A completely true tale:

…so we made it off of I-40 and pulled over at a gas station in Rose Hill, NC, home of the world’s largest frying pan and a town where the motto is apparently, “Look! We have a gas station!” As I was using all of my mechanical skills to stare at the tire in the gas station parking lot, an older man around 65 or 70 pulled up and offered to help. So, my boys and I searched the van for the spare tire, and after pulling out one suitcase one computer bag one makeup bag one beach floaty thing five ocean smelling swimsuits ten gross beach shoe flip flop things and 289 shovels full of sand, we proudly produced the tire for our good samaritan.

He eyed it for a moment, and said, “That there’s a donut.” (WHAT? WE HAD DONUTS?!?) “You can’t ride on no donut. I think I gots a tire your size at th’ house…follow me back there and I’ll change it fer ya.”

At that moment, I was touched at the generosity of the human spirit. The kindness of a stranger. The…wait a moment…I’m receiving a text from my 15 year old who has relocated to the far end of the van…”MAMA DOESN’T LIKE THIS.”

After reloading the donut, the suitcases, the flip flops, and the sand (I think we grabbed some extra from the gas station parking lot), we followed Mr. Good Samaritan Serial Killer down the back roads of Rose Hill. My bride – always the trusting one – began replaying every movie we’ve ever seen where someone relies a stranger for a tire change and then suddenly the stranger is wearing their small intestine as a necklace.

Read the entire original post here.

Chemo Crud. Courage. Community. (via @MarkLWaltz) If you’re a regular reader here, you know of my friend and far-off mentor Mark Waltz. What you may not know is that his wife Laura has been fighting cancer valiantly for the last few months. Their fierce love for Jesus and each other both inspires and convicts me.

IMG_6529Everyone sees Laura after chemo crud week. When she’s happily engaging conversation at our church building, Starbucks or elsewhere in our community. It’s truly remarkable to see her smile. To experience her genuine worship as she leads us with the arts team. To admire her strength and courage.

I see her as she is now. Completely wrung out. Nauseous. Achy – from her shoulders to her toes. Tired of laying in bed, but too tired to be anywhere else.


 

 

 

My Family, In Black and White. (via @CTmagazine) While I certainly haven’t felt all of the things that author Megan Hill talks about, I know that “I’m-getting-dirty-looks-and-maybe-someone-is-thinking-about-dialing-911-because-I’m-buckling-my-screaming-biracial-child-into-a-car-seat” feeling all too well.

I’m not happy about the people who stop me in the grocery store to question my fitness to be a mother to my kids. Not happy about the double- and triple-takes everywhere. But, as a parent, I’ve learned to be almost thankful for it. This scrutiny enables me to enter into my kids’ experience of a racially conscious world and to set for them an example of how to navigate it.

Someday (sooner than I’d like to imagine), my kids won’t be with me every time they go out in public. People’s nosy questions and unfriendly looks right now are the best chance I have to sympathize with my kids’ minority experience, the best chance I have to model for them how to act in the face of prejudice or false assumptions.


Simp
son No-No’s(via @MetaPicture) A glance at the tutorial that animators get when working on The Simpsons. Details matter.

Screen Shot 2013-11-14 at 8.44.26 AM

By now most of y’all know that I use this blog to think out loud. Well, “out loud” if you have a fancy way of making your computer device read to you. Or if you have a butler so you don’t have to be bothered by things like reading. (In that case, I hope he’s British because I’ll bet that would make this content sound 23% smarter.)

I digress.

Here’s my thinking out loud post for the day. Fall is coming. And with Fall usually comes a big need for new volunteers. Every summer, pastors across the land are scouring the church roll and beating the bushes to get someone…anyone…to work with eighth grade boys. (News flash: no one is ever going to work with eighth grade boys. Give it up.)

I believe that we typically go about the volunteer search all wrong. I think that there are three ways that we can invite and retain more volunteers:

1. Soft sell

We can scare off volunteers by releasing too much information too soon. Americans are typically afraid of commitment; ask any guy who’s ever tried to muster the courage to buy a diamond. That’s why I think we should give potential volunteers an easy on ramp. Explain the opportunity. Invite them to get more information. And promise there will be no obligation.

We should provide potential vols the chance to ask questions before signing a contract. If they’re pressured into a decision, that decision usually won’t last.

Our model: we’ll frequently invite potential volunteers to attend a training – say, First Impressions – with no expectation required beyond that. Almost every month we’ll have people show up who “just want information.”

 

2. Deep vision

Once a potential vol shows up for training, we bring out the big guns and unload on ’em with both barrels. The strongest vision you ever give for any volunteer ministry should be at their initial orientation. That’s your first opportunity to enlarge their heart towards what you want for them. If your orientation is boring as C-Span and dry as toast, then you deserve to have a lack of volunteers. Tell stories, share wins, feed them, for crying out loud, and bring them into the inner circle so they feel like owners in the ministry.

Our model: we offer a once-per-month First Impressions training that’s designed to share the “why” behind the “what.” It’s a 75 minute, high-energy vision session that focuses on touch, not task. 

 

3. Big ask

By the end of your training / orientation / whatever, you should have sold your vision so strongly that a volunteer is itching to join the team. True, you’ve said there’s no obligation, and you should stick to your word. But that doesn’t mean that you don’t end with a big ask. Lay out the expectations for a volunteer, explain the commitment level required, and give them an opportunity to sign on to be a part of perpetuating the vision.

Our model: there are a lot of “big asks” at the end of a training: attend one, serve one. Commit to a weekly schedule. Serve outside of your comfort zone. We set the bar high so the team’s quality will continue to increase.

Soft sell. Deep vision. Big ask. Is there one of those that is off base? Anything you’d add? I’d love your input (I am, after all, thinking out loud here). Comment below.

Feeling lazy? You’re in luck. I’m not even going to make you do the heavy lifting of reading this week. You’re welcome.

(Remember, click on the bold print to see the original video.)

It’s called a lilac chaser(via Kem Meyer) Mind. Blown. This must’ve been what it was like to live in the 60’s. (Follow the link to get the instructions.)

 

Power-tripping preacher rebukes the video guy for having a bad attitude. (via TwentyTwo Words) Dang. This guy wasn’t paying attention in the “How to Win Friends and Influence People” workshop.

 

A couple’s quintessential conversation about dinner(via TwentyTwo Words) This is a great follow up to It’s Not About The Nail.

Jumpin’ in the wayback machine in 3…2…

My wife loves me.

I want to tell you that right up front, because based on what you’re about to read, you’re going to question it. You’ll think that your pastor blogger friend needs immediate marriage counseling and/or a protective order, and it just ain’t so. She loves me. I’m confident she does.

At least…I’m pretty sure.

Merriem is a preschool teacher, and at their preschool they have “secret pals.” That’s a term that means “additional frou-frou items often containing polka dots show up at my house every few weeks.” The way it works is: at the beginning of the year all the teachers draw names, and then several times throughout the year they leave gifts. In my wife’s case, it’s usually pink, and it’s usually fraught with polka dots, because that’s how she rolls.

Read the entire post.

The Baptist men, they’re going to get it done tomorrow. (via @DennyBurk) The first church I served had a big-time Disaster Relief Ministry. Dick Staggs could cook eggs on a modified hubcap like nobody’s business.

38 signs you’re from North Carolina. (via Buzzfeed) I wasn’t born here, but man do I identify with a lot of these. (Notably #29.)

29. You know the Cook Out Tray is the best deal. Ever.

You know the Cook Out Tray is the best deal. Ever.

Cook Out is usually open pretty late. So you know it is not only a good deal, but fantastic after-bar food (you can get a corn dog as a side!).

It’s not about the nail. (via Laughing Squid) Oughta be required watching for every engaged couple. Hilarious.

Remember kids, click on the bold print to see the original article.

If Only They Knew How Many Times We Wanted To Quit! A great post on marital longevity by my friend Matt Pearson.

Couples who have been married 54 years didn’t make it that long because they never had a fight; or never had a rough season; or never had any major issues or problems; or never argued over finances; or never cheated; or never yelled at the other. NO. NO. NO. NO. They made it that long because they CHOSE TO STAY MARRIED AND WORK THROUGH THEIR PROBLEMS. The only other option is to  get out and try again with another.

Reverse Culture ShockIf you’re a pastor or ministry leader who has missionaries or church planters returning from the field, this is a must read from some of our own planters here at the Summit.

Reverse culture shock is no joke, people. It is painful and lonely much like the culture shock you go through on the other side of the pond, but in my estimation, it can be worse.  Reverse culture shock has you going in, well, reverse. The language, cultural taboos, greetings, slang, pop culture, etc., are all new or in some cases old, and you have to rewind and learn or relearn them or risk looking like a fool in front of your own people.  Overseas, you can chalk up your silly cultural blunders to the fact that you are a foreigner.  In America, not so much. You don’t look like a foreigner, you don’t talk like a foreigner.  So why on earth would you take your shoes off at someone’s door and kiss them three times on both cheeks when you meet them???  Cause it’s cultural… somewhere.

A Pep Talk From Kid President To YouApparently I’m late to the Kid President game, but I’m now campaigning for him in 2016. This may be the most fun 3:28 of your day.

Then & Now

Those babies up there? That’s us.

January 16, 1993 was the day we said “I do.” We were kids. Children. Nineteen years old, crazy in love, and convinced we were ready for the road ahead.

We’d dated for two years. Been engaged for fourteen long months. And on that unseasonably warm January afternoon, two very immature people launched into one incredible journey.

Five cities, two states, four houses, two apartments, four kids, one adoption, countless stupid dogs, and a couple of minivans later, it’s still a great journey. I still love my Merriem. If I have five minutes or five days, I’d still rather spend it with her than with anyone else. She’s the one who puts up with my corny jokes, patiently talks me down off the ledge, and consistently brings out my best.

She challenges me, loves me, takes care of me, and dreams with me. Nobody else can make me more spittin’ mad than her, and nobody else can make my heart skip a beat like her. She’s seen me through better and worse, richer and poorer, and sickness and health. She’s taught me more about the gospel than any preacher, any book, or any sermon. She’s been a living, breathing example of Jesus to me, and constantly, consistently points me to him.

And doggone it, she’s cute.

I shudder to think what the last twenty years would have been like without her by my side. Has it always been a fairy tale? Far from it. We’re a couple of sinners that have often tried to make idols out of each other and went to war when our puny gods failed us. But by the grace of the God who redeems us and our marriages for his glory, we keep pressing ahead.

Outside of the cross, she is the clearest picture of the mercy of God in my life. I love her heart and soul, and she’s still the one I want to grow old with. My “I do” stood twenty years ago, and today?

I still do.

I love you babe.

Meticulous research has shown me that there are two kinds of people in this world: (1) those who like the predictability and practicality of an artificial Christmas tree, and (2) insane people.

For 19 years, my beloved bride has hinted that maybe we should get a real tree. That maybe we’re not a true American family if we don’t have a real tree. That maybe Al Gore is just kidding and cutting down a real tree doesn’t actually cause a puppy to go blind.

And for 19 years, I’ve deftly avoided being drawn into those hints. For 19 years, I’ve put up our massive behemoth plastic tree, the one that is already pre-woven with lights that we lovingly pre-wove one year, and then cursingly re-wove every year after that, because one of the stupid strands burned out.

But this year, her hints turned into very strong suggestions, to the point that I felt threatened by her hints, if you get my domestic altercation drift.

And so it was that on Black Friday we set out like the pioneers of yore, trudging into the wilderness on an odyssey (or IN an Odyssey…did you see what I did there) for the perfect tree. Thankfully, we found the perfect tree after searching high and Lowe’s (wow, the hits just keep on coming), and as we gazed at it in astounded wonder, asked ourselves the age old question,

“How in the blazes do we move this stupid thing?”

You see, it brought me great joy to see the joy my wife had over her real tree. As a matter of fact, I encouraged her to go big before we go home and upsize that sucker. For only twenty more bucks we could have two more feet of tree and – the way I calculated – a few more strands of lights to fight over.

So we got the eight footer. I hauled it out of the bin to stand it up and bounce it on the ground to see if any needles fell off, just like my forebears taught me to in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. The only problem: eight foot trees don’t bounce. And neither do they stand up easily when you’re trying to get your 5’2″ wife to hold it so you can take her picture.

Me: Look, it’s standing up! All you have to do is hang on to it.

Merriem: I can’t hang on to it! It’s going to tip over.

Me: HANG ON LET ME SWITCH TO VIDEO MODE!

Then it was time to move Mr. Tannenbaum to the trimming stand, where two helpful men look and you and grin while you try to maneuver an eight foot tree onto the trimming stand. They then ask you how much you want taken off, which is the Christmas Tree Stand equivalent to my mechanic asking what weight oil I want to use. (Answer: “Um…a couple of pounds?”)

So they trimmed a bit off the trunk, and then put the same netting around the tree that I had just removed from the Thanksgiving turkey the day before. Then one of the guys helped me strap the tree to the top of the van, all the while telling me how we were making memories with our kids, and they would never forget these moments, and this would be the kind of thing that they would tell their kids about. Except I was having a hard time agreeing with him, because at that moment our kids were sitting at home playing their WiiBoxStation or whatever they have, because they weren’t all that interested in picking out the thing that would serve as the foundation for their generational memories.

Back to the house, where my in laws were waiting to (a) help put up the tree and (b) serve as witnesses in case of a future court deposition. And for two more days, we wrapped that rascal in lights and ribbon and ornaments and vile hatred and broken dreams, because let’s face it: that’s what Christmas lights do to you. Merriem and I know we can count on one major fight per year, and that will be the Christmas Light Fight. (“Just toss me that strand.” “Which strand?” “That strand.” “I NO LONGER RESPECT YOU AS A HUMAN!”)

But as of this morning when I left the house, amidst the living room floor shrapnel known as falling pine needles, we have a beautiful, pine scented, joyously festive Christmas tree that has brought our family together and helped us look forward to the season. At least until it crashes to the ground because one of the kids bumped into it.

I hope I have the camera in video mode.