Thursday, December 29, 2011

Inspire Me: What are you hoping for next year?

These are lyrics from Relient K's song "This Week the Trend ".  They are a little strange out of context, but they echo in my head every once in a while.

And I just want to get mugged at knife point 
to get cut enough to wake me up
cause I know that I don't want to die
just sitting around watching my life go by

and what we take from this is what we'll get
and we haven't quite figured it out just yet
because all of us are all too stuck
strapped to a chair watching our lives blow up
stuck watching our lives blow up

Especially this line: "I know that I don't want to die, sitting around watching my life go by."

Whether you're into New Year's Resolutions or not.  This is a great time (what time isn't?!) to hit pause and consider where your life is going (or not going).

But that's your choice... you could easily keep strapped to your chair watching TV or surfing the Internet.

Your call...

Monday, December 26, 2011

Ways we should be more like Adrian

Today is my son Adrian's fourth birthday.  In honor of his big day I wanted to offer four areas we could all probably stand to grow if we take the time to learn from him.

1) Be more creative.  Don't be afraid to use your imagination.

2) Enjoy your food.  Don't just eat it.  (This applies to all of life.  Enjoy it.  Don't merely live.)

3) Give good hugs.

4) Read a good book every now and then.  (If possible, get someone to read it to you.)

Happy Birthday Adrian!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Using Technology (without getting used) 2011

My real goal in life is to make disciples of Jesus.

I want to make sure that e-mail, social media and all of the other technology we're blessed with helps me with that goal.  Unfortunately, it's all too easy to let our technological wonders distract us from what is truly important.

Now I don't feel like we can jump ship on e-mail, facebook, texting, etc because so much personal and relational communication happens over these mediums.  But to make sure I'm not the one getting used, I'm drawing the following lines in the proverbial sands of Silicon Valley.

  • Line 1: Personally respond to as many people as possible, keeping in mind that not all e-mail you receive comes from people.
  • Line 2: Set a limit for how often you check and respond to e-mail.  Personally, I'm checking my e-mail three times each day.  Other than those times, I close my e-mail program so it's not distracting me.
  • Line 3: Keep it simple, short and to the point.
  • Line 4: If you find yourself giving the same responses to multiple people, consider using an e-mail template (ie Gmail's "Canned Responses").
  • Line 5: Be nice!  Say please and thank you.  Ask for prayer requests.  Ask questions related to your previous knowledge of the person and their circumstances.
  • Line 6: Use an RSS reader program to keep your Inbox clear of newsletters, blog updates, etc.  My personal favorite is still Google Reader, despite Google's attempt to ruin it.

  • Line 1: Make 1 list of "Friends to Invest In" or something similar.  Set a limit of how many friends this will be.  "Listen and respond" to this list for about 10 minutes each day.  Like e-mail, pick a time and stick with it.
  • Line 2: If there's anyone you want to follow more frequently than once a day, use Facebook's mobile texting feature to do so.  This helps you avoid extra time on Facebook (see Line #3).
  • Line 3: Don't spend any additional time on Facebook, as it will suck you in.
  • Line 4: Use an RSS reader or your e-mail program for notifications so you don't feel the need to check back in to Facebook multiple times each day.
  • Line 5: Be very judicious about who you accept as friends, especially when it comes to females.  If your wife would raise her eyebrows at who you accepted, don't do it.
(Side Note: Facebook is honestly annoying to me.  If it wasn't for the fact that nearly all of our COCUSA Staff use it I would probably push the whole thing into the deep end.  The above lines are how I've chosen to use it without being used, adapt as you feel necessary.)

Cell Phone
  • Line 1: Have 'no texting' times.  For me this means put the phone out of site from 5-8pm.
  • Line 2: Prioritize the people in front of you over the random person calling.

Note: This is an updated re-post from over a year ago.  It's probably worth reviewing more often than that.

Monday, December 19, 2011

My 2012 Book Reading List

Before we dive into the list, I wanted to share the benefit I've seen in planning my reading in this format.  Thinking critically about the books I want to read throughout a year helps me keep a more balanced reading portfolio.  If I did not plan my reading ahead of time, but merely read books as they crossed my path, I probably would read the same category of book again and again.  Planning ahead with my reading helps me read in a variety of areas, with the hopeful goal that I can grow in all areas of my life.

Without further ado, my 2012 reading list in alphabetical order:

Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure by Tim Harford
Life Category: Occupation
Admit it.  The title alone makes you want to read it.  How can success always start with failure?  I'm excited to find out.

The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing: Everything You Need to Know to Write, Publish, Promote and Sell Your Own Book by Marilyn Ross and Sue Collier
Life Category: Writing
I'm not sure if I would even want to be a professional writer, but exploring the topic will hopefully shed some light on that potential desire.

The E-myth Revisited: Why Most Small Business Don't Work and What to do About It by Michael E Gerber
Life Category: Future
Like the above book, I'm not sure if I would ever want to be an entrepreneur or small business owner, but exploring the topic will hopefully shed some light on that potential desire.

Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck- Why Some Thrive Despite Them All by Jim Collins and Morten Hansen
Life Category: Occupation
I have yet to read a book by Jim Collins that didn't impress me.  Hopefully this continues the trend.

Holy Bible: English Standard Version, Black Original, Journaling Bible by God
Life Category: Everything
I'll be reading this one consistently and constantly throughout the whole year.  Just sayin'.

How and When to Tell Your Kids About Sex: A Lifelong Approach to Shaping Your Child's Sexual Character by Stan and Brenna Jones
Life Category: Raising Boys
I don't think I can overstate the importance of getting this topic right with my kids.

Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives by Richard Swenson
Life Category: Family
I realize 'Family' is a weird category for this book, but Brittany read this book and really enjoyed it, so I'm reading it to continue meaningful discussions with my lovely wife.

Revolution in World Missions by KP Yohannan
Life Category: Evangelism
I've had this book on my shelf for a few years and it recently caught my eye.  Anything that can push me toward greater personal boldness in sharing my faith is exactly what I need.

Saving for Retirement Without Living Like a Pauper Or Winning the Lottery‎ by Gail MarksJarvis
Life Category: Retirement
My head spins when people start talking about investing for retirement.  I'm hoping this helps me get my mind around IRAs, mutual funds, etc.  (At the same time I want to keep a Biblical perspective on retiring.)

Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus: How the Jewishness of Jesus Can Transform Your Faith by Ann Spangler
Life Category: Disciple-making
This is a Bill Allison recommendation.  It's been on my list for a few years.  Should be good.

T4T: A Discipleship Re-Revolution by Steve Smith and Ying Kai
Life Category: Church Planting Movements
This should be a great follow up to Church Planting Movements and continue to push me towards making disciples like Jesus and planting churches like the apostles.

Where's God on Monday?: Integrating Faith and Work Every Day of the Week by Alistair Mackenzie and Wayne Kirkland
Life Category: ReRead
I read this book several years ago and remember really enjoying it.  Here's to another time.

Still Looking for: A one-volume biography of Abraham Lincoln.
Life Category: History
It was so inspiring to read about Winston Churchill this year that I want to do the same thing with another historical figure.  I just need to find a book first.

If you actually read my through this whole list, thanks!  Care to join me reading any of these?  I'd love to get together and discuss them if you do!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Why Work Ethic is a Big Deal

Work Ethic is a Big Deal because the Bible says so...
I've just finished reading through Proverbs.  The importance of a good work ethic really stood out to me.  Here's a sampling of verses:
  • A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich.  He who gathers in summer is a prudent son, but he who sleeps in harvest is a son who brings shame. (Proverbs 10:4-5 ESV)
  • Whoever works his land will have plenty of bread, but he who follows worthless pursuits lacks sense. (Proverbs 12:11 ESV)
  • In all toil there is profit, but mere talk tends only to poverty. (Proverbs 14:23 ESV)
  • Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys. (Proverbs 18:9 ESV)
  • Also: 19:15, 20:4, 24:33-34, 28:19
Work Ethic is a Big Deal as seen at COCUSA...
We've just started the process of hiring staff for Camp of Champions, and that brings the value of a good work ethic into real life.  A staff member's personal and growing relationship with Jesus Christ is the most important thing we look for when hiring.  After that, I'm tempted to put a good work ethic as the second most important trait.  (And even if it isn't #2, it's in the top 5 at least).  If someone is a hard worker, they'll seek to learn what they don't know and strive to improve on the work they are doing.

Work Ethic is a Big Deal, so how do you grow it? 
Work ethic is important.  The Bible says it, real life shows it and we probably already knew it.

But how do you cultivate a good work ethic in your kids?  How do you encourage it in people who clearly don't have it?

I'm all ears.

Monday, December 12, 2011

BOOR December 2010: The World's Worst Boss

Are you curious to read about who the world's worst boss is?

Seth Godin knows.  And I think he might be spot-on.

All you have to do is go hear and find out.

Note:  I labeled this "Inspire Me" because some days this is exactly what I need to hear to be inspired.

Thursday, December 8, 2011


We all have our own unique language by which we describe the world and our place in it.

Lately I've heard several people describe the same thing with different wording and language.
I don't think the language is the most important thing here.  If we were to bicker over it we might find that we're talking about the same thing anyway.

The deepening of our relationship with Christ and sharing him with others is the most important thing.  (And even that statement has my language and terminology in it.)

Let's all continue to pursue the language Jesus used:
  • And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Inspire Me: With a Vikings Quarterback?!

I am a tortured Minnesota Vikings fan.  Thankfully this post is not about the current NFL season.

The video here is truly inspiring.  It's about the quarterback for the Minnesota Vikings in 1998: Randall Cunningham.  If you're not into football, you can jump to the 4:30 minute mark.  Cunningham's reaction to losing a Championship football game is inspiring.  Even more so is his reaction to his young son's accidental death.  It's worth your 6 minutes or so.

If you can't see the video, click here.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

How I Read It: The Devil's Delusion

A few thoughts after finishing The Devil's Delusion by David Berlinski

Quotable: "It is entirely possible that there may be as many elementary particles as there is funding available to investigate them." p53
"A God looking agreeably like me makes precisely as much sense as an 'indeterminate sea of potentiality' with the additional advantage that He is said to be responsive to prayer." p97
"The 'book of God's word' and the 'book of God's works,' Francis Bacon argued, are not in conflict.  How could they be? They are the same book." p213

The Argument of Atrocities: The book looks at many "regular" arguments that atheists offer against Christianity and religion in general.  The one I most appreciated was in Chapter 2.  Berlinski makes the point that while religion has been responsible for many atrocities throughout history, the last 100 years have plenty enough 'secular' atrocities to go around and nullify the atheist argument.  Men like Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, Mao, and Pol Pot all were living with a worldview that there was no God.  The claim that less religion is going to lead to less war, death, and tragedy is simply false.

Enjoy the Tone: I enjoyed the tone of this book.  Berlinski writes very much "on the attack."  Which is fun to read considering most material from atheists is very brash as well.  Personally I would not use the tone in a conversation with an athiest (or anyone for that matter).  But it is refreshing to hear.  It should also be noted that Berlinski himself is not a Christian, but a "secular Jew".

That all but wraps up my 2011 reading.  I have one more book that I'm reading with the COCUSA staff, so I won't be posting a review until 2012 most likely.  Here's the "final" rankings.

2011 Personal Impact Ranking:
  1. Church Planting Movements by David Garrison
  2. One thing You Can't Do in Heaven by Mark Cahill*
  3. The Divine Commodity by Skye Jethani
  4. Fight Clubs by Jonathan Dodson*
  5. Churchill by Paul Johnson
  6. Humility by CJ Mahaney*
  7. How to Design Cool Stuff by John McWade
  8. Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck*
  9. The Problem of Pain by CS Lewis
  10. Samson and the Pirate Monks by Nate Larkin*
  11. The Devil's Delusion by David Berlinski
  12. Switch by Chip and Dan Heath
  13. Crazy Love by Francis Chan*
  14. It's Better to Build Boys Than Mend Men by S. Truett Cathy*
  15. The Exemplary Husband by Stuart Scott*
*I own these books, let me know if you want to borrow them. I'd love to share.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas Readings

For quite some time I've wanted to put together a Bible reading list to help me personally prepare for Christmas.  I'm posting it here in case anyone wants to follow it as well.

My plan is to read it so that the classic Christmas story falls around Christmas day, but then continue to read more about Jesus the following days.  (Because the story of Jesus didn't end at Christmas!)  At about a chapter a day rate, this reading list is 18 days long.  Note: This isn't an Advent reading as it doesn't follow the advent calendar.  Maybe I'll try to make one of those next year.

Pheaney's Christmas Reading List.
  • December 14: Genesis 2
  • December 15: Genesis 3
  • December 16: Genesis 22
  • December 17: Deuteronomy 18
  • December 18: II Samuel 7
  • December 19: Psalm 16
  • December 20: Isaiah 7
  • December 21: Isaiah 53
  • December 22: Micah 5
  • December 23: Luke 1
  • December 24: Matthew 1
  • December 25: Luke 2
  • December 26: Matthew 2
  • December 27: Luke 9
  • December 28: Luke 23
  • December 29: Luke 24
  • December 30: Acts 2
  • December 31: Acts 3

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

What are you doing reading this?

You should be chowing down on Turkey and watching football.

Blessings to you and yours...

...and seriously, quit surfing the internet and checking your e-mail, you have real people around you!

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Shout Out to Common Cents

I wanted to give a quick word of praise to the program I use for my family finances and budgeting:

 Last year at this time I spent (literally) over 3 months scouring the internet for something I could use.  I'm not sure I have high standards as much as I'm pretty picky.  Here's why I like CommonCents:
  • I don't have a to pay a monthly fee.  There's a one-time cost involved, but then I'm done.  (The $35 is about the cheapest I found for something quality.  Any "free" budgeting software was severely lacking.)
  • It's on my home computer.  I know in our smart-phone age it's "better" to have constant access to everything, but being a little old-school, I like that I can keep the software on my home computer and track everything from there.
  • Envelope budgeting.  It's the bomb.  CommonCents allows nearly unlimited flexibility and number of envelopes.  No other software I researched came close in this area.
  • It looks like a checkbook ledger.  Not as pretty, but it makes sense to me.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Picture This

"My intent is for the reader's imagination, and not merely his or her intellect, to be awakened and nourished..." - Skye Jethani, The Divine Commodity, pg 13 
"If you want to build a ship, don't summon people to buy wood, prepare tools, distribute jobs, and organize the work, rather teach people the yearning for the wide, boundless ocean." - Antoine de Saint-Exupery

If you're a public speaker, paid writer or professional communicator you probably already knew this, but for the rest of us, what if we thought about communicating a little differently?

What if the goal of any communication was to give people a picture?  What if they saw a picture in their minds more than the words on the screen?  What if they caught a vision for the grandiose more than heard our spoken words in their heads?

They need to see it, not merely hear or read about it.  (And the IT doesn't matter here, this applies with whatever you're communicating.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

How I'm Still Using Google Reader to Share What I've Read Online

My apologies for the technical nature of this post.

I consistently use Google Reader to keep track of the blogs and websites that I follow.  One of the best parts of Reader was the ability to Share the good stuff I found online.  Not only was I able to share it with others, but I also used the "Shared Items" to track what I found interesting and helpful so I could come back to them at a later date.  Well Google decided to switch some features, so I had to come up with a new system to 'share' my items.  I'm posting it here in case you were in the same boat.

Here's what I did:
1. I created a new blog with Blogger and creatively titled it "Stuff Pheaney Found Online".
2. In Reader Settings, I enabled the ability to "Send to: Blogger"
3. Now, if I have something in Reader that I want to share with others or keep track of myself I click on 'Send to:' and Choose Blogger from the list that pops up.

It's as simple as that.  The things I find online are set to automatically import to Facebook.  Or you can also use the RSS feed to check out the things I'm finding online. (Or your last option is wait until I re-post one as a "Best Of Online Reading".)

Thursday, November 10, 2011

BOOR November 2010: Killing Time

Alternatively, we can use the time entrusted to us. We can count down the 1,440 minutes in each day and put them to good use. Which will it be? 
Sometimes it helps to put things in perspective: what one thing will you get done today? If nothing else happens, how will you help others while pursuing your own dreams? (These goals are not mutually exclusive.) 
When you find yourself with time to spare, don’t kill it. Respect it.
You can read the original and entire post here.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Building a following

I'm really not qualified to offer this advice, as my blog following is pretty small* by most standards, but here's what I've learned about building a following through my first year of blogging.
  1. Create content.  Even when you don't feel like it.  (And this doesn't just mean writing.  Create whatever type of content you are most inclined to.)
  2. Publish your content.  This is easier than ever in our digital age.  Blogs, podcasts, photo-blogs.  You name it, you can probably find a free web service to publish it.
  3. Create and publish your content with some sort of regularity.  I choose two blog posts a week.  If you're painting the Mona Lisa, you might want to do an update a month.  But decide on something regular and stick with it.
  4. Link it to a social network or two.  I use Facebook.  My friends use Facebook.  I make sure my content makes it to Facebook.
  5. Give people options for following.  Currently you can follow this terrific blog with RSS, via e-mail, on Facebook via my profile, or by stopping by every so often.
  6. Be in on the conversation.  If someone comments on something you created, dialogue it with them.
  7. Repeat steps 1 through 3.  

* Not that you the readers are small.  You rule!  Thanks for all of you who read and dialogue this stuff with me.

Monday, October 31, 2011

My (free) advice to 18-25 year old males

Wake up on time.

Get out of bed.

Find an alarm clock that works for you.  No excuses.

Work on your homework ahead of time.  Cramming for tests and writing papers until 4AM will not translate into good work habits.

Don't be late to stuff.  Show up on time.

If you're late, own it, apologize and get working.

Use a personal planner to track your schedule.  The one on your smart phone or iPod doesn't count unless you actually use it.  (Note: your family's calendar in the kitchen... the one your mom updates... is also no longer sufficient.)

Read your Bible.  Stop pretending you don't have time or you're too busy.  If you can't read your Bible now, you certainly won't have the time to do it in 10 years.

Work hard.  Work well.  Work smart.

This advice is 100% free and comes with no stipulations.  I'm offering a one-day special and giving this advice free to ANYONE, even if your'e not a 18-25 year old male.  It's yours for the taking.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Inspire Me: Start With Why

This video is about 10 minutes long, so you'll need a little time to sit down and watch it.  I also don't agree with everything in it.  But it gets me thinking.  And thinking (for me at least) is one part of being inspired.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Leading Good Discussions

I feel that one of the best ways to teach others is through dialogue: open-ended discussion that allows each person involved to draw their own (hopefully meaningful) conclusion.

I think many of us see the value in good discussions, but are often frustrated on how to get there.

Equally frustrating is when you expect a learning time to be discussion-oriented, but instead there's just one person waxing eloquent on the subject at hand.  Sometimes this happens because they don't know any better.  Other times they truly want to lead a discussion but don't know how.  Either way, help is here.

Pheaney's Discussion Starting 101
  1. Ask questions.  Brilliant I know.
  2. Ask good questions.
    1. Can you answer the question with a Yes or No?  You need a new question.
    2. Is it a rhetorical question?  You need a new question.  (There's nothing wrong with a good rhetorical question in public speaking, but they just don't work in a discussion time.)
  3. Wait for an answer.  Really wait. 
    1. You might not be giving everyone enough time to formulate a response.
    2. Or you might always answer your own questions, which just conditions people to not answer your questions.  (Why should they?  You're going to answer them anyway!)
  4. Rephrase your question if needed.
  5. Just wait longer.
  6. Allow others to ask questions.  And then engage them in those questions.  You want an atmosphere where everyone feels comfortable asking anything.
I'll add to this if I think of anything else.  Do you have anything to add?

Thursday, October 20, 2011

How I Read It: Churchill

A few thoughts after finishing Churchill by Paul Johnson

Quotable: "Churchill's sheer energy and, not least, his ability to switch it off abruptly when not needed were central keys to his life, and especially his wartime leadership." p 114

Inspirational: It has been a long time since I read a biography on a great historical figure.  I forgot how inspirational someone's life can be.  Specifically, the author detailed 10 reasons why Churchill was "the man of the hour" and probably the only person alive at the time who could have saved Great Britian and turned the tide of World War II.  It almost made me want to run for president in 2012, but then I remembered I won't be old enough.  (Maybe 2020?)  In all seriousness, there is a balance here.  I think we can be inspired by a person of history, but still seek the Lord as to our calling today.

Useful: The author offers five lessons from Churchill's life.  They are simple, yet incredibly profound and great advice for anyone.
  1. Aim high.  Even if you don't achieve what you're seeking, you'll still do something worthwhile.
  2. Work hard.  Really hard.  But balance "flat out work with creative and restorative leisure".  Churchill was a master at this.  (See Quotable above.)
  3. Don't allow mistakes to ruin you.  Learn from them and keep going.
  4. Don't hold grudges.  Churchill refused to hold grudges against former political opponents or national enemies.  
  5. Be joyful.  Even in the midst of crazy hardships.
Isn't it great that while those 5 lessons aren't from the Bible, they are all biblical?

2011 Personal Impact Ranking:
  1. Church Planting Movements by David Garrison
  2. One thing You Can't Do in Heaven by Mark Cahill*
  3. The Divine Commodity by Skye Jethani
  4. Fight Clubs by Jonathan Dodson*
  5. Churchill by Paul Johnson
  6. Humility by CJ Mahaney*
  7. How to Design Cool Stuff by John McWade
  8. Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck*
  9. The Problem of Pain by CS Lewis
  10. Samson and the Pirate Monks by Nate Larkin*
  11. Switch by Chip and Dan Heath
  12. Crazy Love by Francis Chan*
  13. It's Better to Build Boys Than Mend Men by S. Truett Cathy*
  14. The Exemplary Husband by Stuart Scott*
*I own these books, let me know if you want to borrow them. I'd love to share.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A short list on disciple-making

What is involved in good disciple-making?

What elements need to be in place to help a group of people be more like Jesus?

Here's my short list:
  • The Bible.  Somehow, someway, we must get people into God's word.  Regularly.  We need Scripture to understand God and His story as well as to see what Jesus was like.
  • Real-ness.  If people aren't willing to talk about what is really going on in their lives, both the joys and the struggles, it will be difficult to get them growing to be more like Jesus in every area of their lives.  (I think most accountability questions are trying to get here, but the questions aren't the goal.  Brutal honesty about where we need to improve to be more like Jesus is the goal.)
  • Outward focus.  A disciple who never thinks of others to invest in or witness to is not a very Jesus-like disciple.
  • Prayer.  Prayer for others and with others.  
Too simple?  Too complicated?  What do you think?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

BOOR October 2010: Deliberately uninformed, relentlessly so [a rant]

Parts of this post from Seth Godin have stuck in my mind throughout the entire past year, so it was fun to revisit these ideas.

Here's where you can find the best thing I read online last October: Deliberately uninformed, relentlessly so [a rant]

And here are a couple good quotes to inspire you to go read the whole thing:
Many people in the United States purchase one or fewer books every year. Many of those people have seen every single episode of American Idol. There is clearly a correlation here. 
Not all books are correct or useful. Not all accepted science is correct. The conventional wisdom might just be wrong. But ignoring all of it because the truth is now fashionably situational and in the eye of the beholder is a lame alternative.
And a thought from me:  It is easier than ever to find out anything about any subject... so why are we still ignorant about so much?

Monday, October 10, 2011

How I Read It: How to Design Cool Stuff

A few thoughts after finishing How to Design Cool Stuff by John McWade.

I don't have my usual headings for this review because this wasn't a book you really read.  This was a book about graphic design so a quote about "shorten the margins a quarter-inch to the left" would not have done much to inspire anyone.

It was however, a good book.  I don't think of myself as having an eye for design but it was basic enough that I could follow along.  It had multiple "Projects" which gave complete template instructions for newsletters, announcements, etc.

Overall, this book was worth my time to read as it got my mind thinking more like a designer, and provided several usable projects and examples.  I'm hanging on to my library copy as a long as I am allowed, referencing it as needed.  If you're in any place where you regularly create any sort of documents, it's worth a quick "read" through.  Enjoy the pictures too!

2011 Personal Impact Ranking:
  1. Church Planting Movements by David Garrison
  2. One thing You Can't Do in Heaven by Mark Cahill*
  3. The Divine Commodity by Skye Jethani
  4. Fight Clubs by Jonathan Dodson*
  5. Humility by CJ Mahaney*
  6. How to Design Cool Stuff by John McWade
  7. Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck*
  8. The Problem of Pain by CS Lewis
  9. Samson and the Pirate Monks by Nate Larkin*
  10. Switch by Chip and Dan Heath
  11. Crazy Love by Francis Chan*
  12. It's Better to Build Boys Than Mend Men by S. Truett Cathy*
  13. The Exemplary Husband by Stuart Scott*
*I own these books, let me know if you want to borrow them. I'd love to share.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Content or Complaining?

Last week I went on vacation with my family.  On our way there it rained for nearly the entire drive, all seven hours of it.  And it wasn't just a light sprinkling rain either.  It was one of those "downpour so thick your windshield wipers have to be on high just to see the car in front of you" type rains.

So naturally, being the driver, I voiced my displeasure at the rain, the blurry roadways and the driving conditions in general.

On the return trip from our vacation it was sunny for the entire drive back.  And it wasn't a nice light sunny with an occasional cloud mixed in.   It was one of those "so consistently bright and sunny your eyes start to hurt" type of sunny days.

So naturally, being the driver, I voiced my displeasure at the sun, the brightness and my hurting eyes.

I wish this was made up.  But it's true.  I can (and do) complain about nearly anything.

What is up with that?

For me it comes down to my attitude.  My gratefulness (or lack thereof) regarding life.  I would love to be able to say: "... I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content." (Philippians 4:11 ESV)  But at this point in my life I can't, or at least I choose not to.

How about you?  How content are you?  

I think the amount you complain serves as a gauge for how content you are.  What's your complain-o-meter saying?

Note: These are some starting thoughts for a sermon I'll be delivering on this subject the Sunday after Thanksgiving (November 27th), 11am at Pekin Bible Church.  I'd love for you to join me there!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Inspire Me: Some numbers to shoot for

"By the year 2003, John was regularly training 3-400 church planters each month. 'You never know who God is going to use,' he smiles, 'so we keep training everybody!'  John's passionate commitment to train everyone is one reason the movement has exploded past his original vision of 200 churches.  Today, the movement is spreading across several districts and shows little sign of slowing. 
In fact, by all indications, the Nandong movement is still building momentum. In the year 2001, 908 churches were started with 12,000 baptized believers.  The following year, the Chens saw 3535 new churches planted with more than 53,430 baptisms. Then in the first 6 months of 2003, the movement had produced 9,320 new churches and 104,542 baptisms. Today John leads 15 deputy trainers in 30 training centers meeting in homes and church buildings as the movement continues to grow."
From Church Planting Movements

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Catch Up Questions to ask nearly everyone

One neat part of my job is meeting up with friends who worked previous summers at COCUSA.  It is encouraging to catch up with them and see how God is still working in their life.  I also have the chance to challenge and encourage them in their pursuit of Christ.

Here's a random list of questions that I've found useful to kick-start conversations:
  • What's new?
  • How is life?
  • How are you and (insert significant other) doing?
    • Is anything new with the relationship?  Where is it going?
  • What are you reading in your Bible?
  • What books are you reading?
  • What are you doing to make disciples?
  • What is God doing in your life?
In addition, I've found it helpful to send a message to the person you're meeting with a day or two in advance, asking them if they have any specific topics or questions they want to cover.

Lastly, I would just encourage you to be someone who asks genuine questions in an attempt to care for others. Twice this fall I received messages from friends telling me I had been a huge spiritual help and encouragement to them.  I think a big part of why they thought that was that I am consistently asking genuine and specific questions of people.

Blessings as you catch-up and encourage friends, both old and new.

Monday, September 26, 2011

What Would Jesus Buy?

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 answer 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

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I'm Writing a Book

No really, I am!

Here's my working title and description.
Partner Like Paul: A [riff/essay/manifesto]* on partnerships, the gospel, and raising money for ministry

How did the Apostle Paul raise money and partner with others? We’re going to look at that and then apply what we find to support-raising scenarios today.

The best part is you don't have to wait until I'm finished to find out.  You can read your Bible now!  (Which is obviously way better than anything I could come up with.)  Here's the working Scripture list I'll be using:
  • Exodus 25:1-2 and 35:4-5 
  • Numbers 18:21-24 
  • Deuteronomy 14:27 and 16:17 
  • I Samuel 9:7-8 
  • I Kings 17 
  • Nehemiah 2:1-8 
  • Matthew 6:1-4 and 10:11-13 
  • Luke 8:1-3, 10:1-12 and 16:10-12 
  • Acts 18:3-5 and 20:33-35 
  • Romans 15:22-29 
  • I Corinthians 16:1-11 
  • II Corinthians 1:16 and 2:17 
  • II Corinthians 8-9 
  • II Corinthians 11:7-11 and 12:13 
  • Galatians 6:6 
  • Philippians 1:3-5 and 4:10-20 
  • I Thessalonians 2:9 
  • II Thessalonians 3:7-9 
  • I Timothy 5:17-18 and 6:17-19 
  • Titus 3:13-14 
  • III John 5-8

*I can't find a word I like here.  Plus this whole thing falls under the BETA category so I might scrap it all before we're through.

Monday, September 19, 2011

How I Read It: The Divine Commodity

A few thoughts after finishing The Divine Commodity by Skye Jethani.

Quotable: "We are very fickle about community. When things are going well, we're eager to jump into the boat and join the fun. But when community requires sacrifice, perseverance and hard work, we can find ourselves on the shore acting like we don't know those crazy people in the boat... We make calculated decisions about which community will offer the most comfortable environment, and our commitment to that group lasts only as long as the comfort endures... This is the tension that exists in a consumer society."

Go without Van Gogh: Skye uses the life and art of Vincent Van Gogh throughout the book.  Each chapter contains a short story about Van Gogh's life and a description of his artwork that is meant to support the overall point of the chapter.  To be honest, he could have done without it.  Maybe it's because I'm not an art-guy, but the Van Gogh references were more of a distraction than a help. 

An Artwork by Itself: Van Gogh aside, the book is a masterful piece of work.  I was skeptical when the intro claimed: "The chapters that follow are impressionist in form. They are comprised of short, seemingly in congruent scenes... with distance and reflection they fuse in the mind's eye to create a discernible theme."  Now that I've finished, I have to admit that Skye totally pulled it off.  With the book finished I'm left thinking a lot clearer about the church, consumerism, and how they collide.

Don't Buy Stuff:  My take away? The same as last Monday's post.  Don't buy stuff.  And don't treat God, the church, and following Christ as a consumable commodity either.

2011 Personal Impact Ranking:
  1. Church Planting Movements by David Garrison
  2. One thing You Can't Do in Heaven by Mark Cahill*
  3. The Divine Commodity by Skye Jethani
  4. Fight Clubs by Jonathan Dodson*
  5. Humility by CJ Mahaney*
  6. Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck*
  7. The Problem of Pain by CS Lewis
  8. Samson and the Pirate Monks by Nate Larkin*
  9. Switch by Chip and Dan Heath
  10. Crazy Love by Francis Chan*
  11. It's Better to Build Boys Than Mend Men by S. Truett Cathy*
  12. The Exemplary Husband by Stuart Scott*
*I own these books, let me know if you want to borrow them. I'd love to share.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

A short riff on disciple-making

Is the term 'disciple-making' becoming a buzzword?

We can give lip service to making disciples like Jesus did, but not actually be doing it.

We get excited talking about making disciples in a Jesus-like way.  We get excited when we hear stories of others doing it.  But there's a little bit of tension.  How do we make it happen?

It WOULD be correct to say that we don't need to have an overloaded life to do ministry like Jesus did.
It would be INcorrect to say that we don't need to make any major changes to how we do life and ministry.

I'm personally feeling the tension between Jesus-like disciple-making and our current western Christianity.

It can be refreshing to hear that we don't need to pack our schedules to make disciples like Jesus did... let's just be sure we aren't hearing we don't have to do anything different.

Call it a rant... but does that make any sense?

(Note: The bulk of this post came from an e-mail exchange I had with a friend.  He liked it enough that I decided to post it. Hope you hate it.)

Monday, September 12, 2011

BOOR September 2010: Don't Buy Stuff

My wife found this post first.  It's simple, yet if you follow the advice, revolutionary.

That’s it.  My title is my post.  Don’t buy stuff…that’s all I have to say.
 When asked what my favorite frugal tip is…Don’t Buy Stuff is the best thing I can come up with.
When you buy stuff, you have to pay for it with money.  And then you have to find a place to put it once you bring it home.  And it won’t stay where you put it because someone will get it out and not put it away.  And then it will get lost.  Or broken.  Or forgotten.
Buy food.  You need to eat.
Splurge on toilet paper.  It’s very useful.
Invest in soap…using soap is good.
But don’t buy stuff.
You’ll save a lot of money.
And…if you didn’t really need it in the first place, you won’t even miss it.  ;)

Link to the original.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Is praying really that tricky?

It's sort of funny what you remember from random sermons a long time ago.  I could not tell you any outlines or major points from all of the sermon's I heard at my college's thrice-a-week chapels.  They just don't stick with you.  But oddly enough, one of the things that continues to stick in my mind from one sermon is the line "now we've gone from saying prayers to truly praying."

(Note: I can't even remember the immediate context, nor the overall topic of this professor's sermon.)

I was reminded of this again recently when visiting a friend's office.  We opened our time in prayer, but he didn't say the usual "Thanks for this time, help us seek you in it, etc." prayers.  My friend truly prayed.  He prayed for random things I knew nothing about, he prayed for me, he prayed for others.

And it was so refreshing.

I'm still working on it, but I'd like to be a person who doesn't just recite prayers.  I'd like to be a person who truly prays.

How about you?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Another Silly Football Contest

Here's your chance to win a book from me again.

Up for grabs?  Church Planting Movements.  Your very own copy... plus bragging rights.

How can you win it?  ESPN's Eliminator Challenge.  All you have to do is correctly predict one NFL game each week.  I would take the time to explain it more to you... but I'm guessing if you like football you'll follow this link and check it out.  And if you don't care for football you won't.  (If you do want an explanation of how the game works, go here.)

The last person standing wins.  Why not give it a try?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Church Gathering Thoughts 1.0

For the last two years my wife and I have been "in charge" of planning and leading the youth ministry at Pekin Bible Church.  I'll confess that with each year my plans get less and less impressive.  But at the same time we fall more and more in love with the youth that we're serving.  And I continue to be amazed by youth workers (both volunteer and paid) as leading a youth ministry involves much more than I originally thought.

So now we're heading into a third year and I'm purposefully not trying to impress anyone (students, parents, other ministry workers) with any amazing plan.  I've shifted my thinking to ask: "How can I make the meeting times I'm in charge of Bible-centered, Bible-emulating and youth-led?"

So here's the plan.  Call it simple if you want, but I already told you it wasn't going to impress.

The goal of this one-page guide is to include elements of fellowship, prayer, and Scripture; all in a way that anyone could replicate after only seeing it once or twice.  Why this focus on simplicity?  Acts shows us an example of explosive growth, led mostly by people who didn't have any training.  No one needed to go to school for four years to lead a ministry, (in fact, these guys did it without asking.)

Let me close by saying: I have no idea if this is going to work, but I think that the potential is well worth the risk.

Monday, August 29, 2011

How I Read It: Church Planting Movements

A few thoughts after finishing Church Planting Movements by David Garrison:

This Book Was Great:  I'm going to cut right to the chase... This book was awesome.  The first half is stories of God working around the world bringing literally millions of people to faith in Christ.  The second half took those present-day examples and found the common factors.  It answered the question: If this is what God is doing, how can we join in?

An Acts Handbook:  As recently as this spring I had been reading Acts and asking myself: What would that look like around me?  How do I personally need to change to be more like this?  What ministry methods do I need to change?
While Scripture is irreplaceable and still holds pre-eminence, I hope it is not too bold to say that this book serves as a present-day 'study guide' to Acts.  It takes the stories and practices from Acts, shows how they are still being used by God in movements of Christianity today, and gives practical advice for how you can see those movements happen where you are.

I'm sold:  Need I say more?  Since reading it, I've put so much thought towards this question: "What's it going to take to see a Church Planting Movement around me? in Pekin Illinois?"  

Who's in?  Who's with me?  I'm looking for a few people who would also want to read this book, dialogue about it, study Scripture, and then put what we learn into practice.  I've already got one, maybe two people who are interested... but I'll throw the invitation out there:  Comment or reply if you want to join me in this 'church planting movement journey.'  (Note: This will involve you buying the book for yourself, so only raise your hand if you're truly in.)

2011 Personal Impact Ranking:
  1. Church Planting Movements by David Garrison
  2. One thing You Can't Do in Heaven by Mark Cahill*
  3. Fight Clubs by Jonathan Dodson*
  4. Humility by CJ Mahaney*
  5. Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck*
  6. The Problem of Pain by CS Lewis
  7. Samson and the Pirate Monks by Nate Larkin*
  8. Switch by Chip and Dan Heath
  9. Crazy Love by Francis Chan*
  10. It's Better to Build Boys Than Mend Men by S. Truett Cathy*
  11. The Exemplary Husband by Stuart Scott*
*I own these books, let me know if you want to borrow them. I'd love to share.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

An Epistle to Summer Staff

Note: I wrote this last year and sent it to many of the COCUSA Summer Staff.  I think it's worth posting here as an exhortation to anyone going through a life or ministry transition.

From Pheaney. To my fellow workers and disciples at Camp of Champions USA. As our summer has come to a close, I felt I needed to both encourage and challenge you.

I am totally impressed and enthralled when I think of the ministry you had this summer. Words cannot begin to describe the impact that you had on the lives of children. And you were changed too! I could see you growing to be more like Jesus throughout the summer. The work of the Holy Spirit in our lives is truly an amazing thing.

If we could put our summer's spiritual growth on a chart I truly think it would look something like the picture to the right. That is awesome! God often uses tough and stressful times to grow our relationship with Him. And I know that once the summer ends I hope that I will continue growing in the same way. (In fact, I expect to grow even more since I have more free time).

Please accept this warning!! Continued spiritual growth in the school year is NOT automatic. More often than not, once the summer ends I’ve seen our spiritual growth (yes me included!) look like this chart:

It’s sad but true, we usually do NOT use our spiritual growth from the summer to help us grow even further. We get complacent and lazy and our relationship with Christ worsens through the school year.

If you accept this warning in any way, you’ll want to avoid spiritual decline. Here’s my personal plan to do so, I hope it can encourage and challenge you.

Scripture (Psalms 119:11) You have been surrounded by God’s word all summer. Through morning devotions, Bible stories, and your own teaching to the campers in Good Morning and Cabin Times. To fight the decline, you’ll need to keep grounded in the word of God. Find a topic or portion of the Bible that excites you and DIG IN!

Service (James 2:14-17) One of the biggest triggers to growing more like Jesus is focusing on others. You have done that with excellence this summer! If you sit in your room playing video games, surfing Facebook, listening to music, etc; then your love for God and passion for serving will shrivel and die. If you want to fight the decline and continue growing more like Christ, you need to find specific areas to serve others. Get up and STAY IN THE GAME!

Friends (Proverbs 17:17) You will need others to fight this potential downward slope. Maybe it is another staff member, maybe a fellow disciple from somewhere else, but you must find someone. Have a conversation with them about where you are at spiritually and how you want to continue growing closer to Christ. If they are in the same place, start meeting regularly to sharpen each other. As one of my friends has said, “God has called you to a personal relationship with him, not a private one.” PARTNER UP!

As a group, you’ll be in my prayers this school year. And please let me know how I can pray for you specifically!

May God’s grace, peace, and power go before you.

Monday, August 22, 2011

How do you choose disciples like Jesus?

I'm in the midst of choosing a couple guy staff to invest in through this school year.  So I'm currently asking myself this question: How do you choose disciples like Jesus did?

A couple obvious but very important answers:
  • Pray.  (Luke 6:12-13)  I could always do more of this.  I'm guessing you could as well.
  • Spend time with them.  Between when Jesus called his first disciples (in John 1) and then specifically chose 12 to be his apostles, (in Luke 6) there was at least a full year that went by.  Now I'm not choosing any personal apostles, but I am choosing to invest more strategically into a couple of guys.  I'm very glad that a summer of ministry at COCUSA lets me have a lot of time with them.
Simple.  Obvious.  But are we doing it?

Another question I'm asking myself is: Who has the most-potential but least-opportunity to be a disciple who makes more disciples?

I realize that is a long worded question, but to break it down:  I'm looking for someone who has the potential to continue disciple-making after I'm gone.  And I specifically want to target someone who might not have the opportunity to receive that sort of mentoring and training anywhere else.

File this post under: Random thoughts on Disciple-making.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Covering the Bible in 6 Stories

I'm hoping to meet with a neighbor this fall to do a Bible study.  I don't know a lot about him, but I'm fairly certain he is not a Christian.  What I would like to do is a quick, story-centered, overview of a Biblical worldview.  Here's what I have so far:
  1. Creation- How it all began: Genesis 1 and 2
  2. The Fall- How it all went wrong: Genesis 3
  3. Jesus is Born- The Savior arrives: Luke 2
  4. A Bunch of Miracles- Jesus proves he is God: Luke 8
  5. Jesus' Death and Resurrection: Luke 23 & 24
  6. The Church Starts: Acts 2
I'd love your feedback!  If we got together and studied these six Bible stories, would they communicate the basics of the Gospel to someone who has never heard it before?  If not, what should be added or taken away?

Monday, August 15, 2011

Birthday Wish


It's my birthday today.

If you could get me one thing it would be this:

Can you find your favorite piece of '' content and share it with a friend?

Here are the top posts since I launched this blog last year:

No obligation... but thanks in advance if you grant my birthday wish!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

BOOR August 2010: 7 Billion Here We Come

From Steve Addison:
It’s 11:55AM Melbourne time on Tuesday August 17, 2010 and the world population clock just keeps ticking over. 
With 267 people born every minute and 108 dying, the world’s population will top 7 billion next year. 
By 2050 the planet will be home to more than 9 billion people. The population of Africa is projected to at least double by mid-century to 2.1 billion. Asia will add an additional 1.3 billion. 
Tell me, does the way you make disciples right now have any chance of keeping up?
Here's a link to the original post.   By the way, the world population clock is still ticking.

Monday, August 8, 2011

What do you really do?

The title I have at Camp of Champions USA is 'Regional Director', but that says almost nothing about what I do each day.  When it really comes down to it, here are some of the specific roles I find myself filling.

Communicator:  I don't think I realized before this summer how much I am in the business of communicating.  I communicate to staff, to parents, to campers and to supporters and donors.  A huge part of what I do is communicate.  I need to do it well.

Set-Up Man:  It is my job to set-up camp to succeed.  This means prepping facilities and activities, planning games and programs, and preparing trainings and teachings.  What I do throughout a season of ministry might only be as helpful as the set-up I've done previous to it.

Leader:  I need to be someone worth following.  Decisions that I make and directions that I give will be more readily received if I've been leading people the whole time.

So what do you really do?  It's worth figuring out.

Because while I have no idea how to improve as a 'Regional Director', I can surely work on improving my communication and leading.  Likewise, if I don't understand or accept my role as a set-up man, I could get frustrated or bored with some of the mundane activities I find myself doing.

Look past your job title.  Seek to improve what you really do.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

What does it look like to 'Equip the Saints'?

"It was he [Jesus] who gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ" - Ephesians 4:11-12, NET

Here's the story.  I've been leading devos on Walking WITH God with the COCUSA staff all summer.  I couldn't quite put my finger on it, but compared to previous summers leading morning devotions, these didn't seem to be going quite as well.

So last week (mostly on a whim) I decided to scrap the devo I had planned.   Instead we brainstormed questions and conversation starters to point our conversations with campers toward spiritual things.  You can read the full story of how it went here, but to sum it up, God used that devo to welcome another child into heaven.

In all of my devos about Walking WITH God I was focused on mainly head knowledge.  Then I broke form and led a discussion about practical ways to point conversations to Jesus... and the results were awesome.

I know there's a balance to be found here, because action without correct head knowledge would get ugly fast.

But at the same time, if your speaking and teaching isn't helping other Christians do the "work of ministry" then you are not equipping the saints.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Paperback Swap is my Friend

Here is a quick plug for

Simply put, you list books that you no longer plan on reading.  After listing 10 books you receive 2 credits, which you can use to request books from other users.  If you request a book, you get it... for free.  If someone requests one of your books, you pay the shipping costs to send it to them, but also receive an additional book credit.

Brittany and I recently started using PBS to get books that we have on our Want To Read lists.  So far it has been pretty effective for us, as we've received three books.  The only cost was sending our books to other users Shipping ended up being about $2.75 a book, which is a price pretty hard to beat even with shopping used bookstores or  The only catch is that you're relying on someone out there having the book, which isn't always the case.

If you want to try it out, here's a link: Swap Books for Free -

Note:  I'm going to be linking all of my Book posts to until further notice.  I previously was using's affiliate links, but that service has been ended for Illinois residents.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

WITH God: Inspire Me

This story is a terrific reminder of God's nearness.  I bolded my favorite lines.
King Nebuchadnezzar had a golden statue made. It was ninety feet tall and nine feet wide. He erected it on the plain of Dura in the province of Babylon.  Then King Nebuchadnezzar sent out a summons to assemble the satraps, prefects, governors, counselors, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the other authorities of the province to attend the dedication of the statue that he had erected. So the satraps, prefects, governors, counselors, treasurers, judges, magistrates, and all the other provincial authorities assembled for the dedication of the statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had erected. They were standing in front of the statue that Nebuchadnezzar had erected.
Then the herald made a loud proclamation: “To you, O peoples, nations, and language groups, the following command is given: When you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, trigon, harp, pipes, and all kinds of music, you must bow down and pay homage to the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar has erected.  Whoever does not bow down and pay homage will immediately be thrown into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire!” Therefore when they all heard the sound of the horn, flute, zither, trigon, harp, pipes, and all kinds of music, all the peoples, nations, and language groups began bowing down and paying homage to the golden statue that King Nebuchadnezzar had erected.
Now at that time certain Chaldeans came forward and brought malicious accusations against the Jews. They said to King Nebuchadnezzar, “O king, live forever! You have issued an edict, O king, that everyone must bow down and pay homage to the golden statue when they hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, trigon, harp, pipes, and all kinds of music. And whoever does not bow down and pay homage must be thrown into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire. But there are Jewish men whom you appointed over the administration of the province of Babylon – Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego – and these men have not shown proper respect to you, O king. They don’t serve your gods and they don’t pay homage to the golden statue that you have erected.”
Then Nebuchadnezzar in a fit of rage demanded that they bring Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego before him. So they brought them before the king. Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you don’t serve my gods and that you don’t pay homage to the golden statue that I erected? Now if you are ready, when you hear the sound of the horn, flute, zither, trigon, harp, pipes, and all kinds of music, you must bow down and pay homage to the statue that I had made. If you don’t pay homage to it, you will immediately be thrown into the midst of the furnace of blazing fire. Now, who is that god who can rescue you from my power?” Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego replied to King Nebuchadnezzar, “We do not need to give you a reply concerning this. If our God whom we are serving exists, he is able to rescue us from the furnace of blazing fire, and he will rescue us, O king, from your power as well. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we don’t serve your gods, and we will not pay homage to the golden statue that you have erected.”
Then Nebuchadnezzar was filled with rage, and his disposition changed toward Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He gave orders to heat the furnace seven times hotter than it was normally heated. He ordered strong soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and to throw them into the furnace of blazing fire. So those men were tied up while still wearing their cloaks, trousers, turbans, and other clothes, and were thrown into the furnace of blazing fire. But since the king’s command was so urgent, and the furnace was so excessively hot, the men who escorted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were killed by the leaping flames. But those three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, fell into the furnace of blazing fire while still securely bound.
Then King Nebuchadnezzar was startled and quickly got up. He said to his ministers, “Wasn’t it three men that we tied up and threw into the fire?” They replied to the king, “For sure, O king.” He answered, “But I see four men, untied and walking around in the midst of the fire! No harm has come to them! And the appearance of the fourth is like that of a god!” Then Nebuchadnezzar approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire. He called out, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the most high God, come out! Come here!”
Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego emerged from the fire. Once the satraps, prefects, governors, and ministers of the king had gathered around, they saw that those men were physically unharmed by the fire. The hair of their heads was not singed, nor were their trousers damaged. Not even the smell of fire was to be found on them! Nebuchadnezzar exclaimed, “Praised be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent forth his angel and has rescued his servants who trusted in him, ignoring the edict of the king and giving up their bodies rather than serve or pay homage to any god other than their God! I hereby decree that any people, nation, or language group that blasphemes the god of Shadrach, Meshach, or Abednego will be dismembered and his home reduced to rubble! For there exists no other god who can deliver in this way.” Then Nebuchadnezzar promoted Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the province of Babylon.
From Daniel 3, NET Version.

Monday, July 25, 2011

BOOR July 2010: It's Not That Bad

Don't worry, you don't have to read much with this Best Of Online Reading!  I found this picture last summer and it's worth sharing again.

It's a little sad that this was the best thing I found online last July... but at least it's funny!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

WITH God: What It Looks Like

On a super practical level, what does a person who walks consistently with God look like?

I asked my summer staff that same question and this is what we came up with:
  • Loving
  • Compassionate
  • Humble
  • Servant
  • Genuine
  • Faithful
  • Devoted
  • Joyful
  • Secure
  • Peaceful
  • Satisfied
  • Evangelistic
  • Thoughts Focused on God

In any regards, walking WITH God is something that can be seen.  Check out 1 Samuel 16:18: One of his attendants replied, “I have seen a son of Jesse in Bethlehem who knows how to play the lyre. He is a brave warrior and is articulate and handsome, for the Lord is with him.”

Can people tell that you are walking with God?  What traits would you add to the above list?

Monday, July 18, 2011

How I Read It: It's Better to Build Boys Than Mend Men

A few thoughts after finishing It's Better to Build Boys Than Mend Men by S. Truett Cathy:

Quotable:  "Every child I know who overcame long odds and grew into a responsible adult can point to an adult who stepped into his or her life as a friend, mentor and guide."

My Title:  I think a better title for this book would have been "S. Truett Cathy's Memories as They Relate to Raising Children."  Maybe not as catchy, but it would have been more accurate.  I was slightly disappointed that there was not more prescriptive advice that fell into the "Build Boys" category.  That being said, there were many practical reminders of how to relate to and lead children...

I'll Be Using This:  And those practical reminders are what I'll be using from this book.  The chapters on Respect, Trust and Generosity, Common Sense, Right Crowd/Wrong Crowd, and Stability will be great for me to review.  I also think some of the material would be good to share with the COCUSA staff at next year's training.

2011 Personal Impact Ranking: 
  1. One thing You Can't Do in Heaven by Mark Cahill*
  2. Fight Clubs by Jonathan Dodson*
  3. Why We Love the Church by Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck*
  4. The Problem of Pain by CS Lewis
  5. Humility by CJ Mahaney*
  6. Switch by Chip and Dan Heath
  7. Samson and the Pirate Monks by Nate Larkin*
  8. Crazy Love by Francis Chan*
  9. It's Better to Build Boys Than Mend Men by S. Truett Cathy
  10. The Exemplary Husband by Stuart Scott

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Relationship Pyramid

Due to some internal COCUSA logistics I'm taking a one week break from the WITH Series.  I think I first did the "Relationship Pyramid" devotional in 2006 (maybe 2007) in a morning devotional at COCUSA.  Every summer since then one of our returning staff members requests that I repeat it.  So here it is in blog form.  (Note:  The original idea came from Chip Ingram and I've slightly adapted and expanded it.)

I know that when I was in high school and college it was really difficult to figure out the whole 'relationship' thing.  I wanted to pursue relationships with the ladies in a Godly way, but I really didn't know how.  I wish I had seen this pyramid previous to my high school and college years, because it really provides a framework for a Christ-centered relationship with the opposite sex.  (Note: If you're goal isn't to have a Christ-centered relationship with the opposite gender, you can stop reading now.)

This is what they pyramid looks like:
Now I'll describe it from the bottom up:
  • Spiritual: Is this person a committed follower of Jesus? We learn in II Corinthians 6:14 and I Kings 11:2 that this is a big deal.
  • Social: Observe the person socially.  Ruth 2 shows an example of this with Ruth and Boaz.  If there's red flags here, stop.
  • Interpersonal: Get to know each other. It's between this step and the next that "best friends" are made.  I don't have a specific scripture passage for this one, but I'm open to ideas?
  • Emotional: Keep your emotions behind God's leading.  Genesis 29:20 is an example of how strong emotional connection can be.
  • Physical: Come together physically. Hebrews 13:4 speaks pretty clearly on the correct timing of this.  If you're already married, Song of Solomon is the book for you.
What's happening in America today is a complete flip of this pyramid.  Physical attraction is the first and most important, and then we move backwards from their.  I'll let our current society stand as condemnation of how flipping the pyramid works.  (Hint: not well!)

Keep in mind, the last two blocks on the pyramid are not bad (they are actually awesome!) but they cannot be the foundation in a Christ-centered relationship.

One last note: Most Christians don't totally flip the pyramid.  What we have tendency to do (and what I did more than once in high school and college) is jumble the layers.  I'm not so shallow to put the physical first, but I'm not so spiritual to keep the emotional from being one of the first layers.

Building pyramids the wrong way doesn't usually work (real ones and relational ones).

So how's your relationship pyramid?

Monday, July 11, 2011

Planning to be Bold

As I said here, I wanted to share some additional thoughts on boldly sharing God's word.

I realize you can have a tendency to overplan these things, but generally for me, no plan means no action.  On multiple occasions I've found myself in a conversation that's going well when I think: "I should talk with this person about Jesus."

But then I don't.  It might just be timidity, and I've been praying and reading Scripture on that.  But in the event that it's also a lack of preparation, here's one plan to be bold.

Step 1: Be around people who need Jesus.  For me this means hanging out with kids and meeting parents while at camp.  Another example is if you're going to a coffee shop, sit in the comfy relaxing chairs instead of at a table.  (There is a much better chance you strike up a conversation with a stranger.)

Step 2: Be a friendly conversation starter.  Talk to people!

Step 3: Attempt to point the conversation somewhere spiritual.  Questions like: Is there anything I can pray about for you?  Is there more to life?  Do you believe in God?  What happens after you die?  What do you believe when it comes to spiritual things?  With camper parents one specific question I'd like to ask is: What do you think about the Bible stories we teach the kids?   (Note: These all might be better prefaced with a: "Can I ask you something?")

Step 4: At that point, really seek to listen to them and find out what they believe.  If the conversation has gone well to that point, most likely you'll have the opportunity to speak specific Gospel truth into their life.

Step 5: Depending on how the conversation ends, have a tract available to give them.

Any additions, subtractions or advice for this plan?