Wednesday, February 27, 2008

My friend PT

Most of you already know who PT is, but for those of you who don't, let me tell you a little about him.

Matt Peterson, a.k.a. PT, was my best man when I married my beautiful wife. He threw me a great bachelor party, and didn't even force me to do anything embarrassing.

PT is one of the best friends I've ever had. He's definitely the most unique character I've ever known - well, right up there with Chuck Fry!

One of the things we used to call PT in college was, "The Art Guy," and that made him a little mad, because he felt it had some negative connotation to it. But, we called him that because he is very artistic. He's a great graphic designer. In fact, he used to do my job at Nappanee Missionary Church. I know the graphic design I'm doing now is nowhere near his quality, but I can spell better!!!!!!

Anyway, PT has a very unique perspective on life. I always tell people that he thinks about things differently than most people do. Many times he'll come to the same conclusions about things as you or I, but he'll take a very different path to get there.

Several years ago, PT moved to Colorado to follow Jesus' call on his life. He's worked at Ministry organizations and other odd jobs. He married Cassie a few years ago and I'm so happy for him. One day, I even hope to meet her!

I really miss hanging out with PT and all the crazy stuff we used to do together. He introduced me to dumpster diving, which yielded an incredible amount of very useful stuff! His barn was the construction site for our halfpipe Ginger, upon which I broke my left arm. He took me midnight golfing a few times and we also went offroading on several occasions.

If you know PT, you know what a good friend he is and you probably miss him as much as I do.

Thanks for being you, PT!

Here are a few pictures of my adventures with PT.

From left: Steve Dregits, PT, Derry, Chuck and I dressed up like Kiss for a contest at a Bethel basketball game. We won second place, which was free pizza. Not a bad prize for a bunch of college guys!

A game of Buck Buck at PT's house. I don't remember who all was involved but I know to the far left of the bottom row is Joe Wright. On top, from left, are Gabe Wallis, me and PT.

Me and PT after finishing Ginger! Little did I know the pain she would cause me.

Finally, here's another one of Hanah and PT. Obviously, she feels a little more comfortable with him in this one - a little.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Too hard or Too boring?

I'm not sure if the latest "Guess Who" picture was too hard to figure out, or if nobody cares, so I'm going to put it up one more time with the screen lightened a bit and see if anybody guesses. If not, I'll take it as a hint to end the series!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Who is that with Hanah?

I think maybe I made the first one too easy, so this one is going to be a bit more challenging.

On the left is my daughter Hanah sometime around the spring of 2003, maybe. Anyway, as you can see she doesn't look all that confident in the person who is holding her. So, who could it be?

I am not giving any hints this time!

By the way, I think most of you already know this, but the answer to the first photo is Derry Prenkert (far left) and Chuck Fry - two of the best friends I've ever had.

I get to work with Derry every day now and pretty soon I'm going to finally get to visit Chuck in his hometown of Los Angeles. Can't wait!

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Let the countdown begin

I don't know if you noticed or not, but I've got a new countdown going over on the right. We're inside of a month until the greatest sporting event on earth!

I haven't followed college basketball nearly as much this season as I normally do, but I still cannot wait for the NCAA Tournament to begin.

The first four days of the NCAA Tournament are unlike any other sports event because you've got 48 games that are all significant. You've got upsets, blowouts, nailbiters and heartbreakers. You've got buzzer-beaters, bloopers and historic performances - all in those first four days, and the tournament isn't even over yet!

I love the NCAA Tournament so much that I told my wife I was thinking about taking some vacation time so I could be at home enjoying it on my new TV! She shook her head at me.

In college, I had a friend who spent almost all day, every day of the tournament in our room laying on the couch, just taking it all in. His grades weren't too good that semester.

I love filling out the brackets, whether it's part of a pool or just for my own amusement. My family, all four of us, each filled out a bracket last year. Sadly, my wife won the family pool. This year, I'm looking for revenge.

The NCAA Tournament is one of those things that unites people in the office, or at family gatherings. It seems even non-sports enthusiasts can get excited about it.

I think this calls for a poll. Now, I can't offer enough options for you to pick which team you think will win, so I'm going to offer several options for you to pick which conference you think the champion will come from. Enjoy!

Kenya Night

I was asked to take some pictures at Kenya Night last night. You can check all of them out here. There's also just a few below. Jeff also took some great shots, so check his out here.

I want to let you know how proud I am of my friend Derry. He'll tell you this whole night was organized by the students, but I know he's put a lot of time, effort, prayer and guidance into this event. The students did a ton of work, but so did Derry and the rest of the staff in NMC's Student Ministries.

Here's a few pictures to whet your appetite!

The perfect cheer

Beautiful girls

High five Derry

My name is Eric

Dancing in church?

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Who is With Dan? (a series)

I got this idea over at PT's blog and thought it would be fun, so here we go. Your job is to try to guess who is with me in this picture. I'll lighten the screen over the faces each day until someone guesses correctly. Here's a clue (not a very good one): This picture was taken after a hard day of fishing.

*UPDATE: I had to change the screen colors because when I lightened the white it just made it too easy, so keep guessing. You're doing very well - at least on one of the faces!
**UPDATE: I think you guys know who they are, so just say it!!!!!!


I believe the Mt. Dew counter has reached its limit of usefulness. Since there is no longer a challenge going on, I don't really feel any accountability or motivation to live up to those little green cans anymore. So, the counter is done. So long!

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Discipline of Service

Dan and I have started a Time Alone With God (TAWG) challenge, and are using the book Celebration of Discipline to sort of guide us. We are currently in our second week of the challenge.

If you are not familiar with the book, it basically identifies and explains 12 different disciplines of the Christian life. Those disciplines are broken down into three categories: Inward, Outward and Corporate. For the sake of anyone who hasn't read the book, I'll list each of the disciplines by category.

Inward: Meditation, Prayer, Fasting, Study
Outward: Simplicity, Solitude, Submission, Service
Corporate: Confession, Worship, Guidance, Celebration

Dan and I have both read the book before, so we're not exactly doing a front-to-back reading this time. We chose to focus on prayer the first week, deciding that was a good area to focus on first as we began the challenge.

This week's focus is service, and since I call my blog Learning to Serve, it seemed appropriate to share with you some of my thoughts after reading the chapter.

It didn't take long for this chapter to hit home. In fact, in the third paragraph I highlighted this passage:

In some ways we would prefer to hear Jesus' call to deny father and mother,
houses and land for the sake of the gospel than his word to wash feet. Radical
self-denial give the feel of adventure. if we forsake all, we even have the
chance of glorious martyrdom. But in service we must experience the many little
deaths of going beyond ourselves. Service banishes us to the mundane, the
ordinary, the trivial.

That puts into words what most of us probably feel as the biggest barrier to becoming true servants. It's hard to swallow our pride and feel comfortable doing the mundane, ordinary, trivial tasks necessary to be of service to others. At least, I struggle with it.

Probably the most impactful section of this chapter was titled Service in the Marketplace. I started this blog because I had taken this new position as a graphic designer at my church and saw it as a behind-the-scenes form of ministry or service. That hiddenness has been one of the hardest things to deal with and move beyond in order to serve. Here's another sentence that I highlighted:

Hiddenness is a rebuke to the flesh and can deal a fatal blow to pride.

Maybe that's why it's so hard to deal with. Not getting any recognition or praise can be difficult to deal with, especially when you pour yourself into the service you are performing!

Listening was pointed out as a form of service. I never would have considered listening as an act of service, but the more I think about it, I tend to agree. Two quick passages from the book on listening:

To listen to others quiets and disciplines the mind to listen to God.

When we have grown dull in listening to God, we would do well to listen to
others in silence and see if we do not hear God through them.

One of the things Dan and I will do each week is discuss practical ways we can apply each chapter. For this week, I need to work on two specific things. First, I must force myself to stay humble when I hear comments like, "Wow, did you design that?" or "The newsletter looks great!" Second, I am going to work on listening silently. I don't need to be heard all the time, but I must listen if I am going to serve others.

Friday, February 15, 2008


After reintroducing my body to Mountain Dew yesterday, I had a terrible stomache ache. That should make it easier to resist temptation!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A New Kind of Counter

The streak is over.

Today at lunchtime Jeff and I gave up the fight and we each enjoyed a nice cold Mountain Dew with our meals at Taco Bell.

We made it 43 days and, to be fair, Jeff held out about 15 seconds longer than I did, so I guess I lost. Congratulations, Jeff.

Now the real challenge begins. Have these 43 days without Dew broken me of my bad habit? Have I gained the strength to resist overindulgence? Can I limit myself to a reasonably healthy amount of pop intake?

I hope so, because I have felt so much more healthy and have actually lost nearly 10 pounds during my time without Dew. That's not something I want to give up.

So, without further ado, I am starting a new counter at the top right of my blog. It will count down the days until I will allow myself to have another Mt. Dew, or other kind of pop. I'm going to start by allowing myself a drink only every 10 days. Is that too many, or not enough? I'm open to suggestions!

Thanks for following along. You've helped me do something potentially life-changing!


For the last 5 months I've been helping my friend Craig coach his basketball team at Harrison Elementary School in Warsaw. It is the boys team and is made up of 4th, 5th and 6th graders.

Last night we beat Madison Elementary in the city championship game, giving Harrison its fourth championship since Craig has been the head coach. Madison was the only team that beat us during the regular season so it was extra sweet to avenge that loss in the championship game.
I was reluctant when Craig first asked me to help coach this team. I thought it would be too much of a time commitment. I wasn't sure I would enjoy it. I didn't know if I really had anything to offer.
I quickly found out I was dead wrong. After the first day of tryouts, I realized how much fun it would be. Craig graciously told me to only come when I was able and offering helpful tips to the players came pretty naturally.
Looking back at when I was their age, I am amazed at how good these kids are at basketball. I was never a star player but these kids already know so much more than I did about the game and they have skills that I didn't develop until much later in life.
Last night was the first time in my life I've been a part of a championship basketball game. It was pretty tense. The kids played great - they definitely saved their best for last. And it was another great example of how defense wins championships. We held Madison to 17 points, which is very low for such a good team. We kept their two best players in check most of the night and did a great job of playing team defense.
I am very thankful for the opportunity to help coach this team. It was such a great experience and I'll always remember those kids. Congratulations Huskies!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

California ideas

My wife and I have often talked about duplicating a trip I took with my parents growing up.

We loaded in our old Club Cab Ford pickup with a truck camper on the back and drove across the country to visit my grandparents in San Diego. I think I was about 10 at the time and my sister was 13 or 14. It was at least a 2-week trip and we took our time getting out there, stopping every night to camp and taking time during the day to see some of the most incredible sights like the Grand Canyon, the Painted Desert, the Petrified Forest, Yosemite National Park and Sequoia National Park, just to name a few.

I'll never forget that trip. I will always remember seeing the Grand Canyon, the waterfall at Yosemite and the size of those trees at Sequoia. I'll also never forget how long we were in Texas - man, that is one big state!
So, this June when we go to California we're thinking of making it a mini-replica of that trip. We won't be driving across the country - we'll definitely fly. But, while we're out west we'd like to drive around to some of the sites that I saw on that trip.

The Grand Canyon is definitely on the list, but what other sites do you think we should see? We'll probably take 3-4 days after our time in San Diego to do this and ultimately end up in Las Vegas for our flight home. Have any of you done trips like this before? Any suggestions on what we can see during those 3-4 days?

Monday, February 11, 2008


Katie and I went to lunch with some great friends after church yesterday. As we fought our way through the howling wind and single-digit temperature into the restaurant, we all came to the conclusion that we had had enough of it.

So, as we had lunch we did what most Michianans (?) do around this time of year - we started talking about summer and possible vacations. We just wanted to think of being somewhere warm.

After lunch, Katie and I went to my parents' house to pick up our kids from their overnighter with Grandpa and Grandma. While there, my dad approached me and asked if we would like to join them on their vacation to San Diego coming up in June!!!!

My parents have been planning this trip for a while. My grandparents live in San Diego and my dad somehow secured tickets to the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in nearby La Jolla, California.

Anyway, Katie and I immediately said yes and started thinking about the details of the trip and vacation time from work.

We'll be staying either with my parents at a resort in Ramona, California, or with my grandparents in San Diego. Either way, we're very excited. I've been to San Diego several times but my wife and kids have never been, so I'm thrilled to be taking them.

There's a lot to do in San Diego, but two of the main attractions we'll visit are Sea World and the San Diego Zoo. You think the kids will ever want to come home?

Friday, February 8, 2008


You've heard of demographics, right?

Well, today, I learned about psychographics. These are generalizations, or stereotypes, based on phychological and behavioral profiles.

There are 7 categories of pschographics and each one can be described by stating which type of watch a person in that category would wear. OK, that's simplifying it a little bit too much, but just read on and you'll probably have a pretty good understanding of each category.

1. Belonger: If he wears a watch, it's probably a Timex. Takes a lickin' and keeps on tickin'.
2. Achiever: If he wears a watch, it's probably a Patek Philippe because Rolexes have become too common. (If you've never heard of Patek Philippe, don't feel bad, neither had I)
3. Emualtor: If he wears a watch, it's probably a cheap imitation Rolex because that's better than being seen wearing a Timex.
4. Socially Conscious Type A: If he wears a watch, it's probably a solar-powered one with a recycled wristband.
5. Socially Conscious Type B: If he wears a watch, it's probably something from an army surplus store.
6. Balanced: If he wears a watch, it's probably a Citizen because it's not the cheapest watch out there, but there's no need to spend the money to buy a Rolex.
7. Needs-Driven: If he wears a watch, it's probably a Fossil. (I can't remember the reasoning behind the Fossil, sorry!)

There are plenty more descriptions of each category, which I'll share soon, but I thought the watch illustration was pretty telling.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Sweet home Michiana!

On my way to work this morning I passed flooded fields, yards, driveways and streets. It just wouldn't stop raining.

When I went out for lunch it felt a bit colder but it was still raining.

About an hour after lunch I knew it really was colder because this is what it looked like out my window ...

Man, I am ready for spring!

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

TAWG Challenge!

My friend Dan Erickson took me up on the offer of a TAWG (Time Alone With God) Challenge andn we're starting this weekend by working on the discipline of prayer.

The plan is to work our way through the book Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster.

We're going to start with prayer, even though that is not the first one he discusses in the book, because we feel it will be a good foundation.

I'm excited about this challenge, although it doesn't feel like a challenge as much as a pact between two friends who want to help each other succeed. We're working on a prize for the winner, which will make it seem more like a competition, I guess.

Now, I've got to come up with a snappy graphic to keep track of this challenge!

Monday, February 4, 2008


I did it. I reached 100 posts. Hopefully I can keep up the pace I've been on lately and reach 200 before my 1-year anniverary (May 15). I've got exactly 100 days to do it!

It was time

I just couldn't take it any more. I was always brushing my hair out of my eyes. It was a real hassle when I played basketball - I even resorted to wearing a headband one time. But now that I see the before and after, I kind of miss it. Maybe I'll grow it out again!

Defense Wins Championships

If you're at all interested in sports, you hear this phrase all the time: "Defense wins championships."

I've grown up playing sports and have always heard that, but can't remember a better example of it than last night's Super Bowl.

The Giants, led by their pass rushers (above) Michael Strahan, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora, held the Patriots to 14 points. 14 POINTS!!!!!

Leading up to the Super Bowl, Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress made a prediction that his team would win the game, 23-17. Upon hearing the prediction, Patriots quarterback Tom Brady laughed at the thought of his team scoring only 17 points. I'm guessing he was as shocked as anyone that the Patriots only managed 14 points.

Maybe the most impressive part of this game is that the Giants only scored 17 points. If you would have told anybody that the Giants would only score 17 points, they would have figured the game would be a blowout by the Patriots. But it just proves the phrase right. If you stop the other team from scoring, you don't need to score much to win - therefore, Defense Wins Championships!

If you are a coach, or ever get the chance to coach, remember this game and use it to help your players understand the importance of defense.

And the best thing about defense is that you don't have to be incredibly talented to be good at it. Anybody can be a good defender if they just work hard at it.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Poll Results

It's official - the overwhelming reason you hate the Patriots is because you think they're cheaters. Thanks to everyone who voted!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Now, Discover Your Strengths

I'm about halfway through a book called Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton and I'm loving it. The basic premise of the book is that most people spend most of their time and energy on trying to improve in the areas where they are the weakest. But Buckingham says this is nothing more than damage control and that doing so will never help us achieve excellence.

Buckingham suggests, rather, that we should focus our time and energy on refining and sharpening our strengths. He defines a strength as consistent near perfect performance in an activity. He also points to our natural, or God-given, talents as the foundation of our strengths. He defines talent as any recurring pattern of thought, feeling or behavior that can be productively applied.

One of the cool things about this book is it comes with an access code to something called the StrengthsFinder Profile. It's an online test to determine your natural talents which can then be developed into strengths.

Here are my top five results, or signature themes as Buckingham calls them. I'll also give you a brief description of each. These are not in any particular order:

You live in the moment. You don't see the future as a fixed destination. Instead, you see it as a place that you create out of choices that you make right now. And so you discover your future one choice at a time. This doesn't mean that you don't have plans. You probably do. But this theme of Adaptability does enable you to respond willingly to the demands of the moment even if they pull you away from your plans.

If you possess a strong Belief theme, you have certain core values that are enduring. These values vary from one person to another, but ordinarily your Belief theme causes you to be family-oriented, altruistic, even spiritual and to value responsibility and high ethics - both in yourself and others.

You see the potential in others. Very often, in fact, potential is all you see. In your view no individual is fully formed. On the contrary, each individual is a work in progress, alive with possibilities. And you are drawn toward people for this very reason.

You can sense the emotions of those around you. You can feel what they are feeling as though their feelings are your own. Intuitively, you are able to see the world through their eyes and share their perspective. You do not necessarily agree with each person's perspective. You do not necessarily feel pity for each person's predicament - this would be sympathy, not empathy. You do not necessarily condone the choices each person makes, but you do understand.

You look for areas of agreement. In your view there is little to be gained from conflict and friction, so you seek to hold them to a minimum. When you know that the people around you hold differing views, youtry to find the common ground. You try to steer them away from confrontation and toward harmony. In fact, harmony is one of your guiding values.

I was actually shocked at how well these themes matched up with what I would have guessed about myself before I took the test. For those of you who know me well, do you think these are accurate?
Now, what do I do with these God-given abilities? Any suggestions?