Tag Archives: 300words

places to go

1. If you stopped by here last Friday, you know that I wrote about sitting in a college orientation session. I wrote about it from a different perspective today at gnmparents.com. Here’s a sample:

College won’t start for six months or so, but I’m still feeling a little melancholy. The speaker is talking about an essay that the students read, an essay that Hope and I talked about. I had told her that the core of the essay was about motivation, about extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. She wondered what that was. I explained it, using an example she wasn’t happy about but which worked.

Suddenly, the speaker says it: “Extrinsic motivation.” The face I’m watching in profile, the face I have watched for 17 years, turns and looks right at me and smiles.

Click here for the rest of the post.

2. If you stopped by here last Saturday, you know that I wrote about preparing to preach on Sunday. Here’s a link to an audiofile of that message. As I told (warned?) someone in a text, it was around communion so it’s the heart of ‘Christian religion’. tho my look is different.”

3. If you only read in a reader, you may not know that I’m writing every day at 300wordsaday.com. It’s a daily look at what following Jesus involves, looking mostly at what we read in the book of Matthew. And it is only 300 words a day.

4. You can get both 300wordsaday and Levite Chronicles as an email through MailChimp. Subscribe to this blog as an enewsletter. Subscribe to 300wordsaday as an enewsletter.

Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be more original next time.


where i’ve been, where i’ll be.

Just some notes for a sleepy morning. And no picture. It would just be scary.

  • I wrote about Andrew growing up at gnmparents.com this week.
  • Last week, I wrote about Hope and keeping doors (and relationship doors) unlocked.
  • Today, January 1, I’m starting a new blog at 300wordsaday.com. It’s about helping people follow Jesus 300 words a day. (If you put up with the spiritual stuff at levite because of other stuff I write, then you probably don’t want to go over there. On the other hand, if you want 3oo words a day about following, feel free to come over and subscribe.)
  • Two big phrases running through my head these days: deliberate practice and buyer personas. I’ll talk more about them here. Trust me.
  • In May, I’ll be at SOBcon09. I met a bunch of old friends face-to-face there last year.
  • In June, our daughter will graduate from high school. In July, she’ll go to West Virginia on a work project. In August, she’ll go to Bethel College.

Thanks to all of you who joined the readership of Levite. I’ve enjoyed the comments and the emails and the tweets and the conversation. I’m looking forward to the next year.

And away we go.

Time enough to change

Seconds and decades showed up in my brain last week.

I heard a report early in the week that at 6:59 pm (EST) on December 31, a second will be added to atomic clocks. This ‘leap second’ will account for the fact that the earth is slowing slightly.

I started thinking about seconds. I considered a post about what we could all do with our extra second. What would happen if everyone put their seconds together? Think of  the extra hours someone would have to  get something done before the end of the year.

I laughed. I would spend my extra second writing. Then I would ask you to give up that second and many more to read this silliness. So I didn’t write.

Last Thursday, I started reading about deliberate practice. (See Tim Walker’s collection of deliberate practice resources). This concept is from research into what makes experts experts. What seems more important than talent is intentional, planned, stretching, deliberate practice. Four things stand out right now:

  • It takes at least 10 years to become world class.
  • It takes daily action during that 10 years.
  • The focus of practice is technique more than outcome.
  • You have to commit.

I started thinking this weekend about what I want to be able to do well in 10 years. What do I want to be known for? What do I want to understand then–about myself, about God, about how to live one for the other–that I need to start considering now?

Many of us are looking at the past year, thinking about what we didn’t get done. We are looking at the next year and trying to plan what to do. I’m wondering whether I need to think smaller and larger.

How can I use today’s seconds to be who I want to be in a decade?

table of context

Everyone who has spent any time reading knows the value of a table of contents. It’s a list of the topics covered. It’s a chart of the argument. It’s the way to organize what you read, to decide whether to read.

But a table of contents won’t tell you whether these ideas are related to the conversation you had with the author 6 weeks ago.

What most of us need most of the time is a table of context.

This is the web of stories that you tell to explain why you tell that joke. It’s the pictures you draw on the napkin to explain how your cousin Eddie is related to the Governor of New Jersey. It’s what helps people know when you are talking to them and when you are talking to yourself. It’s what keeps your team working as a team. It’s the stories that are told to the new guy to help him fit in. It’s what tells people how to understand. It’s an interpretive framework written in 1000 conversations.

Chris and Becky started a podcast, and Jon started contributing, and Jon met Rob who knew Marc who somehow met Becky (maybe through Rob or Chris or Jon) and bragged about his book on fundraising which is wonderful. Because Jon knew the book was good, he asked Marc for comments on a fundraising letter he got drafted to write for a choir. Marc helped and a paper letter is in the mail tonight to 600 people, most of whom have never heard of Marc or Becky or Chris (or podcasts for that matter). But the story of the letter includes that table of context.

Now you know what it is, right?

How often do you help the people around you turn to the page where they can find it?

a second look – generosity 3

In 1985, I needed to find a real job. I was finishing my third year in grad school at UT-Austin. I was starting on my dissertation. It was time to grow up.

I got invited to an interview at a college in Fort Wayne. I flew up from Austin. I spent the night at the academic dean’s house and then spent the day talking with students and faculty, teaching a pretend class, and looking around town. It was a pretend class because it was finals week and there weren’t any real classes to teach. Some students and some faculty showed up in a room and I lectured.

Then I flew back to Texas.

I got a call from the dean. Richard said that some people wanted me but some weren’t sure. I understood that. The classes I was going to teach were in communication. The part-time faculty member they had was a stereotypical deep-voiced formal speaker. He was impressive. My style, on the other hand, was pretty relaxed. Rather than impressing students with my speaking ability, I was concerned with helping them overcome their fears and improve their abilities. And I’m odd sometimes.

Richard said he was flying to Austin to learn more.

It was a great visit. He met Nancy (which let him see the one normal person in our marriage). After one of my classes, a couple of students came running across the campus to thank me for a wonderful semester. He heard me teach at church.

I got the job.

Richard was willing to take a second look, to give me another chance, to spend time on getting to know the person rather than judging by an artificial performance. It cost him some money. It changed our lives.


This post is part of Robert Hruzek’s group-writing project.

something to stand on – generosity 2

Saturday, I used an antique. Last week, I used it, too. (That is, if nearly 50 years old counts as antique.)

When I was four or five, my dad used some plywood and made a stool. He drilled fingerholes in the top and a larger hole at either end. If I remember right, I probably played more with the little “wheels” that came out of the holes than I appreciated the stool.

I have no idea where the wheels ended up, but I know exactly where the stool is. It has been several different colors. It has lived in three apartments and five houses. It is now in the downstairs bathroom, except when it is in the garage or the living room or wherever else I need a 12″ boost. Saturday I used it while installing a track for new folding doors. I used it in the garage to plug an extension cord in an overhead outlet.

Dad made other stools for my sisters and our children. They are all fancier, smoother, stained rather than painted. Mine was born of utility more than woodcraft, though the cutouts and the design and the durability suggest that dad was putting into it the basics he learned as an architecture major.

What he gave me in that stool is something simple and solid to stand on. He has given much since then. One of my parents’ primary ways of saying “I love you” is with gifts…small (and sometimes not small) tangible objects. But I think that of everything I’ve gotten, it all is summed up in that stool.

A simple gift to a young child. Something to stand on.

I’m curious. What useful gift were you given as a child that has followed you to adulthood?


This post is part of Robert Hruzek’s group-writing project.

My silver seminary – WILF 1

Michael Sampson decided I needed an ipod. I’m not sure why, but he did. He knew he couldn’t afford it. He was buying a new computer for work. He put his name in a drawing for a new ipod. He won it. He sent it to me.

I knew none of the above, however, when I got a package from New Zealand one day in late December 2006. I just knew that Michael was sending me something.

I had started using our son’s old shuffle for listening to seminary lectures. It was a pretty frustrating process, but it was much cheaper than tuition would be.

I opened the package.

I was dumbfounded, caught between tears and exhilaration. It was a gift that was beyond expectation, beyond anything I could have imagined. And yet I immediately knew how it would benefit me.  Since then I have listened to lectures. I have listened to sermons. I have listened to a handful of songs over and over and over. I call this my silver seminary.

I was working on a painting project on Saturday. I was feeling pretty apathetic. I put in the ear buds and started a song about legacy. And immediately I realized where I needed to start my posts for December in response to Robert Hruzek’s writing project, “what I learned from the generosity of others.”

Michael’s gift was over-the-top, perfectly-timed, and in response to a thought that both he and I had had. “Jon needs/I could use an ipod.” Neither of us prayed. We just thought.

But it counted as prayer.

And I am grateful.


Advent calendars start today, December 1 and so does my ebook. It is available as a FREE downloadable pdf, advent2008 (Right click on the link to the left and save the file to your computer).

looking ahead

That’s what Advent is about. Looking ahead, anticipating. And today is the first Sunday of Advent.

For Advent this year I’ll be looking ahead and looking back.

I’ve been wrestling for the past couple weeks with the question of my thankfulness, or, more accurately, my lack of it. Into that thinking came Robert Hruzek. Every month he invites people to write a post about what they learned from [something]. For December, the challenge will be “what I learned from the generosity of others.”

As I was thinking about that topic today, I thought of one post, and then another, and then another. I realized that a wonderful approach to Advent, to understanding grace and generosity and unmerited favor (that’s for the seminary trained readers of this blog), would be to be grateful. So that’s going to be my theme for the next month. You can join me each day if you wish.

Some of you will be looking at my Advent ebook starting tomorrow, December 1. I’ve love to know whether it helps your anticipation of Christmas this year.  It is available as a FREE downloadable pdf, advent2008, (Right click on the link to the left and save the file to your computer). Or leave me a comment and I can email it to you. It’s also a digital book on yudu.

Looking ahead to 2009, I’m starting a new site, 300wordsaday.com. I’ll be working with a number of people, maybe with you, to help people follow Jesus 300 words a day. Don’t worry if that isn’t of interest to you. That’s why it will be over there. But I just wanted to let you know.

Why is that what it’s called? Because 300 words is long enough to help us think and not so long we are overwhelmed. It looks exactly like this.

do i have to share

I started thinking about taking a week off writing.

Not really a sabbatical, not really a vacation, just a week not writing.

It’s probably not going to happen. I, because of how I am built, think by writing. It is how I form ideas–by getting them out.

However, one thought that went through my brain was “guest writers.” I wondered what would happen if there were a guest writer or two here sometimes. I wondered what I would ask them to talk about or whether I would just open it up wide.

The challenge, you see, is that this is a chronicle, a recording of what I am wrestling with, arguing about, helping people with. It is, be definition, reflecting what I reflect. So how do you invite guests to write?

One line of my thinking reminded me of the old joke: “But enough about me. Let’s talk about you. What do you think of me?”

And that isn’t what I want to do.In fact, I don’t want about me.

And I also have this struggle with bias. I’m not against it. I’m for it. But honestly.

I am talking about life and faith and relationship without sounding like religion. But I do have a clear bias. In the same way that I am firmly convinced that Nancy exists and that I talk with her, I am firmly convinced that God exists. With the same level of certitude. So I can’t just say, “Whoever wants to write something, write it.” I’d have to say something like, “What faithy things are you struggling with? That’s what you have to write about.”

If you were to hear from someone else in this space, what would you like to hear? What questions or conversations or comments or reflections?

Or is this, at its root, a personal blog.

I’m good either way. But I was curious what you thought.

nice or necessary

Today there was a funeral at our church.

In the last couple months we’ve had eight or nine funerals. We record CDs of these services, allowing the family to listen to words they may not be hearing clearly in the grief of the moment. Today, as happens sometimes, I was running the recorder while Lee was running sound.

One of the things I like to do while recording is have each element of the program on its own track. This makes finding a particular song or speaker or reading easy to find.

This morning, in addition to running the recorder, I also had to go pick up fried chicken for 100 people for a meal after the funeral. It’s something we do. Somehow, humans like to eat after the emotion of a weekend of saying goodbye.

I had to leave before the funeral would be over. Lee asked if I wanted him to keep starting new tracks for the last couple of parts of the program.

It was a great question. I could ask him to keep doing what was important for me. Or I could accept the fact that what I was doing was nice, but not necessary. Recording track is is something I like to do, it’s something that I think is nice and helpful. However, the family would be happy with a disk that has just one track.

The food arriving on time was more necessary than what I thought would be nice. And Lee didn’t need the pressure that I would be adding.

My choice of nice or necessary had the potential of raising Lee’s stress significantly.

It happens all the time. We choose to do something. That choice increases our stress signficantly. That stress changes our reactions to others. Others suffer for priorities in our head.