Why Cynicism Is My Best Pastoral Attribute

If there’s one thing that makes me cynical, it’s optimists.- Julian Baggini

This explains a lot. I am not a fan super-optimistic, everything is coming up roses, and farts smell like new car smell, kind of people. I’ve always been like this and I have finally embraced it.  I was called a cynic the other day and I was ok with that. Cynicism, in my opinion, in small doses, is a good thing.

For years I have quoted Jeremiah 17:9

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?

Having been in ministry for over 30 years, and alive on the planet for 49, this statement has been proven true in both believers and non-believers. Was Jeremiah a cynic? Or, had he just seen the worst humanity had to offer and stated the obvious?

Cynicism is

believing that people are motivated by self-interest; distrustful of human sincerity or integrity.

I believe both of this is true of human beings in general, myself  included The difference is I, like the Apostle Paul, believe there is nothing good in me. I ‘m blessed with a self awareness that will not allow me to put full trust and reliance on myself.

Cynism is not hopelessness. Cynicism is not faithlessness. Cynicism is putting hope and faith in God rather than people. People say they lose hope in humanity, I say good for them. That’s progress.

How many times have you heard “this pastor has an affair” and “this speaker was caught doing such and such’? It seems, human frailty is par for the course in scripture, so why should I be shocked at humanities propensity, Christian or otherwise, for self destruction?

But Jesus did not entrust Himself to them,for He knew all men. He did not need any testimony about man, for He knew what was in a man.…John 2:24

Was Jesus a cynic because He didn’t trust mankind? Because he already knew what man could/would do?

Living  a cynic’s life offers me the opportunity to be genuinely surprised and thrilled when someone does something loving and sacrificial.

A healthy, spiritual cynicism means..

I don’t buy the false positives of religion and look for, and embrace, the true fruit of a changed life in Christ.

I don’t believe all the good things people say about me and thereby inflate my ego.

I don’t believe every youth meeting is great and that nothing is wrong. Something is always wrong and may be never be fixed, but God’s grace is sufficient.

In Julian Baggini’s article, In Praise of Cynicism he concludes

We can’t make things better unless we see quite how bad they are. We can’t do our best unless we guard against our worst. And it’s only by being distrustful that we can distinguish between the trustworthy and the unreliable.

I could not agree more. Let’s stop saying how great everything is, or how great we are, and  point the searchlight of cynicism on ourselves so we can bring those things in the dark into the light of Christ.

When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. John 8:12

Putting my own life under the cynics microscope, first, allows me to stay humble and positive that things can change. If Jesus can do it in me, He can do it in anyone.

 

 

 

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Losing Your Faith In Humanity? Good.

I’ve seen various iterations of this

“I’ve lost my faith in humanity”

“I’m losing my faith in humanity because..”

People post this because some, a lot, or all human beings have disappointed them in the moment or all that day. When someone posts, “I’ve lost my faith in humanity”, I’m not surprised because we were never supposed to put our faith in humanity in the first place.

If humanity was such a great deal, God wouldn’t have had to

  • start over with Noah
  • sent Jesus to the cross
  • make such a big deal about sin and obedience

Faith in humanity is what got us into trouble in the first place. Adam and Eve thought disobeying God was a good idea (at the time) and didn’t seem that bad.

Isaiah says,

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight. Isaiah 5:21

and the Apostle Paul says

My message and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith would not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power. I Corinthians 2:5

So, the next time someone hurts you, does you wrong, or does something stupid, let’s not be shocked by that. Humanity is a burning dumpster fire without God and will continue to muck up the planet without Him.

There’s only one thing. The same humans who are mucking up this life, are the only ones who can make it better. In response to a snippet of this post on Facebook, my friend Steve Case said,

Humanity is also a burning dumpster fire WITH God. God is there saying “hey fool get the hose. it’s right there, pick it up.”

He’s not wrong.  #balance

 

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The Recipe Is Not The Meal

Fun fact, I like role playing games. I like story telling, adventure, and laughing around a table with friends for a few hours. I’m always learning new things about my own faith and my faith journey by playing games and listening to others to who talk about games.

In a recent video, game designer and author Matt Colville, shared about those who play rpg’s and why, when they ask a questions about their game, the online ‘experts” shame them or tell them how to play their game. Matt makes the observation that many of those experts are not currently running a game themselves so they are busy telling others how they should run theirs. Sound like real life?

Too many people are not living the adventure of their faith so they feel it necessary to tell others how they should live theirs.

At the beginning of the video, Matt says that scripts are not movies and that more has to happen before the page comes to life and eventually to the screen.

This was such a powerful statement to me. As one who reads, studies, and attempts to life by the scriptures, it is very easy to see the faith life as just a black and white script rather than a movie in the making with technicolor and dolby sound.

The life of faith is more than a script that we follow. We are making a faith movie called life. There is a script, but reading a script is not a movie. When we attempt to serve and love like Jesus, everyday, we’re making a faith movie with our lives for all to see.

At the end of the video, Matt says,

The map is not the territory. The recipe is not the meal. The rules are not the game. – Matt Colville

Game are about people laughing, enjoying, and building community around a table. Reading, debating, and tell others how to play the game is not fun and is not a game. Shouldn’t faith be more than the reading of a recipe? The study of a map? The joy is in playing the game, eating the food, and exploring the map and so is the faith journey.

Don’t let the religious “trolls” tell you how to live; they’re, more than likely, not enjoying their own faith; leaving them nothing but to tell others how to enjoy theirs.

 

 

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Lessons I Learned From “Tupac” Actor Demetrius Shipp’s Tonight Show Interview

Just recently, I received a letter from Youth Specialties, a national youth ministry organization that supports youth workers. The letter was a contract, spelling out my responsibilities as a speaker at their conference this year.
It’s was one of my dream in life to speak at this conference because it had given so much to me during my early years of youth ministry.
This post was supposed to go up several months ago, but I understand now, why it makes more sense to me now than then.
The movie received a lot of hype and flopped miserably at the box office but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from actor Demetrius Shipp’s success.
Watch the video and then read on.
He never intended to be an actor
How many of you are where you intended to be? Demetrius wanted to be a record producer and still can be, and might be, by the time you read this post.
Many of us were given a map, a course to follow: Go to college, get a job, work hard, rise to the top, retire. That’s a pretty boring map. This map was handed  to me, I tried to follow it, but it just didn’t work for me. I dropped out of college after three months, worked at a miniature gold course for about a year,  and then wound up going to a one year discipleship school on the other side of the country. I started my youth ministry career shortly after.
I’ve been in the same profession for 27, working with teenagers, but that wasn’t because I was the smartest or the best.  Every job, in every church, was an act of grace. I don’t think I “earned” the job as much as  I think God just knew I needed to be wherever I was and He helped me to be there.
I never intended to be a youth pastor for 27 years but I know, one day, the map will change again, and I’ll be in a place I never thought I would be because God needed me there.
He waited six years
Demetrius waited six year until he got the role of Tupac. Looking like him did not hurt him in getting the role but he still had to audition for job he wasn’t looking for.
Demetrius talked about working at Target and Home Depot like it was yesterday, and literally, it was probably yesterday. He speaks gratefully that he had a job and he also sees like he could go right back to it and be happy.
I hear about so many youth workers who are bi-vocational who pine for the day when they are full time youth workers in a church. I get it. I was there. I love when I see social media posts where youth workers are celebrating their first youth ministry job.
How long would you wait for a dream job? Six years sounds like a long time, but it will blow by if we ‘ll work hard, be grateful, and respect the life we do have rather than curse the life we don’t have.
His success surprises him
The way he talks, in my opinion, seems like he could go back to target and have no problem working there, even after being in a big, albeit, poorly reviewed movie.
How many of us could go big time, work in a large church, big youth ministry, and then go back to a small church of 10-15 kids? It’s not like it hasn’t been done, but would you be ok with it or would you resent it? Demetrius seems like he’d embrace going back to work at jobs that supported him for six years.
Success, to some degree, should surprise us and not surprise us. We should be  awestruck by God’s grace towards us and be humbled by the years we’ve put in to get where we are.
Now, me speaking at Youth Specialties this year changes nothing. I’ll come back from the conference and I’ll still be ministering at a small church with a small youth ministry, and I am perfectly fine with that, until God changes the map again of course.

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The Ten Worst Ways To Disrespect Your Life

We only have one life. That’s it. One go around here on the planet and, like so many, including myself, we treat it like a stolen car. We ram into things, we put it at risk, we attain high measures of speed and we abandon it when the heat is on. The only thing worse than that is parking it in the garage.

Stop disrespecting your life. I heard it clear as day. God and/or I was trying to get a message to me. I had been going through a lot. I had been anxious, moody, and over all a miserable person, but, unless you’re my wife, you wouldn’t know it.

I have the spiritual gift of phoniness, in the sense that I can hide what’s wrong while helping you with your problem. I heard Joss Whedon on NPR call this “hiding your damage while trying to create”.

That’s what people do. We hide our damage so we can portray to the world  a well balanced, emotionally healthy, hard working, spiritually mature individual, when we know we are not.

Stop disrespecting your life. I heard  it again and again. Listen, I wasn’t murdering anyone, but I had a gotten into a rut of not caring. and that is the worst kind of disrespect you can show the one life your given, but it’s not the only one.

If I were to create the  10 Commandments of Disrespecting One’s Life it would like like this:

Thou shalt not quit caring 

I put this at the top because I think it’s the worst, the one I loathe in me. I’ve always cared and sometime too much. The wounds and scars of working with hurt people who hurt  people, almost did me in. It’s still no excuse to quit caring.

Thou shalt not waste thy gifts

I’ve met so many gifted people. Musicians who’d rather do drugs. Artists who hide their gift because of fear and doubt. Writers who won’t start a blog or submit their work because they do not think it’s good enough. It’s tragic that so many do not see themselves as artists, even if their art is not traditional like baking or

Thou shalt not waste time 

We can waste a lot of time worrying and having pity parties; neither of which helps anyone, including us. Time waits for no man. The future is happening right now like a moving train and we can either jump on or watch it pass by, but that train is neither stopping or even slowing down. We must jump, with both feet, as hard as we can and grab the handle and then work like mad to hang on until we get to where we are going. No one is coming to save you, you must save yourself.

Thou shalt not be selfish 

Why not be generous. It’s only money, you can make more. Times. a different story. We should guard and invest our time. We can’t make more time, everything else we can afford to give away.  All our gifts and talents were meant to be shared not hoarded. We have these gifts to make people laugh, smile, think, and believe. Why in the world would we hold that back? Pass it on.

Thou shalt not turn from thy calling

I have spent the past 27 yea working with teenagers and it is a badge I proudly wear. When I sensed where my life was heading, I dove in with both feet and did not turn back or turn away like Jonah. So many of you have something important to do, stop running from it.

Thou shalt not give less than 100%

It’s easier to just phone it in. It’s easier to just do enough. You can justify it by saying “they are not worthy of my best” and shrug it off. That hurts no one but you. You are not the better person because you give less.

Thou shalt not give into fear

Maybe because I am turning 50 next year but I am losing a lot of my fears. If the world has not killed me yet, its not going to in the next 20. I have more fight in me now than ever. I’m ready for the next leap, the next hurdle, the next jump. Screw fear.

Thou shalt not hide 

Hiding does not mean evading the spot light, it means we might not even show up. We hide in the shadows and watch others succeed while we suck on bitter envy. We hide because we do not want to be rejected. The risk is too great to jump into a conversation, show up to that party, try something new.

The comedian Rodney Dangerfield joke, “When I was a kid I got no respect. I played hide-and-seek. They wouldn’t even look for me.”

No one is looking for you sunshine, you have to yell, “Here I am!!”

Thou shalt not waste your time on hate

Hating others is losing proposition. Tearing others down does not elevate you. Hate drains our soul and puts us on unnecessary guard duty,  doing our best to protect the world from “others”.

Thou shalt not give up 

This should be number two of the worst ways to disrespect the one life your given., but I needed s good closer. Giving up means you settled. You settled for the wrong guy or girl, the practical, or the average. I disagree that someone has to average in order that others might be great. I think everyone can be great in their own home, in their own school, or their own city.

Great does not mean  a million views on Youtube, a thousand post shares (although your are welcome to try with this one) or being the king or queen of the dance, Great means you’re great. You’re a great hugger, a great friend, a great lover, and a great listener. It’s more important to be a great person than a great personality.

Giving up because you are not someone else’s version of great  is not acceptable.

I have broken all of these commandments at some point in my life and sometimes multiples at the same time, but I’m done disrespecting my own life.

You were given a life. Don’t be disrespectful.

Which of these are you guilty of breaking?

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Jesus Shows Us The Key To Deeper Relationships

Passion is  a surface level emotion that acts like a valve to let off steam. There are terms like “an act of passion” when referring to an affair that just sort of happened or when someone kills someone  due to a” fit of passion”.

Both incidents are  surface level reactions that happen in the moment.  Jesus wasn’t like that. Jesus did not react so much as he responded.; and when he responded, he responded deeply and with conviction.

Jesus lost a friend, Lazarus.

When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.  John 11:33

Such as Jesus’ response to his friends passing, that John, the author, saw fit to mention Jesus’ response again.

[ Jesus Raises Lazarus From the Dead ] Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance.  John 11:38

Jesus was someone who took initiative in his relationships. He invited people into his life rather than waiting to be invited.

He invited fishermen and tax collectors to follow him

He invited Peter to come to Him on the water.

He invited Thomas touch his hands and sides.

He invites all us who are wear and heavy laden to come unto Him.

Jesus lived and open life, inviting all kinds people to be a part of it.

If we want depth in our relationships, we will have to be the initiators.

For all my posting, videos, etc. I am a very private person. I like my world ordered and chaos is not welcome. This is why I, or you, do not like this idea  opening up.

Invitations are not only invites to opportunity but to rejections or worse chaos. Our decision to let someone in, could turn our hold world upside down. Maybe that’s the point, Maybe, in order deepen our lives, a little chaos must come and challenge us.

Success comes from taking the initiative and following up… persisting… eloquently expressing the depth of your love. What simple action could you take today to produce a new momentum toward success in your life? Tony Robbins

No one is going to do it for us. Our initiative is an expression of our love. We have to move, open up, and invite others into our lives if we want to add depth to our days. An open life is an invitation to new worlds, and yes, a little chaos.

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Stubborn Youth Pastors Always Win

Welcome back! This is my fourth post in my attempt to convince you that you’re an artist. You may be a youth pastor, a small group leader, a                         bi-vocational youth worker who does plumbing on the side, or a volunteer youth worker. You are all artists in your own way.

You can read my premise for you being an artist by starting at Real Youth Workers Don’t Starve. This series is based on the book by Jeff Goins called Real Artists Don’t Starve that helps creative people, like youth pastors, embrace the the artist title.

I hope you’ll pick up a copy of the book and read along with me.

Let me clarify my title: Stubborn Youth Pastors, Who Are Stubborn About The Right Things, Always Win.

Stubbornness is not obstinance. Youth Pastors should not be stubborn just to be in the way to be a block to progress. Youth Pastors should be stubborn on principles things and flexible on details.

We all need the ability to persevere and maintain passion for long-term goals despite adverse circumstances—or what Angela Duckworth calls “grit.” – Jeff Goins Real Artists Don’t Starve

We have to be stubborn when it comes to working with teens because, well, teens are stubborn bunch and we must match their stubbornness with a stubborn kind of love.

“No matter how much you miss youth group, I’ll always save a sit for you”

“No mater how much you resist me, I will always be welcoming”

“No matter how much you choose the wrong thing, I will love you and help you choose the right thing.”

This is the same kind of stubbornness parents have with their kids. As youth workers, we should match our teens stubbornness with godly stubbornness. the Bible called this long-suffering.

The Lord passed before him and proclaimed,“The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and egracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, Exodus 34:6

God stubbornly, puts up with our mess and  loves us still.  This is a youth workers kind of stubbornness.

What does all this have to do with me being an artist Paul? Simple, we design programs that give us the opportunity to connect with students so we can show teens this kind of stubborn love long term. We have to be stubborn about the principles of youth ministry, not the details.

Here are a few examples  of where my stubbornness comes in when designing   any youth program.

I am stubborn about who is on my team

I don’t let adults just hang out (other than parents) because they don’t want to go got Wednesday night service. I they are downstairs with me, they have a purpose or they are not there.

I recently had to tell an adult they could not come downstairs any more because they were avoiding all the parameter set to be a volunteer for me

  • Be in the adult service on Sunday for x amount of time
  • Be in the adult Wednesday night service for x amount of time
  • Go through our partnership class

There are a few other standards we have,  but the point is that we have set up standards to first keep students safe from just anyone being a part of the youth program. Second, I want to make sure the leaders we have are mature enough to lead kids into faith, If an adult cannot go through a class, come to service on Sunday morning consistently, they I do not feel they will be a good fit on our program that expects them to lead kids by example.

I am stubborn on discipline

I knew I shouldn’t have let this kid come on the retreat because of his age, but his mother sweet talked me into it; I felt I had to give him chance. I have him Several chances but after having him make a few calls to his parents, I had to ask his mom to come pick him up.

Things like camp, missions trips, and even the weekly meeting only go well when we are all on the same page, or at least in the same book. Sometimes we all have to pull a kid aside, have the talk, and most of them time that settles it. There are other times when we have to make the phone call, send. kid up to their parents, tell a kids “no, I don’t think you’re ready for this.” . All of this discipline is designed to help kids grow in character and faith and secondly to keep the program or trip on track.

Stubbornness like this is a stubbornness that my Pastor, my parents, and even the students appreciate because they know I will do my best to help the kids who need help and make event worthwhile for everyone. A lack of stubbornness on some things, like discipline, causes an unease and a mistrust of our leadership.

I am stubborn on keeping the door open 

When a kid leave my youth ministry, its not the end of ministry with that kid. I have launched out students to go to other youth ministries because those youth ministries offered them opportunities that I could not.

These same kids who leave or that I launch, I’ll run into at the store or they may hit me up for advice online. I am stubborn on this because it’s easer to just close the door and pretend like those kids don;t exist any more, but they do and God may not be finished with me and them yet.

We have to be stubborn because the opposite of stubbornness is complacency, weakness, and irresolute. I always want to be stubborn about the things that matter not the details that don’t. We can be stubborn and flexible.

Steve jobs was stubborn on design.

Edison was stubborn on the creating the lightbulb

Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon,  is stubborn about the culture he creates.

We are creators and creators but must be stubborn, not about everything, but about the right thing.

When you harness your strategic stubbornness, you give the world a reason to believe in your work.  – Jeff Goins Real Artists Don’t Starve 

Our stubbornness, about the right things in our youth ministry, will only lead to the right people taking notice and supporting what we create; and isn’t that what we want?

Catch the fifth post over here: The Creative Church, The One Every Artist Wants To Be A Part Of 

 

What are you stubborn about in your youth ministry?

Why do you need to be more flexible about in your youth ministry?

 

 

 

 

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We All Used To Think This Way, Until…

We thought we were unique, we weren’t

We thought we were original, we weren’t

We thought we were the first, we weren’t

We thought we were going to change everything, we didn’t

We thought we had what it took, we didn’t

We thought we were equipped for anything, we weren’t

We thought we had the best idea, we didn’t

We thought we were ready for the next level, we weren’t

We thought we were better than everyone else, we’re weren’t

We thought we were bulletproof, we weren’t

We though we were immortal, we aren’t

It’s not if you think these things are true or not, it’s what you do next when you discover they are true.

Mike Tyson used to say, “Everyone has a plan, until they get punched in the mouth”.

What do you do after you’ve been punched in the mouth, when your plan is destroyed, when things don’t work out, when you discover the truth, that is  the moment you discover who you really are.

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How Come No One Told Me?

Growing up…

No one told me that I’d be second guessing everything at 49

No one told me it was ok to switch directions.

No one told me its was ok to pursue something different.

No one told me it was ok to have many dreams, not just one.

No one told me that it was ok to let go.

No one told me it was ok to fail.

No one told me life could be more flexible than rigid.

No one told me that loyalty wouldn’t get me anywhere.

No one told me my mentors would be authors and YouTube personalities.

No one told me, “Just wait, the best is yet to come”

Why didn’t anyone tell me?

Maybe they did, and I just wasn’t listening.

I’m listening now.

 

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We Do Have A Choice

“One of the consequences of sin is that it makes the sinner pity himself instead of causing him to turn to God. One of the first signs of new life is that the individual takes sides with God against himself.” ― Donald Grey Barnhouse

Jesus challenged his disciples:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. Matthew 16:24

We have to choose a side. There is nothing in me that wants to take up a cross or follow Jesus. It is God who impresses on me the necessity of this things, like another waking up their children for school. They would much rather stay under warm covers and sleep than to be obedient.

We have no problem choosing between

fear and faith

joy or sadness

salad or dessert

We know which is in our best interest. It is when Christ offers us

a narrow road or a wide road

a narrow gate or a wide gate

seek the Kingdom or seek our own fortune

The Apostle Paul tells us there is a  choice between feeding and leading from our  Flesh or Spirit

We can choose, but most of the time we choose in our own best interest.

There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way to death. Proverbs 14:12

Knowing the end of one of our choices should makes our choosing all the more easy.

 

 

 

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