A Nudge Over the Edge

I started a local boot-camp on Monday morning. Yes, I had to get up at an ungodly hour (4:30!?!) to drive to a nearby church where  I was whipped for an hour. It was a mix of Tony Horton and running suicides. Needless to say, I’ve been sore almost immediately since then.

Photo credit: Peter Carwell (Creative Commons)

Truth be told, I was at a point in my ‘fitness’ where I wasn’t going anywhere. I wasn’t training and/or running consistently and felt liked I needed something to nudge me over the edge. I needed to develop this discipline in my life. I needed to cultivate a level of consistency with my fitness routine. It just wasn’t there.

And now here we are, two days later. By the time this post is published, I’ll have gone through day 2 and will be twice as sore.

But the good thing is that I am sore. My body is being challenged; it is being stretched. 

(And in a month, I’ll look like a 1970 Schwarzenegger when he won Mr. Olympia for the first time… right? Right? That’s what they promised me, right?)

While I can’t expect immediate results, I can look to consistent hard-work and discipline to get to a place where I want to be.

As with many things in my life (prayer, bible study, accountability, etc), there are times when a little nudge in the right direction proves to be the one thing we need.

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In what area to you need a ‘nudge’ in?
Have you ever done a boot-camp?

What Do You Want?

Today I have the honor of having my wife Jen share a glimpse into her everyday with you. Through her experiences as a Mom, she challenges us to assess our heart’s longing question: What do you really want?” Hope you enjoy.

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It would be difficult to imagine our house without clutter. In the middle of life with three little ones, our new “normal” looks like Legos hidden in the folds of our worn couches, princess dolls strewn haphazardly on our living room floor, an entire cupboard devoted to sippy cups, teething rings, and other kid-friendly utensils, 4 toothbrushes and 4 different toothpastes crammed in one bathroom drawer, and a steady pile of rouge socks (aka the ones that never seem to have a match) collecting in a pile on our dryer. If someone asked me, “Jen, what do you really want?” – my answer would seem almost painfully obvious: a weekly cleaning service, and extra set of hands, a fairy godmother! I would look at my situation in the moment, and choose something that made life easier.

Photo credit: Jake Rohde (Creative Commons)

Two thousand years ago, Jesus encountered people living in the midst of their own life’s “clutter” – slavery, busyness, illness, wealth, etc., and He asked them the same seemingly obvious question, “What is it that you want?”  At first glance, we might answer, “Freedom. Rest. Healing. Purpose.” However, it was a question that intended to take the focus off of the circumstances around them and draw out the attitudes of the heart.

In Luke 18, Jesus encounters a blind beggar outside the city of Jericho. He repeatedly cried out, “Jesus, have mercy on me!” even though the crowds around him tried to silence his pleas for help. In the midst of the chaos, Jesus stops and has the blind man brought to him, then asks, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Jesus chose to address the beggar’s physical need along with spiritual desire to know Him more. We orient our lives – our relationships, our actions and inactions, our resources, our prayers, our time – around what we want.  Do our hearts reflect the truth- that Jesus wants to be more than a solution to our circumstance? Do our lives make much of the Gospel and less of ourselves?

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If Jesus passed you by on that same road, what would you ask Him for?

 

The Next Generation

It is weird to think about sometimes, but I’m twice as old (or older) as some high-schoolers nowadays.

There are many things that have changed over the course of 15-20 years or so since I was in middle/high-school.

Instead of texting, I rode my bike to the neighbors’ house to see if my friend was home.

Instead of Googling, I flipped open my parents’ Encyclopaedia Britannicas or went to the library.

Instead of Facebooking a girl, I actually went up and talked to her.

(Okay, who am I kidding… I didn’t talk to girls. HA!)

Photo credit: Iman Al-Dabbagh (Creative Commons)

Along with many of the differences between now and then, I am certain one thing hasn’t changed since I was in high-school: the impact that an adult leader can have in a student’s life.

Thinking back on yesterday’s ‘announcement‘, I couldn’t help but come back to think about the ways I am striving to impact the next generation of student leaders.

Yes, I help serve with 10th/11th grade guys on Sunday mornings, but what am I doing to speak life into their lives right now to show them that there is a God that loves them right now.

When I was in high-school (and even in college) I personally experienced the power of someone investing in my life — someone outside of my family who valued me, wanted to see me succeed, and desired my faith in God to grow.

So the question remains: what do I need to do?

Grab a bite to eat? Show them God’s love? Send an encouraging text?  Cheer them on at their football game?

Right now I’m challenged with probably a combination of all of the above.

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In what way can you impact the next generation right now?

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Thinking about ways to cohesively align with Orange’s vision, I will occasionally be blogging (and tweeting #thinkorange) with ‘The Next Generation’ in mind. I encourage you to do the same. Additionally, I will be blogging during the Orange Conference 2012. If you plan on being there, please let me know!

I’m Coming To Orange 2012!

If you aren’t aware of Orange, I invite you to check out this dynamic organization.

Along with curriculum, training, and resources for your church they organize events across the country to equip leaders impacting our next generation.

One such event is the annual Orange Conference here in Atlanta.

The Orange Conference is opportunity for all areas of ministry to get together to strategically align their vision, refocus their understanding, and redefine the way they ‘play the game’.

From the pastoral staff, to the children’s and student ministries, to the adult and women’s areas… the Orange strategy aims to synchronize all areas together to show the next generation that there is a God who unconditionally loves them.

Photo credit: Greg Gibb (Creative Commons)

The Orange Conference 2012 will be a gathering of leaders called to understand the changes influencing this new generation — our kids, our mentees, our students.

You’re probably saying to yourself: “Dustin, you aren’t in ministry, right?”

Right.

But… I have a family. I serve at church. I blog about faith and fatherhood.

All those things tie into the singular vision of wanting to align myself with the vision of those in my community.

With that being said, I’m excited to announce that I am going to blog for the Orange Conference in April. If you happen to be in the area, let me know!

As part of this opportunity, I’m excited to be able to give away one of two books: Think Orange (by Reggie Joiner) or Parenting Beyond Your Capacity (by Reggie Joiner & Carey Nieuwhof).

Now, the contest! Here’s how to enter:

1. Leave a comment on this post with an answer to the question, “If you had to travel to a conference/festival this year, where would you go and why?”

2. Twitter a link to this post mentioning @dustinv, #thinkorange and this link: http://cl.ly/Dvvx. If you don’t have a Twitter account, you can use Facebook. You can write your own or use this example: “Win a book from @OrangeLeaders on @dustinv’s blog http://cl.ly/Dvvx! #thinkorange”

3. Bonus: every day you Tweet/Facebook that link, I’ll give you an extra entry!

4. On Friday, February, 10th  (2:00 PM EST) I’ll will pick the winners (via Random.org). I’ll announce them the on Friday and you can email your address if you’re one of the winners.

**Contest is over. Thank you! Congrats @LivingNGrace!

Please Forgive Me

Please forgive me…

I have been traveling with work a lot these last two weeks and have neglected the blog — I apologize.

Truth be told, I don’t have to travel that often so these back-to-back trips have gotten me a little off-track.

I plan on being back next week with a pretty cool announcement and news!

In the meantime, let me know what is going on with you. What’s the latest and greatest in your world?

Off The Beaten Path

While traveling in DC earlier this week, I decided to do something out of the ordinary (for myself at least).

Arriving late on a Sunday night, I took a restaurant recommendation from a friend and ventured out to a Belgium gastropub. She warned me that it was “off the beaten path”, so I suppose I should have been prepared…

Photo credit: XXVIII (Creative Commons)

I’m not adverse to eating by myself, and in fact, traveling cross-town in search of a perfect bison burger and twice-fried frites was something I was a excited about.

There were countless reason to not go: it was late, I was in a new city, I was by myself, it was 20 minute walk through a sketchy part of town, they stopped serving food in 30 minutes, etc, etc, etc.

When it was all said and done, the evening was fantastic.

I enjoyed a great, low-key meal and enjoyed the quiet nightly stroll through some pretty cool parts of DC.

All because I took that first step.

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What is your favorite off-the-beaten-path restaurant?
In what way do you need to “take that first step”? 

 

My 2012 Digital Tool Kit

I wanted to share what I use everyday to manage Abraham Chronicles, my social media presence, and the daily what-nots of Dustin Valencia. I get giddy when I get to teach my wife a new trick for her iPhone. It’s who I am! So, without further adieu…

BIG GOODS

  • 15″ MacBook Pro – 2.53 Ghz Intel Core i5; 4 GB memory; 500 GB storage; Mac OS X Lion
  • iPhone 4S – 16 GB; iOS 5
  • iPad2 – 32 GB; iOS 5 – more of a work thing right now; favorite app right now = Noteshelf (Because of my Pogo Sketch Plus!)
  • Timbuk2 messenger bag – although I’m thinking of getting a backpack-styled bag. Any suggestions?
  • Moleskine – I’m not fully digital in this regard yet… but I use this to capture random thoughts.
Desktop.

MAC GOODS

  • Wunderlist – last year this became my task management app of choice. It syncs over the cloud to my iPhone/iPad. It has quietly nudged Things off the top spot these last six months.
  • Skype – on it all day long, mostly for work… but usually around 10AM each morning I get to Skype with my girls. Highlight!
  • Evernote – Live on it. Use it personally and professionally to store customer notes, blogpost drafts, pictures — you name it, it’s there.
  • Twitter for Mac – When on my Mac, this is my Twitter client of choice. Intuitive and simple.
  • Reeder – I know I’m missing out by not having it on my iPhone/iPad, but the Mac app was well worth the $10 I shelled out for it. Well, well, well worth it.
  • OmmWriter – If I need to block everything out for 20 minutes and write, this is what I use.
  • Chrome – Safari, bleh. Firefox, bleh. Chrome, yeah!
  • iTunes – I’ve tried Spotify, Rdio, Pandora… but I keep coming back to my trusty ol’ iTunes and my vast library of songs that include Hall & Oats, Foo Fighters, and Huey Lewis & the News. REPEAT!
  • Fantastical – iCal keeps me organized. Fantastical makes it easy to schedule events on my Mac using natural language. Brilliant!
  • Alfred – Shift+Command+Space = Find anything on my Mac. Uhh…. YES!

ONLINE GOODS

  • Pixlr – Don’t have Photoshop… like Snapheel (I think)… but if I need a quick edit this online editor is my choice!
  • Facebook – Don’t care for the iPhone app (even though I have to use it), so I’ll stick with this for now.
  • Compfight – The site that I use to find blog post images; it searches through photos that can be used legally through the Creative Commons license.
  • Yahoo! Fantasy Sports – I like to dominate Fantasy Football. Sue me!
iPhone screens.

MOBILE GOODS

  • Tweetbot for iPhone – Hands down the best iPhone Twitter app out there. Trust me on this one.
  • Instagram – It’s like a little community, syncs to Twitter, and makes my photos like somewhat decent. I like!
  • Dropbox – If my wife and I need to share documents (budgets, photos, etc.), this is it. Plus, it allows sharing folders with other folks!
  • Amazon – I’m an unashamed Prime-guy. There have been at least 2-3 times this past week where I’m like, “Oh I need to order that (batteries, baby formula, random stuff).” Pull up the Amazon app, get a good/fair price, order it, and voila! It arrives at my doorstep in two days.
  • ESV Bible – The YouVersion app is cool and all (especially for the reading plans), but I tend to do stick with this one — doesn’t require an Internet connection and it’s fast!
  • Flipboard – The best personalized magazine app out there. Prefer it over Zite.
  • Triptracker – Automagically imports/updates my flights, hotels, & car rentals into one simplified screen.
  • Pulse – As far as a personalized news source, I like it a lot.

Wow, took longer than I expected… but I hope that you’ve found something useful/you want to try out/etc. These are the programs, apps and websites that I frequent everyday. They make me more productive (I think) and help shape most of my day.

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Share you tools… how do you make happen what you do everyday? What am I missing?

Small Deposits

Let’s face it — I am not going to win the lottery.

As much as I win things, a $150M MegaMillions jackpot is not going to come my way anytime in my lifetime. (Side note: I really do win a lot of things. No lie. Ask me about it sometime.)

With that out of the way, to help prepare for my retirement (yikes…) the smart, financial advice is to invest regularly over a long period of time. Compound interest is scary good.

In fact, it is wiser for me to invest regularly into my 401K, every month, than to put a chunk of change down right now and let it sit. Most would argue that this is a smart long-term plan.

Photo credit: Karol Franks (Creative Commons)

Thinking about my post last Tuesday, I couldn’t help but get stuck on the idea of ‘small deposits’.

Yes, the big things are important: the missions trips, donating a car, the large financial offerings.

But so are also the small investments: the cup of coffee, they friendly hello, the hug.

Thinking about my own family, I believe regular small deposits will prove to be a worthwhile investment:

…telling my wife she is beautiful every day.
…coming home from work each day and giving my kids a hug.
…spending time with God in prayer and study every morning.
…kissing my kids (no matter how old they are or how awkward it gets for them!).
…regularly serving other families (as a family).

I believe this short list, among other things, will not only compound our family’s love for each other but will also create the foundation that God is to be honored first and foremost within our household.

As I look at back at these words in 40 years (you never know!), I want my wife and kids to see the big and the small deposits that I made into our family; that they were intentional, purposeful and full of love.

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What ‘deposits’ have you made into your family and friends?

The Big Picture

One of my favorite websites to frequent is The Big Picture — a picture blog run through the Boston Globe. It is a fantastic site that tells stories through pictures.

Sometimes they chronicle a major world event like the Japan earthquake; other times it’s a lesson in history, like the 25th anniversary of Chernobyl.

Today, they feature some harrowing pictures from the earthquake that devastated Haiti. In fact, today marks the two-year anniversary of the catastrophic event that caused major damage across the poor, Caribbean nation.

Photo credit: United Nations Photo (Creative Commons)

Although the exact number is undetermined, the estimated death toll was over 220,000. Most believe that number to be much higher.

Along with the human life toll, the infrastructure damage was tragic. It was believed that even one-year after the quake over one million refugees lived in tent cities. Can you imagine? Right now I can’t.

Coincidently, in light of this anniversary, I am eager to share that Jen and I will be going to Haiti for a week early April. We were asked to host a high-school student trip with our church, working alongside of Compassion International.

We’re excited and nervous at the same time.
We’re ready for God to move in the hearts of these students.
We’re expectant for God to show us more of the big picture.  

As I receive more information, I’ll certainly share how you can pray for us, the students going on the trip, and the people we will be working with in Haiti.

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Have you ever traveled internationally? On missions?
Have you ever experienced an earthquake?

Investments

When my friend Moe sent me an email last year with his vision for Discipulus I was stoked. I am eager to read more (you should to!) and learn more about his heart in this particular area.

Not only do I view discipleship as an important part of our growth as believers, I have also personally experienced the effects of someone investing in my life.

Photo credit: Pulpolux (Creative Commons)

In high school, I had a small group leader who cared about me and what I was going through.

In college, I made a dear friend who invested his life into mine and showed me first-hand what it looked like to follow Christ.

A couple years back I made a year-long commitment to “do life” with a group of 7 other guys. I learned their stories; they learned mine. We grew closer and developed a bond that was beyond the surface-y, “Hey, how are you?” Sunday morning conversation.

This past year, a couple at church intentionally invested in our marriage. We sought advice, gained wisdom, and as a result, grew closer as a married couple.

Experiencing first-hand what happens when someone invests their life into yours is inspiring. I’m grateful to have received these types of investments over the last 15 years.

As I look into 2012 I want God to move in my heart to share more about this — what it looks like for me personally and how I want to extend my life out to my family and others. Specifically, there are a few areas of my life that I want to focus on: my family, my students (high school boys at church), and some men in my life.

Like financial investments, these deposits may not have an immediate return. They make take time. They may require ‘monthly contributions’ of seemingly insignificant amounts. But in the end, the results — I believe — will be great.

I have some exciting things in store this year that I can’t wait to share about — and they fall in line with exactly this: purposefully investing in something else and, in turn, intentionally being available to share your life with others.

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Tell me about someone who invested into your life.