Lessons I’ve Learned from Disneyland

For the last three years I have had the privilege of being an annual pass holder at Disneyland! Being that we only live eight miles from the Happiest Place on Earth, we have enjoyed countless days laughing, riding roller coasters, making memories, and visiting with friends.

This year we’re going to let our passes lapse and probably won’t renew for a while. So with our passes expiring, I did something I’ve never done before, I went to Disneyland by myself for one last visit before they did. I went to pray, dream and recount the incredible memories I have of this place. And in the process, I wrote down some of the things I learned from Disneyland that relate to church and leadership.

So, in no specific order, here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from Disneyland…

  1. Pay attention to the details – Disneyland is in the details! From hidden Mickey’s to trimmed trees in unique shapes and sizes, Disneyland pays attention to the little things, which serve to enhance the overall experience of their guests. Scripture tells us that God even knows the very number of hairs on our head (Matthew 10:30) and throughout the Bible, God is concerned about the details. The details communicate care, creativity, and create memorable experiences for people.
  2. Create a hospitable environment – Disneyland is all about hospitality! They’re genuinely happy to have you as their guest and go out of their way to make you feel welcomed and valued. They make your experience fun and engage their guests in a variety of creative ways. They truly live out the Golden Rule of Matthew 7:12, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you.”
  3. Never stop innovating – Disneyland was way before it’s time when it first opened in 1955. However, they have never stopped imagineering. In my three years as a season pass holder, Disney has done a variety of big projects to improve their parks. From adding a whole new land in California Adventure, to introducing the World of Color and 3-D to Star Tours, they live out their motto of, “moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we’re curious…..And curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
  4. Listen to your guests – You think by this point Disney knows all they need to know about running a theme park, but they are constantly seeking to gather information from their guests, seeking to discover more about their interests, needs and preferences. In addition, cast members are also very careful to listen to casual conversations. Over the years, a server or guest services member might catch that we’re celebrating an anniversary or birthday and I can’t tell you how many times they have done something special for us without any solicitation or mention. These little touches go a long way to create special memories for families and guests alike.
  5. Creatively tell the story – Disney tells amazing stories and their stories take you places you can’t otherwise go while engaging the senses of sight, sound, taste, smell and touch! Their stories capture our hearts and imagination and I think the church can learn a lot from them about telling the story of God to a whole new generation.

There truly is something special about Disneyland! And while our passes may be expiring, I know there are still many memories to be made and lessons to be learned from this incredible land of adventure, fantasy and dreams.

A Biblical Perspective on Marriage

In Genesis 1:26-28, God tells us the story of his design and purpose for humanity when he says,

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

As humans, we are made in his image and likeness of God and as such we are to reflect Him to one another. In Genesis 1:26-28, God tells us something about his design and purpose for marriage, and since God is the designer of marriage, it’s important that we look at what he has to say on the subject.

Today, I had the opportunity to speak to a number of engaged and seriously dating couples on the biblical perspective of marriage. Based on the book, Seriously Dating & Engaged by Roger & Becky Tirabassi, we discussed the type of partner that God wants to be to one another in the context marriage.

Here is a brief review of all six of those qualities we discussed. God desires us to be…

  1. A Perfect Partner – From the creation account, we can see that it has been God’s design that a man and woman be brought together such that they complement one another. (Genesis 2:20-23)
  2. A Permanent Partner – There are no throw away marriages! Marriage is a sacred covenant and it’s to be formed for the purposes of which, God the Divine Author, has ordained as well as blessed. (Matthew 19:4-6)
  3. A Dependent Partner – In marriage, our thoughts need to be for each other, rather than ourselves. Our plans mutual, our joys and sorrows shared. (1 Corinthians 11:11-12)
  4. A Loving/Respectful Partner – The husband is to love his wife. The wife is to respect her husband. (Ephesians 5:31-33)
  5. A Sacrificial Partner – Marriage is to be a mutually submissive relationship in which the man and woman reflect the image of God to one another. (Ephesians 5:21-23)
  6. An Equally Yoked Partner – In marriage a couple needs to be going the same direction, with the same set of ideals, beliefs and values. A common faith needs to be foundational. (2 Corinthians 6:14-17)

We can’t take our cues on marriage from our culture. We need to take our cues from God, who created this sacred covenant and blessed it. If you’re not convinced yet, perhaps this spoken word might hit home…

5 Languages of Apology

Today, Jennifer and I got to go hear Dr. Gary Chapman, author of The 5 Love Languages, speak at a Pastor’s Forum sponsored by the Center for Individual Family Therapy. Jennifer and I greatly benefited from Dr. Chapman’s writing early in our marriage and The 5 Love Languages is something that I have continued to teach and use as a tool in helping couples experience and express love.

Today, Dr. Chapman spoke about Two Essentials for Successful Marriage, which he stated are: 1) expressing love and appreciation;  and 2) dealing effectively with our failures. In the first half of his message he talked about the 5 love languages. But in the later half, he introduced the 5 languages of an apology, we he expressed we need to know in order to deal effectively with our failures in the context of marriage. In unpacking this concept, Chapman talked about how each person has different ideas about what an apology is and how to give an apology! In a nutshell, he expressed that just as people have a love language, people also have an apology language.

Chapman suggests that any of these apologies, which are listed below, could stand on their own, if they are spoken in the right language of the hearer. And while that’s probably true, I personally think that all five languages of an apology need to be part of the anatomy of a complete and genuine apology, especially if the offense is great.

Here are the 5 languages of an apology. Have a look and tell me what you think. What do you want to hear when someone apologizes to you?

  1. Express Regret: Say, “I’m sorry that I…(be specific)”
  2. Accept Responsibility: Say, “I was wrong! I shouldn’t have done that!”
  3. Make Restitution: Ask, “What can I do to make this right?”
  4. Genuinely Repent: Say, “I don’t want this to keep happening!”
  5. Request Forgiveness: Ask, “Will you please forgive me?”

You can also discover your love language by taking this free online assessment.

Ten Questions I’m Asking

Ten questions I’m asking right now, in no particular order…

#1 – Is there anything in my life that I need to stop doing?

#2 – Is there anything in my life that I should start doing?

(By the way…the answer to #2 is YES…but in order for it to happen I REALLY need to wrestle with question #1!)

#3 – How can I be more efficient in the use of my time?

#4 – How can I be a better husband?

#5 – How can I be a better father?

#6 – What will I do to create margin in my life in 2012?

#7 – What will our family vacations look like this year?

#8 – How can we as a church continue to assist people in taking their next step with Christ?

#9 – How do I reconcile my divided heart between the SF Giants and the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim?

#10 – What would a 25 year reunion with my buddies from UC Santa Barbara look like in 2013? And do I want to take on organizing it?

These are some good questions to wrestle with! What questions are you asking?

The Leader’s Edge

Last fall I started an online video training segment for our small group leaders at SCG called The Leader’s Edge. The purpose of the video training has been to offer bite size sound bits to our small groups on topics relevant to them in a format that would be quick and convenient for them to take in. The implementation of this video training was a shift in our small group leadership development strategy, because it had become clear that trying to do an additional 2-3 workshops a year was unnecessarily taking our leaders away from their families and/or their groups a few more nights a year. So after discussion with the team, we decided this was the best stewardship of our leader’s time as well as the churches resources.

None of our online trainings have been more than 10 minutes in length and each training addresses the needs, issues and topics that small group leaders consider relevant. The purpose of these segments isn’t to cast vision, but to provide timeless training segments that can be watched and listened to at any point in the group’s development, especially as needs and issues arise in the group and the leader needs help and perspective in addressing them. And trying to crunch down a topic into 8-10 minute segments forces us to make sure we’re clear and concise in our communication.

In this week’s segment of The Leader’s Edge, I talk about how to creatively integrate prayer into our small groups. If you’re interested, have a listen…

The Blame Game

If you remember the 2003 National League Championship Series between the Chicago Cubs and the Florida Marlins, the Cubs were just five outs from advancing to the World Series for the first time since 1945. However, in a fly ball out to left field, Steve Bartman tried to grab a foul ball, preventing outfielder Moises Alou from catching it. That moment shifted the momentum of the game and helped the Florida Marlins rally for an 8-3 victory to tie the NLCS. The 26-year-old Bartman, a youth baseball coach, was escorted by security guards from Wrigley Field after he was threatened by angry fans and pelted with debris.

With his life threatened by angry fans, a police guard was posted outside his suburban Northbrook home that evening. Bartman issued a public apology to Cubs fans saying, “I am so truly sorry from the bottom of this Cubs fan’s broken heart.” He would go on to ask that, “Cub fans everywhere redirect the negative energy that has been vented towards my family, my friends, and myself into the usual positive support for our beloved team on their way to being National League champs.”

His wishes were unanswered. The Marlins would go on to win Game 7 and advance to the World Series thereby cementing Bartman’s gaffe as a key moment in the Cubs’ history. Angry broadcasters castigated him. Thousands of people blamed him for playing a role in the Cubs’ loss.  Can you imagine an entire major metropolitan area blaming you for the loss of your team’s ability to go to the World Series. Even worse it wasn’t really the guy’s fault. One fan didn’t blow the game. It was the eleven other goofs and blunders on the part of the Cubs that cost them the series. Furthermore, the loss of the sixth game just tied up the playoff. The Marlins beat the Cubs without fan interference in the seventh game.

In one degree or another, I guess we all operate like Cubs fans, looking for someone else to blame. Blaming makes us feel better about ourselves, so that we don’t have to take responsibility for our actions, and no amount of truth to the contrary will convince us. Yes, in playing the blame game, we hope to exonerate ourselves by making sure that the person, who we believe has failed, is properly identified and punished.

Those who play the blame game set themselves up as judge, jury and dispenser of punishment. And it’s a nasty little game that God absolutely demands we forfeit, because he has a different intention for us. Instead he wants us to stop blaming others and learn to accept ourselves in spite of our imperfections, knowing that our worth is not dependent on our performance, but on what God says is true of us. For living in the reality of what God says is true of us, gives us the freedom to extend grace and compassion to ourselves and others, in the same way that God extends grace and compassion to us.

Scarcity

I was having a conversation with one of our small group coaches today about how to develop additional leaders in the church. As she was sharing some of her observations as a coach, I was reminded of a term so eloquently coined by author Steven Covey in his book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Without using Covey’s terminology, what she was describing is what Covey outlines in his book, as he describes the difference between living out of an “abundance mentality” vs. living out of a “scarcity mentality”. However, in this conversation what she was conceptualizing was Covey’s ideas in the context of the church and specifically to a viewpoint held by many within our ministry.

Like it or not, it’s a problem that pervades the church and most organizations and people don’t even realize that they are operating out of it. And it affects the way they think, they way they view people and the way they orient to our world.

People with a “scarcity mentality” tend to see everything in terms of win-lose. They believe there is only so much to go around, so they hold on to things, people, money, staff, and relationships with clinched fists. Whereas people with an “abundance mentality” tend to see everything in terms of win-win. People with an “abundance mentality” are genuinely more happy for the successes, well-being, achievements, recognition, and good fortune of others. They go out of their way to speak well of others, to help others, to elevate others, because they truly believe their success adds to — rather than detracts from their ambitions and goals.

As Covey notes, there are some stark differences between the two mentalities. Here are a few:

Scarcity – Believes there is not enough blessing to go around
Abundance – Believes there is more than enough blessing to go around
Scarcity – Believes I have to succeed and make sure that I look good
Abundance – Believes that if I succeed and you succeed, then we all succeed
Scarcity – Believes that you have all of the answers
Abundance – Believes that I don’t have all of the answers
Scarcity – Believes you have to have clinched fists
Abundance – Believes in having open hands
Scarcity – Believes in dictatorship and micro-management
Abundance – Believes in operating with openness and trust
Scarcity – Believes in motivating themselves and others out of fear
Abundance – Believes in motivating themselves and others out of grace

I can’t remember which conference I first heard this concept presented, but scarcity is one of the greatest challenges facing organizations and the church today, because it operates on the premise that there is not enough to go around, which in turn affects how we relate to others as well as how we lead our organization and our team. Instead of operating in scarcity, organizations and the church need to operate out of a mentality of abundance. For a mentality of abundance is rooted in the belief that God is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us (Ephesians 3:20). In abundant thinking, we develop, believe in and encourage the success of those around us and in turn build great organizations and teams.

Oscar Night

Everyone loves a party! I especially love themed parties. So tonight I am really looking forward to the Oscar party at our friends Vinnie & Kirstie’s home in Long Beach! To make it fun, everyone has been asked to bring a completed ballot of who they think is going to win this year’s coveted gold statues. This is the 2nd Annual, so reputations are on the line, and I am seeking to pull from a 3rd place finish last year to a 1st place finish this year. However, I am finding myself conflicted in finishing up my ballot. Torn between casting my vote for who I want to win and who will likely win, because I want to win the door prize!

Thanks to a friend, who is part of the Screen Actors Guild, Jennifer and I have been able to view many of the nominations up for an Academy tonight. So we go into this party better prepared than last year. However, the one category I am wrestling with the most is Best Picture. Usually these are easier to pick for me, but this year, I am trying to get into the mind of the Academy and wrestling over whether they will the recognize a film that gives a nod to their industry, The Artist, or give gold to a film that chronicles the civil rights movement in the south during the 1960’s, The Help.

Regardless of who wins, we’ll have a blast with some good friends, while enjoying some yummy finger foods and friendly competition. Oh, and we’re bringing chocolate pie to celebrate the win of The Help for Best Picture!

So, who do you hope wins big tonight?

Don’t Wait for the Movie

According to polls conducted by Gallup, nine out of ten Americans have at least one Bible in their home, but nearly half of these Bible-owners rarely or never read the Bible. In fact, forty-one percent of all Americans polled indicate they have never read the Bible. That’s about 117 million people! And outside of the United States, the figures are even more dismal.

So for the season of Lent, we’re bringing special emphasis to the reading Scripture at SCG. The Bible is our blueprint for living and in reading it, we attempt to learn, live, teach and inspire from its rich history and insightful truth. So we’re challenging everyone at SCG to read through the gospels over the next 40 days in preparation of Easter.

When you break it down, it’s actually very simple:

  1. There are a total of 89 chapters in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.
  2. To read through the gospels in 40 days, all you need to read is approximately 2.23 chapters a day.
  3. Reading 2.23 chapters a day will take you about 6.5 minutes.
  4. On average, we’re awake 960 minutes in a day and reading 2.23 chapters a day will take less than .006% of your day.
  • Download our 40 Day Bible Reading Plan and rediscover the story of Jesus’ life and journey to the cross as we prepare our heart and mind for resurrection.

Living a Life of Significance

I’ve been recently contemplating this quote from the movie, Akeelah and the Bee, which originated from Marriane Williamson:

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

It’s a pretty powerful reminder of the biblical encouragement that comes from the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:10, For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. In considering this, my prayer has been that we as the church would awaken to the hopes, dreams and possibilities that God has deposited within each and every single one of us, in order that we would live a life of significance that brings glory to God and blesses others. After all, this is the life we were meant to live!

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