Thursday, February 27, 2014

My daughter the business lady

(I'm posting for the first time using the blogger app for my iPhone!)

Jane got a bracelet making kit from her uncle Ross and fell in love with it. She started making bracelets for everyone and soon wanted to sell them. She pressed us repeatedly about this, and finally Deanna let her sell outside of our house for one hour. It was a hit with the neighbors and she got the bug for business. There was no stopping her. She made a few purchases, and then set her heart on a calico critter playset that was just under $100. She had a goal and she was focused on it. She made dozens of bracelets and became quite the sales lady. 

Today she took her bag of money over to automobuild toy store in Los Gatos. 

She found her toy and paid the worker in cash:

Now she is one proud kid and I'm one proud dad!

We've been talking that when you take a skill, and add hard work and self-control, you can buy something really special. Great job jane!

God is love. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

robby walter day

when I was in the 7th grade, I lived in modesto, on a farm. my house was on a dirt road that stretched about one mile away from the nearest street. every morning I walked down that long road to the main road to catch the school bus- and every afternoon I walked down that long road back to my house after school.

but on the afternoon of 2/25/88, I ran all the way down that road to my house to tell my mom some good news. earlier that day, I had asked a classmate if she would go steady with me and she said yes. I was walking on cloud nine all day. then later that day, in PE class, I was running the mile, and I came in first in my class. not only first in my class, but in front of a trash-talking 8th grader who loved to make my life miserable. so- in short, I was having the best day ever.

I got off of the bus, and ran full speed down that mile long dirt road- with a backpack full of books strapped to my back. I burst into the front door and said, “MOM! THIS HAS BEEN THE BEST DAY EVER!” I proceeded to tell her the good news and then I flippantly said, “this has been my best day ever! this should be robby walter day!” (back then everyone called me robby.)

if people think that I’m thoughtful, I’m not even in my mom’s league of thoughtfulness. she heard what I said about robby walter day and sprang into action. it WAS going to be robby walter day. she started baking a cake and threw me a party to celebrate my special day. she put the date on the calendar, and has been sending me robby walter day gifts and cards on 2/25, EVER SINCE I WAS IN THE 7TH GRADE.

she texted me this morning and wished me a happy robby walter day-
and it made me almost as happy as I was when I was in the 7th grade.

I’ve got a great mom. really great.
be on the lookout for ways to make an ordinary day, into a family holiday.

God is love.

Monday, February 24, 2014

some thoughts on bible memory-

I’m making a new set of verse-cards this morning, and that’s why this topic is on my mind. I hesitate to talk about this stuff because I’m afraid that it comes across as self-righteous or bragging or something- but I’ll try to get over it for the sake of getting these thought in type-

long story short: a few years ago, my friend Mike challenged me to memorize a bible chapter, and I did. then he challenged me to do another, and another, and another. we’re hoping to get the whole new testament into our brains sometime over the next 20 years.

we have all heard sermons about the value of memorizing verses, and I could certainly talk about what this exercise has done for me spiritually and mentally; but that’s not what this post is about- here are all of my tips on HOW to learn your verses:

// get a partner
if I didn’t have Mike to say my verses out loud to, I would have given up a long time ago. if I didn’t know that when he saw me that he wanted to hear them, I would have let this discipline evaporate years ago- or I wouldn’t be that serious about getting the words right. my first bit of advice is to find a partner who wants to memorize a chapter or a short book with you. this would be good if its someone in your bible study group so that you can meet regularly and have that accountability. when you have your partner, pick your text and your speed- Mike and I do one chapter a month, some people want to go faster, others slower.

// know how you learn
I personally make flash cards on a ring. I cut my cards so they are the size of a business card and then punch a hole in them. I reinforce the holes with those little circle stickers so the cards will last longer. sometimes you can buy cards pre-cut and pre-punched. I write out each verse on a different card review them. some people listen to the text on audio and say it back. some people just read out of the bible. experiment and do what works for you.

// help your brain remember
I use different colored cards for my verses. sometimes I use a different color for each chapter- and when I think of that color, it helps me remember what those verse say. sometimes I will make a short book of the bible with cards of varying shades of a color. my 1 timothy cards are all different shades of yellow. my 2 thessalonians cards are all different shades of purple. this helps to refresh my memory- at least I think it does.

I believe that the act of hand writing these verses also helps to seal these words into your memory.

one of the best ways to help you remember is to say the verses out loud. read them off of a card or page, then say them out loud. as you say it, you will hear patterns and it will become cemented into your mind.

I try to find acronyms in verses- like using the first letter of each word- sometimes it spells something, and that can help you remember. I often use my fingers and hands to help me remember verses- like verse 1 uses my index finger- I try to find a way that the act of pointing can help me remember what verse one says. and verse 2 uses 2 fingers- what gesture can I make with 2 fingers to help me remember verse 2? I try to do that with all of them. I visualize people that verses remind me of; sometimes when I’m memorizing one of paul’s lists I point to different parts of my body, my head, my heart, my feet- whatever helps. the more you practice, the better you’ll get at it.

// review
say your verses out loud often. over and over and over. every single day- at least once. say them in the car; say them in the shower, whisper them before you fall asleep. find opportunities to take a drive and say them all at once. if you don’t review, you’ll forget them quickly.

// don’t quit
I often compare a faith walk like going to the gym. for some people, going to the gym just doesn’t fit into their schedule, and they don’t know how it ever will. but then they start going, and discover that there is time for it after all. at first, going to the gym can be really hard and really frustrating. but the more you do it, the better it gets. it’s the same with bible memory. before I started I was convinced that I would never be able to learn any verses, let alone a lot of them. but I had a friend who wouldn’t let me quit, and now I’m writing a blog telling you that you can do it too. it can be frustrating. I can tell you that I have given myself headaches trying to remember each words of a verse. I have been so frustrated at the apostle paul’s wordiness and love of lists and his habit of naming friends with hard to pronounce names. it can be frustrating, but work at it, and you will learn it. I’m convinced that bible memory is like a muscle that has never been used. once you start using it, you’ll discover that you had an ability all along that was laying dormant. you will also realize that there is quite a lot of bible that you are already familiar with that has been stored into your mind just waiting to be accessed.

so give it a try! find a buddy- make some cards- try to get each verse word-perfect. what do you have to lose? what do you have to gain? how would your life be better if you had the bible swirling around in your head all day long? I’ll let this guy answer:

Blessed is the one
who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take
or sit in the company of mockers,
2 but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
and who meditates on his law day and night.
3 That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers.”

-psalm 1

God is love.

Friday, February 21, 2014

reflections on six weeks off-

Well, first of all, I'm so grateful to work at a place like venture that would give me six weeks of sabbatical!

at first I didn't know what I was going to do. I was positive that I was going to be bored out of my mind. boy was I wrong!
We traveled all around the state having all kinds of adventures.

I did some work. (A lot of work!)

we discovered geocaching,

and I met with many dear friends. I read a couple of great books and went on a few amazing walks.

I added to my bible memory.

I watched a ton of Winter Olympics. I ran a bunch.


best of all, I decompressed and I caught up with the most important people and things in my life. I learned a lot about myself, and was reminded of how much I enjoy the students and leaders that I work with.
my sabbatical can be summed up like this:
i slept in,
I ran 11 miles,
I took a nap,
and I had lunch with my daughter;
every single day for six weeks.
I was home for dinner six nights a week.
6 weeks- no agenda.
Best vacation ever.
I couldn't have made it better.

rest is a good thing.
Time to get back to work!

God is love.

Monday, February 10, 2014

my favorite kinds of trees

my wife was confused by my posts about time management. hopefully no one else was. you have to read the blogs in order, 1-4, not 4-1 like they appear. also- there is just one master daily list for each day- they calendar lists just help to build it.

ANYHOW- on a less confusing point- here is a list of my current favorite trees:

// magnolia
I know they only bloom for a bit, but when they do, those petals look like paintbrushes dipped in purple paint!

// jacaranda
I have never seen one of these trees, but I saw a documentary about them and they look super cool. I heard that when the leaves drop it looks cool, but its a pain to clean up:

// circus trees-
but you can only find these at gilroy gardens!

// giant oaks-
these things seem to defy physics and gravity.

// eucalyptus trees-
these sight and smell of these remind me of the central coast- and vasona park:

// weeping willows
but probably because they are in one of my favorite scenes ever filmed, the jolly holiday scene from mary poppins!

// giant sequoia trees/ redwoods
well- I am a true californian! these are breath taking:

// joshua trees-
well, I'm really into that ONE joshua tree!

// cherry blossoms
these look awesome when a whole orchard is in full bloom:

// tarzan's/ swiss family robinson's tree in adventureland!

// the pechanga oak-
I saw this tree on california's gold once- its in temecula and is supposed to be one of the world's biggest trees. its so big that you can have giant parties under it and feel like you're in a tree building. I'd like to visit it someday:

what can I say? I live in beautiful, sunny california with all of those awesome california trees! some of them make my allergies go off like crazy- but there is nothing like being around these old happy trees to put life in perspective.

"blessed is the one who does not walk in step with the wicked
or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers,
but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.

that person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither—
whatever they do prospers."
-psalm 1

God is love.

p.s. here is a funny song about trees:

Saturday, February 8, 2014

redeeming time 04: margin

“Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler,  yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.” –proverbs 6:6-8

margin is awesome. margin is when all of your tasks are done and you have some free time! everyone loves margin- they crave it. we need it. good things only happen in times of margin. goals and dreams are born in the margin. relationships grow in margin only.

the great thing about accomplishing your goals is that now you have some margin. what do you do with it? let me give you some ideas:

// work ahead.
I try to work one season ahead. its winter- so I’m getting everything for the spring done. I have time- because I’ve got margin. and when the spring comes, I won’t be stressed, because I’ll be all caught up. not only that, I’ve got lots of time to think about what I want to do, and with lots of time to get it done, it will probably turn out pretty good. there is time to use creativity. creativity only happens in the margins. I see too many people freaking out over details because they waited to the last minute to get stuff done. they bark at people because they are stressed and busy. but that won’t be you or me- we’ll have margin. for me as a youth worker, I need margin. when a student or a parent or a leader walks in and needs my attention, I can’t be worrying about a microphone that needs to be set up or papers that need to be printed or chairs that need to be set up. I need to focus on them. all of those other details need to be taken care of early, so that when a person shows up, I can show up and give them my best attention. you have people in your life that need your full attention too- when your work is done early, you can give them your best with your eyes and ears and face.

// say yes.
when you have margin, you can say yes. everyone loves someone who can say yes. sometimes I’m working in my office, crossing off my list, and someone will come in and ask, “do you have a minute?” and I say yes. and it’s the truth. sometimes people ask, “can you help me?” “can you do me a favor?” and I love to say, “yes. I can definitely do that.” you can’t do that if you’re stressed out with details. that’s one of my favorite things about Jesus- He was always saying yes- always willing to be interrupted. He had time for individuals. we’ve all met people who were too busy for us- no one likes those people. and we have all met those people who stop everything to listen. when you have margin- or when you put in the work to CREATE margin, you become one of those people.

// next level.
I love taking things to the next level. but that takes dreaming, and planning and budgeting and meeting and networking and brainstorming. and all of those things only happen in the margins. how can you take your game to the next level? take some time and dream that up!

// rest.
there is freedom in knowing that your details have been accomplished. procrastinating may be relaxing for a bit, but it creates double the stress later. so many people feel guilty about resting, but you don’t need to feel guilty about resting after accomplishing goals because you earned that rest. you can turn all of your stress done, because your work has been taken care of. and you have a good understanding of what needs to get done on Monday, and you have a system to make sure that it will get done. I like what jesus says, “do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” you don’t need to worry about tomorrow. tomorrow has its own list- and you can cross it all off TOMORROW.

// focus.
people always ask me, “how do you balance work and family?” and I don’t really like the word balance. balance makes it sound like I give equal time and attention to my family and my work- and I don’t. I prefer the word focus. when I have my list made from my funnel and my daily pages, I can focus on work and work ahead. and when that’s taken care of, I turn the lights off in my office, and I can focus on deanna and jane. my mind doesn’t have to be in 2 places at once. every now and then I get a thought about the work that needs to get done- then I capture that thought on my pad and continue to focus. I know too many unfocused dads and husbands and youth workers. I don’t want to be one.

all of this sounds like a lot of work- but when you’ve got it working into a system, it makes you more focused, more efficient in the time you have, and more mindful of the people and moments in your life.

so give it a try! try working ahead- even a bit. what is a project that’s coming up for you? how can you start thinking about that right now? what can you get done for that right now? every detail that you get done early, will give you margin for the future. and everything that’s good happens in the margins.

God is love.

redeeming time 03: the calendar

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:” –ecclesiastes 3:1 KJV

so far, I’ve been talking about daily lists, made from a funnel. here is a REALLY important part of the funnel: the calendar.

I use one of those moleskine calendars that have DAILY pages. calendars with daily pages are hard to find, but I highly recommend them. here is how I use my daily pages-

there are things that need to get done every day. things like a quiet time, maybe a check in with your accountability partner; or maybe updating your budget or check book. personally, I want to have a quiet time, I want to work through my personal prayer list for that day of the week, and I want to review the bible verses that I’m working on; every day. I write each of those details on my daily pages for a given month. so for February, I will take a pencil and write those three details on EVERY DAY.

then there are things that need to get done on your Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, etc. for me, on Mondays, I write letters. Monday only. I prep for my Tuesday meetings, and a bunch of other things too. Tuesday has its own list of to-dos, so do the other days of the week. so for February, on each Monday I write my Monday to dos on the daily pages of my calendar. I do the same for the other days of the week too. at some point, each day of my calendar will have a few details on it. I write these in on the last day of the month to get ready for the month to come. I remind myself to do this by writing that detail on the last day of the month in my calendar.

Then, on a given morning, when I’m making my daily list, I start pulling details in from my funnel. I go to today’s date in my calendar and see all of the things that need to get done today and transfer them to my daily list.

here is another way I use the daily pages in my calendar: if there are details that didn’t get done on my daily list, I just open my calendar to tomorrow’s date and transfer those details to tomorrow. then in the morning when I’m making a new daily list, those details will be waiting for me. they won’t be forgotten, they will get accomplished. I picked up that trick from my mentor Marvin.

then there details that need to get done next week or next month. for those, I just flip ahead in my calendar’s daily pages and make a note to accomplish that task. then, when that day arrives, I am reminded of that task and able to transfer it to my daily list so it can get done.

this is good for big projects too. sometimes a big project is so overwhelming that you don’t know where to start. but when you break it up into pieces its manageable. do the first step today. write the steps to come in your calendar’s daily pages.

I like daily pages because there is space to write things. you can use your phone for this, but in my experience, writing out details and seeing them on paper is the best. some people like using online calendars that can be accessed anywhere- and if that works for you, go for it. you don’t need to do what I do, you just need to do whatever is going to help yourself to be efficient and effective and productive.

so give it a try! get a calendar with daily pages. figure out what you want to get done EVERY day- and write those in the pages for this month. make a list of what needs to get done every Monday, and Tuesday, and Wednesday and Thursday and Friday. then write those into your daily pages. all of those details can be transferred to your daily list; and if they don’t get done today, put them on tomorrow’s page so that you’ll remember to get them done tomorrow. while you’re at it, put everyone’s birthday in your calendar- and your anniversary and all of the other important details. put them in a few days early so you’ll have time to get a card and a gift. your stress will drop and you won’t forget all of the important things and people in your life.

God is love.

redeeming time 02: the funnel

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” –Psalm 90:12

in my last post, I talked about the daily list. this one is about what I call the funnel. we all have details spread out all over the place- we need to funnel them down into one spot- the daily list.

details and to-dos come from all over the place- once you find them, transfer them to your list. you get an e-mail that has a to-do in it- transfer that to the list- or to the calendar- more on that later.

you get a text message from a family member asking for a favor- transfer that to the list.

what about all of those details floating around in your brain? transfer them to the list. I believe that God actually reminds us of important details. its like a little gift. we get these thoughts that say, “don’t forget…” and we have this flash of stress thinking, “I HAVE to remember this! I CAN’T forget this!” and so we just hold that thought in our brains until the task is done.” if you don’t find a way to get that detail to your list, you’re in danger of forgetting it.

the problem is that those ideas come when we’re in the car, in the shower, and places where our daily list is far away. so how do we get it to the daily list?

you need a system to capture that thought.
its got to be portable and accessible to you all the time.

I use all kinds of ways. many people have seen me whip a small pad of paper out of my pocket and write a note to myself. I also send myself e-mails. if I can’t do that, I send myself a voicemail. I am reminded of so many things to do when I’m in the shower, that I got one of those shower crayons, and sometimes I make a list right there on the shower wall. when I’m dried off, I transfer that list to my pocket pad or send myself an e-mail. I’ve seen people make notes on their hands- whatever works for you. I have gotten out of bed on many nights to walk over to my list to capture a thought. the great thing is that after its written down, I can give my mind the freedom to stop thinking about it and get rest.

people wonder what I’m doing when I’m capturing a thought. they see my pad and think, “what are you writing?! is this about me?!” or they see my typing on my phone and wonder if I’m texting during our meeting. now I just announce what I’m doing and say, “that’s a great idea- I want to make sure I remind myself to take care of that later.”

here is the bottom line: if you don’t write it down, you will stress yourself out trying to remember it; or you will forget it. but when you write that task down somewhere, then you can free your brain up to think other thoughts, and the stress level drops.

so every day, I make one master daily list. that list is created from the funnel. each day, I look at my calendar, my pocket pad, my e-mail, my text messages and notes; and transfer all of those details onto my one master daily list. my daily list often grows throughout the day as e-mails come in and as I’m reminded of things to do.

give it a try! think about what system will work for you. what can you use to capture those thoughts? its got to be something that you will see and not overlook. its got to be something that you can access all the time. phones can really be helpful with this. if you use a pocket pad, get something you’ll enjoy using and that you won’t misplace. don’t forget to have a pen on you if you’re going to use a pad. it sounds a little OCD, but there is nothing weird about remembering things that are important to you. people that remember details are thought of as thoughtful- and that’s always good.

God is love.

redeeming time 01: the list

“See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” –ephesians 5:15-16 NKJV

I get asked often about my time-management strategies, and I usually find myself having a hard time explaining it. I thought it would be best to have it spelled out somewhere- so over the next few posts, I'm going to download everything I know about time management and accomplishing goals. hopefully you find this helpful!

everyone has things that they need to get done. some are small things, some are big things, but they are all important. I personally hate it when I forget an important detail and let someone (or myself) down. I’ve got so many details to remember that sometimes its overwhelming- I’m sure you have felt the same way. over my next few posts, I’m going to spell out how I manage it all. I’ve stolen tips and tricks from all kinds of people- and its all added up to a system that has worked well for me.

it all begins with a list.

at the beginning of every day, make a list.
I make mine on a steno pad, writing with a pencil.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given that advice- it seems obvious, but I’m surprised how few people do this simple exercise.

some people think that they just aren’t the list kind of person; but I’m not talking about lists everywhere, just one list at the beginning of the day.

sometimes when we think about everything that needs to get done, its overwhelming. its like a cloud of stress that hangs over our heads. but when you actually list it out, and can look at what needs to get done on a piece of paper, all of the sudden that stress gets lighter, and the task seems more manageable.

so each day I begin with a list. on paper.

I’ve met a lot of people who make lists on their cell phone, and I would say that you should do that if it works for you- but in my experience, nothing beats a good old steno pad.

the activity of writing down my list of things to do, first thing in the morning, holds me accountable to get those things done. also- having that list in my workspace is a constant reminder of what needs to get done, of how I should be spending my time, and when I have free time and when I don’t.

what do you put on your list? everything that needs to get done TODAY. I start my list with a day of the week- in big letters I write MONDAY or TUESDAY at the top. sometimes there are little things that need to get done- I put them on the list. sometimes there are big things to get done- things that won’t get done in one day. I break those projects up into steps, and put the next step on my list. I put personal stuff on list list, like getting my car washed or writing a thank you card. I put everything that needs to get done on a given day- including having a quiet time; anything that you want to see happen, write it down. even if the list is 50 items long, its ok. write it down so you can see what needs to get done. once you can see it, its manageable.

now that its written down, you have made a contract with yourself to get it done. when I accomplish a task, I cross it off of my list.
I cross the heck out of it.

they say that your brain actually releases endorphins when you do this. it makes you physically happy to get stuff done. my friend Marc gave me that idea to cross things off on my list with a big red marker; and I’ve been doing it happily for years since.

some things on your list need to get done TODAY. note that somehow. I put a little red dot next to that item for those. some things you need to go and shop for. note those too- maybe you can get them all done on the same trip. some things are really, really important. make sure you note that on your list and give those things the time they deserve.

what if you don’t get everything on your list done? that stuff goes on tomorrow’s list. I’ll write about that in my next post. sometimes it wasn’t that important and it can just get crossed off. my goal at the end of the day is to have a page of steno pad filled with red marker. some days it happens, most days it doesn’t. that’s ok. keep those details in front of you- and as long as they are in front of you, you won’t forget them, you’ll get them done.

my list helps me in a bunch of ways. first of all, I get a bunch of stuff done. second, I don’t stress over details, because I know what details need to get done, and I’m confident that I’ll get them done. it makes me efficient with my time too. sometimes I think to myself, “I have 15 minutes until I need to go to a meeting or leave to somewhere…” instead of checking the internet for 15 minutes, I just look at my list and ask, “is there anything on here that I can get done in 15 minutes?” and the odds are that there is. finally, when I get home, I can rest. I can put my focus on my family. I don’t need to freak out and wonder how I’m going to get it all done. I know how I’m going to get it done; and I can rest knowing that I got a bunch done in the work hours that I had.

give it a try! get a steno pad and write the day on top of it. then list out the things you need to get done today. I’ll bet you have a very productive day!

God is love.