2011 in 7 Words

I thought it would be a fun and helpful challenge to summarize the entire year in seven words. Could that help me and you clarify what God’s been up to in our lives? Let’s give it a shot! Here are my 7 words:

Trying. Ending. Waiting. Discovery. Moving. Provision. Peace.

1) Trying

We began the year trying to work as hard as we could to launch San Angelo Church. We soon learned God had other plans.

2) Ending

God led us to end the effort to launch San Angelo Church. We learned the importance of “necessary endings”.

3) Waiting

We began a national search for our next ministry. We met a lot of great people. We did a lot of praying and waiting.

4) Discovery

When God reveals His will in a brand new and sudden way it feels like a discovery. That’s what happened Labor Day weekend when we first visited Ventura, California. I listed specific things that drew our hearts here.

5) Moving

Nothing like saying goodbye to your long-time home, packing up everything you own in a moving truck, and driving across the country to begin a new life with your wife and 4 young kids. You can read my wife’s perspective here.

6) Provision

This is one of my favorite memories of this year. As we drove toward Ventura we didn’t have a home, Ginger didn’t have a job, and we hadn’t sold our old house. We immediately found a home in Ventura. Ginger was offered a school district nursing position three days after we arrived in Ventura which allows her to pick up our kids from school each day. Our house sold within 24 hours after going on the market for full asking price and the buyer asked to close within 2 weeks. Provision.

7) Peace

Our family enjoys a peace that passes all understanding. It isn’t a peace we’ve earned but it’s a peace we recognize as from the Father. We are simply where He wants us.

Hindsight isn’t 20/20. For the follower of Christ, hindsight is God’s plan revealed.

2011 in 7 words. For me that little challenge was fun and helpful.

Why don’t you give it a try? Summarize your entire year in a handful of words. It might help you see what God’s been up to.

“God, use me more this year than last.”

I met the Moore family this past summer. I was inspired by their family’s bold step of faith to pursue a God-given dream. So I asked Katie to share their story. As we approach a new year, I hope their story and her pray inspires you.

Katie, Danica, & Brandn

Back-story: My husband, Brandn, (nope, not a typo) and I lived a very comfortable life in San Angelo, TX with our daughter Danica.  We both had good paying jobs, insurance, a house, and most of our family lived within 10 minutes.

New Year’s Eve 2010:  We were at the Red Letter Rock Fest.  P.O.D. was on stage and midnight was fast approaching.  You know midnight, when you make a wish?  I didn’t make a wish, instead I prayed “God, use me more this year than last.” You see, Brandn and I were youth leaders so what I meant by praying “use me more” was maybe I’d preach 6 times instead of 4 or maybe I’d host some girl’s nights…maybe.

God answered the prayer: 3 days later we found out the youth pastors we loved and served under were moving to Austin, TX to plant a church…..um what?!?!?! We had a decision to make: do we go with them and help or do we stay and continue with the youth?

After weeks of praying, fasting, crying, ridiculous emotions all over the place and a podcast that slapped us across the face, we decided to pack up and move to be a part of Revive Church.

Revive Church family

Did I mention Brandn was born in San Angelo, I called it home the past 17 years and Danica was born there?  Did I mention both Brandn’s mom and my mom watched Danica during the day and the thought of taking her away from grandparents brought me to tears; not delicate, lady like tears, but ugly, uncontrollable sobs?  Did I mention we both had good paying jobs and we owned our house or that Revive Church wouldn’t be able to pay us and we would have to find jobs in Austin?  But none of that mattered. We knew in our hearts God was telling us to move…to stay would have been disobedient.

You can’t deny this is God:  Our move date was August 6th.  As of July our house still wasn’t on the market and I was having trouble finding a job in Austin.  By the end of July we sold our house without having to put it on the market.  My boss hooked me up with her friend in Austin and a job “just happened” to fall into my lap.  We have family in the area and their business is expanding so Brandn signed on with them and with the money from selling our house, we paid off both cars and moved to Austin debt free.

Revive Church is 3 months old and we meet in a high school cafeteria and to be completely honest, this is way harder than any of us ever imagined; our 6th week of service, we had 4 people show up.  I cried in my car every day on the way to work for the first month because everything was so overwhelming. However; in those short 3 months, we have prayed with people that needed it, we’ve given hope to the hopeless, we’ve helped with fire relief, and we have become a church family and it’s awesome.  This Christmas we are giving up our family traditions and we are hanging out with the homeless.  As a church, we are collecting backpacks and loading them with toiletries, socks, food, gloves and beanies and handing them out to those with nothing.

I prayed a very dangerous prayer and the way God answered it totally took me, my husband and our whole family by surprise. When you pray, be fully expecting God to blow your mind!  And don’t worry, He will see to it you are taken care of.

With 2012 right around the corner, I challenge you to pray a dangerous, life changing prayer.  I want to encourage you to open your hearts and mind and allow God in.  He will totally rock your face off so be prepared.  Don’t say I didn’t warn you.  🙂

1 Chron 28:20 – Be strong and courageous and do the work.  Do not be discouraged or afraid because the Lord, my God is with you and he will not fail you or forsake you and He will see to it the work of the temple is complete.

You can now follow Katie and her family since Katie just launched her new blog RidiculousKatie!

The Year I Never I Expected

I recently reflected on 2011. I thought it might be interesting for you to hear my wife’s perspective. So today, for the first time, Ginger is a guest blogger.

Ginger and our son Lincoln

I can honestly say this was the year I never expected.

This year started off with Mark and I continuing to try and launch San Angelo Church. This was pretty much our life. We were going to give it our all and we just knew that 2011 was going to be the year it took off!

As I supported Mark and tried to be a sounding board for ideas, I was working full-time while keeping up with school schedules, maintaing our house, etc. We had poured our heart and souls into starting SAC and we wanted to “go down fighting”. But soon realized God had other plans!

As the decision was made to close the church, we began to wonder what was next. Mark began to look at potential jobs around the country and my first impulse was to always ask where and how much. I know that doesn’t sound very spiritual but as a family of 6 that second question was important to me. I didn’t want to have to sacrifice my time as a mom/wife if to make ends meet. It seemed we were all a little uneasy through the summer months. In August I started my school nurse job again and the kids started school as we waited to discover when or where we were going to end up. Lots of uncertainties.

Then it happened. We visited Ventura, California. Before visiting I remember thinking there was not a remote possibility that we would end up in California. I even laughed a little when we looked it up on Google Earth. California? Really? Leave Texas? Have you seen those housing prices? (Like Sarah laughed when the Angel told Abraham she was going to have a baby.)

As we finalized plans for our new life, the real work began. Packing! But one good thing about moving cross-country is you learn how to downsize. Oh the things we got rid of. Even the kids bicycles! (They were getting too small for them anyway.) We loaded the final few things on the Budget truck which was pulling a U-Haul trailer. Everything we owned was stuffed into a metal box to be unpacked somewhere in Ventura, CA.

After 3 months, we have transitioned smoothly. I got a job within 3 days, kids are settled into their new school, Mark loves his job, we love our new church family and we have a peace only God could provide.

As I reflect on this amazing year I’ve learned that even though I try to direct my life to go in a certain direction, God will always provide the right road. Sometimes His path is a surprise . . . to me.

I can’t say this year was easy but I have a certain peace that I am going down the road God prepared for me and my family and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

3 Benefits of Quitting

“Never quit.” That’s what I was taught. After all, “Quitters never win and winners never quit.”

Bad advice and clearly not true! Quitting is often the most strategic thing you can do.

We’ve all seen two-sport athletes quit one sport to focus on the one most likely to supply success. We’ve seen people end one career to pursue a new one and experience exponential success.

There are times we need to work harder. And there are times we need to quit.

2011 has been a roller-coaster experience as I shared yesterday. The toughest decision was ending a ministry. In hindsight, it was the best decision for me and others.

Six months later I’ve discovered three benefits to quitting:

1) Reallocate time, money, and energy

As long as a ministry is alive time, money, and energy will be spent on it. Kingdom resources are always limited. When a ministry isn’t productive it’s very existence is preventing resources from going to other productive ministries. Not ending unproductive ministries results in hindering productive ministries.

When we ended SAC, we donated the remaining $40K to some incredible local ministries and donated some of our equipment to a brand new church plant. I am convinced the resources are being better utilized. When we closed the church, our monthly giving was at $12K. As people began joining other churches, that money was distributed to others churches that are clearly expanding the Kingdom.

2) Rediscover the spirit of adventure 

God plants within all of us a spirit of adventure. A lack of productivity over time squashes our spirit of adventure. God called us to “Go into the world and make disciples.” Adventure! When a ministry isn’t making disciples, we lose our God-given spirit of adventure.

I can not tell you how critical I believe this is. I’ve experienced ministry on both sides of this and I prefer the adventure!

3) Free others to pursue their spirit of adventure

Ending something creates a worry that others will be impacted in a negative way. I was genuinely worried about our staff members when we closed the church. They are some of the most genuine servants I’ve ever known. They all understood the decision to close but each of them preferred continuing the church.

Six months later our worship leader has recently accepted the same position with a growing church that suits his family perfectly. He recently told me, “As much as I loved SAC, this is the opportunity I have spent years praying for.” Our Children’s Directors, who have lived in San Angelo their entire lives, are moving to Georgia to accept the same position with a new, flourishing church. Their excited and so am I!

They all have been freed to pursue their God-given adventure! So grateful for this.

Quitting isn’t always bad. Sometimes it’s the most God-honoring thing you can do.

So examine the ministries in your church. Examine your own life. What should you quit to free you and others to pursue God’s adventure?

A Roller-Coaster Year

2011 has been a great year! For me personally, it’s been a roller-coaster experience unlike any other year. This year I experienced the death of a dream, waiting on God, then moving my family across the country to discover more than we ever anticipated.

Here’s a quick review of 2011 through my journal entries:

(The year began as we continued to work toward launching San Angelo Church aka SAC.)

1-25-11 Sunday night 2 adults trusted Christ as their Savior…I pray I get to see MANY more people trust Christ through SAC! Today I meet w/man from Community Hills Christian Church about possibly renting their facility on Sunday nights. God give us wisdom and favor.

3-1-11 Good small group last night as several ppl were excited about Sunday pm services. I pray God will use our story to inspire others to pursue their dreams!

3-10-11 Last Sunday was our 1st Sunday in Community Hills Christian Church. Our goal   was to raise $5,000 by 3-20 to cover our transitional costs. Our ppl have given more than $7,200 already. Thank you God for supplying! Jehovah-Jireh!

3-29-11 I love my wife! Great time this past week or so as we’ve reflected on our gratefulness that God has brought us on this journey together. Last Sunday we had 114 people in attendance at SAC. Incredibly fun to see so many unchurched people in room!

4-28-11 Discouraged about SAC. Little progress toward benchmarks. Hard work. Fear volunteers will wear out.

6-2-11 Stay or go? Spending the next 3 days in Junction praying God will reveal His will.

6-4-11 Today is Day 3 in Junction. It’s 6:45am. Ginger and I believe that God has clearly revealed after 31 months it’s time to end SAC. Gonna be a crazy summer. Thank you God for direction.

7-13-11 Sunday night was final service at SAC. Hard service! No way to “soften blow.” Did extended worship, communion, sentimental videos, and message…Don’t ever want to have a church’s final service again. Yuck! But willing to risk it to reach people!

8-2-11 ….also received a call from Daniel Hahn – pastor of a church in Ventura, CA. Seemed like a nice guy. Praying for direction.

8-16-11 With all of the ministry opportunities I realize I want to be part of a life-changing, growing ministry, where I grow personally more like Christ. “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” Prov. 16:9

9-1-11 Last night the church from Missouri called and said they are leaning toward offering me the position as Campus Pastor. Call scheduled for next week to talk over details. Tomorrow Ginger and I fly out to Ventura, CA. We’re excited about it and want to be open to what God wants us to see.

9-6-11 Wow! In one weekend our future seems to have been altered. We went to Ventura and fell in love w/people, pastor, church, area. On-site led to insight. Now our hearts are leaning strongly toward Ventura.

9-8-11 We are moving to California! So excited and nervous. Thank you God for your provision. Ginger and kids are excited! Launched my blog this week.

See what I mean about the roller-coaster? I had plans. God had different plans.

You’ve probably experienced “shifting plans” in life. Kinda like a roller-coaster.

That’s the how the Christmas story began isn’t it? Joseph had plans (marry his wife Mary and start a traditional family together). God had different plans. Joseph accepted God’s direction even though he didn’t completely understand it.

Following Christ will never be completely obvious or predictable.

Plans change. Trust/Obey God with what I know = God is satisfied.

(Tomorrow I’ll share lessons I’ve learned from this incredible year.)

4 Things That Steal Your Peace

I want peace.

I don’t mind being uncomfortable but I want peace.

My 3 year old daughter can look so peaceful sitting on the couch watching Dora the Explorer, enjoying a cup of apple juice, or simply sleeping.

I want that internal contentment that rises above my circumstances. As a Dallas Cowboys’ fan that’s a tall order!

So here’s the question: “Is it rational to pursue that kind of peace?” Or, am I setting myself up for disappointment?

We celebrate the Prince of Peace this season but is peace for us in the 21st century realistic?

I know I’ve experienced peace. But I know it is difficult to maintain. Every time it was stolen. I never gave it away.

If we learn to identify the thieves, we can better protect our peace.

"Peaceful Pic" I recently took at the beach with my iPhone

Here are 4 common thieves of peace I have experienced:

Noise

I don’t know about you but my “phone” is mostly used for texting, emails, social networking, GPS, and accessing the internet. Every once in awhile I’ll actually place a phone call. Disconnecting is harder than ever.

It’s hard to be still and listen. When I hear a “ding” I instinctively check my phone. You know the feeling when you’re in a coffee shop and someone’s iPhone rings and we all check our phone? That seductive marimba ringtone! Ever heard of “FVS: False Vibration Syndrome”? It’s the sensation one gets when he/she feels as if his/her cellphone is ringing/vibrating only to look at the cellphone and discover that there is no such ringtone, and the sensation was a false one.

Noise.

Jesus’ modeled “getting away to a mountain” from time to time. A “technology fast” is probably the quickest way to peace.

Undisciplined Schedules

Not being disciplined with our calendar causes us to be in reaction-mode. When I react to other people’s phone calls, voicemails, texts, and emails, people begin to feel like interruptions.

But when I schedule daily reaction/response time it allows me to be accessible while making progress on my “to do” list. Undisciplined schedules are an enemy of peace.

Ungratefulness

Expressing gratitude is fuel for our own soul. Unexpressed gratitude is perceived ingratitude. Worse than that it steals our personal peace. Part of my weekly “to do” list is writing Thank You cards. I immediately feel refreshed when I take my eyes off of me and express gratitude to others.

Inconsistent time with God

My daily time with God gives me a healthy perspective. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed or have an over-inflated ego. Daily humbling myself is a peaceful exercise. Otherwise, I’m running on my abilities and peace evaporates!

How’s your peace this Christmas? Which of these thieves visit you most often? Have you identified any other thieves?

Preparing for 2012

He must increase, I must decrease.

Some days I come close. Most days . . . not so much.

I’m anticipating 2012. I want my heart to be in the proper position. Promoting Him + Demoting me = Proper position

I’m spending the rest of 2011 focusing on a different attribute of God each day.

Wanna join me? Here’s the site I’m using.

Today’s attribute: God is Jehovah. The name of independent being—“I AM WHO I AM”—only belongs to Jehovah God. As we consider His greatness, we fall down in fear and awe of this One who possesses all authority. (Exodus 3:13-15)

He must become greater, I must become less.

I can’t wait for 2012!

How to Have a Regret-free Christmas

I know one of your greatest dreams.

In fact, I’m sure we share a HUGE dream: we want our kids and eventually their kids to share our faith.

I hope my four kids enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. But my greater dream is for them to live a life of faith in God.

But how? How do I pass on all of the incredible things God has done for me? How do I pass along my personal faith to my individual kids?

The answer actually isn’t too hard.

How do we share our faith with our kids? Talk to them.

We don’t have to have all of the answers to our kids’ questions or even our own questions. We simply tell our kids the story, history, and person of our faith.

Christmas is the perfect time to have a faith conversation.

Warning: If you’re not intentional, it won’t happen.

If you’re like me, here are the things we typically talk about with our kids:

Family traditions + Great food + Christmas presents

What about the faith conversation?

Deut. 6:7 Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Did you see that? Talk to them.

You don’t want to wake up on Dec. 26th thinking, “All I shared with my kids this year was the temporary excitement of a toy that dies with the battery or is soon forgotten.”

If we aren’t intentional – it won’t happen.

How do you have a regret-free Christmas?

1) Share your story – “Never underestimate what God can do with a person’s story! Never.” – Ron Edmondson

2) Have your spouse tell their story

3) Read the Christmas story followed by your own live Christmas production with your kids as the primary cast. Or, simply ask your kids to describe the emotions of each person in the Christmas story (fear, excitement, confusion, joy, peace)

4) Have everyone share the blessings of the past year

Don’t look back on this Christmas with regret. Be intentional. Pursue your greatest dream.

10 Step Process For Your Next Hire

Some consider chemistry to be the softer, less critical “C” in the “3 C’s” of Hiring (Character, Chemistry, and Competency). But good chemistry makes life more enjoyable.

It is easy to mistake alignment for chemistry.

Having the same vision and values does not guarantee chemistry. Having the same theology does not guarantee chemistry. Exceeding all of the job qualifications does not guarantee chemistry.

Chemistry is hard to measure but, as I talked about here recently, it’s not possible.

Having a thorough hiring process helps avoid chemistry surprises. One option is to enlist a recruiting service. There are great ministry-savvy services available like The Vanderblomen Search Group.

If you’re going to manage the process in-house, here’s a 10 step process:

  1. Draw a “picture” of the ideal candidate (detailed job description, preferred strengths, qualifications, etc.)
  2. Announce the position (online sites like churchstaffing.com receive 1,000’s of hits each day and broaden your potential candidate pool) then receive resumes
  3. Follow-up with “candidates of interest” by having them complete a detailed questionnaire measuring “fit with your church mission/values/DNA”
  4. Research candidate’s personality via their “online footprint” (social media, blog, etc.) – Great way to discover attitude, outlook, influence, etc.
  5. Narrow down list and do a Skype interview(s) w/Pastor, Executive or Search Team – helps further identify strengths but begins to measure chemistry
  6. Reveal salary to candidate and follow-up phone call to discuss benefits package
  7. Additional Skype interview w/Hiring Team including ministry-specific staff (primary purpose is measuring chemistry)
  8. Background Process: National background/credit check, calling references, and having candidate submit/take a personality/temperament assessment (Strengths Finder 2.0, Myers-Briggs, RightPath, Taylor-Johnson, etc.)
  9. Focus on one candidate and invite them to your community/church where you and team will spend time in social and ministry settings. (BTW, ensure this is not an “impress us if you can” experience for the candidate. You’re measuring chemistry.)
  10. After a few days of prayer, receive feedback from everyone you invited into the process. (Not only are you measuring chemistry but you’re building it among your team.)

Now for the fun part . . . make a decision knowing you’ve been thorough. This new team member will be someone that makes you smile when their name appears on your caller id (a sure-fire chemistry measuring tool).