Doing Life Together at Journey

Story Tellers

     I fancy myself a story teller and I'm always on the look out for a new story to tell. That may be why I love country music because it's the art of telling the stories of small town America. Country song writers are great story tellers. So the equation seems to be Story plus Music equals Country Songs. One of the classics of Country Music is the story of a man falling in love with a Cajun girl. "Jambalaya" was written and recorded by Hank Williams Sr and went to Number 1 on the country chart in the early 1950's. It's a song steeped in Louisiana culture and stereotypes and may be one of Hank's greatest hits. I first heard Jambalaya in the late 1960's when I was little boy. In my memory that song  is tied to my cousin Kelly Brent getting married. Kelly Brent married Carmen (a Cajun girl) at a Catholic Church in South Louisiana and that day is etched in my soul. The Cajun music, my cousin Kelly and the wedding day with the little Cajun girl always reminds me of a story. It's the story of love and Louisiana and food and dancing at the wedding reception with my extended family. Thanks for the memories Kelly Brent and thanks for the story Luke the Drifter that still echoes in my soul. 

 

Here's the lyrics to Jambalaya:

Written by Hank Williams Sr.

Goodbye Joe, me gotta go, me oh, my ohMe gotta go pole the pirogue down the bayou
My Yvonne, the sweetest one, me oh, my oh
Son of a gun, we'll have big fun on the bayou

Jambalaya, and a crawfish pie and a file' gumbo
'Cause tonight I'm gonna see my ma chère amie-o
Pick guitar, fill fruit jar and be gay-oh
Son of a gun, we'll have big fun on the bayou

The Thibodeaux's, the Fontenot's, the place is buzzin'
Kinfolk come to see Yvonne by the dozen
Dress in style, and go hog wild, me oh, my oh
Son of a gun, we'll have big fun on the bayou

Jambalaya, and a crawfish pie and a file' gumbo
'Cause tonight I'm gonna see my ma chère amie-o
Pick guitar, fill fruit jar and be gay-oh
Son of a gun, we'll have big fun on the bayou

Jambalaya, and a crawfish pie and a file' gumbo
'Cause tonight I'm gonna see my ma chère amie-o
Pick guitar, fill fruit jar and be gay-oh
Son of a gun, we'll have big fun on the bayou

 

 

Doing Life Together

Imagination can take you ANYWHERE in the world.

     Interstate 12 opened in the early 1970's and joined Baton Rouge and Slidell, crossing through the parishes on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain in Southeast Louisiana. I was about 12 years old when the Interstate was opened to the public and my family was living in the little village of Albany, LA, about halfway between Slidell and Baton Rouge. My dad worked in Baton Rouge and commuted from Albany each morning, traveling about 60 miles through the old Highway 190 route. The first time that I heard the phrase "Interstate 12" was from my dad, when he told me that he was looking forward to the grand opening of the new Interstate for he would save time and money on his daily commute. I asked him, "What is an Interstate?". I remember his answer to this day. Here's a paraphrase: Pop said,"Interstate 12 will be a non stop, super highway with multiple lanes that will make our commute fast and easy each morning. He continued, 'the government is building these roads all over America and son you'll be able to go anywhere you want to go in the country." ANYWHERE. That word hung in the air like the smell of freshly cut grass. I can go anywhere I want to go? Anywhere! That's the first time in my life that my mind opened up to the concept of travel. From that day on I knew that Interstate 12 held my destiny and from there I would travel throughout the world. 

    As a little boy in a small town with a meager life style, travel never even occurred to me as a possibility. But now my dad introduced to my universe the concept of going anywhere. It struck my mind like lightning and consumed my thoughts. I would have to travel the world and it would begin on Interstate 12. I knew it was going to happen but I had no idea how. When you're 12 years old and your imagination fires for the first time it's a spiritual high that changes everything. In my mind I could picture the world outside my window and I would stare through that window and dream, then every time that we crossed the overpass in the family car on Interstate 12, my pulse would race. My destiny lay down that road but I didn't know how to get there. I would have to settle for the travel allowed only in my imagination for the next decade. For the next 10 years,  I spent most of my free time and summer days in the tiny parish library reading everything that I could get my hands on and I traveled the world in my mind. Before a person accomplishes his destiny he will have already lived it out a thousand times in his thought life. "As a man thinks in his heart, so is he." 

    This year I will celebrate my 55th birthday. Over the last 43 years I have traveled the world. First in my mind then as a pastor and preacher traveling to tell the Good News. I have put my feet on every continent except Antarctica and I don't plan to visit there anytime soon. (It's too cold). But it all started with a highway. Interstate 12. My dad told me that story about his new commute to work and maybe I shared his excitement but something else happened. He sparked my imagination that day. That spark still blazes today in my universe. It's a spark that began on Interstate 12 in the early 1970's in a small village when my dad said that I could go ANYWHERE.  Fathers say a thousand things to their children and then one day they say something that changes everything. But ironically a father never knows which one of the thousands of conversations he holds with his children will be the one. 

    As my life comes full circle it occurred to me the other day that Intertstate 12 still plays a central role in my life. The church that Rachel and I planted in 1996 has grown to be a multisite church with three Campuses open in and around New Orleans and two more on the drawing board. But our first Campus has grown to become the hub of the entire ministry and it is central to all the others and it is located near Lacombe, LA on Interstate 12 at Exit 74. As Journey opens each new campus, we give it a unique name inspired by the local geography. There's the campus in Slidell that we call Pontchartrain Campus because it's located on a street near the lake with the same name. Now there is the Belle Chasse Campus located off the street in the city with the same name. Which brings us to the original Journey campus in Lacombe, LA. It's located off Interstate 12 at Exit 74 and we call it affectionately the "I-12 Campus". And there it is again. The words that I heard from my Pop still echo in my imagination. Doug that new Interstate can take you anywhere in the world. Yes it can Pop. ANYWHERE. 

Doing Life Together

My coat, my books and my papers

 “When you come, be sure to bring the coat I left with Carpus at Troas. Also bring my books, and especially my papers.”

‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭4:13‬ ‭NLT‬‬

   Recently, I moved most of my books into the second story of a little studio that Rachel and I built for the kids. They are all musically inclined and we wanted a place that honored those gifts that bind us all together.  So on the first floor of the tiny studio we store the musical instruments and gather occasionally to jam as a family. Those impromptu sessions fill my soul with great joy. But the second floor was mostly empty so we decided to make that my library. I filled it with the books that have shaped my life over the llast 30 years. Unfortunately Hurricane Katrina destroyed a large portion of my collection. But I managed to save some from the storm and added new titles in the years that followed. I've collected over a lifetime of principles, truth, lessons and doctrine from so many gifted writers. I love each book in my library. I know this is old school but I cherish the feel of  the book in my hand and enjoy turning each page. Books are a gift from God. If the Lord allows me I plan to write a dozen more books in that little library. According to 2 Timothy, the Apostle Paul loved his books, papers and even had a favorite coat. He asked his son Timothy to bring all three when he came to visit. Bring me my coat, my books and especially my papers. I can identify with that. 

Doing Life Together

Easter 2017

Journey is gearing up for Easter 2017!

12 Experiences on 4 Campuses

Here's the Easter 2017 worship schedule at Journey Fellowship Church:

 

1. I-12 Campus - (6 Experiences)

"An Easter Journey"

A celebration of The Resurrection of Jesus in music with 6 shows.

Thursday April 13 at 7 PM

Good Friday April 14 at 7 PM

Saturday April 15 at 7 PM

Easter Sunday April 16 at

8:30 10:00 and 11:30 AM

 

 

2. Pontchartrain Campus-

(3 Experiences)

Artist Mark Eckel paints the resurrection story

Easter Sunday April 16th

8:30 10:00 & 11:30 AM

 

3. Belle Chasse Campus

(1 Experience)

Grand Opening

Easter Sunday April 16 at 10 AM

 

4. Online Campus

9:00 & 10:30 AM

Broadcast from Pontchartrain on journeyfellowshipchurch.com

 

Easter Sunday is April 16, 2017. Billions of Believers will gather for worship on that day from every nation on the planet. It is the single greatest day of the year for evangelism. Journey developed this Guide to help you to prepare for Easter Sunday and to maximize your worship experience. Follow the guide each day for ideas to get ready for the biggest day of the year.

 

Here are 40 things you can do to get ready for Easter 2017:

 

Read the "Preparing Our Hearts for Easter" Bible Plan on the  YouVersion Bible App. It's a 40 day plan.

Pray for your friends and family who are not walking with the Lord or not attending church.

Make a list of three people that you plan to invite to Easter at Journey.

Plant a flag on the Prayer Walk with the name of the people you're praying for.

Fast at least one meal each Friday and pray for Easter at Journey.

Commit random acts of kindness to people you may encounter and leave them a Journey invite card. (Cards available at Guest Services)

Stay connected to your Small Group this Semester.

Use your gifts at Journey on Sunday on one of the Weekend Teams.

Get involved with students at Journey by joining the Generations Team.

Handout Easter invite cards. (Available 4 weeks before Easter at Guest Services)

Send an email invitation to your friends to the Easter Experiences at Journey.

Post the Journey Easter graphics on your Social Media pages.

Encourage new believers in your circle to register for water baptism. Water Baptism will take place on Easter Sunday at all three campuses after the final Experience.

Invite someone to visit the musical on I-12 "An Easter Journey" 6 shows.

Invite someone to see the artist Marc Eckel on the Pontchartrain campus. 3 shows.

Invite someone to attend the Grand Opening of the Belle Chasse campus. 1 Experience.

Have a Spring Cleaning garage sale in your neighborhood and use the money to do Random Acts of Kindness. Also pass out Easter Invite Cards to your customers.

Spend an hour on the Journey Prayer Walk. Or pray wherever you are for your friends to come to Christ.

Cut your neighbors grass or wash their car and invite them to Easter at Journey.

Bring a bag of canned goods to a local shelter or ministry.

Buy a family in your circle Easter baskets for their children.

Post a Easter scripture on Social Media.

Invite someone to lunch after Church one Sunday.

Give a special offering above your tithe for the Easter outreach. Give online at journeyfellowshipchurch.com

Buy flowers for someone in the hospital and visit them to cheer them up.

Pray for your friends today.

Visit or write a letter to someone in jail.

Serve on the Compassion Outreach team at the New Orleans Mission.

Read a book on spiritual growth.

Host an Easter Egg hunt for your family.

Take your kids shopping for Easter clothes for church.

Peeps!

Pray for your friends to come to Christ.

Invite a neighbor, friend or family member to Easter at Journey.

Read Mark 16

Take an Easter family portrait.

Sponsor a student for Summer Camp or help send someone on a Missions Trip.

Pray for 100 people to be baptized on Easter Sunday.

Make a commitment to help a new believer to become a fully devoted follower of Jesus.

Attend and serve at one of the Journey campuses on Easter Sunday.

 

Easter weekend at Journey:

2500 people

12 Experiences

4 Campuses

1 Risen Savior!

Doing Life Together

Stutter

   On a long road trip a few weeks ago I found myself in a room full of other pastors at a luncheon. Afterwards we were making small talk with new friends in a circle of three or four in a group. We all took turns chatting and adding to the conversation but there was one man that I didn't know who wasn't saying a word. So, at a natural break in the conversation I asked him a direct question and he looked at me in slilence for a moment as if he was gathering his thoughts and finally he opened his mouth to speak. He struggled to express himself through a severe speech impediment but he was determined to be heard. He stuttered at almost every word but he expressed a complete thought that answered the question that I posed. And all the while he was speaking I kept steady eye contact and listened intently. My heart literally hurt in my chest for the struggle that he was engaged in to say what was on his mind, but I didn't let on that I noticed his pain. When he was done I acknowledged his contribution to the conversation and continued to speak to the group. And my new friend added a few other comments through his struggle. It was awkward at times but each person waited and listened patiently. We concluded our group conversation and broke up to move to the next event. I found a place alone and swallowed the lump in my throat and wiped a tear that rolled down my cheek. That chance encounter in a hallway far away from home with three strangers that I'll probably never see again brought me back to the days of my childhood. I was 16 years old again and the feelings flooded my soul as I remembered what it feels like to have a speech impediment. You see I was born with a stutter. I didn't speak clearly until I was 16 years old and then quite unexpectedly. 

   The things that I hated most about being a person with a stutter was that most people would look away from me when I talked. I understand now why people look away but as a child it always made me feel invisible. I also despised the pity from the listeners or sometimes the ridicule that was common from the kids who laughed at my impediment. And finally I longed to be acknowledged for my contribution to the conversation but that was rarely if ever granted. Children hardly ever know what is the right thing to do for a person with a handicap. I certainly didn't know how to handle it either. So mostly I suffered in silence and listened, wishing I could join the conversation. All those feelings disappeared from my daily existence in 1979 and I almost forgot about them but they were lying dormant in the storage bins of my soul. And then after nearly 40 years all those feelings came flooding back. Maybe God leaves those emotional scars in our lives so that we will have compassion for others who still suffer. Maybe it gives us a chance to treat other people how we wish we were treated when we suffered the injustices of life. Maybe those scars mark the places in our lives that gave birth to humility and forgiveness and grace. Maybe. Or maybe that's just how the world is, you struggle, you hurt, you change, you move on. I stuttered until I was 16 years old and I thought that I always would.       

     But that all changed on a walk home from church one Sunday night in 1979. I felt this strange sensation in my body like an electrical charge or a feeling of euphoria that was unexplainable and somehow I knew that my stutter was going to disappear. I don't know how I knew but I just did. And over the next several weeks my speech impediment completely left. I had stuttered all of my life until I was a junior in high school and then all of a sudden it was gone. Completely healed. I now know it was Jesus who touched me. One touch and he healed my stutter yes but so much more. In a moment He wiped away a lifetime of pain and embarrassment. And for the first time ever I could speak in clear understandable sentences. it's ironic that I've spent the rest of my years preaching the Gospel always with a knowing grin on the inside that my listeners had no idea what made it all possible. Most of my early life I felt like an underdog. That still remains true today in many ways but I'm reminded often that Jesus uses broken vessels and redeems the most unlikely candidates. Jesus heals hurting people. He brings comfort and grace. He is the Champion of the underdog. 

 

Doing Life Together

Vision Letter 2017

                                     

                                                   JOURNEY FELLOWSHIP CHURCH

                                                               Vision Letter 2017

 

Dear Journey family, 

    We are so excited about 2017 and we believe that this will be your best year ever. In September of last year, the Journey staff started planning the 2017 church calendar with our Purpose Statement, Mission and Core Values in mind. You know the ones…

     In this letter we want to share with you our LONG TERM goals that we call "Journey’s 2020 Vision" and the 4 Big Events that we have planned to serve our cities and reach new people in 2017.

 

    Let's begin with the Big Picture, our "2020 Vision" doesn't necessarily refer to the year 2020 but more so to seeing clearly where we are going. The 20/20 vision is a snapshot of our long term goals.

 

The Journey 2020 Vision:

6 Campuses [I-12, Pontchartrain, Belle Chase, Online, believing for Metairie and Ponchatoula]

14 Weekend Experiences

500 Small Groups

1500 GO Team Leaders

10,000 People in the Fellowship

 

 

For 2017 we have planned 4 Big Events to help us to Serve our community and reach new people. Here they are:

 

I. Easter @ Journey Fellowship Church:

10 Easter Experiences across our 3 Campuses.

April 13-16, 2017

 

I-12 Campus:

"An Easter Journey" musical

6 Shows

April 13 Thursday 7PM

April 14 Good Friday 7PM

April 15 Saturday 7PM

April 16 Sunday 8:30/10:00/11:30AM

 

Pontchartrain Campus

3 Easter Sunday Experiences.

April 16th at 8:30/10:00/11:30 AM

Artist Marc Eckel will be painting original Easter art at each Experience.

 

Belle Chasse Campus

Grand Opening of the new Campus

Easter Sunday April 16th at 10AM.

 

II. "BBQ & Watermelon Fest"

Sunday July 2, 2017

All Campuses!

Love Your Neighbor Weekend.

Be a Bringer!

 

III. PARTY ON!

Thursday October 5, 2017 @ 7PM

Journey's 21st Birthday Celebration -

ALL 3 Campuses will gather for

One BIG worship experience at the Northshore Harbor Center in Slidell with incredible music and our very special guest speaker Pastor Choco De Jesus of New Life Covenant Church in Chicago with an After Party for the Journey GO Team.

 

Note: All regularly scheduled Sunday Experiences will meet as usual on Sunday October 8th.

 

IV. December 8-10, 2017

Christmas Production: "The Toymaker" I-12 campus ONLY.

December 8-10, 2017

December 8-Friday at 7PM

December 9-Saturday at 7PM

December 10-Sunday 8:30/10/11:30AM

 

 

Note: All of the other Journey Campuses will meet as usual on their regular schedule Sunday December 10th.

 

Also on Sunday - Christmas Eve, December 24th We will follow our normal Sunday schedule with Christmas themed Experiences on All Campuses.

 

 

Now, you can see why we are so excited. We have an amazing opportunity to celebrate together and to win new people in so many different ways. Mark your calendar and be a part of praying for the events and the leaders leading them & volunteer and help us reach our cities. Together let’s

Believe, Pray, Serve and Give!

 

Doing Life Together,

Pastor Doug & Rachel

Doing Life Together

21 Days

Today is Day #7 of the 21 Days of Fasting and Prayer at Journey. Our fellowship of believers opened the new year with a time of prayer, meditation and goal setting. Spending time talking to God and listening to Him is key in that process. He's the best goal setter. We will be presenting a message on 2017 vision at the end of the fast. Which brings me to the fast. Today I began the seventh day of the fast. No food, only water and some occasional juices. The denial of the body is a sure fire way to connect to spiritual matters and focus on what's most important. We are spiritual beings having an earthly experience and fasting brings that truth to the forefront. The first three days the hunger pains were significant but I find myself in Day 7 in a quiet place. No hunger for food, clarity of thinking, more determined that ever to finish the race set before me. But the quiet hours in the fast are special. It opens my soul to spiritual matters. I'm praying through the Journey Prayer Guide and reading my Bible through and listening and waiting on God. (The Prayer and Fasting Guide is available on the Journey Fellowship Church App.) Download it from your App Store. I'm using the YouVersion Bible  "Historical Reading Plan" to listen to the Bible each morning. I'm about to complete the book of Genesis. During the fast everything slows down, time stops and creation comes into clear view. It's really an incredible experience. And as a side benefit I've dropped 10 pounds. At Journey we are also writing the names of people that we are praying for on small flags and planting them around the Prayer Walk. There will be hundreds of names of loved ones and friends on our Prayer Walk that we are praying for this year. I'm expecting great things to happen. I'm praying for you right now that the grace of Jesus and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Ghost to be with you today. 2017 the best year ever!

Doing Life Together

Embrace Your Story, Live in Your Redemption

 

"I'm thankful for who I am." It takes a person awhile to be able to make that statement with conviction. Most of us struggle with our identity because our true self is hidden under layers of original sin, covered with our own bad choices and regrets of what might have been. So we get discouraged and stop searching and settle for a cheap imitation. We allow our sin to define us and thus never embrace our real identity.

    The Creator of the Universe made you in His image and you are unique in all the world. You're an original and a one of a kind individual. It's worth the effort to search through the debris of your humanity and recover the person you were designed to be. When Jesus redeems us, two worlds collide in our soul, the old one and the new. A battle ensues and the rescued soul finds a path to his true self. But it's a fierce battle. It's a battle you can win and one worth fighting. 

    The two worlds collide, your old nature and your new one, and both of them seem to be inside of us, fighting for our attention. And we have to make sense of it all. It occurred to me recently that while  both of these worlds exist I can only live in one. So what do I do with the other one? Here it is: Embrace your story but live in your redemption. 

Embrace your story.

Live your redemption.

Doing Life Together

One Child Matters

     My friend Gary works for an incredible organization that raises financial support for children around the globe and provides them with food, education and health care. There are few causes as noble as caring for orphans and widows. It's a high calling to help the most vulnerable among us. This may be the ultimate test of a person's character. How do you treat the most vulnerable? The weak need a defender. This looms large on the horizon of humanity. Yet we live in a culture that provides a penalty to any person that destroys an eagle egg but unborn babies are aborted with the full support of the law and often funded by the government. The irony of this is lost on a generation. But truth remains no matter how hard you work to deny it. Truth remains. Unborn babies are weak and helpless and human. God have mercy on our nation. But we have none for the weakest among us. 

    President-Elect Donald Trump promised in the campaign to be a champion of the unborn. I pray that he follows through on his commitment. He even confronted Secretary Clinton on her stand in favor of partial birth abortion. A procedure that she defended. She's the first presidential candidate to ever defend this barbaric practice. If you don't know what it is, it's a procedure done on unborn babies near term that are partially delivered and then terminated by the evacuation of the skull. It's a gruesome procedure that is legal in the USA. It's mans inhumanity against man. It's madness. And it's legal.

    We will all be judged by how we treat each other. That's Jesus' core message to his followers, love one another. Love your neighbor. Help the poor. Defend the weak. Maybe it's not too late for the soul of this nation. One last chance to get it right? Maybe. 

Doing Life Together

"Riding a train called the City of New Orleans..."

   Steve Goodman's song written when he was an unknown songwriter living in Chicago plays as a backdrop in my memories as a child. The legend goes like this, Goodman presented the song to Arlo Guthrie after a set he played in a nightclub and pleaded with him to listen to it. Guthrie agreed to listen if Goodman bought him a beer. The beer was bought, the song was heard and a career was made. "City of New Orleans" became Guthrie's signature song and made both of them wealthy. Steve Goodman went on to become a successful songwriter, writing the perfect country song in "You Never Even Called Me By My Name" which landed at Number 8 for David Allan Coe. But the version of the "City of New Orleans" that stuck with me in my childhood was the Willie Nelson version. Every line of the song seems to describe a slowly vanishing way of life in middle America and it awakens in the listener the adventure of travel and a world outside your own., of friendship and love and lonesomeness. 

    Willie Nelson was a favorite of my dad and his friends Les and Bobby. We spent many a weekend with them listening to country music and cooking seafood and being alive, I marveled at the friendship my dad had with these two men. Les was a cousin, distantly related to my mom and Bobby was married to my mothers baby sister. He was Uncle Bobby to me and I loved him for how he loved my dad. Les allowed me to call him by his first name, which usually isn't allowed in the Deep South. Children usually are required to add a Mister or some other title before the adults name. But I called him Les.

   Uncle Bobby, Les and my dad, Wilson, called "Mac" by his friends.  Bobby, Les and Mac, three friends who raised their families together, fished, drank a lot of beer, boiled crawfish and listened to country music, and eventually grew old together. Between the three of them they had 12 children and stayed married to the same three girls their whole lives. Ruby, Susie and Mary Lee, but that's a story for another day. 

    My Dad is buried in a cemetery not far from my home and I visit his grave a few times each year, to pay my respect to he and my Mom. This past Saturday after a long day at work, I decided to visit the cemetery. When I got there, I went to the spot where dad and mom are buried and sat on the vault, to be near them and to think and pray. After a few minutes I looked up and realized that there were several new graves nearby. So I walked over to read the headstones and that's when it hit me. My dads two best friends are buried nearby, each about 10 feet apart on consecutive rows. But, when I  stood in the right spot and I could see all three of their headstones at the same time, there they were together again, Bobby, Les and Mac. They died a few years apart but now they are reunited. The friendship goes on. Some things last forever. 

   If Bobby, Les and Mac could see what I saw last Saturday, they would laugh and love it and pop a cold one to celebrate. Friends make life worth living.  I'm still riding on that train called the City of New Orlenas... 

Doing Life Together