Lack of ethics loses customers

Last week I was telling my wife about a bike shop I had visited once before. I was really impressed with the staff there because they were interested in learning about me as a potential customer more than they were interested in selling me a product. The one time I had been in the store previously they did not have what I was looking for. However, they took the time to teach me a couple of things about bike maintenance and explained where some good local bike routes were. I was very impressed.

My first visit with them was over 6 months ago. I was back in the area last week which is why I brought up the subject of the bike shop to my wife.

We had an opportunity to drop by there this week while looking for an adapter for a 1-1/4″ bike rack to fit in my 2″ hitch. This is something that is typically included with a new bike rack. I bought mine used off of Craig’s List and it did not have the adapter.

The man in the bike shop suggested that I go to Wal-Mart and tell them that I bought the rack from them and have them pull an adapter from one of their in-store displays. I told the guy I did not buy the rack from Wal-Mart. He said, “It doesn’t matter. They rip people off all the time, they might as well get ripped off occasionally.”

That type of mentality shows a lack of character. It doesn’t matter what a person thinks about another company or individual, they can’t suggest that stealing from the business is justified because that company isn’t fair. This tells me that the man in the bike shop would probably take advantage of me if it easily benefitted him.

While the good experience I had when I first stepped in the store carried enough weight to send me back there, the lack of character and ethics will keep me from ever going back to that store again. Be careful what you say to your customers, it could cost you many dollars in the future.

Review: The Shack

My friend gave me a copy of the book The Shack recently. He said that it really helped his sister through some things in her spiritual life. My friend also warned me that I might be offended by some of the things in the book.

If you have not read The Shack it might be quite shocking to you. Give the book an honest read, even if you have to be critical the whole way. In a nutshell the book talks about having a real and personal relationship with God. While I have some problems with the theology in the book, the concept of seeing God as a real friend who can help individuals on a personal basis is well presented. Do I believe God interacts with us in the way the book depicts? No, I don’t think He does. Could He? Sure He could.

Apparently the book has been quite controversial. I have intentionally not looked into some of the criticisms of the book. I chose to read it as a fiction book and not put any stock in its theology. I do see it as a great concept of how God wants to have a personal relationship with us. Furthermore, I believe that He can be as personal as the book presents.

The book came highly recommended by a few friends. It certainly was well written. I don’t know if I could give a general recommendation of the book to everyone. I think some people are mature enough to see it for what I believe it is–an encouraging way to show God’s desire to have a relationship with man. However, some of my friends would not see it is such and therefore would probably not benefit from reading it.

The Shack, William Paul Young, Windblown Media, 2008, 256 pages.

Big Bend National Park

As a family we had planned a trip to Big Bend National Park for a couple of years. It was a favorite place of mine growing up and my wife and I had been there camping as a couple once before.

Big Bend is a 800,000 acre national park on the Rio Grande between Texas and Mexico. When I was in junior high I started going there with a school group for a couple of days each year to go camping. I also went with a church group a few times to inner tube down the river. We would drive down on a Friday night and float down the river all day Saturday before returning home late that evening. Quite a few fond memories were made in my 10 (or so) trips.

For this trip we planned 2 nights at the park. The drive from my home town of Odessa is about 4 hours to get to Big Bend. We left on Monday morning and arrived at the park with enough time to set up camp and head to the hot springs that evening.

We set up our tents in the Chisos Basin campground. It is one of the 2 developed camping areas, which means it has running water, and electricity is available if you are willing to stand in the bathroom and use your device. There are several primitive camping areas in the park too. However, the developed areas still did not have showers.

Hot Springs of Big BendOur trip to the hot springs was our chance to bathe for the week. The water was 105 degrees in the spring. It was warm, but about the same as a hot bath. It felt good for a short time. I jumped out of the spring area and into the river. The river was swift and deep at that location. Too swift to let the kids get in. But they had a great time in the spring itself.

We were prepared for the 95 degree days, but not well prepared for the 55 degree nights. We were quite cold that first night (it did not improve the second night either). The morning was a welcome sight since we knew it had to get warmer once the sun appeared.

Tuesday morning we cooked breakfast on our one burner stove. We were not allowed to build any kind of open fire at the camp site. This became a problem at the end of the trip when we ran out of fuel in the stove because we had planned to use wood or charcoal for most of our cooking.

Window HikeWe had a wonderful hike to the Window. This is a medium distance hike that takes about 3 hours to complete down a valley to a cliff overlooking the Chihuahuan desert. The hike was always a favorite for me. When my wife and I visited before we were not allowed down the Window trail because a mountain lion was teaching her cub how to hunt. People were their intended target. The Rangers were able to close the trail before anyone got hurt.

Tuesday morning’s hike to the Window was fun going down. The trip back up became a chore. Hiking with a 5 year old loses its fun when you start getting much past 2 hours on the trail. The trail looked different to me too. I don’t know if they have changed the route since I last hiked it 21 years ago or if maybe it just looks different in May than in December. I am sure the extra growth on the bushes changes the way the landscape looks.

We were all ready for a nap that afternoon. For dinner that night we got permission from a Ranger to cook over charcoal in a specified spot. It was not at the camping area, but also not too far away. We cooked some great steaks and grilled corn on the cob. To top it off we baked a cake in the Dutch oven. That is our specialty. It came out great and we were able to share it with some friends we made in the campground.

That night my son and I went to a program put on by one of the Rangers. She talked about what a wilderness is: what defines one, why we need them and what is being done to create (or protect) more. In the program we were visited by a blue-throated hummingbird. I would guess it was about 5 inches long. It is one of the largest hummingbird species.

We were also subjected to the nice cold night once again.

Lost Mine trailWednesday we did a Ranger led hike in which the Ranger talked to us about the coming ice age. He explained to us what the previous ice age did to the trees and plants in the Big Bend area and how the coming one will affect the park. In 6000 years (according to his estimation) we can return to see the changes. Of course, there is the problem of global warming that is putting a monkey wrench in the ice age that we are headed too. He is convinced that it is temporary and that if the plants and trees survive it, they will repopulate the area once again. Whatever.

It was a good 1 mile hike that took us up 600′ in elevation.

Wednesday we packed up and returned to civilization so I could preach at a church that night.

While I would like to spend more time at the park and explore new areas, I know that when I return I will visit the same places over and over. There are just so many good memories hiking to and from the Window to make a trip to Big Bend without making it part of the experience.

Review: Tribes (Seth Godin)

I have read so much about the book Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us by Seth Godin. This is a new book that was released in October of 2008. I was not sure why it was such a hit, so I had to read it and find out.

The first thing that caught my attention was its format. It is a small book. While it is hardback, the format was more like a trade paperback size. At fewer than 160 pages, it is also very quick to read. The second interesting thing about the book is that there are no chapters. I love reading books with lots of chapters. The shorter the chapter, the more I enjoy the book. I like to read a chapter in each sitting if possible. This book was even better. Instead of chapters he just had sections that ran together only separated by a bold section title. Some sections were a couple of pages while others were only one paragraph. Most were somewhere between the two.

The concept behind a tribe is that you, as an individual, can gather/motivate/assemble a group of people with a common interest and lead them to accomplish a task. While you are a leader you will not have to be the one doing the work if your tribe has people with common interest and goals. They will be just as motivated to get the job done as you are. You, as the leader, may not need to do anything more than be the person that causes the tribe to assemble in the first place.

Godin is a philosopher. This book was not so much about the tools that make tribes work. Rather, it explained why tribes work and gave a set of principles to help you understand the concept of them. By doing so you can make a tribe work in your favor with many different tools. He gave specific examples using tools available today, but with the principles of the book you could make a tribe effective for you even if these tools don’t exist 5 years into the future.

A tribe does not have to be led from a position of authority. A person in the mail room of a company can see something that needs to be done and assemble like minded people to accomplish the task. You don’t have to be the boss to be a leader. He does not think that everyone needs to have a tribe assembled around them. But, if you do have a desire to lead, you can. Right now. You don’t have to wait until you have the authority to be a leader. Be one where you are today.

Why is this book popular? I think it taps into the reason social media is such a hit today. As a podcaster one can become a leader of a tribe. Bloggers can lead their own tribe. Twitter and Facebook allow us to assemble our friends and share information that may help us accomplish a task. You don’t have to be the leader of a tribe of 400 people. If you can gather 5 like-minded people around you then you can lead a tribe and accomplish a task.

As a missionary this is a great concept. My goal is one that is shared by millions of people around the world. We want to get the story of Jesus Christ to the masses. However, I can’t reach everyone. I also can’t motivate every church member to pray for me and my ministry. But, if I can inspire 3 people in each church to take a personal interest in my ministry and to connect with others who share the same goal, then I can lead a tribe that will uphold my ministry in prayer. What missionary doesn’t want that?

It is definitely a philosophical book. Some people are going to read this and not get it. They want to follow a formula. There is none presented in the book. But if you can wrap your brain around the concepts of the book you will be well on your way to leading your small group of people. Or, 6 groups of people for different purposes.

It is a book about leadership that I can highly recommend.

Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, Seth Godin, Portfolio Hardcover, 2008, 160 pages.

Geocaching at home

I am in my home town for the first time in 3 years. I have had a great time getting to see friends and family over the last week. A fun side activity has been geocaching in familiar places.

Surprise in Toyah, Texas
Thursday evening my family and I were visiting my grandmother in a small town of 100 people. We took time to stroll around town (that took about 30 minutes to see it all) that evening. After we returned to the house my son and I went looking for snakes. My grandmother lives in a desert in your typical run of the mill old west town in Texas. We did not find any snakes, but thought it would be cool to find a geocache in the area that we might could drive to. Imagine our surprise when we fired up the geocaching software on the phone to see that there was one less than two blocks away. A very easy find. I can’t imagine that this one will be visited often, but it is one I won’t forget.

My Aunt and Uncle learn about the game
By Saturday we had returned to my aunt’s house where the visiting family members were staying. We went our separate ways in the morning, but planned to meet up for lunch. My brother and I were going to grab some caches in the afternoon. My aunt and uncle were intrigued by the idea of geocaching and wanted to come with us just to see what it was like. The closest one to the restaurant was in the parking lot.

There were 8 of us wandering around making the find. It was a bit easy and so everyone (except my wife and daughter who had to go home) followed my brother and I to the next one a couple of blocks away. They were all hooked. We drove to a few other caches in 3 different cars until each family member had to take off for other appointments.

My brother, son and I continued the game for a while until we had responsibilities too. Later that night my brother and I picked up the game when we finished the retirement party that had us back home in the first place.

Local police learn about the game
In total we found 14 geocaches and could not put our hands on 4. That was my biggest caching day to date. In the process we even introduced a couple of police officers to the sport. They did not think we were doing anything wrong, but they could not figure out why my brother and I, at 10:30 at night, were wandering around acting like we had lost a contact in the middle of a parking lot. The two officers had to check us out. They thought the game sounded like a good one and actually loaned us a flashlight to put the cache back in place after we found it.

Gunfighter provides a place for a cache
Today we were again visiting my grandmother. But this time, instead of visiting her at home, we were in her church in Pecos, Texas. I preached there this morning. My cousin, who was caching with us Saturday, and her son were with us. After we parted ways with Granny we looked for a cache in town and found one at an old cemetery. The cemetery was the original resting place for famed gunfighter Clay Allison. My cousin’s son was able to make the find. It made his 7 year old heart happy to find the treasure.

It was a great time introducing new people to the sport of geocaching.