Ok, so there are around 2.4 billion things that I'm excited about right now. And I seriously feel like I need to pinch myself just to make sure this is all real. Here's a taste.
STORY - It happens next week! Can't wait. Around 1,700 pastors, communicators, church leaders, writers, speakers, etc will converge for two days to learn and be inspired by an amazing line up of storytellers - people like Dave Gibbons, Ed Young, Donald Miller, Nancy Beach, Mike Foster, Stacy Spencer, Chris Seay, and others. The first day happens on Wednesday, October 28th at the beautiful Paramount Theater in downtown Aurora. The next day will be workshops (sold out!) happening at The Orchard. Honored to host and be a part of STORY!
CULTIVATE - Seriously, Chicagoland is the place to be in October. Cultivate is a highly interactive, conversational, collaborative un-conference that's all about church communication. It's happening the day before STORY. And the lineup of facilitators is just sick. Wow.
DAVE GIBBONS - We are honored to have Dave speak at The Orchard's gatherings the weekend following STORY. Not only is Dave a good friend, but he's someone God has used to impact my life in some pretty significant ways. I'm thrilled that our church community gets to hear and learn from him!
THE NEW & IMPROVED....ORCHARD - The Orchard has had an extreme makeover! Through the amazing "pro bono" generosity of fellow Orchard tribal members, Dawn & Keith Baldwin (Aspire One), we have a new logo and amazzzing new website that will go live later THIS WEEK. I'll talk more about this in a later post... STAY TUNED!
LOVE.SERVE.GIVE. - It's The Orchard's GLOCAL outreach opportunities this winter. More about this later as well... But just know that we are going to have some amazing opportunities to bring beauty and hope to people locally in our city and globally in places like Uganda, Thailand, and El Salvador.
ORCHARD ART INITIATIVE - Too much to type, but The Orchard is turning into an art gallery starting this month. Our campus will be filled with art from local artists. Huge dream come true, but only the beginning...
Ok, there's more, but I my fingers hurt and I need to study. OUT.
This photo was taken a few months ago while on a visit to Uganda. It's the home of a man named Moses. He's the father of a young boy sponsored through Compassion.
Even looking back now, as I type this, it's hard to put into words what we saw and experienced that day as we walked through this urban neighborhood of Kampala. Poverty, disease, suffering, unclean water....you name it. I've spent time in other poverty stricken areas around the world, but on this day in particular, I realized that I had forgotten just how bad it really is.
Which is why I think my mind struggled to make sense of what happened next.
As we were standing in the middle of this "mess" saying our goodbyes, my focus was immediately interrupted by the sound of a little girl giggling, laughing, and trying really hard to get our attention. And as I turned around to see who the culprit was, I was completely taken back by the presence of this beautiful little girl.
It's hard to explain what I felt at that moment, but it was as though my mind immediately went TILT. Not just because she looked like she had just walked out of a suburban mall somewhere in middle America. No, it was everything! Her smile. Her laughter. Her silliness. Her life!
It was almost like looking at a puzzle piece that had been placed on the wrong puzzle. This piece didn't fit!
It was beauty...in the midst of utter brokenness.
For the rest of the trip, I referred to this little girl as "Julia" in my conversations with people. I called her that because she reminded me so much of my five year old daughter by the same name. The way she made me smile and laugh was just like my little "Juju" makes me smile and laugh at home.
I was reminded of something in regards to beauty that day. Something that I think is important as we become people who not only recognize obvious beauty, but who also learn to seek out beauty in this broken world.
Sometimes we find beauty. And other times.....beauty finds us. But either way, our eyes have to be open.
Open our eyes Lord. May we be more aware of Your beauty - even in the midst of brokenness. Amen.
I’ve been home from Uganda for about a week now. The jet lag has finally subsided and my stomach is [almost] back to normal. But my dreams... Man, my dreams continue to take me back to those faces. The faces of children who have absolutely nothing.....but who don’t even seem to know it.
What’s the deal with those smiles?
See, I lose mine so easily sometimes. Like when I’m out driving around in my car with the moonroof open, feeling the heat of the sun as it beats down on the graphite leather of my new sedan.....and suddenly someone cuts me off and I have to hit my breaks a little harder than usual.
Boom! Smile gone.
What the hell?
The Internet is slow today. My coffee isn’t hot. Someone criticized me.
Jesus help me. Because I saw more of you in these children....who had nothing....than I sometimes see in myself....who has everything.
“I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven.” Jesus in Matthew 18
Chicago to Atlanta. Atlanta to Amsterdam. Amsterdam to Uganda.
The journey begins tomorrow!
Here's the 411 on the trip...
Received an exciting invitation a few months ago from our friends at Compassion International to go to Uganda and experience their work there first hand. Since The Orchard already has a partnership started in Uganda, we felt like this would be a great opportunity to explore how we might be able to expand our global reach.
(Btw - if you're not familiar with Compassion, you need to be. They are making a huge impact in places all over the world. In fact, they're currently helping over a MILLION children in over 25 countries. Amazing, isn't it?)
So....keep your eye out on the blog over the next several days. I'm planning to post photos, maybe a video or two, and of course I'll probably Twitter now and then as well. Also excited to have "the real" Mike Jones accompanying me on this trip!
Uganda is eight hours ahead of Chicago time, so we should be arriving in Kampala (the capital city) sometime around noon (CST) on Friday, May 22.
LINKAGE: Learn more about Uganda here. See a map of Uganda here. Learn more about Compassion International here. Follow my Twitter updates here. Follow Mike Jones Twitter updates here.
We had a blast a couple weeks ago taping my talk for this year's One Prayer series! In case you're not familiar with it, One Prayer is a global movement of churches joining together to make a lasting difference in our world. And get this - so far, there are:
1,163 Churches with a total attendance of 639,364!
How amazing is that?! And I'm telling you...I honestly believe that the church is at it's BEST when it works together to accomplish great things. It's so beautiful!
A few details:
The global launch is happening on June 6th/7th, 2009. We are beginning ours a week earlier at The Orchard. Sofor us, it will begin the weekend of May 31st/June 1st.
We loved being a part of One Prayer last year and of course I immediately regretted that I had not taped a talk for it. So this year we decided to go for it and I'm so glad we did! We had a FUN TIME taping it and the final edit turned out really, really great! Our team did an awesome job!
The common One Prayer theme this year is, "God is..." and my specific title is:
We're excited and looking forward to sharing and learning from other churches all across America and around the world. And if you're a pastor, it's not too late to be involved. You can go here to learn more.
By the way, if you are interested in using my teaching in your church this year and would like us to record a personalized intro, let us know and we'd love to do that for you!
Ok, I'm diving back in to the blog. It's been way too long. My lame excuse: I've been running 200MPH since a few weeks before Easter with writing, travel, etc... and blogging just hasn't been that high on my priority list. Sorry faithful folks.
So anyway... Rather than try to knock out a bunch of amazing blog posts, I thought I'd throw out a few random thoughts of what's been happening over these past few weeks. Here we go:
Easter. This year's Easter weekend The Orchard was a record-breaking weekend! Our teams did an amazing job and I think my head is still spinning after a HUGELY successful Helicopter Easter Egg Drop. All I can say is WOW. If you missed the video review, click here.
Orlando. Had a great time at Exponential in Orlando. Exponential is sort of a like a big family reunion (but without the weird uncle and the funky potato salad). This is actually the largest church planting conference in North America and one that I would definitely encourage all church planters to attend in 2010. Had fun teaching a session with Gary Lamb (did he really say "wanker"??) and then participating in some great conversations in the Exponential Lounge with guys like Erwin McManus, Francis Chan, Dave Ferguson, Craig Groeschel, Matt Chandler, and others.
Austin. After a couple of days home I found myself in the amazing city of Austin, TX to be a part of Q. Q is one of my favorite gatherings of the year. It's small and all about influencing and changing culture. Think TED format. Loved connecting with a bunch of friends - both new and old. People like Kem Meyer, Mike Foster, Jeff Shinabarger, Tim Stevens, Alan Hirsch, Kyle Zimmerman, John Burke, Rick McKinley, Chris Seay, Gabe Lyons, Mel McGowan, Charles Lee, and a bunch of other amazing people. Next year, Q will be here - in Chicago!
Atlanta.Orange. It's THE premier and the BEST family ministry conference in the flippin' universe. Loved being a part of this and having the opportunity to share The Orchard's story and some thoughts/ideas on the topic of navigating change with a room full of Lead Pastors and Senior Leaders. Just wish I could have stuck around for more than a few hours, but was glad to be able to hang with a few of our staff who were attending and introduce them to some killer Korean BBQ.
Uganda. In a couple of weeks. More on this later, but looking forward to getting my heart messed up by this trip.
Study. It's what I should be doing right now. So I'm done. Hopefully back in the groove of blogging. We'll see. Thanks for the encouragement folks.