The Accident by Chris Pavone

Cover_AccidentThey say it’s not what you know, but who you know. That statement was someone what true as I came across this book. I had not heard of Chris Pavone before let alone read any of his writings. As I was looking at The Accident, I noticed that Michael Connelly was quoted on the cover. I’ve enjoyed a few Connelly books so was willing to give this a read. It turned out to be a good choice.

The Accident is a manuscript of a book that is written by an anonymous author that contains damaging information against a powerful media mogul with ties to the CIA. Through the course of the book, you meet various people who want the manuscript destroyed while others are looking to cash in on the publication of it or even turn the story into a movie. Part of the mystery of the book is not only trying to determine the identity of the author of the manuscript, but also if what the author has written is true or fabricated.

The open chapters were a little confusing to me as various characters were introduced and I had to connect the dots as to how they were all related to each other and what intentions they had for the manuscript. After that information fell into place, I was engaged in the story line and curious to see how the plot unfolded.

The Accident was a good read and keeps the reader interested in what happens with the bomb shell of a manuscript. The ending will surprise you a little bit…but you will need to check it out yourself.

2014 in review

While I’m not a prolific blogger, it is something I have maintained now for a few years and enjoy posting from time to time. I think these year ends reviews that WordPress provides are interesting. Enjoy & Happy New Year!

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

A New York City subway train holds 1,200 people. This blog was viewed about 7,600 times in 2014. If it were a NYC subway train, it would take about 6 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Will My Wife Read My Blog Today?

question marksI’ve has this blog active now for a couple of years. I have over 600 posts and try to post on a semi-regular basis. I have some followers, but don’t usually blow up with a ton of visitors. I think I keep it going because I enjoy posting.

My wife has admitted (on more than one occasion) that she doesn’t read my blog. In a conversation with her, I’ll reference something interesting I ran across that I put on here and she usually says she hasn’t read it.

Last week I posted about our son’s Gotcha Day. It was a very exciting day for our family and she not only read my post, she shared it on Facebook. In fact, here’s what she posted:


FB post


It seemed her posting increased traffic on my blog for the next day or two.

So, now I’m curious, will she read it today? Hmmmmm….guess we will find out.

“affluenza”

affluenzaI’ve posted in the past about information shared through Tim Elmore’s Growing Leaders blog. Today, I learned a new word – affluenza.

I guess it has been around for a while (since the 1990’s) and refers to a condition in which children — generally from rich families — have a sense of entitlement, are irresponsible, make excuses for poor behavior, and sometimes dabble in drugs and alcohol. Elmore references a court case where affluenza was used as a defense by a man who hit and killed four people with his truck.

I have copied Elmore’s blog below regarding this “condition.” As I read his thoughts, it kind of hit me from two sides. First, as a parent, am I or have I been guilty of contributing to this “condition” in my own kids? Also, as one who works with students on a regular basis, where do I see this showing up? Interesting to think through.

You can read Elmore’s thought on his Growing Leaders blog and offer your comments as well.

Some journalists are using a term when speaking about parents and the problems they have raising their kids today. It’s called “affluenza.” At the court hearing for a tragic auto accident in Texas, where teenager Eric Couch hit and killed four people with his truck, the defense attorneys cited “affluenza” (when one is raised with wealth and never given limits) as the cause for his crime. He’s been sentenced to ten years of probation. The term “affluenza” was popularized in the late 1990s by Jessie O’Neill, in her book “The Golden Ghetto: The Psychology of Affluence.” It has since been used to describe a condition in which children—generally from rich families— have a sense of entitlement, are irresponsible, make excuses for poor behavior, and sometimes dabble in drugs and alcohol.

Like a disease, affluence, or living as if you have it, can harm a child as they’re growing up. Today, moms are sending birthday invitations out, with a gift registry inside the card, letting guests know where and what gifts to buy their child. Many parents assume they are “poor parents” if they don’t provide their children everything they want.

Obviously, when the bar is set this high, a child’s sense of entitlement increases. They start believing they deserve all the latest gadgets, tablets, smart phones, name brand clothes, expensive tutors and coaches, and costly vacations that are always better than last year’s.

What we’re finding is—this “afflluenza” begins translating into the notion that students deserve good grades just because they showed up, especially if mom and dad paid for this expensive school. Some college students have even sued their alma mater for not guaranteeing a job when they graduated.

I do not claim to be a parenting expert. I develop students and student leaders. But allow me to comment and offer some common sense.

We live in a day of “encore problems.” We expose our kids to so much so early in their life that it becomes difficult to engage them as they move into adolescence. They have been on trips and vacations; they’ve attended amazing ballgames, and they own incredible technology by middle school. What more is there to experience when they grow up? The problem is, the “more” they want is probably unhealthy.

Parents and teachers must navigate this “affluenza.” We must figure out how to pace our students, exposing them to measured amounts of possessions, and appropriate experiences as they mature. Often, they get exposed to things today before they’re emotionally ready for them. Most elementary kids have watched a sex scene on TV, on a computer, or at the movies. Most have watched violent acts and murders, and seen people do illegal drugs. It’s tantalizing.

What To Do

In his latest book, David and Goliath, Malcolm Gladwell discusses how difficult it is to lead kids today, when there is too little or too much money. Obviously, a family living below the poverty line finds it difficult to raise kids well, because their focus is mere survival. They are living paycheck to paycheck. On the other hand, upper middle class and wealthy families find parenting hard because they cannot honestly say to their children who beg them for a new iPhone: “We can’t afford that.” That moment requires an emotional conversation, where the parent explains to the child why it’s helpful to learn to delay gratification.

Yeah. Good luck with that conversation.

The research tells us that an income of about $70,000 is the median income, to make parenting neither too hard because of poverty or too hard due to wealth. Outside of those lines, we will have to learn to pace our kids. This means our job may change:

Pace the sequence of possessions and experiences, allowing for a bigger and better one, as they mature. For instance, you might plan a trip across the state for them in elementary school, a trip across the U.S. when they’re in middle school, and a trip overseas when they’re in high school.

Don’t fall into the trap of comparisons. Other parents may win brownie points with their kids because they give them too much, too soon. Those kids are “wowed” in the moment, but are over-exposed and may have difficulty managing expectations as young adults. Do what’s right, not what’s popular.

Always have a reason for every “gift” (possession, experience, trip, etc.) that you give your child. Have a plan, to progress into bigger and better “gifts” in the future. I even explained my plan to my kids by the time they reached fifth grade. They realized there was a method to my madness and they “got it.”
Prepare to have meaningful conversations with your young people. Get ready for emotional exchanges as they learn to wait, to listen, to handle envy of their friends, and to save up their own money, perhaps, before getting what they want. This is what maturity is all about.

Just remember, leading students is a marathon not a sprint. In fact, it’s a pace, not a race. Pace yourself. Pace your kids.

Real Test Answers, Really

report2On his Growing Leaders blog, Tim Elmore posted these real answers that students put on exams. The answers are from middle school, high school and college students. Many are quite creative and will provide a good chuckle for your day.

I think my favorites are numbers 1 and 2, although you have to wonder what the teacher thought when reading these responses.

 

1. Biology class: Name six animals that live specifically in the arctic.

A: Two polar bears and four seals.

2. Chemistry class:  What is a nitrate?

A: It is much cheaper than a day rate.

3. Business and Technology class: Explain the phrase “free press.”

A: When your mom irons your pants for you.

4. Biology class discussion about veins: What is the meaning of the word “varicose”?

A: Close by.

5. Physics: Is the sun or the moon more important?

A: The moon gives us light at night when we need it. The sun only provides light in the day when we don’t need it. Therefore, the moon is more important.

6. Earth science: Over the last fifty years there has been a significant change in the concentration of carbon dioxide. Give a reason for this.

A: It’s easily distracted.

7. Business management class: What is a partnership?

A: A ship that takes two people to drive.

8. Biology class: What does “terminal illness” mean?

A: When you become ill at the airport.

9. Business: Define the term “stakeholder.”

A: Someone who hunts vampires. Buffy being the most famous.

10. Athletic Application: Church preference?

A: Red brick.

Hurtful Words have an Atomic Half-Life ~ Bruce Van Horn

kicking1Our words carry a lot of weight and the things we say can have an impact long past the actual event in which they were said. I read this article today and it reaffirms the power of our words.

The author of the article shares this memory from his past:

I’m now 48 years old but I still remember the words, and how they made me feel, that a coach said to me when I was 17–31 years ago!

I was not feeling well and had performed poorly at a cross-country meet. I normally placed in the top-5 for my team, but came in well below that for this race. When the coach asked me what happened, I just said “I didn’t feel good.” He must have interpreted that as “I just didn’t feel like pushing hard today.” What he said to me in front of all of my teammates was “Van Horn, you’re a loser! You’ll never amount to anything in life.”

Read the rest of the article (the link is below) and the author’s thoughts on the power of our words. It’s a good reminder to all of us.

Hurtful Words have an Atomic Half-Life ~ Bruce Van Horn.

For All the “Old” Youth Pastors

dym_logo_featured-450x253One of the blogs I subscribe to is on the Download Youth Ministry website. They not only offer low-priced, downloadable youth ministry resources, they also provide articles for those who work with students.

Today’s blog had a good article for those who are getting “old” in youth ministry. For a long time I think the ideal youth worker has been pictured as young, “cool” and in touch with students because he/she is close to their age. I thought today’s post, The 40 Year Old Youth Pastor, had some good insights for those who have been in a youth ministry, well…for a few years. Read on….

Looking back, I thought they were the golden years of youth ministry for me….I was close in age with the students and was often confused for being a teenager by parents. I thought this is it…it will never get better. I related to their world and I didn’t have to try hard to be cool…I was cool (notice the past tense.) Now as I prepare to celebrate my 40th birthday…I can’t help but feel that I am a better youth worker than I have ever been.

At least, mostly better. When we got back from summer camp this year, it took me a week or more to recover when before all I needed was one day to sleep in and “veg-out.” (Of course, I didn’t have kids myself so “sleeping in” was really sleeping all day.)

Or when I use to talk with students about their favorite movies or music…I would find that we liked very similar things. I could relate to their world. Now when we talk about movies or music a student is quick to say “Oh yeah, my mom likes them too.” Nice.

Besides it taking longer to recover from camp and being compared to their mom…I feel like I am in my sweet spot. I love being with students and with our leaders. I feel like I am just getting started. Instead of trying to be cool, I can focus all my energy on caring. I also find that rejection hurts less now the older I get…Don’t get me wrong…it still hurts but I have learned to not take rejection so personally. It’s not so bad being older.

This got me thinking about the trends of youth ministry and how long youth pastors stay at a church. Or the new trend of youth workers planting churches. Neither of those things is bad but I want to encourage my youth worker friends…that longevity is a gift and your best years may be ahead of you.

With that in mind:

If you are young, don’t give up….stick it out…you will find it only gets easier and more rewarding the longer you stay.

If you are in the middle, we’ve made it…keep going strong…it’s just getting good.

If you are “older” than the average, thank you! Thank you for not seeing youth ministry as a stepping stone and for believing in teenagers. I look up to you. You are my heroes. And if you start to doubt yourself…know that teenagers need your love more now than ever due to the breakdown of the family unit. Don’t believe the lie that you are too old for youth ministry.

Truthfully, I look forward to the day that a student says “oh yeah, my grandma likes them too.”

What about you? Where do you find yourself? Any “older” youth workers have some wisdom for the young-uns?

Blog or Re-Blog

reblogI describe myself as an occassional blogger. As I’ve mentioned before, I blog about family stuff, what’s going on with my kids, what’s happening in our Student Ministry and various things related to youth ministry. Some of the things I post are simply re-posts (or re-blogs) of content someone else has posted. There are many good resources available on blogs and websites and it is good to share that information.

I have been thinking recently about original posts versus re-blogs. WordPress offers the option to re-blog someone else’s post. Twitter gives you the ability to re-tweet what someone put on his/her timeline. Facebook gives you the share feature.

As someone who blogs occasionally, I wonder how much content out there is original or just a re-working of what someone else has done. I don’t think any one person has the corner on the market on wisdom in any field, but I also don’t want to be that person who just re-posts someone else’s stuff. Any other bloggers wrestle with that.

When I look at some Twitter accounts, the majority of some people’s timelines are re-tweets. Where do we draw the line of re-posting what others say and striving for original thoughts?

Feel free to chime in. And re-blog if you’d like.

10 Politically Incorrect Reasons to Stay Married

Wedding-Ring-FingerI subscribe to Tony Morgan Live and today received an email about his top blog posts from May 2013. One that caught my attention was the post entitled 10 Politically Incorrect Reasons Why We’re Still Married. I just posted about weddings yesterday and really liked what Tony Morgan had to say.

In the post he talks about being married to the same woman for 22 years, so right away he had my attention. I admire couples who have been married for two decades and beyond because you know that not all those years were smooth sailing.

One thing I’ve learned as I’ve listened to other voices and read other blog posts is that I don’t have to agree with everything everyone says in order to gain value from what they share. There is much we can learn from other people and not feel like we have to agree with everything they say. There are some good principles in Tony Morgan’s post that can be of help to those who are already married and those who looking to marriage in the future.

Here are the 10 Reasons he shared in his post:

1. We put our spouse’s needs ahead of our own needs. From what we’ve learned, our basic needs are different from each other. The book His Needs, Her Needs is a great book to begin this conversation.

2. We’ve made our physical appearance a priority. Neither one of us would admit to being “10s” by any stretch of the imagination, but we want to look sexy for each other. We work at it. That includes eating right, exercise, clothes, hair, etc. For example, Emily and I have made a pact — she decides what my hair looks like, and I decide what her hair looks like. Again, we prioritize the needs of our spouse.

3. We’ve embraced traditional roles. I work outside the home, and Emily works inside the home. Does that mean we’re against couples who try to juggle two jobs outside the home? Absolutely not. For Emily, though, she gains significance through being a great wife, mother and home manager. That’s a full-time job. Since she owns that role, it relieves quite a bit of stress that we know other couples have to navigate.

4. We prioritize our marriage over our careers. To do this, we have a tight budget. We spend less than we make. We avoid debt. We do this so we can live on one income. We do this so we can invest in time away like our recent trip to Cancun. We say no to overcommitment in our careers, so we can enjoy regular time together.

5. We prioritize our marriage over our children. We have four beautiful kids, but they will eventually grow up and leave. My relationship and friendship with Emily is more important. Ironically, when we put our marriage relationship first, our kids feel loved and more secure. This is one of the reasons why we are strict about limiting the activities our kids engage outside of school.

6. We didn’t have sex before marriage. We didn’t live together. We dated for six years before we got married. I can assure you, we wanted to have sex before marriage. Again, God forgives. I know all couples can’t begin here, but we did. And, I’m convinced learning that discipline to restrain ourselves before marriage has freed us up to thoroughly enjoy ourselves after marriage.

7. We’ve had lots of sex after marriage. God created us to have sexual desire. Christian couples, in particular, need to get over their inhibitions, talk about sex and continue to discover. Again, the principle of putting your spouse’s needs ahead of your needs holds true here as well. If you want to help your spouse avoid temptations outside of marriage, your sex life needs to stay spicy.

8. We enjoy wine together. (My unchurched friends won’t understand why this is politically incorrect. Trust me. It is with church people.) In other words, we don’t let religious people define how we live our lives including our marriage. We let God’s Word direct our lives. Because of that, who we are publicly is who we are privately. We don’t have to pretend to be someone we’re not. We can be ourselves with each other and with everyone we do life with. There’s a lot of freedom in that.

9. We never meet alone or publicly with a member of the opposite sex. I don’t have meals alone with another woman. I won’t travel alone (even in a car) with another woman. I won’t meet a woman alone in an office without windows or without an open door. (My consulting clients can verify this.) This protects both of us from the temptations we all face. These protections help us avoid mistakes that would reduce the freedoms we have in our marriage. We’re not willing to sacrifice that for a momentary inconvenience.

10. We’re committed to a covenant where divorce is not an option. For Emily and me, that means we need to work at loving each other. We don’t wait for love to happen — we work at it. We need to discipline our lives to avoid mistakes that could end our marriage. We prioritize our faith, because that creates order for the rest of our lives including our marriage. Since we both agreed to fulfill this covenant ‘til death do us part, we have confidence that, even when marriage is difficult, we will persevere.

I know. Some of this sounds really shallow. Some of this sounds impractical. Some of this sounds inappropriate. I hope it challenges your thinking and generates some healthy conversation with your spouse.

Let’s choose integrity. Let’s choose to stay married.