Friday, December 28, 2012

Les Miserables

Mandy and I saw Les Miserables last night.  So, so good!  Anne Hathaway should win an Oscar for her portrayal of Fantine.  "I Dreamed a Dream" was about as moving and gut-wrenching as anything I've ever seen.  Go see it, whether are a fan of Broadway or not.

Some Kindle Book Deals

Here are a few Kindle books that are currently on sale.

The End of Sexual Identity, by Jenna Williams Paris ($1.99)

Creature of the Word, by Matt Chandler ($5.99)

The Resolution for Men, by Stephen Kendrick ($4.99)

Grace for the Moment (children's book), by Max Lucado ($1.99)

What Jesus Started, by Steve Addison ($4.99)

The Parent Adventure, by Rodney & Selma Wilson ($2.99)

The Circle Maker, by Mark Batterson ($3.79)

Draw the Circle, by Mark Batterson ($3.79)

Moneyball, by Michael Lewis ($5.46)

Love Does, by Bob Goff ($1.99)

A Year of Biblical Womanhood, by Rachel Held Evans ($1.99)

Jesus Calling, by Sarah Young ($1.99)

Forgotten Ways Handbook, by Alan Hirsch ($1.99)

The Call of Jesus, by Derek Worthington ($4.99)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

2012 Top Ten Lists: Moments

2012 was a great year.  Here are my top 10 moments:

10.  Joining the Memphis Men's Chorale.  It's been 15 years since I sang in a choir.  It was time.  It's been a great outlet.  It's very different from church work and real estate, it's allowed me to meet new friends, and it's given me the opportunity to use the gifts that God has given me.

9.  Family moments, specifically Taylor's wedding and the birth of Olivia to Mandy's sister, Megan.  It was an honor to officiate Taylor and Jim's wedding.  It was a beautiful one, and I'm grateful that God has joined these two together.  And I'm an uncle now, and to a sweet little girl no less!

8.  The Clean Water party at the Brass Door a few weeks ago.  Not only did the party raise close to $4000 towards the building of a well, but it was one of the more surreal moments I've experienced.  I told NC the next night that we're doing a lot of things right now that I've dreamed of for a number of years, but I don't think I could have ever dreamed up what happened that night.  Again, "surreal" is my word for that night!

7.  My work - I'm now in my third year with InCity Realty.  I really enjoy real estate.  And I'm very grateful to be able to pastor Neighborhood Church.  God has allowed me to do, as I said above, the things that I've been dreaming of for a long time.  I wouldn't trade NC for any other church. I feel that this year we've solidified our vision and strategy.  Our folks know what we're about and they're continuing to be released to do the work of God.  Both of these jobs give me the flexibility I need, plus they continue to challenge and fulfill me.

6.  Mandy's work - I am my wife's biggest fan.  Her passion and tenacity for education reform continues to amaze me.  I'm grateful that her work is fulfilling to her, but also that it doesn't dominate and keep her from her favorite profession: mom to Adam and Micah.  I have a feeling that we'll look back in ten years and see that God used Mandy to bring amazing change to our city.

5.  Adam & Micah's friendship - at 7 and 4 now, they are becoming friends.  The age difference still plays a factor at times, but they really love each other and enjoy being with each other.  Since school got out for winter break they've been with each other non-stop.  Last Friday Adam went to an art class and Micah went to my mom's.  They were so excited to see each other when they reunited.  For a humorous take on that friendship you can read this.

4.  Trip to New York City - What a fun trip!  It was a first for both of us.  Like many others, it's now one of our favorite cities.  We're planning on going back next fall.  The conference we went to was amazing.

3.  The Midtown Prayer Collective - I've written about this before, so I won't repeat myself, but I do feel that God is going to use this time, and the times ahead, to do great work in individual lives, in our churches, and in our city.

2.  Our California Adventure - Two weeks in California was so much fun for our family.  Time with the Currier's in Pasadena, a day at Disney Land, and then a full week in San Francisco was so good for all of us.

1.  Adam's baptism -  Again, I've written about this here, but leading Adam to Christ and then baptizing him a couple of months later was the highlight of my year.  I'm so grateful for what God is doing in his heart.

2012 was one of the best for our family.  As we celebrate the birth of Christ today and look forward to the start of a new year, we leave you with our annual video.

Merry Christmas!

2012 Christmas Video from MANDY GRISHAM on Vimeo.

Monday, December 24, 2012

2012 Top Ten Lists: Books

I read some really good books this year.  Here are a few.  These first two are on the topic of of spiritual formation.

The Circle Maker, by Mark Batterson, had a huge impact when it comes to where we went with the Midtown Prayer Collective.  I've read several of Batterson's books.  The common element with all of them is that they increase my faith. This one was no exception.

Next up is The 24/7 Prayer Manual, by Pete Greig.  This too was very influential in birthing a desire for radical prayer.  I think we've just scratched the surface, and I'm excited about where the collective is headed in 2013.

While those first two focused on prayer, these next two have to do with fleshing it out in the real word.  First up is Mark Scandrette's Practicing the Way of Jesus.  Our micro church went through this book.  Each week we would together choose some type of experiment.  Some of the ones we did were practicing a time of silence every day for a week, cutting back our spending on essentials for the week, seeking out opportunities for reconciliation, etc.

Along these same lines was 7, by Jenn Hatmaker.  Jenn and her family tried a different experiment each month for seven months.  Some of these experiments dealt with food, spending, media, and possessions.  These types of books are helpful in that they help spark imagination for creatively living out a life of following Jesus.

Finally, three other books I read that were very influential were..

On the topic of discipleship, The Call of Jesus, by Derek Worthington.  Derek is a pastor of one of the Trinity Grace parishes in NYC.  The ideas in this books have permeated the culture of Trinity Grace.  It's a short but excellent read on what discipleship looks like.

On the topic of organizational health, The Advantage, by Patrick Lencioni.  Patrick spoke at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit this year. He spoke on the contents of this book.  It was my favorite from the conference, and now our Leadership Team at NC has been reading it together.

And on the topic of church, The Spirit-Filled Church, by Terry Virgo.  This book deals with the Holy Spirit's role in starting, growing, and empowering the Church for God's mission.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

2012 Top Ten Lists - Music

With eMusic, Spotify, & Noisetrade, finding good music this year was not difficult.  Narrowing it down to a top 10 list...just a bit tougher.  But alas, here it is:

10.  All Sons & Daughters, Season One
Great vocals, musicality and lyrics.  I did this song at NC a couple of weeks ago.

9.  Vespers, The Fourth Wall
We saw this band at Otherlands this year.  Great music.  They're really young, which you can kind of tell when they're on stage, but it also makes it even more amazing considering the talent they all have.  Watch this and you'll see what I mean.


8.  Derek Webb, Ctrl
I don't know if Webb will release an album I don't like.  His new one is great, but what is even greater is the acoustic version, which I got for FREE on Noisetrade.  It's still there, so do yourself a favor and download it.

7.  Rend Collective Experiment, Homemade Worship by Handmade People
So glad I discovered these guys.  Check out their story here.

6.  The Lighthouse and the Whaler, The Lighthouse and the Whaler
One of my best Noisetrade finds.  I don't know if I would have ever heard of them if I hadn't found them there.  This is one of those albums where just about every song is either a 4 or 5-star on iTunes.

5.  Trinity Grace, We Sing As One
This is the newest album from Trinity Grace Church in NYC.  The song "We Sing As One" is one of my favorite songs of the year.

4.  The Head and the Heart, The Head and the Heart
I was in line at Starbucks one day and saw their album next to the cash register.  It compared them to The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons (see below for both), so I knew I needed to check them out.  Great band.

3.  Eric Whitacre, Water Night
I'm sure that most of you are familiar with the majority of these artists, but perhaps composer/conducter Eric Whitacre is new to you.  I love choral music, especially like this.  Whitacre became famous through his virtual conducting.  This video features the beautiful Water Night.

2.  Mumford & Sons, Babel
I was looking forward to this sophomore release for awhile, and I was not disappointed!

1.  The Lumineers, The Lumineers
I assumed that Mumford & Sons would take the top spot this year, but then I discovered these guys.  I think I first saw them on Letterman or Jimmy Fallon.  I was hooked immediately.  Again, I love every song on this album.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Advent in light of Sandy Hook

Tonight our children will be in the worship gathering with us, so I've decided to make any comments about what happened on Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School very vague.  But I'm not trying to avoid it.  In fact, I believe all of us need to spend some time in deep reflection.  We should mourn, we should pray, and we should love.  And all of us should ask what role Jesus has to play with any of this.

The fact is, our world is very broken.  And it's not just the Adam Lanza's of the world.  We're all broken.  We all have a role to play.

I continue to fight the battle of moving on and trying to forget what has happened.  Each time that happens I feel the need to repent.  As Friday's events unfolded, and the facts of the story began to come out, my response, just like each of yours, was shock:  "How could this have happened???"  No answers.  I recognized right away that this tragedy impacted me far more than any of the others we've seen over the previous decade.  I guess it's a no-brainer why:  these were young kids, and I have children this age.  It could have just as easily been my children.

This tragedy impacted me more because it caused me to come face to face with the reality that as hard as I try to protect my kids and keep them safe, they are vulnerable to evil.  As a father, especially, this is very sobering, and difficult to swallow.

So what do I do with this reality?  For one, I turn back to the truth I know...

Just as we have had a role to play in the world's brokenness, so we also have a role to play in its binding up and being renewed.  The great news of Jesus is that not only did he come as a baby in the most humble of circumstances, he also lived the most beautiful, creative and free life that's ever been lived.  And not only did he then die a brutal and sacrificial death so that you and I don't have to face the penalty of our sins, he was also raised from the dead and is King of all things.

Jesus is not twiddling his thumbs up in heaven.  Neither is he fretting about what to do.  We see that in the Advent.  He entered into the mess.  Into the darkness.  Into our brokenness.  And he enters into it today as well.  He brought hope and peace then.  And he continues to bring hope and peace today.

Advent is the season of expectant waiting.  We expectantly wait for Jesus to enter into our humanity and brokenness.  And not just to enter but to do something about it.  We are reminded of that first Advent 2000 years ago, but we also long for that Advent today.  Come Lord Jesus.  We need you more than you realize.  Bring us the help that we desperately need.  Bring comfort, healing, hope & salvation.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Midtown Prayer Collective - Some Reflections

We are coming close to the halfway point of our season of prayer, so I thought I would share some reflections.  For the backstory of the MPC, go to or

First, I've been so encouraged not only by the turnout but also by the hearts of those who have been coming.  We have a huge wall that people have been writing on over the last two weeks.  Here's how the wall looked 2 weeks ago.

And here's how it looked as of a few days ago.

There have been deep longings for God, cries for help, and passionate prayers for our city.  I have a strong belief that God hears and is responding to those prayers.

Second, I love the communal aspect of this season of prayer.  Each time I go in I start by reading the wall above.  I also take time to read the communal prayer journal.  Again, such rich prayers and praise to God.  I love seeing what God is doing through this time.  I don't know the bulk of these people, but I know that we're in this together, and that brings me such encouragement and hope.

I also love the fact that we made the prayer room large enough for groups to be in there.  That was my buddy John Carroll's idea, and he was right on.  I've prayed with my wife, my kids, my team at NC, and my fellow pastors here in Midtown.  New dynamics of friendship and partnership rise when we spend time together in prayer.  I have seen that played out over and over again.  Tomorrow night I'll be praying at 11pm with some of the pastors who started this.  I can't wait to seek God with them.

Next, as much as I love to be with people in the prayer room, I also love being there alone, or better, just me and God.  I signed up for an afternoon spot yesterday, and almost forgot about it.  But when my alarm reminder went off an hour before I was supposed to be there, I started wrapping up my work and headed over.  Normally, stopping in the middle of a busy day to pray for an hour would not be in my schedule.  I know, I'm a pastor, but if I'm honest I have to say that prayer, or at least this kind of sustained prayer, has not been a habit in my life.

But my hour went by so fast, and it was such a great way to refocus and re-energize.  One of the things I did was to take the sign-in notebook that is at the entrance of the room.  Every time someone comes in, they write in the date, their name, and their church.  I picked that up, went into one of the corners, and prayed for everyone from my church who has been in there.  I just went line by line.  I prayed very specific prayers for my congregation.  I also prayed for sister congregations and their leaders.  I felt as if I was engaging in the most important activity I could do at that moment.

I find it easier to pray in this space, and I believe that's the case because we prayed for this.  We told him that we would dedicate this space and this time, and we asked him to meet us here.  God honors these kinds of prayers because he loves being with his children, and he loves responding to desperate prayers.

Finally, if you're reading this and are taking part in this season of prayer, I encourage you to share your reflections with someone.  Perhaps you've been once or twice and have had a good experience.  Share that.  Or maybe you haven't.  Share that as well.  Maybe your time there has been difficult.  If that's you I hope that you'll keep going.  Set some goals as to how many times you'd like to be in there over these final three weeks.  Decide when you'll be there by yourself and when you'll be there with others.  And then ask God to meet you there.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Let Your Kingdom Come

A few months ago I started watching the show Breaking Bad.  This is one of the most spiritually intense shows I've seen in awhile, but I'll save those thoughts for another post.

I'm in season 2, and last night I watched an episode called "Peekaboo."  In this episode one of the main characters, Jesse, is on a desperate quest to get money back that was stolen from a crackhead couple.  Jesse gets to their house, begins psyching himself up, and then breaks into the house.  No one is there, so after looking around for his money he sits down on the couch to wait.  A little time goes past, and he hears a door open.  Out walks a little boy, maybe 3 or 4 years old.  He's quiet, he's dirty, he's little, and most of all, he's alone.  The boy walks over to the tv and turns it on.  It's a QVC-type channel with a man selling a knife set.

Jesse asks him if he'd rather watch Mister Rogers or something like that.  No response, so Jesse goes over to the tv and flips the channel.  Nothing but static.  Next channel: static.  On and on like this until he gets back to the shopping channel.  So he goes to sit back down by the little boy.  Finally the boy opens his mouth and says, "I'm hungry."  So Jesse goes and fixes him the little bit of food he finds in the house. And then he continues to wait.

Finally the parents come back, and you quickly see what terrible people these are.  They leave their little boy alone.  They don't bathe him.  They don't take care of him.  They don't parent him. This saddened me and angered me.  And I know this is a fictional story, but there are kids like this in our city and throughout our world.  And if this saddens and angers me so much, I wonder how it makes God feel.

Here's what is even sadder.  If something doesn't change for this child; if someone doesn't step in, then the chance is good that he'll end up like his parents.  And I can be mad at these "parents" all I want, but what was their childhood like?  Was it similar?  We live in a broken world.  What God intends for us has not happened.  The Bible says that we are all guilty of violating Shalom (wholeness, peace,welfare).

Now Jesse, who flirts back and forth between good and evil (one of the great things about the show), wants to do something for this kid, but he too has violated Shalom.  He's a drug dealer, so he can't get too involved.  So he calls 911, sets the kids outside, and then leaves.

God's Kingdom is here.  It was ushered in with Jesus.  But it's not here as it will one day be here.  And until that time, we join with God in His rescue plan.  We work and we pray.  I'm grateful to be a part of the Midtown Prayer Collective.  This season of prayer gives me the opportunity to press into God, to seek His face, and to pray something like this:

God, let Your Kingdom be as evident here in Memphis as it is in Heaven.
Grant us the privilege of being a part rescuing work.
We pray for spiritual rescue.
For physical rescue.
For emotional rescue.
Here we are, God.
Send us!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

NYC & City Collective Pt. 2

Yesterday I posted some highlights from our time in NYC.  Today I want to share a little about the City Collective Gathering.  I could write long posts about each session.  All were worthwhile.  But since reflection time is hard to come by, for now I want to share about one.

First, a little background on Trinity Grace:  Jon Tyson, who is originally from Australia, moved to New York City along with several other families if I remember correctly, seven or eight years ago.  They started what is today Trinity Grace Upper Westside.  Over these eight years that church has grown to five churches, but this network is different from most other church planting networks.  

In one of the sessions our first day Jon shared the moment that changed so much for him:  It was the day he felt God say that there were all of these guys in their city who were trying to start similar kinds of churches, and there was a ton of competition going on.  What if, instead of competing, they worked together?

What has happened as a result is that several church planters, some who came as a result of this vision and others who ended up partnering after the fact, have submitted their personal vision to a more shared one.  Together they have identified the neighborhoods in the city that need churches, and they have set out to plant neighborhood parishes there.  Each of these has their own planter/pastor and leadership teams.  Each church takes on the characteristics of both the neighborhood and the leadership.  But that’s where the similarities to “normal” church planting end.

Each of these churches/pastors is connected to the larger group.  The pastors meet together once a week for prayer, relationship, planning, etc.  They are speaking into one another’s lives.  Church planting is difficult, but these guys (and their wives) know that they’re not alone.  When planting a new parish, there is already movement and it becomes much easier to gather that initial core.  The core has already been living in the neighborhood, and it just makes sense that a new parish be established.

They also have what they call their Central Ministries Team.  It’s what we at NC would call the Macro.  They have discovered that there is no need for every church to have unique systems such as accounting, legal management, payroll, media, etc.  All of these are important, but anyone who has ever planted a church knows that it is these things that can consume time and energy and distract from more crucial things.  Trinity Grace has found that centralizing these macro functions allows each church to focus its time and energy on ministry and mission.  

Here are the three big takeaways I had from this:

First, many leaders can’t do this.  If it’s not their thing, or their church’s thing, then they don’t want to be a part of it.  More than anything, that is sad to me.  And I know I’ve been guilty of it at times as well.  But I don’t want to be any longer.  I want to seek out partnerships with other leaders and other churches.  What I saw from the neighborhood pastors was extreme humility.  Whenever I got to talk to them individually, I was asking questions about how they related to one another, how they got over their egos, and how they developed trust together.  Without that humility and trust, this doesn’t work. 

Second, my heart longs to be a part of something like this.  The Midtown Prayer Collective is all about this.  If we’re going to stand together around something, let it be prayer.  As we do this, I believe God will open up some new realities for us.  I hate the competition I feel in the church world.  I have a deep belief that we are better when we are together.  I believe every neighborhood is different and should be approached differently, according to the context.  But I also believe that can happen in a more “together” way than it’s currently happening.  This “together” needs to be defined differently at different levels of relationship, but I am praying and dreaming that God would allow our churches in Midtown to be a part of this redefining.  I’m not sure what it will look like, but even that excites me.  We need something new and fresh.  One of my prayers during this season of prayer is that God would surprise me/us.  This would fall under that category.

Finally, over the last year the leaders of our church have had a lot of conversations about the micro and the macro.  We’ve done it primarily in the context of our micro churches and our macro church (what they would call a parish).  But this thinking also flows up to a network of neighborhood parishes.  In our context, we’ve become more and more convinced that a lot of what we have always done in the macro (finances, mission, membership, etc) makes much more sense and is much more effective in the context of micro.  So we’ve begun to redefine what these things look like.  And then we’ve sought to determine what is left.  What things still work best in the macro context?  These would be things like celebration and worship times, vision casting, coaching leaders, legal and tax issues, and larger mission projects.  

I’m excited and hungry to go deeper into this path, but I’m also thankful that we’re already on the path.  I believe that we’re set up for a new paradigm of ministry that is needed in our city.  

Monday, October 15, 2012

NYC & City Collective

One of the more difficult things about going to a conference is that when you get home you have so much to catch up on that you neglect reflection time.  That's been the case with me.  But better late than never, so here goes.

Until last weekend neither Mandy nor I had ever been to New York City.  A few months ago we found out about the City Collective Gathering hosted by Trinity Grace Church, and decided that we needed to go.

We started last Friday morning with a nonstop flight from Memphis to JFK.  It's not everyday that you get an inexpensive nonstop flight out of our city, so we were very pleased by that.  We got to attend a Citywide Worship event that evening.  From what I heard there were around 12 churches there.  It was great heart prep for the Midtown Prayer Collective, which kicked off the day we got back in town.

Saturday morning we rented bikes and rode in Central Park, which was a block away from where we were staying.  Central Park is an awesome place, and one of the highlights was coming to Bethesda Fountain and hearing the beautiful arrangement of Amazing Grace I had ever heard.  I found a video of them (The Boyd Family) singing Ave Maria on Youtube, but just know that the video doesn't do the live performance justice.  The acoustics in this place were amazing.

Here's a picture of the two of us there at Bethesda Fountain.

On Saturday afternoon we went to see Ricky Martin in Evita. Actually, Ricky Martin is not the reason we went.  It was my cousin William Waldrop, who is the assistant conductor.  He actually conducted the performance we saw.  Very proud of William!  Later that evening we went to Serendipity.  This one was on Mandy's list, and I have to say she looked extremely cute drinking her frozen hot chocolate!

Sunday began with the Highline Park, then Ground Zero, which was very moving.  That evening we went to Trinity Grace's Upper Westside parish, and then the conference kicked off with a rooftop reception at 230 Fifth.  We had an amazing view of the Empire State Building and spent some time with new church planting friends from Detroit.  To top it off, there were red snuggies.  I know it will disappoint you when I say I didn't wear one, but know that I did sit on one.

And that brings us to conference highlights, but I'll save that for another post, since this one is getting rather long :)

Friday, October 12, 2012


I hate I missed this yesterday, but here's a story that Mandy told me about a little episode from our boys.

Yesterday the three of them went to the Pumpkin Patch with Aunt Megan and Miss Olivia (the boys' baby cousin).  They put together a scarecrow.  Later on in the day they were finishing the last touches on the scarecrow, and Mandy asked them about a name.  Here's what happened in the next 20 seconds...

Micah suggested the name Senorita
Adam laughed at this
Micah ripped Senorita in half as a sign of his displeasure with his brother
Adam hit Micah as he was angry that Micah wasted his efforts in making Senorita
Micah spit at Adam
Adam spit back at Micah
Micah kicked Adam
Mandy jumped in to break up the fight

And then it was over, but quickly followed by 20 minutes of conflict resolving, punishments, and repairing Senorita.

Boys are fun!

Here's a picture of Micah and Senorita.

And lest you think all brothers do is fight, here's a very sweet picture of them together.

When God Changes a Heart

I posted a few months ago about Adam becoming a Christian.  I just wanted to give a quick update on how things have been going.  Sometimes I think I forget that God truly brings transformation to a heart that is open.  Adam is seven, so it's not like he had this sordid past that has now been changed.  But I've still seen transformation.  He is very open to the things of God.  Open as well as interested.  He's been reading a lot of the Bible, memorizing Scripture, and just yesterday we got Sally Lloyd-Jones' new book, Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing.  She's the author of the Jesus Storybook Bible, which I recommend to everyone, whether you have children or not.  This is him reading last night instead of eating.

What I love is that this is not religion.  Adam didn't become a Christian and then we started telling him all of the things he now needs to do to prove himself to God.  No, God actually changes hearts.  Yesterday he was reading about the difference between trusting and trying when it comes to God.  He understands that he can trust God, and didn't realize that some people think they have to try when it comes to God's love and approval.  That truth only comes from God.  How do I know that?  Because the lie that we have to prove ourselves to God (religion) is so pervasive.

One more story...

Wednesday night we kicked off the Midtown Prayer Collective with a night of worship and prayer.  It went from 7:30 until 9:00, but because fall break started yesterday, we decided to let the kids stay up and go.  Micah was pretty fidgety, but Adam, though he was tired, was pretty caught up in it all.  Yesterday morning I asked him what he thought about the night.  His response: I loved it!

I am so thankful to God for that.  Let me say it again.  I am so full right now because of what God is doing in Adam's heart.  I will not take that for granted, and I will allow God to do a work in my heart as a result.  He's a good God, and He's an active God.  I pray that during this season of prayer we will all place ourselves in a posture where we can receive from Him.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Some Links

Michael Hyatt on why you should take up the practice of journaling - I began journaling when I was in high school.  My current journal is a 120-page single-spaced Word doc that I began 12 years ago.

CNN says that 2013 will be a year of crisis

N.T. Wright weighs in on the issue of homosexuality - If it's complex to Wright, then I feel pretty comfortable saying it's complex to me

Lifehacker's guide to getting an incredible education for free online

Mark Batterson's 17 Leadership Laws - great stuff here

Table of Contents and sample chapter of Tim Keller's new book on cities - our micro churches have just finished up his 8-week study Gospel in Life, and I imagine that it's whetted some appetites for more of his work.

Finally, this month marks the arrival of new albums from The Avett Brothers and Mumford & Sons.  In case you can't wait, though, the entire Avett Bros album is streaming here, and you can listen to several songs from Mumford & Sons' album here. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

The Midtown Prayer Collective

Every so often a tiny spark of an idea begins to catch flame and take on a life of its own...

Several months ago I had the idea to create a prayer room and set it aside for a week of 24/7 prayer for our church.  I couldn't shake the idea, so I began praying about it.  It may sound weird, but I felt that this was one of the 2 or 3 BIG things that I was going to give my year to.  It then hit me that this would be a great opportunity to invite other local churches into it.  I shared it with Mandy, then with our leadership team, then with a couple of pastor friends.  Each conversation revealed more of an open door, and so we continued to walk.

After several more conversations this tiny spark of an idea has turned into the Midtown Prayer Collective.  It's much bigger than Neighborhood Church (7 churches so far that I'm aware of), and it's turned into longer than a week.  At 7:00 on Wednesday, October 10, at Lifelink Church (1015 S. Cooper), we're going to gather for a time of corporate prayer and worship.  At 9:00 our first hour of prayer will begin.  838 hours later (on Wednesday, November 14) we'll celebrate all that God has done.

The idea is that each of those hour-long slots is filled with someone.  And it's not limited to one person either.  But we know that every hour of every day for a little over a month, the saints of God are praying.  You may feel that praying for an hour is an impossible task, but when you step into this prayer room and observe the beauty and the promptings towards prayer, the time is going to go by quickly.  Not quite buying that?  Well then read this.

Jon Tyson, from Trinity Grace Church in NYC, was in Memphis last fall.  He spent a few hours with some of us, and, though he said a ton of helpful stuff, one thing he said truly haunted me.  He said that the American Church has tried everything but radical prayer.  Jon is from Australia, so he can say something like that.  He knows that the Church here has had more resources than any period of church history before.  This has led to great creativity and at times decent fruit, but have we lost a sense of desperate dependence for God to do what only He can do?  Do we still dream about what things could look like if God had His way in our lives, our churches, and our cities?

I am so ready to be surprised by God.  I am so ready to look at what is going on and know beyond a shadow of a doubt that there is no way that would have happened without God stepping in.  I'm growing dissatisfied for the status quo of church, and I thank God for that.  My prayer is that a passion for Jesus and a faith to believe for the seemingly impossible would be stirred up in our city.  We need this more than we realize.

I'll leave you with a quote by Peter Greig, who wrote Red Moon Rising and The 24/7 Prayer Manual.
When we pray, we cannot guarantee how the glory of God will come, and when He does arrive it is often in a disguise that confounds our religious expectations of such an eagerly anticipated heavenly invasion.  But we should never doubt that God comes to those who humble themselves in faithful prayer. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

More from the Bible

I'm definitely not going to finish reading the Bible in 90 days, but I am most definitely going to finish it.  In the last 45 days I've read 12 books from the Old Testament (Joshua through Esther).  Once again, some thoughts:

  • Though there are still difficult things in the OT that I do not understand, or frankly, do not like, the big Story is coming together for me in a new way, and I find myself loving and appreciating God more.
  • The discipline of remembering is HUGE for the people of God.  We see it in those first few books of the Bible, then again in Joshua (much of this is directed towards Joshua himself, who is challenged by God to be of great courage and remember how He had worked through Moses).  One of my favorite stories about this is found in Joshua 3-4.  In fact, Joshua is one of my heroes in the OT because his life was marked by a trust in God and an obedience that naturally flowed from this trust.  When things begin going downhill (in Judges and then beyond), what we see is God's people forgetting who they are and more importantly who God is
  • Obedience is a BIG deal, and it's a big deal because of two reasons.  First, we are not who we once were.  We've been chosen, adopted, redeemed, blessed, etc (Eph 1), and therefore we're called to live differently.  God is worthy of this.  The way we live should be a worship response to how He's acted on our behalf.  Second, though, and this comes out so clear through the OT story, we are called to obey because it's the best thing we could ever do.  God has thought about His plans for us, and though they don't always make sense (there's a difference between finite beings and an infinite being), we show ourselves to be wise when we follow God's plans and obey.  And when we disobey, there are consequences.  Going back to Joshua, I find it so interesting, and comforting, to see God saying four times to him to "be very careful" to obey me.  Inertia (or perhaps our human nature) leads us to disobedience.  We're going to have to flow upstream if we want to live according to God's commands.
  • What separated good kings from bad kings was their level of obedience, often through simple things.  You see this theme reflected in Saul and David, but it continues throughout the next few centuries (see 1 & 2 Kings).
  • It's important to remember that we can serve and worship God or we can serve and worship some other god (an idol), but we can never worship both.  One or the other. Always.  We get a choice, but we have to choose.
  • So far, Judges is the most depressing book I've read.  It's so sad that a people, God's people, could forget all that he had done for them and worship other gods.  But one thing I've learned over these past weeks is that I am just as prone.
  • As much as I like Joshua, my favorite is David.  I taught through his story last summer, and I love his love for God.  I love his dependence, his courage and his tenacity.  And I love the fact that he failed big time, but he humbled himself, confessed his sin as sin, and was restored.  And in the end he was known by God as a man after God's own heart.  Speaking of David, reading through his story reminded me that I did not touch much on his later years when I taught through his life.  I need to come back to this soon.  It would be interesting to look at principles of good leadership through his life.
  • The mantle of leadership comes with a serious amount of responsibility.  As I finished reading King Solomon's story, I couldn't help but think that Israel's history could have looked very different had Solomon (and you could say this with the other kings of Israel & Judah) chosen to love, serve, worship and obey God.  The fact that he didn't meant not only withheld blessing to him but also to an entire nation.  The story goes downhill fast after Solomon.
  • This "downhill fast" part culminates with God's people in exile under Babylon and then Persia.  God is faithful, though.  Despite their continued rebellion, he forgives, restores, and works in mighty ways.  Ezra and Nehemiah tell the story of the exiles coming back home and trying to restore what they once had. There is a heightened awareness of the importance of trust and obedience, and we see an encouraging display of leadership through these men.
  • My last thought, and this is a challenge and hopefully a word of encouragement.  If you've avoided the Old Testament because of issues that confused or even disturbed you, I hope you will take a second look.  We are of course so removed through culture and time, but knowing this story helps me to understand the entire story, and I find myself getting excited to get to Jesus

There's much more that I could write, but hopefully this whets your appetite a bit.  According to my Kindle I'm 40% of the way through the Bible.  Next up...the Prophets (I'm going to come back to the Wisdom Literature).

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Willow Creek Leadership Summit

Mandy and I attended our first Willow Creek Leadership Summit in 2000, just a few days after we had moved to the SF Bay Area.  It was a great way to begin our new life there.  The next time we went was 2006, just seven months after we had moved to Memphis.  Today we got to go again.  It was great to be there with Mandy.  We get to process what we are learning and how we can apply it to Neighborhood Church, but Mandy gets to apply it to everything that she is now doing with education advocacy as well.

When I go to conferences like these, my hope is to come away with a few big ideas.  The first big idea today was not anything new.  It was something I had heard before, something that had definitely been a big idea before. And fortunately, it was something that I've been putting into practice since I heard it.  But it was a great reminder.  It has to do with self-leadership, and it was from Bill Hybels.  He's had a practice for some time now to list the six top things he wants to commit to working on over the next six weeks.  These are things that are extremely important, but also things that, if not pursued with aggressive intentionality, will be left undone.  Over the past year I've been looking at things this way.  I've been asking questions like, "What one or two things do only I bring to the (NC) table?"  This was a great reminder to continue to develop this habit.

The second big idea came from Jim Collins.  His entire talk was great (based on his latest book Great By Choice), but one thing really stood out for me.  He said that the greatest danger for an organization is not failure.  Instead, it's to be successful, but to not have a clue as to why you are successful.  It caused me to ask a few questions about Neighborhood Church.  What does success look like at NC?  If we are successful, do I know what makes us this way?  What about our key leaders?  Do they know?  Is it one of those things that's so obvious that we never talk about it?  Or at least some of us think it's obvious.  If it's not obvious to everyone, and we're not talking about it in a way that it is creating common language within our culture, then we are in danger.  What's the danger?  It's that we won't play to our strengths, but more than that, Collins says that we won't be strong in those moments where strength is desperately needed (times of chaos).

Now this has nothing to do with just patting ourselves on the backs and ignoring obvious weaknesses.  It does, however, have everything to do with one of the main principles from his first book, Built to Last: "Preserve the Core/Stimulate Progress."  We have to know what those core values are; those unchanging principles that drive our organization whether we know it or not.  But it helps so much when we recognize and give words to it.  Because then we will have freedom to create, which leads to more innovation and progress.

I want to give more thought to this, but I do believe that it's a big thing for me.  I'm looking forward to another day of this.  Maybe one or two more big ideas!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Fireside Chat with Tim Keller

In my opinion, this is Tim Keller at his finest.  He shares his story, plus talks about controversial topics such as hell and creation/evolution.

Eric Metaxas and Tim Keller "Fireside Chat" from Brian McGee on Vimeo.

Saturday, July 14, 2012


On Thursday I realized that we didn't have much going on this weekend.  Since it's going to be awhile since we have another free weekend, and since my parents live in Midtown, I called Mandy and asked if she wanted to get away for the night.  I've been thinking about taking a trip to Oxford for awhile now, and once Mandy said she was up for it, we decided to go.  It turned out to be a great way to celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary.

Yesterday afternoon we checked into the 5 Twelve Bed & Breakfast.  Gotta say that it was top notch.

Here's a picture of it.

After checking in, we headed to the Square.  Stop #1 was Square Books, a great independent bookstore I'll be visiting again.

After that was the tricky decision on where to eat.  We had heard great things about City Grocery and Ajax Diner.  In the end, after reading reviews on Yelp, we settled on Ajax.  Gotta say we made a good choice.  The sweet potato casserole was unbelievable.

After a restful evening and a great breakfast this morning, we headed to Rowan Oak, the home of William Faulkner.  I confess I couldn't remember much about Faulkner from my English classes, but after reading up on him on Wikipedia, I was ready to go.  I love the fact that his home is in a normal neighborhood.  "Normal" might not be the best word, since there are some beautiful historic homes all around, but it's not set off by itself.

We were there for just 24 hours, but it was such a refreshing time.  Travel is one of those things that definitely refills my tank.  Two more pics:  the first is me with Mr. Faulkner, the second is me with the lovely Mandy Grisham.  We will definitely be making this trip again!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Good News of Jesus

Last night Adam told God that he wanted to become a Christian.  Here's how it went down...

After our micro church meeting Mandy went out, and I gave the boys a bath.  During bath time Adam started talking to me about using his money to help poor people.  He said that he felt bad that sometimes he didn't have his money with him when someone asked for money.  But then he took it a step farther by saying that he made a mistake once when someone asked for money.  That time he did have some, but he was on his way to the store to buy something, so he didn't give it.  He felt sad about this.  We talked about it, I gave him the synopsis of When Helping Hurts (not really but kind of), I told him that God loved him no matter what, and that I was proud of him for thinking about what it looks like to help people in need.

While Micah settled in for a show before bedtime, Adam said that he wanted to read the Bible with me.  He picked up his topical Children's Bible and turned to the chapter called "How to Go to Heaven."  In the first sentence was the word "Christian."  He said, "Addie Mae (his cousin) is a Christian.  Why can't I be a Christian?"  I asked him if he wanted to be a Christian, and then if he knew what a Christian was.  Response was Yes and Yes.

My initial thought was to let him think about it and then Mandy and I would talk to him today.  But he kept asking questions.  He also started confessing his sins.  There was truly conviction over ways that he had hurt God and other people.  We went to the water park with our micro church a couple of weeks ago.  Our family stayed overnight in a hotel.  Mandy was sick during the night, and Adam said that he should have been praying for her but he didn't.

There was more talk about sin and how it pushes us farther from God, even more about God's love and the fact that he sent Jesus to rescue us and forgive us from all of that sin, and how we can receive this love and give our lives to God by following Jesus.  There were questions about what it looks like practically to follow Jesus.

The more we talked, the more I knew that he was ready.  So I asked him if wanted to pray.  He said that he did.  I first asked him if he wanted me to pray, then he'd repeat.  He said that he'd rather just do it himself.  So he prayed.  He needed help a couple of times, but it was a beautiful and honest prayer to God.  And my belief about God tells me that Adam is now a Christian.  We talked a bit more, then he called Mandy to tell him (she was also 7 when she became a Christian - that made Adam smile very big).

I am so thankful that God has revealed himself to Adam.  This is an answer to a prayer that we (and others) have been praying since Adam was born.

During this conversation Micah came in once to see what we were doing.  I said to him, "Adam is going to become a Christian."  His response: "What do I get to turn in to?"  I asked him if he wanted to stay in with us, and he said, "No, I'm going to go watch my show."  He's 4.  We have more time.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Bible in 90 Days

About a month ago I came across a Kindle book titled The NIV Bible in 90 Days.  As the title so cleverly implies, the book is a plan that allows you to read the entire Bible in 90 days.  Though I've tried it a couple of times, I've never been successful with a one year reading plan, so one would think that this would be more challenging.  Perhaps that's right in some ways, but I actually thought it might be easier.  It's only 90 days, right!

So on June 2, which was right at the end of our California Adventure, I decided to begin.  I'm almost 30 days in, and have just finished the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Bible).  I've missed a few days and therefore most likely won't finish in 90 days, but I've really enjoyed it.

Here are some thoughts on the first five books:

  • The story is all about Covenant.  It's a covenant between God and man.  You could say that one of the primary story lines in this narrative is God's desire for relationship with his creation.  You first see this word in God's dealings with Noah after the flood.  It then becomes a primary theme with Abraham.  And then it's all throughout Israel's wanderings in the wilderness.  For all of the crazy stuff (see two bullet points down), there are some really beautiful passages about covenant and these rebellious people being his treasured possession.
  • God wants his people to trust him, and for that trust to then overflow to obedience.  God was very present in these stories.  He made his intentions and desires very clear, explaining in detail that following him would to blessing, while going their own way (rebellion) would be disastrous.
  • The Bible is filled with some crazy stories.  Some of them are encouraging (I love Joseph's story), but some of them challenging, even downright troubling.  I don't always know what to do about that.  I realize that's why a lot of people don't want to read the Bible, especially the Old Testament.
  • I actually enjoyed reading through Leviticus.  The laws are very tedious, and a lot is repeated, but I was reminded that there was a specific purpose for all of it.  God was forming a people.  His people.  And they were to look like no other nation.  They would be different from Egypt (where they came from) as well as Canaan (where they were heading).  The thing I was struck with is the fact that God thought this thing through.  He had a plan, and he called these people to that plan.
  • God is really big and does he wants.  That can seem scary at times, but I'm also so grateful for it.
  • God is loving.  Being big and being loving and the same time is an awesome combination.  One without the other is no good.
  • The good guys aren't always that good.  Again, a little troubling, but also refreshing
  • The sexual ethics are strange.  There are a whole lot of people you can't sleep with (sister, mom, step-mom, aunt, sister-in-law, neighbor's wife, a woman and her daughter at the same time, another man, and an animal).  So, yes, it's kind of strange that it goes into that much detail.  What's even stranger to me, though, is that it doesn't just say, "only have sex with your spouse."  Pre-marital sex (& polygamy) seemed to be tolerated more in that culture than today.  Again, part of this goes back to the fact that all of these things were tolerated in the land where they were heading, and God was calling them to be different.  Still, though, it's strange.
  • I'm reminded once again that the people who killed Jesus were a lot like me, or I should say that I would have been a lot like me.  Jesus broke some pretty serious laws.  (If you want to hear my take on this, and don't mind listening to me talk for 30 minutes, go here).
  • God is very concerned with orphans, widows, those who have been oppressed, and immigrants.
  • Jubilee, though it was probably never realized, sounds awesome.  I wonder if that's what heaven will be like!

That's enough for now.  I start Joshua tomorrow.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Busy but Free Heart

Life has gotten a little chaotic as of late.  Real Estate has been keeping me very busy.  School is just about out for the boys.  We leave for our two week California Adventure next Tuesday.  Always so much to do.  So I ask myself once again, "How is my heart?"  I can be a workaholic.  I can push through some long hours and get a pretty good high from it.  But just as quickly I can pick up the scent of a frantic and stressed out heart.  I've noticed that several times over the last few weeks.

My remedy:  Take 10 minutes.  Turn off the phone and the computer.  Turn down the lights.  Close my eyes.  Be still.  Remind myself of the Father's love for me - that right now in this moment, He is very fond of me!  Remind myself of all that He is doing in my life; in my family; in my church; in my city.  Remind myself of His never-ending blessings and provision.  Remind myself that I don't have to be in control, and that it's actually better if I'm not.  The Spirit of God does a MUCH better job of directing the affairs of my life than I do.

This isn't some magic button to push that makes problems go away. But it's pretty remarkable what happens when I do this.  In these moments I'm fighting for my joy, I'm guarding my heart, and I'm intentional about speaking the Gospel to myself.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Practicing the Way of Jesus 2

Here's a great video intro to the book our micro church is going through

Friday, April 20, 2012

Practicing the Way of Jesus

There wasn't any intentionality in this, but apparently I've been fasting from blogging.  Not saying that it's about to completely change, but I did want to post this today.

Since the beginning of the year, our church has been walking through the life of Jesus.  It's been a great time of learning and growth for me, and one of the biggest takeaways from it has been the fact that Jesus modeled the way that life was meant to be lived.  He lived a life of beauty, creativity and freedom.  He wasn't a slave to sin or people's expectations.  He never missed moments, and he was the most dependent (on God) person who ever lived.

Here's what's amazing, though.  He did more than model this life.  If that's all he had done, then woe is me, because I would have constantly flip-flopped between pride and despair.  On days I did well, I would think pretty highly of myself.  But on the days when I fell short, which would be most days, I would quickly lose heart.  So Jesus did more than model life.  He also invited us into his life (Matthew 11:28-29).   

It's one thing to believe that a different way of living life is possible.  Actually living it out is something entirely different.  The belief piece is hugely critical, but it can't stop there.  We have to have opportunities to practice.  And we need a community of people to practice with.  I am grateful that I have both.

My micro church at NC just started reading a book together, but it's not a typical discussion group.  The book is Practicing the Way of Jesus, by Mark Scandrette.  We had the first of six sessions on Wednesday night.  Each week we are going to be embarking on a 7-day experiment.  This week's experiments are on the topic of security.  Some of the experiments that our community members are taking on are:
  • Gratitude - writing down 10 things each day (with no repeats) that we're thankful for
  • Time/Money Journal - I do this already with money, so I thought I would do it with time.  I downloaded this spreadsheet template and am keeping up with what I am doing in 30 minute increments.  It's going to be very telling.
  • Sabbath - taking a day (or half day) of rest
  • Simplify - live off less than you currently spend in a week, and give away what you didn't spend
  • Buy fair trade and local - Mandy and I are doing this as well.  We're educating ourselves this week.  I'm very excited to make some changes in this area.
I believe that Jesus offers something different from the world.  But I believe that we need to heed what Paul said in Romans 12 - fight conformity to the pattern of this world.  We're creatures of habit, and our inclination is to drift.  We're going to have to fight conformity, and lean into God and one another for real change.  I'm grateful to Jesus for modeling and inviting, and, once again, I'm grateful for the community that God's allowed me to be a part of.