Colorado is Burning

It’s hard to think of much else this evening.

There are currently 10 or 11 wild fires burning in Colorado. This one has already forced 32000 people out of their homes.

We’ve got friends on their way to stay with us here. At the moment their home is alright but just a 1/4 mile away from their house homes are burning. We’re a safe distance away from the flames here at our house but it’s hard to imagine what life will be like the next few weeks, even months, here in Colorado Springs.

With temperatures in the triple digits and winds gusting above 50 mph this fire has been burning for several days and the last report it was only 5% contained…tough to say how they calculate that.

Please pray for the fire fighters and decision makers.

Please pray for the folks whose home’s are threatened but still ok.

Please pray for the folks who’ve lost everything.

Please pray for rain.

There seems to be some possibility that this fire was started by arson. What would even be a suitable punishment if the person were caught?

When Your Brain Hurts: Reflect, Laugh, Create

I’ve been under a ton of self imposed stress the last couple weeks. Several deliverables due all around the same time for work, teenage boys with traffic court appearances to wrangle, trying to sort out multiple schedules between now and August, booking flights, canceling flights…

It’s made my brain hurt.

One of the things I find happens when we get under stress is that our focus, our thoughts, tend toward the negative: “I can’t do this”, “I can’t possibly get this all done”, “This is killing me”, “I just need a break”…and it can start to spiral downward from there.

A lot of time I’ll exercise when I hit that kind of stress level. Endorphins are our friend and they can really help. But it was over 100 degrees yesterday and there is a LOT of smoke in the air from wildfires in Colorado just now so exercise wasn’t a great option.

Thus requiring an indoor pursuit, after completing one of the major chunks I needed to get finished, I took some time to “goof-off” in Photoshop. I’ll confess this is one of my favorite pass-times, but I stumbled across a combination that relieved stress incredibly well.

I randomly decided to create a series of pictures based on the theme, “The music I grew up with.” This resulted in several things happening all at once:

1. I had to think through music genres. Music ALWAYS sparks memories so while listening to some of the music I grew up to I was taken back through some great memories. Taking that time to reflect on memories from my younger days helped me to relax greatly.

2. I had to go through pictures to find head shots I could cut out and use. This meant finding funnier facial expressions which meant I was looking at pictures of fun times. Looking at the pictures reminded me of those good times and pretty soon picture after picture caused me to laugh out loud. Fortunately no one was home to wonder which deep end I’d gone off.

3. Once I had the raw material I started to create the pictures, one of which is above, and found myself in a cycle of reflecting on good memories and laughing at past adventures. Suddenly life didn’t seem so stressful or negative, suddenly thing were going to be ok.

Is this a prescription for 100% stress relief? Not sure, but I do know I’ll try it again because it worked so well this time!

What do you do to relieve stress and the negative spiral that often times comes with it?

The Church vs The Body

Ok, I know, I’m probably taking this all way too seriously.

I started with an almost random thought in “What is the Church?” and perhaps should have let it go but continued in “Consumer Spirituality” I’m just trying to sort out how this whole “one body with one head” works in light of what seems to be an accelerated rate of division in the church.

To be fair I’m not trying to blame anybody here. I’m just pointing out what I feel is a disturbing observation, made even more disturbing for the fact that it seems to mirror the rapidly decomposing and increasing adversarial political landscape.

If I were to try to roll up all the comments I’ve had on the last two posts the theme that seems to emerge looks something like this:

“Yes, the global church should be more unified and it is something we need to work on but were all just broken, wounded people so it is good that we’re at least able to worship together in small groups or in local bodies.”

Wow. “Sorry Jesus, we know you’re the head and we’re supposed to be one body but we’re all broke up just now so we’ll get back to you.”

I wonder though…not to let us off the hook but, is it perhaps more of maturity issue?

Ephesians 4:11 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

14 Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. 15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

Is Paul saying here that spiritual gifts were given with the intent in mind that they’d be used to bring the WHOLE Body to maturity and unity? Is it an end state or goal rather than an ongoing operating model? If so shouldn’t we be working towards that end?

In light of all of the “church advertising” that seems to want to say, “we’re more relevant than your old church” or “we do church different” or “we’re different that your parents church” or “we’re protestant not catholic” I wonder when we start to cross the line from being one Body unified in Christ and become a house divided against itself?

If this state of unity of the Body is a mature end state or goal what can we do today to help individuals and churches move in that direction?

Consumer Spirituality

Warning: Thinking out loud to follow…

On Monday I asked the question, “What is the Church?”

The answers some of you provided were all pretty solid. But they left me wanting.

Most of them took the tack of either describing the “real” church vs. something else, or the “localized” body vs. the larger all inclusive body. What I’m struggling with is the fact that almost everyone I know immediately takes the global body of believers and breaks it down into something more manageable.

I think we do it because we don’t see the global body functioning like one.

The trouble with that is that we go to a denominational distinction, or a theological distinction that separates, divides, sorts out rather than including and fostering unity. But should we be fostering unity? Yes, yes I know the New testament calls believers to unity in the faith but as soon as you start talking ecumenical-ism people get all fired up and start worrying about the One World Church of the Anti-Christ!!

In order to avoid THAT entanglement people start to talk about individual faith. Which leads to comments about individual faith experience, which leads to existentialism, which leads to Nietzsche, which is NEVER fun.

And while we’d like to think we don’t go THAT far…what about comments like these:

  • “We’re church shopping at the moment”
  • “The Bible calls us to give financially and you really ought to give where you’re being fed.”
  • “We really enjoy more of a contemporary service.”
  • “We’re looking for deeper teaching on Sunday.”

Nothing necessarily wrong with those right? Except that they sound an awful lot like someone trying to select a great restaurant: Right for the occasion, value for your food dollar, ambiance, interesting menu…

Is it possible that we’ve become so good at consuming that we’ve fit church into our shopping basket mentality too?

Before you go condemning the consumer wholly, (I REALLY wanted to typo there and go with Holy), you have to ask if the church models through which we browse doesn’t in some ways facilitate such thinking.

Churches can’t exist without offerings and we’ve all known church leadership folk who have bemoaned a congregation that isn’t giving and we’ve all heard THOSE conversations start to talk about the services the church provides and what might need to be cut if giving doesn’t come up…which sounds a lot like restaurant management conversation.

Please don’t hear me casting blame in ANYONE’S direction here. I’m just trying to sort it all out in my own head, but it seems to me we’ve gone off track somewhere along the line. If we’re all a part of the body, one body, with one head, what does that look like?

Maybe I asked the wrong question the first time. Maybe the question isn’t What is the Church. Maybe the question is:

Are “The Church” and “The Body” the same thing? If they are, why so many bodies?

 

 

 

 

What is the Church?

What was your first thought when you read that question?

Is it possible that your fist inclination there was influenced by your denominational background?

Do you even have a denominational background?

I grew up in an incredibly solid Bible teaching, but not thumping, church. I spent more than a decade working in vocational ministry. I’ve taken classes at several different seminaries. My answer would have been:

The Church is the Body of Christ alive and active in the world today.

And while that is probably theologically accurate it is almost useless from any practical day to day perspective. Or is it? I’m not sure at the moment, hence this post.

Suddenly the question starts to get a little cloudy so we illuminate it with qualifiers: Do you mean the Church universal? Do you mean the local body of believers? Do you mean a group as defined by a denominational affiliation?

Sure.

But which ever definition we land on will carry with it a set of expectations. Expectations that will be met or, in the failing of their being met cause significant grief. We EXPECT “church people” to act a certain way and if they don’t they hypocritical.

I remember our high school winter retreat my senior year. I was one of the “leader kids” in our church youth group. We probably had somewhere between 100-200 kids at our bigger meetings. On the retreat we may have had 40 or 50.

We were having that sharing and prayer time that anyone who has been on one of these retreats knows oh so well. That time when people actually open up and share stuff that is sometimes deeply buried.

So it came as a bit of a shock to a lot of the kids when I, the leader kid, the guy the younger guys looked up to, they popular kid, said, “You know a lot of times I feel a whole lot more accepted by my non-christian friends at school than I do here.” Let’s just say it opened a bit of a can of worms which I am sure the youth pastor was glad to be finished with at the end of the night.

Now, I’m not saying the kids in our youth group were hypocrites, they were great. But there was SOME set of expectations alive and at play there that night that differentiated church people and non church people and the church folks were coming up short.

I have a worrying feeling that “The Church” today is not being what it ought to be. I have a worrying feeling that we’re redefining what we mean when we say “The Church” so that we don’t have to stare that shortfall in the face. I have a worrying feeling we’re trying to get over failed expectations by redefining how we answer that question.

So I’ll ask again…

What is The Church? And…what expectations are engendered by your answer?

 

Three Guidelines for Carpe Diem

My soon-to-be-college-freshman son Nathan had a job interview this past week with a major retailer. From his perspective this was ok, from his parents perspective this was crucial!

He cleaned up nicely, made it to the store on time and was asked to wait in one of the back rooms for his turn. Following the directions he was given lead him to a room empty of people. He found this odd but didn’t panic. He simply waited.

While he was waiting he noticed a sign on the wall, an acronym that described in this particular retailers approach to selling. He memorized it.

Some fifteen or twenty minutes later someone came looking for him and explained that he’d been given the wrong directions, he needed to go to a different room. No worries, we went and waited with the other candidates.

When his turn came the interview went as most do, standard questions about background, hobbies, why he wanted to work there etc. until the interviewer asked how Nate might approach selling to a customer. In his own words:

“Dad, I did a quick mind thesaurus, changed up a couple of words, made sure I didn’t use the exact acronym and basically told him what it said on the poster.”

Twenty minutes after he got home they called and offered him the job.

Other than just having a major proud dad moment I was struck by a couple things that Nate did that we can learn from when it comes to seizing opportunities that present themselves everyday.

1. Relax
He could have easily panicked at being in what was obviously the wrong room. He didn’t. Instead he looked around and found the opportunity, in this case the poster.

It is often that moment when things seem to be going the most stray that we need to relax, look around and see what opportunities our sidetrack off of the beaten path might provide. When we get off course we see things we wouldn’t have seen had we stayed on course. Relax.

2. Observe
He didn’t just sit, hands folded, and wait for someone to come looking. He didn’t scurry back out of the room and go in search of some more direction. He looked around…and found a gold mine.

Even when we’re off into the deep weeds if we can relax we then get the chance to look around in detail. Not a rushing blur as we race back to our intended path but a slow, deep breathed, survey of what is around us.

3. Capture
Nate didn’t panic and rush out, he didn’t just notice the poster and make mental note, he captured the information and that made the difference.

When we find ourselves outside the normal course and we relax, we observe we then need to make the effort to capture the opportunities that present themselves. How many of us would have gotten to the point in the interview where we WISHED we had looked more closely at that stinking sign?

Opportunity presents itself everyday, especially when we’re off the beaten path. Don’t panic. Relax, Observe and Carpe Diem.

What opportunities might be around you right now? What opportunities have you missed by not relaxing, observing, or capturing?

 

Marketing the Church

Image courtesy of linder6580 at sxc.huNow that’s a loaded statement isn’t it? What do I mean by “marketing” and what do I mean by “church”? What constitutes a church “customer” and how do you know if they’re satisfied?

Way back in the day, when I was employed full time as a pastor, I often said that there was an incredibly fine line between marketing and ministry.

As youth guys we toed that line all the time…creating events that would have mass appeal to a teen target market in order to get them to attend:

  • All night scavenger hunts
  • Beach trips
  • Ice Cream Wars
  • Sanctuary baseball
  • Terminator laser tag
  • Disneyland trips

…just to name a few. We did all in the name of ministry and growth.

Having spend much of the last couple decades in marketing and watching the church from this side I’m afraid I can’t tell where the line is any longer.

It seems to me we’ve moved from trying to differentiate the church from the world into trying to differentiate one denomination from another, one local body from another, one style from another and of course the easiest way to differentiate is to show why “yours” is better than “theirs”.

Funny thing is that on top of that you hear a LOT of complaints about a consumer mentality that has “crept into” the church.

By way of contrast consider this little biblical nugget:

Acts 5: 12-16 (The Message)

Through the work of the apostles, many God-signs were set up among the people, many wonderful things done. They all met regularly and in remarkable harmony on the Temple porch named after Solomon. But even though people admired them a lot, outsiders were wary about joining them. On the other hand, those who put their trust in the Master were added right and left, men and women both. They even carried the sick out into the streets and laid them on stretchers and bedrolls, hoping they would be touched by Peter’s shadow when he walked by. They came from the villages surrounding Jerusalem, throngs of them, bringing the sick and bedeviled. And they all were healed.

Seems like the objective of growth was accomplished without marketing.

Now I’m not saying we ought not be creative. I’m not saying we ought not create programs that appeal to our community. I just wonder what happened to the line.

How do you think marketing and ministry ought to play together? What does “customer loyalty” look like in the church?

 

Book Review: Platform by Michael Hyatt

I am, by my own admission, a bit of a bibliophile. I have shelves and shelves of books many of which I have read cover to cover multiple times.

THIS book, however, will not be amongst them.

… yet it essential that you own it.

Curious? Good.

 

  • If you have a message to get out to the masses
  • If you’re an artist with a passion for creative expression
  • If you’re a fledgling politician
  • If you’re a pastor, a speaker, or just someone with an opinion you want heard on a global scale

You need this book.

So, why my statement above?
Because this book isn’t a cover to cover read.
This book is a start-in-the-spot-you-need-most, find-the next-important-bit-and-apply-it book.

You’ll probably find much you agree with, some things you’ve tried, some bits you’ve failed at, and some concepts you never even considered.

Michael makes it easy to understand how to build the platform that will allow you to more easily and readily connect with your audience, even if you have no idea who or how many they are, where they exist, or how to get to them today.

Whether you’re starting from scratch, struggling to get your blog to the next level, or trying to work out how to take your already decently successful game into the big leagues this book is chock full of practical instruction on how to build a platform that attracts and keeps a loyal following.

Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World gives you the keys to understanding how to think about creating a successful product, how to get the word out in a a focused, targeted manner, and how to create fans out of mere contacts.

You’ll learn how to effectively leverage social media to create visibility for your product, amplification for your message, and connection to your audience.

With all that being said this book won’t find a home amongst my shelves of well read favorites.

Instead it will find itself on my desk, oft consulted, dog eared, highlighted, spine bent and flipped through. This is NOT a book to read, digest, and set aside. This book is a day to day reference tool you’ll want to keep within easy reach.

Check back 6 months, maybe a year from now, and we’ll see how well I’ve been able to apply it.

If you have a message to share, a product or idea to promote, or an audience to reach this book will become indispensable. Don’t let another day go by without having this on your shelf.

(Of course, what good is an endorsement without a link?)

What message do you have that is burning to get out? What product, or work of artistic expression do you want to share with the world? What are you waiting for?

International Travel: Caught by Customs!

I’ve been fortunate enough to have had the chance to travel internationally a fair amount. I’ve been pulled aside a time or two, once even directed to a closet sized room by a gun toting Russian military officer, but nothing prepared me for Monday’s encounter.

I confidently approached the last stop at customs, you know the one that comes after you’ve had your form stamped and reconnected with your luggage, prepared to answer the final round of questions already trying to sort out in my mind whether I’d need to rent a car or catch a cab to my hotel.

“What’s your purpose here Mr Fletcher?” the officer asked, her accent thick and suspicious.

“I’m here for work. Just coming in from the UK”, I explained that I was here to do some software consulting with Compassion. “No” I said when asked if I was directly employed by them, “I work for Hitachi Consulting and we’ve been doing this work in Australia and the UK and now here.”

“Did Compassion buy the software from you? No? Did they purchase this consulting as a part of the licensing agreement? No? Do you have a signed contract on your person? No?”

“I see. I’ll have to ask you to step into this room to your right.”

Somewhat surprised I stepped into the small cement room, walls bare but for a poster that warned against trying to smuggle drugs, and was confronted by a second officer. This one in body armor, eying me suspiciously, “So what kind of work do you do?”

I must have looked somewhat bemused because that attitude coming back at me from the officer was not one of a guy having a pleasant chit chat. Especially as he began menacingly snapping at the cuffs of the blue latex gloves he was wearing.

I tried to explain once again that I was working with Compassion on a three country assessment of some software they were using, but he seemed to want to press me into saying I was a management consultant. I finally capitulated and said, “Yes, I’ll be working with management to sort out how to best use the software.”

With a brisk nod and final snap of his gloves he stepped into another, smaller room where I couldn’t quite overhear the conversation between four customers officers. The other three having stood silently by as I was interrogated by body armor man.

Finally they reached a decision. Body armor man came back and in a thick accent advised me:

“You see Mr. Fletcher we don’t allow just anyone to come up here and do work. You need to prove that you have some special education, a unique skill set, OR you must provide a signed contract. In lieu of having any of those you must be prepared to either obtain a work permit or be turned back from the border. As there are no further flights leaving here for the US today you’d be detained over night in jail.”

SO…to make a long story short…I paid the $150 for a work permit and as a result, between now and July 2nd, I am permitted to work here…in Canada.

What’s your customs story?

How Would You Rate THIS Customer Service?

I am currently in residence at The Ship in Weybridge, England where it is costs, with exchange rate, just under $250 per night.

This morning there was no water. None.

All the guests received the following:

Dear Guest,

Please accept our most sincere apologies for the inconvenience caused to you this morning by the lack of hot and cold water within the hotel.

Further to investigation it appears that the main external supply had been interrupted overnight, resulting in the storage tanks on the property running dry. This was resolved as soon as we were able;however it did take considerable time for the water tanks to refill and heat. Please rest assured that the system is now functioning normally again.

It is extremely unusual for The Ship to encounter an issue such as this, and I appreciate your understanding with the disruption experienced.

Should you require any assistance for the remainder of your stay with us, please do not hesitate to contact either myself or a member of my management team, who will be delighted to help in any way possible.

Kind Regards,
A. S. ( name omitted out of kindness)
General Manager

You make the call, customer service success or failure?

If you would like a hint look here.