Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Good Start

The other day I got a call from a friend that a property he and I have an ownership interest in was in need of attention. So I decided I'd grab my trusty sling blade (more appropriately called a "double edged weed cutter"). I figured I'd take a few swings at it - it was just a small area so it shouldn't be too much trouble, right?

Truth be known, I'm not an outdoorsy kind of guy. I spend most of my life indoors, often at a desk, looking at a computer screen, reading, on the phone, visiting, studying, etc. But still, it's just a small plot of ground. How hard can it be?

Did I mention we're going through a heat wave? Did I mention the weeds were over 3 feet tall? Did I mention I'm not an outdoorsy kind of guy? Did I mention I'm a wimp? It was hot! And the weeds fought back! They really did!

I had tightened up a couple of the screws on the sling blade that were loose and got with it. Not long into my work one of the screws (that I hadn't tightened up because it was really rusty) broke, leaving me with a crippled tool. So it was off to Ace Hardware to pick up a replacement bolt, nut, washers, etc. (To be honest, I didn't mind the break! [G])

After putting it back together again I went back to work. I had started out at a pretty good clip, but it didn't take long until I wasn't swinging as hard as I was when I started. Then I found myself taking an occasional break. Then my breaks became more frequent. I actually considered quitting at one point when I got dizzy and couldn't see straight. But I only had a few feet left to go at that point so I finished it off.

Finished. What a great word! In these days of 100+ degree temperatures with the heat index hovering around 110, I was glad to be through. But I finished! It wasn't a "finished" job in the sense of being finely trimmed. It definitely needs a lawnmower to get in there and chop it up good and give it that freshly-cut look. But we couldn't get the lawnmower in there until the tall grass was cut down.

Hopefully the before and after pictures give a little perspective to what took place. It needed to be done. It had to be done. The thing that kept it from being done was getting started.

As I think about that I realize there are a lot of projects in my life that need to be done. That have to be done. And the thing that keeps me from doing them is getting started. Too many times I get caught up in thinking it has to be done perfectly. Or it has to have that "freshly-cut look" when I get through, so I procrastinate, I hold off. And because I never get started, it never gets done. The point to me is to get started!

Here's a practical example - last year I lost over 60 pounds. It was a great accomplishment for me personally. But lately I've been slipping back into some old habits and I've let about 20 of those pounds slip right back on me. It was easy to justify - vacation, mission trip, schedule, etc. And then it seemed like the weeds just got so high. What I needed was a good start. I can't loose all 20 pounds right away. And I can't "not start" just because I can't finish it quickly or give it the "freshly-cut look". But I need to get a good start. I need to start.

And that's what I've done. I started. I've lost 3 pounds so far simply by starting. I made up my mind I was going to do this. I know it's going to be hard, the weeds are going to be high, I might have to run to Ace Hardware to retool, I'm going to want to quit. But I'm starting. And this post is more about accountability and reminding myself of what it takes to get to the goal. I'll never reach the finish line if I never leave the starting line. So I'm starting. And it's a good start. Anybody want to join me?


Tuesday, July 22, 2008


"So just what is Christian Challenge?" That question gets asked a lot! People often confuse us with the Youth Challenge program administered by the LA National Guard, possibly because we're in the same city as Camp Beauregard. (Whew, that's a lot of links in one sentence!) Others sometimes confuse us with Teen Challenge, a nation-wide ministry to those struggling with "life controlling habits." (Their story is told in the intriguing book "The Cross and the Switchblade.")

CCI-101However, Christian Challenge is not connected to either of these excellent organizations (although reading "The Cross and the Switchblade" did have a faith influence on my father.) But Christian Challenge is not just a church either, although we definitely are a community of believers. We worship together, build relationships together, serve the purposes of the Kingdom of God together. But we're not just a church in the traditional sense. We place great emphasis on introducing the believer into the world of the disciple.

This past Sunday afternoon I had the opportunity to lead a group of people through a new document we've developed to help newcomers get a feel for the ministry. The session is called "CCI 101" and we give out a 16 page booklet that contains a lot of information: history, purpose, beliefs, leadership, uniquenesses, how to plug in, etc. I want to highlight one section from the booklet - the section on Purpose:


Christian Challenge exists to make disciples. In the Great Commission Jesus left one command: “Make Disciples!” Everything else was extra … going, teaching, baptizing … all of these things were the background, the processes, but the command was to make disciples.

What is a disciple? The dictionary defines a disciple as “one who accepts and assists in spreading the doctrines of another” or “a convinced adherent of a school or individual”. These definitions speak well enough, but we define a disciple as a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ who loves Him and wants to be like Him. A disciple is one who is implementing the three core actions of Christian Challenge:

  • Love God (Worship)
  • Love Others (Fellowship)
  • Serve the World (Evangelism)
All of the ministries of Christian Challenge revolve around these three core motivations. This is what a disciple does. This is what a disciple IS.

There you have it. That's what Christian Challenge is all about. I'm excited and honored to get to serve such a wonderful group of believers who truly want to make an impact on our world. I've shared with our staff that although we can't change the world, we can change the world of the people around us. Thanks, Christian Challenge, for being that kind of people. Truly...

I LOVE serving Jesus with YOU!

P.S. Anybody know what the "I" in "CCI" stands for? Do you know what it stood for before it stands for what it stands for now? Take "CCI-101" next time we offer it and you'll find out!!! [G] If you know what it is, leave me a comment!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mexico Mission report

Howdy all!

Well, we're back! Our team returned from Mexico on Saturday, tired but excited. It was a great week of work, connection, relationships, worship, friendship, tears and joy. It rained on the team the first few days so they weren't able to do as much work as they had hoped, but they got a lot accomplished, including scraping the old stucco off the sides of the chapel, sorting and washing a TON of clothes for the children and setting up a computer lab. Here's a brief slideshow to give you a feel for the trip:

The hardest part of the trip, for me personally, was leaving Joy, our oldest daughter, at the orphanage. I didn't know it would be this hard! But at the same time, I'm INCREDIBLY proud of her for having the desire to serve. She used her graduation money to pay for her stay at the children's home and even helped pay for another of the students to be able to go on the trip. To say I'm proud of her is an understatement!

I'm also excited that she will have the opportunity to improve on her Spanish speaking. Since she was born in Mexico when Lori and I were missionaries she has the unique status of holding dual-citizenship. She has two birth certificates and two passports. And she is improving on her second language! (Third, if you count "txting"! )

We're keeping up with her as best we can. She does have a MySpace account and we're able to text message and email. She can also get an occasional cell phone signal, if she stands in the right place and the winds are just right! The orphanage will be getting a telephone soon so we hope to be able to hear her voice from time to time. (Can you tell I miss her?) In the meantime, I sure would appreciate any prayers you'd like to offer on her behalf! Until next time!


UPDATE: If you'd like to contact her, here is how you do it:

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

All Things Work Together!

I love it when God's plan comes together! I flew out of Alexandria this morning to meet up with our Mexico mission team. I had a 4-hour layover on Dallas but when I got here I noticed the 9:05 flight was delayed. So I sauntered over to the counter to see if I could get bumped onto this flight. As you can see from the picture, I got on! (My name shows up as MAR/N, third down in the first column.)

So instead of a 4-hour delay, I'm boarding now and will arrive almost 2 hours before my original flight was scheduled to leave! Won't my wife be happily surprised!!! I've made arrangements to be picked up, and it actually works out better for Mark Russell, the orphanage director. I *love* it when *God's* plan comes together!

Now I just have to remember that the next time *my* flight is delayed, or there's some deviation from *my* schedule, that perhaps the Lord is working *His* plan. And that's a good thing!

Adios for now!
Sent from my Treo(r) smartphone

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Dirt Moving Machines!

They say that boys never grow up, their toys just get more expensive. What boy doesn't like to play in dirt? These guys got to grow up and live a dream - using big toys to play in dirt all day long ... and get paid for it!!!

This picture is of a dozer working in the drainage retention area where the new Lowes is being built in Pineville. (Where the "old" Walmart was in the King's Country Shopping Center.) But really it's just an excuse for me to test my ability to blog from my cellphone and include a picture! Here's hoping it came through!!!


Sent from my Treo(r) smartphone

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Oh How He Loves Us

Hello friends!

We had a great service this morning in spite of the fact that a good chunk of our people were off on the the mission trip to Mexico. (Can't wait to join y'all!) It was interesting that many who went on the trip were regular servants who left holes - we were missing worship team members, audio/video people, Sunday School teachers, video projector operators, hospitality team members and who knows what else! We filled the gaps with other great servants, but they were definitely missed! (It's great to serve with servants!)

During our service this morning I shared a message entitled "Before and After the Cross". (Hopefully it will be posted on our website soon.) I referenced the multitude of makeover programs out there today and talked about how the Cross is the Ultimate Makeover. I talked about our lives BEFORE the Cross (BC) and then the Transforming Power of the Cross that brings us to the After, which is where the Lord takes those things that were once shameful failures and makes them into powerful testimonies of His Grace! Our failures wind up like Jared's pants, testimonies to the transforming power of the cross, testimonies that give hope to others.

As part of the sermon I shared a powerful video from Hillside Christian Church in Amarillo, TX that was sent to me by a friend (Hi Janet!). This video is called "Cardboard Testimonies" and it has several people sharing their stories on a piece of cardboard, first the "Before", then the "After". Unfortunately our sound didn't work on the video (perhaps because of our missing audio/video team member! ) but we got to see the video with an improvised song. However, to make up for it, here's the video that you can enjoy for yourself:

Isn't that powerful?! What a tremendous testimony. The comments at the end were because the sermon was a part of Hillside's stewardship campaign called "Whose life will you impact NEXT?" BTW, I read on another site that the lady who was diagnosed with MS is actually the pastor's wife. What an impactful statement she made when she said seeing her unchurched neurologist come to faith in Jesus was "Worth It!" (Around the 3 minute mark.)

BTW, the song that is being sung is entitled "Oh How He Loves Us" by
John Mark McMillan. I first heard it on another friend's blog (Hi Becky!). I found another YouTube video where he tells the story behind the song, how it was written, not as a worship song, but as a tribute to a friend who wanted to see the youth of America on fire for God, no matter the cost. Take a look at this video:

I hope it touches you as deeply as it touches me. There are some lyrics in there that some may find a little odd. But they are the passionate cry of a loved heart that is able to love back because it was first loved by Someone else. The words are powerful because they are simple just like the most powerful truths are the simplest ones. Perhaps you hear the echo of a child who was taught (and believed) the simple song:

Jesus loves me this I know
for the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong.
They are weak but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
Yes, Jesus loves me.
The Bible tells me so.

That's all you need to know. Really. That's all you need to know.


Saturday, July 05, 2008

An Odd Feeling....

Howdy all,

This morning something odd happened. We sent a mission group on a mission trip ... without me! I'll be joining them next week, but it was a very odd feeling to put them in the vans and then watch them drive off!

Nineteen people left this morning for a week at the Benito Juarez orphanage in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico. They will work on various construction projects in the mornings and just hang out with the kids in the afternoons and evenings. We've been doing this for several years with our youth. What's funny is this year of the twenty people who will be on the trip (including me), only nine are minors! We've got a lot of adults on this trip, more than normal.

One special thing about this trip is that my oldest daughter, Joy, will be staying at the orphanage when we return next week. She's going to be interning there for three months. Joy was born in Coaztacoalcos, Veracruz, Mexico when Lori and I were missionaries there. She has dual-citizenship, which is kind of cool. I'm really excited for her and proud of her. She has a huge heart of compassion and loves everything about Mexico. I think this will be a great experience for her. (And she's paying her own way, which is cool too! )

I'll be joining the group next week. The trip was originally scheduled for the end of July but got moved up to this week to fit several people's schedules. But we have a city council meeting on Tuesday and since I'm mayor pro temp, I have to be there to moderate as Mayor Fields will be out of town. So I will fly down on Wednesday morning. Which brings me to an interesting story.

Regular readers of this blog (all two of you!) will remember that last year I was blessed to make a trip around with world with Patrick Calhoun, president of Christians Sharing Christ Film Ministries. We literally flew around the world through Japan to the Philippines, then on to Nepal, India and Pakistan before returning across Europe to Chicago and back home. However, the very first leg of our flight from Alexandria to Dallas got cancelled due to weather. We ended up driving to Dallas and American Airlines gave us each a voucher for future travel. Here's where it gets interesting!

The voucher was for $238 for a flight from Alexandria to Dallas. When I checked on a one-way flight from Alexandria connecting through Dallas to McAllen, TX the fare was only $203! And on top of that, my voucher expired at midnight on July 9, the very day I needed to fly to McAllen! Isn't God good?!?! One year in advance He made preparations for this trip. You talk about "all things work together for good!" Sounds like a good note to end on! See you next time!


P.S. When I got my ticket in the mail, they only charged me $179, leaving me with a $59 voucher good through next year! God is winking! ;)