Drown Out Every Voice

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Voices. There are so many fighting for our attention. Our affection. Our allegiance.

 

They all lobby against each other tirelessly. 

 

We are bombarded constantly by a barrage of suitors seeking to win our heart. And often, they do. 

 

We jump from one love affair to the next, leaving our hearts in a constant state of turmoil. 

 

There are just too many voices. At some point we have to drown them out. 

 

 

 

That's when I heard it -- the one voice that seeks to rise above the rest. The voice spoke. 

 

Drown out every voice but one. 

Tabloid Chaser

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So many of us spend our time and energy looking for the story that doesn't exist. 

 

We assume there's an ulterior message to be found. 

 

We read into everything people say or the things that happen and then come up with some wild tale of how someone is secretly edging us out. Or when someone says something, we believe they are subliminally trying to say something without saying it. 

 

Let's stop chasing the tabloid stories in our lives. 

 

The apostle Paul said to take every thought captive. That means, before you let the thought run freely through the caverns of your mind and begin to shape how you think and what you believe, you stop the thought and make it subject to the truth. Essentially, you interrogate that thought and determine one of two things: 

This thought is either truth and should be given freedom to shape the way you think and live, or it is a lie -- a distortion and perversion of the truth, sent by the devil himself to be implanted in your belief system, with the express intention of destroying your life. 

 

Too quickly we can allow a renegade thought to take residence in our minds and beliefs, giving way to another that should be considered an outlaw, ultimately leading to a distorted, messed up life, filled with untruths. 

 

The devil is a terrorist. He is the most ruthless of all. And essentially when we choose not to take our thoughts captive and make them subject to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, we are harboring terrorist activity in our very soul. Which, by the way, is a temple of the Holy Spirit. 

 

If you wonder why you are in such a state of turmoil so often, it might be because you are at war within your spirit. The terroristic, renegade thoughts that should be outlawed are fighting with the spirit of God within you for the real estate of your soul. 

 

"The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:4-5

Moments & Momentum

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Today. 

Are your choices about the moment or about momentum for the future?

 

Is your first priority today concerned with perception or about producing health for the future? 

 

Your movement in a particular direction will over time result in you reaching a destination.

Either where you want to be, or far from it in the land of disappointment & regret. 

 

God is not asking you to give your soul to every person and conversation and situation you encounter. He is, however, asking you to address those things with an intact soul. 

 

Are you a binge liver or a balanced liver? 

 

Pace is associated with endurance. Never with speed. 

 

Don't demand something of yourself God is not asking of you. 

It Is Well With My Soul

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It is well with my soul.  That’s a mind-blowing statement. 

 

I’m sure you know the ancient song that chants the statement in an anthem of hope.  I grew up singing it often at my church and I often hear it ring out over funeral settings.  But today, those words struck me upside the head in a very different light.  You know, it’s the statement you’ve heard over and over, but then came the day you actually understood it.  As if it had been stated for the very first time. 

 

IT.  IS.  WELL.

 

IT.  The situation.  The trial.  The reality.  The current peril.

 

IS.  How things are.  Present tense.  Admission of reality.  Apart of my existence. Tangible what’s what.

 

WELL.

 

It means I am at peace with the situation.  It doesn’t mean the situation is good.  And it doesn’t mean I want it or like it, but it does mean I have reconciled my core to accept the reality that God has allowed in my present tense.  And when we can move to that place, we move to a perspective that allows us to recognize the turmoil and heartache, but not to fall prey to it.

 

This life takes some pretty painful twists and turns, leaves us sometimes speechless, with a pit in our stomach, shaking our head at the affliction we may feel.  The loss of a loved one.  The death of a dream.  The pain of a chronic illness. And it might not be peril at all, it may simply be uncertainty.  

 

Regardless of the weight of our present circumstances, the heart response we must move toward is the same. We have to have enough gall to say to God, “this is what I see, feel, and am going through.  And I don’t like it.  I can’t stand it.  In the deepest part of my being, I wish it was something it’s not.” I think we are sometimes too afraid to tell God what he already knows, as if he is waiting with his magical lightning rod to zap us.  But the opposite is true.  When we can feel comfortable enough in our own skin to honestly process with our Creator the reality He has allowed, it means we can then have the opportunity to move to a place where we can say in all sincerity, IT IS WELL.  

 

And that, my friends, is the difference between the person who is tormented by the heartache they have faced along the way, and the person who rises above it. 

How we respond will determine what we will become.

Creating an Environment of Growth

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Creating space.  Creating environments. Curating the content.  The way we go about doing it will determine what world we create. 

Do we create a life-giving or a life-sucking environment?

 

The choice is entirely up to the architect. 

 

The challenge is that most of the architects creating space in our churches today are institutional thinkers. That's not entirely a bad thing. Institutional thinkers have an ability to understand some of the large scale leadership obstacles that need to be considered. 

 

But the potential downfall may be greater. 

 

Far too often we answer problems through the wrong means. We peer through the wrong lens. We come from an improper perspective. 

 

Too often we find an institutional answer to a relational problem. 

 

People want relationships. Authentic ones. They don't want a program or an organization in which they are merely a number. 

 

The greatest human desire is to know and be known. 

 

In our efforts as church leaders to create space for that to happen, let's be mindful as we make decisions and help facilitate space for growth, that we don't unintentionally kill the very thing we are attempting to nurture. 

Let's be mindful that many of the problems we attempt to solve are relational problems. And relational problems require relational solutions, not institutional ones. 

 

People connect with people. Not with products and systems. 

 

Learn your audience. 

Find out what matters to people. 

 

Ripple Effect

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A stone is dropped in water. 

 

To the stone, all that's felt is the impact of hitting the water. 

 

But the byproduct of that impact is the ripple effect. 

 

Think about it. It doesn't just impact the place where contact with the water was initiated; it goes in every direction. Sometimes ten times the distance from the original site of impact. 

 

So the next time you feel weary or wonder if the hard work you are doing is worth it, the next time you feel insignificant or that your efforts go unnoticed, remember this:

 

You are a stone in the hands of Almighty God and He is throwing you at the water with supernatural force; you, your efforts, your story and your legacy are making waves for all of eternity in EVERY DIRECTION. 

 

Don't worry about trying to control the narrative or orchestrate the outcome. Focus your energy and efforts on creating the biggest splash imaginable and let the waves roll naturally. 

 

You, my friend, are a world changer. One splash at a time. 

Afraid Of What I'll Hear

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Busy.  Noisy.  It's how we live, it's the way we roll. 

 

I watched my neighbor's garage door go up at 7:27 am, which brought me to think about how I woke up to an alarm clock this morning…. which brought me to think about how Jesus "rose early" and withdrew to pray.

 

I know we always focus on the part about Jesus making time TO PRAY.  But I'm caught on the fact that he MADE TIME and did it early, before the day of reoccurring iPhone alarms….

 

There's honestly no way in our world today that Jesus' pace could and would happen.  How was he able to do it?  No assistance, just waking up REFRESHED and ready for the day at hand.

 

Here it is.  He was able to rise early because he went to bed early.  Back then, the world shut down when then sun went down.  When it was dark, you slept. 

 

Today? We use superficial light to stay up hours past sunset and use a superficial device to wake us up so that we can hit the ground running once again. 

 

It seems today that our world is spinning faster than ever.  And that the people living in it are wearier and wearier.  So what are we afraid of?  Missing something?  Missing out on something?  Or are we ultimately afraid of what we will hear if we slow down to a pace we can actually hear our own thoughts?  To a pace where we can hear a whisper that’s screaming to our souls….

 

If we don't have our medication of choice in hand to help us fall asleep…. TV, sleeping pills, sound machine, alcohol…. it's different for everyone, but it's interesting to me that we often need help falling asleep and need help waking up.  I have one friend who sets 3 alarms in his room, in different parts of the room, to ensure he gets up!

 

I no longer think "there is something wrong with our world today…" but I am starting to believe there is something wrong with the way we are choosing to allow our world to turn.  It's not the fault of "the world".  It's on me.  It's on you.

 

So today, let’s choose to be those who allow the pace that God intends dictate and supersede the pace that people intend.  There’s always something happening that you’ll miss out on.  But if we choose to be people who are not finding our strength and security in being awake for everything, we will be people who are awake for the right thing. 

 

Pick the right thing over the everythings of life today.  And let your soul be refreshed. 

 

Selah.

Escaping from Your Soul Unrest

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When transition happens around us, we are forced to wrestle with the question of transition within us.

 

I can distinctly remember a time when I wrestled with such a thing.

I asked, "Am I supposed to be doing something different?" 

The answer was as clear as an audible response. 

Don't do anything different. Prepare for something different. 

 

This is, in my experience, the hardest place to live. 

In between the already and the not yet. Living in the gap between what has already been established and that which we know is coming, though we don't know what "it" is just yet. 

 

Preparation. It's the work of champions.

Preparation means doing what needs to be done, regardless if you feel like doing it. 

It's having the motivation to see something through. Past aspiration to the point of completion. 

 

Many people have big aspirations. Fewer yet see their aspirations acted upon to the point of reality. That takes massive amounts of hard work, intentionality and perseverance. 

 

So the question is this: 

If you were not modifying or tweaking your current reality, and you had the opportunity to start fresh and clean, what would you do? 

Maybe consider preparing for that. 

 

Preparing for the unknown is more about the little obscurities that no one will notice than it is about the big moment. It's organizing your book shelf, going through old files, it's spending extra time in the Word, reading and reflecting.

It's ordering your private life so you are ready to step into a public arena and thrive. 

 

For too many people and for far too long, we wait unmotivated and unnoticed, hoping fate will strike. And when it does, we have failed to build in the disciplines to propel us into the next chapter. 

 

Stop theorizing and start taking action. 

Stop talking and start listening. 

 

Your calling isn't to a task or geographic location.  Your calling is to His voice. 

 

A day at a time. One thing at a time. 

Be attentive. Be alert. He is always speaking. The question is, are we listening? 

 

The only escape from your soul unrest is not to quit early, and it's not to find a place where the grass is greener. It's not to back down or quit.

The right escape is endurance and attentiveness to His voice.

 

Tune your ear and wait patiently. For the timing of our God is always perfect.

 

 

Do You Live Inspired?

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So here's the question of the day. 

 

Do you live planned or do you live inspired?

 

Planning is a good thing.  We all plan things; we prepare. Honestly, without planning there's a good possibility we would wander around aimlessly for much of a lifetime. 

The true value, in my opinion, when it comes to planning, is intentionality. Living on purpose. Setting and attaining goals. 

This has to be the backbone for life, for moving forward and accomplishing the things we are set on the earth for. 

 

But HOW we go about accomplishing to that end is entirely up to us. 

We have a choice if we are going to hollowly go through the motions or if we will live inspired. 

 

I have found I can't do much outside of inspiration. I can't write a song unless it's sparked by a moment of inspiration. Sure, I may finish the song while functioning in a mode of purposeful discipline, but the song idea will never start until inspiration strikes. 

 

Living inspired does not equal living undisciplined. 

 

Living inspired does not mean being unmotivated in moments of non-inspiration. 

 

Living inspired means to look forward. Not backward. 

 

Here's the biggest thing I just have come to realize in my world when it comes to inspiration: 

I can get caught in indecision because I'm waiting for inspiration to strike. 

 

And the truth is, there just are some things you will not get inspired about. Where you choose to eat for lunch is not something you are always going to have an inspirational moment to help you decide to turn left or turn right. To eat a burger or brat or sandwich or salad. Sometimes you just have to make a decision! 

We can't wait for inspiration to strike like lightning. Sometimes we have to live in the discipline of making wise decisions day in and day out and allow the inspiration, when it does strike, to serve as a catalyst to continue to propel us forward. 

 

So make a decision, put one foot in front of the other, and move forward. 

Wisdom & Noise

There are a lot of people with a lot of things to say in this world today. There's a constant barrage of opinion and conjecture filling the status feeds every second of every day.


It used to be just the writers for the New York Times or Time Magazine were the voices we heard. It used to be that controlled media was the only platform from which to share content.

Not anymore.

Today, everything is different.

Anyone can have the potential for a global-reaching platform through social media. All you need is an email address and a password. 

 

But having a platform and having a voice are not the same. Nor is either one a right of entitlement, even though we can oftentimes think so. We can falsely believe that we have earned the right or that we even deserve to have a platform or have a voice of influence. Sometimes, we can even think that one is owed to us.


A platform is earned, and it's earned over time. But I think we sometimes make the mistake of placing our concern and desire for having a platform in front of our care for developing our voice. A voice doesn't emerge in an instant; it is actually more like a sculpture that is carefully and diligently chiseled, bit by bit, piece by piece.  Every one of us has a voice.  The question is whether or not we are developing it.


Though it may not be what you want to hear, you don't have the right to be an influence on people's lives simply because you have a Facebook account. Post all you want, but you will ultimately only be received as a voice of influence when you actually have something to say, when people know they can trust you.


Part of the issue I see is we simply have so much to say, but in reality, we are not saying anything.

 

I would rather have something to say and no platform to speak from
than to have a platform with nothing to say.

ONE IS WISDOM.  THE OTHER IS NOISE.

A voice will be earned when great care is given to every word shared.

 

With having a voice comes great responsibility. When we take that responsibility seriously, I am a believer that the platform will take care of itself. Good content always finds a way out.


May we always be people who add value to the world we live in by sharing wisdom. There is enough noise already without us adding more to the narrative.

 

"....be ready in and out of season to give an account for the hope you have....” 1 Peter 3:15

To Be Famously Great

Do you want to be great or do you want to be famous?

In A Charlie Brown Christmas, Lucy asks, “How can Beethoven be great if he never had his picture on a bubble gum card?!?”

It’s a fair question to ask, especially considering the methodology in which our world operates when it comes to greatness. 
 
I would propose that our world has redefined greatness and added to it a qualifier of being famous.  There’s this misnomer that your greatness isn’t qualified until you’ve made a splash of fame.  Let’s face it; we judge how ‘good’ someone is based on their number of followers on social media, how many records they have sold… and all the while, there’s a guy who lives across town who can write circles around the chart-topping writer, who can play the touring guitar player under a table.  Don’t believe me?  Go spend one night in Nashville, listening to open mic night.  There are massive numbers of those who have the chops and are awaiting their chance.

Most everyone chases the fame.  And they chase the famous.  And they aspire to BE the famous. 

But how many of us know that many of the famous are not the great ones.  Sure, every once in a while someone comes along who possesses all of the greatness, but also has made a famous splash.  James Taylor, John Mayer, Garth Brooks….

And then for every famous one, there are a hundred greats whose names will never trend on social media.  So my question is simply this:  Which do you aspire to be? The great or the famous?  Here is the reality – if you aspire to be great, then you cannot measure your success against being famous.

Fame is fleeting.  

Every famous person I have ever met all have one thing in common: they have yet to find their sense of arrival.  There is still a longing for something beyond their current reality.

So let it be said of us that we are the generation that flips the script from chasing fame to embracing our unique God-given path; that we each chase greatness, giving our best and leaving nothing behind.

 

Eeyores & Aussies

 

"We live at the edge of the miraculous.  One step away from a transformation." 
That's how my fortune cookie put it recently.

So often in life, we get caught up in just surviving.  Making it through and still being alive, escaping as much hardship and heartache as possible.  And in our overburdened, weighed-down, survivalist mindset, we lose out on the adventure, the possibility, and the potential that is around every corner.

Think about it.  Around every corner is something.  And depending on our perspective, we hear that and see the potential in one of two ways.

“Around every corner is something or someone lurking…."
This mindset is filled with fear.  Everything is a potential burden, a potential for disaster.  Everyone’s out to get me.  It’s just a matter of time before something breaks down.  I’ll never get ahead.  I’m destined to be stuck.  Someone else always gets the miracle.  This is the "Eeyore” mentality. 

The cup is always half empty, if that.  In this mindset, we begin defeated before we even start. 

“Around every corner is something or someone awaiting…"
This mindset is filled with faith.  Everything is a potential blessing, an opportunity for celebration.  Everyone is a fan and a believer in me.  My best days are still ahead of me.  The best is still yet to come.  In this mindset, we are overcomers before we even start.  This is the mindset I like to call the “Aussie” mentality.  

When I was in Australia a few summers ago, I was both captivated and inspired by the mindset of the people there.  They spoke about everyone and everything with such a sense of hope. Every person I encountered was always speaking to the potential.  It was one of the most life-giving experiences I have ever walked through.  

We live on the edge of the miraculous.  But only if we choose to see it, speak of it, and lean into it.  

We also live on the edge of disaster.  But only if we choose to focus on it, speak of it, and believe it.

Friends, let’s be those that choose the miraculous.  And I don’t just mean choose to live on the EDGE of the miraculous. Let’s be those who think about, speak about, and live FULLY IMMERSED in the miraculous.  

The Road That Leads To Life

It's not the easy one to walk, that is for sure. The road is narrow; it has its share of potholes, cliff hangs and opportunities for utter demise, though when it is the road walked, it leads to life. There may be years of hardship and heartache, which may or may not be resolved in this earthly lifetime, yet the stakes are too high to choose the alternative. The alternative is the wide open road. It is easy. It is also pleasant on the joints, the feet, the mind and the heart. And it's the road that most choose to walk. 

But if you're one of the few that are born with an unshakable, unquenchable burden that almost holds you captive, you know there is ultimately no way you can desert the narrow road for the easy way. 

You may try, but in the end, you can't stomach it. You can't let yourself do it. 

For some of us, there is something that burns like a fire inside our bones. We have a sixth sense that we were made for more than the carnal, that we were made to serve a cause greater than the name of the organization or institution we receive a paycheck from.  

We know somewhere within our being that we were, as C.S. Lewis concluded, "not made for here". 

So what are we to do with this holy, burning passion that we can't reason or push away? How do we live in a world with people who see things at face value, at ground level, when we see from 30,000 feet? That clearly there is more to our present reality than that which meets the eye? 

We are writers. We are poets. We are thinkers. We are believers in the God-given gift of creativity birthed in the soul of humanity. We are the few. The survivors who will live to tell the story of a grander tale. That we not only live to exist in our world today. And we live for more than surviving through Friday to live for the weekend. 

Our lives are but a vapor. And yet, we have the potential with the momentary breath we have to make lasting impact, affecting generations to come. 

Now I know what you may be thinking.  This is a great philosophical principle, but it is nearly impossible to to contextualize how we actually live this out in our everyday lives.  

Yes, this is a great philosophy, a great guiding light for us to follow, but there is a very simple way we can choose every day to either walk the narrow road or the open road.

It all comes down to two simple words, one decision.

Discipline or disregard. 

You see, in every choice we make, we come to a fork in the road, and depending on how we choose to decide, we continue on our way towards life or towards death.  

We all live our own version of a choose-your-own-adventure story, where we hold the keys of decision and power, and we control, at least to some degree, our outcome and destiny.  Now, I'm not saying we play God. There is a distinction between the supreme God of the universe who holds the keys to death & hell, the One who has the power to save and has control of every wave of the sea...  What I am saying is, we are not just robots who do everything God says all of the time.  We carry our own free will.  And, with that free will, we make choices everyday; these choices shape the people we are and mold our character, for better or for worse.

In every decision we make throughout a day, we are choosing one of two things.  Discipline or disregard.  And ultimately, lots of little decisions build upon each other and the collective sum adds up to a life lived on the road that leads to life or the road that leads to destruction.

Let's talk about discipline. 

Discipline is the practice of training.  It's the choice to do the hard thing at times, to push the limits outside of what is always comfortable.  Discipline is the choice to give time and attention to caring for physical or spiritual health, doing what needs to be done, even when it's not the easy thing to do.  It always leads to the results everyone aspires to but few want to do the hard work to actually obtain. 

The opposite is disregard. Disregard is choosing to ignore, to not pay attention to what's at hand.  Disregard is the easy way out of most situations.  It's choosing to not choose, to be lazy, and ultimately, live in a state of decline. 

The simplest way to do an assessment of discipline and disregard is this. 

Take out a piece of paper and make two columns.  On the top of one, write "discipline," and atop the other, write "disregard".  Then list every decision you make that is either one or the other.

Make some comparisons.  Reading the word, watching TV.  Working on hobbies, taking a walk…

And as you go throughout your day, ask yourself this question - is the decision I am making a decision of discipline or disregard?  This simple question may be the one that alters the course of your final destination.  

May we continue to be those that choose the road less traveled, but in the end, the road that leads to life.

The Six Inch Dagger

Reality check. 

Our souls are dying. And it's not because of natural deterioration; it's a self inflicted eroding of our very core. 

The weapon? I suppose you could call it a plague, a disease, perhaps even a pandemic. It's a six inch piece of plastic, metal, and glass. Our souls are being obliterated by the technological advance of the cell phone. 

Everywhere I look, eyes are fixed on the screen. Thumbs are typing away. All the while, human interaction is reduced to merely grunts and groans. And the human soul that so desperately needs refreshing and renewal? Well, that is something of a forgotten gift in a bygone era. 

Even as I sit on a beach in tropical paradise and write this, I am punching thumbs on glass, since it's the most convenient meathead. 

And this, my friends, is the death of the soul. 

Take A Nap

Afternoon naps.

I know. This is a worship blog.  What the heck does an afternoon nap have to do with anything?

My whole life growing up my dad would come home from work and take a 5 minute power nap.  He said it reenergized him for the rest of the night.

I didn’t get it until recently.

I have two kids.  It was not long ago that they both still took naps.  And over the past few years, I have come to love joining them in that rhythm. 

It started out on Sundays.  I would come home from church, and flip on a football game and fall asleep for my weekly afternoon nap. 

Then it became more severe.  Any day I got the chance, I'd take a nap.  And I had forgone football.  Then it became shades drawn, sound machine on, hoddie over my eyes kind of naps. 

Sometimes they only last 15 minutes.  Other times they go 45 minuets, sometimes even an hour and a half.  I logged a 3+ hour nap not long ago….

Most people hate naps.  Well, they don’t hate the nap but they hate the ‘fog’ they wake up in.  Me?  I’m a nap fog junkie.  I love the fog. 

It may sound crazy, but the think I love the most is that when I wake up my mind is stilled.  It is no longer racing in a hundred different directions.  I love the sense of refreshing I wake with.

The most valuable thing I have discovered is that my afternoon nap reinforces God’s mandate of rest.  I am a DOer – I get stuff done.  And when I start, I have a hard time shutting my email, my cell phone, my brain and my responsibility off.

But naps are my reminder that I am not anyone’s savior.  I’m not meant to carry the weight of my world.

Naps remind me that I have limits.  And if I ignore those limits, I will crash.  I get sick, get irritable, and lose perspective.

Naps remind me that it’s equally important what I choose not to do as it is what I choose to do.

Let me unpack that one for a minute. 

A few years back, I worked on a record in Nashville with some of the music industry A list players.    They blew my mind how proficient and polished they were at their craft.  But the thing that stood out to me most of all what not what they played but what they DIDN’T play. 

They left space in the music.  And a lot of it!

That space created room for something beautiful to take place.  That space meant that there wasn’t always noise.  That space meant that when something did happen it was even more significant, meaningful and powerful.   And it meant that things could naturally develop and grow organically rather than always being jammed in to crevices.

The same is true in our lives.  When we create space, we make room for significance to happen. 

Naps are my reminder that I don’t have to force everything. That sometimes the best thing is to take a step back and let things be. 

So my question to you today is this: what rhythms and practices in your life help you keep perspective of who you are and who you’re not?

 

 

The Two Sides To the Starving Artist

When you hear the phrase "the starving artist," I'm sure the same thing comes to almost everyone's mind on the planet. The starving artist is the term that we endear to those who are gutsy enough to live on Ramen noodles and pop tarts, attempting to "make it" and find their big break in their land of artistry. 

And I would have to agree that this is a real reality for much of the artistic world on planet Earth today. Artists are slaving tirelessly over their craft, perfecting and honing their skills, doing what they love, regardless of what profit it may or may not afford them. 

I, myself, have been there as well, spending time "paying my dues," with big hopes for a bright future.

Although, today, I would like to suggest an alternative definition to the term "starving artist". 

You see, I have discovered that many of us, in effort to pay the bills, to make ends meet, and to make a difference in the world, make some minor concessions along the way so that we can stay afloat. This is a very, very good thing. I know in my life, with having a family, a wife, and two little angels, there are some real realities that are present in my life today. And as much as I would love to just live in my land of artistry, I must be responsible to take care of that to which I have been entrusted.

Here's the problem as I see it today: the unintended consequence of living in this world is that the artist in me I have neglected, and I have starved. I have created an entirely different beast of a starving artist by locking away the hidden gems within me, starving them out for a "one day", never to be found.

We have to make, find, and discover ways to unlock the artist inside of us. What you feed will grow; what you starve will die. So the question for me today is, what can I do every day to feed the artist in me? It doesn't mean that I'm able to quit my job and live sold-out to my artistry, but it does mean that I have the opportunity to do something - to do one thing this day to feed the artist within me. It may be as simple as slipping away and writing, or reading a blog, or spending time living creatively. 

Think about it. And act on it. 

Do something before the artist you have chained up inside of you starves. 

The Private Public Life

For many of us, we spend a lot of our energy fixated on the public life.
It makes sense. The public life feeds us. 

Here's the problem I have been coming to realize in my own life. 
If we don't feed our private life, eventually we will starve our public life.

We tend to think of it like this:
Feed the public life because that's what feeds us. The accolades, the credibility, the adrenaline rush, the platform, the empowerment of leaders ...... These are the things that drive us, that energize us. The private life, well, I will feed that in the margins of living and leading a public life.  Or so we think. 

It works for a while. 

Until you cross the threshold. There inevitably comes a point in your leadership continuum where you have starved your private life at the expense of feeding your public life. And once those lose balance and the scales begin to tip, it becomes increasingly more and more difficult to keep both from imploding. 

The best thing you can do?

Push pause on your public life. Every single chance you get. 

Feed your private life. Walk with Jesus. Daily. Love your wife and make her a priority. Daily. Invest in relationship with your kids. Daily. Practice the Sabbath religiously. 

Here's the sad truth I have seen in too many friends in ministry. 
They poured everything into the public life, into "ministry", all in the name of building the Kingdom of God. 

But when they reached their threshold moment, that point in time where the scales tipped, everything began to implode. Every thread in their life began to unravel. 

And the sad reality is this. 9 out 10 of them? When everything fell apart, they no longer had a family to rebuild with. They. Had. Lost. Everything. 

Character is built over an accumulation of small decisions over time. 

Credibility takes a lifetime to build. And it can be squandered away in an instant. 

So join me in doing ourselves, our families, and the family of God an favor. Let's be those that feed our private lives. 

Feed the private life and let the fullness that exists there be what sustains us in our public life of leadership. 

So the next time we are compelled to launch some new public endeavor, let's first ask ourselves if the principles and concepts are being lived out in our private lives. 

Maybe things need to exits in our private lives long before they make their way into our public arena. 

Think long and hard about it. If you don't, you will take on more than you are designed to carry, and will always be playing catch-up to implement it in the rhythms of your daily life.

Insecurity is bound to follow.  Those who neglect the private life eventually loose their grounding and live always looking over a shoulder, concerned what people think. Why? Because self-confidence and self-worth now come from a place that exists only on the surface and from the external.  

But if they flow out of your private walk with Jesus? 
That's what it means to be anchored. Your confidence and self worth are rooted and grounded from the core of who you are and the core of who your Creator says you are. 

Who you are in private is what you reproduce in public. It's NOT what you project in public that will become who you truly are. 

Out In Front Of God

 

 

We set our own pace.  We forge our own way.  
We do so many things in the name of God, in the cause of increasing the name and reputation of Jesus, to serve Him. 

But what happens when we get out in front of God? 

Go with me here. Sometimes we get so consumed with the path of God that we are walking that we forget we are walking with Jesus.  It's all about taking one step, waiting for the next instruction from the sovereign One and then taking the next step. Or maybe it's just me; I absolutely know I am guilty of it. Working in a church, Sundays come often, and the pressure to produce is a stress unique unto itself. It's not just to produce, but to foster spiritual environment for people away from God to experience a divine encounter. 

We plan. We strategize. And sometimes we just might be putting the cart in front of the horse. 

It's not that what we are doing is in contradiction to that which God intends to do, though at times we may jump the gun and circumvent God's timetable. 

I've heard it said that God is always on time and never early. I have seen this to be true, time and time again. And from our human perspective, there's no doubt this is perceived as a true reality. 

But what if from God's perspective WE are sometimes on time and always early? 

I'm learning that a move of God is less sudden than we would think or expect. And I am also learning that the every day activity and movement of God may not be sustainable at our relentless pace of technological, social platform living. 

So what are we to do about this? What does Jesus have to say? And what would Jesus say if today were a day he was teaching in the synagogue? What would be his words of choice be to our ragged, warn and weary souls, over-extended by our own good will, to make his name something more than it already is?

You know what's funny about that statement? We make God.... As if God needs our tweets or our strategy session. I'm pretty sure he's had it well under control since the beginning of time, and he's still got this now. 

So friends. My question to us all today is this. What does it mean for us to live our lives to honor Him today, not to merely serve Him? 

I've often prayed the prayer "God, let us not get ahead of you, but to stay closely behind you, following where you lead". 

Let's back the cart up and get it back behind the horse. 

Thank You Pocket Gopher

Thank you, pocket gopher, for reminding me again there's more that's going on that what can be seen on the surface. For keeping my focus clear that what you see above ground is only a piece of the whole extent.

Last summer, I discovered a new resident occupying our property.  He lives about six inches below the surface of the grass and makes his presence known sometimes by building a mound of dirt where he decides to come up for air.  He is a pocket gopher.  

He and I don't get along well.  I have nothing but distain for this little creature who was chased out of my neighbors yard and then found refuge in mine…..

But distain aside, this little creature has taught me something profound about life and the condition of the inner person.

See, it's spring now, and I had hoped that Mr. Gopher's time in our lives had come to an end.  Sadly, I have learned he's not yet ready to give up his stay on Jersey Drive.  And yet, I have learned something valuable from a creature I fully intend to evict.

There is more going on.  Always. 
There's always more happening
than what my eye can see.
 

My friend, the pocket gopher has been busy this winter, carving his path around my yard.  He has seemingly had the time of his life, digging and digging and digging some more.

But he has taught me never to discount the internal solely based on the external perception. 

He has also taught me that people may be more receptive to hope than I ever thought possible.  As we approach Holy Week and think about Easter, I'm reminded about the people we may have in our lives that we think are far from God, who God would never ever reach and who would never be open to God at all. 

But the pocket gopher has reminded me this spring that there's more there than meets the eye.  And that you never know what the condition of the ground is until you step on it.  See, in my yard, there's grass everywhere.  And in most places, the ground is still hard, except for the places the pocket gopher has been busy at work.  

In those places, the ground is soft, moldable and pliable.  It occurred to me that the pocket gopher's affect on my yard is not far removed from God's affect on the inner person of people everywhere.  

There's more going on under the surface. 
And sometimes all it takes is one step
to discover the openness to change.

Too Many Choices. Why The Suitcase Destroys The Closet

Hanging in my closet are all of my clothes from the past year to two. In reality, I only wear 10 shirts that hang on the left side. Sure, from time to time I'll venture in to the right for an occasional change of pace. But, ironically, I scour the whole collection every morning before I create my new-fangled combination of attire for the day.  

Every day, I refuse to just re-wear the same outfit from last week. I have to come up with a new and fresh, never-yet-been-put-together combination.  

I want fresh. I want new. And I want it every day.

The same way, I find myself wanting to put together worship sets for Sundays...new and fresh. Never been done before. "What is God saying, right now in this moment" kind of worship flow. But without introducing a new song every week. New and fresh, within the current options.  But is that even possible?  

I've been thinking a lot about how we do church. How we plan worship sets. How we continue to drift towards programmed services and leading songs rather than leading worship.  We are so strategic in how we introduce new songs to fit a theme, or we have our songs on a rotation, to ensure each one has their chance on the big stage. 

I think we have a case of full closet syndrome. 

I just got back today from leading at a youth conference. I love it. It feels so fresh. So organic.  It dawned on me as I came home today: at camp we are suitcase travelers. We bring our go-to clothes and work with that.  We don't get caught up in too many choices, because we only bring so many options and not the whole closet. 

Now, I have been thinking all weekend, why is it that at camp I feel so at home, and worship seems to feel so fresh and organic, raw and catapulting?

It's because in that setting, we are also suitcase worship leaders. We only have the go-to songs. We stay within our 10 best options and we don't even bring the other half of our "worship closet" into consideration. 

But that's not how we do it at home on Sundays.... We approach our worship sets like I approach my closet; we keep everything as an option instead of picking from a limited selection. 

There is something freeing
about having fewer options. 
 
When we are limited, it keeps us focused,
keeps us with clear vision.

It also keeps the people we lead, focused. 

So here's my big what-if. 

What if we changed our whole approach in how we planned worship gatherings? 
What if we adopted the suitcase mentality over the closet approach? 

What if we stopped trying to introduce every new song that came out last Friday?  What if we eliminated the pressure to replicate the move of God from across the pond, and embraced the uniqueness of what God wants to do here and now, in our local church?

What if we stopped trying to work our whole wardrobe through on rotation, and instead, said, "these are our songs right now." We might beat these songs into the ground, but we are going to get theology into our people. Let's free them up from being screen-readers and song-learners, and enable them to become worshipers and truth-declarers. To become the people who press in to the presence of Almighty God, together as the people of God, and allow ourselves to be encountered and changed, not by a song, but by the worship of God alone. 

What if we let go of the pressure to scour the whole globe to find the "perfect" themed song to fit our worship experience each week, and instead took on the pressure to walk in and ask the question, "God, what do you want to say, and where to you want to take us today?" What if we used the songs we had, along with the spontaneous songs that will be birthed in moments of worship, to facilitate that?

What if, in our suitcase mentality, we picked out 20 songs on our playlist - not for a sermon series, but for a season? 

What if we picked our songs based on asking this simple question:
God, who are we as a worshiping community right now? 
And as a result, what songs do we need to be singing? 

Our musicians would be freed-up to flow, knowing the list for this season inside and out. They would be ready for anything - and they will be. 

What if it also made planning services much different? Far too often, we are spending our energy strategizing how we're going to work songs in so people can learn them.  THIS IS SO BACKWARDS!!! That energy should be diverted to focusing on how we can foster environments of worship. No longer do we scour the entire world for the perfectly themed song, and no longer do we make our priority how to strategically teach new songs so that people can learn them. We simply take the best-matched option from our current suitcase and go with that. 

Lower the stress. Lead the people.  Keep the main thing the main thing. Still stay big and congregational but agile. Teaching a new song is not the main thing - leading people is.   

Let's be leaders who use the songs we sing as a vehicle, not as the destination. 

I'm pretty sure it would begin to feel like camp all over again, except it's now every Sunday. 

I'm packing my suitcase. You with me?