haring ideas that inspire me.

Different is not wrong it is just different Part 1

I grew up in Japan. Most of the time I was the only white person around. This experience taught me "Different is not wrong it is just different."

I remember one of our first trips to a McDonnalds in Japan. My dad ordered our food and we received one packet of ketchup for each order of fries. In Murica' we are accustomed to swimming in ketchup. Excess ketchup is basically a civil right. We like to smother our fries in ketchup. We are entitled to this gross excess because this is America! We are the customer. And the customer is always right! We were used to getting extra ketchup and taking it home. Our fridge had a bag of excess condement trophies from a host of restaurants that we would never use. These trophies documented our shrewd food conquests. We always ask for extra. It's just what we do. If we don't get a gross excess of ketchup from McDonnalds, then we got ripped off! This was my world view.

Dad asked if we could have more than one ketchup per order of fries. They looked at us with shock. They said "No". My dad tried to explain that one packet could not possibly satisfy our condement needs. They looked at my dad like he had requested world peace and replied "It's just not possible". My dad spoke slowly thinking maybe this was a language problem. We just need another couple packets of ketchup. They asked exactly how many we would need. Dad generously responded we would make due with 5 more packets of ketchup. They disappeared to the back apparently having a short conference with management to discuss this extraordinary request.

The cashier returned with the answer "I'm sorry. It is just not possible". We asked why and the response was if we gave you more ketchup then our inventory of ketchup to fries would be messed up.

That day I learned that in Japan the customer is not always right. It felt like a slap in the face. I felt like I had been cheated. I felt like I was in crazy town and the whole world had been turned upside down. How could they be so WRONG? How could they not see we were RIGHT!?

This was the beginning of an education. Over the years I learned that Japanese do many things different than Americans. I love heated toilets. I'm drinking green tea from a traditional Japanese cast iron tea pot as I write this. I can't stand what passes for rice in America, and I drive an hour to Pittsburgh just to get a good bowel of ramen. I miss sleeping on the floor. I miss the convenience of riding the train. Part of me is Japanese. I'm so thankful for the friends I made, and the rich culture of Japan I experienced.

Different is not wrong it is just different. Sometimes different is better. Sometimes different is rich and nuanced. Sometimes different is just different. We have to examine ourselves for cultural bias. Because it hides. I'll speak to this in the next post.

What cultural biases have you been able to identify in yourself? Let me know in the comments.

Let it hurt.


One morning my 7 year old son got in the car and tried to buckle up. He quickly gave up because the buckle was so cold it was hurting his hand. I told him to try again. Again he tried and after failing to latch the buckle quickly released it and gave up again. I told him to try again. He said through tears, "It hurts!". I responded. "Let it hurt. You have to buckle up. Some things in life hurt. You can't just quit because it hurts. If you don't learn now to just let it hurt and do it anyway then you will never change the world. . . " Ok so I get kinda passionate, and I may be setting the bar high at expecting my son to change the world, but I think the principle still rings true.

The third time he tried I reached back and held the latch so he could buckle into it, but he still had to hold onto the cold buckle, and latch it himself. Unless people are willing to let it hurt you can't help them. Unless I am willing to let it hurt I can't help myself.


What Mandela's life says to me

It's not dreaming dreams that make them true. It's doing dreams that make them true.


Nelson Mandela gave a copy of this excerpt called "Man in the Arena" from a speech by Theodore Roosevelt to François Pienaar, captain of the South African rugby team, before the start of the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

Mandela didn't stop at pointing out what was wrong. He went into the arena and spent himself in a worthy cause. He demonstrated the willingness to go first. He used 'weapons' of civility, grace, and forgiveness.

If your goal is to change the world. Be careful how you tear it apart so when you put it back together it will last.

How you win each small battle will ultimately decide whether you win the big one.


What is Acting?


Acting is like laying your soul bare. Peeling back the layers one by one. Not so much pretending to be something you are not, but revealing the pieces of who you are. Even the ones you've hidden from yourself.

The greatest fear is not exposure, but that when the curtain closes, you may not be able to put yourself back together again.

What it feels like to be cast in a lead role

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My friend Rachael Szabo had been bugging me for months to do a show. I had secretly promised to myself that if Man of La Mancha came around then I would audition.

I even started practicing "Impossible Dream" to be ready for a theoretical audition that I thought may never happen. I quite shamelessly fantasized about how awesome it would be to play Don Quixote!

A week later Rachael is cutting my hair and begs me to do Fiddler on the Roof. I am non-plused. She says there is a Broadway Review. Not interested. Then she casually says Geyer PAC is doing Man of Lamancha. . . At that moment my heart leapt, and the fire of inner vision was ignited within me.

I laid down whatever melancholy burden of sanity I had left and made myself go audition. I went to the audition thinking I'm going to do my best. I've got a great shot at the lead role! Why wouldn't they pick me? I had no clue. And so when I was selected to be Don Quixote I congratulated myself and geared up for the challenge.

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Fast forward a couple months. It's Thursday night practice. One week before showtime. And I didn't know the lines to a scene from act one! I let my director down and I let the rest of the cast down. I knew in my heart I would be ready, but that's not good enough.


Just like in every aspect of life, my goal should be to serve. Serve my director, stage manager, my fellow cast members, the audience, and ultimately God. If my performance is not perfect every time then it confuses the supporting cast and prevents the director from seeing the whole picture. Ultimately this will hold everybody back not just myself.

I don't know what arrogance and naïvety possessed me to even audition for this role. I had NO IDEA the incredible weight of responsibility that was being put on my shoulders.

So many peoples time, resources, and yes even hopes and dreams are hanging in the balance of me knowing my lines, and telling this story with all integrity.

What a huge weight to carry. What a precious gift to guard and hold dear.

What an impossible dream. . .

"And for that thou wouldest have me stop? Nay let a man be overthrown ten thousand times and still must he rise and again do battle! The Enchanter may confuse the outcome, but the effort remains sublime."

Nobody is coming to your training workshop to gain a new skill set.

Nobody is coming to your training workshop to gain a new skill set.

I've been on the giving and receiving end of this dirty secret.

I've been to mandatory training. I've been to workshops because I believed I needed the knowledge, information, skills.

Even though I received knowledge, information, and skills. I left unsatisfied!

What I really wanted was to be heard and understood. I wanted to be validated. I wanted to know "I'm ok".

I've given training courses. I've watched people glaze over as I shared priceless insights.

Simply saying "You're not alone", "Look at all these people here to learn about this issue" is not enough.

The response is "They are here because they're boss makes them". "I'm sure they are not a bad as me."

You used to be an expert if you knew information others did not.

You are only an expert today if you have felt what others have, and found a solution.

Your story is more important than your information. Information is a commodity. Anybody can get information. They don't need a human to get information. They need a human to get validation.

Share your story of failure and struggle with the issue. If you don't have a story of struggle and failure then you are not an expert.

Real things break. Fake things are perfect and always work. Unless you tell people about the brokenness of you and your ideas they won't believe you are real.

Why did you gain the knowledge, information, and skills you now have? Because you were failing. If you weren't failing then you don't have anything to offer an audience that is failing.

We want to know you failed. This is how we are validated. Only when we know you failed do we believe you have valuable isight.

In the comments let me know how you validate your audience?


How To Engage Teens 4

Be ready to start from ground zero every 8 years or so. Teens grow up. Then they rip your heart out and take it to college with them!

My youth group WAS the media team AND the worship team! They were not just students. They became fellow labors in the God's work.

We slayed sacred cows together. We discussed hard topics and grew up together. I saw boys grow into men, and girls into Godly women.


This is enough to make you walk away from youth ministry. I "felt called" to transition to college & young marrieds. In reality I was just deeply wounded from the loss of my students.

They are doing great though and I see them on holidays, and some come home for summer.

I have 3 weddings on my calendar!

Nobody prepared me for this though. You need to be ready. It's ok to grieve the loss. It's healthy. You may resist the new batch of 6th graders coming your way. Give them a chance, and fall in love all over again. I know I have.

How To Engage Teens 3

You have to bring your A game. We are competing for the attention of the most over advertised media savvy always on generation ever.

If they aren't interested in what you are saying its because you are not interesting. That hurts.

If you say "this generation just doesn't care" then there is nothing you can do. You might as well stop trying to communicate to them.

I prefer to accept that if they didn't hear and respond to what I was trying to communicate I didn't work hard enough to communicate in a compelling way.

I believe every time we speak it should be an expression of art. Painfully work on your art. Hone your craft. They are used to watching 30 sec adds that took tons of cash and man hours to create. They will not listen to us drone on uninspired for 45 min or even 15 min. It's not about a big show or entertainment. It's about caring enough to know where they are hurting and go hurt with them there and share how the life changing message of Jesus changes everything. Share that with passion, personal venerability, and art.

Checkout how Propaganda shares this message in the video below. You might not like the style, you might not like his conclusions, but you are engaged to listen because of the compelling nature of his art.

There is nothing God honoring about throwing a message together 45 min before youth group. If what you're saying matters make it count. Make it art.

How To Engage Teens 2

Build a Team It's really simple to keep 5-10 students engaged. You can know them all personally. If you want to grow you have to build a team. Authentic relationships that model and point to christ are the key to life change. For this to scale you need more people building relationships with students.

My first few years of youth ministry I had "helpers" show up but they constantly asked me "What do you want me to do?" That should have been a HUGE warning, but I was too inexperienced to understand how I was failing my team.

A team can only function as well as the leader. I wasn't organized. I didn't plan ahead. I didn't comunicate vision. My helpers soon felt like babysitters. They felt like they were waisting their time because I aparently didn't need them. I had to do EVERYTHING myself because I wasn't organized enough to hand it off to someone else. I felt bad putting my help in the position of doing stuff last minute so I just did it myself. They thought I didn't trust them enough to handle stuff. A lack of organization will kill your team!

You have to think through logistics so that students don't feel like your wasting their time. You have to build authentic relationships with your team so they can invest in your students. This means a lot of administrative work. If you don't track when a student visits, and get their information then how can you or your team followup and build relationships?

Lack of organization is the number one reason my youth ministry didn't grow.

You need both adults and student leaders on your team. Identify their gifting and call that out in them. Connect their abilities to the vision. Invest! Invest! Invest!

How to engage teens 1


Over the next few days I'll be sharing what I've learned about youth ministry. My views have changed over the years. I'm sure they may change again. I hope this helps someone get unstuck so they can show teens how to live for Jesus.

Authentic Relationships This is square one. Treat students as adults let them know you love and respect them. You can't fake this. If you want them to let you speak into their life you have to make the effort to show up in theirs outside of traditional church time. This includes being real about your struggles in an age appropriate way. We have a whole policy book that governs these kinds of interactions. Be on social media. Txt like souls depend on it. They do.

When was the last time you cried with a parent? It should be often. Parents should know you have their back. You are their assistant coach. If you are working against mom and dad then you are shooting yourself in the foot. You must establish authentic relationships with mom and dad.


I'm reading Bonhoeffer. The biography of Detrich Bonhoeffer. It struck me that the Natzi party gained thier power by promising a state that would uphold moral values of the church.

To be clear Hitler was not a Christian. However German christians had so lost touch with the message of Christ that when someone preached another gospel many hardly noticed.

This should be a warning to Christians who too closly tie national ideas and politics to the mission of the church.

We must be diligent to preach Jesus. His kingdom is other worldly.

Prayer & Action

If you want to see your prayer life transformed than go hurt with people.

Put yourself out there and your own inadequacies will drive you to your face in prayer.

Do hard things, and you will learn to pray.


Love my neighbor

Yesterday 6 different churches in our community got together and held block parties around our city. I live in the east end right accross the street from Pershing Court. It's pretty infamous in our community. I moved here because the apartment was nice and I could afford it. Five years later I think I'm starting to see that God has me in this neighborhood, my neighborhood for a reason.

Have you ever thought that maybe you are in a certain place for a reason?

Could it be that God's purpose is best accomplished in your life right where you are?

How do you honor that?

The Story of Christmas Milk


When my first born son, Lukas, was about 4 I tried to introduce him to eggnog. He would have nothing to do with the thick yellow liquid apparently made from raw eggs. So I told him it was "Christmas Milk" a very special drink only available at Christmas time. I knew that this idea of a "Special Christmas Milk" would get his attention because milk was his favorite drink. He decided to give the "Christmas Milk" a try, and soon asked for more "Christmas Milk".

A couple years later, Jake was of the eggnog drinking age. I poured 3 glasses of my favorite eggnog. When I offered it to Jake he was not interested until Lukas piped up with the whole story of "Special Christmas Milk". I had honestly forgotten about "Christmas Milk". The story had lived on. The experience had lived on, and taken its own meaning in the heart of Lukas.

Someday Lukas will find out that not everybody calls eggnog "Christmas Milk" This will most likely be a surprise. To me "Eggnog" represents beautiful memories with my two boys. To others "Eggnog" might represent Griswold family drunken disfunction.

Our personal definition of who God is and what he does is often skewed. It is a combination of what we've been told and what we've experienced. It is really easy to write God off.

We make a judgements based on our limited perspective, and limited experience. If you have walked away from God for any reason, I invite you to give God another chance this Christmas. I believe you will discover a beautiful story your life was always meant to tell.

My Walk Of Shame / Restoration

I failed my son today. It is my responsibility to pack my son's lunch, and send it to school with him. I just got a txt from my wife. This morning I forgot to pack lunch. . . I kinda have that sickening feeling in my stomach right now. I hate failing the people I love the most.


My fear is that I won't be forgiven. Or that exposing my failure will disqualify me from leading. Notice it's not the failure I fear disqualifies me, but the disclosure.

I will go home to my 6 yr old son, bend down to his level and apologize. No excuses. Just an apology, and ask for forgiveness. I'll then ask how I can make it up to him.

If you're a leader or parent and you fail. Own it, and model the correct response. Demonstrate your resolve to do the right thing even if it means you have to eat crow.

If you don't you will solidify the betrayal.

Have you let someone down? How did you deal with it?

UPDATE: Lukas forgave me. I asked him how I can make it up to him, and he said he was hungry  So we made dinner together. 

What is Church 2 (Sermon Audio)

This week we dive into the history of church. Church started as a messy movement of Jesus people. Church became a monolithic monument of institutionilized religion in many cases. What happened?? What was church suposed to be? Hit the link to hear the message.

What is Church Part 2 (Message starts at 16:45)

10 Things Wreck It Ralph Can Teach Us About Life

Disney's Wreck It Ralph dominated at the box office through its opening and became the most successful debut ever for a Walt Disney Animation production (not counting Pixar flicks).

My friend Clay Morgan saw it and enjoyed it as well. Clay asked if I'd like to collaborate on a post at his awesome site Hit the link to see what we came up with.

10 Things Wreck It Ralph Can Teach Us About Life

How To Beat Sin

I wrote a post at titled "How To Beat Sin" I'm speaking at the conference next year and will be contributing content there regularly. Hit the link below for the post.

How To Beat Sin

Hines Ward on Life

I'm not a big sports fan. Honestly I have slept through more football games than I've watched. However a quick read of Hines's Wikipedia page, and I quickly gained a respect for his work ethic. He has also overcome quite a few obstacles including a broken home, racial discrimination, and injuries. Below are the notes most are quotes. They may not be word for word, but pretty close. Read More

Small Group Questions: What is Church 1

Listen to Sunday's Sermon

Note to Leaders: The goal this week is for the group to catch a taste of the excitement that the first century believers had. Encourage your group to think about when they first came to Christ. A good action step would be for the group to commit to sharing their story of meeting Jesus with at least one other person this week, and inviting them to church. Some of these questions may be difficult to answer. They are not intended to shame or guilt anybody, but rather to take inventory.

Discussion Questions:

Ice Breaker: What is your favorite thanksgiving food?

  1. What makes Jesus so special that a movement began and continues even today?

  2. Those who witnessed Jesus resurrection went viral in their sharing of "The Way" what would it take to excite you to share your experience in Christ with others?

  3. How important is it that we share our story of meeting Jesus with other people? When was the last time you shared your story, or invited a friend to church?

  4. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (2 Corinthians 5:17 KJV)

"The Way" promises radical transformation. What has transformed in your life? What is currently being transformed? What needs to be transformed?

  1. How much do you identify with Pastor Ron's "Big Ron, Little Jesus" sketches?

  2. What do you think of when you imagine being consumed in Jesus?

  3. How does one get "in Christ"?

  4. Share an example of facing something while in Christ vs facing something while you try to maintain control?