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Free Things to Do in Chicago April 25, 2009

Posted by stevelavey in The City.
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We have lots of visitors and guests and invariably, they all ask — “How do I get free tickets for Oprah?”  I found a great website resource for all you Chicagoans and visitors alike called Free Things to Do in Chicago .

Here is what they say about scoring Oprah tickets:

things to do in chicago One of the most popular free things to do in Chicago is to take in an Oprah taping in the West Loop at her Harpo Studios. Audience reservations for The Oprah Winfrey Show are available almost exclusively by phone. As you can imagine, demand for free Oprah tickets far exceeds supply, so you may receive a lot of busy signals before getting through to one of the audience department employees. Periodically, you may be able to request last-minute reservations via e-mail.

The Oprah Winfrey Show taping schedule: Ms. Winfrey is much too important to be tied down to a production schedule like regular talk-show hosts. Therefore, your guess is a good as anyone as to what days the show tapes. A specific list of days is given to those lucky enough to get through by phone to…………  Learn more at   Free Things to Do in Chicago


I’ve moved to www.20millionminutes.com July 6, 2006

Posted by stevelavey in Breaking News, The City.
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I’ve migrated to my own website — come check it out and learn more about bloggers, the Tour de France, life in the fast lane, and the great city of Chicago.

Check it our now! Go to 20MillionMinutes.com

Census Bureau: Facts and Figures on 4th of July July 4, 2006

Posted by stevelavey in Breaking News.
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I love the 4th of July.  It is such an ingrained institution here in these United States and the holiday holds great memories for me, growing up in West Bloomfield, Michigan.  Each 4th of July we would have a big subdivision cookout BBQ, root beer floats and, if you can picture it, lawnmower races.  The site of grown men driving their “machines” at three miles an hour….ah what a picture!

I came across the following and thought the facts and figures were worthy of sharing:


On this day in 1776, the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress, starting the 13 colonies on the road to freedom as a sovereign nation. As always, this most American of holidays will be marked by parades, fireworks and backyard barbecues across the country.

2.5 million
In July 1776, the number of people living in the colonies. (1776 population from Historical Statistics of the United States: Colonial Times to 1970.)

300 million
On this July 4th, the population milestone our nation soon will be closing in on.

Fourth of July Cookouts
150 million

Number of hot dogs (all varieties) expected to be consumed by Americans on this holiday. (That’s one frankfurter for every two people.) There’s more than a 1-in-4 chance that the hot dogs made of pork originated in Iowa, as the Hawkeye State had a total inventory of 15.2 million market hogs and pigs on March 1, 2006. This represents more than one-fourth of the nation’s total. North Carolina (8.5 million) and Minnesota (5.8 million) were the runners-up. (Data on hot dog consumption courtesy of the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council.) Data on hogs and pigs at <http://www.nass.usda.gov>.

7.3 billion pounds
Total production of cattle and calves in Texas in 2005. Chances are good that the beef hot dogs, steaks and burgers on your backyard grill came from the Lone Star State, which accounted for over one-sixth of the nation’s total production. And if they did not come from Texas, they very well may have come from Nebraska (4.5 billion pounds) or Kansas (4 billion pounds). <http://www.nass.usda.gov>

Number of states in which the revenue from broiler chickens was $1 billion or greater between December 2004 and November 2005. There is a good chance that one of these states — Georgia, Arkansas, Alabama, North Carolina, Mississippi or Texas — is the source of your barbecued chicken. <http://www.nass.usda.gov>

Better than 50-50
The odds that the beans in your side dish of baked beans came from North Dakota, Michigan or Nebraska, which produced 60 percent of the nation’s dry, edible beans in 2005. Another popular July 4th side dish is corn on the cob. Florida, California and Georgia together accounted for 51 percent of the sweet corn produced nationally in 2005. <http://www.nass.usda.gov> (more…)

Go Chestnut Go! July 4, 2006

Posted by stevelavey in Breaking News.
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Today is the Fourth of July….With that comes all the pageantry and hoopla associated with the celebration of our country’s founding.  It also brings with it an annual event that many tune in for…………………yes, the Coney Island Hot Dog Eating Contest arrives for its annual 15 minutes of fame later today, and if we go down to defeat again, our national self esteem may not be able to handle the blow.  

The winner for the past five years — in the sport that we invented — has been Takeru Kobayashi of Japan. Last year, “The Tsunami” Kobayashi, claimed his fifth straight Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest title, downing 49 hot dogs in 12 minutes, short of his personal best of 53-1/2 hot dogs. 

The 5-foot 7-inch, 144-pound Kobayashi, also known as “The Prince,” was the clear winner, scarfing down 12 more hot dogs than the runner up, 5-foot 5-inch, 100-pound American Sonya “The Black Widow” Thomas. The highly overrated 420-pound Eric “Badlands” Booker did not place in the top three. We need to find a champion! That someone just may be Joey Chestnut, a 6-foot-1, 230-pounder from San Jose, Calif., who holds the U.S. wiener-eating record of 50 hot dogs in 12 minutes. So the stage is set for the Fourth of July. We cannot lose again. So eat, Mr. Chestnut. Eat for all of us. But from a strategy point of view, hold the ketchup!


To wear yellow or not to wear yellow July 3, 2006

Posted by stevelavey in Tour de France.
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Hincapie Dons the Yellow Jersey                                                                                                           At the Tour de France today, I watched intently to see if George Hincapie would exert the required effort to hold onto the yellow jersey, or whether he felt the longer race was more important. To my delight (and using good racing strategy), he forsook the short term reward to concentrate on the long term prize.

That is how life is ………..yet, many of us exert all of our efforts on the short term win, rather than the long term prize. Why is that? We know life is a long race, yet we always use huge bursts of energy and focus on short term things…. What do you think?

As an aside, I am feeling less confident about Floyd Landis and Levi Leipheimer (maybe its early and I am expecting too much in the first two stages) – can either of these guys win?

Chicago – Nation’s Best Bicycling City? July 2, 2006

Posted by stevelavey in The City.
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Chicago has become quite bike-friendly in the last few years and we are working to make our new church building bike-friendly as well. Park Community Church’s 1,200 people are mostly a group of energetic folks in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s who love Chicago and its parks and lakefront, and love to bike all around the city.  Being bike-friendly is an important value to them and to us.

Mayor Richard Daley is solidly behind initiatives to create a 500 mile network of bike paths and bicycle-friendly streets in Chicago. He wants chicago to be the most bicycle friendly city in the United Stwates.  The Bike 2015 Plan is the City of Chicago’s vision to make bicycling an integral part of daily life in Chicago. The plan recommends projects, programs and policies for the next ten years to encourage use of this practical, non-polluting and affordable mode of transportation. The Bike 2015 Plan has two overall goals:

  • To increase bicycle use, so that 5 percent of all trips less than five miles are by bicycle.
  • To reduce the number of bicycle injuries by 50 percent from current levels.

These are the sorts of steps that need to be taken by all global cities to ensure that the city continues to remain livable.  There are a number of environmental benefits to bicycling, including: (more…)

OK, I’m a Tour de France Fanatic July 2, 2006

Posted by stevelavey in Tour de France.
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I admit it…I love the Tour de France.  Each year, I prep my wife and kids that July means “the Tour” and I need to have my 2.5 hours each night to stoke up the Tivo, and get ready for the world’s most grueling race.  I love to bike around Chicago and the lakefront

However, at the Tour de France, I marvel at the pure physical punishment that these riders take day after day for the 21 days of the race.  To think that Lance Armstrong won this race 7 times in a row is unbelievable — all the potential pitfalls, (sickness, heat, nutrition, bad tire (think about Floyd Landis today)

The Americans started very well yesterday and the Tour should be wide open this year — George Hincapie has the lead after the first stage and it should be an exciting first week.  Maybe it’s time to

Take a look at some awesome Tour photos, already loaded to the web! I also found an excellent historical perspective on the Tour from the 1930’s-2006!  Check it out.

Illinois and Chicago Cranking out Jobs July 2, 2006

Posted by stevelavey in Items to Ponder, The City.
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Did you know that Illinois added more jobs–23,100–in April than any other state in the nation?  I was reading some economic data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics this weekend and am proud that Illinois has risen to the top (albeit likely for one month) as a job creation center.  In April, Chicago added 13,300 jobs and this is the first month since January 1995 in which Illinois led the nation in monthly job growth. This has now brought to 43,600 the number of new jobs created in February, March and April.

Women of Faith June 30, 2006

Posted by stevelavey in Breaking News, Women.
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In less than 10 days, many thousands of women will make their way to the United Center for a two day conference put on by Women of Faith called “Contagious Joy 2006“.  This is an excellent conference each year and the lineup this year looks great.  Check out the entire Chicago schedule, and women, make this a priority!

Women of Faith held its first conferences in churches in 1996. By the next year, demand was so high, they moved into arenas. In Charlotte, N.C., a 22,000-capacity arena sells out a year ahead each year. The group now holds about 35 conferences a year, has visited 80 different cities and has welcomed more than 3 million women.  “‘We want to encourage women and inspire them,” said Mary Graham, the group’s president. ”I would like every woman to leave the arena knowing for sure that she is loved by a God of grace and that she can have a relationship with Him in the hardest moments of her life and in the best days of her life.” During the two-day meeting, speakers and special guests shared motivational stories with attendees and led them in song and prayer. This is a great event for Women’s Ministry folks, for women in the city or urban ministry, and for all who want to grow in their walk with the Lord

Passion June 29, 2006

Posted by stevelavey in Emerging Church, Passion.
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Over the last several weeks, as I help lead us through our annual ministry planning process for our urban church in Chicago, I am struck by our leadership conversation asking each one of us…..WHAT IS YOUR PASSION?  We are a church, mostly in our 20’s, 30’s and 40’s,  who are trying to engage with God, and to show others how to engage with God.  We are trying to reach out from the awesome grace we have received and to do urban ministry here in Chicago. To do that, you have to have passion for the lost and for the city.

What is passion?  Webster’s defines it as…… ” (more…)

Sphere – the Blogger’s Search Tool June 26, 2006

Posted by stevelavey in Blog Tools.
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Check out this excellent new blog search tool called Sphere.  As many of you know, it is downright impossible to keep up with the steady stream of posts on your favorite subject, like podcasting, urban ministry, emergent church, etc.  We already have blog search engines (such as Technorati, Blogdigger) that help you find the latest blog postings/discussions on specific subjects.

However, the new blog search engine Sphere helps you search for blog postings with specific keywords, and it provides a facility for gathering web pages similar to the page being viewed. For instance, if you are reading an article on `church planting’ and want to find articles related to this subject, the `SphereIt’ facility of Sphere will come in handy. The `SphereIt’ bookmarklet analyses the content of the current page and brings in search results with links to pages that match the topic of the page being viewed.  Definitely add this to your toolkit!

Chicago – The Livable City June 26, 2006

Posted by stevelavey in The City.
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Today, Mercer released a couple of reports that show what an excellent place Chicago is to live and work.  With all my bias openly shown, others are beginning to see that this is the best “livable ” global city with great commitment to parks and greenery, a huge Great Lake just outside our doorsteps and a clean, safe, interesting city with lots to see and do. 

 In the “World’s Most Expensive Cities” list, Chicago was nowhere near the top 20, finishing 38th.

In their Quality of Life survey, Chicago moved up 21% in 2006 to 41st position in the world (tied with Washington DC), the strongest mover of all this year. 

 Look at this list to see all the great things going on in Chicago, from economics, to education, to the high-tech growth, etc. 

Transience in the City June 26, 2006

Posted by stevelavey in The City.
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One of the key issues we face as a church is the incredible mobility of our church family.  We are constantly looking at and trying to understand the transience of the city as we seek to minister here in Chicago — the best place to invest your life for the Kingdom. The elders and pastors are constantly trying to ensure that we maximize our impact on folks who may only be in the city for 3-6 years.

We know that great cities like Chicago naturally draw many people for many reasons: jobs, relationships, culture, school, the arts or opportunity.  As a consequence, we know that many people living in our communities and neighborhoods are often far from family and friends or are experiencing a life transition.  In this fast-paced city environment, people have a strong desire to belong, be connected, be known and accepted, and be active in community with others.  Park has always been a place to connect and grow in community — where all who desire can experience the love of God and the love, care and concern of one another.
I recently came across some information from the Greater London Enterprise, who  published a report of a European project which sought to understand the implications of population mobility, trying to understand (more…)

Volunteers – America vs the Church June 25, 2006

Posted by stevelavey in Volunteers.
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Last week, a study released by the Corporation for National and Community Service found that between 2003 and 2005, the greatest percentage of volunteers, 34.8 percent, do so primarily through religious organizations. The CNCS study listed Utah as having the highest rate of volunteerism at 48 percent. Nebraska followed next with 42.8 percent. Alabama was ranked 32nd overall, with a rate of 28.6 percent. Our own Illinois finished 28th out of 50 states.The study also found that women in every state volunteered at a higher rate than men. In Illinois, 33.6 percent of women volunteered, compared to 26.7 percent of men. (more…)

Family Gatherings June 25, 2006

Posted by stevelavey in Family.
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Summer is always the time to get together with family.  A chance to unwind, build deeper relationships with ones you love, laugh a little, love a little, eat a lot (unfortunately) and be in community.  My wife and I spent Saturday at the lake at her summer family reunion, a gathering of 30-40 people.  As I enjoyed the day, talking over a beer with family, meeting her cousins' neighbors, watching the kids go tubing on the lake, swimming with cousins and playing in the sand at the beach, I began to ponder the same activities in our church family.

Are we intentionally getting together, just enjoying the time with each other? Are we intentional about fellowship?  Do we celebrate the ups and downs of life together?  In our case here in the bustling city of Chicago, do we celebrate the city?  Are we happy to be here?  Are we doing life together or has the busy-ness of everyday taken those precious community moments away from us?  Do we bring our neighborhood friends over to meet some church friends, like we did at the lake with the neighbors?

I don't want to be part of a a church that focuses on activities…I have enough going on in my life…..I want to be part of a church that is growing together….a group of people who are earnestly committed to engaging with God here in this awesome, influential city…..who want to share that engagement with friends and co-workers……a group of people who want to change the city with the Gospel….to come alongside what God is doing here in the city and pour our lives into that work. 

Eminent Domain June 23, 2006

Posted by stevelavey in Breaking News.
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Today, the President issued an executive order to control the eminent domain abuses that are piling up around the United States by local governments.  This is a much-needed step to control one of the basic tenants in a free society–the right to own and use your private property without worry about government intervention.  It is unbelieveable to me that the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to allow local government to take a person's house and transfer it to another person!  What do you think?

The local goverment in Long Beach, Calif., have used the court ruling to begin the process to force out a vibrant church from its building.  The municipal leaders have classified the Filipino Baptist Fellowship’s building as a blighted area and are forcing the congregation out in order to make way for condominiums.


Witnessing the World June 23, 2006

Posted by stevelavey in Uncategorized.
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Tonight my wife and I watched Iconoclasts, a TV show that brings together two innovative leaders from different fields including film and television, architecture and design, fashion, food, music, and sports and presents an intimate, unpredictable portrait of today's provocative creative leaders. In this episode, Oscar®-winning actress Renée Zellweger (COLD MOUNTAIN, BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY) reveals her great admiration for Peabody Award-winning CNN Chief International Correspondent Christiane Amanpour, who has reported from war zones around the globe, including the Balkans, Rwanda, Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq. It was a great opportunity to see the veneer pulled back on one of the widely respected foreign correspondents.

Passion for the City June 22, 2006

Posted by stevelavey in Urban Ministry.
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At our church, Park Community Church, we have a passion for our world-class city, Chicago. Chicago is an awesome place to live and to work, to enjoy and to raise our kids. In fact, I've referenced a list of superlatives that will help show you how incredible Chicago really is!

We love the city because we know that God loves the city and He has a redemptive plan for the city of Chicago. People often ask me if Chicago is important to God.  Cities are a critical element in God’s redemptive plan, because they are places of size and population density, centers of influence and commerce, and the gateway for those who are broken, in transition or in need. Given its preeminence as a global business and transportation hub, we believe that Chicago is one of the most exciting and strategic places to minister.

Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City has lead the thinking in this area and has influenced me greatly.  He has a series of articles on Ministry in the New Global Culture of Major City Centers (Part I, Part II, Part III and Part IV) that really get to the heart of the matter — cities matter to God.

Superstar Blogger Changes Horses June 22, 2006

Posted by stevelavey in Blogger News.
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How can you tell that blogging has gone mainstream?  When a blogger leaves a company and the news is worthy of the Wall Street Journal homepage. In the world of blogging, few names conjure up superstar status like Robert Scoble. Word spread last week that Robert Scoble is leaving Microsoft for a position with a Silicon Valley start-up named PodTech.net. The story made high page one headlines in the Wall Street Journal.

Deeper Waters June 21, 2006

Posted by stevelavey in Strategy.
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We spent three days last week in Wisconsin on beautiful Lake Delavan as a church staff seeking to review the year, understanding where God is working and then begin to plan for the upcoming year. One of the things that struck me as I prepared for this time was Jesus' words in Luke 5 where he tells Peter, "put out into deep water and let down the nets for a catch". The fishermen knew that the shore was safe, they knew that the shallower depths are where the fish had historically congregated, yet they obeyed. Deeper waters meant more uncertainty, less safety, and a new faith that there would be fish in the deeper depths. As we begin to intentionally grow our church to attain our vision of reaching 30,000 people (one percent of the Chicago population), we know that we are intentionally being called by God into deeper water. I read a great article about the Four Marks of a Transforming Church and it really shows the investment and personal commitment required if you are obedient to move into the deeper water.