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...]

The Time I Freaked Out and Thought the World Was Going to End

The other day, I freaked out. I got tired, angry, and overly frustrated at what seemed to be a silly situation. So, what happened to cause me to be like this? Embarrassingly I admit: my blog stopped working.

Before you go thinking I’m some lunatic writer, hear me out.

It took a while for me to process why I was so frustrated about my blog crashing to the depths of what seemed to be Bermuda Triangle of the Internet. I went through some deep soul-searching, and found what was truly stirring my frustration.

The reason I was so angry about the blog dying was because my dreams matter to me.

Photo Credit: David Salafia via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: David Salafia via Compfight cc

My blog and my writings are not just things I do as a hobby. They are my livelihood. They are my passion. They are what I use to try and provide for my soon-to-be family.

I dug more at this feeling of deep loss, and discovered even more of why I thought so highly of my dreams.

My dreams are how I believe I’m going to change the world. I believe they can make a difference, and this is why I treasure them.

This is how it should be for many of us, where we treasure the things that help us make a difference. [Read more...]

What I Wish I Knew Before I Became a Christian

There are many difficult factors to this Christian life, many of which are opposed to our natural human inclinations. For instance, it’s hard to pray when you have a million different things on your mind. But Christianity says that when we take a moment to pause and pray, we’re better equipped to handle those things bouncing around in our brains. Christianity is, by its very essence, so subversive to our human nature.

I struggle with many things dealing with Christianity, but there is one factor in particular that messes me up every time a hard season comes along.

Christianity calls me to be faithful.

Photo Credit: asboluv via Compfight cc

Photo Credit: asboluv via Compfight cc

I admit, I like it when I’m in control of things. When I share my artistic vision for projects, I love when I get to handle every aspect of it, because I have control issues. I’ve gotten better with it over the years, but my tendency to want control over things is seeping into the way I live out my Christian faith.

I’m in middle of a busy season right now: publishing my first book soon, planning a wedding, and trying to stay above water with my seminary work. I have many things on my plate, but in my human thinking, I would feel better about the tasks at hand if I had the ability to accomplish all of them within my own ability. [Read more...]