Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Managing Expectations: 2nd Preview Service

"Managing Expectations" - This is a phrase Dave has been using with myself and the launch team... and I think it's wise to prepare people for what is to become of their efforts, but MAN have we been off!

It was expected that our attendance at our first preview was to be between 50 - 80... and we were hopeful... so we shot high and shared the hopeful number of 100 with the launch team... that's managing expectations. This isn't just a made up number either (the 50 - 80), it comes from numerous church planters and books written by church planters, and also based on the population of this area. We thought we'd shoot a little higher than that. Well, if you've been reading ours or Dave's blog, you know that our expectation of 100 was a shy guesstimate of God's plan of 174 in attendance. We were shocked!

But that was a one time thing. The truth is, Dave had been here for a month pumping this church up and getting people to invite their friends and family. The launch team was also very pumped to be involved, but now that the first service is over, we can release our held breath, and sigh. Now, the natural response is that the energy has come down... right?

Again, prepped by our planter friends and their books, we managed expectations with the team. We advised them that "typically, after the hype of the first service has passed, the attendance of the second service is about half of the first" so we told them that we should probably see about 80 - 100 in attendance at Preview Service #2... in essence, 100 would not be shrinking, it would be growing. All this, so that when we DO have 100 in attendance, we don't feel like we've failed in bringing back the 174, but we've succeeded in growing beyond the norm.

182! I'll just say it... no more suspense... just let that sit in you for a sec. 182 adults and children. We didn't lose half... we didn't lose even 1%... we grew! According to the Connection Cards, over 30 adults came for their first time!

So much for "Managing Expectations".

And let me tell you right now, it's not about numbers. It's about touched lives... and those numbers signify potentially touched lives. And here is the shocker... it's not even potential... it's fact. At our second preview service, without talking about salvation, and without having an alter call (which we'll never do anyway), we had two people come to Christ for the first time (one of which came just from our Facebook ad). I hesitate saying it for privacy purposes, but if Heaven is having a party over it, shouldn't we?

Let me tell you a little about my experience.

It was a busy month. I personally was busy with all kinds of media projects... working on the website, and the videos needed for it... creating advertisements for the local papers... designing and printing invite cards for the upcoming services... creating and editing the videos for Sunday morning... shopping... rehearsing with the band... and all the time dealing with a computer that's been mocking me with the dreaded "blue screen of death" near the 95% complete render portion of my projects.

Michelle is working at Starbucks now (AH YEAH HOOKUP!)
She's meeting new people and really loves her job, but with all the distance between services right now, she's not feeling busy enough with Great Lakes (very typical Michelle... busy all the time). But fear not, the second service came just in time, and she was (no joke) dancing almost all morning long. All her energy came back to her as if it never left.

We were short a worship leader for the band, so I had to step out of my comfort zone with my electric guitar, and strap on my acoustic (thanks Matt) and stand behind the mic. Day of, I was less nervous than I thought I'd be, but that calm could not have been my own doing. All month long I was practicing the setlist...
Everlasting God
Sweetly Broken
Turn Your Eyes
Here I am to Worship
... and it truly is my wish to find a great lead singer for the band, as I feel great to do Gods work, but know that my gift is in accompanying, not leading.

Julia, thank you. God has brought Great Lakes an amazing musician. Before I came out here, I had a picture in my head of what the Great Lakes Music Team would look like. A loud drummer with great timing... a hyper bassist with big hands... a bald good-looking electric guitarist with charm and big holes in his ears... an acoustic playing lead vocalist with golden vocal chords... and a naturally gifted alto/vocal harmonizer with an enviting stage presence. That was it. I knew what I knew of rock bands, and I knew what people were expecting to see at church, so I was adamant about not having a keyboardist... simply to break the mold and for shock value... but I was wrong.

I remember praying "God, I need a Ceci or a Leah or a Cathy. Someone that I don't have to teach all the parts to, but can just naturally pick up the harmony parts." and He answered my prayer. Julia is not only amazingly gifted at EXACTLY THAT, but she plays keyboard masterfully. She could BE the band if needed. Our vocal rehearsals look like this...
I pick up the acoustic guitar... I sing a song she's never heard before... by the end of playing it one time through, she's done writing all the harmonies... one more time through for lyric memorization and we're ready to perform. No joke.

But everyone is amazing. Aaron, our drummer whose limbs seem to care not that they are attached to the same nervous system. Kevin, our guitarist who played last Sundays songs WAY better than I could have. Gordy, our World of Warcraft loving bassist who doesn't play bass... he IS bass. All of whom are so giving of their time and talent, you'd think they're on payroll.

Also I'd like to thank the behind the scenes guys like Jesse, our parking lead, who is more MacGyver than Pat McJunkin (sorry Pat)... and Jon, our producer, who is our Jenn Aaro times ten... and Jeff, our media guru, whom I need not say a word to and all computer issues are non-existant... and Mark, our sound engineer, who has way too much pre-knowledge of sound energy and way too much fascination with our soundboard, I'm a little intimidated by him.

Outside of that little team are 40+ more names who make this happen. You're all amazing for what you do and for where your heart is.

We're changing lives you guys. Some people are impressed, some are moved, some are invested, some are checking this all out, some are right now anticipating our next service, many have yet to come, but we're all in Gods sight and He's proving it to us directly to our faces.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I work at Starbucks... and other stuff

Still settling in to life in Wisconsin, we’ve got A LOT going on. I started working at the closest Starbucks to our house last week. Tony and I knew before we got here that I would be putting my “career” on hold, whatever that was. We knew we weren’t coming out here to build our resumes, necessarily, but that we needed to be open and ready to do what was needed. Starbucks seemed like the perfect opportunity for me. I get to work at a place I am way too familiar with, meet some locals, and leave work at work so I can concentrate on whatever needs doing for GLC. So far, I love it!

Today, in my training, I got to taste Starbucks Thanksgiving Blend. It reminded me a lot of wine tasting when I used to work in restaurants. Did you know there’s a whole process to tasting coffee? Mmm Hmm…
1. Smell
2. Slurp
3. Say words like “nutty” or “citrus” or “earthy”

4. Take a bite of something (pairing)
5. Slurp Again
6. Say different words like “smooth”, “acidic”, “spicy”
That’s all I’ve got so far. I’ll keep you posted as I learn more about the proper ways to drink coffee. I dig it.

I’ve also met some great people. One of my trainers, after she asked me to “share a bit about myself”, told me she had heard of Great Lakes Church. She shared that she goes to a small-ish church in the area and her pastor mentioned us, asked them to pray for us, and to donate their pocket change to us in hopes of raising $1,000 in one month. Isn’t that incredible!?! She’d not only heard of us but has been praying for us. Another one of my trainers, a couple of days later, also mentioned she’d heard about us. I was STUNNED. She said she had a friend of a friend who mentioned it, and then she saw a bunch of people talking about it on Facebook (THANK YOU FACEBOOK). She said she wanted to come to the first service but had to work. Imagine that! She could have been number 175! Meeting these girls and other people has just confirmed for me that taking a job where I could meet lots of people was definitely the right thing to do. If I had gone back to something more comfortable for me like an office job, I would have probably only been around the same 5 people every day.

Tony and I just got back from Woodmen’s Grocery Store. It’s gigantic! About as big as Costco, but you don’t have to buy in bulk, it’s a little nuts. Anyway, he’s invited a few of the people that played music at the 1st Preview Service over for dinner tomorrow night. It will be our first time hosting anything social at our new place (aside from having our awesome roommate over for dinner). It’s been a good motivator to really finish moving in. I must say, it is a little strange hosting anything at all, when we really feel like everyone here is a stranger. I guess they will stay “strangers” until we get to know them, and that’ll probably just take time.

So, what I miss about home…

• Coffee dates with Katy Pratt

• Impromptu “We’re coming over to your house” plans

• Sushi

• Local wine

• Hills

• Seattle skyline from anywhere in Kirkland

• Predictable weather

• Café Lladro
• Running into _____________ (please place your name in the blank)

What I love about Kenosha so far…

• BIG SKY with cool looking clouds

• Great Lakes Church team
• Noodles & Co.
• Corn fields just a few miles away
• People don’t assume I’m in a cult, just because I go to church
• Huge grocery aisles of cheese
• Friendly, take-your-time, kind of people

• Our old house
• The squirrels that watch me do dishes from our back deck
• Working with Dave Nelson again

In other news... the Great Lakes Website is now up and running. Check it out. To those of you that go to EastLake, it may look a little familiar :) Also, since we're only having services once per month at this point, we had a couple of "Connect Events" this weekend. They went great. We had a few more people decide to help out and be on the launch team. The people here seem to love the vision and can't wait to be a part of it. We have our 2nd Preview Service coming up on November 9th and another Launch Team meeting this weekend to get organized and pray. Please pray with us that our Launch Team continues to grow and that we really connect with the community here.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Great Lakes Church 1st Preview Service

Week 1 of life in Kenosha was expectedly chaotic. Tony and I were anxious to meet the local members of the launch team and help any way we could. Dave has done a phenomenal job of sharing his vision of Great Lakes Church to anyone who would listen, so it’s no surprise the people that are already a part of the team have so much enthusiasm.

We were fortunate to get into Mahone Middle School on Saturday for a few hours to set up for Sunday service. There was quite an energy as we worked together to figure out where everything belonged and what we still might need. Fortunately, several families who have kids brought some great toys and baby items for us to borrow. We did as much as we could for a sound check, although Tony would have spent all day in that room trying to get it all just perfect. We spent the rest of Saturday running errands, doing whatever we could to take care of the last minute details.

Sunday morning arrived, for me at 3am. I could not sleep. I sprang out of bed realizing, “WE HAVE NO PRODUCER!” For those of you that haven’t been a producer, or worked near one, the Producer is really responsible for running the service, especially the timing, on Sunday mornings. Certainly neither Tony nor I had ever been in this role before, but we did our best to exchange notes on what we could remember about the Producer Role, so that I could do it/recruit someone to do it.

By 7:30am, the members of the music team were in our living room practicing the music for the morning. It was surreal that this team who had only practiced once before were so cohesive and so receptive to Tony’s direction. Tyler and I just stood by and watched for a bit, enjoying this behind the scenes look at what was about to happen. We arrived at the school just before 9am, hoping they might open the school just a tad early for a few more preparations. The whole team was there on time, if not early, ready and eager to work their tails off. It was incredible! By 9:30am, everyone was ready and in their positions praying and hoping people would actually show up. Pretty soon our guests started to trickle in.

I’ll share with you the teams impressions of the day as well as what some of our guests said in the surveys we sent out.

GLC Team Responses
Q: What went right?

• I guess everything went ok since all the cars got in to the lot unharmed!
• friendly people, Dave's "talk," weather, enough help, positive attitudes, the list goes on and on...
• The coffee timers went off as planned and my child was kept alive in the nursery.
• In my humble opinion, I think almost everything went right. Like I said yesterday, it almost seemed like we had been doing this for 5 years already.
• The Kids Workers did a great job keeping up with the kids demands. I think we had a great amount of toys, and things for the kids to do. I didn't hear any of the Childrens workers say there wasn't enough to keep the kids occupied. I think that's a great Feat right there!!!!

Q: Overall Impressions? Any Good Stories?

• I was very impressed that we FILLED the parking lot, only the handicap spaces were left!
• I couldn't be more thrilled with the opportunity to help out with Great Lakes Church!
• I am biased because I have been waiting for this church since we left San Diego, but I thought it was Outstanding!
• I thought everyone did a great job and worked well with each other. I feel like we had great feedback from the guests in that they felt very welcomed and the service was easy to follow.
• GREAT! I think it was amazing to see all the team members pitch in and help in ALL areas, not just the areas they were responsible for!
• The kids were fun, and I cant wait until next time
• It was great and exciting and I can't wait till next time
• Better than expected Preview Service. The “kinks” were not noticeable by those attending. Everyone was super friendly which made for a great atmosphere. Dave’s message was killer.
• Everyone was sooooooo helpful and friendly!! I was going to fill my car up at the end and literally 10 people showed up and started carrying my stuff to the car for me...it took us 3 seconds to pack my mini-van!! Go team!!
• I remember a friend of mine came up to me and said she invited a friend of hers that used to be friends with another one of our volunteers but because of some issues in the past they had not talked for over 6 years and when her friend walked into the auditorium and was greeted by (other volunteer) with the bulletins, they hugged for about 15 minutes and made up after 6 years! It was so awesome for me to see the joy on these girls faces after that.
• I thought it was so cool Dave's mom had jeans on! My wife is more on board now!
• My boys were in "sunday school/kids' church" for the first time IN THEIR LIVES (without mom or dad), even though they've grown up in the church, and they talked about it all afternoon and are so excited for November's service!

Guest Responses

Q: What did you notice first? What was your overall impression? How can we pray for you?

• It’s been years since I’ve been to church. Please pray for healing from the past.
• I noticed lots of people waving when we pulled up. I had a good time and most importantly, my kids want to go back.
• I am wanting my whole family to be involved in the same church and I believe this is going to be the one.
• I noticed the friendliness of parking attendants and greeters. Great Job!
• The whole service was great for a “first run”. Dave is an awesome speaker and the band sounded great. We will be praying for you and will return on the 9th for the second service!
• I liked the greeters – very helpful. Dave is a good speaker.
• I am so excited that you are doing this in Kenosha. I have been living in K since 1989 but we attend a church in Zion. I love my church, but there are almost no young people (20-30’s). My kids (23 & 21) have all but stopped coming. I think this might be the church to reach them again.
• I noticed the parking guys smiling and waving at us. Everyone was very friendly and enthusiastic. I love the message and my kids loved “Mr. James”!
• I noticed people in JEANS!!!! Everyone was friendly.
• Please pray for my son… he doesn’t like music at the church we are attending and uses that as a reason not to go. He came with us to your service on Sunday and he said he liked the music!
• It was very friendly and down to earth service. I loved the amount of volunteers you had helping with the service! I am not too fond of most churches, but I will definitely be back to this one.

We had a total of 174 in attendance, including volunteers and kids. That is far and away more than we could have hoped for. As you can see from their comments, it seemed to go well. Now we just pray that we can be good stewards of this momentum, help people get involved and connected, and really help accomplish for this community what we believe God has already started.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Road Trippin’: A Shared Experience

We made it! We now, officially, reside in Kenosha, Wisconsin. We finished our last minute packing, errand running, and breakfast on Monday, 9/28 and headed out. The first 20 minutes of the drive were really the hardest for me. It was the last of the “Good-Bye’s” and “See-you-soon’s” we would have for a while. I was definitely teary-eyed… can you still call it “teary-eyed” if the tears are actually rolling down your cheeks and creating a sort of bib on your hoodie? Anyway… I was truly comforted when Tony grabbed my hand as we left Kirkland and said, “This will always be home.”

Day 1: Monday – We popped in THE SHACK (audio book courtesy Karen Jussel) and made it to Spokane in time for Tony’s dad’s (Allen) incredible cocktail sauce before dinner. It was a great evening! Tony played some of the song’s he and Ryan have written on the Larrivee, and we talked about what little we know of Wisconsin. They shared their adventures of the early years of their marriage, Allen’s days in his own rock band, traveling the world and leaving their families behind. They were very encouraging to us, and still ORDERED us to keep in touch. We’ll do our best.

Day 2: Tuesday – We left the Peterson home just before the sun rose on Tuesday morning, hit up Starbucks, filled the tank, looked at a map, and headed out on I-90. The northern parts of Idaho and Montana were spectacular at that hour of the morning. I had no idea it would be so beautiful. We were still listening to The Shack, pausing every once in a while to talk about it. It made for an amazing trip. We got to the northern entrance of Yellowstone Park around 4pm, but we’d forgotten to buy firewood for camping. It took us much too long to find a store that was still open AND had what we needed, which of course included the essential ingredients for s’mores. We found a spot to camp and finished setting up mere seconds before it got dark. It was an incredible time. We ate hotdogs and the pasta salad we made before we took off. It was our first time camping just the two of us, I LOVE married camping. I can’t imagine anything better than a clear night with my best friend talking and singing and eating s’mores. We got into our very warm sleeping bags and before long realized I might not have inflated our mattress completely. Of course, way too cold to get out and fix it, we ended up sleeping on a V-shaped bed, rolling obnoxiously into each other all night. It wasn’t until the next morning that we realized we basically were on the ground… ah well.

Day 3: Wednesday
– Had some camping style French press coffee in the morning and some nifty cereal-in-a-cup for breakfast. Broke down our camp and headed deeper into Yellowstone Park. I was confronted with two realities: 1) Buffalo and Bison are the same thing. 2) Neither are extinct. No, seriously. We have video to prove it. They’re real and they still exsist. Also, of note:

• Geysers are really cool looking and really stinky.

• The crows in Yellowstone are of pre-historic size.

• All Coldplay and the Garden State Soundtrack are the best CD’s to listen to while driving through Yellowstone.

• The Grand Tetons do not get nearly enough fame and attention for how amazing they are.

• Pictures CANNOT contain the amazing things you actually see.

We finished driving diagonally through Wyoming that day. Of course, couldn’t get through this great western state without an “up-close-and-personal” with a couple of hunters stuffing a dead dear with ice on their tailgate at the local gas station. I was in sincere shock!
We ended the day by arriving in Ft. Collins and having dinner with a couple close friends. Thank you Grant and Natalie for letting us stay with you.

Day 4: Thursday – Woke up and went to Grant and Natalie’s favorite breakfast spot. After a huge cinnamon roll and a little eggs benedict, we went to their favorite coffee shop, which was just a little outside of town. The coffee shop was called Loodles and would definitely be our favorite shop if we lived locally too. It’s owned by Mark Ludy (a childrens book writer/artist) and is decorated with Mark’s art. After Loodles we went and checked out their church / Natalie’s work. There was an awkward moment when we met their pastor and he shook Michelle’s hand for about 30 seconds, staring her directly into her eyes, but it turns out he’s just like that. Natalie does for that church what Michelle did for EastLake… Groups. Natalie has been using the EastLake groups method, and has been successful in implementing it… I think that’s why the pastor had heard of Michelle and was a little ga-ga in person. We left there and headed back to their house where Natalie and I swapped music vision… she taught me a few songs her church does, and I taught her one of the songs EastLake does. It was really fun, and Michelle was enjoying every moment. We ended the day with dinner in, and of course, video games!

Day 5: Friday – It was another early riser… we woke up and hit the road at 6am. On our way to Starbucks to get our morning fuel, we were almost tracked down and shot by an angry local who wanted to make sure I knew that I was in the wrong lane. Today was the day we were going to get to Kansas City, and have some awesome BBQ. We hit the freeway and finished The Shack audio book (which I can do a whole blog about… so I’ll just leave it at “we finished”) and started Blink. This was the first and only night that we stayed at a Hotel… so after hours and hours of driving, we made it to our hotel and went out to eat. Knowing that our friends Matt and Emily Cox are from the Kansas area, I called and asked Matt what place has the best BBQ. We found the restaurant, but just driving by we could see that every table was full and there were about 20 people standing and eating inside as well… really congested. We decided we wanted a more personal dining experience and ended up at a place called Café One80. It was fine, but I’m really disappointed we weren’t able to eat at Matt’s favorite spot.

Day 6: Saturday – Sleeping in is a blessing from God! Michelle and I spoke, and decided it would be so cool to show up early and surprise Dave… so we spent the whole day driving from Kansas City to Kenosha. We did stop at St. Louis for lunch, and of course had to try the local BBQ spot. We stepped into a little place on the outskirts of downtown called Smoki O’s. We were coaxed into trying the local delight called Snoot, which is the cooked-to-a-crisp snout of a pig. Not bad… kinda like a thick pork rind… but now that I’ve had it, I’m good with not having it again. We took our BBQ to-go, and ate lunch literally underneath the St. Louis arch. We finished Blink somewhere in between St. Louis and Chicago… another good book that would take too long to talk about. Chicago is AWESOME! We’ll prolly spend a lot of time there. We ate dinner (per the Stennetts advice) at a deep dish pizza joint called Lou Malnati’s… AMAZING PIZZA! Thank you guys for the awesome suggestion. In the end, we rolled into Kenosha and our new home around 11pm.

We’ll tell you all about our adventures here in Kenosha in different blogs, but we wanted to let you know that we’re here… we’re busy… church was AWESOME… and we were feeling bad about not letting you all know where we were and how we got here. Stay tuned!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Kenosha vs. Kirkland

We were wondering, and we thought you might be wondering, what are the real differences between the home we’re leaving and the home we’re headed to. Since we leave tomorrow morning, let’s see what we can find out…

ROUND 1 - Population
Kirkland: 45,740
Kenosha: 96,240
Kenosha knocks Kirkland out in 40 seconds with more than double the population. Who could have expected that?

ROUND 2 - Geography
Kirkland: Borders Lake Washington
Kenosha: Borders Lake Michigan
Kenosha the clear winner of that round. Lake Michigan is WAY bigger, colder, and more famous than Lake Washington!

ROUND 3 - Google Fight!
Kirkland: 14,500,000
Kenosha: 7,360,000
Kenosha slips as Kirkland triple punches Kenosha in the jaw...

After three rounds, Kenosha is the clear winner. We can't wait to get there and find out if it's true.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Growing Up...

This is officially our last week in Kirkland, for a while anyway. The shipping company came and picked up Tony’s Bronco today and then we had a great little “Good Bye” get together with some of Tony’s family this evening. It is definitely feeling very final at this point. There are still quite a few details to figure out, and there is a ton on our minds. For instance…

Have you heard this one before: “If He calls you, He’ll equip you”? This phrase has brought me much comfort and strength in the past. I mean, it seems logical, reasonable, and definitely encouraging. There are plenty of stories in the Bible of God asking people to do something that seemed impossible, and then He provided a way for them to do it, strength to get through it. I believe it’s even happened in my life where I felt God was asking, urging me to do something that I never thought I could do. Then, when I stepped out to actually do it, I found I had more strength than I could have mustered on my own… that the Holy Spirit was with me to help me accomplish something that seemed impossible. I’m not talking about lifting a burning mini-van up off of a trapped baby. I talking more about forgiving someone I never thought I could or would forgive. I knew it was something God wanted me to do, never thought I could or would do it, and then with His help I did.

If He calls you, He’ll equip you…

Do you think the opposite is true? If He doesn’t call you, will He not equip you? If you haven’t read our last dilemma about calling, you might want to check it out. I am still thinking and praying about it. Now I’m wondering about this "call you-equip you" saying. I call it a “saying” rather than a verse because I couldn’t actually find this in the Bible. I know there are a ton of you out there who are more scholarly than me (or is it, I?), so if you know where to find this saying as an actual Bible verse, I would love the help. But, since I can’t find it, it makes me wonder if it is really in a list of clichés we’ve made up. You know the ones I’m talking about…
Cleanliness is next to Godliness
God provides for those, who provide for themselves
The higher the hair, the closer to God

So, I’ve been wondering… if He didn’t call us… is there a reason He hasn’t actually asked us to help launch Great Lakes Church? I mean, are we these people who volunteer to do something we think is a good idea, but really… maybe it isn’t? Are we these people who give your four year old daughter a puppy, because we know she’ll love it, and because we love her, and somehow we can’t see past our noses to realize we have just cursed your house (and your carpet) rather than blessed you?

You see, having desired to follow Jesus Christ for the past 7 years, I have had my fair share of experiences with obedience. I learned early on that obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). I also, for all of my life, have known what it is to disobey or live in rebellion. I am familiar with guilt and shame, and I am familiar with the joy that comes from doing what I know I should do. But, this Great Lakes Church thing, as we’ve said before, is not an obedience thing. It’s something else…

As kids, we rarely did anything we did not want to do without being asked. There were plenty of times I knew my room was a mess, but didn’t even consider cleaning it up until I was told to do it. Oh, and if I was told to do it, and then didn’t do it… yep, disobedience. Disobedience = BIG TROUBLE! But that’s normal, right? Nobody expects a child to clean up without being asked. It’s a precious little miracle if they do.

I knew a woman once who, when dating a guy, would occasionally take him to a jewelry store. She’d show him the things she liked, try them on with him there, talk about what she wanted him to get for her. (I know, not my idea of a good date.) Then, in a matter of weeks, or the next time there was some sort of gift giving occasion, she would receive in a pretty box the very piece of jewelry she’d shown him. How lovely, right? A guy who would do what he was told?

... Hmm… Would you like to pause and raise an eyebrow with me? If you’re thinking what I’m thinking… Wouldn’t it have been better if he’d thought of the gift all on his own? Wouldn’t it mean more, and wouldn’t she maybe feel more loved, if he’d decided that he wanted to get her something special and then he went, like a big boy, and picked it out himself? It’s like she never even gave the guy a chance! Or maybe she thought if she left it up to him, he wouldn’t show her love the way she wanted.

So, we know we are not going to help launch Great Lakes Church because God specifically asked us. At first that thought is quite scary. We wondered, and still do sometimes, if God will really provide for us, equip us, since he didn’t actually ask us to do this. (We’re not giving the kid a puppy, are we?) But now, it’s getting kind of exciting. It’s this feeling that maybe we’re not kids anymore, kids that can really only respond with obedience or disobedience. Maybe we’re growing up just a little bit, and learning to love God in a new way. It’s exciting to think we have this opportunity to do what we can, not because we were asked, but simply because we love God and we want to give Him something of ourselves. Our Father has always taken the initiative toward us. We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). He has pursued us, initiated the relationship, forgiven when we did not deserve. We know we cannot out-love Him. But, I wonder if maybe he hasn’t given us that assurance of a specific calling or conviction in order to give us room, give us a chance, to pursue Him and give all we can just because we want to.

Maybe this is our opportunity to truly love Him back.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

“Thank You” feels like a cliché

I don’t deserve the generosity I’ve received. There have been so many amazing people in my life… so many events that I can recall feeling unworthy of. These things I’m talking about outweigh any amount of thanks or appreciation I can dish, and that makes me concerned that I’ll never be able to totally repay the people who have blessed me. Michelle and I would spend the rest of our lives writing thank you notes, giving hugs, inviting people to dinner, and still wouldn’t come close to expressing our gratitude.

I won’t bore you with some lengthy acceptance speech, but I do need to tell you about a few moments in the last month or so that have taken my breath away.

I won’t use any names… but you know who you are… and you’ve made a difference. Thank you.

First off… we’re moving… everything we have… across the country… somewhere we’ve never been… and it’s going to cost money to do it. I have a job lined up when I get there, but Michelle doesn’t quite yet. Right when concerns for our finances start to arise, we receive a couple of cards from some friends of ours with checks totaling over $1000! We didn’t ask for it… we never would have… but it’s an answered prayer before we got around to praying about it.

Next… Michelle has a great idea and thinks that we can raise a little money and shed a few moving pounds by having a “Kenosha or Bust” moving sale. I'm thankful for the friends that helped us put it all together. It also was great to see so many familiar faces. I’m thinking the max we should see out of this is $500. Michelle says that if we could hit the $1000 mark, it would truly be God behind it, and I agreed. Well, through the generosity of some of our close friends (having donated 95% of the items we sold that day) we ended up counting $2300 at the end of the sale! Let me explain a little further… we sold stuff that DID NOT BELONG TO US! Not only so, but there was a couple we had met just once who heard our story and delivered incredible furniture and items to support our efforts. Generosity… undeserved.

This next one is pretty close to my heart.

Since I started playing guitar, I have always dreamed of the day I would own a Larrivee acoustic guitar. I would watch ebay and wait to see if one would reach a price that I might be able to afford, but that never happened. Once, I took my entire tax refund and found a Larrivee that I could afford, so I drove out to the sellers house to play it. He was reluctant to part with it, so I told him I’d give him some time to think about it. My car broke down right after that and I couldn’t afford it anymore. I hope you’re getting that this is my DREAM guitar… something that is almost unreal to me. So, just this past Sunday, we had a little get together with some friends from church. A friend of mine who I’ve known for less than a year walks in and walks straight up to me. He says “Hey man, you forgot your guitar at church” and puts his Larrivee in my hands. That is… by far… the most amazing gift I have ever received. I’m not saying that simply cuz it was an expensive guitar, it’s so much more than that. What’s more, Great Lakes Church doesn’t own an acoustic guitar and I would need to go find an affordable solution… but now I can start this band off with the right tools. There are over a dozen more ways why this instrument is perfect for my needs right now… so if you wanna geek out with me, ask me the next time you see me. Or, if you’re curious to get inside my head, you can spend 10 minutes to download THIS video from their site, and about 20 minutes watching it. I am still amazed by this gift. Great Lakes is gonna ROCK!

Along with an iPod fully loaded (which we’ll need for Great Lakes services), an inflatable bed (which we were already going to buy for our week on the road), money, prayers, opportunities to work and earn more, stories, time, discounted rent, help, and words of encouragement, I think I finally understand what Michelle means when she says “I am definitely God’s favorite”. There is a point at which we just begin to feel spoiled. We know that God’s resources are unending, it is so humbling to be on the receiving end.

It has been our desire to practice generosity. We often “joke” with our friends when we go to dinner or coffee… “We’ll take care of it, we’re rich. Don’t worry about it!” We joke, but we also have believed it. Not that we earn more money, necessarily, than anyone else we know. But, we have recognized that God is our provider and as we share what we have and bless others, we’ll be fine. At this point, friends, neighbors, strangers… they’ve all out done us. They remind us that God’s people are generous, and more than that, He is generous.

2 Corinthians 9:6-11
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:
"He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever. Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.

So, we thank God for you.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The Problem of Calling...

We find ourselves in an interesting place in time and geography. Tony and I are moving to Kenosha, Wisconsin to help launch Great Lakes Church with Pastor Dave Nelson and his family. This will be the first true daughter of our home EastLake Community Church. We made the decision in a matter of just a few days and now it's all set, everything else is just details.

The responses we've received since making this decision have been amazing. Some people are sad we're going, which is nice. Some are excited we're leaving to do this ... which is also nice? The one thing that we commonly hear is something along the lines of this: "It's so exciting that you are obeying your calling and stepping out in faith to do this!"

There have been times in my life when those around me would say, "I'm called to the ministry", or "I've been called to lead men", or "I am NOT called to children's ministry, so I can't help there", or "You should ask God what He is calling you to do, then do it." I began to believe that everyone had a very specific "calling" and that my life in Christ wouldn't probably begin until I found out what mine was. There were also times that I thought I must not be that good of friends with Jesus, since He hasn't "called" me.

None the less, He did call me out of darkness (John 8:12). He did call me to love Him and love people (Matthew 22: 36-40). He did call me to look after widows and orphans in their distress and to keep myself from being polluted by the world (James 1:27). He called me to lose my life, my preferences, my possessions, that I might find my life in Him (Mark 8:34-36). He called us all to pray that workers would be sent out to reach people (Matthew 9:35-38).

The thing that seems so great about a calling is that it can give you purpose and direction. If I knew I were called to missions in China, I might be more motivated to learn to speak Chinese, make connections with others going to China, pray that God would help me see how I would accomplish all of this. There is something comforting about that calling. You know why you are doing what you're doing, it's because you've been called. It could even be something you were created or meant for. In a way, the planner/preparer/organizer in me envies those who are called.

I don't know about you, but it is very rare that I have ever felt like God said something very specific to me. Along with the rarity, it has happened that I have heard God, but misunderstood the meaning behind what I thought I heard. The danger there is that if I wouldn't recognize that the misunderstanding was mine, I might think God had lied to me. I don't think I have ever called God a liar, but I have asked Him if He's tricked me...

And then I get another email: "We are so proud of you for being obedient to what God has called you and Tony to do." So, I generically respond, "Thank you". But, what I want to say is this...
Dear Loving Friend,
Here's the thing... We prayed about it, we asked God for clarity on whether we should go or stay, and neither of us got any clarity about it. We're pretty sure we are not "called" to go to Kenosha to help plant a church. We both, separately and together, got the sense that God loves us and would not be disappointed whether we stayed in Kirkland or gave up everything to move to Kenosha. Tony and I believe we have complete freedom and choice in this situation. Neither of us have any conviction or nagging in our hearts about this being an issue of obedience or disobedience. Yet, somehow, we've decided to go. I hope you'll still be proud of us.
Love always,
The Petersons

So, as much as I wish we were called to do this, I am finding meaning in that we are not. The problem of calling is this: If you don't hear it or you misunderstand what you think you hear, you may never step out to try anything at all. If you are only doing what you are called to do, how very many opportunities you may miss to fill a need and do something great.

Friday, August 29, 2008

What? I didn't know you guys were moving...

Yeah, well, a few weeks ago, we didn't know we were moving either. Don't worry, I sometimes feel just as out of the loop as anyone else. I'll attempt to bring you all INTO the loop with this little list of...


Where are you moving to?
Kenosha, Wisconsin

Where the heck is that?
It's about 45 minutes south of Milwaukee, WI and 1 hour north of Chicago, IL.

Why would you move there?
We're moving to help our good friend and my former boss, Pastor Dave Nelson, and his family launch a new church, GreatLakes Church. We're excited to spread the love and community of Jesus Christ, as well as the life change that we found for ourselves at EastLake to a new part of the country.

Did you know it gets really really cold and they have mosquitos the size of Smart Cars?

Woah! Didn't know that about the mosquitos...And, if you know Tony and I, you know we barely know how to dress for winters in Seattle, so we're still wrapping our minds around how cold it's going to be. Hmm...am I talking myself out of this?...

How did you decide to pick up and move?
It's funny you ask. Pastor Dave shared his desire to go back to his home town and start a church with us back in January of this year. Tony and I were very excited and committed to pray for him and support him any way we could. The day after Dave shared, I asked Tony (in my most hypothetical voice) "Honey, would you ever consider moving to Wisconsin to help? Could we just pray about it?" Along with giving me the crazy eye, he basically said, "Uh...yeah, we can pray about it. But, God would have to drop a billboard on my Bronco that said 'Move to Kenosha' before I could believe that's what I'm supposed to do."
Dave poked at Tony and I about it over the next several months "So, thinkin' about moving to Kenosha?" To which Tony would reply, "Nope. We're not. And, by the way, stop talking to my wife about it, Thanks!"
You might think from his responses, as I did, that we would not be moving to Wisconsin, which was no big deal to me.

Um...You just told me how you decided you WEREN'T moving...I'm confused...
Right, right. Ok, I'll get to it.
After months of hearing Tony say "no" every way under the sun, Dave got serious and asked Tony, seriously. Tony called me to let me know that Dave and Rindy wanted to meet up with us just to talk about it. I "knew" what Tony's answer would be, but I asked him if he would just pray about it and have an open mind. He and I then decided to go on a drive and just talk about it. He asked me first how I was feeling about the idea, and I told him I was excited for Dave, but that I couldn't really even attach myself to the idea since I knew we weren't going. Then I asked him how he was feeling. He said he was excited about the potential to start something new and to see a community touched by God in a new way.
"Excuse me, what? I can't believe you're even entertaining this idea!"
So, over the next 4 days (Tuesday to Friday), Tony and I talked and talked, met with Dave and Rindy to hear their vision and ask some questions. Then we talked and talked, and prayed and prayed, and talked and talked. We talked about what God had given us, and how this could be a way to give back. We talked about how we love our life here in Kirkland, and how this is not a good idea. We talked about how fun it might be to move to a strange place (sorry, Kenosha) together. We prayed and prayed, separately and together, asking our Father if this is what he wanted us to do.
We never got any solid answers to any of our big questions. After meeting for dinner with Dave and Rindy a second time, we got in the car to leave, I leaned over and asked Tony "So, what are you thinking."
Very simply, he said, "I'm kinda thinking 'yes'. What are you thinking?"
I shrugged and said, "I guess I'm thinking 'yes', too."
"Hmm...weird. Should we just drive over to Dave's and tell him?"
And then we prayed and asked God again for any red flags and any direction. Nothin'. So, we pulled into Dave's driveway, just as he and Rindy were getting out of their van. Tony jumped out of the car and said to Dave "We'll do it... we'll go with you."
THAT is how we decided.

That's insane! What about your jobs?
Uh...yeah. Did I mention that my new boss, for the new awesome job I just started, is a member at EastLake? Here's a good one. What if, Tony and I decided late on Friday night, and despite my attempts at calling, emailing, and FaceBooking, I could not get a hold of my boss to let him know? Then, what if my boss came to the 1st service at church on Sunday, and Pastor Dave gave a whole message on FEAR, and sprinkled in an announcement that Tony and Michelle Peterson were leaving to help him launch a church? Wouldn't that be a crazy way to give notice!?!?
Mmm Hmm, that's exactly what happened. It's even better if you hear Rob McKenna's side of the story.
None the less, my new/old boss has been gracious and excited for us, so that's been a relief.
Tony's bosses, Ryan Meeks and Matt Woll, were understandably stunned, but have also been very generous, gracious, and supportive. It's nice to leave the places we love on such good terms.

When do you leave? Are you flying?
We are planning on leaving September 29th.We'll be driving our Subaru Outback "Lupita" across the country. Here's a rough draft of our plan,... grab yourself a big map...

1st Stop: Spokane, WA
We'd like to have dinner with Tony's parents and brother there and spend the night.
2nd Stop: Yellowstone National Park
We've never been, so we'll be camping there one or two nights.
3rd Stop: Fort Collins/Denver, CO
We've never been there either. We have some good friends, Grant and Natalie Winnett, who live there. We'll stay a couple of nights with them and then hit the road again.
4th Stop: Kansas City, KS
Guess what! We've never been there.
5th Stop: St. Louis, MO
We hear they have great BBQ
6th Stop: DESTINATION: Chicago, IL/Kenosha, WI

What will you do when you get there?
That will have to be another blog entry...

If you have questions, please let us know. We will do our best to keep up and keep in touch :)