the family-style meal. The food is delicious -- prepared with fine, fresh ingredients, and perfectly spiced with compassion. As freshly baked and donated bread is broken, stories are exchanged. Laughter is shared.

And hope is restored.

The Banquet has served more than 58,000 meals since July 2005. It receives no state or federal funding -- it's a labor of love shared by Trinity and the Bismarck community.

The volunteers of Trinity's banquet return, week after week. "They say to me, 'I've heard about the Banquet and I'd like to serve,'" said Fennern. They come from churches and groups within the community, often hearing about it from a member of the Trinity congregation. They come from all walks of life. They get every bit as much -- if not more -- out of each Thursday's meal. Camaraderie. Conversation. The joy of knowing that they've not only helped nourish their neighbors' bodies with food -- they've nourished their souls with dignity, respect, and love.

The solution to hunger goes way beyond getting a person to their next meal. Every day, in ELCA ministries and companion congregations spanning the globe, people help their brothers, sisters, and neighbors, providing the food, shelter, education and resources to help eradicate world hunger. Find an ELCA congregation near you and join in.

Everyone who comes is welcomed with a smile and shown hospitality - it's not a handout.

Fighting Poverty: One Campus at a Time

Kudos To: Shin Fujiyama

I love to see and hear stories of individuals who truly want to make a difference in this world. He is an amazing young man. Thank-you Shin for all that you do.

From CNN

Shin Fujiyama's life has been highlighted by second chances.

Shin Fujiyama's organization, Students Helping Honduras, has raised more than $750,000.

Born in a fishing village in Japan, Fujiyama, 25, recalls a childhood dominated by health concerns. Doctors told his parents that he had a hole in his heart and "they didn't think I had lot longer to live." But during a later visit to the doctor, Fujiyama says, his family learned the hole had closed.

"Somehow I was cured and I became a normal kid," Fujiyama says. "And I had a second chance."

During his sophomore year at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, he volunteered in Honduras with a campus group and was struck by the extreme poverty he saw -- barefoot children collecting cans and sleeping in the streets. Fujiyama says he realized he could help give other children their own second chance.

Today, his organization, Students Helping Honduras, brings education and community projects to children and families in need through student service trips and fundraisers.

"Seeing the country and being able to make a difference really opened my eyes to a lot of things," he says. "I saw such a great need. I wanted to keep helping."

He started by telling his friends about his experience and collecting spare change at his two campus jobs, but Fujiyama found that organizing other students didn't happen so easily.

"When I had my very first meeting, I got all dressed up. And only two people showed up," he says. "I knew I had to keep fighting."

He enlisted his younger sister, Cosmo, then a student at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, to the cause.

"She's dynamite," he says. "When she talks in front of a crowd, she can move mountains. Knowing that she was behind it, I knew I could do anything."

Since 2006, the siblings' grass-roots campaign to help Honduras has grown to 25 campuses and raised more than $750,000 to fund projects, including the construction of two schools and the establishment of scholarships to help young women attend college.

Fujiyama says students are deeply committed to the organization because they are involved on every level: They raise money and then travel to Honduras to help build houses.

"We make friends with all the kids, all the families -- no matter where we're from. We've had people from all over the world come to Honduras with us. And it's a great network we've made," he says.

Demonizing ....

One of the quotes that I have come to appreciate and that I try to play out in my life is the following:

We need to be careful about demonizing those who don't practice church the way we do and learn from every version of church whose mission is to lead people into a better and more authentic relationship with Jesus Christ. God is bigger than our definitions or labels, and I am sure He is not worried about how your church compares to the one down the road.

I think that we really need to take a look at this statement, examine it and apply it to our lives as individuals and as churches. I think that way too many times, we are throwing each other ( individuals and churches ) under the bus.

We, truly, do have a common purpose and vision. We are wanting people to connect to a relationship with God.

The church comes in many different flavors. Those who are outside the church shakes their heads and laughs when they see us fighting and nit-picking with one another.

It is my dream that we can partner with one another and through the partnerships; we can bring the Kingdom of God to people that need him.

Friday, May 08, 2009

New Layout & Format

Over the last couple of days, I have been contemplating mt blog. I have decided that it is time to shake things up a little. Thus, I have made a few changes to the layout and format of the blog.

I have decided to switch to a 3 panel blog instead of a 2 panel blog. The left side of the panel will be dedicated to "orange" and blogs that I am connected with. The middle panel will be the section for the stories. The stories are going to become more focused. The following three will become more in-depth: church, family and advocacy.

The right panel will be dedicated to my family. It will have pictures and stories and highlights about them and our journey's together.

There are a few more things that I will be tweaking over the weekend and then on Monday, I will begin the process of shifting gears.

For now, I am headed off to my Meals on Wheels route for Wayne County. Have a great day.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Bridges Out of Poverty

The first meeting for the Circles Leaders (families) is tonight. I am so glad that we have 11 families who are willing to step up and say, " I want out of Poverty " and that there is a network that is going to surround them and help them in this journey.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

May: National Foster Care Month

May is National Foster Care Month. Here is some information and facts about foster care and the kids "in the system"

Foster Care Highlight

Washington, D.C. -- Today there are nearly 500,000 children and youth in America's foster care system. As the economy has worsened, reports of abuse and neglect have increased in some areas of the country and are expected to rise. Of the 26,000 young people who age out of foster care each year, many end up facing life's challenges alone without the support and education they need to compete in the workplace. In this economy, they are more likely than ever to endure homelessness, poverty, compromised health, unemployment, incarceration and other adversities.

Quick Facts

Youth Aging Out of Foster Care:

More than 25,000 foster youth age out of state care or run away every year, leaving them without ongoing connection to family members or caring adults.

Barriers to Higher Education:

Foster care youth are less likely to enroll in college preparatory courses (15 percent v. 32 percent) even when they have test scores and grades similar to those of non-foster care youth.

In addition, they are more likely to drop out of high school (37 percent v. 16 percent). These youth are less likely to access higher education as young adults.

A strong majority – 70 percent – of teens in the foster care system have a desire to attend college.

Research has shown that education is a leading indicator of successful youth development and adult self-sufficiency.

Lebron James

I thought this was a good photo that the photographer got during last nights blow-out win:

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Two Quotes on Religion & God

Lenny Bruce
"Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God."

Jonathan Swift
"We have just enough religion to make us hate, but not enough to make us love one another"


Just things to think about