Is This Ad Relevant to You?

So I do most of my TV watching via Hulu and secret free internet sites (shhh).
I assume you've watched something on Hulu and understand how they show commercials, and that you understand that unfortunately you might see the same commercial 4 to 8 times during the viewing of one show.
Okay, now that we are all tracking together...
Recently I have seen the following Aflac commercial a stupid number of times.  And I believe it is making me dumber.  Have you seen it?
I don;t understand.  First off, I'm tired of the duck.  It's not funny or clever or interesting in any way anymore.  In fact I'm more inclined to not use the services of Aflac just because of these commercials.  
But what I really don't get is why does the guy who is running lines with the duck assume that the bad writing of the lines he is rehearsing and the poor performance of  duck going to get him fired?  It doesn't make sense.  And if he hates his job as much as he seems to imply, which he should hate by the way, he's probably an unpaid intern who is running lines WITH A DUCK!, why doesn't he just quit.  
It boggles my mind that there are people who graduate from college, get employed by big advertising agencies, paid to be clever and witty and creative all day long, and this is what they produce.  Please don't tell me that the sole reason someone might have legitimately given the green light for this is that it would get people like me talking about how stupid this commercial actual is because it also means they were talking about Aflac. 


I've Moved

So the past 18 months were quite the adventure. A series of moments and days where my understanding of faith and trust were stretched and tried and deepened.  Events that I fully embraced and accepted, but that didn't make them any easier.  I've tried to keep some of those things under wraps because I don't want my attempts to share my heart to ever come across as whining or complaining.

All that to say this, through a series of events I have landed in Ohio.  I've been here for about three weeks now and it's snowed several times already.  It's cold and I don't own a single sweater or a real winter coat.  And only 2 miles from Lake Erie people keep talking about "lake effect" weather, but so far I'm not yet intimidated.

After years of working with new churches I have landed at a church that celebrated it's 170th anniversary this year. It's a completely different setting, operating in a fashion that is traditional, yet brand new to me.  But they are giving me plenty of room to be creative and inventive within the student ministry.  Typically I've built ministries from nothing, but this will be an opportunity to renovate and tweak an established program.  A completely different experience.

So there are some things about Ohio I'm really looking forward to checking out.

- Cleveland Indians
- Cincinnati Reds
- Cedar Point Amusement Park
- A Cleveland Browns game (when the SF 49ers are in town)
- Rock and Roll Music Hall of Fame
- the house from 'A Christmas Story'
- some Skyline Chili down in the Cincy area
- this statue of Arnold Schwarznegger
- the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Okay. So I don't know much about Ohio.  Do you have any suggestions for me?


Ditch Digging

I've spent the past couple of days digging a ditch.
My friend's home is having some issues and we are digging a ditch around the back side of the house, down the side of the house and then through the yard to the street.  Once the foundation has been coated with a sealant and a drain put in, things should be dramatically improved.
And my friend has a public service job so he wasn't able to be apart of the fun yesterday, so I got things started.  Today he inspected my work and we came to the conclusion that we still needed to dig down deeper.  I came to the conclusion with him, but only after spending a half hour trying to present a thousand options as to why the ditch was deep enough.
Several blisters later, we are still not quite finished.
I'm all for manual labor; there is something incredibly fulfilling about blistered hands and dirty clothes at the end of hard day's work.  However, as I was digging the ditch, I was trying to come up with the spiritual benefits or analogies that derive from this labor.
And I got nothing!
Not one thing.
I'm constantly looking God throughout my day; as a personal habit and as a byproduct of my career.
But I found nothing.
Ditch digging just sucks.

I did sweat a ton though.  Two days of excuses for skipping the gym.


Need to Blog Again

I used to really enjoy blogging.
Creating my own posts.
Reading friends and interesting people's blogs.
Commenting on post that I found interesting and useful.
But I just stopped.  And I was trying to think why.
Here's a quick list of reason why I think I quit blogging.

  • I got busy.  Life got too busy to type a few thoughts down everyday.  Sad but true.
  • People just published too much.  Honestly there's so much information out there.  Most of it not helpful at all.  And I typically thought my words fell into the "loud noise" column. 
  • Technology improved. Why type paragraphs when I can limit my content to 140 characters?  Or even better why publish words when I can be socially networked with just a photo?
  • I just didn't have anything to say. 
  • Worse, I think I had plenty to say but was afraid of how one person might misread what I was trying to say and be offended.  (Confession: I'm a chronic people-pleaser) 

But I wanted to say something.
Generally I'm of the persuasion that most people speak before they've thought. Or people speak with authority but have none.  Or people speak to just hear their own voice.  I don't want to be one of those people.
I really enjoy sitting around with friends sharing stories and ideas and thoughts and images of and from life.  But how do you communicate that kind of atmosphere and community?  Especially when your family and close friends don't have a blog of their own or ever read your post.

So I think I'm going to re-launch this thing, new name, new background color (crazy stuff).
But I think there is a part of me that just needs a place to publish the hundreds of thoughts and list I create in my head throughout the day or week.

I'll start this week.


2013-03-23 Creating Currency

If I was ever somehow elected to a federal government position, say senator, congressman, or President, I think I would like to introduce a bill to mint a new bill or coin into our economy.  And while I'm at it I would include in this bill a proposal to ditch pennies, nickels and dines.  I'm okay with quarters, but I just hate having to deal with those other coins (half-dollar and silver and golden dollars are cool, but so rare they don't warrant further discussion here).

But the question of importance in this post is which President would I want to emblazon on said bill or coin?

Or course, I suppose, it doesn't have to be an American President.  The Silver Dollar has Susan B. Anthony on it, and the Golden Dollar coin has Sacagawea.  I also remind you that it's Alexander Hamilton (non-President) on our $10 bill.  And as is widely known, Salmon P. Chase, the 25th U.S. Treasury Secretary, adorns our $10,000 bill.

I'm not particularly open to having a non-President, but I would think there should be standard of rules to narrow the choice down:

  • the individual must be a natural born citizen (which would exclude Albert Einstein, Bob Hope and Michael J. Fox)
  • the individual must be significant in our national history (which would exclude Stephen Foster, Patty Hearst or Paris Hilton)
  • the individual must have a recognizable face (which would exclude Chief Justice John Marshall, Henry David Thoreau, or Thomas Payne)

With those criteria I suppose I could select someone like: Benjamin Franklin, Walt Whitman, Martin Luther King Jr., or Elvis Presley.

But I would prefer that my proposed coin or bill have an American President on it.  It just seems like the right thing.  And listen, there probably is only a handful of people who would prefer to see a baseball player represent our legal tender, but the President just seems like the right image.

So which President should I choose?  Which would you choose?

I'm going to limit my Presidential pick to the twentieth century.  Here's my reasoning. JFK has already been given the half dollar.  If we couldn't think of any previous President to honor with the 50 cent piece before JFK surely we should just forget about them in terms of coinage.  But I also understand that the JFK coin, first minted in 1964, was somewhat of a coin minting knee jerk reaction to the November 1963 assassination.  That being the case I'll keep my options open to the 20th century.  I'm also leaving the last two Presidents (Bush and Obama) off of my list of candidates.  They're too recent.

So here is the list of 20th Century Presidents:

William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton.

Now, let's subtract those who only served one term in office (or in the case of McKinley, Harding or Kennedy only part of a term).

William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren G Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bill Clinton.

This leaves us ten options.

Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Calvin Coolidge, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton.

I can now continue to narrow my choice down by eliminating...

  • crooks (honestly, we can't reward a crook)
  • a President during my lifetime (still seems to recent)
  • a President who might be hated another country purely because of war time decisions
  • the lack of a quickly recognizable face 
  • any who already have a coin
This leaves me with Teddy Roosevelt.  And if possible I'd like this photo to be on my bill or coin.  

One last thing I should mention in this incredibly pointless post.  I would want my coin or bill to be worth $6.47.  Seriously, why do I care?  I use a debit card or the internet to pay for everything. 



Leaving Well

I'm not planning any moves in my life right now.  But I don't think Andrew Mason necessarily was either when he was fired on Friday as CEO of Groupon.
However, if I was planning on leaving, or if for some reason I was let go, this letter that Mason wrote to all the Groupon employees and investors, is something I would like to emulate.

(This is for Groupon employees, but I’m posting it publicly since it will leak anyway)People of Groupon,After four and a half intense and wonderful years as CEO of Groupon, I’ve decided that I’d like to spend more time with my family. Just kidding – I was fired today. If you’re wondering why… you haven’t been paying attention. From controversial metrics in our S1 to our material weakness to two quarters of missing our own expectations and a stock price that’s hovering around one quarter of our listing price, the events of the last year and a half speak for themselves. As CEO, I am accountable.You are doing amazing things at Groupon, and you deserve the outside world to give you a second chance. I’m getting in the way of that. A fresh CEO earns you that chance. The board is aligned behind the strategy we’ve shared over the last few months, and I’ve never seen you working together more effectively as a global company – it’s time to give Groupon a relief valve from the public noise.For those who are concerned about me, please don’t be – I love Groupon, and I’m terribly proud of what we’ve created. I’m OK with having failed at this part of the journey. If Groupon was Battletoads, it would be like I made it all the way to the Terra Tubes without dying on my first ever play through. I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to take the company this far with all of you. I’ll now take some time to decompress (FYI I’m looking for a good fat camp to lose my Groupon 40, if anyone has a suggestion), and then maybe I’ll figure out how to channel this experience into something productive.If there’s one piece of wisdom that this simple pilgrim would like to impart upon you: have the courage to start with the customer. My biggest regrets are the moments that I let a lack of data override my intuition on what’s best for our customers. This leadership change gives you some breathing room to break bad habits and deliver sustainable customer happiness – don’t waste the opportunity!I will miss you terribly.Love,Andrew


2013-01-14 "You'll Find Your Way"

I'm really trying not to post videos this year, but I thought I would share this one that I just discovered was released.  It's a song by one of my favorite singer/songwriters, Andrew Peterson, called "You'll Find Your Way".
As I've been reflecting on the power of memories this song has really been speaking into my inner-dialogue.  If memories can physically transform our mind, and it is the by the renewing of our minds that we are transformed more and more into the image of Jesus, than the power of story only increases in significance since it is by rich, detailed stories that powerful synoptic connections are created in our minds and give us greater recall of lasting truths.
If we can remember the power of God in the past and the truths of God which are eternal, then perhaps we can embrace the love of Jesus now.
In Jeremiah, chapter 6, the LORD is speaking to the Israelites in their distress and He say:
     "Stand at the crossroads and look;
          ask for the ancient paths,
     ask where the good way is, and walk in it,
          and you will find rest for your souls."

So Andrew Peterson set about writing a song to one of his boys trying to impress upon him that there are foundational truths that, no matter where life takes him, he can always return to.  Here listen:

I love the imagery of this lines...
     "Go back, go back to the ancient paths
     Lash your heart to the ancient mast
     And hold on, boy, whatever you do
     To the hope that's taken hold of you
     And you'll find your way" 


2013-01-12 Up

I came across these images from the Pixar movie Up. Those first 15 minutes are brilliant.


2013-01-08 Litter

I preface the following by saying that while I try to recycle and occasionally watched Captain Planet back in the day, I certainly would not qualifiy myself as an environmentalist.

So today I was at the gas station and a car pulled up and parked. Then the passenger window rolled down a crack and the hand slipped out and threw a balled up piece of paper on the ground.

Brazen littering. Such a wierd thing to witness.

Then the passenger opened the door and exited the car. He walked the short distance from the car to the store's door, passing a trash can as he entered the store.

Brazen littering. I was almost impressed.


2013-01-07 Doctor's Appointment

I had an appointment with a doctor this morning. Almost two years since my last visit, but my chronic asthma had force me to concede another visit.
I typically don't think much of doctors.  For some reason I have never had the good fortune to be doctored (is that the right word?) by a doctor who performs their duties in that hyper-obsessed way that you see doctors on TV do.
The doctor I saw this morning saw me in an office with medical degrees of one of the other doctors in the building on the wall. And the picture frames were all crooked. I didn't have a good feeling.
I specifically scheduled this appointment because of my asthma and allergies. However, when the doctor performed his exam he didn't seem all that concerned about my asthma. He checked my ears. He checked my nose. He looked in my mouth and made me say "e-e-e". Then he started prescribing some meds for me and an allergy test (I'm going to get started on those allergy shots). And he suggested I get a CT scan.
A CT scan? Really?
Then the doctor started to leave the room as if the exam was over.  I was confused, so I asked him if he could write me some prescriptions for my asthma medications. He replied "of course" and then asked me what I wanted.The doctor asked me what medication I wanted. Does that sound odd to anyone else?
I asked if medical marijuana could relieve my asthma. Okay I didn't, but I should have.
One final thing about this whole visit. I had the doctor prescribe for me Advair. Maybe you've seen commercials for this purple disc inhaler. It's supposed to help prevent asthma symptoms. With my insurance the one month supply of this Advair rang up on the pharmacist's cash register for about $240. I told the pharmacist I would rather just wheeze all day. He stared at me as if I asked him to help me commit suicide. I was serious though and made him put it away.


2013-01-06 Ministry Experimentation

I began an experiment tonight.
For a while now I've had a vision where multiple churches could invest in one youth ministry program.  The idea is that churches in partnership can offer to students a large group setting together, and offer small group community individually.  Resources can be multiplied through sharing, influence can be leveraged at a higher level, service could be done with greater efficiency, all the while honoring individual church's DNA and values.  
So, it's taken a while, but officially tonight I began the work of blending two sets of teenagers, and two sets of adult volunteers, from two individual churches into one youth program.  And I really do believe that there is potential for additional churches to get on board.
I really have no idea what I'm doing, or how it will turn out, but I've never been more excited about student ministry.  Never more energized.  Never more scared of failure.  Never more drawn to prayer.
Should be fun.


2013-01-04 A Changed Mind

"All of our memories are bound together in a web of associations. This is not merely a metaphor, but a reflection of the brain’s physical structure. The three-pound mass balanced atop our spines is made up of somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 billion neurons, each of which can make upwards of five to ten thousand synaptic connections with other neurons. A memory, at the most fundamental physiological level, is a pattern of connections between those neurons. Every sensation that we remember, every thought that we think, transforms our brains by altering the connections within that vast network. By the time you get to the end of this sentence, your brain will have physically changed."
- Joshua Foer, Moonwalking With Einstein (emphasis mine)

"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God - this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  The you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will."
- Paul, Romans 12:1-2 (emphasis mine)

The thoughts of our lives, figuratively and physically transform our minds.  The thoughts we give significant emphasis to fire more synaptic connections in our mind, creating memories we have greater access to for future recall.  When we give God greater attention - practicing the presence of God, studying the Scriptures, meditating on His character and precepts, etc - we are allowing our minds to be spiritually and physically transformed and renewed.

That's just amazing.


I met with a former student today.  He is in the middle of a road trip from San Antonio TX to Buffalo NY and was staying a couple of nights in Durham NC.  He wanted to meet up and even though I've been really busy lately, and didn't honestly have the time for him, the weight of his texts pinned me into submission.
We met at an area McDonald's, I purchased us some beverages, and we sat down.  At first it was some small talk, catching up.  "How is 'so and so'?"  "What are you up to?"  Then is was some memories of youth events, $5 burgers at TGIFridays, and shopping cart races in empty parking lots.
I was feeling guilty about work I was ignoring so I threw out a question hoping to wrap up the conversation and I could get back to work.  "So why aren't you at Passion this year?"  
The last time we had spoken was over a phone call about one year ago.  He had just returned to Buffalo from the Passion conference in Atlanta.  There was an enthusiasm and zeal in his voice that I had not ever heard from him before.  In fact, previously I would say that this was a young person who probably would be diagnosed as clinically depressed.  But not that day.  Over that phone call I heard a young man with fire in his bones.  A young man who had caught a glimpse of a living Jesus.
Back to today.  
"So why aren't you at Passion this year?" I asked as I began sliding out of the booth.  
"Well, that's probably something I should tell you about." he answered.  "I think I would label myself agnostic these days."  
I settled back into my booth.  What happened in the course of one year, that could quench a fire?  
Over the next hour and a half I listened to this young man express a spiritual journey he was experiencing.  He questioned every emotion he experienced, believing he had mastered the art of hypocrisy.  Masked emotions of spirituality.  Outside of the times of deep hurt and regret and shame, of which he honestly has had more than his share, everything he felt was real about Jesus, he no longer sensed.
I wanted to preach the Gospel.
I wanted to hammer him with my all my Christian apologetic training.
I wanted to wrestle his doubts into submission.
I wanted to somehow express the words that would bring life back.
Instead I listened.  I asked probing questions to get him to share his spiritual regression.
I listened.  I affirmed his doubts.  I prayed.  
I felt helpless.
I felt helpless like the time I visited him at the hospital.  He had wrecked his car on a rather dangerous stretch  of road around San Antonio.  He spent a couple of weeks in the hospital, and by all accounts was miraculously saved from a lifetime of disabilities, mentally and physically.  
I felt helpless like the time I visited him at another hospital.  His parents had been out of town, and feeling down about a relationship that had gone sour, he tried to empty his parent's liquor cabinet in one night.  His neighbor found him passed out.  The doctors pumped his stomach and keep him on watch for a couple of days to make sure that there were no repercussions.  
And I felt helpless in a booth at McDonald's today.  
But not hopeless.
And when his story of regression was told I tried to remind him of those other stories. 
That while he may have felt an absence of God, or a distance from God, that God was still near to him.  
I asked him to not give up hope either.  Could he hold on to the possibility that perhaps God is true, and perhaps God is still at work in this world, and that perhaps while he might be close to giving up on faith, that God had not yet given up on him. 
As an exercise in his budding agnosticism, I asked him to attempt a journaling exercise. Maybe God isn't real and active, but if He possibly is, could we record some potential 'possibly' moments of God.  If there was a moment in his day where the expressions of love or compassion or generosity or kindness or patience or grace or....wherever those expressions were evident would he jot them down in notebook or an email to me and considering the potential for God.
I left him with that.  We walked to our vehicles and said our goodbyes.  And he promised to send me his "potential God moments". 
I don't think this young man is an agnostic on the verge of atheism.  Rather, I believe this is a young man in the midst of some difficult and honest doubts.  And this doubting kid is going to send me regular updates of moments he potentially sees God.  I'll take that. 

Lord.  I'm praying for my friend tonight.  You promised that if we seek you that we would find you, if we seek you with all our hearts (Jeremiah 29:13).  That if we ask, it will be given.  That if we seek, we will find.  That if we knock, doors will be opened.  (Matthew 7:7).  So God, I'm asking for my friend, who has promised to recognize potential moments of your glory, that you bombard his life with voices of truth and grace.  Orchestrate the interactions of his days to reveal yourself through the kindness of others.  God, for my friend who considers himself alone and continually at arms length from others, would you wrap yourself around him tonight.  Overwhelm his soul in moments of stillness.



I made a appointment to see a doctor today.  My appointment is Monday at 9:00am.  What a horrible time to see a doctor.  I was hoping for something in the early evening, say around 6 or 7pm.  But apparently the lady on the phone who I made the appointment with didn't think I was being serious.

I haven't seen a doctor for quite some time now.  Um....was it the Spring of 2011?  I really don't remember. And that experience was a pure waste of time.  The entire exam lasted less than 10 minutes and consisted of a student doctor listening to my lungs and a real doctor listening as well.  Guess what!  I have asthma.  Before that I haven't seen a doctor in years.

I don't see the value in making my monthly insurance payments and then paying for my copay, only to have a doctor confirm that I wasn't lying when I told them I have asthma, and finally they write me a prescription for the medication I tell I need.  Why can't I skip the doctors and just go see the pharmacist.  I need my only prescription pad.

But I do think I'll take this doctors visit seriously.  So I was trying to come up with a list of questions I should ask of my doctor.  Here are some of my questions:

- What is gluten?  Isn't it in like everything?  How does one know if they are allergic to gluten?  Am I allergic to gluten?
- Can you tell me what blood type I am?  (I can't ever remember having blood drawn).
- What is the most important change I can make to improve my health?
- What cancer screening tests are appropriate for a person my age?
- What vaccinations do I need to be up to date?
- How is my blood pressure?
- Can you give me more samples of each of the medications you're prescribing me?

What other questions should I ask?



It was rainy here today.  Overcast skies and wet cement.  The perfect day to read a book, catch a movie and just enjoy the possibilities of a fresh start, new beginnings, a new year.
At some point in the day I decided to swing by the theater and catch a movie.  Something I probably wouldn't find someone else to watch with me.  Sometimes it's nice to just sporadically attend a movie.  No calling all your friends, no trying to organize a gathering of others, just sneaking off to see a movie by one self.
The theater parking lot was packed when I first pulled into the lot.  Yet for some reason I decided to gamble on finding a spot in the first row of parking spots.  And wouldn't you know it, just as I navigated down the row a car began to pull out and I was parked in record time.
I started to walk towards the box office and as I did I fell behind a group of teenage boys, probably on their way to see The Hobbit.  Yeah, I'm making assumptions.  What was specifically interesting about this group of guys was that one of them was wearing a black duster jacket and a hat.  This hat was one of those kinda pirate looking hats with a big red feather in it.  And I don't think this kid was wearing this get up ironically.  But what seemed odd is that no one else in that group, which he was the center of, resembled him at all.  It just struck me funny.
And just as I was going to shift my walking gears to a quicker pace and beat these gang of guys to the ticket window an older, fifty-ish couple stopped me.  They wanted to ask me a question.  I thought they were going to ask for directions or about a movie time.  Instead they asked me if I go to the movies often.
"Um, I suppose so," was my response.
They then proceeded to give me a gift card to this theater.  "This has $11 left on it and we never go to the movies" they said.
"Um...what movie did you just get out of?" I questioned.
"We saw Lincoln." the wife said.
"It was good." he followed.
"You're giving me a gift card to the movies, as you are leaving the movie theater, because you don't go to the movies?  Are you sure?"
"Oh, and here's a coupon for a free drink."
I stared at the blankly for a few moments and then a "wow, thank you" stumbled out of my mouth.
Not a bad outing to the movies.  Not bad at all.