Wednesday, July 15, 2015

2015 California & Oregon Family Adventure

We are getting ready to head to the Portland airport and return to our lives in Memphis.  It's been a great two week adventure, and here are some of my highlights...

Weather - I hear that it’s going to be 100 degrees for the next few days in Memphis.  That’s so sad.  The weather here on the west coast was wonderful.  Crisp and cool in the morning.  Sunny but not too hot in the afternoons.  And most of all, NO HUMIDITY!!!

Books - As someone who has purchased primarily kindle books over the past several years, I must say that after spending some time by myself at Powell’s last night, physical bookstores are great.

Food trucks - I look forward to living in a world where there are great food trucks in every city.  Mandy isn’t quite as fond of food trucks as I am, so I shall pray for her.

Memphis - I know that Memphis has a bad reputation in many parts of our great country, but I have to say that there were times in Oakland and Portland where I was more cautious walking around than I am in Memphis.  Case in point:  yesterday we saw a man walking on the street, yelling and with a paper bag over his head.  Never seen that in Memphis.

Friends - While in the bay area we got to catch up with friends.  Grateful that even though years have passed and we're separated by 2000 miles, we can pick up like no time has past!

Walking - Mandy was tracking our miles walked.  She said we walked around 60 miles over the two weeks.  For Micah and his little legs, that’s got to be the equivalent of over 100, right!  And speaking of mileage, Mandy says that we logged over 4000 miles of driving this summer.  No wonder I’m tired of driving.

Creation - our family’s verse for our two week trip was Psalm 19:1 - "The heavens declare the glory of God.  The skies proclaim the work of His hands."  We all memorized it while at Yosemite, and throughout the trip we recited it back to one another.  During our time I was reminded that our God loves beauty.  Whether it was the granite rising up thousands of feet into the sky at Yosemite, the canopy of Redwoods we saw driving to Mendocino, the ocean crashing against rocks as we curved above on Highway 1, looking up at the stars (and even a planet) from a meadow in Yosemite, or seeing Mt. Shasta and Mt. Hood peeking above the clouds as we drove on interstates, my response each time was one of awe and gratitude.  This trip was so good for our souls.

Family - Finally, the four of us made some great memories that we’ll hopefully never forget.  We laughed a lot.  We rested (a bit).  Mandy and I broke up the occasional fight between the boys, but for the most part they did great together.  The boys got to experience culture in ways that they normally don't.  I’m grateful that we could spend this time together! 

Saturday, December 27, 2014

2014 Top Ten Lists - Apps

There are a number of apps that I use on a daily, or at least weekly, basis.  Here are the ones I rely on most (in no particular order).

1.  Dropbox - I've been using Dropbox for several years. It serves as a cloud backup as well as a simple way to access files from all of my devices.

2.  LastPass - I finally have a good handle on my passwords.  I feel much more secure, and it's a breeze to use.  It again syncs across all of my devices.

3.  PDF Expert - This may well be my most important iPad app.  I use it to write real estate contracts as well as when I teach at NC.

4.  Nozbe - After trying out several task managers, this is the one I landed on.  I'm currently using the free version.  I have three "Projects" set up: Personal, Neighborhood Church, and Real Estate.  Everything falls under one of those.  From there I can note what type of list it is (email, meeting, phone call, etc) and then give it a due date.  Syncs across all devices.

5.  Evernote - I put a lot in Evernote - perhaps too much.  My biggest challenge is to keep it organized by tagging it and putting it in the proper folders.  Some of the ways I use evernote: recipes, real estate contacts, sermon brainstorming, blog posts, notes from phone conversations, kindle highlights, and travel itineraries.

6.  Kindle - Sometimes I miss the feel of a paperback, but tradeoff is that I absolutely love having my entire collection of books on my iPad.  The other thing that is amazing about the kindle is that I can access all of my highlights and notes.  What I normally do after finishing up a book is to save all of the notes in Evernote.  It's great for referencing later.

7.  Zinio - This year I've been doing much of my magazine reading on my iPad.  Subscriptions have come down in price, but the real game changer is that I just learned that I can borrow Zinio magazine issues for free from the library.  I was already doing this with kindle and audio books.

8.  Audible - I enjoy listening to books while I'm driving and when I'm doing chores around the house.  The Audible iPhone app is great, and now that they are owned by Amazon, there is more integration between Kindle and Audible.

9.  Feedly - I started using Feedly after Google discontinued Reader.  I have several categories of blogs and websites that I read on a regular basis.  It's simple to add new content, and it's once again syncs across all of my devices.

10.  Pocket - Finally, there's Pocket.  I love this app!   When I come across an interesting article or blog post in Feedly, I save it to Pocket to read later.  Within Pocket I can tag articles, which I use later for research.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

2014 Top Ten Lists - Books

Below are the best books I read during 2014.  It was hard to choose, so I picked 12 (in no particular order).  Two of the twelve were books I listened to.  The other ten were read on my kindle app.

Money: Master the Game, by Tony Robbins
I have to confess that I haven't finished this 700 page beast of a book.  I first heard the author interviewed on Tim Ferris' podcast (which I highly recommend).  The book is pretty unconventional, but what is great is all of the interviews that Robbins conducted.  He definitely did his homework.  I've already made a couple of changes to our finances as a result of reading this book.

Free, by Mark and Lisa Scandrette
This is probably the best book on money that I've ever read, and the reason is that it's not simply a book about money but a book about values.  Mark and Lisa share their story of the intentional decisions they've made that have enabled them to live life the way they wanted to live it.

Smart Money, Smart Kids, by Dave Ramsey and Rachel Cruze
After I finished college and moved to Nashville, I discovered Dave Ramsey's radio show.  He was very influential on my early money decisions.  Earlier this year I started listening to his show again.  I heard about this book (written with his daughter) and decided to give it a shot.  Very practical and informative.

The Trouble with Paris, by Mark Sayers
I will go ahead and say it: I will read any book that Mark Sayers writes.  Two years ago I read The Road Trip that Changed the World.  It was excellent.  Sayers combines faith, culture, history, and literature in a way that I've never seen.  This book is about consumerism and happiness.

Soul Keeping, by John Ortberg
I love John Ortberg's writing.  I read The Life You've Always Wanted almost 15 years ago, and it continues to be very formative in my life.  This book is focused on his relationship with Dallas Willard.  It is, pun intended, good for the soul.  Note that the kindle version of this book is only $2.99 right now.  Go get it!

Sacred Roots, by Jon Tyson
This is a quick but insightful read on the importance of the Church today.

Making Sense of the Bible, by Adam Hamilton
These next three books were very helpful as I prepared for a teaching series this past spring on theology.  I continue to work through some of the issues that Hamilton raised in this book.  It's very thought-provoking.

Benefit of the Doubt, by Greg Boyd
This was a helpful book on why confidence rather than certainty is the goal when it comes to belief.

The Theology of Dallas Willard, by Gary Black
At times this book was pretty tedious, but I found it very insightful.  Black here tries to compile all of Dallas Willard's teachings (books, talks, and even conversations) and distill a specific theology.  Also written around the same time was A Dallas Willard Dictionary, by Elaine O'Rourke.  It's a helpful little book as well.

The Accidental Anglican, by Todd Hunter
This was a quick read.  I've been following Todd Hunter since my time in San Francisco.  He has had quite the journey going from the Jesus Movement and the Vineyard Churches to now being an Anglican bishop!

Essentialism, by Gergory McKeown
A fellow pastor told me about this book a few months ago, and it has shaped me in some pretty incredible ways since then.  After reading this book I started the process of determining the three primary things I bring to NC.  Since that time I've been honing those things, seeking to stop doing other things, and taking our leadership team through the process.  I still have a lot of work to do, but I believe the process will yield a ton of fruit.

Letters from a Skeptic, by Greg Boyd
I'll end with another that I've yet to finish.  I just started listening to this book a couple of days ago.  The book is a series of letters between Greg and his father about Christianity.  So far, SO GOOD.  Kindle version is currently only $2.51!

Friday, December 19, 2014

2014 Top Ten Lists - Music

Last year was the first time since 2007 that I failed to do my annual top 10 lists.  So, even though my blog posts are now few and far between, I thought I would renew this tradition.  First up...Music (in no particular order)!

The Soundtrack to Inside Llewyn Davis
I still have not seen this movie, but I love the music.  Here's the song "Fare Thee Well", from a documentary on the movie that I did see.  It features Oscar Isaac, Marcus Mumford, and the Punch Brothers.

Snarky Puppy
First off, how can you not dig this band's name.  Listening to their music is great.  Watching a video like this is outstanding.

Punch Brothers
I would absolutely love to see these guys live.  I can imagine that it would be quite the show.

Humming House
Discovered this band on Noisetrade.  Fun, especially this track!

The Brilliance
Please tell me that you know about these musicians.  This is my favorite song.

Once: The Musical
Mandy and I went to see this at the Orpheum.  It was so good.  This song, and particularly the end of the song, was one of those epic and moving musical experiences for me that doesn't happen everyday.

Peter Hollens acapella version of "Hallelujah"
Beautiful.  Those chords!

Digital Age
We did this song at NC a few weeks ago.  Already loved this song, but this version takes it to another level

Head and the Heart
I hate I was out of town when these guys came to Memphis.  I don't like their second album as much as their first, but it's still great.

Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir
This is the fourth version of the Virtual Choir.  Almost 6000 singers from across the world took part in this.  The animation is a little weird in my opinion, but it's a pretty amazing showing of what you get when you combine art and technology.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

Memphis Real Estate

Two days ago The Commercial Appeal released an article titled, "Memphis to Lead Nation for Rise in Home Prices."  (Note that the article is only available to paid subscribers).  It references a report by the Demand Institute.  The most interesting part about their research, at least for us Memphians, is that they are predicting a 33% growth in the housing market between 2012 and 2018 (see page 18 of the report).  We're actually tied with Tampa, FL for #1.

As a home owner and a real estate agent, this is pretty exciting.  Here's what it means.  If they're correct, a house purchased in 2012 for $118,000 (the average price for a in house in Memphis last year) could possibly be worth $157,000 in 2018.  Or, using the same math, a house purchased in 2012 for $200,000 could possibly be worth $266,000!  How's that for a return!

I've always felt great about Memphis real estate, and it's one of the reasons I'm  both a real estate investor and agent.  Eight years ago we moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to Midtown Memphis.  In 2004/2005 we were trying to buy in the Bay Area.  In hindsight I am so grateful that we didn't.  The house we rented at the time was worth over $400,000.  It was 1000 square feet and had two bedrooms and 1 bathroom.  It was in San Leandro, a small community outside of Oakland.

In a good Memphis neighborhood such as Cooper-Young, I can rent a $100,000 home for around $1000/month.  Using that math, the home we rented in San Leandro should have been $4000/month.  It wasn't.  It was $1450/month.  When I did the math, I realized that it was an incredible deal to rent in the bay area, and it was just as much an incredible deal to buy in Memphis.  So since we had been saving money towards a down payment and weren't going to be buying there, we decided to buy investment properties in Tipton County, where I grew up.  And that began my real estate adventure!  

I'll continue to buy here, and more important, I'll continue to help others buy.  If you are looking to buy a home to live in or as an investment, I'd love to help.  You can email me at

As a side note, the other interesting aspect of their research is this:  of the 2,200 cities they analyzed, they discovered that the wealthiest 10% own 52% of the total housing wealth ($4.4 trillion), while the bottom 40% own just 8% of the housing wealth ($700 billion).  I don't guess this should surprise us, but seeing the numbers like this is pretty interesting.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

God Believes in Love

Over the last few days I had the opportunity to watch a conversation between Gabe Lyons and Gene Robinson on the issues of the LGBT community and God.  I say the word "conversation" very intentionally, as I was blown away by the respect that these two men had for one another.  In most cases these types of things are debates, and what unfortunately happens in most debates is that the two parties speak at one another rather than to one another, and true listening and empathy are rare.  I felt that these two men were honest with their beliefs, both in the things they feel solid about as well as the areas in which there are still questions, and I was so encouraged as they both sought common ground and a way forward, which is so key in an issue that has caused this much hurt and division.  No matter what you think about this issue, you owe it to yourself to take some time and watch this.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Sabbatical Reading List Part 2

I've enjoyed having extra time for reading during my sabbatical.  Here are the books that I've been reading these last few weeks...

1.  Love Does, by Bob Goff - Mandy read this book a few months ago and shared with me some of the extraordinary stories that he tells.  I have to admit that as I heard and then read them, I was a bit skeptical.  So I decided that one of my prayers during sabbatical was that I would grow young; in other words, I would recapture faith and be less of a cynic.  I must say that this book has both challenged and helped that prayer.

2.  Sensing Jesus, by Zack Eswine - This is a beautiful and challenging book.  It has given me the desire to live a slower life in which I experience life the way Jesus experienced life.  It exposes over and over again the discrepancies between our view of greatness and God's.

3.  Daring Greatly, by Brene Brown - Her talk at the Willow Creek Leadership Summit was outstanding.  The call towards vulnerability, shame resilience, and wholeheartedness, though challenging (a theme with these books it seems), are timely and critical.  Mandy is currently listening to her previous book, The Gifts of Imperfections.  I'm looking forward to that one as well.

4.  Straight Flush, by Ben Mezrich - I'm a sucker for his books.  The movies The Social Network and 21 were based off of two of his previous books.        

5.  Dad is Fat, by Jim Gaffigan - This is the hilarious book by the comedian who lives with his wife and FIVE young children in a 2-bedroom apartment.