Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Postcompletion Error...

I found the following post by Mark Batterson to be insightful, and a great challenge to all of us as we stand on the threshold of 2009.

Have you ever
left your gas cap at a gas station after filling up? Or what about leaving your bank card at ATM machine after making a withdrawal? I know. Most cars come equipped with an attached gas cap so you can't forget. And most ATM machines beep when the card is ejected. But that phenomenon of forgetting is something psychologists call a postcompletion error. It is the tendency, after completing a task, to forget the steps that got you there.

I think the postcompletion error is
one of the dangers we face going into a new year. Let me put it this way. I know lots of people who have been Christians for twenty-five years. But they don't have twenty-five years of experience. They have one year of experience repeated twenty-five times. Why? Because God has to re-teach them the same lessons over and over and over again.

What lessons has God taught you this past year? Let's not forget the
old lessons so God can teach us new lessons next year.

I think
a huge part of discipleship is overcoming this postcompletion error. If you've overcome an addiction, don't forget the steps you took. If your marriage has been reconciled, don't forget the steps. If you've experienced success in business, don't forget the steps. Share the steps with others. That's called discipleship.

I don't want to forget how I got here.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Reevaluating The Status Quo...

The content for this post comes from Mark Batterson, with certain edits on my part.

A couple of decades ago, a pair of psychologists named William Samuelson and Richard Zeckhauser discovered a phenomenon they dubbed the "status quo bias." Simply put: most of us have a tendency to keep doing what we've been doing without giving it much thought. And on one level it's harmless. SoHills offers two worship gatherings on Sunday mornings. But most SoHillers attend the same assembly week-in and week-out. And most of SoHillers sit in about the same place. Some are right-side people. Some are left-side people. We've got front people and back people. And there is nothing wrong with that. We are simply creatures of habit. But maintaining the status quo can become detrimental.

For example, a study was done on college professors who were part of a pension plan. And the researchers discovered that the professors picked a plan upon entering the program, and while they had the freedom to change plans based on life circumstances, or market conditions, or even the size of their portfolio... the median numbers of changes in their asset allocation was zero! In other words, most of them picked a plan and forgot about it. They stopped evaluating. By the way, what was even more telling is that many of the married participants who joined the program when they were single still had their mothers listed as their beneficiaries.

Have you have ever been offered a free subscription to a magazine for the first year? Why would we be offered something for free? It's because magazine companies understand the status quo bias. Most of us will forget to cancel. And it's not really that we've forgotten. We're just too lazy to make a simple phone call or write a simple letter. Right? That is human nature. We tend to keep doing what we've been doing. And the problem with that is this: if you keep doing what you've always done you'll keep getting what you've always gotten.

As we get ready to begin a New Year, let's challenge the status quo. I know there is nothing magical about midnight on December 31st. And not everybody has a resolution personality. But all of us need to make changes. Take some time to evaluate your life spiritually, relationally, physically, emotionally, and intellectually. What changes do you need to make? Is there something you need to stop doing or start doing? What do you need to do more or do less?

The only other option is maintaining the status quo.

Monday, December 29, 2008


You've got to love this clip and its message: "Optimism... pass it on."

This video was produced by The Foundation For A Better Life.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

"Saving Christmas"...

"This is the story about a guy named Chris..."

"Saving Christmas" is an original film produced by Buckhead Church, and used in support of their worship gatherings on December 21.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas...

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Christmas Story...

This is an incredible story--told by Brian "Head" Welch, former member of Korn, and produced in a riveting way. This is Kingdom stuff... and it's what Christmas (Christ with us) is all about.

You'll find more stories like this at "I Am Second."

Yule-Tithe Santa...

Elevation Church's finance department got some help from Santa this year.

This puts the "Ouch!" back into Christmas.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Good Dog...

It appears that the District of North Vancouver has a sense of humor.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fight The Urge to Think In Slogans...

The "Made to Stick" brothers, Dan Heath and Chip Heath, deliver great counsel in their latest Fast Company column, "Kill the Slogans Dead," as they encourage us to "fight the urge to think in clever tag lines." Here's my edit of their column:

Everyone likes a slogan.
They're fun. But here's the catch: What happens if you have something really important to say, but when you open your mouth, what pops out is a snappy snippet.

Recently, a task force of top executives at a large technology company was brainstorming about a new leadership initiative. They wanted the company's managers to spend more time developing their people and less on giving orders. To make this happen, the firm would have to change the way those managers were trained and evaluated. Yet, facing these epic changes, the task force felt the need to hammer out a slogan. It was a doozy: "360-Degree Leadership: Because we all matter."

Think about that phrase for a second. These were smart people, each with 20 to 30 years of experience, and this slogan is what they thought they needed.

Oliver Sacks, the famous writer-neurologist, has discussed the plight of patients who get stuck with "earworms," snippets of songs that play, unceasingly, in their heads." Could our sloganeering instinct be a "mouthworm"? Having been pelted by an endless barrage of slogans since birth, perhaps we simply can't imagine an important communication without one?

How do you know if you're inadvertently sloganeering? Here's a take-home test: If you can envision two exclamation points at the end of your idea, it's a slogan. If you can see it on a mug in Comic Sans font, it's a slogan. Toss it and start communicating.

When you have a big idea, make it come alive with a story. Make it real, color in some details, let it be something people can care about. Just don't make it snappy.

Friday, December 19, 2008

What Matters...

I'm a fan of using various media in communicating big ideas. This video communicates big ideas in a clever, but thoughtful, way.

What matters to you?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mary's Reaction...

I got the idea for this post from Beth Nelson, a fellow blogger.

I'm reading the first chapter of Luke this morning looking for something new. I've practically memorized the second chapter of Luke... with the inn, the shepherds, the angels-- but today I'm trying to read the Bible as if for the first time. I'm looking for new thoughts and perspectives... and this morning I'm struck by how Mary responded to Gabriel's news of her pregnancy. Here's how it might have gone down for me if I were Mary:

Me: Great. My parents are going to disown me. I'll have nowhere to live. The people in Nazareth will think Joseph and I have been having sex this whole time. Joseph will think I've cheated on him. I'll never be able to go to the Temple again. In fact, I may not be able to go anywhere since I'll be killed as soon as the first person finds out I'm pregnant. And even if they don't kill me, I'll be ostracized for the rest of my life, living as a wanderer in the mountains. How am I going to feed and care for a baby while I'm living homeless in the mountains? It's not like I could explain this to people - who has ever heard of someone getting pregnant by the Holy Spirit? Who would believe me?

Mary: I'm the most fortunate woman on earth! [Luke 1:48, The Message]

Mary had a perspective that allowed her to immediately see beyond her own anxiety and go straight to the mind of God. Maybe that's where we should be... nestled so close to His heart that fear can't even take hold. Fear doesn't have a chance next to God's overwhelming sovereignty and love.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Art of Reading Aloud...

Reading aloud has always been a passion (and a secret source of pride) for me. I can clearly remember the excitement I felt in elementary school when our teacher announced that we were going to take out our books and do some reading. There were always those fellow students who groaned over this exercise... but I took great delight in the opportunity to bring words off the page by speaking them.

To my elementary school mind there were several "tiers" of readers. There were those the teacher called on as "starters"... these being the students who were not particularly good readers, but who needed the practice. And then there were, in my world of grade school, the "finishers"... the students who had superior reading ability, and who were called on to finish a reading when the "starter" had gone as far as he or she could--or as long as the teacher could stand their halting recitation.

I considered myself a "finisher." In fact, and I'm opening wide the door on my still overweening pride, I thought of myself as one of the classes' premier readers aloud of the written word.

I'm picturing myself moistening my prepubescent lips in anticipation of the teacher calling on me. I'm already starting to get into the part of the reading... readying myself to emote the character's feeling in the words I'll read with capable diction and appropriate inflection.

Sometimes reading aloud involved a passage of text... on other occasions, it meant reading the words of a specific character in a story. As in, the teacher assigning me to read Huck's part in chapter two of Huckleberry Finn. (And which, in addition to bringing the necessary diction and inflection to bear, I added just the right dose of dialect. Did I mention I was a "finisher"?)

So... what's the purpose of this stroll down my literary memory lane? Suffice it to say that I love to read, and that reading aloud has always been a pleasure as well. And "inhabiting" the character whose words I'm reading aloud has also a meaningful part of the experience for me. All of this got me thinking about two additional vignettes with which I'll close.

First, I woke up this morning reflecting on all of the times in my life I have heard myself and others read aloud from the Bible. From Sunday School classes to worship assemblies, I have spent a good portion of my time alongside my church family hearing the Scriptures read aloud. I've personally assigned adolescent boys sections of verses to read, and listened as they read their portion of the text to an assembled throng.

I've heard old men in a church read Scripture (let's say, the Creation account in Genesis 1) and their voices' maturity and timbre allows me to picture God speaking the very words they are reading.

My second reflection has to do with Jesus as a reader. Luke 4 tells us that Jesus is in the Nazareth synagogue on the Sabbath, when he's called on to read from Isaiah. As Jesus begins to read from Isaiah 6, he reads not just with great diction and inflection... but as the One whom the story is about. He is the main character. Jesus embodies and completes that which he is reading.

And all who hear Jesus read were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.

Now that's a "finisher." Amen...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Santa Suit...

A few days ago, SoHills hosted another Jesus Party for mentally challenged adults in our community. An ACU senior and friend, Matt Lambro, continued the proud tradition of putting on the suit that my good friend, Don Davis, wore so well for many years in Atlanta... and Matt became Santa for our group of wide-eyed, and thrilled-to-the-point-of-utter-delight, Jesus Party guests.

I thought of both of my friend, Don, as I watched the events of a few evenings ago unfold... remembering the many wonderful Christmas gatherings we had shared in Atlanta at the Ronald McDonald House, Jesus Parties and youth group Christmas parties.

Most of you have never met Don, but this very non-typical engineer (PhD in Electrical Engineering from Georgia Tech) has done so much through the years to make Christmas a memorable season for me, and many other people... especially the sick and overlooked.

Your legacy lives on, Don... the Santa Suit was worn well!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Being "Deep" Enough...

The following post came from Perry Noble. It made me think.

You are not deep enough.

We've all probably heard this one before… and it used to bother me. Seriously, I have always tried and tried to show people how practical and real the Scriptures are… I prepare like crazy and study a ton… and so when someone used to say this I really took it personally until…

I actually began looking at the type of person who said this.

They were usually someone who was obsessed with information, but cared very little about transformation.

So… I began asking them this question whenever they brought this complaint, "Can you define 'deep' for me?"

What I usually get are blank stares and a lot of stuttering. No one, I mean no one has ever been able to define "deep." So… I realized that I was allowing other people to hold me captive to a standard that they could not even define! Folks, that pretty much makes that argument one you just can't win.

Two things before I leave this one alone…

What many people mean when they say "deep" is actually "confusing." They want me to teach line by line, verse by verse (something Jesus never actually did) and say really obscure things and really big words… and then gloat that they actually understood some of the sermon… and look down on those who didn't.

Our job is not to confuse people…but to preach Jesus Christ, the Gospel… and when presented in its most simple and purest form, God uses it to change lives.

The second thing I noticed about this person is that they usually aren't actively doing anything for Christ. They think the more they know the more like Christ they are becoming. Which actually isn't true at all. No one knows more about Christ than Satan, yet he doesn't follow through on what he knows. So… the person who knows what they should be doing but suppress that by saying they want to go "deeper" and know more aren't actually becoming more like Jesus… but rather they are becoming more like Satan!

We are responsible to teach whatever and however God leads us to teach! And if people aren't satisfied by our "depth" and "wisdom" then we've got to be okay with that; after all, most of us are educated way beyond our level of obedience anyway.

Or… as I once heard someone say, "It's not the parts of the Bible that I don't understand that bother me… it's the parts that I do understand that bother me."

We can spend our lives trying to impress those already in the Kingdom with our knowledge… or by trying to reach those far from God by simply explaining the Gospel. I'm going with the Gospel… every single time!

Friday, December 12, 2008

When There Are No Words...

As we all know, for many people the holidays are a time of great sadness due to the loss of loved ones. I was reminded the other day of the special gift that a good friend of mine, Charlie Walton, has given those who are struggling with grief and loss.

Charlie, who experienced the death of two sons at an early age, wrote a book, When There Are No Words, in which he walks with parent, siblings, friends through the lonely woods of grief and loss.
If you or someone you love is having struggling with grief as Christmas approaches, I'd recommend a reading of Charlie's short, but powerful book.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Don’t Let Squirrels In...

I don’t have anything against squirrels. I think they’re fun to watch as they scurry around my yard, chasing each other, gathering nuts… you know, doing the things squirrels do.

But as sweet and cute as squirrels may seem, heed this warning: "Don’t let squirrels in your house." Let me explain…

A few years ago, Caroline and I walked into our garage. Right away, we both noticed that something was wrong. The brooms and rakes that we had stored in the garage were lying on the floor, and chunks of insulation from the ceiling were all over the place.

Being the really observant person I am, I turned to Caroline and said, “Something weird is going on in our garage!” Caroline pointed to the top of the garage door and replied, “Dad, I think I see the problem.”

And yes, there was the intruder - the cute little squirrel that lived in the big tree on our front lawn had turned into a garage wrecker! This demon in a gray fur suit had knocked over things, and almost chewed through the wood around the windows of our garage door!

I moved Caroline behind me to protect her from this vicious beast. I shook my fist at the squirrel and said, “Get out of here! This garage isn't big enough for the both of us!” I’m sure I saw that squirrel bare his little razor-sharp teeth at me, so I grabbed a broom off the floor and swung it wildly.

The little grey varmint had had enough at that point and he raced out of our garage and up a tree. I followed him outside and yelled, “And don’t come back!”

As I walked back into my garage and surveyed the damage, it hit me… not a falling piece of insulation, but this thought: All of this happened because I wasn't paying attention and closed a squirrel up in my house. The mess and the damage in my garage were a result of my casual carelessness.

Paul warned the Ephesian Christians to “not give the devil a foothold.” (Ephesians 4:27) And I’m thinking they probably all heard those words and nodded their heads in agreement. And a lot of those Christians were probably expecting the devil to come banging on the front door of their lives and they figured to just wave through the window and say, “Sorry, you can’t come in and get a foothold.”

But I’m thinking Satan is too smart, and too evil, to try anything so obvious. He’s going to wait until we get casual and careless about our walk with God, and then - boom, he’s in and he’s got a foothold in our life. And when Satan gets that foothold in our life, all sorts of damage gets done.

So, we can’t allow our walk with Jesus to get sloppy or casual or careless. Every day we must pray for God’s strength, wisdom and protection to guide and shield us from the attacks of the evil one. And if the situation requires it, we've got to turn and run from evil influences (2 Timothy 2:22).

Take it from me… don't let squirrels into your house. And don’t give the devil a foothold in your life.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Reacting, Responding & Initiating...

Seth Godin got me thinking about the following...

Most of spend our days doing one of three things:

* Reacting to external situations

* Responding to external inputs

* Initiating new events or ideas

So, think about your team. Something happens in the outside world. An angry comment, or a disappointed church member, or a flaming email...

Do you react to it? How much of your time is spent reacting to what people say in meetings or emails?

The rest of your day may be spent responding. Responding to a request for proposal. Responding to a form in your in-box. Responding to emails. Responding is gratifying, because you go from having something to do ---> to having something done. There's a pile in a different spot on your desk at the end of the day. You responded to the needs of the team you lead, or you responded to password-change requests, or you responded to the person you report to.

And that's it. You go home having done virtually nothing in the third bucket.

We tend to reserve the third bucket, initiate, for quiet times, good times, down times or desperate times. We wait until the in-box is empty or the next quarter's objectives are due (at which point the initiative is more of a response). It's possible to spend an entire day blogging, and emailing, and on the phone... and never initiate a thing--just respond to what's coming in. It's possible to spend an entire day (actually it's possible to spend a big chunk of your life) doing nothing but responding...

Take a look at your Sent folder. Is it filled with subject lines that start with RE:? What about your blog--does it start conversations or just continue them?

What did your team or church initiate today?

What did you initiate?

Think about the changes you'd have to make (uh oh, initiate) in your day in order to dramatically change the quantity and scale of the initiatives you create.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ten Reasons I Don't Like Most Christians...

Tony Morgan posted the following list recently on his blog. The title alone got my attention, the #1 through #10 made me think... and a couple made me wince.

I'm not a fan of masochistic Christians who feel that self-degradation helps purge us of all that ails us (and there's quite a bit that ails us). I sense that Tony (whom I've never met, but have read for several years what he's written) is not encouraging Christians to collectively poke ourselves in the eye... but to take another one of those challenging and honest looks at ourselves.

Read Tony's ten reasons and see if you think he's being mean-spirited, or painfully insightful... or somewhere in between.

1) They consistently seem angry and bitter and worried. I thought Christians were supposed to reflect joy and kindness and peace.

2) They don’t dream big dreams. That seems odd given the fact that we’re supposedly worshiping a God who is “able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare ask or hope."
3) They seem to worship their theology more than Jesus. For whatever reason, this appears to be especially true for folks that come from a reformed theology.
4) They don’t like it when other people or ministries experience success.
5) They use prayer as an excuse for inaction. They’re waiting for God to do his thing, but they aren’t willing to step out in faith and obedience.
6) They’re more concerned with the BMW next door than the lost person who drives it. Christians hate people with money. They’re willing to sacrifice time and money for those without it, but they’re satisfied to let “rich” people go to Hell.
7) They would rather people live life without Jesus than give up their personal preferences. What happens when your preferred teacher doesn’t teach? What happens when your preferred worship leader doesn’t lead? What happens when you don’t like the music?
8) They are fake. They dress up a certain way on Sunday and they live as completely different people the rest of the week.
9) They think they’re better than other people. That’s why they create rules to follow. It helps differentiate why they are holy while others are not.
10) They’re comfortable with mediocrity. Doesn’t matter where. Think Christian music and movies. Think how we invest our time and money. You don’t seriously think God deserves our best do you?

Monday, December 8, 2008

Being a "Regular"...

Every Monday morning I join the Refresh Creative Planning Team at the Towne Crier for a breakfast meeting. It's not uncommon for me to have one, two... sometimes three additional breakfast meetings at the Towne Crier during a given week. This has been my routine for well over three years, so it’s safe to say I, along with those who are joining me for these various gatherings, have become "regulars" at the Towne Crier.

Here’s why I like being a "regular”:

* Everybody know my name… I know you’re singing the song from Cheers right about now, but it’s really true.

* I’m comfortable. I can relax because I know what to expect.

* I order “my usual” and the wait staff know what “my usual” is for me. (In case you are curious, it’s a bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar on the side, and a Diet Doctor Pepper.)

* I know the other regulars and they know me. We’ve developed our own little community.

So, why does all of the above so much to me?

Belonging. I feel like I belong. I have a place. There are people who know me, and miss me when I’m not there.

It’s amazing how such a need can manifest itself in something as simple as where I eat breakfast.

This challenges me to do what I can do to help the people around me become “regulars”? What can I do to help people feel that they belong? That they contribute? That they are needed? That they are valued?

Being “a regular” gives me a glimpse of the power of community. It’s the unique connection that we share as humans to love, appreciate and encourage one another.

What is it in your life that makes you feel like a "regular”?

Friday, December 5, 2008

Workout Routine...

Don't let this happen to you...

I feel terrible that I find humor in other people's pratfalls.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Learning From Lance...

This intriguing post comes from Jeff Henderson, campus director of the Buckhead church in Atlanta:

With all due respect to Michael Jordan and Michael Phelps, I believe the greatest athlete of our lifetime is Lance Armstrong. For starters, consider this accomplishment of Lance's: seven Tour de France cycling championships.

Of course, Lance's greatest battle came against cancer. And the war he’s waging against the disease is similar to that of an old-time evangelist. Passion. Conviction. A movement-builder.

Now, from what I understand, Lance is not a follower of Jesus. At the same time, I believe there are some lessons we Jesus-followers can learn from what Lance the "evangelist" is doing:

+ Lance is pulling out all the stops. From innovative strategies like the
Livestrong wrist band to utilizing social networking technologies, Lance is getting his message out. Whatever it takes.

+ His movement is focused on building unity against a common enemy. Too often, the church seems to forget who the real enemy is.

+ Lance believes 100% of us are touched in some way by cancer. That creates a sense of urgency. Do we believe that 100% of us will stand before a Holy God someday with eternity at stake? If so, this should create an even greater sense of urgency to get the message of Jesus out to this world.

+ Lance is picking a fight. His movement isn’t some weak, passive, boring request. “Go Ahead. Pick a fight against cancer” is the calling card of his Foundation. Similarly, the church is called to fight. Against injustice. Sin. Poverty. In other words, the Jesus movement isn’t for the faint of heart.

+ Lance isn’t shy about asking for money. He offers people a compelling reason to give and says, in effect, “Step up! Give!” We should inspire people with the vision God has given our churches and then be bold enough to say, “Step up! Give!” (In good or bad economic times.)

Lance may not be your idea of a great role model... but there's no denying that he's a person of passion and conviction.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Old Couch Churchology...

Andy Stanley recently talked about how church traditions can become like an old couch. When you first bought the couch, it was wonderful and just what you needed. Now the same couch, 20 years later, doesn't work for you... but you're holding on to it because it carries with it so much meaning, and so many memories from the past.

Are there any couches in your church that you need to let go of?

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tell Me A Story...

I love stories. I like to tell stories, and I enjoy hearing others' stories. Stories help us make sense of the world.

Listen as people tell stories about themselves. One person tells a tale filled with conflict and struggle. Another presents a quest for excitement. Another offers a narrative of hope.

Encourage people to tell you their stories. Ask them to describe a workday or weekend. Inquire about their family. Find out about their dreams.

"'Tell me a story' still comprises four of the most powerful words in English." - Pat Conroy

Monday, December 1, 2008

Think Differently...

At a recent Catalyst One-Day, Craig Groeschel made some interesting points as he addressed the topic, "Busting Barriers With Mind Shift Changes." While Craig's comments were addressed to an audience of church leaders, I believe all who are seeking God's possibilities for the church will be challenged by what Craig had to say:

Think differently about your church culture.

Don’t say, “Our people won’t __________.” (insert problem). Instead you should say, “We have not led our people to ____________.” (insert problem).

Think differently about the mission.

Are you about the mission, or are you about guarding people’s feelings?

Think differently about limitations.

Most of the time we say, “We can’t because we don’t have _______.” Great leaders see opportunities where others see limitations.

Three Challenges For Church Leaders Who Want To Make A Mind Shift Change

1) Find someone one or two steps ahead of you and learn how they think.
2) Identify one wrong mindset and ask God to renew your mind with truth.
3) Identify one painful decision you’ve been avoiding and commit to making the right decision immediately.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Not Your Average College Sophomore...

Ken Mink is not your average college sophomore. For starters, he took a 52 year-long break after his freshman year. For another, Ken is the only senior citizen on Roane State Community College's (Harriman, Tennessee) men's basketball team.

Watch this video and be amazed. That is, indeed, Ken... a 73-year-old man... playing college basketball!

Go, Ken!

Friday, November 28, 2008

I'm Thankful For Fathers Who Made Us Laugh...

The other day I heard my youngest daughter, Caroline, use this expression in reply to a waitress who asked if she wanted dessert-- "I'm so full if I eat anymore I'll pop!"

That made me laugh.

As soon as I asked myself where she ever heard that expression, I realized she'd learned it from me. She was imitating me, her father, when I'd said the same thing to waitresses who'd asked me if I wanted dessert. And I'd said it in order to make my children laugh.

Later that night I remembered that little expression was something I'd absorbed from my father when he'd responded to similar questions from waitresses. And I realize now that he'd done it to make me and my brother and sister laugh.

Imagine that… a toss-off comic line makes its way decades later from my father to the mouth of my daughter.

My father has been gone for many years, but I glimpse him occasionally in the words of his granddaughters who really only know him through old photos and stories.

I don't believe in ghosts… but I do believe that fathers—even after they die—continue to show up in our lives in literal, physical ways.

It can be as simple as the way we walk, or hold a pencil. For men it can be whether we put our socks on before or after our pants.

Our father's voices can echo in our minds when we hear ourselves utter expressions that we used to find odd, or even smirk at, when our fathers spoke them.

I used to roll my eyes when my father would greet me by saying, "Morning glory, what's your story!" And now I overhear myself saying those very words to my children.

My father could be funny… but he didn't try to be a comedian. He could be as serious as any of the other kids' dads. But one of the secret anxieties that I think we as fathers all struggle with as our kids grow-up is whether our children believe we’re funny.

We fathers know we can be useful to our families… our children need food, clothes, books and help with solving math problems that would stump a rocket scientist.

Now and then children even have questions for fathers that would baffle an Internet search engine. "How do you know if you like someone?" "Do pets go to heaven when they die?"

But fathers also want to know that their children find them fun… that the time they spend together is more than a chore or duty… but something that every now and then can make them laugh.

Who knows where in the world a father's joke and a child's smile might end up one day.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

I Am Thankful..

I am thankful...

For the love of my life, Susan
For my precious daughters, Katie Lea and Caroline
For my "adopted" son, Serge
For friends and extended family
For the grace and love that God shows me every moment of every day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Humorous Turkeys...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Listen Up...

We usually listen at one of four levels:

- We ignore the person

- We pretend to listen

- We selectively listen

- We attentively listen

A fifth and more effective level is empathetic listening. At that level, you strive to fully understand the person's words and feelings.

You listen with your ears and eyes... and with your heart.

Empathetic listeners seek first to understand before trying to be understood. That means putting aside your own views and getting inside the other person's thoughts and words.

Consider practicing empathetic listening with two people today.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Proverbs 7:10-23...

Does God love this woman?

This monologue, based on Proverbs 7:10-23, was used as part of a recent worship gathering at NewSpring Church in Anderson, South Carolina.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Reverse Offering...

I'm pretty excited about yesterday's "reverse offering" that took place at the conclusion of SoHills' Refresh worship gathering. For anyone who's ever muttered, "All the church cares about is my money!"... we turned that rant on its head as we handed out 85 envelopes containing a total of $2,500. (All of which had been given by anonymous benefactors for the purpose of the "reverse offering.")

The ground rules of the "reverse offering" were simple:
1) You couldn't spend the money on yourself.
2) You couldn't just turn around and put the money in the offering plate. (That's way too easy.)
3) You have to share what you did with the money.

In keeping with this morning's theme at Refresh of "every day worship"... the "reverse offering" was a challenge to look for opportunities to bless others as we have been blessed.

As we begin to hear back from the "reverse offering" participants, I'll point you toward their stories.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Manly Man Candles...

Ladies... if you're looking for just the right gift for your guy this Christmas, consider a Mandle-- the manly man candle.

I don't know any man who wouldn't like a Mandle!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Text Me...

According to the people who track such things, the typical U.S. mobile subscriber sends and receives more text messages than telephone calls, according to research released Monday.

During the second quarter of 2008, a typical U.S. mobile subscriber placed or received 204 phone calls each month. In comparison, the average mobile customer sent or received 357 text messages per month — a 450% increase over the number of text messages circulated monthly during the same period in 2006.

U.S. teenagers (ages 13 to 17) had the highest levels of text messaging in 2008, sending and receiving an average of 1,742 text messages per month. In comparison, teens took part in an average of 231 mobile phone calls per month, during the same time period.

I'd welcome your thoughts... just text me.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Eye Spy...

Can you find the cat in this picture?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How To Be Creative...

I was with a friend the other day who said to me, "You are very creative... I wish I could be creative, too." I appreciated their vote of creative confidence in me... so I decided to creatively consider what helps me be creative. Here's the short-list I came up with. I'm sharing it because I'm confident we all have creative capability if we'll open ourselves up to it.

I look closely. Creativity is born out of curiosity.

I observe what's going on around me. Driving a car is a great place to observe. Magazine ads, commercials, television shows and movies... what colors, fonts and music are they using, what's in the background, etc.

I listen. Did you know that you can spell "silent" with the letters in "listen"? When you quiet yourself (traffic, silence, others talking) and just listen... creativity happens.

I ask questions. Good questions get good answers.

I brainstorm. Brainstorming is especially useful in the context of a team.

I read. I read books on esoteric subjects. I read books that stretch me. I read books on history, memoirs, poetry, business, leadership. I have a stack of great children's books I enjoy reading and re-reading. I read the Bible in different translations. (Check out The Voice- New Testament.)

I avoid routine. I take different routes to the places I travel to frequently. I park in different spots, I listen to different radio stations, and sometimes I'll spend days with the radio turned off.

Okay... that's my short-list of creativity kindling. What stokes your creative juices?

Monday, November 17, 2008

The #1 Secret of a Great Blog...

In a recent post, Seth Godin shared his take on the #1 secret of great blogs: Every one of them leads a tribe.

A bit of background... Seth's latest book, Tribes, stakes out this thesis: Everyone is now a leader. The explosion in tribes, groups, and circles of influences means that anyone who wants to make a difference can. Tribes are about faith--about belief in an idea and in a community. And they are grounded in respect and admiration for the leader of the tribe and for the other members as well.

Church of Christ bloggers and Twitterers recognize and read each others' posts. We use the same shorthand, we "get" our faith tradition's idiosyncrasies. (That doesn't mean they don't drive us crazy at times.) Blogging tribes don't try to reach everyone. Instead, they are hosting a digital conversation for guests that have something in common.

Here's some supporting evidence from my SoHills' world: Tammy leads a tribe. Sarah leads a tribe. So does Susan. And so does Stephen. It's not hard to find other examples for Seth's thesis.

In each case, the function of the blog is to be a standard bearer, the north star that tribe members can point to as a place to meet or for ideas to circle around. The blog isn't about the writer, it's about the readers.

The key takeaway is this: Once you realize that your job is to find and connect and lead a tribe, to give them something to talk about and a place to go, it's a lot easier to write a blog that works.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

If Starbucks Did Church...

Have you ever wondered, "What if Starbucks did church like church sometimes does church?" The people at Beyond Relevance created a video to answer that question.

Okay, it's a parable, and a pretty funny one at that... but what insights did you glean after having watched this video?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Wise Counsel...

Here's the number one rule for avoiding alligator attacks by alligators:

Don't swim in bodies of water containing alligators.

Of course, sometimes the thing you want is on the other side of that body of water. If so, don't complain, just swim fast.

It's really pretty simple, isn't it?!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Slow Dance...

Have you ever watched kids
On a merry-go-round?

Or listened to the rain

Slapping on the ground?

Ever followed a butterfly's erratic flight?

Or gazed at the moon in the fading night?

You better slow down.

Don't dance so fast.

Time is short.

The music won't last.

Do you run through each day

On the fly?

When you ask "How are you?"

Do you hear the reply?

When the day is done

Do you lie in your bed

With the next hundred chores

Running through your head?

You'd better slow down

Don't dance so fast.

Time is short.

The music won't last.

Ever told your child,

"We'll do it tomorrow."

And in your haste,

Not see their sorrow?

Ever lost touch,

Let a good friendship die

Cause you never had time

To call and say, "Hi."

You'd better slow down.

Don't dance so fast.

Time is short.

The music won't last.

When you run so fast to get somewhere

You miss half the fun of getting there.

When you worry and hurry through your day,
It is like an unopened gift

thrown away.

Life is not a race.

Do take it slower

Hear the music

Before the song is over.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Confront Reality/Faith To Prevail...

Thomas Nelson president Michael Hyatt had a great post recently in which he drew from Jim Collins' outstanding book, Good to Great. Hyatt suggests that when times are tough, great leaders must do two things simultaneously:

1) Confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they may be.
2) Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.

Collins refers to this approach as “The Stockdale Paradox” and uses the story of Admiral James Stockdale, a prisoner of war for eight years during the Vietnam War, to make his point.

After his release from prison, a reporter asked Admiral Stockdale, “How in the world did you survive eight years in a prisoner of war camp?”

I never lost faith in the end of the story. I never doubted not only that we would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event in my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.

The reporter then asked, “Who didn't make it out?” Admiral Stockdale replied,

Oh, that’s easy, the optimists. They were the ones who said, “We’re going to be out by Christmas.” And Christmas would come and go. Then they’d say, “We’re going to be out by Easter.” And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”

An attribute of great companies and great leaders, suggests Collins, is that they are able to embrace simultaneously the twin truths of their current reality and their ultimate triumph.

As a leader in a local church, I find application of the "Stockdale Principle" to be both intriguing and challenging... as I see churches and their leaders struggle to embrace the twin truths of current reality, and the faith that God is in control.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Taking Jesus To The Cellular Level...

A friend was sharing a personal story with me recently, and in that conversation mentioned that his mobile phone address book was full of people who don’t know Jesus. He wasn’t saying this as a challenge to me, but it was.

You see, I’ve been engaged long enough in my role as a minister and have developed so many relationships with our staff and other ministers/church leaders that my address book is mostly full of people who are believers. I know lots of people who don’t know Jesus, but I’m not engaged deeply enough to have many of them on speed dial, or even in my phone at all. My cell phone's address book is at least one gauge of the importance I place on a relationship.

And practically, having someone’s contact info in my cell phone makes it much easier and much more likely that I would call or text whenever I think about them.

So, if you are like me and could use a little intentionality in this area... here’s my very simple challenge: This week add the names/numbers of two people who don’t know Jesus to your phone, and give them a call/text as you think about them. I’ll be joining you in this, and would love to hear about this goes for you.

Monday, November 10, 2008


The CarrolltonAid web site is now live. I'd appreciate all of you bloggers out there showing CarrolltonAid some blog love!

The Lie of Mediocrity...

Seth Godin posted the following recently in response to what he called "the lie of mediocrity":

Doing 4% less does not get you 4% less.

Doing 4% less may very well get you 95% less.

That's because almost good enough gets you nowhere. The sad lie of mediocrity is the mistaken belief that partial effort yields partial results. In fact, the results are usually totally out of proportion to the incremental effort.

I'm thinking Seth hit the nail of mediocrity on the head. As someone who's striving to live as a follower of Jesus, I'm challenged by the fact that on my best day I'm not very good... but I still want to bring God my best.

What's your take on
settling for "good enough"?

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Staying Connected...

Susan and I attended a wedding at the Paramount last night. A former youth group member from Atlanta was getting married, and the ceremony providing us the opportunity to see several old friends. Neither Susan or I had eaten dinner before the wedding, so we passed on the finger foods at the reception in favor of the more gastronomically robust offerings at Chick-Fil-A.

With our trays in hand, we made our way toward a booth. As I slid into my seat, I glanced at the booth-mates sitting next to us. All three of the young women in the booth were staring intently into their cell phone's display, while typing at a feverish pace. I'm trusting they were not communicating with each other in this way but, comforted by their proximity to each other, were engaged in multiple other conversations with people not found in their booth.

Anne Lamott describes the cell phone as the "adolescents' pacemaker." I'm not sure I'd hang that descriptor just on adolescents.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Mentoring Leaders...

I've been thinking a lot lately about the God-opportunities to be found in mentoring younger leaders. As I met with a young man who aspires to be a leader over breakfast yesterday, we discussed how leadership is encouraged in another person.

After breakfast, I came across the following ideas which do a great job of prov
iding a short-hand summary of the process of mentoring leaders.
  • I do, you watch, we talk.
  • I do, you help, we talk.
  • You do, I help, we talk.
  • You do, I watch, we talk.
  • We both begin to do with someone else.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

"My God" by Jon...

Another great video that takes less than 90 seconds to watch, but will give you much to think about.

How have your life experiences shaped your image of God?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

"My God" by Libby...

Watch this video and hear Libby lovingly describe the way God has revealed Himself to her.

How have you felt the presence of God in the simple, quiet moments of your life?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

"My God" by John...

It will take you less than two minutes to watch this clip, but I'm confident you'll find it time well spent.

How would you describe the awesome nature of God to someone?

Monday, November 3, 2008

"Lord, Save Us From Your Followers"...

The following quotes from Dan Merchant's book, Lord, Save Us from Your Followers, were among many thoughts from this intriguing book that stretched and challenged me:

"Christianity is turning into a bad word with dubious meaning in American society because we don't care how we sound to those who don't agree with us.

"As believers, I think we simply don't know how we sound to others; what's worse, we don't care... because we're right anyway--and to add insult to injury, we won't listen. What if, with all our talking, people aren't actually hearing what we intend? Should the burden be on my lips or their ears?"

"Our tendency is to reduce the Gospel of Jesus to a couple of isolated issues. Our willingness to oversimplify this complex life just so we can be right and win an argument is, as a smart person would say, antithetical to Jesus' teachings.

As a Christ-follower, how would you begin a conversation with someone who's not a believer?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Clever Video Done Well...

This video was produced by the Port City Community Church in Wilmington, North Carolina to promote their Host Team Ministry (similar to SoHills' First Impressions Ministry). This video is both clever and well-done. And you've gotta love the Southern accents!

I'm encouraged when I see churches doing things with excellence.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Kinda Weird...

Is it just me, or is there something substantially unnervingly eerie about this little girl's look in regard to her proximity to the house that's on fire?!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Church Clothes...

I believe one of the great challenges we face as church is "compartmentalization." We have church friends. We have church books. We even have church clothes.

Roll these questions around in your brain: What distinguishes church clothes from our everyday clothes? Do we have some special clothes that bring us favor with God? Does God want us to dress our best on Sundays... and does He then let us dress however we want the rest of the week?

I have a tee-shirt that has the following printed across its front: "These are my church clothes." I consider that tee-shirt to be not only theologically correct... but fashionable.

I grew up in church-world, so I've heard about church clothes for most of my life. When my mom wanted to signal me how to dress for a fancy occasion, she'd say, "Wear your church clothes."

And I knew just what she meant... khaki pants, white shirt, dark blue tie, and black shoes.

And as I think back on those formative experiences, I realize that I was subconsciously learning how to compartmentalize my life. It went something like this:

Church clothes = Sundays.
Regular clothes = Mondays through Saturdays.
God's Vann = Sundays.
Regular Vann = Mondays through Saturdays.

One of the many lessons God is graciously teaching me at this point in my life is to strive for continuity in my relationship with Him. He's tutoring me to strive for consistent beliefs and actions no matter what life situation I'm in.

Another way I look at it is simply: God is calling you and me to live lives of integrity.

So... what are the challenges you face in living a non-compartmentalized life?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Family's Life-Long Commitment...

I've not had the pleasure of officially meeting the University of Georgia's football coach, Mark Richt, or his wife, Katharyn, (however, Susan and I did encounter them in a coffee shop in Hartwell, Georgia, this summer). But these two people, along with the rest of their family, bring an example not often associated with big-time college sports. Watch this video and be prepared to be inspired.

It's encouraging to see a family blessed with fame and resources using both in such God-honoring ways.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Cardboard Testimonies...

At SoHills' Refresh worship gathering on October 26, God was moving in a might way. Through the use of "cardboard testimonies," we celebrated our Father's redemptive power and His overwhelming grace. Here's a sample of the powerful way in which God's ability to heal wounded lives was proclaimed.

Special thanks to the talented team of Mitchell McLean and Stephen Corbett for their work in shooting and editing this clip.

Evangelism & the Bubble...

It seems to me that many of us today who call ourselves Christ-followers are living in what's been described as the Christian "bubble." We go to the church building on Sunday, Bible study on Tuesday morning, back at the church building on Wednesday, and Friday fellowship night. Most of our friends are from church, and all of them are Christians.

If that's true of many Christians, what about those who work in church world? For most of us our life, passion and calling is church. It's very easy for those of us who work at churches, Christian schools, para-church organizations to live our lives in the bubble... rarely stepping out. Trust me... this is an occupational hazard for vocational minister-types like me.

How does evangelism fit into this picture? If we're all in the Christian bubble, who's out there sharing with the rest of America?

Okay... just between you and me, how and where do you evangelize?

Monday, October 27, 2008

The Oddness of Pews...

Yesterday at SoHills' Refresh worship gathering, our talented worship leader, Sam Souder, had what I thought was an inspired idea. As we were concluding Refresh, Sam asked those of us in the front half of the auditorium to stand and face those in the back half of the room... and we sang "How Great Is Our God." At the end of what had been a morning where God had moved in a mighty way during Refresh, it was a cool way to conclude.

And it got me to thinking... about how encouraging it was to see each others' faces as we sang praise to our God. It also got me thinking about that piece of furniture that keeps us looking at the back of each others' heads: pews.
So I decided to do some research on where pews came from.

Those who study such things tell us the church did not use pews for over 1,000 years. The first-century church met in homes, so the feeling was family—a community looking at one another and interacting with one another. The first formal church building was built in the post-300 AD time period and modeled after the Roman Basilica, and in these buildings people stood the whole time. There were no seats at all. So standing allowed interacting and the freedom to walk around. In the 13th century there were backless benches made of stone placed against walls. They were arranged in a semi-circle around the meeting room, and then eventually fixed to the floor.

In the 14th century pews, as we know them, were introduced... but pews did not become popular until the 15th century. Remember, in this time period the Reformation was happening and the pulpit was introduced as the focal point of church architecture. So pews became the place where people took their seat to focus on the pulpit and the sermon. People didn't have Bibles of their own... they didn't read for the most part... so church buildings had rows of seats for people to sit and listen to someone talk.

How we sit when we gather reflects what we believe is important in worship. The early church met in homes, it was communal... looking at each other in small rooms, discussing and teaching Scripture, praying for one another and eating a meal together. You could walk around, engage in dialogue.

Then the church moved into buildings where the communion table was the focal point, and we stood, moved around the room, interacted. Later we moved into buildings where the pews caused people to sit in stationary positions, not looking at each other, but looking at the pulpit and all facing the same direction. This drastically changed the culture and climate of how people view the church and worship. It became more of a sit/watch/listen meeting, rather than an interactive, community gathering.

It seems like an odd thing to invite someone into our church family, only to bring them into a room and have them sit for over an hour on benches looking at the back of heads staring at the front of the room. I wouldn't invite you into my home and seat you this way. I'm having a hard time trying to imagine Jesus and his disciples sharing the Last Supper meal while sitting in rows of pews.

Well, there you have it--a glimpse into my brain as I ponder the oddness of pews.

So... where do you stand, or sit, on the subject of pews?

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Kung Fu Fighting...

This clip combines all of the elements of a classic martial arts film in one great scene.

- Action
- Tight editing
- German language
- Ninja guy in a wheelchair

Okay... now was that incredible, or what?!