Thursday, September 27, 2012

RePost: Catch Up Questions

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?
  • How can I pray for you?
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 encourage you to be someone who asks genuine questions in an attempt to care for others. Twice last 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.

(Note: This is a re-post/update from last September.)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Right Place/Right Time

Another observation from this past summer at Camp of Champions:

I remember past summers that I would seemingly be in the wrong place at the wrong time.  I would leave one of our camp locations, and then 10 minutes later someone would break their arm.  Or we would have a major discipline issue at camps on the days I wasn't there.

But this summer, I felt like I always was in the right place at the right time.  I'd arrive right as a discipline issue was starting.  Or walk into a building or room at a time when I was most needed (like I literally could not have been needed any more than when I showed up.)  This happened weekly for sure, sometimes more often.

What's up with that?  Is it just fate?  Or God's sovereignty?  Was I just unlucky or outside of His will previous summers?

I'm not sure I have an answer, but it's worth asking the question at least.

How can I be in the right place at the right time all the time?

As Calvin (from Calvin & Hobbes) says: "If the right place is in front of the comic book store, we can just hang out there and wait for the right time to come." 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

BOOR August/September: A Friendly Campaign Reminder

I'll be honest.  I'm not a huge fan of politics.

I do vote.  And I try to do so responsibly (by actually looking into each candidate for every race on my ballot.)  But by and large, the political process as it stands today turns me off.

I appreciated this election reminder from Kevin DeYoung: A Friendly Reminder as Campaign Season Gets into Full Swing.  Here's my favorite quote from his blog post: 

The President is not omnicausal either. When the President is on your team, be honest to admit that not every single good thing in the whole country is because of him. And when the President is on the opposite team, don't make it sound like every failure in society can be traced to his administration. There are 300 million people in this country. America is big. It's complex. None but God can trace the thread of cause of effect for every person. 

If you needed that reminder, you can read the whole article at the link above.

Monday, September 17, 2012

A high and lonely destiny?

We've been reading through the Chronicles of Narnia at our house over the last couple months.  If you haven't ever done so, they are great easy reads.  They weave Biblical truths into a captivating story.  My kids love them.

This quote (said by 'the witch' from The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe) stood out to me recently:

"You must learn, child, that what would be wrong for you or for any of the common people is not wrong in a great Queen such as I.  The weight of the whole world is on our shoulders. We must be freed from all rules. Ours is a high and lonely destiny." (The Magician's Nephew, p 62).

Do we ever have that attitude?  "I'm leading this thing so the rules don't apply to me."  Or at the very least: "I can bend the rules as necessary."  

On the surface, most of us don't struggle with this, but watching our motives and desires can be pretty telling.  May we all seek to live with full integrity.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The benefits of a prayer journal

One thing I was reminded about this was summer was the benefits of a prayer journal.

The mornings getting ready for a day of COCUSA are fairly crazy.  While I nearly always made time for a "quiet time" each morning this past summer, looking back I feel that my prayer time specifically could have been better.  (Duly noting that this side of heaven everyone's prayer times could be better.)

What I found myself falling into was a wandering mind that didn't focus on praying for anybody or anything in particular.  When I did pray for someone I often did not do that with a lot of specifics, but instead just a general "bless this person".   

The first thing I refreshed coming off of the summer was my "prayer journal."  (It's really more of a prayer paper.)  I keep a running list of prayer requests and people on one side, and some specific daily prayers on the other.  I didn't use it as much this summer as I normally do.

Since I've gotten back into it though, I've seen the lift it has been to my prayer life.  I think the benefit comes from having a more specific focus: knowing who I'm going to pray for next and what I'm going to pray about.

I realize that you could still have a wandering mind and not pray specifically for someone with a prayer list, but it has been a big help to me.  In fact, usually my heart and mind are in a much better state to do some "wandering prayers" once I've prayed through my list.  My focus is on God and my heart is more easily turned to others (instead of worrying about my day and problems.)

Take all this for what it's worth, but if you're struggling with your personal prayer time, maybe a journal is worth thinking about?

Monday, September 10, 2012

HIRI: A Resilient Life

A few thoughts and points from A Resilient Life by Gordon MacDonald:

Quotable: "The satisfactions of life go to the man or woman who pursues self-control and who is willing to push the body and mind beyond natural points of resistance." (xvii)
"We are most free when we live under discipline." (151)

What I Liked:  The practicality of the book.  There were numerous chapters that after two paragraphs I had a general feel of the chapter content and thought: "I probably don't need to read this."  Then, after a reading a few more paragraphs of the same chapter, I was hooked.  The content of the chapter was exactly what I needed to hear.  This happened again and again as I read.  Maybe it's writing style, maybe it's just a very practical book, but MacDonald was able to speak into many key areas of life with clarity.

What I Liked II: Resilience. The idea that you should stick with it (life, jobs, sports, etc) even in the hard times.  It's the sticking with it that develops more resilience so you can continue to excel.

What I Liked III: Lingering.  This (Chapter 25) was one of those "I don't need to read this" chapters.  Until I read it, then I realized it was exactly what I needed.  I need to linger more.  At the end of a day or a meeting, I just need to be around and linger with people.  

What I Didn't Like: There were a couple chapters that felt forced.  The content wasn't bad in any way, but maybe slightly out of place for the overall theme of the book.

2012 Personal Impact Ranking:
1. A Resilient Life by Gordon MacDonald
2. Great by Choice by Jim Collins and Morten Hansen
3. Margin by Richard Swenson*
4. Where's God on Monday? by Alistair Mackenzie and Wayne Kirkland*
5. Revolution in World Missions by KP Yohannan*

*I own this book and you're welcome to borrow it.  Just ask.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Ways we should be more like Jackson

Today is my son Jackson's 6th (and golden) birthday.  In honor of his big day, here are a few areas we could all benefit from if we were more like him:

If you have an idea, start working on it.  Jackson always has some crazy idea that he is putting together.  And he is totally confident it is possible.  The other day I came home to him attempting to build a catapult.  I don't know where he got the idea, but he was working at it as hard as he could, and drawing me into his plans at the same time.

Read through the Bible.  This just-turned six year old is on a quest to read through the Bible.  He's got through Genesis and wants to keep going.  How much of the Bible have you read?

Have zeal. defines zeal as "fervor for a person, cause, or object; eager desire or endeavor; enthusiastic diligence; ardor."  When Jackson is into something, he is SO into it.  He could not possibly more into it.  Are you passionate about what you are doing?  Are you passionate about anything?

Monday, September 3, 2012

Blogging Back with a Contest

It's true I'm not participating in fantasy football this year.  But by popular request*, I am going to bring back my annual Eliminator Challenge contest.

How this works:
1) Each week you have to pick one NFL team that will win.  (Just one!  Here are more details.)
2) Whoever has the highest score at the end of the season wins coffee out with me.**

It's good to be back. 

* By "popular request" I mean that one person asked me. 
**  If the winner is female, she gets coffee out with my wife.  If the winner lives out of state, I'll send them a $5 Starbucks card. If the winner doesn't like coffee... we can be flexible.