December 2010


We’re wrapping up a three-day series that’s looking back on 2010: the best search terms, the best books I’ve read, and today…my favorite blog posts.

Being a writer is like being a dad. There are some of you that will like my kids and some of you that won’t. Some of you will think their antics are cute while others will think they need to be deleted.

Editor’s Note: Wait. Are we talking about blog posts or offspring now? You’re freaking me out.

With that said, there are posts that were particularly fun / thought-provoking / meaningful to me this year. These are the ones that actually made me laugh or made me cry as I wrote them. Here they are, in order of appearance…

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I heart me some Google search terms. I believe that when Al Gore was inventing the Internet, there’s no way he could have foreseen the fun you could have by typing in random stuff and waiting to see what pops up (or maybe he could, be cause he also invented time travel).

Don’t believe me? Just try the old trick of typing in “French military victories” and click “I’m feeling lucky.” That was fun, wasn’t it?

That’s why I get a kick out of the search terms that lead people to this blog. Here are the best (and most unexplainable) of 2010…

  • “gourd jesus” (No. It’s Lord Jesus. Don’t worry…your sinuses will clear up soon.)
  • “facebook devouring” (Set my status to “starving.”)
  • “haters gonna hate statler waldorf” (Those two old Muppets bring out the street fight in some people.)
  • “little dog sniffing a big dog” (If you can’t sniff with the big dogs…)
  • “when to plant lima beans” (My best guess would be a few weeks before you want to eat the lima beans.)
  • “jack jacob pastor” (After God saved him from his Jingleheimer Schmidt, he went into the ministry.)
  • “what is another name for sphenopalatineganglioneuralgia” (I think it’s supercalifragilisticexpealidocious.)
  • “im a constant loser” (At least you’re predictable.)
  • “donut hole tomb snack idea” (For when you want to resurrect your appetite.)
  • “what is greg fishel’s favorite snack?” (I think our local weatherman likes donut hole tombs.)
  • “god is a chicken” (This is what happens when emergent guys get ahold of Luke 13:34.)
  • “what do the campus pastors do at summit church brier creek” (Pay attention. They write stupid blog posts like this one.)

It’s that time again, boys and girls. Time to gather around the warm screen of your laptop and tune in for the turn-of-the-year tradition known as the Connective Tissue Year End Review. What? You didn’t know there was such a tradition? You believed that the only year-end tradition we should observe is eating black-eyed peas and hog jowl on New Year’s Eve?

What?!? You didn’t know there was such a tradition as eating hog jowl and cannibalizing Fergie and will.i.am? And you also didn’t know that I’m just cool enough to toss in that pop culture reference? Well boo-yah. And boom boom pow, to boot. Perhaps you’d be more well-rounded like me if you’d read these books…the ten best I read this year, in no particular order…

  • What is a Healthy Church Member? Thabiti Anyabwile. Thabiti tackles the pew-dwelling phenomenon known as American Churchgoer, discussing ten characteristics that should mark the body of Christ.
  • The Beautiful Fight, Gary Thomas. In his usual, highly-readable style, Thomas walks us through the journey to holiness, reminding us that holiness in the life of a believer is active, not passive. (I reviewed it here.)
  • Less Clutter, Less Noise, Kem Meyer. This is a must-read for any communicator, especially communicators within the church. Kem lives what she writes and has traveled this road in her role at Granger Community Church.
  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni. Our staff read through this in the spring. If you’ve never read Lencioni’s books, this is a good place to start. All church staffs should read this book.
  • Sticky Teams, Larry Osborne. Larry covers three main teams that every pastor must deal with: the church board (i.e., elders, deacons, etc.), staff, and volunteers. One of the best leadership books I’ve read, period.
  • Influencer, Kerry Patterson et al. This was my surprise book of the year. Patterson and company weave just a few stories through the fabric of the entire book, discussing how you don’t have to be powerful to have powerful influence.
  • Knowing God, J.I. Packer. I confess that I was supposed to have read this a decade ago in seminary. I finally dug it off the bookshelf this year, and I’m glad I did. It’s deeply theological and a catalyst for worship.
  • Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands, Paul David Tripp. If you ever find yourself sitting in the counselor’s chair, this book will be a tremendous help. It’s a great reminder that the gospel is enough.
  • The Me I Want to Be, John Ortberg. A friend and I read through this together. If you’re convinced that a Christian must look like [fill in your own formula here], Ortberg will help you break the mold and live your life as God designed you to.
  • Hiroshima, John Hersey. I swiped this one from my high school freshman who had to read it as a summer assignment. Let’s just say that I enjoyed the story of nuclear fallout much more than he did.
  • Whiter Than Snow, Paul David Tripp. I’m on the last few pages of this one now. Tripp’s book is a 52 chapter devotional on Psalm 51. It has been an invaluable companion to Pastor J.D.’s current series, Search for a King.

What did I miss? There are still a couple of days left in 2010. What book did you read this year that you’d suggest?

Our year has been a little bit country, a little bit 1960’s Rat Pack. May you and your family have a blessed day focused on the baby who gave us life!

 

Thanks to A Life Well Photographed for the photo shoot!

Over on my alternate world known as The Twitter, it’s been a fun few weeks as we’ve been taking a look at Sad Christmas Carols. You know…not the CheeryHappyJollyMerry songs that greet you in every mall and on every radio station, and not the truly sad songs that actually exist: a toothless child that simply wants to be able to chew for Christmas, African villagers that won’t know it’s Christmas time at all, and people telling scary ghost stories around the fire.

No, I’m referring to the theoretical wonderland of really sad Christmas carols that don’t yet exist. Below is the complete list, but be aware that there’s another one or two to follow. If you’re not a follower of The Twitter, you can take care of that situation here.

  • Winter Wonderland’s divorce rate was abnormally high because Parson Brown didn’t offer premarital counseling.
  • The utilities weren’t paid (baby it’s cold inside)
  • Frosty the Snowman was an un-elected soul
  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer Had a Very Stuffy Nose
  • In the meadow we can build a snowman, and pretend that he’s a deranged clown.
  • It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like January Bankruptcy
  • God Rest Ye Buried Gentlemen
  • Let Her Go, Let Her Go, Let Her Go.
  • Up on the housetop reindeer pause, and watch in horror as Santa falls…
  • Chipmunks Roasting on an Open Fire
  • It’s lovely weather for a sleigh ride together with your much cuter cousin
  • Here limps Santa Claus, here limps Santa Claus, hobbling on his cane…
  • This is my grown up Christmas lisp.
  • …it doesn’t show signs of stopping, so I’ve brought some zits for popping…
  • Little Dumber Boy
  • …we’ll frolic & play, the Eskimo way, until the pipeline ruptures on our land…
  • I’m dreaming of a wide Christmas, with every fresh-baked treat I bite…
  • On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me, a restraining order from a deputy…
  • No L, No L, No L, No L, some little thief stole my free-ee-kin’ L.
  • There must have been some acid in that old silk hat they found. 4 when they placed it on his head he began to thrash around.
  • Dashing thru the snow, running for my life. Rudolph’s toting hoof grenades & Frosty’s got a knife…
  • I saw Daddy contacting his attorney after I saw Mommy kissing Santa Claus.
  • Harold the Harking Angel sings: “Glor(COUGH) to the (COUGH)born (COUGH)!”
  • …and since we’ve no place to go… (no seriously. I have no place to go. I’m alone. So very, very alone.)
  • Grandpa got plowed over by his John Deere
  • Re: Joyce! Re: Joyce! It’s another self-absorbed email from Joyce…

I don’t want to become blind.

I don’t want to fail to see what other people see.

I don’t want to overlook a glaring hole in our process for welcoming first time guests. I don’t want to miss the obvious ways that we’re dropping the ball. I don’t want to get so familiar with the familiar that I miss the flaws of the familiar.

For the last few years, we’ve been a church on the move. As such, we’re constantly launching new campuses and starting new venues and experimenting with new service times. And every time one of those things gets underway, we notice the things that should be noticed. We see the peeling paint in the lobby. We make a note of the crack in the sidewalk. We recognize that the kids’ area smells a little too much like…well…a kids’ area.

But unfortunately, if those problems aren’t fixed within the first few weeks, we no longer notice them. When problems become familiar, they turn invisible. Not to our guests, to be sure. They certainly see the peeled paint and trip over the cracked sidewalk and smell the…um…efforts of our kids. But to us, it’s just white noise.

Andy Stanley said it well in a recent message: “The only way for you to evaluate what we’re doing correctly is to view things through the eyes and ears of someone you’ve invited.” If you’ve ever invited someone to your church, you know that’s true. You immediately notice the off-pitch soloist, the out-of-toilet-paper bathroom, the overlooked typos in the worship guide. Everything that you think your guest will notice, you notice. You notice it because you fear it will be a big deal to your friend, therefore it’s a big deal to you.

For a long time now, I’ve been telling our guest services team about the importance of thinking like a guest. See what they see. Hear what they hear. Smell what they smell. If it doesn’t pass the guest filter, then the “why” behind the “what” probably deserves a second look.

What are the things that have become invisible around your church?

More than likely, you’ve already seen this. I tend to be late to the viral video scene, mostly because I wash my hands a lot and wipe my keyboard down with antibacterial wipes.

But if not, take three minutes and enjoy…

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