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.