Category: Marriage (page 1 of 2)

William Wallace and My Book about Women

I have agreed to write an e-book about the role of women in church and the inspiration came from an unlikely source. I was watching Braveheart, the movie inspired by the life of Scottish warrior William Wallace, and a particular scene helped clarify a big idea about this very important topic.

There is a scene in the movie that happens right after the first battle between William Wallace’s ragtag army of farmers and the powerful English brigades. Somehow, the Scottish miscreants win the battle despite being outnumbered. Right after the battle, the Scottish nobles knight William Wallace in a ceremony at a nearby castle.

When Wallace stands to his feet, immediately an argument breaks out among the land owning nobles about which family has a rightful claim to the Scottish throne. One family believes they should be in charge and another says their heir deserves to be king. Wallace listens for a moment, but then walks out of the room disgusted.

When the nobles realize Wallace is leaving, they ask why. His reply is brilliant. He tells them he is going to fight the English and they can stay and argue about who is in charge. This seems to be what is happening in our local churches. We are mired in arguments about who should be leading while the more important fight is being ignored.

Believe me, I know there are strong opinions on both sides of the issue regarding leadership in the home and church. I have strong beliefs and I am sure you do, too. However, are we arguing about roles while ignoring some bigger issues? I think we are and I plan to tackle some of this in my upcoming e-book.

This book will not settle all our arguments, but I do hope it empowers women to grow and flourish in the calling that God has for them. It is my hope that the book will begin discussions about topics that are being ignored such as:

1. A woman’s role in preaching, teaching and leadership, both in their homes and in their local congregations.

2. Can a strong wife flourish in public under the mature leadership of a private and passive husband?

3. What were the radical ways that Jesus brought dignity and respect to women?

4. How can we encourage women to be feminine leaders in a masculine world?

What are some topics about women in the home and church that you think would be helpful to debate and discuss in a civil way? Now is the time to ask, because I start writing soon. Thanks for your voice in this conversation.

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Conflict Resolution 101

 

An offended brother is more unyielding than a fortified city, and disputes are like the barred gates of a citadel. – Proverbs 18:19

Some of the best work our enemy does is an inside job. Christians tend to rally around one another when there is an outside attack or threat, but it seems we do not fare so well when the battle is amongst us. Where two or more people are gathered, trying to live life together, there is bound to be tension, hurt feelings, misunderstandings, poor communication, and what we call in the South, fussing.

But we can do better. We must do better. Here are some practical reminders to begin the journey of healing broken relationships and restoring the unity that is so critical for all of us.

1. Emails are the worst.

Please do not pound out a lengthy email and fire away at your assumed adversary. 80% of communication is non-verbal and your emotions and intent cannot be determined by reading words on a screen. What you meant and what is read are usually two different things. Trust me on this.

2. Talk when you are rested

Make sure you are not tired when you confront someone. For those of you with small children, this may mean about you have about a 30-second window for dialogue each day. Seriously, though, a good nights sleep always changes your perspective for the better and allows for those frothy emotions to simmer and settle a bit.

3. Leave room for enlightenment

I know this is a long shot, but could there be a slim chance you are the one who is wrong? I know you won’t believe me, but there was this one time, I was wrong and did not know it. Okay, actually, it is pretty common for me and probably for you, too. We can learn from every disagreement and sometimes, being “right” is not as important as we think. Relationships are hard to get and easy to lose.

4. Pray for God’s eyes

If we cannot see or imagine anything of worth in the other person, we are not seeing them as God does. Most of the time, people are hurtful and angry at us because of a wound that happened in their lives long before we met them. Give them grace and space. God is at work in them whether we can see it or not.

5. Ignoring it will not help

Half the world’s population are introverts and usually get stomach pains when reading these kind of blogs. Conflict is something they tend to avoid like left over sushi in the fridge. But, the Scriptures are clear, we must go to our brother if we know there is something wrong in the relationship. Avoid passive aggressive behaviors like blog posts, facebook rants and phone calls to your “prayer” partner. Follow the above steps and then initiate a meeting. The meeting should be face to face if possible, but a phone call to someone a distance away is also good. Use Skype or facetime so you can see each other.

Unity is a powerful force. With it, we can do most anything. Without it, we are defeated. Relationships are worth the struggle. In fact, most sincere, long time friendships were forged after two mature people decided to talk to one another instead of hide from one another.

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A Beautiful Transition

“Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?

1 Corinthians 15:55

As a pastor, I have been at the bedside of many people who were dying, but last night I witnessed one of the most beautiful transitions from life to eternity that is possible. To respect the privacy of the family, I will not share names, but the wonderful lady who passed away was really special to me for many reasons.

Over four years ago, on my first Sunday as pastor at New Life, I met her at the front of the church. She was with her husband and she was sick with cancer. I prayed with her that day and on most Sundays thereafter. Every week, I could always count on her to be waiting for me after the 9am service, holding a tiny bottle of oil, and a heart full of faith for her healing.

There were seasons where she would rebound with full strength, ready to engage life once again. She was a grandmother and an artist who painted beautiful flowers on porcelain plates that now adorn her modest home. One year, despite the cancer, she helped paint the stage set for our Easter production. She also loved to sing, especially at church with her family and friends around her. Then, the cancer returned, this time attacking her lungs and throat, robbing her of the singing voice we all loved.

A week ago, I was at her home and she was writing personal notes in a huge stack of Valentine’s Day cards for a myriad of family and long time friends. She spoke of her kids and grandkids, her frail voice still strong with hope and encouragement.

At the hospital, on her final night with us, her children and husband gathered with a few of us friends around her bed and we sang “Amazing Grace”. Her breathing relaxed and within minutes a transcendent peace filled the room. Her family wept, but they were also very aware of their mother’s victory. She was no longer suffering and most assuredly, she was now singing the joyful songs of heaven. It was a beautiful transition for a dear saint of a woman, one that I will never forget.

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Parenting and Parachuting

Being a parent is like jumping out of an airplane. You only get one chance to get it right. The thrill of beginning the journey is replaced by a hope that everything lands on target. Pam and I today are out of the plane, the rip cord has been pulled and we are drifting slowly down to the target zone. We are not experts, but we are experienced.

Not long ago, I was asked to consider writing a parenting book. I laughed. They were serious. I laughed again. I told them, no one should write a book on parenting until all their kids were out of the house and successfully launched into adulthood. In fact, the toughest part of parenting may be the time your kids leave the house until they are married or launched. We still have that part of the journey ahead of us.

Our kiddos are 13 and 11, so I have just started enjoying the world of teenager. Notice, I did not say I “dread” the teenage years. I believe we mostly get what we speak and expect, so I am speaking and expecting that Abram and Callie will be awesome teenagers.

Looking back on the toddler and elementary years, Pam and I made a lot of mistakes, but got a few things right. Here are a few insights that I hope are helpful.

1. Be predictable when they are young. Most bad behaviors with little ones happen at 2pm in a Wal-Mart or at 9pm in a restaurant. That’s because they should be napping and sleeping at those times, not in aisle 3 or at a Red Robin.

2. Get control of bad manners as soon as they recognize the Queen’s English. It is a lot easier to wrestle their rebellion to the ground when they are in onesy’s  than when they are wanting to borrow your car. We demand Abram and Callie say “yes m’am” and “no m’am”, “please” and “thank you” with no exceptions. Old school, maybe, but I don’t like brats, especially in my house.

3. Both our kids are taught to respond immediately to us when we call their name. When they are older, I suspect they will respond as quickly when God whispers to them.

4. Our kids are required to greet us when we come home. We also greet them when they come home. If they ignore my entrance, whatever TV show or game that is distracting them, gets turned off.

5. We laugh a lot at our house. Make sure you enter their world, learn their jokes, and giggle with them, even if it’s over really silly stuff.

6. Learn their love language. Read Gary Chapman’s book, “The Five Love Languages” to learn how your child primarily gives and receives love. It will change your relationship for the better, I promise.

7. Model a passionate lifestyle of following Jesus.  Our kids are paying a lot more attention to what we do and say than we think. Passionate parents most often produce passionate children. Breaking News – You don’t have to have amazing family devotions every single night, either. Take a deep breath. Live it and they will catch it.

8. Go on dates with your daughters and adventures with your sons. One on one time is super important. They must know that they are individuals with immense importance to you.

9. Give them responsibilities that have rewards for being obedient and consequences for missing the mark. I have these same responsibilities as an adult. It’s called a job.

10. Slow down the pace and savor their innocence. I know your kid is probably going to write the next great concerto, but that insane schedule you have them on every week is not fun for you or them. Let them be kids with a lot of space to breathe and play. Let them have a sabbath, too. The 10 commandments are for everyone.

What have you learned along the way?

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The Sending Culture of a Healthy Church

I suspect most pastors would not want their kids to live in their house forever. At some point, the little munchkins need to move out of the basement and into a home or apartment of their own. So, if families are okay with sending their kids into the world to be productive adults, why are churches so reluctant to release their sons and daughters?

Every healthy church has a sending culture. In Acts 13, the leaders of the fellowship had been fasting and praying, when the Holy Spirit instructed them to send out Paul and Barnabas for a really important assignment. I imagine the leaders recognized these men were promising young leaders who could help them build a big church in Antioch if they would stay. But these leaders had something better in mind, something more eternal. I imagine Paul and Barnabas had already discussed their possible transition with the leaders and what we read in the scriptures was the beautiful result.

Leaders must allow their team to talk openly about transition, without the fear of being punished. We all say we are for the “kingdom” until one of our best leaders wants to leave for good reason, like a marriage. If the family is the mirror of the church, then we should celebrate when our sons and daughters are dutifully betrothed to another ministry assignment. Instead, most us treat Godly transitions like a divorce and make our teams feel shameful for even thinking of leaving.

The Antioch church was limited in their geographic knowledge, but they did rightfully discern that they were not the center of the spiritual universe. By releasing these two young men, millions heard the gospel, churches were planted, and the kingdom really did come to the earth. If they had refused to release them, I suspect most of us would have never heard of the church at Antioch.

I want the team I serve with to feel appreciated, protected and loved. I also want them to know that if God decides to use them in another city, church or country, I will stand alongside them like a dad. I will cry at the wedding, but I will also be glad they have moved out of my house and will soon be starting a family of their own. I can either be a grandfather or a divorce attorney – its my choice.

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Heart Surgery Update

Thanks for all your prayers, Facebook posts, emails, text messages, Tweets, voicemails, and even the snail mail cards. I really appreciate all the encouragement as I move toward heart surgery this Friday. I am thankful for each of you, I promise. I, as well as Pam and the kids are completely at peace about this surgery and believe the best days are still ahead for all of us.

Some of you have asked how to specfically pray in the next few days and weeks, so here is a short list.

1. Pray for a smooth and unenventful pre-surgery procedure on Thursday. I will be in the Cath Lab of the hospital most of the day as they check the electrical functions of my ticker. Pray I get to go home with no complications.

2. Pray for the surgery on Friday, which begins at 1pm. Pray for the surgeons, the nurses, the anesthesiolgist, and anyone else who has a role in the surgery.

3. Pray for minimal pain in the recovery. The heart will be great, but the sternum needs to heal quickly so I can get back to normal routines, like walking, coughing, hiking, and preaching.

4. Pray for Pam because I am not good at being still at home for long periods of time. She is super gracious, but this may be her biggest test yet. 🙂

 

Thanks again for all the love and support. Turbo Brady is on the way, and I cannot wait to get back to living alongside you and not talking about surgeries, pulmonary valves, etc.  Remember, I may be on pain meds when I write my next blog, so I ask your forgiveness in advance for any crazy thoughts that may be posted.

Peace and blessings to all of you.

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How to take a day off

The sabbath was not a suggestion. Moses included it in his top 10 and Jesus completely redefined this ancient practice to the Jewish culture who had made it a chore instead of a blessing. But, let’s be honest, most of us do not know how to take a day off without feeling guilty, restless or insecure. As a young pastor, I seldom chilled for a entire day and it almost cost me my marriage, my health and my ministry. Today, I am better at it. Here are some thoughts and suggestions to help all of us unplug and recharge our lives.

1. Tweet less or not at all.

2. Don’t look at your Facebook inbox.

3. Go on a date with your spouse.

4. Go outside and take a walk. The sun recharges our bodies more than we think.

5. Unless it’s family or one of your close friends, do not answer your phone. Voicemail is a great screening tool.

6. Don’t drink cheap coffee.

7. Talk about anything but work stuff. Note to pastors – church stuff is work stuff.

8. Wear clothes you would never wear to work. I have an awful set of t-shirts I wear on my day off.

9. Do something that makes you smile or laugh. If nothing comes to mind, read something from Dave Barry.

10. Spend time reading the bible. If you’re a pastor or teacher, do not read the text you plan to teach on Sunday. Read for yourselves today and not for others.

11. Hit yourself on the kneecap with a hammer each time you read an email from work. After a couple of emails, you will be forced to lie down and rest.

12. Spend some time completely alone. Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. We should too.

May our souls be restored and our joy return as we trust that God can do more in our lives in six days than we can accomplish in seven days on our own. The sabbath requires faith and obedience, but the rewards are incomparable.

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Anticipation for 2011

Hope is the anticipation of something good happening and I’m full of hope for the upcoming 365 days of 2011. I am sure there will be plenty of surprises, challenges, dark moments and belly laughs along the way, but one thing is certain, time will march on and we will be along for the journey. Here are some things I am anticipating as I look ahead to the new year.

1. The first Dream Center will open and will provide free medical care for women in our city who cannot afford basic services.

2. My first book, Fear No Evil, releases in April with Zondervan. The proceeds from the book will help fund the Dream Centers.

3. Abram will turn 13.

4. We will pay off more of the debt on our property at New Life.

5. Hundreds will be saved and baptized during the Thorn performances.

6. Thousands will surrender to live the vow at the summer Desperation Conferences.

7. Hundreds of New Lifers will go on mission’s trips and have their worldview rocked.

8. I will spend some time in Wales and Kenya, connecting with leaders.

9. Pam and I are taking the kids to San Diego for LegoLand and the zoo.

10. I will celebrate 22 years of marriage to my best friend.

I really believe hope and joy are fanned into flame when we can look forward to something and anticipate God’s work in our future. What are you looking forward to in 2011?

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An Adoption Story – Part 2

Late on a Sunday night ten years ago, the phone rang at our home in Hereford, TX. It was the phone call Pam and I had been waiting to get for a month. Our little girl was about to be born at a hospital 45 minutes away in Amarillo.

Abram had just turned two and was asleep when the excitement erupted. We bundled our little guy up and called my brother who lived in Amarillo at the time to see if he could watch Abram while we went to the hospital.

At the hospital, Callie’s young birth mom was already in labor. Pam went into the room while I stayed outside in the hallway with the mom’s two young friends. Not long afterwards, I heard the sweet sounds of a baby crying and I knew my little girl had arrived. The biggest question Pam and I had was also answered. She did have red hair. For years, Pam and I had prayed for a little girl with red curly hair and blue eyes. That is exactly what God gave us on that November night.

Two days later, we had a ceremony in the hospital where the birth mom gave us Callie. Pastor Garvin McCarrell spoke and prayed for both families inside the small hospital chapel. As we were leaving, the birth mom looked at me and said something that I will never forget. She said, “I hope Callie is always a daddy’s girl.”

Her wish has come true. Callie is definitely a daddy’s girl who loves to play sports, ride horses and wear baseball hats. She is the tallest girl in her class and is already wearing the same size shoe as Pam.

Adoption is a joy that is difficult to describe and I hope more and more Christ followers say yes to the call. If you want more information about adopting a child from the foster system in your state, go to www.ICareAboutOrphans.org

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An Adoption Story

It was still dark outside when the alarm sounded, jarring Pam and I from a restless sleep. The day was finally here after ten years of waiting. We were going to be parents. 

This part of the story had started three months earlier when a woman who attended church with us in Amarillo, TX asked if we would adopt her son when he was born.  We said yes almost immediately.  We went to doctor’s appointments with her, met her other children and became friends along the way.

On the morning she was scheduled to deliver Abram, I remember Pam getting completely ready in about 20 minutes, which is lightning fast for my southern bride. We arrived at the hospital, put on our scrubs and were at the birth mom’s side during the c-section procedure. When the doctor brought Abram from the womb, he handed him to me first. His bald head and thick eye lashes are what I remember most.

Four days later, we had a ceremony in the hospital where the birth family said their goodbyes and handed Abram to us wrapped in a blue and white blanket.  Aside from our own salvation experiences, it was the single most spiritual moment in either of our lives. Adoption is the central theme of the Gospel and for those of us who get to experience the miracle of adopting a child, the message is even more poignant.

12 years have now passed, and our little boy is becoming a little man. He is brilliant, hilarious and loves Legos and all things Snoopy. He loves life more than any kid I know.  I am thankful that God chose us to be his parents and I am thankful for his birth mom who showed true courage and unbelievable obedience to God.

If God is leading you to give your life away to a child who needs a parent, check out www.Icareaboutorphans.org for info about Wait No More. Colorado is really close to being the first state to have a waiting list of parents wanting children instead of a long list of kids who wish they had a family of their own. I can’t wait to hear your stories.

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