Life Posts

Being Mentored by Seth Godin

Being Mentored by Seth Godin

I was able to see something I had been doing for years in a new light this week. This new insight was as a result of having the privilege to be mentored by Seth Godin. You are likely familiar with Seth’s brilliance from one of his many bestselling books.

Here’s the particular issue we were working to improve. For many years I’ve had an email subscription on my blog (see the signup box at the bottom of this post). Those tend to be my more committed readers who want to personally receive an email each day I have a new post. As those of you who receive that email know, you don’t actually receive the entire post in the email. This is intentional. Otherwise, you’d never need to go to my blog. Then, I wouldn’t get any of the traffic stats for my site.

As a result, I send out an email to a committed network of people with the first paragraph or so of a post. Then, I hope they click the link to read the full post on my site. In tracking the numbers of this, it’s a minority that actually do this with each post. But, that’s what the logic of the day tells you to do to help your blog.

Seth caused me to ask the question like this: Would I rather have more traffic on my blog (but less people actually read what I write), OR, would I rather have less traffic on my blog (but more people actually read what I write)?

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Unprepared

Unprepared: Is there anything worse we can say about you and your work? But the word means two things, not just one. There is the unprepared of a final exam, of forgetting your lines, of showing up to a gunfight with a knife—this is the unprepared of the industrial world, the unprepared of being an industrial cog in an industrial system, but a cog that is out-of-whack, disconnected, and poorly maintained. What about the other kind, though? We are unprepared to do something for the first time, always. We are unprepared to create a new kind of beauty, to connect with another human in a way that we've never connected before. We are unprepared for our first bestseller or for a massive failure unlike any we've ever seen before. We are unprepared to fall in love and to be loved. We are unprepared for the reaction when we surprise and delight someone, and we are always unprepared for the next breakthrough. We've been so terrified into believing in the importance of preparation that it's spilled over into that other realm, the realm of life where we have no choice but to be unprepared.

Seth Godin

Work that Matters

I invite you to join me in a short journey of recent memories.

Experience #1

Sitting together one evening, my dad and I “swapped stories” of emails we had received about certain things we’d each mentioned while preaching. While neither of the emails we mentioned were sent with any type of ill-will, we reflected on the challenge of our jobs when you give your opinion and perspective to thousands of people who have their own opinions and perspectives. Most people don’t realize it also means you find yourself explaining your arguments to others in email after the fact.

Experience #2

I had the opportunity to preach at a friend’s church last weekend. I talked about Jesus’ statement that He is the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-21). One lady came up to me afterward and told me that she recites Psalm 23 every morning (the one that talks about “The Lord is my shepherd…”) and how I had forever changed her time with God each day. Another woman talked with me afterward and told me that as she listened to an illustration I used (about a negative view of God), she mentioned to her daughter that she found that to be an absurd stereotype. Her daughter replied by telling her mom that the illustration perfectly captured her view of God. Her mom was stunned and extremely grateful to me for the chance to have that dialogue with her daughter.

Conclusion

If I only think about experience #1 I can easily idealize some other career path. I know I’m not alone in this. Think back to the last time you felt totally drained and discouraged doing something you feel passionate about. If I only think about experience #2 I can easily expect a dream job which I’ll never quite get to last. Again, I’m sure you’ve had to work through something like this in your own life. But when I, and you the reader, combine both of these types of experiences we find a balanced way of sustaining ourselves to do work that matters. It won’t be all roses, and the moments of tension (especially if they come at you in a rush) can feel overwhelming at times. But this is the entrance fee for doing something of value. It also keeps us from having our heads in the clouds and constantly chasing after some dream which cannot be sustained. How many people opt out of meaningful efforts because the challenge with it was too much or because the adrenaline rush didn’t last?

You can spend today on work that matters. Find what it really looks like and willing give yourself to it and to the challenges it brings.

Exploring deeper theology—especially ideas which are new to you—is like taking the roof off your bedroom. You begin to see the night sky and the stars in all their brilliance. But you also experience a new vulnerability from the rain when it storms. The question for each of us is whether we are willing to trade the one for the other.

Promoter of the Faith

I’ve always been a bit of a contrarian. While I like what this ultimately leads me to I’ll admit that it’s not always the most fun position to hold. Going against the flow in almost any area carries a burden with it. But it also allows for greater diversity and depth of perspective.

Recently I’ve been reading this book and it mentioned a part of the Catholic Church that I had never heard the full story of before.

For centuries, the Catholic Church made use of a “devil’s advocate” in canonization decisions (i.e., in deciding who would be named a saint). The devil’s advocate was known inside the church as the promotor fidei—the “promoter of the faith”—and his role was to build a case against sainthood. John Paul II eliminated the office in 1983, ending 400 years of tradition. Since then, tellingly, saints have been canonized at a rate about 20 times faster than in the early part of the twentieth century.

An effective promotor fidei is not a token argumentative smarty-pants; it’s someone who deeply respects the Catholic Church and is trying to defend the faith by surfacing contrary arguments in situations where skepticism is unlikely to surface naturally. (Who wants to argue against someone who’s lived a life so admirable that they merit consideration as a saint?)

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Beauty in the Basic

Beauty in the Basic

I’ve been reflecting lately on the importance of celebrating the more normal (mundane) parts of life. So often in our spiritual life we look for the big moments of significance. And those can be incredible to experience. But we often overlook and unnecessarily negate the beauty in the basic things. I’ll give you an example (one that will open myself up to quite a bit of ridicule as well).

Lately I’ve been waking up with random songs in my head. When I say random, I mean songs that I haven’t listened to in years and don’t particularly even like. But I’ll find myself humming the melody or mouthing the lyrics I know and then I’ll catch myself and wonder what on earth is happening. Within the last week or so this has happened on three different occasions when it stood out to me.

Here were the songs:

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