Kid President’s State Of The Union

kpcaptureThe future is scary.

Sure there are a lot of great things to look forward to in 2015. A new Avengers movie. Stephen Colbert taking over The Late Show. Hoverboards.

But for the most part, thinking about the future freaks me out.

Because I know along with all the exciting stuff, the future brings with it the possibility of more terror attacks. More infectious disease outbreaks. More depressing news.

That is, unless we do something about it.

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

Kid President has a knack for inspiring people. When Jesus said to receive the kingdom of God like a child, I think he meant he wanted us to see the world something like the way Kid President does.

His message for the future is short and full of hope.

“There’s the way things are and the way things could be. And then there’s you.”

We are the in-between. We are the agents who God has placed in this world to make it a better place, to make it more of what it could be.

The future doesn’t have to be scary. If we each do a little to better the world, together we can change a lot.

Today, instead of glitter bombing our enemies, let’s throw kindness around like confetti.

Instead of complaining about the lemons life gives you, get out your frustrations by squeezing the juice from the lemons. Then toss a little sugar in and share the sweet drink you just concocted.

You may not get a Thank You. Your work may not pay off immediately. But as our Child Commander In Chief reminds us, the people you serve won’t forget it.

The good deeds we do for others can inspire them to do their own, creating a chain reaction of awesomeness across the world until we all start dancing. That’s a future I can get excited about.

Be the reason somebody dances this weekend.

Happy Friday.

For more Kid President wisdom, check out his pep talk to the world. To follow along with POP GOD, click here.

How Boyhood Found Beauty In The Ordinary

MV5BMTYzNDc2MDc0N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwOTcwMDQ5MTE@._V1_SX640_SY720_Imagine a Hollywood director obtaining the raw footage of your childhood. Pretend everything you did between age 6 and 18 was caught on film and someone wanted to piece together a 3 hour movie of your story.

What do you think the director would find? What do you think would be the story of your youth?

That’s the question director Richard Linklater tries to answer in his fascinating film experiment “Boyhood”, the front-runner in this year’s Academy Awards race.

You’ve probably heard by now the way Linklater gathered the same cast together for a week every year for 12 years to shoot the story about an ordinary boy growing up. It’s a well-deserving Best Picture candidate, and not just for the incredibly creative gimmick.

What’s truly beautiful about “Boyhood” is the way it captures just how important the ordinary moments in our life are.

One of the criticisms levied against the movie has been the lack of a cohesive plot. There’s not a true narrative at play in this story. The film is more or less 12 individual scenes pieced together with small connecting points but lacking a larger storyline.

This is not a fault in the movie, but rather a strategic choice. As Linklater put it to Entertainment Weekly, “Our lives don’t have plot so much as they have character and a time structure.”

The lack of a traditional narrative may be off-putting to some. But I love the way Linklater plays with our idea of what makes for an important story.

Because I think if you go back to the idea of making a movie out of the scenes of your childhood, you might find the same to be true.

I bet if you really thought about it, the movies pieced together of our lives would be less like a grand epic film and more like “Boyhood” – a series of smaller scenes which don’t seem like much on the surface but when pieced together tell an important and meaningful story.

The most important moments of your life don’t usually involve sword fights or superpowers. They don’t look anything like most movies.

Rather it’s the conversations inside bowling alleys or the shouting matches between stepparents at the dinner table which end up meaning the most. It’s the characters you meet hanging out after curfew or the photography teacher giving you advice in a darkroom that have the most impact on you.

It’s those little moments which make up our movies. As we see these moments play out in “Boyhood”, we recognize something else about our lives.

The things which seem so important and so confusing in life have something common. They are both moments leading to something greater.

As we watch the main character Mason grow into a young adult, there are high points and low points. He meets a girl he likes. He gets into shouting matches with his parents. He has a traumatic haircut.

Anyone can relate. We’ve all been there. These times often feel like life or death moments as they are happening.

It is only with the perspective and wisdom of a year or more down the road that we can see these moments as they are.

These moments – the great ones, the terrible ones, the in-between – they are all pieces of the narrative, not the narrative itself.

What we think is the devastating event in our life is not the end of the world. What we think to be a small insignificant occurrence is actually foreshadowing something pivotal to our narrative.

At the same time these ordinary moments moments are as critically important as they are trivial.

No matter the moment, life goes on. It is up to us whether we choose to view ourselves as better or worse off from our experiences.

Will we let the small moments drag us down and be defined by the depressing? Or will we choose to hold on to the hope that something greater is going on?

I’d love it if we found out 12 years from now that somehow Linklater had coerced the actors to continue gathering every year to film a sequel to “Boyhood”, if somehow we got to watch this boy grow into an adult with the same fascinating concept.

After all, I think the older I get into adulthood the more I could use a reminder like “Boyhood” that some of the most ordinary moments in life have the power to be extraordinarily beautiful.

Have you seen “Boyhood” yet? What did you think? 

 

God Of Customer Service

CaptureOne of the pleasures of moving to a new city is the always wonderful experience of dealing with the cable company. (Specifically Comcast, in case you were wondering. Or is it Xfinity now? I have no idea.)

Wanting to trim my budget in my new apartment, I made the decision to drop cable television and only purchase internet service.

After 6 months of getting by just fine with Apple TV and a digital antenna, I got a call from Comcast saying my promotional price on internet service was about to expire. If I did not update my plan, than my rate would more than double.

The customer service rep explained to me that basically it would be cheaper to upgrade my internet service and add on a basic cable package than it would be to remain at my current plan.

After going around in a circles with the sales rep on the phone I finally agreed. Of course once I received my new cable box in the mail it was not as easy to setup as the salesperson made it out to be.

So I was forced to do my least favorite thing in the world: contact customer service on the phone.

Dealing with customer service support on the phone is my weakness in life.

I must confess that nothing on earth makes me angrier than the routine of calling in to a company’s support hotline only to get an automated response asking me to “say a keyword referencing the problem you seem to be having”. Then instead of actually being put through to someone who can help me, I get bounced around between various menus and prerecorded responses which do nothing to fix my cable box.

That’s not to even mention the constant repeating of my full name and address and phone number and social security number and 1st grade teacher’s maiden name just to verify my account.

It’s a first world problem – I know. Something about the process just frustrates me like nothing else though.

Dealing with “customer service” has become synonymous with the rigamarole you go through on the phone or in person to get a simple task done.

Instead of actually being able to speak to someone, present your problem and receive help, we are put through an increasingly annoying system which tries to tell us every problem is the same and can be fixed in a few simple steps.

I think maybe it’s this whole process of customer service we deal with time and time again that puts us off to the concept of prayer.

You see, I think the imperfect processes we deal with in this world sometimes warp our view of the way things are with God.

We often view God as a manager who does not like to be bothered. He’s a very busy guy. He has universe to run after all.

And when we see the customer service teams of corporate conglomerates pushing us off to the side over and over, sometimes we think God does the same thing.

He probably doesn’t have time for me. He probably can’t be bothered right now. He’s probably just going to tell me the same thing he told the other person who just asked the same question.

I think we don’t pray because we’re afraid our requests fall on deaf ears. Or we think we have to go through a complex system of reciting a routine, or using complex language.

Really though God is the first person to answer the phone.

When we pray we do not sit through an automated greeting. We do not have to punch in a password.

With prayer we do not have to listen to a list of prerecorded options. We are not offered a scripted solution to our problems. We are not put on hold for hours at a time before speaking to a real person.

God is there, listening to us whenever we call. It is one of the great mysteries of God that He is always available for anyone at anytime offering His undivided attention to each of us.

Prayer is customer service done right.

It’s not so much for God’s benefit as it us for ours. He does not need to touch base with us before He acts. But He allows us to come to Him with our problems, with our complaints, with our questions. He says “call to me and I will answer you” – not “call between the hours of 9 and 5 to speak to a live representative.”

The next time you’re put on hold by a computer trying to transfer you to someone in the wrong department, spend your moments engaging with the God of Customer Service. Feel the comfort of venting your frustrations to someone who doesn’t force you to listen to an instrumental Michael Buble song while you wait on a response. Pray for the patience to deal with the companies who do.

Do you get as frustrated with poor Customer Service as I do? What’s the worst Customer Service experience you’ve ever had? How did you deal with it?

POP GOD POPcast: Episode 26 – Left Behind With Kate Doriot

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Welcome to Episode 26 of the POP GOD POPcast – a podcast interview series exploring the presence of God in the present tentse.

Left Behind: It’s one of the most bizarre movies of the year. Nicolas Cage starring in a remake of a Kirk Cameron movie based on a Christian book series based on the Rapture? My wife Kate Doriot and I watched all 105 minutes of it and had to talk about on this very special edition of the Popcast. We cover everything from the crazy casting of Jordin Sparks and Chad Michael Murray to the importance of “investigative journalism” to no one in the movie understanding how the Rapture works. Plus we break down how Nicolas Cage might be the best part of this movie and what we think would really happen if 2/3 of the world got Left Behind. Whether you’ve seen the movie or not, listen to find out what really goes down in this controversial “Christian” film.

Listen to the podcast here:

Or Download on iTunes Or Listen on Podbean

Subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, rate it, leave a comment, listen to all the other episodes, share it on Twitter and Facebook and anywhere else. I’d really appreciate it. Thanks.

I love sharing stories of people seeking God in the present tense. Let me hear your feedback. Leave me a comment and let me know how to improve things, what you’d like to hear discussed, and give me your ideas as to who you’d like to see on the next episode of the POPcast.

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How To Win 2015

january1_2015_250Be honest: have you already abandoned your resolutions for 2015?

On January 1st All things are possible in the new year. Just like every football team on the first day of the season has a chance of winning it all, every resolution seems possible on New Year’s Day.

Then reality hits like a linebacker coming across the middle. Your resolutions get sacked to the ground. And instead of jumping back into the huddle, most of your goals get carted off the field never to return again.

There seems to be more and more anti-resolution blog posts being written every year. Resolutions are out of style with this generation.

But I don’t think the problem is in our resolutions themselves. I think it’s our attitude towards them.

I think there’s something wonderful about New Year’s Day. The world is wide-eyed and optimistic at the possibilities of a fresh calendar.

Yet as the year goes on we lose hope.

The flaws in our goals become clear. The actual resolve to accomplish our dreams diminishes when we see how difficult the task may be.

By February our resolutions are lagging. By Spring Break they’re on life support. By the summertime they’re dead and buried.

Instead of winning 2015 we’re ready to push the reset button and start over in 2016.

What if things didn’t have to be this way? What would happen if we actually believed our New Year’s Resolutions could come true all year round?

What if we had the same faith in our resolutions the other 364 days of the year as we do on January 1st?

Jesus said to “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

What if, instead of shrugging off these words as flowery advice, we believed them to be true? What if day after day we kept asking, kept seeking, kept knocking on the door of our resolutions believing they could actually be accomplished?

A lot can change in 365 days if you don’t give up hope.

Look at my life. A year ago I was ringing up t-shirts and towels at Kohls, driving to a dead end job in despair everyday. Today I’m living in a new city working a new job I’m proud of at a non-profit and focusing even harder on my writing goals. Oh and I got married too.

You never know what can happen in a year if you keep knocking on the door, if you keep believing things can change, if you keep believing resolutions can come true.

The way to win 2015 is not by giving up on resolutions. The answer is buying in to them even more.

You may have already cheated on your diet, or missed a few days on your Bible-reading plan, or slept in instead of hitting the gym. It’s ok. No matter the date on the calendar you can restart your resolution by reclaiming your New Year’s attitude.

Be foolish enough to believe everyday in the possibility of change the same way you do on January 1st. Because with God the possibilities are new each and every day.

The secret to success is not in giving up on resolutions altogether. If you really want to win 2015, treat every day like New Year’s Day.

4 Words Of Advice From My Honeymoon

IMG_8250As we drove through the hills of North Carolina we saw a scenic overlook coming up on our right – a place to pull off and enjoy the mountain view for a moment.

Despite having a plan for the day, we could not pass up pulling over to take a peek.

The pictures don’t quite do the view justice. You can’t help but pause quietly as you take it all in. There are no words to accurately describe the beauty of what you are seeing.

As we continued our drive down the mountain road we came upon 3 more scenic overlooks. We stopped at each one of them.

We laughed as we noticed another older couple who pulled up a few minutes behind us at each view. This couple already knew a lesson my wife and I were just learning:

Stop at every overlook.

These overlooks are God’s invitation to pause and enjoy the view for a moment.

You’ll probably be tempted to drive right past it. After all, if you’ve seen one then you’ve seen them all, right? Besides, you’re on a tight schedule. You don’t have time to pause and take it all in.

Instead, I implore you to pull over. Always. Drop your schedule, even if just for a minute, and take second to rest in the presence of God’s incredible creation.

Sometimes there are scenic overlooks carved out in the road of life. You don’t usually map them out, they just kind of sneak up on you.

This weekend, this new year, if an overlook comes your way, pull over.

Take a minute to reflect on the vast expanse of God’s incredible creation. Take a moment to enjoy the view, to soak in the air He gave you to breathe, to see the world as the amazing gift He gave to you.

You may not be able to afford the luxury of a honeymoon this year. But you have vacation days. You have holidays. You have weekends.

Use them. Savor them. Cherish them.

You job isn’t as important as you think it is. Things will survive if you take a few days off. You are not Atlas – the world will not fall apart if you take a day off.

When chances come for you to rest, take them. When chances come for you to experience something pure and untarnished and beautiful, take them.

You have enough time for them. It’s not an accident when one comes your way. You will not regret taking a moment to stop. In fact it may recharge your batteries so that you can work harder and better once you get back on the road.

Instead of driving determinedly to your destination, take the 4 words of advice I learned on my honeymoon: Stop At Every Overlook. 

Have you ever stumbled across a scenic overlook in life – a moment to pause and reflect on the beauty of God? Do you try to stop at every overlook or do you typically drive right past them?

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God With Us

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel (which means, “God with us”). – Matthew 1:23

IMG_4601The mission of this blog is to explore the presence of God in the present. I believe we are able to do that because He is still present in our present. He is still Immanuel. He is still with us.

The meaning of Immanuel is exactly the reminder I need by the time December 24th rolls around. At this point I’m just about always running empty on the Christmas spirit, especially this year. It’s been a wild 12 months. I’ve turned in my notice to 3 different jobs this year (I’ll be starting a new one in January). I’ve moved away from the only place I’ve ever truly called home. I’ve married my best friend and begun the wonderful and challenging journey of being a husband. As excited and thankful as I am for where I’ve come over the past year I’m just as exhausted and confused about how to handle where I’m going. When I’m burnt out and ready to kick the Christmas tree over, I keep reminding myself of His promise that has remained true year after year. God with me. 

I know the same is true for many of you reading this. When we spend our days looking down only at our phones and what our own hands are working on we all lose sight of what’s going on around us. So look around. Look at the way He reveals himself in music and movies. In Lexus commercials and in lumps of coal. In socks and underwear. In all of the chaos and confusion and commercialization He’s there, with each of you, if you are willing to look. God with you.

The presence of Immanuel was never meant to be a short term present. It’s not like the stop-motion cartoons we love which come around once a year or the 24/7 Christmas music stations which temporarily takeover the radio dial. Just because His physical manifestation went away, that doesn’t mean He’s actually gone anywhere. His spirit is like Christmas lights hung year round, ready to be turned back on at a moment’s notice. When the stockings come down and the ornaments go back in the attic, remember His name. Open up the book and read it out loud: Immanuel. God with us. 

Immanuel. In the present, as in the past, and so in the future. God with me. God with you. God with us. 

Thanks for joining me on this journey through the 12 Blogs Of Christmas. Follow along for the next part of the POP GOD journey in 2015. Merry Christmas. 

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