Audio Widget!

One of the biggest reasons I haven’t posted in a while is because I want my site to be the central hub for my music and other projects, and I haven’t found a way to upload music in a way that doesn’t look cheap or cheesy.

Today that changes.

WordPress now has an Audio Widget that lets me post audio files directly into the site for your listening enjoyment. See?

Now everything changes. Life is good.

Morning Cup of Joe 2017-03-19

Today was fun.

While scouring the internet for fun activities, I came across a game called “Caterpillar Race” that I immediately fell in love with. It costs $0 to set up, takes 0 prep time (other than demonstrating), and was immediately fun for the kids. The original site is here:  http://www.jubed.com/youth_ministry/view/Caterpillar-Race

I voluntold two of our youth helpers, Lucas and Aaron, to line up behind me and put their hands on the shoulders of the person in front of them. We picked a team name (ours was “Bob”), and then we began when I took a short hop forward. Lucas kept his hands on my shoulders and took a similar short hop forward. Aaron finally took his hop up and shouted “Bob!”

That’s my cue.

Another short hop forward for me, then Lucas, then Aaron, who screams “Bob!” Hop, hop, hop, “Bob!” Hop, hop, hop, “Bob!” Hop, hop, hop, “Bob!”

You get the picture.

I had all of the kids go into the gym with me and line up in three teams of six. In the second service, we did teams of nine, and in the third service, we did teams of five (and that had to involve the worship team). I asked the teams their names, i.e. what they’ll be shouting, encouraging them to keep it to one syllable for simplicity. Altogether today, we had Team Yep, Team Moo, Team Pink, Team Blue, Team Skirt (six young men, no, really, they picked it), Team Blob, and Team Hop. I moved to the half-court line with my Cup of Joe, gave a countdown, and they took off hopping.

shockwave

The most amazing thing to me was watching the teams work together. Some were very jerk-y and slow, hopping one at a time. Others had a visual wave going on, with people hopping forward as soon as they felt the person in front of them jump. It was like the old Macromedia (then Adobe) Shockwave logo: just wavy all across, with people shouting “Blob” and “Pink” and “Hop!”

Team Hop won both rounds, impressively.

Altogether, it was a successful game!


We did a few announcements, such as our upcoming March Madness event on Wednesday night, and finally closed with a Focus Question, which I’m including below.

I hope you’re able to use some of these ideas to make your youth ministry meetings more entertaining.

Go do good work.

 

-Joe

Affilliates

One of the leading ways that people make money online is through Affiliate Marketing. Essentially, if you have a product or service that you would like to promote, you can pay me a portion of your proceeds in exchange for me advertising for you. This happens all over the world with ecommerce, books, courses and more.

For example, if you go to Amazon through my links, Amazon will pay me about 4% of the purchase at no additional cost to you simply for encouraging you to buy something from their site. My commission comes directly out of their profits.

In my blog posts, I will often link to books or tools that I’ve found useful. When you click that link and buy it, I get 4%. Here’s the fun part: if you buy anything else while you’re there, I still get 4%. It’s a literal thank-you from Amazon for sending them business.

Try it out:  Joe’s Amazon Link 

That’s right, I can get sales credit for your purchases, and like I said, it doesn’t cost you a penny extra.

Tons of websites have affiliate programs; signing up for them is usually pretty simple. For example, I’d love to sign up as an affiliate for certain health supplement companies I’m currently enjoying. However, I don’t exactly have a ton of readership, so right now Amazon is the only one I’m utilizing. If I add other affiliates, I will note them below.

Thanks again for reading! Your time and attention mean the world to me.

 

Best,

j

Morning Cup of Joe: 2016-10-30

The Morning Cup of Joe is a short game, activity, or video that either gets our youth group’s adrenaline moving or their curiosity piqued… often humorously.  This post details what we did this week.


I apologize if you’re reading my blog posts chronologically; you really deserve a much better introduction to our Morning Cup routine. Funny videos are prime content, although we’ve had a smattering of what-should-be-award-winning games and activities that really get the kids moving.

This is not one of our finest moments, as far as being politically correct is concerned.

It is, however, one of our most hilarious.

For this week’s Morning Cup, I took one volunteer from the audience to play a game called “What Do You Call A Person With No Arms And No Legs Who.” Yes, you read that right.

Apparently, back in the 1970’s a series of jokes started circulating about guys with no arms and no legs being good for virtually nothing since they couldn’t, well, do much. So it started out with the obvious:

What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs in the middle of the lake?

Bob!

Of course, the trend grew and went from the simple (… lying on your doorstep? Matt!) to the complex (…twin boys with no arms and no legs hanging over your window?  Curt ‘n Rod!).

These jokes are funny, and I’m sorry if you are (or know) a paraplegic and take offense to these jokes. Please try to see the humor in them. Now, in executing the jokes, I switched them up a bit: since we do 3 services every Sunday, I wanted to have a little variety in our morning so not every joke made it into every set. But if you’re itching for details, here’s how it was done.

The way we played the game is as follows:

I wrote them on index cards. I… I was bored. So I started each deck of index cards with a title card, and wrote the time and date on the back. Then, the front of each card got an ellipsis and the question (such as “… trying to water ski, but miserably failing?“) and on the back of the card, I wrote as largely as reasonably possible the name/punchline (in this case, “Skip!“). I shuffled each deck up a bit just for increased variety.

Then, I took a volunteer from the audience (I asked for someone who is good with names) and gave them a handheld mic. All they had to do was read the back of the card. So I would yell out “What do you call a person with no arms and no legs who…” and then read the lined side of the index card, “is laying in the middle of a tennis court?” I then flipped the card to the back of the deck, where my volunteer would read the back of the card and yell “Annette!

We did a solid 3-5 minutes of this every service this Sunday.

When we wrapped up, I gave the volunteer the deck of cards so they can go home and torment their friends and family with these jokes. As they sat down, I yelled out to our video tech, Joey Miller: “Hey Joey! What do you call FIVE GUYS with no arms and no legs in the middle of the ocean WITH a woman named Ann?”

Of course, the punch line is “Bob Bob Bob, Bob Bob ‘n Ann” so at this point, he fired up a music video of the popular Beach Boys song, “Barbara Ann,” over which I had laid a subtitle with the punchline. Some kids argued that they weren’t singing “Bob ‘n Ann” they were singing “Bob or Ann” and I told them that they were REALLY CLOSE and in my head silently judged them because COME ON THAT’S A FUNNY JOKE, HOW COULD YOU MISS IT?! But whatever.


In case you’re interested in doing your own version of this sometime, here are the resources I used. Just be careful, not every single joke is G-rated. PG-13, definitely, I think. Who decides these things, anyway? Anyway, here:

http://www.oocities.org/valeriba/noarms.html

http://www.joecasaletto.com/jokes/quadriplegic.htm

http://yuksrus.com/ol_no_arms_or_legs.html

http://pcmworldnews.com/news/2015/08/the-big-list-of-no-arms-no-legs-jokes/

http://www.ebaumsworld.com/jokes/is-it-possible-more-no-arms-no-legs-jokes/81656521/

http://dangriffin.info/jokefest/NoArms.html


Have fun, be safe, and don’t get sued,

 

-j

Testing Social Awareness

I’ve been looking at my life a little differently lately. Mostly, I’m trying to see myself from an outside perspective. This is something I think, or at least have thought, everyone should do often; it would maybe make us aware that we’re jerks, or naive, or too kind, or a bit of a hot mess at times. I’ve thought of myself as fairly self-aware, but as humans are prone to do, I seem to have forgotten that self-awareness is a state-of-being, not an activity.

I’m questioning a lot of things right now. There are certainties, of course: I love my wife, I love my kid, I am happy with all of the members of my family, et cetera. But what about the rest of it?

How is my sleep quality affecting my wakeful hours and decision-making capabilities?

Am I doing my job because I love it or because it was available?

Who am I meant to be, and am I on a track that’s even in the right direction of that beautiful city or hamlet in which I am meant to dwell?

What’s the destination right now? And with that, what’s the journey, then? Or do I journey just for journey’s sake?

Why do I do what I do? How involved do I want to be in other areas of my life?

I should pause here and point out my atmosphere: darling, I am sitting at the Joe ‘n Throw in Fairmont, WV, and it’s the first time I’ve sat down in a coffee house in at least four years. Four years, and even that’s stretching. And I guess that’s not entirely truthful because I grabbed a latte at the Dirty Bean in Buckhannon a few years ago while I was waiting for my dad to finish up his haircut at the local barbershop. Other than that, though, there’s a little coffee house in Marlinsburg, WV where the band hung out before a performance that evening at the theatre house. And before that was the Book ‘n Bean in Clarksburg, which went out of business in 2006, I think. So this is my third coffee house in 10 years, which points out how rare this is for me.

I use the phrase coffee house deliberately, as well; there is a difference between a coffee shop and a coffee house, and the proliferation of java-touting mermaid symbols does not a ‘house’ inspire.

That being said, I spent a few formative high school years in the Book ‘n Bean. Some of my best friends (who were old enough to drive) would come pick me up and we’d take a guitar out on the porch, drinking our dirty chai lattes, and sing worship songs until the fireflies dotted the humid air over the empty street downtown. A solid coffee house is an atmosphere that’s hard to recreate, and it feels like home to me.

So this soulspring of questions regarding who I am and what I’m doing and where I’m going and why I’m bothering to do any of it at all are just resonating here, and I mean here, specifically. They rattle around in my head constantly anyway, anywhere, but here, it’s as natural as the imported beans and hand-crafted mugs we drink their roasted juice from.

I don’t mean to be flowery in my word choices, either, but here it just comes out. I apologize; it must be annoying, but to me it’s inspirational and this is my site so bug off if it’s not your thing today.

I took a test today to explore an opportunity. Maybe where I am isn’t where I should be. But is that even the right door for the next road? It’s a month of existential crisis, it seems. I don’t know the answers, and I don’t know what’s next…

…but this is a great place to dwell on questions, and for that, I am grateful.

Inspirational Months

I’ve been doing so much reading, but I have one major problem with my reading process: I get interested in a lot of things and try to read a few books simultaneously. Depending on my mood, my circumstances, my schedule, and apparently the phases of the moon, I’ll grab any of the books I’m interested in and pick up where I left off. Much like life, I receive input from a variety of sources: books, podcasts, pastors, parents, my wife, and internet authorities (Tim Ferriss, Pat Flynn, etc.) make up the bulk of my personal input, and most of those I interact with in some fashion on a daily basis.

That being said, I’m currently in the middle of reading or re-reading nine books, which is absolutely absurd to most people.

I have a couple of these books at home for my perusal when I’m not busy: these are limited primarily to leisure reading, like Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” and recently, Pierce Brown’s “Red Rising” trilogy (which I discovered after the author did an AMA on reddit) which are engaging but fun reads.

I keep the majority of my self-improvement books at work, since it tends to inspire. I feel better approaching customers and sparking conversation when my head is full of new information and positive attitudes. Lots of Tony Robbins, all three Tim Ferriss books, and a smattering of recommendations from podcasts and book clubs make their way to my desk and line the back wall of my office.

51FK8v5xOtL._SL250_One book in particular, though, keeps catching my attention, and that is Tony Robbins‘ “Unlimited Power.” I have believed for a long time that a positive mindset is the key to having a positive attitude and multiple positive interactions daily. This book explores that perspective beautifully and engages the structure of our thinking to help maximize those benefits while minimizing negativity.

I admit, I struggle with this a lot. Years ago, when one of my personal relationships failed after years of effort, I found myself in a pawn shop with an expensive ring haggling over whether or not I could get $20 out of it (spoiler: I couldn’t). I was frustrated, growing bitter, and slowly becoming cynical of many things in life. I lost a lot of hope in those days and began questioning the permanence of many good things in life. The thing that annoys me most, though, is how formative I let that period of my life become and how long I’ve stayed untrusting of people and unwilling to receive good things.

I prayed, but honestly, I have been a little distrustful of God because He allowed the whole situation to happen in the first place (I’ve since come to love His aspect of allowing a bad to shape a good). I considered therapy for my negativity, but frankly, I’m poor. I considered guided meditation, but who knows what else someone might sneak into their “guidance” while I’m relaxed and receptive. What’s left?

Reading, I espouse to anyone who will listen, is like having a roadmap of lives we don’t have time to live. We can go where others have gone without leaving our seats. We can feel their pain and share their joy by perusing their experiences and taking them in. So why didn’t I think to read about happiness?

On the recommendation of a few successful entrepreneurs, I picked up Tony Robbins’ “Awaken the Giant Within” on Amazon. I saw that most people bought it simultaneously with “Unlimited Power” so I went ahead and grabbed it as well. Upon starting “Awaken the Giant Within,” I found the outlook and inspiration I was looking for. In truth, Tony’s positivity is contagious. However, about 1/3 of the way through the book, Tony summarizes his earlier work, “Unlimited Power,” in order to move on to another bigger topic.

I don’t want a summary of this stuff. I want the full explanation. I don’t want to skim something this important at this critical portion of my development. So I bookmarked “Awaken the Giant Within” and started “Unlimited Power” post-haste.

This book goes everywhere with me, and that says something. I have very little space in my satchel after my notebook, notepad, laptop, charger, Kindle Fire and current project papers make their way in; to make room for a physical book is pretty massive. When I have time at home (sparing), I read a few pages. When I sit outside work waiting to open up, I read a few pages. When I have time between customers and I have the energy to start the next exercise, I read a lot of pages. Besides “Awaken the Giant Within,” I don’t know that I’ve read such a transformative book.

So, as the title says, I’m having a few inspirational months. I’m gathering my thoughts and attention and getting ready to open up the proverbial floodgates of creativity and drive.

I also felt that it was time to launch a Patreon page, which is a fascinating way to support artists with per-event or per-month patronage. Some people pay $10 per podcast episode, or $1 per webcomic page published, or $5 per recording of a band. I set up a simple monthly patronage page, so even $10/month can go a long way to supporting my music, which supports my family. Consider checking it out!

As always, thank you for reading. Your time and attention are invaluable to me. Be well.

As a quick note: most of the links above are Amazon Affiliate referral links, so if you choose to follow them, I will receive a portion of your purchase price for anything you buy on Amazon, whether you get the actual book or product I sent you to. It’s very small, something like 4%, but it comes at absolutely no additional cost to you; Amazon literally pays me for bringing you to their site. So check it out, and if you see something you like, pick it up.

Of course, other than the AMA, there is one link (Patreon) which is not a referral, but a way for you to reach out and thank me directly by becoming a patron.

The last link that is not a referral is the satchel, which is just a link to a picture of a popular man wearing a man-bag satchel.

The Best Book I’ve Read in Ages

Saying “I like books” is an understatement. Chris Guillebeau, in “The Art of Noncomformity” shares a story about his $30 table collapsed under the weight of his imported coffee beans, so he upgraded to a $40 table from Home Depot. That’s how I am with bookshelves: hand-me-downs and Big Lots specials have bowed under the weight of my stacked-and-filed collections, so I upgrade and reinforce as required. Although my reading pace tends to crawl, my book collection ever grows.

I am terrible about sticking to one book at a time. In fact, at the time of this writing, I am technically in the middle of 5 books that I’ve started reading and re-reading concurrently. What is more astonishing is that they are the same 5 books I was in the middle of just a week ago. I started reading a 6th and it completely overtook my time and attention; since starting this one, I haven’t touched another book except to move them out of the way. Really.

I find myself consistently engaging the memoir of Haruki Murakami, “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running,” (note: my affiliate link) a beautiful book detailing not only the thought processes of long-distance running, but the endurance and integrity required in the processes of an author. Murakami’s words call out to the deep but tiny little wellsprings of inspiration and talent in me (and I assume in each of us) as he muses on the life, time, training and scenery involved in both writing and running.

For example, in Chapter 5 he writes that “Seeing a lot of water… every day is probably an important thing for human beings… If I go for a long time without seeing water, I feel like something’s slowly draining out of me. It’s probably like the feeling a music lover has when, for whatever reason, he’s separated from music for a long time.” I suddenly remember trips to the beach when I was younger, or even a short picnic by the river at the Nutter Fort park. Water does something for me, something hard to describe, and now I find a respected author pointing out that one small piece of me that carries deep implication; perhaps I should plan my time and my weeks in such a way as to spend a little time near a river or lake.

I appreciate Murakami’s perspective, his paternal explanation of thoughts, dreams and directions; he reminds me both of who I am and who I want to be. It reads to me both like a mirror and a lens.

My running is nowhere near his level: the traditional route is to train for and complete a 5k, then a 10k, and then a half-marathon before stretching out to a full marathon. Murakami has spent decades running and describes the mentality of marathon running, which simultaneously lights my fire and breaks my heart; so far, I’ve run exactly one 5k, and I had to stop and walk quite a few times for that.

Give yourself the benefit of a couple days’ light reading and enjoy this book. You’ll be out around $10, and that money will be more than well-spent on the experience of sharing his space.

Go forth and enjoy.