Serving Millennials on the Journey Toward Significant Life
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The Best Quotes from A Failure of Nerve by Edwin Friedman

friedman a failure of nerveAlthough it was written in the 1990s, Edwin Friedman’s book A Failure of Nerve fits as well today as it ever has. In the book, Friedman outlines what kind of leadership is necessary in the age of quick fixes and anxiety. How can you operate as a non-anxious presence in an anxious environment? That’s a question I think he answers quite overwhelmingly.

This is not a Christian book. Friedman was a rabbi and family therapist. It may not be written by a Christian but it is a helpful book, becoming even more helpful in the years since Friedman’s passing. Here’s a few of the best quotes from the book.

“It has been my impression that at any gathering, whether it be public or private, those who are quickest to inject words like sensitivity, empathy, consensus, trust, confidentiality, and togetherness into their arguments have perverted these humanitarian words into power tools to get others to adapt to them.”

“A major criterion for judging the anxiety level of any society is the loss of its capacity to be playful.”

“Children rarely succeed in rising above the maturity level of their parents, and this principle applies to all mentoring, healing, or administrative relationships.”

“It is the integrity of the leader that promotes the integrity or prevents the ‘disintegration’ of the system he or she is leading.”

“The ultimate irony of societal regression, however, is that eventually it co-opts the very institutions that train and support the leaders who could pull a society out of its devolution. It does this by concentrating their focus on data and technique rather than on emotional process and the leader’s own self.”

“What chronically anxious families are largely incapable of seeing is that trauma is often, and perhaps usually, less the result of the impacting agent than of the family’s own evolving emotional processes.”

“The critical issues in raising children have far less to do with proper technique than with the nature of the parents’ presence and the type of emotional processes they engender.”

“A focus on being empathetic toward others, rather than on being responsible for one’s own integrity, can actually lessen the odds for an organism’s survival by lowering the other’s pain thresholds, helping them to avoid challenge and compromising the mobilization of their ‘nerve.'”

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Called Out Episode 010: Barnabas Piper

called out episodes (1)


One of the prevailing attitudes of our day is cynicism. This form of cynicism shows itself as a state of negativity and questioning where we can never believe anything at face value, and then we do our best to keep everything at arm’s length, rather than embracing it. You see this in the constant talk about fake news, because if some news is fake none of it should be believed, or so we think. We see this in relationships, because if one relationship or friendship fell apart, then none of the future ones are worth trusting in.

In order to look at the subject of cynicism from various angles, I had a conversation with my cynical friend Barnabas Piper. Having known him for several years I knew he would self-describe as cynical (as I would), and be able to share not only how cynicism develops, but also how it wreaks havoc on those around it. Then, toward the end, we share some encouragements for helping you stay away from cynicism.

You can listen to the full episode below (click here email readers):

Or find the episode wherever you listen to podcasts, including:

Apple Podcasts || Soundcloud || Stitcher || Overcast

A few links mentioned in the episode:

—Barnabas Piper’s books The Pastor’s Kid and Help My Unbelief.

—The book mentioned in the episode by Barnabas is his latest release The Curious Christian.

—Barnabas also has a podcast he’s one of the hosts for, called The Happy Rant.

—Brett McCracken’s article on Hallmark movies: “Formulaic for a Reason: The Existential Appeal of Hallmark Movies”

—Theme music by Shoring.

We’ll be back with new episodes starting again in September. Between now and then you can support this podcast by leaving a review wherever you listen, and by sharing episodes you have found helpful. Thanks for your support!

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Reliving 90s Youth Group

screen-shot-2014-02-05-at-6-23-25-pmWhile I did not graduate high school in the 1990s, I spent the majority of my church youth group years of middle and high school in the 90s.

If you haven’t noticed, nostalgia is all the rage. From Stranger Things to IT to 80s rock synth on every indie album, you can’t escape the push toward the past.

So with that in mind, I created a playlist of the best 90s youth group music. If you have Spotify you can find it directly here, or by listening below.

Enjoy some nostalgic bliss.

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The Gift of Encouragement

A few weeks ago I preached on the section of Romans 12 where Paul mentions about spirituals gifts: “if it is to encourage, then give encouragement” (Romans 12:8). This verse has always stood out for me because in one of my first years of my seminary studies I had a professor say to me, “you don’t have the gift of encouragement do you?” It had never stood out me that I tended to be analytical and critical, but it’s never left my mind since then.

Ever since then I’ve believed (at least in part) it wasn’t my job to encourage, because ‘it wasn’t my gift.’ I’ve focused on playing the devil’s advocate, I’m comfortable being a contrarian, and I have no issue with confrontation. But what I do struggle to do is encourage people around me, except in obvious situations.

thank you cardAround this same time, I received a card from an elementary-aged child in my church, telling me that when I lead worship he is inspired. Some of the children at my church have started writing a thank you card every week for a different person. The card reminded me how easy encouragement is. If a 4th grader can do it, you can too.

In preaching this section of Romans I challenged my church to specifically and intentionally encourage 7 people over the course of the next 7 days.

This shouldn’t even be difficult to accomplish. Encouragement costs nothing but blesses the encouraged beyond measure.

I chose this specific application for my sermon because I firmly believe people never develop the gifts they don’t practice. Maybe I don’t have the gift of encouragement because I never encourage? Somehow, despite my lack of encouragement gifting, I was able to accomplish this 7 encouragements in 7 days challenge.

Yes, some gifts are given by God immediately following the Spirit indwelling, but most often I think God works through what we put our time and energy towards, and He more greatly allows those things to develop in us.

One thing is for certain, I am who I am today because of the encouragement many others have given me for the past three decades of my life. You would not be where you are had it not been for the encouragement of others either.

Put plainly, all of us should seek to encourage others, whether we sense it is our gift or not. Yes, for some, encouragement oozes out of their pores all day, every day.

For some, encouragement takes more effort and intentionality (I am one of those people).

But all of us should be encouragers.

The Body of Christ is missing out when you choose not to stretch your encouragement muscle.

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Called Out Episode 009: Mo Isom

called out mo isom

As sex has become a commonplace subject within pop culture, whether it be television, movies, music, or mere conversation, it has led many toward an acceptance of sexual activity outside of God’s design. In response we often ignore sex, pushing it away, thinking of the potential damage it can cause. Lost in this, is that God created sex for a purpose.

In this podcast episode I talk with Mo Isom about her story of sexual brokenness, and what healing looked like in response to it. We also chat about purity rings, true love waits, how sexual brokenness in her past has shaped her marriage, and where modesty fits into this whole conversation. I’m grateful to Mo for her willingness to share honestly, without glorifying her brokenness.

You can listen to the full episode below (click here email readers):

Or find the episode wherever you listen to podcasts, including:

Apple Podcasts || Soundcloud || Stitcher || Overcast

Other links from the episode:

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Blogging: What It Got Right and What It Got Wrong

I’ve been writing on this space and others that were precursors to this space for about 11 years now. After graduating college I realized nearly all my favorite writers were putting their writing on their own websites and making it available for free. I was shocked! After a while of just reading blogs, I started my own, with the goal of posting something every day.

Blogs have largely been cast aside by larger journalist pages where great writers can work together to produce quality content and by social media which allows us to share life happenings and opinions much more quickly than a blog.

While I have no intention of stopping my habit of writing on this space, I recognize that doing so is fairly uncommon today, whereas 8 years ago it was the norm. So I’ve given some thought about why I’m still doing this, and why nearly all of my, what I called, “blog friends” have quit.

What Blogging Got Right

It’s a normal human desire to want to share. Share thoughts. Share life events. Before social media expanded, blogs were the easiest way to share in one confined space.

Others were drawn to blogging because it provided a space to write, for an audience. All throughout high school and college, I was a fairly awful writer. And this was for one very simple reason: I did not write often. With the goal of writing something new for my blog every day, I forced myself to become a better writer, by simply writing, a lot.

Some people are naturally good at creating through the written word, some people become better writers primarily through reading, but there is no substitute for writing in order to become a good writer.

As blogging diminishes and the web moves toward tribes of writers on websites and social sharing, how will this online space known as in the internet help produce quality writing?

In the years since publishing my book, a common question has been asked of me: how can I grow as a writer? I give the same answer every time: read and write as often as you can. For me, blogging was the necessarily carrot that kept me working on my craft, day after day.

What Blogging Got Wrong

A few years after I started blogging I first heard the term “platform” used in association with internet writing. In the years prior to this, not once had it ever crossed my mind that a blog could serve as a tool to advance a writer’s career. Shortly after this I had friends who started teaching others how to do what they did. Start a blog, write some words, do this a lot, publish a book.

Supposedly it was that easy. And a lot of bloggers did it. Including me.

But once blogging and online writing became focused on the need for supporting a platform it became work. Now you needed to get more people to subscribe. Now you needed to let people know about your writing, all the time.

You see, first blogging was about the craft, but then it became about the career.

And slowly but surely, people quit. Why? Because when you write for the platform and the career eventually it lets you down, guaranteed. But when you write for the craft, the reward is the work, not the results.

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