I am so very happy to announce that as of last Thursday, March 13th 2014 I have gained admission to Pratt Community College School of Nursing!

That’s right, after 2.5 years and 54 credits I have gained entrance into the one and only program I have applied to. What makes this so amazing is that there were probably at least a couple hundred applications for a program that only allows around 40 students. I feel the favor of The Lord!

My first class begins on May 1st, and I should graduate by the end of December 2014. It feels so good to have a more concrete date for when I will finally be able to take the state board examination to earn my license to practice as a Registered Nurse.

On another note, I wanted to announce the closing of this web site. This domain is due to expire on May 5th. I have never been very good at keeping multiple blogs going. I continue to write about my experiences as a father of four daughters. If you want to continue to follow along with my journey please follow my other blog, “Raising Women.”

Journal: College Update

November 5, 2013 — 3 Comments

I can’t believe it has been over two years since I wrote about my first week back in college!

My original plans had me completing college by now, but sometimes life gets in the way. With the exception of the fall of 2012 I have carried at least a 1/2 or 3/4 college study load. On average I have completed 25 credits per year so I’m pleased.

In our region of the country the nursing career has to pass through the TEAS-V test. This test is a requirement for entrance into most of the nursing programs in the area. There is a sense in which all of the prerequisites for nursing school are taken in preparation for this test. It is 170 questions covering math, english, science and reading. It is a massive mile marker on the road to becoming a nurse. It can either open the door wider or slam it in your face. It is the center of conversation for most students while they are completing their prerequisites. Next to the NCLEX-RN state board examination it is the biggest test a nursing student will take.

Today I took the TEAS-V test. It started a little rough. At about half way through the first module the ATI Testing web site decided to malfunction. I contacted the testing room proctor right away. We spent 10 minutes trying to figure out what was wrong. Eventually we worked through the problem. but the damage was done. I lost so much time that I was unable to complete all the questions. Nobody was going to leave me out in the cold, so we had to start the test all over, and an hour of my day was lost. I had to step out of the testing center and regain my composure after that.

Once I gathered myself I went back in and completed the test. Overall I’m very pleased with my results.

I'm glad this is over!

I’m glad this is over!

Nothing to be ashamed of in those results. I’m basically 10 points above average in each category. It’s strange to see two years and 50 college credits summed up in a single page and a 4 hour test.

Now I wait. In the next two weeks I will complete all of my prerequisites. I have already submitted all my application information to my first college. I will apply to at least one more in February. Between these two schools I should gain entrance into at least one.

I did manage to get someone to record my testing session from this morning. I’m the guy with the eye patch.

communicate-for-change

I didn’t fully realize I wanted to be an auditory communicator until I started my podcast in June of 2010. The next fifty-four weeks were some of the most fun I have ever had with a hobby. I poured out my heart in those fifty-four episodes. Men and women from all over the US and Canada joined me each week (sometimes live) as we engaged the subject of small business. I was sad when it all had to come to an end in July of 2011.

After the closure of my show, I stayed hungry for my return to communicating to groups. My dreams came true a year later when I was asked to take over the men’s Sunday School class at my church. I have been teaching for over a year now, and I have grown immensely because of it.

I don’t want to be an average communicator. I want to be an amazing communicator. I want my audience to be engaged, and I want my audience to be motivated to change. I have sat through hundreds of sermons in my life that have failed to accomplish either of these goals. I refuse to waste people’s time in this way. If someone is going to take the time to show up and listen to me speak, I want them to come away remembering and motivated.

Several years ago I found Andy Stanley, pastor of North Point Community Church. Andy’s communication style is of great interest to me. I have heard over two hundred of his sermons and can remember at least one major point from most of them. This is unique to me because I have spent my entire life in church and can’t say that about too many other ministers I have sat under. I can’t argue with the results. Many of the truths I have learned from Andy my wife and I have integrated into our family. We really have experienced life change because of his ministry.

I don’t want to be an exact replica of Andy Stanley, but I do believe he does have a fantastic strategy for effective communication. After reading Communicating For a Change I am convinced many teachers are missing the point of a quality message.

In this book Andy lays out his entire strategy for preparing every message. It can be summed up in one statement: “Make one single point.” Andy believes every sermon should be focused around one idea, or thought, that the speaker should make sure everyone will remember once they leave the auditorium. He believes that most speakers try to make too many points in any one sermon. If you happen to be a teacher/pastor reading this right now, and this is a new idea to you, you may think this is a ridiculous concept. Consider this thought before walking away from this book: “How many times have you left a church service and forgot the point of the message by the time you went to bed that night? My guess is that everyone reading this can think of multiple occasions where they couldn’t remember the previous Sunday’s message by midweek. That is not the kind of communicator anyone wants to become.

Secondary to the “Pick A Point” strategy is how Andy outlines his sermons. Unlike many communicators, Andy doesn’t work from point-by-point outlines. Instead, he has developed an outline system based on the communicator’s relationship with the audience rather than just data to be transferred. He calls it, “ME-WE-GOD-YOU-ME.” These five categories can also be described as, “Orientation-Identification-Illumination-Application-Inspiration.”

Here is an example he gives in the book:

“Let’s assume your topic is marriage. There are dozens of things you could say about marriage, but you have narrowed it down to one thing: Submission is the best decision. The idea being that our first response should be to put the needs and desires of our spouse ahead of our own. With that in mind, here’s how the MWGYW outline might look.

ME – Sometimes I find myself wondering how to respond to situations in my marriage.

WE – I imagine you have found yourself in situations where you weren’t sure what to do either.

GOD – The Bible teaches that we are to submit to one another; put the desires and needs of our spouse ahead of our own needs and desires.

YOU – Next time you aren’t sure what to say or do, ask yourself this question, “How can I put the needs and desires of my spouse ahead of my own in this moment?”

Conclusion: In marriage, submission is generally the best decision.

WE – Imagine what would happen in our community if all of us began to model that kind of mutual submission before our friends and neighbors.

Hopefully that helps give you a glimpse of how Andy organizes his messages in his head. Once Andy introduces the idea of “ME-WE-GOD-YOU-WE” he dedicates a nice amount of time to each of these outline categories to help the reader understand them at a deeper level.

I’m not a lead pastor, and I have no plans to ever be one. What I do have a desire to do is minister to men through my Sunday school class and any other opportunity given me.

My greatest desire is to deliver memorable and applicable material that encourages life change. I understand that ultimately it is God’s job to move in the heart of the hearer, and Andy Stanley makes this point as well. I am still not released from from the responsibility of delivering a message worthy of the time any audience has been gracious enough to hand over to me.

If you have a desire to communicate for life change you can’t go wrong here.

Couch to 0k

May 6, 2013 — 8 Comments
Photo Credit: hans s

Photo Credit: hans s

I used to be an athlete. Seriously, back in high school I was quite the basketball player. Twenty years, sixty pounds and a complete lack of physical activity have taken their toll on me. I am now just a shadow (a much larger shadow) of my formerly-athletic self.

Last year one of my best friends, Carl, lost over 50 pounds, and the majority of that was lost because of running. Watching his transformation doing something I used to really enjoy (distance running) really inspired me to start running myself. Due to a slight medical problem with my foot I wasn’t able to get started till this morning. Last week I downloaded a “Couch to 5k” app for my iPhone. My goal is to loose 30 pounds over the next several months. Hopefully running will help me achieve most of that.

c25k free

Carl is signing us both up for THIS run on June 15th. That gives me 6 weeks to get into shape for a 2.8 mile trail run. This morning I got started with my first day. There is a nice female voice that lets you know what to do so you don’t have to stare at the app while trying to run.

Polite Female Voice: “Begin your warm up now.”

According to the instructions the “warm up” is a brisk five-minute walk. I stepped out the front door of our house at 5:10 AM this morning and started walking briskly. After five minutes her voice chimes in again.

Polite Female Voice: “Begin running.”

After five minutes of brisk walking you jog for sixty seconds.

Internal Dialog: “This isn’t so bad. Yeah, this is great. This feels so good.”

Polite Female Voice: “Start walking.”

Internal Dialog: “Walking already? That’s just silly. Okay, well, whatever. I’ll walk for ninety seconds.”

Polite Female Voice: “Begin running.”

Internal Dialog: “Okay, now we are back to a manly activity. I am running, like a man runs. Yup, I’m still an athlete. Look at me. I’m Mr. Athlete still. Wait till Carl gets a load of me and my manliness.”

…..

…..

…..

Internal Dialog: “When is she going to tell me I can walk again? My back is starting to hurt. My calves are burning.”

Polite Female Voice: “Start walking.”

Internal Dialog: “Oh thank god…cough cough cough. How long do I get to walk? Only ninety seconds? I’m not sure that is long enough. Okay James. You are an athlete. You can do this.”

Annoying Female Voice: “Begin running.”

Internal Dialog: “Wow is my breathing labored. And what is this tightness I feel in my lungs? Why are my feet making this terrible slapping sound on the pavement? What happened to the nice rhythmic sound I was making a few minutes ago? Oh, here comes a truck. Stand up straight and fake it James. You don’t want these people to think this is your fist time running in about fifteen years.”

Polite Female Voice: “Start walking.”

Internal Dialog: “Oh, that is so much better. Now I’m clutching my side. This is pathetic, James. Surely you can do better than this.”

Unpleasant Female Voice: “You are half way.”

Internal Dialog: “Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo!”

Photo Credit: Keith Moyer

Photo Credit: Keith Moyer

It’s interesting what can be revealed to us when we decide to deny ourselves something.

Facebook is blocked at work which must be a good thing or I’m convinced my pay would be getting docked at this point. I cannot believe how often I reach for my iPhone with the intent of checking Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Between yesterday afternoon and this afternoon I wouldn’t even begin to guess how many times I looked down at my hand and asked myself: “Why am I staring at the apps screen of my phone unable figure out which one to launch?” Deep down I know it’s out of pure habit. When there is a slow minute (or thirty) I habitually unlock my phone and check those three platforms. Do I really believe anything THAT important has happened in the last hour? I must believe it because that’s how often I check. Surely someone has shared an article I can’t live without reading immediately. Surely someone has shared a snarky image I needed to read so I can make it through the rest of the day. Or maybe someone has shared a scripture verse I would never be able to find using my YouVersion app.

Obviously I’m just fine without those things. Just like any other negative habit, things just snuck up on me. It got so easy to just life up my phone and check a few statuses that before long that is what I am doing with my free time. Never mind the book I’m trying to get through. Never mind the scripture(s) I’m trying to memorize. Never mind the ever-important prayer and bible times in the morning.

I’ve been getting up at 5:30 AM for the last couple of months. I wake up my two oldest by reading scripture to them while sitting next to their beds with a cup of coffee. Don’t get impressed, it’s really hard and I don’t always feel like doing it, especially when they aren’t always very welcoming. Anyway, by 6:00 they are both up and I’m sitting in the living room with the next thirty minutes to do whatever I want. This morning I was able to knock out a couple of chapters in “Praying Circles Around Your Children” (read THIS first) with ease.

I can’t believe how much time I must have used up in the mornings checking social media. Bleh, what a waste of such a crucial time of the day! I’m such an easily distracted person. I’m almost embarrassed to discover how much time I used up on something I should probably just check twice a day not twice an hour and certainly not as a starter to the day.

After just one day I am convinced that by the end of this three week fast I will have a much healthier plan for the way I use social media. It is already obvious to me that it has taken way too much of a prominent position in my life.

Fast Social Media

March 11, 2013 — 8 Comments

Social Buster

Yesterday our pastor called all of the church to a 21 day fast leading up to Easter Sunday. Instead of food he wanted everyone to pick something they feel God is leading them to abstain from.

Yesterday afternoon I pondered what I should fast. I felt like it needed to be something I was used to doing ever day. I watch very little television so that one was out. I don’t have any hobbies that take up a lot of my time, certainly not something I do more than a couple times a week.

Eventually I realized that I needed to get away from all social media for three weeks. As the day progressed I realized how often I check Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. I bet between the three platforms I check them all at least ever 30 minutes. That’s just too much. If you know me it would come as no secret that I am easily distracted. Obviously social media has become an all-to-easy distraction for me.

The power of fasting food is that, as you get hungry, the feeling of hunger reminds you of what you are doing. Those hunger pains remind you to pray. This is why for these 21 days I need to fast something I will miss. Every time I reach for my iPhone I won’t find Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. The absence of these applications will remind me that I am in a time of prayer and seeking God.

For the next 21 days consider me off of all social media. Any blog posts I write will continue to be published to Facebook and Twitter because WordPress does it automatically. I won’t see any comments made on Facebook or Twitter so if you would like to share your thoughts on any of my posts you will have to do so in the comments below each post.

For these 21 days my prayers will be focused on my family. They have their hands full right now. I start back at school this evening, and I’m gone a lot when I’m taking classes. I won’t see Elaina and Anjelia at all on Monday’s and Tuesday’s because of these classes. When I am home I will still have a lot of studying to do so many evenings, when I’m home, I will probably seem absent.

I also need God’s guidance on how to lead this family well. Every day there are challenges Julie and I face. So much in the world of parenting is a moving target. What worked yesterday is not guaranteed to work tomorrow. Personalities are so different between the four of them that a systems minded guy like myself can’t just use one plan for everyone. That part of parenting has been the biggest challenge for me personally.

I’ve never had God speak to me in an audible voice, but there have been times in my life where I was more aware of His presence and direction than usual. During these next tree weeks I hope to increase that awareness and hopefully receive some direction in my life. I can never get enough of that.

Be sure to subscribe to Raising Women and ManDurance to keep up on everything I write.

I’m brilliant. I only pretend to be stupid so you won’t feel insecure.

Said Julie to James

White Out

January 31, 2013 — 4 Comments
Photo Credit: keoshi

Photo Credit: keoshi

Yesterday morning about 8:00 AM a quiet and gentle snow shower moved its way across Kansas City. I love those kinds of mornings in the winter. There is something spiritual about a fresh snow. I am reminded of a verse in Isaiah.

Isaiah 1:18

though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow

As I watched the many colors of rough ground being replaced with the white snow I gained a deeper understanding of this verse. Once enough snow had fallen, all the ground looked the same. It looked cleaner than it really was. It had the appearance of evenness. The snow filled in the gaps between the rocks and limbs lying on the ground. As I looked out past the hill in the back yard I could see the cut marks left by last summer’s lawn service. Eventually, those lines would disappear and begin to match the rest of the yard as the blanket of white overtook all the ground. It all looked even. It all looked clean.

God’s grace works much in the same way. It covers the rocks and broken limbs and dirty places of my life. The cut marks left by life’s trials and tribulations are replaced with the beauty of perfectness. Underneath I am dirty, broken and flawed. God’s grace and love covers all of that and gives me a cleanliness that only comes from the One who is perfect.

God’s grace is perfect, but my maintenance of it is not. I may track across it stirring up the dirt underneath. I may just press the grace deeper into the mud below causing it to turn brown. I may allow someone to push grace to the side revealing my natural uncleanness. Still, God’s grace is near, and ready to cover over the dirt again.

———-
Don’t forget to check out my newest blog Raising Women!

My Mission

January 3, 2013 — 6 Comments
Photo Credit: Keene and Cheshire County (NH) Historical Photos

Photo Credit: Keene and Cheshire County (NH) Historical Photos

If I don’t find a mission above and beyond myself I may lose my mind over the next 24-36 months.

In March I go back to college after taking this last semester off. I will spend the next ten months completing the four prerequisites needed to enter a nursing program. In December of this year I will enter an eighteen month RN program. If I focus only on this one goal I struggle with the frustrating feeling that I will never get done. I’m officially a year behind my original plans. My kids will be a year older when I’m done than I originally planned. My oldest will be a junior in high school. The next youngest will be driving. The next youngest will be almost fourteen and the very youngest will be painfully close to her teen years. It all seems way too long to continue to live this far below the national average when it comes to my income. This rebooting of my income is so inconvenient.

As I stepped into 2013 this week I came to a stark realization. I need something additional as the backdrop for the next few years. If the only thing I have time for is my education then I run the risk of living every day under a dark cloud of frustration.

This week I made a permanent decision. I’m not calling it a “New Year’s Resolution”. I generally think those are silly. As my pastor said last week: “If you are waiting till a certain day of the year to decide to make a change you are probably the kind of person who never changes.” The only way to take a task as big as getting a degree and making it less of a focus is to replace it with something much bigger. I need to make it a goal that doesn’t dominate my thought life.

What is bigger than getting my degree? The kingdom of God is. I can find all kinds of ways to justify the next 2-3 years spiritually. I can think about the way I can give more money to the church with a bigger income. I can think about how I can pay for my daughters to go on missions trips and youth retreats because of my bigger income. The problem with this is it won’t change the timetable. If I can find things to be working on other than my degree time will pass quicker, and I will have a chance to enjoy other things in life.

I want to help my daughters begin to develop a deep understanding that God has a plan for their lives. I want to help men who have become disillusioned with God and church rekindle the fire of eternal purpose. I want my wife to grow in the understanding that she brings immense value to the lives of everyone who is blessed enough to encounter her every day. For myself I want nothing more than to be useful in God’s multi-generational plan to reconcile the earth to himself through the unconditional gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.

I want a degree. I want a better income. I want more professional responsibility and influence. Those things are fine. There is nothing wrong with wanting those things. But what I want more than anything else is to live out Matthew 11:12 in every area of my life.

From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it.

Walmart needs a little Jesus. – Mia

Overheard at work