Adventure Guides’ Prayer Map

A prayer guide for those who lead others on adventures.

About a year and a half ago, two of the three churches I was leading at the time (Alexandria and Barree UMCs) united to form one new congregation (Hope UMC). During the two-year process leading up to the merger, the leadership team did a lot of talking and praying.

At one point, I developed a 7-day prayer guide as a way for our leaders to unite in prayer for our future. It was called a “prayer map” because I include a graphic of a topographical map of the local area on the prayer guide. I thought I’d post it here for other “adventure guides,” who may be leading various kinds of missions in the world …

Sunday :: Honor
Pray that our words, actions, and witness in the world will honor God!

Monday :: Missional
Pray that our mission will be Christ-centered and Spirit-led! Pray that as many of us as possible will have a clear sense of mission and that everything we are and everything we do flows out of our sense of mission.

Tuesday :: Leaders
Pray for the leadership team. Pray that we follow Christ first, then lead others. Pray that we lead well, with integrity, with servants’ hearts, and that we continually learn, grow and stretch throughout the process!

Wednesday :: Community
Pray that we become a place where people want to be, a place where people can find acceptance and wholeness, a place where people find spiritual fulfillment, a place where people are equipped and released for ministry in the world!

Thursday :: Courage
Pray that we will be strong and courageous, dressed in God’s armor, and that we will be willing to risk it all for the sake of Christ!

Friday :: Provision
Pray that God will provide all that is needed to accomplish our God-given mission — operatives (you’ll probably see this word used more and more on this blog), finances, strength, wisdom, and creativity!

Saturday :: World
Pray not only for our local context but also the world beyond us, especially for people who are not yet followers of Jesus Christ! Pray that they will come to know and experience God’s love through Jesus Christ!

I hope this prayer guide is helpful for you on your missional journey!

“The Astronaut Farmer” and Creativity

Movie inspires viewers to keep dreaming!

Last week, we watched The Astronaut Farmer. The movie made me think about dreams and creativity.

A few years ago, I read John Maxwell’s Thinking for a Change, which includes a sad survey on the state of our creativity. The survey reveals that as we age, we become less creative. According to the survey, 2% of men/women in their 40s were found to be highly creative. As they continued their study, they also found that 2% of 35-year-olds were highly creative. This proved to be true all the down until they reached 7-year-olds. 10% of them were determined to be highly creative. However, as researchers continued, they discovered that 90% of 5-year-olds were highly creative!

These results cause me to wonder what happens between ages 5 and 7 that causes us to lose our creativity. Maybe Dr. Suess was right, “Adults are obsolete children.” 🙂

The Astronaut Farmer is about a middle-aged man’s dream to go into space. In the process of building a rocket in his barn, he encounters a lot of skepticism and ridicule from small minded people who don’t understand his dream. Charley Farmer (Billy Bob Thornton), when asked by reporter why he was building a rocket and planning to launch said, “It’s always been my dream.”

The movie takes place in a small town. At one point, Farmer’s friend, Arnie, said:

I’m your friend first and a banker second, all right? Now, folks around here, they think you’re crazy. I happen to think you’re a genius. You got bad credit, but you got great character, and uh, that rocket ship of yours is amazing. But as a friend, I have to look you in the eye and say that I think it’s time you give it a rest.

Later, after serving Farmer a 30-day notice of foreclosure on Farmer’s property, Arnie says:

You got 30 days, so you gotta open your eyes. Look at this as a wake-up call, because the dream is over. It’s gotta stop now, before you lose everything.

Because Farmer throws a brick through the banker’s window, he must see another childhood friend, Nurse Goode, for a psychiatric evaluation. She tells him, “The rocket is not going to bring you a happy childhood. We all just have to grow up and just take responsibility.”

These statements remind me of what I heard Ed Young Jr. say at a seminar in early 2006: “Little people with little vision will go after awesome people with awesome vision.”

My favorite quote in the movie comes at the mid-way point. Farmer, standing before the FAA committee to determine whether or not he would be permitted to launch his rocket, said:

You see, when I was a kid, they use to tell me I could be anything I wanted to be. No matter what. And maybe I am insane, I don’t know, but I still believe that. I believe it with all my heart. Somewhere along the line we stopped believing we could do anything. And if we don’t have our dreams, we have nothing.

We must guard our dreams. Bobb Biehl says, “Dreams are like soap bubbles floating close to jagged rocks on a windy day.” Isn’t that a great picture of the fragility of dreams? Guard your dreams. Don’t let anyone cause you to doubt God’s ability to accomplish great things through you!

Creativity is something we’re thinking about as we prepare to be parents. Part of the key, it seems, is simply not killing creativity. Pablo Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

Mountaintop Experiences

Life in places other than the mountaintop.

The FOCs (Followers of Christ), the youth group of the Manor Hill United Methodist Church that I serve, joined other area youth for a hike at Trough Creek State Park.

We ended up in three groups: those who did the mountain at a good pace, those who did the mountain at a slower pace, those who did not do the mountain.

I was part of the middle group. As we made the ascent, some hikers began to ask, “How much further is it?” My first response was, “What goes up must come down” – a disguised way of saying that we weren’t even halfway done! A discussion followed that hinted that the hike down would be more pleasurable. We made it to the top and what wonderful views! The path followed the mountaintop briefly, giving beautiful views of Raystown Lake below.

But soon, the descent began. I caught a brief comment, “I think I liked climbing up the mountain better than going down.”A long time ago, Amy Grant recorded a song entitled “Mountain Top.” It talks about how she’d love to live on a mountaintop, just fellowshipping with the Lord, feeling her spirit soar. The song continues …

But I’ve got to come downFrom the mountain topTo the people in the valley below;They’ll never knowThat they can goTo the mountain of the Lord.

The song goes on to define what true worship is …

…worship is … all that we say and everything that we do;It’s letting God’s Spirit live through you.

It’d be cool to hang out on the mountaintops with God all the time. It’d be nice to always be with and work with like-minded people, who share our beliefs. But God calls us to different places, to different people. God calls us to love people who are not like us. Will we answer the call to be true worshipers, who reflect God in the everyday moments of life?Please take a moment and read Matthew 17.1-13 and John 4.20-24.

Approved for Adoption

We have been approved for the adoption of a child from a foreign country by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Yesterday we received Form I-797C (all government forms seem to have form numbers!) from the office of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a division of the Department of Homeland Security. The form simply grants us approval for the adoption of a child from a foreign country.

This approval was granted in response to the Form I-600 (another form number!) documents we completed in early April, which included being fingerprinted (BTW, the letter also informs us that our fingerprint checks will expire on 07.19.2008 so if, for some reason, we have not received our child by then, we will have to complete this paperwork again!).

Now we’re waiting primarily for two things. 1) A referral from the adoption agency giving us the name and photo of our child, whom we expect to go and receive about three months after referral. 2) We’re also waiting for our passports to come; we’re expecting them in the next couple of months, but as you may know there is a large backlog due to changes at the borders with Canada and Mexico.

Anyway, just another small step in the process now behind us.

Seeing Red

ProposalEditWe got our proposal edits back; now we must make lots of corrections!

Last week we received our proposal drafts back from the editor at Asbury. Even though our mentor describes our work as “clean” (in terms of writing, grammar, etc.), there is still a lot of red! (Thanks, Judy! 😀 ).

The red marks mean we have a lot of corrections to make. We have about two weeks to make the corrections before mailing three copies to our committees (which includes a representative from the D.Min. office, our mentor, and our second readers) in preparation for our upcoming proposal hearings.

While making all the corrections will be a lot of work, we have been looking forward to the feedback. On the left, you can see the first page of Randy’s draft for an example of what our first edit looks like. Most every page looks similar to this one.

Technically, students receive four edits during the dissertation-writing process. We skipped our first edit because we already had a mentor and he requested that we send our initial drafts to him instead. Our next edits will be our defense-ready drafts toward the end of the journey which will leave one final edit at the end of the process, after we have made all of the revisions and corrections that have been recommended by our committees and the editor. Read more about our dissertation timeline here.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel!

Fasting

Fasting is an overlooked ancient spiritual discipline that helps Christ-followers grow spiritually.

I grew up in a tradition where fasting was an observed discipline. I grew up hearing stories of men and women who fasted, anywhere from one day to days at a time. In recent years, Joleen and I have been practicing the Wesley Fast, which involves fasting following the Thursday evening meal until mid-afternoon on Friday.

There are other ways to fast, of course, including the Daniel Fast, which is essentially a 21-day partial fast. To begin this year, Ed Young, lead pastor of Fellowship Church, taught a series on fasting and led the church in observing the Daniel Fast.

We are interested in the Daniel Fast, and are currently planning when/how we will do so. It’s also possible I/we will do it along with a sermon series and lead my/our congregations in the discipline as well. I could do this to begin 2008, or if I wanted to do it earlier, could do it in conjunction with “back-to-school” time (both of these times are fresh starts).

If you attend one of the churches Joleen and I serve, we’d like to hear from you about how interested you are in this becoming a church-wide observance. We’d also be interested in comments from those outside the area.

Stay tuned!

World Vision Korea Children’s Choir

Friday night’s Twila Paris concert with the World Vision Korea Children’s Choir was a great experience!

Twila Paris’ concert tour came to Huntingdon, PA last night. We enjoyed hearing her sing some of her classic songs, including, “The Warrior is a Child,” “We Bow down,” and “He is Exalted,” as well as a couple songs from her new (yet-to-be released) CD (pre-release copies were available at the concert, though).

While we enjoyed Twila Paris, the main reason we were there was to hear and see the World Vision Korea Children’s Choir. Watch the photo page for photos from last night’s concert (we’re waiting for permission from them to include a photo from last night’s event in this post).

The event caught our attention, of course, because we are awaiting the adoption of a child from South Korea. We’re glad we had the chance to be there. While we had already bought tickets, we received a call from World Vision to volunteer at the event, helping people sign up to sponsor children (as you may know, we sponsor a child in Rwanda). We gave our tickets to two children of Joleen’s cousins (hi Sam and Em!). After the concert, we went to The Meadows for ice cream.

The children’s choir did an amazing job. They are a very talented group of children! The World Vision Korea Children’s Choir is an excellent program, founded in 1960. Children practice 3 days per week after school and intense practice during vacation.

In addition to singing many Korean (and American) songs, it was also nice to see them join Twila for the closing worship songs and to see the heartfelt worship of the children. As many of the children spontaneously raised their hands in worship to God, many of them also placed a hand (or two) over their heart. It brought back memories of the Renovare workshop we attended earlier this year where one of the speakers (Richard Foster, we believe) said that, whereas Americans/Westerners tend to go to God with their heads and their mouths, Koreans go to God with their hearts and their ears.

Also very moving was seeing tears in the eyes of at least two of the children as they sang a closing song of blessing for the audience, a wish for God’s peace (which we were able to see from our second row seats). We picked up a couple of the children’s CDs to continue enjoying their music. The choir is on their 39th America tour. They are spending the month of August traveling in America serving as “a voice for the voiceless.” May God bless them and their ministry!

The Blessing of a New Day

What if … we were to consider each day a blessing of God?

Drew Carey debuted the new game show The Power of 10 last week. The public is asked different questions, polled and the contestants have to guess what percentage answered a specific way. The second airing asked a question something like this, “What percentage of people surveyed said they are living the American Dream?”

A conversation followed in our household: What is the American Dream? You have to define that before you can answer.

The American Dream is in comparison to what? Countries that are wartorn, that know famine, drought, and disease. The site globalrichlist.com allows you to punch in your annual salary and see where you really are in comparison with the rest of the world.

Finally, we said that we don’t care about the American Dream, we care about God’s dream for us. By the way, the answer to “What percentage of people surveyed said they are living the American Dream?” was 47%. (Pretty high we thought, especially with the war and the current low approval rating of the President.)

God has promised to bless his people. Genesis 12.1-3 talks about the promise of blessing to Abraham, that Abraham will be a blessing, and that all peoples will blessed through him. Galatians 3.6-9,14 reveals that this blessing is that the Messiah will be born through him. The salvation of all peoples will come through Abraham. The son he longed for and waited for so long, was not just a blessing to Abraham and Sarah, he was a blessing to all people, because from his lineage would come Jesus Christ.

The ultimate blessing in our lives is that of salvation, that of knowing and being in relationship with God. As we spoke last time about how God’s mercies are new every morning, I wonder, what if we were to rise each morning first giving thanks to God for the day. What if we were to consider each new day a blessing, a gift from God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer says in “Life Together”, “For Christians the beginning of the day should not be burdened and oppressed with besetting concerns for the day’s work. At the threshold of the new day stands the Lord who made it.”

He also says, “The first thought and the first word of the day belong to God.” The psalmist says, “My heart is steadfast, O God, My heart is steadfast; I will sing and make music. Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre!I will awaken the dawn. (Ps 57.7-8)

Let us purpose to awaken each day with praises to God, for the gift of a new day, a day to be lived for his glory!

Football

Football and leadership — learning leadership from coaches in the NFL.

I have been a football fan since I was about 8 years old when I watched a game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Green Bay Packers. From that point on, I was a Cowboys’ fan.

Over the course of the years, however, I have come to enjoy watching football from a leadership perspective. Of course, the Dallas Cowboys had Tom Landry. And living in central PA, this is Pittsburgh Steelers’ country. The Steelers have an incredible leadership tradition with Chuck Noll and Bill Cowher who coached the Steelers for a combined 37 seasons and winning five Super Bowls. Mike Tomlin has some big shoes to fill!

There have been several books written by NFL head coaches. I’ve read a few of them including, Think Like A Champion by Mike Shanahan and Finding a Way to Win by Bill Parcells.

Toward the end of the 2006-2007 season, I began cheering on the Indianapolis Colts. I’ve always liked Peyton Manning, a real class act, and Tony Dungy, a strong Christ-following leader. Dungy has a new book out now called Quiet Strength. I hope to read it sometime.

Who are your favorite leaders in the NFL?

The Newness of the Morning

The mercies of the Lord are new every morning.

The church is a short distance from home, so I usually walk there. Sometimes I haven’t taken a flashlight with me and when I get out of a meeting at night, a dreary night, I can hit a place of complete darkness. A bit of fear rises in my heart, because I can’t really see where I’m going. I’m walking by memory, rather than by sight.

I look forward to when I round the corner and even if the porch light of the house isn’t on, there is light in the windows. Feeling more safe, I walk toward that light.

Our ancestors possessed that kind of night all the time, and so with gladness they embraced the dawn. With that, they understood the darkness of their sin, and with every day they arose to embrace not just the light of day, but the light of their salvation, Jesus Christ. Every day they rose with a new hope. Every day they rose from sleep, it was a reminder of the risen Christ – he arose not just from sleep, but from death, to bring us new life.

Likewise, Jeremiah, the author, in Lamentations 3.22-23 tells us that God’s mercies are new every morning. Lamentations is a book of laments, expressions of sorrow. Yet suddenly hope is voiced, because of God’s unfailing love. Because of God’s covenant love – a love that endures, that never fails, that never leaves us, that never cuts us off.Suffering is a part of life.

It doesn’t matter if one is Christian or not, there will be difficult times in our lives. Being a Christian does not exempt us from suffering and sorrow. Eugene Peterson in his introduction to the Book of Lamentations in The Message says that Jeremiah neither explains suffering nor offers a program for the elimination of suffering.

Lamentations keeps company with the extensive biblical witness that gives dignity to suffering by insisting that God enters our suffering and is companion to our suffering.

With the dawn of each day, Jesus brings new hope. Jesus is our hope. Jesus is the star come out of Jacob (Numbers 24.17), the sun of righteousness (Malachi 4.2), the bright Morning Star (Revelation 22.16). And he brings eternal hope as he promises a city that will need no sun or moon to shine on it, “for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp” (Rev. 21.23).

Sometimes we figuratively walk through dark places, places where we don’t see God, but we keep walking, sometimes more by memory than sight. Sometimes we see the light in the distance, and we just keep walking toward it, knowing that one day, God’s light will once again dawn upon our lives.