Monday, January 28, 2013

do you hate your job? what about the people who work for you?

this is basically part 3 of me writing about our JOBS and how most people hate theirs, or at least don't love them. you can read parts 1 & 2 HERE & HERE.

but this post is more focused on leaders. maybe as a leader you love your job, but what about the people you lead? 
because as a leader you have a HUGE impact on whether or not the peeps you lead LOVE or HATE their job.

in fact, based on the 3 factors i talked about in Part 2 -- it pretty much all rises & falls on the leader. (as most things do) 

back when i originally wrote this (5 years ago, remember) Crystal was a nurse (& still is), but she hated it. she liked being a nurse, but she hated her job.
[just for clarity, she LOVES her current position - which allows her to be a stay at home mom & deliver babies every once in a while :) ]

the reason she used to hate her job was ALL ABOUT bad leadership. i started to listen to her frustrations about work and ask Questions... and it didn't take me long to realize that Crystal had an incredibly bad leader/manager in place.  
& i was also convinced that, UNFORTUNATELY, her job couldn't really get much better until her leader got better (or stopped being the leader).

to my knowledge, her leader never once praised or celebrated the employees/nurses!
i even asked her to think back in all her years to remember even 1 time where that happened - and she couldn't.
also, no "wins" were ever celebrated. i.e. - the leader never took time to celebrate things like "hey, we saved a baby's life today!" or "good job - without you guys doing an awesome job, this wouldn't have happened."

WHAT!? - i'm sitting there thinking that nursing has got to be one of the easiest professions in the world to do that with. i mean, you're basically in the life saving business! & this was in the NICU (neo-natal ICU)... so if there was a success it was usually a baby's life saved... or giving parents a few more days to spend with their newborn.
that is worth celebrating.
actually, i would say that is too important to NOT celebrate.

but never 1 time did the leader pull the nurses aside and say:
"great job, we saved a life today. there is a baby who is going to grow up into an adult because of YOU and the great job you did. These parents are going to watch their son grow up and graduate because of you. This dad will get to walk his daughter down the aisle one day because of what you did."

who doesn't need to hear that? who wouldn't be MOTIVATED by that. i mean, i'll put up with A LOT of crap at my job as long as i could hear that every once in a while. you know what i'm sayin?

but never once. are you kidding me?
people need to feel like what they're doing is RELEVANT. like it MATTERS. that what they're busting their butt to do for a paycheck is also MAKING A DIFFERENCE.

i remember feeling CONFIDENT that i could walk in day 1 and be a better leader than that manager at the hospital. that's not me being cocky. it's just basic leadership 101 stuff she was doing the opposite of. i don't know the 1st thing about nursing, but i felt like i could at least help those nurses be BETTER nurses and LOVE their jobs.
seriously, there's no reason a freaking nurse shouldn't love her job.

i can't explain how bummed i was for my wife. i felt trapped for her.
thankfully, Crystal moved to a slightly different unit and had a different leader that was a lot better. the years before Keira was born she LOVED her job (you know, most days). she enjoys it now when she gets to go back.
believe it or not, that crappy leader was PROMOTED. go figure.

*if you're a leader - do the people working for you love their job or is it just a paycheck?
as a leader, there is no feeling more sickening to my stomach than to imagine that people i lead don't love what they do. i want to work hard to keep the job misery triangle far away.

leaders, it may be as simple as ensuring your peeps experience the opposites of anonymity, irrelevance, & immeasurement.

Anonymity - do the people you lead feel KNOWN by you? most people working jobs they don't love feel like the boss has no idea who they actually are. sure the boss knows their name, but that's about it. how about as leaders we care about the peeps we lead. if i don't care about the people i lead, i shouldn't be a leader.

Irrelevance - MAKE SURE people don't feel what they're doing is irrelevant. & not relevance related to the bottom line for the company either... if people don't feel like they matter, of course they're going to hate working for you.
so, what MATTERS to them? i guess you have to KNOW them before you can know that. & again, if you don't... maybe you shouldn't (spelled "c-a-n-n-o-t") be their leader.

Immeasurement - ever told them they're doing a good job or bad job? how would they know? have you told them how they can know?

leadership is not really rocket science.

i feel like there are no such thing as good jobs and bad jobs. that's a myth. there are fulfilling jobs & there are miserable jobs.
choose wisely.
& if you're a leader, LEAD BETTER!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

up in the air - to kenya (repost)

This is a repost from September 16, 2010. as i wrote HERE, i'll be looking back at some of the posts i wrote while Crystal and i were in Kenya during that time...

yep, we're flying to Kenya right now. who knows exactly where we are as you read this?
we're probably sleeping after popping an ambien.

Crystal and i are so stoked. welcome to day 1 of this online journal of our trip. hope you enjoy and i hope it doesn't bore you.

Crystal and i prayed together last night. it was beautiful, just sitting on our bed for the last time for a month. we cried a little together (we're so emotional). i told her how proud i was of her to have so much courage to go on this journey & to trust God in this huge way.

just for a short moment, here is a transparent and raw peek into my soul -> later last night i went upstairs and prayed this:

God, Crystal and i have been asking you to keep us safe... but we know safety is just a myth. help us make wise decisions in a foreign place, but we know that ultimately our safety is up to You.
USE US however You can to bless people, love people, help people, change people, and open their eyes to Your glory.
& God, change us. change our hearts and make them beat just like Yours! no matter what it costs us. even our lives. when i sit at this desk a month from now don't let me be the same person. when i kiss my wife in this house 1 month from now, don't let us be the same. Make our hearts just like Yours. Show us how we fit in Your amazing Mission to show the world Your love and renown. 
Amen.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

unexpected christmas store

at Ridge Church we chose to partner with a Title 1 school in our "neighborhood." our goal is to make a profound difference and to be a blessing to the teachers, staff, children, and families of the school.
we've been blessed like crazy, so we want to take those blessings and be a blessing to the people at Piney Grove Elementary School. 81% of the children live below poverty level.

one of the coolest/funnest things we do is this "unexpected Christmas store" where we specifically heap the blessings onto about 10 or so of the families at Piney Grove. crazy awesome.
maybe at some point i'll share a personal story of the family Crystal and i were able to bless and hang out with that day.

for now i'll leave you with some thoughts from my friend Spanky's blog. he's the organizer of the whole "store" anyway and after his words is a pretty cool video that i think will be worth your time!


from spanky:
One of the highlights for us throughout the year is an event we do for multiple needy families at Piney Grove Elementary called the Christmas Store. It is our version of blessing families with the necessities and wants during the Christmas holiday with the purpose of bringing hope into their hearts and homes. This year we were able to help some struggling families and single moms in bigger ways than we would have even planned: power bills were taken care of, a single mom's gas was turned back on so so her 4 children could take showers and have heat, cars that were not running are now working well, and eviction notices have been stopped. A pinnacle for me was when I recieved a call from a struggling single mom that attended our Christmas store. She shared how she wants to teach her children more about Jesus and what we believe because they have never known church people that cared so much like we did. She said that her children are asking questions about us and Ridge Church because, "there is something special about those people that helped us out. Why would they do this for us when we don't even go to their church?"

For Lara and I we found ourselves most proud when we heard a mom talk about how amazing all of this is and that this is just what people at Piney Grove have come to expect from us and Ridge Church.  All of the time, energy, effort, planning, prayer, and sacrifice we have put into this project is starting to show some lasting fruit, and it is good fruit! Take moment to watch for yourselves what a few families said in their own words. Christmas Store 2012


Unexpected Christmas Store from Ridge Church on Vimeo.

Friday, January 25, 2013

"our direction is more important than our pace"

i originally wrote and posted this on September 4, 2010.

i accidentally came across that quote just now where i had written it years ago.


"Our direction is more important than our pace."
Chris Brown, my pastor, said that almost 3 years ago in a staff meeting and i remember it affecting me so i stopped and wrote it down (on my computer. if i don't write stuff on my computer, or now my iPhone, i may as well not even write it down). [Chris says a lot of smart stuff like that, btw.)
i remember that statement was very freeing for me at that time. i'm sure i was running at a very unsustainable pace, and that breathed life into me. Chris said it about us as an organization - Ridge Church - but i think it can apply to all of us in so many ways.
i think at that time it encouraged me to just slow down a little bit, but make sure i kept focusing on moving in the right direction.
Now, i'm wondering if i really even believe that statement any more.
sure, i believe it's true like all of us believe ("mentally assent") to a lot of things. but if i REALLY believed it, i would live it.
See, i stumbled on this quote after i spent several hours knocking stuff out for my job at Ridge Church & then ran out the door to be able to mow the grass at the perfect time (when the temperature is just right) WHILE learning Swahili on my iPhone.
Then i came inside and was rushing to get some more work done when i saw that quote. (& even as i'm taking a minute to write this blog i'm listening to a podcast, texting 2 people, talking to my wife on the phone and sending emails! ridiculous.)
my problem is that i don't know if i truly believe that anymore. again, i believe it in a "it's better for me if i don't eat this greasy bacon cheeseburger" kind of way... but i don't live it which means i don't really believe it. (like i wrote about HERE.)
i think the problem is i'm just not satisfied with moving slow anymore. the most important thing is still moving in the right direction, but my patience might be up. i need to be "there" by now. it feels like i'm no longer satisfied to just be taking steps in the right direction. i need the steps to be bigger and faster.
that's just what i'm thinking on tonight. 
what do you think about all that? do you think our direction is more important than our pace. of course you do... but do you ever struggle with that?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

do you hate your job? (part 2)

i started this conversation in yesterday's post which you can read HERE.

and i kind of hinted then that i think work is WAY UNDER FOCUSED on in our culture. let me explain (because in some ways it's OVER focused on in that many people find their identity and worth in what they "do for a living." i mean something very different.)

work is under focused on in the sense that people don't talk a lot about finding a job you love/doing work you LOVE and that satisfies. in relation to how much time in our lives we actually spend at work, it is under focused on.
it seems to me that people think like this:
life is all about having fun & enjoying it.
in order to do that i need to make some money.
so i need a job to make a lot of money.
so that i can enjoy life.

BUT the 2 don't mix. it's like 2 separate worlds for most people. i.e. most people seem to RESIGN themselves to the idea that 40-50 hours of their week is going to SUCK. it's gonna be boring and awful and they're simply ENDURING that job in order to enjoy life the other 72 waking hours of the weeks of our lives.

that seems like a HORRIBLE deal to me.

half of our lives almost spent at a job we hate?
OR at a job that is just paying the bills. at a job we don't LOVE.

no way. life is TOO SHORT for that garbage.

Patrick Lencioni says there are 3 signs of a miserable job. i think he even wrote a book (one of his leadership fables) with that very title.
he says the 3 signs of a miserable job are:

and so i think we can flip his little triangle and the OPPOSITES make for a satisfying and fulfilling job. because i believe people deserve to love their jobs. and it seems that these 3 things are what it takes to make that happen.

1  Relevance - if what you do feels RELEVANT... like it actually matters. if it's making a difference then we obviously like that. we'll keep pushing hard at a job that is relevant and making a difference. if you don't know that you're making a difference at your job then your job probably sucks.

2  Measurable - if i can't measure for myself when i'm doing a good job i'll get really frustrated. if no one tells me what measures i'm aiming for and whether or not i'm measuring up then i'll be really frustrated. someone just needs to "clarify the win" and that solves a LOT of job misery issues.

3  Community/Known - all people have a need to be known. in all areas of life. you can't do 40 hours a week at a job without community. lots of peoples' bosses don't even know who they are or anything about them. or the relationship is all work & a dichotomy that doesn't touch the rest of life.

this is getting long again so i'll finish it all out in tomorrow's post with the crux of all this. a real example and calling out some leaders who probably shouldn't be leaders because they are creating miserable jobs for people instead of fulfilling ones!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

do you hate your job?

i actually began writing this post 5 years ago!
crazy, eh?

i have a few hundred half written blogs from the past 5 years just waiting to be tweaked, finished, and posted. i figured i better get at it before they're all completely irrelevant.

basically i started writing this post 5 years ago for the same reason i decided to finish and post it today. a lot of people i know HATE their job.
or, maybe they wouldn't say they hate it, but they say stuff like:

"it pays the bills."

"at least i have a job."

"once you get in to this industry it's tough to do anything else."

and on & on & stuff like that.
sounds pretty miserable to me.

life is too short for that mess.

we spend an incredible amount of time at our jobs. what a waste if we don't love that portion.

now i know there are seasons where we simply need to be thankful to have ANY job - for sake of an income. i get it. i've been there. i've had multiples of those all at once :)

but it's no good to be in that season for long.

i LOVE my job @ ridge. back when i wrote this 5 years ago i talked about how fun my job is because our staff team had just gone to Dave & Busters and acted like little kids for a day. in our old office we had some wii & xbox tourneys & then there were the infamous and spontaneous Foosball games that would break out pretty much every day.
(that is 1 thing i miss about our office - the Foosball every day.)

without an office for the past couple years some of those kind of things disappeared but i actually love my job even more.
and i think i love my job for the same reasons as everyone else who love their jobs = what you're doing & who you're doing it with.
and one or the other can make or break it.

i've got a lot more to dive into on that note, BUT i can see my post is already getting pretty long. (just like they used to always do 5 years ago.)
so, let me take a break and post the rest tomorrow.

for now, if you hate your job... maybe consider how long you're going to stick with that job?
& i hope, for your sake, it's not too long.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

we'll never have all the answers

just venting a little...

i guess it bothers me when people think, act, and talk like they have all the answers. i'm thinking specifically in the realm of faith, church, Christianity, religion, etc...

i think these kinds of people and institutions -- who claim to have the whole truth figured out -- are doing a lot more damage than they realize.
because it makes people feel like if their church doesn't satisfactorily provide all the answers to all the questions of life, then it's all a hoax.

i know some Christians who would say that the questions i have about God and spirituality are blasphemous.

but i believe that to say we have God & faith all figured out is blasphemous.

that's why it's called faith. you just can't have answers to all your questions.
it's all bigger than our piddly little minds can handle.

if we think we can summarize God in our neat little systematic theologies then we're fooling ourselves -- because we've made God into something He's not.

The moment we "figure God out" with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.  We are dealing with somebody we made up.

hey Christians -- let's stop making stuff up.
just be honest & say we don't have a definitive answer for this or that. we never will.
it's ok. the whole thing won't topple.

we'll just be finally being honest.

i think i heard somewhere that God actually digs that.

Monday, January 21, 2013

it doesn't hurt to ask

when i was a little kid i think i had this attitude instilled in me by my Dad = this attitude of "it doesn't hurt to ask."
i can remember being really young and maybe afraid to ask about something and my Dad encouraging me by saying - "What's the worst that could happen? they might say 'NO' ?"

with as much logic as my brain could muster, i would way that risk/reward scenario.
worst case = they say no.
best case = well, i get whatever i was asking for - usually something awesome.

so since those early days i've just never really been afraid to ask for anything. maybe a thousand other people walk by and don't bother to ask because they assume the answer is "NO." i just figure it doesn't hurt to ask because many times the answer is "yes."

like - "can you give me 20% off of that?" = "Sure"
or - "instead of buying 1, why don't you buy 20?" = "ok"
in high school & college my friends thought i was some sort of wizard because i was able to "get" all this stuff somehow... but there was no magic, i was just asking.

it's more that everyone else seems to think there are certain things you can't ask about - as if the way it is currently is the way it must be. as if the people on the other end of the ask set what is and is not socially acceptable.
it will always be socially acceptable to ask though.

i realize i'm not the only one like this. lots of people are.

if you only drink water like me you are appalled at the size of cups for water restaurants give these day. about 2 sips worth. so i always ask for a bigger cup & they give me the cup they normally charge $3 for. i'm sure everyone else could do it too if they felt like asking.
every once in a while a restaurant will say "no." (remember, that's the "worst" thing that could happen.) which is crazy to me, because i just paid them $9 for that sandwich that's worth about $1.25 and they don't want to give me a human-sized cup of water. but it's all good. i just don't go back there. i'm thinking that didn't work out so good for them.

there's a book on my "preliminary 2013 read list" but it retails for about $20. the book just came out 6 months ago so they're not really floating around used yet or at the library. recently, i was listening to an OLD Catalyst podcast and they were giving away the book free to the 1st 20 people who emailed asking for it. that was back in JULY... and i was listening in JANUARY!
in my mind, i thought - "there is NO WAY that 20 people haven't already received their free books. i'm sure 20 people emailed within the 1st few hours and this is 6 months later!
BUT, what's the worst thing that could happen if i ask? it doesn't hurt to ask."
besides, what if everyone else figured 20 people had already emailed and they had only given away 19 copies? :)

i emailed & asked. the lady emailed me back promptly saying i was way late, but they would send me one anyway just for asking.
they overnight-ed it & it was on my doorstep the next day.

it doesn't hurt to ask.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

NOT OK (africa)

i originally wrote and posted this to renown on September 15, 2010. This is the 1st of my Kenya revisited posts that i explained HERE.

i haven't been to Africa since 2003. when i left these kids at the orphanage in Botswana in 2003 i thought i would be back to Africa in no time. i never dreamed I wouldn't be back for 7 years.


But here i go... this time with my beautiful and amazing wife! so so thankful for that.

why am i all about getting back to Africa?
because of this burning passion in my soul that won't die. This passionate vision God birthed in me. The dream of what could be and an intense belief that it should be.

That a kid in Africa dies every 15 seconds because they don't have clean water IS NOT OK.
& i want to do something to change that.

The fact that so many babies aren't even born because of preventable stuff IS NOT OK.
& i want to do something to change that.

The fact that there are still so many people groups in Africa who don't even know about Jesus IS NOT OK.
& i want to do something to change that.

The fact that there are so many millions of orphans with no place to live and no one to love them IS NOT OK.
& i want to do something to change that.

The fact that i have so much and so many people in Africa have so little IS NOT OK.
& i want to do something to change that.

The fact that there are people in Africa who don't worship God and Jesus is not famous in their lives IS NOT OK.
& i want to do something to change that.



so, my wife and i are taking a little step in that direction - doing something to change all that... a small step that hopefully leads to bigger and bigger steps until hopefully one day...
God has used us to change some of that.
it's a renown thing. every one of those things that's not OK, but changes -> it points to God's renown. His unending fame. the fact that He is more glorious and awesome than anything we've ever imagined.
so, we're boarding a plane in just a few hours to take a step in this direction. if we can open just a few eyes to the big RENOWN that is already there staring them in the face, then we won't have wasted our time, money, or effort. 
we're ready for the adventure. 
taking a step toward a life worth telling stories about.
stories that don't point to us, but stories that point to the only famous One.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Kenya revisited

2 years ago Crystal and i were able to go serve for a month in a couple parts of Kenya in East Africa. it was an amazing time for us and it's been cool to look back on that adventure from time to time via pictures, memories, journals, & my blog.

i actually blogged every single day we were in Kenya about what we were doing, experiencing, and thinking.

i was doing that so that our friends and family who were here in America could journey with us via the blog. but since we've been back home from Kenya it's been awesome to read those blogs as sort of another way of remembering our adventures there.

so, as i look back on those posts this year, i'm planning to "re-post" those blogs here on renown throughout the year. my goal in 2013 is to post a blog every single day. i would love for it all to be fresh content but that's not completely realistic. so, some days i may post something from our time in Kenya... which are really some of my favorite blogs.

i hope you enjoy re-living the experiences with me.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Why I'm not as dumb as I should be

because i believe i can & do learn from anyone!
“Every man is my superior in some way. In that, I learn of him.” 
– Emerson

Thursday, January 17, 2013

questions aren't a problem

in a lot of circles, asking questions is a bad thing.

i'm sure some teachers get really tired of all the Questions certain students may ask.

in some areas asking Questions can get you killed, i'm sure.

i'm sure children are annoying to parents or siblings with the sheer amount of questions they ask.

unfortunately, in most Christian circles and churches, they don't like people asking a lot of questions. sure, they might say they do, but they don't. they hate it.

i can't remember, did the Pope like it when Galileo was poking around asking questions about the galaxy with his telescope? 

Christianity and religion seem to suppress the innocent question asker. Like "how dare you ask such a question!"

because for them, asking a Question shows doubt. and in these Christians' minds there is no room for doubt in the life of faith.

but i believe God has plenty of room for doubt. i think God is always comfortable with our questions. in fact, He welcomes them... just waiting for us to ask.

and a Christian shouldn't avoid the questions, they should embrace them.
if someone is REALLY pursuing the way of Jesus then you better believe they will have some questions. we should see a need for questions.

Questions aren't scary.  What is scary is when people don’t have any.   

i happen to think that a faith with no room for questions is probably not a legitimate faith at all.

a middle school student i've been privileged to hang out with recently asked a great question = "Is God a boy or a girl?" i love it. that's a great question. this student had no church or religious background at all. i love that kind of innocent/raw question.

These kinds of Questions, no matter how shocking or seemingly blasphemous or arrogant or ignorant or raw, are rooted in humility.  A humility that understands that I am not God & i certainly don't have Him figured out. there is more to know.

but there are many Christian institutions and churches and circles that assume we do have it all figured out. that to ask questions is to challenge God Himself.

i've been in many "Christian" places and churches where i wouldn't dare ask questions i had or mention that i may be questioning a certain dogma. that's the quickest ticket to "excommunication".

in fact i had a good friend who was literally kicked out of a seminary for asking questions. the same questions that probably every single one of us have asked in our lifetime. but i guess you just don't ask those questions at that seminary.

in the moment, i can't think of many things more oppressive than having a burning question and not being able to ask it.

ask your questions. it is freeing.
if people look at you funny or ostracize you for asking... find some different people.

the questions are good.
God will never be bothered by our questions.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

i need words

how i feel & these are the words i sing many days.
i know it's way old school, but i dig it.

thanks mr. crowder for hooking us up with these words to express the fact that we don't even have words big enough.

I need words
As wide as sky
I need language large as
This longing inside
And I need a voice
Bigger than mine
And I need a song to sing You
That I've yet to find
I need You,
Oh, I need You
I need You,
Oh, I need You
To be here now
To be here now
To hear me now
To hear me now

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

happy birthday, Dr. King

happy birthday, Dr. King.

you are a hero.

thank you for all of your sacrifices and for many like you who stood against injustice.

those sacrifices allow us to live in a radically different country from the country you lived in.

i wish you could see it & experience America now. it's not perfect. there is still a lot of racism and prejudice and it makes a lot of us sick... but it's getting better. and it is WAY better than the awful America you had to endure.

thank you for all you did to heal the ugliness and infection among us.

and thanks for setting an example and paving a way for how to do this through LOVE and nonviolence.

we won't forget what you did, or where we have come from. we won't let your sacrifice be in vain.
we wont forget that...

love wins.


in memoriam

Monday, January 14, 2013

Crystal quotes of the day #6 (Pregnancy Edition)

Yep, time for some CRYSTAL QUOTES OF THE DAY again. You can read all about it HERE. and you can read the last few "Pregnancy Editions" specifically HERE & HERE.

hope they make you laugh... they make me laugh at least :)

Crystal was complaining 1 day about how this pregnancy was making her butt bigger, fat, whatever... & my default positivity kicked in. i can't help it. the optimism took over and i said:
Me: "it's ok, just be thankful u have a butt."
Crystal: (giving me the look like I just said the craziest thing in the world & like i'm an idiot) "who doesn't have a butt?!?!?"
touche. good point.

*During pregnancy Crystal was realizing she was going to be the one to be up in the middle of the night all the time... not me. i think i must have offered to trade off nights with her or something...
Crystal: "what are YOU gonna do in middle of the night? do YOU have breast milk the baby can eat?"  
Me: "I've got nipples Focker, can u milk me?"
ok, that one is probably not even funny, but it was in the moment. :)

*i was talking about how much i was looking forward to playing catch with this kid whenever it arrives and grows up a little bit. we were debating at what age you can play catch & i said i would start early. Crystal, pondering, said...
Crystal: "it's just annoying when they can't catch & stuff."
*about 1 month before Keira was born we were at a Piggly Wiggly at the beach & i think Crystal was eying one of those awful Piggly Wiggly t-shirts that say "i'm big on the pig."
Crystal: “I guess it’s not really appropriate for me to wear the PIG shirt now?"
Me: "I don’t know if it’s EVER appropriate for ANYONE to wear that stupid shirt."

hopefully somebody found these funny.
if not, at least we make each other laugh & that's all i care about.

i have some really funny ones to post soon :)  even a "Jesus" edition!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

top 10 books i read in 2012

i've been writing some of my takeaways and learnings from the 50 books i read in 2012. i set all that up HERE. below i'll actually unveil my top 10 reads of 2012. i won't bother saying anything about them because i already did that.
if you're interested in a little more about each book, you can look back on parts 1-5 of my takeaways from all the books i read in 2012 HERE, HERE, HERE, HERE & HERE.

& now for the top 10 list. in ascending order so we can all anticipate the #1 book of the year. drum roll please...

#10 - The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable
Patrick Lencioni
4*s

#9 - Emotionally Healthy Spirituality: Unleash a Revolution in Your Life in Christ
Pete Scazzero
4*s

#8 - The Third Conversion
R. Scott Rodin
4*s

#7 - Choosing the Good: Christian Ethics in a Complex World
Dennis Hollinger
4*s

#6 - Rediscovering Paul: An Introduction to his World, Letters, and Theology
David Capes, Rodney Reeves, E. Randolph Richards
4*s

#5 - Organizational Culture and Leadership
Edgar Schein
4.5*s

#4 - The Future of Management
Gary Hamel
4.5*s

#3 - Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard
Chip and Dan Heath
5*s

#2 - The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal
Jim Loehr and Tony Schwarz
5*s
     *this book would normally be a #1 read of the year, but...

#1 - Naked Spirituality: A Life With God in 12 Simple Words
Brian McLaren
5*s
     *probably the best book i've ever read, not just in 2012.


Saturday, January 12, 2013

final book learnings from 2012 (part 5)

this is my final post of quick takeaways and learnings from all the books i read in 2012. below are the books i read in November & December of last year & a few thoughts about them along with my star rating (1-5*s). i explained all that HERE. and then you can look back on parts 1-4 of my takeaways from all the books i read HERE, HERE, HERE, & HERE.

The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance - Jim Loehr & Tony Schwarz     5*s
definitely worthy of 5 stars. life-changing book. so thankful i read it. basically a book about how a holistically life should look. a strategic plan for refueling energy physically, emotionally, mentally, & spiritually.
absolutely brilliant. has no doubt changed my life for the better already. big time.

Emotionally Healthy Spirituality - Pete Scazzero     4*s
the bottom line is that you can't be spiritually healthy without being emotionally healthy. it was a great follow up read to the above book. some good practical ideas & suggestions toward the end of the book for sabbaths, etc... thankful to have read it & implement a lot of it into the plan from the book above.

The Peacemaker - Ken Sande     3*s
basically the biblical encyclopedia of conflict resolution/peacemaking. good read. pretty much everything the Bible has to say about conflict & resolving it in a healthy way. i dig it. pretty long book though, actually.

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child - Marc Weissbluth     4*s
not 4*s because i enjoyed reading it, but 4*s because my wife read it when Keira was born, then we implemented this philosophy and Keira has slept like an angel! seriously, 12 hours a night since she was a few weeks old. difficult to follow through with this method at first but soooo worth it.

Serving Those in Need - Edward L. Queen (editor)     2*s
required reading for my non-profit class. just ok for me. a lot of boring stuff. written for NGOs & any agencies serving the poor. may look back on it for some practical tips, but really not that helpful.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard - Chip & Dan Heath     5*s
always fun to read the Heath brothers. this is their follow up to Made to Stick. loved it so much. basically i'll use it as another helpful manual to change the world (and to change anything, really). a must read for any leader of anything. it's all about leading the elephant AND the rider :)  [the emotion & the rational parts of peeps]

Shepherds After My Own Heart - Tim Laniak     3*s
this was actually required reading for a Spring class. i had a chapter or 2 to finish though last month. the author was my professor & it is a brilliant look at a biblical theology of leadership based on an overarching/undergirding metaphor that penetrates through the whole of Scripture. pretty amazing actually. not necessarily a fun read by any means. crazy technical & reads just like you'd expect a Harvard PhD to read. but the payoff is worth it at the end.

A Work of Heart - Reggie McNeal     3*s
pretty cool concept - a look at how God shaped the hearts of 4 different major leaders = Moses, David, Jesus, & Paul. not all that interesting once you get into it but some very valid, practical outcomes - how God uses & shapes us as leaders by our context, community, etc... the best part of the book is the end with some GREAT questions for reflection in a lot of areas. definitely will be using those Qs.

Leading the Team Based Church - George Cladis     3*s
an early leadership network book. takes an interesting approach to team leadership based on the trinity. the whole book is written with the goal of showing why team leadership is better in our postmodern context. some cool insights. not overwhelmingly many though.


and that's it. the 50 books i read in 2012. onto 2013.
(tomorrow i'll actually post my top 10 list of all these i read in 2012.)

Friday, January 11, 2013

which is it?

yesterday i mentioned i would be blogging through my thoughts on Romans (& eventually the whole NT). below are just a few of my thoughts on Romans 1:24 (from The Voice translation)...
“So God gave them just what their lustful hearts desired.” 
Determinism?

Free will?

does God give it or do they choose it? 

Yes.

Did God give them over to it or they chose what they wanted & made it happen themselves? 

Yes.

at least from this particular sentence in Romans it seems the answer is yes to both.

but obviously the weight of it leans in the direction of people choosing their fate & the natural results of that choice follow.

it's as if in this particular context, God’s wrath is here via his “hands off” policy. Giving us over to whatever we want. Human sin & depravity are both its cause & effect.
God is simply giving us what we want. Like a parent saying, “sure, if you’re gonna pitch a fit, then you can have whatever you want. You can eat a gallon of chocolate ice cream for breakfast. So the parent isn’t even actively punishing the child… just giving them over to natural consequences. The parent doesn’t MAKE them sick. They just get sick because of what they CHOSE to do.

so are we really even directly punished by God for our sins? 
or are we just punished by our sins?

maybe it’s more natural like that. God set the world up to have natural consequences. 
You stub your toe = it hurts. cause & effect.

Sin punishes on its own.  so, does God make me stub my toe, then? I don’ know, man… I think you just swung your leg too near to the fireplace… 

does God make you get sick? Dude, I think you just didn’t drink enough fluids and get enough sleep…
            [as always, this is just what I’m thinking today. Could all change tomorrow.]

seems like there's a lot of natural consequences/cause & effect/libertarian free will flowing out of Paul here.
& Romans is even the big Calvinist book, right? I remember reading chapters 9-11 in college & after college & being like “Dang. Yep, I’m a Calvinist now. & so is Paul & Jesus. Wait, that’d be a little backwards… maybe Calvin was a “Paulist”… never mind."

I’ve been both a Calvinist & an Arminian (almost). i've read Romans while on both sides too. seems to always agree with whichever side of the fence you’re standing on. Funny how that works, eh? :) 
I am intrigued by all this – although I don’t waste a lot of time thinking about it these days. Not for several years now. I’ll let someone else worry about it. I’m comfortable with the tension. I’m even comfortable saying I’m a Calvinist & an Arminian. Or neither. It all works for me. 
in actuality - i think they're both silly categories. there's a third way on a different level that we'd be better off to think at. we'd probably be better off ditching all those labels for good.
us modernists and our silly categories :)

Instead of thinking too much about it I just love to indulge in shows like Lost and Flash Forward that REALLY make you engage with these ideas of determinism and free will. too bad they're both gone.

so, does God really have a "hands off" policy when it comes to our choices? or does He give us a little deterministic nudge in a certain direction?
is Paul saying "yes" to both?

Thursday, January 10, 2013

thinking Romans out loud on renown

i guess i've basically decided to blog through the book of Romans.

no rules - just me thinking out loud (or on paper... er... uh... blog) about what Paul wrote to the church at Rome.
i'm reading through everything Paul wrote right now anyway. & i'm writing tons of thoughts as i'm reading, so i figured i may as well post some of it.

when i'm done i guess i'll have like my own commentary on Romans, haha.

i'm reading through the new translation The Voice. i LOVE LOVE LOVE everything about it. it's an extremely dynamic translation and if i had to use only 1 word to describe it, it would be BEAUTIFUL.

it's been like reading Romans for the 1st time.

last year i read through the gospels twice in The Voice. flipping loved it. i saw things in ways i had never even thought about before. i'll probably write about some of that some time as well. (& now The Voice is finally complete in the whole Bible! OT & NT.)

but for now i'm in Romans & i'll move on through the rest of everything Paul wrote after that.

so i'll basically be blogging through the NT. what I’m really doing is thinking out/ working out my own theology here. It’s good for me. 
i guess, the danger is that I’m doing it here out in the open. (peeps like to hate on theology they don’t like). It could all come back to bite me… bkuz honestly, my views change from day to day on different stuff. I may write this about Romans today, and then change my mind tomorrow :)  not joking. happens all the time.

it’s all so RAW and unprocessed I’m literally thinking it out, working it out AS I WRITE IT. I am doing the processing as I write. Not pre-processed thoughts.

and i enjoy that. i need that.

so be on the lookout for a renown look at Romans. basically that's what i've been doing all week. i already started this on Monday & continued it every day this week. you just didn't know it. 
3 posts & those were just my thoughts on 1 verse - Romans 1:20.

but don't worry, i won't sit that long on every verse :) 
[starting tomorrow with 1:24] 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

and it's all free

a couple days ago i was thinking about what i wrote HERE and HERE. basically the idea that we can see the invisible nature of God by looking at the beauty in nature.
so, i was doing just that while chillin on my back deck - enjoying the beauty... practicing some silence & solitude...

& here's the crazy thing

this is the thought that struck me...

all of this - all this beauty God made is ABSOLUTELY FREE!

i can just look around and enjoy all of this absolutely stunning, gorgeous creation for FREE!!!

i mean, most awesome stuff you have to pay for to enjoy - a movie, a game, a book, dinner, a beautiful art show, a concert, beautiful images on a TV, etc...

but this beauty... this beauty that is revealing the very nature of who God is... is absolutely free. [which is cool because i run a pretty tight budget at my house :) ]
(maybe that even tells us something about His nature? but maybe not, that is probably just me thinking too long about it.)

maybe this was just a weird thought as i sat for about an hour in silence simply pondering the beauty surrounding me & letting God reveal His very self to me through that beauty. but i was reveling in it.

God revels in his creation.
so should we.

that glorifies any creator when you revel in and enjoy/take pleasure in their creation.

a lot of those creators just charge $ to enjoy it.

not this Creator.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

nature: our chance to SEE the invisible God

yesterday i wrote that the beauty all around us in creation is a pretty big deal. you can read that HERE.
it's a big deal because the visible creation basically shows us what the invisible God is like.

sometimes i write stuff like i wrote yesterday and later think "i don't know... am i crazy? maybe i shouldn't have written that? i mean, i was feeling really passionate and confident about it in the moment, but maybe i'm way off here?" (ever have that thought?)

if you read my post, then you know i was just interpreting and thinking out loud about Romans 1:20. but then i got to thinking that i had read Romans lots of times and even read lots of "commentaries" (fancy word for smart peoples' thoughts about something) about Romans 1, but had never really heard what i was saying... not in so many words, really.

stuff like:
"beauty shows us God. it's one of the best "visible" pictures we get."
& God's nature is not invisible... if you're looking at nature, then "you're looking at it."

is that out there or am i just saying what Paul said in Romans 1:20? "they" say there's nothing really "new" under the sun & that if you come up with some "new" thought then it's probably wrong.
so, it's always comforting to find someone long ago who said what you're saying. especially when it comes to thoughts about God (theology), because i'd rather not make that kind of thing up :)

so, i was reading a little John Calvin tonight... haha, yep, light night reading. actually, i had to read Calvin's Institutes back at the beginning of seminary, years ago (definitely NOT light reading) and i was just glancing back over some notes from it.

and some of this stuff from Calvin jumped off the page at me. he was saying the exact same stuff i was writing yesterday. so good news -- i didn't make it up :)  [as if]

Here's the gist of what he was saying:
“wherever we cast our gaze” we can spot signs of God’s glory, disclosed in “the whole workmanship of the universe.” Unless we dull our perception of it by sloth or self-interest, the vast system of the universe becomes for us “a sort of mirror in which we can contemplate God who is otherwise invisible.”

the beauty of creation is like a mirror with God's very reflection in it. otherwise He is invisible, but when we look at creation we can actually see Him.
whoa.

creation is like a chance to read Scripture and the natural world together.
Both Scripture and science reveal God’s nature and interests. it’s like we have 2 books to show us God.
i love that idea.

but some of us are missing out on seeing God because we're too busy to notice the bird singing on the deck or the trees swaying in the breeze or the crazy blue sky.
we're too busy OR what Calvin calls our perceptions being dulled OR just being wrapped up in ourselves. all that causes us to miss out on something amazing.
seeing the very divinity of God.

& let me end these late night thoughts with this from 1561 (definitely before i ever thought of it this way)
“The universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God.” 

Monday, January 7, 2013

beauty is a pretty big deal

we are surrounded by beauty.

every day.

every moment.

all around us.

and many of us just take that for granted. or just figure it's "extra". it's not that big of a deal, it's just a nice little bonus we notice every once in a while to make us smile. (IF we even take the time to notice the beauty surrounding us... but that's a topic for another day.)

but i think the beauty surrounding us in creation is a BIG deal. every time i see the trees, the sky, the clouds, the grass, the ocean, the animals scurrying around, the creeks & lakes, etc... it causes me to worship.

even if it's only for a split second, i worship.

i worship the Artist who thought it all up & designed all this beauty.

when i go "wow, this is a beautiful day" or "that's a beautiful sunrise", i don't worship the sunrise itself... it points me to the Artist.

a guy named Paul kind of writes about this idea in his letter to the Romans.
in much more beautiful language than i've been able to express, he writes:
"From the beginning, creation in its magnificence ENLIGHTENS us to His nature. Creation itself makes His undying power and divine identity clear, even though they are invisible."          - Romans 1:20, The Voice
man, this is packed with way too much to even think about.

but let's try a little bit.

creation is no doubt MAGNIFICENT. the most magnificent art of all. and it's that very magnificence that enlightens us to God's nature.
it's the beauty of creation that turns our attention to God & who He is.

And creation actually SHOWS US (so to speak) God's power & divine identity. "Creation makes His identity clear." EVEN THOUGH they are invisible!

we can't "see" God. we can't see His power or divine identity -- directly.

but here's how it's indirectly VISIBLE = the ocean, the sunset, the birds, the beautiful trees & blue sky & clouds that form funny shapes, etc...
all those things show us God's power & identity... WHO He is.
even though they're invisible.

this is visible as it gets.
You're looking at it.
beauty.

don't overlook it. don't take it for granted. don't be too busy to notice and enjoy it.

beauty shows us God. it's one of the best "visible" pictures we get.

so, i'd say, it's a pretty big deal.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

our journey with the plan (part 2)

i originally wrote and posted this to renown June 10, 2010. i'm reposting it now because we recently had our 5 year anniversary of starting this journey with the Dave Ramsey financial plan. December 2007 was our 1st month with the budget & starting the baby steps.

This is the rest of the story on how we became debt free and in a ridiculously good financial spot without making much money. (You can read part 1 HERE.)

Continuing from yesterday... we had paid off a lot of debt in 08, but Dave says that if your 2nd mortgage is under a certain percentage of your household income then you should include it in your debt snowball. Ours was basically right on the border and probably could have gone either way.


It was tempting to just shout “We’re debt free!” after paying off Crystal’s car, but I was like “Ya know what, let’s just knock this mortgage out, be done with it & REALLY have something to celebrate.”
By the time we had paid all the other debts off we really had a CHUNK of change every month that used to be dedicated to payments that was now a massive SNOWMAN size snowball! It all went straight to principal to pay off this $20K mortgage. Every month we were throwing well over a grand at that thing. (we got out of paying over $2K in interest that half of the year!)
A couple days before Christmas of 2008 Crystal and I sat down together and PAID the final payoff online to BB&T for our mortgage. We were debt free! I shouted and had a little party right there on the couch. (That Christmas just felt different too by the way.)
That's the final piece of paper on our mortgage showing it was PAID IN FULL. that was awesome!
We started in December 07 and were debt free in December 08. It took us about 13 months to pay off around $31,000! That’s what I’m talkin’ about.
And trust me… we weren’t making very much coin either. It was just focused intensity.
All glory to God. Definitely not our power… just His favor. I believe He hates debt, so we just got after it.
Next step = January 09 we began Baby Step #3 -> Finish the Emergency Fund (and kick Murphy all the way out!) Dave says to put 3-6 months of expenses away into a readily accessible account. The more “unstable” your income is, the closer to 6 months you should save. We went with the 6 months & it’s an amount that wouldn’t force us to change our lives much in those 6 months. it would probably last us more like 9 months.
We finished that off in November of 09. Then in December my wife got a little "reward" for being such a great sport with a phat shopping spree because of all the freed up money.
*Then the realization hit = We could both lose our jobs and not change a thing or have a worry for 6 months! That is what i call security! That's 6 months to hit the job trail hard, getting PT work & not having to go back into debt! Plus it's enough money to cover us if a major disaster hit.
So, January 2010 we started the next phase. Baby Steps #4, 5, & 6 all come at the same time! 
#4 = 15% of our total income now goes straight into retirement. Crystal has a matching 401k which we max out & that is so awesome (it's straight up free money!)
Then we hooked up with a Dave Ramsey ELP here in Charlotte who is gonna help us out & hook us up with Roth IRAs to max out & then a little more in the 401k to finish off the 15%
*It feels so good to get started on this! My whole life i've heard about how important it is to get started investing early! just because of this monthly 15% we will literally retire with many many millions. dang. crazy.
#5 = saving for our kids' college tuitions. Dave's got a sweet way to figure out what it will cost when our kids are off to college. we have none yet so we technically can't open ESAs for them, but we went ahead and started putting away a lot per month. they can go to Harvard or Princeton if they want (& if they're smart like their mom.)
#6 = PAYING OFF OUR MORTGAGE! this one will take a bit longer, but worst case scenario we should have it paid off by the time we're 31 or so. not too much longer. just trying to pay as much extra as we can toward the principal! (In this economy i'm actually trying to cheat the system & sell our house & just rent something or buy a foreclosure at half price and be totally out of debt including the house! if the right opportunity rolls along i am all over it!)
that's our story & where we're at now. it's been a blessing. the crazy part is we still don't make much money, but we've been able to GIVE way more than we ever have in our lives - to our Church, to God's Mission globally, to the poor, etc... crazy how that works.
& God has been the only reason this has all gone down this way. amazing.

BOTTOM LINE = i am an idiot and this worked out for us... therefore, ANYBODY can work this plan, get out of debt & be financially secure.
we get none of the credit. we only tried to screw it up. all the fame goes one way.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

our journey with the plan (part 1)

Yesterday i mentioned that my wife and i are celebrating our 5 year anniversary with the Dave Ramsey plan. you can read that post HERE. as part of our anniversary "celebration" i'm just reposting a couple thoughts i wrote detailing our journey through the plan. this post was originally written and posted on June 9, 2010.

(You can read about "the plan" HERE and HERE. Today i'm just telling our story of how we've walked through this plan together & how it's changed our lives.)

In 2007 Crystal and I saw Dave Ramsey for the 1st time at Catalyst. We heard him talk about how dumb debt is and how easy it really is to control your money. It sounded like it was even easier if you start when you're 1st beginning life (i guess we were still "newlyweds" = married for just over 2 years).
We kind of looked at each other and nonchalantly said "you wanna try it?" & we were both like "sure" with a shoulder shrug, "why not?"... little did we know how dramatically our lives would change.

within a couple weeks i went out and got Dave's book The Total Money Makeover (TMM) and read it in 2 days. i was absolutely blown away! This was the greatest plan i had ever seen. even a financial dummy like me could follow it. i couldn't even screw it up!
So, December 2007 was our 1st month to give our TMM a shot. Crystal and i set up a budget before the month began. We told every penny where to go. And that month we put our 1st $1K emergency fund in place. (Baby Step #1)

The next month (January 2008) we hit the debt snowball trail hard! (Baby Step #2) We went hard core paying off our debts 1 at a time. i still remember the 1st one we paid off. $592 on the Lowe's credit card for our whole gas fireplace setup. What a dumb thing to buy on credit! the "no payments, no interest" sucked us in. never again. it felt great to pay that off in the store because i knew where this plan was taking us!

We started having more and more money to throw at debt the more debt we paid off! It really was like a snowball! (We stopped using our other credit cards, btw)
We mowed down our debts - Home Depot credit card, a big one (like $3,500) to Wells Fargo for our whole King Sized bed & bedroom furniture we bought at Mattress Firm, etc...

I was pretty hard core about this whole plan because i could see the end game (the plan i wrote about on Monday.) i knew that we could be debt free pretty soon and that we could even be done with all 7 steps in around 7 years!!! 
Crystal, on the other, hand started started having her doubts. i was so hard core that i cut out all spending from the budget. we were literally spending no money for about the first 3-4 months.

that's when i got my 1st big lesson... my hard core approach had caused Crystal to jump ship! Around month 3 or 4 she was ready to go on a shopping spree and put it all on a credit card. i made it so bad for her that within a couple weeks i heard comments like "I don't really care if we have the money, i just want to buy something." and  
"Dave Ramsey ruined my life" 
and the most famous quote of all =  
"If I ever see Dave Ramsey I am going to kick him in the balls!" 
wow. i had created a monster!
so, i wised up and loosened up for the sake of a lot of things (you can thank me later Dave! In fact, another time we saw Dave speak Crystal leaned over and said "now is my chance." haha, totally joking of course. i think.)

When she worked one Friday after that i went to the mall and bought her a ridiculously expensive outfit i knew that she wanted from White House/ Black Market. it was a total surprise. i had them gift wrap it. (She hadn't bought clothes in months.)
She also hadn't even bought Starbucks in months, so i timed it perfectly and bought her a Venti of her fav drink + a Starbucks gift card and laid it all out on the table. i also grabbed a card and wrote her a note just thanking her for being an awesome wife and for sticking with this plan with me.
That was a good night.

*And i learned a very important lesson. You can get out of debt wtih gazelle intensity but still have fun along the way. In fact you have to or else you will give up. we started a new budget item of "spending money" that she could spend on whatever she wanted to.

Some time in 08 is when i started grabbing extra jobs and ended up with 5 for a little while. that obviously helped get out of debt faster!
i also went for over 1 year without buying a thing. literally. i didn't spend a dime. like i may have bought groceries so we could eat or a light bulb so we could see, but i bought nothing "for me" for over 12 months. my choice. i honestly kind of just wanted to try it. a 1 year boycott of spending money and materialism. you can call me weird. that's fine with me. i just call it focused.

Later we paid off Crystal's car. Her beloved 2003 Ford Focus that she bought brand new with her dad as a junior in college. that was a good day when we paid that off. it definitely drives different when you own it.

*believe me when i say this = when you go after something like this with "gazelle intensity" (as Dave calls it) it seems like you get crazy momentum and the wind is at your back. it feels like God is behind you helping push and money comes from everywhere. 
We got a crazy huge tax return that summer and because we were so disciplined by that point, we didn't touch a dime of it and dumped the whole thing into paying off our debt!
Several other things happened like that! chunks of money from unexpected places... all straight to debt because we were focused and had a plan.

the only debt left (besides our mortgage) was actually our 20% mortgage from our 80/20 loan when we bought our house. it was the last and biggest on our debt snowball list of victims. a little over $20,000!

tomorrow i'll write about that and the rest of our journey so far.

Friday, January 4, 2013

an anniversary of sorts

5 years ago last month (December 2007) we began our journey into a Total Money Makeover.

crazy to think it's been that long. 5 years ago last month was our 1st ever month with a "Dave Ramsey" budget. we started baby step 1 & got on with this crazy awesome journey.

so when we hit Christmas a week ago we realized it was our 5 year anniversary. emotions hit like thankful (that we stumbled onto it & followed it), joy (because of where it set us up to be now), etc...

in honor of that anniversary, this weekend i'll be reposting 2 posts i wrote a couple years ago called "our journey with the plan" which basically documents our story with the Dave Ramsey financial plan. the ups and downs. laughs & tears & even violence :)

if you have no idea what i'm even talking about - maybe check out the next couple posts.

since those posts we've moved onto steps 4, 5, & 6... 15% retirement, College fund funded for Keira, & throwing everything at paying off our home.
slowly but surely coming along.

thankful for Dave starting his whole gig. thankful we were at Catalyst '07 when he presented it. thankful for God's grace to start the plan & stick with it.
thankful for an amazing wife who stuck with me through it even though it has never been easy.

happy 5 year anniversary, babygirl. hopefully it's starting to come good :)

Thursday, January 3, 2013

text message that made me think

i just sent a text message in reply to a friend who asked:
how is your little one?
i just fired right back without thinking too much about it:
 Keira is amazing. Walking like crazy, trying to talk all the time, non stop laughing, smiling, dancing, hugging... It's as if the kingdom has come :)
now, i wasn't being literal... i was joking = implying that life is so good, it's like Jesus reigns on earth & the kingdom is here.

but, shortly after sending the text i had the thought that this may not be all that far from true. the joy, laughter, happiness, smiling, dancing, hugging, kindness...
all stuff that will be dominant in the kingdom.
all those types of things are signs that the kingdom is breaking into our world... bits and pieces at a time... 1 hug & smile at a time...

but my unwitting statement really made me thing - what is it about children that allows them to unashamedly and full on embrace life this way?

and what is it that happens to us that causes us to lose this pure, unbridled joy and abandonment?

what exactly was Jesus talking about when He said “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven."
what did He mean by that?
could it be that this thought has something to do with it?
that unassuming humility that allows them to forget themselves and simply experience life to the full.

what is it about adulthood that makes us LOSE these "kingdom" qualities that we have to work so hard to regain as we grow up?

they seem to be naturally born in us from the beginning.

well, at least in Keira they are :)

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

book learnings from 2012 (part 4)

i've been writing my brief takeaways and learnings from each book i read in 2012. HERE's where i started and you can look back a couple posts for the 1st 30ish books i read in 2012. here's a few more with anywhere from 1-5 *s (stars) to let you know how good i thought the book was.

Managing the Non-Profit Organization - Peter Drucker     3*s
Definitely had high hopes for this book. Drucker is like the Godfather to everyone and everything leadership & organizational change/leadership/culture, etc... i thought this would be pure gold. and don't get me wrong, it was good... but just a 3* read.
honestly, Drucker is just hard to read. you can tell he's brilliant, but he's left over from like 1920 Germany and he writes incomplete sentences it seems like. really weird. brilliant guy, but not the best writer. he should have had someone else writing this stuff for him.
learned some good stuff though about starting and maintaining a non prof.

The Master Plan of Evangelism - Robert Coleman     3.5*s
this was required reading in college actually. then i actually took a class from Coleman at my seminary years ago... we had to read this book then, of course. so this was my 3rd reading for a class this summer. still a classic. simply a look at the way Jesus did evangelism to spark a movement to change the whole world. simple and great reminders of how we accomplish this mission 1 relationship at a time.

Management Teams - Belbin     2*s
uh... after i wrote the paper on it i forgot everything. corporate mumbo jumbo to me. not very helpful. maybe just the day i read it.

The 17 Indisputable Laws of Teamwork - John Maxwell     3*s
similar to Drucker (above) i expected a lot more out of this book. i've read 5 or 6 Maxwell books in years past and all have been good. some have been excellent. this one was just OK. felt a little like his publisher said "you need to write a book on teamwork" and he whipped this out. didn't feel like it was birthed from his soul.
but no doubt there are some great principles. 10 of the 17 were probably no brainers that a 12 year old could have told you about teamwork. 5 or so are golden and are definitely helpful in leading a team. thankful for that.

Leading Through Conflict: How Successful Leaders Transform Differences into Opportunities - Mark Gerzon     4*s
i really loved reading this guy Gerzon. He's a Harvard guy and this is one of those books i would have loved to take my time with, savor each word, and slowly enjoy every page... but alas, i had to read it fast because it was required reading with a deadline. and since i didn't wanna pay the $30something price of the book on Amazon i checked it out from the reserve shelf and only got 1 week with it. read a chunk of it waiting in line for the iPhone 5 at the apple store (gotta use your time wisely to knock out a Master's degree in your "spare" twiddle your thumbs time).
Gerzon took a brilliant look at the 3 types of leaders there are in the world. pretty much all leaders follow one of these 3 types or models. Demagogues (Hitler & military generals & the like), Managers (the majority), and Mediators (Mandela). His use of story in this book is awesome. that's what got me hooked. tied into emotion brilliantly to help me feel what followers of these types of leaders feel.
summary = demagogues suck & that's how we get genocides (and unfortunately we have a lot of Demagogues in leadership roles in America :( ... Managers will never change the world, but simply hang on to the status quo... and Mediators are the way of the future. that's the only style to lead successfully through conflict.
and Gerzon spends most of the book divulging the 9 tools a mediator needs. "Presence" (being fully present) was admittedly the crux of the whole thing and seems to be a common thread in everything i read and hear these days...
if you're a leader, then you deal with conflict & i highly recommend this book.

Every Church Needs a Little Conflict - George Bullard     2*s
this book was pretty boring. couldn't get through it fast enough. basically for screwed up churches experiencing crazy dysfunction and conflict.  a guide to help you know when you should just fire someone, punch them in the face, help them leave, call the cops, sit everyone down for coffee, or get out of there yourself...
on the flip side, the intro does give a really helpful word on conflict NOT being bad or a sin like many people assume. conflict is a good thing many times and can/should be healthy in churches. IF it's handled well by everyone. and that's the tricky part.

The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team - Patrick Lencioni     4*s
i loved reading this book. like most of Lencioni's it's a "leadership fable" = short fiction with the principles woven into the story. the 5 dysfunctions all begin with and stem from what a team does about TRUST. if trust is present, it opens the door for a high functioning team, but without trust as a bedrock, the other 4 dysfunctions will most likely be there.
love thinking about applying this book. trust, honest conversations around the table, fierce accountability for the sake of the mission... love this stuff.
i'ma have to check out Lencioni's other fables because i dig reading this style.

The Conflict Resolution Toolbox - Gary Furlong     2.5*s
i'm sure it's a good book, just over my head. wasn't that interested. had read so many conflict books... this was all science and psychology and pyscho-babble jargon, blah blah blah... you really had to concentrate hard on every word & i'm sure i could have learned a lot, but my eyes were glazed over half the time.

What to Expect the First Year - Heidi Murkoff     4*s
great stuff. i would have been lost without it this year. Crystal pretty much knows everything about what we're supposed to do, but if i ask her & she doesn't know then this book has it. so helpful to be able to read this each month and know what to expect with Keira, what to do as she progresses, etc...

The Pocket Guide to Adulthood: 29 Things to Know Before You Hit 30 - Jason Boyett     3*s
wrote a whole series of blogs on this already, so i won't bore you with more. i enjoyed reading this book. really fun read. helpful for sure. honestly, didn't learn a whole lot of brand new stuff (except for card tricks and smoothie recipes) but all really solid reminders. maybe being an adult won't suck so bad now that i'm prepared :)

The Universe: 365 Days - NASA guys (Robert Nemiroff, Jerry Bonnell)     4*s
i actually have read this one about 7 times! 7 years in a row i read this book each day. it was a Christmas gift from my wife our first Christmas we were married. one of the best gifts ever. it's basically a different WOW from the universe every single day with an explanation of what you're looking at. the pictures are stunning and i start off with it each morning just to make me go "WOW. you made that, God? that's absolutely incredible! and beautiful. stunning! and it's 400 million light years wide!? wow, that's big! and you put it there just to show off your glory? you are the man!" you get the idea... supernovas, galaxies, black holes, comets... all around the cosmos in 365 days. breathtaking & worshipful for me.


i'm planning to wrap up these book takeaways in just 1 more post. and then it's my top 10 list for the year. (then on to finalize my 2013 list)