The Songs That Define Us

Our twin girls, Rachel and Paige, just started Middle School, and in the course of this last summer, they seem to have transformed before our eyes.  As one would expect, there is a sudden hyper-heightened awareness to the things of their age, like appearance, style, clothing, friendships, pop culture.  And music.

It is one of our new family rituals now, that they would usurp control over the car radio during trips, commutes, and even errand running.  Step one: Slip into the back seat, talking non-stop.  Step 2: Flip from sports talk radio (my default setting) to the local pop station.  Step 3: Turn up nine decibels.  Rihanna, Shontelle, Pink, and Lady Gaga suddenly invade my Ford Explorer, and I find myself feeling really old, as I internally resist the urge to yell, "get off my lawn," in a graveled raspy voice, and pop in a Steely Dan CD.

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What I Didn't Learn About Manhood From Esquire

[This originally appeared on the Mars Hill Church blog]

I was originally assigned the task of looking at advice on how to be a man from a men’s magazine. Problem is, there wasn't any.

Esquire's June/July 2010 issue was called How to Be a Man. Appropriate. With a title that declarative and a tagline of “Man at His Best,” I was anxious to comb through it to see what they had to say about manhood. With a base circulation of 700,000 and competition like GQ, Maxim, and Details, Esquire is arguably one of the largest and most influential men’s magazines in the world. They've got to know what they're talking about, right? Esquire’s website describes their audience as "the affluent and successful man." Should be exactly what I'm shooting for here.

With Irony As Our Guide

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Loggerheads, Lights and Landmarks

The other day I was looking through old picture books with my kids. My son’s favorite is one a preschool teacher gave him about Loggerhead sea turtles. It’s a sweet story that follows the life of a baby sea turtle into adulthood. They wanted to hear it again, so we cuddled on the couch and read it for “old times” sake. However, this time I noticed a piece of wisdom in the story that I’d missed before.

The mother Loggerhead builds a nest in the sand, lays her eggs and heads back out to sea. Weeks later, the baby turtles crack through their eggs. However, many hungry eyes are watching and waiting. The babies’ shells are soft and make them an easy meal. Many sea gulls and crabs hide in the wings waiting for them the turtles to make their journey toward the sea. So the babies wait until nighttime in hopes of using the dark to camouflage them. 

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My Conversion Story

It dawned on me the other day that I haven’t really shared my conversion story.  In the circles I run in, it’s a pretty common question to ask - everyone has one, but everyone is different.  Mine is a pretty standard story - some seeds were planted when I was young, a variety of people and experiences broadened by awareness along the way, and eventually understanding dawned on me and I considered myself a believer.  After the conversion, I sought out others with like mind in order to bolster my own understanding, and began to equip myself with the proper conversations in order to convert others to my way of understanding.  I share the story of my own conversion here, in the hopes that others may also be inspired to see the light.

As a child, my parents made a point of broadening my horizons and encouraging me to try new things.  I was a pretty shy kid, but at some point my parents decided to take me to a weekend activity popular with many families in the area - AYSO soccer. Next thing I knew, I was signed up in the league and practicing a couple times a week for our Saturday morning games.  I was hesitant at first, but eventually came to enjoy playing soccer with my friends.  After a couple years of playing, I even gained a decent understanding of the game.  After a while though, other distractions entered my life and my love affair with soccer - tentative at best - slowly dwindled.  

They See Us Not See Them

God's amazing in the way He daily teaches me. The other day I drove to the grocery store. As I pulled into the parking lot I noticed a man on the corner holding a sign asking for money. This particular corner is continually occupied by people asking for money and I’ve found myself no longer noticing those on it.

This day I was on my cell phone (don’t tell Oprah – I am trying hard to make my car a “no phone” zone but I'm not quite there yet.) When I drove by this gentleman, I made eye contact with him. My normal response is to quickly look away. However, on this day I felt a nudge to lock eyes, smile and nod my head acknowledging him. The thought crossed my mind If he’s still there when you leave…give him money. 

I forgot about him as I shopped but when I got in my car to head home, he was still on the corner with his sign. Normally the traffic makes it awkward to stop but on this day, no one else was around.

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Wooden Gold: The Faith of John Wooden

This isn't about basketball; it's about making God's reign visible.  

Dear John,

I'm not sure why we think about people more after they die than while they're alive, but your passing away this weekend at the age of 99 had me thinking about you, something I'd not done much of since college.  I'm one of the millions who knew of you and were affected by your life.  I played a little basketball in Jr. High and it was while I was in love with the game that you had your best years at UCLA.  Ten national titles in twelve years?  Nobody's ever come close to matching that, before our since.  But it was the way you built winners that impressed, even as a kid of 14.  You weren't throwing chairs and swearing, you were building young men by teaching the old school values of hard work, discipline, and integrity.  

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Can things get any worse?

These are tough days for optimists and humanists. For optimists, it's tough to stay positive because of all the junk going on in the world: there's trouble in the Middle East, our economy continues to teeter precariously, the Gulf oil disaster is out of control, and Al and Tipper Gore are separating after 40 years of marriage. If this can happen, is there any hope for the rest of us?

For the humanist, it's discouraging for many of the same reasons, but the frustration comes not so much from the problems in the world as it does from our inability to solve them. The worse things seem to get, the more it seems we are not in control, and that just frustrates the heck out of anyone who puts their trust in humankind.

Even our technology, which is supposed to be the savior of the world (okay, maybe only Steve Jobs thinks that, but you get the idea), has us spooked. Nevermind that we can't fix the Gulf oil leak. What about Facebook? Talk about losing control. Even though Facebook has tried to assure its nearly half a billion users that they have nothing to fear, a lot of people are concerned that the social media giant knows way too much about us. "People actually use Facebook like it's crack," said one 24-year old social-media savvy user. "So I don't see what the next step is aside from world domination."

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Entrepreneurialism and God's Mission

There comes a day when we sit back and ask ourselves what we are going to do with our lives. In a sense, I’m still asking myself that question. But many years ago, while studying Spanish as a university student in Paraguay, I felt a nudge, a call if you will, to spend time in cross-cultural contexts advancing the gospel.

At the time, I had no idea what that entailed. The only role models I had to look to were the missionaries I had met and gotten to know in Paraguay. They were either medical doctors or preachers. As a business student, it seemed I would have to leave behind my business interests and develop a new set of skills.

Thankfully, I’ve always been good with language and have enjoyed speaking and teaching so over the years, that became the primary focus of my ministry. But a few years into my overseas ministry, I began to ask myself some new questions about why couldn’t one be a businessperson and a kingdom builder at the same time?

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Five Questions for Joan Ball

Joan Ball spent more than fifteen years in the public relations business before making the transition from the boardroom to the classroom in 2007. She currently teaches marketing at St. John's University in New York City.

In Flirting With Faith: My Spiritual Journey from Atheism to a Faith-Filled Life (Simon & Schuster), Joan shares with bold candor how she allowed her career and the money, prestige, and possessions that came with it to overshadow the things that were most important in life. As her friend Makoto Fujimura says, "She dances with both faith and doubt, while being unflinchingly honest each step of the way.  Her authentic wrestling will confound skeptics, challenge believers and comfort those who mourn." Anne Jackson adds, "With each word, Joan Ball invites us to take a step into her heart where we see the beauty of transformation and the freedom of grace."

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Turn your back on Jesus (The only time it's okay)

"But when you were afraid of Nahash, the King of Ammon, you came to me (Samuel) and said that you wanted a king to reign over you, even though the Lord your God was already your king. All right, here is the king you have chosen. Look him over. You asked for him, and the Lord has granted your request." (1 Samuel 12:12-13 NLT)

I love it. A paradigm shirt or a paradoxical meaning. In one sense are are to turn our backs on worthless things by not sinning against the Lord. Never to turn our backs on Him.

“Don’t be afraid,” Samuel reassured them. “You have certainly done wrong, but make sure now that you worship the Lord with all your heart, and don’t turn your back on him. Don’t go back to worshiping worthless idols that cannot help or rescue you—they are totally useless! The Lord will not abandon his people, because that would dishonor his great name. For it has pleased the Lord to make you his very own people (1 Samuel 12:20-22, NLT).

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