May 2009

Here’s an unexpected affirmation of a recent post, and also a shout out to the guy who found his way to this blog by typing “what if you think your wife is stupid” into Google.  Dude, I’m betting you need Jesus.

Wednesday night I heard a great interview with Andy Andrews, author of the mega-bestseller The Traveler’s Gift.  I’ve never read the book so I’m not necessarily endorsing (or not endorsing) it, but this statement was incredible:

The Traveler’s Gift…has sold millions of copies, is in twenty different languages around the world…but the dirty little secret of the book was that I couldn’t get it published.  Fifty one publishers turned it down over three and a half years…finally I realized that there’s gotta be somebody who is more powerful than the publisher, and there is.  That’s the publisher’s wife.  After three and half years, the first publisher’s wife I got the manuscript into her hands, after a week I had a deal.  She stayed up all night reading it, and he stayed up all night listening to her say, “Hey, listen to this part.”

I dig that story, because it highlights the fact that we owe far more to our wives than we realize.  Good job, anonymous publisher’s wife.  And good job, anonymous publisher, for listening to her.

If you’d like to hear the full interview, click here

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Seeing double yet?  You should be.  Head over and check out the alternate personality at the brand spankin’ new Brier Creek Campus Blog.

I know that many of you have been waiting with baited breath (mmm…smells like mackerel) to see what the big announcement is that was mentioned earlier this week.  Well friends, wonder no more.  Here it is…

[drum roll, please]

I’m pregnant.

No, actually, that’s totally not true.  And neither is Merriem.  But there is a birthing happening at this very moment at this link.  That’s right, Brier Creek AM peeps, we have a new Campus Blog just for us!  (Shhhh…don’t tell anyone.)

As you’ll see when you visit (mouthful!), the site is experiencing a soft launch today.  We’ll be adding content, photos, news, and other goodies over the next few weeks, so stick around.  Meanwhile, tell your other AM friends, but not those Cole Millers, because we’re planning a top secret water balloon attack on those guys this Sunday.

Perhaps you’re wondering what this means for your daily dose of Connective Tissue.  Well friends, CT will continue as normal.  Sure, there may be an occasional drop off in daily posts, but there’ll still be new content up several times a week.  I’m just asking that you don’t abandon me to the other me.  Even though I have multiple blogging personalities, the mothership blog will still get her feelings hurt.

Okay, go check it out.  Fresh stuff here tomorrow.

If you weren’t in Sunday’s worship service at Brier Creek, the following won’t make much sense to you.  Sorry…come back tomorrow.

Tuesday morning I discovered that I was responsible for David Thompson nearly having heart failure.  After guest speaker Afshin Ziafat brought the heat last Sunday, I made the following remark from the stage:

“If you’d like to meet Afshin personally, he’ll be down at the front after the service.  Come on up and talk to him so you can tell your grandchildren you touched the original Turban Cowboy.”

The good Rev. Thompson missed the first few minutes of Afshin’s message where he referred to himself by that moniker, so David didn’t know I was quoting Afshin, he just thought I was making stuff up on the spot.  (How dare he…like I ever do that.)  My sources tell me that Thompson went white as a ghost and looked like he was going to lose his breakfast (brown sugar and cinnamon oatmeal), double Afshin’s honorarium to cover my insults, and tell J.D. that a trained seal would have been a better pick for Campus Pastor.

Ahhh…I’m glad my reputation precedes me.

Today on this blog, I’m fulfilling my lifelong dream of being a telethon host.  Well, “lifelong,” as in, “I thought about it roughly 20 seconds ago and realized that this should definitely be on my bucket list.”

This will not be a complicated telethon…no fancy big checks a la the Michael Scott Dunder Mifflin Fun Run Rabies Race For the Cure 2008, no guest appearances by Wayne Newton like Jerry Lewis has, nope…this is just one short list of needs, followed by your response.  Simple enough, huh?

In just a few weeks I’m leading a Summit team overseas, where we’ll be working with 600 church planters for a week, just encouraging them, loving their kids, and praying for them as they prepare for their next season of ministry.  The 600 of them plus 125 stateside volunteers will be basically taking over a hotel during that time. 

The director of volunteers for this trip has put out a call for some specific gifts for the workers at the hotel, with whom a deep relationship has been built over the last few years.  We want to be a blessing to these hotel workers and open up a door for the gospel with them…and that’s where the First Ever Connective Tissue Benefit For Overseas Hotel Workers Comment And Pledge That Which Costs You Nothing Telethon (F.E.C.T.B.F.O.H.W.C.A.P.T.W.C.Y.N.T.) comes in.

Here’s what we’re gathering; notice that the first two items are for a couple of specific hotel workers who collect this sort of stuff from all over the globe:

  • Restaurant menus.  The kind that they actually give you to take out of the store, not the kind that you have to slip into your wife’s purse while the waiter is distracted by your kid asking for his sixth refill of chocolate milk.
  • Gift cards.  These do not have to have any value on them, because what are the chances of finding a Sonic overseas?  (mmmm….Sonic.)  They can just be the cast-offs that have been filling the bottom of your purse.  Please pick off the lint before handing them in.
  • Little Debbie brand snacks.  Oatmeal Cream Pies spell love in any language, straight from the heart.  Pulls us all together, never apart…
  • Peanuts.  Especially flavored kinds, like honey BBQ, cajun, etc.
  • Anything North Carolina-ey.  Keychains, stickers, the stolen head of the Duke Blue Devil, you get the picture.

Got some of this stuff?  Here’s how you get me the goods:

  • Put it in an envelope with my name on it and turn it in at the Information Table / Tent at your campus this Sunday.
  • Drop it by the church office.
  • Fill out a pledge card, wait on a receipt for tax purposes, dilly dally until I send you a reminder of your pledge, and then begrudgingly drag your stuff to RDU the morning we leave so I have to find a place to stuff it in my luggage.

Seriously, thanks.  This is gonna be a cool first telethon.  On behalf of F.E.C.T.B.F.O.H.W.C.A.P.T.W.C.Y.N.T., thanks for your support.

…but not today.  However, later this week I’ll be dropping big news for all Brier Creek AM Campus peeps.  It’s going to be colossal.  It’s going to be monumental.  It’s going to be palpable.  And I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know what palpable means, but it just worked lyrically, wouldn’t you agree?

I can’t hint at what the announcement will be, but I can tell you what it won’t be:

The announcement will be coming right here on Connective Tissue sometime later this week.  Stay tuned!

Editor’s Note: You’re just trying to build up your stats by getting everyone to check in every day, right?

Straight up, yo.

By the way, if you’d like to add to the above list of what the announcements won’t be, I’d love to hear ’em.  Comment below.

I’ll freely admit that I am addicted to my iPod.  I’m not the iPod guy on Apple commercials of yesteryear: the guy rocking out to Death Cab for Cutie while waiting in line for the subway.  No, I’m more of the vanilla commuter style iPod listener: I’m the podcast guy.

I dig me some podcasts.  It’s like talk radio that I can control.  Although I have a pretty wide range of musical selections on my iPod from old-school Geoff Moore and the Distance to Taylor Swift to…yes…even Death Cab for Cutie (just downloaded that so I could sound cool), I rarely listen to music.  Most of the time I’m rocking it out to the voices in my head, via headphones, thank you very much.

But I have to say that not all podcasts are created equal.  There are some truly horrific examples of iTunes abuse that need to be eradicated permanently.  If you’re a podcaster, this is your lucky day, because not only have I never in my life created a podcast, I also consider myself an expert on how to produce one.  So ladies and gentlemen, I give you Danny’s Top Four Rules for Podcasting (Why four rules?  Because five would be silly.):

  1. Find something to say.  I’ll give you the fact that you had me at “Billy Bob’s Red Hot Christian Marriage and Puppy Training” podcast.  But BB, you’re going to have to go beyond saying the same three things over and over, week after week.  If you can’t have a balanced and expansive discussion on your topic of choice, you don’t need a podcast.  You need to write an essay.  Or maybe a pamphlet.
  2. Say it in a compelling way.  Because I am a “finisher,” I refuse to just delete a podcast without first listening to it.  For that reason, I’ll often punish myself because I was foolish enough to download something based on the title alone (see rule #1).  However, that means that I’m stuck with some truly bad hosts that should never be given the light of day, let alone a microphone and a computer.  Right now, for example, I am listening to what may be the World’s Most Boring Podcast Host.  He has all the charm of Toby Flenderson.  I find myself wanting to drive off a cliff just so I can escape his monotonous voice and inane interviewing skills.  But can I kick him to the curb?  Nooo…because I’m a finisher.  (Thankfully, it appears that a lot of other podcast listeners felt that way, because I haven’t seen him upload anything new in months.  I think it’s time to cut the cord.)
  3. Practice what you preach.  One podcast that I actually like has a bumper at the end where a voice-over guy talks about the podcast host’s website.  One thing he promises is “tips on humor.”  I find that humorous because not once has the host said anything remotely funny.  Is he entertaining?  Sure.  But he’s not funny.  Don’t sell me humor, no-laughing-man.  It’s not authentic.
  4. Don’t sell me too much, period.  Yes, I know you need to promote your upcoming conference and you should promote your interviewee’s latest book.  But I tuned in to your podcast so I could hear what you have to say now…not what you’ll have to say if I give you three easy installments of $79.99.

So what are my favorite podcasts?  I’m glad you asked.  Here they are in no particular order (Editor’s note: You idiot.  They’re in alphabetical order.)  Go check ’em out!

Now I want to hear from you: what are your absolute favorite, can’t-live-without-’em podcasts?  Comment below…

Dear Sultans of Spam:

I want to congratulate you on stepping up your game.  No longer are you trying to sell me a watch, asking me to invest in gold, or telling me that a deposed Nigerian prince wants to be my BFF if I’ll just send him my bank account number, Social Security number, drivers’ license number, and shoe size.  

No, at this point you’ve changed the rules of engagement.  You’ve turned from intriguing advertisements to outright threats, and while it still isn’t working, at least you’re amusing me now.  I want to thank you for that.

In case you’ve forgotten some of the intriguing subject lines you’ve sent me lately, here is a sampling:

Picture 5

Picture 6

Picture 7

So seriously guys, while I appreciate the constant outpouring of love, we now have a top-notch spam blocker installed on our server.  While I can still see your subject lines, it’s entirely too hard for me to read the rest of your message (not that I’d want to, anyway).  Why don’t you go back downstairs to your mom’s basement and continue to play World of Warcraft with the other members of your computer club?



At our annual staff retreat last fall, pastor / guru Al Gilbert from Calvary Baptist over in Winston-Salem spent a couple of days downloading just a sliver of his knowledge to our relatively young staff team.  Pastor Al talked to us about the ups and downs of leading a large church, and to completely dissect all of those talks would take roughly twelve light years’ worth of blogging.  It was good stuff.

One of the statements that continually pops back into my mind was this: “There’s no such thing as a balanced life.”  When Pastor Al first said this, I did the internal equivalent of the teenage girl sign of scorn: “P-shah!”  (No, I don’t know how teenage girls spell it…that’s as close as I can get.)  I p-shahed because I know that there is too such a thing as a balanced life, Mr. Smart-Pastor-Guy-Who’s-Been-In-Ministry-Since-I-Was-Born.

But now I realize that Pastor Al had a point.  Unless you live in Perfectville, USA, you can find balance in life about as easy as you can find a necktie in Gaston’s closet.  Nobody is going to have a life that always fits neatly on a pie chart: 60% work, 25% family, 10% ministry, 4% recreation, and 1% Roseanne reruns.  (Your personal Roseanne intake may vary; adjust your work percentages accordingly.)

Merriem and I had a saying early in our marriage: “It’s just a season.”  In other words, “We’re busy now, but not for too much longer.  This big event will end.  This semester will be over.  This campus will be launched.  This insanity will pass.”  We made a conscious decision to discontinue the “It’s just a season” remark a few years ago, mainly because whenever one of us said it, the other one realized that all these seasons keep crashing into each other until finally somebody was going to only be able to say “It’s just a se-” and then abruptly be interrupted as they received a firm kick in the throat.  (That’s Merriem kicking me, not me kicking her, because she has a very cute throat and my shoe print wouldn’t go well with much of her summer wear.  Besides, she watches a lot of Jack Bauer and would have my kneecap inverted before I could get anywhere close to her.)

I digress…back to Pastor Al.  He acknowledged that, especially in the life of a pastor and pastor’s family, that imbalance must be expected.  There will be days…weeks…months where I have to give an inordinate amount of time to the church or to ministry.  But there will also be times that are relatively calm.  Both are necessary, and both should be expected.  There are times that I have to suck it up and just get the job done, and there are times when I need to say “no” to some great opportunities, simply because my family is more important than doing the opening prayer at the Women’s Ministry Annual Bake Off and Missions Auction.*

The important thing in this – whether you’re in ministry or simply working a nine to five – is that your family must have a vote.  I don’t always recognize when I’m busy, because I thrive on being busy.  However, my kids and especially my wife have full authority to rein me back in and help me remember that they’re way more important than just about any ministry pursuit I can imagine.

A great book on this topic is Andy Stanley’s Choosing to Cheat.  If you struggle with this topic of balance, CTC will rock your world.

So how about you?  How do you wrestle with this topic?  Comment below.


*Not an actual event.  Don’t get your raspberry scones in a wad.

I had a great conversation yesterday with my friend Kim, a former Summit gal who was back in town for the weekend from her new gig in Louisville.  During Kim’s time at the Summit, she was the quintessential volunteer…working with Starting Point, First Impressions, singing in the worship choir, co leading a small group…you name it.

Kim dropped by the office and we talked about Mark Waltz’s latest book, Lasting Impressions, which I reviewed here a while back.  She’s working on a study guide to go along with the book, envisioning a day when small groups can use it to figure out how to take friendly connections to a whole new micro-level.

One of Kim’s phrases that caught my attention was “instruments of change.”  Too often church volunteers enter into robo-mode: hand out the worship guide.  Park the car.  Pour the coffee.  Change the diaper.  Lather.  Rinse.  Repeat.  It’s a vicious cycle that, while efficient, can be easily robbed of personality, creativity, and the organic feel of authentic hospitality.

Every church in America has golden-hearted volunteers who will do precisely what they are told to do until Jesus comes back.  While admirable, the problem with that is that they often don’t use the good sense that God gave a billy goat.  Rather than creatively addressing needs, they faithfully work their way down a to do list, mechanically interacting with guests rather than seeking to know their stories.

Repeat after me: I want my volunteer teams to know the why, not necessarily the what.  (Yes, you’ve heard that before.  I never claimed to be anything more than a broken record.)  Once the why is in place, the what will take care of itself. 

A volunteer who is an instrument of change can’t help but break away from the to do list.  They simply must exercise creativity. They have to bend the paradigm.  And in doing so, they will make differences in the lives of guests.  They’ll view themselves as a minister, not simply a volunteer.  They’ll take ownership as they take leadership.  And in the end, the church will be filled with authentic servants who are transforming the hospitality culture from the inside out.

It’s Monday morning.  My brain is still asleep.  So ladies and gentlemen, since I can’t be funny, I give you one of my all time favorite comedians, Mr. Bob Newhart (it’s the best six minutes and sixteen seconds you’ll spend today, promise):

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