Jenny and I are off for a few days of playful rest in the south Pacific with our oldest two. Taking advantage of life’s many blessings.
Our time in Europe was refreshing and extremely productive from a personal and kingdom standpoint. Jennifer and I both felt extremely used by the Lord (a marvelous commentary to be had on how the rest of secular culture hates “being used”), and that we were in the right place at the right time.
The tour included teaching at the EDEN discipleship school, concerts in Longwy, Longuyon and Woippy, and nights of worship as well Sunday ministry at L’Eglise Sans Frontier—our home church in France. We also made stops in Belgium, Luxembourg and Holland.
I share the following workflow for three reasons. The first is that I get a lot of requests about how I prepare my messages, and people seem genuinely helped when I explain my methods. The second is that it speaks to study in general; not everyone is a pastor or teacher, but everyone, especially Christians, should be students of scripture and of life.
The third is that I believe I’m in the cross-over generation from print Bibles to digital Bibles, at least in leading and developing first world nations. This is important. I grew up reading my Gideon hotel-stolen NKJV until it needed rebinding, and my leather-bound NIV Rainbow Study Bible. But as I traveled more (specifically flying), the sheer weight and size of my Bibles and notebooks became an impediment. As the iPhone, and then iPad made it easier to chose how I could pack, my study habits also started to change. They became more efficient, and therefore more powerful.
Superior tools allow a craftsman to do better work. The generation behind me often finds digital sterile and cold, some might even say “un-anointed.” But the generation coming after me needs to be even more immersed in the written Word. I’m sure there may have been similar despondency when people could actually bring a Bible into their home for the first time. “But how will we know what it means if the priest isn’t here to teach us?” Or how about the glaring hurdle of having to learn how to read?
The point is, if there are new tools available to us that proliferate the accessibility of scripture and allow us to understand more than ever before, we need to champion them, if nothing more than for the sake of those coming after us.
When preparing a sermon for a church service, I first have to begin where I want to end: my audience (their needs and contextual appetites), my time frame (if I’m at New Life, we have four services each with a 20-25 minute window for the message; if I’m at EDEN school in France, I look at 3-hour blocks), and obviously my goal (what I want them leaving with). Without these, I tend to ramble, over prepare, and think more about what I want to say than what God wants to say. Remember, constraints can either limit you or serve you—the choice is entirely yours.
All of my messages begin (and mostly end) on my iPhone. It’s always with me, so convenience is key. It’s also the place I do my largest amount of Bible reading. I use four different apps for different reasons.
Bible by YouVersion: This is the easiest and simplest app to read from for me. The social connectivity attributes are nice, but not really the reason I’m there. When I need to copy and paste scriptures, this app places them in my clipboard with the reference in parentheses at the bottom. I have it loaded with ESV, NKJV, NIV, KJV and NLT.
PocketSword by CrossWire: This is the mojo, the magic sauce Bible app for me. I use it for one thing: Greek and Hebrew (Strongs modules) in the KJV (the only version they appear in). When I want to research and break down the words (something all good teachers and preachers need to be in the practice of), PocketSword is my go-to app.
Lumina by Bible Studies Foundation: This NET translation of the Bible comes hyperlinked with 60,000 translation notes created by 25 translation scholars from Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew. Great for digging a little deeper into those hard-to-understand passages.
Bible+ by Olive Tree: I tend to make most of my in-Bible notes and highlights in this app as it “feels” the most like reading my favorite print Bibles. I typically read out of the ESV here. Pasting copied sections strips out the references, so if I want to grab something I like, I jump back to YouVersion.
The other reading app I use most (paired beside Evernote, which I’ll hit next) is Kindle for iOS. In here I’m gleaning from whatever non-fiction or essays (PDFs) I’ve downloaded. I’m a firm believer that you don’t have enough time to extract everything out of the Bible that you need, so you better eat from the hands of others who’ve used their entire lives to share something worth digesting.
Since I’m one of those preachers who believes that everything needs to be rooted and end up in the written Word, most all of my ideas launch out of verses that speak to my life experiences, world happenings and what I believe God is trying to say to people (my audience, in particular).
As a result, when I’m reading in one of my Bible apps, I’m bound to open Evernote within moments. Evernote is my catch-all of choice. From pics and drawings to links and syncing, it’s my jam, and arguably the best on the market.
I have an “Academics” stack that contains most all of my more heady content, and within, my “Messages” notebook. I allow this notebook to be very fluid. It not only contains finished content, but also “content in process.” Or as my Dad uses in his three ring binders, his “Sermons Working” tab.
Here’s a shot from a message I preached last Sunday at L’Eglise Sans Frontiers in Longuyon, France:
When I’m traveling or under time constraints, I preach right out of Evernote from my iPad or iPhone. But if I have time, there’s one extra step that I take. Fair warning: this is for geeks, nerds, designers and people with any level of OCD.
I import my content from Evernote into InDesign to create a good looking PDF.
I learned from designer Nathan Davis to value the added step of creating a beautiful looking PDF as it has a way of internalizing the content more thoroughly. This added process, while sometimes time consuming, is a great way of embedding the message deeper into my gut where it moves from notes I have to read verbatim to a message I can proclaim intuitively. And when I need to transition from teaching to preaching while onstage, this key component is essential.
My father, Peter, taught (and challenged) me to love scripture. And he still prepares his messages using his wonderful leather-bound Bible and 8″ three-ring notebooks filled with his handwriting. What he passed on, however, we’re not his methods, but his love for God’s Word. Regardless of how you learn, study, preach or teach, make sure that you’re more focused on imparting than on your process: few people will remember how you did it, but everyone will remember what you did.
Jennifer and I’ve had a wonderful time here in northern France for the last several days. In the mornings I’ve been teaching the students at EDEN discipleship school, followed by various activities in the afternoons, and nights of worship in the evenings.
I’ve been lecturing on redefining the gospel “according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:2), and its resulting impact on the function of evangelism. The discussions with the students have been wonderfully inspiring, and I’m excited to see them unleashed on local villages later in the week as we find creative ways to demonstrate sacrificial love personified.
As always, it’s not the places that we visit that leave a lasting impact on us, but the people we meet. Here are some of their faces.
I know. A bit tongue-in-cheek for those that know my wife dresses me. Out of sheer social necessity. But sandals? That’s something I know a thing or two about. Review, here I come.
I discovered Vere Sandals last week. They liked a vintage photo I posted on Instagram of my father-in-law in Letchworth State Park from the ’70s. Intrigued, I clicked on their profile and saw cool sandals-in-process pics. And then a pic of what looked a lot like the Finger Lakes. As a guy who grew up in the beautiful wine-country region on central NY, I can spot a tree-speckled horizon of waterfront property a mile away. Sure enough, their company location read “Geneva, NY.”
Wait, wait. Good looking sandals, hand made in Geneva, NY? And no, Geneva, NY isn’t code for some NYC burrow filled with migrant workers.
But they’re probably expensive.
So I jumped on their website and immediately went searching for a price point.
$34 for foamies, $54 for leathers.
That’s as much, if not cheaper than what I pay for my Reefs (two pair annually).
OK, but they probably feel like crap.
Why am I so jaded?
Only one way to overcome this consumer bias. So I bought a pair of Men’s Louie Sandals in black and blue, size 10. They arrived at my PO Box a few days later.
The sparse packaging was cool, and reemphasized the slogan I’d seen on their sight: “Made here. Made better.” Another personal touch was the hand written note from Mike. Not sure who Mike is, but he cared enough to just not stuff a receipt in the padded envelope. Nice touch.
I’m a smell guy, so the scent of newly pressed foam and needle-point-nylon wafted out of the envelope. My designer eye scanned the lines for imperfections, thinking somehow that handmade meant shoddy. Wrong. From the laser engraved heel emblem to the flawless trim lines, these beauties were well executed. Even the bright blue Vere logo on the sandal strap was understated but purposeful.
I happened to be on our sail boat in port (#1000Islands), so what better time to test them out? I flicked off my trusty-dusty Reefs from last season, and eased on the new Veres.
First impressions were of pulling on a new glove. Fairly tight, but by no means uncomfortable. I forgot that I was coming from well-worn Reefs with a solid synthetic strap. The Veres have a woven strap that seemed to expand slightly with my foot.
I won’t lie, the tight fit scared me. Then I started thinking maybe I should’ve purchased 11s as the 10s left little room behind the heel or in front of the toe. The only problem was that they felt good. Really good.
I took a stroll down our dock, immediately feeling the subtle support built into the multilayers of foam. This was different. I also tend to walk slightly pigeon toed, so my heels wear to the inside of a sandal; but looking down, I noticed the sandal was staying right in line with my awkward foot-angle.
With a few passes in our marina, I started to wonder if I really needed all the extra real estate I always purchase with my Reefs. Because these sandals felt a lot less like sandals, and more like…
But with comfort built in.
In fact, they fit so well, I could actually feel that my right foot was bigger than the left (which it is). Where the left strap felt perfect, the right strap felt a little too tight. And for the first 24 hours of wearing them, I felt a slight rub on the inside of my right foot. It was annoying, but I reminded myself that: a) I’d come front a different style sandal, and b) they hadn’t broken in yet.
I posted a quick pic on Instagram, and a few minutes later @veresandals was talking back. More nice.
I stopped by a friend’s house in Rochester, NY yesterday. He immediately noticed the new treads and asked, “May I?” I acquiesced, and the moment his foot went in (also a size 10), he looked up surprised. “They feel great!”
“I know,” I replied with a smile. “They’re Veres. And they’re made an hour from you.”
The most starling Vere discovery, however, came after a full day of use. I was sitting on the couch talking with Jenny when I scratched my foot. A second later, I wiped my nose (come on, you all do stuff like this too). But something was missing.
The horrid foot-stink.
I was literally so shocked (remember, I’m a smell guy), I buried my nose in my toes. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I looked over at my Reefs by the front door and could practically smell the cow manure stench they give off after a day’s use. Granted, it could be because the Veres are new; I half expect them to stink by week’s end. But every pair of Reefs I’ve ever purchased smelled the first day.
By the end of my second day, the right side strap-rub was all but gone. And that’s when I had to make the big decision. Do I take them to France with me or not? What footwear you bring overseas is a big deal if you’re a frequent traveler. It can often make or break your trip. Jenny was packing my suit case and saw me deliberating. “Take the ones that don’t smell,” she said.
And I did.
I’m sitting on the plane heading overseas wearing my Veres and packing my Merrel shoes. The deal is sealed.
My next pair of sandals will be Veres. And the pair after that. If they keep making great products, employing my neighbors, and valuing their materials usage (including disposal) like they do, I can’t imagine buying anything else.
Can’t wait to try their leather sandals—that’s next.
If you buy some, tell them Christopher sent you. I don’t get a thing from it, I just like being personable with a company that treats me personally. Then come back here and share your story.
UPDATE: In the time it took me to publish this post, Vere got back to me via Instagram about why my feet don’t smell. Classy.
Jennifer and I leave for France in the morning. While most of our francophone focus has been in Switzerland over recent years, France is where it all began. We’re thrilled to be back with our French family and honored to spend ten days imparting into the amazing discipleship students currently enrolled in EDEN. See you on the flip side.
Life is built on a sequence of events played out over time.
I can’t buy my next guitar until I sell my present guitar. Which I just did.
(Enjoy, Mark R.)
I couldn’t write this post until I got here to Hawaii. Between the build up to Easter, the launching of our North Campus, and leading worship and speaking at Redline Conference, I haven’t had anything more to give a public. This post was conditional upon my last “posting” of service to another audience.
All this to say, I’m simply reminded that we can’t do the next thing unless we finish the present thing.
The next thing sounds wonderful and exciting. It’s a distant horizon, an unopened gift beneath the Christmas tree.
The present thing is familiar.
And not the vintage, old-timey old. I mean nasty old. The “dear lord, I’m so sick of this and I just want it to end” kind of old that demands a high level of something to tolerate.
Of endurance? Patience? Stamina? Fortitude?
Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. (Hebrews 10:36 NLT)
The next thing becomes the sweetest thing only when the present thing is treated faithfully.
Said differently with some verbose alliteration, don’t rob your pending promise of its pleasure by prematurely parting with your present plan.
Stay with it, whatever you’re doing today. There is a very real reward on its way.
I’m off to dive on a plane wreck in O’ahu. Yes, rewards are worth being patient for.
Giving stuff away is amazing. Way better than getting something yourself. (It’s almost like Jesus knew what he was talking about).
Jennifer and I had the honor of representing Guitars For Glory during our recent trip to Guatemala last month. This meant surprising three people with brand new guitars. We made sure the cameras were rolling, and managed to produce something we’re all proud of. (Thank you, Sprig Music).
Sure, who wouldn’t like a free guitar?
But what the documentary doesn’t show is all the back-story behind the recipients. Like how Rudy’s father abandoned his family for the US, and Rudy was left to be provider for his four siblings and mother; today, he’s a pillar in his family and his church. Or Roger, who’s given himself fully to educating children, and makes in one year what I make in three weeks. Then there’s Willy, who’s always wanted to lead people in worship on guitar, but knew it’d be impossible, seeing as how it’d take him and his entire family over a decade to save up enough combined money to buy one.
The stories are real. The tears are real. Because the people are real.
And that’s the power we have as being part of the world’s wealthiest people.
Please watch the video. Then thoughtfully consider three things:
1.) Giving to Guitars For Glory so they can continue to spread the message of hope in Jesus through music.
2.) Sponsor a child with Inn Ministries, our hosting organization in Guatemala. I can’t say enough about these people. They’re the real deal, and you’re having a daily impact on children when you give toward their education.
3.) Let me know what you think—about all this. I’d love to hear.
You were born to rock. So get to it.
As reader Venaril so aptly put, I’d rather deal with a physical injury than be ill. Montezuma has not been good to me over the last 3 days. But some rice water and my first solid night’s sleep in 14-days finally did the trick. (All the prayers certainly had something to do with it too).
(To make rice water, boil two handfulls of rice in 3 cups of water for 10-15 minutes, strain, cool, and then drink).
Despite needing to make bathroom runs every 30-90 minutes, I’ve managed to make great headway on finishing Sprig Studios the last few days since returning from Guatemala; if I didn’t have a looming deadline, I’d have posted more about the trip (which I plan to by the end of next week). CS Lewis’ adopted son, Doug Gresham, is flying in on Monday with a new artist we’re signing to Sprig Records. Very exciting!
I call this travel sickness. And I currently have it.
Jennifer and I are hitting Guatemala for the next ten days, and we’re so excited to go back to a people and a ministry that deeply touched our hearts. Not only will we be able to re-connect with the four children that we sponsor, but we’ll be ministering before some incredible and diverse audiences. Even since Inn Ministries published this infographic, we’ve been notified that another school has invited us to come speak.
A few fun ways to engage with us on this trip:
• Stay tuned here for long-form updates.
• Invest $5, $15 or $25 to Inn Ministries.
• Sponsor a child for $30/mos.
Giving should be fun. So let’s have some!
• Shout Out Pics: For those of you who chose to invest into the Inn, Jennifer and I’ll post a customized picture just for you that will hit Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and on our blogs. Mine will probably be whacky; Jennifer’s will be thoughtful. Mine will be random; Jennifer’s will be intentional.
• Us and Your Child: If you chose to sponsor a child, Jennifer and I will post a picture of us with your sponsor child. This also applies to anyone who already sponsors a child through the Inn. Again, leave a comment and give us your child’s name. This is a beautiful way to connect with your kids through us—we’ll be your eyes, but you’re still the heart.
Thanks for for being an integral part of changing culture with us.
There’s an old adage:
Anything worth doing is worth doing well.
I’m pretty sure there’s another one. At least there is for me:
Anything worth doing well is worth doing as a team.
And maybe better still:
Anything you want to do well, you’d better do with a team.
Last night, the team pictured above rallied to put on one heck of a show at Indian River High—the largest campus in our county. The event was one of our youth ministry’s LIFTED events, which mixes music, worship, drama, dance and video to support a Gospel message, concluding with an invitation to accept Jesus.
Here are a few reasons I resist doing things without a team:
They’re Smarter Than I Am
When things go wrong and systems fail, I want to be around people that are smarter than me. Or, at the very least, will look at things with different eyes. This allows problems to be treated with new solutions that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise.
We had a few unforeseen system integration audio issues during set up last night; work arounds came much faster because ideas were shared quickly and freely. We checked one another’s work and talked through some of the more complex signal paths. Because the teams trust each other and are not threatened, even people not on the audio crew were getting involved and doing their best to serve and troubleshoot.
When the pressure gets high, you need people around you who can make you laugh. The only other release for pressure tends to be rather destructive: you allow it to mount until you snap. And people or things usually get hurt.
Keeping things fun, even in highly stressful scenarios (and I’d argue especially in highly stressful scenarios) is absolutely critical. Dedicated, hard working people who have a lighter side, and know when to augment situational tension with a bit of levity are crucial for letting teams reset and keep things in perspective.
Humor is also a great way for you as a leader to let your team know you’re not drowning in frustrations when things go wrong. At one moment last night when things were especially difficult, I just decided to start dancing. No music. No beat. Just my moves (which are in themselves hilariously pitiful). It made people laugh and reminded us all to keep the main thing the main thing—our core message: we’re here to share the Good News of Jesus with teens.
At the end of the day, saying, “I did all that,” gets rather boring. Not because you’re suffering from a lack of ideas, but because you have no one to share it with.
Doing things together means more people are taking pride in what’s happening. And people that do things together end up building stronger bonds because of the process.
This sense of community not only makes the end product more vivid and colorful, but it’s essential in spreading whatever core message you’re attempting to promote.
Doing things as a team says to history, “We were here. We had something so important to say that we needed many voices to say it with.”
May history never forget us and the future never forsake us.
What are some of the favorite teams you ever worked with? What made them special?
UPDATE 11:39AM EST: Jonathan’s site is currently down, and it looks like he’s abandoned this voyage. Details still pending. He still gets a Kili-Boranna patch for his efforts.
If ever there was someone who deserved to be inducted into the Kili-Boranna Guild as an honorary member, its certainly Jonathan Trappe.
He’s an IT specialist and aviation buff who’s obsessed with attempting things out of ordinary in record-setting style. As if his cluster balloon airlift of a faux house á la “Up” wasn’t enough, he’s now attempting a trans-Atlantic voyage in a lifeboat basket beneath 300 helium filled cluster balloons.
Checking out his website is a definite must; there you’ll find two nifty links, one that’s plotting his course, the other that’s tracking his transponder, including his exact location, speed and elevation.
God’s speed, Jonathan. And as the Guild would say…
Fly or die,
Christopher sez: No, I’m not going to New Zealand. At least not yet. She is on my top three “favorite countries I have not yet been to but desperately want to see before I go home to be with Jesus” list.
(Others on that list include Australia, Japan, and Fiji).
But one of my guests has written a piece on travel to New Zealand.
I know I have a number of faithful readers in New Zealand, and I’m curious to know in the comments section if you can corroborate these locations, and perhaps give other notable places to visit. (Im making my own list, so they better be good!).
• • •
The great outdoors isn’t just trees and birds and animals and earth. It also serves as one of the strongest evidences of God’s grace. Many Christians feel a strong link to God’s presence when interacting with the great outdoors. Pope John Paul II was an avid outdoorsman, often going on numerous hiking, skiing, and kayaking trips as part of his ministry. His successor, Pope Benedict XVI, exhorted parents to show their children the wonders of God in nature. If you want to do the same, there’s no better place to visit than New Zealand.
With its wide, rolling vistas and breathtaking sights, New Zealand has long been a favorite haven for those enamored with the great outdoors and is a popular destination on Dial A Flight. Here are a few things that the entire family can enjoy on a visit to Kiwi country.
For a truly authentic New Zealand experience, rent a campervan and embark on a North Island road trip. Kids and adult film fans alike will appreciate the drive through the real-life versions of Hobbiton and Mordor, two of the most prominent locations in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. You also get to see a wide variety of New Zealand’s many different landscapes from lush, green rainforests and rolling farmlands to towering mountains and volcanic fields. The journey starts in Auckland and ends at Wellington, the nation’s capital.
Don’t ditch your campervan just yet. New Zealand’s South Island is where the real outdoor adventure starts. You can head to Queenstown and find out why it’s called the Adventure Capital of the World. You can go on a quick boat ride to spot giant sperm whales or make a beeline for the Otago Peninsula to spend a day with fur seals, sea lions, and, if you’re lucky, royal albatrosses. Lake Wanaka also offers a myriad of water activities including kayaking, swimming, and fishing. Practically everywhere you go in the South Island is an outdoor adventure waiting to happen, with every sight a clear sign of the Creator’s majesty and love.
• • •
Christopher sez: OK, readers, chime in. If you live in or have visited New Zealand, what are some of your favorite places?