Faith

Using Social Media for the Good of Your Soul

apples-and-oranges
This is a guest post by our friend, Ryan McRae. Ryan has a wicked sense of humor and a neat way of looking at things. You can find him at ryanmcrae.net, where you must check out his Man Card.

Right now, the internet is blazing with how social media actually disconnects us; we spend too much time on it and we are always looking at our phones, etc. And trust me, I get it and I’m the most guilty person on the planet. But there is a way to use social media for the good of our souls instead of cluttering our lives. [Read more...]

No One Belongs Here More Than You

Rich Mullins was a contemporary Christian artist whose songs and perspective were a major influence on me during a crucial point in my life. He passed away in a tragic car accident when I was in college. I remember a chilly, late-night walk on campus during which I reflected on his life and the impact he’d had on the world. As autumn leaves crunched under my feet, I noticed stirring within my heart: a deep desire to make a similar impact. A dark voice of doubt tried to squelch it immediately. “Who do you think you are? You’re just a kid from a small town in Illinois!”

Fortunately, another voice came to my defense: “And Rich Mullins was ‘just’ a kid from a small town in Indiana. Why NOT you?

I’ve always held on to that sentiment, especially when I’ve been intimidated, afraid, or feeling unworthy. Which happens a lot, especially when I’m about to give a speech to an audience that is out of my comfort zone. Yes, the people in the seats may have experience, social status, intelligence, or degrees that exceed my own, but I have something of value to bring to the table, too. I remind myself that my unique perspective may be just the thing that someone in that audience needs to hear on that particular day. [Read more...]

Just Brave Enough

After a speaking gig in Houston a few weeks ago, we drove down to Galveston to spend a little time near the Gulf. As Lucy waded in the water, immersed in a game she likes to call “tricking the waves,” Kim commented on how much deeper she was willing to go compared to a few months ago when we were in Florida.

Now, Lucy didn’t go diving headfirst into the surf or anything, but she didn’t need to. She was being, as I like to say, “just brave enough.” [Read more...]

Creativity: Not Just for Artists, Musicians and People with Pink Hair


Who is your favorite artist? DaVinci? Monet? O’Keefe?

Although he is not often considered as such, my favorite artist is God. His creativity is bar none, and you have to admit that his portfolio of work is quite staggering. [Read more...]

The Most Awesome Sound in the World


One of the greatest things ever is hearing my kids laugh. Whether it’s a silly little giggle or unbridled belly laughter, there’s no better sound in the world.

It recently occurred to me that God probably feels the same way about his children. [Read more...]

Easter and the Element of Surprise


Sometimes people get all grumpy about how eggs and bunnies and candy often muddy the real meaning of Easter. Even though eggs and rabbits are often considered symbols of new life, I can see their point.

But it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing proposition.

Check out these two examples of fun Easter crafts. The first one, shown above, comes from the Rice Krispies website. It’s a Rice Krispie Treat shaped like an egg, with M&Ms hidden inside. Neat, huh?

The second one is a nifty project from Not Martha. On the surface, it looks like a regular hard-boiled Easter egg:
[Read more...]

For God So Loved His Children


In her first two-plus years of life, my daughter Lucy has only been sick a few times. For that, Kim and I count our blessings, as there is nothing more miserable and sad and pathetic than a sick little kid.

In those times when she is suffering, I’d happily take on her sickness and carry it myself if given the chance. Even if it meant that whatever affliction would be ten times worse and last ten times longer. I’d do it. In a heartbeat. I know parents who have lost children to cancer and diabetes, and I know they’d agree with me.

They would’ve given anything for the chance to trade places. [Read more...]

Want Peace? Seek Wisdom


Here’s a simple litmus test to see if the junk you’re dealing with is, in fact, Adultitis:

“When I’m with my family I’m thinking about work, and when I’m at work I’m thinking about my family.”

Is this you? [Read more...]

Disney World Believe It…Or Not.

I was in Disney World a few weeks ago, standing in line for a ride with Kim and Lucy. We were in Clearwater for a speaking program, and decided to take a day to drive over to Orlando to visit “Snow White’s House.” Fortunately, Snow was home, and was generous enough to take photos with Lucy. I marveled at how much more three-dimensional she looks in person.

And so I was in line, holding Lucy, who was holding a stuffed Snow White doll, when a familiar word caught my ear. [Read more...]

Learning How to Scuba. Metaphorically Speaking.


Over the years, I’ve had to rely on my faith quite a bit. I blame starting a business for that.

There were late nights when I wondered if I was a crazy fool, wasting time and money on a venture that would never pan out. I questioned the sanity of my friends and family, the ones who supported me even when my ship seemed to be sinking like a rock. [Read more...]

How to Avoid the Dark Side of Metamorphosis


Have you ever gone through a major metamorphosis?

Are you in the middle of one right now?

Metamorphosis was the “word of the week” on Sesame Street this week. [Side note: I love how Sesame Street talks UP to kids, challenging them to not only say a five syllable word, but also to understand the meaning. Very cool!]

As Elmo explained to Abby in his screechy, glass-shattering voice, “It’s a B–I–G change!” Tadpoles transforming into frogs and caterpillars turning into a butterflies were given as examples. As I heard this theme echoed over and over throughout the episode, I couldn’t help but think about how metamorphosis is not limited to amphibians or insects. [Read more...]

How to Create Heavenly Moments In The Here and Now

What’s heaven like?

I’m sure you asked this of your elders when you were a “little,” but have you asked it recently?

What do YOU think heaven is like?

I absolutely adore my mom’s answer to my inquiry when I was five years old. I’ll never forget the conversation. She was pushing me on the swing of our trusty backyard swing set. (Boy, being the youngest, that thing had seen some love by the time I came along.) By age five I was a swinging fool. I spent a large fraction of my childhood examining clouds and dreaming on that swaying piece of plastic.

The conversation went something like this… [Read more...]

Happy Father’s Day, God

VOUTSINAS FAMILY PHOTO

Have you heard the story about the married couple photographed together at Disney World 15 years before they met? (I found out about it from a link Chris Brogan shared via Twitter.) The couple didn’t know each other, and they didn’t even live in the same country at the time the photograph was taken:

That fateful realization came just one week before their wedding eight years ago. Alex and Donna had been going through old family snapshots. There, in the blurry background of a picture of 5-year-old Donna was 3-year-old Alex being pushed down Main Street at the same moment in 1980 by his father. The senior Voutsinas’s distinctive jet-black hair with its white tuft caught his eye.

“My mother pulled out albums from the same trip. My dad is wearing exactly the same outfit.”

Other pictures from that trip showed Alex on his dad’s shoulders. The boy in the background of Donna’s picture and the boy in those pictures were the same.

Weird, huh? [Read more...]

Free Will and The Pizza Parlor

art by jason

Once upon a time, there was a little girl. With her birthday just days away, her parents announced that as part of her gift, she could pick any restaurant she wanted to go to for dinner. She debated and deliberated. She hemmed and hawed. She asked her mom where shethought she should go. She asked her dad, too, but neither offered an answer. It was up to her, they said.

The little girl really wanted to go to Luigi’s, the pizza parlor downtown. She quite fancied the old brick walls and the smell of the wood burning stove. And watching the thick-forearmed men shape the dough and toss it into the air was a show in itself.

But then she thought of the longer drive. Money was tight, and she figured her parents wouldn’t be too happy about having to spend extra money for gas and pizza that was more expensive than the other place just down the street (which wasn’t nearly as good.) She also knew that her dad was in the middle of a big project at work, and he might appreciate a shorter meal so he could get some extra stuff done before bed. [Read more...]

Lessons from a Screaming Teether

photo by shoehorn99

Last night, Lucy screamed and cried for 90 minutes straight. Jason and I are convinced that every baby has a “thing.” We escaped colic, gassiness, and sleeping problems, but teething has proven to be Lucy’s archnemesis. Those 90 minutes last night definitely ranked up there as some of the worst minutes of my life. Screaming “mama” over and over again, Lucy was in pain and she wanted me to take the pain away.

I tried everything…

  • Walking her around the house. (Check.)
  • Singing. (Check.)
  • Talking softly. (Check.)
  • Tylenol. (Check.)
  • Playing her favorite song on the iPod. (Check.)
  • Rocking her in the glider. (Check.)

The results were the same every time: frustration and anger. The only thing that would keep her as calm as she was going to be in this pain-filled state was to just let her sit on my lap and “be.” No talking. No pursuading. No distracting. No touching, even. She was in pain and she needed to scream it out. [Read more...]

Life’s Little Traffic Jams

[This post originally appeared on Dad-O-Matic, a cool site for Dads, by Dads.]

We bought our daughter one of those little primary-colored push car toys for her first birthday. It gets great gas mileage and holds up amazingly well in crashes, of which there have been many so far.

The other day, she got herself caught in a traffic jam. The legs of our counter-height kitchen table and its accompanying chairs gridlocked her into a standstill. With all the might a one-year-old can muster, she pushed and prodded that car in an attempt to break free to the open road.

To no avail. [Read more...]

Watching Angels Dance

lucy_eyes
Lucy is one year old today. Happy Birthday, Lucy Ruth!

She’s in that cute stage where she reaches out for things that she wants. Typically, her reach is accompanied by a grunt, as if to say, “gimmie that!” On Sunday morning in church, as I held my bundle of energy (not unlike wrestling a cat), I couldn’t help but observe her noticing something. Unlike other parts of the service, she wasn’t reaching for the guy’s coat in front of us or the bag of mini-marshmallows his four-year-old son was inhaling one by one (which was hilarious, by the way). [Read more...]

Anticipating The City of Blinding Lights

bono_looking_forSometimes I miss the anticipation of Christmas Eve. Trying to will myself to sleep as my mind raced imagining what Santa might leave under the tree seemed a lot like torture at the time.

Looking back, I see that it was probably the best part.

I was fortunate to experience some of that childlike anticipation recently when Kim and I went to see U2 kick off their North American tour at Soldier Field in Chicago. Bono and the boys are probably our favorite band, and seeing them perform live was on the ol’ Bucket List. As we sat in the stadium ogling over the monstrous stage assembled for the tour, I noticed and reveled in the anticipation that was in the air. As the stadium filled with buzzing fans, we made our guesses about the opening song and shared our wish list of tunes we hoped the band would play. We couldn’t wait for the lights to go down and see U2 step onto the stage. It Christmas morning all over again.

And Santa came with a bag full of gifts. [Read more...]

Allow Chance to Change Your Life

photo by scott hudson

photo by scott hudson

Last week Kim and I enjoyed a much-needed date night. We went out to a nice Italian restaurant and wanted to see a movie. 500 Days of Summer and Funny Peoplewere at the top of our list, but we couldn’t decide which we’d rather see. I suggested that we flip a coin and let fate choose for us. So that’s what we did.

I kid you not, the first flip attempt resulted in the penny landing on edge in a sidewalk crack. We had neither a head nor a tail, but an…edge. It appeared that not even Chance could make up her mind. [Read more...]

When God Shouts At You

photo by forbescreative

photo by forbescreative

I recently experienced one of my best days ever. I had a program in St. Cloud, Minnesota for an association of secretaries, and it couldn’t have gone better. They were a squirrelly group, and we had a blast.

When I stopped at Applebee’s for dinner on the way home, I was still on a bit of a high. A waitress promptly came by to take my drink order (a Cherry Pepsi). She went away and I scoured the menu. My mind made up, I waited for the waitress to return, to no avail. Although I was eager to get home to see my girls, I really wasn’t strapped for time and I had a magazine with me that I was eager to dive into, so I elected to be patient. [Read more...]

Bonk

lucy_crawlingOne of my favorite words is “bonk.” And if this little chicken nugget of of information doesn’t give away my background as a cartoonist, I suppose nothing will. Perhaps you will be as surprised as I was to discover that “bonk” is actually a word. For real. I didn’t find it in my old Webster’s dictionary that was published in 1984, so I figured it was invented by Charles Schulz the first time Charlie Brown got plunked in the head. But according to dictionary.com, bonk is a real word:

bonk (bŏngk) v. To strike or cause to come into contact: She bonked her head going through the low doorway.

Well, when it comes to Lucy, there’s been a lot of bonking going on. Just a shade shy of seven months, she’s getting a whole lot more mobile. (Which means Daddy’s starting to burn a whole lot more calories.) She can pretty much roll at will, can get up on all fours, and even scoot backwards. She hasn’t mastered the art of moving straight ahead, so she moves around the living room like a grocery cart with a busted front wheel. [Read more...]

Shedding Light On What Keeps You Up At Night

When you were little, were you ever afraid of the dark? I sure was. From horns and hair to scabs and skeletons, thinking about what lurked among the shadows was an all-you-can-eat buffet for my imagination.

In fact, I may not have made it through childhood without that humble but powerful life-saving device known as the night light. Although small in size and wattage, it did a remarkable job of keeping the creepy-crawlies at bay. Without it, I’m sure I’d have long been digested in the belly of a slimy beast from the netherworld known as “Underthebed.”

Many lives have been saved by the simple night light. Perhaps it wouldn’t have been needed if we only believed the advice from our parents: that there really aren’t any monsters under the bed; they’re only in our imagination.

But alas, parents are never very convincing.

Perhaps that is because grown-ups also deal with monsters. They just live in a different place. You see, as we get older and grow up, the monsters take up a different residence. They move out from under our beds, and move up into our…heads.

Think I’m nuts?

How many times have you laid awake at night, worried, scared, or anxious about any number of things? This stuff keeps us up, and it can wreak some terrifying results.

But our parents were on to something when they tucked us into bed and tried to calm our fears about the monsters. You know, the part where they told us that the monsters only exist within our imagination.

That’s the key word to keep in mind: imagination. [Read more...]

Your Recession-Proof Inner Child

not_the_economy

Old people are often accused of being stuck in their ways.

“Old” is a relative term, though. It does seem to be that as our age climbs, we tend to get more comfortable and less open to change. But that can begin to happen just as easily when you’re in your twenties as when you’re taking advantage of the senior citizen discount at Applebees.

This little trait doesn’t usually serve us all that well. Even less so during economic recessions. [Read more...]

Panic Mode

When my daughter wakes up from one of her dozens of naps throughout the day, she often wakes up hungry. No surprise there. But what’s funny to me is how quickly she ramps up to 100% panic mode if she doesn’t get fed in less than 15 seconds.

Wait for 45 seconds, and she’s practically inconsolable.

Kim and I joke that it’s as if she thinks we’ll never feed her again. Ever. That she’s already had her last meal but didn’t realize it at the time and is now preparing for the worst by doing her best impression of a fire engine heading to a five alarm fire.

You’d think that after almost six weeks of regular feedings — daily, nightly, and ever so rightly — we’d start to build up a little bit of trust here. It’s a little disheartening as a parent that your daughter carries on as if you just told her you were gonna throw her in a snow bank and drive off to some undisclosed location. [Read more...]

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