Infographic: How Childhood Trauma Affects Adult Life

I believe that childhood trauma has a significant and formative impact on who we become as adults. The impact can be mitigated by a supportive community during and following the trauma, but such support seems to be the exception rather than the rule. In adulthood we can work to heal the wounds trauma inflicted upon us in childhood, but in my experience, there is always a scar that aches and perhaps tears at times.

The danger when talking about the effects of childhood trauma on adult life is two-fold: (1) We may assume of ourselves that we are inferior to others and (2) others may assume that we are inferior to them.

It is true that we may be changed by what we have experienced, but that  sword is double-edged – we may be hobbled in one area, yet ahead in another. One of these days I need to read Wayne Muller’s Legacy of the Heart: The Spiritual Advantages of a Painful Childhood as I suspect he will flesh this thesis out in detail.

Example: During my childhood there was the necessity of separating emotions from actions. This has resulted in a struggle in adulthood to feel, experience, and express my emotions – both negative and positive. Yet the strength that has grown out of this trauma is my ability to remain reasonable within difficult situations. This allows me to function well during a crisis in which action is required or in conflict where I am able to remain calm in the midst of being (verbally) assaulted.[1]

With this danger acknowledged, and with the hope that others will recognize the strength within their wounds and the strength of others in their wounds, here is the infographic “The Impact of Childhood Trauma on Adult Disorders”:

 

 

Infographic Depicting the Impact of Childhood Trauma on Adult Disorders

 

  1. [1]At the same time, my ability to do so doesn’t mean that I should always do so. There is a cost I pay for such restraint and it manifests itself after the conflict is over, often physiologically. Now I choose when I use this ability and when I don’t – knowing the cost.

When is Good: Taking the Stress Out of Scheduling

Once upon a long time ago[1] I thought about[2] writing a review of Doodle, an online scheduling tool for simplifying the process of creating meets in which all participants can actually participate.

Recently I had the need to schedule another meeting with a group of individuals who have incredibly conflicting and variable schedules, so I decided to utilize such a scheduling tool again…and, of course, I went to Doodle first…

But I love to explore and curate and find the best way to do x and so I went through my semi-regular routine when evaluating something new I want to utilize[3]:

  1. Google relevant terms like “Doodle competitor,” “Doodle alternative,” “online scheduling tool,” “online meeting app,” and so on.
  2. Go to AlternativeTo and see what alternatives they had to Doodle.
  3. Visit a bunch of these options and review them in a hasty manner.[4]

I visited a number of options like Dudle, DO’ZZ, SelectTheDate, ScheduleOnce, and so on. For various reasons I didn’t settle on any of these…but then I returned to one of the sites I’d written off for aesthetic reasons (it ain’t very pretty): WhenIsGood. After playing around with it a bit I was quite happy and have been using it since.

Let me walk you through its pages and you’ll see how simple and fairly intuitive it is. First we have our dashboard (“your account”).

When is Good Dashboard Screenshot
When is Good Dashboard Screenshot

Its very simply – essentially you see a list of events you have created and you can view, edit, or delete the events. I assume that detach allows one to remove the event from your account (you can use this service w/out creating an account).

Somewhat hidden at the top right you see a link to create a new event. The enter results code is for those who create events w/out accounts – its a unique string that identifies their event and allows them to access it.

I’ve blacked out a few small areas – mainly b/c they had my email address…which is floating around the internet, but I decided not to make any more available than it already is. There are a billion and one ways to get in contact w/me.

Under the events I blacked out the actual links to the events, they are clickable and allow you to view the event.

Now lets say we decide to create a new event, here is what we will see:

When Is Good New Event Screenshot.
When Is Good New Event Screenshot.

It isn’t the most intuitive interface, but if you mess around for five minutes you can figure it out. Note that you can set the length of the meeting, give the event a name like, “My Super Awesome Surprise Birthday Party For Myself.” There is that strange little slider bar above the calendar, use this to make the size of the calendar (not how many days, just its dimensions on the screen) larger or smaller.

But there are really a few more options we need if we are going to create a helpful scheduling event, so we click on Show Options which shows us this:

When Is Good Show Options Screenshot
When Is Good Show Options Screenshot

That is better. Now we can select the days we want to have displayed on our calendar. In my case I was scheduling a recurring event, which When Is Good doesn’t seem to inherently have any options for, so I just chose a week in the future and let people pick off those days, knowing that the event would then recur on a weekly basis.

Now click Create Event and you are all set….Right? Nope. You’ll get an error message, you need to “paint” some time slots. You are the first visitor to your event even before it is created and you get to determine what days/times will even be an option to folks when they view the event. Once you’ve selected your desired days/times you can successfully create the event. You’ll be given a unique URL you can share with anyone else via  any method you choose (email, Facebook, Twitter, hand-written note, whatever). When someone visits this unique URL they will see this:

When Is Good Visitors Screenshot
When Is Good Visitors Screenshot

We could have customized the directions, as to me “painting” times is not very intuitive, I’d suggest something like, “Please click on each day/time slot you are available to attend.”

The individual wouldn’t see all the options I have at the top right, since in this screenshot I’m logged into my account, but at the bottom right they’d have a spot to enter their name and email and send the response.

Now we get to our last screen, the results screen:

When Is Good Results Screenshot
When Is Good Results Screenshot

Now I see the calendar I created with info. filled out by the individuals I invited to the event. The green highlighted spaces are the slots where all respondents are available (I told you, crazy schedules).

Next to each of the remaining time slots are little dots, the dots indicate how many individuals cannot attend at that day/time. If I put my mouse over a time slot it will show me who can/can’t come and if I put my mouse over a name (under responses on the left-hand side) it will show me all the slots they selected as available highlighted in green.

As you can see, it is a functional although not aesthetically pleasing tool. It isn’t entirely intuitive, but its simplicity makes it easiest enough to figure out with a few minutes stumbling around.

Why Not Doodle?

I decided not to use Doodle b/c of the pricing essentially. If you are a business or an organization that will frequently utilize online scheduling – go with Doodle, it has more features, the pricing is reasonable, and it is more aesthetically pleasing…but if this is just an occasional thing, When Is Good will do just fine.

Feedback for When Is Good

Here are a few unsolicited suggestions to the folks over at When Is Good to take their application to the next level:

  • Include dates on your What’s New page so we can tell if you have been working on the app recently.
  • Redesign the aesthetic layout, center the main screen elements, make new event stand out from the rest of the menu options.

Premium with When Is Good

When is Good does offer a premium version at $20/yr. which is around half of Doodle’s lowest paid plan. It adds a few more options, but nearly as many as Doodle. If I was you and willing to pay, I’d go with Doodle.

  1. [1]Okay…more like a few months or years.
  2. [2]But did not actually.
  3. [3]This isn’t normal for items I’ll be using once-off, but I plan on using the scheduling tool more frequently, and imho, it is a lot easier to get people using the tool you want from the get-go than to change to something new half-way…since it oftentimes takes dragging kicking and screaming individuals long distances to get them to use any such tool in the first place.
  4. [4]If I spent a decent amount of time on each site I’d spend my entire life reviewing these sorts of sites…which I don’t have time for…this means, that on occasion, I don’t always, always get the best tool…b/c a tool that I write-off early ends up being the best…Still, I like to think I usually find the best and almost always find a tool that is more than sufficient for my needs.

Water Within’s Better Off Broken (Song)

I’m always stumbling around looking for new musical artists…and Spotify surfaced a band called Water Within. I’d never heard of them and their songs all had well under 2,000 listens – indicating they aren’t very popular. Usually this means that they aren’t very good…but on rare occasions…such as this one…it means they are amazing and just haven’t made it big yet [but I’m betting they will.]

Water Within Musicians
Water Within Musicians

Their music reminds me of JJ Heller’s earlier albums, though lyrically I can’t place them, perhaps somewhere near Michael Card…so fuse Heller and Card together in your mind and you might get something close to Water Within.

Anyways, I’ve been listening to their album Unlocked and there have been several songs I’ve enjoyed but Better Off Broken knocked my socks off…ok…I wasn’t wearing socks, but if I was…

Seriously, this is my new favorite song…Listen to it and read the lyrics (I listened to the song and wrote up the lyrics, so there are probably some discrepancies between the actual words and what I have).

[Sidenote: While the lyrics are sad, the music is upbeat…and they make it work.]

[Sidenote 2: Calvary Community Church’s (where I pastor) slogan is Broken people growing together communicating the idea that all of us are in need of a Savior and that one of the primary ways God grows us is through deep community]

My scars are so visible.
How can I help but notice
My mind holds tragic memories
Its hard to keep my focus
Who do I think I am
Doubting your voice when
You say you make all things new
Why do I think I can stand
On paperthin pride that denies
That i need you

I’m crying out
Come in tear down these walls
I can’t do this alone
I’ve been so lost
I need to come home
Break through all of the scars
Heal me as only you can
I’ve tried to fix myself
But I’ve found
I’m better off broken

So worn out
So weak now
Your strength in me
Makes me need you
I’ve been wounded
So beaten
The death of me
Lets you shine through

Who do I think I am
Trying to heal a heart
That deceives itself
Why do I think I can stand
When I’m on my face
Oh God, I need your help
I’m crying out

So worn out
So weak now
Your strength in me
Makes me need you
I’ve been wounded
So beaten
The death of me
Lets you shine through

Better off broken (repeated w/variations)

If I’m fixed just break me
If I’m broken then take me
And make me whole again
This is restoration

When I’m lost come find me
When I’m found refind me again
The power of restoration
Ohhhhh

I’m crying out
Come in tear down these walls
I can’t do this alone
I’ve been so lost
I need to come home
Break through all of the scars
Heal me as only you can
I’ve tried to fix myself
But I’ve found
I’m better off broken

Better off broken [repeats with variations]

Bill Gates and Mosquitos

Bill Gates has a long history. I remember reading a biography of him when I was a teenager. At that point Gates was both respected and hated. Microsoft had an iron fist on much of the software market in so many ways and used its weight to crush opposition. Since then Gates seems to be a different man – a much more caring and philanthropic man.

It may have been an article in Newsweek I read a few years back that talked about Melinda Gates (Bill’s wife) and the significant influence she has had upon him positively in these regards. Whatever the reasoning, I have a lot of respect for what Gates is doing these days in a variety of fields – not the least of which is battling disease.

As part of this battle Gates has launched a “Mosquito Week” on his blog to go alongside the well-known “Shark Week” that debuts each year on television (and which I never watch) in an attempt to raise awareness of the threat mosquitoes pose.

He includes a fascinating infographic which I’ve embedded below. HT to Andrew Vogel for posting it via Facebook and thus bringing it to my attention.

An infographic from Bill Gates on the deadliest animals in the world.
An infographic from Bill Gates on the deadliest animals in the world.

J.B. Phillips’ The New Testament in Modern English Revised Edition: Book Review

A Little Background

My Studies

I am preparing for a new series of sermons and leading a small group through the Gospel of Luke. Right now I’m refreshing my big picture understanding – so I’ve just finished reading through the entirety of Luke in J.B. Phillips’ translation.

JB Phillips' The New Testament in Modern English book cover for the Revised Edition.
JB Phillips’ The New Testament in Modern English book cover for the Revised Edition.

It occurred to me that this translation is quite good but not well-known and so I wanted to share it with you. 🙂

In my personal studies of Scripture I have found I can sometimes go into “automatic” mode when reading Scripture – a mode that feels like it already knows what the text is saying or even worse that just wanders off elsewhere while my eyes still parse the text.

To overcome this dilemma I frequently use different translations of Scripture. I tend to do devotional reading in a single version over a period of time – till it has become familiar and then move to another translation – and so on. After a while away from a translation I find the words are again crisp and fresh.

When I’m preparing a sermon I like to read from as many different translations as possible. While there are various levels of literal fidelity to the original languages in translations, every translation is to some extent an interpretation or commentary upon the Scriptures. Reading different versions highlights the different ways different individuals have thought about these particular passages in a concise way which can then be further explored via commentaries and other resources.

J.B. Phillips

J.B. Phillips was an Anglican clergyman who began translating some of the Scriptures into “modern” language during World War II. His ministry was in a heavily bombed area and the translation occurred under this recurring threat.

His translation was well-liked, among his admirers being C.S. Lewis. He also saw his translation being used “authoritatively” and felt that it was not good enough so he went about retranslating it.

Phillips completed the entire New Testament as well as some books of the Old Testament. His NT is best known.

Throughout his life he struggled with depression and reflects a theological perspective more reminiscent of William Barclay’s “liberal evangelical” than fundamentalist or evangelical generally.

You can read more about his life on Wikipedia.

Michael D. Marlowe has written a fairly extensive review of the translation along with some analysis of Phillips’ more heterodox views for those looking to evaluate a little more deeply the merits of the man and the translation. Another interesting article on the same topic is available from the Tyndale Society and authored by Hilary Day.

Why Phillips Translation?

As I noted earlier, I read from numerous translations – I’ve spent time with the KJV, NKJV, NIV, NLT, ESV, HCSB, LEB, The Message, The Living Bible – and the list could go on for quite some time.

I do not necessarily see one translation as superior to the other but each providing insights that another may not have been able to highlight. I use the ESV, LEB, NASB when working with the details, but utilize the NLT and NIV[1] when working more big picture.

So, I am not suggesting this should be your bible – but that it is a good bible. If you come across passages that sound different from what your more literal bible says – compare them, do some research – one often learns fascinating things because of the differences in translation.

I find Phillips’ translation to be fairly literal overall but at times it strays significantly into thought-for-thought territory. The language is contemporary and has that British flare to it which brings a different taste than our American translations.

Phillips’ is good at making the text flow and showing the connections between texts. If your translation feels a little stale – give it a try – or any one of the numerous other excellent translations/paraphrases out there…just know what you are getting (e.g. The Message is a very free-from paraphrase, I still think it has a place, but it is for that place and not every place).

For Free

You can read the Phillip’s New Testament online for free, though I am unsure that this edition is the same as the translation I read (1972), it may be the earlier and looser translation he made. It is available from both the Christian Classics Ethereal Library and Bible Gateway. You can also purchase a newer edition (the one I read) from Amazon.

  1. [1]The NIV and the HCSB are both mid-way translations, somewhere between the fairly strictly literal approach of the ESV/NASB and the dynamic/thought-for-thought translations like the NLT/Living Bible.

Cairn University Church Leader’s Conference.

Overview

Cairn University held its second annual Church Leaders’ Conference today and I attended along with two parishioners – John Broglin and Kiki Mackey (my sister-in-law). We left together from CCC at 8:45 am and arrived a few minutes later at Cairn. The conference was being held in Chatlos Chapel, a few Biblical Learning Center classrooms, and the lobby outside of the chapel. I attended the conference last year as well and you can see my thoughts on that conference here.

Synopsis

Morning

Once again the process of registration was speedy – taking only a few seconds. We picked up lanyard name tags, a Cairn bag with a few items (pen, program, index card, and a brochure for Cairn’s MAR, MDIV, and THM degree offerings). Then it was off to a second table where we were offered our choice of Cairn coffee or travel mug and a book (Does Grace Grow Best in Winter? by Ligon Duncan with J. Nicholas Reid).

Then it was over to the continental breakfast – which again included donuts, mixed fruits, danishes, and so on along with a number of hot/cold beverages. I’m a pretty simple guy and enjoy a good continental breakfast – and this satisfied me fully. They also opened Chatlos Chapel for us so we could sit down while eating (which was a step up from last year I  appreciated).

By 9 am everyone had filed into Chatlos Chapel and Benjamin Harding along with a string quartet[1] (consisting of Cairn students) led us in musical worship. We stood together and sang Bless the Lord (Matt Redman) followed by a hymn (the title of which I cannot recall) and then Bob Kauflin’s O Great God.

J. Ligon Duncan III, Chancellor & CEO, John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary.
J. Ligon Duncan III, Chancellor & CEO, John E. Richards Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology, Reformed Theological Seminary.

Jonathan Master briefly introduced our speaker, Dr. J. Ligon Duncan, a well-known pastor, professor, and author. I wasn’t as familiar with him as last year’s speaker – R. Kent Hughes – but having been so pleased with the previous year’s conference, I decided to attend again (and am glad I did).

Duncan gave an hour long sermon on Ministry in the Midst of Suffering utilizing a number of passages throughout the Old and New Testaments (such as Nehemiah 9:27, Job 2:13, Ephesians 3:13, 2 Tim. 1:8-9, 2:3, 4:5; Hebrews 2:10; James 5:10,13; 1 Peter 2:19-21, 5:9-10).

We had a brief break from 10:30 am to 10:45 am and I scooted off to one of the lesser-known bathrooms at Cairn to skip the lines. We now had the opportunity to choose between several different parallel sessions. The options were “Discipling Your Family Through Personal Suffering” (Pastor Rob Burns), “Bouncing Back from Burnout” (Pastor John Stange), “No Graven Image: Suffering and How We Think of God” (Curtis Hill)[2], or “Suffering as God’s Discipline” (Dr. Jonathan Master).

I chose to attend Stange’s Bouncing Back from Burnout, first b/c Stange is a local pastor and I don’t get the opportunity to hear others speak frequently – so I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. Secondly, b/c I’ve been through some suffering in my life which is conducive to burnout along with being the sort of personality that tends towards burnout.

Stange’s session was informative. Stange is a light-hearted speaker who manages to intertwine humor with the ‘serious stuff.’ He used ample illustrations from his own life and stories from Luke 9 and 10 to anchor his thesis – that burnout usually occurs when we become more invested in doing for Christ than delighting in Christ. My favorite quote from the session was, “You don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to…when you argue with a baby, both you and the baby look stupid.” While humorous, it also portrays some frequently forgotten truths…I’ll let you figure out what they are.

Kiki attended the session with Stange while John attended Rob Burns’ session – which he enjoyed and shared his notes with me – and I found them useful and encouraging as well.

Afternoon

Lunch was cold hoagies, fruit and vegetable salads, chips, pretzels, brownies, cookies, hot/cold beverages, and so on. A satisfying meal and a great opportunity to discuss with other attendees.

Dr. Todd Williams dropped in briefly to greet us and encourage us that Cairn deeply believes in its role as support to rather than replacement of the church and that it encourages all its students – whether pastoral or business (or education, social work, counseling, and so on) majors to be actively engaged with the church throughout their lifetimes.

Benjamin Harding again led us in musical worship – this time we sang Bancroft’s Before the Throne of God Above and Keith Getty and Stuart Townend’s In Christ Alone – two of my favorite songs.

Dr. Duncan spoke from perhaps 1:15-1:20 till 2:15-2:30 pm. There was a ten minute period in which everyone was encouraged to pray with those at their table for one another and the sufferings we are/will encounter and strength to glorify God in the midst of them.

Then Dr. Master asked attendee submitted questions of Dr. Duncan from 2:30 to 3:00 pm. I had almost skipped out on this part – but am glad I didn’t. Duncan addressed quite thoroughly several important topics including pastoral responses to clinical depression and whether leaders should continue in leadership in the midst of struggles at home.

When it was all over we made our way back out and were greeted with another book (I got two, as I missed picking up the second around lunch time) – Thomas Watson’s  (17th century) All Things For Good which he wrote as a pastor during a significant period of suffering and Preaching the Cross, a compilation by Mark Dever, Duncan, R. Albert Mohler Jr.,  C.J. Mahaney, John MacArthur, John Piper, and R.C. Sproul.

The new Director of Advancement (whose name I have unfortunately already forgotten) grabbed me on the way out and offered me a Cairn t-shirt – which I gladly accepted and look forward to wearing proudly and frequently.

Overall

Once again, I was greatly satisfied with the conference. It cost $25 again this year – but $25 for at least four or five hours of solid teaching, two meals, and three books (plus Cairn memorabilia) – I say that is a pretty sweet deal.

I think this is a very intelligent move on Cairn’s part to reach out to church leaders. It brings scores of leaders onto the Cairn campus where they have the opportunity to interact with faculty and staff from the University. The light touch Cairn demonstrated again this year in self-promotion again reinforced the feel that Cairn was and is sincerely interested in being a resource for church leaders and not simply in using church leaders as a recruitment tool.

Recommendations for Improvement

Some of the small items that I thought could be improved last year where improved to my delight, but there is always the opportunity for further improvement, so here are my recommendations for next year’s conference:

  1. Last year I had commented on the feel I had that it was “Pastor’s Conference” as opposed to a “Church Leaders’ Conference” – despite the latter being the name. In one small way, this front took a step backward as some of the signage spoke of the “Pastor’s Forum” – which reinforces the idea that the conference is for pastors exclusively.[3]
    1. Overall, I felt the general session and breakout sessions (at least the one I attended) where more open to general audiences than last years had been, so this was a step forward.
    2. Another item I had mentioned on this front was the lack of female attendees – last year I saw two. This year there was a small leap forward to perhaps five or eight – but the conference continued to be male dominated. I think this is unfortunate and would love to see the diversity increase significantly.[4]
  2. I still think that adding some vendors and giving us some time to walk through displays, etc. would be a worthwhile endeavor. Not only could Cairn charge vendors for this privilege, but more importantly, it would provide church leaders’ the opportunity to interact with vendors – and even in an internet age, finding vendors for specific products/services (especially related to ministry) is not always the easiest task and there is something to be said for face-to-face interaction and hands-on product demonstration.
  3. Last year I had suggested more opportunity for individuals to interact with one another and share their experiences. I think a bit more of this occurred around the meals, in the breakout sessions, and so on – though I’m not sure that anything was altered. I’d still love to interact with others more, but also felt the conference was pretty packed and that it might not be feasible to jam another opportunity into the already full day.
  4. While last year I wasn’t too excited about the main speaker going on for 2.5 hrs. throughout the day, this year I felt the length much less. The length of the speaking could perhaps be reduced to 1.75 hrs. and then points 2 and/or 3 might be implemented during that time.

Conclusion

If you are in church ministry and anywhere near Cairn University, I highly recommend making the Cairn Church Leaders’ Conference part of your annual schedule. It is a relaxing, edifying, and educational experience at a price one can’t beat.

  1. [1]Excuse my music terminology, I’m not sure I am using the right term here.
  2. [2]I’m guessing a pastor as well, but I haven’t personally interacted with Mr. Hill and the program didn’t say.
  3. [3]I assume that Cairn is attempting to bring in a wide circle of ministry leaders, but if I’m incorrect and they desire to reach almost exclusively pastors with this conference, I’d suggest that a change of name to something like “Pastor’s Conference” would make sense.
  4. [4]Perhaps I was just more aware this year, but I did notice several ethnic minorities present – which I also see as a positive move towards diversity. I know Cairn has made great steps in diversifying the student body and I’d love to see the conference reflect that diversity as well.

Dear Mark: Thoughts on Simpleology

Introduction

I’m always trying to improve myself. I’m always learning, always looking, always seeking. I’m a bit of a technophile, I love the ways that technology can improve our lives. I use all sorts of systems – including task management systems. I’ve used a number of them over the years – most recently I was a big Asana advocate (and I still use it)…

One system that I began using way back in the day (2005, 2006?) and have continued to use off-and-on since then is Simpleology. Lately I’ve been using it more and more…I’m not ready to switch everything over YET, but I am impressed by the system and wanted to share a bit about it with everyone…as well as disclose to Mark Joyner (Founder/CEO of Simpleology) and his co-workers my thoughts on the system and the areas that need to improve/be refined before it can really, REALLY be what I need.

Why Simpleology is Different

The first thing to note is that Simpleology is different from other task management systems. Are you familiar with David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) methodology? It utilizes task management – but it is not just a task management system – rather it is a process by which one engages life, especially the task oriented aspects of it. Simpleology is along the same lines.

I suppose you could use Simpleology simply as a task management tool – but its real power is when you get up in the morning (or in the evening in preparation for the next day) and work through the workflow that is Simpleology. It takes the massive amount of ideas, problems, opportunities swirling around in your brain and guides you through the process of selecting which tasks you should actually work on today. It helps you be productive in the right areas and to feel productive at the end of the day.

With other task management systems (e.g. Asana) I sometimes feel overwhelmed. Great, I’ve got hundred of tasks and sub-tasks…but what do I need to do today? How do I decide?

In addition to this, Simpleology provides a number of “life hacks” that help you increase your productivity – and one of its strongest (and weakest) points is the ongoing interactive training that is available to teach you the usage of the web application.

What It Needs

I’m using Simpleology, but I’m not fully sold on it yet…Here are my concerns, big and small:

Big

  • The interactive training for Simpleology is great – it keeps you moving forward at a good pace – but it is also frustrating. Sometimes I just want a PDF user manual[1] to Simpleology. I want to begin using some features before I’m trained on them via the interactive training. Most features are fairly intuitive, but the exact mechanisms and business logic underlying these features isn’t clear and could cause me issues down the road…Here are a few areas I need to know the nuances of w/out waiting for the interactive training:
    • Recurring Tasks
    • Observe & Change
    • Engines (this is supposed to allow custom programmability / triggers within Simpleology)
    • Projects (this is a new feature in 5.5, I haven’t messed with at all)
    • Delegation Station (This seems powerful, but I need to know exactly how it works – what happens when the individual isn’t a Simpleology member and I assign them a task? Can they complete it and tell me it has been completed w/out becoming a member?
  • You can’t jump between different sections of Start My Day. That isn’t true, you just need to change to Expert mode instead of Guided.
  • The pricing model is unwieldy. You can get a great base of features for free, then move up to pro for $7/mo., but then the ultimate, elite package is $57/mo. I’m not suggesting that is too much – but there needs to be more steps in-between. For example, I’d suggest making the Business Growth, Financial Growth, Recurring Tasks, Observe & Change, Update Trackers, Ben Franklin Habits, and Prioritize add-on modules that can be purchased individually. I really have no use for the Business Growth or Financial Growth modules at this juncture. I can probably live without the Update Trackers or the Ben Franklin Habits module – but the Recurring Tasks and Prioritize modules are must haves for me – but there is no way I can afford to spend $57/mo. to get these features (ok, recurring comes with pro…). I think this would increase revenue – and folks might still find themselves throwing in all $57/mo. eventually – but it is a more gradual progression (you gotta boil a frog in a pot by slowly turning up the heat, right?).
  • The lack of storage for historical tasks. Mark informed me these limits are done away with in 5.5.

Small

  • Under Lists there is no way  to make a task disappear from its list once it is completed without deleting it. It should be able to be moved automatically to archived targets once it is completed.
  • Under Lists there is no reason to have “Mental Lockbox (Legacy)” for anyone who doesn’t have items in this category.

Other Stuff I’d Like

Here are a few items I’d like to see, but that aren’t core necessities for me (rated 1-10, 1 being unimportant to me, 10 being very important…although none of these reach the importance of the big items listed above)…

A Little History

[I’ve never met Mark in real life, I’ve never had an extended conversation with him, but I have used his products for years and followed his journey over time…and I figured I’d write down my thoughts and memories before I forget them…This section has little practical use.]

I haven’t been online as long as some, but longer than most. I remember this slick marketing guy I used to follow – Mark Joyner. He wrote a bunch of books, founded a bunch of companies (ROIbot, SearchHound, StartBlaze, Aesop Search Engine, etc.), and I thought ran Trafficology – but it seems Wayne Yeager ran this, maybe Mark can clear that up for me? Perhaps my memory is just lying to me. If you had to sum up Mark in one phrase at the time I would choose the title from his 2002 book MindControlMarketing0.[2]

Mark had a way with words that soothed you into compliance – and he was willing to teach you how you could become a mind control master as well.

Then in April 2003 Mark sent out a surprising email. You can read it in its entirety here. I think you’ll quickly see the power of his sales phrasing (mind control marketing). I was never comfortable with selling using these techniques – but I still followed Mark for a lot of his more mainstream guerrilla marketing tips (is that an oxymoron?).

Mark decided it was time to go find himself, “Bottom line is, it’s time for me to simplify. My business has become so incredibly complex that it just isn’t fun any more. It’s time for me to clean everything up, finish the unfinished business, and move on.”

Then in 2005 Mark came back on the scene with Simpleology. I remember giving it a try pretty early on. I thought it was cool – I don’t remember much about it other than some PDF books teaching productivity hacks. The usual mind control marketing techniques were evident in the early rendition of the Simpleology site. Mark used the popular technique of offering the basics for free and then charging you for the premium parts once you were hooked. Don’t get me wrong, what Mark gave away for free had real value.

Things took a much more concise approach by Oct. 2006. By 2007 things had developed to the first iteration of the web-based software that has become so powerful now and the old marketing techniques seemed to be taking a back seat. I began using the software again sometime during these early days.

In 2011 the site received a complete reboot – and I once again began using the system. Now, Simpleology has been innovated upon yet again – upgraded to 5.5 and I was lucky enough to be selected as one of the early access users.

I’ve been impressed by Mark’s movement from mind control marketing techniques to creating products that don’t need any mind control to sell.[3] You’ll see some of that old style peering through every once in a while – sometimes you get redirected to pages that encourage you to sign up now and get huge bundles and deals (even within Simpleology). I kind of wish these would go away – but to each his own.

  1. [1]It doesn’t have to be PDF, HTML, DOC, whatever is fine – just something I can read!
  2. [2]He always harped on his time spent in the military working in intelligence and how this provided him with many of the skills he shared regarding MCM.
  3. [3]Not that his earlier products lacked value, just that now his products contain such value that persuasive selling isn’t necessary.

The Magic Man in the Sky: Effectively Defending the Christian Faith: Book Review (Author: Carl Gallups)

On the 25th I wrote a number of books I picked up for the Amazon Kindle that were on sale. One of them was Carl Gallups’ The Magic Man in the Sky: Effectively Defending the Christian Faith. I used to be big into apologetics, but haven’t done much reading in this area recently – this had a humorous title, so I thought it might be a good / different read on the topic. I finished the book last night (the 28th), not b/c it was such an amazing read but b/c I only had seven days to return the book to Amazon (their return policy) and I wanted to return it…

The book has received overwhelmingly positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads, so I’m the odd one out here, but I can only give it a 2/4 star rating – and I’m hesitant to give it that. Not because the book doesn’t have a number of good points, analogies, etc. but b/c to me apologetics books are held to an exceedingly high standard – and while I might suggest someone read a “good enough” book in other areas, I really want them to read the best when it comes to apologetics – and I want to read the best.

“So, Mr. Cranky-Pants, why didn’t you like Mr. Gallups’ book? Did it have any redeeming qualities?”

The book has a number of redeeming qualities – while it is not the humorous approach to apologetics I had hoped for, it is a lay man’s approach to apologetics – that is it is written to be understood by individuals who aren’t “intellectuals” so to speak. This sort of approach is needed – try reading Josh McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict to see a more “intellectual” approach.

Gallups offers a number of “plain English” definitions of concepts and terms which are used within apologetics, philosophy, science, and theology which are quite clear and helpful. At the same time, sometimes when he engages science (e.g. abiogenesis) his explanations sound good, but don’t provide enough explanation or background to allow someone to really, intelligently talk about the subject. At least, I didn’t feel after reading these sections that I was equipped to talk about the subject.

Front cover of The Magic Man in the Sky: Effectively Defending the Christian Faith by Carl Gallups.
Front cover of The Magic Man in the Sky: Effectively Defending the Christian Faith by Carl Gallups.

I also regretted that while Gallup offered the initial stance of the atheist/agnostic and then provided a Christian rebuttal, he always ended with a “conclusive” answer proving the Christian perspective. In my opinion, this is rarely, the case. I want to know – now that I have offered a rebuttal – what will the individual say now? How will they counter this claim? I don’t think they are suddenly going to say, “Ohh, you know what? You are right. I’ve been a scientist for twenty years and built my work upon this concept and now you – a lay man (what I am in the sciences) – have come and exposed an obvious flaw that I didn’t notice for twenty years…”

I did enjoy Gallups quotations at the beginning of each chapter and also found various cultural references he made interesting – as I am entirely unfamiliar with them. For example, at one juncture he suggests that some people “call this self-centered condition of the human a viper in a diaper.” Really? I’ve never heard anyone say that! Its kind of funny, but really?

At times Gallups makes controversial statements which are unnecessary to his argument and thereby weaken the integrity of his overall argument. For example, he writes, “The secular worldview declares that homosexuality, fornication, and adultery are natural and, therefore, acceptable parts of the human experience…All the while, the devastating effects of each of these perverse activities have been observed and cataloged since time immemorial.” Granted, most individuals will readily acknowledge the detrimental effects of adultery – but the topics of homosexuality and fornication are much more controversial when one is speaking outside of evangelical Christian circles. Gallups raises these topics, which means his readers may as well, and then provides no substantive evidence for his arguments – thus rabbit trailing off the main topic (apologetics) and leaving himself and his readers exposed.

Some of Gallups statements about the secular individual seem simplistic and untrue – for example, Gallups states, “If you subscribe to the secular worldview, your life will be lived with its exclusive purpose being to survive.” I don’t think this is true – certainly not on an individual level – perhaps on a species level – but even there, it seems to me that individuals have a much wider and nobler range of motives than simple survival, as evidenced by their self-sacrificial acts, and those acts certainly aren’t exclusively committed by Christians.

Gallups explanation of the heavens and how these are to be understood theologically and scientifically is worthwhile – though I wish that he had provided some footnotes to back up his explanations on this topic. This is also one of the first areas where another real problem sticks out – Gallups is writing for the common man, but chooses to use the KJV when including Scriptures. This makes the reading rough (suddenly there are “shalt” and “thou” and so on spattered through an otherwise contemporary text) and forces him to explain Scriptures whose meaning would be clear if he had used a more contemporaneous translation.[1]

Gallups uses illuminating and humorously simple illustrations to explain certain concepts – the “fish in the pond” explanation for the reality of unseen reality (e.g. supernatural) is quite good…and it isn’t his only useful illustration of this type. For example, at one point he describes how fish might feel about the idea that there is a “supernatural” reality outside of their pond (believing instead that the pond is the limits of reality): “Those who have tried to penetrate the barrier above us either have seen nothing but blurriness or have not returned to us at all. To suggest there is anything more powerful outside of our world that has any fishy presence or power to it at all is…well…ridiculous.”

There is one section that really, really bothers me. Gallups suggests that we can prove (absolutely, irrefutably) the truthfulness of Scripture by the nation of Israel. He says that God explained through Moses before the people ever entered the promised land that they would fall away from him, be dispersed throughout the world, and then return again – and he takes this as occurring in the Babylonian exile and the return fulfilled in 1948 with the establishment of the Jewish nation.

I don’t disagree with Gallups understanding of Moses’ statements, but I do think the emphasis he puts upon this “prophecy” is disconcerting. The prophecy itself is so generic that it doesn’t seem that hard for it to be fulfilled, and to suggest we can know that God exists based upon its fulfillment concerns me. It essentially says, you will go here, be kicked out of here for being bad, and then you’ll be back.

What really concerns me though is that he suggests that Israel was not a nation after the Babylonian exile until 1948 – which greatly strengthens his argument – if it were true. He writes, “Keep in mind that by this time in history, called the Roman period, Israel had not been a nation since the Babylonians conquered them almost five hundred years earlier.” I’m not so sure about that…There were these guys called the Maccabees who overthrew the declining Seleucids (Greek) and established the Hasmonean Dynasty.

Gallups may have an explanation for this – but the fact that he glosses over this problem in his text without so much as a mention makes me feel as if he is “smoothing over” history to make it fit his preconceived notions – which is not what an apologist should do. I don’t think this was Gallups intent (Scripture calls us to believe/hope the best) but the passage does read that way, at least to me, and I’d guess to many agnostics/atheists who are familiar with biblical history as well.

At another later juncture Gallups writes, “Without a supreme reason, we have no supreme purpose to life, and we have no real answers to the deepest problems of life. Life becomes relegated to the survival of the fittest and nothing more. Furthermore, if we have no supreme purpose or reason, then we do not have supreme morality. Without supreme morality, humans are no different from any other kind of animal.”

Earlier in his work, Gallups explains a straw man, and complains throughout the work that atheists/agnostics oftentimes setup straw men against Christian arguments (which is, unfortunately, true), yet I feel at this and several other junctures that he sets up straw men as well. I know (though I have not read) that Richard Dawkins (whom Gallups is familiar with as he quotes him at several junctures) has written on this subject (how moral values and purpose for life exist for the atheist) and it is disconcerting to me that Gallups does not offer up at least a footnote acknowledging these explanations for life offered by atheists/agnostics.

Gallups also argues that this life is a “boot camp” in preparation for the next life. I know this is a popular Christian view, but someone has to show me the Scriptural support for this perspective – I’m not aware of it. I know that it makes sense, but I am hesitant to offer up as more than hypothesis ideas which make sense but aren’t explicitly in Scripture – since God could have done it that way, but He might have done it some other way – perhaps even some other way we haven’t yet thought of.

Furthermore, I find the illustration itself disturbing – yes,  a drill sergeant works folks hard, they suffer pain, it is horrific sometimes – but they come out the other side…and those who don’t make it through are sent home – not shuffled off to eternal hell.

He comments in the same section, “Therefore, when you reach the point in your walk with the Lord where you can say in all honesty that you do not care if He ever blesses you again or answers another prayer–you will serve Him anyway–then you are well on your way to graduating boot camp.” This statement makes me feel sick. It does remind me of Romans 9, but I insist that Romans 9 must be read in conjunction with 10 and 11. God could demand our obedience simply due to his position and power – but I don’t think He does – instead He shows off His beauty and we are attracted to it and it is unfading and unchanging. For more on this subject see John Piper’s Desiring God.

Gallups offers a chapter up on the problem of evil which I found little comfort in…but then again, the problem of evil is the greatest intellectual/theological struggle I have ever faced – it haunts me since my childhood and I expect will haunt me till I die.

Then there is how Gallups sometimes puts Christians in an undeservedly positive light, for example, he writes, “On the other hand, in the preponderance of Christian schools and/or home school coursework, the students are taught the in-depth proposals of evolution theory along with the theories of Creation and Intelligent Design. Rather than being indoctrinated, the student who is taught both theories of origins and life is receiving an honest education.”

Yikes! I spent much of my education in private Christian schools and homeschooled…and no, the curriculum was not an even-handed presentation of the two perspectives…and yes, I used several of the most well-known, respected, and popular Christian curriculums.

Evolution is presented, but only in order to be refuted by Creationism. Evolution is never considered a viable option for the believing student within these curriculums. If a Christian curriculum really wants to convince me they are being even-handed, let an evolutionist write the part on evolution and a creationist on creation and then let each write a rebuttal to the other and let the students make up their own minds.

One statement he made that kind of blew me away (in a good way) regards the anthropic principle (the universe’s seeming fine tuning to man’s existence), “Consider this: What would happen if all the saltwater systems were removed from our earth? In time, we would die. What if all the freshwater sources were removed? The answer is the same. What if all the animals were removed or if all the insects were gone or if all the plant life disappeared? Again, we would eventually die. Now think about this: What if humans and only humans were removed from the planet Everything would continue. The ecology is perfect. The system would sustain itself without us.” I don’t find this particularly convincing evidence for the anthropic principle – but it is fascinating to me that so many variables (many beyond those he lists) could result in the death of life on the world – but the removal of earth’s ruling class (humans) would not result in any such detriment (in fact, we could say things would probably get exponentially better for the planet).

I should not that while I have taken Gallups to task at various points for failing to offer up legitimate counter-arguments from atheist/agnostic proponents, it does appear at many junctures that he attempts to do just that – quoting from an evolutionary author to prove his point but then adding, “To be fair…” and explaining how the individual would explain his material to support rather than contradict evolution and so on.

Finally, I’m going to skip to the end a bit, and just remove that the End Times section is especially frightening to me. He again centers his argument around the reconstituted nation of Israel and then also throws in a list of nations (including Iraq and Libya among others) that will be part of this end time scenario. This sort of specific prediction and claiming of the end times has always concerned me. Gallups acknowledges that Christians have believed in every generation that the end was coming during their lifetime – but Gallups still insists that this generation is different – that now conditions are right. I believe Jesus could come back any time – maybe today, but maybe ten thousand years from now. I think making predictions like this (even without a date) opens Christians up to unnecessary criticism.

To summarize/conclude – the book has a number of interesting facets, it attempts something which should be done (a common man’s approach to apologetics) but it fails in the fairness of its presentation at some junctures and rests upon unstable premises at other junctures. Finally, and I didn’t mention this before, the book is almost completely lacking in footnotes or bibliography. I understand this was written for the common man, and probably end-notes would make more sense so that the reader doesn’t feel overwhelmed – but the number of claims made without any substantive proof (even though I know from reading elsewhere, that Gallups is correct in at least some of these) scares the dickens (Charles Dickens? What are you doing in there?) out of me.

I returned the book to Amazon for a refund. I wanted to like it and at times I did – but overall, I just couldn’t sell it to myself. Sorry.

  1. [1]sorry, I’m not a KJV-only advocate. I am a KJV advocate in the sense that I think it is a worthwhile translation to read alongside other translations…and I have spent some significant time in both the KJV and NKJV.

Some Pretty Awesome Deals from Amazon for eBooks.

Amazon is holding their “The Big Deal” which goes through February 2nd and offers up to 85% off over 600 books. When my brother told me about it, I was hesitant. I’m trying to pair down my library – but ebooks do take up less space than physical books…so maybe I’d take a peak.

I knew that if I did get any books I only wanted the best I knew I wanted to read. Everything else could wait – I’m really trying to only get the books I am going to read and read soon. So, here is my list…of those I bought as well of those I thought looked quite interesting (and actually, I left a huge number off my list, b/c I didn’t want to type all day).

I Bought It…

On Relationships

Self-Help

Counseling

History

Politics

Ministry

Hero of the Day: Mark Rutland.

Within Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) there is a sub-type known as “scrupulosity” or “religious OCD” – and it is one nasty monster. I’ve been afflicted with it since early childhood and during my early college years I almost dropped out, left the faith, and probably verged on institutionalization due to it.

Photo of Mark Rutland as found on the Global Servants website, a ministry he founded.
Photo of Mark Rutland as found on the Global Servants website, a ministry he founded.

Since then I’ve learned a lot of coping skills, I take medications, and so on – and it isn’t nearly as intrusive (though it is still a regular pain in the butt). One of the major ways in which I experienced relief from these symptoms was through Mark Rutland’s excellent (yet poorly known and under-appreciated) Streams of Mercy which spoke about receiving and reflecting God’s grace.

Seriously, this book revolutionized my life. I’ve read it many times and it continues to make me break down in tears with great regularity. It is an easy read with plenty of personal anecdotes from Rutland’s fascinating life and creative short stories that illustrate his points. A must read.

I’ve written about Streams of Mercy before – but I want to write today about Mark Rutland the man. Sometimes folks write a good book – but what are their lives like? Well, Rutland founded a ministry called Global Servants which has done some impressive work around the world – not least of which is the founding of House of Grace, a refuge for Akha girls who are being drawn into the sex trade. Ahh, here was a man who put his hands and feet where his mouth was!

Rutland continues to run Global Servants, but has also been involved in an amazing array of other endeavors – starting in 1987 he was Associate Pastor at Mount Paran Church of God in Atlanta, Georgia…but he didn’t stay in this potentially comfortable position for too long, moving on in 1990 to Calvary Assembly of God in Orlando Florida in 1990, a church attempting to recover from scandal and financial insolvency. After successfully leading a turnaround of this church he moved on to Southeastern University of the Assemblies of God in Lakeland Florida in 1999, again leading a successful turnaround of the University. He thought he was done with these gigantic endeavors but was called yet again to serve as President of Oral Roberts University (one of the largest and most reputable charismatic higher education institutions), which was on the verge of collapse – and over a several year period again succeeded in turning around the institution.

It seems evident that God’s blessing has been upon Rutland’s work. Somehow he has also managed to preach numerous sermons and write numerous books – which I am grateful for, b/c I want to keep reading and learning from this man. Up to this point I had only read about him, read Streams of Mercy, and listened to one or more of his sermons – but recently I picked up his latest book called reLaunch about turning around an organization (I had no clue this was something he specialized in) and it is again proving to be a magnificent, encouraging, and challenging read! Then I subscribed to his blog and began reading his posts. The first one was “The Antidote for Poison Berries” posted on January 22nd…I think a few choice excerpts and comments concerning this post will give you an idea of why I find Rutland such a fantastic inspiration:

  • Rutland openly shares that he has struggled with depression at times throughout his forty-six years in ministry (this has become more common in smaller ministries, but I still don’t hear a lot about it from bigger, successful personalities within Christianity).
  • He then goes on to state, “I have known dark moments and personal failures. I have been deeply disappointed in myself and struggle at times to stay in the ministry, or even to feel that I should stay in the ministry. In one truly terrible season, only the grace of God through my wife, two friends that refused to let me quite, and the wise anointed help of a trained counselor kept me in the work.” Wow. Again, Rutland is willing to admit significant enough failures in his personal life that have led to his questioning (at times) his qualifications for ministry – and that he would have abandoned ministry altogether except for the moral support he received from others…What an encouragement to ministers who are struggling to keep their heads above water! Further, Rutland admits seeing a “trained counselor” something which is still widely looked down upon in many Christian circles – an admission which normalizes this practice for others – who really need it.
  • He goes on, “Is this shocking you? Are you thinking, why should I listen to this guy? He shouldn’t even be in the ministry. Is that what you’re thinking? Then I submit to you that I cannot think of but a handful of sturdy saints who should be in the ministry.” Thank God! A leader who is willing to admit that we are not qualified, that we do fall short. Yes, there must be accountability and standards within Christian ministry – but this too often occurs at the cost of masks – masks of pretend people who pretend to be things they are not. We hide our sin in a corner (even from ourselves) so we can be “qualified” for the ministry we are undertaking. I’d like to know who these “sturdy saints” are of whom Rutland speaks, b/c he knows more than I – I know of none (including myself).
  • But Rutland, have you ever been so tired you just couldn’t do it any more? Have you felt that battle raging within you that you feel like is going to kill you if you don’t just surrender, give up, give in? “The wrestling match within myself has at times been almost unbearable, but when the sun came up I limped toward whatever shred of victory I could still find.” Wait? What about the victorious Christian life? Shouldn’t you have experienced calm and peace and serenity in the midst of this unbearable suffering? That is what the Apostle Paul had, is it not? Perhaps…but at least there are a few humans in ministry who also “limp” toward a “shred of victory” that must be “found!” Ahh, here is someone more to my level!
  • “You know all the keys to spirituality. Prayer. The Word. Accountability. You can name them and you have preached on them and they are incredibly important…[but] what do I do when I have done all those and deep tissue, immobilizing, paralyzing discouragement settles like inky night upon the parsonage?” Wait! Rutland, are you saying that you have applied the proper methods as taught by Christian circles – derived from Scripture – and at the end of the night there has been no relief? No light at the end of the tunnel? That you have foundered in the cess pool of darkness? God be praised! Christian experience cannot be reduced to a set of rules and formulas by which we experience peace and healing from our struggles (the Book of Job is my favorite book of the Bible currently…Job finds no relief, no answers, and He is not the ‘prim and proper’ individual we like to recommend folks to be when they experience suffering – he is a raging, crying, frenzied maniac who cries out to a God who has abandoned him).
  • He talks about various ways he attempts to restore himself in the midst of these dark times – remembering he is not the first to struggle (see Moses, Elijah, Jeremiah, David, Paul, and Jesus he says), avoiding isolation (including seeing a professional counselor), resting, not comparing our ministry/life with others (he says we don’t need to be a Joel Osteen, I’d add, that we don’t need to be a Mark Rutland, though I’d like to be…), and he says that we should not allow failure or fear of failure to stop us: “If you have not failed at anything lately, it’s time to try something new.” Yehaww! (No, I don’t talk like this in real life)

Okay, I’ve quoted huge portions of his post – but there are some really excellent other nuggets that I didn’t include – simply b/c I didn’t want to include the entirety of his post. Go read the original here.

[Some may wonder, “Is Dave a Charismatic?” The answer would be no. I’m a non-cessationist. I do not believe that the spiritual gifts have ceased to operate – but I also see many expressions of the spiritual gifts which are questionable at best and downright hypocrisy and blasphemy at worst. I will accept the proper expression of a spiritual gift but I will also demand that any expression of spiritual gifts meet a high level of accountability and integrity. I have great respect for individuals like Mark Rutland, Wayne Grudem, and John White who fall into more charismatic circles – and I want to learn from them. I think both Charismatics and non-Charismatics have some truth in their hands – and that we find ourselves strongest when we sharpen each other as iron sharpens iron – challenging in love and humility the authenticity and validity of our beliefs in such a way as encourages the upbuilding rather than the dismantling of Christ’s body.]