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I haven’t used this blog very effectively in the last few years, and now I’m semi-officially retiring it.

If you’ve landed here and you are looking for my thoughts, head over to my new website: tyler-charles.com

I’m really excited about the plans I have for that site, and I’d love for you to join the conversation.

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coinsOver the weekend I attended a conference at a local Vineyard church featuring Phil Strout, the National Director of Vineyard USA. On Friday night Phil talked about expectation—and how we should expect God to do big things. Every day.

As Phil talked, I remembered a time from my childhood when I was at King’s Island (an amusement park in southwestern Ohio). I was probably six years old, so I should have been thrilled to be at the park. But instead of enjoying the rides, games, cotton candy, prizes, or any of the other fixtures kids typically love, I became fixated on something else: money! I realized that there were coins to be found all over the park. Beneath concession windows, in line for rides, under trash cans, and certainly in all the fountains (except my mom wouldn’t let me retrieve those). Soon enough I had a singular purpose for the rest of my day: to find as many coins as I could!

And I was successful! I don’t know exactly how much money I found, but it was close to 30 coins. Mostly pennies, but still. An impressive haul.

In the 25 years since that day, I have never again found so many coins on any given day. Sure, I still pick up coins occasionally. I found two $1 bills in a parking lot recently. And one time I found a $20 bill—my most productive discovery to date. But I have never retrieved as many coins as I did that day. You know why?

Because I’ve never again been so devoted to searching.

Now, finding loose change is no longer as high of a priority for me. I’m not above stopping to pick up a coin when I see one, mind you, but I don’t go out of my way to spot them. If I did, I know that I would find more coins than I do.  But that’s not the point here. The point is that our expectations make a difference. When we expect to find something, we will look for it. And by looking for it, we’re going to find more of “it” than we would have if we weren’t looking. Obvious, right?

And that’s why Phil’s talk resonated with me. I don’t know why I made this connection (I’ll give God credit for it), but I realized that I should expect to see the things God is doing just like I expected to find those coins at the amusement park. And I should be excited about it. I should be eager to see what else God is doing. If I want to experience more of what God is doing, I just need to open my eyes. And keep looking.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll find another $20 bill while I’m at it…

 

(Crickets chirping)

Wow, if I thought this blog mattered to someone, I would feel incredibly guilty about my inactivity. Thank goodness it doesn’t matter.

A lot has changed since that last post two years ago. I still do freelance writing and I’m still trying to finish my book (wow, I can’t believe I haven’t finished that by now..), but I’m also doing full-time campus ministry at Ohio Wesleyan University—working for the Coalition for Christian Outreach (CCO). And I absolutely love it (and the students I’ve gotten to know in the past year).

What else? Barbie and I bought a house in Delaware (Delaware, Ohio) and have lived here for almost two years. So that’s the biggest purchase I’ve ever made. (Yep. Hello, debt.) 

I’ve gotten to travel a lot in the last year or so: Peru (and Machu Picchu), Vegas (and the Grand Canyon), Philly, Atlantic City, Maine, Denver, and various other places. And I’ve been doing more writing for Relevant Magazine, which has been fun too.

These are all details. And they’re not that interesting, either (but I figure that’s okay since I sincerely doubt, after two years, whether anyone is checking in on this blog with any regularity). But more than the details, God has been doing some things in my heart. Among other things, I’ve been learning a lot about prayer and just how powerful it is. I’ve also become a lot more open to the work of the Holy Spirit—something I would have said I believed in, but without ever really considering it much. And because of these things, my faith feels more alive, more real, than it did before. Which is pretty sweet.

Meanwhile, the Olympics are on right now, and even though I hadn’t written a post in two years, the Olympics won’t be back again for another four years, so I’m going to give them my undivided attention now. Peace.

I’m reading two books right now, both interesting in very different ways. One is The Irresistible Revolution by Shane Claiborne, and, among other things, it challenges Americans to realize just how affluent we are (which requires acknowledging that most of the world is not so fortunate). There’s a lot more to this book. But as far as brief summaries go, I feel like mine is fair.

The other book I’m currently reading is written by Eric Weiner, and it’s called The Geography of Bliss. In this book, Weiner, an NPR correspondent, travels to what he considers to be some of the happiest places in the world in an effort to determine whether people there truly are happy and why. As far as brief summaries go, this is pretty much dead on.

Claiborne’s book is grounded in his Christian faith, fueled by his conviction that we are called to do more. Ultimately, Claiborne advocates sacrificing personal pleasures for the sake of others (and for the sake of Christ).

Weiner’s book is grounded in his self-professed “grumpiness,” fueled by his belief that some people are better at the whole “pursuit of happiness” thing than others. Ultimately, Weiner seems to advocate a self-centered “what can I do to find happiness?” mentality.

These two authors have different backgrounds, different beliefs, and very different objectives. But at various points, they both draw conclusions that are almost eerily similar:

Both men conclude that wealth leads to increased isolation (Weiner refers to the progression from college dorms to apartments to a house…eventually, for the really wealthy, to an estate, and each step makes us increasingly insulated from others). And both conclude that those with less, those who can’t afford to isolate themselves from others, are happier because of it.

I can definitely relate to what these authors are saying…well, except for the wealth part.

In the last four years since I graduated college, I’ve found community is harder and harder to find. Especially now, since I work alone and I’m not really part of a church right now (since we’re helping with a church plant that won’t plant for another few months at the earliest). As for friends (yes, I do have some) and family, I don’t encounter them on a regular basis. I see them occasionally, when weekend plans are successfully arranged. Unless you count Facebook and Twitter and text messaging (I don’t), my wife is the only person who’s really part of my daily community right now.

And no offense to my beautiful wife whom I love very much, but that’s not good enough.

I realize this might sound like a pity party, but it’s not. It’s just that I’m starting to realize that I need to do my part to actively create community. Whether it’s getting to know the neighbors, getting more involved in local events, joining some sort of weekly thing-a-ma-jig, or perhaps even organizing something myself, I’ve realized that I need to make more of an effort to be part of a community.

And as Weiner and Claiborne suggest, I think my life will be happier because of it.

The community is out there. I just need to figure out the best way to stick my ugly mug right in the middle of it.


I’m one of many Thomas Nelson Book Review Bloggers (the publishing house’s review-generating endeavor which has recently been renamed BookSneeze). Before you start thinking that being part of this makes me special (or before you think I think it makes me special), know that anyone can sign up for this here. It’s really a pretty sweet gig. You request a book, they send it to you (for free), and then you write a 200-word review on your blog and one other online site (such as amazon.com).

And it doesn’t have to be a positive review either. And I wasn’t sure my first BookSneeze review was going to be a positive one. Not at first.

Sure, the book’s initial pages were interesting. But like many nonfiction books I read, I assumed it was going to be much longer than necessary. I expected it to start lagging in chapter 3 or 4. And basically, I assumed the writer was going to take a couple hundred pages to write what would have been more compelling in a 1,000 word article.

But no, not so.

The Guinness brand and the Guinness family really do have a compelling story. The Guinnesses clearly impacted history in a major way. (And in many less-major, but still-intriguing ways…such as the creation of the Guinness Book of World Records…which, in hindsight, I feel I should have been smart enough to attribute to them all along. But I had no clue.)

The book begins with details of the history of the brewing industry (before it was an industry). These details interested me, but they might bore some readers. But after explaining a little bit about the history of brewing, the majority of the book focuses on the Guinness family—their choices, their faith, their triumphs, their mistakes, and the legacy that continues today.

Do I recommend this book?

Not to everyone, no. But if you enjoy history, yes. If you enjoy reading about pivotal business decisions and people who turned their back on business to wholeheartedly pursue a life of faith, yes. If you just enjoy a cold glass of Guinness Stout, um, maybe. But this book is really more about the family than the family’s famous product.

I enjoyed it. And it was a quick and easy read.

If you think you might like it, you probably will.