An Open Letter to Rev. Franklin Graham from a “Small Church” Pastor

This is exceptional.

Trinity's Portico

Dear Frank

Can I call you Frank? This is just pastor to pastor. Feel free to call me Peter. Anyway, I have to say I was flattered when I learned that your Decision America Tour took a detour off the beaten path to call upon us “small community churches.” We are nothing if not small. We seat 30-40 on a good Sunday. And we are a century old fixture of our small community. Most often we are overlooked and overshadowed by mega-churches and politically influential religious voices like your own. We don’t hold a candle to an auditorium filled with the music of a one hundred voice choir led by professional musicians. We probably will never be recognized in any nationally syndicated media. After all, we don’t do anything really “newsworthy.” We just preach the good news of Jesus Christ; love one another the best we can (which sometimes isn’t…

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Project Gratitude – Caffeine Corner

Project Gratitude – Caffeine Corner

There are times that as a parent of a child who engages in extracurricular activities, there is plenty of time to kill. Tonight was such a night.

My son does parkour training four nights a week. Although the commitment seems a lot (eight hours per week), the responsibilities of taking him to and picking him up from practice are divided among my ex-wife, my daughter, and me. When you factor in this distribution, it’s really no big deal. Tonight, however, I had drop off AND pick up duties. As a result, I had some time on my hands.

Danny's future aspirations.
Danny’s future aspirations.

Thankfully, there is a Starbucks coffee house just around the corner from his parkour gym. With the free Wi-Fi and tables that double as work spaces, I was able to use the two hours to finish my school assignment.

Tonight, I am grateful for the many conveniences God places in my life that allow me to be productive, efficient, and – quite frankly – not bored. The fact I can also get a Hazelnut soy latte while I’m at it is bonus!

Project Gratitude – Servant Leader

Project Gratitude – Servant Leader

I was once in a management training program at work. The class was asked the question, “What is the difference between a manager and a leader?” The class was silent. I raised my hand and said with a half-chuckle, “a leader will take you to the top of the mountain. A manager will take the credit for getting there.” The instructor was amused – I think – and asked me where I learned that. Without hesitation I replied, “here.”

I’ve been in the corporate world since I graduated from college in 1994. In those 20+ years I’ve seen and worked with a wide variety of bosses, managers, and leaders. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that the person who is an effective manager and also a natural leader is the exception to the norm. More rare than that are the servant leaders, those who are in positions of leadership and authority who also have no problem rolling up their sleeves and getting dirty with the people she or he leads.

Boss vs Leader

Today I am thankful for the Paul Wirth, the pastor of Relevant Church. Paul is a servant leader. Paul is not only willing, he is eager to get in and ‘do’ with the other members of the congregation. Paul leads by example. Paul is MY pastor.

I had an assignment for school regarding evangelism and discipleship, and how much of the annual budget is designated for such programs. Paul was willing to meet me this evening to discuss the assignment. We met at a Starbucks – Paul and I share an affinity for lattes – and after initial chit chat and mutual coffee sipping, we tackled the assignment.

I thought the discussion would be mostly in the realm of finances, with me perusing spreadsheets and other planning documents used by Relevant. Instead, Paul took a deep breath and proceeded to explain. “Everything a church does has something to do with evangelism and discipleship, because that is why the church exists,” he said. He went on to further outline how every ministry within Relevant is aligned with evangelism and discipleship in some shape, way, or form. Everything Relevant Church does has to do with sharing the Gospel and having people take their next steps in relationship with Christ.

Paul Wirth
Paul Wirth – Lead Pastor at Relevant Church

Having been a member of Relevant since 2009, I can attest how true his words are. Relevant, in all it does, is aligned with Paul’s vision of teaching every person to love Christ with all their heart, mind, soul, and strength.

Not only am I thankful for Paul and his willingness to take time out of his day to meet with me, I am so grateful for being able to be a part of Relevant Church. Relevant is my spiritual home, and the people with whom I get to share my Jesus journey are my family. It truly is a blessing to do life with them.

Project Gratitude – My Army

Project Gratitude – My Army

Prayer is a powerful thing, and I am a firm believer in prayer. Today I am thankful for this avenue God gave us that provides direct communication with Him.

In the book of Genesis is the story of Enoch, a man who walked, “faithfully with God.” I believe prayer, in conjunction with other instruments of faith such as fasting and devotion, allow us to experience this same ‘walk’ with God.

Prayer

And although we should pray always, praising His name and in a spirit of thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6), prayer tends to be most common in a time of need.

Much has been said about the negative effects of social media in society, and several aspects of this criticism are valid. I instead want to focus on the positive value of social media, primarily, the ability to rally prayer warriors.

I love the passage in the Book of Ephesians that describes the Armor of God. I think of it as a way to prepare daily against the weapons the enemy uses to distract us from God.

armor

So today, when I went to Facebook and asked for the support of my tribe of prayer warriors, each armed with the knowledge of Christ who lives in their hearts, they responded in full force.

My request was for Lee’s Aunt Mary who recently suffered a stroke. At almost seventy-four years old, the ability to overcome a stroke is made more challenging. Still, nothing is impossible with God.

When over fifty individuals raise their intentions to the Lord, I believe He honors that collective faithfulness. And what a blessing it is to see the response from friends and family as the pray for Aunt Mary. Not only is it tangible, it’s also inspiring and uplifting.

Today I am thankful for Facebook. I am also thankful for the amazing community of family and friends that support me in all I do. It’s a beautiful blessing.

I ask you keep Mary in your prayers. May God’s healing spirit guide her to a full recovery.

Project Gratitude – Online and In Heart

Project Gratitude – Online and In Heart

Today I am grateful for online courses. When I first began pursuing a degree in Christian Ministry at Trinity College of Florida, my first class was online. I hated it. Online learning was foreign to me, and I felt I could get so much more out of being in a classroom environment. It’s funny how things change as time passes.

Although there is something to be said about engagement with professors and other students in the classroom, I now love taking my classes online. Over the last eighteen months I’ve learned to adapt to the pace and self-discipline of online education. Plus, I don’t miss the hour commute to the Trinity campus.

Most importantly, however, I remember the bummer that was being in class this time last year and missing out on the College Football Playoff National Championship game. It was normal for me to bring a laptop to class in order to take notes, but I remember deliberately sitting in the back of class so I could discretely stream the game on my computer.

No such concerns this year. With all my classes now online, I no longer have to worry about such petty conflicts. Biblical Ethics or Bama vs. Clemson? Yeah, it was nice not having to deal with that this year.

But as wonderful as it was being able to enjoy the game in the comfort of my own home, the surprise I received later made it truly remarkable.

My son’s parkour classes are every evening from 7-9 PM, and every day we – my kids, my ex, and I – hash out the logistics for that day. The initial game plan was for me to drop Daniel off at class and have my daughter Natalie pick him up. When my son texted us stating he was going to skip class this evening, it released Natalie and me from the aforementioned pick up and drop off duties.

What I didn’t know was that Natalie, whose been accepted to the University of Alabama and had a keen interest in watching the game, would come over to watch the game with me. It was great to share that experience with her. I love that she has a genuine interest in learning the game, and it was so rewarding being able to be a resource for her in that way. It was a spontaneous and different and something I know I will cherish for years to come.

Bama

Today I am thankful my son bailed on his parkour class. I am also thankful for the loving and sentimental nature of my daughter, and her thoughtfulness with regards to making an average evening so incredibly memorable. We still don’t know where she will attend, but I am thankful she has a variety of options from which to choose. It’s truly a blessing.

Project Gratitude – Coaches, Cuts, and Cuisine

Project Gratitude – Coaches, Cuts, and Cuisine

Today was as enriching as it was long.

Normally. Lee and I like to not pack our weekends with too much to do. That usually makes for a bad Monday. But after having arrived home from our friends’ holiday party at 1:30 in the morning, the alarm was set for 7:00 AM so we could start our day.

First we were off to a 9:15 service at Idlewild Baptist Church. This is not our normal church, but they had a guest speaker today that I just couldn’t miss seeing. Growing up in Miami, Coach Bobby Bowden was someone I loved to hate. His Seminoles teams were always a thorn in the side of my beloved Hurricanes, but now I have nothing but admiration and respect for Coach Bowden. To borrow from Idlewild’s page recapping the event:

Coach Bowden told us about his life growing up in Alabama, his childhood, growing up in the church, playing college sports, meeting his wife Anne, and the start of his coaching career. Most importantly, Coach Bowden told us about his faith in Jesus Christ, and reiterated to us that the most important thing he ever did for his players is to share the gospel with them, and introduce them to Jesus.

Bowden

I am grateful for the opportunity to have heard Coach Bowden speak and for his affirming message. Much of what he discussed was a truth I already felt in my heart, but hearing his words helped me connect the dots and understand these feelings in a new, more clear manner.

From there Lee and I attended service at our church. Following the service, we had a team build in preparation for our mission trips later this month. We’re sending two team over two weeks to build beds in the Dominican Republic. This is a continuation of the work we kicked off last June, and today’s activity was a step through of the cutting and assembling we’ll be doing on mission. I am thankful for this wonderful team and for our friend Amanda who is the driving force behind the effort to deliver bunk beds to one hundred fifty families in the village of Quisqueya in the D.R..

Amanda

Finally, Lee and I wrapped up the day with dinner at the home of our friends George and Enaye. We’ve known them since we started attending church at Relevant in 2009, and we’ve been blessed to share so many experiences with them over the years.

About four years ago, George and Enaye adopted siblings from Ethiopia. They stepped out in faith and grew their family by traveling across the planet to bring blessings to a young boy and girl in need of a home. Tonight they invited us for traditional Ethiopian cuisine in celebration of Ethiopian Christmas, and the food was amazing. So rich in flavor, spices, and culture, it was great being able to take part in such a different experience. I am so thankful for the wonderful relationship we share with George and Enaye, and for the joy that is their three children Caleb, Meseret, and Binyam.

Food

Project Gratitude – Getting Ugly

Project Gratitude – Getting Ugly

In the summer of 2006, at a music event in South Carolina, Lee and I were introduced to what we now affectionately refer to as our music family. I literally do not know where we would be without the impact this tribe of music-loving lunatics has made in our lives.

Because of our music family, we taken part in amazing floating music festivals, developed deep, inner-circle friendships, traveled to places we most likely never would have on our own, and I’ve even jumped out of a plane.

jump

In fact, it was one of our music family members that introduced us to our church, an event that has truly transformed our lives.

Tonight was no exception. Our friends Jen and Joe hosted their annual Ugly Christmas Sweater party, and since we took part in last year’s shindig, there was no way we could miss this one.

Jen has quite the talent for not only hosting parties, but also making sure they’re entertaining with ice-breakers, games, and – apparently – a well defined, almost Germanesque sense of schedule. But in all seriousness, it was a great time. And it’s not about the prizes for ugliest sweater or the dirty Santa gift exchange. It’s about being with people whose company we genuinely enjoy and about whom we genuinely care.

There’s something unique about the bond we share with our fellow music fanatics. It’s a bond that has been strengthened over the last eleven years by shared memories, meaningful lyrics, loads of laughter, and the occasional circumstance that has left us all in mourning. There’s the saying, “Friends are family you get to pick,” and our music family is exactly that.

Heart

Today I am eternally grateful for this group of souls that occupy such a huge spot in my heart, and in particular for Jen and Joe and yet another amazing experience I now get to treasure forever.

ugly