Does Your Work Inspire Others?

I have had a few moments over the past month or so that has encouraged me to keep creating.

The first moment I experienced was meeting CJ.  CJ is long time subscriber and commenter on my YouTube channel. We recently met for the first time at the NYWC in Memphis, TN.

We only spoke for a few minutes, but his words encouraged me. He told  me that through the work I was doing on YouTube, he was inspired to start a podcast with a youth worker friend of his. I was honored to be asked to do an intro to one of their episodes. Can’t wait to hear what they create.

The second instance of inspiration came this morning when someone commented that one of my DIY video inspired him to make the logo for his church out of foam. He nailed it! You can see my video and his video below.

All this to say, if you’re a creator, don’t stop creating and putting your stuff out there. My stuff isn’t perfect, but I am faithful to put it out there and the fruit of those seeds sown, are pretty amazing.

Looking for some Youth Ministry inspiration? You can subscribe to my channel right here. 

What are you creating that’s inspiring others?

My video

His video

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Experience Will Only Get You So Far

It’s hard to give back from a place of instability – Gary V.

This statement by Gary Vaynerchuk applies in so many ways, whether you want to give back financially, emotionally, or spiritually, you can’t do it from a place of instability or lack.

If I want to have anything to give to my own kids, my youth group,  my church, my communities, or my world at large, I have to shore up the weak places; and I have not been doing that.

Do anything for 30 years and you’ll start taking things for granted if you do not, daily, build the inner man. This is not to say I do not pray, read my Bible, or have spiritual disciplines, but I have relied on past experiences with God far more than I should have rather than allowing a fresh move of God to overtake me on a daily basis. It’s harder than you think, ask the Israelites of the Old Testament.

I, like the Israelites, want to horde the manna rather than wake up daily for fresh manna. I want my deeds, my prayers, my experience to sustain me, and it just doesn’t work. I am entering a new era of trusting God daily for today, not tomorrow, and not using yesterday’s manna to get me by (Genesis 16)

If you’re reading this, and your under 30, I’m giving you the real deal of what it means to come to a cross road in life and ministry. If you plan on ministering to teens (or to anyone), long term, you’ll need to work hard every day at shoring up the weak areas of your life so you can give back and create a legacy that matters.

Pushing forward, trusting daily.

 

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Turning Your “To Do List” Into A “To Be List”

I love a good list. I love checking things off because my dopamine spikes when check something off. The problem with to do lists is that they don’t turn into “to be” lists. The things on my list are not translating into a more fuller life. Just recently, I was reminded of that.

I had had a full couple of days and today was no different. My Facebook told me I  was invited to a birthday party of a former student. I hemmed and hawed all day about whether I was going to go or not. I had other things to do the I thought were more important. God had other plans.

I went to the restaurant, where it was being held, and sat and watched as people interacted and I sat and caught up with an old acquaintance who was having some health problems.

Our serve arrived and to my surprise, it was another one of my former students. When she was young she and I had a special bond. She was full of life and joy. I can remember when faux-hawks were a thing and she decided I should have one. Reluctantly I let her shape my hair, what little I had, into the then trendy faux hawk. I’m glad the trend did not last because I looked only slightly silly in it.

After I moved on from the church, this young lady fell into a the trap of drugs and addiction. She had gone through a few programs and a life time of hardship. Today she was refilling my water and we laughed about life, church, and faux hawks.

Before leaving, while looking of the restroom, I saw a man whom I knew from church. He was a new Christian and had not been to church in a whole due to work and the fact that I wouldn’t just let him hang out in the youth room during youth group. I could sense that uncomfortable distance you feel when you haven’t seen someone in a while and they may or may not blame you for why they are not in church. He looked up, saw me, and acknowledged me so I took that as an open door to re-connect.

His son still comes to our youth ministry and I have been trying to involve him more and more. We talked briefly and then his dinner arrived. I left feeling like there wouldn’t be as much awkwardness the next time we saw each other.

All of this connection from one thing that wasn’t even on my list. I guarantee you that the other things on my list did not allow me to have these kinds of encourager and remind me why I was glad I had stayed in ministry as long as I have.

My encouragement is to leave room on your list (or just toss the old one) to

be kind

be generous

be human

be friendly

be you best self

and then find ways to match being with your doing.

How can you be more kind while picking up the dry cleaning?

How can you be more friendly with a new client?

Remember though, as I was reminded, the things that help you BEcome more, aren’t even on your list. Leave room for the unexpected and you’ll feel more accomplished than ever.

 

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The Day I Realized This, It Crushed Me

des·ti·ny ˈdestinē/ noun
  1. the events that will necessarily happen to a particular person or thing in the future.
    • the hidden power believed to control what will happen in the future; fate.

Today was a hard day. Today I gave up on destiny. For years I believed in a personal destiny to become what I thought God had intended for me. It seems like God has other plans, but I have no idea what they are. This is both a blessing and a curse.

When I finally said it out loud, I felt tears well up in my eyes. I had believed so hard for so long, it was just crushing. The idea of destiny was a torch I’d been carrying for a long time, and it was a relief to just let it go.

The curse part of this revelation is that I’m left with nothing to base my future on. My ideas are gone. My sense of direction is gone. My motivation is gone to achieve what I thought was mine by “right”. So, where do I put my time and energy now?

There’s a blessing in tossing away my destiny too. Truly, I have nothing left but faith, which isn’t such a bad thing. Where I once looked for signs of achieving my destiny, I look to Jesus and ask, “What’s next?” It’s kind of a relief.

As my journey as a full time youth pastor begins to wind up, with my “destiny”  in the wind, I find myself back in an adventurous place; something I have not experienced in a long time. Rather than looking for my destiny, my heart is open to whatever God should bring me.

I’d appreciate your prayers as I prepare for new adventures.

Do you believe in destiny?

Could your belief in destiny be holding you back?

 

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The Number One Reason I’m Not Ministering To More People

I don’t judge, I react and sell. – @garyvee

I love entrepreneur and CEO Gary Vayerchucks’ directness. He’s a salesman and he’s trying to get to the sale. Gary eliminates anything that gets in the way of the sale because he values speed. Judgment gets in the way of him moving as fast as possible, so it has to go.

His words have been bugging me for a few months now because I know I’m not doing as much as ministry as I like, going as fast as I like,  because I’m allowing judgement to interfere with “the sale”.

In other words, I’m complicating things.

Judgement is an anchor that slowing me down.

Judgement make my life less aerodynamic.

Judgement makes me process things too long. It makes me fearful of who I might offend or upset.

Judgement keeps me from saying yes to loving people right where they are.

Too much thinking, processing, exegeting,  keeps me from, what Gary calls, “the sale”.

Gary doesn’t allow a persons color, gender, or sexual orientation, or even past hurts get in the way of “the sale”. Gary loves to tell stories about people who screwed him in the past but later wanted him on their podcast or to do a favor or to do business with. Gary said yes every time. In other words, if he deal is good, everybody’s money is as green as the next persons, even the people I don’t like. Gary doesn’t let personal feelings get in the way of his generosity. He likes to say, “Doing the right thing is always the right thing.”

As a follower of Jesus, I don’t see Jesus getting bogged down in the process of who He will minister to. Everyone needs help. Everyone’s soul is of equal value.

Jesus didn’t care if you were a woman, a leper, or a tax collector. He didn’t care about the taboo or the rules. His  “sale” was ministry. Jesus wanted people to be well, to be whole, to be saved, to be safe, to be loved and He didn’t allow for anything to slow that down.

Me on the other hand, I feel like I’ve been living the Christian life at a snails pace. I feel like I’ve been moving in spiritual slow motion. If I want to move faster and minister to more people, I have to cut the anchor.

In the movie Yes man, Jim Carey, plays a man who has played it safe, until he decided to say yes to every opportunity that came his way. This new way of approaching things was liberating at first, but in the end it was exhausting. Good judgement doesn’t mean saying yes to every opportunity, but it does mean saying yes to the right opportunities.

My judging is keeping me from helping people, praying with people, eating with people, building stronger relationships with people, forgiving people and depriving others from the help and hope I might be able to offer which, in the end, is ultimately hurting me.

Judgement is a barrier to my progress, my prosperity, and my personal growth and I need to stop. It’s easier said than done, but I’ll start with cutting the anchor off today today and see how fast I can go from there.

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The Desperate Need To Encourage Yourself

I have been in a hole for some time. A deep hole of discouragement and doubt. This mindset is a crippling mental bear trap that once you’ve step in it, it’s tough to get out of it. I’m only now returning to the idea of encouraging myself as a way to dig myself out.

You would think it’s simple, right? Say nice things about yourself and the dark cloud goes way. It’s not that easy. You have to actually believe the things you’re saying to get anywhere. So,  grab a shovel, and join me as I dig myself out right in front of you.

The first thing I discovered is the I must admit what is not true about me. I can’t say I’m a great singer if I am not a great singer. Lying to myself only deepens the hole.

The key is not to focus on the negative,  but to see simply nod at them as if to say, “I see you over there, you’re real, but you’re not my focus.”

Next, I have to know what is true about me. I’m making two lists, one is a skill based list and the other is character based list. This is so important,  I am not my job or my skills. My human qualities are what enhances by skill not the other way around. Example: I am not a kind person because I am a Pastor, I am a kind person and this makes me a good Pastor.

Third, I draw from what others have told me about myself. They were not just being kind, they actually meant it and I have to take the affirmative things people say to heart rather than brush them off. Based on this, here are my lists.

Character List

  • I am honest.
  • I am kind.
  • I am generous.
  • I am helpful.
  • I am creative.
  • I am an encourager.
  • I am caring
  • I am faithful.

If you’re like me, you’re tempted to stop because it sounds like you’re bragging. This is the point. You brag on yourself, to yourself, because no one else is encouraging you. So, don’t stop (I will stop here because you probably already know how awesome I am).

Skill List

  • I am a good writer and improving.
  • I am good at creating positive programs.
  • I am a good video editor and improving
  • I am great communicator and improving.
  • I am good at breaking down complicated ideas and thoughts.
  • I am a pretty good marketer and improving.
  • I am very good on camera and connecting with my audience.
  • I am a good collaborator and teammate. 

Once again, I’ll stop there because you already know this about me 🙂 

There’s one more dynamic of my life I have to look at in order to see a complete picture of myself. As a Christian, I believe in a God who created me, loves and gave his son Jesus Christ for me.

This truth speaks to my overall value and worth. This is not to say that people who are not Christians are not of value or worth or that I am more valuable than others. What these spiritual truths speak to me are realities beyond my character and skills and speaks to my spirit.

Who am I when I fail or when I blow it? Do I have worth and value then? If you’ve ever blown it big time, its sometimes hard to find the encouragement you seek from others. Others can only see the mistake(s) where God sees beyond the mistake to redemption.

Here’s my brief list of spiritually encouraging truths

  • God loves me no matter what, so I can love others the same.
  • God shows me grace and forgiveness when I cannot forgive myself. This means I can sho grace and forgive others
  • God stays with me in my worst moments when other walks away. I will never be truly alone.
  • God values me, so I can value others.

I’ll close with a Psalm from David, where David declares the realities of his discouragement, but then turns his heart towards deeper truths that encourages his heart. I hope they encourage yours as well.

Psalm 13

For the director of music. A psalm of David.

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
    How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
    and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
    How long will my enemy triumph over me?

Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
    Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
    and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

But I trust in your unfailing love;
    my heart rejoices in your salvation.
 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
    for he has been good to me.

 

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Three Directional Thinking

This is one of thoughts you get while driving. I was thinking about my choices in the way think, and yes, we do have choices. When something hits my brain I can respond to it in one of three ways (note: I know these terms have varied meanings, I’m using the terms purely for illustration) :

Downward Thinking

Downward thinking is adopting the thinking of the base. Base thinking is the first things that come out of people’s mouths. Base people react versus respond; they are the first people to post on social if they don’t like something and add more emotion than is really needed.

Downward thinkers say things like, “I’m just speaking the truth” and “Well, someone has to say something and I don’t care who’s feelings get hurt.” Their not thinking about what is best overall, they are thinking about what is best of them, right now.

Lateral Thinking

Lateral thinking is thinking what everyone else is thinking. Lateral thinkers put their fingers in the air, see which way the wind s blowing and hoist their sales in that direction.

Lateral thinkers don’t think for themselves, they think to survive and if saying or doing what others say keeps them safe, then so be it.

Upward Thinking

Upward thinkers have flipped a switch. Upward thinking believes in positive living and is playing the long game to achieve such a life. An upward thinker sees life as precious and worth living and carefully weighs their thoughts  before acting.

The upward thinker believes success is around the corner, even if it’s a few years away.

Here’s an example: When we encounter people we don’t like

The downward thinker confronts and says we can never be friends and even chooses to cast them as an enemy.

The lateral thinker wonders what everyone else thinks about this person and chooses to make friends or not based on public opinion.

The upward thinker says, what are the possibilities? We may never be best friends but how can I elevate this relationship to where it can at least work and possibly grow.

This example shows micro-thinking vs macro thinking with no thinking in-between.

With every thought, every encounter, we have choices. I believe we can retrain our brains to be upward thinkers. This goes beyond positive thinking. Trying to think positively about a negative thing is mostly like shooing away a fly that only returns a few seconds later.

Upward thinking is for those who believe their life, as well as others, has purpose. Upward thinkers don’t see negative thoughts as interruptions but opportunities to think more deeply, be empathetic, and think through to the best possible outcome before acting.

None of this is easy. It’s something I practice every day. We do not have perfect control over the thoughts we think but we do have control over the direction our thoughts takes us. Let’s think upward toward a better, mentally healthier, life.

 

 

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Getting Failure Out Of Your System

“but the difference is whether you decide to stop at a failure, or keep going until you get as many failures as possible out of your system until the only possible outcome is that you succeed.” – Benny Lewis

I know there are some who disagree with the concept of failing fast and failing often, especially when it comes to starting a business, but I’m not talking about business, I’m talking about life.

Me, and about a billion other people are not going to start a business, but we are going to try things. We’re going to try hard things and even, in our minds, impossible things, but I think we quit too soon before we even know if can be good at something.

I could have been a better guitar player if I had not quit too soon.

I could have been a black belt if I had not quit after two sessions.

I could have been ______________ (fill in the blank)

My contention isn’t that we should keep failing ad-naseum, we should fail just enough to get the failure(s) out of our system and see if we hit a tipping point where we can decide if whatever we are trying to get good at is something we want to fail some more at and eventually succeed (at some level) or did we just want to improve and move on.

Most people stop at a few failures and decide that they aren’t very good at it. I’m not good at golf, but I know if I put the hours in I can improve, but I’ve at least played enough golf, and scored in the 120’s enough, to know it’s not something I want to improve in. It’s a fine game but it’s not something I want to be a “success” at.

I believe in trying until you have exhausted your “want to” and shift into this is my passion and I will move forward until I fail less and less.

If you want to get good at something fail enough times to get as good as you want to be. If you want to be successful (make money, make it your job), fail as many times as it takes, make calculated risks (if money is involved) and pivot when necessary.

What do you think? Do buy into the fail fast and fail often?

If you’d like to hear me elaborate, you can check out my FB video

 

 

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Four Questions You Should Ask A Racist

There are many in the KKK, White Aryan Nation, and other racist organizations who love to quote the Bible and espouse Christian principles but deny God’s Word entirely.

As believers, it’s important to keep the conversation in spiritual terms because the racist will want to talk history, politics. and a general sort of religion.

The goal, at least as I see it, of these questions isn’t to shut down the racist but rather open them up to the truth of the gospel. Shaming a racist, or anyone else, may quiet them or send them into hiding but it will not win them to the Lord.  The Holy Spirt isn’t interested in clever shut down tactics, He’s interested in drawing them to the Savior.

These cultural “christians” love America but hate God. How do I know.? The Bible is clear about who God is, who Jesus is, and how those who claim to follow Jesus should behave. If you want expose the faux christianity of  these cultural “christians” and begin a real conversation about true faith, start with these four questions.

Do you believe everyone is made in the image of God?

Yes, according to this verse we are.

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. Gen 1:27

If we are all made in the image of the Creator, who are we to slander, kill, or make worthless any one person let alone any race of people.

 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers.[a] The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. 12 There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor? James 4:11-12

but no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. James 3:9

Christianity mixed with racism is hypocrisy. It is hypocritical to say we love God and despise the image of God in others.

Do you believe in the commandments of Jesus? 

and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.” Mark 12:30,31

There is not ambiguity here. it cannot be explained away. When pressed by one who wanted to justify who their their neighbor was and was not, Jesus answer with a parable of a Jew and a racially mixed society called the Samaritans. This was not just a parable of two different men but two racially and religiously different men.

If we are to call ourselves believers we cannot say that one person is my neighbor and the other is not.

Do you believe Jesus died for everyone?

If Jesus did not die for everyone, then he died for no one. If a man, regardless of his skin color, cannot call on the name of the Lord to be saved, then the cross is worthless to everyone.

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Racists want a white territory to call their own, but they’re not considering the racially diverse eternity they’ll step into one day.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, Rev. 7:9

Remind those with racist beliefs that heaven is and will be a multicultural, multiethnic kingdom. Jesus said, “on earth as it is in heaven” and if He wants earth to look more like heaven, then earth cannot be divided according to race.

Do you believe hating others is a sin?

Once again, this is about a racists view of Jesus, heaven, and eternity. If they’ve had any church or bible background they know what sin is, what sin does, and the penalty for it.

Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister. I John 4: 20,21

Hate is the antithesis to the gospel. Hate is the opposite of Jesus.  To hate another person because of color, or anything else, means God is not with you, for your, or cheering on your cause.

If the racist battle cry is “for God and country” their serving the wrong god. In fact, they’ve created one than matches their ideology and borrow gods and idols from Neo-Nazi past to prop up their cause.

Like I said in the beginning, the questions we should be asking is not to solely shut people down but to open them up to a new conversation that will get them thinking in spiritual and eternal terms. We can shame them or allow the Holy Spirit to convict them. Which is more powerful? Which will lead to the winning of a heart to Christ?

We will never get rid of hate or injustice without Christ. Our tactics will only quiet those who espouse these hateful ideologies, for a time, only to rear its head later.

Let us remind ourselves, and those who oppose the gospel, of the words by the Apostle Paul

For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Gal.3:28

If you’re on the front lines, I applaud your stand. If you’re a believer on the front lines, remember where the real war is , it is in the hearts and the minds. Our battle is not agains flesh ad blood but again powers and principalities, and only the Spirit will succeed where our tactics fail.

 

 

 

 

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Charlotteville: We Can Sleep Or We Can Shine

I haven’t been watching the news for a whole now. It’s just too sad and disappointing. I do get alerts and I have read articles on Charlottesville and I have to confess, I’m numb to it.

It’s overwhelming. It’s too much, and I’d rather go back to sleep. The young lady who was killed in Charlottesville had dreams, goals, desires. She was someone’s daughter, friend, and employee. Her final words on Facebook were

“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention”

We, the Church,  should be outraged but not unhinged. Our response to this tragedy should look more like a laser beam than dynamite. We need to have the same energy but a different response. We should be surgical, rather than explosive, in our response to racism.  This This surgery must begin with our own hearts.

We must first pay attention to our own lives and ask Christ to shine a light in our dark hearts and, what ever is revealed, repent of it.

I’m reminded of the verse

But everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that is illuminated becomes a light itself. So it is said: “Wake up, O sleeper, rise up from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk, not as unwise but as wise,… Ephesians 5:13-15

Going back to sleep, in light of any death by racism, should not be the response of the church. The church has been asleep for far too long.

We must, as the scripture says, wake up, rise up and pay careful attention to how we walk as believers, calling out racism and bigotry where we see it.

It will be upon those who wake up, speak out, and stand firm Christ that Christ will shine and thereby illuminate the darkness. Do not suppose that shining once will chase the darkness away, but we must shine always so that the darkness never returns.

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