4 ways men can show (and women can know) that chivalry is not dead

As you progress in life you begin to realize that those who have come before you (typically your parents and grandparents) were right about many things in life. Many of us have received dating advice from family members and others who are more experienced than us. Some of it good and some of it straight up ridiculous. However there are four things that will never die and should be encouraged for years to come. They all stem from the idea of chivalry which is “the sum of the ideal qualifications of a knight, including courtesy, generosity, valor, and dexterity in arms.”

Dressing Up Nicely (Courtesy)

We live in a culture today where it’s very easy to dress in athletic shorts or sweats with a tshirt and call it good. I’ll be honest and say I was shocked when I showed up to college and people actually wore pajamas to class. I barely feel comfortable wearing shorts to class in the summer time. How can we be comfortable wearing the same when we take a lady out on a date? We shouldn’t be. We should strive to look our best. To quote remember the Titans

You will wear a jacket, shirt, and tie. If you don’t have one, buy one. Can’t afford one, borrow one from your old man. If you don’t have an old man, then find a drunk, trade him for his. ‘Cause I guarantee you there isn’t a bum on the street that looks as raggedy and ridiculous as what I’m looking at right now.

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Dress nice it will do wonders to not only your confidence but to the admiration the women in your life have for you. You won’t regret it.

Buying Her Flowers/Chocolate (Generosity)

This should be a given. However for some reason our society thinks this is overdone. However, regardless of how much society or even the girls around us want to deny it getting them flowers or chocolate is really something they will appreciate. Some might say that it’s not very “thoughtful” but just the action of getting her something that is sweet and romantic is worth more than any of the other thoughts that as Ben Rector says “are too cliche’ to impress a girl like her”. Buy her flowers, unless she’s allergic maybe then you get a free pass…even then buy her chocolate. If for some reason she’s allergic to both take the time to see what would be a romantic gesture to her and do it. It’s worth putting the smile on her face.

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Holding The Door (Dexterity in Arms)

So maybe this doesn’t mean you’re a master jedi. It is however, another simple gesture but one that goes a long way. This one really is beyond just for the ladies in your life. Take the time to hold open the door for anyone that is around you. A lady will respect that you are being courteous to her and others may even be shocked that a random stranger is being courteous to them. Go beyond holding open the door, open up the car door for her, put your coat down so she won’t have to step in puddles. This shows her that you are there to take care of her.  Don’t be suffocating but make sure that she doesn’t have to exert energy to do things that you should be doing as a man.

Being Respectful (Valor)

I could spend on all day on this one. Don’t be a hater, don’t be a player, don’t be a jerk in general. If you want to really show a lady that chivalry is not dead then by all means be respectful. Don’t try to pressure her to do things she isn’t comfortable with. Don’t talk bad about her friends, family, fashion or anything else for that matter. This goes hand in hand with holding open the door but it’s more of the verbal manner than the physical one. Never talk down to ladies. Be positive to them, be uplifting, compliment them on things. One of the greatest things a guy can do is to be observant and compliment a woman on something that she thinks he doesn’t notice. Another thing is being respectful not just to her but to everyone else you encounter as well. She is observing how you act around others. If you can’t treat everyone with the same amount of respect then she probably isn’t going to be that into you.

The World Network

I had the pleasure of eating dinner with my grandparents tonight. While at dinner my grandmother made the following statement “I don’t know how you and your cousin keep up with all of the people you’ve met”. I had never thought of this before. Some people like to argue and say that in our social networking generation that we are actually more disconnected than we have ever been. I would like to argue that it’s really dependent upon the person.

Today I had the pleasure of eating lunch with a couple that I had never met in person before. A couple that I have known for over three years now and am working on my second project for Jason. Before today all of our conversations have been through online avenues. We were able to sit down to lunch today and not touch our phones or get on the internet the entire time we were together. Not just that but we had meaningful conversation the entire time just like we ate lunch together on a weekly basis. If it were not for the internet I would have never even met Jason and Carol.

Tomorrow I leave for Dallas, TX. A friend and I will be visiting with one of our friends that we made while in China over 2 years ago. While it could have been goodbye when we left China instead we were able to stay connected through email and social media. The moment that we found out our friend was in Dallas we began to make plans to visit. When we get there tomorrow night it will be like we never left each other. We will pick up right where we left off, sure there may be some catching up to do but it’s going to be a great weekend with great friends.

Last week I returned from Paris, France. While there I met someone who attends a university in Missouri. Even though our paths may cross at future debate tournaments we have taken the time to connect through Facebook and other means to get to know each other and stay in touch.

As I left tonight my grandmother said “I don’t know where we would be without Facebook” and I realized that without Facebook my week would have been very boring. For as much as we gripe about how social media has changed how we connect with others the reality is that the three best things about my week would have not existed without this simple tool.

But more than being connected it’s about taking the time to connect with others. Don’t be afraid to reach out to someone to get to know them better. You’d be surprised on where it can take you!

Living the Dream

You hear this phrase a lot around the south in some variation “well I’ve been blessed” and the reality is that I have. The greater reality though, the one I’m still coming to terms with, is that for the first time in my life I am truly living the dream, at least in the sense of what’s going on in my life.

Now don’t get me wrong, I still work two jobs and honestly between my two jobs and grad school most weeks I’m spending nearly 60 hours on all three of those. Somewhere in the middle (and amongst at times) of all of that I am living my dream.

For some reason our generation likes to think that it’s as simple “doing what you love.” It isn’t though. To live our dreams we have to be committed to many things. When I was a part of the “Quitter 100″ I read the manuscript for Jon Acuffs Quitter and the one thing that resonated more than anything else was “Don’t leave your day job to chase your dream job.” We have to be willing to put in the hard work in order to see our dreams come to fruition.

Yes, I went to Paris, France but only because I was able to work and save money to be able to go. Someone didn’t just come up to me and say “Hey, I want to pay for you to go to France for a week” though it would have been nice. One benefit from the trip though is that I’m going to be able to be the assistant debate coach at ASU next year all things considered. I’m going to Dallas this weekend. Only because I work and I have friends who are willing to let me crash at their place. I’m going to North Augusta, SC to compete in the National Collegiate Tournament next month. I have been playing disc golf for 8 years in August and it’s only because I have put in that time and had great team mates that I’m able to qualify and compete in Nationals. Finally, I’m going to Denver in May. Why? Because I work for an awesome company full of awesome people that I can hang out with and go see 3 awesome shows (plus a cool choir concert) in a weeks time.

I’m living the dream right now, getting to see the world and do what I love only because I have taken the time to dedicate to each of these areas and to follow through with them while still maintaining a balanced life outside of them. Yes I have been incredibly blessed but it’s more than that. I have put myself in a position to live the dream and you should too.

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The youth worker we need the most

Charismatic, Engaging, Fun, Energizing, Enthusiastic, Approachable, Friendly, Encouraging, Caring, Gifted.

All of these things at one time or another are used to describe who we want to see as a youth worker in our youth groups. A few descriptors that are not so often heard are: Theologically and Doctrinally Sound. Sometimes this isn’t even expected of a youth pastor. Afterall, they just work with kids.

How is it that we have forgotten that our youth are some of the most important parts of our congregation and yet we leave them in the hands of capable (and not so capable) youth workers. I say this from experience.

When I got my start in student ministry not one question was asked of me about where I stood theologically or doctrinally. However, I had spent from February (Super Bowl Sunday) until October before I was asked to be an intern. The church had plenty of time to see my faith in action. But that still doesn’t excuse the fact that I was not asked any questions about where my faith stood, in a formal setting.

What’s worse is I went to be on staff at a church and honestly the toughest question I remember them asking me was if I believed the Bible was 100% true. I know they asked me questions about where I lined up with the Baptist faith and message but when it all boils down to it my two toughest theological hurdles in my interview was explaining why I believed the Bible was the inspired word of God and were I stood on the creation of the earth.

I had always heard different stories about youth ministers and youth workers doing things that were completely contradictory to what we should do as leaders but it hasn’t been until I have been on the other side of it that it has truly begun to ring true in my life. In the past few years I have met people that have said “yeah I was a youth leader, sometimes I’d let them out of service early so I could go smoke weed” and tonight I heard “yeah I was a junior high youth leader, I made them read “XXX book” and really I only did it so I could have money to buy beer”.

We wonder why our student ministries are struggling. We wonder why after our students leave the youth group they never come back. It’s because of things like this. It’s because of people like me even. I am not saying that I’m above reproach but what I am saying is that something should be done.

1 Peter 2:12 says: Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

So in this manner we should be looking for youth workers who are living their lives in this way. We shouldn’t just be looking for the external though that we see when they are inside the church. But really what do their “pagan” friends say about them? We live in a world today where everyone has friends who are non believers. We should be asking them if their friends are fit to be youth leaders.

We also have James 2: 14-20 which says:

14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”

Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.

20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[d]?

So we get into this whole faith and deeds thing. Obviously we need more than just deeds though. We need this faith that is backed by sound doctrine. This sound doctrine is both seen in our deeds but followed through with our words.

As is seen in Titus 2: 6-8

Similarly, encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

So we see that we are to show integrity, seriousness and soundness. These are all three things which seem to be absent in many of our youth leaders today.

I’m not saying that we should always be second guessing ourselves with who we select to place in leadership. What I am saying is that we should consider the weight we are placing on these people. They are going to be the examples that our students see even more so than the student pastor. So we should make sure that their teachings and subsequent lifestyle is going to line up with our doctrine. If it doesn’t they shouldn’t be  leading. The reality is that once that youth leader has moved on from your congregation they should still be able to speak into your students lives in a positive manner. If you are unsure whether this is going to happen you need to begin to consider other possible youth workers.

I’ve had many opportunities to impact students in my time in ministry. Though it’s a fun story to tell people that I brake checked a student from the back row of a 15 passenger van all the way to the front row, it’s an even more fun story to tell that I was able to counsel that student through some really tough life issues and now see them being a youth leader not just in the church but in the community as well.

When we choose our youth workers our questions shouldn’t be “How many students will they attract or How fun can they be?” They should be “How will they help our students grow doctrinally and in what ways can they disciple our students to live a legacy of the gospel?”

MIssion Arlington

That one Valentine’s article everyone wants to read

Yep, I’m that guy. I’m writing about love on the week of Valentine’s Day. It’s cliche’ I know, but to be honest with you I’m not doing it for the sake of Valentine’s Day. I’m doing it because I saw a music video tonight and I realized that there was something that could be taken from it.

This song has been around for a while. It’s probably considered overplayed and cliche’ by some, but the reality is that it spoke to a thought process I’ve been contemplating for the past few weeks and this song brought things into perspective. It also made me want to learn how to play the ukelele but that’s another story for another time…

Everyone wants to fall in love. We are all made to experience life together. I came across this quote watching Criminal Minds last week:

Love is our true destiny. We do not find the meaning of life by ourselves alone – we find it with another. – Thomas Merton

So, some would say we even find the meaning of life through loving someone. I’m not sure I would take it that far but to deny that we are made to spend our lives with another human being would be a travesty.

Many of us though (myself included at times) want to fall in love with someone now. Not tomorrow, not next month or next year. NOW. But that is not how love is intended to happen. Sure we hear stories about people falling in love at first sight.

SPOILER ALERT: This doesn’t happen to everyone, so some of you are holding out for a myth

The reality is that love takes time to develop. Whether it’s something that needs to happen within ourselves, something that needs to happen within the other individual or something that needs to happen between the two, love takes time.

What does 1 Corinthians 13 say? Love is patient. (and a whole lot more great stuff)

What if you aren’t patient? Maybe you “can’t help falling in love with someone”. Realize though that when you’re falling in love with someone that there is another half to the equation. If they aren’t falling in love with you then what are you going to do?

Take a step back. Assess things. Is this something you want (lust) or is this something that is meant to be (love)? If the other person is considering the same thing they will respect you for taking your time (as long as it isn’t like 10 years or something ridiculous). Don’t do something you’ll regret later for the sake of “falling in love” with someone. You’d rather have a successful friendship or relationship in due time, than a rocky (and potential non-existent) relationship because you were too excited to get things started.

So maybe this week you’re not single and you’re looking forward to Friday. Maybe you are single and still looking forward to Friday. Or maybe you’re in the middle not sure what to think. Just remember while we are made to experience life with someone you love, it’s worth waiting than screwing everything up before it even has a chance to start.

Be Yourself

Individualism is something that is heralded in today’s culture. We are all expected to be our own people and if we aren’t we are labeled a “poser” or whatever it is that the kids call them these days.

So what does it mean to be yourself? If you remember back to an article I wrote a week or so ago we know how identity is constructed (or not constructed). So if our identity is constructed by someone else or by what we decide we are not, then how can we be our own person? Is it through deciding what we are not? It’s a whole lot easier to construct the list of things that I am, than construct the list of things that I am not. Obviously my list of things that I am though creates a diametrically opposed list of things I am not.

What am I?

I am a….

Child of Christ

Project Manager

Graduate Assistant

Graduate Student

Disc Golfer

Son

Grandson

and the list goes on….

When each of these things (and more) come together they make up who I am. This constructs the opportunity for me to be myself. However, there is more to just being me. I have to think of how this construct will interact with the outside world. To quote Shakespeare:

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts

On this stage we must determine how we are going to interact. In today’s world we’re taught to be ourselves and not pay mind to how others will react. What happens though when others reactions to how we act are not what we want or not what should be? Do we change our actions or do we still continue being ourselves?

I believe at some point we have to change. We have to resolve that in being ourselves or maybe I should say in becoming ourselves (since we play many parts) that change is inevitable. I don’t believe that all of that change has to be permanent though. I believe that compromise can be had in order to further a friendship or receive a sought after outcome. In this compromise though we may lose for a moment something that which constructs our identity we will gain in that moment respect for something that constructs someone else’s identity.

If we are unable to accept this then we will in turn lose part of what it means to be ourselves. Because if we cannot accept that others make up their own unique identity then we will never be able to completely interact on a deep level with other individuals.

In the end I believe part of what it takes to construct our own identity and in turn being ourselves is to accept and appreciate when others do the same thing.

Beauty in Desolation

Lets be honest, this winter has been pretty wild. Here in Arkansas there has been ice on the ground (not snow) for the past week. It’s still here. It’s probably not going away anytime soon because it’s snowing again. That’s beside the point.

Walking home Wednesday from the Communication building I was overwhelmed by the beauty of it all. It could have been the 20mph winds blowing through the sub-zero temperatures that was messing with my mind but I honestly found beauty in it all.

I looked around at this partially melted, lifeless mess and saw the beauty of it. Most people dislike winter. They would prefer a season where they walk outside and not be greeted by bitter cold. On most days I would agree.

What I realized though was that in this day in age where we can access everything we ever dreamed of this idea of a desolate wasteland is beautiful. We get to see what things are like without all of the distractions of the world around us.

Not only is there beauty in the desolation but there is hope there. A hope that is unparalleled to the coming of any other season. I think back to the story of Narnia and the Relient K song written about the very subject rings true. Not just when it’s always winter but never Christmas, but there is also a hope of a new season, a new day, a fresh start.

In the desolation nothing more can be taken from us. The air is cold, the trees are bare, the plants are dead. All that remains is the hope and expectancy of the next season. In this hope and expectancy is where we find the beauty. Not just in something new but in the fact that we get to play a part in determining what this new day will bring.

So the next time you have to brace the bitter cold that is brought about by the winter. Remember, there is beauty to be found in desolation.