Being present.

It’s interesting to think about the effect that the internet and social media are having on our lives. Are they making us more connected with other people or less so?

Now more than ever, it’s possible for us to be very aware of world needs.

Now more than ever, it’s possible for us to stay in touch with friends and family miles away from us.

Now more than ever, it’s possible for us to discover “everything” about a tourist destination before even setting foot there.

Now more than ever, it’s possible for us to learn just about any skill or trade if we know where to look.

But what’s the cost of it all? Maybe for the sake of information density we’ve sacrificed other things in our lives. Maybe we’ve allowed status updates to replace the human connection. Maybe we’ve become selectively detached from one another.

Technology is neither good nor evil; it’s a tool, an advantage that can be used for either. It will continue to change as we move forward, and it should. The question is – what will we choose to do with the power it buys us?

Telling a good story.

Sometimes I try too hard to attach special meaning to things. I can tell a good story about anything, but the challenge comes in choosing which story to tell. Not in a dishonest way, but in a way that ministers grace to the hearers.

I enjoy watching How I Met Your Mother because it paints a picture of three different types of men – Marshall, the hopeless romantic and kind of awkward guy; Barney, the guy who sleeps around for sport; and Ted, the guy in the middle. Ted considers Marshall lucky to have met his match in college, and hates himself for acting like Barney in his quest for “the one.”

But without Ted, Marshall and Barney would never be friends. In fact, whenever Marshall hangs out with Barney, it doesn’t work out in anyone’s favor. Ted is continually pulled in opposite directions because he wants to find the one like Marshall has, yet wants to know what Barney’s secret power is.

The secret power of shows like this is that you only see the relational consequences of people’s actions. So they can be entertaining and sometimes even descriptive of real life, but not the whole story.

In real life, Barney would probably have a lot of STDs. As much as CBS tries to make Barney a real character (with a blog too!), he’s not. The guy who plays him is openly gay. I don’t say that in a condemning way (God judges men’s hearts, not me), but it’s what Neil Patrick Harris has chosen. I still think he’s an amazing actor. If I was his friend, I’d try to be his wingman, but I’m only a spectator.

In real life, Ted might have STDs too, but he’d probably be talking to therapists quite a bit as well. In fact, the whole premise of the show is that he’s telling his kids this whole story, and that’s what makes it work. I don’t know much about Josh Radnor’s life outside of How I Met Your Mother, though. Guess he’s not as popular yet.

But in real life, we don’t get a narrator in that moment. We don’t always know exactly what’s happening when it’s happening, though we sometimes think we do. What we do get, though, is a Father who’s always been there, watching and interfering only as necessary.

Katie Davis said at Catalyst that we sometimes only want to see God in the outcome, but that He’s God in the process too.

I don’t know all the details of the outcome I’m heading toward yet, but in this season, I’m choosing to trust God in the process. He knows better than me, and I don’t always have to try so hard.

Permission to be silly.

Last night, I checked out the middle school ministry that I’m praying about serving with at church.

I noticed that while worshiping, not only was it acceptable to act a little silly, it was encouraged. And it started at the top.

The worship leader, who’s been doing youth ministry for years, wasn’t “acting his age,” and in doing so, gave the kids permission to act theirs without having to worry about looking silly. He acted like he was their age so that they could act like they were their age in worshiping God.

Some might say that he’s making up for something, or that he hasn’t grown up. But I don’t see that. Instead, I see a man doing his part to serve his community doing what he loves – connecting with the middle school children at his church. I see a man letting his “street cred” suffer a bit so that he can bring pre-teens closer to Jesus. I see a man posing as a youth so that at the appropriate times, he can treat teenage boys like men and teenage girls like women.

It’s rare to find places where it’s okay to act a little silly. But by showing me his world, he’s given me one such place. If they’ll have me, I think I’m taking that part-time job.

Church.

One thing I haven’t talked about much here is church. I let people know that I’m a Christian, so it’s assumed that I go to church. And I do.

But to be pretty open, over the last two years, I’ve been church-hopping. Cheating on my home church (which is great, by the way – check out their beach festival!), if you will…

I hadn’t fasted for a while, and a local church was doing a Sun Stand Still-inspired fast, so I joined in. Over a thousand of us were doing a Daniel fast for about four weeks last spring.

I hadn’t been on an international missions trip, and I found out about one with another church going to Thailand to help victims of sex trafficking (at a Shane & Shane concert), so I decided to go (can’t make it this year).

I love Hillsong United and heard that they planted a church in NYC, so I made some visits (and am open to visiting again! It’s like a free concert with a nice message to go along!).

I’d heard about a lot of different pastors over the Internet but hadn’t been to their churches, so I downloaded their podcasts. Some favorites include Elevation, Mars Hill, and The Village.

Oh, and before all this, I met an amazing girl who goes to church with a friend from college. I went to some Bible studies with them and hung out with mutual friends a few times. Fell hard and fast. Screwed things up pretty royally over Memorial Weekend, though, so pray for me.

In any case, after all my gallivanting, I’m choosing the church that helped send me to Thailand. That’s where I’ve seen God show up in amazing ways, and that’s where I’m heading.

If you’re ever in the area, you can find me at Princeton Alliance Church. The music is great, the pastor is cool and together we’re on track to change the world for Jesus!

Plus, in case you haven’t been, Princeton is just a really cool town! Cute indie-ish tea place in the downtown area, sweet little garden theater in town, a pretty awesome sandwich shop and a little mini-brewery I’ve not yet been to.

For the sophisticated men reading this, there is also a cigar shop on Nassau. Not to mention the university and seminary. Professors and theologians never go out of style.

Growing up.

It’s hard to figure when exactly that happens, isn’t it?

Some say it’s when you have a good job and can buy the things you want.

Some say it’s when you know what you want to do with your life.

Some say it’s when you get married and have kids.

I think it’s when you decide to stop living on other people’s terms and live in such a way to make dreams come true for you and those closest to you.

Here’s a friend of mine who’s doing one hell of a job at it. He’s also been featured on The Art of Manliness.

It’s a lesson I’m learning, even though I’m not enrolled in any traditional school. It’s a lesson that I’m learning from friends who are on the same journey. It’s a lesson inspired by teachers and reinforced by artists, one in particular.

I may not have written about this before, but while I’m not enrolled in a traditional school, I am enrolled in this one. It’s not free, but tuition is pretty low compared to higher education. It’s a great program for me because it helps me figure out, 1) how God has wired me to live out His glory in my everyday activities, and 2) how to make a living and support myself and a family doing those things.

Thanks for being on this journey with me, anonymous crowd out there. Please welcome my parents, who have finally started reading my blog 😉

I’m going to continue writing here while I start building my website for Awesome Biz Blogs, my proposed next venture.

Starting over.

It’s amazing how long and hard we can cling to something from the past. Equally amazing, though, is the freedom we can walk with when we decide to let go. The less we want to talk about it, the more constrained by the past we actually are. The more we’re willing to talk about it, the more free we become.

It’s a lesson I’ve re-learned recently. After decades of bitterness, I’m finally learning to walk in freedom.

What’s your story?

I wrote before about “what are you working on?” being a better question than “what do you do?” but this one takes it a step further. This question opens up the conversation to whatever the person wants to share and talk about. It lets someone tell you who he/she is – no limits, no expectations, no rules. It gives you an opportunity to possibly gain insight into the person you’re talking to beyond the day-to-day.

But even if you ask this question, people may still limit their answer to the question they’re used to hearing or thought they heard. Not much you can do about that, necessarily.

But what if someone asked you?

What’s your story?

How do you answer that question?

I’m still figuring that out, but I do think that the first step is to live a story worth telling. Some resources that can help you with that (affiliate links where applicable):