Wednesday, February 28, 2018


When I was growing up if I liked a famous person, I could always write a letter to their
fan club and hope to receive an autographed photo in the mail.  Those in the Hollywood limelight were unapproachable to the average folk, like myself.  Times have changed since those days. 

Now, if I like an actress or singer, all I have to do is follow their Instagram and I instantly know all about their life - where they eat, their kids and fur babies, their latest red carpet event and the trip they just took.  This change goes beyond fame; when I meet someone at an event I speak at, or in a meeting at the kid's school, I can then go add them on Facebook or accept their request to friend me.  Craig Groeschel makes note of the use of the word "friend" on Facebook in his book, "#Struggles: Following Jesus in a Selfie-Centered World."  Its true, we get fed a subconscious lie that we are adding to our friends whenever we add someone to that list of connections. 

The internet has tricked me.  Its tricked me into thinking I have a lot of friends.  Truth - I do have a lot of friends, but as I've aged, I have way more acquaintances than friends.  Friend - you know the person that is there when life has got you down or pops the champagne when you conquer that mountain you climbed.  A friend isn't just someone who is connected with you on Facebook or follows you on Instagram.

Because here is the thing - knowing something about someone doesn't mean we know them! Its awkward sometimes to stand next to a mom at pick up that I have never sat and just talked with, but I know all about her family and that hard time she went through last year, because Facebook told me. 

The same can be true for people like Candace Cameron Bure.  I feel connected because I watch her on Hallmark Channel and I follow her feed, but I have NEVER met the woman.  She has no clue who I am.  We are not friends. Its time for a reality-check.  Can you distinguish between your true friends and just people you know about?  I have to remind myself of this truth as I scroll the feeds - I DON'T KNOW YOU!!! This doesn't mean, there aren't acquaintances that I'm pursuing friendship with or friends who have grown and gone their own ways that I stay connected with, because this is why I love social media!

The danger comes when we live online and forget to maintain relationships in real time.  Doing so will lead to loneliness and depression and often worse.  The hole in people is what often fuels the horrible stories we read in the news.

This is also true in our spiritual life.  Knowing about Jesus, doesn't equate to knowing him.  Knowing him is accomplished in the same way we know people around us - spending time together.  I sit and talk to God about my life, about the Bible and while he doesn't speak in words to me, he speaks back.  He connects with me through moments in life where I see my heart fulfilled or when I got that thing that didn't mean anything except that he heard me.  He speaks to me through the Bible, a book that has been around forever, and yet can speak to my specific day. 

 The light at the end of this tunnel is that its easy to fix.  Life offline as much if not more than you do online.  Meet someone for coffee, get to know a new friend and put the work in, to make that Facebook "friend" a real-life friend!!!  Same with God - he makes it easy to come to him and its never too late to start. 

Do you have the proper balance between your online and offline self?  Do you need to adjust or maybe you got this down and its your turn to share it with someone else?  Checking in with ourselves is a must for a healthy life!  There is always a take-away.  So go and get it!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Generational Culture Shock

On a recent trip onto a junior high campus, I was stunned by the reality of teenagers today.  I am approaching 40 at the end of this year and I have worked with teenagers for over 15 years, and I can tell you, the generation coming up now and the little ones following them are nothing like us!  Yes, as we get older the divide between the older folks and youngin's does increase, but that is not what I am talking about. 

We are entering new territory. 

I recently cheered at a friend's Facebook post as she was sharing her kids encounters with Alexa.  As she eloquently shared her life and the conclusions she was drawing, she noted that to children today, virtual assistants and technology just is.  There is no question of life before because it is just reality, she then equated it to electricity for us.  I've seen Downton Abbey and other period shows and movies and see that transition into life with electricity and yet, I've never really thought about it.  Electricity just is.  I don't worry about what life would be without it because, its life. 

This is the new territory I am discussing.  As I approach teenagers, I have to approach it like I do when I travel.  I've travelled around 27 countries in my lifetime (even with my 7 year international hiatus) and what I love about the experiences I've collected is the way I see people.  I use their culture and customs as the lens for when I interact with people of different cultures, not my own. 

If you were raised in a world where there were no computers or cell phones (let alone smart phones), then this is the mindset you must take to interact with younger generations.  Because they don't understand your analog mindset in their digital world.

This difference is NOT your excuse just to stay away and keep isolated in your generation bubble.  That would be wrong, why? 

1. You need younger people to help you see their world and to understand the changes that are happening, even at a novice level because it changes so FAST!

2.  They need you!  Kids today aren't taught how to have unscripted conversations (thanks for revealing that, Craig Groeschel), they can't decipher real relationships for superficial acquaintances.  They don't know how to reach out when life gets hard and how to have proper boundaries with the people they encounter.  This is a problem!

Sure many adults don't get these things, but there is a difference between personality differences and cultural norms.  Life online has eliminated relational depth.  The internet isn't going away so instead of being annoyed by the change, its time to infuse the culture with the connection abilities us old folks grew up with. 

While a lot has changed, some things never change. God made us for relationship and in fact, he not only made us to need it from each other, he made us because he wanted one with us.  Our need for connection, intimacy and living in a trusted community are crucial no matter what our culture we ascribe.  Yes, its hard to step out into the world or even just out of your world, but its necessary!

I believe a lot of the violence we are seeing comes from this need for real in a superficial reality (of course its not the only cause), but loneliness and unmet hunger for connection can have devasting results.  Intergenerational communication can help alleviate the soul holes many are facing. 

This is why I love working with teenagers!  Not only do I learn the latest phrases, but I get to be in relationship with them and allow them to give to their peers the real stuff in life and be people that made me proud! Go out there and get uncomfortable and messy and engage someone in a different age range than you.  Some of my best friends hover around 80 and 18.  This is the way life should be!!!!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

3 Reasons Why You Won't Change

Have you ever wanted to lose weight? Get a better job? Organize your house? Be more efficient? Be a better communicator?  Use that gym membership?  Save money?  Or do anything that just never happened? Ever wonder why you couldn't do it? Well I'm about to tell you 3 reasons why change isn't happening. 

 I am always striving for better, and I admit, I'm a bit of self-help junkie. I love reading how-to's, but recently I read a book and when I was finished, I realized: I didn't learn anything new. 

I don't know it all, but I've read enough articles and books, been on the best email lists and followed some great leaders through social media, videos and podcasts, to know the 4 keys to success or the proper order to a clean house.  The problem comes in applying the knowledge.  I have to put the plan into action and that is the hardest step. 

I am almost done with the book, "When Panic Attacks: The New, Drug-Free Anxiety Therapy That Can Change Your Life," by Dr. David D. Burns.  It is a great book and has actually presented me with some amazing options for overcoming anxiety.  In his book he states the issue with the lists I referenced above, is that telling someone 5 ways to (fill in the blank) is that they ignore the first step - someone has to want to change.   

Change is hard!  You will only succeed if you:

1. Decide to change and do something different than your current routine.  That is why letting someone else in your process is important because they can be the impetus you need to change by keeping you accountable. Knowing how the change can take place doesn't matter if you don't resolve to do life differently. 

Why don't we want to change? There are a number of reasons but mainly homeostasis is easier.  Routine is just that - routine.  We can keep going.  The other reasons often include facing fears, and taking a look at the stuff we use our devices and favorite shows to avoid.  Avoidance and denial have kept the entertainment industry on top! 

2.  Focus on thriving not surviving.  I don't know your life, but I do know mine.  Sure, I would love a clean house and a thinner version of myself looking back at me in the mirror, but those things come  at a cost and usually in order for more to happen, my chill time is what gets traded for the work.  Life is hard and I am tired, because I go, and I go, and I go.  Changing my juggle, would probably mean I would drop a few balls in the process and would create more work, even though the work now would be payoff later.  Its easy to just try to survive, but we were made for more. 

Change isn't happening if you are looking to just survive, because surviving means doing the minimum.  Trust me there is no shade thrown your way if you are maxxed out and surviving is the name of your game, but don't expect to meet goals.  Goals get met when we go after more.  For me, its the abundant life Jesus talks about in the Bible (John 10:10).  Abundant life is the best, but it involves sacrifice, giving, being uncomfortable and facing the junk in your emotional closet. 

3. Face those fears and insecurities that haunt you.  I have walked through the pain of a past abortion and the skeletons from an abusive step parent.  Those emotional victories were amazing, but I have to be real when I say -  neither of those were as hard as looking into my heart and facing the negative crap I've repeated for more than 30 years (we aren't saying how many more than 30 years). 

I have had some mean things said to me in my life, but nothing as bad as what I've said to myself.  Change means retraining your thoughts, words and behaviors and doing so means looking at why they are there in the first place.  My recent epiphany that revealed some internal hatred of parts of me, not only shocked me, but its been scary at times to look at what is really going on and face it.  BUT, IF I WANT TO CHANGE, I HAVE TO FACE IT!!!!

Change is possible. 

The best change in me has always come with my team.  My team includes my God, Jesus Christ, at the head of the whole thing, and then the people he has planted in my life.

The key to change is loving community.  The common string to everything above is that its easier with others.  When we are fearful, surviving and stuck, we tend to want to isolate, but isolation doesn't cure, instead it further infects.  That is the recipe for making things worse.  You may have to find your team and that isn't easy either, but worth it!

 Do something different, get accountability, refocus on thriving and replace those negative thoughts with ones that are full of grace and truth.  You got this!  Oh, and please, make sure to tell me about it!!!

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Planning The Best Party

I will say, I am pretty good at planning a party or event (spent 10 years as a wedding planner and let's face it, being a Youth Pastor includes a lot of event planning). 

I think its fun! 

Pinterest is a great asset when collecting ideas, but its also a huge pitfall in the planning process as well because you can get lost in the details and go down the rabbit hole of possibilities.  Keep it simple is the name of the game (the more details you want, the less people you need to have).
When I compare my daughter's first birthday and my son's recent 7th birthday, I see two different approaches.  

I loved my daughter's party and it was a masterpiece.  The biggest problem is after all that work, I wanted to leave it up for a month and had to take it down three hours later.  All that work and it was over.  I didn't regret it for a minute.  The key was borrowing!  I could do the details because I borrowed from those who have done it before and it took a lot of the work out of the equation while allowing me to have all the extras.  Where did I borrow? Facebook groups and friends.
My son's recent party was less decorated but still a lot of fun.  After my rejection of the work that went with our original theme of "America Ninja Warrior," we landed on Nerf Wars! Since, I got my new Cricut Machine for Christmas, I was able to make him the shirt he wanted that said, "Attack."

We ended up inviting a ton of people and most of them came! Again, like my daughter's party, I piggy backed, but this time in reverse.  Instead of borrowing, I created items that our church could reuse this summer for VBS and that meant, supplies got left at the church and didn't end up back in my garage!!!  
Let me first say, we don't do parties every year.  That is just too much.  We do celebrate every year and we have traditions for each child, but parties are best when spaced out.  Kids remember the fun more that way.  You have to mix it up.  This however, is the party year.  We have 4 birthdays in our home in a less than a two month span so it gets crazy.
We got to work and my first step was the invitation.  I used the slo-mo video option on my phone to get a video of him shooting the nerf gun then took screen shots of the video until I FINALLY (because it was like 30 times) got the bullet in the shot.  I then used my two favorite photo apps - Aviary and Over to create the right effect on the photos and create an invitation.  
I went light on the decor - just created a course (cardboard, pallets and tires) and then got nerf colored plates and silverware. I got nerf colored gatorades and waters and then used my nonexistent cake decorating skills to order a Costco sheet cake that only had writing and a border then decorated the cake with an actual nerf gun and darts.  


The activity was the party, but I made sure to get extra darts (600 count on Amazon) which I put in buckets on the sidelines of the course.  I got protective eye wear on Oriental Trading and also got some face paint sticks so they could get ready for battle.   

we also had a bounce house for smaller kids and to give kids a shooting break, but we had to drag the kids away to do pizza, cake and gifts.  I also planned a game of Capture the Flag and made simple arm bands from cutting fabric I got at Hobby Lobby, but the kids preferred a free for all. 
Our gift bags came from Oriental trading and the loot came from a combo of Oriental Trading and a local resource, Rick's Vending.  With up to 60 kids, I had to go light - candy and 3 toys (slime, finger rockets, whistle) and we were good to go.  I let my son put them together so he could have some ownership in the party.  We also had a small army of family help us set up.  
The great part was, I actually got thank you's from several parents, and was told kids talked about it all weekend and again at school, Monday.  So if you are looking for a theme that is a blast, this is it!!!  For any party don't forget: if you want a lot of details keep the invite list small and if you want a big party, pair down the decorations and extras - borrow, borrow, borrow and most of all have fun!!! Here are some more photos of the day...