30 January 2007

Recent First Impressions

I wanted to share a few stories about some recent businesses I have worked with and how they made an impression on me.

Bickner Dance Floor Rentals
I used this company to rent a wooden dance floor for the Elevate Christmas party. I spoke with Jonathen Warren to set up the rental and met him in person because he delivered and installed the floor I rented. He was personable, friendly, timely, and shared some funny stories about other jobs he had worked.

Jonathen worked quickly and made sure that everything was just right before he left from installing the floor. He was prompt in returning to pick up the floor and his crew wasted no time getting the job done. Thanks Jonathen!

Chick-Fil-A on 407
I stopped by this Chick-Fil-A about a month ago because I needed to get out of the office and just be somewhere else for a change. I went and ordered a large lemonade and found a table where I could sit, read my Bible, pray, and journal. After being there for about 20 minutes or so, the girl who took my order walked around the lobby to clean tables, etc. and she offered to refill my drink without my prompting. I was caught a little off-guard, but agreed because I did indeed need more lemonade. She brought back my cup full of lemonade with a smile. About 20 minutes later, she came by again and offered me another refill with a smile.

I didn't catch the girl's name, but I know one of the managers over there, so I will try to find out from him. I am continually impressed at the level of quality service that Chick-Fil-A is dedicated to offer using teenagers and 20-somethings in their day-to-day operations. And I am doubly impressed that they still close on Sundays in order to provide their workers with the opportunity to worship and spend time with their families. Kudos!

Kwik Kar on Preston in Plano
One Saturday afternoon, Debbie, Caitlyn, and I were out running errands and my wife needed the oil changed in her Highlander. She had been to this Kwik Kar location previously and had a good experience, so we drove over there because it just happened to be on our way to another destination in our errand run. From the outside, everything looked like the typical Kwik Kar location, but once we stepped into the waiting area I knew this place was different.

The lobby had stone tile flooring, leather couches, glass top coffee tables, a massage chair, CURRENT magazines, a collection of antique model cars, flat screen TVs, and not a drop of oil anywhere. Debbie and I sat down with Caitlyn and immediately marveled at the attention to detail that the owners had placed on their lobby/waiting area. We struck up a conversation with a fellow patron about kids and families and how ignorant we all are about cars. We felt very relaxed and comfortable. Deb's car was ready to go before we knew it and we didn't even need to use a shower of anti-bacterial sanitizer upon exiting. Great job guys!

So, what places have made an impression on you lately?


Life in Ministry vs.(?) Family Life

Life in the ministry is tough. It's tough for the minister and it is tough for the family connected to the minister. Adam Hamilton (Senior Pastor of UM Church of the Resurrection) wrote a great article on thriving in the "fish bowl" of ministry. I lift it up to you today in order to encourage any ministers out there who need to remember that family time and ministry do not have to be mutually exclusive events.


18 January 2007

"Stabucks is the postmodern Cheers"

I just love finding great articles online. This one comes via Relevant again and I wanted to share a few reflections on it.

1) The whole concept of a "third space" is interesting to me. I am not sure that I currently have a "third space" in my life. I spend quite a bit of time either in the office or at home. I am guessing that the gym, the golf course, or the coffee shop could all be appropriate "third spaces," but I don't have one right now. Altho the library was most definitely my home away from home during seminary!

2) I am not currently on a first-name basis with the baristas at my Starbucks, but I also don't go there everyday. I usually limit myself to 2 trips a week, but there is one barista who recognizes me by sight and is working to remember my name. Perhaps I should return the favor.

3) Everybody is searching for belonging. The reality of loneliness is rampant in our culture and I continually deal with people who struggle with the problems that loneliness creates. Human beings have an innate desire for companionship and relationships, and I believe this drives us to do almost anything to not be alone - including things that are unhealthy or destructive. As an introvert, I enjoy moments of solitude because that is how I recharge my batteries from a day or week of being with (or in front of) people. I long to belong just as much as anyone else does, but I have found that my longing is completed in Christ, so that I don't have to worry about filling my life with meaningless things just to feel loved and worthy. God makes me worthy. Christ fills my needs. Debbie and Caitlyn love me unconditionally. And I love them even more each day.


16 January 2007

Rock Stars and the Law of Motion

I received this in a weekly e-newsletter that I get from Relevant Magazine and I wanted to share it with all my readers out there. BTW, check out Relevant's site because it is one of the coolest ones I have seen in a long time.


"Rock Stars and the Law of Motion"
In his first law of motion, Isaac Newton stated, "An object in motion tends to stay in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force." Like clockwork, every time some cultural revolution takes place, Christendom freaks out and begins hosting conferences to discuss what's wrong and how to fix it. Often the solution doesn't add up to much more than rearranging the same old pieces on the board with a different, hipper look. Likewise, we've proven we can do church in a lot of creative ways, but too often it's still "church," the same old mentality wrapped up in edgier packaging. Meanwhile, Christendom stays in motion at the same speed, in the same direction, headed nowhere.

Years ago Martin Luther tried his best to awaken people to the understanding that those with the power to save the day were often marginal and unimpressive. During his day, a prevailing notion said there were two classes of people in the Church—the clergy and the laity. The clergy were the guys with the seminary degrees and considered the "professionals" in all things God. Everyone else was labeled "laity," spiritual amateurs.

Which raises the question: Does Christendom have rock stars? What I mean by "rock stars" are people we place in some category higher than ourselves, or especially esteem because of their charisma, giftedness or prominence. There does seem to be this sense in Christian culture that if someone is standing on a stage, has their name on the front of a book, holds a degree, occupies a top position or has achieved recognition, this person must be closer to God, know truth that has alluded the masses or be especially equipped to do something huge for God.

Of course, God works through church pastors, teachers and leaders. No problem there. What Martin Luther confronted was the unhealthy dependence people placed on the religious professionals. In Luther's mind this was diametrically opposed to Jesus' teachings that the source of relationship with God and spiritual living is inside all believers through the indwelling Christ. Jesus said in John 14:19-20, "Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you" (TNIV). Explaining this further in John 16:13, Jesus said, "But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth."

I am a nobody. The Spirit revealed any truth I know, and I cannot claim any special quality as a reason for having discovered it. Like you, I have the source of truth within me by virtue of the indwelling Spirit. And like you, if I am open to it, the Spirit awakens me to truth. Left to myself, I have quite a track record of missing, distorting, convoluting, twisting, dumbing-down and being blinded to the truth. Only the Spirit can open my eyes. There are no rock stars, only jars of clay that carry the life of God in equal measure.

We all are teachers and students. We all can encourage one another on the journey. In recent years some of my most significant teachers have included a Waffle House waitress, a tire salesman, a handicapped girl and a tattoo artist. According to Jesus, whenever just two or three of us gather in His name, we experience a deep spiritual fellowship that awakens us to the present reality of God's kingdom. Only the Spirit within us can mediate this reality. There are no rock stars.

Peter understood the significance of this when he wrote in 2 Peter 1:3, "His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness."

What if God's plan to save the world is hidden beneath the radar, behind the scenes and among the everyday lives of nobodies? Could God have placed the fate of His created realm in the hands of dorks like us? A wonderful freedom is growing inside me knowing there is hope, meaning and purpose for unimpressive people like me. Maybe God supplies everything we need, and our part is believing, trusting and depending.

Thinking once again of Newton's first law of motion, maybe the "unbalanced force" that could alter the direction of the Church is for all us nobodies to embrace our true identity as spiritual people. Maybe it's true that we are the "body of Christ" on earth, and Christ is living His life in and through each of us.

Today you are going to cross paths with someone with a longing inside. They may not understand it, but their soul longs to return home to God. You may be a very ordinary person, but because the life of God is within you, you have all the necessary spiritual resources to be Christ to whoever comes your way. Keep your eyes wide open; you just may be the nobody God dials up to help someone find home.

Jim Palmer is the author of Divine Nobodies: Shedding Religion to Find God (and the unlikely people who help you) (W Publishing Group).

03 January 2007

Video Interviews

Holy crap...a video interview of me found its way to the internet! Check it out here. Altho please ignore the fact that the surrounding text refers to a "scout troop" that got stuck in Colorado because the Trietsch Youth Group was the ones stuck. Check out the follow-up story here for their homecoming.

It's very weird to see yourself in video on the internet.