Favorite Tweets for October

Happy Halloween! Here are some sweet tweets from October:

From Others

@TeachForAmerica"The barrier for my students is that they don't think college is possible. But they just need motivation and information."

@PaulTrippYou have hope because God's glorious, unstoppable grace means he will not turn his back on you, even on your worst day.

@DaddysinCharge:  Kids: 0 to 100 mph the moment they wake up.

@FirstWorldPains I hate being overweight, but the one thing I hate more than being overweight is exercising.

@GraceChurchSCWhat have you left OR what do you need to leave to follow Jesus? Luke 5

@mwbuckingham:  Passion isn't something that lives up in the sky, in abstract dreams. It lives at ground level, the details of what you're doing every day.

@MarkMerrill Our children need to know that we love them for who they are, not for what they do or don’t do.

@donaldmillerIf I’m not excited about spending another day with God, I’ve likely lost track of how good God is.

@CoachWithLove:  Opportunity may knock only once, but temptation leans on the doorbell. 

@DavidAllston:  Just heard on the radio about a pastor who has discovered a biblical code to help me make money. Count me in!!

From Me

Why do & think it's a good idea to have babies near spring break? A damper on our plans for soccer camp.

Great reminder (via ) if you are traveling overseas: Don't give money (or gifts) to poor children.

At my first game in 20 years. Recruiting trip. No, not for me. For the 4 football players with me.

One Small Thing: Positive Reflections

I am a pessimist. There is no denying that.

I tend to look at negative statistics, instead of the positive. I fret over everything that could go wrong, instead of what will probably go right.

Having an outlook of happiness is healthy for you. And in my life (and maybe yours), this negativity has led me to struggle with depression.

But happiness has to more than just being healthy or not depressed. Belle Beth Cooper writes that "happiness alone isn’t enough for us to feel fulfilled. Sadly, chasing happiness is really common these days, and most of us don’t realize why being happy isn’t enough for us to be satisfied with life."

Is Happiness Enough for Positivity?   

So then, it's not just about thinking about good things, but remembering the good things that make a difference. Therefore, this past month, every evening, I spent time thinking about something positive that happened that day -- either what someone else did to bring me happiness, or what I was able to do to bless someone else. (This was another tip from Ms. Cooper.)

I had already failed miserably at spending 10 mindful minutes every day. I wondered if I would fail at this one. (See that? I was being negative right at the get-go.)

Thankfully, I did accomplish this goal of remembering positive things. Here are a few examples:
  • My daughter and I started working through some material on adolescence. I'm glad that God is empowering and equipping us to lead her through this transitional phase.
  • So many people in our community worked together to host a neighborhood fish fry. We had a great turnout!
  • Chatted with very kind tellers at our local bank.
  • On a weekday where we had no football practice (a rarity), I got to play with my kids outside for about an hour, and then played board games with my youngest son later that evening.
  • Exchanged emails with some guys in prison, whom I co-labor with in ministry. One of the guys told me that they pray for me regularly.
  • I get to participate in "Abba's Kitchen," a ministry by Allendale Baptist Church in which they provide (partnering with other churches) a meal and a devotion for 50-80 college students every Wednesday night.

What did I learn this month?

First, I can find joy in the simplest and most mundane parts of life. Happiness and meaning aren't found only in monumental events. (Watch this 2.5 minute video from Jeff Vanderstelt, Finding Joy in the Everyday.)

Second, every single day, I have the opportunity to be an agent of positive change in my family, job, ministry, and community.

November Small Thing: Write a Book

Next month, I am going to write a book. I've thought about doing this for a while, and a few friends have asked me if I would do it.

I have some ideas of things I could write about for a non-fiction book, based on what we've learned about poverty, education, community, etc. over the past few years. This seems logical, especially considering of our upcoming move from Allendale.

But in the spirit of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), I will write a novel. The specific goal will be to write 50,000 words in November.

As a perfectionist (is that connected to my negativity?), the hardest part of this may be the number one rule for writing a rough draft:
"Do not touch the Delete key."

Note: Because of the strain of this goal (I need to average 1667 words per day), I will cut back drastically on the amount of blogging this month. If anything, my blog posts on both of my blogs will consist of links to other articles, guest posts, short questions, photos, etc. Thanks for giving me this leeway.

Edit: Here is a sneak preview of the book.

Do you have any goals for this month? How about your yearly goals (2013 is almost over!) . . . . How are those goals coming along for you?


**photo courtesy of Viewminder via foter.com

Weighing the Options: Should We Have a Baby? Should We Celebrate Halloween?

If you're reading this blog post, you've probably already decided to have a child. And if you have a child, you've probably made up your mind about what you are going to do about Halloween this year. But who would have thought that there was an even more important connection between these two decisions?

Doghouse Diaries. That's who. (You can see the comic below, but be sure to click on the link for additional commentaries in the caption and a mouse-over.)


Thoughts on Halloween

I don't think our kids know for sure what they are going to dress as for Halloween, which begins (for us) this Saturday at Allendale Elementary School's Trunk-or-Treat. But we have always allowed our kids to do so.

Last year, I gave some Thoughts on Halloween for a Christian Parent, including articles that might have encouraged or challenged your viewpoints. Here are some additional articles that I came across that could do the same:

Four Reasons My Family Trick-or-Treats (Cripplegate Blog).  My favorite: "Relationships with my neighbors are strengthened through this day."

Halloween and Evangelical Identity (Russell Moore).  How do you know what kind of evangelical you are? Read this short and funny article to find out.

3 Reasons Christians MUST Celebrate Halloween (Jeremy Myers).  First, to be a light in the darkness. Second, to demonstrate generosity. Third, free candy!

5 Tips for a Happy Christian Halloween (The Resurgence).  Winfield Bevins reminds us to use this as an opportunity to communicate and demonstrate the gospel -- to our kids, neighbors, and even to those who disagree.

Halloween: Trick, Treat or Missional? (Verge Network).  Jo Saxton isn't a big fan of Halloween. But she still makes the most of this opportunity to connect with her neighbors.

5 Practical Ways to Be Missional on Halloween (Verge Network).  Like every other article listed here, the author of this one encourages us to use this day to build relationships in our communities and neighborhoods.

If you have any thoughts, or any other articles (including from your own blog), please leave them in a comment.

Science and Magic

If you know me, you know that I love science.

As best I can remember, this love of science began in elementary school, when the teacher burned a strip of magnesium metal. I thought it was the coolest thing I had ever seen. From that moment on, I knew that I wanted to be a chemist.

(That may seem odd, because chemists don't usually try to cause fires. But here's the lesson for teachers: if you want a child to be interested in science, don't stress over standards and definitions. You just have to do something that makes them say, "Wow!" That's it.)

Suddenly, my mind was inclined to all things science. My worldview was shaped by materialism and pragmatism. Therefore, any thoughts about God and Jesus and religion were immediately met with my inner voice screaming, "That's all just stories. I need evidence."

You can read more about my journey from atheism to faith in Remembering My Salvation. But let's get back to the topic of science. . . .

CS Lewis and Scientism

I first read C.S. Lewis (The Chronicles of Narnia) when I was in middle school, long before I was a follower of Jesus Christ. I enjoyed that series immensely, as pure entertainment. But when I re-read those books in college, after I became a Christian, I saw them on a whole different level. That's a testimony to Lewis' ability to connect with a variety of mindsets.

I recently watched the documentary The Magician's Twin: C.S. Lewis and the Case Against Scientism. Scientism is effort to use the methods of science to explain and control every part of human life. It states that the bar of science is the standard by which every human discipline should be measured.

Scientism is not the same as science. Justin Taylor notes that under scientism "science (a good thing) can be twisted in order to attack religion, undermine ethics, and limit human freedom."

The Twins of Science and Magic

Lewis considered science and magic to be twins:
  1. Both attempt to give MEANING to life. Therefore, they both have the ability to function as religion.
  2. Both encourage a LACK OF SKEPTICISM, by telling you to trust the "experts." Numerous psychology and sociology studies have shown that "people will believe almost anything if it's dressed up in the name of science." (See the Milgram Experiment, for example.)
  3. Both involved a quest for POWER, as they involve a desire to control our world.

If you are interested in science and philosophy, I encourage you to watch the entire video. But you can at least skip ahead to learn more about:
  • Scientocracy (22:46), a society that claims to be based on science, but is actually ruled by a certain clique of people, who claim a right to rule based on their scientific expertise.
  • Governmental tyranny (27:51). "I dread government in the name of science. That is how tyrannies come it." 

Where I Stand

Now that I come to faith, some have accused me of being anti-science. Again, if you know me, you know that that is not the case.

I love science, and I want others to love it and explore it, too. It's my job, after all, and I enjoy exploring science with my own children.

But we cannot get sucked into the circular logic that claims, "If science can't prove it, then can't know that it's real." Neither science nor magic can rightly claim to give all of life's meaning, truth, and power.

Stuart Firestein reminds us that it's not like there is a finite set of truths (in our perspective). Everything we learn about the universe only shows how much more we don't know. And science cannot claim to give us all those answers.

“In an honest search for knowledge you quite often have to abide by ignorance for an indefinite period.” -- Erwin Schrodinger

Related Links:

 **image courtesy of vierdrie via rgbstock.com

[Question] Helping Your Preschooler Understand: "What Does It Mean to Glorify God?"

Here's a question a friend asked me a few months ago?
What's a practical explanation to a 6 and 4 yr old of what it means to glorify God? What we've found is that in teaching our kids they internalize it by "works" instead of by the hearts orientation.

This is a challenge for parents -- trying to explain abstract concepts to children, who better process concrete information. And the goal of Christian parenting is not just to do behavior modification, but to help orient their hearts towards God. By reaching their hearts, you allow God to change them from the inside out.

The basic definition of "glorying God" is to think highly of someone or something, and to want others to think more highly of him or it. Let's consider a practical example for a preschooler, and then use it to work back to the abstract idea.

Glorying the Moose

Pretend that you have a favorite stuffed animal. In honor of my Canadian friends (I have two of them!), we'll say it's a stuffed moose, named "Maple."

Now you love Maple the Moose. You always think about Maple. You look after him, and make sure no one messes with him. He's the best, and you want everyone to know it.

There are some things you do for Maple the Moose because you love him so much.
  • You don't let him get dirty. 
  • You always put him on top of your pile of stuffed animals.
  • You sleep with him. 
  • You tell everyone how great Maple is, because he is special to you, and you think he should be special to others.

Yes, you take concrete actions, but those actions are only because of one thing: you really love him. You think about Maple all the time. He's the most special thing to you . In fact, it's not that you think about DOING so much for Maple, but that you love him so much that your actions are natural and automatic.

Glorying God  

In the same way, glorifying God is not about a bunch of actions that show how much I love Him. Glorifying God is just about recognizing how great He is, and wanting others to know how great He is. Sure, some of that requires actions, but more than actions, it's an internal awareness of all that He is, and all that He has done.

I know this gets close to being about "works," but I think that is a struggle for us adults as well.
Not sure if that helps or not. I might have just turned your kids into moose worshipers.

Does this analogy help? Or have I turned your kids into a bunch of moose-worshipers?

If you can come up with a better analogy, or offer any changes, I'd appreciate it. Let me know in the comments (or if you having trouble leaving a comment, contact me some other way).

Related Links:

**image courtesy of sideshowmom via morguefile

Book Winner: Leading a Special Neesd Ministry

Well that was easy!

Last week, we offered to give away a free copy of the book Leading a Special Needs Ministry. And we have a winner!

Shelly Burkey -- please contact me to send me your address, so you can get your book.

If you didn't win, you can still buy this book from the Orange store, with a discount. From now until the end of the year, use the Coupon Code LSNM2 to receive $2 off the cover price. 

Edit: Now available to buy on Amazon

What We Spend -- and Don't Spend -- to Raise a Child

About a year ago, I shared a story about a conversation I had regarding The Cost of Kids.

From this article in the New York Times, it turns out that calculating how much parents spend on their children is not one-formula-fits-all. The amount spent depends on the income level of the parents.
  • Low-income parents (who earn less than $60,640 annually) spend about $173,000 from birth through high school.
  • Middle-income families (earning between $60,640 to $105,000) spend about $240,000.
  • High-income families (bring in more than $105,000 each year) spend nearly $400,000.

Therefore, this report from the USDA doesn't so much show how much it costs to raise kids, but what is NOT spent on some children, particularly on those growing up in poverty.

The difference between children from the lowest and highest income groups is about $12,000 per year. So, those children are missing out on $12,000 of resources, opportunities, and benefits. At the least, they are dependent on others (outside of their parents) to provide them.

It's not that children from low income families cannot succeed. But when you look at the bigger picture, it becomes obvious that the well-resourced families can provide better opportunities for their children, who in turn are able to provide better opportunities for their children. And so on and so forth.

"When you look at the forest, rather than at the trees, financial statistics like these do reflect different outcomes for the children whose experiences they shape: true economic mobility is becoming more a pipe dream than the American Dream, and children are likely to stay within the income category to which they are born."

For additional reading, check out these posts from my other blog:

**image courtesy of Nick Nguyen via flickr

Book Review: Leading a Special Needs Ministry

Does your church have a ministry to children who have special needs? If so, do you wonder how to have a bigger or better impact? And if your church doesn't, are you looking to start one?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you MUST buy Leading a Special Need Ministry by Amy Fenton Lee.

Far from remaining at the theoretical level, this book has a subtitle that says it all: "A Practical Guide to Including Children and Loving Families."

It would be easy to read through this book and feel  overwhelmed, since it contains so many tips and applications from churches across the country. But Amy does this for a purpose. She wants the reader to pick out what is helpful, and to ignore the rest.

Of course, I have a tender spot in my heart for Appendix 7.3, "Training Event for Church Hosts and Sunday Morning Greeters." This section was based on an equipping event we led for Children's Ministry Volunteers at Grace Church. (You can learn more about the special needs ministry at Grace Church by clicking here.) 

And there's more good stuff. . . . We will be giving away a FREE copy of this book. All you have to do is leave a comment with your full name and one sentence explaining how this book can be helpful for you.

(If I don't know you personally, you should also email me your email address, so that if you win, I can get your mailing address. If you are having trouble leaving me a comment, you can email me your name and your sentence, and I will enter in your results.)

The contest will close on Sunday October 13. If you don't win, be sure to buy your copy from the Orange store.

**And more good news!!!  From now until the end of the year, use the Coupon Code LSNM2 to receive $2 off the cover price. Don't miss out!

Edit: Now available to buy on Amazon.

Related Links:

Surprising Ways Your Brain Works

Lately, I've been fascinated by the brain. Not anyone's brain in particular, but how the brain works. It must be the nerd scientist in me.

I've written a lot about the brain on my other blog. For example:

Are you intrigued? Then here's another great post that you may find interesting: 10 Surprising Facts About How Our Brain Works. You should read that post, so you can learn . . . .
  1. Why your brain does better creative work when you're tired.
  2. How stress can make your brain smaller.
  3. That it is literally impossible for your brain to multi-task. 
  4. That naps improve your brain's performance.  
  5. Why your vision trumps all other senses. 
  6. That introversion and extroversion result from different wiring in the brain.  
  7. Why we tend to like people who make mistakes more.
  8. How meditation can rewire your brain for the better.  
  9. Why exercise is good for your brain.  
  10. How to trick your brain into thinking that time is going slowly.

Read the full article to learn more, and to see how your life can be different as a result of these 10 facts.

You can also check on these related posts on this blog:

Favorite Tweets from September

It was a good month:
My daughter turned 12.

I got to eat at Moe's.

And I read (and wrote) some good tweets.
Pssst -- you can follow me on Twitter (@EspinosaJoey)

Tweets I Read

@BackRowBaptist:  My church wants to have a "revival." I don't remember the first time we were vivaled.

@JimGaffigan:  Whose bright idea was to have cooked broccoli smell like urine?

@JulianWasHere:  I'm going to invent a mechanical arm that mounts onto my chest and never stops feeding me pistachios.

@CoachWithLove:  Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, this time more wisely.

@KenBlount:  One of the goals of parenting is to shape your children to glorify God with the unique imprint He's put in them!

@LACavin:  So thankful for the Camp Grace men who are meeting before services to discuss leading & teaching elementary classes.

@Compassion:  The key to ending poverty? Hope!

@Gospel_ProjectIn all other religions, people are not truly serving God but themselves. They do good works in order to receive salvation and forgiveness. 

@JimCook_:  I needed more than just a sympathizer to my broken situation, I needed the power of a Savior to free me!

Tweets I Wrote

It's season. Or, the time of year when millions of people say "WE won" even though they never did so much as watch a practice.

8 elementary students signed up for the club in . Big thanks to , , & the local schools!
  • Edit:  Now we have 16 students signed up.

"Faith is primarily about obedience, not risk." via

"When we use volume to manage our kids we unwittingly turn ourselves into toxic high controllers."   

When you place an order at the drive-thru microphone at Hardees, & the response is, "Ok, drive around, Mr. Joey.".... :) 

Scary moment: When you're watching "World War Z" & your son comes out of his room sleepwalking. Remember: aren't real (I hope).