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Make Authentic Connections

As I was walking out of a coffee shop the other week I met a fellow who overheard some of what I was talking about with a life coach I had been meeting with at the time. He asked me if we could exchange phone numbers after a brief conversation and if we could get coffee at a later date. He seemed interesting, so we did.

Today I sit in Ferris, thinking about our meeting after he had left. It followed a similar format that another meeting with network marketing fellow I had met with previously followed. I thought, perhaps I should think through the communication principles at play and ask myself how I’m applying these rules in my relationships and meeting people.

Why is this important? Because I believe relationships are foundational and one of the most important things in life, and in order to form relationships with people I first must connect with them and introduce myself. I must earn their trust and learn to hear their stories.

Reflecting upon my time talking with my friend and a few communication principles I learned in school, I believe the process can be broken down into a few simple steps.

  1. Open Small. When meeting someone for the first time or spending time with them establishing that initial connection is about creating trust by showing them that you have things in common. To do this I will make comments on their appearance, simple things I can see, that I like or ask them questions about to get people talking about ‘things’ instead of themselves (starting off talking about the other person can come off too strong). The goal of any connection is to keep the conversation flowing – think about a pump that must be primed to get the water flowing, but if the water stops you need to prime it again. Keep things flowing smooth, build common ground, be interested, and take the time -don’t rush this (15-20 minutes). Ask questions you can build off of and start with obvious points that allow them to share more. Most importantly, questions that are open-ended.
    • “How did you get into biking?”
    • “What brought you to the area?”
    • “I like your watch/shirt/those are some cool shoes.”
    • “What do you like to do with your free time.”
  2. Tight Rope Transitions: after building an initial connection and moving through the outer circle of “interests” which are outside individuals, transition to asking questions that are focused more on the edge of the individual, safe/ common questions about family, work, what they enjoy doing in their personal time, their values, goals, what they like to read/do with their spare time. Ask specific questions with your goal in mind (ex: to form a connection with this person so that we can influence one another and both grow toward our plans and become successful in what we do). Use labels with emotions and interests to continue building the commonality while turning the focus inward.
    • “It seems like you and I are on the same page about the importance of leadership.”
    • “It sounds like mentorship is important to you, here’s how mentorship has been influential in my life.”
    • “Your goal to be able to have time to yourself to do what you love is similar to the reason I’m doing  this.”
  3. Book it: After working through the interpersonal region of the other we begin the process of getting to the meat and potatoes – explicitly discuss your goal with the other person now… but don’t fill in all the details, leave some uncertainty because they will want to clarify that in the future, it leaves a sort of social itch/creates interest and a reason to meet again in the future. In this region it’s important to use reciprocity to continue the sharing, just make sure to direct the conversation back to the person across from you… The goal of this point is to hear their story, values, interest, lifestyle, and who they want to be. This will help you have a strong close.
    • “It sounds like you really value relationships”
    • “I’m interested in learning about your story so that we can really connect”
    • “What lifestyle do you want to live?”

Finish strong. Now that you’re where you’re at and you come to the difficult part of the conversation where you ask for something in return for giving the other person what they need. Get the appointment or pitch your idea, focus on providing value for the other person. If you do not focus on providing value, you will likely fail to inspire the change/need within the other person that’s necessary to move forward. My friend sold me to take the next step by authentically connecting with me, he provided a book for me to read which will introduce/help me understand his goal. It serves the purpose of educating me while saving the time of him teaching me these concepts.



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Humility not humiliation.

What if we all strive to make everyone feel welcome in our lives? What if we truly dared to be open and transparent, how would that change us? How would the world see us? More importantly, how would that change the world? These are the questions I think about… but today, I want to focus on just one, what if we build others up with our words?

As a Christian, I know my actions will influence the way other people  see Christ. Because when we dare to call ourselves followers of Christ other people believe us, regardless of our actions. However, it is our actions that people use to discern who is trustworthy, honest, fun, genuine, hardworking, generous, and empathetic. Just because I am a Christian does not mean all these things magically come to me.As a human I have a sin nature, a natural love for that which is sinful and displeasing to God. It takes hard work to develop the right habits and change my attitude to keep moving forward—but it can be done. People can and do change—regardless if you see—the way they live their lives.

So why am I writing about this? I’m writing about this because our culture sees disrespect as a weapon to wield, to break down their opponents, using their shattered remains to build upon their foundation of confidence.

This a story answers that question:

Anna is five years old, running up the playground steps when she sees other kids playing a game of tag, she gets excited at the thought of being able to play with them and make friends (because when you’re 5 everyone you meet can be your friend)! She asks the boy who was it, lets call him Ron, if she can join. “You can join, but you have to be it first.” Anna quickly accepted the offer to play, as she was full of excitement and a new challenge. But her excitement soon turned into apprehension as Anna quickly realized that she was the only girl playing in this game of tag, and the other boys were a grade older and much quicker than she anticipated. They soon began to ridicule her calling her slowpoke, telling her she should just quit, and even suggesting that boys are better than girls. After a few minutes of not being able to catch anyone, Anna ran over to her mother crying and looking for comfort.

Today is the first day of high school for Ron. He’s been looking forward to this ever since he was in the 6th grade and after his reign on the playground as the most athletic 8th grader he was excited to move on. Although, part of his reign as the most athletic had to do with constantly belittling his peers and using coercive tactics, he thought nothing of it. But after a couple weeks of high school, Ron was sorely disappointed with the way things went. He was no longer the big man and his monopoly on athleticism had dissolved. There were a lot of other kids who were faster, stronger, and even smarter than Ron was; soon he found himself on the other end of the spectrum. In gym class he was bullied and pushed around, told he was stupid, slow, and worthless (much of the same things he spread in his middle school years). As a result he became bitter and hated school. He hated the prospect of learning, it was pointless wasn’t it? He didn’t want anything the hierarchy which he used to be on top of. He thought of suicide at times, struggling to cope with the bullying and the anxiety that it caused.

People told him college would be different, so he held out in hopes that it would be. It was, a bit. The difference was that some people had grown mature and made decisions to become successful. Not as many people were tearing each other apart trying to build themselves up. He met some particular people, in fact, who seemed to do quite the opposite. They were building people up. Ron will call this group of people his friends. After hanging around them so often, Ron found his anxiety disappear as he no longer feared being bullied or rendered socially inadequate. He became confident and open to new things and ideas. After about a year he asked one of the men, Jim, why they were all so different.

“Well” Jim said, “in short the reason I am different is because of someone I met many years ago. This man challenged me to look at my life and what I was living for. He asked me if I was satisfied with what I was doing—I wasn’t. He told me that someone had something better for me. He said that Jesus had something. An accepting love that would wash away all of my past failures.” Jim paused for a moment, looking down then over at Ron shaking his head as if he did not believe the words he was about to say, yet he was grinning ear to hear. “I didn’t believe him at first, so he invited me to his church; I went. After thinking about the message that was shared that Sunday morning—living a purpose filled life—I realized I didn’t have a reason to live.” He paused again as to reinforce the importance of the words he was saying. “Later that afternoon, I called the man who had invited me to church and asked him how to become saved and we prayed together right then and there on the phone.”

Jim looked up towards the sky, it was a bright sunny autumn day. The leaves were changing and a cool Michigan breeze rolled off the water. “That moment my life was changed.” With a brief look of confusion and interest Ron asked, “What do you mean your life was changed?”.
“Up until that moment my life was all about me. I did whatever it took to build myself up, it didn’t matter if I had to break other people down and humiliate them—it was all about me.” He looked down a little; you could hear the regret in his voice. “Because I found God and his love I was changed. I saw that when we were struggling in life we were called to build each other up, encourage one another, and help lift each others burdens. It isn’t always easy, but it’s always worth it.”  -Ron accepted Christ as his savior that day.


What do you think? “Pfft… It’s just a story, life isn’t like that.” You’re right, this is just a story, the truth is, anything can happen. God can choose to work through us in many ways, ways beyond our wildest dreams! The question is are you living in a way that God would choose to use you? Either your life does look like this or it doesn’t. Either you routinely build others up with your words or you tear them down. Build others up. I can’t count the number of times I see people put down others in order to build themselves up and create some sense of security. It is sickening. What’s worse? How often this happens among Christians. People who claim to follow a loving God, yet are still breaking other people apart to build themselves up.

Do you build others up or do you tear them down? Are you known for your encouraging words, or do people laugh and expect your criticism? Do you dare to call yourself a Christ follower? Live like it and you might be surprised at just how much God does through you.

How could living differently change the world? What if every Christian lived to build others up and share Christ’s love?

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14 Spiritual Disciplines for the New Year

Excellent things to think about with the new coming year!


Seven Disciplines of Abstinence — Letting go — (I Peter 2:11– putting off)

  1. Solitude – Spending time alone with God. In our incredibly busy times, we need to prioritize alone time in the audience of One. This is indispensable to spiritual growth. Perhaps we must let go of some of our busyness.
  2. Fasting – Abstaining from food to express our dependence on God. Fasting is meant to be an act of humbling oneself before God to seek His help and deliverance. It is often associated with repentance (Deuteronomy 8:3-5; Matthew 4:2;6:16-18).
  3. Denial – Intentionally denying yourself certain legitimate pleasures to find your sufficiency in God and/or a higher fulfillment in God (Matthew 16:24-26).
  4. Sacrifice  Giving of ourselves and our resources beyond what seems reasonable to express our dependency on God (time/service/money). C.S. Lewis wrote, “… if our expenditure on comforts, luxuries…

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I don’t want to wait—I want it now. I want to be done with the mundane so I can move on to important things. I want to spend my time with people I love doing things I am passionate about; connecting with other people, going on trips, and dreaming up ideas. I don’t want to have to wait for the opportunity to become successful, develop character or skills, or feel satisfied or content.  I don’t want to waste my time checking out at the grocery store, waiting to be seen by the doctor, visiting the Secretary of State to renew my license; I don’t want to wait. I don’t want to have to wait for college to be over with because I already know what I want to do with my life (just kidding, I don’t have a plan).

There are many different situations. Knowing how long I have, the end in clear sight, other times it feels like I’m living in a cloud, trying to see through the haze of distractions. Waiting—like sailing—can be full of uncertainty; the wind may blow me swiftly across the water or it may die down leaving me dead in the water.I may wait for days, weeks, months, or years, the answer isn’t always clear. I wait for important things like goals—things I really want to focus on—and I wait for things that don’t seem to matter, or that I don’t even care about. I wait to chase after my passions. I wait for change.

What if I never had to wait again? Would I have more time for the things I love and less stress? Perhaps, but that’s not how life works. The issue isn’t with waiting, it’s my perspective on what waiting really is. Waiting is a choice. I wait at the doctors office because I believe my health is worth it. Waiting shows significance. The longer I am willing to wait for something (or someone) the more important.  My life is filled with lots of waiting, however, I must confess I have not been waiting efficiently. I can get things done while I wait and make much better use of my time.

Be aware and wait with intention. When I schedule an appointment to see my doctor I realize that I will spend time waiting in the office. I prepare by either bringing a book or something else I wish to accomplish. While waiting for something with a more ambiguous timeline—such as marriage—I prepare. Asking couples about their experiences, joys, difficulties and challenges. I seek to consistently work on my character and relationship with God. While waiting on a job opportunity I review my credibility and character, “How can I be the kind of person they would want to hire for this job?” (reflect). I wait proactively, taking the necessary actions rather than rather than being a victim to circumstances.

We are called to wait expectantly and confidently. Psalm 39:7 says, “And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you.” When we are waiting in our lives we are called to trust in the Lord’s plan confidently; God will provide. However, many people forget the second part. We are to wait expectantly, preparing ourselves for that which we wait for. What are we waiting for? Waiting to graduate so you can start your dream job or career? Waiting for your children to mature so that you can teach them greater things? Are you waiting for your career to advance? Are you waiting on emotional healing from broken relationships? Whatever it is we wait for, we should wait expectantly with confidence.

Prepare yourself and trust in the Lord, he will do the rest.

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Mistakes, Regrets, and Moving on.

I’ve made lots of mistakes, this past year is no exception. Relationships, goals, college, internship, sports—I’ve had plenty of opportunities to screw up—and screw up I have.  I swept conflict under the rug, wasn’t  involved at church, dropped the ball at work, was a selfish in relationships, and wasn’t moving towards my goals.  I should have moved out after my freshman year of college, changed churches sooner, worked harder to develop better connections at work, and been more selfless in my relationships. I messed up, but what did I do about it?

At first I wallowed in guilt and shame. I threw a pity party for myself. I was a victim and life wasn’t fair. Then I woke up to the reality I was living in and took responsibility; I made the changes I could. I learned to handle conflict more effectively, became more involved at church, contributed wholeheartedly at my internship, did what was best in my relationships, and selected a career path. I took advantage of every failure as an opportunity to grow, becoming more mature, developing stronger character and finding my passion for people. I reflected about what happened and the choices I had made. I asked the hard questions and challenged myself to grow closer to God throughout this time. What steps had I been taking?

James 1:2-4 (one of my favorite passages) says, “Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. 3 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. 4 So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.” The mistakes we make are those times of trouble, providing us with the opportunity to endure and grow in our faith! So let’s take advantage of all the opportunity we have, both in our success and failure.

Grow from your mistakes.

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Save the Ones You Can

Save the ones you can. The rest you've got to let go.

A movie came out back in 2006 (The Guardian). It was about a young mans journey through the Coastguard training program and his experiences shortly there-after. The Instructor tells Jake he has to let go of the past; the people who he couldn’t save. He and several of his close friends were driving home one night after a party and the car crashed. Jake was the only survivor. Here is the quote,

” And if I can’t answer that for me, I’m certainly not going to try to answer that for you. Have a seat. I want you to start being a member of this team. The team you have now. You have a gift Jake. You’re the best swimmer to come through this program, hands down, by far, and you’ve got a whole record board to prove it. But you know what I see when I look at it? I see someone fast enough who’s going to get there first. I see someone strong enough who’s going to last. I see someone who can save a life maybe no one else could. You really want to honor the initials on your arm? Then honor your gift. “Save the ones you can Jake. The rest, you’ve got to let go.”

“Save the ones you can.”

 It’s important to remember that in life is insurmountably filled with people in need. We are called to help those people by using the gifts we’ve been given (1 Corinthians 12). Uniquely equipped with different passions and gifts, we are commanded to glorify God; taking advantage of the opportunities God sends our way. Looking back sometimes we can see the ways God prepares us, other times we can’t. Regardless it’s important that we step out in faith and use those gifts and passions we have been given. It might be feeling called to go work at a summer camp with children because you have that desire to work with young people, or it may be befriending someone who God has put in your path. Have faith and step forward.

“The rest, you’ve got to let go.” 

The sad reality about our broken world is that no matter what, we can’t help everyone. We will fail. Opportunities will be missed because we are too busy helping someone else or helping ourselves. There have been many times in my life where I’ve spread myself thin, striving to help people work through difficult issues. I want to be there to support everyone I know, however, that can’t be the case. When we discover we do this we find ourselves maxed out; at a point of exhaustion and may look to God in our despair. We can’t hang onto the pain of this world, there’s too much. That doesn’t mean that we don’t acknowledge that what happened did, but accept the fact that we can’t help that person in that way. God provides, whether through us and through others; it’s self-centered and wrong to think that if we don’t act, God wont.

So, how do you distinguish who to save and who to let go?

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College Involvement Thus Far

Three weeks ago I started school; my first year at Central Michigan University.I felt like a freshman again, excited and full of apprehension in the early weeks. Would I be able to get to all of my classes on time, find a way to manage my homework, and still have somewhat of a social life? So far I think I’m doing well in those categories. I have an old bike which saves me lots of time getting to class (which I will miss when snow comes). As far as managing my homework, I forgot about an assignment for the first time this past week, but after shooting my professor an email, he graciously gave me an extension.

The social life is definitely there. I decided to keep attending the Mt pleasant Community Church and get involved in a greater degree than I was last year.  I work in Kids life, leading a 3rd grade class during the first service every week (it can get a bit chaotic, but is rewarding). I also decided to commit to being a small group leader for the high school students in Student Life in our church. I wanted to have that mentor-mentee kind of relationship, helping young men navigate through some of the difficulties of life. I’m excited to see what happens.

The third church group I am involved with is Ulife (so much life, I know ;)! In Ulife I’m a small group leader and seeking to continue developing myself as a leader. Other church leaders pour into and support me, I’m able to join in christian ‘koinonia‘ (corporate worship with other believers), and be challenged to keep growing.

Outside of the church I am involved in something called ‘Alpha’s—a 5 week seminar that is put on by the Leadership institute. Last week was the first seminar; we were assigned to a team with two facilitators, and created our team name, cheer, and goals. We played a get-to-know-you game where one person stood in the middle with a noodle, trying to hit the person whose name was called, before that person called another person’s name (confusing, I know). We also spent some time getting to know each other. Judging from past experience, I think this is going to be a good team.

I have two groups for classes. One is for my small groups com class, we’re working on a project together. Another group (which I like a bit better), is for my leadership class. We will be raising money for a charity in honor of one of our classmates who passed away a little after our first week of classes (I’ll probably write about it in the future). I think I like this group a lot better because we’ve established some good roles, generated ideas, and made significant progress. I feel we have a really supportive environment in which we all feel we can share our ideas equally. My COM group hasn’t spent much time together outside of class.

On top of this there are a few other small communities I’m involved in, and more still I’m interested in joining.