Awestruck –> Proximity Part 2

Ready to hear the story of Josh and I’s biggest disagreement?

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I thought he lost his mind.

He called me and told me all about this church planter he had met.  He was excited.  That wasn’t new.  Josh is frequently excited.

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The excitement is contagious.  It’s one of my favorite things about Josh.  That didn’t bother me.  Besides, I love church plants so it was cool hearing about this new guy.  Then Josh said something.  Something that just struck me as insane…

“I want to give him $1,000”

“Um…Josh, we have $1,100 in the bank.  

“This is important to me.  I want to do it”

“I can take a look at upcoming expenses and crunch some numbers and see exactly what we can do.  I don’t think $1,000 is a good idea though”

“I hear you, but I want to do $1,000”

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So we hung up and I took some time to pray about it.  I called him back an hour later and said, “I wouldn’t do it, but if it’s important to you then it’s important to me.”

Church planting runs deep in the culture of Awestruck.  Over the years we have given irrationally to start new churches.  It’s not what we do.  It’s who we are.  So, as Proximity Church is sent out we are experiencing the same blessing.

Josh hadn’t lost his mind.  He just understood that Awestruck is a steward not a storehouse.  People, resources, money…these things don’t stay at Awestruck.  They are sent out to make a Kingdom difference.

And that’s worth getting excited about.

 

 

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Money, Mebane and More Sound Equipment than a Trailer can Hold

You feel called to start a church.  You’re excited, you believe with all your heart you are going to reach everyone and nothing will get in your way…

Then someone on your team asks you how you are going to pay for all the stuff you need

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Ok.  That’s not true.  I knew we were going to fund this thing.  We have a generous team. Several families at Proximity are currently giving 20% of their income because they believe and are passionate about the vision!  20%!!  Come on man!  Also, we have a tremendous support team that has likewise been investing into Proximity.  If you have a great vision and a great team then you will always have people who believe enough to give.

I wasn’t stressing the money, but I knew we needed to bring in quite a bit more to hit our pre-launch goals

Then, two days I received a text asking if we would like some sound/projection equipment.  In an hour I was connected to my new best friends at Crosslink Community Church in Mebane NC who just showed up big time out of a love for the Gospel and church planting.

 

So today Michael Calvert and I rode on out.  We thought for sure a truck and trailer would take care of the job…

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Nope.  Not even close.

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That’s as much as we could get on and we had to leave the biggest piece (and a couple of other things) behind!  You know what, I’m glad!  It gives me another excuse to go visit my new friends.

After walking through their amazing facility and hearing their story Michael and I were able to ride back together and dream of the future of Proximity.  That actually might have been more valuable than the equipment!  Seriously.

Their present is our future.  I want our people…and our support team dreaming BIG for Proximity!  We are COMING SOON and COMING CLOSE to Northeast Greensboro because there are a LOT of people out here looking for a church like what we are bringing.

And we are a lot closer now than we were yesterday thanks to Crosslink!

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Awestruck –> Proximity Part 1

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I’ve always wanted to be cool.

Zach Morris, Ferris Bueller, and Stefan Urquelle (not Steve Urkel) were my role models of choice.

Needless to say, I was not cool!

Then, in 2007, I tagged along with a cool pastor and his cool team to a conference for cool pastors and cool teams.  We had a blast learning from some of the greatest leaders out there, walking around the Atlanta Mall, and making fun of other pastors.  We had a lot in common!  I was sure I was destined to be cool like him.  Then, on the last day there we were once again at the mall and he tried to talk me into getting these $150 shoes.

$150!  FOR SHOES!?  For my feet?

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Ok…we rebuilt.

In time, after years of fantasy sports and plates of turkey bacon at Tex and Shirley’s I looked up and Josh had become my closest pastor friend in Greensboro.

In October 2010 my small house church joined up with Awestruck to reach Northeast Greensboro.  That was the beginning of a 7 year attempt by Josh to make me cool.

He failed.

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I still don’t have the awesome shoes, I can’t grow the beard, and I’ll never be near the social juggernaut of Josh Parrish…

But I did pick up one big thing:

The Gospel requires big risk and big sacrifice.

So, here we go.  I could stay at Awestruck for the rest of my life.  Anyone who thinks that I (or anyone on our team) is starting Proximity because we aren’t happy just isn’t paying attention.  I LOVE Awestruck.  But I love the Gospel more.

“Missions is giving up something you love for something you love more” – Andrew Hopper

So, Proximity Church is COMING SOON and COMING CLOSE to Northeast Greensboro.

It’s not coming out of nowhere.

Proximity Church is coming out of risk.  It’s coming out of sacrifice.  It’s coming out of a church that has a commitment to do whatever it can to share God with Every Single One!

And it wouldn’t be happening without the friendship and support of the coolest guy I know.


Soon. Close.

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The Talk.

“Dad…what kind of changes?

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We knew it was coming, but I still wasn’t quite braced for it.

The thing is, I anticipated it being this incredibly significant event.  I’d take the boys up into the mountains, we would watch a sunrise and I’d tell them of the beauty of all God’s creation.  Then I would effortlessly guide them through The Talk.  Then we would hike down the mountain.  The boys, confident in their masculinity and maturation, and I, I would likely be thinking hard about getting Kristan pregnant just so I could have the talk again someday.

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That’s not at all how it went.  First of all.  I don’t like camping…so there’s that.

The truth is, it went better.

I told them about certain physical changes they would endure.  The funny stuff: voice changing, getting hairy & told them that the days of showering once every three days (read: five days) would be over.

It was important, however, to take this opportunity.  They are young, and this conversation is an ongoing journey and not a one time “check it off the list” of parental responsibilities.  So, I began.

“It’s not just going to be hair and stink” I said, “The way you think about girls is going to change”.

“I already have a girlfriend!” Asher chimed in.

“I know buddy…and that’s what scares me”

I told the boys that they are really going to notice girls.  They are going to think about them, a lot.  They are going to talk about them with their friends.  They are going to want to hang out with them, and it’s going to be different.

“So here’s the thing guys.  As you get older and begin to notice girls we are going to talk a lot about how to both honor and respect God and girls with your words, actions and even your thoughts.  The most important thing is that you know this: We are in this together.  My dad wasn’t around when I was a kid and I didn’t have anyone to talk about all this stuff with.  You can tell me anything and ask me anything.  I’ll tell you the truth and it won’t be awkward for me.  You just have to promise that when you become teenagers you won’t ever disrespect your mother.  Deal?”

“Deal.”

“And dad” Nolan said, “I won’t feel awkward either”

We still have a lot of conversations in our future, but these boys…I’m proud of these boys.

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Passports

Tim really didn’t want to let us on that flight.

Kristan and I woke up last week ready to fly to the Dominican Republic for a few days of much needed relaxation.  When I say, “woke up”, I mean that we rolled heavily out of bed after about 90 minutes of shut-eye.  It was 3AM and we had a very early flight.  So we get to the airport, walk up to the counter with that cheery “I’m gonna be in the Sun in a few hours” look on our face and set our passports flat on the counter.

Well…Kristan’s passport was flat on the counter.  My passport curls up like the letter “U”.  Several years ago it was, um, bathed in the washing machine.  No big deal though.  It has effectively gotten me to many foreign countries since then, including the Dominican Republic.  It was all good.

But it wasn’t all good.  Tim was having none of it.  He tells me my passport isn’t going to get me past the TSA.  He tells me if I get past the TSA that it won’t get me on the plane in Atlanta.  He tells me that if I get past the TSA and on the plane in Atlanta it won’t get me past customs in the Dominican.  I was stranded at the airport.

Where were my protestors advocating my release?

Anyway, I go over Tim’s head and get to Atlanta.  PLOT TWIST!!!  Tim was RIGHT!  I get stopped and this time I can’t go over anyone’s head.  The minute the saw my passport they pulled my bag and gave my seats away.  I asked, “What do I have to do to get on this plane?”

“You aren’t getting on this plane”

Ugh.  I was frustrated, angry, depressed.  I was…everything.

Then, a sliver of hope.  The boss tells me that Atlanta is one of VERY FEW cities in the US where you can get same day passports.  He tells me that “If I hurry” I can make the next flight!  WHAT?!

So, all I need to do is locate the passport place (it was one of three options), make my way through Atlanta, fill out all the forms, trust the government to deliver, and return back to the airport and I can still go?  Sweet!

It was the closest I’ve ever felt to The Amazing Race!  I was calling everywhere, Kristan was navigating, I was running across busy streets and pushing through lines.  So exciting!!!

Then the waiting.  We have lunch as we wait for the passport to be processed.  I’m HOPING it gets done before they close.  This is the first time I stop to breathe and when I do, it happens…

I feel it.  The weight of all my frustration and anger and sadness over the whole thing.

Kristan tries to cheer me up and I kind of snap at her.  It was just for a moment and I got myself sorted out pretty quickly, but it happened and it reminded me of a big difference between the two of us.

In the crisis we both worked.  We both did our part to make it happen.  We worked really well together.  Then, when it was over Kristan was able to do something I couldn’t do: Hope.  I braced myself for the worst.  She was sure of the best.

Turned out she was right.  We got the passport and we got to the DR.

But even if she was wrong she was still right.

“Can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your day?”

In hindsight, we can look at it and say, “Yea, that was frustrating” but the truth is that God really did something awesome.

If Tim didn’t let us on the plane, if Atlanta didn’t offer same day passports or if we had a layover in any number of other cities or if there wasn’t another flight that day (or if all other flights were booked up) then we wouldn’t have been able to go at all.

The truth is that our trip down to the D.R. was much closer to the best case scenario than the worst case scenario.  If not for Kristan I NEVER would have seen it that way.


Our Home/Their Home

It’s 3PM.

That means I have an hour…an hour before the doorbell starts ringing and the dogs start barking.  An hour before the banging and laughing and cries of it all being “unfair” begin to rain down from the upstairs.  An hour before MY food gets eaten by a bunch of vagabonds invading MY space and annoying ME!

And I can’t wait.

Every day our house becomes a home not just for my kids, but also for kids up and down the street.  Some of them have great families and others I’m less sure about.  Most of them are (somewhat) respectful kids but a few of them look at me blankly, like I’m trying to teach them latin, when I ask that they say “thank you”.   All of them feel like they belong.

I had that growing up.  It changed my life.

When I was young I spent every day annoying, err, sharing life, with a nearby family.  I was an annoying kid and I’m not sure why they tolerated my constant presence.  Perhaps it was to keep an eye on me or maybe they were just too nice to send me home.  Then again, maybe it was on purpose.  Maybe I was their ministry.

It doesn’t feel like much – making sandwiches and pouring milk, all while simultaneously being a referee and jury, but it’s changing lives I know it is.  It’s hard, and it takes patience I often don’t have. They are just…always there!  Yesterday I stuck my head inside the refrigerator and silently screamed out my frustration!  Then I shut the door and delivered another snack to another kid that isn’t mine.

Can anyone relate?

Yea, they get on my nerves sometimes, but I’m so GLAD they are always there!  These kids, they aren’t my kids…but the ARE my kids.  God has put them in my life and provided me an opportunity to minister to them the same way that family ministered to me.

And when I forget it, I get hit over the head with my own selfishness…

Like yesterday, when one of these kids who I have complained about and been impatient with, knocks on my door looking for a friend or just someone to talk to.  Yesterday was the worst day of his life & he needed more than snacks and a room to bang around in.  He needed someone to sit with him and talk to him about life, hope & Jesus.

As Kristan told me the story about their conversation I realized that every sandwich made and every scratch on the wall that we didn’t freak out about was currency used to purchase trust.

So the countdown begins.  It’ll be noisy.  Someone will get hurt (probably Asher).  There’s a good chance that I’ll lose my mind for a little while.

It’s worth it.  We want them here.

The only way to make a difference in a life is to be in the life.


How I Know You Aren’t a Christian

As I looked over the menu of Macs Speed Shop here in Greensboro I felt, for the first time in our marriage, a lack of confidence from my wife.  She didn’t believe in me and it hurt.  It shook my resolve and, after a few uncomfortably silent seconds when the waitress came for our order, I’m ashamed to admit it…

I chickened out.

Right there in front of me was the opportunity of a lifetime!  It was MY moment!  A chance to stand on my desk and seize the carp!  In front of me was Greensboro’s very own version of “The Old 96er”

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5 pounds of bbq, burger, macaroni, and other assorted goodies!  The picture looks amazing. And if I finish WHEN I FINISHED I would have earned free dinner for both of us.  Alas, my wife let it be known that I most certainly would not finish a 5 pound sandwich, and she didn’t want to pay the 50$ price tag when I failed.  So I got the 10 oz jalapeño burger.

And I didn’t finish it 🙂

Anyway, as we were wrapping up we noticed a table of about 20 people nearby.  Now, one of our pastimes (like “who can beat up who” where we pick two of our friends and guess who would win in a fight to the death) is “How do these people know each other” (we aren’t great at naming our games).  Most of the time it’s pretty obvious so the game devolves into us just making up elaborate jokes about possible relationships.

This time, however, it was genuinely a mystery.  We ruled out church group pretty quickly before eventually settling on Pokemon Addicts Anonymous Meeting.

Then we were sad.

We were sad b/c of the reasons we dismissed the group as being one of spiritual orientation.  First, and probably most painful, was that the group was diverse.  Not only was there both white and black people among the group, but it was pretty balanced between the two.  Also the group spanned generations.  Sitting across the table from a couple in their 20’s was an older gentleman who must have been near retirement age.  Next we noticed how social the group was acting.  Not among themselves (church folk are pretty good at that), but with other people there.  The wait staff, when they weren’t with customers, would mosey (I’m going to start using that word more) over to hang out with them.  One guy walked over to smoke with another guy off the patio and they ended up talking for a good while.  Finally, and this is more “gut” than anything else: they didn’t “feel” like a church group.  You know how when you are searching radio stations and you get to KLOVE and you can tell it’s a Christian song long before you hear any words about Jesus, the ocean, a battlefield, or our hearts eyes being opened?  Something about Christian music just “feels” Christian even before they say anything.  Well, that’s kind of true for Christians in general.  I don’t mean morally or b/c of our good deeds.  I’m referring to our subculture.  They have us pegged.

Our Christian “way” isn’t necessarily a good or bad thing, but if we aren’t aware of it we may forget that there are square people out there who don’t fit our round hole.

Anyway.  I wanted to walk up and ask them how they knew each other.  I wanted to get to know them and why they are the way they are.  To be totally honest I wanted to join them!

I wanted to respond to them the way I so wish the world would respond to the church.

But I didn’t.  I got on with my thing and my agenda.  Makes sense…

After all, I am a Christian.

 


The EXTRAordinary Moment of Weddings (Part 2 of 3)

“When the world sees the way that I love you/they will see the way Jesus loves them”

That’s the final statement in the grooms vows when I perform weddings.  I get a lot of compliments on that line.  In fact, just the other week, as I was walking out of what a beautiful reception I was chased down by a gentleman who wanted to tell me something I’ve heard more than a few times:

“That was the most worshipful wedding I’ve ever attended”

That makes me sad.

Don’t get me wrong.  It makes me feel good to be complimented.  I like when people tell me I’m good at something, or funny, or that the way I play fantasy football reminds them of Francis Underwood.

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It makes me sad because people go to a LOT of weddings!  One year Kristan and I watched like 16 knots get tied.  That was the year I finally bought dress shoes, spent more money at Bed, Bath and Beyond than the rest of my life combined, and got all of 1 Corinthians 13 memorized.

How do we sit in wedding after wedding and let it not be about what it’s supposed to be about?

Easy.  Because we are convinced it’s about us.

When it’s OUR special day, it can’t be HIS special day.  If it’s about us, it’s not worship.

We have settled into a habit, even on the most ordinary of days, of turning everything inward.  We work for ourselves.  We have hobbies for ourselves.  We exercise for ourselves. Day after day goes by and it becomes increasingly difficult to find God in the mundane.  Only in the EXTRAordinary does God emerge.

A wedding is an extraordinary moment.  It’s a special day.  It’s that rare pause in our lives when our attention is naturally drawn upwards…if we will let it.

It’s often missed.

Autostereograms.

Otherwise known as Magic Eye.  You remember these nightmares.  2D pictures that, if you stare at them long enough you’ll either see a 3D image or a schooner emerge or blood will start coming out of your ears.

I hated these things.  I lacked the patience and discipline to find the hidden picture.  Nevertheless I had a few of the posters in my room when I was a kid.  I was content with the wavy lines and colors.  Obviously I believed there was something else there, but I never bothered really trying to see it.

Life is like that.  Even on the most mundane days there is a lot more going on – a 3d image hidden in the 2d routine of our lives.  It’s natural for us to settle into life and struggle to consistently find God in the ordinary.  It’s not good, but it is natural.

Weddings aren’t ordinary.  They are extraordinary.  They are one of those moments when we can so easily stop and see past the regular 2d pattern of man and woman to find the image of God in husband and wife.

We just have to try…

 


The Thing Everyone Should Stop Saying at Weddings (Part 1)

“Don’t unity candles have to stay lit forever for them to actually serve the intended purpose?”

Ok, that’s not it.  I’ve just always wondered about that.

Weddings.

They are beautiful, fun cry-fests for all, shared around the bond between a loving couple and a mutual hatred for the wedding planner.

“No Samantha!  We don’t need to practice WALKING again.  I’ve been doing it since I was four (I was a late bloomer)”

We love weddings.  I’ll admit, every wedding I do there is a fair to likely chance I’m going to start crying the minute the bride and groom make eye contact for first time.  Although, as a Dave Ramsay fan, a part of me dies inside when I see flowers that cost more than my annual gas budget; I really do love the spectacle of it all.

But there is one thing that bothers me.  One thing that you will hear at EVERY wedding…heck, you’ve probably said it.  Every time I hear someone say it I want to make farting noises into my elbow and blame it on the bride.

I don’t.  I just want to.  Don’t judge me.

Here it is:

“I’m so happy for you on your special day”

PPPFfffttttpppllllhhhhh…..”um, she did it”

Ok.  I get it.  It comes from a really nice place.  A place of celebration and shared happiness.  It also comes from our culture and our worship of the wedding above the marriage and the bride above the groom (ducks and hides).

It’s not your special day.  It’s not about you…

Well, not completely.  It can be special for you.  It obviously IS!  It’s special for the bride, the groom, the parents, and everyone in attendance.  It can be special.

It’s just not “ours”

“For from him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” Romans 11:36

Everything, even marriage, is designed for God.  The wedding isn’t our special day.  It’s so much bigger than that…