The Smartest Thing All Smart People Do To Stay Smart and Become Smarter, Most of the Time

classroom
PHOTO CREDIT

Life is full of firsts. Your first breath, step, word, ice-cream, day of school, ballgame, kiss, car, diploma, job, house, pet, wife, kid… Even today is a first. The strange thing about today is we’ve never done it before. Really, every day is a first. Every second is the first time that second has ever been a second.

This amazes me about the Creator God. Every day that’s ever been is its own. Every person that’s ever been is their own. What an astounding reality!? This reality makes everyday unique. Every emotion worth savoring. Every experience novel. Every relationship its own struggle and joy. Every moment worth attention. It gives each waking sunrise promise that yesterday perhaps couldn’t offer.

But it creates a dilemma too. You see, every human being is trying to get somewhere in life. We have a preferred destination for everything. We want our career, marriage, finances, relationships, faith to end somewhere. Specific. We have hopes and aspirations for our lives.

We all have a preferred destination for everything about us, but the bad news is, few of us know how to get there. And why? Because we’ve never been there. Because, well, that’s how life works. Life is full of firsts. Time holds the future hostage tomorrow. And having never been there, we have no real-life experience on how to get there.

Continue reading

The Most Disastrous Thing Christians Do Everyday

We make some of our biggest leadership (and self-leadership) failures sitting still. We blow tremendous ideas by not even beginning them. We waste God-sent visions by allowing dreams to remain dreams.

And in so doing we do the worst thing possible for the waiting world spinning around us… nothing.

[Does any of the following describe your life?]

world
PHOTO CREDIT

Continue reading

A Kentucky Pastor’s Guide to Trash-Talk During March Madness

march madness
PHOTO CREDIT: USA TODAY Sports Images

There’s a reason why they call it March Madness, and it goes beyond things like the Mercer Bears, Dayton’s Cinderella run, overtime, buzzer-beaters, and vacation-days spent binge-watching nineteen year-olds you wish you could be.

The Madness goes beyond that because every year, during March, I actually watch people go mad. The AMA should look into this. In fact, anyone who knows me knows I speak from personal experience: March Madness makes you mad. (Don’t patronize me!!! My depression after John Wall and company lost to West Virginia in 2010 was real… and sad. At least I lost like five pounds.)

Continue reading

The Most Dangerous Idol of the Next Generation

millennials
PHOTO CREDIT

I’m a Millennial, born sometime between 1980 and Y2K (the day when all the computers and the universe imploded), and my generation has a lot going for them.

Some call us the “Hopeful Generation” because few generations to ever walk the planet were more mission-minded and cause-oriented. I have friends who use vacation-time to serve in third-world countries, who won’t buy coffee from anywhere but direct-trade vendors, who run fundraiser 5Ks every weekend. I even have friends who’ve shaved their heads and cut their beautiful beards because they saw on Facebook a friend of a friend raising money for another friend with cancer (and that’s a big deal, because nothing gives you instant authority in life like a great beard or stache).

Some call us the “Relational Generation” because there’s never been one more connected. Sure, some people (including me) hate on the false-intimacy that social-media provides. Sure, some people need to be given read-only accounts to Twitter and Facebook based on the sheer number of selfies and “look-at-me” posts they publish hourly. But that doesn’t change the fact I communicate with loved ones across the country daily on my iPhone through e-mail, text, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Skype, and Facetime (sometimes I even use my phone to make calls too!).

Some call us the “Educated Generation,” as already our rate of receiving undergraduate degrees has surpassed all other generations. My generation thinks college degrees are sweet and a prerequisite to life-advancement. So even if we spend our college days doing everything but college work, we still think it’s important. That’s why we’re there on the 6-year plan.

Are you swooning yet? Because you had yearbooks. We have Facebook! You had K-Mart. We have Target (boom!). You had hula-hoops. We have X-Box. You had mass-media. We have personal media, a social platform where we can talk about how awesome we are (on our blog). And let’s not let the one word that shuts the whole “best generation” conversation down go unmentioned… Netflix. Need I say more? …Pandora! Oops, that slipped out.

Continue reading

An Old Game Plan for the American Church in 2014

Christmas Eve6
PHOTO CREDIT

As some of our more astute readers have noticed, I post new content every two weeks at Cross Shaped Stuff. Lazy, I know, but life is busy. Take this December for example. The Sing Off was crammed into two weeks and you can’t miss that. Plus, it’s the holidays so (in the spirit of cross-shaped husbandship) I’ve watched enough Hallmark movies my man-card will be suspended until June: “Moonlight and Mistletoe,” “Matchmaker Santa,” “Snow Bride,” “A Holiday Engagement,” “Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus.” Yes, these are real movies, but my husband-card is better than my man-card so… All that to say that today is a follow up on a Christmas blog I posted two weeks ago on Jesus’ incarnation.

In as practical terms as possible, incarnation means: I step completely into your mess no matter how messy it is; I offer myself, at the expense of myself; I choose to be fully present in situations I want nothing to do with. All because that’s what love looks like.

God showed love can be no less than personal through Jesus. You can’t love someone from a distance or at arm’s length. You must be close enough to feel their pain before they’re close enough to feel your love. So God did.

And I’m no church historian, but it seems to me that every time a generation of Jesus followers gets this right, the church experiences outrageous success, qualitative and quantitative. Look at the church in Acts. After Jesus left, the early church had only 120 people, but they quickly exploded. And why?

Continue reading