It’s the Time Machine Time of the Year

We have a little photo album we get out only at this time of the year. It’s a time machine. The photo album contains pictures of our family. They go back to the very first Christmas that Tammy and I celebrated together as a married couple. We can page through the book and relive the memories that go back more than thirty years.

But it doesn’t take a picture book to do that. Do you find, like I do, that every Christmas season brings back a flood of memories that go back to your earliest years? It’s like a time machine. Every year I think about our little house on Tacoma Street in Milwaukee. The tree sat in front of the big picture window. I remember the year there was a red wagon sitting under that tree.

My memory goes back to those years we lived in Wauwatosa. The tree sat right next to the wonderful fireplace that roared with flames each Christmas morning. My dad would set up the logs the night before so that all we had to do was strike the match. One of my favorite gifts ever came under that tree. Some way, some how, my mom knew I wanted some hip, black, high top shoes. More than that, when I put them on they fit perfectly. I’ll never forget what a perfect gift that was. It completely surprised me.

I can still remember almost every single year our own little family lived on 58th Street. No matter how old they were, our kids came running upstairs on Christmas morning. Even in their high school years they jumped on our bed and riled us from deep sleep. But they couldn’t enter the living room until we started the Christmas music.

But the ultimate time machine comes from Luke chapter 2. And it came to pass… Mary gave birth to a son. She placed Him in a manger. Angels sang. Shepherds ran. Many wondered. Mary treasured.

We hear it every single year. There is no Christmas without it. It compacts every Christmas together. The gifts mean nothing without The Gift. From the time I was less than a year old I have heard the story. I’m certain that at my last Christmas I will hear the story once again.

It transcends time. Luke 2 is like a time machine. It takes the sin of Eden and wipes it away. It throws forward to the end times and brings hope. And it takes your time, all of it, the good and the bad, and redeems it once and for all.

A Baby was born 2000 years ago. He entered time and space to bring you the gift of grace.


How is Luke 2 a time machine for you?

How Taking a Risk Can Help You Live a Better Life

Last Friday my wife, Tammy, took a huge risk. She put notice in at her workplace that she will be leaving at Christmas. Tammy’s been a teacher for more than twenty-five years. That run is about to come to an end. For a number of years now she has dreamed of taking a risk and trying something else with her life.


The reasons are numerous. Teachers are encumbered with enormous amounts of paperwork these days. They are threatened by regulation that is way too strict. And the pay is far, far below what it ought to be for the people who are training up our children. Not to mention the fact that we will soon be grandparents.

More than that, Tammy is a creative person. Her sights are set on turning her creativity into an income. So she started a decorative pillow company that is already seeing income and growth.

All of this came to a head when she watched a Tedx TalkIt’s a talk entitled, “Risk Forward.” The speaker recounts how she studied with world renowned mime, Marcel Marceau. In his class he taught his students a basic move. The move calls for you to put one foot forward, slightly off balance, with your heart out. Risk forward. (I can’t recommend this Tedx Talk video highly enough. Go watch it now. Really…go watch it now.)

This mime move is a metaphor for those who don’t know what they want to do with their life. Or those who are contemplating a risk, like Tammy. One foot forward. Slightly off balance. Heart out.

When you take a risk and step out like that, you will be able to see around the corner. Right now you can’t see around the corner of the unknown. But when you take a risky step forward you will be able to see things that were previously unseen. You will be able to encounter the unknown and respond with things that you do know.

Blogger and entrepreneur, Michael Hyatt, says in a post: “Leap and the net will appear.”  His point is that people with big dreams aren’t willing to take a plunge until they are absolutely certain. But that time never comes. So they never leap. “Leap,” he says, “and the resources will appear.” It’s not recklessness. It’s faith in its purest form.

It’s a scary time for us. Tammy and I don’t yet know what kind of income this will all produce. We certainly need an extra stream of money. But we are confident that when she leaps, the net will appear. And life will be better for her in numerous ways: more freedom, creative expression, less restrictive work hours, and an opportunity to take her business as far as she can or wants to.

So…if you’re looking for some really nice pillows… 😉

Although risk is scary, it produces growth. Both success and failure are an education in and of themselves.

What risk are you ready to take?

How to Be Heroic Like the Hot Dog Princess

The internet is making everyday people celebrities and heroes. First we had “Chewbacca Mom.” Now we have the Hot Dog Princess. You can read about her “heroic” effort here. As Mashable puts it:

It was recently princess week at five-year-old Ainsley’s dance studio, so, naturally, Ainsley dressed as her favorite princess: a hot dog.

Princess (Black and White)

People loved it because Ainsley expressed her individuality rather than conforming with the crowd. If you look at the photos taken that day all the other girls are dressed in the traditional way you would expect a little to dress as a princess. But not Ainsley. She’s dressed as a hot dog. She has become internet famous. Her dad says it was all her idea.

Let’s just admit for a moment that using the word “heroic” for a little girl dressed as a hot dog is a bit of hyperbole. The word “heroic” ought to be saved for people who risk their lives in our defense. But in terms of expressing her originality, Ainsley might just be a minor hero. She knows who she is and she’s not afraid to express it.

One of the things that I’ve enjoyed about spending time in Nashville, where our son lives, is that it is filled with people who aren’t afraid to express their individuality and originality. It’s a city filled with artists. Folks there have come to expect unique tattoos, eccentric styles of dress, and an artsy flair in the people they encounter. I have always respected and admired people courageous enough to be themselves.

I appreciate it when people wear their creativity on their sleeve…sometimes literally. That might mean dressing like a hot dog during princess week, or it might mean wearing skinny jeans, a t-shirt, and a baseball hat.

Being heroic like the Hot Dog Princess means not being afraid to express who you are. Life is too short to conform only because you’re concerned about what other people think.

So here’s how to be heroic like the Hot Dog Princess:

  • Have a little flair
  • Buy that hat
  • Take a leap into an endeavor you’ve always longed for
  • Try something new
  • Take a selfie doing something fun
  • Join Snap Chat and make some creative videos
  • Get out of your comfort zone
  • Be in touch with who you really are
  • Express it
  • Get a (gulp) tattoo

It’s OK to be who you are. Don’t be afraid to show it. People might even call you “heroic.”

How will you express your individuality today?

The Simple Key to Starting Something Brand New

There is a simple key to starting something brand new. Just ask an entrepreneur. Better yet, ask someone who’s in the business of planting a church. I learned just that as I had the opportunity to interview four pastors who are in various stages of planting brand new churches. You won’t find more dedicated, hard working individuals than pastors who give their heart and soul to making something that had never existed before. They have a love for God and a heart for people.

Key 2

I’m working on a project with a fellow pastor who wanted to put together some case studies of local church plants. One by one I interviewed these pastors and learned that they all held in their hand the key to starting something new. It was an eye-opening experience to see the seedlings of young churches that meet together in old warehouses, storefronts, and remodeled rooms. But each of them knew for certain the way to starting something new…in their case, a new church.

I asked each of the pastors, “What was the one key to planting this church that was unique to this community?” Here are their responses:

  • “Intentionally reaching the young family, because there was a hole in the ministry demographic here in our town.”
  • “Our mission statement is: ‘giving people a place to belong.’ We are a bedroom community, so we really wanted to make our worship space feel like home. We spent time intentionally choosing the decor so it has the feel of a home.”
  • “There is an opportunity here in this part of town because the people here are more available. The chief value here in our church is ‘authenticity.’ Everything else needs to move out of the way. You won’t impress these people with show or production. They make movies for Disney. They’ve worked at all the churches. They’ve seen behind the curtain. We created something for them that felt honest and intimate.”
  • “Our demographic is all about relationships. We don’t even put a sign up because people find us through other people. We’ve given up the pressure to grow big and want our church to be a place of refuge and healing. We’re always reminded of Andrew bringing Peter to Jesus. This is a place where people bring folks to a place where they get to meet Jesus.”

So, what’s the key? The key is to find a hole, an opening, a need, or a niche, and fill that hole, opening, need, or niche by delivering the universal message of the Gospel of Jesus’ love and forgiveness in the way that speaks to the particular people you are attempting to reach. In every case, these pastors have started something new by using this simple key.

In every case, these pastors have brought about something viable (with the help of the Holy Spirit) by reaching people who had previously been unreached. For one it was young families. For another it was those seeking a sense of home. For yet another it was people who needed authenticity in their lives outside of work. For the final pastor it was people who desperately needed genuine relationship in their lives.

There is most certainly a strong theology behind what each of these pastors are doing. They are preaching and teaching. But to do that effectively, they had to determine who it was to whom they would preach and teach.

Want to start something new? Determine a hole, an opening, a need, or a niche and fill it with something you know, with your passion, with your particular skill or talent. That’s the key.

What have you learned by starting something new?

How to End the Year with a Strong Finish

Before we take a dive into the New Year, let’s conclude this year with a strong finish. There’s a great deal of information out there helping you kick off your new year. But let’s not rush it. There are still a few hours left in this year. Let’s use them to the fullest.

First, shoot for a strong finish. Then we can turn our sights to the new year.


Here are five suggestions for you as the year winds down and you bring 365 days to a strong finish.

  1. Reflect. Try this exercise: without looking at any calendar or journal, take moment to think through the past year. What things stand out? What are the highlights? What are the lowlights? What are things that you never again want to experience? What were the things that brought you the most joy? Where was there sorrow? Write them down. After you write them down, ask yourself what lessons all of these things have taught you. In what way will these lessons help you as you finish strong and turn the calendar? Post those lessons in a prominent place.
  2. Retrace (your steps). Before moving ahead with any project or goal, let alone a whole new year, it’s wise to retrace your steps. Prior to the year ending, I like to scroll through my Google calendar to see the many events and activities that took place. Now, instead of remembering off the top of my head, I’m drilling down to specifics. I feel a sense of accomplishment as I see all that has taken place. I also see things that could use improvement, or mistakes that I don’t want to make again. In the new year I want to take it to a new level. I received a great daily planner for Christmas called the New York in Art 2016 Engagement Calendar. It’s filled with great art of my favorite city. Since I already use an electronic calendar, my new planner is going to serve as a simple journal for the coming year. At the end of each day I’m going to write down the highlights. Then at the end of the year I’ll have a way to reflect on blessings and learn specific lessons.
  3. Readjust. After the first two steps, it’s time to readjust. From the blessings I received and the lessons I learned, I want to readjust my mindset for the new year. This past year I wrote the first draft for a book I hope to publish in the first part of this upcoming year. As I reflected on all the work that went into it, I was thankful that a huge task was accomplished, but I also wished that I would have finished the first draft sooner. Heading into the new year I’m readjusting my thinking to buckle down better, work harder, and use “free time” for better purposes.
  4. Reaffirm. As human beings, we all need a little encouragement…even if it comes from ourselves. Reflecting on and retracing the steps of the past year is a great way to bring intrinsic encouragement. You’ve seen the things you have already accomplished. You’ve acknowledged all the goals that have been completed. You have finished strong. Pat yourself on the back. Reward yourself. Instead of finishing the year with a whimper, feeling sorry for yourself, recognize your accomplishments. You really made stuff happen this year. You are finishing strong.
  5. Reconcile. The end of the year is a great time to reconcile with your own guilt and shortcomings, and also to reconcile with those with whom there have been fights or fallouts. It all starts with forgiveness. All those who are baptized begin each new day with a clean slate, made that way by the forgiveness of a grace-full God. Why not start the new year in the same way? Forgive yourself. Forgive others. Let forgiveness fall like new and clean snow. Finishing the year on a strong and forgiving note will set the stage for conquering the challenges, receiving the gifts, and knocking down all of your goals for the new year.

What do you do to conclude the year with a strong finish?

Creativity Friday: This Week’s 3 Best Articles on Creativity

Today marks the beginning of “Creativity Friday.” Every Friday I will provide my three favorite articles from the week that enhance, encourage, and inspire your own creativity. Read on and use the weekend to work on your creativity.

Hello friday! Creative calligraphic card.

  1. In this article and with these images, recover “the inherent power of a child’s potential and imagination.”: The Hidden Superhero in Every Child’s Imagination
  2. In this video, find an insight into how the co-founder of Summit, a global community of innovators, stays on top of his own creativity game: The Secret to Living Your Best Creative Life
  3. In this article, learn from the things Charles Schulz threw away in the trash can: 10 Rare And Never-Before-Seen Comics By “Peanuts” Genius Charles Schulz

Caring is a Key to Leading a Tribe

Caring is a key to leading a tribe and loving your work. No matter what you do in life, a key to getting ahead, a key to “success,” a key to building a tribe, organization, or following is to care. And when you really care, you’ll find that people respond. It all leads to more fulfillment and joy in what you do.


The other night I had the opportunity to see and hear in person one of my favorite authors, Jon Acuff. He was speaking about his book, Do Over (which I highly recommend). He drove this point home at the very beginning of his speech.

Jon is a career expert, encouraging people to do things that matter, things they love, things that make a difference. The first point he made was that, no matter our job or vocation, we need to care. He said, “Care about what the people you care about care about.” That’s not a typo or a redundancy.

It breaks down like this:

  1. Care. It seems obvious, but first you have to care. It’s up to you to care. No one can care for you. People can figure it out pretty quickly if you don’t care. It shows on your face. It comes through in your actions. Set your mind to caring, even if, at this very moment, you don’t feel like it. When you intentionally care, it will change your disposition and bring about a positive attitude to even the worst situations.
  2. The People You Care About. Whom do you serve in your daily life? It could be your family, your co-workers, your customers, or your parishioners. Some you naturally care about. For others it may take a bit of extra effort. When you identify whom it is that you serve, find ways to show that you care. Be intentional about it. Demonstrate it through phone calls, emails, compliments, handwritten notes, or a literal pat on the back.
  3. What Do the People You Care About Care About? When you naturally (or even intentionally) find yourself caring for people, you know them: their likes and dislikes, their thoughts and passions, their needs and problems, their problems and joys. To better serve them, take some time to actually think about and write down the things the people you care about care about. Keep that list in front of you: on your computer, your bathroom mirror, or your refrigerator door.

“Care about what the people you care about care about.”

Now that you know what that is, and have written it down, figure out ways that you can meet the needs, fix the problems, enhance the joys, and improve the lives of those you care about. Jon Acuff has figured out that the people he cares about want to improve their careers and enjoy Sundays without dreading Mondays. So he has found a way to provide blogs, videos, books, and even personal interaction to show that he cares, knows what his audience cares about, and provides helpful practical solutions.

When you follow these steps, you, too, will find fascinating ways to serve, and maybe even a surprising following. Care. Really care. Care about what the people you care about care about.

It’s good advice that might even change your attitude and fill your life with surprises.

What do the people you care about care about?

10 Creative Christmas Gifts for the Creative People in Your Life

Christmas is just around the corner. You’re finding it difficult to think of the perfect gift for the creative person in your life. You really want to surprise her with a creative gift. You really want to boost his creativity with a gift that keeps on giving.

Creative Christmas

Here are ten gifts for the creative person in your life. They are guaranteed not only to surprise, but to boost the creative juices that every “creative” desires. Just click on the item, and it will take you right to place where you can make a quick and easy Christmas purchase.

  1. Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered This is Austin Kleon’s follow-up book to Steal Like an Artist, and has incredibly practical information to enhance your creativity and get your art noticed. Interesting tips like “read the obituaries every day” will fuel the fire of any creative.
  2. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True InspirationEd Catmull, the president of both Pixar and Disney Animation tells the fascinating story of how computer animation was perfected. As he reveals his personal, autobiographical information, he also shows how teamwork and telling great stories enhances creativity to the n’th degree.
  3. Incase Portable Power 2500 Every creative uses a smartphone so consistently that the battery dies incessantly. I have found that this portable charger (under $30) charges my iPhone quickly with a long-lasting charge from the source.
  4. When I Was Younger This collection of songs by the new band, Colony House, was my favorite album of the year. These songs are filled with the kind of hope that every creative needs to stay the course. I dare you not to start singing along after just a listen or two.
  5. Wine and the Word: Savor & Serve Kurt Senske creatively uses the metaphor and the study of wine (!) to show how it enhances our appreciation both of Scripture and of the Christian walk. After all, wine is mentioned, Senske says, 521 times in the Bible.
  6. Aluminum Credit Card Wallet RFID Blocking Case Here’s a great stocking stuffer for your favorite creative. We creatives can sometimes tend to be a little “messy” or “disorganized.” I was tired of having a George Costanza wallet, so I switched to these, and have never turned back. I love the way my “wallet life” has become organized and clean.
  7. Wide Open Here’s a collection of songs from the uber-creative songwriter, Steve Moakler. He opens with a song about how he’d  “rather make a living being myself,” and carries us along with songs of love, and work, and life that will inspire any creative in their art or play.
  8. The Creative Habit: Learn It and Use It for Life Twyla Tharp (yeah, that Twyla Tharp…the dancer/choreographer) teaches a master class on creativity in what I consider to be a classic on the subject. Though you may have never even danced a polka, you will learn from Tharp how to be inspired, how to “scratch” for creativity, and much, much more. Every creative should own this book.
  9. Consider the Wildflowers Jewelry If you have a female creative in your life, give her some of this creatively simple jewelry, or send her to a “Consider the Wildflowers Workshop” (for flower design and other creative pursuits). Once she sees the web site or reads the blog, she will be hooked on this jewelry (and 10% of each sale goes to various charity projects).
  10. The ShipIt Journal Five Pack Does your creative friend or relative have difficulty getting work and art out into the world? Give them this 5 pack of workbooks from Seth Godin, master marketer and chief “artist,” and watch them ship their work and art out into the world faster than you can say “creative.”

What “creative” gift would you suggest I get for myself this Christmas?

If You Don’t Change, You’ll Face the Far-Reaching Consequences

Failure to change and keep up with the times has consequences far more reaching than you may know. Last night we had to go buy a computer for my wife, Tammy. We have two other perfectly fine computers in our home, both in working condition.

Time For Change

So, why, you may ask, did we have to go buy another one? Tammy is employed by a charter school of the Seminole County (Fla.) public schools. The online resources they use for report cards and other tracking can only be accessed through the use of Internet Explorer. And Internet Explorer does not work on Macintosh computers. Both of the computers in our home happen to be Macs (I wouldn’t have it any other way).

As a result, Tammy couldn’t use our computers to do any work at home. And that put her at a distinct disadvantage. So we had to invest our hard-earned money on an inferior machine, just so she could get on an inferior browser to go to an inferior web site to do work she needs to do at home.


Failure to keep up with the times, to invest in state-0f-the-art technology, to do what it takes to be on the cutting edge has consequences of which you may not even be aware. Some bureaucrat refuses to change and update software, so the consequences have an impact on the family budget of workers in their schools. Can you say “short-sighted”?

Our world is changing and advancing faster than ever before. Those who keep up (as best they can) will benefit. Those who fight change will face ever more far-reaching consequences. It’s hard work to keep up with everything. But keeping up will mean easier connection with those you serve, those you hope to reach, those you work with, and even those who work for you. There will be less resentment and more buy-in from all of your constituencies.

Instead of making life frustrating for others because of reluctance to upgrade, bring about change that makes peoples’ lives easier, more meaningful, and faster to connect with others. Upgrading technology may seem impersonal. But streamlining life brings people together and makes for happy employees, faithful customers or members, and less frustrating interactions.

It may seem silly or even obvious, but it’s more important now than ever before to 

  • keep up with the times
  • invest in state-0f-the-art technology
  • and do what it takes to be on the cutting edge

What are you doing to make sure that you are bringing about positive change in your life, organization, or company?

What Training for a 100 Mile Bike Ride Taught Me About Setting Goals

It was either crazy or foolish. I told our congregation I would ride my bike 100 miles in one day to raise money for a pending deficit. The deal was this: 1. I ride 100 miles; 2. They pledge what they can to help ease our end-of-year deficit.

Bicycle Ride

So I started riding. And riding. …And riding.

The pledges started rolling in until they totaled almost $26,000. And my bike wheels started rolling until I was riding 100, 125, 150 miles per week.

Over those many, many miles of bike trail I have learned some lessons about major goals that roll right into the rest of life:

  1. Give people something to rally around, and they will respond. If we had just simply said, “Please consider decreasing our deficit by making an end-of-year gift,” we probably would not have received a fraction of what will be taken in as a result of this ride. When people had something to rally around, the response was quick and generous, with “lead” gifts paving the way.
  2. When you set a goal, announce it out loud to a group of people. It’s hard to go back on a goal that others have heard come out of your mouth. In fact, chances are that you will achieve your goal.
  3. Learn from others who have gone before. When I set out to train for my “century” ride, I did all kinds of research to find a training plan that would work for me. Without doing that, I may not have been ready, or I could have injured myself, or I may have had to “reinvent the wheel.”
  4. Enlist a partner. When I announced I would do the ride, I encouraged anyone who could to ride along with me. I made special mention of it to the four young men in my mentoring group. One of them, Justin Fricke, took me up on it. Justin is a self-proclaimed “weekend warrior” who’s been training both alone and together with me…and blogging about it. When we ride together the time goes much faster and our common encouragement and support helps when muscles fatigue and bodies get tired.
  5. Stick with it. Blogger, Seth Godin, talks about “The Dip”: pushing through that time when others might just quit. There have been mornings when I have felt like staying in bed, when I haven’t felt like pedaling any further, when I feared yet another steep incline (in Florida inclines aren’t natural…they’re bridges over roads). Yet I couldn’t let all those people  down (see #1), and I couldn’t let myself down.
  6. Get support. Often, to accomplish a goal it takes more than individual fortitude. It takes help and support along the way. A group of young adults in our congregation are going to be the “support team” for our century ride. They will meet us along the way with liquids, nourishment, encouragement, and anything else we might need. It really helps to have someone cheer you along as you set out to accomplish your goal.

Don’t shy away from goals that stretch you a little…or a lot. If I can ride a bike 100 miles, there’s so much you can do, too.

What advice do you have to help accomplish a big, hairy, audacious goal?