Balancing LIfe and Juggling Fire

“Choosing to cheat.” Before it was a book, it was a message that I heard Andy Stanley give his congregation when I was in my mid-20’s. There is something about that message that have stuck with me ever since. The basic premise…cliff notes if you will…is that everyday we must make a choice to cheat somewhere in our life. We can cheat our work, or we can cheat our family. It seems to be a bit like juggling fire. To be honest, I’ve never juggled fire, but imagine it takes a good amount of attention. That’s how I see many people look at balancing their work and life; if I can keep a good eye on everything and nothing drops, everything and everyone will be ok. But what happens when you do drop one of those twirling sticks of fire? You or someone close by gets burned….

With four young kids, most days i have to decide what gets cheated…and I try on more occasions than not, to cheat my work, for the sake of my family. There are a few things I’ve run across over the years that have stuck in my mind and I look to often to help me find/create balance. Maybe these can help you if you find yourself trying to get a handle on this balancing act:

1) Cheat your job – I didn’t say cheat at your job…but cheat your job. I don’t think those I work with would say I suffer from a lack of engagement, or follow through, but  if the choice is between work and my family… I try to choose my family…every time. If it’s between wrapping up emails, or making phone calls that can be done as easily tomorrow as they can today…chose tomorrow. I read once, “who on their death bed wishes they had checked more email?” Chose your family.

2) Finish Lines – This is from Hybels: In his book “Axioms” he talks of having daily, weekly, and yearly finish lines. Mental markers that designate the “end” of something. I keep (at least for a musician/creative) a pretty regimented schedule. I work during the day and when I leave work, its a finish line… I am done for the day, barring some emergency. Each week we work to prepare Sunday services, and unless something changes from our Pastor, by the time I leave Wednesday night, Sunday is set….its a finish line. Even if I have to stay a little after rehearsal to finalize things, I do so that when I leave… we should be set and I’ve crossed that line. And at least once a year, I take a week or longer vacation and I completely unplug. I look toward that time, and see it as a real finishing point for a season. Set some finish lines of your own.

3) Unplug – I know by now, this piece of advice is right there with “don’t text and drive.” Its one of those things that we know…we understand, yet we have such a hard time doing. Why do we have such an addiction to being connected to everyone in the world accept for the people in front of our face? It’s especially harming for families. So although we’ve heard it a number of times…Dad’s especially; turn off the notifications when you get home. If you have an iPhone, set “Do Not Disturb” to automatically turn on at 7pm or so. Its automated, and it happens and you don’t even know it. You’d be amazed at what people can figure out on their own 🙂  I doubt that whatever comes in between 6pm and 11pm can’t wait until tomorrow. Who at the end of their life is going to say “I wish I had been on my phone more”?

4) Get up Early….Uggggh. I wish this were’t the case. But in quite a few years now of reading books and articles on successful people, and more precisely, successful people who have successful families; the universal habit I see is rising early. I love the idea of rising early. The only problem is, I also can be a night owl 🙂 When you discipline yourself to rise early, spending time getting your day together, your thoughts together, and reading/praying; your day will be more in balance. And, from everything I’ve ever read, your productivity and vocational success will be better for it.

Balancing life isn’t something that I think you ever “figure out.” It’s something that you always look to achieve while allowing yourself grace for when you miss it. Its about making the choice NOW to put priorities in order…do it for today….then wake up tomorrow and try to do it again!

The Hypocrisy of the VMA’s


OK, I’ll admit it. I was getting into bed, grabbed the remote and hit the channel guide button. I began scrolling and I saw it, and then, I selected it….the MTV VMA’s. The train wreck of awards shows hosted by none other than the train wreck of pop culture…Miley Cyrus. I didn’t watch long (as I actually fell asleep) but not before I saw something that even surprised me…and it had nothing to do with blatant expression of immorality.

Hypocrisy. It’s something that in church or religious work you get used to hearing about. It is often attributed to people in the church, and sadly, most of the time its true. Churches are made up of people, and with each day that I live, I’m more convinced by what I see on my monitor and in my mirror, people are depraved. In the history of the world there isn’t good people and bad people….there’s bad people, and there’s Jesus….Thank God for Jesus! (I digress…)

The hypocrisy I saw was this (and the exact order of events may not have been this way, but very close): The VMA’s were on in all their glory relishing in everything shocking, and then they went to a commercial break. The first commercial out of the gate had inspirational music with a compelling voice over and positive tone so it caught my attention. It was making statements about the positives of this generation (now whether that’s the south end of my generation or the generation of my kids, or a generation in between….I am not sure). And it ended with the statement “may this be the generation that ends SMOKING”, and it had a graphic with the word “Truth” up.

Now hear me….I am not an advocate for smoking….I’m not an advocate for anything that creates strongholds (unhealthy habits) in our lives. Whether it be tobacco, alcohol, money, food, work, etc…. It’s ok to have things, as long as things don’t have you. But with all that is going on in the world; hunger, violence, the killing of innocent children, sex trafficking, etc, the crowning end goal of the VMA generation is to end smoking….really? I’d say we missed it somewhere.

Not to mention that upon the return of this commercial break, there was a segment where Ms. Cyrus was having a sleep-over with what I assume are popular rappers and they were smoking weed…blatantly.  So let me get this straight… We want to be the generation that ENDS smoking…tobacco, but weed…go for it, have a good time, oh and live in a way that only pleases YOU, do what YOU want, don’t let anyone tell YOU how you should live. Hook up with whoever YOU want, drink whatever YOU want, wear whatever YOU want….but don’t YOU DARE pick up a cigarette? (I won’t even go into the idea that they ended this commercial with the word “Truth” on the screen)

I hope and pray my kids don’t get addicted to smoking, and my wife and I work to raise them in a way that teaches them the way Jesus wants us to live. But more than that….I pray for wisdom to help my kids not get sucked in to the pop culture religion of ME. I pray that they will see our society through the eyes of Jesus. Not ignoring their depravity, but loving them in their depravity and knowing that the life Jesus calls us to is a life against ourselves. Against selfishness. Against placing my wants above everyone else’s and against placing my freedom above others.

Hypocrisy….It’s not just in the church.

The value of Imputation

How I interact with a product or service, tells me the value I should place on it. If you read Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs, you see early on in the book the three-pronged approach to apples marketing and you can still see these things played out in there business today. 

Empathy – An accurate understanding of the needs of the customer. This is not drawn from a survey or a focus group, but a combination of feedback and some would say prophesy. Steve was quoted as saying “the customer doesn’t know what they want until you show it to them.” And there is some truth to that….if the iPhone was designed by focus groups, it would resemble at TV remote more than a phone with any number of options available. 

Focus- a search to establish what you can bring to a product or market and say no to everything else. This is more difficult to do than you think. 

Imputation – a customers interaction with not just a product, but everything that has to do with that product tells them the value they should attach to that product. That’s why there’s such detail that goes into even the packaging of apples products….and more times than not, people keep that packaging, it seems to have too much value to throw away. 

It’s the third one that seems to be the most difficult to consistently perform in church work…imputation.

We work hard many times at the product, hours and hours and then the effort to which we create an environment for that product is minimal. A quick example… does no good to start a new program, if the information about that program is ran off on the copier on Friday afternoon. The usual response is a something like “they’re just going to throw it in the trash anyway, don’t put any effort into it.” And at face value, that sounds right. I’ve even caught myself saying things like that, but the reality is, they will throw it in the trash because you didn’t put the care into the presentation of the program that you put into the creation of the program. The best initiatives have both a high value on the product itself, as well as the presentation of the product. When you create something, as you create you must be thinking of the “packaging” that accompanies it in a parallel fashion to the product or program itself.

In church work, the greeters and parking lot team tell me how I am to feel about this place. The brochure or bulletin and hand outs tell me the value I should attach to whatever they are telling me about. The quality of the presentation, regardless of style, will communicate a value. That doesn’t mean everything should be overly polished and produced. Above all, be yourself, be authentic, but be the best version of yourself that you can be…it speaks volumes…and values!

Ownership…the special sauce in magical presentations



I experienced something today that I haven’t experienced in quite some time. I was moved, surprised and almost giddy by the end of the apple event today announcing the new iPhone and Apple Watch. It hit me at the end what it was…(keep reading, I’ll get to it).

We got so used to it with presentations from Steve Jobs. Say what you want about him and his “Reality Distortion Field” (RDF) or his insane treatment of his staff…they guy knew how to deliver a presentation. He could build anticipation, keep you on the edge of your seat, and rally you to his team like few others. I realized today what the special sauce was…..

I remember seeing him pull an iPod nano from the “fifth” pocket on his jeans. I remember him sliding the Macbook Air out of a manilla envelope. I remember the presentation of the iPhone back in 2007…it was masterful. And then there was the category he created with the iPad; we were all awakened to the need we didn’t know we had.

What was so special about these? they were his.

Today we saw what Tim Cook’s apple will be and how it will present. I’ll admit that while being a fanboy of apple I have found myself underwhelmed the past few keynotes since Jobs passed almost three years ago. Today that was not the case, and one major reason?….this was Tim Cook’s day. The iPhone 6 and more specifically the apple watch were his. At the end of the presentation, Cook stood on stage thanking various designers and key players, and he was emotional and almost misty eyed…just like a grandfather is a Christmas when he looks around the room and see his family. Today was a different day for apple….I saw ownership for the first time since Jobs death.

There are two things I learned about ownership today:
1) It can’t be faked. There was a definite difference in the Tim Cook we saw today vs. the Tim Cook of prior presentations. Not that he wasn’t excited, but a the end of the day, he was bringing to fulfillment that which he did not create. You can’t fake ownership.
2) Ownership inspires. I was in a room with other people, and we all left not only ready to figure out how we can get the things presented today, but we left as volunteer salesmen for apple….ready to wave our apple flags and stickers with a pride we haven’t felt in a while.

So, think about that as you plan, work and create this week. “Do I have ownership in what I’m doing?” Because if you don’t, you can’t fake it, and you can’t inspire others without it!

The Dark Side of the Tipping Point

What I’m about to explain is my observation of trends, fashion and popularity. There is also no moral attachment to outcomes of what’s described… I don’t believe there is a better or worse, this is just the way I see things happen.

I’ve started seeing it happen in my Facebook feed. A couple weeks or so ago I began to see random people (of some connection obviously or they wouldn’t be in my FB feed) start posting videos of themselves dumping ice cold water over their heads. Then more and more, day by day I saw people, some now that I knew, start posting those videos and challenging others to raise money for ALS. And then it became pretty much my entire feed, on Facebook, and twitter…..everyone was raising money by putting ice cold water on their heads. And it was on the morning shows….it has now reached the tipping point of mass awareness and consumption.

…..cue the haters.

I don’t mean that in a bad way, but its just a reality. If you have ever read the book “Tipping Point” by Malcolm Gladwell, you are familiar with the phrase and how he dissects how certain things, whether its a catch-phrase or TV show, can reach that tipping point and cross boundaries into the populous of the majority.

Now for whatever reason, when this happens, there is inevitably an accompanying dark side that comes along with “acceptance by the masses.” It happens all the time in the entertainment and arts world. There’s a new breakout show that “everyone” that is “cool” or “hip” is raving over. As a result, more people watch, and more people watch, then all of the sudden….too many people watch and its no longer this minority of cultural creatives that know about it, but everyone is talking about it….and it gets flipped on. The most recent example of this I can think of is “Duck Dynasty.” Once they were everywhere….and I mean everywhere, it wasn’t the thing “you gotta watch.”

You’ve probably heard someone say “I finally decided to spike my hair, and now everyone’s parting it again,” or “why are they rolling up their pants….I thought we quit doing that?!?” It happens in fashion especially. Things are really cyclical, so once something is a definite “no-no” across the board….get ready to see it again 🙂

In music it can be a bitter-sweet pill to swallow. I remember when Coldplay first came out. All of the cool kids were going bonkers over “clocks.”  Then after about a year, you couldn’t get away from “clocks”….it was everywhere: intros to TV shows, radio spots, commercials, etc…. And then “clocks” was no longer cool.

For whatever reason, for something to be trendy, it can only be cool until that point where it is accepted by the populous at large, then it is not. I don’t know why this is, but this has been my observance in our culture for the past decade.

So what does this mean in the world of church programs and presentations? It doesn’t mean we should chase cool….thats futile and really not what guiding peoples spiritual formation is about. It conversely doesn’t mean we ignore cultural trends and stick our heads in the sand about where people are at, what they are watching or listening to. It means more than ever, we have to be in our world, but not of it. Knowing the trends that are taking place, knowing the cycles that happen in our communities and using them as an engagement point to draw people’s attention to the timelessness and steadfastness of Jesus…that’s what we do.

Productivity challenge…..three things

I am not an authority on this, and the wealth of knowledge you can find on great ways to increase productivity is larger that the GDP of some nations. All I can tell you is how I get stuff done. 

I started using this method a while ago and while where the information it is stored has migrated over different platforms, the last, and most important step has stayed the same. 

Everyone is familiar with a to-do list. Some keep them electronically with apps, and some keep them in a notebook of some kind, and others find random peices of paper to write their lists on (I’ll spare you my thoughts on the ineffectiveness of this method for now).

There’s one more step that I take. Some call it the “tomorrow list” and others the “big three”. Call it what you want, it’s a simple thing that I do just about everyday. I look at my large list, which can be exhaustive and intimidating as a whole, and pick the 3 things I know I can get done with the time I have today.  My weeks look more the same than my days. By that I mean the monday(s) of each week looks more alike than the Monday and Tuesday of a single week. Therefore, I have varying schedules from day to day which limits the time I have to knock out things on my list. Therefore, the three I pick for some days may be small, but if I have 5-6 hours of meetings, I pick what I know I can get done in the left over time. 

I can get overwhelmed by everything on my list, but three things? I can do that, and then I can take them off the list and tackle 3 more again tomorrow. 

One last additional thought…..take on your toughest challenge first. Whether it’s a phone call you’ve been dreading (sometimes for no reason at all) or a lengthy email reply, take it on first….it will set the tone of accomplishment for the rest of the day. 

If you don’t do something like this, give it a try next week. Three things a day….everyday!

Bigger Than My Body….of Faith

First off, lets have a brief moment and remember when John Mayer made music like the afore mentioned song in the title…..Ok, now we can continue.

Lets face it, it happens…our services and our spiritual formation tend to drift self-centric. If we’re not careful our spiritual growth, and more commonly our church services can be about what appeals to me. Some of the most popular teachers on TV usually present messages about making your life “better.” Ironically, you don’t see that much in the teachings of Jesus. I digress….

I say this because yesterday we sang “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.” Not a cool – re-written version (which I actually haven’t found yet due to the songs intrinsic make-up), or with a new chorus added or anything other additions. Just they Hymn…pretty straight forward. And at face-value, you’d look at the order of service and sing the sesame street song in your mind….”one of these things is not like the other one.” But on a deeper level, I think theres something healthy about singing a song that’s 400 + years old. At that moment, we are singing to our Savior the same way believers for hundreds of years have been singing to Him. There’s something very un-self-centric about that, and healthy in my mind. Sometimes it is good to do things that remind us not only is it not just about me….its not just about “my” church. We are joining the song of the church through the decades and centuries to give praise and gratitude to the One who has redeemed us. And its good to remember that this is bigger than what I like, or even what our churches do…its been happening for a couple thousand years, and we get to take part in that, which is pretty remarkable.

Keep pushing, keep changing, but also look for ways you can guide your people to a thought process deeper than just the “right now.”

Garth Brooks, Worship, and “the moment.”

Garth Brooks is coming out of retirement. Thats good news for us country fans from the 90’s. I went to a Garth concert when I was in high school. I’m not sure what the album was he was touring, but it was the one with the song “Two Pina Coladas”….I remember that much. I’ll never forget moments of the concert….incredible. It’s no wonder that we won entertainer of the year, year after year! There were two significant things that happened at the concert.

The first was worship. This is not a new thought. You’ll often hear of teachers, preachers, and worship leaders talk about the worship they see at at events other than church, i.e., football games or concerts (especially U2, which we are fascinated with because of Bono and his ambiguous spirituality that we can’t seem to fit in a box). And this was was one of those moments. It came after the band was just rocking it out on a song, then Garth emerges from the walkway from under the stage, guitar strapped on and sings the following lyrics…”Just the other night, at a home-town football game..” and that was it. For the next 3-4 minutes I heard a congregation worship to the top of their lungs! They sang the entire song while Garth stood their playing….alone…with tears on his cheeks. It was beautiful. As my friend Charles says….”its the right worship, just the wrong god.”
The second was the specific realization that this was what I wanted to do in life. Now, I wouldn’t consider myself an “artist” and I’m not exactly “in the industry”, but my work is connecting with people and with God through art and presentation. I was standing in my seat located behind the stage looking down wanting that. Not all of the people watching me, or singing my material, or thinking “how great I am”, but connecting with them. Understanding them through music. Reaching a part of their innermost being with the most beautiful of gifts… It was that night. Sometimes I wish it was at a church or a worship service with more of a spiritual meaning to it…but its not. It was at a Garth Brooks concert, my heart and mind were pricked and I knew what I wanted to go after.
So I’m glad to see he’s coming out of retirement….should be fun!
What are the moments where who and what you are have been changed or influenced?

Stones of Rememberance and Basement Smells

Natural Stone Retaining Block

 I can’t claim this thought at all… I can’t even claim the lesson from this…it was taught to me. Therefore, its just my job to pass it on.


In Joshua 4, the children of Israel are crossing the Jordan River (on dry land!), and the Lord tells Joshua to pick 12 men, one from each tribe to gather a stone out of the river to be placed on the other side of the Jordan. In summary, God wants them placed there so that when their sons and daughters ask, “why are these stones here”, they can speak of the work of the Lord on the day He stopped the Jordan so His children could walk across on dry land. This is BIG. God WANTS us to remember the works He does in our lives…and to do that, we need reminders! In the same way that the children of Israel forgot time and time again how God had rescued them from the Egyptians, we for get how God delivers, protects, and provides for us. He wants us to remember, not only as individuals, but as congregations too.



Many people can remember a time when God moved in their church and did amazing work. And we have a proclivity to want to stay there so that God can do the work again…but that’s not how God works. He didn’t part the Jordan again. He didn’t part the Red Sea again…He moves as we move. We should have stones and altars of remembrance! We should have times where we look back and see what God has done and embrace our heritage. But it can only become our heritage if we move past it. In the chapters that follow (you have to skip over the re-circumcision of Israel), you see that the children of Israel did not stay at the stones of remembrance….they moved on, to conquer Jericho. Likewise we should not forsake our past, but we must move forward while taking moments to look back at what God has done.



Its like the basement in my parents house. My parents still live in the house I grew up in. Now, whenever my family and my 3 kids go visit them, I walk into the downstairs and am hit with a smell that brings a smile to my face and flashes images of yesteryear in my mind. But….I don’t want to live there again. My wife and I have created our own lives. I love to think of those times in that house, but I’ve moved on. Not to mention, if I lived there again….the smell wouldn’t mean anything.



So if we never move past our stones of remembrance….they will lose their significance. What Jericho might you not be conquering because you’re too attached to your altar?



Too good not to share

Most of the time I usually put my own thoughts here on this page. Using the other resources of the interwebs (Facebook/twitter) to share interesting articles and insights from others. But I got this today in my inbox and thought it too good to not share. As someone who likes to think of themselves as a problem solver, this was a new paradigm.

Are you solving a problem or creating a problem?

Uber solves a problem. You always needed a reliable way to get from a to b, and Uber does that, in many ways better than a cab.

Lady Gaga solves a problem. You have neophilia when it comes to music, and she’ll bring you new music to satisfy your curiousity.

Same thing goes for Zara. They solve the ‘what’s new in fashion’ problem for a lot of early adopters.

On the other hand, Uggs created a problem for people who aren’t necessarily fashion forward but want to wear what everyone else is wearing. Once “everyone” was wearing Uggs, these fashion-laggards had a problem—if they wanted to keep up, they had to go buy a new pair of boots.

In most successful business-to-business selling, the big wins come from creating problems. Once the competition is busy using your new innovation, the other companies have to buy it to keep competitive. Once other brands are using your social medium, the laggard brands do too—not because you’ve solved their problem, but because you’ve created one. The people in a traditional bureaucracy buy something new when they have to, not when they want to.

(It’s interesting how we recoil from the idea of creating problems. Of course, progress is about creating opportunities, and opportunities always bring along their close colleague, problems.)

Or consider the case of a non-profit seeking to raise funds or gain government support. Without a doubt, they have to create a problem in the mind of the donor, or there will be no funds or no support to solve that problem.

It is clearly more fun (at first) to solve problems because everyone is happy to see you and the discussion is simple indeed, “You know that problem you used to have? We just solved it.” The innovations that change the world, though, often create (or highlight) problems before they solve them.