The [Unofficial] Art of Conversation

“In my opinion…”

A statement that I have used waaaay too much in my life!

Having an opinion can be a blessing and a curse. I’ve heard many quotes about opinions, but the two that have stuck with me are:

Opinions are like buttholes, everyone’s got one and they stink.

And

Your opinions about leaders and situations don’t matter unless you are in the position to do something about them.

Living in the coffee shop world, I have learned the art of striking up a conversation with anyone. I would daily be pouring lattes for world travelers, surfers, stay-at-home moms, college students, doctors, judges, pastors, and deckhands on fishing boats (to name a few).

Every guest in my shop is as unique as the other; and we meet every race, religion, tribe, and tongue. Learning how to find common ground and the ability to talk about almost anything can be a challenge and requires a determination to always be learning. As I thought about the “Art of Conversation” here’s a few steps that I have put into practice in my own life.

First, you need a foundation of taking time daily to grow spiritually and hone your craft. These two elements will be the open door to connecting with people. Being full of the love of Christ and being led by the Holy Spirit is #1 above anything. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Then, whatever your job, skill, or occupation is, seek to become the best at what you do. This is an instant contact point and easy conversation starter. If you say you’re a barista but don’t really know much about coffee, then the conversation has the potential to quickly crash and burn. With the ability to articulately explain coffee from a well of knowledge and understanding, you will gain ground based on your position as an “authority” in a subject. You can apply the principle of this scenario and apply it to your profession.

Second, become one that listens. Don’t just hear sounds, but be someone that has “ears to hear”. Really listen to people! Be quick to listen and slow to speak! It’s said that when you are talking you are not learning. There is no way to even know how to connect with others unless you hear where they are coming from. Only once you listen can you find the entry point. [Tip: I listen first for differences in speech, like accents. “Where are you from?” is an awesome entry point.]

Then, third, develop the discipline to acquire information from everywhere. You can glean from news headlines, look up definitions to words, study maps, read books, watch sports video highlights, obtain differing view points on politics and social issues, etc. Information retention is not only good for the sharpness of your mind, but it’s the gasoline to the vehicle (conversation) that helps to connect. I’ve had some refer to me as a savant. I wouldn’t agree with this, though I get what they are saying. I think the more accurate word is a polymath (a person whose expertise spans a significant number of different subject areas). But really, I am just a lover of people; and because of that, I want to become interested in what others are interested in!

Lastly, when you ask someone a question, fight the urge to interject and cut off their answer with your own views. This is probably the most damaging to any future conversations! When others view you as the one who dominates every conversation, then they will cease to converse. Cutting off sentences and thoughts are no bueno! I view my calling in life to be one that builds bridges and connects people—both with each other and with Jesus. Nothing can burn bridges faster than your smelly butthole… oops, I mean opinion!

Ultimately, we must be careful about how generous we are with sharing our opinions. My mentor in business would always remind me, “Loose lips sink ships!” When we are quick to share our opinions and not listen to others, we often miss out on opportunities to connect with them. I’m a firm believer that nothing happens by chance. Every person you connect with happens for a reason. Let’s become more masterful with how we connect with those we encounter every day!

Disciplining our mouths to only share our opinions when others actually ask for them is a great habit! This will make room for more productive speech, like talking about the love of Christ, encouraging/building up others, bettering your craft, and speaking TRUTH.

But, what do I know… this is all just my opinion! 😉

What say you?

I’m listening…

Steve

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Turn! Turn! Turn!

…(To Everything There Is a Season)

The 60’s folk rock band, The Byrds, sang a popular song which quoted the Book of Ecclesiastes:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

My life has experienced the reality of seasons, most notably the recent decision to step away from being the owner operator of a coffee shop on Pensacola Beach.

The last 4 years have been amazing and difficult, extremely satisfying, and extremely exhausting. Business ownership proved to be the greatest challenge of my life, as it tested and tried every part of me.

But, here I am, still standing and moving forward. I believe only the years to come will truly show all that I learned, what kind of impact we had on others’ lives, and the level of growth, wisdom, and understanding I gained through this chapter in my life journey.

I was impressed to return to my blog and overhaul it. There will be a redesign and then a relaunch. This will accompany my desire to get beck into the reading that I grew to love over the years, and renew my book review blogger status. So, stay tuned for blogs to re-emrge, and I hope you will join me in the next chapter. 🙂

Steve

For the first time in my life

I am now in a new demographic.

As my 32 birthday quickly approaches, I have been reminiscing on the goodness of God and how different my life is now than I could have ever imagined.

This nostalgia is not because I feel as though I am getting old, but it is because when I was 15 something happened to me. Twenty two days before my Sweet Sixteen, I was radically transformed by the power of God in the fires of revival.

Each year that passes, I can’t help but reflect on how my life has been more than I could ever have imagined.

This year is special.

Just yesterday, I had the honor of meeting for the first time the man that was preaching the night I was saved. His name is Steve Hill, and one thing I have desired for some time is to simply shake his hand and say, “Thank you… thank for you for being obedient and preaching the Gospel.”

Me with Steve Hill

[I always try to be careful when I talk about this, because there are other people that played a HUGE role in my life as a young believer. For example, there is Mike Montag. Mike was the Youth Pastor at South Attleboro Assembly of God, is truly a humble and faithful man of God, and was my first mentor. He discipled me in many areas of life, and was crucial in forming my life as a teenager.]

This opportunity to sit and talk to Steve Hill landed right between my spiritual birthday and my biological birthday; which this year is significant. (Have I mentioned that yet?)

So, why is this significant? What new demographic do I now fit into?

I was born March 13, 1981.
I was born-again February 19, 1997.
I am turning 32 on March 13, 2013.
This means I have now, officially, been a born-again Christian for more than half of my life.

For many people this may seem insignificant; but to know how screwed up my life was, how bent I was for hell, and how my life was on a serious downward spiral, this is a testament to how amazing God is!

His grace continues to blow me away!

I spent a half hour this morning just crying as I thanked God for His faithfulness.

I really feel as though I have entered a new season of my life. There are things I feel as though God has been speaking to me and showing me… I have been having dreams, and am experiencing many “divine connections” with individuals in the city and in ministry.

I don’t know all that God has in store, but I am excited!

I have been given a birthday gift that I feel perfectly commemorates this unique time in my life—The Revival Study Bible.

The Revival Study Bible

With my rebirth having been forged in the flames of revival, and Steve Hill being the general editor, to me this is a special sword that will be used to fight many spiritual battles in the years to come.

Thanks to everyone that have been a part of my life, and I pray that we see greater things to come!

ONWARD!!!

Steve

It will be messy.

Many churches, when starting out, experience an initial rapid growth in attendance. Some refer to this as a “swell,” and not true growth. Most often it’s attributed to Christians that are unhappy with their current church and are looking for something new.

Real growth happens, not when a community simply gains people that are already followers of Christ, but when they start reaping a harvest of seeds sown in fertile soil.

This requires something many Christians don’t enjoy—finding good soil.

In his book Organic Church, Neil Cole reminds us that “bad people make good soil—there’s a lot of fertilizer in their lives.”

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The more messed up we are, the more manure we find ourselves standing in; and as a result our lives become very fertile for the seeds of the Gospel to take root. (Encouraging, isn’t it?!)

Don’t go looking for the people that have it all together. Find the fertile soil… it’s ready for seeds of Life to take root!

Sniffing-out fertile soil…

Steve

Wrong focus?

Sowing Seeds

The Apostle Paul reminds us that God is responsible for the growth of the seed of the Gospel in people’s lives.

It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.
1 Cor 3:7

Neil Cole, in his book Organic Church, points out the over-emphasis on growth in today’s Church at the expense of sowing seeds and reaping the harvest.

Marketing and business guru Seth Godin reminds us today of the importance of planting and harvesting (even outside the context of the Church).
Read Seth’s post Planting, harvesting and your fair share.

As you read Seth’s post, you may notice that even he says nothing about the growth process. Interesting.

Where should churches spend the majority of their time, energy and money? In growing our church attendance, growing families, growing our worship team, growing our bottom line, growing our influence, growing… growing… growing…? Or maybe in planting and harvesting, relinquishing the responsibility of growth (which was never our to begin with)?

Food for thought this Monday.

If we were all like me…

… would that be good?

What if we were all like you?

What if we were all like Jesus?

Most people I meet want to have an impact on those around them.

At least, we should desire to have an impact…
and hopefully a positive one.

The trouble is, we often attempt this our own way.
We do what we think is important, and in return seek recognition for the great job we did, or impact we had.

What we need to be doing instead is asking the Holy Spirit to leads into the life of impact that will matter in light of eternity, and that God will receive the glory for it.

Francis Chan, in his book Forgotten God, has some challenging words for us regarding this truth:

How would you be missed if you left [the place God has called you to]? What would change? Basically, what difference does your presence here make? … What would your church (and the world-wide Church) look like if everyone were as committed as you are? If everyone gave and served and prayed exactly like you, would the church be healthy and empowered? Or would it be weak and listless?

Ouch!
Tough words from our fiend Mr. Chan…

Much work to be done in my heart, and then lived out in my life.

Holy Spirit… HELP!

Approval

Today, don’t live for the approval of others. Live for the approval of One—your Heavenly Father.

Common practice does not always mean right practice.

Need instruction? Open the Bible. His Word will guide you in living a life that honors God.

Whether it’s in what to eat, how to dress, what to say (or not say), relationships, raising children, entertainment… It’s there.

Don’t believe me? Google it.