I have two confessions about this post:
1. I changed the name of the person involved to protect their identity.
2. I end up looking like a complete loser in it.
There, now we can move on.
Last weekend I was in Raleigh, North Carolina speaking at a Dave Ramsey Live event. During the breaks I would sign copies of Stuff Christians Like books. Since it’s a comedy book, I try to write funny things when I autograph them. In one, I made a joke about a pastor named JD Greear in the book one of his friends bought. JD thought it was so funny he tweeted a photo of it.
It’s hard to be consistently funny though, and as I tweeted yesterday, being funny is simply the bravery to bomb 100 times before you get 1 laugh. I lived that principle last Saturday.
A woman in her 50s asked me to sign books for her kids. She had a few children who were in their 30s and wanted to buy two of them books. Awesome. I was really appreciative of her generosity. In the first book I wrote something silly. In the second, I wrote, “Holly, your mom told me you are her favorite.” Christians often say, “I’m Jesus’ favorite,” as a joke and if an author did that to me and brothers, we would laugh.
Five minutes later, the mom came back to my table and she was not laughing.
“I can’t give this to my daughter, it will cause family trouble.”
I was so instantly awash in awkwardness I didn’t know what to say. At first I thought she was joking so I said, “Instead of autographing it, maybe I need to pray for family peace.” She laughed at this, but was dead serious and handed me back the book.
I started to just blurt out jokes, which is what I do when I am embarrassed. She said, “I need a different one. And she would think it’s lame.” At this point, I was reeling from the body blows. I don’t know what I wrote in the new book I gave her, something like “Holly, puppies are nice.” Then she walked away.
In summary, I am the only author in history who has had a book returned because the autograph was not good enough.
I’m getting sweaty just writing this post. I felt so bad for offending that lady. If her kids were 13 I never would have written that, but since they were in their 30s I thought they would see the humor of the situation. I didn’t write, “Dear Holly, your mom loves you more than your brother.” I wrote, “Your mom told me you are her favorite.” Ugh. I am a loser. I’m framing that book for my office just in case I ever get too big for my britches.
I wish that was the only example of awkwardness I could think of. But yet another one instantly pops up as I survey the landscape of my mind.
Every Friday morning our creative team at work gets together to pray. A few weeks ago, a girl named Dana was praying for someone named JT. I initially assumed she was speaking of Justin Timberlake. That made sense to me because it’s been a while since he’s released an album. I love him on Saturday Night Live but it feels like we need “SexyBack Part Deux, the Revenge” already.
So maybe Dana was praying for Justin Timberlake. But I had to make sure, so I asked her after she was done sharing her prayer request, “Is JT your boyfriend?”
She swiveled in her chair and instantly replied:
“JT? No, that’s my cat.”
Using my razor sharp sense of sarcasm, I detected that she was pulling me leg. So I smiled and then rolled myself in my chair out of the room, down a hall and through the doors of an open elevator.
Are we not allowed to ask questions about prayer requests? Is there a maximum? Was this a violation of some sort of Justin Timberlake or “JT” based rule?
Maybe we need some new official group prayer rules. Maybe we need the …
Stuff Christians Like Guide to Group Prayers:
1. Know your role.
Are you opener? Closer? Figure out which of the 7 roles you’ll play before hand.
2. Group prayer is like brainstorming.
Any time you brainstorm at work they say, “There are no bad ideas.” Same rule applies here. You might shot block someone with your own prayer, the act of praying the opposite of what they just prayed, but don’t just blurt out, “I am not praying for that!”
3. Write down the prayer requests.
Don’t throw God under the bus and say, “God will remember all the details.”
4. Don’t tweet prayer requests without permission.
The first night in our new small group, a DJ from Way FM told everyone, “If you don’t want me to talk on the radio about something you say, please let me know.” I laughed with him and said, “So if you’re in the middle of crying about your dad not loving you, make sure you disclaim it through the tears and say, ‘Please don’t put this on the radio.’” Same goes with Twitter. Don’t tweet out prayer requests unless it’s cool.
5. Don’t prayer sneak attack someone.
Wait until prayer time. If you’re in the middle the “eat dessert before we get all spiritual,” moment and you sleeper hold them with a prayer, people get weirded out.
6. Don’t hog all the prayer requests.
Have you ever had someone who throws out multiple prayer requests? It’s one thing if they’ve got a ton of honest ones, but if it’s just filler, it kind of feels like they’re hogging all the prayer requests. We need to share those things.
7. Never “out” someone’s prayer request.
Sometimes a friend will tell you something in private that they don’t want to share in the public prayer circle. Never, ever, ever, never say in the middle of the group, “Hey Bill, are you going to pray about that thing you told me earlier?” That is the prayer equivalent of asking a woman who isn’t pregnant if she is pregnant.
8. Don’t turn your prayer request into a mini sermon.
Dear Jon Acuff, stop this, please. Don’t confuse your prayer request moment for a main stage speech at the Catalyst Conference. Please say what you’re going to say and then stop talking. Please.
9. Don’t go to the bathroom during the prayer requests.
My kids wait until we’re all gathered at the dinner table to use the bathroom. I suspect they are smuggling broccoli to the bathroom garbage but I could be wrong. Regardless, it’s an annoying thing to do, especially considering you had the entire small group to use the bathroom and waited until that exact moment to leave.
10. Don’t get up for a snack in the middle of a prayer request.
The movie’s started, despite visions of that singing popcorn bucket, stay in your seat.
11. Never say “Again?” if this is a recurring prayer request.
12. Never make one up to fill the emptiness of the moment.
Nobody will fictionalize a prayer request, but sometimes we will pull out a bronze medal request and pray for something we’re not really concerned about.
13. Don’t play angry birds on your iPhone during someone’s prayer request.
Or Cut the Rope for that matter. Stupid Cut the Rope, so hard!
Whoa, a 13 point list, a few days from Halloween, or the church equivalent “Fall Festival?” What was I thinking? I am crazy! Or I just don’t believe in the horror of the number 13. (777 is legit, doves are summoned at the mere mention of that number, but 13 is nothing.)
What would you add to this list?