New Adventures In A Familiar Place

EastridgeFX

It’s nothing short of amazing how God works. When I first “retired” from my staff position at Eastridge Community Church a little over four years ago, I didn’t think I would return. I honestly thought of my staff days as a season that was behind me – a wonderful time, but not what God would have in store for me again.

For the last two-and-a-half years I’ve had a job I enjoyed. It challenged me (mostly because it didn’t fit within the wheelhouse of my natural skills), I loved the people I worked with (still do), and I wasn’t looking to do anything different, unless a full time writing job came around.

A few months back, Kris Hodges invited me to a staff meeting. There I was, surrounded by familiar people. We worshiped and prayed and talked about God’s vision for his church! Then we went to El Charro. I thought, I could do this again…but it’ll never happen.

At that meeting, I felt God tugging on my heart. I thought He was telling me that He was leading me toward a full time writing career, but as time wore on, it seemed like a less specific vision.

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A few weeks ago, a long-time friend on staff at Eastridge announced her retirement. I mentioned to Trey Bailey, the Executive Pastor and one of my longest continuous friendships, in passing something to the effect of, “wouldn’t it be nice if I could take Michelle’s place.” It wasn’t necessarily a request for a job, but it set God’s amazing work into motion.

A couple of weeks later, Trey offered me a staff position at Eastridge. It’s the same title I had before – Director of Communications – but the job has been restructured to be far truer to the title than it ever was before, with lots more creative work, which I thrive on!

Some prayers, plans, and a couple of heart-to-heart conversations later, I’ll be back on staff at Eastridge as of October 6. I’m sad to have to say goodbye to my old job, but I’m thrilled at the idea of new adventures in a familiar place.

Doesn’t God do some crazy stuff in our lives?

One Of The Best Birthday Celebrations I Can Remember

One of the best birthday celebrations I’ve ever taken part in took place five years ago this week. This party wasn’t a cookout at somebody’s house, and it didn’t take place at a fancy restaurant or park. or even at disgusting Chuck E Cheese’s. In fact, the celebration took place far from home, in a church building that smelled awful, surrounded by people who hadn’t had a proper bath or shower in days.

We were in Juárez, Mexico on a mission trip with a group of high school students and adults from Eastridge. On Tuesday of that week, one of the students, Caitlin, celebrated her 16th birthday. In an era of ridiculous, over-the-top parties (especially for milestone celebrations like a Sweet Sixteen), Caitlin spent her big day serving others. That night, we marked the occasion. It wasn’t a big party, but it was a unique, special time.

I’ve been to plenty of big birthday parties — and enjoyed most of them, but I’ll never forget commemorating a 16th birthday in the kitchen of a church in Juárez.

My Favorite Unsung Heroes

I have the privilege of being part of a ministry team where the work we do is behind the scenes. We have an amazing team of folks who love being under the radar and out of the spotlight. They’re great people who remind me of my favorite unsung heroes.

Walt Disney was the ultimate visionary. His name went on every project that his company release, and it still does today to a large extent. For his creative vision and unique way of inspiring his staff and the public, his name deserves to be associated with quality entertainment for the whole family. But the truth is, he had teams of immensely creative people to help him make his visions reality…from films to televison to theme parks.

One particular division of Disney staffers are the Imagineers. They’re responsible for the creative decision-making and hard work to make the parks as incredible as they are. They don’t get much credit for the work they do, though I’m sure they get paid well. They’re the behind the scenes geniuses at Disney.

During the glory days of NASA, the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs, the astronauts were the face of the agency. But it took more than three men to get to the moon. A dedicated staff at the launch complex at Cape Canaveral and at Mission Control in Houston took care of the missions and made the greatest human accomplishment possible. These men toiled in near obscurity…most of them remained totally out of the spotlight…but without their efforts, our space program wouldn’t have been what it was.

The way I feel about these unsung heroes is the same way I feel about the tech team at Eastridge. These men and women take the vision the pastors lay out and help make them happen on Sunday mornings. I can’t be more proud of the team for all the hard work they do, and I appreciate them completely.

Who are your favorite unsung heroes?

Serving In Small Ways

Last Friday, our Growth Group did a service project where we set up baskets of snacks and bottles of water in the various waiting rooms at Newton General Hospital. We divided into shifts throughout the day, and my mom, Ashley, and the girls took the first shift. Waiting family members and hospital staffers alike shared their surprised gratitude at the treats and the heart of service behind them.

It was particularly special to give the girls an opportunity to serve. I think you’re never too young to learn how to serve others. Here are some pictures (keep in mind that they’re phone pics, so they’re not the best quality):

Ashley sets up a snack basket...
Hadley
Kenzie
One of the baskets we set up...
The girls help Ashley set up a basket of snacks.
...more snacks...
Kenzie and my mom walk down the corridor to the elevator.

I’d like to challenge you to think of small ways in which you can serve…

The Call Of Duty

Reading today’s entry in the Eastridge daily reading plan was an eye opener. I’ve read the book of Luke I don’t know how many times, so I’ve read today’s chapter countless times. But Luke 17:7-10 packed a punch for me today. Here Jesus says:

7 “Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’?8 Would he not rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’?9 Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do?

10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ”

Luke 17:7-10 (NIV)

Continue reading The Call Of Duty

The Shoutout, Part 3: For Anyone Who Serves Christ

So I decided to do another shoutout because who doesn’t love trilogies? Except for fans of the Godfather movies…The Godfather Part III was terrible! OK, now on to the real reason…

I received an encouraging email this week from a dear friend, and it came at literally the exact moment I needed it. I keep items like this in a drawer in my desk at home; the drawer contains thank you notes (nobody really sends those anymore, and that’s a shame), letters of encouragement, surprise cards that made my day, little well-wishes that came when I needed a lift…things like that. As I put this new email in the pile, I decided to read through just a few of them, and I would up reading about five years worth of notes, cards, and printed emails. It’s easy to kill time reading the sweet, lovely things that people can say.

Variations on a particular sentence kept popping up in quite a few of these notes (and I’m so hesitant to type it for fear of sounding arrogant, so forgive me if it does sound that way): something along the lines of “I know you don’t get the credit you deserve, but…” (There…I wrote it, and I promise I’m not trying to draw attention to myself; hopefully I’ll make a salient point here.)

Every week, on Sundays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, dozens of men, women, students, and children give up their time to serve on the campus of Eastridge and at our various missions throughout the community. Many others serve on their own or in projects with varying affiliation to Eastridge. And similar things are happening in countless other churches throughout this country and across the globe.

This past Wednesday, my friend Jason Laffan, who is a missionary to Juarez and Acuña, Mexico through the amazing organization Casas por Cristo, spoke at our Missions Night. He brought up Jesus’ words in Mark 10: “…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”  (verses 43-45, NIV).

Far too many of you who serve don’t get the credit you deserve here on earth, but you will when it really counts. Let me say thank you to the amazing servants of Eastridge and to everyone on this planet with a servant’s heart. I’m in awe of everyone who allows God to use what He has given them for His glory. Thank you from the bottom of my heart, even if I don’t know you, for your willingness to serve.

The Shoutout, Part 1: Here’s How I Feel About Our Worship Arts Volunteers (Using Someone Else’s Words)…

I just read (literally, just now) a quote from Gene Kranz, longtime NASA Flight Director, who was in charge of Mission Control for the Apollo 11 lunar landing mission. He describes to near perfection the feeling of complete belief in one’s team:

“I always find that when time came for a mission, when time came to do something…[y]ou just felt so comfortable. I’m trying to find the right word for this thing here, but basically it’s just peace… [W]hen you reach that total peace, you’re ready to go. It’s interesting. The adrenaline’s pumping, but you have this incredible confidence in your team…”

(as quoted by Craig Nelson in Rocket Men, pg 238)

That’s exactly how I feel about our Worship Arts volunteers every Sunday morning. When I step into the booth and we fire the countdown…regardless of how practice and dress rehearsal have gone, and, believe me, they can be crazy…I know that our volunteers are prepared to give their all. I’m at peace because these men and women are prayed up, practiced up, and ready to serve.

Our volunteers go about their job, whether it’s onstage or in the booth, with the right heart and the right mindset. They’re committed to serving with excellence, not for their own glory…or ECC’s glory…or the glory of the Worship Arts ministry, but for the glory of God and the building of His Kingdom. Our volunteers lead worship because they are worshippers themselves. Even after a stressful practice, I have very little worry (if any at all) that our volunteers will do anything less than their best.

Nearly every week (OK, so I forget sometimes), I send an email to the past Sunday’s team letting them know how grateful I am to them;  now I’m doing it publicly. To all the Worship Arts volunteers of Eastridge…and to all our other ministries’ volunteers…thank you from the bottom of my heart for serving, for sharing, for allowing God to use you for His glory.  Eastridge is a better church, and the body of Christ is a better family, because you do what you do.

Lunch

I had lunch today with Brandon & Kris; we had a good time. We went to Mandarin Palace, and even though the food was no great shakes, the conversation and fellowship were priceless. I mention something as simple as lunch with friends because I’ve known both of these guys since they were little and watched them grow up into young men of integrity and passionate commitment to Christ. Even thought they’re considerably younger than I am, they have become friends that I admire and respect as brothers in Christ and partners in the ministries of Eastridge. They may never read this blog entry, but I felt like sharing my thoughts with the world.

…Serving Others

Scott, Gary, Monty, and I just got back from taking over 100 bags of food (we lost count) from our food drive here at Eastridge to the Solid Rock Food Pantry on Brown Bridge Road. It was an amazing thing to see what our people have accomplished. When we first opened the huge, cavernous trailer that we’re storing the food in, it didn’t look like a lot of food. But once we started to bring it out and load it up, we filled the bed of Gary’s truck easily, and we filled up the bed of Michelle’s truck with the rest.

Driving over there, Scott said, “I can’t think of anything better to do today than this.” It did all of our hearts good to go over there, see the gratefulness in Jack, the director or the Food Bank, and load up all this food that will benefit so many needy people in our community. We took a tour of the facility and learned about the way the Food Bank operates; it was interesting to see how they do what they do.

I am humbled by what the people of Eastridge are doing in these tough times. Our people have stepped up and shared God’s blessings with those who need to be blessed the most. The heart of our church is simply astounding.