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Welcome!

Normally, I post about four times per week. In July, they are less frequent as I am on vacation/study leave for the month.

So if you are new to this blog, you will notice that the posts will become more frequent beginning August 1. In the meantime, you might enjoy simply scrolling down and glancing at a few posts. Maybe some of these will interest you. You might immediately notice that there are a number of posts entitled “Ministry Inside” which appear each Thursday. Just keep scrolling and you will see more of a variety.

You might glance at the sidebar at the section marked “Categories.” Click on a category that interests you. (Be sure to look at the categories “10 Characteristics” and “41 Things.”

You might enjoy reading some biographical information. If so, just look on the sidebar for the words “You may be interested” and click on the word “background.”

Some of the blogs that I frequent are listed on the sidebar. Most are on my google reader.

Looking for a great video? Look for “Social Networks” and click on “God-Hungry Live.” You will find a wonderful collection of encouraging you tube videos there.

Finally, I encourage you to consider leaving a comment. Just click on the work comment at the end of each post. Feel free to leave as many comments as you wish.

(By the way, a God-Hungry app is available for your iPhone. You can get this by going to the app store on your iPhone or by going to the iTunes store. Key word is “God-Hungry”)

Do This and Your Conversations Will Never Be the Same

Now this will make a real difference in your conversations with family, friends, co-workers, and others you interact with every day.attention.jpg

This is a quality I first recognized in the man who would eventually become my father-in-law.

I had graduated from college and was living in North Alabama. My longtime friend from Dallas had come to visit me. I wanted to introduce him to Charlotte’s father. (Charlotte and I had begun dating.) He was the president of a small Bible college. I had come to admire him and wanted my friend to meet him. As we entered his office, he invited us to sit down. He then picked up his telephone and asked his assistant to hold his calls:

“I have two gentlemen in my office.” (We were 22 years old. Neither one of us was used to being referred to as a gentleman.)

For a few minutes, he gave us his undivided attention.

I never forgot that moment.

This is where I learned the value of giving another person one’s undivided attention.

Far too often, what people receive instead is our divided attention.

  • A parent is talking with her child. Yet, as she talks, she continues to look at her phone. She checks her text messages and even sends a few texts. Meanwhile, the child is doing the same with her own phone.
  • Two people go to lunch together. Yet, instead of giving one another undivided attention, they continue to check their telephones for texts, voice messages, new tweets, Facebook status updates, etc.
  • A parent sits in his car waiting in line to pick up his young child from school. The parent talks on the phone as he waits. Finally, the child approaches the car. As the child opens the car door, the dad smiles at the child but continues to talk on the telephone. The child fastens his seat belt and they slowly drive away with the dad still talking on the telephone. Is this an urgent call? Perhaps. Yet, many teachers observe this almost every day. The child looks forward to seeing her mom or dad. Yet, she is not greeted by a parent giving undivided attention. Instead, mom or dad continues to talk on the phone.

Technology is wonderful. But something is wrong when we allow technology to get in the way of real live face to face communication with other people. There really is a time to ignore the devices and give another human being a very important gift:


Your undivided attention.


Listen to what that person is saying. Listen to the words and to the emotion behind the words.

Pay attention to that person. Give that person your full attention.

Be fully present.

Give a person your undivided attention and your conversations will never be the same.


Question:

Can you recall a particular time when another person gave you undivided attention? How did this feel?



  

Update

You might be interested in the following:

*This blog, A Place for the God-Hungry, was recently listed by Kent Shaffer on his website, Church Relevance, as one of the “Top 100 Church Blogs of Spring 2010.” Obviously I was delighted to hear this news. However, it also reminded me of how thankful I am to those of you who have reading this blog for several years. I don’t take you for granted and am thankful that you come to this blog.

top100.gif*Did you know that you can subscribe to “God-Hungry Live?” You can find many great You Tube videos there. People such as: Fred Craddock, Andy Stanley, William Willimon, Ruth Haley Barton, Scot McKnight, John Ortberg, etc.

*I have just updated, “What I’m Reading.” You can find this here.

*Have you seen Foursquare yet? A new social networking tool that I heard about on NPR this week. The report was from Austin’s SXSW. This looks very interesting.

*I have been working through a chapter each morning from Mindy Caliguire’s Discovering Soul Care . I find the questions valuable as I journal. You might be interested in visiting their website here.

Interview with Darryl Tippens (Part 4 – Conclusion)

Darryl Tippens is Provost of Pepperdine University and the author of Pilgrim Heart: The Way of Jesus in Everyday Life.    In this interview, Darryl has made some very interesting and thought-provoking observations about what it means to follow Jesus in the 21st century. His words have been encouraging. darryl_tippens.jpg

These concluding remarks are a reminder of the compelling nature of Jesus.

(Remember that by making a comment in this or any one of the other three posts, you become eligible to win a free copy of Pilgrim Heart. You can find part one here, part two here, and part three here.)


In the Introduction you challenge the church to believe Jesus call “…not just to believe what he taught, but to act like him” (p. 14). What is there about Jesus that you sense 21st century men and women might find attractive and even compelling?

Darryl Tippens: The fact is, Jesus stands very well on his own, without much help on our part, when he is simply received as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John present him. Jesus doesn’t need to be “gussied up” or sanitized or modernized or edited or explained.

There is considerable respect for Jesus in the non-Christian world, to the degree that he is known. But his bickering, checkered followers are another matter. Too often we stand in the way, obstructing the view of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Not everyone will follow Jesus, of course; but when he is seen as the original Evangelists present him, it’s hard to treat his call or his claims trivially. We’ve got to do a better job of getting Jesus outside Sunday school literature, the sermon, the church, and the machinery of American politics (left and right), and back into the marketplace, the lecture hall, the workplace, and the home where he can stand on his own quite powerfully.

What men and women of the 21st century will find most attractive and compelling are people who incarnate Jesus, people who have “learned Jesus” or “learned Christ” (Ephesians 4:20). When people see the “way of Jesus” in ordinary people “in everyday life,” they will find it rather hard to ignore him. It’s happened this way in every century since AD 33. It will happen in the 21st century. Indeed it is happening now.

Question

What has been your experience when you have seen people in the world actually exposed to the incarnate Jesus?


Interview with Darryl Tippens (Part 2)

If you are like me, you might sometimes feel tired, sluggish, and perhaps discouraged.

I encourage you to read Pilgrim Heart: The Way of Jesus in Everyday Life. I read this book a few years ago and found it to be incredibly refreshing. The author is Dr. Darryl Tippens, Provost at Pepperdine University. Darryl has graciously consented to participate in an interview on this blog. The subject of the interview will be very interesting to readers of this blog. I encourage you to consider his words.

Also, I will be giving away two autographed copies of this book during the week in which these posts appear. To be eligible for the drawing, leave a comment on this podarryl_tippens.jpgst.

The following is part two of the interview. (You can read part one here.)


As I read through the book, I was struck by the quality of the content. Yet, I also sensed that you were not only writing to help other believers but that you also have struggled at times in your attempt to follow Christ. Is that an accurate read? Are many of these practices what nurtured your own faith and life in Christ?

Darryl Tippens: Yes, you’re quite right. There is a great deal of autobiography in the book, evident to anyone who reads closely. One observant reader asked me bluntly one day, “Can you say things like that” (meaning, I think, as a “church leader,” wasn’t I laying myself open to criticism)? My reply was, “Well, I don’t know if I should have said these things, but I did.”

Religious books that sound simple, triumphalist, or Pollyannaish often turn me off. When they offer easy prescriptions like “Follow Jesus, and all will be well–no problems,” I become discouraged because I wonder, “Why is it I try to follow Jesus, but I don’t find it so easy? What’s wrong with me?” Facile claims don’t ring true for me.

I have found the Christian life authentic and exhilarating at times, but truly, utterly daunting at times too. So, I’m encouraged by people who tell the truth about how hard life can be. No one should lie to save God’s honor or make the Church look good. After all, if we worship the God of Truth, if Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, then shouldn’t we tell the truth too? The whole system is bogus if we don’t tell the unvarnished truth. So, I have tried to be honest about my struggles. Life hurts. It’s a fact, so why not say so?

But that, of course, is only the prelude to the main story, not the final episode. It’s in the midst of our misery, that the light shines. I’ve found that when faithful friends received my honest testimony, including my questions and doubts, I didn’t end up believing less. Rather, having “come clean,” I found new space and new motivation to believe again, or believe more deeply. I often say to those with whom I work and associate, “You can tell the truth here.” Since we honor the God of Truth, that seems to be the only proper way to go. That explains why I include chapters on hospitality (welcoming), friendship, confession, listening, and discernment.

I’m a believer today in part because other disciples welcomed me with open arms, befriended me when I was in a crisis, listened to me without judgment, and offered discernment as I plodded the way forward. I believe these practices will work well for others too.

(to be continued)

Questions:

Do you tell the truth about what it is really like to follow Christ? Are you a person who receives people in such a way as to invite them to speak the truth?


  

Interview with Darryl Tippens (Part 1)

Do you need to read a book that will refresh your soul?    

I encourage you to read Pilgrim Heart: The Way of Jesus in Everyday Life. I read this book a few years ago and found it to be incredibly refreshing. The author is Dr. Darryl Tippens, Provost at Pepperdine University. Darryl has graciously consented to participate in an interview on this blog. The subject of the interview will be very interesting to readers of this blog. I encourage you to consider his words.

Also, I will be giving away two autographed copies of this book during the week in which theses posts appear. To be eligible for the drawing, leave a comment on this post. The following is part one of the interview:


Several years ago, you wrote a book that I found very helpful and encouraging. The book, Pilgrim Heart: The Way of Jesus in Everyday Life has been helpful to many people. What would you say to tired, overwhelmed church leaders/ministers/pastors as well as many other everyday believers who might be reading this?

Darryl Tippens: First, I would say, “you are not alone.” You belong to a vast company of fellow pilgrims. Struggle, weariness, even exhaustion, are to be expected among people who make the long journey of faith. Yet Jesus promises relief for the weary and hope for the downtrodden. He promised the woman at the well that there is such as thing as “living water.” Those who drink of this water “will never be thirsty.” “The water I will give,” he promised, “will become in [you] a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” (John 4:14) That water is still available.

I live in a desert climate. It is not unusual to go from May until December without a single drop of rain. Yet not far from my house there is a spring that flows year round. Despite the parched earth and the brown hills in the hot summer months, the spring just continues to flow. Jesus saw a similar phenomenon in ancient Palestine — sweet water endlessly bubbling up in the hottest, driest conditions. Spiritually speaking, we have access to a stream that can nourish us even in the darkest, most sterile times in our lives.

How do we gain access this life-giving resource? Of course, the simple answer is “Jesus.” He is the life-giving stream. But that doesn’t answer the practical question of how precisely we receive his life-giving nourishment, when we are depressed, sick, or lonely. Pilgrim Heart is my modest attempt to offer some provisional answers, which are derived from three sources: (1) Scripture, (2) the personal testimony of believers through the ages, and (3) my own autobiographical experience. I believe that these three sources of data mutually confirm and reinforce the truth that certain spiritual practices (taught by Scripture and tested by believers through the centuries) open that cleft in the rock from which the life-giving waters can reach our parched spirits. While this life-giving water is truly God’s gift to us (we do not create the water), we can do certain things to ready ourselves to receive this gift.

My book is an effort to propose ways to prepare ourselves for the reception of the life-giving waters, primarily through what we commonly call “the spiritual disciplines.” By no means do I think my description of spiritual practices is complete or authoritative. I’ve only scratched the surface. On the other hand, I think there is strong evidence that these practices do make a difference in our lives. In fact, I would argue that we have 2,000 years of testimony that these practices belong in our daily lives.

Furthermore, the testimony from readers who have written me convinces me that the spiritual practices delineated in Pilgrim Heart make a difference. Just today, I received an unsolicited note from a prominent citizen who confessed that though a dedicated Christian all her life, she had undergone “years of spiritual struggle.” But, she added, the discussion of the spiritual practices in the book had been “a balm to [her] battered heart.” I don’t take credit for the help she received, as I was merely the reporter, but I thank God that I was able to show what Christians have been doing for centuries to take care of themselves as they make the arduous pilgrimage of faith.

(to be continued)

Question:

Have you observed church leaders/minister/pastors who seem very weary? What has been your own experience with spiritual fatigue and weariness?



Say What is Appropriate

mouth_tape

Have you ever known someone who had a knack for saying the inappropriate? I’m talking about those people who say things to others that cause you to cringe and wish you could hide!

My dad was in the hospital a number of years ago after a heart attack. He had an angioplasty procedure (“the balloon”) done to clear the blockage. That evening, when he was resting in his hospital room, a friend of my parents came into the hospital room to visit. He leaned against the wall and began talking about a friend of his who had a similar procedure done. He went through this long, detailed story and then paused. My dad was weak, having just come out of recovery. He asked in a faint voice, “What happened to him?” His friend answered, “Oh he’s dead! That balloon didn’t hold.” I saw the mortified look on Dad’s face. Then the guy said, “Well, I’ve got to go.” Out the door he went. So much for encouragement.

I would like to think that what I say is shaped by following Christ. In various situations, I want to say what is appropriate. After all, I am a Christ-follower.

Yet, every day we hear the inappropriate:

*Stupid — Not really thinking about how what I say might impact someone else. “I can’t believe you don’t know how to do this?”

*Thoughtless — Some people just blurt out what enters their mind and don’t seem to use any filter.

*Immoral — Some people have a way of turning innocent remarks or comments into something sexually suggestive or explicit. I once worked (in college) for a large company. I worked in an office area in downtown Dallas. There were approximately fifteen people in our area. Late one afternoon, an older manager was telling dirty jokes to a couple of female staffers. An older woman walked into this conversation, unaware of what was going on. She became the butt of the next joke.

*Rude — Some husbands/wives have given themselves permission to be very rude in the way they speak to their spouses. Sometimes this is done under the guise of “I just need to get my feelings out.”

*Discouraging — A young minister preaches one Sunday morning. He has only been preaching for about six months. He rarely hears any feedback that is encouraging. Meanwhile, several people harshly criticize him each week.

We could talk more about what is inappropriate. But let’s think about what it means to speak what is appropriate.

Saying what is appropriate is sometimes difficult. After all, sometimes a father has to correct his child. At times a wife may have to confront her husband. Sometimes one may have to talk with her close friend about what she is seeing in her life. Yet, there is a way to speak that is gracious yet firm. There is a way to speak that is kind and yet truthful. There is a way to speak that is Christ honoring and appropriate.

At times, we all make mistakes in what we say. Yet, I don’t want to simply shrug my shoulders and say, “That’s just the way I am.”

I have often had to say, “I’m sorry.” On a number of occasions I have said, “That came out wrong. I didn’t mean it the way it must have sounded.” I have said to my wife and my children on a number of occasions, “I’m sorry for my tone of voice.”

Each Sunday, every single word I utter during a sermon is recorded. I take great care in what I say to our congregation each Sunday. I want these messages to be both true and appropriate for the moment. Yet, I need to also have that same concern regarding what I say during the remainder of the week. These words are not recorded like those Sunday messages. Yet, my words are recorded in someone’s mind. These words are no less significant.

***

Question:

In what ways have you seen appropriate words bless others? How have you seen inappropriate words hurt others?

Hearing the Unspoken Message

facialexpression.jpgI’ve been thinking today about the unspoken messages we receive in most relationships.  Some of these messages may be very positive and encouraging and some may be quite negative.  For instance, one of the unspoken messages in many homes goes something like this: "This is a warm, inviting, safe place.  Welcome home!"  In some families, the unspoken message is negative: "This is a chaotic, unstable place.  You never know what will happen or how people will treat you.  Do not discuss this issue or acknowledge that it exists!"

Likewise, friends, ministers, school teachers, employers, etc. can all communicate unspoken messages.  

From the friend:  "You can’t depend on me.  I told you that I would call you back but this doesn’t mean I am really going to call you."  In contrast, the unspoken message from another friend may be "When I tell you I will meet you for lunch at 12:00, I will be there.  I respect you and your time too much to keep you waiting."

From the minister: "Don’t disagree with me.  To disagree with me means you are not loyal.  Anyway, I am the expert, and I know better than anyone else around here what ought to be done."   In contrast, another minister may communicate this unspoken message, "I believe in you and am not threatened when you are growing and learning."

I could give other examples, but I suspect you have your own examples.  One thing for certain, we do communicate unspoken messages to other people. 

What are some unspoken messages you have received from others?  Can you recall some unspoken messages that seemed to drown out and contradict the message being spoken?

(John Ortberg’s article entitled "Your Hidden Curriculum," which appears in the Winter 2009 print edition of Leadership, contains some of these seed thoughts.)

Pay Attention

images_2.jpgNeglect. 

Now that is a stark word. 

Sometimes, we neglect to pay attention.  This is something that I have been thinking about lately.  The importance of simply paying attention to another person.  I recognize that others need to do this.  But, do I pay attention?

Have you ever been to someone’s house for dinner (maybe there were a number of people present) and few people seemed to show any interest in you or others there?  Everyone was friendly and pleasant; however, no one asked you anything.  No one asked you about your work, your home, your family, your church, etc.  In fact, no one really asked anyone else anything either.

I remember being at a dinner like this on one occasion.  Most of the people there had not seen one another in six months to a year.  At least one person was there who did not know most of these people.  Yet, the conversation was pretty thin.  No one asked questions other than a very general, "Well, how are things in Denver?"  But there was no follow-up to such a question.  The dinner conversation centered around a few people who told a few old stories.  After dinner, one or two talked while the others remained quiet or made some sort of "small talk."

I remember leaving that dinner feeling very dissatisfied.  Something was missing.  Something was out of place.  We had been together and yet we were not together.  Later it occurred to me that one problem with this setting was that no one was really paying attention to others.  No one really showed a genuine interest in others.

Contrast this with conversations in which someone really pays attention to another.  The other person listens.  She asks questions.  She asks for further elaboration.  She is not quick to change the subject or begin talking about herself.  Rather, she has a way of probing and showing interest.

Yes, that’s it.  People who pay attention to others really do show an interest.  Why?  They are interested.

Quite often, families come together and they really don’t know one another.  Oh they have formed certain perceptions and opinions, but they may rarely ask good questions of each another.  Consequently, the parents really don’t know their adult children or grandchildren.   The adult children may really not know their parents.  Brothers and sisters may really not know one another at all.  Cousins may no longer know one another.  These family dinners can become places where strangers who are related come together and share a meal but never share their lives.

I think about some of the people I know who "pay attention" well.  When I am with these people, they show interest.

  • Carl — at our church.  An excellent listener.  Asks questions.
  • Charles — a longtime friend who amazed me a long time ago as I saw how he paid such close attention to the lives of his high school sons — knowing when they had tests, who they were taking to special dinners, aware of their relationships, etc.
  • Doug — who asks questions.  Though I see him very little, we stay connected, in part, because he shows such an interest in his friends.
  • Steve — who in conversation will ask a number of wonderful, even probing, questions.  He shows such interest in his friends.

Yes, I know that paying attention to another is a two-way street.  While I cannot control how another may respond, I can take the initiative in my relationships to pay attention to a person whom I care about.

One way of paying attention is by showing a sincere interest in the other person.  In conversation, one can do this by asking questions.  Yet, there are many other ways of paying attention to another.  This might be worth thinking about.

Question: What lets you know that another is genuinely interested in you as a person?  What do you do in your relationships to pay attention to another person? 

I Remember These Conversations

coffee_cup.jpgThe other day, I posted regarding the all important atmosphere that exists in homes.  (You can read it here.)

 
But what about the words that are exchanged every day in our conversations with family members, co-workers, people from our church, and others who we know in our communities?  What kind of words and scenes are etched in our memories?

 
Sometimes, I am amazed at the things that I remember.  The other night, I was watching a portion of a program on the History Channel about Martin Luther King Jr’s  assassination.  As I watched some of those old black and white news footages, I could recall sitting in den of our home in Dallas watching television.  It was April 4, 1968 and I was fifteen years old.  It was a Thursday evening.  My mother had gone to the grocery store (the Safe-way store on Buckner Blvd. in Dallas) to buy groceries, as she did every Thursday evening.   What I remember about that night is being glued to the television, watching those horrible scenes from Memphis.  I can even remember my mother coming into our house carrying some groceries and telling her about the shooting of MLK Jr.

 
I don’t know exactly why I remember this in such detail.  I just know this was a powerful moment and I had seen some pictures that I would not forget.

 
Each one of us also has scenes and moments with our family and friends etched in our memories.  Perhaps you can remember some conversations that were painful, embarrassing, etc.  Many of us have a few of those conversations in our memories.

 
However, I also remember some moments in which conversations took place that were particularly encouraging.  For example,I recall these moments:

  • Coach Hugh Campbell telling me as a junior in high school that I would have plenty of opportunities in my life to do things like buy a car, etc. but there were some things I would only have the opportunity to do once.  That one statement proved to be very encouraging to me.  Repeatedly, through the years, I have pondered regarding a situation or opportunity:  "Is this a one time kind of thing or will I have other opportunities to do this?"  The statement was encouraging in that it helped me in wrestling with various decisions.  (Yes, there are numerous other factors to consider when making a decision.  I am just talking about one statement that helped a fifteen year old boy.)
  • Charlotte’s father, Charles Coil, who on one occasion, as I was wrestling with where to go to graduate school, said, "Jim, I really believe you can do most anything with your life.  You may choose to go to medical school or law school.  Or, you may choose to continue your education in the Bible."  I was stunned by his words.  I thought at first that he was saying such things just to build my confidence.  Later on I realized that he really believed what he said.  I was amazed at the confidence that he had in me.
  • My wife Charlotte who has pointed out good things in my life and ministry all of our married life.  My blunders and mistakes are all too apparent to me.  Yet, she regularly points out most every good thing she sees about me.  More than anyone else, she has been responsible for building my confidence. 

 
This is just a sample of some people who have invested in my life in positive, encouraging ways through their words.  Their words and their encouragement are in my memory and have had a powerful effect on my life.

 
As I think about this week, I want to make the most of the conversations that I have with people.  Who knows how God will use an encouraging word?  A simple conversation might be remembered for weeks and even years to come.  Who knows the impact that an affirming, encouraging remark might have one someone?  God just has a way of taking what might seem like an ordinary conversation and turning it into something that gives life and courage to someone.

 
What conversation do you recall that proved to be highly significant and encouraging?