Tuesday, December 22, 2009

PRIMAL -book review

Confession: I read this book out of an obligation to the publisher. I got a free advanced copy and they get a book review (you're reading it). It quickly morphed from an assignment into something nourishing that my soul didn't know it needed.

The premise is simple: it is an elaboration of Mark 12:30
"And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength."

Naturally it's laid out in four parts: The Heart of Christianity, The Soul of Christianity, The Mind of Christianity, and the Strength of Christianity.

I must say that I've read and heard this verse many times; Mark Batterson's book helped it hit me with all the newness that anyone who's been a follower of any length of time hopes for.

One thing that strikes the reader about Batterson is that he is an intelligent guy, e.g. "counterfactual theory," "hippocampus," and "metacognitive ability." (pgs 26, 90, 115)

That is NOT to say that this is in any way "heady" or for "thinker types." The beauty of Batterson's writing is that it's based in Scripture and the brightest minds of this world, yet set upon a table that everyone can eat from; that's a gift.

Case and point, his appropriate intellect is countered by simple down home advice that's impossible to disagree with:

"I know we're busy, but no one is too busy to go to the bathroom, right? So here's an idea. If you simply put a book in your bathroom, you can read at least one book a month." pg 95

Ironically I began reading PRIMAL at the same time I was prepping a talk (click here to hear it) at Oakbrook Church on the topic of biblical generosity. His first section on the heart became the perfect thing for my own soul to wrestle with, and then in turn for our congregation to wrestle with. I credit this book with the bedrock of that impacting talk.

As he cleverly unwrapped each section (the different ways we are to love God), I noticed how much you and I camp out in one area in the name of "how God wired me" instead of fully living this life the way God intended.

I.e. thinkers love to love God with their mind at the peril of their heart and vice versa, while "white collar Christians" love to love God at an online computer at the peril of breaking a sweat for God with their bodies.

As we "specialize" and learn to work from our strengths there is a danger to not live fully in all the ways God has called us to. This book is a holistic plea for us to return to the lost soul of our faith, loving God in all the ways laid out in Mark 12:30.

Some things that I personally found interesting:

  • Having a laugh with God is an important part of loving God with our mind. pg 93
  • Christians need to ask more questions and admit we don't have all the answers instead of acting like we do. pg 96
  • "Christianity was never intended to be a noun. And when we turn it into a noun, it becomes a turnoff." pg 135
  • Sin is de-energizing. Obedience is energizing. pg 145

Who is this book for? It's for people new to or on the edge of coming to faith; it's a great healthy, accurate and compelling picture of what the life is that God's calling us into. (It's a more accurate and exciting picture than most churches have painted, I'm afraid.)

It's also for people who've been following Christ for a while--especially if you're finding you're a little less excited, you have a little less wonder, you have fewer questions, and you don't seem to be laughing as much as you'd like. It's helped me reawaken some of those things in me just in the week it took me to read it.

If I could do it over, I would have read it slower. It's really worthy of pouring over slowly, evaluating, and seeking God. It would be great for a couple friends to read together or even a small group.

I thought I was reading it because I got picked to write a review and get a free book. But I got picked because God knew just how much my soul needed watering.

It's a great read.

Check out Mark Batteron's site. Buy the book.


-Morgan Young

Saturday, December 5, 2009

God & Guinness -book review

I took this picture in the Miami airport as I was reading this on the plane to and from Haiti

The whole title is: The Search for God and Guinness, a biography of the beer that changed the word.

I was going to write a review but when I was tracking down the publishers website promo I found this wonderful video by the author. Click on it below & then I'll provide just a few comments.I'll admit that when I got this book, I expected it to be novel or unique, but I found it so much more than that. It has substance; historical, applicable and even theological.

And there are gems like this account of the first encounter the Pilgrims had with an Indian on March 16, 1621:

"The man (Indian) neared, paused, and then shouted 'Welcome!' in clear perfect English. And then, more astonishing still, he asked--again, flawlessly in the Pilgrim's own tongue--if they had some beer." pg 4

Or this from the great father of our faith, Martin Luther, a man who considered beer one of the gifts of this life from God:

"Do not suppose that abuses are eliminated by destroying the object which is abused...men can go wrong with wine and women. Shall we then prohibit and abolish women?" pg 29

This isn't not the stuffy story of the Guinness family full of all kind of rabbit trails. It is the story of their beer and their God--both of which went hand in hand. It's the story of a family that felt that employing people and having money meant responsibility--and they responded in kind, driven by their faith. They profoundly changed their world for the betterment of all.

The Guinesses rubbed shoulders with faith luminaries: John Wesley, DL Moody and Charles Spurgeon, just to name a few.

And even if you're not-so-much into God, but you appreciate Guinness or a good brew, this book is very much for you. Lots of applicable information and wisdom regardless of your faith. This is not a "bait and switch" book written by a Christian to hook pagan beer lovers ;-)

The authour did a great job of distilling the life of the Guinnesses into four points. This won't spoil the end, as Mansfield fleshes out these points in a way that is well worth reading for yourself.

1) Discern the ways of God for your life and business.
2.) Think in terms of generations yet to come.
3.) Whatever you do, do at least one thing very well.
4.) Master the facts before you act

For those who may think more conservatively and might tend to put this book in the camp of "liberal folly;" this same author penned The Faith of George W. Bush in 2003. (And for the more liberal-minded, don't let that deter you from this read ;-)

Highly recommend this to lovers of beer, Christ followers and the like. Great interesting read!


Thursday, December 3, 2009

Better Pics w/Your "Point & Shoot" Camera

"The best camera is the one you have with you." That's a great statement by renown photographer Chase Jarvis.

And that statement was very real for me when I was in Haiti in Nov. Because of the heat, long days, and schlepping a water bottle everywhere I would go, I decided to leave my bigger DSLR Nikons in the states. Instead I took a simple point & shoot that would easily slide into the pockets on my cargo shorts.

I got a lot of flattering comments on the pics, and I must say, I was even very happy with them, even after being used to my $1,000 D90. Pics1, pics2, pics 3.

All the pics were taken with my 2006 Nikon Coolpix L6; a 6-mega pixel simple digital camera that sold for about $190 new.

Here are some simple tweaks you can make to your digital camera to get better pictures: (These are the settings I used. The pics above reflect these adjustments.)

1.) Navigate through your "menu" button (or--GASP-- actually get out your manual) and change the default picture color to "VIVID." This usually punches up the colors nicely.

2) When shooting outdoors, always set the "white balance" to the "CLOUDY" icon. This warms up your pictures and adds a bit of amber to them. You'll love this tweak. (YES, even though there's an icon for sunny days, always use the cloudy icon outside, especially on sunny days. Try it.) Bonus tip: Try using your flash when shooting people on sunny days.

3.) If you notice that your pictures are just a little too light and you'd like them to be a bit richer or darker, adjust the "exposure" setting to "-3."

If you want take your pics the next step, download this great free image editor, Photoscape. Use it to "sharpen" your pics, punch up the "saturation" a tad, and add some more contrast. It also does other stuff like adding cheesy "lens flares" like the one I added in photo 2 above, among other things. Of course it crops, does black & white etc.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Christmas & Xmas

We Christians are easily unsettled. Maybe this post will help settle us a bit. (Yes, I do this every year.)

This time of year I take to writing "Xmas" in emails, posts etc. Why? Because it's short and it's an abbreviation. It works just like "etc" does.

We don't say, "e-t-c," we say, "et-SET-er-a." Likewise I don't say "EX-mas." I write "Xmas" and pronounce it "KRIS-mas." (Uh-oh--new discovery: our pronunciation takes the Christ out of Christmas...)

"But, you're taking the 'Christ' out of Christmas!"

No, I don't believe so. "Xmas" is of Greek origin. The word for Christ in Greek is Xristos. (pronounced "KRIS-tose") During the 16th century Europeans began using the first initial of Christ's name, "X," in place of the word Christ in Christmas as a shorthand of the word.

When I see "Xmas" on a sign I don't think the business owner is trying to make a negative statement about Christ; I just think they don't have enough room on their sign for "Christmas." Maybe we should be encouraged that a business thinks enough of the holiday to put it on its sign.

I do wonder if this belief about "Xmas" comes from Christians associating the innocent letter "X" with being "X-rated. Let's remember that there are no bad letters, just bad usages.


Years ago when I worked at a lending institution I was taking applications during Dec. (Did you read that as "Dek" or "De-SEM-ber?") for the reason for most of the loans I wrote in the little box, "Xmas." The branch manager asked me to stop doing that as she was offended. So I wrote "Cmas" on the subsequent applications. Yes I have always been this way...

Merry Christmas. Merry Cmas. Merry Xmas. (All the same to me.)

Peace ;-)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Haiti pt 4

I've never gone door to door asking, "Excuse me--do you know Jesus?" Well, that is before I went to Haiti. Why not wait til there's a huge language barrier? ;-)

Three afternoons--after two very serious hours of intentional prayer--we walked out to a village to evangelize. The first walk was pretty intense for me. Every bit of a mile and my back was aware of every step of it. A mantra I would say to myself on this trip (and was also reminding God of) was "If God leads you to it, He'll get you through it."

Once our group of 20 or so Americans, Canadians & Haitians would get to a village, we'd break into groups of 3-4 and hit the streets. I ended up with Rebecca each time. The first time was chance, the subsequent times were intentional.

Rebecca has a strength and grace that is unique. I believe her strength comes out of what I would describe as the very clear call of God for her to minister to people in Haiti. Being in Haiti, it seems obvious that it would take the call of God to keep you there for two years with an authentic smile on your face.

She'd boldly hail a hello or "is anyone home?" (In Creole) And then followup with a grace and a love of the people that profoundly struck me. I couldn't understand the dialogue, but I could tell that she loved them. I could tell that most of them could tell she loved them to. It's like the difference of someone interrupting you because they want something and someone interrupting you because they sincerely just want to talk with you.

She would smile a lot. Not because it was good strategy--but because it was natural. She talked about Christ with them, but not at them. As I watched, prayed and listened I thought, "This is such a tangible picture of the love of God." As she spoke and interacted you could smell the fruit of the Spirit.

Oddly though, in three days and 20-30 or more houses, not one conversion. You might not think that sounds odd--I wouldn't have thought it odd. But at lunch after the villages we found that virtually every other group got a half-dozen conversions, or more! That was really odd. The numbers in such a short amount of time were so high I wanted to dispute it. But eye witnesses like JB, Shelia attested they'd never seen anything like it. They saw the gift of evangelism.

On a couple occasions, Rebecca would say, "This is a voodoo house, are you comfortable with it?" Each time I would quickly and confidently say yes--I have a firm resolve that God and his people need not shrink back.

The picture above was at such a house. The markings on the house in the background are of a voodoo priest's home/temple. It turned out he had died the prior week. It also turned out that his son was a Christ follower. That's Rebecca praying with him.

He spent the rest of our time in that village with us. She said it was hard for him to be a Christian when everyone in the village knew who his dad was. One of the Haitians also creepily told us that the rumor was the deceased voodoo priest was still in the house--where they performed sacrifices.

Voodoo is real. It is the evil one entangling people in his lies. Some nights you can hear the voodoo drums and chanting. Evil is a bit less subtle in Haiti.

Rebecca asked me if I wanted to do any of the talking and she'd translate. It didn't seem like the best course to me. She had a rapport, she was fluent and could easily relate with them. I'd be this clumsy guy who didn't speak their language or know their culture. It didn't seem right that I'd do it just to get my "evangelism merit badge" when Rebecca was so much better.

I put myself if in their shoes (sorry, bad metaphor)--"place." I thought, would I want some guy coming to my door and speaking awkwardly though an interpreter, or would I want a real conversation with someone who cared enough to speak my language? So I prayed silently.

As we walked and talked to people in the villages, it challenged my faith a bit. What I mean is, a relationship with God never provides the promise of better housing or even quality of life. It's the promise of God with us, loving us, saving us and using us to His glory. Here in the US those promises seem amazing. When you're looking at someone living in a stick and mud "house" with a dirt floor and little food, whose kids hadn't hardly any clothes--I wondered if it sounded amazing to them. Or would something like water, food, clothes and better housing sound amazing?

All I think I know is that it's hard for me, an American, to go to Haiti for a week and really get my head around it all. It's a bit overwhelming. And yet, I probably need to be overwhelmed, and not be able to produce trite answers. And perhaps I need to find God in the midst of it all as much as the unbelieving Haitian needs to find God for the first time.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Haiti pt 3 (The Blues Bros. & The Coupon Yankees)

Did you ever see the original Blues Brothers movie? Specifically the scene where they strapped a huge speaker to the "Bluesmobile" and broadcast info about their upcoming concert at "The Palace Ballroom" at Lake Wasapumani? Click here for the gist if you missed it.

So Saturday CB and I headed out to do some "Blue Brothers Evangelism" in this little Bobcat pictured above. In the back we put a Peavey KB100 amplifier with a microphone. The amp is plugged into a loud chugging and glugging gasoline-powered generator. Two Haitians are in the back as well taking turns on the mic. It sounds like auctioneers YELLING in a foreign language.

I'm driving. CB (Chris Herr) is riding shotgun and Haitian Pastor Garry is riding backwards on the dash facing CB. The generator is screaming. The Haitians on the mic are also screaming. Every bump we hit causes the reverb unit in the amp to loudly, how shall I say...GA-JUUUNG!!! (And there are bumps like...everywhere.) Look at the Bobcat: right behind Chris' and my head, all hell is breaking loose at very impolite decibels.

The roads. Actually, "roads" is too nice of a term. "Creek beds" or "things poorly masquerading as roads" would be better terms. It rained before we got there. Rain and dirt makes mud. Rain, dirt, and "tap-taps" (and other Haitian vehicles) makes for what seems like impassable slime pits dotted with bits of dry ground.

For two hours the 5 of us, generator and amp-from-hell, bounced our way through what must have been 5-8 villages. How no internal organs or derrieres were damaged remains a mystery.

In the final thirty minutes or so, I took to steering with my right hand and pulling myself off the seat (to spare myself the jarring) with my left hand atop the roll bar. At each turn I would think, "Surely God, this the way back to Double Harvest--right?"

We gave little flyers announcing the crusade in Coupon, to people we'd pass on the (ahem) "roads." In the villages we'd get them into as many hands as we could, often sloshing down little side roads trying to get deeper into the villages.

At one such time, we kind of ran into a "no outlet" section and were besieged with little kids clamouring all over the over-loaded Bobcat. It wasn't fun. It was one of those moments where it felt a little "Blackhawk Down." (Not angry at all--but overwhelming.) Pastor Garry instructed us to, "GO!"

Most if the people happily smiled and reached out to receive whatever we were peddling. But as this was my first experience into Haitian villages, a couple things hit me:

The first village we road through brought me intensely close to typical living conditions. It shocked me. I felt myself starting to choke-up...felt heavy emotions welling. I pushed them back down because we were on mission--this wasn't exactly the time and place to have a good cry.

It was my observation that as I encountered older people, they seemed more serious, less quick to smile. Back in Coupon, we'd mostly seen little kids and it seems little kids are the same the world over--laughing, smiling--kids. But out in the villages that day I saw a bit of the hardness of Haitian life in the eyes and faces of people who weren't kids anymore. Sobering.

In two hours we passed out hundreds of flyers, went partially deaf and somehow missed getting stuck in the mud. I said to CB as we sat a few seconds before challenging the last nasty muddy pass, "Ok, I'll drive, you pray!" He must have prayed well.


Our band: Dave "Spiderman" Bottomley keys, Miles Heaslip bass & vocals, "Pastor" Dave Horrein accoustic guitar & worship leader and me on drums. We would open up the crusade on the four nights we were there.

We were the loudest of all the musical acts for sure, so the sound of the mighty "Coupon Yankees" ushered people from their homes to the bean field of dreams. All the guys did a great job night after night of giving it their all and playing well with our ONE monitor---and putting up with my "drums." ;-)

Arthur kindly borrowed a set of drums from another church. They showed up just hours before we started on night #1. They were...ROUGH. I taped up the huge hole in the bottom of the rack tom and removed the denim strips from the bass & floor toms. Gave them the best tune I could and hit it. The best decision? Screwing the bass drum and bass pedal down to the stage so they'd stay put! (It wasn't my first rodeo.)

When we would play, the Haitian band would be just a few feet away in the wings (behind the projection screen). Over the week they really got hooked on the song "All We Need" by Charlie Hall. It really fit the crusades theme of "one thing." And when we'd get to the place in the song where we all dropped for a few counts then slammed back in together--the Haitian band thought that was the COOLEST! The last night we were there they were going NUTS on this tune. I will never forget that sight and feeling...

(Speaking of feelings, I'm listening to that song right now picturing what I just wrote about and tearing up...God is amazing.) Here--you can listen to it too.

Every night, "Pastor" Dave H, Dave B, Miles and me got to tear it up--- because of, together with, and for God. Amen. Oh yeah, and we even let the Canadian (JB) sing back-up a couple nights ;-)


At the end of the crusades, the Haitian band would do this insanely long alter call. (No joke--like FORTY MINUTES!) I'd jump in a give it an islandy kind of groove and we'd play...and play...and play...someone would address the crowd...and we'd play...and then when someone would come forward to accept Christ, the bean field and stage would go flippin "bug nuts!"

We'd play even louder and more excitedly--and I'd look out and HUNDREDS of Haitians would be dancing their faces off, singing in worship to response of someone accepting Christ. The few white people danced...well, "white-ily" amongst the better dancers and everyone blended into one. (What? Like I can dance?! Somebody had to play drums.)

I will never forget playing with the Haitian band as a bean field of people got down and danced and sang unto God--and I got to provide the groove. God is way too kind. And we were way to fortunate.

photo album 1, photo album 2, photo album 3

Friday, November 27, 2009

"What's Haiti Like?" (pt. 2)

The days were long. We would be at devotions at 6:40am; fortunately that was only 2 minutes away. After "devo" back to the house, make breakfast, drink some good coffee and chill out til about 9am. By 9 we were on task.

Typically our Haiti teams are doing various manual labor tasks but this trip was different. Arthur Spalding, the main missionary at Double Harvest had a vision for the last two years: to put on an eight day (Sun to Sun) evangelistic crusade to draw people from surrounding villages to Christ.

Our team would construct the stage (complete with lights, sound, and video projection) and then our worship band and drama team would be part of the crusade. We would also venture out to evangelize in the villages and spread the word about the crusade during the heat of the days.

A critical part of our team was the "Canadian Connection." Albert (Jason's Braun's cousin), Len, JB's dad, Lauren (JB's 2nd cousin), and Rebecca (speaks fluent Creole and has lived in Haiti the last two years.

Albert was "The Machine." He's a builder; knows how to do it right, quick, and just sturdy enough; which is referred to as "Burt-fect." He led the building of the stage and throughout the day (and week) never seemed to lose momentum.

When we arrived Albert and Len had already erected two rows of scaffolding 32' wide. My expectation of a stage in Haiti in the middle of a bean field was a 3' unassuming bit of boards. This would be nothing close. The 6' high scaffolding would be the stage's base. WOW!

If that weren't enough, after we decked the 6' high, 32'x16' stage, we would attached an 8' wall all along the back of the stage. WOW. WOW.

Next thing I know. we're putting 4"x4" posts along the front of the stage. Why? To support 2"x12" planks that would span the top of the back wall to the front of the stage to form a roof! WOW.WOW.WOW.

It wasn't a stage--it was a BAND SHELL on steroids in the middle of a bean field at the crossroads of three villages, none of which had utilities. This wasn't a crusade--this was HAITI-STOCK, man!

And what powered this stage of sound, lights and video projection? Well a 1,500 lb industrial generator of course--what else? Yes Bert tossed the generator off the huge flatbed with the forks on a Bobcat about as easily as you or I would grab dishes off the kitchen shelf. He placed it about 50' behind the stage.

We expected to lift a compartment door on the generator to reveal a band of receptacles to plug into--that's what we're used to in the Americas. No--we're in Haiti--it must be hard wired!

Chris Herr just happened to (at the last minute) throw a voltmeter into his bag. WOW. CB and the guys are hard wiring romex from the generator to the stage--where they then wired about six electrical boxes for the stage (plug ins for guitar amps, lights, projector etc). Romex is run to the sound booth in the middle of the bean field. (The booth is housed in an open trailer.) CB really kept his cool and really rose to the occasion.

Arthur really pushed for a big light in the field so people wouldn't be in the dark. The next thing you know--somehow Len and the guys have erected a 20' tall metal light pole with industrial light atop. It looks just like any light in any parking lot in the US.

So there it is in the middle of this bean field in Haiti--the "S.S. Stage" and accompanying parking lot light. Exactly what you'd expect to see in the middle of no where in the poorest country in the world! Haitistock indeed ;-)

"What Was Haiti Like?" (pt 1)

I've wanted to answer that question with, "If you have an hour I'll try to tell you."

If I had one word to offer it would "paradox." The country is both gorgeous and ugly. The people are both beautifully approachable and some annoying and uninviting. My time there was both soul-lifting and draining.

The countryside is beautiful. It could easily host resorts that people of means would flock to. The foreground is stick and mud homes with no running water or utilities to speak of.

Some of the people are physically beautiful and warmly charming and inviting. Some of the kids begged militantly, "Give me flash!" (flashlight) "Give me dollar!"

I personally saw probably twenty people come to Christ. I also saw the house of a voodoo priest and people who seemed to care less about talking with us.


At 2:45 in the wee hours of Thurs. morning Nov 12, we arrived at Oakbrook sluggish and tired. The good people of First Presbyterian Church gave us their bus and a driver to usher us to and from the Indy airport. (Thanks, First Pres. & Tom Hearn!)

By dusk that same day, after flying to Chicago and Miami, we touched down in Port Au Prince Haiti. You do not walk from the plane onto a gangway and into a terminal. You walk down a huge set of stairs that are driven up to the plane and you walk down them in presidential fashion.

Walking across the tarmac towards the terminal, you can tell this is not your normal stateside airport.

Once in the terminal we were faced with the language barrier that we would encounter all week. As a white person in America it's a very different feeling to be a minority in a country who's language you do not know. The impact of that reality was a bigger impact on me than I would have ever thought.

The terminal was hot, old, and the worse for wear. It would be a foreshadowing of what lied beyond it. (But it would also seem modern and clean after a week in a a Haitian village.)

Once through customs we had to cling to our luggage that would be incessantly tugged at by cabbies fighting for a fair. Then it was into the parking lot to wait for our host. As we stood in the tropical heat we were twenty yards or so from the main Port Au Prince "thoroughfare" (I use the term loosely.)

The style of vehicle and style of driving was far from home. The cars and trucks were old, worn, and driven wildly. Perhaps the writer's of the "Mad Max" movies had drawn inspiration here.

Driving in Haiti is organized chaos, minus the organization. "Tap-taps" (mini-pickups turned into cabs) overflowed with Haitians, weighting down careened down the road without concern for passenger or other traffic.

As dark came upon us, it was amazingly clear that electricity was almost non-existent. The streets on both sides of us were flooded with people walking in front of businesses and hovels that were either dark or candlelit. This ride through the city pulled us out of our western comfort zone and into a culture we'd never experienced.

I will admit a certain amount of uneasiness at this point. Not fear that something would happen to us in way of attack or the like. Rather, it was the feeling of getting on a ride that, whether you like it or not, there's no getting off of for the next eight days. And whether my back (weak from recent issues) liked it or not, there's no turning back.

The roads through Port Au Prince were rough, but once we turned off toward the Village of Coupon we would learn how "good" those roads were and what in fact, rough roads really were.

It's not too much to say that some rural Haitian roads are more like driving down a dry creek bed than a road. And with the rains that came before us, it made for even more excitement. At one point, our minivan did get stuck and we all piled out to give it a shove. "Welcome to Haiti."

Our accommodations at Double Harvest were incredible--for Haiti, they were palatial. We had an upstairs--let's call it "condo" with a patio. It had two very large kitchens and it was divided into two wings; ladies on one side, men on the other. Each wing had it's washer and dryer.

Most of the rooms were like comfortable dorm rooms with its own bathroom and shower. There was a larger room in each wing that housed 5-6 beds. It was air conditioned and had a fresh water and crushed ice dispenser. The only drawback is that power, generally speaking, is available only from 7am to 7pm. Flashlights are very handy.

*** End part 1 ***

photo album 1, photo album 2, photo album 3

Simple Mentoring

I was recently talking with a 20-something about mentoring a teenage. It occurred to me that mentoring is an easy thing to over-complicate. So I put a few things together to provide him some traction, yet not overwhelm:

Mentoring Keys:

Mentoring is intentional influence. The key to influence = "time spent."

Social networking (text, FaceBook) can aid in mentoring but it can't replace being with the person. It starts here; can't mentor without it.

Our best never comes from us; it comes from God. If you want to mentor someone, pray for them.

By the way, we'll never be Godly influences on anyone without doggedly praying fro them and asking God to guide us. If you want to be an influence and useful in the KIngdom of God, keep a prayer journal and pray through it with great regularity.

Prayer also helps us realize that mentoring is asking God to use us in helping this person be who God designed them to be. The essence of mentoring is sanctification, which is spiritual--it is what God does.

Mentoring Prayers:
1) Surrender yourself to God's will.
2) Confess your sins.
3)Pray specifically for the person.
4) Pray for openness to how God wants to use you.
5) Ask God for clear direction for His will for this person; ask Him to use you to His glory, not your success.

Be mindful of the Holy Spirit when you're with the person. Not that every second is a teachable moment; but you want to be ready and alert to promptings of God.

Be ready to turn conversations towards things of substance. Few people say, "Teach and pull me into challenging conversations." But everyone wants to grow in Christ and grow beyond themselves. Be ready to turn light-hearted conversations towards things that matter to them, you and God.

Be a Learner.
If you are not actively growing and maturing in Christ, it wil be increasingly difficult to influence someone else in that way. Your growth is your responsibility. It will require that you have a mentor, but the onus is on you. Learning, growing people almost always have something to say that's worth hearing.

Your ears can be your greatest leadership tool. Listening communicates caring in huge ways. Listening first and at length; being slow to speak is evidence of wisdom.

Also listen with more than your ears. Watch their eyes and body language. Most of us are not clearly saying the words that reflect the deepest parts of us--but God designed the soul to leak hints through our body language. "Listen" for what's not being said but is being communicated nonetheless.

When responding to "vibe" or body language, state simple observations: "You seem..." Or, "Are you feeling...?"

Keep it simple, stay humble and see what God can do.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Going Local

I'm picky about drumsticks--Vic Firth Dave Weckl Evolution is my "go to" tool. They carry them at a local music store, Sound of Music. They're significantly more expensive locally verses buying at a Sam Ash in Indy or online.

But that makes sense if you figure how many sticks a local store will sell in a week compared the "big box" store in Indy or national online sellers; the more you sell the more you can lower your price.

In our current economic climate I have been more convicted about supporting local businesses when I can. I think it's good for the city, the more you and I do this. But, I hate paying retail for sticks (yes, Sandra & I are frugal).

So I called up John, the owner who works every day at his downtown music store. I asked him if he'd give me a deal if I bought a box of sticks. I figured that might be a reasonable request that might be good for him and me. I'd lay out a good chunk of money but probably wouldn't buy sticks for a year.

John was super. He said, "I'd be glad to take care of you." He gave me pretty much what I would pay online and he had them for me the next day! (And of course no shipping fees when you buy local retail.) A+ service. Thanks John!

And it happened simply because I gave a local business man a shot. I didn't beat him up to give me a deal. He seemed glad that I asked and was happy to accommodate me.

Maybe we can find ways to buy locally, get a good deal for the consumer and help our local economy. If you and I don't, who will?


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Computer Desktop Pics

One of the ways I love to make my computer "personal" is by using my own pictures as the desktop. Here's a collection from the last year or so. They're freely downloadable in high resolution.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Outliers - Book Review

When it comes to the most successful people we can think of we tend to believe things like:
"He was just born with that ability."
"She just has the gift for it."

But from the beginning of this compelling and enlightening book, Malcolm Gladwell quickly and convincingly proves us wrong time after time.

Gladwell shows us:

How being discriminated against as a Jewish attorney was the key ingredient to later producing the most successful and respected (and yes, Jewish) attorneys.

That it is not the brightest who succeed.

Success is not the sum total of our decisions and effort.

How cultural background led to more airline disasters in history; and how it was overcome.

That if we have ancestors who feuded, we are still a hothead.

How lucky are kids are if they play baseball and have an August birthday.

How a white plantation owner buying a slave because of her beauty changed the author's life.

Why Asians with rice paddy heritage are indeed better at math. (And how everyone can be better at it.)

And much much more...

Gladwell does an amazing job of relating data through stories that keep us hanging on like a "whodunit" novel. This is not a book for "eggheads." It is for everyone who wants to better understand the ingredients that make us who we are and why that matters.

When I think of who most needs to read this, parents, teachers, educators, and coaches come to mind. But I think that's too narrow; it's simply great information for us all.

I've read Gladwell's Blink and now this, and I must say that if a certain beer company were reviewing this author they'd say, "He has readability!" He owns that unique intersection where intriguing information meets compelling style.

This a great book that I have thoroughly enjoyed and couldn't help but tell people about--one of the best reads of the year! (maybe the best)

Malcolm Gladwell

Friday, October 2, 2009

It's so Vogue to be...

...Against something. I notice that it's so easy to pick. Easy to disagree. Easy to rant and rail against...all kinds of things: political figures, media, church people, church-not-so-much people.

It's easy to overhear when I'm here at Starbucks. Easy to read when I'm on FaceBook. Easy to see when I'm flipping channels. In the church. Outside the church."It's all going to hell because so-n-so..."

And clearly I have been there (still there some days). I used to take pleasure in a good rant and well-thought (or not so) tirade. But now it strikes me as it's the easiest of things to do. Which is to say, not necessarily the thing that adds any kind of value to anyone outside myself.

Culturally it seems hard not to take our cue from the media and politics. They both seem to be running the same play ad nauseam: whatever the other guy/network is doing, bash it, slam it, and tell them to cram it. And tell all your friends to do the same. And I think the truth is, we enjoy being whipped into a froth, in our sense of collective disdain.

But we don't have to follow suit. We do not have to follow this example. We could entertain the idea that disagreeing, yelling louder, being more vocal isn't very positive. Doesn't accomplish much. It just furthers the divide. Gets us worked up, with no other tangible results.

The more difficult things?
Exercising the creativity to notice people doing things right.
Doing something for someone v. decrying someone or something.

Did you notice the picture at the top of this post? Look at it. Slowly in detail (I'll wait...)

(Thought you'd never get back.) Did it make you smile? Did it make you wonder when the last time you felt like that? Do you want some of what they have? I do. Seriously.

They're playing a game...against an opponent. And they're what? Smiling. Yes, they are trying to win, trying to beat the other team, but with joy that spills out all over their faces.

When I find people doing things right. When I actually get up off my tuchas long enough to help someone, I feel touches of what the kids in the picture have in spades.

And I suggest that the more we decry, rant, complain, point out shortcomings--in people or organizations--we just become a little older and a little crustier.

This is a discipline I've been working on. I'm not great at it. But I am seriously trying to avoid easy criticisms. Instead I'm trying to find what's right in people and organizations and fanning those flames.

Will you join me? We don't have to follow the media and politicians. We can blaze a new trail--together.

Peace & love,


Thursday, September 24, 2009

Beatles are BACK!

We're back into the groove of preparing for The Beatles II--Concert with a Cause! This is a totally different concert from last year.

This year, conceptually, it's three complete and separate bands on stage: "The Cavern Club," "Rooftop Concert," and "Ed Sullivan Show."

Musically, it will flow between these three bands throughout the concert and then all three collide for a huge "can't miss" finale!

Right now, volunteers are building out to make our stage wider to hold the three bands. Of course there's plenty of surprises when it comes to set design, lights, music and song selections. This concert is mostly songs we didn't do last year.

And we want to leverage this event to highlight Bridges Outreach; a great non-profit organization working to "bridge" together: communities, school and churches.

TWO shows
Sun Oct 11th
4pm & 7pm

Oakbrook Auditorium
Tickets are $7

get them at our website:

Friday, September 11, 2009

WHAT happened at Starbucks?!

We began with, "For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them." And went on to say, "God is in you and He is in me. This is no less holy because of where we are. This is no less serious because of where we are. This place is no less holy than the most ornate cathedral..."

We were serious. We were earnestly acknowledging that God was the most important Part of this union. And we prayed for His presence and guidance till death do they part.

It was short but devout. I read John 15:5-17, encouraging them that what they most needed for their marriage was to remain in Him. And that God wants to use this holy union to be hope to the people around them--that this marriage is more than just them. God wants to use this new team to impact their world. I got to speak more candidly, more seriously, more intimately than in typical weddings.

A holy moment... Sitting on a bench on the terrace of Starbucks on Alto Road.

Maybe this is catching you off guard. It did me too. As a minister, I understand my calling, to be responsible to God. So I chewed on it.

I concluded that who we are, what we're about, and our motives (the things "inside the cup") are far more important than geography.

And ironically I have married couples in church whose countenance did not seem as earnest as it felt this morning in front of Starbucks. In my spirit, it felt good and right.

They first met at that location, just on the other side of the wall from where they said their vows. I thought of how in the Old Testament people marked places where God had done profound works. I could see the parallel.

We talked for a long time afterward. They plan to forgo cable for their first year of marriage. (WHAT??!!) So they can learn more about each other and read more about how to have a good marriage. (Are you kidding?) They are on the right track. God's speed.

After they left, I sat down in the sun and began to read. A few minutes in I looked up and saw this:

Wow...years ago I worked there. Before it was Grindstone Charlies, I worked at Rax in my early twenties. How shall I say it? A time when God was much less of a concern to me than He is today. It feels like a lifetime ago.

And here I am across the street and lifetime away from my past--now marrying a couple the age that I was then. The words of Jerry Garcia never cease to be true, "What a long strange trip it's been."

It was one of the moments...seeing into my past and present simultaneously...and knowing without a doubt...how incredibly good God has been to me and how infinitely blessed I am. It's beyond my ability to thank God enough. And it's with salty eyes that I land this post.

Love to all...


p.s. Of course I brought my camera: see pics ;-) And an employee took a picture. Why do I think we're going to show up in an internal Starbucks Employee News Letter? ;-)

Monday, September 7, 2009

No Perfect People Allowed wk 3

Special thanks to the people who prayed for me this week as I nursed a "back attack" while putting together Sunday's talk. Really appreciate it!

Click here to listen to the free podcast. Click here for a PDF transcript. Click here to get free Adobe Reader for PDFs. Click here to watch the into on YouTube.

The laughing before I start the "recap" is in response to me donning black beret and sunglasses for the complete "beat poet" vibe. It's great to be part of a church that likes to have a good time and get serious about our faith.

In Fear of the President

There's quite a hub-bub about not allowing the President to address the students in our schools. One word..."Really?" And another, "Seriously?"

I've thought about this the past couple days, and I honestly believe that I would have no problem with any sitting president addressing our schools and my children hearing whatever he had to say.

"But we don't know exactly what he'll say!"

Really? The president (any of them) could say something that would so send your child off in a direction that you couldn't speak to or redirect?

If that's the case, let's get the president to make an address to students to the effect of:

"Listen to your parents. Work hard in school. Get a job when you get out and keep working so you never have to be on welfare."

Many problems could be systematically solved, just like that...if only the presidents (or anyone's word's but yours) were so powerful. Parents, we are the real influence on our children. Really.

I'm saddened that people in our community will step out and speak up to keep the president's address away from our students. When that night, they will in turn allow their children to watch TV commercials steeped in sexuality. Watch movies that have no redeeming value. Play violent video games and whatever else. But at least we will have protected our children from the president.

I will say it again: Parents, there is no bigger influence on your children than you. Don't fear that the president, or anyone else on the planet, has more power than you and your words. Really.

I'm sad. Regardless of who is in the White House.

Friday, September 4, 2009

How I used to Spend my Time

That's me about 4 years old. The drum set was real wooden shells and real drum heads--my first real drums. My dad built the stage it sits on and it was in the corner of the living room. He also built the monogrammed "accessories case" with my name on it.

There were several hundreds of records to play along with: jazz, funk, R&B, rock, jazz-rock, show tunes, folk; almost anything but country. I mostly played w/the jazz & R&B stuff. Lots of good times sitting in that spot. Learned a lot of about music before I would ever take a lesson four years later.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Yet another new lens ;-)

Nikon AF-S 35mm 1.8 DX. For most DSLRers this very affordable $200 lens is what you need to take great indoor photos without a flash. (And if you need a flash, just buy this one.) If you own a D40, D60, D70, D80, D90, this lens is for you.

With the digital SLRs a 50mm (focal length) lens is just a little too "long" for inside informal photos. Back in the days of film camera, a 50mm was the workhorse "all occasions" lens. The digital equivalent is a 35mm (focal length) lens.

(Geeky part) In a digital camera, the "sensor" is what captures the image. In a film camera, a frame of physical film captures the image. The sensor (in all but professional DSLRs, referred to as a "crop frame.") is smaller than a frame of 35 mm film.

The result is in digi-cams, a 35mm (focal length) lens = a 50mm (focal length) film lens. Likewise a 50mm digi-cam lens is more like a 75mm film lens. (end geeky part)

Basically, this is a great indoor party, family get together, wedding reception lens. Here are some pics I shot with it at The Brick last week. Notice that shots that captured the whole room would not have been possible w/my 50mm 1.4 lens.

By the way, an f/1.8 lens is enough. Even though f/1.4 lenses are out there, f/1.8 will do what 99% of the people want.

For $200 this 35mm 1.8 lens will take fantastic pics and last your lifetime. I get my gear at Roberts north-side store on US 31 in Indy.

Shoot on!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Strange Joy

I don't do a lot of funerals in my job, but one came up this week. A friend from church lost his father. So Wednesday I met with him, his mother and sisters. They laughed, cried, told stories; sometimes stopping to reel in emotions and corral tears.

Quickly I realized this was one of those guys that I missed out on. And quickly I could feel their loss and before we were done I was sincerely weeping with them. They talked, told stories and I took feverish notes.

Stories and details fresh in my mind, I went back to my office to put it all together. I had thoughts like, "Wow, what a life well lived...what a positive legacy." And quickly the joy of it hit me: I get to creatively recap a great life. I get to be the family storyteller...

(It has probably helped my perspective having done a funeral whereupon the family had no real stories to tell me; I'm not exaggerating.)

So there is a strange fun--a strange joy in the celebration of a life that really impacted people. A life that made people better. A life that leaves a hole. It's an honor and privilege to be part of something so profound as saying goodbye to a husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather.

A life well-lived leaves a strange joy for me--who gets to serve this family. Praying all will go well tomorrow...

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Leading the Leaders

Sandra and I went to "Small Group Leader Training" tonight. Jason Braun, Oakbrook's Director of Connections gets together these informal huddles of group leaders to share a pitch-in meal then talk about leadership, vision---generally, how to be better group leaders.

It's a very informal evening that's conducive to connecting, sharing and learning. Jason gets leaders together about once per quarter in someone's home.

If you're a group leader and haven't been to one of these, you're missing out! (more pics)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Battery Grip for Nikon D90

Just bought the Zeikos ZE-NBG90, a non-Nikon product for my D90. My initial impression is very positive. Feels solid. Good grip material on it. Fits like a glove. Nothing about it looks like it was made by a third party manufacturer. We'll see how it goes over time, but initially "Two Thumbs Up."

I did a lot of googling since there are a lot of third party grips. I decided to go non-Nikon simply for price. Nikon grip is $140-$160. The Zeikos was $67.78 @ Amazon. I read reviews and this YouTube video finally helped me choose Zeikos.

Why the grip? When shooting sports I often shoot portrait (turning the camera 90 degrees). The grip puts another shutter release on the camera so when you rotate the camera your hand can stay in the same comfortable shooting position.

It also allows you to put two batteries in the camera for all-day shoots. I could see adding one of these grips for my D40. The D40 camera body is small and I could imagine how the grip would be more comfortable. (The D40 is still an amazing camera!)

Here are some pics of the grip on my D90:

Friday, August 14, 2009

NEW Protege Program to Launch @ Oakbrook!

Oakbrook is launching a new program to develop future church leaders; it's called Protege.

What is the OCC Protégé Program?

The Protégé Program is a year-long intensive spiritual growth, leadership development, and ministry immersion experience at Oakbrook Community Church. As an OCC Protégé, you will be given the opportunity to learn from some of great innovative thinkers and creators in ministry, participate in the day to day activities of church staff culture, stretch yourself as a leader, and lay a firm foundation for a life-long pursuit of the passion and vision that God has placed on your life.

Who is it for? What is the goal?

The Protégé Program is a training and proving ground for emerging church leaders. During your Protégé year, you will accumulate valuable experience, mentors, and knowledge that will prepare you for stepping into the next phase of your God-given calling. Our desire is that your Protégé year will give you the experience you need to find a full-time staff position in a local church or para-church ministry.

It is primarily designed for people immediately after high school or college (18-20-somethings), but not exclusive to that age demographic.

What experience will I gain?

Protégés will gain valuable experience in three primary areas: spiritual formation, leadership development, and practical ministry experience. Protégés will gain experience in the following areas:

  • Attend Learning Labs- make new discoveries in leadership development, spiritual growth, and ministry methods from members of the OCC staff
  • Develop a Spiritual Growth Plan
  • Develop a Leadership Development Plan
  • Lead small groups and ministries
  • Participate in an OCC missions experience
  • Serve at weekend services, outreach projects and leadership development events
  • Build community with fellow members of your Protégé class through weekly study, prayer, and reflection groups.
  • Be mentored by your ministry-focus department leader
  • Attend leadership development conferences with the OCC team

What ministry areas can a Protégé participate in?

Each Protégé will focus in one of the following ministry areas: Discipleship, Worship, Media, Missions/Outreach, or Children/Youth. During the application process, you will rank your top three ministry focus choices.

What does a typical week of a Protégé look like?

There is no typical week at OCC! Every week will look different depending on the specific upcoming ministry needs. Each Tuesday, Protégés will participate in OCC staff prayer, monthly staff meetings, departmental meetings, and Protégé growth group. The Protégé growth group will consist of on-going discipleship training and leadership development for the Protégés in a small group setting for accountability, prayer, and encouragement. Protégés will also attend learning labs with the teaching team of OCC for further spiritual and leadership development and training in topics such as self-leadership, the culture and Christianity, discipleship, introspection, dreaming God-sized dreams etc.

Protégés will also lead weekly small group and ministry gatherings and participate in weekend services, outreach projects and leadership development events. Protégés will also be responsible for taking the lead on various projects within their ministry-focus area.

What OCC staff members do a Protégé interact with?

The Protégé Program will be administered by Morgan Young (associate pastor). He will serve as the primary leader for the Protégé experience. Protégés will also work directly with and be mentored by a department leader in their ministry focus and interact with Mark Malin (lead pastor) and other staff during the learning labs.

What qualifications are you looking for in Protégés?

Previous ministry and leadership experience is preferred and specific experience in the desired ministry focus area is certainly favored. We also look for people who have a clear sense of calling and dare to dream big dreams for the Kingdom of God. However, we are also big believers in attitude, flexibility, sense of humor, ability to work within a team environment, so we weigh those kinds of personality traits heavily.

When are the dates for the program?

The 2009-2010 Protégé Program will run from September 2009 through August 2010.

What is the admission process?

Complete the application and submit to Oakbrook Church, 3409 S. 200 W., Kokomo IN 46902, attention: Morgan Young. Three references are also required. One should be from a current pastor or ministry leader, one should be from a current or former pastor or ministry leader, and one can be of a personal nature.

What is the cost to attend the OCC Protégé Program?

There is no cost to attend the OCC Protégé Program, but you will need the finances to support you and your family for one year in Kokomo IN. You may accomplish this through fundraising, working a second job, or some combination of the two. You will need to generate enough funds to cover rent, food, transportation and other necessities. You may also need to raise specific funds if there is a non-local missions trip scheduled. You will need your own computer.

Can I get college credit?

Currently, the Protégé Program is not designed to be a seminary or Bible college experience; therefore, we are not currently offering any college or seminary credit. However, if you believe your current Bible college or seminary would be willing to offer independent study or internship credit for your involvement, then we are willing to work with you and your academic institution to provide them with the necessary documentation.

Does OCC provide housing for Protégés?

Generally, OCC does not currently have housing available for Protégés. However, if we had a few Protégés of the same sex, there may be a possibility of using our house at Oakbrook Valley.

Is the Protégé part-time or full-time?

You can do either, depending on your financial needs. Part-time Protégés are expected to work 25-30 hours per week. Full-time Protégés are expected to work at least 40 hours per week.

Can I seek part-time employment?

Absolutely! It is our expectation that most, if not all, protégés will secure secondary outside employment. We ask, however, that ministry expectations and time requirements take precedent over outside work schedules.

Do I need a car?

A car is always helpful for errands, day trips and given there’s no public transportation in Kokomo.

How can I find out more information?

Contact Morgan Young, morgan@oakbrookchurch.com, 765.455.1100 ext 207

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Can I have TOO MUCH empathy??

I have had some people approach me after last Sunday's "Less Than" talk about empathy. Their question was a good one: "Can I have too much empathy?"

They are people who are prone to feel for everyone. They have a personality that "feels" for others very easily.

My simple answer is, "Yes. You can have empathy for too many people."

Jesus was God and He was here, walking around and interacting with people. He didn't heal everyone. He didn't feel everyone's pain. He often got away from the demanding crowds to be alone.

We are not Jesus. It's safe to say our capacity to empathize and "get in the water with people" is less than Jesus'. Jesus seemed to know there was a line. Call it "capacity." Whatever we want to call it, Jesus withdrew even when people were looking for Him.

We all have a capacity to care for others. If we go over that capacity and "get in the water" with too many people we will in essence, drown. Get bogged down and be ineffective for the Kingdom.

To know your capacity, you'll have to discern what that is for you. It could also be healthy to discuss some questions about yourself with a trusted friend:

1. Do I feel a need to care for everyone because I don't think God cares or will save the day? Do I have a minor "god" complex?

2. Do I sometimes resent all my caring because no one really does it for me?

3. Do I care for others to cover an unmet need in myself?

As a person in ministry I have to wrestle with the reality that there are many more people than I have time for. So one of the things I've done in the last eight months is increase my prayer list. I have people on there that I have concern for, but don't feel called to "get in the water" with. So I am taking their concerns to the Father each day.

Remember, if we get in the water with too many people, we'll be grossly ineffective. God gave you limits--a capacity for care. Ask Him to guide you to stay within your God-given capacity so you can serve well for a long, long time.

Hope that helps.