Monday, May 31, 2010

May Roundup

Here are several excellent posts by other bloggers in May 2010 that I thought were especially good...

Emotional Whiplash by Pete Wilson, author of the excellent new book, Plan B

Poisoned by Perfectionism by Hannah at The Gypsy Road

Strategy, Systems, People, Buildings or Vision by Tony Morgan

Train the Called - Do Not Call the Trained by Mark Driscoll at The Resurgence

Pastors and Time by Thom Rainer

The Power of Informality in Leadership Development by Mac Lake

Every Conversation Matters by Tim Stevens at LeadingSmart

Google Wave Now Open to Everyone reported by LifeHacker

And I'm biased on this one... my post over at Going To Seminary -- Maximize Your Learning Experience :)

Also, today is the last day to download the free audiobooks "The Hole in Our Gospel" and "E.M. Bounds: Man of Prayer" at

Happy Memorial Day!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Review - Zealous Love

Zealous Love: A Practical Guide to Social Justice, written by Mike and Danae Yankoski, takes a close look at eight very important global issues. Through many first-hand accounts it seeks to provide both information and inspiration about these challenges. It's clear the authors really want to make a personal difference in the world. I was pleased to receive a free review copy via the Amazon Vine program.

Zealous Love covers eight extremely important problems that we face today: human trafficking, unclean water, refugees, hunger, lack of education, creation degradation, HIV and AIDS, and economic inequality. The book is full of beautiful pictures, is well produced (overproduced?), and the heart of the authors and contributors shines through very clearly. I don't know as much as I would like about social justice issues, and given the subtitle of the book, "A Practical Guide to Social Justice" I was hoping to be find some very practical ideas on how to get involved.

I wanted to like the book more than I did, but was disappointed in several respects. The title, inside and back cover highlight how practical the book is, but I'm just not seeing it. The foreword praises how this book shows ways that ordinary people can make a difference, but many stories are about exceptional people leaving all behind to life in a developing nation. Inspiring? Yes! Something practical I can get out and do tomorrow? Less so. The introduction assures us they're not going to lay on the guilt, but proceeds to pile it on about how tremendously fortunate we in the West are compared to the rest of the world (very true, but that much I already knew). The format of the book is to present a large number of stories/pitches from many different agencies and groups that are addressing these issues - the problem is that it starts to sound like an infomercial not long into the book.

There's much good in the book, and the message it tries to share is very important; I can see why many reviewers like the book and hope others will listen well. Each section contains a useful 'briefing' with some information on why the issue is important. If you're looking for something with many stories and compelling pictures in bite-sized nuggets, you may enjoy the book. Others looking for something truly practical, or something that does more to educate about the problem and possible solutions, may find another book more suitable.

Zealous Love is published by Zondervan.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Be Intentional With How You Use Your Time

I was sharing with a friend this week that I didn't have any classes this semester, which meant a bonus 12 or so hours per week for other things. What had I been doing with this for the last 3 weeks? Umm.... has it been three weeks? I don't really know. It's so easy for time to slip through our fingers. We don't consciously choose to waste time, but if we're not intentional with how we use it, we will waste it or let someone else decide how we use it.

Similarly, I asked a number of people what was preventing them from doing the things they feel are important? The answer, for 90%, was "time!" A rare few were more candid in their answers - "selfishness", "poor time management" or "my priorities don't align with my values." They're all the same issue, viewed from a different angle. We tend to waste a lot of time doing things that are not-important or simply not the top priorities compared to what we say we value.

To be more intentional about the use of your time is a great goal. How do we do this? I'm not always the best at this, but here are some thoughts...
  1. We have to know what is most important to us if our use of time is to reflect our values
  2. Stuff happens, other people need things of us. We must create margin in our lives, not merely for the sake of rest (which is good!) but to make sure that important things don't get squeezed out when pressure increases.
  3. Schedule the things that are important to you. Whether that is time with friends, reading the Bible, or enough sleep, if we don't make time for things that don't scream for our attention, they will be neglected.
  4. Look more to multi-purpose than multi-task. To multi-task is to spread your focus over two or more tasks at nearly the same time, delaying how long it takes to finish each one and possibly reducing the quality. To multi-purpose is to be intentional about doings things that are important to you at the same time you are doing something you must do. Finding it hard to find time to build relationships and serve in ministry? Do ministry alongside other people and build relationships as you serve. Tough to find time to disciple others and read the Bible? Talk about what you're both learning from your quiet times when you meet instead of adding a second curriculum. No time to serve in the community and spend time with family? Do community projects that involve the family, and do it together.
  5. Consider how you are spending your time. If you've ever made up a budget, you were probably shocked to see where your money was really going. Do a budget with your time, and see how you're spending the 168 hours in your week. How does that stack up with the half-dozen life priorities you say you have?
  6. Outsource what you don't do well. At home, on the job, at church... don't do something that someone else can do nearly as well. Sometimes you just have to say no
  7. Do not - no matter what you do - neglect rest and time to relax. Even God the Father and Son observed time to rest and enjoy creation one day a week. Seriously, is your work more important than theirs?! 
There's no way any of us will ever have more than 24 hours in a day, but each of us can be more intentional about doing the things that are most important to us - ideally right alongside the very things we feel we have to do.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Review - My MacBook

No, I'm not reviewing a new MacBook Pro (today), I'm taking a look at "My MacBook", a book by John Ray published by Que. It's an excellent visual guide to the latest Snow Leopard based MacBook computers from Apple. It's got step-by-step instructions on a great variety of tasks that anyone might want to do on the Mac, covered in 12 chapters. Every page has clear annotated screenshots explaining things very well. It's not an intro to computers - they assume you've worked with computers before but are new to the Mac or new to the Snow Leopard operating system.

As some who used and loved Macs back-in-the-day (i.e. the MacPlus and the LC II) but who has lived in a world of Windows and UNIX for the past decade, I found it to be an extremely helpful guide to the way of doing things with a modern Mac laptop. It never gets haughty, never talks smack about Windows, it just gets on the business of how to get cool things done. While the book covers things in detail and really doesn't assume a lot of background knowledge, I was surprised by the number of advanced topics it managed to cover. Examples: VPN on demand, RSS feeds in Safari, VNC screen-sharing, and other fun three-letter acronyms. It also covers how to backup with Time Machine, configuring the AirPort for wireless access, how to use the Finder, MobileMe, and adding hardware devices. From all indications, this is the manual that "should have been in the box." Well done, John Ray and Que!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Calvary Youth Justice Run/Walk 5K for the International Justice Mission

The wonderful students in our Calvary XL Youth program are sponsoring (and participating in) a Justice Run/Walk 5K. All proceeds will go directly to the International Justice Mission (IJM). The IJM does some great things to rescue people across the world trapped in slavery. They're a faith-based (Christian) human-rights organization that helps people regardless of belief, ethnicity or gender. They were founded on the call to justice articulated in the Isaiah 1:17. Calvary's Youth... are sponsoring a 5K-run to raise funds to support IJM and promote freedom for the oppressed.

The International Justice Mission was founded in 1997 by Gary Haugen (currently CEO). His background is in law and civil rights, and he has served on the board of directors of the National Association of Evangelicals. The organization grew out of a group of Christian lawyers and was described by Haugen as existing within the Christian community and attempting to rekindle the social engagement of evangelical Christians. IJM’s work is founded on the Christian call to justice articulated in the Bible (Isaiah 1:17): Seek justice, protect the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow. IJM’s staff members are Christians from a variety of traditions who are motivated by this call to seek justice for the oppressed.

The run will be at the Celery Bog Park on Lindberg Road in West Lafayette. Registration 8:00am, 5K Run: 9:00 am, or Walk starting at 9:15 a.m.  Interested folks in the area of West Lafayette, Indiana can register for the race via our online form.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Expectations are a double-edged sword

I know you can do it!!      I expected better of you.
We're counting on you.    Was it too much to expect for you to call?
I know it's late, but I don't have anyone else to turn to.      How could you forget?!

Each of the phrases above reveals an expectation. We can expect the best of people, we can have expectations about their behavior, and sometimes we expect the worst in a situation. How do we handle our expectations of ourselves and others?

It doesn't help that the word expect has two main meanings: i) to look forward to as something reasonable, likely or certain; ii) to consider obligatory, to require. We can expect it to rain when a low-pressure system comes, but nature doesn't owe us anything. A school can expect its students to arrive on time and properly dressed. Yet we get in trouble when we confuse the two meanings. It's fine to expect (have reasonable hope for) good things and proper behavior from people, but when in our mind we expect (require) that which is unreasonable or which simply can't happen all the time, it leads to resentment -- from both parties.

I blew it this morning, having some expectations from two people in my house I love which I thought were reasonable. Actually, they are reasonable in terms of "hope", what I or they would like to see happen with increasing consistency, but they're things I have no justification for angrily requiring. Using words or tone that conveys they failed something they I thought they should have been able to do is just plain wrong on my part. The words themselves cause them to resent me, while the underlying attitude I have leads me to resent them. Neither is good, neither reflects the love we have for each other.

Having high hopes and seeing great possibilities is a wonderful thing. Michael Jordan said "You have to expect things of yourself before you can do them." Being realistic is also good. "Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes." - Zig Ziglar. Mark Twain also reflects the difference between the two: "Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get."

We can hurt ourselves with improper expectations as well. It's one thing to hold yourself to a high standard, to believe you can achieve great things, to think you can do better -- but when we beat ourselves up for falling short it serves no good. This can even hurt our relationship with God. God has many hopes for us, many commands, and expects (hopes/desires) much of us, but too often His expectations of us are less harsh than our own. Love always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. (I Cor 13:7) That's positive "expectation". Yet love is not easily angered, and keeps no record of wrongs (v.6). Love avoids harsh expectations, and does not lead to resentment, but to stronger relationship. What does God require of me? I think it's less than the laundry list of do's and don'ts that many church folk expect of us -- but to act justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with your God. (Micah 16:8)

Let's keep high standards, study and obey His commands, but maybe take down our expectations on ourselves and others just a notch or two?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Review - 66 Love Letters

A wonderful work of literature. The story of creation, fall and redemption. The Word of God. Life's Handbook. The Bible has been called many things by many people. In his latest book Dr. Larry Crabb paints a powerful picture of the Bible as "66 Love Letters." I received a review copy from Thomas Nelson Publishers and have been working my way slowly through this book. It's not a short read, but it's a good one!

In "66 Love Letters: A Conversation with God that Invites You into His Story" Crabb takes the approach of a dialogue, a very honest and open conversation, between himself and God, in which they discuss each of the 66 books of the Bible. Larry Crabb shares a number of questions, and sometimes frustrations about each book, and insights are presented from God's perspective. At times I couldn't believe how frank Dr. Crabb was with his questions and doubts. The book itself had its origins in a nearly sleepless night that began with whining at 2:00 a.m. Soon feeling an unexpected sense God was trying to speak to him, whining was replaced by pious demanding, then wonder, and a flood of questions in which the author kept asking "What are you trying to tell me in this book?" Crabb wanted more than a verse, or a single answer, he wanted to understand God's story to us. His prayer became "God, will You tell me what You want me to hear in each of these chapters? I want to know Your story." Don't get freaked out - he's not hearing audibly from God, and Crabb does not claim to have any kind of unique or mystical new revelation from God, but he does share in a fascinating way the insights he did get in this fresh adventure in reading through the Bible.

The best way to describe it might be by an example. A common theme throughout the book is that God is far more concerned with building our character than in increasing our comfort, with our holiness more than our happiness. In the chapter on I Kings, the author tells God that he's getting bogged down and losing interest in reading the love letters. He is trying to face huge challenges in live and is seeing friends go through horrible ordeals, only to find the Bible feeding him large doses of what seem to be history lessons.
"God, I need to know how to manage my life better so I can deal with headaches and hurting friends and disappointing pastors in ways that please You and keep me sane." 
"That was Solomon's mistake." 
"What?! You just lost me." 
"Your desire to be effective, to depend on biblical principles for success in your family, church, career, and friendships is legitimately strong. But when that desire is stronger than your desire to be holy and to depend on My power for becoming more like My Son, whether you succeed or fail in other ways, then you will not advance My plan, no matter how carefully you follow my principles or how much apparent success you enjoy."
66 Love Letters is a gem of book. It's not something to read through in one sitting (or even a dozen, at nearly 400 pages). It's not a set of commentaries, or expository preaching. You probably won't agree with everything he says. But it will help you marvel again at God's word, understand better what His love letters are saying to you, and show you that you're not alone in your doubts and confusion in your walk with the Lord.

There's a preview available at Thomas Nelson, and the book may be ordered from Amazon or other retailers.Check it out!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Tips to Maximize Your Learning Experience at School

Today over at the GoingToSeminary web site I share my top ten tips for maximizing your learning experience. It's aimed at folks going to grad school, seminary, and/or online learning. My #1 and #2 tips talk about the best way I've found to really reduce the stress involved with a hectic schedule and get the support you need to thrive.

Check it out -- Maximize Your Learning Experience

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Leader versus Boss

I had a little chat with my youngest son this morning, and told him that I think that he's a fine young man and I think he has good leadership potential. I asked him to be a good example, a a leader and helper on his upcoming road trip with mom and the other kids. He looked confused and said "I thought you didn't like me to boss the other kids around?" I chuckled and explained that a leader is someone who helps others and encourages them to do the right thing, while a boss just tells people what to do and tends to care only about himself.

I left it at that, but thought about some other differences between a boss and a leader.

  • A boss tells people what to do, a leader shows people what to do.
  • A boss cares about what's best for himself or the organization, a leader cares about his people as much as about higher goals.
  • A boss sees herself in a position of authority, a leader sees herself in a position of influence.
  • A boss sets one set of rules for followers and another for himself, a leader sets a higher standard for himself.
  • A hierarchical boss is to be served, a leader is a servant first and foremost.
  • A boss hoards responsibility and authority, a leader gives them away.
  • A boss is sometimes known for yelling, a leader is best know for listening.
  • A boss wrings out the most from people, a leader brings out the best in people.

If husbands and deacons were better at being spiritual leaders than trying to be the boss, they would be a whole lot easier to follow, and life would be so much better!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Review - Cradlepoint CTR350 Mobile Broadband Travel Router

How cool would it be to have a device about the size of a pack of cigarettes that was a personal/portable 'hotspot' that could provide instant wifi access anywhere, not just for you but for a dozen friends or devices? Laptop, iPad, iPod Touch? How about for $99? What about $69? It's not science fiction, it's the Cradlepoint CTR-350 Mobile Broadband Travel Router. I just picked one up at the Lafayette Best-Buy for $69 (normally $99).

I took it out of the box, plugged in my company's 3G wireless card, and my netbook and iPad were online with almost no configuration, in about two minutes. Ok - that wireless card is the "catch." This Travel Router has a USB slot where you can plug in a "3G data modem" card which typically is used to connect a single laptop to the internet via a 3G mobile service plan. The card I have is the Sierra Wireless 881u which works well. The cost for the data plan varies, but tends to run $35-$49 per month (two-year plan).

IF you already have some kind of data modem, the CTR350 travel router lets it work simultaneously with up to a dozen wifi devices and is a super buy. Some people can instead use a smart phone with "tethering" capability to provide the access. If you don't yet have the modem, and either travel a lot or don't yet have broadband it might be worth considering.

If you have a data modem that is an express card, get the CTR-500 instead. If you want a battery powered personal hotspot, Cradlepoint has a model called the PHS-300. The CTR350 and CTR500 have the added advantage of an Ethernet jack, so you can use it to either hook up a computer without wifi, or you can use the router with your cable model as a Wifi access point.

Even better, talk your boss into getting your team one, so that you can be productive at all times, even on the road, as a passenger in a car on a long drive, or on-site at a client's location.  :)


Monday, May 3, 2010

Plan B in Nashville

Unnerving irony in that on the eve of the launch of the book "Plan B" by Pete Wilson, a major flood hits the Nashville area, home to Pete and Cross Point Church. Heartbreaking news and reports, and videos, of devastation. Many on the staff of his church have lots their homes (!)  Other Christian leaders and organizations and churches are being hammered by the floods. It was not Plan A to be wiped out by a flood. How are they responding? Here's a sample of the news, help, and praise, I've been seeing on twitter:

@pwilson - This is crazy (chill bumps)!! ive nevr seen so many volunteers who keep pouring in. luv being the hands & feet of Jesus in Nashville 2day.

@pwilson - There's a dude I've never even met sleeping on my couch. #floodsbringpeopletogether

Want to help Nashville Flood victims? Here's how...

If you're headed to @crosspoint_tv Bellevue bring hammers, trashbags and brooms. Thanks!!

Flood relief has started. We've sent sevrl teams out w/ water & supplies. Now going by boat 2 help sum families.

 @MichaelHyatt (CEO of publisher Thomas Nelson) RT @GailHyatt: Great info: So My House Is Flooded, Now What?

@MichaelHyatt Here’s a video of what we dealt with yesterday in Franklin, all around my house:

And I'm so impressed by the attitude displayed by Thom Rainer (of Lifeway) --
@ThomRainer - Turning back from FL to get back to Nash. Just learned that the Harpeth River has reached our home in the flood. Please pray.
@ThomRainer - Flood waters rising in our home. We are 4 hours south of Nash. Doesn't look good for the house. I will praise Him in all things.
@ThomRainer - Just spoke to insurance company. Confirmed no flood insurance, no coverage. God is good.
@ThomRainer - Main floor of our house spared! Significant damage to lower level but could be worse. PTL. Photo of back yard 

These guys aren't just praising God in the midst of the storm, they're getting out and helping others. I pray for these families, for all those hit hard by the floods in/near Nashville, and I pray that the church of Jesus Christ could be a beacon of hope and light - and helping hands.

Review - Plan B by Pete Wilson

I was excited to get an advance look at a soon-to-be-released book via Thomas Nelson's BookSneeze program for bloggers. The book is "Plan B:What Do You Do When God Doesn't Show Up the Way You Thought He Would?" by Pete Wilson, and it is available for sale starting today.The extended title of the book pretty much sums up what the book is about...
Learn how God often does His best work in our most hopeless situations.
What do you do with a shattered dream? Or an unmet expectation? What do you do when your life isn't turning out the way you thought it would? What do you do when you have to turn to Plan B?
Pete Wilson is the lead Pastor at Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN, a seven-year old church about to launch its fourth campus this Spring. He is an excellent writer with a very conversational style, who tackles a very difficult subject with a wonderful balance of compassion and truth. It's so easy to err in discussing the intersection of pain, evil and the will of God. Pete has helped so many people in his church through terrible 'Plan B' tragedies and circumstances. Yet he doesn't water down what Scripture has to say about how God works in our lives, and how His priorities are so different from ours. Pete shares many touching stories in the book, and weaves these into his overall theme, and ties them into God's perspective. The book also includes a study guide in the back - this is a great idea as those facing Plan B scenarios definitely will want to discuss these issues and find the support that a small group can provide.

In Plan B, there are no simple answers, no silver bullet, nor does he try to tie a 'bow' to wrap things up in a neat package. Readers will still have questions, some they may never seen answered on this side of eternity, but they will find comfort, a fresh perspective, and be given about a good a chance as possible to see transformation in their lives through tragedy. Wilson does not shy away from saying difficult things, but always in a very compassionate way. He doesn't blame God for bringing tragedy, but promises that God is present and longs to help us through our most difficult seasons. He talks in depth about the cross as the ultimate example of something that at the time seemed like a Plan B tragedy.

A few quotes that I thought were particularly powerful:
"In the midst of a Plan B, you really have only one task, one calling. And that is to do what you would do if you were confident God was with you." (p.82)
"Is it possible you don't really want God? Is it possible you just want what you think God can give you?" (p.143)
I lost it and sobbed in reading the story of one young couple, when the wife broke down and cried "No mother should have to walk around and look at tombstones for her baby while that baby hiccups and shifts within her." (p.183)
I was shocked by what he called me in Chapter 10 - I can't repeat it here without it sounding harsh and out of context (but check out p.153 if you're curious!) - but he was right. For me the Chapter on Waiting on God was perhaps the most useful part of the book.

I've been through a big Plan B tragedy in my life, 18 years ago, and found myself identifying strongly with both the pain described and the hope felt in ultimately feeling again the presence of God. If you haven't been there yet, get this perspective before you face a dark night of the soul. I can't say for sure how this book would be received by someone in the midst of such pain, but I'm thinking they would find it extremely useful, possibly a lifesaver. I would strongly recommend this book for anyone who has ever asked the question "Where are you God?!" or "Why me?"

For more resources on Plan B and a lot of powerful stories, check out "Plan B" is available at Amazon and other retailers.

      I review for BookSneeze

Sunday, May 2, 2010

May your May be bright

Wow, I can't believe it's May already! April was a good month. A new month also means a new free audiobook from It's "The Hole in Our Gospel" by Richard Stearns and Thomas Nelson Publishers. "It is not just what you believe, but what you believe enough to do that matters." They describe it as:
This is a story of how a corporate CEO faced his own struggle to obey God whatever the cost, and his passionate call for Christians to change the world by actively living out their faith. Using his own journey as an example, Stearns explores the hole that exists in our understanding of the Gospel.
What else this month? Well, I wrote my very first page in a book idea I've been mulling over for a few months! That's certainly not a lot of progress, but for me getting started is often half the battle. More on that later.

Finally, an article I really liked over at Mac Lake's blog -- The Power of Informality in Leadership Development. There he describes how one of his mentors really made an impact on his life:
Looking back I see now he knew exactly what he was doing with me.  He would engage me in conversation about things in my life so he could create connection with me.  Then he would move the conversation to leadership and ministry.  As we discussed the challenges and successes he would ask questions, toss out ideas all which would stimulate engaging conversation.  Ideas would lead to dreams, dreams would lead to goals, goals would lead to action plans…all generated out of a “conversation”.  
Sometimes an informal approach is best.