4 things to KNOW instead of FEEL

4 Pillarsi’ve written quite a bit about how dangerous it is to trust what you feel. (read some here, here, here, and here). our hearts are deceptive. therefore, when faced with a choice between trusting what you feel and trusting what you know…i’m going to try and go with what i know to be true.

today, here are four things i want to know, even though they are sharply contrasting to what i feel. maybe you want to know these things too?

1) i know i need to pray.
prayer has always been a challenge for me. i think some of that stems from my role in ministry: i was always the “official pray-er” at every church and ministry event i attended. maybe i felt like i didn’t need to pray anymore?

notice what i wrote there? maybe i felt like i didn’t need to pray anymore.

i know i need to pray. i know that communication (both talking and listening) is vital to the development of any relationship. i know God wants to hear from me. i know God has a lot he would like to tell me. i know the discipline of prayer would be good for me…it would force me to slow down and quiet down.

2) i know i need to love others.
my kids. my co-workers. the guests who sit at my tables at Applebee’s. the unbeliever i really like and the Christian i don’t like at all.

no matter who it is or how i feel about them…i know i need to love. not just like. or get along with. or tolerate.

Jesus calls us to love our enemies, but i don’t feel like i have any of those. it might be just as hard to love those you feel apathetic towards. and i know i need more of the Spirit to do this well. see #1.

3) i know God is close.
it’s easy to forget how close God is when you have one arm full of hot plates of food, the other hand with a check to be dropped, two tables who need drink refills, and the expectations your managers, staff, and guests have for you to be perfect.

it’s easy to forget how close God is when you have 3 kids screaming at you and each other, 2 kids wrestling on the couch, and 1 kid waking up cranky from a nap with the worst kind of bedhead.

it’s easy to forget how close God is when your bills are past due, your friends ignore you, your dreams abandon you, and your heart is breaking.

he. just. doesn’t. feel. close.

but. i. know. better.

if anything, on my better days, i may be more aware of God’s closeness in the chaos of my full house and full restaurant than i was in ministry. at the very least, i am definitely more aware of my need for his closeness.

4) i know i’m not a big deal.
i think everyone likes being a big deal. our culture makes a big deal out of becoming a big deal.

i felt like a big deal in the previous season of my life. i was leading a growing ministry. i was sought after to speak in lots of churches and at lots of functions. i had successfully funded a book project, partnering with hundreds of people.

i felt like a big deal.

and i let my big deal-ness define  me. (but more on that another day.)

when you think you’re a big deal, you have to make decisions that help you stay a big deal. you don’t make decisions out of faithfulness or humility or for the benefits of others. you make decisions to help you maintain your rock star status.

here is what i know today: i’m not a big deal. i never have been. and that truth is incredibly liberating. it frees me to be a child of God, a husband to Keri, and a father to my gaggle of children. it allows me to be a lowly server at the neighborhood bar and grill.

i wasn’t making much of a lasting splash when i felt like i was a big deal. now that i know i am not a big deal, i receive the grace to try again and hope for a bigger splash for my family, my guests, and for the little corner of the Kingdom in which i reside.

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a confession and www.mynameisbrandon.me

157507122it’s been an insane 6 months.

resignation from ministry.
temporary jobs.
moving to a new city.
new school for my kids.
new school  for me.
trying to sell a house.
deciding to rent the house.
the death of dreams.
the birth of new seasons.

the last six months have been about survival. sometimes you simply need to withdraw in order to make it. it makes me think of my cat growing up. vortex (his name…the coolest pet name ever…) had surgery once and when he came home, he immediately went to hide under my bed. no amount of coaxing or kitty treats would bring him out of hiding. he was wounded. and healing. and needing space. and when he was ready, he emerged. he wasn’t 100%, but he felt the call to re-enter.

similarly, i am ready to emerge. i am ready to write and create and share. i’ve got thoughts and ideas and stories and lessons learned.

if you’d care to keep up with the journey, here are a few things to know:

new address: you can now access this blog at: http://www.mynameisbrandon.me
(someone pilfered my old website address.)

new attitude: i used to write to build a platform. it made me feel dirty. no longer. the things i plan on writing will be more honest. i have no board of directors or elders to fire me if i say something out of line. this will be a space for me to clarify and voice my thoughts. in doing so, i think (and hope) it will benefit you, the reader. i know i am not blazing any trails. the benefit is in our journey together.

new content: i’ve made a painful realization over the last several months. so, here is my confession: my faith was dependent upon my role as a minister. i have no idea how to be a follower of Christ as a “non-professional.”

and so, much of what i write will be under the banner of my finding my sea legs. i hope this will be an encouragement to other “recovering ministers” and a help to those of you struggling to find or own your faith while still in ministry.

if you’d like to connect, there are a few ways we can do that:

you can find me on facebook here.

you can find me on twitter here.

you can subscribe to receive emails of my blog post by filling in that little box on the right side of your screen and clicking “subscribe.”

you can email me by filling this little form out.

one word for 2013 – honor

“there are people who observe the rules of honor as we observe the stars; from a distance.” —victor hugo

i have always enjoyed the beginning of a new year. it smacks of newness, possibility, and yet another chance at life. and i have always been one to make resolutions. see my list from 2012.

this year, however, i am going to try something different. no resolutions for me this year. instead, i am joining a community with others who are adopting one word that will shape 2013.

this one word will chart my course. it will not tie me down to a list of things to get done. my one word provides a field of freedom to express itself however it desires. 

my one word for 2013?

honor.

i plan on sharing extensively this year on this theme of honor, but suffice it to say that i have detected a deficiency of honor in my life and the life of men around me. having worked with college students over the last 10 years, i fear the next generation doesn’t have even a clue of what a life of honor may look like.

i’m afraid i’m not real sure what it looks like either. 

the more i reflect on honor, the more excited i am about its possibilities for 2013. 

what does it mean to honor the Lord? honor your spouse? honor your children? honor your parents? honor governing authority? honor women? 

what does it mean to speak honorably? act honorably? work honorably? think honorably? live honorably?

i hope to journey through those questions. and believe me, that’s just a scratch on the surface. 

already, this word is learning me. my first quick lesson in honor for 2013 is this:

honor is not something attained. it’s something given. and in giving honor, honor is received. 

that’ll preach.

i’d love for you (especially if you’re a dude) to join me on a journey of honor in 2013. let’s not, like victor hugo states, observe honor from afar.  

confession: i’m an ichthus out of water

[this post has not been edited for anything. it’s 12:30am and my brain is in gear. thus, a collection of thoughts.]

“i’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints; the sinners are much more fun.” —billy joel in “only the good die young”

this week i started a new job. in a new town. in a new world.

my old world was full-time vocational ministry. a paid preacher. a professional Christian.

in my old world i talked about the necessity; nay, the command to be missional followers of Jesus…to live a life of intentionally engaging and being in relationship with those who do not yet follow Christ. of being in their world. of loving and earning the right to hear and be heard.

apparently, if i was a professional Christian…i wasn’t a very good one.

because for the life of me, i cannot recall a single, significant friendship i have had in the last 5 years with someone outside of the faith.

shame on me.

and now i find myself in a new world. a world where i sell iPhones and take collegiate courses and am surrounded by people who do not know my Lord.

and i’m not really sure what to do.

oh, i know the right answers (paid professionals always know the right answers).

talk with them. be engaged. hear their story. share a drink. serve them. meet their needs. be alert. love them. extend the grace that cannot be resisted.

but…how? what does this look like at work? in the classroom? in my neighborhood? i don’t know, because i’ve never done it. i’ve only talked about it.

i’m excited and terrified in this new world. you know those “Jesus fish” you see on the back of vehicles? (it’s call an “ichthus”). i feel like an ichthus out of water. i am firmly outside the confines of my safe and sanitized Christian world.

and it seems to be a good thing.

it seems to be where Jesus spent most of his time.

a poem on death and life

we smile when the leaves die
and say it’s so beautiful
let’s snap pictures of her colors
blazing and radiating hues of orange and red and yellow
let’s remember them before they give up their last breath
and dance to the ground

the winds blow the tree naked
and exposes all her secrets
she bows low
humbled and awaiting her sentence
and we laugh still while our kids jump and play in what’s left
of her dignity and pride 

and we realize we are laughing at death
but we laugh louder than she
because we know something she doesn’t
we know life bursts forth
when death
dies 

6 concerns of college students and my response, part 2

i’ve broken a major rule of blogging these last two weeks. last monday, i posted part 1 of my response to 6 fears and concerns of college students today as outlined by dr. tim elmore. the unspoken blogging code is that you post part 2 the next day.

yeah, that didn’t happen. and there’s a reason.

(cue shameless plug)

i was busy launching this bad boy. at the time of writing, we are at 58% of our goal. if you haven’t had the chance to jump on board, i’d love for you to partner with me!

(end shameless plug)

and so, finally…here is part 2, addressing the second 3 concerns as listed by elmore. this second verse is the same as the first: i will share a few of my thoughts and then i would love to hear your thoughts, especially if you are currently a college student.

4 // they don’t see the world in black or white, right or wrong.

i’m not really sure this is a fear or a concern. it’s more of a characterization. and generally speaking, it seems to be true. college students don’t seem to sure about what to stand for. elmore says this generation wants to possess values, but there has been very little need for them to sacrifice for what is right.

and when no sacrifice is required, the value of what is right diminishes and the line between right and wrong gets a little fuzzy. and because, as elmore points out, life has been relatively sacrifice-free for this generation, they don’t often think in terms of black or white, right or wrong.

5 // their career plan involves “one big break” instead of steadily plodding up the ladder.

i don’t think this generation has an aversion to hard work. i think this generation has an aversion to what they feel is menial work. and unfortunately, there are times when climbing the ladder is going to feel menial. couple this with an “microwave” culture — where everything is ready in an instant — and you’ve got trouble.

i think what college students desire is value. it’s the proverbial forest for the trees; it’s hard to see the value in menial work, but students often fail to think long term about any given situation. working hard and completing the seemingly menial tasks earns the right for greater responsibilities and opportunities. like i said, college students don’t mind hard work. i think they simply sometimes forget that you occasionally have to work hard at that which is menial.

6 // they want their life to count.

i couldn’t agree with this statement more. however, we need to decide what “counts.” i think many college students want to accomplish something incredible that gives their lives great value and meaning.

however, does it “count” when you faithfully provide for your family? does it “count” when you invest in your children? does it “count” when you serve your customers well? does it “count” when you invest in a dozen young boys on a little league team? does it “count” when you are faithful in little things?

i think it counts. and so i feel we must help students today realize they don’t need to cure cancer or write the next great american novel to lead a life that counts.

question for you: what do you think? are elmore’s observations accurate? what about my responses? i’d love to hear your thoughts, especially if you are currently a college student.

6 concerns of college students and my response, part 1

a few weeks ago, leadership guru and all-around expert in all things Generation Y, tim elmore, wrote this great post about the 6 fears and concerns of college students today. as someone who works with college students, i thought i would take a couple of posts and share a quick response to each of these fears and concerns. today is part 1 and will address the first 3 statements.

1 // they list the need to grow up faster as among the biggest disadvantages of their generation.

there is no doubt, kids are growing up faster than they have ever had to before. and i also have no doubt that college students feel that pressure. but, i think many college students are resisting this felt need by refusing to actually grow up.

this is especially true for men. much has been written about the “boys who can shave” epidemic. the point at which a boy becomes a man gets later and later in life. first, you were a man when you quit school and worked in the family trade. then it was when you could drive. then, when you could vote and buy smokes and get a tattoo. then when you went to college. then when you could drink. then when you got a job. then when you got married. then when you had a kid.

the fact is, many college men may feel this pressure to grow up fast, but they aren’t doing it. in fact, a study in britain just revealed that the number of men between the ages of 20 and 34 who were still living at home has increased from 14% in 1997 to 33% in 2011.

failure to launch, anyone?

the bottom line is that college students are feeling this pressure to grow up fast. but they aren’t necessarily doing it. and those of us in campus ministry are left with the tension of helping to train a generation of students to actually grow up.

2 // they are not happy with the direction of the country.

elmore says that 62% of generation y believes the country is headed in the wrong direction. and, my facebook feed today (on the day the supreme court upholds obamacare) confirms this.

i’m not sure that students completely understand the potential they have within them to bring about real change. it’s so much easier to whine on facebook than it is to get our hands dirty. students don’t feel they can make a difference in a machine as big as american politics. or in the world for that matter.

can we convey to students the truth of ghandi’s statement that they must “be the change [they] want to see in the world.” we must equip them to think in terms of smaller is bigger. Jesus taught this concept. and so of course, we must center this change on the principles of the Kingdom of Christ.

3 // in some ways, they are at odds with their own beliefs and values.

this is an interesting statement. the students i work with tend to know what they believe; they just aren’t sure how to express those beliefs. they love Jesus, but they aren’t so sure about folks in the church. they struggle to find their place in the community of the saints.

the desires of college students in the faith arena are, in my estimation, shockingly simple: honesty, transparency, and authenticity. if we (the “grown ups”) could express our faith in these terms, it would go a long way in discipling our college students.

question for you: i would love to hear from my college students today: do you think elmore’s observations are right on? what about my thoughts? what would you add?