I'm A Product Of The Church

I’m a product of the Church.

I grew up in the church. I was shaped by the church. I came to know Christ in the church. I was mentored in the church. I’ve only gone to Christian schools my entire life. Elementary school, middle school, high school, and even college. All Christian schools. I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for growing up in the Church. I’ve attended a few different kinds of churches and schools. I grew up in a dispensational non-denominational church. I went to a school that tows a standard evangelical line. I went to a reformed church. I went to a Baptist college. And now I’m at a church who’s slogan is “we draw circles not lines” and doesn’t really care too much about denominations or trying to pin down hard theological lines. I’ve been close to the inner workings of churches and far on the outskirts of other churches. I’ve never been on staff at a church but I worked for a non-profit that worked with tons of different churches throughout DFW. I’ve seen the inner workings of churches and have had the curtains pulled back just enough to see how the sausage gets made. 

And I have mixed feelings.

On the one hand, I’m insanely hopeful. I believe in the local church today more than I ever have in my whole life. I’ve seen the good it’s done and the lives it’s changed and how it’s gotten me through some of the darkest times in my life. I’ve seen it serve the city, pull the community together, transform families and marriages and lives who feel lost in the dark shadow of the world. I’ve seen it raise up leaders and give money away in unimaginable generosity. Jesus said the gates of hell won’t prevail against the Church, and I believe him. The local church is absolutely, 100%, unequivocally God’s body and agent of change in this world. And I’m completely on board. I want to give my life to the church. 

I’ve also seen enough to where it’s impossible for me not to be honest. I’ve seen the church divide over small issues. I’ve seen the church care more about the specifics of how the world was made than about the depression that someone is experiencing day in and day out. I’ve seen the church tow the lines of political parties at the expense of people with sincere needs and concerns. I’ve seen the inside world of church politics where “vision” is put before people and staff members are more concerned about what people think of them than doing the right thing. I’ve seen the church spend thousands of dollars on programs and initiatives in the name of reaching people but really only expand the church’s brand. I’ve seen the leaders we hold in the spotlight fall in the face of pride and moral failings. I’ve seen the church hurt people. And that’s hard. 

There’s not much to this post except for a confession and report of where I’ve been and what I’ve seen. The church is a mixed bag. I’m a mixed bag. And it leaves me in a place where I have to be both honest and hopeful. We have to hold these two things in tension or we’ll lose any sort of grip on reality and the mission of the church. 

I’ve been on both ends of this spectrum.

I’ve been the guy who’s only honest. I’ve been the critic who doesn’t count. Who does nothing but critique and point out the problems and the faults with the church. Constantly recognizing the issues without ever creating solutions. Without ever saying, “but let me help.” Without ever getting dirty and putting my own skin in the game to try to make it better. I’ve been the one who wouldn’t just shut up and get in the game. I’ve been all talk no walk. I hate that. For those of you who have been on the receiving end of it, some of you pastors, others of you friends, I’m sorry.  

I’ve also been the guy who’s only been hopeful and never honest. Who’s blindly gotten on board with a vision without wondering what the implications could be. Who’s gone on mission trips without wondering if what we’re doing is actually helping rather than just feeding our own messiah complexes. Who’s wanted so badly to believe in something that matters and belong to people who care that I overlook the faults in order to not rock the boat. Who’s enabled systems and behaviors that aren’t healthy because I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. And to those people and churches who I’ve let slip out of fear of man, I’m sorry I didn’t love you enough to graciously voice my concerns and help you dream of a better way to move forward. 

I’m a mixed bag and I’ve been both. 

And honestly, I’ll probably continue to swing from side to side just grasping at the hope of finding a balance one day. 

There’s no three points to this post or a solution. But a confession and a hope. I want to begin discussions around how to be both honest and hopeful in today’s world, especially in the church. There’s a tension to be held and I want to work towards that. 

Lord, let me never be so blind to the harsh realities of our fallen nature or afraid of people’s opinions of me that I never love your Church enough to speak prophetically into the cracks and splinters that I see taking the Church off mission.

And Lord, let me never be so critical that no one can see your love through me. Let me never be the critic who doesn’t count, the voice who only produces noise and never music. Let me believe in your Church so much, that the hope that fills me radiates like a ray of sun in a dark cave and casts out the cynicism of the most burnt out of hearts.

Let me always be both honest and hopeful.

What's The Opposite of Patience?

Last week I wrote about my word of the year: patience. I’ve been thinking this week about that word a lot and what it means to practice and grow in patience. It got me asking the question, “What’s the opposite of patience?” Because if I'm not patient, then what am I? I have to be able to identify where I’m at today to be able to get to where I want to be. 

I believe that more often than not, our setbacks come not from not identifying a problem, but from identifying the wrong problem. 

It’d be easy to say, I’m not patient therefore I’m impatient, but that’s actually not all that helpful. It doesn’t tell me anything new about myself and it’s just ambiguous enough that I don’t have to do anything about it. How do you stop being impatient and start being patient? Try harder? Do less? Be bored? 

Is impatience the root issue or is there something deeper under it? I guess what I'm getting at is,  okay, I’m impatient. But what causes impatience? Where does it come from? That’s way more interesting and helpful to me.

I started paying attention to the times I felt impatient. Both in the last week and reflecting back on the past year. Every time I felt the most restless, frustrated, ready to jump, and wanting to make things happen myself, it was always in the context of feeling like I wasn’t getting what I deserve. 

A grade in a class I felt like I deserved.

A compliment I felt like I deserved.

A job opportunity I felt like I deserved.

A kind of recognition I felt like I deserved.

A certain kind of ideal situation that I felt like I deserved.

And when these things didn’t happen, that's when I got upset.

It feels like patience is such an arbitrary thing to focus on, but it’s in these moments when you realize the toll that it takes on your relationships, energy, and soul. It sucks the life out of your spirit and creates bitterness towards people or a situation. 

And that’s when I began to realize that a different word was popping up as the opposite of patience.

The opposite of patience isn't impatience.

The opposite of patience is entitlement.

Entitlement is the poison that kills patience. It’s the weed that grows in the garden and slowly kills everything else that’s around it. It suffocates the life out of every good and living thing that’s growing in your life. 

For patience to grow, entitlement has to die.

When we talk about patience, it’s easy to think we’re talking about not getting angry in traffic, or being okay standing in a long line, or keep on waiting (waiting) waiting on the world to change. And I agree with these things. They're great and necessary micro-expressions of a macro issue. But we can't ignore the deeper, existential, Fruit of the Spirit that is captial-P Patience.

Every time I try to kick down a door before it’s ready to be opened, I lack patience.

Every time I try to hurry a relationship before it’s ready to mature, I lack patience.

Every time I try to manipulate a situation so it happens before it should, I lack patience.

Entitlement tells me I deserve all that I desire right now. 

Patience tells me that life is long and everything has a time.

“He has made everything beautiful in it’s time.” Ecclesiastes 3:11.

I hate waiting for that time. But if I had it right now it may not be beautiful. As great as we all like to think that we are, maybe we’re not ready for it. Maybe we think we could handle it right now but God knows that we can’t. 

Patience is admitting that I haven’t arrived, I'm still in the process, and I'm okay with that.

I’m 23 years old. If I doubled my life and lived it all over again, I still wouldn’t even be 50 years old. I'm entitled to nothing. I get to show up, do the work, be present in the moment, and take everything one step at a time. But I don't get to have everything I want right now.

Looking ahead to 2017, with patience in mind, I know the only way I'm going to grow in patience is if I do the soul-work of killing entitlement. I’m going to hate that and it’s going to be painful, because it means dying to myself and what I feel like I deserve. But I hear that's a good place to start when it comes to following Jesus. So I’m in.


After last weeks posts, it was so cool having some people send me the words they had decided to focus on this year. I love hearing that stuff. If you've had a chance to think about your word of 2017, leave it in the comments so we can see and be encouraged!

My Word for 2017

I’ve tried to do New Years Resolutions in the past and I don't have to tell you that they don't work. Not all resolutions are created equal. Some resolutions you can make and have reached within the first couple of months which is great, but we’ve all broken our resolutions by June. I can’t point to one resolution that I’ve kept for the whole year. There have been some big goals I’ve accomplished. Like in 2015, a goal was “propose to Katie.” I nailed that one. 10/10. But nothing that's been kept all year long. Because let's face it, we have no idea what a year would bring. 

Like also in 2015, I quit my job with a nonprofit that I helped start to do full time photography. I never would’ve guessed that at the beginning of the year. Or like at the beginning of 2016 when I got hired at my favorite coffee shop. No way I could have planned for that. That happened in like a 2 week time span. So I could say, “I want to read a book a month,” But think about October. October is always the craziest month of the year. There’s no way I can guarantee I'll get through a whole book in October. It just doesn’t work well for me. 

In our home group a couple of weeks ago, we looked ahead to 2017 and started to talk about what our words for the New Year would be. My friends Jake + Brittany told us their word was Balance. Balancing work and rest, friends and marriage, and the likes and it was cool to listen to them talk about it because they had actually felt like they did it. Not perfectly of course, but if you were to look back at their January 2016 vs. their December 2016, their lives really did look more balanced. There were no concrete goals or milestones for them to hit, just an ever present awareness of "how can I incorporate balance in this situation?”

I like that, this whole word-of-the-year business.

It takes the pressure off of hitting specific goals in certain time frames. It doesn't make you feel guilty when you fail. It emphasizes the journey of growth rather than the perfectionism of getting it right or wrong. In terms of New Years Resolutions and growth, it makes a lot of sense.

So what’s my word of the year, you ask? It took me a while to figure it out.

I thought it might be discipline because Lord knows I can be lazy. 

I thought about making it practice because I've been listening to a lot of John Mark Comer and reading James K.A. Smith and they talk about the power and importance of spiritual habits and practices like scripture reading, meditation, fasting, community. Dang, all good things. Even writing this I’m thinking, “why would I not make that my word with all of that good stuff?” I think because it’s still a quantitative measurement. I’m looking for something more qualitative. 

So instead, I picked a really exciting word. It’s so trendy right now it’s crazy. I've seen 100 hashtags with it just today. 

My word is patience.

Just kidding, no one is talking about #patience.

But I want to in 2017. I want to talk about patience and more importantly, obviously, I want to grow to be more patient. 

This actually does come back to what James K.A. Smith says about virtue. He says that virtue is what comes as second nature to us. And if we have to tell ourselves to do or be something, then we don’t naturally possess it.

For example, just because I have a moment of patience, it doesn't make me a patient man. If I have to tell myself in a situation “you should be patient here” it means that I’m not patient and have to learn to be. Virtue is training yourself in something until it becomes second-nature. When I’m able to be patient as my first instinct, and not tell myself to be, then I will actually be a patient person. 

I don’t expect to get this way in 2017, but I want to take a big step forward in it.

It seems like most of my life has been kicking down doors and trying to make things happen. Rushing things before their ready. My enneagram number tells me tend to cut corners on things and it's so true. Since being married I’ve realized how impatient I can be with such dumb things that when I’m done being frustrated about it I think, “why did I get so worked up over that?

I'm not patient.

But I follow Jesus. I’m a temple for his Spirit. Patience got it’s own fruit of the Spirit so it must be important to this whole discipleship thing. I want to learn it.

So in 2017, my word it patience. I won't be perfect. Today there will be something I do that's probably very impatient. This year, I’ll probably rush a few decisions or try to force situations I should have let come naturally, but it’s part of the process. It’s learning and growing. And right now, I want to look back at 2017 and say, "I'm not perfect, but I got a little more patient this year, and that's good.”

The Night Before Christmas

 

“In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” 
John 1:4

There's an inescapable darkness that comes around Christmas time. You know how it gets darker earlier in the evening? How you look outside and see the cold night then look down at your phone just to see that it’s only 5:30pm, and wonder "is it really that dark already?” It’s like that's not just the reality of the sun setting earlier but it’s also the state of our souls this time of year. A lot of us wrestle with anxiety or depression or at least seem to generally be high stress. But something about Christmas always makes these things worse, not better. 

I work in a coffee shop. I’m coming up on my being there for my first full year. I got hired in January, so I’ve now been there for every season in a year. Everyday I make small talk with hundreds of people. Everyday I ask hundreds of people, “How’s your day going?” All year long most people seem to be doing alright. Even if they're not then they are at least putting on a smile and saying they are. Which isn’t necessarily something I encourage, but you could say that they are at least trying. But since December started, really since Thanksgiving, I can’t help but notice how many people have replaced "doing good!” and “not too bad!” with “just trying to hang in there” or “stressed. I’m so behind on shopping” or “just trying to get some peace by myself with my family being in town and all.”

It's small talk, but it’s heavy.

I smile and ring up their order and saying something along the lines of “man, I'm sorry to hear that. Hopefully this drink will give you some cheer for your day.” But I always leave those customers wishing that Christmas wasn't like this.

I was talking with a friend the other day about the holidays. He comes from a broken family like I do. He was saying that Christmas is always weird for him because he has to go to multiple family members houses in the day because some family members like each other and others don't like each other and it's all just a complicated mess. I told him I understand. That since my grandma died in 2007, my family hasn’t really had a tradition since. "What are you doing for Christmas" has always been “I don’t really know. We'll probably figure it out the day before or something.” We both talked about how the holidays magnify how unified or divided your family really is.

That’s what Christmas does to us. It puts the broken pieces of our lives right in front of us. 

That’s where I find Christ. I love that we celebrate Jesus’ birth every year, but I hate how that annual celebration can sometimes make us numb to what actually went down that night when he was born. 

In the midst of a life full of brokenness that I can’t avoid, I need some glad tidings of comfort and joy. I need some good news. It's not for no reason that the angels told Mary that her son would be called Prince of Peace, Wonderful Counselor. I need Peace to be the law of the land and my Counselor better be Wonderful for the things I still have to work through. Jesus stands up on the mount for one of his first sermons, calls people to the Kingdom of God, and then says, “come to me all who are weary and I will give you rest.” Yeah. That’s for me. I’m in. 

After my grandma passed away the day after Christmas in 2007, the birth of Christ has always been clouded by death. I can't think about Christmas without remembering the hardship of her final few months battling cancer. How hard it was. How she sat on the couch, talking with my uncle who was also recently diagnosed with cancer, both of them talking about their cancers and life and coming to terms with their fates. How her and my dad finally had a moment of love that was lost to bitterness for so many years. How my grandpa still talks about that week to this day, 9 years later. 

In the night before Christmas, I need some light. That’s why I love that verse from John 1 at the top. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. That’s Gospel. That's good news. We can’t ignore our darkness. But it can be filled. It can be filled with the light of life. God became flesh and blood and moved into our darkness and problems and issues and depression and anxiety and stress and doubts and he filled it with the light of life. He’s brought hope to the downcast that God actually does see your pain and hurt and mess and he is with you and loves you in the midst of it. 

I don't know about you, but that's what I’m celebrating this Christmas. That in the midst of all of the darkness that this season puts before me, God has come. Christ has moved in. The light has shone and life takes center stage. Death, despair, and depression don't have the final words. Peace, joy, faith, hope, and love do. 

O come, O come Emmanuel. God with us.

I Was Third-String Robin Hood

My sophomore year of high school I was in a school play. It was my first real year doing anything theater related, which would eventually define my high school experience. The show was amazing. I still think about this play all the time. It was an original that was written by my theater teacher and was a spin-off of Robin Hood. It was Robin Hood but set in a post-apocalyptic future. Genius. Like all plays, there were auditions, so of course I tried out for it. I tried out for the part of Robin of course because why would I want to be anything else, right? Soon after auditions the cast list was posted and I got the part of... Locksley. Not Robin. Which is totally fine. It takes a cast to make a show, not one part. But I tried out for the main character and got a role that was at most a background character that provided some comedic relief here and there. 

But either way, I was in the show. 

Rehearsals started, we got the script, we did a read through, we got going on making this thing happen. I started memorizing my lines for Locksley. I started trying to understand the character and put myself into his shoes. I was going to be the best Locksley I could be. 

And then the guy who was playing Robin got expelled. Straight up got kicked out of the school. Like who could have seen that coming? We had this show rolling and then the lead role was suddenly not filled anymore. We had to replace him. Our director went to one of the other guys and offered him the role but he turned it down because he was to busy with basketball. So then my director offered it to…

 

me.

 

This was it. This was my chance. Mostly shy and under the radar 15 year old Ian got his chance to shine. So I took it immediately.

Third-string Robin. 

I have a real beard now

I have a real beard now

I never cared about the third-string part. All I cared about was that I got the part I had wanted the whole time. I got Robin. 

Like I said, I still think about that show and that role all the time. That show was one of the best things to ever happen to me. 

I think I learned quite a bit from that whole experience.

Like this:

Sometimes you don’t get picked. 

Sometimes you get overlooked.

Sometimes you fade into the background and just hope someone sees in you what you know you have inside of you. But that just never happens. It's so rare. 

So what do you do about it when that happens?

You still show up.

You go to “rehearsal”, whatever that means for your context, despite not having the part you wanted. You show up, you do the work, you give it all you got, and even when people don’t see you or appreciate you or place any sort of value on what you’re doing, you still do it. 

You don’t wait for someone to pick you. You pick yourself. You say, "even if no one cares, I’m gonna rock what I got.” 

How many times have we used excuses like, “no one cares”, "no one sees me”, “it’s not important”, “I feel stupid for wanting to do that”, “I can only do that if I work for ____.” I've been paralyzed by all of these before. These are the voices in my head that have kept me from doing work I care about. 

For me, I want to be a pastor. I feel like I have a vision for the Church and the local church. But I don’t get to choose if I get the job or not. I don't get to make someone hire me or not. I can’t make anyone do anything. But that doesn’t get to stop me from doing what I know matters every day.

I've been convicted recently about my time and how I use it. If I have a free morning or evening, am I sitting around on my phone or watching YouTube (especially mindless, unhelpful videos) or am I “making the best use of my time?” (Eph 5:16). That's not to say that escapism isn't important every now and then, but if there is really a way in which I want to make a difference, I have to make the way I use my time reflect that. 

If I want to see a culture of discipleship in the church, I have to hang out with students and disciple them myself. If I want to see a culture of biblical literacy, I have to study the Bible personally and not just wish everyone else would too. If I want to see a culture of encouragement, it starts with me sending encouraging texts or intentionally saying encouraging words to the people close to me. If I want to preach one day, it starts with me spending time honing the messaging that I think are important. It starts with me reading a book that fills my mind and heart. 

It starts with me actually taking the time to write this blog post and fight the voices that tell me it doesn't matter. 

AND THAT’S JUST ME

That's not to mention my friends and wife who actually are pastors. My friend who’s a rising star hair dresser. Two of my friends who want to be professional writers. My friend who just decided that design has been her thing all along and is starting to chase that.  My friend who's a student in high school who wants to combine photography and missions.

And even that is just my immediate circle of friends. I have no idea what that means for you. 

Which brings me to the final part of this. 

Maybe one day you will get picked. But you don’t get picked on ideas and you don't get picked on words. 

You get picked on action. You have to put the work in. 

A more churchy way of saying this is: you have to be faithful. It’s Eugene Peterson’s famous, “A Long Obedience In The Same Direction.” That’s the whole game. That's what it's all about.

Show up every single day with your whole heart in it and maybe, just maybe, someday you’ll get noticed. 

But honestly, that's not even the point. It’s helpful, but it’s not the goal. 

As Christians, we strive to work from a place of knowing that God already sees us and knows us and he picked us a long time ago, way before any job or leader or view count or anything else ever mattered. 

I think that's where the freedom of it all comes in. Of course we’d like to get noticed and picked. But we already have been and that's where we start. We get to work and make things that matter from a place where we’re already accepted and noticed and picked and everything we do has inherent value to it just by being made from the love of God in us. 

I don’t know about you, but for me, that’s the fire right there. That's encouraging.

I've Always Talked About It & I'll Never Stop

Sometimes I feel a little weird because it seems like out of most people that I know, I talk about, or at least think about, my past more than what might be considered average. It’s not that I’m wishing for the past or missing it or anything, I just think about it a lot and I have no problems talking about it.

When I was in high school I talked a lot about my childhood.

When I was in college I talked a lot about high school and my childhood.

Now that I'm out of college I talk a lot about my childhood, high school, and college.

For whatever reason, I have always had a strong connection to my past. An ever-present awareness of where I’ve come from and how I got to be the way I am. Maybe it's because I had a lot of traumatic, sorry, formative, events happen in all of those time periods, but whatever the cause, where I've been never seems to be far from me. 

This may sound weird, but I often look at my life up until this point and examine it like a case study. I ask myself questions like, “I wonder what this event did to me?”, “I remember this person said this to me and it made me feel like this and I’ve acted a certain way ever since.” 

I remember laying in bed at 13 years old and telling myself, “remember what it feels like to be 13, because every adult I know seems to have forgotten, but you can't forget.” 

I remember being in love with my now wife at 15 years old and telling myself, “someday when a 15 year old tells you they're in love, don't think they’re crazy like everything thinks of you right now because you know what it feels like.”

I remember being 18 right before my last theater performance ever and my theater teacher put his hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eyes and said, “I'm proud of you." I remember how that brought me to tears on the spot and I told myself to make everyone I ever encounter feel as valued and important as he had just made me feel.

This mindset has literally been my whole life. Time after time after time taking note on how everything around me worked and how certain things made me or others feel. Telling myself to never forget. I don’t know why I’m like this, but it's the way I've always been. 

In Psalm 107, David sings, “Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story.” Of course, I didn’t know that growing up. I just heard of that verse for the first time a couple of years ago. But for some reason, that’s always been something that’s been ingrained in me. I've always known that whatever I go through, whatever hurt or success that happens to me, it’s not for me. It’s for others. 

The first time I ever shared my story publicly was in 8th grade; way before even half of the stuff that’s now part of my story had ever even happened. I was on a student choir trip with my church in Tennessee. I don't know why, but part of our show was literally just me with a microphone for like 5 minutes and they wanted me to tell my story to the audience. So we did our performance at the church, maybe 400 people were there, I don't remember exactly. And then it was my time to get up and tell my story. So I did. I talked about how my parents started off on a not so ideal situation to say the least. How my dad left at 1, I was taken from my alcoholic mom at 3. How my grandparents raised me and introduced me to Jesus, but how my grandmother, my only real mother figure in life, had just died of cancer a few months earlier, but how God was still with me in and through it. That was it. But when I was done, the whole church stood for me. I turned around and the choir was crying, which of course made the whole next song (which was called Jesus Saves of course) really hard to get through. But I think that's when it clicked for me. 

I have to tell my story.

And I think we all do.

And telling our story really almost never looks like telling it on a stage to a church. It really looks like sharing it with someone over a cup of coffee, or in a hallway in between classes, or in the backroom at work. In the moment it's nothing special until you look back on it later or see the person you're telling it to relax or tear up during it. That's when you realize how powerful your story is. It's connecting on such a deeper level. A level under the ordinary, everyday mundane of life. It's soul.

Our story, and how Christ has shown up and redeemed us in it, is the most powerful thing we have. Keeping our stories close to us isn’t just for pastors, preachers, communicators, or writers. It's for all of us. Remembering where we've come from. Remembering what has made us, well, us. Offering our own stories up as living sacrifices to the glory of God so that we might show people God’s goodness and help a few people through the tough things in life that we all go through. 

It looks different for everyone. There’s no cookie cutter way of telling your story. Not all stories are the same. But we do all have one. And as a follower of Christ, knowing it and telling it doesn't seem like a thing for some people to do, but for all of us. 

So let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story.

Tell your story.

I’ll keep telling mine.

We need each other and we’re all in this together.

Nobody cares what a 23 year old thinks

I turn 23 years old today and I can tell you that basically no one cares what I or most other 20-somethings think.

IMG_0906.jpg

Which makes sense.

There’s only been so much life experience that has been had. We’re fresh out of college, most of us are still working our first jobs. We haven’t seen much of the world and are more likely than not to be ignorant about most things. 

Millennials seem to get chastised all the time about being entitled or lazy, thinking we know it all or not knowing enough, protesting literally everything or not caring about anything at all. It’s a complicated mix of criticisms that can generally be applied to most people but I get it. 

We as millennials seem to be caught between two extreme expectations. We’re somehow expected to both sit down, shut up, and learn and also follow our dreams, make a difference, and change the world. Sometimes the same people that talk about empowering millennials are the ones that’ll tell you to slow down if you actually start doing something. Of course that’s not everyone who cares to actually take the time to teach, encourage, and empower us, but I’ve definitely run into those people before.

It’s the classic “needs 5 years experience for job but need a job to get experience” problem that we always feel caught up in. Are we lazy when we don’t do the things other generations expect of us or are we trapped? Of course it’s some combination of both. But the conversation never seems to reflect that. 

So why does another 23 year old need a blog? Is it just another entitled arrogance that leads someone to believe their voice deserves to be heard? It is just their narcissism rearing it’s ugly, selfie-taking, over-sharing head again? Is it just like one pastor said, “BLOG: Basement-Living, Opinion-Giving”? 

Probably. 

It’s probably all of those things. 

It’s also because before I was 23, I was 16 and alone. I was a new Jesus-Follower after being an atheist after I rejected many aspects of the Christianity I was originally presented with. I was navigating the difficult waters of genuinely pursuing Jesus and who God is as revealed through him and feeling like I was constantly met with pushback from my peers and systems I was in the whole time. I was navigating having a broken family yet a committed relationship with a girl who would become my wife a whole 7 years later. I was navigating growing up and I wished I could have had someone out there who understood me and served as a person who could say, “Me too, I get it. You're okay.”

It’s also because I know that the “sit down and shut up and follow your dreams and make a difference” paradox isn’t something you wander out of. You have to always, always, always live in both. We should always be learning and we should always be making a difference. We should always be humbly listening and always speaking truth to power. You don’t leave the paradox, you live in it. 

I don’t launch out in this journey of writing out of pride or having all the answers. I have almost no answers to anything. I feel like that final bit from Bo Burnham’s Make Happy special where he talks about his problems of having hands that are too big to fit inside of a Pringle can and putting too much stuff in his Chipotle burrito so that it doesn’t close. But also having so many conflicted feelings of needing people and fearing people and wanting to give people an experience that he can’t even give himself that it pushes him to perform and tell jokes and do what he does.

What I have is a story and a journey. A story of hurt and brokenness, pain, being alone and being fine, trying out some new things, figuring some out and failing others and God finding me in the midst of it all. A journey of failing, making mistakes, learning from them and seeking wisdom so that I can help other people in the ways that I have been helped or wish I would have been helped. 

I know I don’t know what I’m talking about, but I believe that the journey of learning is important.

One of the guys I look up to is Gary Vaynerchuck and he says “document, don’t create.” You can’t create things because you have nothing to create. I’m 23. I don’t have answers and I don’t claim to. But I can document what I’m learning and present it to you hopefully as something to be helpful.

God

Marriage

Friendship

Church

Politics

Work

Art

What does it look like to be 23 and follow Jesus today? 

I don’t know.

But I’m learning.

And I want to invite you to learn with me.

Thanks for reading.