I see great potential in you.
The internet caused everything in our culture to speed up. Trends and memes only last a few weeks. There’s a new breaking story every 5 minutes. It’s exhausting. Every day it feels like we’re sprinting through information, only allowing ourselves quick reactions, and never thoughtful responses.
We need to slow down. We need to chill out.
Stop being buttheads to people Jesus loves.
When was the last time you had a conversation with a stranger?
Waiters don’t count. Nothing where either one of you is getting paid to have the conversation counts.
The other day I was on Craigslist looking for a wife (not really) and I found a listing entitled “Need a Friend? Why Not Rent One?” Yes. Yes. Let it sink in. Rent a friend. Yes. I bookmarked the ad and tried to go back to it yesterday but it’s been removed. The guy was 27 and charging $25 to hang out with shy people or anyone who didn’t have a friend. I wonder if he got any work. I wonder if anyone rented him for an hour just to convert him to Christianity. People are weird.
When was the last time you had a conversation with a stranger? Rent-a-friends don’t count.
I think some of my favorite conversations have been with people I know nothing about and probably will never see again.
I’m sorry, Mom. I can’t say something about how great it is to talk to complete strangers without apologizing to you for the way I acted my entire childhood. I was wrong.
My mom loves talking to anyone and everyone when we’re out in public. We’re in line at Six Flags when my eavesdropping mom hears someone say the word “Missouri” and all of a sudden she’s talking for 45 minutes because she’s from Missouri. It doesn’t matter in what context Missouri was said. She just hears the keyword and jumps in. My mom is Google. My mom will be a stranger’s auto complete.
I’d go to the bathroom at a Chili’s and come back to my mom holding a random baby. What?! Whose baby is that? Where did it come from?! Do I have a new brother? I know the process takes some time and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t in the bathroom for 9 months. Turns out it belonged to that booth over there and now my mom is a babysitter.
Growing up my mom really embarrassed me. I would get so mad when she would try and do this. Once in a restaurant I LUNGED at her and dragged her back to our table because PLEASE STOP TALKING TO STRANGERS!
Now that I’m older (and finally going through puberty) I’ve completely turned around on this. I occasionally eavesdrop and join conversations myself. Recently I was at a restaurant with my family when I overheard a lady talking. Something about a doctor and how he came to his diagnosis. She was saying how rude he was and how he never liked talking to the patients. I turned to her and said “Excuse me, ma’am. Are you talking about House?” She was. I recognized the episode and knew what season it was from BECAUSE I DON’T HAVE A GIRLFRIEND AND I HAVE A LOT OF TIME ON MY HANDS. I talked to this lady for a minute and returned my focus to my parents. My mom looked at me like I just levitated. She was shocked. I had changed.
Friday night I ended up at Denny’s at 4 am sitting with a street preacher,and two atheists. It was a surreal night.
I was in Austin, Texas to see one of my favorite comedians. The show got out around 10:45 pm. I didn’t feel like heading home so I walked over to 6th Street. For anyone who doesn’t know, 6th Street is where all the bars, clubs, drunks, college partiers are late at night. It’s a whole different world that I’m not involved in but it’s entertaining to watch.
Talking to strangers can open your eyes to all sorts of things. These people are outside of your life, and some are WAY outside the culture you’re used to. It offers a new perspective.
That night there was an older guy standing alone observing just like me. I walked over and asked him for advice on how to talk to girls. Why? I mostly just wanted to hear what he’d say. Part of me was hoping for something crazy. “Tell her she smells like spaghetti! Girls love that!” But he actually had some nice insight. “They’ll talk to you and they’ll let you know if they’re interested. All you can do is keep trying.”
At one point I approached a “college bro” after watching him get turned down by a girl. He offered to be my wingman and told me about a website that teaches you how to pick up chicks. I was pretty creeped out but agreed to tag along because why not? It didn’t take long for me to discover he was just as bad at talking to girls as I was except he didn’t know it yet. This guy was oozing confidence. I didn’t participate in the picking up of chicks as much as I just watched and laughed.
Then I found a guy standing quietly with a sign in the middle of the drunken craziness. The sign said “What if?” When someone approached him wondering what the sign meant he asked them “What if Jesus is the only way to God?” He was a street preacher. Kind of. He didn’t stand on a box and yell. He waited for people to come up to him and let them do most of the talking. He stayed calm and never got angry. Everyone else sure did, though. Holy cow.
I spent a lot of time watching this scene. It was so crazy to watch all of the different reactions. Mostly anger and guilt. One girl walked up to me because she thought I was with the preacher. She got up in my face and talked like she was defending herself. “Hey! I go to church every Sunday!” Ok. Cool. No one said you didn’t. Why did you just yell that at me?
There was one guy standing next to the preacher who just crying. No one was talking to him. He just cried. I walked up to see if he was ok. He was a Christian. He told me how sad he was to see how angry everyone was at the guy with the sign. He tried asking me my religious views but I didn’t want to tell him because I wanted to see what he’d do.
He tried to share the gospel with me. And it broke my heart. Because he didn’t know how. He spoke in circles and never actually made any points.
I asked why he believed in Jesus. He said it was better to “believe in something than to not believe in anything.” I pushed him a little. “Ok,” I said, “but why Jesus? You just said it’s good to believe in something. Why not Islam? Why not Buddha? Why did you pick Jesus?” His response was “because I don’t know about those religions.” That’s it?! That’s your only reason?! What if he had said that to an atheist? They would have ripped him to shreds.
Stepping outside your comfort by talking to strangers makes you think. It makes you question yourself.
I had to ask myself “What would I have said if I was the crying guy? Do I have a good reason for following Jesus?”
That night I had no schedule and no agenda. I was completely free to go where the wind took me. In American culture it’s almost impossible to be that way 24/7. We’ve got doctor’s appointments and set times when we have to be at work. But what if you tried to be open just once this week? No looking at your watch and nowhere to be. Start a conversation with a stranger and see where it leads.
My Friday night with no schedule or agendas led me to Denny’s. After all the bars had closed I was still talking to passerby's who stopped at the street preacher with the sign. The street preacher was talking to one guy and I was talking to his very drunk friend. We decided we should just take the conversation to somewhere we could sit down and eat so we did. Denny’s. Not my favorite but who cares. At least it wasn’t Waffle House.
It was a little difficult to have a decent conversation at Denny’s because one of the guys was a little too drunk. But it was still pleasant and interesting.
Toward the end of our meal an older guy sat down close by and sketched us. Kind of a weird sentence. We didn’t ask him to or anything. He just did it. Before he started sketching he wrote on the paper “Time & The Good Lord Permitting.” He showed it to us and let me keep it.
When was the last time you opened yourself up to talk to a stranger and see where it goes? Have you let yourself be free and taken where the wind (or the guidance of the Holy Spirit) takes you?
You don’t have to be a weirdo and try to force a conversation. Look for organic reasons to talk to someone. Maybe you both observed something odd happen. Walk over and say “did you just hear that old lady fart, too?” Simple.
It could start an adventure. You might hear about a new band or movie that’s going to blow you away. They could really change the way you think/talk about something. Or you might do that for them. What if the conversation turns to religion and they share their thoughts on Christianity? You could respond to that. You could share what the Bible actually says about this or that and fix the damage a church or a “Christian” had done in this person’s life.
Talking to strangers. It’s worth it.
Again, I’m sorry mom.
You’re creative. Some of you want to be a musician and that’s awesome. Others of you want to be a writer, actor, artist, or maybe a magician. That’s awesome too. Some of you want to be a serial killer and THAT’S NOT AWESOME.
You daydream. You have your Oscar acceptance speech already prepared. You’ve practiced your interview for the Tonight Show when Jimmy Fallon asks you about your new “project” (I used to do this all the time). You doodle in class, sing in the shower, perform stand-up at dinner.
For most of us the problem isn’t that we don’t know what we want to become. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” We’ve got our answer locked down. We know where we are, and we know where we want to be, but we have no idea how to get there.
This is where I was stuck my senior in high school. I wanted to be a stand-up comedian but I had no idea how someone becomes a stand-up comedian. I searched everywhere for a step by step breakdown of what I needed to do to “make it,” but that doesn’t exist. There’s no book or website that says “start doing this, then go here, find this kind of person and say this, then start trying this, and then you’ll be famous.” Nope. There’s no set path. I can’t copy someone else’s story.
If you’re a singer trying to make a name for yourself you can’t just watch that Katy Perry documentary, Katy Perry: Part of Me (which may or may not have made me cry), and say “ok. I’ll just do that. I’ll just do exactly what Katy Perry did.” That won’t work. You’ve got to go your own way.
Even though I can’t give you a precise step by step process to find your creative fulfillment, I can share with you some rules for creativity that I made up…I mean….discovered….through hard work.
RULES FOR BEING CREATIVE
1.Just do it.
You want to make music? Go make music! You want to write a book? Write a book! You want to murder someone? NO! DON’T DO THAT!
You don’t have to wait until you’re out of high school or college. You don’t have to wait for someone to give you permission or tell you it's a good idea. Just start. Today.
We live in an incredible time. You have more technological capabilities in your phone than The Beatles ever had when recording their albums. You want to write a book? You can self publish. Want to make a short film? Share it with the world on Youtube. Want to write and perform a play? Grab some friends and rent out a space in your city. It’s easy. There’s so much potential at your finger tips. All you have to do is reach out!
2. Stay off social media
It's a horrible distraction that will ruin everything and suck away all your time.
3. There are no rules
4. There are a few rules.
What was I saying? Sorry. I was just checking Facebook. IT'S BEEN 5 HOURS?! How was I on my phone that long?! I need to go to bed!!!
11. You see? Don't get distracted.
12. Make a lot of terrible garbage at first
This isn’t my rule. This is advice from Ira Glass, the host of This American Life. Watch this video and be inspired.
13. No idea is too dumb to try.
14. Balloon animals are really hard. Avoid working with them.
16. Always skip the number 15
It's the true unlucky number. You know how everyone 13 is unlucky? Well, 15 is the one who started that rumor. You all fell right into his little trap. 15 is a horrible and unlucky monster. That's why all 15 year olds are meanest kids you'll ever meet. SKIP 15!
17. This was my lucky number growing up.
18. For real, just do it!
Why are you still reading this? Go write or paint or sing or act or take a shower. You haven’t showered in several days and you’re starting to smell. You’re mom paid me $10 to put this in my post. Go shower and then you can go work on your creative pursuit. Close the gap. Don’t get distracted. You don’t need anyone’s permission. Chase after who you want to be. You can’t copy someone else’s path so it’s time to start making your own.
19. Give me a shout out when you become famous
Check out this other source for inspiration. What inspires you when you're trying to be creative? Share in the comments.
I’m tired of blogging and here’s why.
Oh, that’s a good title for a blog. I should remember that. Yeah. That’s one of the unique and recent challenges of this form of writing.
-You have to come up with an interesting topic.
-You have to have an individual voice that doesn’t sound like everyone else on the internet.
-There needs to be worth while content that can be beneficial or something. It can’t be shallow, useless garbage.
-AND THEN you have to come up with a truly INSANE title that is going to freak people out enough to click the link.
You’re on Facebook. You’re creeping on that ex-girlfriend or “hate reading” a dumb Facebook debate on gun control or atheism. Suddenly, a link with a BIZARRE blog title shows up in your feed.
WHY EVERY CHRISTIAN GIRL SHOULD MARRY A GUY LIKE HITLER
You go “WHAAAAAAAA?!” Perfectly reasonable reaction. You click the link because of course you’ll click the link. You’ve got to check this thing out! “That CAN’’T be what the author means. What are they talking about?!” Half way through you find out what they’re really trying to say and it’s usually something obvious and dumb. “Women shouldn’t marry Hitler. They should be careful who they date.” Oh. Ok. Duh. Thanks.
IT’S A TRAP! Apparently it’s called “clickbait” and it’s exhausting. I like writing on the internet but I probably can’t be successful because I’m not very good at creating clickbait. I mean, I can come up with some dumb blog titles but I don’t know what kind of blog would go with it.
SEVEN REASONS WE BELIEVE SCOOBY DOO IS A RACIST
FIND OUT WHY KISSING DEAD ANIMALS IS REALLY REALLY FUN
WHAT PRESIDENT OBAMA DOESN’T WANT YOU TO KNOW ABOUT THE DISNEY CHANNEL
You’d click those, right?
Clickbait is manipulation. I totally get that. But I still fall for it all the time! There’s the “What Happens Next Will Shock You!” trend in titles that I can’t resist! I need to know what happens next and why it will shock me.
THIS CAT ATE A BAG OF COCAINE. WHAT HAPPENS NEXT WILL WARM YOUR HEART
What?! I need to see that! How can my heart be warmed by a drugged out kitty?!?!!
I once wrote a blog about youth ministry and attached a photo of a keg stand because it was referencing something in the blah blah blah. Who cares. A LOT of people checked that post out. A lot more than usual. I think it was, like, 5 people. Just kidding. It was 5 million! Kidding again. The point is most of them weren’t reading because they were interested in what I had to say. They just wanted to make sure I wasn’t an idiot saying youth ministry is all about getting drunk. WOOP WOOP!
It’s so tempting to be a part of the trend. If it ain’t broke why fix it? But it IS broken. It’s dumb. We shouldn’t have to trick people into reading! Reading is so important. Don’t believe me? Check out this scholarly article on 10 Benefits to Reading on best-books-for-kids.com. Pretty good benefits, aren’t they? On top of that, apparently reading can be prescribed by doctors to fight depression.
There are so many great/smart/entertaining/unique voices on the internet who aren’t trying to trick us. Can we give our attention to them instead of these clickbait masters? Like, Christ and Pop Culture. That’s a website I find myself at all the time. It’s interesting and thought provoking and distracts me in the bathroom after I eat two quesaritos at Taco Bell AKA THE WORST DECISION OF MY LIFE!
When we fall for clickbait like
FIND OUT WHY I'M A PASTOR WHO LOVES SMOKING METH
we read it quickly because “what in the world?” and then never think about it again. We don’t care about who wrote it. We don’t care about anything else they’ve written. We’re not going back next week to see if they have any other interesting thoughts.
What I’m trying to say is I’d really like it if you subscribed to my blog. Because clickbait is dumb and I’m TERRIBLE at it!
WHY JESUS DOESN’T WANT WOMEN TO SHAVE THEIR LEGS
Start a summer reading list. Get a couple of book recommendations from friends but also add a few websites on there you’ll check out once a week. Reading is so important. I'm no scientist but I'm sure if we spent thirty minutes away focusing on reading a new article, novel, research, or humorous essay, instead of on social media, we'd see some positive effects. Our brains would grow like the Grinch's heart. Our conversations would be richer in content. We might seek out new and exciting experiences like the ones we've been reading about. Like joining the Hunger Games.
Reading can give you so much but it can also help take away. It's a wonderful distraction. Take a break! Relax! You’re stressed, you’re busy, you’re pregnant (surprise!). You could use a nice read.
It might sound like I'm exaggerating but I'm really not. That summer reading list could do a lot of good. And since it was my idea, why not put this site on the top of that list? PLEASE?!?!?!
I’ve split my site in two. There’s a section for everyone and section for pastors. There are two different blogs for the different audiences. For Pastors I have any and all ministry related writings. That’s also where you’ll find my new ebook on youth ministry. Here you’ll find some humor, devotionals, or embarrassing stories that anyone can enjoy.
Over on the right of this page you can find a place to plug in your e-mail address to subscribe. That way you’ll get an e-mail notification every time there’s a new post.
What are some books, magazines, or websites you want to read this summer? Post YOUR summer reading list in the comments.