The legend of the Cartrocker; or how I got caught making out in a ferris wheel

Take a trip in time with me all the way back to September 17, 1999. Everyone was busy getting ready for the new millennium. We were scared of Y2K. The #1 song in the country was a little diddy by my friend Enrique Iglesisas called “Bailamos.”

Times were good.

I was an 8th grader at Chestnut Grove Middle School in the booming metropolis of King, North Carolina.

September 17 was a Friday. I left school that day and went home to do what every other 8th grader did at the time:

I got on AOL Instant Messenger.

That afternoon, I got an instant message from a girl I was friends with. This girl was very pretty. She was a cheerleader and we had a few classes together. We had the typical middle school opening conversation of, “Hey. Hi. What’s up? Nothing much. You? Same.”

Then she asked me a simple, innocent question: “Are you going to the fair tonight?”

You see, the Stokes County Fair was in town. You may think of the fair and think of an awesome place to be with outdated concerts and awesome food. I think of the fair and think of rickety old rides set up in the outfield of the American Legion baseball field.

The Stokes County Fair was about as redneck as redneck gets. But in 8th grade, things changed. Our parents stopped having to follow us around at the fair and they would drop us off and come back in a few hours.

It was our first taste of freedom.

My original answer to her question was no. I didn’t want to go to the fair. She told me she thought I should go and I told her I’d rather stay home. Not taking the hint, she kept telling me I should go.

Eventually I asked her why.

“Cause I’ll be there. ;)”

In typical middle school dude fashion, I didn’t fully understand what the winky face meant. I kept saying no until she finally spelled it out pretty clearly and said she liked me.

Wait a minute.

Cheerleader.

Good looking.

Likes me.

“Moooom. Can I go to the fair tonight?” Continue reading

3 simple ways to be a generation no one can forget

Last week I took a risk that was scary: I pitched an article to Relevant Magazine.

If you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance you’ve read Relevant. If you haven’t, Relevant is a Christian magazine that looks to marry the church, the arts, and modern culture.

Either way – Relevant is a huge deal to my generation. Getting a spot on their website would be gigantic for me.

In researching Relevant to make my pitch, I watched a video from their founder about how and why Relevant was starting. In the video, he had a quote that stuck out to me. He said:

When you see something that isn’t how it should be, you can do two things. You can either criticize it or be part of the solution.

For years I’ve written about this idea of “changing the world.” For many of you, it’s an idea that is too big to wrap your head around. How can you change the world when you have tests to study for, projects to pitch, and kids to take care of?

It all starts with choosing which side you’re going to be on when you see something that isn’t how it should be.

Will you criticize it?

Or will you be part of the solution?

For me, I want to be part of the solution. Continue reading

Why I walked back into a middle school dance; or how little decisions can make a huge impact

Last week I went to my first networking meet up as a business owner. It was a great opportunity, but it felt a lot like a middle school dance.

After the scheduled part was over, people stood around talking and meeting each other. I was able to give out business cards and make some great connections. In fact, I gave out every business card I had taken inside with me.

So I decided to leave.

I walked to my car and started it up. As I was about to put it in reverse, a little voice in my head told me to go back inside. I wasn’t sure why, but I knew I was supposed to go in so I reloaded on business cards and headed inside.

As I awkwardly stood there looking for someone to talk to, a guy walked up and introduced himself. We talked about how we could mutually help each other and I thought maybe that connection was the reason I went back in.

We continued talking and he mentioned he was looking for someone to partner with on a project. Unfortunately for me, what he needed wasn’t anything I could offer. I did know a guy that could probably help him out though. I told him I’d send an email to introduce them, he said thanks, and we parted ways.

Later in the day, I sent the introduction email. Within ten minutes, the guy from the meet up and my friend were on the phone talking about how they could help each other out.

I didn’t go back into the meet up for me.

I went back in for my friends.

And I didn’t even know it.

Whether we realize it or not, our lives are all connected. What I do and don’t do impacts what you are able to do. What you do and don’t do impacts what your best friend is able to do. And so the pattern goes.

This week, as you go about your normal routines, know that they matter.

Know that how you treat the random person you pass in the hall can impact every person they meet that day.

Know that you can make a much greater impact than you realize.

How would your week look different if you acted as if the decisions you make impacted everyone around you?

Would the weight of it scare you?

Or would the possibility excite you?

Err on the side of possibility and watch what can happen.

Say your prayers and take your vitamins.

Have a nice day.

-Jonathan

The 5 most annoying things to say to first-time parents

Since making the news public at Thanksgiving that we’re having a baby, we’ve encountered advice from everyone we know and even some we don’t.

Apparently everyone turns into a world-class advice giver when they find out you’re pregnant. Most people have the best intentions in the world and want to celebrate with you and help you out. Others, for whatever reason, can’t wait to jump on the train to Cynicsville.

I posted a picture on Instagram a few weeks ago that had a picture of our nursery. The previous owners had an incredibly ugly shade of pink on the walls and my picture was captioned saying, “Even though we’re having a daughter, we’re not having this Pepto Bismol flavored paint.”

The “advice” in the comments got so bad that I ended up deleting the post.

But it gave me an idea: what’s the most annoying advice for first time parents? After throwing the question on social media, here are the five most annoying things you can say to first time parents: Continue reading

If grace is an ocean, we’re all peeing in it

Church in the 90’s was all about one thing: looking the part.

Guys all wore the same polo shirt tucked into the same pair of khakis and girls all wore the same dresses. We answered every “God is good” statement with “all the time” and pretended it wasn’t the cheesiest thing in the world.

We’d sing the same songs each week all while trying not to laugh at the old lady who brought her own tambourine.

Then, after shaking hands with Mr. Smith who remembers when we were “this” big, we’d sit down to listen to the same sermon about hell fire, brimstone, and not sinning.

We were taught that Christians were supposed to look a certain way, act a certain way, and be a certain way. It was all about rules and “being in the world, but not of the world.”

And not listening to Metallica.

Whatever you do, don’t listen to Metallica.

There’s no Heaven in your future if you listen to Metallica.

Eventually we all left the church because it was all about rules and felt superficial. Mr. Smith looked and said the right things at church but then he’d treat his business clients like dirt and drink a little too much on Friday night.

It all felt hypocritical. Like everything was a performance.

Then came the mid-00’s and this new idea called “grace.” Continue reading

Chicken nuggets with fingers; or how you don’t have to do life alone

As a dude, the most awkward place in the world is the waiting room at the OBGYN. It’s enemy territory; a pool of estrogen. Everyone in the room knows you’re not supposed to be there. The second you walk in the door, every woman looks at you like you’re the kid who peed in the pool and ruined it for everyone else.

As strange as it feels to sit at the lady doctor, it also brings one of the greatest feelings you can ever know: the first time you see a picture of the baby you’ve created.

I remember having no clue what to expect when Nicole and I went to the doctor for our 8-week ultrasound. I knew what the actual process was going to be like, but I didn’t know what I’d think or feel when I saw the little baby pop up on the screen.

Of all the things I thought I would think, I never imagined thinking what I actually thought: Continue reading

What Taylor Swift taught me about telling my story

When my littles are getting fussy and whiney and all the snacks in the world aren’t cutting it, we blast Taylor Swift and “Shake it Off.” We dance crazily around the living room and I swing kids in circles until they dizzily fall over and ask for more. Our moves are silly, without the self-consciousness that I remember having in all those high school dances. We stomp, laugh, and clap and my boys do karate moves or spy moves or whatever they’re into at the moment.

We dance out all of the big feelings for which we don’t have any more words left.

We let the music and our bodies move in sweeping rhythms that restore who we are: a family who loves being together. Our dance parties are just one scene from our family story that I hope my kids remember. I hope they remember the fun and the laughter and the joy, and, that as they dance they know they are loved no matter how they perform. Continue reading

On being a cool Christian; or why I’m done trying

A few weeks ago, I sent out some basic questions to people I know asking them for feedback on my writing.

One of the guys I sent the e-mail to was my friend Judah. Judah and I have differing views on many things, so I knew he would be honest with me and tell me where I needed to grow.

And I was right.

He responded back with what could’ve been a book. Most of which was in disagreement with how I think and operate as a writer.

I’ve always wanted to have the blog that people thought was written by a “cool” Christian. I love guys like Donald Miller, Jon Acuff, and Bob Goff. They’re wildly successful writers who are Christians even though they don’t always mention Jesus. And rarely, if ever, do they quote the Bible in their writings.

That’s who I wanted to be.

It’s the type of writer I felt I was supposed to be.

Then I got Judah’s e-mail. Continue reading

Golf ball prayers in a star sized world

Recently I had the chance to watch Louie Giglio’s Laminin talk. If you’ve never seen it, Giglio spends time talking about how huge our world is. He compares the earth’s size to the size of some of the stars in the universe.

His reference for the earth is a golf ball.

As he describes the size of these stars we’ve found, he tells us of one who, if the earth is a golf ball, would be a school bus full of golf balls. Then he tells of a bigger star, one that, if the earth is a golf ball, would be the width of two Golden Gate bridges.

To top of his illustration, he introduces the largest star ever found: Canis Majoris, the Big Dog Star.

If the earth were a golf ball, Canis Majoris would be the height of Mount Everest.

That’s a big dang star.

Continue reading

You don’t need a cape to be a superhero

I had the privilege of leading a group of high school guys as one of their small group leaders. I spent two years trying to help them not make the same mistakes I made and hoping they understood what this following Jesus thing was about.

And talking about sex.

A lot.

In case you didn’t know, 17-year-old dudes really like taking about sex.

On the night of our last official group meeting, we spent time talking about prideful people vs humble people. As our guys were going back and forth with their opinions, I realized that in that moment, on that back porch, I wasn’t the one teaching this group of guys.

They were teaching me. Continue reading