General


I guess there are people who think Jesus is really like this:

Being a dad can be the most rewarding thing in the world. There are those times when your heart is so full you don’t think it will hold anymore. This past weekend I had such a time. Although my fiftieth birthday is still a few days away we celebrated over the weekend because our three out-of-town kids were here over their Spring Break. We had a really wonderful dinner at home and retold some funny stories from the kids’ childhood. It was a lot of fun. After dinner our kids brought out some birthday gifts. Jacque (my wife) had told them to be creative, very personal and to not spend much money.

Jessica, our oldest gave me a beautiful scrap book that she had loaded up with stories from her life. On each page she captured a different phase of our life together. Some of the memories were fun and some even a little painful. Each of them express our lives together as father and daughter. Among many other things she said, “I would not be the person I am today without you.” In the back of the book she had written out the words to the song, I Love You, Lord. It’s a song I used to sing to her at bedtime when she was a little girl, and then when she got married I quoted it within the ceremony. It has always been a special song for the two of us. At the bottom of that back page was an envelope and inside was a CD. She and our son Ryan had recorded their own arrangement of the song the night before. Listening to it is just one of those moments for me. It will never get old — go ahead and listen.

Ryan, our fun loving, non-sentimental son (the one who engineered the recording of I Love You Lord, and played drums, keyboards and who knows what else) gave me a card and inside he had written words that I will cherish the rest of my life. While I’m unwilling to share all of them with the world I will proudly say that according to him, I am his hero and inspiration — it doesn’t get any better than that. Along with the card he gave me an N scale, toy train caboose to keep on my desk. He’s always loved trains, and he and I have had some great model train memories over the years. The caboose will remind me of him every time I see it.

My baby girl Aimee made me a beautiful card and mounted it in a floating frame. The card says,

Holds you when you cry, scolds you when you break the rules, shines with pride when you succeed, and has faith in you even when you fail. I love you. Happy 50th.

It summarizes what she knows about me. It will find a special place on my office wall.

Jacque and I are very blessed and proud parents. We’ve got three great kids of our own and two of them have married great kids. Throughout our adult lives people have asked us how we’ve raised such great kids, and while I think the reasons go far beyond this simplistic answer I usually say something like, we spent lots of time together. Much of it around the dinner table sharing the highlights (and sometimes lowlights) from our day, laughing and occasionally crying.

I could keep writing but there’s really no point. God has blessed us and I’m thankful. Turning fifty couldn’t be any better than this

Have you ever been so shocked by something that you were practically frozen in place and didn’t know what to say. Yesterday after I got home from work Jacque and I were watching the news and catching up on the day when we heard the front door open. That seemed very odd because no one just walks into our house but our kids who live a few miles away and they nearly always call before they drop by. But sure enough when I turned to see who it was there was Jessica. I still didn’t think too much of it, although I wondered why she’d stopped by. Then the, Oops I Crapped My Pants moment: behind Jessica was Aimee, then Ryan and then Claire. All of them standing there with wide grins on their faces, having just flown in from Idaho to surprise Dad.

I was stunned and pretty much totally speechless because I was so shocked. I was full of questions that wouldn’t come out and I couldn’t put all of the pieces together. I was suddenly feeling older than the fifty years they’d come home to celebrate. After a long round of hugs, followed by more stunned silence I figured out my wife Jacque was in on the whole thing. In fact, she’d been planning it since before Christmas. I had no idea any of this was happening. Many other people knee but not me. In fact, most of the people I work with knew and they were able to keep quiet. Not a word, not a even a twitter!

As I went to bed last night I realized how blessed I was to have a wife who would plan such a great surprise — I could not have a better wife than Jacque. I also realized that I had five really amazing kids that I was very proud of and they were all with me to celebrate a milestone in life. Then I remembered Ryan and Claire were down the hallway in Ryan’s old bedroom, sleeping together under my roof for the first time since they got married in December, and Oops, I Crapped My Pants all over again! 

Welcome Home Kids — I love you!

Have you seen the monster.com commercial with the ginormous-legged man pedaling the gyroscope at the center of the earth? That’s one of the first things I thought of when I first heard someone say the internet is the center of the universe. Then in my mind I began seeing someone deep in the earth’s core making all of these connections — kind of antique switchboard style. Then as I allowed my mind to expand and catch up with reality I realized how undeniably true that statement is. 

How many things do you do in in your daily life that have nothing to do with the internet?  For me that’s a short list. I practically live online and I’m not all that young anymore. My kids and the young kids I’m surrounded by at work live their lives more immersed in the digital world than I, which is a little hard to believe. And it just keeps expanding and people continue to dream up new ways of being connected. Just a few days ago I read a brief update in Fast Company that told how we’re not that far away from our appliances being connected to the digital space. Can you imagine having your refrigerator sending you a text message that your milk is going bad and you’d better pick up a fresh gallon?

This past weekend I decided to experiment with Twitter so I went online and created my account and began twitting (you can follow me here but it’s not that exciting). Very quickly I discovered my 21 year old son twitting with some of our creative staff at Premier Studios. So being a good dad I signed up to follow him (that could have been very handy when he was younger). I found out he was sitting in a Saturday class wishing he were sleeping instead. I immediately jumped on iChat and before the program could fully open a window opened with the words, “sup Dad,” and Ryan and I began a chat while he was in class in Idaho and I was sitting in a hotel room more than 1500 miles away.

 

And yes, I told him to get offline and pay attention to the lecture — I may be connected but I’m still a dad.

I help lead a marketing company that specializes in brand-experience. We not only help develop, define and promote our clients’ brands but we develop strategies to ensure that whenever someone experiences those brands that their experience supports and reinforces the brand. Frequently I think and write about the potential downside of church marketing as in my recent post, The Commoditization of God. Regardless of where you fall on that subject there are certain realities to consider, and one of those is that every church is a brand. 

By brand I’m not talking about your church building, name or even your logo, but rather what is behind those things. What are your priorities, what do you stand for, how do you impact others and contribute to their lives, what is your mission? All of those things and more contribute to your brand. Your brand is the very essence of who you are. Brand is a powerful thing and as a marketer I would say most churches don’t consider how critical of a role it plays. And of course where there’s a brand there is brand-experience.

When I was a pastor I considered myself not only a brand champion but a brand-experience expert — which has translated well into my current role. A large part of my pastoral role was making sure brand and experience were in alignment. While that involved much more than the public gatherings that seems to be a good place to focus. Consider this: when people experience your brand do the two things align? If your brand includes community involvement, how much do people experience that? If it boasts of relevancy how is that experienced? If your brand speaks to the poor and disenfranchised how is that played out when people gather each week?

Just some thoughts that sort of streamed through my mind this week. So, what’s streaming through your mind right now? Is the brand-experience at the church you attend in proper alignment? Let me know your thoughts!

As a professional marketer I understand the power of advertising, promotion, public relations and the various ways of placing product in front of the public to increase awareness and sales. Put simply, it’s all about making enough memorable, repeated exposures so when consumers consider purchasing a product in your category they’ll remember yours and make a purchase that adds to your bottom line. 

This last week I read a book review in Advertising Age for Brands of Faith: Marketing Religion in a Commercial Age. Although I haven’t yet read the book the topic certainly got my attention. I’ve been thinking lately about how churches should market themselves, and although I’ve not developed any iron clad theories it seems the Bible’s idea of people sharing the good news with each other is a great way to start. 

Two things in this review especially caught my attention: The first was this, The book’s author, Mara Einstein calls religion a “commodity … packaged and sold the same way as other marketed goods and services.” To me that implies there is money to be made which seems to be somewhat of a mockery. While I hope people don’t view religion or God as a commodity my fear is that many may. Second, the author states that, “If spiritual hunger isn’t driving people to the big-box style of worship, then eventually the religious consumer is “going to feel disappointed.” This is a statement I agree with.

While I believe God can use a wide variety of ways to create spiritual hunger, I question the long term effectiveness of slick campaigns or exposure events. Sure, they may produce quicker results than people sharing the good news with each other one at a time but I’m not convinced the result is as long-lasting as what might be possible otherwise. In addition, once this pattern begins what needs to happen to maintain momentum? Does the weekly battle to “top the previous week” only further erode the real value of the gospel and increase the level of commoditization? 

What are your thoughts?

It was a little more than 15 years ago but I still remember it very clearly. I had a rather long commute to work those days, mostly freeway driving so I had plenty of time for processing thought. As I exited one freeway and merged onto another my thoughts led me to a fresh understanding of God’s love. I’m not sure why it had taken me so many years to come to this conclusion but I finally realized that God’s love was independent of my actions. It was a freeing day for me to know there was nothing I could do to make God love me any more than He already did, and nothing I could do to make Him love me any less.

It sounds simple enough on the surface, but in so many ways that fresh understanding set me free of some excess baggage, and opened the door to a new level in understanding the depth of God’s love. That was probably the beginning of what I’m now referring to as, Hoopless Christianity. I think it also contributed to many of the questions I’ve been exploring in more recent years: the largest of which has to do with God’s love and forgiveness.

The basic question is this: Is God’s love for us separate from His forgiveness? Can those two things be distinct? Can they be independent of each other or are they inextricably connected? That’s the heart of my most recent thinking. I feel like I’ve only begun this exploration but Id like to spend some time writing about this in the coming days and weeks. So, give me your thoughts so I can combine those with some of my own streams of conscious thinking. Are God’s love and forgiveness separate expressions?

A parting thought: As I’ve been exploring this general question I’ve had a growing sense of gratitude for God’s love and forgiveness. It’s a daily realization that I’ve been given a gift that is greater than I can imagine, and I’ve done nothing to deserve it. Let me hear from you!

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