POP GOD POPcast: Episode 24 – David Keel


Welcome to the POP GOD POPcast – an exploration into the lives of people seeking God in the present tense.

This week’s guest is David Keel. David is a teacher, speaker, scientist, youth pastor, legendary coffee drinker, and most importantly my former Sunday School teacher. David shares openly about his journey to meeting Jesus at rock bottom, his on-and-off youth ministry career, and how he comes up with his offbeat analogies. We also get real about the struggles of joblessness and how to keep the faith when the paychecks stop coming. Plus David offers a look behind the scenes of Fort Discovery where he worked for over a decade! Enjoy this deeper look inside the life of a teacher who made a true impact on my life.

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How To Overcome Stage Fright

Robin-Williams.-006You may not consider yourself an actor. But in this life you are a performer. 

I’m not saying God created us just to put on a show for Him.

I do think He created each of us to perform a unique role in His story.

Being called on to perform is incredibly scary. As you stand backstage waiting for the curtain to rise in your life, the weight of your burden can become suffocating.

As you run through the lines you’ve rehearsed in your head, you wonder about everything that could possibly go wrong.

It’s called Stage Fright. It’s a feeling every performer understands. It’s a force every performer must overcome each night.

Just when you’re about to make a break for the exit, the curtain finally rises.

When it’s time for you to hit the stage, you do your best to stick to the script you’ve seen so many other performers before you follow.

The problem is God didn’t create you to stick to a script. Instead we are called on to improvise.

From the first line to the finale you have to be on your game.

This living from curtain to curtain can be terrifying for even the most gifted performers.

Even a man with a magnificently spontaneous mind like Robin Williams felt stage fright.

He admitted as much during his appearance on “Inside The Actors Studio”.  When host James Lipton asks him if he ever felt any trepidation about hitting the stage, Robin answers, “Every night.”

Of course, his formula for overcoming stage fright is what made Robin Williams such a beloved entertainer for so man years. (Warning: the clip has some mild adult language in it.)

(Click Here if you can’t see the video above)

There’s barely time to breath as Robin leaps from joke to joke and bit to bit, coming up with characters and premises on the fly.

Some of them are hilarious. Some of them are weird. Some of them really aren’t that funny.

But Robin Williams just keeps moving forward, no matter what the reaction is.

Later in the interview he talks about how he maintains this manic energy on stage.

Robin’s answer was that he never lets himself think “That’s stupid” or “That’s a bad idea” or “That’s not funny” when an idea pops into his head.

Instead, he always just went for the joke and let the audience decide. Whether the jokes landed or not didn’t matter. The only important thing was to keep trying.

I think this is how we should approach the performance of our life. I think instead of thinking we have to follow a strict script God wants us to follow the lead of our imagination without fear.

That’s not to say you should follow every idea which pops into your head. As you grow as a performer, you’ll begin to discern the types of ideas which should never be spoken into existence.

Of course you’ll still follow the evil trains of thought some nights. Stage Fright will still creep in from the wings. The fear of failing before an audience suffocates so many dreams.

But we are all more capable performers than we give ourselves credit for. There are extraordinary and unique performances inside each of us just waiting to be unleashed upon the world which are blocked by Stage Fright everyday.

When the curtain rises on your life, don’t listen to the voices which say, “That’s stupid”.

You are performer who is gifted like no one else in this world. Leave everything you have on the stage as you live from curtain to curtain. Think not of what the audience will think. For ultimately you are performing for an audience of One.

Perform wildly. Try new ideas. Refuse to rest on your successes or dwell on your defeats.

God has season tickets for your life. Be confident to follow the particular peculiarities of your mind without fear knowing that He will show up in the front row night after night ready to cheer you on.

Do you ever feel Stage Fright? How do you overcome it? And how will you remember the incredible legacy of Robin Williams?

The Salvation Of Seinfeld

SeinfeldI don’t think Jerry Seinfeld is worried about his salvation

I’m not talking about Jerry Seinfeld the man. It’s hard to say if the current Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee host thinks much about his eternal future.

I’m talking about Jerry Seinfeld the character from the classic show Seinfeld which turned 25 years old this year.

While I imagine Jerry Seinfeld is a kind, generous, thoughtful and loving person in real life, his television counterpart was nothing of the sort.

Jerry, George, Elaine, and Kramer were self-centered, egotistical, perverse, and sometimes downright despicable. And for 9 hilarious seasons the world loved them for it.

This article from TV critic Andy Greenwald on Grantland sums it up well: We loved to see Jerry use women and break up with them for petty faults. We loved to see George lie his way up the corporate ladder. We laughed off the silly antics of people who were borderline psychopaths.

We hailed Seinfeld as the greatest television comedy of all time. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

It’s not necessarily a bad thing for us to sit back, relax, and laugh at the crazy misdeeds of fictional television characters behaving badly.

The problem is when we sit back and laugh at the crazy misdeeds of the “Seinfelds” in our everyday lives.

Every person reading this knows a few “lost causes” in their life: the people we see constantly struggling, doing stupid and harmful things to themselves and to others.

We invite them to church. We give them an inspirational book for Christmas. We write their names down on prayer request sheets.

We try helping them. The help never seems to work.

But we love them. They’re our family, our friends, our coworkers.

So instead of abandoning them we take the Seinfeld approach: we laugh and shake our heads at these characters and their crazy antics.

We don’t encourage them, but we don’t discourage them either. We watch their lives pass by like a sitcom.

It’s easier that way. After all, they seem like such a lost cause. Why bother trying to save them?

Maybe saving them is not the point.

I’m reading a book right now called “How To Pick Up A Stripper” by Todd and Erin Stevens. The title comes from their church’s Strip Ministry wherein they reach out to strip clubs across Nashville.

In the book Todd writes about a numeric scale of beliefs created by author James Engel. On Engel’s scale, every person in the world can be identified with a number between -10 and +4 as far as their beliefs are concerned.

A -10 would be no knowledge of God at all; a +4 would be someone with a fully thriving Christian faith who leads others to connect with Christ as well.

From the atheists to the agnostics, from the skeptics who sit in the back pews to the believers who aren’t really committed – the majority of humanity falls in between the numbers on this belief scale.

Every person could conceivably be measured on it because every person in the world believes something about God.

In the book, Todd writes of how his mission as a pastor is not to bring about the immediate salvation of those he ministers towards. He’s not trying to get people who are at -10 to +4 with one sermon.

Instead, his goal in ministry is simply to help unbelievers take the next step forward.

After all, you can’t really expect someone to take a giant leap of faith in one instant. The progression to belief is an ongoing process in each person’s heart.

What if, instead of giving up on a “lost cause” we just tried to open their eyes a little bit to the power of God’s love and grace by doing a better job of showing it to them?

Instead of detaching ourselves from the people we’ve given up on and treating them like sitcom characters, what if we changed our strategy?

What if the burden was not on you to save the “Seinfelds” in your life? What if all you were called to do was just get them to the next step?

If a loved one in your life is sitting at a -7 on the faith scale, nowhere near accepting Jesus as savior, save yourself the time preaching a sermon to them.

Instead bake them a casserole. Invite them to the movies and pay for their ticket. Spare them the speech and show them Christian love in action.

There is hope for the lost. There can be salvation for the “Seinfelds” in our lives. It’s up to us to push them toward the next step.

Who is a “Seinfeld” in your life? What’s one thing you could do today to help push them to take the next step?

Pick up a copy of How To Pick Up A Stripper by Todd and Erin Stevens from Amazon. I highly recommend it. 

For more thoughts on Seinfeld and faith, check out my post on Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee


How To Win By Losing

In any competition, there can only be one winner.

In many competitions, there is no question who the winner will be.

So if you stand no chance of winning, why bother competing?

Because if you’re anything like disabled dachshund Anderson Pooper, sometimes running the race is victory in itself.

(Click Here if you can’t see the video above)

Sometimes running the race is not simply about winning.

Sometimes God even uses the slowest people on the track to inspire others.

You may not be the winner at parenting, exercising, selling, blogging or anything else you compete at today.

You may feel like a dachshund in a wheelchair who stands no chance at defeating the other dogs in the race.

It’s ok. You’re not always meant to be the champion.

Sometimes victory comes from losing a race which you never thought you’d enter in the first place. 

Disregard our disabilities. Ignore other other dogs on the track. Keep on running the race today.

Happy Friday.

(Credit to Deadspin for the fantastic video.)

The Lucy Principle

Lucy-Scarlett-JohanssonThe new movie Lucy starring Scarlett Johansson hit number 1 in the country this weekend.

The sci-fi thriller asks the question, “What would happen if someone were able to used 100% of their brain’s power?”

The premise is that most people only ever use 10% of their brain. It’s an interesting concept – if not a completely scientifically accurate one. And clearly by it’s box office haul it’s a question that’s intrigued a large audience.

Which makes me wonder – what if they made a movie about someone who was able to use 100% of their spiritual power?

It seems like we only use 10% of the Holy Spirit in our life. Attending church once a week. Reading the Bible for 5 minutes in the morning. Listening to a little Jesus music on the way to work.

In Lucy, Johansson’s character takes a fictional drug which allows her brain to grow in strength everyday.

I don’t think there’s a magic pill which will make us more faithful. I don’t think simply going to church more often or having a daily quiet time will take us to 100%.

So how would someone go about achieving full usage of the Holy Spirit’s power?

I think someone using 100% of the Holy Spirit would look like someone completely unconsumed with themselves.

To let the Holy Spirit have room to work in our lives we have to make less room for our desires and concerns.

Here’s a simple way to think about it: One time at a youth rally I was praying with a group of college students. We were all holding hands in a circle lifting up “popcorn prayers” – everyone taking turns going around the circle and praying.

One of the voices in the group chimed in and challenged us to focus on anyone but ourselves during prayer.

He said we were free to pray for others because if we spent our time praying for someone else, then we could trust someone else was praying for us.

“If you’re praying for someone else, then you’re covered,” as he put it.

“You’re covered.” That’s always stuck with me for some reason – the notion that we can focus on others because we are covered. Covered by His grace. Covered by His discernment. Covered by His love.

Only when we begin to trust that we are covered by God will we be able to move toward full usage of the Holy Spirit inside of us.

As Lucy’s brain power goes closer to its maximum potential, she becomes more concerned with herself. She desires more of the drug which is feeding her brain. She becomes consumed with her own livelihood.

It seems logical. The smart way to survive this life is to watch out for one’s own interests at all costs.

However the faith life often moves in rebellion to the common-sense life. Making room for the Holy Spirit is a daily discipline of self-denial of our own interests as we seek to serve our fellow man.

If using 100% of our brain power means we become completely obsessed with our own well-being, then using 100% of our spiritual power must mean becoming completely obsessed with the well-being of others. 

After all, we are covered. We are free to spend our time inviting others out of the storm and under the covering.

What do you think someone’s life would look like if they used 100% of the Holy Spirit’s power?

7 Things I Learned From 7 Months At Kohls

photo 2-7Seasonal. I was just supposed to be a seasonal employee.

In November of 2013, a few months after leaving my full-time position as a youth pastor, I began working at Kohls part time to help me earn some extra spending money for Christmas.

I thought I would work here for a few weeks.

Today, over seven months later, I’m clocking in at Kohls for the very last time.

Life has not panned out as I planned it in 2014. I did find a full time job as soon as I thought I would.

But now, as I prepare for a new working opportunity, I’ve been wondering how to sum up my experience with Kohls.

Diving back into the world of retail after a 7 year absence has been one of the most challenging experiences of my life.

I’ve complained. I’ve cried. I’ve whined. I’ve moaned and groaned to my closest friends. I’ve screamed at God, wondering why He would let me flounder in a dead-end job without any hopeful prospects on the horizon.

I’ve struggled to figure out what exactly I’ve learned from this detour in life.

Maybe it is still too soon to tell what all my time at Kohls has taught, I have come up with a few things that have surprised me along the way about myself as an employee, about consumer behavior, and about the retail world. Continue reading

Let’s Get Weird

Would you believe me if I told you “Weird Al” Yankovic could teach all of us a thing or two about how to love others?

Yeah. “Weird Al”. The legendary Jewish song parodist. The guy who brought us “Fat”, “Amish Paradise” and “White and Nerdy”.

The guy whose latest album Mandatory Fun boasts parodies like the fantastic “Word Crimes”, a play on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”:

(Click Here if you can’t see the video above)

If you think Robin Thicke is upset about being made fun of by “Weird Al”, you’d be wrong.  Continue reading