Reflections on “Skin in the Game” with Andy Stanley

I’m white. Like, really really white – I grew up in the suburbs, went to a overwhelmingly white high school, almost 100% white college, a majority white seminary (even in that setting, the non-white students were peers pursuing graduate degrees in theology). I’ve served a church that is totally white that is part of a community that is, you guessed it, really really white. On a day to day basis (as of now) the average number of non-white individuals I interact with on a daily basis is: 0.

That being said, I have friends who are non-white and I value what they post online as it reminds me that the experience of being non-white is different. And when, as a society, we’re confronting the issues that last week’s events have brought into focus, I value their voices even more.

So a day or two ago a friend of mine posted the link below. As a long time listener of Andy Stanley I put it on my mental to do list to listen to this message. Tonight, during my lawn mowing time, I did. And I truly believe it is one the most helpful things I’ve listened to in a long long time.

To my white friends, whether you’re conservative or liberal, Christian or non-Christian, please take an hour and listen to this. If it not’s worth your time, let me know and I’ll pay for coffee sometime and we can discuss why.

To my (few) non-white friends – thank you – please keep posting – keep reminding me that your experience and mine have been different.

http://northpoint.org/messages/071016-message/

Leadership Lessons from an Unlikely Place

I’m a huge hockey fan.  A lot of people say that, but I really am.  My dad was one of the earliest season ticket holders for the Buffalo Sabres (he bought his first pair of seats in 1971) and has had them ever since.  Growing up we went to at least ten games per year – plus play off games and exhibition games.  I was in the stands for the 1989 Red Army vs Buffalo Sabres game.  I was there for the infamous “No Goal” game of the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals.  All told, I’ve been to at least 300 live NHL games plus a smattering of high school, college, and minor-league games.  Even now our family makes it back to Buffalo at least once a year to take in a game live.  I subscribe to NHL Center Ice which means I can watch countless NHL games throughout the season.  While I’m a die-hard Sabres fan, I’m a fan of hockey in general.

Anyone who follows hockey knows that my beloved Sabres have not been the best team lately.  Two years in a row they finished dead last in the league and this year they improved, but still finished 23rd and well out of a playoff spot.  Because of that, we (Sabres fans) been focused a lot on the future and what this team could be, rather than what they are now.  So, I’ve listened to a lot – I mean a lot – of Buffalo sports talk radio in the last few years.  And what’s funny is that along the way, I’ve learned a lot about leadership, and a lot I think that applies to leadership even within the church.

  • Potential and Ceiling – Since the Sabres have been focused a lot on prospects, the question is often asked “What’s this guy’s ceiling?”  In other words, can he someday be a #1 center that carries your team or a top defensemen that plays half the game?  Or, long term, can you expect him to be a third line guy – a solid contributor, but not a super star.  In leadership it’s crucial to identify someone’s potential and their ceiling.  What can they be?  There are great leaders in our churches but if they’re not in the right roles, their leadership skills aren’t going to be well used.  But sometimes we stretch people beyond their potential and that simply leads to burn out.  In my current role I’ve spent a lot of time trying to find the right leadership roles for high school students because we utilize an significant number of them to run our two summer ministry programs for children.  But because they are high school students, I’ve got a limited window to utilize them and need to make the best use of it (for their sake, and the sake of the ministry).  To do that I ask: What’s their potential?  Is this someone who can be  squad leader as a high school student, or are they just not ready for that?  It can sound harsh (and even judgmental) but it’s critical in leadership to identify whether someone has the gifts and therefore the potential to excel in a given role.    What I’ve found is that if I try and squeeze a kid into a role that they don’t have the potential for, it ends up being a negative experience for everyone.
  • Development Matters – In the NHL, most guys are drafted when they’re 18 or 19, but don’t play an NHL game for at least a few years after that.  The teams that have the most success are the teams that have been able to not only pick the right players to start with, but develop them well too.  What an NHL team does in the years between drafting a player and when they finally make a pro lineup can be the difference between a guy becoming an NHL regular or being a bust.  As a quick example – Sam Reinhart.  The Sabres drafted Sam Reinhart with the #2 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft (for those who are sports-ignorant, that’s a huge accomplishment and a really big deal).  But Sam just wasn’t ready for the NHL when he was 18 and after a few games they sent him back to his Junior team for one more season.  In addition to sending him back to Junior, they sent him with an assignment to get stronger and improve his endurance.  This season?  Sam played 79 games, scoring 23 goals and accumulating 42 points.  He finished among the top-10 in points and tied for 3rd in goals among rookies this season.  It safe to say that if the Sabres hadn’t of sent him back to Junior last season and given him another year to prepare and develop, he wouldn’t have had the success he had this season.  In the same way, once we recognize potential, we need to develop that potential appropriately.  Potential isn’t actuality and potential doesn’t guarantee success.  This year our camp staff has a number of individuals on it who will someday be ready for big roles within the operations of our camp – but not yet.  They definitely have the potential, but they need the time to develop.  They need to spend time on the work crew so they become immersed in the culture and behind the scenes operations.  They need a year or two to be Junior Counselors and work with people more experienced that they are.  They need to work with kids who are a lot younger than them so that there’s a large enough difference in maturity before they work with the older groups of students.  Being strategic about this development process allows their potential to develop into actuality appropriately.  
  • “Past their Prime” doesn’t equal “not valuable” – A lot of the hosts (and guests) on sports talk radio are former NHL players and they often talk about what a guy was like in the locker room.  Sometimes the most valued and appreciated team members don’t have the big roles, but rather they shape and influence the culture (or environment) of the team.  They’re the most encouraging and supportive, etc.  This season the Sabres had the services of David Legwand.  Legwand was, in his prime, a top player in the league but in his later years his performance has dropped off considerably.  But, this year the Sabres had a lot of young guys who had been high draft picks (just like David Legwand had been almost 20 years ago).  Thus, it was no surprise to read this article: Sabres’ David Legwand Encourages Younger Teammates.  Although Legwand played limited minutes on the 4th line, scored all of five goals and had a total of 14 points, he was a critical part of the culture of this team this year.  He was able to encourage and support younger players, even though he is past his own physical playing prime.  Within the church, we often have these people and they don’t even realize it.  A few years back we had a short term spot on our Elder board (Session) that we needed to fill.  We asked one of our most senior members who was well into his 90’s when we asked him.  His reply was priceless: “Well, I don’t even buy green bananas anymore”.  Even though he was “past his prime” energy wise and couldn’t make the commitment that some of our younger leaders could, he was a voice of reason and experience that we couldn’t easily discount.  He may not have been the one to spearhead a congregation-wide campaign, but it would be simply foolish to ignore his insight and advice.  Can you have too many “past their prime” voices, of course.  But it is to our own detriment to ignore the knowledge and wisdom of leaders who have walked the paths before us.

Are there differences between building a hockey team and leading a congregation?  Of course.  But I’ve been surprised at how often I’ve taken concepts I’ve learned about through being a hockey fan and applied them to leadership situations within the church.  As an unlikely leader myself, I’ve found that some of these unlikely sources have been the most beneficial in shaping my understanding of leadership.

The Power of Listening

“Thank you for everything, I don’t know what this year looks like without your help”

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Those were some of the incredibly affirming words I heard last Sunday night.  I had just finished sharing the news that God was calling me onto a new adventure and I’d be leaving my current call this July.  To no one’s surprise, my graduating seniors took the news the best – after all, they were moving onto a new chapter in their lives as well.  And they were the first out of their chairs to greet me and give me a hug when I had finished sharing the news.  After what had been an emotionally exhausting process, it was exactly what I needed.

But since that night, those words kept coming back to me: “Thanks for everything, I don’t know what this year looks like without your help”.  I’ve known this student in particular for quite some time and we had spent some serious time together this year talking about heavy stuff.  But I’m talking about a few hours – not days or weeks by any means.  Just a few nights after youth group was over.  Were they hard conversations?  I suppose some of them were, but the truth was, this student knew what he needed to do at every step of the journey.  He didn’t need major intervention or even hours of my time – he just needed some to talk things through with.  That’s it.  That’s all I did.  I made time for him, listened to him, and shared some honest advice along the way.

There’s one other piece of information that might be valuable to know: this student knew that he could ask me about anything.  And he did.  He felt comfortable and confident that he could talk to me about anything and I would listen and he wouldn’t face judgment.  Does that I mean I simply agreed with everything he said?  Definitely not.  But it did mean that his status in my life a “true child in the faith” (1 Timothy 1:2) was never in jeopardy or question – and he knew that.

Let’s be honest – we all need other people – and teens especially need other people.  Parents are great and parents are super important (much much much more important than most of them realize) but that doesn’t change the fact that teens need adults who are willing to make time for them, listen to them, and let them know that bottom line, win or lose, that they still love them.

ClockAt the Orange Conference last year the fundamental question was posed over and over again – “What would happen if we treated every kid like they are made in the image of God?”.  While incredibly simple on the one hand, it’s also incredibly challenging at the same time.  My first response is this: We’d make time for them.

One of the worst things I heard from parents and students alike were “I know you’re really busy but if I could have just a few minutes of your time, I’d appreciate it”.  I hated hearing this because I knew that something about how I functioned gave the impression that I was so busy that people felt the need to ask permission and apologize in advance for asking for some of my time.  While that’s for another post, the point remained this – if it was one of “my kids” – I was finding the time.  My wife, God bless her, has done a great job reminding me not to spend too much time working.  But when it came to supporting one of “my kids” she never once called me out on investing too much time into their lives.

Time.  It’s one thing no one ever has enough of, but we can always find it when we need it.  The kids in our lives, in our families, and in our churches need our time.  They might be afraid to ask for it, but they need it.  In the busy-ness of life it’s so easy to assume that someone is ok, only to later find out they’re not.  Make time for the kids in your life – even if the don’t ask for it.  What last Sunday night reminded me is that it doesn’t take herculean efforts to make an impact in the life of a kid.  A few hours here and there, a good listening year, and the assurance that no matter what that I’d always love a student made a difference in this kid’s life.

And all it really took, was making time for them.

Internet Safety

Every year at Christmas time I get asked the following question: “Brian, my son just got a new iPod touch for Christmas, what can I do to keep them safe on the internet?”

As a parents of two young kids myself, I share this concern.  Being my kids it would come as no surprise to anyone that my kids have ample access to technology – including iPods, an iPad, and a shared home computer.  And internet safety is a big deal – a very big deal in fact.  So here are my three strategies for home internet security.

“There’s not a third-grader on the planet who is ready for the internet and everyone that comes with it” –

Preliminary statement: Some would argue that home internet security that you could look here is all about Christians being prude about sex.  It’s not.  Pornography exposure, particularly for children, is unhealthy and inappropriate.  Should we teach kids about sex?  Absolutely, and we should start at younger ages that most parents would ever imagine (although that’s a topic for another post).  But, and I will argue this with anyone – pornography is terrible sex education and we need to protect our kids from it.

Technological Solutions

This one has a very simple start: Use OpenDNS.

Seriously, if you have kids at home, please use OpenDNS.  A lot of internet filtering solutions are software-based which is useful but has serious shortcomings – namely, it has to be installed on every devices and it’s software, so it can be easily bypassed.  OpenDNS is configured at the router level as opposed to the device level.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with how home internet works, there’s a little box (maybe even from your internet service provider) that emits your wifi signal at home and manages all the internet traffic in and out of your home that goes across your wired connection.  All you have to do is change two settings on your router to take advantage of OpenDNS’s filtering and immediately every device in your home is covered.  Router settings are a bit tricky, but usually manageable.

OpenDNS is widely used by schools, businesses and churches to provide internet security and the price is the best part: it’s free.  Seriously, it’s free – go to their website and look for yourself, the only thing you would need after this is to up your productivity, so that your business has success, at Toad Diaries you will find the best productivity tips.  They have a paid product that is more extensive, but they have two different free options and the easiest doesn’t even require you to sign up for anything.  (Side note: We use OpenDNS to filter the internet traffic here at the church as well).

So that’s the first and easiest step.  The trick comes when kids move from wifi only devices (most tables/iPads, iPod Touch, XBox, PS3/PS4) to devices that support a data connection such as smart phones and data-enabled tablets.  Now your kids have a direct, unfiltered connection to the internet. It can also apply to your own online activity. Let’s say you’re playing casino slots on your mobile; you will need a reliable connection that will also guarantee your privacy. At this point you might want to consider one of the software solutions such as X3Watch, NetNanny, or K9Web Protection.  Personally, I don’t have a recommendation as to which service is the best because I’ve always used OpenDNS and my kids don’t have smart phones yet.  So you’ll need to do some reading as to which option is the best for you (Here’s a recent article from PC Magazine)

Personal Solutions – Here are some of my recommendations for guidelines at home

  1. Technology MUST be used in public places.  No devices in bedrooms and this includes game systems (XBox is the #1 platform for pornography).  Our kids are not allowed to use their devices when someone else isn’t around and they need to be used in public places – not in their rooms.  This provides accountability for kids and allows easier monitoring for other family members.
  2. You need to make sure kids know that weird, scary, or unfamiliar stuff on the internet is something that they can and should tell you about.  We’ve told our kids “if you ever hear something or see something online that you’re not sure what it is, you can tell us about it and you won’t be in trouble”.  Last week our son took me up on the offer.  He had heard a phrase on one of his YouTube Minecraft videos that he wasn’t familiar with.  As it turns out, it was completely innocent but he wasn’t sure so he asked me.  Bottom line: Make sure kids know they can talk to you about what they encounter on the internet and if they show you, maintain control and don’t freak out.  Seriously, even if your third grader has encountered hard-core pornography you cannot lose emotional control.  If you do, that’s the last time they’ll tell you when they encounter something weird on the internet and you want to keep that dialogue open.
  3. There is no “right to privacy” for kids and even teens when it comes to technological devices.
    Screen Shot 2015-12-10 at 10.19.21 AM

    Chances are you paid for that device and don’t for a second let your kids trick you into thinking they have a right to privacy – they don’t.  Parents would be nuts to say “Well, I don’t care who my kids hang out with or when – it’s up to them” and the same holds true for the portable electronic devices.  You should know their passcode, have access to their e-mail, etc.  Yes I know they can delete things but that doesn’t change that you should have access.  You also should have the remote wipe feature active.  Within iCloud you can set up “Find my iPhone” and it allows you to locate and remotely wipe a device clean.  You should have it turned on no matter what (after all, kids lose things all the time) but it also serves as “nuclear option” should you ever need it.

The Harsh Reality

It’s going to happen – As someone who has worked with teenagers on a week to week basis for over a decade let me level with you: Your kids are going to be exposed to pornography – and most likely, it will be an accident the first time it happens.  Many of my students have told me that the first time they were exposed to pornography was accidental – and they mean it.  For one student it was a school research project on pregnancy.  For another, it was a friend of theirs who handed them an iPod Touch with a pornographic photo on it.  And… much of this exposure occurs in 4-5th grade.

It’s not a guy problem – The perception is that porn is only a guy problem, but increasingly we’re finding out that it’s not.  As many teenage girls have been exposed to porn as guys.  They may seek it our for different reasons, but none the less, it’s not just a guy problem.

Kids who want to watch porn will – I know that’s awful, but kids are smart and technology is everywhere, so they’ll find a way.  Whether it’s a friend’s house or some other device, they’ll find a way.

Concluding Thoughts…

I don’t write this to scare parents – I write this to raise awareness.  The world of the internet has changed a lot since I was in Middle and High School and we need to be aware of this.  But like most things, we need to start an open dialogue about the content (and people) on the internet with our kids – it cannot be a taboo subject.  AND… we need to start young.  If you haven’t talked to your kids about using the internet wisely yet, please do so right away.  Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Also, we need to have an honest conversation with our kids about pornography.  We’ve got all the documented evidence we need that pornography is bad and we need to share that with them.  As parents we don’t want kids doing things that are bad for their health.  In essence, we need to talk about pornography in the same way we talk about cigarettes and high sugar foods.  Last January we did a lesson on this topic and if you want to find out more, you can watch the recap video on YouTube.

PS – For my local friends, I am more than happy to help you with router set up if you need it.

 

All about digital marketing

Digital marketing is something every company has to give due consideration to. Not an online business you say. Too bad because that doesn’t excuse you from anything. Even local, land-based businesses have to focus on the online arena, as that’s where their target audiences are.

Here are seven things about digital marketing heaven you absolutely have to know, it is still essential to know these few things even if you are planning on hiring a Digital Hyve Marketing agency.

1. Mobile Is Now

Audiences aren’t shifting more to browsing via mobile devices. They are already there. Over 50% of all Internet users are now operating exclusively on mobile devices. If you haven’t made your site responsive and geared everything towards smaller screens, you’re in trouble. First, Google will actively penalize you in the search results, consequently reducing your audience. Second, your existing customers will become increasingly frustrated and alienated.

2. Micro-Moments

The easiest way to define this is by relating it to impulse shopping. Portability and accessibility in the business world has led to the rise of micro-moments. You have mere seconds to fulfill a customer’s need. Your company has to have a platform that operates 24/7 in order to cater to anyone wherever they are.

3. Using Apps

Apps are becoming the ultimate way to reach your audience. A quick look at the TV and you will see just how many companies are advertising their apps instead of their core businesses. This is because many customers are ignoring browsers and going straight for apps. If you don’t already have a related app for your business, now is the time to address that.

4. Consider The Internet Of Things

The Internet of Things is a modern phenomenon relating to how ordinary every-day objects can, and are expected to, connect with a network. In other words, our phones turned from a simple way to make calls to connecting to the Internet. Smart home technology is another example of how the Internet of Things is taking hold. This is yet to become an absolute ‘must’ for businesses as it’s still in its infancy, but you should already be considering what you’re going to do about it. For now, this may be as simple as an app or thinking about the wider impact of your products and services.

5. Branding and Brand Management

The definition of branding for digital marketers has changed. It once referred to printing business cards, coming up with a website, and slapping a logo on it. Your brand extends to everything, now, especially how you are going to communicate with customers. Branding for businesses in 2016 must be holistic. It must include delving into potentially difficult topics like reputation and crisis management. Brands that succeed in the long run plan for every possible eventuality. All it takes is a co-worker to say the wrong thing and it can completely smear the company’s reputation.

6. Pushing People Through The Door

According to Edward James, CEO of Go Up, “SEO was once measured by the amount of traffic flowing to a website. Digital marketers made their money through getting people through the door. Tap here to read the article. What happened afterwards was none of their concern. Now the responsibilities of the digital marketer have changed. It’s less about pushing people through the door and more about monitoring them throughout the entire purchasing process.” The digital marketer must concentrate on all steps of the buying process. In addition, after that they have to think about how they are going to retain customers in the long-term.

7. Live Streaming

Live streaming through platforms like Periscope and Twitch are on the up. Many companies have dismissed them as novelties that don’t need to be considered. Nevertheless, digital marketers have managed to turn them into dollar signs. Don’t underestimate the desire of customers to see what’s going on inside an operation. While we can’t give you any concrete tactics for how to utilize live streaming for the benefit of your business, what we can say is this is something to watch. Digital marketing is set to become more interactive than ever before, and part of this revolution will come from harnessing the potential of live streaming.

Conclusion

Digital marketing isn’t something you can ignore if you want to make your organization into a success. The time is now to take advantage of it. If you don’t know enough about it, hire someone. Nevertheless, whatever you do don’t let your competitors pass you by.

Ten Things We Wish Others Knew About Relationships

During January our Jr. and Sr. High Students finished our “Obsessed Series” that focused on dating and relationships.  After the 1st week, we split into three groups and made some top ten lists.  All three lists are un-edited

Ten Things Guys Wish Girls Knew about Relationships:

  1. Be more straightforward
  2. Don’t take everything personally
  3. You can eat around us
  4. Be patient with us (we’re stupid)
  5. We need our freedom (put down the whip)
  6. Let things go/no grudges
  7. Our wallets are not bottomless
  8. Prior commitments come first
  9. The world doesn’t need to know (social media)
  10. Don’t make us change ourselves

Ten Things Girls With Guys Knew about Relationships:

  1. Be courageous!  Just ask us!  We want you to ask us and show us you are dedicated to dating us
  2. Realize there is more than physical relationships
  3. It is ok if we are better or stronger than you.
  4. DON’T ASK US IF WE’RE ON OUR PERIODS WE ARE UNDER A LOT OF STRESS!
  5. There is a face above the boobs – “Up here, buddy”
  6. Don’t make me into something I’m not.  I’m not something to just show your friends
  7. Please WEAR DEODORANT!  At least try to be a little clean
  8. Sometimes, if something is wrong, just comfort us.
  9. Sometimes we are more gross than you (some of us just like to wear sweatpants)
  10. Build us up, don’t knock us down (NEVER GONNA GIVE YOU UP!  NEVER GONNA LET YOU DOWN)
  11. No catcalling
  12. We added two more numbers to show that in a relationship we can make the rules.

Ten Things Leaders* Wish High School Students knew about Relationships

  1. PDA is never appropriate or needed – you just look stupid
  2. TV gives you a really unrealistic view of dating and sex
  3. Love and know yourself before you can be of any value to anyone else
  4. Physical and mental abuse is never acceptable or normal
  5. If you feel the need to compromise your core values – something is wrong
  6. All relationships will end (except one)
  7. Emotional intimacy is as important as physical intimacy
  8. You should be friends too – more than intimacy
  9. If you can’t disagree constructively then you need to get out
  10. Sex is a big deal, but not the way you think.  It’s sacred and powerful and can be easily misused.
  11. This is one of the most important decisions you make – we expect you to choose wisely.

* – Leaders were in age from Mid-20’s through Mid-50’s, men and women, mostly married but not all

Farewell Uncle Tom

“If there be any truer measure of a man than by what he does, it must be by what he gives.” – Robert South

I grew up as an only child, which means that I spent a lot of time around adults.  And it must be said that I had a fantastic group of parents, family members, Sunday school teachers, mentors, teachers, and coaches who influenced me to become who I have become today.  But if I had to pick one adult outside of my parents, the person who influenced me the most would be my Uncle Tom.

I had the fortune of growing up in the same town as my Aunt Marian and Uncle Tom (in fact, my Aunt Marian was my sixth-grade math teacher).  What that meant was that I saw them often, in particular, at church each and every Sunday.  I remember as a young child sitting in church eagerly awaiting my Uncle’s arrival.  In my line of work now, I’ve come to recognize just how important that was in shaping my view of church at a young age.  After all, your parents, they have to care about you.  But my Uncle took a genuine interest in me and made coming to church something I looked forward to.

My Uncle Tom was also the first one who put me in front of a computer, and for those of you who know me well, I am a hopelessly addicted tech geek who has loved the Mac computer since the mid-80’s.  Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? started me off but the list went on.  I remember my Mom saying to my Uncle “Are you sure that’s ok?” and he’d reply with a smile “Anne, he can’t hurt it”.  My Uncle Tom trusted me and was willing to let me explore something new on my own, knowing full well that I might in fact mess something up.  But, I had the freedom to explore, because I knew that if I did mess something up, Uncle Tom would find a way to fix it.

Perhaps most important, my Uncle Tom taught me never to accept an easy answer to a hard question.  My Uncle’s hero in the bible was “Doubting Thomas” and he thought it fitting that their names were the same.  Needless to say, as I pursued a call to ministry, topics of faith and theology often came up.  I distinctly remember meeting up for lunch with my Uncle when I was home from college.  In the course of our conversation, the topic of AIDS came up. He asked why God would allow such a thing in the world if God was in fact so loving.  I responded with some freshman-at-a-Christian-College-response that I am sure was theologically correct.  My Uncle smiled, smirked even, and said “Right, but he could do something, but he doesn’t”.  My Uncle quickly recognized two things.  I had in fact given him a theologically correct answer, but the answer wasn’t appropriate to the question because it was too easy.  As many of my youth group kids will attest, I am often pushing them to think deeper than the correct but easy answer and instead think about the issue on personal and theological grounds.  I credit much of that to my Uncle, who would often push and push and push as I struggled to answer the tough questions he posed to me.

As I reflect on his life and now his death, I have mixed emotions.  On the one had, there is the pragmatic side of me that recognizes the facts.  He was 83, he had battled bladder cancer, and he was ready for his life to end.  All things considered, he had about one bad month right at the very end.  Up and until then (these are his words) “I was strong, I could do what I wanted”.  As someone who has watched people suffer for years at the end of their lives, I am grateful for the blessing of only one month.  The personal side of me though isn’t nearly as pragmatic.  While it hasn’t hit me fully yet, I know it will, in particular the first time I walk into my Aunt and Uncle’s house and see the office where I spent so many hours of my life.  The stark realization that my Uncle is gone will hit me and hit me like a ton of bricks.  My Uncle is gone.  There will be no more lunches at Applebee’s.  There will be no more phone calls discussing politics, football or the Yankees.  Those are gone, that chapter in my life is officially closed now.  And there is loss there.

There is much in life my Uncle has taught me, and so much I am grateful for.  In particular, I am grateful that my Uncle gave (and gave, and gave) of his very self. His obituary has two lines in it that are as perfect as they could be: “… and his beloved nieces and nephews” and “His later years were focused on his grandchildren…”  My Uncle invested in the lives of his grandchildren and nieces and nephews in real and tangible ways.  He adored his grandchildren and that was evident to anyone who knew him.  And he loved the nieces and nephews.  Perhaps my most profound sadness in this whole situation is that my two children will have but fleeting and brief memories of this great man.  This was a man who had an important job and a Doctorate in Education, but he would count all that as loss compared to his deep love for his family.

My hope is that my kids can have an adult in their life like my Uncle Tom; someone to encourage, support and challenge them as they navigate through life.  And my hope is that when my dying day comes, there will be those who will think of me the way I think of my Uncle Tom.

Reason why taking the time to sleep is important when having a busy life

You are probably very busy—we all are—but if you want to be healthy, wealthy and beautiful, you need to sleep., and not in a regular bed, you need the best mattress there is. Perhaps that is why Arianna Huffington entitled her TED Talk as follows: “How to succeed? Addiction Advocates is a group of people that have worked in the treatment space for years. If you are not sure if someone needs luxury drug addiction care, they can work with you to learn the signs of addiction. Of course, they can help in anything with your problem. Get More Sleep.” Here are 10 Reasons why you need to sleep more even though you are busy.
1. You’ll have better physical health.
Study after study shows that denying yourself sleep has many serous health consequences. Chronic lack of sleep increases your chances of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, heart attack and high blood pressure.
In addition, in order to stay awake during working hours, your a sleep deprived brain craves excess caffeine, alcohol, nicotine and other stimulating drugs—all of which are contributors to various health risks, and then you will find yourself looking for a company that supplies drug test solutions, you’d be trying to get updates from them, to not get noticed. Learn more
2. You’ll be in a better mood.
When you are rested, you are in a better mood—that is why you need to sleep. You probably have noticed that when you are sleep deprived, you are moody, cranky, irritable and ready to snap at anyone. On the other hand, when you are well rested, you are generally more content and happy.
3. You’ll be at lower risk of getting injured.
Think about it: most accidents happen when people are exhausted. In her book: Sleep Deprived No More, Professor Mindell PHD states “When you’re overtired, you’re more likely to trip, or fall off a ladder, or cut yourself while chopping vegetables.” In the US alone, one hundred thousand car accidents per year are caused by sleep deprived drivers.
4. You’ll look better.
Another reason why you need to sleep is because when you are rested, you look better. We have all heard the expression, I need my beauty sleep—well rested people look better. If you are exhausted, you just don’t look as good. Plus, when you are rested you are more likely to smile, and nothing enhances your good looks more than a smile. When you are sleep deprived, people perceive you as more tired, less attractive, less healthy and older than you actually are.
5. You’ll have a healthier weight.
When you sleep well, you have energy to exercise, cook a healthy meal, play soccer with your children, and you are more likely to make healthier food choices. On the other the hand, when you are tired, you need more energy, and you often find this energy in not so healthy foods—high calorie carbohydrates and sugar in particular. Your brain is literally telling your body to stock up on food by releasing the hunger hormone ghrelin. And obviously you are still too exhausted to exercise and play with your children.
6. You’ll have better relationships.
Lack of sleep is likely to affect your mood, which indirectly affects your relationships. People who are in a bad mood are often are negative, irritable, impatient and plainly rude. We generally don’t like to hang around people who are in a bad mood.
7. You’ll be able to think more clearly.
In her book: Sleep Deprived No More, Professor Mindell, PHD states that lack of sleep “impairs your cognition, your attention, and your decision-making.” You know how you feel after pulling an all-nighter to finish up a paper. You’re not really at your best to take the final exam, are you?
In addition, the ability to find novel solutions to complex problems are dramatically enhanced by sleep, says neuroscientist Russell Foster in his TED talk “Why Do We Sleep?.”
8. You’ll improve your mental health.
People who are chronically sleep deprived are in more mental distress and more likely to be depression alliance. Russell Foster in his TED talk “Why Do We Sleep?” shared his new research that demonstrated a clear link between mental health, mental illness and your sleep habits.
9. You’ll remember more.
Russell Foster also shares his research concerning how good sleep promotes and supports good memory, while lack of sleep impairs memory. He explains that while we sleep, our brains process and consolidate memories from our day.
10. You’ll get sick less often
One preliminary study suggests that people who sleep less than seven hours per night are three times more likely to get sick. Sleep deprived people are more stressed and this leads to suppressed immunity. Perhaps you can remember your end of a semester exam time, you worked hard, you slept little for 2 to 3 weeks and when it was all over, you came down with a major cold.

For What It’s Worth: College Decisions

On Sunday night (April 13th, 2014) I did a lesson on the value and importance of being in relationship with others in order to be encouraged in our faith (Referencing Hebrews 10).  As part of that, I gave my first ever mini-lesson on college decisions.  After I finished, I thought “Hmm…. maybe parents would be interested in hearing this” so I sat down this week and recorded just that section of the lesson.  I was able to add a few things as well.

  • The post I reference about the emerging value of the Associate’s degree is available on Jesus Creed
  • The part I left out both times around that I found really helpful was a discussion I heard on NPR last week.  They talked about following your dreams but having a back up plan.  So, if you really want to study Psychology, double major in Psychology and Business.  Or, if music is your passion, study music and business.  Those “dream” major often need an accompanying major to make you more marketable and applicable.  In this case, someone with a degree in sociology and Med marketing might be considered more qualified for a job because of their background in sociology. See post – WebDesign499 for more information. Or, if you do music and business, that helps you further your dream because after all, music is still a business.  I thought that was a very good insight. Meanwhile, if investing is more up your alley, you might want to consider reading this Qprofit System review to learn more about investing in binary options trading. This tool is an automated bot and can be a good starting point to earning passively while you wait out other opportunities.

 

Youth Ministry Meanderings – Part 5: The Example of Peter

Today I am in the process of revising and rewriting my Confirmation curriculum.  In my time in ministry I have always followed Mark Oestreicher’s advice when it comes to curriculum: “The best curriculum isn’t the one you buy or the one you write, it’s the one you modify”.  However, I have yet to find a curriculum for Confirmation that does everything I am looking for, so I wrote my own a few years back.  Since then I’ve gotten input from others who have used it as a model and am re-writing it to be more user friendly and provide students with more guidance as they are completing the bible readings.  All that to say, I normally don’t write curriculum.  But, today I was looking over Luke 5:1-11 and I realized it’s the perfect example of the twin building blocks concept that I talked about in Part 4.

In the story, Jesus is teaching from a boat.  When he’s finished, he tells Simon (Peter) to put down their nets once again.  Peter protests, but is ultimately obeys and is rewarded with a overflowing catch.  Peter’s response is almost startling: “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8b, NIV).  Jesus response is even more startling: “Don’t be afraid, from now on you will fish for people” (Luke 5:10b, NIV).

This is a perfect example of the healthy tension that I believe ministry needs in general, but specifically youth ministry.  One way to read this text would be to say “Well, what was really important was that Peter realized he was a sinner and wasn’t worthy of Jesus. That’s what we most need to teach students”.  Another way to read this text would be to say “No, Jesus wasn’t concerned about Peter’s sinfulness, he wanted followers to do his will”.  The tradition I grew up in (mainline protestant) would emphasize the latter, while the evangelical tradition that I came into during my college years would tend to emphasize the former.  My argument is that right within this one passage we see how easy it is to lose the balance we need in order to understand Jesus’ message.

The traditional evangelical emphasis of recognition of one’s own sinfulness and the need to repent is demonstrated here.  After all, Jesus invites Peter to “fish for people” precisely because Peter recognizes who Jesus is.  But to emphasize that at the expense of the latter call to be Jesus’ disciple is just as dangerous.  Jesus very much wants people to recognize their own sinfulness and need for his grace in their lives, but also wants people to understand that with that recognition, there is a call to be his obedient disciple.

One point I need to add on.  There is, I believe, a temptation to equate “fishing for people” to evangelism, a jump I don’t think is justified.  If we look at what it was Jesus commanded his followers to do when he sent them out on their own in Luke 9 we see that the role of a disciple is much broader than what we would traditionally consider evangelism.

I think Youth Ministry needs a healthy balance between conversion and obedience.  One without the other collapses into either cheap grace or works righteousness, both of which are heretical in their own right.