Archives For generous

BE the Church

Ben Reed —  November 11, 2011 — 2 Comments

I learn a lot while flying on an airplane. Last time I flew, this post happened: HERE.

Photo Credit: Creation Swap user Suaz Carranz

Last time, I sat beside a couple of ladies that brought along hard-boiled eggs.

This time, I’m not sure it was any better. Here’s what I would’ve tweeted if I had had internet capabilities:

  • Gosh, I love kids, but seriously? Do you really need to scream the whole flight? And I know that you, mom, are trying to help, but yelling louder than the screams isn’t helping.
  • Did that guy in front of me just exhaust that whole bottle of Germ-x? Is he drinking it? I’m pretty sure my nose is now germ-free. And on fire.
  • I think the person behind me has passed enough gas to fuel the plane. This is bad…and I can’t go anywhere.
  • Truth: Snores are much louder on a plane. Something gets amplified when you’re that high in the air.
  • I got in “trouble” on the plane because I didn’t listen to the pilot when he said to put away all electronic devices. Apparently, a Kindle can take down a plane.

But I sat beside a couple of single parents and had a great time hearing a bit of their story and understanding who they are. We struck up a conversation about parenting, and they both have 16-year-old daughters. They were throwing ideas around for their daughters’ upcoming birthday parties, and I quickly felt out of my league. Partly because I have a 3-year-old son. Partly because they think much more extravagantly for birthdays than I do. I can get my son a $.99 matchbox car and he’s thrilled.

I also felt like a great parent after hearing their birthday suggestions. There were three that rose to the top.

Top 3 Birthday Suggestions from 10,000 feet

  • You could take your daughter to this make-up artist I know. She charges $400/hour, but it’s worth it. I go there every once in a while…
  • You could send them with their friends to Dallas. Dallas is a fun city, right?
  • You could send your daughter to Las Vegas for the weekend. I’m sure she’d love that. Oh, wait…do you think she should have adult supervision?…

It was at that point that I really started feeling like, though I often feel clueless as a parent, I am a pretty awesome dad. And I was reminded that common sense isn’t common.

Inevitably, all of my conversations on a plane end up coming back to a conversation about God. This one was no different. Both of these single parents grew up in church, but were burned for various reasons. I asked

Are you and God on speaking terms?

They were. But they wanted nothing to do with a local church. Nothing. “I like your God, but not the whole religion thing.”

So I got the chance to advocate for a ‘better’ Church. And I took the opportunity to show them that there are churches in America that aren’t burning people. Churches that are making a difference in their communities. Churches that are speaking Truth and hope and grace and mercy. Churches that are based not on maintaining programs, but investing in people. Churches where it’s safe to explore faith. Churches where you’re encouraged to come as you are.

As I’m sharing this truth with my two new friends, I was struck by the fact that everywhere I go, I’m a living, breathing, talking billboard for the Church. And if we (the Church) are ever going to overcome the perception that we’re just a group of judgmental, self-serving, stingy bigots it’s got to start with me.

You may not think of yourself this way, but you are, too. The conversations you have paint a picture for others.

Can we start painting a better picture? One that looks a little more like our Savior?

My new picture will look like this:

Be generous.

Be loving.

Be full of grace.

Be full of mercy.

Be the Church. 

*Photo credit: Creation Swap User Suaz Carranz

 

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been blogging for 3 years now. I’ve loved interacting with you guys, building this community of people, and processing my thoughts out loud. Thanks for giving me grace to think and grow all along the way.

I’ve learned lots of lessons over the past 3 years. Many I’ve had to learn the hard way.  Hopefully I can save you some frustrations.

Lessons I’ve learned in 3 years of blogging.

1. The more honest, the better.

People will connect with you more over your honesty and transparency than they ever will over your victories and moral platitudes.  My posts that have gotten the most positive feedback have been the ones where I’m gut-level honest with my thoughts and experiences.

2. The more accessible, the better.

As I make myself accessible (here, on the blog, through comments), I find people appreciate that. To build community, you’ve got to build relationships.

3. Be generous.

The more ideas I share, resources I recommend, connections I make, and in general, the more I can give away, the more I always get in return.

4. It’s as much about ‘rhythm’ as it is ‘discipline.’

I hear lots of guys say that blogging is a discipline. And I get that. But I like to look at blogging and see where it fits in the rhythm of my life. Rather than ‘disciplining’ myself, I’d rather it be a flow of my life.  I’ve found more joy and inspiration having a blogging rhythm than having a blogging discipline.

5. Put in the work now and you can reap the benefits later.

I can look back and snag some great, well thought out ideas. Someday, I just might write a book. You know where I’ll turn first for my good ideas? The archives.  And it’s because I have put lots of work into so many posts.

6. Just publish.

Some days, my thoughts aren’t fully developed or perfect or polished. But I just have to “publish” anyway.  It’s better to float ideas and thoughts out there, and synthesize them as you go, than to every single thought fully planned out before completion.

7. I enjoy writing.

I really do.  I’ve found it a great avenue to flesh out my thoughts.

8. It’s about quality posts more than ‘technique’.

I’ve read articles on blogging technique, SEO, key words, timing, consistency, and focus.  And while those things are important, don’t forget to write quality posts!  If you write good stuff, Google will find you.

9. Mixing up the type of posts I write (video posts, social media, theology, etc.) is as helpful for me as it is enjoyable for readers.

Writing the same kinds of posts every day gets boring.  So I mix up the categories, the style, and the focus to keep things fresh, both for the readers and for my own creativity.

10. I have no idea what it really takes to write a post that’s going to take off.

I have written about this before HERE…and it’s still true.  The posts I feel will take off…fall flat.  The ones I write on a whim go viral.  I default back to #8 and #9 (above)

11. I’m not done.

And neither is blogging.  Blogging is a great tool, and our culture is continuing to turn to blogs for information, ideas, and insights.  I’m definitely not done.

If you’ve read my blog at any point over the past 3 years…thanks.  Keep sharing your thoughts, experiences, and insights.  Keep leading well, changing, and growing.

I hope I’ve helped you on your journey in some small way.

 

 

 

 

Twitter Spam

Ben Reed —  May 10, 2011 — 2 Comments

Image from BusinessGrow.com

I was followed by a gardening site right after I tweeted about my own garden recently.

Lame?

Maybe not.

The reason I am quick to say that it may not be spam is because they simply followed me.  Didn’t send me a direct message promoting their site, or pushing me to their Facebook account.  They just subtly let me know that they’re out there.  No in-my-face marketing.  And you know what, when I need help, I’ll likely refer back to their site.

Drive-by spammer?

I saw this acted out in real life while driving through my neighborhood.

I saw a professional landscaper stop and help a couple that was trying to get their tiller started.  Apparently they were having a tough time, and this guy knew what he was doing.  He was being generous.  Not to get business.  Not so he could drop off his business card, and subtly drop hints that he was the best landscaper in town.  But just because he had a bit of expertise and a few minutes to help this older couple figure their tiller out.

Social media is the same way.  You’ve got an expertise.  Maybe you’re a landscaper.  Maybe you’re a mom.  Maybe you’re a theologian or a comedian or a runner.  You’ve got some expertise in something.

That’s your angle.

Use that as your platform.  Give away your knowledge, stories, insights, failures, and successes.  Because somebody else wants to know what you know.  Your words will be priceless to them.

And in their time of need, you know where they’ll turn first?

Google.

And when they turn to Google, they’ll find you. You’ll be that guy that drove by at exactly the right time.

So tweet, blog, facebook, and share with the world your expertise.

We need you.

When you begin to see social media (and life as a whole) as a way to be generous with your gifts, passions, and expertise, we all benefit.  You included.

 

 

Social media monologue

Ben Reed —  May 2, 2011 — 7 Comments

I had coffee the other day with a guy.  He shared his thoughts, his ideas, his insights, his stories, and his history over the course of an hour.  As we ended our meeting, he said

Sorry I talked so much…next time, I want to hear from you!

So two weeks later, we had coffee again.  And you know what he said as we finished the meeting?

Sorry I talked so much…next time, I want to hear from you!

Meetings that are driven by monologue are not so much fun.

Meetings that are driven by listening and dialog are much more productive.

The social media monologue

And when we look at social media as bite-sized, micro meetings, the same principle holds true.

When social media is used as a monologue, it’s seen by others as a waste of time.  Boring.  Self-serving.

But when social media is seen as a dialog, it can be engaging, meaningful, productive, and generous (I wrote about social media and generosity HERE).

I’m not aiming to simply broadcast my thoughts and ideas out so that others can hear.  I’m ready to dialog about this stuff.  I’m ready to open up a dynamic conversation within different communities around the globe.

There are some people who want you to hear their message, but don’t care about hearing yours.  Those are the conversations I don’t care to have.

Those who are using social media most effectively are starting conversations and building relationships.

Have you built authentic relationships with others online?

Have you seen dynamic, robust communities share ideas collaboratively online?

 

 

We at Grace Community Church launched a series called Concrete yesterday.  We’re doing it as an alignment with our small groups, launching new groups whose goal is to engage people in authentic community for the 5 weeks of this series.

We’ve produced a DVD and small group study guide for our groups to track along with our Sunday sermons.

We do these alignments during series where you would feel comfortable inviting your friends and neighbors. And we construct our small group discussion guide so that if you have people you’ve invited who are far from God come into your home to do this study with you, they’re able to track along with the discussion, add in their own personal experience, and take a step of faith…whatever that looks like for them.

Who are small groups for?

Our small groups aren’t just for the mature.  But they’re also not just for those new to faith.

They’re for everyone. Because we feel that everyone needs the opportunity to discuss the Scriptures, process life, and build relationships…in an environment that’s safe to explore faith.

For this alignment study, we’ve chosen topics that are accessible and challenging to people wherever they are in their spiritual journey.  We’ll be exploring foundational issues, challenging people to take a step towards God in their prayer life, commitment to the local church, giving, reading their Bible, and sharing their faith.

If you care to join us, we’d love to have you!  Click HERE for access to the podcast and small group study guide from week 1.

The rest of the study guide (link to weeks 1-5) can be found online HERE.

Click HERE for a pdf version of our study guide from week 1.

If you’re joining us, please leave a comment and let us know!

 

Why bloggers love blogging

Ben Reed —  January 11, 2011 — 9 Comments

I love blogging.

In fact, to date, I’ve written 347 blog posts.

Given that there are over 133 million blogs, and that 1 in 5 update their blog daily, it’s apparent that many, many people throughout the world like blogging as well.  I’m guessing you’re one of them.

And I think I just might have an idea why.

10 Reasons Why Bloggers love Blogging

1. The immediacy of the feedback. Within 30 minutes, you can get Retweeted.  Mentioned.  Get a Facebook “like.”  Facebook comments.  Comments on your blog.  Replies to comments on your blog…all of which immediately tell you whether your post was a success or a flop.

2. The quickness of publishing. Have an idea?  Watch a video?  A quote move you?  Throw it up on the blog…right now.  No need to wait on a publisher to review and edit.  No need to wait on a webmaster to get back in front of their desk to push your post live.  You can publish right now.

3. The freedom. Since it’s your blog, you can publish what you want, when you want, how often you want, with the consistency and length you want.  You can include pictures, videos, and links…or not.  Your choice.

4. The design. What you write can look cool on a page.  That’s motivating.

5. The platform. Many of us don’t have the chance to communicate with mass numbers of people every week.  Yet God has gifted us to do so.  Blogs give us that chance.

6. Work out our thoughts publicly. Instead of sitting in your office and stewing over thoughts and ideas on your own, blogging gives you a chance to work those thoughts out loud.  And I, for one, find great value in extroverting my ideas.

7. The interaction. Iron sharpens iron.  I think somebody said that.

8. Global reach. Instead of just sharpening your iron in a conversation with one or two friends, blogs give you the chance to sharpen it with hundreds, or even thousands, of people around the world.

9. Sharing. So much of the value of social media is found in sharing ideas, insights, and wisdom with others.  Successful bloggers give away more than they ever get.

10. The challenge. Blogging isn’t easy.  Condensing the content.  Focusing it.  Consistently posting high quality content.  It’s a challenge, but one that bloggers love.

Why do you love blogging?  What did I miss?

 

A generous Christmas

Ben Reed —  December 20, 2010 — 2 Comments

(image by Dan Johnson)

Logan’s Roadhouse is running a holiday special right now.  Buy a $30 giftcard for a friend and get a $10 giftcard for yourself.

Great deal, right?!?

Great marketing, right?!?

It gets people in their restaurant three ways…once, for the person buying the gift card, once on their return visit (with their $10 giftcard), and once for the receiver of the $30 card.  Brilliant.  And I’m sure they’re going to sell lots of those this season.

I know why.  And it’s not simply because all of your friends love Logan’s.

It has to do with greed.

You see, it’s true that it’s more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).  But our human hearts are dark cauldrons that are deceptive, even to ourselves (Jeremiah 17:9).  And if there’s a way that we can get a gift at the same time we give one, we’re going to do just that.

What’s motivating the sales of these giftcards is the promise that your money won’t be solely spent on someone else.  That the joy you’ll get in giving isn’t simply in serving someone else, rather it’s in  getting a slice of the pie that you’re giving away.  This is a great way to give, expecting something in return.  In that process, you rip the true blessing out of the gift.

I’m not upset with Logan’s in the least.  They have no reason to promote generosity…their goal is to build a successful business, and their principles here violate no laws.  Their practices just happen to play into the tendency of our hearts.  “Their mouths speak of love, but their hearts are greedy…” (Ezekiel 33:31)

The Apostle Paul said it well, “…what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Romans 7:15)  As much as we strive for generosity, greed continues to creep in.  In subtle, seemingly insignificant, seemingly generous ways.  Like expecting something in return when you give a gift.

But I believe that it really is more blessed to give than to receive.  I’ve experienced it.  The joy in giving your resources to someone else who can never pay you back is unexplainable.  It’s in those moments that I feel as connected to my Maker as much (or maybe even more than) as any other time.  Because He’s done that for us.  He’s given (and continues to give) blessings “pressed down, shaken together, and running over.” (Luke 6:38)

So this Christmas, try being truly generous.  Give.  Share.  Sacrifice.  And don’t expect anything in return.  Not a return gift.  Or a returned hug.  Or even a “thanks.”

You’ll get your payment.  It’ll be in the form of joy.

Have you ever been given a gift, but known it wasn’t given out of a generous heart?

How are you serving someone this Christmas, expecting nothing in return?