Thursday, November 22, 2012

Why I Don't Feed the Homeless on Thanksgiving/Christmas


There are two times a year that many people (not just Christians) feel the urge to feed the homeless. Today is one of those days that I hear many people taking some time out to feed, as one person put it “those not as blessed.” No doubt this blog title has raised some eyebrows. Before you write this blog off...please allow me to explain.

My first reason is quite simple. It is my opinion that we make it out to be a photo op. There is no doubt at Thanksgiving we ought to reflect on what we truly are thankful for, to count your blessings. Some find it necessary to go and serve homeless people in order to find out just how blessed they really are. People who go to serve find out quickly that those they are serving may be in fact more blessed than they are. For a week or so prior to serving some may put together baggies full of supplies to hand out to homeless people. This is not a very well thought out plan however. What if next time I see you, I tell you how much you smell? Oh, I won’t say it directly to you but I will hand you a bar of Irish Spring and breath mints. My friend, Pastor Bob Beeman who feeds the homeless in Nashville every day said this...

“Our homeless friends receive so many "Christmas bags" every year with toothpaste, shampoo, etc. We find most of them in dumpsters and on the sides of the road. So many churches do this on Christmas, and it is over saturation. Why?  THEY ARE HOMELESS!  They don't have any place to store surplus items, and so much in the bags are things they cannot use. But, of course, the rest of the year they are digging through garbage cans trying to find these items.”

My second reason for not feeding the homeless is I have no rapport with them in my area. I believe this is okay however. We all have our ministries which makes the body of Christ unique. Often times people will show up to a soup kitchen, etc. on a holiday with big smiles “simply wanting to bless those less fortunate in Jesus name” and they are met with a cold response. Some that were there to serve may even walk away and mention how ungrateful those “less fortunate people” really are. Let’s think this through for a minute. No matter what social class you are at in life, there is always someone who has more than you do. What if one of those with “more” began serving you and even wanted a picture of them handing you a nice fillet mignon dinner? You may give a homeless person a bag of hygiene products or a warm plate of food and want a picture doing it...what if someone with more gave you something you didn’t have. Not only gave it to you but took a picture and put it on Facebook with the caption “helping out the less fortunate”? This kind of makes a person think differently. Like Pastor Bob Beeman’s “Bridge Bunch” and other ongoing homeless ministries...they have rapport with the people they serve. Day in and day out they show up and built lasting friendships with this great group. It tends to shoot down someone’s dignity when a person out of the blue (because it is a holiday) walks up to them...hands them food and is not seen until the next year. 

"The Church usually forgets that people are homeless 365 days a year, not just on Christmas and Thanksgiving. And, quite honestly, if they truly had a burden for homeless people, they would be involved throughout the year, and make these two days of involvement a little less of a photo opp." ~Pastor Bob Beeman

Isn’t it odd how some will need to do something for the homeless in order to get a proper grasp on how thankful they are? What is even more crazy is the very next day many will spend epic amounts of money on Black Friday sales. It always has been my assumption that one of the biggest ways a person can help a homeless ministry or soup kitchen is by simply writing a check. These ministries have functioned for a long time without the person that shows up on holidays. With that in mind...why not write a check? Perhaps if we lived with a proper perspective of thankfulness we would not need to degrade someone else's dignity to inflate our ego. I make no excuses as to why I do not feed the homeless on the holidays. Early in the spring of this year I took a group down to Pastor Bob Beeman’s ministry.....why? Because we decided as a church to support this ministry and I wanted them to see it first hand. It really does have a way of changing a person. If you or me are not willing to help out regularly we ought not degrade those being fed by showing up once or twice a year only to make ourselves feel good.  Christians ought not to show up once or twice a year to not only feed but maybe LEAD SOMEONE TO THE LORD! Those not regularly helping ought to do these ministries that function 365 days a year a favor and simply send money and pray. If you are not sure where you can invest your money, may I point you to “The Bridge Bunch”?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Missionary Fast Track Fundraising

This afternoon I had the pleasure of meeting with a missionary friend for lunch. While enjoying some good conversation and catching up I was asked the inevitable question “What have you seen that catches your eye that missionaries are doing?” Sometimes I am even asked what I might do to get peoples attention or raise funds if I became a missionary. First of all, I responded by saying you need a social network presence. For me, it would be Facebook. If I had to raise funds however...this is how I would do it. This is a freebie. 

Kickstarter.com is one way to do some serious fundraising in a short amount of time. I am quite shocked that I have not seen this being used by missionaries to raise funds these days. If you are not familiar with this website you really ought to visit it. It provides a funding platform for those wishing to raise money towards a goal. According to “Kickstarter”...

Thousands of creative projects are funding on Kickstarter at any given moment. Each project is independently created and crafted by the person behind it. The filmmakers, musicians, artists, and designers you see on Kickstarter have complete control and responsibility over their projects. They spend weeks building their project pages, shooting their videos, and brainstorming what rewards to offer backers. When they're ready, creators launch their project and share it with their community.
Every project creator sets their project's funding goal and deadline. If people like the project, they can pledge money to make it happen. If the project succeeds in reaching its funding goal, all backers' credit cards are charged when time expires. If the project falls short, no one is charged. Funding on Kickstarter is all-or-nothing.”
It really is quite an extrordinary concept. I have this seen this most successfully used with many Christian bands wanting to put out a new CD. These groups will set a financial goal of lets say 15,000 dollars for their project. Next they will set the timeline for raising the funds which usually is about 30 days. They will record a video to play on their intro page and also set rewards for those donating. An example of a goal would be $50 you get the new album. If you give $200 you will receive a t-shirt and CD. If you give $1000 you will get your name mentioned in the CD cover and meet the band. On and on it goes with some of the biggest goals being a private concert. I have seen many bands hit their mark. The same applies for artists, etc. 
Needless to say after seeing these results and personally knowing a few artists who have successfully hit their goals it got me thinking about “What if I was a missionary? How could I leverage this powerful website?” Their website states...
“We allow creative projects in the worlds of Art, Comics, Dance, Design, Fashion, Film, Food, Games, Music, Photography, Publishing, Technology, and Theater. 
Everything on Kickstarter must be a project. A project has a clear goal, like making an album, a book, or a work of art. A project will eventually be completed, and something will be produced by it."
I am quite confident that as a missionary one could easily come up with a project out of all they are endeavoring to accomplish. Perhaps if a missionary could not define what that project was they could simply look at the examples on the website and make something happen. What I would do personally is set a monetary goal as the amount needed for a year on the field. Say that amount is $18,000, then I would post that to be reached within 30 days. Next I would put in place the reward levels. If someone gave $10 they would get a personal letter of thanks. $40 a picture of that donors name written on a board held by a national (wherever I may be going). As we get into bigger money like $100 then I would record a personal video message with a person who speaks the native language while I translate it. Let’s say I am a missionary to Sweden. I am going to assume this is a place that people would like to visit. For me personally, I am of the belief that because seasoned missionaries travel internationally so much that they can become a bit out of touch with those who do not travel much. There are many people have not traveled out of the country...perhaps even out of their own state. With that in mind, I would make a bracket of let’s say $3000 or $4000 dollars. Now the key to reward levels is to give them all of the rewards from the other brackets. With this big donation level I would personally consider a $3000 donation a $2000 donation. Why? Because I would take a thousand of that money and fly the donor out to where I am on the field. Just this morning I checked what a flight would cost from Milwaukee, WI to Stockholm, Sweden...it was $867.00. This would bracket would give the donor a chance to see what that missionary is doing and have a bit of a vacation as well. Personally I would not call it a “missions trip” but rather a vacation with free stay at the missionaries home. Imagine a church with a little cushion saying they will take on a missionary for a year. Perhaps their total giving could come to $3000 and the pastor convinced the missions board to give it all at once via Kickstarter. Do you see where I am going? The missionary gets funded...the church is doing it’s part and pastor gets a free vacation. All he has to do is spring for his wife to go. This is the same concept I used ALL the time in youth ministry. If we did a fundraiser and hit $1000 I would only consider it to be $800 because I have to buy the winner an X-Box 360. The ministry still comes out ahead though.
This is how my mind is always thinking though. If I were a missionary this is how I would roll and see what happens. What would happen if the goal is not met within the 30 day time frame (or whatever time frame you choose)? That is easy. No one is charged and though you do not collect anything, you continue on with what you were doing before. The beauty is that those who give won’t be charged until the deadline day. So if a church/individual did make a donation or thought about it...they would have that full time before it was charged to them. 
So...for what it is worth...fundraise away!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

He Shares the Same Story With Many


This morning I was listening to a radio show while waiting to get some information on my truck. The talk show host brought up the whole scandal currently unfolding with General Petraeus. Here is the latest from Yahoo! News this morning.

“On the surface, the case so far involves the FBI; a slew of allegedly inappropriate emails (between Petraeus and his biographer, Paula Broadwell; Allen and socialite Jill Kelley; and allegedly threatening ones Broadwell sent to Kelley); the FBI agent who started the probe, who's now being investigated for sending "shirtless" photos to Kelley; and, as reported by the New York Post on Tuesday morning, a child custody battle involving Kelley's twin sister that allegedly concerns both Petraeus and Allen.” 

The news broadcaster mentioned that Kelley must be some kind of a siren that these men are sending these inappropriate emails to her. Perhaps they are engaging in an affair as well. This broadcaster went on to say “What is it about Kelley that are drawing these men to her?” I simply responded...she has a vagina and probably listens/respects these men. This was met with some laughter from the other guy I knew waiting. He responded...”You know...I think you have a point.” 

Shaunti Feldhahn made an interesting point in her book “For Women Only”. She mentioned that nowhere in scripture does it say, “Women, love your husbands.” Scripture only says, “Respect your husband.” When that respect is gone from a guys perspective...no amount of romance, kind words or fancy lingerie will make his wife desirable. The same could be said of a man who does not show and say, “I love you” to his wife. Does this make his or her actions to engage physically or emotionally with a person of the opposite sex ok? Absolutely not, and I would love to believe that everyone abides by the fruits of the spirit. I am not so naive to believe that, however, as we have feelings, needs, and wants that tend to get satisfied in one way or another. 

You see Proverbs 18:22 is a fantastic piece of wisdom literature. This passage states, “He who finds a wife finds what is good and receives favor from the LORD.” When a husband and wife are (as a whole) living unselfish lives and truly wanting to meet each others needs then they find their fulfillment in each other. When the wife isn’t a mom to her husband and the husband isn’t a dad to his wife then there is mutual respect. Their spiritual, mental and physical needs are all met. Would I be so naive as to say everyday is filled with birds singing, children listening, and where everything is peaches and cream? Absolutely not. The good days must outweigh the bad however. What are you doing to make that happen? Notice I did not say what is your spouse doing....what are YOU doing?

Before I was married I would attend the occasional marital teaching, usually at a silent prayer retreat I used to attend. The retreat director and another pastor at a large conference made similar comments when they said, (forgive me for not wording it exactly) “There is always someone else out there willing to meet your mates needs if you don’t.” Perhaps the thought of this might sound offensive, but I think it ought to. There are many men who simply put up with their lives but deep down inside there is a need to be emotionally, spiritually, and sexually fulfilled. The same can be said of a woman. There comes a point in a persons life where, if the needs are not being met they might find it in other places. It may not be to the extent of an affair but it could come out in other ways. 

I will not pretend to know what Gen. Petraeus’ home life is like nor the FBI agent’s. Personally I have not heard one news story about his home life which is simply fine. These things ought to remain private. Looking at this story unraveling though a I cannot help but to think what might have been happening. Was his wife talking badly of him? Did his wife always make him to feel like the 5th wheel on a cart? Did she deny or give sex as a control tactic? Perhaps the general was working so much that he hardly took time to be romantic to his wife. Maybe he didn’t make it a priority to simply ask his wife “How was your day”? The excuse from a guy “I am not the romantic type” is a bundle of garbage...a guy needs to at least try and be romantic. I hear from women and men say all the time, “Valentines Day...it’s just another Hallmark holiday.” What they say is one thing and what I hear is another. What I hear is, “My husband/wife hasn’t celebrated that holiday in years, decades, maybe never and I have learned to write it off and become cynical about it...perhaps jealous.” There are so many different scenarios that could be gone over as to why this scandal with Petraeus came to a head. 

Looking at this story will make anyone sad. These issues are not limited to just a certain group of people. We must all have our guard up against such dealings. The question as we look at this story unravel is simply this, “If I am married what am I doing unintentionally to take my spouse down this road where this could be the end result?” Perhaps you just got offended by that question “HOW DARE HE EVEN ASSUME!” Have you seen the scandals in the news over the past 3 decades? Some of the most unlikely people have crumbled. The questions we ought to ask daily as a husband or wife are, “What am I doing to keep the love alive? What am I doing to keep the romance going? When we have those less than glamorus days...do I linger on them or do Imove on with a new zest for the day(s) to come?” When we can ask ourselves these questions and safeguard our relationships...we can hope and pray these things never happen to us.  Instead of judging this man we ought to pray for him and all that are involved. 

Monday, November 5, 2012

"Who You Aren't Isn't Interesting"

“Who you aren’t isn’t interesting” this is a quote I heard while attending an event called “Two Days With Rob”. Yes it is Rob Bell that I am referring to. If that is going to make you write off this blog then I pray you are healed. 

This quote really has gotten me thinking quite a bit lately. I posted this quote on the “That’s Not My God” timeline on Oct. 26th and mentioned that the blog explaining this quote would be up soon. So here it is.

At first when you hear this quote it may throw you a curveball as it is one that makes you think twice. It is not a cliche corny phrase like “Let go and let God”. Those kind of quotes and sayings are like an old Chris Farley movie...you can turn your brain off and know what it is saying. This quote, however, throws your brain into quite a cerebral tizzy. It sounds oh so good and true but yet somehow in the church world we need to be an ever changing being that never really truly measures up but somehow we keep striving to be PERFECT. Enter Christian burnout and abandonment. 

Whether it is coming to grips with who you are, opening yourself up to a friendship, etc. I simply am not impressed with who you are not. This would be like me applying for a new church position somewhere and say I have surfed with Rob Bell (though I was on the beach and my wife surfed), I sat under his tutelage, Ted Haggard and I are regular buds that hang out often and we share ideas with each other, Carman and I are buds (I got my picture with him once)....it is all non-sense. Rob Bell and I are acquaintances but we don’t “hang out”. Ted Haggard and I do not get together every day even though we are friends and no Carman does not know who I am. This is what it is like for people to embellish a story so that they may gain favor and become someone they really are not. How many times have you heard someone say they speak at summer camps when in fact it is one time? When people paint a false picture of themselves or embellish the story it will ALWAYS turn out with people becoming disappointed. It is almost like lying on a resume to get a job, only this is with friends.

Who you truly are is what really matters and makes you interesting. We read in 2 Corinthians 11:30 “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.”  Why? Because when people see you for who you really are no one is disappointed later.  When I sit down with someone I want to know the good the bad and the ugly. Why? Because there is that side of me as well. Why did Paul make this statement in 2 Corinthians? He was a very scholarly man who knew the Torah inside and out and perhaps with the reputation he had it made him very unapproachable. By being transparent in this way perhaps this opened the door for others to conversate to him about what is going on in their life. After all he did say quite often “Grace and Peace to you”. 

“Who are you aren’t isn’t interesting.” Who are you?

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Celebrate Yourself

Dr. Dre Beats...My gift to me for Pastor Appreciation day.
How do you celebrate yourself? This is an important question to ask. I mean how do you really celebrate yourself? If you are a nurse there is nurses day. Do you celebrate that? If you are a boss there is boss's day. Do you celebrate that? If you are an administrative assistant there is administrative assistants day. Do you celebrate that? When you reach a victory in your life such as a weight loss goal, a job promotion, knowing that you made the right decision...do you celebrate that? The lucky ones will work for a company that celebrates these days for them. Many more employers do not celebrate these days. For them it is just another passing moment, another day to clock in and because it doesn't pertain to them they simple blow past it. How do you work through those times?  Jesus talked about "love your neighbor as yourself" and the question one has to ask them self is how much do I love myself? At the cost of being to vain I think it is an appropriate question.

How does one exactly love them self? A good place to start is simply asking, what is my love language? If it is "Words of Affirmation" then I suggest surrounding yourself with TRUE friends that build you up. Friends that don't suck the life out of you but rather ones that as much as they like getting encouragement, they can also give it to you. Perhaps if your love language is "Quality Time" then you should go on a vacation, be it a day or four. If your love language is "Receiving Gifts" if you are not being shown this...then treat yourself! One veteran youth pastor, Jeanne Mayo would call this retail therapy. Is your love language "Acts of Service" then surround yourself with friends that will truly be a friend by doing something for you. The important part on this point and the others that involve friends is to reciprocate. What about "Physical Touch"? Sometimes all we need to celebrate is a simple hug or pat on the back saying "good job....I so appreciate you". I am willing to guess you fall into one of these categories.

Last month was a special time for pastors. I always find it interesting in the world of social networking that people want to celebrate all kinds of days. Most of them relate to their profession. When it comes to pastors, for some reason, people will say "well...your reward must be knowing you are shepherding a large family! You will receive an extra blessing for that." The classic line I got when Tracy and I adopted because we are not successful with having children naturally is "You can rest assured that you are raising many children in your church." Yeah...that is a classy response.  Imagine if your boss told you, "I so appreciate all the secretarial duties you perform. I just know good things are going to come your way." Well in a moment of transparency that simply doesn't cut it and at that point it is no fun to celebrate after the fact. Many pastors rightfully celebrate and brag about the cool thing their church did for them and their family for pastor appreciation day/month which is October. Perhaps it was a gift, sending them on a vacation, taking them out for dinner, etc. There are many MANY more pastors that private message me with their concerns and hurts. These pastors know they can confide in me and began wondering if they really are loved as the pastor. I have had over 20 message me wondering if they really are appreciated...THIS BLOG IS FOR THEM. You need to celebrate yourself! You are worth celebrating!

My love language is "Receiving Gifts". Those that know me know this. I love to hear what other peoples love languages are as well. In my marriage I know exactly what my wife and kids love languages are because when you speak them....you reap big rewards. So how did I celebrate Pastor appreciation month? I treated myself to a new pair of "Dr. Dre Beats" headphones. Yep...when I was in California I saw many people wearing them on the plane. People were talking about how great the sound was and I thought it would be cool to have a pair of those in my office as I love music. So...yay me!

You have to take care of yourself. If you don't you simply will become burned out and drudge through life. It's not vain...it's wise. Learn from the master who taught how to take care of yourself...Jesus.