Why I Love Grace (but especially the grace giver)!

This weekend I will be talking about the why behind the what of Christmas.  I do truly believe that it is the most wonderful time of the year, not because of what is happening in our lives right at this time, but because of what has already happened in the coming of Christ.  But why is God’s presence among us mere mortals such a big deal?  To give a simple answer without giving away a lot of what I will be talking about this weekend I’ll give you one word: GRACE!  Grace is the why behind the what.

Now, today I received a gift that reminded me of the wonderful benefits of grace.  One of the benefits of grace is that I no longer need to be some stuffed up stuffy person who is so focused on earning something or not losing something from God.  In other words, I can take God and His Word very seriously but I don’t have to take myself very seriously.  I can actually enjoy life and enjoy following Christ.  Those things aren’t mutually exclusive.  I actually think that we can have fun and relax because Jesus has provided a removal of our sins through grace.

So…what was the gift that I received you may ask.  Well, it was a shirt with a hilarious saying on it that I occasionally say in speaking engagements just to lighten the mood.  I usually say: You’d better check yourself before you wreck yourself (referring to a line from a song that I definitely don’t recommend, however the line is funny).  Here is the shirt.

check yourself

So, today I am thankful for the freedom and motivation of grace and I am thankful for those crazy people who have decided to take God and His mission very seriously but not take ourselves so seriously, because seriously: Checketh Thyself Lest Ye Wrecketh Thyself!  Also, if you want to see me wear this shirt you can join us this weekend at Oak Grove.  See you then!

 

Why I Love Grace (but especially the grace giver)!

It’s the most wonderful time…except when it’s not! (Part 2)

I enjoy Christmas.  Not in the “let’s go shopping and hang up Christmas lights” kind of way.  I don’t enjoy that. But I enjoy the company and the presence of family and friends.  I think that most of us do.  However, not every Christmas is filled with those things and not every person has the same experiences around this time of year.  This particular thought has been dominating much of my thoughts and preparations for our Christmas celebrations at Oak Grove.

You see, Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, but not always because of what is happening right now.  Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year because of something that has already happened.  Without giving away too much, I want to encourage you to check out our Christmas services these next two Sundays – December 20th and 27th at 10:30 because we will be talking about God’s “Presence” and it’s a really big deal!

Christmas at Oak Grove

Now, here’s the challenge – who do you know that struggles with the holiday season?  Please bring them with you so that they can know the amazing hope that we are going to talk about over the next two weeks.   Christmas is absolutely one of the best times to invite your friends, family members, co-workers and neighbors to church.  Lifeway research recently polled 1,000 people who don’t normally attend church and found that 57% said that they would attend church this Christmas if invited by a friend!  That is a huge reminder to us as the message of Christ’s presence is such a game changer.  This will be our best Christmas yet here at Oak Grove, so bring someone with you.

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It’s the most wonderful time…except when it’s not! (Part 2)

It’s the most wonderful time…except when it’s not!

The old song has been ringing around in my head for 2 weeks now.  You know, the song that goes like this:

It’s the most wonderful time of the year
With the kids jingle belling
And everyone telling you be of good cheer
It’s the most wonderful time of the year

It’s the hap-happiest season of all
With those holiday greetings and gay happy meetings
When friends come to call
It’s the hap-happiest season of all

There’ll be parties for hosting
Marshmallows for toasting
And caroling out in the snow
There’ll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories of the
Christmases long, long ago

It’s the most wonderful time of the year
There’ll be much mistltoeing
And hearts will be glowing
When loved ones are near
It’s the most wonderful time of the year

Read more: Andy Williams – It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year Lyrics | MetroLyrics

But what if it’s not!  That has been the thought rolling around in my head. I know so many people for whom this season has some good things but also some very difficult things.  So, today I am starting a 2 part series about the Christmas season and things that are happening here at Oak Grove.  First, since this isn’t always the happiest time of the year for everyone in our fair city, we are deciding to do something about it.

Over the past several years Oak Grove has partnered with Hillcrest Transitional Housing by giving financial aid and volunteering with this amazing program here in Kansas City.  Hillcrest provides a hand up, not just a hand ou to those who are in need with housing and work.  They provide job training, financial training and home assistance through a 90 day program that results in people becoming self-sufficient.  This is huge.

This year we are going to partnering with them again through a special giving challenge called Tithe On A Tithe.  This Sunday at Oak Grove, 10% of all the offering will be given to Hillcrest Transitional Housing to help them help others in a time of need.

Tithe on a tithe

So, whether or not it truly is “the most wonderful time of the year” for you and your family, it can be a time of helping others who don’t feel quite the same.  Would you partner with us?  Also, you can give directly to Hillcrest Transitional Housing on their website which is http://www.hillcresttransitionalhousing.org/

Now, tomorrow I will write about what else is happening this weekend at Oak Grove.  You won’t want to miss this if you’re in the area.  This will be our best Christmas yet!

 

It’s the most wonderful time…except when it’s not!

Time is ticking away…

Over the Thanksgiving Holiday I was afforded a great time of relaxing and spending time with my family.  Three days of conversation, playing with the kids, watching football and eating wonderful foods took place.  At the end of this vacation of sorts, my mother handed me a journal that she had received and never used.  She asked, “Do you journal”, to which I immediately said no, because I’ve never been able to keep a journal going for more than about a month.  Maybe you can identify.  Anyway, she handed the journal to me and said I could have it all the same.

I didn’t think too much about it until I returned to my office the following Monday.  When I sat down at my desk an interesting thought crossed my mind.  What if I finally start doing what I know I’ve been needing to do for a long time: track my time usage throughout the day.  What might I learn about myself, my work habits, my passions, and especially my time?  So I started, and have continued ever since…a whopping ten days!  I know!

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Today, I’ve decided to go back over the past 10 days and share a few unfiltered observations.  So, here we go.  5 take-aways from my first 10 days of tracking my time at work.  When I track my time here is what I find:

  1. While there are many positives that have come from tracking my time, I want to share the one observation that I am concerned about first.  I spend more time on social media than I realized.  So when I started tracking my time I decided to put a mark in my log each time I logged on to any form of social media.  I use social media in my role as a pastor and therefore there are times when I am following up on people, answering questions and even doing some forms of counseling through social media.  Not all of my time on social media is merely a waste, however there are times when it can be.  Tracking your social media usage can be incredibly eye-opening.  Since I began tracking my usage of this platform, I have been able to reign in my usage for the original purpose that I have for it – connecting with people, investing in others and sharing some of my thoughts and passions with others.  Maybe tracking our social media usage is a good thing.  By the way, if you are looking for software that helps manage this sort of thing for your family, check out circle.   Oh and by the way, they’re not paying me anything for that, I just like the plan they have.
  2. I have found that when I track my time I do a better job of spending time with people.  When I track my time and am aware of how I’m spending it I am able to do two things: 1) I do what needs to be done most, next.  2) I don’t feel as rushed when people come in the office to meet.  I already have a time planned out and I’ve used my time well before they came in.  This is incredibly helpful in my line of life involvement.  At times I think we can all feel like we are always busy.  Maybe being more intentional and carving out the time for the things we really want to accomplish helps.
  3. When I track my time, I read more!  I love to read.  I have to read.  I am a leader and I’ve been convinced for years that readers are leaders and leaders must be readers.  These paradigms lead me to believe that I need to read as much as possible.  When I track my time I’ve found that I read 50% more already because I intentionally plan it in my time daily.  This has already been a big help and I think it explains why #4 and #5 are on this list.
  4. When I track my time I think ahead and plan more.  Planning is imperative if you are leading.  Whether it’s planning meetings, direction, events or even just planning imperative discussions and debates that need to occur within your organization.  This has been a huge help already.
  5. When I track my time I write more!  Okay, okay, just because I’m writing this blog post and it’s my first in a month doesn’t prove this.  I know!  However, as a pastor I communicate on a regular basis. Writing out what you plan to say is an imperative if you want to be absolutely sure of what you are going to say. Over the past 2 weeks more of that has happened for me and I have been working on growing in that for years!  It’s amazing to me that simply tracking your time can lead you toward the things you actually want to accomplish.

So, these are just a few of my observations, but I realize that not everyone thinks they can do it.  What do you think?  Will you track your time just for a small amount of time in order to see what’s really important to you?  As for me, I will continue tracking my time.

Time is ticking away…