Friday, December 28, 2007

Resolutions: Who needs 'em?

It's been a while since I have written anything on here due to all the Christmas fun we've been having. I've been too busy playing Wii Sports with my girls to sit down and type out my thoughts. My favorite sport on the Wii is tennis, and the one I am not good at is boxing.

A quick word about last week's service, we had the highest attendance in Freedom's history with 388 people there! You will want to be sure and continue to invite your friends to worship with you during January. The messages I will be presenting will be some of the most straightforward and challenging that I have ever shared.

This Sunday we will be talking about New Year's resolutions and whether they make a difference. We will also talk about what kind of resolutions you should make, and some practical tips on how to keep the resolutions you make. I would love to hear from you about what resolutions you are making for 2008. Leave a comment and let me know.

Also, I'd love to know how your family is planning to celebrate the arrival of the New Year. Do you shoot fireworks, eat collard greens, watch Dick Clark, or do you go to bed early and sleep through the excitement? Over the years we have done some of all of those things and I'm interested to hear what you will do.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Sunday forecast

This Sunday at Freedom is going to be lots of fun. I hope you have already invited some friends to come with you. If you haven't, there's still plenty of time to make some calls and send some e-mails. If you usually hang around in the atrium drinking coffee for a long time each Sunday and don't come into the auditorium until the third or fourth song, you will want to be sure to get there earlier this week. The first song will be one you don't want to miss! Here are a couple of things I reminded ya'll about last Sunday that we need to remember:

- If you are on a team that arrives at the high school early (set-up, band, preschool teacher, etc.) we are asking you to please park in the parking lot beside the school. That will leave all of the good parking spaces for the guests you have invited. It will be a little walk, but getting your heart rate up before you come into worship is a good thing.

- When you enter the auditorium please sit all the way down towards the front, and slide into the middle of the row you're sitting on. This will give late-comers plenty of room to find a place for their family to sit.

- Come expecting something great to happen. I listened to a sermon by Frances Chan this week where he talked about a young lady who leads worship at a college campus near his church. He talked about her joy and passion that is evident every time she leads worship, and he asked her where it comes from. I thought her answer was very cool. She said, "every week I pray that God will do something new. I ask Him to not allow us to have a repeat of last week's service. Our God is a creator, so I ask Him to create something new in our worship service every week." I am praying that same thing for this Sunday's worship, I hope you will as well.

Beacon Blowout update: We had a great time at lunch yesterday. There were 9 guys who weren't afraid of a little grease. Actually it was a lot of grease! We did what real men do when they are at ease and having fun. We ate too much, told lots of stories, made fun of each other, and laughed really loud. I loved it! If you are disappointed you missed it, go ahead and plan for next year. We always do lunch at the Beacon a few days before Christmas. If you want to go sooner, you'll have to come up with a different place. My body can barely handle one Beacon meal a year.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Get rid of the Bah-Humbugs

Here's something that's been bothering me a little bit lately. I'm getting tired of people complaining about Christmas. It seems more and more I am talking to folks who are stressed out over shopping, family, wrapping gifts, and just the Christmas season in general. I was in Lowe's two days ago and "Happy Holidays" was playing over the in-store music system. The employee who was helping me said, "I am sick of Christmas music."

I understand that for many people Christmas is a lot more stressful than it is for me. I also know that for some folks Christmas naturally brings on mild depression. I don't want to discount those real problems, but I think sometimes we set ourselves up for disappointment. We want to create the perfect Christmas where the kids get everything they want, all the family gets along, and the house is decorated like the ones you see on TV. When we do that, stress and feelings of inadequacy will naturally follow.

I read Luke chapter 2 frequently every December. I'm always amazed at how simple the first Christmas was. Just a man and woman weary from traveling and their new born Son making the best out of less than ideal conditions. Oh and by the way, the baby happened to be God in the flesh. All the cheesy sayings about remembering the true meaning of Christmas always make me laugh (Keep Christ in Christmas, Jesus is the reason for the season, etc.), but if Christmas has become a chore for you that you dread to see coming and can't wait for it to be over, you really should remind yourself that it is all about God coming to earth because He loves you. Don't let all that has to be done steal your joy in these last 5 days until December 25. Do the same thing Joseph and Mary did that night, make the best out of something that normally would cause you stress. Maybe reading Luke 2 everyday will help.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Slow down and unplug

I read somewhere recently (if I could remember where I would tell you) that addiction to technology is the fastest growing addiction in America. I had never thought of the incessant use of cell phones, e-mail, ipods, etc. being classified as an addiction. In the current issue of Reader's Digest there is a great article about controlling your use of technology instead of allowing it to control you. Here are some interesting facts from the article:

- the average American office worker sends and receives 108 e-mails a day

- a 2007 survey by the American Psychological Association found that 48% of Americans feel their lives have become more stressful over the last five years

- we now receive more information in 72 hours than our parents likely received in a month

Access to all of that information can be good, but it is also overwhelming. We contact people daily through e-mail and cell phones, but the downside is that we are always accessible, even when we shouldn't be. Here are some tips listed in the article about how to deal with information overload in our lives.

- Take Baby Steps: Try being inaccessible for short periods of time and see what happens. The world probably won't implode.

- Set Limits: Rein in office e-mail and text message traffic. Do you really need an update on things every 30 minutes?

- Give Clear Instructions: Let people you deal with know when you read and respond to e-mail, that way they won't expect an instant response.

- Stick to a Schedule: Handle recreational web surfing and e-mail at set times. Dipping in and out is classic self-interruption.

Technolgy can help you be more productive, but it can cause lots of stress if you aren't careful. Since moving to a desert island isn't a realistic option for most of us I hope these tips will help you manage your life.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Beacon Blowout time change

Donny has a meeting on Thursday that doesn't end until 11:30, so the Beacon times have changed. We won't arrive in Spartanburg until 12:00 and we should leave the office around 11:40. Hope to see you then.

Breakfast with Fred

Gary O'Sullivan is always passing along great books for me to read. The latest is "Breakfast With Fred". It is a book full of leadership lessons from Fred Smith with commentary from folks like John Maxwell, Ken Blanchard and others. I had never heard of Fred before Gary told me about him, but evidently he has had an unbelievable influence on many people during his life. You can check out Fred's wisdom for yourself by clicking here.

I will be reading through this book slowly during the next year and I'll share some cool stuff from it as I go. Here's some good stuff from the first chapter entitled,
Effective Self-Management.

"The hardest person on any executive's team to supervise is himself."

"One of the most important executive disciplines is cutting off escapes from effective work."

"Most people already know considerably more than they are actually using in the workplace. Education is not the problem - disciplined motivation is."

Those three statements remind me of Galatians 5:22-23. You're probably familiar with it. That verse lists the fruit of the spirit (or is it fruits of the spirit?). The last fruit on the list always gets me. Self-control. Perhaps, Paul placed self-control last on the list because it is the key to doing all the others. Being kind, gentle, loving, patient, and all that other good stuff only seems to happen when I am disciplined to be under control. I have plenty of areas that need to bear the fruit of self-control, maybe you have some as well.

The carpet is in. Now I think we need to come up with a better name for the new room other than "the bonus room". If we named it based on what it will be used for it would be called the "guestbed play study mancave" room. That doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. Maybe we could call it the Fortress of Solitude.

Thursday will be the annual Beacon Christmas Lunch Blowout. (a very appropriate title) Any men who can get to Spartanburg by 11:45 or to the office in Greer by 11:15 are invited. Donny and I would love to have you join us as we nullify 12 months of exercise and eating right in one lunch.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Monday Morning Quarterback

As I type this, there is a nice man at my house installing carpet in the bonus room. A whole lot of work took place this Friday and Saturday in order for that to happen. (Once again, thanks Jake!) Here's what's rolling around in my brain this morning:

- Donny did a great job with yesterday's message. We all need to remember the point he made that, our lives are not just a random series of disconnected events. God is interested in the details of our existence, and it His desire to place us in situations where we have the opportunity to serve Him. That gives me hope.

- We had a fun time last night at the O'Sullivan's drop-in. I ate way too much Christmas candy, but the time spent talking and laughing was very cool. I found out on the way out the door that yesterday was Barrie's birthday, but she didn't want anyone to know about it while she was hosting. Now that the drop-in is over be sure to e-mail or call her and tell her happy birthday!

- I watched Emily's church basketball game on Saturday. It was a barn burner with a final score of 7-6. (yes, you read that correctly) Middle school girls games always tend to be defensive affairs and this one certainly was.

- Only 8 more days until Christmas. Try to enjoy it. If going to the mall always stresses you out, don't go. Just tell your family that your gift to them this year is your peace of mind. I'm sure they'll understand.

- I spent a good part of last week finalizing the direction of the messages for January. I am really looking forward to them. They will be the most challenging, blunt series of messages we have ever presented. Start getting ready now!

- I am planning to go to the Beacon in Spartanburg this week for a lube job, I mean lunch. I go eat lunch there once a year shortly before Christmas whether I need to or not. Come to think of it, I never need to go, or even should go to the Beacon, but that won't stop me. Nothing says "Merry Christmas" like a sandwich covered in greasy onion rings!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

I'm back

Sorry I haven't posted this week. On Monday I spent all day at home working on getting the AC unit installed for our bonus room, then yesterday I was in some kind of funk. Who knows what it was, Christmas blues, ministry pressure, stress from the bonus room project, but whatever it was I have rebounded strong today from time spent with friends last night, steady care and encouragement from my lovely wife, and time spent in the word. So here's whats on my mind today:

- I've been listening to a lot of Dave Mattthews Band (DMB) on my ipod lately. I never really liked them that much until I heard their live recordings. That's what I've been getting into. It reminded me of the fact that people who aren't followers of Jesus need to see us live out what we believe more than they need to hear us say what we are opposed to. Listening to DMB live recordings is very different to me than their studio music. I can relate to the live stuff. I think people want to see our faith live and in person. That's what will be real to them.

- This warm weather is awesome! When it gets real cold in the winter I go on and see what the temperature is in places like Naples, FL and San Juan Puerto Rico. Then I dream about being there. The last couple of days I haven't had to dream.

- Be sure you are inviting your friends to worship with you on December 23. I was at Ted's place yesterday to preview a video we will use in that service. It is going to be very cool.

- I loved the new song, "You Said", that the band did on Sunday. When the chorus kicked in on that one I was really into it.

More work on the bonus room tonight, (Thanks Jake!). I am so committed to finishing this project on time that I am giving up a chance to eat at El Mariachi, the best Mexican place around.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Looking to Sunday

If you're anxiously awaiting another list of Christmas songs I'm sorry to disappoint you. Maybe before Christmas I'll do one more list. How about something like my favorite Eddie quotes from "Christmas Vacation"? If you don't know who Eddie is you need to rent "Christmas Vacation" and watch it this weekend.

Today instead of a list, I want to give you a little preview of this week's service. I got to hang out with our band at practice last night, and they were working on a new song for this Sunday called "You Said". Laura Beth sings it, and it is going to be awesome! Be sure you are there Sunday, you will not want to miss it. I will be talking this week about how Christmas reminds us that God keeps His promises. The bible is full of promises that God makes to us, and we can count on Him to do what He says He will do. I think that's something we need to be reminded of regularly not just during this busy time of year.

On Wednesday of this week, our Life Group had our Christmas party with the Life Group that Tracy Burkhalter leads. I was reminded of how important just hanging out and having fun together with other folks is to me. I believe the religious term for this would be "fellowship". Whatever you want to call it, it was fun. We did that thing where everyone brings a present then you steal them from each other. It had been awhile since I had laughed that hard!

One more thing before Sunday, I just received an e-mail from Wendy Trusty who is overseeing our teacher recruitment for the preschool area, and she let me know that beginning in January there will be some opportunities for new folks to serve in that area. If you have been looking for a place to minister at Freedom this would be a great place to consider. You will get to teach some of the sweetest children around the message of God's love. If you are interested, or know someone who might be good at this please send Wendy an e-mail:

I can't wait to see you Sunday! Bring your friends with you!

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Worst Christmas Songs

Yesterday's post generated lots of good comments, hopefully today's will as well. Here is a list of the five Christmas songs that I think are the worst. This is a list of songs where the artists were being serious so you won't find any songs like "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" on here. Besides "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" wouldn't make this list because it is so bad that it's awesome. After you look it over, be sure and add any songs that I left out, or tell me why you like one of the pathetic songs I included on this list. Here's the list countdown style:

5. Silent Night - The Temptations
One of the great Motown groups sing one of the great carols. That should be a winning combination, right? It's not. This song makes me laugh out loud, and they weren't trying to be funny.

4. Step Into Christmas - Elton John
I can't really put my finger on why this song is so bad. Maybe it's because I expect more out of Elton John. This song sounds like something by ABC or Spandau Ballet, not a legend like Elton John.

3. Winter Wonderland - Eurythmics
The end of this song is so repetitive that you might think your CD is skipping.

2. Santa Baby - Eartha Kitt
Eartha Kitt should just stick to being Cat Woman.

1. Last Christmas - Wham!
Maybe you're not familiar with this song. If you aren't, be thankful. It gets a good bit of airtime on 102.5 and 98.9 every Christmas. If you are a man and you enjoy this song, you need to go to Lowe's and buy some tools, cook outside on the grill, change the oil in your car, shoot and field dress a buck, watch Monday Night Football, and listen to some AC/DC CD's to get your testosterone level back to normal.

Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Greatest Christmas Songs

One thing I love about this time of year is listening to Christmas music. We have two stations here in the Greenville area that play Christmas music 24/7 during December. (They also play it before Thanksgiving which I don't like, but that's another issue.) Here are a list of my top five favorite "rock n roll" Christmas songs. This is a list of popular songs that I look forward to hearing on the radio every year. This list doesn't include classics such as Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" or Nat King Cole's "Christmas Song" which I also love. I consider those songs to be in a different category than "rock n roll" songs.

I'll list these countdown style:

5. "Blue Christmas" - Elvis Presley
honorable mention for Porky Pig's version that they play on John Boy and Billy

4. "White Christmas" - The Drifters
I especially like the end where they kick into "Jingle Bells"

3. "Please Come Home for Christmas" - The Eagles
Aaron Neville also does a great version of this song that is a close second

2. "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town" - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
I love it because it's Bruce, because it's live, because of Clarence's sax solo, and because I got to see him perform it in person in Columbia a couple of years ago

1. "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" - Darlene Love
Nothing beats this one in my opinion. Her voice is so powerful, and the back-up parts are awesome. Every year she performs it on David Letterman a couple of nights before Christmas, and I always stay up to see it. The second best version of this song is by U2.

Well there it is. Leave a comment with your favorites, let me know which great songs I left out.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Monday morning quarterback

I find writing my blog posts in bullet points is easier, and when something can be easy on Monday I think I should take advantage of it. I hope you enjoy yet another post from me of disconnected thoughts that I'm too lazy to put into paragraphs.

- My wonderful wife Sherry and the rest of the band were on top of their game yesterday morning. The new song that Lin sang right before the message couldn't have set up what I was about to say any better. By the time I got on stage to speak, I had already experienced the message about God being hands-on.

- I realized something this morning, I love our dog. I don't love him for the same reason most people love dogs. I've never really been a dog guy, but I love our dog for one main reason: He brings joy to my girls.

- There were at least three new families at our service yesterday. That was the first thing I thought about when Tracy Miller challenged everyone to leave their seats and welcome the people around them. As I have said before, if you are regular Freedom attender then I expect you to be on the welcoming team! A friendly smile and introduction can go a long way in a family's decision to come back next week.

- Jake and I went to the Third Day / Jars of Clay Christmas concert on Saturday night. We had the best seats I have ever had at a concert: front row center. (Thanks Mark & Tricia!) We had a great time, especially when Mac Powell (Third Day's singer) asked who owned Third Day cd's, everyone but Jake raised their hand so Mac pointed at Jake and said "what's your problem?" I'm sure that was the first time Jake had been called out in front of 8,000 people.

- The sheet rock crew is done in our bonus room, so I will begin painting tonight. Don't laugh at me if I stand up to speak on Sunday morning with paint in my hair.