Friday, August 31, 2007

Prime Family Time

Tomorrow is a BIG day for football fans across the country - opening day! (yeah, I know some games were played last night)

Each fall, Amy, the boys, and I head to Athens for several UGA football games. We already have so many fall activities planned - baseball for Chaz, a trip to Navarre Beach, and frequent meetings with our new Couples Community Group at NorthStar. But, nothing provides great family time like an all-day trip to Athens to see the Dawgs play!

We usually head over at the crack of dawn and set up shop (i.e. tailgating). We have the tent, the coolers, the chairs, the food. We have the temporary face tattoos, the pom-poms, the car magnets, the seat cushions. We go all out!

Many years we have wrestled with the decision of spending the money on tickets to the games - but we have continued to get them (and will continue to get them) because of the special time we all share many Saturdays each fall.

I can't wait for tomorrow - to spend the day with my favorite people - may family. Oh yeah - and to see the Dawgs start off the season 1-0.
Gooooooooooooooooooooooooo Dawgs! Sic 'em!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

The Insider

Man, I love to travel. OK, let me qualify that statement. I love to travel when it's to a vacation destination. Few things get me as fired up as planning a trip somewhere. It's really a sickness - as my wife can (and will) attest. I spend hours and hours scouring the web and magazines for any insight I can find about the places we'll be visiting (or would consider visiting). And, by the time one vacation is over, I'm already planning the next one.

In addition to that, I am frugal (read: CHEAP). I do not want to spend a cent more than I need to. I am a hound for a good deal, cheap ticket, low rate, inexpensive meal. I think what I really enjoy about the whole thing is the challenge of putting together the "perfect" vacation for our budget.

But, despite all the travel web sites and magazines I may read, I have found that the BEST way to land the perfect vacation (or experience, meal, hotel, etc.) is to speak with people who have something I don't have: experience and local knowledge. You see, when I read, I gain knowledge. When I seek out the experiences of others, I gain insight and wisdom - two vital components to a great vacation that I cannot attain from a photo, a rate sheet, or a brochure.

Now, some magazines include features that are intended to provide insights to travelers who may be visiting a place for the first time. I recently began reading Frommer's Budget Travel magazine, and fell in love with it. Not because the photos are breathtaking, or because the magazine is only $1.00 per issue, but because I feel like I have "inside information" when I read it.

For example, each issue contains 20 Travel Tips from "regular Joe's" like me who happened to gain insights on past trips they've taken. They also include articles called "The Best Places You've Never Heard Of" and the "Top 10 Cool Small Towns in the U.S." These are just little tidbits of information from people who have had EXPERIENCES.
Experience that I do not yet have.

I also use the message board on Clark Howard's web site to get feedback from others who often times know things I could never have found out in years of research on the World Wide Web. Orbitz, Hotwire, and Travelocity are great - but they aren't interactive. They are not communities of people sharing ideas and advice.

Where am I going with all this? Well, I guess at the end of the day what applies to vacations applies to everyday life. Experience far outweighs knowledge in most cases (not all).

1 Corinthians 8:1 says this: "We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up." (NIV)

One of the ways we can love others is by sharing our unique life experiences with them. Whether it's that secret hideaway in the Caribbean, or the way you handled a tough decision at home or at work, sharing experiences - and asking others about their experiences - is a great way to gain wisdom, and also to build relationships!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The 2-sday 10

The Top Ten Honeymoon Destinations
courtesy of Modern Bride magazine

Modern Bride presented the results of a honeymoon survey thousands of travel agents across the country participated in. The magazine asked them to cast votes to name the best places offering attributes couples seek in a honeymoon destination: romance, value, beauty, adventure, and more. The top ten overall favorites, as reported by honeymoon travel experts, were:

1. Hawaii

2. Italy

3. Tahiti

4. Anguilla

5. Fiji

6. St. Lucia
7. Mexico

8. St. Bart's

9. Jamaica

10. France

Monday, August 27, 2007

Priveleges and Responsibilities

You often hear these words paired together - privileges and responsibilities - particularly when it comes to parenting. It's been a running joke in my wife's family for years. When she and her brothers grew up, this phrase echoed in their ears constantly. And, that tradition continues as Amy's dad, now affectionately known as "Grandpa," shares this lifelong principle with our two sons.

"P & R" sounds so elementary, so simple. But, it's message is profound. P & R have a converse relationship. You do one, you get the other. If you demonstrate responsibility, you earn privileges. And when you earn privileges, they come with responsibility. They're like Frick & Frack. Yin and Yang. Abbott and Costello. Brad & Angelina. They belong together.

And, while I have always viewed P & R in terms of "this is something my kids need to get through their thick skulls," I have also begun to view them through the lenses of my unique role as a dad. We just finished up a 3-part series at NorthStar Church entitled Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? Over the course of three weeks we discussed what parents need to teach their kids about God, about Life, and about Sex.

As intimidating and overwhelming as parenting can be at times, I have realized how truly thankful I am to be in a position of passing along Godly wisdom to my kids. To use my life experiences - good and bad - to aid them in their journey. And, the bottom line is that I'd much rather that my wife and I teach our kids these things than their friends or the media - TV, movies, internet, etc.

So, as PARENTS, we too have privileges and responsibilities. We have the unique role of guiding our children in the way they should go. It takes love, discipline, and time...and most of all - EFFORT! We get to enjoy priceless memories and develop lifelong bonds with our children. But, we can never forget the huge responsibility that comes with the awesome benefits of parenthood.

Your kids need you and - believe it or not -
want you intimately involved in their lives. And, when we view parenthood as a privilege and not a "right," we'll be able to deal more effectively with the responsibilities that come along with it!

Friday, August 24, 2007

We All Love a Comeback Story...Right??

OK, I'll admit I am not the biggest Michael Vick fan. In fact, I really wasn't too fond of him before this whole mess came out in the media. The guy has always been in dire need of some sage public relations advice.

I guess what has got me fired up about this story isn't so much about the Falcons' incurable offensive woes, or all the legal analysis we've heard ad nauseum, or even the cruel treatment of the dogs themselves - which is truly sad. At the end of the day, my concern is for Michael Vick. And, I have gotten a bad taste in my mouth from all the people who are delighting in this man's pain.

Like many of you, I have listened to many of the call-in shows. What's interesting is that this unfortunate set of circumstances has been as polarizing as Hillary Clinton's Presidential campaign. I've hear everything from "he's been set up" to "he should receive the maximum punishment and be banned forever from the NFL" (and everything in between).

As insensitive as he comes across at times, talk show host Neal Boortz actually made what I consider a pretty "gracious" comment on this issue on the radio yesterday. One caller said that Vick "was being let off easy, and that justice needed to be served" - to which Boortz replied, "What do you mean? Justice will be served, and has been. Michael Vick has lost a lot already."

You may be thinking, "What has he lost? He's a millionaire." Well, he has already lost potentially hundreds of millions of dollars from endorsement deals, he has lost thousands of fans and supporters, he's lost his job (one of only 32 that exist in the world), and he has lost - and hurt - many friends. Further, he will likely be sentenced to 18 months in jail and be banned for at least a season or two from the NFL. And, I'm sure there are many more prices to pay that you cannot quantify. Yes, Michael Vick has lost a lot already. But, I think he has even more to gain.

Somehow through all of this, many of us have forgotten how much we love a great comeback story. We love the Cinderella stories, the hard-luck stories, the rags to riches stories. They are compelling and inspiring. And, Michael Vick has the opportunity to be a modern-day "Cinderella Man" if he is changed from the inside out.

So, let's give the guy a chance. A second chance. "Why should I?" you might ask. Well, in short, because God gave you one. In fact, He gives us a second chance every time we mess up. Every time we fall. Every time we do Him wrong.

And, you know why? Because God loves a Comeback Story. And chances are, he's already got His heavenly paper and pen out right now scripting His next miracle.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

LASIK for the Mind & Heart?

A few years ago I had LASIK surgery. Quite a unique experience, I must say. Fifteen minutes after going in with blurred vision, I came out with perfect vision. Before I walked in, I was only able to see clearly about ten feet in front of me. Following the procedure, I had 20/15 vision. Incredible!

You know, it'd be great if they offered a LASIK-type procedure for our minds and hearts. Often times we get so "short-sighted" that we truly believe that the world revolves around us. And, not only that, but spiritual short-sightedness causes us to incorrectly perceive that what we experience personally day in and day out is what everyone else does.

Rob Bell, in one of his amazing Nooma videos, made a comment that has really made me think. He said we need to be careful that we don't confuse "our world with THE world." That statement packs a pretty powerful punch. Most of us (me included) are so focused on wrestling with our own "tough" decisions (where to eat out, what to wear, what kind of car to drive, do I get highlights in my hair or not, etc.) that we have truly lost sight of how the vast majority of people in this world truly live each day.

I heard recently that only 8 percent of the world's population drives a car. Further, the United States comprises 6 percent of the world's population - but uses 44 percent of its resources. Probably not a surprise to you...but sobering nonetheless.

In one of our meetings yesterday, we had the opportunity to view a video that talked about "affluenza" that is plaguing our society. After viewing it, we had a great discussion, and we all agreed that having "stuff" is not bad...but that we should be thankful to God for what He has given us, rather than focusing on what we don't have!

And, the biggest way we can show our appreciation is to give back - to God and to others! When we do, we can TRULY have a clear vision of who God has called us to be.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The 2-sday 10

Top 10 Best-Selling Vehicles in the United States in 2006

1. Ford F-Series Trucks (150, 250, and 350) - 796,000
2. Chevy Silverado (1500, 2500, and 3500 models) - 636,000
3. Toyota Camry - 448,000
4. Dodge Ram Trucks (1500, 2500, and 3500) - 364,000
5. Honda Accord - 354,000
6. Toyota Corolla - 318,000
7. Honda Civic - 316,000
8. Chevrolet Impala - 289,000
9. Nissan Altima - 232,000
10. Chevrolet Cobalt - 211,000

Monday, August 20, 2007

Homer & Me

For the love of email is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager to send email, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs (PIV - Phillips International Version).

OK, you probably figured out that this isn't what the Apostle Paul wrote to Timothy. But, when you replace the word MONEY with the word EMAIL, you see how applicable this statement can truly become in today's culture of cyber-communication.

I'd have to say that email is both the greatest thing and the worst thing at the same time. Obviously, the positives of email far outweigh the negatives. But, the worst of the negatives likely are more damaging than the good caused by the most beneficial aspects of communicating by email. This is a lesson I have learned - and continue to learn - the hard way. There are some things you cannot escape when communicating by email:
  • You often have no idea of the tone with which the email is composed. Is the sender kidding? Are they in a bad mood? Have they taken their medication today?
  • We often do not take into account #1, so we immediately fire off responses without carefully thinking through them. This can do one of two things: perpetuate an already intense situation or create one that didn't exist in the first place.
  • When we hit the "send" button on email, we cannot get it back (OK - sometimes, if we are really quick and it's an internal email, we can retrieve and delete it - but that is rare).
I have adopted a new phrase that sums up #1-#3 above. It's called Homer Simpson Syndrome. Whenever Homer does something foolish, he utters one famous word/ sound: D'OH! And, most of the time when I am rash in my email communication, this is the sentiment I am forced to live with.

What are some wise alternatives to foolish email communication?

  1. The best advice I have been given is to "sleep on it" before I fire off a scathing email. Tough to do, but worth it!
  2. Just pick up the phone and call the person. You may find out immediately that the sender meant no harm at all in the email they composed. And, you'll come out looking like the good guy.
  3. Give the sender the benefit of the doubt (unless they are copying your best friends, family, boss, etc. - then all bets are off, baby!)
  4. Don't respond at all. This is the toughest thing to do, because we are programmed to defend ourselves to the death. But, unless it's a major issue, letting it "die" is probably not a bad idea.
  5. Always look at the time stamp on an email when multiple emails are being exchanged. All too often people either read or receive emails out of sequence. When this happens, things get messy.
Read these timeless words from King Solomon - the wisest man to ever live - and let them resonate this week, whether communicating via email or face-to-face with others:

A truly wise person uses few words;
a person with understanding is even-tempered.

Even fools are thought wise when they keep silent;
with their mouths shut, they seem intelligent. Proverbs 17:27-28 (NLT)

Friday, August 17, 2007

Finding God in the Tight Spots

My heart has ached since last week, when I heard the news about the Utah miners who were trapped after the cave-in. It's been 11 days since the incident, and still they have not been able to get to them, or to even find out if anyone is still alive. Further, I heard this morning on the radio that three people have died in the rescue effort after a subsequent cave-in. They're now talking about suspending the rescue effort altogether.

If it makes you wonder "Where's God?" in all of this, I assure you that you are not alone. I cannot even imagine what these families are thinking, and the questions they are asking. And, while I'm not really sure WHAT God is up to, or WHY He allows a tragedy like this to happen, I do know He is near.

I have no idea what kind of relationship each of the six miners has with Jesus Christ. In all likelihood, some are Christ-followers and some are not. But, I cannot help but think that even those who went down into the mine shaft not knowing God may very well have met their Creator in the hours or days following the cave-in.

You see, even though God is omni-present, we typically only "find" him when tragedy and troubles come our way. And, because God is gracious and loves us unconditionally, He's there for us - even though we may have never known Him (or acted like we didn't know Him) when times were "good."
Unfortunately, many times God can only get our attention when the rug is pulled out from under us. This is NOT the way God would prefer it. But, as a loving father, he will come up with the most effective way to get our attention - and ultimately get His message across. And, He enjoys nothing more than taking the darkness the enemy hurls our way and creating light!

Join me today in praying for the miners and all the families affected by this tragic event. And, while you're at it, ask God to reveal Himself to you today - whether life is a bed of roses, or whether it's the pits. Either way, He's ready - and eager - to walk closely with you this very moment.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

What's Your Story?

OK, so I am still reading Daniel Pink's book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future. I've been reading it for a month or so now. I wouldn't necessarily classify it as a "page-turner," but the author DOES make you think. He brings up great points, and has what I believe are profound insights into how we are moving from the Information Age into the Conceptual Age.

One of the ways we can thrive as we acclimate ourselves to the "new world" into which we are evolving is to become story-tellers. Why? Because, as Pink points out so poignantly,

"an English-speaking 13-year old in Zaire who's connected to the internet can find the current temperature in Brussels, or the closing price of IBM stock or the name of Winston Churchill's second finance minister as quickly and easily as the head librarian at Cambridge University...but it has enormous consequences for how we work and live. When facts become so widely available and instantly accessible, each one becomes less valuable. What begins to matter more is the ability to place these facts in context and to deliver them with emotional impact."


What separates us as individuals from everyone else? Our hair color? Nope. Our education? Nope. Our income level? Some may think so, but that's also a big N-O. It's our stories.

And, the greatest marketers in the world know exactly how to build a product or experience around a story. It's an absolute MUST in a culture that is easily distracted and has an insatiable thirst for something NEW and DIFFERENT.

It's been noted that we remember:
  • 10 percent of what we read.
  • 20 percent of what we see.
  • 30 percent of what we hear.
  • 40 percent of what we do.
  • 100 percent of what we FEEL!
So, whether it's building personal relationships, forging business partnerships, or communicating with an audience - remember that stories are the most effective means to making a lasting connection with someone.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

it IS all about me

Just about everything in my life is about me. Making my life easier. More rewarding. Less complicated. Less mundane.

It's about speeding things up because I don't want to wait.

About cooking my hamburger medium-well, so I can have the maximum amount of satisfaction for the amount of money I am paying for it.

It's about consistently refilling my tea or water glass when it's nearly empty.

It's about TiVo-ing all my shows, so I don't have to watch commercials, which allows me to view an hour-long program in 45 minutes.

About not jumping through hoops to get a fair shake.

It's about the company or service provider I am patronizing actually meeting not only my needs but my wants with their product. And, when this doesn't happen, I'm left disappointed. Unfulfilled. Sometimes ticked. Sometimes in disbelief.

The other day, I went to a local department store to return/ exchange some shoes for my 3-year old son. They didn't have his size in the exact same style, so I selected another brand and style that was available in his size - and they were on sale for $17.99 - the same price paid for the original pair we were returning. Simple exchange, right? HA!

So, there I am at the "customer service" counter. I explain the deal to the lady, and she immediately says, "Well, that isn't an even exchange." Obviously puzzled, I replied, "well, these are the same price as the ones I am returning. Why wouldn't it be even?"

She proceeds to explain that exchanges are based on the ORIGINAL prices of the items. One item was originally priced at $28.00, and the other was originally priced at $29.99. So, even though they are both on sale for $17.99, I'm not getting out of there without coughing up some more cash.

To complicate matters more, the original pair had been paid with a 15% discount, plus it was a tax-free holiday. After some minor finagling, I only ended up having to pay tax on the purchase. To make a long story somewhat shorter, I ended up walking out of there 92 cents poorer than I walked in. Crazy.

In my life, these are the types of ridiculous transactions I desperately hope to avoid. I want to side-step the run-around and get to the point. I want to pay what I want to pay. But, it doesn't always turn out that way. And, in the end, I have less energy, less patience, and higher blood pressure when these things happen.

I guess that's why Jesus' teachings on humility are still so revolutionary today. Because we are always looking through "consumer lenses," we have the expectation built in - even with people - that we come first. Jesus said that the first (in heaven) will be the last (on earth). That means when we take on an attitude of service and humility towards others (even when they frustrate you to no end), we build up treasure in heaven.

Tough, isn't it? It certainly is for me. But, no matter how satisfied I want to be right here, right now - I know my eternal rewards will far exceed my earthly ones...if I can remember is ISN'T all about me!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The 2-sday 10

Top Ten Things Overheard In Line To Buy The iPhone (courtesy of Late Show with David Letterman)

10. "Finally, I can talk on the phone while watching 'Laverne & Shirley'"
9. "Can I call Mars with this thing?"
8. "Sorry folks, Apple just announced it's obsolete"
7. "I'll be right back, I have to go take an iLeak"
6. "The iPhone's OS X system and accelerator...oh, I don't know what I'm talking about"
5. "This is why the terrorists hate us"
4. "iPhone buyers on the left, muggers stealing iPhones on the right"
3. "It's $499 for the 4GB model, or $599 for the deluxe which makes waffles"
2. "I'm changing my name to iLarry"
1. "I don't care about the other features, as long as it vibrates"

Monday, August 13, 2007

Creativity is Thriving

Each week I am amazed by the collective creative genius of our church staff. For the past 10 months or so, I have been privileged to be a part of a weekly "Creative Team" meeting that gathers to plan our Sunday morning experience at NorthStar. While some in the room are more outspoken than others, I can honestly say that since Fall 2006 each and every person in that room has contributed a bevy of amazing ideas.

With 12-15 minds working together at once, things can often get a little hairy, and the train has derailed on more than one occasion. But, it's a safe and FUN environment for all of us to share our thoughts and feelings about a topic, theme, or song that is on the table. One of the keys to this meeting being successful is that we all have a deep mutual respect for one another.

But, going beyond that, we all feel the freedom to be completely honest with one another. If someone throws out a horrible idea, the room will quickly let them know (in a very light-hearted manner, I might add). Likewise, when the room comes to a deafening silence and we're stuck, many times one person in the room will suddenly shout out the "perfect" idea that we've all been waiting for. It's awesome to see the light bulb come on for everyone in the room at once!

Often times, I feel like I am completely out of my comfort zone in that meeting. And, likely, that is why it's so rewarding. By no means do I consider myself to be a creative force. But, in the past year, the sheer fact that I have been in a room with a dozen people throwing out ideas has undoubtedly had a positive influence on my ability to think "outside the box."

Friday, August 10, 2007

Something Besides Doom and Gloom? I'm all Ears!

I don't know about you, but I get pretty darn tired of always hearing "bad news" when I turn on my radio or TV. In fact, the only news I watch or listen to these days is WSB Radio's morning news, and that is so I can hear the traffic, sports, and weather forecast. I have little interest in anything else reported.

It's not that there isn't good news (or news that is neither good nor bad) to report. It's that all the TV and radio stations chase the sirens and listen to the police scanners to get their major news stories. Apartments fires. Murder. Theft rings. Gambling rings. Dog fighting (sorry, couldn't resist). Are some of these newsworthy? Absolutely. But, there are plenty of other events and stories that deserve getting a "nod" on the editing floor.

I was surfing the web earlier, and came across a web site devoted completely to reporting GOOD news. It's called The Good News Network International (
check it out HERE). At first, the headlines seem a little odd. But, they only seem out of place because I'm so accustomed to reading stories that aren't at all uplifting. They list stories about endangered species that are rebounding. Another about a robot camera that has been invented to help fight fires. And, yet another about Brad Pitt leaving the set of a movie in Chicago to report to jury duty in L.A. (I guess they aren't kidding when they tell you that NO one can get out of serving).

These aren't earth-shattering stories compared to the Iraqi War or the upcoming Presidential Election. But, they are great for lifting spirits and providing encouragement for a world desperately in need of a positive word.

Now, if only we could get the Falcons to make the headlines on the GNN!!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Throwing a Fit

So, a few of us from my office went to lunch the other day. And, as we were delighting in a little queso, we were stopped cold by a 4-year old mongrel who began to scream bloody murder in the middle of the restaurant. He was leaning backwards over the booth, pointing to a tray of chips or something that one of the servers was taking to another table. Now, understand when I say the kid was screaming bloody murder, I am not exaggerating. I mean, everyone in the restaurant - patrons and wait staff - immediately stopped talking and directed their collective glares at the boy...and then the mom.

This went on for about a minute, when the mom took the boy in her arms and began coddling him and telling him "it's OK, darlin'." But wait, there's more. The parents pay their check, then begin heading out to the parking lot when "little Johnnie" spots the mega-sized gumball machine near the exit. The parents have already walked out of the restaurant, and the kid is standing in the lobby throwing an absolute fit and pointing to the gumball machine. He's there for at least a minute, and again the restaurant has become deathly silent. Finally, mom rescues all of us and comes back in to fetch the tiny monster.

Initially, I felt bad for the mom...but after some thought, I was really ticked at the mom, and my sympathy really was for the kid. I bet he has never been told "no" in his life, or if he has it has never stuck. And, based on what I witnessed, he likely never had a spanking or been truly "set straight" by mom or dad. The boy is 4 years old, and the parents have already dug their graves.

Unfortunately, this is all too common. Parents are far too concerned with being their child's friend, and have very little concern with the behavioral patterns they are slowly setting in stone. It may not be that their kids have public meltdowns. There are many other ways that parents' lack of discipline for their kids is manifested.

For example, I know several parents whose kids continue to sleep in their bed until the ages of 7 and 8 years old. Many times, the spouses don't even sleep in the same bed, but mom or dad is cozied up with the kids every night. Parents try at age 3, 4, 5, 6, etc. to get their children to sleep in their own beds, and they can't do it (or, choose not to do it because it's too hard). The problem is they elected not to put the child in his own bed when he was one-month old, because they didn't like the fact that the baby cried for a while.

Here's what we did with our kids. At around 4-5 weeks old, we decided to put them in their rooms - in their beds. We knew it would be tough. And, with both of our boys, we had one night of pure "hell" in which they screamed all night. But, guess what? The next night they both went right down - without a peep! So, one night without sleep has given us years of peaceful sleep. It's a very small trade-off.

So, the key to "training" kids is to, as parents, begin to discipline them immediately when they are born. Discipline is a loving way - and God's way - to help your children develop the character and behavior they really need to thrive.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Nike Got it Right (August Article)

It never ceases to amaze me when a corporation, small business, or organization hits the nail on the head. I’ve read several books recently about storytelling in marketing, how to perfect the art of customer service, and what really creates a stir about a new product or service. These revelations have truly opened my eyes to the successes (and failures) of commercialism that exist all around us each day.

One of the keys to success for many companies is a slogan. Not necessarily a witty or catchy slogan, but one that you immediately identify with a brand. Think about it. EAT MOR CHIKIN’. We Bring Good Things to Life. Don’t Leave Home Without It. You’re In Good Hands. You Can Do It, We Can Help. You see, even if you TiVo through commercials, you likely know each of the corporations and businesses by these slogans. They are powerful tools for branding and creating positive messages in the minds of their customers.

But, without question, I think Nike set the bar with their timeless slogan: Just Do It. How can you top that? Just reading those words evokes an emotional response in all of us. If you’re like me, your mind immediately flashes to images of action – DOING something. More than an ingenious marketing tool, I think Nike’s slogan is one all of us really need to implement in our own lives. Allow me to explain.

We all lead busy lives. But, don’t confuse activity with accomplishment. Just because we’re doing something doesn’t mean we’re really doing the things that will make a positive lasting mark. Most of our time is wrapped up in the minutia of the day – emails, platonic phone conversations, work-related tasks, home chores, and deciding where to go out to lunch or dinner. You see, we make time for the things that are rather insignificant in the grand scheme of life. But, when it comes to taking action on the stuff that REALLY matters – family, faith, and feelings – we are often paralyzed by fear and uncertainty.

A couple years ago I was really wrestling with a decision – a decision that I knew would have a significant impact on me and my family. After praying about it, talking about it, thinking about it, and obsessing about it, I knew what I was supposed to do. God had made it clear. But, despite thinking, talking, and praying about it, I had DONE nothing about it. I was slow to act because I didn’t know what would happen AFTER I took action. Until one day…

I was sitting in church, and our pastor (my friend Mike Linch) ended his sermon with this statement: “Some of you continue to pray about things that God has already given you the answer to.” And, as it turned out, that was the kick in the pants that I needed.

Many of you are wearing those same shoes right now. You know what you’re supposed to do, but you continue to stew on it, or keep trying to find a way out of it. Maybe it’s a tough conversation with someone. Perhaps it’s a career decision. Maybe it’s letting go of bitterness that has consumed you. Or, maybe it’s something really positive like expressing love to someone or speaking a word of encouragement, but you can’t let your guard down long enough, and your pride gets the best of you.

What’s stopping you? Fear? Worry? Uncertainty? Did you know that studies have shown that 92 percent of the things we worry about and toil over are completely out of our control? They have either already happened, will never happen, are entirely unfounded, or completely insignificant. Surprising, isn’t it? But, it’s a statistic that should provide a world of encouragement to you and me. And, if that isn’t enough to convince you, it’s been noted that there are 366 “fear not” verses in the Bible – more than enough for every day of the year!

So, you’re faced with something that could be huge in your life. A burden eased. A relationship started. A problem solved. You’ve consulted countless friends and family. And you pray to God constantly to give you the green light. But, you keep waiting. Guess what? He may have already given you the answer. More than likely, God’s ready to act. But, now it’s up to you to make a move.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The 2-sday 10

The Top-10 Grossing Movies - All-Time U.S. Box Office (courtesy of
1. Titanic - 1997 ($600 million)

2. Star Wars - 1977 ($461 million)

3. Shrek 2 - 2004 ($436 million)

4. E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial - 1982 ($435 million)

5. Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace - 1999 ($431 million)
6. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest - 2006 ($423 million)

7. Spider-Man - 2002 ($404 million)
8. Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith - 2005 ($380 million)
9. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King - 2003 ($377 million)

10. Spider-Man 2 - 2004 ($373 million)

Bonus: #11-25

11. The Passion of the Christ - 2004 ($370 million)

12. Jurassic Park (1993)
13. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
14. Finding Nemo (2003)
15. Spider-Man 3 (2007)
16. Forrest Gump (1994)
17. The Lion King (1994)
18. Shrek the Third (2007)
19. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
20. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
21. Star Wars - Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
22. Star Wars - Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
23. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007)
24. Independence Day (1996)
25. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

Monday, August 6, 2007

Ignorance is Bliss (but it's still ignorance)

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak. 1 Corinthians 8:9 (NIV)

My family and I kicked it to Six Flags over Georgia last Friday. I understand why I vowed never to go in the middle of summer - it was brutally hot. Actually, the crowd at the park wasn't too bad at all. But, the heat and humidity will just knock you out! And, don't think for a second that the park doesn't take advantage of it! Almost $4.00 for a bottle of water - and, of course, NO water fountains in sight. But, I digress...

So, we're standing in line for one of the rides, and I see a woman wearing a t-shirt like the
one pictured here. At first I sorta chuckled, but then I got a little aggravated. I mean, when other Christians see this shirt, they'll probably laugh, or sigh & roll their eyes and smile. And, I'm sure that was the intent of the person who designed the shirt - as well as the person wearing it. But, what they both fail to realize is that the vast majority of the people who see this t-shirt are going to be turned off by it.

Unfortunately, a lot of people who don't believe in Jesus Christ have a misguided view of what being a Christ-follower really means. But, most importantly, they have a skewed belief of who Christ himself is. And, when I see t-shirts like this, I've gotta say that I don't blame them. Really, wearing a t-shirt like this (even though it wasn't intended for harm) only damages the cause for Christ. It's no different (maybe less invasive, but no different) than the bullhorn guy standing on the street corner yelling and condemning people. It just leaves a bad taste people's mouths.

Fortunately for us as believers, we are saved by God's grace. But, even though we're covered by His grace, we have a responsibility to point people TO Christ, not repel them. And, we also have to understand that t-shirts are just the tip of the iceberg. We've got to be careful not to push people further away from Christ's love by our actions and choices - ALL of them.

Lake many of you, this is an area in which I continue to struggle. But, when the focus is on God and on others, rather than myself, the path becomes much clearer for everyone!

Friday, August 3, 2007

The Greatest form of Flattery

It's been said that being impersonated is the greatest form of flattery. If you're ever had the "privilege" of watching someone mimic your actions and behaviors, you may question that statement. I mean, most of the time, people are impersonated based on their flaws and their idiosyncrasies. And, rightfully so. It wouldn't be funny otherwise.

One of my favorite comedians and impersonators is a guy named Frank Caliendo. You may have seen him on Fox Sports on Sundays on their NFL pre-game show. He is best known for his John Madden impersonation, but I must admit he also does a mean George W. Bush. To see what I mean, just click HERE.

With respect to our Christian walk, we should be doing our best "impression" of Christ. After all, we're made in His image. Further, when God created Adam and Eve in the Garden, He explained that we were to be a reflection of Him. Not a Morgan Freeman (Bruce Almighty) or George Burns (Oh, God!) portrayal of Him, but our own unique reflection.

So, here's the question: "How you doin'?" Do people catch a glimpse of Christ when they see and hear you? Better yet, do you see Christ in yourself? Take a look in the proverbial mirror, and think about that. If we only see ourselves in the reflection, we have a little work to do.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

First Impressions

One of the great privileges I have in my role on staff at NorthStar Church is to work with our Hospitality Team. This team is composed of amazing volunteers who do everything from parking to greeting to ushering to making coffee on Sunday mornings. The Hospitality Team is not really in the spotlight (nor would they want to be), but the work they do is absolutely vital to what happens in our worship services each weekend. They set the stage for life change.

First impressions, they say, are lasting ones. It's absolutely true, particularly in the "church" world, where many people will drive onto a church property or sit in a service for the first time. Studies have shown that the vast majority of first-time guests at a church will make the determination in the first 12 minutes whether or not they will come back again.

Amazing, isn't it? So, you can see why it's so important to have traffic folks, warm and friendly greeters, and service-oriented ushers helping people to their seats. Before they ever sing a song, or hear the words a Pastor speaks, the "impression" has been made - good or bad.

The same can be said in every aspect of our lives - whether it's in business or social circles. The very first few moments we interact with someone (or choose NOT to interact with someone) tells a story. It tells who we are, who we are not, and whether or not it's safe for someone to make an investment in us - as an individual or as an organization.

So, the next time you meet someone for the first time, or you personally interact with a customer, keep in mind that the first few moments are the most precious - and ones you're likely never to change!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Inflatable Dolphins

I took my two boys to the pool yesterday. It's always a good place to see and hear things that make you laugh, and things that make you think.

I had noticed this inflatable dolphin - you know, one of those pool floats that kids can ride in the water. It had been floating aimlessly in the pool, when my eldest son swam over to it and climbed on. Not ten seconds later, we were all subjected to the blood-curdling scream of a 3-year old little girl - pointing to the dolphin and repeatedly shreiking, "Get off! That's my dolphin!" Now, we had been at the pool for more than an hour at this point, and the little girl had been playing on the opposite end of the pool - paying NO attention to her wandering pool friend. But, the moment someone expressed an interest in HER toy, she wanted it.

As a parent, I chuckled, because I see this all the time with my two boys fighting over Matchbox cars, Tranformers, the TV - you name it. But, while adults may not react this way over a silly toy, in many ways we do prefer to keep things under our thumbs - particularly our personal gifts and skills. We may have a one-in-a-million talent or gift that has been wandering aimlessly in our "pool," having gone unused for years. And, the moment someone notices we have this gift, we pull it back and say, "that's mine." But, I really don't think selfishness is the root - it's fear. It's the fear that once my gift is "exposed," I will no longer be in control. That I'll no longer be able to use it for my benefit.

God meticulously designed each and every one of us, and gave us things he gave no one else. But, He never intended for us to keep these gifts hidden. He gave them to us so we could bless others. So, go on...let someone else enjoy your gifts. Remember, sharing doesn't only apply to kids!