Thursday, May 31, 2007

hiring expectations

We are so much going to miss our Children's Pastor Lynn Jankowski. She is such a gifted and passionate leader and she has made us a better church @ Faith.

But we are also incredibly excited about our Interim Director of Children's Ministry. Jennifer Neal has been really growing in her leadership and our transition plan is really clicking. The crazy part is that Jen just completed her PhD in Neuroscience. It is not the normal career path one would take towards full-time ministry...even if it is on an interim basis!

God keeps providing and we keep rolling!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

hiking bliss

Yesterday (for the most beatiful Memorial Day weather ever!) our family went out to Sleepy Hollow State Park for a picnic and hike through the wilderness.

No, this is not the location of the "headless horseman". But it is an area not too far from Lansing with wonderful natural beauty, wildlife and some gorgeous hiking/biking trails that will surely get some attention from my mountain bike this summer (if I can get anyone who will go with me).

Up until a certain point in the hike (maybe about the 2nd mile) our 2 kids had been having a great time. But all of a sudden that began to change.

First Seth (7 years old) tripped as we tried to make our way around a muddy bog. It was no big deal. He got a little mud on his knee and that was all. But that little bit of mud changed his whole attitude. Up until that point, he had been our self-appointed hiking guide. Enthusiastically he would warn us of upcoming hills and roots to watch out for. He had been totally engaged in the role of "family leader". But immediately he decided that the fun was over. The smiles were gone. And he wanted to get back to the car.

About a half mile later Kate (10 years old) decided that she was also ready to get out of the forest and back into some air-conditioning. For her, it was because of the "mosquitos". In reality they were mostly gnats...and really not that many. And the mosquitos weren't really biting because we were covered in bug spray. But she got that creepy feeling, where you feel like you're getting eaten alive. Sure it's just in your head, but it is creepy nonetheless. And her smiles turned to frowns within a matter of minutes.

Fortunately, we soon found a pump from a well with cool water to rinse our hands and faces. And then we ended up at a beautiful lake, which lightened everyone's spirits. We began laughing and teasing and having lots of fun again, as a family.

But it is amazing how our attitude changes everything. It is true. Life is going to dump you in the mud. Pests are going to swarm. The trail won't always be joy and bliss.

Fortunately, Tracy and I kept our cool as parents. I really was having a great time, even considering that I had just completed a 46 mile cycle ride that morning. I admit that there have been plenty of times when I've gotten frustrated that everybody isn't having that great "family quality time" experience. But yesterday was one of those days when Tracy and I stayed positive, encouraging, patient and joyful. And sure enough, the whole thing turned around. The kids started having fun again.

So here's the point. Keep on hiking!

And I pray that the next time the kids don't "act happy for Daddy"... that I stay positive and encouraging. Fortunately my wife Tracy is a model of all that is good and perfect (well, MOST of the time)... because, "When Momma ain't happy, nobody's happy."

Thursday, May 24, 2007

power in group drafting

Last night I joined my first big cyclist group (about 30 people) for a 30 mile trek. 15 of these guys were absolute animals! I started off with that fast lead group as we left from the MSU campus and headed south. I figured, "I'll start out with the big dogs. And if I can't keep up, I can drop back with the slower groups."

Well the first 10 miles were awesome! It was such a rush. We're doing about 20 miles an hour on country roads in a draft line 2 cyclists wide...tire to tire, front to back. You start to think, "I'm rolling. Look at how fast we're going. I feel so strong and powerful. I can run with the big dogs!!!"

All of a sudden a cramp started to set in around my right ribs. I tried to keep pushing, but I knew that I might be fading fast. At this point I was at the front of the line, running 2 by 2. I thought, "Maybe I can slow my peddling pace a little, to catch my breath and try to relieve the cramp in my side." I pulled over to the right a little bit to let the guy behind me take my spot.

But if you've ever watched NASCAR at Daytona, you know what happens when someone breaks out of the draft line. Within about 5 seconds, I found myself at the very end of the line. I tried to keep pace. I didn't want to be left behind. But within literally 3 minutes, the group was disappearing from sight over the horizon.

Now instead of running at 20+ mph up hill, I was back to my old usual pace of about 15 mph the rest of the ride. And I was all alone.

So here's the point. It made me think of how often people decide to "fall back" from being involved in Christian community.

You get involved in a church that's moving fast. It's exciting. You're running with the big dogs! You're fast and furious. You're covering lots of ground. You begin to think, "I feel so stong and powerful in the Lord. Look at all that we're accomplishing."

But sometimes we fail to remember that much of our speed and progress is due to the synergy of the group dynamic. Just like the cyclists riding in tight formation, spiritually you've been drafting at a faster rate than you could ever accomplish on your own. We so often forget that our spiritual progress tends to be directly corrolated to the group of peers who surround us.

And then it happens. I've seen it over and over again. The person decides to fall back for a little while. They decide to take a little break and drop to the back of the pack just to catch a little rest. They drop out of their ministry involvement. They stop hanging out with their HomeGroup friends. They spend more time doing "other stuff".

And before you know it, their spiritual progress is stalled. They're getting left behind. And it just seems like too much effort to try to catch up. So they pull out of church and wonder, "What went wrong?"

Last night as I watched that fast-moving group disappear over the horizon, I suddenly realized how I had overestimated my ability. Riding with the draft, I failed to remember that the speed and progress I had experienced was due to the energy of the group. On my own, I am much slower and the work is much harder.

I guess God's word is true. We really are much better together and Christianity is definitely not a solo sport.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

coffee church

Richard Blake from San Luis Obispo, California says,

Coffee was always served at his church after the service. One Sunday the pastor asked one of the little girls if she knew why they have coffee time at church.

Without hesitating, the girl replied, "To wake people up before they have to drive home."

I've done a couple of recent posts about "boring church". I hope it just serves as a reminder, that when we let the joy and love of God flow in our's anything but boring!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

heroes or saints

All of my son's friends are in that "superhero" phase. In the Gorveatte house, we just smile and nod as Seth and his friends ramble on about the powers and adventures of their favorite heroes. But there's something about this that has alway's rubbed me the wrong way (from a biblical context).

Ben Witherington recently gave some quotes from a fantastic book. It is from Sam Wells work on Christian ethics called "Improvisation" .

In reflecting upon the characters we celebrate in movies and in history, Wells points out that the Bible seldom celebrates heroes. It instead emphasized the importance of saints. Read, ponder and reflect...what do you think:

"There is a significant difference between the kind of story that is told about heroes and the kind of story that is told about saints. The heroes always make a decisive intervention at a moment when things are looking like they could all go badly wrong [reference every summer box office hit movie]. The hero steps up and makes everything turn out right. In other words, the hero is always at the center of the story."

"By contrast, the saint is not necessarily a crucial character. The saint may be almost invisible, easily missed, quickly forgotten. The hero's story is always about the hero. The saint is always at the periphery of a story that is really about God..."

"The hero's story is told to celebrate the virtues of the hero. The hero' strength, courage, wisdom, or great timing: such are the qualities on which the hero's decisive intervention rests. By contrast the saint may not be strong, brave, clever, or opportunistic. But the saint is faithful [consider the hall of faith in Hebrews 11]. The story of the hero is told to rejoice in valor. The story of the saint is told to celebrate faith..."

"The definitive heroic icon is the soldier, who is prepared to risk death for the sake of a higher good. The noblest death is death in battle, for battle offers the greatest danger, thus requiring the greatest courage. The story assumes that in a world of limited resources there is bound to be conflict at some stage so that good may prevail. But the saints assume a very different story. They do not need to learn how to fight over competing goods, because Christ has fought for and secured the true good, and the goods that matter now are not limited or in short supply. Love, joy peace, faithfulness, gentleness-- these do not rise or fall with the stock market. The saint's story does not presuppose scarcity [think oil for example]; it does not require the perpetuation of violence. Whereas the icon of heroism is the soldier, the icon of sanctity is the martyr. The solder faces death in battle; the saint faces death by not going to battle. The soldier's heroism is its own reward: it makes sense in any language that respects nobility and aspires to greatness. The martyr's sanctity makes no sense unless rewarded by God: it has no place in any story except that of Christ's redeeming sacrifice and the martyr's heavenly crown... A hero fears failure, flees mistakes, and know no repentance: the saint knows that light only comes through the cracks, that beauty is as much (if not more) about restoration as about creation."

"Finally, the hero stands alone against the world. The story of the hero shows how he or she stands out from the community by the excellence of his or her virtue, the decisiveness of his or her intervention, or their simple right to have his or her story told. The story of God tells how he expects a response from his disciples that they cannot give on their own: they depend not only on him, but on one another for resources that can sustain faithful lives, and they discover that their dependence on one another is not a handicap but is central to their witness....Saints are never alone. They assume, demand, require community-- a special kind of community, the communion of the saints."

"Heroes have learned to depend on themselves: saints learn to depend on God and on the community of faith. The church is God's new language, and it speaks not of a country fit for heroes to live in but of a commonwealth of saints"

(Improvisation, pp. 43-44)

Thursday, May 17, 2007

highest number

Joanne Weil (not from here @ Faith) was talking about one day when her young son asked, "Mom, what's the highest number you've ever counted to?"

She said, "I don't know. Son, what's your highest number?"

He told her, "5,372."

"Oh," Joanne asked, "Why did you stop there?"

"Church was over."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

store closing

Wow, I many people are applying for jobs at that store?

To earn commitment and loyalty, people need to know that you're sticking around for the long haul. I even find myself questioning the longevity of a business before I get too attached. Do I really want to fall in love with a restaurant that's going to close next year?

I guess I'm one of THOSE people. I want to root for one team, or one player. I want to get excited about a quality brand. I want to tell everybody to shop at my favorite store or take their car to the best auto repair shop around (go to E.L. Automotive Center with Bill Peters). I want to develop a relationship.

Maybe that's why I've been at Faith Church for almost 12 years. Instead of just getting upset and leaving when things don't go my way...I'd rather invest in trying to make a difference. It's all about relationship.

Monday, May 14, 2007

why worship

Worship. Here's why it matters: God made you, to enjoy you.

(Revelation 4:11 NLT) “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created everything, and it is for your pleasure that they exist and were created.”

Recently I thought of it in this context. You see, some of our biggest projects around Faith Church involves kids. Investing in a new generation is one of our written cultural values. We're gearing up for another massive VBS next month.

Why? Why do we invest so much time and energy and money? Why do we have hundreds of volunteers? It’s because our kids bring us pleasure.

Last week, my kids were watching Scooby Doo on TV. I went in and I sat on the couch to watch Shaggy, Scooby and the gang. Why? Because I wanted to watch those “meddling kids” solve another caper with the mystery van? No…some of the shows my kids watch make my head hurt, they’re so boring.

But I’ve found that IF I’ll sit down really close to them… occasionally they’ll cuddle up to me and start lovin’ on their Daddy.

How does it make you feel to have a child look up into your eyes and say, “Daddy, I love you”? It makes all the other parenting crap worth while. All the fights, and hassles, and pains and frustrations that go along with having those rugrats are all worthwhile… just to hear them say I love you.

And listen, that’s WHY God created us. To have that kind of relationship with Him. In (Matthew 22:37), one time Jesus was asked, “What is the most important thing to do in this life?” “Jesus replied, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.” That’s the answer to the question “Why am I here?”

In fact, when it comes to expressing our love for God, there is a word that we use. We call it WORSHIP. Worship is BOTH expressing our love for God AND also, living a life that makes God proud. It's more than music. It is a daily and moment-by-moment expression of your being...constantly connecting with God in thoughts, words and actions.

I want Him to be proud of me.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

boys like girls

My 7 year old son was walking through the living room while the TV was on. There was a commercial about bikini wax with a lady in her underwear. Let's just say there was plenty of skin on the screen. I had been reading and wasn't really paying much attention to what was on the TV.

As I realized what he was watching, all of a sudden my little boy started to giggle and get a little silly grin on his face. Wondering what was going through his mind, I asked, "Seth, what's so funny?"

He looked at me, still giggling and said, "Dad, I have NO IDEA!"

I hope he stays that way for at least a while longer. Once a boy starts to get "ideas", we enter a whole new level of parenting.

Monday, May 07, 2007

beauty unnoticed

Yesterday at church, someone mentioned a story about world reknowned violinist Joshua Bell. It intrigued me so I found the article online at the Washington Post website. Click here to read the article. It is well written and I'll think you'll enjoy reading the entire thing. There are even video clips of the experiment.

But here is a summary of what happened:

"Joshua Bell emerged from the Metro and positioned himself against a wall beside a trash basket. By most measures, he was nondescript—a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt, and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money and began to play.

For the next 45 minutes, in the D.C. Metro on January 12, 2007, Bell played Mozart and Schubert as over 1,000 people streamed by, most hardly taking notice. If they would have, they might have recognized the young man for the world-renowned violinist he is. They also may have noted the violin he played—a rare Stradivari worth over $3 million. It was all part of a project arranged by The Washington Post—"an experiment in context, perception, and priorities—as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste. In a banal setting, at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?"

Just three days earlier, Joshua Bell sold out Boston Symphony Hall, with ordinary seats going for $100. In the subway, Bell garnered about $32 from the 27 people who stopped long enough to give a donation."

Of the hundreds of people who walked by him, only a few even stopped to take note. Everyone rushed past with cell phone in hand, not realizing that just a few feet away is a genius at work.


Well, I think the article (click here if you still haven't read it) does a pretty good job of making the point. There is beauty all around us, and we so often pass it by.

I especially think of this truth in it's application to the church. We have people all around us with phenomenal potential and talents, and yet we look right past them because they don't fit our stereotypes.

Often the greatest Kingdom Impact will come from the most unlikely source. Don't look past someone, simply because they don't look like you think they should. Take a moment to appreciate the beauty of God's design in each person's unique character.

And also...keep playing the "Stradivarious" God has given you. Maybe no one seems to appreciate the song God has placed in your heart. So what? Keep on singing, even if nobody notices.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007


In "Public Speaking for Dummies" Malcom Kushner says:

"Don't judge the entire audience by the reactions of a single person. This tip sounds obvious, but speakers do it all the time. You may see one sourpuss who won't crack a smile. You'll become obsessed with this person and make all your speaking decisions based on his or her reaction. That's usually a mistake, because nothing you do will work with the sourpuss, and you'll get nervous, feel you're bombing, and screw up."

Sounds like good advice for life. Love and try to connect with everyone. But don't get hung up on trying to please those who can never be pleased.