Showing posts from August, 2019

Apple Reviews: Early Mac and Paula Red (August Posting Challenge)

Yesterday, our local orchard opened for the first time this season. We go every Friday during apple season. We eat them fresh, my wife makes applesauce to preserve, and we enjoy them many ways. I'm going to review apples as we try them this season. I find that apple varieties can taste differently from season to season. One year, we loved Snowsweet, and then we couldn't stand them last year. So reviews will be fun. Paula Red: Slightly crisp and fresh. There is no distinct flavor, they just taste like basic apple. There is nothing wrong with that. But there is nothing amazing about it either. If you cut them and let them sit, they turn brown quickly and become mealy. This is best for fresh eating. Early Mac: Slightly tart. This one is softer than the Paula Red but has a nice tartness-- on the spectrum with Granny Smith. This pairs so well with caramel. This one is already soft and becomes mealy fast. I expect that they, like all early season apples, will not store well.

Editing your own sermon podcasts and videos (August Posting Challenge)

I prepare 10 hours for most sermons. It is normal for pastors prepare 20-30 hours. The recommended number to preach a good sermon is 20-30. The reason that I don't right now is that I don't have time as a small church pastor and planter. I believe I can prepare a good enough sermon in 10 hours. If there ever were more flexibility, then maybe I would increase that. I believe this is a good use of time. A sermon should be the word of God through a man. It is powerful and communicates with many people at one time. I once read that 70% of people say that the sermons are the reasons that they pick a church. So 10-30 hours is well-worth investing in the sermon. If the sermon is worth 10-30 hours of preparation, then it is also worth 1-2 hours to turn the sermon into a podcast, video form, and clips. If the sermon reaches 50-800 people at the time it is preached, then it can have even more effect in recorded audio and video and even more effect in clips. I believe pastors should

First Book in Book Club (August Posting Challenge)

I listen to the Table of (Mal)Contents podcast most weeks. Honestly, I don't love it, but they are readers and authors with some similar reading interests, and they give good recommendations. Recently they talked about what book they would start a book club with. The book has to be something that they read in the last year. I would start a book club with The Case of the Man Who Died Laughing by Tarquin Hall--A mystery book club would be fun. And this is just a great series with a great main character. Boom Town by Sam Anderson--This book combines the history of Oklahoma City with stories about one season in OKC Thunder basketball. Laugh out loud funny at times and beautiful and thought-provoking at others. Would be great for a creative non-fiction or random non-fiction book club. Bad Blood by John Carreyrou--The story of the fall of Theranos. I remember reading about the company when it was doing "ground-breaking" deals. This is amazing and riviting. Maybe for th

Books on North Korea (August Posting Challenge)

I'm fascinated by North Korea. I have been for several years. Right now, I'm reading a new biography of Kim Jong Un. I told Emma last night the wickedness of his family makes me look forward to the day of justice on them. I think Korea is an important story. Our culture is awash in news and information. But some things matter a lot more than others. The story of North Korea is an important story, and here are 3 books on North Korea that I think are really important: Nothing to Envy by Barbara Demick Without You, There is No Us by Suki Kim The Great Successor by Anna Fifield (this is the one I'm reading now) Let's all look forward to the day when the people of that country are free again.

Why I've Learned to Slow Down When Exercising (August Posting Challenge)

When I lost weight the first time (there have been three major times I've lost 30 lbs or more), all I focused on was doing more of each exercise and going faster. I regularly threw up at the end of my workouts. I've learned to slow down, both in my reps and my progress. Here's why: When I lost weight and became a trainer, I believed that doing work (weight x distance x speed) was the key. And as long as my form was good, I didn't pay attention to the muscles worked or how much control that I had. I regret that was the pattern when I was a trainer as well. It easily led to injuries for me and set backs. Now, I've realized that using the right muscles, being under control, and making steady progress is more critical. So I slow down. I work on making progress at the most difficult points rather than just pushing through to do more of the full exercise. Here are ways that I slow down right now: I practice the bottom part of pull-ups and don't worry about t

Two Great Tomato Books (August Posting Challenge)

I'm reading two great tomato books right now. The first is called "Tomatoland." It's on how tomatoes have been developed and how they are now grown in Florida for winter tomatoes in the USA. I told Emma just a couple of things about how they are grown, we both swore there has to be something else we can buy in the winter. The second is called "Epic Tomatoes." It's an amazing book on growing tomatoes, specifically open-pollinated and heirloom tomatoes. But he does rave about the taste of Sungold, a kind we grow every year, that is a hybrid. The design of the book is amazing. This publisher has published other gardening books that have great design. Honestly, it's hard to read a gardening book with no pictures and bad design. This book is beautiful. I immediately put it on my wishlist to buy. Lots of great info and tips to go along with the photography and stories. He even talks about developing your own varieties of tomatoes. I probably won't

A house-full of music. Loog Guitar Brief Review (August Posting Challenge)

Today, our house was filled with music. My wife and I are leading music for our church tomorrow, so we practiced, one daughter played and practiced piano, one son practiced drums during rest time, and another son played his new Loog guitar  all day. It's pretty fun to hear so much music. This is a brief review of why we got the Loog and what I think. I didn't want to get a cheap kids guitar that wouldn't stay in tune. The Loog is well-made especially the neck and tuning pegs. The neck feels amazing. I didn't want something super complicated that would take a while until he could do anything with it. Learning to form chords to play melodies on a 6-string is hard. Even a melody is hard because he wasn't sure he was hitting the right string. The Loog has only 3 strings and is tuned to GBE like the top 3 strings of a six string guitar. So it is dead simple. He wanted to learn to play guitar, so I didn't want to get him a ukulele. Whatever he learns on th

Picking an Italian Soccer Team (August Posting Challenge)

Our family is learning Italian this year. And today I decided I want to pick and follow an Italian soccer team. I've followed soccer for 20ish years now. I've followed Manchester United in England since I was 13 or 14, but honestly that has been disappointing and uninteresting the last 7 years or so. I follow FC Dallas, Forward Madison (a little), and the USMNT (a lot). So I'm not hurting for teams, but when The Total Soccer Show podcast had a season preview for the Italian Serie A, I thought it would be fun to pick a team to follow in Italy to go along with learning Italian. I'm deciding between Atalanta, Sussuolo, and Napoli. Atalanta--David Amoyal from The Calcioland Podcast said this is a really well-run club that people should pay attention to. I'm leaning this way because I don't want to pick one of the famous teams like Juventus, Inter, or AC Milan. But I still want to follow a good team. Sussuolo--Amoyal calls them the hipster pick that's fu

New Church Planting Strategy Needed (August Posting Challenge)

Thirty percent of our community is under the age of 18. A pastor from a nearby town told me that his town's only growing population is over 55 and that he would kill for the demographics of our town. The reason he would kill for this demographic is that the normal church growth and church planting strategy involves reaching young families. But that won't work anymore. Why? Because the birthrate in the United States has been falling for the last 30 years. The CDC says that the current birthrate in the US is 1.72. Thirty years ago, the birthrate was 3.25. Falling birthrates affect a lot of things. Public schools will have fewer and fewer students and their funding will fall along with enrollment. Colleges are competing for fewer students every year. And there are fewer young families for churches to reach.  VBS and kids programs cannot be the draw when there are fewer people in the community that is relevant for. So church planting and church revitalization needs to be

"What's happening to the churches?" (August Posting Challenge)

"What's happening to the churches?" People ask me this question all the time. I get asked that question a lot because it's becoming obvious. In the past, it wasn't obvious what was happening in the other churches in a given area, so struggling churches felt like it was just them. Now it is obvious what is happening everywhere. According to Thom Rainer here , between 6,000 and 10,000 churches are dying every year. I've seen similar numbers in other reputable sources. Churches are dying all over the place. The church I pastor is a restart. It was one of those 6,000-10,000 churches except they closed intentionally as a path to reopen 1.5 years later. I've had a window into this because we're living it. And I want others to see what is happening before it is too late. If you want to see and understand the state of churches and the culture, I've got two tips for you: Go and look at the statistics profile of any random Southern Bapti

Favorite Workout with a Sandbag (August Posting Challenge)

*Right now, I'm trying to finish up a bunch of work for my ordination and writing 6 papers this week. So forgive me since I don't have much energy for writing at night. My favorite piece of workout gear right now is a sandbag that I made. It is a canvas duffle bag filled with 60 lbs of wood pellets. Wood pellets are bulkier which makes it harder to hold. When the weather is nice like in August in Wisconsin, it is more fun to go outside with the sandbag and workout. Here's my monday workout right now: 5 Sandbag Cleans 100 yard carry (any position) 5 Sandbag Overhead presses 100 yard carry (any position) 3x Then 300 yard carry without putting it down Then 200 yard sprint race against my kids. That works every part of my body without it feeling like I worked every part of of my body. And it's pretty low risk for injury--well, except for the sprints.

Favorite Tomatoes (August Posting Challenge)

All the farms around here are 2-3 weeks behind because of cool weather in May and June. Our garden is finally in full swing, and we picked 4 kinds of tomatoes tonight. We're going to do a video taste-test of all our tomatoes soon. We're growing Cherry tomatoes (Sungold and Jelly Beans), Defiant Slicing Tomatoes, and Easy Sauce Romas. But the best tomato we've ever grown is the Cherokee Purple. We're not growing it this year, and I regret it. It is the sweetest tomato ever. It's almost dessert. And it is a blackish-purple color. But the plant last year was pretty diseased and the Cherokee Purple tomatoes did not store well. They bruised and burst easily. So when you pick them, you have to eat them soon.  Next year, we probably will grow more varieties including heirloom varieties like Cherokee Purple. *I'm thinking a lot about tomatoes because I'm reading Tomatoland by Barry Estabrook. Among other things, he explains why the tomatoes sol

Book Review: Range by David Epstein (August Posting Challenge)

When I heard that David Epstein had written a new book, I ordered it immediately. I loved his previous book The Sports Gene  and expected good things. Gene  actually helped me think better about sports performance, the human body, personal training, and my own health. It is truly one of the most helpful books I've read for health and training, and it isn't a book for personal trainers or health professionals. It's not intended as a practical book at all. Range  is awesome. I cannot believe Epstein has written two books so helpful and practical. And neither one is self-help focused. His basic idea is that breadth of interest and exposure is better for performance, creativity, and excellence. He debunks the myth that devoted practice from the age of 3 is required for world-class performance. And he dismisses the idea that you are ever too late to begin. If I ever lead an internship, this will be required reading. If I ever teach a class, I will think hard about requirin

How my reading has changed after 789 books (August Posting Challenge)

As of this week, I've read 789 books since I started keeping track. I noticed a while back that I now give favorable ratings to most of the books that I read. And I wondered if I had gotten soft and just approved every book. But I realized that after 789 books, something had changed in how I selected books, not how I rated them. Now I know what I like and what makes for a good book. And if I'm not going to enjoy it, then I skip it. When I started my list, I was 15. I went to the library and looked for books in the sections I liked and then I read them. There wasn't a lot of discernment in my choices. I picked what was there and sometimes it was not good. Now, I know the authors that I definitely love. I can get recommendations on topics that I am interested (try googling "best books on ______" to get a list of reading ideas). And I can evaluate a book pretty quickly. Sometimes, I "cheat" and put a book down before finishing it. I did that recen

My Best Tip for Using Your Computer Better (August Posting Challenge)

I heard an podcast years ago where someone argued that touch screen is the simplest way to use a device possible. There is no thinking, learning, or skill involved in pointing and touching. They suggested that since we all use tech devices everyday for years, we should learn to use them better. I recently decided to up my game on the computer and did a good amount of research on how to use computers better. Here is the tip that made the most difference: Download a Desktop Organization Background.  One like this: Then, go into Chrome and change the settings to download to desktop. Now, you can easily find any files instead of having to hunt. You can put the programs and files you use all the time in some areas and hide any others in the menus. And at the end of every day, it is easy to select all the files that you don't need anymore and drag them to the recycle bin. You can easily keep everything clean and tidy. That's my first and best tip.

Empty Churches and a Fresh Start (August Posting Challenge)

"The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today  is Christians who acknowledge Jesus with their lips and walk out the door and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving  world  simply finds unbelievable."                                                                                                             Brennan Manning I grew up with this quote. It was the crackly intro to a DC Talk song. And it's been bouncing around my head for a few weeks. People are leaving the church and the leaving the faith. We cannot pretend that it's not happening or that it's not that bad. It's celebrity pastors and people I went to college with. It's people I grew up with and people in my community. I talk with pastors all the time whose churches are emptying. They confess that they don't know what is happening, and they feel like it is just them. It's not. The "church" is hollowing out. And by church I mean American re

My Best Ice Cream Recipe (August Posting Challenge)

My goal last summer was to learn to make ice cream with my kids. It was so good that people wanted a place to buy it. I won't be starting an ice cream shop for now. I wanted to share my recipe with you. This is a versatile recipe that can work with other flavors. But it is an awesome place to start. Sweet Cream Ice Cream Recipe 2 cups of heavy whipping cream 1 cup of whole milk 1/2 cup of sugar.  Every flavor needs 1 tbsp of vanilla. It makes them sweeter and richer Warm it over medium heat in a saucepan, stirring occasionally. Do not let it burn or boil. Cook it just enough that the sugar is mixed in. Chill the batter. Make the ice cream according to your churn's directions. But you want it to double in volume. Great ice cream has a lot of fat (this does) and a lot of air. Let it double in volume. So important. Put it in a freezer-safe bowl and freeze it until hard. Other flavors using this base. Chocolate: 1.5 oz of cocoa. Brown Sugar: Replace the

What makes a book or movie work? (August Posting Challenge)

When I traveled in Indonesia for 2 weeks for two classes, I drank Coca-Cola at dinner every night. People recommended all sorts of exotic drinks, but I always drank Coke. I drank Coke because I wanted something familiar at every meal. I was willing to eat just about anything, but I wanted something comfortable as the foundation for the twists and turns of the meal. I think the same thing is needed in a good book or movie: something familiar as the basis for the story. Then the twists and turns make sense. A story that is too unfamiliar and too strange is hard to follow and hard to enjoy. I thought of this when I looked at my bookshelf tonight and saw A.S. Peterson's books The Fiddler's Gun  and The Fiddler's Green . I loved the books. I cannot say clearly enough that they were so good. But they were too unfamiliar. They were a strange mix of history, adventure, pirate, and drama. There is nothing to compare them too and that is the ultimate problem with them. Once I f

Ad Idea for Furniture Stores (August Posting Challenge)

We renovated our great room this last year. It's a 25x30 foot room with a large fireplace and 12 foot ceilings. Tonight we ordered the sectional for it. When we get it, we will probably post a picture or video on social media like we've done as we renovated that room. Here's a crazy thought that struck me afterward: Why didn't the furniture story offer me a discount or gift card for sharing where I got our sectional?  This company spends thousands every month to print and distribute and advertise. Why not give customers a $50 or $100 gift card for posting what and where they bought it after they get their furniture? It would be far more effective if my 300+ friends and followers heard and saw from me what it's actually like to do business with them. That idea could apply to lots of companies. What if Harry's gave a free pack of replacement blades for reviewing their razors on my social media? What if Gurney's gave a credit for free seed packet for a

My Favorite Products: Bluetooth Earphones (August Posting Challenge)

One of my favorite tech products that I own are my bluetooth earphones. I never really liked headphones because you had to keep a walkman, discman, ipod, or phone near you. But when I worked for a cell phone retailer several years ago, I bought a bluetooth headset that hung around my neck inside the collar of my button down shirt. The button down shirt was critical because I wanted the earphones to be invisible. It worked great because I could control the audio without having to look at my phone. I could easily listen to podcasts, listen to audiobooks, or take calls when I am doing something else like driving, mowing, or doing the dishes. And I didn't have to stop whatever I was listening to when I went to a new place. I had one book on in the car and the same one going when I did the dishes. But I was never thrilled with the headset because it was bulky. It was obvious when I didn't have on an oxford shirt. Now, I have a pair of in-ear earphones that work together or s

We're Learning ITALIAN! (August Posting Challenge)

This school year we are learning Italian as a family. We are using a program called (that's the website address). Reasons we are learning Italian this way (Random list) The method the program uses is similar to what we experienced in Thailand and that I experienced in Indonesia. It's also the way we all learned to speak growing up, we learn some and then use it. Then we learn more and use more. Italian sounds interesting and none of us have any experience with it. That levels the playing field. Kids and parents are at the same place. has 18 different themed boxes so you learn to use the language around a theme. The first box is about snack time and food, so we can use what we learn several times per day. I'm super impressed with their packaging and ecommerce platform and process. The creator does really great work making the process smooth and giving lots of helpful feedback and info.  As we make progress, we'll keep you updated.

Learning Pop Culture with a Podcast (August Posting Challenge)

10 years ago I taught middle schoolers for my church. I had just resigned as college minister but was still involved and serving in my church but with this new age group. The switch from college students and their pop culture to middle schoolers and their pop culture was crazy. That was when I first heard the name "Justin Beiber." Some of the kids loved Beiber and others were beyond that-"I'm not into him anymore." But that was when I realized that I should know the pop culture of the people that I serve. Fast-forward 10 years. I thought I was up on pop culture. I at least knew what the cultural trends were. Then I started listening to a podcast called "Switched On Pop." And I realized that I knew very little. Switched On Pop is hosted by a songwriter and a musicologist and they discuss the latest Top 40 music and musical trends. But it is much more than that. I had heard about their podcast for a while and since I don't listen to

What I wish for in the fitness world. (August Posting Challenge)

Today, I searched Youtube for a video that I made years ago for my personal training business. All the other suggested videos had extreme physiques-shirts off, insanely low body fat. The exercises promised to give you shredded abs. I really enjoyed being a personal trainer. I trained at two gyms and had my own studio for a while. There were hard things about it, but I really enjoyed it. I especially enjoyed the smaller gym that I worked in first. It was a gym for people on a budget or who just wanted basic equipment and no fuss. That was a good space to work. One of the things that I (and other trainers that I knew) wished was different was that the health and fitness space was not so driven by extremes. Plans for 30, 60, and 90 makeovers. Promises of body transformation. Publicity photos and videos that show bodies that no one should expect to get for more than a day or two at a time. Seeing that lineup of videos today, I remembered my disappointment as a trainer. Back then, n

What's up with all the self-care? (August Posting Challenge)

I used to have a saying with my coworkers, "Nobody cares. Work harder." It was our sarcastic interpretation of the company values. But that is a common attitude in a lot of jobs, families, and teams. Now there is a reaction to that called "self-care." The attitude is that if we rest enough or care for ourselves enough, we can prevent burnout and be successful. I think of them as two points on a line. Work Rest And we are caught between them. We pivot back and forth from work to rest and try to juggle everything. And that is where we get "self-care." We are the pivot point. Self-work. Self-care. I hear a lot of promises that one of these will work, but they never seem to work. Here is where self-care goes wrong. Work and rest are right. Nothing wrong with either. But the pivot point is wrong. The pivot point should be "Abide in Christ." John 15 calls us to this. Then we can pivot from work to rest. But instead of self-care and

What Order Should I Read John Piper's Books? (August Posting Challenge)

I'm a big fan of John Piper's writing. I highly recommend his books, but maybe you don't know where to start. Here's what I recommend for Piper's major books: The Pleasures of God . In an interview years ago, Piper said that Pleasures and Future Grace are the backbone for Desiring God . Read this first. Future Grace . I've had a New Year's goal to reread this for several years. I haven't read it because I've been so busy these last 5 years, but I loved it so much that I'm going to return to it this Autumn or Winter. Desiring God . I read this first and was underwhelmed. I didn't understand what the fuss was about. I'm sure some of it was that I lacked the required maturity. But some of it was that I read this book first when I should have read the others first. Let the Nations be Glad . This is great, but wait until you've read the first three. How to read Piper. Read his books slowly, and let his writing marinate. Don

Some Favorite Board Games (August Posting Challenge)

In Digital Minimalism, Cal Newport argues for using leisure time on high quality things, not just scrolling through social media feeds. I don't care to get into that point, except that he says board games are a great way to spend leisure time. We love board games at our house. I recently taught our 3 oldest to play Ticket to Ride: Europe. And we look forward to my days off when we can play it. Here are a few favorites that come to mind: Pandemic. (This is the absolute best game ever. It's a cooperative game built around saving the world from 4 out of control viruses. I enjoy losing as much as winning because there is so much suspense.) Outfoxed. (This is a cooperative game that you can play with kids as young as 4. Everyone works together to gather clues and deduce who is the fox that stole the chicken pot pie.) Ticket to Ride: Europe. (Em doesn't enjoy this as much, so I hadn't played in a few years. But I brought it out to teach the older kids, and it is so