Friday, May 30, 2008

Tips for Summer Camps & Travels

With summer fast approaching, many of us are digging in our closets trying to find our (huge) bags and air mattresses as we prepare for a week (or a few weeks) at camp. My friend Russell Martin recently started a series of posts for "Summer Camp Survival Tips" In this series, Russell (a seasoned veteran with countless church camps and mission trips under his belt, offers helpful tips to save you time, money, and the panic attacks that come with thinking "Did I pack ______?" Whether you're a counselor, camper, director, or worship leader, you'll find these tips helpful for surviving summer camp.
Russell is a worship leader and posts regularly on the topic of leading others in worship, his blog (fork in the road) features tips that anyone learning to lead worship (or even someone that's been around a while) can find helpful.

Monday, May 26, 2008


I recently caught the last half of a show on the History Channel about 1980s technology and how it's impacted our world today. The program, a part of the series "Modern Marvels," featured many of our favorite inventions that we now call 'retro.' Click on the above title to view their web-page that highlights the particular program I'm talking about. Amongst the inventions were the "brick" phone (see Zach Morris on Saved by the Bell), Pac-Man, and the calculator watch. But the invention they said had the greatest influence on our culture today was Sony's Walkman
The Walkman, they said revolutionized the way we listen to music- from communally to personally. It wasn't long until everyone (it seemed) had or needed a walkman. The Walkman paved the way for the personal CD player, the mp3 players of the late 90s and early 00s....and finally, helped Apple's regain it's place in the technological market through the iPod. The iPod became immensely popular and solidified the fact that we no longer had to listen to things we didn't want to hear...and no longer had to physically carry tapes or CDs with us to be able to listen to them when we wanted to. You get the idea.
I feel like this is somewhat of a barometer of our society- there's been a shift in thinking: we no longer think in terms of we, but are more likely to think in terms of "me" and "I." (Something we really didn't need help doing). It seems that in the past few years we've started asking "What's in it for me?" and "Why do I have to do that?" a lot more. I feel that we're much less likely to do something for the "good of the whole" if it doesn't benefit us as individuals as well. 
I could be wrong, but I feel that religion has become the same way. We look at God and churches and wonder what they've got for us (as individuals)? In the recent past, "I don't go to church because I don't get anything out of it," has become a common excuse for not attending church. I believe you should get something out of it, and that church shouldn't be boring , but I still have to ask: "Does it always have to be about you?" or "Isn't church about praising God and recognizing what God's done for you?" 
This week I urge you to seek God in everything: school, work, conversations, and yes, even at church... see if shifting your focus from "I" and "Me" to "God" doesn't change your perspective. After all, perspective is all in how you look at it...

"Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:25

Monday, May 19, 2008

Static on the line

"We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man's gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully." Romans 12:6-8

Paul writes this letter shortly after telling the members of the church in Rome to "...offer [their] bodies as living sacrifices, holy an pleasing to God." This is one of the most vivid descriptions of how we are to live our lives as Christians. A sacrifice is something we offer to God in thanks for the blessings we've been given. If we offer our bodies as living sacrifices, it means we are working for the Lord. This doesn't mean that all should work in the church, or with church organizations, but it does mean that as Christians we're trying to take the gospel with us everywhere...yes, everywhere. Paul, tells us that we all have different gifts, and that those gifts were intentionally given to us- for the purpose of spreading the word about God's love. This is not a new concept for many people... but what about when the world tries to confuse your calling?

How do we react when something in this life causes us to wonder if our gifts are good enough? How do we react when we feel inadequate? Each of us has been called for a specific purpose in life, whether we've discerned it or not. But, how do we feel when we question our calling? What do we do when we feel we've lost the battle?

There are things in this world that will try to bring you down. That's just the way it is. Sometimes it will be an event. Maybe someone or something...maybe a stranger, or a friend. But know that it will come. And when it does, no amount of preparation can make it easy to deal with. It doesn't take much to make us doubt our calling and our faith (see Peter's attempt to walk on water ), but the good news is knowing that none of that comes from God. God would never cause us to doubt our calling- that's something the world does. And the self-doubt is a product of our own insecurities. And we don't have to win anything- we're nothing without God, recognizing your dependence on God can free you from feeling that you always have to be good enough.

So, when the time comes (or maybe the next time comes) when you feel discouraged from your call, or this world tells you you're not enough: Listen for God, and trust in the call that is yours.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

It's not easy being green....Part 5 (finally)

Ok, so life got a little crazy and I failed to make good on my promise for two more tips on how to be more green. As a reward, I'll offer a bonus...or as marketers would say "10% more FREE"...

tip #9 Get a home water-filtering system or drink tap water.
I know, I know... it tastes funny. But if you think about how many trips to the grocery store you would save by not buying water from the store, or filling up huge jugs of water. Again you would win twice- you're making fewer trips to the store as a result of being out of water, and you're lessening the amount of CO2 that you're putting into the air....not to mention that by purchasing a Brita or PUR system, you might actually save money in the long run- most filters cost between 15-20 bucks and can last between 2-4 months. And if you can make the transition back to tap water (most areas are safe...remember, bottled water has been a phenomenon in the past ten or so years, and we didn't die out before then.)

tip #10 Turn your water heater down and wash your clothes on cold or warm...not hot.
Lowering the temperature can save you money on your bills, as the heater uses less energy to maintain the temperature of your water. As for the laundry, washing clothes in cold or warm water limits the amount of hot water you're using, and again saves you money by not having to heat as much water up to replace the water used during the cycle. (Also, this can be helpful to families with young children- by keeping the water temperature lower, you reduce the chances that your child may scald themselves accidentally).

Bonus tip #11 Encourage others to be green- share these and other easy strategies with them.
Most people want to be more green, but don't know how, or think it's too them it's not. I know this isn't really a tip, but if you think about it, you can save a lot more energy if you convince others to do so than you ever could alone.

PS- I decided to practice what I preach and went out to buy the weird looking light bulbs. I'm curious to see if I notice a difference on my electricity bills. I'll update you in about a month.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

It's not easy being green...Part 4

Here are two more tips to help you "tend" the land that has been provided for may also save you some money too!

Tip #7- don't wash your dishes. Seriously. Let your dishwasher do the work. Dishwashers use less water than the average hand washer...we tend to use a lot of water in the rinsing process....and some let the water run during the washing process too! However, big stuff likes pots and pans can fill up your dishwasher quickly and cause you to run it more frequently, so hand wash those (being conscious of your water usage) but leave the small stuff to the machine.

Tip #8- Use a laptop computer if you don't require the memory or computing power of a desktop to run programs you use. Laptops use less energy and often produce less heat...meaning it's less of a strain on your A/C unit too! Also, setting your computer to "hibernate" or "sleep" overnight can help to conserve energy, and the computer should 'reboot' quickly...and you can leave applications open and it will bring them back just as you left them.

Last two posts tomorrow. Now I've got to see why one of the fire alarms started chirping outside my room...I usually cause these things to get worse.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

It's not easy being green...Part 3

This week I'm offering tips on how to help conserve energy and save you money. Being a Christian and being concerned with the environment go hand in hand. (see first post on Monday for scripture)

Here are two more tips to save you money and help the environment by consuming less.

Tip #5- Turn off the TV when you're not watching it. Many of us are addicted to background noise, and afraid of silence. So, instead of leaving the TV blaring while you're in the other room, turn on the stereo, or listen to the radio. These devices use less energy than the TV, and you're less likely to be distracted by the "shiny screen" when you should be doing something else.

Tip #6- Combine errand trips. Make a list of all that you have to do that day or week, and see if there's a way to combine a trip or two. The short trips that we make to the grocery store, cleaners, etc. often use up more gas than you think because starting and stopping (city driving) requires more gas. This will save you time and offer a break for your bank account as gas prices continue to rise. Not to mention the helping the environment part.

Check back for two more tips tomorrow!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

It's not easy being green Part 2

Continued from yesterday, these are two more tips on how to save resources and money. These are water based.

Tip #3- set out large bowls or something to gather rain water, and use that to water potted plants or flowers. This is cost-effective and rain water contains lots of things that tap water doesn't....things that plants need.

Tip #4- If you have a lawn to water, run the sprinklers in the morning or evening. Running them during the heat of the day can cause some of your watering to be lost to your money and clean water almost go up in smoke (steam, actually).

Stay tuned for two more tomorrow.

Monday, May 12, 2008

It's not easy being green Part 1

"The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it." Genesis 2:15

Every once in a while I get on a "green kick." I'm no fanatic, but I try to make a conscious effort to be friendlier to our environment. During college I was amazed at some of my friend's living habits, which inspired me to write an article to prepare students for the bills of the real world. My focus was energy saving...specifically, saving on electricity bills. With summer (and higher energy consumption in almost every way) just around the corner, it seemed like a perfect time for a post to encourage "green-ness."
More and more companies are hopping on the green band wagon. Proclaiming themselves as "a green companies" that "care about the environment." This is an interesting shift from comparing products to their competitor's to comparing how their methods stack up against their competitor's on a global-awareness scale. As Christians, we too are called to care for the environment. We are to look after the land. Unfortunately, we live in a throw away society...and many of us were raised in a world that thought that there was an endless supply of energy. Thanks to gas prices rising more than two dollars in the past five years, we now know better.
So, as we enter summer, here are some helpful tips that I've gathered over the years. These will save energy and money! I'll post two daily this week. So check back on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday.
1.Turn off lights when you leave the room...light switches are usually conveniently located near the entrance to a room, so a simple motion is not that hard. I don't think you'll get carpal tunnel syndrome, but you just might feel better about how you're treating the environment.
2.Turn the A/C down. If you're used to staying in the 70-72 range, get used to will save quite a bit of energy, and really lighten the load on your bill. Ceiling fans can help keep rooms feeling cooler for a fraction of the cost! Lights may be the most obvious thing to point out, but even the most environmentally unfriendly light these days uses more energy than an air conditioning unit.

Monday, May 5, 2008

How we should live love

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven." Matthew 5: 43-45a

May 1st was a special day in sports. With all the recent news of steriods, violence, delinquency of athletes, and fights breaking was good to hear a story that should be the norm in the field of sports. Sara Tuchulsky, a softball player at the University of Western Oregon belted a homerun (her first in a four year career) and began her trot around the bases...only to have it stop at first when she tore her ACL. Unable to run the rest of the bases, Sara's coach asked if some of the Western Oregon players could help her make the rest of the trip. Under NCAA rules, this would have nullified the homer, and Sara would have only been credited with a single. Two players on the opposing team Mallory Holtman and Liz Wallace carried Sara around second, third, and on to home plate...making Sara's home run trot perfectly legal.
"I think as women, we're able to separate the know, seeing someone hurt there. We're just able to separate that from the need to do what's right." Read the article I took this quote from or watch a local newscast with some video of Sara being carried.
These were college athletes. Young women that had probably played since they were in first grade...maybe before. There's no doubt that they are competitive people. But they were able to separate competition and do what they knew was right. The key word is DO. Often we know what we should do, but don't. These girls knew, and did. Amazing. People actually treating each other with kindness and common courtesy...even a player on the opposing team. Sometimes people can be hard to love. Some people seem to work against you, or they're simply "not nice." Whatever it is, we're called to love everyone. No exceptions. Take the softball story as an example of knowing and doing the right thing- loving each other.