Archive | October, 2013

Showing Paradise With a Paved Parking Lot

19 Oct

Originally posted on my church‘s website.

Went to church this evening and never made it out of the parking lot, and that’s a good thing. There is a big event occurring right across the street from us. There are lots of fun and exciting things going on over there. Unlike many of the others allowing parking nearby, the parking lot we have is paved. The parking we provide is free. Specifically, I was working with a late night crew of six motley men. Our job was to keep people from running over each other and direct the drivers to the correct spot, all while showing the love of Jesus.

Conceptually, it kind of reminds me of my days in college when I first starting trying to apply I Corinthians 10:31 and was wondering how we could eat or drink to the glory of God. Now before I begin to debate the merits of a diet aimed at God’s glory, let me just assert that loving your community while pointing out parking spaces can be just as challenging.

You see, most of society does not look for God in the details, and some even try to take the miraculous away from God. When we are busy going about a task that is largely mundane, the tendency of depraved creatures is to think of it in Christ-free terms. We are filling our parking lot with people who come in expecting a merchant-customer experience before attending an event that does not place an emphasis on the atoning work of Christ.

Thanks to the generosity, foresight, and wisdom of our elders, we are able to immediately turn the tables on those expectations. Make no mistake, despite the occasional “thank you,” and the surprise of most people at free parking, the gospel is still something contrary to our nature as humans. The fortunate part, for us, is that we aren’t wanting to be the ones who change that nature.

We serve a God who created the world and all the people in it. He is able to soften hearts, even with something as simple as free parking. And for those of us who’ve been working we’ve seen Him at work. One of the great things about what we’re doing is we’re allowing the Lord to work, however He sees fit.

While it isn’t a thriving Utopic transportation from the real world where everyone goes about praising the Lord with every breath. There are still people littering the parking lot with everything from uneaten funnel cakes to almost full, lit cigarettes. We’ve had people drive by us with seemingly no regard for the fact that we are standing there and directing them. Nevertheless, we’ve had people ask us about our church and when the services are. We’ve had people thank our church for being a beacon of light to a seemingly godless society.

One of my great friends, Bob Collins, used to say, “The church is God’s chosen method for evangelism.” We’re out here attempting to show this culture who our God is. It is not an incredibly hard or thankless task, but it is one required of all those who are called to live a life pointing to God. Thankfully, we have an opportunity before us and we have the backing of the church and other members of the church to make the task easier. For what it’s worth, this Friday night crew loved the task (and even got a boost when we heard UCF win their football game minutes after our shift ended). Did others have similar experiences?


What Is a Trust?

15 Oct

If you were to ask me what a day is, I think you would understand that there is a context to that question. For example, there is the scientific answer of a 24-hour time period, there is the meteorological answer separating it from night, there is the philosophical answer of it being what you make it, and I’m sure there are a great number of other answers that you could have based on the conversation. Similarly, to answer the titular question, there must be context. So, the answer will almost assuredly need to be contextualized. It is similar with a trust, as they can be arranged in many ways, for many purposes, and with a myriad of different offshoots.

You can look up the definition of a trust, and get a really good answer, like Fidelity‘s definition that a trust is “a fiduciary arrangement that allows a third party, or trustee, to hold assets on behalf of a beneficiary or beneficiaries.” I like to think of it as something that was originally set up for parents, who had kids that they wanted to “benefit” from their wealth, but the kids were not old enough (legally or practically) to handle that wealth. So, they set up someone that was “trusted” to manage the affairs until such a time as the children were ready to take over. This is from whence we get the names beneficiary and and trustee.

The trustee is the person who controls (from a legal perspective) the asset or property, while the beneficiary is the one who gets the accumulated benefit or wealth. Why such an arrangement might be desired can range from protecting youthful exuberance from itself (or as we prefer to call it, Controlling Your Wealth or Protecting Your Legacy), Keeping your ownership or wealth secret (Privacy), or Tax Classification Savings (Probate, Bypass, Testimonial, or Charitable, to name a few). A trust can serve a variety of purposes, but the basics are always the same.

Some people believe that everything should be shoved into the infrastructure of a trust. While trusts are versatile and can handle a variety of circumstances, they certainly aren’t for everyone and they don’t make sense in every situation. There are times where another way to organize ownership or assets would be superior. To go over each of those would be impossible, but suffice it to say, there are also instances where a trust makes sense. Stay tuned next week, where we begin to differentiate between specific kinds of trusts.

An Exploration Into Slurping the Volunteers

12 Oct

This blog was written for my church’s blog.

It is quite possible that I spend too much time on social media. Yet, this week, something extraordinary happened on Facebook. I was sitting by my computer when I saw that Scott Devor wanted to get volunteers for the parking outreach. Oddly, the very next item on my facebook timeline feed led me to an interesting blog about getting people to volunteer for things at church.

The juxtaposition of these two items could not have been completely random, could it? Therefore, I will try to persuade everyone to help with this ministry opportunity. First, you should help because it is an amazing opportunity. It is a real way to show the gospel to people in an everyday environment. There are very seldom times where we get to bless someone with something that they “should” and could pay for and then inform them that they do not have to do so. Occasionally, some might get to do something for free in their jobs, but the reality is most of us need the money enough that we cannot afford to do something kind that often. This represents such an opportunity.

That opportunity frequently leads to the question about why a church would ever want to do such a thing, which led to several encounters of testimony sharing last year. It also has led to our good name in the community. In a completely unrelated business deal, someone was talking to me and upon realizing that I went to church asked where I attended. Upon answering Orlando Grace, the first response was, “Is that the church that gave away free parking last year?” When I replied that it was, he immediately asked me to share why my life was so altered that I would go to a church that would do such a thing. Having a good reputation in the community is not only our call and goal, but it is also something we can achieve through this event.

Next, you can realize that the event takes very little skill. Not only can I participate (that means it is easy), but my 8-year-old (last year) son assisted, and his (now) five-year-old sister wants to help this year. There is little skill involved in moving your arms, waving, and throwing out the occasional smile. We have some opportunities where you have to posses some small skill, but this is not one of those. This is a skill that virtually anyone can do, and I think almost everyone should. However, I was moved by Ron Edmondson’s blog, so I want to answer those concerns.

First, I want to ask as clearly and as blatantly as possible. Please sign up for at least one three-hour shift. It will be fun, rewarding, and if you come during my shift, you can go out for steak n shake with Jake and me afterward! If that is not the proper way to ask, please send me a way to augment my request so that it is more “correct.” We have made it as easy as we know to sign up. Go to the spreadsheet linked above and type in your name, or email Scott Devor, or find anyone remotely in leadership and they’ll make it happen for you.

To be clear, your job will be directing people as to where to park. Dependent upon your introversion/extroversion placement, you will be able to talk to people or completely avoid them. It really is not difficult, I promise. The only concern I have not answered from his blog is the saying thank you factor. So, I will personally thank you on the blog, write you a thank you note, and do whatever I can to make your thanks feel authentic. Since no one is as exited about my prop-giving, I’ll try to get PC to say cool things about you when he returns from vacation.

More than anything, however, you’ll hopefully get someone to say something about how great your God must be, and that is super cool!

Texting and Driving

9 Oct

Apparently, it is now illegal to text whilst you are in a car in the state of Florida. I’m not sure of all the permutations of the new law, but if you choose to live on the wild side, you may want to become acquainted with the rules, so that you can follow them appropriately. I find this whole line of law-making, which is apparently now the case in 40 states, a strange course of action.

Now, I think everyone is for more safety in driving. I think that it in incumbent upon us to do what we can to make the roads as safe as possible. Further, drivers are safer when they are not distracted. Texting is a distraction. Virtually everyone supports these two premises, and when juxtaposed with the “fact,” we “all” want people to quit texting. Ergo, passing an anti-texting while driving bill is the sway of culture and will eventually be the law everywhere.

I, however, am not so quick to jump in with support. Now, let me confess that I have texted while driving before. I believe I probably shouldn’t do it most of the time. I have self-bias, which means I believe that most people are probably even more dangerous when texting and driving than I am. So, why would I not be in violent support of such a bill?

First, I think the bill is far better than the selt belt requirement. Seat belts put my life in danger, while texting has the potential to put other lives in danger. So, I give it marks for being better than some already existing laws, but that isn’t usually enough to satisfy me, largely because I think many of the current laws are not well purposed. Second, I think the law may actually have the ability to save lives, if it is followed.

Therein is the rub. People don’t follow laws all the time. More importantly, I think that we have made the shift, as a culture, to making laws the standard for morality. If someone asks if you can do something, I believe our first reaction is normally one of answering legality. That’s a good thought, but why is it that whether I text (or wear a seatbelt or drive faster than the safe speed) is only based on whether or not the good folks in Tallahassee (or whatever your state capital is) or Washington (or whatever the capital of your country is) have written a law.

We should be governed by our own common sense and not exclusively by the law. I should stop texting not because there is a law against it, which can probably be found with enough loopholes that I could probably sneak by, but rather because it makes the car safer for me and the passengers and the road safer for the others in my path. But the additional reason I recoil at this law is because I don’t think we necessarily want the government to determine what is distracting and what is not. I mean, I think talking on the cell phone can be distracting. Listening to the radio is definitionally distracting. Talking to another person is distracting.

This morning, the distraction of talking with my son, Jake, distracted me enough where I drove to my work, before I realized that I was supposed to be taking him to school. Of course, there are times where I’ve driven on trips, where the very thing I needed was a distraction. Someone to talk to me to take my mind off of things (maybe even to keep me from realizing my own fatigue). Distractions can be beneficial or even necessary. Are we starting down the slippery slope of doing away with them?

I remember years ago when I worked in an office and began having a conversation where I was criticizing those who drive drunk. I realized that a co-worker had, in fact, been arrested for such years earlier. One thing he told me is that he feels that at that time his level of impairment was far less than other times when he had driven while being tired, which is perfectly legal. The fact is you cannot legislate competence, so you just try to eliminate the things you can. Drunk driving is bad, and I believe it should be illegal (as the privilege to drive should come with parameters).

Nevertheless, there is no sleepiness quotient while driving. Texting should be discouraged (and dramatically reduced) while driving, but I’m not going to say that we must do away with all distractions in the car. Some of those distraction keep us awake when we are tired and keep us from going crazy when we’re wide awake with a mind prone to wander. So, before I get caught texting in this blog, let me close it by saying that I have very mixed feelings about a law that I wholeheartedly hope makes an impact.