Showing posts from September, 2019

Patience and Persistence with Lord Shaftesbury

I finished Shaftesbury: The Great Reformer by Richard Turnbull last week. The Earl of Shaftesbury was his title; Anthony Ashley Cooper was his name. He was a British politician and reformer in the 1800's. He was a committed Christian who used his position in government and his influence in society for good. I wanted to point out one detail: He spent 25 years fighting to protect and free children who were forced to clean chimneys for master chimney sweeps. 25 YEARS! Children fit into the chimneys better than adults, so they would force children, usually boys, who worked for them up into the chimney. It was dangerous work. They were often burned, choked, beaten, or fell. Even after he helped pass laws to protect boys from those jobs, the master sweeps would ignore them and the laws would not be enforced. Even when there were machines to do the cleaning, rich families who did not want a loud machine in their house would employ sweeps who still had boys to do the work. I was i

Apple Review: Sweet Sixteen and Washington Strawberry.

We went up north for a few days of vacation this week.  We didn't do much except relax, roast marshmallows and read books. The one thing we did was find a local orchard. Ponderosa Pines is a 2 acre orchard south of Crivitz, WI. The owners are super friendly and helpful. They told us that they have 400 trees on 2 acres and have 40 varieties. I forgot to take their list with me. We tried two apples and bought 10 lbs of Sweet Sixteen. Washington Strawberry--Tart like a Granny Smith. It was fine, the skin wasn't too thick and the texture was firm but not crunch or crispy. If we were in the mood for baking, I imagine this would be good. But since we're eating most of our apples fresh right now, we skipped buying these. Sweet Sixteen--This is a fun apple. The texture is crisp--kind of like Honeycrisp--but it is juicier and has more flavor. I think it tastes a bit like cherry Lifesavers--that is the description Rowan Jacobsen gives the apple, and I think it fits. This is

Landscape Designing for Our Church

I'm not a landscape designer. I'm not a flower, shrub, or tree gardener. I garden for fruits and veggies. So I reached out to an expert for help with landscape design for the church. We're at the final stage of a 2-year project to remodel and renovate our old church building. Landscaping is our final(ish) step. One thing I learned on this project was that for elements of design--inside or outside--the best thing for me to do is explain the feeling that I want our guests and members to have. I told the man helping us with design that I want our building and grounds to feel comfortable and put people at ease. That's the same approach we took inside. We didn't want to be modern or trendy. We wanted the focus to be on the people and for guests to feel at ease. Going to a church is hard enough for our guests. We could go with an office approach with rocks in the beds, boxwood shrubs, and a couple of pots. And that would work and be better than we have now. But peop

Fix One Thing Every Week

I skimmed the book Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport a while back. I skimmed it because I never got around to reading it before I had to take it back to the library and because it wasn't that groundbreaking for me. Many of the practices he talks about there are already habits for me (practicing hobbies rather than binge-watching movies and shows, playing complex board games, etc.). One tip was to fix something on your house every week. That tip caused me to think intentionally and systematically about fixing things around the house. In one year, that would mean 52 things fixed.  I feel a little less pressure about fixing things. Just doing one thing feels doable. Sometimes I bite off too much and get overwhelmed renovating a room for months. I pick up momentum from doing one thing. I touched up paint around the house recently and then found several other small projects that I could easily do. A little momentum made a big difference. A couple of weeks ago, I thought that

Apple Reviews: Ginger Gold, Zestar, and Unnamed

I meant to review Ginger Gold and Zestar last week, but got busy with other posts. And I'm super glad because my review of Zestar changed with one more week to ripen. Ginger Gold: Tastes like apple, nothing special in that department. But it is super crisp, which is not normal for an apple that ripens in August and September. This is a good early season apple because there is nothing off-putting like the toughness of the skin or the mushiness of the inside. Rowen Jacobson says in Apples of Uncommon Character that Ginger Gold is named for the wife of the farmer who discovered/developed the apple, not because it has a ginger flavor. I don't taste any flavor at all. Zestar: Last week, this apple wasn't quite ripe. It was crisp and juicy, but nothing special. This week, it tastes like an Apple Juice Slushy. The flavor is not the special thing, but the texture is both crisp and juicy. I've eaten more than one Zestar today. I love this apple. We looked forward to this

Recapping Rural Matters Summit

Yesterday, I went to a one-day conference called the Rural Matters Summit hosted by the Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College. I went to their bigger conference last year at their campus, and this is a one-day event they hope to host a few places around the country. I told the directors of the summit that I consider this the most valuable conference or series of conferences for me. This is so valuable because it is small enough to know people and everything comes from and applies to a similar context to mine. I still talk to friends I made at last year's conference. When I walked into this conference, 3 people called my name. Most books for leaders or pastors are geared towards pastors in cities or suburbs. Principles that work in cities often don't translate to my rural(ish) context. These speakers pastor churches from small to really large and yet they face some of the same realities and issues that I face. Example: One speaker said that if you pastor in a rural area t

Best Mail Ever

I checked the mail today and found a handwritten note from Great Britain. I started writing emails or handwritten notes to authors as I finish their books. Particularly, if I enjoyed or learned a lot from the book. I try to include one detail that I appreciate. I figured that most authors seldom hear from their readers. I regularly get a response. A couple of months ago, I wrote a note to N.T. Wright telling him how much I loved Simply Jesus. I've told many people that it caused me to fall in love with Jesus all over again. There are no better words than that for its effect on me. Today, I got a handwritten note back from N.T. Wright. It was signed "Tom Wright." It's better than a regular autograph.

"Do it at the limit of your abilities"

I heard an interview with Homer Steinweiss, one of the world's top drummers, where he told how he drums at the limit of his skill. He feels like he is always just barely holding things together. But he thinks that is what makes it fun. He said that what everyone wants to see is a musician, artist, etc. performing at the limit of their abilities. I thought of that this week as I reflected on how I feel about pastoring right now. No one told me that as a pastor and church planter leadership would change when we reached over 50 attenders. When my family and I moved here to Belgium, our planned church had 17 people (including my family). And as our attendance creeped up over the last year and half, leadership and structure didn't change much. But this spring, we averaged 60 people, and I felt the growing pains. I couldn't keep up with the tasks anymore. I was swamped. So I asked others to help carry the load. I thought that would fix everything, but it didn't. It f

Falling in Love with Fitness

We unpacked boxes of books last week that we have had in storage for 5 years. And I found the book that made me fall in love with fitness. I wanted to be a Navy SEAL so badly when I was in high school. I checked The Navy SEAL Workout book from the library and kept it for months at a time. I used to take cold showers to toughen myself up. When I saw this book over the weekend, I realized that I missed that style of workout and that I wanted fitness to be fun like that again. So I did a workout inspired by that book with a little deeper knowledge from my days as a trainer. That book is mostly pull-ups, push-ups, and sit-ups. I don't remember even squats being a part of it. My Navy SEAL and fun-inspired workout today: Warm-up 10 Kettlebell Squat and Curls 20 Glute Bridges 10 Kettlebell Halos Strength Sets 5 Kettlebell Cleans  1 Hanging Knee Raise 5 Rounds Bonus Practice 8 Pull-up Bottom Pulls 2 sets This is to work on the hardest part of a pull-up-

Recapping the August Posting Challenge

Why I posted every day in August (except Fridays): I wanted to fill out my blog quickly. I didn't want to link to it and have less than 5 posts. My opinion: if you start a project or company, don't link to an empty website or page. Spend a month working out the details and creating content. I wasn't sure how my blog writing would go and I wanted to see what would stick, what patterns would emerge, and what I would enjoy. What I learned posting every day in August (except Fridays): Document, don't create. If I sat down and thought about being profound, nothing would come. But if I started with the question, "what am I thinking about right now?" Then I could find something that I'm reading, interested in, working on, etc. Don't be profound. I don't like preachy writers, and I decided that I don't want to write advice or opinion columns. One, it's hard. It's easier to write about learning Italian with my family. Two, influenc