Time…Is Not On My Side

I’m working on a book, plus there’s family in town, so there’s not much time for blogging. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel the pressure of needing to blog, of keeping my online platform moving and expanding and growing.

I kind of feel like the line from this song: time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’…into the future.

So I feel frantic. Frazzled. On the edge, as if there were something great inside me struggling to be born. I want to hurry that whatever it is into fruition, to find it fully formed and ready to go. But I think it’s going to take all of the time I have for that to happen, which means that instead of my circumstances changing, it’s going to be me that undergoes a transformation.

Funny enough, that was the message at church yesterday.

Good thing the Stones have the answer I need.

Here’s hoping it’s true. I could use a little time on my side.

Being Yourself

meI had breakfast with an old friend this morning, and while the subject of our conversation was mostly about our lives and what God has done in each, there was a moment when he said something that’s stuck with me all day. Maybe it will stick with you too.

“My goal,” he said, during a conversation about work and environment, “is that the same guy who lives at my house is the same guy who goes into the office. I don’t want to have a ‘home self’ and a ‘work self.’ I want to be me in both places.”

Isn’t that awesome? It’s got to be one of the top five or six things I’ve heard/read/seen lately, and I’ve been hearing/reading/seeing a lot.

I want to be me, wherever I’m at.

For some people, that statement’s pretty stupid. Or at the least, self-evident. After all, who else would you be? Cher? But for some of us, who’ve been conditioned that the bifurcation of ourselves is not only permissible, it’s necessary, the idea of being able to fully ourselves regardless of environment is beyond belief.

We may call it compartmentalization, we may call it professionalism, we may call it a thousand different things, but the bottom line is that a great many of us are used to being limited in some way, shape or form in some areas of our lives. For some us, it’s the decorum of our workplace; our sense of humor, our religious beliefs, our personal lives, might not be welcome conversation topics. And while you certainly don’t want to sit down with your company CEO and make fart jokes, if your company doesn’t respect all of you, then they don’t respect you, period.

For some folks, this is best seen at church. The Sunday Face that so many people put on so people won’t decode the pain they hide, or the differences between their Monday-Saturday life. While I’m not saying that a life of sin is permissible for a Christian, there are some things that some Christians make into MAJOR sins, while conveniently minimizing others.

(In some churches, sin – like beauty – is in the eye of the beholder. Just saying.)

So to avoid issues, some people pretend to be something they’re not. This defeats the purpose of the church, to be a community where people come and grow with Christ and each other. With so many people hiding struggles and problems, just to fit into the expected decorum, there’s nothing to talk about. Everyone just pretends like things are good with them, thanks, and isn’t that painting of Jesus just lovely over the antique table in the hall?

Authenticity. It’s so crucial.

I want to be me. I have a strange sense of humor. I make the occasional statement that people take issue with. I like nerd stuff, I prefer tennis shoes over going barefoot, and I would rather drink a gallon of gasoline than eat a cobb salad. And at 37 years old, I’m tired of having to be HomeJason and WorkJason.

I just want to be Jason. Take it or leave it.

Being yourself shouldn’t be as hard as it is, but courage can change that. Of course, some of us find courage easier than others. Some of us don’t have a choice. Here’s hoping you find the courage you need to be yourself, wherever you are.

A Few Unconnected Thoughts

Sometimes, you just have too much going on in your head, and you need a reliable place to get it all out. Today is one of those days.

This may or may not make a lick of sense for where you are in your life right now, but if I’ve learned anything lately, it’s that we gain far more by sharing our lives with others than we do by keeping ourselves cloistered away. We’re socially awkward, and it’s costing us big time.

As Francis Chan said in an interview I read earlier today, “I think the biggest problem in the church is this awkwardness. We just don’t know how to converse with people. We’re scared to do it, so we don’t do it.”

So here’s my part to contribute to a more social church:

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about life. How to live a good one. How to share it with others. How to just not suck at it so much. And in all of my many varied thoughts, I keep coming back to the notion that the point of our existence, the thing that each of us is supposed to do, is simply become.

Follow me on this one, okay?

This is a gross generalization, but almost every system of thought teaches us that the point of our existence is to become something. For the Christian, we’re to become like Christ. For the Muslim, to become a faithful servant of Allah. For the Buddhist, to become enlightened. Even the materialist, who has no transcendant push towards anything is still compelled by the forces of evolution to become a better, stronger version of themselves in order to survive. So, no matter where we turn, part and parcel of being a human being is the intrinsic need to become.

I want to become a good father. A good husband. A professional writer. A published author. A million different little things, things that — in order for me to attain them — require me to change.

I know a lot of people who are unhappy with their lives right now. They are stuck in places that they want to be rid of, or they work jobs that do nothing but suck the soul out of their body, or they’re in a toxic relationship, or financial straits, or have medical issues, or a lot of things. And these people all seem to experience some sense of restlessness, a sense that things are either in need or in process of changing. This restlessness, often, feels like something wrong is happening. People think that if they were completely fulfilled, they would be at peace.

Honestly, though: without a sense of restlessness, who would ever move? Who would dare to do something different? If we’re feeling restless, perhaps it’s because we’re either in need of changing or on the verge of changing; either way, we’re being awakened to our need to become something other than we are. Maybe it means changing jobs; maybe it means finishing that novel you started; maybe it just means that you need to quit focusing on your personal bubble and start looking after the bubbles of others.

I don’t know.

But I don’t think of that sense of restlessness is bad. I think that the restlessness is a sign that we are in prime position to do something great.

As Tom Petty sang, “the waiting is the hardest part.” I’ve got a couple of things in the wind right now that, if they come through, could mean some doors open for me. Not necessarily life altering stuff; mostly just writing opportunities that I would really like to pursue.

Even if none of the opportunities materialize, the mere effort required to chase after them has given me the energy to step out a little farther on the writing ledge. There’s particular blog that I love reading (you can find it here) and if I can ever recover my sense of humor, I’m going to try and get a guest blog gig with them. Again, it’s not like I’m cranking out War and Peace here, but I’m pushing myself to explore a very particular skill set and aspect of who I am in the effort to find out who God wants me to be.

Lastly, I tweeted earlier today that I wish I could be like Kwai Chang Kane, and just travel the earth helping people. That’s actually a pretty fair summary of how I feel lately. I get energy out of being able to meet with people (in person, online, doesn’t matter) and give them a listening ear, and just get involved in their lives for a time as someone who can encourage them.

I get to do that a lot in my role as youth pastor, and the more I embrace it, the more I find I enjoy it. I’m not necessarily talking about long, extensive counseling sessions (they have professionals for that sort of thing, and I’m perfectly happy to let them have the work) but more along the lines of regular personal chats to see where people are and where they want to be. To talk with them about the things that hang them up, or to listen as they tell me stories of recent victories.

I’m going to steal my friend KJ’s line here, but I think what I’m discovering is that I really, really enjoy discipleship. Walking with people to help them learn how to become more like Christ, and letting them help me do the same.

You’d think a youth pastor would’ve understood all this by now, but hey — nobody said I was quick on the uptake.

So there are the freshest thoughts rolling around in my head. I’ll leave you with a verse that may or may not make sense with the rest of this post, but fits perfectly to me:

“Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” – Hebrews 4:16

The Strength to Do

Last night, a group of folks from my church went to dinner at Buffalo’s at Rosebud Road. It was an diverse group – some of us married with kids, some not married, some married with grandkids – and the conversation was good. At least, I think it was; I sat at the end of the table and played with the kids (probably where I belong). But at some point the conversation turned to rejection, or more specifically to the dread of being rejected, and someone turned to me and said, “Anytime you write about it, it’s like living it all over again.”

I had to think for a minute: do I really write about rejection all that much? But then I quickly realized that, yeah, I kind of do, especially if I’m writing something for my high school students.

Someone else interjected, “You know, you’re never too old to be scarred by rejection.”

That’s so true. I have a friend, a Marine Lieutenant Colonel, in California, and recently we swapped DVDs of ourselves doing some public speaking. I sent him video footage from my last sermon, along with a one-page letter full of hefty disclaimers as to why he shouldn’t get his hopes up. He sent me several Tweets that essentially served the same purpose: let me explain why that video is gonna suck…

And just for emphasis, may I restate that he’s a Marine Lieutenant Colonel? Who flies helicopters? And has seen more tours of duty than a 15 year-old with an Xbox and Call of Duty?

I mean, me being intimidated by his judgment and evaluation makes perfect sense. Him being intimidated by mine? None.

At least to me.

But that’s the way it works isn’t it? Any person who struggles with issues of rejection or self-worth always thinks of others as better than themselves. And while, sure, that’s in the Bible, I don’t think it means we should see ourselves as incompetent morons. Yet, some of us see ourselves exactly that way.

Back to last night’s dinner conversation. “You know,” I said, “I tell my high schoolers that life is exactly like high school sometimes, except you have to pay for stuff yourself.”

That got a good laugh out of everyone, but it also got a couple of heads nodding too.

“Why is that?” someone asked. “Why do we seem incapable of getting away from that judgmental junk?”

The easy answer is that it’s human nature. We’re always looking for some way to calculate our worth, to measure ourselves against some standard that can define us and prove that we deserve to be alive. And the standards can vary – magazine covers; TV; the opinion of church friends; the approval of co-workers; the eternal quest to please a parent; heck, even being “liked” by our kids – but the need to measure up to them never changes.

Two weeks ago, I bought a new car. It’s a nice car, a 2012. But I’d be lying if I said that I bought it independent of the opinions of others. While I didn’t necessarily seek out the approval of others (in fact, Rachel and I didn’t consult anyone about the purchase; we did our homework and then made the decision we thought was best), the spectre of how people would perceive our purchase loomed.

Would people think it frivolous to buy a new car?

Would they look at the one we bought and say to themselves, Well, look who thinks they’re special?

Would people get offended that a youth pastor is sporting new wheels while they’re still driving an older model?

Would it seem like I’m a materialist jerk for getting something new?

Now, perhaps I’m more susceptible to this line of thinking because I’m in the ministry, and anytime a minister sports something nice and new the public cry seems to be “Charlatan! Thief! TBN!!!” It’s an unfortunate side effect of the profession I’m in, and one that I have to navigate if I want to stay true to who and what I’m called to be. But it’s not something particular to ministers only, which brings me back to the conversation from last night.

Even the best of us, the most well-rounded, self-assured individuals, fall victim to the uncertainty of how others view us and/or how others treat us. The trick is not being paralyzed by it, not being beaten into submission. The trick, to be honest, is to move forward by embracing that uncertainty as part of life, and doing the best you can regardless of how people perceive your actions. And if people talk about you, or wage war on your life for what you’ve done, then so be it.

Because a life of any sort requires the strength to do what you believe is right, even if some folks think it’s wrong.


I know nobody will read this one, but I don’t care. I’ve got a lot to be thankful for:

– a house.

– two good cars.

– plenty of clothes.

– plenty of food.

– plenty of family.

– plenty of friends.

– a good job.

– a good church.

– freedom.

– health.

– clean water.

– accessible medical care.

– public service men and women who protect and serve the interests of the people.

– military men and women who fight and die for the rights of the people.

– God.

– His Son, Christ.

– good books.

– good movies.

– good music.

– good fun.

– Rachel.

– Ella.

– Jon.

– Ruthanne.

– the promise of something better, one day.

So much for which I am, and should be, thankful. I hope you feel likewise today.