That $%#^@ from Aurora.

I started to look up his name.

I’ve already heard it or read it a hundred times, but I wanted to make sure I was going to spell it correctly.

And then I stopped.

This guy gunned down a theater of people.

Do I really want to point out his name?

Truthfully, I have enough on my mind. It’s been a busy week. I have matters to attend to at work and at home.

Now, thanks to this inhuman act, my thoughts and prayers have been on people I’ve never met, who share with me the love of movies, and who never saw this coming.

Maybe my brain is just too full to remember your name, buddy.

I’ll think of you as $%#^@.

Or Monster.

Or maybe I won’t think of you at all.

Maybe you’re sick. Maybe insane. Maybe you need help.

Surely, you need help.

But I don’t want you to be famous for what you’ve done.

I want to say a name, but it isn’t yours.

I want to call out to the One, Jesus,  who can provide Peace to this violent world.

I want to hug my wife Jan and my dog Charlie, and remember to cherish the lives of those I hold dear, and never take them for granted.

These are the names I lift up.

And I pray for the families of Jon Blunk, Alex Teves, Matt McQuinn, John Larimer, Jesse Childress, Rebecca Ann Wingo, Alex Matthew Sullivan, A.J. Boik, Veronica Moser-Sullivan, Jessica Ghawi,  Gordon Cowden, Micayla Medek,

And yes,

I will pray for you, too, $%#^@.

Angrily, perhaps…

but I’ll pray.

Peace,

Mitch

Being nice to people who don’t go to your church.

My church has started a new team we’ve called “Community Connections”.

Our mission statement is simple: “Being nice to people who don’t go to our church”.

As evangelism goes, it’s decidedly lightweight. But it may be the best place to start.

We’ve been looking for friendly, non-pushy, non-preachy ways to let people in our community know that we like them. (If they know we like them, perhaps they’ll give us a chance to show them that we love them.)

It may be the most basic level of evangelism, but it’s still one that comes hard for some churches, including ours.

Here’s how we got up and running:

Delicious Team Meetings.

There are about 10 of us on the team. Our task is to help the congregation find ways to connect with the community.

So, from the beginning, we have never met inside the church.

Instead? Our team tends to meet in various Mexican restaurants around town. I highly recommend this for all committee meetings.

Sitting at tables in a busy restaurant can make it a little hard to hear, but we’ve gladly exchanged Robert’s Rules for chips and salsa.

It’s made planning fun and kept us focused on the world outside our church.

The 30% Club.

Speaking of restaurants…

Our first project took almost no effort. We had little business-size cards printed up with our church logo, address, and website.

Then, we invited the congregation to take some cards and be part of the 30% club.

Here are the rules:

  1. Go out to eat.
  2. Tip 30%
  3. Leave a card.

That’s it. Our town has lots of restaurants and lots of waiters and waitresses struggling to make ends meet. By tipping such a large amount and leaving a card, we’re letting people know our church cares.

We were sure to tell people NOT to leave a card if they chose to leave a low tip due to poor service! And the cards didn’t say something like “30% club” on them, or even an invitation to church.

This wasn’t to be a bribe. Just a gift.

We didn’t know how the congregation would embrace this first project, but response was amazing. We ran out of cards and had to print more.

People loved this simple way of sharing a kindness with somebody.

Anything goes.

Our ideas seem to take us all over the place. From “random-acts-of-kindness”, like handing out bottles of water to hot downtown shoppers, to inviting community children to a kite festival, or an upcoming blessing of the animals, we’ve picked the ideas that we felt passionate about and run with them.

We’re lucky to have a graphic designer who can put together beautiful posters advertising our events, but have had to remind ourselves they’re only useful if people are willing to put them up all over town.

Let’s share.

Does your church have something like our Community Connection Team? Share what’s worked for you in the comments below.

For us, we’ve found that instead of wishing we could get more people inside the church, we’ve been having a blast finding ways to get us outside.

A church is surely meant for more than just to be “nice” to its neighbors…

But I’ll bet you a burrito it’s worth the effort.

QUIZ: Do you love the USA?

In honor of Independence Day in the U.S.A., here’s a little quiz.

Let’s see just how much you love your country!

Question 1: How many states have you visited?

A) 1-10   B) 11-25   C) 26-49   D) 50

Question 2: How many national, state, or local elections have you voted in?

A) None. Never registered.  B) None. I’m too young!  C) Oh, a few  D) Too many to count

Question 3: How many civic or military organizations have you served in?

A) None  B) Armed Forces  C) Rotary, Optimists, Lions, etc.  D) B & C

Question 4: How much $ have you spent on fireworks?

A) None!   B) Less than $100   C) $100-$500  D)  More than $500

Question 5: How have you tried (other than voting) to make your voice heard?

A)  Nothing.  B) Signing petitions  C)  Canvassing neighborhoods   D) Posting political things on Facebook    E) Protest Marching

Question 6: When you’re at the ballpark and they sing the national anthem, do you:

A)  Keep talking with your friends  B) Take off your cap and stand silently  C) Put your hand on your heart  D) Sing your guts out

Question 7:  How many American flags do you own?

A) None   B) One   C) Two  D)  More than two.

Scoring:  For every “A” give yourself 1 point, for “B”, 2 points; “C”, 3 points; “D”, 4 points, and “E” 5 points.

If you got anywhere from 7-25 points…

     I have no clue how much you love your country.

Sorry!

The truth is, you could do all of these things out of a sense of duty, or guilt, or habit. Actions are important, but they don’t always reveal a person’s true feelings.

So, while I strongly suggest singing the National Anthem and voting whenever possible, actions can’t  be the judge of how much you love your country.

Only you can really know that.

The same is kind of true for loving God.

You can go to church every Sunday, drive your next door neighbor to the grocery store, pledge a million dollars, and keep all 10 commandments, but that doesn’t mean you love God. Not necessarily.

The truth is, you could be an active church member your whole life, and never really know the love of God. (Let’s hope not!)

Actions really are important, but Love is what matters most.

The more you are in touch with Love, the more authentic and God-centered your actions will be.  That’s true whether you’re out on a date or worshipping in church or even waving the flag.

So… back to the U S of A.

A couple more questions:

Question 8. Do you care for the welfare of the people of this country? Do you hope for our common future?  Do you cherish the freedoms you have?

A) No  B) Yes

Question 9. Even if you don’t always agree with how things are done, and even if you don’t always show it, does this country hold a special place in your heart?

A) No  B)  Yes

If you answered “B” to Question 8 or 9, then chances are you love America!

NOW that we have that established…how are you prepared to show it?

(Please go back up to #1)

Happy 4th,

Mitch

photo by http://www.robins.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123051993