Monday, March 31, 2008

Laugh at Yourself!

I'm assuming most of the people who read this blog are Christians, but even if you're not you may get a laugh out of this blog.

Make sure you read the post titled, Why Create "Stuff Christians Like?" because it will help you understand the blogger's heart and his reasoning for creating the website.

Then, read as many posts as you have time for and laugh at yourself or somebody you know!

NMC Bracketology Update - Final Four

Well, it happened. For the first time ever, all four No. 1 seeds made it to the Final Four. Which leads me to share with you what my new strategy will be for filling out the bracket: Pick the favorites!

I did the math this morning and found out that if someone had picked the favorites all the way through, that person would be tied with Kevin Edwards for first place right now. Then, it would just be a matter of how you pick your Final Four. This year, I think North Carolina was the overall No. 1 seed, then I'm not sure how the other three No. 1 seeds ranked.

The point is - I could have been in 1st place rather than 15th!

But, at least I'm not one of these guys who have been mathematically eliminated: Derry Prenkert, Jason Thompson, Dustin Eby and Jeff Simpson. Sorry guys -thanks for playing!

Friday, March 28, 2008

NMC Bracketology Update

So far, the third round has been good to me, but I'm still way too far behind to start talking any trash!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Fab Five Changed My Life

When I heard about Chris Webber's retirement yesterday, I was surprised at how significant it was to me. I had never thought about it before, but Chris Webber really did change my life.

As a Christian, I know that may sound a little ridiculous. If you'll bear with me, I'll try to explain myself.

I was a freshman in high school when Webber became a member of the best college basketball recruiting class ever - a group that became known as the Fab Five at the University of Michigan. Webber was the star of the group but the other players - Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson - were also great. Webber, Rose and Howard all went on to great NBA careers and Howard is still playing at age 35.

As a freshman in high school who was just figuring out that basketball was my favorite sport, watching the Fab Five literally changed my life. I saw their baggy shorts, their bald heads, their black socks and shoes, their high-flying dunks, their alley-oop passes, their blocked shots, their exuberance and swagger and I wanted to be like them. At age 15, I believed I could be like them.

Basketball became the main focus of all my sports efforts. I stopped playing baseball after my freshman year and continued playing golf, but not with much concentration or effort. I worked on my jump shot in my driveway and at my church gym every time I could. I determined to be able to dunk by the time I was a senior in high school. I bought several pairs of baggy shorts and black basketball shoes and at least one pair of black socks.

The reason this was a big change in my life is because up to that point baseball was my main hobby. I had played baseball since I was 7 or 8. I was just settling into the catcher position and learning how to be the leader on the field, perfecting my throw down to second base, calling pitches and becoming a very consistent hitter. Baseball was always the sport I was the most successful in. I was always on the All-Star teams, always in the starting lineup, usually at the top of the batting order.

When basketball became my focus, it didn't take long for me to drop baseball. I was maybe a little burnt out on baseball, but I really think I lost the love for the game.

Now, the reason I believe this whole process changed my life is because who knows what could have happened if I had stuck with baseball? Maybe I could have been good enough to play in college. Maybe I wouldn't have chosen to attend Bethel College to do that and would never have had all the life-changing experiences I had while at Bethel - including meeting my wife and most of my best friends.

Were there other factors that played into all the major decisions that led me to where I am today? Of course, but I honestly believe Chris Webber and the rest of the Fab Five played a part in changing my life - in a good way!

Here's a great article on Chris Webber and here's a couple videos to watch if you don't remember the Fab Five or if you just want to refresh your memory:

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Discipline of Celebration

No, that is not a typo in the title. The chapter Dan and I read this week was on Celebration and it was probably my favorite chapter so far. It is the last chapter of the book Celebration of Discipline and it was the last one we planned to read together. We have decided to continue with the rest of the book since it has been such a good experience for both of us.

Finally, a chapter that didn't kick my butt. But the only reason it didn't is because it focused so much on joy it did more to inspire me than to convict me.

I love the way this chapter ties all the disciplines together and challenges you to discover true joy through those disciplines.

Here's a few highlights:

Celebration brings joy into life, and joy makes us strong. Scripture tells us
that the joy of the Lord is our strength (Neh. 8:10). We cannot continue long in
anything without it.

Without a joyful spirit of festivity the Disciplines become dull,
death-breathing tools in the hands of modern Pharisees.

Wow, that's pretty strong language!

In the spiritual life only one thing will produce genuine joy, and that is

One of the things that nearly destroys children is being forced to be
grateful when they are not grateful.

How many times have I forced my children to say "thank you" when they were not really grateful? Too many!

Christians are called to be free of care, but we find such a way foreign to

When we determine to dwell on the good and excellent things in life, we
will be so full of those things that they will tend to swallow our

I don't think Foster is saying we won't have problems, just that they will not seem as significant if we are dwelling on the good things.

Of all people, we should be the most free, alive, interesting. Celebration
adds a note of gaeity, festivity, hilarity to our lives. After all, Jesus
rejoiced so fully in life that he was accused of being a wine-bibber and a
glutton. Many of us lead such sour lives that we cannot possibly be accused of
such things.

Have you ever been around "Christians" who are sour? No wonder the world wants nothing to do with church!

Finally, here's the practical steps to celebration:
1. Singing, dancing, shouting.
2. Laughing. (This includes laughing at yourself: "Let go of the everlasting burden of always needing to sound profound")
3. Accent the creative gifts of fantasy and imagination. (In yourself and others)
4. Make family events into times of celebration and thanksgiving.
5. Take advantage of the festivals of our culture and really celebrate.

Monday, March 24, 2008

NMC Bracketology Update

After the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament, here are the NMC Bracketology standings:

A few things to take note of:

1. The top 7 are separated by 20 points, so it's far from over!

2. My bracket is pathetic.

3. My wife is beating me badly. And before you start thinking it's hard on me, let me assure you that I got used to losing to my wife a long time ago. For those of you that know her, remember that she was the college athlete - not me. So, don't worry about my ego, there's nothing left of it!

4. A girl - Joy Baxter - is tied for third place. Way to go Joy!

5. Doing poorly in picking NCAA Tournament games in no way diminishes my love for the tournament itself. It's still the best sports event of the year!

Friday, March 21, 2008

What I'm Watching

NCAA Tournament basketball on a Sony 40-inch 1080p HDTV in the comfort of my own home ...

NMC Bracketology Standings

Here are the standings after one day of games. Congratulations to Jason Muckel for the only perfect performance through the first 16 games!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

NCAA Tournament Trivia

No upsets up to this point, but still, what a great day!
Here's a few NCAA Tournament trivia questions for you:

1. When Cornell and Stanford play later today, it will be a rare matchup of two NCAA teams whose mascots don't end with the letter S. Can you name at least 5 other teams besides the Big Red and the Cardinal whose mascots don't end with the letter S?

2. Can you name at least four players in this year's NCAA Tournament who are the sons of former NBA players/coaches?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bracketology Tips #2 - What Do You Love?

After David got done picking the "Belmountain Bruins" to win the national championship, it was my 5-year-old daughter Hanah's turn to make her selections.

I named each team in the same manner as I did for David: Team name and mascot.

Hanah's formula for success became apparent almost immediately.

She became of the Butler Bulldogs last year and hasn't forgotten about them, so Butler was an automatic pick all the way to the Final Four.

When I got to the Maryland Baltimore County Retrievers, she squealed with delight because it reminded her of our dog, Gus, a 1-year-old Golden Retriever. The Butler Bulldogs had met their match.

On the other side of the bracket, Kentucky was an easy pick for Hanah because Kentucky is where we took our first official family vacation a couple years ago. Until our trip to Florida last year, Hanah was convinced there couldn't be a better place on earth than Kentucky. So, Kentucky made it to the Final Four with no problem.

Finally, the San Diego Toreros quickly earned Hanah's favor because she has a set of great grandparents who live in San Diego and that's where our next family trip is going to be later this year. The Toreros will be happy to know they're going to make it to the Final Four this year.

Now, Hanah faced a dilemma because she loves the Butler Bulldogs, she loves the UMBC Retrievers, she loves Kentucky and she loves San Diego. It was actually quite thrilling to watch her decide which she loved the most.

The Retrievers ousted the Butler Bulldogs in one semifinal while San Diego got the better of Kentucky in the other. As for the National Championship Game, the UMBC Retrievers have stolen Hanah's heart. Sorry Toreros!
Hope this helps you with your picks.

Bracketology tips #1 - Does it Sound Good?

I sat down with my kids last night to do our annual family brackets. For the past few years, I've tried to establish a tradition of a Weiss family NCAA pool where each of us fills out a bracket and we have a little friendly family competition.

With a 5-year-old and a 3-year-old you can imagine the kids need a little bit of help choosing teams. So, I took some of my color-coded brackets home with me last night, thinking it would be of great benefit to Hanah and David.

I'm not sure it helped much.

The first team I came to was the North Carolina, so I said to my 3-year-old son David, "North Carolina Tarheels." Immediately I realized that was a lot of information for him to digest and that he probably only remembered "Tarheels."

In an effort to be fair to all the teams, I kept going in this format, stating each team name and mascot followed by the opposing team and mascot.

To my surprise, David quickly latched on to the pattern and was able to distinguish team from team in each matchup. He also devised his formula for success, and that's where this tip comes in: Does it sound good?

Based on how good the team name and mascot sounded, here were a few of David's favorite teams:

Arkansas Razorbacks, Winthrop Eagles, Butler Bulldogs, Kent State golden Flashes, CSU Fullerton Titans, Texas-Arlington Mavericks, Drake Bulldogs and Belmont Bruins.

After working our way through each region, David has decided that the Belmont Bruins (a 15 seed that faces Duke in the first round) will beat the Cal. State Fullerton Titans (a 14 seed facing Wisconsin in the first round) in the national championship game.

By the way, as he kept picking Belmont to win games, he tailored the name to sound even better and started calling them the "Belmountain Bruins."
Hope this helps you with your picks!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

How do you do church?

Ran across this post on the blog of one of the more creative church marketers in the business. It is about a Cowboy Church that is doing things the way that works for its people - just like everyone should, I believe.

The Discipline of Solitude

Solitude, as spoken of in Celebration of Discipline, is much different than just being alone. In fact, author Richard Foster makes a distinction right away in this chapter between solitude and loneliness:
Loneliness is inner emptiness. Solitude is inner fulfillment.

I have tried to practice Solitude in the past, most memorably this past summer when I would get up early in the morning to spend about an hour fishing before work. The problem was that it wasn't always a meaningful time. I always enjoyed it, but I didn't always walk back to the house feeling like I accomplished anything - other than catching some fish!

From reading this chapter, I think the purpose of seeking Solitude is to emulate the example of Jesus. He often retreated to a place where He could be alone with His Father. We need to do that too.
... we must seek out the recreating stillness of solitude if we want to be
with others meaningfully. We must seek the fellowship and accountability of
others if we want to be alone safely. We must cultivate both if we are to live
in obedience.

That idea of balance between fellowship and solitude is difficult to achieve, yet I think it is very important if we hope to walk closely with our Father in Heaven and with our brothers and sisters here on earth.

Here are a few of the practical steps I love finding in each chapter of this book:
The first thing we can do is to take advantage of the "little solitudes"
that fill our day.

We can find or develop a "quiet place" designed for silence and

... let's experience with doing deeds without any words of explanation

Let's discipline ourselves so that our words are few and full.

Try to live one entire day without words at all.

Four times a year withdraw for three to four hours for the purpose of
reorienting your life goals.

Building off the last practical step, Foster takes some time to address the setting of goals, which has always been an area of weakness for me.
Goals are discovered, not made.

You are going to go somewhere so how much better to have a direction that
has been set by communion with the divine Center.

Monday, March 17, 2008

The Discipline of Fasting

I received one half of my weekly butt-kicking last night as I read Richard Foster's chapter on Fasting in Celebration of Discipline. It was only one half because we're covering Fasting and Solitude this week.

Let me first say that I have tried several times in the past to fast, but never felt like it was very fruitful. I think that's because I have a hard time approaching it in the right spirit, with the right mindset and with the right motives. I think I start out on track but quickly let things get out of focus.

So, it was good to read this chapter and get a renewed perspective on fasting. Here are a few of the things I highlighted:
Perhaps in our affluent society fasting involves a far larger sacrifice
than the giving of money.

Fasting must forever center on God. It must be God-initiated and

If our fasting is not unto God, we have failed. Physical benefits, success
in prayer, the enduing with power, spiritual insights - these must never replace
God as the center of our fasting.

The last one was particularly tough to swallow because it is so easy to think those other results - all good things - are the reason to fast.
More than any other Discipline, fasting reveals the things that control us.

Ouch, huh?

Maybe that's the most difficult thing to deal with when fasting. It always seems like when I've tried to fast, my struggles have been amplified and I lose sight of what I'm doing. I guess those things are supposed to be revealed and I'm still supposed to focus on God. There's a challenge!

The Jeff Simpson Bracket

I asked Jeff if he was going to join NMC Bracketology and he said no. I asked why and he said he's no good at filling out brackets, then suggested he could possibly pick teams based on team colors. I offered to give him a color-coded bracket that also included mascots, and here it is! If anyone else needs one of these to feel like you've got a shot at competing, go here and download one!

Friday, March 14, 2008

NMC Bracketology

For the second year in a row, many of the staff here at NMC are participating in an NCAA Tournament challenge. This year, we're doing it through ESPN.

I am in charge of setting up the challenge and decided it would be a good idea to invite people from outside the NMC staff to join in. Not only would it give us a greater chance to have a large group, but it might give a few people a chance to beat their pastors at something!!!!!

So, if you want to join in the madness, you can email me at and I'll give you the password. If you don't want to join, but would like to keep up with who's winning and who's not, you can see the leaderboard here.

I'll do my best to keep you posted on the standings at the end of each day of games!

Free Date Night

I am so excited for this weekend! It is the final days of NCAA basketball championship week, and the weekend of Selection Sunday. But most importantly, I get to go out on a date with a beautiful woman!!!! And, better than that, it's going to be FREE!!!! (insert Spitzer joke here)

Katie and I are going to drop the kids off for an overnight stay with Grandpa & Grandma, then we're off to the land of Goshen to redeem a Hacienda gift card. After that, we're going home to watch a movie or two on our TV!

It won't be the fanciest of dates, but it is going to be a great time for us to reconnect and invest in each other. I can't wait!!!!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dunking in the sanctuary?

I may be getting old, but today I proved to myself that all of the magic isn't gone. I pulled off a nasty, Dominique Wilkins windmill dunk.

Of course, the rim was only about 7 feet high and was on the stage in NMC's Worship Center, but that's beside the point.

Why was there a basketball hoop on the stage in the worship center? I'm glad you asked!

NMC Junior High Pastor Jason Thompson heads up the church's Upward Basketball League, which attracts hundreds of children each winter.

This year, there are about 50 kids in the leauge who claim to have no church affiliation. That's where this stage set comes in. (said dunk occurred on the right-hand basket)

Tonight is the Upward Awards Night, a night to honor the kids, coaches and volunteers who have helped make the league a success. It is also a chance to present the Gospel. Illusionist Jared Hall will be performing and those in attendance will definitely be given a chance to accept Christ.

It's great to work at a place that goes to incredible lengths to reach people for Christ. I'm praying tonight will be a success from that perspective!

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Discipline of Worship

As Richard Foster continues to kick my butt through his book, Celebration of Discipline, I want to continue to share it with you so I'm not going through it alone. So get ready for a beating!

This week's chapter is on worship. That is a word thrown around an awful lot in churches today. You have worship services, worship music, worship leaders, worship folders - and I believe all are valid uses of the word as an adjective. But, what does the word worship mean all by itself? Here's a few passages from the book that helped me clarify what worship is, and is not.

(Worship) is kindled within us only when the Spirit of God touches our
human spirit. We can use all the right techniques and methods, we can have the
best possible liturgy, but we have not worshiped the Lord until Spirit touches

We are free in Christ to use whatever forms will enhance our worship, and if any
form hinders us from experiencing the living Christ - too bad for the form.

I think I knew what worship was before I read this chapter, but sometimes my definition of things changes without me knowing it. I sort of viewed worship as a one-way street - it was all about my outpouring of worship on God. But I now see that it involves an interaction.

There was a tiny phrase that caught my attention about halfway through the chapter. It was in a section titled The Priority of Worship:

Activity is the enemy of adoration.

The reason this hit me so hard is because I see it so clearly in my life. I see it with my (lack of) worship, but also with my wife, children and friends. If I'm too busy to spend time with them, how can I properly adore them?

One of the best things about this book is its practicality. Foster is good at giving pointers on how to start training yourself to improve on each discipline. He never makes his suggestions as though they are required, only a possible way to get started. So, here's seven tips for worship:

1. Learn to practice the presence of God daily.
2. Have many different experiences of worship.
3. Find ways to really prepare for the gathered experience of worship.
4. Have a willingness to be gathered in the power of the Lord.
5. Cultivate holy dependency.
6. Absorb distractions with gratitude.
7. Learn to offer a sacrifice of worship.

Finally, here are two sentences that hit home toward the end of the chapter:

If worship does not propel us into greater obedience, it has not been
worship. To stand before the Holy One of eternity is to change.

Friday, March 7, 2008

You can't please all the people ...

With my background in the newspaper business and now working at a church with an average weekend attendance of about 3,000 people, I have learned the truth of this phrase:

"You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can't please all the people all the time."

This truth became apparent again today when I presented an idea for some shirts we are going to order for the staff here at NMC. The staff will be required to wear these shirts at least once and possibly more than that.

So, my idea was to offer the staff a choice of two different styles (polo & t-shirt) and three different colors. And this still seemed to be insufficient.

Our staff of around 50 is made up of many different ages, personalities, personal styles and backgrounds so it should be no surprise that not everyone is going to be pleased with the choices offered, but I was hoping for a better reception.

Oh well, I guess some people are just going to have to take one for the team!

Thursday, March 6, 2008


Thanks to Derry, today I found out just how dumb I am. I couldn't name all the states and actually had to find a map to get all 50 states. Darn you, UTAH!

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Discipline of Simplicity

I'm reading Celebration of Discipline for the second time in less than a year, and I'm reminded why I always tell people, "This book kicks my butt," every time I talk about it.

Dan and I just finished the discipline of simplicity this weekend and I think it's worth sharing the points that really hit home with me.

Probably the best, and most accurate, way of sharing is to give some direct citations from the book, so here you go:

The central point for the Discipline of simplicity is to seek the kingdom of God
and the righteousness of his kingdom first and then everything
necessary will come in its proper order.

If what we have we receive as a gift, and if what we have is to be cared for by
God, and if what we have is available to others, then we will possess freedom
from anxiety. This is the inward reality of simplicity.

If our goods are not available to the community when it is clearly right
and good, then they are stolen goods.

Obviously, this chapter was heavily devoted to the issues of money and possessions. It is an issue that I have, frankly, not thought much about for a long time. I feel like for a long time I was in a good place with this issue, but recently things have changed.

I have not fallen in love with money or possessions, but I have felt myself desiring stuff more than ever. So, this chapter came along at the just the right time.

My wife and I have been working on paying off all our debts, at times with "gazelle intensity" and at times with sloth sluggishness. We know becoming debt free is God's will for our lives because he doesn't want us to be slave to our lenders, but we've gotten sidetracked on occasion.

As a way of wrapping up my reaction to this chapter of the book, I'm going to list the "10 controlling principles for the outward expression of simplicity:"

1. Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.
2. Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.
3. Develop a habit of giving things away.
4. Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.
5. Learn to enjoy things without owning them.
6. Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation.
7. Look with a healthy skepticism at all "boy now, pay later" schemes.
8. Obey Jesus' instructions about plain, honest speech.
9. Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others.
10. Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God.

Do any of these make you feel like you're getting punched in the nose, like they do me?