Friday, October 30, 2009

Starting a new small group

I'm starting a new small group soon.  Having been involved in leading small groups for a dozen years, I've missed it since we brought our Crossroads group to a close in July when the store closed.  It's been 3 months now since I've connected in a meaningful way with the same group of people on a weekly basis and that creates a void that leaves me empty because you and I are made for community. 

I was first introduced to small groups in 1996 while I was attending a week-long workshop in Colorado.  The leader of the workshop explained to us that he would not join the rest of us one night for dinner because his small group met each week on that night.  He had been traveling the previous week and missed the group meeting and his group had all made a commitment not to miss two consecutive meetings.   I was intrigued by this commitment and later questioned him about it, learning more about his small group and their purpose. His group was comprised of about 10 people who met weekly to study the Bible, pray and share life together.  They had developed a covenant that outlined the ground rules of the group (built around transparency, trust, confidentiality, accountability, and commitment) and had been together for more than five years.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Choosing a birthday card

I spent a ridiculous amount of time recently choosing a birthday card for my wife, Julia.  (Let me clarify myself  . . .  that's not to say that Julia isn't worth that time!)  When I worked in Christian retail and handled greeting cards every day, I could pick one out in a nanosecond.  Today, not so much.  If the folks monitoring the security cameras in the store where I was shopping had a camera trained on me, they must have been wondering what was going on.  I moved up and down the aisles reading cards, then circling around again and reading some more.  Just how hard can it be to pick out a birthday card?  In a nutshell, here's the problem:  there are too many choices.  I think Henry Ford may have had the right idea when he offered his first mass-produced car in any color you like, as long as you like black. Having such a vast number of choices in cards just gets me in trouble.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lizzie is my "Wild Thing"

Our older son, Zack, took his mom and me to see the movie version of  "Where the Wild Things Are" that opened this weekend. It's based on a book that we read to Zack a gazillion times (that's right, a gazillion) as a kid.  If you're not familiar with the book, it's described by IMDb as "an adaptation of  Maurice Sendak's classic children's story, where Max, a disobedient little boy sent to bed without his supper, creates his own world--a forest inhabited by ferocious wild creatures that crown Max as their ruler."  It hard to believe that they can turn an 11 sentence children's classic into a 90 minute movie, but they did!

My favorite part of the movie is when Max instructs the Wild Things with the command, "Let the wild rumpus start!" and all of them, including Max, begin howling.  It was then that I realized that our dog, Lizzie, is a Wild Thing.  She howls just like that when I get her started.  All this time I thought she was a Corgi (or at least a Corgi mix) but now I know for certain that she's really one of Max's Wild Things!

My dogs are a blast although they are very different in many respects.  Lizzie has been described as A.D.D. (attention deficit dog) because she craves  . . . no, demands attention.  She will continually nuzzle her snout under your hand to try to get you to rub her.  She's persistent and usually wins the battle.  She's a sweetie, too and she gets along famously with our other dog, Rags, whom I wrote about in an earlier post.  She doesn't understand that humans interpret growling as something quite negative because she growls at you for all the wrong reasons.   She's been known to growl when she wants you to pet her, or let her outside, or play with her.  You can imagine how disconcerting this could be to a kid who meets her for the first time. She snores, too but then so do I and Julia still lets me live here.  All in all, she's still a great dog and a fun addition to our family of  Wild Things!

If you don't already have a copy, I hope you'll read the book, Where the Wild Things Are.  It's a keeper and the movie's pretty good, too.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Published on MTL again

I'm pleased to have another article published on  MTL (More to Life) is a publication that addresses the concerns of Christian women.

Why would a guy have an article on a women's magazine?  While the subject is about a particular dilemma many men are facing, most of MTL's readers are married (and married to men, I might add) and, for that reason, I think it could prove to be very helpful to that reader.  Apparently, their editor thought so, too!

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you'll recognize the article as a post I first published here a couple of months ago.

Take a few minutes and look over their site here.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Truth or Consequences

I received an e-mail from an acquaintance who's fond of forwarding purportedly true (and usually, political) stories that all too often prove to be completely false.   Occasionally, I fact-check his e-mails and find them to be erroneous but just let it go.  I decided, however, to call him out on this last one since I was growing weary of being in his channel of misinformation.  My rebuke provided evidence to clarify the facts and was fair but firm. He didn't like it . . . not even a little bit.  This was not the first time that he has been called out by a recipient of his e-mails.  A couple of months ago, another recipient had used the "Reply to All" to correct him and set the record straight on a defamatory and completely false report he circulated.  Since that time, he's elected to conceal his list of recipients and I suspect that's to protect himself from another "Reply to All" embarrassment. His response that time was that he normally checks his facts but this one slipped by.   Oddly enough, that's precisely the same excuse that he gave me this time, too.  Hmmmmm  . . . I'm starting to think that he probably doesn't check the validity of the stories that support his political position.  That's his right.  He can choose to believe what he wants and decline to validate what he hears.  Where I think he crosses the line is when he chooses to share those bogus stories with others under the pretense that they are valid.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A blog by any other name . . .

I made a minor adjustment to my blog recently by changing the blog title from (the URL or domain name) to just words.  The URL or domain name remains the same, the title has just been modified to something I think is more appropriate.

It's not exactly earth-shattering news but I thought I'd point it out.  

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Tale of Two Jims

I'm encouraged and inspired by people who are far-sighted, who understand that they are players in something bigger than themselves.  I have two friends, both named Jim, who have modeled that for me in recent years. Both of them left successful careers to return to the classroom but this time to teach because they realized that teaching was perhaps the most effective way that they could positively impact the future. 

Jim Koehr graduated at the top of his class from Notre Dame, had been an associate in one of the nation's most prestigious consulting firms, and was hired at the corporate office of the company with which I spent 20 years in my first career.  He was brilliant!  He was instrumental in transforming our company, first by completely redesigning our MIS department and making it the leader in our industry.  He took over other divisions, reinvented them and advanced to Vice President in short order, all the while still looking like a kid just out of college!  When the privately-held company sold to a group of foreign investors, Jim took the opportunity to apply his expertise to several other companies that he bought but the most striking decision he made was to teach.  Jim told me once that he realized that his greatest potential to impact history might just be in shaping the lives of students so that's what he did.  He signed on to teach upper level high school math and coach at Seton School in Manassas, Virginia.

Jim Perry took a different route to the same destination.  He began college right out of high school but found it beyond his financial means to continue at the time.  He enlisted in the military and spent the next 10 years, first as a Korean linguist and later as a Spanish linguist. He left the military to return to his hometown and raise his family, where I first met him.  Jim came to work for me as a service representative at the industrial uniform company that I managed and was later named as our plant manager.  Jim Perry demonstrated that, like Jim Koehr, he, too was brilliant!  He did a spectacular job running the plant operations and distinguished himself throughout the corporation as an innovator and leader in quality management.  He later was transferred to the company's top, state-of-the-art location to oversee the plant operations there.  When the company sold, Jim continued in the industry for a time but came to the same conclusion as Jim Koehr.  He, too, wanted to make a lasting difference in the world so he stepped-down from his job, returned to Fairhope and started back to college to earn a degree in education.  Over the next 4 years, Jim held a full-time job and also went to school full-time, graduating with all A's.  Entering the education job market at perhaps the worst time in recent memory in our area, Jim was hired to teach a 6th grade class at Robertsdale (AL) Elementary School this fall.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Nothing left to steal

When I came back to Fairhope in the mid 1980's to open a new location of the company I worked for, I scouted the area to determine where we would first focus our efforts.  As I drove down Martin Luther King Blvd. in Prichard (a suburb of Mobile, AL) trying to identify the industrial areas that would be our most likely customers, I drove through what once had been a prosperous downtown shopping district.  Most of the stores were now closed but I stopped my car in front of one building and read a message spray painted on the boarded-up windows.  The sign read:  Nothing left to steal.  I was stunned.  I had never seen such a blatant sign of depression and the stark reality of the plight of this community was sobering.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Published in Relevant

Last week, Relevant Magazine published an article that I wrote for them.  If you've followed this blog for a while, you may recognize it as an expansion of an earlier post that I wrote here.  I'm pleased that Relevant published it and and with the response that it's received.  If you want to read it on their site, click here.

Relevant is a somewhat edgy publication that has a target audience in their 20's.  Their readers might be surprised to know that this article was written by someone old enough to be their dad!

Let me know what you think by commenting here or on the Relevant site.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Train wreck!

I never claimed to be a computer geek.  When I transferred my domain name ( from the account under which it was created at Christ United Methodist Church to a new account in my name , I messed it up and my blog disappeared.  Yikes!    How was I to know that I had to set up a hosting server?  I still am not sure what that is or how this happened but the fact that you're reading this is proof that I got help from the coolest geek I know, Janet Reid, a web designer extraordinaire!

This is just one of those times when I'm reminded of how little I know and how important it is to have some really great geeky friends.  Thanks Janet  . . . you're the best!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Friendship among men

Today I had lunch with a friend of mine and was reminded of how important friendships are among men.  Jack Wade and I got to know each other through the Christian retail industry when I owned a store and the relationship continued when later I managed another store for someone else.  Jack is a sales rep for Dicksons, the #1 distributor of Christian gifts.  He's a very competent sales rep but over time I also learned that he's just a great guy, too and what started out as a purely business relationship turned into a friendship over the years.  I'm no longer in the Christian retail industry so his continued relationship with me offers no professional benefit to him. Nonetheless, he called me yesterday to say that he was going to be in the area and asked if I'd like to meet him for lunch.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Attic treasures

In a post last week, I explained why Julia and I were prompted to clean out our attic.  I'll spare you the stinky details but you can read about it here if you really want to know.  The up side to that adventure was that we decided to remove everything from the attic, sort it into keep, sell, and toss piles and thoroughly clean the attic before putting things back.  Did I say that was the up side?  There's really never going to be a up side to having to completely clean out your attic.  What I meant was that there was ultimately a benefit to all of this work. 

We've lived in this house for 24 years, since our sons were 1 and 4 years old.  Among the items stored in the attic were some of their childhood toys, clothing and furniture and pulling everything out  was like opening a time capsule for us.  Many of the items we unpacked were things I had not seen for more than 20 years!  We're really not pack rats and were judicious in the childhood items that we had kept, saving only those things that we thought held the most memories and would be most likely to be something that they would appreciate as adults or as parents themselves one day.  The antique iron baby bed that both of them slept in, a wooden rocking horse, trains, and some clothing were among the items that we had chosen to keep.  Each of them brought back a flood of memories for us and we were thankful that we had saved them. 

I'm equally thankful that we did not try to keep many of the other items from their childhood.  It would have been a shame to have had many usable things stored away in an attic when they could have been put to use by another family.  I hope that Zack & Peter can appreciate the things that they shared with other kids as much as the select ones that we saved for them and their kids to share one day. 

Saturday, October 3, 2009

New widget or . . . .at least, new to me

My kids are so much brighter than me and I suppose it means that they got their smarts from their mother!  Zack, my older son, told me today that I can add a widget to my Google homepage for any website I choose and he had added one for my blog.  For an old guy, I'm not completely inept on a computer but I may be the last person to have learned about this tool. 

If you use Google as your homepage and want to utilize this tool, just click this link to get to it. I hope you find this useful.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Finding a new church home, the journey continues . . .

Julia and I think we're getting closer to discerning where we should make our new church home.  True to form, God is stretching us in that search and taking us to unfamiliar territory.  It would just be so easy to slip into a church where we already have many friends and are familiar with their ministry but that doesn't seem to be where God is leading us.  He has prepared us for service and He's calling us to that.  As important as service is to where we land, it's equally important that we go there with the full expectation that we will continue to grow in our faith through our association with His people there. 

Wherever we land, it will be a place where we can both offer a hand-up to others and expect that God will already have planted someone there who will offer a hand-up to us.  That, I think, is the essence of discipleship  . . . being both a teacher and a learner all at the same time.

Are you both a leader and a learner?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Cultural Christians

In a sermon that I was listening to this past week, the pastor referred to Cultural Christians.  He didn't go into detail in defining the term but said enough that I knew what he meant.  Later, I thought about people I know who might fit the definition of Cultural Christians, those who would identify themselves as Christians because they live in what's considered a Christian culture but who don't demonstrate or acknowledge that they have a personal relationship with Christ.

Many of us start out as Cultural Christians, I know that I did.  I was raised in a home where my mother took us to Sunday school and church each week  . . . I was living in a Christian culture.  That didn't, however, make me a Christian.   My decision as a teenager to follow Christ is what made me a Christian.  I'm not slamming the Christian culture in any way because that's the very thing that has led many of us into a personal relationship with Christ.  What I am concerned about is the many people who comfortably live in the Christian culture and mistakenly consider themselves to be a Christian without ever having a personal relationship with Christ, himself.