Redeeming Your Time in the School Car Line

School started back in our county yesterday, August 17.  My son gets out of school at 2:50 pm.  I was in the School Car Line to pick him up for 35 minutes.  Wait times are customary in the mornings and afternoons.  It’s something we all build into our schedules.  This year, our district changed the school start and end time so that our elementary, middle, and high schools have a staggered start time.  My son has to be at school by 7:50 while my daughters start time is 8:45.  We live 1 mile from my son’s school and 3 miles from my daughters’ school so our wake up times are all different.  In the month leading up to this I started making some changes in how I used and viewed social media and moving from reacting to reflecting.  I knew I did not want to spend the time in the car line mindlessly scrolling a news feed.  I also need that I would have 15 minutes here and there in the morning that I didn’t want to waste.  Here are some things I’m trying this year and I hope they will help you in redeeming your time in the school car line.

  1.  From 6-6:40 am I am waking up and doing my devotions and praying.  Right now I’m using the book The Rhythm of Prayer: a forty day experience by Mark Moore as a prayer guide and Walking with Wesley: A Ninety-Day Devotional by Nick Harrison.
  2. 6:40 am is wake up time for my son, Drake, and I will spend 10-15 minutes managing emails after waking him up.  This is mainly deleting and unsubscribing from email lists.  I’m not really mentally processing things at this time.  I’m just trying to reduce digital clutter.
  3. After I double-check to make sure Drake is up and getting ready I will have 10-15 more minutes before we leave.  This offers a chance to give a quick glance to some news sites and ESPN.com or even do some Fantasy Football team management.
  4. After taking Drake to school at 7:20 I will have 1 or maybe 2 more 15 minute time slots while getting the girls ready for school and then I’m home from taking them at 8:20 and the day is off and running.
  5. For the afternoons I have decided to not go so early to pick up Drake.  This will cut my line wait time from 35 minutes to hopefully 10 or less.  I’ve placed a devotional book in the console of the van so that I’m not tempted to let that time slip by.  Whose mind doesn’t need a refresher and reminder at that point in the day?
  6. If the wait is longer I can catch up with folks on the phone, do a calendar review, or make a Facebook live video.  I did several last year called the Car Line Diaries just as a way to encourage folks and share things that have been going on with my family.  I can also use this time to rehearse my sermon.

The point of this is not for you to copy what I am doing.  Your family and routine are totally different from mine.  What I hope we can all start doing is making the most of these little bits of time that we’ve started sacrificing at the altar of the mindless phone scroll.  What are the tasks we can do that “clear the deck” and make our days easier later on?  What are the quick decisions and actions we can take to relieve our minds from unneeded stress?  How can we use these times to renew our minds and allow God to speak into our hearts and lives?  I’d love to hear from you about what you’re doing for Redeeming Your Time in the School Car Line.  Let me know on Facebook or Twitter or by leaving a comment below.

Moving from Reacting to Reflecting

Social Media's effect on our thinking

Think about this.  All recorded history and facts are at our fingertips.  No longer do we have to wonder “what year did that happen”, “what’s the RBI record for 2nd basemen in odd number years”, or “what movie was that guy in?”  With a few clicks, the answer can be ours.  The same goes with social media.  No longer do people have to wait to know how we feel about something.  We can either post our thoughts or react(like, heart, smiley face, shocked face, etc.) to the thoughts of others in an instant.  How many times have you been reading or thinking and something great pops in your mind or you see the perfect quote?  What is one to do?  Share it immediately of course!  In July, our family went to the beach.  I needed it.  I was burned out on a molecular and spiritual level(did I mention that studies have shown a link between depression and cell phone use).  I was excited to begin the habit of daily morning devotions and journaling(on the beach no less) and to delete Facebook and Twitter off of my phone.  An amazing thing happened.  The first day of devotions I came across a great quote from John Wesley’s writing and instinctively thought, “I’ve got to share this right now!”  The only problem was I had intentionally left my phone in the car plus…no Facebook or Twitter.  When the urge to post subsided my mind returned to the quote and I reflected on it more deeply than I’ve reflected on anything in a long time.  One thought led to another and soon I found myself lost in the moment, scribbling down my thoughts, and taken away by the Holy Spirit to a place I had not been in a long time.  It was a euphoric feeling.  I continued my morning reading and praying and at the end I just sat and took it all in.  It hit me.  How many times has God given me(or you) a great thought and once we have shared it on social media that’s it.  We feel our work is done and the moment passes and that thought soon fades away except on the Wall of Facebook or the Timeline of Twitter.  I have tried to calculate how many hours(days, months!) that I have wasted on the scroll.  You know what I mean: the mindless social media scroll of thumbing down the page until something catches our eye and we either click our reaction or click on the article.  I have permanent tendonitis in my thumb.  I have encouraged my son to look into being a carpal tunnel surgeon.  Between video games, keyboards, and phones he would always have a line of patients.  What if, instead of going right to our phones to find the answers, we took the time to think about it?  Of course, I’m not talking about if you need life saving medical advice or something like that.  What conversations and thoughts would be borne out of letting our minds search for…anything?  To fire back up those connections that have grown dormant?  What if, in the light of recent racial events in Charlottesville and other cities, I sought the Lord and let my mind consider all of these things instead of scrolling through to see what everyone else thought and reacting to it?  I’m not saying that there’s not a time and place to scroll through your social media feed, but we have gotten to the point where it’s our go to solution for any dead time in our day.

Now, I will add Twitter and Facebook to my phone when attending an event that I want to “report” on which is usually a church conference or a wrestling match.  Insert your joke here.  Most of the time though, I’m only getting on from my computer or iPad and only at the times I’ve set aside to do such.

I kept Instagram on my phone.  I have never struggled with it personally as far as getting lost in the scroll.  It allows me to post to Facebook and Twitter and now I will mark the quotes and scriptures I find in the morning for posting later.  I have also traded the screen for a book every night 30 minutes before I go to bed.  There’s been an amazing difference in my quality of sleep and sharpness of my dreams.  Here are some books that have really impacted me over the past month or so…and yes, I am reading more than I ever have before.

Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World

Mind Hacking: How to Change Your Mind for Good in 21 Days

Switch On Your Brain: The Key to Peak Happiness, Thinking, and Health

The Emotionally Healthy Leader: How Transforming Your Inner Life Will Deeply Transform Your Church, Team, and the World

The Caped Crusade: Batman and the Rise of Nerd Culture(Hey, I didn’t say these were all serious books.)

The Quest for Holiness-From Shallow Belief to Mature Believer

Here are 3 suggestions I would make to move from reacting to reflecting

  1.  Take social media off of your phone if you can’t resist the urge to immediately post every good thought you have.
  2. Give yourself time(I prefer the mornings) to read, reflect and pray.  Get up early enough so time is not an issue and you don’t feel rushed.  Start writing down what you’re reading and the thoughts that come to your mind.  Feel free to share these later, but don’t lose the power of the moment to go deeper.
  3. Schedule scroll time.  Set aside 15 minutes(not right after you wake up, right before you go to bed, or during family time) to see what’s happening and when time’s up that’s it.

I hope to continue the daily of deeper reflection and thinking.  God continues to bring my mind back from a dark place of depression every single day.  The depression has always kept me from my best work including writing which I hope to remedy shortly.  Thanks for reading.  What’s been your experience with social media and smart phones?  How are you combating the pull to the mindless scroll?

5 Lessons We Can Learn from Elf

Elf has become a Christmas classic over the years and a movie that my family watches multiple times during December(and sometimes other parts of the year).  There are so many things that make this movie great and appealing.  Here are 5 lessons we can learn from Elf.  Yes, there will be spoilers, but if you haven’t seen Elf by now then more than likely you’re a Scrooge.

  1.  “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”  Who doesn’t like belting out Christmas carols?  Is it possible to feel bad after singing “Jingle Bells”, “Silent Night”, or “Snow, Snow, Snow?”  I think this also applies to faith in general.  Even in the tough times of life, endured with faith, can bring joy and peace to others.  The stories of God’s transforming power in our lives are meant to be shared and used to encouraged others.
  2. A job can be more easily replaced than family.  James Caan, in the end makes the difficult choice to quit his job to go look for Buddy.  It’s a job he had lost his passion for as the quality of his work had diminished along with his relationship with his boss.  I know that in real life things don’t work out as nicely like they do in the movies with Walter starting his own publishing house and Buddy’s first book being a huge success.  Sometimes the choices are hard and we have to count the cost, but relationships last longer than a paycheck.
  3. Everyone can do something.  Buddy did not fit in with the Elves.  He put them way behind on Etch-a-sketch construction.  He could change the batteries in the smoke detector though.  Sometimes we give up on people because they can’t do what we want them to do.  Maybe they’re not good at that.  Find something they’re good at.  This philosophy works on things from assigning household chores to kids to building ministry teams in a local church.  God made us all to do something, and there is great joy in helping people discover what their “something” is.
  4. Don’t believe all the hype.  “World’s Best Cup of Coffee?”  Slogans and pronouncements like that are all around us.  We have to filter through what’s true and what’s not.  Companies spend billions of dollars trying to convince us we can’t live without what they’re offering.  Too many times our excitement is met with a mediocre cup of coffee.
  5. There is no Christmas without faith.

Michael:  Hold it… if you’re really Santa Claus,  Then we can just get some news cameras in here,  And everyone will believe in you,  Then your sleigh will fly, right?

Santa:  Christmas spirit is about believing, not seeing.  If the whole world saw me, all would be lost.   The paparazzi have been trying to nail me for years.

John 20:29 says, “Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

The angel’s message.  The virgin birth.  The magi.  The inn.  The entire Christmas story calls us to believe in what man would deem impossible.  To hope that the improbable is fact.  Whether you’re enjoying eggnog, Christmas movie traditions, exchanging gifts, or houses lit up for all to see you owe it all to faith.  This entire season is built on faith.  Sometimes, it feels like we spend 11 months out of the year losing our faith in humanity.  Christmas reminds me that there was great faith even in the act of God sending Jesus to earth.  Faith that Jesus would redeem his people.  Faith that all was not lost.  Faith that you and I would come to believe.

So, let’s sing a little louder, hold our families a little tighter, and believe that a little faith goes a long way.  Especially in these days of uncertainty and division, may the Spirit of Christ, which is the Spirit of Christmas, give us all the hope we need to make a better tomorrow.

 

The God of 1,000 reboots

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This Macbook Pro is 6 years old.  I’ve replaced the hard drive.  It is filthy on the outside.  It has dents and scratches.  It still works well, but occasionally I have to perform the most basic of computer tricks to keep it working.  Turn it off and back on again.  For some reason, it’s system needs to reboot to get going again.  I haven’t given up on this computer and plan on using it for a while to come.

I can’t tell you how many stops and starts I’ve had in my life.  Renewed commitment that eventually wanes.  An exercise routine that fades away.  Healthy eating habits that revert to the way things used to be.  Each time brings more guilt than the last.  A more complete feeling of failure and misery.  That I don’t deserve another chance and yet…

You and I are in good company.  Adam.  Abraham.  Moses.  Jacob.  David.  Jonah.  Peter.  Paul.  All great men that at some point(or many points) needed a reboot.  Something happens that causes us to need to reset things.  To find our True North.  What makes it much harder these days is that each of our failed restarts has been documented on Social Media.  Everybody knows we didn’t write that book, keep that blog going, start that business, meet those goals, lose that weight, get that promotion, make that list, amount to anything, etc.  I think we would be surprised how few people are keeping score on us because they are experiencing the exact same thing.  There’s nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to rebooting, restarting, or repenting.  On the contrary, it’s a shame when we don’t do these things.

“I have come that they may have life and have it to the full.”  I believe Jesus meant those words.  I believe our God is one who allows 1,000 reboots to get us to that fulfilled life.  He’s patient with us, forgiving with us, gentle with us, and above all He is FOR us.  As I type this I am looking at a list of life goals I made for my 40th birthday.  At first glance, it is terribly depressing.  I missed the mark on so many.  However, there are so many great things I’ve been able to do the past 2 years, dreams come true, that weren’t even on the list.  That list is not a failure to me now.  It’s simply a missed deadline, and God is giving me an extension.  Do you need to reboot?  Are you afraid that you’ve used all of your chances?  Are you embarrassed by the prospect of announcing to the world that you are trying again?  Today is a new day.  Lamentations 3: 22-23 says,”Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.”  Sounds like God is giving you a 2nd(or 1000th) chance.  Seize it.  Own it.  Reboot.  You won’t regret it.

PS.  If you’re trying to figure out how to talk to people about Election 2016 then listen to our episode of the Double Dropkick Show doing just that.

The gift of clarity

“What do you want to be when you grow up?”  Hasn’t everyone been asked that question at least once in their life?  How many people wake up one day and realize they’ve grown up, but they have no idea what or WHO they are?  Some people are blessed enough to get a second chance.  As I am 45 days from hitting the big 4-0 I can say that I am one of those fortunate ones.

The diagnosis of an incurable disease is too much for the mind to comprehend.  So is the phone call from the hospital that your daughters have been in a jet ski accident and one of them is being air lifted to the hospital.  I am learning that tragedy brings clarity.  If your house catches on fire while you are inside you learn very quickly which items are important and which ones are not.  There is something in our God given DNA and instincts that gives us this hyper focus this clarity.  The stress also releases a whole lot of cortisol which can cause weight gain, but that’s a story for another day.

Everything in and about this world robs us of our clarity.  Ever seen an 8 year old boy try to choose which ice cream flavor he wants?  We are surrounded by choices and distractions.  Things happen.  Often times, bad things happen.  I have told people many times over the past few months that some days I was just trying to put one foot in front of the other.  Through a fog of confusion and doubt we try to find something, anything to cling to, to occupy our minds, or to get us to that next step.

That’s why faith is so important.  The love of Christ is an amazing anchor in times of crisis, but even above that it is the compass that guides us to the “what” and the “who” we want to be when we grow up.  I am a very blessed man because in the past few months and weeks all of that has been laid out in front of me.  I know exactly who I want to be, what I want to be, and the how is coming together nicely.  That’s why I want to give you the gift of clarity with this post.

People are always asking me, “what can I do for your family?  How can I help?”  Consider this your answer.

1.  Pray for us by name. That’s Heath, Karen, Milena, Charis and Drake.  Pray that we are all filled with the Holy Spirit and love God, each other, and our neighbor’s in a way that inspires people.

2.  We deal daily with the reality of Huntington’s Disease.  Educate yourself by spending 10 minutes at http://www.hdsa.org.  Pray that God’s grace is abundant in this area of our lives.

3.  Engage with my wife.  She’s always on Facebook.  Friend her.  Message her.  Get her phone number and text her.  Tell her you care.  Treat her like a living breathing human being.  Do not tip toe around her and do not allow her to retreat into a cocoon.  Understand that isolation is huge when dealing with Huntington’s.  Refuse to let my wife isolate herself.  This may be unsettling and uncomfortable, but it will not be unrewarding.

4.  Guide and correct my kids.  If you are a follower of Christ point them toward him.  Treat them like normal kids.  Love them unconditionally.  Don’t worry about hurting my feelings if you need to report their behavior to me.  Don’t feel like you’re betraying them.  Take them to get ice cream(Drake will eventually decide on a flavor.)  Talk to Drake about wrestling and help him hit and throw a curve ball.  Do girly things with the girls.  Feel free to just take one them at a time.  Help the twins develop their individuality.  Braid their hair…I have no idea, but just do girl stuff.

5.  Ask me if I ate a whole jar of salsa last night before writing this blog post.  Also ask if I’ve been exercising.  Don’t tell me I look like I’ve lost weight.  Smack soft drinks out of my hand.  Do not take me to a pizza buffet.  Tell me to mix in a salad every now and then.  Don’t joke with me about my weight.  Be tough with me.  I’ve heard all the fat and short jokes.  It’s not funny anymore.  I’m on Facebook and Twitter.

6.  Let me interview you.  It can be about anything.  You tell me what you want to talk about and I will tee up some great questions for you.  It can be for my wrestling podcast, The Double Dropkick Show, or the discipleship podcast help with at Groundswell.  If you like wrestling then we’ve got lots to discuss.  Same with discipleship.  I’m passionate about both. I’ve got some other podcast ideas in the works that will scratch an itch I have.  Hey, I don’t play golf.  I watch wrestling, podcast, and I like to interview people.

7.  Come see what God is doing at our church, Oakway United.  God has given me so much clarity recently about why I love being a rural pastor and what it will take to successfully minister to the diverse needs of our community.  Join us as we try to bring hope to a county that is plagued by poverty, abuse, and addiction.  Help us love people and build the kingdom.  I hope and pray that I can be the pastor the church needs and deserves as they have showered our family with unspeakable kindness in our time here.

8.  Come hang out with our family.  I know that no one has time, but we have to make time.  Join us for a lively game of UNO, a critique of our favorite movies, a board game, hamburgers, and whatever we can come up with.  We’d love to spend a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night with you and your crew.  Just know that once a month we might be indulging in a wrestling PPV on the WWE Network.  We also like going to the movies and to Six Flags, but we are pretty easy to please.  Just understand if we’re not quite ready to return to the lake just yet.  It’s easy for the 5 of us to retreat to our own spots in the house and escape for a while, but I’m sure you wouldn’t know what that’s like.  Back to that whole isolation thing.  It something any family dealing with an illness has to overcome.  You can help us do that.

9.   Did I mention that you could pray for us?

Perhaps I will print this out and carry it around with me.  Perhaps you will too?  “What do I want to be when I grow up?”  Why don’t you join the adventure and see for yourself?

The Land Full of Excuses

edge of cliff

There are lots of excuses to stay where you are.

 

Fear.  It can be paralyzing.  I believe fear and excuses were born on the same day.  Excuses are a dime a dozen.  They even have apps to help you come up with a good excuse for various scenarios.  As a habitual procrastinator I have created and used excuses for most of my life for things like not making the honor roll, being late to work, not getting a project done on time, being late to meetings, not riding certain roller coasters, being late for a date, needing extra time to finish a paper, being late to pick up my kids, and not posting to my blog regularly.  Somewhere along the way, there was some fear involved.  Fear that caused a domino effect in too many situations to list.

As a father, fear is not an excuse.  

The Top 10 days of my first 14,000

hourglass

 

 

This post was inspired by an episode of Beyond the To Do List featuring host Erik Fisher and guest Robert Smith.  They discussed Robert’s book 20,000 Days and Counting which is a quick, fun, and inspiring read.  I know there are lots of ties on this list, and I don’t remember some precise days, but it’s my list so here we go….

The Top 10 days of my first 14,000

Social Media Fast


This video discusses my recent social media fast, the benefits, and why you should plan one for yourself.

Books mentioned:
A Tale of 3 Kings-http://amzn.to/18MoJxA
Making it All Work-http://amzn.to/11zc4oT
Getting Things Done-http://amzn.to/1aVWppm

http://www.twitter.com/heathmullikin
http://www.facebook.com/heathmullikin

God’s Ways are Not Our Ways

Moving truck 2007

“It’s hard to trust God when everything you own is in a moving truck.”

Today is a historic day for me.  5 years ago, our family was all packed up and ready to drive the 638 miles to our new church in Aston, PA.  I felt unqualified for ministry, unstable emotionally, and unprepared for the task ahead.  I found myself going through the motions during that

5 Things “I Will” for Father’s Day

There was about 5 months of my life I thought I would never be a father much less get to celebrate Father’s Day. My wife had tested positive for the gene for Huntington’s disease and we had made the decision not to have children of our own.  My faith as a Wesleyan pastor, Christian, and husband had never been tested so severely.  11 years, 1 healing, and 3 kids later that time of my life seems