Gracenomics (Mike Foster) – Book Review

Grace.  Why is it so hard to dispense?  Why are we so hesitant to give grace to ourselves?  Rather than being free and open with the greatest gift ever, we act like misers and ration off the tiniest bits of grace that we can.  It’s like we fear grace has a limit.  Careful or you’ll use it all!

I just finished reading Mike Foster‘s new book, Gracenomics, and it was one of the most down-to-earth, nakedly honest books that I’ve read this year.  Foster shares parts of his story that highlight his mistakes, pulling no punches when it comes to the details.  From being offended to being the offender, Foster shares some of the darkest times for him spiritually.  Everything from screw-ups with the LPA to financial trouble, Foster’s story could read like a Murphy’s Law of mistakes.

Enter Gracenomics, according to Foster, “the science that deals with the production, distribution and consumption of grace.”  We love receiving grace but when it comes to releasing it to others, we can be pretty stingy, at best.  Grace for your friends?  Fairly easy, depending on what happened.  Grace for the “grace killers”, the less-than-gracious?  Not so fast.  Gracenomics starts the work to even out the disparity.

Foster made a point that stuck out to me.  He said, “Let your mind brush over the parts of your story you wish never happened.”  That hits close to home for me.  How many of us have taken a part, maybe even a whole stage of our life, and locked it away because we wish it had never happened?  Gracenomics is about handing over the key to that locked closet and rolling out a catwalk for your past mistakes, f-ugly and all, because sometimes the people we need to give grace to the most is ourselves.

Gracenomics is a well-written, easy read.  From a design perspective, it has an incredible artistic layout, which is to be expected from Foster and his crew at PlainJoe Studios.  Foster provides readers with the framework for scandalous dispensing of second chances, the practical application of Gracenomics.

If you’re finding yourself running on empty in the area of grace, pick up a copy of Gracenomics and let it change how you dispense grace.  It releases on October 6th at Catalyst in Atlanta and online at People of the Second Chance (purchase book here).  Be about second chances, give more grace, buy this book.

Thoughts on “What To Know When You’re 25(ish)” (Shauna Niequist)

Today I read an article on Relevant Magazine.com called “What To Know When You’re 25(ish)” by Shauna Niequist (article after the jump).  The name of the article caught my attention for two reasons:  1) I’m 25 and 2) I have recently had some interesting conversations with friends of mine about our current stages in life.

I thought that Shauna did a great job with highlighting some things that we in our mid-20’s (and later 20’s) are facing in our faith, life, and community.  She covered a lot of the topics that I expected to be covered but her insight made for an excellent article.

Here are some of my thoughts on what Shauna said.

  • “Twenty-five is also a great time to start counseling” — I completely agree with her assertion that there is a healthy benefit to counseling.  A lot of us think of counseling is for those people who are screwed up, the “dysfunction junctions” that we know.  Friends of mine and myself, people that I believe no one would ever label dysfunction, have been in counseling because of the benefit we see in processing through even the things we have question about, let alone the things that can deeply bother us.
  • On finding a church — This is a struggle that I’ve heard from several of my friends, that finding a “good church” is so hard nowadays.  It’s not really that much harder than when our parents were searching for a church 20 or 30 years ago but now we’re in their shoes.  It can be intimidating, it can be frustrating.  Don’t let it.  Push through any awkward situations of not knowing anyone at the church and find what works for you.
  • “Don’t get stuck!” – I believe that this section contained some of the most important truths.  I loved what Shauna said in this part, “There is a season for wildness and a season for settledness, and this is neither. This season is about becoming.”  I’ve seen too many adults in their late 20’s look up and realize that they really haven’t made any significant start to the rest of their life.  They’re stuck in a job outside of where they got their degree, still living at home, and mired in uncertainty (I’m looking at you, grown boys.)  Get up, make some decisions, and get the momentum going in your life.

If you find yourself around the mid-to-late 20’s age bracket, I would encourage you to read Shauna’s article.  Wrestle with it and see if any part of it echoes with where you’re at in life.  If you see changes that need to happen, make the changes now instead of wishing you did one, ten, or even twenty years from now.

Ministry Highlight – charity: water

1.2 billion people in the world live in poverty.  That’s 1.2 billion with a capital “B” for billion.

1 out of 2 people in the world do not have access to running water.  That’s over 3 billion.  Billion with another capital “B”.  In case you didn’t catch it, this is a huge problem.

Enter Scott Harrison, formerly prince of the New York night scene.  Scott used to be a promoter for top night clubs and fashion shows.  He had it all except for living the life that Jesus called him to live.

Scott left the night life scene and signed on with Mercy Ships, a medical humanitarian effort that is changing the scene of relief and medical aid in third world nations.  Scott spent the next eight months as a photojournalist in Liberia, as he says, putting “the face to the world’s 1.2 billion living in poverty.”

He came face to face with the reality that most of the patients being treated by the Mercy Ships there in Liberia had contracted their conditions and diseases by the lack of clean drinking water.  Horrible diseases.  Literally flesh-eating diseases.  Tumors and cleft lips were common-place, most of which were caused by water-borne diseases.

Scott went back to New York where he had the revelation:  bringing clean drinking water to these areas of extreme poverty would transform the lives and futures of people trapped in these conditions.  Scott founded charity: water, a non-profit ministry created to bring safe, clean drinking water to the 1.2 billion who are in desperate need of it.

I can’t do charity: water nearly the proper amount of respect with a simple mention of them.  Check out their website, see what they’re about, and see what you can do to help them out.  Let reality sink in and get on board with what God’s doing through Scott Harrison and charity: water.

Friday List – September 17, 2010

Happy Friday everyone.  Hope you’re enjoying the start of the fall months.

Samuel Brengle on being an Axe

Earlier this week I came across an excerpt from the diary of Samuel Brengle, a former commissioner of the Salvation Army.  I’d never heard of Brengle before now but I thought this was a great insight.  This is what he wrote,

The axe cannot boast of the trees it has cut down.  It could do nothing but for the woodsman.  He made it, he sharpened it, and he used it.  The moment he throws it aside; it becomes only old iron.

A lot of times I forget that God is the One who makes things happen and chooses to use us as His instruments of purpose.  I begin to think that I’m “all that and a bag of chips” and isn’t God lucky to have me doing His work?  At that point my ego is usually on steroids and I’ve completely lost sight of who I really am and who I’m not.

If it weren’t for God working on us and through us, we would have no purpose and no effect.  Thank God for choosing to use us and give us a life purpose.  Thank God He allows us to do His work and reflect His glory back to Him.

Some Thoughts on Blogging – September 15, 2010

I’ve been blogging for over two and a half months now and it’s been a great experience.  It’s given me the chance to get out a lot of the thoughts and ideas that have been floating around in my mind, just looking for an exit.  In that sense it’s been a great experience.

I’ve also had some struggles.  Blogging has forced me to work on my editing skills and get better at phrasing and sentence structure while still keeping a personal feel to things.  That’s hard.  Very hard at times.

Here are some things that I’ve noticed from blogging and from reading other bloggers’ posts.

  • Make one point, your one big idea.  Focus on that one big idea that you want to communicate.  By the way, this works well in public speaking as well.  Focus on that one big idea and reinforce that you have one main idea to get across.  See?
  • It’s probably a good idea to not write more than 500 words in a post.  I get lost after about 400 words or so and it sounds like I’m starting to repeat myself.  I’ve read multiple posts on other blogs that number well over 1,200 words.  If I can’t get out my one point in 500 words or less, I either need to edit more or break the post into two or more posts.  Leave your readers wanting more.
  • Keep it real.  Usually if I’m sharing some thoughts on an article or an excerpt I have to fight against sounding too academic and stilted about my thoughts on it.  Speak from where you feel the strongest and be personal about it.
  • Trying to be “thought-provoking” all the time will give you a headache.  Make it fun, that’s why I have the Friday List.
  • Use shorter paragraphs.  Use short sentences.  They force you to be concise.  They challenge your editing skills.
  • If you’re going to skimp on grammar, be selective about where you skip.  Misspelled words?  Still not cool.  Choosing a preposition to end a sentence with?  More forgivable.  I’m still not advocating bad grammar but as a writer you hold the reins to how much of a Grammar Nazi you want to be.
  • Not every post is going to win a Pulitzer Prize.  On the other hand, don’t post for the sake of posting.  Know why you blog and stick with those reasons.
  • Respond to comments quickly and personally.  This may not work for everyone but I’ve found that it means a lot to the people who took time to comment.  With over 144 million blogs on the Internet, they took time to comment on yours.  Recognize that fact.

These are a few of the lessons that I’ve learned over the last few months of blogging.  I’m still very much a beginner but it’s been a great journey so far.

September 11, 2001

September 11, 2001.

A day that none of us will ever forget.  A day that all of us wish we could.

I remember snapping awake on that Tuesday morning as my mom came rushing into my room.  I walked out into the living room as I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes and then paused as at that same moment the first of the Twin Towers began to collapse.  I was still in too much of a fog to realize what I was seeing; what was going on?!  The fog quickly faded as more details came in across the screen.  My mom and I stood in front of the TV watching as millions of pounds of metal and concrete come crashing down.

Like countless numbers of other people, we stayed close to the TV and the radio as reports continued to come in from the east coast.  My biggest regret from that day is not realizing how much it was affecting my mom.  With my dad being at work and with me in my senior year as a home-school student, I had no clue how scared and upset my mom had become from what was happening that day.  I finally realized what was going on and have the memory burned in my mind of hugging my mom as she cried.  That’s not something you easily forget.

I remember talking to my grandpa later that day and hearing his reaction.  He told me about how over 50 years earlier, he had stood outside a drug store in east Pennsylvania listening to the first radio reports of the Japanese bombing Pearl Harbor.  It was terror, an absolute terror, he said.  Sunday, December 7th, 1941, was a day he would never forget.  I realized that our own date had just been set.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nine years already.  The terrorist attacks were inexcusable, yes, but not unforgivable.  I have no rhetoric or capability of communicating how forgiveness is even plausible in this situation, especially for those who lost innocent family members and friends that day.

What I do know though is that there is hope and healing in Jesus Christ.  Yes, we weep with those who weep but as believers, we don’t mourn as those who have no hope.  The terrorists responsible for these attacks were men who struggled with sin, just like the rest of us, and acted in horrific ways.  Excusable, no, forgivable, yes.

May God give us grace to forgive but not forget what was lost that day.  Pray for the families who lost loved ones, whether innocent or a terrorist.  Pray for God to be speaking grace and forgiveness into the hearts and lives of their family members as we remember September 11th.

Friday List – September 10, 2010

This week has been ridiculous.  My first big project is due for grad school so that should consume a vast portion of my weekend.  On the bright side though, it’s Friday.  Do your Friday dance.  Do your Friday thing.  Thank God it’s Friday.

Ministry Highlight – Compassion International

I am a big fan of what Wess Stafford and Compassion International are doing to reach children across the world.  I was first introduced to Compassion when my parents started sponsoring a girl while I was still in high school.

I started sponsoring David, a boy from Colombia, with Compassion back in 2007.  His birthday is six days before mine; he’s turning the big double digits this year – 10 years old!!

Compassion provides letter forms to me so I’m able to communicate with David.  I fill out the left side of the form in my own handwriting and mail it to Compassion in the pre-addressed envelope back to Compassion.  They send it on to Colombia where their translator fills in the right side of the letter form and then it gets delivered to David.

When David gets a letter form, he fills it out and sends it back to me.  It’s an incredible experience to read his handwriting and hear what God’s doing in his life from several thousand miles away.  There’s a personal side to it.  That’s when you know Compassion is more than just a child sponsor program.

The cost of sponsoring one child is $38 per month.  That’s it.  That’s a little over $1 a day!  (How many less lattés is that?…)  With plenty of child sponsorship programs out there you might ask, “How do we know that most of that money is going towards the actual child and not just “administration costs”?”  Compassion is open and honest about their financial information and work hard to provide the maximum amount of care for the children with the resources that they have.

Compassion partners with the child’s local church to provide help for the specific child that you sponsor.  You’re partnering with Compassion and the child’s local church together to make a difference in that child’s life.

Here are some ways that you can get involved with the ministry of Compassion:

  • You can sponsor a child through the Compassion website..
  • Popular Christian recording artists like Jeremy Camp, Hillsong United, Bebo Norman, and others are official advocates of Compassion.  You can get more information at their concerts.
  • Churches can host a Compassion Sunday to highlight the ministry of Compassion and give people a chance to sponsor a child that same day.

There are many more ways that you can get involved with Compassion and make a difference in the life of a child.  D.L. Moody said that if he had the chance to start his ministry life all over again, he would have focused on children.

Sponsoring David has been a great experience for both of us and it’s a bigger ministry than just writing a check each month.

John Mott on Leadership Traits – Part 2

Yesterday I talked about John Mott’s list of eight traits that he felt should be found in great leaders.  Today I’m going to share the other half of his list as well as some of my own reactions and thoughts.

5.  Know how to exploit momentum. Author and leadership expert Jim Collins calls this the Big Mo, momentum, the concrete flywheel that is difficult to get going, almost as if you have to push it uphill.  When you encounter a momentum-creating opportunity in leadership, get as much mileage out of it as you can.

6.  Be growing. The day we stop learning is the day that we die.  Be continually sharpening yourself in areas of interest and relevant to the area God’s called you.

7.  Be able to overcome discouragement and “impossible situations”. I heard a leader once say that they love seeing young leaders in impossible situations.  It’s an arena where tough decisions and lots of failure are the breeding ground for great decisions and seasoned leadership in the future.  I know for a fact that teams feel an overall reassurance if their leader can communicate that they have been there before and know what needs to be done.

8.  Understand his or her weaknesses. Probably the biggest leadership myth that I’ve had to overcome in my life this year has been that you should focus on strengthening your weaknesses.  That myth can be destructive to your leadership for three reasons:  a) You will wear yourself out, b) your efforts will be drawn away from refining your strengths, and c) it will keep others from filling those areas of your weaknesses where those might be their strengths.  Build a team around your weaknesses and focus on your strengths.