Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Near Life Experiences

Every once and a while something happens in our lives that changes our perspectives to see things more clearly. For just a while afterwards life is more vibrant. I want to share a few of these experiences I've had.
So what keeps us from seeing things in High Def with out a "game changer?"
What can we do to see things more clearly with out a game changer?
For more information on Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis please visit here.
To get involved in the fight for a cure please visit Partners Seeking a Cure.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

“HIS-tory” told from the saddle

A few weeks ago I had the privilege of taking my little sister (Hilary) down to Quarter Horse Congress in Columbus Ohio. She was participating in a national public speaking contest. Back in April of 2010 she won the state competition earning her a spot to compete at this contest.
Hilary’s speech was entitled “Horses Helping to Heal Hearts,” speaking to how horses are used in peoples lives to impact them in positive ways. Many of these people are troubled (gang youth, prisoners, and girls with eating disorders and people with anger problems).
One of the stories that Hilary tells in her speech, is actually about me. She gives a brief description of how God used horses is my life to direct me off the bad path I was on, and toward the path that He had for me. I was one of those kids with severe anger issues, but the Lord used large amounts of time around the gentle nature of the horse accompanied by people who invested in me to completely transform my life.
Hearing Hilary’s speech was a great reminder to me of how God is at work in each one of our lives. Each of us has a story to tell. A story of God’s grace and work in our lives. I think that our story can be one of the best tools to share the hope that we have in Christ. Just look at the story God tells through the Israelites!
My little sister is telling part of my story, and I wonder how often I have even thought to share it. If we don’t tell our stories who will, and how will people ever meet Jesus!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Nuts and Bolts Check

Part of ‘winterizing’ camp is doing our ‘Nuts and Bolts’ check on the high ropes courses. Basically that means we tighten all the clamps and check for wear and tear or anything that could be unsafe or needs maintenance so when the guy in the picture jumps, we know he'll have something to land on. My job in the process was to take a crescent wrench and check any bolts that I could for tightness. Sounds easy, but when you’re only 5’3”, standing 15 feet off the ground the cable is 3 feet above your head it can be pretty tricky! I did my best but it seemed like everything was as tight as could be. Then Ben came along with a torque wrench. I’m not mechanical so I can’t really tell you how it works, but you can follow the link to Wikipedia if you so desire. As he went to the bolts I’d just announced as tight as could be, he was able to get between 5-8 turns on each one because of the power of his tool. It’s not that Ben was doing more than I was; it’s that his instrument was more effective than mine.
How many times do I try to do things in my power instead of letting God do it in his? On my own with my little crescent wrench, I wasn’t able to tighten those clamps at all. I pulled and strained and climbed, but try as I might I just wasn’t capable. But with that torque wrench, big movement was possible and the ropes course is now safe because of it. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. Sometimes I think I have to have it all together and that I can do anything I put my mind to. I want to rearrange my thinking to God can do anything when I put my mind to him. If I can do this, it’d be like replacing my ineffective crescent wrench with a torque wrench and result in a more secure life overall. Are you living on God’s power or your own today?

Monday, November 15, 2010

K.I.S.S.

No I am not writing about the singing group; Yes I am old enough to remember when they first made it big. KISS is an acronym from the business world for "Keep It Simple Stupid." Most of the time we make things to complicated. Amazon has the idea when they let you order something with one click. The government rarely ever considers how to keep it simple. The last two weeks of my life have been extremely busy and it gets me wondering how to make things simple (might have been a better thought to have before five kids). As I am sure many of you are thinking; I wonder where to start. It all seems like good stuff to be doing. What do you cut out? We even have eliminated one of the more challenging time sponges, TV. The reality is that I am doing all good things. Now it comes down to choosing the best over the good. I do not know how it will all turn out. But these are questions I am asking myself:
  • Do I want a better relationship with my wife? Requires more time!
  • Would I be happy to have my children come to me to talk about what is on their minds? Requires more time!
  • How many friends do I really invest in (facebook doesn't count)? Requires more time!
  • Can my family really enjoy doing things together? Requires more time!
  • Are there any problems in my community I can help solve? Requires more time!
  • Can God really meet all my needs? Requires more time!

I like how Joe Gibbs used to coach the Washington Redskins. Each week he would encourage the players and the team to get 10% better. Maybe I can cut out 10% of the things I am now doing to better answer the previous questions.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Making God Smile

Last week, I almost stole from Meijer. It was my day off and I decided to drive down to Grand Valley State University (my alma mater) to visit friends and go to a book reading of “Bittersweet” by Shauna Niequist. On the way back, I stopped at Meijer in Muskegon to pick up some groceries. I was tired, it was late, and I knew I still had a long drive ahead of me. After I checked out, I rolled my little cart out to my little car and began to put my bags in my trunk. As I lifted the last bag I noticed a box of popcans on the bottom rack. I lifted it into my trunk and shut the lid. I put my cart away and as I walked back to Lola the Corolla (that’s my car’s name) I started thinking about that case of pop. My internal conversation went something like this,
“I paid for that, right? Yeah, I paid for that…
Did I really pay for that or did it just sit on the bottom rack the whole time? I don’t think I paid for it.”
But I was tired and just wanted to go home so I convinced myself that I had indeed paid for the case and started my engine. I put my car in reverse and backed out of my parking space… directly into another space on the other side of the aisle. I hadn’t paid for those cans. I knew I hadn’t. I walked those cans back into Meijer and looked for someone to return them to. The only person I could see was a high school boy working the self check-out. I walked up to him, handed him the cans and said, “I accidentally walked out with these cans. I’m sorry and I wanted to return them.” To be honest, I wanted there to be confetti and balloons. I thought for sure someone would give me a pat on the back, a smile, or perhaps heavenly music would begin playing as my halo glowed brighter than ever. But instead, the boy just gave me a weird look and said, “Ok, cool.” I was a little disappointed at his lack of enthusiasm for my good deed. But then my mind traveled back to something I'd heard from the author only hours before, “Stop waiting for life to pass you by. Think about the things you do really well, the things that God make smile. Then go do it.”
In that moment I realized that I didn’t need a confetti party in Meijer. It was enough to know that God was smiling. These days I’m trying to identify the things I do that make God smile and do them more. Actually, I don’t want to just make God smile, I’d like it if he’d chuckle or maybe even guffaw. Have you thought about how you can make God smile today? If you like to sing, then belt one out in the car. Maybe it’s art, cooking, listening, building, talking, loving, or forgiving. Whatever it is that you do, do it well and make God smile.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Everybody cheats, so it's not wrong

Have you seen any of the startling statistics about academic dishonesty?
  • 80% of "high-achieving" high school students admit to cheating.
  • 51% of high school students did not believe cheating was wrong.
  • 95% of cheating high school students said that they had not been detected.
  • 75% of college students admitted cheating, and 90% of college students didn't believe cheaters would be caught.
  • Almost 85% of college students said cheating was necessary to get ahead.
  • 72% of college students reported one or more instances of serious cheating on written work

from The Center for Academic Integrity (http://www.academicintegrity.org/) McCabe, D. L., & Trevino, L. K. (1996). "What we know about cheating in college: Longitudinal trends and recent developments." Change, 28(1), 28-33. (EJ 520 088)

Many of these are almost 10 years old. At the University of Central Florida over 200 students in a 600 student business class were caught cheating. The story is here. What is enlightening is one students response,

But student Konstantin Ravvin expressed a different opinion, accusing the university of "making a witch hunt out of absolutely nothing, as if they want to teach us some kind of moral lesson." "This is college. Everyone cheats, everyone cheats in life in general," Ravvin said. "I think you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone in this testing lab who hasn't cheated on an exam."

Here we find a classic example of a post-modern worldview, and the results of the deterioration of values in our society. Postmodern defines social norms as what personally discovered. Right and wrong are dependant upon what a person believes. There fore there is no absolute truth or right and wrong, merely what one person thinks is okay for them. The outcome of this is there are no true norms for behavior. Culture then defines right and wrong. If it's culturally acceptable or politically correct it's okay. If it helps to get me ahead, and I feel like "cheating" is worth it in the end, then that is "right" for me. Combine this with a sin nature, and we have a recipe for rampant dishonesty.

How can a student say 200 classmates who got caught with an elicit version of the exam which requires espionage, coercion, and dissemination, "is making a witch hunt out of absolutely nothing?" Because to him, cheating isn't wrong. It fits inside his social norms, not only does it fit inside his world view of nothing is truly wrong, but it's culturally rampant, so it is also socially acceptable.

There's something else at play as well though. Behavior is driven by values. Values are driven by worldview. Think of an iceberg. If you only see the tip, there's 90% more underwater. The same concept applies. Under the surface are the values, and under that are the world view of a person. For example, the Christian worldview says God created humans. There fore they value life. Therefore the behavior is choosing not to support abortion. The humanist worldview says we're all here from random chance. There fore they value science and which tells them life is random and short. There fore the behavior is that abortion is okay.

As a nation their has been a progressive deterioration of world view, values, and behavior. We see the World War 1 and 2 generations had a largely Biblical world view. However they only passed on their values of hard work, honesty, integrity to the baby boomers. With out the worldview to support these values the behavior started to slide away from a Biblical worldview. The boomers only passed on the behavior they wanted to their children. The boomers didn't have the world view, their children didn't have the values to support the behavior. Therefore as soon as the next generation was out of sight from their parents they engaged in whatever behavior they wanted. They did not have the internal iceberg underwater to steer their behavior.

Except that they did. We all have a world view and values. When we don't help our children discover and define a Biblical world view and values, they will have their own. Culture will define this. This is why there is little difference in cheating stats amongst Christians and non-Christians.

Have you taught your children a biblical world view? Have you merely tried to impart your values with out explaining to them where they come from? Have you only focused on their behavior so that they'll "act right". With out a solid world view the behavior can never be sustainable.

We as a nation are so far removed from a Biblical world view, that we see the results in statistics and stories like this cheating story. There's no reason for them not to cheat according to how they were raised. Couple that with their parents modeled it buy cheating on taxes with under the table money, by cheating on how much they claimed on a car purchase so they don't have to pay taxes, or whose listed as a primary driver for insurance, or fudging their age so they can go on a trail ride at the horse stable because it's a minimum of 9.

The result is we have a huge worldview problem. Which is what Grace is committed to changing in the students we work with.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Are you a field or a temple?

Are you a do'er or a be'er? No not a "beer". In your relationship to God do you focus on what you do for Him, or do you focused on abiding in Him, or being in Him? As I studied 1 Corinthians 3 this morning I think the answer should be both, but it was a healthy reminder that I need to focus on being in Him more. In 1 Corinthians 3 Paul is talking to the Corinthian church. He is chastising them for taking sides on who they say they follow, Paul or Apollos. It is likely that Paul founded the church and then Apollos furthered the ministry here after Paul. This is speculation, but since their doctrine was the same, it is likely that Apollos war more eloquent in speech or delivery. We know that Paul was probably not the most articulate or eloquent (1 Cor 2:1), and that he had a physical ailment which may have left him partly crippled or blind. All of this leads me to believe that people were following Apollos for his smooth speech and strong appearance. Paul places himself and Apollos in the same category as field workers for the Lord. Paul planted and Apollos watered. They are both toiling in the same soil, with the same purpose.

1 Cor 3:9

For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.

The "we" refers to Paul and Apollos. "You" refers to the Corinthians, but could easily be applied to current Christians as well. God compares us to a field. This is an expected analogy. We are God's workmanship. We also have a purpose and he uses other Christians to nurture us, cultivate us, but we also must bear fruit. This plant analogy is common through out the new testament. What really set me back is we are God's "field" but we are also his "building". Many translations say "dwelling". You see God has created a dwelling place for Himself in ourselves as temples of the Holy Spirit.

1 Cor 3:16-17

16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.

So the work of the apostle Paul was not just to cultivate the field, but to build God's temple in other people.

1 Cor 3:10-11

10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

God would not allow anybody to build His temple. This is something carefully over sought and directed. Skilled hands would be recruited for such a special task. I often look at myself as a tool of the Lord, a field for use for His purposes. I often forget that God also desires to dwell in me and with me. That He has created me and continues to build in me the new man that reflects His holiness. Do you consider yourself Holy? Do your behaviors and thoughts reflect the Holy temple of the Lord? Have you focused on what your doing for the Lord and not focused on how to be in the Lord?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Does facebook know when you'll break up?

Are you concerned about if or when you might break up with your significant other? There is a new graph floating around from independent researchers who did a search for "breakup" and "broken up". And here are the amazing results;
The top two days for a break up to occur are right after Valentines Day and two weeks before Christmas. Then comes April fool's day, and Mondays. The best times of year are Christmas day, and spring and fall. I have a couple thoughts on why these days are popular. We have a terrible view of romance and intimacy. Holidays like Valentines Day high light this. The whole focus of the day for many people is to create an emotionally intense experience. This is okay at times in a relationship; however there must be a foundation of maturity and commitment that can counter the emotional low times. Second emotional intensity is almost always coexistent with sexual intensity. Outside the confines of marriage, and especially with young people who lack the maturity to process the feelings this creates, this is a recipe for disaster. So let's create a holiday that sets all of these variables on a tee for a couple to abuse. When expectations are meant, emotions don't connect, and things go poorly, we have a recipe for a breakup. The Christmas thing is much easier to explain. People are cheap! Two weeks before Christmas, that's present buying time. Why by a present for someone you don't know if you want to be in a relationship with? The April fool's thing is just rude, but a little funny in a sick sort of way. Have you ever broken up with someone because of the time of year, or a holiday?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Smashed Ice Cream! Smash on!

Sometimes in life, all you have to do is get a bit creative to add a little excitement. So we were working on putting together some new and different things for our summer camp next summer, and this is one of the ideas that came out of the experience. We want to offer "smashed" ice cream. So campers young and old can order their product from our camp store either "regular" or "smashed" and then we will provide the smashing. I am thinking it will require a large rubber mallet. But I can guarantee that kids will order ice cream, just to be able to observe it being smashed. videoWhat is something that you can do for your family to add a little excitement? In a good way? Will you order "smashed" ice cream when you come to Grace this summer?

Monday, October 11, 2010

When is success a success?

Have you ever experienced a huge success in your life only to find out you didn't feel successful?
I'm learning a new way of celebrating successes in my job as Marketing Director. I used to gauge success by depth of ministry when I was more hands on in programming. Now I'm removed from the front lines. I don't see and feel the same things I felt. I know that I am no less part of the ministry, so why don't I feel as excited about success in my new role?
For example, we just held our annual women's retreat at Grace Adventures. This event usually had about 60 women. We had only budgeted for 60 women this year. I had a goal set in my head of 200 women. I knew this event would be important for Grace's growth plans and we had to expand how many women we served.
I spent time and energy on sales, phone calls, brochures, e-blasts, strategic partners, church partners, radio advertising, and more. Long story short about a month ago it became apparent that we were going to be closer to 250 than 200. Wow, what a response! I really take very little credit because I did a lot of the same things for our Men's retreat and that had to be cancelled due to low registrations. This was a God thing for sure. So why when the goal was realized and more, didn't I feel excited, accomplished, or happy about what had happened?
I've been chewing on this for a while. Am I ungrateful, or so driven that I can rarely acknowledge when enough is good?
This weekend the Women's Retreat came and went, can I tell you our entire campus stunk pretty. Talk about an estrogen overload! The chocolate was flowing, the energy was electric, and the women were fantastic. There was a buzz and a feeling that had to be God's presence. During the sessions, the meal times, the pamper room, and paintball there was joy, peace, and encouragement. This was truly a great weekend.
As I saw and interacted with the women and heard their stories, I started to feel that emotional high I thought I should get when I finished "selling" for the retreat. You see even though my job forces me to focus on numbers, changed lives are what's at stake. Sometimes it is easy to forget that as I'm looking at spreadsheets, and advertising costs. What part did I play in this weekend? Not much from Friday through Sunday. However I played a huge part in helping bridge the gap between a great retreat, and the women who had to be here. No more important than the program staff, food service, operations, worship leader, or speaker; but still part of the process.
In marketing it can be easy to lose track of why God has placed you where you are. It is easy to become disconnected or detached from the daily ministry happening when you're 6-9 months ahead of it in your role. The bridge to gap is I will not always get a chance to see the seeds being reaped that I have helped plant months before. How do I celebrate success without the emotional high that can be found through being present during the experience?
I suspect time and seasoning will help with this transition. However it is a good thing to seek that emotion, if it forces me to stay connected with the mission taking place. We can't all be a foot, or an eye. I don't know what body part marketing is, maybe the mouth (I'm told I have a big one). Together we are a part of the team, and we must learn to celebrate successes as a body, in order to encourage one another.
P.S. To the gentleman who told his wife to tell me to blog more while she was at the retreat, this is for you. Also I hope you enjoyed the pictures from the weekend.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Lessons from a Trash Can

I had a doctor’s appointment the other day to determine if I should have my ACL in my knee reconstructed (more on that in my next blog). As usual, I was trying to cram a bunch of other stuff into the trip before and after so I was late. Then, in my attempt at multi-tasking, I was finishing my lunch; talking on the phone; and running into the doctor’s office.
After the exam; setting the plan for surgery; and scheduling the date, I was off to the next task at hand. As I walked out of the office, I grabbed for my truck keys in my pocket only to have that sinking feeling in my stomach and the automatic verbal response of “Oh No.” “No worries”, I said to myself as I was certain in my hurried rush I just left them in the ignition and locked them in the truck. It wouldn’t have been the first time. So I walked down the two flights of stairs and across the parking lot to the truck – no keys. “No worries, I am sure they fell out of my pocket in the exam room”, I thought to myself. Back across the parking lot I went and up the two flights of stairs (with no ACL in one of my knees I might add). I looked around the waiting room; I talked to the receptionist, and the nurse. They had me go back into the examination room but still no keys. I looked under the examination table and behind the door but still no keys.
Now at this point, I was worried. I was worried because I didn’t know how to fix it. It was only then that I realized that I hadn’t prayed and asked God for help. Why is that? Is it because I think God doesn’t care about lost truck keys? Is it because I am a man and I am too proud? You might say both and yet neither. It just hadn’t even been part of my thought pattern. So I prayed! As I was walking down the stairs again with my bum knee I prayed that God would help me out. Before I finished my prayer the only thought I had was “trash can”. You see, on my way in I had thrown away my trash from lunch and I had completely forgotten that. I walked outside the hospital and took the lid of the trash can. There right on top was my set of keys! God answered my prayer! Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:25-34 that we are far more valuable then birds and lilies yet he takes care of them. The lesson is that God does care about the little things in our life. So do you go through your day worrying about the little things of your life or is it part of your thought pattern to ask for God for help as the first resort? Romans 12 tells us to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. The next time I lose my keys (and there will be a next time) I desire to have calling upon God for help as part of my thinking pattern.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Stop and smell the horse manure

   
This last weekend we had our Women’s Retreat here at Paradise Ranch. It was a great time filled with fun horseback rides, good food, laughter, relaxation, and spiritual rejuvenation. Talking with these ladies you find that they are all mothers and wives, and they all have very busy schedules. And one of the big things that they look forward to all year is when they get to come up to Grace Adventures and relax and have fun being with other ladies and spending time with the horses (something they all have in common).
I think the thing that stuck out to me the most this weekend was my new realization of the need for down time. I tend to be a workaholic and I rarely take time to be still. Something that was emphasized this weekend by one of our speakers (Tricia Coppess) was that one of the reasons we tend to busy our schedules is because it doesn’t give us a chance to have down time and think about things in our lives that we don’t like. I think that this is where a lot of people are at in their lives, and it is time that we slow down and take time to think and let God speak and minister to our hearts with His still small voice. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Bad context... Bad Pizza

I'm down in Chicago for the weekend watching my little brother play football, and I have a doctor's appointment on Tuesday. My father and I are staying for the weekend to hang out with Corey. So last night after the girls all headed north we needed a place to eat. My father wanted to go visit a very famous Chicago pizza place. So he told me the name the restaurant and I searched for it in my blackberry in order to find an address.
It was 22 miles away so Corey, Steve, and I jumped in the car and drove to town. The further we got the more confident my father got that this was the wrong direction. By now we're all getting very hungry, and the neighborhood is getting a little sketchy. Finally after a 45 minute drive we arrive on our final destination....
GIOVANNI'S!!!
the world famous take out pizza place???
You see my father said Giovanni's (meaning Giordanos) when I asked him the name of the place. I took him at his word and searched for Giovanni's, which happened to come up. What I really wanted to search for was...
GIORDANO'S!!! the world famous pizza place!!!
What happened was I heard something that sounded right "giovannis" and acted on it. Instead of spending a little bit of time researching and doing to some back ground checks I just went with it with out a second thought.
Unfortunately this happens way too often in our spiritual lives as well. We hear some one say they heard something in the Bible about such and such a topic, or they'll make a statement with out support and we'll blindly take them at their word. More often we read a passage and with out spending diligence studying the context of the chapter, consulting other resources, or seeing what others have said about the passage, we make a conclusion and then an application from that conclusion. This is called devotional interpretation and is based largely on our limited knowledge as well as our personal feelings and biases about the text. This poor reading of scripture leads to eisogesis or false meanings about the passage.
Another problem with eisogesis is it can lead you to the wrong pizza place!
So as you study in your devotions remember to take time and look at the historical context, the background, and seek outside help from respected commentaries in order to get the most accurate reading possible.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The power of the "stache"

Here's a little Friday morning humor for you.
Check out this sweet article about 20 mustaches that changed the world.
My personal favorite is the "Tom Selleck", because my dad has tried to be his twin for 30 years.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Comparisons

I remember as a kid, my dad called me to come inside, but I was having fun playing with my younger brother. Well, in our family, if you didn't follow instructions there were consequences. I remember, standing in the shower afterward and comparing who had the reddest backside!
Kids aren't the only ones to compare. We all do. But comparisons can lead to sin. How?
Well, if you compare yourself to others, and you come out ahead. I am better, I can do this faster, nicer, with much better quality... Comparisons lead to pride. Basically, we are taking credit for how God created us, and for his gifting in our lives.
On the other hand, if you compare yourself to others, and you come out behind: I am not good, I can't do it as well, They are soo much better... Comparisons lead to doubt. Meaning, we don't believe that God did a good job. And we question his ability to use us. This is unbelief or lack of trust. We are saying God can't do it.
Honestly, I wish I could say that this doesn't happen for me. However, truth be told, I find myself bouncing between both categories. Some days, I am prideful and think, "why can't others do things as well as me." "Why does it take them so long." "I wish they would think through this situation the way I would." Then other times, I question myself. I look around at the people I work with, and see how much more effective, detailed, or driven they are than me. They get things done, I get bogged down. They are very strategic and intentional, I wing it. They plan ahead, and I always procrastinate.
So what can we do to avoid or overcome comparisons. Realistically, I don't think you can live a day in this world without making a comparison, so avoidance isn't the best option. However, I think we can move our focus away from comparing ourselves to others, by being thankful.
Here is what I mean. We need to constantly thank God: both for the way he has gifted us and the ways that we see he has gifted others. When I am thankful, I give God credit for his creation, and I choose to believe that he can do it through me and through those around me. I negate pride, because it is God's craftsmanship, and I negate unbelief, because I am stating he did it!
Here is my best effort at sharing some things that God has been teaching me this past year. At times, I felt like a Mac in a PC world, here at Grace. At the time, I knew it wasn't true, but I was so different from other fulltime staff. As I have had God speak his truth into my life, I have come to claim that I am a necessary, and needed part of the body. He wants me to be different, he made me that way.
He wants you to be you. He made you that way. So stop dwelling on comparisons, and be thankful!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Facebook Affairs?

There is a rising trend in relationships. Man and women enter into a committed relationship (marriage or not), one person's ex-significant other from the past pops up on facebook, a little bit longer there is a messy split. Is facebook at fault for connecting us with former flames and leaving us no choice but to accept that friend request? After all you have accepted the door man's request, your cousins uncles room mates request, it would be rude to ignore some one you once had a relationship with. The real question should be why would you leave a door cracked open. A wise person once told me that humans enter into sin through doors they intentionally left cracked open. Here's the problem with having that old flame around. It didn't work the first time, but you've forgotten that by now. All you remember are the powerful first crush feelings you had or the high lights of the relationship. Over time this has been warped into a pseudo fantasy instead of reality. Now those feelings come back with fake memories to support them. There is a level of danger and risk that give you a rush as well. All of this combined is a sort of mental pornography in effect because it warps reality, pulls you away from real interaction, and creates a rush. Are you spending more time facebooking than you are face time with people? What level of accountability do you have with your significant other? Do you have secrets from them? All of these are open doors we leave cracked. It's not facebooks fault any more than it's a pens fault for misspelled words. I read an article by a secular therapist on a mainstream news website where he explained that even he does not accept these requests. That his wife has access to all his accounts at any time, and she can call him, text him or just show up at any time. That is open and transparent. He has nothing to hide, and his relationship benefits from his showing that to his wife. So instead of leaving doors cracked open, what new doors can you open in your relationship that will strengthen and encourage your spouse? What new and exciting hobbies can you start together to create new energy? Look for ways to be proactive in protecting your relationship and with openness, transparency, and accountability, you won't have to worry about facebook.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Self Esteem: Hot Air or Hard Things

I happen to be a competitive person, who values staying healthy. A few years ago I needed a goal to stay motivated. It was getting harder and harder to wake up and exercise. So, I decided to try a triathlon. Running wasn't my favorite thing, but the variety of swimming, biking, and running helped spice it up. Now a few years later I really enjoy finishing a race. This summer the joy was increased when my two oldest daughters, 13 and 11 years old wanted to race with me. We found a triathlon that had distances for their ages and the training began. My 11 year old is extremely competitive and would ask me when we could bike or run. Anna our oldest had a harder time, especially with running. It was always too painful for her to run. Two weeks before the race she wanted to quit. I could have told her it was great that she tried and maybe next year she could actually do the race. Too often, we, adults, tend to believe that affirming words and frivolous praise will build up the confidence of a child. Self Esteem can only come from self accomplishment. Anna was given a choice, she could drop out of the race and pay back the entry fee or do the race. She choose to stick with it. During the race she was the first one out of the water and the first one off her bike, now the running was still very difficult, but she finished third. The look of satisfaction and joy on her face at the end of the race was priceless. There was nothing I could have done or said to produce that look. Anna's self esteem was greatly increased because she followed through on a difficult task. How can you challenge those around you to do hard things?

Healthy Tension?

Many people spend a significant amount of time trying to avoid stress, strain, and tension in their lives. There are entire life styles devoted to experiencing a totally stress free life. I've been reading a bit about leadership lately. One concept that comes up frequently and one that we teach as critical to leadership at Grace, is the idea of healthy tension.
What creates tension?
1. Relationships; One article talked about how poor leaders hire people with similar behaviors and beliefs. This means there often is not much disagreement. I think insecure leaders do this. It takes a lot of comfort and confidence in who you are where you're going to have people on your team that see things differently. However with out those people, you can never break out of your own paradigms that may be stifling success.
This only works when all parties involved have unity of purpose though. If there is disagreement with out unity then people will start protecting their silos, which will create destruction, defensiveness, and criticism.
2. Departmental; Different arms of organizations have different perspectives. This is similar to relationships but not the same. The accountant is more sensitive to finances, while the product control officer is concerned with the highest quality product. Marketing wants to sell the world, while the service providers don't want to compromise experience. Left to our own desires each department could very easily slip into a pattern of what they see as best with out considering the other perspectives. This balance of desires is what helps to keep a company honest with itself.
3. External Factors; Competition, growth, change in cost of doing business, bad PR, are all examples of things that can cause tension in a company. This has a different opportunity though. Because it's not predicated by anybody in the company usually, the team has the chance to band together against this tension. It can cause unity or disunity depending on how it is responded to. Leadership must cast a vision for employees to band together behind in order to overcome these opportunities.
Finally tension can become unhealthy. When it becomes personal, when there is no appreciation for the areas of unity, when people feel unsafe, for whatever reason the line has been crossed.
Consider a rubber band. It only works if it is stretched, stretched too far and it can not serve its purpose. Are you creating teams that have healthy tension in them? How do you know how much is too much?
This is the most amazing rubber band gun ever, epic;

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Lessons from the County Fair

The end of August signifies the end of summer for most people as kids head back to school and the weather starts to cool. The end of August also signifies for many Oceana County kids the end of year of hard work, dedication, fun, and fellowship. The end of August is the Oceana County 4H fair and this was my daughter’s first year participating. I am a people watcher. Therefore, the week was extremely interesting and at times very entertaining. You see all sorts of people with all sorts of different behaviors as they file through the barns to look at the livestock and take in all of the sights, smells, and textures that go with going through, hog, sheep, goat, cattle, and horse barns. You could tell those from the city and those from the country right away. What is more interesting to me were the families and how the parents interacted with their kids. This was just as true for 4H families as it was the fair goers. Now 4H is an absolutely wonderful organization with many great outcomes. I am very excited to see my daughter creating her own experiences that building character that will translate into much broader applications then how to muck a horse stall. What 4H is not, is that it is not a Christian organization. Being a much more diverse organization means that the kids (and parents) have a diversity of worldviews. When I first saw a different worldview being displayed by a kid talking back to their parent or a parent cussing out their kid, I was sadden. I wanted to confront and correct the behavior. Then I asked myself if I even wanted my daughter to be exposed to seeing such things? As I reflected, I remembered Luke 19:1-10 which is the story of Zacchaeus. Luke 19:9-10 says,”Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” Ephesians 5 tells us to live a life of love, light, and wisdom. That is, our lives should reflect Christ in all that we do. That is exactly what Jesus modeled for us with Zacchaeus. Working in full-time ministry and being involved in our local church my kids spend a majority of their time in a safe, nurturing, Christian environment. That is awesome! However, I am excited for her involvement in 4H because what a great opportunity for my daughter to see how the world ,lost as it is, but yet the two of us have an opportunity to build relationships with people, model Christ, and be used by God to save what was lost. How does God want to use you? Are you in the World, but not of the World or are you so removed from the World that you have lost touch with who is lost? Christ never compromised Truth and yet he continued to seek and to save the lost.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Today's college students are yesterdays junior high students

Have you interacted with college freshman lately? How about High school students? Why are there so many 25 year olds seemingly with out a plan or purpose? The answer is the extension of adolescence or latent adolescence.
Today's Junior High students act like elementary students, high school seems like junior high, and college seems like high school. Maybe most troubling is how many 22-26 year olds are totally unprepared to face the world.
Where is this coming from? I'm not psychology major but I have a few ideas.
1. The lack of a rite of passage. In cultures where there is a clear rite of passage from adolescence into adulthood there is no such problem. It's not just a ceremony (but walking on fire, or throwing knives, or spending a weekend in bear country might be good ones), it's as much that the child is now treated like an adult. The culture holds them to that standard, the family does, and the child knows they are now an adult. We don't have a set age for when you're an adult. Kids know this. They milk child hood as long as they can. With no deadline on your youth, you can be a lost boy forever. With a rite of passage it eliminates this maturation ambiguity. This may require you to look at your child as an adult instead of a child or young adult.
2. Helicopter parents. We have the most over involved generation of parents ever. That's why college freshman orientations are increasingly programmed to help parents get the idea that they're really not welcome. One school message board had a thread going before move in day along the lines of, "How long should I stay? 1 day? 2 days? 3 days? What if my child needs something?" "Well I'm going to his first classes, and I'll help him switch classes at the registrar office if he needs to get out of a class"
REALLY?!!! You're going to his classes? This is a generation of parents that have not allowed their children to make many decisions. They picked out the clothes, they picked out the teachers, they picked out the sports, they picked out the extra curriculur's and so on. These kids literally don't know how to make decisions or problem solve because mom and dad have always done so for them. It is almost always borne out of good intentions, a fear of the child being hurt. Some times the parents are living vicariously through the child. Regardless the child is not learning Independence.
A new trend is recent college graduates taking parents with them to their FIRST JOB INTERVIEWS! I mean seriously why are we wondering why kids aren't growing up.
When you don't allow kids to make decisions young, where the consequences are fairly minor, then they'll have to learn when they're older where the consequences are more severe. If Johnny doesn't want to put a coat on this winter, let him go outside for a while until he gets cold. He'll learn to put a coat on by himself. If Jenny doesn't want to eat supper, that's fine, but don't give her a snack. Going all night hungry won't hurt her, it'll teach her why we eat supper when we do. These seemingly every day small decisions are how we train our kids to make wise decisions. If we make bad decisions as adults there are consequences. If we rescue our kids from bad decisions or don't allow them to make decisions, then it'll be hard for them to transition to a world they've never experienced.
We see all these things happen at camp. We run a short week for 7-9 year olds who want to try camp out with out going a full week. More cell phones are smuggled in that week than in our junior high or high school weeks. Is it because these kids have so many friends to talk to? No, it's because parents want to be able to call at any time to "check in" on them. We have potential staff come to interviews and expect their parents to be able to sit in with them.
So here's what we're doing to help students transition from dependency on parents to being more in dependant, spiritually, financially, and take more responsibility.
It's called ASCENT. A 9 month program for recent high school graduates who aren't quite sure what the next step is for them. Your student will have a level of freedom and Independence different from at home, but yet still in a safe environment where they can learn about who God made them to be. They will be challenged to think and problem solve on their own, and to learn to work in teams.
This tuition based program will help build character, Godliness, self discipline, leadership and health relationship skills, personal finance and career readiness, as well as teach professional Christian camping skills.
Students will spend time in class, practicum, personal study, and in service both on and off campus. Tuition includes meals and housing. The time frame is October through April.
If you're interested or have questions give us a call 231-873-3662. Space is filling up for this fall.
Here is a link on the delay of adulthood.
Here is a link on how college freshman orientation policies have adapted to dismiss parents.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Flip Marketing

A good friend of mine asked me to write a blog on marketing. I guess because my title has marketing in it, he thinks I know what I'm doing. I've been chewing on it a lot though and what hasn't been said about marketing? Not much.
Here's my quick tip number one though.
For $160 you can have a 720i HD flip cam that shoots as high quality as my $3000 Sony HDV camcorder. It's incredible. It is the size of a cell phone and has a USB port so it plugs right into your computer. You can literally have a video on the Internet in less than five minutes.
Why is this important. Because you never know when your next awesome marketing moment will be. They come out of no where. A camper is telling a story, and counselor is getting blobbed, some thing is always happening at camp.
As equally important as the tool, is the purpose. Stories sell. Testimonies sell. With a flip cam you can capture high quality testimonies in a non-threatening way and boom they're online in minutes.
Recently I was at the Unity Festival music concert in Muskegon. With headliners like Casting Crowns, Third Day, Jeremy Camp, Matthew West, Mandisa and others, this is a big time concert. Grace partners with the festival to create a "mini camp" experience called Camp Unity. We bring all kinds of camp activities and set up a little carnival type feel. Well to highlight all my previous points, check out who stopped by.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Vulnerability in Leadership

I grew up watching John Wayne, the strong, loner, rugged, ideal American leader. He embodied what many would consider a leader today with strong character, bravery, makes quick decisions, assertiveness, and courage. Did I mention I was John Wayne for Halloween 10 years in a row. I also have a life size cutout in my office.
We miss the boat on leadership though when we only focus on this heroic model of leadership. True leaders are vulnerable. Vulnerability is one of the most underused tools in a leaders tool box. Let me explain. The job of a leader is to empower their followers and create the most positive environment for productivity possible. This is the intangible part of success. Company morale is a nebulous yet crucial component to a leader effectiveness. When people feel comfortable and confident they are more productive. When they are anxious, afraid, or under attack, they are less productive. In all the teams I have managed, I have seen leaders that put a wall between themselves and their followers. It is an us and them mentality. There is a hierarchy here that you can not cross. There are definitely and should be boundaries in relationships but that's not what I'm talking about. This is a relational hierarchy. There is a lack of vulnerability. The best teams are intimately connected. Soldiers fight for their new brothers beside them, sports teams that are successful have relationships that go far beyond the field of play, and the Trinity is the best example. The best teams I've been apart of we cared deeply for one another. You fight harder, play harder, and deal with one another in a different way when those bonds are strong. Vulnerability breeds intimacy in a safe environment. When you share your struggles, fears, concerns, with some one else they have two responses. They can humiliate or use that information against you, or they can support and show compassion. When a team chooses the latter, it is like super glue and instant relational credibility amongst one another. It has to be a safe environment. The fastest way to tear a team apart though, is for some one to choose to be vulnerable and then get hurt because of it. If there is not trust, support, and compassion on the team, it will destroy the team like a hand grenade. As a leader you must do two things; 1. Create an environment of trust and support on the teams you lead. This is done by example, by confronting inappropriate behavior immediately, and encouragement and support. 2. Take the first step. It is scary and difficult for some of us to let those around us in on how we're feeling. I grew up in a home with four males, and a mom with not as much compassion as others. We don't talk about our feelings much. However I know I can set the example for my teams if I open the door. Don't cross boundaries. Don't share things inappropriate personally or professionally. Let them into your world though. There is a scene in Big Jake, with John Wayne. He is in the gun battle that ensues after he is rescuing his kidnapped grandson. As bullets are flying and John Wayne has a wound in his leg, the boy sits next to Wayne and says, "I'm scared". John Wayne replies with, "Me too", and the boy huddles into his chest.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Thoughts from a camp counselor

Hey check out one of our camp counselor's blogs here! It's great. Things at camp are going crazy right now. Family Camp is awesome!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Reflections from a youth leadership retreat

Check out Calvary CRC's youth internship program here. They just spent a couple days here at Grace getting ready for their summer ministry season. They are doing some awesome things over there. Listen to what they had to say,
The day out at Grace Adventure with Calvary was, put simply, amazing. It was an incredible experience unlike I’ve ever had. I was consistently surprised by the level effectiveness, creativity, and joy that Grace was showing through their staff and their program....
Check it out here! To learn more about your own custom retreat visit our website.

Friday, May 28, 2010

What would you do with 50 extra hours per week?

A recently released study on video gaming habits found that the average "extreme gamer" spend 48.5 hours per week playing video games. We're talking about a full work week and then some. You think you didn't have any time. This is only 4% of America's 174 million strong gaming world. In other words 6.9 million people average age 29 spend 50 hours per week on video games. We wonder why this generation doesn't get any thing done? Oh they have, they conquered 20 million levels, and beaten 40 million boss levels. They've upgraded, and invested over time as well. Most of the extremer's who by the way are 1/3 female bought 24 games in the last 3 months. A quick stop at Walmart will reveal most games go for 30-80 dollars. So conservatively we're talking about $4800 a year just on games. Figure minimum wage on all those hours... $18000 dollars. Do you have $22800 dollars lying around? It's very easy to cast stone at this group. However the average house watches over 38 hours of TV a week. I only have three channels and if I'm not careful I can find myself watching TV all night. Because I like what's on? Nope remember 3 channels and I'm not a target demographic for most networks, because I'm easily distracted. Gaming adds another level of there always being something else to accomplish. I've played and beaten games. There is this sense of urgency when playing about getting to the next level. Once you're there it's never enough, and once you win the game, it's very anticlimactic. Where is your sense of urgency right now? Are your priorities the same things that would be valuable to God? Do you Read his Word the same way a gamer plays a game, or a drama show viewer waits for that next episode? Spend some time evaluating your priorities going into summer. It's easy to be distracted.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Why do we face the front in an elevator?

I just got back from attending a technology conference, the E3 ministry summit, put on by Fleetwood Group. Grace gave away a one day corporate training to one of the churches attending. It was a very good conference. The keynote was presented by Greg Stielstra, and was about the influence we have on others.
He showed this old video from Candid Camera.
Do you know that they studied monkeys, and found out the very same neurons responsible for actually doing an action, fire just by seeing some one else do that action? The implication is we subconsciously mimic and imitate people all the time. You've seen and probably done what I've talking about.
What does this mean for a Christian? The old adage actions speak louder than words might fit. St. Francis of Assisi once said, "Preach the gospel at all times, when absolutely necessary use words." I used to think my great grandma came up with that.
The bottom line is this, not only can we influence those around us and culture, we have to. I'm not talking about talk shows, Christian TV, letters to the editor, or famous celebrities championing our cause. I'm talking about basic social pressure. A Christian lifestyle is no more out of the norm than standing backwards flipping your hat on and off in an elevator.
This is why Grace is so passionate about making a difference in the world. We truly believe one life touched by God can change the world Imagine what it would look like if you a person knew the power they had through their actions, had a God honoring purpose, and had the skills to lead and influence those around them? We're finding out. We have high school and college students changing the cultures of their campuses. Some are going around the world making a difference. We're working with businesses that are leading the way in their communities.
Get out and do something! For the Lord of course.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Crossed wires

Hello world, I know it's been quite a while. I apologize. If you don't follow me on face book or twitter, I had a son. Colton Scott Prudhomme was born April 14, 9 lbs 6 Oz's and 21 inches long. I have been learning quite a bit lately, and haven't had a shortage of material to blog about, more a shortage of time. He and Kendra are doing great, and I'm having a ton of fun. In other news, I bought a used horse trailer the other day. If any of you know me, I am not the most mechanically inclined. Actually I'm mechanically challenged (thanks dad). I used to tell the maintenance guys I'm their job security, because as long as I manage the ranch, things break. So when my lights and breaks weren't working right, I had a problem. I'm also pig headed. I was going to fix it on my own. I went out and bought the tools, borrowed things from my father in law, and went to work. First I had to replace the trailer plug-in on my truck. I've always had problems with trailer brakes with my truck, so I was bound and determined to fix it. I unplugged, unscrewed, and cut off the old receiver. Now I have seven wires staring at me, and none of them are responding when I press the brakes. As I get underneath the truck to investigate I am confronted with a cacophony of wiring, splices, and overall mess. The truck is a 1995, so it's had its' fair share of repairs. I eventually follow this wire all the way to the front of the truck and out of the electronic break controller. It starts out Blue (the correct color), then right before the firewall we splice and change to red, then we run the length of the truck, and about the rear fender we splice again and turn black. However, right before we hit the end of the wire and tie into the receiver, there is a break and it is sheared in two! How I was supposed to know all this staring at seven wires, none of which were the right color I don't know. Did I mention I was starting to get frustrated! We're in the later stages of the interview season at Grace right now. As I was dealing with my wiring struggles (and that was about 10% of the story, I didn't even start on the trailer, or how when I turn my headlights on, I blow a dash fuse, which is awesome), I was thinking about that brake wire and how it relates to people. You see to look at the outward you would see a black wire connected correctly to trailer receiver. It looked fine. It wasn't working though, as I investigated I found three colors of wire, and one break in the line. When we're interviewing college students many at first glance appear to be very "Christian". However it requires getting underneath the truck to examine things closer. Is the Bible reliable? What are your views on homosexuality? Is Jesus the only way to heaven? How do you know you're saved? These questions are important because they help us ascertain the worldview of these students. More and more we're running into very post-modern worldviews. They believe that there is no absolute truth, all religions are equal, and what works for you works for you. The problem is this is infused into adolescent and young adult Christianity with rampant force. There are tons of "Christians" in word, but not deed. Their orthodoxy doesn't line up with their orthopraxy, and often their orthodoxy is screwed up too. All that to say, our students have some very crossed up wiring when it comes to religion and Christianity. In a USA today article on religion the following was found;
a study of 1,200 18- to 29-year-olds, 72% say they're "really more spiritual than religious." Among the 65% who call themselves Christian, "many are either mushy Christians or Christians in name only," Rainer says. "Most are just indifferent. The more precisely you try to measure their Christianity, the fewer you find committed to the faith." Key findings in the phone survey, conducted in August and released today: •65% rarely or never pray with others, and 38% almost never pray by themselves either. •65% rarely or never attend worship services. •67% don't read the Bible or sacred texts. Many are unsure Jesus is the only path to heaven: Half say yes, half no.
So what's the point? Grace is committed to educating and equipping students and adults to have a Biblical worldview. During our summer program this is done by hiring college age students who have proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that they have a mature, sound, Biblical world view. They in turn help answer those hard questions from the campers. We also offer programs to college students and adults going through Biblical World view. Even as the world is crossing up students wires left and right we can and are helping to straighten things out.
Also I got the brakes working, still working on the whole headlight blows fuses issue.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Hey, have you ever been tired. Not the out of breath, or the I'm getting sleepy, but to the bone, I am exhausted, I can hardly raise my hand to bring the cup of water to my mouth, I don't know if I will be able to take one more step, please don't ask me to do anything, because I might have to say no, type tired? I have. And for the record, I am not feeling that way tonight. But recently, I had one of those experiences. Every part of my body was screaming in unison, don't make me move, I will rebel, I don't care what you are telling me to do because I am on strike. Rest often is helpful, but I don't think sleep even offers the solution, when you are exhausted emotionally. That is when you must turn to God, and ask for help. You don't have to do this thing called life alone. Rely on him. He wants you to depend on him, and sometimes I think he allows me to get to this point, so that I will stop trying to do things myself and rely on him. You see, I have many things in my life that are demanding my attention. I have so much going on at camp right now, that I sat at my desk today and didn't even know where to start on my list, because I had things that had to be done all at the same time, and I still don't know what I am forgetting. It is easy to get overwhelmed. To get stressed out. To worry. But I am trying to remember how God has been faithful in my life in the past, and how I can trust him to pull through again. Its not about me anyway. I remember a chorus I learned in Jamaica when I was there for a mission trip 5 years ago: if the Lord is keeping you what you going to worry about? If the Lord is keeping you why don't you sing and shout? Glory, hallelujah Praise his Name, Every day He's just the same, If you know the Lord is keeping you, what you going to worry about? NOTHING! So I will choose to trust. I will choose to depend on him. will you join me?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Who created the ketchup packet size?

This is classic. Never heard of him before but he speaks the truth.

Christian Atheists

Hop on over to Scott McNight's blog for a summary of a new book, The Christian Atheist: Believing in God but Living As If He Doesn't Exist, by Craig Groeschel. Basically the premise is if you believe in God but don't live like it, you're a Christian Atheists. Pretty tough words. How can you tell if you're a Christian Atheists? Check out these questions he answers through out the book. What are the marks of a "Christian atheist"? Where is it hardest to make belief in God manifest or operative in our lives? What can we do about this? He probes this from the angle of topics that are profoundly Christian but which are not present enough in our lives: knowing God personally, ashamed of your past and unwilling to let God heal you, afraid to let God love you, not praying, don't think God's fair, unwilling to forgive others, don't believe you can change, worry all the time, pursue happiness at any cost, trust more in money than God, don't share your faith and don't believe in God's Church. I think his new term is provocative but illustrates the same issue commonly called Lordship or surrender. Regardless I think I'll try and get a hold of this one to read.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Now and Later

A friend of mine was having a hard time figuring out what to do next in life. She wondered if what she was doing was the right thing. Her question was, "How do I want to live?" These were my thoughts to her questions: I think I can hear your struggle between the present and the future, what you desire and current reality. Be encouraged by the tension you feel, it means your heart, mind, and soul are striving for what God wants. If you haven't read Rom 8 recently, I would recommend it. You're feeling what the whole creation feels. We know stuff isn't what it should be, but something better is coming. This plays out on a grand scale with the whole creation and in each of our lives on a day to day basis. Especially, when you truly desire what God wants. Of course our natural reaction is to seek comfort and pleasure, no matter what the circumstances. So you adjust behaviors depending on whether you live in the Midwest USA or some other place in the world, that's normal. Look for comfort in knowing that God has chosen you for a purpose and you have already been justified; you are his Child (Rom 8:28-30). The rest is just a response of love to action already taken by God. Incredibly challenging and often frustrating, but always covered by the fact that nothing can take away God's love from you (Rom 8:39). Today you are exactly where you should be. Struggle to worry less about tomorrow and love God more today. He wants only the best for you.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Be careful who you sleep with

My wife's cousin has a friend who had a very large boa constrictor as a pet. This gal loved her pet very much. She loved it so much that she liked to sleep with it in her bed. Things were going along fine until for some reason the snake stopped eating. Try as she might she could not entice this reptile with any morsels for lunch. This went on for a few days until she took the snake to the vet for a check up. When she explained the situation to the vet she learned the snake was not ill. It was starving itself in preparation to eat HER. True story and it gives me the willy's like I can't describe. It got me thinking though. What items or patterns of behavior or sin do I have in my life, that started harmlessly or innocently enough, but because of poor boundaries crossed the line, and now I'm too comfortable with them. Having a pet snake isn't bad, sleeping in the same bed is bad. She crossed a boundary. We may think we're okay, and enjoy the feeling of sharing a bed with something, but what we don't know is it is waiting to eat us. We don't like to talk about boundaries, but with out boundaries we don't know where the line is. Chad has a Cross Training Horsemanship presentation on how, "Good fences make good neighbors." Satan is all about blurring boundaries. Many items appear harmless at first but are really a tool in his hands for destruction. In 1 Peter 5:8 we see that Satan is, "a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour". Satan is described as the old serpent in Rev 12:9. So what are your boundaries? Where do you get them from? Are you compromising them in any area of your life? Be very careful because your pet snake just might eat you.

Friday, March 26, 2010

This is a little scary

As a soon to be first time father, and a type A driven person, I'm watching this video with a little trepidation.
What do you think? Do you or your kids feel similarly? What causes this dynamic? What can Grace do to help your kids feel like, "they can just go outside and run around".
More on this in a few days.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Imitating the Trainer is Living a Life that Matters

Often when we hear the word imitation we have a negative impression. It must be fake or less quality we say. Yet, being an imitator isn’t always bad. My daughter Caitlin at the age of 7 has a desire to be a horse trainer. She wants to imitate her father in becoming one. As long as I am worth imitating, that can be a great way for her to start learning about horse training. On March 14, 2010 Caitlin and I did a Cross Training at the Michigan Horse Council’s Stallion Expo held at Michigan State University. I took Caitlin through three steps in imitating me as a horse trainer. First, I demonstrated how I need to be focused on the horse not myself by teaching the horse basic body maneuvers and then put those moves together for the horse to be able to spin in a circle by pivoting on a hind leg. Second, I had Caitlin sit in the saddle with me as I verbally walked through the cues and she did them with me. She did a great job. Yet, she obviously isn’t ready to be a horse trainer on her own. She has to also make those training principles her own by moving from just being a rider who takes from the horse to a trainer who gives to the horse. Therefore, the third thing she did was she started to teach the same cues to her own horse while I coached her. It wasn’t easy for her, and she didn’t do as well as I did but within 15 minutes she was making progress with the horse and the cues she was using started to become her ownThat is exactly what Paul tells us to do in Ephesians 5. “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children…”Ephesians 5:1. In this chapter Paul tells us to first live a life of love. That is God transforms our hearts and minds from being takers of the world to givers just as Christ gave himself for us. Second, he tells us to live a life of light. That is the transformation God has done in our life should shine forth to those around us. Finally, Paul tells us to live a life of wisdom. That is to make the most of every day to be used by God to transform others into His image. As a parents, it isn’t enough just to show our kids how we are imitators of God. We need to make the most of every opportunity to teach them also how to be imitators of God. It is only when the Truth becomes their truth that they too will shine forth in a dark world. Being an imitator of the Trainer is the only way to live a life that matters.

Ministered to by Tractor Supply Company

Ever since I got my misdemeanor for "Livestock at Large" (no I'm not joking) I've been planning on how I can build the strongest, tallest, most electrified fence you can imagine. More out of revenge against my two horses than actual necessity, but I did need to rebuild it any ways.
So the last two weeks I've been in and out of hardware stores, and online, looking, and pricing, and calculating. I finally settled on Tractor Supply Company as the place, mainly because they're the only store in Michigan apparently that sells round wooden fence posts.
This leads me to Denny. I talked to Denny a number of times in person and over the phone because I was looking to buy a whole pallet of posts. Denny has worked for TSC or Farm and Fleet for 25 years and figured he had 25 years left to go. Denny was the most customer service oriented person I've ever had work with me at any place of business. At one point he spent 15 minutes on the phone with five different people trying to figure out how many staples were in a 5# box. He gave me yesterdays sale price on the post, and sold me a light duty gate, and then realized he was out so he gave me a medium duty instead at no additional charge.
Denny spent well over an hour and a half with me and was constantly pleasing to be around, knowledgeable, and driven to find answers. I've never felt so good about spending that much money. Denny gets an A+.
What if we as Christians could spend an hour and a half with a stranger, and have them walk away feeling completely engaged in what we were about? How do you do it?
  1. I think you have to be people focused, Denny was so much so that sometimes he tried to serve multiple people at once and got side tracked.
  2. You have to be knowledgeable. Denny knew the SKU numbers, and serial codes for so many things, but further he knew what you wanted for what job, and why. He was a walking catalog and farming for dummies book put together. We have too many Christians that don't know enough about what they believe. Or they know it but can not articulate it. We're called to give an answer for the hope we have, however we must give an accurate, truthful, and relevant answer as well.
  3. Finally Denny was driven to serve me. We can talk all we want but until we're willing to get our hands dirty and go sit along side some one in the figurative dumpster they're living in, they normally won't hear what we're saying. Jesus does this time and time again. He sacrifices his comfort, security, and sometimes safety, in order to physically minister to some one at their point of need.
Denny I don't know if you're a Christian or not, but you sure ministered to me!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Christianity is like the Oscars

Last night I was watching the awards show. I was really hoping to watch undercover boss, which is amazing, but alas it was a re-run. So when you have two channels to choose from that left one option.
I found myself watching this show feeling very much like, what is the point? I'll admit I have not seen any of the movies, however it was very weird to me how serious they were, all the pageantry, and how self serving it was.
They talked a lot about people I don't know, they all seemed so caught up in the moment that it was a little surreal. I felt completely like an outsider looking in, and their personas, pageantry, and ultimately their culture made me feel like I didn't want to be a part of it.
I sat there thinking, is this what it feels like to not be a Christian? Does one get turned off by this seperate culture we've created? We have our own rituals, we get dressed up for our own pageants, we talk about our own people, and use our own language. I became more and more aware of what it must feel like to enter or be on the outside of Christian culture.
I'm not saying we stop getting dressed up for church, or observing sacraments, or using certain words. However I think we all need to have a real awareness of the feelings people have when they think or interact with us as Christians. I think we should appear different. We're called to be "set apart". However it shouldn't be our culture that sets us apart, our WWJD bracelets, bumper stickers, and more. It should be our Holiness. We should be so different in our spirit, behavior, and grace that people can't help but be interested in us.
If we stand apart from the world let it be because we have something so wonderful, so amazing, so transforming that we can't help but appear different. The way we do that is;
"Therefore, prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: "Be holy, because I am holy." (1 Peter 1:13-16)
Let's be infectious with Holiness and love. Don't give the world a chance to be put off by our culture because they're so enamored by Holy Spirit in us. As the old hymn goes,
"They will know we are Christians by our love" not our culture.