When I was in New York, my friend Abe and I stopped off at Dean & Deluca for a quick coffee & breakfast and I saw a drink that I had been wanting to try for a long time called POM Wonderful. POM Wonderful is pomegranate juice and each bottle contains the juice of 3 (I think...) whole pomegranates. When I returned home to Chicago I discovered that Whole Foods near my home carries POM and it even comes in several different flavors: tangerine, cherry, blueberry, mango and of course straight pomegranate. Pretty good stuff and very healthy (contains antioxidents). A tad bit on the pricey side (in Manhattan I paid $4.50 for a 15 oz. bottle), but about the same as a typical Starbucks espresso drink (and much healthier).
Wednesday, December 31
Tuesday, December 30
Picked up some new CD's the other day. Among them:
The latest Evanescence called Fallen. Good stuff... Someone on Amazon.com used the word "eclectic" and I think I agree.
Sting's new CD, Sacred Love. I've been a Sting fan for a lot of years so I enjoy almost everything he does. Although, I have yet to be as impressed by a recording of his since his live CD that he recorded on 9/11 just hours after the tragedies entitled, "All This Time". It was recorded in Tuscan, Italy and is one of the best live albums I've ever heard.
Ok - Seal has done it again with his new CD entitled, "Seal IV". It takes forever for this guy to come out w/ a new album, but when he does it is almost always INCREDIBLE. Buy this CD.
Also picked up Coldplay's CD - "A Rush of Blood to the Head". I had a copy of this CD but lost it. These guys remind me so much of early U2. Great, great album if you are an early U2 fan.
Let's see...what else. Oh yeah - John Mayer. Latest album, Heavier Things - pretty good - a few good songs but not as good as his last album. I like this guy when it's just him and his acoustic. He pulled out the electric for this album and did a fine job, but just not my preference when it comes to John Mayer.
That's all I can think of. Oh yeah, I got the latest Peter Gabriel compilation thinking I was getting his new CD. Woops. Ebay here I come baby.
What are you listening to?
Monday, December 29
TOL (THINKING OUT LOUD) ABOUT COMMUNICATION
I’m thinking out loud tonight about communication. Specifically communication in the context of the local church and they way we (as pastors/ministers/talkers or whatever we might be called) communicate to our emerging culture.
Looking back over the last few years of my life I can’t believe how dang intentional I’ve had to become about communicating in a way that would (hopefully) engage the listener. (...especially when it comes to speaking to an unchurched person in their 20's - 30's)
I can remember a time when my communication “style” was all about getting a specific response/reaction from the audience. The problem with that approach was that if there wasn’t an immediate “response” then I would immediately make the stupid assumption that people were not challenged or that perhaps I somehow failed as a communicator.
It’s not easy changing that mindset and approach.
One of the things that I’ve tried to do more and more lately is to think of ways to help connection happen between myself and the group that I’m speaking to. There are probably a lot of ways to do this, but what seems to work the best for me is the use of personal stories and illustrations. Oh yeah, and humor. Humor is always a good thing (as long as it’s funny to someone other than myself).
Authenticity is also huge – not coming across as, “I’ve got it all figured out and let me tell you how to become like me” – but admitting (at times) that certain subjects are even difficult for me and that I’m on this journey just like they (the listeners) are. Vulnerability might not always be easy – but it helps open up hearts.
It seems that before I try to help connect someone to God, I must first connect with them. If I fail to connect to them (as a communicator), chances are that I may not do much good in connecting them to God. a.k.a - the old John Maxwell quote, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” In other words, it is vital that I “earn the right” to be heard. And one of the ways that I earn that right is to help the listener feel like I can relate to them.
It also involves taking the listener on a journey. For example, I can get up on a Sunday morning and open up by saying, “Today we are going to learn about how God really wants us to have a good attitude no matter what we are going through.” Well that sounds nice to “churched” people and it is a true statement – but to the typical postmodern listener this comes across as a very black and white statement (and premature declaration). And without taking the time to build my “case”, walls might shoot up, and then I’ve done more harm than good.
Rather than open up with the end result of what the message will say, why not back up and take the group on a journey to discover that truth? And in the process answer the questions that you know people are asking and/or addressing the arguments and “other sides” that people are familiar with.
Lots to learn...
Sunday, December 28
MISS THE RAPTURE?
Check out this site. Email your loved ones a letter after the rapture has occurred.
Ok - a couple of questions:
1. Who pushes the send button on these emails? Some guy who they pay NOT to convert?
2. What exactly will the email say? Dear ___________, Guess what? You're screwed for about 7 years.
3. Who thinks of these things?
Ok. Enough said.
Saturday, December 27
U2 GO HOME
@ my office doing some last minute "weekend" stuff listening/watching the U2 dvd, "U2 Go Home Live From Slane Castle, Ireland".
U2 is THE BEST.
Friday, December 26
Great, great Christmas. Hope yours was too.
I think that what made our Christmas great this year was not just the giving and receiving of gifts, or the food, or the laughs - although all of that was great too. (By the way, thanks again Cara for those candleholders - they'll look great in my office!) But to me, what made Christmas great this year was the continued realization of how incredibly blessed I am to be a part of my family.
Believe me, I am not naive to the fact that for many, Christmas is not a great time of the year. In fact, I know people who view Christmas as a depressing time of the year in their lives and that deeply saddens me. Especially during a time like Christmas, where we tend to express (to some degree), our love and care for one another through giving and receiving. (Don't read too far into this Uncle Norm - again, the moose was Amanda's idea...)
So anyway, I am thankful that I am a part of a family who really loves and cares for one another and who would, at any given moment, drop everything in their lives to take care of each other. I'm also thankful for my friends - many of whom were with their own families today - but whom I missed on a day like today.
So there's my quick reflection on Christmas before I hit the hay.
How was yours?
Wednesday, December 24
In my computer bag is a stack of papers in a file that I call my “to read” file. This file consists of articles, writings and blogging ideas that I run across on a regular basis. I usually scan through the articles online or in my email and then print them to read more in depth. Well tonight, I ran across an article written by a marketing “guy” by the name of Howie who writes an online newsletter called, “howieConnect”. You can check it out here.
In an article dated October 17th, 2003, (yes, I'm behind in my reading...) Howie shares some very interesting thoughts about marketing and reaching an audience. His ideas/thoughts are super simple, yet it’s amazing how many of us fail to incorporate these practices when it comes to reaching our “targets”. (For the church, the target should be unchurched people.)
In the article, Howie asks this question: “Are you marketing in You-ish or They-ish?” Check out this excerpt:
When I start marketing a product, I naturally start out by talking to myself. I write sales copy that appeals to my values. I argue the price/value question in ways that I find convincing. I use layouts and pictures that affect me.
Unless my market is very much like me (which rarely happens, believe me), I’m going to fail.
I’m speaking Gorilla-ish to Dogs. To me, I’m saying, “Buy my stuff,” but they hear, “Run away! I’m a Dork.”
I’m not going to succeed in teaching my prospects Howie-ish. If I want to communicate with them, I have to learn their language.
Then Howie answers the question of, “How do I go about learning their language?”
Here is a condensed version of what Howie does to learn “their” language:
1. I do research.
2. I go through thought exercises. (I imagine myself living their lives, having their problems, dreaming their dreams.)
3. I start writing like I would talk to them, knowing everything I know. (When they sense that I’ve made the effort to bridge the gap and understand them, my prospects often take a step toward me as well.)
These are some good thoughts – and definitely something that those of us in the church world (in general), need to keep in front of us. In fact, if you think about it, this is nothing different than what missionaries do when they go to a foreign country. They do research, they (hopefully) do thought exercises to try and understand the people they are attempting to reach, and they learn the language.
Well comment, challenge, let me know your thoughts.
(Not totally new ideas for some of us, but good thoughts to reinforce why we do what we do to encourage us to keep doing!)
Good stuff – long post. Sorry!
Tuesday, December 23
CHOOSE THE RIGHT SEAT
Ok, I HAVE to share this site. It's called SeatGuru.com and it's a great idea.
Before you book those online plane tickets, go to this site to find out the best seating choices on all major airlines. Seats are rated by either: Very Good Seat, Be Aware!, and Bad Seat.
It even gives you video & audio information (how many music channels, etc...) for each plane.
The only thing missing is information on the person who will be sitting next to you.
This one is definitely going into My Favorites!
CHRISTMAS IS HERE
It's hard to believe that Christmas is here. Of course, that also means that a new year is quickly approaching. This year, we will be spending Christmas Eve & Christmas day between both of our family's homes. On Sunday, we'll be shooting up to Upper Peninsula Michigan (brrrr....) for about a week to do some skiing at Indianhead w/ some family. Depending on snow conditions I might try snowboarding this year. YIKES!
Today I will be wrapping up things here @ the office, doing some last minute Christmas shopping and then doing a Christmas Eve service rehearsal tonight. I know my blogging has been minimal lately, but things have been hectic. I promise some good posts soon!
Happy Day before Christmas Eve!
Monday, December 22
HAPPY BIRTHDAY POPS!
Today my dad (Larry Hodge) turns 60. A few months ago we had the big surprise party, but today it is "official".
Happy birthday dad!
Saturday, December 20
Sunny afternoon here in Chicago. Sunny days are nice in the middle of winter. (I'm trying to convince myself that winter is 1/2 over here, which I'm afraid is a very inaccurate belief. It's only started...)
Listening to Evanescense & Seal. Working on some last minute stuff for the weekend. Not much to say right now.
Thursday, December 18
LAST MINUTE CHRISTMAS SHOPPING IDEAS
Wednesday, December 17
LATE NIGHT GIBBERISH
I don't know why I hate going to bed so much. Don't get me wrong - when I wake up in the morning I just want to go back to bed and sleep. But at night, when things are quiet my mind starts moving and going to bed seems like a waste of time. But then I wake up at 6 or 7 in the morning, sit at the edge of my bed and seriously wonder why in the heck I stayed up so late the night before. This happens almost every morning.
I love nights, but hate mornings. Why can't I love nights AND love mornings?
Tuesday, December 16
SADDAM CONVERTS TO CHRISTIANITY!
Check this out.
FAKE OR REAL?
If you've ever wondered how to tell the difference between a "real" Rolex watch and a "fake" one, here's the site for you.
Or, if you're like me and can't afford a "real" Rolex and would like to see what a "fake" one looks like so you can buy one and make everyone else think you have a real one, this is also a good site for you.
But if you fall into the 2nd category, don't forward this site to your friends, whatever you do.
(Thanks Kottke for the link. ........as if he reads my blog.)
Sunday, December 14
Sunday nights are always very reflective evenings for me. Today was a good day - very tiring though. When I don't get my Sunday afternoon nap I feel kind of jipped.
I taught this morning @ our services - wrapped up the last week of our Purpose Driven Life series. One of the things we did today was challenge people to step out of their comfort zones and get involved in serving. (Not that we don't normally do this, but we took a fairly aggresive approach today). The response was fantastic.
I am a firm believer that people want to be challenged and asked to step up and be a part of something that will make a difference. I agree 100% with DJCHUANG'S post (see 12/11 blogpost below...) that we tend to become way too wussy when it comes to asking people to step up and be involved or take part of a particular initiative. Instead of saying, "If you're interested" or "We know your busy, but we could sure use your help" - we took more this kind of approach, "It's time to get off the bench and into the game. You need to be involved in serving - not just to make a difference in someone else's life, but to fulfill one of the purposes that you created for! So take action today and make it happen."
Way to go Orchard-"ers". You stepped up to the plate.
Tomorrow is my "day off" which doesn't mean much this week. It's going to be a busy one, so I shall begin my week early.
"We Got Him!"
Saturday, December 13
4 YEARS OLD!
Elise w/ her Grandpa Dong
Elise turned 4 yesterday (12th). We had a birthday party for her on Thursday. Hard to believe that she is 4! WOWZERS. Every year, to celebrate her Chinese heritage (can't you tell by the red hair??), her Nana buys her a Chinese dress.
Not only was it a nice birthday, but it was also a great excuse for me to eat a lot of food and play with her new toys.
Off to a concert in Downers Grove...
Thursday, December 11
STARBUCK'S BLENDED BEVERAGE BINGO
Apparently, Starbucks did a pretty darn good job with a "customer experience program" initiated in 2001 where they put together a "bingo" type system for creating interaction with customers to offer samples of new drinks. According to this article at Fast Company, all North American stores participated in this.
...and I thought the free drinks were because they liked me.
Tuesday, December 9
What happens when you have:
1) nothing to do
2) a sharp knife
3) a large lime
4) a patient cat
5) too much tequila
6) and it's football season?
Monday, December 8
Today was my day off. It was a sucky day. I was in some sort of emotional funk all day long. Kind of pissy towards everyone. I'm not totally sure why either. Well I (sort of) know why, but I still reflect back on my day and (as always) ask myself, "How in the freak did I allow myself to be so emotionally jacked up today?"
I guess I make myself somewhat vulnerable when I admit things like this, but I don't really care anymore. I'm human. I go through crap just like everyone else and sometimes (more often than not), I just downright make stupid choices when it comes to my attitude.
So...................tonight I went to Starbucks and worked. And the scary part about that is that it actually helped improve my mood. I don't think it was the caffeine either (although the more I think about the whole coffee addiction, the more it makes sense that it actually might be related...).
Anyway, I think part of the reason I cheered up tonight is because I spent the good part of an hour cleaning out my email inbox. In my inbox were (at least) 5 emails from people whose lives have recently been positively impacted through the church that I work at. 5 is a good number - and seldom does my inbox have 5 "testimonials" in it at one time. But I guess God knew that I would need those emails at 9:30pm on a Monday night after I spent a day being a jerk to my wife, daughter and a couple of other people.
Thanks God. Sorry family.
I'll do better next time.
Sunday, December 7
GOOD SUNDAY MORNING
6:10am. In my office this morning listening to a radio show called, "With Heart and Voice". It's a weekly program of choral and organ music. Today they are playing Advent themes.
There's something sobering about being up early - while it's still dark out, knowing that most of the (sane) population is still in bed sleeping. This has sort of become my Sunday morning "ritual" - a way for me to reflect on God and His place in my life. It's becoming one of the best parts of my week.
Back to my ritual...
Saturday, December 6
SATURDAY MORNING (HEALTHY) BREAKFAST
What a way to wake up… Cake from our favorite “cake place” in Minnesota – Café Latte in St. Paul. Turtle Cake to be exact. Several layers of flowerless chocolate cake with rich chocolate frosting and lots of cararmel and nuts.
Now I need a nap.
Wednesday, December 3
Here in Chicago, we know the "true" meaning of Christmas.
(Picture taken out my car window on the south side of Chicago a couple of days ago...)
Tuesday, December 2
Monday, December 1
Began this book tonight. The title, "Urban Tribes", was coined by the author, Ethan Watters to describe an "intricate community of young people who live and work together in various combinations, form regular rituals, and provide the same kind of support as an extended family." The book is an account of his experiences with his own "tribe" and the "tribes" of millions of other postmoderns in our society.
I'll let you know how the book is. If anything, it might help paint even a clearer picture of our culture and where/how community fits into the picture.
Congratulations to my friends, Fred & Kelly Shirley in Minneapolis on the birth of Colton Richard Shirley on 11/29. Chayse finally has a little brother!
You guys are great - we miss the heck out of you...