How having a little fun helped 1800CONTACTS.com give me fantastic customer service

Let’s get one thing straight, we live in a world where the customer is always right. Heck, most of the time even when customers aren’t right they still feel like they should be treated like they are. I guess that it only seems right to feel this way, doesn’t it? I mean, if we’re spending our hard-earned cash on a product or service then they had better go above and beyond to make sure that we, the consumer is as happy as humanly possible. Sorta makes senses, right?

With all that being said I personally think that some people can get a little too carried away with how they treat some of the customer service people who have to deal with their company’s day-to-day issues. You see these types of front-line customer-facing employees pretty much everywhere you go. It could be someone working the register at McDonald’s drive-thru, a Starbucks barista or even more common nowadays a phone or email customer service rep. No matter where you see them there’s one thing that’s true across the board, they have to put up with a lot of crazy people on a daily basis (see McDonald’s Chicken Nugget drive-thru lady on YouTube or below to see what I mean).

Unlike the women in that video I’m sure that some customer reps actually deserve to deal with some of the upset customers that they come in contact with (that’s just part of the cost in doing business), but no matter what has happened I don’t think that anyone has the right to treat them in a way that’s demeaning or disrespectful. They’re just doing their job and most of the time they had nothing to do with the reason why the customer is having a problem in the first place. They’re just at the wrong place at the wrong time, that’s all.

I bring all of this up because whenever I’m dealing with any type of customer service employee I try to make sure to not only treat them with respect, but I also try to break up some of the monotony of their day with a little bit of unexpected weirdness. A large part of my job at isocket is handling customer support so I definitely have some empathy for the types of things that customer service people deal with on a daily basis. This is why when I needed to contact the customer service peeps over at 1800CONTACTS.com I decided to have a little fun with the emails and chats I had with them.

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I didn’t really need to include this screenshot, but I LOVE that cheesy photo

Let me give you a little background. A couple of weeks ago I needed some new contacts so I shipped out a couple of boxes to my old address in San Francisco. I totally did it on accident and when I completed the order I had the bright idea that they would still probably find their way to me at my new address on their own. I mean, my mail was still being forwarded, so why wouldn’t my contacts be forwarded, too? Well I’ll tell you why — when you’re shipping something with UPS or FedEX and use the wrong address they don’t simply forward it to your new address. They have no idea where your new address even is so it’s pretty much impossible.

It took me a couple of weeks to realize this (yeah, I’m a little slow), but when I did I had a couple of thoughts go through my head. First, I felt like an idiot for thinking that my contacts would still get to me even though I used the wrong address. Second, I realized that I needed to get in touch with the 1800CONTACTS customer service people asap to see what I needed to do to get the contacts that I has already ordered.

After I realized the mistake I had made I headed on over to the 1800CONTACTS website and first sent out a quick email to their customer support team. I really wanted to make sure they knew how I felt about the situation and that I was truly concerned for the safety of my lost contacts. Here’s what I wrote:

–Original Message–
From: ryan.hupfer@gmail.com
Date: 2/25/2011 1:24:02 PM
To: info@1800contacts.com
Subject: Status of Order

Ok, so I was an idiot and ended up shipping my new contacts to my old address. Is there any way that I can see what has happened to them? I don’t want them to be walking the streets of San Francisco all lonely and depressed. Who knows what kinds of trouble is just waiting for a brand new box of contacts in this city…it’s scary when you think about it.

At least I bought two boxes so that they can look to each other for support when times get tough.

But I don’t want to think about all of the bad things that could be happening and want to try to get them home to me as soon as possible. Please help us re-unite and make everything well in the world of me and my contacts!

Thanks for your help and I hope to hear from you soon.

Ryan Hupfer

After that I noticed that they also had a live chat feature (which we also use at isocket), so I figured I should give that a shot, too. Only this time instead of getting help as myself I decided that I would chat with the customer service rep as a box of contacts. Here’s how I started the chat session:

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When the chat first started I was curious to see how the rep would react to my harmless fun and I wanted to see if she would ever refer to me as a Ryan Hupfer’s lost box of contacts instead of Ryan Hupfer the customer. Throughout the chat session I stayed true to being a box of contacts and as you can see below in the dialogue the rep who I was chatting with started to play along just a little bit. Here are some of my favorite highlights of the chat.

At this point she wasn’t breaking the script, so I kept trying even harder:

Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: so I’m lost
Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: and I’ve been shipped to the wrong place
Shelley : HI, Ryan. Welcome.
Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: (I’m a box of contacts from 1800contacts by the way) — I just hopped on a free connection at a library
Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: so Ryan apparently shipped me and another box to the wrong address
Shelley : I am so sorry your lenses were lost! I am happy to help correct the shipping address on your account and get a new package sent to you.
Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: any way that we can make our way back to him?
Shelley : Okay, no problem.
Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: I’m hoping that Ryan has updated his contact info
Shelley : One moment while I take a look at your account.

This is when she let me know that new contacts were going to be sent out with next day shipping (which is awesome). Of course, I was still trying to get her to acknowledge me as a Ryan’s lost box of contacts, which she finally did in the last couple of  lines below — sorta:

Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: Ok, so you’re sending a new box of contacts to Ryan then?
Shelley : Since your other package was lost, I will send this new package to you with our next business day shipping and signature required to ensure you receive your lenses.
Shelley : Yes, that is correct.
Shelley : Will someone be in the office to sign for your package?
Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: What will happen to me and the box that’s with me since we’re lost?
Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: …and yes, someone should be at his office to sign
Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: from M-F
Shelley : Perfect.
Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: I’m still scared for what’s going to happen to me. Will I end up at your warehouse? I liked that place.
Shelley : The lost package will usually come back to us as a “return to sender” package.
Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: SWEET - I hope you’re right
Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: It’s raining and I’m getting tired
Shelley : If you end up with Ryan, then we will send a prepaid shipping label with your new lenses so you can return them back to us.
Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: Wow, that’s great — you sure do know how to treat a box of contacts
Shelley : Thank you.
Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: I knew I loved you guys
Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: you’re the best
Shelley : Thank you so much.
Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: I’m sure Ryan appreciates it, too
Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: :)

I ended up closing out the chat by telling the rep just how much Ryan will appreciate their help and then I finally break character and tell her thanks for chatting with me:

Shelley : You will receive an email confirmation as soon as your new lenses ship out to let you know they are on their way. After that, you can expect them the next business day or no later than Monday, 2/28/11.
Shelley : What else may I help you with today?
Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: You mean Ryan will receive a notification? Cool.
Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: He’ll like that.
Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: Nope, that’s it — I can;t wait to be shipped back to see my other contact friends!
Shelley : Great!
Shelley : What else may I help you with today?
Ryan Hupfer’s contacts: That’s it — you rock and thanks for playing along. :)
Shelley : You’re welcome.
Shelley : Thanks for chatting with me today.

This chat was a lot of fun and just a few minutes later I also got a response from the support email that I had sent in earlier. Who says that being a good customer and having a little fun doesn’t pay off?

Hello Ryan,

Thanks for your email today, really made my day. I have replaced your order for you and you should receive it on Monday, February 28th. If you haven’t received your order by that date please give us a call and we will take care of it for you.

If there is anything else we may help you with please don’t hesitate to let us know. You may reply to this email or contact us at 1-800-266-8228.

Keep up the great attitude and have a wonderful weekend Ryan!

Shana

1-800 CONTACTS Customer Service Representative
Phone: 1-800 CONTACTS (1-800-266-8228)
E-mail: info@1800contacts.com
Address: 51 West Center St, Orem, UT 84057

I’m definitely going to remember this the next time that I need some quick help from customer service. Who would have thought that being fun could help me get my contacts quicker? I’m sure that they would have gotten back to me even if I hadn’t put in the extra effort to be goofy, but I doubt that it would have been so quick. Besides, it’s good to know that I’m helping someone else have just a little more fun doing their job which is pretty awesome, too.

Moral of the story? Take care of customer service reps and even have a little fun with them if you want to be taken care of right back. Sounds simple enough, but much harder to implement in the heat of the “I need some customer service now!” moment.

Have any other awesome customer service stories to share? Post ‘em in the comments so that we can all see!

What Hup and Steph spend their money on each month in San Francisco

To start this post off, let me drop some quick knowledge on you. There’s a verse in the Bible (Matthew 6:19-21 to be exact) that tells some truth about all of us as human beings and especially about us as human beings who live in the United States. The verse goes a little something like this:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

I won’t go too deep into this verse, but basically it’s trying to get across two very simple points about money and other tangible stuff that we tend to focus on in our day-to-day lives:

1. We shouldn’t be focusing too much on accumulating stuff, such as money, houses, every version of the iPhone and other earthly possessions. These are all very temporary things and will stay here on earth after you’re long gone. I’m sorry, but you can’t take any carry-ons with you to heaven.

2. Where you spend your money and focus your time says a lot about where your heart is. Your bank account transactions can tell an eye-opening story about who you are and what you’re focused on most in life.

Stephanie and I both totally agree on the truth in these two points, but unfortunately we’re also usually horrible about setting budgets and seeing where we’re spending our money each month. To get a better insight into our spending and now that this month is nearly over I thought that it would be a fun and insightful exercise for me to dig into our bank accounts for the past 30 days and see what stories it tells about us.

With all of the super-easy ways to spend our money these days I think that it’s always good to have a good handle on where it’s all going and what it’s being spent on. Who knows, you might be surprised about some of the things you find. I know I was.

Check out the graphs below to see some interesting information about where Stephanie and I spend our money on any given month, what percentage goes where and what our spending habits are like while we’re living in San Francisco.

sanfranciscospending

This first graph shows an overall split of where Stephanie and I are spending our money each month while living in San Francisco. Keep in mind that these graphs only include data from October of 2010, but overall I feel like October was a fairly average month as far as our spending goes. In other words, we didn’t end up spending any significant amount of extra money on multiple plane tickets for Wheel of Fortune auditions or something like that.

We split up this graph into a few main sections:

Shelter: Any living costs such as rent and utilities.
Self Care: Gym memberships, health/hygiene products, prescriptions.
Food: Any type of purchased food from grocerie stores and restaurants.
Entertainment: Movies, events, Starbucks, video games, bars and cabs.
Clothing: Clothes and shoes.
Transportation: Gas, auto insurance, car lease payments and parking tickets.
Charitable Giving: Giving to our church and other non-profits.
Phone: Cell phone bills.

This graph represents all of the money that both Stephanie and I spent in the month of October 2010. The most obvious thing that I noticed right off the bat was that we spend the most money on rent each month by a pretty hefty margin, which shouldn’t surprise anyone else who lives in the Bay Area.

Another thing that I noticed was that there are four other sections that we spend about the same amount of money on each month. Food, entrainment, transportation and charitable giving are all hovering right around 10-15%.

You can also see that we don’t spend much on clothing each month. I hate shopping and Stephanie doesn’t have a ton of time to hit up the malls around here, which I don’t think is necessarily a bad thing. If you asked her I’m sure she would have a different opinion.

sanfranciscodisposableincome1

This graph shows the ratio between the things that we are guaranteed to spend our money on each month (car, rent, giving, cable, etc.) and how much disposable income we have left over to spend on other stuff. Due to the variation of how we spend our money on food, entertainment and other miscellaneous things, I lumped them all into the disposable income amount. Of course, if we want to save any money month to month that would come out of the disposable piece of the pie as well.

sanfranciscoeatingoutvseatingin

As you all know, the way you budget your meals each month can have a huge impact on anyone’s monthly bottom line. I thought that this was an interesting way to view how much we spent last month on eating in (buying groceries) vs. eating out (buying from a restaurant). With how much we run around during the week it didn’t surprise me that we spend two-thirds of our food budget on eating out, although I also think that this is a place where we can save a ton of money by making more dinners at home. We’re going to experiment with this one this month and see how it goes.

Also, I thought that it was good to point out that on average we spend $30 per day on food as a couple (so $15 each, every day). We’re going to see if we can take that down a notch or two this month.

sanfranciscoentertainment

Where we spend our entertainment dollars each month varies quite a bit and I think that this graph tells that story clearly. The big Las Vegas trip chunk is from when I went out there for a conference and thought that I could win some money gambling (which I obviously didn’t).

The SF Giants bar tab was a pretty big piece of the pie last month, too. Apparently we were a little too loose with the credit card.

The Hup’s Web Stuff is me buying up domain names for new ideas and for other random expenses that have to do with me experimenting with things online.

The rest of the 40% other section was made up of things like cab rides, wine nights and other more typical one-off types of purchases.

Well, that’s about all that I have for you to check out right now. If you have any questions about what I’ve posted up or if you would like more details on why or how I did this, feel free to let me know in the comments. Also, if you’d like to give this a shot with your October spending it would be awesome to hear some of the more interesting things you noticed while going through your monthly transactions. If nothing else, it will give you a better handle on your personal finances, which is one of the most important things you can stay on top of.

Why I would vote for Kyle Hupfer if I still lived in Indiana (even if he wasn’t my brother)

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As many of you probably know by now (especially those of you in Indiana), my brother Kyle Hupfer is running for a public office in Indiana. More specifically, he’s running for a spot in the Indiana House District 37, which covers the area you see below in Madison County. You can also check out what District 37 covers in Indiana over here on this Google Map.

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Up until now I haven’t really been involved in my brother’s campaign due to a few reasons such as:

1. I don’t live in Indiana anymore (I’ve been living in California for nearly 3 years now).

2. I don’t have a political bone in my body. Really, I don’t.

3. I didn’t want to screw up his campaign like Chris Farley’s character almost did for his brother in that movie Black Sheep (vote for Al Donnelly + KILL WHITEY!).

4. I don’t really like to wear the color red (it makes me look even more pale than I already am).

But, even though I haven’t been that involved Stephanie and I did get the chance to help my brother out and represent team Hupfer in one of the gajillion small town parades that he walked in this past Summer. The pic below shows me, Stephanie, my sister Angie, my bro and other friends and family who came out to help the cause. Yeah, I know — we’re a good looking crew (and yes, I do look really pale in the red t-shirt).

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With the election coming up soon I wanted to give some of my thoughts on Kyle and why, even though I’m not very politically minded, I would still give him my vote if I lived in the District 37 area. Here are a few reasons why I think that Kyle is the right guy for the job that mostly have nothing to do with the fact that he’s my brother. These reasons are more based on his character and what I’ve grown to respect about him outside of being part of my family and an awesome brother (most of the time).

He loves District 37 and the people who live there
I know that his competition has made a lot of noise about the fact that Kyle and his family moved a whopping 20 or so miles back to Pendleton so that he could run for the District 37 spot, but the fact of the matter is that the Hupfer’s are as Pendleton, Madison County and District 37 as any family could possibly be. My grandma still lives there, my mom grew up there (and still lives there with my dad) and I was raised there and listed it as my home address up until college.

Me and the rest of my family have deep, deep roots not only in Pendleton, but all over Madison County and if any other family wants to go head-to-head with how many miles we’ve driven in and around Madison Country while going to every gym and field you could rattle off I’d love to hear it. Bottom line: saying that my brother is out of touch with the area is ridiculous — just ask the regulars at Donnie’s, they’ll tell ya.

He has the state’s best interests at heart
I’m not sure if anyone’s noticed this or not, but my brother does not have to run for this seat in the house. In fact, he’s out knocking on doors, walking in parades, throwing fundraisers, speaking at various events and who knows what else all during his free time (which he doesn’t have a lot of to begin with). Oh, and he’s doing this all while raising a family with his wife and helping run a multi-million dollar business as a senior level executive.

I’m not exactly sure how much my brother’s time is worth, but it’s A LOT and to be spending so much of it doing all of the little things that it takes to win a local election like this not only shows the high level of his character, but also his dedication and willingness to doing things the right way.

He’s going to stand up for his beliefs
I’ve met a lot of hard-headed people in my life, but none of them compare to what Kyle brings to the table (which is why he’s a ridiculously good lawyer) and even though he always thinks he’s right, he recognizes when he’s not and is willing to hear others out on their opinions. Whether what you have to say will actually change his mind is a crap shoot, but he’ll listen to you and tell you why he thinks what he thinks and will then make the best possible decision given the information he has been exposed to.

I mean, that’s what government officials are for, right? We all think we’re right all the time, but there’s got to be someone who can weigh all sides of an issue and be able to put their personal interests and emotions aside in order to make the best decision possible. If Kyle isn’t that guy, then I don’t know who is.

He understands business, education and many other important issues
You want someone who knows a lot about business and managing a budget? Check out what my brother did at the Department of Natural Resources for the two years that he was there and how much money he saved Indiana taxpayers in the process. Not to mention how he’s helping manage and make decisions for Proliance, which is part of Vectren, which just happens to be one of Indiana’s largest businesses and employers. Speaking of business, you need to look no further than our dad Clarence if you want to hear the voice of a business owner, entrepreneur and someone who knows how money should be managed. Yep, Kyle pretty much has the business thing covered.

Maybe you want to talk about education? Well, the Hupfer family is packed full of teachers and if you visit the Pendleton Elementary school you should definitely check out the library. It’s named after my grandma, Ruth Honnold who taught there for more years than I can count. So yeah, Kyle also knows all about education and with his kids now making their way into the Pendleton schools he’s going to make sure that it gets the attention it deserves.

There are many other reasons why I would vote for my brother if I still lived in Pendleton, but I guess that this gives you a good look into some of the reasoning behind my choice. If you want to find out more about what Kyle stands for I suggest that you go check out his website KyleHupfer.com and his Facebook page (which he surprisingly uses quite well and often). He also has a lot of commercials running on TV (which I think are a little cheesy, but are needed) and has a few other videos on the interwebs which you can watch below or over here on YouTube.


Kyle talks about why he thinks he’s the man for the job


Kyle takes some Q&A from the people of Pendleton (my hometown)


Kyle’s closing thoughts during his first debate


Kyle’s first commercial (I like this one because he does the voice over)


Kyle’s second commercial (can you say cheesy?)

With that I’ll step off of my virtual soapbox (which I don’t step up on very often) and will let you make your own judgments about who’s best for Indiana. You know who I’m rooting for.

Tamara Lowe tells it (raps it) how it is

Just ran across this video of a woman names Tamara Lowe from Christ Fellowship rapping some sweet lyrics about God and how we’re just wasting space if all we’re doing is living for Earthly things that our culture is telling us is important. What do you think of it?

Google: Trying Not To Be Evil?

I just saw this now defunct Hungry Beast video about Google and though that I should share. It really gives you a glimpse into what all Google has going on these days and just how far they have gone to make as much money as possible from their flagship advertising products (that generate 97% of their $200 billion market cap). Take a look the video below and see just how Google might be trying harder than ever not to be evil (or are they?).

THE BEAST FILE: GOOGLE (’HUNGRY BEAST’, ABC TV) from HUNGRY BEAST on Vimeo.

Church thoughts to chew on for February 7th, 2010: Jesus Died to Make us Righteous

thoughtstochewonHey guys!  It’s Steph writing our church thoughts for this week.  Ryan has some two cents to add in reflection to the sermon this morning, which you can read over here in his post. This week was all about righteousness.  Righteousness is another big church word that could use a good definition to truly understand what it means, so here you go:  Righteousness- to be accepted because you live according to God’s standards; comes from a root word that means “straightness”.

Wow, how can you be ‘righteous’ in the eyes of God?  What kind of good works can I do that will be worthy of His approval?  This concept of righteousness needs to be pulled apart and examined closely because in today’s culture, we so often believe that in order to gain something, we must buy it.  Can we buy God’s favor through our good moral standpoint and religion?

A deep conversation revolving around our future typically goes a little something like this…

person 1:  “Hey, so do you think you’re going to heaven?”

person2: ” I think so, I’m a good person.  I do a lot of really  nice things like drive hybrid cars, send friends nice cards , and give money to charities at Christmas.”

So, how good is good enough?  What can I possibly do to be good enough for God?  Can I give enough money? Enough time? Enough warm and fuzzies? The answer simply put is no.  The reason that we can do nothing to earn God’s favor is because we are all born with a sinful nature. We can not be acceptable to a just and holy God when we are identified by sin.  According to Genesis 3, the fall of man happened when Adam and Eve went against God’s commands and sin was brought into the world. Why is it though, that we must suffer the consequences of something that Adam and Eve did?  I didn’t eat the apple, why should I have to be born with sin?  Here’s a shot at an explanation: Do we not suffer the consequences of choices made before us in our very own day to day life?  We’re in an economic downturn, did something YOU do directly effect this?  No, but the choices made of those before us in government did.  What if your company goes bankrupt and you lose your job.  Did something that YOU did directly effect that situation? No, but the decisions and actions of the collective employees and superiors did.  We are faced with the ramifications of situations that we did not have a direct part in on a daily basis.   And so it is with sin, we are born into this world with sin, and there is nothing great and wonderful enough that we could possibly do to make up for it in God’s eyes.

There are two specific ways that people mistakenly  try to be good enough for God.

1. MORALITY

“For they don’t understand God’s way of making people right with himself.  Refusing to accept God’s way, they cling to their own way of getting right with God by trying to keep the law.” - Romans 10:3

Myth: if you live good, you’re righteous.  This is the classic example of how we feel we need to do enough good things to earn God’s favor.  It doesn’t just happen to non-Christians, either.  Christians can be guilty as well of trying to ‘add’ to the cross by tacking on our good works and morals.  You can’t add anything to the cross.  It’s because of the cross and only the cross that we have righteousness.

2. RELIGION

In Mark chapter 5, Jesus talks about the Pharisees incessant religious checklist of tasks and laws that they were to abide by in order to be ‘religious’.  Jesus used them as an example that even their obsessiveness over laws could never allow them access to Heaven.  Your works without the cross are meaningless.

In Philippians, Paul writes -

“Yes everything is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For His sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ.” -Phil 3:8

All of our works, good deeds, self-esteem, and religiousness is simply nothing in comparison to the undeserving gift God gave us through the death of His Son on the cross.  We need to stop searching for our own identity and self-worth, and instead trade it in for an identity in God.

When we seek God’s provision for our righteousness through admitting our sin and unworthiness He both transfers and transmits righteousness upon us.  It soon becomes apparent that we don’t need religioun, we need Jesus!

Here are some verses to look up describing how Christ died for our sins to bring us to God - 1 Peter 2:24, 1 Peter 3:18, 2 Corinthians 5:21

Once we have been made righteous through salvation we have a power source to be moral and begin good works through faith in Christ knowing that our good works are not the earning of forgiveness, but a fruit of our faith.

—–

If you’ve read through this and you’re questioning how exactly you accept God’s free gift of grace and forgiveness and are ready to make that commitment, then please read on!  There is no “magic prayer” or exact wording that you need to pray.  It’s as simple as admitting to God that you are a sinner, and there is nothing that you will ever be able to do to merit forgiveness.  Believe that Christ, God’s son, came to earth to die on the cross and take our sin upon Himself.  Believe that He rose again on the 3rd day, and is alive today.  Dedicate your life to God and invite His spirit into your life.

If you have dedicated your life to Christ after reading this, then please don’t stay silent.  Contact us or someone that you feel comfortable with and tell them!  It’s a long road ahead but it’s a wonderful one, filled with hope, love, and new beginnings.

Also, each of these weekly messages can be streamed/downloaded on iTunes for free. Click here to open up the podcast in iTunes now!

Getting back into running is HARD (and so is everything else that you don’t pay attention to)

Stephanie and I just got back from a Sunday morning 3-miler and I think that we both realized something about half-way through the ’supposed to be really easy’ a.m. skedaddle (is that even a word?). The thing that we both realized was that getting back into running is hard and getting back into the groove of running is even harder.

At this point you might be thinking to yourself:

and…

Well, the truth of the matter is — yes, unfortunately we are still talking about the same Hup and Steph that should be running a 3-miler in their sleep (yeah, that’s us — in the third person). The truth is, even though we should be able to run 15,840 feet literally without breaking a sweat, the fact of the matter is:

Everything that you forget about or become complacent with will eventually be harder than it should be.

I don’t care if it’s running, a relationship with your girlfriend/wife/best friend or the position that you are paid to do at work. If you let yourself become too comfortable in any type of situation and stop pushing yourself in (or even stop paying attention to) whatever you’re involved in, it’s only going to make it harder in the end.

So, what I would suggest is that you take inventory of what you currently deem valuable or a priority in your life and ask yourself a few questions about them:

After you ask yourself these questions, it’s then time to take action on them and to make sure that you are constantly becoming a better, all around person at the things that you feel are the most important in your life. This goes way beyond running (especially for me) and includes things like work, faith and love among others.

I hope that this makes sense — I’m going to try to articulate and push out some of my more personal thoughts on here and this was my first shot. Don’t worry, they’ll only get better from here. :)

Thanks for listening and feel free to give me any feedback that you have. If you need me I’ll be prepping for the Turkey Trot 5-miler that’s coming up on Thanksgiving (wish us luck!).

Church thoughts to chew on for November 8th, 2009: Helping Carry Others

thoughtstochewonLet’s face it, we all live in a very self-indulgent culture and believe me, I’m no exception. Sometimes I feel like the hardest decision of my day is whether or not I’m going to stop by Starbucks in the morning before work. To break it down more simply, that’s basically deciding whether or not I’m going to go spend about $5 bucks on a few ounces of heated soy milk, chai flavored syrup and some water. Yeah, it’s really rough sometimes.

Anyways, during church today we all had the privilege of having a guest speaker, Lisa Orris, who is currently the director of evangelism at the Evangelical Covenant Church in Chicago, IL. She had some interesting stories to tell from back when she was the chaplain at a hospital in Illinois, such as one night in particular where she remembers having to use her strong faith in God to help a seemingly hopeless woman who, due to her circumstances, had lost much of her own. She told this story as a way to show how Christians are bound together by a welcomed burden of always thinking of others, praying for others and loving others before we do the same for ourselves. This isn’t real easy to swallow and the fact that we’re living in a culture that is constantly telling us to think about ourselves first and others last, it’s something that all Christians need to constantly be reminded of and acting on as much as possible.

Next, Lisa pointed us all to a verse, Luke 5:17-20, which tells a story about some men who were carrying their paralytic friend to see Jesus in hopes of getting him healed. After trying several times to make their way trough the crowds to Jesus (they were carrying their friend on a couch), they took their efforts to the next level by carrying him up a flight of outdoor stairs to the roof of the house. Once they had made it up there with their friend (who was still, of course, on a couch), they dug a hole through the tiles of the roof and lowered their friend down right smack-dab in front of Jesus. Yeah, they dug a hole through the roof!

You wanna know what Jesus had to say after he saw this random dude on a couch show up in front of him? Was He angered? Nope. Was He worried about the roof? Nope. Was He happy to see him? OH YES HE WAS. So happy, in fact, that He not only healed the paralytic, but he also forgave all sins of the other men that had gone through all of the trouble of getting him lowered down into the house. He was pleased to see the efforts of the friends who had enough faith in Jesus that they would even dig through a roof to get to him.

This ‘digging through roofs’ is what Lisa told all of us in attendance that day to do for other Christians who are looking for help, guidance, friendship, counseling, love, faith or anything else that we could potentially provide for them. No, it’s not always easy (lowering a person on a couch through a roof rarely is), it’s what we, as Christians are called to do for one another (and others who aren’t Christians).

So, what this tell me is that I always need to be ready to help carry others, even if it is an inconvenience to me and my perfectly scheduled day and yes, even if it means that I don’t get my $5 Starbucks for the day. :)

What are your thoughts on carrying others? Do you feel moved to help others or have you ever missed a chance to carry someone that you probably should have? Feel free to share your experiences with us in the comments if you feel comfortable to do so.

Church thoughts to chew on for November 1st, 2009: Learning To Forgive

thoughtstochewonI’m trying something new today with the blog after I thought of an idea that I wanted to try out. As most of you hopefully already know, Stephanie and I are dedicated Christians and we’re always looking to live a life that gives praise to God in as many ways as possible. We’re by no means perfect (no human being is), but we have placed the Bible, the life of Jesus and our relationship with God at the center of our relationship, which has only allowed us to become an even more awesome couple over time. I won’t take up too much time at this point with all of the details, but if you would like more info on what being a Christian is really like you can email either of us anytime — we’re always available to chat with you, no problem. I digress…

Anyways, I wanted to open with all of this information because the idea that I had today is a way that will hopefully help me better communicate some of the great things that Stephanie and I get out of our church service each week to all of you who might not have had the chance to go to church this week (or who don’t go at all). My fairly simple, yet highly effective idea was to take notes on my Blackberry during church today instead of writing all of them on the sheet that is given out each week. I thought that I would try this out because it allows me to email myself all of my notes that I jot down during the service so that I can have them somewhere other than on a piece of paper that I don’t ever end up looking at again after I leave the church for the week. Then, what I’ll do each week is post some of these notes so that first, I can think about all of them again and second, so that you can check them out if you’d like to see what we focused on for any particular Sunday. So, here are the notes that I took during this week’s service and if you’re in the bay area and would like to check out our church on an upcoming Sunday, just leave us a comment or send us an email and we’ll figure out how to get you there.

Anyways, the theme of this week’s message as Learning To Forgive and here are the notes that I took for the week — if you have any questions, please leave me a comment and I’ll get back with you asap.

- we can’t love enough (people are built self-serving), so we must kill our natural motives and let God love through us

- we must be prepared to to give reasons to those who ask about why we have the hope that we do.

- if you’re keeping a record of wrongs, then you’re not actually forgiving

- we must trust the word of God more than we trust our emotions

- wherever God guides, he will provide — He will give us the energy and courage to forgive

- forget about the past. Forgive and press on towards the goal of living a life for God

- forgive as the Lord forgave you (he made the ultimate sacrifice by dying on the cross)

- forgiveness is given, trust is earned

- forgiveness is the intentional act of giving grace (”they don’t deserve it” < this is the point) forgiveness is not reconciliation

- forgiveness is letting go of our resentments

- 4 ways to forgive

* deal with it immediately
* determine to go first
* remove revenge from your vocabulary
* do good to those who you forgive

I hope that this gives you a good sense of what we discuss each week at our church and if you have any comments or questions about any of the notes in the list, please let me know!