Friday, October 19, 2007

"Dunkin' Donut and Life Lessons"

I'm convinced that many of life's greatest moments and lessons learned happen in places like Dunkin' Donut. I have literally been marinating recently in the reality of how truly blessed I am and how that should and must produce a generous heart. One of the things I most despise, when it surfaces in my own behavior or attitude is a spirit of ingratitude, or those brief moments of thinking that "I deserve something." My wife and are are working hard to be shaping forces in the life and character of our children, and this issue of gratitude is a really big deal for us.

A few weeks back I picked up my three children from school and headed to Dunkin Donuts. We get jacked up on sugar then head to the park expend all the energy (that part probably isn't good parenting!). I am a softy sometimes, so when they asked for two donuts a piece, I didn't think for a moment about any future metabolic slow downs in their lives or how much more expensive the two doughnut per kid trend would be and I said "Sure." Maddie's doughnuts looked really good so I asked her if I could have half of her "SECOND" donut...the doughnut I purchased I might add! She quickly and definitively declined. "No I want both of them"....I could barely understand her because her mouth was full of doughnut.

This spurred a lengthy discussion (more of a discourse) about kindness, everything in our world is God's, and because we have been "given" so much we should be quick to give to others. I must say it was a quite impressive mini sermon with a captive audience of children who had donut icing all over their faces.

I had nailed this parenting moment! This is the stuff parenting books are made of. So feeling confident about the compelling nature of my discourse I asked again, "Maddie, now can I have half of your doughnut." Just as quickly and just as definitively she said "No I still want both of them." I never mentioned the incident to her again, but honestly it was frustrating.

About a week later, on my way to work I was praying for each of my children by name. When I prayed for Maddie, it felt as though God gave me the words to pray for her about generosity and gratitude. I prayed that God would help me to do my part in shaping her character but that "ultimately" He would produce in her a generous spirit...a spirit of gratitude." It was our Dunkin' Donut day and I had completely forgotten about my earlier prayer. Due to "budget cut backs" we grabbed one doughnut a piece. As I was paying for the doughnuts I felt a tug and heard the words "Here Daddy." I looked and Maddie had torn her doughnut in half, and was holding half up for me. My heart swelled...and if you are wondering the answer is NO---I didn't eat half of my daughters only doughnut.

Immediately, God reminded me of my earlier prayer. It was as if He was saying to me "You do your part AND when you pray, I will do my part." When I couldn't force her to give up one of her two doughnuts, here she was giving me half of her only doughnut. It may seem like a small thing...but it is no small thing as a parent to know that God is interested and willing to participate in the character development not only of "our children" but also of "his children". While many of us have done what we can do with our children, our jobs, our marriages/relationships, our lives, we have yet to see what God can do with them when we lay them at his feet. God fill me with a heart of gratitude. Help me to give much and often.

Proverbs 18:16 " A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great."

Monday, October 15, 2007

Giving gifts to who?

We celebrated my wife's birthday today. I'm not allowed to tell you which one. My children absolutely love this stuff. They love purchasing expensive gifts with my money and presenting them to their mother. "Look what I got you mom" It's funny though, they always want to buy her gifts that seem to benefit them the most. Tonight, my son called one of my daughters out on her clever plot. She said "Mommy we could go to Target and you could buy whatever you want for your birthday"---once again they are quite generous with my money. Brayden pipes up and responds, "You just want to go to Target so you can get something from the dollar rack" She was busted and she knew it---the sideways smile and lack of response to my sons accusation gave it away.

They also thought she would simply love the "gift" of a family date night (that's what we call our family nights in the Brown home) at Chuck-E-Cheeses. But, I really think this is a human deal not just a kid deal. We grow up giving gifts, doing things for people, but when we are reduced to the bare minimum truths about our motives, often we give only that which ultimately benefits us. Sad but true.

I don't claim to know every thought that resonates from the mind of God, but I couldn't help but think today, as I walked outside and breathed in the most incredible fall air, as I looked at the incredible sunset seemingly fingerpainted by my heavenly Father, as I enjoyed the amazing creation around me...that my Heavenly Father gave those "gifts" with me, with us, in mind.

Don't misunderstand me. I know that God's Glory is the ultimate culmination and conclusion of everything around us, but Scripture indicates that God enjoys giving good gifts to his children... to us! The reality that I would ever cross the mind of my Heavenly Father causes me to pause. That thing in your life that when you see or experience it brings a smile to your face...what if God authored that thing while thinking of you? I wonder if he ever says to the angels, "Watch this, they are going to love this one! They are about to experience that thing that I created specifically for them." I want to to learn to live my life "Giving gifts like my Heavenly Father." Gifts with others in mind that benefit them the most rather than me. It is a slow process for me---maybe a life long journey!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Permission to Speak Freely

...a quick post to say "wow!" What an incredible talk by Andy Stanley, in our current series "Persmission to Speak Freely". If you were at Ridge you know what I mean...if you weren't with us tonight you need to check it out on the Ridge Church website. The short summary is that prayer is about so much more, and is so much more meaninful than the experience that most of us have come to expect. Check it out online

Ben Richter and his band lead worship for us tonight, and did an incredible job. All you children of the 80's will be singing the opener "867-5309/ Jenny" all week whether you want to or not! What a fun night,. What a helpful biblical concept. What a refreshing way to do church. What a privilege to be a follower of Christ!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

"Rich...yeah right!"

Are you rich? Let's be honest for a second. Typically when we think of rich people we don't include ourselves on the list. No matter how much stuff, money, etc we have, we can always point to other people that have more...except for that one person "whoever he or she is" that actually is the richest person alive! So my comments apply to every one but that one person---so every one else listen up!

Today I went to downtown Charlotte with my friend Todd Brower and I was both blessed and broken. Some time ago, Todd sensed God leading him to begin reaching out to some of the homeless individuals of Charlotte. Today I handed out tickets at the door as they filed in--nearly 60 of them--, to get the meal he would purchase for he does every Wednesday. The group sat down to eat and from a small PA system, the word of God, the hope of God, the love of God was shared to the group...but not so surprisingly since this is the way God typically manifest himself to the world around was embodied in a person. One man willing to be obedient to that whisper from God that I'm sure didn't make sense at the time. I'm sure he smiled and thought "Good idea God, but wrong guy"...or "But, God I have never worked with homeless people" or the most famous one "God, I will pray for them!"

I think you will understand me when I say, I am so grateful that Todd isn't still in his prayer closet, praying for the homeless...but instead he is serving them. Today, I watched him carry on conversations with them. They respect him, you can see it in their eyes. He is their friend and they know it. Several of his "friends" have gotten jobs along the way and gotten back on their feet. A fresh start in life!

Let me ask again. Are you rich? I know I eat several meals a day, live in doors, and drive a car to work. I know my refrigerator is full and so is the food pantry. I know that I had a coffee from starbucks today. I know that I am sitting in air conditioning, typing on a mac book pro (sorry pc guys). Yeah, I'm rich, and so are you! Yet, Jesus, our fearless leader, said that he didn't come for the healthy, but the sick. I wonder how much our schedules would change if our hearts were adjusted in such a manner that they truly lined up with the heart of our Heavenly Father? Just a thought. And thanks for a good day, Todd. Thanks for living out God's Word.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

The Blog Begins!

These two "beginnings" simply belong together....the beginning of a church and the beginning of a blog! It's poetic. Just a few short weeks ago we opened the doors of ridge church to the public. Literally years of personal and corporate prayers and preparations went into the formation of Ridge Church. I can't explain the excitement we all felt...the anticipation as we opened the doors and silently thought "We hope someone shows up!" And they did! The journey for ridge church did not begin with our public launch but is was a definite marker...a milestone in the journey.

One of my colleagues, Carey Nieuwhof, recently said about starting ridge church "I hope that it is much more than a fun ride...I hope it is a deep meaningful experience" Wow! That is our prayer and gratefully our experience so far.