Author: J. Andrew Green

Create Daily

Last weekend, my wife and I went back to our first church we ever attended as a couple for a homecoming celebration. We had the privilege of staying and visiting with some dear friends, some of whom live about a half-mile off the main road. Being out in what looks like the middle of nowhere with no cell service and just the company, God, and His creation to keep you occupied is incredibly freeing.

It just so happens that both couples’ houses have a wood shop. One friend made the comment that he can go out there early in the morning and completely lose all track of time until he’s called in for supper by his wife. It definitely gave me the desire to visit again and get lost in constructing a project for my wife or just for the sake of doing so.

But daily creation doesn’t have to take the form of woodworking, necessarily. It can be anything from writing to music. Just make something. My rule for blogging is that I need to sit down and write for at least 30 minutes each day. It doesn’t matter what it is that I actually write, just that I go through the process of creating.

Still need some extra motivation? Here are some reasons why you should:

1. It’s Rewarding

Making something with your hands or utilizing your creative outlet is often far more rewarding than anything else you could otherwise be doing. My wife recently took up painting. We have 2 of hers hanging in different places in our house. You can only imagine the smile on her face knowing that the art work she was about to hang was the work of her hands. Did it cost money to learn? Sure. Was it worth it? Absolutely. Being able to watch her being so proud of her accomplishments was definitely one of the greatest experiences a husband could ask for (selfish, though it may be).

2. Marketable

Creativity and finding innovative ways to add value is an incredibly marketable skill. Companies search for candidates who can solve their problems while finding new solutions that actually work. Demonstrating that you’re creative is very impressive in a job interview and will cause more opportunities to come your way. Understand that this doesn’t just happen by going through your daily tasks the same way day after day. You have to take on the hard stuff. Volunteer for your boss. Trust me. The addition to your portfolio and the practice your creativity gets are well worth a little extra time.

3. Exercises Your Mind

This is something we don’t do enough of in our society. We regularly spend the majority of the day at work and the rest of the day engaging in mindless activity like TV. You need to give your brain the ability to work without actually working. Give yourself the chance to engage in fun work, not just what you do for a living.

My father-in-law loves to garden. It seems like that provides his constant sometimes when life gets completely crazy. It gives him something to cultivate – the plants and his ability to create. That makes him considerably more effective mentally in his other daily tasks. It appears backwards to think that adding to your plate helps you be better at doing more. But when it comes to something creative, your brain could use the break to work on something fun.

4. Escape

Creating something has a way of forcing people to have a one-track mind. It’s like your brain is working so hard on the actual task that it’s impossible to think about anything else at the risk of sacrificing the quality of the product. Is it an escape in that there is no work involved? No. But I personally believe that humans were wired for work. God didn’t set man in Eden and say “Go lay around and watch TV now.” He said that He had put man there to keep the ground and to work. That’s where real fulfillment comes from.

5. See Things Differently

Those who practice parkour have a very unique perspective on what a playground looks like. They don’t see monkey bars, slides, etc. They see a way to get from point A to point B. If you’re lost here, go youtube “parkour”. You’ll be hooked immediately. Guaranteed.

The point is that people who create on a daily basis tend to see the ability to express that creativity everywhere. You see a set of stairs with a handrail; a good skateboarder sees a grinding rail. You see a modern building; a parkour artist (tracer) sees a way to get up high/a playground. You see a sidewalk; a chalk artist sees a canvas. It’s really exciting and fun when you start to see the world through the lens of your craft or hobby.

Buena suerte, amigos! Go forth and make something. You’ve been reading on your computer long enough.

Starving for Intimacy

College Gameday.

With my love of college football naturally came this bucket list item. Only recently did I realize that my wife had long-time wanted to tailgate at Ole Miss and had never officially tailgated before. A couple of weeks ago, all of these wonderful things came together in Oxford, MS for an opportunity that we just couldn’t pass up.

After a day of football, waking up way too early to be behind ESPN broadcasters on the show, and lots of food, we were headed back to the car – exhausted and carrying a heavy cooler about half full of water bottles. I poured out the ice to make it lighter as I had carried the full thing about a mile to the Grove from where we had parked. While we had stopped to pour out the ice, some foul-mouthed youngsters were walking by. I’m not a big fan of the rudeness that accompanies swearing in front of a lady, so I called the guys over. At this point, Melissa is saying that it’s alright, she’s not worried, and was probably scared to death of what I might say. But I took the opportunity to offer them water bottles. They graciously accepted and were fairly quiet while drinking their water for the remainder of the time they were with us. Pretty smart, huh?

It didn’t take long to realize that my cooler got lighter with the lack of those 3 bottles. So I offered an ice-cold bottle to everyone that we passed on the way back to the car. The last of my bottles left the cooler with some girls that were incredibly grateful for the drink. I got the impression that they had been looking for something to drink for quite some time with no luck. The eagerness to get the water reminded me of a concept that C.S. Lewis brings out in Mere Christianity. (Read my full list of recommended reading here.)

Lewis is discussing sexual sins and brings out the point that he doesn’t think we have a misinterpretation of what intimacy is supposed to be, but instead, we have a need for real intimacy. Think about a place that you could get lots of people to come into a building with flashing lights and stages. As the curtain goes up, a steak dinner sits on the stage, It looks good, it smells good, and no one can get up on stage with it. As the lights go out at the end of the show, everyone’s mouths are watering for more. Would you say those people don’t understand food? Quite the contrary, they are starving for it.

It seems like when you only consume what is bad and improper, your body tends to need and want what is best for it. After a day of eating junk, I can’t wait to get some good veggies in my omelet the next morning. I think that intimacy is the same way. Our culture gives us access to all sorts of junk. It is perverted, convoluted, and about as far away as you can get from God’s original purpose. That is a huge market, not because we don’t know what intimacy is supposed to look like, but because we’re working to fill a body that needs certain nutrients with things that simply won’t satisfy their cravings.

Frozen with Fright

“Fear not, I am with thee…” – Isaiah 41:10

Fear prompts inertia. Not knowing what will happen in the future is enough to take any otherwise strong human being and cause a complete emotional breakdown. Fear causes immobility. We think that if we remain still, it is impossible for our fears to turn into reality.

The reason that God is telling the Israelites to “Fear not” here is because what is about to happen to them is absolutely terrifying. Their city will be burned to the ground, their homes will be destroyed, their children and able-bodied will be carried away into captivity for 70 years after a 4-month walk through the desert to arrive at their destination. But in the midst of all this, God’s desire is to remind them that He is their God, He is with them, and He is in control. He tells them that they are upheld by His righteous right hand and they are reminded that He is also good. Verse 20 of Isaiah 41 tells us that the reason behind all of these happenings is so that the people will have no doubt that God is God and He is the one acting in all of the circumstances.

It’s not in inertia that the work of God is most clearly seen. Had Peter just sat in the boat, Jesus never would have pulled him out of the water and he never would have walked on it in the first place. Don’t let your fear keep you frozen. Keep pressing on and moving forward in faith. That’s where victories are won. That’s where mountains are moved. That’s where foes are conquered. That same God of the Israelites is holding you too. What more trust or assurance could you possibly need?

“So, what do you do?”

I travel a good bit for work. Even though I’m not a huge fan of talking for the duration of long plane rides, I find it useful to at least know a little bit about the person next to you. For whatever reason, it makes the trip a bit more bearable for me. The typical conversation goes like this:

Me: “Traveling home or away?”

Them: (insert answer here) …”What about you?”

Me: (insert answer here) …”What are/were you doing there?”

Them: “Business. You?”

Me: “Same here.”

Them: “So, what do you do?”

And so begins my speech about how I get to do some cool things but that explaining what I actually do takes a while to actually explain and most people won’t understand even after we’ve done that. It’s not ever that I’m ever envious of their answer or even that I wish I was telling them about a different profession. It’s more that I don’t think that someone’s profession should ever define “what they do.”

Maybe your job is cool enough that you want to tell everyone about it! That’s awesome! But think about yourself for a minute. Consider the things you enjoy doing on a daily basis. Think about your hobbies, what you’re good at, and the people you love. When you think about your life, your job or profession is or should be only a small part. It should not define you.

After issuing this as a personal challenge, my next answer to that dreaded question will look something like this:

“I am a newly converted runner who loves coffee, learning, and expressing my thoughts through writing and public communication. I love Jesus and I have the best wife ever. We’re currently in the process of adopting our first child.” 

Is it perfect? Nope, and it’s definitely subject to change. It’s just to make the point that you need to be more than your job. It’s a personal struggle for me, regularly. I’d say that thinking about myself and “what I do” outside of my job is a great step in the right direction.

All that being said…

What do you do?

If I Never Got Paid Again

Question: What would you do for the rest of your life for free? That is to say, I’m looking for something that you enjoy doing that much. As I pondered over this while on a long run the other day, thoughts began pouring into my head. I thought about my parents and my in-laws who all spend countless hours on various things ranging from ministry, to running a non-profit, to writing, to driving teenagers across the country for a 2-week long summer camp. I thought about my wife volunteering us to spend time in the upcoming weeks with a group of kids from China that a nearby adoption agency is bringing in hopes that they will be adopted, regardless of the fact that, since our agency is in another state, the possibility of us getting one doesn’t exist. I even thought about the mentor in my life who got me involved in politics and grassroots campaigning – a little known portion of my life, but incredibly impactful, nonetheless.

There were countless examples that I could’ve pulled and used for this post. But one particular week came to mind. It was, hands down, one of the hardest weeks of my life and one of the most rewarding at the same time. My wife and I had been elected to direct Vacation Bible School (VBS) at our church at the time. She would play the part of the actual director and I would be the VBS pastor. Once titles were set, we rigorously went to work, having no idea of the changes to come in our lives that very same week.

See, while we were attending this church, I was finishing up school. The idea was always to get a job after school in some sort of sales/marketing role as that was the field of study I had chosen. As it turned out, through a series of circumstances, I ended up in the manufacturing industry as a buyer for a large paper company. The job was located in another state about 1.5 hours away from where we were living at the time and 2 hours away from our church. The scheduled start date? The Monday after VBS.

Trust me when I say that it was harder than it sounds. We spent the weeks leading up preparing for the move and VBS simultaneously. We had teacher positions to fill, a church to decorate, an apartment to pack up, and lots of drives back and forth. Oh, and a house to find.

The week of VBS was insane. We spent the mornings packing and taking loads up from our apartment to our new place, working with the landlord to get utilities and things like internet hooked up, and then leaving just in time to shower (although, sometimes we didn’t make it back in time for that) and drive to church to VBS in the evenings. Here are a few highlights:

– I have an awesome wife. She has this uncanny ability to keep millions of things straight in her head all at the same time. She was poised, well organized, and did a bang up job with VBS that week.

– I also have a pretty great best friend and family. They drove up every night after conducting their own VBS an hour away and helped us with ours. They were invaluable resources to have and kept us from going completely crazy. I think the church members liked them alright too.

– Speaking of the church members, ours were/are incredible. They stepped in where help was needed whether it was their job or not. They filled the positions we needed, decorated the church, and were key in making VBS a success. To any of you who are reading this: Thank you.

– Our pastor drove up to our house with a rented truck to help us take our furniture to our new house with one of the youth from the church. It was a true blessing to have them help us as that was definitely our biggest load and one of the more stressful times of the move.

– We spent the week of VBS raising money for an organization for Romania Reborn. You should stop reading right now and visit them at http://romania-reborn.org. The organization spends its resources helping orphans in Romania get adopted. The country is closed to outside adoptions and because of racism issues there, finding adoptive parents can be very difficult. It was life changing to get to share about the organization and show pictures of the orphans to the kids who attended our VBS and their parents on the last night. VBS and Romania Reborn gave me a brand new look at what “pure and undefiled religion” looks like when it is lived out.

What’s the point of all of this? All money received was donated to Romania Reborn. We spent that entire week (and the weeks leading up to it) without getting paid at all. Understand, I’m not complaining at all. The point is, I’d do it again! I love getting to teach the Bible to kids, I love getting to work with my wife, I loved getting to spend time teaching and working with the beautiful people of that church. The experience was an awesome way to end our time at the church. It brought us closer as a couple and stretched our limits beyond what we would have otherwise thought them to be. It was more than worth the time and energy put into it. What a blessing. Something like that is what I would be willing to do for the rest of my life for free. I guarantee you that I get out of those things way more than I put in.

Counting Pennies

“When you count your pennies, your dollars will take care of themselves.” – Colleague

Maybe it’s my occasional desire to relive the speech and debate competition from high school. Maybe it’s my personality that tends to question everything. Maybe it’s my disdain for authority and being told how to think. Whatever it is or was, something about this statement never sat well with me since I first heard it a few weeks ago.

Ironically enough, it came more as a praise than as advice. That made me even more uncomfortable. I have a spiteful side that always tends to question what I really think when I find myself agreeing with common thought.

As I began to chew on this statement, thoughts poured into my head from everything I had learned since I began working at a “real job” after college. Traditionally speaking, the statement sounds pretty good. When you take the time to take care of the little things, the big things take care of themselves.

Note: This is not to be confused with Jesus saying “He who is faithful in little will be given much” or with Benjamin Franklin’s “A penny saved is a penny earned.” Those are COMPLETELY different.  

I went back to the years where my sister and I would sit at the table and count hundreds of pennies for my grandfather’s beeper store. He paid us a whopping $.50 for every 50 pennies we counted out. It wasn’t until later that we realized just how gypped we were in this deal. We spent our time counting the pennies so that he could keep track of the dollars.

My next thought was this: Who in their right mind wants to spend their time counting pennies instead of dollars??? That’s for people looking for something to do. That’s for people who focus on the 80% of input that only produce 20% of the output. That’s for people who find ways to be productive and avoid any value creation whatsoever. Those people can answer phone calls and return emails all day and then leave without any real contribution to the business.

I had a former boss tell me that he could take a bum off the street and teach him to do what I did. Initially, that didn’t make me feel too great. But the point was that daily tasks (counting pennies) is something that anyone can do. Those who truly want to be successful have a nose for the dollars. They let everyone else worry about the pennies. After all, there are plenty of people to do that. The visionaries are those who see the big picture.

What’s the takeaway? What did I learn from this? Focus on the things that matter. In the long run, it doesn’t really matter how many points your fantasy team scores if your family is waiting to spend time with you. Focus on the 20% of input that produces 80% of the output. That’s where the value lies.

That means something different for everyone. For me it means taking the time to write when I could be watching tv or mindlessly checking social media. Make sure you consider the opportunity cost of what you do. Is responding to that email that could really wait until tomorrow really worth the time that you could be spending doing something creative and contributive to the company?

Bottom line: Figure out what’s important, I mean really important. Then do that. The rest is just pennies.

10 Books That Have Changed My Life

Someone once said that you can’t judge a book by its cover. That’s probably true. However, you can also probably judge a man by the books he reads and the company he keeps. I usually avoid posting anything simply because someone tagged me on Facebook. But given my love for books, well, I couldn’t help myself.

Let me go on the record by saying that, above all else, the Bible has had the largest life-changing effect on me. That Book is one that has comforted me in times of trouble, encouraged me in times of doubt, ensured where I will spend eternity, and been a “lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105). That being said, I felt like it was important for you to know, but also cheating to put it on this list…anyway, let’s get to it. In no particular order…

1. The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss 

Though I wouldn’t catch myself agreeing with everything in here (because that would make me a Ferriss-ee – see paragraph 2) this book completely changed the way that I work, the way I think about problems, and dramatically reduced my work stress and increased my productivity. I’m not a big fan of the language that is woven throughout the book in Ferriss’ writing style, but he does bring out some pretty awesome stuff about life-hacking, learning, and work. I think my favorite concept from this one is that Ferriss desires for more people to work to live as opposed to living to work.

2. How Shall We Then Live by Francis Schaeffer 

Schaeffer takes readers throughout the history of art and music and teaches them to see the world through a Biblical worldview. This book made me see the seemingly secular world in a completely different way. He focuses on history and, therefore, the present. As you know, those who don’t learn their history are doomed to repeat it.

3. Redwall by Brian Jacques

This is the book that made me fall in love with reading. As I recall, my uncle gave this book to my mom for me to read. Between the ages of 8 and 10, Mom would lay beside my bed and read to me. When that pace became too slow and I couldn’t sleep without knowing what happened next, I took it upon myself to read ahead…and never really stopped. This book taught me that my imagination was limitless and sparked my creativity on a regular basis (a friend and I drew out entire plans for a video game based on the series).

4. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitsgerald

I just recently finished this book but it changed the way that I look at the American dream of anything being possible. I won’t give away what happens in the book but, suffice it to say, mankind is royally screwed up. Call it a guilty pleasure but it’s a classic, for sure. Definitely worth the time to pick up.

5. The Art of War by Sun Tzu

Without question, the greatest book on strategy that I have ever read. This classic work is full of quips and sayings that are applicable to everyday life. I think about it on a regular basis when it comes to negotiations and employ the tactics often.

6. Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

This is definitely the book that I am most likely to give as a gift. See mystery through the eyes of a deranged detective and his faithful friend, Dr. Watson. What is the best thing I’ve taken from Sherlock? “When you’ve eliminated the impossible, whatever is left, however improbable, is the truth.” Used hand-in-hand with my Dad’s philosophy of “checking the easy stuff first”, it makes for a pretty fun way to look at and solve problems.

7. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

If Schaeffer changed the way that I see the secular world, Lewis changed the way that I view the Christian walk. In this book, Lewis makes the concept of the Gospel and walking it out as simple as possible. He uses clear, concise language to communicate the message of love that pours forth from the Scriptures. This is a must read whether you’re a new Christian or a well-seasoned veteran.

8. The Law by Frederic Bastiat

Written by a French philosopher a long time ago, The Law made me see the political and economic system in a completely different light. Bastiat focuses on freedom being the root of all else and that, without it, the system doesn’t work. Whether you’re republican or democrat, I strongly recommend you pick up a copy.

9. See You At The Top by Zig Ziglar

A motivating work of literature that forced me to look at everything in a positive light. Ziglar spends his pages declaring the praises of positive thinking, self talk, and expecting to win. This book will just plain make you happy no matter who you are. If you’re down in the dumps or need a boost, this book is for you.

10. Ishmael by E.D.E.N. Southworth

If you’re a parent, this book should be read with your kids. The story centers around Ishmael Worth – a child who faces insurmountable odds to become a self-made man. It’s a bit intimidating in length and takes a while to get..less than depressing. But unless you appreciate where the boy comes from, you never truly appreciate where he goes.

Honorable Mentions:

I swore that I wasn’t going to extend the list but I couldn’t leave these two out…

Call of the Wild by Jack London 

If you like adventure, this one is for you. Since becoming an avid runner, I no longer consider myself a “dog person” which is really ironic since this book tells the entire story from a dog’s viewpoint. London’s manliness comes out in every page as Buck faces harsh winters, ferocious wolves, and sled racing. This was a fantastic read for me and highly recommended.

Carry On, Mr. Bowditch by Jean Lee Latham

This book is what sparked my love for learning new languages (and things in general) and feeling like I could accomplish that, myself. I strongly believe that, without this book, I would never have listened to the Daily Audio Bible in Spanish long after finishing the actual school requirements. I would have never worked to become conversational in Mandarin Chinese before visiting the country this year. I certainly would have never learned some Tagalog to better communicate with our accounts payable department in the Philippines (despite them being able to speak English). This book truly inspired me to be a lifelong learner. Thanks for making us read it in school, Mom.

There you have it. A list of my favorites. Hopefully you learned a little bit more about me in the process of reading what I like to read. Also, it is worth mentioning that I will gladly ready anyone’s list because I love adding to mine and seeing what inspires others. Tag me!

Recommend on LinkedIn

Are you a LinkedIn member yet? If not, you definitely should be. If you are, connect with me! It’s an online network for professionals that essentially allows you to have your resume posted online 24/7. It’s a great tool to use to see what other people in your industry are doing, talking about, and working on.

Probably one of my favorite features is the ability to recommend people you know or have worked with in the past. Prospective employers and recruiters like to see that you have had a positive impact on those around you. The great thing about the formatting of recommendations is that, when you write one for someone else, that person has the option to review, publish, and then recommend you back. It’s an awesome give-and-take relationship setup.

If you’re on LinkedIn and aren’t writing recommendations on a regular basis, you’re really missing out on a few fantastic benefits to doing so:

1. Showcased Writing Skills

It’s easy to think that what you post online will only be seen by you and your close friends (Hi, Mom!). But blogs, facebook, twitter, etc. all prove the exact opposite. My wife’s blog has regular viewers from all over the world! You should definitely check it out. LinkedIn is no different. If your recommendations are published, they are not only seen by you and your friends but by anyone who views the profile of the person you recommended. They may not necessarily be looking to hire, but recruiters take the ability to write and communicate professionally seriously.

2. Win Friends and Influence People

To borrow from Zig Ziglar, “You can have everything in life you want if you’ll just help enough other people get what they want.” Recommendations on LinkedIn provide a great way to do just that. Help other people get what they want. Not to mention, think about the improvement of your professional and personal relationships with people for whom you have just written a dazzling recommendation.

3. Think Positive

Saying nice things about people forces you to notice the good and eliminate any negative feelings you have towards them. Note: Unless you do that, your recommendation won’t be very good at all. That being said, if you’re angry at someone, write something nice about them and those feelings tend to melt away. Thinking positively about people has all sorts of inherent benefits. You would not believe how much easier people are to work with when all you can think about them is friendly, positive, and productive.

All of that being said, get to writing. It makes you a better employee, more effective communicator, and an all around happier person.

“But you don’t have to take my word for it…” – Levar Burton (Reading Rainbow)

Just get going. You never know, you may be writing your own blog post about it in the near future. Let me know when that happens. I’d love to read it.

– Andrew

Land of the Free

“America will always be the land of the free so long as it is the home of the brave.” – Radio DJ

Memorial Day has always been one of my favorite holidays. I love spending time with family, celebrating summertime, and the day off from work has never hurt either. I scroll through my Facebook and Twitter feeds and love seeing people who are proud of their country. I love hearing the feelings of gratitude come through on the radio to those serving our country in between my favorite summer country songs. I appreciate the seriousness that is shown by those who really know what this holiday is all about.

Remembering that freedom never has been free is a very monumental concept for me. I was listening to a podcast today about the death and resurrection of Jesus that really got me to thinking. Enjoying the freedom from death that we as Christians enjoy is certainly important. But if we forget the cost, all of a sudden that freedom begins to be taken for granted. The Memorial Holiday weekend is no different. When we stop remembering the price that those who came before us paid, we start to think that all there is to our country is political affiliation, the quality of our Commander and Chief, or the issues that plague our very young nation.

I try to make it a point to always thank people who serve our country. I love seeing military personnel in restaurants and meeting them in airports. Something about getting to shake the hand and thank someone who is willing to die for me (regardless of my beliefs, politics, or whether I agree with what they’re doing in the first place) has always given me a sense of humility that doesn’t come from many other places.

We remember the fallen because their sacrifice gives us what we have today. Don’t have a flipant view of this holiday. Remember how your small part in this grand picture of life can make a difference to those around you. Regardless of whether you are in the service or not, you still have a life to give. Make sure your gift doesn’t go un-given to your culture and to your world.