Showing posts from April, 2007


On Saturday Stephanie and I stole a few hours away from the kids to be together.

First we headed to Brooklyn Park to watch my mom perform in a variety show that her school district (where she works) puts on each year to raise money for student scholarships. All in all it was a good show (we only stayed the first half). I felt like it was a little too punny to really be funny but we enjoyed watching my mom in her dance line number. I am both happy and impressed that she put in so much time and work, and that she connected with some other people and did a great performance. Way to go Mom! Then, after the show we hit up Chipotle and enjoyed some tasty Mexican grub in the beautiful warm sun outside at one of the sidewalk tables.

*On the side - it was funny when Stephanie and I were scolded by an older woman behind us for 'fighting' (flirting) with one another in between acts at the show ~ haven't felt like I was 12 years old for awhile.

Outreach Lessons From Denny's

If you didn't catch my post on outreach lessons from Denny's you can read it over at a really cool site place where I am a guest blogger, Church Marketing Sucks.

Hope For The Hokies

I heard Chris Tomlin talking about this site ( on my local Christian radio station yesterday. The guys from the Passion music movement have created a place where they are giving away some great song downloads as a way of spreading some hope in the wake of the VT tragedy. There is also a Facebook group that you can join.

Check it out and pass it along to anyone you know who might benefit from this.

Using Technological Tools for Kingdom Purposes

I love what Denny's restaurant is doing to try and attract the college crowd, via Nation's Restaurant News...
Denny’s plan is to become a “social gathering” place for students who want to study for exams or meet with friends over a sit-down meal instead of grabbing a quick burger at a fast-food drive-thru, Polydoroff said. To lure them in during the promotion, Denny’s is offering meal deals because students are on a budget, he said, and using free Wi-Fi, text messages and banner ads on to communicate with students because they are heavy users of those media.“It’s pretty new and significant for us,” Polydoroff said. “We never did text messaging before.”Marketing support also includes direct mail, coupons and ads in college newspapers.Denny's is striving to communicate to their desired customers in a way that those people can understand. This is the business world's attempt at 'meeting people where they are at.' Younger generations of people are mor…

Website Update: The Resurgence

The Resurgence is a great site from the teaching ministry of Mars Hill Church that provides free resources for theological training. These resources include articles, blogs, podcasts and vodcasts on all sorts of theological subjects. In their own words...
Resurgence is a movement that resources multiple generations to live for Jesus so that they can effectively reach their cities with the gospel by staying culturally accessible and Biblically faithful.The website has recently had some minor changes that I think make it look much cleaner, modern and attractive. I recommend that anyone who reads my blog and has any interest in theology should bookmark this site and use it for your own benefit.

(HT: Matt Morgan)

Mark's Ongoing Ministry Lists

Mark keeps adding lists from his sessions at the National New Church Conference. Here are a couple more he's sharing.

5 Keys to Creativity:

#1 Keep Learning
#2 Exegete Culture
#3 Brand Sermons
#4 Disrupt Routines
#5 Keep Experimenting

Seven Steps to Sermon Branding:

#1 Come up with a series title
#2 Create a series logo
#3 Design a series evite and invite
#4 Brainstorm Big Ideas
#5 Shoot a Series Trailer
#6 Design a microsite.
#7 Add Sermon Props

Movie Review: The Pursuit of Happyness

Took the family to Applebee's last night for some 1/2 off appetizers. After working a long day it was great to come home, clean up and then spend some time just hanging with my wife and kids. When we got home we tried unsuccessfully to put the kids to bed (Izzy was afraid of monsters) and so we all ended up downstairs watching the movie Stephanie selected for us, The Pursuit of Happyness. This is a great movie.

In the movie (based on a true story) Will Smith plays a man named Chris Gardner. Gardner is a hard working man determined to support and raise his son (played by Will's real life son Jadan), but he is having an extremely hard time selling a medical device that he used his life savings to buy. After his girlfriend walks out Chris is left to try and provide for himself and his son on very limited income. With the hope of future security and happiness he takes an unpaid internship at an extremely competitive stock-brokerage firm. The movie details Chris' dogged de…

Seven Keys to Maximizing Your Environment

Another great list from Mark on Seven Keys to Maximizing Your Environment...

#1 Be Yourself
#2 Stay Positive
#3 Establish Boundaries
#4 Little Things are Big Things
#5 Think like a Guest
#6 Exceed Expectations
#7 Cast Vision Like Crazy

6 Communication Keys

Mark Batterson shares 6 Communication Keys...

#1 The Law of Scope: less is more
#2 The Element of Surprise: violate expectations
#3 The Picture Principle: a picture is worth ten million words
#4 The Law of Metaphors: say old things in new days

#5 The Authenticity Test: you are the message
The Law of Emotion: stronger emotion equals longer memory

The Paper Wallet

One thing I love about blogging is that I find stuff on other peoples' blogs that I would never find by myself. Here is a great example of that. I actually made one of these myself this morning in about 20 minutes. Pretty fun if you want a small project to kill some time.

The Mess of the Messenger

I recently watched a difficult message from a teaching pastor at a church whose senior pastor had, only days before, resigned due to adultery. These kinds of events are tragic in the lives of all people in a church. The coming months will be filled with all kinds of questions, hurts, anger, and pain. Events like these cut people deep and feelings don't go away quickly.

The reason I bring it up is because the teaching pastor said something that I think everyone should be reminded of, if, God forbid, they find themselves in the same situation as this abused congregation is in. I am paraphrasing but he said, "The mess of the messenger does not deny the truth of the message."

Which means, just because the pastor of that church committed a great sin, it doesn't mean that all the truth of the Bible and the things he taught about Christ are now false. The way that the Spirit has worked in the church is not thwarted by the sin of its primary leader.God's truth will a…

Updated Balvin Family Photos

There are new photos on our Flickr site. To view them you can click here, or you can click on the link in the sidebar.

Notes on Notes from Joyce Meyer on Leadership

Ben posted some of his highlights from A Leader in the Making by Joyce Meyer. I listed a few of the most relevant ones to my life in the bullet points below. All the commentary is mine.
We become refined by going through trials, so don't try to avoid themI really dislike trials so I try to avoid them. I sometimes think life would be so much better if I could just cruise through without any challenges or problems. It is difficult to look for the good in a trial. Like the old expression seeing the forest through the trees. Trials can loom so large in our minds that we are unable to see anything else, not to mention seeing what God could possibly be calling us to on the other side of the trial.
We need to be patient with other people because it's not their fault we're not where we should be spirituallyThis is such a great reminder that if we focused more on becoming like Christ ourselves than our problems with others would take care of themselves. I think there is a Bibl…

All Such Boasting is Evil

For most of my life adult life I have lived as though things were under my control. What I did, who I did it with, and where I did it were all decisions that I believed were mine to make. Now, after being shaken by this, my thinking is changing.

New Life Church Website

Props to Terry Storch and the web team at Life Church. The new site looks great. Very clean. Very clear. Very user friendly. I love it.

Awesome T-Shirt

Now that it is baseball season again I know that I can expect a regular ribbing from my father-in-law whenever the Red Sox are not playing well. He grew up in the Bronx and is a big Yankee guy. My friend Margaret pointed out this awesome t-shirt that I really want to get for our next family gathering. Being a fan of the evil empire herself I know Stephanie won't get it for me; so, just in case God places it on anyone else's heart, I am a size large.

MN Wild On Thin Ice

The MN Wild haven't looked real spectacular this post season. Although their win last night keeps the hopes of Wild faithful alive, considering that only 2 teams in NHL history have comeback after being down 3-0 in a seven game series I wouldn't get too optimistic. On the bright side, at least we are not Atlanta and getting thrashed by the New York Rangers.

Sorry, Gary.

David Crowder Band's New CD "Remedy"

Pretty pumped about the upcoming release of a new David Crowder Band CD "Remedy" this fall. I am a big fan of their music and the array of sounds they use. DCB's creativity is seemingly unlimited, as evidenced by this music video they put together for their song "Foreverandever..." Check it out, its pretty cool.

Some questions...

How powerful is God? Can he completely rewire us and make us view people and situations in ways we never thought possible? Should we, as his followers, be excited and long for this kind of thing? What role does sin play in the prevention, disruption of such change? Why was humanity created? To display the glory of God? To enjoy relationship with him? Why should we think that God would get enough glory/ share enough loving relationship with people on earth only? How much time do I spend asking God to do things in my life that I, though at the time actually don't want him to do, but I know need to be done to prepare me for eternity? How do I consistently love my wife like Jesus loved the Church? Whats flaw/ troubles/ issues does God have purposefully in my life right now (Ross) because he has a refining/ transforming work that he wants to do? How do I bring a cup of cold water to the people suffering around me?

Buzz Conference 2007

Stephanie and I are planning a 5 year wedding anniversay trip to DC this summer. Pretty excited about hooking up with a few bloggers/pastors while we are there. We're also praying that God might open a door for us to attend this conference. If you are a pastor with an interest in the positive collision of church and culture, click here.

Weekend Wrap-Up

I am really proud of Stephanie's accomplishments in the Tupperware business (here is her website). Since starting as a consultant 2 and a half years ago God as blessed us and Stephanie has done extremely well. She often handles different aspects of the teaching as team business meetings and she is one of the top consultants on a very large team.

Friday Stephanie left town for a one day Tupperware training in Madison, WI. It was major event with over 500 men and women in attendance. Stephanie got up on stage and did a 5 minute training session on 'Using the Internet Recruitment Tools.' The training went well and she even got a hug from the Tupperware CEO/President.

Thankfully I was able to clear my Friday afternoon work schedule and spend the day with the kids. We had fun wrestling, eating a hot dog dinner at Sam's Club, looking at the animals at Cabela's, playing in the MCC playland, and watching a movie. Then my wonderful mom came over on Saturday and took c…

To My Small Group

Small group,

After all we have gone through discussing food and fasting and sacrifice I think that we deserve to indulge our appetites a little bit. I suggest that we make this wonderful dessert. If any of you are up to it click here to get the recipe to something amazing.

Hungry with anticipation of your participation,

(HT: Gary Lamb)

Lenten Caffeine Haiku

No caffeine for lent.

I missed drinking coffee much.

Glad lent is over.

Google 411

Useful technological information like this is one of the reasons I started loving Terry Storch's blog in the first place...

Don’t pay for any more stupid 411 calls that don’t even text you the information that you are paying for!!!! Google released there 411 service for free. I played with it this morning and works like you would think something from Google would…Start using it, just dial 1-800-GOOG-411 (1-800-466-4411) from any phone.

Balvin Family Photos

Be sure to check out all the updated Balvin family photos (online courtesy of Flickr). You can use the link on the side of this page or for a nice slide show you can click here.

Evening Rundown

Stephanie was in Owatonna tonight doing a Tupperware party and her mom graciously offered to watch Andrew so it was just Jacob, Isabelle and I tonight. Here's rundown of the night with Dad.

4 pm - Jog to the park
4:45 pm - Move on to the next park
5:30 pm - Head off to the Monticello Community Center to go swimming
6:30 pm - Dry off by playing in the MCC play land
7:00 pm - Hang out at the 'coffee station' (Caribou Coffee)
7:30 pm - Wander the toy isles of Target eating some bread samples we found in the bakery area (Jacob is all about the animals and Izzy is all about dress up and Barbie)
8:00 pm - Eat hot dogs, chips and salsa, and apple juice for dinner
8:45 pm - Read a couple books, brush teeth, pray, sing, hugs and kisses, sleep

I wonder if I will ever stop marveling at how beautiful and precious my kids are?

It was pretty special to watch Jacob put his own Velcro shoes on tonight, though it was sad for two reasons: 1) I promised myself my kids would never wear Velcro shoes, 2…

3 Things I Learned Last Week in Leadership

Last week I wrote a very brief, one sentence post about the terrible day I was having. Mainly it was because I had a couple problems with employees and the frustration and agony over some hard decisions that were needing to be made was weighing on me.

Long story short, the more minor employee issue was resolved with a conversation Friday afternoon; funny how often having a simple conversation relieves stress from our lives. Unfortunately the larger problem took much more energy to resolve and involved the firing of an assistant manager that had worked for the company for three years and the rehiring of the same employee the next day.

Rather than me getting into the gory details let me elaborate on a few of the lessons I learned through the whole deal.

Lesson #1 - When there is a problem be sure you gather all the facts before you make decisions.
When I first caught wind of the developing situation I reacted to the information rather than gathering more information. This led to decis…

New Bethel Hockey Captain

Congratulations to my brother Jeff on being named one of Bethel's three hockey captains next season. It is an honor that I desperately wanted and never deserved but one Jeff never once mentioned and completely deserved.

Easter at the Door

Wow, Easter has already come and gone again. I hope that you had a wonderful day remembering the risen Savior Jesus Christ.

I had great Sabbath Sunday. Church of the Open Door did a fantastic job on the production side of things in the service this morning. The staging and lighting were very well done and they added a key element to the celebration experience. Musically, the place was rocking. Here is the majority of the set list...

Mighty to Save - Hillsong
Make a Joyful Noise/All the Earth - David Crowder Band
My Glorious - Delirious?
Sing to the King (Come Let Us Sing a Song) - Billy James Foote
Thank You for Hearing Me - David Crowder Band

End of Service: Jesus Paid It All - Kristian Stanfill

I didn't really get to listen to the message so I don't have much to comment on that. I was just impressed with the combination of lighting and music.

Date Night

Had a great date night with Stephanie yesterday.

My brother Aaron gave us a couple tickets to the Minnesota Wild game and my mom was kind enough to watch the kids so that we could get out of the house and be adults for a few hours. We had fun watching the Wild beat-up on the St. Louis Blues. Then we stopped at Chipotle on the way home and got a super filling late dinner. It was the end of the night so the woman at Chipotle put 'extra everything' on our burritos. Needless to say, we were stuffed.

It felt good to end a hectic exhausting week by just being alone, laughing and enjoying the evening with Stephanie.

Odds and Ends

Looking forward to being able to process and write about a couple of the things that have been happening this week; I am learning some serious leadership lessons. I have also had fun bringing Jacob and Izzy to work with me. Only one more day of this insane schedule and then I get another Sabbath day of rest. Love it. Hoping to sell my truck soon to a kid at work. Congrats to Daryl and Amy on the healthy birth of Gavin James Becker yesterday afternoon.

Can't wait for Easter. Resurrection celebration. Lunch with family. Watching final day of the Master's. Nap. Amen. Good night.

Bad Day Blues

Right now I am really wishing today was already tomorrow.

More to come...

Parenting Is An Adventure

Stephanie would kill me if Jacob did this, but I would still laugh. Even if I was dead.

Mascots in Children's Ministry

I wrote a post as a guest blogger for the Church Marketing Sucks blog examining my experience as the A&W Root Beer Bear mascot and asking the question,
But couldn't we at least use a mascot to engage the kids in hearing about Jesus? Why not use something larger than life to teach kids about the one who truly is larger than life? My instinct and experience tells me that our kids would go nuts over this kind of thing. It is sort of like how on children's Sunday the pastor always uses puppets. There is something about the fantasy that hooks the attention of kids.There have been some really great comments. It sounds like the mascot idea is working well in many children's ministries across the country. You can read the entire post and comments here.

Wild Pitch By Cincinnati Mayor

Pretty pumped about the MLB season beginning. My hometown MN Twins are off to a great 2-0 start. But I am cheering most for the Boston Red Sox. Yes, I am a proud part of the Red Sox nation.

I enjoyed playing baseball growing up. I was a catcher, so I saw my share of wild pitches, but I have never seen anything quite like the pitch thrown by the Cincinnati mayor at the Reds opening day game.

No Mommy? No Matter

Stephanie is taking a continuing education class tonight so that she can get her teaching license renewed. This leaves me at home alone with the three darlings.

Here is a rundown of a fairly typical evening when I stay home with them all and we can't go to the park or play land.

4:30-5:00 - Play time, wrestling
5:00-6:00 - Kids TV shows for Jacob and puzzles for Isabelle
6:00-7:00 - Dinner for Andrew then the kids
7:00-7:45 - Bath time for JT and Izzy
7:45-8:00 - PJ's on, Play time, Andrew goes to bed
8:00-8:30 - American Idol/Deal or No Deal, puzzles and books, night time snack
8:30-9:00 - Prayers, singing, story telling, hugs and kisses, Sleep

*Random fact: When the kids went into the bath tonight I counted 27 toys/toy parts floating in the water and another 15 in a bucket next to the tub! Holy cow!

A Theology of Complications

I have a theology of complications. Sin complicates your life in negative ways. God complicates your life in positive ways. I believe that complications are part of God's blessing. Remember the parable of the talents? The reward for good work was more work. In other words, God complicates our lives! And it's a blessing.Thanks for the reminder Mark.

My Strengths Can Be My Weaknesses

Last week I had dinner with some friends of mine from Bethel Seminary, one of whom is a leadership mentor to me. I always appreciate being around him because he helps me learn about my strengths and how to apply them in my life. Plus I know that he believes in me and wants the best for me in life.

After the meal he and I were talking in his office about some of the things I am learning in counseling (yup - counseling). I was wondering how my strengths fit in with some of the more negative behaviors I am working through.

My friend told me that some of things that factor into my negative behavior are actually God-given talents gone haywire. He said that in many ways I have a hard-wiring from heaven and so the goal shouldn't be to eliminate everything, but rather to redeem it and use it for God-honoring behaviors.

A few days later I read Steven Furtick say much of the same thing. It is like this...
Through my son, I’m learning that the ancient axiom couldn’t be more true:
Every virt…

Good Leaders Makes the Tough Calls

Monday Morning Insight recently shared a list of 10 Observations From Churches Who 'Get It.' One of the observations was...
These churches are not afraid to make tough calls. If they see a ministry that needs cut, they’ll cut it. A staff member that’s not pulling his/her weight? They’ll reassign them or help ‘free their future’. They are not afraid to make gutsy and/or controversial calls. And best of all, it is their vision and mission that make these decisions, according to them, much easier.I later read this on Here are some excerpts...
Claude Julien was fired as coach of the first-place New Jersey Devils on Monday and replaced by general manager Lou Lamoriello with less than a week to go in the regular season.

The firing comes after the Devils won four of their last five games. The team is in first place in the Atlantic Division.

The firing came less than 24 hours after New Jersey beat Boston 3-1 to take a one point lead over the Pittsburgh Penguins. Th…

Cast Your Vote Now

Tony Morgan highlights a really neat thing New Spring Church did to incorporate innovation, technology and audience participation into one of their service. This takes church 'worship wars' to a whole new level.
At the conclusion of the service, Perry talked about the upcoming series. He introduced four songs--one of which will be played at next week's services. Folks used their bulletins and their cell phones to cast votes for their favorite song. You'll have to join us next week to see what song wins.

To Follow Jesus May Entail Abandoning Something

Read this on Casey's blog tonight and found it extremely fitting for Stephanie and I right now...
for you that there would be a day in your life, a moment in time, when you would have to abandon, temporarily, something that is very, very important to you in order to follow Jesus."This morning, Andy went on to say that when you do this you will discover who you are and whose you are. He's right.I'm not sure what it is necessarily that we need to abandon, but I'm sure that God will make that clearer in the near future.

Laying Down My Life

I was struck by something I noticed happening inside myself on Saturday while I was delivering Easter Lilies.

I had a couple stops in Northeast Minneapolis and as I drove through the city I wondered how safe it would be to live in homes around me. I remembered Tim Keller and his sermons on loving the city, and I thought about how important it is for the Gospel to take root in the city because social change so often begins in the city. I recalled the words of Jesus in Scripture about God's concern for the poor running through my mind, and I was sad because of how run down and impoverished the neighborhood was. But I also knew that I didn't want to live there. And so I drove away from the city conflicted by the fact that even though, theoretically, the city needs so much help, practically I just couldn't picture my wife and I purposefully moving there and raising our kids in the midst of everything.

My next stops after leaving Minneapolis were in Mendota Heights and Apply …

On My Sabbath

I really look forward to spending time with my family on Sunday's. I'm an ISTJ and the introvert in me gets a major butt kicking at work all week. After working in a customer service job which includes a lot of employee interaction and supervision I am exhausted by the end of a 6 day run at things.

On Sunday's I recharge by sleeping in a little, getting the kids dressed and going to church together, grabbing lunch with friends, watching sports on TV, catching up on some book/blog reading, wrestling with the kids on the floor, and watching Extreme Home Makeover with Stephanie. Sometimes I even steal a nap.

Today is nice because everyone is sleeping except for Andrew and I. The only noise in the house is the furnace blowing warm air and my little man crawling around the room investigating anything in arms reach and making sweet baby noises. I can't believe how big Drew is! He just turned seven months old a few days ago and he's already crawling around, pulling hi…