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Should You Get That Flu Shot?.


Getting a flu shot may not be the best thing for you health-wise.
Getting a flu shot may not be the best thing for you health-wise. (Shutterstock)

Each year at this time, there is a huge push from the government for people to get flu shots, and many doctors urge their patients to be vaccinated. I am not among those doctors.

Though you wouldn’t know it with all the advertising in favor of the flu shot, the vaccine is really only moderately effective. Researchers have found that last year’s flu shot was just 56 percent effective among all age groups. And it declined to a mere 9 percent effectiveness for people over age 65, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control.

The reason for this poor showing—especially among older patients—is that the vaccine relies on the body’s ability to build antibodies. The vaccine is actually a live, weakened form of the flu that triggers production of antibodies. But the ability to create antibodies diminishes as people age. And although this weakened form of the virus is promoted as being safe, side effects can and do occur—including some that can be serious.

Another problem is that because of the way the flu shot is promoted, it can lead to a false sense of security, making people believe that they are better protected than they really are. After getting a flu shot, many become lax about precautions that could keep them healthy during flu season.

Here are some steps to protect against flu:

  • Eat a healthy diet. Eating a wide variety of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains will provide you with the necessary vitamins and minerals to maintain a robust immune system.
  • Get at least eight hours of sleep each night. Sleep deprivation suppresses the immune system in much the same way that stress does, making it more likely that you’ll get sick.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Flu viruses spread mainly from person to person through droplets made when people with the flu cough, sneeze, or talk. The cashier who hands you change, the server who hands you a cup of coffee, or any of the other people you encounter in your daily life can spread the flu to you. You don’t even have to encounter the person with the virus; research shows it can live on surfaces such as doorknobs for hours.
  • If you are sick, stay home and take care of yourself. Avoid contact with people who are sick as well.
  • Take 2,000 mg of vitamin C a day.
  • Avoid places where people live in close contact. College dormitories, military barracks, hospitals, and other such places are fertile breeding grounds for the virus. If possible, avoid air travel and cruise ships during flu season.

A Canadian study published in the Journal of Environmental Health Research reviewed passenger health histories after a five-hour flight between San Francisco and Denver, and found passengers were 113 times more likely to have caught a cold during the flight than during their normal daily lives.

If you must travel, take special precautions. Carry hand wipes to sanitize toilet seats and door handles and also keep a supply of zinc lozenges on hand. (Zinc was shown in clinical trials to shorten colds). Use a saline nasal spray to keep nasal passages moist, as viruses can enter through dry membranes. Don’t use a decongestant spray because it can cause a rebound effect.



Chauncey Crandall is chief of the cardiac transplant program at the world-renowned Palm Beach Cardiovascular Clinic in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and practices interventional, vascular and transplant cardiology. This article was originally posted to his website.

For the original article, visit


20 Things You Should Know About Your Church.

Measuring stick

How do you measure your church as an organization? (Shutterstock)

Below you will find what I believe to be 20 very important, if not the most important, things you should know about your church. Keep in mind these are things to measure about your church as an organization. (This is not the top things to measure in terms of individual spiritual formation.)

I have told pastors for a long time I wouldn’t consider pastoring again unless I had the congregation’s commitment to measure these 20 things every two years.

But first, the backstory. For the last 12 years, the Auxano team has developed, used and refined a survey designed completely around the culture, vision and strategic midterm decision-making priorities of the church. I have led this process by turning over and inside out every possible church survey I could find. After about five years, I felt like we had a good template to start with as we helped local churches with their specific needs and challenges.

We have never advertised, and I have never even blogged about this product. Why? Despite its incredible benefit to our church clients, we did not have the capacity to offer the service to churches unless they were engaged in our core experience, called the Vision Pathway.

The desire to bring this to more churches eventually led me to LifeWay Research. We have worked with them over the past year to bring the best survey to local churches that has ever been designed for your local church.

Here is what we measure:

1. Percent of new attenders in prior two years

2. Guest percentage

3. Profile of new attenders and guests, including reason for attending

4. Age of the church versus age of the community

5. Age of the church versus age of new attenders in the prior two years

6. Spiritual growth satisfaction

7. Sense of connection to the church

8. Giving patterns

9. Adult conversion percentage

10. Influence of ministries

11. Group assimilation percentage

12. Group assimilation obstacle identification

13. Assimilation rate for groups and membership (if applicable)

14. Serving assimilation percentage

15. Serving assimilation obstacles

16. Invitation activity

17. Invitation obstacles

18. Total assimilation percentages

19. Strategic direction question cluster one

20. Strategic direction question cluster two

What other things would you include on this list? The tool we use to get this info is what we call the RealTime Survey. Feel free to download our PDF about the survey.

Will Mancini emerged from the trenches of local church leadership to found Auxano, a first-of-kind consulting ministry that focuses on vision clarity. As a “clarity evangelist,” Will has served as vision architect for hundreds of churches across the country, including the leading churches within Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran and nondenominational settings.

For the original article, visit

Written by Will Mancini

Speaking to Strangers and Spreading Christmas.

Talking to strangers


There were three people in front of me at the Wal-Mart checkout. I was on my way to a drawing assignment and stopped to pick up a large sketchbook. Wal-Mart has them cheaper than the art store, although David Art of Metairie is a great place with wonderful people, and I keep them in business.

In front of me was a Hispanic lady with a toddler in her shopping basket. I opened the sketchbook and did a hasty drawing of the child. I signed it and handed it to her. She was thrilled and said, “Merry Christmas.” That was around November 1st, and she was the first one to greet me in this way this season. A Spanish pastor friend heard this and laughed. “We Latinos love to celebrate our Lord’s birth for months!” he said.


Driving the interstate that day was no fun. We were returning from visiting our son and his family (I’m working hard not to say the truth here—that we were visiting our grandchildren!), and all day long the highway had been beset with rain, fog and mist at times so heavy we turned on the blinkers and leaned forward to see the lines on the pavement. But finally we arrived and checked into the hotel and drove down the street to the Cracker Barrel restaurant.

“You have a 15-minute wait,” the hostess said. That was fine. Margaret began browsing, and I hung around close to the line.

Behind me stood a young mother with her daughter about 5 years old. Now, I’m the grandfather of six little girls (little—ha! They range in age now from 16 to 24) and love children. So, I struck up a conversation with the child.

“Have you ever seen a man with a purse before?” (I was holding Margaret’s while she shopped.) She shook her head; she hadn’t.

I told her, “Grandma is off somewhere, so Grandpa has to hold the purse.”

Mommy told her that Daddy sometimes holds her purse.

I spotted a rack of coloring books a few feet away and called her attention to the one with horses. I said, “I’ll bet you like to color, don’t you?” She nodded.

At that, the child reached over and pulled out a coloring book with children on the front. I said, “May I see it?”

I saw it was only $3.95 and the inside covers, front and back, were blank and white. So I said to the mom, “I’m a cartoonist. May I draw her picture here and then buy the book for her?”

She smiled and nodded.

By this time, Margaret had returned from her browsing tour and entered the conversation. I was glad, because people are justifiably suspicious of strangers who strike up conversations.  I grieve over this because our society is becoming at the same time more dangerous and more isolated.

The drawing of the little girl turned out excellent, so I turned to the inside back page. “May I draw you here?” I said to the mother. She agreed and gave me a smiling pose.

At the end, I wrote—as always—”” and got in line to pay for the book.

Some of our readers are wondering why I didn’t write their names on the drawings in the rather creative style I use. Answer: To ask for their names like that felt as though I might be crossing a line of some kind. The mother was already taking a risk by engaging in the conversation and allowing me to sketch their likenesses. Later, Margaret agreed that not asking for names was the right thing to do.

I frequently pray the Lord will lead me about a) engaging strangers in conversation (as to if, when and how) and b) give me discernment as to whatever messages He is sending. I pray c) He will help me draw well, enough to bless and encourage those I sketch, and d) be glorified through it all.


I was in the car wash waiting room with four or five other customers, no one saying a word, everyone eager to get on with their day. After a few minutes, the front door opened and a man and a little girl entered. They made quite a contrast.

The man looked scruffy, like he’d been hitchhiking on the highway. He needed to shave, he carried a scar on his face, his jeans were dirty, and the T-shirt had seen better days. He did not look like anyone you would want to cross.

The little girl, perhaps 4 years old, was a vision of loveliness. She was dressed up in her party clothes with her hair beautifully fixed.

Everyone in the waiting room turned to watch them enter, stared at the unusual duo, and said nothing. That’s when I spoke up.

“How did an ugly guy like you get such a beautiful little daughter?”

Yep. I said it. And you could feel everyone in the waiting room sucking in their breaths, wondering what was about to come.

In the dead silence that followed, the man said, “I ask myself that every day of my life!” And everyone laughed.

We got into a conversation, and I sketched them both. And then I learned what was happening.

The man and his wife, the child’s mother, were divorced. She was remarrying and moving several states away. Today was the last day he would be seeing his little girl for some time.  It was a sad occasion.

God used me to minister to him that day, for which I will be eternally grateful.

Do not fail to show hospitality to strangers, Scripture tells us in Hebrews 13, for in doing so, some have entertained angels without knowing it.

Sometimes you are the stranger, and sometimes you get to be the angel.


Some people, when hearing these stories, give me far more praise than I’m entitled to or comfortable with. This is nothing, folks. I’m just doing what I do, in the same way one of you might cut someone’s yard or repair their steps or bake them a loaf of fresh bread.

Later this morning after typing this, I drove to the supermarket in the Alabama city where we had spent the night to buy a case of water. As I paid for it, the young employee standing next to the checker said he would carry it to my car. That caught me by surprise.

His name was Matthew, and as he helped me place it in the back seat, I noticed the tag on his apron said, “No tips accepted.” So I said, “Matthew, I can’t give you money, but I’ll give you something else.”

I opened the trunk and took out some paper and did a quick sketch of him, signed it and handed it to him. After a few words of encouragement to him, he was on his way. And I was blessed. Matthew was the angel today.

Dr. Joe McKeever writes from the vantage point of more than 60 years as a disciple of Jesus, more than 50 years preaching His gospel and more than 40 years of cartooning for every imaginable Christian publication.

For the original article, visit

Written by Joe McKeever

3 Ways to Enhance Your Time With Students.

How do you spend your one-on-one time with your youth?

How do you spend your one-on-one time with your youth? (Shutterstock)

I love the craziness of large groups where I get to see a bunch a students at once. I love mowing through giving hugs and high fives and randomly having greeting tribal dance offs with students.

Another element that I love is having one-on-one time with students where we get to talk about Jesus and life. I think for a lot of youth workers this is an area that they may struggle with or not be as comfortable with as they want to be.

I posted a blog a while back that deals with the importance of why these three things matter to me. So, I thought I’d share a few things I’ve learned that has helped me in one-on-one situations.

1. Take control. Even though you want the student to share more than you, take control and facilitate. You will probably start off making small talk, which is great and sometimes the only thing needed, but sometimes you want to guide the conversation to an area they may need to get some guidance or prayer.

I’ve found that students expect you to stir the conversation. I’ve also learned that my influence in their life grows, when I show genuine concern for the good and the bad in their life.

Here’s an example of something I’ll do: Instead of just asking them how’s life, I’ll say let’s have a seat and then I’ll be specific about the areas I want to hear about. You will be surprised with the response you get. If they don’t have time I’ll say “great, let’s get together this week or I’ll say “I’ll catch you on Facebook.” I’ll leave a message with specific questions for them to answer. Again, you will be surprised at the response.

Just a caution: when communicating over social media always think about context. My rule of thumb is “communicate as if their parents are sitting right by their side as they read what you’re sending.

2. Use discernment. Every time you get the opportunity to talk one on one with a student consider it a golden moment. I’ve learned that you can burn that moment very quickly if you are not discerning of when to push them and when to let it go

Every conversation doesn’t have to be a come to Jesus moment. Like I said, sometimes small talk is all that’s needed and you need to be able to discern that. You also need to be able to discern when they need to hear the truth of God’s word.

3. Pray with them. I know this sounds like a no brainer, but I don’t think we can stress this enough. What we pray for with our students sends a signal concerning what God cares about. If we only pray about the big stuff with them then we are modeling that God only cares about the big stuff. God cares about the test they have that’s stressing them out. God cares about students performing at their best for a game that they have. He cares about it all.

We need to model that to them. So look in all areas in which you can pray for them. I always hear people say God’s got bigger things in this world to care about than my little situation. I always wonder who modeled such a small view of God to them.

I could have listed more, but I really wanted to zero in on the top three things that helps me get the most out of the time I spend with students. I have a lot of fun hanging with students but I also know that they need more than just fun. They need Jesus and that’s the primary assignment God has given me being in youth ministry.

So what has helped you connect with students better?.

Written by Aaron Crumbey/Saddleback Church

Aaron Crumbey oversees pastoral care for the high school ministry at Saddleback Church. He cares deeply about sharing Christ with students and seeing them reach their full potential in Christ.

For the original story, visit

Patrick Morley: A Plea to Disciple Younger Men.

Have you had the opportunity to disciple a younger man?
Have you had the opportunity to disciple a younger man? (Shutterstock)

A former business colleague is discipling a college student and asked me which of my books I would recommend he use. Without blinking I wrote back, “How God Makes Men.”

In the email, I included the following book excerpt, which explains why:

“By now, I’m sure you’re not surprised that God sends men in much the same way He has been sending them down through the centuries. Once you’ve been enlisted in God’s army and learned how to clean and shoot your weapon, you’re going to be deployed. Sending is simply going wherever God wants you to go to do whatever God wants you to do. Of course, making disciples is not the only thing God sends us to do. But in this chapter we’re focusing on the Great Commission, or ‘making disciples,’ part of sending. Let’s consider the priorities of making disciples.

“First, making disciples starts at home. Your most important ministry is to your wife (if you have one). A friend of mine was having marriage problems. He came to one of our conferences and got inspired to disciple men. Since that brought him joy, and home brought him distress, he started putting more and more time into discipling men and spending less and less time with his wife. When he asked me about it, I said, ‘I don’t want you doing ministry to men until you get your ministry to your wife right.’ To his credit, he went back and put his own marriage in order. Today, he has a flourishing ministry to men.

“Second, after your wife, your most important ministry is to your children (if you have any). A man’s number one discipleship group must be his family. No amount of success anywhere else can compensate for failure here. God has ordained you to disciple your children. If they don’t get discipled, that one’s on you. You are God’s designated way to release the power of the gospel to your children.

“Finally, once you have your own house in order, then you can have a disciple-making ministry to others. All kinds of people need discipleship. But let me make a special plea. You see, one of the greatest needs in our day is to disciple younger men. An incident from the animal kingdom illustrates this.

“When elephants overcrowded South Africa’s Kruger National Park, the government authorized killing adult elephants and relocating their offspring to other parks. As the orphaned male elephants became teenagers, they were clueless about what normal elephant behavior looked like. When their testosterone levels spiked, the orphaned bulls turned aggressive. In one park they savagely killed thirty-nine rhinos. A park ranger watched as a young bull elephant intentionally knocked over a rhino and trampled it. The situation was out of control.

“Then rangers brought several adult bull elephants into one of the parks. Just by being themselves, these animals ‘mentored’ the younger bulls, demonstrating to them what normal male elephant behavior looked like. No more rhinos were killed after the mature bulls arrived.

“It’s not easy to become a man. Many young men today have grown up as ‘practical’ orphans. They’ve been left to guess at what normal male behavior looks like. The faith of young men is under severe attack. That’s where the battle is raging. And frankly, mature Christian men are just not getting the discipleship job done. Consider these challenging words:

“If I profess, with the loudest voice and the clearest exposition, every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christianity. Where the battle rages the loyalty of the soldier is proved, and to be steady on all the battle-field besides is mere flight and disgrace to him if he flinches at that one point.”

So, consider discipling some younger men. That’s a place where you can really make a difference.



Patrick Morley is founder and CEO of Man in the Mirror. After building one of Florida’s 100 largest privately held companies, in 1991, he founded Man in the Mirror, a nonprofit organization to help men find meaning and purpose in life. Dr. Morley is the best-selling author of The Man in the Mirror, No Man Left Behind, Dad in the Mirror, and A Man’s Guide to the Spiritual Disciplines.

The Secret Lives of Your 2013 New Year’s Resolutions.

  • At an unnamed bar somewhere in the middle of Anytown, America, in the late hours of December 31, 2012, a group of New Year’s Resolutions were finishing up their drinks, deep in conversation. Well, except Try to Be Healthier, who’d gone home to “get a good night’s sleep and start 2013 right” but who was really just sitting on the couch in his walkup apartment staring at the TV and willing himself to wash his face and get into bed. In the bar, though, talk was percolating! There was still an hour to go until midnight, that clock strike that would send all the resolutions scooting back home to their resolvers, those humans who’d willed them into being but were very likely to quash them within the first two weeks of January. It was a tenuous situation, but our Resolutions were not afraid (save Approach Life Situations More Courageously, who shivered in a corner with his eyes nearly closed, holding his puffy coat tightly to his torso, as the others spoke). They’d been here before.

Boost My Fitness Goals and Achieve Them, a barrel-chested resolution clad in a pair of baggy shorts over running pants and moisture-wicking socks tucked into five-fingered running shoes, spoke in a whine, given his exhaustion from the day’s endeavors. “My resolver thinks I’m make out of energy bars, or something,” he said, flexing an arm as if to prove he was not. “Can I get a night off once in a blue moon? I am more than just lunges and squats, 24 hours a day!”

Be Less Timid cleared his throat, nervously. “You appear to have a night off now,” he said, “and you’re not squatting or lunging.” The loud, drawn-out sigh of  Lose 10 (or Maybe 15!) Pounds by February meant that no one except Be a Better Listener really heard Timid‘s legitimate point, however. “I was really hoping for that diet where you get to eat whatever you want at least one day a week,” she complained. “No cigar; I’m on egg whites and fat-free cottage cheese, with occasional bites of celery, for the duration. Gag. I hate celery.”

“She could always change her mind,” offered up The Resolution Made and Promptly Forgotten. “I barely even know who I am at this point. In 2010, I was Get a Job. The next year, Straighten the Sock Drawer. In 2012, Drink Less, at Least for a Little While. This year, I think I’m Spend Less Money on Frivolous Things, except I might have been swapped at the last minute for Stop Making Resolutions I Can’t Keep, which, like, what does that even mean?” Stop Being So Gender Normative interrupted: “Why do you presume the resolver of Lose 10 (or Maybe 15!) Pounds is a woman? Men go on diets, too!”

“Sorry,” said The Resolution Made and Promptly Forgotten, swigging his gin and tonic and rolling his eyes. Stop Being So Gender Normative stomped away in a huff, causing Take Things Less Seriously and Try to Have Fun Now and Again in a Casual Manner to break into nervous giggles. Date Moreleaned in close and whispered in his ear, “What’s so funny, cowboy?” causing him to lose the giggles, jump from his barstool, and make a beeline for the bathroom. Oblivious, Cook More at Home finished her Tupperware container of leftover pasta and set it on the bar with a flourish. “It’s nearly midnight, you guys!” she said. “Who’s up for one last round?”

Talk to People, Not Devicesperked his head up from his iPhone. “Me!” The crowd had thinned, though not as much asLose 10 (or Maybe 15!) Poundswould in the next four weeks. There was a smattering of old regulars: Join a Gym, and Go to It; Finally Get the Nerve to Ask for a Promotion/Raise; Buy a House or Apartment; Fall in Love, But Seriously This Time; Write More. Quit Caffeine was slugging his last rum and Diet Coke of the year. Quit Going After the Wrong Men/Women had never even come out, daring to leave nothing to chance, and Go on Long Walks had just left for another 8-mile jaunt through the forests and streams, accompanied by Do More for the EnvironmentQuit Smoking was outside smoking, but Be Happy was there, grinning up a storm, and so was Work Harder; Dump My Therapist; Get Published, Even If It’s in a Tiny Literary Journal That Doesn’t Pay; Stop Being So Down on Myself All the Time; Be Nicer to the People I Care About; Volunteer!; and Get My Questionable Moles Checked. It was a party.

“Cheers!” cried the Resolutions, letting their disparate voices mingle harmoniously before tossing their top-shelf tequila shots — “anything but Champagne!” Don’t Let This New Year’s Eve Be Like Last Year’shad insisted — into their opened mouths in one last hurrah before things started getting real (albeit perhaps temporarily), or less real than ever.

It was time to say goodnight. In between the hugs and kisses and firm handshakes and backs slapped, before they all went their separate ways, Boost My Fitness Goals and Achieve Them spoke again, his words beginning to slur. “See you all here for the meetup in February? By then, if history is any indication, they’ll have mostly forgotten about us and we can go back to the business of being, you know, normal.”

The word normal was met with applause by most of the remaining crowd (Handle My Anger Better let out an ear-piercing shout and punched a wall for good measure). “Normal. Thank goodness,” said Do More Yoga, who had held a perfect lotus pose the entire night and was still in it. “I can’t wait to slouch.” “Me, too,” said Better Posture. “Me. Too.”

Happy New Year, to your Resolutions and you.

Image via Shutterstock by nito; Insets via Shutterstock/Kozini; Flickr/Gary Wong.



Hacking group leaks 1 million Apple user IDs.


According to the hacktivists, the data was liberated straight from the FBI

Is your data safe anywhere? Just months after a half-million Yahoo! passwords6.5 million LinkedIn passwords, and 55,000 Twitter passwords were leaked, the hacktivists at AntiSec have found their next data goldmine: a stash of 12.4 million Apple Unique Device Identifiers (UDID).

According to the Anonymous-allied hackers, a list of 12.4 million Apple Unique Device Identifiers (UDID) was found on an FBI agent‘s Dell notebook. Each UDID was associated with user names, device info, and in some cases, phone numbers, names, and addresses. It is unknown why the FBI would have such information on hand. AntiSec leaked 1,000,001 of those UDIDs to bring light to the government’s data collecting effort.

As of now, there’s no reason for panic — AntiSec scrubbed a lot of personal information from their list before releasing it. But if you’re still worried about your own Apple UDID appearing on the AntiSec hack list, TheNextWeb has created a web tool for checking if your information was compromised.

[Image credit: Locks via Shutterstock]

This article was written by Fox Van Allen and originally appeared on Tecca


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