Monthly Archives: December 2009

Better Than a Fruitcake

I forgot to write about this a few days ago and even though Christmas is gone, I can’t let it pass. I want to give some Becoming Last props (that’s less prestigious than a Dundee on The Office) to my niece. You see, for many people Christmas and all the gift giving can become very stressful. Just type in “christmas stress” in Google and you’ll find studies, helpful advice, and even a Christmas Stress Relief Game.

It seems most people want the holidays to be perfect, but budgets are tight and the mandatory gift giving can make things a bit stressful. Enter my niece Jennifer.  She has one of the most generous hearts I know. She saves and saves year-round to be charitable for things like Operation Christmas Child and Christmas. And hands down, she gives the best gifts.

Not your ideal gift!

Take this year for example. Her sister Kim has gone off to college so they aren’t as close as they used to be. I remember them growing up and they were inseparable. But now, their lives are just different.

And Jennifer really has every right to just buy something lame for everyone. She doesn’t have a ton of money and no one expects her to go all out. But, she’s a giver, she loves to make people happy, and she’s creative.

This year, she searched, dug, and rummaged through my mom’s house to find all the old pictures of her and her sister together. Once she found them all, she put them together in this HUGE collage Kim could hang in her new apartment. It didn’t cost much, but it was priceless judging by Kim’s reaction.

I’m very proud of my niece. She takes the time to think through what people would love. She gives the very best gift she can giver her limited resources. She gave Starbucks to my wife because my wife loves the stuff. She gave something (shows you how observant I am, can’t remember…) to my mom, which she loved, because it was something Jennifer had noticed and bought knowing it would speak love to her grandmother.

So if you have to buy presents for someone’s birthday or you’re already looking toward Christmas 2010, remember…

Be creative. Don’t be afraid to make something. Study the other person. What would they love? What makes them happy?

It doesn’t have to break your bank or cause a mental breakdown to give a great gift. Just some time, some thought, and a tender heart. Thanks Jennifer for that great lesson.

How can you Become Last today?

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Desultory

Belated Merry Christmas! Sorry, it’s been a week or so. Got a little busy around Christmas and then when I had time…I’ll admit, I played my new video game :-). I have been working behind the scenes though and hope to have some pretty cool stuff coming down the pipe for the new year. So watch out! You may notice the look of the site changing a bit in the coming weeks. Feel free to give your feedback on what you like and don’t like. I’m still new to designing a blog so it takes some work to get it right. More later, but I’ll leave you with 4 things I learned from the Christmas Day “Give donuts away to people” service project.

  1. Listen to your wife! You would think I’ve learned this by now, but no, I’m stubborn. She asked me earlier in the week if I had ordered donuts. I told her not to worry about it. I had talked to the stores and they were open Christmas Day. WRONG! Not sure how that mix up happened, but I went to pick up donuts and the stores I was going to were shut down! Yikes. So, next time, I will listen to my wife!
  2. Serving is just fun. There’s just no way around it. Don’t knock it until you try it. Going out and loving people is just a good time. Before I met the group, I ended up finding fresh Krispy Kreme donuts at a gas station. This older gentleman struck up a conversation with me and I noticed he was getting some coffee. I paid for his coffee and the guy acted like he had won the lottery or hit a game winning shot. He was beaming like he had just gotten his first kiss. It was awesome.
  3. My friends are awesome terrific. There ended up being about 20 of us who took donuts and sausage and ham biscuits to people working on Christmas morning. Honestly, I wasn’t expecting that since it was just a random idea thrown out at the last-minute. You guys are awesome great. Side note: If you’re wondering why I keep crossing out “awesome”, it’s because I use it waaaaaay too much. I even looked on Dictionary.com for a better word choice and I still like “awesome” the best. Someone please help me come up with a new word to use!
  4. My father-in-law has a great heart. He heard we were going to give away donuts and decided he wanted to help. His expertise is cooking. So he wakes up early and spends a couple of hours making sausage and ham biscuits! Seriously??? Awesome. He actually saved me some serious stress because I wasn’t able to get as many donuts as I wanted (see point 1) and his biscuits made up for that. Not to mention, the firefighters were pumped about home-cooked food!

Have a great Tuesday everyone and don’t forget to ask yourself…

How can you Become Last today?

* For anyone wondering why the post is called “Desultory”…the word means random or unconnected. I thought it was a cool word and since this post is kind of random…bam!…”Desultory”.

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Christmas!

Last week, I issued a challenge. The challenge was to take a part of your holiday and serve someone. It could be an hour or less, but the idea was to intentionally put something/someone else before yourself. I had gotten the idea from a book I read which encouraged people to love others on Christmas day.

There’s no other way to put it: I have been blown away by your response. Many of my friends are going to join my family in delivering donuts/breakfast food to policemen, firemen, and any other people working Christmas Day. Many people emailed me and said they would be out of town, but that they would love to help next time. Some gave suggestions of places to go and a couple of people offered to make food. AMAZING!

I love it. Serving others is contagious. I’m looking forward to Christmas like never before. I’m not even worried about what I’m getting because this excites me so much and that’s a refreshing place to be. I’ve spent many years stressed out wondering whether I’d get the exact thing I wanted. No longer.

Seriously. I love your comments, your emails, your tweets, and your willingness to serve this Christmas. If you’re out of town, practice being a servant to your family. There are always other opportunities to serve. In fact, I’m so encouraged by the response I’ve gotten, that it’s my mission to make more opportunities available for people in the area more often.

Have a Merry Christmas!

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Christmas Challenge

This Christmas, let’s shake things up a bit. Put aside the arguments over “Happy Holidays v. Merry Christmas” for a minute. Think about what we typically do on Christmas. No, I’m not talking about rampant materialism either. That’s been covered plenty.

I’m just realizing that for 28 years I’ve spent Christmas (and many of the days around it) spent holed up with my family or my friends. As Christians, we celebrate the most outward focused event in the entire history of the world (Jesus coming to Earth) by closing our doors to the world around us. Say what?!?

This Christmas, enjoy your family. Have fun with your friends. It’s a beautiful time. But will you take just a few hours to love others? I’m excited to say that my family, for the first time, will be going out Christmas morning to spread some Dunkin’ Donut love to people in our community. We are going to take some to those who have to work on Christmas. Think firemen, policemen, grocery stores, convenience stores, etc.

I am pumped about this. I did not think of it. I’ve just heard it’s been done and I’m tired of everything being about me. Some people aren’t as fortunate to have the time off because they either A) have to work because they are needed or B) have to work because they can’t afford not to.

So here’s the challenge. Pick anything. Make a donut run to some local places where you know people will be working. Invite someone with no family to spend a day or evening with yours. Do you know a family in need? Offer to buy a Christmas meal for them. Sit down. Relax. Think. And get creative.

Let’s turn Christmas upside down. Instead of shutting our doors to the world, let’s love people as God did.

How can you Become Last this Christmas?

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Church is Not a Book Club

The blogosphere is full of Atheist v. Christian “battle to the rhetorical death” blogs. This is not one of them. While a healthy dialogue can be beneficial, a quick read of many of those blogs reveals neither dialogue nor health. Becoming Last is about serving and loving others, but it stems from my faith.

I am a Christian. I love my God, even though my life may not reflect that at times (for example, the homeless guy I saw yesterday…he was pacing between cars…I had change, not much…but all I kept thinking was, “I hope he doesn’t hurt anyone”. Which is kind of absurd b/c I’m in the middle of a huge traffic jam. Plus, if I’m that concerned with others’ safety why don’t I just call him over to my car, give him change, and love him until the light turns green. Instead, I did the whole awkward “I’m just looking at the light” stare). I completely judged the guy. I tried not to. I didn’t want to judge him, but yeah, I didn’t exactly show him the love of God.

I work for a church part-time and I often struggle with how to best share God’s love with the community. My heart is to demonstrate God’s love and not to win philosophical arguments. I’m a fairly smart guy, but there are millions upon millions of people smarter. I feel like I can make a good argument, but there are millions more who can better debate. Plus, many of the times we can “win” an argument and yet lose the person (lose in the sense that they could care less about what we have to say anymore).

When people hear the name of your church what pops in their mind? What is your church known for in your community?

Here are what some people say their churches are known for:

  • “Being really good people” – I relate this idea to a bug zapper. It’s like we have the impression that our “goodness” will mesmerize people into coming and “ZAP!” we’ll get them. The main issue with this is it tends to be a very passive idea of church. Let’s just meet and work on our holiness and if they come, they come.
  • “Bible-believing/teaching” – Excellent idea. We should be squarely in line with and teaching the Bible.  But, we can sway so far into this idea that we neglect ever working out anything we learn. It’s as if we become spiritually obese. We learn a lot of information, but don’t put it into practice. Sometimes we can have great churches with great people learning great things, but our communities will wonder what’s the point if we never extend the teaching into our lives. We need to be more than a book club.
  • “Awesome worship/dynamic teaching” – As with the other two, this is not bad in itself. But, if our services resemble nothing more than a U2 concert, yet we leave unchanged week after week, people will eventually get wise and just go see U2. Most of will never be that dynamic and our musicians are not all that good, but if people see a genuine, caring, serving community then they will stay.

Here is my desire. I would love for the church to be known through the community as a sacrificial, genuine, caring community of Christians. I’d like for conversations to take place such as:

“Have you ever heard of The Bridge? They took care of my aunt after her surgery.”‘
“I see the Wilsons’ got their deck fixed. Where did they get the money for that?” “The Bridge took care of it.”

The conversations could take any number of forms. The point is: Will we be known for lofty rhetoric and  altruistic platitudes or will we be known for loving people with abandon? Will we lay down our lives and forsake our rights to comfort, safety, time, and possessions? Will we believe in a Jesus who gave His life for us and yet lives lives that look nothing like His? Do we really like Jesus or does our faith motivate us to live like Jesus?

I know. Christianity is not just about serving. It’s not just a service club. We serve because we believe in the grace and mercy of God. We serve because God first served us. We serve because we believe there is more to live for than ourselves. Serving others and laying down our lives for the world is an extension of our beliefs. Certainly, our beliefs are our foundation, but I wonder how most of us can confess to believe such a radical, crazy story of God coming to Earth and yet go on living as if it’s not important enough to interrupt our lives to spread that message.

People need to hear the Gospel. People need to hear the story of God’s love. But we, the church, need to demonstrate that love on a daily basis. Church is meant to be a beacon of light to the nations. Church is meant to be a giant, flashing neon light that says, “God loves you!” We should make it impossible for someone to be in our community and never encountered the love of God.

So what do you think? How could our churches better demonstrate God’s love? How could you begin to prioritize your life to where you can intentionally start serving others on a weekly basis and be open to seeing opportunities at all times? How can you Become Last so He can Become First?

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Unleash Your Inner Nerd!

If you know me well enough or have followed my blog long enough, you think are fairly certain know beyond a shadow of a doubt I’m a nerd. I admit it openly. I like books. I like crosswords (even ones where I have to look up stuff and learn! ugh…). My wife and I play Scrabble on Facebook…while sitting in the same room (I know, I know…).

If the above doesn’t prove my supreme nerdability, check this out. At a New Year’s Eve Party…yes, a New Year’s Eve Party, I got sucked into figuring out the probability of something happening in a game of farkle (I thought about trying to explain myself at this point, but there’s no use…nothing can explain doing statistics on New Year’s Eve…although I did get the problem right!).

You may also know I care about helping people. At heart, I’m a very selfish person. I catch myself being selfish all the time. But I try (and this blog helps) to serve others as often as I can.

Which brings me to FreeRice. I recommended this site a long time ago, but I completely missed a key part of the site! What? I said I’m a nerd, not observant! 🙂

FreeRice lets you play a game answering vocab questions and for every answer you get right they donate 10 grains of rice. That may not sound like much, but with a ginormous (you may think that’s a new vocab word, but I learned that from the movie Elf…)  amount of people playing, 63,672,800 grains of rice were donated yesterday. That’s awesome.

Now, the part I missed. What I didn’t realize was you can change from vocab to all kinds of different subjects: Art, Chemistry, English, Math, Geography, even foreign language learning! The nerd in me is as excited as this woman.

So instead of playing another game of Bejeweled, Mafia Wars, Zuma, etc. take a swing at the FreeRice game and help spread some free food to those who need it.

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Nosy Can Be Good

Does he know you would help?

No one likes to be nosy. No one likes it when people are “all up in my business.” There is this unwritten rule in our culture that we just need to deal with our lives and leave everyone else to themselves. I’ve got to be honest…

I despise that.

Perhaps we’ve overreacted to the ugly gossip columns, tabloid headlines, and the never-ending drama the press puts us through. We don’t want to be seen as one of those people who has their nose in everyone’s business.

This is disastrous.

Think about it. Suicides, murders, adulterous affairs, divorce, spirals of addiction..they strike at the core of our society everyday. The people who deal with this stuff are our neighbors, our brothers, our parents, our friends.

Where is the compassion? Where is the realness, the honesty?

When will we begin to break free from the walls we set around ourselves and enter into genuine community with those around us? Can we love people  in such an honest, genuine way that we can be free to share with each other the pain and hurt we experience on a daily basis?

It will take time.

We can’t just go up to people and say, “So what’s your deepest darkest secret? Huh? Huh? Can I help? Please?” That won’t work…in fact, you may freak people out. Instead, maybe you can be the co-worker who builds trust through being a servant in your workplace.

Your co-workers may seek your advice if they see you are a genuine, caring person. Maybe it takes spending an extra minute chatting with someone at the gym, or McDonalds, or wherever. Do we make ourselves available or do we just assume people will come to us?

Today, we ate at McDonalds. I saw an older couple. The woman kept drawing my attention. She seemed hurt. She seemed at her wits’ end, worn down. I ended up taking their trash up for them, but I wonder if I could have done more.

What do you think? Do you agree that there is a lack of genuine community/relationship these days? Maybe the small act of kindness or the five minute conversation you have with someone will be the encouragement they need to keep from making a tragic decision.

Will you Become Last today?

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