Tuesday, June 30, 2009

5 Jackson Classics

The last seven days have been very abnormal for the staff at Freedom. Last week at this time we were up to our ears in painting the new offices. Since then everything has been moved out of the old offices and gotten somewhat set-up in the new place. I spent all of yesterday afternoon putting together a desk from Staples. I got lots of good help from Donny's four year old son Johnathan. He was very good at finding what piece I needed next. Every morning this week I have been teaching to the 160 teenagers and adults who have come to Greenville for the Power Plant project. I will write some of my thoughts about that experience on here tomorrow or Thursday.

Since everything has been so busy I haven't had a chance to write anything about the death of Michael Jackson. In the last 15 years Michael was known for some extremely strange and disturbing behavior. In no way do I condone or even understand all of the things he was involved in, but I am 40 years old and that means that Michael Jackson's music is the soundtrack of my youth. As I thought about his death last week I realized that Micahel Jackson songs were important to me from the time I was ten years old all the way through graduating from college. Instead of talking about the crazy Michael Jackson here's a list of 5 of my favorite songs by him:

(I put these are in chronological order. They aren't in order of what my favorites are, because I can't choose a favorite. Also, I have only included songs he did as a solo artist)

- Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough
Every time I hear this song I think about Seven Oaks Elementary skate nights at Red Wing Rollerway in Columbia. This was a perfect rollerskating song because of the tempo and crazy sounding violin part at the beginning and end. Although I loved skating to this I never was able to "shoot the duck".

- Beat It
I was in the eighth grade and my friend Jeff Caldwell came to school and told me that Eddie Van Halen played guitar on the new Michael Jackson song. I told him he must be crazy because I couldn't imagine how it would sound, then I heard it and was convinced that getting Eddie to play on "Beat It" was an amazing idea.

- Billie Jean
What can you say about this song? It's probably the most well-known song of the eighties. The moonwalk that he did on the Motown 25th Anniversary special was one of those things that everyone was talking about in Mrs. Hilliard's homeroom the next morning. The bass line to this song is one of the best ever. I dare you to listen to it and not move.

- Man in the Mirror
The best part of this song is the lyrics which Michael did not write, but the way he sang it made those words come to life. Having the choir (featuring Andre Crouch and the Winans) sing in the background gave the song a gospel flavor that took it to another level.

- Smooth Criminal
Another song that I can't listen to and sit still. I don't have any idea what the lyrics are talking about, but I think they have something to do with the plot of a movie that Michael made. Either way it's a cool sounding song with a driving, frantic sounding beat. The harder rocking cover by "Alien Ant Farm" that was released a few years ago sounds cool too.

Have a great evening! I hope to write more here tomorrow.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Sunday preview

This Sunday we will finish up the One Prayer series by listening to a powerful message from Craig Groeschel. Those of you who have been to Catalyst before know that God uses Groeschel in a powerful way to communicate the truth of the bible.

Also, Chris tells me that the first song this week is going to blow you away. Sherry came home form band practice last night talking about it. That means you need to be sure and be in the auditorium by 10:30. If you are used to strolling in the atrium around 10:29 and then taking your time to get coffee and a bagel, you will need to change your regular schedule! There will be a countdown clock on the screen to let you know exactly when the service will begin. Invite your friends to be there this week!

I was shocked last night when I came in from working in the yard to hear Michael Jackson had died. This has been a crazy week due to celebrity deaths and the Mark Sanford debacle. Because we have spent so much time in new office prep this week I haven't had a chance to comment on these things. Hopefully, I will have some thoughts to share with you next week. In the meantime, check out Chris' blog to see what he wrote about the deaths of Michael, Farrah, and Ed.

Last, please keep me in your prayers next week as I have the opportunity to teach on the subject of church planting to 160 teenagers and adults. Greenville will be hosting a Power Plant project where I have been asked to teach. The first session is on Sunday afternoon with sessions on Monday through Thursday morning following. I would appreciate your prayers as you remember.

See you Sunday! Be there early!

Thursday, June 25, 2009


This week has been very busy with painting and packing. By this time next week we should be settled in our new office space. There have been a ton of people who have helped out to make all of this happen, but I want to mention a few people who have really led the way in this project:

Jake Ticknor and Jason Collins - Jake and Jason served as our unofficial project managers. They made sure that all the materials were available, recruited workers, made sure things were done right, and just generally kept a check on everything.

Mark Wilson and Chris Wellmon - Thanks to Mark and Chris we will have lights when we move in this weekend. They pulled all the wire for the new electrical circuits and made sure it was all tied in with what was already there.

John Bostic - We had several people who helped paint in the new space, but no one spent as much time painting as John. He took off of work on Tuesday and painted literally all day. He was there from 8:00 a.m. until 7:00 p.m., and then he came back on Wednesday afternoon for a few more hours to get things finished up.

Chip Patat and Tamara Whitener - Chip and Tamara have organized getting everything moved from the old space to the new location. On Saturday several of our Life Groups will begin loading trucks with boxes and office furniture thanks to Chip and Tamara's organization.

Thanks to everyone who has had a part in making this move possible. If you painted a wall, hung sheet rock, or moved a desk, your work is appreciated!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Being 40 and Sunday scripture

Well today I'm 40. I know this is one of the big birthdays that should make me feel old and depressed, but in reality I feel no different than I did yesterday. Actually, I feel better than yesterday because I slept better last night than I did on Wednesday night. I subscribe to the Satchel Paige school of thought when it comes to age. Satch famously said, "Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don't mind it doesn't matter."

I hope you are planning to be at worship at Freedom this Sunday. We are continuing the One Prayer series. This week the message is "God is worthy". If you want to be ahead of the game when you show up you can read Joshua 24:1-24. Also, Dustin Willis, the pastor at Midtown Fellowship in Columbia, will be with us to give us an update on the cool stuff God is doing in that church. Many of you know that Midtown is one of six different church plants that Freedom financially supports every month.

Well that's all I can do for today. Now that I'm 40 I'm supposed to go home and take a nap right?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

If you can't say something nice...

While I was away on vacation last week David Letterman evidently said some pretty mean things. I honestly had no idea until Monday when I saw a story on the USA Today website. The only tv I watched last week was some of the NBA Finals. My friend Dino pretty much sums up my feelings about the whole incident on his blog here.

In addition to what Dino said let me add two things: First, I understand that anyone who tries to be famous has to accept being made fun of by late night talk show hosts as part of the territory, but their kids should be off limits. The kids have no control over the fact that their parents are in the public eye, and besides when did it become funny to make fun of anybody's kids? I understand that part of Dave's appeal has always been his willingness to knock down a notch or two any celebrity who took themselves too seriously, but this was different because of who the target was and because of the nature of the joke. The non-apology, that he claimed to be a real apology, which he offered a couple of days later only made him look like a bigger jerk to me.

Second, Dave has a new son named Harry. How would Dave feel when Harry is 14 or 18 (the age of Sarah Palin's daughters) if Conan O'Brien were making similar jokes about him? I doubt he would be willing to overlook it.

I know I'm a pretty simple guy, but it occurs to me that this whole incident wouldn't have happened if everyone involved had remembered the words of Jesus. You might know it as the Golden Rule, "Do to others what you would have them do to you."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Back to the Real World Update

Vacation was great, really great. Being back in the office today has been easier than I expected. I can't put all that I'm thinking about into a coherent order, so I'll share some short thoughts in an even more random fashion than normal. Hang on.

- One of the highlights of the time at the beach was riding the waves on a two man inflatable boat in which the bottom had been torn out. That's what happens when you pile five kids between the ages 8 to 14 in a two man inflatable boat.

- My rear view mirror just fell off today on my way to lunch. I almost drove off the road onto the sidewalk it startled me so much.

- For the first time in a long time I didn't get sun burnt at all at the beach. Maybe I'm getting smarter, but I doubt it.

- There are a lot of baby sharks in the ocean. We caught a ton of them this week. I guess that means there are lots of Mama sharks as well.

- Fried oysters, fried shrimp, Krispy Kreme doughnuts, ice cream, peanut butter fudge milkshake, fried chicken, BBQ, and NY Strip are some of the things I ate last week. I know that sounds like a list of banned foods put out by the American Heart Association. I've got to do better this week.

- I loved watching Grace play skee-ball and Emily play pop-a-shot at the arcade.

- I failed once again to score 25 runs on the baseball game at the arcade. If I had succeeded I would have won a small stuffed animal that has been hanging on the wall there since around 1978.

- My nephews are into wrestling now. Not real wrestling like kids do in high school gym class, but rasslin. As a result, I got speared by them often in the ocean this week. Of course I dealt out some punishment of my own with some Ric Flair inspired chops to the chest.

- Sherry and I have been married 18 years as of June 8th! I am looking forward to the next 18, and the cool thing is I love her more now than I did on June 8, 1991.

- Coming back was easy this year because we have a great team at Freedom. I was able to go away and really relax knowing that everything back home was under control.

- Yesterday's worship attendance was 370! Not bad for the second Sunday in June.

- I love my girls (all three) and I love the beach, so being with them last week in Garden City was about as good as it gets.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

One Prayer

I am very excited about what will be happening at Freedom in June. For the next four weeks our messages will focus on who God is. This is all part of the One Prayer emphasis that 1,649 churches are participating in. This includes churches on every continent, and the number of attenders at those churches is over 900,000 people! We will have the opportunity through down-loadable video to hear some of the best speakers in the country teach on the subject of "God is..."
Here's the line-up for the month:

6/7 (that's this Sunday by the way!)
"God is...here and anything can happen"
Dino Rizzo - Healing Place Church, Baton Rouge, LA

6/14 "God is...strength"
Frances Chan - Cornerstone Church, Simi Valley, CA

6/21 "God is...worthy"
some guy named Cliff - Freedom Fellowship, Greer, SC

6/28 "God is...love"
Craig Groschel - LifeChurch.tv, Edmund, OK

I believe that every Sunday is a great time to invite your friends who aren't in church to join you, but this month might be an especially good time for you to offer that invitation!

On a personal note, my beach vacation is less than 48 hours away!
I can almost smell the salt air and taste the oysters now.
Here's a little overview of what I hope to accomplish next week:
sit with my feet in the sand, body surf, eat seafood, laugh with the girls, spend time with Sherry (who on Monday will have been my wife for 18 years!), take some walks, fish in the surf, get knocked down by a huge wave, eat some ice cream, play putt-putt, play skee-ball, avoid getting stung by a jelly fish, well you get the picture.

We'll see you on the 14th! I hope next week is a good one for you. I plan on it being a great week!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Quick quotes

No long blog today due to the fact that I'm trying to be sure everything is finished before we leave on vacation this Saturday. I am beyond ready to spend some time at the beach. Nothing recharges my batteries like time spent on the shore and in the ocean. Just to give you something to think about, here a few quotes from a book that I started reading several months ago, then quit for awhile and just last week picked it back up. It's called "Jesus for President" by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw. It is probably the most radical book I've read in years, and as a result it has been one of the most challenging.

"The promise of the church is this: none of us alone are Christ (that's blasphemy), but all of us together are Christ to the world (that's ecclesiology)."

"Some folks may really be bummed to find that 'God Bless America' does not appear in the Bible. So often we do things that make sense to us and ask God to bless our actions and come alongside our plans, rather than looking at the things God promises to bless and acting alongside of them."

"The danger is that we can begin to read the Bible through the eyes of America rather than read America through the eyes of the Bible. We just want Jesus to be a good American."

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The value of a great CSR

Last week I had a problem with my bank statement. Yes, I still get my statement the old fashioned way: in the mail, printed on paper. Feel free to make fun of me because of that. My last statement was missing some vital information that made balancing the checkbook a giant pain. While I was trying to get it all figured out Sherry asked me, "what should we do about it", and I said, "I'm going to call Ann Rainey and she'll fix it!". Ann Rainey is the CSR at our bank. CSR stands for Customer Service Representative, and Ann is the best CSR alive.

Here are a few reasons why Ann is so good at what she does:

- She is always ready to help.
Now I know you might be thinking, "she should be that's her job", but I've had plenty of experience with people who work in service industries who seem anything but eager to help. In fact, many of them act like you are bothering them when you ask for help. For Ann the most important person she needs to talk to is the person she is helping at the moment. It doesn't matter if the customer has $100 in the bank or $100,000 in the bank. Everyone gets the same careful treatment.

- She knows what she's doing.
Over the almost 15 years I've had my little bit of money at her bank, Ann has helped me with all kinds of issues. I have yet to hear her say, "I don't know how to do that." Whatever the issue is, she can get to the bottom of it and then fix it, normally in about 20 minutes.

- She smiles.
I had a parent tell me the other day that their child got an award at school for smiling the most, and I thought that was great. A simple smile has enormous power, especially when you greet someone with one. Ann greets all her customers with a smile. This immediately puts the customer who is frustrated and fed-up at ease.

As I thought through all these things I was reminded of the fact that each week at Freedom we are in the CSR business. We need to always be ready to help, know what's going on, and greet people with a smile. It will make a difference in whether or not people choose to come back and worship with us again. It might even make difference in whether or not someone decides to accept the freedom Christ gives from sin. Customer service is important in any business, but I think people should experience the best customer service at church.

Recently, I had an opportunity to change banks. The new bank (which is a fine institution) promised several perks that I don't currently have at my current bank. I didn't change banks, because if I have a problem now I can go to Ann and she'll fix it. I wonder how many other customers my bank has retained because of Ann? How many people are still worshipping at Freedom each week because of our great CSR's? I think the answer to both questions is a whole bunch.
Remember this week when you come to GHS at 10:30 that you are a CSR!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Monday update

It's Monday morning before I leave for vacation on Saturday, and as usual there is a lot to get done! It's amazing how much effort it takes to leave town for a week, but it is certainly worth it. Here's what is on my mind:

- Yesterday's service is one I will remember for a long time.
There are Sunday's at church that just seem to stand out form the rest, and yesterday was one of those days. There were a lot of cool things that came together at the same time, not the least of which was all the folks from LRCC joining us for the first time. It was great to see almost all of the people I met there a couple of weeks ago walk in the door at GHS. Donny's message was off the charts. The whole idea that we are holy not because of what we do but because of what Jesus has already done was something I needed to be reminded of. We also had many new folks there yesterday who were not from LRCC. All this should be a reminder to us that God has lots more in store for Freedom and in way have we arrived at our destination. That is the most exciting part to me!

- There are a bunch of movies I want to see.
The new Terminator looks cool, and I didn't care to see Star Trek, but I've heard it's really good so now I want to check it out. Of course the one I'm really excited about is the new Harry Potter that comes out in July. Emily and I were excited just to see the preview when we saw Night at the Museum 2. The sixth book was my favorite so the sixth movie should be as well.

That's all for today. I've got to get cracking on all these tasks that need to be finished by Friday! This time next week I'm body surfing!