The Atheists Are Coming to Town!

This is a news story that ran tonight, and it features a short interview with a pastor at my church, Kirk Cowman. Kind of strange to see myself on CBC then someone I know, all within a week.

As for the topic itself, my take on it is that it’s no different than an ad from an animal rights group, a political group, or a religious group – it’s an expression of what they believe in, or in this case, what they don’t believe in. 😉 We live in a free country, and as long as this campaign doesn’t step into the realm of being hateful, they can spend their money any way they want. In my experience, it’s only when people don’t think about God that they can easily ignore Him. When they start to honestly ponder the possible existence of a power greater than themselves, that’s usually when that power is more easily seen.

A Worthy Quote

“Because God is never cruel, there is a reason for all things. We must know the pain of loss; because if we never knew it, we would have no compassion for others, and we would become monsters of self-regard, creatures of unalloyed self-interest. The terrible pain of loss teaches humility to our prideful kind, has the power to soften uncaring hearts, to make a better person of a good one.”

– Dean Koontz, “The Darkest Evening of the Year”

Willow Creek Leadership Summit 2008, Day One

I spent today First Alliance Church participating the 2008 Leadership Summit (beamed in via satellite). It was a really worthwhile first day, and if you’re a leader in any capacity, my notes from today may help you understand new facets to leadership. These notes can’t capture the vibrancy of the event, so if these notes interest you, I’d encourage you to check it out for next year – it’s broadcast to 117 churches world-wide. This is my second time attending this event, and every year I leave it feeling recharged.

These notes are my take-away from each of the speakers, not necessarily my own thoughts – though I can’t think of anything that I disagreed with.

The High Drama of Decision Making – Bill Hybles

  • Leaderships’ highest usage is the furthering of God’s kingdom.
  • Leadership is all about making decisions, and some decisions have very high stakes
  • Leaders need a decision-making process that they implement whenever it’s time to make a decision
  • Christian leaders should look to the bible first and foremost as a guideline for decision making
  • What would smart advisors suggest I do? Proverbs 11:14: “In the abundance of counsellors there is much wisdom.” Advice from people will often conflict though – as a leader you must sort through the advice
  • P/G/E/ Principle: Pain, Gain, Experience. What kind of pain have your past decisions caused? What sorts of gains have your past decisions resulted in? How has the experience of the results of your decisions impact you?
  • Is there a prompting of the Holy Spirit in your decision making process?
  • When you’re heading in the right direction, there will be an exhilaration of spirit
  • Sometimes Hybles will make a “trial decision” – he tests out how the decision feels
  • Leaders have to take responsibility for their decisions. If the decision turns out well, you thank God, your advisors, everyone around you. If the decision turns our poorly, you don’t blame anyone. You bear the consequences, you don’t point fingers, you admit that you got it wrong
  • Taking responsibility for our decisions keeps the sharp edge on our learning process as leaders
  • Some leader compress the above decision making processes into micro-sized bits of wisdom, a self-created proverb
  • Abraham Lincoln: “The best way to destroy my enemy is to turn him into my friend.” The Christian application of this axiom is to build bridges with those who have wronged you
  • Bob Galvin, Motorola Corp: “Create motion for motion’s sake”. Action is better than inaction. When people are moving, they often move onto a better place
  • Colin Powell and the Powell Principles: “Check your ego at the door.” “Promote a clash of ideas.” “Reward your best performers, get rid of non-performers.”
  • As a leader, do I reflect often enough about my own leadership and my leadership problems such that I have my own leadership axioms?
  • Bill Hybles: “Vision leads.” “All I have to do is get the right people around the table.” “Facts are your friends.”
  • Willow Creek did a survey called REVEAL that allows them to learn facts about their congregation. These facts helped them shape their decision making process
  • Being misunderstood is sometimes the price of being a leader
  • Bill Hybles Axiom: “When something feels funky, engage.” When a problem in the church is brewing, do not believe the lie that unattended problems go away
  • Bill Hybles Axiom: “Leaders call fouls.” When something happens in a meeting you’re leading that crosses the line, the leader has to challenge the inappropriate behaviour. Leaders also have to call fouls on themselves and their own behaviour
  • Bill Hybles Axiom: “Take a flyer.” Take a risk. Ask God to rock our world, and He will
  • Bill Hybles Axiom: “This is church.” Relating to others, sharing meals together, growing together – this is church. Celebrating together, baptism, helping raise each other’s children – this is church. Comforting those who have lots, dealing with grief – this is church
  • You will never know life fully until you are uncompromisingly devoted to Christ

Continue reading Willow Creek Leadership Summit 2008, Day One

True Love is That Which Sacrifices

“Dick and Rick Hoyt – When Rick Hoyt was about to be born, the umbilical cord got wrapped around his neck, depriving his soon-to-be-born body of oxygen. Initially, doctors told the new parents their son was a vegetable, with no higher brain function. But the parents didn’t believe it; they saw signs of life and intelligence in their son. Sure enough, the doctor’s discovered they were wrong. Rick did have higher brain function. However, the lack of oxygen did deprive Rick of the ability to control his muscles, leaving him essentially a quadrapalegic.

The story of Team Hoyt began when Rick found out about a fundraiser for a friend. The fundraiser involved running, and wheelchair-bound Rick told his Dad he wanted to participate so he could help his friend. So father Dick Hoyt ran with his son, rolling him around the track, raising money for Rick’s friend. After the run, Rick told his Dad that running made him feel free for the first time. Inspired by his son’s statement, Dick took Rick running, swimming, bicycling, climbing–anything he wanted to do, Dick found a way to share it with his son and help him feel free. It’s an amazing story of a father and son’s courage, determination, and love.” – Source

Talk about humbling. I was grumpy today for various reasons, but watching this video and reading about this father/son team (thanks for the reminder Shane!) brought me back to reality – you can’t help but be inspired reading about this father/son duo. Amazing stuff.

Words Worth Remembering

“Prayer is the slender tendon that moves the muscle of omnipotence.”

– Martin Tupper, English Poet

PostSecret Movie

The PostSecret project is fascinating on many levels: I read it regularly and can’t help but be emotionally moved by the things that people share. Some are shocking, most are depressing, a few are joyful. Most of all, however, they remind me we live in a broken, fallen world where many people live in fear and doubt, lacking hope. Sometimes it hurts, but it’s good to never forget that although your life may be rosy, the person living right next to you could be on the verge of giving up on everything. People need to be in relationship with each other, but even that won’t fill the God-shaped hole that each of our souls have (no matter how hard we many deny it).

Dealing With Sorrow

I find myself in a hard place at the moment. Ashley and I came back from vacation a few days ago and were told that a dear friend has been diagnosed with cancer. She had cancer in her eye a bit over a year ago (melanoma) but was told that they got it all and we were all thrilled that she was in the clear. She gave birth to a baby girl about two months ago, and she was embarking on a new part of her life. Yesterday we were told the cancer is even worse than they thought – the prognosis isn’t looking very good. Here’s the description in her own words:

“I’ve been told that I have numerous lumps in the occipital bone in my right eye cavity with one tumor pressing on my brain. I also found out that the cancer has spread to my spine and pelvis/hips. In additional, the cancer has also been located in my lungs, liver and another tumor has been discovered in my pelvic region. Right now, the doctors are doing radiation on my spine and lumbar region in hopes that I can get back on my feet, return home under palliative care and then research as to whether or not the cancer can be treated with Chemotherapy now that it’s spread to other organs. As for the original site of the malignant melanoma, which grew on my eye lid and conjunctiva in the corner of the eye…that’s not such a big deal anymore. Phew, no more worrying about whether or not I’m be a one eye’d pirate!”

As you can tell, she has a lively personality and a great sense of humour. In some ways I think she’s dealing with this better than everyone else around her is. I’ve never had anyone I’ve been close to die – I’m finding it very hard to deal with this. It’s hard to concentrate, it’s hard to get any work done, it’s hard to put what I’m feeling into words. I feel some solace that there are Christians all over North America praying for her and her family right now – I’m fortunate to know brothers and sisters in Christ from many places and I’ve emailed everyone I can think of to pray. If that’s also you, please pray. I believe in miracles and I believe in the power of prayer…but that doesn’t make the sorrow I feel hurt any less.

Being Given a Second Chance to Help Someone

Several months ago, let’s say November, Ashley and I were driving home from church on a Sunday afternoon and I saw a woman pushing a cart full of garbage bags. She looked homeless, carrying her only possessions in the cart. I was very surprised to see her on the side road we were driving down at the edge of the city – most homeless people tend to stay downtown, close to the shelters. When I saw her my first instinct was to stop and help her somehow, to give her some money – but I immediately felt worried it would be awkward for me to stop my car, put it in reverse and get out and approach her. Not exactly a low key approach, now is it? As I kept driving down the road I wrestled with my conscience over this – and eventually ended up home a few minutes later. I confessed to Ashley that I wanted to help that lady, and that I was ashamed I hadn’t. She told me that the woman was more or less a “regular” down that road, that she saw her now and then going to and from work. I vowed that the next time I saw her I’d stop and do something to help. Months passed, and I never saw her again – and, in truth, I eventually forgot about her (to my shame).

On Monday night of this week, Ashley and I loaded up  our car with five bags of cans and bottles for recycling – we always find it a bit of a hassle to drive down to the bottle recyling place, wait 10-20 minutes in line, and only get $30 for it. We recycle for environmental, not monetary reasons (like almost everyone I imagine), so we usually leave it until we’re tripping over garbage bags full of cans and bottles and have no choice. We always hope the local boy scouts will stop by on a Saturday so we can give them all of it, but they haven’t come around since last year. At any rate, we decided to drive to a bottle recycling station that was a bit further away, but more convenient to get to – and because it was new, we hoped there wouldn’t be any lines.

We arrived only five minutes before closing, and when I came in carrying three garbage bags I sighed in relief at seeing only one woman dropping off her cans because it meant we wouldn’t have to wait in line (Ashley and I have a problem being patient waiting in line you see). I opened up the bags and started to dump out the cans and bottles – as I was doing so I looked over at the women who had just dropped off her cans and was at the window waiting for her money. She was clearly homeless, and immediately I knew what to do – I walked over and asked her if she’d like to have all of our cans and bottles. She smiled and said “Yes, thank you so much” and I said “You’re welcome”. I finished emptying out the next bag and she came over to wait while they sorted through it. She thanked me again, and Ashley and I left.

As we were walking out to the car, Ashley said “Do you know who that lady was? She’s the one you passed on the road last year and wanted to help – and now you have.” I stopped dead and gave Ashley an incredulous look – what were the odds that we’d see her at that place, at that time five minutes before closing, on that day, at a bottle depot we’d never been to before? Stack those odds together and you end up with a very long shot. In that moment I knew it was a God thing, a designed moment in time. I have no illusions that us giving her a few bottles changed her life, but if a small act of kindness from a stranger made her day a little brighter, then it’s a step in the right direction.