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26 August 2008

The Divinity of Camping

I know people that are totally and completely against camping. They won't touch it with a ten foot pole and would rather be involved in tax paying or public speaking if given the choice...

And in some small part I lean in that direction. I grew up camping and I think I remember it being fun. But as I matured and became more worried about cleanliness and order I just grew out of the camping stage. I mean camping involves a lot of negative things like:

  • manual labor
  • bugs
  • humidity and no air conditioning
  • smoke
  • extremes in cold or heat
  • no electricity
  • no television
  • no wireless Internet
  • bathrooms off site
  • etc.
In processing some of these dislikes I came to a stunning conclusion. A bit of a stereotype, I'll give you that, but there is a strong correlation:
Wealthy people don't like camping.
Like I said - stereotyping - but think about it. The more 'things' you have and the more comfortable your lifestyle, the harder it is to give this up and camp. It just makes sense that the wealthier you get, the LESS likely it will be that you would enjoy camping.

Someone living in a trailer has much more in common with camping in a tent than someone living in a quarter-million dollar estate.

Let's Get Spiritual
The Bible describes a similar stereotype by explaining that wealth will make it difficult for people to see their need for God and Heaven.

Just as camping becomes less and less appealing to the wealthy, so too Heaven becomes less and less appealing when you can have everything your heart desires here on earth.

Bringing it Full Circle
But there is Someone who went on the ultimate camping trip. One who made the largest and most awkward lifestyle change just for us.

Jesus chose to go from being the God of the Universe, to being a camper on this dirty, dusty earth. From the having everything to having nothing. For you and me.

This is what I thought about as I camped in Ohio this past weekend. What if camping is a real life way to experience the truly amazing thing our God did for us?

In the humidity and sweat of tearing down our campsite I felt for a brief moment the great discrepancy He endured for me. Because of this camping has taken on a whole new meaning...

22 August 2008

How Badly Do You Fluctuate?

The other day I was thinking about how difficult it is for some people to handle situations in life. And how there seems to be other people who do a good job at handling whatever comes their way.

I typically fall into the calm and collected group. And while a HUGE part of it is with God's help as a Christ follower, I was also a therapist for quite some time. I read books, helped other people control their moods and ran groups on how to maintain a life of emotional moderation.

The graph shows what extreme mood swings look like (graphical representation of mood swings for the person that is Bipolar).

You can see there are HUGE shifts between depressed moods and manic moods. But what the graph fails to show is the differences in frustration tolerance, or the ability to handle things that are not pleasant.

Frustration Tolerance Example

  • You wake up happy and ready for the day. Then at work you see you have 250 new emails. You understand it's gonna be a long day but you muddle through because you are in a good place. [High Frustration Tolerance]
  • You wake up angry and you aren't feeling well. Then at work you see you have 250 new emails. You flip out and throw something across the room, accidentally hit your boss and get fired. [Low Frustration Tolerance]
Now people can exhibit low and high frustration tolerance even on a normal day (not depressed or manic) but when your mood goes to the extreme, so does your tolerance level.

Depressed people tend to have very low frustration tolerance. Every little thing is a problem and the entire world looks dark and grim. Having to go out of their way at all can be the end of the world. Since their energy level is so low they typically just whine and complain - sinking farther into their depression.

Likewise, manic people are so keyed up and have such little control over their impulses that they too have a hard time controlling their behavior when things don't go their way. Low frustration tolerance often comes out as anger outbursts. These rages are often violent and unprovoked. They go far beyond what would be considered a normal response to the situation.

So how do you fluctuate? Do you live in the extremes or do you try to maintain a healthy balance in the middle of the graph?

If you frequently find yourself fighting to have a more positive attitude or keep from getting worked up over such trivial things, keep this in mind:
One of the best ways to control your frustration tolerance is to control your mood.

Break A Leg

"Break a leg!"

At least that's what they say when you go on stage. But what do they say when you go on your first open water dive?

This weekend (as in tomorrow) we'll be at Gilboa Quarry in Ohio for our open water dives. After 4 dives we're done - certified SCUBA divers.

Until recently I was still in fantasy land when it came to what it really means to SCUBA dive. I mean we've been in a clean pool at a depth you could easily snorkel at if you wanted to. Controlled environment with easy access to the surface.

But this weekend I woke up. I was at a small lake in Indiana and for the fun of it threw on my snorkel gear. I swam around for a few minutes realizing just how poor visibility can be in a lake full of micro-organisms, plant life and boats to stir things up. And then it happened.

I saw a fish.

I know. I know. You're saying, "Wow, he is in a lake and saw a fish. Who knew!"

But there is something totally different about looking INTO the water to see a fish and actually being IN the water with the fish. One minute there was nothing, and then there it was right in front of me. I expected it to immediately move away when it saw me there, but it just sat there and looked at me.

And that's when it hit me. We're going into an environment humans typically don't enter. We're both intruders and yet accepted as normal marine life.

I can't wait!

14 August 2008

The Top 5 Things I Learned From SCUBA

A group of us recently began to pursue our PADI Open Water Diver Certification through JR Aquatic Center in Niles, MI.

It's something I have wanted to do since high school. In fact I even signed up to do it in college - only to back out due to the cost. So it was a no-brainer when the group of guys agreed to do it together at a discounted rate.

Then throw in the fact that for some odd reason watching Shark Week actually makes me want to go diving in the ocean! And I'm sold on SCUBA.

But this post isn't about the cool stuff you get to do as a SCUBA Diver. It's about the crazy real life applications I've learned from taking the class.

Here are the Top 5 things I've learned from SCUBA so far:

  1. Fun Stuff is Expensive: From Golf to Ice Hockey, Snowboarding to Rock Climbing, Skydiving to Paintball, you just keep putting out the money. All of these things require "gear" and if it's called "gear" it will cost you. But then again no one claimed that fun would be free. Sure you can have fun during free activities, but I'm betting you won't be 60ft under water...
  2. You Need Your Own Gear: I'm not saying you should never rent SCUBA gear, but it has become very evident that if something fits well, you'll feel more comfortable and be able to get more out of the thing you're doing. Example: If your mask doesn't fit right you'll have more water in it than air...
  3. Learn Slow to Stay Safe: I don't think PADI says it this way, but this is the way I understand these requirements. In SCUBA there are depth maximums that need to be observed based on your level of experience. Open Water & Recreational Divers should stay above 60ft. Advanced Open Water Divers should remain above 100ft. And no one should go below 130ft. without some crazy training in deep sea diving.
  4. Rules Are Important: You don't realize how technical SCUBA is until you take the class. Most people have heard about things like decompression, but once in the class you realize that by entering the underwater world you subject yourself to a set of constants (like gravity) that require rigorous attention to detail. Dive charts, proper equipment checks, compass navigation, neutral buoyancy, nitrogen narcosis equalization and the list goes on. Because of this you practice numerous skills like clearing your mask, sharing oxygen, taking equipment off underwater, etc.
  5. Seriously Fun Stuff Can Be Life Threatening: SCUBA Diving has it's risks. And while hundreds of thousands of people SCUBA each year without a problem, the potential is there. Potential for problems that can lead to death. All the more reason to learn the rules and follow them.
Then realize that these 5 things also apply to our spiritual lives:
  1. Fun Stuff is Expensive: What are we willing to give sacrificially for? It's one thing to say we are Christians, or that we want to help the poor. But are we tithing? Do we give above and beyond to help those in need? Truth is, if we want real purpose in life we'll pay for it.
  2. You Need Your Own Gear: In life you can't count on the work of others (spiritually speaking). You need your own "gear." The Bible refers to it as "full armor of God." And we get this armor through prayer, Bible study, being part of a local church, etc. But you HAVE to do it for yourself. It's ok to help others along the way - but at some point they will have to get their own "gear."
  3. Learn Slow to Stay Safe: People can only handle so much information at a time. A new believer needs the small packet of info called "Giving your life to Christ" first and then maybe later will come to appreciate the small packet called "Eschatology." Dumping the entirety of the Christian life on a new believer is like a green diver going down to 130ft. on his or her first dive. Both are doable, but the potential for something bad to happen is huge...
  4. Rules Are Important: You typically think of rules as things to be broken. But 99% of the time rules are meant to keep us safe. Man-made rules are sometimes questionable, but God's rules are without a doubt for our own good - even when we can't see them that way. In SCUBA, the rule "Never stop breathing" doesn't seem important since we hold our breath out of water without problem. But try it under water and your lungs can explode...
  5. Seriously Fun Stuff Can Be Life Threatening: Living a life with purpose can be dangerous. It means having faith in the unseen, putting time and energy into things the world views as a waste of time and at some point may even cost us our lives. But we know that it's all worth it. Given the fact that this life is but a scratch on the surface of eternity, we can lead this dangerous life with a real sense of security.
In a couple weeks we take a road trip to Ohio for our open water dives. Hopefully I'll learn at least another 5 things from that. We'll see...

What Were They Thinking #1: Low Tide

This is actually the product that pushed me to make the What Were They Thinking blog post series a reality.

Product: Tide 2X Ultra with new and improved dispensing system.

Lack of excellence: Just looking at the new bottle one might think, "How intelligent - a spout! That should make it easier to use." And for those who don't care about using the proper amount for each load of clothes it just might be. Tip the bottle over, push the spout a few times and you're good.

But for those of us desiring to use the right amount for each load (and no more than necessary which would end up costing more) this system breaks down immediately. Look on the back of the container and it shows you how to remove the clear cap and pump the right amount into it for each load. So far so good. I Get the right amount, dump it into the washer and then realize that in order to replace the cap I have to wash it out completely. Replace it without washing and it will drip out from under the cap and run down the bottle - leaving everything in its path sticky and slimy.

Quick review: The old version of the bottle worked like this: remove cap, pour right amount into cap, dump into the washer and replace cap. Excess detergent drains back into the bottle. This saved time (and money since nothing is washed down the drain.)

Learning from our mistakes: I would suggest that making improvements to things is great - but every new thing also needs tested by people that use the product. Just because something can be done doesn't necessarily mean it should be done.

I was talking to someone on our team about this the other day and she said:

Sometimes creative people are so creative that they don't think about the functionality of their design...
Now one would assume that Tide (Procter & Gamble) has both the creative designers and those testing for functionality. But in this case it appears something slipped through the cracks. That's why I asked, "What were they thinking?"

13 August 2008

What Were They Thinking? (WWTT)

I've decided to start a new blog post series called What were they thinking? I've been planning to for a while, just wanted to make sure I had a good direction in mind and had thought it through. Here's why: Posts like this can come across as very negative and derogatory. And I wanted to make sure that they added value rather than just appear like I'm complaining.

That said, here is my hope for this series:

  1. Each post will describe something (it could be a product, website, brand, service or really anything for that matter)
  2. Next, I'll try to explain where I think there was a breakdown that caused a lack of excellence.
  3. Finally, I'll try (may be difficult in some situations) to use this lack of excellence to illustrate something of value - so we can learn from the mistakes of others.
This is just an introduction to WWTT so look for the first post later this week.

07 August 2008

Leadership Summit 2008 | Day 1

Another year. Another Summit.

But the minute you start thinking that way it sneaks up and slaps you in the face.

This year it started early. Bill Hybels began with a compelling message on how leaders make difficult decisions and then transitioned into 'axioms' that leaders create and eventually begin using to help shape culture in their environment.

Here are some of those he put to paper (many more in his new book called

  • "Vision leaks."
  • "Get the right people around the table."
  • "Facts are your friends."
  • "When something feels funky...engage."
  • "Leaders call fouls." (both on others are on yourself)
  • "Take a flyer." (risk)
  • "This is church."
  • "Get your butt off the fence." (Okay...I added that one just because he said it about people who can't make up their minds for Christ and I loved it.)
But the speaker that really hit me with content straight from the heart of God was Gary Haugen, CEO and founder of IJM. There is just something about people that are fighting injustice in the world head on. His stories were both painful and inspiring. A few quotes:
Are Jesus and I really interested in the same things?

If you want your leadership to matter, lead in the things that matter to God.

Something is wrong when Jesus' yoke is light and mine is heavy.

Not too shabby is the work being done by Wendy Kopp, CEO of Teach for America.

And what a rockin' end to the day as Efrem Smith of Sanctuary Covenant Church finished things off. My favorite line:
In case you haven't been paying attention I'm black. For those of you watching on black and white televisions, I'm the darker one. (my wording since I couldn't type fast enough...)