Shiny new promo material.

Yes Ben, but how much does it cost?

Several folks have stopped by the portfolio page (181 unique pageviews, but who’s counting?) and now, what they have all been looking for: The price tag. Here’s a link to my absurdly low prices (compare with other web designers online!) and the services that are included in my two starter packages:

(Click here to open the PDF in a new window)

As I said at the bottom of that document, I am most interested in you being so excited about the service I give you that you tell friends, which means that a lot of the stuff on that list is quite negotiable. Contact me.

Creatively Washing Dishes: A Guide to Enjoying Work.

I am a creative guy. My heart feels most satisfied when I am creatively expressing something. I absolutely love coming up with ways to make people smile when I’m at work. The latest is, when answering the drive-thru window at Starbucks, I’ve started saying something like “Thanks for choosing the finest Starbucks on the east coast (self appointed), my name is Ben. What can I get started for you?” And lots of people smile and play along. Some don’t (haters gonna hate), but lots do.

My smile-quest doesn’t end with customers, though. I want my coworkers to enjoy their day, too.

I’m finding that there is almost nothing to which a creative process can’t be applied. Take washing dishes, for example. I’m not going to lie and say that washing the dishes is a real self-actualizing thing for me, but at the same time, I can honestly say that I’m finding ways to approach that least favorite of my work activities with a sense of adventure and creativity. I ask myself how I can do the dishes in such a way as to bring the greatest benefit to my employer and the most satisfaction to my coworkers. For this particular task, I think I need to do them efficiently (both done well and done quickly) and with a positive attitude.

I’m not just cleaning coffee stains and creamer-rings off of dishes, see. I’m intentionally making work a more fun environment. My volunteering to do the dishes, and then doing them with a smile (with excellence and efficiency) really does make the workplace better. By smiling, I can (as the lowest paid employee in the building) totally affect the culture of the store. Nobody enjoys being around people that hate being at work. Conversely, the only people that mind being around people who are happy are the type of cancerous personalities that would drag others down to their own level of misery.

So, you can either let things happen to you, or you can happen to them. Me? I’m going to go into even my least favorite things with an eye to making them enjoyable. It’s a creative outlet for this creativity junkie.

Do you want Education, or do you want Hype?

I just read this great piece on CNN. You should read that, and come back here for my commentary.

I have previously written about my disdain for almost all of the corporate “news” outlets. And the above-linked article is further proof of my theory. The article is about economic theory from an economist. It’s not about politics. But right there in the middle of it, the interviewer tries as hard as he can to appropriately label the conversation:

Screen Capture, yo.

What’s the point of the question? Why even ask if he is conservative or liberal? This journalist seemingly has no concept for someone who can simultaneously agree with a liberal and a conservative.

Here’s the only reasons I can think of that you ask the question: (1) you want to label him and put him in a box that you either have already discredited or already agree with, instead of learning from him. (2) You want a soundbyte that you can play across all of the 25 networks in your corporation that will either infuriate the base, or solidify the base, for your particular organization. (3)You want hype, not education. (4) You aren’t interested in solving the problem, just stirring the already angry hornets-nest that is the American political landscape.

Thank you for not participating in the hype, Mr. Rajan. Your answer turned the conversation back to an opportunity for education, dialog, and actual change.

Am I way off base, here? Why else do you ask that question?

Evangelizing Your Neighborhood Barista: a Guide.

The other day, a guy handed me a tract through the window at Starbucks. His intro line went something like, “do you like riddles? here ya go!” and he pulled the tract from behind the sun visor on his beige sedan.

After he had driven away, I pulled it out of my apron pocket, and the girl working with me said “Oh, that’s not a riddle. It’s a Jesus thing.” She made a face like she had taken a sip of curdled milk when she said “Jesus thing.”

Image Courtesy of Daquella manera

Literally within minutes, a lady came in, and struck up a conversation with the same girl while she made her drink. She gave about a 3 dollar tip, and casually mentioned that her and her friend would be praying in a few minutes, and asked if there was anything they could pray for her about. My coworker politely declined, but later after those women had met, prayed, cleaned up very well after themselves, and left, she said to me “That was really neat that she asked me how they could pray for me.”

That’s how you open the door to share your faith with a barista at Starbucks.

Both of those customers are regulars. We are going to see them again. In fact, today, the same girl was working with me when tract man came back through. When I mentioned that he didn’t follow up with me about the riddle, my coworker said “Oh, I don’t think he really cares. He just hands out those things to make himself feel better.” What penetrating insight from my non-believing coworker.

I’m not as harsh on the guy as she is. I think his heart’s in the right place. He really wants people to trust Jesus, and it’s scary initiating conversation with strangers. So a tract about a riddle is what he uses. And with a simple tweak to his intro line, I think he might become more effective in using the tract.

If instead of “do you like riddles?” he went with “Hey, here’s a message that changed my life, condensed into an admittedly cheesy riddle. I’d love to get your feedback on it. I put my email at the bottom of it. I know I’ll see you tomorrow when I get my coffee, maybe we could briefly talk then. Have a great day!” and put the tract inside of a 5 dollar tip, he’d have gotten my coworker’s attention without the soured-milk face.

I’m not some anti-tract guy. (Though some of them do absolutely no good for a postmodern-or-later context. Telling somebody that they are a sinner without any sort of definition of terms is pretty useless, in my estimation.) But the medium is already impersonal enough, don’t make it sound completely trivial with your intro.

And maybe it’s time to retire the riddle tract. Riddles are by definition questions that require intelligence, insight or ingenuity to answer. The gospel is news that a child can hear and understand. So, it’s almost the opposite of the answer to a riddle–it requires no extra intelligence, insight,or ingenuity to learn that Jesus died in my place.

The good news is good enough all by itself. No need to gimmick it up. Here’s my question for you (reader): how did you come to Christ (if you have) and was a tract involved? Comment below.

More Gospel Lessons from Starbucks.

“The lady in the car in front of you paid for yours.”

It’s my favorite thing to say at work, these days. As the newly appointed official drive-thru guy at my Starbucks, I get to become an evangelist every time she comes through my line. I take the good news that a debt has been paid, and I deliver it to the car behind her.

Some people try and shoot the messenger. One guy insisted that I take his money. I pointed at the tip jar and said that if he wanted to put it in there, he was welcomed to, but that I couldn’t put it in my cash register. “I don’t take handouts” were his exact words. I explained that it wasn’t a handout, but a gift from the stranger in front of him. He apparently wasn’t big on handouts OR gratuity, as he didn’t put the money in the tip jar either, but left upset that he couldn’t pay. Really.

Most people are just excited. Sometimes it starts an entire wave of paying it forward. But it’s always fun for me, as the messenger.

That’s precisely what evangelism is*. It’s in the root of the definition of the word. An evangel in the ancient near-east was a messenger sent with news (usually of military victory) to share with people. The most famous evangelist in history (the story goes) ran 26.2(ish) miles to Athens from the battle of Marathon, to announce that the Greeks had defeated the Persians (in a come from behind upset). The point is, an evangelist is one who shares news that dramatically affects the hearers. Either they are now slaves to the Persians, or free people.

Either you owe me 4 bucks for your CafĂ© Mocha or you don’t. The news affects you, but it’s not instruction, it’s just news. The Athenians don’t have to do anything to be free people, not enslaved to the Persians.

The guy who just had his cappuccino paid for doesn’t have to do anything but take the drink. (and he doesn’t even have to do that… his receiving it doesn’t change the fact that it’s paid for.)

The good news is that his debt is paid, and there’s nothing he can do about it.

*all deep theological insights were directly stolen from Tim Keller. Buy his books. Seriously.