The Secret Power Of Selfies

How To Make Them Matter

I recently preached at my favorite church. The topic? Selfies.

To illustrate the topic, I borrowed a friend’s selfie stick. Because I obviously don’t own a selfie stick.


Since mine broke from overuse.

I held my phone close to my face – you know, one of those phones that you can also use to call people, if that’s something you still do. I said, from this distance, all you can really see in the frame is me.

And to be honest, it doesn’t make for a very interesting picture.

I suppose you could try to zoom in for greater detail to make it a little more interesting – wow, his skin is really oily right now. Or, I wonder what that scar is from?

But that’s about as intriguing as it’s going to get from this distance.

If I hold my camera out a little further before I snap the pic, I can squeeze in a couple of friends. We might then take several pictures together and I will post the one most flattering of me, because hey, we used my phone.

Then I said to the audience (or “congregation”, if that feels churchier to you): “But if I put my phone on the selfie stick and extend it as far as it will go…and then reach my arm out as far as it will go…(at this point, I turned my back to them)…there’s just about enough room for all of us in the picture.”

I then snapped a selfie of me with a few hundred of my besties.

My point was obvious (though I rambled on for another 20 minutes anyway).

If there’s only room in the frame of my life for ME, the story of my life won’t be very interesting. Or satisfying. Or compelling – to me or anyone else.

But if I make space for others to fit in the frame of my life, the story of my life can get really good.

As a final illustration, I threw up a selfie-style picture of my friend, Bob.

bob goff selfie 1

Bob is a famous author and humanitarian and is living some of the best stories I’ve ever heard. We’re friends because we once had lunch together and because I have his cell phone number.

To be clear, I had lunch with Bob because his host that day was a friend of mine (a friend who once brought Don Miller to see me…in my office…but that’s another story). This generous and well-connected friend hosted lunch for Bob and a bunch of other folks, and he invited Katie and I to join them.

Oh, and I have Bob’s cell number because he put it at the back of his best-selling book. So maybe you have it, too. But so what. I’m over it.

I told the congregation/audience/crowd/throng of worshippers that Bob always takes a great picture because he has a great smile, but despite his great smile, the picture wasn’t super interesting.

Then I zoomed out to reveal the rest of the picture.

bob goff selfie 2

This is Bob and some of his friends. Bob and his team have built several schools in Uganda and a few other places (there’s even one in Iraq!) that serve kids without families.

It’s a lot more interesting picture. It’s a more satisfying picture. It’s a picture that inspires me and reminds me there’s a whole lot more to my story than me, me, me.

What was the key difference between the two pictures?

The second one simply had more room in the frame for others.

The throng got it. They always do. They’re a bunch of Bob-like folks who have graciously included me in their shot.

So I finished my sermon like I finish all my sermons: by dropping the mic and strutting off the stage to “Jesus Walks”.

I snuck back later to retrieve the selfie stick. In case, you know, I needed it for something.

How To Survive Holy Week With Your Faith Intact

A Busy Christian's Guide To Not Missing The Point

This is Holy Week, a time where we Jesus-followers go to church even more than usual (for some of us, we’re finally getting back in the door since LAST Easter, which, apparently, is OK with Jesus).

And if you’re part of a church staff as I was for most of my career, Holy Week can also be Holy **** Week.

There are SO many details to prepare for all those extra services and the many returning church-goers (in hopes of getting them to stick around).

And if you happen to also be part of the music team, like I was – Lord, have mercy. You can pretty much forget about sleeping well or making healthy food choices or not getting in massive fights with your spouse and/or children and/or contracted flautist.

I used to rail against the fact that for us church-staffers, Holy Week seemed to be such a frenzied scramble, but then I learned two things:

  1. Much of the frenzy was in ME and I had been projecting it on to others. There were many fellow staffers who could handle the extra load AND be mindful of the rich significance of Holy Week. They weren’t better than me, but they were certainly living better than me.
  2. A week saturated with mundane details, full to overflowing with to-dos and impossible-to-get-dones…is exactly the place Jesus seems to delight in working.

I’ve never been a big fan of reality. I would much rather live in my head than, you know, do stuff. I’d rather fantasize about how it could be, what could have been, or – more often than not – what I’d look like with six-pack abs (I’d look good).

People I trust tell me that’s all a way of avoiding responsibility for my life, and I’m starting to believe them. But still, reality isn’t naturally the place I want to plant my flag.

But it was for Jesus.

The mundane and ordinary. The messy and ugly and boring and exhausting. The non-6-pack, this-is-how-it-actually-is stuff of life. That’s exactly where Jesus is living and working. And where I’m invited to live and work with him.

To practice that, here’s what I’m doing:

I’m turning back to him every time I feel like I don’t have what it takes to be with the boys a little longer, or the energy to get through all my “starred emails”, or the hope to remember there are blue skies out there, somewhere beyond my Pacific northwest horizon.

I’m praying simple prayers like, “Jesus, help me see what you see” and “What are you up to here?” and “Help me to do the hard thing.”

As I do that, I’m finding that reality’s not a half bad place to live. Sometimes it’s even great. I’m serious – my life feels different simply because of this steady convo with Jesus throughout the day.

On Palm Sunday, my pastor and friend, Scott, preached on why the mundane can be so life-giving. He talked about the guy who lent Jesus his donkey so he could ride into town and people could wave palm branches at him and say “Hosanna!”

All the guy had, said Scott, was his donkey. So he gave what he had. It was a great day for that donkey. And probably for his owner (“Hey! That’s my donkey! You go, boy!”)

So here’s some ordinary words from an ordinary guy. Here’s my attention and energy and to-do list. Here’s my half-donkey attempts at becoming the best version of me.

Take it all and make it holy, useful, impactful, transformative. For me and everyone around me.

And help my church musician friends make healthy food choices this week. Amen.

The Key To Building A Life You Love

Why You Have To Understand What Makes You YOU

In the world of architecture, there is a rule: form follows function. The idea is that if a structure is not safe or sound, there’s no point in making it pretty. A pretty building that can’t stand up is useless.

In the world of vocation (call, purpose), the opposite is true: function follows form.

Let me explain.

As a California transplant to the Pacific Northwest, I thought it was pretty great when we moved next to a family of bald eagles. My neighbors didn’t admire the eagles the same way I did because they had grown up around them. Also, I’m way more enlightened and deep.

When you look at a bald eagle, you notice a few things. It has long, sharp talons. It has a razor-like beak. It has massive wings for soaring and powerful eyes that can see deep into murky water.

The point is, you don’t look at a bald eagle and think, “That would make a great pet for Aunt Tilly.” Instead you think, “That sucker could eat Aunt Tilly’s Chihuahua, no problem. And that would be pretty cool.”

Function follows form. It’s true for bald eagles. It’s true for you and me.

Contrary to popular belief we can’t be whatever we want when we grow up. And we shouldn’t try. We should be true to our form instead.

You’ve got a particular set of gifts, talents, experiences, relationships, and opportunities. Your combination of these things is completely unique. They represent your unique design.

When you make life choices based on your unique design, it’s good for you and good for others. When you make choices based on forms you feel you should be, you lose and we lose.

That’s why we need you to better understand what makes you, you.

And why we need you to function out of that form. It’s good for you and, ultimately, good for the world.

I used to want to be a bald eagle, but I’ve decided to own my crow-like nature. Crows have their place, too. Once – and I’m not making this up – I saw a couple of crows chase one of the bald eagles back to its tree. That made my inner crow smile.