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.