I'm sitting at Aroma's, and over heard some advertising folks talking. Their conversation turned to churches. I listened intently (is that wrong?). Anyway, I had an opportunity to introduce myself and The Journey to these three folks. One asked, "Why do people need The Journey?" That's the first time I've been asked that. What a great question. I wrestled with it for a moment, and came to the following conclusion: people don't need The Journey. People need Jesus the Messiah. That said, The Journey exists to introduce our community and the world to Him. As you look at the demographic of Lubbock, you find that there is no explosive faith-growth, no great awakenings, no great revivals. The closest thing to an explosive faith-community is The Heights Fellowship, who has grown from 32 people in Fall of 2002 to having 800 on Easter of this year. But still, Lubbock County has 250,000+ people. Statistics show that around 200,000+ are not connected to a faith community, being either non-Christ followers, or disconnected Christ-followers. So, The Journey exists to love and connect them without expecting them to "come to us." We're going to the community in an effort to just love and value people reguardless of their world-view. The Journey exists to live among our community as Jesus would, embracing people and cherishing God. I believe that this kind of faith-living will spawn a movement bigger than Lubbock. I believe that this kind of faith living will change the culture of Lubbock and the world. I believe this kind of faith living is what the early church did. And ultimately, I believe that this kind of faith living brings honor, glory, and fame to our Master. If The Journey stays 10 people in size, but is used to change the world, to lower the divorce rate, to lower crime rates, to raise people's awareness to social injustice, and to introduce everyone they meet to The Creator of life, I'll be well pleased. It's not about raking in a huge number of church hoppers, it's about introducing everyone to Christ, and letting Him draw all people to Himself. So, in short (I know, you wish at this point that I'd started with "in short" and saved you all this time of reading...) In short, people don't need The Journey. They need Jesus, and that's why we exist.
This morning, while attending worship at The Heights Fellowship, I was hit with an interesting perspective. Mike Martindale, the Pastor at The Heights Fellowship, mentioned something about the character of Joseph, husband of Mary, and step-father of Jesus. Mike mentioned that Joseph was the only person in history to be able to boss God around! It was pretty funny to think about Joseph telling God (Jesus) to take out the trash or clean up the wood shop...but it really got me to thinking about the unmeasureable amount of trust God placed in Joseph to raise His son. I'd never thought about that before. God really trusted Joseph to take care of, nuture, and guide Jesus through those adolescent years. The Bible is silent as to Joseph's presence beyond the birth and childhood of Christ, but we see alot of Joseph's character in the first couple chapters of Matthew. When faced with a pregnant fiance/wife, Joseph chose to waive his rights because of God's leadership. This was a man not given to knee-jerk reactions. He was a man of faith. As a carpenter, I imagine that he is a patient man, making careful measurements before cutting wood. I imagine him being a creative man. Through all we read of Joseph, he was the ideal dad. Even when he was faced with finding a place to sleep that night in Bethlehem, he didn't panic. he trusted. Now, I know, Jesus had to come through the line of David and Joseph fit that qualifications. I believe there was more to this than just the line of David. Think about it. There were 42 generations that Jesus could have been born into to meet that qualification, The "fullness of time," though, was to be the generation following Joseph. This morning, as I meditated on what Joseph did, how he lived, and how God felt about him, I was moved to be a man like Joseph. An even-keeled, patient, creative, man of faith who faces adversity in the counsel of God. If you'd like to hear Mike's sermon about "Surviving Christmas" with the thoughts on Joseph, click here.
I couldn't get one more picture into the last post, so I thought I'd place it here. It's pretty cool. While repelling our two normal faces (The Face and The Invert), we discovered another spot to go off. We haven't officially named it yet. We called it Orange Rope because we used Austin's bouncy rope, which was really freaky because when you lean back, the rope keeps giving! Anyway, we got Mike and Austin down on The Invert and Orange Rope and got a cool picture:
I just have to mention a great discovery that I had yesterday! It's not a divinely inspired moment, but it was heavenly. There is a new restaurant in town called Boogie-D's. It's a catfish place. Now, as way of background, I am a catfish enthusiast. Everywhere I have lived, and visited, I've explored the catfish venues in search of good catfish. From The Catfish Platter just across Lake Texhoma from Whitesboro, to Arlene's in Denison, to the little road-side catfish and gas station outside Meridian, Mississippi, to The old Iron Bridge Restaurant in the middle of nowhere, I know and love catfish. My Youth Minister was an old Cajun from West Monroe, LA., and he taught me about catfish, and could cook a mean breaded and deep-fried catfish. Well, when we moved to Lubbock, we heard of a restaurant called River Smiths, and heard that it was the best catfish around...but it's not. I'm not even sure that it is fresh. The breading is all wrong. It's just lacking. And, if that is the best Lubbock has to offer, I'd be driving 6 hours back towards Durant, OK., where the Catfish Platter serves up the best ever. As a matter of fact, my in-laws live near the Catfish Platter, and Dad turned us on to the place, spoiling us from any other catfish. In fact, The Catfish Platter is so good that when we lived in Garland, (NE Dallas), we would load up every Thursday and drive an hour and a half to eat there. My kids became catfish lovers at The Catfish Platter. If you get there after 5:00, you'll have an hour wait just to get in. But yesterday, Boogie D's rocked my world! It was fresh, even fishy tasting in the way that great catfish is. It was thick, white, and cooked just right. The hushpuppies were even jalepeno hush puppies, fried crunchy on the outside and soft in the middle! It was a ray of hope to my 2 or 3 times a year of getting great catfish. Don't get me wrong, The Catfish Platter is still king, but there's a new contender in town. And given the proximity, Boogie D's will be my catfish place of choice. If you're ever in Lubbock, give me a shout. I'll gladly take you there.
One of the things that recently has been inspiring me is the story of The Christ. On the night he was handed over, he had an inspiring (for me) encounter with his Heavenly Father. There in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus faced the same question that I face every day: "Will I submit to the will of the Father no matter the cost?" For hours Jesus agonized over what was about to happen to him. He who knew no sin was about to become sin for the sake of undeserving people. It transcends just the suffering aspect of it. And, the answer for Jesus is the same as it must be for all those who follow him, "Not my will, but Yours, Father." To call Christ "LORD" is to say that you've made that choice to always do His bidding regardless of the cost to yourself. And so it is for me every day. I am faced with choice after choice (none of which compare to the magnitude of Jesus' choice that night). Will I answer as The Christ did? Will I submit myslef and say, "Not my will, but Yours."? The eternity of humanity may not hang in the balance with my choice, but make no mistake, for those who are not yet followers of Christ who are watching me to see if God is worth their time, Their Eternity Hangs In The Balance. And my submission to God's will may very well be what makes or breaks the deal for them! Peace, Jase
Today I went through hours of old video footage. I watched the birth of our children, holidays, and some just plain non-sense. Jeremiah and Cayla watched with me. They were amazed at seeing themselves as babies. Jeremiah would just get to giggling as he watched "Baby Jeremiah." Cayla would just stare in disbelief. It was fun to look back. It set the mood for the day, too. Cayla was more lovey dovey than usual, and Jeremiah did stuff and would say, "I did that because I love you and want to be a good boy for you." Having performed Marcus and Katlyn's wedding tonight, and having spent the day thinking on family, Family has been on my mind. It's not too long until our kids are grown and gone. I've been reminded today that our children grow up so quickly, and we have precious little time to invest in them. Make the most of the time you have. So many things that seem important can truly wait. Our kids, however, don't put growing up on hold. Make time with your kids a value that supercedes work, and even your own play time. They won't forget it.
I had a conversation today with a lady that works at a coffee house. She was working when her replacement never showed up, leaving her in the lurch with lunch and childcare. By time I heard about it, I think she had gotten things squared away. I did approach her, though, and make myself available to "fill in" when something like this happens. With my history/experience of coffee making, and my presence at the coffee house, it seemed like a good idea. Anyway, she seemed touched by my offer. I hope that the next time they are strapped for help, she'll pull out my card and call me! Be praying for one of those moments where things get so crazy you have no idea what to do. You know the kind of moment where you'll call on anyone for help? Yeah, that's what I'm talking about. I hope that my presence will have been a positive one, and that they will trust me to help the next time they find themselves in a pickle.
Today I have crossed paths with many people, actually getting to talk to a few of them. Through conversations with new folks, and stories from old friends, and inspite of the migrain I've had all day, I've been inspired. Life will always have work to do. One of my friends reminded me that I will probably have to "work" until I'm 70 years old. Another friend recently lost his job, and his life is better for it (although he is working hard to find one, he says the stress of looking has been much easier than the stress his old job brought him!). Another person mentioned the hectic nature of life, and waiting on God to show you what's next. Another person mentioned that he has rediscovered his PS2, and is really digging the games he used to play. It seems like my whole day was filled with people dealing with work and life. Then, in the middle of my day, my wife and daughter showed up to have lunch with me. My daughter, Cayla, will be 4 in less than a month, and is the most articulate 4-year-old in the world. She is absolutely amazing. During lunch, we were talking about Spongebob Squarepants, and she was delighted to tell me about the episode she'd seen this morning. Next, it was off to Tumblebugs where she played "Feed the Lion" with her gymnastics teacher. As she is telling me each detail, I can feel my joy level rising. We laughed, and watched as my little girl reminded me that we need to play more. There will always be work to do, but life's uplifting moments seem to come when we are lost in a moment, like children at play. All of these people sweating life, me included, could learn a lot from listening to a 4 year-old talk about what's important to her. Sitting at Taco Bell/Pizza Hut, my little girl was reminding me about what's important. Isn't the life of faith this way, too? Sometimes we get so caught up in the "work of the kingdom" we forget that Jesus rolled on the ground with children. God is remarkably creative. I think He is remarkably playful, too. Don't sweat life. Play. Play with all your heart. Play like my kids who immerse themselves in the moment. Don't get me wrong. There is a time for work. But, as the old saying goes, "All work and no play makes Jason a very dull man." It also makes Jason a very stressed and unuseable man. By the way, my family just stopped back by Aroma's (where I office) to check on me, and Cayla brought me a picture she drew of me. She said it would make me feel better, and gave me a kiss.
I've never been good at it. I feel funny doing it. Asking for things has never been comfortable for me. And now God has placed me in the position to have to ask, and not just ask of Him, but of others, as well. What a place for a man to be. Is that what makes it hard to ask? Is it a manly pride thing? I think that's part of it, and part of it is "independent Jason." The Journey has progressed by leaps and bounds in the last week. We are officially incorporated, have a bank account, have a logo in hand, and are getting our plan for the new year ready. All of these things depended upon God providing them through others in miraculous ways. From lawyers to accountants, graphic artists to denominational leaders, so many people have stepped up and done what God wanted to happen. And I have continually been blown away. It has brought to mind some very wise words, "You have not because you ask not..." Does that only mean asking of our Father, or asking of others? I'm finding out that it may be both. God comes through in all kinds of ways. As I sit here this evening, thinking about all that is going to be happening, and the wild ride that has just begun, I'm making a resolution: I will ask for help from those who can give it. There's a precedent that has been set: God is calling the shots, and using His people to accomplish His work. I just need to ask. Swallowing my pride (*gulp*), I'll ask. I would encourage you to begin asking God for the impossible. It's been His business for years!
Have you ever met my wife? She is a truly amazing woman. In addition to putting up with me for almost 10 years (next month!), she takes care of the kids, manages our bills/money, and manages our home. She's truly extrodinary. I couldn't ask for a better friend or companion. What makes her amazing to me, though, is the way she has weathered the last six months. As many of you know, we have started a church here in Lubbock. It's something that God laid on my heart some time ago, and I'm just now getting around to it. The process hasn't been a big deal to me. I'm a dreamer/visionary by nature. I can see the finished product from the start. Money has never been an issue to me. Being from such a poor background, the money we've had in our lives is amazing to me. To my personality type, it's just money, and there's always money out there to be had. Caryn, however, is a details person. God knew what He was doing when He put a dreamer and a details person together. Caryn loves lists, organization, and effeciency. She accounts for every dime of our money, and needs to see the income because she knows the bills that await us. For me, the hardest part of planting The Journey was going to be two fold: making a living, and selling Caryn on the idea that we could make a living. She made that second issue a non-issue. And this is what is amazing about her: she knew it was what God was telling us to do, and in spite of her fears, she stepped out and trusted. She has been my biggest supporter and fan. I often kid her about being my biggest critic, but it's not true. She has offered to do what it takes to make this work, including selling our house, if need be. You must understand how much she loves our house. When we were trying to buy this house, someone kinda bought it out from under us with a cash offer to the previous owners. She was crushed, and actually cried and didn't want to talk about the house. A week later, when the cash offer fell through, we had another opportunity to buy, and the same thing happened again. She was even more crushed. Eventually, we had the house, and she has made it a home. It is a 2,000 square-foot house with 3-2-2, and it costs us less than the typical 2-bedroom apartment in town. It has a great back yard, and our kids have plenty of room to play and grow. And she was willing to let go of her dream house to chase God in our newest chapter of life. An amazing woman indeed. She has followed without complaint. She has supported without asking for anything in return. She has been my inspiration. The faith she has in Christ astounds me. Her confidence in me humbles me. And, I know that as she reads this, she's thinking that she's not really that worthy of praise or consideration... but she is. Caryn, I don't tell you enough that you amaze me. For all that you do in so many amazing ways, thank you. You are more than I could ever have hoped for in a wife. God's ultimate proof of His calling on my life has been that He gave me you as a partner. You are the greatest, and the words, "I Love You" don't say enough.
Well, many of you have e-mailed me or mentioned f-2-f that The Journey's website needs more than just a picture. So, I went out and bought Frontpage for Dummies, and have spent some time learning/reading/experimenting. Now, for your viewing pleasure, The Journey's web site is up and running. I know, you'll laugh when you see it, but it's not bad for an html illiterate, old guy! Click here to check it out: www.journeylubbock.org. Be sure to let me know what you think...
What a weekend. Let me try to catch you up on everything that has happened in the last 3ish days... As I've already mentioned, The Journey got a major boost of confidence and support when our friends at Mosaic in Arlington signed on to be our support church. As their pastor, Stephen, and I talked, we realized that last weekend would be an ideal weekend to come down, sign papers, and get things really rolling. We had our community meal here on Saturday, and then we would head for Arlington Saturday night. The community meal was great. Nathan and Elaine hosted the party and did a great job! In addition to the Futrells and my clan of 4, we had three other couples there. All total, our community meal had 12 in attendance! That's up from 8 at our last meal, and that is super! A special thanks to Austin, Andrea, "Fletch," and Candi for making the meal so enjoyable, and blessing us with their stories. We had steak and chicken shish-ka-bobs (sp?), garlic potatoes, fruit, bread, and cup cakes. We finished at 8 p.m. and loaded our clan into the car and headed out for the 5 hour drive to Alrington. With the blessed time change, We got in at 12:30 a.m. That would give us plenty of time to sleep as we prepared to visit with our friends at Mosaic for their worship gathering. Caryn's mom joined us. As always, it's great to have her along. She is such a pleasant and fun-to-be-with kinda person. And, it never hurts to have MeeMaw along for the kiddos. We worshipped with the Mosaic folks, and had a wonderful time. They have great leadership and a great worship space that is a drama/performing arts theater during the week. I was really encouraged when we walked in, and their worship space looks just like what I designed at Bacon, but in a full-blown fashion. Good stuff. I had the opportunity to share my vision with the "family" there in Arlington. Afterwards, we all went to eat at Mama's Pizza. What an awesome pie! Then, Stephen was graciuos enough to let us hang at his house for the afternoon. We went back to their Taste and See event that night, and shared fajitas with their potential new partners. Thanks, Mosaic folks, for a GREAT weekend. You have been great to our church and our family. Then, Monday, we met with the SBTC friend that gave me all the paperwork for The Journey to become "official." The SBTC has really been a blessing, too. They have invested in me, and have been so supportive of my vision. We couldn't do this with them, especially Terry Coy. He is a dear friend, and visionary in the SBTC church planting arena. Terry has made some invaluable resources available to us for The Journey. What a blessing! With all that happened this weekend, all I did was talk the whole way home. I couldn't stop, much to my wife's shagrin. She would drift off to sleep only to have me pop-off again about what God is doing...I'm surprised I made it home alive! The greatest thing, though, that I keep coming back to is something that God has been driving home in me since leaving Bacon Heights. Stephen has mentioned it a couple of times, as have others around me: Be encouraged. God has something special instore for me. When I left Bacon Heights, it was hard to bounce back and keep a positive attitude about the future. There was a nagging doubt in my head: Maybe you're done. Maybe God has finished with you, and you're done. But He has been faithful to me, as He always is. He has shown me time and time again since that point that I'm not done. I'm just getting started on a new chapter. And now, for so many people to hear my vision, and make an investment of their time and resources for this kingdom work has been a real encouragement. It's people I trust and respect saying, "You're not done. We believe in you." Rock on! Now, I've got so much on my mind that I'm having trouble figuring out what to do next! I think I mentioned this before, but my friend Nick reminded me that I am not forgotten. I am loved and esteemed by the Almighty. And now, we're journeying into the future, with a myriad of supporters, to change the world, to save the universe starting with Lubbock. Here we go...