Discussions and Friendship

I spoke at the Athanatos Christian Arts Festival in Wisconsin over the weekend, and we had a great time. I got to meet some friends I’ve known only through social media – friends like Joe Courtemanche and Jamie Greening – and I finally got to meet Dan Flecknoe in person. Dan and I, with Tony Horvath, have been debating/discussing God and faith and other matter for going on two decades now. Dan, an Atheist, and I, a Christian, are working on a book together on the subject, and the three of us met on stage for four debates/discussions, each of which was an hour and a half.

I say “discussion” in addition to “debating,” because what stands for debate these days amounts largely to two or three people yelling bad slogans at each other on Facebook or Twitter or, if we’re REALLY unlucky, up close and in person. With placards. And maybe weapons, too.

It’s different with us, though. We disagree, sometimes quite strenuously, but we remain friends. I think the difference is we are actually interested not only in WHAT the other side thinks, by WHY they think it as well. Being friends for so long also gives us the luxury of being able to seriously question our own assumptions and ideas. That’s where the real fun starts: learning to look at something.

The big win for me out of all of this was showing people that you can disagree about something and still have respect for each other when you’re finished. Respect is something sorely lacking in today’s world.

Speech Contesting: The Farce Awakens

After months of hard work, I accomplished a small goal for this year. I won the District 84 Toastmasters International Speech contest. This is round four out of six. The whole thing starts in February with over 30,000 competitors in 15K+ clubs in over 100 countries worldwide. In August, I will represent central and northern Florida (not including the panhandle) in Round5 – the semi-finals – at the 2016 Toastmasters International Convention in Washington, DC.

I’ve never made it this far. I am equal parts stoked and terrified. I’m just a simple Analytics Nerd who sits in a cube all day, and I’ll likely compete against real, honest-to-Pete professional speakers who regularly speak in front of hundreds or thousands of people.

The contest is in August. Wish me luck!