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Monthly Archives: March 2006

This week I want you to send me stories on love. There are no rules, no structure, no grammar, no grades…just stories. Come on you can do it!
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OK you lurkers out there, and don’t deny it. I get traffic reports and know you are out there. It’s time to engage, the tables have been turned and now you are invited to be heard. Here is how it’s gonna work…

Each week or month or whenever I feel like it, I’ll ask for stories of things that have happened to you, or your family and friends, or just stories you’ve heard. There will be a theme, you can’t just tell any old story. I want to hear how God is moving or has moved in your life. I want to provide witness to what God is doing in this world, right now, so that the world will know we are people. We are people that love people and love God and are listening to them and to Him. Email me the story at carl@simplegestures.org and I’ll post it on the site for you. You can request to be anonymous, or to let me put your name to the story. The best story gets a free T-Shirt, that’s right FREE. Who picks the winner? I do, it’s my blog.

This weeks theme will be in my next post.

May your story have wings!
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You have probably seen the story of the minister killed by his wife. The amount of hate coming from both sides in this is just awful. It makes it crystal clear the ignorance, the hurt, the pain that exists in people in America. Here is a link to the blog comments in USA Today. I don’t like to post this type of dialog but think it important for us to understand what we are up against with both professed disciples and those who are not.

I’m discouraged because…
-There seem to be very few interested in “getting dirty” in ministry.
-I don’t have the expertise or the experience to do this alone.
-I can’t find any help, or maybe I’m too scared to go find it.
-I’m so busy, we’re so busy, how do we arrange our priorities?
-Where do we start?
-Churches don’t seem to talk, don’t seem to want to work together.
-Professed disciples of Christ are accusing the churches of Christ of being a cult on CNN.
-Professed disciples of God are condemning anyone with a different point of view.
-Agnostics and/or Atheists are spewing venom with incredible hate and ignorance of the church and its people.

I’m encouraged because…
-God can do what we can’t do alone.
-When the people on both sides of the argument begin to work together for a common cause, they will see the other as a partner, not some mysterious “other” whom they have never spent time with. God will do the rest.
-I sense a change rumbling beneath the surface of our institutional churches.
-Disciples are no longer going to let politics, traditions, or anything else stop us from doing what we know is right.
-We were given the Holy Spirit to empower us as a body to go and do and become the church in the name of Christ.
-There exists millions of people who love God and desire to follow Christ and they are willing to bear the cross so that we may become His hands and His feet on this earth.
-Love will win…

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My adventure tonight at the Austin Music Hall will either be a complete failure, or if just one of you reads this post and together we help one person encounter an authentic relationship with God, then it was worth the effort.

As way of introduction for those new to Simple Gestures (or SG as I like to call it) let me offer the following:
1. SG is about developing communities of people who desire to do nice things for other people. SG is modeled on the methods of Servant Evangelism
2. SG understands there are issues and baggage and cynicism when it comes to people of faith sharing their faith, so we share our faith by first showing unconditional “acts of kindness” and offer to provide any other help an individual may have.
3. SG intends to build trust in our neighborhoods and communities with no alterior motives other than to show people that God loves them.
4. SG desires to be a partnership of people, churches, non-profits, and businesses to make Austin a better city by following the way of Christ.

Plan of Action
Send me an email at carl@simplegestures.org and I’ll get in touch.
I plan on holding an informational/introductory meeting soon to discuss how this actually works.

In summary, it works like this…
We as a group decide on a target area and a group of people to serve.
We get together and prepare for the service project and then we go do it.
During the project we just be ourselves and listen. (It will change your life, I promise.)
We then go and celebrate together and get excited about our next steps.

For example, we have taken our kids down to the Salvation Army and Congress Ave the last two years and served cookies and smiles to the people. We’ve had lots of cool conversations and provided smiles to people who don’t get to smile very often.

Come join us…together we can change the world with kindness.

“One of my driving passions is to help people to know God, and I believe that they will be more open to wanting to know God when they are shown kindness. I also don’t believe that just one act of kindness will do it. In the parable of the sower, Jesus spoke of the farmer who went out and threw seeds all over the place. He threw seeds on rocky ground, thorny ground and on ground with good soil. The different types of soil in Jesus’ parable represented the different stages of readiness in people to receive God’s love. But the farmer didn’t judge which portion of the ground was worthy to receive the seed. He just generously and lavishly spread it everywhere.
Kindness is the greatest healing force in the world. It is the active form of love that is loosed upon people’s lives. When we are kind, it turns us in the right direction and causes us to think differently. Kindness is contagious!”

-Steve Sjogren, author of Conspiracy of Kindness, Changing the World Through Kindness, and The Day I Died
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Without going into details I feel like a failure. I’ve been working on this concept of “Simple Gestures” for about 5 years now and sometimes feel no closer to acting on my intentions than I did on that first day the idea came to me. It seems so simple, so easy to just think of something nice to do for somebody with no alterior motive other than to show them that God loves them. But, I have let the strategies and the tactics get in the way of actually acting on what I believe God has called me to do. I think they call it “paralysis by analysis”. I’ve written a thesis paper on the subject, read tons of books, researched those that are doing it, and yet I’m still sitting here on a Saturday morning writing about it. Poor pitiful me…

So, Lane told me this morning to go find somebody else to share my ideas with because she feels like me, powerless to enact the change I feel God has called me, no us, to start.

My heart aches for a people, including myself, who only desire to be part of something larger than themselves. I don’t mean the Lions club or something like that. Instead I want to know that God is moving amongst us and, that we who desire to listen and to share those murmurs of His love in our lives. I need to be able to share that with a humanity that desires communion with each other, within the context of love and service to each other, so that His love is made manifest in us…for the sake of the world.

As my wise mother as often said, “It’s time to put up or shut up!” She puts it another way, but I can’t say it in this forum. So, I’m going to do it! I’m going to find a group of people who believe in the cause and we’re going to go engage our neighbors in acts of love so that we might gain their trust. By trust, I mean authentic friendships where they are willing to share their lives and their thoughts with us, and where we will be willing to do the same. Because God has called us to relationship with each other, so that He might be revealed in the quiet moments of lives shared. And, so on Sunday night I’m headed to the Austin Music Hall to begin the process, because I know that is what God wants me to do. No, I don’t hear a loud voice saying “Go to the 3rd Day concert!”. But, I do hear a soft voice in my soul saying, “Go, love your neighbor. Go, find my people willing to help you do what would glorify God. Go, do something in my name.” Sunday night I’ll be at the Music Hall to see if I can find people willing to help in this endeavor. Anybody want to me me there? If so, email me at carl@simplegestures.org or call me at 512 971-1091

Anyway, back to the story…
So my dad and stepmom were immersed in this culture and then when they found God in the early ’80’s they left Luckenbach for fear of corruption and whatever else they could imagine was wrong with Luckenbach. Fast-forward 25 years and my dad is learning daily about God’s grace and mercy…he has two teenagers and so he is recognizing the daily need for God’s grace. Those two kids have given him much heartache (that is what teenagers are supposed to do), but they have also given him something that my sister Heather and I couldn’t give…the gift of music, the joy of song. Jonathan is a remarkable guitar player and Hannah is a gifted singer/songwriter.

To begin spring break, Lane and I went to Fredericksburg for a night to meet my dad et al in Luckenbach to hear Charlie Robison. Dad swears the song “The Wedding Song” is about his life and that Hannah could sing that duet with Charlie better than Natalie Manes from the Dixie Chicks. So, the big plan was to meet Charlie and give him one of the soundtracks that Hannah has been recording with Rosewood Studios in Tyler. We’re very proud, this is the same studio that discovered and nurtured LeAnn Rhimes.

Anyway, so they get to Luckenbach and start asking around and end up meeting the steel guitar player who is very impressed and says to go meet the tour manager on the bus, so they go and he’s impressed. But, he says Charlie rarely sings that song anymore because he’s asked lots of girls to sing the duet and most of them are not very good. However, if Hannah would hang out at the front of the stage he might sing it.

Fastforward 3 hours…
Lane and I are standing outside the dancehall during the concert and hear Charlie start “The Wedding Song” and so we run in and there in all her glory is Hannah on stage just beaming. This is her first time to be on a stage, she’s only recorded in the studio. So, there she is surrounded by an eclectic mix of people, like you would normally find in Luckenbach on a Saturday night. Charlie sings the first verse and then…

She lets it out, it’s electric from the moment she sings the first note. The crowd goes insane, Charlie gives her that look of surprised approval, it’s a joyous moment in the community of Luckenbach that is rejoicing with one of their own. Just another person who happens to be able to sing like most of us wish we could. It’s one of those Holy moments, when all is right with the world and you can feel the presence of God working in and through one of His creations. I get chills now as I’m writing this, because I know the joy…the pride my father felt at that moment. A moment nobody can ever take away. And, yet it is a gift from God that she can now share with the world. May she be encouraged to use her gift for His glory, and may we encourage her to continue in that endeavor. May we encourage everybody in our communities to live for His glory because we all have gifts, we just have to be willing to use them.

National Public Radio is sponsoring a program called StoryCorps which has setup booths across the country so that people can interview their families for an oral history project. I love this concept of telling stories and would like to do a similar project from the perspective of those who follow Christ. Anybody willing to help?

Anyway, I found a beautiful story about a Korean immigrant couple and how love has transformed their relationship. The wife tells the story of how after an encounter with a missionary, she decided to openly express her love for her husband which is contrary to the normally reserved expressions of husband and wife in their culture. So, she started this process and you’ll have to What I can tell you is that they are now missionaries serving God. We can’t begin to imagine what God can do through us if we are willing to listen.
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My previous post posed the question of “Where is God in the details?” In other words, does He care about our “little” issues here and now? Regardless of your answer, whether you believe it is mere coincidence, karma, human achievement, luck, or God moving amongst His created people; the end result is sometimes an action or circumstance that is remarkable. My point of view is that God does move in hushed whispers and that when we are willing to be still…to listen, it is only the God that creates us and sustains us who could account for certain circumstances. It is in believing that His disciples are empowered to do things that could never be imagined, if we are willing to let go, to trust in His power and glory to reign. In letting go of self, we must be willing to allow the Spirit to make us enablers for those in need, whether it be a neighbor who needs help with a flat tire or a sister who needs encouragement.

Now the story…

When I was a kid my dad would take us to Luckenbach, Texas to “pick ‘n grin” which means to hang out, play the guitar and sing. I was never interested in learning to play or sing, so I rode my bike, played in the creek, explored the woods. But, I do have fond memories of the place and try to visit when in the area. The motto of the “town” is “Luckenbach: Where Everybody is Somebody” and you get that feeling, that vibe in the air when you hang out. It’s like be back in time to that idealized small community in the country. People are willing to just do nothing, to enjoy the company of friends and family and strangers. It oozes a sense of belonging regardless of who you are. Bikers in leather and bikers in spandex, yuppies, cowboys, old/young, it really doesn’t matter who you are, you are welcome. What if our churches were this open and inviting?

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I’ve been thinking about “God’s Will”…
What does he want me to do? What does he want His church to do?

It seems we get so caught up in the question as it relates to our daily lives, but not in the context that I think He would want us to consider such an important process. It is a process. Each day we must seek His will, and in that process are the daily decisions that must be made. But, what bothers me is that in our American version of Christianity I sometimes think we’re too busy looking for answers to things that God wouldn’t consider of great importance.

An illustration…I have a dear friend who has had to consider a job offer and whether he should go or stay in his present job. Even more important in the process of this decision is the possibility for his wife to stay home with the new baby. So, to him, to his family, to his friends this is an important decision…very important. Therefore, we lift his decision up to God seeking wisdom and clarity.

We ask, “God, what is your will for him and his family?” And we should, at least I think we should, because God does care about what we care about.

But…
My question is this. If we are disciples, followers of Christ committed to His purposes and not our own, no matter what we do, or don’t do, shouldn’t we always seek to follow in His footsteps?

I just watched a short film called Dust in which this very matter is considered. An old Jewish saying, states “May your face be covered with the dust of your rabbi.” The story as told by Rob Bell goes something like this…

Young Jewish kids about the age of 6 began to learn the Torah (the first 5 books of the Old Testament). They memorized it and by the age of 10 if they were promising students, they would continue in their education and memorize the rest of the books of the scriptures. Imagine that!
Then, the best of the best would at about the age of 15 begin the process of interviewing with a rabbi to determine if they could become a disciple (a follower) of that rabbi. Each rabbi had a different perspective on the scriptures and this “point of view” or theology. The young disciple would then take upon the yoke (the tools to carry the burden of a rabbi). So, the rabbi would ask lots of questions of this young boy and if he was deemed worthy, this child would begin the process of “carrying” the yoke of that rabbi. He would leave his family, his home, his synagogue…everything he knew and was, to follow this rabbi. Thus, the saying…these kids would literally follow their rabbi as he went about his duties and in the course of that process the child’s face would be covered by the exhaust from the rabbi’s sandals traveling the dusty roads as the work of God was carried out. The student was committed to the theological and missiological duties…to learn and to practice what it was to be a disciple.

Back to my question…if we are disciples of Christ and he is our rabbi then why don’t we have dust covering our faces? I have lots of questions about God’s will, but I do know that if I love Him with all my heart and soul and if I love my neighbor as myself, then I must be willing to get my face dirty. Christ did not promise a life of luxury and fun-filled days of bliss. He did promise that those who would follow Him must be willing to do as he did…to serve others to the exclusion of self.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew 11 28-30

The burden is light because the yoke of Christ enables us…empowers us to bear all our burdens that we would otherwise not be able to carry. Think of a yoke as a big A-frame with padded shoulders that allows us to carry heavy loads further than we could ever imagine…
If I am willing to come alongside my friends, my neighbors, those most in need of help and help them carry that load using the yoke given to me by my rabbi. I don’t have to be the best of the best, but I must be willing to put away my fishing net and go…

Then Jesus said to the disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow me. Matthew 16:24

Each day we carry the cross is another day doing God’s will.

Scott Ginsberg is the guy that has worn a name tag for the past few years and has created his own little industry on approachability. I’ve even co-opted his term “Building Front Porches” on my site for the practices of helping others. I just read his blog from today about building your brand by “adjectivity” which basically means becoming what you are selling. For example, we now say “I want a coke” even if we want a pepsi. He quotes somebody who does this kind of brand awareness

Andrea O’Neill, Brand Strategist and Executive Marketing Coach, strongly believes in the power of becoming your own adjective. “It means you live your values, talents, tastes or style so passionately and openly that others know exactly what you stand for without needing to ask you,” says O’Neill, “…and if you express your passions honestly in your every day actions, those around you will know exactly where you stand.”’

If you were to poll people on the street and asked them what they thought about Christians, I wonder what the percentage of positive to negative perceptions would be? My guess is that many would not have positive things to say about Christians or Christianity. Now, if we asked those same people what they thought about Jesus I think we would get a different response. Regardless of whether people are believers are not, the vast majority would be hard pressed to find anything negative to say about him. So, if as disciples of Christ are to follow him and be his ‘hands and feet’ because we have been empowered to do so by the Holy Spirit, then why does the term Christian have so much baggage attached to it?

I believe that if we were to follow the advice of Ms. O’Neill and live our values, talents, tastes or styles so passionately and openly that others know exactly what what we stood for without needing to ask; and if we were able to express that passion for Christ honestly in our daily habits and actions so that it would be undeniable that we were followers of Christ, then I believe perceptions would change. I fight that battle that rages inside me every day…to do His will and not my own and to have every encounter with the people I work with and interact with on a daily basis be about love and service in His name. I desire to be aware of my faults and sins and yet to know that it is Christ that lives in me and day by day I am working to let the Spirit accomplish what I alone cannot.

As the church in this world we must also work this out in much the same way so that people will know we are part of the “kingdom of God” both now and in the future. We should hope to be a work in progress as one church I’ve been reading about; aware of its faults but not willing to give in to those faults. “They are profoundly aware of their human sinfulness and frailties, knowing that in spite of that, they are part of God’s presence and work in that city. They describe themselves as a community of wounded people being healed, fully aware of their incompleteness.” from “Treasures in Clay Jars”

Together, if we allow people to see that we are incomplete, broken, fragile, but also empowered by God to help our neighbors and our communities then maybe they will begin to trust us and allow us to come alongside them in this thing we call life.
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