Lessons from a hot sauce packet


Cholula had a great idea – make their hot sauce available in little packets so that restaurants could provide that bit of spicy yumminess in small easy-to-carry-away containers.

I have seen small Tabasco packets before (at a Chic-Fil-A), but this was the first time I had seen Cholula. Maybe Cholula will slowly carve some of the market that Tabasco has created.

I love how they put a photo of their bottle on the back of the packet. In essence this says, “If you like this, pick up a bottle to enjoy at home!”

What are some ways you can offer what you do in smaller “packets” that are cheaper or easier to grab? What are some ways you can expand where your services are offered?


Target = good


One day last week Heather got the local newspaper for free, so we enjoyed cruising through that view of life in Denver and beyond.

The thing that caught my interest was the Target sale flyer. It featured nothing more than $80! There were no big flat screen TVs, no fancy digital cameras and no lawnmowers for the coming spring. Most items were about $20 or less. I mean, look at the cover – one item for $2 and one item for $5! Finally, each spread featured one healthy sort of theme – like family game night.

Target gets my vote.


Another very cool shop


Mont Bell. It’s a very expensive backpacking gear shop in Boulder, Colorado. It’s the Japanese company’s flagship store in the USA.

I have been into backpacking gear since about 1974. I love the state-of-the-art stuff, and it doesn’t get any more on the edge than Mont Bell. Any backpacker can tell you that lightness is king. As you can tell from the photo, this parka in the window weighs just 13.8 oz!

Sadly, my budget didn’t stretch for the parka I was lusting after (a different one), even though it was discounted about a third. Sigh. But that didn’t stop me from appreciating the beauty of their design and functionality.

p.s. A footnote, if you are a Boulder-lover… Andrew has a great post on the best places to eat breafast in Boulder. Again, sadly, Heather and I are very rarely in Boulder at breakfast-time.


Best of everything


Last night, Heather and I went to see Slumdog Millionaire. Our kids are old enough that we can leave them for a spur-of-the-moment date. So we went down to our local supermarket, bought the discount tickets, and away we went.

And yes, if you heard about the Oscars results, it won just about every award there was to win.

We were glad. It was a triumph of the little guy (in more ways than one).

Anyhow, back to the movie – it is very graphic and disturbing. (Disclaimer: it is rated “R” for a reason – It shook up our reality and made us remember why we went back to Africa to live.) This glimpse into poverty and the harsh reality of life for so many millions is now in the faces of many different millions who may never see that otherwise.

This photo depicts Kibera – the largest slum in Africa. Heather and I have some friends who live there and have visited several times. It is depressing to see sewage running along the walkways. But it is also an exciting vibrant community of people who are making the best life they can out of the least available resources. (Ironically, I took this photo from the water tower at a neighboring tennis club.)

Go see it while it’s still in the theaters. The large screen and sound system will impact you a lot more than if you wait till the video comes out.


Fly that flag


There’s a new website that our new government (well, the new leadership of our old government) has created: recovery.gov. I admire that fact that our president wants to be accountable to the people.

I know, I know – the bailout plan will be paid for by our kids out of the growing national deficit. But you gotta look at the bright side. At least there are some good things happening.

Back to the flag… if you watched the video on the website, did you notice that President Obama is: 1) wearing read-white-and-blue, 2) wearing a little flag on his lapel, and 3) sitting in front of a flag? How patriotic can you get?!


Interview: Jon Swanson


Jon Swanson is the executive pastor at Grabill Missionary Church in Grabill, Indiana. He is also a frequent blogger at Levite Chronicles and 300 words a day. We have enjoyed each others’ presence on the web for about three years. We met through our friend Chris Brogan. We both “look at normal things in odd ways”. If you start reading Jon’s blog, you’ll get hooked too!

How did you get started in blogging?

I have written short pieces for reflection for a long time. They were used as radio PSAs 20 years ago, as sponsored radio commentaries 15 years ago, as bulletin cover service settings 10 years ago, and probably for other things I can’t remember. About 7 years ago I started writing for my own sake a journal called “the Levite Chronicles”, a collection of poems and short meditations that helped me keep track of becoming a levite, one who served in the temple in support of the priests. (That’s it’s own post). In 2005, for reasons that I can’t remember, I started a blog at blogger.com with the Levite Chronicles “brand” as a way to move my thinking online. Sometime after that I moved to WordPress.

How do you juggle the real-world of your church job with the virtual world of your on-line ministry?

Which is the real world? There are real people with real pain and real dreams that I first met on-line. Many of these people I have subsequently talked with and then seen face-to-face. Other people I have met face-to-face, in my office, and then have spent significant time with online.

If the question is, how do I juggle time spent with the real people that give money to pay my salary and real people who don’t, that is a different challenge, one that I wrestle with daily. Can I write a post while in my office or only at 11:00 at night? On the other hand, do I answer the email from someone local at 11:00 at night or only in my office?

Because my primary “work” responsibility is spiritual formation, helping people become more like Jesus, I use that as a significant dividing line. If I am writing about productivity, I do that at home. If I am writing about formation, I occasionally do that at my office. If I am answering questions from near or far, I do that either place, because it is about people.

I do find, however, that my time for social media locations such as twitter, varies based on how much interaction I am having with local people.

What’s your favorite post you have created?

The one I am writing next week. And I never get to next week.

What’s the post that caused the most reactions?

I wrote a post called “what I mean when I say pray.” I wrote it sitting in our kitchen, looking at the scene described. It has had a significant value for people who want me to pray for them but can’t quite say that. So they ask for some chocolate milk.

What are some quick tips you would give to a pastor considering adding blogging to his or her mix of ministries?

1. Pick an audience that you want to share your heart with and write. But see them clearly when you write.
2. Make a practice of talking without sounding like church.
3. Give something up. Like TV.
4. Look at it like conversation with people.
5. If you aren’t comfortable being transparent, don’t add blogging. It works best if you are honest.
6. Be careful of “in” jokes. They sound really bad to anyone who isn’t in.
7. Know that people will find you. And they will measure your church based on what they see in what you write.

Are there any in your church that have followed you on-line as a result of your presence on the internet?

There are a couple answers to that question.

1. We changed churches a year ago. People from my old church have kept up with us by following my writing. There are people from our current church that read my blog to find out about me during the interview process and after I was hired. I write knowing that I have a very mixed group of friends.

2. At least a couple people have started writing online because of my writing. I set up a blog for a local pastor friend. My wife is now on facebook.

What encourages you most?

When someone says, “I never thought about God that way.”

What’s the ultimate meal you would share with your lovely wife?

Barbecue brisket from the Coupland Inn in Coupland, Texas. We lived in Austin for three years. Our honeymoon was driving to Austin from Wheaton, Illinois. Barbecue is great there. The Coupland Inn was the best.

Thanks, Jon! It’s great to learn more about you. May God use us for the highest good!


Starbucks instant coffee?!



Yes, it’s called “Via”.

Of course I ordered the free sample, and Starbucks will get some free advertising when I blog about what it tastes like.

I think Starbucks is brave for trying such a thing (making an instant). It’s a bit like Ferrari coming out with an economy car.


Bumble and bumble.


So what is “Bumble and bumble”? It’s a hair salon in Boulder, Colorado. (Boulder is a very cool town, if you have never been there. Or even if you have.)

I didn’t go inside the shop – but I did enjoy their sign. Their designer had fun with the “Bb.”

If I were the sort to frequent hair salons, I might not want a bumbler to do my hair – but the shop is up-scale enough that they must do a good job. A classic example of form winning over substance.