Q16: Learning,Forgetting, Re-Learning...

Question: How do you know you have learned something? 

You definitely have not learned something just because you did well on an academic style exam which 'tested' your knowledge of the subject.  Beyond that, this question is ridiculously hard to answer.  A subject of philosophers and educational academics throughout the ages...

Broadly, just to offer some thoughts on the subject, I think you need to ask what it is you are trying to learn.  Is it an applied life-skill?  A fine-motor skill? A piece of information? An equation or a formula? What?  Because in each of these different cases, having learned that something will look different.  

If it is a piece of information, you have learned, or at least learned of it, the first time you come across it.  If your asking how you know when you will remember it, that's highly individual.  I know I will remember something if I repeat it enough, or if it had a major impact on my life, or if it is a piece of information that is so completely useless that to not remember it would be absurd.  

If it is a formula or an equation, then frequent 'testing' in the sense of seeing if you still know it ought to tell you when you remember it.  To know if you have learned it you should do two things: be able to manipulate it, and be able to explain it in simple terms. 

But I think the question probably has life lessons, faith issues, and applicable skills in mind.  That is where it all falls apart.  As I shared in this post, I thought I knew about organizational change, but then I found out how wrong I was.  So when did I learn it? When I had the head knowledge?  When I had some experience? Or have I still not learned those lessons?  I know I will make mistakes again in the future in this area... does that mean I haven't learned this stuff? 

If you are asking when you know you will not make that mistake again, or when you will finally understand issue/person X, then I am going to go with... never.  You will always make mistakes again.  That confusing person will not suddenly become clear; even if you get to a point you think you understand them, they will change.  

One of my favorite concepts, which seems to be nearly universally applicable, is that of the hermeneutical spiral (ok, not really universal application, but it comes up a lot).  Hermeneutics is the art of interpretation.  As a word it is used particularly of understanding biblical, and ancient, texts.  However, the idea of the spiral can be easily broadened.  

Let me explain it in brief.  When we approach a subject (no matter the nature of the subject), we do so with a pre-understanding.  We come with already formulated ideas and beliefs.  Then, we interact with the subject on the basis of that pre-understanding. As we do so our understanding is altered, which allows us to come to a deeper understanding.  Lather, rinse, repeat. 

This process continues and we spiral towards the ever elusive 'true understanding' (which, philosophically speaking, we never quite reach).  You can add words like dialogue, experience, and practice to this process, but I think you get the idea.  

Incidentally, discovering this about your spouse is one of the things which makes marriage such a fun and amazing experience; there is always more to learn, more to know, more to understand.  Of course it also opens the door to ever new stupid mistakes, but that's OK.  For Kristina, to get to know her better and love her more, I would taste foot every day!

So, we spiral towards the truth.  You can picture it as a journey spiraling up to the top of a mountain, it's misty heights lost in a fantasy landscape far above your heard.  Or, you could picture it as a being flushed down the world's biggest toilet.  Personally, I would go with the former. 


Kindle Review

As you may, or may not, know I recently received a 3rd generation graphite Kindle (wi-fi only) for my birthday.  Kristina, my wife, who is wonderful, beautiful,and very thoughtful, got it for me. She gave it to me early because I accidentally found out I was getting it, and because Amazon shipped it so ridiculously fast.  

Consider E-Readers

I had been thinking about getting an e-reader for several months.  What that really means is I had been spending exorbitant amounts of time looking at them on the net, comparing them, reading reviews, drooling, and dreaming.  There are so many to choose from; how could I know which one I wanted?  To make matters worse, you can't actually get your hands on most of them to try them out (I was able to test some Sony models, some Kindles, and a Nook).  Not only that, but did I really need one? Or was this just my gadget fetish flaring up again? 

In the end, I decided that yes, I did want an e-reader.  It would allow me to read all the free stuff I had sitting on my computer that I never got around to because I hate reading on the computer.  I don't know why, but sitting in front of a computer all day for work doesn't hurt my eyes, but focusing in to read stuff does.  I think that most of the time I am jumping around; from screen to book to paper to people, or just browsing the screen, and so on.  Reading... it doesn't work for me on an LCD monitor.  Also, working on a computer all day really takes the motivation away from sitting in front of the computer some more for relaxing reading.  

Do you know that the entire collection of 37 volumes of the works of the early church fathers is available for free?  Or that you can get most of G.K. Chesterton's works, most of the famous spiritualists and mystics throughout Christian history, things like Anselm and Aquinas, and much more, also for free?  Do you know how frustrating it is to have those kinds of resources just within your reach, but so far out of your grasp? I do. And an E-Reader promised to solve all of that. 

Not to mention the fast and easy access to other books I want to read, the cool-ness factor, and the ease of use in travelling. 

Consider Kindle

That still left me with one crucial question: Which one? 

A friend had recently purchased a Sony PRS-900 (Daily Edition) and explained to me all the reasons it was the best way to go.  And it does look awesome, I have to admit.  From a hardware perspective, it beats out the Kindle DX (which is Amazon's top of the line model).  Sony has more memory available (expandable slots, more money required, but its also cheaper), comes with a case, reportedly deals with PDF's more elegantly, and it has a touch screen.  Sony also supports the EPub format, which is one of the more common public (free) e-reader formats.  

That said, I clearly didn't get a Sony PRS-900.  Here's why.  First of all, I played with the Sony's, and while I understand the draw of a touch screen, I didn't like the interface at all.  This is completely personal preference here, but I like a keyboard I can feel.  Comparing the two, I can navigate my kindle as fast as I could a Sony, with no more problems.  The software in each has its own quirks, but the interfaces are, in my mind, equal from a technical point of view.  Secondly, the high-end models are too much money for me.  I don't want to spend $300+ dollars on an e-reader (though the Sony is now down to $250 preshipping/customs; still too much).  Thirdly, the bigger models, and particularly the Sony, felt chunky (some like the metal and the size; I did not.  More personal preferences).  And the refresh rate/display settings were irritating (again, particularly on the Sony).  

So, I was down to the lower end models.  In that category, Kindle is a clear winner.  The 3rd generation is very smooth, has a good interface, and is cheaper than Sony's low end models.  They all have more than enough memory (3500 books? How much do you need?). 

There is one more area to consider, and that is product availability.  It is simply better and easier on the Kindle.  You buy straight off your reader, rather than on your computer (though you still can).  If you have a file you want, you can email it to your own personal Kindle email address and they will send it to your reader, even converting it if you need to, all for free.  So far I have converted over two-dozen PDF files and only one has not worked very well (still usable, but annoying).  This is important because an unconverted PDF file involves scanning back and forth across the page or else reading incredibly small type with a magnifying glass. 

Owning a Kindle

I have now owned this device for 1 week.  In that week I have read those two-dozen PDF files, all of which had been sitting on my computer waiting for somewhere between a month and a year. I have downloaded lots of free books and read a couple.  I even got through the first draft of a friends DMin project (100 page word documents are fun!).  

So, was it a good gift?  Amazingly so.  Do I recommend them for everyone?  That is more complicated. 

E-Readers are constant exercises in self-discipline and require continuous vigilance against hoarding.  All those books available in seconds... it's tough.  Not only that, but think about these few details: any book you buy on an E-Reader cannot be lent to a friend later (you know, after your finished that amazing book and want to share it with someone?  Bam! Too bad, soo sad).  You can't sell them later to used book stores.  You don't get the cool covers of the book (and that's big when you judge books by their covers like I do; you mean I have to read the publishers description? Whaaa!). Lastly, If you do all your reading on an e-reader, you lose the experience of browsing in a book store (and that is a very important experience!).

Those are the negatives; the positives I have already mostly mentioned.  Easy reading (it really is like reading paper), lots of free stuff, read computer documents, so convenient, not too much money, and geeky cool.  

So, if you have a modicum of self-discipline, plan to read free stuff and/or computer documents, and promise to still buy some books in paper (or at least stop by a book store every once and a while), then yes, I recommend both E-Readers and the Kindle strongly.  

Conclusion: 5 Stars, Conditionally Recommended.  So much goodness, so little time!


Q:15 Solomon's Choice

Question: If God granted you one request what would you ask for and why? How will your request be viewed from others around you? (Or: if you had one wish, what would you wish for and what would others think of that wish?)

In so many ways, this is really a rewording of Solomon's choice in 1 Kings 3.  Knowing that makes it hard to answer though; how can I now, having pointed out the similarity, ask for anything but wisdom? 

Well, there is one way, and that is to take my answer from somewhere else in the bible!  Shocking, I know.  But, this is really what I would ask for: 

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with powerthrough his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge--that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.
Ephesians 3:16-21

I would ask to know the love of Christ and be filled to all the measure of the fullness of God.  I would ask this because I think this is the most important thing anyone can have, a knowledge (not head knowledge, but full-bodied, Hebrew, experienced and known, knowledge) of the love of Christ and living in His fullness. 

I don't know how others would view this.  Overly spiritual?  Too 'goody-two-shoes'?  Admirable or interesting?  You tell me. And answer the question to; what would you ask for. 


Blog Action Day: Water

I don't know if you pay attention to things like the links on the side of my blog or not.  I totally understand if you don't.  But, if you do, you may have noticed that I added a second 'advertisement' this week.  Up until now the only banner has been for Compassion International.  However, I signed up to be a part of "Blog Action Day" and so I added their widget as well. 

Well, now the day has come.  Today is blog action day! And our topic is water.  Basically, clean water is super important (if you didn't know that, then I advise you to stop drinking out of those muddy puddles in your curb) and a lot of people around the world don't have it.  You thought that joke about muddy puddles was funny?  People actually drink from water like that, and as a result, among other things, 38000 children die every week.  Think about that.  The number is simply staggering and heart-breaking.  I saw a bumper sticker today, and I liked it.  It said this: "If your not OUTRAGED then your not paying attention."  I don't think you can say that any better. 

Or try this one on for size.  Did you know that more people have access to cell-phones than toilets?  Which would you rather have?  (If you answered cell-phone then I would like to invite you over to just change one poopy diaper.  Just one.  See what you think about not having a toilet then)

In July of this year the U.N. declared access to clean drinking water and sanitation to be a basic human right. This in a world where approximately 884 million do not have clean water and 2.6 billion do not have basic sanitation.  To follow up this declaration, the U.N. has also released several MDG's (millenium development goals) whose purpose is to halve those numbers by 2015.  

There is so much to learn about water and the world situations surrounding it.  The Blog Action Day website has a list of suggested topics to blog on, complete with links to follow for more information, here.  Check it out, and learn some for yourself. 

In the meantime there are a few things you can do.  Support organizations that drill wells for communities around the world.  Stop drinking bottled water.  Don't waste water (we all do it, so just stop :).  Buy locally grown food (bet you didn't see that one coming. But transporting food from around the world doesn't just use up oil).  Look it up; ways to save water abound. You could start here or here or here.  I could go on, but you get my drips.


Q14: Learning from Failure and Success

Question: In your own life have you learned more from your failures or from your achievements and success?

"God will not look you over for medals, diplomas, or honors, but for scars." - Brennan Manning

What have I learned more from? My failures, unquestionably.  I am not saying it couldn't be the other way, but for most of us it isn't, and definitely not for me.  Let's talk about why. 

When I succeed I tend to reflect less.  I don't examine closely and carefully the reasons for my success.  I am prone to attribute my success to whatever I thought would make me succeed in the first place.  

Have you ever heard the joke about the Canadian man who whistled for at least 15 minutes everyday?  His friend asked him why he did that and the man told him that it keeps the elephants away.  His friend sputters and the man looks at him and says "Clearly it works, you never see elephants around here, do you?" 

That kind of reasoning is nonsensical but I think we often do much the same things when dealing with our achievements and successes.  We set out with an idea of how to make things work, they work, and so we attribute that success to our initial ideas.  But more often than not our success is much more complicated than we know.  It probably has some randomness about it, lots of factors which are completely out of our control, and for all we know our ideas on how to succeed hurt more than they helped.  

Malcolm Gladwell, in Outliers, shows that great success requires great investment from us as well as huge numbers of external circumstances to line up in our favor.  Another good book on this subject is What Got You Here Won't Get You There by Marshall Goldsmith.  In it he examines how the factors which once contributed to success in the workplace can quickly become a problem. 

Meanwhile, when I fail, I do reflect and examine what has happened.  I look at both my own mistakes and some of the complicated external factors which contributed to my failure.  Initially, this divergence in attitude arises from my desire to credit myself with my successes and blame something else for my failures.  It is comforting to find out that, in most cases, at least part of my failure was out of my control.  I don't really want to learn that about my successes, but it is no less true. By now I should know to try to learn appropriately from both success and failure, but in many instances I don't. 

Some of the biggest learned from failures in my life include running from God out of high-school, burning out in my second year university, trying and failing to make positive changes in Campus Crusade for Christ at anything other than a small group/campus level, and repeatedly failing to break free from my pornography addiction on my own. 

Through running from God I began to appreciate just how much He loves me and desires my best.  Through burning out I realized that not only am I not Jesus, I am not even Asian :) I have limits, and most of the time I break first.  From beating my head against the wall trying to change an organization I began to see how the process of change actually works, which things are important and which aren't, how to unify instead of divide a group, and lots of things not to do.  And from failing to break free from my addiction on my own I came to realize just how much I need help, how weak I am, and how communal human beings are designed to be.  

All of these experiences have left their marks on me, scars that define who I am.  I recently bought Chris Sligh's album "The Anatomy of Broken."  On it he has a song, entitled scars and referring to the Manning quote above, that talks about this (I couldn't find a youtube link for the song.  If you want to hear it, buy it off ITunes or something :)

Cuz light only shines, yeah light only shines
From the places where we’re broken
And that’s where we find, that’s where we find
That grace begins

It’s easy now to let it (them) go
The only thing that’s left to show
That love has healed our broken hearts
Is scars

I wish I was teachable enough for God to just tell me stuff, but until that day comes I will accept the wisdom he passes on through my weakness and the strength I have in God when I fail.  

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
- 2 Corinthians 12:7-10


Living Encouragement

A few days ago I posted on Encouragement. I wrote about how powerful our words are in the lives of those around us.  But, there is another way to encourage, powerful in its own right, and that is encouragement in action, or "Living Encouragement".  These two paths stand and fall together, they belong together like hand and glove. Actions without words can encourage, but they are often direction-less encouragement.  Words without actions quickly become flat, hypocritical, and useless. Together, directed by the Holy Spirit in the name of Jesus for the mission of the Father, they change lives.  

James warns us about separating the two: "If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, 'Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,' and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead." And I would venture to say the same thing of encouragement: So encouragement by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

Sometimes the action required is simple.  Sometimes it is those words I spoke of last time.  Other times all we need is a loving presence; a friend by our side, standing with us in our need. Still other times we need practical, or impractical, help of all kinds. 

A silly example comes to mind, something Hannah does which I find extremely cute.  This last summer Hannah took her first swimming 'lessons.'  Basically you play around and get the toddlers used to the water.  One of the things they try to get the kids to do is jump off the ledge so you can catch them.  Hannah caught on by the second week, and to encourage her in this learning we started getting her to jump to us from other things, like the ledge at Grandma and Grandpa's pool, or from the stairs at our house... She not only learned her lesson, she loved it.  When we talk to her and tell her to jump, she gets this big smile (like in the picture below), waves her arms up and down while giggling and then walks off the edge.  

This is great except for one thing... she has started doing it even when we don't ask her to jump, or when we are nowhere close to catch her. A couple of scary moments :)  But, the point is this: we encourage her verbally to jump, but she needs one more very important action from us; we have to catch her (duh!).  Our words and actions stand or fall together. 

Trite example, I know.  It works, it is true, and it is a good excuse to put up a cute picture of my favorite little girl. 

I can remember back in high-school, when I started taking my faith seriously, the youth intern at our church was very encouraging.  But he wasn't just encouraging in words, he did other things too.  He invited me to a book study with older students and young adults so that I could have some more mature role models and learn about my faith.  He lent me, and bought me, books to read so that I could seek out answers to my questions.  Those things had a huge effect on me.  The book study was The Jesus I Never Knew by Phillip Yancey and the first book he lent me was The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis.  Those actions kindled in me a passion for Christian literature which has continued into this day and been a major part of my spiritual journey. 

So, if your still thinking about encouragement then don't stop with words.  Use your words, the powerful gift you have in your tongue, to bring life.  At the same time, use your life to pour life into others.  

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, "Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.' " 
- John 7:37-38

Blog Tour: "Fatherless Generation" by John Sowers

John Sowers, Fatherless Generation: Redeeming the Story. Zondervan, 2010. 138 pgs. 

Thank you once again to engagingchurchblog.com for hosting this blog tour and providing the book for me to review.  

In this book Sowers tells the story of burgeoning fatherlessness in America and the results of this ongoing tragedy.  He tells this story through a mix of personal stories, both his own and those from others, information on what is happening and the consequences of it, and biblical passages which reveal the heart of God on this matter.  In short, being fatherless is having massive negative consequences on the lives of young men and women and we, as God's people, need to step up to be fathers to the fatherless, just as God himself proclaims that He is a father to the fatherless.    The book is divided into two sections.  The first examines the problem and the second examines the solution.  Sowers paradigm for helping is that of redeeming the story which, to him, means helping people who are fatherless to still turn their lives to good.  He urges the reader to get involved in this through mentorship and community.  

Fatherless Generation is a quick, clear, and motivating read.  It sounds a call which more churches and Christians need to hear and answer.  Single parent families are entirely too common.  We know about the negative consequences and, as Sowers shares, we also know how to ameliorate many of them while having a lasting impact in the lives of individuals who desperately need help.  

I found this book to be well written and interesting.  Sowers' blend of story with exhortation was very compelling.  After finishing this book I was left wanting in both the biblical theology and the practical application of solutions.  Therefore, I think the book would have benefited from being split into three sections, adding a dedicated middle section to the biblical theology which shows how important this is.  Doing so would have allowed for more dedicated time to be spent both on the biblical background as well as the practical working out of solutions.  

Conclusion: 4 out of 5 stars.  Recommended.  This is a real problem and we need to be God's light and love in the midst of it.  


Things We Say Wrong

Yes, I have bad grammar.  Feel free to point it out whenever you want to :)

In the meantime, I found this video hilarious!


Q13: Growing Up

Question: How do you know you have reached the 'when I grow up' stage?


Now there is a question which sends a rush of thoughts to my head.  Lost innocence as a substitute for wisdom, growing up to fast and extended adolescence, maturity and faked maturity, getting married at 13 and getting married at 21, and Someday Never Comes by CCR

If you have never heard that song, give it a listen.  Here is the first verse and chorus:

First thing I remember was askin' papa "why?"
For there were many things I didn't know. 
And Daddy always smiled; took me by the hand, 
Sayin', "Someday you'll understand." 

Well, I'm here to tell you now each and ev'ry mother's son
You better learn it fast and you better learn it young,
'Cause, "Someday" never comes. 

Thoughts Approaching the Question

When I hear this question I can't help thinking about how messed up our society has become about 'growing up.'  That is why all of those immediate thoughts are paired.  Growing up is, clearly, a largely culturally determined phenomenon.  People used to marry much younger, for example. I was married when I was 21, which is considered quite young by most people today.  Hundreds of years ago, women were 'ready' at age 13... Even in our own age, you can find different rites of passage being observed at different ages.  For example, can you drink at age 18, 19, or 21  (or before, but only certain beverages)? What about driving; licensed at 16, 17, 18?  The very idea of adolescence was invented about a century or so ago and our version of childhood is extremely different than anything which has come before. 

Why do I bring this up? Because in order to answer the question I have to define the answer which is embedded in the question: the definition of "grown up." There's the rub. Because if we mean by 'grown up' the point at which we have it all together, or feel more like we have it all together, or some version of 'figuring stuff out' then my answer is the same as the one you find in that song by CCR.  

If, instead, we want to determine 'grown up' by some set of external criteria (have a job, moved out of home, know where we are headed in life, etc.) then you will know you have reached that point when you have achieved all of those things.  Personally, I don't think that most of the mile-markers we fill in this gap with have much to do with growing up, but you gotta have goals right? 

If we are working with a vague, ill-defined, concept which amounts to an amalgamation of cultural expectations, personal goals, and elusive feelings, then I think that the anonymous commenter on my post "Topic Fail? Help?" probably got it right on: the day you stop asking is the day you have arrived. 

With that said, I would like to offer you my thoughts in three parts: what it means to grow up, a bit of my own story, and a conclusion. 

Growing up? What's that? 

Disclaimer: This is my vision of growing up, my thoughts on the subject if we could take it in an ideal light.  Clearly this is never the case.

Growing up is a process of change which affects several parts of us.  It is growing in maturity in all of our relationships: to ourselves, to our family and friends, to our communities and cultures, and to God.  We grow in our understanding of ourselves, our desires, our strengths and weaknesses.  At the same time, we realize how little we know about these things and so much more.  We grow in our ability to take responsibility, not only for own life but for the effects we have on others lives.  We become more able to step outside of ourselves but also more able to fully inhabit our selves.  We step away from some of the safety nets which we grew up in, specifically those which we must step away from in order to continue walking forward.  However, we also learn to value, appreciate, and guard those safety nets which can come with us.  The "ups and downs" of life continue, but we learn how to handle them a little bit better.  And we learn what matters, as in, what really matters.  

I think if I were to sum it up I would say this: we gain experience and perserverance.  If that is growing up, then it is no wonder that it is so culturally determined.  The more sheltered we are, the less experience we gain.  The more media saturated we are, the less experience we gain.  The less responsibility we are given in our lives, or in our choices, the less experience we gain.  In the west teenagers spend the majority of their time in over-filled classrooms with peers as their only real role-models, and we wonder why they lack maturity? Enough, or I will rant. 

About Me

When I was 'growing up' I was often looked at as 14 going on 30.  Or whatever age I happened to be. I was serious about life.  I liked video-games, but I liked reading more.  I joined a book club when I was in junior high; I invested a lot of my paper route, and then Dairy Queen, money into that club!  I had very little interest in many of those things which teens focus on: dating, partying, 'fitting in', etc.  Now, I am not saying I wasn't a teenager.  I most certainly was.  I had my fill of doing dumb things, laughing at ridiculous moments, goofing off with friends, and sleepovers.  Nor am I saying that this was somehow a better way to go; quite the opposite.  

As much as I was looked on as 'older than my years' or 'more mature than my age' I was not grown up.  You see, the people who looked at me like this had confused knowledge and focus for maturity.  Let me give you an example. 

In my second year university I took a directed studies course on hermeneutics. For this course I read a lot of books, wrote a 35 page paper, and had a verbal final exam which consisted of an interview with my professor in which he asked me questions for over an hour. At the end of that interview my prof told me that he wanted to ask me one more question.  I don't remember exactly how he asked it, but the gist of the question was this: if you are going to try to bring about change in an organization, what is the best speed and method?  My answer: Slowly, personally, simultaneously from the top down and the bottom up.  He looked at me shocked.  

Throughout the entire exam he had been firing questions at me one after the other.  I would barely get my answer out before the next question came.  This one was different.  After a long pause he shook his head and said "Your absolutely right, but how do you know that at your age?" At the time I was so flustered from the exam that I had no idea how to answer him.  I said something about it seeming the right answer, or the only way that would work, or something like that.  But, very quickly after the exam I realized where I had learned this truth: from books.  From fiction books no less.  I had assimilated that knowledge and done with it the same thing I did with all my book learning.  I remembered it and made it an answer.  

Two years later I was president of the Campus Crusade for Christ chapter at my university (now known as 'Campus for Christ', a much better name :).  I had been involved in leadership for two years already, this was my third.  Our group of students was dissatisfied with the way Crusade was run, had been in some verbal fights with the national leadership, and was itching to make changes.  So we ran hard and fast, changing what we could at a local level and basically ignoring everything else... As president and before I completely failed to follow my own advice.  

As I grew up, that was the difference for me.  Growing up was the process of actually learning all of the things I already knew, forgetting a bunch of other stuff, and finding out what really mattered in life. 


So, how did I know when I had reached the 'when I grow up' stage? I never really asked the question... I thought I had made it when I was 16 and got my license.  Then when I was 18 and legally an adult.  Then when I was 20, engaged, back on track with my faith, and new where I was 'going in life'.  Then when I was 21, newly married, and off to a foreign country to teach English.  If I have learned anything its that 'growing up' is the wrong goal. 

I have been growing for 28 years, and hope to continue doing so for many more.  I think Kristina, my wife, would be the first to tell you that I have plenty more 'growing up' to do :)  I hope to never lose all the important qualities of a child.  I hope to gain more and more experience, and to never forget what really matters. I hope to mature, "growing up into Him who is the head, that is, Christ" (Ephesians 4:15) until the day He calls me home.  



Now that I walk Hannah to the park 3-5 times a week I have suddenly and shockingly become aware of just how recklessly people drive through residential neighborhoods (have I driven like that? Never again!). Crossing the street is stressful, especially when Hannah wants to walk herself (which she does NOT get to do yet).  

Then, the other day I was approaching a curb with the intention of turning right. But, the curve goes right to the edge of the road and while pulling Hannah's red wagon, with her in it, I have to go right up to that edge before I can turn.  Meanwhile, a maroon SUV approached from my left, also intending to turn right.  Had he been like most drivers he would have gunned it to get around the corner before I got there (you know, just in case).  Instead, he stopped and waited.  This was especially nice since I wasn't even going to cross the street.

For just a moment, I was encouraged.

Then, this SUV pulled up and parked about 5 cars down the road, exactly where I was going to walk.  As I watched, thinking to myself that it was nice to see a good driver, I realized that I had a golden opportunity.  I had been thinking about this post, about being encouraging.  I slowed down and as he stepped out of his vehicle I expressed my gratitude and encouraged him.  He was understandably shocked but also very grateful.

One smile turned into two, and all it took was a moment and a kind word.

A man finds joy in giving an apt reply-- and how good is a timely word!
- Proverbs 15:23
 I know I am supposed to encourage others.  I appreciate it when others encourage me.  A simple phrase, a word or two, really can brighten up my entire day.  It does so for others too.  Why, then, are words of encouragement so rarely found on my lips?

See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily,as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.
- Hebrews 3:12-13
 Maybe you are like me.  When you walk into a fast food restaurant and you have to wait a long time, or a mistake is made on your order at a restaurant, or you are served rudely at a retail outlet, do you complain? I do.  But when things go right, when your food comes fast, your order is served perfectly, or the clerk is especially helpful, do you encourage? Not usually.  Somehow I expect things to go 'right'.  Therefore, when they do go 'right', I just got what I deserved; no action required.  But when they go 'wrong', then I have been slighted.  I must speak up to reclaim what is rightfully mine! And, oh how quick the criticism comes.

Those are just examples of people I don't even know.  What about the people we do know? What about family, friends, teachers, bosses? These are people we care for, aren't they? So why can't we go out of our way, even a little bit, to be encouraging? Somehow this attitude of deserving the best gets transferred to all these people we care about just as quickly as it gets put into the context of fast food.
An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.
- Proverbs 12:25
This whole trend, in myself and others, disturbs me.  It is time we realize that our tongues are the rudders of this ship we call our lives, that our words can bring life and death into the lives of those around us, and that we have a calling as Christians to spread the blessing and life of God.

All it takes is a moment, a simple word or two.  Maybe a hug as well :)

So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate,and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing....Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:6-11, 16-18