As a father, I read a lot of children’s books.  To be honest, I am pretty bad at it.  I try to do voices, get the characters confused, and leave my children wondering why the Whos want to ruin Christmas.  The sad part is that I really enjoy reading books to my kids.  The excitement on their faces when they bring me a book and plop in my lap is downright heart-warming.  So I try my best to do good enough for them to keep coming back.

Recently my son brought home a book from a book fair at school.  It is called “Pete the Cat: I Love My White Shoes.”  The book came with a link to download an audio version of the book.  Jackpot!  There was background music, sing-a-long songs, and a radio voice that made the book come to life.  Luckily, I could even download the audio version on my phone.  So, of course, this is my son’s new favorite book and we have to listen to it over and over while I do nothing more than flip the pages.  That’s what I call a win-win.

While my son loves the book for the songs and entertainment, I have to admit that I am a big fan myself.  The lesson in this book is fantastic and is actually summed up very well.  The last page reads like this:  The moral of Pete’s story is:  No matter what you step in, keep walking along and singing your song.  Wow, I could not have said it better myself.

People expect Christians to have perfect lives.  We are expected to always be happy and care free.  As we all know, that is not the case. 

We struggle.  We have trials and failures.  We mess up.  We hurt.  We cry.  Sometimes, we want to run away and hide.  (I think I just wrote a hit country song).

Because the world tells us we should be perfect, we try to act like it.  We mask our pain, hide our failures, and pretend like we have everything under control.  When we step in something, instead of walking along and singing our song we try to cover up the fact that we ever stepped in something in the first place.  We clean our shoes, get new shoes, or even try to go barefoot.  Anything to keep people from knowing that we are flawed.

In “Pete the Cat,” no matter what Pete steps in, he keeps singing about his shoes.  The trick is that instead of ending the song, he changes it to better fit the situation.  He adds what he has stepped in to the song, because that is now a part of his story.  That is part of his testimony.

So the next time you hit a bump in the road, if you are struggling with finances, relationships, sin, or anything else that you are tempted to hide, add it to your story.  What better way is there to show how great God is than to show what He has brought you through?  Isn’t that what a testimony is all about? 

The moral of this post is: No matter what problems you have, keep telling your story and giving God the glory.

 
I am not a very political person, and I have no intent to use my blog as a political platform.  Especially considering the fact that Al Gore invented the internet, I feel it would be hypocritical of me to criticize his ideas on an internet blog.  So rest assured, this post has nothing to do with our climate.  This is a commentary on our culture.

We live in a crazy world.  Of course I am less than thirty years old and my experience is limited, but based on my knowledge of history and world culture I believe that our society acts more selfish, obsessive, and entitled than ever before.  People seek power, pleasure, and immediate gratification.  The line between rights and privileges is so blurry that many people feel entitled to whatever they want.  Being a part of this culture often makes me feel shameful, and seeing others buy into it breaks my heart.

As Christians, we are supposed to be different.  We are called to remain pure and true in the midst of whatever mess we find ourselves in.  Without selfish motives, we are supposed to stand out in such a way that God can be seen through our actions.  “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” (Romans 12:2 NIV)
  
However, we are also called to share the gospel.  Christians are responsible for spreading the good news of Jesus Christ to anyone and everyone that will listen.  With Paul being one of the greatest evangelists of all time, we often follow his lead.  In 1 Corinthians, he writes: “Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 NIV)

So wait…we are supposed to be different from everyone else and not conform to the patterns of the world.  Yet, we need to be able to fit in with everyone in order to share our testimonies.  Is it just me, or do those two strategies seem to conflict with each other?  Sure, there has to be a way to fit in and stand out at the same time.  But for most, finding that balance is like trying to find a vegan at a Baptist potluck.

For many, the effort to find the perfect mixture of blending in and repping Christ can be a little too much, and we just end up seeking the status quo of going through the motions.  However, from what I get from scripture, that is exactly what God wants us not to do.  “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:15-16 NIV)

Our culture is so spiritually cold that, if we are not careful, our efforts to be different can lead us right into the comfort of being lukewarm.  In trying to balance standing out and fitting in, we need to be very clear that we are doing both for the glory of God and not for our own comfort or peace of mind.  The moment we start making our efforts about ourselves or even about the work that is being done, we drastically compromise our potential to exceed lukewarm temperatures.

How do you balance trying not to conform to the patterns of the world with Paul's strategy of becoming all things to all people?

 
I have two children that live in my home between the ages of one and four.  Very few things in life are more dramatic than…well…anything that does not go their way.  That is unless you consider the teenagers that I work with at church.  While they are an incredible blessing to my life, they have their fair share of drama.  However, that does not really compare to the drama I see every day at work.  You see, I work with college students, and it seems like every little thing is a tragedy.  Come to think of it, though, the most over-dramatic people in my life all seem to be adults.  Mature, professional, Christian, drama-hungry adults. 

People thrive on drama.  There is something exhilarating about being involved in an exciting, adrenaline pumping, tense, controversial or even confrontational situation.  Even if you are not directly involved in the situation, just talking about it can often make you feel alive and like you are part of something special.  Some people are great at creating their own drama, where others are always looking for somebody else’s drama to latch onto.

Unfortunately, people fail to realize that nothing good can come from it.  I’ll say it again: nothing.  Whether you are at school, work, church, or even just spending time with family, you will never be able to improve a situation by adding fuel to the fire.  It is everyone’s responsibility to avoid drama as much as humanly possible.  It is like a great philosopher named Booker T once said: “Save the drama for your mama.”

If you are gathering information because you need to make an informed decision, have at it.  If you are trying to add factual information to a rumor filled conversation, proceed.  If you are taking a stand for your faith, hallelujah!   If you are actively seeking justice for yourself or a loved one, play on.  But when you get to the point where you are adding to the drama instead of putting an end to it, you need to take a step back and remove yourself from the situation.  The moment that your involvement stops being about a solution, it is time to take your spot on the sidelines and take off your swagger mask.  Don’t feed the drama monster.

"A perverse person stirs up conflict, and a gossip separates close friends." (Proverbs 16:28 NIV)

How do you avoid getting involved in the drama surrounding your life?

 
If you know me at all, and I’m sure both people reading this do, you know that I am a huge University of Kentucky sports fan.  Football, basketball, and even baseball.  I watch all of the games, follow the sports writers on Twitter, read all related blogs, and even keep up with recruiting.  For most of the year, UK sports are something that I am pretty passionate about.

There are times, though, when I wonder if I am wasting my time with something that is really not that important in the grand scheme of things.  I wonder if I should be focusing on things that are more eternal, or dedicating more time to the important relationships in my life.  I think about the service I could be doing in my community, or even the endless list of projects I have planned for my home.  And then I hear this little voice in the back of my head…”OOOHHHHH…..C-A-T-S, CATS, CATS, CATS!”

Man, I love Kentucky sports.  I can’t help it.  So instead of putting my effort into trying to find things I should be doing instead of representing the Big Blue Nation, I shall now focus on finding a way to justify this passion of mine.  Join me on this journey, will you?

1.  Fellowship. – There are very few things in life that bring people together like sports.  Whether you are just trying to break the ice, or you are looking for a friend for life, sports is never a bad place to start.  And if you believe life is all about relationships, and I certainly do, you have to agree that sports can be a great venue for fellowship and relationship building.

2.  Life lessons. – Okay, so being a sports fan may not provide life changing lessons.  However, being a member of a sports team does.  And as I hope my children will someday learn valuable lessons in discipline, hard work, humility, and teamwork, watching sports with them now will go a long way toward getting them interested in playing when they get older.

3.  It helps my witness. – If I am going to live in a world full of sports fans, I need to be able to play the part.

“Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.” (1 Corinthians 9:19-23 NIV)

4.  God cares about sports. – That may be the most controversial sentence I have ever written.  I am not saying that God prefers one team over another or plays a part in who wins.  However, it is undeniable that God loves each and every person involved in every sporting event.  And if a sport happens to be a large part of their lives, I truly believe that God cares about that. 

I believe God cares about the interactions that coaches and athletes have with teammates and other players.  I think He provides opportunities for those involved to serve Him in ways that others simply can not access.  After all, He gave them the talent.  Why would He not want them to use their platform for His glory?  Oh yeah, God cares about sports…just not the same why I do.

There, now I feel better about watching sports so much.  How about you?

 
I like to put people in boxes.  Wait, no.  That sounds creepy.  What I mean is that I tend to make massive assumptions about people based on little to no factual information.  Yeah, that sounds better. 

I am not alone in this, though, right?  We all stereotype people.  We make assumptions about them because of their color, where they are from, their religion, their political affiliation, their educational background, and how much money they have.  Unfortunately, we do not stop there.  We also judge them based on the way they dress, the neighborhood they live in, the type of car they drive, the people they surround themselves with, their hobbies and interests, their church denomination, their preferred version of the Bible, where they shop, the people they are friends with on Facebook, and the specific church that they attend.  That, my friends, is a very sad list…and it is nowhere near exhaustive.

I get it.  It is easier for us if we can meet somebody and instantly understand everything about them.  We feel like it helps us to understand the world better.  It helps us feel like we have more power over what is happening around us.  There is comfort in that feeling.  That comfort is what we seek when we start putting people in boxes.

The scary part is how convenient it is for us all to ignore the fact that the comfort we seek is actually false.  There are no one-size-fits-all people boxes.  Everyone, even if they seem similar to many others, is unique in many more ways than they are like anybody else.  So if we think we can better comprehend the world by grouping people together, we are creating a false sense of comfort, power, and understanding that prohibits us from seeing the world as it really is.

It makes us blind to the beauty that can be found in individuality.  It makes it more difficult for us to come to an actual understanding of who people are and what they stand for.  And worst of all, it makes it harder for us to love people that our Savior loved enough to die for on the cross.

Do you ever find yourself making wild, unfounded assumptions about people?

 
Don’t be skerd.  Do people still say that?  I didn’t think so.  Even so, it is good advice.  Far too often, we let fear creep in and ruin our plans.  Or worse, we let fear ruin what God has planned for us. 

When I was in elementary school, I rarely went to church.  Occasionally I would go with my grandmother to get her off of my back because she invited me almost every Sunday.  I would go, stand during worship, draw on scrap paper during the sermon, look down and draw during prayers, go home and continue on as if nothing had happened. 

There was one time each year, however, that I got really excited about going to church.  I absolutely loved Vacation Bible School.  I would get to hang out with many of my friends from school that I did not see much in the summer, play games, and enjoy some delicious snacks.  Good times had by all.

However, I remember one year that it was absolutely ruined right off the bat.  We sat down to do a lesson on the first day, and the teacher asked if anybody could name the writers of the gospels.  Since I did not attend church often, and I rarely listened when I did go, I had no idea what a gospel was.  However, there was a young man beside me that said, “Oh, that’s easy:  Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.”  Instantly, my VBS balloon was deflated. 

Due to my own lack of Biblical knowledge, the confidence of another kid caused a degree of fear in me that paralyzed me for the rest of the week.  The words "that's easy" made me feel like I did not belong, and I had no business pretending as if I did.  If there was ever a chance I would learn more about God, it was negated by the hollow shell of fear that I crawled into.

I would love to say, “Hey, I was a kid.  Of course I was intimidated.  I would never react that way now that I am an adult.”  However, that would not be completely accurate.  I cannot tell you how many issues I have wanted to write about on this blog, only to talk myself out of it because I am not an expert.  Because of fear, I have chosen to hold back ideas that I feel are relevant. 

Because I do not have a seminary degree, I do not feel qualified to discuss deep spiritual issues.  At least that is the lie that I keep telling myself.  There are several of individuals that I consider to be spiritual mentors that sometimes comment on my posts.  Each time they do, I end up freaking out and trying to make sure I did not write anything that was completely sacrilegious on that particular post.  The fear that they may lose respect for me consumes me.

Fear leads us to believe that our experiences with God, our personal testimonies about our faith, are not good enough.  Fear leads us to keep our mouths shut, even when we feel led to share.  Fear tells us that without this or without that, we are nothing.  Fear is a liar.

“Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity.” (1Tim. 4:12 NIV)

 
I try to show everyone the love of God, I really do.  I smile, I try to lend a hand, I give compliments, I am relatively generous, and I harshly ridicule with unrelenting persistence.  Yeah, you read that right.  For many of my closest friends, our terms of endearment often include jokes, insults, and borderline abusive banter.  We show our feelings (yes, dudes have feelings) for each other by making fun of each other.  And judging by our recent conversations, I am the most loved person in the group.

I am telling you this for a couple of reasons.  First of all, I want to put to bed any rumors that I have no friends.  Erroneous, that’s what that is.  However, the more important point is that we are very aware of the way we speak to each other.  When we are on the disc golf course or playing poker….er…uh…go fish, we let each other have it. 

But we are also conscious of the fact that others may not perceive our conversations as the light-hearted rhetoric they are.  They may see our comments as mean and rude.  They may not see the love that fills those vicious words.  To them, it may seem as though we are not treating each other the way Christ intended, thus leading them to believe that our relationships with friends and even our relationships with Jesus may not be that important to us.

So what?  Should we really care what other people think?  Absolutely.  We all have things we enjoy or aspects to our relationships that are completely harmless, yet may not be completely understood from an outside perspective.  It is very tempting to say that others’ perception of you is not important and it is “their problem for judging,” but that really does not seem to be in line with the gospel.  We should be seeking, 100% of the time, to let others see Christ in us, even if that means we compromise our own comfort.

What innocent habits do you have that could be perceived as less than Christ-like?  What does that mean for how you go about your daily routine?  For my friends and I, while we still engage in casual ribbing in public, we save the extreme verbal abuse for behind closed doors.  I think that’s what Jesus would do.

 
I write things down quite a bit.  When I hear a quote or a story that I think is meaningful and would be good to remember, I write it in a small notebook that I carry around.  Sometimes I write blog entries about the thoughts that come from these ideas, other times I put them on post-it notes around my office.  The problem with this practice is that quotes and stories impact you in different ways at different times.  So when I go back a week or two later and look at things I have written down, I’m lucky if a third of it makes sense to me. 

Recently, I was looking back through my notes and saw this quote: “Do not cut down trees that produce good fruit.”  I honestly have no idea where it came from.  I know Jesus talked about cutting down trees that do not bear good fruit, but I don’t think He ever came out and said the opposite.  Of course this makes sense, though.  If a person, a ministry, or any other type of program is doing Godly work and serving His people, let it be.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  But what does that mean for my day to day life?  Why in the world would I write that quote down?

I recently read through “The Practice of the Presence of God” by Brother Lawrence.  If you have not read this book, you are missing out.  Brother Lawrence served as a monk during the 1600’s and constantly wrote and talked about how he tried to continuously be in God’s presence.  He believed that, no matter what he was doing, if it would stay focused on God, giving thanks and praise with every breath, that he would always be able to feel God with him and to feel His love and guidance.

It was while reading this book that “do not cut down trees that produce good fruit” finally made sense to me.  As Brother Lawrence talked about how to practice being in God’s presence, he made the comment that the task you are working on is relatively meaningless.  It doesn’t matter whether you are teaching children, working construction, or raising money for charity, the important part is that you are not doing it selfishly but only for the glory of God.  That is the kind of tree that produces good fruit.  The type of fruit is much less important than the One for which it is bring grown. 

If you write, write for God.  If you are a student, let others see your devotion to God in your study habits.  If you are building a sky scraper, praise Him continuously for the work He is doing through you.  And if you see somebody else doing their absolute best for their Heavenly Father, do all you can to encourage them and help them in their work.  Do not cut down trees that produce good fruit.

 
When I first started this blog, I really just wanted to put some issues out on the table for people to discuss while keeping the context fresh and entertaining.  I try to focus on spiritual truths while working in some humor to keep people coming back.  I usually start writing about a spiritual issue, and then try to work in some pop culture references and subtle jokes.  The majority of the time, I feel like my writing reflects what I truly want this blog to be.  That is what makes my page view statistics so frustrating.

While I usually remain faithful to the writing formula I have set for myself, there are times when I write about things I believe are entertaining and sprinkle in some elements of Christianity.  Three of the most viewed posts in Knowledge Dropper history are: A Christian Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, Why I don’t think God likes chick flicks, and Is your church like an elementary school?

Sure, there are spiritual elements to these posts.  But I wrote these for fun.  I didn’t expect them to changes anybody’s life.  Then I get double the traffic on the zombie guide than I have ever had for anything else.  Yet, there are other posts that I researched, edited several times, and spent lots of prayer time trying to make sure it was what God wanted me to write.  Then just a handful of people ever see it.  That is very disheartening.

After having some time to ponder these statistics and then pray about what they mean for the future of this blog, I have had a few revelations.

1. Quality > Quantity – Despite a small number of page views on some of the posts I’ve spent the most time on, I often have at least one person tell me they enjoyed what I wrote or that they needed to hear it at that time.  If I could choose between helping one person through a tough situation and having one hundred people browse my blog and move on, I would choose the one person every time.

2. My marketing stinks – I usually include a quote from each post when attach the web address to a Facebook or Twitter message.  Thinking I’m super smart, I often decide to choose some clever line that links directly to the title.  However, lately I have been trying to use the more fun, attention grabbing lines alongside the links to see if that will increase traffic.  I have seen other writers do this, so we will see how it goes.

3. My expectations mean nothing – Jon Acuff gave me a virtual stomach punch on this issue.  If I am writing because I feel led by God to do so, and I truly put my best effort into it, the results should not matter to me.  If I am following God’s leading and truly writing what He wants me to write, it is up to Him to take care of the rest as He sees fit. 

That might mean that my blog blows up with traffic when He wants it to.  It could be that there is only one message that He wants to deliver to one person through my writing, and everything else is done to make sure that message is delivered.  Is that what I want?  Nope.  Does what I want matter?  Nope.  Does that suck sometimes?  Yep.

You may or may not be in a place of feeling like you are not producing the fruit that you expected to come out of your hard work.  If you are feeling that way, join the club.  I hope my insights are helpful for you.  If you feel like you are producing fruit and need help carrying it in the house, please let the rest of us help you.  Share your secrets so the rest of us may be fruitful also.

Have you ever had to come to terms with the fact that God’s plan may be different from what you dreamed it would be?

 
In case you haven’t figured it out, March Madness is upon us.  To sports fans, it is one of the most exciting times of the year.  To non-sports fans, it is the best time of the year to act like you care about sports.  For me, it is the perfect combination of organization and chaos, and one of the rare times in life when the product actually justifies the anticipation.  The one thing March Madness becomes that it should not, however, is personal.

I fill out one bracket every year.  I have no ethical problem with filling out several in hopes that you eventually get it right.  I just can’t handle the burden of trying to remember which teams I picked to win in which bracket pool.  This year, I had very few upsets because I always seem to miss big when I take a chance.  However, I did have some early round surprises that I thought would not hurt my overall bracket too badly if I was wrong. 

Two of my predicted upsets, though, had some teams going out that are very dear to the hearts of some of my friends.  Upon seeing this, some of them poked fun at me and issued idle threats (at least I hope they were idle).  But a couple of friends seemed genuinely upset.  They seemed to feel insulted by my random upset selections.  That was never my intent, and I’m sure it will never come up again since my picks are always wrong.  But I cannot help but wonder why people take things so personally.

I see similar situations far too often, especially in Christian circles.  If two people disagree about a topic, even if the actual issue is rather small, it can easily turn into a personal attack when somebody voices their disagreement.  It rarely has to do with the words that are said, but more with the words that are heard.  Someone could say “I really don’t think we need hot dogs AND hamburgers, could we just do one or the other?”  And then another person will hear “Your ideas are stupid and nobody likes your cooking anyway.”  Or "I think it is time we approach this ministry from a different angle" turns into "I cannot believe you ever expected this to work.  Our failure is your fault."

Why do we do that?  If we are truly loving each other the way we are called to, shouldn’t we always be giving each other, especially other believers, the benefit of the doubt?  Should we not always assume people are speaking from a place of love? 

In the book of James, we are told to “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19 NIV)  We often use this verse to tell people to be slow to speak, or at least my wife does.  But if we read it in its entirety, it speaks directly to this issue.  Be quick to listen….and listen well to make sure you are hearing what you think you are hearing.  Be slow to become angry…if you think somebody is attacking your character or insulting you personally, approach them individually and get to the heart of the issue before you waste time and energy being angry.  If you do these things well, you will naturally be slow to speak.

Have you ever been guilty of hearing something that wasn’t really said?  Have you ever said something that was later twisted to mean something completely different?

I know you are dying to know what my March Madness bracket looks like.  Check it out below.