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Monday, May 18, 2015

832 weeks and counting...

A couple of weeks ago, the youth staff (children's ministry through high school ministry from Christian Fellowship Church) spent a week in Atlanta at the Orange Conference.  There were a lot of thoughts and images from that event that have stuck in my mind.

This one has stuck more than most.

Myles is 2 years old.  This jar is holding 832 marbles, representing 832 weeks until Myles' graduation.

The reminder is simple: Make good use of your time.  It's limited.  Don't miss it.

It's often tempting in the tyranny of the clock to consider short-term things (emails, texts, phone calls, quick meetings, a late night, an extra project or meeting) more important than the long range things.  Those things are important, don't get me wrong and they deserve their time.  But a true leader keeps the long range in view while working on the short term.

The reminder for me: Don't allow the short term to crowd out the long term.

832 weeks and counting.
Don't miss it!

Thanks Reggie Joiner for the reminder!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Four Free Apps Every Youth Pastor Needs to Increase Productivity

The Internet and the mobile Internet has changed the game in youth ministry.  My first church had dial-up when I arrived in 2000.  My current church is next door to wikipedia (literally) and has downloads in the 180mbps.  My first laptop was functional.  But my laptop and desktop today (I have both) as well as both of my mobile devices (iPad 3 and iPhone 5) are highly functional and productive pieces of machinery.

I'm always looking for new apps.  BTW: If you have an app suggestion that you feel to be particularly beneficial, feel free to leave it in the comments below and why you find it effective and I'll check it out.  (Always learning!)

Here is a short list of 4 free apps that increase my productivity and might help yours.  This, of course, is not exhaustive list.  And they are my "go to" favorites.  I'm always meeting people and youth ministers who have never heard of these.  Therefore, I share.

Four Free Apps to Increase Youth Minister's Productivity:

1. Evernote: What seems like eons ago, I used to carry a moleskine tablet with me everywhere.  I wrote down lists, ideas, thoughts, message prep, literally everything that I was working on.  About 5 years, a friend introduced me to Evernote (thanks DG) and I've never picked up a moleskine again.  Evernote is a free, cloud based notebook.  They give you 60mbs per month (plenty for text, pdfs and notes) for free (with an option to upgrade to a "plus" membership for $25/year or a "pro" membership for $50/year). At this point, I have been a free user for nearly 5 years.  I have over 2250 notes.  I clip sermon ideas, notes from conferences, lists, to-do items, blog posts, anything that I think will be useful in the future and everything I'm working on.  It works on your computer and mobile devices and cross syncs seamlessly.  So I have my notes regardless of where I'm working and I always have my notebook in my pocket.

2. Wunderlist: I have been a Wunderlist user for years.  Wunderlist is a free to-do list that syncs between multiple devices. It allows you to create to-do list groups (days of the week, projects, etc) and then add items and check them off when completed.  It also allows you to put reminder times on to-dos and due dates.  I like that it's simple.  The checked off items remain in the list, though hidden, and can be unchecked the next week if the same project is due.  There are a variety of to-do list apps out there... but they always seem to want to do more.  Wunderlist is just a to-do list app.

 3. Feedly: I mourned when Google Reader went away several years ago.  I had been a Google Reader for a long time.  Feedly offered to import my blogs in quickly and efficiently and gained a new customer.  It is a free RSS feed reader.  Feedly allows you to categorize blogs and read them on different platforms (desktop or mobile) and syncs what you've read and haven't.  The interface is clean and easy to use.  

4. Dropbox: I work on 4 different devices (a laptop, a desktop, an iPad and an iPhone).  Dropbox is a free cloud based storage program that allows me to store documents, pictures, etc in the cloud and assess from all the different devices.  It integrates with Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint on iOS so I can make changes on the fly.  There are other services that provide more space (Dropbox starts you with 2Gbs and gives you more if you refer (referral if you'd like one and want to give me extra storage).  But I'll trade less storage space for quicker service (OneDrive gives 15Gbs but is mercilessly slow).  Dropbox allows me to keep my active files on all my devices at the same time and work on any machine.

Honorable Mentions:

A. Podcasts: I listen regularly to a bunch of different voices: leadership conversations, youth ministry podcasts, other preachers, radio shows, etc.  Podcasts is a quick and easy way to listen and keep up with the conversations.

B. YouVersion Bible: Thousands of Bible translations, including all the majors (NIV, NLT, EV, etc) for free, in your pocket.  Thousands of reading plans ranging from a few days to a whole year and sections/thematic plans to whole Bible plans.  Plus, and I have found this to be time saving, you can listen to the Bible read if you are driving or working out.

Those are just a few of the things that are keeping my functionality high.  What's keeping you working efficiently?  Comment below! Working more efficiently allows me to get more Kingdom Work done!


Sunday, April 05, 2015

Hope Springs Eternal

But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance.So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes.
The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Remember what he told you back in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men and be crucified, and that he would rise again on the third day.”

Friday, April 03, 2015

Good Friday

The Crucifixion

So they took Jesus away. 17 Carrying the cross by himself, he went to the place called Place of the Skull (in Hebrew, Golgotha). 18 There they nailed him to the cross. Two others were crucified with him, one on either side, with Jesus between them. 19 And Pilate posted a sign on the cross that read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 The place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and the sign was written in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, so that many people could read it.
21 Then the leading priests objected and said to Pilate, “Change it from ‘The King of the Jews’ to ‘He said, I am King of the Jews.’”
22 Pilate replied, “No, what I have written, I have written.”
23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they divided his clothes among the four of them. They also took his robe, but it was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. 24 So they said, “Rather than tearing it apart, let’s throw dice for it.” This fulfilled the Scripture that says, “They divided my garments among themselves and threw dice for my clothing.” So that is what they did.
25 Standing near the cross were Jesus’ mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary (the wife of Clopas), and Mary Magdalene.26 When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.”27 And he said to this disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from then on this disciple took her into his home.

The Death of Jesus

28 Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” 29 A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. 30 When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit.
31 It was the day of preparation, and the Jewish leaders didn’t want the bodies hanging there the next day, which was the Sabbath (and a very special Sabbath, because it was the Passover). So they asked Pilate to hasten their deaths by ordering that their legs be broken. Then their bodies could be taken down. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus. 33 But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they didn’t break his legs.34 One of the soldiers, however, pierced his side with a spear, and immediately blood and water flowed out. 35 (This report is from an eyewitness giving an accurate account. He speaks the truth so that you also may continue to believe.) 36 These things happened in fulfillment of the Scriptures that say, “Not one of his bones will be broken,” 37 and “They will look on the one they pierced.”

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

38th Birthday thoughts...

Another year has come and gone... and another birthday has too.  I creeped one year closer to 40... what a scary thought.

But for now: I'm still basking at 38.

I thought initially about doing 38 things that I'm thinking about right now... but I'm not sure that I have 38... so I'm just going to go for an old fashioned birthday brain dump.  What follows is an assortment of what is going on and what I'm thinking about.  There is no order of importance nor is this a comprehensive list.  Just some of what is happening in my life and over the past year.

  1. I never could have imagined where I would be this year over last year.  Yesterday morning I was thinking about praying about the changes that have occurred in my life over the past year and it amazes what God brought us through and to.  I would never choose to go through what we went through to get here but I wouldn't trade what we have now for anything.  
  2. I have an incredible wife who is an incredible mommy to Myles.  She is being stretched by living in NoVA but she is handling it way better than she thinks she is. 
  3. I'm so excited to work for CFC and with the staff at CFC. 
  4. I'm excited to work on a youth ministry team.  In the past, I was the team along with my leaders... here we have a full blown team of people who care about the success of youth ministry at CFC! Super exciting. 
  5. Myles continues to grow.  He is learning new words and going crazy.  He is starting to try to sing along with songs... which is hilarious.  
  6. I am running my 3rd marathon this fall... the Marine Corps Marathon.  It was on my bucket list and I got in the lottery on the first shot! 
  7. Training back up mileage is hard.  My legs are sore after a 4 mile run yesterday... it used to take 14 to make them sore. 
  8. I have become lazy with reading... I'm working on fixing that... 
  9. I have become lazy with blogging... I'm also working on fixing that too... 
  10. I love living in the suburbs again! It has it's moments but I enjoy being back in a busy area where things are growing. 
  11. I miss folks from Zanesville... especially some of our close friends... but I in no way miss the city of Zanesville.  I had forgotten what community actually looked like in Zanesville.  While I miss the people, I have never once (in the past 3 months) thought, "I miss Zanesville."  
  12. I am going to miss the Walking Dead until fall. 
  13. I can't wait for baseball season to start. 
  14. Jackie bought me baseball tickets for my birthday... the Cubs come to Washington at the beginning of June and we have tickets for a Saturday game.  It's going to be awesome!
  15. Its a good day. 
Again... no rhyme or reason... just wanted to capture some of these thoughts.  Maybe some of these thoughts will become a full blown blog post later.  


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Eyes on the Prize

Leave it to making it into a major marathon to restart both my serious running and my blogging in the same day... but it seems to have happened.

This morning, as I was scrolling through "my usual a.m. phone check-in with the world after waking up"... email, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc, etc... I saw this email!

I knew that the lottery was drawing today for the Marine Corps Marathon but I didn't realize it would be that early!

But... I won the participant lottery and made it into the Marine Corps Marathon on October 26th!

Yesterday I hung my shadow boxes of previous marathons and half-marathons that I've done... Akron 1/2 (2010), Flying Pig 1/2 (2011), Air Force full (2011), Cap City 1/2 (2012) and Chicago full (2012).  This morning as I was looking at the wall and imagining the shadow box that will soon hang there with my Marine Corps Marathon medal, I found myself thinking about the prize.

This verse popped to mind:
24 Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. 25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. 26 Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. 27 No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. 1 Corinthians 9:24-27

The thing that I love about having a marathon on my schedule, I know what I need to do... it brings discipline into my life (running, diet, sleeping, etc).  I know what the training looks like.  I know what the mileage looks like.  I know what it feels like to complete it.

When I don't have a marathon or a race on my calendar, I find myself lazy with my training.  I run what I want... when I want... how I want... But I don't accomplish anything.  I don't get anywhere.

I think it's easy to end up in the same spot in our spiritual lives.  When we don't have our eyes on the "prize" spiritually... when we do what we want... pray when we want... read when we want... without any discipline... we don't get anywhere.  We don't accomplish anything.

Paul says: Let's run in such a way to get the prize!

What are you running for spiritually??

I know that running a marathon will leave me with an awesome medal, some memorabilia, some photos and a great memory.  What will your spiritual marathon leave you with?  And are you running so as to get that stuff? Are you "running" with discipline?

Father: Help me to discipline myself spiritually as I discipline myself physically!