Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 In Review: Footprints

No, this is not a "Year in Review" post. Nor is it a "what have I accomplished this year" post. Rather, it is about looking back at our footprints.

I hope you set out to accomplish many things (or at least something) in 2009. Just about all of do that each year. I think the popular term is "resolutions".

Sometimes it's a few personal goals, like losing weight or getting out of debt. Sometimes it's wider, like spending more time together as a family, or taking your business to the next level. At whatever plane, we begin each year with lofty (or not so lofty) goals. Hopefully we accomplish them.

As I review my 2009, I am not looking at the goals I accomplished (like recording and  releasing a CD of my songs, or expanding my Blog/Facebook/Twitter base). I am though, looking at the lives I have influenced. And that's where the footprints come in.

You see, footprints leave a mark. They blaze a trail. They lead the way. And the most important thing I could have done in 2009 is to have influenced others. Influenced them to succeed, to dream, to create, to fulfill their destiny.

And so I turn around from my journey, and look to see if I have left any footprints behind. But more importantly, seeing if anybody is following those footprints.

What about you? Did you leave any footprints in 2009?

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Are You Ready For Christmas?

As I was walking from my car into my building this morning, one of my colleagues greeted me with the question, "Are you ready for Christmas?" My response was, "Yes, kind of..."

I began to think: How does one get ready for Christmas? Does that mean all of my shopping done? Does it mean that all of my travel plans have been made? Are all of my decorations up?

Maybe being ready for Christmas simply means making sure my heart is ready to celebrate the birthday of the Savior of the World. If that's the case, I believe I am ready!

Beginning on Sunday, December 13th I will be beginning a "Twelve Days of Christmas" video Blog. For those twelve days, I will be uploading a video-a-day of random Christmas memories that have shaped my life. I invite you to check each day for an update. And please, join the conversation on any of my Blog posts and leave me your comment. I will respond!

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Creativity: Leveraging Your Resources

I once heard that leveraging your resources is one of the most effective ways of being successful. When it comes to creativity, I think that this is even more true. Here are some thoughts:

  • Look around and see your resources. Many times we miss seeing the resources at our disposal because we are too focused on the task. A few years ago I was invited to lead a weekend conference for the youth staff at a church in Nashville. My closing topic was "101 Creative Ideas for Student Ministry". Desiring to show that all people can be creative, I chose to develop 101 fresh ideas by simply using what I had in my office. I chose objects, photos, t-shirts, a bag of cookies, books, etc. (remember, I was a youth pastor so my office was a bit of a cabinet of curiosities). I compiled my list of ideas and shared!
  • Don't say you need to have the newest tools to be creative, rather creatively use the tools you have to meet your needs. Many people can't wait for the newest gadget, software upgrade or tech tool, saying that this will help their creativity. Use your mind to be creative, and allow your tools to be the vehicles by which you express your creativity. I know of a guy who recorded an entire CD on a 10 year old 8-track recorder, and mixed it on Garage Band. It turned out pretty good! 
  • Use your relationships to stimulate your creativity. Simply being in relationship with others and interacting with them is fertile ground for creativity. Bouncing ideas or problems off others is a great way to gain clarity and confirmation. I often leave a conversation with fresh ideas or solutions to problems, many times unrelated to the conversation I just had.
 Your ability to be creative should never be limited to your tools, or lack of them. Remember, Adam gave names to all of the animals in the Garden of Eden. And he did it without even a fig leaf.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

And So We Gather

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A phenomenon takes place every Thanksgiving with clan Lewis (no we are not Scottish, although my wife traces her roots there...but she married into the clan). My side of the family (my mother, three sisters, myself and our spouses, children, their spouses and their children) gather for Thanksgiving.

 We meet at either one of my sister's homes or our home, all 20 of us, and we eat, laugh, share, remember, cry...and eat some more. Friday morning my sisters and I, along with our spouses, go out to breakfast and catch-up, without the kids and Mom. Plus, we review Mom's status and make plans for her. (She's 81 years old and doing well, although we did have to take the car keys away from her - except for local trips to the grocery store, the doctor, and to Walmart.) 30 years will my kids go to breakfast and make plans for me?

In the past the children would do a live comedy/drama. Then they moved to film: story-boarding, shooting, editing, and presenting their creation for the adults. Now most of them are adults themselves so they are content to just hang-out and not feel pressure to entertain. But we gather.

Sometimes one or two of us can't make the trip because of  work commitments. Sometimes we have to cut the weekend short to get back to our churches (one of my brother-in-laws and I are both pastors). Once we had to postpone our Thanksgiving because of a December wedding of my nephew's. But still we gather.

And it's already begun for this year...all my kids (one with a wife and daughter) are home, my Mom arrived on Monday, and various family members will arrive at various times from various places on Wednesday (one nephew flying in on Thursday from Texas).

Once again it will be an excellent Thanksgiving, as stories are shared, food is consumed, changes are celebrated, and memories are made...

And so we gather.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Blind Side...What Is Your Destiny?

What defines your life? What will your life look like when it's over? When it's all been said and done, what is your destiny?

Many people think that their destiny is to do some great exploit or some great act of heroism. I used to think that my destiny was to have the perfect ministry job, or to speak to large crowds of people, or to go on great mission trips. I even thought that I would one day be a hero and perform some type of lifesaving act for one or more people. (I still have dreams of writing that one great worship song that will be sung in churches all around the world.)

I began to realize that my destiny was not going to be defined by one or even a few significant events and highlights in my lifetime, but rather it would be defined by the consistent acts of service that I demonstrated in the lives of others, and the impact that I have on the lives of the people around me.

I saw that there are people whom I know that I can influence to a greater good (encouraging hope, creativity and leadership skills in them), and that there are people all around me (call them strangers for lack of a better term) who are hurting and needy, and could use a touch from me. That touch can come from an encouraging word, from meeting a physical need, or simply by stopping to talk to them (and even pray with them). In doing so I am either verbally or through my actions demonstrating God's love for them.

By the way, there is a movie being released on November 20th called "The Blind Side". According to the Internet Movie Database: "The Blind Side" depicts the remarkable true story of Michael Oher, a homeless African-American youngster from a broken home, taken in by the Touhys, a well-to-do white family who help him fulfill his potential.

From the preview it looks like a great movie about destiny, at least how I am defining it in this Blog. We'll wait and see.

But for now, allow me to say that the perfect job or ministry may come, and the great crowds may still be there for me. I may even come across a burning building and rescue a stranded occupant. (Who knows, that hit worship song may still be bubbling in my spirit.) But I know that my destiny will be fulfilled everyday, by pouring into the lives of people I know, and by looking for ways to minister to the people I don't know.

Now that's a destiny I want.

For a complete discussion of this topic, click here to watch a video (or listen to the audio) of me teaching at my church recently on Destiny.  The teaching title is "Sunday: Needs to Destiny".

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

On Being Other-Centered

This morning I shared with our staff about the importance of being other-centered. If you will indulge me, I will use this post to re-cap my comments:

Being Other-Centered: Focusing on others' needs
  • A biblical mandate: Philippians 2:3-4
    • 3  Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better (or more important) than yourselves.
    • 4  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
  • A culture of kindness: Living aware of others' lives.
  • A stance of service: Thinking about how we can help others.
  • A heartbeat of humility: Choosing to elevate others' needs over our own needs.
I suggest that all of us give it a try!

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

India: Epiblog

I have been reflecting over the past two weeks since I have returned from India. I remember one of the "chat" conversations that I had with my wife while I was there. I was sharing with her about my encounter with a Muslim man whose wife had left him, and in his brokenness his desire to commit his life to Christ.

She in turn shared with me about some people that she was ministering to here in the US. The following thought struck us both at the same time, and this is the direction that our conversation took: there are hurting and needy people everywhere. One doesn't have to travel to a foreign or third-world country to find people who need us to reach out to them. We only have to look right here at home.

At the risk of sounding self-important (something I try to avoid at all costs), allow me to share a bit of our hearts. My wife and I try to be sensitive at all times to people who might need a simple kind word, an act of service or an offer to pray for them. We don't go into ministry mode when we step off the plane (Elaine in Guatemala, me in India). Rather, our ministry trips are simply an extension of our lives here at home.

Why do I share this? Simply put, to challenge the readers of this Blog to look outside of themselves and into the lives of others. At the Starbucks and across the street, people have needs. And you may be the very encouragement that they need.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New Big Cloud CD Release!

I don't normally like to use this space to promote my work, but on rare occasions I will do so. (It's been two years since I promoted a CD that I produced.) After all, this Blog is dedicated to Dreams, Passion, and Creativity, so...

I am announcing the release of the newly recorded worship CD "I Delight In You", featuring my wife Elaine. This recording is a collection of 10 original worship songs, written and produced by myself. These songs are already being sung in churches, and this is the first time they are captured on disk.

"I Delight In You" is a group of richly textured songs that express the heart of the believer towards the Father. The lyrics are profound, the worship is intimate, and the vocals are passionate. The songs touch the heart of the believer, while at the same time touch the heart of God.

Here's a lyric sample from the song "Loved": I can feel the embrace of Your presence, and I'm hearing You whisper, "I'm free". I see You on the throne and You're holding a child, and that child is me!

You can click here to hear samples of the songs at my website, Big Cloud Music. Also, you can click here to hear samples of my instrumental worship CD "I'm At Rest".

If you are interested in ordering a copy, you can do so at the listening pages (click links above). The CD will also be available at Immanuel's Church, beginning this Sunday.

Thank you for indulging me!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

God's Promise, And A Happy Birthday

Today is my last day of ministry in India. I participated in the morning worship service at the Ecclesia Ministries Church here in Kazipet, then enjoyed a typically tasty and spicy meal with Pastor Daniel and his family.

Pastor Daniel graciously allowed me to preach to his congregation for the second Sunday in a row, and I didn't take that privilege lightly. I had prepared a message for today, but as I was praying earlier this morning, the Lord gave me a fresh word to share. I was meditating on Luke 1:35 (as I often do), and a new revelation and understanding came to me about God's promises to us, and how they are fulfilled. Today Pastor Daniel's brother Joy-David translated for me, giving Jasher a break.

I also got to publicly pray a blessing over a member of the church who as a scientist, has invented a revolutionary compressed-air driven car. As he explained to me, it was obvious that this was a brilliant man, with a brilliant invention. He has already secured international patents for the invention, and humbly offers all of the glory to the Lord.

After the message we had a surprise birthday for Pastor Daniel as he celebrates his 50th birthday today! There were verbal blessings, flower wreaths, shawls and of course cake. Pastor Daniel is a man of God who is worthy of honor for his deep commitment to the Lord, to his family, to his congregation and to the people of India.

I was again honored and blessed as can only be done Indian-style (wreaths, shawls), and for the first time I sensed a bit of sadness in the building. This has been my sixth trip to India, and my fifth visit to Kazipet and Ecclesia. I feel like this is my other home church. I have had the privilege of speaking to this congregation on numerous occasions over the last two-and-a-half years, and have teamed-up with Pastor Daniel, Jasher (my faithful translator), the worship team (led by my good friend Freddy), the deacons and altar workers often enough to where there we flow well together. It is sad to say goodbye.

But, Pastor Daniel and I are already planning our next trip together where we will be traveling to Jammu-Kashmir next spring with a team to conduct medical camps and hold crusades. We'll see what happens next!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Last Kadapa Meeting, Then Back On The Train

Friday evening came with great expectation as the last meeting of the Kadapa crusade neared. As we arrived at the open air meeting place, the motorcycles were many, the worship was loud, and the people were crowded into the chairs and on mats on the ground.

An estimated 2,000+ gathered to hear the Word of God as Pastor Daniel and I delivered it. I spoke first, telling what Jesus did to reach us. I stated that He began as God, and showed how He emptying Himself to become a man, a servant and ultimately obedient to the point of death for our sins. Pastor Daniel followed with a word about the Holy Spirit and His role in the life of a person.

Without being able to stay for the conclusion of the night, we needed to immediately leave for the station to catch our train for the return journey "home". We arrived in Hyderabad at 7:30 on Saturday morning and ever-faithful Elijah was there to take us the rest of the way to Kazipet by car (a three hour trip).

The trip-within-a-trip to Kadapa was a great and I believe fruitful time for the Kingdom!

Tomorrow I will be speaking at two different churches in Kazipet. Then I leave for the airport in Hyderabad on Monday.

Friday, October 16, 2009

More Great News From Kadapa!

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Last evening at the crusade, the crowed swelled from Wednesday evening's number as more people have heard about the crusade and are attending. Again Pastor Daniel and I shared the preaching, with ever-faithful Jasher acting as my translator.

It was exciting to be able to stand before the Indian people and proclaim the love of Jesus to them, and even more exciting to see so many respond to the invitation to follow Christ. Many more came for prayer for specific needs in their lives.

Some asked for physical healing, others for family relationships, and many children, teenagers and college students asked for strength in their studies. The Indian Christians are people of faith, and they ask the Lord and trust Him to meet their needs.

It was a special evening for me because the young man who drove us earlier in the day to the former Chief Minister's grave site (see yesterday's post), a Muslim man, attended the meeting and responded during the altar call. He came to me and asked me to pray for him because his wife had just left him the day before. I did, and when I was finished, I asked him about my message and if he wanted to commit his life to Jesus. He said yes, and so I led him to faith in Christ! He began the day with a different fare for his car, and ended the day as a different person!

This morning Pastor Daniel and I spoke to a group of believers who gather each Friday for Bible study. It was great to encourage them in the things of the Lord.

This evening is the last night of the crusade in Kadapa, and our team leaves immediately for the train station for the overnight trip back to Kazipet (my "home" in India).

Here are some pics...

 I demonstrate what faith is using a chair. (Any EE people recognize this?)

 This woman had asthma for most of her life. I prayed for her, and now she breathes freely!

Pastor Daniel teaches at the Friday morning Bible Study.

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Kadapa Crusade, Day One

Our first meeting of the Kadapa Crusade was great! Hundreds upon hundreds of people came to the open air meeting area. The worship was powerful, with traditional Indian drums mixed with electronic keyboards providing the base for the singers to launch from.

Pastor Daniel and I shared the preaching responsibilities, then afterwords, he invited the people to receive Christ. I counted just over 60 people coming to pray and receive Jesus! These people are now "former" Hindus and Muslims!

After the first altar call, we invited people to come forward for personal prayer (more pics and comments below).

This morning the team rented an SUV and driver, and traveled 65 km to the grave site of the former Andreah Pradesh Chief Minister who recently died in a helicopter accident. (We had 11 people in a Nissan Exterra sized vehicle!)

The former Chief Minister was a Christian, and was very beloved by the 80,000,000 people of the state. Hundreds of thousands attended his funeral, and many more have made the pilgrimage to his grave site. Pastor Daniel and his two sons who accompanied us on this Crusade placed a wreath on the grave. (Think going to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington National Cemetery.)

Tonight we will do it all again, and are trusting the Lord for an even greater harvest! Here are some more pics...

This boy was brought up to the platform paralized...not any more!

This young man was HIV positive. As I prayed for him, I felt the Love of God cover him and remind him that he was special in the eyes of God.

What a privelege it is for me to share in what God is doing in India!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The India Train Rolls On!

After three trains and 12 hours, we finally arrived in Kadapa, where we will be conducting a three-day crusade. The team of Pastor Daniel, his son Jasher (my translator), our altar workers, support team, and myself arrived just before 1:00 am, having spent all of Tuesday traveling.

I am by no means a seasoned traveler on the Indian Railway system, but having taken my first train journey last year, and it lasting for just under 48 hours, this one was comparatively easy! (By the way, the Indian Railway system is the largest employer in the world!)

I found an internet cafe' and for only 34 cents and hour, I am able to post to my Blog, but more importantly I can read and write to my wife via email.

Tonight (Wednesday) we begin the crusade. The city is still in mourning after the recent death of Andreah Pradesh's Chief Minister, a native of Kadapa. We are expecting great things from the Lord!

 The team prepares to board.

The crowded train platform in Hyderabad - it's like a street fair!

Pulling out of the station.

Pastor Daniel and I chat as we prepare to leave on the second leg of our journey.

Monday, October 12, 2009

A Great Second Sunday Meeting!

They came by bus, by car, by taxi, by motorcycle and on foot. Approximately 200 people packed inside a rented "hall" for the Second Sunday Crusade meeting in Hyderabad. As the worship team sang, even more people arrived, having heard the music.

Teaming up with Pastor Daniel as my interpreter and official "altar call giver", we spoke the Word of God and challenged the half-Christian, half-Hindu crowd to give themselves fully to Jesus, who could meet all their needs, heal all their hurts and forgive all their sins.

Almost all the people present responded to the altar call, and many received Christ for the first time. As testimonies were shared on the microphone, people spoke of finding Jesus, and of healing.

This woman came to the meeting barely able to hear (I believe she was sitting directly in front of the speakers so she could make out what was being said), but after we prayed for her she testified that now she could hear clearly! Others spoke of pains being relieved. And person after person declared that they committed their lives to Jesus!

Even the Hindu manager of the "hall" heard the message from his office, and came asking for prayer, as he is seeking Christ.

It was truly a fruitful meeting, and well worth the three-hour-each-way journey for our team to participate.

This morning I again had the priveledge of teaching at the Bible School, and challenging the students in their calling and commitment.

Tomorrow we board the train for Kadapa, where we will conduct a three-day crusade in the hometown of the recently deceased Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh. We are believing for a great time of ministry in this still-grieving city. I will try to update this Blog as often as I can, but may be "offline" for a few days. Pray for the team!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Worship And A Haircut

This morning I had the privilege of  speaking at the Sunday morning worship service at Pastor Daniel's church, with him interpreting (or he may have preached his own message - who knows?). I spoke on Jesus, and how He went into the wilderness full of the Holy Spirit, but left the wilderness in the power of the Holy Spirit after He was tempted by Satan.

We had a great crowd (700+), the response was tremendous, and I had great freedom to speak with passion and authority (it was all the Lord!).

Before I preached, I was asked to dedicate a new CD that the Ecclesia Ministries is releasing today. It was a privilege for me as a musician to pray a blessing on the CD, knowing all the work that goes into a project creation, and also personally knowing the musicians, singers and songwriter. Interestingly, my Big Cloud Music will be releasing a CD right after I return from India, but I got to pray the blessing on Pastor Daniel's CD before ours comes out.

Another great thing about this morning was that I dedicated two year child to the Lord. In the Indian tradition, the hair is not cut until the dedication, so I got to be both blesser and barber for the child!

This afternoon (in about an hour, after we eat lunch) the team is off to Hyderabad for an evening crusade meeting where we will again share the Gospel and pray for needs. Today began strong, and I know it will end even stronger!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Saturday Power Meeting

Today we had a "Second Saturday Revival Meeting" here at the Ecclesia Ministries compound in Kazipet. A crowd of about 600 gathered, worshiped passionately, and listened intently as I had the privileged of sharng a message with them.

I spoke from the book of II Kings, and how Naaman by faith, trusted the Lord to cure him of his leprosy. The atmosphere was charged as I shared with passion the message that God had given me for that day. Even with an interpreter, the people sensed my excitement and heartbeat, and were not only generous in their reception of my words, but they even laughed at my jokes!

Periodically I noticed stirrings among the people as they patiently sat on the floor while I spoke. I found out later why: many came up during the altar call and testified that they felt pain leave and fevers break (the Lord was healing them) as I was speaking, specifically when I declared that Naaman was healed (which I mentioned several times throughout my message). We didn't even have to pray for the sick!

But when Pastor Daniel and I did pray for the sick, God again did some amazing things. The gentleman pictured with me had been paralyzed on his right side because of a stroke, but as he was prayed for, the Lord healed him and he was able to move his arm and walk upright. The Lord is good!

Tomorrow (Sunday) we have the regular morning worship service here, then after a quick lunch and a Blog update, we're of to Hyderabad (a three hour trip) for a revival  meeting on Sunday night.

Thank you Lord, for showing off and letting me be a part of it!

Friday, October 09, 2009

Eager Students, Future Leaders

This morning I spent two hours addressing the students at the Immanuel's School of the Bible - India. They have just returned from their semester break and are beginning their second semester of classes.

I focused on Leadership, and the qualities that make a great leader, reminding them that rather than striving to be a great preacher, teacher, singer, minister, etc., to strive to be a great leader who preaches, teaches, sings or ministers. Leadership is about influencing others to be what God has called them to be.

I will get to address the students again on Monday morning, before we prepare to travel to for a three day crusade in Kadapah, a nine hour train ride away.

This afternoon is free, and I will be exploring the city with Jasher, my faithful translator and guide. Tomorrow we begin our Second Saturday/Second Sunday mini-crusade here in Kazipet and in Hyderabad.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

3:00 AM Arrival

I don't think I am getting older. It was only six months ago that I took this trip to India, but it seems that it took a lot longer this time. Maybe the 3:00 am arrivals in India (after traveling for almost 24 hours), and the three-hour car ride to Kazipet over not-to-perfect roads adds years to one's life. At any rate, I am here!

Thank you to Freddy, Pastor Daniel's nephew and main worship leader, for coming in the middle of the night to gather me and my luggage and drive me to Kazipet, then to turn around and go back to college for a 9:00 am class.

I am spending Thursday resting and catching-up with Pastor Daniel (and eating some excellent 'home-cooked' Indian food), then I start ministry on Friday. I will be speaking to the Immanuel's School of the Bible - India students as they begin their second semester. I count it a privelege.

On Saturday and Sunday I will be preaching at the Second Saturday Crusade meetings back in Hyderabad (where my plane arrived). Busy, ministry-packed days and evenings...but I love it!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Off To India!

I'm sitting in the Emirates Airlines lounge at JFK in New York waiting to board my flight to Hyderabad, India. After an almost full day at the office I began my journey, first to BWI airport, then on to JFK.

So far it hasn't been uneventful. As my wife was taking me to BWI, an unusual noise started coming from her car and we lost most of the power. We quickly turned around and went back home to transfer my luggage into my car and then got back on the road to the airport. On the way I called a wrecker and alerted our automobile service center, Vipre automotive, that they would be receiving a delivery.

Well, we made it on time to catch my shuttle to New York, and here I sit. My heart and mind have begun to get around this mission trip to India. (It has been a busy three weeks leading up to this past weekend, so much of my focus has been on our ministry at Immanuel's.) I am trusting the Lord for many opportunities to share His grace and love, and for a great harvest for the Kingdom while in India. (See the previous post below to get an idea of what is in store for me.)

Please check this Blog regularly, as I will be posting as often as I can with updates of the trip.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Divine Appointment With India

Next Tuesday, October 6th, I will be leaving for India on a mission trip. I will be connecting with Pastor Daniel Kalyanapu of Ecclesia Ministries, India, and Immanuel's School of the Bible in Kazipet, Andhra Pradesh (sponsored by Immanuel's Church, where I serve as Executive Pastor). This will be my sixth mission trip to India and the fifth time I am partnering with Pastor Daniel.

Our team, including Pastor Daniel's son and nephew, will be conducting evangelistic meetings where we will share the Word of God and pray for physical needs among the largely Hindu population. We will also expand the team to include doctors and conduct medical camps among some remote peoples and villages.

In planning and preparing for this trip (which was conceived last March), Pastor Daniel informed me that he had arranged for a three-day series of preaching and ministry meetings in Kadapah, a ten-hour journey by car from Kazipet. I believe that this crusade is a divine appointment.

Three weeks after Pastor Daniel finalized the plans for this crusade, the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh (comparable to a state governor in the USA, but with 80,000,000 constituents) was killed in a helicopter accident.

The Chief Minister, who had just completed the first year of his second five-year term, was a Christian and a friend of the people. He enacted and supported legislation and policies that benefited the populace, especially the poor. Upon hearing the news of his death, over 480 people died, either by heart attack or by committing suicide. He was truly beloved by the people.

The reason I believe that this is a divine appointment, is because Kadapah is the Chief Minister's hometown, and they are still in mourning. Pastor Daniel and I believe that opportunities for ministry there will be great!

I will post to the Blog at least once more before I leave for India, and will update it frequently. Please comment and let me hear from you!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Singular Multi-tasking

Here are some interesting facts from a Stanford University study published in the August 24, 2009 edition of the Precedings of the National Academy of Sciences:
  • In the study, Stanford researchers tested two groups of people — regular multitaskers and non-multitaskers — in an attempt to identify cognitive differences in people capable of doing many things at once. It turns out that non-multitaskers scored higher in all three categories of the study: attention, memory and even work efficiency.
  • Some scientists believe that multitasking can not only hurt productivity, but also damage the brain. The solution is simple: Focus on one thing at a time.
(Allow me to confess that I am multitasking as I write this Blog. Brain damage!)

Although you may be a multitasker, may I ask if you are the most effective, and most productive when multitasking? When you sit down to work, study or create, do you feel the most comfortable when you have a few things going on? Have you ever tried to do a singular task?

I offer that we were created by the Creator, so we can be creative. And to accomplish this, sometimes we need to turn off a few devices and close a few folders, and focus on one thing.  That's how God created: one focus per day.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Parallel Parking And Other Rites Of Passage

My daughter is about to get her driver's license. Remembering my driving test, hearing from others, and of course knowing first-hand my two son's experiences, parallel parking is many would-be drivers nemesis. And so we practice parallel parking.

A course is marked off, traffic cones are set-up, an hour of time blocked out. It must be done. It is inevitable. We have to learn how to parallel park. Frustrations set in, encouragement morphs into rebuke, and sometimes tears are shed.

Many equate getting one's driver's license as a rite of passage. And it is. But I want to offer that parallel parking is a rite of passage also, for it seems that outside of parallel parking, taking the driving test is easy. And so we practice parallel parking.

And isn't life the same way? We assign significant value to events not realizing that the real value comes from what we invest in to achieve or experience those events. Our first part-time job, graduation from high school, getting into the college of our choice, landing our first job after graduation. Even scuba diving or running a marathon. Each of these require work.

I offer that we do not lose sight of the value of preparation for the events we experience in our lives, but even suggest that we celebrate the journey as much as the destination. For the real value of our character being built and the skills we refine are more important than the reward we receive.

And so we practice parallel parking.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Too Old To Dream?

Too old to dream? Martin Luther King was 34 years old when he gave his famous I Have a Dream speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.

Back in May, one of the most-viewed YouTube videos was Susan Boyle singing on Britain's Got Talent show. The unemployed 47 year-old woman dreams of being a professional singer.

In the 2008 Olympics, Hiroshi Hoketsu of Japan competed in an equestrian event. He was 67.

How old is too old to dream? John McCain was 72 years old when he was defeated in the 2008 presidential election

Jack Weil, the founder and CEO of Rockmount Ranch Wear in Denver, at an astonishing 104 years old, still goes into work every day.

In 2007, Nola Ochs, who began taking college classes more than 30 years ago, graduated with a degree in history from Fort Hays State University in Kansas.

You may be seventeen, twenty-seven or seventy, but you can still dream.

What is your dream?

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Tetris On The Brain

Just as my second son was born, the video game Tetris hit the market for the old-school Nintendo game system. I can't remember if we received it as a gift or if my wife and I purchased it, but we owned it. I do remember my wife and I staying up very late many nights playing the game, justifying it by saying that our newborn son was going to wake us up anyway. I also justified it by saying that I was a Youth Pastor, and I needed to be culturally relevant to the students I was seeking to have an influence on (I was undefeated against my students for four years until I was beaten by a freshman girl!).

Yesterday my oldest son emailed me with a news story stating scientific evidence that Tetris can alter the structure of the brain. I was intrigued and at the same time vindicated as I read the article. Intrigued because the information was enlightening to me, and vindicated because of all of those late-nights watching the relentless colored blocks fall made me smarter!

By the way, the study cited in the article was conducted on adolescent girls, but who cares!

When I was s senior in high school, my Youth Pastor shared with me the benefits of memorizing and meditating on the Word of God. One of the benefits he spoke of was the growth that takes place in ones mind, as stated in Psalm 119: 99 I have more insight than all my teachers, for I meditate on your statutes. Imagine having more insight than all my teachers! That was motivation enough for me.

The result: I went from a 2.3 GPA my first semester of college to a 4.0 by my 5th semester and I never looked back. Why? Because I memorized and meditated on God's Word (Tetris hadn't come out yet).

My encouragement is this: Do things that stimulate your mind and make you better, smarter, and more creative, thus a better leader and influencer. Even if it means spending a few minutes each day playing a mind-altering game!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

You Can't Miss This!

I saw a headline on today that said, "Top Five Shows You Can't Miss", referring to this Fall's television lineup. Isn't it interesting that the words you can't miss carry such powerful meaning?

What will happen to me if I miss those shows? What if I catch only four? Will it be worse if I only watch two, or just one? Are the penalties compounded if I miss two weeks in a row? What if I have a good excuse for missing (funeral, being out of the country)?

I think you get the absurdity of my comments. But go back to those words: you can't miss. Think about them in other contexts.

If you are going to an important meeting on the west coast and your boss says, "You can't miss your flight or we lose the deal", then you better not miss your flight. If your daughter is getting married, and being stuck in traffic you call her on your cell phone and she says, "You can't miss my wedding," you had better find a way to get there.

If you are a soldier staring down the sight of your gun at your enemy, who is staring down the sight of his gun at you, you can't miss!

All of a sudden, I don't feel so pressed to watch the "Top Five Shows You Can't Miss." In fact, those TV shows seem pretty insignificant compared to my life and the things I am called to do, the relationships that I am called to invest in.

So the next time you are told you can't miss something, maybe it's worth missing for something greater.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Willet Band Coming To Immanuel's

This Sunday, August 23rd, brings the Willet Band to Immanuel's Church in Silver Spring, MD. They will be ministering in both our morning worship services, and also be doing a concert at 4:00 that afternoon. These guys are completely committed to the ministry of Food for the Hungry, an organization that feeds poor people around the world. Check out their video...

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What Are You Aming At?

I heard someone once say that the best way to hit a bulls-eye is to shoot an arrow into a wall and then paint a target around it. Not very purposeful, but certainly accurate.

Many people go through their lives aimlessly, focusing on nothing in particular, and hitting it every time. They justify their actions by finding something purposeful in them, after the fact. Random actions, conversations and relationships, with certain random results.

Sure, sometimes they get lucky and do something with substance that matters. But most of the time their lives are about drifting wherever the current or wind takes them. When they look back over their lives, they are not able to see much substance, or anything of value that remains.

I was one of those random drifters, relying on my relationship with God and on the strength of my personality to get me by. But was there anything of substance that was left behind? Not much as far as I can see.

Now I seek to be a man of vision and purpose. Although I am not always on task, I am doing a lot better than I was several years ago. Now I want to have purpose in my life, to develop goals based on a God-given vision of my preferable future. I want to be involved in shaping my future, not having it shaped for me by circumstances. I want to be able to look back on my life, and realizing that I may not have hit the target every time, I still took careful aim for it.

So what are you aiming at?

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Botox For Business

According to, a Portland Oregon news station, "As the pressure to retain or land a new job increases, some job seekers are turning to a competitive-edge-in-a-needle, Botox."

Advocates report that looking younger boosts both first impressions and personal confidence in job interviews.

On June 5, Washington, DC-based aesthetics emporium Reveal offered a Botox Bailout — free Botox injections (a $300-500 value) for the first fifty people to show up with pink slip and resumé in hand. The party included headhunters who gave job-search tips and conducted interviews ( 6.5.09).

What does this mean? Beauty and grooming are making a slow shift from the indulgence category to competitive strategy. Crossing their t's and dotting their eye area with Botox assures Control Freaks they're putting their best face forward.

Most people would say that appearances don't matter, but when the chips are down, some consumers are placing their bets on pretty.

This weekend, our church is hosting an event featuring Employment Workshops, where job seekers can get resumé advice, interviewing tips, life coaching, and help with navigating job posting websites. Did we cover all the subjects or have we left out something that is staring us right in the face?

Advice if you need a job: Put on a clean outfit, update your resumé, cover your tats, and get a Botox injection!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Best Time Of Day

I woke early this morning with an idea for a song I am recording, and after spending some time reading, I found myself in my studio recording a newly created guitar part. I didn't go to sleep last night planning on recording this morning. Rather, I woke up with a passion and creative energy that I seem to stumble upon in the mornings more often than I find within me at other times of the day.

What about you? When are you the most creative? What part of the day finds you dreaming, writing, singing and creating?

I suggest that if you don't know your optimum creative time, that you track your days and determine when you are at your productive and innovative best. This will help you schedule your imagination sessions and produce the best results.

What is my purpose in suggesting this? I believe that all of us, created in the image of the Creator, have been charged with contributing to this world, and especially to the lives of others. Our contributions, full of ideas, innovation and transformation demonstrate that we do carry the mark of the One who created us, and that we are part of the creative process of investing into the lives of others for their good and benefit.

Now to me that's good any time of the day!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Influencing Influencers

My oldest son Eric told me about an iPhone app called Flood-It! He knew I love a challenging game that would periodically stimulate my reasoning skills. Well, he was right! I have enjoyed the game.

The object is to change the color of the squares on the screen to all one color. This can only be achieved by beginning with the top left corner, choosing a color to change the squares that touch the square or squares you have changed. It must be completed in 22 moves or you lose the game.

It took me 20 tries before I finally won a game. Please understand, I do not waste my time playing trivial games. I played only while doing something else (maybe that's why it took me 20 tries).

An unexpected idea came to me as I was playing Flood-It! I think I was on game six. As I looked at the squares, and their relationship to the ones I had succeeded in changing the color, I thought about influence. The squares reminded me of the relationships I have and the lives that I touch. Beginning with those closest to me, I influence them, and they influence others, who in turn influence others. And so it goes, on and on.

Now to me, that is what relationships, leadership and influence is all about. My goal is to influence those around me to be creative, to have passion, to dream. More than that, I want to lead them into the Kingdom of God.

My desire to not only lead and influence, but to lead leaders and influence influencers.

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