Run4TheChildren

At 30 years of age, and after 5 years of unhealthy physical decline, I decided to start running.  That was 5 years ago.  I have since done many triathlons, 1 marathon, and several 5 K's.  Not quite Forest Gump, but I do love running.  I love being active, and I love punishing my body to make myself stronger/faster.  I love how I feel when I am in a season of good health.  Everything seems to go better for me.  I sleep better, eat better, feel better, and weigh less.  And...I think people can see that on my face.  Running works for me.  Does it work for you? Last summer, about the time Vanessa and I sent our first payment to America World Adoption Agency to adopt Samuel from Ethiopia, we also started a Bible Study group called 1:17; named after Isaiah 1:17.  At first, we were just like minded individuals of the same heart, with the same dreams - to make this world a better place for the 163 million orphans in the world.

It was at 1 of these meetings in the early Fall of 2010 that Dr. Scott Balin of The Wellness Center (who has hosted our group) said he had an idea for a fund raiser for adoptions.  Run4TheChildren.  He said it so quietly, so uncertainly.  But I think in his mind, he knew this was going to take off.  Immediately I knew this idea was going to take off.  What a great idea!  A 4 mile run for kiddos, actually raising money for adoption.  Who wouldn't get behind that?

Well, Scott and I started dreaming, building websites, recruiting sponsors, putting it all together.  

Scott has some great connections in the community.  Our list of sponsors grew and grew, as did our list of registrants.  Oh my goodness the buzz in Katy, Tx. was ALIVE with Run4TheChildren.  This was actually going to happen.  The 1:17 people have been amazing.  Gathering to stuff packets, and help us stay organized.  Thanks to Suzanne Box!

Yesterday was Packet Pickup at Luke's Locker.  So many people we didn't recognize came.  The word had gotten out!  400 people registered at this point.

Thousands would be raised for actual adoptions.  Glory to God.  I am amazed.

Well, here we are 1 day away from the first annual Run4TheChildren.  Already, I am a little misty eyed to know that it's finally here, and all of our hard work is about to pay off.

I think about the kids who will ultimately benefit from this race...they can't get here soon enough.  And, though international adoption is anything but easy, and normal, real strides are being made to make it a reality.

There is a little rumbling underneath it all, and I don't think it's stress.  That's normal.  I think what is happening is that we are making inroads on the kingdom of darkness, and a massive 1 million watt LED is being shined into the dark places.  I think that is shaking the earth and I love it.

Oh, how the Kingdom of God can grow when people that love the Lord, come together for the same purpose.  Through HIS strength, so much can be accomplished.  Stay tuned for pics from the actual event.  I am stoked!

 

 

Outrage.

When I first read the email, I was outraged.  Seriously upset.  Furious is probably a good word for me to use. See...I live in a VERY affluent area.  When I look around me, I see wealth and abundance.  I see Hummers and UGG's and manicured lawns and esplanades.  It's beautiful where I live.  There is plenty to go around.

And many in my neighborhood want to keep it all for themselves.

Now...I remember a time in my life where I felt the same way.  I felt the poor got what they deserved, and by my hard work, I earned what I have.  I wanted to get far away from poverty and disease for fear of what it would mean for my family.

Did you see that?  Fear drove that attitude in me.  John told us that, "perfect love, casts out fear."  (1 John 4:18)

My outrage turned to sadness.  Sadness that so many people are so fearful that their beloved property value will be brought down and that crime will go up.   600 people have signed this petition so far, and they are hoping to get 1200 more to sign it.

I sent an email to my neighbors today asking them to reconsider.  Many of my neighbors call themselves Christians, so I am using Scripture to appeal to them.

Matthew 25 says that whatever we do for the least of these we also do for Jesus.  We don't allow poor people in our neighborhood, we don't allow Jesus in our neighborhood.  Mother Teresa said, and she lived in the squalor of Calcutta, "that the poor were Jesus in His most distressing disguise".  In fact, do a google search for Mother Teresa quotes and then read what she wrote about love, and giving, and poverty.  It will break. your. heart.

Jesus taught us this very thing in Matthew 25.  Have you read it lately?  What does this mean for YOU?

Then I read in 1 John where we encouraged NOT to love in words and speech, but in actions and truth.

"I would rather make mistakes in kindness and compassion than work miracles in unkindness and hardness." - Mother Teresa.

Staff Retreat Week

The very title of this gives me a little apprehension, if I'm honest. Staff Retreat. Staph Retreat.

For me, the apprehension comes because my  schedule is getting hijacked for a few days.  In fact, yesterday afternoon I sat down with my computer, phone and Bible, and began to work on the Podcast from yesterday's services.  Most of the time I begin staff meeting trying to eek out some of the things that MUST get done.

Then...the gentle voice asking us all, "to unplug from technology during this time...to breathe, and breathe deeply of this time".

Serious?  Was that comment directed at me?

Yes.

But I don't want to.  I'm almost done exporting, can we start 10 minutes late?  I humbly shut my laptop, frustrated and try focus in.  It takes awhile, but eventually I begin to breathe deep of the moment.  "God, if I can't get anything done that I want to get done, then....help me accept that". My prayer sounds like this at this moment.

Then something happens, and God begins to work.  As we discuss, and open up, and spend time in the Word, and...breathe, God does amazing things.  The first of which, is setting my heart at ease.  And my prayer changes.  "God, if I can't can't get anything done that I want to get done, let it be because I am getting things done that YOU want me to get done".

Funny things happen when you open yourself up to that.  Heart change, and crystal clarity.  A mighty slamming on the brakes that kinda jars everything in my life.  Like, everything that wasn't fastened tight, goes crashing to the floor, and God slowly begins to rebuild.  This is what Staff Retreat becomes for me.  A necessary HALT!  Refocus, redirection, recommitment.  And for this, I become so grateful for.

In addition, there are somethings that are benefits to this kind of schedule hijacking.  This forces me to consider ONLY that which is necessary for Sunday morning to happen.  Everything else falls to the cutting room floor.  It can wait.

I am looking forward to day 2 of our Staycation version of Staff Retreat.  Yes...we are staying in town spending each night at home with the family.  Good stewardship driving that decision.

Today, we are meeting at a very cool room at Westland Baptist Church.  I'll post pictures later.

So...can you relate to this apprehension?  Does it ever get worked out?

New Music in the making

http://vimeo.com/20685111 Some of you know, other's do not, but I am in a band called Forlorn Hope.   And...this video shows something that I get really excited about. There is nothing better (aside from an Americano at my favorite coffee shop) than having something come together out of nowhere.  I can't wait to finish writing this.  This will be song #3 of our 2nd album.  (First album isn't even released yet).  Soon...very soon.

Anyways.  Hope you enjoy this little ditty.

Re:Create Day 3

Well, I hope I haven't forgotten too much to do this day justice.  I have been busy this week, so making time to put together a thoughtful blog has been hard.  I think this accurately describes my condition. In actuality, I have been REALLY waiting for the notes of Randy Elrod's talk on Empathy.  Anyone got them?  I did order the DVD so hopefully that will come soon.  However, I felt the need to just share about this with you all, sooner than later...before everyone forgot about Recreate 11.  If that is even possible.

The day started off with an interview with Ed Kowalczyk, of LIVE.  Randy Elrod did a fantastic job of interviewing Ed.  I was taken back by Ed's honesty, and accessibility to us recreators.  Thankful in fact.  All week long, Ed (this stadium packing rock star) hung out with us.  Later at night of Day 3 we all gathered in the lobby of our hotel and hung out due to the massive amounts of snow that dropped on Nashville.   Ed was there.  Just chilling out.   I snapped this picture, trying to be discrete.  I sure didn't want everyone in the room to know how geeked out I really was.

But...back up, because earlier that day I had my world rock, once again.  Randy Elrod spoke to us creatives from a position of, "I get you", "I have been there", "I know that it's not easy", "but this is a safe place for you".  Well, he had me at hello.

Randy asked the question: Who are we?  Who are you?  Really?

Are we flesh that are spiritual beings?  Or, are we spiritual beings that are flesh?  Or is it both?

At the time, we were asked to write down 1 word that described us.  I shifted around, struggling to find that one word.  Because for me, I don't think I can boil it down to one word.  I have my hands in everything...ministry, fatherhood, worship, music, triathlon...what is that 1 word.

Then, I remembered something I recently read.  It was in my Pastor's dissertation on Folleadership.  The act of following Christ first, then leading from there.  I read in there that very few people in leadership will describe themselves as "follower".  For me, that's what I want people to see in me.  I am a follower of Christ.  First and foremost.  So...that was my 1 word.

Randy went on to describe a few foundation aspects of a creative.  The first of which was empathy.  It was during this talk that Randy started really "ping-ing" me.  Pinging...like what IT troubleshooters do to see if they can "see" your device through a network.  He "pinged" me, like no one has ever pinged me before.  I found out I was a "Compassionate Creative".  It really helped me answer a question I had about myself.  "Why could I not sing this song? "

"Eyes full of compassion, seeing every pain.  Knowing what you're going through, and feeling the same.  Just like my Father's eyes'."  This lyric was on the screen during Randy's talk.  This really explains my heart.  When it all get's too much for me...I guess that's when I break down.  For me, I process this kinda stuff through writing music.  Someone asked me, "why are your band photos so depressing looking?".  My answer, "have you listened to our music?".

It's not that our music is so depressing, it's just I am not apt to write music/lyrics when life is peachy.  Can anyone relate?  I know most of you recreators can.  We are cut from the same cloth.  Part of the same tribe.

Anyways.  The day went on.  We met with our breakout groups, and had a wonderful discussion time.  Great lunch, then Ken Davis.  Ken's talk was challenging, moving, and transforming for me.

"Love = Pain.  Living = Pain."  But we must live, and live fully.

"Do what you do to LIVE, not for a LIVING."

"The opposite of discipline is death".  "Fail quickly, get it over with".  "Courage is not the absence of fear, it's moving forward in the face of fear".  Ken describe a few episodes in his own life, about how he realized that to live, meant enduring hardship and pain, but that the journey forward would be full of amazing gifts, and beautiful experiences.

As artists, and creatives.  We know this.  But after unpacking Randy's talk on "feeling that leads to doing" - compassionate empathy, and realizing that we are going to feel hurt and pain in this world, hearing Ken's talk created a little tension in me.

I was thinking..."so, can I just insulate myself from the pain and darkness in this life, so that I don't feel so deeply?"  Ken answered this question with a resounding "NO".

I love to live life fully alive, fully awake.  I love experiences, more than physical gifts (although those are quite nice).  I live spontaneously, and I am really grateful for that.  I need to keep doing that, it's how I live fully alive.

So...lot's of soul searching during day 3.  Then, in the evening because of all the snow in Nahsville (as I mentioned before) we really got a chance to visit with one another and get to know each other in a deeper way.  I loved closing down the night like this.  Had a great time with Rich Kirkpatrick, Joe Day, and Chuck Harris, Joel Bowden, Phillip Rodgers, and Orhan Celebi.  Playing tunes, and just hanging out.  The end of day 3.

Declaring Chapter 11

My Pastor says something quite often.  "You are only as sick as your secrets." He first used that phrase to illustrate a parenting point to me.  I then used it on my kids, encouraging them to be honest about stuff.  They haven't gotten it yet.  Who am I kidding, it took forever for me to get it.  Each time I hear this phrase, it's beneficial for me.  Why?  Because I have a short-term-memory-loss.  I remember the words, but I need a reminder of their impact in my life. You know...1 John 1:5-10 describes it well.

Seth Godin gets this too, he just calls it something else.  "Declaring bankruptcy, Chapter 11 style."

When we walk in the light, we give up the impossibility of "sin management".  We give up control.  We walk in freedom, openness, honesty, truthfulness.  People will appreciate you more, and see that you are seeking authenticity in life.  People love that.  They might not know what makes you different, but they can sure sense it.

In addition, 1 John says that the chief benefit of living like this, is:  "..He will forgive us our sins, and purify us from all unrighteousness."  Sounds pretty good.

"Sin Management" will make you sick, it will destroy you.  You are only as sick as your secrets.

There is such freedom when you "Declare Chapter 11" in your life.  What are you waiting for?

Pain. Not so fun.

Friday night, the family and I were at some friends house celebrating their last weekend in the states before leaving for Banda Aceh, Indonesia.  This couple, from our church has worked as NGO Macaroni's for a year, and is going back for another.  They love the Indonesian people, and they themselves are living the radical life. We were enjoying their last taste of authentic Tex-Mex (Lupe Tortilla catered).  I was lost in my beef fajita, when I heard my middle child scream a blood curdling scream.  You parent's know by the intensity of your child's cry, when they are in pain.  I ran to the trampoline to find my precious Bailey rolling around in agony.  I scooped her up, and carried her inside.  Rolled ankle.  Intense pain.  Not fun.  

After a weekend of walking around on crutches, her underarms hurt.  Then, to top it off today Vanessa performed minor surgery without anesthesia on a small boil.

Poor little girl.

Isn't it so not fun to see your children going through such awful pain.  It kind of breaks my heart.  You can connect the dots and make a wonderful sermon illustration.

I cannot.  I must go wrap her ankle back up.

Hope your Sunday was packed full of amazing truth, and worship.  At my church, Sissy Holder and Lori Romain sang two beautiful tunes.  I was blessed, and Christ was worshipped.  What better way to spend Sunday morning.

Re:Create Day 2

I woke up early on day 2 for I had heard so much about Meridees, and was pretty stoked about experiencing it for myself.  Wow...what a great vibe for a breakfast place, right in downtown Franklin.  I can picture my group of guys hanging out there for fellowship and pancakes.  Alas, the Public House will have to do.   PCPN-Post Church Pint Night.  You can find me there most Wednesday nights with my good friends.

Back to Re:Create.

Several things struck me about Tuesday, the first of which was the fiery and vivacious Patsy Clairmont.  Whoa.

Mrs. Patsy had so much truth and conviction in her talk.  My key takeaways:

1 - We must be committed to the journey of sanctification in our lives. What I mean is this.  When you picture the best you, that you can picture...when you are operating in your giftedness, and know that you are doing what God has called you to;  and then picture the worst you, that you can picture.  This was not hard for me for I am keenly aware of my depravity.  But the great CHASM that exists between these two mental pictures. THIS IS MY JOURNEY.  This is what I am called to.  To be committed to that journey.  She put it so eloquently.  I am not sure I did any justice to it.

2 - We must have a pool of peeps to speak truth into our lives. I have invited Vanessa to do this for me.  But I need others.  The hard part about this is pushing against my natural desire to defend myself.  This is a wonderful exercise and really helps me to grow in so many ways.  We all have blind spots.  Other people see them.  Will you be brave enough to ask them to point them out?  It's risky.  But therein is the crux of living.  "Mercy and Redemption - That's God's business."  Open up and let Him work.

I love what she said.  "Above all, trust in the slow work of God."  Such truth, and such opposition it stands to the instant gratification culture that we are immersed in.  The slow work.   Eugene Peterson wrote a book that I read called "A Long Obedience in the Same Direction".  Much of the same message.  And I need this reminder daily.  The slow work of God.

After lunch Thomas Nelson publishers surprised us with free stuff!!  Plus an interview with Andrew Kalavan, Joel Miller, and David Teems; three authors on their roster.  Patsy Clairmont did a wonderful job with the interview.

What came next was something that took me by total surprise, brought me back to my childhood, and was profoundly moving in my life.  My family did a stint in the Catholic church for about 3 years in Elementary School,  so I vaguely remember liturgical services.  I had never, never, never experienced a service like this.  Pastor Dan led us in the Eucharist, a 1 hour service of response, reflection and communion.  I love intinction style communion because of the personal nature of it.  My name is John: The body, and the blood for you John.  Powerful.

Next up 1211 blew us away with an amazing worship set. I loved seeing them as they worshipped, watching their faces as they created together, this gift for God.  It was inclusive; we sat right next to them.  And actually took part in this gift of worship.

Funny, I have never seen a worship band led by the drummer.  Ramy did a wonderful job with this group of musicians and as I got to know him and people on his team, he no doubt has the heart of a Pastor.  What an honor to get to know him and his crew.

55 South Chicken and Sausage gumbo for lunch that day by the way, and OH. MY.  So good.

Tuesday night, was one for the record books.  Live, the band, for the most part, rocked re:create.

Ed Kowalczyk, now a professing Christian, sang the oldies, and many off his new record, aptly named "Alive".   "Selling the Drama"...yes.  "I Alone"...yes.  "Lightning Crashes"...yes.

After the show, us music snobs gathered outside the venue and recanted all of our musical memories from the 90's.  Live had a big part in my musical upbringing.

Randy...great choice.  Thank you for spoiling us re:creators and for building into us and opening up the conference with a fantastic first full day.  By this time of the conference, I had begun to make plans for 2012, and already began to feel sad about leaving Franklin.  The day would come, and I'd be back in my normal surroundings, would anything be different?

Re:Create Day 1

Knots in my stomach as we approached the airport in Houston.  Would these people get me? Would I fit in?  Was I going to make a fool out of myself? (I assumed the answer was "yes" given who I am)  Would I make any real connections, and would this trip prove worthy? I was pretty sure it was going to be a last minute run through the airport, as well.  Luckily, and unluckily, my flight was delayed.  I was flying standbye, with my guitar so overhead space was going to be limited by the time I got on board.  Luckily, I found space and after a 1.5 hour delay I was on the way. We landed in snowy Nashville around 4:30 (the beginning of re:create was a mixer that went from 4-6)  I took a cab and got to the hotel around 5:30pm. The room was buzzing with people everywhere.  I knew only 1 person and hadn't spotted him yet.  And...I am an introvert.  Not really good at meeting new people, and it seemed that most of these people already knew one another.  Not good for me.  Add to that, I left my phone in the cab and he was long gone.

By this time, I was a wreck.  Stressed from the travel, from losing my phone, and being forced to mix it up with all these new people.  Thankfully, I saw @Chuckazooloo, and he showed me around.  Really, he showed me around/drove me around and introduced me all week.

Thank you Chuck.  (Here he is) You are so selfless, and a great friend.

I met some new folks, we chatted a bit, and then headed to Clearview Baptist in Franklin, TN where Word (The Record Label) was hosting us that night.

Up first.  Amazing food.  See, Randy Elrod is passionate about food.  I already liked him.  Little did I know, this week would include wonderful food for every meal.  We ate some delectable Mexican food, and homemade popsicles.  Pure goodness.  Now, for the entertainment.

Jason Castro (of American Idol fame) was first.  He played a few songs, the mix wasn't great.  Then, Patrick Ryan Clark a Worship Leader at Watermark Church in Dallas, Tx.  Both guys were really kind, and humble on stage.  I loved hearing their songs.

But, to close out the night, Chris August played.  I was really impressed.  The mix was much better, and he was playing the same guitar I play.  (Anderson Crowdster Plus).  What an amazing guitar.  But, the thing that was great about Chris was WHO he was.  He was relaxed amid the awkward beginning in which his guitar wasn't working.  He was funny, honest, and had a voice reminiscent of Gavin Degraw.  Here's a clip of my favorite song that night called 7x70.

http://www.vimeo.com/19971936

We left there, and went to The Bunganut Pig (our hang out for the week) for some great conversation.  So good.  Great time further getting to know these other re:creators.

I went to bed knowing that I was in the right spot.  These people, they were of my tribe.  Hope this week would yield some solid connections.  It did NOT disappoint.  Stay tuned.  Many good thoughts on tap tomorrow, for Day 2.

White Space

So much talk in my life in the last few months has been about MARGIN.  Creating margin in our services (room for the Holy Spirit to move), creating margin in our budget (room for the unexpected) as well as margin in my calendar.  For the most part, that has worked, and you know what, when you plan for the unexpected, your day/week/service/budget doesn't get hijacked.  For the most part, we Americans pack as much into our day as we can possibly eek out.  And, then when it doesn't get done, we're disappointed by it.  I am guilty.  I have learned this lesson the hard way, no doubt. But occasionally, a week comes that is packed with meetings.  Very little white space, very little time to knock out the to-do list.

So, my prayers this morning are intentional.  I WILL stay grounded, and not let my stress level impact my relationships.

I love making time in the morning to spend praying for the day/week/budget in my life.  That's margin, and the benefit of it.

Naturally, looking at this week, and then trying to catch up from being gone for a week, my Re:Create 2011 review might take a bit longer.

Hang in there.

It's coming, and it will be SO worth it.  Well, I hope so.

John

New Face, New Place, Recreate.

I just got back from snowy Nashville, TN.  I was there for the re:create 2011 conference for Worship Leaders and Creative Types.  It was nothing short of life-changing. I will share more in the next few days, post video and give a review.  If you are  a worship leader, I highly recommend you go next year.  You can register at  www.recreateconference.com

I leave you with the landscape of snowy Nashville as my 737 touched down on the first day of one of the greatest weeks of my life.

Stay tuned.

John