Sunday Night Unfiltered

I’m going to try something new this week that I might make a regular Sunday night practice. Tonight I’m going to just do a random fire of thoughts that come to me based on the stuff that happened today at church or throughout the week. It may be entertaining or completely useless.

Let me know what you think.

  • Bugs. Bugs everywhere!
  • I’m wondering if trying to do our own bug spraying is smart or if we should hire some professionals?
  • Asked someone new to do the lawn mowing at church. Old guys haven’t mowed for two weeks. I should probably let them know Monday their services are no longer needed.
  • First half of Cowboys game has been BORING…right up until the last play.
  • Switching the church to the new kiosk check-in system will be really, really good in the long run. Right now it’s kind of a pain. I’m glad we have some great volunteers to help out!!!
  • We got our connection group back together for the first time in months tonight! Had a great time, but I wish everyone could’ve been there. Looking forward to getting some momentum going.
  • Having a lobby/foyer that’s too small for your church is not great, but it’s awesome at the same time. It’s not great because there’s not enough room for people to hang out. It’s awesome because there is a TON of energy when the place is packed!
  • The barista at the Kroger Starbucks seemed bummed. Praying he finds some joy this week.
  • My wife is awesome at hospitality. She had a great idea for a snack that was super simple to make (I think, she made it) and added some nice personal touches to the house to make it feel more warm and welcoming.
  • Forgot to bring a snack for Emory for between services. Would’ve been bad if BridgeWay didn’t have an awesome, ready for anything Children’s Minister in Lisa Rowland!!! The church is blessed to have her.
  • It’s cool to see friends from our old church at our new church.
  • Christians should look at others with the eyes of a doctor, not a judge. Great challenge from Art tonight.

Okay. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. What did the day look like to you?

7 Links to Learn More About Me and My Blog [#7Links]

As I mentioned yesterday, I’m trying to decide what direction I want to take my blog and I got some good feedback. Part of the process I’m going through is looking where I’ve been before, in terms of blogging, to give me a feel about what I’ve done well and enjoyed doing the most.

I’ve been blogging for five and a half years now, so I’ve done quite a few posts. I realize that some people I know are somewhat regular readers here, others jump in when I post something they’re interested in, and then there are the random visitors who find my blog on Google. Whoever you are, this post will hopefully help you get a better feel for what this blog has been all about. I was prompted to write it by the 7 Link Challenge over at ProBlogger.

  1. My first post: Backing Up DVDs
    What’s weird to me about piracy laws is that it’s perfectly legal to have a digital archive of movies you legitimately own, but it’s not legal to break the encryption on DVDs. You’d have to do it in real time using some sort of digital to analog converter, which would be a pain. That means that I was encouraging illegal activity on my blog. Great start, don’t you think?
  2. The post I enjoyed writing the most: Four Ways to Be More Consistent in Your Bible Reading
    There were a lot of things I really liked about writing this post, but I was especially happy with the end result. I could have also put is under most helpful post link, but I really enjoyed writing it a lot.
  3. The post which had a great discussion: Is God a Republican or Democrat
    I wrote this on the day of the the 2008 Presidential election and it got quite a few people to comment on it. I don’t blog much about politics, but I think this was one of my best posts and since it got so much discussion you might agree.
  4. A post on someone else’s blog that you wish you’d written: The Death of the Weekly Program/Bulletin/Newsletter
    Tim Schraeder wrote this post on his blog and it created a lot of buzz. Best quote from the post: “know the primary way your audience receives information and communicate to them that way.” It’s a move they’ve stuck with and made improvements to in the two years since they made the switch.
  5. My most helpful post: Motivation: Finding the desire to workout when I really don’t want to do it
    This was a reflection of how I stayed motivated to workout during the months after my first daughter was born. I think it was really helpful for most anyone who’s looking for tips on staying motivated in exercise.
  6. The post with a title that I am proud of: The Biggest Flaw in John Hollinger’s ESPN NBA Power Rankings
    I’ve never been a fan of Hollinger’s Power Rankings, probably because I am a Mavericks homer. But this post’s title sums up what I think is most wrong with the system and then I decided to elaborate for a few hundred words or so.
  7. The post that I wish more people had read: Delighting in God (OR a theology of worship taught by a seven month old)
    Having kids has definitely given me more perspective on life and what it means to have God as our Father. This post was a reflection on how all people should be more engaged in worship.

So, those are my 7 links. How about you? If you have a blog (that’s more than just a couple days old) why don’t you do this on your blog? Or are there some posts that I’ve done here that you think would fit better than what I listed above? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Image by jessica r

Thinking About My Blog’s Direction

I’ve been doing quite a bit of thinking about the direction of my blog recently. I’ve kind of drifted around in what I’m writing about between tech, sports, church, religion, and my personal life. I don’t really feel like doing that anymore. I’d like to focus more on one or two topics, but I haven’t landed on what that would be yet.

So, I’d like to hear from you. If you’re a reader of my blog, the few of you out there, what do you think I should do? Let me know in the comments.

Image by Milind Alvares.

Learning to Pray From a Two Year Old

Almost every night I put my two year old daughter to bed. It’s about an hour long process between bath time, brushing her teeth, reading a book and Bible, prayer time, and singing songs. It’s honestly one of my favorite parts of my day, because I know she will be doing these things on her own in the not too distant future. I remind myself that I’ll miss these moments, so I’m trying my best to relish every moment.

Last night God taught me a lesson on prayer through my daughter’s prayer. I usually lead her through a series of things to thank God for. After a few regular items (family, friends, etc.) I prompt her to say thank you for whatever she thinks of. Typically she will look around the room and say thank you for the things she sees. This usually includes her butterfly mobile, toys, and the flowers her aunt painted on the wall.

Usually I just smile and think it’s cute that she’s just praying for what she can see, but last night God really convicted me that I should be truly thankful for every little thing I own. Sadly, I usually take these things for granted and skip on to the “bigger” things in life. But the life and faith of a two year old doesn’t allow the small things to be skipped over. And so I was reminded again of the importance of coming to Jesus with a childlike faith.

Thank you, Emory, for teaching your daddy one way to be more like Jesus.

Image by Josh Kenzer

7 Highlights & Mistakes From My 5,000 Tweets

I’ve been sitting up against a milestone in my life. I’m about tweet for the 5,000th time. In fact if I time things right, this blog post announcement auto-tweet will be my 5,000th. It’s not really that life-changing of an event, but I figured now would be a good time to reflect on some of the highlights and mistakes I’ve made using twitter.

Here are some of my highlights looking back:

  • Announced the birth of both of my girls via twitter.
  • Shared numerous links that I liked or found interesting.
  • Helped my dad sell his iPhone 3G.
  • Met some new friends.
  • Gave away a Mavericks ticket (or two).
  • Learned some cool stuff from others.
  • Publicly affirmed friends and family.

And here are some mistakes I’ve made along the way:

  • Tweeted about some monotonous details of my life.
  • Complained about being in boring meetings (and later called out about it).
  • Paid too much attention to my phone when I should have paid attention to the people around me.
  • Spoke more than listened.
  • Gave TMI quite a few times.
  • Ignored twitter for large chunks of time.
  • Felt like having more followers somehow made me more important.

Ultimately I’ve decided that the reason I tweet is to add value to the lives of others. That might be random thoughts I have throughout the day. It might be sharing a link to a site I find useful. Or it might be just to share a little bit more about who I really am so people can know the real me a little better.

Those are just a few thoughts I’ve had looking back. What are your thoughts about twitter? Do you have any tweets you’ve regretted posting? If you follow my tweets, what do you like best? What should I stop doing?

Share your thoughts in the comments!


Three Lessons I Learned About Blog Traffic This Past Month

I think everyone who has a blog goes through stages in his or her blogging. Inevitably a blogger hits a wall. The inspiration to write disappears and you feel like you don’t really have anything valuable to offer the blogosphere. I hit that wall this past year big time, but over the past couple weeks I’ve been blogging more regularly. Over the past few weeks I’ve learned a few lessons about how blog traffic fluctuates right along with how frequently you write. Here they are.

More posts = More traffic

Take a look at the above graphic. It’s a chart from Google Analytics of the visits to my blog over the past 30 days. See the peak right in the middle? That’s the day I decided to get back into regular blogging and posted three new posts that day. I linked to the posts from my twitter and facebook accounts and traffic jumped. It jumped quite a bit, in fact.

New traffic doesn’t come automatically

You can also see over the week or so that followed there was a drop off again. It lines up perfectly with a fall off of blogging again. For some reason I had thought that my bump in traffic would keep up. It didn’t If you want more readers you have to write more.

Writing about popular topics will generate new traffic

One of the posts I did this past month was about Ed Young, pastor at Fellowship Church, and the news story that the local ABC affiliate ran about his salary. That post generated a comment from a person I’m pretty sure I don’t personally know. Also, my blog is the number seven Google search result for Ed Young salary and number eight for mega churches in Dallas. Those stats won’t really general much long term traffic, I think, but it does show that hot topics, either nationally or locally, will bump your traffic.ProBlogger by Darren Rowse and Chris Garrett

Those are just a few things I’ve learned over the past month in blogging. What are some tips you have about generating traffic to your blog? Share in the comments.

You can also find a lot tips in Darren Rowse and Chris Garret‘s great book on blogging ProBlogger. I’ve read it and highly recommend picking one up if you’re interested in becoming a better blogger.


Gorditas and The Curse of Knowledge

Sometimes a normal, seemingly every day encounter can teach you an important life lesson. The other day Brea (my wife) had asked me go by Taco Bell for dinner and, since she’s over six months pregnant, she gets what she wants. She couldn’t remember if she liked the Gordita or Chalupa better, so she described what it was like then I went straight to the Taco Bell Drive-Thru.

As I pulled up to order, I asked the guy on the other side of the speaker if he could describe to me what a gordita is. His reply: “It’s a Gordita.” You may be shocked, but that didn’t really help me on my quest to get my preggers wife the exact item of food she desired, so I pressed further. “Ok, what kind of shell does it have?” “A gordita shell” was his response. At this point I started to wonder if I was really just dumb, since apparently everyone else in the world knows exactly what a gordita is. I attempted once more to get a little more information about this elusive delicacy by asking, “Could you describe it some for me?” His reply, “It’s a taco inside a gordita shell.” So I just said, “Ok, I’ll take one” and hoped that this would satisfy the woman carrying my second child in her womb.

I worked the drive-through at Chick-Fil-A in high school and college, so I know how hard it is to communicate over the intercom, but I left there feeling like the cashier could have done a little better in his explanations of the gordita. I probably could have asked better questions, too. Thankfully, Brea was happy with the gordita, so I didn’t have to make another Run for the Border.

This encounter reminded me of one of the concepts that really stuck out when I read the book Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath called “The Curse of Knowledge.” Here’s an excerpt of what Chip & Dan wrote about it:

“Once we know something, we find it hard to imagine what it was like not to know it. Our knowledge has ‘cursed’ us. And it becomes difficult for us to share our knowledge with others, because we can’t readily re-create our listeners’ state of mind.”

An example they gave in the book was a test that was done where people would tap out a popular song for another person to guess what the song was. The songs were common ones like “The Star Spangled Banner” or “Twinkle Twinkle, Little Star.” It would seem like that would be really easy to guess one of those songs if you heard it being tapped out, but it’s really not. If you don’t believe me, try it out with someone.

This encounter did make me wonder about how preachers and teachers in the church do the same thing. How often do we talk about things like grace, fellowship, mercy, forgiveness, and repentance assuming that everyone knows exactly what we mean by each of these terms? Once you know what these terms mean it’s really hard to refer to them as anything else, but if you don’t know what they are you’ll probably be lost.

Thank you, Mr. Taco Bell Drive-Thru Dude, for an important reminder to communicate with people in a way that they will understand.

Where have you seen or heard the curse of knowledge in your everyday life?

Gordita image courtesy of flickr user The Canyon Guru.

Same Kind of Different as Me [Book Review]

I tend to read mostly non-fiction, leadership, or personal development books in my personal reading. So when Brea (my wife) and about half a dozen other people suggested that I read Same Kind of Different as Me, I hesitated. While the book is non-fiction, it’s more of a biography than anything else. I wasn’t sure if I’d really enjoy the book that much.

Let me tell you this: If you have not yet read this book, do yourself a favor and add it to you reading list. I got through it in about three sessions (albeit LONG ones). It captured my attention, my mind, and my emotions. The authors draw you into their lives and tug at your heart. It’s a story of transformation, compassion, and forgiveness. The main characters’ lives are extremely different, but they are drawn together through what can best be considered God’s will.

The main thing I took away from this book is that I need to step out of my comfortable bubble and start loving people who are different than me with the tangible love of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Also, when I do this, I need to do it not because I’m better than anyone else (I’m not) or because others need it (they do), but because people matter. All people. People who may seem different than me, but really are the same.

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts?

A Ridiculously Easy (and Free) Way to Keep Your Toddler Entertained

Having a little one around the house is awesome. But there are times that she’s not as entertained as normal by the same toys/videos/games she plays with every day. When these moments come we, as parents, sometime are stuck trying to come up with new ways to keep our little ones’ minds entertained. It can be tough to find new (and free) ideas, so why not just go back to an old classic: the fort.

This week I rediscovered how much little kids (at least my twenty month old daughter) love to play in pretend forts (or “house” as my daughter calls it). I remembered this idea when I was flipping through the book Cheap Ways To … the other day. All I had to do was rearrange our four dining room chairs a little and toss a comforter over them. She has absolutely LOVED it. I bet she could play in it for over an hour before getting bored. Best of all, it’s FREE!!!

Here’s a couple pictures of the fort:
Ridiculously easy
She loves playing in this fort

This probably should have been a no-brainer, but I really had just forgotten about it.

Got any other ideas on keeping little ones entertained?