Monday, December 29, 2014

2015: The Year without Facebook

It has come time for me to part ways with Facebook... at least for a year.

Why am I doing this?

  • I got tired of Facebook's pushed updates to my phone and email.  I know I can unsubscribe... and I do.  But then they find a way to update the preference and privacy settings and start sending me updates again.
  • I have a stellar staff member who has taken over COCUSA's Facebook page.  (Thank you Kyle!)
  • More importantly, I had many times in 2014 where I heard someone say: "I sent you a Facebook message about that."  The problem is/was: I didn't check Facebook regularly enough to see those messages.  (And when they are COCUSA summer staff telling me they can't work, those are messages I need to see.)  Now they won't be able to message me. Problem solved.  I hope.

If you're still inclined to follow me online, you have a few options.

You can follow this blog via email or RSS feed (links on the left on the main blog page.)

You can move to a different social network with me (twitter.com/robopheaney).  I'll be auto-posting this blog, my family's blog and other interesting tidbits to this Twitter account.

Facebook- It's been real. It's been fun. But it hasn't been real fun.
Maybe we'll check in with you in 2016. See ya!

Monday, December 22, 2014

144 yard waste cans

When we moved into our new house in May the landscaping needed a lot of clean up.

So starting the first full week we spent there, I filled up 4 trash cans with yard waste each week.

For 23 straight weeks I filled up 4 trash cans each week.

Then, when the leaves started falling it got really crazy.  For all of November I was filling 8 trash cans a week, plus an additional 20 lawn 'n' leaf bags just for fun.

All told, since moving to my house I filled 144 (isn't that a gross?) containers with sticks, bushes, leaves, etc.

The secret?  Four at a time.  There's no way I could do 144 at one time, or even over a month or two.  But four cans every week got it done.

Any big projects you need to take break down into smaller chunks?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Just Ask

I haven't posted about fundraising in awhile:

Step 4 in Partner Like Paul is The Ask.

I'm more convinced than ever that "just ask" might be some of the best advice out there, with one caveat: Don't ask just anyone.

But if you ask people you know and love, who know and love you, you will be surprised by the positive response.  I am every time.

And one cool story: I had been asking many of my personal supporters to consider an increase to their monthly giving to me. I was in my office and over heard a phone call where one of my friends/supporters pledged to double their current giving.  In my head I thought: "That's awesome, she must have read the letter I sent her."  Later that day I was going through my bag and found the letter I was going to send to this supporter to ask her about increasing her giving:  I hadn't even sent the letter yet but God was already working in her heart.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Preaching in the Bible

What should we preach?  Who should preach?  How long and when?

We normally leave "preaching" for a pastor and think that he should "preach" a sermon.  But is that a Biblical idea?  Awhile ago I did a word study of preaching (passages below).  Here's what I learned:

It was a word that Luke (the author of the Gospel and Acts) absolutely loved.  It seems that nearly every chapter he mentions preaching.

Nearly every time... enough that I could say "Every Time"... what was preached was the "good news" (or a similar variation like "the Gospel", "the message of Jesus", etc.)  There are only a few times you could even make a vague connection to our modern-day sermons.

Sermons aren't bad things, but when we delegate preaching only to those who are comfortable up in front of a crowd, we've taken away something that anyone should be able to do: Preach the Good News to those around them.

The sense you get from the whole new testament use of the word is that anyone can preach, everyone should preach and we should all be preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ.

So today.. preach it!

Matthew 11:5; Luke 1:19, 2:10, 3:18, 4:18, 4:43, 8:1, 9:6, 16:16, 20:1; Acts 5:42, 8:4, 8:12, 8:25, 8:35, 8:40, 10:36, 10:42, 11:20, 13:32, 14:7, 14:15, 14:21, 15:31, 16:10, 17:18; Romans 1:15, 10:15, 15:20; 1 Corinthians 1:17, 9:16, 9:18, 15:1-2; 2 Corinthians 10:16, 11:7; Galatians 1:8-9, 1:11, 1:16, 1:23, 4:13; Ephesians 2:17, 3:8; 1 Thessalonians 3:6; 1 Peter 1:12, 1:25, 4:6

[Re Post]

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Advent Season

advent [ad-vent]
noun
1. a coming into place, view, or being; arrival: the advent of the holiday season.
2. (usually initial capital letter) the coming of Christ into the world.

I used to think that "Advent" always meant the second definition: The Advent season was and is about Jesus.

Apparently Starbucks is going with the first definition.  You can now count down the days with chocolates and arrive at a mini Starbucks gift card on the big day.

I guess Christmas used to be about Jesus too.  We kind of forget those important details these days.

I love Christmas traditions: lights, decorations, food, and everything else.  But consider this your reminder that two weeks from today we should primarily be celebrating Jesus.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Is the grass greener?

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.

A pithy saying I'm sure you've heard before, but how accurate is it?

How often do we look somewhere else for something better?  In life? At your job? With your church?  Sometimes we're just looking for anything better.

But what if instead of just switching when things got a little tough (jobs, churches, houses, cars, etc.) we doubled down* on where we were at currently.

The grass might be greener on the other side of your proverbial fence.  Or, more than likely, it just looks greener from your current position.  Jealousy and discontent are powerful and cloud your vision.

*double down: "to make double or twice as great, to add an equal amount to"

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Too Much Training

Is such a thing possible?  Can you actually have too much training?

Last month I passed on the opportunity to attend an entire week of training (at two different conferences).  They were both local, so travel wasn't an issue.

And I didn't decline because of the financial costs or even really because of the time commitment (although both of those were factors.)

Primarily I declined because I already felt "too full."  I had too many inputs, even good ones, and felt the need to focus on what I already had in my life rather than adding more.

Where are you at with training, inputs, and focusing on what you already have?

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Dip Discussion Questions

The Camp of Champions USA full-time staff just finished reading The Dip by Seth Godin.  It was a good read that helped us talk through when and what we should quit.  (Intrigued?  My original review  is here.)

Here are some discussion questions we used to help us get the most out of our reading.  Hope they help you too!
  • What can we be best in the world at?
  • Based on the page 10 “The Best in the World?”: How would our constituents or customers define us being the best in the world? 
  • From page 13 “Is that the best you can do?”: How might we be tempted to settle for good enough instead of best in the world?  What shortcuts would we be tempted to take?
  • What are we good at and what can we be exceptional at?
  • Discussion of the three curves: Come with an example of each curve.
  • From page 23: "When it comes right down to it, right down to the hard decisions, are you quitting any project that isn't a dip?"
  • What did you think about Brave vs Mature vs Stupid on pg 24?
  • And how does all of this relate to us?
  • Which of the 8 dips on pages 37-39 are relevant to us and how so?
  • Where is it okay for us to be average?
  • What’s your strategy when you’re getting in line at the store?
  • Are there any queues that you personally or we as an organization are jumping between?  
  • “Relentlessly changing tactics, but never quitting the big idea.” Let’s dialogue this.
  • How can we amplify the long-term benefits over the short term pain of the DIP?  For us? For others in our organization?
  • From page 60: “The Noise Inside Your Head”- Thoughts after reading that?
  • Where does pride and humility play a role in all of this? (pg 65)
  • What do we need to “write down” for us? What will we quit under what circumstances?

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving Reminders

Have I posted this before?  Probably... 4th year running (at least!)

God, Family, Football

Hopefully you've got your priorities right today.  Which means maybe you shouldn't be reading this...

Be thankful to God for what he's given you.
Spend focused time with your Family, immediate and extended.
(Enjoy a little Football if the opportunity allows.)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Fishing for men...

"Follow me and I will make you fishers of men."  I realized recently that the mental image that pops into my head with that verse is probably not accurate.

Do we picture fishing for men like modern Americans fish?
  • one line, one hook, one worm
  • recreationally, if we have time
Or do we picture fishing for men more like a first century Jew would have fished?
  • big nets
  • time spent fixing nets
  • our very survival depends on it
  • you fish all night
  • you fish everyday
  • you sleep and eat so you can fish some more
And probably the scariest question: Are you fishing for men like an American or like a first century Jew?

[Repost.]

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ways to clear your mind


  1. Turn off your stereo, radio, mp3 player, computer, TV, tablet, phone, etc.
  2. Repeat.
  3. Leave them off.
I was trying to think of more here... but most of my problem when I have too much on my mind is that I have too many "inputs" in my life.

In our lives today we have so many things giving us information, constantly and consistently.  No one has the mind to come close to comprehending it all.  We have no chance.

So just turn them off... it's your best shot at clarity.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Tornadoes: One Year Later

One year ago today was not a very fun day to be in Central Illinois.

Chances are you know someone who was affected by the tornadoes that day.

I have a friend that just this past week moved back into his rebuilt house.  And from what I can tell he was on the faster end of most people's timetable.  I dare say most people who were affected by the tornado are still not back to the "normal" that they knew 366 days ago.

So how about taking a minute to reach out to someone who is still recovering from the tornado?

Pray.  Encourage.  Give.

Do something.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Christmas Cards

If you're like our family you usually start thinking (or worrying) about the annual Christmas card this time of year.

We've had numerous stressful years taking pictures, designing cards and meeting deadlines.  One of our first good marital disagreements was about Christmas cards.

Last year we completely missed any and all deadlines but in doing so unintentionally landed on a better lower cost option.

We used Animoto.com to design a short video that featured multiple photos of our kids and short details on each of them.  We sent the link via email to everyone we hoped wanted a Christmas card from us, and barely spent anything on the whole endeavor.

I'd encourage you to do the same... save the stress, save the cost...

Maybe we can even focus on Thanksgiving this year!

Monday, November 10, 2014

It works

There's a fairly popular evangelism training course that has the slogan/motto: "It Works".

I'm all for sharing the Good News and need to be regularly challenged to do so more and better.  But is something working a good justification for doing it?

What about: "It's Biblical."

Or: "It's What Jesus Did."

I'm guessing both of those will work too.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

It's Black Thursday

It used to be that you started Christmas shopping the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

Then you could go shopping about noon on Friday.

Then it became Black Friday and you could get up early and hit the stores at 6AM.

Then you could stay up late and hit the stores at 3AM.

Then you could go at midnight.

Then you didn't even have to wait until Friday, you could shop at 10, no 8, no 6 all day on Thanksgiving.

But we didn't stop there.  No.

Today... Right now... you can shop Black Friday deals in multiple places.  (Don't believe me? Check out amazon.com for one of them.)

Thanksgiving is still 3 weeks away.  Apparently it's never to early to be discontent and consumeristic.

Monday, November 3, 2014

#byeBrad

Today is the first day in over 10 years that I'm going to work at Camp of Champions USA without Brad Habegger there.  In fact, it's the first day I've EVER gone to work at COCUSA without Brad.  I'm not sure words are sufficient here, but I'll do my best...

I have never met anyone who cares for people like Brad.  He's the most thoughtful person I know. Period. One of my worries in stepping into his role is that I might unintentionally hurt the feelings of others.  I don't have this worry because I'm an outright jerk (usually) but because anyone besides Brad is going to be a HUGE drop off in thoughtfulness.

Brad was the ultimate example that you don't need to be loud, flamboyant, brash or pushy to be a good great leader.  He led us (Camp of Champions USA, the Staff, the Board and the organization) from 4 sites to 7, from under 200 weekly campers to over 350, from 60or so summer staff to 150.  Brad would rightly give all the glory to God, but God used Brad to lead in a great way.


Farewell friend.  We will be and already are missing you.

PS. I still know your phone number... and I'm guessing I won't get through Day 1 without contacting you.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Me to 7 Transition

I've been asked more than once if it was harder to transition from 1 child to 2 children or 2 children to 3 children.  (Incidentally no one has asked me if it's harder to go from 4 kids to 5, I guess they assume I'm crazy or insane.)

But I answer the same way every time:

One person (ME) to getting married was the toughest transition.  Additional children don't even come close.

Trust me that this doesn't say anything about my wife.  (I'm the problem here, I promise.)

But moving from just thinking about one person (ME!!) to also thinking about someone else (ANYONE ELSE!) was the biggest transition.  Now that I've made that leap, it's not nearly as hard to add an additional person (or 5) to the mix.

One of these days I'll stop being self-centered... it just might take awhile!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Discipline, Adrian Peterson, and The Bible

Hi, my name is Pheaney.  And I'm a fan of the Minnesota Vikings.

(Hi Pheaney)

Yes... I probably should be checked into therapy.

Without therapy, however, I can say that I'm a former fan of Adrian Peterson.

The Bible has a lot to say about parenting:
Discipline your son and he will give you rest.
Spare the rod, spoil the child.
Fathers, don't exasperate your children.
And there's more... a lot more.

It's okay to discipline your kids.  In fact, if I read my Bible correctly it's the right thing to do.

But it is wrong to injure your kids or to discipline them without self control.

Is what AP did wrong?  Yes.

Is he an evil person?  Honestly, he's no worse than any of us with our parent's sin nature.  (Now he might be stupid and immature, but that's beyond the subject of this post.)

(PS. I scheduled this to post before the Vikings played the Tampa Bay Bucs... I hope I don't need more therapy.)



Thursday, October 23, 2014

Shame on me...

Shame on me for not thinking, worrying or praying about Ebola until it came to America.

Perhaps shame on you too?

Lord, may we think of others less fortunate more often.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Trending Up?

Two images for you.


Which one of these is most like your:
-relationship with God?
-relationship with your spouse?
-ministry effectiveness?

The first one looks great... ideal even.  But in truth it is unrealistic.

Reality is that there are going to be ups and downs along the way.  It's fighting through the downs and seeking to turn them around where the challenge lies.  

It would be nice if our life, relationships and ministry were more akin to a rocket headed for space.  But since they are not, what are you doing to work on them?

Thursday, October 16, 2014

10 Tips for Making Your Marriage Awesome

On occasion of my 10th anniversary I wanted to offer 10 tips for making your marriage awesome.*  (I'm giving this post a PG rating.)

1. Read the Bible together.
2. Take a monthly date night.
3. If at all possible, get away for an overnight trip each year for your anniversary.
4. Talk a lot about everything, and nothing, and anything in between.  Dream and scheme together about your family, church, house, etc.
5. Eat meals together as often as possible.
6. Don't have a TV or computer in your bedroom or dining room.  (Better yet, leave the TV out of the house entirely.)
7. Shower together often. (Told you it was PG)
8. Go to bed at the same time.
9. Enjoy a warm beverage in the morning and a late night snack in the evening. (Together of course)
10. Kiss, snuggle and carry-on.  (Keeping it PG!)

*I have an awesome marriage with the love of my life and we attribute much of our awesome relationship to these factors.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Superpowers

Wolverine (of the X-men) had the "superpower" of regeneration.  To me, that's just a faster version of our own real life power.  If we get a cut on our finger, we heal from it.  Slower than Wolverine of course, but still it's pretty miraculous.

Professor X can read minds.  I can't quite do that, but I can read faces, body language, and take a pretty accurate guess at someone's mood.

How many super heros out there have our everyday God-given human "powers" ... just magnified.

And since God gave you those powers for everyday use, shouldn't you be using them for Him?

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Monday, October 6, 2014

Try anything once

Well... almost anything.  And you may have to try it two or three times to be sure.

Really, if you're not trying something new you're severely limiting yourself in life, work, ministry and more.

Unless of course, it's something you shouldn't try at all.  Those things are out there.  Don't try them.

But if it is something you should try, you might need to do it more than once to see if it's a good fit.

Obvious?  Well then, what have you tried lately?  What have you tried that you shouldn't have?  What have you tried that you should do again?

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Shopping Predictions: You've been warned

Two predictions for you:

While you're out shopping in October you're going to see a Christmas display.  A full-size Christmas display in a big box store by October 24th, a week from Halloween.  I guarantee it.

Second, this might happen this year, but for sure it will within five years: We're going to be seeing Valentine's Day lawn ornaments.

I cringe to think of it.

When I'm right send me pictures... or maybe you shouldn't.  :)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Do What You Love

Do what you love and you'll love what you do... that's what they say anyway.

In thinking about and pursuing Godly insight from others about what's next for me, I came across these ideas more than once:

What percentage of your time at work do you spend doing what you love?
VS.
What percentage of your time do you spend doing what you have to do?

Do your best to put a number one it.  What would you say?

I had one friend say that you should have a 75% Love to Do vs. 25% Have to Do ratio.  Another said as long as you're at 50% and 50% you'll probably be okay and feel satisfied in your job.

I don't think the point is an exact percentage that we need to land on, because it's probably different for everyone.  But still:

Are you doing anything you love at work?  Can you do more?
How can you start seeing your "Have to Dos" as essential to your work and therefore enjoyable?
What is your ideal ratio?  What does that explain about how satisfied you are at your job?


Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Projector Test

Would you be okay with what's been on your computer screen today if it was projected in front of everyone during your Sunday morning service?

If not, it probably shouldn't be on your computer screen.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Smart Phone Review

I've now owned and used a smart phone for about six months.  Here's a review of the experience (not of the particular phone, but of using a smart phone in general.)

The Good: Having your data and to-do list tracking super close to you all the time.  Especially in the midst of a busy summer season, it was super beneficial to be able to access nearly everything I can on my computer on my phone.  Taking good quality pictures any time any place has also been a big benefit.

The Bad: Being distracted. It is so easy to "have to check" weather, email, tasks list, etc. when you really have nothing to check at all.  Admittedly this was an issue when I had a regular phone, but the number of "things to check" on a smart phone can be unending.

The Plan: I'm already doing this, but I'll hold to it still: NO GAMES.  This is huge.  Rechecking the weather for the 12th time is silly, but also harmless and easier to see the foolishness of... Games will steal your time and focus like no other.


Thursday, September 18, 2014

Be worth it

What if right now there were no more tax deductions for charitable giving?

None.  Not for anyone: churches, ministries, secular non-profits.  Tax breaks for donating money are gone.  What now?

On the personal side: Your motivation for donating would have to be greater than financial gain at tax time.  You would have to actually believe in the cause you were donating to, not just believe in a tax break.

On the organizational side: Regardless of whether that ever happens, shouldn't we (anyone in the categories above) be worth donating to regardless of the tax break?  If the people who give to your organization do so only because of a tax break, how much do they actually care about your mission?

Instead, I want people to donate to Camp of Champions USA because they believe in it.

And I want to donate to organizations because I believe in them.

Be worth donating to.

Be worth it.

Monday, September 15, 2014

What does God have for me next?

We spend a lot of time trying to discern God's will.  I think a great question (originally told to me by Bill Allison of Cadre Ministries) is: "What does God have for me next?

I think that type of question is what Jesus kept on his mind each day.   In Mark 1, Jesus is at the height of popularity at a certain town in Galilee, so much so that the disciples told him "Everyone is looking for you."  How did Jesus respond?

But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.” (Mark 1:38 NLT)

He wasn't as concerned as to what God had been doing yesterday, as much as he was asking... what does God have for me next?  Jesus knew God had a different plan than the conventional one.


For me?  Two things God has for me next:
1) To be a dad (again) for the next 18 years.  Coryn Elijah was born to us on Friday morning.  He's healthy and already becoming a part of the family.
2) To continue serving at COCUSA but in the role of Executive Director.  I can't wait to see where God takes Camp next.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Patriot Day

It's Patriot Day, which is a time to pause and reflect on our country, the blessings of freedom and the price of freedom.

Unfortunately, it seems that anytime patriotism and a love for our country comes up, there also comes a confusion about how it relates to Jesus and the Bible.  A few personal clarifiers:

I love both America and Jesus, but not in the same way.  And I only worship one of them.

I always want America to be free and I cannot understate how much I appreciate those that have sacrificed for that freedom.

But the freedom that Jesus brings is superior in every way.  Let's not get political freedom and real freedom confused.

Happy Patriot Day.

Monday, September 8, 2014

_____ is coming tonight!

Two and half years ago I posted this blog.  It's fitting again because we'll have a new baby anytime:


Another pregnancy related thought:

Adrian (our 4-year old) has been pretty excited about his new baby brother arriving.  Three nights ago, as he was going to bed he announced, "The baby is coming tonight."

When the morning came (and no new baby with it) I was prepared for disappointment, but instead, he was just as happy as before and announced "The baby is coming today."

And two nights ago, after the day gone by with no baby...   Again, no disappointment, just a confident announcement: "The baby is coming tonight."  (As I'm writing this it's the next morning and still no baby.)

Shouldn't our attitude be similar when we think of the return of Jesus?  He's coming and we're confident of that, but we're also resting in his timing and not disappointed if he doesn't.


He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
(Revelation 22:20 ESV, emphasis mine)

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Normalcy (noun)

the quality or condition of being normal

We all crave for life to be normal and follow a routine.  When my life has structure I feel like I can accomplish so many tasks and get so much done.  I feel like I'm on top of things.

Nothing is wrong with that, but what about when it doesn't?  How do you act and work when (for whatever reason) life has no structure for a day, week or season?

Also, how much normalcy and structure did Jesus have during his time on earth?

(I'm not asking these as rhetorical questions, I'm actually asking.)

Being like Jesus when life is not normal might be one of the finest qualities you can have.

Monday, September 1, 2014

How to ask someone for something...

Just ask!

Please don't make small talk first. Even asking a caring question to start might be worse if the end of the interaction is a quick request and then you walking away.

If you need something, just ask for it. After we've discussed your request, THEN you can make small talk (if you care enough to do so).

And if you didn't care enough to do so, at least you didn't pretend too.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Is God proud?

This summer during our bedtime routine Jackson (my oldest, soon to be 8) asked:

Is God proud or humble?

(That's one of those questions where you open your mouth to talk and then close it again because you realize it's a much harder question than you originally thought.  "Of course God is humble because pride is wrong and God must be the opposite" was the easy answer that came to mind.)  But think about it a little bit...

I eventually stumbled through something like this:

God always perceives himself and knows himself exactly how he truly is.  When WE think or perceive ourselves as better than we actually are, that is pride.  When we think of ourselves truthfully as we are (which is also how God sees and knows us), then we have humility.

So I guess: Yes, God is humble, but not because of any lowliness in him, only because that even in perceiving his awesomeness correctly, he is still displaying the trait of humility.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Burn out or ?

I had the realization this summer that burn may have more than one cause.

Yes, burnout may be caused by by over-working a stressful job or task with no chance to rest and recharge.  But I think that the feeling of "burn out" can also come from working outside of your skills and gifting.

If you are regularly in situations or doing jobs that don't "click" for you or cause you an extra mental burden, you may feel "burn out" regardless of how much actual work you're doing.

Which means: What are you feeling now?  If you're totally good, then you can ignore this post.  If you're burned out, are you truly burned out or just out of sync with you gifts and abilities?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

When is your house finished?

I'm writing this as a warning to myself... as I now live in a house with plenty of projects.

Every house needs fixing up in some respects.  But I've noticed a trend that at some level, we as a society don't know when to say "My house is good enough."

I've seen people make necessary improvements to their house.  But once they've made all those, they seem to be in a rhythm of doing home projects and then make even more improvements to their house, many of which are unnecessary and all of which cost money.

So my recommendation to myself would be this: Upon moving to a new house, write a detailed plan of what the house will look like when it is finished.  Give a detailed description or picture of what each room be like when the house is as you want it.  Then, hold yourself to that plan.  And once you're house has arrived, don't spend the time and money on additional upgrades.

Spend the additional time and money where God would have you do so!


Monday, August 18, 2014

Back to your regularly scheduled programming...

If you're reading this you survived the summer (or at least what I consider to be the summer)...  Congratulations!

I'm going to jump back in to my twice a week posts, aiming for Monday and Thursday mornings.  If you don't get my blog delivered via email, you can sign up on the main page in the left sidebar.  (It's the best way to make sure you don't miss anything!)

I've got a list of blog posts to dive into, but I would also love to hear from you:  What thoughts or topics should I write more about?  What do you want to hear more on?

See you around anyway...

Monday, August 11, 2014

Taking a Sabbatical

A long time ago I read a blog post where one pastor praised another pastor for taking an eight month sabbatical.  Both pastors were people you would recognize and "the man" at their respective churches.

I couldn't help but thinking:  Would he have need a sabbatical if he had taken a weekly Sabbath for the past 20-30 years?  I've never been a pastor and I won't say that a sabbatical is not needed because I don't know anyone's specific life context.

But how many pastors/ministry leaders actually take a Sabbath rest one day of the week?

If you are a pastor or a ministry leader, when's the last time you actually had a day of rest?

Just some thoughts from awhile ago that needed to come out.  I've blogged previously about the Sabbath.  Find those posts here.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Get Feedback

I can't think of a time, place or situation where getting more and better feedback would not be a huge benefit.

It might be as simple as asking your family and close friends some scary but specific questions about your own life.

It might be putting a survey out to your congregation or customers.

It might be asking in a a meeting: What's working?  (and what's not?)

Getting honest feedback regularly is going to benefit you.  How are you going to do it?

Monday, July 28, 2014

Parenting Question: Tell me your thoughts on church.

If we're seeking to raise our kids to follow Jesus, it is super important that they understand and value the church.

The church.  That alone could be the topic of books upon books (and it is actually).  But what we need to talk with our kids about doesn't need to be too complicated.  We just need to open the dialogue and get their thoughts for starters.  Here are some questions that can be helpful in that.

Do you like where we attend church gatherings?
What do you think about it?
What would you do to improve it?
When you grow up, what sort of church will you connect with?
Is our home church helping you follow Jesus?  If yes, how? If not, what can we do to change that?

I've blogged on the church a little before if you're interested.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Shop Like Jesus Verses

I've blogged about What Would Jesus Buy before and I hope to do so more in the future.  This post is a Scripture reference guide to any verses that relate to the topic.


Proverbs 21:3; 21:15, 22:16, 22-23, 24:11-12

Proverbs 31:8-9:  Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice. 

Zechariah 7:9-10: This is what the lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other.

James 5:1-6; Verse 4: For listen! Hear the cries of the field workers whom you have cheated of their pay. The cries of those who harvest your fields have reached the ears of the lord of Heaven’s Armies.

Romans 13:7

1 Timothy 6:17-19


If you know of any other verses at that fit this category, please reply or comment.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Stressed

If you're in a full or busy time of life, sometimes the best things you can do for yourself are also the really simple ones.

  • Get to bed on time.
  • Sleep in.  (You might not get to sleep in until noon, but if it's a busy season of life, going to bed 30 minutes early and sleeping 20 minutes later can go a long way.)
  • Eat healthy.  Lay off the sugar.  Limit caffeine.  Eat a few fruits and veggies (Who am I, your mom?)
You might do these things and still be stressed, but I think simple things help more than many of us want to admit.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Expository Topical Sermons

I should be honest up front that I probably have a tendency to over analyze sermons.  If we're listening to someone share thoughts from God's word we should seek to get something out of it.  We can probably all improve in that.

The thing I've noticed is, despite expository sermons being the mainstay of evangelical church services, most of them actually end up having a topical focus anyway.

Let's define a few terms: Expository (to me) means taking a passage of Scripture and explaining what it says, what it means, and how we should live because of it.
Topical is taking a topic and explaining what the Bible says about it and how we should live because of it.

I personally am perfectly okay with either type of sermon, but often the expository sermon gets lifted up as "better" because it sticks to Scripture and there's less chance of coming up with a message that isn't quite true.

What I notice though, is that many expository sermons end up being topical.  The speaker reads the passage, makes a few comments on it in general, and then picks a topic from it and builds a whole sermon around that topic.

Nothing wrong with it, just an observation.

Monday, June 30, 2014

One more thing I'd do as president

I think I could still squeeze this idea into my first four years in office.

I'd like to disband the electoral college.  (I'm not even sure if disband is the right word here.  Remove? Destroy?)

When the country was founded and the constitution was written the electoral college made perfect sense.  It wasn't possible for Joe Somebody to know much about a candidate at all, so they could vote for someone they did know believed like they did, and that person could vote for the president.

Today, we often don't even see the names of the people in the electoral college that we're actually voting for in a presidential election.  Technology gives us the ability to know as much as we want about a political candidate.  Joe Somebody can be just informed (maybe more!) as someone in the electoral college.

So there you go.  Get rid of the electoral college.  I'm not sure how that will affect my reelection, but as I said before I'm good with four years.

Monday, June 23, 2014

The Cure or the Story (by Seth Godin)

At the end of March Seth Godin had this post on his blog:
The cure or the story?
The plumber, the roofer and the electrician sell us a cure. They come to our house, fix the problem, and leave.
The consultant, the doctor (often) and the politician sell us the narrative. They don't always change things, but they give us a story, a way to think about what's happening. Often, that story helps us fix our problems on our own.
The best parents, of course, are in the story business. Teachers and bosses, too.
Parents, teachers and bosses... I can fit into each of those categories sometimes.  What about you?

And if what Godin said is true... if giving people a story can help them fix their own problems...

Why do we spend so much time just handing out cures instead of telling people the right story?

Monday, June 16, 2014

What Would Jesus Buy?

(This is a repost/rewrite because I needed the reminder.)

What would Jesus buy?  Would he have a purchased a 'WWJD?' bracelet back when they were popular?  What about a WWJB bracelet?  I tend to think not, but see if you can follow my logic in this unapologetically-longer-than-normal blog post.

"Come now, you rich! Weep and cry aloud over the miseries that are coming on you... Look, the pay you have held back from the workers who mowed your fields cries out against you, and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts." (James 5:1,4)

If you're reading this and you're from America, you are rich.  You may have heard it before, but just so you don't think I'm bluffing, the United States of America tops all of the following lists:
I'll say it again, you are rich.

On the flip side, the clothes that I'm wearing while I type this are made in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Vietnam, and Guatemala.  The computer and accessories I'm using right now are made in China.  Not one of these five countries made the above lists.  What gives?

"Do not exploit a poor person because he is poor." (Proverbs 22:22). "Deliver those being taken away to death, and hold back those slipping to the slaughter. If you say, “But we did not know about this,” does not the one who evaluates hearts consider? Does not the one who guards your life know? Will he not repay each person according to his deeds?" (Proverbs 24:11-12)

Are we exploiting the poor in other countries? Are we holding back pay from those who, in a real sense, have worked for us?  In many cases it is hard to truly know, but the glimpses we get from news articles seem to say by and large, we are.  Some articles to get you thinking:
It can be a little scary to take the time to fully read those articles, especially if you stop and think about what they mean for your current buying habits.  The Lord who rules over all said, ‘Exercise true judgment and show brotherhood and compassion to each other. You must not oppress the widow, the orphan, the foreigner, or the poor, nor should anyone secretly plot evil against his fellow human being.’ (Zechariah 7:9-10)

What does this all mean for me?  It means I want to shop a little bit more like Jesus.  To do so, my wife and I came up with a series of questions to ask ourselves:

Before you shop, ask yourself:
  • Do I need it?  Can I do without it? Do I already have it?  If you answer these questions honestly, you won't have to check the rest of this list as often as you think.
  • Can I make it myself?
  • Can I buy it used?
  • Can I upgrade or repair something I own rather than buying it?
If you make it through the above list and still need to go shopping, ask yourself:
  • Is it made in the USA or another developed country? 
  • Is it Fair Trade? 
  • Is it produced by a company that is at least claiming ethical labor and/or buying practices?  Many companies make some sort of statement on their website.
  • Is it produced by company that has known cases of unethical labor and/or buying practices?  A few Google searches normally turns up any poor standards or practices.
  • Is it quality?  Will it last a long time or will you be buying another piece of junk in less than two years?
This is a journey I'm on.  I still buy stuff I don't need that is most likely made by people who are being exploited.  But I'm working on it and I wanted to invite you to do the same.

Ask yourself: What would Jesus buy?

Additional Scripture: Proverbs 21:3, 15; 22:16, 22-23;  24:11-12, 31:8-9, Zechariah 7:9-10, Romans 13:7, I Timothy 6:17-19,  James 5:1-6

Monday, June 9, 2014

Parenting Check-In

Here is a great idea suggested in Shepherding a Child's Heart that my wife and I try to do at least once each year:

Have a "check-in" discussion about each of your kids.  Take notes while you do.  Talk about things like:
  • Where are they growing?
  • What areas are we concerned about their growth?
  • How do they do at relating to God?
  • How do they do at relating to people around them?
  • What one character quality do we need to focus on teaching them?
It's so easy to go through a year... and then two... and then three without actually taking the time to talk about your kids.  We'll spend hours discussing house projects, but miss the biggest projects under our roof.  Here's to being intentional.

Monday, June 2, 2014

$7455

For my family's recent house selling, buying, move I paid my Realtor $7455.

That's a lot of money.  And you might be expecting me to start complaining.

On the contrary, I would tell you that my Realtor was worth every penny she earned in commission.  This isn't a promotional post, I'm not even going to share her name.

I simply want to say: Doing your job with excellence while caring for people in the process is nearly invaluable.  I'm going to venture to guess that will apply to your work situation as well.  How are you doing at it?

Monday, May 26, 2014

You've Been Scheduled

A little head's up for my blog over the next few months:

Nearly everything has been pre-written and scheduled to post.  This means a few of things: 
First of all, I won't be keeping up with current events.  Not that I do too much blogging about that anyway, but if it seems like my blog isn't acknowledging something significant, now you know why.
Second, I think some of my scheduled posts might be bolder than usual.  I think I might have a little more courage to click "Publish" when I know that it won't be seen for a few weeks or months.  You've been warned.
Third, I was hoping to have blogs scheduled for twice each week, but with COCUSA ramping up and moving houses, you're going to have to live with Monday only posts for the summer.

Lastly, I should still be able to check comments and replies, so I hope to hear from you (especially if I go overboard in the boldness category.)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

It's not my dirt...

Another house related post...

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye." Matthew 7:3-5

A great illustration of these verses happens when you're moving in or out of a house.

I can guarantee you that the new owners of my previous house scrubbed and clean numerous places that I thought were totally fine.  After all, it was my dirt.

And similarly, as my family has moved into a new place, we have scrubbed and cleaned numerous places that the previous owners probably considered just fine.  We scrubbed and cleaned because it wasn't our dirt.

Maybe that should be a reminder to me when I want to judge someone's behavior.  Check for my own dirt first.

Monday, May 19, 2014

May 18th

In January of this year my wife and I found out we were expecting our 5th child.  We had been house-hunting before then, but after receiving this good news I started to specifically pray: "God, please provide a house we can be fully moved into by May 18th."

May 18th was yesterday.  And we're (mostly) fully moved in.  Wow.

Here's thing thing.  I prayed that for months without believing a word of it.  In March I often added "and help my unbelief!"

But God's crazy like that, and he worked it out.  The week that got an accepted offer on our house was what I had in mind as the last possible week for something to happen if we were going to be moved by May 18th.

On April 13th we had no clue where we were going to move.

But here we are.  I hope I remember God's faithfulness and impeccable timing next go around, whatever the situation.  But I'm prone to forget.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

At Last!

Then the lord God made a woman from the rib, and he brought her to the man.  “At last!” the man exclaimed. “This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.’”   Genesis 2:22-23

I think more people quote the end of Genesis 2:23 than the beginning.  But those two words at the beginning are golden: At last!

Adam had just gone through the circumstance (trial?) of naming every other animal and realizing that none of them were for him.  When he was finally shown the being that was a perfect match for him...

At last!

I've thought the same thing about my lovely wife.  And I hope if you're married you've thought that about your spouse.

One more thought:  "At last!" means the search is over.  He or she has been found and is the one for you.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Facing Task Paralysis

You've heard of decision paralysis?

It's the idea that if you give someone too many choices they won't end up choosing anything.  The sheer number of options keeps them from choosing.

Sometimes you get to a busy season in life where there is task paralysis.  You have so many tasks to do that you can't choose one.  You just keep reviewing the list of things you need to do, but the sheer number of things that need done keeps you from selecting one and getting started.

A really simple solution to either of these is: Roll the dice!  If you really can't choose for yourself, it's better to randomly pick something and start working on it than to continue to wait and do nothing.  And once you knock one task out, it may be easier to do another, and another...

Ready, set, roll.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Guide to Eating

Too often I'm guilty of eating without thinking.  Grabbing something that's next to me and chowing down without any regard to what the food is, how it's going to make me feel, or if it's good for me in the long run.

Jonathan Edwards actually took the time and energy to keep track of what how different foods made him feel.*  (And this was before smart-phone apps!) His goal?  Eating food that didn't slow him down and helped him feel better would allow him to serve God more effectively.

It's not too often you read about gastrointestinal spirituality, but maybe hearing about it every once in a while is a good thing.

Some questions to ponder:
What are you eating?
How does it make you feel?
Are you being intentional with your food choices?


http://www.desiringgod.org/biographies/the-pastor-as-theologian (about 3/4ths through the article)

Monday, May 5, 2014

The Bible on kids...

Kids are awesome.  But don't just take my word for it...

Psalm 127:3-5  Children are a gift from the lord; they are a reward from him.  Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warrior’s hands.  How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them! He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.

Matthew 18:5 "And anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf is welcoming me."

Matthew 19:14 But Jesus said, "Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children."

Aren't kids great?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Switching Churches

Not me!

But people do. And I'm not here to judge them but I have noticed a trend in the church-switch that I thought I would blog about.  It seems that oftentimes the people who switch churches are ones who are very involved in their church.

Huh?

I know that doesn't happen all the time, as plenty of people who never do more than sit for an hour during Sunday mornings switch churches too.  But I'm surprised at how often it is the involved and engaged person or family.  What's going on here?

I wish I knew.

I tried to write an ending to this post more than few times and never really could.  We'll leave it as is for now, and I welcome any thoughts.

Monday, April 28, 2014

A new Minnesotan

Last week my long time friend, college roommate for three years and partner in ministry moved with his family to Minnesota.

Jon Walberg is going to be missed:  The work that he did at the Christian Center running their athletic programs.  His involvement in his home church.  His friendship.

What stands out to me most about Jon is his integrity.  I can't think of someone else I have more confidence will do the right thing, every time, no matter what, no matter who's watching.  That's awesome.  That's a challenge to me and all of us.

Jon, you'll be missed.  Blessings to you and your family on your new adventure.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Parenting Question: The Birds and the Bees

One thing we need to make sure we talk to our kids about is God's gift of sex.  I don't hope to unpack the whole topic here, but hopefully give a few starters.

One of the easiest ways to start is just talking about babies.  My wife and I are expecting so the topic comes up with my older three boys somewhat frequently.  Do we engage their questions or do we shut them down?  Sex isn't anything to be ashamed of when it's in a marriage relationship, so how do we communicate the truth to children while protecting their innocence as much as possible.

(I say "as much as possible" because kids will lose their innocence at some point.  We all do.  I'd rather be the one giving them the truth about difficult things then someone random breaking it on them all at once in a junior high locker room.)

So what do you talk about?  To start, just ask their thoughts on where babies come from.  After hearing them out, step up and explain it to them.  For young kids they can just know that moms and dads make babies together.  As a child grows, however, they need to hear that you make a baby by having sex.  They need to hear the names of the body parts involved.  And they need to know that within a marriage God says its good.

There's a start on this big topic.  More to come sometime.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Easter Meaning

I recently had the thought: Where do we get the word "Easter" from and should we use it?

So I did a little internet research and decided to pass it on to you.

Two articles that were helpful to me:
Is the Name "Easter" of Pagan Origin? http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/2011/04/19/name-easter-pagan
Easter Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter

To quote Wikipedia:
Easter is linked to the Jewish Passover by much of its symbolism, as well as by its position in the calendar. In many languages, the words for "Easter" and "Passover" are identical or very similar.
The Answers is Genesis article expounds on that more fully and is worth a reading if you're interested in the topic.  To quote:
The testimony of Luther and Tyndale in applying the names “Osterlamm” and ”esterlambe” to Christ as the sacrificial Lamb that brings us peace with God seems to be a compelling argument that, even 500 years ago, Easter had no association with pagan worship. However, if the word “Easter” used to refer to the Resurrection, it no longer seems to carry that understanding in the minds of many today. ... In an attempt to honor God, many have desired to move away from the term Easter, using Resurrection Day in its place. What could be more fitting or clearer than to simply refer to the day on which we celebrate the risen Lord as Resurrection Day? I can think of no better solution to this topic, but I am aware that many Christians will continue to use the term “Easter” with a clear conscience. I trust that as this topic is discussed, Christians will seek to keep their focus on the fact that they serve the resurrected Christ—one who has conquered death on their behalf.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bible Books!

I posted about Parenting with the Bible about six months ago.  Here's an updated list of Bible-centered book that have can help kids get into God's word.

  • Jesus Storybook Bible: Every story, even in the Old Testament, points to Jesus.
  • Read and Learn Bible: The stories are a faithful rendition of the actual Bible.  The pictures are pretty good.
  • Jesus Calling: 365 Devotions for Kids by Sarah Young: I've been surprised how much our six-year old is into this daily reading.  (Each day is just about the perfect length for a kid.)  And more than once when I ask him what it's about, he convicts me by saying something like "We shouldn't worry because God has everything under control."  Yeah... still working on that one.
  • The Action Bible: This is a comic-book style Bible that we have available at Camp of Champions for kids to read.  Comic-book Bibles normally raise eyebrows, but I have yet to find a story that wasn't faithful to the text of the actual Bible.
  • The Story: The Bible as One Continuing Story of God and his People.  We've been reading this one to our older boys.  It's a condensed version of the Bible that keeps a story-like flow going throughout the whole thing.  So far they have been really good at listening to it.
There's a start!  Please reply or comment with any additional "Bible for kids" resources you've used.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Time Blocks

Of course you've heard this before, but it bears repeating:  Each of us has the exact same amount of time as everyone else.  60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, 24 hours in a day, 7 days in a week, 52 weeks in a year.  If time is money, we're all getting the same paycheck.

What if we looked at our time with the following grid?

Each day has three blocks of time; morning, afternoon, and evening.  Each week has seven days.  In one week you have 21 time blocks with which to build your life.  Pretty simple.

When my wife and I looked at this several years ago, what really affected how we were using our time was when we started to "X" out blocks in the above chart.  Each Sunday we looked at the coming week and gave blocks the X if they were particularly stressful or brought us out of our normal daily rhythm.  We learned that one X a day is about all our family can handle.  Similarly, if we're Xing more than 5 blocks in a week, we all get pretty stressed and the end results aren't good.

I purposefully am not going to define what an X looks like for our family, because I think it is different for everyone. I want you to think through what it looks like for you. What would cause you to X out a time block?

The next question is: How many blocks can you X out each week and still have a sane life and family that is glorifying to God?  (The question is NOT how many blocks do you follow Jesus with?  The answer to that question is ALL of them.)  It's probably worth thinking about because I guarantee you cannot X out 21 blocks and live to tell about it.

Thanks to John Pearson for the 21 time block concept in his Management Buckets book.  This is an updated repost from a similar blog in 2011.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Parenting by default

It's so easy in parenting to mail it in.

Not that we'd ever admit that of course. We want to love our kids and care for them and give them the best. But when the day to day grind comes in, when we get into regular, everyday life with it's lists of to-dos and countless distractions, we put parenting on the back burner. What we end up trending towards, whether we realize it or not, is parenting by the easiest possible means possible.

We trend towards doing less, despite what our desires are for our kids. The challenge, then, is to care. Really care. And to care in such a way that you actually act like it towards your kids. Scores of books have been written about parenting, and I don't have any intentions of writing another one or competing with any of them.  What I would like to do over the next months (years?), however, is write up some thoughts that can serve as a guide.  Blog posts that fall under the “I need to talk about this with my kids" category."

More than anything, I hope any parenting blog post serves as a reminder to care for your kids.  Well.  And right now.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Book Review: The Dip by Seth Godin

Some thoughts after reading The Dip: A Little Book that Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick) by Seth Godin.

What I Liked:  I liked the message.  The idea that quitters never win is true in some sense, but I liked that Godin helps us realize that we often are stuck doing things that are getting us nowhere and accomplishing little.  We should have the freedom to quit those things.
I liked that this was a short book.  (The subtitle even references it being "little".)  He had one thing to say, and he said it clearly and concisely.

What I Didn't Like: Nothing to dislike here.

Good Quotes:  "Winners quit all the time. They just quit the right stuff at the right time."
"Quit the wrong stuff. Stick with the right stuff. Have the guts to do one or the other."
"Never quit something with great long term potential just because you can't deal with the stress of the moment."
"If it scares you, it might be a good thing to try."

My 2014 "You Should Read This" Ranking:
1. Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll
2. The Dip by Seth Godin
3.  Stranger on the Road to Emmaus by John Cross
4. Manage Your Day to Day by Jocelyn Glei

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Fundraising for this summer?

In the last few weeks I've had two people request information about "that book you wrote about fundraising" and received my first "I'm going on summer missions trip and I need your help" request.

It's April.  Spring is (hopefully) in the air.  Fundraising for ministry/missions has started.

If you're looking for some direction as you raise money, I'd challenge you to read Partner Like Paul: A Guide to Fundraising Biblically and Practically.

Yes I wrote it.  But I wrote it because it seemed that much of Christian fundraising didn't really line up with God's word.  I also wrote it because there seems to be a lack of fundraising help for high school and college students as they seek to raise money.  And mostly I wrote it so I could be more Biblical and better at raising money for my support and ministry.

I think it could be a help to you too. Here it is. Free. http://www.pheaney.com/p/partner-like-paul.html

Monday, March 31, 2014

Net Nanny

This is a just a quick recommendation for the internet filtering/monitoring system my family uses.  (I'm not getting any kickback from this, I promise.)

Let me first say: I think if you are going to use the internet today with any regularity you should be using something to block bad content and/or keep you accountable to someone.  There are tremendous benefits to the internet and amazing things you can accomplish with technology.  But the bad is really bad, and it goes from bad to worse so quickly that you (and I) need to protect our own selves, as well as any family that we have.

Since starting to use it a few years back, we have been a big fan of Net Nanny.  It's relatively easy to set up and use, but also really great at filtering out bad content.  Recently they changed their pricing model and you can now protect up to 10 devices (computers, smartphones, tablets) for $80 a year.  This was a good deal for us even though we only have three devices right now, and it's nice to be able to add more any time we want at no additional cost.

That's all for the commercial. There's plenty of options out there, just be sure to pick something.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I stink at evangelism...

Note: This was originally written as a stream of consciousness over a year ago...  I cleaned it up a little for readability, but I think it still communicates what's on my heart.

I stink at sharing the gospel.

I just do.

I don't see opportunities.  I don't take opportunities that I do see.  I spend too little time with lost people.  I'm not bold.

I'm just plain bad at evangelism.

Jesus please give me the awareness, boldness, and focus I need to share the Gospel with one person each day.  I need your help on multiple levels.  

Level 1: More time with people who don't know Jesus.  Getting work done at Starbucks simply doesn't count.  But what does?  How can I fit more time with lost people in my already full schedule?

Level 2: Default towards people.  Be a conversation starter... take conversations deeper... always, both relationally and spiritually.

Level 3: I need boldness to turn the conversation towards what really matters: talking about Jesus and how the person I'm speaking with knows him or needs to know him.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Smartphone Constitution

Well I finally did it.  I made the jump from basic phone (read "dumb" phone) to a so called "smartphone."

It wasn't a choice I made quickly or without a lot of thought.  And while I ended up deciding to do so because of the benefits I'm hoping it can bring to my work at Camp of Champions, I spent most of my time deciding how I was going to control the use of it.  Here's what I came up with.

We the people who are blessed to have abundant technology at our fingertips, in order to use technology without being used and promote healthy practices do ordain and establish this Smartphone Constitution.
Article 1. An internet filtering or monitoring system is to be installed. 
Article 2. A “Do Not Disturb” or similar setting is to be used to help keep your focus at home and with your family. 
a. When at home, your phone should be kept on a shelf, not on your person. 
b. During your family or personal Sabbath, you should use your phone only if someone calls you. 
Article 3. Contrary to popular belief smartphones are not for use in the bathroom. Seriously. 
Article 4. Also contrary to popular belief, smartphones are not made to pacify your children. 
Article 5. In keeping with the spirit of Article 4, there is no need to have any games of any sort on your smart phone. 
Article 6. The only applications and websites to be used are to be ‘white listed’ and approved by a close friend or spouse.

This document is a work in progress.  To see any updates and to see my white listed apps and websites, click here.

Maybe I'm being to overbearing, but I've seen technology waste enough time and relationships that I'm pretty wary of it. If you read this and realize you need to control the use of your smart phone, you have my permission.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Book Review: Real Marriage by Mark Driscoll

Some thoughts after reading Real Marriage: The Truth about Sex, Friendship, and Life Together by Mark and Grace Driscoll.

What I Liked:  This was a solid book on marriage.  I know you can find other books that would be more "complete" on the topic of marriage, but what Real Marriage did was nail some of the major issues that anybody in a marriage (or quite frankly anybody at all) is likely to come across.  Topics like pornography, abuse, and usually taboo intimacy questions are all there and handled in a Biblical way.
The opening chapter on friendship and the closing chapter on reverse-engineering your marriage and life are worth the price of the book.  I see myself recommending this often in the future.

What I Didn't Like: Honestly I didn't have any dislikes.  I guess if I disliked something it was realizing raising my boys to be pure in our over-sexualized culture is going to be a big challenge.  But that's a realization I needed to hear.

Good Quotes:
"Men are like trucks, they drive smoother and straighter with a load." p 48
"Righteous anger is the right response to sin and far more consistent with God's character than faking happiness, approval, or acceptance." p 96

My 2014 "You Should Read This" Ranking:*
1. Real Marriage by Mark and Grace Driscoll#
2. Stranger on the Road to Emmaus by John Cross
3. Manage Your Day to Day by Jocelyn Glei

*The thought is: If I had to recommend the books I read this year to you (my readers), this is the order I would do it.
#Even if you're not married I would rank this one first for you.  So much of what was said is applicable to anyone.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Prayer

"To often prayer is reactionary not proactive."

-Said by a pastor, passed on to me by a friend, passing it on to you.

How are you doing at prayer?  Are you reacting or being proactive?  Of course there are times when you should have reactionary prayer, but not every time.  What do you have coming up today?   How about you pause and pray for it now?  Not later

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Acquaintances and disciple-making

Somewhere I once read that when you're looking for job you shouldn't ask your close friends, because they know everyone you know.  You need to ask your acquaintances because they can lead you to new connections.

Bring that over to making disciples.  Sometimes we miss the obvious that we should disciple those closest to us.  But if we're getting that, it may be time to disciple acquaintances... which can lead to new connections.  (This isn't a call for a business model to discipleship, it's a call to spread the Good News on relational networks: Networks that you're a part of and God wants to use you to change for his glory.)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Trellis & Vine

We all have a trellis in our lives and ministry.  The trellis is the stuff that isn't quite ministry, but it's there to help ministry happen.  (Think dodgeballs at a summer camp or cleaning carpets in a classroom, etc.)

Our ministry is the vine.  It's where we find the fruit.

Ideally, the trellis should be one of those things you don't quite realize is there.  Sometimes we swing too far to one side and want to burn the trellis down because it is distracting us from the 'real ministry.'  And sometimes we put so much work into the trellis that we get distracted from the vine.  Neither approach is helpful.

Most of our ministries need a trellis to grow on.  But the trellis should mostly be in the background and unnoticed.  It should follow the vine as it grows and flourishes, not dictate where the vine should go.

Last thought: God has given us both the vine and the trellis. We should do our best with both.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The value of good relationships

Seth Godin once said: "Until further notice, books remain your #1 entertainment and learning value. Have you ever finished a book and not felt smarter?"

I would agree with him, mostly... but I think I might offer a quote of my own:

"Until further notice, genuine and honest relationships remain your #1 value. Have you ever met with someone and not been blessed?"

IF my re-quote is true, what are you doing this week to cultivate genuine and and honest relationships?

(This is a re-post from March 2012, but it's worth remembering!)

Monday, March 3, 2014

Book Review: Manage Your Day to Day

Some thoughts after reading Manage Your Day to Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind; edited by Jocelyn Glei

What I Liked:  The book had a ton of practical takeaways.  If you're looking to use your time more efficiently and to manage the myriad of tasks and distractions that come with living in the modern world, this is a great quick read to give you some ideas.  The book was also set up really well, with different color pages starting each chapter (black) and section (red).  It was fun to use and re-reference based on it's design alone.  Finally, there were a bunch of great quotes (see below).

What I Didn't Like:  I found myself saying multiple times: "I wish this chapter was longer."  Every chapter was short and to-the-point, which was probably what they were going for, but at times it felt like the idea the author was presenting didn't get off the ground before it came back for a landing.  Lastly there was an obscenity in last chapter. It's a shame because it was useless and honestly keeps me from fully recommending the book.

Good Quotes:
"For most of us there is a wide gray area between the have-tos and the want-tos in our lives. If you're not careful that area will fill up with emails, meetings, and leave no room for the work you consider important." - Mark McGuiness
"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an art, but a habit." - Aristotle
"It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it." - Lena Horne
"The most basic form of human stupidity is forgetting what we are trying to accomplish." - Nietzche
"All of the most fulfilled people I know focus more on the quality of their connections than the quantity of them." - Lori Deschene

My 2014 "You Should Read This" Ranking:*
1. Stranger on the Road to Emmaus by John Cross
2. Manage Your Day to Day by Jocelyn Glei

*The thought is: If I had to recommend the books I read this year to you (my readers), this is the order I would do it.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Fishing for men... but how?

Welcome to some new friends who signed up for my blog at the Equip Conference last week.  Here's a thought I shared at one of my workshops there:

"Follow me and I will make you fishers of men."  I realized recently that the mental image that pops into my head with that verse is probably not accurate.

Do we picture fishing for men like modern Americans fish?
  • one line, one hook, one worm
  • recreationally, if we have time
Or do we picture fishing for men more like a first century Jew would have fished?
  • big nets
  • you take time to fix nets
  • our very survival depends on it
  • you fish all night
  • you fish everyday
  • you sleep and eat so you can fish more
And probably the scariest question: Are you fishing for men like an American or like a first century Jew?

Monday, February 24, 2014

Jesus' Teaching on Prayer

Here are some thoughts from Luke 11:1-13 (adapted from a sermon I gave recently) which resulted in a longer-than-usual post.

v2-4 "The Lord's Prayer" might be better called "the disciples’ prayer." It was for them to pray to learn how to pray.  It was a “training wheels” prayer.  A friend of mine described it like this: When you teach a child to answer the phone, how do you do it? Do you give them a ringing phone and just say "answer it"?  No, you give them the specific words.  (If you don't they might say: "He's sitting on the toilet" instead of "He can’t come to the phone right now" ... Maybe that just happens in my house.)
But just like you don’t want your child answering the phone to solely rely on your words the rest of his life, Jesus didn’t want his disciples or us to stay at only repeating back this exact prayer. This is a start, a guide, but not the whole of praying.
There are some key aspects of Jesus prayer we should repeat:
  • worship v2 
  • acknowledging/accepting/asking for God’s sovereignty 
  • asking for provision (notice the simplicity of the provision, how many times do my requests for provision get pretty complicated when maybe a simpler "provide what I need today" would be better)
  • forgiveness for you and asking God for help forgiving others 
  • protection from temptation 

How do do you do at including these things in your prayers to God? Which could you do more of?
v5-8  Is God like the neighbor or friend in this story?  Let emphatically say No.  What is Jesus teaching about in this entire passage?  Prayer.  This is a lesson for us to be persistent.  Just like we would be persistent with someone if we really needed help we should keep persisting in prayer to God.
Could we at any point say we might be “wearing God out” with our requests? (I know that we can’t wear God out… but are we even trying?)
What do you need to more persistently pray for?

v9-10 You'e probably heard this before.  But what about it... Are you asking? Are you seeking? Are you knocking? And what are you asking for? What are you seeking? What doors are you knocking on? As CS lewis says: “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

v11-13  To Close, Can we have confidence and faith in God to give us what we need?  YES!  Ask and receive good gifts.  God takes the comparison of an earthly parent, acknowledges that we (his disciples and you and I) are EVIL (*Side note: how many teachers or preachers today would dare say that to their audience?), and let’s us know God will give us good things.
Remember that God’s good things for us might not be what we think our needs our. He’s a good enough father that he’ll refuse to give us what we ask for if he knows it’s not the best for us. And that’s where we need faith in God, the trust that he is working despite a seemingly unanswered prayer. He ultimately knows what we need and what is best for us.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Managing Your Time and Tasks

I'm facilitating a discussion on this at lunch today.  If you're reading this ahead of time don't spoil the surprise ending.*

"Do not neglect the spiritual gift you received through the prophecy spoken over you when the elders of the church laid their hands on you. Give your complete attention to these matters. Throw yourself into your tasks so that everyone will see your progress. Keep a close watch on how you live and on your teaching. Stay true to what is right for the sake of your own salvation and the salvation of those who hear you." - 1 Timothy 4:14-16 (NLT)
Why is it important that we manage our time and tasks well?  I think the passage above speaks for itself on that topic.  We must handle the things we are called to do well, because the spreading of the Good News depends on it.**  We need to be brave enough to reflect on our lives and our tasks to see if we are truly doing the most important things... (Are you neglecting your spiritual gifts?)... but if we are truly involved in the correct tasks, then we need to do them well.

Three areas in which I think we all could stand to improve:

Email: Do it less.  Close your email until you need to send a message.  Respond to your email once each day.  I know many of you like to sneak email into spare moments of the day... I disagree.  Be present in the spare moments.  Plan to knock out email at a certain time and then leave it along after that.

Phones: Turn it off.  More often than you do now.  Use "Do Not Disturb" or similar often.  Remember, you're phone is supposed to help you in life and ministry, not distract you from it.

Social Media: Use it sparingly.  I've started using StayFocusd, an extension available to most browsers.  You can change your settings to fit what is best for you, but I use it to limit myself to 10 minutes on Facebook a day.  (I don't even usually hit that, but Stay Focusd is a great way to cap your social media time.)


*Just kidding, there isn't a surprise ending.  But still, don't spoil it.



**God changes hearts, not us... but he chooses to use us in the lives of others.

Monday, February 17, 2014

3 Months Later

It's harder to believe that exactly 3 months ago Washington, Pekin and East Peoria were hit by tornadoes and suffered massive destruction.

My challenge for you today is to find someone who was affected by the tornadoes and ask them how you can help them.  We're past the point of the emergency responders.  But that doesn't change that 3 months ago hundreds or thousands of homes were literally blown away.

Needs run deeper than emergency medical attention and short term financial loss.

Maybe all you can do is pray for them.  Maybe that's what you should do.

Regardless, here's your challenge: Find a central Illinois tornado victim and ask how you can help them.

PS.  I'll be reminding us about this again.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Saying Thank You

I haven't circled back around to this in awhile:

I wrote a book on Raising Money.  It's called Partner Like Paul: A Guide to Fundraising Biblical & Practically.  It's free and you can find it by clicking here.

One big part in Step 5 of my plan is "Saying Thank You."  I had this thought just yesterday*.

When I say thank you to someone -  normally through a thank you card, but also through messages, emails and face to face - when I say thank you... am I doing that because I am actually thankful or because I feel that I have to?

It's a sad state of affairs if I'm not truly thankful for what's been given to me.  If I'm not thankful, then Saying Thank You becomes a means to an end, just another step in the fundraising process.

It's time to be thankful first, then say thank you second.

*I had this thought while being truly thankful that someone was helping me with snow removal.  That was yesterday from when I wrote this, not posted it.  But it also snows all the time this winter so it might as well have been really yesterday. 

Monday, February 10, 2014

Saving Lives

This is not mine.  It was written by Church Swindoll in "Seasons of Life" (p 98-99).  But it's exactly the sort of reminder I need from time to time.  I hope it helps you.

On a dangerous seacoast notorious for shipwrecks, there was a crude little lifesaving station. Actually, the station was merely a hut with only one boat . . . but the few devoted members kept a constant watch over the turbulent sea. With little thought for themselves, they would go out day and night tirelessly searching for those in danger as well as the lost. Many, many lives were saved by this brave band of men who faithfully worked as a team in and out of the lifesaving station. By and by, it became a famous place.

Some of those who had been saved as well as others along the seacoast wanted to become associated with this little station. They were willing to give their time and energy and money in support of its objectives. New boats were purchased. New crews were trained. The station that was once obscure and crude and virtually insignificant began to grow. Some of its members were unhappy that the hut was so unattractive and poorly equipped. They felt a more comfortable place should be provided. Emergency cots were replaced with lovely furniture. Rough, hand-made equipment was discarded and sophisticated, classy systems were installed. The hut, of course, had to be torn down to make room for all the additional equipment, furniture, systems, and appointments. By its completion, the life-saving station had become a popular gathering place, and its objectives had begun to shift. It was now used as sort of a clubhouse, an attractive building for public gatherings. Saving lives, feeding the hungry, strengthening the fearful, and calming the disturbed rarely occurred by now.

Fewer members were now interested in braving the sea on lifesaving missions, so they hired professional lifeboat crews to do this work. The original goal of the station wasn't altogether forgotten, however. The lifesaving motifs still prevailed in the club's decorations. In fact, there was a liturgical lifeboat preserved in the Room of Sweet Memories with soft, indirect lighting, which helped hide the layer of dust upon the once-used vessel.

About this time a large ship was wrecked off the coast and the boat crews brought in loads of cold, wet, half-drowned people. They were dirty, some terribly sick and lonely. Others were black and "different" from the majority of the club members. The beautiful new club suddenly became messy and cluttered. A special committee saw to it that a shower house was immediately built outside and away from the club so victims of shipwreck could be cleaned up before coming inside.

At the next meeting there were strong words and angry feelings, which resulted in a division among the members. Most of the people wanted to stop the club's lifesaving activities and all involvements with shipwreck victims . . . ("it's too unpleasant, it's a hindrance to our social life, it's opening the door to folks who are not our kind"). As you'd expect, some still insisted upon saving lives, that this was their primary objective---that their only reason for existence was ministering to anyone needing help regardless of their club's beauty or size or decorations. They were voted down and told if they wanted to save the lives of various kinds of people who were shipwrecked in those waters, they could begin their own lifesaving station down the coast! They did.

As years passed, the new station experienced the same old changes. It evolved into another club . . . and yet another lifesaving station was begun. History continued to repeat itself . . . and if you visit that coast today you'll find a large number of exclusive, impressive clubs along the shoreline owned and operated by slick professionals who have lost all involvement with the saving of lives.

Shipwrecks still occur in those waters, but now most of the victims are not saved. Every day they drown at sea, and so few seem to care . . . so very few.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Book Review: Stranger on the Road to Emmaus

I just finished Stranger on the Road to Emmaus by John Cross.  If you're interested you can find it free (click here) in several different formats.

What I Liked:  This book gave a good overview of the Biblical narrative.  It covered the major stories of the Bible but more importantly connected them to the major themes of redemption, atonement and forgiveness through Jesus Christ.  The book traced Jesus, or at least connections to him, throughout Scripture.

What I Didn't Like:  Overall I thought the book was a little wordy at times.  (They type of book that talks about what it's going to say instead of just saying it.)
Also, the author quotes scripture throughout, which is a good thing.  But he uses multiple different translations.  Put this one in the "annoyance but not that big of a deal" category, but when one page in the book has verses from four different translations it can make it feel like the author is trying to get the Bible to say what he wants instead of letting the Bible speak for itself.  I think the book was true to Scripture, but the translation distraction probably didn't need to be there.

My 2014 "You Should Read This" Ranking:#
1. Stranger on the Road to Emmaus by John Cross

#  Previously I did a "personal impact ranking."  I'm switching to this thought: If I had to recommend the books I read this year to you (my readers), this is the order I would do it.  (Note: You might want to wait until I add a book or two more.)

Monday, February 3, 2014

The Teaching Continuum

On the left side of the continuum it states that "Only fully prepared and rehearsed individuals share."

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The right side says "Everyone and anyone can share anything at any time regardless of preparation or organization."

In most teaching scenarios, we seek to limit and control the sharing as much as possible.  We find ourselves way on the left side and then wonder why no one else wants to contribute when we ask a question.

Being fully on the right doesn't really work either.  It's just plain chaos.

Like with most continuums, the best case scenario is to be somewhere in the middle.  Prepare and rehearse, but also look for input and dialogue from those who didn't pre plan what they were going to say.  I think nearly every time I teach and let other people do share and talk someone in the group says something better or smarter than me.  (If you're afraid of that happening, better stick with the left side.)

PS.  Ben Getz called the Seahawks over the Broncos with a total score of 54 points.  Josh Elliott did the same but with 48 points.  The total points scored of 51 means that they tied.  So I flipped a coin.  Ben Getz wins!!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Trending...

Most things in your life... maybe all things in your life... are trending one way or the other.

* Your relationship with God: You're either growing closer to him or farther away from him.
* Your relationship with your spouse: Today you'll either become better friends or better enemies.

Maybe it's human nature or the laws of thermodynamics, but the "status quo" never really stays that way.

* Your attitude towards your job: You'll either like what you do more by the end of the day or you'll like it less.
* Your attitude towards your kids: You're either falling more in love with them or you're getting more annoyed by them.

Of course these trends happen in thousands of incremental and seeming insignificant steps.  But they do happen.  So pick an area above.  Or think of another area...

Which way are you trending?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Goodbye & Godspeed

Today officially marks when two close friends and coworkers have moved on from Camp of Champions USA.

It's bittersweet to be on this side of the departure, but exciting to think about what God has in store for them going forward.

Kayla's ability to take on any aspect of camp will be sorely missed, but it will also serve her well as she's kicking off her own free lance graphic design business.

Chris could put his heart and soul into projects.  (He specifically took our camper curriculum to the next level during his time at camp.) Now he'll be helping manage Vivo Technologies and I know his skill set will fit well there.

Goodbye Friends (for now at camp, not forever and hopefully we'll see each other again soon  :)

Godspeed: May God prosper you on your journey.