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Book Review – The Noticer

thenoticer“Come here son…come into the light”

Every once in a while (actually probably more often than that) I need a swift kick in the pants. I often live a life without the right perspective. I see only the things that I want to see without noticing more about the people around. After reading the Noticer, I felt like my eyes had been opened again to the world around me.

In The Noticer, Andy Andrews, paints a picture of an old man, Jones, who wanders in and out of a small, southern, beach town. The story begins with Jones meeting Andy, an orphaned twenty-three year old that is homeless, living under a local pier. Jones shares words with Andy about perspective that changes the course of Andy’s life forever. That begins one tale of many of how Jones changes his perspective for many people. Jones helps busienss people, married couples, young people and everyone in between.

This encouraging book brings home the importance of every moment of life, small things, big things, and everything in between. Jones crafts stories that bring great life. Jones is kind, gentle, tells the truth and isn’t afraid of stepping into peoples lives.

For any work I ask my self so what when I am done reading it. As I finished reading The Noticer, I was encouraged to do three things:

1. Make sure the people that I care about in life know it.
2. Make sure I am noticing the people in the world around me.
3. Encourage the people whose live I have influence in to care about those in their lives.

My only caution would be great ready to read for a while. Once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down again.

Keep moving forward,

Greg

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Childhood, Adulthood, and Everything in Between

kayakers1

I’m sitting on the dock at the lake. My nine year old daughter, Riley, and my 6 year old son, Seth, are kayaking in front of me in the high grass where the earth and water meet each other. They splash each other and their cousin, Emmet, who paddles next to them. Its an idyllic moment.

In the meantime, at the end of the dock, there are another dozen kids readying to go on an adventure in a boat. They banter back and forth as they wait for another cousin to run down from the house and get on board.

On the south side of the dock, there are 6 kids dipping in the cool lake while the warm sun shines on them. They play king of the mountain on a tube and see who can push the others off. They splash incessantly and let out yelps of joy each time one of them falls in. They are innocent and uninhibited.

Time stands still.

The boat engine breaks the sound of the waves lapping against the dock. The teenage kids pull away from the dock slowly. They turn the boat with skill and disappear around the bend. With no adults to hold them back their adventure is underway.

Five minutes later the kayakers are in the water swimming off the end of the dock. They do cannonballs and belly flops laughing at the sheer joy of jumping into the water. Their friends are here with them and they could swim and play for hours without a care in the world. Every once in a while a shivering kid runs by on his way to or from the shore.

Time stands still.

The adults meander down to the dock and back. Sitting for a while and talking. Reading and soaking in rays of sun. Drinking tea or coke or sipping a glass of wine or beer. They stop for a light lunch of sandwiches and chips. Then return to the the dock or sit on a boat or relax in chairs by the shore.

We share smalltalk with our neighbors and enjoy the peaceful setting together. We are just being.

Earth, sun, water, clouds. People. All together for this moment. It’s just a moment.

Time stands still.

I flash back to first time my oldest child, Caleb, ever swam in this lake. It seems strangely like a lifetime ago and yet also like a blink of an eye. I remember my own first days swimming in the lake and exploring it’s depths. Wading in shallow water looking for fish or casting a rod toward a promising hole.

That does seem like a lifetime ago.

Time doesn’t stand still. It marches on and we march on with it. Maybe Elise and I will be sitting on this dock in 10 years watching our grandchildren tiptoe into the water.

But for now we just enjoy this moment without expectation. We have no hurry and no worry. We just let the moment be.

I finish writing and slip into the water myself. I swim well out into the lake. When I turn around. From the lake looking back I see all of the faces and bodies. Some have shaped my life, some lives I shape. Children, adults, and everything in between.

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@grshortstop’s personal blog and why I like it

shortfamily

There are a lot of people who think that blogging is a self-absorbed, trendy fad that is going away soon. It might be. But here is why I like the trend: I get to still keep in touch with people that otherwise I would never know anything about.

For example check out this blog. Sarah was a kid in a youth group that I helped to lead back in the early ’90′s. I haven’t seen Sarah in probably at least 7 years. That is until last year. Then I saw Sara all the time. I didn’t see her in person. I saw her on Facebook. Then I saw her on Twitter. Then I saw her blog. As a result I have gotten to reconnect with Sarah and get to know about some of her life even though she lives halfway across the country with her husband and kids.

Here are just a few of the things that I know now:

  • Sarah is a great writer and blogs more consistently than anyone I know who has a personal blog. In fact she has written 575 posts in the last 2 years. That’s a lot of writing and she is good at it.
  • Sarah is a great cook and shares her talent with lots of people through her blog. I haven’t tried her recipes yet, but I have 3-4 that I am going to soon (the chicken piccata looks awesome).
  • Sarah has a great family and cares a ton about her kids and husband.
  • Sarah is real and authentic and writes about stuff that is really cool to read about.
  • Sarah has a deep and inspirational faith – that encourages me to think about my own faith and ask questions. I really appreciate that.

I could go on, but you get the point. Now get out there and find out about someone you care about, or share with people who care about you. It’s the new way the world works – if you want it to.

Keep moving forward,

Greg

p.s. I forgot a bullet that I should have included – she is a great photographer also!

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Time, glass gems, and kids

Jars on TableIn my consulting work, I often encourage visual people (you know who you are) to create images, symbols, or objects that represent something important to them and place them somewhere that they will clearly be on their mind often.

I was practicing a little preaching last week.

My oldest son, Caleb, will be driving on his own in just under a month. Teaching my oldest to drive and anticipating how quickly my time with him day to day is fading, I set up a tangible reminder of the time I have left with my kids. I bought 4 glass jars and filled each jar with a different color glass gem (Caleb – blue, Josh – orange, Riley – pink, and Seth – green). Each glass gem represents one week in their lives before they go to college. [yes I am assuming they will go to college...]caleb-with-jar2

Each week I take a gem out of each jar and throw it away in the trashcan. I was looking for a clear reminder for me about how short the time was that we have as a family.

The funny thing is that I am not afraid of the passage of time. I don’t sit around wishing that it would slow. I am happy for my children to move on to new and exciting areas of responsibility and ownership of their own lives. I don’t look at people with younger children and think, “I miss those days.”josh-and-gems3

At the same time I do like markers, placeholders, and things that force me to count things. In this, my one and only life, I won’t get time with my children back. I know on the other side of eternity I will have countless hours. On this side, my time is limited and finite. I want to make the most of every week.

Someday, Elise and I will be home alone wondering where days, weeks, months, and years went. I want to look back and realize we used the time as best we could. I am sure we will be thrown some loops and things that we won’t enjoy or expect. But I hope we will look back contented that we used the time well.riley-and-seth

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Good reasons not to invite friends to church

In February, our church brought in a consultant named Paul Borden to take a peak at how we were doing as a church. Borden recommended a number things to the leadership that needed to be addressed. Among the shortlist of the major issues were the following (this is my paraphrase not exactly what was said – I’ve never seen the real report):

  • We are ineffective at bringing people into the Kingdom of God (our church has grown but most of the growth is from people coming from a different church)
  • We don’t have an effective method of discipleship at our church
  • We don’t have an effective governance structure that closely supports and enables the mission to be accomplished.

In response to these three things, there has been a flurry of activity that has been added to an already packed church calendar. Some of this activity has been: topics of sermons, events for the community, committees that have been formed, etc. I doubt most of what we are trying will have a much of an effect.

I love the church that I attend, and there are some towering strengths that it has. But on these things we miss the mark and are likely to continue to do so. Unfortunately, the first two represent the mission of God on this earth entirely.

Since the consultant has been there we have heard a number of sermons. Most of which are about the fact that we do a lousy job of reaching out to people. Many of the sermons have been trying to cajole us as a congregation to bring people in the door.

Here are a few thoughts about why we are ineffective and then a brief list of questions worth asking.

  1. We are ineffective at reaching out to people because we have a view of reaching out that is us against them. Being a father of four and involved in the community at various levels, I get to know a lot of people. The people in our community are by in large good people that care about the community, their children, and even the world around them. Many of them volunteer many hours towards good causes, rec programs, schools, and non-profits. Most of them if asked the question “Are you a Christian?” would answer yes. So the problem is that the gospel we routinely preach is one where there are insiders and there are outsiders and our job is to bring the outsiders in and convince them of what we know. Unfortunately, this gospel is neither compelling nor convicting and it isn’t the gospel that Jesus preached.
  2. We are ineffective at influencing our community because our churches are not filled with people who are progressively becoming more like Christ. Instead our churches are filled with generally two types: the “conservative Christians” that have a convincing doctrinal correctness or more “liberal Christians” who view their role as saving the world through social justice. I am not against doctrine or social justice, actually I am for both. But neither represents the gospel that Jesus preached, and both become self-righteous ways of proving that we have the right kind of religion. I know this personally: I have spent plenty of time approaching the world from both views and was ineffective as a result.
  3. We are ineffective because most of our messages are filled with either guilt or milquetoast. We regularly hear from the pulpit and other places how we aren’t doing enough, reading the bible enough, are watching too much tv, care too much about money, don’t pray enough, etc. The theme of most of these messages is to try harder. These things may be true, but they aren’t the message that Jesus came with. Jesus came offering a Kingdom of God that was so compelling that people left everything they had to be a part of it.
  4. We are ineffective because we haven’t grown in our faith to the point where we are living a soul-satisfying life that attracts those around us to want to be a part of our community. If I am honest with you, for the most part I don’t see much in what we do on Sunday mornings that would be appealing to those outside of the church. Unfortunately, the lives most of us live aren’t worth calling people into. This isn’t the way Jesus promised it and isn’t the way God intended it but it’s the truth for now. We need a personal calling to a deeper faith. Dallas Willard says it this way: “It is the responsibility of every Christian to carve out a soul satisfying life under loving rule of God so that sin will not look good.”
  5. We are ineffective because we have left out half of the great commission. Usually when you see the great commission quoted you will see this: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” The problem is in the [dot, dot,dot]. The [dot, dot, dot] says this, “teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you and I am with you always to the end of the age.” The omission is that we are not recruiting people to be in our church, community, small group or other fellowship to be intellectual allies about the “gospel”. We are to be training people who will become increasingly able to reign with God in eternity. We are to be regularly and progressively learning more and more deeply the ways of Jesus so that they bleed out into everything that we do. John Ortberg summarizes this by saying our role is to bring Up There Down Here. We are to be Kingdom conduits that channel the character of God into this world.

Here are the questions that I am challenging myself with:

  1. Is your vision of the Kingdom of God compelling enough that other people would see it and want to get on board?
  2. Jesus promised the streams of living water would flow from inside of us. Does your life reflect streams of living water that are flowing from your soul?
  3. Do you look around and see the imprint of God’s image in the people around you and want for them to experience the life in Christ that you have obtained because it fills you with fullness of spirit?
  4. Does the message that our churches preach and teach create a compelling picture of what life with Christ is that our community might be attracted to the message and want to be a part of it?

Frank Laubach, a famous missionary and statesman once said it this way:

“The simple program of Christ for winning the whole world, is to make each person he touches magnetic enough with love to draw others.”

Honestly, until we have some answers to these questions our best bet might be to stop inviting people to our churches and start figuring out what true discipleship really looks like. When people can’t be kept away because they want what we have I think we will be onto something.

Keep moving forward,

Greg

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Meetings are death (unless they are done right)

Ever feel like the meeting you are in is going to last forever, accomplish nothing, and drain you of the remaining energy that you have to make anything REAL happen?

We’ve all been there but what to do about it? I stumbled upon this great article about how to plan better meetings while surfing Alltop yesterday:

http://www.greatleadershipbydan.com/2009/04/10-no-bull-tips-on-how-to-lead-team.html

Read it, do it, and quit boring people to death with your current meeting culture.

Keep moving forward,

Greg

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Why I love Monday mornings (and you can too)…

Monday represent a lot of things for a lot of people. In our culture today it seems that Mondays mean an end to something good and the beginning of something bad. Just last week I was watching people tweet and update their facebook status with: “how can it only be wednesday?” or “TGIF tomorrow!”

Don’t get me wrong: I love the weekend. I love being with my family and friends and having some downtime and watching lacrosse games and relaxing.

But what’s so wrong with the week? During the week we get to build something, create things, add value, serve other people, lead things, etc.

Monday is the promise of a weeks worth of opportunity. Monday is potential.

Now it’s time to use that potential and go do something with it.

Keep moving forward,

Greg

p.s. If you need some inspiration check this out.

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keep moving forward reframed

I was really encouraged by this post by Blaine Smith:

http://nehemiahministries.com/keepingmotion.htm

Ryan Smyth (see his comments under this post). should take a look at that one and see what he thinks.

Keep moving forward,

Greg

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