How to Break Your Smartphone Addiction Without Throwing It In the Trash

Recently, I was having a conversation with a local psychologist and the topic of smartphone addiction came up. It’s become a serious problem over the last few years and the constant impulse to check Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc is eroding our ability to concentrate or focus our attention for more than a few seconds. It’s also having a negative impact on our face to face interactions with other people.

Think about it. How many times have you unlocked your phone to check the time or weather and found yourself unconsciously trolling Facebook minutes later?

My friend explained how the constant dopamine surges in our brains have us hooked on the social media and email checks we indulge in several times a day. A recent statistic I read said the average person spends around 1 hour and 40 minutes browsing social media a day. That averages to 28,300 hours in a lifetime (over three years)!

We sleep with our smartphones next to us. They’re often the last thing we look at before going to sleep and the first thing we look at in the morning. We’re captive to notifications, we refuse to just sit and think, and we panic when we accidentally leave the house without our phones.

My psychologist friend will not buy a smartphone. Instead he uses an old flip phone so that he can talk or text, but he had a very interesting solution for those of us who would rather keep our iPhones and Androids because they make work life a little easier.

Put your phone’s display into grayscale mode.

If you’re not sure what this does, it basically turns everything black and white. Colors stimulate the brain in ways that create a sense of urgency. We feel we have to respond now, get more information, seek novelty. But a drab, gray screen is hardly inspiring. It changes your phone from a toy to a tool.

I decided to to give grayscale a try for a week and here’s what I discovered.

I reached for my phone less often. Let’s be honest, a gray screen isn’t very inspiring. Instagram is too blah to spend much time on, and Facebook looks like a turd. It didn’t take long at all before I just didn’t feel like trolling social media.

I didn’t feel the need to always have my phone on me. Since I didn’t feel like I’d be missing something, I was OK with leaving my phone put away when I was at home. This helped me be more present when I was with my family and connect with them with fewer distractions.

My concentration improved. Our brains have to switch gears every time we “just check” something on our phones real quick. This keeps us from thinking deeply and concentrating on the issue at hand. I read more too!

So, what am I doing now that the week-long experiment is over? I’m leaving my phone in grayscale mode. The benefits I’ve experienced from a black and white phone have far outweighed the coolness and shiny object factor of a color display. I don’t feel the draw of my phone anymore. I use it as a helpful tool without getting sucked in to endless distractions.

How about you? Have you tried grayscale mode? How did it make a difference? Feel free to leave a comment below. If you haven’t tried it, give it a week and let me know how it went.

12 Things To Do That are Better Than Looking at a Screen

Everywhere I go I see people looking at screens. Families at restaurants ignoring each other for Facebook, small children watching shows on a tablet while waiting for the dentist, even people watching TV while engaged with their iPad (two-fisted screen consumption!)

Despite all the research that’s proven the negative effects of all of our screen usage, we still do it. On average, Americans spend over 10 hours a day consuming media.

There’s something incredible that happens when we turn off our phones, take a break from our tablets, and power down our TV sets. It helps us to focus, gives us time for more meaningful activities, improves our relationships, and improves sleep.

To that end, I thought I’d provide you with a short list of activities you can do without a screen. Challenge yourself to add theses screen-less activities to your life and see what happens!

1. Read a book. Reading a book stimulates the brain, reduces stress, and improves concentration. Not only that, but the right books will help you to grow and equip you to do some cool stuff.

2. Take a nap. When was the last time you took a nap? A 15 to 90 minute nap can improve brain function and creativity. Not only that, they’re awesome!

3. Go for a walk. Walking prevents heart disease and diabetes. It also improves your mood. I frequently get great writing ideas while I’m walking. Walking’s one of my favorite activities!

4. Journal. Journaling promotes mindfulness, helps you reach your goals, and can even boost your IQ! I’ve been journaling for over 30 years and I love reading through old journals to see how far I’ve come.

5. Have more sex. Ever since we decided to keep the TV off on Monday nights, my wife and I have experienced an increase in lovin’. Put away the screens, turn on some Adele and see what happens ; )

6. Have a pleasant conversation with a family member. Let’s face it, much of our interactions with family members center around taking care of business, dealing with urgent issues, and reminding the kids to get their chores done. Intentionally sitting down to talk about life is such a joy so do it often!

7. Learn to play an instrument. Learning to play an instrument increases your memory capacity, enhances coordination, sharpens concentration, and relieves stress. It’s also super rewarding. I decided to learn guitar a few years ago and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made!

8. Make a bucket list. All those things you want to do before you kick the bucket are much more likely to happen if you simply write them down. In fact, research shows that people who write their goals down are 50% more likely to accomplish them than those who don’t!

9. Play some board games. Board games bring the family together, improve your response time, and reduces stress. Take one off the shelf, put out some snacks, and make a night of it.

10. Do something artistic. Drawing improves creativity, memory, and problem solving skills. It’s also fun to share our artwork with others and display it around the house.

11. Do a nice surprise for someone. Doing nice things for others reduces stress, promotes mental health, and can even help you live longer. Make someone’s day and it could change your life!

12. De-clutter the house.  De-cluttering promotes clarity and focus, and (you guessed it) reduces stress. Go through the garage and get rid of what you don’t need, give away those clothes you haven’t worn and notice how much lighter you feel.

That’s just 12 things you can do without a screen but there are many more. Feel free to share your favorites in the comments section below.


7 Reasons Millennials Are Awesome


Just the mention of them causes some folks to roll their eyes and question the future of our nation once the youngsters are running the place. It seems like a popular past-time to bash those who were born between 1980 and 2000. In fact, you can hardly scroll down your Facebook feed without seeing a blog post or article criticizing them for being entitled, lazy, or selfie-obsessed.

As a pastor who’s been leading Millennials for a while, I have to say I’ve really enjoyed spending time with the next generation. In fact, I’ve made a list of seven reasons why they’re awesome. Check it out.

They’re entrepreneurial. Millennials aren’t stuck in the mindset that you have to get a corporate job with benefits, put in 30 years, and be taken care of by the company through retirement. They’re okay with making less to do what they love, starting new businesses, and carving new paths.

They’re compassionate. I’ve never known a generation to care so much about making a difference in the world. For our camp for abused and neglected foster kids, many of our camp counselors are Millennials and they come back year after year to invest in the lives of their campers. Some have even gone to foster care training so that they can open up their homes to the orphans of today.

They’re flexible. They don’t seem to be stuck in any particular way of doing things. If we make changes at that last minute or adjustments to the way things are done at the church, they just roll with it. I love that we can count on our Millennials to go with the flow.

They’re creative. Growing up, if I wanted to record an album, I had to pay a recording studio huge sums of money to make it happen. If I wanted to be a photographer, I had to purchase an expensive camera and pay to have my pictures developed (while I waited a couple days). If I wanted to make a movie, it would have cost more than a house! Millennials have grown up with affordable technology that helps make all that happen, and they’ve been able to foster those expressions since they were a very young age.

They’re tech-savvy. This goes along with my last point. Growing up with technology, there’s just no learning curve for them. When I was a kid, it was a big deal to be able to set the clock on the VCR without a manual. Millennials are programming virtual reality video games for fun in their spare time.

They’re transparent. I never have to wonder what a Millennial is thinking. I asked one what she though of my book and she answered, “I didn’t think it was going to be that good but I was really surprised.” Maybe not the most gracious answer, but I didn’t leave wondering how she really felt. Growing up in the age of Amazon reviews and social media has taught them to give their opinions plainly and with honesty.

They’re adventurous. This is one of my favorite Millennial traits. Every year or two, I take a foreign missions trip (most of the time to Ireland). I like to take people with me because the experience is wonderful, and has a way of expanding the way you see the world. Besides my mother, the only people who have been willing to go with me are Millennials. They’re okay with breaking their routine, taking time off work, and getting the money together. Instead of immediately thinking about the reasons they can’t, they think about ways they can! It’s an adventure and they’re in!

I’m excited and honored to get to pastor Millennials. I have high hopes for the future and, well, they’re pretty awesome.


Election Aftermath

I had the unusual privilege of observing our nation’s presidential election unfold from a different country’s perspective this year. From the country of Ireland, I watched the news coverage and read Facebook posts as the announcement of our 45th president was made. As I did, I was extremely surprised by the reactions that were expressed over the outcome. In my 45 years, I have never witnessed such unrestrained airing of opinion and conjecture over an election.

In the wake of such strong, angry, and sometimes fearful responses, I thought I might remind you of a few truths to help make your day, and the people around you’s day, a little bit better.

First, to those who have been gloating over the victory of your candidate, please stop. Your man won. Savor the fact that you voted for the winner. Throw yourself a little party even, but there’s no need to rub others’ noses in the loss of their choice for president. It shows little class, and doesn’t honor others to declare how right you were.

Second, to those who have been bemoaning the loss of their candidate, please mind how you express your disappointment. There is a younger generation that is watching how you handle this. Your children and grandchildren are likely to take on your fears, attitudes, and even despair. It’s not a burden that’s fair to place on them. I can only imagine what they’re thinking with all of us grown ups going around gloating and bemoaning.

In the midst of all of the visceral reactions to the election, it seems that we’ve forgotten the most important commandment. It’s to love. We’re called to love those of different political bends and love those who disagree with us. Back in my peewee league football days, we congratulated the team that defeated us. It was a way of graciously accepting that we could have done better and a reminder to play smarter next time. And when we won, we humbly accepted the losing team’s congratulation and moved on to the next game. We lost and won in a loving, respectful way and we didn’t villainize the players on the other team.

If you’re in a cynical funk, and really feel the need to place the blame on someone, or a group of someones, you have my permission to blame the media. It’s no secret that they have controlled the narrative for this election and, for the most part, we’ve gobbled up most of what they’ve fed us with very little research on our part to determine if they’re telling us the truth or find out where the candidates really stand. Their job is to attain, and keep, as many watchers, readers, and listeners as possible, and not to lose you with the boring old truth. Don’t believe the hype. Take it all with a grain of salt.

It’s always been a comforting thing for me to know that the president of our country has limited power. For some reason, we behave like we’re electing a god. I remember people saying that Obama was going to be “rounding up Christians”. Well, here we are, still worshiping in public. The POTUS doesn’t have absolute power. He still leads within a system of checks and balances. In addition to that, we hold elections for a new president every 4 years, and one can’t serve more than 2 terms. For over 150 years, the political pendulum has swung back and forth, with Democrats in power for a season, and Republicans in power for a season. At worse, the other party will be in power for a while, and then things will swing back to your party. Just try to relax and enjoy life in the meantime.

Lastly, I believe that we would get worked up far less if we didn’t so easily forget that our hope is not in political leaders. We are citizens in God’s Kingdom, strangers, not of this world. Let’s act like it. Let’s praise God for His goodness. Let’s serve others with the love and compassion of Christ. Let’s invite others into this wonderful Kingdom and reflect the immense hope that is within us!


What’s Wrong With Authenticity?

Authentic – adjective ə-ˈthen-tik, ȯ-
True to one’s own personality, spirit, or character.

“Authenticity.” Go ahead and say it, everyone else is. Try using it in a sentence like, “I just really appreciate her authenticity.”

It makes me feel somehow more intelligent, deeper, and yes cooler to say someone, or something like music or literature is authentic. It’s the buzzword that keeps on giving. And in the church, as you may know, buzzwords tend to stay in fashion long after their expiration date in mainstream culture.

I’ve been doing some thinking lately about authenticity. Truth be told, I love when I meet a truly authentic person. There’s just something refreshing about their transparency and character.

I’ve noticed something interesting about the use of the word though. Like any word that gets overused, it’s starting to lose it’s impact and be used in ways that aren’t true to its meaning. Let me cut straight to the chase with an example. Person X is having a bad day, their patience is worn thin, and they use some dishonoring language towards, or about, the person who just got on their last nerve. What should have been considered an inappropriate use of words is passed off as “just being real.”

Another misuse of the Authentic Card is closely related. Person Y goes on a rant about their boss, their pastor, or their neighbor. Then they say, “I just needed to vent.” Why is this OK among believers when scripture tells us “A fool gives full vent to his anger” in Proverbs 29:11. Venting isn’t an expression of authenticity unless you’re an authentic gossip and a harpy.

The idea that the day we had, the mood we’re in, or the disposition we possess is an excuse to be a total @$$hole in the name of authenticity is a notion that needs to die, especially in the church where we are supposed to be governed by God’s Spirit and word, and not our feelings. We need to stop valuing authenticity over love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

The truth is, if we’re following Jesus, then He has put a new nature in us. When we get ugly, petty, or whiny, then claim, “That’s just the way I am” (because we’re authentic, of course) we’re saying that the work God did for us wasn’t enough. We condemn ourselves to a life of being ruled by a sinful nature, rather than His nature in us.

Most of the time, when I hear self-claims of authenticity, it comes attached with an ugly attitude of arrogance. But here’s what I’ve learned about genuine authenticity: it’s humble, it desires to improve rather than broadcasting one’s faults with pride, and it doesn’t judge others for appearing to have it together.

If we truly desire authenticity in our lives, we need to stop seeing it as an expression of our attitudes and feelings and evaluate how authentically we are loving others. True authenticity loves, values, and serves others and, in that, we are loving God. That’s the kind of authenticity I want to have!

1st John 2:5 and 6 says, “But those who obey God’s word truly show how completely they love him. That is how we know we are living in him. Those who say they live in God should live their lives as Jesus did.”

My 20 Most Used iPhone Apps

Below is a list of the iPhone apps I use most.  It’s not the sexiest list, but they’re full of real-world use.  Enjoy!


Daily Tracker – I use this app to track just about everything, from my personal devos to exercise and spending. It’s great for those who are trying to get more disciplined. – I like to know what words mean. Does that make me a nerd? Maybe, but at least I can look them up in style with a massively helpful app.
Dropbox – Sharing files among devices doesn’t get much easier. The cool thing about Dropbox is that you can read word processor files and pdfs without needing a seperate reader. I keep a few sermons in my Dropbox just in case.
Ego – I like to keep an eye on my clients’ (and my own) social media properties and this little app lets me do it all in one place.
Evernote – Because the best ideas come at the worst times, this app lets me jot down and organize mine while syncing them between devices. From sermons to blog posts, they usually start with an Evernote.
Facebook – If you’re not using this one, you’re either not on Facebook or you don’t have an iPhone/iPod Touch.
Google Search – This should come pre-installed. On almost a daily basis, I’ll do a quick voice search to answer whatever nagging question is on my mind, like “How old is Bob Barker?”
Hipstamatic – Rather than adding retro effects after the fact, this app turns your phone into a vintage toy camera. Swap out lenses and film types to get some massively cool effects. You can even order paper prints online.
Lose It – After years of trying to drop that last 10 lbs, Lose It helped me finally do it. Plug in your goals and it will give you a calorie allowance. Keep track and you’re on your way. I use it to maintain weight now.
MobileRSS Free – There are prettier RSS readers out there, but I like this one for it’s ability to sync with my Google Reader account. You can also Tweet or email your favorite posts.
Netflix – If you have Netflix, you HAVE to use this app. Stream anything from their instant library right to your phone. I’ve spent an embarrassing amount of nights watching episodes of MST3K while laying in bed.
Olive Tree Bible Reader – There are more popular Bible readers out there, but I like Olive Tree for it’s simplicity and ease of use. Also, you can purchase books so that you don’t have to be online to read them.
Pandora – Create a radio station that plays only your favorite music and listen for free. What’s there not to like? This is the kind of thing car stereo aux inputs were made for!
PolyTune – By far the best guitar tuner for the iPhone. If you’re a guitar player, you know how bad it stinks when you need a tuner and there’s not one to be found. Now you can always have one on you.
Skype – I have to spend LOTS of time on the phone, with many calls going well over an hour or two. Skype lets me talk away without using a single cell phone minute. A must have for keeping those mobile phone bills low.
Todo – Nothing really glamorous here. A task list app that syncs with my iCal task list.
TuneIn Radio – The absolute best radio app I’ve ever seen! Tune in to broadcast stations from all over the world AND online stations. Bookmark them for easy access. You can even record shows to listen to later.
Twittelator Pro – Hands down the best Twitter client I’ve ever used (and I’ve tried a LOT!) Upload to Twitpic/Twitvid, manage multiple accounts, follow lists, shrink urls, translate foreign tweets, and more.
WhitePages – Find people and business, get directions, etc. You can even do a reverse phone number lookup to see who called you, but didn’t leave a message.
Yelp – A great way to find restaurants, shops, etc. nearby. Read reviews to see what others think before going in. Also has a social media component for sharing your own opinions and experiences.

What are the iPhone/iPod touch apps you use most?  Share some of your favs in the comment section below!