Saturday, December 20, 2014

The Saturday Before Christmas Sunday

The ladies have appeared at the church to clean.
   The music directors will hustle in in a few minutes to be ready for the kid's arrival.
     Kids young and tall, old and small will race in the lobby doors for their dress rehearsal.

Today is the Saturday before Christmas Sunday and it will be busy.  I love this time of year and all the bustle it brings!

I'm not preaching tomorrow because of the Kid's Christmas Musical but I'll still be busy. Yesterday was an intense day of people appointments so administration took back seat. Today projects will be in the drivers seat of my work life.

My Nozbe Priorities folder tells me I have 39 tasks left to do before I can declare today's work complete. I'd best get going.

Happy Saturday before Christmas Sunday!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Is Inbox Zero Really Possible?

It's 4:00 p.m. and my email inbox is again showing zero emails. Amazing!

One day I discovered David Allen's book "Getting Things Done" in a bookstore in Halifax, Nova Scotia. That was in 2001 or 2002 and what I learned then has guided my email interactions ever since.

I've learned that I can consistently process my email inbox to zero each day with all work contained therein purposefully processed and stored in my trusted system so that nothing slips through the cracks.

Today I have 41,166 emails filed away in my All Mail folder in Gmail. All actionable information has either been processed for completion or stored for future reference.

An empty inbox is so second nature to me now that I forget that this is not the experience of many people. The stress brought on by unprocessed email is very real and calls for a commitment to a few simple disciplines to push away the night terrors.

Here's how I consistently process the 50-100+ emails I receive each day:

  • I commit to keeping my inbox at zero each and every day. I love the feeling of being stress-free and not having anything lurking around that could cause me to miss critical information and fail to take appropriate action. So every 24 hours, I process to zero so I can do other things far more exciting.
  • When I open my email manager, I'm committed to processing what's there.  So many people snack on their email, avoiding those that require thought and action and opening what seems fun and entertaining. If my inbox is open, I'm processing each email either by answering it (if it takes less than two minutes), by forwarding the information to either Nozbe ( for action or to Evernote ( for reference, or to my calendar so I can make that important meeting when it comes along. Email, for me, is all business and I get in and get out as quickly as possible! 
  • I delete a lot of emails and know I can set up Gmail filters if I wish to. There's a good filtering system available in Gmail if you want to use your email manager to store reference emails. For me, leaving emails in the black hole that Gmail All Mail means I won't deal with them ever again so I just use Nozbe or Evernote or my calendar instead.   
  • I unsubscribe a lot. I'm one to quickly sign up for an email, only to discover later on that I really have little or no interest in what the company is selling. Your best friend and mine is the unsubscribe button!
  • I turn off email notifications on my computer, iPhone and iPad. While this doesn't really address the above question, it is a helpful habit that frees me from the incessant distraction email brings. I check email about 4-5 times per day: 1) upon rising (just an emergency scan using my iPhone; 2) after I process the first 1/3 of my Daily Routines list; 3) about 30 minutes before I leave the office for lunch; 4) just before I leave work at the end of the day; and 5) I might do an emergency scan about an hour before bedtime. You will not die if you don't check email every 15 minutes; in fact, you might get some work done!

Is Inbox Zero really possible? It certainly is if you develop a few good habits. Try one of mine and see if it helps you find the freedom that Inbox zero brings!


This is What Motivates and Guides Me
Dean C. Brown

Statement: God is my ever-present Father whose enabling grace is always at work in me to influence others to serve the ever-expanding Kingdom of Jesus Christ.

Role: Follower of Jesus Christ
Value: I Value Presence
I am a follower of Jesus Christ and His Presence in my life impacts every aspect of who I am, what I do, and how I will be remembered as a human being. My personal spiritual vitality is a barometer of how well I am doing in every other area of my life.
Vision: Today I passed away and left behind everything of earthly value to me.  I have awakened in Heaven and the voice I hear calling me is recognizable because Jesus and I have spend a lot of time together before I got here. I'm glad I paid the price to get to know Him long before now!

Role: Life Steward
Value: I Value Personal Health
I am most on my game when I am active in pursuing a healthy lifestyle of ideal physical weight, social/emotional, intellectual and spiritual development.
Vision: I run up stairs without becoming breathless because I practice moderation in my eating, sleeping, and exercising. I'm also well adjusted far into my old age because I have balanced my social life, emotions, study and prayer so as to stay young mentally, emotionally, attitudinally and spiritually.

Role: Family Man
Value: I Value Family
The Lord created me to love and fight for the heart of my best friend, Rosalie, and to spend myself pursuing her beauty as we scale the obstacles of life together. Sarah Beth and Naomi Lynn captured my heart at their birth and will always have my attention as I keep the channels of communication open to them. My son-in-law Ryan, granddaughters Michal and Evelyn, son-in-law Ronnie, and grandsons, Aaron and Eli, will always know that I love them and that Jesus Christ has been the defining factor in my life success.
Vision: Today the Lord allowed me to look back from Heaven to my family on earth and what I saw pleased me greatly.  Each one was striving to love and serve Jesus Christ, and on the date of my birth or death, they paused for a moment and considered my life and determined to emulate it by loving and serving the same Lord I did.  I'm looking forward to us all being together in eternity one day soon!

Role: Church Leadership Developer
Value: I Value Church Leadership and Whole-person Development
I embrace the reality that the local church is at the heart of God's plan for reaching the world for Jesus Christ. I am called to do all I can to develop myself so that I may develop healthy leaders who will play a defining role in the continued development of the Church.
Vision: As I read the church news today. I see that one of the many church leaders I influenced while in ministerial service has reached another milestone in his/her ministry.  I smile because I know I played a small part in their success.

Role: Lover of Life
Value: I Value Fun
Life is altogether serious enough without robbing my days and nights of good, clean fun. I will embrace my sense of humor and enjoy it in others so that my world is filled with laughter.
Vision: I enjoyed a great laugh today as I played a game or enjoyed a joke with the people I love to be with.  I am a well-rounded person because I include having fun as a regular part of my life and work!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Coffee and Grandsons

I came to the office this morning to get my sermon work done and to finish up details for Sunday:

  • Change the church sign
  • Process inbasket to zero
  • Scan files
  • Process next actions in my GTD system
  • Process mail
  • Update computers
  • Care for banking issues
  • And, stuff...
About 10:30 AM, I sensed a call from within for a coffee and I remembered the free java card I had received from a friend a while back. About that time Rosalie popped into the office after her early morning shift at THD and she told me that she was taking Na and the boys to run some errands. 

"I need a coffee!" I exclaimed, and showed her my Stewart's card. Off we went. Have you ever noticed that a coffee seems to taste better somehow when it's free? :-)

We stopped by the kid's house, picked up Na and the boys and headed back to my office so I could get back to work. Aaron told me that a square has four sides and that a triangle has three. I was impressed!

Just seeing my grandsons makes my day a little bit brighter. We're best buds so we love spending time together. 

Now I'm back at work and the kids are gone. But coffee and grandsons make for an unbeatable combination on a Friday morning before a busy winter weekend.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

An Adirondack Winter Storm Drive

Last evening Rosalie and I attended an event in Colonie, NY and had an enjoyable evening. But the trip home was certainly interesting.

A pre-winter storm brought lots of snow to the region and the Northway was very slippery - we could only travel at 40-45 miles per hour all the way home. The highway crews hadn't plowed so my Hyundai Sonata was left to handle the mess on its own (and it did it well!).

Today the storm has drifted to the northeast and only cloudy skies remind us of what was last night.

Is there a storm blowing through your life today? You're only living the experience of most of humanity this hour. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit of God is on duty and eager to guide you through the most impenetrable storm to safety.

If I had had to plow through last evening's snowstorm on my own and on foot, it would have been an entirely different outcome. But I relied on the life-saving technology of my vehicle and it delivered me to my home without incident. Not every car on the highway could have said that.

You don't have to plow through your life storm afraid and alone today but you can call to the One who promises to never leave or forsake you (Hebrews 13: 5-6). Take a minute right now to pause and ask Him for His help and then rest in the knowledge that He's on the job making a way through for you.

Friday, November 28, 2014


Today is Friday, November 28, 2014. It's Black Friday in the United States. As is typical of my days, I rise early (between 5-5:30 AM) to begin my day. I turned on my Macbook Pro, updated the antivirus, opened a new daily note in Evernote where I record my daily activities, gained situational awareness for my day by checking my calendar, and enjoyed time alone with God and journaling.

I read a chapter of Charles Kraughthammer's book "Things That Matter" where I gained a cosmic view of the mortality of life - my life - as I learned about Halley's Comet and the realization that it won't be back this way until 2060. I won't be here to welcome it in the night sky!

Most of my days are spent serving as a local church pastor in a community of saints known as Vantage Pointe.  Today our volunteer administrator is in to do the weekly program for Sunday. I will be finishing up the administration not completed yesterday (Thanksgiving Day!) and then will be hard at work on Sunday's message. I also write all the lessons for our Discovery Groups and lead a group myself. Fun!

I have an office at the church but have not always been able to use it: mold is prevalent in these mountain regions and there are days when the smell of this 1970's building is too pungent to work in. The church also had a flood a year ago and I was out of office for quite a few months while repairs were being made. And after a premature departure of staff a few years back, there was no one at the office anyway so I worked at home where the internet is much better and where many of my study books are housed. With the onset of all things digital, I can do most of my work now at home, at a coffee shop, or in a hotel room while traveling. I keep office hours from 9-12 noon Monday, Wednesday-Friday.

I also interact with people a lot: on the phone, through private Facebook communications, through email, and in person at the office or out and about. I don't talk about who I talk/meet with as it's no one's concern but theirs and mine and God's. If I break confidence, my ministry effectiveness will be over.

A pastor's work is never done: living within a few steps of the door of the church makes my wife and I an on-call couple, responding to people at the door all hours of the day and night. We have to get off the property on our Days Off or we'll be working all day. The church is in close proximity to the parsonage and the windows in the parsonage are old and leak not only air but also serve as a non-filter for all the conversations that occur in the parking lot. Hearing voices here does not mean you are crazy, just living or standing next to the parsonage!

My wife works at The Home Depot to help make ends meet financially. I serve a church plant/church restart situation so a raise in pay and or an expense account is not possible. Even paying pension is a major challenge so we celebrate when it can be paid. The Lord takes care of us and will continue to do so, we know!

I manage my life and ministry using the GTD methodology popularized by David Allen. I have 98 projects on the go right now so I always have lots to do when I want to do it. I use Nozbe software by Michael Sliwinski to manage my lists and Evernote houses all my project and reference materials. As of this morning, I have 6632 notes in my system.

In days past, I served in larger churches where administrative staff managed the details of the day-to-day of ministry.  But I'm that person now. It's harder and takes more energy to pastor a church of 100 than it does a church of 375. Maybe it's because I'm 53 years old!

I serve with as great staff of three others: a paid Asst. Pastor and two volunteer staff members.  All staff are either ordained or have completed the six pack of courses through The Wesleyan Church. I'm responsible for making sure their work is processed and completed and that they have the tools they need to do their best in ministry. I'm much less strict with my team now than I once was (deepest apologies to all former staff members!). Most of the time that's good, but at other times, I guide them in doing what they know they should do to serve well in ministry. I work between 60-70 hours per week on average.

We've moved 6 times since coming to NY from Atlantic Canada in 2007: Halifax to NY, Corinth to Queensbury, Queensbury to Corinth, Corinth to Queensbury, Queensbury to South Glens Falls, and South Glens falls to Queensbury.  It's a long story as to why all the moving. Needless to say, it has meant a level of upheaval that's hard to describe in a post like this! :-)

I also serve as District Secretary for the Eastern New York/New England District. This means I record the Minutes at our District Board meetings. We have an awesome DS and administrator in our district.

My youngest daughter and her family live nearby and we LOVE having them near. Our eldest daughter lives with her family in Seattle, WA. We MISS them!

Okay, that's enough for now.