Category Archives: Community

Texas Sized Vacation

Amanda and I just got back from an incredible vacation to Austin, TX.  The motivation for the trip was the Q2009 conference.  I wanted Amanda to experience what I experience in Manhattan last year at Q2008.  The conference was Monday through Wednesday (4/27-4/29), but we decided to travel to Austin on Friday (4/24).  We arrived in Austin, rented a car, and drove to Victoria, TX to hang out with Dee Dee (Amanda’s sister) and her family.  We had a great time eating and listening to some original music (You all will be familiar with “Fast Road To Austin” in the next year or so).  Saturday we drove back to Austin.  We spent Saturday afternoon and all day Sunday getting to know downtown Austin.  We loved having each others full attention for five straight days – really appreciated that.  Sunday afternoon we were able to meet up with Duncan and Kathy and their crew from MBC.  Great folks!  We are looking forward to crashing their pad in Edinburgh, Scotland in the next year or so.

General thoughts on Austin:

  • I would describe downtown Austin as “uncomplicated”.  The roads are easy to walk and the restaurants are generally clustered together and easy to recognize.
  • There are no chain restaurants in the downtown area.  All restaurants were unique and added to the Austin flare.  Some of the eateries Amanda and I enjoyed include Taverna, Taste, and Miguel’s, and Lanai.  We found the corner of 4th and Colorado extremely entertaining Saturday night.  We ate Torchy’s Tacos from the Hidden Coffee Shop for breakfast many of the mornings.
  • Art is dripping off all of the walls of all of the shops and restaurants and there is live music everywhere.
  • We were lucky enough to catch the Austin Arts Festival on Sunday.  It was a big two-day event that featured about 300 artist from all over the country including many from Austin.  Live music, lot’s of native cuisine, and lots of art.  This is where we met Jeffrey Lorien, Co-founder of Zhi Tea – a small business in Austin that mixes and ships loose leaf teas.  We bought the Monk’s Blend and the Ginger Peach Oolong.  Both are very good, and I’m looking forward to ordering their Earl Grey.
  • We did not get to see the bats.  We went under the Congress Bridge on Sunday and heard them, but we never got to see them fly out (The South Congress bridge houses the largest bat colony in the US and at dusk each night they all fly out at the same time to eat dinner).
  • Highly recommend staying at the Stephen F. Austin Hotel on 7th and Congress.  Old hotel that has been restored.  The rooms have a great feel to them – you don’t feel like you are in a cookie cutter hotel room.
  • “Keep Austin Weird” is the city’s tag line.  Austin has the energy of a college town, and the maturity of a bigger city all wrapped into one.

 If you are looking for a fun place to get away – give Austin a try. 

 Special thanks to my parents and Amanda’s mom for keeping the kids for our get-away!

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New Crossfit Huntsville Website

Check out the new Crossfit Huntsville website.  Clint, Daniel, and Russell did a great job with the redesign.  I personally like the Recent Posts along the bottom.  Each post is the workout of the day (WOD).  This new website allows everyone to post their scores for the day and talk a little trash (and encourage) everyone else.  Also, check out the videos.  Russell is pretty creative.  I’m the one that quits on the rope climb in the middle of the video (That was rep #5). 

On a personal note, I had a personal record on Fight Gone Bad today (Read the Recent Post with Russell lifting a barbell and my brother floating in the air like he’s sitting in a chair).  I did 294 reps, which is about 45 more than  the last time I did it.  CrossFit and the Zone diet has made a tremendous impact on my fitness.

I really enjoy my Crossfit community.  It is a great example of a Tribe (I highly recommend Seth Godin’s book at the link) – as you can tell from the banter on the site.  Find a Crossfit Box near you and give it a shot.

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The American Dream

I am attending the National Youth Workers Convention in Nashville, TN this weekend.  At the general session last night three speakers were given 18 minutes to give a talk followed by 5 minutes of discussion with the people sitting around you.  At this point everyone was given the opportunity to text questions to a number on the screen.  The speaker then had 10 minutes where a moderator asked the speaker some of the questions that were texted.  It had a Q feel to it with the addition of a cool use of texting and speaker feedback.  The speakers were Shane Claiborne, Andrew Marin, and Tony Campolo.  Andrew’s talk was about Christians reaching out to the Gay and Lesbian communities.  I thought he did a great job telling his story and the story of what the Marin Foundation in Chicago is doing to reach out to a community that traditionally is not only neglected, but shunned and denegrated by the Christian community.

 

The talks by Shane Claiborne and Tony Campolo were also good, but I am having a difficult time digesting a theme that was in there talks and the talks of a few of the other presenters on Saturday morning.  These speakers on Friday night and Mark Yaconelli on Saturday morning all made comments declaring that the American Dream is dead.  They all said that the current market crash is going to force America to live differently and abandon the old ways of consumerism.  Now, there is no argument from me that America has demonstrated horrible fiscal policy from a bloated government that runs a massive deficit every year down to the average household that has been spending way more than their incomes can support.  The government views us as “consumers” instead of “citizens” as demonstrated by their solution to economic woes – Every gets a check in the mail with the directions to go spend it.  To me, that’s like giving an alcoholic another bottle of Wild Irish Rose because we have to keep the liquor industry afloat.  I believe that the church should be modeling Biblical spending principles, and that Christians should be tithing and saving and not reacting to the current situation with fear – like everyone seems to be doing.  But, to say that the American Dream is dead is foolish.

 

After a discussion with some friends I realized that nobody has a clear definition for “The American Dream”.  Tony Campolo defined the American Dream as “a desire to have a better life than your father had” and others simply defined it as “Comsumerism”.  Based on their definition of The American Dream, maybe it is dead, and for good reason.

 

I have a different definition.  I believe that the American Dream is to live in a place that fosters creativity and innovation and gives everyone the opportunity to bring their great ideas to fruition.  My definition is one of creation and innovation – one inline with what a dream should be.  Maybe my definition is off.  The American Dream that the speakers were talking about is the ugly thing that many in American have turned the American Dream into – one of greed where wants and needs have been greatly confused.  This economic downturn is a wakeup call for everyone.  I believe that this country will innovate and create its way out of this hole.  There will be some pain, but in the end we will be stronger.  It’s time for new ideas to rise up and for Dreamers to create.

 

There was a comment that I really did like about this topic from Mark Yaconelli.  He said that the era of purchasing whatever we want off credit cards – a practice that has contributed to isolating us from community – will be replaced with one where we start looking out for our neighbors. 

 

Instead of “keeping up with the Jones’s”, hopefully we will start “looking out for the Jones’s”.  This type of community is something I Dream about.

 

What is your definition of “The American Dream”?

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Tribes

I just finished reading Tribes by Seth Godin.  He was one of the speakers at Catalyst 2008 in ATL.  At the end of his talk he gave everyone in the Gwinnett Arena (over 12K people) an advanced copy of this book, which was a very nice gesture.  I had never heard of the guy before Catalyst, and now I check his blog every day.  He has a keen insight into leadership, and basically just makes me want to take some of the ideas in my head seriously.

 

At first I thought this book should be read by everyone, but now I don’t think that is the case.  This book is for the person that sees a better way, the creative that thinks it would be fun do “art” differently, the person that is not satisfied with the same old systems that produce the same old results, the heretic whose ideas don’t fit into the status quo.  This book is not for members of organizations that care more about numbers than fans, leaders that want to lead to see themselves in the headlines, people that equate management with leadership, and those that think there is a manual or secret code out there that tells them how to lead.  If you are the least bit fidgety about a movement that you want to start, no matter how big or small, this book is for you.

 

In the book, a tribe is defined as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.”   We are all members of one tribe or another. I can name five tribes that I am a member of without thinking too hard (Crossfit Huntsville, Leadership Connect/Impact, GATR, Couples For Christ, and Fermi Project).  Now, think about the tribes where you invest your time, energy, and resources.  I bet there is a group of people, a definite leader, and a shared idea.  Tribes don’t just form.  It takes a person that has a unique idea.  The idea resonates with enough people that pretty soon they want to join and participate.  The tribes also give the members a way to communicate, explore, and spread the message amongst themselves.

 

I stumbled upon a great example of a tribe that may be familiar to some people.  After completing Tribes early last week, I grabbed Fight Club by Chuck Plalhniuk to read on the airplane on my last trip to DC.  I had seen the movie many years ago and remember thinking that the movie was equal parts profound and disturbing.  In the story the narrator is so tired and burned out on the safe, but unfulfilling life that he is living, so he agrees to join the Fight Club started by his friend, Tyler Durden.  The club attracts men from all walks of life that hate what they have become.

 

“You have a class of strong men and women, and they want to give their lives to something.  Advertising has these people chasing cars and clothes they don’t need.  Generations have been working in jobs they hate, just so they can buy what they really don’t need.

We don’t have a great war in our generation, or a great depression [you can tell this was written in the 90’s], but we do, we have a great war of the spirit.  We have a great revolution against the culture.  The great depression is our lives.  We have a spiritual depression.”

 

They fight each other to feel physical pain in order to feel “real” again.  Tyler made specific rules for Fight Club that everyone follows – The first rule of Fight Club is that you never talk about Fight Club.  Each night they have Fight Club, new people show up and eventually there are Fight Clubs all over the place and everyone wants to meet the legend that is Tyler Durden. 

 

In the fictional story, Tyler Durden sees the world in a different way.  He casts his idea out there and it resonates with a lot of people.  They get involved, a movement starts.  This is what Tribes is talking about.  Whether it is a group trying to change the way Public Education is administered, a group that starts scrapbooking clubs to give stay-at-home mothers an outlet, a group dedicated to Creation Care to challenge the wasteful, throw-away culture we live in, or leading a Youth Group by showing them there is a way to react to this world, there are tribes out that are waiting to be led. 

 

I recommend reading the book, especially if you feel like a unicorn in a balloon factory.

 

(Marla also gives a review of the book on her blog if you want another review of Tribes).

 

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What is Expected of Us as a Community of Faith?

(These are the notes for the discussion in the Couples For Christ Sunday School Class tomorrow)

 

Drinks:

What does a healthy faith community look like?

 

 

What does our class do right in terms of helping to create community?

 

 

Where do we fall short?

 

 

In my opinion there are two different areas we need to examine with regards to the expectations of our Faith Community: Inward tending to one another’s needs, and Outward serving the needs of the community.  What are the differences?  How do these two functional areas work together?

 

 

 

Appetizer:

(From Andy Stanley’s article “Divine Community” in the Catalyst Groupzine vol. 4.: Intentional About Community)

It is sometimes said that when someone faces death, one’s conversations reveal his or her deepest passions, hopes and dreams.  That’s why we go out of our way to honor dying wishes.  In His final hours, Jesus gives us clues to His chief concerns.  What does John 17:20-22 reveal about Christ’s wishes/desires for us?

 

So that they may be one as we are one.

 

The significant of this statement cannot be overstated.  Jesus is praying that His disciples – the men who for three years had disappointed Him and misunderstood Him and would ultimately abandon Him (in other words, human beings like you and me) – would experience something amazing.  He prayed that they would experience the same quality of relationship with each other that Jesus experienced as part of the Trinity since before the beginning of time.

 

What does relationship amongst the Trinity look like?

 

Enjoying each other (Genesis 1:26)

Encouraging each other (Matthew 3:17)

Supporting each other (John 14:25)

Loving one another (Mark 9:7)

Deferring to one another (John 14:10)

Glorifying one another (John 17:1)          

We all need community.  We are a society living in isolation seldom enjoying the benefits of meaningful relationships.  We live around a lot of people, but most of us have chosen to do life alone.  This is certainly not what God has in mind.  We were created by a relational God with relational needs for connection – significant connection.

 

 

Main Course:

(Summarized from Matt Chandler Podcast of The Village Church titled, “Village Core Values: What is Community?” 4/27/2008)

 

Nobody gets hit by the gospel and just stays where they are – It’s moving and creating, and It’s different for everyone.  Once your heart is awaken to the reality of Jesus Christ, you begin Progressive Sanctification, which is growth into Him or spiritual growth in body, intellect, worship, and missions.

 

Progressive sanctification is a process that can only take place in the confines of deep relationship.  There is nowhere in scripture when it comes to sanctification and growth into the fullness of Christ where words were spoken to individuals removed from the communal aspect of our faith.  For example,

·         Opening to all of the letters in the New Testament – To the Saints in Galatia, Saints in Ephasis, Philippi, etc.

·         2 Corinthians (1:3-4) – Why does God comfort us?  So that we can comfort others.  – Communal

·         1 Thessalonians (4:18) – Encourage each other… – Communal

·         1 Thessalonians (5:14) – Warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. – Communal

·         Galatians (6:2) – Carry each other’s burdens…. – Communal

 

Discuss what a tremendous asset it is to have people who know you well enough to engage you at that level.

 

·         How well does it work to “warn those that are idle” if you don’t really know them?

·         How well does it work to try to hold someone accountable if you don’t have a deep relationship with them?

·         How well does it work to ask to carry someone’s burden’s when you don’t have a relationship of trust established?

·         How well does it work to try to grow yourself spiritually when the entire gospel message is inescapably communal?

 

Just because you attend a small group like our class does not mean that you have real Christian community.  Attending is really the easy part.  The next steps – opening up and being honest, caring for others, contributing, … This is where it starts to take intentional action, which can be messy?  Why?

We need to protect ourselves from being too shallow in our relationships.  For example,

 

·         When was the last time someone close to you invited you out for a drink to tell you that constantly jabbing and disrespecting your wife in public isn’t funny – and ask you what’s really going on.

·         When we the last time someone close to you said that maybe your other affiliations in life (college football, political parties, social clubs, etc) are dominating your conversations and thought processes and borderline on becoming toxic – and then remind you that you are a Christian first before ANYTHING else.

·         When was the last time someone close to you confronted you on devious behaviors that are taking you away from community, family, God? – We all have areas where darkness resides, but are all responsible to help each other grow in Him. 

 

This is the sticky and uncomfortable part of our relationship with each other.  We have to realize that this is not a game.  Back to John 17:21 – “so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Jesus is saying that the credibility of His life and message in the eyes of unbelievers  is dependent upon the way we as followers relate to one another.  Somehow their belief and our behavior are connected.  Do you feel the weight of this passage and our responsibilities as a Christian Community?

 

We have to realize that we are in a body.  When you cut off a finger (illustration relevant for shop teachers) it doesn’t continue to grow.  We have to be in community in order to grow in Him!

 

 

Dessert:

 

I like to think of Christian community as a large dinner party (something our class relates too very well).  Each person has their own gift and talent that is given by the same Holy Spirit.  Some like to cook, some like to clean up afterwards, some like to generate conversation, some like to open their houses to host, some like to pay for the drinks and meal, some like to bring the music, some like to take pictures of the event, some like to make sure everyone is having a good time, some like to move furniture in the hosts house (inside joke).  When we combine our talents and live in community – really live in community and push each other toward progressive sanctification – you can feel the dynamo that is Christ.  I hope we continue to encourage each other AND confront each other. 

 

As Andy Stanley says at the end of his article, “I take comfort in the fact that community is God’s idea.  That means He will assume the lion’s share of the responsibility for making His dream come true.  We have to be willing to partner with Him to make His dream your reality and a reality for many others as well.”

 

Grace and Peace!

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Invite Yourself to Lunch

Today at church our oldest daughter, Claire, asked the Youth Minister’s wife if our family could come over to their house to eat lunch.  Yep, she just invited our whole family over to invade their Sunday afternoon.  Debbie said they would be honored if we came over for lunch, but told Claire to make sure it was ok with us, her parents, first.  I had a ton of things to do this afternoon, but thought the idea of hanging out with the Akers sounded fun.  We picked up some tortilla chips, grapes, and ice cream sandwiches to go with the leftover chicken chili that Debbie offered.  The food was delicious and the company was great.  Tony shared stories from the senior high camping trip, I shared information from Catalyst, we all talked about their successful first year garden, and of course talked about our kids.  Claudia and Hannah played house, Joshua and Sam shot each other (and me) with Nerf guns, Claire played with the smaller girls, and Madison sat and conversed with the adults. 

 

I think we all need to experience lunch with our friends more often.  We are called to community and need to make more time in our schedules to just share (food, conversation, our time, our minds, our hearts, etc) with each other.  If Claire wouldn’t have invited our family over to their house, we would have missed this opportunity. 

 

Challenge: Invite a friend over for lunch or dinner this week.  Do it without any agenda except to just hang out with each other.

 

Note: we did have a conversation with Claire about the appropriateness of inviting herself places.  We didn’t want to crush her on this, but didn’t want her to make it a habit either.

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Definitions

Tony, Our Youth Pastor, has started a new blog where he is exploring issues related to Youth Ministry.  He has an interesting post titled, “How Postmodernism Killed Duck, Duck, Goose”.  Truthfully, I believe that child worship (everyone gets a trophy) has killed it more so that postmodernism, but the post is interesting nonetheless.  Tony’s post got me thinking about how the terms “modernism” and “postmodernism” are used in the media – mostly Christian media.  Is everyone working from the same lexicon here?

 

What is your definition of “modernism” and “postmodernism”?

Does it only apply to the Christian church or is it a description of a social movement?

 

One definition I have heard is

 

Modernism = objectivism

Postmodern =subjectivism

 

The objective/subjective distinction seems over generalized as well.  What do each of these words mean in terms of faith and religion?  Does objective mean a logical, esoteric approach to faith where we try to prove truths using the Bible?  This sounds awfully rigid and cold to needs outside of the self.  Does subjective mean truth is relative to what I think it is?  This sounds arrogant and cheapens the cost of discipleship by allowing people to twist topics in the Bible to mean that they want them to mean or only believing those parts that fit their agenda.

Do people embrace the labels “postmodern” and “modern”, or are they just terms used to describe “others”?

Does the fact that I am worried about definitions automatically put me in the modernist group?  Can I just make up my own definitions for postmodernism if I am a postmodernist  (this seems to be what is happening)?   Is relativism an extreme posture of postmodernism? 

If we are to use these words to describe the current changes taking place, we should at least have an understanding of what these words mean.

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