Sunday, November 30, 2008

Book Review: Outliers

Wrapped up another interesting book last night called Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell. In the book Gladwell shares several stories of people who were what we would call successful as well as some stories of others who were simply average or mediocre. All too often, he submits, we assume that people achieve success because of personal qualities. He suggests that there is something fundamentally wrong with the way we make sense of success.

His premise is that personal explanations of success are lacking; that people don't rise from nothing. Rather, they are in fact "invariably the beneficiaries of hidden advantages and extraordinary opportunities and cultural legacies that allow them to learn and work hard and make sense of the world in ways others cannot. It makes a difference where and when we grew up. The culture we belong to and the legacies passed down ... shape the patterns of our achievement in ways we cannot begin to imagine. It's not enough to ask what successful people are like, in other words. It is only by asking where they are from that we can unravel the logic behind who succeeds and who doesn't" (p. 19).

Two things that really stood out to me from the book that were helpful.

First, the book underscores the importance of family and community in the development and production of successful individuals. Yet he goes further than just one's family and community and digs into cultural background and history to understand why certain people tend to do well in certain things. He looks at some very intriguing studies in this regard. Gladwell admits that some of the findings he explores in the book are not always popular and that "we are often wary of making these kinds of broad generalizations about different ... groups - and with good reason. This is the form that ... stereotypes take. We want to believe that we are not prisoners of our ... histories." (p. 170)

While our legacies certainly do matter, the question I kept asking myself as I read was whether we are simply bound by our pasts and products of our environments, or is there any hope for change? Two-thirds of the way through the book I finally got my answer, and with it a glimmer of hope. Speaking of someone in one of his case studies who was seeking to bring about reform he observes, "But he didn't assume that legacies are an indelible pare of who we are. [This leader for reform] believed that if [they] were honest about where they came from and were willing to confront those aspects of their heritage that did not suit [their occupation], they could change" (p. 219).

The second thing that really grabbed me was The 10,000 Hour Rule. Researchers have settled on what they believe to be the magic number of hours needed for true expertise: 10,000 hours. "Ten-thousand hours of practice is required to achieve the level of mastery associated with being a world-class expert - in anything" (p. 40). Reinforcing the importance of family and community in this process he notes that it is all but impossible to achieve this all by yourself by the time you're a young adult. You need parents to support and encourage you. The significance of the 10,000 hour rule is that in our microwave popcorn society, we want instant success. This rule reminds us that the crucible of time and practice, and patience with the process is absolutely essential to success. We are far too quick to dismiss people or write them off as failures when we should be giving them our support and encouragement to press through and achieve the greatness God has destined them to.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Teen Finds $10,000

"A 17-year-old grocery bagger was ready to wash his hands in the bathroom at the Federal Way supermarket where he works when he saw a brown canvas money bag on the floor.

Moisei Baraniuc was curious. He opened it and saw envelopes filled with money – “a pretty thick stack.”

Thick enough to add up to $10,000.

What did he do with it? Read the full story here:

When I Say "I am a Christian"

Stumbled Upon this poem today ...

When I say, "I am a Christian," I'm not shouting, "I've been saved!"
I'm whispering, "I get lost! That's why I chose this way"

When I say, "I am a Christian," I don't speak with human pride
I'm confessing that I stumble-needing God to be my guide

When I say, "I am a Christian," I'm not trying to be strong
I'm professing that I'm weak and pray for strength to carry on

When I say, "I am a Christian," I'm not bragging of success
I'm admitting that I've failed and cannot ever pay the debt

When I say, "I am a Christian," I don't think I know it all
I submit to my confusion asking humbly to be taught

When I say, "I am a Christian," I'm not claiming to be perfect
My flaws are far too visible but God believes I'm worth it

When I say, "I am a Christian," I still feel the sting of pain
I have my share of heartache which is why I seek His name

When I say, "I am a Christian," I do not wish to judge
I have no authority--I only know I'm loved

Copyright 1988 Carol Wimmer

Student Goes from Totally Disconnected to Fully Connected!

Last year our theme at Planet Impact was Connect and we focused on the purpose of fellowship. No one embodies the picture of someone going from totally disconnected to fully connected this past year than Brendon Visser. Hear his incredible testimony which he shared at our Thanksgiving service. So great!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Trees, Termites, Teachable Moments & a Terrific 7-Year Old

Today my 7-year old and I were a little stressed out around the house, so I invited her to go out with me for a little daddy-daughter time. We enjoyed some Starbucks coffee and an apple fritter and then went to a park near our house for a walk. As we walked she was getting a little sluggish asking if we could turn around, so I decided to help her get in touch with her senses. I asked her to stop and listen and tell me what she heard. I asked her to look around, smell, and touch some various things along the path. This helped get her mind off of the monotony of just walking. A couple of lessons we learned together.

We found a massive tree which had fallen. Upon closer examination we discovered that it had been destroyed by termites. Lesson: Even little termites can take down big trees. I asked her how that was possible and she pointed to their working together. I told her that even though she may be little herself, she can make a big difference in the world.

We also found a large tree growing right next to the lake. Its roots were running right down the bank toward the water. We talked about the life and strength of this tree and why it stood a good chance of having a long and successful life. When we got back to the car we read Psalm 1:1-4 together which says:

"Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. Not so the wicked! They are like chaff that the wind blows away."

Embracing the teachable moments,


Book Review: Tribes by Seth Godin

Last week I picked up and read a neat little leadership book by Seth Godin called Tribes. It is a secular book on leadership but contains a great challenge to get out of the boat, embrace the challenge, and take the risk of leading. The back cover contains this statement: "If you think leadership is only for other people, you're wrong. We need YOU to lead us." Godin suggests that in today's unprecedented, globally connected Internet world, we don't have time to sit around and wait for other people to step out and lead. It is up to us to embrace something worth living for - something we're passionate about - and go for it. He takes a Nike kind of approach basically saying, "Just do it!"

He defines a tribe as "a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea." Whereas in the past tribes have always been restricted by geography, in today's world, thanks to the Internet, tribes are made up of individuals from around the globe. "Tribes are everywhere today," says Godin, "and they are yearning for leadership and connection. This is an opportunity for you - an opportunity to find or assemble a tribe and lead it. The question isn't, Is it possible for me to do that? Now the question is, Will I choose to do it?"

One of my favorite concepts in the book is the idea that the kind of leaders we need today are those Godin calls "heretics" (e.g. Martin Luther and his Ninety-Five Thesis) - people who will ...

believe in their ideas,

challenge the status-quo,

reach out to others,

listen ("[Ronald] Regan's secret, is to listen, to value what you hear, and then to make a decision even if it contradicts the very people you are listening to ... People want to be sure you heard what they said - they're less focused on whether or not you do what they said."),

put their ideas on the line,

create things that are worthy of criticism,

take risks ("It's a certainty that there's risk. The safer you play your plans for the future, the riskier it actually is. That's because the world is certainly, definitely, and more than possibly changing."),

be willing to be wrong ("The secret of being wrong isn't to avoid being wrong. The secret is being willing to be wrong. The secret is realizing that wrong isn't fatal. The only thing that makes people and organizations great is their willingness to be not great along the way. The desire to fail on the way to reaching a bigger goal is the untold secret of success."),

and take initiative to lead.

There were a few things in the book that I didn't agree with, especially when it comes to a specifically Christian leadership setting (i.e. "Exclude outsiders: Exclusion is a powerful force for loyalty and attention"). One of my favorite words and guiding philosophies of ministry is inclusion. To be sure we need to define who we are and what we're about. But we need to always be welcoming of everyone, even if they don't agree with us. Godin suggests that we should set up our tribe and if people don't like it they can just go start another tribe. That's where it becomes apparent that not all of his ideas are transferable to a spiritual entity like the Church because they are not compatible with the life and teachings of Jesus which is our standard. While there are some bones that need to be spit out, it is nevertheless a good little book with some solid food for those who are hungry to grow as leaders.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! This morning I played 3 1/2 hours of touch football with about 25 guys. I was trying to think of the last time I did that, and I think it was about 9 years ago in the Regent Village. Wow! Add to that the fact that 7 months ago I was using a walker after back surgery, and I am thankful for the Lord's healing touch. I am also so thankful for my beautiful wife and daughters. They are so awesome! After so many years with a house loaded with people for Thanksgiving, this year we decided to enjoy the day by ourselves. Claudia the chef helped mom make the food, and Natalia won the battle of the wishbone and gets to pick out a movie for the family to watch tomorrow night. (Not tonight. Cowboys are playing! lol) We thank the Lord for all of you our friends and family and pray the Lord's grace upon you during this joyous holiday season!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Movie Review: Twilight

Several years ago, I vaguely remember my tween-age daughter telling me about Twilight, a new book that she and her friends were reading. Mom had looked it over and assured me it was no big deal. Now, flash forward to opening night of the new big screen version of Twilight and I can tell you from being there, the words “Big Deal” are a HUGE understatement. At our nearest theater, young girls (and their moms) were in line two hours in advance of the theater doors opening and, on a national level, Fandango reported that they had been selling 5 Twilight tickets per second as of early Friday morning, “making Twilight online ticket-seller Fandango's fastest-selling film since The Dark Knight last July.” Yes, it’s a very big deal and the young ladies in your youth group will definitely be seeing this one.

Read entire review by Smitty Wheeler

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

Serving Jesus with my Daughters!

On Saturday my daughters and I spent a few hours helping out with our church's Thanksgiving food drive. We helped sort, pack, and load some of the 230+ food boxes that were given out by our church. We also helped tear down and clean up. I am glad that my daughters know that serving Jesus by serving others is so much fun.

Thanksgiving Presentation

Last week my 7-year old and her class ran the chapel at school. They did several pieces in honor of Thanksgiving. Her teacher said she was the leader of her section for all of the other kids to follow. You go girl!

Mr. Bean Air Drumming

Saturday, November 22, 2008

How to Become an Early Riser

If you know me, you know that I am the epitome of a night owl. I have often found myself laying awake late at night considering the fact that many people whom I respect as being highly successful are morning people, and I have wondered if I could ever become a morning person myself. But, of course, after laying awake half the night thinking about it leaves me unable to wake up early the next morning. lol

I found this article by Steve Pavlina that I thought was interesting. I am not sure if I will go for it just yet, but it certainly has me thinking.

It is well to be up before daybreak, for such habits contribute to health, wealth, and wisdom.- Aristotle

Are morning people born or made? In my case it was definitely made. In my early 20s, I rarely went to bed before midnight, and I’d almost always sleep in late. I usually didn’t start hitting my stride each day until late afternoon.

But after a while I couldn’t ignore the high correlation between success and rising early, even in my own life. On those rare occasions where I did get up early, I noticed that my productivity was almost always higher, not just in the morning but all throughout the day. And I also noticed a significant feeling of well-being. So being the proactive goal-achiever I was, I set out to become a habitual early riser. I promptly set my alarm clock for 5AM…
… and the next morning, I got up just before noon. Hmmm…

Read the entire article here:

Beatboxing Flute & Cello @ Union Square

The Ordinary Radicals Trailer

The Ordinary Radicals - Trailer from Jamie Moffett on Vimeo.

Friday, November 21, 2008

100 Ways You Can Improve The Environment

Stumbled on this today. Follow the link and you can save as a PDF.

What Would You Do? Holiday Special

During the months of November and December I am offering a special on my book ... $8 (regular price $10.99) for a signed copy + $2 shipping and handling per order. e-mail me @ or with the phrase "Heck Yes!" in the Subject line for ordering details. Thanks for showing your support!

Can You Say Hobbit Home?

Check out this incredibly beautiful home a guy built in Wales that I Stumbled upon:

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Unhappy People Watch More TV: Study

Unhappy people watch more TV: study

By James Hibberd James Hibberd

Tue Nov 18, 4:45 am ET

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) – An extensive new research study has found that unhappy people watch more TV while those consider themselves happy spend more time reading and socializing.

The University of Maryland analyzed 34 years of data collected from more than 45,000 participants and found that watching TV might make you feel good in the short term but is more likely to lead to overall unhappiness. "The pattern for daily TV use is particularly dramatic, with 'not happy' people estimating over 30 percent more TV hours per day than 'very happy' people," the study says. "Television viewing is a pleasurable enough activity with no lasting benefit, and it pushes aside time spent in other activities -- ones that might be less immediately pleasurable, but that would provide long-term benefits in one's condition. In other words, TV does cause people to be less happy."

The study, published in the December issue of Social Indicators Research, analyzed data from thousands of people who recorded their daily activities in diaries over the course of several decades. Researchers found that activities such as sex, reading and socializing correlated with the highest levels of overall happiness.

Watching TV, on the other hand, was the only activity that had a direct correlation with unhappiness.

"TV is not judgmental nor difficult, so people with few social skills or resources for other activities can engage in it," says the study. "Furthermore, chronic unhappiness can be socially and personally debilitating and can interfere with work and most social and personal activities, but even the unhappiest people can click a remote and be passively entertained by a TV. In other words, the causal order is reversed for people who watch television; unhappiness leads to television viewing."

Unhappily married couples also watch more TV: "(Happily married couples) engage in 30 percent more sex, and they attend religious services more and read newspapers on more days," reports the study. "While those not happy with their marriages watch more TV."

Yet there may be good news here for broadcasters. Commenting on the study, co-author John P. Robinson said the worsening economy could boost TV viewing.

"Through good and bad economic times, our diary studies, have consistently found that work is the major activity correlate of higher TV viewing hours," Robinson says. "As people have progressively more time on their hands, viewing hours increase."

Concludes the study: "These points have parallels with addiction; since addictive activities produce momentary pleasure but long-term misery and regret. People most vulnerable to addiction tend to be socially or personally disadvantaged, with TV becoming an opiate."

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Book Review: The Dirty Little Secret

It's something a lot of people (perhaps even a majority of people) in this day and age struggle with, yet nobody wants to talk about it. If you don't struggle with it, you know someone who does - even if you don't know that you do. Pornography.

In his book The Dirty Little Secret author and founder of XXXChurch Craig Gross tackles the problem of pornography head on. Yet he does it in a way that is foreign yet fresh (and refreshing) from the Christian community. Rather than vilifying those within the porn industry or offering 3 easy steps to breaking free from porn, Gross takes the approach of putting a face on porn. Telling stories of porn addicts, porn stars, porn producers, as well as family members and friends of the a fore mentioned, he takes the readers behind the facade of the glitz and glamour trying to get to the truth about porn and its affect on individuals, relationships, and society. Along the way he gives bits of helpful advice, but his focus is clearly on telling real-life stories.

Overall I found the book to be quite good. What I love in particular about Craig Gross and XXXChurch is their approach of love and grace, and their invitation to conversation about this taboo subject. My only observation/concern (although perhaps, unfortunately, due to the availability and easy access of porn today it is more than likely a moot point) is that in trying to be explanatory this book could inadvertently do what some other well-intentioned books on this topic have done, and actually be offering ideas to readers through detailed descriptions, i.e. names of people, websites, companies, etc. Due to this fact I would advise cautionary discretion for potential readers. It is definitely for mature audiences as Craig pulls no punches when sharing the painful truth about porn.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Twilight ... Should You See It?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Schoolgirl Drafted by Pro Baseball

Yahoo! News
Mon Nov 17, 1:30 am ET

AFP – Eri Yoshida, seen here, a 16-year-old schoolgirl with a mean knuckleball has been selected as the first …

TOKYO (AFP) – A 16-year-old schoolgirl with a mean knuckleball has been selected as the first woman ever to play alongside the men in Japanese professional baseball.

Eri Yoshida was drafted for a new independent league that will launch in April, drawing attention for a side-armed knuckler that her future manager Yoshihiro Nakata said was a marvel.

"I never dreamed of getting drafted," Yoshida told reporters Monday, a day after she was selected to play for the Kobe 9 Cruise.

"I have only just been picked by the team and have not achieved anything," she said. "I want to play as a pro eventually in a higher league."

Yoshida, 155 centimetres (five feet) tall and weighing 52 kilograms (114 pounds), says she wants to follow in the footsteps of the great Boston Red Sox knuckleballer Tim Wakefield.

A female professional baseball federation existed for a few years in the 1950s, but Yoshida will become Japan's first-ever woman to play alongside professional male players.

Copiague teen found dead from gunshot wound to head

Please pray! This young man was the grandson of some folks in our church.

Copiague teen found dead from gunshot wound to head
10:45 AM EST, November 16, 2008

Police are investigating a Copiague homicide in which a 17-year-old resident was found dead in a car in front of his house.Police said they responded to a call to 45 Pleasantview Ct. at 11:35 p.m. and found Joseph Scorezelli dead of a gunshot wound to the head. The shooting took place in front of 225 Pinelawn Ave., police said.Police are asking anyone with information to call 800-220-TIPS or 631-852-6392.
Copyright © 2008, Newsday Inc.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ministry in Michigan

I am sitting in the Philadelphia airport on my way home from a great weekend of ministry in Michigan. I had the great joy of being the speaker at a youth retreat for the youth ministry of Brighton Christian Church where my cousin Tyler is the youth pastor. The theme of the retreat was The Call. Tyler divided everyone into teams each taking on the name of a different cell phone company and they competed for points throughout the weekend. During the meetings I shared about 4 Calls of Jesus. We had some really powerful ministry times, especially on Saturday. God really spoke to the students in a special way during some quiet time on Saturday morning, and the altar was packed on Saturday night as students laid down their burdens at the foot of the cross. I so enjoyed sharing with these great people this weekend and I am thankful lots of new friends.

After the retreat I went out for lunch with Tyler, his wife Sarah, and another one of my cousins, Christian. Following lunch they drove me to see Adriana and my first apartment. I also stopped into a restaurant that I used to work at and spent some time visiting with one of the owners. It was a great weekend, and I am now excited to be heading home to see my family in just about an hour!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

The Last Lecture

I just finished reading the National Bestseller The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. On September 18, 2007 Randy delivered a lecture entitled "Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams" as part of the Last Lecture Series at Carnegie Mellon University. The idea of the lecture series is for various people to deliver a lecture that would encapsulate what they would want their legacy to be should this be their last lecture. Randy Pausch's last lecture became an overnight Internet sensation because for all intents and purposes, it was literally Randy's last lecture. Just prior to his lecture, Randy had just been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, and would eventually pass away on July 25, 2008.

The book is incredibly inspiring, and will leave you with a deeper sense of what is truly important in life, a stronger love for your family, and an optimism about life. It goes beyond the lecture itself and gives you a window into the heart and thought process that under girded the lecture. I highly recommend it!

Necessity Networks

C.S. Lewis once said something along the lines that true friendship happens the moment two people come to the point of saying, "Really? You too?!" That moment is so important, especially in youth ministry. Have you ever felt like you're the only one who struggles getting your volunteers to show up for things? The only one who has kids who talk all through your messages? The only one who has student leaders who drop the ball on stuff? I am sure you have. In that moment, you don't want to talk to people who have no idea what you're talking about. You don't want to be around people who simply feel sorry for you. You want to be around people who can say, "Really? You too?!" The moment when you realize that you're not alone - that maybe all the stuff you're going through isn't necessarily a reflection of you, maybe it's just youth ministry - is hugely important to your health and success as a youth leader.

One of my favorite things throughout my years in youth ministry has been the regular connections that I have been able to have with other youth workers in my area. While I was in Virginia I was a part of two such networks, and I have been heavily involved in our network here on Long Island since I arrived over 3 years ago. I believe networks are an absolute necessity for maintaining health and perspective and are crucial for longevity in ministry.

I have seen them done effectively a number of different ways. We currently meet on the second Thursday of each month (suspended during the summer) from 10am-1pm. Here is the format we are currently using and it is really working for us:
  • 10-10:15 - Mingling
  • 10:15-10:20 - Introductions (each month we have a couple of new people)
  • 10:30-10:45 - Opening activity. One of us will usually bring some sort of a crowd mixer/game/discussion starter that helps us get to know one another better or introduces the topic for the month. It is also presented with the idea of being a resource that we can take back home and use with our students.
  • 10:45-11:30 - Discussion-based training. one of us will have a lesson prepared based on the topic of the month. We have done things on technology, evangelism, social justice, media, games, working together, and many more. The presenter shares a bit and we have lots of interaction throughout.
  • 11:30-11:50 - Break up into small groups to share and pray for one another
  • 11:50-12:00 - Sharing about upcoming events
  • 12:00-1:00 - Lunch. This is a dynamic we added last year and has been the gem of the meeting. This is when the relationships really form. Lots of laughter and exchanging phone numbers.
If you are not in a youth ministry network, you need to either find one in your area and get connected or start one if none exist. The times of fellowship have kept me in youth ministry for one more month on more than one occasion. Hopefully they are helping or will help you as well.

Monday, November 10, 2008

"The Conservative Christian Case for Supporting Obama"

I just read an article passed on to me by a friend called, "The Conservative Christian Case for Supporting Obama." Author Rob J makes some really good points that all Christians would do well to consider, but also some that are obviously quite debatable based on a person's worldview and philosophy. I also found it interesting how he talks about Republicans talking badly about certain people and then turns around and pretty much slams others himself, most notably Sarah Palin. (Did I just slam him for slamming people? It never stops. lol!)

I am not trying to defend the author's positions, so if you want to argue or debate, do so directly with the author on his page, not mine. If you want to share your thoughts on it here, that's fine, but please understand that I offer the article not to agree but simply to help people see how some in the Christian community (yes, they're Christians!) arrived at a decision to support Barack Obama. You may (and many surely will) totally disagree, but at least it will give you a glimpse into the rationale (albeit not necessarily the rationale of all who voted as such) of some in the Christian community. Remember, while we may disagree on issues, we must have a basic respect for individuals, so if you decide to debate the author, please do so with that as your guiding principle.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Still Learning

Even after being in youth ministry for over 12 years, over 7 full-time, I am still learning. I just finished a book I have been chipping away at for about a year: Starting Right: Thinking Theologically about Youth Ministry. It's obviously more of a text book, but it was a refreshing reminder of why I do what I do. I was encouraged that what we are doing in our youth ministry in terms of our philosophy of ministry and our commitment to God's purposes is right on track.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Road Trip & Speaking

Yesterday I took for of my students and hit the road headed to Herkimer, NY where I spoke at a youth sleep-in at New Life Church. During the ride up the boys and I spent lots of time talking and laughing. We also spent quite a bit of time in prayer - for our trip, for the students we were going to minister to, and for some of our friends back home. The theme of the lock-in was Infuse, so I spoke about being infused with the Holy Spirit on Friday night and being infused with love on Saturday morning. It was really great and we had some good altar ministry on Friday evening. I so enjoyed getting to be with my friends Joe & Joann Jansen - long-time friends and the pastors at New Life, and two of their three kids - Josh & Jenelle. Josh was my intern this past summer, so it was good to re-connect with him. He also spoke during the night. It was a fun weekend for me also in terms of being able to spend some quality time with David, Ren, Matt, and Brendon. I love those kinds of mentoring/ministry times, and I hope that they were able to learn as much from our time together as I did.