Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Mama, where do babies come from?

It's the iconic scary momma question "...where do babies come from?" And talk about that creative writing class you failed in school. Boy, you sure get creative now huh? And we become dorks and talk about things like storks and come up with stupid nicknames or try to go scientific. Ahhh, good times.

Last night I saw where babies come from.

I was invited to birthing ceremony of a ministry in Booneville MS called "Breaking the Chains" ministry. This ministry is the heart burst of Stevie and Cindy Carter. Three and a half years ago Stevie was rummaging through his son's drawers and found an unsent letter addressed to him from his son. His son told him how much he loved him but how he wished so much that he could fully be his dad, instead of a drunk. That letter changed Stevie's life, and his families'. Since then, Stevie has spoken in over one hundred churches with a recovery ministry called Living Free.

Living Free is a raw, real, love ministry where the one overriding belief is, "Jesus Christ can change your life." And it not just church talk for them. They are alive because Jesus did change their lives. And they bring hope to fellow strugglers because they know Jesus can change them to. So Stevie and their leader, Tommy, have been letting their testimony overcome the evil of addiction in lives all over the region.

Isa 58:12 says "some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities. Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes." God's plan is that he will use the restored to be the restorers.

That's one way babies are born...

Ministries like Living Free and Breaking the Chains are birthed from people who are 'living free' and from whom 'the chains have been broken'. God uses the healed to heal, the mended to repair and the free to unshackled the bound. That's just His way. And it works and it's wonderful.

Hab 2:2-3 says, "Write the vision down on tablets, that the one who reads it may run.

God places people together to dream. One of the great Crosswind blessings is truly loving other believers and partnering with them. What happens is that we get to dream together, to pass along ideas, to experiment and pass along the results, to struggle together, to share victories and defeats. Out of that emerges these God-sized strategies... visions, that we can write down together, so we who read them can run. To paraphrase a well-known verse, "Our cities perish without shared vision."

That's the other way babies are born...

Breaking the Chains is a ministry birthed from a family 'living free' from the chains that once held them, and sharing the collective dreams and strategies that God has for his city. I'm curious if all God stuff isn't that way... recieving what God has to offer (healing, salvation, freedom, love)... and inviting others to come and help give it away.

To our new heroes... Stevie and Cindy, breaking free!

I love seeing dreams come true.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Redefining the elephant...if I may

Everybody knows about 'the elephant in the room'. It's that staff person you won't let go when you know you should or that project that got pushed through that nobody really liked 'cept the boss... you know, the thing everybody wants to talk about, but nobody will. Just to be brief, air it out. The longer you let it go the bigger a problem it becomes. Trust me.

But there's another 'elephant in the room'.

This elephant is when something really big is happening and you are missing it. Something's going on right before your eyes, it's God sized, but you are going right on with the meeting or carrying on about whatever is on your schedule, totally missing the big thing, the real thing, the God thing that's happening right before your eyes.

We were helpin' a gal get to a treatment center. It was a classic friday afternoon project, with a whole lot to do and a little time to do it. But one of our volunteers (who has a passion for girls raised in the closets of their homes) offered to help this young woman. So I just gave her the list: find out what she needs to bring with her and go get it, put her up in a motel, get her a bus ticket, feed her, love on her till she leaves and... make sure she gets on the bus.

And oh by the way, here's the bank card.

Couple days later, in a worship enviroment, this volunteer came up to one of our staff with tears in her eyes and said, "You don't know how big of a deal that was last week. You just handed me the ministry's bank card. I've never beeen trusted like that before." We missed it. We had just given her a nuclear amount of love in the form of a simple act of trust. For us... gettin the job done, for her... you love me, you believe in me, you think I matter... I'm alive!

Lee came in yesterday. He's a dear friend of the ministry who has come farther in the last six months than many of us come in a lifetime. He got offered a job to mow a lawn in the neighborhood 'cause... after rent and stuff, he only has 60 bucks a week to live on... food and all. Well, he came in my office and said, "Hey Bobby, would you mind if I give that job to Matt, he doesn't have a job at all. I'd like to invest in him." Huh!? That's investing 25% of your food money. Would I do that?

Case your missin it, that's an elephant. There is so much to learn from these large God things that are happening all around us. My guess is that today, something like that will happen around you... something so cool that if you're just blurring through your routine, you'll miss it.

You can't miss these things... they're just too good to miss.

God... send the elephants.


Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Why are CEO's ushers?

I have a friend named Jonathan Byrd. He's a great story and a long one but suffice it to say he was a businessman par excellance. He owned Americas's largest cafeteria in Indy and hotels galore in West Phoenix. He also was an astonishing giver to Colleges and Christian Schools and causes he was passionate about. Some say he raised over a billion dollars for Christian ministries in his day.

Imagine being his pastor.

Guys like Jonathan and other businessmen sometimes just don't fit in most churches. Why, his tithe is bigger than the budget of small to medium sized churches. Anything he did in ministry was bigger than the whole missions mind of a city much less a church. You ever heard of a church that raised a billion for missions? A denomination? To me Jonanthan is a metaphor of the potential of some people in the church.

Is it his fault he doesn't fit... or our ours?

Imagine having Jonathan be a usher in your church? Hand out bulletins? Park cars? Or would he be a deacon going to meetings to fuss about whether or not to repaint the bathroom this year? Helloow... he raised a billion dollars!

I believe the town would be set on fire if we let the Jonathan's loose.

Imagine if people of his capacity to fund raise and problem solve and organize resources and network and market were released by their pastors to solve big problems, to take their leadership giftedness which is much greater than their pastors and go for it!

Ezra (pastor) had Nehemiah (civic man). Together they changed the fabric of the communinity. But make no doubt about it. Ezra was no Nehemiah. And I'm no Jonathan Byrd. He's got more leadership gifting in his pinky than I'll ever have. What's my job? Let him go. Let him dream, let him be creative, let him solve problems, do things bigger than our organization, or any church, let him lead and I'll follow.

The job of the spiritual leader is to release people, not stifle them, let them live up to their astonishing potential, not give them self-serving jobs to make us look good. News flash... my organization is never gonna be bigger than me... I am the bottleneck.

The Jonathan's of the world have to be able to relate to me and be loved and cared for by me without me stifling them. Just cheer 'em on. Jonathan was gonna change the world with me or without me. Why not go along for the ride? You probably can't figure out what they should do. But they can. Let 'em go.

And whatever you do... don't give 'em the bulletins.


Thursday, April 16, 2009

Kill Somethin'

Since I've moved to Mississippi I've realized something... People take hunting serious here. Out west we had shooting ranges and paintball and laser tag and stuff, but here... ya'll kill stuff!

Couple weeks ago we met a guy with the most powerful vision. His family has a dream of rescuing one million children from the streets of India and training them for ministry (school teachers and preachers) and sending them back into the towns and villages to save their country's soul. They have a verse that the vision came from...

Children are a gift from the Lord, like sharp arrows in the hands of a warrior. How happy is a man whose quiver is full of them! Ps 127:3-5

I was thinkin about that verse as it relates to my kids, to our ministry, to outreach, and especially to the church at large. Do we raise arrows for The Warriors hand?

Or do we raise arrows for hay bales...

My brothers are archery buffs. Man, they buy these fancy arrows... "this one'll go right through them... this one explodes in their chest rippin and tearing flesh and..." you know, all that warrior talk. And they get ready for the season in hay bales. Just set up some hay bales and put round circle on it and fire away.

But what if they never got to hunt?

You see Sam raises street kids to put in the Master's hands for his use. He collects them, sharpens them, and fires them into the heart of India for the King's sake.

I remember when we had our fifth kid, my wife looked over and with a tired smile she said, "Your quiver is full." A couple months later that had somethin to do with a vasectomy but for that day, I was just happy. "Happy is a man whose quiver is full of them."

Remember the purpose of it all? ..."like sharp arrows in the hand of a warrior." What if we approached parenting or community service or our own life like that? Am I preparing myself or my kid or that single mom or her child to be used by a mighty warrior? Isn't that why we meet and grow in grace and knowledge and why we are taught and trained and taught and trained...

Don't miss the battle. Don't stay in the quiver. Arrows are meant for something and I know one thing for sure...

It ain't lookin pretty in a quiver.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Livin' the dream...Crosswind style

Just had a friend Facebook me about going to hit a round of golf and then off to a baseball game w/the family. Tagged it, "Livin' the dream." Not pickin on my boy...just wondering how mine would sound...

"Spent a glorious day in the neighborhood with my friends. Catfish, fun and games, Jesus' love and story, complete with drama, hugs and smiles. Then eggs for the kiddos and a ham for every neighbor, makin' sure they have a Easter lunch like mine... livin the dream."

I hate it, but dude... I just one up'd ya!

There's nothing more thrilling than to see people happy. For a day...even just a few hours, the load of life lifted... chillin', smilin', enjoyin'. And maybe, just maybe, setting the table for a dinner with the King.

"The kindness of God leads to life change." (Rom 2:4)

The kindness of an apartment owner, the kindness of the Junior Leadership Auxiliary, the kindness of many Crosswind volunteers, the kindness of the Farmington/East Lawn/Hickory Terrace tenants and guess what... changed hearts all. Filled with love, with Jesus, with Hope and friendship.... heads and hearts lifted.

But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, My glory, and the One who lifts my head. Ps 3:3

Thank you Lord for looking on the ones whose heads many times hang low and for a day, for your sake, for their sake... lifting their heads.

...livin the dream.


A great day...

Had a great Easter Outreach today...good music, cake walk, fish fry and egg hunt for over 200 @ Farmington Arms Apartments (low income apartment complex here in Corinth). We also gave a ham to each unit in the complex. Around 30 volunteers spent their Saturday loving on their neighbors. A very good day.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Want to take a trip?

Have you ever considered going on a mission trip to another country? A group of Corinth physicians, nurses, dentists and support personnel will be traveling to Kota, India in partnership with Dr Sam Thomas and HopeGivers International...and we want you to go. We will be servicing and treating 700 orphans at the Emmanuel Missions Hospital and we need help from anyone with a servants heart. The trip will be from July 18th - July 26th and the estimated cost will be around $2,500 per person. For more information, please contact me asap.


If you play with fire...

My momma used to tell me, "Son, if you play with fire you're gonna get burned." Bet yours did too. I know it was a part of the "don't drink or smoke or chew or run around with those that do" campaign that my mom and yours tried to drill into our heads. But there's an outreach peril that we risk if we take that too far.

Campfires have a sweet spot.

You know how it is, you back up too close, too hot... but one step the other direction and, on a cold night, that's just too far away... there's that perfect spot. Not burned, not cold, just right.

Jesus always seemed to find the sweet spot. Close enough to the hapless crowd to be "moved with compassion", close enough to a tax collector to know that he must go to his house, close enough to a maniac to leave him clothed and in his right mind. Not so close that he became one of them, but close enough for them to become one of Him.

Is it possible we've gotten so far away from the fire that we've grown cold?

I'm pretty sure I need to get closer. Close enough to see and hear and touch and smell someone's pain. Close enough to be moved. The Bible says of Jesus over and over that he was moved. Moved with compassion. That means he got close enough that love took over. He couldn't sit there any longer. He had to do something. So he moved.

Are you close enough to move?


Thursday, April 2, 2009

Imagine This Project...

The plan:
Go rescue abandoned children from the streets, adopt them, feed them, raise them, educate them, send them to College, then send them to a community with no schools or churches and tell them to gather street children and start the process all over again. You believe that by doing this you can save your country's soul. Sound impossible?

50 years later:
You have raised up 20,000 pastors, have seen 500,000+ people find Jesus, you have 80 schools and colleges and have been recognized by your country's president with the highest honors. Pretty amazing don’t you think?

Well, Sam Thomas (President of HopeGivers International) has seen this become a reality in India. He will be in Corinth on Sunday, April 5th @ 6pm to share his experiences with Crosswind. Please don't miss this opportunity to hear the trials and triumphs of this monumental ministry.

The life and example of Jesus Christ call us to be participants in this world, not merely spectators. In this world of hunger, pain, and sickness, many people prefer a balcony view of life. It's easy to forget the needs of the destitute when our own basic needs are met without a struggle. Let's get off the sidelines and into the game!

All things Jackie

Jackie is my wife of twenty six years.

Some people you just can't oversell, you can't exaggerate their greatness, their personality, their love. That's Jackie.

If I had a sentence to describe my wife, without any question and without much thought it would be this, "Love believes all things." Let me repharase it for her, "Jackie gives everyone, even Jeffrey Dohmer, the benefit of the doubt." She believes the best about all.

As a mom, she always believes the best about her kids. "Hey hon, Jeff is out with these boys and they are going to the riverbed with some girls and I heard they had beer." "Now Honey, You know Jeffrey would never..., and besides those kids need love too. They're all good kids." ...Whatever!

As a pastor's wife, she's seen and heard and experienced some of the cruelest things, and been so wounded as a mom of five, raising kids by grace in a glass house, but she always had this disbelief that the intentions were bad... "It must have been a misunderstanding, if they only knew they would never..."

And don't get me started on my favorite group to pick on... anyone Hollywood. "Oh look Honey, you said all Hollywood marriages fall apart, look at so and so they've been married for twenty some years." If there is any virtue and if there is any praise and I mean any... my wife chooses to thinks on these things.

As for me... she believes in me. She believed in me when I would go to church with a hangover. Never judged, never said a word. She just knew that in there somewhere was a good husband and dad. The Bible says that your husband can be won over to God without words when they see your Godly life. I've told many a woman that in counseling as they have come to fix their husbands. Rarely will they recieve that by faith. My wife did. I am who I am and where I am in large part because I had a wife who believed that her God could make her a husband and father for her kids.

It's a tough life for a gal like Jack. People may be talking behind her back. She doesn't think they are. They may give her the cold shoulder, she thinks they are havin' a bad day. And even if people treat her mean right to her face, she just chooses to believe it wasn't about her... even though it hurts.

I want to be a cynic. I've seen enough crap to know that people are mean and Hollywood is messed up and the church is filled with hypocrites and Pharisees. Don't waste your breath... she just won't believe it. And she will always say, "I wonder if Jesus thinks that about them." Ugggh, hate it when she says that!

In our ministry to the hurting, to those who have fallen and haven't gotten up yet, to those who've been told they were a failure from the time they were little... we need the spirit of Jackie. Someone who believes in you. Someone who just stands beside you and shares your life, deeply believing that your okay, you're just going through a phase, the best is coming, you don't even know how great you are yet.

For twenty six years today (Happy Anniversay Sweetie) I have had that kind of love poured over me. It has kept me when I was afraid of tomorrow, when I was in my deepest pain, when I felt like I was in way over my head... again. No matter what she is always there, believing in me.

For that, my best friend, the love of my life, and for so much more... I love you.

PS Hollywood is messed up... ask anybody.