Risk

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Chances are you’ve taken a few risks in your life. Heck, simply asking my wife on our first date was a risk. I took a risk this weekend with the cheese in the fridge. Everyday life throws us opportunities and chances to play it safe or take a risk. Sure there are somethings that you don’t want to risk (like your marriage, or safety of your kids) and there are smarter ways to take a risk than others (like don’t quit your job until you have a lead on another). Yet, I am always amazed at how often those around me, and myself, simply choose the safe route. I may talk a big game, or prove my risk taking initiative by doing something just slightly more risky than usual, yet I am still where I am. And often I can feel stuck there. 

The courage to take a risk produces some of life’s best moments. Sure, there is never 100% chance of success, but that is why it is a risk. Think about it, that moment where you think of what you want to do, you visualize all the outcomes and failures and then say, “I’m in.” That moment, even with failure, brings out a sense of freedom and confidence in us as people. 

Working with youth, many of them face a lot of decisions. Some of these choices are small, but some are huge. What college to go to? Should I ask that girl out? Should I really eat 25 packets of Diablo sauce at Taco Bell on a bet? I remember one student being a romantic and really wanted to ask this girl out. He was super awkward, typical 15 year old. I just said, “do it, the worst that will happen is she says no, and you’ll be in the same situation you are right now, but at least you’ll know.”

That’s mostly what taking a risk is about, discovery. There is adventure and joy in that moment when you step out in order to take a risk you didn’t think you could.

Maybe it is a job change you’re thinking about. Or you have a new business idea. You want to ask that person out. You want to do something but are too nervous about the odds and the outcomes. You have had a dream in your mind for years, but have always thought it wouldn’t work out. 

If you’re like me you argue with yourself a lot. If you’re like me you try to wait for a “sign” from God. If you’re reading this, this is that sign. You’ll be surprised what God is capable off when you step into that risk that He has been nudging you towards.

Here are some things I do when I approach a big risk I am deciding on:

1.) Think it through and weigh the cost/benefits

2.) Ask people their thoughts, especially people who can ask you really tough questions

3.) Small cost probes, little things that give you a taste and experience with that new risk

4.) Close your eyes and jump

I would love to hear about some risks you dreaming about and think of ways to take that risk boldy. Follow us on twitter or Instagram at misfit_min, or leave a comment on here.

Come to Me

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Jesus invites people into a relationship with Him. He invites them in close. Jesus could smell the disease on the lepers and  was close enough to get spit at from possessed man. He wasn’t afraid to share an intimate space with those that the society of His time viewed as outcasts, villains, sinners and those who people forgot about.

We are coming to this point here in our world today. Where we can choose to bring people in, care for them, love them and point them towards Jesus; or we can choose to turn people away, shun them, treat them as villains and abandon them.

Matthew 11:28 came to mind as I reflected on the last few days. I have heard a man, speaking on behalf of a faith, alienating another group of people. Matthew 11:28 says “Come to Me, ALL who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Over and over again Jesus invites all people in. The Good Samaritan would’ve been despised by the man he saved, yet he had compassion. Romans, a people group not too friendly with the Jews, would come to Jesus. In fact, Jesus commends a centurion for his faith.

We are blurring the lines of faith and politics. Faith always trumps politics. They are not the same. Sometimes, they agree and sometimes they disagree, but they are not the same. We contradict our faith and our beliefs with how we act. Our actions then are what seems best to us at the time, not led by our relationship with Jesus. I think it fitting that a plaque on the Statue of Liberty, a sight millions of immigrants would see coming to America, says this “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Jesus would say the same thing. 

My wife said something the other day and I loved it. She said “I don’t want someone in the name of my Savior, of my faith, to give me favor, or blessing, and take  away freedom, opportunity, safety, compassion from someone else. That is not what a christian does. It’s not how Jesus would have it.”

Remember, Jesus invited everyone to come to Him. He invites us still. As Misfits we see this. We see that the lines are blurred and many are asking questions. In these moment, push into Jesus. Ask for understanding and for words in the midst of heated discussion. Use your influence and your talents to point all people towards Jesus. Demonstrate care, compassion and   humility. Open the doors for the weary, the oppressed, the burdened, the refugees and point them to Jesus.

Here is a link to some thoughts on how to treat refugees and immigrants from Relevant Magazine. 

Empathy

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We will only go as far in bringing justice, peace and hope to our world as our ability to empathize with one another will carry us.

I don’t see unity. Even conversations about fast food restaurants are fueled by hate, fear and anger. I believe that we are a divided people. This division from where I sit comes from our inability to simply feel how someone else feels and see a situation from another persons perspective. From there, we fall short of standing up for someone once we have begun to empathize. We fall short of building connections and building bridges between people. We let our differences divide us.

Those differences come in many forms. We fall prey to the separation caused by political parties, race, religion, culture, upbringing, and who’s turn it is to do the dishes. When the spotlight is on the differences we often turn to anger and hatred towards that person which then leads us to dehumanize them. When this happens we are not able to empathize, we don’t even care. In the midst of the arguing we focus on our differences and not on those things that we all share.

We have a lot of things in common. We obviously feel that our view, our side, our team is the best and if we are the best then others are of lesser value, we are all people who are passionate about something. I often find that the emotions that spurn on peoples passions and views are often the same. We speak from experiences, hurts, doubts, and worries. The things that drive us are often times the things we hope to fix most. We experience things in life that have shaped our views. People have similar emotions even in the midst of the tension we share. Fear, confusion, anger, these things are shared by us in that moment. We also share the hope for something better than our current situation.We must use these similarities, however small, to help drive our ability to empathize with one another.

So how do you build or even find empathy? You fight for it. You look for the humanity in people. That little something that says, I know how you feel. We’ve all suffered loss, hurts, pains, we have all faced some tough stuff in our lives. We have all also seen great joy and triumph. We must listen to the stories of one another. Let those stories sink it and resonate with us. Discover the connections between one another, don’t just blow them off because it is different from you.

You should have people in your life that are different from you. They should look different, work in different industries, believe differently and even vote differently. Then take all those differences and share life together. Eat a meal, laugh, share life stories and love people for who they are, and not who you wish they would be.

Create safe space. Sometimes, we need to talk through our differences. We need to be humble enough to admit when we are wrong, vulnerable enough to admit our flaws and caring enough to not let these differences separate us. Listen to one another. Truly listen. Hear their hearts and their fears and not just wait for your turn to talk.

Our ability to empathize with one another is what will save the day. 

Prototypes

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     Getting unstuck can be difficult. Many people are frustrated with their jobs, their circumstances and feel like they are living without passion and joy. Wrestling with this myself at times, some great discussions with friends and learning about some different ways to design your life I have learned about the concept of prototyping.

     Prototyping is when you design a version of your life that you feel would bring you more joy, give you more passion and more success. Then through this design you begin to test out parts of these plans through prototyping. These are low-risk, high-reward, activities that help you gain perspective on new life paths that can help increase your joy. For instance, if you feel that being a professional musician is what you want to do, prototyping would find you signing up for some open mic nights in your local area. Here are a few steps to help get your life unstuck.

Odyssey Plan

     Bill Burnett at Stanford created the Odyssey Plan. In creating an Odyssey Plan you create a different variations of what you want your life to look like. The idea is there are multiple variations for what you could define as joyful and successful. So you start looking at those variations. First, you use design process to find and define the problem. Maybe it is not enough joy, you need more money, or you just feel stuck at your current position. Then, you begin to create a few variations of your life that brings you more joy, money, and passion. You think through the process to get that life and what it takes for each one. This helps create freedom and drive because you begin to get over the fact that you’re stuck and get forward momentum to create change.

Prototyping

     Once you have a few variations of what you feel your life should be it is time to start prototyping. You being by look at some of those steps you need to take in each variation. Look for ways to get more experience or more knowledge for those variations. This might take time but it is a process. Take a new class, volunteer at an organization, take on a new task, and be fearless and confident in the progress you make. Tweak your ideas with your successes and your failures. Those failures just bring you one step closer to your ultimate goal.

Just Move Forward

     I think the biggest way to get unstuck in life is simply to move forward. Find something you enjoy and work hard at it. Time is wasted when you sit, get in an emotional low and let the life that you hope for slip away. Think about the problems that you have no and begin to think of some solutions and start working toward your goals.

     It is never too late to try new things, chase after new goals and create new dreams. You start by finding the problem, dreaming up solutions, trying hard and keep going after it. Life is so much better when you live in the place where you are using your gifts, talents and passions in a way that brings about joy and meaning.

Fresh

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We have officially left 2016 in the dust. It’s 2017.

There are a mixed bag of emotions when a new year starts. Looking at social media it seems many people have had a rough go of things this past year. For others it was filled with joyous occasions and laughter. We lost a lot of good people. A lot more were born this year too. Yet, for all we enter into 2017 with renewed vitality. There are new goals, aspirations, and recommitments to ourselves and loved ones. This past week I have had some great conversations, found some rest, and am looking forward to 2017. Here are somethings that will help me make the best of this amazing year.

Goals

The week between Christmas and New Years I take some time to set goals. These goals are range in a variety of topics. I set personal goals often about working out, reading books, writing and personal projects. There are goals about my finances. These goals help me to stay motivated for the year and work towards a target. These goals usually span the entire year so they are long-term. I work hard to make them SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-oriented). I can look at these goals throughout the year and check on progress.

Accountability

In the upcoming year I make sure to have people close to me to help hold me accountable. They hold me accountable to my goals but also to my faith and my personal struggles. Letting people into my world helps create authentic relationships. It is these relationships that have made 2016 an amazing year and I look forward to 2017. Accountability looks like making phone calls and meeting up with people. It is setting time aside to connect with another person and being honest and transparent with them. It is in these relationships that I look forward to an amazing 2017. 

Adventure

I love adventures. I drive my wife crazy because whenever we go somewhere I’m usually doing things I shouldn’t. Those areas beyond the “no visitors past this point” signs are usually where you can find me. In 2017 I hope to create some spontaneity and adventure to my life. This energizes me and I get to have fun. Adventure can be trips but it can also just be doing new things. Shake up your life in 2017. 

Loving others

My wife has created a monster. We have created a generosity fund that we use to love people. We both love to bless other people and see huge smiles on their faces. We set aside some of our paychecks in order to give to others. I believe that living a live that builds and encourages relationships with people is the sweet sauce of life. In 2017 I hope we can continue to love people and do some crazy things in faith with our finances. T

What do you look forward to this New Years? How can you make this the best year yet?

Students and Politics

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I woke up Wednesday morning to a new President. So did students across the country. I drove to work thinking about my students and how to approach the day. I thought about all the young people who have a lot of questions and just want to hear some honest answers. I thought about the people who were grieving the decision of our new President, and equally, those who were celebrating. I thought about my role as an educator, a champion of students, and as a believer in Jesus. Here are some ways I handled the day, the week and how I hope to handle the weeks ahead.

I aimed to create an environment that gives spaces to students but also communicated that I am present. Sometimes, people just need space to process, think, vent and sometimes grieve. As someone who influences the lives of students I try to give students space to think and reflect on their own. I helped to create space for students to feel their own feelings and think their own thoughts, free from persuasion. I communicate them that I respect them, love them and want to give them space to simply ‘be’ and that I am there when they need me.

A huge role for me this week was listening to the voices of students, educating about topics they were asking and encouraging them to stay informed. I want all students to one day be able to stand their ground with their faith and their position in our society. So, I encourage them to find their own voice and give them space to speak it. In class I gave time for students to write letters and post questions up on our class board. We spent all day talking. The entire class was engaged, they cared. There was fear, anger and confusion in that room. Most adults want to ignore their emotions because they are kids, and see them as illegitimate, but they are real emotions and they real kids, so I take them seriously. We helped to navigate those emotions and see where they came from. I helped to teach our students about our entire political system, and not just the Presidency. This honestly helped them. They saw hope in a moment they thought was hopeless. We talked about solutions, not just problems. Students sometimes have the best solutions when we give them an opportunity to speak them. They wanted to stay informed, asked for time each week to research politics, and wanted to find ways to engage the community they lived in

Students look up to me. I am amazed at the messes I make of my life and how God continues to use them to influence others. In the weeks to come I am to take action. Not just to talk about problems in my community but to find solutions. To continue to act out in faith, to question the status quo, the structures and policies that define our society. I want to act out in love. Show up for my students. Empower and encourage them to act out in love in our community. Demonstrate my love for them. For when they see my love for them it helps to show they matter to me. When the know they matter and know they are loved, they are empowered and find hope.

Whatever your political views and your thoughts we need to come together. Students are witnesses to our political and social climate in our nation. They have questions, and we should be of courage to answer them honestly.

Storytellers

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Stories are powerful. They have the ability to transform our hearts and transport our souls to far away places. Stories can breathe life into us as they inspire us to greatness. A good story pulls on our hearts and forces us think beyond ourselves to the world at large. You can tell a lot about a person through the stories they tell about themselves. If you listen closely you hear the values that define their lives and peer into their souls. A person’s story is who they are, it is continuously being written and it can change directions at any moment.

When we influence the lives of others we must be aware of their stories, and our own. We must look for ways to connect our stories to one another and to the grander narrative of God’s story. Let us listen intently to the stories we hear, have courage to share our own and learn to look for the greatest story of them all in the midst of it all.

We must become the greatest of listeners. I have been working a lot on being an empathetic listener. For a long time I was just listening for my turn to talk. While people would talk I would barely be listening because I was forming my own replay or wait for a pause for me to jump in. I have tried to be better. Listening just to hear the other person. To reply back with words that affirm what they are saying and show that I care about them. I listen to the stories people tell and I ask questions. How do these stories impact them? What emotions are they feeling as they tell the story? What can I do to help? I sit with them, sometimes just being silent for a long time, just so they can share. Look to understand them, their hurts and struggles, their excitements and joys and share in their experience. In understanding the stories of people we can begin to understand who they truly are.

The ability to tell a story is powerful. To engage the hearts and minds of people is a rare gift. We can influence the world around us with a simply story. You know who the great storytellers are. They are usually the one at a party surrounded by people listening intently or making others laugh in a classroom. When we can learn to share our stories transformation happens. We can relate to other people better. We, and they, don’t feel so alone. You can often hear a “me too!” during a good story. We need to practice sharing our stories. Take courage that God has given us our own stories for a purpose. That He has given us the hurts and experiences of our past so that we can learn from them and help others learn from them. The stories we share transcend our own personal experiences and allow us to see a deeper meaning in them.

When listening to the stories of other people and sharing our own we need to be able to find the link to the grander narrative that God is writing. I love that God has given us all our own stories. That He reveals Himself to us in such beautiful and unique ways; yet He reveals Himself to all through His Son. God is the master storyteller. Just read the Bible. What a grand story, what grand truth. In the midst of our own stories we need to look for the connection to His story. There is always something. Connections of grace, redemption, or forgiveness; connections of adventure, romance and faith. When we see the intersection of God’s story and our own He becomes more personal and real to us. If we want to know God in a deeper way, look for how your story mirrors His deeper narrative in the world.

When we engage students we need to listen to their stories. They reveal where they are at right now. Love them in that moment; empathize with them. Find the connection to a story of your own. Break down the walls that can often divide us and find a way to simply say, I know how you feel. Empathize with students and reveal a piece of your story to them. They will be able to latch on and build a bond through these shared experiences. These stories point us to Jesus, find that point and run towards Him.

 

 

Changes

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The past few weeks have been nuts. I haven’t blogged in a few weeks and really just needed time to process life and all the changes that have been going on. I recently made the decision to move on from my role as a student pastor at the church I worked with. I took a position at a charter school back in my hometown of Rochester, NY and am super excited for this next stage of my life. I hope to use the talents, wisdom and passion that God has given me to impact my hometown and the lives of the students that I encounter. I plan to continue to blog on best ways to impact the lives of students, the community at large and how to lead the charge as a champion of students. Throughout this transition my fiancé and I have really been able to press into our faith in God, learning a few things along the way. The relationships we have made with people matter. We must trust the Planner, more than the plans we think we need. The best is yet to come.

The relationships you have matter. During the past month it has been these relationships that have helped me to navigate the major life changes I have been experiencing. People who have the ability to speak truth into my life helping me to weight the pros and cons of decisions and help cast a vision for my life. Making time to get coffee with a friend, people to help me move my furniture, and seeing people that I love help fill relational gaps that I’ve left behind. I got to sit with kids that I’ve grown to love and tell them the news. I’ve seen kids handle it with amazing maturity and seeing it as an opportunity to grow the Kingdom of God. There were tears of joy mixed with tears of sadness. Through all of this I saw the value of relationships. Relationships that help you make big choices, relationships that help us speak life into one another, relationships that encourage us to be the best that God has designed us to be.

In this process, more often than not things didn’t seem to work out the way I thought they would. There were hang ups, slow downs, chaos and bumps in the road. I realized I had these expectations of the situation, that I wanted things on my terms and my way. I think God laughs at that. I really began to learn this lesson yet again. To trust God, not the plans we think we need. We have expectations of the way things should go. Yet, God doesn’t need us to know His plans. He doesn’t have to show us how our lives will play out. We just need to trust Him, completely.

This mantra has come up a few times and I believe it. The best is yet to come. It helps me to stay positive in the moments of frustration. God isn’t upset or mad but simply wants me to be faithful to Him wherever I am. When we can look at our lives and see that the best is yet to come we can fully engage in our surroundings now. The best years of our lives of not some bygone age but we are currently in them. If the best is yet to come, then God isn’t done with us yet. Whatever season of life you’re in you can fully participate in the story of God because He still has plans and a purpose for you.

There are ways that God has shown up for me during this transition that have helped me to see His blessing in it. From the support of family and friends and even things coming up that show that this is where God is calling me to now. The people we do life with matter, respect and honor them, even in the midst of life changes. Look for ways to be part of Gods grand story wherever you are in life, knowing that the best is yet to come. Trust God, not the plans you think you need, just God.