A Year In The Journal

A Year In The Journal

December 14, 2002 is the day I penned my first journal entry. Since then I’ve collected a cadre of leather-bound journals highlighting just over nine years of life. For whatever reason I’ve never thought of looking back over the previous year and pulling out the most significant insight. With 2011 about to be history, here are the best pages from the past year.

  • God is not a God of discouragement, confusion or doubt, but a God of encouragement, clarity and assurance.
  • My fleshly desires and innate desire for rebellion are like a cancer in my soul. The Holy Spirit is constantly infusing me with healing medicine. And for a few minutes, hours, days…I’m in remission. Then the flesh, my sin nature comes screaming into existence. I hear the prompting of the Holy Spirit, “Align with me.” And I rebel, squirm and flee. But there is nowhere I can go to escape the love of Christ, my salvation, my hope.
  • We must have a settled determination to identify ourselves with God’s cause. A faith that outlasts our feelings. Often times I don’t want to pray, I’m stubborn, frustrated, longing for an answer on my own, but I must submit. Jesus should be the first place I run, regardless of how I “feel”.
  • “Jesus doesn’t fix everything, He just makes the death purposeful” – Mark Driscoll
  • “Passivity is the enemy of discipleship” – Orion Berridge
  • God will take the most unqualified men by worldly standards and use them because by the standards of the heart they are very qualified.
  • On April 25th at 8:49pm, Malachi Daniel Burns entered the world and I will never be the same.
  • Confessions of a New Dad: …Amidst all the tired, sleepless, frustrating days and nights, it is worth it. Malachi is worth it. A gift, a blessing, answered prayers.
  • “Grace isn’t opposed to effort, it’s opposed to earning.” Dallas Willard
  • June 17th, 2011 – 5 years. Longer than college, longer than the average ability to remember all that has transpired. But today, 5 years ago, I married my best friend, a beautiful woman with a big heart…We have learned how to “do the dance” of two people becoming one life.
  • Test run at a life purpose statement – “To teach God’s Word & directly influence life change through the Gospel locally & around the world.”
  • Pursue Christ, Find Everything Else
  • God will wreck the expectations of a person, a nation or a world to accomplish His plan.
  • God doesn’t necessarily want to fix you or your situation. The fixing is oftentimes a by-product of increased holiness.
When Talent and Passion Collide

When Talent and Passion Collide

Courtesy of DeviantArt.com

I spent all of my college years and the first few of my professional career believing that talent and passion were one in the same. If you’re talented in something you’re naturally more inclined to be passionate about it. History had proved this to me as I spent years honing my skills in web and print design. I sniffed out mediocre websites, released new sites, revamped print materials, redesigned terrible logos…I was talented and passionate.

But several years ago, I discovered that often times just because you’re talented at something doesn’t automatically mean it will be your life-long passion.  For some this isn’t true. A talented teacher might spend a lifetime teaching at various levels. A talented innovator might bounce from company to company creating and re-creating. Someone good with numbers might go on to create a career in engineering. For me however, the moment the key turned and I was open to the possibility that another passion existed beyond my talent, the roof blew off. I was free to explore, empowered to hunt down my passion and challenged by the potential before me.

What I learned was that my talent in web and print design would be an essential tool in my life-long passion – to see life change because of the Gospel of Christ. They are different, but they work together. Currently that passion is playing out full-time in the arena of athletics as I’m tasked with helping athletes and coaches around the world experience life change with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. My talent is one of the vehicles I use to execute my passion.

But before you do anything rash and look at changing majors, careers, cities, churches or countries – here are a few guideposts:

  • Whatever your current career – stay “all in”. Your current position is not a playground to go find your passion. Your organization or company, co-workers, customers and salary demand you are 100% engaged. Explore on your own time and count yourself blessed to have a job.
  • Discovering your passion can take years and often times you can’t rush it – so don’t try.
  • Surround yourself with honest, wise people of various life experiences and seek their input in what they see in you. If you can’t find overwhelming agreement about a potential passion – give yourself more time to search. Don’t pursue your passion in a bubble.
  • Your passion might grow, expand or change but you’ll probably find a single thread woven throughout all of it. Think of it as a fruit. You can have a whole orange, an orange smoothie, oranges on top of a salad or orange juice. Different presentation – same ingredient.
  • Don’t be discouraged. Even if you are doing something that you are talented in and you know it’s not your passion – keep pursing both your talent and your passion. Find peace in knowing you and everyone else are “in process”.

If your talent is your passion congratulations. If you are slowly learning that the two are different, that your talent can drive your passion but ultimately you get the sense there is something more; patiently, carefully, slowly start exploring.

Eventually, when you can identify your passion and your talent fuels it like a high-performance engine – your job will become less like a job and more like a way of life.

Thanks to Scott Lee for the encouragement to get this post online.

Have some life experience about talents and passions? Have challenges or questions?
Let the discussion begin.

Battle with Words

Battle with Words

My good friend Scott Lee was looking for a place to publish his occasional, short musings. A proponent of “less is more” – he wanted a venue smaller than a blog of his own but bigger than a status update or Tweet. His writings are in a different style than my own and I welcome the variety. Hope you enjoy.


I could waste your time with a long intro.

Or I could get right down to the point, which is what this post is kind of about.

For me words are starting lose their power.

Every day I read thousands of words. I browse countless articles and blog posts, mostly about technology. But occasionally I’ll stop by a well know ministry related site.

Here’s my confession. After nearly everything I read my action is no more than simply closing my laptop lid. I go unaffected. Unchanged. Is it on purpose or am I just overwhelmed? I don’t know.

Here’s the kicker, I’ve started noticing my online word-handling  affecting my attitude towards the words I read in the Bible. I treat them as having the same weight. Before you stone me let me just say yes, I know in my very being that the words found in the Bible are not  just the penned words of my forefathers. They are words from the Father.

But still I struggle.

What advice do you have for me?
What advice do you have for others like me that read words and discard the message?
Can we, the people flooded by noise be resurrected?

The Book I Often Forget

The Book I Often Forget

Photo by Kelly Jackson Photography

Typically, when you get married, you have a dump truck full of gifts and cards to sort through after the big day. Not to mention the steady stream of engagement gifts beforehand. This was Ashley’s and I’s experience over five years ago. We still have most of the things given to us.

One type of gift that never seemed to be in short supply was the marriage book. Numerous titles about relationships, finance, newlyweds, family, etc. line our bookshelves.

Many of these titles were great and gave us some foundational truths and realities to help us start our new season together. But there was one title that I received and at first glance thought was quite “cheesemo.” It wasn’t the content, because I thought the concept was good, but for some reason, “The Power of a Praying Husband” didn’t resonate with me. I immediately thought of Ned Flanders from The Simpsons, Dana Carvey’s character on SNL, the Church Lady, ultra-conservative Sunday morning church service and various cliche Christian bumper stickers. “The Power of a Praying Husband” might be a really helpful book, but it didn’t jump to the top of my reading list.

Early into our marriage, interested in the content, I put Ned, the Church Lady and all my other Christian stereotypes aside and decided to read the book. Ashley read the “Power of a Praying Wife” at the same time. From what I remember, my book provided some good conversation and if nothing else, got me doing exactly what the title said – praying for my wife. That book would sit on my shelf for the next several years. And it came rushing back into memory this week.

With the arrival of our son Malachi and the advancement of the Burns Family Expansion Project, life has been full of adjustments. Figuring out the little guy is challenging. You rule out the obvious – dirty diaper, hungry, tired and then you’re left with playing 21 Questions with someone who doesn’t speak English.

Over several days, I was at a loss. Malachi’s daily routine and rhythm was absent of both routine and rhythm. Ashley was frustrated. I was powerless.

One morning, I got my butt outta bed earlier than usual and set out to specifically, intentionally do what I sometimes shamefully forget to do – pray for my wife. The adage that prayer should be our first response and not our last resort rings true. Eventually the morning at the Burns house was underway and with a quick shower I was out the door.

Two hours later I got a text message from Ashley with the words that left me dumbfounded, awestruck and smiling.

“Thanks for praying for me this morning :-)”

We never talked about praying for her! I didn’t tell her I had. It wasn’t a discussion the night before or in the morning as I headed out. But she was prompted to thank me for praying for her.

I texted back, “how did you know?” She simply replied, “I just felt it”.

There is significant power when a husband and wife pray for one another (Romans 8:26, Phillipians 4:6). Yet we often try to “fix” things ourselves and prayer becomes our last resort. Pray for your spouse today. As Christians there is untapped potential in the power of prayer, waiting for you every day.

Saying Hello to Amazon Kindle with Special Offers

Saying Hello to Amazon Kindle with Special Offers

For months, I browsed the e-reader market in search of a winner. After carefully examining Barnes & Noble’s Nook, Amazon’s Kindle and a host of other candidates I settled on the Kindle because it had:

  • a lower-price
  • the ability to sync between devices on a book-by-book, page-by-page basis. Meaning, with WhisperSync if I stopped reading on my Kindle at home, I could grab a iPhone or iPod Touch and read on the go, right where I left off.
  • a huge library
  • wi-fi built in
  • a great screen
  • exclusive rights with some publishers. While I can’t say I like it – Amazon signs exclusivity agreements with some publishers. I didn’t want to have the possibility of not getting a title on an e-reader.

In the months leading up to my birthday, Amazon released an additional version of the Kindle with Special Offers.  Save $25 and receive Special Offers periodically on the Kindle. At first glance I was a bit skeptical. But the Special Offers never appear while you read and only appear on the “Home” screen and when the screensaver turns on.

I decided to go with the Special Offers version and save the $25. In just about three days, the Kindle arrived pre-configured with my Amazon account, complete with a “Hello Danny, welcome to Kindle” letter when I powered it on. Not necessary but a nice touch.

As I flipped on the wi-fi, downloaded some sample books and began reading, I noticed the ads on the home screen. The static ad wasn’t obtrusive, but I didn’t really need any summer swim wear from Amazon. Oh well, I saved $25, right?

To my surprise, over the last several weeks, the Special Offers have actually been really good deals. Since I was already planning on purchasing a few books, these deals have been quite “special”.

  • $20 Amazon Credit for $10
  • $10 Amazon Credit if you use a VISA card for any order
  • 1 Kindle book for $1 ( thousands of titles)

I’m not sure if the “Special Offers well” will dry up, but I’m a fan. You get all the benefits of a regular Kindle with additional Special Offers. The ads rotate periodically whenever you connect via wi-fi or USB and again, don’t interrupt the reading of books.

What kind of effect will the Kindle have on my reading? Will I read more? What about printed books? Libraries? It’s too early to tell, but if you’re in the market for an e-reader – the Kindle with Special Offers is definitely a solid choice.

How Long Is Your Piece of the String?

How Long Is Your Piece of the String?

Photo by amhofmann.deviantart.com

There is an analogy that if time is represented by an endless piece of string, then your life on earth is but a small, minute, piece of that string.

Much of what we do while we’re alive is focused on our small, minute, piece of the string. We’re constantly asking, ‘What do I want to do with my life?” We chase all sorts of challenges, goals, dreams and aspirations. And while none of those are wrong, I think we need to ask a bigger question.

How do we extend our piece of the string, so that when our life is over it sill ripples across the line? I believe it comes back to a dusty, old word that is rarely used today…legacy. What we do with the years we have  in this life, has the potential to extend way beyond our piece of the string. It’s legacy that is the driving force of our life ripple. Our legacy determines if our life has any significant influence beyond the years we’ve been given.

Chasing all sorts of challenges, goals, dreams and aspirations are fine, but if they’re not done in the context of the bigger question of legacy than our lives truly are a vapor, a small piece of the string.

No matter what we do, none of us can defy the inescapable truth that eventually, in any given moment on any given day, our piece of the string will come to an end. What we can influence however is the potential of our legacy.

There are causes to get behind, projects to pursue, relationships to invest in, seconds, hours, days and years that will be spent. But what are you doing or not doing that will carry the ripple of your life far down the line?

Why Rob Bell Is Helping The Church

Why Rob Bell Is Helping The Church

Rob Bell - Courtesy RelevantMagazine.com

In Christian circles, pastor Rob Bell has created a stir of controversy in questioning the certainty of hell in his new book, “Love Wins”. In a matter of weeks the blogosphere and Twitter universe were reeling with critiques, reviews and backlash – even before the book was released.

While some have pointed out that what Bell argues isn’t anything necessarily new; what has caught many off guard is the questions are being posed by someone with such influence and responsibility. There are over 10,000 people who attend Mars Hill Church in Michigan and thousands more who follow his videos and books.

For all the backlash and hype, I believe there is a small silver lining. Bell has given people a reason to engage the conversation.  MSNBC, CNN and countless other news organizations are talking about life, death, Heaven and hell. The book is the match, but the conversation is the fire. And the fire is spreading. People are asking questions.

I believe Bell has actually helped the church by putting it in the best possible position to answer the questions he asks but sadly doesn’t answer.  And the church has responded. Pastors and significant Christian leaders have published in-depth responses to Bell’s questions. One seminary is holding a panel discussion, broadcast live on the web. I have no doubt that churches around the country, even across the pond, are answering the questions about life, death, Heaven and hell.

As they should.

Where I diverge from Bell however is on the idea that the questions he asks don’t have answers.  He loves to ask questions; many which challenge Christian tradition. His questions don’t scare me and I welcome them because wrestling with our faith on many levels is good. But I believe answers to his questions and many others do exist in Scripture, from Genesis to Revelation. If we ignore clear, literal, accounts of the character and nature of God, how He interacts with His Creation, and what He’s said about our past, present and future, we are devaluing one of the greatest gifts of the Christian faith behind the saving work of Christ. Apart from Scripture we  have little to build our understanding of the Christian faith.

Regardless of Bell’s intentions, as Christians we have the opportunity and responsibility to fill the void he has created. Heaven and hell are realities and as Christians we aren’t given the license to massage our faith to a point where it’s more palatable or comfortable.

We must come face to face with the uncomfortable issues of Heaven and hell and know what we believe and why we believe it.

Thankfully there are answers in a book, it’s probably just not in Rob Bell’s.

***Fill the Void***

I believe Mark Driscoll and Tim Challies do a tremendous job at accurately explaining the Biblical evidence on questions relating to Heaven and hell.

Leader In Tent

Leader In Tent

We all have responsibilities. I carry the rolls of Christian, husband, son, brother, friend, manager, leader, teacher and yes, soon to be father.  But a conversation with a co-worker this past week accidentally gave me some insight into how I can execute each of these rolls successfully.

My co-worker was telling me about a military concept called “commander intent.” In order for the successful execution of a mission, the troops must know the exact details provided by the commander. If they know his or her intent – they know what they have to do and how they have to do it. Without commander intent, the mission would be open for interpretation and the chance of failure or mistakes would be high.

Sounds simple and makes sense. Here’s where the accident happened.

When I first heard him say it, I thought he said “commander in tent” – meaning leaders have to be present, “in the tent”, in order for a successful mission.

[pullquote]…the greatest opportunity for success for a leader requires he or she literally be “in the tent”[/pullquote]That’s when the light bulb turned on. The intent of a leader can best be communicated if he or she is “in the tent.” As a result, the greatest opportunity for success for a leader requires he or she literally be “in the tent”.

The personal application? I have to be physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally “in the tent” if I am going to have the best chance of successfully carrying out the rolls I have in life. The reality is, I’m often not fully “in the tent”. My mind is all over the place, the task list is long, the resources are few and I often can’t seem to find a few extra hours in a day.

But if I’m not a leader in the tent, completely – the “mission” will suffer. My faith, marriage, relationships, team and work won’t be getting all of “their leader”. Like a mission without details, the chance for ultimate success is significantly lowered.

How do I stay in the tent? I believe that will take a much more life to figure out. But here are some lessons I’ve learned thus far.

  • Prioritize – If everything is important, nothing ends up being important. Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. Look at that which takes up your time (physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally) and “cut the fat”. Some things have to take priority over others based on what they are and the season of life you are in.
  • Get In One Tent At a Time – So much of our life bleeds together, but if you don’t stop it somewhere, it gets overwhelming in a hurry. If you’re still in the “work tent” and you’re at home, talking with your kids attempting to be in the “home tent” – both tents suffer. Get fully in the tent you are supposed to be in in that moment.
  • Guard the Door – There will be countless things that try and get into your tent. Other distractions (people, places or things) that masquerade as “opportunities”. These will often pull you into all sorts of tents, disrupt your focus, leadership, goals and objectives. Saying “no” to something or someone can be a good thing.
  • Know Your Tent – With all that you have to juggle in life it’s easy to abandon certain tents. We put them on “auto-pilot” and go tend to the areas of life that are more exciting or those that are in crisis. But just like a plane can’t land itself, auto-pilot is only good for so long. If you don’t know what’s going on in your family, work, relationships or any other roll you’re in – those you lead will suffer. Know your tent deeply, regularly and fully.

Regardless of the roles you carry, if you lead a family of three or a corporate team of 20, may we all be leaders who are in the tent; leaders who are physically, mentally, spiritually and emotionally engaged in the rolls we are called to. The mission is too great for us not to be.

the commander’s stated vision which defines the purpose of an operation, the end state

Pocket Idols

In a recent Facebook status update, I made the observation while sitting in a crowded cafe that I wondered “…if the time we used to spend thinking on the things of God is now taken up by our smart phones?”

The problem isn’t inherently with our smart phones. We have all sorts of technology that can take our time. Laptops, YouTube, Hulu, television, movies, music, fantasy leagues; it’s an endless list. I’m by no means anti-technology. I work with it everyday, have a smart phone with a data plan, am on Facebook, etc. Each of us has a responsibility to manage our time, our thoughts, our hobbies and interests. The infamous bumper sticker, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” comes to mind. Nevertheless, I haven’t been able to shake the observation I had at that crowded cafe.

Sitting down for breakfast last week I finally had a breakthrough. I believe mobile devices have the incredible potential to turn our affections away from God, more so than other technology and here’s why. Unlike the TV, the personal computer or even the laptop, mobile devices are always on and always with us. As such we are tethered to our social networks, our news, apps and everything else clawing for our intention, our time, our thoughts and yes, our affections.

The things that can turn our affections away from God are now more readily accessible and more difficult to disconnect from.

So what’s the point? I’m not calling for boycotts or for everyone to return to the dark ages. Mobile technology has the potential for good and there is so much about it that is good. I simply hope that there is a realization that there are two sides to the coin.

All the good that mobile devices provide open us up to unprecedented amounts of proverbial “golden calves.” And we can get comfortable, love our Tweets, our status updates, the Facebook banter, our fantasy leagues, Farmville scores, go to church on Sunday and yet be oblivious to the idols in our pocket. We co-exist and the greatest lie we tell ourselves is to puff up our chest and say technology has little to no effect on us. Make no mistake, it does effect us, it already has and it already is.

As Christians, we should come to grips with that reality. If we don’t believe there is a great potential for our heart to turn its affections from God and that there is a virtually endless supply of things which can cause it; we run the risk of diluting our influence, losing our effectiveness and as Tozer says, become just another “sluggard”.

Use technology, don’t bury your head in the sand or retreat to an underground bunker. For those who are given much, much is expected. But always be on guard. Our hearts are as deceitful as the things that clamor for our attention.

Should You Rent from BlockbusterExpress?

Seemingly late to the “kiosk” DVD rental system that has made Redbox a household name, Blockbuster has launched their BlockbusterExpress kiosks found most often in QT gas stations across the country.

We’ve been faithful Redbox customers but when the Redboxes around us didn’t have the movie we wanted, we decided to try BlockbusterExpress. Here’s our experience…

  • The website, BlockbusterExpress.com is similar to Redbox. The only annoyance was that the website displayed all the locations, not just the locations that had our title instock. After scrolling through and clicking on several little pushpins, we finally found a location. This might be picky, but easily allowing customers to see the locations with the desired title first, would be helpful.
  • Purchase was a breeze, I found a free rental code online. A simple Google search should do. Only downside for you Blu-Ray fans, unlike RedBox which charged $1.50, Blockbuster charges $3.99 for Blu-Ray titles.
  • Here’s where it gets a little dicey. I fault Blockbuster and Google. Blockbuster had incorrectly listed the phone number of the QT location and Google incorrectly mapped the location to a residential neighborhood. After two phone calls to Customer Service, another check of the GPS and some driving around, we finally found the correct QT location.
  • The kiosk was outside and was just as fast as Redbox. There’s an odd “trap-door” you have to open to get the disc. If you do the right combination of leaning back and to the side, with a little squat in the middle, you can get the disc. It’s kind of like someone at Blockbuster said, “We don’t want to be identical to Redbox, so let’s make it different” – ended up just being odd.
  • The only glaring negative for me, aside from the Blu-Ray price, is Blockbuster’s case choice. Appearing to not want to “be just like Redbox” the plastic sleeve that holds the discs is solid black and requires you to slide the disc out. So why is this a big deal? A few issues:
    • The opportunity for people to damage the disc seems higher because you have to slide it in its case. People usually don’t give a rip about discs after they rent them. This increases the possibilities for scratches actually caused by the case as a customer slides it in.
    • For some reason Blockbuster left a rounded tab open on the back of the case. Take a look at the photo. This exposes about 1/2 an inch of the readable area of the disc to all sorts of potential damage. From being shoved in a purse, bag, backseat – in my opinion this again increases the chance the disc is going to be damaged.

So, should you rent from BlockbusterExpress? I would say yes, but only as a last resort.

  • The potential to get a bad disc seems greater.
  • Blockbuster charges three times more for a Blu-Ray title.

After our renting experience, we remain RedBox fans at heart. BlockBuster hasn’t lured us away. I would probably agree with industry analysts who say it’s too little, too late for the bankruptcy bound Blockbuster.

Happy movie watching!