Becoming Comfortable Being Uncomfortable: Lessons from a Glass Elevator

Think of a time in your life when you stepped into a scenario, and immediately upon entering, you knew you didn’t belong.  Maybe everyone around you looked different, or dressed differently, or you showed up to a costume party without a costume (or to a regular party and you were the only one wearing a costume!).
Have you had an experience like that?
I know it’s a little soon to be talking about Christmas, but I have to share a story about one my family’s Christmas traditions.  Every year around Christmas time we would drive 3.5 hours to San Francisco to get our family picture taken with Santa Clause on the 7th floor of Macy’s overlooking Union Square, in downtown San Francisco.
While we were there, we would always take a day to go sightseeing.  And at the end of our sightseeing day, when we could not possibly look any more like tourists, wearing the San Francisco sweatshirts we had just bought and our cameras around our necks, my parents would take all of us to the St. Francis Hotel. 
Now, you have to understand, we weren’t checking in; we weren’t guests at the St. Francis Hotel.  Far from it, actually.  Guests at the St. Francis were the people having the valets park their Maseratis and Bentleys out front. 
No, you see, the St. Francis Hotel happened to always be at the end of our sightseeing list because it had outside elevators.  These were glass elevators that faced Union Square and took you from the ground floor all the way up 32 floors to the top of the hotel.  And at night, especially, the view was spectacular.  This was free entertainment for the Fitzpatrick family, and we loved it!
I mean really–you can pay almost $100 per person to go to Disneyland… or you can ride the free elevators at the St. Francis Hotel.
So every year, we would walk into that hotel like we owned the place, past the gingerbread houses that look like they took three months to construct, past the gorgeous Christmas trees adorned with expensive ornaments, past every real guest of the hotel who was dressed to a tee, straight to elevators. 
You should have seen some of the looks we would get.  Talk about fish out of water!  Especially when we packed our family of six into the first available elevator, pressed the button for the top floor like we were staying in the penthouse suite, and then all squeezed our way to the window to get the best view for the ride.
For me, it was the norm.  This is what we did.  I don’t think I really began to realize how out of place we looked until I was in junior high and you start noticing those things.  But it was also at that time that I realized what a gift my parents had given us to not care.  We were going to ride those outside elevators at the St. Francis no matter what we looked like!
Sure, we may have looked out of place.  And people may have looked at us and said, “How awkward is that?”  But it’s only awkward if you let it be. 

We obviously didn’t belong in the St. Francis hotel.  But we stepped outside our comfort zone, and we walked in with confidence.
Can you imagine if we had missed the experience of that family tradition simply because we felt out of place? 
I wonder how many times we talk ourselves out of opportunities that could end up being really incredible experiences by telling ourselves that we don’t belong, by giving in to the idea that feeling “out of place” is a bad thing?

Maybe we should work on becoming comfortable being uncomfortable.
Next time you feel that lie crawling to the front of your mind—the one that tries to convince you that you don’t belong—push it right back, in full confidence, knowing that you were created to do great things.  Sometimes we just have to step outside our comfort zones in order to create those opportunities.  

How Will Twitter’s Vine Impact the True Vine?

Remember when families used to sit around and listen to the radio together because there were no televisions yet?  Remember when televisions came into the home and replaced the radio?  Remember when the ability to record TV enabled families to watch shows whenever they wanted?  And remember when you could stream shows and movies straight to your portable device or phone?
Remember when advertisers used to buy airtime on the radio?  How about when advertisers had to begin thinking visually as they created television spots?  Or do you recall the first time you watched a digitally-recorded television show and were able to fast-forward through every commercial??
With every transition in media technology, the advertising industry has been forced to adapt.  As more and more people use social media as their primary source for daily news and entertainment, companies have been trying to keep up by transforming their marketing strategies. 
Recently released by Twitter, Vine may once again change the face of advertising.  Instead of radio spots or television commercials (not to mention the sudden decline of print advertising), Vine offers users the ability to create and post 6-second GIF videos. 
Todd Wasserman, of, shares about several companies who have already started to experiment with Twitter’s new service.  Wasserman asks the question, “Will the :06 become the new :30 in the ad world?”
As a teacher of God’s Word, I already face the difficult task of encouraging people to spend time in Scripture.  I wish I could say that this challenge is particularly daunting with teenagers, but I’ve come to find that adults today have just as much trouble finding the discipline to sit down and intentionally read their Bibles.
In our ever-increasing world of sound-bites, people today stop paying attention after more than a few seconds.  When daily Scripture verses can be sent to their email accounts or show up on their Twitter feed, people think, “I’ve heard my sound-bite of Scripture for the day.” 
The memorization of large sections of Scripture has been replaced by keeping a couple favorite verses in one’s back pocket—and they’re usually paraphrased at that!  I’m afraid to see how this trend will continue on its current trajectory!
I can picture John 3:16 going from, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life,” to “For God so loved the world…” 
That changes things!  When we begin to chop up Scripture we start leaving out key aspects of various passages.  Sure, this would focus on God’s love, but it completely forgets about the True Vine, Jesus Christ, and the response that is necessary for those who love and follow Him.
Now, I would hope that this scenario is more hyperbolic than realistic, but we can regularly see the results of such thinking in all sorts of theological circles. 
As our attention spans get smaller and smaller, I pray that our Scriptural spans will not follow.  But I’m afraid that’s idealistic thinking.  The question that emerges is, “If the :06 becomes the new :30 in the ad world, how does the Church respond?”
Some may say, “We need to find creative ways to communicate the gospel in :06.”  These accomodationists will most likely jump all over Twitter’s new Vine service and find success in doing so.  I am not against this.  In fact, I wouldn’t put it past me to join those in this challenge!
However, as I seek to live intensionally, I will press on even harder to get those with whom I worship to seek intentional discipleship, to push back against the sound-bite trends of society by practicing discipline in their reading of Scripture.
Discipleship is tough.  Discipline is required.  But we cannot afford to lose the significance of the Christian story, simply because our attention spans have become too short to spend time reading Scripture.
Ignoring cultural trends will leave us naïve, isolated and completely irrelevant to the world.  Yet on the other hand, giving in completely to those cultural trends without challenging individuals to recognize them, and to make a conscious effort to subvert them, will lead to such a watered-down gospel that we will have nothing significant to offer the world in the first place. 
Even in our practices of social media, may we learn to live intensionally.

Lessons from Bubble Gum: Learning to Slow Down

I have the pleasure of working as the Fellowship of Christian Athletes “Character Coach” for the softball teams at Duncanville High School.  Each week I get the attention of 40 high school girls for 10 minutes at the end of one of their practices.  I talk to them to about different aspects of leadership and responsibility as athletes, etc.

This week was particularly significant because it was a lesson that I walked away from asking myself, “Well, Josh… now that you’ve told them all about it, how well are YOU practicing it yourself?”

I had each girl take a piece of bubble gum, as I announced that the first person to blow a bubble was the winner.  They all immediately went into a fury of chewing as their jaws worked as quickly as possible to soften the hard piece of gum.  Many of them began to try blowing bubbles before their gum was soft enough to actually form one, resulting instead in a chewed-up mess leaving their mouth for two seconds before returning to be chewed even further and softened even more.

After someone finally blew a successful bubble, I asked them if it was easy to blow a bubble under the pressure of time, to which they all agreed that it was not.  This opened the door to talk about how we try to do so many things, at such a rapid pace, that we actually end up doing nothing really well at all.  After encouraging them to slow down in life, I gave them my full “youth pastor permission” to really enjoy their upcoming Christmas breaks by sleeping in and being OK with being bored (for a bit!).

I then asked them all to chew the gum as quickly as they could.  And again, their jaws started working like crazy.  I stopped them and told them, “Ok, now try to chew in slow motion–on the open as well as on the close.”  And they all kind of giggled as they began to chew their gum slowly.

I told the story of a tennis coach I once had who told us that when we were all worked up and nervous on the tennis court we should pop a piece of bubble gum in our mouths and chew it in slow motion.  You can’t help but focus and concentrate on what you’re doing when you intentionally chew your gum slowly.  Try it! 

As we make our way through Mike Slaughter’s “A Different Kind of Christmas” this year at FUMC Duncanville, I catch myself asking, “Am I really taking this to heart?”  If I truly am, then I need to chew some bubble gum in slow motion this Christmas season and breathe, focusing on what is truly important during this incredible holiday. 

If you’ve made it through this entire blog post without putting a piece of gum in your mouth, then you have my full “youth pastor permission” to stop everything you’re doing and go get that piece of bubble gum!  Try it.  I dare you.  And give yourself permission to enjoy the results.