Join Us in Something Crazy This Lent (Even if You’re Not a Christian)

Update 4/14/14: With one week to go, we are now up to $7550 given! That’s over half of the goal, enough to provide clean water for 151 people! Yes! Tell your friends–let’s dig it!

Update 3/7/14: Our friends (and some strangers!) have already given $1385–with our match that’s $2770, enough to provide clean water for 55 people, and 18% of the goal! Dig it! Give and share this with your friends! Thanks, y’all!

All my burps taste like rotten eggs.

My abdomen is swollen.

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I am lying on a cot in our room in a barn, sweating.

My body feels like I was trampled by the scrawny cattle strolling past.

I am on top of a remote mountain in Nicaragua. The nearest clinic is a half-day hike away. The only transportation is one 30-year-old tractor. There is no electricity, let alone a cell phone.

I am 23, and my young wife is trying to figure out what is wrong with me. Chrissy pages through Dónde No Hay Doctor (Where There Is No Doctor). Dengue fever? Brucellosis? Malaria? She’s not sure.

Some days later, the tractor heads down the mountain. We climb into the steel wagon and bump and shudder through the three-hour journey to the city of León.

I am handed a Gerber baby food jar and asked for a stool sample. I realize they aren’t kidding.

It turns out I have giardia lamblia, a “flagellated protozoan parasite.” I get some meds, take them, and the lethargy and nasty burps go away.

For two weeks.

They returned, and I lived with them for the rest of our year in Nicaragua.

Giardia was endemic in El Porvenir, the village where we lived with 40 families. There was no well there. To drink people had only rain water, captured off of roofs and collected in big, open tanks. Chrissy and the other women would haul it in  five-gallon buckets on their heads. Bird and rodent feces would end up in the water. And that made me—and our friends there—sick. You can read more about this in This Ordinary Adventure.

Lent is the 40-day season leading up to Easter. It starts on Ash Wednesday, which this year is two days away, March 5th. Lent is profoundly counter-cultural, as Chrissy wrote in this piece for RelevantIt’s a time of fasting, of contemplation of the suffering and death of Jesus. It ends with the celebration of his resurrection. (Yes, I know it’s crazy, but I believe it.)

A lot of people still fast in some way (e.g. meat, chocolate, coffee, Facebook). Some people use fasting to free up time and resources to pray and to give to the poor.

Whether you are fasting for Lent or not (heck, whether you’re a Christian or not), Chrissy and I want to invite you into something that is a little bit crazy but also really good.

Our family has this tradition of donating things through World Vision to people in hard places like El Porvenir. When we got chickens, we gave some people chickens. When we got trees, we gave people trees. Read more about all this in this post on Chrissy’s blog.

Last year, our house needed a well—a 260-foot well—for good drinking water.

Now we want to give a well to a whole village of people, so they have fewer stinky bumps and other water-related health problems.

We were saving up to put an addition on our house, but that’s not going to happen this year. So we have some money on hand. But we can’t quite swing the $15,000 it takes to put in a well for 300 people somewhere overseas.

That’s where you come in!

  1. CLICK HERE TO DONATE for this well. WE WILL MATCH EVERY DOLLAR GIVEN, up to the total of one well for 300 people!
  2. SHARE THIS POST with your Facebook friends and Twitter followers, using the buttons below.
  3. Check out Waiting for Water for a free downloadable Bible study guide about Lent and water, plus info on more good water-related organizations.
  4. Talk to your actual, real-life, face-to-face friends at your church or workplace.
  5. Drink a glass of clean water with deep thankfulness.

No more crappy water! Let’s dig it!

Please leave a comment with any questions.

Nine Tips on How to Survive All Day Meetings

On Tuesday, I was in meetings from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. They were good, productive meetings with smart, fun, effective co-workers.

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But it was still hard.

Last week, I had two days of 11 hours (or more) of meetings, and a total of 33 hours of meetings scheduled on the week, amongst my highest ever.

Before my current role, I didn’t have this many meetings. So I must have learned some coping strategies along the way, right? I’ve been thinking about how I might help others who have to go through that same learning process.

Here are nine tips on how to survive all-day meetings:

1. Avoid them.

Some all-day meetings shouldn’t happen. You might be able to avoid 6-12 hours of your life disappearing. If you think it’ll be a waste of time, excuse yourself if possible. (I’m thankful that I like my InterVarsity colleagues, and they generally run good meetings.)

2. Figure out who is running it.

Notice I didn’t say “who is calling” the meeting. I mean who is running the meeting, making it happen. Then, you have some homework to do…

3. Find out if there will be coffee.

Even if you don’t drink coffee, your experience will be much better if coffee is provided, for your java-swilling coworkers.

4. Find out if the coffee will be good.

5. Find out if there will be healthy snacks.

You need to do something to keep your energy up. And if it’s healthy, you can nosh your way through the hours. I find crunchy stuff helps keep my brain firing.

NOTE: by asking these questions numbers 3, 4, and 5, you greatly increase the likelihood of there being good coffee and healthy snacks. See what I did there?

6. Eat strategic meals.

If you eat a large lunch and try to keep going in the afternoon, you’re going to have trouble. Tony Memmel (a one-armed singer/songwriter) sings, “Just order a salad and get on with the next big thing.” Wise words that I struggle to heed, since I am a glutton.

7. Fight for your right…to stand up.

Usually in such situations, at least with creative teams, it’s a given that you can get out of your chair as much as you want. This gives you a new perspective on the room and on the dynamics of the discussion. Stretching, too, helps me feel like a human.

8. Use your breaks.

Go for a walk. Blitz your email. Make a quick call. Have an important conversation with someone else who is on break.

9. Have a job that you love.

If you can swing this one, at the end of the day, everything will be worth it. Even all-day meetings.

What did I miss? How do you cope with all-day meetings? Leave a comment. 

Andy Mineo Concert Photos

A couple weeks ago, I interviewed Andy Mineo about hip hop, faith, success, and his beard. Click here to watch the video. There’s a lot of buzz about Andy and other rappers and if they are on the right track. Our conversation addressed that pretty clearly.

Here are some of my favorite  shots from his set. Use the share buttons below to pass it to someone who would appreciate it.

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I Realized I Was Having an Affair With Leslie Knope

Amy Poehler is a beautiful woman. But I am not particularly attracted to her.

But I love Leslie Knope, her hilarious character on Parks and Recreation. In fact, I love her too much.

On Monday, late in the day, I sent an email to my wife. It read,

Parks and Recreation - Season 6

I’m tired. Very. 

How about quick chat about our days, Parks and Rec, then sleep? Please?

Love you,

Adam

I confessed to Chrissy later that I actually had to go back and add the part about us chatting. Oy.

Something had slid out of whack.

I wanted to watch the 22-minute sitcom more than to talk with the love of my life. That isn’t so bad by itself. But it comes during a busy season, when we are probably not having 22 minutes of real conversation most days.

For a while now, I’ve tried to save some energy for to talk with Chrissy at the end of the day. Sometimes I fail and need to apologize. Chrissy is grateful when I succeed and gracious when I  don’t.

I thank God that I’ve been getting better. Chrissy has even noticed.

It may be worth mentioning that we do not own a television. You can read why in this blog post by Chrissy. And while we’ve  been married nearly 15 years and things are going pretty well, I think my problem is not unique.

We all do this to some extent, of course. But I think we often divert too much attention away from our wives (or husbands). They would love to have a bit more time with us. And it’s not just TV that competes for our attention.

How many of us are “having affairs” with exercise, volunteering, movies, hobbies, books, work, Facebook, or other good things? As I’ve written elsewhere, I think getting this right is the most important skill in 2014.

When we were dating, I was happy to do anything with Chrissy. I couldn’t not pay attention to her.

Now, I’m living out that vow. My time and attention have to reflect that.

I’m not going to stop watching Parks and Rec with Chrissy. But I am going to make sure Chrissy gets the attention she deserves.

Happy Valentine’s Day, y’all.

If you think I’m on to something here, please share this post with your friends.

Five Questions with Justin Wise, Author of The Social Church: A Theology of Digital Communication

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In 2011, I had the pleasure of meeting Justin Wise when we were both official bloggers for the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit. (In fact, while there, I took a photo that he’s using on his About page.)

Justin is smart and dedicated to doing good in the world. Today, his new book launches. The Social Church: A Theology of Digital Communication fills a need. It looks at the why of social media–how should we think about this and use it for God-glorifying purposes?

I asked Justin a few questions a couple weeks ago. Take a read, go buy his book, and think better about how to use social media for good.

1. Are you an unapologetic technophile? A lot of people today are concerned about how social media is effecting us socially and spiritually. What do you say to them? 

I believe that social media is amoral, without morals. Social media is at the base level a piece of technology. Technology, whether a brick or social media, can be used for good or evil.

By that I mean the dangers of social media, and to be clear there are real dangers with using social media, have always been present in human society. Those dangers of course are addictive behaviors, disconnection, estrangement, voyeurism. These are not new problems to the human race. Technology exploits these problems, it does not cause them. Obviously being Christ-centered we know that this ties back to our sinful nature. Technology simply reveals it.

One needs to implement boundaries insofar as the temptation is to utilize technology in a way that affects them negatively.

2. How do you see social media leading to better face-to-face relationships?

One of my friends, Rhett, was one of the first people who called me up to see how things were going when I left a job a couple of years ago. Rhett and I see each other maybe once a year at conferences. But because he knew where I was at in life and cared about me as a person, he saw what was going on in my social channels. He was able to be a great sounding board for me at a time when I needed friends. Whenever possible offline relationships trump online ones. Having said that, online relationships can continue and strengthen a relationship that has been formed in person.

3. What new risks and new opportunities do social media bring in the area of Christian spiritual formation (i.e. classic disciplines)?

I believe social media gives us a much broader perspective into the gospel message.

Whenever you’re exposed to an expression of the gospel message that is different than your expression of the gospel message it stretches you spiritually and emotionally. For instance, when I was in seminary, I was in classes with people who believed and thought and practiced Christianity in ways that were very different than mine. They were some of the most faithful, bright, Christ-centered people I knew and yet their conclusions and practices of the gospel message were entirely different. So I was forced to ask the question “Why do I believe what I believe?” and after you answer that question, “Do I still believe these things?” Those questions grew me spiritually in ways that no sermon or book ever has.

With social media, we’re able to come into contact with people who have very different expressions of the gospel message—people on the other side of the world who worship the same God, who are filled with the same Spirit, and yet the way they live out their Christian lives comes out entirely different. And so it’s through social media that I’m able to come into contact with that.

4. Do you see social media as important in connecting geographically disparate churches and individual Christians in other contexts, even countries? Why or why not?

justin_wise_BW3There’s a concept that I write about in Social Church called “rubbing elbows” and it speaks directly to this where we have the capacity now to rub elbows with people who are very different than us.

A perfect example of this: I spoke at a conference in San Diego and there was a pastor there from Guatemala. I followed him on Twitter. Now, his English is admittedly not the best and sometimes you kind of have to read between the lines on his tweets. But I’m getting a front row seat into what God is doing in his church in Guatemala! Are you kidding me? Never, ever, ever, would I have the ability to even know who this man is let alone what God is doing in his church and what is happening there without social media.

5. What happens if the Church doesn’t learn to use various social media effectively in the next few years? What’s your doomsday scenario? What do you fear?

Now, having said that, Jesus never made guarantees about the North American church. Specifically, the North American Evangelical church. He never promised longevity for the American church. And one needs only to look to our friends in Europe to see what it looks like when churches begin to go on the decline. The reality is that many denominations are shrinking in membership. Not just getting smaller, but gushing members, losing them at an unprecedented rate.

Some of this has been in process for many years but I believe that it’s been accentuated because the North American church has failed to understand and speak the language of the culture.

The good news is that the church has always been on the forefront of communication and technology shifts: two-thirds of the New Testament was written by Paul who wrote in letters on scrolls and papyrus, and that is technology. Fast forward to Martin Luther, on the forefront of the printing press. Leveraging technology to build God’s Kingdom. More recently, it’s Amy Sempel McPherson of FourSquare, one of the first pioneers of radio ministry. In fact, she was quoted as saying “We have a responsibility to use this technology to further God’s message.” And Billy Graham was on the forefront of television broadcasting technology, spreading God’s message.

For us now in the 21st century, in America and other parts of the world, that technology is social media.

The Social Church: A Theology of Digital Communication goes on sale today. Get it.

Is this interview a breath of fresh air or a harbinger of the end? Why? 

A Letter to My Eight-year-old Son on Super Bowl Sunday

Hey buddy,

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Today, we’re going to visit our friends’ house to watch the Super Bowl. Two years ago, I wrote a letter to your sister about Super Bowl Sunday. There are a few things I want to tell you now, too.

Some parents don’t let their kids watch the Super Bowl. I think there are good reasons for this (more on that in a sec). But the Super Bowl is the best part of February in Wisconsin. I’m sorry we make you live here. (Just kidding—you and I both know Wisconsin is the best.)

You will see TV ads today—more than you’ve seen in the past year, I bet. Super Bowl ads are sometimes very funny and really clever. I like that. But they often promise that buying their product or service will make your life way better or make you more important or something. That’s not true.

The parents who don’t let their kids watch the Super Bowl are sometimes concerned about the consumerism, violent hits, or the wasted time. But mostly they are concerned about how women are shown and thought about. Men are the players, the coaches, the referees, and most of the announcers.

Women do a little announcing. They are also the cheerleaders. And they’re in a lot of ads. The ads sometimes show people almost naked. They are usually women, except for David Beckham. I want you to know that women are beautiful (like your mom) but that they’re also smart and important (like your mom).

That’s why we’re not staying home and playing chess today. I want to teach you to face the lies—about stuff and about women—that will be shown to millions and millions of people today. I want you to start to learn what to pay attention to, as well as what you should name as wrong, unhelpful, and unhealthy. I want you to learn to think carefully about what you watch and look at, to value and love other people, and to be a strong leader.

It’s easier to learn it now than later. And trust me, there will be a lot more to learn later.

You are a great kid.

Love,

Daddy

What else would you say to boys and young men about what they will see today? Leave a comment. 

A New Dawn: Seven More Steps Toward Email Sanity

new dawn blog email shot 1554378_10100486249384843_1454547647_nOn Tuesday, I shared The First Step Toward Email Sanity, and I promised to give you five more tips today. But because I love you so much, I’ve gone the extra mile.

Here are SEVEN more steps toward email sanity.

That’s how much I love you–40% more than either of us realized.

Your email life is going to be unrecognizable. This will be like it got a drastic haircut and new glasses at the same time. And we need this. In a talk for Barna Frames Live yesterday, Claire Diaz-Ortiz pointed out, “Our devices can make us feel in control and peaceful or completely distracted and disengaged.”

Before I begin with the tips, let me answer your key question at this juncture, “Who are you to tell me what to do with my email account anyway?”

Well, first, I went a year not only without email but without electricity (you can read about that in our book). I went from that to an eventual U.S. job in communications. It was like switching from a drinking fountain to the proverbial fire hose. I needed to learn some coping mechanisms fast.

So I’ve learned a thing or two. Here you go…

1. Stop kidding yourself.

If you’re going to go back to them, do it, Hot Shot. If not, fess up. Declare email bankruptcy. And clear the decks. (Again, read all about this here.)

2. Set a time for it.

Nobody thinks that email doesn’t take any time. But most of us act like it. I do it in short bursts, generally first thing, at lunch, before leaving work, and sometimes a bit in the evening.

3. Do email on your phone.

You type less. You delete more. You take advantage of little gaps in your day. Win-win-win.

4. Get Mailbox.

This slick little app is what you need for processing your Gmail on your phone. It’s efficient and even a little fun…or at least more concretely satisfying. You swipe to trash or archive, making it much harder to kid yourself about needing that message. I think the muscle memory of swiping makes it more of a habit than clicking with a mouse or even a keyboard shortcut. Which takes us to…

5. Take a shortcut.

I’m not a fanatic user of keyboard shortcuts, but the few I use do save me time. You can find them using your Google Machine 3000. I printed them out and posted them at my desk.

6. Lose the folders.

I have no folders in Gmail, just Archive and Trash. You can search for that message from Zach or that thing about your kid’s science fair. That’s what search is for. At work, I just have Trash, Keep It (i.e. Archive), and a couple that are barely used (Story Ideas and Portfolio).

7. Unsubscribe and show no mercy.

Look back at your last month of email and unsubscribe from all that stuff you don’t really care about. It’s mental clutter. You are not really caring about that many things. Those daily deals are not really saving you that much money.

8. Send less email. Can we really all do this one? I mean, seriously.

What tips have I missed in making email a more efficient—and enjoyable—part of life? Leave a comment. 

The First Step Toward Email Sanity

I receive, on average a hundred emails a day between my work and personal accounts.

A couple weeks ago, I opened up my Gmail account—I had 14,603 items in my Inbox.

At work, I noticed I had 2,216 emails…unread.

I knew I was facing a moment like Michael Scott—I needed to declare bankruptcy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hiCilTzhXrA

Nick Bilton, a tech writer for the New York Times recently wrote this piece on email bankruptcy. When I shared Bilton’s piece on Facebook, I got the question, “Did you really just delete everything?” A friend in IT at work said, “Some people just delete all their emails. You’re not going to do that, are you?”

Well, sort of. Yeah.

In both accounts, I wanted a safety net. So in Gmail I created a label named “Languishing 2013.” I applied that to every single message in my inbox. I looked at the last few weeks of messages to make sure there was nothing needing attention.

Then, I archived those 14,603 emails like a boss.

At work, it was a bit more complicated. I went into the Outlook program on my laptop (I normally use the web app). There, I created a folder called “Languishing 2013.” And I moved every single email—thousands and thousands of them—from my inbox to that folder. I wanted to shout like Braveheart. Except I wasn’t dying…and I was in my cubicle at work.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLCEUpIg8rE

By creating my “Languishing” label and folder, I aimed to avoid getting judged by people who think it’s irresponsible to just delete all your emails. (I got off on a technicality, but I’ll take it.) But I get all the joy and freedom that this drastic step offers. (And, truth be told, I had scanned the subject and first line of every one of those emails when it came in, so that may make this easier.)

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For a number of months, I had long kept lots of emails in my inbox in hopes of taking some action on them—starting a project, reading a book, setting a meeting, etc.

But the truth of it was, I was kidding myself, and I was kidding my colleagues and friends.

I was not going to read those 20,000+ emails. I was not going to start all the good ideas therein. I was not going to do anything except reference them.

The thousands of emails in my inbox were functionally archived. But they sat there, stressing me out.

So my first tip on email sanity, dear reader, is…

Stop kidding yourself.

If you’re going to go back to them, prove it, Hot Shot.

If not, fess up.

Tune in Thursday for five more tips on email sanity.

Do you agree or disagree? Have you ever declared email bankruptcy? How’d that work out for you? Leave a comment. 

How to Enjoy Life More

Lots of people complain about their lives.

All of us could identify immediate changes we could make to enjoy our lives more.

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But most people, it seems to me, do not make take such steps. Instead, we muddle along, status quo. And we complain.

This mystifies me.

You, dear reader, are probably aware that I’m part of that big, crazy family known as “Christians.” Ranging from the Pope to snake handlers, we are most certainly a blended family.

My particular branch of the family tree is often labeled “Evangelical.” I’m not all that chuffed about what that brings to mind for many of you. But at this point let’s just say some of it is right, fair, and accurate. Some, not so much.

People with different worldviews complain about their lives without making immediate changes, of course. But we Christians—and Evangelicals in particular—seem pretty bad at enjoying life. Some of us are pretty good at it, but no one would say, “Those churchy people really enjoy life!”

That’s understandable, as the Bible’s pretty clear our lives are not just for our own enjoyment. Jesus said,

“Whoever finds their life will lose it and whoever loses their life will find it.” (Matthew 10:39)

This is not exactly a recipe for a life of luxury, nor does it sound like you’ll be the life of the party.

But often I think we elevate a spiritual/physical dichotomy to the point that we miss out on the good life that is right in front of us:

  • We downplay our physical needs.
  • Our art is often cliché and ham-handed.
  • Enjoying good food makes us feel guilty.
  • We have all kinds of hang-ups around sex.
  • “Reading a good book” doesn’t happen as often as we’d like.

James the Apostle once wrote, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” (James 1:16-17)

Maybe it’s time we heed his advice.

We Christians ought to live more honestly, beautifully, creatively, and joyfully.

I want our big family to be known for our delicious food, our beautiful music, and our fun parties.

We Christians must stop trying to be angels—that’s not the point. Stop denying that you are a human. Rather, let’s live more as humans, as humans were meant to be, as humans who know and love and celebrate the Divine.

Then we’ll enjoy life a whole lot more.

Do you think of Christians as people who really enjoy life? How do you struggle to enjoy the good things in life? Leave a comment.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the ideas I cannot execute…

I have lots of ideas, piles of them.

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In the past two years, I’ve squirreled away 374 blog post ideas, while writing maybe 10% of them. They range from “The Most Important Things I Taught Our Toddlers” to “Being Optimistic is the Worst” to “It Never Hurts to Ask.”

I’ve recorded 41 big ideas, for books and products and projects. These include as diverse brilliance as a book called Human: Reclaiming Our Call to Be Creatures to an app to help busy dads use their limited time with their kids really well to a single egg carrier (for all those upstart hipster poultry farmers).

Once a couple years ago, I had a standard 30-minute meeting with two coworkers about some communications plans. At the end, we stood up, and one of them looked at me a bit bewildered.

I can’t believe how many ideas you have.

To which I replied in a whisper,

And that’s only the ones I say out loud!

A couple weeks ago, I was talking to my friend Jon. He’s a pastor and has a beard, so he’s super wise. I lamented my lack of time in pulling off one of my ideas. He replied by tweaking the cliche-but-still-kind-of-helpful “serenity prayer” into the quote you see here, riffing off my blog title.

God, grant me the serenity to accept the ideas I cannot execute,the courage the execute the ones I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. (Click here to tweet this.)

For “idea people,” this is a core competency to learn–which ideas to execute (i.e. kill) and which ideas to execute (i.e start, perform, do). And my boss has helped me see that a key area for growth for me is making this call. It’s really hard, as my “idea engine” is always revving.

And that’s what this blog is about, I suppose–”choosing and living the best ideas.”

How do you decide?