Friday List – November 19, 2010

Happy Friday everyone.  Crank that Friday mix music and enjoy the Friday List.

  • A pastor in New Jersey is telling his church leaders to delete their Facebook accounts.  Something about controlling the smallest details and making strict demands reminds me a cult.  Don’t know why…
  • Speaking of Facebook, a friend of mine mentioned that they were at 666 friends…on Halloween.  How do you respond to that?
  • Remember that time in grade school when you did a face plant in the grass during a soccer game?  Yep, you can relive that same smell of grass and dirt through an art mask.
  • Picture of the Week:  The Clinkers.  Wow.
  • Video of the Week:  Craig Gross got a Mullet (ten years ago).

Mental Conversations

You walk up to your friend, we’ll call him Jeff because hey, I’ve never met a Jeff I didn’t like.  You say, “Hey Jeff, (insert personal greeting here).  How are things?”

Jeff, being the great guy that he is, answers, “Hey (you, insert your name here), good to see you!  Things are going…pretty good….hmm, they’re going okay.”

You press farther, “Only okay?”

Jeff:  “Well…honestly?  Things are pretty crappy right now.  Hate to be a downer but yeah, if we’re being honest…things are (searching for the right word without wanting to sound too down)…rough.”

You, knowing Jeff’s situation and that whole Jeff-lost-his-job-because-of-the-economy thing, you’re afraid to ask him if he needs help with anything, like needing a loaner car since a “little birdie” told you that the transmission just broke down in Jeff’s car.  Jeff, reluctant and somewhat embarrassed, starts sharing about his struggles in the job hunting world, how there’s too much month left at the end of the money, and yep, he mentions the car situation.

You know that you and your spouse own three cars as it is and besides, you hardly ever use the Escape except when the weather starts turning.  You offer it to Jeff for the time being until his car gets fixed.  And, as you expected, Jeff politely declines, saying they have a plan in place already to get by until things are fixed.

It’s too bad this conversation never happened in real life.  It’s one of those mental conversations that we play out in our heads.  We see a situation and someone in need and we start to play out in our mind what we already think they’re going to say.  “Naw, I’m not going to ask them _______ ….”

Then we follow it up with these words, “….Besides, I already know what they’re going to say anyways.”  Really?  Is it that scripted?  Are you that in-tune with where they’re at right now that you can predict their responses?

We fall into the trap of just assuming that we know what people’s responses will be, what they’ll say, and how they’ll react.  One of the greatest opportunities to serve might be when we don’t just assume someone’s reaction or response.  God might be leading you into a situation where He wants to use you to bless others in incredible ways, ways that we can’t always predict or foresee because we are not God.

Take the chance and ask your questions, just in case.  It might open up a great door of opportunity that you might have assumed was never open in the first place.

Friday List – November 12, 2010

Friday is here.  Bring on the weekend.

“Practice at Cowboy stadium was delayed nearly 2 hours this morning after a player reported finding an unknown white powdery substance on the ground. After analysis, Dallas Police forensic experts determined that the white substance, unfamiliar to most of the players, was the goal line. Practice will resume this afternoon after Police decided the team was unlikely to encounter the substance again.”

  • Photo of the Week:  First snowfall in Denver this winter (Nov. 9th).

    First snowfall in Denver this winter (Nov. 9th).

Evil Geniuses

Universal Pictures just came out with its latest movie, “Despicable Me,” a few months back.  I wasn’t sure about the whole premise of Gru, the main character, being an evil genius but I thought I’d give it a try.  I thought it was a good movie, pretty funny in some parts with an interesting plot and great characters.  I won’t ruin the movie if you haven’t seen it yet but I was thinking about it the other day and realized something.

I think we’re all evil geniuses in one way or another.  I mean, we’re not bent on taking over the world or destroying all of civilization with a sinister plot.  But we are evil geniuses in another sense.

It’s amazing how quickly we can craft a plan to get back at someone who offended us.  In almost no time at all we’ve mentally drawn up an elaborate and devious plan of action to make our offender be reduced to the lowest of their existence. Mwah-ha-ha-ha-ha.  (That’s an evil laugh, just FYI.)

Isn’t it kind of unnerving how good we can be at planning someone else’s demise?  There’s some sick, twisted part of our soul that is remarkably gifted at getting back at others.  Maybe you’ve been cut off in traffic and immediately begin thinking about how to cut off that same person.  Maybe someone degrades how you dressed today and you spend the next 15, 30, 60 minutes dreaming up a snarky comeback that will cut them to their core.  Wouldn’t that just feel so good?!

Every evil genius has a choice to make, a chance to stop their plot in mid-flight and spare the world of experiencing their worst intentions.  I’ve heard that the act of being offended is the “bait of Satan” and I would agree with that.  One of the most dangerous threats to someone’s witness and ministry is how quickly they give in to getting back at someone.

Stop the evil plan, hit the self-destruct button, and start using your genius planning to build someone up.  Even the one that offended you.

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Romans 12:21

History and Turning One Year Older

Today’s my birthday, the big 2-6. Wow, time flies.  The other day I said something about my childhood followed by, “But that was twenty years ago.”  I never thought I’d hear myself saying something like that anytime in the near future.

I’ve been thinking of all the great historical figures who made a dramatic impact on the world during their 20’s:

Mozart was in his mid-20’s when he was commissioned as a court musician in Salzburg.  Alexander the Great came into power at 20 and conquered most of the known world by his early 30’s.  Most of the disciples were in their late teens and early 20’s when they were called to follow Jesus.  I could go on and on and on.

Great young minds are scattered throughout history by making an incredible impact in the world around them and I want my own life to be in that conversation as well.  To get to that place though means that I have to ask myself some tough questions:

  • What am I doing today that will last beyond my lifetime?
  • Who am I influencing today that will make a impression on them for the rest of their lives?
  • What choices am I making that will open up doors of great opportunity for my tomorrows?
  • What do I want my life to look like in 1 year, 5 years, and 10 years and what am I doing now to make that a reality?
  • And most importantly, how does my life more closely reflect the image of Christ with each new day?

Those are the questions that will shape my thinking this next year.  The answers to those questions will shape my response to that perspective.  I want this year to be great and I want to make much of who God is and what He’s doing through me.

So here’s to turning one year older, it’s going to be an awesome 26th year.

Chocolate cake with cream cheese frosting made by Mom and my youngest sister, Jillian.

Friday List – November 5, 2010

Happy Friday everyone.  It’s supposed to be in the mid-70’s this entire weekend in Denver, no snow in sight.  I’m not complaining though as long as there’s snow by Christmas time.  For now, enjoy the Friday List.

  • With the US national debt somewhere in the range of $10-12 trillion, it would be good to see exactly what $1 trillion looks like in comparison. (Update: this link has been removed.)
  • Probably some of the best break-dancing I’ve seen from a group of boys.
  • Google Map directions from Japan to China.  Read Direction #43.
  • Video of the Week:  Sudoku Sky-diving.
  • Photo of the Week:  Recognition.

Latex Gloves and Woolly Mittens

I used to be pretty enamored with latex gloves when I was growing up.  I’d pull them onto my hands and snap them into place like a skilled surgeon prepping for the operating room.  When I got bored with playing doctor I could always take those same gloves and blow them up like balloons or put them on my head to pretend I was a rooster.  Hours of fun.  Literally.

I also grew up in Colorado, which means that I was basically born in a snow drift.  Growing up I remember wearing thick, heavy mittens whenever I went out to go sledding or make a snowman.  By the way, what was with the string connecting the pair of mittens, affectionately known as the idiot string?  Whenever Mom put your mittens on she strung that string through the arms of your coat so you didn’t lose your mittens.  That was great until somebody got the bright idea that pulling one of the mittens really hard caused you to almost punch yourself in the face.  What a brilliant idea.

Are both types of gloves practical?  Yes.  Are their functions the same?  No.  Latex gloves are great for surgery and administering a flu shot but would be terrible for holding off the wind chill or making a snowman.  Woolly mittens are great for packing a snowball but would be absolutely useless for performing surgery.

Just because two things are of the same type does not mean that they should serve in the same function.  Two people can both be friendly but if one is an extrovert and the other is introverted, the introvert is probably not the better choice to be in public relations.  A small group leader and a senior pastor might both communicate well to people but they might feel completely out of their league if they traded roles with each other.

Our job is to know the unique role that God has given to us and to celebrate the unique skill set He’s given us for our specific roles.  He’s put us in specific situations for specific reasons and our calling is to figure out what those reasons are and play our part.

Trying to fill a role that we were never created for is as bad as using latex gloves to build a snowman:  it might work but you’re going to quickly wish you had a pair of woolly mittens, idiot string and all.

Lonely Virtual Islands

Much of our world today is made up of virtual reality.  Social networking, text messages, online gaming, e-mails, even online church campuses try to combine our innate desire for community and the power of technology today.  We love making “connections” with other people we meet through Facebook, Twitter, or any variety of networking and technology based vehicles.

There’s a problem though…our “connection” to those around us in a virtual world does not automatically translate to being connected in the real world.  Someone can be “connected” to hundreds, even thousands of other people but still be a lonely island in the sea of virtual reality.

For example, how can someone have 700 friends on Facebook but still feel depressed and lonely?  How can someone have hundreds of names in their iPhone’s address book but still haven’t had an in-person conversation with most of them in weeks or months?

Why do we forget that the people behind the avatars and screen names are actual people?  Why do we say things online through e-mails, chats, text messages, and discussion forums in ways and in words that we would never say to someone face-to-face?

You can’t express your exact thoughts and feelings through IM or a text message because tones and inflections are limited at best and usually misunderstood, even with emoticons.  For some reason there’s a massive disconnect between the names in our address book and the relationships that we really desire to have.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of social networking and technology.  But it can be so easy to fall into the trap of keeping people at a distance in our lives.  We have privacy controls and offline settings that let us maintain how deeply others can venture into our lives.  We were never created to keep others behind firewalls and privacy settings in our lives.

If we don’t realize our God-created need for community and real life, face-to-face conversations, we can become nothing more than lonely virtual islands speckled throughout the sea of virtual reality.

Wherever you are, be fully there.

Attention Deficit Disorder.  ADD.  The “disorder” that turns your brain into a million five-year olds all raising their hands at the same time with something to say.

I am the willing victim of ADD and for the record I don’t believe it’s as bad as people have labeled it.  Most of the time I count it a blessing to have the energy to be constantly looking out for the next big thing to catch my attention.  I think it’s an incredible gift to be able to have a unique outlook on life as you live it 100 mph.

Sometimes though my ADD can pop up at the worst times.  One of the biggest issues that I run into with it is that I can’t shut my brain off.  Whether I’m lying in bed at night, sitting in a meeting or a class, or in the middle of a conversation with someone I realize how quickly my attention can careen off course like some derailed freight train.

My friend Jon said something very wise a few weeks back.  He said that wherever you are, be fully there.  It’s about focusing on where God has you right here, right now, that you don’t miss great opportunities as they come your way.  If we’re so distracted with the whirlwind in our minds we can easily miss a small window of opportunity to touch the hearts and lives of those around us.

This isn’t just for those of us with ADD.  It’s for the businessman who is constantly answering his phone during family time or at dinner.  It’s for the sales rep who’s mentally going through their to-do list in their head while their co-worker shares about their pending divorce.  It’s for the parent who might “uh-huh” or “yes sweetie” enough that their kid picks up on the fact that, you know, Dad, you’re not really listening, are you?  Ouch.

I have to fight the temptation for my attention to drift away to the next great thing on my schedule.  I have to work at focusing on the person right in front of me because if I don’t focus, I might miss something very important to the heart of that one person right in front of me.  And that moment is gone.  I know I missed it and what’s more damaging, they know I missed it.  It might have been the one reason why God had our paths cross in that moment and I missed it.

Wherever you are, be fully there.

Friday List – October 29, 2010

It’s the Friday before Halloween.  You look like you’ve been working out so eat some candy.  Happy Friday and…cue the Friday dance.

The Man Behind the Curtain

I remember watching the Wizard of Oz when I was growing up.  Side note:  who didn’t think that those blue flying monkeys were the creepiest things ever?  Leaving out the monkeys though, there were many great elements to that story, which is why it’s a classic.  Great music.  Believable and infectious characters.  Memorable and quotable lines.  “There’s no place like home!”

But there’s one part that sticks out to me and for the longest time I have been thinking about it.

Towards the end of the movie when the Wizard refuses to grant Dorothy her wish, Dorothy and her friends discover who the real man is behind the theatrics of the Wizard.  When the curtain is pulled back, Dorothy and all the rest see the Wizard for who he truly is.  The Wizard isn’t a giant spirit-like floating head wreathed in flames; he’s a short, old man who had been tricking all of the people of Oz into believing he was something that he really wasn’t.

When the Wizard’s charade is at risk of being exposed he adamantly tells them, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.  I am the Great Wizard of Oz!”

And he sounds like a lot of us today.

We say things like:

“Don’t look too closely at my humanity because I’m doing my very best to cover up all of my mistakes.”

“Don’t look behind my charade to see who I truly am when I think no one’s watching.”

“Don’t ask the tough questions that will make me realize that I can’t keep hiding my shame and sin and guilt any more.”

We don’t have to put up false fronts that hide who we truly are.  It can be so tempting to throw up a curtain or two when I sense something might be potentially damaging to my ego and Christian pride.  I put on a lot of theatrics and distractions, hoping to divert people’s attention away from who I really am.  Yes, that’s right, stay focused on the eye service and over-spiritual fronts that I use as diversion techniques…and pay no attention to who I really am behind the curtain of reality.

How much effort do I, like the Wizard, put into staying behind the curtain?  It’s time to stop the charade and quit putting curtains up around us.  Be who God has called you to be and embrace the life you’ve been given, warts and all.  Use the humanity and mistakes that God allows you to experience as springboards for sharing His work in your life.

The Art of Elimination

Last November I had a chance to listen to Rob Bell share during his “Drops Like Stars” tour.  One of the elements that he shared involved the Art of Elimination.  The Art of Elimination is about removing those things that are not at the essence of what is important for that moment.  It’s about removing the trivial, the non-essentials, when you’re faced with the reality of a situation.

Household chores and picking up the dry cleaning take a back seat of importance when someone first hears the doctor say the words cancer or terminal.

Soccer practice and projects at work lose their facade of importance when your spouse tells you they want a divorce.

The car wreck that takes your friend or loved one has the terrible power to eliminate the clutter of your schedule.  You drop everything and focus your entire attention on that one thing that quickly takes up your entire view.

It doesn’t always have to be a life altering instance that creates the need for elimination.  In fact, most of the art of elimination takes place when life is at its best.  It’s easy to eliminate when drastic problems are on your radar; it’s harder when all the seas around you are calm.  The trivial, the “extra-curriculars”, all those things that are at the fringe of importance can slide themselves up the ladder of importance and we begin to lose our order of priority.

I’m working on the art of elimination, removing the clutter and paring my attention down to the best and most important part of who I am and who God’s called me to be.  There’s some clutter that I’ve moved from the fringe to the inner circle of my attention and it’s time to do some reordering.  It’s time to practice the art of elimination.

The Value of You

Apparently all of the elements of the human body, including your skin, are worth a grand total of $4.50.  Yes, someone actually calculated that and yes, that’s also somewhat disturbing.

According to the US Bureau of Chemistry and Soils, this is the elemental breakdown of a typical human body:

  • 65% Oxygen
  • 18% Carbon
  • 10% Hydrogen
  • 3% Nitrogen
  • 1.5% Calcium
  • 1% Phosphorous
  • 0.35% Potassium
  • 0.25% Sulfur
  • 0.15% Sodium
  • 0.15% Chlorine
  • 0.05% Magnesium
  • 0.0004% Iron
  • 0.00004% Iodine
  • Even with this interesting yet slightly disturbing information, none of us would venture to say that we find ourselves to be worth less than five US dollars.  You can’t put a price tag on wisdom or experience or relationships or on being uniquely you.

    When you sponsor a child through ministries like Compassion or World Help, the child you sponsor is more than just the $38 attached to your checkbook each month.  They have a smile and a laugh.  They have hopes and dreams and fears and many more things that make them unique.

    Life insurance can tell us how much a person is worth to that company on paper but the thousands of dollars can’t replace the memories, personality, and influence that is reflected in you.

    When we ridicule ourselves, focus on just our flaws, and degrade who God created us to be, we’re pulling out the price gun and marking ourselves for the clearance sale.  Besides, who would want such a messed up, mistake-filled person, right?  And that’s where we’re wrong.

    You might have never been told this before but listen close:  you. are. valuable.  The God who made you in His own image has placed value and worth on you.  He sent His own Son, Jesus Christ, to die for us because He valued us so much.  Live the life that He’s created for you.  Live the opportunities to become the person He has called you to be.  You are uniquely valuable to God and there can’t be a price tag for you.

    Friday List – October 22, 2010

    Happy Friday everyone.  Enjoy the List and stay classy, San Diego.

    The Art of Unlearning

    Recently I’ve been thinking about how much we have to “unlearn” as human beings. In fact, I’d say it is an art to be able to unlearn things in life.

    When you move into a new house you have to unlearn your old set of directions for driving home.  You have to unlearn bad grammar and misspellings for writing papers and letters.  You unlearn bad social habits and poor decision-making paradigms that you might have used in the past.

    When it comes to disciplines like music or sports, You have to unlearn poor technique and practice habits to become a better performer.  It takes time, effort, and attention to detail; it’s an art form in itself to pick out the flaws and correct the incorrect.  You become aware of the need to change, remove the negative element in place, and substitute a positive element that will correct the flaw.

    Tradition might be one of the biggest strongholds of learning.  We’ve learned a lot of bad ideas about faith, God, the Bible, people and just life in general.  We’ve allowed some of these ideas to define our faith instead of letting our faith define our ideas.

    Some of these ideas start to take some serious root over the years and are bumping the lens of faith out of focus.  We’ve done things for the sake of “doing things” or done things because “that’s what we’ve always done” and it’s become this hollow practice of irrelevant motions.  Some of these ideas are poor interpretations or misconceptions, some of them are dated and irrelevant, and some are just flat-out lies and unbiblical.

    This is where the art of unlearning comes into play.  We need to open our eyes to the possibility that some of the ideas that we feel the strongest about and are the most vocal about might be some of the biggest weeds in our spiritual hearts.  We have to step back and see if we can pick out where those bad ideas and misconceptions have taken root.  Pull them out, shake the dirt off their roots, and make sure they leave no seeds in their place.

    We need to learn how to unlearn because it changes our entire paradigm.

    A Voice in the Conversation

    There are over 144 million blogs currently existing on the Internet.  That’s approximately one blog for every two US citizens.  If everyone wrote an average of 20 posts per month for an average of 240 posts a year, that would average to well over 34 billion posts to be read a year.

    That’s a lot of material, a lot of material to sift through, weigh against, and process in your mind.  Stats can be overwhelming, so much material, such and such amount of writing and editing that go into an unfathomable amount of written material.  The numbers are so big that we are numb to the overall meaning of them.

    And yet I go on.

    There are around 7 billion people in this world and I’m just one of them.  A voice among not just millions, but billions.  Just one person.  Just one voice.  What could I say that will stand out from the masses?  What can I share that will hope to impact more than a few?  Who am I that I could think that my voice is capable of having an impact in the conversations around me?

    Many of us are content enough to be echoes of those around us.  We’ve programmed ourselves to absorb and regurgitate the information and thoughts of those around us without giving thought to expressing our own reactions and ideas.  Like a verbal rendition of a Stepford wife we’ve become the willing victim of echoing someone else’s ideas and thoughts instead of instigating and producing our own.

    It’s time to break out of that self-imposed echo chamber.  Yes, share the wisdom of those around you but also allow God to speak through you in a new way.  He has given you thoughts and ideas and experiences and ideas that are uniquely you.  He has also placed you in a unique situation to speak from where He has taught you and where He has led you before.

    Be a voice in the conversation, not an echo.

    Friday List – October 15, 2010

    Happy Friday everyone.  Today’s my dad’s 50th birthday so shout-out to the world’s greatest dad if he ever reads this.  Anyways, do your Friday dance, do your Friday thing, and on to the Friday List.

    You Don’t Complete Me

    Let’s face it, we’re incomplete.  We’re broken, sinful, and in need of repair.  And we try to fix the fact that we’re incomplete through a variety of ways:

    You might bury yourself in your job or career, trying to shake the corporate ladder enough to pass enough people to feel some sort of completion.

    You surround yourself with friends, living the high life and schmoozing with the right type of people.  You think that if you have enough friends that you’ll never need anything else ever again.

    You date around until you find “the one” and think that person, that special someone, will absolutely fulfill anything you could ever want or need.  You think that person will never disappoint you, let you down, and they definitely wouldn’t betray you, right?  By the way, this is a big problem in Churchland where some couples have set their significant other up as an idol, thinking that all their needs will be met by this equally fallen and broken person.  News flash:  that’s called idolatry.

    Maybe you think that you can bury yourself in getting more stuff.  If I could just get the next “____” or the next greatest “____” then I will really be good to go, then everything will be absolutely perfect.

    Hey, I find myself saying a lot of that same stuff.  I’ve chased dreams and false hopes of fulfillment in a variety of ways.  I’ve set up these idols in my life, that’s exactly what they are:  they’re idols.

    They can’t redeem you.  They can’t forgive your sins.  They don’t hold your future in their hands and are able to provide for your every need.  They will disappoint you, abandon you, and even deceive you at times.  You may get a sense of satisfaction and earthly fulfillment in the moment but they don’t complete you, leaving no need unmet and thoroughly fulfilling every need and desire that you could ever have.

    God is the only One who can redeem you and forgive your sins.  He is the only one who promises to never leave you or betray you.  He is the only one who is worthy of our worship.  I need to put this into practice.  It’s time for me to break down some idols in my own life.  God is the only One who can complete me.

    Teams and Sabbaticals

    Our Creative Planning Team is taking a sabbatical for the rest of the year.  This wasn’t something that I had planned on happening but in retrospect I see a lot of benefit from this break.  Over the last week or so I’ve done a lot of thinking about teams and sabbaticals.

    I’ve come to the conclusion that teams need to take a break every once in a while.  Here are the reasons why:

    1)  Everyone needs a break to rest.  Whether it be busyness in schedule, extra busyness around the holidays or summer, or just being heavily committed in other areas of life, team members appreciate the chance to catch their breath.

    2)  Being involved in a group with at least moderate expectations and demands can be taxing on team members in their creativity and enthusiasm.  It’s no different from driving with your foot constantly on the gas pedal:  after a while you run out of gas if you’re always on the go.

    3)  As a leader you can use the break to re-evaluate the overall purpose and strategies of your team.  Pray, pray, pray for God to give you a clear vision of what He wants from the team.  It’s His team and you just happen to be the one He’s put in charge of it.

    4)  Now’s the time to go back to the drawing board and ask yourself the tough questions.  Have we lost track of the overall goal?  Where have I dropped the ball as leader?  What are we doing well and why?  What are areas that we need to improve on?  Answer these questions first in your mind, let God make the changes in you, and then ask the same questions to your team.

    4)  You have the chance to re-evaluate the structure and make-up of your team.  Is there a cancer in the clubhouse?  Do you need to rearrange some of the team members in their roles?  Which team members have pushed the team for a more excellent and effective ministry?

    5)  This is also the time to look for new recruits.  Who is in your scope of vision that fits the description of a great potential team member?  By the way, they may not be who you’d expect.  Also, if you don’t know what criteria to use to evaluate potential team members, stop everything and get that ironed out now.

    What do you think?  Did I miss anything?

    Naive – Sleeping At Last

    A buddy of mine showed me this song last week and it rocked my world.  It’s called “Naive” by Sleeping at Last and the lyrics are powerful.  I don’t know if the artists of Sleeping At Last are believers in Christ but there is an incredible spiritual depth in this song.

    Religion is a breeding ground
    Where the Devil’s work is deeply found,
    With teeth as sharp as cathedral spires,
    Slowly sinking in.

    God knows that I’ve been naive
    But I think it makes Him proud of me.
    Now it’s so hard to separate
    My disappointments from His Name.

    Because shadows stretch behind the truth,
    Where stained glass offers broken clues
    And fear ties knots and pulls them tight.
    It leaves us paralyzed.

    But in the end such tired words will rest.
    The truth will reroute the narrow things they’ve said.
    The marionette strings will lower and untie
    And out of the ashes, love will be realized.

    God knows that we’ve been naive
    And a bit nearsighted to say the least.
    It’s broken glass at children’s feet
    That gets swept aside unexpectedly.

    The people who Jesus criticized the most were the people with the most religion.  These were the people who had narrowed the arena of faith with a constricted grasp, choking the very life out of it in the name of righteousness.  These were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the teachers of the law.

    History is filled with people who have taken the teachings of Jesus and value our own interpretations of His teachings as being right or correct.  The Church has taken these interpretations and placed them in our art, our stained glass, and our icons and allowed the pictures to be interpreted in each person’s own way.

    Our naivety in this assumption is that these pictures are complete, that they communicate a complete and fully accurate understanding of these stories and teachings of Jesus.  As soon as we begin to place our interpretations on these pictures they begin to lose their purity in meaning.  We’re human, we don’t have it all figured out, and we keep seeing things through a broken lens as long as we stay on this side of eternity.

    There is much, much more to this song than the short amount I’ve shared and I’m not about to say that what I’ve shared is fully accurate.  I’m sure that there are parts that I’ve missed and even parts that I’ve ironically misinterpreted.  But I have to keep wrestling with it and keep searching for a deeper impact on this song.

    What are your thoughts?

    Friday List – October 8th, 2010

    Happy Friday everyone.  Fall is in the air and it is a beautiful day in the Mile High city.  Enjoy your weekend.

    If you have any material that you would want to share that might fit the Friday List, feel free to send it my way!

    The Art of Silence

    A few years back I heard a pastor talk about the art of silence.  We love surrounding ourselves with sound.  When we’re driving we turn on the radio.  When we’re at home the TV or the radio is on.  When we exercise we love having our iPod rockin’ while we’re mashing the iron.  We have elevator music, music while we’re put on hold on the phone, text alerts, ringtones, car horns, doorbells, all of this noise is in our daily lives.

    We love noise, even if it’s just white noise, the wallpaper of our hearing.  But what if we were to take away that noise, peel away the wallpaper.

    Silence is awkward.

    In silence we can hear our own heartbeat, sometimes so loudly that it can feel deafening in our ears.  In silence we realize what’s been drowning out God’s still, small voice and what we’ve been missing.  Silence keeps noise from glossing over our cares and concerns.  Silence keeps us from submerging our minds in the waves of sound and forces us to think without external stimuli.

    Silence is an art.  Like good art it has to be developed and refined.  Some people are natural artists and have a gift for understanding the art in its proper context.  When an artist takes time to perfect their art then there are details and elements that slowly appear.

    You turn off the radio.  Unplug the iPod.  Turn off the TV.  Drive in silence.  Take a walk.  And the details and elements begin to appear.

    Silence brings out the deepest parts of who I am as I sit there exposed and open without the covering of noise.  Thoughts and struggles that I have ignored or glossed over have nowhere to run but are right there in front of me.

    I hear my heartbeat and realize that the life pulsing through my veins is a gift from the God whose voice I sometimes can only hear in silence.

    I want to perfect the art of silence.  I want to eliminate the white noise, peel away the wallpaper, and listen for God’s voice to speak.

    Rest and Recharge

    Today’s a day of rest for me.  Yesterday was moving day and I am definitely feeling it.  There was a point this morning where I wondered if the creaking and groaning I was hearing was the stairs, only to realize that it was my bones that was making those sounds.  I need some rest.

    Life has been at a go-go-go pace for me over the past six weeks or so as I’ve been trying to juggle full-time ministry, grad school, and life in general.  Today is the day where I am resting and being intentional about it.

    I’m catching up on things that have been needing some face time with me.  I’m going to be working on some spiritual things, faith refining and some spiritual house cleaning.  Today’s also a day for practical things like posting stuff on Craigslist (yes, probably should have done that before I moved.) and finishing a book that I’ve been wanting/needing to finish.

    But today is also a chance to dream and refine my vision.  With leading a variety of teams I need to revisit what God wants from my teams and me.  Sometimes it’s hard to have a clear outlook when you’re in the whirlwind of the schedule and you allow that same whirlwind to drown out God’s still, small voice.

    I think we confuse the idea of rest with doing nothing.  Don’t get me wrong, there are times where we all need a day of “nothing”.  No plans, no agendas, just mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual respite.  But it’s so easy to just slip into the mode of “day off” meaning that you check out for the day, mentally and physically.

    God has given you the opportunity on your “day off” to redirect your energies from the tyranny of the urgent towards what you enjoy doing and what will enhance your well-being.  Take the opportunity to better your outlook on life, faith, and God’s will for you.  Sleep in a bit (not all day) and go to bed early that night.  Sometimes sleep can be the one of the most powerful spiritual practices ever.  Even Jesus slept in the midst of a violent storm.

    If you’re an introvert, make plans to spend time with a close friend or two.  If you’re an extrovert, make plans to spend an hour or two alone in silence with maybe a journal and your Bible.  Find the things that refresh you and put a handful of them into your plans for the day.  And if you don’t get to all of them, who cares?

    Today’s that type of day for me.  I am soaking it in and loving it.

    Moving Memories and Part of My Story

    I’m moving tomorrow and leaving the apartment where I have stayed the longest since college.  When it comes to moving and changing new places I’m not too much of a sentimental guy.  We moved a lot when I was kid until I was about 10.  6 times in 8 years.   The first time doesn’t count though because I was 2 or 3 when it happened but still you get used to moving at that rate.

    When I graduated from college I moved back to Colorado from Chicago.  Ten weeks later I moved back to Chicago to take my first real job at a church.  I crammed all of my stuff into my 2002 Subaru Outback and drove the 1,000 miles back to Chicago.  No trailer, no rooftop luggage rack needed.  All my stuff fit inside my car.  Can you say college kid?

    I lived in the parsonage at the church for ten months.  It was drafty and clapboard with wiring that was a crapshoot at times but it more than met my needs and was a blessing to me.

    The church sold the parsonage so I moved to an apartment in northwest Indiana.  It was probably the sketchiest building I’ve ever lived in.  It was 14 months of loud neighbors, domestic violence in the hallways, sharing Christ with single moms chain-smoking out front, and trying to figure out what made these people tick.  It was probably the greatest blessing for me in ministry as it breathed a new perspective into my outlook on ministry.

    Then came the call to come back to Colorado.  I left a great job with a great future to follow what I feel was the clearest call of God on my life.  He grew in me a heart to reach out to Denver and led me back to Colorado without a job offer or any idea of what was ahead of me.  I felt like Abraham being called to a new place without any guarantee of what was to come.

    I’ve been back in Denver for two years now and I feel so fulfilled with where God has me.  This apartment has been more than just a place to live and a spot to crash at night.  It’s the start to my journey of being called to Denver.  I know that God has some incredible things in store for me and I’m excited to see what’s next.  Turn the page, next chapter.

    Friday List – October 1st, 2010

    It’s Friday.  Thank God.  Happy 1st Friday in October.

    • A guy in Utah got his lawnmower up to almost 100 mph.
    • When the sun hits a Vegas hotel just right, it turns one section of the pool area into a fry zone.  Enter the Vdara Death Ray.
    • For those of you who really think it takes too long to get dressed in the morning, now you can spray on your clothes.
    • Picture of the Week:  About to Fail.
    • Video of the Week:  How to Be Bully Smart.  Two points for the “Throw Candy in the Face” technique.
    • Quote of the Week:  Facebook status — “Please put this as your status if you know/are related to someone killed on Alderaan when it was obliterated by the Death Star. My wish is that people will understand the Empire is a band of murdering scum. The Rebel Alliance wants only to bring peace to the galaxy, but the Empire continues to kill innocent civilians. …93% of people won’t copy/paste this. Will YOU make this your status for at least an hour?”

    Great Expectations

    No, Great Expectations doesn’t refer to the Dickens novel, Great Expectations.  Great Expectations is the stuff that you and I place on others around us, usually the people who are closest to us.  We have so many high-level, sometimes even unrealistic, expectations that we place on our friends, our family, our co-workers, and our significant others.

    They should do _____ for me.  They should know _____ about me.  They should be ______ to me.  Don’t they know who I am?!  They should, they should, they should….you begin to get the feeling that someone has pretty high expectations.

    Hey, we’re all guilty of this at times. We have unrealistic expectations and compound that problem with the fact that largely we don’t voice our expectations to others.  Those unsaid expectations are sometimes worse that the unrealistic ones:  What you don’t know will hurt you in the long run.

    The biggest problem is when we confuse what we expect of people with what we should expect from God.  Why don’t I feel completely fulfilled with this person?  Why aren’t they meeting all of my needs?  Why do I feel like I’m on the outside looking in?  These are all fleeting expectations that we have misdirected from God to people in our everyday lives.

    The only place where Great Expectations are justified is in our relationship with God.  Expect great things from the One who made you.  Expect great movements and convictions from the One who seated your conscience and soul inside of you.

    But we’re not the only ones with Great Expectations.  God calls us to a much higher level of living than what our hearts want.  God expects us to do great things for His kingdom but not on our own horsepower.  He fills us with His Spirit because He knows that we can only do great things if He empowers us with great attributes.

    And that’s when it’s okay to have Great Expectations.

    Joshua Prince-Ramus on Creativity and Creative Execution

    I’ve mentioned before that I am a big fan of TED Talks, a think-tank of some of the leading minds in Technology, Entertainment, and Design.  Several months back I watched a TED Talk given by Joshua Prince-Ramus, principal architect of REX Design Firm in New York City.  This morning I re-watched the same TED Talk for two reasons:

    1)  Christians need to become better visionaries, seeing the big picture and realizing the relationship of the parts in light of the overall arena of function.  Almost anyone can throw out a good idea but it becomes a great idea when it fits inside the overall function of the ministry.  Otherwise it’s just a good idea with no real place to take root.

    2)  Christians also need to become better at understanding the relationship between creativity and execution of creative design.  Prince-Ramus does a great job of explaining this relationship.  Sometimes I forget how important this relationship is in ministry.

    A creative idea stays as simply an idea until we begin execution of the idea.  A common mistake is that we limit the label of creativity to just the conception of the idea.  We throw out an idea that is creative and think that as long as we simply put that idea into action that it is the end of the creative power of that idea.

    Creativity should extend beyond the initial conception throughout the entire process of execution.  Be constantly thinking through the execution process of more ways you could infuse creativity into the final outcome.

    Example…If the chandelier in the Phantom of the Opera came dropping straight down from behind the curtain it would be a good effect.  Having it swing down onto the stage from above the audience’s heads?  That’s a memory-creating experience.  Smart money would say that idea wasn’t in the initial conception of the Phantom of the Opera.

    Once you’re “done” with the execution of the idea, creativity should extend into a post-production analysis of the idea.  How much did your initial idea change and evolve through the execution process?  What are the areas or elements that could be improved to create a more effective and appealing outcome?  What were the areas where you had to compromise some of your idea development for the sake of better function?

    Our creative process needs to be a process and not just a preliminary discussion.

    Getting Rid of “Good Enough”

    Good enough.  This has become one of the worst crutches that the Church has been using over the years.  Whether it’s in leadership, ministry, outreach, design, or a variety of other areas, we’ve settled with “good enough” as the standard instead of the exception.

    There’s a problem with “good enough” though.  “Good enough” is rarely good at all and has a closer resemblance to “okay” than good.  “Enough” implies that we’re willing to settle with whatever level we’re at; it’s okay to stop pushing forward.  “Enough” is us kicking back and pushing the cruise control button.

    The Church has the greatest message ever in the person of Jesus and yet for years we’ve given into the rut of “good enough”:

    Artistic design has been annually butchered on the altar of “good enough” in the Church.  Flyers, websites, logos, Powerpoint layout, these have all been victims of “good enough”.  Let’s not even talk about videos and skits.  Those have been the ugly step-child of art for years in the Church.

    Leadership development and training has been chopped down to the bare minimum.  Volunteers are told that they only need to know the minimum.  I’ve been guilty of this one and see some areas in my leadership circle that need to be cured of this issue.

    We put people into leadership positions who are less than skilled in leadership.  They’re willing to lead but completely out of their strength zone.  When we put the wrong people in the wrong places we might as well cut their legs out from under them.

    The question might come up, “Is there ever a good time to use “good enough”?  Here’s a pretty complete answer: nope.  Wanting to be excellent in even the smallest details will separate you from the rest of the pack.  Push yourself to the next level.  Define and demonstrate excellence, especially in the details.

    I’ve been guilty of giving in to “good enough”.  I’ve given into the temptation to cut corners on excellence and settle far short of the mark.  I still find myself saying, “Aw, that’s good enough.”  This is me calling myself out to step it up, to run a tighter ship, and to keep reminding myself of what defines excellence.  None of this makes any difference unless we’re doing it for the glory of God.  Excellence for the glory of God is the fullest calling that we could ever fulfill and “good enough” is the quickest exit away from that fulfillment.

    Why Apologies Aren’t As Valuable

    I’m sorry.

    Two words, just two words, that can contain a large amount of meaning. They can mend broken bridges, heal past wounds, and start you back on the path of regaining trust. There is a lot of power in those two words but we’ve started to rob them of their meaning.

    It’s too easy to apologize today.  If you offend someone, just throw out a quick “I’m sorry, blah, blah, blah, fill in the blank” and you can check it off the list.  You’re not required to be specific, no extensive details need to be involved. You don’t even have to be sincere.  All you have to do is say, “I’m sorry”, and be done with it.  Not only that but if someone still takes offense for what you did, you can fall back on this claim, “I said I was sorry!”

    Sports players, comedians, celebrities, the “popular” in society have perfected the written apology.  They, or some official representative of theirs, gets up to the podium with a crisp, one-page letter and rattles off some canned apology letter that a robot could have scripted.  Finish reading, wipe away whatever tears you might or might not have conjured up, hug your family flanking both sides of you, and exit stage right.  It’s clean, it’s sanitized, and the cameras are there just eating it up.

    New flash:  There’s a problem with that!  There’s no accountability, no promise for change in the future.  When you apologize it’s implied that you’re going to work at not making that same mistake again.  When we’ve lost the sincerity and commitment for change that comes with a real apology, we’re doing nothing more than checking an apology off the list so we can get people off our backs.

    Let’s bring meaning back to apologies.  Put some thought into why you’re sorry.  Internalize why you have your regret.  Make a plan in your mind how to prevent that same mistake going forward.  Be sincere and resist the urge to quick-draw a half-hearted “I’m sorry” whenever it’s convenient.

    Friday List – September 24, 2010

    It’s the first Friday of fall.  Cool weather is coming and leaves are beginning to fall soon.  I’m a big fan of the fall months.  Happy Friday everyone.

    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.

    John Mott on Leadership Traits – Part 1

    Earlier this week I read some of the wisdom of John R. Mott, former President of the YMCA World Committee and recipient of the 1946 Nobel Peace Prize.

    As you’d probably guess, Mott spent a vast majority of his time developing young leadership around him.  He put together a list of eight traits that he believed should be found in all young leaders.

    This list was eye-opening for me as I saw a lot of truth and practicality in this list that still applies today.  I’m going to list the first four today along with some of my reactions and then talk about the other four tomorrow.

    Mott believed that a leader should…

    1.  Do the little things well. This echoes what Jesus teaches about the faithful servant (Matt. 25:20-21) — being faithful with few things will open up greater doors of opportunity in the future.

    2.  Focus on priorities. In the words of Stephen Covey, “…keep the main thing the main thing.”  The leaders who reach that level of great impact are the ones who maintain that laser-like focus in their life and perspective.

    3.  Use leisure well. For a lot of leaders, it can be easy to ignore your need for rest.  I fall into the trap of living 100 mph and realize that I’ve started to fray and wear.  You can get sick, lose your edge, and eventually not be as effective as you can be in the work that God’s called you to do.  Work hard first.  Rest when you need it.

    4.  Have intensity. If you don’t have passion for the area that you lead, the passion to make a difference, it won’t translate to your team dynamics.  The great leaders of the Bible (David, Moses, Joseph) were passionate about their roles.  David showed his passion for justice against the Amalekites, Moses when he asked God to spare the Israelites, and Joseph with sparing his brothers and showing grace to them.  That takes passion.  That takes intensity.

    More to come tomorrow…

    Friday List – September 3, 2010

    Happy Friday.  College football is here again.  Life is beautiful.

    Enjoy the Friday List.

    • Teenage driver = SUV in swimming pool.
    • Apparently there is an Air Guitar World Championship.  This is for all the people who are Ted Nugent in their own minds.
    • Quote of the Week:  “When they discover the center of the universe, a lot of people will be disappointed to discover they are not it.” – Bernard Bailey  (Kind of mean but funny because it’s true.)
    • Picture of the Week:  Pagliacci.
    • Video of the Week:  Double Rainbow.
    • Think you’re awesome?  Now you can have someone call every single day and tell you that you’re awesome.

    Friday List – August 27, 2010

    The Friday List is getting out late today.  I spent the morning in New Student Orientation for grad school.  Classes start on Monday for my journey towards an MA in Leadership.  Happy Friday everyone.  Do your Friday dance.

    • A Beautiful Mind: Stephen Wiltshire has a gift.
    • A movie critic recently complained that the new movie Expendables is all about explosions and fight scenes and nothing else.  What were you expecting it to be about after you saw the cast list?
    • Picture of the Week: Name Win
    • Quote of the Week:  “I don’t have to be able to perfectly articulate exactly everything that I believe.  I just have to know that I know that I know.”  Wow.  Where do you start with picking apart that reasoning?
    • Video of the Week: Improv Everywhere – New York Library
    • Another great picture – Sweet Dreams, Sweetheart…

    The folder I go to…

    Can you remember the last time you felt discouraged?  Well, you probably do remember, probably too well.  In fact, you can probably remember the exact time that it happened and where you were when you last felt that way.

    Discouragement has this bad habit of sticking with us for a long time.  It’s hard to shake sometimes.  Like a sickness or a disease, like a cough that just won’t go away.

    Life can feel like a minefield at times.  God has been very gracious to me throughout this year and I haven’t had to face a lot of discouragement.  There have been times though where the times aren’t so sunshiny and joyful, times when you just want to quit and walk away from it all for a season.

    There is one folder in my email account that I go to when I feel very discouraged.  I call it my encouragement folder.  When I get an email that has any encouraging word or story in it, I label it “encouragement” and archive it with the rest of the folder.

    The encouragement is more than an “atta boy” or a “good job”.  Most of them are stories about people who were impacted by the ministry that God has allowed me to be a part of.  God used me in a unique way to impact the lives of these people, some of whom I have never met to this day, other than a thank-you in reply to their email.

    I started putting this folder together at my first position in ministry and it’s been very helpful to me ever since.  These are the stories that I want to hold onto.  They remind me why I do what I do, especially at those times when the crap hits the fan.

    If you don’t have a folder like this for your email or something like that, I would encourage you to put one together.  Be reminded of the work that God has called you to do.  And be encouraged.

    Ministry Highlight – People of the Second Chance

    I’ve noticed that with artist sketches or comics that the artist rarely includes blemishes on the people in their sketches.  Everyone has perfectly toned skin, straight teeth, nice hair, and only bad guys, the villains, have scars.  But only on occasion.

    Why no scars for the good guys?  Why no blemishes?  Wouldn’t that be more indicative of real life?  Reality says that everyday people struggle with our blemishes, everything ranging from acne to the scars of a serious car accident.

    We all have our scars.  They may not be visible.  They may not even be physical.  But we all have them.  We see scars and associate shame and disfigurement with them.

    “They make me look ugly.”

    “I was the victim.  I can’t believe they did this to me!”

    “If only I could hide them so people won’t see my scars…”

    “I can’t let people know what was done to me (emotionally, physically, even spiritually).”

    We want to suppress and bury our scars with hopes that people will look past our past.  It might have been completely out of our control how we got these scars.  On the other hand it might have been entirely our fault:  a lapse in judgment, youthful ignorance, a rebellious time, some sin that we kept going back to over and over again.

    People of the Second Chance is a ministry that was started by Jud Wilhite and Mike Foster, formerly of Deadly Viper Character Assassins (R.I.P. Deadly Viper).  People of the Second Chance is all about radical grace, scandalous forgiveness, and second chances.  They’re about celebrating your scars, not for their source or causes but for the changes that they can inspire in us.

    No matter what you’ve been through, don’t allow your past hurts, failures, and scars keep you from allowing God to work through your back story.  Let great ministries like People of the Second Chance help you tell your story and celebrate what God has created through your past scars and failures.

    Friday List – August 20, 2010

    Friday is here.  Thank God.  It’s been a long week for a lot of people.

    Happy Friday everyone.

    • Yes, it’s almost a requirement and necessary for me to be hatin’ on Justin Bieber every week.  This week his music actually sounds good…if you slow it down 800%.
    • According to Obamacare, it has been officially determined that “Bieber Fever” is not a pre-existing condition.
    • For all you Ph.D students out there, here’s a guide explaining your degree.
    • I’m pretty sure this video is fake but it’s still funny.  Don’t honk at old people.
    • With the new “scare” of Facebook Places, here are instructions on how to turn off Facebook Places.
    • Photo of the Week: No Shooting.
    • Video of the Week:  Dad Life.
    • Quote of the Week: “I did not take performance-enhancing drugs.” — Roger Clemens.  Time will tell.  As a fan of the Rocket, I hope he’s right.

    Smartest Person in the Room

    I heard a story earlier this week from Patrick Lencioni about a CEO who had flown over to Asia for a conference on economic development.  The CEO was a technology specialist who didn’t get involved or engaged in the conference but was there as part of a marketing strategy.

    This CEO had taken his chief information officer with him.  She had a Master’s in economic theory and was absolutely fascinated with the conference since it was exactly in her area of expertise and interest.  She went to the sessions, was engaged in the conversations, and was able to be taught by economists from the region about the specific issues in their focus.

    When the CEO and chief information officer got in the taxi on the way to the airport, the chief information officer began to explain to her CEO what was going on in Asia from a macroeconomic standpoint.

    The CEO interrupted her, disagreed with her findings and learnings from the conference, and began to lecture her on what was “really going on in the macroeconomics of Asia”.  He had not be involved in the sessions or even been interested in learning from the local economists about the current issues that the economists were facing.

    The chief information officer says that was the day when she realized that she would never be smarter than the CEO simply because he was “the CEO”.  He had allowed his education and position to supersede an opportunity to learn from an expert.

    All of this stems from a very common disease among intellectuals, lifelong believers, pastors, teachers, anyone and everyone who has been involved in faith and studying for an extended period of time.  It’s the syndrome of believing we are “the smartest person in the room”.

    How many times do we assume we are the smartest person in the room?  What level and twisted saturation of pride does it take for us to think this way?  How dare we assume that we have all the answers figured out?!

    I’ve seen this in my own life and it has nearly destroyed many opportunities for me to grow.  I hope I have been cured of it but I won’t assume that’s the case.  As my mom would say, “Beware of the sin you’ve conquered.”

    No matter your education, your years of wisdom, your spiritual victories or position of authority or expertise, never assume that you are the smartest person in the room.  God hates arrogance and being “the smartest person in the room” is one of its highest and most twisted forms.

    Structured and Organized

    Recently my best friend Randy and I had a discussion about structure and organization.  I made the comment that I’ve seen different companies and individuals who have been organized but not structured while some can be structured but not organized.  Both are required if you are going to be effective in the long run.

    Being structured would imply that you have a hierarchy in place, a chain of command, as it were.  Structured might also mean that there are differing levels of responsibility in a given company, organization, ministry, etc.  Not every brave can be the chief.  Not everyone should be in charge.

    The key part is that structure gives you an understood (or at least, implied) ladder of responsibility.  The one in charge has to be willing to make the tough decisions and feel the repercussions of those decisions.  It doesn’t matter how grand the plans are if no one is responsible for the outcome.

    Being organized involves the details, the nitty-gritty of how things are run.  You can have a ship, captain, first mate, crewman, and a lookout in the crow’s nest but they are all largely ineffective without charts, compasses, clear communication, and a captain’s log to review.

    For any group to be effective in the end, whether it be a company, an organization, or a ministry, you must have both organization and structure.

    Leaders, if details are not your strength, find someone to fill that void in your group.  The difference between good to great is largely in the details.  Pay attention to details.

    If you’re in a group that has great plans for the future but no one is stepping up to lead, pray for God to show you if you are called to fill that void.  If leadership is not your strength, pray for God to ignite the heart of a leader to get the momentum going.

    Friday List – August 13, 2010

    Happy Friday.  Do your Friday dance.  Sing your Friday song.  Do your Friday thing.  Enjoy the weekend.

    • Parents who wonder if they should send their kids to this school probably have second thoughts after seeing the crosswalk.
    • Yes, Chelsea Clinton got married but the biggest news were the bathrooms.  Drop a deuce for 15G’s.
    • Quote of the Week: “I think that all office buildings should be equipped with emergency exit slides so we can all be like the Jet Blue guy.” — Jimmy Kimmel
    • Picture of the Week:  Sign for County Coroner candidate for Douglas County (where I live).  Guaranteed I’ve never seen Lord and Coroner on the same sign.
    • Video of the Week: You might have already seen this on Facebook but this is Justin Bieber getting hit by a well-thrown bottle.  Fan, how I love thee.

    The Leader’s Edge

    Yesterday I watched one of Bill Hybels‘ talks called “The Leader’s Edge” from the 2003 Willow Creek Leadership Summit.  If you have never been to one of the Summits or seen any of their sessions online, I would highly recommend them for any type or level of ministry leaders.

    The main theme throughout his talk was about maintaining your vision and momentum, your edge as it were, as a leader.  This is one of the biggest issues that leaders face: how to keep your leadership sharp and focused without drifting off course or fading out.  I know from my own experience that this is hard to do.

    Here are some of his quotes and my reactions to them from Hybels’ talk.

    “The hardest person you will ever lead is you.” — I would completely agree with that.  Sometimes the hardest person to sell your vision to is yourself, as strange as that might sound.  God shows you His vision for the next stage of your life and sometimes you’re sitting there wondering if it’s even plausible or if God even knows what He’s asking you to do. (Example: Moses)

    “Self-leadership is still the biggest challenge in leadership.”  — Leading yourself to maintain your vision and reminding yourself of the reasons God has given to you is one of the hardest things a leader has to do.  By the way, if you go to remind yourself of the reasons God has given to you for a particular vision and you don’t know of any, then God might not be wanting you to follow through with what has now become a you-generated vision.

    “When you’re starting something new, put your best people on it.  If the growth engine has some risk elements in it already, don’t add to the risk profile by giving it to a rookie leader.” — There’s a lot of wisdom in this.  Why add additional risk with an inexperienced leader if you don’t have to?  On the flip side, having a great leader who picks crappy team members isn’t much better.  Build a team wisely; build to fill your weaknesses.

    “Leaders constantly live in the land of problem assessment.” — This pretty much speaks for itself.

    Hybels says that he asks himself a ruthless set of leadership questions that help to direct his focus.  The questions expose the true answers that will help him get a better understanding of where his vision is and where it needs to be.

    What do you think?  What are some ruthless questions that leaders need to be asking themselves today?

    The Bucket for my Bucket List

    I went to Catalyst West back in April.  (For all church and ministry leaders who are wanting to make a relevant impact in your circle of influence, I highly recommend going.)  As we all walked in for the opening session I noticed that there were small, yellow buckets and two wooden sticks sitting on each seat.

    Note: If you give a bucket and two sticks to 4,500 youth pastors, young adult leaders, lead pastors (most of whom have been youth pastors), and seminary students, expect a wild time.  That’s another story, another time.

    At some point during the conference it was explained that we should think of something that we hope to do to make an impact in our world and write it on the outside of our buckets.  Call it a bucket list.  (cue internal groan)  When I got home I realized that it wasn’t too bad of an idea.  So I started writing.

    Some of the things that I’ve written on it are pretty base things (ride an elephant, which I was able to do this summer).  Some other things are pretty high goals that may be much harder to accomplish (writing a book and getting it published).

    I saw a supposed bucket list the other day and realized that of the 60+ items on the list, I had already done almost 50 of them.  Most of the items were pretty shallow (ride in a helicopter – cool but surface level).  So I’m trying to shoot higher because I want to do greater things, more meaningful things.

    I keep this bucket in my office and look at it each time I’m there.  I’m not trying to be morbid with making a list  (I’m going to live to be 100 anyways). I’m making the list because I want to take every opportunity to live the fullest life possible with my Creator.

    What are you doing today to make an impact and live the fullest life possible for your Creator?

    Movie Trailer for Your Life

    On Sunday night for youth group, we talked about what it would be like if there was a movie trailer for your life.

    The green preview would come across with the viewer rating. Would your trailer be appropriate for all audiences? Would there be certain parts that would escalate your rating? That’s probably a safe bet. I know there are some parts in my life that I wouldn’t want the public to see.

    After the viewer rating, the trailer flashes some text. What would it say? There lived a man who was…. Jake was an ordinary guy…  Rebecca had it all: the friends, the clothes, the car, the dream job… What would it say next?

    Then it switches over to some video, maybe a skyline abstract shot panning down to a downtown city setting as you walk out of your apartment complex.  Or maybe it shows a quiet suburbia setting where all the trees have been bulldozed and the streets are named after them (Oak, Elm, Maple).  You walk out of your house ready for a new day.

    Then the plot turns and a problem is raised.  Did you lose your job?  Did you wrong a friend?  Did life unexpectedly release a fury of bad events at you?  Maybe you made a series of really bad decisions.  Maybe you got involved with the cops.  Maybe you mugged somebody, ruined someone’s life, or even killed someone.

    What has happened, or is currently happening, in your life that will define this moment for you? When you’re staring the problem right in the face, what happens next? Do you turn to Jesus for help to get you through this? He is the only One who can come alongside you and steer your life story into places you could have never dreamed of and out of places you never wanted to be.

    This is the part in your movie where you have a decision to make. Will you let God lead you no matter what? Will you follow Him through whatever mine field you might have to navigate right now?

    Are you anxious to see how the rest of your movie plays out? What will it look like? What are you doing today to make your life movie an extraordinary story?

    Light or Dark?

    It is amazing what type of changes people go through in a short period of time.  You can know someone from years ago (middle school, high school, college) and have a certain picture as you remember them in your mind.

    You might remember them as being kind, giving, a person of integrity, maybe even someone who you aspired to be like at the time.

    On the other hand, they might have been someone whom you remember as being a complete jerk, a drama queen, selfish, possibly someone whom you couldn’t stand to be around.

    The funny thing is that years later, maybe only one or two, maybe ten or twenty, there’s a difference in them when your paths cross again.  Someone who might have been a total jerk to you in high school might have experienced a complete metamorphosis.  They’re kind, generous, caring, and not at all like their previous selves.  I don’t know about you but it is a struggle for me to begin re-working my opinion and perception of them, especially if they left a strong negative impression on me in the past.

    Sadly the opposite change might have happened.  Someone who you remember as being bright and cheerful and full of life is now cold and cynical.  There’s spite in their words; maybe even a hatred.  What happened?  Did something come into their life that poisoned the spirit that they used to have?  In that type of a situation I’m at a loss as to what to think.

    No one is beyond redemption by the grace of God and the love of Christ.  We all have a choice as to how our lives will be affected.  It’s the two natures that we have warring in us as believers, the same natures that we allow to dictate which mask will be infused onto our lives.

    You have a choice today as to what mask you will wear.  Light.  Dark.  Make your choice.

    Friday List – August 6, 2010

    Thank God it’s Friday.  And no, I’m not just saying that.  Here’s to a long week that is finally over.  I’m heading to a water park today so enjoy the Friday List.

    • This is for all those days when your boss calls in sick.
    • Granted, being a police sketch artist has to be tough when you’re going off of eyewitness accounts (not the most reliable sources) but some of these sketches aren’t even in the same ballpark.
    • As if Twilight isn’t creepy enough:  Twilight Moms.
    • Rumor on the street is that Brett Favre is requiring a two hour special on ESPN to announce his upcoming decision.
    • Photo of the Week: Cake WIN.
    • Quote of the Week: “It’s ironic that a credit card is required to register for a Dave Ramsey seminar.” — John Crist

    Trip to St. Mary’s Glacier

    A few weeks ago I went to St. Mary’s Glacier for the first time ever (at least, to my knowledge).  It reminded me again why Colorado is the best state in the Union.  Thank God for mountains, lakes, pine trees, being able to throw around the Frisbee on the glacier, and getting outside during the beautiful Colorado summer!

    Enjoy the pics!

    It looks like it belongs on the front of a puzzle box.

    The water was so clear, it was unbelievable.

    And that's one of the reasons why Colorado is the best state ever.

    We used trash bags as sleds to go down the glacier.

    Friday List – July 30, 2010

    Happy Friday everyone.  I’m finishing up the week at camp and I am dead tired.  Can’t wait to get some rest after HeavenFest tomorrow!  Enjoy the Friday List!

    • Hawaii 5-0 makes a return this fall.  I never watched the original (too young and it’s not on re-runs) but I hear that if it’s anything like the original, it’s going to have quite a following.  The theme song is required, no matter what.
    • Apparently a woman in Australia is a being not of this world.  At least, that’s what she told the traffic cop who pulled her over.
    • This must be a crushing blow to all of you who want to bring your catapults as carry-ons for British Airways.
    • A bear took a car for a joy ride south of Denver.

    …sometimes I’m Edmund.

    Yesterday I mentioned how I identify with some of the characters in C.S. Lewis’ classic, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, specifically Peter. There are also times when I feel like Edmund: the younger brother, the black sheep, the redemption story.

    Edmund betrays his own family.  He is blinded by his own selfishness and the White Witch’s lies and deception.  He is so focused on the false promises of the White Witch that he’s willing to risk the lives of his family to get his way.

    The beautiful part of the story is how Aslan sends a rescue party to bring Edmund back to safety.  Edmund doesn’t know the extent and the severity of his betrayal.  The forgiveness and closure on Edmund’s sin is so much greater than even he realizes, especially when it eventually costs Aslan His own life.

    For all of the sin, the fickleness of our hearts, and the selfish pride that we give into, it amazes me how ignorant we are of the cost.  In my mind, I feel like Edmund a lot of times.  I see myself betray the people around me.  I see my pride become my driving force; it’s “all about me”.  I don’t realize the depths of my rebellion and the effect that it has on my Savior.

    The picture above is probably one of the most impacting pictures that I have ever seen.  I have a framed copy of it at home.  Each time I look at it I’m reminded about how easily I run in and out of following Christ.

    For all the times I realize how I’ve turned away from Christ, I usually catch a glance of this picture.  It reminds me that redemption is for everyone, including the selfish, deceived, and wayward.

    Sometimes I’m Peter,

    The Chronicles of Narnia is probably my favorite book series.  Confession time, I’ve read through the series eleven times.  No lie, I’ve been half-way through my twelfth time for well over a year now.  I believe the Chronicles of Narnia are C.S. Lewis’ greatest collection of work.  Some might disagree with me, that’s fine.  If you’ve never read them before, I would highly recommend them.  They’re easy reads and they’re books that will change your life.

    My favorite book in the series is The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  If you’ve never read it, then the rest of this won’t make much sense at all.  The reason that this book appeals to me so much is that I see myself a lot in Peter and in Edmund.

    In Peter I see how in my own life I can be afraid of being the leader God has called me to be.  When I see the tools that God has given to me, like Peter’s sword and shield, I wonder if I’ll be able to use them when the time comes.  Ever feel that way?  Ever feel that you doubt your own gifting from God?  If you’re in any type of leadership you know exactly what I mean.

    Like a frightened schoolboy I sometimes feel like I have no chance against the wolves who are coming to attack the people I’ve been called to lead.  Sound familiar?

    Once the fight comes though, I have a choice to make.  Will I stand my ground and fight for what God has called me to do?  I need to step into the leadership where I’ve been gifted and called by God.  There are times when I am Peter.  If you’re a leader, you are also Peter at some point in time.  Use the tools that God has given to you.  Run to the fight.  Run to protect the people you love and have been called to lead.

    Stefan Sagmeister and Time Off

    Last week I mentioned TED Talks and the unique approach that TED takes in communicating fresh ideas.  One of the best TED Talks that I have heard was given by designer Stefan Sagmeister about the power of time off.  I won’t give away too much of his talk, he does an excellent job of explaining his approach and reasoning in the video.

    It is interesting how Sagmeister decided on taking a sabbatical year once every seven years.  In the Old Testament God introduced the concepts of the Sabbath Year and the Year of Jubilee to the people of Israel.  During the Year of Jubilee (every 50th year), all slaves were released from their bondage.  All squandered inheritances were returned to their original owners.  The land was given rest and everything was reset for the next 50 years.

    A regular time of rest was built into the rhythm of living.   One Sabbath day a week.  A Sabbath year every seven years.  A year of deliverance, a Jubilee, every 50 years.  It was needed.  It was anticipated.

    I struggle to take time off in my own life.  If I don’t take time off to rest regularly, I’m failing to enjoy the renewal that God intended for me to have.  Enjoy your Sabbath once a week.  It doesn’t have to be Sunday, it can be any day.  If it’s your Sabbath, don’t call it your off day.  Call it your Sabbath.  Turn off your phone.  Don’t check email for a day.  Do whatever it takes to release your hold on the pressures of today.  It changes your perspective and gives you the rest and renewal that you need.

    How do you find your Sabbath rest?

    Friday List – July 23, 2010

    Happy Friday everyone!  I’m heading up to a Men’s Retreat from today through tomorrow then leading worship at a camp in the mountains until next Saturday.  I will post when possible.  Until then, enjoy your weekend and the Friday List.

    • Picture of the Week — Bad Timing Towing.
    • In case you missed Peyton Manning’s movie debut, check out the trailer here.
    • As if BP had any latitude for making more mistakes, they admit to using Photoshop.
    • Mercy Me covers Eye of the Tiger.  Where did they get a suit that big?
    • LifeChurch.tv’s Tulsa campus turned their campus into Toy Story.
    • Quote of the Week —  “Why is Starbucks trying so hard to sell me Via? Why would I want coffee that looks like a condiment?” — Ben Arment, History In the Making

    TED Talks

    One of the greatest sources of inspiration that I’ve come across over the last year is TED Talks.  TED is igniting some of the most thought-provoking discussions relevant to our world today.

    The annual TED Conference is held in Long Beach, CA and other TED conferences are hosted world wide.  TED draws together some of the most influential leaders in Technology, Entertainment, and Design in hopes of synergy for the future.

    The TED Talks are talks given by influential leaders in these three arenas at the TED Conferences.  They are the main reason why TED has quickly become the influential summit that it is.  TED speakers have to be able to communicate one main idea in their message.  One idea.  Just one.  It has to be focused.  It has to be intentional.  It’s one shot to share one specific idea worth spreading.

    For communicators, pastors, and teachers in ministry, it can be difficult to boil your messages down to just one point.  It’s something that I struggle with each time I go to speak.  The temptation is to let the rabbit trails pull us away from being laser-focused in our message.

    One of the best resources that I’ve found to help with the concept of communicating one main idea is Andy Stanley’s book, Communicating for a Change.  Hardly any pastors can remember their own three-point outline, why should we expect our listeners to remember it as well?  In Communicating for a Change, Stanley gives a fantastic layout for helping to communicate one main idea in your messages.

    We can learn from TED by boiling our messages down to one idea at a time.  If anybody should have ideas and a message worth spreading, it’s believers in Jesus Christ.

    Facing the Critics – Part 2

    It’s safe to say that, for the most part, negative critics can be some of the least liked people ever.  It seems like their lot in life is to predict your shortcomings, remind you of past mistakes, and be at the ready to point out when you screw up.  They’re the paparazzi of spectators.

    Not all criticism is bad.  There are some good benefits of having critics.  Positive criticism challenges me to get better in areas of weakness and reaffirm my areas of strength.  I can’t get better unless I know what I need to work on.  These are the people who point out areas that need some work and help you get a head-start on fixing those areas.

    It’s the negative critics that can eat your morale from the inside out.  For the people who are negatively critical with nothing constructive to say, I welcome their criticism for two reasons.

    1) It gives me to chance to sharpen how I respond to criticism, especially since their criticisms are usually unfounded and illogical.  It makes for some pretty good smiles and laughter later.

    2) It allows their attention to be diverted away from people who might not be as readily prepared to handle negative criticism.

    Like the story about Andy Stanley that I mentioned yesterday, be prepared to dialogue with your critics.  Don’t just disregard their comments, that just deafens you to what could be great learning opportunities.  Weigh what you hear against common sense and wise, trusted mentors.  And most importantly, care more about what God wants than what others do.

    Facing the Critics – Part 1

    Last week I read a blog post about someone’s recent visit to North Point Community Church in Atlanta, pastored by Andy Stanley.  The main theme of the post was the author’s struggle with the “mega church” feel of North Point.  For whatever reason, this blogger personally isn’t comfortable with the overall vibe of a “mega church”.  Okay, that’s fine, he’s afforded his opinion.  I’m not going to be bashing him or any another writer; that’s not who I am, that’s not why I write.

    Andy Stanley happens to be one of the men of faith that I look up to the most for insight as a communicator, pastor and leader.  North Point is doing some phenomenal ministry in their city and I know that God is working in the hearts and lives of people who attend North Point.

    The thing that bothered me was the setup towards the end of the post.  It opened up a thread of criticisms that were directed towards North Point, their ministry, and Andy Stanley.  As I kept reading through the comments, it was turning into an all-out, major beatdown.

    It blew me away though that a ways down the comments thread that Andy Stanley personally entered into the discussion.  Probably similar to how I would respond, his first reply was just a tad sarcastic, just a tad.  But after the first response broke the ice, he continued to comment and interact with the other posters.  I noticed something.  He was open and honest and, sarcasm aside, he wasn’t apologetic for North Point.  He interacted with some hard-hitting questions and responded in a way that turned the conversation into a positive opportunity to learn together.

    If you are doing what God has called you to do, don’t hide from it.  Be open.  Be honest.  Welcome feedback.  Prepare for the naysayers.  Be preparing now for how to handle the hard questions to come.  And pray for God to give you wisdom and the right words to turn negative criticism into positive conversations.

    License Plate

    I saw a license plate while I was driving around Denver yesterday.  It was one of those vanity license plates, which are always fun to try to figure out.  This one’s message was all about ripping on a popular baseball pitcher.  There was no mistaking the message; the owner of those plates hated a particular baseball pitcher.

    I began to think a little more about it.  Who would use a very visible part of their everyday life as a mini-billboard to broadcast their hatred for somebody?  Who would hate someone so openly?  And then I started thinking some more.

    How many times have I gotten upset at someone and spent the next half hour, hour, maybe even the rest of the day thinking about how horrible that person is?  If the world could just hear about how horrible that person is then I’ll feel vindicated.  We all do it.

    People spread hate in lots of places.  Blogs.  Facebook.  Church “prayer groups” and “Bible studies”.  Emails.  Text messages.  Sermons.  Conversations.  Even in prayer, thinking that bad-mouthing them to God will somehow alert Him of who “those people” really are at their core.  Newsflash:  He already knows about them and guess what?  He still loves them, no matter what you might want to think or say about them.

    Hatred seems to have a wide playing field that we’ve allowed it to have.  We were never meant to be wrapped up in hate.  Yes, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matt. 5:43-45).  But don’t make yourself a slave to hatred and spite.  It’s exactly what Satan wants you to do.

    Friday List – July 16, 2010

    Happy Friday!  Hope you have a great weekend.

    • Old Spice has done it again.  Swan dive.
    • I saw Despicable Me on Wednesday night.  Great movie, especially if you like unicorns.
    • It’s good to know that even with the YMCA changing their name to the “Y”, the song will go unchanged.  Let’s all breathe a sigh of relief.
    • Stone Cold Austin, Stallone, Schwarzenegger, Jet Li, Jason Statham, Bruce Willis, and Dolph Lundgren all in one movie?  The Expendables comes out August 13th.  Don’t disappoint!
    • In case of emergency, make sure you read this sign first.

    Leader before vision

    How hard is it to follow a leader you barely know?  How hard is it to trust a leader that you barely know?  People have to buy into the leader before they buy into the vision.  There isn’t a foundation of trust and history with the team members.  That is one of the hardest things that I have learned during my last 5 years in ministry.  Any leader who casts vision to a team that barely knows or trusts him is facing an uphill climb from the start.  It raises all sorts of questions in the minds of the team.

    How do we know that this leader knows what he’s doing?

    Does this leader have what it takes to take us in the right direction?

    Do we trust that this leader has the team’s best interests in mind?

    How do we know that we’re not just following what the leader wants instead of what God’s called us to do?

    These are good questions; questions that a leader has to address.  A leader doesn’t have to answer all of these questions; he can’t, he shouldn’t.  Only time and evidence will show their team the answers.  How a leader addresses these questions goes a long way towards how the team receives their answers over time.

    Leaders, don’t shy away from questions.  Be open.  Be honest.  Spend time in the lives of your team members.  Brace yourself for hard questions.  And pray for God to give you clear vision and opportunities to prove yourself faithful to God and your team members.

    Friday List – July 9, 2010

    Happy Friday everyone!  Whatever your plans are for the weekend, I hope you enjoy the Friday List to start off.

    • Andres Cantor can make any sport exciting.
    • Walk into Wal-Mart.  Pick up a phone on one of the support pillars.  Dial #96.  Congrats, you’re now on the intercom.  Just don’t do what this guy did.
    • Voyage of the Dawn Treader trailer is here.
    • “My love language is like LeBron James’, adoration.” – Jonathan Acuff, Stuff Christians Like
    • Speaking of LeBron, no love lost from Cavs owner, Dan Gilbert, in this open letter to Cavs fans.  By the way, does anybody check the font type before it gets posted for millions to see?
    • Quote of the Week — “…like Miley Cyrus, I can’t be tamed.” – Bryan Allain.

    Happy Independence Day!

    I’m taking a break today from the Shift reflections to celebrate Independence Day.  Today I plan on celebrating my freedom as an American but more importantly as a believer in Christ.  It’s easy to take both of them for granted and I thank God for the sacrifices that have been made for both areas of my freedom.  Nations fall and empires crumble but the cross remains the same.  May you find your freedom in Christ today.

    Finally blogging…

    After reading a great post by Michael Hyatt, I agree with his purpose for blogging.  For all of the articles, blogs, books, and conversations that I read and am involved in, I want to be able to openly reflect and archive my own thoughts and reactions to them.

    There will probably some temptation to try to be overly profound.  I might assume that I could impress whoever might catch a glimpse of my writing.  Besides being a waste of time, that would defeat the whole purpose of why I’m wanting to blog in the first place.  Epic fail.

    Hyatt made an interesting point when he mentioned that he blogs “in order to clarify my thinking and archive my best ideas. In short, I blog for me.”  I want that same type of purpose to be found in my writing: to write for my own enrichment and evolution into the leader, dreamer, and Christ follower that I’m called to be.