5 Reasons I Recommend the Evernote Application

Let me introduce you to one of my new favorite productivity applications.  It’s called Evernote. Evernote is a note/picture/voice taking productivity application used on laptops and mobile devices. If you aren’t familiar with it, let me share with you five reasons I love this product:

Efficiency – Evernote allows me to put a note, picture, or voice recording into the application and then Evernote automatically syncs with my other devices. Whether I’m using my iPhone, iPad or MacBook Pro, I input once and am updated on all three, and it does it quickly and without error. I place my notes into files that are searchable and specific to the subject matter. Every blog post now starts as a separate Evernote file.

Convenience – Evernote is with me wherever I go. I sometimes carry my phone with me when I’m walking the dog. I can quickly put thoughts that come to me into a file in Evernote as I walk. (She’s sometimes slow!) If I see a picture, I can snap it and place it in an Evernote file for later use.

Creativity – Evernote fuels my creativity, because it allows me the freedom to think in the moment. I no longer have to wait until I get back to my laptop to brainstorm. I’m less likely to forget ideas, because I can record them as they come to me in the appropriate file.

Reliability – I never have to lose a thought again! There is seldom a time where I would not have one of these devices with me, so whenever I have a thought, I always have a place to record it, which again, automatically syncs with the other devices. I’ve yet to have the application crash, freeze, or fail to sync immediately.

Access – Evernote is a free application! You can’t beat the price for such a productive tool. Evernote is finding new ways to share information. If you notice at the end of each post now I have an Evernote share icon. You can now save my posts into your Evernote application. (How cool is that?)

If you are looking for a way to stay more organized and be more productive, check out Evernote.

Have you used this application? What do you think?

What application is helping you work better these days? Tell me about one I may not know about yet.

7 Reasons You May Not be Achieving Your Dreams

Recently I posted 7 steps to achieve your dreams.  I love helping people attain their God-given visions.  It occurred to me that there may be a counter post needed here.   This may seem like common sense, but I’m not sure it is sometimes.  The fact remains that more people will look back on their life and wish they had done more with their life than they did.  I heard someone once say something like, “If you’re not careful, your “hope to do’s” will become your “wish I had’s”.  I have many of those areas in my life.  I want the next phase of my life to be different.

Here are 7 reasons you may not be achieving your dreams:

You have no goals – You may have some but you’ve never written them down, analyzed them or organized them into reachable and attainable goals.

You have no plan – A goal without a plan is just a goal. A goal with a plan is an avenue to success.  You can’t “work the plan” if you never wrote one.

You need accountability – We were designed for relationships.  Sometimes knowing someone is going to hold you accountable is enough incentive to follow through.  Give a few people the freedom to challenge you to work the plan.

You are afraid to share the load – If you are trying alone for fear of sharing your dream, you’ll also have no one with whom you can really share the victory.  Sharing the load builds synergy, makes a stronger effort, and keeps your ego from sidelining your progress.

You’ve given up – You may have had a set back and now you’re afraid to try again. Successful dreamers are willing to get up after a fall, knowing they will be stronger and better equipped the next time.

You aren’t willing to take a risk – Fear can sometimes be a powerful motivator, but most of the time it’s one of our biggest stumbling block.  Some of the best moments of your life are hidden in your fears.  Risk-taking and dreaming go hand-in-hand.  If the dream requires no risk, it isn’t much of a dream.

You never got started – Every road to success begins with one step.  If you don’t start, you’ll certainly never finish.  What step do you need to take?

Are any of these your reason for not achieving your dreams? What would you add to my list?

Be sure to read 7 Steps to Achieving Your Dreams

4 Times a Leader Should Strategize on Making a Decision

This post continues the thought of strategic thinking in the moment. To completely understand this post, make sure you read the first two posts in this series HERE and HERE.

Strategic thinking comes naturally for me. I have tons of weaknesses, but thinking in a strategic sense is not one of them. If anything, I’m so strategic that it becomes a weakness. I’m not sure, however, that all leaders naturally think strategically. For defining purposes, I’m using the word strategy to involve thinking through the how, when, where, who and what questions when making a decision.  

As a leader, I am very familiar with the “gut call” of leadership; where a leader must make quick, decisive decisions.  (I even wrote about that concept HERE.)  All leaders, however, if they want to be successful, must use strategy when making decisions.  Developing loyal followers and protecting the organization’s future demands strategic thinking, so all leaders must learn to think strategically. Often that comes through discipline, if not through personal wiring. Thankfully, not all decisions a leader makes requires using strategy, but when it does…

Here are four times the leader must think strategically:

The answer is uncertain - I love risk, but the leader must weigh the risk with the future of the organization. Ultimately the leader has responsibility for the success of the organization, so a leader has to make final calls as to whether or not a risk is worth the risk. That requires strategic thinking.

The issue affects more than the leader - One flaw in leadership is when the leader thinks only about how he or she views the decision and not how the decision affects other people. The wise leader thinks strategically to determine the people aspect of a decision.

The issue is subject to resistance – Most change is subject to resistance, but if a decision is automatically going to involve a battle for acceptance, then a leader must strategically plan the way the decision is introduced and implemented.

The issue changes an agreed upon direction – When people get excited about a direction the organization is going and they invest their heart and energy into heading in that direction, they are naturally more resistant to a change in the direction. Good leaders think strategically how this change will be received and how it should be communicated so people transfer enthusiasm for the new direction.

Leaders, what do you think? Are you strategically thinking through important decisions?

Followers, have you seen these areas backfire against a leader who fails to think strategically?

What would you add to my list?

7 Steps to Achieve Your Dreams

I love and encourage dreaming, because I think it’s healthy emotionally and the process helps us accomplish great things personally and for God. We are told we serve a big, creative God, whose thoughts will always be bigger and better than ours, so dreaming should be natural to believers. Dreaming stretches the vision of churches and organizations, it fuels creativity, and many great opportunities develop first as a dream.  (I written previously about the subject of dreams HERE.)

The reality is that more people have dreams than attain them. Perhaps you have dreams you have yet to accomplish. I certainly do. One reason dreams never come true is that we don’t have a system in place to work towards them. I love to be an encourager for people with great dreams, so with that in mind, here are some steps to help you move towards reaching your dreams:

Identify your dream – This is where you list specifically what the dream would look like. Obviously it needs to be attainable, but don’t be afraid for it to be a stretch either. For example, suppose your dream is to be to be an author. That’s a dream you can accomplish, but it may not be attainable to be the next Max Lucado.

Make an action plan – Write down specific action steps you can take towards attaining your goal. (The writing down part is important) Sticking with the the idea of being an author, perhaps you could start with a blog for which you write post regularly to build the discipline of writing. Then move to outlining chapters. Then you might set aside a few hours a week to actually write the book. Record realistic dates to begin/complete each step.

Develop accountability - Most of us work harder when we know someone is going to challenge us to do so. Consider the success of programs like Weight Watchers. Accountability works, so share your plan of action with a few people who will continue to challenge you to completion.

Share the load - Even though it is your dream, the best ideas are accomplished when people work together towards a common vision. Don’t be afraid to invite others to help you accomplish your dream as needed. (Read my encouragement to give your vision away HERE.)

Take a risk - If you really want to succeed, you must be willing to risk failure. Every great dream has an element of risk involved and the ones who achieve their dreams are the ones wiling to assume the risk.

Stay consistent – If you want to achieve your dreams, you will have to keep at the task, even during the set backs. Push yourself to complete scheduled action steps even on days you may not want to do anything. These is how habits are developed. Many give up too soon, often just before the tipping point towards success occurs. Unless you know it’s time to try another dream, stay consistent with the one in front of you.

Get started now – The longer you wait, the more you delay achievement and the less likely you are to begin. If you know the dream is worth achieving, if you are confidant it’s a God-honoring, morally right, and worthy dream, then start today!

What is one dream you have yet to attain? Why not take one meaningful step to get started today?

YouVersion Changes Lives

If you have a smart phone or a computer, you never have to leave home again without your Bible!

I love what the team at LifeChurch.tv has done to encourage Bible reading through their work with YouVersion. Our church uses the live version each Sunday (sign up HERE) and it has started to catch on with people. YouVersion continues to improve their offerings for churches. Consider these additions:

Free Bible Pages
http://bit.ly/ajTkjP

Desiring to help people from every walk of life spend time with God’s Word, they are offering “Free Bible pages” that your denomination, organization, or individual church can use to connect people to the life-transforming power of the Holy Spirit as they engage in Scripture.

For no cost, they will create two Free Bible pages: one that is optimized for mobile devices and another on YouVersion.com. Both will feature your logo and a personal message from your organization. Then, very simply, anyone can download the free Bible App and start reading the Bible, thanks to you!

Reading Plans
http://www.youversion.com/about/reading-plans

More than 20 Reading Plans are helping people actively engage in Scripture with YouVersion. Countless users have let us know that their lives have changed because they are spending more time reading the Bible with one of these plans. They are customizable, sharable, and free. And YouVersion allows you to share what you are reading and learning through social media connections like Twitter and Facebook.

YouVersion Live
http://www.youversion.com/about/live

YouVersion Live allows people to interact with church services on their phone. Using their mobile device or any computer with an Internet connection, individuals can vote on a poll and see the results live, ask questions anonymously, follow along with message outlines and take notes, see Bible verses from the sermon in context, give a tithe or offering, and request prayer.

Have you downloaded YouVersion to your phone or computer? Is it helping you read the Bible more?

Take Time for Excellence

Often it’s one revision…a second look…one additional opinion…that takes an idea or a project from “Okay” to noteworthy.

It happens for me when writing a sermon. If I take the time to finish, then sit on it 24 hours, then go back for one more critical look the message is always better than it was before.

Don’t rush excellence. There’s a balance between stalling too long and rushing through a decision.

For more thoughts on this subject read THIS POST.

Which do you lean towards…rushing through a project or stalling too long?

7 Suggestions for Planting a Church in a New Community

I was recently asked for any suggestions I have for planting a church in a different community from where you currently live and know. There is a group of 25 plus people who are leaving the comforts of home in California traveling to the state of Idaho to plant a church. I love that kind of faith.

If you don’t know, Grace Community Church is my hometown, so I am very familiar with our community, but I planted a church before this one in a city in which I didn’t know anyone well, so I have some experience in this area. Still, as I thought about these suggestions, I really believe they are shared for any church plant (perhaps even any church.)

Of course, these are given assuming you have a clear calling as to where you are to plant, but here are some of my suggestions for planting a church a another community. There are probably hundreds of others, but these were the first 7 that came to my mind:

Learn the culture – Every city, every village, and every group of people have their own unique identity. What matter’s most? What do they celebrate? Where do people live and play?  What do they do for fun?  What’s their language?  What are the traditions unique to this area?  What history do they value?

Learn the market – Are schools an option for a building? Is the community in a growth mode or a declining mode? What are the major problems, concerns and needs of the community? Who are the leading employers?  What are the demographics?

Learn the competition – Before you get too excited…it’s not other churches. It’s anything that has the people’s attention you are trying to reach besides a church.

Buy Into the Community – Immediately find ways to get personally involved in the community with volunteer investment. That could be through the Chamber of Commerce, schools, festivals, etc.  Give back…believe it or not, that gets attention.

Have a prayer team – There should be a group of people praying for this community, the church plant, and the leaders on a daily basis. Who are those people?

Develop patience - It is harder than you think it will be. It just is. Church planting…really any ministry…takes a tremendous toll on you physically, mentally and even spiritually.

Protect your family – Just as church plants are stressful on the planter, they are equally challenging for the planter’s family. This may be especially true in a relocation, since much of their support system is being replaced. Protect your family by discipling your time and not losing them as your primary focus. As much as possible, involve them in the work so they understand it’s value and get to share in the rewards.

Church planting is tough, but like all actions of faith and obedience, God uses the sacrifices to reach hurting people and change their life for His glory.

Planters, let me hear from you…what would you add to my list?

Organizational Tip: Give Permission to Be Spontaneous

Recently I attended the Story Conference in Chicago. It was a two day conference for the creative-minded packed full of the best ideas available to communicate our story to the world.  It was a well-planned and scripted time and Ben Arment, the conference founder, is to be commended for the event.

The greatest moment for me, however, happened in a split moment.  To understand the moment you need to know that the conference venue, Park Church is strategically located in the heart of Chicago. They have a beautiful renovated building. The worship center can be made extremely dark, but there are windows in the room that face the city. At one point, we were singing a worship song about spreading the news of Jesus to the world and suddenly the curtains opened to the city of Chicago. In a split second, we had the vision that our mission was clear.  We were to take the love we have for Christ to the people outside the walls of the auditorium.

I was talking with one of the leader’s of the conference after this experience and he told me that it was a split second decision to open the curtains.  It wasn’t planned.  The greatest moment, for me at least, wasn’t scripted ahead of time.  It reminded of an important life and leadership principle.

We must always allow time and grant permission for the spontaneous moments to occur…the interruption…the unplanned bursts of genius. I’m a planner, but spontaneity can often be the spice of life.  All of us need to leave margin enough in our calendars for God-moments and times of spontaneity. 

Here’s my question:  Is that easy or difficult for you to allow margin for the unexpected to occur?

Seth Godin – Everything in this Economy has Changed #Cat10

Seth Godin is possibly one of the most influential authors, bloggers and leadership thought changers in the world today. His anticipated message at Catalyst began with Seth sharing how he made a $40 billion mistake.

In 1992, Godin was a book packager with an Internet company when the Internet was still new. Godin had an idea. He packaged it into a book. He sold the book for $70,000. The book sold 850 copies. Not bad…at the same time, however, a start-up company named Yahoo was implementing that same idea. He was trying to write a book. They were trying to change the world.

That type of attitude shown by Yahoo is what it takes these days to make a difference in this new economy.

Using his classic wisdom, Godin encouraged the audience with continuous, rapid and quotable nuggets of wisdom. Here are some: (Understand, Godin spills this stuff out fast…so these are as close to what he said as I could type.)

  • We have to teach people to be able to solve problems.
  • A revolution is destroying the industrial revolution.
  • Institutions embrace compliance. Compliance doesn’t work
  • We are more connected than ever before…it’s connection that makes a difference…not compliance…
  • You don’t win by being complaint, you win by being connected…
  • Boring doesn’t work…
  • If you want to succeed, you have to be prepared to fail…
  • Art is a human act that changes someone…
  • We need people willing to make a change even if they have to face set-backs and failures at first.
  • We should be rewarding those who are willing to make a mistake.
  • You need to learn to make decisions on your own and not wait for a boss to tell you what to do.
  • Change is made by individuals who eagerly accept responsibility, but don’t demand authority.
  • You have to quit trying to fit in…instead you should try to make a difference.
  • Maybe you should fire people that always do the right things… they are not failing and playing it safe.

Andy Stanley asked a powerful question at the end of this talk. What do you do if you are in a bureaucratic environment? Seth’s answer: Stop lying. You’re not in a communistic environment. You have the flexibility to help make one change a day.

Leaders need to hear this talk, but especially young leaders and those who want to make a difference these days. To order the resources from this conference, click HERE.

Which of these nuggets of wisdom jumps out at you the most?

Scott Harrison Shares About Charity Water #Cat10

Scott Harrison, founder of Charity Water, shared his heart to get clean water around the world.  There are many good organizations sharing this passion.  Surely as believers, we can address this situation.

Consider these facts Scott shared:

  • 1 billion people in the world do not have access to clean water
  • In the United States, the average person is responsible for using 150 gallons of clean water per day.
  • The goal is to get people who have none 5 gallons per day.
  • People carry dirty water for miles, just to have some.
  • 80% of disease is related to unclean water.
  • Children are especially vulnerable to lack of clean water.
  • Half the world’s schools do not have clean water.
  • 40 Billion hours are wasted trying to get clean water…more than all the work hours in the
  • Typical well costs only $5,000 and can produce 5 gallons of clean water every 90 seconds.
  • Water changes communities by bringing hope and dignity to a community.

Read more startling facts HERE.

Learn more about how you can help HERE.

I love people who combine passion and heart with action to address a real need.

What’s your passion?  What are you going to do about it?