books

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

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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:

 
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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.

Starting New Research

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I’m writing a book. The working title is Vulnerable Christianity. Don’t get too excited because I’m still in the early early early stages of research and outlining what this thing is going to be.

Here are the books I know I need to read in the next few months as I flesh out my idea. I’m sure I’ll add more to the list as I dive in but this is where I’m starting.

The Social Animal by David Brooks

Everything Happens for a Reason: And Other Lies I've Loved by Kate Bowler

Lament: Reclaiming Practices in the Pulpit, Pew, and Public Square

The Soul of Shame by Curt Thompson

I Thought it was Just Me by Brene Brown

The Art of the Apology by Lauren M. Bloom

So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed by Jon Ronson

How Not to be Secular by James K.A. Smith

Faith Formation in a Secular Age by Andrew Root

Disruptive Witness by Alan Noble

Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson, Joseph Grenny, Ron McMillan, Al Switzler

Books I Found at Goodwill

 
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Hot tip! Books at Goodwill are incredibly cheap. Paperbacks are $1 and hardcover are $3. The bookshelves are worth checking every time you go in because once in a while you might uncover something great.

There are two books in that stack I’m pretty sure I won’t enjoy (can you guess?!) but I figured it was worth $2 to find out for sure.

I don’t know why I felt the need to get all of these. I still have a ton already on my shelf that I need to read. And I don’t know what to ask for for Christmas so I’ll probably get more books. I need to kick my reading into high gear. I should probably change my phone wallpaper back to this.

Follow me on GoodReads

A Great Book for Young Adult Ministries

 
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Over the last 6 months I’ve been reading as much as I can to prepare for my new tour. I want this comedy show to act as an outreach for the church or ministry hosting. I want to talk about confession, and why we need to be open and honest about what we’re going through. AND on top of all that I want to be able to train leaders and volunteers on how to handle those tough conversations when someone is opening up for the first time.

One of the books that has been the most help is When Your Twenties are Darker than You Expected by Paul C. Maxwell. Each chapter walks through difficulties we can face like depression, regret, loneliness, anxiety, lust, doubt, and suicide. Maxwell does such a great job unpacking what these experiences look like specifically in your 20s.

It’s a great combination of thorough academic research and personal vulnerability.

In The Gifts of Imperfection, Brene Brown says “shame hates when we reach out to tell our story. It hates having words wrapped around it —it can’t survive being shared. Shame loves secrecy.”

That quote helped me realize one of Maxwell’s greatest strengths in writing. He is so good at wrapping the perfect words around the darkness. He articulates what the experience feels like and takes the shame out of it so you can begin to deal with it.

“Depression is an entire arsenal of concrete shoes, fixing you to the ground, letting you witness the world but not participate.”

“Regret is the closest emotional synonym we have for the word ‘scar.’”

I think everyone ministering to young adults should have this book in their office. It gives a ton of insight, wisdom, and points you to a lot of other great resources in the footnotes.

I don’t know how to transition here but I just want to share one of my other favorite quotes from the book.

In the chapter on dealing with lust Maxwell says, “There is no higher way to value a human being than to regard their relationship with God as your highest priority.” And I think that’s just a beautiful mindset to have when it comes to lust.

I’m giving away 10 free copies of this book to young adult pastors and ministry directors who fill out a quick survey. DO IT!

Reading Gave My Brain a 6 Pack

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I FINISHED 10 BOOKS IN JANUARY

My brain is so much bigger and stronger. My frontal lobe probably has a six pack. They say some of the greatest leaders read a book a week, well I guess I’m a double leader and then some.

I’ve been so impressed with my own self control the last few weeks. The old me wouldn’t have been able to shut up about my new lifestyle as “guy who reads a lot.” The old me would have crammed a brag into every conversation. Even with strangers. Especially with strangers.

 

You: Welcome to fast food, can I take your order?

Me: I’d like a number 1 with a Dr. Pepper and I’d like you to know I READ OF MICE AND MEN FOR FUN LAST WEEKEND AND IT WAS A WONDERFUL EXPERIENCE.

You: Oh…ok. My pleasure?

Me: THE PLEASURE WAS ALL MINE!

 

Luckily all these books have made me a new man and only a few people have had to deal with Taylor “I read 10 books last month” Johnson. And to them I offer my deepest apologies.

I feel really stupid talking about how reading is good for you because it just sounds so obvious. Of course reading a lot is better for you then binge watching tv nonstop for years and years and years. I feel dumb saying it out loud, though. Like I’m writing about how I just discovered smoking is actually bad for you because I just smoked 10 books last month.

But let’s get serious for a moment. Reading is making me a happier and healthier human being.

 

READING’S POSITIVE SIDE EFFECTS

The more time I spend with a book in my hands means less time I spending on my phone. I didn’t even realize this was happening until one Saturday I spent all day reading and I didn’t even think about my phone until I took a break for dinner. That never happens. I’ve checked my phone 5 times since I started writing this sentence. You want spend less time on your phone? Replace it with a book.

I have been learning so much. On my new tour I want to train leaders and parents on how to be there for people opening up and confessing for the first time. So much great advice from these books are now living in my brain and I feel so much better equipped to help people.

I’m communicating with greater ease than ever. I thought that would sound nicer than “I be talking and writing gooder.” It’s like when you read you’re stockpiling words and ideas like ammo to use the next time you need to express yourself. It’s a workout for your brain. If you want to write, you need to read. If you want to lead, you need to read.

 

WHAT IS HELPING ME STAY MOTIVATED?

I could not stay this excited about reading without some help. If I was left on my own I probably would have lost interest a few weeks in and this post would be me bragging about taking a nap so intense it was technically a coma.

GOODREADS is the greatest resource (become my friend on there!). It’s social media for the books you’re reading. Keep track of what you’ve finished, what you’re currently reading, and the huge list of what you want to read next. You can rate, review, and see what your friends are reading too.

That last one is the biggest help. At the beginning of the month I deleted all social media except Goodreads so any time I felt the need to check my phone, all I had was an app that showed me how much fun my friends were having reading. “Oh shoot I should just go read” is all I could think.

Speaking of which…

Austin Kleon is one of my favorite authors to follow on Twitter. He’s always posting about his love of reading and even made this image I set as the lock screen for my phone. It’s a nice reminder.

 
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Ever feeling like reading is too expensive? You don’t want to spend all this money on books you’re not sure you’ll ever read again? I know how you feel. That’s why I got a library card. Like a freaking nerd. It’s crazy that the government just has the buildings all over the country where you can go borrow books for free. What a world.

 

BOOKS I FINISHED IN JANUARY*

Out on the Wire: Uncovering the Secrets to Radio’s New Masters of Story with Ira Glass by Jessica Abel

Scary Close: Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy by Donald Miller

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown

Why Suicide? by Eric Marcus

Pure Drivel by Steve Martin

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Scandalabra by Derrick Brown

Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

 

*I’m saying “finished” instead of “read” because STIFF by Mary Roach was an audiobook I listened on my drive from Chicago to San Antonio and I’d feel like a real dirty liar if I claimed to have read it.

 

IN CONCLUSION

Are you feeling down and out? Did your hopes rise while the ball dropped on New Year's because you thought this year would be different but now you're not so sure? You're in a rut, a slump, stuck? Pick up a book. Any book you think would be fun to read. Don't start with one you feel like you're supposed to read. Read for you. Get in that book and don't leave until it's over. Put down your phone. Absorb the lives and thoughts of others. 

“Reading is thinking with someone else's head instead of ones own.” -Arthur Schopenhauer

Go. Read. Read slowly. Read all day. Read on the toilet. Whatever you need to do. Just don't read while driving. And then one day you'll be able to brag about feeling better and smarter and healthier just like I did for the last thousand words.

See you then.

Being an Anchor | a lesson from FAILING FAITH

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What am I supposed to do for someone I care about when they’re suffering?

How do I help a friend after a tragedy?

I know they’re hurting but I don’t know what to do for them.

How do I make them better?

We put a lot of pressure on ourselves when someone we love reaches out to us in a vulnerable moment. There’s pain or loss in their lives and they need someone to be there for them and you desperately want to fill that role but you have no idea how.

We feel like we need to be the hero. We need to snap them out of it. There’s a perfect piece of advice around here somewhere, and I need to be the one to deliver it before it’s too late.

I just finished Wade Bearden’s new book Failing Faith. It’s incredible and I think it should become essential reading for Christians, especially because of the insight into this very topic.

Throughout the book Wade walks us through what it was like watching his father’s battle with cancer. It’s beautifully written and so incredibly honest about such a heartbreaking time in his life.

There are tears. There’s anger. There’s loss. There’s doubt.

He offers a window into what’s it like in those moments for those of us on the outside who feel at a loss for how to help. In one chapter he describes how his wife, Priscilla, was there to support him.

 

Once, after I heard some especially bad news about my father, Priscilla leaned her head against my shoulder and quietly whispered that she loved me. Her statement felt like warm honey to my soul. This wasn’t the first or last time she did it either. Sure, sometimes she’d offer advice, but most of the time she just walked alongside me. She became a symbol to the new life that I longed for. The fresh experience of all-surrounding joy.

 

This is a pattern you start to notice throughout the book. There were moments that were the most meaningful during this time, and very few of them revolved around advic. There’s nothing in here about a friend or family member saying just the right thing at the right time and changing everything.

Wade states the lesson plainly at one point:

 

When someone is in pain—when they’ve experienced a miscarriage, lost a loved one, or saw their future fall apart— presence is always better than philosophy. Write that down and make sure to look at it often. When someone is in pain, don’t explain to them how God is in control. Just be the anchor they need to make it through the hurricane.

 

This should be a relief to us, the friends and family. We don't have to shy away from hospital visits. We don't have to fear what might happen if we ask how things are going. Our list of responsibilities is a lot more manageable. We don’t have to find the perfect words. They probably don’t exist. We’re not there to fix anyone. We just have to be there. They might go through some dark and devastating times, and our job is the anchor.

I’m here.

I’m right here.

I’m still here.

We can do that. We can handle that.

Read Failing Faith for yourself. I'm telling you, it's an amazing book. I’m not just saying that because Wade is a close personal friend and I’m even thanked in the acknowledgements at the end of the book. It’s no big deal. Why even bring it up?

GET FAILING FAITH ON AMAZON