Assemblies in Louisiana

public.jpeg

In less than a week I’ve spent roughly 27 hours in a car. Spoke Sunday in Tomball, TX. Monday night in Houston. Wednesday I did assemblies in Louisiana. Now I’m in Wichita, KS for a service on Sunday.

We were in a tiny tiny town in Louisiana.

I think those are some of my favorite assemblies to do. You visit schools where there are only 200 students in the whole building and they’re so excited to hear you because they’ve never had a good assembly before. Not many high quality assembly programs are seeking out these tiny schools so we get to go in and absolutely blow them away. “People care enough about you to meet you in the middle of nowhere.” That’s the message we get to bring simply by showing up.

I love it.

If Loving God Was a Competition

How-to-have-a-successful-first-running-race.jpg

The following is an excerpt from a guest blog I wrote for my friend Cameron Combs.

If you wanted to sum up Jesus’ central message to the Pharisees it would be “Loving God is not a competition, and even if it were, you’d all be losing.”

When a sinful woman barges into a pharisee’s house to anoint Jesus’ feet with expensive oil from her alabaster jar, the religious leaders look down on her ridiculous act. If she really loved God, she wouldn’t be so sinful, and she wouldn’t have wasted that oil. She would have sold it and given the money to the poor. Duh. Obviously.

Jesus then shows them that they’re judging this competition all wrong. In pharisee’s eyes, the one who is the purest, cleanest, most right standing is the winner. They’re the ones who love God most. But that’s not how Jesus sees it. It’s actually the one who is the most sinful, yet turns to God. It’s the one needing the most forgiveness who would love God most because they would be the one who fully understands how incredible His love is.

It’s almost like Jesus is being sarcastic.

Those poor Pharisees. If only they weren’t so perfect. If only they were open about the sin in their hearts, then maybe they could love God as much as this woman with the alabaster jar. But alas, from how they speak about themselves, you can tell they’re far too good. If it really were a competition for who loved God most, they’d all be losing.

This is from a post in a series of reflections on Flannery O’Connor’s short story, Parker’s Back. It’s a great short story. You can read it here. Then read the rest of my post (here) to see how this ties to O’Connor’s story.

4 things to enjoy this Halloween season

public.jpeg

1. Watch American Movie. Hilarious documentary about a small town filmmaker struggling to make the perfect horror movie. It's one of those documentaries that feels too perfect to be real. How could this not be scripted? It's amazing. Watch the trailer

2. Read The Shining. I'm on a real Stephen King kick right now. I think The Shining is one of my favorite books now. I just want someone to read it so I can talk to them about it.

3. Watch E.T. Not a traditional Halloween film, but it scared the crap out of me as a kid. Oh man, that little freak gave me nightmares. Are you kidding me? Horrifying. When they find his pale lifeless body by the river? NOPE. No ma'am. That was not cool for kids. Now that I'm older and wiser and braver, I can see the beautiful message of empathy in this wonderful coming of age story but that little monster can still freak me out.

4. Read In the Altogether. Opening up and being vulnerable can be scary, right? Right?! So this could be a spooky book to enjoy. Why not get yourself a copy?

Confession: I Never Follow Through with Goals

IMG_5519.jpeg

I just want you to know that I started using Michael Hyatt’s Full Focus Planner again at the beginning of October. A year ago I used one for three months and it legitimately changed my life. I need the help it offers with setting goals, staying on track, and prioritizing tasks.

I’m lost without it.

I can’t handle all that on my own. I’m not naturally disciplined. At all. Left to my own devices, I’m a giant baby. All I want to do is eat pizza, never shower, and stare at my phone.

I say in my stand-up “I’m terrible at setting goals. I have a lot of things I would like to happen but I’m not doing anything about it to make it happen.” That’s so true. Big dreams with no follow through. That’s why I’ll never have abs.

This planner forces me to set goals and helps me actually stick to them. I would have never been able to write In the Altogether without it.

And now I’m back with a brand new planner. Who knows what I’ll do next!

The Origin of Most Bad Writing According to Stephen King

1*XQgJsfv6uZYFfJ0Fcvtegw.jpeg

From Stephen King’s On Writing:

 

“I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.”

 

I get this. One of my greatest fears is being misunderstood. I don’t want anything I say to misinterpreted in some unflattering way. This fear manifests when I’m speaking or performing. It’ll cause me to ramble or repeat myself a million times over if I’m not confident that I got my point across.

For other comedians the fear manifests differently. You ever hear a comedian end every other sentence with “you know?” or “right?” That’s my biggest pet peeve with comedy. The comedian is insecure in their ability to set up their premise, right? And so they have to constantly check in, right? Stop it. Cut that word. If you’re so concerned with getting the point across, put more work into the material.

If you’re not confident with your first draft (no one is) view the rewriting process as a confidence building exercise. Don’t let fear take over. Don’t let it stop you from taking risks. Don’t let it force you to over explain.

Don’t let fear win. Fear gives thee worst advice.

Right?

With Apologies to Dave Ramsey

Screen Shot 2019-10-11 at 5.03.01 PM.png

The following is an excerpt from my new book, In the Altogether: Trusting God with All We Hide From the World. This is a story I tell in the chapter on the importance of opening up about what’s going on. You can’t deal with a problem unless you’re willing to talk about it.


It's important to remember that there's not a clear cut list of subjects that everyone is always uncomfortable talking about. Some people are ok with opening up about their love lives while others get really nervous. Some are willing to totally own mistakes from their past, others try to pretend they never happened. Some people have no fear at all talking about financial troubles while others, LIKE ME, chicken out.

I'm terrible with money, and I hate talking about it. Dave Ramsey, if you're reading this, get ready to rip someone else's hair out at this story. I'm so sorry.

Ever since I started traveling and speaking full time, I've had to deal with all of the responsibilities that come with being self-employed. I'm my own boss, which is a problem because I'm a terrible boss. A real pushover. It's so easy to convince my boss to let me have the day off for no reason.

I have to be the one who pushes me to work hard. I'm the one in charge of keeping things organized. I have to stay on top of my finances. Or at least try to.

My primary financial strategy is what I like to call "Out of Sight–Out of Mind." Here's what you do: never check your bank account. Ever. Assume you're completely broke and silently freak out every day as you try to spend as little money as possible. At the end of the month, you're allowed to check your account balance once.

Hopefully, the strategy worked, and you'll actually have a lot more money in there than you thought.

Awesome.

Congratulations.

Reward yourself by taking all that extra cash you didn't know you had and spend it recklessly on any dumb thing you want. You'll probably spend too much, and then you'll be too scared to check your bank account to see what you have left. That's perfect. Now you're ready to start the cycle over for the next month.

Is it a perfect system? Of course not. It's so stupid. It rarely works out in my favor. Sometimes you'll check your bank account and realize you weren't worried enough and you have even less money than you thought. In those moments the best thing to do is, take a second, breathe in, and freak out harder than you ever have before because you're in so much trouble!

Having no money is actually a really great motivation to work harder. Sometimes (I'm about to sound like the biggest idiot so get ready, Mr. Ramsey) I'll feel like I need to kick my butt out of being lazy so I'll go buy some big expensive thing I don't really need for the sole purpose of making me a little poorer.

Let's see you work your way out of this one, Taylor, I think as I spend $200 on a microphone for my camera that doesn't really sound much better than the $70 microphone I've been using.

I know these are all terrible financial strategies. The main reason I haven't tried anything else is that I know it would require having to ask someone for help. That's so embarrassing. I've been my own boss for almost a decade. You'd think I'd have it figured out by now.

But that's just part of the reason I don't want to reach out to someone. The other part is what REALLY paralyzes me.

If I were to get help, there would come a moment where the other person says, "I'd be glad to help. Tell me about how you've been handling money so far." Then I'd have to look them in the eye and describe what I've just told you. And then I'll have to watch their reaction, whatever that may be. They could laugh in my face. They might yell at me and call me an idiot. They could look down on me for acting like a child and never take me seriously as an adult again. Picturing someone's reaction has always been the main reason I've kept it to myself.

That's also true for my taxes. Being self-employed means, I don't have The Man taking taxes out of every paycheck. Not only do I have to be my own boss but I have to be my own The Man. The last few years I've filed my taxes by myself and...I think I'm doing them, right? I have no idea. I'm winging it. Making it up as I go along with some BOLD guesses on the right way to do it.

My catchphrase as I submit my completed tax form to the government is, "Welp. Let's see if I'm going to jail!"

So far, so good.

Maybe I'm so poor I'm not even on the IRS' radar?

Oh no. I just had a thought. 

What if this book becomes a huge hit and I make millions off it? The IRS is going to read this and come after me! I can't have that. I need to make sure this book doesn't become a giant success. I have to do whatever it takes to make sure it isn't a #1 best seller (so if this book comes out and it isn't a smash hit, just know that my plan worked. It was on purpose).

After a while, my tax strategy of "Guess Until You Go to Jail" started affecting me. Whenever tax season would approach, my anxiety would intensify. My mom must have noticed because she recommended I visit a financial advisor who handles taxes for small businesses. I put off setting up an appointment for a long time. Again, I was terrified of what her reaction would be when I told her about my taxes. What if she yelled at me? What if I make her so mad she throws up? Is that possible?

I knew there was some hardcore vulnerability waiting for me at that appointment when I finally called and set it up. It was terrifying. I was already preparing myself for the meeting going badly. I thought if her reaction was too much to handle I'd just immediately leave, never file my taxes again, go off the grid, cut up my social security card, hitchhike to Alaska, and probably die by accidentally eating poison berries.

I'M NOT SUPPOSED TO HAVE WEAKNESSES!

I want to be perfect and have it all figured out! It's so frustrating that I'm not and I don't. I'm far from that. The IRS is going to find out and eat me alive!

When I sat down in the financial advisor's office, about to open up about my problem, I started by letting her know what I was thinking at that moment. 

"I have no idea how big of a mess my taxes are. I'm scared I've been doing them wrong, but I've also dreaded coming to you because I don't want you to get mad at me. Please don't freak out. Please be gentle."

She agreed and braced herself as she asked me questions.

"Did you do your taxes last year?"

"Yes."

"Did you owe money?"

"Yes."

"Did you pay it?"

"Yes."

"Did you do that the year before?"

"Yes."

"OK. Well, you're actually doing way better than a lot of the people who come into my office. I get people haven't paid their taxes in fourteen years, so don't worry."

I was blown away. Fourteen years?! That's wild.

That meeting lifted a few different burdens off of my shoulders. I found out my situation wasn't the worst this lady had ever seen. It was pretty small when you compare it to what it could have been. After that initial relief, she walked me through some simple next steps I needed to take to keep my taxes on track. I thought it was going to be so much more work. Nope, I left with a list of three things I needed to do. That's it.

She helped me shine a light on the monster that was hiding in the corner of my mind. When I got a good look at it for the first time, I realized I could actually take this thing on. That would have never happened if I didn't walk into that vulnerable moment of admitting why I needed help. Up until that meeting, I was desperately trying to become the man people already thought I was. I put on a good face and made everyone think I had it all together. But I was able to find the hope of change when I laid that aside.

When we allow ourselves to be vulnerable, we are saved from having to pretend. 

More about the book

Comedian Taylor Johnson has written a hilarious and honest book on one of the most uncomfortable topics for Christians: vulnerability.

This is not like any Christian book you’ve ever read. It’s weird. It’s funny. Some bizarre true stories and illustrations will catch you off guard. Taylor Johnson’s unique approach is all on purpose to help us get comfortable looking at our shame, our secrets, and our fears around opening up. Yes, it’s scary to share, but because of Jesus, it doesn’t have to be.

Available on Amazon

Fields of Faith in Oklahoma

Me, bugging the kids from Teens for Christ

Me, bugging the kids from Teens for Christ

Just got back home from Warner, OK where I got to be a part of a Fields of Faith event last night.

Yesterday afternoon I spoke to the Teens for Christ groups for the jr high and high school. With the high school students I mostly just asked them about AR points (accelerated reader). Apparently AR rules your life, even in high school. I only had to do it in 5th and 6th grade, but I WISH I had it in high school.

I loved AR.

I was never physically active so I didn’t have an outlet for my competitive nature until I found out there was a system where you earned points for reading books and the highest earners won a pizza party. I always ended up in the top 5 (not to brag).

I wish there were AR points for adults. I’d read so many more books if it was a competition. I guess that’s why I like the GoodReads app. It’s as close as I can get.

Am I preaching or am I trying to get a mosh pit started?

Am I preaching or am I trying to get a mosh pit started?

That night we had a youth service on the football field. Over 180 students showed up. If you knew how tiny the town of Warner was, you’d be blown away by that number. The school’s cafeteria is smaller than my local Chipotle.

I preached on CHANGE. Change is possible in Christ. The whole point of Jesus’ life and death is to bring miraculous change to every area of our lives. If we don’t believe that change is possible, then we see know reason to open up about what’s going on in our lives. A lot of what I spoke on came from the second chapter of my book (In the Altogether, get it on Amazon now!).

Great trip. I love visiting Warner and spending time with Blaine, the youth pastor for First Baptist.

There Are No Books You HAVE to Read

IMG_5500.JPG
 

If a book makes me want to keep reading, it’s the right book.

If a book makes me want to start writing, it’s the right book.

Any other book is not the right book. (Right now.)

Austin Kleon

 

Most people who say they don’t like reading just haven’t found the right books for them. There’s no book you HAVE to read. There’s no book you have to force yourself to like.

I love the /r/GateKeeping subreddit where users share screenshots of obnoxious gatekeepers. Here’s how they define the term:

 

Gatekeeping is when someone takes it upon themselves to decide who does or does not have access or rights to a community or identity.

 

Here’s a sillier example:

 
9lm0l6keq8r31.jpg
 

Don’t believe gatekeepers. Especially around books. Who cares if you don’t like the classics? Who cares if you only read books less than 200 pages? Read things that make you want to keep reading.

I like how Kleon’s quote ends with the clarification that any book that doesn’t make him want to read more or write more isn’t the right book (right now). Remember, that people change. You’ll change. Your preferences will change. You’ll grow and evolve and adapt. You don’t have to force yourself to read boring books now. Just read what you want to read. Who knows, maybe after a year of consistently reading you’ll be interested in picking up new, challenging books.

Just read something.

If you’re looking for something new to read, why not pick up my book, In the Altogether? People who don’t normally like reading are reading it and that’s the biggest compliment for me.

Get the Book Today!

In the Altogether has been out for a little less than a month but I know I still have a lot of people in my life who still haven’t picked it up. There’s no better time than RIGHT NOW!

Today is the day!

Carpe my book!

Also, I know I could add a custom thumbnail but I kind of like how horrible it looks with frame Facebook chose for me. I look like I should be squawking like The Penguin.

GET THE BOOK NOW!

How to Start as an Evangelist

IMG_5500.JPG

Last year a guy asked me for advice about how to approach youth pastors about guest speaking and “putting yourself out there.” He felt called to travel as an evangelist and wondered if I had any tips.

I’ve had this saved in my blog drafts since last November. I thought I’d finally share it.

First and foremost, I should probably start with this: I’m one person with one opinion about one way of doing this. If you disagree with my approach, sure, fine, cool, whatever. This is the advice I needed when I first started and since ministry is time travel, it’s what I shared with him.

Here’s what I said:

Start small.

Be ok with starting small.

You don’t have to judge the success of your ministry off of how many dates you have booked. If you work on what you bring to the table, what you’re like in service, what you preach on, how you handle altar times, word will spread.

If you have any friends who are youth pastors, ask if you can speak for them. If you only get one, awesome. Bring your best to that one. Love those kids. Bring as much value as you can and partner with that youth pastor to help what they’re already doing in their ministry.

Don’t worry about getting paid.

Don’t worry about networking.

Take youth pastors out to lunch and ask them questions. Interview them. What are they dealing with in their ministry? What’s been difficult? What’s been a win? What do they look for in a guest speaker? What have they not liked with guest speakers in the past?

Pay attention.

Pray pray pray pray pray pray pray pray pray pray pray.

It’ll happen little by little and that’s a good thing. Every step of the way you’re working on being ready for the next step. And then you’ll take it. And then you’ll get ready for the next step.