Friday, November 30, 2012

Happy Turn Off Your Phone Day

This is the last post in my Turn Off Your Phone Day series. I hope this has helped. I pray that you have a renewed interest in the people around you. My desire has been that we would appreciate the colors and textures of the lives that are being lived right in front of us. That we would not find satisfaction in one line texts, but trudge through the beauty of actual conversation. 

What are your plans?

If you have learned something about yourself or someone else in the process, I would love to hear about it. 

Happy Turn Off Your Phone Day!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Links that will challenge our hearts

As we round the corner of our Turn Off Your Phone Day, I wanted to share a few links that will help us all get our minds off of ourselves and into the lives of others. 

This is a great post to get women thinking about how to better love their husbands. Hubs and I had an entire argument through email this week. While we were in the same house. It was actually better than it sounds because it allowed me to step back and think before spouting things off.

*Appeal to his values and his sense of what’s right, rather than his feelings. (Incidentally, this same advice holds true when raising boys. I get farther when I explain to my son about right and wrong than I do when I try to get him to understand how his behaviors affect other’s feelings.)

What's the Difference Between Living for the Kingdom and Living for the American Dream?

If you've ever heard of John Piper you know where he stands on aiming your cupid arrows at the American Dream.

I want to put that central because if we don't ask the question day by day–What am I going to make much of today?–then we will gravitate towards making much of the same things that everybody around us is making much of, like sports teams, food, or a new computer program. None of these things are sin unless they become the thing that we're driven by.

This is a fabulous post titled, "What to get more done? Stop doing so much." He also has a great follow-up on post about Burn Out. 

*In the same way, it’s critical that we (both individuals and companies) get really good at “pruning” – learning to say “no” to opportunities and projects – that don’t align with the important work that we’re doing. This means passing on opportunities – even really good ones – in order to preserve the energy needed to bring our best effort to the work that weknow we need to excel at.

This blog tries to find Jesus somewhere in the murky waters between poverty and wealth. 

*I've often written about the struggle we engage in while we live between two worlds, two realities, two countries. The struggle to rectify: rich vs. poor, feasting vs.fasting, such abundance and such shocking scarcity; and determining how we are to graciously live within the tension - is ongoing. 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Turn Off Your Phone Day-Things to do

You tired of my Turn off your phone day posts? Well, today I'm brainstorming some ideas of activities to do together. Now, I'm in China and we are limited in the things we can do for recreation. I'll try and think of general things that can be done in most countries. Ours will just likely involve rice. The goal is that on Dec. 1st, you sit across for someone and talk to them. That does not include watching a movie together, checking Pinterest recipes, or editing photos. We are talking old fashioned question asking. 

1. Grab coffee or tea. 

2. Invite them over to your home for lunch, dinner, desert. 

3. Bake a pie or cookies together.

4. Take a long walk and turn down a street you've never been down before. Get lost for awhile. 

5. Take the afternoon off and go ice skating or bowling or something that makes you feel like you are in junior high again. 

6. Play a board game or cards. 

7. Sit on the floor and make a lego castle or do a puzzle. 

8. Go to Target and buy toys to pack up for a Christmas charity. 

9. Go to the lake, a pond, the ocean, a large ditch, and skip rocks while you chat. 

10. Grab dinner at a restaurant you've never been to before. Try a different culture food than you are used to having. 

If you've got littles, make this the day that you play that game of Dora Candy Land or you dress up like a pirate and sword fight. Make this the day that you don't say, "Not right now." Or "I'm busy, how about later?"

This is the day that you will look at your child and say, "Yes, I'd love to!"

Friday, November 23, 2012

Turn Off Your Phone Day-Questions to ask a friend

In order to celebrate Turn Off Your Phone Day, the past few days I've linked up hundreds of questions you can use to get conversation started with your kids and your spouse. Today we are talking about questions we can ask our friends. Each link has dozens of questions, I've only given one as an example. 

Here we go:

1. Here are some fun ones to ask guys or girls.

*What was your favorite sitcom growing up?

2. 100 questions to ask friends here at this blog.

*If you could learn one random skill, what would it be?

3. I'm adding a few more of my own too:

a. If you could eavesdrop on a celebrity, who would it be?

b. What fruit of the spirit is most difficult for you to experience?

c. What's the most ridiculous thing you've seen at a talent show or concert?

d. How can I pray for you today?

e. Who are you jealous of? Why?

f. What brought you joy today?

g. What do you love about your church?

h. What are you afraid to do?

g. If you could start your own small business, what would it be?

4. Another fun thing to do is go through a list of opposites, asking each other at rapid fire things like:

chocolate or vanilla?
mountains or beach?
coffee or tea?
Barney or Fred?
live in the city or the country?
live in Europe or Asia?
mexican or italian?
save or spend?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Turn off your Phone Day-Questions to ask your Spouse

Today we are going to talk about questions we can ask our spouses that don't involve paying the bills or packing lunches. These questions are going to help us to get to know this partner we have decided to life with. According to our new holiday called Turn Off Your Phones, we have committed to talking face to face with the people around us. We are vowing to turn off our phones, ipads, notebooks, computers, and maybe even your beepers if you are old school. Just you and the person across the table. I threw out some questions for us to ask our children here

Lets do this.

1. Desiring God has some great questions here

*Would we consider adoption?

2. Zach Terry has 50 Questions to ask your spouse here

*What things can I do that show I appreciate you?

3. Lauren   has 50 questions to ask your spouse annually here

*What achievement in my life would bring you the most joy?

3. I'm adding a few here of my own. The websites above have some wonderful questions. Some of them are pretty intense, so I also wanted to add some that are just fun conversation starters:

a. If you could start a non-profit, what would it be and whom would it serve?

b. If you could go back to school to study something else, what would it be? Why?

c. If we had 2 days to do anything and money weren't an issue, what would you want to do?

d. Is there a dream or desire you have that you've never told me?

e. What would you like to do to celebrate our next big anniversary?

f. If you could compete in the Olympics, what sport would it be? Why?

g. If you could create an alter-ego on Facebook or Twitter, what kinds of things would you want to talk about?

h. If we could redo our wedding, what would you change?

i. Would you want to be a famous movie star or rock star? Why or why not?

j. If you could invest $1 million in a start up company, what kind of company would it be?

k. Would you rather be rich or healthy?

These are just a few. Take time to sit with your spouse and enjoy an evening together. Skip the questions that are going to start an argument. Save that for Dec. 2nd. 

Monday, November 19, 2012

Turn off your Phone Day-Questions to ask our Children

To kick of my self-proclaimed National Holiday, I want to throw out some links to make things seem less awkward when you are sitting across the table from someone on Dec. 1st. My goal for Turn Off Your Phones Day is to help all of us to get away from our technology, stare people in the face, and ask them questions.

To ask a friend out for coffee and not once look down to answer a text that just buzzed in.

To sit with your son at Dairy Queen and talk about dinosaurs and how Spider Man will never die. Ever. And do all that without the "help" of an app.

To light a candle or two at dinner and ask your kids what they think would happen if we could only use our toes to eat dinner.

Today I am going to post a few websites that will give us questions and suggested conversation topics. It might seemed canned and superficial, but it helps to have an outsider feed us ideas that we might not think of.

1. Family Education has a post with some great questions to ask younger kids here.  For example,

*Can you think of any clothes that I should never put on again? Why?

2. Revive Our Hearts has some good ones for kids a little older here

*If everyone followed the Golden Rule, think of all the things we wouldn't need. What are a few of them?

3. IMom has 20 questions here for your elementary-jr. high aged kids.

*What's the scariest thing that's happened to you this year?

4. Lela Davidson has questions for both younger and older children here

*What's the grossest thing you can think of?

5. Minds in Bloom has 20 questions for slightly younger kids here

*How would the world be different if animals could talk?

You don't have to print out the sheet and make this a formal thing. Or you could. These questions are just to get us in the practice of asking questions other than, "Why do you hate folding your clothes?" Or, "Do you think saying the word 'crotch' everyday in homeschool reading is appropriate?" Just hypothetically thinking of course.

Have a blast with your kids on Dec. 1st! I'd love to hear any other questions that have gotten your kids talking lately.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Turn off and Tune in!

Ok, I've had it. We, as a social media world, are going to stop the madness. 

I am declaring Dec. 1st as the Turn Off Your Phones and Talk Day! I have no authority to arbitrarily declare a national day of any kind, but I am tired of this scene from above. And this scene below. It seems to be a picture that surrounds our everyday. 

People sitting together in small groups and ignoring the breathing being in front of them. We have lost the ability to stare into the eyes of the person across from us and say things like, "Hey, how's the new job going?" Or, "I'm sorry about your loss, how can I help you?" We tweet out these one liners because we have fooled ourselves into thinking that speaking is more important than listening. That being heard will make us a valuable human being. 

I picked December 1st because it should  be a good lead up to the Christmas holidays. Before Christmas parties and social events dictate our lives. Because our kids, our friends, our parents need to know that they are more important than shooting off that one last email before dinner time. 

Here are the rules:

1. Put down your phone (or any other type of technology that tempts you to not be present to the people in your lives). 

2. Plan a date with someone who needs you. That could be a friend, a child, a spouse, and ailing grandparent.

3. Share the picture from above. Or this entire blog post. Let's help people turn off and tune in! 

This is the day for no more excuses. Unless you are President Obama, your job will manage without you for the day. Let's not think we are more important than we really are. The world WILL keep turning without our immediate attention. 

I'll be posting a few things regarding my little National Holiday here in the next week or so. Let's brainstorm some things we can do as a people who just need to disconnect and then reconnect. Let's not remain slaves to our phones and computers. Life is too fragile to not take in the presence of the people to our left and our right. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

"Love Story"-Nichole Nordeman

Help, Hubs is letting me take a day off and I need more book recommendations. Quick!

I finished this book about a month ago. I literally finished the last chapter while sitting next to a Russian pimp in Hong Kong. It made me even more appreciative of the words of security wrapped gently around my mind. It also reminded me that if I were to get in a fight with a Russian pimp, I would surely lose. 

Nichole Nordeman did a great job of being an sojourning seeker of truth. She writes honestly, but not just for honesty sake. Sometimes when I read authors who are "honest" in their Christian writing, I discover that while they are honest, they tend to stay knee deep in their own muck. Nichole shares sufferings but in the context of her understanding struggles in the Biblical narrative. It all just seems so appropriately placed in the center of hope. 

Her desire is to push all of us further along in our understanding of Scripture. It's not an exegetical treatise. It's a plodding along with characters in stories and reminding us of things like:

"God has no interest in labels. As God's party you can show up wearing a crown or a burlap sack and expect not a single compliment or insult because everybody has to walk in heart-first." 

And she is stinkin' funny. If you can combine loving Jesus with stories about bird hate, I'm in. Pick this up. It's a quick read that will help you to laugh at yourself and find pleasure in seeking God. Such as when she says this:

"I doesn't really matter if I've laid out the kids' clothes the night before or have a head start on breakfast or set all the clocks in my house ahead ten minutes to trick myself into punctuality. I still end up darting madly through the kitchen like a meth addict, emptying my purse in a frenzied attempt to locate my car keys. Accusing houseplants. Barking at my children to get in the car NOW."

I want to hear book recommendations at Carrie Anne Hudson. Like the kind of books that will make you think hard and laugh much. Or anything that you have found particularly insightful here recently.

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Fall Recipes that Helped me to Not Eat a Candle

I have seriously thought about eating a fall candle before. The smells transport me to a brisk New England lighthouse where a candle dimly lights my Pulitzer Prize winning novel about a raggedy young girl who sells lemon drops to feed her family during the Depression. Seriously, candles have a weird effect on me. With that type of insane quirkiness now out there for the world to read, I will say that I have never actually eaten a fall candle. Instead I ran to this website and made these this past week:

Pumpkin Granola made with fresh pumpkin and all the wonderful spices that smell like your grandmother's apron at Thanksgiving. I love this because it has no oil. I was putting almost 3 cups of oil in our granola to feed our little band of warriors. That is an unacceptable amount of oil. This recipe uses none and I like that. 

I also made this Apple Spice Granola that can pretty much be turned into any type of granola if you tweaked the fruit puree you put in. 

Note: I did have to cook mine a lot longer than what her recipe called for. I have no idea why.

I made this Pumpkin Pie. It's insanely delicious and is a super easy recipe that your 10-year old daughter and her friend can knock out together. We used "Wheat Digestive Crackers," some butter and sugar to make the crust. For those non-China-living readers, I'm sorry you had to read the word "digestive cracker." They really are better tasting than they are named. Kind of like meatloaf and meatballs. Balls should never be in the title of a recipe. It's just wrong.

The rest of my large batch of pumpkin puree went to making a super simple Pumpkin Spice Syrup for coffee. I didn't turn it into a latte like the recipe called for. I just put a little normal powdered creamer in it and a Tablespoon or so of this syrup. You could probably eliminate the powdered creamer, I just have issues with my coffee being a certain color. 

I also made some Gingerbread Syrup. See, notice the obsession with fall. Both of these were wonderful. Every morning I've used these I have closed my eyes for a second and smelled it. And then smiled. I feel like I've been filming a commercial. 

I hope you enjoy your fall recipes as much as I have. And for the love of all things good, please never eat a candle. By the way, if you are in the need of a great candle for the holidays, check out Tim's Candles.  The proceeds from your purchase will go towards helping fund 6 young men as they travel different places in the world bringing light and hope to a lost world. 

Monday, November 05, 2012

Reformation Day 2012-Jonathan Edwards

These are some of the lovely people that we invited into our fun we call Reformation Day. It really has become one of our favorite celebrations we do during the year. Last year it was John Calvin and this year was Jonathan Edwards. 

Our kids spent most of October reading books like, "Jonathan Edwards: America's Genius." Does it make anyone else nervous when they think of what their tag line might be if someone might write our memoirs. "Carrie: Utterly Clueless, God Help her Soul." I'm pretty sure it would read something like that. 

We did a "Jonathan Edwards, This is Your Life," type of show for the audience. Each kid had a part of Edwards' life that they would portray. Charis and a friend were two of his daughters and talked about him as a father, Kesed was Edwards as a child, Makaria brought out a few pictures of he and Sarah. 

Malachi read about Edward's life as a preacher and his conflict with his grandfather, Solomon Stoddard, over the issue of baptism. Later he came out as one of the Indians in Western, MA whose life was changed by Edward's ministry out there. 

Selah played Sarah Edwards and shared about their 11 children and life at home. She later came out as a congregant in his church during the Great Awakening. 

The kids rocked it. I was so proud of their research and oratory skills. 

Like always, we played the "Pin the something on the something," game. This year it was "Pin the spider dangling over the fire," to commemorate Jonathan Edwards famous sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God." Funny enough, this sermon was fairly uncharacteristic of Edwards preaching, but it is the one that gets studied in schools. The spider represents us being held by God over the fires of hell, only being rescued by his merciful hands.

Selah won the game. Several of the spiders ended up in hallways, on lights, and buried in a bookshelf. I blame it on the repeated spinning that took place before walking to try and put the spiders on the string. We headed over to eat 18th century New England type food. It was beef stew, rosemary salted sweet rolls that will make you call your mama names, apple pie, and wassail. Wassail reminds me of my grandmother. It was never apple cider, always called wassail. Parchessi also reminds me of her. In case you were wondering.

We had a fabulous Reformation Day and can't wait until next year. 

Friday, November 02, 2012

A Baller and a Scholar.

Things I Learned on the Way to a PhD

I told my family that I would do a cartwheel upon him finishing his PhD. Conversely, he wrote a few words from the hubs regarding finishing his PhD (insert theme music: "Two steps forward, I take two steps back....we come together cause opposites attract." Thank you Paula Adbul):

About Family and Character

My kids don’t care what a Ph.D is. In fact, they are confused why I can’t prescribe medicine. They just want to know when Dad will be finished studying.

My wife is happy with a husband who loves her, even if I didn’t have graduate degrees.

Insecurity frequently drives Ph.D studies as much as any other motive.

Having a Ph.D doesn’t make you smart. It just means you have, a lot of information, and probably a fair bit of pride.

While a Ph.D can make someone proud, it can also make someone more humble because you realize how little you actually know. Ph.Ds don’t take away sin. Only Christ does. If anything, they make you a bigger hypocrite, because you learn more than you can never quite live up too.

Balance requires great humility.

Simply getting praise for having degrees doesn’t satisfy the deeper desire to feel loved.

No one can do everything well. Find your niche. Be content with the fact you have weaknesses and limitations. It’s ok. You are not God. With that awareness, do what you do with excellence.

Having a Ph.D is not as precious as being a child of God.

Studying Scripture and Theology

A number of theological ideas are not so clear-cut. Many doctrines that a pastor affirms with vehement dogmatism just aren’t as obvious as he makes them sound.

Christians need to humbly have a “both-and” attitude and not simply an “either-or” mentality. Nuance is important. We can’t just write people off as simply “playing with words.” Words matter.

Christians with Ph.Ds need to be careful not to “pull rank” when discussing the Bible. Otherwise, people will trust you and not Scripture. I plead for Christian PhDs to show people the biblical text.

Both laypersons and even “professional” Christians (pastors, etc.) are really intimidated by the Bible. As a result, they forgot what they know in everyday life, like what “because” and “therefore” mean. I wish they would know that knowing Greek by itself doesn’t make someone a Bible expert.

Just because people are really smart and they’re the “good guys” (i.e. people in my camp) doesn’t make them right. For that matter, those whom I really disagree with are still full of good ideas, even if they apply them wrong (in my opinion). Even heretics are persuasive for some reason . . . they have just enough truth to get gain a hearing.

Studying the Bible and loving Jesus are not necessarily the same thing.

Christians are far too angry when it comes to theological matters. Likewise, conservative Christians are just as likely to close one eye to inconvenient passages as are liberals.

About Getting a Ph.D

A Ph.D is not worth simply having the title itself. You should want to accomplish something with it; otherwise, it’s not worth the hard work and sacrifices you and your family will have to give. After my first M.A. degree, my wife didn’t call me “master.” After earning my M.Div, she didn’t call be “divine.” After the Ph.D, she’ll still just call be “Brad” and my kids will call me “Dad.” And I’m very happy for it.

More Christians need Ph.Ds because there are a lot of problems needing to be solved but so many people tend to be a bit anti-intellectual when it comes to the Christian life. As a result, they become anti-theological and functionally close to being anti-biblical (though they would certainly take offense at this last sentence).

Writing well is harder than you think. It is an underdeveloped skill in this day of Facebook, Twitter and text messaging.

Diligence in study and writing can be a great labor of love . . . even if it doesn’t look exactly like the way someone else loves.

Getting a Ph.D is means, not an end. You need to write and expect people to criticize something you say. Changing the way someone thinks is not an easy or quick process. Criticism means they are actually thinking about what you say. The truth is . . . your labor is most likely to have its biggest effect either behind your back or after you’ve died. This is good. Otherwise, you would be self-deluded with your “greatness.”

It’s hard to find people to help proof read your stuff. People just don’t have time . . . and that’s ok. Therefore, I am especially grateful for those who have been so gracious to be dialogue partners with me.


Typing classes in high school should be Pass/Fail and not affect your GPA. I took a typing class but for fear of lowering my GPA, I never learned to type correctly since I could peck keys faster that doing it correctly. Learning to type would have been very helpful in this process. I still type using only about 5-6 of my fingers.

SEBTS is a fantastic school.

Despite its many challenges, ADHD has its advantages. One of its lesser-known manifestations is “hyperfocus.” Very helpful when trying to maintain a full time job, raise five kids, stay married flourish in marriage, and finish a Ph.D within a decade.

Spellchecker on MS Word automatically shuts itself off after so many words are either misspelled or come from a foreign language.

Zotero is an amazing resource for managing information needed for citations and bibliographies.

Double-check your dissertation defense time. The night before I checked again and my defense started at 1:00 pm, not 1:30 pm like I had thought.
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