4 Absolute Necessities for Your Twenties

Photo Credit: Khánh Hmoong via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Khánh Hmoong via Compfight cc

I’m still in the early half of my twenties, but when I started this decade of my life, I made a commitment to not regret anything when I come out on the other side.

I read a book recently that said our twenties are a time to prepare, set up the path for a greater reward to possibly come later. So that’s the lens I decided to view all the meaningless and fantastic aspects of my twenty-something’s life: that if I live passionately in this time, my reward will come soon. [Read more...]

Why Everyone is Losing Their Faith (and How I Almost Lost Mine)

Christianity is something I believe in my heart, but not so much in my mind.

In my heart, it makes sense that a God came and died for the mistakes I made, so I no longer have to live with the weight of guilt and condemnation. It makes sense for me to give praise to God because He freed me to do so. But once that travels up to the head, it doesn’t make much sense. It doesn’t operate as well within my logic.

Photo Credit: fotologic via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: fotologic via Compfight cc

The other day, as our nation readied itself to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, I found myself once again doubting. Like so many other times, I asked once again: how could I believe this? How does this make sense?

It’s a soul-shattering question. It always comes in like a burglar blasting open your front door, invading the space you once thought was safe. It shakes you with uncertainty, tosses you around like a rag doll in the dryer.

I’ve asked this question many times, but it was only recently when I started easing myself with an explanation that calms my raging mind. This explanation leaves my mind asking: how could I not believe? [Read more...]

15 Secrets to Passionate Living

I sometimes believe that our greater culture almost likes being overly negative and pessimistic. They love over-criticizing everything, having no hope for beautiful things, and losing fond admiration for the silly, whimsical aspects of life. It’s an attitude I believe is corrupting our capability to strive for greatness in our lives.

Truth is, if you want to be great in this life, you have to model that greatness in your thinking.

Photo Credit: elgourmet via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: elgourmet via Compfight cc

You have to open your eyes up to the beauty in front of you and celebrate it. Only then will we be in the right mindset to enact change in our culture.

So here are 15 secrets that have helped me keep an idyllic perspective on life. May you treasure them and make them your own: [Read more...]

What I Gave Up to Believe in the Church Again

Photo by Relevant Magazine

This article originally published on Relevant Magazine.

I have a confession to make: I’m cynical about the Church. And because I’m cynical, I decided to give up.

I’ve always struggled with my cynicism. It’s something I fight daily, while wanting to be wrapped in the wonder of God.

But unfortunately, things like reality, petty disputes and little vices get in the way. They take my hope in the Church and mold it into a destructive attitude.

Just recently, after another brutal controversy rocked the Christian world, I felt my cynical attitude rage with fiery passion. It was hard to ignore this time. It kept tugging on my mind like a 3-year-old snatching at his mother’s dress. I couldn’t turn away.

Just as it reached its peak, I gave up. [Read more...]

Why I’m Never Asking for Numbers, and Neither Should You

I’ve made a recent commitment to never ask for numbers again. You might be thinking this is because I’m getting married soon, but that’s not the case. In fact, I don’t believe anyone, single or married, should ever ask for numbers.

Let me explain.

Photo Credit: Erik Hersman, Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Erik Hersman, Creative Commons

When I first began pursuing my wonderful fiancé, Carly, I didn’t ask for any sort of numbers. She was the girl next door, and I was the hopeful guy admiring her from just a few feet away. She was radiant, full of joy and optimism, and I would’ve liked to believe that I matched that in my own character as well.

When I first told people that I liked her, they said that the odds of her liking me back were slim to none.

She kept turning me down when I asked to spend time with her. I asked to come over and borrow something from her, and she wasn’t there. I asked to have a movie night with her house, and she was the only one who couldn’t come. By this time, I was close to giving up, because there wasn’t much evidence that she truly liked me.

Reality was, however, she did like me. She was just busy. [Read more...]

One Simple Way I Stay Happy When Life is Miserable

People say I’m a happy person. In fact, I’m pretty sure I hear, “Neal, I love your smile” somewhere around 4 times a day. If I hear it any less than that, it’s only because I spent my day shut up inside my room writing blogs or something like that.

Photo Credit: sneakyrabbits via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: sneakyrabbits via Compfight cc

Truth is, I am happy most of the times. It has to take some life-shattering event to bring an absolute frown on my face.

I read somewhere that 40% of happiness is in our control, and after reading this, I thought it was interesting that I’m generally a happy person.

With that 40% of happiness in my control, I’m happy, and here’s why:

When something upsetting comes around, I know I have two paths ahead of me. I could either move deeper in my sadness, or take the higher road of joy.

I choose joy every time. [Read more...]

3 Reasons to Date a Dreamer

Sometimes, I believe my fiancé is annoyed that I’m a dreamer. And I wouldn’t blame her. Many times, I do fit the stereotype of having my head stuck in the clouds. I’m often aloof to what’s going on around me because I’m living in the worlds moving around in my head. Who wouldn’t get annoyed by that?

But overall, she is thankful and wouldn’t have it any other way.

Considering the culture around her, my fiancé is the odd one. Dating a dreamer isn’t typically a preferred option for the greater majority.

Photo Credit: martinak15 via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: martinak15 via Compfight cc

People tend to write off dreamers as not being grounded within reality.  And for some dreamers, this is true. But for the true dreamers, the ones who understand reality and how to make it fold according to their passion, this is a wrong belief to have.

Fact of the matter is, a true dreamer is the best type of person you could have by your side. [Read more...]

My Greatest Fear in Following My Dreams

One of my greatest fears in getting married at an early age is that my wife and I will make less than enough money, compelling me to work endless hours, and finally, forcing me to forget my dreams in order to support our family. Don’t get me wrong, I am more than willing to do this because my family is my first priority.

But, I’m not one to believe that life circumstances should be opposed to following your passion.

Photo Credit: Βethan via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Βethan via Compfight cc

I have a friend who told me that once he got married, he gave up his passion in order to support his family. I believed this was noble. We only have so much time in our day. There was no way he could balance both.

But then, I have another friend for whom this was not the case. When he saw that life was pushing down on his family, he chose that time to work harder for his dreams.

When I saw these two friends, the gears in my mind started turning. Maybe, I don’t have to give up writing when life gets harder. [Read more...]

My Biggest Problem with Social Media

This post originally appeared on Rethink Creative Group’s blog.

I remember when social media was first getting big. I thought it was a more appealing mask for online dating. So I added my “friends”, who I really thought should be my girlfriends, and my way of letting them know they were on my radar was by putting them in my “Top 8”.

Photo Credit: Garrett Gill via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: Garrett Gill via Compfight cc

One time, a girl responded and we decided to meet up at a nearby playground (mind you, I was in middle school). I thought it was a stellar idea, and the next day, just as the sun was hanging low on the horizon, I set out to the playground with high expectations.

As soon as I got there and saw her sitting on the swing, she said, “Wow! You look nothing like you do on MySpace!” To which, I responded, “Neither do you!”

We both did an awkward laugh and fidgeted around our respective swings, both trying to hide the disappointment we felt.

I don’t know why I had expectations that this girl I was meeting would be exactly like how she appeared online. We can make ourselves be anything on the Internet. [Read more...]

I’m Not Waiting Till Marriage

I’m getting ready to marry my best friend, and because I love her, I must say: I didn’t wait for marriage. And hopefully, she’ll be happy I didn’t.

Let me tell you the story of why I bring this up now, just a couple months before my wedding:

I proposed to my fiancé in December, when I didn’t have a job, didn’t have money, and didn’t have anything to my name but nickels and dimes. Some said it was romantic, but most people said it was foolish.

When the reality of marriage started sinking in, I wrote an article describing my sentiments on why I chose to get engaged at an early age. I honestly said that I got engaged at a young age because I was in love, and love for me is greater than timing, how much money I have, and other jaded opinions on marriage in our culture.

What I didn’t expect, however, were the millions of people who would tune into this belief. The article went viral in a short time, with millions of views around the globe and thousands of shares.

Hundreds of people were reaching out to me and blessing my marriage. But also, on the other side of that, people were condemning it. [Read more...]