8/30/10

6 Questions for God

I had a conversation with God the other day.  I asked him some questions and he responded to each one.  Of course, it may have been my imagination, but the answers that formed in my head seemed unusually clear, and useful.  

Either way, I thought I would share.  

Me:  Is there anything separating me from you?  
God:  Yep.

Me:  What is fueling the separation? 
God:  Choices.  I let you choose to love me.  To follow me.  To obey me.  When you don't choose me, we separate.

Me:  What are my options?
God:  You trust me or you don't.

Me:  Do I trust you?
God:  No.  But don't worry.  I made you.  I know that you are hesitant to trust what you don't know.

Me:  Wait.  I do know you.  Don't I?
God:  I give you pieces.  There's a lot more to me.

Me:  How do I get to know you more?
God:  Talk to me like you're doing now.  And read about me.  I've given you hundreds of stories with people just like you who obeyed me, disobeyed me, loved me, fought for me, died for me, lived for me, sacrificed for me.  I reveal myself in those stories.

"Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know." -Jeremiah 33:3

8/16/10

How to Convert a Cynic

There are certain environments that launch me into cynicism.  Two that come to mind are jewelry stores and auto repair shops.  When I walk into either of those businesses, I can instantly see inside the souls of every employee in the building.

And beyond the comprehension of those around me, I can catch a sales person in a lie before he opens his mouth.  I've never been wrong . . . until recently.

A few months back, Rachel and I celebrated our one-year anniversary.  I had a certain piece of jewelry in mind, so I went to a well-known local jewelry store.  As always, my liar radar had warmed up on the way to the store and I was ready for any sales person, no matter how experienced, to try and con me because of my youth. 

I had my strategy in place - don't tell them your price range and remind them repeatedly that you are a poor, newlywed student. 

When I walked into the store, I was greeted by a well-dressed man who spoke to me like he already knew me.  I didn't fall for it.  I told him what I was looking for.  He said something sales-persony like, "I have just the thing." 

After a few seconds of looking, he asked the question I was prepared for.  "How much are you wanting to spend on this?"  Despite all preparation, my response destroyed my strategy.  I told him my exact price range.  He was good. 

After a few more mintues of looking, he said, "Let me show you some inventory we just bought from a company on the East coast in a close-out sale."  Another trick.  One I'd never heard before. 

He brought out the inventory and I found exactly what I was looking for.  "How much is this one?" I asked.  "Oh that, well, it would normally be $_____ (much more than I could afford), but it is marked way down because of the buyout." 

The piece, although worth much more, was just below my price range.  Yes, below.  At this point, I felt confused.  This was too good to be true.  I knew there was some sort of sales person sledge-hammer he was going to pull out and hit me over the head with.  But it never came. 

Was it possible that he was actually interested in my well-being?  Yes.  Will I go to this store again?  Every time I need jewelry. 

Webster defines the cynic as "one who believes that human conduct is motivated wholly by self-interest."  In other words, it is a deep mistrust for humans. 

You don't win someone over by telling them how great your cause is.  They can figure that out for themselves.  And trust me, that's the only way a cynic does anything.  The key is showing them that your motives are genuine.

Converting a cynic is not about changing beliefs.  It's about gaining trust.

8/13/10

6 Blogs I Read Every Day

I have 6 friends.  Most of them don't even know who I am, but I know them.  They each have a blog that I visit every day.  They have given me wisdom on productivity, writing, spirituality, humor, and even cooking.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I have.

The 6 blogs I read every day:

1) Donald Miller's Blog
Donald Miller is the author of the best-selling book, Blue Like Jazz.  I usually read Don's blog first.  He likes to talk a lot about sunrises, so it seems fitting to read his posts when I wake up.

Don will stretch your brain.  I read his blog for two reasons: (1) he says what everyone else is thinking, but won't say; and (2) he's a bit controversial at times, which is just down right entertaining.  A lot of his posts are opinion posts about Christianity or culture.  And with opinion comes confrontation. 

Check out his blog here.


2) Michael Hyatt's Blog
I learned of Michael Hyatt from my friend, Don Miller.  Michael is the Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, the world's largest Christian publishing company.  He focuses primarily on productivity, publishing and leadership.

Here are two of my favorite posts from Michael:  Advice to First-Time Authors and Slay Your Dragons Before Breakfast


3) Stuff Christians Like
Jon Acuff is the creator of Stuff Christians Like, a blog that Jon says is a direct rip-off of Stuff White People Like.  But Jon's blog is way better. 

He pokes fun at Christians.  And he does it very well.  Jon says that "laughter is a gift from God, and when we refuse to accept it, it makes him want to take it back."  His posts are mostly humorous, but always insightful. 

Here are two posts to get you started:  Man on Fire and 5 people you meet in any small group.


4) Seth's Blog
Seth Godin has written 12 bestsellers about marketing and business.  It took some outside reading to understand what Seth's blog is really about, but I have come to love his wisdom on marketing ideas and setting yourself apart.  Though I often feel like I'm in the movie Inception when I read his blog.  He is a very forward thinker.

Check out Seth's blog here


5) MacGregor Literary
Chip MacGregor is a literary agent who was recommended to me by Michael Hyatt in the Advice for First-Time Authors post I linked to above.  I read Chip's blog for his extremely practical advice on writing and publishing. 

He is a very successful literary agent and has a wealth of experience to share with aspiring writers.  I subscribe to his posts via e-mail and read them when I need some guidance on writing. 

Check out Chip's blog here.


6) Dinner Bells
One of my favorite blogs to read is by a girl I happen to live with.  She is very beautiful and I even convinced her to share a last name with me. 

Dinner Bells is a cooking/party blog that my wife started due to her love of well, cooking and party planning.  I enjoy Rachel's blog because I get to see (and eat) the post before it's published.  She is an amazing cook, and I have learned so much from her in the kitchen. 

But the main reason I enjoy reading her blog is her enthusiasm for what she does.  She lets us in on her family cooking secrets, her thoughts on cooking, and her desire for others to enjoy it as much as she does.

All of her posts are great.  But there is one in particular that is especially worth reading - Evan In The Kitchen.


So, what have I missed?  What are the blogs that you cannot go a day without reading?

8/11/10

Christians in Diapers

I used to think that once you become a Christian, you enter into a family, in which God is the father and we are his children. And that just as a loving earthly father would not rank his children, God loves us equally. I've come to realize this is true.

But there is another truth that comes with being "born again" into the family of God - a truth that is often overlooked. We are not all born at the same time.

The moment we accept Jesus into our heart and mind, we are spiritually transformed into a newborn. There are fifty-year-old Christian babies in this world, crawling around in diapers, searching for spiritual food to grow.

God gives bits of wisdom to the older Christians, but they've obtained it through prayer and maturity in their faith. 

It's not wrong to be an infant Christian.  But we should not stay this way.

8/9/10

Be Grateful For What You Have Wished For

When I was in junior high, I had braces and was socially awkward.  I am still a bit socially awkward, but I remember thinking that I just wanted to be in high school already.

When I was in high school, I had a lot of older friends, who eventually left me wishing I was going to college with them.

When I got to college, I felt free.  I was happy with where I was.  But by the end of my junior year, I decided I wanted to go to law school, and was impatient to start.

Now, I am about to begin my third and final year of law school.  It has flown by, but I often tell people (in awkward small talk) that I'm ready for it  to end so I can practice law.

It seems that at each stage of my life, I am wishing for the next.

Take a second to think about where you are in life.  Did you wish or even pray for the job you have now, or the school you are in?  If so, don't wish it away.  Enjoy it until God takes you somewhere else.

If not, I would start talking with God about why he needs you where you are.

8/6/10

The Veil of Christianity

The most interesting thing about children is that they live in a world of complete emotional honesty.  When they're mad, they huff.  When they're sad, they pout.  When they're hurt, they cry.  A child will never leave you guessing. 

Meet Brandon.  I got to hang out with this little guy for a few days while Rachel's parents were keeping him for some friends.  He is the most honest human being I've ever been around. 

When he was thirsty, he would point to that sippy cup he's holding and say, "Uhh!"  And when he needed to go to the bathroom, he just went - right in his diaper.  He was easy to be around because he wasn't worried about what I thought of him.  He was just Brandon. 

But as he grows up, he will slowly become more aware of his poopy diapers and his innocence.  He will begin to wonder what people are thinking about him.  He will no longer grunt when he's thirsty or use the bathroom wherever he wants. 

This awareness of self will amplify if he becomes a Christian.  Because then, he will have the Christian name to live up to.  And that's what gets us all.

I enjoy a glass of red wine at dinner, or a Corona.  But I won't drink in public because I don't want someone who might be hindered by it to see me, even if it's just one drink.  (I should probably speak to some of the readers who might question my beliefs on alcohol.  I'm open for a discussion on that via e-mail). 

I still won't have a drink in public, mainly due to what Paul teaches in Romans 14.  But there are other things (vices, sins, marriage troubles) that Christians feel like they must hide to keep their Christian image up.  This is destructive behavior.  More importantly, it could hinder your prayers.  James 5:16 tells us to confess our sins to each other and to pray for each other so that we may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. 

Somewhere along the way, we form this idea that if we are a Christian, we should seem holy at all times.  And yes, that is an obvious aspiration. But we should also be honest, and human.  Because that's what the lost need - someone they can relate to, not some high priest who looks down on them.