On Being Told No

I’ll cut right to the chase: I don’t like being told no. Who does?

In my line of work I ask lots of people for lots of things. It feels like I am constantly making “asks” and this raises all sorts of anxiety for me. I fear being a burden, or annoying, or the person people dread receiving emails from (here we go again).

Recently I made an ask that had a lot of hope attached to it. I was told no. I fought for it. Still no.

I felt pretty crummy about this no. Then I read this. (Miller also talked about this at the World Domination Summit: how to find redemption in suffering/stories that don’t turn out the way we want them to).

So, in that spirit, here are four blessings that come with “no’s”.

  1. It forces me to pray more: you’d think I do most of my praying before/during/immediately after the ask. Rejection has a way of revitalizing my prayer-life like nothing else.
  2. The process of asking is clarifying: whether the answer is yes or no, the process makes me think deeply about what I am asking for, why I need it, and why it is important for whoever I am asking to be included in this effort. Asking produces clarity.
  3. No’s make me work harder: I’m not sure what this says about me, but yeses tend to produce laziness, a resting of laurels. No’s create urgency. Obviously, yeses are needed to get anything done, but a no drives up the energy levels in a more profound way.
  4. No’s produce character: I completely relate to Miller’s victim dialogue in the article on disappointment. It’s so easy to go there. In the end anything we receive when we ask is a gift. It’s so easy to take credit for a yes, to think I “earned” this. And, similarly, to blame someone for a no. But it’s all a gift. Maybe a better way of saying it is: no’s reveal character. And that can be painful, but ultimately necessary.

What do you think? What do you learn from “no’s”?


At Least One Thing I Learned At The World Domination Summit

My job title is Director of SojournBoston.

Other ways of describing what I do:
campus minister,
college pastor,
leadership developer,
counselor, etc.

I love college students and working within the world of the campus and learning and education. I am also passionate about neighborhoods and development and being a kingdom presence in the places we live.

But, if there’s a thing behind the thing for me, one thing that ultimately lights me up more than others it’s integration. It’s helping people develop the eyes to see and the ears to hear where God is at work.

And, he is at work all over the place. I see him at work in John Greene’s novel, The Fault in Our Stars, and in the music of Taylor Swift, and in the TV show Friday Night Lights.

And I see him at work in the student who gives up their summer to serve inner city kids…the student who gives up a prestigious internship to work with us instead…in the generosity of others…in friendship…in carrot cake.

I could go on and on. God is at work in all sorts of ways, all over this big world.

I found God at work this weekend at the World Domination Summit.

There were aspects of the conference that felt hollow…lots of people desperately searching for something transcendent. Lots of people trying really hard to “make a name for themselves.” Lots of people just trying to figure it out.

In other words, people.

Two observations.

First, they were honest about the search.
I meet a lot of people, especially in the church, who have a hard time being honest about who they are and the struggle to find meaning, even in the midst of a christian worldview. I deeply appreciated the honesty I encountered this weekend.

Second, in our increasingly post-christian world there are interesting spaces to preach the gospel.
My favorite scene in the book of Acts occurs across chapters 13 and 14. In chapter 13 Paul speaks to a Jewish audience and does the classic theological, historical telling of the story. He uses the name of Jesus, and he shows how Jesus is the answer to the messiah question the Jews had been asking for years.

Acts 13:32-33: ““We tell you the good news: What God promised our ancestors 33 he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus.”

The good news: Jesus, resurrection.

In chapter 14, Paul is in Lystra and Derbe and people think he is a God (Zeus), and as he attempts to correct them Paul takes the opportunity to share the gospel (good news) with them.

Acts 14:15-17 “We are bringing you good news,telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and everything in them. In the past, he let all nations go their own way. Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.”

The good news: there is a living God, he made everything, he has shown you kindness.

No mention of Jesus, no mention of resurrection. Both statements, according to Luke, are good news.

Paul understands integration, and his mission is to help people see…to see good news whatever their perspective, background, theology, politics, etc…there is good news in the world and it has to do with what this living God is up to.

All weekend long I heard speakers talk about doing great things and helping the world and living a great life. One speaker, apologetically, used Jesus as an example of great orator. Another, one of the foremost bloggers in the world, talked about his church background. Another, slyly mentioned that CS Lewis was his favorite author. And on and on it went all weekend, these subversive moments of pointing to good news.

The weekend closed with Donald Miller. I’m a huge fanboy and I was looking forward to this moment, but I was interested to see how he would be received.

After a weekend of “go do something great,” Don spent most of his time talking about finding a redemptive perspective on failure and suffering.

Don realized he was not in the synagogue, he was in Lystra. And he nailed the opportunity. People who took every opportunity to boo Fox News and anything remotely smelling of a conventional, organized, religious perspective gave Don the loudest, longest ovation of the weekend. People had tears in their eyes.

There is a tremendous space in our culture to share good news with people. To point out this living God who is at work all around us, taking care of us, and bringing us joy.

However, I think it looks more like Acts 14, than Acts 13.

I think the church has a lot to learn from a gathering like the World Domination Summit, and I know we need more people like Donald Miller.

I’m sure he would never call himself a missionary, but Don is a missionary, doing missional work, pointing out this living God, and it was beautiful to watch the impact that had on people.

Whatever my title, whatever my role, this is what I do best and what I get to do all the time in my work with students, and I love it, and it was inspiring to see someone do it so well as Don did last night.

Where do you see this living God at work? And, how can you help others see and experience good news?

Surprising Good Gifts

On Sunday night, Amy and I hung out with a celebrity couple. Not huge celebrities, but these people are way cooler than we are. Except they are totally normal, and we have a ton of things in common.

Superficial things in common (Amy said both couples can be described as tall white guys with “ethnic” wives =).

But deep things in common too: growing up in ministry families, similar journeys to parenthood, jobs that have strange hours and difficult demands. The list goes on.

Someone said that two of the most powerful words in the English language are “me too.” We had “me too” moments again and again. At one point, during a pause in the conversation, we all kind of laughed about the similarities in our stories.

I thought it would be really fun and interesting to hang out with this couple and to ask them a million questions. Turns out they ministered to us in a beautiful and profound way.

Good gifts are all around us, all the time, I believe. The question is: are we paying attention enough to see them and to recognize them for what they are. Jesus said a lot, “Let those who have ears to hear, hear.” (Or eyes to see).

Do we have the eyes and ears to recognize good gifts when they come our way?