Contributor Blogs

Noise by Leia Williams

On Mondays and Thursdays, I have to sit at a desk that is about half the size of a normal desk. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, since I am about half the size of a normal adult, but it is stacked with stuff that is not mine and already houses an oversized Mac that is not mine either (none of which I can move).

On these two days, I squeeze all of my work materials into a 10×34 inch space. Yep, I measured that sucker.

Adding insult to injury, it is right next to a giant copy machine and a shredder, both of which are used by people from multiple departments. In other words, I am squeezed into a super small space with people standing over me to make copies or leaning over me to shred paper most of the day. It is more than slightly awkward…and you thought you hated Mondays.

My workplace has one additional problem. It is incredibly loud. Oh, heavens the noise! I am a fundraising consultant for a private high school in Indianapolis and I have not been around teenagers regularly since I was one, so I was pretty shocked by the volume at the school. Students are everywhere. They are singing and laughing and talking e v e r y w h e r e.

My productivity level has taken a major hit in this environment. If you know me, you know this makes me crazy.

Jean sits parallel to me. The students love her. They come to see her every day. She is my neighbor and part of the reason our cramped, little neighborhood is filled with very loud children who could be in class.

I don’t remember hanging out with adults when I was in high school, at least not on campus. That would have been lame, possibly even reputation suicide. These students, however, feel incredibly comfortable with Jean; they seek her out for conversation.

She has been very intentional about building relationships with them. The fruit of her intentionality is complete honesty. This rare gift is something most teenagers reserve for their peers. Nevertheless, Jean is privy to conversations about parties, tattoos, and arguments with mom. I am privy to them, too, but only as a result of location.

Each day of school, she has the opportunity to witness to these students and impart wisdom. Every day, she chooses that opportunity no matter how loud or crazy the conversations become. I have had the privilege of listening to her counsel a young woman against getting a tattoo without her mom’s permission. I have also had the privilege of listening to her help a young man find someone who would baptize him. No conversation is off limits. They openly talk about #BlackLivesMatter, abortion, cheating on tests, refugees, student council, and more. When the students want to pray, she will pray with them. When they need someone to stop them from getting into a fight, they come to her.

She is not a teacher. She is not a counselor. She is an administrative assistant, who makes time for students who need words of wisdom. Every day, Jean takes a very average role and transforms it by inviting the divine into the conversations she has with these teenagers.

They talk to her about smashing the patriarchy one day and how sad they are their dads left another. Jean listens. She hears their struggles and concerns. There is no judgement in her tone as she responds, but her words always challenge these students to do what is right.

They pile up their backpacks around her desk and huddle in the floor just to have a few moments of her time. I know they do this, because she truly listens. Her ears have given legitimacy to the words flowing from her mouth.

Soon I will not be stepping over backpacks and students to get to my desk or overhearing the latest teenage drama. Summer is here and the school year is coming to a close. While I am certain my productivity will increase, I will not have a constant reminder that we can participate in ministry and kingdom building regardless of our professional titles.

I don’t know about you, but I need reminders like that. I need people like Jean who invite the divine into every day conversations, people who are willing to bring their callings into the secular and mundane.

Without these reminders, it is far too easy to forget we are called to do the same.

leiawilliamsMy name is Leia, which should tell you that my dad’s favorite movie is Star Wars and I have some very unfortunate nicknames.  I studied International Relations in undergrad and couldn’t find a job to save my life, so I changed my plans and studied communications in graduate school. Now, I have served The United Methodist Church for nearly 7 years in fundraising, discipleship, and communications.


3 Things I Would Tell My 18-Year-Old Self

If I had the finances, luck, or a DeLorean complete with a flux capacitor I would love to travel back in time. Of course, I would love to travel through time seeing various events throughout the past and even into the future. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, time travel is not a reality at this point in time… or at least that’s what I want you to think! One of the trips that I would make back in time is to my 18-year-old self. Fresh out of high school, on my own, in college, and working up to 4 jobs all at once. I would like to tell myself 3 very real truths I wish I would have known some 14 years ago. I do not have many regrets in life, and these 3 bits of encouragement to myself or anyone in the same position are not about regrets, simply encouragement.

1.  Save your money. Just because you have a little bit of money doesn’t mean you have to spend it. Save your money and when you spend it, spend it wisely. Spend your money on things that will provide you lifelong memories, not temporary happiness.

2.  See the world. There are really awesome towns and sites to see so close to you. Go see the world that is right in your backyard and then keep going. Don’t limit yourself to the big cities stop in the small towns too. Get off the interstate, take your time, cruise. This world is full of rich history and people. Take the time to travel the world and hear people’s stories.

3.  Slow down and smell the roses. Take the time to take all that life is throwing at you in. You will have the opportunity to experience great joys and great tragedies, take them all in. Good, bad, right, and wrong these moments make you who you are. Slow down and take them in, let them shape you into who God is calling you to be and where God is calling you.

Life is an amazing thing. There is not a moment or experience that I regret or take back. My life is not perfect nor has it gone exactly as planned but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I would simply slow down a little bit and take it all in. Life is too short to spend it worrying about money, missed opportunities, and missed moments. The fortunate thing about this life is we do not have to have a time machine, we can life into these ideas and hopes today, no matter our age. Enjoy life. You owe it to yourself and your family.


15259719_10153880565206441_5213022733762386602_oRev Zach Bechtold is the Co-Founder of BeardedTheologians and a Pastor for the United Methodist Church in New Mexico.  When Zach is not sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ he is fighting crime as the masked avenger “Beardy Face”, but don’t tell anyone!


Three Things I would Tell My High School Self. By Matt Franks

A lot has happened in 16 years in our world since I walked across the stage and graduated as a Miami Wardog. Last week we asked Jake to write for us on the topic: 3 things I would tell my high school self. Zach and I felt that we should also look at this question. Zach will write his next week.


1st words of wisdom I would share to my High School Self: Don’t be Scared

Some of my moments of greatness over the last 16 years have come because I did not let fear take a hold of me. The first mission trip I would take, I had to fly on a plane something I was not too excited about especially not so long after 9/11. There have been a lot of cool things that I have been able to experience because I conquered fear that was attempting to stunt my growing. I have also let go of the fear of the other and have gotten to know people that I would have not encountered and get to know had I let that fear. Jesus dinner party with sinners in Mark 2:13-17 was the verse that pointed me in that direction.

2nd words of wisdom I would share to my High School Self:Do or Do not there is no try.

These wise words from Yoda  have really motivated me in my life and ministry since I left high school.

3rd words of wisdom I would share to my High School Self: Kill Them With Kindness


This was a lesson I learned early on in my ministry. I wish I would have known that in High School.  But killing my enemies  with kindness has been a great lesson to learn and there have been times when my enemies then became my friends or best ministry partners.

What are some words of wisdom you would give your high school self?

franksprofileAbout our writer: Rev. Matt Franks

My xbox gammer tag is rabbi franks, on Tuesday nights you will find me navigating Destiny because it is reset day. When I am not investing in my hobby of Beardcasting, I serve as Lead Pastor of FUMC Locust Grove (for a few more days). I also coach the Stars U8 Soccer team which our motto is 40 min. of chaos. I have a great wife Ashley who writes for us from time to time and two kids.




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3 Things I Would Tell My High School Self by Jake Tatarian


I graduate from Seminary in May. It’s a strange thing being on the precipice of the end of my foreseeable future as a student and seeing a future that is not filled with homework assignments and sitting in a classroom, looking at a clock, counting down the time until you can leave. Nearing this crossroads of a major transition in my life, I have found myself looking both backwards at what you’ve accomplished and forward, to a future that is full of boundless opportunity.

Looking back, I can see the personal transformations that I have undertaken and continue to experience, especially in recent years as I feel I have undergone the most radical transformations since I left high school. In light of this, I have decided to write this letter to my high school self: three things my current self would tell my high school self in the hopes that you, too, might find some encouraging message within.


  1. Take School Seriously…But Not Too Seriously.

School is important. Your education is important: it lays the foundation for the rest of your life and, in my case, is a prerequisite for beginning the career I want to build. Doing well in school and making sure you do your work not only establishes good work habits during your formative years, but getting good grades allows you to continue on in your education to college and beyond.


School should not consume your life to the point that you never have any fun. Life is meant to be experienced and there are a whole lot of fun things that you can do instead of spending all of your time outside of a classroom with your nose buried in a book. Class time is a serious time for soaking up what the teachers want you to learn, but it’s OK to keep it a little bit light-hearted too. Enjoy it—you’re not a student forever.


  1. You Have to be Intentional About Your Friendships

I remember the summer between my high school graduation and the beginning of college and all of the pacts that were made that we would always keep in touch and my friendship with certain people would withstand the inevitable tests of time and distance…and those friendships faded over time. There were never any fights we just quit…talking. Now this is a two-way street, but for your friendships that you want to keep from your high school years, you need to be intentional about maintaining communication and finding time to get together for lunch or to simply hang out and enjoy being in each other’s presence. You spend a lot of time cultivating relationships throughout high school—it would be a shame to lose those because you quit finding time for each other.


  1. The Best You is the Real You

Far too many high schoolers spend way too much time trying to be someone they’re not for the sake of popularity or friends. I have news for you, though, that’s very difficult to maintain. Faking an interest in a band or sport, dressing in a fashionable sense where you look cool, but can’t breathe (I’m looking at you, skinny jeans), even picking up on the hip lexicon that all the cool kids are using, but you would be embarrassed to have your parents hear, can become toxic to the real you. Don’t be afraid to let the real you come out of its shell, to let the person God created you to be breathe and experience the world. I’ve found that the more authentic and up front I am about who I am, the easier it is to make friends and foster relationships that are built upon trust much more quickly. Plus, you don’t have the added burden of trying to juggle the masks that you keep in your back pocket depending upon who you’re with at a given moment.

So there you have it. Three things that I would tell my high school self which can be boiled down to this: Throw away the masks, make lots of friends, and enjoy life. There are many wonderful people and experiences to see and God did not mean for our lives to be miserable where we await the day that we might depart this world. So, close your computer screen, go call that person you’ve been meaning to check up on, and plan a get-together to catch up and continue strengthening your friendships.

Picture1.pngJake Tatarian is a soon-to-be seminary graduate and pastor currently living in Oklahoma City. He is a basketball and soccer fan, of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Brighton and Hove Albion, respectively. Jake does not follow baseball, but if pressed for a favorite team, and in keeping with the tradition of this site, he would say his favorite team is the Seattle Mariners.


Mother’s Day

Mother’s Day is a day that brings forward joy and celebration as we lift up one of the most important people in our lives.  I am very thankful for the relationship that I have with my mom.  I will be honest, I was not the best kid growing up, I was difficult to be around especially when I was a teenager. Even through my worst of days when I was the biggest jerk, especially to my mom, she has always been there for me.  She is easily the person I call on the phone the most.  We have a special relationship and I will always cherish that.

I am unbelievably grateful for the mother to my kids Mikel is.  She is the engine that keeps our family moving, clean, fed, watered, on schedule, and sane. She makes sure hair is done, dresses are tied, princesses are princesses, bow ties are straight, chucks are the right color, that girls can be girls, boys can be boys, and her kids can be kids.  She often does this by herself, as I find myself on the road several times a year.  I know it is incredibly hard to take care of our children as well as taking care of the biggest child of all, me.  These are just some of the many reasons why I love her and am proud she is my wife and partner in this thing we call life. Mikel is truly a blessing.

Certainly, I cannot go on and talk about Mother’s Day and the impact that one has had on me and my family and not speak of my mother in law.  She has fought an amazing fight and won over breast cancer this last year.  On top of being a loving and thoughtful woman, raising my beautiful wife, and being a lovely Weazer (her name from my kids) to my kids, she is a true inspiration to everyone of what it is to be a person of faith and kicking cancer’s butt.

All of that being said, I know Mother’s Day is a hard day for many people.  It is a day we grief the loss of our mothers, a day some grieve of not physically being a mother.  This is a reality we need to be aware of as we celebrate.  Mikel and I have had the opportunity to be in places where our parents have not been and we have always found that no matter where we live, we have had mother/grandmother figures in our lives.  These relationships are relationships that we adore and are true blessings to all of our family, even our parents who live in another country (Texas).  They know we are being taken care of (Mikel and the kids) and they some of us are being kept in line (Me).

For all those ladies who have been mothers, grandmothers, aunts, and sisters to me thank you from the bottom of my heart.  You have shaped me to be a better husband and father.

To my Mom, Susan, thanks for putting up with my crap all these years.

To my mother in law, Karen, thanks for trusting me to take care of your daughter.

To my wife, Mikel, thanks for sticking with me.  I know this life is not easy and I have asked so much of you. You are the love of my life and the absolutely best mother on this planet (sorry everyone else, you missed out)!

To my daughters Zoe and Ryann, you may never understand how much you have taught me about being a human. I hope you know how much Mikel and I love you.  I believe that you two will change the world. (I believe this for Noah too)

To all the woman and ladies I have had the opportunity to be your pastor, thank you for loving me, guiding me, and believing in me enough to be your pastor.  You have taught me more than I can ever pretend to teach you.

For all of the wonderful ladies in my life, thank you.  Keep up the good work. You are changing the world, whether you know it or not.

As we approach mothers day, remember that there are many people in our lives grieving this year.  Be sensitive to that and make sure you hear their stories.

Make sure you celebrate the women in your life! Those ladies who have been pivotal influences in your life.  Do your best to reach out in whatever way you can, whether it be a phone call, hug, text, or Facebook message, let the women in your life know they matter and have had an impact on your life.

Happy Mother’s and those who have been AMAZING Woman in my life Day!


  Zach Bechtold is the Co-Founder of BeardedTheologians, you can partly blame his for all of this.