Tuesday, December 13, 2011

BTL Top 5 Albums of 2011

I love music, and this was a great year for music.

There is something about the second year of a decade that brings out the best in artists.

Going back to 1991 which was simply a turning point for music in a generation.
Nirvana's Nevermind, Pearl Jam's Ten, and even U2's Achtung Baby set the standard for music for years to come.

Even at turn of the new millennium music hit another benchmark.
The Strokes' This is It, The White Strips' White Blood Cells, and Ryan Adam's Gold influenced artists for the next ten years.

The music produced in 2011 found proven artists creating some of the best work of their career.  There were also some new artists making a splash like FosterThePeople and Washed Out that rounded out a special year for music.

5.  Mat Kearney - Young Love
A transplant artist from Nashville that uniquely blends spoken word and soaring choruses into a fresh and catchy sound.  The album is a brief 40 minutes but with each listen you find this beat-driven effort to be surprisingly deep and layered. Hey Mama and Count on Me may be the stand out summer tracks but it is the storytelling in Down and Ships in the Night that finds Mat Kearney being the Bruce Springsteen of this generation with a touch of style from Elvis Costello.

4.  The Civil Wars - Barton Hallow
As the name suggests this is an odd couple that seems to work that contradiction to perfection.  Joy Williams, an established CCM artist came together with the talented but obscure folk singer John Paul White in 2009 Eddie's Attic but it wasn't until four years later that this non-couple found success.  The harmonies are tender and well crafted.  The lyrics are far from cliche and sometimes can be downright heartbreaking in Falling and Poison and Wine, but their is subtle thread of hope throughout the album that comes thru Barton Hallow and especially in I've Got This Friend.

3. Coldplay - Mylo Xyloto
This is the album that everyone wanted Coldplay to make, which also is its greatest critique but also its greatest compliment. Mylo is full of energy and enthusiasm which makes it tasty ear candy, and Coldplay is hoping you have a sweet tooth especially on tracks like Hurts like Heaven, Charlie Brown, and Every Teardrop.  There are some tracks that bring the right amount of balance to cut the sweet especially on Paradise and Us Against the World.  The album is great, but you expect it to be, it's Coldplay.

2. Adele - 21
You had a glimpse of Adele's brilliance on 19 with Chasing Pavements and on 21 this British songbird really finds her voice.  The album opens with it's strongest track Rolling in the Deep with its driving beat and gospel influence.  However, the rest of the album takes a melancholy turn as the theme of heartbreak and loss is found throughout.  Despite its somber message Adele's angelic voice eclipses the album with passion and soul especially on Rumor Has It and Someone Like You.  In today's Pop music culture of body conscious females and superfluous music Adele redefines the industry with beauty and grace.

1. Gungor - Ghost Upon the Earth
Ghosts Upon the Earth transcends the worship genre into creating something that is truly magically that can be best described as an art-rock-opera.  A concept album that ebbs and flows with themes of creation, loss, and redemption inspired by C.S. Lewis' Great Divorce.  Ghosts is an album that is to be listened to in full which is rare, with a CCM trend to manufacture predicable singable songs for Sunday morning.  Much like The Beatles who found a new sound in Revolver and perfected it with Sgt. Pepper, that is what Gungor has accomplished starting with Beautiful Things last year and building brilliantly to Ghosts Upon the Earth.

What are your favorite albums of 2011?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

BTL Top 5 Books of 2011

I wanted to do something for the Advent season, so I thought about writing a Top 5 Blog each week leading up to Christmas that will cover the top books, music, and movies of 2011.

This week's Top 5 will focus on my top the books of 2011. 

If only my English teacher, Mr. Doyle, could see me now.  I read a lot more now than I ever did in high school, minus the Cliff Notes, but I do not think they counted anyway.

It's an interesting thing to find myself reading more and playing video games less.  Welcome to life in the 30s, but I think it's going to be a good transition.

So here are some books that I found to be interesting, compelling, and worth checking out at your local library, or downloaded onto your latest tablet device; since Borders is now closed. 

5. Fall To Grace- Jay Bakker  

I enjoyed watching "One Punk Under God," a documentary on Sundance that tracked Televangelist Jimmie Bakker's son, Jay, in his ministry and struggles with God.  The book picks up were the show left off.  Dialoguing about his church plant, Revolution Church, his mother Tammy Faye, and wrestling with Grace in today's culture.  My family was affected greatly by PTL's rise and fall and to read Jay's words about his father's ministry and the aftermath hits pretty close to home.  There are some things that everyone may not agree with that Jay discusses but it is refreshing to see a Pastor's kid love God despite the trials of ministry.  

4. The Art of Fielding- Chad Harbach 

There is something about baseball that transcends life.  If football is the heartbeat of America, then baseball is the soul.  It is an underdog story about Henry Skrimshander, a brilliant fielder, that anyone who played baseball can relate to.  The characters are deep, layered and likable and remind me of friends that I used to play baseball with in college.  Whatever team you play for in the game of life, we all need a Henry on our team to remind us of "Sacrifice, passion, desire, attention to detail, and the need to strive like a champion everyday." 

3. Steve Jobs- Walter Isaacson 

Everyone loves Apple, not everyone loves Steve Jobs.  Maybe fascinated with Steve Jobs would be a better description.  Isaacson unfolds the layers of Jobs in an honest and compelling way.  What I like most about this book is that Walter makes you care about Steve maybe a little more than the Apple product in your hand or on your desk.  Isaacson writes, "Job's father had once taught him that a drive for perfection meant caring about the craftsmanship even of the parts unseen," and in an ironic way that is exactly what Walter does for Steve Jobs in this book. 

2. Start Something That Matters- Blake Mycoskie

You've seen the AT&T ad, and you might even own a pair of Tom's shoes, but it is the heart behind the shoe that makes you fall in love with this book.  Blake Mycoskie is the chief shoe giver for Toms and has started a movement with his "One for One" mission statement,  to give away a shoe for every shoe sold.  You learn about the humble, yet wise beginnings of a new type of business plan and along the way Blake inspires with tender true stories and great practical insights to get any small business off the ground.  You cannot read this book and not feel empowered to believe that if Blake Mycoskie can follow his dreams, you can too.

1. Love Wins- Rob Bell

As polarizing as Heaven and Hell can be that is exactly what this book did for many of it's readers.  People either criticized Bell for his generous view of the afterlife or they praised him for his generous view of the afterlife.  Whether you agree with Rob Bell's views or not you cannot argue that this book started a conversation that has not been had in a generation.  People would preach about Jesus not many would preach about Hell, let alone talk about it.  Love Wins was able to cross the pews and have cable news networks and blogs across the internet buzzing about what happens when we die, and that is a win. 

What are your favorite books of 2011?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Tension of Letting Go or Holding On

I believe The Clash said it best, "Should I stay or should I go now?"

There are certain times when you are at the intersection of life and a choice must be made.

It could be over the future of a relationship.
It could be over the decision of a new career.
It could be over the location of buying a home.

Some people follow a peace and make a decision while others weigh all of the options before making that final choice.

We all make choices.

Whether you stay or go, you make a choice.

The tension came to the forefront recently during our six month battle to purchase a house.  It was so exhausting.  We hit almost every obstacle one could face as a first time home buyer.

At one point our lender expressed how she has never dealt with a client like us and could not believe all of the opposition we were facing.  She broke down one evening and asked, "Do you really think you should purchase this house, are there other forces at work here?"

I stammered a bit as I answered her question as best I could at that time.

Looking back over that conversation and a number of situations over the years here are
5 Principles to follow in the tension of letting go or holding on:

1. Timing
Sometimes you have a small window of time to make a decision.  If a choice is not made you might not get another chance again with the same circumstances.  My wife and I had to make a choice to buy a house or rent...again.  We chose to go for it and buy while the market was hot for first time home buyers.  We were able to secure an amazing rate by God's grace.  The resources and timing could not have been better and that helped us feel confident in making this decision that we have never made before.

2. Never Settle
The phrase rolls easily off the tongue but it is hard to put into practice.  We like comfort. We like playing it safe, but playing it safe is risky and being comfortable can be an illusion of insecurity.  When I was in college and the sparks began to fly with Marisa. I had a glimpse of where the relationship could go.  In my heart I knew that this was either going to be the girl I would marry or she would be the standard that every other girl would be compared.  I am glad I didn't settle. I am glad she said Yes.

3. Red Flags
It is amazing how we can see the red flags in other peoples lives but we are completely oblivious to see them in our own lives.  It is important to surround yourself with those who can be honest and not just tell you what you want to hear.  There was a time earlier on in ministry when a number of people warned me not to accept a certain position and there were others who seemed to praise the same opportunity.  In my enthusiasm I tuned out those who seemed to know a little more than I did and only listen to those who made me feel good.  Looking back I was able to learn a lot, but sometimes it would be nice not to learn the hard way.

4. Be Open
When we first started the journey to plant a church there was an area that seemed like would be a good location but there were many obstacles.  I talked to an older and wiser pastor about the situation.  I expected to hear phrases like, "Just pray harder brother," and others like "Just have more faith."  He did not say those cliches.  What he did say is to be Open.  His simple words to be open gave me perspective to see other opportunities I wouldn't have seen otherwise.  Being Open allows God into enter the situation rather than forcing to have my way and leaving God out of the situation.

5. Worth Fighting For
Some things are worth fighting for. Some people are worth fighting for.  When I was in youth ministry we had a student baptism service outside at a lake.  We almost didn't have it.  The day of our service was a monsoon of a rain storm.  Parents were calling me if we were going to cancel, after all I thought I was going to cancel.  Until one of students challenged me in the church kitchen.  She expressed how she could only be baptized on this day before she left for a mission trip.  In a sweet but tough voice she said, "Pastor Al I will be baptized today!"  I knew I had a to make a decision that wasn't easy but despite the circumstances these were special students worth fighting for. We went to the lake and as soon as we got ready for our service the clouds parted, the sun shined down, and we had our baptism service.  I knew this service was going to be an analogy I would go back to again and again when things seemed hopeless, but somethings are worth fighting for.

About that phone conversation...

Going back to the conversation with our lender, when she asked why this was so difficult.  I said, "honestly I am a pastor, and It's par for the course that somethings are a trial of perseverance." She then opened about her family, her 10 kids (wow) and how she hasn't been able to sleep the past couple of nights.  I asked if I could pray with her and she was hoping I would ask.  The next day she sent my wife and I an email expressing how thankful she was that we prayed, and how she was able to sleep.  She also shared about a conversation between her and her husband about making some key decisions together.

I saved the email.

This is the video of the Water Baptism Service that we didn't give up on back in 2008.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Communicate Creative: The Beauty of Tony Bennett

My Grandmother loves Tony Bennett and so does... Lady Gaga!?

It is rare that an artist can cross generations and also appeal to all types of people. We are talking about a career spanning six decades and over 50 million records sold.

The Rolling Stones have been around forever, but they haven't been relevant since Microsoft used Start Me Up to roll out Windows 95 (I think Windows hasn't been relevant since '95 too).

Bob Dylan has been around for just as long, but I do not think Dylan has the pop appeal that can spawn two successful duet albums with current pop artists like Bennett will release soon.  Can you imagine a Dylan-Beiber mashup... "Baby Baby Oh- Nooo."

So what is it about the beauty of Bennett where the boys still think he is cool and the girls find him is classy?

I believe there are 3 characteristics modeled in the man Tony Bennett that we can take into our own heart and soul.  And they go beyond being a smooth singer and slick Italian.

1.  Humility 

There are a lot of artists who insist you know how great they are, ala Kanye West; not so with Tony Bennett.  He has been a hard worker understanding the weight of his career without ever having to brag about it.  You would never see Bennett take an award from a Taylor Swift bringing her to tears.  You would see, however, Bennett give an award to Amy Winehouse that would bring her to tears, simply because of her respect for Tony.

2.  Humor

It seems as if every picture of Tony Bennett comes with a smile.  A certain smirk that relaxes you and also conveys the idea that he might be up to something.  He never takes himself too seriously and there is something really endearing about that in an accomplished musician. You can see Bennett's slick wit in this quote addressing his popularity, "I think one of the reasons I'm popular again is because I'm wearing a tie. You have to be different." 

3.  Heart

Tony Bennett has a big smile but he has bigger heart.  You can find Bennett connected to seven charities  (American Cancer Society, Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation, Exploring The Arts, Griffith Park Recovery Fund, MusiCares, Neurofibromatosis, Inc., Starkey Hearing Foundation) as well as supporting eight causes (At-Risk/Disadvantaged Youths, Cancer, Children, Creative Arts, Education, Health, Miscellaneous, Unemployment/Career Support).  His philanthropy is commendable but it is how he talks and sees people that really shows the compassion of Bennett.  In a recent interview about his duet (Lady is a Tramp) with Lady Gaga, she said "I'm a tramp," to Tony's reply, "No No No you're a lady playing a tramp."  It is that type of heart we need to have that is described in the verse Philippians 2.3 to consider others better than yourself.  

Check out this interview that captures the Beauty of Bennett featuring his new duets album some great current artists and also his connection with Amy Winehouse. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Communicate Creative: The Bird Bird Effect

You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can't get them across, your ideas won't get you anywhere.  — Lee Iacocca

In school I was very scatter-shot in learning and getting good grades.  If I liked the class, I did well.  If I liked the class and the teacher, I would perform even better.  If the class or teacher could not keep my attention I struggled.

Mr. Adeleman was my computer teacher with straggly long hair, mustache, and a bow-tie; he looked like an extra on the set of a Shakespeare play.  He had my attention. Throughout the year I would have his attention as well.

I would act up intentionally in the class and when he would come over to my computer to verbally discipline me, I would record his voice, unbeknownst to him.

When he would discipline other students I would wait until the class grew quiet and play back Mr. Adelemen's austere voice thru my computer speakers

The class would erupt in laughter.

And that is when this nerdy high school student learned that technology could capture an audience.

Although the illustration may sound a little childish, there is a children's program that knows the power of technology to capture a child's attention; Sesame Street.  I have broken down a number of key principles of how Sesame Street uses technology that can be transferred to when you communicate (with or without puppet training).
Five Key Principles How Sesame Street Can Improve Your Communication.

1. Ernie's Elbows (Great Execution)

My son likes Ernie a lot, he calls him "E."  After watching Ernie, I became fascinated with how "E" would operate.  He seemed so real.  One person alone could not operate him.  After doing some research, I learned that it took two people to make Ernie come to life.   Whatever illustration medium you use make it look seamless, never show the "elbows." I have enjoyed using Powerpoint, and now Keynote to teach or preach.  It is a great visual aid but I needed someone to run the laptop when I was on stage.  The two person job did not always flow well.  Connecting the iPad to the Macbook thru a keynote remote app it can create a pretty cool teaching experience by allowing one person to control two objects.  You do not always need the latest techie device but whatever tool or illustration you use remember to hide "Ernie's elbows."

Jim Henson + Puppetier = Ernie's Elbows 

2. True Mud, Mad Men, I'm Yours (Culturally Relevant)

Sesame Street has always been able to get major celebrity appearances from Paul Simon and Billy Joel back in the day to more current artists like Usher and Jason Mraz.  TV shows have also gone under a muppet-makeover, like True Blood and Mad Men.  Although most young children may not recognize the pop references, their parents do.  It is a way to draw in the casual viewer.  Being culturally relevant allows the person on the fringe to connect and be drawn into the lesson. "Unlike a certain purple dinosaur we could name, Sesame Street is something even grown-ups like to watch. It's the show's prolific use of satire that keeps big people glued to the set."-ew.com  Sesame Street has been on the air for more than 40 years, Barney and Friends has been on hiatus since 2009.  Being culturally relevant is not everything, but it does help to engage your audience and keep things fresh.

3. ABC is Key (Content is King)

Sesame Street would not have the reputation of a great children's program if it didn't actually teach the children to learn.  Content is the foundation for the illustrations to built on, not the other way around. Lisa Guernsey of Newsweek had this to say about Sesame Street, "Sesame Street is no ordinary nonprofit. It is, arguably, the most important children's program in the history of television. No show has affected the way we think about education, parenting, childhood development and cultural diversity, both in the United States and abroad, more than Big Bird and friends." My son has learned to recognize the letters of the alphabet and Sesame Street is big reason for that.  Especially from watching catchy and educational videos like this one, "Here we go..."

4. The Big Bird Effect (Visually Sticky)

Sesame Street has been on the air for over 4 decades but it almost did not make it past the first 4 episodes.  In the beginning stages of the program, the fantasy moments were separated from the real life street segments, (think Mr. Rogers Neighborhood). When the show transitioned to only the adults, the children watching would instantly tune out.  The production team had to find a way to make the message stick and keep the kids engaged for the full hour or Sesame Street would never be aired.  Enter Jim Henson and say hello to Big Bird. "What we now think of as the essence of Sesame Street--the artful blend of fluffy monsters and earnest adults--grew out of a desperate desire to be sticky," says Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point.  Whether it be thru a creative stage design, engaging keynote presentation, or even a physical illustration, do not just talk about story, show the story.  "The medium is the message," is a phrase coined by Marshall McLuhan.  The medium creates a symbolic connection with the audience.  Big Bird is Sesame Street and Sesame Street is Big Bird.

Big Bird says H is for...?

5. Elmo Loves You (Heart)

My son likes Ernie, but he love Elmo.  I believe one of the reasons he loves Elmo is because Elmo represents love.  Elmo has heart.  Elmo is always expressing his love whether it be to a toddler visiting Elmo's World or an object like his tricycle.  In the midst of all media and technical elements you can add to a lesson it is ultimately you that your audience will connect with. If you genuinely love your topic and genuinely love your audience that will be far more effective than latest trend or crafty illustration.  When I was going thru my training to become a substitute teacher, I asked a teacher at a local school, what is the main thing you look for in a great substitute?  He responded, "I just want my sub to love the students."  How you love is the filter thru how you communicate.

About that computer class...

If you were wondering about my high school exploits in computer class.  Mr. Adeleman did take a special interest in me.  Although I would get sent to the principle office at times, he collaborated with me on my final presentation. This time he gave me permission to record his voice on the computer, and I got an A for the class.  I am thankful for teachers like Mr. Adeleman who saw thru my quirks to help me realize my potential, and there is no App for that.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Communicate Creative: How Watching the Food Network Can Improve You're Speaking

Are You Ready For a Throwdown?
The next series of blogs will be a departure from my hopeful observations of everyday life.  It has been on my heart and mind to share some of the tools and tips I've learned along way from speaking as a pastor and also a teacher.  Let me start off by saying I do not have the best voice, I sound kind of like Kermit the Frog I also do not have the rockstar good-looks of a Pete Wilson, I look more like that kid from Boy Meets World with the curly hair.

However, my hope is that these ideas can be used in any setting whether your audience is a class of 3rd graders or a congregation of 300 or more.

The TV I used to watch when I was single guy and the TV I watch as married man is very different.  One channel I find myself watching a lot more of than I did before is the Food Network.  It has come a long way from those early years of how to cook a turkey right for Thanksgiving.

The Food Network has developed wide palette of shows and also cultivated it's chefs to be as recognizable as their food.

I believe there are a number of key principles expressed in each of the signature shows from the Food Network that have a common thread from Home Cooking with Paula Dean to Good Eats with Alton Brown that can be used to help one become a better communicator.

Five Key Principles to Improve Your Speaking From the Food Network

1. Personal Connection

It seems almost every chef ties in their food to a personal story from their past.  The story doesn't outshine their medium but it does enhance it and draws you in.  When Bobby Flay talks about his hard working days as a sous chef, any person trying to break into a certain field can be inspired and connect with those stories.  I remember when I was in second grade, my teacher Mrs. Noel, shared a illustration in her lesson about how her husband liked to play video games.  I was hooked, and still remember that two decades later.  The personal illustration creates a personal connection.

2. The Cookbook Trap

When watching the Next Food Network Star I saw a number of aspiring chefs fall into the cookbook trap as they try to get noticed by seasoned chefs.  It's a trap I can fall into at times as well, especially when I am speaking in a setting that makes me nervous.  The cookbook trap is this, using other successful rescipes from other successful chefs, (i.e. the cookbook) and passing them off as your own.  It is one thing to be inspired by something you read or hear but to copy the exact way a person communicates or writes in a book and pass it off as your own is a crime.  People can notice a fake.  It robs your own development and robs your audience of something new, fresh, and inspiring.

3. Know the Clock

A show that is known for this concept and also has had amazing success for seven seasons is Rachel Ray's 30 Minute Meals.  Yes it is a show based on convenience, but there is another principle conveyed; trust.  People know that within 30 minutes Rachel will deliver on her promise.  As a communicator we need to stick to our promise of the time given.  Long does not always equal great.  Going over the expected time can cause the listener to tune you out.  Closing concisely and on time respects the audience and the individuals who gave you the authority to speak.  Honoring the time given shows that you can be disciplined and that your message is not just about you; it is and always should be about your audience.

4.  Share the Ingredients 

People want to know how to make the meals they see on TV and people want to know how to apply the lesson to their lives.  Claire Robinson's Five Ingredient Fix is a show based all around a meal that has just five ingredients. It's simple, popular and my wife has made many meals from watching this show, and they were great meals.  Sharing the ingredients is all about giving the practical takeaway.  This can be expressed clearly as you transition your points along the way or can be summed up clearly at the end of your lesson.  Never assume your audience will just "get it." Be intentional and take a little extra time to be clear and practical.

5. Signature Style

You are designed a certain way and have a uniqueness that only you can bring to your field.  Your personality, background, and experience will shape what you share.  Be confident in expressing those tools that you already have and stick to them; be you.  This is the X Factor that the Food Network is always looking for in the next signature chef because each chef on the Food Network is known for a signature style.  Bobby Flay is known for Southwest flavors, Alton Brown is known for food science, and Paula Dean is known for Southern style home cooking.  What will you be known for?

I hope you will find these ideas to be encouraging and practical for you to lend to your own speaking style.  These are not the only tools to developing a great speaking style, but I believe they can be very useful.

The next blog will discuss the tech-side of communicating visually.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

September A Month to Forget & Remember

As we were coming off the heals of a great August having our first event with Valley Community Church, closing on our house, and enjoying a vacation on the lovely beaches of Hilton Head Island, life was beautiful.

Life is also unpredictable. 

Our house slipped through the cracks because of an appraisal that the seller would not agree to, after a three month roller-coaster ride with three different closing dates. 

Trying to plant a church when you live a 100 miles away is a challenge.  Much like any long distance relationship, you may have a connection but its presence that's matters more than warm fuzzies.

The beginning of Autumn also brought the tension of life and death.

My wife's Grandmother, Nana as we like to call her, had a four year battle of lung complications and Alzheimer's come to end as she is now at peace with her Lord.  She was an amazing woman who was feisty as she was fashionable, kinda reminds me of someone else I know.  

Nana loved her God, her husband, and family with a tenderness and tenacity that made me instantly fall in love with her as I was falling in love with her granddaughter.

I'll never forget those nervous moments when Marisa and I first started dating as I would meet the family, Nana would remind me over and over again that it was God's providence that brought us together.  She always had a way of knowing what God was up to. 

The day of her funeral was bittersweet but it was a touching tribute.

It's hard to lose the ones you love, it's even harder to see them suffer.

My father came up that day from Philly to pay his respects, and little did I know, that soon after death  would brush by his door.

He had a ruptured Aorta and my mother told me that he would be going into surgery for seven hours.  I prayed with her over the phone and rushed to UPenn Hospital with my family but I didn't really know what to pray or how to pray I didn't even know what a ruptured Aorta was.

Later I came to learn that it was same heart condition that took the life of the great actor and comedian John Ritter.

I wasn't ready to lose my dad.
Thirty years is not long enough to say goodbye.

More than wanting my Dad to see the Philadelphia Eagles win a Superbowl, 
I wanted my son to remember this man who is my role-model and friend.
I wanted my son to know his grandfather the way my wife knew her grandmother.

My father has recovered well despite the epic collapse of the much hyped Phillies and Eagles.
My wife and I close on our first house at the end of the month (which is bigger and less money).
My church plant adventures are picking up momentum after an encouraging VCC Vision Day.

September was a month to forget but one I will always remember.

Visiting my Dad in ICU with the family.

A video celebrating the life and love of Nana.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

You Have a Story Worth Telling

TOMS & Coffee a good pair.
I love being a pastor, I just don't like telling people that I am a pastor.

Whether it comes up in conversation at a coffee house or in line at the grocery store or just in those random moments of life I always seem to pause or stammer about my calling.

To be honest it's a combination of fear and the assumption that I would be one of "Those" pastors or christians.  I do not want to be lumped in with the conserative-judgemental Christian boat, however I do not want to be a Christian apologist either.

The bottom line is that I need to own who I am and not be ashamed about it.

Recently I have been reading about Blake Mycoskie, Chief Shoe Giver of TOMS (for every shoe you buy TOMS gives a pair to a child in need), in his new book Start Something That Matters, he talks about the power of your story.

"If you organize your life around your passion, you can turn your passion into your story and then turn your story into something bigger- something that matters."

Blake would actually wear two different colors of TOMS just so that he could have opportunity to share his story.

He is willing to look a little foolish for something he is passionate about.

I have to get over that fear of looking foolish... of not being cool.
I have to come to grips that not everyone will like me or what I do.

My goal is to share our story about our church in the conversations of life.  To listen to that still small voice in those moments that are not planned and go for it!

I have a story worth telling.
I have a call worth living.

To Find Hope to the Valley. 

What's your story?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011


Father and Son HHI 2011
"When a brave man takes a stand, the spines of others are often stiffened."
-Billy Graham

Growing up in Philadelphia you would think that I was a tough city kid.  I wish I was the one who won the fights and got the girl.  I wasn't much of fighter, and rarely ever got the girl.

In middle school, I was the kid in jogging pants and a Phillies jersey, not exactly the bad the boy the popular kids wanted to be around.  Actually, I like to think of middle school as a layer of hell found somewhere in Dante's Inferno.

There were moments where I found my self standing up to the class teacher more than the class bully.

I wanted to be brave.

As a father I see many of my qualities echoed in my son.  Some good, some not so good.

One quality I think he gets more from his mother than me is the ability to be brave.

This week we have the privilege of vacationing with my In-Laws at Hilton Head Island.  We can see the beach from our window and there is nothing like being at the beach.

This is definitely a step up from the Jersey Shore, but than again, I think most things are a step up from the Jersey Shore.

Going to the beach with a toddler who is 18 months old can be an adventure.
The ocean can be a very scary especially to someone who can barely see over the kitchen table.  However, making the most of the vacation time we headed for the beach the first day of the week.

As we came to the beach where the sand meets the water Keane had fun splashing and watching the waves come to shore.  That is until one of those waves knocked him over.

 Tears soon replaced his smile.

No one likes to be knocked down, no matter how old you are.

As Keane ran back to the shade of our umbrella and comfy beach chairs, I thought his day in the sun was over. A few moments later he was making his way back to tackle the waves again.

So we faced the ocean together hand in hand.

He got knocked down again, but he got up.
He no longer cried because of the waves,
He would now shout at the waves.

Watching my son I felt inspired to tackle my own waves in life.
It can be easy to turn your back on your fears and go where it is safe,
whether it be the shade of the umbrella or the comforts of the suburbs.

There is so much I want to teach my son,
to never give up and to persevere in tough times.

To have him learn from my example and be brave.

This time I found my self learning from his life,
This time I learned to shout at the waves.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What I Learned from Snubbing Mark Batterson

Butler Township Fest 2011
The journey of church planting is a crazy ride and it has allowed me to go in and out of many church circles.  A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to meet a great influence of mine, Mark Batterson, and talk church planting.

Two things will always stick with me from with that day.

 One thing Mark Batterson said.
 And one thing I did, or should I say, didn't do.

In his office, which was pretty cool, nestled above Ebenezer's Coffee House, was filled with books.

You can tell a lot by a person by the books they have on their shelf. 

Mark has an eclectic mix of books which is no surprise to why he is such an effective leader.
Upon looking around his office and reading book titles, he offered me one of his latest written books at the time "Wild Goose Chase," and I said, "No I already have it."

Call it nerves.
Call it stupid.
Call it a snub.

I didn't say that it was one of my favorite books.
I didn't say that I have purchased and repurchased that book 
because of giving it away so many times.
I didn't allow him an opportunity to give. 

Followed by a puzzled look on Mark's behalf he graciously continued the conversation about church planting. 

And he left me with one of the most valuable pieces of information about church planting... location.

Batterson said, "One way you can find a location to plant a church is if you can see yourself raising a family in that area."

I found that statement to be very true and very encouraging as we have landed in Drums PA to plant Valley Community Church.

However, that conversation always left me with a bittersweet feeling, because of the snub, or the fact that when I get nervous sometimes and I say no when I should say yes.  

Which leads me to this past weekend, our church plant's first official event for VCC.  We had twenty volunteers from three local churches (MountainTop Family Center Church, Berwick AG and Faith AG Church) giving their time for the Butler Township Festival.  

There were times when I thought we had too many volunteers and found myself wanting to say no to some individuals.  

I guess my reasoning or fear was of having too many people 
standing around because all the jobs were filled.

Thankfully I said yes, and as it turned out, every single person that helped us this past weekend had an important role to play making it a total success.  There were situations that came up that I did not foresee and we needed more people than I originally thought.  

It's a good thing I said yes.

If I said no, I would have robbed a person of making a difference.

I have learned to say yes more than no.  

Even when people at the office offer if I want something for lunch.
Even when people offer a drink in the waiting room.
Even when people ask to volunteer.

There are times I think about that look that Mark Batterson gave me. 
If you asked him, he probably wouldn't even remember, but I do...

Because I have seen that look in others when they've wanted to be generous and giving
and thought I had everything I need.

It is good to give but,
I am learning that I am not too good to receive. 

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Our Story to Valley Community Church

"A person, who never made a mistake, never tried anything new."
- Albert Einstein 

It all started when I was a Youth Pastor back in York, PA praying for one of my students at a Youth Conference.

I was praying for him and I felt God speaking to me.

"Transition from youth ministry in two years to plant a church."

The next staff meeting we had, the Pastor announced he was going to retire in two years.

I think God was up to something.

The process began as we applied with our District to become church planters, which included a week long "Boot Camp" training and a thorough interview that lasted 5 hours.  We learned a lot and made some great connections.

My wife and I really hit off with the Pastor that interviewed us, Rodney Murphy.  We talked about planting a church outside Baltimore, MD and some of the creative things we wanted to do there.

The next year would prove to be a wild roller-coaster of emotional highs and lows.

We transitioned from Youth Ministry to step out in total faith to raise support for the church plant.
Our son Keane was born and he is such an amazing little guy. So full of life.
I was excited to speak at my alma mater Valley Forge Christian College for a chapel service.

We even ran into Rodney Murphy that day at VFCC and he mentioned if we ever change our minds about Maryland to give him a call.

It was not easy trying to raise support and raise a family, but sometimes faith doesn't aways make sense.

That idea would prove to be true as the church plant in Maryland faced many obstacles and challenges that could not be overcome.  The plug was pulled before we ever had a live service.

We had to make a phone call.

Our District informed us that there was a team of three pastors who raised support and were looking for a church planter.  One of those pastors turned out to be Rodney Murphy.

The same person that interviewed us to plant a church
would be the same person to help us plant a church.

After a number of interviews and trips up to the Valley between Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton we fell in love with a small town called Drums.

The dream of Valley Community Church began...

Where God can turn failures into faith.
Where God can turn second chances into new beginnings.
Where God can bring Hope in the Valley.

Friday, July 1, 2011

The Church of Allstate

I like to watch TV.

I prefer to watch sports, especially when the Phillies are winning,
and I have to admit The Food Network is pretty addicting.

Network TV on the other hand, has something missing, it could be Lost & 24. Sometimes, I find the commercials more engaging than the Primetime line up.  Especially one type of commercial, featuring my favorite "President."

Here are a few that really speak to me...

It could be the subtle piano playing in the background. The dignity and quit confidence in David Palm...err I mean Dennis Haysbeart's voice, but the point is made without shouting and without gimmicks, but its made with simple truth.

People matter more than things.

Sometimes it may not be the having the answers but having the time.

Who you are with, is more important that what you have.

It's interesting, one night my wife and I were watching TV and one of the Allstate commercials came on and she said, "If Allstate was a church, that's one I'd attend."

She was thinking the exact same thing I was... good timing, good wife.

The rubber is starting to meet the road in our journey to plant a church and that will probably be my next blog.  I have been going to a lot of different churches listening, looking, and taking notes.  The goal is not to steal ideas or copy programs, but to be inspired.

Our hope is not to be the cool church, or a trendy church, we just want to be a church that gets "It."

Allstate might be on to something...
Allstate gets It.

"First pay attention to Me, and then relax.
Now you can take it easy- you're in good hands." Proverbs 1.33 (The Message) 

We may be just figuring this Church Plant out, but
we know that we want this church to be God's church.

We want to be in Good Hands.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Brother's Journey of Faith to LifeChurch.tv

Salvatore DiSalvatore is not a new character in a Martin Scorsese film.

He is my brother.
He is my best friend.

Sal has always pushed me and inspired me, because his faith is uncommon; different.

When many would give up on their dreams because life got too busy, or the journey was too long, or quite frankly fear got in the way of faith; Sal would never settle.

It's hard to wait, to be still.
It's hard to be Sal.

His journey began when he chose to attend Regent University to pursue a Masters in Communications and Film.

Sal loves to tell stories thru media, and his stories make great sermons.

There were some people who discouraged him from leaving the comforts of Philly to go down south to Virginia and chase the dream.

I never understand why people encourage others to be more practical,
sometimes I think practical is another way of saying settle.

Sal would continue to navigate that tension during his years in the south,
especially his final semester. The school put on a short film festival at the local theater and Sal's movie dealt with the cycle of sin in a very artistic and poweful way.

It was different, but apparently Pat Robertson doesn't like different

It got pulled from the festival.

Sal returned to Philly crushed, but still had hope.

When his friend's accepted other jobs, filming commercials or editing, Sal wouldn't comprise what God called him to do. He was focused on his goal of making a difference in Christian media.

I remember one time when he had an opportunity to go to a film festival on the West Coast (fully paid) he declined.

Personally, I thought he was crazy for not going, but he said he prayed about it,
and felt that God didn't want him to go.

Sometimes faith doesn't make sense.
Sometimes faith is weird.

I would see that puzzled look again throughout the next couple of years
as it transfered from my face to others.

When people would ask about my brother and what he is up to, I would tell them about the latest script he was working on doing or the latest project he was doing pro bono for a friend. I would see this subtle look in response.

A subtle look that turns to a smile.

A look that says be practical... settle.

I think Sal never gave up, because my parents never had that look.
They always believed in him. Always supported him.

My parents have always been in his corner (mine too).

People need someone in their corner.

One night Sal called me and we were talking about what's next.

He was frustrated.

This wasn't our first conversation like this, I found my self wanting to say, be practical, think of the short term instead of the long term.

Settle was on the tip of my tongue.

But this time, the conversation was different.
I listened more and talked less.

Sal seemed to have renewed energy as he told me about a position he just applied for.

LifeChurch.tv had a position open and thought he would send his resume. He didn't know about the church and asked if I heard about it.

I laughed. As a church planter, everyone knows about LifeChurch.tv and Craig Groeschel.

I just finished reading his book "It" too.

We prayed.
He didn't get the position.

He did get a phone call.

From there he began writing some scripts for their kids ministry not really expecting anything.

They loved his stuff, and trust me its good.

Sal has always had good stuff.

And they saw it too.

I couldn't believe it when we Sal and I had another conversation and he told me that they hired him full time to be a writer and work on their creative team.

I cried.

It had nothing to do with my brother getting a position at a prominent church.
It has everything to do with knowing that there is someone out there that believes in him.

That God answers prayers.
That God gives us dreams for a reason.

If we are willing to be alittle different,
to never settle
to be like Sal.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Life Is Good

One of the traditions I am starting with my son is taking walks.

He loves being in the stroller and looking around. He likes to ask questions and watch the bunnies and dogs go by as we roll around the neighborhood. My hope is that as he gets older and out grows the stroller, the walks will continue (cross my fingers for the teen years).

I think and pray a lot as we go around the block, water bottle in hand and ear buds in place.

At times it is hard to focus on the good when my mind seems drawn
like a tracker beam to the bad.

There have been people who have put up a show in public
only to be the opposite behind closed doors.

There have been people who seem to have all the time in the world when it benefits them
but when you are no longer a commodity you no longer have their time.

There have been people who I looked up to with awe but has lately turned to shock.

It has been a mental battle not to become cynical-christian-guy or

That has never been me.
I am an encourager not a critic.

When I was younger I would share with my Pastor how
afraid I was of going into the ministry because of being hurt by people.

I assumed the hurts would come from the congregation.
I never imagined it would come from other pastors.

So I walk and stroll and pray, feeling overwhelmed
hoping my neighbors would believe it was the wind making my tears and not my past.

And just like that, I was reminded in a whimsical, childlike way about life on the sidewalk...

Sometimes kids just say it the best.

"At that time Jesus prayed this prayer: “O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding these things from those who think themselves wise and clever, and for revealing them to the childlike." (matthew 11.25 NLT)

I like to pride myself at times of being a well read individual, looking for the latest hot book to dive into or thought provoking quote to highlight, but it just might be the neighborhood kid with the colorful chalk that will inspire.

My hope is that when I am older and walking around the neighborhood with my son listening to his laments about the latest girl who broke his heart or the teacher that seems to have it out for him, I can remind him that we will always have choice to make.

That there will always be bad in a broken world,
but there is hope, there is good,
if you're willing to look down into the colored chalk of your soul.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Important Idol

I admit it, I watch American Idol.

It has been a show that's captured my attention for a number of years.  The second season got me reeled me in when Clay Aiken sang "Here There and Everywhere."  I am a huge Beatles fan and that was my wedding song, it just gets me (the song, not Clay Aiken).

So for the past 10 years now (wow who would've thought, definitely not Ed McMahon) my wife and I have tuned in for the music, to see what brutally honest comment Simon might have for the haves and the have-nots, and to see what new hair style Ryan Seacrest is rocking (no man crush here).  We've even hung in there thru the Kara DioGuardi years.

Simon has been a big deal when it comes to American Idol almost more than the music and rising star who wins.  I honestly thought the show would not do well when he transitioned, (after all who is going to pick on Ryan).

Enter Stephen Tyler (a wildcard) and Jennifer Lopez (definite upgrade from Paula) and we can't forget our favorite "dawg" Randy Jackson who stuck around, to act as the three judges for season 10.

So why is Idol still a success as this past week brought in the highest number of votes at 95 million to chose who the two finalists will be?

There are two key factors to why this is the most important season and probably the most successful.

1. The judges are more encouraging than critical.

2. The contestants have a consistent coach in proven music producer Jimmy Iovine.

America may have been entertained with Simon, but never have been inspired as when Laura meet Stephen.

There may have been moments when you wished Simon was there to add his two cents, but the investment of encouragement goes a lot further than the junk change of criticism.

Especially when all too often in the moments of being critical turn into a habit of being cynical.  I think it resonates with people when someone encourages, because we have enough critics in life, whether its a boss, or a coworker, or that random person who leaves you strange comments on Facebook.

It is inspiring when you see someone considers others better than themselves. 

The addition of Jimmy Iovine illustrates that Idol is becoming more interested in seeing the contestants reach there potential, than just crank out another pop star with 15 minutes and counting.

One of my favorite quotes is from a former Notre Dame coach, Ara Parasheghian, "A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are."

Simon showed these contestants what they are, this season they have been shown what they could become.

They dynamic of coaching is one that transcends in other areas of life.

I have a number of friends who have personal coaches to help them get over the hump to reach that elusive goal weight (hmm maybe I should invest in one).  Churches are now offering life coaches as a way to disciple people into leadership and personal growth.

In the business field coaching is the hot trend with the most successful companies according to CNN, "Coaching now is part of standard leadership development training for elite executives and talented up and comers at IBM, Motorola, JP Morgan, Chase, and HP.  These companies are discreetly giving their best prospects what star athletes have long had: A trusted advisor to help reach their goals."

It may be just another season of Idol that comes and goes, but perhaps in a subtle way seeds of encouragement are being planted and principles of good coaching are being modeled for America to see every week on Wednesday and Thursday.

It may be entertaining for a time to criticize, but an encouraging word is never forgotten.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

More Please

I am not a good prayer, but I want to be.

The times when I talk to God the most are the times in my life when things go wrong.

When I need something,
and to be honest,
when want something too.

I can sound like a real baby.

Speaking of baby...

When my son cries and makes a fuss,
I think to myself, "Yup, I can sound just like that."

Lately he has been doing something that speaks louder than his cries.

It is something that gets my attention and my response.

My wife and I have been teaching him sign-language to help him communicate.
Since he cannot form a vocabulary yet, other that Elmo, ball, and now hat.

The hand motions work well.

He moves his hands together in a point to say "More."
and he has got that down especially when he wants Elmo cookies
(they are pretty good too, I have had some myself).

Recently he has learned to use the sign for "Please" (rubbing his stomach).

When he cries out of manipulation, not when he is hurt,
I have learned to tune it out until his crying spell has passed.

I do listen and respond when he motions the word "please."

I cannot help it, compelled to answer his please.

The same way when he is crying for my attention,
there is this moment when he will just lift up his hands,
out of sheer desperation and surrender.

I pick him up,
carry him,
and kiss him.

I never understood why people would raise their hands in worship,
mostly I would do it because other people did it (or if there was a key change).

It is a spiritual communication that goes beyond cries and manipulation,
but into a subtle language and a posture of the heart.

Maybe prayer is more about communicating with God,
than simply just trying to get his attention.

Maybe worship is less about getting what I want,
and more about surrendering.

Maybe this is what child like faith is all about.

Usually a Dad would want his son to be like him,
this time I have find my self wanting to be like my son.

Monday, May 9, 2011


I have been bullied.

I have been punched.

I have become an uncounted number.




I am not alone.

During my school days a fellow classmate would come to my locker ever day and he would punch me in the arm.

I lost count.

It was our morning ritual.  It hurt but then after awhile it didn't.  I became numb.  Desensitized to what was really taking place on the surface, but underneath pressure was building.
I knew, and he knew; and there was nothing I could do about it.

There was no reason behind his constant attacks.

There was only latitude to do so.

I couldn't fight back, although I was taller.
I couldn't tell someone, although everyone knew.


He was in a gang.
And I took the bus.

I would pray that I could catch my ride on time because If I missed the first bus,
I would be alone. Vulnerable. Easy prey.

No after school activities.
No games of football in the school yard.

The bell was my escape, and the clock was ticking.

And then it stopped.

Maybe my prayers were answered.
Maybe my best reaction was no action.

It is hard to believe that all of this took place in 6th grade.

Before I could drive.
Before I could die for my country.
I would die everyday.

Bullying is a quiet epidemic that screams in the silence.

Short or Tall
Skinny or Fat
Girl or Boy
Gay or Straight
Christian or Muslim

Everyone has been affected.

Whether you threw the punches, or took the punches.
Whether you watched the violence or turned away.

"Courage is fire, and bullying is smoke."

British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, said those words in the 1800s.

His words still ring true today.

I do not write this for sympathy, I write this to dispel the smoke.

Bullying must be talked about and brought into the light.

A stand must be taking when it is witnessed and in the aftermath that follows.

"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed."
Proverbs 31.8 (New Living Translation)

I bring this to light because there was a girl who I knew whose life was tragically affected by Bullying. 

There have been times when I have been bullied since my school days. 
It comes in different forms.
Only the setting changes.  

Sometimes words hurt more than fists.  
Sometimes the size of the bully doesn't change just the size of the office. 

The only thing that got me thru those moments then and now is talking about it.

Venting. Loud and Broken.  

I do not know where I would be if it was not for trusted family or friends, 
that allowed me the space for my messy frustration.
Like a balloon, I have popped, sometimes leaving a mess to pick up. 

There is Love in the broken pieces.
Who picks up what is left behind,
And makes all things new. 

Friday, April 29, 2011

Happy Atheist

This past Sunday was a great day.  

It was Easter.  

Time to celebrate the Love of Christ and have some candy too, 
because salvation is pretty sweet. (sorry bad pastor humor) 

It was a beautiful time to spend with family and quite frankly the weather was equally beautiful. 
Nothing like a spectacular Spring day on Easter, it just seems to fit. 

The most memorable part of the day was not so much church, 
but what happened after church.

My wife has a pretty cool blog and we were scoping out some sweet spots for taking pics.
We landed on Kelly Drive off the river in Philly, by boathouse row. 

As I was taking some shots of my wife and son, a man asked if he could take a picture of all of us.

Normally giving a stranger a nice camera to take your picture in Philly is probably not the best idea, but I had a good feeling about this guy.

He really took his time to frame our picture and make us look good. 
This gentleman mentioned he was a photographer and after our mini shoot,
he showed me some of his work on his iPhone.

He had some great photographs.

After going thru his mobile portfolio he asked what I do.

A question that I like, and sometimes do not like, because I never know how people will respond.

So I went for it, I said "I am a Pastor."

That was proceeded by a big chuckle from our friend, and he replied,
"Of all things a Pastor... just my luck, I am a card carrying Atheist."

I smiled and laughed too (I didn't know Atheists carry cards).

I introduced myself and my family and he told me that his name was Will.

We had a great conversation.
He was very kind. 

He actually talked about Jesus more than I did, and said that the only way he would believe in Him is if Jesus would be on the Larry King Show.

What made an impact on me the most was that Will used to believe in God,
until he got the heaven beat out of him.

Growing up Will was beat up by Christians, often.

Even as I write that last sentence, it brings tears to my eyes.

Will reminds me of my brother Jack, who was also beat up by Christians, often.

There was even time during Jack's college years that I didn't know if he would
believe in God from all the hurts he experienced.

I think every Christian has a path.
I think everybody gets hurt, sometimes even by Christians.

In my experience I have come to know a number of Atheists, 
and most if not all Atheists have had some experience in the church and not a good one.

Faith is not flawless.

It may be irony, or the beginning of bad joke, that a Pastor and Atheist would meet on Easter.

C.S. Lewis once said, ""Isn't it funny how day by day nothing changes but
when you look back everything is different."

I hope that one day when my friend remembers this Sunday,
he looks back and remembers an Easter.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Forty Days Without Facebook (Twitter too)

Hey everyone, it's good to be back.  I took some time to put the social media scene on pause.

I have been giving up something during the season of Lent for the past couple of years. (The year I gave up Starbucks was not fun.)  I am not Catholic although I think Protestants, like myself, can learn a few things from our fellow Christian brothers and sisters.  (I am still waiting to see Rick Warren cruse around in a Pope Mobile).

This years Fast of Facebook and Twitter began with a conversation with my wife.  Discussing what would be a worthy sacrifice, she joked with me about giving up the Tweet because my phone is always chirping.

Hey, if I can please God and my wife with the same cause, that's definitely a win.

In the beginning it was not that big a deal.

It was was nice to fly under the social radar for a change.

I find it interesting when someone who I have not talked to would comment later in a convo about my status as if I mentioned something to them face to face.  I guess that's where this social thing is heading.  As time went on things began to happen in the social collective conscious that I found myself wanting to join and add my two cents to "the cloud."

The banter and trash talk of March Madness left me locked in the lockeroom, however I don't think anybody had any brackets to brag about this year.  Shaka Smart is not just a new Spider-Man villain, and I always seem to pick Kansas on the wrong year.

Rob Bell happend to release a book that blew up the Blogs and the Pulpit.  It was nice to see Christian's get Theological for a change and not just try to have the Best Life Now. The topic of Hell was a hot conversation that seemed to have cooled off of late, as long as John Piper does not cast any one else into the nether-regions with another Farewell social smack-off.

When things get hot and bloggy, you need something light and fluffy to bring some levity.  During times like these with high gas prices and earthquakes our biggest dilemma will be, "Which seat should I take...?"

It could be that 2012 will be the end of the universe or maybe it could all end on Friday.

I wouldn't be surprised that if the Apocalypse does happen soon, Charlie Sheen might have something to do with it.

Despite all the interesting things or absolutely absurd things that have happened in the past 40 days here are the Top Ten things I have learned from my social media Sabbath.

1. Twitter is for friends and Facebook is for family.

2. Social Media can take up a lot of your time and you not even know it.

3. A real hand to hold is much better than virtual "thumbs up."

4. America still does not know what real music is.

5. Christians love talking about eternity much more than engaging it.

6. The best conversations are the ones face to face.

7. It felt good to have my first tweet in 40 days be about the Love of Jesus.

8. It felt good to have my second tweet be about the Flyers forcing a game 7.

9. Social Media is not a bad thing or a trendy thing, but it is all in how you use it.

10. Some of the best things in life are better left off Facebook & Twitter.

You might have noticed a different blog format and title.  There is a reason for that.  A lot has happened in the past 40 days, but you will just have to keep reading to find out all the interesting details to come.

Maybe I'll post on Friday or Saturday, but then again Sunday does come afterwards.

(Thanx for sticking around and reading.)