Thursday, December 23, 2010

God Story #12

As Christmas quickly approaches I want to share some "God stories" with you that have been shared with me lately. If you want to share a God story that I can share with our church family please email me at

A little background about my experience with cars and traveling.
When I was 8 years old, I lost my oldest brother in a car accident. He went away to school and I begged my parents not to let him go, cause I knew he wouldn't come back. I just knew. He was killed in a car accident. When I was pregnant with my first child, my second brother was killed in Israel while working with the Army corps. of engineers. So, I'm not a big fan of cars. As a result I'm a very aware driver. Now, on to the God story. On my way to church this past Sunday, I was waiting at the light coming out of Lewis Rd. It's the light down from Mt. View going into Greensburg. There was no one in the turning lane from Greensburg when I pulled up. But a voice in my head told me to watch for the car that would turn in front of me on a red light. Over the years I've learned to listen to that voice. Just as my light turned green, a car pulled up in the turning lane. So, I waited a moment, and sure enough he turned right into my road on my green light and his red light. It didn't appear he even saw me. Some would say luck, some would say coincidence, but I know what I'm calling it. Needless to say I said many thank yous the rest of the ride to church. While singing worship songs, I was really feeling the spirit, and the songs just flowed. God does talk we just don't always hear. I've become very good at listening for Him. He never ceases to amaze me.Thanks for letting me share.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

God Story #11

As Christmas quickly approaches I want to share some "God stories" with you that have been shared with me lately. The following is a newspaper article written by one of the members of our team to Jamaica in November. If you want to share a God story that I can share with our church family please email me at

After witnessing extreme poverty, malnutrition and poor health conditions in the mountains of Jamaica, we focus on how richly blessed our family, friends and community are this Thanksgiving. The most severe situation in our daily lives pale when put alongside the struggle of these brothers and sisters in Christ.

Upon further pondering their plight, we see two things wrong with the last statement. First, it is never fair to compare and, second, these folks do not consider their station in life a struggle. Time and again we saw people working together and thankful for what they have. One such example is engraved forever in Rusty’s memory.

It was a long drive for a short visit with a Jamaican family in the hills near Green Pond. Friend Chuck had introduced Rusty to John B. a few years ago and this time they took along Pastor Chris. He is nicknamed “Burn John” because as a young boy he had fallen into a fire. Thirty years later the result of the accident is still shocking. His face is severely disfigured causing him to be legally blind.

On the day of their visit, John was cutting wood to make charcoal that he sells. Hearing Rusty and Chuck’s voices, he extended his calloused hands and offered greetings of “blessings and joy: peace and love!” Other members of his clan returning from tending the yams, coffee and bananas were happy and welcoming. Nephew David, who has slurred speech, proudly showed the men the two-room house built of scraps of wood, some rusty tin and torn tarps.

Inside, with little room to turn around, they saw his “mushed” bike with broken rim and torn tire that he uses to ride 10 miles over rough trails and roads to work. In another, smaller, shack the three Americans were directed to John’s mother, Louise. Laying on a cot, too weak and poor to seek hospital care, she was wrapped in a blanket wearing a fancy brown hat. Withered to a frail 70 pounds, she was kept clean and comfortable by her family’s love.

The visitors knelt by the matriarch. Chris held her hand and stroked her thin arm. He prayed with the family and as he finished speaking to God, Louise’s eyes gently opened and her toothless mouth moved ever so slightly.

As they stepped outside of the shack, Chuck asked the family when they last had a meal with meat. John replied that he couldn’t remember the last time. His statement, matter of fact and showing no embarrassment, never hinted for help. There was no sorrow, regret or grief. This family was thankful and grateful for what they had.

Rusty witnessed a family relationship on the horizontal level where food, chores and caring were shared. On a horizontal level, they praised their heavenly Father for “monumental” blessings. Thank you, Jamaican friends, we rejoice with gratitude for the lesson of contentment.

Rusty and Claire Orner with their two sons, Walker and Ashton, are stewards of the non-profit educational organization, Quiet Creek Herb Farm and School of Country Living in Brookville Pennsylvania. They can be contacted at Quiet Creek 2010.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

God Story #10

As Christmas quickly approaches I want to share some "God stories" with you that have been shared with me lately. If you want to share a God story that I can share with our church family please email me at

Earlier this month I made plans to have lunch with a friend, and check in on him.
Yesterday, while on vacation, I went to his house with lunch.
We had my wife's world class wedding soup with Ritz crackers.
It was excellent. So was my time spent with my friend.
We talked and told stories. I prayed and I poured into him. Encouraged him.
We spent a good 2 and a half hours together. It was good for both of us.
I prayed with him for his recovery and return to good health.
I prayed with him for their marriage and parenting of their son.
While it was a simple act, God was there. It was His plan not mine.
There are many blessings each day, and this was one of mine yesterday.
I’m so thankful for what God is doing in my life, and for what He is doing at Charter Oak Church.
More prayers and blessings and love!

The Highest Level of Living

Here is a blog from Steven Furtick that really spoke to me today:

There are few things more important to God than gratitude. It’s the highest level of living because it’s where you realize everything you have is by the grace of God. It’s the eternal state of Heaven, and it’s something we can experience here and now.

Here are the five observations on gratitude:
1. Gratitude is never invisible or silent. There is no such thing as silent gratitude. If you’re really grateful for something, you’ll say it and show it. Unexpressed gratitude is a lost opportunity to give God praise.

2. Gratitude sustains joy and blessing. In the same way that you can relive an offense through bitterness, you can relive a blessing of God through gratitude. It is possible to relive the joy of yesterday’s gifts with today’s thankfulness.

3. Gratitude begins where my sense of entitlement ends. To keep a high sense of gratitude, you must keep a low sense of entitlement. You can’t be grateful for something you feel entitled to. And the truth is, you’re not entitled to anything.

You woke up this morning. Someone else didn’t. They thought they would, but they didn’t. You received a standard Christmas bonus. Someone else is still looking for a job.
If that wasn’t enough, for the Christian, anything short of hell is God’s miraculous, overwhelming, and sufficient grace. We’re not entitled to salvation. It’s a gracious gift that demands a grateful response.

4. Grateful people can find a blessing, enlarge a blessing, or create a blessing in almost any situation. The opposite of this point is that negative people can find a burden, enlarge a burden, or create a burden in almost any situation. It might sound crass, but some people are crap factories. It doesn’t matter what you put in them, it just comes out crap. They’ll always find a reason to complain. They’ll always find the worst in every situation.

But then for other people, they find crap, put a seed in it, and let it grow. Who do you think possesses more joy?

Your situation doesn’t need to improve for your gratitude to increase. Gratitude sees the best and the potential in every situation.

5. Gratitude increases favor and creates opportunity. Gratitude will make you magnetic for miracles. Joseph preserved his gratitude even after unjustly spending over a decade in slavery and prison. And God used him to save a nation and preserve His people.

If you want the favor of God to flow through your life, keep a grateful heart.

Monday, December 20, 2010

God Story #9

As Christmas quickly approaches I want to share some "God stories" with you that have been shared with me lately. If you want to share a God story that I can share with our church family please email me at

When Kiersten was home at Thanksgiving she was required to work at Redstone to maintain her employment status so she has a job next summer. She chose to work the day before Thanksgiving and was assigned the Alzheimer unit instead of the dining hall. When she got home that night, she said that the Spirit touched her and she realized how much she missed the residents. On Thanksgiving Day she spent time calling her regulars that she didn’t get to see in the dining room just to talk with them.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

God Story #8

As Christmas quickly approaches I want to share some "God stories" with you that have been shared with me lately. If you want to share a God story that I can share with our church family please email me at

This past weekend (December 3-5), the sr. high went on a retreat. During the retreat God was at work in the relationships of the students. First, God was working on the student to student relationships. There were several students who went on the retreat who are not regular attenders to the sr. high ministry. So needless to say, Friday night was a little uncomfortable but by Saturday afternoon, all the students were getting along laughing, playing, chatting, and worshipping together. The second relationship God was a work was the leader/student relationship. Since there was a small number of students the leaders were able to build closer relationships with the students during activities and Bible studies. Third and finally, God was at work in the relationship between the student and God Himself. Throughout the weekend we heard a powerful speaker share with us how our relationship with God was "not right". But through Jesus' death and resurrection on the cross we have the opportunity to become righteous and be in "right relationship" with God. Through these sermons/talks several of the students re-committed their lives to the Lord! They realized their priorities were not on him and that they needed to take a step back and ask themselves, "Do I filter all the things in my life (academics, athletics, friends, social media, work, clubs, etc.) through my relationship with Jesus?"

Saturday, December 18, 2010

God Story #7

As Christmas quickly approaches I want to share some "God stories" with you that have been shared with me lately. If you want to share a God story that I can share with our church family please email me at

About a week before the Jr. High retreat I received notification from the organization that we were working with that the number of leaders going on our retreat was not going to be enough for their purposes. Well a week before a retreat is not a huge amount of time to try and find someone willing to jump into Jr. High Student Ministry (at least for retreat purposes!) but thanks to Tom Beagan and Bill Gates for announcing our need during the weekend worship services we received several offers of help so that I had to prayerfully make choices about which offers to accept! I thank God for moving in the hearts of several women of our church who offered to help on such short notice but especially for Kristen McKeag and Carla Zema who ended up going with us. Their assistance, along with the other adult leaders who were already along for the ride, helped make the trip a good one for our Jr. High students.

Friday, December 17, 2010

God Story #6

As Christmas quickly approaches I want to share some "God stories" with you that have been shared with me lately. If you want to share a God story that I can share with our church family please email me at

Last year, God had me step away from helping with Mission Possible.

This year, God’s prompting led me to throw my hat back in the ring to help with Mission Possible. “Wherever you need me,” that’s what I told Maxine. Each week, Maxine puts me exactly where I’m needed, as a helper, a runner, a first aid person…

But my favorite joy is serving as a table parent at dinner. I have had the privilege of getting to know four second grade girls: Annie, Gracie, Addison, and Zoey. They keep me up to date on their favorite ice cream flavor, their favorite movie, their favorite sport, and their favorite colors. We get to share birthdays on birthday night, we pray together, we use our table manners, and we talk about lessons that Jesus teaches us. One particular week, the lesson was on compassion. At dinner Zoey wasn’t feeling well so she went to the rest room. When she didn’t come back, Addison asked if she could check on her. When neither girl came back, I went to check on them both. What I found was Addison gently wrapping her jacket over Zoey’s shoulders, because Zoey was cold and shivering. Compassion- being the gentle hand of Jesus.

I serve because I love God. God loves me so much that He blesses me with those moments where I see Him at work. Our children are the future. They won’t know Jesus or the promises of God unless we teach them, unless we share with them what God has done for us, and then they too can pass it on to their children.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

God Story #5

As Christmas quickly approaches I want to share some "God stories" with you that have been shared with me lately. If you want to share a God story that I can share with our church family please email me at

I was having lunch at Wendy’s last week with my daughter and 2 of my grandchildren. As usual, we prayed before we ate. A young woman sitting at the table next to us said, ”Excuse me, but did you all just pray before you ate?” I said yes that we think it is important and it is just something that we do. She said the she was just saved in Christ last year but was already feeling like she was losing some of that ‘feeling’ and had asked God that morning to refresh her spirit. She felt that observing us pray and make God a natural part of our lives was a confirmation from Him. We all were enjoying the sacred carols that were playing and that was another confirmation for her. She asked where we go to church and said that she just might come and try our church sometime because she was driving quite a distance to the church that she had been attending. I told her that we would welcome her and look forward to seeing her again.

Merry Christmas…a refreshed spirit by the work of the Holy Spirit!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

God Story #4

As Christmas quickly approaches I want to share some "God stories" with you that have been shared with me lately. If you want to share a God story that I can share with our church family please email me at

I saw God at work in Brenda when she lovingly and graciously cared for a person who called and had to back out of an obligation for which she had signed up. The person was so embarrassed and ashamed because of the reason she couldn’t fulfill the obligation and Brenda made her feel loved and valued. Brenda reminded this person by her actions that this person wasn’t valuable because of what she did, but because of who she is in Christ.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

God Story #3

As Christmas quickly approaches I want to share some "God stories" with you that have been shared with me lately. If you want to share a God story that I can share with our church family please email me at

Last Monday, April, who takes her son to accessAbilities, stopped in the church office inquiring about what items she could purchase and donate to the Food Pantry. She said she doesn’t go to church because she’s “not a good person, not good enough.” I wanted to cry. I told her we’re all sinners and all have issues. I told her God made us just the way we are for a reason and He loves us no matter what. She asked about our worship services and nursery and what else we offer. Naomi showed her around the church and we think she may come back to worship. My heart breaks for someone who asks about donating to the Food Pantry and in the same breath feels she isn’t “good enough” to attend church.

I think (I hope) Naomi and I made a difference in her life that day. I’m going to try to track her down this Monday if she shows up for accessAbilities, because she has been on my heart and in my thoughts all week.

Monday, December 13, 2010

God Story #2

As Christmas quickly approaches I want to share some "God stories" with you that have been shared with me lately. If you want to share a God story that I can share with our church family please email me at

Visiting at a local nursing home recently, I walked into the room of a senior member of our congregation, who has not been active here for many years. Walking into the room of someone dealing with memory issues, you never know how you may be received. This morning, I saw Ruth lying peacefully on her bed covered in a beautiful velvet blanket. Not wanting to disturb her, I introduced myself again to her roommate, a younger lady who had been moved here away from her home and surroundings to live close to her daughter, in order to better care for her.

As we spoke, she began to cry and was obviously mourning the loss of her former life. As it was close to lunchtime, Fay mentioned we should wake Ruth. Fay began to share with me, as we woke Ruth, how she cares for her, dresses her when no one can come down, helps her find things and keeps her company. I could clearly see how she simply devoted herself to caring for her roommate, loves her with gentleness, patience, and self-sacrifice. In the simple acts of caring for her, I saw God at work in this woman’s life, building purpose and meaning into her days, and healing her own loss in the process.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

God Story #1

As Christmas quickly approaches I want to share some "God stories" with you that have been shared with me lately.

The following is the email I read in worship this weekend. I have taken the names out to honor the family's anonymity. If you want to share a God story that I can share with our church family please email me at

Hi Pastor Chris,
I had to write and tell you about the "Santa Claus" moment we had last night because it ironically happened when we took our son to see Santa at the mall.

The line to see Santa was long so it took about 30 minutes to reach the front. At one point while I was trying to keep our son entertained, my husband was talking with the young woman behind us who had a son who just turned one in November. As we neared the front of the line, there is a sign that lists all of the photo packages you can purchase. I started complaining to my husband that the cheapest package was $20 (because apparently you can't just buy one picture of your kid with Santa for $5 anymore). He turns to me and whispers, "The girl behind us is here alone with her son because her husband is in Afghanistan." And at the same time that the Holy Spirit spoke the words into my head, they came out of my husband's mouth - "Let's buy her a photo package...the biggest one they have." While my husband tried to convince our son to sit on Santa's lap (which he would have nothing to do with), I talked to the photographer and cashier and purchased the package and we left before the woman could find out what we did.

I would normally have left there disappointed that I didn't get a picture of our son with Santa, but instead I left in tears so overjoyed that we could help make sure that little boy's Daddy had lots of pictures of a moment he had to miss because he was out fighting for our freedom. I know in the grand scheme of things it wasn't that big of a deal...I'm sure the woman was going to buy pictures anyway, but I also know that God had a purpose in it and hopefully she recognized our gratitude and appreciation for what she and her family are sacrificing for the rest of us.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My Son

This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.
- Matthew 3:17

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Christ in Me

It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.
- Galatians 2:20

Sunday, November 28, 2010


The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
- James 5:16

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Little Children

Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
- Matthew 19:14

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out.
- Proverbs 10:9
This is my friend Rusty. He is a man of integrity. When I watch him live his life, I see the character of Jesus. He inspires me to want to be more like Jesus. Rusty's paths are straight. His heart is genuine. He walks with God.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Noble Character

A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies." - Proverbs 31:10

Words cannot express how much I love this picture of Kelli. A tender touch...a smile...a heart for Jesus.


With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the LORD: “He is good; his love toward Israel endures forever.” And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the LORD, because the foundation of the house of the LORD was laid.

- Ezra 3:11

Friday, November 19, 2010

In Christ Alone

"My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. - 2 Corinthians 12:9

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Jamaica through the Eyes of a Friend

A Reflection from My Time in Harmons, Jamaica
by Cindy Jonczak

I have had the distinct privilege to have experienced Harmons, Jamaica two times now. The first trip was with my daughter, Cara, and the second trip, from which I just returned, was with my two sons Seth and Christian. It is an honor and a blessing to have had the opportunity to serve alongside all three of my children. Words can't describe the joy that comes from seeing my kids love and give of themselves completely in another culture.

We all arrive in Harmons as strangers, with one another and the Jamaicans, and depart as family with an attachment to one another that is so deep and intense it takes our breath away that it happens in only 5 days. We fall in love with these wonderful people in Harmons and we fall in love with each other as teammates. Even the teammates that I thought I knew very well carve a much deeper level of relationship than when we came.

This is the unexpected hook that grabs the heart and makes it impossible to imagine not returning again and again. This is what causes bewilderment of the great loss I feel when I get back home. Something is missing ... and I think it is a piece of my heart that has been left behind in the rough and rocky terrain of the land and the sweet and gentle spirits of the people of Harmons, Jamaica.

My first trip provided an opportunity for me to discover things about myself. I needed to shed the inhibitions and fear of being in circumstances and surroundings that I had never been before, and didn't have an idea of what to expect. I went with a bit of protection and defense left in place, hesitantly and cautiously letting myself test the waters. But this second time, I let go, immediately. From the first moments of planning ... I began to shed all the layers that I wrap myself in here in my life in America.

This ... I believe, is the secret to the profound depth of connection that takes place.

The first thing I must do as a traveler to Harmons, Jamaica, is to collect two large suitcases. But not for me. At first I thought of these two suitcases as vessels to transport items that I would be taking to the people of Harmons. Now I see the suitcases in a very different way. Not only do they carry important items that help better the quality of life for the people, but they are also used to carry medical equipment and supplies to and from the health clinics. And more importantly, they carry the donated clothing and shoes that the Jamaicans will purchase at the Harmony House store for 100 J's or the equivalent of a $1.25, through the rocky mountainside to their homes where the suitcases will be used as clothes closets. Wheels and straps are a very important accessory to a young mother carrying a baby up a steep and diffcult climb to her home perched on the side of a cliff and, more than likely, walking in shoes that don't fit. I won't look at those suitcases the same again.

The second thing I must do is find a carry-on bag that will hold all the "stuff" that I will need for a week of mission work in a foreign country. This step is a significant one because it begins the process of shedding the unnecessary.

Shedding the unnecessary breaks down the barriers that separate me from another person. After I fill my carry-on with a few pieces of clothing, I find socks and undergarments are most important, and some hygiene products, one towel, and a pair of sturdy shoes for the worksites, I have reduced myself one step further. My one luxury item that I choose to make space for is a hairdryer for which I get much abuse. But it comes in handy to dry, after a washing, some of the undergarments that get caked with sweat, cement, dirt, marl, and, sometimes, dripping ice cream cones from a Jamaican child that I'm privileged to cuddle.

When the day of departure arrives, I carry my two suitcases filled to a 50 pound maximum with medicine, shoes and clothing, my carry-on bag, and a heart full of anticipation through the many immigration and custom inspections, where I hold my breath, and on through turnstiles and ques that transition me from life in these United States of America to the tourist life in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Montego Bay is a beautiful place. The pristine turquoise waters, the majestic resort hotels, the magnificent cruise ships anchored offshore are the last vestiges of comfort and luxury to pass away before I board a bus for a three hour ride away from the tourists and up into the mountains of Jamaica. I am shedding one more layer.

The first time I rode this bus into the mountains I had a sense of foreboding. It was dark. and a torrential rainstorm had just passed through. Water gushed down both sides of the narrowing roadways. The space between the bus and cars passing violently on the righthand side of the road seemed barely enough. Horns blared in an effort to prevent impending doom. We kept climbing into the darkness, lights dissipated, traffic lessened, thick jungle like stretches of land became prominent. Every so often a patch of little shacks passed by. I wondered to myself, 'what have I done?'

The second time, I knew where I was going. I knew what was at the end of that bus ride. It was daylight and the sun was shining. And it matched the difference in my attitude. We again climbed out of the coastal beauty and into an entirely different beauty of the Jamaican mountains. Faces peered at us from little shacks and village centers, children smiled and waved excitedly. It is probably an event when a bus full of "whities" drive through. I remembered these children, their smiles, their excitement, their beauty. The children get to me first.

As we progress, the road is less forgiving. The ruts and bumps, more pronounced. The little shacks and villages spread farther apart and seem less habitable. Goats roam freely, everywhere! I know where I'm going. It lies ahead on that last turn on to an even more challenging dirt path. And suddenly, there it is, Harmons, plopped unceremoniously and heartbreakingly beautiful in what is my newest definition of "the middle of nowhere!" I've come to them ...

Coming to them is a lot different than them coming to me. I am now more or less equalized. I am standing in their community. One more layer is gone.

The first thing we do upon arrival, and after unloading those precious suitcases, is get accustomed to our surroundings. We're in a compound known as the Harmony House where we will sleep and eat. The only thing that is left to separate me from the Jamaican life is a gated courtyard that they peer through until it is time to play together in the evenings. I share a room filled with bunkbeds with 20 other ladies. There is one bathroom with two stalls, and two cold water showers for all of us.

As I gather for our first night of sharing with team members, Josh, the director of wonbyonetojamaica, asks us to turn over our cell phones and laptops to be locked in the safe. For first timers, this is a big request. The clutch of "being connected" to the outside world is powerful and to some degree, comforting. But to the second timers and beyond, it is one of the last and more important layers to be shed. At last, there is very little, other than emotional barriers, that separate us from one another. It is freeing, even invigorating.

And so the week begins. Through the process of months, weeks, and hours of planning, packing, and traveling ... I am here. And I am more at the very minimum of myself than I have ever been. There is very little to distract and separate me from the people around me. I am at my most real and most vulnerable and I love it.

It is because of this process that I believe I have experienced a deeper sense of relational living in this little village than I ever have in all my life.

I am working side by side, shoulder to shoulder, with my teammates and my new community. Gone are the layers and layers of "stuff" that stands between me and the ability to really spend time with people. We work, we cry, we laugh, we eat, we sleep, we play together. It is a glorious experience. We see people in their weakest state in clinics and in the infirmary. And we see people at their strongest and best at the construction sites. In each, we see life as it was intended to be. Good and bad, happy and sad, loving one another, right where we are, beyond the masks, the trappings, the barriers. Jesus becomes real.

As I look into the faces of my teammates and into their hearts, I see Jesus. Oh He is so real here beyond the barriers. Beyond the unnecessary. Here, He is central, because love is central. And Jesus is Love. As I hold a baby, my heart beats fast with a fullness I can't explain. As I touch the hand of a friend, I am filled with joy. As I kneel at the bedside of a person whose legs and arms are bent in unnatural positions, who can't speak or move and is covered with sores, her eyes light up with a love that is almost incomprehensible. I think to myself, this is as close to being like Jesus that I will ever get. I don't want to leave.

Because leaving means shedding this peace and simplicity that is at the center of life here in Harmons. It means regaining all the "stuff" I've shed to come here. It means returning to life full of distractions, and complexity, and excess that consumes my time and ability and even desire to become deeply attached in relationship with the people in my community, where love is not always central and Jesus can be forgotten.

The amount of excess in my life is the takeaway. Some of those closest to me have a kinder and gentler term for it ... abundance. But I think "excess" matches my attitude. It is abundance when I choose to share it with others. I think it is excess when it keeps me from sharing with others.

I think the most profound impact that my experience in Harmons, Jamaica has had on me is a reminder that life has become more about maintaining and less about relating. I don't want to live their life. It is hard, and painful, and poor. But when the Jamaicans say to me, "I want what you have," I say to them, no, you don't. Because we are both poverty stricken, just in different ways. What I want from them is simplicity. And what they want from me is my abundance. Somewhere there is a median point in which Jesus can be honored and glorified for all.

I don't write this to say that I think Jamaica is the only place where I will be able to live like Jesus. But it is the place where I recognized how. I hope and pray that God will continue to work on me so that, somehow, I can bring it home with me. Will you join me in this prayer?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Protecting your pastor’s faith

Wow, this is really huge for me from Steven Furtick:

Leaders need to know the facts. We can’t hide from reality, nor should we. But I’m also convinced that too many leaders are confronted with too much bad news without solutions.
This is especially true of pastors. It seems like sometimes we can become the clearinghouse for all that is wrong in our church. And since solutions are rarely proposed, we spend the next few hours or the rest of the day trying to fix problems. Problems that usually dozens of other people could have generated solutions for without our help.

This isn’t just about increased stress and decreased mental energy on our part. Most people don’t realize it, but every problem they bring their pastor makes a demand on their faith to believe God. It’s the pastor’s responsibility to cast the vision God has given them for their church. But they have to be able to believe that the God-sized vision they are receiving is actually capable of being implemented.

If their people keep bringing them problems all the time, it weakens their faith and orients their mind towards wondering what is going to go wrong next. The pastor eventually doesn’t have the faith to believe God for big things because it doesn’t even seem like the small things are being taken care of.

One of the greatest things you can do for your pastor is protect their faith. You want to keep your leader in a place where he’s optimistic. Where he’s dreaming about where God is taking your church. Not on everything that is keeping it from getting there. And the best way you can do this is by limiting his awareness of problems that do not have viable solutions.

This doesn’t mean keeping your pastor completely in the dark. Yes, he should know there are problems. But more than that he should know that his team has them covered.

Commit yourself today to begin bringing solutions, not problems. It will protect your pastor’s faith. And make you irreplaceably valuable in your church.

Quote #8 - Minutia

"We spend way too much time responding and reacting to minutia than really doing work that matters." - Seth Godin

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Quote #7 - Give

"It’s not about what you can accumulate but what you can give." - Seth Godin

Monday, October 4, 2010

Quote #6 - Scary

"Do things that scare you and change people around you."

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Quote #5 - Internet

"One of the dangers of the internet is that you can do short-term stuff all day long and produce nothing." - Seth Godin

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Quote #4 - Revolution

"Revolutions are all about doing something that’s impossible. What makes things impossible is what makes them a revolution. Revolutions change things in impossible ways." - Seth Godin

Friday, October 1, 2010

Deep and Wide

I seem to be having a reoccurring conversation lately. I have been talking with staff members, church council and people who call Charter Oak Church home about our focus. Is our focus to equip people to go deeper in their faith or is our focus to reach out to the people in this region who don’t have a church home? People ask me which one I think is most important. Many tell me which one they think is the most important for us to zero in on.

First of all I want to pull out the middle word – “and/or.” For some this is a one or the other question. Either we will focus on going deeper in our faith or we will reach out to the un-churched. For me and many I have talked with, it is not an either/or, but both/and. We will go deeper in our commitment to be obedient to God’s Word and we will reach out to those who don’t have a church home. I believe it has to be both. But it is dangerous when a congregation makes the commitment to go deep and wide.

It’s dangerous because it becomes abundantly clear that there are no perfect people at Charter Oak Church. The people who make the commitment to go deeper, which really has more to do with transformation than information, realize submission to the will of God has to happen in every area of their lives. The deeper a follower of Jesus goes in their faith the more they realize it isn’t about them. Worship isn’t for us, it is for God and God alone – we worship for an audience of One. Bible study isn’t about how much someone knows. It’s about surrendering ourselves to our Master. The deeper our roots go into our relationship with our heavenly Father, the more we will realize our mandate is to reach out to others.

So I am thankful that there are people here who don’t have it all together. I am thankful that there are people here with broken marriages and relationships because this is a place where they can experience the love and grace of God. I am thankful there are people here who have gone off the cliff in an area of their life because they didn’t have guardrails because we have “go to people” that can extend compassion and mercy in a healthy biblical way.

We don’t go deeper for ourselves. We go deeper so we can go wider. As your heart for God grows larger, you can’t keep it from growing larger for others. So let me ask you, is your heart growing larger for people outside of our church? If so, then your heart is growing larger for God. I believe God calls you and me to be both deep and wide. So what’s the next right thing for you to do? Be in worship every week? Study your Bible and pray every day? Invite a friend in your Circle of Influence to worship? Something else? What is God saying to you?

Quote #3 - Problems

"Every problem you have right now is a perfect one. If it wasn’t perfect you would have solved it by now." - Seth Godin

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Quote #2 - Mistakes

"We don’t need you to be good at what we were doing yesterday we need you to be good at making mistakes on what you want to do tomorrow." - Seth Godin

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Quote #1 - An Idea

"An idea planted in the right spot is like a pair of glasses that can change the way you look at things. What are you going to do when you notice the world is changing? Great ideas don’t require assets, they require insight. They have nothing to do with technology but has everything to do with intention." - Seth Godin

Monday, September 27, 2010


The cover of my wife's Organic Gardening magazine says - "Inspiration." I was caught by surprise by this word choice. Can gardening truly be inspirational in the way that I typically think about it? I have come to the realization that some people truly experience the fullness of God in nature.

This summer while we were on vacation we toured Laurel Caverns. My wife said she felt extremely close to God as we walked beneath the earth. Then we went swimming at Ohiopyle. I have to admit, I too could sense the power and beauty of God.
I have come to realize that I am not inspired by gardening, but I am inspired by the hand of God at work. So when I limit my experience of God to only a more traditional setting then I miss out on the fullness of who God is. I want all of God. I know that no one has seen God and lived and yet I think I am willing to risk it. I want more and more and more of God in my life. I want to drink in the living water. I want to eat of the bread of life. I want to be inspired by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

10 Personal Growth Questions

Love this from Perry Noble

#1 – Am I reading my Bible for information or transformation? (James 1:22-25)

#2 – Am I allowing people or circumstances to steal the joy that Jesus promised to me? (John 10:10)

#3 – Is there anything in my life that God is consistently dealing with that I am trying to ignore? (Ezekiel 14:1-5)

#4 – Who are the people in my life that God has placed around me for the purpose of me sharing Christ with them and/or inviting them to church? (II Corinthians 5:16-21)

#5 – Is there anyone I need to apologize to? (Ephesians 4:25:27)

#6 – Is there anyone I need to forgive? (Ephesians 4:32)

#7 – Is there a sin I need to confess to others and ask for help? (James 5:16)

#8 – Am I fully utilizing the gifts and abilities that God has blessed me with…or am I simply choosing to waste my life? (I Peter 4:10)

#9 – Do I know more lines from the movies that I love than verse from the Bible that I read? (Psalm 119:11)

#10 – Is there anything going on in my life privately that, if it became public, would cause me and/or the body of Christ to be embarrassed? (I John 1:9, James 5:16)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

10 Things We Need To Focus On!

Read this from Perry Noble's blog yesterday...

From all of the research I’ve seen…Monday’s are the days when we are most tempted to quit, to give up…to just walk away and start a brand new job as a people greeter at Wal Mart.
Just remember…
#1 – He called you…and it wasn’t to get to this place so He can drop you on your face! (Philippians 1:6)

#2 – He WILL build HIS church! (Matthew 16:18)

#3 – He did not necessarily promise to deliver you from the fire…but He did promise to walk with you through it! (Isaiah 43:1-3)

#4 – There is MORE in STORE for your life and ministry! (Hosea 10:12)

#5 – When we obey the voice of God we are unstoppable (Joel 2:11)

#6 – Have courage, be strong, don’t back down from what He has called you to do! (I Corinthians 16:13)

#7 – God didn’t call you because of your greatness but rather because of HIS…and HE’S STILL GREAT despite at times you may feel like you are not! (II Corinthians 4:1)

#8 – “This” problem will NOT destroy you! (II Corinthians 4:8-9)

#9 – STOP comparing yourself to others…the same God who called and empowered them did the same for you! (Galatians 2:8)

#10 – STOP praying for protection…PRAY FOR BOLDNESS!!! (Acts 4:29-31)

Monday, July 12, 2010


I read this from Seth Godin this morning...

If you want to get things moving at a meeting or in an online forum, start discussing what to order for lunch. Even the most reticent attendee has something to contribute.

Same thing when you start discussing the logo for your new venture, or what to call the subcommittee on committees... Have you noticed how many people are willing to weigh in on redecorating your office?

It's so easy to speak up on the things that are trivial, defensible, matters of taste. So easy to imagine that you're a valuable contributor because you're willing to share your personal taste on a matter that's beyond reproach.

If I want your opinion, I'm going to want it for something where you might be wrong, for something that actually makes a difference and most of all, for something where you are putting yourself at risk. Not lunch.

I am in a lot of meetings every week. It is easy to stay on the surface and talk about things that are trivial. As long as we stay at that level, no one is stretched, everyone is comfortable, but honestly we don't get very much done. It takes great risk to go deeper. People have to be willing to be vulnerable to be stretched and uncomfortable. It is when we get to this place that we are most open to each other, but more importantly we are open to the leading of the Holy Spirit.

The most productive meetings that I am in each week are the ones that drill down to places that God has to show up and we have to set ourselves aside. My heart beats fast in those meetings. I love it when everyone around the table sets aside their own agendas and personal attachments and seeks the Kingdom of God. When everyone at that table opens themselves to the possibility of what God wants to do, then we will see lives changed for eternity. It begins with moving beyond the surface to risking opening ourselves up to each other and God. It's scary, but even more so, it is glorious!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Looking for Pockets and Creating Pockets

Jim Collins writes, "If we look hard enough we can find pockets of greatness in nearly every difficult environment. Every institution has its unique set of difficult constraints, yet some make the leap to greatness while others facing the same environmental challenges do not. This is perhaps the single most important point in all of Good to Great. Greatness is not a function of circumstances. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline."

I want to look for these pockets of greatness and I want to create these pockets of greatness.

I want everyone in our congregation to have a great relationship with our heavenly Father. That relationship really isn't a function of your circumstances. I want you to have that great relationship no matter what is going on in your life - good or bad. That's why we are taking most of the summer to talk about spiritual disciplines. It takes a conscious choice to practice these disciplines, but when you do, it leads to a great relationship with God.

One of the most important steps people need to make is moving from intentions to actions. I have never met a Christian who didn't intend to live out their faith, but because of circumstances of life - busyness, work, kids, life in general - it just didn't actually get lived out. The people I know who have a vibrant, spirit-filled relationship with God through Jesus make the conscious choice to live it out, not just have great intentions.

I have to ask myself everyday, what am I going to do TODAY to live out my faith? When I follow through, I create a pocket for a great relationship with my heavenly Father.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I just read this from Seth Godin...

If you're waiting for a boss or an editor or a college to tell you that you do good work, you're handing over too much power to someone who doesn't care nearly as much as you do.

We spend a lot of time organizing and then waiting for the system to pick us, approve of us and give us permission to do our work.

There's a difference between achieving your goals and realizing your work matters.

If you have a book to write, write it. If you want to record an album, record it. No need to wait for someone in a cubicle halfway across the country to decide if you're worthy.

Our validation doesn't come from others, it comes from our relationship with our heavenly Father through Jesus Christ. Everyone of us has been called and gifted by Him "to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to equip God's people for works of service." (Eph 4:11-12)

Don't wait for someone else to validate your call or your gifting. It's already been done. You have the power of the Holy Spirit within you. You have the power and authority to do what it is that God has called you to do, so don't wait, listen to God and obey.

I believe in you, but more importantly, God does.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Closing VBS Program

Great Quote

The most dangerous man in the world is the contemplative who is guided by nobody. He trusts his own visions. He obeys the attractions of an interior voice but will not listen to other men. He identifies the will of God with anything that makes him feel, within his own heart, a big, warm, sweet interior glow. The sweeter and the warmer the feeling is the more he is convinced of his own infallibility.
- Thomas Merton

Monday, June 21, 2010

Kicking Off VBS 2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010

New Life

Last weekend we celebrated! We shouted out in joy! We lowered people down into the waters of baptism. They died. They rose again into a new life in Jesus.
This is what we do as followers of Jesus - build relationships with people with the hope and faith that they will one day build a relationship with God through giving their lives to Jesus.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Great Quote

Don't feel sorry for yourself for the sacrifices you are making. Sacrifices are privileges. You don't have to. You get to. And if you forget that, a sense of entitlement will rob you of the title to your calling.

- Chuck Swindoll at Innovate Church Conference

Thursday, May 20, 2010

12 Indicators

I read this from Dave Ferguson...12 Indicators that Leadership Is Lacking

1. I wait for someone to tell me what to do rather than taking the initiative myself.
2. I spend too much time talking about how things should be different.
3. I blame the context, surroundings, or other people for my current situation.
4. I am more concerned about being cool or accepted than doing the right thing.
5. I seek consensus rather than casting vision for a preferable future.
6. I am not taking any significant risks.
7. I accept the status quo as the way it's always been and always will be.
8. I start protecting my reputation instead of opening myself up to opposition.
9. I procrastinate to avoid making a tough call.
10. I talk to others about the problem rather than taking it to the person responsible.
11. I don't feel my butt is on the line for anything significant.
12. I ask for way too many opinions before taking action.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Productive Work

I was reading 1 Thessalonians 1 this morning and I spent some time on verse 3 - "We continually remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ." I love that!

I think of all the ways in which I want to work productively everyday. As I read Paul's words I am reminded of what should lead us...
Work produced by faith
Labor prompted by love
Endurance inspired by hope

What would happen if all of us approached our work with this attitude?

The result would be the same as it was for the Thessalonians - "your faith in God has become known everywhere."

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Love Is

Love never gives up.
Love cares more for others than for self.
Love doesn't want what it doesn't have.
Love doesn't strut,
Doesn't have a swelled head,
Doesn't force itself on others,
Isn't always "me first,"
Doesn't fly off the handle,
Doesn't keep score of the sins of others,
Doesn't revel when others grovel,
Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth,
Puts up with anything,
Trusts God always,
Always looks for the best,
Never looks back,
But keeps going to the end.
Love never dies.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


My family is extremely important to me. My relationship with Kelli is second only to my relationship with my heavenly Father. Every day I give God thanks for Kelli, Caleb, and Abby. Because of my strong commitment to my family, I dedicate my time and my attention to them like no one else. However, in the midst of that, I am one of the pastors at Charter Oak Church. And thanks to you I was reminded that I am also connected to a much larger family called our church.

As most of you probably know my grandfather passed away the week before Easter. I flew down to South Carolina in the middle of Holy Week (the busiest week of my year). I have to tell you that I felt incredibly encouraged and lifted up by your words, your cards, and your hugs. I felt like you lifted me up on to your spiritual shoulders and you carried me through by the power of the Holy Spirit. I intellectually know that as followers of Jesus we are all brothers and sisters – we are family. But to be honest with you, it was so good to be able to live into it. Thank you.

Thank you for being my spiritual family. But more importantly thank you for being our church’s spiritual family. Every week I see how people love each other by being a brother or sister in Christ to them. I always say I am one of the pastors at Charter Oak Church; it’s even the title of my blog ( I say I am one of the pastors because I believe God’s design is that we are all pastors. If one of my kids gets hurt, Kelli doesn’t say, “you are the pastor, you take care of this.” If someone in our congregation is sick, if there is a death, if there is celebration of 65 years of marriage all of us are there, all of us pray, all of us mourn, all of us rejoice. Why? Because we are family, we are all a part of the family of God.

When I flew to South Carolina I saw family I had not seen in a long time. We all said we shouldn’t let that happen. As I lived in that moment I thought of our church family. As spring blossoms and the weather turns nice, it is very easy to “skip” worship. When summer hits full stride, it’s even easier. Hebrews 10:25 says, “Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” I want you to know that I love you. I want to love God with you. I want to love each other with you. I want to love the world with you. You are my family. Let’s be the family of God called Charter Oak Church together.

Getting Things Done

I receive an email every so often from David Allen over at Getting Things Done (GTD). Yesterday I received one of those emails. Here's a section of it...

"Let's get something really clear: success doesn't come from getting organized—it comes from following your heart. Or your intuition. Or the seat of your pants. Or your gut. (Pick the words you like or that you're not allergic to.)"

Proverbs 3:5 says, "Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding."

I love being organized. I get more done when I am organized that I do when there is a mess on my desk and nothing scheduled on my calendar. It's why I get the emails from David Allen.

He is correct when he writes that success doesn't come from getting organized. But according to Proverbs it doesn't come from following your heart, it comes from trusting God with your heart.

Proverbs 5:6 goes on to say, "in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight."

Me being organized doesn't set me on the right path, trusting God and acknowledging Him does. I love being organized and GTD helps me a great deal, but I have to remember it's a tool that helps me to get on God's agenda.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Book #11 - Primal

Jesus said to love God with all your heart, mind, soul, and strength. In Primal: A Quest for the Lost Soul of Christianity, Mark Batterson takes this commandment and breaks it down into the heart, soul, mind, and strength of Christianity. Batterson has to be one of the most brilliant leaders in the church today. He was able to take this very foundation teaching of Jesus and explain the depth of what Jesus was really saying.
I love Batterson's humility and sharing of personal stories that brings the reader into the context of the narrative. You can't help but get sucked into this book. I didn't want to put it down as I read it. Many times throughout the book, my pulse quickened at the truth that was revealed. Good, good stuff!

Book #10 - Breaking the Missional Code

I first heard Ed Stetzer speak at the Innovate conference held annually at Thomas Road Baptist Church last year. It is being held this year on May 18-19. While I was there I purchased his book Breaking the Missional Code: Your Church Can Become a Missionary in Your Community.
A change needs to occur in the church today. We have moved away from the original design and responsibility of the local church as set forth in the New Testament. But as Stetzer puts it, "it has been our experience that many are simply not ready or wiling to pay the price, at least not to the extent that it needs to be paid" to be a missional presence in our communities. We must be willing to commit to being the incarnational Body of Christ in today's world.
If that makes your heart beat fast and if you want to learn what that looks like in other places and how it can happen in your community, then I recommend you reading this book.

Book #9 - Swtich

This is the most practical book I have read this year, maybe in the last couple of years. For some reason Chip and Dan Heath sent me their latest book Switch: How to Change Things when Change Is Hard a few months before it was released to the public. I am so glad that they did. I loved their first book - Made to Stick, but this one was even better.

Change is always happening. Sometimes the change is good and healthy and other times it isn't. Whatever kind of change that is happening, it is almost always difficult. Here are three big takeaways for me:
  1. What looks like a people problem is often a situation problem.
  2. What looks like laziness is often exhaustion.
  3. What looks like resistance is often a lack of clarity.

This book practically equips you to realize these three truths and what to do about it. I highly, highly, highly recommend this book.

Book #8 - Sticky Church

Too many churches have a small front door and a revolving back door. Larry Osborne's book Sticky Church describes how his church North Coast Church in northern San Diego County addresses this issue head on.
I learned so much from this book that I have passed it on to many on our staff and leaders in our congregation. Our small group leadership team has studied it together to learn best practices. Larry has been the pastor of North Coast Church for over 20 years and he has learned a great deal over the years. I love to learn from leaders who have been there, made mistakes, learned from them, and then pass on that great wisdom.
The essence of the book is about small groups. What I love about this book is that it isn't about plug and play what is happening at this one church and all of your problems with be eliminated. It is a very practical book, but it also makes it very clear that what works in some places doesn't work in others. What is important is doing what God is leading your church to do. We all need to be reminded of that.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010


On Easter I completed P90x!
I didn't take a before picture and I am vain enough that I didn't take an after picture either. The picture to the right is Tony, he is the one who beat my body for the last 90 days. I don't look like him. LOL! But I did lose 12 pounds and two inches on my waist. I have more energy, more strength, and I can run a couple of miles without having a heart attack.
This morning I read 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." I think we need a biblical understanding of how we look at our bodies - in a healthy way. My response to what I believe God expects of me in honoring Him with my body is to be in better shape - exercise, eat healthy food, and get the rest I need. Doing P90x was my way to jump start that process.
One of the things I was reminded about through my 90 days is the power of community. I typically got up at 5:30 in the morning to work out for the 60-90 minutes it takes to do P90x. There were plenty of mornings that I didn't want to get up and do it, but I knew that my friends at church and on Facebook would ask me about it. It was great accountability. I didn't want to say that I bagged it that morning. And you know what, when I didn't post that I did my workout, someone would ask me. That was huge.
It's the same way with our journey to be more like Jesus. There are days that it is just plain tough. I believe that is why God gave us a church family and people who care about us and love us. We are not to do life alone. We are a community of believers. We are to encourage one another and love each other. We need each other.
So what's next for me? I am going for a long run tonight and continuing to eat healthy. Many of you have asked what I ate to celebrate. I had a calazone, a half a piece of Oreo cookie pie, and a bowl of ice cream. It tasted very good, but to be honest, I was sick to my stomach. My body now likes to eat healthy, it craves it. I want that for all aspects of my life that I can honor God.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Holy Thursday

We welcome you to Charter Oak Church during this Holy season.

Thursday, April1, 7:30 p.m.
Christian Life Center

A special service celebrating The Last Supper.

Communion will be served around a table in groups of twelve.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

PD's New Role

We welcome Pastor Dave back at Charter Oak Church as the new Pastor Emeritus. This is a great way to honor PD and recognize his faithful service to the people of Charter Oak Church and this region. Pastor Emeritus is an honorary title and is not given out very often. For us, it means he will be preaching periodically, which we all know is one of his gifts from God. He will not have an office in the church or office hours. He is still retired, but getting to do what he loves - care for the people of this church and share the love of Jesus with us. It's a pretty good deal for him and us. Below is what was read on March 13/14 when he officially became the Pastor Emeritus of Charter Oak Church.
“Recognizing your pastoral leadership of this congregation since the year 1992, we bestow upon you the honor of being known to us and to others as Pastor Emeritus of Charter Oak Church.”

“We remember with regard your spiritual leadership, biblical preaching, heartfelt teaching, and incredible pastoral care.

“In conferring this honor, we join with you in a continued appreciation for the pastoral office. And though you will no longer actively serve as pastor, your integrity, commitment to Jesus, and a heart for this church help us to regard you and the pastoral office you held in our midst.”

In conferring this honor, we pledge ourselves to continued concern for your health and happiness. We will hold you in our prayers and cherish the contributions you have made.”

If you promise to uphold Pastor Dave with your prayers, encourage him with your words, and support him with your actions, please stand up. If you really mean it say “we will!”

Friday, March 12, 2010

A Cabin in the Woods

Mark Batterson wrote...

Change of pace + change of place = change of perspective

I'm going on study leave Sunday evening. The leadership of Charter Oak Church holds such a high value on my spiritual health that I am able to take two weeks a year to change my pace and change my place so that I can change my perspective. My pace becomes God's pace, my place becomes the feet of Jesus, and that leads to a whole new perspective.

Easter is on the horizon. The series we are creating to follow the resurrection of our Savior is going to be incredible. This is my opportunity to get away to a cabin in the woods to be on the same page as God. God's vision for the people of Charter Oak Church and this region is so huge we cannot accomplish it apart from God.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Book #7 - The Imperfect Board Member

For the third or fourth time I have read Jim Brown's book, The Imperfect Board Member: Discovering the Seven Disciplines of Governance Excellence. This time I am reading this book with our Church Council. The leadership of this church is too important not to work at it and have a clearly defined path and expectations to achieve what it is that God is leading us to do.
Over the next seven months we are going to study the disciplines of governance excellence. I want our Church Council to be smart and healthy.
If you are on a board of directors, if you lead a board, or if you want to understand in greater depth how a healthy board operates, I highly recommend this book to you. I also challenge you to read it with your board, struggle through it to become the very best board of directors you can. God is counting on us to lead well.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Book #6 - The Prodigal God

This is the first book I have read by Tim Keller. I am preparing to talk about grace starting in May and I want to use the story of the Prodigal Son as the launch point of that discussion. As I read The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith, I quickly realized how superficial I have been taught about this parable of Jesus.
Keller states that he wrote this book for the seeker or the new believer to help explain the foundational truth of the grace of God. I have a better understanding of grace because I read this book. No matter where you are on the spiritual spectrum, I highly recommend this book.
When I preach the series on grace in May, I will suggest to our congregation that they get this book, read it, then pass it on to someone in their circle of influence.

Listen Carefully

I was reading Numbers 20 yesterday and I can't shake it from my brain. The Israelites are in the Desert of Zin. It's hot. It's the desert! The people complain against God that they should have stayed in Egypt because they are now going to die in the desert. God tells Moses to speak to a rock and water will come out of it for the whole community to drink. Moses and Aaron gather the people, Moses uses his staff to strike the rock, and the water comes gushing out. Problem solved. People happy.

God is now hot. God is angry with Moses and Aaron. Why? Moses used the staff and did not speak to the rock. It is so easy to miss this. For this reason, both Moses and Aaron will not be allowed to enter into the Promised Land. As a matter of fact Aaron will die before the end of the chapter.

Do you see what is going on here? When God speaks, when God tells us His will, His expectation is that we will listen carefully and follow perfectly. I cannot tell you how many times I listened to God, fast forwarded to the end result, and then made my own plans on how to get there. That's what Moses did. The voices of the Israelites were ringing in his ears as God spoke with the solution to the problem. He didn't follow God's exact command. The fallout was not good.

I wonder how many times do we hear from God, understand what God wants, but we make decisions on how we think it should be done instead of continuing to listen for how God wants it done. This challenges me to be all the more sure I am listening carefully, that I am developing my relationship with God more intentionally, and not hurrying off to do things my way.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Book #5 - Linchpin

When Seth Godin writes a book, I buy it. As soon as I heard Linchpin: Are You Indispensable? was released I went to the book store to buy it. I'm telling you, I was not disappointed. It was what I expected and more.
We really are in a new day and what you bring to your day, whether it is at work, home, school, wherever - you can add tremendous value. A linchpin is someone who invents, leads, connects to and with others, they just plain make things happen. The speed that a Linchpin lives is very different from everyone else around them. They are truly indispensable.
This book inspired me, it convicted me, it reminded me of dreams I once had about how I wanted to contribute to making everyone around me better. I asked myself time and time again, what if we had more Linchpins in our church, in our conference, in our country, in our world - what would be the result?
I know I want to be a Linchpin - I am called and gifted to be one. Are you?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I have been thinking about forgiveness a lot lately. Pastor Dave preached an incredible message this past weekend about it. Tiger Woods stood before the world and for about 13 minutes asked for forgiveness. Because Friday is my day off I was able to watch and listen to the TV announcers talk about what they thought would happen and should happen in Tiger's statement.

As I listened to people on a variety of stations, from ESPN to CNN to Fox News, I was surprised at how much they wanted to define repentance and forgiveness. It was as if they were chained up to the belief that Tiger was perfect and he really hurt them by his actions. They wanted him to say to them exactly what they wanted to hear.

As I listened, I began to ask myself, is saying, "I'm sorry" and genuinely meaning it no longer sufficient? Is the act of repentance no longer adequate in the eyes of today's society?

I realize that when someone asks for forgiveness, we have the power to grant it or not. I wonder if the pull of that power is greater than the act of releasing the person.

I listened to Tiger's speech. I thought it was good. I didn't think he owed me an apology, but I appreciated the act as a recognition of what he did was wrong. He does have influence over millions of people.

As I listened I heard the still, small voice of God remind me that I am a forgiven sinner. I am able to forgive because I have been forgiven of so much by my heavenly Father. I am a receiver of grace, more than I can even imagine.

Then later as the news casters of all of those stations re-capped the Tiger Woods' story, I began to hear something that totally blew me away. People started saying that he didn't do enough. He didn't show enough emotion. He didn't say the right words. He didn't apologize to all the different groups of people he needed to apologize to. It was at that moment I decided not to watch any more. I couldn't take it any more.

I know I am not perfect - far from it. I hope and pray that when I wrong someone and ask for forgiveness they will grant it. I hope and pray that when someone wrongs me and asks for forgiveness that I will grant it - no strings attached. And as Pastor Dave reminded us this past weekend, I hope and pray that I will give forgiveness before it is even asked of me because then I am truly free.

As I listened to the reporting of the Tiger Woods' story, I wonder, how many of them are truly free? Are you?

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Haiti - Getting Skin in the Game

If you were not in worship this past weekend you missed seeing an incredibly large pile of health kits on the stage at Charter Oak Church. By the end of the day, we boxed up 2,104 health kits to be shipped to Haiti. I can't believe I only challenged our congregation to bring in one per person! I guess I showed my lack of faith. God really showed me a thing or two about what He can do through His people! By taking the time to put these health kits together, you were able to get skin in the game. I believe it is all to easy to just send money, which of course we are doing. But I don't ever want us to pay, pray, and get out of the way.

When you and your family went shopping and driving all over Westmoreland County to find the items, it took time. It gave you the opportunity to talk with your family about why you were doing what you were doing. The Old Testament started as an oral tradition - they told stories about their faith. They told stories about God. They told stories of faithfulness and disobedience to remind them that what they did and said mattered to God. As you talked about purchasing the health kit items you were walking in the footprints of our historical roots.

Here's something else that happened, you were given the opportunity to tell others why you were doing what you were doing. Some people have shared stories of telling store employees and managers why we were doing this. Others have told stories of people who don't attend our church, but as you told them what you were doing, they wanted to get involved.

I love the story of the St. Vincent College swim team putting over 200 health kits together. I love the story of the Mt. View Elementary School 3rd graders putting together over 100. I am blown away by the boys' correctional unit that put together over 50 kits and prayed over each one of them before bringing them over to the church on Sunday afternoon. I love the story of a business man who invited the people he worked with to join him in this work and they put together 20 health kits. I know there are so many, many more of these stories that you personally experienced as you got involved in the work of God to bring hope to the people of Haiti.

I pray that this will not just be a one and done deal for you. I hope that you will realize that God wants to work in you and through you in very real and tangible ways - sometimes in Haiti and other times in your Circle of Influence. As you lean into the power of the Holy Spirit you will get to know His voice and promptings and will see God at work in more and more ways all around you everyday.

What a great start to the New Year! Keep praying, keep looking to God for direction, and I will see you in worship this weekend!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Book #4 - The Dip

I am inspired and challenged by Seth Godin. I try to read something by him everyday - his blog or blogs, or one of his books. His books are always short and to the point. He doesn't play games, and more often than not, kicks you in the teeth because most people know what he is saying to be true, but aren't willing to pay the price themselves.
This is so true about The Dip:A Little Book that Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick). Most people give up too soon. They quit when they are going through the tough times - the Dip. If they would persevere through that Dip knowing that they will be the very best, then the payoff would be huge. The flip side to that is that many people, perhaps more than those who quit too soon, just stay in the Dip because it is just easier to do so than to quit and focus on something they can be the best at. They are stuck in the Dip and will never get through it because they won't ever be the best at what they are working on.
Seth Godin helps to sift through those decisions. He asks hard hitting questions about quitting too soon and staying too long. Do you really believe you can be the absolute best at something? Will you pay the price? Will you stop doing everything else in order to work through the Dip and be the best?
If you have a Barnes and Noble Nook, let me know and I will be happy to "share" this book with you.

Book #3 - Training Camp

I recently ordered a bunch of books using gift cards from Christmas. One of the books I picked up was Jon Gordon's latest fable about excellence - Training Camp: What the Best Do Better than Everyone Else. It was a very easy read, but was able to teach 11 great principals of excellence in the context of a story.
Most people and in my opinion, most churches, don't want to be great. It is just easier to settle. It takes great effort and intentionality to be great. I believe the church is God's and He will build His church. But I also know there are tons of ways to prevent that from happening.
Training Camp is a great book to make sure that leaders and pastors are doing what is their responsibility in developing themselves, their people, and God's church. Don't go for mediocrity, God deserves so much better and so do His people and the people who need Him.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Book #2 - Making Vision Stick

My staff gave me the Barnes and Noble e-reader - Nook for Christmas. The first book I downloaded on it was Andy Stanley's Making Vision Stick. I wanted to read it because I was putting together my vision message for 2010 and beyond for the people of Charter Oak Church. It was a huge help!

I love this line from Andy, "When it comes to making your vision stick, here is the most important thing to remember: you are responsible." As I was reading this book this point really hit home and I began to look at all of the different places and times that I could be and should be casting vision. It's true for all of us in leadership positions.

After getting this idea that we are responsible for making the vision stick then you can drill down into the five main points of the book:
  1. State the vision simply.
  2. Cast the vision convincingly.
  3. Repeat the vision regularly.
  4. Celebrate the vision systematically.
  5. Embrace the vision personally.

This was a great book. It is very short so it can be read quickly and often. I am guessing that I will read through this book on a monthly basis.