Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Small Groups

About six years ago, Amber and I met in a basement of a house with eight other couples. It was our first small group meeting to launch The Water’s Edge. The room was simultaneously filled with excitement and apprehension. Nobody had ever been in a small group before. I think only two of the couples knew each other. Six years later, one couple has both spouses serving on the staff at a church in Omaha and another couple has a husband serving on the staff at a church in Omaha. The rest of us are leaders at The Water’s Edge. One is now the leader of our leadership team. One couple served as one of the chair-families of our capital campaign. All of us now lead our own small groups. Few things in life are as satisfying as a vision becoming a reality.


Last Saturday night, Amber and I met in a basement of a house with ten other couples. It was a Valentine’s Dinner for one of our small groups. The room was filled with excitement and laughter. The food was incredible. So was the friendship. We had never met with this group before. During the dinner they described themselves as a family. They talked about previous dinners, their regular gatherings, and a build-a-bear project for kids at Children’s Hospital. It was a joy to spend time with this group. Few things in life are as satisfying as a vision becoming a reality. 

The vision is still the same. People connecting to God and people connecting to each other. One small group is now over thirty small groups. Friendships are being formed and forged. People are learning from and with each other. Families and friends are serving together, playing together, praying together, laughing together, and eating together. Lives are being changed, people are being supported, and disciples are being formed. 

Of all the roles at The Water’s Edge, the small group leader is among the most important. As we continue to grow as a congregation, this role becomes more critical. To all our small group leaders, I want to personally thank you for your service to God, others, and our church. 

For those feeling a nudge from God to be a small group leader, I want to encourage you to act on that prompting and become a small group leader. We will need to start additional small groups this fall and we will need new leaders! Contact jill@watersedgeomaha.com to take the first step. 

For those in a small group, I encourage you to invite friends to join you. Either people in our church or not in our church. You know that our small group experience is a great experience worth sharing. 

For those not in a small group, now is the perfect time to sample a small group. New groups start this week and run through Easter. You can register on Sunday mornings or contact jill@watersedgeomaha.com. 

The best is yet to come… 

Craig

Friday, February 15, 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Bar Rescue - Ash Wednesday Edition

Last Sunday evening I was tired. Laying on the couch. Flipping through the channels. It was the top of the hour and I caught the first few minutes of a show called Bar Rescue. I was hooked. The next 57 minutes of my life were spoken for.


A bar expert, Jon Taffer, goes into a bar that is failing. The first thing he did was ask the owner why the bar was failing. The owner said the state of California would no longer let people smoke in the bar and that the rent had been raised. Seemed like good enough reasons to me, but the bar expert was annoyed. Very annoyed. He said those weren’t reasons. Those were bad excuses. Taffer mentioned every other bar in California doesn’t allow smoking and all bars have to deal with higher rent or property taxes. But many bars are still making money and lots of it. The bar expert said the owner was the problem. He was right. 

The place was a mess. The staff wasn’t being led. The customers weren’t being cared for. They were trying to be everything to everybody and ended up being nothing to anybody. The expert finally convinced the owner of all this and the rescue was able to continue. 

The staff cleaned the place. They were trained with a new, simple menu and were taught how to serve customers. The bar got a new name and had an innovative plan to target a specific group of people. And then the remodel happened. A few days later: the entire building was spotless, the bar had a new name, the menu was creative and appealing, the staff was energized and excited, the bar looked amazing. The opening night was a huge success. People—customers, employees, and the owner—loved it. The makeover was complete. 

Lent, at its best, is a makeover. A rescue. Some of us are like a failing bar. Full of excuses. A mess. Not spotless, but stained. Not serving, but selfish. Not clear about what we are supposed to be doing or not doing. Discouraged. Our rescuer isn’t a grumpy guy in a sport jacket, but the Almighty One himself.



Ash Wednesday is the day we realize our brokenness and dependence on Someone greater than us. We struggle though Lent. It isn’t easy. We pray. We fast. We study. We cry. We connect. We learn. We grow. We serve. We dream. We give-up self-destructive behaviors. We pick-up constructive habits. And we have faith that the Grand Opening is going to pale in comparison to Easter Sunday. We will celebrate Jesus’ resurrection and we will experience a resurrection of our own. 

At our worship services and small groups – WE will be provided resources to flourish during Lent. Check our website and Facebook pages as well. God wants to do something big—in us and through us. 

The best is yet to come… 

Craig

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

WE Fast

Here is a guide to fasting modeled after John Wesley's fasting habit. I am encouraging people at The Water's Edge and beyond to fast weekly during this season of Lent - which starts tomorrow and ends on Easter Sunday, March 31st.

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Real Meaning of Lent

In many cultures there is an ancient custom of giving a tenth of each year's income to some holy use. For Christians to observe the forty days of Lent is to do the same thing with roughly a tenth of each year's days. After being baptized by John in the Jordan River, Jesus went off alone into the wilderness where he spent forty days asking himself the question what it meant to be Jesus. During Lent, Christians are supposed to ask one way or another what it means to be themselves.


If you had to bet everything you have on whether there is a God or whether there isn't, which side would get your money and why? 

When you look at your face in the mirror, what do you see in it that you most like and what do you see in it that you most deplore? 

If you had only one last message to leave to the handful of people who are most important to you, what would it be in twenty-five words or less? 

Of all the things you have done in your life, which is the one you would most like to undo? Which is the one that makes you happiest to remember? 

To hear yourself try to answer questions like these is to begin to hear something not only of who you are but of both what you are becoming and what you are failing to become. It can be a pretty depressing business all in all, but if sackcloth and ashes are at the start of it, something like Easter may be at the end. (From Frederick Buechner's delightful little book: Wishful Thinking) 

So, here's the deal: Some people give up wine or soda or chocolate or eating beef on Friday. Nothing is evil about such practices. A little sacrifice never hurt anybody and the body may be grateful for a little less alcohol, sugar, or fat. But do any of the above promote lasting real life change? Probably not. It probably has more to do with obligation and ritual than it does an authentic desire to connect with God.

What do you most deplore about yourself? What is it in the next 40 days that you can do to rid yourself of these self-destructive behaviors? That seems more beneficial than not drinking coffee. 

What is it in the next 40 days that you can do to give yourself to the world and have the time of your life in the process? That seems more exciting than not going to Sonic. 

I pray during this season that you grow closer to God and closer to the world.

In Christ, 

Craig

Thursday, February 7, 2013

WE Dream

One look at what our property, and more importantly, what The Water's Edge can look like in the future.


Friday, February 1, 2013

Turning Up the Silence

We need to find God, and He cannot be found in noise and restlessness. –Mother Teresa 

Noise is a sound that causes disturbances and disorder. Restlessness is constant motion and activity that occurs as a result of anxiety or boredom. Disturbances. We don’t like them, but for some reason we live with them. Disturbances are normal and normal isn’t working because God isn’t found in noise. Anxiety is the lonely and scary place between “now” and “then.” Boredom is the hidden enemy who slowly and steadily steals the very thing God gives.



Noise. Restlessness. Disturbances. Anxiety. Boredom. This is not God’s plan for your life. (Jeremiah 29:11) Some things can only happen in silence. Other things best happen in silence. 

The Bible doesn’t give a whole lot of details about the prayer life of Jesus, but the few details given are more than enough to make the case that connection to God doesn’t come from noise or restlessness or disturbances or anxiety or boredom, but from solitude and silence. 

Jesus prayed in lonely places. (Mark 1:35) He taught the masses to find a quiet closet, shut the door, and have a conversation with God. (Matthew 6:5-6) He sent the disciples ahead of him and went to the mountain to pray. (Mark 6:45-46) Even in Gethsemane, he told Peter and the brothers to stop and go no further. So Jesus took a few more steps, fell to his face, and began his private conversation with God. (Mark 14:32-35) 

Culture is full of noise and restlessness. Both are common, expected, and ordinary. But, noise and restlessness prevent us from experiencing God and embracing each other. iPads, iPods, iPhones, fifteen versions of ESPN, Twitter, text messaging, busyness, consumerism, email, and eBay provide enough noise to make a jet engine sound like wind chime during a gentle breeze and enough restlessness to turn an exhausted pre-schooler into an insomniac. Being constantly connected to the noise and restlessness of the world ironically and sadly disconnects us from the abundant love of God and the genuine love of others. We confuse busyness with significance, entertainment with joy, and vast connectedness with vital communication. Our basic human needs of genuinely knowing God and others and authentically being known by God and others are being lost in the confusion and complexity of the world. 

God simply says through the Psalmist: Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalm 46:10) Unplug. Listen. Say “no” to what isn’t working. Rest. Relate. Turn up the silence. Listen to God. Be fully present with others. Discover and embrace your true self. Be still. Be silent. 

The best is yet to come… 

Craig