The 3 Best Words Of Advice I Have To Give

FullSizeRender-8The other day a friend asked me for the best piece of advice I could give someone going into youth ministry.

Her daughter was about to begin an internship with a ministry program so she reached out to an expert in the field. Haha just kidding she asked me.

Seriously though – I was honored she thought to ask me such a question. So I racked my brain for something profound and insightful and deeply spiritual to write back to her. Everything I typed up sounded recycled from someone smarter than myself.

Finally, I just shot off the 3 best words I could think of:

Keep showing up.

I think essentially that’s what youth ministry really boils down to anyway.

You can come up with all sorts of incredible programs and games and camp activities and skits. You can craft the most engaging lessons and bible studies.

Ultimately it all comes back to continually showing up in the lives of students.

The battles in youth ministry are won in the times devoted pastors show up day after day in the lunchrooms, the parking lots, the auditoriums, the stadiums, the movie theaters and the skating rinks.

Rarely is a student’s life ever impacted by anything other than someone showing up time and time again to earn the right to be heard.

This is never easy. Teenagers are fickle and frustrating. They will break your heart. Repeatedly.

But you have to keep showing up even when it feels pointless. Because what you’re doing matters whether you see it or not.

I think the same advice applies for just about any aspect of life you want to be successful in.

I know I’ve found it to be true with writing this blog. Over the past 2 years my one goal has been to just keep showing up.

There are many days when I don’t want to write. The urge to throw in the towel is always present.

Writing can be a maddening muse, especially in the blogging world where you get up-to-the-minute updates on just how successful (and more often unsuccessful) your writing is.

But I’m not in control of the numbers. All I can do is show up to the desk each day, pick up the pen and write. After that it’s out of my hands.

I believe God gives us our passions for a purpose. If there is something you are passionate about, keep showing up. No matter how hard it is. No matter how frustrated it makes you. No matter how little success you see in it today.

If it makes you come alive at all then it’s worth doing.

Instead of focusing on success and failure in the moment, believe there is something greater to come.

Keep showing up.

Thanks to everyone who has kept showing up in my life to support me and especially to support my writing. It means everything.

Stick around for the next 300 POP GOD posts by subscribing and following on Facebook. There are some fun things in store for the next part of this journey. Stay tuned.

Why Bad Things Happen To Good People

johnoliver_hboYou’ve probably seen a clip from John Oliver’s HBO series “Last Week Tonight” shared on your Facebook feed over the past few months.

Just about every Monday one of his segments obliterating the likes of the Miss America Pageant or for-profit universities goes viral. (I couldn’t find one clean enough to show on the blog. But you know where to find one if you want to watch.)

“Last Week Tonight” is, for better or worse, my primary source of news these days. I’m glad John Oliver is enjoying his success. He was hilarious on “The Daily Show” for many years.

Funny thing though – John Oliver did not score his HBO show on talent alone. He got the show because something terrible happened. 

Let me explain:

In 2009 Iranian journalist Maziar Bahari was a guest on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”. He gave a comedic interview parodying his country’s recent election.

Because of his appearance on “The Daily Show”, Bahari got the wrath of the Iranian government. He was detained and imprisoned in for 4 months.

Because of this imprisonment, Jon Stewart felt a sense of remorse.

Because of his remorse, Stewart felt he had a responsibility to tell Bahari’s story.

Because of this feeling, Jon Stewart decided to direct his first feature film based on Bahari’s story – Rosewater, just released this month.

Because of this film, Stewart had to take a sabbatical from “The Daily Show” to work on the movie.

Because of this sabbatical, long-time correspondent John Oliver was chosen as a temporary replacement host.

Because of the success of his stint as guest host, Oliver was able to secure a deal with HBO to host the “Last Week Tonight” show.

Sometimes life has a funny way of connecting the dots of the pain in our life. 

One of the best shows on television wouldn’t be on the air without something terrible happening to one Iranian man.

Last week Bahari appeared on “The Daily Show” with John Oliver filling in for Stewart once more. He teased Oliver that he wouldn’t have a job if it wasn’t for him. Things ended up working out for both of them in the end.’

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

Life is painful. It is also confusing – often incredibly so at times. Why would a loving God allow such pain?

Simple – He’s telling a story.

It’s a long range story. It’s a 10,000 piece puzzle where every pain is being carefully put into place to create the greater picture.

Sometimes our suffering takes place to set in motion something that brings out the best in others.

You never know how your suffering impacts the greater story. You won’t always see it evidenced in such a clear way as this.

When we are able to trust in the Lord’s control, we can have peace when our world falls to pieces. We can lay our lives down and focus on bettering the lives of others when we know God is going to connect the dots of our despair into a masterpiece.

In the economy of God, our understanding of events is flipped upside down. When our pain can be used to inspire the people around us, what appears to be a bad thing can actually be a good thing.

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Some Thoughts On Interstellar Communication

The Hollywood Reporter

The Hollywood Reporter

“Love is the one thing that transcends time and space.” – Interstellar

In the end we’re all just trying to communicate with something outside of ourselves.

It’s the theme of Interstellar, the good (not great) but certainly worth seeing new film from Christopher Nolan.

On the surface the plot is fairly basic for a sci-fi space drama. In a not-too-distant future where our pursuit of technology has actually driven the world back in time to a Dust Bowl-like era, an undercover space exploration team is pursuing alternative planets for mankind to inhabit.

I don’t think I’m spoiling the film by saying the story is really all about communication. There’s the communication between the astronauts and mission control, between the explorers and new planets and most importantly between the heroes and the families they leave behind.

Cross-sectioned with communication the most important element to the story is that of time. Our planet is running out of time. The astronauts will be gone for decades at at time. The move raises some interesting questions about whether there is a way to communicate through generations, through dimensions, through time?

As I tried to collect my thoughts about the movie, I was drawn to a particular parable in Luke 16. Jesus tells the story of a rich man and a beggar outside his gate. Both men die at the same time – the poor man ascends to Heaven, the rich man is separated from God for all eternity.

As the rich man contemplates his fate, he begs the angels above him the chance to communicate with the family he left behind:

And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send (the beggar) to my father’s house —for I have five brothers — so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment.’ But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the Prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham, but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent.’ He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead.’” (Luke 16:26-31)

The rich man pleads for one last chance to tell his brothers to repent. He cries out to communicate from beyond.

This parable asks the questions generations generations have raised through the ages. Is there a way to communicate from the great beyond? Are our ancestors speaking to us? When we pray does God say anything back?

The answers are clear from this parable: yes, yes and absolutely yes.

There is communication coming from another realm. The generations before us are crying out. God is answering our prayers.

Just not always like we expect.

Much like a mysterious bookshelf featured prominently in Interstellar, the answers to our longings have been in front of us the entire time.

The answers are not in unexplored galaxies light years away. The answers we are looking for, the communication from beyond was placed in our hands long ago.

They are in the words which have been passed down through the ages.

The love of our incredible Creator – the one who dropped every star into place – transcends all theories and explanation. It is the purest form of communication, reaching out and beyond and through all space and time.

The world around us is rapidly deteriorating. Time will run out for us to communicate with those we love in this life. There won’t be a magical way to leave a message to them from beyond.

If you’re waiting for the perfect opportunity to communicate with the people you love, it’s already here. If you’re looking for communication from above, you already have it.

We don’t need a communique from space to give us the answers. Take the book off the shelf. Shake off the dust.

Open your eyes. Then spread the word.

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Going Beyond God’s Greatest Hits

queen greatest hitsEverybody loves a good Greatest Hits collection.

Whether it’s The Eagles, Garth Brooks or Guns ‘N Roses, a Greatest Hits album can make for the perfect soundtrack for any group of people.

That’s the reason why Greatest Hits collections are some of the highest selling albums of all time – everyone can relate to them.

These are an artist’s biggest chart-toppers. Not necessarily their best work, but clearly their most populist and successful.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying a Greatest Hits album.

I think though if you asked any of these artists, their hope would be for you to go beyond their Greatest Hits to discover their Deep Tracks. Continue reading

Why Political Ads Work On You

FullSizeRender-7I wonder what would happen if a political candidate ran a campaign with no attack ads.

Can you imagine it – a politician earning votes just on their platform without interrupting every single commercial break for months on end?

As refreshing as this would be, the reality is that candidate would get murdered at the polls. 

You might think you’re immune to these ads. You might think they’re just white noise. You may bemoan their arrival and rejoice at their departure the day after the election.

But no matter how much the majority of America complains about the persistence of negative political ads, the constant commercials aren’t going anywhere.

Why? Because political attack ads work.  Continue reading

5 Books That Changed My Life

With November being National Novel Writing Month, I feel the urge and the pressure to write my first book growing. It’s long been a goal of mine to write a book and leave my mark upon the world.

After all, there are so many books which have shaped my life. A book has the power to impact a person like no other art form.

With that in mind, I want to share with you 5 of the books that have changed my life over the past 28 years. These are books I go back to time and time again for inspiration. If you’ve never read them, I encourage you to check them out on Amazon. Maybe one of them will inspire you too.

In chronological order of when I discovered them:

dear-mr.-henshawDear Mr. Henshaw by Beverly Cleary – This was my first favorite book in elementary school. Dear Mr. Henshaw tells the story of a young boy completing a class assignment of writing to his favorite author. Over the years the boy continues to correspond with Mr. Henshaw seeking advice and wisdom as he struggles with all the issues of adolescence, including his parent’s divorce. Dear Mr. Henshaw is engaging and captivating and honest – just like all of Beverly Cleary’s work. Most importantly for me, Dear Mr. Henshaw opened up the possibilities of what a book could be in my eyes. The entire book is written in the format of the boy’s letters to Mr. Henshaw. At a young age I learned every book doesn’t have to look the same or follow the same format. Ever since then I’ve always enjoyed reading and writing that plays with the traditional narrative. Continue reading