Saturday, April 24, 2010

8 things I wish everyone knew about email by Seth Godin //I agree!

Why rewrite an already well-written post. I love this post on email. Thanks Seth! Darien

8 things I wish everyone knew about email

  1. Change your settings so that email from you has a name, your name, not a blank or some unusual characters, in the from field. (ask a geek or IT person for help if you don't know how).
  2. Change your settings so that the bottom of every email includes a signature (often called a sig) that includes your name and your organization.
  3. Change your settings so that when you reply to a note, the note you're replying to is included below what you write (this is called quoting).
  4. Don't hit reply all. Just don't. Okay, you can, but read this first.
  5. You can't recall an email you didn't mean to send. Some software makes you think you can, but you can't. Not reliably.
  6. Email lives forever, is easy to spread and can easily show up in discovery for a lawsuit.
  7. Please don't ask me to save a tree by not printing your email. It doesn't work, it just annoys the trees.
  8. Send yourself some email at a friend's computer. Read it. Are the fonts too big or too small? Does it look like a standard email? If it doesn't look like a standard, does this deviation help you or hurt you? Sometimes, fitting in makes sense, no?
And a bonus tip from Cory Doctorow, who gets more email than you and me combined: When you go on vacation, set up an autoreply that says, "I'm on vacation until x/x/2010. When I get back, I'm going to delete all the email that arrived while I was gone, so if this note is important, please send it to me again after that date."

Monday, April 19, 2010

Feel Compassion: Act Accordingly

Last night in our Home Group we were talking about the thrust of the book of Jonah. I was trying to help our group see that God's compassion (mercy) is a huge theme in the book. And they saw it. But I wasn't sure they saw the disconnect that often happens between our feelings and our actions.

So I asked a question.

We had a couple of children in the group so, not assuming anything, I asked the group what compassion is. The first couple of answers revolved around this idea of empathy or feeling like helping. Because I had in my mind the "right answer," I wasn't listening well enough. So I kind of blew off their answer. Now in hind-sight, their answer was correct (though incomplete). So I proceeded to make my point that compassion is an active response--not just an emotional response. But my answer really minimized the emotional part of that.

Well, God set me straight this morning as I read through Luke 10.

In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus teaches that a good neighbor is someone who shows compassion and mercy. But what caught my attention this time was these words:

"When (the Samaritan) saw the (injured) man, he felt compassion for him." (Luke 10:33, NLT, emphasis mine)

So this was God setting me straight that part of acting compassionately or mercifully is being motivated by a feeling--which fits. If God's Spirit (loving, compassionate to the core) is alive in me, he will pour that feeling in (and hopefully) through me. This happened in the story.

At this point, I will add that faith is an essential component. This feeling from the Holy Spirit assumes that I have faith in the Compassionate One, Jesus.

Back to the story, Jesus continues by making the second point (my point of emphasis last night) that feeling compassionate is not enough. It must be accompanied by compassionate action.

This is where we as Christ-followers often fall short. (And why I am so sensitive to this) We see someone in need and hurt for them. But then, either because a lack of faith or love (or both), we do nothing. We have our excuses but at the end of the day they almost always fall short. I should know. I do it a lot.

So it's not enough to feel compassion for somebody. But that IS part of it. Sympathy or empathy can be powerful motivators.

That's why you'll see parents who have lost a child to cancer minister to parents with a child going through cancer treatments. They can empathize (like no one else) with some of what they're going through. This is where the saying, "God never wastes a hurt" comes in. God can encourage and strengthen people going through great pain through people who've been through great pain.

All this reminds me of the powerful verse that summarizes what the Lord requires of his followers:

"To act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6:8, NIV) Imagine if Christ's followers just did this every day...the world would be a different place.

Jesus finished up this story asking which one was a neighbor to this suffering man. They correctly answered, "The one who showed him mercy." (10:37)

Jesus then told them--and us--, "Yes, now go and do the same."

Feel compassion. Then act accordingly.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Dave Ramsey, Lucky Charms & College Tuition

It's official. The first of 4 daughters is heading to college this fall. Ugh.

So we've done a < adequate job of saving for college. Yep, we're pretty much starting from scratch. (which is the stuff of a future post, I suppose) 

So, we're trying to do something, well, a little unorthodox. We're trying to send our kids to college...without going into debt. (You can close your mouth now...there's a little drool...)

I know, I know. You can't do that. Don't deceive yourselves talking that way. I know, we've heard it and continue to hear it. Those 4% government loans are quick, easy and make so much sense. Yada yada...

The only problem is that I'm pretty sure the Bible frowns on debt. It doesn't out-right say it's evil or wrong or not to ever do it. But it does say it's unwise. I'm pretty sure if you run the numbers, debt almost always cost you money (I think Dave Ramsey would agree).

Well, to make a long post longer, we've been praying (oh know, here we go) and asking God to help us do this. Call us crazy but we don't want our kids (or us, for that matter) to graduate with a mortgage-sized loan to pay off on top of their rent for their 1-bedroom apartment. (We also need them debt-free so we can move in when our retirement runs out (don't tell them I told you-they don't read my blog so it's safe))

So, to land this plane, Anita (wife) and Kelsi (college-bound daughter) had already started Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University class. (Roll, "Debt is dumb, cash is king, and the paid-off home mortgage has taken the place of the BMW as the status symbol of choice" drawing out that last part -Dave Ramsey Show intro)

Couple that with the approaching deadlines from Liberty University (Yes, it had to be a private college) to start making your payments ASAP so that you could minimize them, be illegible for great prizes (like free tuition for a year--riiiiight...), and get that financial aid-in-a-bottle thingy going on.

So last week we made it official. We took the FAFSA Plunge and enrolled her. That meant it was show time! (Note: That cold chill was reading over a link with .gov in it.)

What's so cool is that since we've tightened our financial belt (no debt except mort.; back on a budget; cash envelope system; sold the 3rd vehicle; applying for scholarships is new hobby; (did I say pray?)), we've started seeing a great improvement in our financial situation.

Our income hasn't increased. No raises or bonuses. But we have seen unexpected checks, reduced costs, and a growing savings account for the first time in quite a while.

We have been amazed at God's goodness.

Then there was today.
I prayed with a new friend specifically for God's provision (silly me) and that we'd not worry about this. That we'd be willing to live on much less and still give generously to our church and our East Asia missionary friends.

Then, this afternoon, a friend comes by...she heard we were all taking a vacation day (!) tomorrow and going to the beach as a family. She delivered a vacation day basket. What? Is that legal? (I don't think it is in NJ)

Can you say gift card tree? Food! (nothing cheesy either! (fresh strawberries just gets you started...then there's the Lucky Charms))

Anita comes to tell me. Our eyes leak a little. We're both moved. It's a God-moment. (Anita would tell me "Cha-ching" would be inappropriate here but I would reply that God loves it when we celebrate over his goodness and then she'd agree and say I was right! (ok, except for that last part, anyway))

It's not just that God provided. And through somebody who doesn't really know our financial situation. Today. It's that God is encouraging us. Handling His money (It's all His, that's right) more as He lays out in the Bible than we were before. Kinda like I do when I see my girls doing something right and try to encourage them with an ice cream cone.

It's like He's saying, "You can do this because I can do this through you. Watch me show you what I can do." It was a holy moment for us.

And then, without a beat, I went back to work.


I didn't take a minute to really process. We lived the moment (read the card, oogled the gift cards, smiled and hugged) and then I moved on.

How ungrateful.

But then I did a mental double-take. Well, fortunately, I followed the Holy Spirit's nudge and wrote this post. So it's not polished with lot's of loose ends. But it's from my heart.

"Thank you Lord for your unfailing love! You are the One who provides. Where you guide, you pro-vide! Forgive my lack of gratitude even when you show your glory so plainly and graciously! You humble me with your generosity and attention to detail. We have all that we need for a special family vacation day tomorrow and it won't cost us a dime. Wow. You must, like, love us!" *sniff* Really.

"Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."
Luke 6:38 (New International Version)