Category Archives: Christianity

Memorizing Romans 12:9-15

At Blackhawk Church, our current series is called Romans: The Gospel for a Divided World. I have accepted the challenge from our pastor to memorize Romans 12:9–21.

This week as I’m going to ask you to trust me and this keyboard. I’m going to write out what I’ve memorized thus far and even though you can see the image below, It wasnt’ there as I was writing these verses from memory:

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil, cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourself. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, always serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Serve the Lord’s people who are in need. Always be hospitable. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice. Mourn with those who mourn.

How did I do? Are you taking the challenge? I am finding tremendous value in memorizeing and reciting each morning on my commute to work.

Romans 12:9-15
Romans 12:9–15

One Thousand Wells: An Intervew with Charlie Lowell

In 2004 Jars of Clay and Jena Nardella founded Blood:Water Mission. I’ve written about Blood:Water many times on the blog. Today’s guest, Charlie Lowell, first appeared on the blog back when Inland was released. Please check out the history of Blood:Water, one of my favorite organizations.

Jena on the Jars tour bus

Jena on the Jars tour bus, left to right Jena Nardela, Matt Odmark, Steve Mason, Charlie Lowell, Dan Haseltine, Aaron Sands

This is a big release week! No, there’s not a new album coming out from the band, but their Blood:Water co-founder Jena Nardella is releasing her first book. Everyone associated with the band and the organization is very excited for One Thousand Wells. Charlie graciously took some time to answer a few questions about the book and his experience with the work Blood:Water is doing in Africa.


Hans: Charlie, thanks for taking some time again to talk about a book that I know is near and dear to your heart. You and your bandmates along with Jena started Blood:Water back in 2004. The non-profit started with $1 and has since raised $27 million. Talk about a tipping point where you could feel the organization really building momentum.

Charlie:  At some point pretty early on, we began talking about 1,000 wells, and we learned that one US dollar can provide 1 year of water for 1 person in Africa.  That was pivotal- both in realizing how much difference we can make with so little, and empowering us to think about the human story.  So often we hear the huge statistics- millions of people are dying, etc… and we lose that human connection and get overwhelmed.  It’s debilitating to think we can do anything helpful.  The $1/ 1 person “human equation” undermines that all and makes it about people again.  I can think about a person, a family, not too unlike my own, and I can do something about that.

HS: How many trips have you made to Africa? What is one story or scene you can share with us who have never been, but want to feel connected to the work Blood:Water is doing there?

CD:  I’ve been about 5 times over the past decade.  One of the most memorable experiences was an early trip (maybe 2 years into our partnerships on the ground), and a middle-aged Kenyan woman named Dorkus was recounting how a clean water well had positively affected their rural community.  She listed all the great health effects (which were many), and then her eyes lit up and she said with pride, “And look at my beautiful, smooth skin!”, and continued to describe feeling younger, being asked out on a date by an elder, and a powerful sense of renewed dignity and womanhood.  Again, it wasn’t just about water- the building block of life- but this human empowerment/ dignity element that we didn’t see coming.

HS: Every summer my family vacations at a family camp in northern Wisconsin, Fort Wilderness in Rhinelander. This year I did a double-take when I saw a Blood:Water t-shirt! Blood:Water and Fort Wilderness combining forces! As a co-founder you’ve seen many small campaigns like a t-shirt partnership contribute to the cause. Talk about one that sticks out to you.

CL:  Indeed!  Well, it’s really about fans and friends taking the cause up and getting creative with it.  We’ve seen elementary school kids selling tomatoes in their neighborhood, families foregoing a sprinkler system and donating the money instead, kids doing “Lemon:Aid” stands, and college campus water walks.  The most fun we have is when people take what they are already great at, and find a way to bring the Blood:Water story into it.

HS: Can you give us a quick glimpse into the book from two perspectives? Since you and Jena were side-by-side over the last 11 years, what is in the book that was a good memory of the organization for you? And what didn’t make the book that you personally remember from the Blood:Water journey?

CL:  I loved reading the book (we got a preview copy a couple months back, in return for all the pre-release CDs we gave Jena over the years), and was not expecting the honest memoir part of the book.  Knowing more about Jena’s upbringing, what stuck with her, what offended her, and how she was shaped, was new to me in many ways.  So I love that it’s not just about those few years of starting an organization, but the formation up to the point, the struggle in the midst, and the wondering and hope moving forward.  What I wish was in the book, and is really hard to communicate through writing, is more of the many Heroes and She-roes we were honored to meet and partner with on the Africa side.  And seeing a community experience clean water is just impossible to share with others.  I always loved being on the ground there with Jena, seeing the way she would related and communicate with women’s groups and leaders was breath-taking.

HS: At many of your shows with Jars of Clay, Blood:Water is there and the audience gets to hear Dan’s pitch. Today we hand the mic to the piano player: Please tell us what Blood:Water means to you and how we can get involved.

CL:  To me, Blood:Water came along at a time when I was struggling with how faith played out- actively, engaging all parts of the person. Worship felt flat and un-sustaining (I think many musicians struggle with that, if we’re honest), and suddenly this work of partnering with Africans- having our eyes opened to new people and places, and seeing God SO much bigger and wilder than ever before- became a new understanding of more holistic worship for me.  Engaging and being awake to the heart, soul, mind, hands, eyes, ears, and recognizing that it all comes from our Creator.  Isaiah speaks of the new worship of service, not sacrifice.  That was a big puzzle piece for me, and I have our friends in Africa to thank for making some sense of it.

You you really want, you can read the first chapter for FREE. If you want to purchase a copy, you can get it on Amazon and any other major vendor. For more information on Blood:Water, visit

Free Premiere – Ed’s Story Grateful

update: this free viewing has expired.

Grateful is the 6th in a series of 7 films about Pastor Ed Dobson, who was diagnosed with ALS and given 2-5 years to live. That was 14 years ago.

I’ll make you a deal. You give me 8:27 of your day today and I’ll show you a video that will help you appreciate life, appreciate suffering, maybe even draw you closer to God. 

I’ve watched all of these videos by Flannel. This serise is called Ed’s Story and they are fantastic! Remember when the whole ALS Bucket Challenge was going around? Great cause! Great campaign. I even participated! But the whole time that was happening it was tough for me because I knew about this cause and how hard Flannel is working to get this message out.

Anyway, it’s a great video and I hope you have time today to watch it for free.

Numbers are Important

I ended my last post with this statement: “I can’t change the water problem. But together we can? Who wants to join me?”

It’s hard to get momentum by yourself. It’s hard to stand on a platform and get people to sign up. But there’s power in numbers. We need more eyes on the goal. There’s an anonymous donor at Blood:Water Mission who knows this and is putting his money towards “joining efforts”. I’m on a larger team with Jars of Clay.  And if our team can get 1,000 people to join the cause, he will unlock a $25,000 gift! That sounds “sales-ie”, right? But think about it from the perspective of the donor. Imagine you have a cause and you just want more people to get into that story. And you know that the more eyes on this topic the better. The size of the individual donation doesn’t matter – we’re going to win this battle by death from a thousand cuts! Let’s get more donations rather than bigger donations!

If four or five families help a cause, that’s better than one or two. What if it grows to 30 families? That’s some support! What about 200 families?! Now we can make some big things happen! Well this anonymous donor has decided that he wants to reward the power of numbers. This part of the goal is not (I repeat, NOT) about what you give. A $5 donation is awesome, and I promise you’ll never miss that $5. At the same time you’ll be helping a cause bigger than yourself, bigger than me; you’ll be part of a team. I’d be truly honored if you joined me.

There are a lot of causes out there bidding for our time. I get that. I just hope you’ll consider getting in the game here and helping a great cause. Today, I have two people on my team and I’m looking to get five more. Might it be you?

The Day After the day after

It’s the day after the day after. World Water Day was two days ago, which makes today the day after the day after. I voiced my frustration that we need to even have a “world water day” but I get it. We easily forget. We need to be reminded. More accurately we need to be hit upside the head. And then (from personal experience) we still don’t do what we need or should do. I’m doing my part to remember, reflect, and take action.

Part of my strategy was to extend World Water Day into Sunday. That’s when Sorin and I took these pics on Instagram and posted them via Donate a Photo app by Johnson & Johnson.

Hans and Sorin Schiefelbein

Those pics donated $1 to clean water projects, and 25 pics means clean water for one person. The pic was “favorited” by my friend Charlie from Jars of Clay because clean water is near and dear to his heart, too. He and his bandmates started Blood:Water Mission to fight for the same cause. I mention Charlie to demonstrate that when you believe in a cause, you spend your time there. You make it part of your narrative, your story, what you talk about and where you spend your time. It feels right that when I do something to promote clean water, other champions of the cause would give a little pat on the pack, give a Twitter hi-five, somehow communicate that they see what you’re doing and nod in agreement. I can’t provide clean water by myself. But together we can make things happen.

World Water Day

I get it. We forget, we need to be reminded, we’re distracted, there’s just so much going on that we need to give an entire day to thinking about water. Even though I don’t give water a second thought the other 364 days out of the year.
Clean Water

Today is World Water Day. I don’t have any history, I don’t know who started it, and I know that clean water projects are kind of trendy. Reminds me of the #EndItMovement I wrote about a couple weeks ago. But the same argument applies: just because a cause is trendy and cliche does not mean it’s not important. It makes absolutely no sense that in 2014 there are people who do not have access to clean water. I personally can’t really wrap my mind around that. I can’t imagine having to settle for dirty water to bathe in, dirty water to cook with, dirty water to drink on a hot summer day.

Consider joining my team for Save a Drink. The idea is that you take some (or all!) of the money you would spend on a certain drink and give it towards our clean water project. So you could skip the pint of beer while you watch March Madness today or you could buy the pint but take the same amount and pledge it to our team! Easy enough, right?

There’s a lot of power in numbers. Next week I’ll be talking about how important it is to get as many people as possible on this team (hint: it includes unlocking a generous donor’s gift). For today, I hope we can all be grateful for our clean water and consider even the smallest contribution to Team Jars via my personal page.

Save a Drink

I just set a stretch goal. Can I get my friends to donate $300 to provide clean water? Are you and I willing to donate part or all of what we spend on coffee and beer to a great cause? Let’s say you go to the coffee shop five times per month. Would you donate $15? Or what if you buy three 6-packs from now until April 19th. Would you donate $24 (the cost of three installments of Snowshoe by New Glarus, my favorite beer right now)?

And if coffee and beer aren’t your thing, then why in the world are we friends?! Totally kidding. That was a nod to my brother. Whatever your drink is, I’m asking you to consider donating part or all of that money to fund clean water projects in Zambia. I have supported Blood:Water for many years. It would be an honor for you to join me in this pursuit. Let’s Save a DrinkSave a Drink

Here’s how it works: Go to and “donate.” If you want to create your own page, please feel free. But then you’ll need to join “Team Jars.” I signed in with Facbook. Does that make you nervous? It shouldn’t. I’ve never gotten any spam from them signing in with Facebook. This is a world-class organization. I hope you become part of their story.

I will be writing about this through April 19. It’s near and dear to my heart, and here’s why. I’m trying to tell a better story with my life. I’m working hard to provide for a family, be a better husband and dad, and be more aware of the world and its needs. I want my kids to see that we have plenty, there are those who don’t, and we can help.

My goals is to get 30 friends to join. If we average $10, we’ll hit our $300 goal. And to be clear, I hope we blow this goal out of the water. Thanks for considering! As alays, I’m answering questions and responding to your thoughts in the comments section.

Follow-up posts:


48 People

Yesterday about 48 people were snuck into our country as human slaves. “Snuck into this county…” They were trafficked. Not a bright way to start a blog post on an otherwise beautiful Friday morning. Sorry to disrupt.

I put a red X on my hand yesterday to raise awareness for #enditmovement. I posted on Pressgram that I was raising awareness but I was also learning. As Eugene Cho says, “Let’s be honest. Fighting slavery has become trendy.” Man, are we pathetic. But he’s right. Clean water is another thing that’s trendy. But to be clear: just because it’s trendy doesn’t mean it’s not real. It doesn’t mean we can ignore this problem. I also learned there are 27 million slaves currently around the world.

That’s the population of New York City metropolitan area. There are more slaves around the world right now than at any time in recorded history. A problem that most people think ended more than a century ago is, in fact, thriving as never before. (source)

I don’t know what to do about that number. I’ll give some money. Will you? But beyond that I’m just sitting here learning, making myself more aware. And that feels so inadequate. Fellow human beings being sold as slaves in the year 2014. The sex and the money behind this… there simply are no words for it.

What will we do? Could this be part of our legacy? Can our generation really end this? I believe we can! It starts with awareness but must quickly move to action. If we don’t act quick, human nature will take over and our moment will be lost. Younger people, our children, will ask: “Where were you when this was going on? What did you do?” Let’s be part of the answer.


When I began blogging back in 2006, I built it on the foundation of a game plan. I was writing as a man trying to create order in my life, to think and plan and be reflective of situations around me. I knew I could not write about everything, so I made a decision to write about family and my work. My blog has evolved, which is a good thing. I sit here happy with what I’ve documented. Those who know me personally know of my Christian faith but I don’t write about it often. Lately I’ve wrestled with this decision because if my faith is such a critical part of my life as I claim, it should be better represented on my personal blog.

Grace is certainly a church word, but I believe we all are looking for grace in out lives. Different than any other religion (not my favorite word, but people understand it as such) the topic of grace makes Christianity unique. At our church, Blackhawk in Madison, we talk often about the difference between mercy, justice, and grace. Our senior paster, Chris Dolson often shows this slide

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 1.32.46 PM
I don’t profess to be an expert on grace but I am telling you it is the backbone of my faith. I’m not a professional on the topic of grace, but thankfully John Rosensteel is. He gave a wonderful description of it this week. I hope you enjoy.


Meeting My Social Media Chaplain

Last night I got to finally meet Jon Swanson.  I was introduced to Jon when I was following Chris Brogan and he tweeted about not being a spiritual guy, but he reads 300 Words a Day (following Jesus).  That intrigued me.  I started following Jon’s blog and I’ve been reading it ever since.  Jon and I have tweeted back and forth a bit and even started emailing last spring regarding one of my blog posts.  His writing has always challenged me with the ease in which he crafts and presents his words, really his voice. 

You can imagine my joy when Jon tweeted a few weeks ago that he’d be driving past Madison and was hoping we could make time for dinner or coffee.  We made the arrangements and last night Katie and I met Jon and Nancy at the El Dorado Grille for dinner.  We chatted for over two hours so we went next door to Ground Zero for some decaf coffee to end our evening. I’m documenting this on my blog because it was wonderful to meet a (Twitter) friend in person.  This is the world many of us live in these days, and I love it.  Additionally, I’m writing this to put a rock down and mark this moment as significant for me professionally.  Jon asked me some pointed questions about my writing and my routines that have sparked tremendous creative thoughts over the last 24 hours.  They’re not all fleshed out, I suppose I’ve only scratched the surface.  But I’m thankful tonight for meeting a mentor of mine, a pastor of mine for the first time.