26Aug

The Most Important Person

At first glance, comedy seems rather easy. Throw together some jokes, somebody falling down the stairs, and a child star or two and you’re good to go! But I’ve been reading about comedy lately and it it sincerely hard work. A lot of people can make fools of themselves on stage but it takes a real artist to create compelling comedy.

Stephen Colbert is one of those people. He plays a character on his political satire show, the Colbert Report and was tabbed as David Letterman’s replacement once he retires next year.

Stephen Colbert gave the 2011 commencement speech at his alma mater, Northwestern, as himself, not his late night satire character and it is nothing less than extraordinary. Colbert’s comedic stabs at himself and his beloved university are side-splitting. But then the tables turn.

Colbert gets serious at the end of his speech and gives us the answer to the question,

“Who is the most important person in your life?”

He tells them about his early days in improv in Chicago, where he was the understudy to Steve Carrel. No pressure!

Colbert explains how there are very little rules in improv. It’s what makes it so entertaining to watch as well as create. In fact there is only one rule, you are not the most important person in the scene; everyone else is.Most of us like the idea of improv comedy because we like the idea of being in charge, of being able to control a scene because sometimes it feels like we can’t control much in real life. Yet Colbert tells his audience that improv works best when everyone collectively refuses to seize control,

…and if they [everyone else] are the most important people in the scene, you will naturally pay attention to them and serve them. But the good news is you’re in the scene too. So hopefully to them you’re the most important person, and they will serve you. No one is leading, you’re all following the follower, serving the servant. You cannot win improv.

 

IF THEY ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT PEOPLE IN THE SCENE, YOU WILL NATURALLY PAY ATTENTION TO THEM AND SERVE THEM. BUT THE GOOD NEWS IS YOU’RE IN THE SCENE TOO. SO HOPEFULLY TO THEM YOU’RE THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON, AND THEY WILL SERVE YOU. NO ONE IS LEADING, YOU’RE ALL FOLLOWING THE FOLLOWER, SERVING THE SERVANT. YOU CANNOT WIN IMPROV. – See more at: http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2011/06/colbert-speech-text.html#sthash.Ox0lnRz5.dpuf
AND IF THEY ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT PEOPLE IN THE SCENE, YOU WILL NATURALLY PAY ATTENTION TO THEM AND SERVE THEM. BUT THE GOOD NEWS IS YOU’RE IN THE SCENE TOO. SO HOPEFULLY TO THEM YOU’RE THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON, AND THEY WILL SERVE YOU. NO ONE IS LEADING, YOU’RE ALL FOLLOWING THE FOLLOWER, SERVING THE SERVANT. YOU CANNOT WIN IMPROV. – See more at: http://www.northwestern.edu/newscenter/stories/2011/06/colbert-speech-text.html#sthash.Ox0lnRz5.dpu

Colbert went on to say that the best episodes of his show are the ones where no one can really remember whose jokes were the ones that got selected or got the most laughs. Everyone was just focused on serving others and playing their part in the team.

Colbert looks upon this fresh batch of college graduates, with a perfect mix of ambition and naivete in their eyes and calls them away from a day and a life that is seemingly all about them back down to real life, where the best among serve the most among us.

What’s true in improv is true in life. The world functions best when everyone serves one another.

So the answer to one of our greatest questions, “Who is the most important person in your life?” = everyone else.

How can you serve today?

18Aug

Start College Right

I love Instagram. I don’t have to read silly, often-uninformed Facebook rants or be bombarded with ads/promoted posts on Twitter. This past weekend I noticed a wave of people posting pictures of their newly decorated dorm rooms. As you can imagine, there is a ridiculous difference between a freshman girl’s dorm setup and a freshman guy’s setup.

Watching these new students get settled in and adjusted to college life reminded me of how unsure I was when I first stepped foot on my college campus. If I could sit down with any incoming college freshman this is what I would tell them.

Here are 4 ways to start college right:

1.) Get involved.

Being in a new place, away from the comforts of home can be nerve racking. But the best way to overcome it is to simply put yourself out there. Maybe you don’t have many friends from your high school attending college with you. Maybe that’s a good thing! Either way, you get a fresh new start in the friendship department, something that does not come around often. Start right from the beginning because it’s so hard to move backwards, especially when many people have already established themselves in certain friendship tribes by the middle of the semester.

Even if you’re a commuter, spend lots of time on campus. One year in college, my wife commuted an hour to campus and would often end up staying on campus with friends until midnight. Join an organization. Make friends. Be spontaneous.

A word of caution: be picky with who you pick as your new friends. They are more influential on your life now that you’re away from home and don’t see your family as much. You will become who you hang out with. And some of the decisions you make during your college years (major, job/career path, maybe even who to marry) are shaped largely by the influence of your friends. Choose wisely.

2.) Don’t date your first semester.

Don’t get me wrong…college is a great time and place to date. I met my wife there. We started dating there and we got engaged there. But during your first semester away from home you’re still adapting to a new world and so is that person you’re interested in. Give it a few months. If they are not willing to wait until after Christmas, are they really worth dating anyway? See who you start to become. See who they start to become. Then decide. (See: How to Date as a Christian).

3.) Actually go to college.

I promise your parents didn’t make me say this but you do actually have to go to class. Remember why you’re there: to get an education as well as an experience that will help equip you for your future. Education first, experience next.

Some practical tips:

  • Don’t take 8 AM classes unless you were home-schooled.
  • Study in the library, not your dorm or the coffee shop. Netflix and flirting with baristas don’t benefit your GPA.
  • Don’t fall for the flashcard effect: I use dto trick myself into thinking I had studied when I had really just made flashcards. Preparing to study is not studying. Find what works for you but then actually do it.

4.) Plug into a local church.

I could write forever on how much I love the church. Being away from home means finding a [new] church. It will not take you long to see an abundance of fake community on your college campus. Find a church where the people are real and will help point you to a real Jesus.

College is a time where you will hear over and over again: “This time is all about you. These years are all about you.” Don’t buy into the lie. Join a local church and serve someone. Get outside yourself and grow with a community that will love and equip you during these amazing years.

Question: What other tip(s) would you pass along to new college students?

 

13Aug

How to Date as a Christian

 1.) Be legit.

If you want to find and date someone who has an authentic relationship with Jesus, you need to have an authentic relationship with Jesus. If you want to date someone who reads Scripture daily, is involved in a local church, and gives of their time and resources sacrificially, you need to be doing those things as well. And you need to be doing them because that’s who you are, not just to garner the attention of someone else.

This truth can also be applied to every area of your life…how you shop, where you eat, who you hang out with, and your general likes and dislikes. Far too often, single people try and be someone they’re not. 

Even if you end up marrying that person you’ll both be unhappy in the long run once the truth about both of you surfaces.

2.) Make a list of what you want in a spouse.

Some people mistakenly think what they’re looking for in a spouse has little to do with what they’re looking for in a person to date. You should never date someone you know you could never marry.

Make the list realistic. Things like specific hair color and hobbies should not make the cut but you also need to make the list challenging. Things like hard work ethic and compassionate should make the list. Set the bar high because someone out there might be setting theirs high as well. Maybe they are currently telling others no because they’re really waiting for someone like you to come along!

3.) Make a list of what you commit to be as a spouse.

This list is much less common but easily more important. Regardless of your age and stage in life, who is it that you are willing to commit to be in a future marriage? Look for people to date who compliment and challenge this list as well.

This list should be at least twice as long as the list of what you want.

4.) Remember your true identity.

Jerry Maguire is a liar. Nobody completes you but Jesus. It’s true, You May Never Get Married. If that never happens [again] for you, is Jesus still enough? The “abundant life” Jesus promises to give to his followers is not exclusively offered to married people! (John 10:10)

So don’t buy into the lie that without a spouse you are somehow a second class citizen, damaged goods, or less loved by God.

5.) Don’t ditch your friends.

Don’t be the one who dates someone and 3 months into their new relationship they’ve all but cut themselves off from their genuine, long-standing friends. Now obviously these friendships change as a relationship moves closer to marriage, as it should. But date in a way that when you break up (has it ever ended any other way?) you’ll still have your friends at your side.

A word for opposite sex friends: As you get closer and close to marriage, a man’s best friend other than his [soon-to-be] wife needs to be a man and a woman’s best friend other than her [soon-to-be] husband needs to be a woman.

6.) Set specific physical boundaries…and don’t break them!

This is a BIG deal. Mistakes happen. But there’s a LOT you can do to prevent yourself from making a bad decision you will regret later.

A note to divorced people: Even though you were previously married, you still need these. You can’t expect your teenage children to follow guidelines you’re not willing to adhere to as well.

This is ultimately a respect issue. Do you respect the person you’re dating enough to honor and protect them from sin? Could you give them away at their wedding day to someone else with no regrets?

Don’t wait to do this! You will never set them in the moment. If people are making fun of your boundaries, it’s probably because you’re on the right track.

When Hayley and I were dating in college, until the day we were married, these were our physical boundaries. We weren’t perfect at them, but we were very successful at maintaining them. These helped our marriage get off to a great start. These are what worked for us but they might be a good starting point for you:

  1. Never lay down together. Not for a nap. Not just to kiss. Not just one time. Keep it vertical, friends!
  2. Never stay the night.
  3. Never touch an area that is covered by an undergarment.
  4. Never be alone in an apartment/house together. What do you need to do in private together that you can’t do at a coffee shop, in a park, with friends, or at a restaurant?
  5. SHARE your boundaries with a very small group (2-3) of older people you trust and ask them to hold you accountable.

One of the best things that happened to me during this time of our life was a good friend of mine asked me to text him every night when I was on my way home from hanging out with Hayley. I texted him up until the day we married and I will always be thankful for him. Accountability is not a bad word and nobody is too good for it!

Questions for feedback: What would you add to the list? What tip(s) do you disagree with?

10Aug

Start a Ruckus Today

Does what you’re working on today really matter at all?

Sisyphus is a fascinating but little-known character in Greek mythology.  He gets in some pretty bad trouble and is tasked with spending eternity rolling a huge boulder up a giant hill only to have it fall back down to the bottom where he returns to repeat this mind-numbing, muscle-crushing exercise. His life is spent fuming in unending frustration and toiling in futile effort.

Do you ever feel like Sisyphus, like you are banished to repeatedly perform the same boring tasks that comprise a dull and uninteresting life?

Have you ever asked this question, “Why are things the way they are?” only to receive this answer, “Because that’s the way it’s always been.” Maybe it’s time for you to stop accepting the status quo. Who cares if this is always the way it’s been done if nobody can explain why it’s still done this way.

It happens all the time. I’ll be sitting and talking with someone and they say something like, “Man, I’m just not feeling close to God anymore” or “My marriage just isn’t quite what it used to be.” I’ll ask them the same two questions wise people have asked me when I had similar thoughts.

  1. What are you currently doing to foster those relationships?
  2. What of those current actions is different than your previous routine?

The wisdom behind the first question is obvious: If someone is complaining about their level of happiness but is unwilling to work on improving it, a separate conversation needs to happen. They need to be reminded that nobody owes us happiness.

The wisdom behind the second questions is fairly simple as well yet can be much harder to actually put into practice. Many of us are failing in life, marriage, and work because we’re simply living in the past, still celebrating past successes instead of focusing on the present and preparing for the future. But another group also needs to hear this question: those who keep doing the same things over and over again while expecting different results. Sometimes what we need most is is what we want least: CHANGE.

But why is it that some people tend to live through times of change better than others?

  • Why in the world do some people seem to enjoy change?
  • Why do some marriages succeed while others fail?
  • Why do some people get promoted while others settle into unintended complacency?

Why do older adults struggle to keep up with the most recent social media apps but teenagers seem to move fluidly from one to the next with little to no learning curve?

Why are newspapers dying but writers are thriving on Twitter/blogs/online magazines?

Why was R.A. Dickey an awful pitcher for years with the Texas Rangers but then later won a Cy Young award with the New York Mets?

The answer to all these questions lies in one simply word: disruption.

Disruption is inevitable. It is not a question of “if” but “when” disruption and change come crashing down. As much as we might wish to, we cannot control it. But we can control our response to the unexpected.

Some people seem to enjoy change more than others because they know disruption of the status quo can be a really good thing.

Some marriages succeed while others fail because two people refuse to get stuck in a marital rut that eventually erodes away their life together.

Some people get promoted while others settle for unintended complacency because they know every significant advance in the history of the WORLD started as a disruption from the norm, an unexpected and probably unwanted change.

Older adults struggle to keep up with social media (if they even want to) because they are flabbergasted at the idea of learning 3 new platforms once they have finally mastered one. They don’t want to change.

Newspapers are dying because they refuse to move to online platforms…you know…the places where everybody else has been reading the new for a few decades now.

Last and definitely least, R.A. Dickey was so terrible for so long as a Texas Ranger because he was a bad pitcher. Until he took unexpected time off (because nobody wanted him) and reinvented himself as a knuckleballer. In 2012 he accomplished what no other knuckleballer ever had; he won a Cy Young award (given to each league’s best pitcher).

So what about you?

I doubt you need to ditch your career in marketing to reinvent yourself as a knuckleballer. But who knows?

You probably do need to consider how to lean into disruption instead of running from it. You do need to learn how to harness the potential blessing of unexpected change.

In his book, Tribes, Seth Godin takes it one step further. He advocates for you and me to not merely lean in to change, but start causing it! Be a change agent in every arena possible. Don’t just accept the disruption. Start it!

One of my friends wants Apple to make a Southern version of Siri named Charlene that would call you “honey” while always telling you where the closest sweet tea was. Think a digital, less-racist Paula Deen. Maybe she could mutter disapprovingly  “Bless his heart” when some madman cuts you off in traffic.

If this Charlene Siri could encourage you to change a stuck area of your life, she would simply say,

“Start a ruckus today!” 

6Aug

I’m So Glad I’m Failing

It all started a few years ago in our Texas garage. Not as a dream, but as a necessity. A stress-reliever. A much-needed escape.

Before my wife’s growing company, All Things New Interiors, was…

  • a profitable booth in the largest store of its kind in our city
  • a professionally designed website
  • a company offering in-home interior design consultations
  • featured on one of the nation’s largest interior design blogs
  • K…wife bragging over

Before it was anything, it was a much needed creative outlet during an incredibly stressful time in our lives. At that time, there were few ways we experienced the grace of God more than in the beginning days of that dream in our garage.

On January 1st of this year I launched my own dream, www.steven-hill.me, my personal blog on faith and culture. In a post just before the official launch I stated my main goal for the blog:

I want to become a better writer this year. That’s my main motivation for this blog. It’s unashamedly for me. If it is worthwhile outside of advancing my skills as a writer, that’s wonderful. However, if it accomplishes that initial goal it will be a success in my eyes.

While my meager 50-ish posts this far have accomplished a shadow of this goal, I have mostly failed in my writing venture. My second goal came in the form of a commitment: to post 3 times per week. I checked today and I haven’t posted in almost 3 months and there were several stretches where I did not write for at least a week.

There’s a million reasons people fail at blogs, and that’s what it is: failing and the “reasons” given are nothing more than excuses.

However, I chose to fail in my blog because I wanted to trade one dream for another. Mine for my wife’s. I always knew I would return to the blog at some point, but I honestly felt (accurately) that we were entering a window for All Things New Interiors to succeed that would quickly close if we didn’t leap through it.

My evenings changed from writing and editing to updating inventory and advertising our products across various media platforms. I went from reading and researching future articles to delivering and acquiring furniture all across the River Valley.

Even though my temporary writing cessation was not the typical, slacker-blogger burnout, I am failing to achieve my original goals, and I could not be happier. It was a joyful trade of one dream for another. My blog failure was a conscious, calculated decision to place priority in the right place.

Over the last few months, saying “yes” to my blog was not worth the things I would have to say “no” to in order to make it happen.

We recently celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary and this past year has been the best year so far, due in no small part because of our partnership in this venture. I have written regularly about marriage but have learned the most about marriage from laying aside one dream for another.

I remember when we first tried to expand All Things New Interiors outside of our garage in Texas. I took some of our “top” items (terrible quality compared to the work we do now) to a local antique shop where I knew the owner. She came out to my car as I walked her through the steps we did to breath life into the old bones of these pieces, foolishly beaming with pride. She rejected our furniture time and time again.

Looking back on that time now, I am so glad we were rejected then because if we weren’t we might not be where we are now. I was commuting 2.5 hours to seminary twice a week and working full-time so I did not have time then to help make that dream a reality like I do now.

I don’t know what’s going on in your life right now. Maybe you’ve been rejected or are experiencing a setback. Maybe you can’t quite seem to get your dream off the ground or maybe you need a creative outlet like we did to relieve stress.

There will come a time when this new dream will fail as well. My sincere prayer now is that when it does fail, it dies by giving way to an even better, more meaningful dream.

Wherever you are in life today, say yes to the things that matter most, even if it means trading one dream for another. You’ll be glad to fail too.

20May

Pastor Meets the Police

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to ride along with our Chief of Police on a patrol day. He was gracious enough to take me around to meet several leaders in our city. Our chief is an active member in our church and I learned a lot from him about what it means to be a leader.

Leaders are:

  • CEOs and thankless grinders
  • Vice-Presidents and salesmen
  • Mid-level managers and public officials
  • Stay at home moms and night shift workers

I left with these 2 takeaways that are already helping me lead better as a pastor. No matter what leadership capacity you currently find yourself in they can help you too.

1. Good leaders genuinely care for all people.

One thing that struck me as I spent the day in conversation with our chief was how much he genuinely cared for people that you and I might classify as scumbags. I half jokingly told him I fully expected to be apart of a high speed chase and then get to apprehend a fugitive in a foot chase. After all, I saw an extra bulletproof vest in the back so naturally I assumed that was for me when the inevitable foot pursuit went down. It was just a matter of time, right?

Sadly, the chase never happened, which I guess is a good thing. I joked with our chief that I was faster than him so it was a good thing he had me along. He then kindly reminded me just how good he was at catching bad guys. Then it got crazy. He proceeded to tell me about some of the worst guys he’s apprehended but he did it with such a deep sense of compassion for them, even in the midst of knowing justice was what they needed most. This just didn’t make sense to me. Here’s a guy who’s very life is threatened far too often by stupid people with nothing better to do and he speaks about them as people who need justice, yes, but also compassion.

Good leaders care about all people. They want the best for them despite past or even present circumstances.

 

2. Good leaders keep proper perspective.

As we rode around throughout the day, several people were pulled over for minor infractions. I could tell that my partner in crime prevention was much more concerned with the potential for a routine traffic stop to turn into something much bigger a speeding violation. The driver could have been driving illegally, under the influence, or be in possession of illegal substances, etc. Our chief has served in some pretty intense scenarios and after he got back in the car after issuing a warning he said , “This is really important…but I’m more interested in arresting the really bad guys.”

Our chief does what all leaders need to do in their own way; keep the major things major and the minor things minor. Sometimes leaders can get caught up on focusing too much on the little things. Maybe the little things are details that need to be shared with other team members or simply aspects of your job/life that need to be thought through quickly and then moved past. Other times little things can be aspects of your own performance that are tempting to dwell on far too much to be constructive. No matter the reason, focusing on the little things too much can really hamper your leadership potential.

The flip side is true as well. Sometimes leaders can focus solely on the big things, the major things, the big picture. Sometimes these leaders can be hard for others to follow because it can be perceived that attention to the little things is just not that important. Remember, any big picture vision only becomes a reality after careful attention has been paid to the little things and series of tasks that will help bring it to fruition. While it is definitely important for leaders to keep their eyes on the big picture, they do so at their own peril if they forsake the details and people that help make their vision happen.

Question: What leadership lessons are you learning?

18May

How to Fight

A few weeks ago I wrote about what my wife and I fight about.

This sparked some good conversations about how married couples should respond to each other in times of conflict. In our marriage it has proven helpful to prepare before these times arrive and not just assume they never will.

Truth: married people fight. Hopefully not all the time. Hopefully not about the same thing. And hopefully not for just any reason.

So why do we fight? Why can marriage lead to more conflict than any other relationship while also leading to more joy than any other relationship? I think it’s because our spouses see us at our worst. You can fake it for a long time at work. And you can definitely fake it at church. But you can’t fake it in marriage, at least not for long. Even when couples split up because one person cheats, the other person is usually not completely fooled into thinking they were living in a healthy, thriving marriage.

So if conflict is inevitable, what are the rules? How can married couples fight well and fight less?

Here are 3 things that have helped us in times of conflict:

1. Remember that people fight over/for what they care about.

We’ve all heard the story. A marriage crumbles and the friends can’t figure out why. “They never fought about anything!” a relative might exclaim. Well maybe that’s the problem. The deeper relationships get, the more prone to conflict they can become. Maybe the couple that never fights does not have a relationship fighting for. In the midst of conflict, it is important to remember that if your spouse didn’t care about your marriage, they wouldn’t care enough to fight.

2. Remember who/what you’re fighting against.

Have you ever had a fight so long you forgot what started it? Maybe you both had bad days and one comment started to build on another until you have no idea how you got to this point. In that moment, you end up fighting for no reason because you’re both fighting against your own selfishness. More often than not, conflict in marriage can be traced back to one problem we all share: sin. We mess up in marriage when we try and hide the sin in our own lives by pointing out the sins in our spouse’s life.

“12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” – Ephesians 6:12

Remember, nobody owes you happiness so do the hard work of realizing what’s at stake.

3. Give and receive forgiveness.

This might be the key. If at least some level of conflict is unavoidable in marriage, the true difference between a healthy, thriving marriage and a dying one very well be in how, and if, resolution is produced.

Giving forgiveness can seem almost impossible. Usually you have to choose to forgive before you receive an apology. Receiving forgiveness can be even more difficult than giving it.

In healthy marriages, spouses don’t keep score. Forgotten dishes one day can’t become fight fodder the next. A misunderstanding today doesn’t turn into a lack of love tomorrow. Give and receive forgiveness by refusing to keep score.

Question: What tips do you have for navigating conflict in marriage?

12May

Let’s Stop Faking

Wouldn’t it be great if you never had to keep your word?

Imagine if you could simply say one thing but mean another and simply benefit from your lie? Or wouldn’t it be great if you could say you’ll do something, but then never have to follow through and be completely free of the consequences?

  • You could agree to mow the yard but never have to actually do it!
  • You could say you’ll have dinner on the table for your family but then just get take-out for one instead!
  • Instead of paying it off, you could kindly inform your mortgage company that you’d just like to stay in your house without honoring your agreement. You gave it your all, right? Kinda? Good enough!
  • Keeping your marriage vows?!? Isn’t that outdated?

However tempting this reality may seem, we can all recognize its foolishness. We also know the benefits of giving and receiving honesty, not just do-gooded-ness and kindness, but genuine honesty. As we’ll see in today’s Tough Text, Jesus is after our hearts, hearts that he wants to produce genuine, lasting lives of honesty.

33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. – Matthew 5:33-37

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus continues to utilize a formula of “You have heard said…but I say to you…”

The “you have heard it said” from verse 33 is simple: back up your word. Follow through. Do what you said you’ll do. Most 1st graders can regurgitate the same truism.

The “but I say to you” part (vv.34-36) is where it gets interesting. Jesus seems to forbid taking any oath (promise, agreement, contract, etc.). Obviously this is hyperbole. Jesus is well aware that we live in a world in which we must take oaths. Yet he’s also pointing us to a future reality in the kingdom of God when we will not have to take oaths. But what is Jesus after now? What does this have to do with us? Once again: our hearts.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes when I read the Scriptures I do so as a crooked lawyer trying to find loopholes that don’t apply to me. That’s the audience Jesus is speaking to because he doesn’t abolish the old laws of not making oaths you can’t fulfill. Rather, he takes it a step further.

Jesus is calling us to be people of radical honesty, which extends far past our words.

Notice: We are the most dishonest when we’re trying to convince people we are someone that we’re not.

This extends much further than the trite examples of a teenage boy trying to convince a girl he’s date-worthy or a debtor repeatedly telling a creditor that the check that is not written is in the mail.

Do you know what it means to simply let your “yes” mean yes? Or “no” mean no? It means you have to stop faking it. You have to stop faking like everything is alright when it’s not. You have to first have the courage to take an honest look at yourself and then consider who you can let in on your story.

If you’re stuck in a hard time now, don’t play the denial game and try and keep people out by faking them out.

It’s okay to not be okay. In fact, Jesus commands us to be honest about it. Let’s stop faking it and be honest, radically honest. 

This frees you to recognize how you’ve been in denial about the darkness in your own life. It frees you from having to pretend you’re someone you’re not. It frees you to recognize that cancer sucks. It’s much more often something that kills you instead of something you fight. It means if the love of your life just walked out on you for someone else that it’s okay to be shocked and hurt. And it’s okay to let others into your pain.

Does Jesus want you to be a person of your word and do what you say you’ll do? Absolutely. But maybe more than that he wants you to be honest with yourself.

Why do we sometimes fake like everything’s okay when it’s not?
6May

Being a Youth Pastor Stinks

I loved being in youth ministry as a student.

But I had few reasons to. Our group was small. Our church was dying. Our ministers were leaving, and I don’t blame them one little bit. Yet God used each one of them in different ways in my life to show me more of his love for the world.

When I first felt a divine tug toward ministry it was toward youth ministry. My first two non-phone-answering-crap-intern jobs in ministry were as a Youth Pastor.

But can I let you in on a secret?

Being a Youth Pastor stinks.

Let me qualify: I love youth ministry. I love thinking, talking, reading, and doing youth ministry.

But youth ministry is hard. Few people respect it because unfortunately few people take it seriously, even among those who get the blessing of doing it for a living. It’s a relatively thankless job. Students often don’t let on how much they care about the youth ministries they call home. Parents often don’t understand or care what youth pastors do.

Church members ask you when you’re going to get a real job (I cannot begin to tell you how much I’ve heard this, thankfully never in my current context).

Youth Pastors are traditionally never more frustrated or discouraged during the year than right now. Students have gotten distracted, busy and have stopped coming. Leaders are worn out at best or already checked out at worst. Energy is at an all time low and summer trips that pull Youth Pastors from families are lurking just around the corner, the very same trips that nobody has signed up for on time!

The real truth is: being a youth pastor is awesome. It’s hard but fulfilling. Some of my most rewarding moments in ministry came deep in the trenches of youth ministry.

New to youth ministry? Nervous around teenagers? Not sure how to serve your youth pastor? Read these books. Buy these books and give them to your youth pastor. Commit to read and discuss one with him/her.

4 Recommended Books for Youth Pastors

#1 Sustainable Youth Ministry: Why Most Youth Ministry Doesn’t Last and What Your Church Can Do About It by Mark DeVries.

  • DeVries teaches a great life lesson too many churches/youth pastors can’t seem to grasp: sustainable, healthy growth doesn’t happen overnight and it doesn’t happen without complete commitment to the process. This book will help youth pastors and churches develop youth ministries that not only last, but make a life-changing difference.

#2 Your First Two Years in Youth Ministry by Doug Fields

  • Written by a 35-year youth ministry veteran as if you and him were talking about youth ministry over coffee, this book is Doug Fields at his best. Sustainable Youth Ministry equips youth pastors with the right way to think about youth ministry from a ministry philosophy standpoint and Your First Two Years helps put that philosophy into practice. It is amazing practical and thoroughly detailed with more resources than you’ll know how to use. The secondary title says it best: a personal and practical guide to starting right.

#3 Middle School Ministry: A Comprehensive Guide to Working with Early Adolescents by Mark Oestreicher and Scott Rubin

  • Marko has been the gold standard for over a decade in middle school ministry. Youth pastors, have you ever said something like, “Well high school students are just really more my comfort zone…” What a load of bologna. Just call it what it is: You, like me, just like high school students better because you probably understand them better. This book helps youth pastors and churches understand how to best serve and engage middle school students with the Gospel.

#4 Sticky Faith, Youth Worker Edition: Practical Ideas to Nurture Long-Term Faith in Teenagers by Kara Powell and Brad Griffin

  • Fuller Youth Institute has done extensive research in the area of youth ministry and teenage development. In Sticky Faith, the team at FYI presents youth workers with both a theological/philosophical framework and practical programming ideas that develop long-term faith in teenagers. Each chapter presents a summary of FYI’s research, along with the implications of this research, including program ideas suggested and tested by youth ministries.

Honorable Mentions: (All these books have been helpful for me in youth ministry in various contexts)




4May

My Wife Hates Our House

Well, she used to.

It probably didn’t help that she never saw it before we owned it. Smooth move, Steven.

But now she loves it!

Yesterday we celebrated the first year in our house. For this week’s Marriage Monday she guest blogs and reflects on the last year of our marriage, a year she claims (and I agree) has been our best.

You can read her original post on her blog, All Things New Interiors, by clicking here, or just read below.

One Year in Our Home

By: Hayley Hill

Today marks the 1 year anniversary from the day we moved into our home.

Can I share a secret with you?

I hated it at first. Seriously. I was like, why did we move into this?

photo(11)How about some perspective?

We had just sold our new-ish (5 year old) home in Texas after being there a year, complete with granite counters, a large master bathroom and closet, and tile floors. The house needed nothing done to it. Tour Our Home: Master bathroomBut it lacked character. And I like a challenge.

When we moved into our current home every wall was beige. The windows to the backyard were covered by tiny shutters. There was an awful chandelier in the dining room. Olive green walls in the guest bathroom. Brass everywhere. An outdated kitchen with lots of laminate.

photo 2 (23) photo 3 (7)Like I said, I like a challenge. And this house has given that to us. We have put a lot of blood, sweat, and tears into this place over the last year. Nearly every wall has been painted (some twice). We did a new countertop treatment and installed backsplash to update the kitchen. We took down shutters to expose a view of our lovely yard. We personalized and made it our own.

IMG_0340And in case you can’t tell, now I’m in love with our home.

Sure there are times when I wish we had a soaker tub. Or a sit-at bar. Or a large master closet.

But life goes on without those things. And we have had more sweet memories in this house than the last, despite it’s (relative) old age and lack of fancy upgrades.

We have had multiple family gatherings here to celebrate Christmas, New Years, birthdays, and life.

IMG_0024We have hosted a church home group here every week since September and have seen our home be a place for comfort, fellowship, conversation, and the sharing of struggles and joys.

We have made friends in this home and cried together watching the series finale of HIMYM as well as laughed at several Jimmy Fallon skits.

We have gotten our finances back on track in this home, and though in hindsight it was not the best financial decision to buy a home given Dave’s Baby Steps, we are thankful for it.

We have seen our marriage flourish in the home over the past year as our time in graduate school and living apart for a few months ended and we settled into our new life in Arkansas. The simplicity of life since we have been here has been glorious and much needed to refresh us.

In short, this is home. Not only because we have turned it from boring to beautiful, but because this is where our life has been. And the best year of our marriage.

I’ll be sharing a few more posts this coming week about where our house has been this past year. I’ll share our favorite projects, what we’ve learned from this home, and what’s coming up soon.

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