Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Personality Tests

I'm not a huge fan of personality tests. I find them interesting, but have never believed a set of multiple-choice questions could completely sum up a person's whole personality. I still feel that way.

But today I was introduced to a personality test that ended in the most accurate description of who I am, how I feel about things and why I do things the way I do them. So, if you have ever wondered who I am, why I do what I do and how I feel about things, just read that description.

Now, remember, it doesn't necessarily describe every facet of who I am with 100% accuracy, but it's pretty close!

And feel free to take the test and share what you find out about yourself!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Getting Creative - Porch Swing

Easter weekend turned out to be a long weekend for me because I was given an unexpected day off for Good Friday. It also turned out to be a productive weekend because Katie and I decided to use the extra free time to finally get some furniture on our porch.

Well, we didn't go out and get furniture, we made it! The swing you see above is what we spent much of our weekend on and it has turned out to be a great time investment already. Katie and I were inspired by this swing, then tweaked it a bit to come up with our design. We already had a lot of the wood laying around our house, so we were able to keep costs low. We were given an old crib mattress by a friend and that determined our size.

The reason I say it has turned out to be a good time investment is because just this morning Katie was able to spend some high-quality time with our kids on the swing, just cuddling and talking. That makes it all worth it!

I'm starting to realize that projects like this are always fun for me, but even more fun when the end product gets used and loved by my family or others who visit our home. So, it really all comes down to relationships because if I spend time making something that nobody ever benefits from, I've simply taken time away from others to work on a project. But when that product blesses somebody else or enhances our time together, then it's well worth the time!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Filtering My "Loud" Life

I've been known to be a bit passive aggressive at times.

I think it's because I dread conflict, but I also sometimes have some strong opinions and like to be heard. So, typing something on a blog or posting on Facebook suits me.

And that's unfortunate because I just read this today:

And in fact, you do love all of God’s family throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, brothers and sisters, to do so more and more, 11 and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, 12 so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody. - 1 Thessalonians 4:10-12

The part that really hit me in those verses was "make it your ambition to lead a quite life."

Most people who know me probably wouldn't describe me as loud or outspoken or even outgoing. I'm pretty reserved. There is something inside of me, however, that likes to get people stirred up by writing or saying something that borders on being controversial or argumentative.

For example, last week I posted on Facebook, "Do you think Jesus cares what we wear to church on Easter Sunday?" My purposes were partly genuine and well-meaning, but there was also part of me that wanted to rile some people up.

Why do I do that?

I'm not sure, but now that I see it I don't like it.

Another thing I wrote last week in this post came close to accusing my family and friends of doing something wrong when, in fact, they were being exactly what I wanted them to be - loving and supportive.

I wish I hadn't done that.

But I did, so now I find myself sitting here wrestling with my intentions, my motivation and my true desires. Do I want to show people love? Do I really want to serve others? Or do I want them to acknowledge me? Maybe I just want the attention.

Only I can know what my true intentions are, so now I will stop writing about it and spend some time being quite. I will search my own heart for any selfish, impure or evil motives.

Thanks for reading what I write. Please don't stop. I will try hard to filter my intentions before I put anything up for public consumption.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

My (Christian) American Dream

My house, circa 1916.
To the right is my American Dream.

It's the house I own and live in. This picture was taken almost 100 years ago. The house was built by my wife's great grandfather and handed down to his son and then to us.

Most people don't get houses just handed down to them. Most people, like us, would be ecstatic to receive a free 5-bedroom house with a 2-car garage and full basement.

Then again, most people in the world have never dreamed of living in a house of that size. Most people in the world have never dreamed of owning their own house or having their own bedroom. And a 2-car garage? That's like having a house for you car (both of them) so that's obviously beyond comprehension for most people in the world.

But here in America, most people probably wouldn't think our house is all that great. After all, it is nearly 100 years old. It needs new siding. The front steps are kind of crumbly. The gutters have gone from bright white to a grayish color over the years. Well, how about I show you what it looks like now?
My house today.

So there you go. Nothing special right? Yeah, it's pretty big and it's got some nice features but, compared to many houses in America - or in my own neighborhood, for that matter - it's pretty average.

At the beginning of this post I called this house my American Dream. That's because in a country and society where (nearly) everybody has a place to live and plenty of food to eat, our dreams can become rather extravagant.

I titled this post My (Christian) American Dream because even though I know what I have is a blessing from God, and not something I've earned or deserve, I still find myself dreaming of bigger and better things. Not too big, of course, or it might look bad. I might appear to be materialistic, even worldly.

So, no, I don't want a bigger house or a fancier house. I do, however, find myself longing to fix up my house to make it nicer. I want my family to be more comfortable in our home. I want to like what I see when I look at my house.

But why?

What makes me crave those things?

Why in the world do I think comfort is something I should strive after?

I've spent many, many hours and borrowed money to remodel most of the insides of my house. I BORROWED money to make my house look better and feel more comfortable!

And nobody said a word.

I never gave it a second thought. My family never offered any objection. My friends all delighted in the progress we made and the changes they saw taking place.

Now, before I go farther, I have to admit that remodeling work is something I thoroughly enjoy doing and would do just for the enjoyment of it, much like many people play golf or collect things. It's a hobby of mine. But, the bigger picture of my efforts was not about a hobby. It was about my (Christian) American Dream.

My (Christian) American Dream includes fixing up the rest of the rooms in our house, saving up to get myself a reliable car whenever mine breaks down, giving my kids gifts that will make them happy, going out to eat on occasion, figuring out how to put my kids through college and maybe even set some money aside to retire on someday.

Most probably think that's a pretty humble, down-to-earth set of goals. But that's just it. It's completely down-to-earth. It's so focused on the present and the short-term future that I forget about eternity.

There's not a line in my (Christian) American Dream budget for giving generously to those in need, or buying clothes for homeless people, or helping someone get the education they want. There's no time in my day to spend telling people about Jesus and how He changed my life and can change theirs too. There's no flexibility in my schedule to go help someone fix their gutters or move into a new home.

My life is so consumed by my humble, down-to-earth dreams that I can't even see the eternal things that happen every day.

I'm sick of it. I'm disgusted by it.

Let me make something clear: I am not against America. It is an amazing country and it's an incredible blessing to live here and enjoy the freedom that most of the world can only dream of. I am also not against the wealthy people in this country. I believe God blesses people in different ways and with different amounts, so I don't judge anyone for the money they have or will have someday.

Here's what I want to start standing against: Pride, selfishness, the pursuit of comfort, worrying about what other people think of me, apathy, short-term thinking, holding onto stuff that is not eternal.

What do you stand for/against?

Friday, March 16, 2012


If you run in the same social media circles as me, you have probably seen my Facebook posts and links or the blog post I published earlier this week. You may be wondering what's going on with me. Quite honestly, I've been wondering the same thing. WHAT IS GOING ON?

This whole week, and for most of the past few months, I've been feeling challenged to consider where I stand with God and how deep my desire to follow Jesus really is.

I keep finding myself led to sections of scripture, conversations, situations, videos and podcasts that make me check my heart and priorities.

It is overwhelming.

Some days it's the good kind of overwhelming. Those days I feel incredible joy and excitement because I feel like I'm hearing the voice of God. I get all pumped up to take bold steps to get me closer to His will. I see other people more like I think Jesus sees them. I have so much love and hope.

But then there are the days when it's the hard kind of overwhelming. On those days I get wrapped up in how far I have yet to go. I stop looking at God and start looking inward. That's when I get frustrated with my own choices or the things other people do that rub me the wrong way. I dwell on my past and my current struggles.

In the end, though, it's all good. Both types of days help me grow. The fun times and the hard times do different things to refine me.

So, yes, I'm overwhelmed. Yes, sometimes it's good and sometimes it feels bad. But, every day is good because God is real and He loves me more than I can ever imagine. He gives me grace and mercy every day. He gives me hope. He teaches me. He disciplines me and rebuilds me.

I'd rather take the good and the bad with God than just the good without Him! So, I pray that the overwhelming days keep coming, even the ones that leave me feeling defeated.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

His Voice vs. My Emotions

I posted this on Facebook yesterday:

If I told you God asked me to GIVE (not sell) away my house and all my stuff, adopt a few kids and move to a neighborhood full of sin, what would you say? Don't just send me your Christian-on-Facebook reaction, really think about it and respond. 

The purpose of the post was two-fold: First, I wanted to start a conversation. Second, I wanted to see if I was the only one who thought the idea of giving away everything, adopting kids and moving was crazy.

Both purposes were met with a strong response by people who I deeply respect. The overwhelming response was, yes, you're crazy but if God really calls you to do it you better do it and we will rejoice with/for you.

The responses made me chuckle, think and pray. Here's some of my reactions to some of their responses:

Dustin Gill made me laugh when he said, "I'll take a free house."
Jan Griffey also got me laughing when she said, "I would ask you to continue the conversation."

I felt a need to pray after responses from my family members Kim Latson, Jen Kaplachinski and Liz Stoll. Leaving family behind would be one of the hardest parts of following a call like that.

One response, in particular, really got me thinking.

Becky Rassi, author of a fantastic blog, said this:

1. I'd say make sure it's God (and not Francis Chan) that asked you. Too often people make emotional decisions "in the name of God" and respond with emotion to a message God gave someone else. (even though God-decisions DO tend to have quite a bit of emotion involved.) I think if God gives Katie the same may not be Francis.
B. I'd say you already live in a neighborhood of sinners. Feed them all, have them over and have them help you pack if you really are supposed to move. 
R2D2. I'd say you better get to it if God said to do it...and then I'd laugh with you with at the craziness of it all - a laugh that comes from my toes, that is FULL of joy and mind-blowing awe...because I want to laugh daily at the craziness in my own life and PRAISE GOD when it's not boring, safe, and isolated. 

Based on a previous post, she quickly knew this video of Francis Chan, combined with a blog post from Jon Acuff, sparked my question. And just to clarify, the question was hypothetical. I don't think God is currently asking us to do any of the above. I do feel, however, that He has been asking this of me quite often lately, "What are you willing to give up to follow me?"

Becky lays out some great guidelines for discerning whether a call is really God's voice or my emotions. 

First, check with others who might be effected by the call. In this case, I would need to check with my wife Katie to see if she has heard the same call as me. If she has not seen the same blog post and video that I watched, then the chances are pretty good God is speaking to us.

Second, figure out what in your life would need to change to follow God's call. Yes, we already live in a neighborhood full of sin, and it starts in our own house. We all live among sinners because we all have sin in our lives. So, in this case, God might not be calling us OUT of our neighborhood, but INTO it. Maybe we need to get rid of our stuff and really engage in the people around us. Or, if the call is to a different place, then we better invest as much as possible into the people who live close to us while we still have time with them.

Third, don't hesitate! Get to it! If we've tested it and are convinced that this call is really from God, then GO! Before you have a chance to rationalize, count the cost, hear all the voices that will tell you you're crazy, come up with all kinds of reasons why you shouldn't do it ... JUST GO! When God calls, God provides! The safest place to be is right in the middle of God's will. It might not always be safe, as we think of safety, but it's God's safest and best place for us.

So, what am I willing to give up to follow God? What are YOU willing to give up?

Do the comforts of this world mean more to me/you than doing what God calls you to do?

Is the American Dream getting in the way of recklessly following Jesus?

Is family more important than the plan Jesus has for me/you?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

After 45 days of P90X ...

... I feel a lot stronger
... I feel a lot healthier
... I can definitely see a difference when I look in the mirror
... my muscles still get sore after certain workouts (esp. Yoga)
... working out in the morning is definitely the way to go, but it makes for a brutal schedule
... I have to find some kind of workout to keep me in shape after the 90 days is up
... I don't think I'd like to spend time with Tony Horton
... I wish I would have done this earlier
... my wife is a great workout partner
... I still believe 1 Timothy 4:8
... I would do it all over again

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Change is good

So far, 2012 has been a year of changes and learning for me.

The biggest change is my lifestyle. I've gone from what many would consider a very unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle to a healthy, active one. My wife and I started the P90X lean workout program 37 days ago. We also started a lifestyle of healthier eating a few weeks ago.

The results are pretty amazing already. I am about 10 pounds lighter than when we started, which means I'm living in the 170s for the first time since sometime during my first couple years out of college (about 13-15 years).

Thanks to this blog I'm learning how to train my body to burn fat instead of carbohydrates with a sustainable diet heavy in meat, fruit and vegetables. I get to eat eggs and bacon for breakfast, just not pancakes or cinnamon rolls!

I started the year weighing anywhere from 187-193 pounds, but I've consistently weighed in at 179 for the past week.

I've been learning a lot this year as well. I completed Level 1 of Rosetta Stone Spanish and am working on Level 2 now. I've been consistently studying my Bible and have been learning a lot about love, joy, sacrifice and trials.

My family and I are going on a family missions trip this summer to the Dominican Republic. We'll also spend a few days in Puerto Rico. So the learning will continue as we immerse ourselves in new cultures.

Some of the changes in diet, routine and schedule have caused some temporary stress, but overall I think the changes are good. I know the learning is good. I hope to use what I'm learning to make healthy decisions throughout my life and pass down valuable lessons to my children.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


I've been using a lot of green in my design work lately. Not sure why, but I like it!

For a while, this was my favorite color palette:

Friday, January 27, 2012

More from 1 Corinthians

I'm not sure what got me started reading 1 Corinthians, but I'm loving it! This has been a great week of seeing new things in Scripture that I've read probably a dozen times.

I talked about what I learned from Chapter 2 here but now I'm thinking through what Chapter 3 is teaching me. Before I tell you about it, let me first let you know that I'm not a Bible scholar and I don't know if I'm reading this in the right context, but I can't deny that I've heard God's voice clearly through this book.

So, in Chapter 3 Paul continues to address the church in Corinth and calls them infants in Christ, partly because they are quarreling about who they follow. Here's Paul's response to their actions:

5 What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6 I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7 So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. 8 The man who plants and the man who waters have one purpose, and each will be rewarded according to his own labor. 9 For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.

I keep finding myself relating what I read to the field of missions. I don't know if I'm sensing a call or if I've just been thinking about it for some other reason lately. Either way, I think this is valuable for anyone considering missions or any kind of ministry.

We are called to be God's fellow workers, but to never forget that He alone is the one who can make things grow. Our job is to simply plant a seed or water it. In practical terms I see this is as evangelism and discipleship - telling people about Jesus and mentoring them in their relationship with Him.

But we should never think we are the ones who saves them or even makes them grow. We can only play a small part in the process - it is God's part that changes lives and makes dead things come to life!

So, who do I follow? I follow Jesus alone, but I am thankful for the people in my life who water the seed that was planted long ago!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

How to be a missionary

In my recent blog of random thoughts, several of those thoughts related to the field of missions. I've never felt called to be a missionary but I definitely feel led to be part of missions work, whether through supporting missionaries, going on short-term mission trips or simply sharing the love of Jesus with anyone I come into contact with.

But, what if God decides to call me to be a missionary? Well, he already has in the ways listed above, but what if it meant moving my family to another part of the country, or another country and living as a full-time missionary? Would I be willing? Would I be prepared? Could I do it?

There are plenty of reasons I feel unqualified, or unprepared, to answer that call should it come my way. The first, and most significant, reason is because I don't feel like I have the right training - i.e. I didn't go to school to be a missionary, a pastor or any other kind of minister. I don't know the Bible as well as I should. I don't have much experience in evangelism. I am painfully fearful of public speaking.

But, this morning I was reading 1 Corinthians, chapter 2, and I realized I don't need to be well-studied or confident in my own abilities. See, Paul wasn't either of those things. He said he came to the church in Corinth in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. His whole strategy was to know only Jesus Christ and him crucified. Read it for yourself:

1 Corinthians 2 1 When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. 2 For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. 3 I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. 4 My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
 6 We do, however, speak a message of wisdom among the mature, but not the wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. 7 No, we speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 However, as it is written:   “No eye has seen,
   no ear has heard,
no mind has conceived
   what God has prepared for those who love him”—
 10 but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.
   The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. 11 For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man’s spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words. 14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual man makes judgments about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man’s judgment:
 16 “For who has known the mind of the Lord
   that he may instruct him?”
   But we have the mind of Christ.

Nothing in this chapter tells me that I am unprepared to do whatever God calls me to do - whether that is to be a full-time missionary, share Jesus with my neighbors or show my kids what a relationship with Jesus looks like. I have the Spirit of God in me, and that's all I need.

So, I'm ready! I'm prepared! I'm still scared, but I'll go where He sends me! 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Random Thoughts

As I think through my desire to start blogging on a regular basis, part of the process of getting started is sorting my thoughts into manageable categories that lend themselves to readable posts. That's not an easy process for me, so here's a bunch of thoughts that have yet to be sorted but may end up as posts in the future. Whether they end up as readable posts is still to be determined!

1. I wish I had more experience with international travel. I love experiencing new cultures, but getting to those cultures is somewhat confusing for me. I guess the only way to learn it is to do it!

2. I wonder how good I can get at Spanish by July?

3. If my entire Small Group of Junior guys gets kicked out of Walmart during one of our meetings, does that make me a bad leader?

4. Why do some people send many emails concerning the same subject while some can get all their thoughts into one email?

5. Rice and beans. I love it!

6. How much does the music I'm listening to affect my attitude and spiritual state?

7. Why do I find myself being hesitant to lead people? Is it low self-esteem or pride? Or something else?

8. If God called me to sell everything and move my family somewhere else, would I be willing?

9. I like the color green in my design work, but I don't particularly like to wear the color green. Weird.

10. I have a goal to completely remodel a bathroom in my house for less than $1,000. How can I do that?