Wednesday, December 31, 2008
The photo was taken at my nephew's wedding in Highlands, NC back in August.
Pictured are the seven Davis children with our remarkable mother in the middle. Betty Davis is 93, still plays tennis, writes books, and gives speeches. On top of all that, she still lives by herself!
From the left: Virginia Palmer, Mark Davis, Nancy Labastida, Clayton Davis, Betty Davis, me, Harvey Davis, and Charlotte Seifert. We span a wide spectrum of personal habits, political convictions, and religious beliefs. But a couple of things this year have made me feel especially grateful to be part of this family.
First, my brother Clayton was elected District Judge in Louisiana. He will be "robed" and assume his duties on January 8.
Second, my brother Harvey (standing just off my left shoulder) went through the almost unspeakable grief of losing his son Christopher in an auto accident. I shared these thoughts at the time. But in the aftermath of the death and funeral, I have seen all my brothers and sisters rally around Harvey in such healthy ways. In fact, he took the time to let each of us know what our support and concern have meant to him. Out of an awful situation, we have come to a deeper appreciation of one another.
That's why I'm proud to be in the picture.
Happy New Year.
Monday, December 29, 2008
We had post-it notes all over the Worship Center on Christmas Eve.
The theme had to do with "remembering" -- marking the interventions of God in your life.
As a response, we invited the people to write down God's interventions on post-it notes (we put three in every bulletin!) and then post the notes on the walls of the Worship Center.
The response was powerful.
Here's a sampling of "interventions":
- I met God when I felt love during the Loved series.
- I met God when I had to make a decision about an abortion.
- Tonight. I have been touched in a way I have never been before . . . I closed my eyes and felt God touch me . . . it felt like I could just fall into his love.
- The birth of my sons.
- God guided me through the darkest of times.
- God intervened when I tried to commit suicide.
- In a hospital room, whe I asked God to heal my husband from a heart attack.
- And many more . . .
That night and those memories are why we do what we do.
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
- With such a large family we drew names. In the early years (before I was born), the name drawing gift would be the only one people would give and receive. In the later years, the name drawing gift became the best gift you'd give or receive. We drew the names on Thanksgiving and exchanged the gifts on Christmas Eve. In between those two dates, all my older brothers and sisters engaged in high level espionage to figure out who had drawn whose name.
- When I was 6, my oldest sister Libby drew my name and got me a football uniform. I was sure that could never be topped.
- Except when I was 7, she drew it again. That time, she got me a drum set. What football uniform?
- After the Name Drawing Drama on Christmas Eve, we went to sleep and woke up early on Christmas Day to open the rest of the presents. Our stockings always had a tangerine in the bottom. Always.
- When I was 17, I went to the first Christmas Eve church service that I remember. I went with some family and even though I hadn't come to personal faith yet, I recall that night pretty vividly. It was an Episcopal Church with a high enough liturgy that one of my friends from high school was the "crucifer" -- he carried in the staff with a depiction of the crucifixion on the top. I do believe something was tugging in my even that night, as it was only a couple of weeks later that I actually came to faith myself.
Christmas Eve tonight . . .
- At 7 & 9 p.m., we'll have violin, cello, scoustic percussion, some Beatles thrown in -- the music will be awesome.
- World record attempt for post-it notes in one place -- you'll see how it connects with the message, A Time To Remember.
- Our 5 o'clock Family Celebration will feature crowns for the kids and bags of gold, frankincense, and myrrh for everyone. You'll see how it works!
- Candlelight. Holy Night.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
In the middle of Christmas, please pray for 13-year-old Connor McKemey.
On Sunday he was severely burned in an accident you can read about here.
Both Connor and his mother Karin are receiving treatment at a burn unit facility in Augusta, Georgia.
The McKemeys have been part of the Good Shepherd community for the last several years.
You can follow Connor's story and see the support the family is receiving at this CaringBridge website.
So please pray.
Monday, December 22, 2008
Friday, December 19, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
For a lot of us, that means coming face to face with certain people we don't much care for. We've had a "falling out."
So the question is: will anyone make the first move towards reconciliation? Or will all the parties involved hold on to their pride . . . and their grudges?
I gave a challenge to the people of Good Shepherd last Sunday: as you approach these relationships/reunions that are full of tension and in need of healing, you swallow that pride and make the first move. Once you begin to treat that person differently, you might find you even feel differently.
Then I gave out my email address and asked people to send in the results of what happened.
Christmas has even come yet, and the results have been cool.
One man sent a mass email of apology to everyone in his subdivision.
Another man entered into very difficult conversations with his brother.
A woman specifically sent cards to people from whom she has been estranged.
And on and on.
If your pride is choking off an opportunity to renew relationships, it's time to swallow it.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
To South Park Mall.
Not exactly high culture. Nor is it continuing education.
It's blatant consumerism.
But it's also my expression of thanks at Christmas.
I've gotten each of them a gift card they can use anywhere in the mall. It's an annual Christmas tradition around here. After some shopping, we'll share a meal together.
Am I trying to buy their affection? Maybe.
But more to the point, blessing the staff in this way at Christmas is a small way I can say "thank you" for all their hard, often self-less, work on behalf of the kingdom. You can get to know some of the people who work here by checking this page.
Leading a staff like this is like leading a family: often challenging, sometimes harrowing, frequently perplexing, but ultimately worth it. The old cliche is true -- we are much more than the sum of our parts.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Today, I feel about blogging like Air Supply did about love.
I got nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada.
Now, I have a lot of stuff I want to blog about. But some of those things will take several posts -- it would be too rushed to try them right before Christmas.
So tomorrow: I've got something. I already know what it is.
But today, I got nothing.
And you get Air Supply.
Monday, December 15, 2008
We dedicated a Habitat For Humanity house on Saturday.
We parntered with Selwyn Avenue Presbyterian Church as well as some corporate sponsors in Charlotte.
It took 14 Saturdays of volunteer labor to build a house for and with the Hoover family. The Hoovers worked right alongside us most of the way. Jeff Humphries from Good Shepherd was the project coordinator and, as always, did a super job.
This is the second house Good Shepherd has dedicated in 2008 -- we built the first one in partnership with Olympic High School.
Our financial contribution for the two houses was well over $50,000. Not to be monotonous . . . but for that $50,000 we did no fund raisers. No BBQs. No special offerings. No raffles. We were able to have that kind of generosity as a church because the people of the church are themselves generous in giving on Sunday. We've made Habitat a priority and now two families in 2008 have moved into home ownership.
That's the church being the church.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Notice anything about these two church logos?
Neither mention Methodism.
Yet these are two of the most influential and effective Methodist churches in the USA -- one of them in Indiana and the other in Houston.
There's some interesting conversation in the blogosphere these days around whether or not Methodist churches should identify themselves as such. After all, the denomination itself is in steep decline and I know from experience that putting "United Methodist" on a church sign keeps away as many people as it brings in. Probably more.
Our church will be getting a new logo sometime in 2009. The one we have is about 13 years old and has a more dated look than we'd like, so it's high time.
How "Methodist" will the new one be? I'm not sure.
I know that in many ways we seek to recover the core of the Methodist movement; a movement designed to bring life to a moribund Anglican Church in the 1700s. (Isn't it interesting that the "movement" is now a church in need of resuscitation?!) But the core of early Methodism included:
- Expressive, Passionate Worship
- Risk-Taking Innovation
- Concern For The Poor
- Dedication To Small Groups
- Commitment To Holiness (Oddballs!)
I pray that list describes where we are going if not where we are.
So whether or not our logos and signs display our Methodism, my burden is that our life as a community will. In the best sense of the word.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
Occasionally I'll hear that pastors of churches the size of Good Shepherd don't do hospital visitation anymore.
Now I don't do all of it. I share responsibilities with Rich Tuttle, our Pastor of Congregational Care, who has an anointing to do hospital work. And I don't throw that word around lightly -- he really is anointed by God to bring a caring and mature presence to anxiety-filled situations in both hospitals and funeral homes. But there are several reasons why in spite of our size and style I'm committed to the "traditional" role of the preaching pastor as a hospital visitor as well:
- The ministry of presence. The mere presence of a pastoral figure at the hospital is a reminder that God is in charge. I usually don't have any earth-shattering or life-altering words to say; however, my presence is a visual reminder of the One I represent.
- Preaching. How in the world can I speak into people's lives if I don't know the struggles they have? Hospital work allows me to get to know people on a much deeper level than the occasional "hello" in the church lobby.
- Making a big church small. I'll admit it. I like it when people are surprised that I take the time to visit. But it's all about making a large church feel more intimate. Any steps we can take to eliminate anonymity and grow community -- we'll take them.
So that's where I'll be later this afternoon. And why I'll be there.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
And as always happens, more and better ideas emerge out of that group than I could ever come up with on my own. Those meetings are why series like Oddballs and Loved have resonated with so many of you.
But this new series in 2009 will have its very own website, a bulletin-that's-not-a-bulletin, and an invitation to the community at large to get involved in the conversation.
But I can't tell you what it's called. It's top secret. You'll know soon enough.
Just know that we pray whatever good, cool, funny ideas we come up with are simply a means to create an opening so that people can better hear the Gospel.
Creativity in the service of God. That's how it all got started, isn't it?
Monday, December 8, 2008
However, I not nearly as good at realizing the same thing is true in church.
Most church leaders are like me: someone in the church has an idea for ministry, brings it to me , and even though I know it's beyond the strategic scope of what we are doing, I'll say "yes." I'll say yes for two reasons: 1 ) I don't want to quench their spirit; and 2) I don't want them to get mad at me.
Yes, I'm a chicken.
Yet the simple fact is that churches need to be saying "no" to more things. Not because we want to be spirit-quenching, negative people. But because when you say "yes" to too many ideas, you end up doing a lot of things with mediocrity.
And we're at the place where we'd rather do a few things with excellence and passion than a lot of things with mediocrity.
So we're learning to say "no" to the many things that are marginal to our mission. That way we can say an emphatic "yes" to those few things that are central to it.
Friday, December 5, 2008
"But when the fulness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law . . . " (NASB).
The "fulness of time" is our focus this Christmas season at Good Shepherd.
The times we are in are unprecedented. Urgent. Anxious. Yet filled with promise and possibilities.
It all starts with "Time To Turn" this Sunday. 8:30. 10:00. 11:30.
Thursday, December 4, 2008
It was a small church tucked in an out-of-the-way location. The only way you drove by the church was if you were going to the church. We didn't get many first time guests who simply saw the church while driving by it on their way to work.
So I was a brand new pastor, fresh out of seminary, and this was my first assignment. I knew that if there was to be any kind of momentum, growth, or spirit, it would have to come directly from the hand of God. Because of that, my prayers were focused and urgent and my great desire was for the people of that church & community to have a real hunger for God.
In other words, because I knew I was not in control, I was eager for God to take control.
And to a surprising degree, He did.
Good Shepherd Church is so different. We have one of the best locations in Charlotte. We have state-of-the-art facilities and technology. We get a lot of "drive by business" -- people who come to the church because they pass it every day in their cars. And I'm surrounded by a number of very talented people. We know that a lot of what we do in terms of worship and programming is very good (we also know all the areas that aren't so good, but that's another post).
In other words, we're in control. We're competent. And I've been doing this for enough years that in most areas of ministry, I'm competent.
But I long to be desperate. I long to know again that I'm not in control. I long for prayers that are focused and urgent and for my desire for this church not for it to be cutting edge but for the people in it to have a real hunger for God.
Starting with me.
Because I want to be in the middle of a move of God. A sovereign, decisive, unmistakable yet inexplicable move of God among the people of this church and this community.
That sure is better than being competent.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
Now I'm not sick, mind you.
But the bed felt awfully warm. And there were some things on my schedule that I simply didn't want to face. And I knew the days ahead were long.
So I thought, "wouldn't it be OK, just this once, to pretend like I'm sick?" Just spend the day reading the novel I'm enjoying, checking the Tennis Channel, maybe even working out.
There is the rather obvious matter of honesty. Once you start lying, then the lies begin to cascade down through the rest of your life.
Yet there is an even more important reality: those things I didn't want to face and those meetings I didn't want to have would still be there whenever I came back from being "sick." Better to address difficult things first rather than delaying what is inevitable.
So I showed up.
That's a prerequisite for success anyway, isn't it?
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
I have just gotten tired of moving the morning paper or my current novel or my bible farther and farther away from my face to read.
So I gave in and bought a pair of $6 reading glasses.
You know what's the worst thing about it all?
They really work.
Monday, December 1, 2008
So be on the lookout for the persistent, relentless, annoying love of God in your life today.