Sunday, September 30, 2007
Today, I was wrestling around with my 6 year old when he told me that I hurt a booboo on his hand. I took a look, and between his fingers was surprised to see an infected blister. I guess he had a splinter for quite a while but didn't want to tell us for fear that we would take it out. He feared the temporary pain of taking it out, and therefore just lived with the constant pain for probably a week. But of course, now that we had to take it out while infected, it was going to hurt it even worse. Many of us have things we are dealing with deep inside our lives. If we choose not to deal with them, they begin to fester as well. We dread the pain of dealing with our issues, but they only get worse. Just as my boys hand would not get better until the splinter was removed, so we must get our inward splinters out so that we can heal. So what's your splinter?
Friday, September 28, 2007
I'm feeling a little old as Gary and I both go back to our former church and perform the wedding of an amazing young lady who was in both of our Youth Ministries. I was her first YP and Gary Fowler was her last. We both look at it as a privilege. Another bonus is that I will get to spend early tomorrow morning in the woods......with my bow.....and hopefully a large furry woodland creature. Ha! Anyway, I'm excited to see some old friends. Side note: When you leave a church on good terms, it is always a great experience to go back. We will get to be with those who have watched Keri and I mature and grow and they continue to pray for us. We cherish those friendships. This is how it is supposed to be.
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Sitting in a Panera this morning with a good book and a ton of dreams. When God starts stirring my heart for the lost and all the possibilities of how we can make a "dent", I feel like I'm going to explode! I want to always do my best to be a dreamer of God sized dreams with a pure heart and motivation. I have to guard against only looking at the present and take some time to get out of my box and dream. I am very fired up right now as we are continually trying to stay ahead of the growth that God is bringing His church. I'm just honored to be a part of it. This is our time to make a difference for the Kingdom of God. I want to do everything within my power to bring people to Christ. My prayer is that as I dream, I begin to get a heavier burden for those who don't know Christ. If I ever lose that, stick the fork in me I'm done.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
I love watching American Idol. Especially the auditions and fthe inal shows. That is when it gets good. In the auditions, I continually find myself asking "don't they know how bad they are?". Then some of them, after being ripped apart by Simon, say "My friends say that I am a great singer." I guess we have to ask, "Are they really your friends?" Woudn't a friend love you enough to tell you that you're bad? I look at my own life and hope that I have people who love me enough to shoot straight with me. I need others to help me not get too far out of balance, one way or another. We all need others whom we trust to give us wisdom, encouragement and honesty. It may hurt at the time, but we need it. Who do you need to shoot straight with? You probably can't see this one, but perhaps someone needs to be honest with you.
Monday, September 24, 2007
Sunday, I did a message called "endure". I used my Ironman race and the pain which I had to endure and parallelled it with life. If and how we endure, really comes down to our foundation and focus. You can check out the video that my Keri shot and my brother Josh did some studio shooting and editing. I used it Sunday for the message. http://myc3church.com/endure.aspx
Sunday, September 23, 2007
We had a great Sunday today! After the service, I took my 6 year old and teamed up with about 10 others from C3 to join in a citywide clean up day. I love how God just hooks things up. I just so happened to be in the group with the City Planner, a City Councilman and a lady running for Mayor. I had some great conversation about C3 Church and our community. They were very excited about our church and how involved we were in the community. I even talked some future plans on some land that if purchased would need to be rezoned. The City Planner (who makes those decisions) said, "that would be no problem to get that done for you guys". I am amazed at God's favor and am totally loving this journey. It always amazes me how God has me in the right places at the right time.........I may even make this weeks Newspaper with my picture picking up trash.
Friday, September 21, 2007
Last night, my Keri and I went out to a steak dinner (buy 1 get 1 coupon...yeah) and had a great time together. It was a man's restaurant......Texas Roadhouse! The floor was cluttered with peanut shells, very loud and had animal heads on every wall. Everything was going great until I decided to play the "hunting" video game. I love to hunt and have harvested one or more deer every year since I started hunting. That's why the gun had to be way off because I didn't hit one deer. (HA) That was embarrassing enough, but it suddenly got worse. Keri wanted a shot at it. I knew this was going in the wrong direction when she pulled up and waxed the first 5 or 6 deer. I mean c'mon.....it's MY day! She was smiling from ear to ear.
I think it is funny how God has a way of humbling me on regular occasions.
I think it is funny how God has a way of humbling me on regular occasions.
Thursday, September 20, 2007
When it comes to vision, how far is too far out? Personally, I feel there is a happy medium somewhere. I have met leaders who can see their vision fully fulfilled. The problem is, they can't get started or don't know how to lead the change in order to get there. On the flip side of the coin, there are many leaders who can't get past the tyranny of the urgent. They are so bogged down in putting out current fires and managing where they are at, that any plan for the future gets lost.
I sat with my coach and he, (looking from a different angle) said, we probably needed to be looking at land for a future campus. It hit me pretty hard. I personally could see us doing 2 more services at our current location and either a multi-site or a church plant, but I wasn't thinking that far out. Perhaps my coach was judging the speed at which we (C3 Church) are growing. Whatever the case, it challenged me to get the vision for the next 2-3 years, while at the same time keeping in mind the next 10 - 20 years. My prayer is for balance and to hear the heart of God on the matter. So I will continue to seek God and wise counsel as we navigate this amazing journey.
Wednesday, September 19, 2007
Today, my insurance company is sending out a nurse to the church to draw blood, check blood pressure, etc. They want to see if I'm in good enough shape to insure me and give me an life insurance policy. The funny thing is that according to their computer numbers, I am not in the highest category for health. 6ft 3inches, 160lbs is considered not healthy. I tried to tell them that I was training for an Ironman triathlon and that I am in great shape, but they wouldn't budge. I have to pay $6 more every couple months because of it. I finally just had to laugh about it. My Keri gives me a hard time because she is in a higher health bracket than me. Anyway, perhaps today I can change their minds. --- In the middle of this blog the nurse came in. She was an incredible lady and everything went well. I got to hear a little of her story and she said that her and her husband may show up this Sunday. It is amazing to see how God sets different divine appointments.
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Yesterday, Keri and I opened Kadens notebook from school (1st grade) and looked at a picture he drew about a rule in class. I was glad to see that he tried to write "be quiet", which is the one he struggles with the most. The picture he drew was quite the opposite. To the teacher it looked like a couple of stick men and a fat distorted guy with a tail. I, realizing that since my boys and I have been shooting my bow and arrows in the backyard at a deer like target, saw something else. That fat distorted guy with a tail was actually a deer with an arrow sticking out of it. The two other stick guys are my Kaden and Daddy with a bald head. Keri and I laughed out loud and was just thankful he couldn't find a RED crayon......Don't worry, I will talk to him.
Sunday, September 16, 2007
Saturday, was the most physically and mentally punishing day of my entire life. I now see why they call it the "Ironman". The race started at the beach for a 2.4 mile swim on a lake, with a temperature of 38 degrees. It took me just under 1 1/2 hours. I felt pretty good in the water, until I came out shivering. I pulled of my wetsuit, put on a shirt, helmet and gloves and took off on a 112 mile bike ride. That took me 6 hours and 40 minutes. Those long straight roads lined with cornfields have a way of making you crazy. I started cramping pretty bad at mile 56, and pushed through the 2nd half of the bike. The ride took its toll on my body as I changed shoes, put on a hat and ran off on a 26.2 mile run. So many battles in my mind, heart and will. On mile 15 of the run, my body almost shut down. I got dizzy and thought I was going to hurl. That's when all the thoughts of quitting start crossing your mind. When you don't know if you have what it takes. There were several who did not finish. It is in these few moments in life where you really see what you are made of. I was literally so physically and mentally exhausted, I almost started crying. Crazy! Then I remembered what I tell my boys and little girl, "Stephens never quit". I asked Jesus for help and pressed on. I started feeling a little better as I ran. It was completely dark when I finished the race in 12 hours and 54 minutes. It was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I don't think I will ever do another one that far, but deep inside I know that when I was truly tested.........I prevailed..............because I can do ALL things through Christ which strenghtens me.
Friday, September 14, 2007
I showed up today at Mattoon Beach Illinois for my Ironman, along with my lovely wife Keri and my dad. I stepped up to the shore and as I peered out over the water at those bouys.......Wow, do they look far. I threw on my wetsuit and went for a swim and then jumped on my bike and cruised down an old country road lined with corn. I suddenly have this sense that the 8 months of training, dedication and sacrifice are now about to be put to the test. The Ironman Triathlon is a 140.6 mile race that can never be handed to someone, but it must be earned. It is no respecter of persons and will test all who attempt it. 20% of all who have trained and attempt it......fail. They receive the dreaded "DNF" (did not finish). Personally, I love challenges that push me to my limits of mental and physical capabilities. I feel ready! I have done all the work and my personal test begins tomorrow morning at 6:45am. I have waited for this day for 8 months and have dreamed of it for close to a lifetime. My opportunity is here, and to that I say................ BRING IT!
Thursday, September 13, 2007
This morning my mom asked me to move her car so my Keri could get her van out. But her car wouldn't start because she was so low on gas and sitting on a hill. So I sputtered, stalled and restarted all the way to the gas station and filled up. I began thinking that many Christians are kind of like that. They continually run on empty and are barely hanging on until they get to church and get fed, but it is not quite enough. Or perhaps it is our other gauges like, our emotional, mental or physical tanks. Whatever the case, we must constantly learn how to read our gauges. We are all wired different. Personally, there are times when I will tell my Keri that I am red lining in a certain area. She then knows that it won't take much to start an argument and she helps me until I can refuel....and vice versa. But the key is knowing when you are running low and what measures need to be taken to fill up. What are your gauges reading?
Wednesday, September 12, 2007
I sat this morning with my ministry coach, Stan Tharp of clcdayton.com. His wisdom and questions have been invaluable to myself and our church as we grow. I think we all need people who have permission to either pat us on the back or punch us in the gut if we need it. Also, the fact that my coach is farther down the road of ministry than I am, allows him to help me through sharing strategies and lessons he has learned, that has accelerated our growth. Today, I felt he challenged me to see farther down the road then what I was looking. I think we all need that outside, honest perspective. So who's coaching you? Who can coach you? We all need them, so begin chasing someone.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
I lost in ping pong last night....(sounds of weeping).....that's all I am prepared to say about that right now. On another note:
1. At C3, we just polled the congregation on Sunday to see what they wanted as it would pertain to a 3rd service. C3 has begun to hit another growth spurt and we want to be ahead of the curve. I was surprised to see that the majority of our people said they would come to a Sunday night service. Our poll had about 5 multiple choice questions about service times, community groups and how people got to C3. Amazingly helpful.
2. We have totally revamped our discipleship process to 3 simple words: Connect, Grow, Serve.
Connect through our main service - Grow through community groups - Serve through our serving opportunities
Read SIMPLE CHURCH
3. I race my Ironman Triathlon Saturday.......BRING IT YO!
4. I took my 3 year old to his first day of preschool. That is one of the biggest days of his little life and I was honored to be by his side........right alongside the other roomful of MOTHERS who showed up to send their kids off. HA!
5. Ran through Starbucks drive-through and got the wrong coffee. I griped and grumbled and made a u-turn and went back. I got into a great conversation that led to a church invite and..........a free cup of coffee. Lord forgive me for my attitude.
Monday, September 10, 2007
Today, Gary and I golfed at the district pastors event. I have finally come to grips with the fact that I am horrible at golf. I usually love competition and usually do OK, but with golf......I am horrible. I think it is God's way to continue to keep me humble. So once again today, I had another lesson in humility.....but we had a lot of fun. I always try to take the lemon and make lemonade. Anyways, I get to hear our new Supt. (George Wood) of our fellowship tonight at this meeting. It should be good...and there is a ping pong tournament.....not golf, but ping pong. I hope to come home with a trophy! Time will tell.
Friday, September 7, 2007
This Sunday we are touching on health as we continue a series entitled "Intentional Living". The main point is: "you form your habits and then your habits for you". It is so true in every area of our lives. Whether physically, mentally, relationships, etc, our habits all move toward health or away from it. I try my best to look at my habits on a regular basis to make sure I'm on track. I actually have them written down in a personal growth plan that is my track to run on to become the best I can be. What habits have you formed.....or do you need to form?
Thursday, September 6, 2007
It seems crazy to me that no matter if there is success or failure in a field, they both bring about problems, some good and some bad. But regardless, they are both problems. I talked with a pastor of a church plant whose church has not grown in the past couple of years, and this poses several problems, ie, money, resources and people. We are facing a "good" problem as C3 continues to grow, ie, space, parking, staffing, etc. Both scenario's are problems, but they are just on the opposite sides of the coin. So really regardless of the outcome of what you are spending your life on......there will be problems. If that is true, then how we view and handle these problems will either greatly hinder or help us.
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
On Monday, I took the family and drove to South Canton for a little exteneded family get together at a park out in the country. I drove past my old High School and all the roads that I ran hundreds of miles on over the years. Then we drove by the church where I had my first paid ($30 a week) ministry position. I started youth ministry at age 18 in my first year in college at this Methodist Church. The pastor was the assistant Cross Country coach who gave me a chance. I also got to preach my first Sunday morning service there. I started with one kid and it grew to over 20. So many lessons were learned in that 2 years that God would build upon in the years to come. I'm just glad someone gave me a chance. Of course for $30 a week, they probably weren't lining up, but they still took a risk on me. Not only that, but they had patience and understanding to know that I had a ton of passion and energy but lacked on the wisdom side of things.
I want to be the one who believes in this next generation enough to give them opportunities that could forever shape them into who God wants them to be.