First Circle

I want my students to live in the “First Circle.” Let me explain.

When I was a youth minister, someone once showed me the “First Circle” concept. I honestly don’t know where it originated, but I have reworked it a bit for my students. Here’s how it works:

The “First Circle” is where students work diligently on the things they are asked to do. When they do so, they are successful learners and end up being happy with themselves and their work. They make good choices and usually good grades as well.

Students enter the “Second Circle” when they come to a crossroads and make a bad choice – when they choose to break the class rules/procedures. There are usually consequences for these bad choices and they also disrupt the class. The learning process is also disrupted if a student enters the second circle.

Note: I have many student who enter this circle and then apologize. However, when they continue to misbehave and then apologize again and again without behavior change, they never return to the 1st Circle. The words of a true apology is backed up by actions and behavior change.

Students can enter the “Third Circle” pretty quickly if they choose not to apologize. This circle is NOT where I like my students to be. They end up disrupting the class repeatedly and will suffer consequences both in the classroom and out (ISS/Parent Phone Calls). Many times they destroy the learning process for themselves but also for the class as a whole. These students are usually too angry to apologize and end up causing more problems out of anger. However, when they cool off, they still have the opportunity to apologize and then start making better choices to work their way back to the first circle. they have destroyed the learning process for themselves and sometimes for the class as a whole.


Anyway, this is just a concept that I thought was worth writing up. Like I said, I didn’t create it, but I’m not sure who did. I just adapted it from a discipleship concept that I learned as a youth minister. (They used “sin” and “repentance” as the two decision points.)

Integrity

Integrity is the amount that your words, actions, and beliefs line up with one another.

As a teacher, I witness my students’ lack of integrity every day. When they misbehave, I follow our classroom procedures to reprimand them. They almost always say, “I’m sorry.” However, I’m not sure they really are. Often, their words don’t really line up with their subsequent actions. There’s an integrity problem.

I’ve heard that integrity is “being the same person all the time” – no matter who else you’re around or what situation you find yourself in. “It’s who you are when you’re alone.” These definitions are centered around “consistency” which is also what I was taught in my Leadership Studies @ the College of Biblical Studies:

Integrity is the amount that your words, actions, and beliefs line up with one another – it’s how consistent you are in each of these areas.

Integrity is the “white” section.

Where our words, actions, and beliefs all agree with one another.


Here’s what it looks like when someone has a lot of integrity:


The first type of integrity problem is that of the Liar:

People lie. Sometimes we can do the right things and believe the right things, but peer pressure (or some other pressure) causes us to lie in the moment. (I guess it also works the other way – We can believe the wrong things and do the wrong things, but lie to make ourselves look better.) When we lie, we compromise our integrity. Even the “little white lie” can be dangerous. Each time we lie (no matter how small), we make ourselves more comfortable with lying. We must also remember that others are watching us. When the phone rings and a 3yr-old hears daddy say, “Tell them I’m not here,” he is learning something from his daddy.


The second type of integrity inconsistency is that of the Coward.

The coward says what he believes, but just won’t actually take any action. He’s too scared or too busy to follow through. I’ve certainly had this problem. I believe I should do a lot of things and even talk about doing them, but often get too scared to actually take the necessary steps to move forward. It easy to say that I’m just too busy, but ultimately, maybe it really is just simple fear that paralyzes us all.


The third type of integrity inconsistency is that of the Politician:

The politician will say (words) and do (actions) whatever it takes to get what he wants regardless of his own values or beliefs. He might have great beliefs, but they don’t have any deep roots. He is willing to compromise them at the smallest temptation. In general, he is simply out to fulfill his own desires regardless of anyone else. He is a dangerous person to be around.


The final type of integrity problem is the most inconsistent. You never know what you’re gonna get with these guys. They are often out of touch with reality and clueless about themselves. They have no integrity at all. (At least with the others, there are 2 of the three which line up. You might be able to predict something based on those two areas.) With the final type, there’s no predicting anything.

Notice that there is no integrity(white area) at all.


I hope my little exploration of integrity has been helpful. This information is all stuff I learned from my Biblical Leadership classes at the College of Biblical Studies.

Teaching = Walking on the Moon

I have been walking on the moon for the past 2 weeks. I lifted off from the comfortable ground of the church world and entered a new territory in the public school system. Oh yes, others have gone before me, but this is uncharted territory for me. I am treading new grounds, making tracks, exploring, and hopefully making a positive impact on the lifeforms I encounter. You may laugh, but yes, they are aliens. They dress differently, speak a different language, and look at me like I’m the strange one. It’s truly an honor to have been chosen to lead such an important mission – to develop new ways of thinking and explore uncharted territories.

I am a Rasco Rocket!

OK – enough with the allegory. I know some of you really want to know how my first few weeks of teaching have gone. Well. . . . I think it’s gone well. I’m still coming home with a smile on my face. I’ve still got a lot to learn, but I feel like I’m moving forward and learning new things every day. My students are great! They get a little out of hand sometimes, but I like them. I feel like I’m getting to know both the other teachers and my students. I’m well aware that I’m still in a “honeymoon” stage, but I feel like this is going to be a good fit for me.

Prayer: Lord, guide me. Give me patience with my students and give me experiences which will sharpen my skills and help me to become a great school teacher. Grant me favor with my students and with my team as well as the administration and other coworkers. Go before me and lead me. I truly want to honor You with this new role. I want to be a positive influence for all my students and will need Your help to do so. As I learn all these new skills, give me peace. When it seems overwhelming, intervene and help me to breathe again, to rest in You. AMEN.

Miracle

Eric and I playing a Concert

I was a witness to a miracle a few years ago. Let me tell you the story: I used to play in a Christian worship band that recorded a couple of CDs and traveled around to play a few gigs. We played for church services, youth camps, and in coffeehouses, etc. Anyway, one night after rehearsal I was talking with my buddy Eric as we tore down the equipment. I packed my stuff up and took it out to my car and then headed back in to turn out the lights and lock up. I met Eric in the building as he was getting his stuff packed up. (He played electric guitar and carried around a lot of equipment.) We continued talking and carried his equipment out to his truck to load it up.

There it was!!! Did you catch it?? The miracle I witnessed that night was incredible!!

OK….maybe it wasn’t the parting of the Red Sea or anything, but it was still a miracle! Let me explain: I absolutely HATE loading and unloading music equipment. I’ve done it for years and it’s the worst part of being a musician. But that night as I talked to Eric, I served him by helping him carry his stuff out. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but here’s why it’s so significant. I never actually thought about it. I never made the decision to help him or to carry his stuff. As I talked to him, I just naturally picked it up without even thinking about it. Because of my friendship with him, I served him without any thought. Service just came naturally. It was almost an accident. It was out of the overflow of our friendship and my love for my friend that I ended up serving him.

I think God intended for us to serve this way too. Christians are great at making decisions to serve. They decide to go on a mission trip or to volunteer as a Sunday School teacher or VBS helper, etc. Those are great decisions and I believe we should make them as often as possible. But I also wonder: If we had a closer friendship with God, do you think we might serve Him without thinking about it? Could we end up serving God by accident? What would it take for service to be a reflex instead of a decision?? Have you ever told somebody about God without thinking about it? Does the name of Jesus come out of your mouth out of the overflow of your heart? Have you ever helped someone just ‘cause you loved them so much?

Ephesians 2:4-5a “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, 5 made us alive with Christ.”

God’s love is what motivated Him to send Jesus to the world. His love should motivate us to serve Him. (Check out John 14:15 too.)

Prayer: Lord, invade my life in such a powerful way that I’d be able to serve you without thinking about it. Let service & love become a reflex in my life and not only a decision. Mold me into a man who reflects You in everything I do – not just when I make conscious decisions, but also in my everyday quick reactions and interactions with people. Teach me to love others like You love them and cause that love to overflow out of me in simple everyday acts of service. AMEN!

PS: Eric, if you’re out there and reading this, I miss you. Wish I we lived closer and I had the opportunity to carry your stuff to your truck again. Those were good times. I’ll say a prayer for you and your family tonight.

Multi-tasking is a Myth

John Medina, author of Brain Rules, explains that multi-tasking is a truly a myth. The way that the brain works doesn’t allow for it. Although the brain can do multiple things simultaneously (You can walk and talk at the same time or breathe and read a book.) the conscious brain can only pay attention to one thing at a time. Our tendency to listen to music, answer the phone, and send e-mails or text messages, while trying to write a paper or finish a project at work is not productive. A focused concentrated effort can go a long way to help manage our time.

Here’s how Medina explains: “Research shows that we can’t multi-task. We are biologically incapable of processing attention-rich input simultaneously.” Without going into the neurological details, Medina goes on to explain that there are 4 steps that the brain must go through each time attention is shifted from one task to another – four more when attention is shifted back. The process takes several tenths of a second each time. It doesn’t sound like much time but it adds up quickly and maybe more importantly, the distraction hinders the more complicated processes of the task at hand. If you’ve ever found yourself losing track of previous progress, or heard yourself say things like, “Now where was I?” then you have experienced this problem. Medina says, “Studies show that a person who is interrupted takes 50% longer to accomplish a task. Not only that. He or she makes up to 50% more errors.”

This means that if we would put our cell phones on silent (or God forbid – turn them off), close the layers of applications running on the computer, shut the door, and give our tasks a focused effort, we could probably accomplish much more during the day and have fewer errors in our work. Our minds are just too crowded by all the messages competing for our attention. The immediate gratification of our “information addiction” is hurting us. Maybe we should just choose to ignore a few things. All of this thinking reminds me of another post which was inspired by the phrase, Selective Ignorance.

I don’t know about you, but when I was a student, I was a procrastinator. (OK – I probably still am.) But when the deadline was approaching, I would stop everything else and focus on the project. Although I had weeks to work on it, I was able to get it done in a couple of hours with focused effort. Based on my own experiences, I believe know Medina is right.

What would my life look like if I fasted from multi-tasking? Would my kids get more of me? Would I be more present in the moment? Would I get more done? Which messages/projects would I choose to ignore? Would I have to ignore them at all if I had more time ’cause I was getting more things done?

Troop Carrier or Luxury Liner?

In his book Radical, David Platt writes:

In the late 1940s, the United States government . . . construct[ed] an 80 million dollar troop carrier for the navy. The purpose was to design a ship that could speedily carry fifteen thousand troops during times of war. By 1952, construction on the SS United States was complete. The ship could travel at forty-four knots (about fifty-one miles per hour), and she could steam ten thousand miles without stopping for fuel or supplies. She could outrun any other ship and travel non-stop anywhere in the world in less than ten days. The SS United States was the fastest and most reliable troop carrier in the world.

The only catch is, she never carried troops. At least not in any official capacity. . .

Instead the SS United States became a luxury liner for presidents, heads of state, and a variety of other celebrities who traveled on her during her seventeen years of service. As a luxury liner, she couldn’t carry fifteen thousand people. Instead she could house just under two thousand passengers. Those passengers could enjoy the luxuries of 695 staterooms, 4 dining salons, 3 bars, 2 theaters, 5 acres of open deck with a heated pool, 19 elevators, and the comfort of the world’s first fully air-conditioned passenger ship. Instead of a vessel used for battle during wartime, the SS United States became a means of indulgence for wealthy patrons who desired to coast peacefully across the Atlantic.

Things look radically different on a luxury liner than they do on a troop carrier. The faces of soldiers preparing for battle and those of patrons enjoying their bonbons are radically different. The conservation of resources on a troop carrier contrasts sharply with the opulence that characterizes the luxury liner. And the pace at which the troop carrier moves is by necessity much faster than that of the luxury liner. After all, the troop carrier has an urgent task to accomplish; the luxury liner, on the other hand, is free to casually enjoy the ship.

The SS United States = The American church

Unfortunately, most churches in America resemble the luxury liner. Although God designed us to carry soldiers into battle, we’ve become more interested our own comforts during the journey – so much so that we’ve actually quit moving toward the battle! When you attend a service at the average church in America, you typically hear more about the programs/amenities you can find on the ship than you do about the mission which is ahead. I guess it is what they say it is: a service. Like the staff on a cruise ship, the church is there trying to serve it’s patrons/members. Unfortunately, those members are there selfishly “getting fed” and consuming those services when they should be thinking in terms of being transformed/trained by the Gospel so they can accomplish the mission of “serving the world” with the Gospel.

To borrow a phrase from James, “My brothers, this should not be so.” (James 3:10)

On the other hand, what if the church was coming together to equip it’s members/troops to take ground for the Kingdom of God? What if we didn’t have “services” but “training exercises?” What if we removed the luxuries from the church and focused on the mission? What if we saw our ultimate goal as sending troops into the world rather than catering to the whims of our members? What would it take to convert the luxury liners that we have into troop carriers again? What organizational changes do we need in order to make quick, in-the-heat-of-battle decisions? If we were to return to our “troop-carrying calling,” would the church be able to accommodate 15,000 soldiers who shared space as opposed to 2,000 patrons fighting for position and space? If we focused on this calling, would the church move at a faster pace unhindered by petty internal arguments?

Anyway, these were just a few of my thoughts after reading this section of Radical.

Dream Apnea

I’ve had sleep apnea for years.

For those who don’t know: (If you already have an understanding, skip ahead to the “bold” section.) Sleep apnea keeps you from entering REM sleep (when dreaming occurs) and eventually causes heart problems. Someone with sleep apnea holds his/her breath while sleeping which causes a lack of oxygen to the brain. At church camp one year, my “friends” (thanks Throne Together) recorded me holding my breath for up to a minute. I went for years without dreaming ’cause I wasn’t really sleeping. I used to fall asleep at the strangest moments too. I walked around tired all the time since I wasn’t really resting at night.

Since our health insurance wouldn’t cover a sleep test or any treatment, I ignored it for over 5 years. Eventually a good friend gave me a CPAP machine to try. I’ve been using it for a year or so now and it has changed my life. The CPAP gives me a constant flow of oxygen which doesn’t allow me to hold my breath during sleep. In turn, it has allowed me to sleep well again and to actually enter into the deeper stages of sleep. I wake up and remember having dreams again.

OK – here’s my question. What else keeps us from dreaming?? (not actual sleep-dreams, but imagining-a-better-future-type dreams) Does your busy life allow you time to dream? Do you imagine what life could be like if. . . . ??? Do your fears keep you from dreaming?? Are you held back by something else? Do you believe in the person God made you to be? Is there someone else who holds you back or keeps you from dreaming?

Personally, I think we all need a steady flow of down-time to really dream. We have to be intentional about thinking/dreaming/imagining. Mike Ayers, my Biblical Leadership professor, describes it as “staring-out-the-window” time. This world will keep us crazy busy if we’re not intentionally seeking out “smell-the-roses” time.

I also think we’ve gotta have a healthy understanding of who we are in Christ. How can we dream God-sized dreams if we don’t think enough of ourselves or of God? What will it take for us to begin imagining a better future?

A machine helped me dream again. I wonder what other dreams I’ve missed out on??

Church Staff Ideas

Church staff people are valuable. (I know, ’cause I was one at one time.) Therefore, I have always said that if I was ever in a place where I got to make decisions regarding church staff, there are some things I’d like to offer them. Below are some of my ideas. What do you guys think??


Church Staff Benefits/Requirements

Our goal is to make this the best job you’ve ever had. We hope you find a place where you can feel supported, encouraged, and equipped to become all that God has called you to and want to lay a groundwork/foundation so this is possible. At any moment, we’d welcome any suggestions you might have for your own position or for one of your co-workers. We hope to treat each person as an individual and therefore your benefits may differ from your co-workers. We are not as interested in “equal” as we are in “what is right” for a particular situation/individual. We want to be as flexible as possible and believe that we have hired the right people and so we will choose to trust you with these benefits.

1. Must take 3 weeks vacation each year. This is extended to 4 weeks after serving for 5 yrs and to 5 weeks after 10 years of service. You will also get regular holidays where no one works.

2. Must take a 3 month sabbatical (paid) after 5 years of service. The number of vacation days you will receive will be reduced for this particular year.

3. Health/Dental Insurance for you and your family.

4. A month of sick leave each year – if needed. If there is a major event, more will be offered.

5. In the event of a pregnancy/birth, one month will be given to a husband for helping his family settle into the home – 3 months for a mother. All pre-natal doctor visits are excused for both mom and dad. For a parent, the family takes priority over the church. A staff person can only be healthy and effective professionally if his/her home life is healthy. We also believe that healthy homes among our staff people will serve as good examples to the congregation of what it means to live out our calling as parents.

6. One normal “work day” a month must be spent away from the office for the specific purpose of seeking God.

7. At least 2 normal “work days” a month (and as many as 1 day a week) must be spent serving in the community. The church will not just pay “lip service” & cash to the support of outside ministries. We realize that it may take you a little while to find a ministry niche that works for you and so we have also arranged a “local tour of ministries” for new staff people. Over the course of a couple months you’ll work in multiple ministries and meet the leaders of them. If your heart beats for something else, we’d also consider allowing/equipping/helping you to create a new outside ministry to be involved in regularly. However, this would be allowed sparingly. Church staff people generally do not need another thing to lead. They need places to serve and connect with people outside the church.

8. Parents will be excused from normal “work” to attend their children’s events.

9. You should plan to be away from each of your weekly/normal programs at least once a month. (This forces others to step into the leadership roles and encourages you to equip them rather than just doing it all yourself.) This also allows you to use this time to volunteer or visit another ministry within the church or even at another church to help you get new ideas and stay “fresh.”

10. Staff people will only work 5 days/week except in special occasions like church camp, mission trips, etc. For a regular week, we insist on you actually taking 2 days off.

11. Funeral leave.

12. Although we do not believe in retirement and cannot find it in Scripture, we do believe in fiscal responsibility and will offer a pension plan. You may set aside up to 3% of your salary and the church will match 1.5% of it.

PS – I realize that some of this may not be very practical and maybe even a bit over-the-top but I think I’d rather err on the side of generosity.

What are your thoughts??

Spiritual Gifts Inventory

I just wanted to post some of the tools that I use when I teach about spiritual gifts. My favorite assessment is the “Motivational Gifts” Assessment. It focuses on only 7 of the spiritual gifts and so it’s a little less rigorous to understand. It’s also not a “blind” test and so you’re able to line up the qualities with that particular gift. This makes it much easier to recognize the gifts of other people as you begin to see those particular qualities in them. These 7 are considered “Motivational” Gifts. These gifts are permanent gifts that tend to motivate everything else that someone does. (Ex: Administration, Teaching, Exhortation, Perceiving, Serving, Giving, & Compassion) This inventory does not test for the “Manifestation” gifts which are the gifts given by the Holy Spirit temporarily for a specific purpose.  (Ex: Faith, Healing, Tongues, Prophecy, Interpretation of Tongues, etc.)

Here’s a link to download some of the tools I have gathered over the years:

It includes:

– A Motivational Gifts Assessment (normal and blind)

– A Motivational Gifts Teaching Worksheet with answers

– A different blind Spiritual Gifts Inventory (includes many other gifts)

Some other personality tests that are fun to combine with a Spiritual Gifts study include:

– DISC personality assessment

or even the Love Language Assessment for Husband and Wife

Leadership Compass

The leadership compass is the basis for the leadership model we studied at the College of Biblical Studies.

North = Character

South = Skills

West = Relationships

East = Vision

A true leader is a man/woman of character and influence with leadership skills to move people into a new preferred future/vision. The intersections of these four points are also important. For example: If you’re having a problem with people trusting you as a leader, you’ll see that trust is at the intersection of relationships and character. That means the root of the trust problem is either 1) Your people don’t know you well enough to trust you or 2) You have character faults which make them question whether or not you can lead them. It could also be a combination of the two.

I am setting out on a new adventure in life and am seeking a teaching position in the public school system. I believe this model will help me as I seek to influence both students and other teachers. My vision as a teacher is to teach more than just the curriculum, but also true wisdom. Wisdom beyond the textbooks. This kind of goal will require a strategy and this leadership model provides the basic outline for my philosophy of education. Influence is gained through character, relationships, skills, and vision. I will seek to be a man who is qualified in each of these areas.