Stephen Covey: See Why Habit 2 is Biblical

My series continues on why the 7 Habits of the late Stephen Covey are Biblical.  My tribute to him is here at Patheos.

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

photo: jayneandd

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it. (Matt. 7:24-27 ESV)

A simple habit, Covey’s second principle encourages us to know where we’re going before we start.

We could also phrase it simply: Be intentional.

The kids’ version is equally direct: Have a Plan

Does the Bible speak to the wisdom of having a plan before we begin?

Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish…. So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:27-33)

Clearly Christ calls us to consider the cost of following before we begin. But it is the thought of eternity that awaits us that also fuels our journey forward as we seek a “heavenly country whose builder and make is God.” (Heb. 11:10) “For this light momentary affliction” we endure now seems nothing compared to the glory that awaits us at the end. (2 Cor. 4:17) 

Even God follows a plan — though He had no beginning:

  • “The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.” (Psalm 33:11 ESV)
  • “And the Lord said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am doing…?’” (Gen. 18:17)  
  • “He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love.” (Ephesians 1:4)
  • “Known to God from eternity are all His works.” (Acts 15:18)

His word encourages us all to make a wise plan and stick with it:

  • “The plans of the righteous are just.” (Prov. 12:5 NIV)
  • “The plans of the diligent lead surely to plenty.” (Prov. 21:5)
  • “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” (Prov. 15:22)
  • “The desire of the righteous ends only in good, but the hope of the wicked only in wrath.” (Prov. 11:23)

Let’s face it, most of us live our lives without much of a plan. We really don’t know where we’re going, so we’re often disappointed when we don’t reach it — wherever it was supposed to be. We simply let life happen. Not good.

Begin with the end in mind. Biblical. An easy one. It’s living it out that get’s challenging.

Do you have a plan that you or your family follows or do you tend to wing it and hope for the best? Share what you’ve learned with a comment here to help us all grow.

Stephen Covey:
See Why Habit 1 is Biblical

No doubt about it, Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits are popular. His recent passing reminded us all of their impact over the last several decades. My tribute at Patheos highlighted their impact on my own life. No doubt about it, the 7 Habits have been helpful.

But are they Biblical?

Stephen Covey himself claimed he drew inspiration from Scripture according to this article in the New York Times. I’ve certainly found that to be abundantly true. And yet I’ve often met resistance to my teaching Covey’s 7 Habits from well-meaning Christians who claim them to be man’s wisdom as opposed to God’s wisdom.

I disagree.

I’ve taught these principle many times to a wide range of audiences. I’ve incorporated them into my personal and family life. I believe they work because they come from the ultimate book of wisdom — the Bible.

I invite you to join in a series of posts that surveys Covey’s 7 Habits to see how biblical they really are.

Habit 1: Be proactive.

In the space between stimulus and response, there lies our God-given responsibility to choose.

I like the kid’s version of this habit even better: ”You’re in charge of you.” By that, Stephen Covey did not mean that you are your own authority who submits to no one. Indeed, he often wrote at length about the need in all of us to acknowledge the claims of the divine. This habit does mean that you are responsible for the choices you make. All of them.

And you have more control over more choices than you’d like to admit.

You’re not in control of a lot of what happens to you. But you are in control of how you choose to respond to it all. And that’s abundantly biblical:

  • “And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve.” (Joshua 24:15 ESV)
  • “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live.” (Deut. 30:19 ESV)
  • “Then they will call upon me, but I will not answer; they will seek me diligently but will not find me. Because they hated knowledge and did not choose the fear of the LORD, would have none of my counsel and despised all my reproof, therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way, and have their fill of their own devices.” (Prov. 1:28-31 ESV)
  • From Eden, we have been trying to shift the blame for our own decisions. “But the woman who You gave me…” “But the serpent…..” (Genesis 3)

Via http://principalgregmiller.wordpress.com/2012/02/29/who-is-within-your-circle-of-influence/

In Habit 1, Covey simply calls us to take ownership for our choices in life, to reject the victim label. It challenges us to quit making excuses and apply our creative energies to what is within our circle of influence and to let go of what is only in our circle of concern.

 

How does this habit effect a family?

Covey gives this example in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families (p.35) of a time when a young man confided in him that he just didn’t love his wife anymore and asked what he could do:

“The feeling isn’t there anymore?” I inquired.

“That’s right,” he reaffirmed. “And we have three children we’re really concerned about. What do you suggest.”

“Love her,” I replied.

“I told you, the feeling isn’t there anymore.”

“Love her.”

“You don’t understand. The feeling of love just isn’t there.”

“Then love her. If the feeling isn’t there, that’s a good reason to love her.”

“But how do you love when you don’t love?”

“My friend, love is a verb. Love — the feeling — is a fruit of love the verb. So love her. Sacrifice. Listen to her. Empathize. Appreciate. Affirm her. Are you willing to do this?

Stephen Covey adds “We do not have to love. We choose to love.”

What’s an emotional bank account?

Another intensely practical application of Habit 1 is Covey’s concept of the emotional bank account. In any relationship, we will, at some point, need to make “withdrawals.” Jesus himself said that because we live in a fallen world, “Offenses will come.” Thus we must choose to intentionally make positive deposits in our relationships before we need to make those withdrawals.

I’ve seen this principle played out most vividly as a school administrator. Whenever a new student first comes to the school and needs some disciplinary intervention at the start of the school year, I know I’ll likely have a challenging interaction with both the student and parents. I simply haven’t had an opportunity to make any positive deposits in the emotional bank account.

On the other hand, when those deposits have been made, freedom exists to truly engage in effective discipleship. I recall one time when a young lady’s father called me with concern over how an issue was being handled. When I spoke to him, however, he said simply, “Once I knew you were involved, I was fine.”

That level of trust took time to build and did not always come easily. It happened because I had authentically poured into those relationships with positive deposits before I needed to make a withdrawal. Because I had chosen to invest in the relationships ahead of time (Be proactive), I had earned the right to make a withdrawal of trust if needed.

I think of Nehemiah who asked for a significant withdrawal from the Babylonian king to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. We don’t know all the details of how he did it, but clearly, as the king’s trustworthy cupbearer, Nehemiah had intentionally made deposits in that relationship. When the time came to make the ask, his credit was good.

How’s yours?

In what relationships are you choosing to invest today? Do your choices show you’re aware of what you can change and not worried about what you can’t? Leave a comment to share the growth.

UPDATED: Why I Stopped Singing in Your Church

Today’s post is simply a call for guest posts..

My post at Patheos entitled “Why I Stopped Singing in Your Church” generated a bit of discussion — with excellent points made on all sides.

But today I added an update to seek a path forward that brings us together as believers and seeks solutions to worship frustrations. Check out the latest update and tell me what you think.

Would love to hear from my regular readers with a guest post submission.

Feeling Frustrated? Maybe
You Should Quit Trying

Imagine devoting your life to trying to do something that could never be accomplished. Suppose your mission in life were to stop the sun from coming up each day. We can safely predict how that would work out for you. Every day. Leave you feeling pretty frustrated, I suspect. What if instead of becoming frustrated with your lack of progress at the impossible, you simply quit trying?

One reason you may be feeling frustrated is that you’re trying to do what can’t be done — at least not by you.

Photo via http://www.upgradereality.com/progress-and-the-future-of-our-world/

Maybe you feel like King Saul. That’s right, the bitter, dissilusioned, psychotic king of Israel back in the day who was — to put it mildly — a bit frustrated. Most readers will know the story well. After his own sinful behavior, Saul lost the promise of the throne when God removed it from his heirs and gave it to David, the whipper-snapper giant-killer. Saul was none too pleased. He devoted his entire existence to trying to kill David. But Jonathan, Saul’s son who got quite good at dodging spears himself, reveals something quite telling about Saul:

And he [Johnathan] said to him [David], “Do not fear, for the hand of Saul my father shall not find you. You shall be king over Israel, and I shall be next to you. Saul my father also knows this.” (1 Sam. 23:17 emphasis mine)

So Saul knew David would be the next king. It was a done deal in Saul’s mind. He confirms as much later. (1 Sam. 24:20) Nevertheless, Saul still focused every fiber of his being to trying to stop it from happening.  He knew it was inevitable, but he devoted his life to stopping it. No wonder he became so frustrated. Apparently, envy knows no sanity.

Lest you think it’s only the unstable and paranoid-delusional that struggle with being frustrated trying to do what can’t be done, consider Solomon. Yep, that one — wisest guy on earth and all that. Turns out wise and smart are not synonyms after all. After Solomon married a thousand women and pursued their false gods, God promised to take most of the kingdom from him, as well, and give it to Jeroboam. Solomon didn’t take that news well either. Although he knew it was beyond his capacity to change the decree of God — being wise and all — he also devoted his life to seeing Jereboam killed. Oh, the frustrating irony considering Solomon’s father was David.

Desperate people do stupid things.

Think of Peter flailing away in the garden as Jesus is betrayed. Or Jonah hopping on a ship. Or any of a hundred sordid tales from the today’s headlines of spouses or parents who snapped and killed those closest to them.

But we are all desperate at times. We all get frustrated when we try to do what can’t be done. So we all do stupid things.

Sure, we might not hurl spears at our children, but we fire verbal missles that wound more deeply. We might not consult with witches to summon the spirit of a dead prophet as Saul later did, but we seek counsel from humanistic sources to deal with our frustration. We might not try to kill those that trigger the frustration — not physically anyways — but we harbor bitterness that oozes out of us whenever opportunity knocks. Maybe lately it’s been knocking often.

Why do we do these things? Could it be we’re feeling frustrated trying to do what can’t be done? There’s an endless supply of impossible things we might be attempting. Here are a few common ones that can frustrate us when we think it’s within our power to do them:

  • Changing our spous’s heart
  • Making our kids love God — or us
  • Pleasing eveyone.
  • Denying the aging process.
  • Getting someone to forgive you. Or like you.

The list can be endless, but I suspect we all have a few we’re chasing. And we’re frustrated because of it.

Saul did manage to quit trying for a little while. It only happened when David confronted him. Maybe God’s using this post as that message for you. I don’t know. He’s sure using it that way with me.

Are you trying to do what you can’t be done? What seems to cause the most frustration in your own life? Leave a comment with a click here.

Legacy of Wisdom: One Christian’s Tribute to Stephen Covey

A great man died this week — Stephen Covey. His writing had tremendous influence on how I walked out my Christian faith — and he was a Mormon.

I invite you to read my heartfelt tribute to one of the most influential voices in my personal growth who I reference often.

Thanks for clicking here to read the tribute at Patheos.

Why I’ve Stopped Singing in Your Church

My latest post at Patheos has generated a lot of discussion the last day or two. I thought I would share the link with you today and invite you to join in with your opinion. I value your input.

I reall do want to sing again!

Click here to see Why I’ve Stopped Singing in Your Church.

Patheos readers are welcome to subscribe via e-mail to the right to learn how to get a free copy of my e-book available very soon.

So What Do I Do Now?

Ever reach a place in life when you didn’t know what to do next? Maybe you had a few options, as if “two roads diverged in a yellow wood.” You may find yourself at those times asking, “So what do I do now?” I don’t know about you, but I wish I had one of those Magic 8-balls then to help me decide.

photo: greeblie

David reached one of those places that had a fork in the road — but he did have the 8-ball to help him decide. Well, not the actual 8-ball, of course. Don’t be silly. They didn’t have batteries then. And those things are made in China, not Israel.

But he did have seemingly magical rocks that God had given to help discern His will.

We find the story in 1 Samuel 23. David is running for his life from the envious, bitter, and psychotic King Saul. Who hasn’t had one of those days, right? Along the way, however, David pauses to do a good deed. He frees the inhabitants of Keilah from the perennial Israelite archenemy, the Philistines. While reveling in the victory, David gets some bad news. King Saul has heard of his success and is on the way to kill him.

Nice.

David has a decision to make: 1) Run away. Again. or 2) Trust the grateful citizens of Keilah to defend him.

He asks God, “So what do I do now?”

David knew that Saul was plotting harm against him. And he said to Abiathar the priest,  “Bring the ephod here.” Then said David, “O LORD, the God of Israel, your servant has surely heard that Saul seeks to come to Keilah, to destroy the city on my account. Will the men of Keilah surrender me into his hand? Will Saul come down, as your servant has heard? O LORD, the God of Israel, please tell your servant.” And the LORD said, “He will come down.” Then David said, “Will the men of Keilah surrender me and my men into the hand of Saul?” And the LORD said, “They will surrender you.” (1 Sam. 23:9-12)

God “spoke” to David most likely through the use of two stones called the Urim and Thummim that were kept in the priestly attire of the ephod. Most theologians speculate that the stones were used much like dice or the casting of lots. As Proverbs tells us, even such simple things as the roll of dice are firmly in God’s control:

The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. (Prov. 16:33)

David asks. God answers. Simple enough.

So if God could answer right away with a simple roll of the rocks, why does He often make us wait for the answer to that vexing question: “So what do I do now?”

Here’s a thought:

When God says, “Wait,” He isn’t trying to make us miserable. He doesn’t delay because he is temporarily out of supplies and needs to replenish His storehouse. The wait isn’t for His benefit; it’s for ours…. Big picture people understand that God uses waiting to prepare His people for the right answers to their prayers.  ~ Doug Carter, Big Picture People (emphasis mine)

What if the reason God doesn’t quickly answer has more to do with us than with him? Could it be that we are not ready for His answer? Could he be testing us to ensure we do indeed emerge as gold on the other side of the refining fire?

The words of a song sung by Christian recording artist Steve Green seem a good fit here:

 I don’t need to have the plan in hand, I don’t need to have the end in sight. All I need to do is follow You wherever You lead and do what you ask me to.

Do you also find it difficult to wait for God to show you the way? What have you learned through that process? Share a comment to help us all grow. 

See How to Enjoy an Almost Free Day at Disney World (3)

My previous two posts described how to enjoy an almost free day at Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Our family has gotten to know how Disney works pretty well over the years as you can see here. As a family game, we choose spots on the resort then try to list how many ways we could take to get to another destination of choice. It’s a strange life we lead. It’s not much. But it’s wonderful. Which makes it….

It does my heart good to think that Jimmy Stewart likely went to Walt Disney World at some point. I can see him and Andy Griffith chilling with Walt on a bench on Main Street, USA while Don Knotts tries his hand at the shooting arcade in Frontierland. Maybe they’d choose my favorite bench on the side street, just off Main Street. We stayed there late one night watching them clean — but I digress. Back to Disney.

Now on to an actual itinerary of an almost free day at Disney. Our most recent trip was only with me and my wife.

Here’s how we spent the almost free day although the constant rain kept us off the boats more than usual:

  • Park at the Magic Kingdom. Take the tram to the TTC.
  • Express monorail to the Magic Kingdom entrance. It was raining, so we didn’t stay long. There is no cover outside of the security check-point.
  • Resort monorail (because you can’t get back on the Express without going past security) to a stop at the Contemporary Resort and then back to the TTC.
  • EPCOT monorail to EPCOT. Checked out the latest in the park in our loop around the inside of the park. Not much happening.
  • Bus from EPCOT to the new Art of Animation Resort. Walked around that one and explored all the new stuff as I shared here. Grabbed a coffee to go in the food court.
  • Bus from Art of Animation to Downtown Disney. Shopping, sightseeing, a bucket of popcorn in a themed tub we didn’t yet have, and (of course) a free chocolate sample at Ghiradelli’s.
  • Bus from Downtown Disney to Fort Wilderness. We’ve stayed there many, many times so it’s like home.
  • Bus from the Outpost at Fort Wilderness to the Meadows Trading Post. Strolled around after shopping and walked up to the Settlement where The Trail’s End is located. Sat on the rocking chairs for a while enjoying the silence. 
  • Took a boat from the dock there to the Contemporary Resort. We would usually take the one to the Magic Kingdom entrance, but the rain encouraged us to take the quicker route.
  • Got on the monorail at the Contemporary Resort (home of Chef Mickey) and took it to the Polynesian Resort for dinner.
  • Ate at Captain Cooks on the lower level of the Polynesian. Usually, we would eat outside in the luscious gardens, but the rain kept us in and kept us from staying to watch the fireworks across the lagoon at the Magic Kingdom.
  • We walked back to the TTC through the gardens and the rain lit by tiki torches.
  • Took the tram back to our car to call it a soggy Disney Day.

Total cost:

Parking $14; Coffee $3; Popcorn $4;Dinner $19 = $40

For $40 we enjoyed a romantic day for two at Disney World. It was too wet to ride much of anything in the parks anyways.

Cost to go in the park that day would have been:

Parking $14; Coffee $3; Popcorn $4;Dinner $19; Tickets $179 = At least $229, likely more with various purchases. Not a bad deal if you can get it.

Of course, getting there might be a challenge for some, but, hey — we live in Cleveland, Ohio. What excuse do you have?

Bonus point to the one who can name the event at which this picture was taken with a comment below!

If you have questions about WDW, just ask. We can probably answer them. Or we’ll just go back there and get the answer for you. That’s fine, too.

Would you spend a day like this at Walt Disney World instead of yet another round of miniature golf in Orlando? What do you think of our almost free day strategy. Leave a comment by clicking here.

photo by: s_herman

See How to Enjoy an Almost Free Day at Disney World (2)

My last post began sharing how to enjoy an almost free day at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. If you missed it, visit here to get up to speed before pressing forward with how to get free rides on your almost free day at Walt Disney World.

Here’s how to get around on your almost free day at Disney:

Ride the Disney transportation.

Ok. So you won’t be riding on Dumbo or Space Mountain on this almost free day, but you can ride the fleet of trams, buses, boats, and monorails to get from place to place.

Now, I know you can technically get into one of the resort parking lots if you have meal reservations (or pretend like you do) or park at Downtown Disney and go elsewhere. I say forget the hassle and guilty conscience. Don’t be that cheap, Clark Griswold. 

Spring for the $14 to park in the Magic Kingdom parking area, also called the Transportation and Ticket Center (TTC). It’s the hub of Disney transportation. At least you won’t be walking around with a semi-guilty conscience about “sneaking in.” The blue fairy would not be happy. Besides, the kids will enjoy the tram ride from your car to the TTC as the first almost free ride of the day. Once at the TTC, it’s time to choose.

 You can take one of three monorail lines.

  • Express monorail to the Magic Kingdom Entrance. This is a good one to take if you want to simply stop and sit outside the main gates of Mickey’s house and soak up the sights and sounds. I especially love visiting at Christmas because I know the music played then by heart and can easily re-imagine Main Street as I know it appears right behind the train station.

 

An image from a Christmas past...

  • Resort Monorail Loop with a stop at the Magic Kingdom. Choose this one if you wish to get off at one or each of the three resorst around the lagoon. First stop is the Polynesian Resort. I suggest getting off there and walking through the gardens to the Grand Floridian Resort and Spa. If the weather is nice, the walk is too. It takes you past the Disney Wedding Chapel.  You can pick up the monorail again at the Floridian after checking out their rather cool lobby. From there the monorail continues to the Magic Kingdom entrance. You can get off or stay on to the Contemporary Resort – the monorail goes into the building itself. Final stop is back at the TTC.
  • Monorail to EPCOT. The EPCOT monorail takes you to – wait for it – EPCOT. It’s at least a ten minute ride so you’ll have a chance to catch your breath. The cool part is the monorail actually enters the park and loops around so you get a chance to see the inside of the park without actually paying the $90! Cool, huh? It’s the only place at Disney I know of where that happens. Maybe it’s just cruel to have a brief glimpse. I guess it depends. Vets like us are looking to see what’s new and improved since our last visit. From there, you can return to the TTC or get off and catch a bus to any of the resorts.

You can travel by bus.

You can reach just about any place on the resort by bus from the TTC. Disney runs a fleet of well over 300 buses running at any one time around the Disney World property. Buses are the best, and sometimes only, choice to visit various resorts such as The Animal Kingdom Lodge or the new Art of Animation Resort.

Simply wait at the stop for the destination you want. When the bus shows up and the courteous driver gives the all-clear, step on board and ride in comfort – all the while hearing various pitches about future stays or attractions. My kids always love to sit in the back of the bus. Come to think of it, I do too. If you get confused, just ask the drivers how to get to the next stop.

You can travel by boat.

  • The large ferry boats – big, white, and hard to miss – will also take you to the Magic Kingdom entrance from the TTC. They provide another fun option of getting across the Seven Seas Lagoon. you really should try them at least once.

  • Resort boats. Disney runs regular boat transportation between all the resorts around the Seven Seas Lagoon and the accompanying Bay Lake. From the dock at the Magic Kingdom, you can catch a boat to visit the following resorts: Fort Wilderness Resort and Campgrounds (our favorite); Wilderness Lodge; Contemporary Resort; Polynesian Resort; and The Grand Floridian Resort and Spa

Boats are not the fastest way to travel, but for free, what did you expect? One boat captain told me that Disney has the fifth largest fleet of naval vessels in the world. Not sure if it’s true, but there are a lot of boats. Here are a two other boating options that might be a fit in your almost free day:

  • Boats from the back of EPCOT to HollyWood Studios. Few people seem aware that you can take a boat from just outside the Hollywood Studios entrance to the Swan and Dolphin hotels (not technically Disney hotels). A bus can take you to the Studios entrance for a photo op first before boarding the boat. At the Swan and Dolphin, you can switch boats and continue all the way to the back exit of EPCOT, past the Boardwalk and other beach resorts. One bonus on that trip is that the best miniature golfing can be found next to the Swan and Dolphin on Disney’s Fantasia Gardens and Fantasia Fairways. Stroll along the Boardwalk afterward at night and you might enjoy a glimpse or two of Illuminations at Epcot.

  • Boats from Downtown Disney to Port Orleans Resort. This quiet boat ride takes you past all of Downtown Disney and gives you a glimpse of the Vacation Club Treehouse Villas, before making stops at the French Quarter and finally Riverside by the Port Orleans Mill. It’s a great place to pause for a reasonably priced (for Disney) lunch. Port Orleans Riverside has a character all its own that both kids and adult love. My guess is that once you see the ante-bellum resorts, you’ll want to book a future stay.

It would actually take you several days to try to cover just the ground that I’ve shared in these two posts. Even after 103 days, I havn’t been to all the Disney resorts. And to think it all started with a mouse.

Tomorrow, I’ll finish the week with some sample itineraries based on our own almost free days at Walt Disney World.

What memories do you have from taking rides on Disney transportation? What’s your favorite way to travel there? Share a comment. Share the magic.

 

See How Scribe SEO Makes
SEO Optimization Easy

Scribe SEO is the “easy button” for SEO optimization. I’ve used it for about 90 posts so far over the least few months. Michael Hyatt, author of Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, swears by it and he has the traffic to support his claim. Here’s how it makes my SEO optimization easy. Plus, as an added bonus, I’ve tossed in a few other things worth knowing about it.

The basic concept behind using Scribe SEO is easy enough. Write your post. Enter your Title, Description, and Keywords in your meta-data. Then click “Analyze” in the Scribe Content Optimizer Box.

A few seconds later, you get your grade. It’s literally a percentage number (e.g. 78%), just like in school. Better yet, unlike most tests in school, it shows you which of twelve SEO hot spots need work to reach 100% optimization. See some screenshots here. The best part? The analysis then tells you how to optimize it – if you want to.

For example, sometimes it tells me to move my keyword(s) to the front of the title.  If I like my title, I leave it. Otherwise, I rearrange a bit and more people will find my post.  If my original title for this post had been “See How Easy It Is to Use Scribe SEO” the analysis might have suggested I move “Scribe SEO” to the front of the title. It’s always the bloggers call. Scribe SEO just makes recommendations.

Here’s how it helps me make optimization easy:

  1. It takes the guesswork out of it. Because I don’t have to wonder and rework, hoping I got it right, I save time. And time is – well, precious stuff.
  2. It ensures I get the keywords I want. Occasionally, Scribe will let me know with a low score and detailed response that the words I thought would be featured actually are not featured at all. I can then fix that problem or surrender to my inner artist and take the hit on traffic. I could also use Scribe Keyword Research ahead of time.
  3. The pages (opened with tabs at the top of the Scribe analysis screen) allow me to see what the keywords are, what other keywords I might want to feature, and – get this – exactly how to change the post to feature them. Easy.
  4. The Keyword Analysis Page allows me to see what search terms people are actually using on the Internet that might line up with my keywords. I can then craft my keyword selections accordingly.
  5. The Search Engine Results Page (SERP) allows me to preview how my post title and description will actually appear in the search engines.
  6. The Tags page suggest tags for the post based on the content. I can cut and paste them if I want to really make it easy.
  7. Once I’ve analyzed a post, I can review the report later at any time.
  8. The first few times I used it, I ran it once and got the score – around 60%. After a few quick changes and another analysis? 100%.
  9. One feature I have not used much due to time constraints is the Scribe Link Building option. After I run an analysis, it suggests other site I might want to connect with based on similar keyword interests to build incoming links. It even gives me a survey of social media that presently features my keyword topics.
  10. The greatest value I’ve gotten from using Scribe SEO is that I have trained myself to think in SEO terms without actually having to think much about it. Now, I often don’t even run the optimizer because when I do, it scores pretty close to 100% the first time.

The only thing I’ve found about Scribe SEO that I don’t like is it doesn’t allow me to keep the Scribe Analysis Screen open while working on a post. I have to reopen the analysis with the review button each time rather than merely minimizing it. It takes seconds, I know. Compared to how long my Commodore 64 took to load one program, I suppose I shouldn’t complain too loudly.

By the way, this post got a 100% on the first try. Keywords: Scribe, SEO, and SEO optimization.

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See How to Enjoy an Almost Free Day at Disney World

103.

That’s how many days I’ve spent “on property” at Walt Disney World (WDW) near Orlando, Florida. You can see why here. Few of those have been for free. Our family has stayed at various Disney resorts, with friends and family, and at rental homes near the happiest place on earth. We spent an incredible 45 days there in one year. We have a few favorite things to do there as I’ve described here. So I know a little bit about the parks.

I’ve studied the Disney parks history, admire Walt personally for his vision, and delved into Disney corporate philosophy as part of my MBA leadership studies. So I know a little about how Disney works and why. Most importantly, my wife and I have been there many, many days with kids – and a few without. We’ve spent a lot of money investing in family memories.

But we have also spent a few days at Walt Disney World for almost free. I’ll share how in the next few blog posts.

Here’s how you enjoy an almost free day at Walt Disney World:

  • Forget about going into the parks. If you want free – or at least very limited cost – forget going into one of the four parks: The Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios will all cost you a little under $90 a piece for one day. You can get them for less per day if you visit for multiple days – always the best pricing option. The annual pass is the best deal provided you can visit more than ten days or so in the year. But if you’re looking to get a taste of Disney without dropping at least $360 for a family of four, it’s a different plan you want.
  • Visit Downtown Disney.  You can explore more here but this is one of the few truly free areas at Walt Disney World that is open to the public. You don’t have to pay anything to park. You might have to be patient to find a spot on a busy day. Of course, Disney assumes you will likely shop — perhaps at the massive World of Disney store or the Lego store – and spend or play and spend and eat and spend – you get the idea. But you don’t have to. A little self-control can give you a few hours of fun if you prepare the kids — and Dad — to know they will not be on a spending spree.

A life-size dragon at Downtown Disney made entirely out of Legos

  • Visit the resorts. With about twenty resorts on property, there are always a few we haven’t seen yet. We enjoy visiting each of the uniquely-themed resorts.

Watch animal feedings at The Animal Kingdom Lodge

Disney doesn’t seem to mind since by visiting you increase the chance that you’ll return later for a paid stay. Many of them have playgrounds that the kids can try out. Most other amenities are understandably reserved for resort guests.

Exploring Fort Wilderness near the Trail's End at the Settlement

Most have a variety of restaurants, either quick-service or sit down. You’ll likely need reservations for the sit-down ones, and they will cost more. I suggest you stick to the quick-service. A few of our perennial favorites for eating at resorts while holding down costs are: The Trail’s End at Fort Wilderness Resort and Campground, Captain Cook’s at the Polynesian Resort, any of the themed All-Star resorts food courts, the Pepper Market at the Coronado Springs Resort, or The Mara in the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Of course, there are plenty of other options – none of which are free – but the food is always excellent.

We especially recommend the oriental stir fry at Captain Cooks as one of the best–tasting values on property. Plus you can eat in the lush gardens of the Polynesian Resort. Time your visit right and you can just happen to finish up right as the Wishes Nighttime Spectacular fireworks begin across the Seven Seas Lagoon at the Magic Kingdom. The music is piped in along the beachfront so you can watch the show at a distance and in stereo.

Tomorrow: How to get free rides on your almost free day at Walt Disney World.

Have you been to any of the destinations I mentioned? What other ways have you found to visit Walt Disney World and keep the costs down? Share a comment – and some pixie dust.

Who Else Wants to Feel Free?

I can’t be the only one. At least I hope not. I live in a country that has long been a defender of freedom. I serve a Savior who died and rose to give me freedom. And yet all too often, I don’t feel all that free.

Photo via http://sevensentences.com/2011/03/13/the-unholy-sabbath

It’s not the usual chains one might imagine. For some, their family feels like an unwelcome weight. Not for me. For others it’s pressure from peers or friends. I suppose there’s some of that in all of us. But the tyrant I seem to fear most is — me.

As the words of poem by James Russel Lowell that I memorized in childhood remind me:

Our fathers fough for Liberty,

They struggled long and well,

 History of their deeds can tell-

But did they leave us free?
Are we free from vanity,

Free from pride, and free from self,

Free from love of power and pelf,

From everything that’s beggarly?
Are we free from stubborn will,

From low hate and malice small,

From opinion’s tyrant thrall?

Are none of us our own slaves still?

 

Most of the frustrations in my life come from the expectations I place on myself. I had a plan for the day. I got off plan. Therefore, I must be mentally scourged for failing. Dishing out that penalty takes more time, of course, which leads to even greater angst.

I had a list of things to accomplish in the day. The list was impossible in the space of anyone’s twenty-four hours. Still, impossible is no excuse for failure, right? So I end the day condeming myself and sighing that I just can’t seem to get anything done, in spite of the fact that I accomplished more in a day than most would think of attempting.

It’s still not enough. It’s never enough.

I am a cruel taskmaster.

My hope lies in the freeing words of Christ. “No man can serve two masters.” I can’t serve both God and me. I must choose. My load is oppressivly heavy. I can’t bear it. I’ve figured that out. And even when I think I just might be able to pull it off, I pile on more just to keep myself in my place. Weird, I know. But maybe we’re more alike than I know.

Christ invites us to take a different burden — His. His yoke is easy because He is shouldering most of the weight. As I respond to his invitation to rest, I walk alongside Him as a friend. “No longer do I call your servants but I have called you friends.”

Only when I call myself what I am — a dictator — and turn to Christ can I feel true freedom.

Enough of this failing to meet my own shifting standards. I’m committing to serve only one Master whose commands are fixed and whose forgiving love never fails.

Now the hard part – living it today.

Can you relate to this pressure to please your own impossibly high expectations? How does your faith move you to depend less on your self and more on God? Leave a comment to share the growth.

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