Generosity

The light in young woman hands in cupped shape. Concepts of sharing, giving, offering, taking care, protection

“I don’t know how to describe this.”

Ever have an experience like that?

Ever observe something so profound, so extraordinary, so loaded with meaning that words looked cheap next to it?

One of the finest wordsmiths of all time, and a major contributor to the Bible itself, had that very experience. And in the midst of his gritty, get-it-done work and demeanor, even he was at a loss to use words to describe what was taking place. All Paul could say was, “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!”

That’s a profound thing to say, considering some of the things he did describe in his New Testament letters.

Know what makes it even more profound? This “indescribable gift” came disguised as something rather ordinary, that anyone, anywhere can enjoy. This isn’t some secret sauce for super-saints. In fact, on a surface level it looks rather common and ordinary. And yet something behind the scenes turns the ordinary into a speechless wonder.

Know what makes it even better than that? You may have been participating in this indescribable gift and didn’t even realize it. Or if you haven’t, you can start today. [click to continue…]

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Shoes on the Altar

Update:  You can see the video here:

Love where you live.

That’s the theme at our church for the next few weeks.

There are lots of planned ways to do that over the next few weeks, and it’s fun to be a part of that.  But the goal, as Pastor Alan explained yesterday, is to help us get to the point where we do it in the moment.  Don’t just plan to love where you live sometime next week.  Love where you live in this moment.

His inspiration, in part:  Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan.

Alan said he’d been reading that story over and over, and was impressed by the fact that the Samaritan loved his neighbor in the immediate.  He didn’t say, “Hey, if you’re still in the ditch when I come back through I’ll stop and help you.”  He helped him as soon as he encountered the need.

I loved it.  He said it kinda funny, so I laughed, but totally agreed with the point.

Then came the curve ball. [click to continue…]

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Six Signs of a Life-Giving Leader

by Andy Wood on March 24, 2014

in Leadership, Life Currency

Firstborn

I didn’t know how to describe it at the time. I was only in the eighth grade, for crying out loud, and a “lost church member” at that.  But on that February day so long ago a new leader – a new pastor – showed up at my church.  And for the first time in my life a preacher held my attention throughout his message.

I didn’t know that the adults in the church had been argumentative and divisive.

I didn’t know that we had been through months of spiritual lethargy, coldness and conflict.

All I knew was that there was something completely different about this man, this preacher, who to this day I consider my pastor.  What I know now is that he was and is a life-giving leader.

Compare that to a Christmas card I received from a church a few years ago.  This church had also had a new leader come to town.  And the impact was just the opposite.  For months people on the staff of this megachurch had jumped ship at the first opportunity.  And those who remained were desperate to be the next.  I’ll never forget is the hollowed eyes and prisoner-of-war expressions on the faces of the staff and employees of this church – not just one or two, mind you, but the entire staff.  The message was clear:  Merry Christmas! Sweet Baby Jesus, get me outta here!

What I suspected then, and know now, was that this church was being led by a life-sucking leader.

Regardless of the venue – Church World, Business World, even Disney World – every person in a position of authority or leadership has a choice. You can be a life-giving leader or a life-sucking leader.  Life-giving leaders create energy, enthusiasm, passion, and loyalty.  They have a contagious way of infusing a sense of purpose, motivation, and confidence in those who follow them.

Life-sucking leaders?  Just the opposite. In their wake you’ll find dispirited, defeated, discouraged people, divided organizations, and a general spirit of fear or powerlessness.  What’s scary is that on the surface, many of these leaders and the organizations they front appear successful, at least for a season.

How can you tell the difference? How can you know to what degree you are a life-giving leader?  The best way I know is to turn to the ultimate life-giving leader – the Lord Jesus Himself.  Based on His impact and leadership, I have discovered twelve ways to recognize a life-giving leader when you see one.   Here are the first six. [click to continue…]

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This just in, in case you missed it.  Christmas is less than a month away.

True confession:  Yesterday I snarled in my journal,  “I’ll just be glad when it’s over.”

But today, in honor of the late Zig Ziglar, who passed away yesterday, I’m “doing a checkup from the neck up.”

Every year, we have the same choice when it comes to the enchantment and the challenges of the holidays.  Do we hunker down, sit tight, and hope for the best?  Or do we seek to flourish?  To make the most of our relationships, our worship, and even our painful experiences?

Survive or Thrive?  It’s up to you.  It’s up to me.

When it comes to being a thriver, here are five suggestions, for how you can come out of the bunker and actually have a season of delight:

[click to continue…]

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In 1835 a man visited a doctor in Florence, Italy.  He was filled with anxiety and exhausted from lack of sleep.  He couldn’t eat, and he avoided his friends.  The doctor found that he was in prime physical condition.  Concluding that his patient needed to have a good time, the physician told him about a circus in town and its star performer, a clown named Grimaldi.  Night after night he had the people rolling in the aisles.  “You must go and see him,” the doctor advised.  “Grimaldi is the world’s funniest clown.  He’ll make you laugh and cure your sadness.”

“No, he can’t help me,” said the patient.  “You see, I am Grimaldi!”

It’s one of those ironies, a paradox of life in general, and a hidden truth of Kingdom life in particular.  Laughter flows out of pain.  Joy would be nonexistent without sorrow.  Grace wouldn’t exist if there were no need for it.  And what I lack becomes the basis for what I have to offer. [click to continue…]

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Something changed that night.  And you are the beneficiary.  But so many things changed in and around that night that this sometimes gets lost in the shuffle and scuffle.

For three-plus years, Jesus-the-Master had been leading a band of twelve full-time followers.  “Disciples,” He called them.  And they did what disciples do.  Listen.  Learn.  Serve.  Make mistakes.  Listen.  Lean some more.  Serve some more.  There were teachable moments and forgettable moments.  Fighting times and healing times.

But just before His death, Jesus was giving these loyal men (Judas had already left) a final round of teaching.  One guy calls this, “Jesus’ Cram for the Final Exam.”  I love it.

Tucked in between these massive concepts about vines and branches and the coming Holy Spirit, Jesus rewrote the contract between Him and those who follow.  Read this carefully: [click to continue…]

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Robin and Gift

It was a fairly eclectic group gathered around the dining room table Saturday night.  A combination of old friends and acquaintances, family, and a special friend who had literally traveled around the world to be here.

All eyes were on our Thai friend Gift, who had come from Bangkok with her son Dift to stay with us for four weeks.  She was sharing with those who came to her “welcoming party” about the dream she had to establish an export business.

The goal:  to support her husband Dui’s ministry among the three distinct congregations, Bible study groups and the additional pastor training ministry he has established.  Also to give Thai women an opportunity to earn a living in keeping with their considerable work ethic and skill.

Gift designs exquisite jewelry and has a growing team of Thai women who are able to make her designs by hand using certified-authentic gemstones from China and other places.

After sharing her brief story and dream, Gift’s focus changed to address my father-in-law, who was seated at the table with us. He had left Thailand with his family when Dui was just two years old and Gift was one.  Though he hasn’t lived there since 1974, because of his frequent returns and ongoing relationships, he remains a hero there to this day.  And that was the word – hero – that Gift used to describe how she and her husband saw Dr. Willis.

“We pray that we can have the same…” Gift was saying, and she paused, looking to no avail for the right English word.  Finally, all she could do is say it in Thai.

“How do you say, gam-lang jai?” [click to continue…]

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cleanersHere’s a new definition of boring:  working at a dry cleaners at 3:30 on a Saturday afternoon.  In a town like ours, where the cleaners on virtually every corner close at noon or 1:00 on Saturdays, and nothing is actually being cleaned, it can be a pretty sleepy time.

Until I show up.

The wedding was scheduled for 5:00, and everything was ready.  The church was decorated, the ceremony was prepared and printed, and the wedding party was starting to party (translation:  flashbulbs were popping).  All I needed to do was go home, freshen up a bit, and change into my suit.

In what part of me remains traditional, I keep a black suit.  It goes with anything, is appropriate for funerals or weddings or any other semi-formal something.   Problem is, I only wear the thing when there is a semi-formal something.

(You probably know where this is going.) [click to continue…]

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planting“Our behavior, attitudes, and initiatives toward others are an act of sowing.  The acts of others toward us, at least in a general sense, are an act of reaping.  If others are being critical, judgmental, or hostile to us, before we write them off as uncaring jerks, it may be wise to examine what we’ve been sowing in our own attitudes and relationships.  If we aren’t seeing generosity being returned, maybe we haven’t been giving.”

-from my journal, January 10, 2001

Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others – ignoring God! – harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life (Galatians 6:7-8, The Message).

+++++++++++++++++++++++

Sometimes when the Lord wants to tell me something significant, he opens my eyes.

Sometimes he closes them.  Literally.  And speaks to me through a dream.

A few years ago I was on an airplane, reading about how God reveals himself through dreams, and I decided to see if the Lord had anything to say to me in that manner.  That night in the hotel room, I asked him to speak to me through my dreams, and I “instructed” my brain to remember.

Remember I did.  Clearly.  Vividly.  Unforgettably. [click to continue…]

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The Kindness of Strangers

by Andy Wood on June 20, 2008

in LV Stories, Photos

ball-game.JPGRandy is the president of a major water pump business located in Fort Worth, Texas.  A few months ago he was on a Southwest Airlines flight and struck up a conversation with the lady sitting next to him.  She was on her way home from a DFW visit to her daughter.  A wedding shower trip, she said.  As the conversation progressed, the lady somehow got to talking about her daughters and their love for the Atlanta Braves.  For their sixteenth birthday, the one thing the twins wanted was to fly to Atlanta for a game.  Then when the Braves were coming to Arlington a couple of years ago, it happened to be just before one of the girls’ wedding, so that didn’t work out.

And wouldn’t you know it?  Here they were, an hour flight away, and again, they were here during the week of a the second twin’s wedding and the only dates they could go were taken up with wedding stuff.

Well, let’s just see, says Randy, as he pulls out a Baseball magazine and flips to the Rangers’ schedule.  Actually, there was a way, and there was a day.  Oh, and I have six season tickets to the Rangers Ballpark at Arlington, says he.  He offered them as a wedding present.

[click to continue…]

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