One Picture of Living Out Faith Beyond Sunday Morning

Cornerstone Church Lee Scott
Cornerstone Church at Lee Scott Staff and Volunteers

Anyone who has confessed to following the teachings of the Christ knows Sunday is just the day we come together to meet with other believers. Sunday isn’t the day the work of the church body takes place, that’s what happens when we engage people in our daily routine of life. Sometimes I think it’s easy to forget the work of the church body takes place during the rest of the week, especially when we have been so conditioned to the importance of Sunday being there for that one hour Sunday morning.

I am so privileged to get to work with staff and volunteers (group shot) that make their faith the work of everyday life. This photo above was just one of the countless meetings and conversations that takes place for the purpose of reaching others in our community and beyond. As I look at this photo from today, and recall the conversations that took place today to encourage and uplift each other, Hebrews 10:22-25 sort of jumps out at me.

let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

These verses, which is normally used by the church to remind us we should be IN “church” on Sunday morning. This section of Hebrews is actually three exhortations in the “full assurance of faith,” or a call to believers to (1) come together, (2) be strong, and (3) to challenge each other, considering how to challenge each other to love and good works (v.24-35). The purpose of this is to strengthen each other’s faith in preparation for Christ’s return.

I’m a visual kind of guy and in my mind, this photo is just one small modern day example of Hebrews 10:22-25, and it didn’t even take place on Sunday morning, but instead on a Monday afternoon.

Hand Made Smocked Clothes and Gowns for Preemie or Premature Babies

Hand Made Smocked Preemie Premature Clothes

This is slightly off-topic for my blog (hence my need and reason for having a Sidenotes Category), but well worth some publicity to lovingly brag on my wife, Deborah. In case you didn’t know, Deborah is about the best seamstress I know (just check out her blog or her custom made items on the Etsy store), and her work is in the category of heirloom clothes, depending on the particular project she’s working on. She has made, and is making, everything from Easter (see Easter Order) and Christmas gowns (see here), to fun football dresses (here) babies and girls can wear to any worthy SEC game, though she doesn’t discriminate against any school. If you are looking for an incredible dress or gown, get in touch with Deborah for details.

All of this is custom made to order per each individual, and all is hand made one individual stitch at a time. The most amazing work I’ve seen come out of her sewing room lately are these preemie clothes I photographed above. While each ministry is different, specifically because God has gifted each one of us in totally unique ways, this work is over the top awesome. Deborah started making these hand-made smocked (the crinkled stuff around the chest area for the guys reading this post) preemie gowns and clothes for parents who would normally never get the honor of having something special for their own child.

You can’t tell from this photo, but these clothes are teeny-tiny. Deborah even included one for a boy, which most of the time parents never have any clothes for at all. It is just amazing to me to think that somewhere, some as of yet unknown parents, are going to be presented with one of these gowns to put on their baby, probably during a very difficult time in their own lives. For parents to be able to receive something like this (for free), of this quality, hopefully says to them, God loves you, and He loves your child as well, no matter what happens.

This set of preemie clothes was just shipped this week to a large hospital in Miami where the need far exceeded the supply. If you are at all interested in helping with this type of ministry work I am sure Deborah would be more than happy to talk to you about it. For today, it is my Photo of the Day, and quite a challenging photo to take at that.

Cultural Priorities and the Breakneck Speed of the West

I love this shot of Jason, Eddie (our driver in Uganda), and myself. If you are holding a machete in the middle of the woods-jungle I think it’s a rule, you have to stop to have a photo taken. Jason and I were attempting to clear a few branches away for a lady who lived on the property and to say thanks she gave Eddie these awesome avocados (you can just see her in the photo in the upper right background). Actually, we both thought it would be really cool to get to use a machete to do some actual real work, and I ended up with the machete and Jason the axe pipe thing (sorry Jason).

I know I have said it before but it still amazes me. The speed and priorities of life in Bulboa where this lady lives is so extremely different from the west, even different from just up the road in Kampala. Life down in Buloba isn’t really run by a clock on a wall like we know it, and no one seems to be in a hurry to do anything, it’s just TIA (this is Africa). I didn’t really hear that said too much while I was over there, but I did hear it a few times, which generally refers to “whenever”. I personally loved that and enjoyed the down time, especially since that pretty much doesn’t exist at all on this side of the world. I fight for it every week but it’s certainly not the norm no matter how hard you try to slow things down. The little wood we chopped up was supposed to last her about a month, although I’m not sure how, the same bit of wood wouldn’t have been enough to start a fire to me. We did spend about an hour or two walking around this neighborhood while others in our group worked on some painting. It was very low key, very laid back, very TIA.

Over here this week life moved along at our normal breakneck speed. Nothing inherently wrong with that but every minute of every day is packed full and it didn’t take me any time at all to fall back into life at hyper-speed where you have to fight for margin. Margin is where life happens, where we meet with God and remember why we do what we do.

Cornerstone Staff Take it To the Bowling Alley :: Photos

Every month we have a meeting where the entire staff gets together for lunch, but this Tuesday, everyone headed over to the Auburn Bowling Alley for a game instead of our normal “meeting”. It was loads of fun and a great break from the normal routine of things. That first shot is the whole motley crew, including my bald head (thanks Ashley Coxwell for taking the shot), seems everyone on staff is a professional bowler, we just happened to have missed a few pins for some reason. This particular all-staff meeting was said to be a “surprise” so none of us knew what was going on until we were told where to drive to for lunch. I love a staff that cherishes some down time, even if it’s just 90 minutes at the bowling alley. I hadn’t been bowling in probably 10 years but it was a blast. The are tons more photos but I’m saving those for ransom later in the summer.

I AM Lenten Reader, Spoils :: Lent Day 6

Day 6 :: Friday, March 15, 2011, Working for Spoils

Read John 6.25-29. What are you working for that spoils? Practice confession by writing those pursuits here.

Contemplation Over Day 6

This is such a hard question to answer, it’s like trying to come up with a list of daily sins that you committed. I think everything I work on that doesn’t glorify God or doesn’t prove to have productive roots based in scripture is a pursuit that spoils. All or many are not things that are necessarily bad, they just don’t add to furthering my understanding of scripture or bearing fruit for the kingdom of God.

I think the key word here is spoils. I can’t look at the above without saying that the pursuit of doing the laundry spoils because it doesn’t further the kingdom. Doing our normal routine of chores and duties we have to do because we are alive may seem like they spoil, but they are more like the “toil” not the spoil.

Things that i would pick that are the biggest time suckers, which keep me from further developing a relationship with God are probably TV, Internet (mindless pursuits on the Internet, there are many good pursuits to be had), and perhaps things like football season and everything that seems to be necessary with that venue, and a host of other little things that rob time from my day one little minute at a time.

In this passage today, John 6:26, Jesus used those famous words “I tell you the truth”, 4 times in the discourse just within this particular discourse (John 6:26, 32, 47, and 53) to point out the importance of what he was about to say. in 6:26, as i wrote about yesterday (see I AM Lenten Reader Review, Bread of Life :: Lent Day 5) Jesus is rebuking the disciples for their intentions for materialistic gain, and their total lack of spiritual perception. (BKC p.235)

In v.27 Jesus tells us specifically not to work for those things that spoil, but to expand our work into working for things that don’t spoil, working for the eternal, for things that won’t spoil. This is not totally new but one thing I find significant is that Jesus specifically tells us in verse 27 to work for those things that last into eternity, “[work for] the food that endures to eternal life which the Son of Man will give to you”. (v.27 ESV)

What i find significant about this verse is that is says things we work for in this life will pass to our eternal life? Most commentaries say “spiritual food leads to eternal life” (BKC p.295), which is correct, but it doesn’t examine that the spiritual food (reading, studying, praying, bearing good fruit) will pass on to the eternal life. My knowledge of movies or who won last year’s NCAA tournament is probably not the most important spiritual food that endures to eternity, but what about knowledge learned through studying of the bible?

As I read on in v.28-29 it shows that the people were thinking that their salvation came from doing good works or being a good person (cf. Romans 10:2-4), but Jesus says no, there is only one way, to believe in the One whom God has sent.

5 Reasons Why I Love My Job at Cornerstone Church

Cornerstone Church

I haven’t posted consistently here since November because every time I went to write something, words didn’t suffice. This week, and the past several weeks, have been so unbelievable that I really can’t describe my feelings into coherent words yet (see Deb’s blog post in brief). The ups and downs of life that have occurred is something I have never faced before, and I don’t really know where to start, other than to say we have a great God, worthy of every ounce of praise we can muster.

As a way to just get myself started unpacking the events of the last few months I thought I would start with my job at Cornerstone and go from there. I’m well into my third year (see I Have Now Joined the Ranks of Church IT), and starting in 2011 I moved into a slightly different role, one that I am really looking forward to in the year ahead. It has been quite an adventure, something I would never trade if I had to do it all over again, and this past week was a big exclamation point on that statement.

Thinking over the reasons why I love my job I started realizing there were 100’s, so in a nut shell, here are five off the top.

1. It Combines My Life Passion and My Career A “life passion” is probably inadequate to describe my faith. Being a Christian isn’t about being passionate about something, like I love Auburn football, or love to eat, it is who I am. Being able to go to work every day and play a small part in something big is huge to me, but it’s more than that, it’s the combination of the 100’s of reasons I love working for the Church.

This is a catch all reason. Everything about my faith is played out each day, for better or worse, and I have the honor of being supported by the members of Cornerstone. The support that I receive in my life, especially over the last few months, transcends a “job” and has become a way of life.

2. The People I Work With are Unbelievable I can’t say enough about the staff at Cornerstone. In the almost 25 years I have spent in the work force so far, I have never worked with a greater collective group of people than those staff and those who lead the church than at Cornerstone.  I could write a post about each of them and how much they mean to me individually, and as a group.

3. Cornerstone’s Vision and Direction This is something the staff and leaders talk about all the time. Where is God leading this church, and how can we best follow His direction. Much of what goes on at Cornerstone Church comes from the statement Leading People To Know and Serve Jesus, and our jobs, whatever that job is, should ultimately work towards that goal, and I love that.

4. Margin, Prayer, and Study, are Expected Finding time to live the life we are called to live out as Christians can be hard. We get so busy with work and everything else that is life, but as a Christian we are called to live out our faith Monday through Saturday too. At Cornerstone, the leaders expect us to live out a life of faith that is taught in scripture, and I love that about my job.

5. The Willingness to Learn and Adjust An amazing quality of Cornerstone Church is the willingness of the leaders to listen, learn, try something new, fail if needed, then adjust and try again. This is no small thing at all, and few businesses, let alone churches, can stop that train once it gets rolling, or try something new to try to make a difference in someone’s life.

That’s my top 5. If you’re in the Auburn area please come by on Sunday morning (or during the week), we would love to meet you.

Labor Day for Those Still Looking for Full Time Work

I love Labor Day, mainly because it marks the end of the summer with cooler weather on the way, all the kids are back in school, and football season is about to go into full swing. What I don’t like, and I am sure all those who continue to look for full-time work day after day don’t like either, is the reminder that Labor Day is technically for those who labor (that is labor in that stereotypical means created years ago by that industrial revelation we had), not those who labor looking for labor.

A Labor of Love

For all practical purposes, I have been looking for a full-time labor of love match since we sold our book business about three years ago (see How I Can Save Your Business Money from back in April, or the other articles at the bottom of this post). Although I have a great part time job, work more than full time at graduate school, and my days are busier now than they ever have been, looking for and finding a full-time position that matches both person and company has been one of the most difficult endeavors of my now 20+ year working life.

I have found more jobs and “careers” than I knew existed and made more connections with my resume than I can count. [On a side note, if you are a single college student in or around the Auburn area, there is a company looking for OSHA “inspectors” to work on barges in the Gulf of Mexico, no experience needed, pay is great, 21 days on 21 days off, and you get to fly to work.]

It is the Economy Stupid

After a while you just scratch your head in amazement at this current marketplace. Resumes and 3-piece suits are not what they use to be 20 years ago (thank goodness), but the lack of practical sense in some HR departments is almost comical, and expectations some business owners have is borderline ridiculous. Just for means of example, I give you one from this past week:

I had a company contact me from my blog asking if I would be interesting in writing articles for their website? Why sure, sounds great. I only have about 10-15 years experience writing well researched, SEO packed, properly formatted content, including about 1,000 articles on this blog alone, sounds great. His email to me then gave me a list of things he wanted me to do, including writing two articles for him so he could get an idea of my writing style, then after that, if they were interested, they would be happy to pay me $.007/word for 200-400 word articles? Yeah, that was a whopping $1.40-$2.80 per article. Probably cost me more to power my computer for that length of time than they would pay me. I get those all the time, and never reply to them, but someone out there does I’m sure.

Labor Day for All Labor

So today, at least in my mind, we can take some rest from those things which we do to sustain life. Enjoy what is probably a beautiful day outside since the calendar reads September, and be thankful for the work we are given to do.

A Market with False Expectations for Higher Education

This is something that could be written about at such length that no one person or media company could cover it properly. The real employment story for the millions of college students just moving into the work force and those millions in the country looking for work is the lure that higher education will promise a better job and better pay.

The government has now made it so easy for just about anyone (unless you have been convicted of a felony, and they are trying to change that too) to receive financial aid that the short term prospects of not getting or finding a full time job are overridden by higher education. A great but brief look at this topic was published this morning by Michael Barone of The National Review called The Higher Education Bubble. It’s simple short-term math. When the government gives you more to go to school than a potential employer will, and the golden carrot of an investment into your higher education is weighed, often school wins out. In the end, sometimes, it is nothing more than another way for the government to enslave its citizens in debt that a non-existent job will never be able to pay back.

When higher education institutions exist (i.e. they couldn’t or wouldn’t exist otherwise) only because the government pays for 95% of tuition through loans or grants (many schools actually have a 99% financial aid rate), the institutions win, but the students often end up worse off when they finish than if they never went in the first place. The concept is similar to the housing market years ago when the government told everyone it was their right as citizens to own a house, it was an essential part of the “American dream” per-say. It turns out that some actually would have been far better off in the long run renting, imagine that.

Much more could be said about this topic but I will leave that for another day.

How Do You Make a Maximum Impact on Something?

After using tumblr for two plus years i finally figured out what it is good for, rough drafts or incomplete thoughts. Where my blog is for more polished and complete thoughts, tumblr makes a great place to throw out the unpolished. Below is an unpolished, incomplete thought process of a blog post i am working on right now.

This question above is something i have been thinking about and struggling with for years, perhaps more than a decade. How do you do something that will make a lasting impact, that will make the maximum impact? The short of it is i have come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter what it is you are talking about, it can be making an impact on anything, your work, missions, an individual, a blog, financially, or playing a video game.

My answer. To make the maximum possible impact you have to make small, incremental, continuous progress towards a stated, or unstated, goal, which continues to an almost unspecified length of time. This is how Dave Ramsey would tell people to build wealth, this is how you build a community on your blog, this is how you make a difference in a person’s life, you do it one small step at a time and keep working at it on a continual basis. What doesn’t work? Doing what i call dart-board ministry. Throwing darts at a board and either doing something only once, or continually changing your methods, objectives, and goals. This is the fastest and easiest way to kill all momentum and progress.

The Work at Home Job Scam, the Freelance Job

This is a followup, and part 2 of a 4 part series, on the work at home factory job of today (read part 1, The Work at Home Job Scam, the New Factory.  This post deals with the freelance job market, the upcoming posts will deal with the call center jobs and Internet evaluator or website annotator jobs.  Keep in mind the term “freelance” encompasses a huge genre of work from photography to writing to virtual assistant to anything you can find on Craigslist in the job area.  The scope of this post is really just dealing with Elance and the Elance alternatives.

Elance is the biggest player in the Internet freelance job area.  After paying for their premium service for 2-3 years, and trying over and over for years to find a good flow of freelance jobs, I found exactly one decent hard working person who hired me to do some ‘Internet research” for $10/hr, which over a period of 6 months has earned me $85.  I still do work for him, he is trying to build his business, and he pays higher than most at $10/hr, but after almost three years, I have found nothing legitimate and it cost me $14.99/month ($450) for revenues totalling $80.

I am not here to say Elance or the others are scams (although there are posting scams all over the place), I am just trying to point out the value of your time and what it is worth.

There are plenty of alternatives to Elance like oDesk, Guru, Rentacoder, Scriptlance, Mturk, Freelancer, Getacoder, and some of my observations from sites like these are:

  • there are always tons of jobs available
  • Elance at least has it down to a science as far as pay and project organization
  • you are competing with an endless supply of workers from India who charge $1/hr (yes, on average your competition will charge $1-2 PER HOUR)
  • you have to work literally for nothing to get started by taking projects that will pay $50 for 30 hours of work
  • you are competing with noobs and people who have no idea how to run a legitamate business who will do anything for nothing, though their work is often very low quality, something you can easily overcome
  • quality is not valued as a whole… I have found the large majority of listings on these sites are looking for the cheapest possible outcome, with no regards for quality work
  • and of course, there are tons of scams everywhere you look, offers for work that will have your ISP ban your service, have eBay shut down your account, or worse… some offers might reward you with a federal search warrant and your computer equipment confiscated

Of course not all freelance work is like this, but I know of many people, who live and work within the U.S. and have to pay expenses associated with living in this country, not India.  You can only work for nothing for so long, eventually you have to either cut all expenses (not realistic) or have some revenue.

I have basically worked freelance as a photographer for more than 15 years and the key is to slowly build a client base that will recommend your work to others.  It is slow, tedious, and doesn’t pay well, but it’s far better in the long run than the results from these sites listed above.

Do yourself a favor in the long run. If you are interested in doing freelance work, treat your business like you would any other entrepreneurial endeavor by looking at some of the basics. For what it’s worth, my list also includes ::

  1. Don’t quit your revenue stream (job) until you are established
  2. Determine what unique skill or art you are going to freelance (what’s your market)
  3. Be prepared not to make any money early on, but even so, stay away from the sites above
  4. Pursue your passion, not a position
  5. Know that trying to monetizing your passion may destroy it or at least significantly change it
  6. Seeking alternative “positions” in that industry may also destroy your passion
  7. Seek out others who are doing the same thing and try to learn as much as you can from them
  8. Working more hours will not always equal better results
  9. Trying to integrate your passion into #1 above (results may vary)
  10. If you can mentally live without a steady paycheck, a 401(k), a retirement package, and stability, forget about #1 and pursue your passion instead of the culturally accepted “American Dream” but when you struggle to find your way, re-read #3, then, as Buffett would say, breathe in, breathe out, and move on.  My wife and I went over 15 years without a single paycheck (the W-2 type) and I still managed to eat.

Have you had any experience with Elance or any of the other sites listed above?  In my experience most, if not all, of these sites way over promise and way under-deliver for those with quality, experience, and education in their field.  I would love to hear if you have had any success with any of them in your freelance pursuits.