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The Gift of Attention

If you are a male there is a good chance you are sub-par gift giver.

Assuming you survived the holiday gift giving season perhaps you’d like some insights that might help you really surprise your partner this coming year with thoughtful gifts.

Let’s set some ground rules: This isn’t about gifts. It is about attention.

A great gift means you care enough to be thoughtful and that you are paying attention. Those are priceless to the fair ladies who put up with us. Now for the secret: you don’t have to become an intuitive savant, you just need a couple of tools.

She’s might already have a list… find it.

Stop right now and think: Does she has a Pinterest account? Yes? Jackpot. Find it, browse it, and use it to give you product suggestions and ideas.

Encourage her to build an Amazon Wishlist

It’s free and can be used to clip any item from anywhere on the internet. Not only will this simplify finding the gifts it will help you purchase them easily.

Use your smartphone

Throughout the year she will pause at a store and mention how she likes something or she’ll consider purchasing something only to delay it to another day. It’s easy to miss this moments so learn to use them as a trigger to focus. When that happens sneak back and snap a photo of the item and make a note of the type, style, cost, producer or other details.

Personally I have use Evernote for this task because it helps capture meta-data (when and where) about the item and also Evernote rocks in every way possible.

The final step is to set a calendar reminder 4-6wks in advance for all important events, Christmas, Birthday, Anniversary. My reminder sends me a text. I sit down that day and browse my Evernotes and Wishlist. In very little time I have the gift selected, purchased and on its way.

Remember that not every gift has to be a thing. Mix in experiences and indulgences. Track all the ideas in Evernote.

The trick here is to see the signals she will give you and to have the tools to remember them.

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Refocus 3.0

For the past 3 years I’ve taken time in December/January to focus on areas that I need to improve my focus or streamline my process. It has both offline and digital components but I thought I might just talk out loud and share a few of the things I’ve implemented in the past and what I’m currently trying.

I can categorize the approach in 3 different buckets:

  1. Attention: What I allow myself to pay attention to online
  2. Reference: Where I save stuff I need to know or possibly reference
  3. How I communicate and produce – Productivity

Here are a few tips I’ve used to improve in these areas.

Attention

Value your inbox

Your inbox is valuable real-estate and it’s time for a rate hike.Unsubscribe from about 90% of the email newsletters that hit your inbox. Opt for RSS subscriptions and use gmail filters to help pre-sort them.

Time-shift web reading

Social networks are great for getting lost in a web of interesting stuff. Don’t click thru, throw that link into instapaper to read later. You’ll be amazed when you come back a few days later how many of those links no longer interest you.

Unlike Noise

Facebook makes it very easy to like brand/company pages and you’ll find your feed getting noisy in a hurry. Same rule as the email newsletters, go unlike 90% of the Facebook pages you currently follow.

Trim Who/How you follow people

Finally take some time to trim the people you follow on Twitter or have friended on Facebook. Just quietly unfollow, hide, or use lists to help ensure you are seeing stuff from people that enlighten and encourage.

Reference

This category concerns the information you need to know and the websites you use on a regular basis.

Internet Bookmarks

Go thru your browser bookmarks and categorize them into folders or use tags, delete the ones you don’t use. Most modern web browsers will auto-complete the address bar using your bookmarks so this can really speed up your browsing.

For anything that is basically reference material save it to bookmarking site like Diigo.

Digital Brain

Meeting Notes, research, things to remember… whatever it is you need a place to put it. Go get Evernote. Trust me on this. It’s my 2nd brain and I don’t know how I lived without it. Here is how I use Evernote.

Productivity

Master your email with 3 folders

This may be the greatest trick I’ve ever learned. I manage about 4 active email accounts and I reach Inbox Zero every day with just 3 folders. Action, Archive, and Hold.

Kill the interruptions

Sign off IM, and disable every email notification you have. Give yourself slots in the day to be connected and then click the exit button. Also kill 90% of your smartphone alerts. The beauty of technology is you can work from anywhere you have an internet connection. The beauty of technology is you can also enforce seclusion in the middle of your work day.

Pick 3 things

I’m terrible at this but I’m a work in progress. The idea is to pick 3 big things to accomplish that day. Don’t have 50 items that you constantly defer (pot meet kettle).

Apps and Tools

I currently use the 2doapp to manage my productivity and I also have a Google Calendar called Reminders that does nothing but text/email me alerts of things I need to do at some point in the future.

Where I’m at…

I see much less time spent on Facebook in 2013. Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook groups will be where I spend time.

I need to enforce strict TV allowances on a weekly basis so I read more. My friend @savannahb has read about 100 books in 2012 and my pastor has read that many in 3 languages probably. I love to read but I don’t make it a priority. (Any ideas would be greatly appreciated.)

I just declared RSS bankruptcy so I hope to actually use RSS feeds again to discover content in depth from people I value.

…and since I got all my websites redesigned and organized I’m back to trying to write at least once a week.

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A charge to returning students

While my own little girl begins preK tomorrow I see many Christian parents praying and edify their Godly children as they too begin school. Two Wondeful Godly youngster that are dear to my heart are headed up thru the ranks of NLR high and I shared this edification with them.

1. Your self worth is found only in God’s love. If an almighty creator desires to have fellowship with you then you are priceless.

2. Your future is in God’s hand. Your job is to diligently work to master that which is in front of you Today. Do it all as unto the Lord.

3. Walk out your testimony- let your actions and attitude reflect the grace, mercy, and love you have been shown.

Finally cling to truth, seek His Kingdom, be uncommon. be Holy. (See Mat 6:33)

But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. (Matthew 6:33 ESV)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. (Galatians 5:22-26 ESV)

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The Heart of Christ and Chicken

I’ll be headed to Chick-fil-A today to support Dan Cathy and this excellent organization. However, I can’t help but consider how easily American Christians mobilize to march with pro-life banners or buy chicken but there is a stark absence of passion for serving the hungry and broken, or for sharing the gospel.

I’m guiltiest of all.

Perhaps while we are eating our chicken we should pause and ask Christ where his priorities lie. Take a moment and reflect on James 1:20-27

…for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing.

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.

 

– my thanks to Derek with whom I often disagree but always appreciate.

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Leaving Well

I’m currently changing jobs and over the years I’ve seen many Consultants come and go so I’ve been able to see the long-term effect of someone not making wise choices during their exit. Through experience and observation I’ve learned a few things when it comes to changes jobs, especially from a consultants view.

  1. Don’t burn any bridges: Speak well of your clients and employers, accentuate their strengths there is no need to air out your grievances. Just move on, graciously
  2. Go out with class and quietly if possible. Leaving a team is disruptive enough, don’t sew dissension on the way out. Be kind, shake hands and keep your opinions to your yourself.
  3. Most importantly “Do not actively court your current clients”. They may love you and your work but be explicitly clear that your goal is to help those clients transition to other teams that will continue to serve them within the organization. Keep in mind that most of your clients are employers as well and if you even appear to be trying to stab your former employer in the back they will remember that you lacked integrity.
    1. Will you have some clients interested in following you? Yes. But let that be done on their time and their decision. Go the extra mile to help a client and former employer see their concerns up front and perhaps they can resolve it.
    2. Check your ego and think about what the client needs. In time if they aren’t being served by an organization they will find someone else who will address their needs in a timely and effective manner.

The Simplified Rule

Be Nice on the way out.

Be Good to the people who have employed you for so long. Stay above the fray and let there be no accusation of underhanded practices.

Cultivate Skill, Cherish Integrity – The rest will fall into place naturally.

Be Blameless

Consider the blameless, observe the upright; a future awaits those who seek peace. Psalm 37:37

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This is my Prayer

There is something uniquely encouraging and powerful about the prayers Christ and the Apostles prayed for the church and followers of Christ. Those prayers don’t have a shelf life and to realize in the eternal church of God these prayers apply to you and I in the present day.

prayer_candles

One of the most notable of these prayers is the “High Priestly Prayer” of Jesus found in John 17:1-25 but as I’ve been reading Philippians I keep returning to the Apostle Paul’s powerful prayer at the beginning of this letter written from prison,

“And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” Philippians 1:9-11

That your love may abound more and more

Which love is he referring to? All of them. If we speak about love for one another then we are also speaking of our love for Jesus, for our sincere expressions of brotherly (horizontal) love are born only thru authentic love for our Redeemer (vertical). But it is also true that for me to have love abound I have to feel loved.

For me personally, this is where I often interrupt this cycle. I too easily focus on my own failures and listen to the whispers of the Evil One, “you are unlovable.” I feel unworthy and unacceptable and the fruit is frustration and lack of fellowship (vertical and horizontal, again these are always connected). To combat lies you must expose them to truth. The truth is

"but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

When I’m convinced that I’m unlovable then I’m wrongly denying the power of Christ. I’m unworthy of love but being loved is based on who He is, not who I am.

If my love should abound more and more then:

  1. I need to return mindfully to the Cross of Christ and see his love demonstrated to me. His life, his willing sacrifice, his resurrection, and ongoing involvement in my life are proof that I am loved.
  2. Next I need to repent of the sin that is choking my fellowship with him and ask for a fresh view of Christ. When you see Him as he is you cannot help but confess, worship, and obey. Just ask Isaiah – Isaiah 6:1-8
  3. Lastly, when I’m walking in the center of His love and daily worshipping and seeking Christ (note that this ability and desire are both a gift of God, not something we conjure up out of our own ability) then I will naturally love those around me.

It’s a beautiful circle of love abounding more and more. From Him to me, from me to Him, and through me to others.

For from him and through him and for him are all things.
   To him be the glory forever! Amen. Romans 11:36

Amen indeed.

Today

Lord help my love abound for you. Remind me how much you love me. Forgive me for my doubting and help my unbelief. Wash me so I can simply sit in the midst of your love and return it to you and then pass it on.

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Hand Raisin’ Worship Tips

Being raised Missionary Baptist “widescreen TV” is about as far as I go (unless I’m in the sound booth where no one can see me and I’ll break out a “Rocky”)

found via @challies

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Old Words, New Worship

I’ve been singing hymns most of my adult life and with a few notable exceptions I never cared much for them. Chalk it up to contempt bred by familiarity or the arrogance of youth but either way they didn’t reflect my words of worship.

In the presence day I’m still more likely to turn to worship styles favored by Jeremy Camp, Casting Crowns, and Phillips Craig and Dean. (Sidebar: Worship isn’t about us so don’t let our preferences get in the way of worship.) However, what I’ve discovered is after years away from many of these hymns I’ve found my soul now leaps through their words.

Old_words_new_worship

It is easy to just go through the motions of worship. Sometimes you have to strip away and step away to find fresh worship in old words.

An interpretation

“Just As I Am” by Charlotte Elliot, 1835

Just as I am
With no hope for tomorrow or beyond.
I cling only to the truth that you died for me.
That you stand there arms open wide beckoning me to come.

Just as I am.
Just as I am – without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bidst me come to Thee,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

I’ve been shackled in this darkness long enough.
I grasp only to the power of your blood to wash me.
Cleanse me O Lamb of God.

Just as I am – and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot,
To Thee, whose blood can cleanse each spot,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

I’m tossed about as though I were asea. Life has battered me.
My ways result in conflict and frustration.
I don’t know what to believe sometimes.
I’m scared.
Scared of who I am.
Scared of where I’m going.
yet…

Just as I am – though toss’d about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
-O Lamb of God, I come!

You have promised that you will
Welcome me
Pardon me
Cleanse me
Save me.
Love me.

This I believe.

I come. Just as I am.

Just as I am – Thou wilt receive,
Wilt welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve;
Because Thy promise I believe,
-O Lamb of God, I com

My apologies to this great hymn and its author Charlotte Elliot.

Take a fresh listen to this stirring and simple rendition by Johnny Cash.

May you rediscover some beautiful old words of faith that give rise to your own worship.

I’m considering doing a series of “Old Words” so if you enjoyed this post I’d love hear from you. Please leave me a comment or tweet me. I promise I won’t paraphrase very often.

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A Powerful Pause

Too often I act on impulse. I speak or act without hesitation and more often than not find myself regretting my hasty reaction.

pause

I found too much of myself reflected in zenhabits’ post “The Pause Upon Which All else Relies

When we fail, it’s because we act on urges without thinking, without realizing it…What if instead we learned to pause after each urge? What if we stopped, looked at that urge, paid close attention to what it feels like inside our bodies, but didn’t act?…

If we can pause, we create space. Space to breathe, to think, to be without acting.

Leo does an excellent job of mounting an argument for being mindful of our urges and intentional about creating pauses but as a follower of Christ and inhabited by the Holy Spirit I’d like to add this encouragement.

This Pause creates space for the Holy Spirit to speak.

My urges are sinful, selfish, and prideful and when I act immediately I’m doing so with consideration for only myself. When I pause I provide an opportunity for God to breathe truth and perspective into the moment.

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. James 1:19-21

As we ingest God’s Word daily into our lives let us give God room to breathe that Word back into us and make us mindful. That is the power of God to transform my actions. That is the power of God’s Word to save me, even from my own urges.

Do you see a man who is hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. Proverbs 29:20

Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly. Proverbs 14:29

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