Thursday, June 26, 2008

I Met a Godly Man Today...

I had a pretty intense day today. I traveled down to Pittsburgh with a couple of ServErie colleagues to visit a ministry called Hosanna Industries, Inc. It was an eye-opening visit. The organization basically used a similar concept that we used for TARGET (a program back in the mid 90's that we did through the youth ministry at Grace to rehab homes of needy families in Erie) but they do it a 365 days a year. They do construction projects throughout the city for poor and needy families.

They now have a campus that houses a dormatory for up to 60 volunteers, warehouses for equipment, trucks, tractors, supplies, a training center for basic construction skills, a staff housing area, office complex, etc. The ministry began in 1990 by a man named Donn - who was a pastor at the time.

I knew as soon as we joined him at the table that he was a Jesus follower in the true sense - he took all of Jesus very seriously. He had plumbed the depths of faith and obedience - it was all over his face, it was in his voice, his soul was out in front of his words. I learned some stuff in the 2 1/2 hours we spent with him. Here's some of it:

1. Big dreams often start very small - in the last 18 years - this organization has done over $26 million worth of construction. It started with Donn driving around town stopping at run-down homes and knocking to see how he might help. No strategic plan, no org chart...

2. The key to the success of any organization is deep love and trust among its leaders- he repeated often that the difficult ministry times always involved a breakdown of relationship among the team. But the love of the team and their love of the mission is what keeps him going.

3. Even really godly leaders struggle with criticizm - a huge downer in ministry is when you pour yourself into what you think Jesus has called you to do and what you think is the right thing to do - and Christians criticize. It happens to him regularly and when it does he wants to quit.

4. You can tell alot about a person by what makes them cry. Three times during our conversation Donn came to tears. Once when he was talking about Jesus and his love for the poor, and twice when he was talking about the love and community that exists among his core team. Too many people only come to tears about themselves.

5. I like smart people. I've known this for a while - but I love to be around bright shining bulbs. It challenges me and puts me into "learner mode" - I just begin firing questions and writing furiously. Donn is not only a great servant -but he's really smart.

6. Even really godly leaders can have messed up families - Donn was honest about basically working 80-90 hours per week for the last 18 years and that it has been unhealthy. It's had a negative affect on his wife and kids. Ministry can be intoxicating and addictive - and before long all kinds of stuff can appear to be more important than family - and then before you know it your kids are gone and you've missed the whole thing.

7. Sometimes our hands and feet should do all the talking - some people go into the business of serving the poor with the expectation that they will lead a goodly number of them to salvation - many times, just serving them is enough. Leave the heart-changing business to God.

8. Being taken advantage of is part of what we signed up for as Christians - following the savior that we follow - we should know that we will never insulate ourselves from beging scammed, abused, and taken advantage of. There were a number of jobs that Donn walked away from in the end knowing that he had been scammed. They try to not let it happen but when it does it's in God's hands - they seek no retribution.

9. Jesus loves the poor - Donn never mentioned this one time - but it bled through in every comment he made, every breath he took, and rang true in my spirit just being near him.

10. I have an affinity for older guys who smoke pipes - after lunch Donn took out his pipe - lit it - took a robust draw on it - and kept talking - man did that thing smell good! It also somehow added to the mystique of the moment. CS Lewis, a hero of mine, also smoked a pipe. I've never owned a pipe - never smoked a pipe - maybe I'll have to run out and get me a corncob pipe and some tobaccee. (please don't send me hate mail about how christians shouldn't smoke and how I shouldn't be advocating it here on this blog - I know all that - I'm just sayin...)

It was quite a day - some debriefing is in order.

Friday, June 20, 2008

I wasn't ready for this picture

Ayden and Luke, originally uploaded by dereksanford.

OK - this is Ayden - my three year old daughter. The latest love of my life. And yes, that's just her cousin Luke helping her navigate the bustling crowds of people at Waldameer. And yes, you can call me an overprotective father. But seriously, I had a vision into the future 12 years from now to my 15 year-old Ayden holding hands with a boy. But future boyfriends beware. You'll not only have a jealousy-crazed father to deal with but a 22 year-old Caleb and 18 year-old Chase.

Just try it you punk...don't even think about it...whoever you are...even though you're only 3 years old right now and would have to be advanced enough to be able to read... well...anything...let alone this blog post....I'm just very careful.

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Just read a great quote from Hybels, "95% commitment to Christ is 5% short."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Being a Better Dad

Pastor's kids are sitting ducks. It's a perfect storm really. Pastor's are busy - but all kinds of dads are busy in other kinds of work - what makes Pastor's kids such a target? Well I have a couple thoughts.

  • Pastoring is a people business, so any time other people come before family it feel's like dad is choosing them over us. Could cause some bitterness against other people.
  • Pastoring is a church business, so any time the church comes before family it feels like dad is choosing the church over us. Could cause some bitterness against the church.
  • Pastoring is a God business, so any time God-stuff comes before family it feels like dad is choosing God-stuff over us. Could cause some bitterness against God.

That's a confusing deal for kids. For a kid whose dad is a businessman - and is busy and neglectful and all that stuff - the kid might get mad at his dad and his dad's business - but that anger and bitterness doesn't necessarily get wrapped up into God and the church and weighty stuff like that. On top of it - I do believe that Spiritual Leaders are subject to a unique spiritual attack.

So all that to say, I had a question ringing in my ears all of Father's Day. "How can I be a better dad?" It is one of my most important roles as a human being, and I'm all about self-evaluation, so I wanted to ponder the question.

Instead of trying to come up with crap on my own - I decided to ask my two oldest kids (got the idea from Mark Batterson) So I asked them- "How can I be a better dad to you guys? What are the things that I'm not doing so well that I can get better at? What do you guys need more of from me that you're not getting right now?" They both really took the question seriously - they pondered and considered - they spend several minutes in quiet thought. Here's what they came up with:

Chase - "there is nothing I can really think thing I thought of... but it's what a bad person would say." I said, "nothing is bad to say right now Chase - everything is fair game - tell me what you're thinking." He said, "I'm just thinking about more money and more stuff - but friends don't like rich people who don't share their stuff." I said, "that's true Chase - it's important to share our stuff." Then he said, "I would like to have you help me build a small house - we could design it together and you could teach me how to build it." Sounds like a good plan (what I resisted saying is "designing and building houses is your mom's department - ask her!")

Caleb - "there is nothing dad - you're an awesome dad. Out of all the dad's of all my friends - there is no one else's dad that I think does a better job than you."

It was encouraging but I think I still need to keep asking the question - because I know there are a lot of things that I need to do better.

Here are a couple of good fatherhood ideas that I've run across lately - one from Mark Batterson's blog and one from Tim Steven's blog.

What area of your life do you find it hardest to self-evaluate?

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Looking for a good online Bible reading resource?

This one is fairly interesting - you can subscribe to the "read the bible in a year" blog that updates you every day on what the readings are for that day. It also has a spot for you to read, highlight, and journal in any version of the bible that you choose. You can also post comments, questions, interpretations, applications etc. in an interactive section. Pretty interesting. I like the look and practicality of this deal. I won't ever use something like this exclusively because I like the feel and smell of books too much. But this is a cool on-the-go resource and a great option for people who do most of their reading/writing at the computer.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Vacation Was Great

I had a great time off. Worked hard on some houses with Kim in the beginning and then did landscaping, yard work, built a swing set, etc. at our place. We also went to Waldameer and Water World on one day. It was really fun. It was an incredbily hot week to be working outside (90's everyday) but I loved every minute of it.

We had a big neighborhood cookout the other night with about 10 couples and their kids. It was great to get to know people better. There is a new family moving in to the house across from us and we got to meet them the other night which was really cool. They have kids near the ages of ours so we're stoked about that. There was so much food left over from that party that we offered to host everyone at our house the next night to consume all the leftovers. So we had a two-night-in-a-row cookout. It was pretty cool. We have some great neighbors.

The kids got off of school yesterday and are incredibly pumped for the summer. They had their report cards - and are by far the best and brightest in their respective classes. No other kids are even close to their level of achievement academically, socially, spiritually (OK - I'm a bit biased!)

Monday, June 02, 2008

A Few Thoughts as I Begin Vacation

I haven't posted for a while - sorry. Last week was a bit of a blur getting ready for vacation, plus a volunteer appreciation night, lots of serverie stuff, and preparing for a weekend of teaching. Anyway -today was my first day of vacation and it was great- helped Kim finish up a house she has been working on. She actually finished two houses in this last week and is semi-retired for the summer. She has asked for a pedicure for her birthday (this Thursday) which is a good sign that she's actually serious about taking some time off! My wife is the most amazing woman I know.

Anyway here are some brief thoughts that I considered posting about this past week but didn't have time to (lots of church related stuff - beware!):

1. We have the most amazing volunteers at Grace. We celebrated their faithfulness this past Wednesday night. They carried us through the biggest transition Grace has ever experienced. Nearly 450 people have served at Grace this past year. That's a staggering number.

2. There is not one county in the USA with a greater percentage of "churched" people than it had ten years ago.

3. There are 6 million less people going to church in the United States than were going to church in 2000. We're losing ground. It's time for the church to step up and get serious about her mission - and also get our heads around the fact that people are more fascinated than ever with Jesus but are less than compelled by the church.

4. Reggie McNeal's teaching on the Missional Church from the MBC Annual meetings are rocking my world. I've never gotten much into his books - but he has some profound things to say about the current and future state of the church.

5. I have been reading the "Evangelical Manifesto" that was published last month (I know - sounds scary right?) Anyway- I was very impressed. There are a couple of parts that I need to re-read because there were a few red flags at first pass, but by and large I think it does a fine job of re-defining evangelicalism which has been grossly misunderstood and misrepresented in recent years. Grace would definitely be qaulified as an "evangelical" church. I would encourage any Grace attender to read it (they also have a cliff notes version at the website)

6. I'm reading this book by David Bivins. It's very good - dives into the context of Jesus' life and teaching - a subject that I've been very fascinated by in recent months.

7. I just read I Am Legend (I know it's a little different than Jesus in his Jewish context) but it was just for fun. Nothing like a 1954 science fiction novel about vampires to get the heart thumping. I saw the movie and was really intrigued by the "last man on earth" concept. Holy smokes - the book is nothing like the movie. There are very few similarities. The movie was happy and gay compared with the book. I guess they tried to film some parts more like the book -but audiences hated it so they caved...

8. If you don't know Mars Hill church out in Seattle and Mark Driscoll - you should. The guy is a throwback preacher - but young and hip and all that stuff too. He has a great site called The Resurgence that has some great ministry content on it. They post videos from their conferences for free which is a great gift to other ministry leaders.

That's enough for now. Going golfing with my pops tomorrow and looking forward to it.