In the course of interviewing a number of people over the years for various jobs I have clung to a number of questions that are staples within my schema. The first question is one that typically comes after a slew of serious, though provoking questions. Its purpose serves the judge the persons ability to think on their feet with “out of the box” questions. It also serves as a potential insight into how a person views their self. The question is quite simply “If you were a Super Hero what would your super powers be and what would your Kryptonite be?”

I have heard a numerous answers ranging from the eloquent and beautiful to the comic equivalent of the wonder twins brother Zan. While the super hero question serves as a fun lighthearted question, other questions serve as a more poignant question to evaluate potential truthfulness. Here are a list of my favorite questions:

“What do you not do well?” (I usually don’t except answers like “I work too hard, so I dont know how to quit.” I will relentlessly rack the person until the give up what they dont do well as it relates to the job”

“What is your biggest opportunity for growth?” (i.e. another question to get at the flaws of a person)

“What do you hate about your previous or current job?” (answers that are too forward provide potential issues later on)

“If you could do anything and not have to work, what would you do?”

And last my most favorite question if I am planning on hiring the person: “What motivates you?”

It is always fun to find out what motivates a person. Some people say things like “Free coffee!” or “Chocolate.” or “Money!” while these are fun and true, I like to probe deeper to see what, at the core of the person, motivates them do perform better, enjoy their job more, and invest in the team.

If someone had asked me that question throughout the course of my life, it would have changed. At one point I might have stated that I am motivated by the opportunity to be invested in something bigger than myself. Other times I might have stated a reciprocating investment in my own personal development from the people around me as I invest in them. And in my current job I would say it is the opportunity to see those around me take joy in their job and grow.

During college I took a course called Experiential learning. It served as a way to teach people through experiences. The course looked at team building games, ropes courses, and experiential learning initiatives as means to help a person learn and develop. Often through the course of the initiatives and learning elements motives and motivators became quite clear. As a facilitator of those elements, you then had the freedom to assist in that persons learning through removing motivators or adding new ones.

At the end of the class we took a 3 day retreat as a class to a ropes course. As an experienced rock climber and alpha male who is afraid only of commitment (the kind with the padded walls and white jackets, what else did you think?), I was afraid of nothing and motivated by “helping others in their weakness.” I took risks, acted like a servant to my teammates who needed me, and generally didnt let my teammates help me.

As we got to the end of the three days we approached an element that I found to be trivial and quaint. It is called the “Pamper Pole.” In essence you climb up a telephone pole while attached to a safety belay. Once you get to the top you have to jump off the top of the pole to grab a bar about 5 feet in front of you. So, in short you are jumping off a round, wobbling, 1 ft in diameter pole into the air to grab a suspended bar hanging some 30 ft off the ground. If you miss, you are caught by your belay rope and gently brought to the ground. If you successfully grab the pole, the team cheers and everyone encourages you on your accomplishment.

As a team we each went up the pole. For some people the fear alone of climbing the pole meant just getting to the top was a success. Its funny how in life we expect everyone to be the same. Yet, for some people they have difficulties and fears that mean just climbing a proverbial 30 ft pole is a success. I found myself with my classmates that has such fear of heights that it didnt matter if they succeeded or not, the pure fact they approached their fears meant everything.

For some classmates they chose to climb the pole blindfolded and allow the team to guide them and direct them. While they didn’t have a fear of heights, they verbalized that they need to learn to trust people. By being blindfolded it forced them to trust their team and realize that the team was their support.

Some people simply wanted constant encouragement from the team. Others needed silence. One team member actually allowed the team to choose how they approached the pamper pole. I was so impressed by this persons ability to abdicate control and allow others, how had spent an entire semester seeing each others weaknesses and strengths, choose the method of approach to the event that I duplicated the question.

When it got to be my turn to go, I asked my team what they felt would best challenge me on the pamper pole. I wasn’t afraid of heights, I loved being in a harness and had complete trust and jumping off tall objects seemed like fun. One of my friends looked at me and suggested “You should do it, blind, deaf and mute.” I felt that while she was at it she might as well throw in that I couldn’t use my arms and had to catch the pole with my teeth.

Though, being the alpha male I was, I gladly accepted the challenge. In short what that meant was, I couldn’t talk to anyone until I got on the ground, they couldn’t talk to me, and I was blindfolded. This meant if I was facing the wrong way at the top, they couldn’t tell me. I also couldn’t ask for help.

Once I dawned my blindfolded everything went silent. I oriented my self on the pole, visualized where I was and what I needed to do to succeed and started climbing. Since I had spent years prior rock climbing, I scaled the pole fairly quickly. I got to the top and slowly stood up making sure that I was facing the right direction and that my feet were firmly planted. The wind was a gentle breeze and even without a blindfold I could tell the earth looked beautiful from 30ft up.

I took a deep breath and jumped…

My arms were out stretched and ready at a moment notice to grab a bar or anything else I felt my hands touch. In an instant I felt the bar and quickly tightened my grip. As I was mute, I couldn’t say anything. As I was deaf, my teammates couldn’t cheer. I hung there for a few seconds in proud glory. I had achieved success by overcoming all obstacles. I was blind, deaf, and mute and still succeeded where others had failed.

I was then gently lowered to the ground and the facilitator lead me a few feet away before taking off my blindfold. By the time I took off my blindfold the next person was being briefed on the pamper pole.

I was shocked. No one congratulated me. One one made eye contact. It was as if by succeeding I was essentially removed from the group. No one asked me if I did it. No one even cared. I suddenly felt my heart drop and I had never felt more alone in my life. After everyone had finished the pamper pole we debriefed the weekend. I sat silent and alone, realizing that my great moment of glory meant nothing to my team mates.

I actually cried as I drove home. Here were friends, classmates, and fellow “experiential learners” and no one cared about me. No one celebrated my win. No one even asked…

It was the end of the semester and no one talked about my display of awesomeness on the pamper pole. No one. I sat on a picnic bench during finals week as a classmate came and sat down next to me. We had bonded a little at the retreat as we saw each others weaknesses and helped each other through them. I explained to her that I felt alone and like no one cared. The very next words out of her mouth shattered the ice “Bryce, what happened?” Didn’t she know? She was there. She was standing on the ground watching, right?

Well, she didnt know. I finally reciprocated the question “Why, what happened with you guys?” She told me about how the moment I was blindfolded the professor had the entire team turn around and walk away. They were told that they couldn’t ask me what happened and had to wait for me to say anything. They were only allowed to come back once I was done.

I was broken. My world came crashing down. It wasn’t that they didn’t care, it was that they didn’t know. At that moment my entire world began to spin. I started analyzing everything, the whole semester, my whole life, the pamper pole, everything. I felt like someone had just punched me in the stomach and walked away.

It was in that moment of complete chaos that I realized a few very important things about life and myself.

There are those of us that can “do it all” when it comes to a myriad of activities. I didn’t need my teammates help, but by not allowing them to help I didn’t allow them to take part in my success. In order for a team to be a team, everyone must be a part of the successes and failures, even in little ways. But when we try to pretend we are “Superman” and can do it all on our own, we exclude others from even taking joy in our success. We say “I don’t need you and since I don’t need you, I don’t want you.”

By choosing to be Superman and do it all by myself, I was the only one who took part in my victory. I wanted so badly for my teammates to see how “Awesome” I was, but instead what they saw was how little they were needed.

For many of us the Pamper Pole looks different in life. It can be our Job, our relationships, our hobbies, etc. We figure that since we can do it on our own we don’t need another persons help. It is like a son asking his father if he can help with fixing the car, or the plumbing, or putting a shelf up. In reality, the Father doesn’t need the sons help. But the father still allows the son to help because in helping his father, the son finds value. Sometimes taking someone else’s help means humbling yourself, like being willing to listen to the wife who tells you you’re lost and should ask for directions. We don’t always have to be Superman and prove to everyone how strong we are. Sometimes it is admitting we need people that becomes the very part of us that makes us human.

Whenever I am asked about what motivates me, this story comes to mind. I realized that people taking part in my successes and failures is what motivates me. I love having people pour into my life and want to join with me in a project or goal. I hate doing stuff alone (I do love being alone to recharge though). I want what I am doing to excite others, to motivate them, and to want them to be a part of it. I am motivated by having other people “buy-in” to my vision. Or by being a part of a team that has a great vision.

I want to stand on top of the Pamper Pole and jump, not because I am superman and awesome, but because I know the people below are taking part in my success. I want to have that moment when my feet hit the ground to be filled with joy, knowing that as my team was there for me, so I too will be there for them after they have jumped.

Life is not about whether or not you successfully grab the bar on the Pamper Pole. Life is about who is there to celebrate and encourage you once your feet hit the ground.


I am superman. I can dodge a bullet and have properly been named the “Man of Steel.” I have eyes that can perceive a myriad of things or bore holes through walls. I can fly, enough said. When I stand on the street corner in my spandex suit with my cape blowing in the traffic most people look at me like I’m crazy. A few cars even honk their horns in protest as I hold out my hand stopping traffic to let the attractive Lois type female cross the street.


At work I have been described as a Bear of a man. I have fierce conversations and often am intimidating to a few. Like the Man of steel I consist of a hard exterior. Except as a bear I can maul people to death with my words and somehow manage to enjoy the taste of my foot.


I am sure that in most of my life’s situations people see a very hard version of Bryce. I am task oriented at work and in other social venues I am less engaging and extroverted as I once used to be. I am often guarded and use sarcasm and a dry wit to rebuff or disengage from a conversation and keep things from becoming personal. I am great at avoiding questions and even switching the focus back onto people.


Yet, its all a ruse.


I am probably more sensitive than I’d like to admit. I get hurt easily. I often have to try not take things personally at work. I stay guarded in my castle because people see my sarcasm and wit and my tough looking demeanor and figure that I can take a sharp jab to the ribs about my flaws or shortcomings. The reality is I cannot. I have learned over the years to take less personally than I did when I was younger, but it is still hard.


Growing up I was never liked. I had very few friends in school and somehow even those that I did have had a way of leaving me because I wasnt cool. I can actually recount the names of my friends and the specific instances when they no longer became my friend and I was left alone as a small elementary school child, friendless.


I had such a hard time making friends in school that those that I did make I was loyal to. In 5th grade the only real friend I had was Adam. Every day at recess we played 4 square. I would usually grab a playground ball and keep it under my chair as a way of guarding our daily ritual. I was often so excited because the fact that we had the ball meant other kids would play with us. Without the ball I was nothing, I was just the kid wandering around trying to find others to play with.


However, Adam was a social kid. He was liked by others and had a great number of friends. Some days Adam didn’t play with me, but I had the ball so that meant that I could easily find others to play with. 4 square was the game and I was often in the top 5 players of “All Time.” 4 square quickly became my only way to make friends or even be noticed. I can remember days in which I didn’t have the ball and Adam didn’t want to play with me. I spent my entire time wandering the play ground trying to find kids who would play with me.


I wasn’t liked in school and I was often made fun of. My arch-nemesis was a kid named Matt. My teacher didn’t believe that such a “nice” kid would be so mean, so I documented what he did to me and brought the list to her. So my teacher, Matt and I sat down to talk about everything. Nothing happened… Our little meeting just meant it got worse. I cried because no one believed me, or cared, or even did anything to fix it. I was powerless and alone.


I wanted so badly to be liked, so be a part of a social group. I acted out to get attention because without it no one cared that I existed. I remember running around in 3rd grade calling people “Homo…. sapien”

I was so excited that I learned a cool word and didn’t really get the implications of what I said. I had learned it from one of the 5th graders and he seemed cool so I mimicked him. I got in so much trouble it wasn’t even funny. Yet, the 5th grader that taught me the word and encouraged the action got away free. The kid who didn’t really know what he was doing got punished because he acted out for attention. Not only was I an outcast but I also was a whipping boy. My mother once commented that everyone can do something and get away with it, yet the moment I did it I would get caught and in trouble.


I can still remember the day it all went down. I had gotten a ball early and had it under my chair waiting with eager anticipation for recess to play with Adam. Yet, Adam didnt want to play with me. He had a new group of friends that he was playing with. In this new group of friends was Matt. It was about 5 minutes from recess and Adam stole my ball from under my chair. I was livid. I was hurt. I was now alone, a no one, a discarded friend. The moment we were dismissed for recess I had one goal: To get my ball back.


I chased Adam down and took the ball from him, ripping it from his arms. His next words sealed my anger for him “Stop trying to steal my Ball.” I didnt steal his ball, he stole mine! I was taking back what was mine. Yet, being the kid no one liked no one believed me. All of a sudden Drew (a portly kid who never liked me), Matt and another kid were chasing me down and trying to steal the ball.


I was wronged and no one cared. I was rejected and no one step up to defend me. So, I fought back. I did all I could to keep my ball. The problem is that adults dont listen to kids. I was immediately dragged to the principals office and suspended from school for fighting. No one did anything to Matt, Adam or the other kids. I was acting in self-defense but I was the only one punished. Adam never played with me again. No one wanted to be my friend and no one cared.


Tears still come to my eyes when I recount this story. I wish the story just ended in elementary school, but instead it continues. I was never good at making friends so I often found myself alone. I didnt have a social group at school. I only knew how to “get attention” and never learned who I was or how to be me. I often became the center of attention because that was better than being ignored. I was often left out of group outings when I was on staff at Camp Tadmor because I wasn’t cool. I was demoted to a counselor in training after having been a counselor for a year at Tadmor when I returned for my 3rd summer. I was eventually kicked out because I was acting out because no one cared for me, invested in me, or even wanted to be around me (I rolled a utility cart breaking the ankle of my passenger in mimicking the actions of the previous countless weeks done by the senior staff… not my wisest move, but still, instead of investing or caring for me I was discarded). In college things wern’t better.


I quickly learned in life that I was not the cool kid and no one cared. No older men invested in my life until I was 22. Even with those 2 men, I usually have to contact them to meet. Even college sucked. When I flunked out of college I soon found that I had no friends. All those people who claimed to be my friend were merely friends by proxy. They stopped calling, they dont write and I am sure I dont even exist now.


So, I learned to guard myself. I learned how to stop people from getting close because the moment they get close they will hurt you. The world is full of Adams, people who pretend to be your friend and then one day abandon you. The world is also full of Matt’s, spoiled brat kids who are going to pick on you and put you down. I keep my self protected because lets face it, no one really cares if your feelings get hurt these days. All while growing up I was told that when my feelings got hurt no one cared. My feelings were worthless and when they got hurt it was my fault. I shouldn’t be so sensitive, I should rather be calloused. I shouldnt care, I should “move on.”


So, I became the Man of Steel. I developed a wicked wit and an ability to keep people from getting close enough to see that the steel exterior is really nothing more than air. It became easier to keep people away than to let them close and risk being hurt again. Because one day they will steal your ball and you’ll be left alone on the playground of life with no other friends and no one else to play with. And when you cry out for help you’ll be punished and told that its all your fault you got hurt and they stole your ball.

Release the Bunnies!

When we look back on life we often have perfect 20/20 vision. We know exactly what we should have done and exactly what we think we will never do again. We often walk through life wishing things had been different. For example I should have done this, or I should have done that. I should have never moved here, or I should have asked that one person out. I should have tried harder or I shouldn’t have tried so hard. No matter the context or situation, there are wise words once spoken to me by a friend that come in very handy: “Don’t should on yourself.”

What has happened has happened. There is no way around it. The past is the past and all we can do is learn from it and grow. When we dwell in the past and “should” on our self we live in the past and therefore are unable to live in the present or grow into the future. Hanging on my wall in my room are two things to remind me of this concept. The first is a card which was written by an anonymous person and handed to me through an event in Seattle which reads “I know how you feel.” In that same event, someone else has a card written by me that says the same thing. It is a reminder to me that while I guard my hurts, my fears and the scars that mark my heart, there are indeed people out there who know how I feel. They can empathize with me, they understand the pain and know how I feel. It is simply allowing them the opportunity to hear my scars that then opens the door for those healing words “I know how you feel.”

Hanging on the card that reads “I know how you feel,” is a green length of rope tied into a figure 8 knot. This rope reminds me to not live in the past. Every day that I look upon it and remember its story a part of me is sad for what I’ve missed. Yet, each time I am reminded that I am not in control and the past is the past and from that I can glean wisdom for the future.

The story of the green rope goes back years. In fact, it goes back all the way to 19 year old Bryce. I was just starting to work in the youth department at my church under the tutelage of Dan Jester. Dan was like a squirrel on crack who loved people and God more than anything. His attention span at times was 5 seconds and yet, somehow his attention span increased insurmountably when he cared, giving you his complete attention. Dan always desired to let people grow and take steps to further their leadership. Since he was a people person to the extreme, this came naturally to him. Through my time with Dan I began teaching, mentoring boys, and feeling like I had a place in ministry.

When Dan put in his notice that he had accepted a job as the Youth Pastor out in the Midwest, I’ll admit that I felt sad. Though, I sought the opportunity to step up into leadership and further develop my skills and ministry experience. I offered to the Pastor to step in as the interim youth director until a new one was found. I look back now at then, 22 year old Bryce, and wonder why anyone would allow him to oversee any sort of ministry. Though, I was given guidance by a great man who still to this day mentors me and offers insight into my life. He is now the Youth Director that replaced Dan and all during the interim time was my mentor.

During my time in the interim the Pastor and Elders had appointed a team to seek a vision for the church. It was a team of all ages, backgrounds and views. In this team we took a look at where the church was and where it needed to be. The idea was to present to the Elders our findings and thoughts to then allow them to adapt the vision into leadership and guide the church.

Through the team and prayer we presented our ideas to the Elders. Our desire was to cast a vision for the Elders, not just present ideas. To demonstrate this during our presentation to the elders I had each elder pass around the end of a 50 ft rope. As I talked about the generational gap and the vision I began to walk between each person and cut the rope between them. By the end each person had a portion of rope in their hands. The rope is the “Vision”, it is a comprehensive and big idea. Yet the success of that vision rests in each person’s ability to take ownership of their piece, the piece of rope in their hands.

I then began to tie my rope into a figure 8 knot. As times get stressful the figure 8 knot tightens, making the knot even more solid. As a team, we needed to be willing to endure the struggle for change and grow tighter with stress and pressure. With each weight added, the team of Elders and leaders must become tighter and more cohesive. Once the stress and weight is removed, the figure 8 knot returns to normal.

At the end of the presentation one of the elder stood up, thanked us for our time but sternly rebuked us saying “You can’t let all the rabbits out of the bag at once.” Our presentation fell on deaf ears. The Elders eventually did nothing with our vision.  The Elders were engrossed in “their” tradition and “their” comfort level. It was a devastating moment for me. 3 years later the church paid a company hundreds of dollars to do a “vision finding” event with the congregation. The company came up with the same vision we did years prior. I was hurt, I was frustrated, and once again the church was the focal point of that pain (read: certain people within a community, not the community as a whole).

I hold onto that piece of rope because it reminds me that I have a vision. I have a calling. Whether or not I like what God has called me to or to become, it is what he wants for my life. It may look different as I grow and mature. But God called me when I was 18 to be a pastor with no specific meaning. I could manage my café and “pastor” my employees offering guidance and insight into their lives. I could, someday, actually become a vocational pastor and work for a church. Or someday I can simply pastor those under my care in a church while I vocationally do something else.

I am a visionary. I look to the future with grand ideas and can plot and structure ways to get there. That is the joy of being an ENTJ/INTJ. The piece of rope reminds me of so much. It reminds me that God desires us to be a church that glorifies Him, and that can take so many different forms. The rope also reminds me that without vision entropy abounds. People need something to aim at and move towards. As a columnist for MSNBC once put it “without a light at the end of the tunnel, people do not know which was to steer the boat.”

My goal is to steer my boat in a way that releases all the bunnies from the bag. I want the bunnies to be free and for people to experience God in a way that isn’t safe, isn’t always comfortable, but always produces a deeper and more intimate relationship with God.

I think Superman’s journey is to become comfortable on earth. Of course he’s got his role as earth’s greatest protector but he also wants to be as happy as he can and if that happens to be with Lois then he’s going to find a way.

Brandon Routh

I am superman!

So where is my Lois? Let’s be honest for a moment.  The problem with dating Superman is that most of the time the first few dates are actually all about Clark Kent. Superman cannot trust his identity to just anyone. When we look at the saga of Lois and Clark, she always liked Clark. She was his best friend. However, she was deeply and passionately in love with Superman, but knew nothing about him. Clark would pursue Lois, but she’d blow him off for Superman.

The dating world for me is exactly like that. There were times when I went all out with the Super Powers. I swept women off their feet. I wooed them into my arms within a few dates. I was the ultimate date. The problem is that when I’m not out saving the world, I wear my glasses and type on my computer like Clark. Clark is the person who is accepted by the world, he fits in and people understand him. For me, to be myself is to be on the same journey as superman, to become comfortable on earth. That takes learning to balance being Superman and being normal, i.e. Clark Kent.

However, I have a calling; I have a job as Superman. I have super powers…

I took a hiatus from dating after dating a truly amazing woman. I moved across states for her. I found 2 new jobs during our time dating. In fact, we had known each other for over 8 years and dated twice. In the end, she didn’t want Clark and I didn’t want to always be Superman (okay, there is way more to this story and the analogy doesn’t really work, but I don’t air dirty laundry over the internet. Instead, check out my laundry chute in my apartment)

So after my hiatus I decided to try changing my tactics. When people go on a date with Superman, that’s all they want. They become spoiled by his tight clothes, super powers, and ability to fly and whisk the girl away. When Superman tries to then be normal and be comfortable, the woman suddenly finds that she doesn’t like Clark. They aren’t really friends who understand and enjoy each other on a foundational level. That was the key to the eventual Romance of Clark & Lois: The fact that she loved Clark as much as she Loved Superman.

As I have started dating again, I am just Clark. I am looking for that person who can be my friend, be there while I study for class, and be comfortable doing nothing or something. The person I can talk to for hours, or not say a word and still have closeness. Now, I realize all of this takes work and time. The problem is all the women want these days is Superman.

Of the few dates I’ve been on, most end with this phrase “You’re really a great guy, but I just don’t feel any Chemistry.” (i.e. You’re nice, but I want Superman and you’re just Clark). I even had one date say “I really wish we had met elsewhere, because I think we’d be great friends and I’d love to hang out with you. I just don’t see a romantic future.” (i.e. I really like Clark but don’t want to wait for Superman).

On a day to day basis I’m fairly boring. I deal with over 1000 people a day and have to manage employees, inventories, operational issues and customer complaints. I also have Masters Classes, learning Hebrew, writing a Thesis and learning biblical foundational issues to spiritual formation. My life is not all romance and saving the world. Rather, I am Clark Kent writing and doing the work of the day.

However, Superman exists, I just need to know that the woman who sees him first and foremost is willing to wait and love Clark. The inner Superman cooks dinner for his loved one, gives her a foot massage and listens to her day. He takes her out to the Theater, symphony, and concerts. He does picnics in the park and can be laid back. He also has meticulously planned dates that are themed, eventful and show attention to detail.

I was in the midst of pursuing one woman and we had known each other for a bit. I had learned all I could about what she liked and disliked. I had finally gotten the guts to ask her out and when I did, Superman came out in full form.

The date started with a box of Crayons and a box of chocolates. She was an artistic and creative person and loved to draw. The Crayons brought a smile to her face and resulted in curiosity and suspense. When we arrived at our dinner reservations I had a special table set up with paper all over the top and a special square drawn that said “Crayons here.”

The dinner was amazing. We laughed, we drew, we played hangman upside down, and wrote left handed. We traced our dinner plates, glasses and create a faux placemat. We paired a chocolate with our wine and just enjoyed the evening.

From there we headed to the Theater for our show. I had brought a small coloring book with me that matched the theme of the show as we got to our seats early. Most of the time the evening was filled with conversation and laughing and probably little coloring, but it was the thought that counted. The show was amazing and we headed to our final destination.

At dessert the restaurant was known for their annual Crayon coloring contest. Each table was lined with paper and on the walls were framed table tops from past years place winners. In the corner was a Jazz pianist that played music as we ate dessert, looked at art, and had a wonderful evening.

The date was meticulously planned. She loved art, theater, music. Therefore we created our own art, saw a play and enjoyed jazz music while browsing table tops. It was a date in which Superman came out and swept her off her feet, treated her like a lady, and won her heart.

I guess if I had to summarize this blog, it is simply to say this:

I am superman, but you must love Clark first. These days Superman only come out if you’re patient.

I was sitting in a café talking to a very dear friend of mine who was lamenting about how she didn’t want to go on a date with this one guy. The date had been planned in advance, as up until the date they talked and got to know each other a little better. The problem was that as she got to know him, it seemed that his ex-wife was the topic of conversation more than not. He, being recently divorced, portrayed himself as a needy, bitter, clingy and desperate male. My dear friend is not one, in any shape or fashion, to find needy or clingy men attractive. You can be drop dead gorgeous as a man, but the moment you begin to cling to her your attractiveness means nothing.

I, being the good friend I am, decided she needed to cancel her date with this overgrown baby. He required too much attention and cried when he wasn’t fed. He also needed changing too often, and I think my dear friend has better things to do on her dates than change a man’s diaper each time he soils himself talking about his ex-wife. However, upon telling her that she should cancel her date, and if he had any questions he could talk to me, she replied “Bryce, Hes a BIG guy.”

Supposedly, my natural born male response caused my dear friend to laugh hysterically. Simply upon hearing her words I sat up straight, flexed my muscles and an obvious rush of testosterone flowed through my body as a simple thought crossed my mind: “I could take him.”

I proceeded to tell her how I used to have to wrestle the heavy weights in wrestling practice when I was only 171 lbs. Thoughts of David versus Goliath entered my brain. My very manliness was on the line here. I am fully male and will not be thwarted by this dwarf of a man who thinks He is big. Sure, it may be a bit of a “Short-mans” complex, but I’m not short. Rather, I think it is a God given response to any man who is a man. When faced with a challenge that threatens, or seems to impose upon our qualifications, we react. No woman, whether my dear friend or not, will tell me that I am not capable of winning a fight. The reason is that the moment someone tells me I can’t win, I will die trying. Consider me Rocky… But not old and decrepit Rocky in Rocky 6 (Rocky Balboa), but awesome Rocky like in Rocky II versus Apollo Creed (Though I also like Rocky IV).

Back In college we used to have an event called “Smackdown” in which we got wrestling mats and put them up in the lounge. We then had all the guys surround the mats and act as a ring as two guys roughly the same size wrestled until one gave up or was pinned. In most cases the guys were not skilled in any regard. However, a few of us were highly competent and skilled. We were the ones to beat. We stood out with false humility, choosing not to challenge anyone but rather to be challenged.

This one year I had just gotten done having my 3rd knee surgery. I was 3 months post op and was doing quite fine, but I didn’t have full strength in my knee yet. As I watched the other guys wrestle, I acted as a coach and helped a few of my friends walk away with victories. The night was awesome, full of testosterone, male hugging and lots of blood.

As the night progressed one of the guys from the other dorm found out that I had wrestled and wanted to challenge me. He was roughly my size and was a first year transfer. This obviously meant he had not heard of my legacy. In the 4 previous Smackdowns I was undefeated with a record of 7-0. Few dared challenge me, and few who did survived. Though, with his arrogance and determination to make a name for himself, he challenged me.

I stepped onto the mat, adjusted my knee brace and shook hands with my opponent. When the whistle blew he came at me with all his strength. I stepped to the side, grabbed his arm and threw him into a Russian arm bar and dropped him to the mat with a mule kick. He hit the ground so hard I simply had to roll him over for the pin.

I arose victorious and set a precedent, again, that I was the master of the mat. As the night moved on the matches got more sloppy and more guys were just wrestling for fun.  The end of the night was in sight and most guys were dead tired. Finally our ref called for any final challenges.

Suddenly from the back hall came a voice “I’ll challenge Bryce.” I turned and saw Shawn. Now, Shawn was not a small guy. He was 6’3” with a stocky build and probably weighed 230. Imagine a linebacker for some off-pro team.  I felt the adrenaline run through my body. He had at least a good 60lbs on me, not to mention he was HUGE.

He walked up to me and put his arm on my head and I laughed. Then everyone started chanting “Bryce, Bryce, Bryce…” I was being called out. I now had no choice but to step up to my challenge and pray to God that I didn’t die while in Bible College.

Shawn had a good 4 inches on me and when we shook hands he cast a shadow on the mat that engulfed mine. I knew if I was going to win, it was going to take everything I had. We didn’t keep track of points, it was all or nothing. A pin was the only way to win.

As the whistle blew Shawn and I literally shook the building. It was a takedown here, an escape, a takedown there, an escape. Our battle was epic to say the least. The crowd cheered with each move, and every “thud” brought silence as they waited to see if one of us was hurt. Finally, I took Shawn down and remained in control. I got a leg lock on him and began to work me specialty. See, I was good with leg locks. I could wrap a guy up and stretch him, turn him, and make him work to get out of it.

Shawn was different. His legs were Huge. I was able to work him over for a minute or two, but eventually he got free. It was at that moment when I tried to stand up that my leg gave out on me. After 10min of wrestling in the most intense match I’ve had in years, my knee didn’t hold up. I tried to stand up and fell over. Thinking it was a fluke, I tried to stand up again and couldn’t. My knee was too weak.

Shawn called the match. He looked at the ref and said “I quit” as he walked over and helped me up. The crowd cheered and we both knew that we could have gone on for hours without a winner. I had met my match, and Shawn was now to be the guy to beat. He was the new Rocky, and I became the Apollo Creed.

After the match he helped me to the cafeteria to get Ice as my knee had swollen. We laughed and recounted the match. There has never been a moment in my life where someone has basically beaten me so badly, and I’ve had so much respect for. Over the remaining year Shawn and I had a unique bond, a battle bond, a bond that occurs when two people know they could beat each other but don’t because they have too much respect for one another.

I figure I can take anyone now. If I could take a guy who was taller, bigger, and in better shape than me 3 months after a knee surgery I figure my tenacity would allow me to take on anyone.

So bring it on. I’ll gladly sit proud in my chair, flexing my muscles and letting a rush of testosterone fill my blood when someone dares to tell me I can’t win. I may not be able to win, but God help me I’ll give anyone a run for their money and die trying.

I grew up a privileged child. While I was in no regard a child of a rich family, relative, or any lineage, I came from good stock. The stock I came from was so good that all while growing up “Crap” was considered a swear word. It wasn’t until I hit high school that I realized what the real expletives were. The reason I qualify this as coming from good stock has to do with the intellectual properties of my parents.

Prior to my birth, my mother taught elementary school. She later received her master’s in teaching and has special endorsements. While growing up she taught childbirth classes and often traveled around the country teaching lectures and seminars about childbirth education. My father on the other hand is an Internal Auditor. Sure, it may sound like a nerdy desk job, but when it allows you to travel to Saudi Arabia, Belgium, around the US and Canada teaching and speaking on the topic, suddenly there is clout. Basically, all while growing up my parents were professional educators. They taught seminars, lectures and even wrote articles for magazines.

I distinctly remember my father giving me advice about my words one day (one of many distinct advice sessions that have shaped my life). He explained to me that using base words, or even expletives, to get an audience’s attention or make a point usually discredits you as a speaker. There are always was to engage your audience or make a point without being crass, vulgar, or base.

I would not by any means suggest that I am an eloquent speaker or writer. In fact, my sister got the eloquent gene in the family. She writes with ease and grace producing words that fly off the page becoming real and interactive. I labor through writing as a therapeutic process and everyone who reads is invited to my counseling session (which might be more arduous than the benefits received).

However, I was floored one day when during my training at a café in Seattle for my management track, that my training manager pulled me aside. Bryce, he said, we need to talk about the way you communicate. As he went on, it was clear he was having trouble getting his point out. I wanted to sit down with him and work on his points and the transition between them, integrating illustrations and personal moments, and build to a conclusion.

That seemed to be the problem. Finally after beating around the bush he said to me, I don’t know how to say this but you need to dumb things down. Huh? I was too eloquent? No the point rather was that I used words like “thus” and “Therefore” or other logical connectors to build sentences. I made my point, then explained the why and logic behind the why. I sometimes used syllogisms to build my point.

I was told that these “kids” are college students; they don’t care about all that stuff. All I needed to do was just tell them what to do. I wondered if he was going to suggest that on occasion I throw in a “lol, omg, or lmao” in as well. The short version of this is that I belabor the partners with excessive speak and talk too well for their collegiate upbringing.

If my collegiate English teacher were dead, she would be rolling around in her grave. However, she is not dead and thus has plenty of room to roll… err… I mean “rofl.”

I briefly went to my father and explained the issue:

“Dad, it has come to my attention that the vast array of my linguistic skills supersedes the intellectual capacity of my fellow employees. My manager has suggested that I dumb down my vernacular to appropriate my language to that of the common high school graduate. While common logic would suggest syllogisms to draw a sound conclusion and make a point, I have been tasked with using simple words. Instead of saying ‘If I could have you clean this area because we have been neglecting to do so the past nights thus allowing flies a breeding ground.’ I should say ‘You, clean area, not good enough.’ And I then smack my chest and walk back to my cave.”

I went back to my café and implemented the suggested linguistic strategy.

It went well.  I soon found myself saying “OMG, CSN.” It worked. For those of you not up on the trendy café language OMG is pronounced ‘Ohm-guh’ and CSN is pronounced ‘sees-in.’ It stands for Oh my goodness, Clean something now.

I feel that I am learning the language of the “people” now. They laugh at me every time I say OMG. I guess you are supposed to pronounce each letter ‘O-M-G’ instead of pronouncing it like a word ‘Ohm-guh.’  My employees quickly complained that I was butchering their language.  Instead of telling an employee to take a 10min break, I would just say “BRB.” I guess I crossed a line when I took all the business cards and crossed out “manager” and wrote “1337.”

All my life I have been taught to speak well, communicate clearly and to illustrate my points in ways that emphasize my main idea. I have taken numerous courses in homiletics, hermeneutics, and advanced homiletics. Speaking is about a main idea. It is encompassed by an introduction, points and transitions between those points. Illustrations are used to emphasize the point. Finally a conclusion is connected that wraps up loose ends, and makes sure the audience member walks away understanding the main idea.

My mother and my father basically taught me to speak well and communicate clearly. However, my training manager taught me that using words like “w00t” to congratulate an employee is better than saying “well done.” But nothing anyone taught me could have prepared me for helping certain baristas in their personal development. For any managers out there here is the key:

A new Barists is a level 1 barista. They are not skilled enough to make drinks alone or do much of anything. Thus they need to complete quests (training) to get better. Through training and increasing speed and accuracy the Barista moves up the ranks.

Eventually the goal is to become a level 80 Barista with an Epic Apron (Black in some places). At level 80, the Barista has three options for handling the raid of people in the morning.  They can either be the DPS (Drinks per second), The Tank (Cashier), or the Healer (Floater/Food). In order for any Baristas to successfully complete a raid, all three positions must be accounted for. Sometimes there might be 2 DPS, or 2 tanks… It all depends if it is a 3,5 or 8 person raid.

After a raid the loot is divided among those that participated in the raid.

Once they reach level 80 barista, they can finally ‘pwn’

The World of Barista has never been the same…

P.S. Tuesdays is EPIC Raid Night, stop by the cafe if you’d like to join our “guild”, we’re always looking for experienced Baristas and Raid daily. We are always welcoming ‘noobs’ and will help you get your epic armor.

[Please visit http://www.bryceelliott.com for Bryce’s official website]

In order to attend an “up & coming” evangelical church one must arrive at the church wearing designer jeans, trendy t-shirt, and be holding a “double ristretto tall sugar-free vanilla light foam caramel macchiato.” Or the “Double short skinny vanilla latte” or something to that extent. While many churches are expanding and putting coffee shops in their church lobby’s complete with water features and high vaulted ceilings, I personally am waiting for them to contract to put a Nordstrom’s on the 2nd floor near the balcony. That way when someone is wearing the same trendy shirt as me, I can rush to the “in-church” Nordstrom’s and get a new one. Then again, I can only imagine what happens when the stadium theatre seating and plush leather recliners finally make their way into the sanctuary of our churches… Then we will know we have arrived.

While Nordstroms may never happen, the fact that church is trying to be “cool” is more of a focus sometimes than the salvation message of God who became man and was brutally beaten and murdered to offer me Heaven in the loving arms of a God through the resurrection of Christ. Some churches have even gone to the extent to label their website coolchurch.com. While I personally believe the church needs to find effective and meaningful ways to connect with the people of today I wonder to what extent to do we place form over function. Is trendy pop-worship music more important because it “draws” a younger crowd even though the lyrics are often void of true meaning & self-focused in comparison to hymns? Should the pastor wear jeans and a t-shirt every Sunday because that is “cool”? or how about the pyrotechnics, 10k lighting system, and hydraulic stage? When does function become more important than the form?

My answer comes in the form of many stories. Having managed coffee shops for a few years now working Sundays are not uncommon. Anyone who works in the customer service or restaurant industry knows about the Horrors of Sundays. It is a sacred day upon which all the Christians crawl out of their homes and churches and flood the courts of Mammon (If that’s not irony, just wait). See, Christians love to go shopping on Sunday, eat out, get coffee in ungodly group sizes, and spend money. Needless to say Christians do not present themselves in the most pleasant manor on Sundays.

At my café in Seattle I was opening one Sunday when one of my new girls arrived happy and excited for her shift. All of us on the floor looked at her in wonder of why she was excited. Her response was simple “Ive never worked a Sunday and im excited.” One of my employees, a vibrantly gay man, nearly exploded laughing “My dear, Just wait till church gets out and all those ‘Christians’ come, then we’ll see how excited you are.” My heart sank as I realized how true his words were. Just the other Sunday I had a lady demand to speak to the manager. As I walked over she thrust her drink at me and our dialog whet like this:

“I don’t know how you train your employees but my drink is completely wrong.”

“Im sorry, what were we having to drink today”

“I ORDERED a Decalf double tall 2 splenda skinny vanilla latte. And this is NOT Decalf and there is only one splenda, Not 2”

Let’s pause for a minute. My internal gut reaction was to pull this lady aside and lay into her. First, no one insults my employees. I have a very paternal reaction when anyone insults, threatens, or demeans my employees. Second, I would pay any average coffee drinker copious amounts of money to tell me in a blind taste test which shot was decaf and which was wasn’t. Since the taste is the same and it would take approximately 15min for her heart to stop beating due to an allergic reaction to caffeine (which I have yet to see) It is obvious she is making it up. Lastly, I would also encourage any average coffee drinker to tell me the difference between one and two splenda… It took all my strength to quell the anger and provide legendary customer service. Therefore, Let us resume:

“Ma’am I am terribly sorry. Here, let me go ahead and remake your Decalf double tall 2 splenda skinny vanilla latte. Also here is a Customer Service Recovery coupon so your next drink will be on me.”

“Pshh… The next drink better be on you after that mistake.”

“I will be more than willing to remake your drink personally, just give me a minute and im sorry for the inconvenience”

At this point in time I am literally holding back my Barista who is about ready to kill this lady. As I am remaking her drink I am listening in on her conversation with friends. She is talking about how she loved the sermon today at church. It really touched her heart. As I handed off her drink I very boldly asked her “So do you go to [Church name censored as to not embarrass people], I loved the sermon last week. Pastor [First name] did a wonderful job. Oh, and how do you like your drink?”

Her face went from normal to a beat red. It was almost as if she had been caught… “It tastes great, thank you.”

As she left the café I politely responded to her “Have a great afternoon, maybe I’ll see you at church next week.” I wouldn’t be surprised if she changed churches or never again whet to that church. I can only imagine how shed respond if I walked up. So how do you two know each other? Oh, she is the lady that totally chewed me out over a $3 drink. But the funny thing is that when I remade her drink I gave her a fully caffeinated single tall 1 splenda vanilla latte not the decaf double tall 2 splenda skinny vanilla latte… and she didn’t even notice, but at least I know she’s a Christian and God loves her.

I wish this was an isolated case. The fact of the matter is that more often than not the people that demand the most and complain most have bibles on their dashboards and talk about the sermon. Statistically speaking my café alone averages %30 less in tips on a Sunday than other days of equal volume. This means that tips are lowest on Sundays. While I can’t say with %100 certainty it is the Christians, who else comes to the café on Sundays that normally doesn’t?

From people leaving Gospel Track’s for tips, being rude and impatient, to declaring the Barista who works on Sunday a heathen, there is no short supply of horror stories. I could probably write a book on just my adventures with horrible customers on Sunday. However, let me just explore one more story:

One Sunday I was working and I was closing the store. It was around 5 in the evening and business was moving rapidly. We had a 16 passenger van show up full of teenagers. When I refused to do 16 separate orders from one van through the Drive thru the Youth Pastor parked the van and all the kids came inside. The kids were pushing and shoving each other, being loud and disrupting the other customers. However, the Youth Pastor was Mr. McTrendyCoolGuy. He had the designer jeans and so many products in his hair that I’m surprised his neck muscles weren’t larger to hold up all the extra weight. He had on one of those “cool” Christian shirts that make it look like a tattoo artist had designed the shirt. As the kids basically tore my café apart I finally asked him if he could keep his kids under control.

With a calm demeanor he spoke to me in such a calculated and “Chill” voice I nearly jumped over the counter and strangled him. “Dude, relax, sometimes kids just need to be kids.”

I responded: “Yes that true. However, I think teaching kids to be respectful is more important than letting all my customers see that [name of church on the side of van] has disrespectful youth and their youth pastor is letting them disrupt everyone. “

At this point he looked around and saw that 4 customers were angrily getting up to leave and all the others had eyes drilling laser beams into his head. Finally he got the kids under control, using me as the scapegoat “Hey dudes, if you don’t calm down the manager over there is going to kick you out.”

We as Christians are blind, self-righteous, and self-consuming bigots. If those stories weren’t true, I would be hard pressed to say that it is Christians that are giving Christians a bad name. I would probably blame it on idiots that walk out of the house on Sunday. However, the bibles, ichthus stickers, sermon talk and other signs give it away. Anyone with customer service industry experience whether it is in a café, retail store or restaurant, will tell you that Christians are the worst. Even myself, as a Christian, am ashamed of my own people. They act all cool and trendy at church, putting on a façade that they have arrived in life because they make X amount of dollars, donate to the church, and are socially responsible.

When do we place form, the look & feel, as a higher priority of function, the meaning & outworking? When does being cool and going to a socially responsible trendy, up & coming church make you better than the Barista who can’t go to church because she has to work on Sundays to pay the bills? The funny thing is the lady from the first scenario, her church has helped build wells in Uganda and is very active in the environment and social issues. However, if the meaning of those actions do not penetrate her heart and assist in transforming her heart to be more Christ like, then the form doesn’t accomplish any sort of viable function. Christianity today is about being cool and finding someone to procreate with biblically but still have a %60 divorce rate.

Maybe it’s because Christianity isn’t really about being a Christian… Maybe a real Christian is one who is compelled by the Holy Spirit to be the active and living Body of Christ in the world, blessing the world in the same manner as Christ did. Maybe real Christians are compelled to be compassionate, slow to anger, abounding in loving kindness, understanding, patient and genuine. Just maybe real Christians exist… in some form or function… maybe…