Thursday, August 30, 2007

Starting at the "top"

I read in some book (a very important one) that the way to be first is to be last and to be great a person must be a servant. I also have heard about that the one thing that matters is faith expressing itself through love (Galatians 5:6).

Today, the two came together as the staff at the church with whom I am serving came over to paint rooms in our new home. We covered (2 coats of paint) our dining room area, living room area, main hallway, and front stairway in less than 5 hours! The joy came not merely from the fact that these walls were painted but instead from the fact that I could accomplish a task together with some great new friends and colleagues. The same job would have taken me and Laurie days.

I am once again overwhelmed by God's grace that came through these wonderful people. I am a small groups pastor and I saw today how my small group (church staff) expressed its faith through love by sacrificing time, energy and a beautiful Seattle day (80 degrees and no clouds) to make me and Laurie feel more at home.

The "top" (the church staff) showed its greatness by being willing to serve. I am privileged to be a part of a group of individuals who together make up a team with that mindset shaped by Christ.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Error Code 20

No pictures for this post... just an error code that I received from my good friends who live 54 minutes from me at Microsoft. That is what I just received from trying to sign up for something through MS. Forget about it!

Saturday, August 18, 2007

You can only sell...

This picture brought back memories of my sales days with a startup company years ago. The sales funnel was always on my mind. I started in software development but I was moved to sales because I loved interacting with new people.

Years ago, a close friend who also happened to work at that same startup company as me shared a basic but profound insight. He said, "You can not sell something unless you have experienced the value yourself." In that case, we were talking about an enterprise engineering (really project) management software application. We both tried to locate specific examples of value in the product and then we based our interactions with customers on those areas.

Tonight, I experienced the value of small groups in a fresh way. I haven't been part of a small group in years. I participated in a prayer group at seminary but it wasn't what I would consider a fully functioning small group.

I gathered with a group tonight and we experienced the best of getting together in the name of Christ.

- introductions with life stories
- a well led discussion on a hard-hitting topic based in Scripture
- a leader who guided the discussion and knew what he was doing
- differing opinions and follow-up points
- good food
- a prayer time that included honest sharing from the heart
- laughter and a "buzz" of excitement during the hang-time afterwards
- new perspectives that wouldn't come on my own
- a sense of mission and purpose in why God had called the group together (beyond an inward focus)

I walked away energized and ready to continue in what God has called me to do - to encourage, lead and equip disciples in community to engage our Internet-driven culture with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I experienced the value.

I want to share that value (sell it) and invite others to enter into God's working and life-giving influence (or the kingdom of God).

Friday, August 17, 2007

Two hours

Tonight, I had my first official "meeting" with a few members of Maple Valley Presbyterian Church or as some of my friends like to call it "MVP" church.

Tonight, I remembered why I sensed the call into full time church ministry. I love Jesus Christ and I love seeing God at work in the lives of real people. I came into the meeting expecting to hear some stories and to get a glimpse of the small group ministry at this church. I encountered SO much more than that admittedly small expectation.

I encountered people who are passionate about God because they have experienced God's grace in their lives and they want to share that grace with everyone.
I encountered people who do not want to "play church" but want to truly participate in God's mission here and now.
I encountered people who have been praying for months and years for the person who was going to fill the position in which I am serving.
I encountered people who have convictions and they are willing to sacrifice in order to live by them.
I encountered people who care.
I encountered people who expect God to do amazing things because God has shown up in the past, God shows up in the present, and God will show up in the future.

I encountered people who encouraged me and set the bar high for me (and that is exactly what I needed tonight).

The only issue is they want and expect me to "convert" to being a Seattle Seahawk fan and that is going to take more than a miracle!

I am refreshed, challenged, and humbled by what is before me but that is exactly when God has used me in ways that I could not have imagined in the past. I'm looking forward to whatever the Lord Jesus Christ wants to do in and through me going forward.

Go Seahawks?

Monday, August 13, 2007

First Day...

In many ways, I feel like it is the night before my first day of school. I haven't felt like this in years. I didn't really get this type of feeling before I started at Princeton Seminary but I have "that" feeling tonight.

I start at Maple Valley Presbyterian Church tomorrow morning and I have a mixed feeling of being nervous and ready to go all at the same time. I helped lead in worship this morning and my family was introduced to the congregation. I really have no idea what it will feel like tomorrow. I have a set of initial tasks to complete right away but most of my day will be spent making phone calls and initial connections.

Let's see what happens... here comes the next chapter, stay tuned for some details.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Feeling great.... for a moment

The picture above shows the outcome of my toilet fixing experience today - CRACKED!

I have never been a big "house project" guy. In fact, I have many memories of wanting to climb into a hole whenever my Dad would call me out to garage to put anything together. I mean ANYTHING.

Laurie and I bought our first house after our wedding 6+ years ago. I put my best effort at a variety of projects. My most rewarding moment was installing a garage door opener (later, it almost collapsed and smashed our cars). I learned a lot from a neighbor who demonstrated great patience with me and he taught me some basic things.

Years later (now), I am a home owner again and I have been taking on all kinds of projects the past few days. I have actually enjoyed all of them and my confidence has been growing every day. Today, I decided to fix the toilet in the girls' bathroom and I took on the task with a sure plan. In fact, I replaced the entire inside and everything was working perfectly.

I felt great...

until I tightened the handle with one more turn of the wrench and then the entire back part cracked and water spilled out everywhere.

I went from a super high to a super low.

I called one of the men who helped me earlier in the week for advice. He encouraged me by saying, "Jeff, we all have to start somewhere. At least you are trying, there is a lot to say for that. You will never make that same mistake again and you should see the crack as a positive and not as a negative."

A great word from a wise man. In many ways, he described discipleship with those words. As followers of Christ, we all have to start somewhere. I know that I have "cracked many toilets" in my faith journey and I'm sure that I will crack a few more in the next week as I start at Maple Valley Presbyterian.

Anyone else have some "home-improvement" stories to share?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Beyond Comprehension

Today, 7 men from Maple Valley Presbyterian Church showed up at my new home to help with numerous projects. In addition, a person coordinated the donation of some appliances that arrived earlier in the week. I witnessed some of the greatest serving hearts today. The group took on project after project without any questions or concerns. They were there to help and they wouldn't take no for answer. One member stayed with one project for over an hour even though he should have given up after 10 minutes. One helper put so much effort into the work that he split his jeans!!!

I am in awe of God's grace in my life and I saw it manifested in the form of new friends today. In many ways, I realized just how selfish I am with my time and how I need to answer the call of obedience in my life when others need help.

I was humbled today by the help of some faithful followers of Christ.
I was freshed today by the some faithful followers of Christ.
I was definitely helped by some faithful followers of Christ.

Now it is my turn to be faithful with what God has given me to do...

When was the last time you experienced God's grace in a manner that was beyond comprehension?

Monday, August 06, 2007

We made it!

My family made it across the country yesterday with little to zero issues. I am in awe of how God provided for us throughout the journey. Both Cambria and Avery experienced the trip as an adventure as opposed to a long, arduous disaster. We flew out of Washington Dulles at 4:30, connected through Chicago and arrived in Seattle at 9 PM PST.

The main issue was the connection in Chicago. Once again, I realized how much I am still unable to determine how long an event takes with two little children. We stopped to eat a 'quick' dinner in the food court but by the time it was all said and done we were the last ones to board our flight. That is not an issue if you are single and alone. For us, however, that meant that I had to carry the carseat (for Avery) all the way to the back of the plane and I probably was "that guy" who knocked no less than 5 people in the head with it. I was sweating profusely and extremely embarrassed (and guilt-ridden because I didn't even consider the ramifications of choosing my chicken quesadilla over an early boarding).

Who helped us out? Two Mormon missionaries gave up their seats so that Laurie and the girls could sit together. I sat numerous rows ahead of them and ended up checking on them periodically throughout the flight. By God's grace, both girls fell asleep and Laurie was able to enjoy her Harry Potter book.

I may have spent multiple years refuting the legitimacy of Joseph Smith as a true prophet but that didn't matter a bit when the two LDS missionaries stepped up to help us in a time of need. I have something to learn from that... Don't we all?

We are now in Maple Valley, WA and our moving truck arrives tomorrow (Monday). The events are moving quickly but they are going really well.

These are not the normal 'thoughts as i go' because they do not relate to theology, the church, or small group ministries but these reflections describe the pressing moments at hand.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Moving (finally)

Saturday 8/4 finally brings the flight to Maple Valley. Laurie, Cambria, Avery, me and Laurie's Mom Linda are taking off from Dulles Airport at 4:30 PM and arriving in Seattle near 9 PM PST.

We have been giving 150% for weeks, months, years and now we are finally making the transition out to the Pacific Northwest. Today, I had mixed feelings regarding the change. On the one hand, I definitely will miss my extended family and the opportunities to see friends without any major flight plans. I honestly have no idea just how much the change will impact me but that is a risk that I was willing to take when I decided to ask God to "send me wherever he wanted to send me."

On the other hand, I cannot wait to start at Maple Valley Presbyterian Church. The excitement has been brewing for months and today I feel like it has gone to the next level. I am excited about starting fresh with my family in a new place. I am excited about what God has called me to at MVPC. I am excited about encouraging, leading and equipping small group leaders. I am excited about following Christ along with Laurie in a new place.

I am moving (finally)...

See you on the other side of the U.S.