Monthly Archives: January 2013

Why You Need A Mentor, Part One

This past weekend, I ran into a man who had mentored me in my first ministry position twenty years ago. He’s about twenty-five years older than I am. We have never been close. Since we have parted ways, we have mostly traveled separate paths.  When our paths have converged, we have often disagreed.     At the time, I thought I needed a friend, a sympathetic ear, an encourager.  He provided encouragement, but in a different way than I thought I needed.  He was a taskmaster.  He challenged me, and I hate to say it, but I wilted under the challenge.

My first ministry position was something called a “church plant.”  There was a small group of people in Palm Coast, Florida, who were part of a church in our denomination about thirty minutes away.  They wanted to start a church in their community, and they hired me to help them.  We started with ten people, six of whom were over 65, not very much money, and a pastor who was extremely inexperienced, both in life and ministry.  For me, it was pretty much a disaster.  As far as the church goes, they survived me.  Although they had me as their pastor, they persevered and there is now an established church in that community.

After running into my previous mentor, I began to think about the time I spent with him.  As I’ve indicated, this was not an ideal relationship, mostly due to my recalcitrance to be challenged.  Yet, I began to think of all the things that I learned from him and carried into future endeavors that have helped me, and realized that without the influence of this man, my life would be extremely impoverished.  Here are some of the lessons learned:

1.  The value of hard work.   Most of my life up to that point had been spent in school.  I thought going to class, studying, and having a part time job was “stressful.”  I was quickly challenged about the the appropriateness about this idea by the example and encouragement of my mentor, who was putting in 60-70 hour weeks to accomplish his dream.  While I have read The Four Hour Work Week twice since then, I still maintain that hard, productive, focused work is the main element in developing competence and accomplishing your dream.

2.  Building relationships with people who are different than you.  We are naturally inclined to seek out and spend time with people who are like us — same interests, stage in life, socioeconomic status, values . . .  While this man was a former corporate executive who was most like other business types, he pushed me to seek out people who were of different backgrounds, ages, interests, stages in life, seek to understand them, and build relationships with them.  In the beginning, this is difficult to initiate, but it is a habit that will richly reward you.  These days, most of my time is spent with people who are different than I am — middle school and high school students.  Little did I know that far from being an intimidating experience, this would become a labor of love.

3.  Become competent in every area of your craft.  While I generally agree with the idea that the greatest gains may come with we build in areas of strength, it can be greatly limiting not to become competent in every area of our craft.  My mentor could have been extremely successful by coasting on his administrative and people skills.  Yet, he worked hard to become a competent teacher.  It took me another fifteen years to learn this lesson and become competent as an administrator and manager.  While the bulk of my work continues to be with ideas and people, becoming a competent administrator has been the skill that has enabled me to pursue other interests.

What have you learned from your mentors?  If you could use the help and encouragement of someone who is ahead of you on your journey, what steps could you take to initiate that relationship and secure that help?

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How Not To Rise Early

A couple of days ago, I posted about the “Early To Rise” Challenge.  I did not rise early today, unless you call between 7:30 and 8:00 am “rising early.”  So now, I can tell you what not to do:

1.  The night before you will attempt to rise early, sit in positions that bad for your posture so that your back is sore when you lie down to go to sleep.

2.  Stay up late.  Make sure you don’t get to bed until at least 11:30 or 12:00

3.  Waste the extra hours that you stayed up.  Go through your RSS feeds . . . slowly.  Alternate between checking Facebook, ESPN, ESPN soccernet, and EPL transfer rumors (note:  EPL transfer rumors generally have no factual basis whatsoever).  Check your Amazon seller account every five minutes for new sales.  Wash rinse, repeat for two hours.  Don’t read a book or do anything that may even be slightly construed as productive.

4.  Eat.  Ignore the fact that your body is 99 percent lard already and that today’s calorie expenditure has been roughly 50 calories more than if you had slept for the past 24 hours.  Eat lots of snacks.  You can even eat “healthy snacks”  like I did — black bean chips, peanut butter bars.  These “healthy snacks” will still give you the same caloric intake as a bag of potato chips and a couple of candy bars.  Just make sure you add another 600-800 calories to an already bloated diet.

5.  Tell yourself, “I deserve to sleep in for all of this!”

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Today’s Update From Half Baked Manor

The war against Mr. Mouse is escalating.  He has gone on another food raid.  Casualties today were two bags of tortilla chips.  So far, the tally is Mr. Mouse 3, Half Baked Manor 0.  We are in the “bend but don’t break” mode right now.  We will come out of this victorious, but right now, he has the upper hand.

We may have miscalculated the makeup of our enemy.  We are hearing sounds in the attic of being larger than mice.  It could be that we have a family of squirrels as boarders.  In this case, the mouse traps will be completely insufficient.  We will need to devise another approach.  It’s time to do some research before we given in to the temptation to  call “Critter Gitter.”  However, one way or another, we will conquer our enemy!

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News From Half Baked Manor

The war against Mr. Mouse is status quo.  It looks like we may have a protracted standoff. similar to the “phony war” following the beginning of hostilities in the First World War.  However, we’re dug in and ready to fight!  It’s also possible that our foe has relocated.  The residents of Half Baked Manor would view this as a favorable outcome, although it lacks the thrill of victory!

Today was a full day of teaching.  I went from postmodern philosophy (seniors) to America’s founding documents (juniors) to the Gettysburg Address as the classic ceremonial speech (rhetoric) to Plato’s theory of knowledge (sophomores) to fourth conjugation Latin verbs (first year Latin) to the present passive subjunctive (second year Latin).  You can say that there’s alot of variety in my teaching day!  This is pretty typical and it keeps me sharp.  This was  followed by watching the 1-1 draw of our Tottenham Hotspur vs. the Norwich City Canaries with my son. Canaries, huh?  Anyway, I gotta hand it to them.  They did play a tough game and Spurs were fortunate to earn the draw.  The goal by Gareth Bale was something to behold.  Lewis Holtby is already looking like an excellent addition.

Tonight, I’m adding books to my Amazon inventory.  Check out “Amy’s Bookshop” on Amazon if you want to browse the shelves.  It’s very difficult for me to part with books.  However, my shelf space has been greatly reduced since we moved south six years ago, I’m not getting any younger, and I’m looking to free myself from bondage to “stuff” and restart this microbusiness again.  My family and I have committed to going to Colorado this summer and I will need to raise the cash in order to continue to meet our financial goal of staying out of debt.


Update on Half Baked Manor

It’s been quiet here at Half Baked Manor.  There’s not much human activity here except for mine.  Mr. Mouse has not yet made his appearance.  Yesterday, we had our first casualty in this low-intensity war.  Our son stepped out into the garage and tripped one of the traps.  Our son is fine, but his pride may have taken a little hit.  So far, Mr. Mouse 1, Stuart 0.

However, we are now hearing noises up in the attic and perhaps under the eaves of our home.  I don’t know if he has migrated, or if we have some new guests.  I’ll keep you posted.

Annual Review

Below is my annual review for 2012.  I publish this, not because I think I did a great job or had an enormously successful year, but so that if you are looking to do something like this, this is a way to do it.  I’m sure there are better ways to do this, but I thought I start with what I have.  I would enjoy any comments or feedback that you would like to send my way.

2012:  What went well?

Determined to preserve current life situation — place, income, lifestyle

Completed a marathon with Hannah (Charleston, January)

Entered Chattanooga Stage Race and completed first stage under cutoff time

Completed 2 50 K races

Signed up for a 50 mile race

Personal best in Half-Marathon

Read 27 books

Preached 23 times

Organized church missions conference

Taught Getting Things Done seminar at Providence Extension Program  (the organization I teach for) annual meeting

Taught six classes at Providence Extension Program with perfect attendance

Support role in new Providence Extension Program campus start

Augmented GTD with life, long-term goals, annual review, and planning

Started 10 chapters per day Bible reading plan

Started journaling consistently

Organized and executed church missions conference

Stayed Healthy

Got Hannah off to college

Stuart had excellent SAT score

Started blog

Contentment level = highest ever

Did a better job identifying the onset of anger and preserving mental health

Stayed out of debt

Started contributing to retirement again


What didn’t go well?

Both Amy and Hannah were hospitalized this summer

One of my classes needs a redesign

My income went down so Amy has had to work more

Got cable?


Early To Rise

I am participating in a challenge by Andy Traub called Early To Rise.  Below is the link to Amazon if you want to check it out.  The basic idea is by creating a habit of getting up early, you have a greater opportunity to do what matters.  You can take control of your day and seize the opportunities that come with it.  You can fill yourself with goodness and make a plan for achieving what is important for the day.

So far, it’s been fantastic!  While I would consider myself a “morning person,” I don’t think this is so much a matter of inborn temperament as much as it recognizing that for me, not much productive activity takes place after about 9:30 pm.  I have enough on my plate right now that I really can’t afford to invest two hours in vegging on the couch watching television.

The benefit of rising early (5:00-5:30) is that that it gives me ample time to pray, to plan the day, to decide what’s important, and to formulate a strategy.  I don’t necessarily get everything accomplished in the daily plan that I hope to.  But it does set the stage for living intentionally and being deliberate in my decisions rather than taking the path of least resistance.

It would have been of great benefit to me to take this challenge and approach to life much sooner, like in my twenties.  For too long, I’ve made excuses, such as, “I can’t get up early! I have kids!” Or “church meetings last too long to get up early.”  What about the people that go to those church meetings and have a job that requires them to be there early?  Or what about all the nights that I didn’t have meetings?

However, I’m glad that I made the commitment in the last year to live more deliberately, to be more intentional in my choices, to act instead of reacting.  I don’t know what will come of it, but I’m having the time of my life!!!

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Half Baked Manor Update

It’s been a beehive of activity the last couple of days here at Half-Baked Manor.  We declared war on our friend Mr. Mouse yesterday.  One of the traps was tripped but no bait was gone and no mouse carcass was found.  So, Mr. Mouse is still at large.

The Missus went to the fabric store today, and unbeknownst to me, picked out some fabric to recover our kitchen table chairs with.  She came home and went right to work on it.  She is full speed ahead in project mode!  I’m amazed at her creativity and blessed by her industry.  The new pattern is a much lighter pattern than we have now, which is great.  We’re always trying to find ways to brighten up the public areas of Half Baked Manor, and it looks like this one will be a great success.

While she did all of this, I was at a seminar on opportunities for the Church to serve disabled people.  I’m blessed to serve in a very loving church family.  We have a number of people in our congregation who are living with disabilities, so this was something that piqued my interest.  I rejoiced to hear someone from outside our church family advocate reaching out, welcoming, and serving people who live with disabilities and their families.  However, it broke my heart to hear of people bringing guests and family members with visible disabilities being asked not to return, because it makes people “uncomfortable.”  I do remember Jesus commanding his disciples to bring in the blind, and the lame, and the halt.  Also, for a faith whose core teaching is that humanity is fundamentally broken and that the only way out of that brokenness is through Divine Redemption, it seems rather contradictory to shun those who are visibly broken.  Maybe the rest of us are just better at hiding our brokenness.

One of these days (and I mean soon!), I’m going to take the WordPress tour and figure out how to add links, pictures, and everything else to flesh out my posts and give a little help to my friends!


Athletic Pursuits

I am an ultrarunner.  That means that I have run events longer than a marathon.  I say this rather tentatively, because I don’t look like an ultrarunner and I don’t train like an ultrarunner.  But I did run two 50k events during 2012 and finished them both.

The way I got into this was that I had this idea when I turned 50 last April that a suitable goal for the year would be to run and complete a 50 mile event.  So, in 2012, I ran a marathon and two 50k events as well as a few assorted other events to work up to this goal.  After the first 50k, I signed up for a 50 mile event, which is in two weeks.

However, ever since the second 50k, which was in December, nagging injuries have kept my training limited.  I haven’t had to lay off completely, but there has been a curtailment.  I mention this because I ran my longest run today since the last 50k — a 9 mile run.  I realize that 9 miles is a long way to run.  But I also realize that compared to 50 miles, its not very far.  But I set my goal, I paid my money, I put it on the calendar, and I’m gonna go for it.  And I’m really hoping that I can finish this, because I don’t know if I’m foolish enough to sign up for another one.


Providence In The Form Of A Mouse

I had my day all planned out today.  I got up at 5:30 like I usually do, got a good start on the morning, and it was looking good for getting all my lesson plans done for the upcoming week of classes.  Then, my wife and I discovered that we have a mouse in our garage.

This is a problem.  We have a rather modest house with very little storage space.  So, our “pantry” is out in the garage.

We have not seen the little bugger yet, but little by little, we have found evidence of his existence.  Today, however, we found irrefutable evidence of his presence.  Practically every food item that was packaged in such a way that a mice could bite through had the telltale signs of his foraging.  Beans, sugar, chocolate chips . . . and even coffee!  It appears that our little friend has acquired a taste for coffee.

So, we had to bring what was left untouched of the foodstuffs with plastic packaging inside the house and bring the canned food out into the garage.  This took quite a while, with the result that most scheduled work for the day had to be postponed.

Food with permeable packaging is removed.  Mousetraps are baited and set.  War has been declared.  I’ll keep you posted.

Let’s hope our little friend is not one of my readers!

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