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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2013 Resolution

I’ve decided to make a single resolution for 2013.

I resolve to be open to the work of the Holy Spirit in my life, that I may demonstrate more consistently the Fruit of the Spirit.

No, this is not some hyper-spiritual, Christianese, “Jesus Juke” remark.

This is genuine.

I’ve come to this conclusion:

  • All the things I have ever resolved to do in the past I have utterly failed to accomplish fairly quickly,
  • I can’t do anything in my own strength that will have an eternal impact, and
  • Any worthy resolutions can only truly be accomplished if God changes me.

Why don’t I exercise? I’m lazy.
Why do I eat too much? I lack self control.
Why do I not read as much as I should/could? Again, laziness.
Why don’t I spend more time getting to really know the people around me? I’m not as kind, good, and loving as I should be.

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
(Galatians 5:22, 23 NLT)

Most of us don’t have the impact we could on this world because we are too self-focused.

I want this to see this changed in my life, and only God can do that.

As a result, my wife and I prayed for God to plan our New Years Day.

We kicked off the New Year with a great day helping some good friends get some much needed work done. They decided to thank us with lunch at McGuire’s Irish Pub (unnecessary, but I didn’t argue).

There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.
(John 15:13 NLT)

Life is found in giving your life away!

I’m glad that Brooke and I were able to start the year off right—serving.

With true surrender to the Holy Spirit, we will experience a change in our lives we never thought possible… and that’s usually because we often think too highly of ourselves.

Believing for change!

Steve

  • How about you? Have you ever failed to fulfill any resolutions?
  • How about any successes?

P.S. Please ignore any commercials that may appear below. 🙂

Moments Like This

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It’s moments like this that reveal the truth that often, instead of giving ourselves to people, we give things to people.

This was the reaction of author Will Davis, Jr when being interviewed on the news the afternoon of the Sandy Hook Elementary shooting a week ago.

I’ve been waiting to post this blog.

I didn’t want my reaction to be knee-jerk, or unsympathetic, or drowned out by the over-saturated media on this tragedy.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this quote.

It’s moments like this…

Here it is, the weekend before Christmas. The first thing on most people’s minds is me, me, me… parties, presents, pageants, punch… Hoping we get what we wanted, hoping they will be impressed by what we got them, and hoping we don’t gain too much weight from all the gorging that will take place… and hoping the credit card bill isn’t more than we can handle.

There are families that have abruptly had their focus changed (and that is not reserved only for those in Newtown, CT).

It’s moments like this…

There are gifts under the tree that won’t be opened early on December 25th by excited little children.

What saddens me is the reality that we think about the unopened gifts, and there are now mom’s and dad’s that could care less about those gifts.

All they want is one more hug, one more smile, one more, “I love you.”

It’s moments like this…

The stuff doesn’t matter.
The time spent working overtime, not to pay the bills, but just to get more stuff.

The relationships do matter.
The time spent sitting in the Lazyboy while our children are starved for attention. (I’m just as guilty as anyone.)

How much of ourselves to we give to others, versus how much stuff we give to others?
Do the gifts attempt to make up for the lack of relationship?

As I ran around outside with my 3-year-old daughter today, I had this overwhelming sense of investment. One thousand Christmas gifts could not touch the investment into her little heart today. Stuff can be replaced, repurchased, and re-gifted… but a life? Never.

It’s moments like this…

The ultimate gift? Jesus Christ.
Sent from a heavenly Father that loves us, and wants to invest in us.

Does He give us things? Yes.
But His ultimate, and overwhelmingly significant gift for us? Relationship.
Eternity with Him because of what His Gift, Jesus, did while on earth.

It’s moments like this that reveal the truth that often, instead of giving ourselves to people, we give things to people.

This holiday season let’s change that.

Steve

Coffee and Community

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I love coffee.

But my love for coffee does not overshadow my love for people and relationships.

I love community.

It’s amazing to see how conversations, connections, and care develop in a community over a cup of coffee. (Do you c this happen, too?)

My passion for these things has grown over the years, and they have become key ingredients in leading us to where we are today—planting a café church.

I have the privilege of knowing some awesome people that are also really into building relationships and making great coffee. One of those groups are the people at the Drowsy Poet Coffee Company here in Pensacola. Another is Courage Coffee in Hamtramck, MI (Detroit).

I believe that one of the most powerful avenues in which the gospel is transmitted is through relationships. Relationships, through the work of the Holy Spirit, build the Kingdom of God.

Though many would argue that coffee is not good for you due to the addictive nature of the caffeine, I would beg to differ. In fact, it is because of the addictive nature of coffee that I have been able to build so many great relationships!

You could say that my caffeine addiction has been ordained by God “for such a time as this!” 😉

Seriously, though… I strongly believe that God has given us a clear vision to use coffee as a way to build relationships. It’s not about the coffee, it’s about the kingdom—the Kingdom of God, here, now, alive in the hearts of people!

The coffee, the café, the conversations, the care, the connections…
… all tools for building the Church, which is Christ’s passion; and that goes far beyond any passion I could ever have for coffee.

Wanna meet me for a cup of coffee?

Steve

  • Are you a coffee drinker?
  • Do you drink it because you like it, or is it more of a social, peer-pressure, everyone-is-doing-it sorta relationship?
  • Have you seen the social/relational aspect of a cup of coffee bring about change in someone’s life?

(Photo taken at the Drowsy Poet Coffee Company)

And, Just Like That…

… almost a week goes by!

Busy, busy, busy.
Work, work, work.

It’s way past my bedtime, but it hit me that I hadn’t blogged in 5 days! Crap. I mean… poop. The Challenge is upon me… consistency is key, and this week I failed! But, maybe the following testimonies from a week of God-at-work moments will make up for it. 🙂

God has been at work, my brothers and sisters! Let me-ah testify-ah of the goodness-ah of God-ah!

Monday I was told about the fact that after our first church planting meeting at the coffee shop, and after closing in a prayer of blessing over the business there, they had the busiest day (and highest sales) of any Sunday since they opened! God is so incredible, and we are so thankful for His blessing on the shop for providing a place for us!

Tuesday we found out about a guy that came to our first church meeting (we’re technically not an open church yet, but I will never straight up stop someone from wanting to be a part of what God is doing). Well, he had a dream that a light was coming after him. He woke up and immediately said to himself, “I gotta get right with God!” He told a friend that he knows it’s because he attended our meeting last Sunday. To God be the glory! The Hound of Heaven is at work!

Wednesday God provided for me the opportunity to go to our monthly ministers’ meeting, and I had a chance to share about the church plant; and other pastors got really excited! One guy took down my name and number and wants his daughter to be a part of the church (she is a student at the University of West Florida)! God is so good!

Thursday my wife and I had the privelege of being invited to the house of the Pastor from the church that just sent us (Grace AG). He and his wife cook a pastor/decon Christmas dinner every year; and they invited us to join them for dinner. I love seeing, and being a part of unity between the leadership of different churches!

Friday (yesterday) I had the opportunity to eat lunch with three other men, and share, invest, and encourage a friend that is greatly struggling right now. It was so awesome to see how God is working in his life in the midst of great trials! Then, last night my family ate dinner with some friends that we haven’t spent time with in a while. It was so refreshing to eat, laugh, and pray with them. Thank you, Jesus!

Saturday (today) was D3 (Daddy-Daughter Date), and one of the highlights of my week, every week! I love taking my daughter to the coffee shop and investing in her. Such a joy and honor to be raising her. Thank you, Lord! But a trip to the coffee shop is never without an opportunity to share of the great things God is doing in our lives, and to continue to build relationships with others; and to have opportunities to share about the church plant. Every time I am there, someone is asking about it, or a co-worker tells people about the church. It’s so great to get confirmations about the vision God has birthed in you!

God is so incredible!
A week full of awesome things that God has done!

I would say I’m speechless, but… How can I keep from shouting His praise!

Steve

“Givitaway, Givitaway, Givitaway Now…”

It is said that if you will hold on tightly to what you have, it’s true that you may not lose it, but you will also not gain anything. Conversely, if you hold loosely to what you have, you may not keep anything too long, but you will always have what you need.

With a clenched fist, nothing goes out and nothing comes in. With an open hand, everything can go out, but anything can come in.

We need to learn to live generously. What we have is only ours to watch over (the Christian word for it is steward). It all belongs to God. So, really, it is not for us to decide whether or not we will be generous, our job is simply to manage that which God gave us. This means we are to do with it whatever God tells us to; and the crazy part is He will bless us for simply doing our job!

Give freely and become more wealthy; be stingy and lose everything. The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.
(Proverbs 11:24, 25)

Let’s be generous!

Don’t worry about giving for the sake of a tax benefit (which ends in just a few weeks for 2011), or being safe and wise about our giving.

While Jesus was in the Temple, he watched the rich people dropping their gifts in the collection box. Then a poor widow came by and dropped in two small coins. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus said, “this poor widow has given more than all the rest of them. For they have given a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she has.
(Luke 21:1-4)

Don’t worry about being recognized.

When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
(Matthew 6:2-4)

Don’t worry about how it will come back.

Then, turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food to eat or enough clothes to wear. For life is more than food, and your body more than clothing. Look at the ravens. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for God feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than any birds! Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things? “Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith? “And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.
(Luke 12:22-31)

I want to just sell everything and give it all away…

Sell your possessions and give to those in need. This will store up treasure for you in heaven! And the purses of heaven never get old or develop holes. Your treasure will be safe; no thief can steal it and no moth can destroy it. Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.
(Luke 12:33, 34)

AAAAHHHH!!!
Steve

P.S. Did anyone figure out the reference from the title? … just wondering…

Look Around

Then he turned to his host. “When you put on a luncheon or a banquet,” he said, “don’t invite your friends, brothers, relatives, and rich neighbors. For they will invite you back, and that will be your only reward. Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you.
(Luke 14:12-14)

  • How will you invest this holiday season?
  • Who will you invest in this holiday season?
  • Why will you invest in them this holiday season?

God has placed us where we are for such a time as this. Look around and ask God to direct you in blessing those who can’t repay you; and don’t do it for any other motive but that you want them to experience the love of Christ.

Open your home, open your heart… open your wallet… and don’t expect anything in return.

Planning an open house…

Steve

Looking for somewhere to start? Donate here to an inner-city ministry in Detroit that is blessing hundreds of families this Christmas: Click the following link, select the Donate button at the top of the page, and make a notation for Joy to the D! in the PayPal check out.

CLICK HERE!