Monthly Archives: May 2011

How to Pray for Our Team in Haiti

On Sunday morning, I will join 8 other folks from our church and head down to Port au Prince, Haiti. We will be working with Baptist Global Response to build cinder block homes.

We would all appreciate your prayers. Often when we pray for people doing international mission trips, we don’t know how to specifically pray for them. So I thought I would give you a few ways you could pray for us:

Travel Our flight leaves at 8 AM Sunday morning (if you know me, you know I didn’t book that flight). We have a connection in Miami, then fly down to Haiti. If you’ve ever flown, you know all of the different ways air travel can go wrong. Pray for our safety, the wisdom to adapt to unseen changes, and the discipline to not say something dumb to TSA. Continue reading

Choose People over Policy

In 2 Chronicles 10, King Rehoboam (son of Solomon) is asked by the people to ease the burden of work given to them. In return, they commit to faithfully serve the king.

Rehoboam decides to wait 3 days before giving an answer. He consults two groups of counselors: old men who served under his father Solomon, and young guys his own age. The old guys recommended that he ease the work of the people, serve the people, and speak good things to the people. The young guys recommended that he make the work and the punishments more harsh (maybe because they didn’t have video games back then to inflate their ego).

So Rehoboam decides to go with the counsel of the young guys, which meant becoming a tyrant over his people. The people ended up stoning to death the taskmaster placed over them, and Rehoboam had to flee.

All to often we get caught up in the black or white nature of policy. We like firm boundaries. More often than not we would rather bend people to fit around our “brilliant” policies and strategies.

But did you see the counsel of the old guys? They advised him to serve the people; ease their load, and speak good words to them. The trade off? They would serve him forever.

As we lead people in churches, let us take the counsel of the old guys. While policies and guidelines are important, they do not take precedence over serving people. Life often happens in the gray area between the black and white. It’s our job to love and serve people through it, and point them to Jesus.

So next time you’re faced with a people vs. policy crisis, trying molding your policy to serve your people. That seems like a better alternative than getting stoned to death.

Age isn’t Stupid Repellant

As a young guy, I understand that I will at times succumb to youthful ignorance. I haven’t lived a great number of years, so I haven’t had the education of personal experience for a lot of things.

But in our culture we view all the young folks as idiots and all older folks as eternally wise.

The former IMF president currently charged under investigation? 62. Arnold Schwarzenegger when he fathered a child out of marriage? 54. The guys behind Enron? Not college frat boys. Bernie Madoff? Gray haired.

This isn’t to say that young folks are immune to stupidity. But there are plenty of folks in their teens and 20′s who are working to make a difference in this world. Yet they encounter road blocks because of their age.”They’re young. They just don’t know any better.”

This mentality has two seemingly opposite consequences:

It enables¬† young people to keep living under the guise that they don’t have to know any better. So now more than ever kids are graduating college and living with mom and dad indefinitely. And the guys who do this often own Star Wars bed sheets and play far too many video games (you guessed it: these guys are single).

Young people trying to make a difference are shunned because of their age. I personally know a wide number of people in their teens and 20′s trying to do good in this world. They are intelligent and well-prepared. Yet people look the other way simply because of their age.

What would happen if we didn’t see age as inversely related to our potential for stupidity? That is, what if we looked at each individual to determine their level of wisdom, regardless of age. Just because one person has more birthdays doesn’t mean they have a higher stupid immunity.

So start looking at people individually. Discern if they are teachable, proactive, intelligent, discerning, wise, etc. Discard their age (isn’t this what Paul told Timothy to fight against in 1 Timothy 4?).

And have a little sympathy. Because let’s face it: we are all just a half step away from stupid.

Sing Your Own Song

This is the first season where I’ve actually paid attention to American Idol. Normally I watch just the auditions and the finale. But this year I’ve kept up with the final 12. (Soapbox moment: Casey Abrams was far and away the most talented musician in the group. Unfortunately this isn’t a competition for musicality. That kid is incredible.)

As I was watching the 2 hour special this past Wednesday night, I went on YouTube to watch a few past performances I had missed. It seems like years ago that some of the former contestants were still around. I had forgotten how talented they were. In fact, a couple of them were better singers than the ones who are left.

So why are they gone? If they are better singers, shouldn’t they still be around? There’s one word that separates them from the finalists:

Authenticity.

In today’s media and news saturated culture, we are constantly bombarded with video of performers, actors, politicians, businessmen, you name it. We’ve seen ten seasons of American Idol, along with numerous other talent-driven shows like it. All of the video clips and written articles come at us like water out of a firehose.

But this season of American Idol proves once again the power of being who you are. Some of the former contestants of this season were talented, but it was clear that they were trying too hard. They were too polished. In contrast you have Lauren Alaina who all but bombed a key change Wednesday night. Instead of whining or crying, she fixed it quickly and nailed the rest of the song. She even admitted it after was finished. For some reason, it almost made you like her more.

Again, authenticity.

These finalists know who they are. They stick to who they are. Maybe it’s because they are all under 20 and don’t “know any better,” or maybe it’s because they know something we have forgotten.

I say we need to find our own voice, and stick to singing our songs.

A Little eBay Advice

eBay is great. I’ve bought designer ties, electronics, gifts, and a wide variety of other things from there. I’ve also sold a few things through the years.

If you listen to Dave Ramsey, you know he talks about “gazelle intensity” as you start working his baby steps. So I decided to sell a few things in order to get his baby step 1 out of the way.

While I’ve used eBay before, it’s been a while since I’ve sold anything. All of my items ending their bidding last week, and I learned a few things I wish I had already known. So let my experience be your teacher for a minute:

No International Bidders Be sure to state this in the description of your item. I did for only 1 of the 3 items I sold, and that was the only one that didn’t have an international winner. One was in Indonesia, the other in Puerto Rico. Since I didn’t account for international shipping, I got burned on the Indonesia purchase. I paid more in shipping than the entire amount the buyer paid. Also, the auctions ended last week, and the Puerto Rican buyer has yet to pay or respond to any messages. This is what we call “frustrating.”

Good Description eBay has some item templates already for electronics. One of my items (the one purchased by the Indonesian) was the Verizon MiFi mobile internet hotspot. I used the description template in the item listing, which had a terrible title. People probably didn’t see my item because the default title was incomplete and not search-friendly. That’s why the auction winner paid $5.54 without shipping. Again, frustrating.

Pack and Ship On Your Own I live near a UPS store, so I decided to ship it from there. After every auction I seem to forget that the UPS store overcharges for shipping and packing your items. Do yourself a favor: buy packing supplies at Wal-Mart and print the UPS label yourself. You’ll save a little money, which is always good.

Double Insurance If you’re sending something through UPS or FedEx, the default damage insurance is $100. You can add more if you like. One of the items I shipped this week was my old MacBook Pro. Nothing has happened to it in shipping (to my knowledge), but I wish I had doubled the insurance on it. Why? In case something did happen, I could give the buyer his money back, and I’d still get something out of it. Because if the computer is damaged in shipping, I’d be out a computer and the money. Again, that would be frustrating.

PayPal Only This didn’t happen to me, but I wanted to add it. Make sure you state “PayPal Only” in your item description. It’s the easiest way to get paid.

So there you have it. Learn from my mistakes, and be a smart eBayer than me.

Learn What Not To Do

I’m a young guy. I get that. But at 24 I have already worked with and for a lot of people. While I have learned a lot of good things in those experiences, I’ve also learned what not to do.

When working for different people throughout the years, I’ve observed some traits that annoy me. I see them say and do things that make me not want to work for them.

I hope people never say that about me. I hope they never say “He drove me nuts. He was inconsistent in his words and actions, and he usually had no idea what he was talking about. His ethics were questionable and his decisions were unwise. Why did he wear that shirt with that tie? Seriously? But I will say that he had great potential.” (There are other things on my¬† list. These are just some examples.)

I hope this is never said about me. How am I trying to avoid it? By keeping a “don’t do” list and actually following it.

I have a feeling this will be a great help in the future.

(Disclaimer: I’m purposefully not including my “do not do” list. I don’t want to cause speculation as to where I learned different things. This is my attempt at being nice.)

The Story, or the Production of the Story?

A former staff member used to get Church Production Magazine each month. They have since left, but the subscription has been cancelled. So now each issue gets put in my box. I tend to flip through it in order to gain some wisdom and insight into my job.

I was flipping through the April issue recently and ran across an article on video switchers. We are in the market for a new switcher, so I was hoping to get some useful information from the article. I had a hard time getting past the first line, which read:

“Nothing captures a congregations’ attention more than a rich production filled with videos and imagery.”

Wait. Did I right that right? A rich production is the most captivating thing about a church service? Seriously?

When did the production of the greatest story ever told become more important than the story itself? In our day of immense media consumption we have designed churches and church services to satisfy that craving for Christians. Instead of focusing on Jesus, the cross, sin, repentance, redemption, God, the Bible, idolatry, and all of the other important themes of Scripture, we now discuss where to put the smoke machine so that people can see our intelligent lights when they move and change colors.

Let us not be a people marked by “rich production” but rather a deep love and passion for Jesus. Instead of trying to “create worshipful moments” for our people, let’s seek God and deliver His word to the people.

That has more power than all of the smoke and moving lights.

What Would You Have Done?

I know I’m not the smartest guy around. I’m not the wisest guy, and I’m not always the nicest guy.

Sometimes I get into situations where any (or sometimes all) of those traits show themselves. But every now and then, I remember the only way I can be nice is to keep my mouth shut.

So the other day after our church softball game, I decided I wanted dinner at Waffle House. For some reason hashbrowns and a chocolate chip waffle seemed like the best way to celebrate a close loss.

I walked in the door, and the energetic young male cook said “Good evening sir. Are you here to dine with us tonight?” (It didn’t sound as formal and polite as you think. I do live in a town called Buford after all)

My mind was racing. Here’s a snapshot of what went through my mind:

“Nope. I was almost home and decided I needed to wash my hands before I got to the house.”

“Actually I just like the smell of this place.”

“We just lost a close church softball game, and the Waffle House Shuffle is the only song that can cheer me up now.”

“I figured this was a great place to meet women.”

Instead I just responded “Yep”, ordered my food, ate, and left. No harm, no foul.

I know what I did and what I wanted to do, but what would YOU have done?

Make Your Cell Phone Camera Useful

Nearly every cell phone sold these days has a camera. And contrary to popular belief, your cell phone camera is not made for you to constantly snap pictures of yourself at arm’s length.

I use the camera on my phone for all sorts of things. While I love to take pictures of the funny stuff that I see on a day to day basis, that doesn’t help me become more productive or creative. It’s simply funny, and I feel the need to share it with the world.

One of the keys to productivity-as well as creativity-is having a system where you capture ideas and inspiration. It can be a notebook of lists, pictures, or whatever else you can create.

Your cell phone camera provides a quick and easy way to capture things. For example, I read quite a bit. I do most of my reading on my Kindle, but I still go in Lifeway and Barnes and Noble when I can. I have this habit of impulse buying books that I think I may read. What I’ve learned to do is take pictures of books I want to read. When I get home, I go through the pictures and make a list.

I have to do some design and communications work for my job, so I use my cell phone camera to take pictures of designs and ideas that I like. Then I take those pictures and put them into Evernote. Now I have a system that allows me to manage ideas and inspiration.

There are plenty of other ways to use your cell phone camera for something useful, and not just for embarrassing pictures of other people.

The Speed of Social Media

I got home last night a little after 10 PM. Got online, checked Facebook and Twitter, and saw where someone said that President Obama was supposed to address the nation soon. Presidential speeches don’t happen often at 10:30 on a Sunday night, so I found the White House live feed and waited.

The speech was delayed until 10:45, then kept getting pushed back. In the mean time, news of Osama bin Laden’s death blew up on Twitter. Before long, it was all over Facebook. By the time President Obama actually made the announcement at 11:30 PM, most of us knew what was coming.

I’ve been on Facebook for about 5 years, and Twitter for about 2 years. There have been some significant events during that time, but nothing with quite the magnitude of this news.

It was amazing to watch it unfold. Some people rejoiced, while others condemned those who were rejoicing for being unChristian. Still others (myself included), tried to post things that were a bit humorous (example: I posted “Where were you when bin Laden was announced dead?” “I was seeing what everyone on Facebook and Twitter had to say”).

It is unknown as to how many people found out the news through one of these social media platforms. I’m sure there were other people like me who kept checking both Facebook and Twitter to see what had to be said. The speed at which the news circulated was amazing; within 10 minutes of it breaking, Osama bin Laden was a trending topic on Twitter worldwide (meaning he was one of the top topics on Twitter around the world).

This was likely the first major news story to be broken and circulated primarily through social media. It all happened so fast, and because it was so fast, a lot of people are probably looking back this morning and wishing they hadn’t said what the did say.

Just like everything else in life, social media reveals the nature of our hearts when we don’t take time to become more like Christ. In those moments of pressure, when we feel like we have to comment on the news, we say something rash, arrogant, or hurtful. Then we are left spending days attempting to somehow clean up the mess we made.

Be diligent in the development of your walk with Christ. Also be diligent to read books without pictures so that you are mentally developed. So next time you are under pressure-whether digital or otherwise-something of value and wisdom will come out.

Here are a few articles related to the death of Osama bin Laden and social media

Twitter User Accidentally Live Reports Raid

Google Maps Shows Where Osama bin Laden was Killed

Timeline: How News of Osama bin Laden’s Death Unfolded on Twitter