Archive for February 28, 2013

Is Your Faith Like the ‘Groundhog Day’ Movie?

Note: Check out free book offer at end of post.

In talking with Daniel Bautz, your host of the Grand Dark Conspiracy Internet radio show, I discovered my faith was something like out of the Bill Murray movie “Groundhog Day.”

Groundhog Day Movie

Daniel and I work together at a newspaper in Northeast Ohio when he is not serving as host of his show and I am not blogging. He fashions his show, which runs from 10 p.m.-midnight Mondays and Tuesdays on the Shark Radio Network, after the old Art Bell shows and delves into a variety of areas, including the paranormal and the spiritual.

During our conversation, Daniel said he did not understand how if someone believed he discovered Sasquatch existed, then why was there a need to continually prove the existence.

I thought about what he said and responded, “That’s how I am with my faith. It’s as if I get up everyday and have to prove it all over again. I guess it’s sort of like that ‘Groundhog Day’ movie.”

Daniel assured me I was dealing with something totally different, and he understood why I did that, because my faith went to the core of who I am.

Philosophically, I recognize I could be wrong about my belief that God created the universe, Jesus came to save us from our sins, the Holy Spirit gives us direction and the Bible is God’s message to us that has been preserved for us. I don’t live my life that way, and I am pretty confident I have chosen the correct path. However, I hold out the slightest possibility I might be wrong.

It boils down to this: I do not take my faith for granted. I do not believe blindly. I did not check my brain at the door. I have examined the claims of the Bible, and I have found them to be credible. I have explored the possibility of life with a creator and life by accident, and I believe a creator makes more sense.

How I approach my faith might seem unorthodox to some, but it has kept me firmly grounded for nearly 25 years.

What is your faith like? Do you have any questions about mine or why I believe as I do? Feel free to offer your comments or ask your questions below.

p.s. Amazon is offering for free today (Feb. 28, 2013) the Kindle version of Warren Wiersbe’s book, “Jesus in the Present Tense.” Get your copy when you click here.

Just Enjoy the Scenery Today

Enjoy these photos processed and uploaded via Instagram. I do not use it as much, but it is still a good app. I guess the thing for me is other apps, like Pixlr-O-matic and Pixlr Express do so much more.

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What does God’s Presence Mean to You?

This Sunday, March 3, I will be preaching about God’s presence at Parkview Christian Church. It is one thing to ponder God’s presence and quite another to practice it.

God's presence

I am excited about the opportunity to share God’s word. I preached from 1994-2003 at Mount Washington Church of Christ in Hillsboro, Ohio, so I am no stranger to the pulpit. I have, on occasion, preached at Parkview.

Did I tell you I was excited about preaching? But, then, as you start to think and read and study about this subject, it gets a little daunting. The topic is massive. Where do I start? What do I include? What do I exclude?

When you think about God’s presence, what goes through your mind? How he walked with Adam and Eve in the garden in the cool of day? How he was with the Hebrews during their 40 years of wandering in the desert? How he was a pillar of smoke during the day and a pillar of fire at night in the tabernacle? How his glory filled the temple?

As you can see in the above photo, a picture of a page in one of my notebooks, I am thinking about the general theme, how life is better in God’s presence. As I thought about this, we want to be in God’s presence. When do we want to be there? All of the time, right?

If that is indeed the case, then we want to live in God’s presence, and we want to die there, too.

Hell is sometimes referred to as separation from God, so, in a sense, it is separation from God’s presence. However, we must toss in a caveat. God is everywhere, so this separation is a spiritual separation, and the Bible does not describe it as a particularly enchanting state to be in.

There are a lot of things to consider as I put this sermon together, and if you are in Wooster on March 3, I would love to worship with you. Our worship service begins at 10 a.m. Parkivew Christian Church is at 1912 Burbank Road, Wooster.

Spend a Day in These Kids’ Shoes, If You Can

The headline is just a tad misleading. I say spend a day in these kids’ shoes if you can, but in some cases you can’t because some have had a leg amputated and others have had both.

Wayne County Wildcats Adaptive Sports Program of Ohio
The team pictured above is the Wayne County Wildcats, a sled hockey team. Each of the players has some type of mobility issue. Many are in wheelchairs. Some have their legs, but not the use of them. One young teen had both legs amputated at the knee when he was 18 months old.

On Saturday, Feb. 23, the Adaptive Sports Program of Ohio, established by Wooster-area resident Lisa Followay, held charity sled hockey games. The Wooster Oilers, a Tier III junior hockey team, played against The College of Wooster Scots hockey team, which is a Div. III club team.

The Oilers dispatched of the Scots, and when it came time to play the Wildcats, let’s just say, the Oilers did not hit pay dirt.

It was incredible to see how able-bodied young men were taken to school on the ice by a team full of kids, teens and adults who are dealing with spina bifida, cerebral palsy or have had legs amputated.

In the church, we are fond of saying the ground is level at the foot of the cross. Well, the ice was level on the bottom of a hockey sled, and the Wildcats proved it.

The amazing thing was the smiles on the faces of the Wildcats. They were not only able to compete with the Oilers, but they beat them late in the third period.

I have no idea what it is like to deal with something like cerebral palsy, spina bifida or have my legs amputated because of bacterial meningitis. I have no clue how difficult it is to have to depend on a wheelchair for mobility. I cannot comprehend what it must be like to be dependent upon another human for everything, including going to the bathroom.

No matter what those kids were going through, for a brief time in the rink at the Alice Noble Ice Arena, the Wildcats stood tall and proud, and they beat a team of strong, rugged young men on the Oilers’ home ice. But the Wildcats won on their terms.

Perhaps tomorrow I will cry, “Woe is me.” But not today. I have no excuses as to why I cannot accomplish something. Not today. Not after the Wildcats took me to school, anyway.

Do You Remember Where You Were the First Time You Heard Dave Ramsey?

It is 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday morning, Feb. 23, 2013. I can hear my wife, Wendi, rehearsing for a talk she is giving today about “Joy in Budgeting.” She is talking about how we ended up being part of Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University class.

Wendi Warren

Wendi Warren speaking at a Dale Carnegie class.

So, do you remember where you were the first time you heard Dave Ramsey?

I was driving in my car listening to a radio station out of Akron, Ohio, when I heard Dave’s program. He seemed to be making a lot of sense. But, something Dave said intrigued me: “The only way to true financial peace is to walk daily with the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.”

I would catch Dave a few more times before my wife and I finally decided to become part of an FPU class in town. It was being offered at Grace Brethren Church in Wooster, Ohio. Almost immediately, it turned our lives around. This was in January 2009.

Later that year, Wendi and I facilitated the FPU class at our church, Parkview Christian Church, where it helped others get on better financial standing.

It was nice to hear how Dave Ramsey’s teachings came into our lives and helped us to eliminate debt, stop living paycheck to paycheck and not have to charge something when there is a major home or car repair. We are also giving more and helping out children in developing countries. Not too shabby for a couple of people who were struggling to make ends meet.

Wendi wrote a booklet for the class, which is now offered for $2.99 in Amazon’s Kindle store, aptly titled “Joy in Budgeting.” The Kindle version contains more material than the booklet she is handing out, and it has links to additional free resources, like spreadsheet templates for a spending plan (a budget) and an allocation plan (how your money will be distributed).

If you are looking to get out of debt, then Wendi’s book is a good place to start. Also, be sure to check out the Get Out of Debt page on this blog.

So, where were you when you first heard Dave Ramsey, and what were your impression?

 

Spend a Day in My Shoes, Sort Of

Lately, when people have asked how I have been doing, instead of falling into a familiar rut and answering mindlessly, “OK” or “fine,” I have been finding myself pausing, reflecting for a moment and telling them, “I am doing great. I have a blessed life.”

Bobby Warren Wendi Warren Mary Taylor Josh Krajcik

Some of the components that make up Bobby Warren’s life, from the top, left: Being a member of Parkview Christian Church; getting to interview people like Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor as a reporter at The Daily Record; shooting video for newspaper website; being the husband of Wendi Warren; enjoying wonderful pets like Madison; playing in Parkview’s praise band with people like Steve Hanna; and hanging out with Josh Krajcik before a concert with The Daily Record’s Lydia Gehring.

And, I do have a wonderful life. If you look at the collage above, you will see just a small sample of the things that make up my life, like church, getting to interview people like Ohio Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor or shoot video for a Josh Krajcik interview; spend my life with my wonderful wife, Wendi Warren; enjoy our pets like Madison; and play in Parkview’s praise band with the likes of Steve Hanna.

Here is a typical day for me:

  1. Wake up and ease into my day. I might check to see who’s beating me on Words with Friends; log into Google+, Facebook, Twitter; check out my previous day’s stats on this blog; look to see if me or my wife, Wendi, sold any more books (see here and here); and see if there have been any sales through my Amazon affiliate links.
  2. Once awake, talk with Wendi before she leaves for work. This, of course, happens if I actually get out of bed before she heads to work.
  3. Read the Bible and pray. I have been reading Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Haggai and Zechariah because I teach a Sunday School class, and we have been focusing on this period in Israel’s history.
  4. Get ready and head to work. My full-time job is working as a reporter for The Daily Record in Wooster, Ohio. I get to meet a lot of interesting people, and I really enjoy what I do.
  5. Come home and eat. Self-explanatory.
  6. Engage in various activities. Depending upon the day of the week or month, I might be covering a night event or meeting for the newspaper; I might be in a men’s ministry meeting; I might be watching TV, performing magic somewhere or practicing with the praise team (I play bass); I might be writing, editing or laying out a book; checking and rechecking my social networks and Words with Friends; hanging out with Wendi; reading a book; working on a Sunday School lesson; or writing a blog.

My life is hectic, but not really stressful. I hope you have enjoyed a day in my shoes, sort of. I have a great wife who makes me better and supports my endeavors. I am truly blessed. What about you?

What Kind of Leader are You? Be Like Ezra

In the Book of Ezra, there is an account in Chapter 9 about how Ezra, a priest, petitions God. Ezra is ashamed because the people have sinned against God.

Church in Wooster Ohio
In Ezra’s prayer, we read this in verse 6, “O my God, I am too ashamed and disgraced to lift up my face to you, my God, because our sins are higher than our heads and our guilt has reached to the heavens.”

Ezra was addressing a particular sin, that of intermarriage. Ezra obviously was not guilty of the sin, but in his prayer, you would be hard pressed to tell. He includes himself in the shortcomings of the people when he says “our sins” and “our guilt.”

I viewed Ezra’s actions (and words) as signs of true leadership. He did not throw the people under the bus; he was right there with them. It was as if he were telling the people, “We are all in this together.”

On Facebook, I asked Dean Hammond, one of the ministers at Parkview Christian Church, and a couple of my former professors at Cincinnati Christian University, Dan Dyke and Jon Weatherly, about the chapter. Here is what I asked: ”… as I am reading Ezra 9, I find it interesting that in Ezra’s appeal to God, he includes himself among those who have engaged in a specific sin, even though it is apparent he is not guilty of it. I see it as a sign of true leadership and a reflection of the community aspect of being a people of God. Any thoughts?”

Dan Dyke said it pointed to community responsibility, and Jon Weatherly and Dean Hammond agreed.

Dean, though, took it a little further: “It speaks of the culture and his personal heart; (a) community worldview rather than individuality. We Americans could take a lesson from his example.”

President Harry Truman had a sign on his desk that read, “The buck stops here.” It is a good thing to see leaders take responsibility and protect those whom they are leading.

If you want to be an effective leader, then you better lead with character and integrity. As Dean teaches in his leadership class, you cannot lead someone where you have not gone yourself.

To be an effective leader, those you are leading must trust you. It is hard to build up trust if you are throwing people under the bus.

Don’t be like Mike. Be like Ezra.

Update: I was on Google+ this morning, and I saw this post: Do You Still Want to Be Like Mike? I just tossed in the phrase because I liked the structure and balance between “Don’t be like Mike” and “Be like Ezra.” But, God works in amazing ways.

Fast from Politics Still Going Strong After More Than 3 Months

After the November elections, I simply gave up watching politics on television, and for me, that was huge.

Congressman Jim Renacci

Congressman Jim Renacci looks at weapons seized in Wayne County, Ohio, in this file photo by Bobby Warren.

I was totally engulfed in politics. I so loved the strategy and the speculation. I followed all of the polls and read and retweeted just about everything coming down the pike. I read and shared stuff from anyone from HuffPost to Fox News, from Rush Limbaugh to Lawrence O’Donnell.

I was hungry for all things politics, and because of my background in journalism, I wanted to share stuff from all across the political spectrum, whether progressive, liberal, Democratic, Liberterian, Republican or conservative.

But, by the time of the election, I had just grown weary of politics. I invested so much time in politics, and for what? Nobody ever institutes the policies I want.

So, what have I learned from abstaining from (mostly federal) politics?

  1. I get a lot more done. I have been helping my wife with her two books (one a work of fiction, which you can read more about when you click here, and the other titled “Joy in Budgeting,” which you can learn more by visiting Amazon.com when you click here). There just always seems time to get things done.
  2. I have longer and better conversations with my wife. However, you will have to confirm with her if this has been her experience. We seem to talk about more stuff (especially her books, which she was deeply immersed in).
  3. I am exposed to different things. I read a lot more. This is the latest book I am reading: How To Deliver A TED Talk: Secrets Of The World’s Most Inspiring Presentations  (an affiliate link). I have read books on starting businesses, building a platform, writing articles for Kindle and how to analyze Kindle numbers and more.
  4. I am having more fun. It is nice not being so wrapped up with every nuance of the political discussion. It is freeing.

While I am not watching political shows on TV or listening to political talk radio, I have not divorced myself from politics. I am a journalist, after all. I will be spending some time with Congressman Jim Renacci on Friday, and I just spent time with Ohio state representatives Ron Amstutz and Dave Hall and state senators Larry Obhof and Frank LaRose. I was with Wooster Mayor Bob Breneman today, along with Wooster Councilman Jon Ansel and Wayne County Engineer Roger Terrill.

So, I am still in the thick of politics, but face-to-face, not face to screen.

 

Leadership Lived: Seamless Succession Planning at Parkview Christian

On January 6, 2013, Brian White preached a sermon at Parkview Christian Church in Wooster, Ohio. Brian had been the church’s family and youth minister for more than two years, so him preaching was nothing new. But what he represented was totally new.

Brian White

Brian White’s first Sunday as lead minister of Parkview Christian Church in Wooster, Ohio.

That Sunday was the first Sunday Brian served as the lead minister of Parkview Christian Church. Dean Hammond was stepping down as lead minister, though continuing to serve at the church as a teaching minister and mentor to Brian and Joe Rubino, the church’s community outreach minister.

What was fascinating to see was the transition of power, so to speak. Actually, you really couldn’t see the transition of power. It came so slowly and so methodically that now that it is done, it seems as if nothing has changed; the succession planning and execution was just that good. From my perspective, as a member of the church but not part of the leadership circle, the transition has been, in a word, flawless.

Let’s face it. We are human. We might say we like change, but we really don’t, or if we do, then it must be on our own terms. However, I have not heard one negative comment about the change in leadership. That feat in an American church is nothing short of remarkable.

It is one thing for me to think something is going good, so I asked someone else in the congregation. I got a similar reaction.

I think the the leadership change has been successful for several reasons, and here are five:

  1. It was well-planned. Church leaders had discussions about two years before the transition.
  2. It was intentional. Because of the unique relationship among the church’s ministers and directors, Dean, Brian, Joe and Mel Wharton, the children’s director, it was important for the next leader to come from within and keep the chemistry rather than to bring in someone from the outside.
  3. It was well-communicated. Once the church elders approved of the succession plan, it was announced to the congregation, and we had one year to adjust.
  4. It was transparent. Dean started preaching less, and Joe and Brian started preaching more. Brian began assuming more of Dean’s responsibilities.
  5. It was a God thing. Something like this could not have happened without God being involved. It was just too perfect.
Mel Wharton, Brian White, Dean Hammond and Joe Rubino

Mel Wharton (left), Brian White, Dean Hammond and Joe Rubino

Learning Some Lessons About Persistence From Josh Krajcik

Josh Krajcik is well-known and well-respected as a singer, songwriter and musician in his hometown area of Wooster, but despite all of the love, he found it difficult to make a mark in the music industry. Until The X Factor.

Krajcik at COW Pixlr

Krajcik was among the performers featured on the inaugural season of the latest singing competition from Simon Cowell. The singer’s rendition of Etta James’ “At Last” went viral and catapulted Krajcik into the country’s consciousness. He was an overnight sensation after about 14 years.

Eventually, Krajcik would finish as runner-up behind Melanie Amaro. Despite the second-place finish, Krajcik seemed poised to have a better, longer-lasting career than the Amaro or third-place finisher Chris Rene. His soulful, bluesy voice, described by “The Rolling Stone” as a combination of a “young Joe Cocker, Bob Seger and old Joe Cocker, just seems to have a staying power what will not be as susceptible to changing fads.

The second season of The X Factor did not do as well as the first. After reading about some of the ratings struggles, I posted this:

Krajcik provided a compelling story line for that first season. The 30–year-old burrito slinger resigned himself to working at burrito joint and playing gigs when he could. Then came the audition for The X Factor. Once that aired, it looked as if it would be smooth sailing: Incredible voice; incredible talent; and incredible response.

Despite turning in wonderful performances and being a fan favorite, trying to get a contract signed and album recorded was very trying. Even though Krajcik wanted things to move at a faster pace, he was always able to separate the business side from the music side.

Whenever Lydia Gehring of The Daily Record would interview him (and I would shoot video, as in the photo above), Krajcik always remained upbeat that something would happen soon. Well, finally something is happening. He released an EP on iTunes, and it was a top seller. He recently announced his new album, “Blindly, Lonely, Lovely,” to be released April 2. (You can preorder it through this Amazon affiliate link: Blindly Lonely Lovely.)

“The Rolling Stone” had a reader’s poll, and Krajcik’s album came in as the sixth-most anticipated release of 2013, behind U2, Pearl Jam, David Cook, Arcade of Fire and Queens of the Stone Age. (I can understand being behind U2 and Pearl Jam, but not the other three.) To understand how impressive this is, consider the rest of the Top 10: Black Sabbath, Brittany Spears, Tool and Lady Gaga all finished behind Krajcik.

Until Krajcik demonstrates he can sell records (or digital downloads), all he has done is shown a potential. However, he is in a position to be successful because he never quit, he never gave up, he pursued a music career on his own terms and played with the hand he was dealt. We can learn about persevering from watching what he has done.

In the times I have been with Krajcik (and he has been generous with his time at the Cleveland House of Blues and College of Wooster concerts), he never complained about what was happening on the business side of the ledger. Instead, he focused on those things he could do.

Life might put up obstacles in your way, but let’s focus on what we can do and start there.

Check out this video I shot and edited featuring Lydia Gehring interviewing Josh Krajcik:

Updated April 5, 2013: Listen to the first five minutes of this video. Everything Krajcik was talking about in September is playing out right now, including the promotional tour.