Farmer Super Bowl Commercial: Reflections

I couldn’t get past the “Farmer” commercial during the Super Bowl. My grandfather on my mother’s side lived in Kansas. He died when I was young, but I’ve always lived somewhat in his shadow…he was a hero of mine. Everything I knew about him was captured in that commercial. If you missed it, or want to see it again, watch it now.

A good friend…and a great leader…Jason Cummins sent me his thoughts on the commercial.

Here is a guest post from Jason reflecting on the commercial:

The Super Bowl was last night, and as always, my wife and I looked forward to the commercials. However, I’m not one to go online and view them ahead of time. I feel the precise broadcast time establishes context, and thus is an important part of the overall experience.

As we entered the second half, I was a bit disappointed. No croaking frogs, dive-bombing pigeons, or office linebacker sightings. Rather, Madison Avenue seemed content to reflect our culture’s status quo…a preference for short-term gratification over long-term reward.

Then entered what will be referred to today as simply, “The Farmer” commercial. Narrated by one of my all-time favorites, Paul Harvey, the ad immediately transported me back to my childhood, riding on the bench seat of the family roadster or huddled around the single, family radio in my grandparents’ house.

But it wasn’t merely the voice that made the commercial so powerful. Rather, it was the verbal content and the accompanying deep, pictorial images. Americans respect farmers, and the farmer was extolled for his virtuous characteristics. As I rewatched the commercial this morning, I pulled the five following traits from the rich narrative. These resonate with our souls, for deep down, we respect them, desire them, and want to be led by those who embody them:

1. Disciplined work ethic. He is willing to get up before dawn, work all day, finish his 40-hour week by Tuesday noon, and then work another 72 hours. He isn’t afraid of hard work. He is hard work.

2. Selfless. He attends school board meetings, applies first aid, and willingly attends to the needs of others before himself.

3. Competent. He can shape an axe handle, shoe a horse, or make a harness out of scrap. He knows his trade and confidently, yet humbly, goes about doing his work.

4. Compassion. He sits up with an ailing colt and splints the leg of a meadowlark. He heart is attune to his surroundings, and he is willing to do something about it.

5. Character. He plows deep and straight and will not cut corners. He will choose the harder right over the easier wrong. He works for good.

And then the commercial concludes with, “To the farmer in all of us.” Much like a good class, the ad not only made us think, but it also made us feel. And in the process, it reminded us of important characteristics we should all aspire to emulate. May each of us live a little more like a FARMER today.

Who do you think of when you watch that commercial?

Twitter’s New Vine App – Opportunities for the Ministry

20130129-211858.jpg

This is another guest post by Ben Lichtenwalner (see also “Top 5 Business Professional Confessions“). Ben is a technology executive with a passion for servant leadership. His blog, ModernServantLeader.com, is a platform for spreading servant leadership awareness, adoption and action. You can follow Ben on Twitter at@BLichtenwalner.

I didn’t originally think this was something I was interested in, since I’m saturated with social media. Then I saw my daughter-in-law on Vine. I knew, because of her savvy nature, that it is something to consider. I signed up and instantly had numerous followers, including some in ministry I consider to be trendsetters.

Twitter’s New Vine App

Twitter recently launched the Vine app, currently available only on iOS. The app let’s you record up to 6 seconds of looping video – no more – and share it on Twitter or Facebook. From it’s Twitter origin, hashtags play a key role in the filtering and categorization of content. This enables users to quickly find simple, concise, video content on a topic of interest.

How Vine Works

After installing Vine on your iPhone, you can open the app, click the record (camera icon) button and capture video. Users click on the view finder and hold their finger on the screen to record. Lift your finger to pause recording and simply press and hold the screen again to continue recording. It’s that easy. After you’re done recording, you can add a caption and share the video on Vine only, Facebook and / or Twitter.

Your audience and community can comment and like the video on Vine or provide the usual feedback options on Facebook and Twitter. Like Twitter, the brevity and standard drives the creativity and interest.

Opportunities for the Ministry

The app is new, so most content is still personal or artistic in nature. How can we use this new medium for the ministry? Below are some thoughts to get us started. I’m sure you will have many more – add them to the comments.

1. Favorite Verses – Capture your favorite verses in 6 seconds. Perhaps we could use the hashtag #FavVerse?

2. Pay it Forward – Capture folks doing something good, in the name of Jesus, and post it.

3. Capture Art – Got some great stained glass windows or other art in your church? Capture and share it.

4. Compilations – Why not capture a compilation of baptisms, communion or other sacraments and share?

5. Invitations – Have your congregation capture 6 seconds of themselves inviting others to the service. Use a hashtag and / or share them on your site.

6. Humor – Do you have some great, recurring humorous moments in your congregation or in living the Christian life? Share them and humanize the service for guests.

7. Stop Motion – There’s all kinds of stop motion video examples already. Why not make a project of this with your youth group?

How to get the Vine App

The Vine app is currently available in the App Store for iOs devices. It’s not yet available for Android or other platforms.

Question: What other uses do you see for the Vine app in Ministry?

Dancing Priest: How a Book Was Born

dancing priest

This is a guest post by Glynn Young. Glynn authored a book that I can literally say is going to be one of my all time favorites, and I just read it last month. And, it’s fiction. Dancing Priest is captivating, challenging and, I believe, potentially life-giving for some in the church who want to reach a current culture. Glynn lives in suburban St. Louis, where he works as the social media team leader for a Fortune 500 company. He’s married with two grown sons and two grandsons. He’s also a deacon at Central Presbyterian Church.

I asked Glynn to share how a book that impressed me came to be. Here’s his story.

It was 2002. I was flying to San Francisco and listening to an in-flight music program featuring a tenor with a beautiful voice – Mario Frangoulis. He sang one song, “Luna Rosa,” in Italian, which I don’t speak. I knew the title meant “Red Moon.” As I listened, an image formed – a priest dancing on a beach.

When I arrived at my downtown hotel, I found the CD at a local bookstore. It became my drive music – if I was in my car, I was listening to Mario Frangoulis.

One night not long after, I laid in bed, thinking about that priest. I realized he was Episcopal or Anglican. He was part of a tour group that included a young American woman. The possibility of romance was in the air.

For the next three years, I created the story in my head. I plotted the scenes. I moved the priest to Edinburgh and put him on a racing bike. I gave him a name – Michael. I gave the young woman a name – Sarah. I added characters. I decided my priest was originally from England, the only child of his parents’ second marriages.

I developed a conflict – a young couple in love, Michael preparing to enter the Anglican priesthood and Sarah mildly hostile to anything connected to faith. Michael is the central character, but Sarah’s lack of faith is the story’s pivot.

For three years, the story grew and developed in my head. I never thought of it becoming a book. And I didn’t say anything about it, even to my wife.

The catalyst was Hurricane Katrina. Most of my side of our family lives in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. I spent a harrowing week tracking down family members and finding a way to get my elderly mother and aunt out of the city.

Something about that experience convinced me I didn’t want to lose the story in my head. I began to type.

The story poured out, some 250,000 words (enough for three average novels). When it stopped pouring, I knew it needed serious editing and rewriting. What works in your head at 11:30 at night while you’re falling asleep often won’t work as well in daylight on a computer screen.

The rewriting and editing continued until 2008. My wife convinced me to try to market the manuscript. I sent out queries to agents and editors. I developed elaborate editorial packages (designed as requirements to discourage would-be writers). I talked with editors and agents at a writer’s conference.

I almost gave up any hope of publication when an agent told me it was not marketable unless it had a vampire or werewolf in the story. And he was serious. (This was when the Twilight novels were taking off.)

I continued to write and edit. The story grew.

In 2010, a small publisher here in the St. Louis area told me he’d heard I had a manuscript, and he’d like to read it. I said no. He kept coming back at me for six months, and I finally let him take a look. He told me it was an incredible story of what coming to faith is about and he wanted to publish it. I said no. It sounds crazy, but I wasn’t ready.

He kept after me for a year. And then one day he said, “Are you going to let me publish it or not?” I surprised us both, and said yes.

Dancing Priest was born in late 2011. The sequel, A Light Shining, came a year later.

When the Church is Hated, How should Leaders Respond?

As a church leader, I realize the popularity and seemed importance of what I do has declined in recent years. Culture no longer values the voice of a pastor as the history of our nation would record that it once did. Even this week, the news of Louie Giglio’s exit as the pastor to pray at the inauguration of President Obama served as a sobering reminder…things have changed.

This is an interview with John S. Dickerson. Dickerson’s new book The Great Evangelical Recession identifies six factors of decline in the American Church and offers six solutions for leaders. Dickerson is a nationally awarded journalist and Senior Pastor of Cornerstone Church in Prescott, AZ. His work has appeared in The New York Times and The Washington Post.

Q: How would you summarize your book, The Great Evangelical Recession?

A: Culture is changing faster and faster. The conflicts around Louie Giglio, Chic-fil-A and Hobby Lobby demonstrate this. Rapid change in American culture is already shaking evangelicalism, but it’s going to worsen because the rate of change is accelerating.

As shepherds we must identify where the Church is struggling to adapt. Then we must look to God’s Word to find solutions for our day. The Great Evangelical Recession does this by documenting factors of decline—and then by building Scripture-based solutions for each area of decline.

Q: Is the homosexual-evangelical conflict an example of this cultural change? And if so, what sort of solutions does your book suggest?

A: Yes, the conflict between the evangelical and LGBTQ communities is case in point. The book documents that in the last 15 years Americans have entirely reversed their views on homosexuality. Furthermore, each younger generation is radically more pro-homosexual, so this trend will accelerate as older Americans pass away.

My solution chapter argues that we need to start treating non-evangelical “tribes” in America the same way our missionaries treat foreign tribes in Africa or New Guinea, by suspending judgment, serving and modeling unconditional love–so Christ can reach their hearts.

The chapter grows from a word study of the Greek word “good” in the New Testament. “Good” is about deeds. It’s more nuanced than this, but here’s the gist of that solution:

1. Take God’s good deeds directly to the homosexual tribe in your life and community. Don’t wait for them to come to you.

2. Refuse to classify the homosexual tribe as some worse class of people. This is unbiblical and showcases poor theology.

3. As with any tribe, don’t focus on changing behavior. Focus on changing relationship to God through Christ.

4. Don’t be surprised when you are hated and misunderstood about this issue. You will be.

5. When you are hated or misunderstood, don’t defend yourself or other evangelicals with words. Instead, let your quiet good actions eclipse any accusations (1 Peter 2:12).

6. Keep on demonstrating God’s good-ness and unconditional love—to the homosexuals closest to you.

The book includes Scripture and examples, but that overview gives you a taste.

Q: Your book identifies six trends of decline in the American Church. Is every ministry declining in these ways?

A: Typical ministries will find many trends of decline apply to them, while some don’t. Take the funding crisis for example. On average, 76 percent of evangelical gifts come from the oldest two generations. Many ministries are unprepared for the decline of donations in the next 15 years. That trend won’t apply to young-demographic ministries—like Reality LA, but other trends will.

This book is really a tool for ministry leaders. It helps leaders identify which negative trends are at play in their specific ministry. The book then gives practical Biblical solutions to adjust course in any areas of weakness.

What do you think? How have your seen the culture and church change in your lifetime?

What’s next?

Without a dad…

boy and father

A boy struggles…

Knowing what it means to become a man…

What courage, honor, and strength really looks like…

When to take a risk…

A girl struggles…

Understanding her beauty and value…

Sensing self confidence and independence

To demand respect and equality…

I’ve been convicted lately, that many times the orphans of today…

Are the fatherless…

(And many times the widows are the single mothers…)

The statistics of the impact of this on society are staggering. Great efforts are being taken by non-profits such as The Fatherhood Initiative. Even the government is getting involved, recognizing the problems associated with this issue in our society.

What is the church doing about it?

Seriously, what initiatives do you know of where the church is addressing the fatherless issue?

Pure and undefiled religion before our God and Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress...” James 1:27

(This is not to say we don’t take care of widows and orphans. We certainly do, but, in my opinion, we must not forget the cultural issues of our day…if we want “pure and undefiled religion”.)

What do you think?

Husbands: 7 Gift Suggestions for Your Wife

Christmas gifts

I know I’m talking to some men who haven’t even thought about what you’ll get your wife for Christmas yet. Right? I understand. It still seems early to you Christmas Eve shoppers. :)

Maybe you’ve thought about it, but not being as in tune with things like this as your wife is, you haven’t a clue what to get her. It’s the same problem every year. Gift card may be what you’re thinking. Cash perhaps. Let your daughter pick something up if she’s old enough.

No sweat. I understand. I’m here to help this year.

Here are 7 suggestions to get your wife for Christmas:

Make a coupon book – A date night a week…or a month… Make up 12 random dates. A movie. (One she picks.) A walk in the park on a sunny, Spring day. Dance lessons. A cooking class. Print a coupon for each. Then give her access to your calendar and let her claim them as needed.

Break a bad habit – She may have tried to change you. It hasn’t worked. You need to lose weight, so she worries about you. You need to quit smoking. Or maybe it is the way you talk to her. You are super critical of her. You talk down to her sometimes. It may be as simple as never picking up your clothes from the bathroom floor. Whatever it is she may have subtly or not so subtly tried to suggest a change in you. You agree with the change, but haven’t made it. Just make it. Merry Christmas to you and her.

Start listening – Make a commitment to speak less and listen more in the new year. Perhaps you symbolize this with a token of some sorts. Wrap up the remote and give it to her. Would that do the trick? You know the distraction. Maybe it’s a picture of your face, symbolizing you’re going to look her in the eyes and not always have an answer…trying harder to listen next year.

Open a savings account – Put $100…or $50…whatever you can afford, into a savings account. Label it…”future investment in us!” Is there a family trip she’s dreamed about? Somewhere you always promised to take her. Take the first step to make it happen this year.

One night in a nice B & B – Many men shy away from these…and many women do…but for Cheryl and I, some of our most romantic moments were one night trips to a bed and breakfast. Make sure you get a private bath. A comfortable bed and a room with a view is great. If you plan ahead you will spend less than a really great hotel and the experience of reconnecting can be amazing for both of you.

Make a new habit – Could it be that you need to do a Bible study together? What about a prayer routine? Could planning your personal finances be in your future? You probably know what she wants in this area. If not, ask her. Then wrap it up! If you’re subtle enough you may even be able to surprise her still. And make her very happy in the process.

A trip away…in May – This is my best gift idea. It isn’t as practical for me now, because we are empty-nesters and can travel when we want, but this was the rockstar gift when our boys were home.This is brilliant on several points. It builds positive emotions up until the trip. When she’s having an exceptionally stressful day she can remember…at least we are getting away soon. In addition, you can plan the trip now, yet pay for most or all of it later, helping to stretch your Christmas budget. (To do this I often ordered brochures from a place I know we have thought about going and wrapped them in a pretty package. Sometimes I made reservations, sometimes I just picked the place. Either way, it is your responsibility to handle the necessary arrangements to make it happen.)

Do you get the idea that these are more about time than even money? I’m convinced it’s what most women want from their husbands. I realize some will say their wife once did, but doesn’t now. If that’s true, it’s probably an indication of a bigger problem. It may even be because she wanted you then and you weren’t there. Maybe the answer is to give her more time now.

Now before I get Dave Ramsey emails, be responsible. Don’t spend money you don’t have. Many of these are very low cost ideas. Some you can budget for and pay later. Chances are good you are going to get her something and I’m guessing some of these might be better than a dress shop gift certificate or another pair of those ugly pajama bottoms. You forgot you bought those already, didn’t you? She didn’t.

Seriously, not trying to be funny. Trying to help. Your marriage and your wife is worth the extra effort. This year, think through your gift. Be purposeful. The woman you love is worth the effort.

What gift ideas can you add to the list?

Where Are the Boots? The Danger of Losing the Wonder This Holiday Season

This is a guest post by my friend Margaret Feinberg. Margaret (www.margaretfeinberg.com) is author of Wonderstruck: Awaken to the Nearness of God which releases on Christmas Day. To learn more about her new book and the incredible offer available, check out www.margaretfeinberg.com/wonderstruck.

Where Are the Boots? The Danger of Losing the Wonder This Holiday Season

Less than a month ago, a New York Times police officer Lawrence DiPrimo left us wonderstruck by an act of kindness when Jennifer Foster, a tourist from Florence, Arizona, snapped a photo of a member of NYPD keeling down to give a homeless man a pair of boots on a frigid night.

The officer didn’t just hand the man a $100 pair of Skechers but took the time to slip socks and new boots on the man’s blistered feet—a scene reminiscent of John 13:1-17.

The photo was posted on Facebook and soon went viral with more than 20,000 comments. The story was the perfect reminder during the holiday season of the power of kindness, generosity, and love.

But overnight the homeless man reached an unwelcome celebrity status. Identified as Jeffrey Hillman, he was baffled and confused by all the attention telling the New York Times, “I was put on YouTube, I was put on everything without permission. What do I get? This went around the world, and I want a piece of the pie.”

No sooner had Hillman received the shoes than news sources reported he was running around barefoot again. Jeffery claimed that the shoes were too valuable and dangerous to wear so he hid them. Some online snipers accused Hillman of selling shoes for a “bump”.

Reporters then uncovered that Hillman wasn’t homeless, but had an apartment paid for by a federal agency. With more details of Hillman’s life exposed, the wondrous story soon lost its news cycle luster leaving people asking, “Where are the boots?”

Reflecting on this current story, I was drawn back to an ancient one.

In John 12, Mary breaks all of the social cues as well an alabaster jar filled with very costly perfume, and anoints the feet of Jesus, wiping his feet with her hair.

The pundits soon question the act. “Why has the perfume been wasted? It could have been sold and the money given to the poor?”

Mary is met with contempt for her extravagance. For Mary, things didn’t turn out like she expected. In a brief moment of self-awareness, she may have even second-guessed her decision, What have I done?

I don’t know if DiPrimo ever second-guessed his actions, but I wouldn’t be surprised. In these kinds of situations, almost anyone would.

But whatever the details on Hillman’s life, we must not lose our ability to be
wonderstruck by this random act of kindness.

The danger is that if we focus too much attention on the fact Jeffrey Hillman isn’t technically homeless and he doesn’t feel safe wearing the shoes, then the police officers extravagant generosity is reduced to a foolish act. Why was the money not given to a shelter instead?

But if we focus on the act of selflessly giving—purchasing and tenderly placing socks and shoes on someone in need—we begin to see the heart and hands of Christ. We awaken to the wonder that the person giving and serving this holiday season could be you and I. We begin to answer the invitation to live wonderstruck.

When the best seat in the house…isn’t…

I was at a dinner theater recently. We had “good seats”. At least that’s what we were told. What that really meant is that we were in a crowded room, with lots of people I didn’t know, eating, watching a play, while it seemed like every was looking through us (really at us) to see the play.

Stand out.

In front.

On the floor.

In the center of attention.

Conspicuous.

For the introvert in me…that “best seat in the house” quickly became the worst seat in the house.

That’s a silly illustration, perhaps, but it’s a good reminder for church leaders.

I remember several years ago, while meeting in a school theater, having a discussion about closing off the loge (balcony) section to force people into the center section of the auditorium. There was one big section apart from the loge. I struggled with that. I was with the people who resisted that change. It made sense to create more energy in the center of the room, but in the process, for some people, wired like me, we were making the “best seat in the house” the worst seat in the house.

That principle is true in other areas of ministry. When we plan activities and programs, even the welcome portion of our service, we have to remember that everyone is not wired like us. For some people, it is the best way to do something. For others, it is the worst. When we force people out of their comfort zone, simply to create what we think is better for others, we may be making things worse.

The best approach here is to always ask other people, people not wired like you, to sit at the table of discussion and invite them to speak into the process. And, value their voice.

Because…

Sometimes the best seat in the house…isn’t.

Am I alone? Is the “best seat in the house” sometimes the worst seat for you?

How I Kept from Gaining Weight over Thanksgiving

I didn’t gain any weight over Thanksgiving. I know…sounds sad…right? But, don’t feel bad for me. I ate what I wanted. Turkey. Ham. Sweet potato casserole. Pie. All my favorites.

Before you call me a party pooper. There’s a reason for my madness…and this post. Always before I kicked my holiday season off with a few extra pounds and it was downhill from there through the New Year’s celebration. I’ve learned by experience that I’m most productive when I maintain a healthier weight. I always blew that this time of year.

This year I’m trying to be smarter. Trying.

How did I do it over Thanksgiving?

Exercised daily – Everyday, for the four day break, I went for a run and did sit ups. Everyday.

One big meal a day – I could have had two…or three. I had one. Everything I wanted. Once a day. Then chose much smaller, more sensible meals the rest of the day.

Got full and stopped – When I had enough…I stopped eating. I know. It makes too much sense, right? But, I didn’t gorge. I ate, got full, and quit.

Took what I liked, not what I didn’t – I often find myself eating things I really don’t like that much…certainly not my favorites, just because it’s there. And it’s the season. I stuck with those things I especially liked and stayed away from others. I found my plate was not as full as in year’s past, but every bite was a treat.

Quickly back to normal, healthy eating – Monday, following the Thanksgiving break, I started eating in my normal routine. In the past, I’ve allowed Thanksgiving to kick off a month long holiday binge. I always regret it the first of the year. Trying not to do that this year. There will be lots of Christmas events, but as much as I can, I’ll be eating sensibly.

Sounds simple, right? Yea, it was. I’m committed to trying it again through Christmas. I wanted to start the new year off without a lot of extra poundage or the sense of burden that I need to lose some weight. The year will have enough responsibility without having that pressure.

That’s my plan.

Do you have one? Does it matter to you?

Introducing Urbana (And giveaway!)

Winners (selected by Random.org) have been notified by email. Congratulations!

Now giving away 3 registrations!

Pastor, let me encourage you to get your leadership team…or yourself…to Urbana!

I recently attended a global church mission forum. I’m still processing all God did in my mind from that event and will share more later. The same people who introduced me to that event let me know about Urbana. It’s got to be good. If you want a better orientation to what God is doing in the world then you should attend the Urbana conference.

Urbana puts you in touch with today’s culture like no other conference can. It helps you know what is driving the concerns of a new generation. As a pastor, I am called to effectively disciple all ages. Urbana will give great insight and new resources to deal with the younger generation, especially those in college today.

It is guaranteed to be a fun event, because, as I’ve experienced at other events, there is something special about worshiping with the nearly 20,000 young people. In addition, you’ll walk away with needed information for your ministry.

Sign up for Urbana today! (Click HERE)

 

As a bonus, I’ll give away three (3) registrations to Urbana. That’s an incredible deal. Please don’t sign up unless you will attend, but if you’re interested, comment on this post, make sure I have a valid email address, and I’ll choose 3 random names sometime early next week.

(This is a non-paid endorsement. I simply believe in the people behind this.)