Random thoughts on Life, Leadership, & Messy Spirituality

Parenting

Christmas Conspiracy – Part 4

I’ve been doing this series of blogs this week called “Christmas Conspiracy“. My hope & prayer is to maybe help us not to get caught up in the greed & consumerism that is so much a part of Christmas in America today. I though the week BEFORE Thanksgiving & Black Friday was a good time to try to help us all “do” Christmas right this year. I pray you will help spread the word about what I’ve been sharing this week in this 4 part series.

If you missed “Serve the World: Christmas Offering – Part 1,  Part 2,  & Part 3” please go back read them to better understand this post in context.

I propose that we “DO” Christmas different this year. Rather than buying into the frantic, crazy, stressful, non-stop month of parties, shopping, & trying to make sure that our friends, families, & kids have lots of “stuff” to do & presents to open – let’s just SLOW DOWN! RELAX! And ENJOY what this season is really about. As my daughter Brianna once told me when she was about 6 yrs old – “Christmas is about 3 things: 1) Celebrating Jesus, 2) Spending time with family, & 3) Helping those in need!” DANG! I love that girl! THAT pretty much sums it up!

BTW: That’s a lot of what our December message series “U2 Christmas” is all about. We’re using music & video from one of the greatest bands of all time to talk about The Greatest Message of all time! (Also, check out our U2 Christmas promo video here). It will run each Sunday in December & on Christmas Eve at Eagle Pointe .

This “Serve the World: Christmas Offering” is ALL about Brianna’s #3 – Helping those in need. I ask that you join us in helping provide for Children’s homes, Homeless shelters & struggling families locally, as well as, provide food, schooling, immunizations, medical care & the love of Jesus Christ in parts of the world where the average family lives on less than $2 a day. As well, this offering will fund the local mission work, community service days (Faith in Actions), & benevolence assisting struggling families with financial needs & counseling. Our goal is to raise $30,000. (This is above & beyond the approx. $30,000 it takes to run our church & ministries each month) This is also a rather modest amount considering the incredible amount of work we do with this amount of money.

Please join us in praying that God will FAR surpass our goal! Please pray about cutting back on the “stuff” of Christmas – give your best gift to Jesus this Christmas – & help us truly “Serve the World” in Jesus’ name in 2012!  In addition to giving on Sunday mornings at Eagle Pointe – you can also give generously towards this effort by GIVING ONLINE.

We are also encouraging our church family that if they feel the need to buy Christmas gifts – then let your Christmas Gifts be “on a mission for God”. We are offering “Serve the World Gift Certificates” that can be given as gifts & let people know that rather than get them a gift they probably don’t need – that a certain amount had been given to those less fortunate in their name.

Lastly, I hope & pray that you will help us make this a Christmas to remember!

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Christmas Conspiracy – Part 3

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As, I’ve been saying in Christmas Conspiracy – Part 1 &  Part 2 – there’s something very, very wrong with us as a society and a people. There’s something very, very wrong with the way we celebrate Christmas. We succumb to this constant yearning for more and more and more. And if we would ever just wake up – we would notice that it leaves us empty. We Americans are shopping addicts & junkies – always looking for our next fix – we get our hit – we buy something – & we’re on a high for a little while. Then we start coming down off of that high – so we rush out & buy our next fix – and we feel really good for a little while – then we begin crashing again.

And we continue on this never ending empty cycle – until half of our life is gone – we’ve accumulated a mountain of debt – and we realize what a mess – and what a waste – our life has been up until this point. Listen – it is time for us to break free from the greed and materialism and consumerism that we are addicted to – and that is destroying our society.

It is time for us to show our kids the way – before it’s too late for them! It is time to stop – and it could begin this Christmas season with us. This Christmas we need to say NO to greed – materialism – & consumerism!  We need to say NO to celebrating the birth of Jesus – by buying more stuff! We need to say NO to celebrating God’s love coming to earth in human form – by showering our kids and everyone we know with a ridiculous amount of material things – that they cannot begin to appreciate or be grateful for. We need to say NO to celebrating Christmas – with a month-long nonstop whirlwind of frenetic activity – which causes us to dread the holidays.

BTW: I am REALLY looking forward to our “U2 Christmas series” – Sundays in December & Christmas Eve at Eagle Pointe . We’re using music & video from one of the greatest bands of all time to talk about The Greatest Message of all time! (Also, check out our U2 Christmas promo video here)

You know – there’s just something “right” about this ! I doubt there’s a person who has been reading this series of blogs – who does not feel a little something deep down inside of them going – “Yeah!” “I don’t need another iPad to match my other iPad – I don’t need a bigger TV – I don’t need a 42nd pair of shoes – what I need is – more of God in my life!”

This Christmas season – when your family & neighbors & coworkers ask “What are you doing for Christmas?” – you can say – “Not going to the Mall – not going to Best Buy – avoiding Wal-Mart and Target like the plague!” And after they bounce back from going into shock – you can explain that  – we’re going to Buy Less & Give More – in fact – Buy Less & Love More – we’re celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ!

We’re going to help a bunch of kids and families locally &  in the Philippines & in Haiti – have the basic necessities that we Americans so take for granted.  We’re going to meet real, practical, & tangible needs in Jesus’ name in places where the average FAMILY lives on less than $2 a day  – where they have very little to eat – where they don’t have the immunizations to keep their kids from dying – where they live under a sheet or tarp – or in 1 room shacks with 8 – 12 people living in them.  A place where pregnant mothers don’t have the nutrients  they need & moms don’t have formula for their babies.

Our gifts this Christmas are going to “the least of these” – in name of Jesus.

I pray that this Christmas you will support our Serve the World: Christmas Offering & help us pull off all the local & global mission work God is leading Eagle Pointe Church to do in 2014. God bless you – & let’s try to do Christmas “right” this year!  In addition to giving on Sunday mornings at Eagle Pointe – you can also give generously towards this effort by GIVING ONLINE. BTW: Here’s an info packet explaining in detail our “EPC – Serve The World Campaign – initial letter & FAQ“.

We are also encouraging our church family that if they feel the need to buy Christmas gifts – then let your Christmas Gifts be “on a mission for God. We are offering “Serve the World Gift Certificates” that can be given as gifts & let people know that rather than get them a gift they probably don’t need – that a certain amount had been given to those less fortunate in their name.

***NOTE: Be sure to check out the above & below videos of our mission work in Haiti & the Philippines.


Christmas Conspiracy – Part 2

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Be sure to watch the above video & if you missed “Christmas Conspiracy – Pt. 1” go back & read it first – so that you’ll get this part 2 in context.

Listen – if we as Christians don’t step up and address these issues – people starving – parents burying their kids – kids being orphaned by diseases all over the planet… I think years from now people will look back at the 21st century Christian church and ask – “What were they thinking?” “How could they not do something?” It’s like the way we look back at the church – who for 300 years read their Bibles – and kept their black brothers & sisters in slavery. Tell me how that works? How do you justify that? The problem is that we don’t have enough people who will take action!

I had a conversation a couple of Christmas’ ago with a pastor friend. We were kind of making fun of the people who boycott stores that do not say “Merry Christmas” – during the month of December. I don’t think I’ll ever forget – my friend said – “I want to boycott those stores that invoke the name of my Savior – in the name of the almighty dollar. I had another conversation with my daughter Brianna – who asked me – “Daddy, why is it Jesus’ birthday and everybody buys all kinds of gifts for everybody else – but Jesus doesn’t get anything?” She said – “If it was my birthday – and everybody except me got gifts except me I’d be pretty upset.”

Then I did a little research and found that the average family in America spends $1600 buying Christmas gifts – that’s just the average… Some spend a lot more – & too many go into debt pulling off Christmas. We spend a ridiculous amount of money on gifts for everyone we know – on video games, iPads, clothes, and all kinds of stuff that our kids can’t begin to be grateful for or appreciate. Question – does this in any way sound like a celebration of the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ – of God’s love coming to earth in flesh? To me – it is more of one giant orgy of materialism – and it’s sickening!

I am challenging all of us – and everyone who will listen – to drastically cut back on Christmas gifts this year! I’ll give you a moment to catch your breath ——-  But guess what? Christmas is not my birthday – & I don’t need anything! It’s not your birthday – and you really don’t need anything! Now, I know this is a hard pill, especially for our teens and kids, to swallow – but compared to 99% of the other kids in the world – our’s live like stinkin’ royalty! 99% of the kids in the world would trade places with them in a heartbeat!

So, in our family we’re calculating the maximum amount we can afford to spend on Christmas, without going into debt – which isn’t a whole lot on a pastor’s salary, paying off adoptions, etc… We’re cutting that in 1/2 and using 1/2 to buy gifts &  taking the other 1/2 and giving it to Jesus for His birthday. Now, how do you give the Jesus – who is not here in the flesh? You could give to His work – the local church! And we should definitely be doing that. But Jesus also said that when you do this for the least of these – people who are suffering – starving – dying from diseases – you are doing it for Me. It’s easy to get overwhelmed – when you look at the incredible needs all over the globe – and think what could I do about all of that? Well, you can’t fix it all – but we can each do our part. We could come together and address a small portion of it.

During the month of December we’re doing a “Serve the World: Christmas Offering“. This offering will help fund our church’s local & global mission work  for 2014. Please help us provide for Children’s homes, Homeless shelters & struggling families locally, as well as, provide food, schooling, immunizations, medical care & the love of Jesus Christ in parts of the world where the average family lives on less than $2 a day. This offering will also  fund the local mission work, community service days (Faith in Actions), & benevolence assisting struggling families with financial needs & counseling.

We’re encouraging people to go above and beyond their normal, ongoing support of all the ministries & mission work we do here at Eagle Pointe Church – & give to support our Serve the World: Christmas Offering. Please pray about it & see what God leads you & your family to do. In addition to giving on Sunday mornings at Eagle Pointe – you can also give generously towards this effort by GIVING ONLINE.


Christmas Conspiracy – Part 1

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I’m doing this series of blogs this week called “Christmas Conspiracy“. My hope & prayer is to maybe help us not to get caught up in the greed & consumerism that is so much a part of Christmas in America today. I thought the week BEFORE Thanksgiving & Black Friday was a good time to try to help us all do Christmas right this year.

I think the above video is all too indicative of our world today! (If you didn’t watch it – invest 4  minutes & do so)  There’s something very wrong with us as a people and as a society! What do you think God is thinking when He sees us acting like that? Several years ago God began to really open my eyes and break my heart to the conditions that so many people in our world live in. Not just their physical needs – but also their spiritual needs. But reality is – that it’s very hard for people to focus on their spiritual needs when they’re starving to death – when their children are dying of diseases.

A few years ago I was at the gym working out – when a guy who knew I was a pastor approached me… The cyclone in the Myanmar had just happened – 50,000 people died… And another 50 to 100,000 people were expected to die – because they lacked the basic necessities of life – to survive the aftermath of the storm. And as so many people do – this guy was blaming God. He comes to me & says – “How could you believe in a God who would allow that to happen? If God is real – why doesn’t he do something about that?”

He went on and on – I listened for a while – and finally I put down the weights – I turned to him – and said – “God did do something about it!” He looked at me very perplexed and I said – “God created you and me and the other 7 billion people on this planet – and instead of sitting around and complaining and blaming God – God created each of us to get off of our fat happy lazy butts & go do something about it!” And with that – he lowered his head – and walked away.

In America alone – we spend more on entertainment each year – than it would cost to eradicate Malaria & other diseases throughout the world. In America alone – we spend more on hair products & make up each year – than it would cost to than it would cost to feed every man, woman, & child on the planet. But it’s because of our own human greed – selfishness – & irresponsibility that people are starving and dying of diseases all around the world. We won’t get off of our butts & go do something about it!

In Part 2 I’ll dive a lot more into this idea… but let me share with you something we are challenging our church family to do this year — & that is to cut back on the amount of gifts they buy & reroute some of that to help people who are so much worse off than we are. During the month of December we’re doing a “Serve the World: Christmas Offering“. This offering will help fund our church’s mission work in Haiti, the Philippines, as well as other local & global mission work we do for 2014. Please help us provide for Children’s homes, Homeless shelters & struggling families locally, as well as, provide food, schooling, immunizations, medical care & the love of Jesus Christ in parts of the world where the average family lives on less than $2 a day. In addition to giving on Sunday mornings at Eagle Pointe – you can also give generously towards this effort by GIVING ONLINE.

We are also encouraging our church family that if they feel the need to buy Christmas gifts – then let your Christmas Gifts be “on a mission for God“. We are offering “Serve the World Gift Certificates” that can be given as gifts & let people know that rather than get them a gift they probably don’t need – that a certain amount had been given to help those less fortunate in their name.

So, let me encourage you – before you dive head first into “Black Friday” & the Christmas shopping madness. Just say “NO!” to the greed, selfishness, extravagance, excesses, and debt this Christmas. Step back, take a deep breath, and ask yourself —– “Is this what Christmas should really be about?”, “Do my kids & others really need 20 new things this Christmas?”, “Does the way our society celebrate Christmas – even remotely resemble what a celebration of God’s Love coming to Earth 2000 yrs ago should look like?”

I’ll let you chew on that for a while – stay tuned for tomorrow’s  ”Christmas Conspiracy – Pt. 2” – don’t miss it!

Christmas - Necessity


Superheroes Jam Week 2013

EPC - JAM Week - Banner - Copy

JAM WEEK 2013 starts this Sunday July 14 @ 6:30 pm. 

JAM WEEK is a fun & exciting event full of rocking music, videos, drama, games & crafts that you & your K – 5th grade kids will love! (Think V.B.S. on some serious steroids!) ! It runs Sun. July 14 – Thurs. July 18 – 6:30 – 8:30pm. Our team has been hard at work on the sets, costumes, dances, etc. We’ll have break out sessions for Mad Science, Wacky Sports, Performing Arts, Visual Arts, & Choi Kwang Do. This will truly be an amazing week!

***Pre-register your kids on our website & don’t let them miss out!

ALSO – We need you to go crazy inviting every family & kid that you know. Blow up facebook, offer to give rides – whatever it takes to pack our church with kids to have a blast & learn about Jesus!

BTW: We will have a big JAM WEEK SHOW for all of you on Sunday July 21 during our 10 & 11:30AM services! We will do kind of a recap of our Jam Week with all the music, characters, kids – the whole deal! So, please come out & support the kids & cast – & get a taste of the incredible experience the kids had at Jam Week.

***Here is a video of last year’s JAM WEEK to give you & your kids an idea of what to expect…


Thinking the Unthinkable

I’m sharing this on my blog today because I believe this is a long overdue discussion that our country needs to have. It’s time to push aside all of the philosophical & political rhetoric and find a way to help these families & children. Please take the time to read & absorb every word of this mother’s cry for help!

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Michael holding a butterfly

In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.

Three days before 20 year-old Adam Lanza killed his mother, then opened fire on a classroom full of Connecticut kindergartners, my 13-year old son Michael (name changed) missed his bus because he was wearing the wrong color pants.

“I can wear these pants,” he said, his tone increasingly belligerent, the black-hole pupils of his eyes swallowing the blue irises.

“They are navy blue,” I told him. “Your school’s dress code says black or khaki pants only.”

“They told me I could wear these,” he insisted. “You’re a stupid bitch. I can wear whatever pants I want to. This is America. I have rights!”

“You can’t wear whatever pants you want to,” I said, my tone affable, reasonable. “And you definitely cannot call me a stupid bitch. You’re grounded from electronics for the rest of the day. Now get in the car, and I will take you to school.”

I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me.

A few weeks ago, Michael pulled a knife and threatened to kill me and then himself after I asked him to return his overdue library books. His 7 and 9 year old siblings knew the safety plan—they ran to the car and locked the doors before I even asked them to. I managed to get the knife from Michael, then methodically collected all the sharp objects in the house into a single Tupperware container that now travels with me. Through it all, he continued to scream insults at me and threaten to kill or hurt me.

That conflict ended with three burly police officers and a paramedic wrestling my son onto a gurney for an expensive ambulance ride to the local emergency room. The mental hospital didn’t have any beds that day, and Michael calmed down nicely in the ER, so they sent us home with a prescription for Zyprexa and a follow-up visit with a local pediatric psychiatrist.

We still don’t know what’s wrong with Michael. Autism spectrum, ADHD, Oppositional Defiant or Intermittent Explosive Disorder have all been tossed around at various meetings with probation officers and social workers and counselors and teachers and school administrators. He’s been on a slew of antipsychotic and mood altering pharmaceuticals, a Russian novel of behavioral plans. Nothing seems to work.

At the start of seventh grade, Michael was accepted to an accelerated program for highly gifted math and science students. His IQ is off the charts. When he’s in a good mood, he will gladly bend your ear on subjects ranging from Greek mythology to the differences between Einsteinian and Newtonian physics to Doctor Who. He’s in a good mood most of the time. But when he’s not, watch out. And it’s impossible to predict what will set him off.

Several weeks into his new junior high school, Michael began exhibiting increasingly odd and threatening behaviors at school. We decided to transfer him to the district’s most restrictive behavioral program, a contained school environment where children who can’t function in normal classrooms can access their right to free public babysitting from 7:30-1:50 Monday through Friday until they turn 18.

The morning of the pants incident, Michael continued to argue with me on the drive. He would occasionally apologize and seem remorseful. Right before we turned into his school parking lot, he said, “Look, Mom, I’m really sorry. Can I have video games back today?”

“No way,” I told him. “You cannot act the way you acted this morning and think you can get your electronic privileges back that quickly.”

His face turned cold, and his eyes were full of calculated rage. “Then I’m going to kill myself,” he said. “I’m going to jump out of this car right now and kill myself.”

That was it. After the knife incident, I told him that if he ever said those words again, I would take him straight to the mental hospital, no ifs, ands, or buts. I did not respond, except to pull the car into the opposite lane, turning left instead of right.

“Where are you taking me?” he said, suddenly worried. “Where are we going?”

“You know where we are going,” I replied.

“No! You can’t do that to me! You’re sending me to hell! You’re sending me straight to hell!”

I pulled up in front of the hospital, frantically waiving for one of the clinicians who happened to be standing outside. “Call the police,” I said. “Hurry.”\

Michael was in a full-blown fit by then, screaming and hitting. I hugged him close so he couldn’t escape from the car. He bit me several times and repeatedly jabbed his elbows into my rib cage. I’m still stronger than he is, but I won’t be for much longer.

The police came quickly and carried my son screaming and kicking into the bowels of the hospital. I started to shake, and tears filled my eyes as I filled out the paperwork—“Were there any difficulties with….at what age did your child….were there any problems with…has your child ever experienced…does your child have….”

At least we have health insurance now. I recently accepted a position with a local college, giving up my freelance career because when you have a kid like this, you need benefits. You’ll do anything for benefits. No individual insurance plan will cover this kind of thing.

For days, my son insisted that I was lying—that I made the whole thing up so that I could get rid of him. The first day, when I called to check up on him, he said, “I hate you. And I’m going to get my revenge as soon as I get out of here.”

By day three, he was my calm, sweet boy again, all apologies and promises to get better. I’ve heard those promises for years. I don’t believe them anymore.

On the intake form, under the question, “What are your expectations for treatment?” I wrote, “I need help.”

And I do. This problem is too big for me to handle on my own. Sometimes there are no good options. So you just pray for grace and trust that in hindsight, it will all make sense.

I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am James Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’s mother. And these boys—and their mothers—need help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.

According to Mother Jones, since 1982, 61 mass murders involving firearms have occurred throughout the country. (http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/mass-shootings-map). Of these, 43 of the killers were white males, and only one was a woman. Mother Jones focused on whether the killers obtained their guns legally (most did). But this highly visible sign of mental illness should lead us to consider how many people in the U.S. live in fear, like I do.

When I asked my son’s social worker about my options, he said that the only thing I could do was to get Michael charged with a crime. “If he’s back in the system, they’ll create a paper trail,” he said. “That’s the only way you’re ever going to get anything done. No one will pay attention to you unless you’ve got charges.”

I don’t believe my son belongs in jail. The chaotic environment exacerbates Michael’s sensitivity to sensory stimuli and doesn’t deal with the underlying pathology. But it seems like the United States is using prison as the solution of choice for mentally ill people. According to Human Rights Watch, the number of mentally ill inmates in U.S. prisons quadrupled from 2000 to 2006, and it continues to rise—in fact, the rate of inmate mental illness is five times greater (56 percent) than in the non-incarcerated population. (http://www.hrw.org/news/2006/09/05/us-number-mentally-ill-prisons-quadrupled)

With state-run treatment centers and hospitals shuttered, prison is now the last resort for the mentally ill—Rikers Island, the LA County Jail, and Cook County Jail in Illinois housed the nation’s largest treatment centers in 2011 (http://www.npr.org/2011/09/04/140167676/nations-jails-struggle-with-mentally-ill-prisoners)

No one wants to send a 13-year old genius who loves Harry Potter and his snuggle animal collection to jail. But our society, with its stigma on mental illness and its broken healthcare system, does not provide us with other options. Then another tortured soul shoots up a fast food restaurant. A mall. A kindergarten classroom. And we wring our hands and say, “Something must be done.”

I agree that something must be done. It’s time for a meaningful, nation-wide conversation about mental health. That’s the only way our nation can ever truly heal.

God help me. God help Michael. God help us all.

This was first published online by the Blue Review.


21 things God has been teaching me & reminding me of…

God is always speaking to us & trying to teach us new things – here are just a few of the things He has been teaching me & reminding me of lately…

1)No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived all that God has in store for those who love Him…” (1 Cor. 2:9) “You have no idea how HUGE I am & how HUGE my plans are!” We need to dream bigger dreams!

2) If God says to go after Moby Dick in a row boat with a pair of finger nail clippers – BRING THE TARTAR SAUCE BABY!

3) Right now God is at work… doing things that I am COMPLETELY unaware of… but will reap the results of when He thinks I am ready.

4) Someone addicted to routine and ritual will never be a change agent in God’s church! Find one in the Bible – go ahead – try!

5) God doesn’t need me… I need Him!  Desperately!

6) I am NOT the source of one single blessing in my life – GOD IS!!!

7) Balance is a myth! Look at Jesus or anyone God used in the Bible – their lives were completely out of balance in God’s direction.

8) When you play around with sin… there are always consequences! ALWAYS!

9) If I can accomplish “HIS vision” without HIS help ——- then it isn’t “HIS vision!”

10) Passive husbands and fathers suck! (Sorry! Just being honest about it!)

11) God leads me step by step – NOT in three to five year plans! Long range planning is for those who try to keep God in a box.

12) God is Sovereign and is not surprised by anything!

13) “DO NOT SETTLE!” EVER!

14) God often works through the “impossible” to accomplish the “unbelievable!”

15) The difficult we will do right now – the impossible may take a little while.

16) I need to live in faith… NOT in fear!

17) The key to continually taking my marriage to the next level is to stop seeking things from her – and to start going all out to serve her!

18) My responsibility as a leader is to set the next generation up for success.

19) So goes the leader–so goes the people.

20) I need to relax more & have fun more!!!

21) I can’t believe I get to do this (Lead Pastor of an awesome church) for a living!

Can’t wait to see what He says next!!!