Found

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I knew I was in trouble in the first 15 seconds.

Kristin asked me to watch the video produced for the GFC Beautiful Conference.  The theme was “Found.”  On the video, a group of amazing ladies shared a challenge in their life.  These weren’t simple.  These were tough, gritty challenges that causes you to ask, “Where are you God?”  With courage and grace, each lady shared their scar and how God found them in the journey.  I knew most of the ladies but when it started with my assistant, Tanisha, I could feel the tears welling up.  Each story was compelling – these smart, talented ladies realized they couldn’t do it on their own and allowed God to be part of their journey.  Gutsy video. (If you want to see it, it is on the GFC Beautiful Facebook page under Conference Video.)

Flash forward to the conference itself.  For the second year in a row, I was the cameraman on Camera 2.  (It’s the straight on camera directly in front of the speaker.) I was in the perfect spot to see all that was going on in the services and sessions.  What an amazing two days for the ladies there!  Lisa Harper was an excellent speaker.  Her humor and ability to connect with the crowd was off the chart.  Yet, her ability to bring God’s Word and truth into life application is truly a God-given gift.  She ministered powerfully.  Sharon Tubbs continues to be one of my favorites.  Speaking for the second year – wow, she also has the gift of leading and teaching. The worship was a wonderful, intimate time with God.  All the other aspects were tremendous – the Pew, breakouts, and the couch talk.  We have some very gifted ladies in our church.

Being on the camera brought some challenges.  You can’t react on camera.  At least overtly.  When Lisa shared about going through double menopause, my camera visibly shook because I was so surprised.  And then I said, “Oh God, please tell me that isn’t a possibility.”  The problem with that was that I had head phones on and didn’t hear that I said it out loud.  Well, the ladies around heard me say it and gave me a hard time afterwards.  The biggest challenge was when Taylor in leading a song, shared about her miscarriage last year.  My reading glasses filled up with tears and it took me a while to see again through the viewer.

A lot of great people worked hard to make this year’s conference a tremendous event.  It is always humbling to see the food services, maintenance team and all the men who gave up time to serve.  And our tech and video team.  I am amazed at how much happens behind the scenes to put on live production.  Thank you everyone!

 

Lives were changed, relationships formed and the lost were found.

What a win!

The Key to Being Real

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Be real.

Recently, I sat in a meeting discussing the values that are the foundation to Grace Family Church.  One of the is “Be Real.” It is actually one that I truly appreciate about our church and our leadership.

As long as I have known Pastor Craig, he has modeled this value.  He was leading this group through the discussion.  When he got to this point, he asked, “What are things we do that will help us to be real?”  As the answers poured forth, I was impressed to see how our diverse staff in age, gender, ethnicity and backgrounds came up with excellent characteristics of “realness.”  One thought came to my mind…

Be Consistent.

Think about it.  When you are real, you consistently respond in the same way on a regular basis.  The foundation of Grace has not changed in the last 24 years.  Our mission is to lead people in a growing relationship with God.  We want to reach the lost, serve others, provide community, be generous, develop the next generation and be real.  Have we always achieved excellence over the years?  Not always, but we have a lot more “wins” than losses. We have used those challenges to help us grow in each one.  These values have not changed.  Their methods and application have over the years, but the core of those values have not.

Wouldn’t that be true for each of us.  The Lord has blessed each of us with our own personality, gifts and talents.  He doesn’t ask us to be like anyone else.  He doesn’t ask us to be something we are not.  Instead, he asks us to do two things – (my paraphrase) – Love God and Love People.

How consistent are you in this?  Do you love God in the good and the bad?  When he blesses you and when he throws a curveball into your life?  When things are clear and when you have more questions than answers?

What about loving others?  Do you value others that are “above” you as much as those who are “below” you?  Are you generous to help others even if they may not be able to give back?  Do you act one way with a group of people and different to others?

I look at the two previous paragraphs and I take a deep breath.  Sometime, I do this well.  I consistently demonstrate my love for God and others.  Other times, I fail.  But when I do, I have a choice.  Either I go in a new direction or I get back on the same trail and try again.  I choose to get back on the horse…I own my stuff, ask for forgiveness (or extend it to others) and I grow.

It isn’t flashy and spectactular – It’s real.

Throwing Up

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(What image do you use with a title like that…)

I haven’t thrown up in years.

On January 3rd, I awoke at 1:30 am and immediately knew something wasn’t right.  When I stood up, I thought “I am going to throw up.”  Most people know when this is eminent – our instincts kick in and we prepare.  I went out to the kitchen and got water and Gatorade for the recovery after the event.  I got the wet wash cloth to wash my face.  I got the couch ready for me to lounge on and hopefully get back to sleep. (I had a busy day ahead of me.) Finally, I sat down and waited.  About forty-five minutes later, it was over.  One minute of sheer, out of control, sweat producing, head pounding bowing to a porcelain bowl.

When it was over, I used my wash cloth and washed my face.  I brushed my teeth and began sipping my Gatorade/ water concoction.  I slumped on the couch and closed my eyes.  It was over.  Until an hour later, I was doing the same routine one more time.  Even more energetic than before.  It ended a crazy two hours.

What amazing pearl of wisdom can I share with you from that story?

I do not like to be out of control.

As much as I can prepare for the episode and the recovery afterwards, there is a terrible unknown that I cannot control when I feel sick.  Similarly, you and I have a fresh 24 hours set before us.  Think about all the things you truly have control over.  How about your relationship with God – He is the one leading you by his Word and purpose for your life.  He is in control.  Your relationship with spouse, family, loved ones and friends.  They choose to do what you want or what they want for themselves.  They have control. At work, those who lead you, you lead with and who you lead – all follow the same mantra – they choose to align with you or do their own thing.  Like my earlier story, you can go to bed feeling fine and wake up feeling nauseous – things change.  Things we own break, stop working or quit.  God throws a mean curve ball.  When you experience a change in an area, you react and may even lead.  Yet, you do not control.

Here is what you can control…you.

Namely, you thoughts, words and actions.  No one can do that for you.  They can give you ideas, point you in a direction and walk ahead of you.  Yet, you control when you think the first thought, say the first word or take the first step.  You control you and it is a full-time job.  For all the times we feel powerless, we are actually far from it.  We are fully empowered.  Even though I knew I was going to get sick, I could choose my attitude and reaction to it.  I can choose how I communicated it to those I work with and my family.  I can choose to be angry with God that He let it happen or I can try to find the blessing in it.  (Could it be so I could blog about it…hmmm.)

What would your 2018 look like if you chose to grow in your ability to take the reigns of  your thoughts, words, actions?  Everything else will be “out of control,” but you will be in control.

 

Never Been Here Before

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“I have never been here before.”

And neither have you.

2018 brings with it a blank canvas of a new year.  Brimming with a fresh sense of hope and anticipation, we can all look forward to putting the challenges of the past behind us.  Even when an area of our life is unchanged in the new year, we get a refreshed sense of vigor to tackle it once again.

But the big question is “Are you the same?”  Emphatically, my answer is “No!”

Think about where you were when you started 2017 to where you are today.  Here are some observations from my own 2017 that changed from the beginning of the year to the start of this year:

  • We had not found a house on the lake to look at, pursue or purchase.
  • We had not bought a home in the last twenty-three years.
  • We had not renovated a home twenty-three years.
  • We had only four grandkids – now we have five.
  • We did not have a wedding to look forward to…glad that is over!
  • We did  not ever go white water rafting together before – and to tackle the Grand Canyon…definitely a marriage builder.
  • I have never crossed the 50-year-old mark before – not a big deal.  (I do use it a lot when I forget something.)
  • I have never owned, maintained or even driven a pontoon boat before.  (Thank you YouTube!)
  • I have never shot an 85 in golf before but I have shot over 100 lots of times.
  • I have never grouted floors before and it was a traumatic as you can imagine.
  • I have never been as depleted physically, mentally and emotionally at one time and yet still felt stronger than ever spiritually. (Another writing – pretty amazing journey.)

I love doing this simple exercise.  Think about what has changed in your life in the last year.  Then, ask the same question with different time frames:  six months, 3 months, month, two weeks, and even since last week.  We live in a world that is constantly changing and it happens, many times, without fanfare or identification.

You are the constant in the journey.  Yet, you are changing as well.  I am not the man today that I was a week ago.  I am wiser, stronger, more mature, smarter, kinder, more humble, more curious and more grateful.  You are too!  Everyday is God’s purpose and plan to grow you in a relationship with him.  Everyday is a step of growth to being more like Him.  Everyday is a chance to stretch beyond what you know from yesterday and all the days before it.  Everyday you get to conquer new territories that you haven’t seen before…because you have never been there with all the tools, resources, abilities and talents that you have today.

So, today is new.  But it is a set up for tomorrow.  What are you going to do?

Go get ‘Em!

A Day in the Life of a Pastor – Choose to Be…

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Hurricane Irma came into our lives over two weeks ago.  After a week of continual coverage and build up, she made her way up the spine of Florida.  Her track shifted, changed, drifted and did significant damage everywhere she hit.

And where she didn’t hit.

This hurricane was different from any of the ones I had seen before.  Tampa did not take a direct hit.  But the pressure of preparation was intense.  Even when it was predicted to go up the east coast,  the size of the storm had people across the state nervous.  When it drifted west and took it sights on Tampa, people who were bunkered in fled.  At one point, Kristin was talking with someone and they said, “I just don’t know what to do.”  I told them, “No one has ever faced a storm of this size or magnitude.  None of us know what to do.”  There were very few black and white answers to the myriad of questions on preparations, staying/leaving, or what to do afterwards.

In the aftermath, we have moved forward by cleaning up, unboarding and resuming our lives as usual.  But even as we begin to see piles of debris being removed (not me), less utilities trucks and stores restocking, life is not usual.  There seems to be a tension.  Life isn’t normal.  People lost a sense of normalcy and peace.  You didn’t just go back to work – you had people working while others were gridlocked trying to get back on roads swollen with returnees.  So much lost time and progress.  Schools were closed and had people still staying there until they finally were able to open.  The amount of money spent on hurricane preparations, damages, repairs and even restocking entire food supplies was taxing on regular budgets and finances.

While all this was going on, I was selling my home of 22 years and finishing a remodel of a new home for Kristin and I.  It was crazy.  I experienced all the emotions and the physical toll of going non stop over the period of 17 straight days.  During this time, I was reading an exceptional book called Resilience: Hard-Won Wisdom for Living a Better Life by Eric Greitens.  The author is a former Navy Seal writing to another former Navy Seal who is struggling with PTSD and life after the military.  It has so many great nuggets of wisdom.  The one that helped me in the aftermath of my weariness was when Greitens challenged his military brother to choose to be something each day.  Choose to be strong, courageous, resilient, etc.  Choose to be something or let your fear or circumstances dictate what you are going to be.

That day, I chose to be courageous.  I thought about it often through out my day.  It wasn’t just psychology.  Coupled with my faith, God’s Word and His grace, I began to see how I could navigate the challenges before me each day.  With so many things out of my control, I was able to choose what I could control – me.  Were there challenges and problems – oh yes.  Did I do everything perfectly or even some things well – no.  But, it recalibrated my thinking and I saw things begin to move forward.  I found a new tool.

Today, I am back in my normal…no, things are different.  I am different.  I have a new understanding of pressure, weariness and the power of choice.  I continue to grow.

 

 

A Day in Life of a Pastor – The People of Irma

 

 

 

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Hurricane Irma definitely made its impact.  Having been through many hurricanes, this one did significant damage physically, emotionally and reminded all of us how little we control in our lives.

With all those raw emotions and times of uncertainty, one of the positive lights that came out was how truly awesome people are.  I saw so many people who just cared about another person and went the extra step to show it.

*People opened their homes to house others who didn’t feel safe or secure in their home.  And we found that we do better in stressful situations when others are around. (Makes you want to join a group – don’t do life alone.)

* People helped others find/load supplies, board up houses, fill sand bags in a time when their own homes and families were an uncertainty.

*People worked.  Thank you to all the weathermen and women who helped track the storm.  Who knew it was going to go where it went? Yet, their message of prepare yourself and your family paid off in people having resources to take care of their loved ones.  And a big thank you to all the first responders and utility providers, many from places far from here.  You served us – leaving your homes and loved ones to provide for us.  I have a great friend who was without power for 5 days but  was busy helping others get their power back on.

* People led.  I am so grateful for all of our state agencies that worked tirelessly to get the message out to prepare and then kept us informed in the process.  Also, I am grateful that I work with a team of leaders who talked, planned and executed the best plan leading up to the storm.  That same group jumped on executing a plan the same day the storm passed.

* People cleaned up.  This one was personal.  I came home to a 40 ft. magnolia tree that had fallen and several large branches down from one of my oak trees.  Within 30 minutes of being home, two great families we love came and helped us saw up and clear the tree.  One of my neighbors from down the street introduced himself and jumped right in.  Within three hours, it was all cleaned up.

Our church had over 150 people show up at GFC the next day to go out into the community to help people who needed assistance in getting caught up.  It was humbling and so cool to see.

* People hurt and people loved.  So many people in other parts of Florida lost homes, property and even their lives.  It is when people are most fragile that we see the resiliency and strength of others to help them carry through it.  Deep down, we all have a capacity to love.  Sometimes, we need an uncomfortable experience to show it.

Hurricane Irma was a tragedy that impacted so many lives.  Yet, in that pain, there was so much we gained.  A new perspective, a new opportunity and a new faith.

 

A Day in the Life of a Pastor – Golf gone wrong…Being Mentally Tough

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And just like that…it was gone.

The last few years, I have enjoyed going away for a few days and playing in a golf tournament.  There are four flights: A – D.  I have been a D player. It was only four years ago that I picked up the sport, took lessons to gradually improve and now was able to compete in a tournament.

Two years ago, I came in last place out of the sixteen guys competing.  I did not tally one point for my team.  Last year, I was came into the last day with no points.  I was playing well and leading my division going into the last day.  But on hole fifteen, my game left me.  The first line said it best – my game was gone.  I couldn’t hit anything.  I stood over the ball with no idea of how to hit it.  I ended up losing to everyone again.  And again, I came in last place.  (Ironically, the prize for coming in last place is a golf lesson. Which I appreciate.)

After that melt down, I went back and had a great chat about mental toughness with one of my mentors.  It was a great talk – no formula, no easy gimmicks, nothing about having it given to you.  A great friend, Kevin Carr, had me thinking about it years before when he introduced me to his 9 Medallions of Leadership.  One was mental toughness.  These two conversations crystalized into my own project on growing in this area.  Over the last year, I worked on it.

This year, I went to the tournament determined to play well.  The first two days were terrible.  My driver was all over, even on good shots the ball rolling out-of-bounds. The third day, my partner and I worked together to beat a better team.  I was able to step up on the last hole and put the second shot ten feet from the cup.  It was a great win for us.  The last day, I was again in the D flight.  For the first time in my life, I played each hole totally focused on the hole.  To do that for eighteen holes is tough and draining.  I was so tired after the round.  I still had bad drives, mishits and missed putts.  The difference was that I didn’t let those mistakes define each hole.  I would go to the next shot and get back into it.  In the end, I won my flight.  It was so cool.

So here are my takeaways on what I did to be mentally strong.

  • Take it one shot at a time.
  • Take ten seconds to focus before each shot.
  • Take time to not focus on the game but to celebrate/ enjoy the other people. (great guys)
  • Ask myself – How do I help myself when something doesn’t go right?
  • Stay positive.
  • Victory Talk – Talk positively to myself.
  • Break it down into small wins.  (Each hole had a win, even if I lost the hole)
  • Breathe.

I have not achieved the level of mental toughness I want to be at yet.  For one day, I got to see the benefits of it.  It was transformational to be that locked into something and to see the win.

What your day look like if you did one of these in your job, relationships or in areas of challenge?  Growth is good!

A Day in the Life of a Pastor – Stuck at the Ticket Counter

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I took a deep breath.  After numerous phone calls and corrections, my flight reservation was still messed up.  Only now I was standing at the ticket counter with a flight leaving in an hour.

 

The agent said there is a problem and listened as I shared the journey to get me standing before her.  She smiled and said, “Mr. Bonham, we are going to get you on that flight and when you leave this counter, you will not have to worry about this the rest of your flight.”  When she said that, I knew that it was going to happen.

 

I am writing this while on the second leg of that very flight.  In light of all the airline news over the last few weeks, this was a bright spot.  Anger, short fuses and people going over the edge all led to a mess.  Not today.  Two people looked each other in the eye and said, “Let’s make this happen.”  What a difference!  At that point, it really didn’t matter who was right, who worked the hardest on it or even who had the most to gain.  Both of us had a purpose and we got it done.  No one raised their voice, got angry, called someone out or even devalued the other person.

 

Conflict resolution is fundamental principle in leadership.  If you are going to be a leader, people are going to disagree.  Either with you or others, the ability to bring a different perspective and opinion will bring irritation.  No one really likes conflict.  I don’t like to see people on opposite sides of the fence.  Yet, I do like it when conflict is resolved to bring growth and results.  Here are some random thoughts about conflict resolution:

 

  • Focus on the object of disagreement, not the person. When you make it personal, you lose the ability to objectively bring resolution.
  • Value the other person. If you can communicate value to the other person, you can keep the focus on the conflict.
  • Listen more than you talk. You will not learn anything while you are talking.  Listening to the other person will give you insights to the person and the situation.
  • Ask questions. When you make a statement, you are drawing lines in the sand.  When you ask a question, you are extending an invitation for them to share into the resolution. (And you learn how to proceed next.)
  • Know your limit. In the end, I know what my cap is for resolution.  If we get there before the cap, it’s a win.  If we reach the cap and we haven’t resolved the conflict, I will walk away. (Rarely happens by the way).

 

I write this knowing each of us have had some wins and losses in this area.  Here is my bottom line – I want to resolve conflict to grow and make progress.  If I cannot do that, then I will value that person and walk away. My integrity and character are worth more than winning.

A Day in the Life of a Pastor – A Card to Casey’s Dad

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I looked at the pile of mail and paused.  This is unusual for me – I don’t usually go through the mail at home.  Kristin does an amazing job of tracking everything – bills, invitations, save the dates.  Today, I stopped.

 

There was a card sticking out of the pile.  I saw that it said “Casey” before it was covered by the Pizza Hut advertisement.  I plucked it out to find it was addressed to “Casey’s Dad.”  I don’t think I ever received something address like that, so it took me back.  I saw that it was from our South Tampa Campus Pastor, Mike Ash.  I opened it up to find a card that shared his appreciation that Casey is part of his team, how he is doing and gratitude.  I was stunned.  I received it when Mike was actually in Nicaragua.  He intentionally made time to make sure that card was received when he was being a husband and father, leading a growing, new campus and preparing to take a trip out of the country.  That is amazing and humbling.

 

Gratitude is an interesting expression.  I know that there are some out there that feel they deserve all they get.  I don’t know many people like that.  Most people work hard and they reap the benefits of that.  Yet, to go beyond that step where you leave entitlement and get to a place of thankfulness is a great movement in maturity.

 

As I get older, I have found that saying “Thank you” is one of the easiest things you can do.  One caveat – It must be genuine.  As you go through your day, look for people who genuinely helped you.  It can be as easy as the lady at the café who sold me a bottle of water or as difficult as the great airline counter agent who helped me untangle a mess of a reservation.  Both gave me something that I valued.  People are doing that all the time.  Take a moment to acknowledge that.

 

A bigger challenge is follow Pastor Mike’s lead.  I challenge you to write a thank you note to someone this week.  Think of someone who has impacted your life and thank them for it. I write thank you notes on a regular basis.  At the end of the year, I write a note of appreciation to the top five people who influenced my life in a new way that year.  It is a great exercise to think of how you have grown and to appreciate those who helped you take those steps.

 

Why are you still reading…go write note!

 

A Day in the Life of a Pastor – Behind the Scenes of Easter ’17

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Easter 2017 has come and gone!  What an amazing three days of celebration, ministry and people just being down right awesome.  The most important thing that happened was people came to know Christ…still exciting to see.  Many were baptized after each of the services on the Van Dyke campus and that is humbling.

There is so much that happens that people don’t see.  I decided to write a random list of things from this Easter.

  • Thousands of containers of free food prepped and ready for the two services on Good Friday.  (Hundreds of hours of prep time by volunteers who love to cook and serve food.)
  • Seeing the Baptism team (lots of volunteers) pray over the baptisms before service ended, even at the seventh service.
  • My friend who needed a septic pen because he cut himself shaving – and we had one!
  • Still getting coached on how to do announcements, even though I have been doing them for twenty-three years.
  • Then, forgetting to receive the offering at the sunrise service…even though I have been doing this for twenty-three years.
  • Watching a “kid” you’ve known forever preach “The Timeout Chair” absolutely nail it…and so many kids accept Christ.
  • Listen through a door way as one of our preschool teachers asks “Who wants to march around the room and celebrate that Jesus is risen?”  All our preschool teachers give so much of their hearts to the kids – Way to go!
  • Seeing my good friend whose father passed away after Friday night service – death is never easy no matter how prepared we are.
  • Standing on the front row of the first service and Tater is singing “What a Beautiful Name it Is.”  Wasn’t ready for the emotion of seeing her lead…had to pull it together.
  • To walk up before sunrise to see 1500 chairs on the courtyard that weren’t there the night before (and volunteers/ staff wiping them down with towels so people would sit on a dry seat.) Amazing people.
  • Maintenance team on the go the whole time – clean ups, chairs, garbage, even one security check…your teams were spot on.
  • Seeing traffic flow knowing there were people who were directing, parking and manning crosswalks.  You might have been seen by thousands coming and going but it meant so much to this guy.
  • Seeing a man (son) that is my age put his arm around his father during the service…special moment.
  • Watching all the families get their pictures at the photo-op spot -Thank you Sharon Distefano for creating those – great environment.
  • Watching three days of different musicians, singers, tech, video, sound flow throw various service scenarios – wow!  You rock!
  • Same for Blue Shirts – The GFC Connection Team!  So many people serving others when many came to be served.  Humbling to watch conversations, smiles and genuine actions to show God’s love to people.  You never cease to amaze me. (Especially when one comes up and says last service and I realize that she had been there for all three on Sunday…yes, I noticed and it blew me away.)
  • Hearing from the GFC Campus pastors about their sunrise services – these men are leaders at the top-level!  Way to go, boys!

Final two:

  • Walking out of the green room, looked back and seeing P. Craig looking through his notes…one more time.  He had already preached it six times before, spent countless hours crafting, praying, practicing and perfecting his message.  One more time…he prepared.  What a role model.
  • To hear: “My friends wrote my name on the wall. I came and accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior.  I got baptized after service.”  The power of reaching the one.

 

Easter is over.  I face a tired staff, campus and group of volunteers who poured themselves out for the love of God and others.  Tired, yes.  Weary, yes.  Ready for a day away from it all, yes.  Tired, dejected or down — NO!  There is a smile and a glimmer in their eye – we brought a message of hope this Easter.  Let’s do it again next week!