Russ Taff: Reflections on Grace and Our Expectations

Personal Growth

Over the Thanksgiving break, I had the opportunity to chill out a bit and watch some shows. Obviously, there are tons of options to watch out there – from movies and DIY shows to mini-series. While scrolling, I came across a documentary on Russ Taff, Russ Taff: I Still Believe. Taff is one of my all-time favorite Christian artists along with Michael W. Smith, Sweet Comfort Band/Bryan Duncan, and Petra (yes, I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s). I enjoyed groups like DeGarmo and Key, Whiteheart and PFR, then later on to DC Talk and MercyMe. I remember Christian bands and artists though being rare in my early years with groups like the Imperials and Dallas Holm at the forefront. All I can say is, the volume of artists today owe their success in some way to those on the early trail – those like Russ Taff.

Painful Turn

The documentary on Taff was a such a nostalgic walk down memory lane for me. There was a fascinating trove of background information on Taff, in particular his early path to The Imperials. But, the retrospective took a painful, yet ultimately redemptive, turn when it dove in to a too common theme for many artists and those in the spotlight: Drive, success, pressure, purpose, disillusion, escape/addiction and its effects.

Unreasonable Expectations

Too common in this type of situation would be many of us who may have an automatic response: judgemental thoughts about that person’s failure, or their inability to cope. But as I watched the story unfold, I became convicted. Could it be that I was part of the pressure, the churn? What about our expectations – expecting too much – performance, perfection, personality, availability? It almost seems that those in the spotlight are treated like a bottle rocket. We light the fuse on these talented folks, expecting superhuman feats and perfection to watch them be consumed, literally.

Escape and Addiction

For the person in the performance crucible, the trap and allure of addiction is real. Yet there is Hope. One of my friends, Lance Lang, launched Hope Is Alive (HIA) out of his own battle and victory. He discovered some huge gaps in what those in the war on addiction need – a place to land and rebuild – and he and HIA are directly providing for this need! There is a structure for grace and mercy all in the surroundings of support and encouragement. I thank the Lord for HIA.

Another brother in Christ, Seth Haines, is also a great resource of help and direction. His journey in brokenness and redemption moved him to write Coming Clean, a heartfelt and transparent story of his own journey. His words of wisdom on both sides of his experience would help anyone – be that to avoid a perilous trail or find the way back to the right trail.

Healthy Perspectives

As I continue to reflect and ponder on this documentary, I wonder what could be some simple, healthy perspectives?

First, what about our expectations? What do we expect of people? Is it unrealistic? Or will we work to give people a break – on performance and expectations. There is a certain irony in the fact that I find myself as a consumer of this very documentary on Taff. Another issue to wrestle is when people crash, mess up/sin (and we do) what will we do? Rubberneck and condemn, or forgive and lend aid?

The Bible says:

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16

Second, to those of you out there who give their time and lives in performance, thank you. I pray the Lord gives you His peace and rest.

Advent with Bonhoeffer

Discipleship

Tomorrow we will begin our annual journey toward the celebration of Jesus’ birth. My wife, Jennifer, bought me an amazing book recently. I am using it as a guide through Advent, God Is in the Manger: Reflections on Advent and Christmas.

For a succinct history on Bonhoeffer, let me suggest this Christianity Today article here. For a more in-depth read, enjoy Metaxas’ book, Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.

Bonhoeffer prevailed through the horrors of World War II in a resolute and unflappable way, grounded in his faith and love of Christ. His own personal disciplines and devotion to following Christ were consistently lived out. He resisted the evil of Hitler and his regime courageously and stood for right. After years of this resistance, tragically his life ended just days before the surrender of the Nazi forces. This devotional guide takes excerpts from Bonhoeffer’s works and letters, and places them in daily readings that correspond with Advent and the Days of Christmas. I pray you find this guide refreshing and encouraging as we celebrate the Lord’s birth.

Merry Christmas!

Neighborhood Improvement

Discipleship, Personal Growth

Inspired by a movie…

The family is all home for Thanksgiving break. This is a new season for us with a son now away at college. With some time to have fun together, we selected a movie to see at the theater – choosing a movie about Mr. Rogers over a race-car movie. My expectation was rather low for either, simply happy to be with my family! But, to my surprise, the movie about Mr. Rogers was moving, and inspirational. This movie is literally thought provoking, or perhaps better said emotion provoking. As I walked away from that movie and disposed of an empty bucket of popcorn and teary napkins, I am better for being reminded of the following things as I work on my own Neighborhood Improvement:

People are valuable

The value of all people, right where they are, just as they are, permeates the movie. Rom 5:8 says, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus focused the majority of His passionate anger toward the religious elite, the self-righteous. The elite looking to the outside – prestige, power, “success” – those who make those as connection points. But Jesus dialed into the heart. Most often He shared his ministry of connection with the broken, outcast, sick and abandoned. As we all know, regardless of our outward trappings each of us are broken, outcast, sick and abandoned. Ephesians says it more strongly as being “dead in our sins.” As Jesus accepts us as we are, I am not saying Jesus leaves us as we are, but he takes us as we are and shapes us and makes us ultimately to be like Him.

Be present

Often Mr. Rogers would avail himself to be available with people, or rather individuals. He did not multitask. Mr. Rogers did not speak so much to groups in conversation, but often zeroed in on one person even in those groups. He was present, and that person would know they were heard, understood, and accepted. It is fascinating that the premise of his television program was to speak into the camera as if it were to one person. Just as Nicodemas came to Jesus in the night to ask soul searching questions, or just as the woman at the well explored her life with the Master – both of these and many many more experienced the Truth personally.

No one is perfect

As shared by Mr. Rogers, while seemingly saintly, he was a jar of clay like us all. He met people where they were because he was also very familiar with his own shortcomings, in the past and present. But, he did work at it. 1 Peter 1:15-16 says,

“But as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

and Paul declared in Philippians 3:12,

[ Straining Toward the Goal ] “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.”

Impacting your own neighborhood

It is not uncommon for Neighborhoods to band together for clean-up, safety teams, and overall neighborhood improvement. What if we also took time to restore our neighborhoods relationally. Building and maintaining relationships today is tough. Our culture seemingly stokes and pits us against one another creating sides and divisions. Not to mention the fact that there is an enemy who prowls about seeking those he can destroy; individually, in marriages, families and communities. Chaos and anarchy are his MO, for all time.

Book – The Art of Neighboring

The staff where I serve recently walked through the book The Art of Neighboring. This great read gives some straightforward context and descriptors of neighborly life today, or rather the lack thereof. And then it turns to ways to combat our isolation. Obviously there is a goal of permeating our relationship with the Gospel, while living authentically and transparently with those nearest us, even if we live in ways that do not align. I confess I am not a perfect neighbor. I get tired of other’s Christmas lights being up too long, barking dogs, and cars going too fast with stereos too loud and the like. But, I’m guilty of not being present, not looking for ways to connect and help in my own neighborhood improvement. This is where the Lord planted me. The need to be a neighbor who cares is my responsibility.

It’s Thanksgiving, how will you connect with your neighbor?

Tips for a Beautiful Green Lawn.

Personal Growth

We live in Oklahoma, a place where we have 4 distinct seasons. Sometimes it can feel like we experience them all in one month! That makes growing things a bit interesting around here. I have never been a massive lawn guy, meaning I have basically focused on the bare minimum. My strategy has been to keep whatever is growing out there mowed and edged. The reality is we have had a disappointing lawn with areas where no grass grows and bright red clay soil proudly indicates my lack of a green thumb.

But no more…

Today our lawn looks like this:

Here are some tips for a green lawn that I gratefully learned from others.

Tip #1 Ask for Help.

I have a great friend at church, Troy, and he is a landscaping professional. Unashamedly, I confessed our situation to him and he agreed to come take a look. When he came out he gladly and generously gave insights to all I am about to share with you. Thank you Troy!

Tip #2 Install a Sprinkler System.

It would be a bit pointless to do the following steps to have a green lawn and not have a way to keep it hydrated. So the very first step was to address the fact that we had no way to irrigate the lawn other than me dragging out the sprinkler whenever I remembered to do it! Troy had a great guy he recommended that installed a thorough system for the yard and beds. He explained all the differences in the type of sprinkler heads needed for each area and they work great. The master system, Hydrawise, is WiFi based and I can run it from my mobile devices – anywhere on the planet – and access its schedule and any issues. It is totally cool. I can’t help but make the “Tim the Toolman Taylor” grunt when I fire this up when friends are over to visit!

Tip #3 Get Rid of What You Don’t Want.

Even before we had the irrigation system installed, Troy shared about weed control and fertilizer. Here’s the deal, for the type of lawn we are going for, you cannot use weed control. It will kill the grass. So about June before we panted seed in September, I called and canceled our weed and feed company. And that’s a good thing, since my water bill $ went up!

While this may seem like a weird thing to do, stopping the weed kill makes sense as I have experienced it. One, my taller, healthy grass is winning the battle over pesky weeds. Two, my healthier lawn is green – if there are weeds, they are now concealed in an ocean of green grass, not dormant brown bermuda.

We had to scalp the bermuda grass. We don’t want bermuda, that is, we want the new grass to overtake it. So Troy coached me up on an important and key date – September 15. Whatever I was planning to do with the grass, it needed to happen on Sept. 15. This date is when the summer grass, like bermuda, begins to go dormant for the winter. By the 15th, I had scalped and bagged my lawn a couple of times. Great thing, the shady areas were already bare! I broke up the soil in some spots with a stiff garden rake. I had used an aerator a summer or so back and the soil surprisingly is still not too hard.

Tip #4 Plant What You Do Want.

The next tip Troy gave was to make a trip to our local feed and seed store. I think local is important. No offense to the big box stores, but local pros know Oklahoma’s extreme soil conditions and extreme weather conditions. Sure enough, the good people at Eckroat Seed Co. know what they are doing. Troy recommended two blends they have to be able to address the two areas of my lawn that are really distinct – sun and shade.

Before we seeded and after a lawn scalping, I made a quick trip in the F-150 to get a bed full of fresh topsoil from our friends at Murphy’s products. We have made many a trip to get their rich mix. We have also used their mulches in the past. A few wheelbarrow loads later and we were ready for seed.

For the sunny areas which is the majority of my lawn, I used a blend they call “Premium Tee.” When I mention “plant” what I mean is I have gone around the yard with a garden rake or leaf rake to sweep up any debris or old grass clippings, and to break up the soil a bit. Then I loaded up the seed in a common spinning spreader and covered the lawn. I would go back and hand sprinkle areas that I could see needed more attention or seed.

For the shady areas, I used a blend they call “Endo-Shade.” Wow, this stuff is amazing. Through the years I had attempted coverage in some tough shady spots with other grasses, but this stuff has outperformed anything like that.

Tip #5 Maintenance.

First thing to address here is watering. Especially when the seed went down, we aggressively and frequently watered it. After just a few days, those tiny bright green slivers of life began to pop up. Now we keep it good and moist on a regular, every other night, cycle.

Second, fertilizing. Since I stopped the weed control, that also meant we stopped the feeding. Now I do the fertilizing using a mix from Eckroat. I actually put this blend down liberally right after seeding, and have done it numerous times since.

Third, mowing. I have learned to raise the deck of my mower. What I want is a deep thick lawn. Taller grass reaches further down in the soil and taller grass chokes the weed growth. I actually had my mower set on its highest position, but I have dialed that back one level now.

Some Final Thoughts…

I am so thankful to have the lawn looking great, and it is fun to talk about it when we have guests. This journey has reminded me of some principles:

  • Ask for help in life, and then follow the direction.
  • In life, get rid of the stuff you don’t want, and work toward what you do want.
  • When healthy things are growing, bad things will diminish.
  • Pay attention to staying healthy physically, emotionally, mentally, in relationships and most importantly spiritually.

Remember that we will reap what we sow. Galatians 6:7-8 says, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.Biblegateway

Hey Troy, thank you, and everyone remember September 15!

Trip to Paradise: Top Tips for a Vacation in Oahu.

Marriage and Family

2019 marks a significant year for my family. Jennifer and I celebrated 25 years of marriage, our daughter turned 16, and we recently moved our son to attend university. To add some icing to this cake of big events, we decided for the whole family to take a trip to Hawai’i. I am so glad we did. What an amazing time of making wonderful memories!

Why Oahu? I am familiar with this island. Many years ago, I was able to take a trip there to visit my sister who was living there at the time. Of all the places I have journeyed around the globe, my mind will often float back to one of the most beautiful places I have ever experienced, and I will share more about that spot here in just a moment. I also like that this island is easy to navigate, with a mix of downtown vibe, to a feeling of being on your very own beach or trail. Here is a quick list of the top tips for a vacation in Oahu.

I like the East Shore (Windward)

First tip, focus on the East Side of Oahu. No doubt the entire Island is beautiful, it’s Hawai’i for goodness sake, but this side is over the top. When you drive from Honolulu to the east side on the H3, you will drive through the Tetsuo Harano tunnel. When you pop out on that side of the island, I guarantee every time you will audibly say, “wow!”

Years ago, I experienced one of the most incredible places I had ever seen, the East Shore, near Bellows Field Beach – and it is still the same! You will find beaches like Lanikai, Kailua, Waimanalo, and Makapu’u, and they are absolutely stunning. There is a mix of crystal clear water, white powdery sand, black lava rock, and lush green mountains. One beach park is fondly named Sherwood forest and it truly has beautiful trees nestled near a white sandy paradise. This side of the island is home to the old 80’s Magnum P.I. series “Robbin’s Nest” and we drove past this spot many times while exploring. There are great hikes like the Makapu’u lighthouse trail, and other pillbox hikes. Talk about first gear recharge time!

Live like the locals

The second tip I would give is, stay and live with the local community. There are many ways to find places to rent – pick your favorite and go for it. We found a delightful upstairs apartment in the east side town of Kailua. The couple we rented from had an awesome upstairs studio apartment that would sleep us all comfortably and had a great kitchen. Our host was so kind and had ample gear for just about anything we wanted to do: snorkel gear, boogie and paddle boards, beach towels, umbrellas and more.

Kailua was quaint, with local flair, like a weekly food market with fresh food and hot food vendors, live bands and art. But the town also had tons of familiar spots: Starbucks, Target, Whole Foods and the like. This made it easy to pick up fresh milk, bread, eggs and fruit for the apartment. We enjoyed our pad’s kitchen for quick breakfasts as we began our daily tour, and then the grill for dinner and oven fresh cookies at night. Our host had a variety of Hawaiian treats like pineapple, macadamia nuts, and coconut cookies.

Our Kitchen Window

Another we way we worked to experience the community was to go to church on Sunday. We went to church at Kailua Baptist Church. It was such a good time! The fellowship was sweet and we made some quick friends for sure – and even experienced the Lord’s Supper together. In the town of Kailua, the “Aloha” lifestyle is real and I would definitely return to this spot to have as our home-base in Oahu for sure!

Pearl Harbor/Downtown/Aloha Bowl

Third tip, make a loop in the downtown area. Any trip to Oahu must include a visit to the historic location of Pearl Harbor. They do a masterful job of having static displays, murals and other guides to help you understand what you are looking at in the bay. There is also a very well done movie about the day of the attack, the bravery of the men and women of the armed forces, and the consequences for all from that day. During our visit, the actual USS Arizona Memorial was closed for repairs and it had been closed for some time. Regardless, we had a very meaningful ride in a navy vessel out and back along ship row.

Downtown Honolulu is like visiting any large metropolitan city, mass transit, high end shops and malls, restaurants and the like. The only difference is no other city also has its own beach like this, Waikiki. There was a very convenient mall, the International Market Place, where we were able to park our rental car. This mall is centrally located and convenient for seeing any of the sites of Honolulu. Quite frankly, Downtown/Waikiki isn’t really our favorite thing to do – but it is a site to not miss for sure, with incredible views of the Royal Hawaiian and Diamond Head. There is supposed to be a free fireworks display on Friday nights on Waikiki Beach, but on our night out it fizzled somehow – but hey, the views were still great and we found a great spot for dinner.

A bonus for my bargain shopping family is a quick trip to the Aloha Bowl Flea Market. Open a couple of days each week, vendors set up their goods around the perimeter of the bowl – everything from inexpensive t-shirts, souvenirs, and hats to more expensive items like jewelry and handcrafts. The kids enjoyed it, so much that we had to make a return visit later during our stay in Hawaii. There are snacks and treats as well to enjoy.

Diamond Head/Hanauma Bay

In the Shadow of Diamond Head.

Fourth travel tip to Oahu, check out more iconic spots to visit: Diamond Head State Park and Hanauma Bay. The hike up Diamond Head is not hard, but it is also a bit of a climb, especially the “stairway.” The payoff is the view. Not only is the crater itself beautiful, but the view from the top across the sprawling downtown area is incredible!

Diamond Head Tunnel

For the visit to Diamond Head and Hanauma Bay arriving early is the key. Parking is limited at both locations, and both will have big crowds. We decided early in our trip to not vary greatly from our home time, which meant getting up early and hitting the road for the day would not be too painful.

Hanauma Bay State Park is a beautiful location for snorkeling in a natural reef among brightly colored sea-life. As we were continuing our quest of getting up early and hitting the road, we arrived at Hanauma Bay early enough to be allowed in by the staff before being charged for our visit. There is a visitor center, restrooms and snack shacks. For us, this was a quick visit in the early morning with other things planned for that day.

North Shore/Dole Plantation

One final tip is to explore the entire Island. There is so much we were simply not able to do – waterfall hikes, museums, other beaches, boat or helicopter excursions. But, we did trek across and around the island. One way to tag the good stuff in the island is to experience the goodness of a “Dole-whip!” The historic Dole Pineapple Plantation is a neat spot, centered on the Island. It would be easy to tag this on the way to say North Shore or Turtle Bay.

Speaking of the North Shore, the town of Haleiwa is a cool surfboarding town with lots of hip stores, board shops, and great restaurants. We spent the greater part of a day strolling the streets, checking out the local beaches, and having some great food at Teddy’s Bigger Burgers and Matsumoto Shave Ice.

We also had an incredible sunset Luau on the West Shore at Paradise Cove. The food was very good (buffet) and the entertainment from the time the gates opened throughout was exceptional. The sunset views on this side were definitely worth the drive across the island!

And a final word about Paradise

Many of our friends and family commented as we prepared for our trip, “Have fun in paradise!” No doubt this place is incredible. But here is what we also experienced (reality check) – disappointment. We did not always get along, sometimes we were grumpy, the food or idea/location we selected was bad, there was traffic, and as always jet lag stinks. Even worse we saw the pain of this old world, from homelessness to the lack of care for God’s creation.

So in this paradise setting, I found my heart longing for the new life to come – a place not marked or marred by man’s choice to do their own thing apart from God. Jesus said to the dying but believing man beside Him on the cross, “Today, you will be with me in Paradise.” Folks, this place is at the top of my list on the planet – and there are greater things in store for those in Christ Jesus. Confess Him as Lord of your life.

John Williams – Creativity and Hard Work.

Personal Growth

Through the end of May and the first part of June I traveled quite a bit. My wife and I racked up Over 5000 miles, crossing 13 states, spending nights in 9 hotel and dorm rooms. The trek took us on a journey to Boston on a church trip, and then Jennifer and I went to Birmingham for a convention. There is more to share about both journeys, but I want to focus on one take-away from the Boston trip.

Fruits of Labor

While our group explored the Freedom Trail, Concord, and Plymouth, one outstanding encounter happened at a Friday night concert at The Boston Pops. They were hosting a John Williams tribute night. That’s right the John Williams music that is the movie soundtrack of my childhood – Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Close Encounters, and many more!

Boston Pops Conductor, Keith Lockhart, was a joy to watch as he conducted these all too familiar tunes under the flash of the movie screen above him. I was in awe as these musicians, pros, the best likely in the world at their craft seemingly played with ease the scores that evoke so much emotion. The music swelled and flowed and carried us all along for a grand ride through these iconic films. My wife mentioned that at times she felt so absorbed in the moment to forget that the music was being performed in our presence.

Certainly the conductor and musicians are quite arguably the best. But, the music did not “just happen.” We were experiencing something that had taken countless hours to create.

Focused Creativity

The Pops conductor would lead the orchestra through incredible sweeping pieces, and then take time in between songs to describe details from that particular piece. But, even better, he would segue to Williams himself in video interviews describing his process behind the scenes. Williams shared how tunes and notes were chosen, to his special relationship with writers and directors. He gave so many incredible stories that were a real thrill to hear.

But one thing struck me. One thing has been a major takeaway.

Get to Work

With easy online access to Williams’ talent and creativity, which is immense (just google it), he shared about his own work ethic. Williams, 87 years young, shared that even now, he has a robust routine. It consists of him working 6 days a week (likely 6.5) and involves working in a studio with his favorite pianos, writing out scores of music. From early in the morning, until the evening, he stays focused on the hard work of writing. He mentioned he takes a break for a lunch and a walk mid-day.

You see, I believe many like to assume that, “Oh, he’s just talented,” or “It is easy for him to write like that,” and that is an error. A serious error. There is no doubt this man has been given much in creativity and ability. But, it is nothing without his drive to put pen to paper, or pencil to score in this case. John Williams truly displays creativity coupled with hard work. He quipped in the video dialogue that what has taken him hours on end to dream, create and write out – it takes the brilliant musicians who receive it only moments to play it!

All Thrust No Vector, OR Focus

From this experience, I am encouraged by the coupling of creativity and work ethic. I have a dear friend who is a veteran pilot and current airline captain. He mentioned that through his years he has come across many a young pilot who are “all thrust and no vector.” Meaning, you can have passion, zeal, creativity deluxe, but if there is no channel like a river bed, or no trajectory for a million dollar jet, that energy may never be captured or even released, or worse crashed.

Through this encounter with the heart and mind of John Williams, I am encouraged by two things: that age is relative, and that harnessing creativity takes hard work. I believe we have all been given unique skills, abilities and creativity. Are you working at your creative side and production or simply hoping something just happens?

If you are ever in Boston, definitely go to The Pops – you will be glad you did! Until we return, I do hope to purchase/download this gem that was mentioned at the concert: (Affilitate link used) “Lights, Camera…Music, Six Decades of John Williams.”

Recommended Church Assessment

Discipleship, Leader Resources, Personal Growth

It is just about time for my annual check-up at the doctor. I know, not real fun stuff to blog about. But attempting to eat right and trying to exercise is only one part of being healthy. Check-ups, wellness checks, and assessments are part of a healthy journey. I can think I am fine, but it helps to know to what degree I am okay.

Have you ever wondered how healthy your church is? Would you know how people in your church rate their own spiritual growth and health? What would the results of some key metrics tell you about their personal maturation, relationship with God and others, heart for the Gospel, their own worship of God individually and corporately? You see, it is one thing to guess how we are doing. It is entirely another to actually investigate it.

Assessment Tool: Transformational Church

In 2018 the ministry staff at my home church began exploring a way to assess our spiritual health and maturity. We wanted to find a tool that would help us dive into some key metrics of overall spiritual health. One of the lead staff found Transformational Church Assessment Tool. By the developers’ own admission, they know no assessment is flawless. However, it is powerful and incredibly well-rounded in its exploration of key areas of growth and maturity.

Personal Impact

This tool is being used by our church to seek out how we are really doing as a group/body (confidential individual results). We wanted to get past some overly simplistic metrics like “how many attend.” It also has another powerful component. I am now readily aware of how I am doing personally. The assessment explored areas of maturity in my life about my personal discipleship, sharing the Gospel, private and corporate worship, giving, my gifts and serving others. But here’s another bonus. Many of you are likely aware of the “Hawthorne Effect.” I do not mean to refer to this effect being used in some manipulative way. The reality is I am now more conscious and aware of what I would call “accountability.” What was unknown in my life or a guess before is now known.

Church Impact

We have developed this year’s entire Theme around being aware of our growth and pursuit of following Jesus. In college I had a class called “Concepts in Fitness.” We had to do a pre-test and post-test that involved max sit-ups, push-ups, mile run time, etc. Part of the grade was to track improvement of our health through the semester by the post-test. Hence, that is our goal this year: at the end of 2019 our church is more aware of our strength level of our discipleship and key areas of improvement. And more importantly, our goal individually. We are challenging each other to grow in key areas. I want to and need to grow in key areas. Areas that I am now aware of clearly. We are providing resources to enhance growth in those aspects of discipleship, and encouraging each other in the journey!

Please share any insights you’ve discovered on a path such as this. For you!

GiANT TV Leadership Development on the Go!

Leader Resources, Personal Growth

Do you ever wish you could experience leadership development anytime, anywhere? A few years back I had the opportunity to walk through leadership development and growth with GiANT Worldwide. I learned the value of the lifelong journey of growing and improving as a leader. GiANT provided concepts and delivery options for me to explore change and challenge in my own life.

There are variety of ways to experience GiANT’s leadership tools as they describe and offer on their website, from books to personal encounters. But, I want to share something exciting that is new and particularly unique.

GiANT TV

The incredible tools, concepts and insights I have experienced with GiANT can now be experienced anywhere, anytime and on the go through GiANT TV.

If you use the following link, you will be able to experience GiANTtv free for one month! Check it out and enjoy the journey!

GiANT TV free for one month!

For more information about GiANT Worldwide click here.

Change

Discipleship, Leader Resources, Personal Growth

Change is rapid. This past spring, a group of my buddies and I headed out to Arkansas to kayak Mulberry Creek. The scenery is incredible, the river is a beautiful blue and the kayaking a thrill. The guys on the trip made the trip a blast, and we did not hurt for great laughs and amazing food! One of the guys, Kevin, was our fearless leader. He knew the area well. But more importantly, he had been on the river and knew its twist and bends, and dangerous spots. The journey was a thrill and enjoyable, but it had plenty of moments that took insight and care. There were changes at every corner.

Change can be risky

As I floated the river, I couldn’t help but consider the thrill, but also the peril that could be involved in change. We have been in a transition at the church where I currently serve. Our Pastor of 15 years left for another great ministry leadership position. That meant we embarked on a journey in search of a new Senior Pastor. Here are some resources that have made this journey successful.

A Key Guide

Ready for change

One resource came in the form of a person. Having someone come and lead the organization/staff through a time to consider change and all that it means was a blessing. One of our friends in ministry is a leader and consultant with our state church convention, Brett Selby. We invited him to a day retreat at a facility in the Oklahoma River Parks area. He helped us process some early days of change – changes that at that time were happening more about our former pastor leaving. But, he also helped us consider what it will be like now, with a new pastor coming. He recommended the book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges.

A Key Book

A journey that I have been on is with another resource, the book, Leading Major Change in Your Ministry by Jeff Iorg. This book chronicles Dr. Iorg’s victories and challenges as he has helped churches, denominational entities, and a seminary to make changes. The seminary changed its name, and moved its entire campus to a new region! Dr. Iorg uses frank but respectful anecdotes from his journey, key biblical passages and clear instruction in the best ways to lead a group through change.

Great book on change

Of the four churches I have served in since Seminary in the 1990’s, 3 have had Senior Pastor changes. Much of what I had experienced in the past was very good and healthy, but these additional resources and insights from Brett, and these two books have helped put into words what I have experienced. These resources have also helped me explore and expand areas that I know need growth and attention in my leadership development.

What resources have you used as you have experienced change?

Staff Retreats – Part 2

Leader Resources

In a follow-up to the previous post on some simple goals for staff retreats, I thought I would share some of my favorite locations.  An attempt is made at the retreats to connect the location with the main thrust of the day, the theme.  Sometimes the theme of the day centers on personal growth, sometimes on team development, and sometimes on a task like planning for the next year. The location of Quartz Mountain was the focus of Staff Retreats – Part 1, here are some more of my favorites!

Roman Nose State Park – This place has been a repeat favorite! This place that sits just west of Oklahoma City has a great facility with ease in rooming and meeting space, combined with cool places to explore. Meal options are good and the meeting space looks out over the lakes and scenery!

The Home Garage –  This one was tops because it was so simple but so cool.  One of our member’s residence has a significant car garage.  First, this man and his family love the Lord and the church.  Second,  he’s a great guy and a gifted mechanic (hobby).  He can make current cars even cooler, and does custom work from chops to resto-mods on classic cars and motorcycles.

After a few sessions to focus on the theme and talk about how we keep things up to date and running best, we had some projects.  We used the garage to literally do maintenance on one of our Widow’s cars – changing the oil, washing it and detailing the inside.  Then it was time to turn our attention to the good-ol’ Church Bus, and it got the same attention! 

Our Church DNA is simple.  We Gather in Worship and Small Groups, are Built Up and Sent Out.  While open to creativity and change, in the end, we tend to take what we have and make it run well – almost like taking something old and restoring it, making it even better today and for the future!  And that is exactly what we talked about that day.  How can we stay fresh and running all out!  Our theme was restoring a classic.  Everyone got a garage button-up shirt with name and Church logo sewn on, and a red garage rag to put in our office as a reminder to keep things running! 

Jacob’s Ladder Camp, located just outside of Oklahoma City by about 40 minutes, is a great place to feel like you have made it out of the “city” but not so far that you feel worn out from a long road trip. The campus has a dual purpose of a great Christian encampment, and also a boys ranch. It is a place like many Christian camps where you can sense that the Lord is often at work in peoples hearts.

Falls Creek – Our state convention has an incredible convention center located in the heart of the Arbuckle Mountains.  For many of us on staff, Falls Creeks holds a dear spot as a place where many of us have made life-changing decisions.  I did a bit of a time-warp to the past for us as a staff with a camp-like feel of a retreat.  Camp cabin, outdoor devotions, throwback camp t-shirt, and even a camp style staff picture for everyone’s office. 

Union Train Station – Some years ago, as QSBC was on the verge of experiencing some dramatic change, we took some time to tag base as a staff with the things that will not change about what we do and who we are as a church. Point being, this formerly bustling train station is no longer used for that purpose. How will we press on in the years ahead with the simple and clear mandates that have always guided the church – what are the most important things we should be doing?

Finish Line Tower and Chesapeake Boathouse – Just south of OKC’s Bricktown is the Oklahoma Riversports complex. This gem of a spot is an incredible place to gather as a team as there are great places to meet, with more than ample access to great trails along the river. The staff who assisted with my last outing to the Finish Line Tower was amazing, from giving direction about the facility and catering, to meeting early for access and help with any setup I needed. Top notch! We were able to talk about finishing well and teamwork.

OBU – The staff took a journey to Shawnee, America to the campus of Oklahoma Baptist University. This beautiful campus lends itself to good walks for time with the Lord. We utilized the campus Athletic Facilitiy called the RAWC, to explore our own “strengths” individually and as a team. Good day for sure!

Aloft Bricktown – Located in downtown OKC at Bricktown you’ll find Aloft and this hip spot had a great meeting room that has panoramic views of Bricktown and even better OKC’s Skyline. On the Skyline side there is also an outdoor terrace that is quite stunning.

Thanks for checking out some of my favorite spots to recharge and focus with our ministry team. Take a moment to share some of your top spots, it would be great to hear!