Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween's Surprise

I find it ironic, or at least deserving, that Halloween merchandise is now being pushed off the shelves for Christmas merchandise, weeks before Halloween actually occurs.  While walking through my friendly neighborhood big box store more than a week before Halloween, I noticed that all of the Halloween items were on clearance.  Already! With a week to go.

Halloween, to me at least, was the first holiday outside of Christmas to become overrun with consumerism.  When I was a kid, a few people decorated their porch, and all with homemade items when they did.  Today, people spend hundreds, or even thousands of dollars to decorate their whole front yard for Halloween.  (I'm guessing the same trend happened years before my time with Christmas, I'm just too young to remember it and now we just accept or even expect most houses will have elaborate Christmas decorations.)

But unbeknownst to Halloween, even while it was making it's consumeristic grab, commercial Christmas was planning on striking back.  It's as if commercial Christmas was saying: "Sure Halloween, bring out your items in August, I'll just bring out the Christmas junk come out in early October."

I don't see any end to this silliness.  I'm guessing that soon you'll see Valentine's Day items in late December, maybe even before Christmas, as V-day seems to be the next holiday targeted to make money.  It will probably stop when we (as a society) stop wasting our wealth on things we don't need.

At least we Illinoisans can still celebrate Casimir Pulaski day without having to buy anything.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Shepherding a Child's Heart

One of the best parenting helps my wife and I have found (outside of the Bible) is the book Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp.  We regularly come back to it when we're going through "tough-spots" in raising our boys.

Nothing to sell here.  You'll have to find a copy yourself.  And I don't know Tedd Tripp.  But this is one of the best books written on parenting, so if you're a parent, you should read it.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

9 (Marriage) Things

I was recently blessed to celebrate my 9th wedding anniversary.  Here are 9 things my wife and I have found helpful to our marriage:
  • Keep dating. We aim to go on one date a month and stick with it despite busy schedules or anything else.
  • Serve each other.  What can you do today to help your spouse?  What can you do right now?
  • Have an anniversary date that's a little more special.  An overnight trip is great if it is possible for you, but at the very least do something extra-special.
  • Make short "thinking of you" phone calls or leave mushy notes.  Guys: If the note would embarrass your junior-high self, you're probably on the right track.
  • Read God's word together.  We started doing this more recently and it has been great.  Instead of each of us having our own "personal" devotion time, we decide together what we're going to read and then discuss it.
  • Work in the kitchen together.
  • Spend daily time together.  Our relationship is a lot better when we carve out 30 minutes a night to connect and talk.  We chat about anything, nothing in particular and everything in between.  Quality time is found in quantity time.
  • Ask each other for prayer requests.  My wife does a great job of remembering this one.  When's the last time you asked: "How can I pray for you?"
  • Laugh together.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Eat Less Sugar

Now I'm really meddling.

I know people say you should avoid religion and politics in conversation, but I think "eating habits" might be even more controversial.  Tell me my favorite political candidate is bunk, and I maybe expected someone to disagree with me.  Tell me I'm eating poorly... Hey now, that's personal!

All I want to do with this post is to simply offer you a challenge:  Starting today, eat half as much sugar as you normally did previously.  Cut the number of sweet things you consume in half, and unless you're on vacation, round down.

After 3 weeks, if you don't feel better, eat whatever sugar you want.  If you do feel better, cut your sugar intake in half again.

I can tell a noticeable difference in "how I feel" when I have less sugar (or more sugar.)  Maybe the same will be true for you.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Is this your life work?

I've been reminded of these thoughts recently so I'm reposting this from a couple of years ago.

"Is this your life work?"

I remember my late grandmother asking me this question about my job after I had worked just a few months full-time at Camp of Champions.  I don't remember the actual response I gave her, but I remember internally thinking:


It seemed like a bit much to commit to my first full-time job as my "life work", especially since I hadn't even been at it for a whole year.

If she asked me that question today I think I would answer differently.  I think I would say:

"Yes, what I'm doing right now is my life work.  I'm all in.  I want to do the best possible job I can.  I can't see myself doing anything else."
You'd be missing the point of this post if you thought this was about Camp of Champions. 
What changed for me is not my attitude toward my present place of employment, but my attitude toward life and work in general.

What's the point of doing something (anything!) if it's not your life work?  I may not be doing this job forever, but for as long as I am, it's my life work.

Someday God may call me to a new position, a new place of employment or a new life setting.  When that time comes, I truly want to say: "This is my life work. I'm all in.  I want to do the best possible job I can.  I can't see myself doing anything else."

How about you?  Is this your life work?

If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’ – Martin Luther King, Jr.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Book Review: Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus

A few thoughts and points from Sitting at the Feet of Rabbit Jesus by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg.

Quotable: "While the Gospels record many instances of Jesus instantly healing people's illnesses, we know of not even one instance in which he simply waved his hand to immediately fix an ugly habit for one of his disciples.  Instead, he simply kept teaching and correcting them, giving them time to grow." p56
"Unlike other gods, Israel's God was not confined to a geographic location, not even to the temple in Jerusalem. Instead of showing reverence for a certain place, the Jewish people have been able, through Sabbaths and other holy days, to sanctify time itself." p124

What I Liked: This was a great overview of some of the basics of Jesus' day to day life and practice.  I love the pictures and facts that the authors brought out that can illuminate the Bible as you read the stories of Jesus.  Jesus was (is?) a Jewish Rabbi, which has implications on how he did things and why he did them.  How Jesus did things has implications on how we should point people to Jesus and disciple them to be like him.  This book is a great primer on that subject for anyone to read.

What I Didn't Like: Despite the application questions at the end of each chapter, I didn't feel there was a lot of actual application I could take away and do.  It was more of an informational book than I expected.  Good information to be sure, but still just that.

2013 Personal Impact Ranking: 
  1. T4T by Steve Smith
  2. What Jesus Started by Steve Addison*
  3. What Did You Expect? by Paul David Tripp*
  4. Stop Stealing Dreams by Seth Godin*
  5. How and When to Tell Your Kids about Sex by Stan and Brenna Jones*
  6. Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus by Ann Spangler and Lois Tverberg*
*I own this one and you'd be welcome to borrow it.

Thursday, October 10, 2013


Twice in the last year I've had a call coming into my phone.  Right as I am answering, the call goes dead.  That's no problem, except that when I call back, the two different people who were calling me both have the same response:

"Sorry, I had a call coming in on the other line."

Really?  I realize that I personally feel belittled, so maybe that's a reason for the rant.  But you called me.  You initiated the call.

If you can't use technology and care for people along the way... throw it out.
If you have to pick up the next call no matter what, I think it's time to go without a cell phone.
If you can't prioritize the person you decided to call, then who can you prioritize?

Monday, October 7, 2013

A little balance to the parenting discussion

Before you get caught up in a worrisome "I have to do all the right things as a parent" attitude, remember:

Parenting isn't as much about what you do as it is about how you live.

You can quote me on that.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Parenting with the Bible

The Bible is legitimately the biggest help to my wife and I as we seek to parent our boys well.  What does that look like?

1) The Bible for you, the parent.  Get into God's word regularly.  This sets an example to your kids and just as importantly refines you.  Specifically, taking time each year to review God's specific instructions about parenting is super helpful and encouraging.  For a list of those passages, check out this blog I posted awhile ago.

2) The Bible for your kids.  How do you get your kids into God's word?  Here are some things we've found helpful:
  • We love quality children's Bibles.  The Jesus Storybook Bible and Read and Learn Bible are two good ones.  Decent pictures and good versions of the stories are great for keeping kids attention.
  • Get them there own copy of the Bible as soon as they can read.  Our older boys have a "treasure chest" cover Bible and a Camo cover Bible (It can be hard to find when it's lost in the house, but very cool).
  • Short kid-friendly devotionals can be a big help.  Our boys have really been into Keys for Kids.  While I wouldn't make Keys for Kids the center of a theological course, they have helped our kids get into a regular rhythm of reading the Bible.
  • Lastly, our latest find is video versions of the Bible.  We've been watching through the Gospel of John every night, doing about half a chapter a night.  Our kids are screen junkies (mainly because we limit their media intake throughout the day) so they have been glued to it.  I realize some video versions of the Bible can be cheesy or lame, but the Gospel of John is one that is very well done and we are all into watching it.  My wife and I end up chatting about what we watched every night after our boys are in bed.  (Side note: as a parent, it's your responsibility to know about anything you show your kids.  I'd recommend previewing the crucifixion scenes. Based on our kids ages we opted not to show them Jesus' death until they are older.)