Thursday, January 31, 2008

Use Your Nugget

The ignorance pervading our society continually baffles me. I really wonder sometimes how some people - particularly young people - are able to make it through the day with some of the ridiculous things they're up to.

Now, before you get defensive or think I am being judgmental, know my heart on this. My concern is genuine, and I am not simply bashing the stupid decisions people make. The good Lord knows I have made more than my share of poor choices. I'm talking about something different than bad choices. I'm talking about being irresponsible.

The best example I can give you is the whole "My Space" deal. I understand that in today's world, you're a nobody if you don't have a MySpace page (I guess I'll always be a nobody). MySpace is your personal sounding board. Your place to let everyone know whatever you want them to know about you. But, in the history of earth, nowhere has there been something that qualifies for the label "TMI" than on MySpace.

You see, on MySpace, you can communicate to someone who you are in a small fraction of the time it would take to have a conversation - maybe even a lifetime of conversations. And, what I believe appeals to people (particularly teenagers and 20-somethings) is that they can be relatively careless and indulgent and not suffer any "real world" consequences. But, anyone who uses MySpace (or any online community) should know better. You gotta be responsible - perhaps even more responsible - when giving the world easy access to your life.

Let me give you an example. I've only been to two MySpace pages in the past year or so. Both times it happened somewhat accidentally. One time I typed in a coffee establishment on Google, and the other time I typed in a local restaurant that was new to the area. Instead of a web site for the business, each time the listing that most closely matched my search term was a MySpace page. So, to find out more about these places, I clicked on the links to the MySpace pages.

Needless to say, I found out very little about the coffee place and the restaurant, respectively, on these pages. Instead, I found out the person who worked at the coffee place was a smoker and a drinker, as well as what type of people they hung out with. As for the other MySpace page, it was much more revealing about this person's character. Excessive use of foul language, somewhat risque photos, and self-indulgent posts and comments communicated a message loud and clear about this individual.

Further, what they failed to realize is that reputations of these businesses is also at stake when they are irresponsible with the "space" they are given online. You can see why many colleges and employers are now screening students' and candidates' MySpace and Facebook pages before considering them to be a part of their university or organization. I wouldn't want MY business or program to tank because some foolish person was careless and irresponsible with what they said on a web page, would you?

In the end, we all need to think about the message we send to others, not only with our actions and interactions, but in every arena where we have the opportunity to influence someone.

And, even though it's an old adage, you truly only have one chance to make a first (and lasting) impression. Let's remember that, and remember we're not here for ourselves. We're here to point people to Christ.

Us your nugget.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The 2sday 10

Matchbox Twenty
Concert Set List

January 28, 2008
Philips Arena - Atlanta, GA

1. How Far We've Come
2. If I Fall
3. Real World
4. Disease
5. All I Need
6. The Difference
7. I'll Believe You When
8. Back 2 Good
9. 3 A.M.
10. Bent
11. Hang
12. If You're Gone
13. Hand Me Down
14. Unwell
15. These Hard Times
16. All Your Reasons
17. So Sad, So Lonely
18. Long Day
19. Downfall
20. Bright Lights
21. I Can't Let You Go
22. Push

Monday, January 28, 2008

A Glancing Blow

Our eyes speak volumes. Most of the time, we can communicate all we need to with a glance and a facial expression. And, that can be a great thing if you are in a business meeting, a class, a concert, or a church service (couldn't resist).

But, I've learned that I have got to be as careful with what my eyes communicate to others as I am about the words I choose to speak to them. Especially my kids.

I read a book last year entitled
How to Really Love Your Child by D. Ross Campbell. For the most part, the book is filled with practical advice for parents who want to raise disciplined children with love. Much of the information Campbell shares is common sense. But, one of the chapters that really gripped me was where he talked about "loving eye contact."

He points out that many parents only choose to make eye contact when disciplining their kids. So, the only time the child's and parent's eyes connect is when mom or dad gets down in their face and says something like, "Look at me RIGHT NOW," or "Look at me when I am
talking to you!!" How inviting do you think that is for a child who doesn't receive LOVING eye contact?

Campbell points out that eye contact with punishment damages the relationship between the parent and child if the child never (or rarely) receives eye contact in a gentle and encouraging way.

Additionally, kids who never receive loving eye contact will grow up to be teens and adults who are insecure and will not make contact with others. We all know kids and people like this, don't we? They are the ones who drop their heads or look away any time you try to have a meaningful conversation with them.

So, if you're a parent, make it a point this week to invest in your child's emotional health by choosing to look them in the eye and smile. Make it a habit of speaking uplifting and encouraging words to them as you look into their eyes.

Read these words, found in Matthew 6:22-23, and think about how our eyes can bring either hope or destruction to those around us:

"The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are good, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Be a Wise Guy

A couple years ago, I read a book that really changed how I viewed life - particularly the decisions and choices we make each day. The book is entitled The Best Question Ever, and was written by Andy Stanley, who serves as Senior Pastor for Northpoint Church in Alpharetta.

The first time I read it, I was just blown away. The question he poses is so simple - but it may truly be the best question each of us can ask ourselves each and every day. The question is this:

What is the wise thing to do?

I know. Seems obvious, doesn't it? But, how often do we truly ask ourselves this revealing question when going about our daily routine? If you're being honest with yourself, you'll admit that this isn't an easy question to answer a lot of the time. Sometimes it's a difficult question to answer because we truly do not know WHAT the wise move would be. But, many times it's tough to answer precisely because we DO know the wise thing to do - we just don't want to think about the consequences that might result from our poor choices.

Right now, I'm reading through it for a second time, as we're using this book as our couples Community Group study. These are all young couples, and I pray that they will all take the wisdom Andy Stanley shares to heart and take the time to make wise choices in their lives.

Wisdom isn't something you are born with. It's something you learn all throughout your life - and almost always we learn it the hard way (by making un-wise choices). Ultimately, there are two more practical - and less painful - ways to become wise. First is seeking counsel from those who are either more learned or more experienced than we are. Those who have walked down the road before us can spare us from making life-shattering mistakes.

But, without question, the number one way to become wise is to go straight to God's word. Read Proverbs. Read Ecclesiastes. Read the Gospels. The scriptures are rich in wisdom, and they exist as a "guide" for each of us to navigate through this earthly life we've been given.

Don't be stubborn. Don't say, "I'm gonna do it my way." Save yourself the time and relationships you'll lose by not asking yourself The Best Question Ever.

Be wise.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The 2sday 10

Top 10 Performing Fortune 500 Stocks in 2007
Source: Money Magazine/

1. Mosaic (MOS) - 342 percent return
2. AK Steel Holding - 174 percent return

3. Owens-Illinois (OI) - 168 percent return

4. National Oilwell Varco (NOV) - 140 percent return

5. (AMZN) - 135 percent return

6. Jacobs Engineering Group - 135 percent return

7. Apple (AAPL) - 133 percent return

8. GameStop (GME) - 125 percent return

9. AGCO (AG) - 120 percent return

10. Cummins (CMI) - 117 percent return

Bonus: Worst Stock Performer in 2007 - Dana Corp. (DCNAQ) - lost 98 percent of its value

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Most Depressing Day of the Year

I was listening to the radio this morning as I was getting ready for work, when an interesting story caught my attention. Apparently, researchers have designated January 21, 2008 as the "Most Depressing Day of the Year."

If you're a Green Bay Packers player or fan, I could certainly understand how you could identify with this statement. But, what about the rest of us? Why in the world would January 21 be any more (or less) depressing than any other day?

Dr. Cliff Arnall, a psychologist and former college professor, used mathematical equations to reach this verdict. Supporting the scientific methods, several additional factors have been weighed in making this determination. A combination of the cold weather, the arrival of credit card bills from holiday purchases, people having already given up on New Year's resolutions, and the fact that it's a Monday all have pointed researchers to the conclusion that today is "the most depressing day of 2008."

To crawl out from under the dark cloud over "Blue Monday," psychologists and therapists are recommending that people try to be "extra positive" today. Some have also said just going outside for a few minutes to feel the brisk air on your face will lift your spirits. And, while these may be solutions to get you through January 21, these are band-aids for those who actually find that today is the worst day of the year.

There's a far better remedy to the winter blues, or any day when life gets us down. It's called a change of heart. It's ceasing to put the onus on myself, and handing over the reigns to my Heavenly Father. It's altering my perspective to view the larger picture rather than aiming an enormous magnifying glass at my circumstances. It's prayer. It's reaching out TO people rather than withdrawing from them and becoming isolated.

Maybe for you, today will be a tough day. It's possible that it could be your "most depressing day of the year." But, only if you let it become that.

If you're feeling blue, overwhelmed, or even a little anxious, just pause. Be still. Listen. God is with you right now, and He is eager to transform - not only your day - but your heart.

If you'll let Him.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Failure Works Wonders

I don't know about you, but I really hate to lose. And, losing isn't always just a tally on a sheet of paper or lit up bulbs on a scoreboard. It's when I fail to meet my personal expectations in life.

This can be something as simple as a personal challenge like losing weight, or a debate over who sang an obscure song in the early 80's. I want to be successful, and I want to be right.

And, if you're like me, you spend several hours per week in meetings and conversations with co-workers and colleagues. Many of these interactions center around brainstorming ideas that will connect with people. For NorthStar Church, creative elements include graphics, catchy tag lines, song choices, and stories that can be told on video.

When these meetings are at their best, all of us in the room are firing out ideas. Occasionally, all of us are stumped and have brain freezes, and at other times an idea "clicks" immediately and all of us know the exact direction to take.

Admittedly, I am not the most creative person in the world. In fact, in a room of 12 people, I may not fall in the top 10 in creativity. But, on that rare occasion when I do have an idea to contribute, many times I am reluctant to mention it to the group. Why?


It's not my fear of them. It's my fear of rejection. My fear of failure. In my mind, I tell myself, "That's a horrible idea. They won't like it."

But, what I've got to do is realize that when I choose to keep my ideas to myself, we all lose. The value I can add to the group by sharing an idea - good or bad - outweighs the perceived value I have placed on avoiding rejection.

Sometimes it hurts to "put yourself out there" for people to scrutinize and judge. Sometimes that means failure - at least in our world's view. But, despite the discouragement caused by failure, there is a hidden positive found in it.

Thomas Edison once said, "I haven't failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won't work."

Mostly, failure is an attitude. And, quite honestly, it's something I really have to work on.

Here's the bottom line: you're guaranteed of failing by not trying at all.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The 2sday 10

Top 10 TV Icons of All-Time
as determined by Entertainment Weekly and TV Land


1. Johnny Carson
2. Lucille Ball

3. Oprah Winfrey

4. Bill Cosby

5. Walter Cronkite

6. Carol Burnett

7. Mary Tyler Moore

8. Jerry Seinfeld

9. Homer Simpson

10. Dick Clark

Monday, January 14, 2008

The Bad and the Good

I consider myself a pretty discerning individual. I think I have the ability to read people with a fair amount of accuracy. I can usually see their motives, how genuine they are, and if they are trying to manipulate a situation for their benefit.

When I enter a room full of people, I can often identify the ones who are genuine, and the ones putting on airs. I can figure out which people I would enjoy hanging out with, and which ones I want to avoid.
Being discerning can really pay dividends - mostly because it can keep you out of trouble, and it allows you to be more focused and intentional in building relationships with others.

I guess in this light, discernment (as it pertains to relationships) many times is being able to "see the bad in people." Sounds kinda harsh, but it's the truth. It's a mechanism that allows you to evaluate people - good or bad.

But, as good as I may be at "seeing the bad" sometimes, I can be even better at something very similar, but infinitely more harmful...and that is failing to see the GOOD in things, particularly people.

You see, being able to see "warning signs" and avoiding a situation is a positive thing most of the time. But, when I take this to the extreme and I don't actively look for the good in people, I become callous. It becomes more about self-edification, and less about how I can serve. I become close-minded and judgmental. Intolerant. Unloving. Un-Christlike.

So, I've got to be careful. I know God has given me a "radar" for being able to identify potentially harmful people and situations. But, I also have to realize that I am as flawed as the people I sometimes avoid. And, I have idiosyncrasies that probably turn them off as well.

And, nothing turns people off more than someone who has a "holier than thou" attitude.

God's Word tells believers to be "in the world" but not "of the world." Sometimes I take that to an extreme and try my best to keep myself sheltered from those things that can bring me down. But, God put us here to encourage one another, and ultimately to point people to Him. And, I cannot do that if I step away from those who need to hear about His love for them.

It's something I am working on: Choosing to see the GOOD in people (however difficult that may be).

Because God sees an endless amount of good in each of us.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Measuring Up

You know, there’s a bad word out there that is killing all of us. It’s a word that chokes us, deflates us, gives us false hope, and puts an inordinate amount of stress on us. The word I am talking about isn’t a curse word – but it definitely can be (and often is) a curse.


At first glance, it seems rather harmless. In fact, the term alone may invoke thoughts of weighing the quality of our options when faced with making decisions as consumers – fruit, liquid detergents, saturated fat content in bags of corn chips. No big deal.

But, that’s not the comparison I am talking about here. I’m talking about what happens when we apply this word to our lives. Humor me, as I give you an example.

Recently, I was listening to a guy talk about a conversation he had with his nephew. His nephew is in his mid-20’s, and is apparently doing pretty well for himself as a partner in a successful real estate business. During the phone conversation, he began to tell his uncle about his salary, his new luxury car, and the new house he has.

After he was finished listing all of the material possessions he now owned, he asked his uncle this question: “So, how do you think I’m doing?”

“What do you mean?” the uncle replied.

“Well, I’m only 27. I don’t know of any other people my age making this much money, or who drive a car like mine. So, how am I doing?”

In a nutshell, the nephew was looking for validation. But, the wise uncle didn’t bite.

“Well, most people your age are starting a family, and they make that their first priority. I guess the better question is ‘Are you happy with what you’re doing? Are you enjoying life?’”

You see, this young man is caught up in a game he’ll never win. It’s the trap of comparison. He’s gauging his success completely by how he measures up against those his age. But, let me ask you this: Who’s “doing better?” The guy who is single and making a six-figure income? Or, the couple who are barely making ends meet, who just found out they are expecting a baby after trying for three years to get pregnant?

It’s a trick question, because the answer could be BOTH. And, you know what? You likely found yourself comparing the two scenarios in your mind and came up with what you believe is the right answer. It’s because we analyze those two situations and see how they compare with our own values and stages of life. It’s tough to escape.

I stumbled on one of the greatest verses in scripture recently. It’s not one you really hear too often, but its words are absolutely on the money.

Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else. For we are each responsible for our own conduct. Galatians 6:4-5 (NLT)

More often than not, we get ourselves in trouble when we take our eyes off of those things God has called us to do, and begin to focus more on what other people are doing. The thing is, the people we’re looking at have probably done the same thing we’re doing – they’ve taken their eye off the ball, and are trying to be something (or someone) they’re not. It’s a vicious cycle.

You and I have got to do a better job of doing those things we’ve been called to do. And, we’ve got to do a better job of being us – not someone else.

It’s been said that contentment is “wanting what I already have.” That’s some good stuff. How often do we find ourselves truly wanting what we already have? Rarely. And, it’s a shame. Because there are millions of others who would see our lives and wish they had what we have.

This new year – 2008 – let’s resolve to be who God made us. Nothing more, nothing less.

Be genuine. Be authentic. Let the Jones’s be the Jones’s.

Because, like Paul told us in that verse in Galatians – we will never be satisfied with anything else.

Set your own goals. For yourself. For your family. For your job or company.

Dare to NOT compare.

It’s the only way you’ll ever truly measure up.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

The 2sday 10

Money Magazine's "Best Places to Live" in 2007
Source: Money Magazine/

How the list was compiled, according to the magazine:
For this year's list we focused on smaller places that offered the best combination of economic opportunity, good schools, safe streets, things to do and a real sense of community.

1. Middleton, Wisconsin
2. Hanover, New Hampshire
3. Louisville, Colorado
4. Lake Mary, Florida
5. Claremont, California
6. Papillion, Nebraska
7. Milton, Massachusetts
8. Chaska, Minnesota
9. Nether Providence, Pennsylvania
10. Suwanee, Georgia

64. Peachtree City, Georgia
76. Martinez, Georgia

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Believe it or Not...Reading is a Good Thing

I used to hate to read. When I say that...I don't mean that I just didn't care for it. I mean, I avoided it at all costs. If it wasn't the back of a baseball card or the agate (stats) page of the Sports section of the newspaper, I knew nothing about it. And, I had no desire to know anything about it.

In fact, one summer I was assigned the unenviable task of reading
Gone with the Wind for my 10th grade English class. Summer is for vacation, hanging out, being lazy - NOT reading! Especially a boring 1,000-page book about some moody dame named Scarlett. So, my best friend and I had a bright idea. Instead of reading the book, we'd wait until the day before school started and watch the entire 4-hour movie (in hindsight, I can't imagine the book being any more brutal than the movie).

So, my buddy and I got a good feel for the story. Unfortunately for us, the test we took on the "reading" primarily covered the areas of the story that were either not in the movie, or were completely different than the film. Oops. Exposed.

From the time I was a kid until about four years ago, I probably only read a couple books that were not required reading for school. I had "better" things to do with my time. Things like NOT reading.

But a few years ago, that changed. It all started with a book entitled
Good to Great by Jim Collins. I was in a Bible study (and still am) with a group of executives who constantly quoted and referenced this book. So, I finally decided I was going to read it - just so I wouldn't be completely ignorant to what they were talking about. And guess what. The book was AMAZING! To this today, I consider this one of my favorite books of all-time, and is a must -read for anyone who is a part of any organization.

I enjoyed reading that book so much that I read another. Then another. Before long, I found myself reading whenever I had a moment to spare. And, I really cannot begin to tell you how much richer my life is today because of all the reading I have done - and continue to do.

It may not seem like much to you, but over the past three years, I have read 52 books in entirety, and parts of several others. And, I have about 25 books on the shelves in my office and at home that I am itching to get to.
Right now, I am reading three different books - Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi, and The Best Question Ever (for the 2nd time) and Visioneering - both by Andy Stanley. I can't get enough. When I go on vacation, I devour books. I read two books on consecutive days at the beach earlier this year.

That's weird, considering four years ago I wouldn't pick up a book unless I was buying it for someone as a gift.

If you're not a reader, I suggest you start. But, start with something that piques your interest. Perhaps something that will provide encouragement or added depth to your life. But make sure you select something you enjoy, or comes highly recommended.

If you're looking for a place to start, I'd love to help. You never know where reading one book will take you!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

The 2sday 10

Ten Popular New Year's Resolutions
Source: Me

1. Lose Weight - It's New Year's Day...I can start tomorrow. Or the next day.
2. Exercise More
(or start exercising) - Wait a do these dumbbells work again?

3. Spend Less/ Pay Down Debt
- It's always discouraging to think about this right after the holidays. I shoulda asked for more cash for Christmas!

4. Quit a Bad Habit
- Bad habits? I don't have any bad habits. Hold on while I put down the remote and get that hang nail with my teeth.

5. Pick up a New Hobby
- I always wanted to learn Feng Shui. I'm gonna have to make time between basket weaving and ukulele lessons.

6. Watch Less Television
- Nuh uh. Ain't happening. I just got HD.

7. Be a Better Parent
- I love my little kiddos. Hey, Johnny, I think I saw your Ninja Turtle's missing leg in that light socket over there.

8. Take a Vacation
- or 2 or 3 or 5. I can't remember how many we took last year. It's getting close to time to take another one.

9. Get More Organized
- I made a list of things of ways I could get more organized this year. If I could only remember where I put it...

10. Volunteer to Help or Serve Others
- Does volunteering to help kids learn how to play video games at Target count?

Happy New Year to Everyone!