Thursday, March 31, 2011

9 Steps for Goal Accomplishment

A friend sent me a link to an article by Heidi Halvorson called "9 Things Successful People Do Differently."  There are some helpful ideas in the article.
... decades of research on achievement suggests that successful people reach their goals not simply because of who they are, but more often because of what they do.
Here are the 9 things Halvorson suggests:

1. Get Specific
2. Seize the Moment to Act on Your Goals
3. Know Exactly How Far You Have Left to Go
4. Be a realistic Optimist
5. Focus on Getting Better Rather Than on Being Good
6. Have Grit
7. Build Your Willpower Muscle
8. Don't Tempt Fate
9. Focus on What You Will Do, Not What You Won't Do

*For more on using each of these strategies, check out Halvorson's book Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Difficult, but Dead-On Word for Parents on Sacrifice

Justin Buzzard posted this quote today.  Hard word.  Good word.
The only way that your children will grow beyond their dependency into self-sufficient adults is for you to essentially abandon your own independence for twenty years or so…You can make the sacrifice, or they’re going to make the sacrifice. It’s them or you. Either you suffer temporarily and in a redemptive way, or they’re going to suffer tragically, in a wasteful and destructive way. -Tim Keller, King’s Cross
If by some amazing, God-ordained way you read my blog and live in the San Jose, CA area then you really need to check out the church Justin and his wife are planting called Garden City Church.  I've been following Justin via blog and Twitter for over 2 years and the guy is a solid, Jesus-loving pastor.  If we lived in San Jose Garden City Church is where we'd go.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Untold Story of America's Largest Slave Revolt

On Thursday I was looking through the book racks at the Northfield library and my eyes landed on the book American Uprising: The Untold Story of America's Largest Slave Revolt.  I haven't read much history in the last 2 or 3 years and I was immediately interested in the book.  So far it is an interesting and informative narrative that balances the author's story telling ability with a large amount of historical writings.  I am learning all kinds of stuff I didn't know about American slavery in the New Orleans proper and the greater Louisiana territory.  The injustices suffered by Africans and blacks in the name of personal prosperity and national economic growth are tragic. 

What was really interesting was the author's mention of the Haitian slave revolt that brought the country of Haiti independence from the French during the time of Napoleon.  Before the revolt, on the backs and ultimately the lives of slaves, Haiti was an incredibly prosperous nation producing vast amounts of sugar and produce exports.  Following the slave revolt exports dried up and poverty ensued.  It is deeply saddening that a country with such natural potential is now in such ruin.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Random Thoughts

- I wrote a praise song for our pre K - Grade 3 kids at church tonight.  I think they liked it.
- Been feeling emotionally and spiritually drained the last couple days.
- I'm seriously ready to go back to work.  BTW- did you see this report on the difference in unemployment rates among MN blacks and whites? MN is worst in the nation.  Crazy.
- Looking forward to Elephant Room next week thanks to the generosity of this guy.
- Picking up the house is a constant battle, same goes with the laundry.
- I was blessed to attend two Wild game this week.  Sunday was an 8-1 loss to Montreal, and Tuesday a 3-0 loss to Toronto.
- Lately I've been thinking about the spiritual significance and spiritual influences of dreams.
- I need to lose about 30 lbs.  That stinks.

Man-Up 20 Something Men!

I have a growing conviction that most young people come out of college drastically unprepared for real life.  College is largely an extension of adolescent life and an incubator of alcohol abuse, sexual exploration, atheism, left-wing political activism and an addiction to virtual life through Facebook and hours upon hours of video game mastery.  Life skills like budgeting, communication skills in relationships, integrity, investing wealth, reducing debt, and planning for your future are things that college passes right over.

What many students are left with after 4-5 years of college are huge debts, an entire collection of Halo games, little passion or plan for their careers, and a closet full of skeletons.  Maybe that's being over dramatic - I obviously don't know your life.  But from my observations I see increasing numbers of young men who spend their time at college 'living it up' without spending any time seriously developing a plan for their futures.  The amount of money that 20 somethings spend eating out, drinking, and enjoying social activities is unbelievable.

I wonder how much different things would be if these same people lived more frugally, gave faithfully to a church, purchased homes and paid down the principle, set aside savings, prepared themselves for marriage and parenting, built their careers, and focused on entering manhood instead of extending adolescence.  It would be an amazing gift to offer a future spouse and family, Lord willing.

Sadly most people see the lessons of life most clearly in the mistakes of past.  I certainly know this is true for me.  One of the best pieces of advice I didn't take was my grandmother suggesting I buy a trailer home after college and live in it for a few years.  Now, maybe a trailer home isn't exactly my style, but the point is clear.  You're done with college.  It is time to man up and start building your future.

I know most guys don't want to hear this, but if you follow my advice I promise you you'll thank me in 10 years.  You need to plug into a church, start giving your money, buy your own house, lay out a plan for your future, decide the characteristics you want in a wife and then go find her, start saving for the kids you don't have yet, and commit to living on less than you are making.

If you are older than 24, it is time to start thinking about more important things that the next trip to Cancun, who has the best Happy Hour deals, and when Grand Theft Auto 825 will release.

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Danger of Walking in Darkness

Have ever stubbed your toe trying to walk in the dark?  I have done that so many times!  In fact, not too long ago I was lying in bed and I couldn’t remember if I had turned off all the lights downstairs and locked all the doors.  Have you ever done that?  I couldn’t get it out of my head so I got out of bed, and because the kids had just gone to sleep, I decided I’d just try and sneak quietly down the steps in the dark.  As I started going down the hallway all of a sudden, BAAM, I crashed into a pile of toys that were sitting in the hallway.  Honestly, I thought my heart was going to explode from the scare of the crash and from the scare of almost falling down the stairs!  Then I wondered if my wife had planted the toys to try and kill me!

Seriously though, walking in the dark is a dangerous thing to do because you can’t see the things that are trying, intentionally or not, to hurt you.  When I was 10 years old one of my responsibilities at home was to take out the garbage everyday after school.  It was a simple job but there were many times sports or TV or something else distracted me and I would forget.  One day during the wintertime my Dad came home from work and saw that I had once again not taken out the garbage.  I think he had a bad day at work because he was pretty tense and he told my brother and I that we had to get up and take the garbage out IMMEDIATELY!  

Well what you need to know about this situation is the place we brought the garbage to was way across the driveway of our farmland and behind a big metal shed.  And because it was winter it was already dark outside, especially by the garbage cans area which at underneath this wooden overhang.  My brother and I were terrified something was back there waiting to get us, and so we crept out of the house very slowly, huddled close together, and finalizing the plan of how we would just open the can lids, throw the bags inside and run back to the house.  We walked through the dark, and just as we came around the corner of the shed, a shadow jumped out of the darkness and yelled, BOOOO HAAAA HAAA HAAAA!  My brother took off running and I grabbed the garbage can lid to defend myself.  

The shadow turned out to be my dad who thought it would be funny to scare us!  To this day I am pretty proud of my self for choosing to stay and fight, while my brother ran away screaming, “I hate you Dad!”  But the point is this - darkness is scary and it isn’t a good place to be.  Like my mom always used to say, “Nothing good happens in the dark.”  And spiritual speaking that is absolutely correct.  

The Bible teaches us there is an enemy of God named Satan, and Satan leads a band of evil spirits who roam around like lions looking for was to steal, kill and destroy the lives of God’s people.  Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”  

It is the lies of Satan and his team of spirits and demons who call us down the wide, easy road.  These guys are excited by our destruction and they encourage it in ever way possible.  The Bible describes Satan as the Prince of Darkness, and Satan loves to trick people into thinking they know better than God how to lead their lives.  

Don't let them take you down.  Stand on the Word of Jesus, the Light of the World, and live in that light.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Some Thoughts About Choices

Everyday we are bombarded with choices.  Sometimes our choices are really easy (whether you wear a seat-belt), and sometimes they are really hard (to give away your virginity, to stand up to a bully).  Sometimes the choices we face are really big (who to date, what college), and sometimes they are small (what cd to listen to, what color fingernail polish).  

So here’s a question to consider when it comes to choices.  Who or what influences you to choose one thing instead of another?  All our choices are influenced by something.

Right now I am looking at changing jobs.  Deciding where to work is a major choice.  Maybe not for you guys, but when you’re my age and you have a family to think about there are all kinds of things that influence what I will choose.  I have to consider location, salary, work/life balance, job happiness, promotion potential, and many other things. 

There are all kinds of things that try to influence to choose one thing or another, and when it comes to deciding between McDonald’s and Jimmy Johns it doesn’t matter a whole lot what you chose.  But when it comes to some of the major decisions you’ll make it is critical that you get the best advice possible.  And that advice, I have learned comes from Jesus, and is written down in the Bible.

The Bible has a lot to say about choices, but there is on particular verse in Proverbs (14:12) that I have seen prove itself true over and over again.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death.

Have you ever spent time around someone who thinks they know it all?  Little kids are like this sometimes.  As a parent try to tell my kids the best way to live but over and over again they argue with me about things, and there is times that I simply get so exhausted arguing that I just say, “Fine.  Do it your way.”  And those situations usually don’t go so well for the kids.

Do you see what I mean?  My kids think they are really smart, but in reality they know so little about how life works, and when they follow their own path it usually ends up in trouble that they could have avoided by listening and following my words. 

And unfortunately, much of the time we treat Jesus and his advice they same way my kids treat me.  We argue with God, or we think the Bible is outdated, and we decide we know better than God.  But I have to ask, how’s that working for the world?  Better yet, how’s that working for you? 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Why I Need Jesus...because Sometimes I Get Lonely

Wednesday night I had the chance to speak to the youth ministry students at 1st Baptist Church in Minneapolis.  I spoke on the topic "Why I Need Jesus..." and I specifically focused on our need for Jesus when we feel lonely. 

Loneliness is a very real emotion for teenage students.  The pressure of wanting to fit in with their peers is great, and what too often happens is students compromise their faith beliefs in order to feel accepted and avoid loneliness.  I wanted the students to hear that Jesus accepts them exactly the way they are, without need or pressure to compromise.  Jesus loves us so much, just as we are, that he sacrificially died on a cross for us.  There is nothing we do to earn or to keep God's love.

The antidote to loneliness lies in 2 acts of the human will:
1.  Begin a real relationship with Jesus Christ
2.  Build your life on his acceptance of you, not on the acceptance of other

This a message that we as adults need to hear as well.  We seek the acceptance through all kinds of behaviors instead of seeking intimacy with Christ.  Continually seeking the acceptance of others is like climbing up the rungs of a ladder higher and higher through our own efforts only to repeatedly slip and fall down to the bottom again and again.  It is an exhausting, painful, losing battle.

However, when we find our acceptance in Christ, we have security that we will never be abandoned or forsaken.  Beginning a real relationship with Jesus and building your life on his love is like turning the ladder horizontally and simply walking across the cross of Christ into the arms of God.  Here all striving will cease and there will only remain peace and joy. 

 You can download and read my message outline, here.

Happy Birthday Stephanie - Nice Haircut!

Today is my wife's birthday.  Happy birthday sweetheart!  I love you.  PS...I love you new hair cut.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Andrew Batman Balvin

I've been blessed to spend a large amount of time with my son Andrew during the last 3 months.  We have enjoyed doing all kinds of activities together like going to Toddler Tuesday at the Mall of America, lunch at McDonald's play land, trips to the library, and lots and lots of wrestling.

Andrew is a high energy, always on-the-go kid who loves to be physical, takes on challenges, and be aggressive.  However, he is also cuddly, a good talker, and a smart little bugger.

Here is a candid picture of Andrew playing Batman.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

11 Strategies to Save a Dying Church

My friend Chris posted an article on his blog written by Bill Easum called "A Hail Mary Strategy for Turnaround."  In the article Easum lays out 11 things he thinks small churches must to do avoid dying out.  Here's a taste of his thinking:
Find a way to have a full time pastor/planter who will commit for three years . I know you can’t afford this at the moment but you must find a way or you will continue to decline. A part time pastor does not have the time to do all that is necessary to restart a church.

Develop one or two signature ministries.  Churches with less than 300 in worship can only do one or two key ministries. I suggest one of these be a children’s ministry fashioned after Promise Land from Willow Creek. You will not be able to afford  to purchase it, but you can easily put your own program together once you understand the basics.
There's a lot of advice in this article that will be beneficial for churches who are willing to die to themselves in order to reach out to their neighbors and cities.  Hail Mary scenarios are desperate and they take desperate people to pull off.  They are also scenarios that can produce amazing kingdom fruit though the supernatural working of Jesus.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A Third Way for Men

Men, read this post about lusty stallions.
The Bible offers men a third way, the path of true manhood: be a stallion.  - Justin Buzzard

Making Memories

One of the reasons I blog is so that I can look back at my life and see the things I've done and thought about, books I've read, places I've gone, changes in the kids, etc., etc.  One thing I am trying to do in 2011 is spend more money on experiences and less money on things.  Experiences will last so much longer than things, because experiences never break, lose parts, or get lost.  They stay with you in times of joy and sorrow and shared experiences deepen relationships.  Some of the experiences we've had so far in 2011 include:

Boys trip to International Falls, MN

Mall of America Waterpark

5 Guys Burger and Fries (Rochester)
Stephanie/Izzy girl's shopping and dinner
Breakfast at McDonald's w/ Jacob
MN Wild Game w/ Aaron (v. Buffalo)
Boy's trip to Let's Play Hockey Expo
Staying up late watching High School Hockey Tournament
Rock n' Roll Revival (Stephanie/Izzy)

- trips to MOA Toddler Tuesday 
- going to see Papa Craig's new semi-truck

Friday, March 11, 2011

I Don't Think We Need Unions, and I Think WI DFL Senators Acted Like Babies

I am not a big union guy.  I really don't see the point of unionizing with all of the worker's rights that have been passed into law, the crazy amount of political correctness swirling around everyone everywhere, the improvements in workplace safety regulations, and the ability of social media to alert the masses instantly to any corporate problems.  I my opinion unions do more to handcuff businesses and protect the wages and employment of poor workers than they do to help great workers get more benefits.

With all the noise unions make, and all the money they are able to shovel into democratic coffers I was surprised when I read this statistic on
Six to seven decades ago, more than one-third of all American workers were members of labor unions. That number has fallen to about 12 percent overall, with public employee unions left with the only real clout. Nearly 37 percent of public employees belong to a union. In the private sector only about 7.5 percent of workers now have union representation. 
The need for unions has run its course in the United States.  There was a time when unions were helpful to protect workers and to fight for the rights of the underprivileged.  That time is over.

Another thing.  I find the behavior and the statements of the Democratic Senators in WI absolutely ludicrous.
"In 30 minutes, 18 state senators undid 50 years of civil rights in Wisconsin. Their disrespect for the people of Wisconsin and their rights is an outrage that will never be forgotten," said Democratic Senate Minority Leader Mark Miller. "Tonight, 18 Senate Republicans conspired to take government away from the people."

AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, leader of the country's largest labor federation, said the anti-union action in Wisconsin was a "corruption of democracy"
Are these guys completely nuts?  How about the fact that when 14 elected officials didn't like the bill that was being passed by other elected officials they ran away and left the state to avoid doing their job.  That is the equivalent of my 6 year being mad about losing a board game, and so she runs away with all the game pieces preventing her brothers from finishing the game. 

Seriously, who is disrespecting the people, taking away government from the people, and corrupting democracy?  Just because you don't like the bill doesn't mean you can throw a fit, wet your pants, and blame someone else.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Right Intentions Alone Don't Equate to Right Actions

Another quote from Jay Richards book,
. . . [H]aving the right intentions, being oriented in the right way, doesn’t take the place of doing things right. A pilot’s caring deeply for his passengers and wanting to land a plane safely are no substitute for his learning how to actually land plans safely. . . . I hope you already have a heart for the poor. Lots of Christians do. But do you have a mind for the poor? Unfortunately that’s in rather short supply. (p. 35)
HT: Justin Taylor

Monday, March 07, 2011

Thinking Biblically About Ecomonics

A couple of good quotes from the book I am reading called Money, Greed and God by Jay W. Richards. 
No serious Christians writing about natural science would ignore the basic facts of chemistry and astronomy.  But too many Christian leaders feel free to ignore the basic facts of economics.

Thinking as a Christian doesn't mean we just slap some Bible verses on our economic views so they sound Biblical.  It means taking the core truths of faith and using them as a lens to cast new light on unexplored territory.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

I Am Suffering. Are You?

I've been thinking about suffering today.

At church this morning I was told that some close friends of Stephanie and I recently experienced the unthinkable tragedy of delivering a full-term baby who had no heart beat.  I cannot even begin to imagine how horrific this is for them.  My heart and prayers go out to them in this time of loss, pain, and suffering.

Sadly, my friends are not the only people close to me going through a time of suffering.  Others experiencing suffering include:
- a friend fighting brain cancer
- a friend worried about high blood pressure
- a brother who has been sick for days
- a sister who longs for a fiance in another country
- my parents who endure being apart while my dad trucks over the road
- my wife and I dealing with my unemployment
- a family at church with child issues
As much as we would like to avoid suffering, it is something which is very real in everyone's life.  If you are not suffering right now then praise God and build a solid faith foundation for when your time of suffering comes.

Suffering can feel crippling but it needn't be for Christians.  We serve a God who is BIGGER than our suffering and who is ABLE to sustain us, heal us, and renew our hope.

For those of you suffering right now, dwell on 1 Peter 5:10 and let it sink deep into your spirit as you push through your pain.
And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.
Right now it hurts.  Right now you have so many questions, so many doubts.  Right now it doesn't seem fair.  You feel alone.  You feel forgotten.  You feel sadness.  But your God is not far from you.  In his time he will restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.  Hope in the promise of his word and wait on him.

We will wait together.  All of us suffering together.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Book Review: Bringing Jon Home

Bringing Jon Home is the story of a family working with all available resources, and with a lack of governmental support, to find the body of their son who disappeared after summiting Grand Mogul, a mountain in Sawtooth Mountain Range of central Idaho in 2006.  The story of written by David Francis, the father of Jon, who was 24 when he disappeared.

Francis writing is filled with emotion.  While reading the story it is like you are sitting with a father who is still processing the loss of a child, explaining his frustration with local and state law enforcement, and sharing with you his hope to use his tragic experience for good somewhere down the road.

There are many parties involved with the search for Jon Francis, some painted in favorable light and other not so favorably.  That is one of the things I liked about the story.  In a politically correct world, the fact that David Francis put his frustration and disagreement with people down in his book is courageous and refreshingly honest.  While there are always two-sides to a story I liked hearing some raw emotion.

I can't even begin to imagine what it would be like to lose a child.  There is however one thing I believe David Francis missed in his book.  He repeatedly talks about how much his Jon loved God and wanted to serve him, but I get the impression that David is still blind to the spiritual impact of Jon's death. 

I could be totally wrong here, but what is never mentioned is the idea that God has used this tragedy to make an impact (both spiritually and in the process of search and rescue) that is much wider than may have been possibly without Jon's death.  By writing a book and sharing the story of Jon's death, David Francis has shared the beauty of God and the love of Jesus with thousands who may never otherwise hear.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Daddy Daughter Dance 2011

This picture is from the Northfield YMCA Daddy Daughter Dance a few weeks ago.  It was a fun night for Izzy and I.  We started our date by going to Hogan Brothers for subs and soup.  Then we went to the dance.  We had a blast learning some dance moves, doing some crafts, and eating snacks. 

Here's a neat part of the story.  Earlier in the week I had decided not to go to the event because we didn't have the extra money for tickets and a babysitter for the other kids.  I prayed all week asking the Lord to provide money.  On Friday Stephanie received an unexpected card and some gift certificates from her students at school.  The dance tickets were $26 and the gift certificates were $25!  How cool is that!

Then on Saturday afternoon I got a call from my neighbor.  He was bringing his daughter to the dance and he said he wanted to bless us by covering our sitter costs that night.  Man, God is so good!