Influence.

Everyone seems to want it.

Everywhere I look, there are workshops and conferences and books and blogs dedicated to expanding our personal reach.  Growing our platforms.  Becoming better leaders of more people.  Apparently, that’s the goal we should be pursuing, to influence as many people as possible.  We live in a culture of celebrity everything.  Celebrity motivators, celebrity pastors.  Many Christians say the most influential Christian in their life is a celebrity, not a person they personally know.

But what does it even mean to influence people?  To change their opinions?  To motivate them?  To sell them a product?  To win their vote?

It took me a long time to realize that I don’t fit in the mold of the “leader” or “influencer” that everyone seems to say I should be.  My feet don’t fit those shoes.  I can’t be that kind of person who gathers throngs of people willing to follow me.

But I’ve realized something.  That it’s okay to not be an “influencer” in the sense that we’re being sold “influence.”  It’s okay not to be the “leader” that everyone is supposed to be.

I’m kind of ashamed it took me this long to figure it out.

This is what influence looks like to me. Continue Reading…

I don’t know when I became so cynical.

But bit by bit, I stopped seeing the world’s through a child’s eyes.  I stopped being an idealist or an optimist, and started being a “realist.”  I started seeing the world as it really is.

Cynicism is an addictive attitude.  It’s a powerful and attractive lure that invites people to come be cynical together.  It smirks at the rest of the world.

It took me a long time to get over my cynicism.  But as I looked at the rest of the world, I slowly noticed something.

The people who are out there creating beauty, loving humanity, changing the world for the better seem to be idealists.  They believe the world is worth loving.  They believe there is beauty to be found.  They audaciously believe that the world can changeand perhaps even more audaciously, that they can change the world.  Creating change takes boldness, bravery, even perhaps some sort of naivete.

I didn’t realize how much my cynical attitude was wrecking me until I started to let go of it. Because of all the things I had become cynical about, the one thing that I had become most cynical about was myself.  I no longer saw myself as I did when I was a child.  I saw my limitations, my brokenness, my shame.  And it was paralyzing.

This world is worth being a shameless idealist, an incorrigible optimist, and an audacious believer in our power to create beauty around us.

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Are you going to be a cynic or a creative?

Wow.  It’s been a week.

It was back to school here, which means we teachers spent half the week with in-service and then the rest of the week welcoming kiddos back.  I was reminded why my work is one of my favorite…and most exhausting places to be.

But, it’s also been a week full of inspiration!  Here’s what fueled me this week.

booksIn My Kindle

Jim Gaffigan is my favorite comedian, hands down.  His recent book, Dad is Fat is a riot.  If you saw his last stand-up routine, it’s basically a very expanded version of that, a “memoir” of his life raising five kids in a two-bedroom New York apartment (though that number may have increased since the book was published.)

In My Mailbox

I was so excited to unwrap my advanced copy of Addie Zierman’s book, When We Were On Fire this week.  I’m sure you’ll hear all about this book in the coming months.

Breaking-Bad-1On My Television

I just want to say this: my wife and I were Breaking Bad acolytes and evangelists before ya’ll.  Back in season one, we were the ones telling everyone about this awesome show about a guy with terminal cancer who cooks meth.  No one believed us.  We are gonna be glued to the TV for the next seven Sunday nights.  The end of the season prediction I have adopted is that the entire series is a prequel.  Walter goes into witness protection where he gets a new family, takes the name Hal, and that’s where Malcolm in the Middle starts.

In My Blog Reader

Dang it, I like what Micha Boyett has to say.  And being content is one of my eternal struggles.  Like for real, this summer hit me hard.  I really appreciated The Pursuit of Enough.

On the first day of school, as parents left their wee-ones, I could almost see the glimmer in all the parents’ eyes as they secretly celebrated the end of summer vacation.  Does anyone else remember that old Office Depot commercial with It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year playing while a jubilant father and his depressed children shop for back to school supplies?  Classic.  Elizabeth Esther, I feel your pain.  I’m sorry that your wish will never come true, as summer vacation is just too much a part of American culture.  But I’ve seen lots of parents who feel the same way, and I’m glad that we teachers can be a beacon of hope for you.

It’s true.  I’ve never thought I was a very interesting person.  I’ve never thought I had much to say.  But Sammy Adebiyi just nailed it.  Your life is not lame.

And I really appreciated this, as a guy struggling with a lot of Reformed theology lately.  I have a love / hate relationship with Reformed thinking.  But Micah Murrah is articulate, and a dang nice guy who I got to meet a few weeks ago at Echo.  And I didn’t just put him on the list so I’d have two people with the same name.  I really enjoyed Five Reasons I Am Reformed.

That’s it from me.  What’s your prediction for Breaking Bad?  What fueled you this week?

I used to be an alarmist.2010-02-19-ec-peterjpg-93a862e09c069b80_large

I used to read every article, every Barna report with dread and fear.

Millennials are leaving the Church.

Fewer Americans than ever identify as Christians.

“Oh no!” I thought.  The Church is shrinking, losing influence, becoming irrelevant.  Soon, Christians will be a minority on the sidelines of American culture and we’ll all be sitting in sackcloth and ashes.

Last week, I discussed the exodus of millennials from the Church and the oft-repeated idea that is because they are “entitled.”  Today, I want to take on the whole exodus itself.  Because invariably, the statistics come across as some kind of apocalyptic doomsday scenario for the Church.

But one day very recently, I just stopped panicking.  I stopped believing that the world would end if the Church ended.

I started wondering what if it was actually a good thing for a generation to leave the Church. Continue Reading…

This week is a big one for me and lots of teachers and kids.  Another first day of school.

One thing that constantly amazes me about children is how confident they are when they are young.  They all believe that they are great artists, athletes, musicians.  They just believe they are gifted.

It doesn’t take long for that naivete to wear off and by the time they are teenagers, kids are well aware of their limitations.

I’ve come to believe that the most creative adults among us have somehow hung onto that childlike lack of self-awareness.  Like, somehow they never learned that they can’t.

For the rest of us, it’s usually not our limitations that are holding us back.  It’s just us holding ourselves back.

It's Amazing What You Can Do - LifeAfterArtBook.com

Stop saying you “can’t” and just give yourself a chance.

How many of you have already sent your kiddos back to school?

It’s hard to believe, but I’ve seen a few shots on Instagram of familiar yellow buses, or kids sitting at their new school desks.

The last couple of weeks, I’ve spent a lot of time in one of my favorite rooms, my art classroom.

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Everything from the color of the walls, to the posters, tables, and even 8-Bit Mr. Appling greeting kids at the door is my design.  Needless to say, I’m pretty pleased with it, but as you know, I think creating things with our own hands is one of the most satisfying activities we can engage in.  We’ll be welcoming kids back in less than a week.

This week brought a few more stand out posts in my blog reader.

Fame Obsessed Christians

I always enjoy Mary DeMuth’s gentle spirit when it comes to topics that I secretly struggle with, and she knocks it out of the park with Fame Obsessed Christians.

Hott or Nott

A lot of bloggers have tried to deal with the topic of Christian men objectifying their wives in public with the tired “my smoking hot wife” line.  But I think my pal, KC Proctor has written one of the best little nuggets on this issue, despite the provocative title.  It comes down to this: husbands, you are supposed to believe your wife is the hottest woman in the world.  That means by extension that every other married man is not supposed to find your wife as attractive as you do.

More Than Food

I’m so happy for my friends, Darrell and Ally, who have spent the week in Guatemala with Food for the Hungry.  Check out some of their thoughts on the true meaning of nutrition.

Jesus was Wrong

Forget the discussion of the Bible being inerrant.  Zack Hunt says Jesus was just wrong.

That’s what fueled me this week.  What books, blogs, or other sweet stuff fueled you?