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Friday, September 30, 2011

Bladder-based Decision Making Study Wins Prize

It's that time of the year again, the Ig Nobel prizes were awarded last night on the campus of Harvard University. These prizes attempt to highlight the legitimate activity going on in the world that is too weird, marginal or funny to ever win a Nobel prize (the winners of which will be announced next week). So, this year some of the highlight winners are:

Peter Snyder, a professor of Neurology at Brown University was a part of the team of researchers that won the prize for medicine for their groundbreaking study of how the need to urinate affects decision making and higher cognitive function. According to the study, the greater the need to urinate, the more difficult it is to focus on anything else. Said Snyder, in summary of his magnum opus, "When you gotta pee, you gotta pee."

Also winning the Ig Nobel peace prize was the may of Vilnius, Lithuania, Arturas Zuokas, who addressed the vexing problem of illegally parked luxury cars blocking bicycle lanes. His solution: run them over with a tank. Problem solved, prize won.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

How the World Sees PowerPoint

Bob Bobberson* the creator of Dilbert has recently put all the comics online. But wait, there's more! For the low, low cost of electrons shooting through tubes at at 88 Mph, you can find the Dilbert comic you want. All of these hilarious panels are searchable. So you can search for PowerPoint comics (like I did) or whatever your silly heart desires. Enjoy. 

*That's not his real name. It's something like Adam Scotterson or Scotts McMc. You can look it up with those electrons you're always bragging about.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Better Now than Never

Jon Acuff, the mind behind Stuff Christians Like and one of the people who keeps Dave Ramsey online and organized. Yesterday he presented at The NINES and said some amazing things. The one that I took away and that I'm going to continue to ponder is this: "90% perfect and shared with the world is better than 100% perfect and still in your head."

That tells me to stop wasting time trying to perfect something when I can get it out the door. It won't change any lives as long as it stays inside my head. It won't make the world one whit better if I'm still agonizing over the last detail. My next book. My next sermon. My next blog post. My next job. My next . . . won't even exist if I try to make everything 100% perfect.

But, if I work hard and make things almost perfect and then share them, they can change the world. I still have to put in an effort. I still create a high quality product. I still polish my words and dress well for my interview, but I stop worrying about the last 10% and just do it.

Your school transcript doesn't show if you got a 100% or a 90%. It just says "A."

What do you need to share with the world now?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Nines

Today I'm participating in a live, streaming leadership event called The Nines. Leadership Network has collected nine minute videos for leaders all over the world and is showing them all today. It started at 7am Pacific time and it will go for about nine hours. You should join me in watching. It's free, and I'm sure there's bound to be something helpful for you.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Dead Sea Scrolls Online

It's time to brush up on your Hebrew (and Aramaic), the collection of writings known as the Dead Sea Scrolls are now available online for all to peruse. Thanks to Google and the Israel Museum, these ancient texts are searchable and viewable from anywhere in the world. 

My one year of Hebrew education doesn't enable me to translate the text. It uses a different script style and lacks the vowel pointings that make reading Hebrew possible for me (and most non-native speakers). However, this treasure is available to anyone who has the time and ability to work through the text. 

This is similar to the digital copy of Codex Sinaiticus, but pre-dates that text by as much as 800 years. The digital revolution is not leaving behind the heritage of a script-based world, but rather making them more accessible.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Repeat Yourself to be Heard

I don't remember my mom ever saying this, but it's a cliché mom thing to say: "If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times..." I think this has something to do with the innate ability that moms have to know how communication needs to work.

If you're trying to communicate something to a large group of people, you need to repeat it at least once every 30 days for the message to stick. The more central the concept to the vision of the group, the more often it needs to be repeated.

So, if you want to change the core vision of your group. You have to repeat it every time you meet. Especially if you have a membership that fluctuates. Now, you probably shouldn't say exactly the same words every time, but you should focus on the same message.

Say, for example, that your church has a brand new vision and you're wanting to get everyone on board with it. You need to share that vision every week. Every meeting. But you don't need to just repeat it, you need to say it in a new way. So, if your vision is: "New churches in new places for new people." (this is the vision of Kairos Church Planting with whom I've worked extensively). You would say the basic vision every week, but then on one week you might tell a story about what "new churches" means, the next week you would highlight "new places" and then you could have a video clip of a new person for the third week. Just keep saying the same thing in different ways.

What message do you want your people to hear?

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Always Be Learning

When I was in computer sales there was a phrase that we were supposed to live by, three short words that were meant to sum up our priorities on the job: Always. Be. Closing.

The idea was that we should always be thinking about how we could close the next sale. That style doesn't really work for me, though. I'm not the kind of guy who wants to receive a lot of pressure from a salesperson, so I, naturally, don't want to be that type of salesperson.

Instead, I adopted the mantra: Always. Be. Learning. It worked well for me, especially since computer technology changes so quickly. I was always up-to-date on the latest developments in the computer industry and I could explain it to people in meaningful terms. I became the kind of salesperson who had the answers to any question (or I could find the answers in short order). My appeal to the customers wasn't based on my amazing charm, but based on the fact that I knew what they needed to know.

No matter what your job you can't stay static. You must keep learning and improving or you'll become obsolete. No matter what your passion, if you don't keep up with current events, you'll be left behind in short order. Always. Be. Learning.

I've been blogging here (consistently) for over two years now and I just learned some cool tricks about how to use social media resources to make my blog better and connect with more people. Thanks to my friend Breanna, the editor of Dollar Store Mom, I learned about the power of StumbleUpon. I had played around with the service years ago, but I was only looking at it from the perspective of being able to find sites that I wanted to browse. Now I see that it can be much more than that. I've only been actively using StumbeUpon for  three days and it already accounts for 8% of my blog traffic - that's pretty significant.

What have you learned recently that's made you better at your job or your hobby?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Online Etiquette: Online in Person

If you've ever been around more than one teen-type-human, you've probably seen something like this. They are all in the same place at the same time, but they're all doing something on their own mobile phone. They might be texting each other or they might be texting about each other. No one really knows.

Teens do what they do. Trying to force rules of etiquette on them is tantamount to reversing the tides. It may happen, but you have no power over it. However, the habits of teens can bleed over into the real world and infect the rest of us with poor habits.

How does it make you feel if you're having a conversation with someone and they stop in the middle to look at their phone? What if they interrupt your conversation to have a conversation with someone, either through a call or text message? I know that I feel less important than what's going on through the phone.

In some cases this is OK. For example, if several of us happen to meet in a coffee shop and we drift into a conversation, then it's not terribly rude to drift out of a conversation to attend to a phone message. If, however, you invited someone out for a meal or coffee and they proceed to ignore you in favor of the super-computer in their pocket, that, in my opinion, is rude.

To me, the standard should be presence. Ask yourself the question: How present do I need to be in this moment? If you could also be reading a book or flipping through a magazine, you don't need to be very present. But, if it would be rude for you to pull out a magazine and start flipping pages, then it would be rude to pull out your smart phone.

Another issue is the ubiquity of Google. Let me tell you, I love Google, but it can interrupt conversations terribly. If we don't remember the name of the actor in the movie as we're talking, it's just too easy to grab a phone and Google the answer. But that's the same as pulling out a reference book and looking through it. I'm  not usually talking to people so I can get the most accurate information, but rather so that I can make a relational connection with them. Google will never be able to help me with that.

How do you deal with the ability to be online when you're face-to-face?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Online Etiquette: Facebook

Oh irony of ironies. Right now, in an attempt to try to be more polite to everyone on Facebook, I will offend people on Facebook. I wonder if this is how Miss Manners felt when she published her first edition, knowing that the Salad-fork group would forever brand her a heretic? Alas, some things must be done for the greater good.

Joking aside (mostly), I think we need to develop some general rules for being polite to each other online. It seems that the standard view is: "It's my profile, I'll post whatever I want, you don't have to like it."

But what if we lived that way in real life?

"It's my house, I'll wear whatever I want, you don't have to come over."

"It's my cubicle, I'll tell whatever jokes I want, you don't have to listen."

"It's my car, I'll drive it wherever I want, you don't have to stand in the way."

We live by some rules; a few, small tidbits of etiquette help to keep our society from falling apart. More than that, those rules help us to develop friendships that can survive differences of opinion and preference. Because we don't take the attitude that our own desires are more important than the desires of other people. But for some reason that's all reversed on Facebook.

The one rule that we need to have on Facebook is the rule we need to live by in every situation: treat others the way that you want to be treated.

That covers a multitude of situations, but it does keep things focused on you and your opinion. So as I think of the rules that I would want codified for Facebook etiquette, I'm thinking about what annoys me or makes me happy online. I'm not thinking about the things that I do that annoy other people. I need to hear from others what rules they want so I can treat people the way that they want to be treated.

(My) Suggestions for Facebook Etiquette:

  • Post no more than twice a day
    • Keep posts about specialized topics to a minimum (sports, TV shows, children, etc.)
    • Comment on your own previous post if you have more to say about a topic, especially about a TV show or sporting event. 
  • Have your profile picture show your face
  • Post primarily original thoughts and content
    • Avoid "Copy and Paste" statuses
    • Keep links, videos, etc. to a minimum
  • Don't allow your various applications to post to your profile (e.g. Spotify, eBay, YouTube), especially if you are working with the app a lot
  • Avoid spamming people with your events and causes, one or two updates is fine, but twice a day every day for a month is excessive.
  • Only invite people to your events if there's a remote possibility that they can attend
    • Take the time to go through your friends list and select the people to invite. Don't use the "Select All" button. 
  • Don't post spoilers to TV, movies or books. C'mon, just don't do it. 
  • If you link your Twitter and Facebook, don't use at-replies or hash-tags.
What did I miss? What am I totally wrong about? How have I offended you? 

Monday, September 19, 2011

Online Etiquette: A Call for Suggestions

I was listening to the Stuff You Should Know podcast the other day and they brought up an interesting idea. They were talking about how the internet works and the ubiquity of internet access through smart phones. Then came the lament for the loss of personal interaction since people whip out their phones at socially inappropriate times. They suggested a test to determine whether it would be rude to grab your device and check Facebook:

If it wouldn't be rude to start doing a crossword puzzle, then it would be OK to look at your phone. If you would feel rude grabbing a pen and the latest New York Times puzzler, then you should probably leave the phone tucked away.

What do you think about that? Have you ever been on the receiving end of rude phone use? How did it make you feel?

What other technology etiquette practices do we need to put in place?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Mental Fatigue

Have you ever sat there, staring at your keyboard, hoping for the words to come? You might have something other than writer's block.

Recently the New York Times ran an article on the phenomenon known as decision fatigue. It's the effect you feel when you've made too many decisions or a decision that is too taxing. It's why you have such a hard time deciding where to go for dinner. You spent the entire day making decisions and one more just isn't possible.

When we reach decision fatigue we look for a way out. One way is to make any decision at all that will allow us to keep moving. These tend to be poor choices (McDonald's Big Mac instead of a meal at home). The other option that we'll choose is to not make any choice at all. We'll ignore the need to make a decision since we don't have the ability to work through one at this moment.

Mental fatigue is a real and demonstrable thing that we need to address. One of the main ways to fight decision fatigue is to stop and have a meal. In the research, a simple meal was able to reverse most of the effects of decision fatigue. We can also put our decisions where know we'll be most fresh to face them: right after breakfast, lunch and dinner. This might mean that you pre-decide what to do for lunch right after you get up in the morning. We can limit ourselves on what we have to decide. You may not need to make every decision on the project, delegate some of the decisions so that you have energy left for the ones that need your skills.

Decision fatigue can be especially difficult in group settings. If you have a meeting where people have a lot of decisions to make, provide snacks and frequent breaks. Make one decision at a time and then stop for a rest. It may seem wasteful, but the quality of decisions that come out will be much higher.

How do you deal with decision fatigue?

Thursday, September 15, 2011


If you want to speak with depth, you need to prepare with depth.

Shallow speaking doesn't connect with people. We've all heard it before. It's the same story again. The classical rhetorical teachers said that you need logos, ethos and pathos. It's the pathos that's often missing when people speak. The passion and emotion that provide depth to the message.

You should be emotionally drained after speaking. You should also be emotionally drained after preparing to speak. Prepare with the emotions that you want to share. If you're speaking about love, prepare love. Tell stories about love. Show pictures of love. Feel love. Your message will connect with people if the emotions they feel from you match the words you're saying.

As I write and prepare, I imagine myself in the message. I align my thoughts so that I'm feeling the point rather than just explaining it. Then, when I speak, the emotions come through. The pathos is evident and shared. What the ancients didn't know when they were developing the theory of rhetoric is that humans have mirror neurons in our brains. If you see me smiling, your brain causes you to experience a smile. Most of the time you'll smile along with me. This is true of all the emotions. If you have a sad message, the sorrow needs to be written on your face so your audience can connect to the pathos of what you're saying.

How do you create depth when you speak?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


Sometimes rest means sleeping in late and being lazy. But, sometimes rest means camping and being active. I just got back from two days of the latter (hence the lack of posting here). It was restful (and now I'm tired). It was the kind of rest every soul needs from time to time. I don't think everyone needs to go out into the woods to camp, but we all need an active-rest; we need a time when we're working at a task that isn't our job and we can find rest in it.

Not long ago I heard about the rhythm of spiritual discipline. Being away from people naturally leads to being with people. Being with people leads to times of solitude. It's not that one is more important than the other, but that both are necessary for a healthy life. The same is true of rest and work.

Work should drive us to rest as rest should renew us for work. How do you rest well?

Friday, September 09, 2011


In "The Matrix Reloaded" Neo and pals try to get the Keymaker from the Merovingian, to which he responds:
"The Keymaker, of course. But this is not a reason, this is not a `why.' The Keymaker himself, his very nature, is means, it is not an end, and so, to look for him is to be looking for a means to do... what?"

For some reason, his speech has always stayed with me, his discussion of the "why" that is so elusive. Why is such a driving force for what we do, but often we don't follow the why-chain very far. We step back one link, maybe two and see the previous cause/effect. But we often don't settle down to suss out the "why" behind them.

"Why do you need a new job?" "Because I need more money." "Why do you need more money?" "So I can buy a house." And usually we would stop there. We wouldn't go on to ask "Why do you need a house?" or any of the questions that would lie behind that answer.

Living without a "why" means that we're, quite often, just acting our part in a play that has been cast for us. We accede to the script rather than challenging the basic premise of the plot. We go along with the plans to build a new building at church, even though we don't really know why we're doing it. We avoid adding PowerPoint to our presentation, but we don't know why. Or worse yet, we add PowerPoint to our presentations, but we don't know why.

Without a "why" without a clear purpose, plans are dangerous. If you don't know why you're adding PowerPoint, for example, then you don't know what you're going to do with it. You don't know when you should use it or when you shouldn't use it. You don't know. Not without a "why" to help you answer those questions.

How do you find your "why"?

Thursday, September 08, 2011

What's Next?

"So . . . what are your plans?"
"What are you going to do now?"
"What's next for you?"

Those are a few of the questions that we've been fielding lately. The reason is, that at the beginning of July, we were asked to leave the home we had been sharing with Ryan and Jessica Woods. We were living in an intentional community with them and working to start a new expression of church in downtown Vancouver, Washington. You can read about their decision in their most recent newsletter here.

Over the month of July we found a new place to live -- completely due to the connections we had made in the community. We moved and just settled before we took off for England so I could speak at the European Christian Workshop. Now it's September and we're back to . . . not normal.

We don't really know what's next for us. We don't have a plan. Actually, let me revise that. Our plan is to make no plans right now. We're going to keep living and working in this neighborhood for the immediate future. We trust that God brought us to Vancouver for a reason. We were blessed to work with Ryan and Jess and to learn from them. They have amazing skills of developing relationships and we have learned, just a bit, about what that looks like for us. The last nine months have been a joy and a blessing.

Next, though . . . we don't really know. The next steps in our journey can't happen until we live our current step. We won't steal from this moment by attempting to anticipate a future over which we have no control.

How do you practice living in the present?

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Messy Life

The beginning of Jesus story in Matthew is a genealogy. That seems a bit dry, boring even, for the start of such a story. But nevertheless, that's where it begins. It starts off well for the Jewish audience reading Matthew's words. They cheer on Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as the patriarchs of their people, but before long, the mess starts to creep in. The shameful story of Tamar and Judah is mentioned. The cheering becomes abashed mumbling, here in the lineage of patriarchs and kings is the story of a woman pretending to be a prostitute to seduce her father-in-law and get an heir.

Not much later is the story of Ruth and Boaz where Ruth makes it appear that Boaz has slept with her while he was drunk in order to back him into marriage. Then David, the man after God's own heart, is also the murdering adulterer.

By the time the genealogy gets to the kings of Judah the mess just keeps coming. There will be a few good kings, and then many bad kings. Finally the kingdom ends in exile for the people.

Jesus comes into this mess, not as a conquering king, but as a bastard child. Mess on top of mess. The story of Jesus is the story of us and our story is a mess. Jesus could have come and shown a parallel path, a different way that isn't filled with this mess. Instead, Jesus shows a way through. He looks to redeem the mess, not ignore it or replace it.

What do you do with the mess in your life? Do you seek to avoid it or to work through it?

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Routine Check-up

Depending on your perspective, the word 'routine' can sound like a curse or a blessing. A routine can provide stability and direction so that you can get things done efficiently. Being in a routine, however, can keep you from being able to experience anything new and chain you to the way things have always been done.

Routine isn't bad, in fact, I like having a routine. It helps me to work better and to know what's coming next. But when the routine supercedes the work, the it becomes counter-productive. This is true for your basic work-a-day life as well as for organizations. If your church is in a routine that doesn't allow for change, then what you have is a weight holding you down rather than a structure building you up.

Check your routine to see if it's working for you or against you.

  • Is your routine flexible enough to incorporate change? 
  • Do you have margin in your routine for the unexpected?
  • Does your routine keep you focused on the important and help you avoid the trivial?
  • Does your routine provide rest?
  • Can you articulate your routine (i.e. is it explicit rather than implicit)?
What makes a routine work for you?

Monday, September 05, 2011


Technology has always been about giving us more time. The promise of the plow, the vacuum cleaner and the smartphone have all been the same: with this tool you can do more in less time. But the unsaid claim is that you'll end up with spare time that you can use for whatever you want. The logical end to the constant advances in technology should be that we have nothing but spare time.

I'm sure you're not experiencing that problem.

Rather than technology giving us more time, it seems to take time away from us. Getting a Facebook account requires time maintaining the relationships online. Getting a smartphone eats into the little chunks of time you have between other things so that you're always looking at the thing.

Where is all our time?

If we let technology happen to us, then we won't ever have any spare time. It will be devoured by all of the tools that we have. But, if we use technology for our benefit, then we can keep time for ourselves. When I was growing up, my dad wouldn't answer the phone during dinner time (or if there was something else going on). He said that he has a phone for his convenience, not the convenience of the people trying to call him. That attitude gave us time to sit and eat a meal together.

Your technology exists for your convenience, not the convenience of others to get ahold of you.

How can you claim more time by the way you use the tools you have?

Friday, September 02, 2011

Back from Europe

My wife, Andrea, and I were honored to attend at the 2011 European Christian Workshop last week. We traveled to Lancaster, England and I spoke about using technology to spread the gospel of grace. It was a great experience and I met some fantastic people serving the kingdom of God in Europe.

You may have noticed a lack of blog posts around here, though. I blame international travel. Yesterday we flew for 13 hours and had an eight hour layover. So, needless to say, we're tired. I'll get back to regular posting next week.

In the meantime you can head over to the Facebook page for the ECW and click "Like" to see what's on tap for next year.