Tuesday, September 28, 2010

A Journey into the Unfamiliar

This fall my church is focusing in on discipleship. As leaders we're asking questions like "What does a disciple look like?" and "Is there a process by which we can lead people to become disciples? If so, how do we walk people through it?"

One thing we're discovering through is that discipleship pushes people into unfamiliar territory. Some people see it as a positive challenge, understanding that this will (hopefully) bring them closer to the Lord who loves them. Others are less eager to take on the challenge.

And that's to be expected. Jesus' call to follow him is not a simple action like following someone on Twitter. Look at John 6:53-68. When Jesus told the people to eat his flesh and drink his blood, "many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him." When Jesus asked the 12 disciples if they wanted to leave too, Peter replied, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life."  

Being a follower of Jesus is, by definition, a journey into the unfamiliar, but it's where we're supposed to be, because it is the journey that leads to life.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Do Numbers Really Matter in Ministry?

Photo by Flickr user Pshab. Used under
Creative Commons licence .
I am excited to be part of a team who admins several thriving Facebook pages such as The Bible page, and the Jesus Christ page. The team also manages several other pages which you should definitely check out. 

Recently, our team was discussing the importance of the number of "Likes" each page receives. Some team members liked tracking the numbers and setting goals; others weren't too keen on the idea. 

Personally, I like seeing the numbers. Are they the indicator of good things happening and souls being transformed? No.

But they are an indicator that something awesome is happening. Read through the book of Acts and note how many times Luke talks about people being added to the community of faith. In Acts 2:41 he even cites a specific number! 

The growth of the church in Acts was an indicator that God was doing something amazing with this little bunch of fishermen. Did the numbers tell the whole story? Of course not, otherwise Acts would be about 5 sentences long! 

These conversations are good for our team to stay grounded and focused on the higher prize: not lots of likes, but a single like from the One who matters most.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Google Mystery Logo 2 - Grey... With a Twist

Yesterday, Google's logo was a cryptic bouncing ball thingy. Today the home only has a grey (or some might say a "chrome") logo. Kind of a ho-hum logo after yesterday's boisterous display.

But when you start typing something in the search field...

it turns to color!

Here it is completed.

Like a double-rainbow all the way across the sky, it's got me asking, "What does this mean?"

Google may have some answers for us tomorrow though. We'll have to wait and see. It's clear this isn't just a birthday celebration, as I, along with the rest of the internet, previously thought.  

Some are speculating that Google's going to announce a new algorithm for indexing websites that uses the data collected through Google Analytics to help users find the most relevant sites for their search. If this is the case, then Yahoo and Bing might want to start emptying their desks. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

What's the Meaning Behind Google's Bouncing Balls Logo

As I've mentioned before, I love Google. Today's logo has me stumped though. Here's what it looks like when you load the page.
Then when you wait a second, the balls fall into place.
Plus, it's interactive! Run your mouse through them and the balls are repelled from the mouse!

I've been trying to figure out what it's all about, but I can't find anything. In the course of searching, I did, however, discover this interesting fact: 6 Nobel laureates were born on September 6th and another Nobel laureate died on September 6th. Weird huh?

If someone figures out what the logo is referring to, please let me know because I'm baffled.

Update: A friend on twitter pointed out that September 7th is Google's birthday. I'd bet if this is a form of digital confetti.

Update 2: Others speculate that it could be Google showing off Chrome's HTML5 skills. Loading the page in IE8 shows a blank area where the logo should be. Could this be the more likely explanation?

What's the Meaning Behind Google's Bouncing Balls Logo

As I've mentioned before, I love Google. Today's logo has me stumped though. Here's what it looks like when you load the page.

Then when you wait a second, the balls fall into place.

Plus, it's interactive! Run your mouse through them and the balls are repelled from the mouse!

I've been trying to figure out what it's all about, but I can't find anything. In the course of searching, I did, however, discover this interesting fact: 6 Nobel Laureates were born on September 6th and another Nobel Laureate died on September 6th. Weird huh?

If someone figures out what the logo is referring to, please let me know because I'm baffled.

Monday, August 23, 2010

So cute. @MalcolmSmith got tired during lunch

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Waiting... part 2

Friday, August 13, 2010

Yet Another Reason to Love Chick-Fil-A (@ChickFilA)

I have a dark secret that I have only shared with my most trusted friends. If I were to reveal this secret openly among people in my circles, I would expect gasps of horror followed by endless questions like "Why?" and "How could you ever say such a thing?" 

But I have decided to come clean here in this most public of forums. Prepare yourself. If you're standing, sit down. If you're sitting, well, just keep sitting. Here it goes.

There was a time in my relationship with Jesus Christ during which I did not like to eat at Chick-Fil-A.

Wow that feels good to get off my chest! I have carried this burden for so long, I wasn't sure how I would ever function properly within the community of believers.

Rest assured. I adore Chick-Fil-A now for several reasons and so should you, if for no other reason than Jon Acuff told you to.

Chick-Fil-A called me for some time before I gave my fast-food life over to them. Their marketing is pure genius. Cows. For a chicken restaurant. How did that meeting go?

"Guys we have a new client. Some place called 'Chick-Fil-A.' They claim to have invented the chicken sandwhich. Have any ideas?"

"I'm thinking: cows."

"Sounds good. Go with that."

The first real step in my transformation was the addition of the Spicy Chicken Sandwich a few months ago. Along with a diet lemonade, it's the only thing I ever order. But last week I had the most positive experience I've ever had with any fast-food restaurant thanks to Chick-Fil-A in The Colony, Texas.

Last week, I picked up some Chick-Fil-A food for some people and someone was going to reimburse me, but I lost the receipt. When I called the Chick-Fil-A restaurant and told them about my problem, the employee named Greg took my name and phone number. About 10 minutes later he called me back saying that he had found transaction and a printed copy was waiting for me whenever I could make it back to the store to pick it up. Something as simple as that has made a kept a devoted customer.

I am proud to be a reformed Chick-Fil-A lover. I once was lost, but now I am found. Was blind, but now I see. Chick-Fil-A is THE primo Christian food chain and only Satan and his minions ever eat at other restaurants. 

Except on Sundays.

Yet Another Reason to Love Chick-Fil-A

Yet Another Reason to Love Chick-Fil-A

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Sigh. @RickWarren Doubles Down

If you're coming into this, mid-stream, well, welcome. I've already done two posts (here and here) about Rick Warren's recent twitter activity, so you might want to catch those posts to know what's going on. So you don't misunderstand, this was the original tweet that started all of this. It has since been deleted.

His follow-up tweets treat this as a teachable-moment for the rest of twitter. Here they are in the order in which they were tweeted.

He defends the original tweet and does not say the original tweet was out of line. In fact, he claims it was exactly the right thing to say. I have two problems with that.

1) If the original tweet was such a good and edifying challenge to other churches and church leaders, why delete it? 

Maybe he feels it was the right thing to tweet, but lost it's meaning in the constraints of 140 characters. Only Rick knows the reason he deleted the original tweet. Maybe he'll comment here and tell us!

2) The Biblical references he cites do not support his original tweet very well.

Let's break down 2 Cor. 8:1-8 first. Paul challenges a church that he has an intimate relation with to compare themselves to the Macedonian church. The equivalent would be if Rick Warren saw that Irving Bible Church was doing cool things to serve their community and challenged Saddleback to look at what IBC was doing and do likewise. That's not the spirit of his original tweet.

The next passage is 1 Chronicles 29:2-5 in which David describes his donation to the work of the temple. Here, David shows the people that he too has given sacrificially to the building of the temple and encourages them to do likewise. It's not a challenge to see who can match him in either the gift or devotion. David leads by example. The equivalent here would be if Rick tweeted that Saddleback was sending missionaries and encouraged other churches to also send missionaries. (I use the missionary example because Pastor Rick has also tweeted about that recently.) David wasn't throwing down a competition, he was leading by example.

I've said it before, but I love the work that Rick Warren does to encourage pastors to move beyond their normal boundaries. He teaches us to trust God to do amazing things through us and our churches. Please don't take these last few posts to indicate that I'm a Rick Warren-hater or something, because nothing could be further from the truth. 

I just wanted to point out what one commenter called "twitter-gate" to help us remember that communication in social media is far-reaching and lasts forever. We, Rick Warren included, need to learn that in order to use it as effectively as possible. 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Rick Warren Deletes Uncalled for Tweet - Right Move or Wrong Move?

The only reason I visited Pastor Rick's twitter page tonight was to see if he had responded to the barrage of complaints directed toward him from other twitter users. I was disappointed to find that he had not.

Yesterday, Rick Warren tweeted something he probably shouldn't have tweeted. In this fast-moving digital world, most of the damage has already been done. I mean, some of us had the foresight to grab a screenshot.

Rick deleted the tweet, so it's like it never happened at all right? To answer an age old question, when a tweet falls in a forest of 130,000 followers, it does make a sound. Twitter heard it and the bloggers heard it. Deleting it is not damage control; it might even make things worse. The best response is to have a humble spirit and set things right.

I had hoped to find a tweet that said something like this, "Please excuse the previous tweet. It was a momentary lapse in judgement. Please accept my humble apology." and maybe include a link to the offending tweet (or my blog post about it!) That simple tweet would have made a whole lot of people feel better, it shows the proper attitude, and it leaves 35 characters of space for people to retweet it to all of their followers too.

We did not see this kind of response. Instead we got a deleted tweet, which basically says "Offensive tweet? What offensive tweet?"

I think we can learn a lesson from this though. If you mess up in public, people will see it. They will remember it even if you try to cover it up. The best course of action is to take the position of humility, admit your mistake, and just move forward. I hope that we see something like this from Pastor Rick soon.

Are you satisfied with Rick Warren deleting his tweet? Have you ever posted something online you wished you could take back? How did you respond to it?

Rick Warren's Uncalled for Tweet

Rick either needs to get someone to filter his tweets or he needs to fire the person who's doing his tweeting, but Rick Warren's recent tweet leaves a less-than-desirable taste in one's mouth.

I have a lot of respect for Rick and the work that Saddleback is doing, but this kind of stuff is not helpful, in my opinion. The responses have been pretty vicious too, which also is not desirable. I'm 99% sure this is the work of a ghost twitterer who handles Rick's twitter account. If they were working for me and posted something like this, it would probably be their last day on the job.

Let's make this clear. We're not in a contest here. When we compare ourselves to Saddleback, we lose sight of who our model should be. My life and my church are not measured against members of Saddleback nor their church. My life should be conformed to the likeness of Christ.

What do you think? Is this a case of a ghost tweeter crossing a line or a case of a famous pastor who needs to examine his communication more closely in the future?

Update: Tony Steward thinks it's probably Rick doing the tweeting, but is not sure of it.

Gmail got a new look! @SteveMielke and @LifeChurchOPEN might like the new color scheme for OPEN emails!

So Gmail gets a nice new upgrade in the aesthetic and functionality department. Contacts and tasks at the top now? Like anyone ever uses those things. It looks like a solid upgrade to me. One of the cool things I found is that the color scheme of tagged emails can be customized. It was probably available before this update, but this is the first time I've noticed it. I have a bunch of filters to label and move emails according to sender. For example, my Facebook tag is, of course, white text on a blue field.
I've also been volunteering some of my time with OPEN.LifeChurch.tv, a ministry that provides TONS of high-quality resources to churches free of charge. So I have a filter set up to consolidate all of my correspondence related to OPEN with a yellow on black color scheme to match the branding of the ministry.

If you're not familiar with OPEN, you should be. They provide everything from sermon series graphics, videos and loops to HR documents, worship sets, and youth and children's resources. One of the coolest things is this: most of the resources they provide are free of branding, so if you want to use them, you don't have to sport some other church's logo or name on your slides or on your videos. No matter the size or type of church you serve with, OPEN probably has resources that you can use.
So two take-aways from this post: 1) Updated Gmail seems like a quality change and 2) Visit OPEN.LifeChurch.tv if you're looking for free resources for your church.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

I just got the coolest package in the mail! Thanks, @stevemielke and @LifeChurchOPEN !

Monday, August 2, 2010


Photo by Flickr user pfv under creative
commons license. 
Abraham had to wait to become the father of a great nation. Jacob had to wait seven years to take his bride. Joseph had to wait to see a dream realized. Israel waited 400 years to be freed.

Something struck me a few days ago as I was reading: Israel had to wait even in the wilderness. We all know the story of how God led the people of Israel through the wilderness with a pillar of cloud and fire, but read Numbers 9:22 and think about it for a second.

"Whether it was for two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud prolonged its stay over the tabernacle, the Israelites remained camped without traveling; but when it was taken up, they traveled on."

I always kind of figured God would lead them for a few-hours around the wilderness 5-days a week. Take a sabbath, maybe an extra day here and there. But when the cloud stopped, the Israelites had no idea if this was one of the two-day stops or if this was going to be for an entire year! If it's just for a couple of days, I might not really unpack. If it's going to be a year or more, I might plant a garden.

With lost jobs and a weak economy, many people are in this waiting state. "How long is this stop going to last, God?" If I'm getting a job next week, that's fine, I'll just chill for a while. If it's going to be a year, or two, or three... I'll plan my life a little differently.

But God didn't tell Israel how long the wait would be. He didn't tell Joseph how long the wait would be. Jacob thought he would work 7 years and it turned out to be double that. Abraham couldn't wait any longer, so he tried to move things along before God started moving.

Waiting is probably the hardest part of faith. Maybe that's why God has us doing it so often.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Serving Others is Fun! Who Knew?

Before the onset of summer, I decided to find some places to volunteer my extra time. I have been serving in our student ministry at Fellowship Bible Church Arapaho for some time now, but recently our student pastor has taken a position at another church. This has necessitated our adult volunteers to step up and take on some more responsibilities. So this summer, I have been trying to spend as much time with the students as I can, and it's been a blast!
This morning Amy, Malcolm and I are headed out with some high school and jr. high students to serve a local ministry called Network to stock some of their food shelves. We have done it before and had a great time. It can be fun to serve others! Who knew?

Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers. - Galatians 6:10

Thursday, May 20, 2010

So... Should the Episcopal Church Go out of Business?

Should the Episcopal Church go out of business? That's the question George Clifford asks over at Episcopal Cafe, and I have to say it's an intriguing question. The church has been having problems for decades as it has gone through an identity crisis of sorts. In recent years, the factions within the church have started to splinter.

Photo by Metrix X under creative commons license.

This whole discussion is important to me. I've mentioned in passing that I grew up in the Episcopal Church and that my extended family is Episcopalian. Tomorrow, I will tell you more about my experience with the Episcopal Church, but this post is going to be long enough already. So, let's look at some selections from George's article.

From a sociological perspective, the Episcopal Church (TEC) has suffered both a striking numerical loss in membership (almost 30%) and an even larger decline as a percentage of the nation’s population (almost 60%). In 1960, TEC had 2.9 million members, equaling 1.6% of the U.S. population. Forty-eight years later, TEC had fewer than 2.06 million members, or only 0.65% of the U.S. population.

There are probably hundreds explanations for why the Episcopal Church has seen this decline in members over the years, but I would argue that this may not tell the whole story and that the facts may actually be much worse. Many non-denominational churches count attendance rather than membership because it is a more accurate representation who how many people are actually coming to church during any given period of time. If almost one million people are no longer members of the Episcopal Church, the actual attendance figures may be much lower than that.

The median average Sunday attendance in TEC congregations was 69 in 2008, continuing a long-term decline. My point is not that small congregations are of less value than large congregations are, but that small congregations necessarily devote a far greater percentage of their resources to maintaining their physical plant than do large congregations. In fact, keeping the building open and maintained often consumes such a large portion of available revenue that insufficient funds remain to pay clergy adequately, let alone fund ministry and mission programs. The building, instead of being a means to an end, becomes the congregation’s de facto raison d’ĂȘtre.

This problem is not confined to the Episcopal Church. The church where I attend made cutbacks in staff and missionary support recently due to financial issues. Church leaders are constantly discussing the wisdom of buildings as they relate to finances, but the Episcopal Church may have a unique culture that would hinder its ability to flourish outside of the traditional church setting. For example, on any given Sunday, I could probably find thousands of young churches who meet in gymnasiums, schools, and civic centers. I don't have the figures, but I would be surprised if any of those churches were Episcopalian.

First, fifty years from now the church in the United States (its worship, community, structure, facilities, and leadership) will almost certainly look vastly different than today’s church. The shift away from the way of being church that I personally cherish is already underway.

The problem with the Episcopal Church is not only due to external challenges as the church is dealing with internal struggles too. Just this past weekend, the Episcopal diocese of Los Angeles ordained the first openly lesbian bishop. The Episcopal Church is changing. Unfortunately, it's changing in the wrong areas and into the wrong direction. George understands that the forces of change are internal as well as external.

In the last couple of decades, thousands of mostly non-denominational congregations, many with rapidly growing membership and diverse patterns of being church, have emerged. Living in denial benefits neither God nor the growing non-Christian majority. Pro-actively adapting to a rapidly changing context and constituency will afford the church more leeway in defining and shaping its identity and form than reactively struggling to survive.

Many of these non-denominational churches have seen exponential growth and have not made the compromises that the Episcopal Church has. In my experience with the Episcopal Church, the church has not adopted a culturally relevant method of communicating the gospel message, but it has attempted to make itself culturally palatable by compromising on important theological and political issues. The point that George is making is that the church needs to adapt. I would argue that it's attempting to adapt, but is doing so in the wrong areas.

Second, TEC is not alone in facing these challenges. Other Churches – the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the United Methodist Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), and the United Church of Christ to name a few – have experienced similar, large declines and face parallel challenges.

And what do these denominations have in common? Generally speaking, they are primarily traditional churches who resist aesthetic changes, but seem apathetic to major changes in polity. They have shown signs of being willing to compromise values before compromising methodology. (I know, I know. Not all congregations in these denominations fit this description.)

Third, the real work of the Church – becoming God's people by striving to increase the love of God and neighbor – occurs primarily in local congregations... most of what happens at the diocesan and national levels is “overhead,” essential as a means to an end but not, per se, why the Church exists. Bishops, for example, perform critical tasks teaching, confirming, ordaining, organizing and deploying ministries but those instrumental tasks support the life and work of local congregations. As much as I love and appreciate my bishop, my parish does not exist to support him. Similarly, most diocesan and national staff offices exist as a means to support the life and ministry of local congregations.

This describes the difficult balance of denominational churches. For the benefits that the denomination offers, do local congregations suffer? I don't have any data to back this up, but I would guess that when the economy is strong, the local congregation and the denominational higher-ups are both clicking along pretty well together. But as the money dries up, or attendance overall declines significantly, the local congregations no longer have the funds to operate their own ministries, much less support the bureaucracy that was designed to help them achieve their purpose in the first place.

Imagine … several small, geographically adjacent congregations of various Churches laying aside their idolatry of buildings and accoutrements to unite as the people of God, worshiping in homes, served by a single member of the clergy, and using their consolidated resources to engage in expanded ministry and mission.

How is this vision different than what many non-denominational churches and seminaries are already doing? Many non-denominational church plants start as house churches or at least meet in shared spaces like schools and are served by a single pastor.

Imagine … large and medium size, geographically adjacent congregations sharing a single physical plant while retaining their distinct identities, cooperating in diverse projects that might include feeding the hungry, offering different styles of worship, establishing an institute for lay spiritual formation, etc.

Larger non-denominational churches have congregations from various backgrounds, but I don't know if this is what George is promoting here. It sounds more like many churches meeting in one location (not to be confused with the satellite church model of one church meeting in many locations.) I'm not sure what this would look like if various churches were meeting in the same building while "retaining their distinct identities." I have heard of smaller churches joining larger churches, but rarely are they encouraged to retain their identities. Please leave me a comment if you know of a church that meets in this way. I would love to learn more about it.

Imagine … seminaries and judicatory staffs of different denominations consolidating to reduce expenses on physical plant and internal administration while better serving their constituent congregations.

At Dallas Theological Seminary I had classmates from dozens of different denominational backgrounds, and though we might have differences in opinion on church polity or methods of worship, we could not have been more unified on the fundamentals of the faith. Again, I don't know if this is what George is promoting, but it sounds pretty similar to what is already happening.

From where I stand, which is admittedly on the outskirts of the Episcopal Church, the church needs to find where it can adapt the methods without adapting the message. I would argue that this is true for any church.

Three exit questions:

1) Is the future of the Episcopal Church really as bleak as George makes it out to be?
2) What can other denominations and non-denominational churches learn from the struggles that the Episcopal Church is facing?
3) What are some ways that your church has adapted or needs to adapt in order to address cultural shifts?

I have not commented on the whole article, so do yourself a favor and go read the whole thing. George raises some interesting ideas for the future of the Episcopal Church.

The Future of the Episcopal Church - My Take

Yesterday's post got a little too long, so I thought I would add my personal story today.

The traditions of the Episcopal Church are rich with theological significance, but to an outsider (and a young insider when I attended) the message may as well be written in Japanese. I would (and have) encourage my Episcopalian friends and family to try to look at the service through the eyes of someone who did not grow up in the Episcopal Church or any church for that matter. I grew up in the Episcopal Church, but it wasn't until I received my master's degree in theology that I understood the significance of many of the church's traditions, including most of those that took place every Sunday right in front of me.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Video: Missional Church... simple

Here is a video that gives a pretty basic description of the missional church. Admittedly, it doesn't cover all the nuts and bolts of missional ministry, but, as the title suggests, that is not its purpose. When people talk about the "missional church," it can sometimes come across as being overly critical of "other" churches. I could see how people who are invested in attractional ministries might take offense to that video even though I don't think it was attempting to be critical.

Does it have to be an either-or thing?

Maybe attractional ministries can still bring people in to hear the message of Jesus Christ while people are going outside of the church walls to share the gospel.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

This Video Has 5 Million Views?

When archeologists in the future examine our civilization, they will not debate what signaled the beginning of our decline because they will unanimously agree it was when this video passed 5 million views on YouTube.

Yes, I know it was posted last fall. Mercifully, I was protected from this video until tonight.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Share Your Booger Picture - A Social Media Primer

Risk and honesty will get you a long way out here.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I'm not an Apple Fanboy, but Droooooooool......

Gizmodo has an iPhone. I know, I know, EVERYONE has an iPhone... except me. :`(

I think it's clear that I'm not a fanboy, but this isn't just any iPhone. It's the new iPhone that Apple hasn't released yet.

What's new
• Front-facing video chat camera
• Improved regular back-camera (the lens is quite noticeably larger than the iPhone 3GS)
• Camera flash
• Micro-SIM instead of standard SIM (like the iPad)
• Improved display. It's unclear if it's the 960x640 display thrown around before—it certainly looks like it, with the "Connect to iTunes" screen displaying much higher resolution than on a 3G
• What looks to be a secondary mic for noise cancellation, at the top, next to the headphone jack
• Split buttons for volume
• Power, mute, and volume buttons are all metallic

What's changed
• The back is entirely flat, made of either glass (more likely) or ceramic or shiny plastic in order for the cell signal to poke through. Tapping on the back makes a more hollow and higher pitched sound compared to tapping on the glass on the front/screen, but that could just be the orientation of components inside making for a different sound
• An aluminum border going completely around the outside
• Slightly smaller screen than the 3GS (but seemingly higher resolution)
• Everything is more squared off
• 3 grams heavier
• 16% Larger battery
• Internals components are shrunken, miniaturized and reduced to make room for the larger battery

I'm sure the throngs of Apple's followers will read things like "3 grams heavier" and "Tapping on the back makes a more hollow and higher pitched sound" as features, but a better camera with a flash and front-facing camera are a few much-needed improvements.

With the new squared design, does anyone else think it looks sort of Droid-ish? Gizmodo even calls the new design  "industrial." Motorola spent a lot of money positioning the Droid as the tougher alternative to the "prissy" iPhone. Perhaps Apple is trying to combat that image a bit. Then again, we're talking about a company who called this a computer.

And until Google Goggles comes to iPhone, even the new iPhone will still lack a certain level of coolness. Oh well. Droooooool.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Note From a Father-to-Be

Brad wrote a letter to his soon-to-be-born daughter that I want to share with you. In light of Easter 2010, the many changes the Bridges family will face over the next few days and months, and the amazing blessing this is after Brad and Lindsey faced years of infertility, I'm not sure if this could be any more perfect than it already is: A letter entitled simply "Dear Baby Bridges"

Dear Baby Bridges,

I love you. I can't wait to hold you. For years your mother and I have dreamed about the opportunity we have in the next week. In fact, I have a tear coming down my face just thinking about you.

About 3 years ago, your mommy and I were sitting at Olive Garden in Lakewood in Dallas, TX (its now called Alibaba). It was your mom's birthday, I told her I had a surprise birthday gift. After 3-4 gifts, I notified your mom that the last gift wasn't wrapped up. I asked her if we could start trying to have you. She smiled. She cried. She got so excited that I could tell she'd received an amazing gift. She graciously gave me time to get ready and I was ready.

After a long road of infertility that included some of the most painful moments of our lives (Surgery #1Surgery #2Review of 2009), we found out last August 2009 in Estes Park, CO at the YMCA of the Rockies that you were alive. You were growing inside of mommy. You were really, really, really little. But you were alive and we loved you already. You see, we'd been looking forward to you for years if not decades.

Over the last 9.5 months (or about 40 weeks) we've seen pictures andvideos of you swimming in mommy's belly. Today we saw your toes, ears, hair, head, spine, femur, breathing, and more at the doctor's office. He told us you're a gymnast. You've flipped inside of mommy. They call it breech. I don't really know much about it other than that your head is under mommy's ribs and your feet are below her belly button. You are adorable in there.

The real reason I'm writing you is to tell you about what's going on right before your birthday. We're not celebrating the birth but the death and resurrection of Jesus. You see, Baby Bridges, when you are born, you have something called original sin (Romans 5:12-21). There was this guy named Adam (see Genesis in the Bible) who sinned against God (ie he didn't follow God's instructions). Because of his sin, we are born and you'll be born with a sin nature.

As much as we'll look at you feel like the day you get here is perfect, it won't be. It will be a wonderful and a scary day. Even though you'll look innocent, you'll be born guilty because of Adam. We are going to be reading to you about Jesus. He's the guy that on Good Friday 2010 years ago died on a cross for you.

Scary huh? But don't be scared. He loved, loves, and will always love you (even more than us). He didn't just die though. On Sunday we'll celebrate his resurrection. That's a big word, I know. It just means that he said "bye-bye" to death. He obliterated death. He conquered it. He's more powerful than death.

Soon we'll be reading you some books by a friend of ours, Joey Allen, titled Big Thoughts For Little Thinkers where you'll here this same story. He's a good story teller and he draws funny pictures too. In the books, you'll learn the Gospel message: Jesus died for your sins Baby Bridges and He rose from the dead. That's right! He died for you and rose for you.

We love you, Baby Bridges. But He loves you more. He died for you. The most important thing you could ever do for your mommy and daddy is to place your trust in Him. You'll be hearing much more about him (even more than about the Tarheels).

We couldn't be more excited to welcome you into the world. Your mommy will definitely cry, you just wait. Mimi and Wally, Papa and Nana, and all your cousins and aunts/uncles can't wait to see you. You will melt our hearts. But this weekend our focus is on remembering the impact Jesus has had on us and so many others.

Know that we are not only praying for your safety but your salvation as well. Although we love you, He loves you more than we ever can. He's risen and you are coming.

See you soon, Baby Bridges.


Brad, you can't do stuff like this. You're making the rest of us other daddy's look bad, and you haven't even changed a diaper yet! Thank you for sharing this letter to little Baby Bridges. We can't wait to see her soon!

If you'd like to learn about Brad and Lindsey's journey, be sure to check out their blog or contact Brad on twitter  

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Book Review: Buried Alive by Roy Hallums

What would you do if you were held captive for 311 days? What if your captors placed a hood over your head so that almost the entire ordeal was spent in nearly complete darkness? What if you were placed in a small underground holding cell that was cemented shut for days on end?

Roy Hallums, unfortunately, knows the answers to those questions. In Buried Alive, Hallums recalls the 311 days he was held hostage in Iraq. He recalls being moved from place to place, keeping track of the days by listening for the morning and evening prayers, and the physical, mental, and emotional trauma of his captivity.

The first thing that stands out when reading this book is how quickly it jumps into the action. So many other stories like this would include several chapters leading up to the kidnapping, but the reader knows something big is coming when the first line of the book reads "The traitor's name was Majid." Through the course of the kidnapping and captivity, the reader learns about how Hallum's family in the United States dealt with the news of his capture, and the reader also learns a little bit about how the United States military and intelligence agencies deal with these types of situations.

"Entertaining" is not a good word to describe a book like this, but it did keep me turning the pages late into the night a few times. The pacing of the story helps to break up the emotionally difficult portions of Hallums ordeal by changing focus from Roy to his family every few chapters. The writing is not complicated, but I felt like this helped the story move as if Roy Hallums was telling his story in person.

Buried Alive will gives the reader a cursory understanding of the hostage-taking business in Iraq and illustrate some of the cultural differences between Iraq and America. One should not expect anything too profound relating to these topics as that is not the focus of the book, but it does help the reader to better understand the situation Roy Hallums faces during his captivity.

Although Thomas Nelson published this book, I did not notice any overt spiritual component to the story. Other readers may find this frustrating, however I found this surprisingly refreshing because the story is powerful enough on its own.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Clothing Optional Church

I have long defended various approaches to ministry. Maybe I'm a prude, but I don't think I can defend this one.

Unfortunate quote: "I'll put our chapel up against just about any other church around."

Umm.... please don't.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

What Can OK Go's New Music Video Teach Your Church?

OK Go, of treadmill fame, released their newest music video three days ago on YouTube and already has 2.5 million views. (That's almost 35,000 views per hour!) If you haven't seen it yet, here's the video.

Behind this incredible Rube Goldberg Machine lies a considerable amount of creativity, planning, and hard work. To understand just how much work went into it, check out this video of Adam Sadowsky, president of Syyn Labs in which he explains the process. (There is a slight profanity warning.)

I see three lessons for anyone

1. Find the Experts

The band knows music and they know how to be creative, but in this case the sought the experts. A lot of churches try to do everything in-house. I understand the cost-saving benefit of this, but sometimes some outside assistance can mean the difference between pretty good and jaw-droppingly amazing.  

2. Make No Small Plans

A building at my alma mater, The University of Texas at Arlington, had a phrase inlaid into the main exterior wall that read "Make no small plans." Look at the list of requirements the band gave to Andy. They wanted a minutely timed machine that was massive in scale. Challenge the barriers of what is considered possible.Does your church have the same schedule every Sunday? Do you do the same events year in and year out? Shake things up and make no small plans!

3. Plan, Plan, Plan, Adapt

The saying is "Every general has a plan until the first shot." The creation of a complex machine like we see in the video requires months of planning. They began planning the video in August and completed the project in January. And even with all that planning there were still times they had to adapt the plan to make the machine work.  Some churches have trouble with the planning phase; others have trouble adapting their beautiful plans. Both should be remedied. 

4. Nothing Trumps Hard Work
Shooting the video took twenty 18-hour days to complete. 

Friday, February 5, 2010

How We Ninja'd Facebook to Connect With Students

When I started volunteering with my church's student ministry, our student pastor Jeff Jones mentioned to me that we need to find a way to use Facebook to keep in touch with students more. We had a Facebook group, but it wasn't really achieving the desired goals. Here was the issue and how we solved it.

Issue 1: Groups vs. Pages
The Facebook Groups predate the Fan Pages and groups, in my opinion, are not nearly as powerful as pages for a few reasons. (Pages still don't have all of the features that I would prefer, but they seem to work better than groups.)

  1. Groups are too passive in relation to the people who are members of them. They have discussion boards, picture sharing, and links, but the user has to actively seek out the group page to see what's going on. I am a member of 39 groups and I can't remember the last time I read anything related to them.
  2. Groups are impersonal. A group is like a party where everyone showed and was kind of talkative at first then the conversation died and you're all just standing around staring at each other. The page gives the ministry (or organization) a personality and allows you to kind of stoke the discussion. 
  3. A page acts like a person in the Facebook world. Almost anything you can do as an individual on Facebook, you can do with a page. Almost. You can update your status, create events, upload photos and videos, and most importantly, you can use apps. (This will be important later.) 
  4. A page isn't perfect. There's still a lot you can't do with a Facebook page such as send a mass mailing to everyone's Facebook inbox or schedule status updates.

Issue 2: How to Specifically Reach Our Students
We knew that the status updates would be useful, but on any given Facebook home page most people only see the last couple of hours of updates. How would we send status updates at opportune times to reach students? If you update the Page at 1:30 pm on a Tuesday, almost no student is going to see that because they're all in school. (Who are we kidding, right? They're all checking Facebook at school on their phones, but let's just pretend.)

Solution: Here's where the ninja part comes in.
So we decided to create a Facebook Page for the student ministry because we felt that it would serve us better than the group had. Once the page was set up how we wanted it, we sent a message to everyone in the Group inviting them to join the Page and explained some of the reasons. The biggest reason was because we could use status updates to keep people thinking about the week's lessons and to send out reminders about upcoming events.

Schedule your Status Updates!
Since pages don't allow you to schedule updates (!), I set out to find a way to make it happen. And here's how it works.

1. Set up your Facebook Page how you want it. All nice and shiny. (Here is ours.)

2. Set up a Twitter account for your ministry. ("But my students don't use twitter!" I know. Just hang with me.) (Here's our Twitter page. Notice there's only 1 follower and it's me.)

3. On your personal Facebook profile install the Facebook app called "Selective Tweets." You'll be able to link it to the pages that you are admin for.

4. Link your newly created Page to your newly created twitter account using Selective Tweets. Make sure you click "Save Changes" at the bottom of the screen.

5. The setup you have right now is pretty good. You can type something into your twitter page (if you have any students who use twitter, even better!) and as long as you end it with the #fb hashtag, it will appear almost instantly as a status update on your new Facebook Page. Don't worry. The app removes that #fb thingy when it posts it on Facebook. Now, let's take it up a notch.

6. Create an account at HootSuite.com and link it to your newly created twitter account. The resulting homepage will look something like this.

7. HootSuite has a cool feature that allows you to schedule tweets.

8. Congratulations! You've just ninja'd Facebook! Now you can schedule tweets to go out at a certain time, which will, in turn update your status on your Facebook Page at the scheduled time. The process works like this.

Bonus: Moving Beyond the Obvious
I can feel a "So what?" coming from all of this, so let's explore some of the ways this could be useful.

  1. Birthdays - send personalized birthday announcements to students in your ministry
  2. Event promotions - You have a retreat coming up 6 months from now? Go ahead and schedule the status updates to get your students excited about it. They'll post automatically while you're running around finalizing all the event details.
  3. Stay connected while away - Are you taking a few days off? You can keep your students up to date without having to break up your vacation to update the Facebook Page.
If you use this for your ministry or business, let me know! If you have any questions or need help setting it up, I'd be happy to give you a hand with it. Either leave a comment or send me a tweet!

Let's brainstorm! What are some other ways this could be useful? Post your ideas in the comments.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

5 Reasons to Suspect that Google is Targeting Apple

Since when do search engines pose a threat to hardware/software manufacturers? Since Google has effectively taken over the entire web, that's when. In the last 6 months Google seems to be increasingly focused on competing with Apple.
1. Google releases open-source mobile OS (Android)

2. Then Follows up with Nexus One

3. Google Doesn't Need No Stinking Apple App Store

4. Chrome OS

5. Rumors of a Chrome OS Tablet Are Solidifying
And Steve Jobs is not happy about it either.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Introducing the iPad: As iPhone Users Age, Apple Releases Large Print Edition

The typical iPhone user has now aged almost 3 years from the day they purchased their first iPhone (most of them are on their fifth one by now) and they are now the age that they used to call "old" and "out of touch." Apple, in it's wisdom, released a large print version of the popular smart phone.

"Sometimes have to blow in it to make it work."

Apple has some of the most loyal fans on the planet and the tech giant knows how to keep them coming back. Today Apple released their much-awaited tablet device. Although it was supposed to revolutionize everything that has ever been created ever (Apple's products always do that), the large-edition iPhone dubbed the "iPad" failed to wow the Apple fans sufficiently. Oh every last Apple fan will buy one the minute it is released, but they won't be fainting in the streets in anticipation.

Aside from the numerous jokes being made on Twitter and Facebook about the name (think feminine hygiene products) and concerns about proprietary AT&T internet access, the iPad does include... wait for it... speakers and a microphone! ooooOOOOoooo!

Do you notice anything missing from the trending topics in the hours after Apple announced a product called the "iPad?"

Finally, as computers go, you just can't find one with 64 gig of memory at the low price of $829. This thing is a steal!

(Picture via: New York Times Live Blog)

Friday, January 8, 2010

Colt McCoy Keeps Perspective - Post-game Interview after the BCS Championship Game

Colt McCoy has a perspective few would after injury in the BCS Championship Game. I doubt I could have had such an admittedly emotional, but God-glorifying response to the circumstances Colt faced last night.

Also, be sure to watch Colt McCoy's video with Sam Bradford on I Am Second. I promise it's worth the few minutes of your time.
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