Monthly Mash Up (July 2017)

Education doesn’t end when your time at school is done. It continues the rest of your days. Do this and you’ll continue to grow and mature over a lifetime, becoming smarter and wise with age. Do it not, and you’ll wish you had.

I stumbled across some outstanding resources in July and I’d like to share a few of them with you here. Below is a quote I’m pondering, three books I’ve read and four videos or documentaries I’ve watched. They each taught me some incredibly valuable lessons. Lessons that made me better and that’ll do the same for you if you let them.

Quote I'm Chewing On

“How you look is just as much a reflection of how you eat as how you train.” — Michael Mathews

You can’t out train a poor diet. This simple truth has us taking a fresh look at what we eat with a fine tooth comb. We’re tracking nutrient intake is a start but we’re also looking at food sources and timing to optimize our performance.  

What I'm Reading

  1. Bigger Leaner Stronger by Michael Matthews - I have been encouraged by the in depth look it takes to all aspects of training, especially nutrition.   

  2. The Warrior Ethos by Steven Pressfield - This short missive on the Warrior Ethos is a great reminder of the historical and universal truths found in every culture throughout history. A warrior is a warrior no matter where he calls home. That’s good news. Because we can do something about it. We can cultivate a warrior mindset.

  3. On Killing by Lt. Col. Dave Grossman - The world is not a perfect place. Things go wrong and often that puts lives on the line. What happens when and if that moment comes is important. Preparing yourself for that day is even more so. This book is part of that preparation. It will help you understand what happens when life and death hang in the balance.

What I’m Watching

  1. God’s Colonial Intent by Dr. Myles Munroe - This one was shared with me by a member of my community group and I immensely enjoyed it. If you’re looking for a little bit different spin on the overarching theme of the Bible, this one might be up your alley.    

  2. Creating Raving Fans by Ken Blanchard - How you make customers feel is the most important thing about your business. The better use you make of this truth, the healthier your bottom line will be.

  3. Fittest On Earth: A Decade of Fitness - Discipline is required however  you want to grow and improve. The athletes competing in the Crossfit games are perfect examples of this.

  4. What The Health - Watching this documentary earlier this month kickstarted a conversation around nutrition and exactly what we’re putting in our bodies. You may land on one side of the meat debate or the other, but films like this are often best used for self examination. They give you an opportunity to take a deep look at yourself.

What You Can Learn From A Blogging Failure

The Summer and Fall of 2015 were wonderful. Not only was I able to come home and join my wife in working full-time on our photography business, I also began writing again. Rejoining the blogging world was invigorating. It has been so good for my heart and soul. As the clock struck midnight and 2015 faded to black I was overjoyed to see what the new year would bring. Fast forward a few months and while much of the year has been amazing, the blog has been touch and go at best. Posts have been infrequent and I haven't been writing with any form of regularity.    

Why write?

Writing is an immensely personal thing. In writing you're translating thousands of thoughts, emotions and ideas from the muddled mess flying around in your head into something clear and intriguing. Letters, words, sentences and paragraphs that communicate something going on in you to the big old world out there. Maybe you noticed something while out on a walk, overheard a conversation in the grocery store or experienced something that got your mind twirling. Whatever it is, you have to write about it. Not because your thoughts, insights and quirky humor are better that others but for the simple reason that writing is what you do. You may not be good at a lot of things, heck you may not even be a "good" writer, but you process the events and emotions of life by putting words on a page. There is rarely anything so exhilarating as that rare moment when you communicate exactly what you're experiencing, or thinking in just the right sequence of words. It might not be Shakespeare but its about as close as you'll ever come. When that moment arrives, few things are as magical. 

Your writing goes far beyond mere expression and processing, it is an avenue to help, encourage and serve others. There are what 8 billion people in the world, a large swath of whom have internet access. It is safe to say that there are quite likely many other people walking through the exact same things as you are each and every day. Will all of them find your dinky little blog and read it? No they won't. What if however your writing finds it's way into the hands of one person somewhere in the world you've never met and most likely never will and it helps them? How marvelous an outcome would that be? I can think of no better outcome for my writing than for the words and sentences I slam together to in some small way help, uplift and encourage another. 

What makes writing so hard?

Few things are as terrifying as a white blank page. It can be utterly paralyzing. You freeze. You don't know where to begin, what to say or even how to say it. Paralyzing fear sets in and you can now think of a thousand other things you'd rather be doing than staring at this blank page, and pounding your head into the desk hoping words will come out. At that moment you wouldn't care what words came out. Any words will do. You are simply and utterly terrified. 

Sound familiar? I know it sure does to me. That is my life most days. I sit down to write and.....nothing. My mind goes blank and I just sit there staring at the screen hoping something will come to mind. As you talk with most people who enjoy writing you will find this is an entirely normal occurrence. Never mind that it's normal though, it is still down right frustrating. You want to write, you even have time set aside for this express purpose, but the words won't flow. And then it hits you. You're over thinking it and making things way harder than they have to be. You realize you don't have to pen a master piece, you just have to get words out of your head and on to the page. Nothing more nothing less. 

What can we learn from it?

I have written very little over the last several months. I've sat down to write, and the words just haven't been there. As I've tried to figure it out and put my finger on exactly what's going on in my heart a few things have stood out to me. 

1. Don't be overly concerned with what other people think. It's a killer. Being over concerned with the thoughts and opinions of others has stopped me from writing all together the last few weeks. The thought has been, "If I don't have anything 'good' and 'helpful' to say, I just won't write anything. After all, I'd hate to write something people dislike, and/or even laugh at. That would just be the worst." In reality, no one cares that much about what you write. Not that many people will read it anyway, so you might as well just write. If by some miracle someone does, so what if they don't like it. The worst that that can come of it, is just that, they don't like it or share it with their friends. That's not such a big deal when you pause to think about it. 

2. Your habits really matter. As I've mentioned, I've really dropped the ball and fallen out of the daily discipline of writing. Normally, I'm all about habits and routines. So much of your personal productivity is tied to the habits you keep. Its time to reconstruct my habits and reinstitute this all too important one into my day. Will I love or even like everything I write? No, but I'll be practicing and improving with each and every key stroke. And that the most important thing.

 3. Some things ebb and flow. One moment ideas, topics, analogies and all around genius seem to come pouring out of you. It just comes so easy. You know what you want to say, the words come quickly and you're done. Sadly, that isn't the case on most occasions. There is a grind to it. Most days you have to keep pushing, keep writing and rewriting until you complete something your satisfied with. 

4. Grace abounds. If you go a few weeks or months without writing consistently, it's not the end of the world. Writing after all is first and foremost a manner of expression and method of processing. The blog monster can be a mean one. One that can be overwhelming and demanding for sure. There can easily be a feeling that you "have to publish" on a particular schedule. Be free to publish on your very own schedule. There are no rules when it comes to blogging. Isn't that great news? You get to use it in whatever way you desire. So don't beat yourself up if you miss a day, a week or even a month. Just crack open journal, notebook or laptop and start writing again. 

5 Proven Steps That Will Transform Your Bible Study

Twitter might be a gigantic time waste to some but it changed my life. Several years ago I responded to a tweet from Brandon Barker who was on staff at The Village Church. He had asked if there were any men looking to be discipled. I quickly shot Brandon a reply and a few weeks later met Matt Hummel. Over the next year and a half Matt would fundamentally transform how I studied God's word. 

I knew daily bible reading was important and sought to make it a daily habit but wasn't always sure what to do when I opened my bible. I needed direction and help in going deeper in God's word, and Matt was who the Lord used to help me do so.

Each Monday we would gather around Matt's kitchen table to discuss what we read, the things that stood out and to learn a ton of new skills. Today I want to share a few of the tools I learned regarding studying the bible. I hope you find them as helpful as I did and that they help you swim deeper this year. 

  1. Read the book all the way through several times.
  2. Put together a broad outline of the book.
  3. Study the background of the book. Think authorship, audience and purpose.
  4. Observe the text. Ask yourself, "What do I see?"
    1. Underline all verbs
    2. Circle key words or phrases
    3. Highlight repeated words or phrases
    4. Box connecting words
    5. List primary themes
    6. Make at least two observations about what you're seeing in each verse
    7. Ask interpretive questions
  5. Interpret the text.
    1. Use the context
    2. Compare multiple translations
    3. Look up keywords
    4. Study cross references
    5. Look up background information
    6. Tackle tough questions step by step
      1. List all the options
      2. List pros and cons for each option
      3. Choose the most likely option
      4. Decide on your certainty level

That year spent gathered around Matt's table is one I look back on with great fondness and am so grateful I had the opportunity to do. I learned a great deal as a result and can barely scratch the surface on the difference this approach to studying the bible has had in my life.

If you are looking to go deeper in God's word in 2016, I hope you apply these five steps to your study and that they serve as real game changers for you.

For additional resources I can not commend the bible study tools and resources produced by Grace Bible Church in College Station, TX strongly enough. They provide great instruction on how to develop the above skills.