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26 November 2008

Oh...The Possibilities!

I don't know what you dream about, but for me its emerging technologies and the way we can leverage it in ministry.

Last Christmas I purchased an Xbox360 Elite. I got the one with the big hard drive in part because all the other ones were sold out, but also thinking I would fill it up with pictures and home videos. However, pictures can easily be pulled from the network and my AVCHD video has to be converted into another format if it is to be watched on the Xbox360. So it may not have been such a necessary thing...

But that has nothing to do with why I'm geeked. The big win came in November with the release of the new and improved Xbox Live interface.

And no...I'm not talking about the fact that you can arrogantly create an avatar in your own image :).

I'm talking about the partnerships being formed and the interactivity between the Xbox and online services like Netflix. With the new interface you can connect to Netflix and stream video in HD. Simply create a Netflix account, put HD movies in your queue and they become available in your Xbox console menu.

Now I know this has nothing to do with ministry, but I'm looking at the trend and not the immediate reward. In the future, what if the Xbox360 had its own browser? What if you could go to and watch the weekly message in streaming flash video right on your big screen?

Oh...the possibilities!

19 November 2008

Service Matters

In the past few months I have had many negative experiences with companies that seem to have lost their understanding of what customer service is all about.

From cable companies to insurance companies to online companies that hide behind "cyber-walls" expecting that their behavior won't be called into question or challenged legally.

But then there are companies and employees that challenge this negative trend.

I posted about recently and I'm happy to say that my wife and I had a similar experience at The Cheesecake Factory this week.

As we were enjoying our cheesecake, a waitress walked by with half a sandwich on a small plate. She stopped at the booth directly behind me and said:

I couldn't help but notice the smile on your face as you ate the sandwich you ordered so I made you another half. Hope you like it!

In this day and age its nice to see that some companies (people) still understand what really matters in business - serving others well...

14 November 2008

Love Like They'll Be Gone Tomorrow

I ended up watching ER last night after having stopped for a good long time. But I'm glad I did because every once and a while it is good for me to be forced to think about death.

Over time I tend to put stuff like that on the back burner because it isn't fun to think about.

The problem for me is this:

The farther away I keep the concept of death, the easier it is for me to treat people poorly.
Not 'poorly' as in not loving them. Just not loving them well. It's easier to fall into traps like taking people for granted, choosing not to engage them in conversation, allowing your busy life to become an emotional barrier, etc.

Then factor in that the death on ER was a 5 year old child, and it takes on even more significance.

How many times have I said, "Just a minute." "I'm a little busy right now." "Stop asking me so many questions."

I need to be jolted back into the reality that every day we get with our kids is a gift. Which means every little experience and every little moment with them should be something to enjoy, not get irritated about.

Tucking my kids in before we went to bed last night was a fairly emotional experience for me. And rightfully so...

I'm learning to love like they'll be gone tomorrow.

13 November 2008

Cross Pollination

The other day I was thinking about how drastically different my life is now that I working for the church. And how fast it all changed.

True, I was volunteering in the Communications Department, doing web stuff for a couple years before being hired. But it was literally full time psychotherapist one week, full time web director the next.

At first it appeared to be an easy split - like dropping a bad habit and never looking back. Black and white, not messy at all.

But recently two things have happened.

First, I have started thinking more and more about the mental health field. Not because I want to go back, but because it was such a big part of what I did for so long. I miss the science behind it. Working with people and helping them break out of the fog they were in. Helping them see we all have the ability to control our thinking and behaving - regardless what we are feeling.

Secondly, I've come to realize that I never really left the mental health field. Here's why:

  • People are still hurting - even in the church.
  • On the website we help people find their next step. For many it is to attend Turning Point and begin working on the big issues in their life.
  • For others, Starting Point is the next step. Small Groups are formed so people can find authentic community and come out of the shadows.
  • Kids can work through their issues at Turning Point ALL STARS.
  • Couple can make good decisions prior to marriage at Beyond I Do.
  • People can get get out of debt by attending Financial Peace University.
  • And there is even help for those exiting the prison system at Prison Transition Aftercare.
  • These coupled with the fact that my department is "Obsessive-Compulsive" about excellence and because we use the phrase "brand schizophrenia" a lot...
All this and you can't help but see the cross pollination. The training I had wasn't left behind. I simply entered a new field where the same people and the same problems exist.

Only this time we have the ability to give them what they really need - not just pop psychology (although there are numerous concepts from the field of psychology that are true and helpful).

But we get to give them Jesus, His death on the cross, and a community of people hungry for more of what He has to offer.

I know I'm in the right place.

11 November 2008

My Contribution

Ever notice how the level of excellence drops off dramatically the smaller the product, company, church, etc.?

I've become involved in a number of 'fringe hobbies' (term used because of the small number of people actually engaged in them) - the most recent being SCUBA. And it doesn't take long before you realize just how small the SCUBA community really is. Just search for desktop wallpaper, tutorials, videos or other resources.

You'll find stuff, just not good quality stuff. Companies (and individual divers) don't have multi-million dollar marketing departments. They don't pay top design agencies to print their stuff or design their websites.

And so it was when I tried searching for dive logs. I'm still learning so I wanted a dive log for planning a repetitive dive that was simple and helped explain how you moved from the first dive into the repetitive dives.

Of course I found little to nothing. So I decided to make one. Call it my little contribution to the SCUBA community.

I got the majority of my information from:

Here is a PDF of the Repetitive Dive Planning Log.

Let me know if its helpful (and accurate). I'd love constructive criticism - will only make it better in the long run.

Finding Your Favorite Things

How do you find your favorite things?

Is it from TV or newspaper ads, billboards, passed down by your parents, trial and error, word of mouth or something else all together?

For me it has been a little of everything. But I only recently realized the power that word of mouth has on us.

I was chatting with a co-worker about spicy foods when he showed me a package of spicy noodles by the NongShim company. He joked about how a Korean exchange student staying in his home was having his mother ship them to him. Only to find out they were available at a local supermarket in the international foods aisle.

I gave them a try and was instantly hooked. They are now one of my favorite things. Of course the minute you come to rely on something - it disappears. It wasn't long before the supermarket stopped carrying them.

Thank goodness we live in the age of Googlightenment. I did a quick search and found them on 40 packages for around $32.00 - saving us almost 20 cents per package in the process.

What an amazing time we live in where you can instantly have what you instantly desire...okay...I know there is something very disturbing about that statement but we'll leave that for another post.

How do you find your favorite things? And what are they?

06 November 2008

Twitter: Life Enhancement

I began using Twitter this year. In fact it was the day I left for SXSW in Austin, TX. I figured it was the perfect test to see if it was helpful or not. While on the trip I could tweet about what I was doing and keep the peeps at home up to date on the cool stuff I was learning.

Since then I have had moments where I was ready to give it all up. Only to realize that it wasn't Twitter's fault. I was simply following too many people. After knocking it from over 100 down to a comfortable 35 things have been awesome.


Well one of the BIGGEST reasons is this:

Twitter transcends typical communication patterns - taking you from 'limited communication' to 'ongoing' or 'continual communication.'
In the past we were limited in our ability to maintain ongoing relationships. Long ago you had to be in the same physical location in order to talk to someone. Then with the advent of the 'corded' phone, two people could be in different places (as long as it was by a phone) and talk to each other. Next, mobile phones allowed us to be more places at more times and talk to each other. Add texting and we can communicate in small snippets with other people very quickly and easily.

But with Twitter, you can update a group of people (those following you) at any time from anywhere (as long as you have a wireless or cell signal) and have people respond to you instantly.

This continual communication is HUGE when you think about it. Talk about doing life with people on a whole new level. Instead of hanging out with someone once a week and getting caught up on their life, you can literally experience each others lives as they unfold.

Now this could get very creepy - so please use some restraint.

I'm just saying - this technology makes it possible for organic beings to communicate and remain connected in ways once thought only possible for machines.

Look how far we've come.

03 November 2008

The Blog Problem

I've been blogging for a while now and for the most part you can't beat the functionality. You get online content management, streamlined text editing engine, pre-designed templates (if you are ok with that) and an RSS feed. Add some "widgets" to your sidebar and the possibilities are endless. And in the case of Blogger its FREE!

But there are some things about blogs that just get downright frustrating. The other day I came up with two that I thought I'd ask you about. So I'll just phrase them in the form of questions:

1. How do you keep good content from getting lost?
Blog posts get bumped down each time you create a new one. Problem is, over time your post becomes lost in the massive post archive list. If it was a great post that people still need to find, it can get a little crazy.

Here are a few things I've tried in the past:
  1. Predate the post: If you put a date of 2010 (or any date in the future) on a post it will remain at the top of your blog until that date arrives. Problem: people get sick and tired of seeing it every time they visit your blog.
  2. Create quick links: Most blogs already have an archived list of all posts, but the farther away the post gets the harder it is to find. So adding a quick link list in the sidebar for important posts might be helpful.
  3. Add search functionality: I recently added the lijit search box to my blog (after a thumbs up from Kem Meyer and Tim Stevens).
2. How do you deal with your content becoming dated and in essence misleading?
The other thing that happens with a blog is that the engine archives the posts as they are. Its like writing a book - the minute you hit publish its old and starts to fall victim to changes that contradict it.

Of course with a blog you have the ability to edit the post. So here are some ways I've attempted to keep content correct:
  1. New posts: The simple solution is to just keep posting with new and updated information. Problem: The old stuff is still there and if someone searches for it, they will get the wrong information.
  2. Edit the old post: This works if you just have a couple posts that need updating. Problem: The old post isn't published at the top of your blog so people may never realize that the post has been edited.
  3. Keep all important info in one post: At some point I created a FAQ post. I update the content on this post when needed and add new content when new questions arise. I also link to it from my website and from the sidebar of the blog. This is my attempt to keep the content current and accessible at the same time.
Other ideas? Let us know!