Perspective on Perspectives - Tasting the Sun
This morning I had the following conversation with my daughter.
Rachel: I taste the sun
Dad: How do you taste it?
Rachel: Remember, we look at it.
It's amazing to me just how clear and understandable the impossible is. I had never considered tasting the sun before, and yet it's an easy and obvious thing to do.
Sometimes I think I need to be a bit more creative when looking at the world around me. I've never considered the taste of the sun or the smell of the wind until now.
I think it's time to open my eyes and taste the world with them.
Stories - An Example
Well, it turns out the photo I snagged from Flickr in my Stories post was used by C.B. Whittemore in another post (I don't know which one). Perusing her posts about marketing, I came across her post on Going the Extra Kilometer with Iron Girl Judy Molnar.
There are a lot of little things which were done during this event. Each one of them made a mark in the people participating.
The mere existence of this post shows that the Iron Girl competition changed people and has them telling stories about how they were changed.
What's my point? This post has some really specific and easy ways to impact people at our next church event. Ways that get different generations impacted all at once. This post made it clear that it's easy to make a huge event personal.
Jody closed the entry appropriately with this.
…you may not know which personal touch will connect with the consumer and differentiate you from the others. But, if you focus on the little things that tell a consumer that you care, they can all add up to a very big difference.
During our recent staff retreat, we talked a lot about stories. We talked about hearing the special stories about how a particular program or even touched someone's life.
Right now I'm on my way into work listening to WMZQ (you can tell Erin's driving, I wouldn't be listening to commercial radio, or even typing on a laptop as I drive) as they advertise their upcoming job fair. What struck me about this ad is that it wasn't an advertisement so much as a storytelling.
During parts of the program they would just have employees come up to the microphone and talk about how they found their job at WMZQ, what they love about it (they did love what they did, that part was emphasized a lot) and how the job has affected their life. The DJ (the ads went on throughout the day) would ask the person questions and drop in some of their own experience.
You knew that what these people did at WMZQ was more than just a job. They were doing what they loved with people they liked to be around. You also heard from everyone, the DJ's, studio producers, sales people and even the interns.
These guys have storytelling down. Whenever we have an event at church, there should be people talking about how it's changed them. If we aren't hearing any stories for our programs, maybe those programs need to be revisited.
Stories are all I can think about now as I go places (Rachel's gym class, Rachel's school, college, church events, meetings (yes, meetings) or retreats). What story do I want to tell afterward? More importantly, what stories do other people want to share?
If you've got a story, share it! If you've heard a story, let someone else know. The best way to change lives is to talk about how your life is changing.
What Are You Remembered For Florence Leary?
On September 15th, 2006 my grandmother, Florence Leary, passed away peacefully in her sleep. I wish I could say the entire process was peaceful, but she went through a lot of pain from her rheumatoid arthritis, especially in the last few weeks. Thankfully, she was able to finally decide it was time to move on from this world and hang out with god, which meant the increased medication could help her last few days be restful.
Spending time with my family talking about grandma Leary got me thinking about what it is people remember about her. Here's what I always think about when I think of grandma.
Accepting. I only really completely realized this during grandma's viewing, though my mom had mentioned it. She welcomed everyone and was kind to them regardless of what major events or issues had happened. After my parents divorced, my grandmother continued to be my mom's mom. She also cared about and accepted my uncle (by marriage into the family) when he was lost both in life and with his marriage.
Once you were a part of the family, grandma was there for you. She was also open enough to tell you when you'd messed up or when you needed to change. At the same time she was glad to tell me how proud she was of both my brother and I.
I try to accept those around me and even make people I've never met feel comfortable. Once I hear some negative news about someone it gets harder for me to treat them quite the same. So far as I could ever see, this wasn't the case with grandma. I only hope each of us can be so loving.
Why I Love the Internet
I'm writing this as we drive along the New Jersey Turnpike. Almost to the end and my turn to drive, I sure would like to be able to write and drive at the same time, but it'd drive Erin crazy (I could use Dragon NaturallySpeaking, not type and drive, that's almost crazy). Already on this trip, five questions have come up:
- How much further to the Vince Lombardi rest area?
- Is there gas at the rest area (the signs were misleading, after a quick call from the rest area's site they have as much as I could want)?
- Is there traffic on the George Washington Bridge?
- Should we take the upper or lower level of the GW Bridge (the lower level based on this site)?
- What did that sign on the turnpike just say before it switched off?
As we've been driving up the road a quick bit of searching (mostly on Wikipedia) turned up all of the above information. I can't even remember what it was like before we had all of this real-time information at my fingertips. I must have just flown by the seat of my pants and taken what came. Thank goodness those days are gone, huh?
Youth Group Resuscitation
I was reading this post from ChurchBlast about how their youth group has shrunk significantly since many teens graduated off to college. Having been incredibly blessed to be able to share life with a youth group that has grown from 7 teens to over 60, then back to a steady 30 (and a core of 25) I figured I would comment with some of what I've learned through reading, from Rob and (mainly) experience. Here are my thoughts on it all.
Our group began a few years ago with 7 teens and quickly grew to 50. While this wasn't sustained, we have learned a lot from the ebb and flow of the numbers of teens in our group.
For our group the best way to grow has come through strong small groups. Having a core group of 5 teens who care about each-other creates a healthy clique which is willing to welcome others. This environment helps people want to invite their friends as well.
We've coupled that with mission trips and some large fun activities. Having one large, fun and purely secular activity a month, such as a trip to an amusement park, spelunking, hiking, going to a sports event really gets the teens to want to invite friends knowing there is no pressure that the friends they invite must join the group. New teens get to meet others outside their circle of friends at school and figure out if they fit with that group.
Our mission trips (we've used Youthworks for the past 4 years) have also really helped this. Some of the less engaged teens at church have gone on the trips and come back with a whole new outlook toward Christ and each-other.
Another thing we've done to help bring in some new faces has been for a youth leader to simply sit at a central Starbucks that most teens can come to. There's no agenda, just a time to meet the youth leader(s) and chat with friends. While this started with 3 - 5 teens, the weekly meeting grew over 3 to 4 months as people invited more and more friends, or others simply stopped by. While we've only brought maybe 5 or 10 new teens into the "traditional" youth group activities, I and other leaders have made some new connections and really impacted some hurting and lost people.
Another thing we've done is simply to get the leaders into the lives of the teens. going to sporting events at their high school, going to plays they are in (or even helping them get ready for the event, my wife did girls' hair before a play, another mom brought the kids out to Red Robin after each performance), attending science fairs for some teens. Taking youth group outside of the church gets the teens to recognize that you care about them beyond Sunday/Wednesday nights and almost forces them to introduce you to their friends and gives you the chance to be "normal".
One area we have recently begun working on is youth group’s vision and focus. We're working to determine where god is leading our group and what programs we can really focus on, instead of trying to be everything to everyone. Having that written vision, mission and core values for the whole ministry team helps create activities that are so good teens can't help but invite their friends.
The short answer is that we all need to celebrate the teens that have left, but focus our eyes on the unsaved. The teens within the church are incredibly important to youth ministry. They are the links to those unsaved teens at school and they're the ones who will bring in their friends. Focusing bible studies on stewardship and support for their friends (and strangers) in the school gets the teens to recognize the importance they play in a healthy, fun and life changing youth group.
The Planning Stage
Right now I am in the planning stage of my life. I'm planning what to do in the next few years. I'm writing out my high level goal for every year over the next five and the steps to make the plan happen.
I'm really working to define what is going to set my life apart from everyone else's. What is God's plan for me that will have the greatest (not the biggest necessarily, the best) impact on the world. What will I pioneer?
This came clearer as I was reading Seth Godin's blog on Doing it for free. Seth says
In fact, the more I think about it, the more it seems that pioneers are almost never in it for the money. The smart ones figure out how to take a remarkable innovation and turn it into a living (or a bigger than big payout) but not the other way around. I think the reason is pretty obvious: when you try to make a profit from your innovation, you stop innovating too soon. You take the short payout because it's too hard to stick around for the later one.
I already know that I'm not very hung up on making gobs and gobs of money. Here's where I do fall into the trap.
...people who want to join the pioneers are often focused on a steady paycheck and juicy options... they would probably be better off seeking the edgiest thing they can find, run by the most devoted visionary.
I am incredibly hung up on the steady paycheck. I've always worried about not having the money when we need it, or keeping up a lifestyle. Not increasing it, but just whether I can make the mortgage payments.
I have been e-mailing my friend Kelly and she said this a little differently. She raised the point:
Now I'm back in NYC and really wishing that I loved working in a job that paid a lot more! One with a bit more security. But oh well - the starving actor life for me:)
If you really read this she makes pretty clear that she loves her job and what she does. For as long as I've known Kelly (about 13 years now, how crazy is that) she has known what she's wanted to do with life and where she wants to be. Truly, I can become jealous of that sometimes.
Sure it's uncertain. She dropped out of college and works from show to show never really knowing what is going to come next. She loves it.
My life has been centered around stability and moving slowly. Now that change is finally occurring I feel God leading me toward that unsure life that might pay very little, and it scares the heck out of me.
Time to put some more faith in God and less in myself. In reality my security has little to do with myself anyway. When do you let your sense of security fall away?
While I generally dislike strictly uninformative posts about my family, I just have to get this out.
First, my mom is awesome. She visited us and helped immensely get Rachel potty trained and just spent time with us all.
Second, over the weekend we got some amazing pictures. Here are my two favorites, no question. In case you weren't sure, it is true. My child is cuter than yours (wink, wink). Yes, these pictures are on Flickr but I wanted to highlight them somehow.
Have you ever seen bluer eyes
(believe it or not, I didn't Photoshop them)?
Rachel just randomly started making faces at me.
Anybody remember Scrappy Doo always saying "Puppy Power" before doing something incredible? I'm a die-hard traditionalist. Scooby, Shaggy, Fred, Velma & Daphne without weird and perky sidekicks. The best thing about the first movie was that Scrappy was gone (sort-of).
While I always disliked Scrappy, it was cool that he shouted Puppy Power and did amazing things you didn't even know he could do. He transcended himself and amazed everyone around him.
Today I'm thinking of teaching Rachel to say Potty Power. While we've been working on potty training her for a week and a half, today she amazed us all. She went all day without making any accidents and without needing a diaper. She doesn't even want one for naps or bed time, but we're working on that (thank goodness for pull-ups, the special sleeping diapers).
Rachel told us when she wanted to go (even in the middle of story time at the library) and kept herself dry all day. She truly went beyond what we all expected of her.
When I see Rachel do things like this it gets me to recognize that we humans are capable of much more than we are aware of.
As I keep moving forward in life I'm realizing that I really can do some of these things which I have never thought myself capable. This is bringing about some big changes in my life.
What do you think you're not capable of? Why not try it anyway?
Million Dollar Idea #3: Zoo Wars
Today we went to the Cape May County Zoo. I have to say, this is a zoo that seems very well maintained, is really interesting and does it all on donations alone.
While we were there my friend John had a great idea. He wondered who would win if you threw a lion in with an alligator. That spurred on the discussion of a new reality show that we'll need to make. This one would probably go on Discovery or Animal Planet.
We'll take an animal from each habitat, starve them for a few days then throw them into a cage together and let them duke it out! I bed we'd get millions of viewers throughout the series (except maybe the turtle vs. giant sloth fight - maybe time lapse video will be needed there).
This is one I definitely can't pull off on my own. So, if you love this idea as much as the time machine, then you get to run with it, no charge.
Sum of Our Parts Illustration
We're on the road to New Jersey for a weekend with the family of my college friend Melissa. We stopped off for brunch. At 11:30 I can't say it was lunch, Erin and Rachel had breakfast and I eschewed breakfast (since all breakfast is second class to lunch and dinner) food for a sandwich.
As I watched Rachel pull apart and eat some bacon a great illustration came to mind. I'm wondering why we don't use it more in talks and conversations.
When you have bacon, it's essentially got two parts, meat and fat. You'd never grill bacon without fat, since it would burn. You'd also never break it apart and eat only the fat, that's just gross. It's only by the fat and meat working together that you get a decent taste.
Not liking bacon I figured out an even more relevant illustration... Hot Dogs! Wikipedia has an awesome description and history of the Hot Dog. Along with these listed ingredients:
Contents can also be questionable, with cheaper types of hot dogs having been known to contain snouts, ears and blended organ meat.
I don't know about you, but the last time I ate snout all alone I wasn't all that impressed. While "blended organ meat" may sound incredibly appetizing, I wonder if it really is as tasty as the name lets on.
All those ears, snouts and organ meat together make for one delicious meal. While I can't abide with natural casing hot dogs (those with sheep intestines holding all the meat in place, that just sounds gross), skinless is darned good.
Where does this whole thing lead? I am so much more with other people than I can be alone. I can get more done, think more creatively and even have more fun.
Why hasn’t anyone else thought of the hot dog illustration before?
At Denny's one family came in with a big group and decided to have some fun. One guy convinced the waitress (in secret of course) to tell the rest of the family that they were out of eggs. It was quite hilarious, and the waitress pulled it off so well I thought they were really out.
Had that guy with the joke came in all by himself I hardly think it would have been as funny.
What are you going to do today? Will you be a pig snout or will you be a delicious hot dog?