Malcolm Tyree

A collection of thoughts on things that matter

Archive for the tag “Friends”

3 Key Relationships Critical to Your Life’s Journey

It has been said that life is a journey, I’m just curious where’s it headed?

Regardless if your life’s travels will take you around the world or just across town, the journey of emotions and growth along the way is something you need to be intentional about. With social media allowing us to connect to each other in a number of different ways, it is clear to me that many of us don’t know where our journeys are taking us. Like Forrest Gump, too many of us are just running!

Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Forrest! I just think we need to be more intentional about where our journey is headed. I’ve met too many people who don’t know where they are headed in life and can’t seem to break out. They lack a sense of purpose in their living.

More than a decade ago, Rick Warren released the book The Purpose Driven Life. If you’ve not read it, maybe you should pick it up. It’s still a great read. There are many other resources out there to help you determine you life’s purpose. Rick’s book is just one you can start with.

In addition to knowing where you are headed, there are 3 key relationships critical to your life journey. These relationships will help you or hurt you in your efforts to achieve your desired goals.

Key Relationship 1: The person you are sleeping with

I probably should be more specific, this key relationship is really the person you are having sex with. Sex is an amazing experience. It serves as an outlet for our emotions as well as a bonding experience for the couple. It rages within us and can be extremely productive or destructive. Sex is like fire. The intimacy of sex is just one of the reasons why we should be aware of how it affects our life journey. 

My wife plucking my eyebrow

My wife plucking my eyebrow

The person you are sleeping with has the ability to influence you. He or she impacts your sense of self worth. The person you are sleeping with is a key voice in your dreams and aspirations. 

I love what the poet writes:

“Promise me…not to awaken love until the time is right.”

(Song of Songs 2:7 and 3:5).

The person you are sleeping with will carry an incredible influence in your life. Choose wisely and keep that relationship sacred. Like fire, it can warm you or burn.

Key Relationship 2: The people you are running with

There is an African proverb that goes something like this:

“If you want to run fast, go alone. If you want to run far, go with friends.”

I’ll admit, I’m not much of a runner. When I do run, I’m tempted to run fast versus run far. I guess it’s the side of me that just wants to get it over with. How about you?

I see running relating to our friendships because our friends are key encouragers for our journey. If you hang with those who are slow to move, your journey may go slow. If you run with those moving fast, you may feel overwhelmed. Finding the right peer group is critical. 

Some of my running buddies from Odessa

Some of my running buddies from Odessa

In your peer group, you’ll need some who are ahead of you. It will also be important that you have some that are slower than you. Those ahead of you will challenge you to keep going. Those slower than you will remind you to help others.

It will also be important to have those like you in your peer group. I don’t mean these folks need to look like you. Folks like you are those at the same pace, who share the same desires.

If we hope to move ahead in life’s journey, who we run with will influence our efforts.

Key Relationship 3: The community you commit to

In the United States, we see life from a very individual perspective. We tend to think that we are “self made” and we can do whatever “so long as it doesn’t hurt someone else.” Can I just say, that’s nonsense! Our individual actions carry forth implications onto others.

You may want to argue with me on this, but think about it for just a moment. What you are doing right now may not immediately impact someone else, but it is laying the foundation for effecting someone down the line. There are many solo activities that we can engage in, but each of them will influence something in us that will influence the relationships around us.

Here’s an example: I might choose to drink water with lime at the restaurant instead of a soda. This choice is made out of financial and/or health reasons. While eating with others, someone observes my drink selection and chooses to do the same. I made the choice on my own sometime ago, but now it is influencing someone else.

Each of us has an affinity for certain groups and communities. I have a friend who likes to ride Harleys so, he is in a Harley Biker club. Some of my friends like trying different types of beers, so they have their community of taste testing. Some like to sing and play music. Some… you get the point. The community around us allows us to explore and discover new aspects of the journey.

Yet, the community we surround ourselves with has a limited influence on our lives. Community can only influence us to the degree to which we’ve committed to it. 

Think about that die hard sports fan in your life. They’re committed to the community. They attend the game or watch it on TV faithfully. They spend money to be identified with team. They may even go so far as to use the language “we won/lose.” They are a part of the community even if they’re not a part of the team.

The community we commit to shapes our lifestyle. Choose carefully.

Summation

Each of us is influenced by others in our life’s journey. The people we allow into our lives will help us experience life in rich and full ways, but they can also cause chaos and heartache for us. We should be very aware of those we allow into our lives, especially as it relates to the community we commit to, the friends we run with, and the person we are sleeping with. We don’t go through life on our own. 

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12 years in 12 days (part 8)

This series is intended to be a brief sketch of my time in Odessa, Texas.

The summer of 2009 proved to be an emotional one. Our dear friends, Henry, Kate, and Emma Littich, were moving. The Littichs had been among the closest to our family and Emma was like a sister to Caitlyn and Andrew. Henry had accepted a new position in Kansas and they moved in June. Along with the Littichs departure, two other families we had journeyed with left Grace Point as well. One moved out of the area and another felt lead to participate in another church in town. This was not how we had hoped to start the summer.

In May, Grace Point had received a sizable gift from the West Texas District of the Church of God in Texas. We were anticipating taking GP to the next level in part because of this gift, but also do to the momentum and success we had developed over the previous year. The hope was we could use this money as seed money for a new ministry headquarters or some other way to bless the community we lived in.

We were finally hitting a healthy stride and the carpet felt like it was taken from underneath us with the departure of these key families.

Just as they were leaving, a new family was coming in. Christy’s parents were moving to Odessa. Terry had retired from ministry and they wanted to be in the warm weather with the grandkids. It was great having them in the area.

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About three weeks after they moved to Odessa, Christy and I signed a contract to build a new home in a developing subdivision, four blocks from Terry and Cheryl. After living more than 14 hours away, we would now be less than 5 minutes from each other.

The new subdivision was emerging in 2009. Christy and I had worked hard throughout the spring to position ourselves to be able to move there and serve as missionaries to the new residents. We had heard good thing about the property developers and we saw this as a prime opportunity to get into a bigger house, but also to grow with new families and friends.IMG_0328

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Closing out the summer, we also celebrated by baptizing five people, including Caitlyn. After the baptism in a member’s pool, I declared the pool open for swimming and Andrew jumped right into the deeper section, without his floatation device. We scrambled to rescue him! Afterwards, everyone remarked about how calm I was. The the truth is I didn’t want to embarrass myself in front of everyone by hollering at him like I really wanted to!

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So our summer was mixed with emotion.

The summer of 2009 also brought an economic downturn for the city of Odessa. Unemployment spiked just before school. With most families living paycheck to paycheck, GP lead the charge to help in a tangible way. We held our first backpack giveaway. Using some of the money from the large gift from earlier in the year, we purchased 500 backpacks and mobilized GPers to bring in additional school supplies to be given away just before school started.

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On the Sunday that we gave the supplies away, the line was nearly a block long. The guests filled the gym to a standing room crowd and when the supplies and backpacks were given away there was little left behind. It was an amazing day.

In September, Terry had a heart attack while at a Men’s Retreat south of Austin. He had the attack at about 3am on Sunday morning, so I was scrambling to get Cheryl to him as well as figure out how to get things taken care of for GP’s worship gathering just a few hours away. Austin is approximately 6 hours from Odessa. We started on the road around daybreak. One hour south of Odessa, a deer ran across the road, colliding with Cheryl and I in our minivan. We had just paid it off two weeks prior. The deer totaled the van. We ended up flying Cheryl to Austin. Fortunately, Terry was with his brother at the retreat. After a short stay in the hospital, Terry and Cheryl made it home without any other issues.

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In October, Christy’s aunt Linda died. Christy, Cheryl, and Terry traveled to Illinois for her funeral.

Our hope was the backpack giveaway would translate into additional ministry opportunities in our community and new families would participate in GP. This did not happen and ministry turned difficult. The loss of key families at GP along with a series of personal family crises for us had a ripple effect. Though we did have new families come in, they were not able to immediately fill the void created and we needed a fresh start.

When we began planning to move to the new neighborhood, we did not anticipate moving Grace Point as well. Yet, as we began to survey the neighborhood, there was a great building that stood out as a potential ministry headquarters and community center. The Old Fire Station had been turned over to a non-profit group. The group had dwindled in participation through the years and the building was in need of some TLC. After talking with the group, we thought there might be a possibility of obtaining the facility from the group, while allowing them to continue to operate their non-profit at the center.

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So, with that in mind, we moved Grace Point from Blanton Elementary to Jordan Elementary at the turn of the new year.  2010 would be a fresh start for GP.

The move was hard on GP. There had been some grumbling by a long time family that was unhappy about the direction of GP. I had to have the hardest conversation of my career during this time. Over a hot dog, I had to say to my friend of many years I could no longer be the pastor for his family. Things had reached a point where for the sake of GP, we had to part ways. It was the hardest thing I’ve done as a leader. No one had ever trained me to ask a parishioner and friend to find another pastor. I am still amazed at the grace he showed to me in moving on. I’m glad to know I can still count him as a friend today.

As Christy and I settled into the new house and neighborhood in January, we had a lot of work to do personally and professionally. Christy was struggling with teaching sixth graders and I was struggling to find new people to attend GP.

Caitlyn continued to excel at school.

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Andrew had won the hearts of his preK teachers to the point that they were now attending and serving at Grace Point. As we moved into the new location, Ms. Lori and Ms. Kim brought a freshness to the ministry efforts, especially in our children’s ministry areas.

Easter was becoming a big deal at GP. For 2010, we worked hard and nearly tripled our regular attendance. Instead of a big egg hunt, this year we opted to give away kites. We also baptized two on that day. Dená and her son Trace had come to our Easter service a year before.

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The year was full! As we entered the summer of 2010 progress was being made, but it was different than expected.

End of a Season: The Closure of Grace Point

 “For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1

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Sunday, March 23, 2014, is Grace Point’s Finale. After 390 weeks, the experiment is coming to a close.

In early February, I sat and watched this year’s Super Bowl contest as the Seattle Seahawks overpowered the Denver Broncos, I was disappointed. The Broncos season was filled with so many highlights that it almost seemed inevitable that they would win the big game. Yet, as more than 111 million people watched, it became evident that the league’s best offense was struggling to produce any positive momentum. One could argue that it was the efficiency of Seattle’s Defense that stymied Peyton Manning and the high scoring Broncos. It could also be said, they just had a bad game. Either way, the game is over and a new season of football is in the waiting. Yet, it is still tough to go out on a defeat.

Football is one of the most popular things in our culture today. As NFL games continue to draw tens of thousands to stadiums and millions through TV audiences, it makes for an easier illustration. From the flag football games for grade schoolers, to Pop Warner Tackle for those in late elementary and middle school, to the JV and Varsity squads of High School, to the ranks of college, semi-pro, and elite levels of the NFL, football is all around us. Living in Odessa, Texas, home of “Friday Night Lights” it is even more apparent that football is everywhere.

The expectations to win are huge. Every player, coach, management team, and fan wants their team to walk away with the championship. We know these expectations will leave most of us disappointed. After all, not every team will win the championship. Some players won’t finish the season. Coaches will be let go. Teams will dissolve. Players will be traded. Fans will find new teams to rut for. Not every play leads to a touchdown and you don’t win every game or every season.

Needless to say, there is a lot we can learn about life by playing and watching football.

As a pastor and church planter, I struggle with the expectation to win. I feel like I am playing for the greatest reasons – the Kingdom of God. Sometimes my zeal can be a bit over the top, but I love what I do. Yet, just like a football game, not every situation leads to a score or victory and at some point you need a rest or a season to end.

Eight years ago, I experienced the end of a season of leadership in a struggling congregation. As pastor, I had poured myself into the efforts of turn around and seeking for a win. After 42 months, the management team of the congregation felt it was time to go different directions. I was let go. My season was over.

Within six months, I was on board with a new team. This was a start up team. In many ways it was a research and development group or experimental program. I was leading an effort to plant a new congregation.

In the effort to be new, we worked hard to not get caught in the patterns of “the way things had always been done.” We created an atmosphere of acceptance, casualness, and inspiration that attracted a lot of people from our city. We tested the boundaries of what could be done and experienced moments of impact. Over seven and a half years, we sought to be a group that would make a difference.

Today, it is hard to say, but it needs to be said, the season for Grace Point Church has come to an end.  Like the many teams, this is not how we had hoped our season would come to an end. As the founder and pastor, I had hoped we would have a longer and fuller legacy, but I know the time has come to move on.

For just a moment I want to applaud the amazing group of people who were willing to experiment with us. Through the years, on a meager budget of less than $80,000 a year, our team accomplished a number of good things.  Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Beautifying local school campuses
  • Inspiring other congregations in efforts of community engagement
  • Training worship leaders
  • Engaging children into the life of the church
  • Providing backpacks to school children in need
  • Serving the community through partnerships with local non-profits
  • Empowering international missionaries to translate the scriptures and raise up indigenous leaders
  • Assisting in planting other churches across the United States
  • Supporting orphans through child sponsorships and special projects
  • Providing curriculum to other congregations unable to purchase it for themselves
  • Offering cups of hot chocolate to families out on cold, windy days at the park and stores
  • Equipping people with the necessary skills to manage their finances
  • Allowing people to explore their faith
  • Introducing children and teens to Christian principles
  • Teaching people how to understand the Bible as it relates to how to live
  • Celebrating with one another as babies are born, marriages restored, and victories won
  • Mourning with one another as loved ones passed, marriages failed, and defeats were experienced
  • Baptizing new believers in swimming pools, hot tubs, and water troughs
  • Exposing people to the message of Christ that reminds us he loves less than perfect people
  • Loving one another, regardless of background or life choices

There are a variety of things that led to this decision to disband. Some of the challenges included:

  • An overemphasis of the worship gathering
  • An underemphasis of mentorships
  • An inability to fully create a shared “3rd place”
  • A demanding economic environment which leaves little margin in personal schedules
  • A limited number of core members
  • A sense of “if we preach the right message, God will bring the right people”
  • An assumption that we knew how to disciple
  • A failure to develop deeper friendships beyond the casual Sunday greetings
  • A lack of emphasis on stewardship

There are other things that we might add to the list, but I don’t believe it is necessary to list each of them today. Over time, I hope to explore each of the successes and failures and extrapolate lessons learned from each. For now, it is fair to say we got off the sidelines and did the best with what we knew and what we had.

There are a multitude of people who have made this season of my life possible. I could not list all who were involved without forgetting someone. Let me mention a few. First, Christy, Caitlyn, and Andrew. Their willingness to open up our home, chase after me because I forgot something, and release me to meetings, events, trainings, and more, have been overlooked. They have allowed Grace Point to be a part of our family and it will be hard to not have this a part of us any longer. Second, the Gregg family. This family is now more than one family, but to me, they’ll always be one I treasurer. The Greggs have walked with me throughout this season. The truth is I’ve run so fast at times, I’ve taken for granted that they would catch up. They’ve filled the gaps for me on so many occasions. Third, my Tuesday Lunch Crew. The conversations that I have had with a group of five other pastors in my city have allowed me to sustain and thrive. I can’t express how much they have “normalized” my feelings and fears. Finally, to the countless others who have prayed, supported, encouraged, and fought for and with us! This is where the list gets really long! Thank you to each of you. I know your names, I see your faces. I know this season of life was possible because of you.

Now, some of you maybe wondering what is in store for my next season. Outside of being a husband to Christy, father to Caitlyn, Andrew, and now Breanna, and a faithful follower of Christ who serves the church and loves the people of this world, I don’t know. We are waiting for our next appointment/assignment.

Thank you for taking the time to read this note. Thank you for the investment you’ve made in us. Thank you for this season of life.

“Now, all glory to God, who is able, through his might power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. Glory to Him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.” – Ephesians 3:20-21

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