Welcome to Inspiration Avenue!
My conviction is that our generation is over-taught and under-inspired, so every week I cultivate some of the most inspiring content I can find on the internet and bring it to you. I hope you are inspired to live fully submitted to Christ and pursuing everything He purchased for you on the Cross.
Maybe this goes without saying, but I don’t expect you to agree with me about everything I post here. In fact, I expect some of the things I post will rattle your theological cages. My suggestion? Be inspired by people who aren’t perfect. Realize you won’t agree with everything I share here. Eat the chicken, spit out the bones.
So, without further ado, here are three sources of inspiration for the week:
Methods and Tools vs. Prayer and Obedience: Roger Thorman writes about his journey into simple, organic house churches on his blog, SimpleChurchJournal. This post hammers at the thought that all of our disciple making methods and strategies are useless outside of a close walk with the Lord. This is so crucial, because often we get so caught up in the methods that a relationship with Christ can get left behind.
The Phenomenonal Growth of the Salvation Army: Lex Loizides is a church historian of the revivalist variety. He spends his time at his blog Church History Review telling the stories of revivals of the past. Currently Lex is telling the story of the Salvation Army. While the whole story is powerful, I was particularly touched by the picture here of William Booth as an old man, completely eclipsed by the men and women he had raised up into ministry from the ranks of the poor and disenfranchised. May God help us all to raise up disciples that touch the nations of the Earth like He did with William and Catherine Booth.
David Ravenhill: David Ravenhill is the son of famed preacher and revivalist Leonard Ravenhill. Leonard Ravenhill was known throughout the 70’s and 80’s for calling the church away from being like the world. I recently came across a quote of David, echoing his father in many ways: “this tidal wave of deception [. . .] seeks to make self the ultimate object of our worship while reducing God to being our ultimate personal trainer. In recent years, the words “your destiny” have been preached, prophesied, and promoted throughout the Body of Christ, to the point where self has become the center and focal point of life rather than Christ and His Kingdom.” Let’s all purpose to serve Jesus and not continue to ask Jesus to serve us.
I found out over the last couple of days that in many ways, I’ve embraced fear. I haven’t been living afraid. I haven’t been up at night worrying. I’ve just been careful because I was worried about messing up.
Some of it has been on the job. Some of it has been in other areas of my life. But much of it was here. I’ve got a stack of topics worth writing about for 30 days or better, but most of them seem like the kind of blogs that need a lot of explanation not to offend people. And so my dusty stack of topics to cover is going unattended.
It’s just weird. I started blogging daily to attack the fear of showing up, the fear of having nothing to say, the fear of being misunderstood. But somewhere along the way, the routine of writing daily lulled me a little bit out of writing about things that matter. I don’t regret what was written. I just regret not leaning in against the resistance in my own soul. And for that, I am sorry.
We all deserve someone in our lives who challenges us to do the hard things. I hoped to be that guy. Lately, I’ve not been doing that in my own life and that makes it tough for me to challenge you as well.
So I’m hitting the reset button. Maybe you’ll see more blogs with less context. Maybe I’ll just talk about the stuff I love with all the passion I can muster. But my hope is to lean into the places where there’s fear and challenge fear’s right to limit me and you.
I think we’ll be better for it.
“Courage is contagious. When one brave man takes a stand the spine of others stiffens.” Billy Graham
— Jody Gurley (@jodygurley) June 1, 2016
The Year was 2006. Not only had we gotten a new computer that year, but at the end of that year we had gotten a new daughter. Our first, in fact. Having purchased our first digital camera a few years previous and being fairly early adopters, we printed very few of the pictures.
Fast forward two years. We are early into the life of our second child. Our daughter is almost two. The computer hard drive crashes and most of our pictures are irretrievable. Not just by me, but by professionals who would have charged me hundreds or thousands of dollars if they could have been retrieved.
The point of the story: Don’t be a fool. Back up digital content that’s important to you. It doesn’t matter whether its on a hard drive or in the cloud. Just do it.
April 1st is a great day to think about things like this.
Yesterday, I wrote about my journey of writing (almost) daily for the last 100 days or so. Today I want to take a minute and address how Jesus frees us to be truly creative.
Before I get too deep into the subject, though, let me be clear. I’m not what you typically think of when you think of an artist. I write. And for a long time because there were no “beautiful works of art” out there that I had produced, I could never relate to a conversation about being an artist.
But you may not even write. You may be a business owner or a construction worker or a house church planter or a housewife. And in each of those fields where God has called you, you produce art, you just don’t see it that way. Your art is the effect that you leave on those who view your work. And so whatever field you are in, no matter how artistic it feels, you are an artist. The key is accepting that fact.
For me, it was Seth Godin, a practicing Buddhist, who pushed me into the work of art*. His book, The Icarus Deception, pushed me to a place where I realized that I had been created to write. Art, according to Seth, is what happens when we get beyond our fears. My biggest problem was getting over the fear–not necessarily the fear of being rejected, that was there–but also the fear of having nothing to say. Maybe the biggest fear of all was that I would show up and pour out my heart and it would be met with a resounding yawn. Those of you who would be traditionally known as artists know what I mean.
This is where Jesus frees us to be an artist. Jesus comes to us in our lives and His goal is pour out the love of God in our hearts to such a degree that we are free from fear (1 John 4:18). Can you imagine what you would create if you were free from fear? Not just from the fear of rejection but also the fear of the yawn? The fear of no one caring? Jesus can even free us from the fear of not making an impact. In Jesus, none of these fears can keep us from creating, because our goal is not to please a man or a crowd–our goal is to love Jesus and obey Him. This is more rewarding than click counts and awards.
I’m still learning in this process. I still get that feeling in my gut–you know the one–this might not work…this will probably start a fight on the internet…my audience might hate this and this will be the one post that gets no traffic ever**…but I’m learning that as much as that feeling is designed to stop me from creating, it’s also an indicator. It’s an indicator that I may be onto something that no one else has been able to write because of fear. And so lately, as I’ve been feeling that fear, I’ve been taking it to the Lord. And He frees me from the need to be relevant and popular, from the need to make an impact, and from the need to be right. He loves me and that is enough.
So I want to invite you–whether you call yourself an artist or not–to join me on this journey. You don’t have to be a writer. You don’t have to write everyday if you are. You don’t even have to follow my path. But Jesus can free you–yes you–from the fear of what will happen once you hit “publish” in whatever world you are in. And that freedom releases you to be the creative agent you were designed to be.
*The irony of a Buddhist marketer inspiring me to create for the Glory of Jesus is not lost on me. Christians through the last few centuries have had a name for this phenomenon–Common Grace.
**Ironically, that last feeling is how I feel about this very post.
And with those simple words, Seth Godin blew my mind. God used his book, The Icarus Deception, to provoke me on the journey of writing publicly daily. Tuesday will be the 100th day since starting and I thought it would be a good time to look back at what I’ve learned.
First a confession: I haven’t written every day. Looking back since November, I’ve missed about 15 days total. Most of those days were misses because life or the churches were consuming all the time I had. Second confession: Some of my posts were better than others. In fact, on a few rare occasions I wrote simply because I said I would, not because I felt like I had a lot to say. But for the most part, it has been a lot easier to write from my heart than I thought.
Now, some things I’ve learned from writing daily:
- Less but better is important. This was something I’d been musing over for a bit, but it really became true the more I wrote. There certainly isn’t the time for lengthy, detailed articles, but the short bursts I’m able to get out when inspiration hits have connected with my audience.
- Fear is over-rated. I’ve shared this with a few friends, but prior to writing every day my posts were primarily shared on Twitter. But once I started writing every day, I decided that fear shouldn’t have a place in my writing. So I started posting these blogs on Facebook where friends and family who haven’t read my blog got a chance to read. Embracing writing and not being bound by fear of what others think has been helpful. It turns out, my fear was what was holding me back. And guess what? Facebook has become the place the vast majority of my readers have come from and I’ve had lots of great conversations with people about different thoughts I’ve gotten to share there.
- Unexpected posts travel farther than expected. Sometimes I’ll write a post thinking I’m going to be the only one interested in a topic. Men and Becoming Missional by the Power of the Holy Spirit were like that. Each of these were just posts near and dear to my heart but I wasn’t expecting them to touch people. But I’ve had several people reach out to me sharing how they were inspired by them. I wrote I Want You…to Plant a House Church as a simple post making readers aware of my intent. But it got shared all over the place and has become the fourth highest read post this year.
- This has been about us, not about me. Along the way it’s become clear that me being able to write has been about a community. Writing every day has helped me figure out exactly who is in that community. Felicity, Gunnar, Aroea, John, Dan, David, and countless others have been cheering me on along the way. Without you and your experiences, comments, and sharing, I could never have kept writing. If anything, I’m able to write daily because I know there is an audience waiting for the content.
In a way, this post is both a “lessons” learned post and a giant thank you. The fact that you’ve all allowed me to have some of your day the last 100 days means the world. I hope that these posts continue to encourage you and that by the time we hit 365 daily posts, we’re all better for it.
I’m not a huge fan of New Year’s resolutions. They seem more like something to talk about than things people actually intend to do. Frankly, by the time I manage to complete Christmas celebrations, I barely have enough time to think about what I want to accomplish in the next year.
So a couple of years ago, I started something different. I started making resolutions in February. By February, most people have already broken their New Year’s resolutions. There’s no more pressure to have them and no one’s asking you for them. It actually allows me time to give serious thought to anything that needs to get done. I also get time to pray so I don’t just do what I want, but can actually submit to the Lord’s leading.
What that means for me now, though, is I’m looking over what 2016 was. Most people are constantly looking forward. I’m not against that, but the seeds of the future are found in the past. I want to learn from 2016, both the successes and the failures, and chart a course with the Lord’s help that is wise and ambitious.
So, with no further ado, I present the significant events of 2016:
My Prayer Retreat With Christy
This may have been my favorite thing of my entire year. Christy and I had desperately been trying to go on a much needed trip for just the two of us (i.e., no kids). And while the desire was there, the budget and the time weren’t always. But by the end of the summer, burnout from work and ministry and parenting was getting really high. So we picked a weekend, arranged for some time with the grandparents for the kids, and took a prayer retreat at a cabin in a state park.
And we prayed. We asked the Lord about what we were committed to. We asked Him for direction. We talked to each other about what we were hearing. We sang songs to Jesus around a campfire and didn’t worry about whether it would wake up the kids (or the other campers). We came out of that time more focused and more together. This wasn’t just my favorite thing that happened this year, it was also the most strategic. We hope to make this a yearly tradition.
(Side note: If you haven’t gone away with your spouse to pray and seek the Lord, you should give it a try some time.)
My Commitment to Read More Books
The last few years before this one, my reading had tanked. I kept being given books I asked for and they sat on the shelf. Late in 2015 I decided to give Audible a try. I had time in the car and while I shaved and other random, on-the-go moments. The number of books I read this year jumped from 3 the previous year to 16 this year. Not every book was great, but there were 5 that were significantly meaningful. You can check out my thoughts on last year’s reading here.
My Work As a Missionary
This last year, we opened our home to a lot of kids from the neighborhood and the results were really surprising. I’ve written a bit about this in a blog post from last year about hospitality and the spread of the Gospel. Needless to say, we are still feeling the affects of this change to our lives. Just yesterday a gaggle of kids showed up in our house and tomorrow I’m talking to one of them about starting a discipleship group. I believe God has a church for our neighborhood made up people more ethnically and economically similar to our neighborhood. This was a first step in that direction.
On a side note, I also believe there is a greater emphasis on this coming in 2017, not just as a missionary to my neighborhood, but to others in my city as well. As I write about my intentions for 2017 and the reality that plays out, I hope you all will see that.
Our Decision to Raise Up Shepherds
Some day I’ll explain more about my hesitation with the word pastor for those of you who aren’t from the house church perspective. For now, let’s just say this: we haven’t had pastors in our house churches and were fairly adverse to the title.
In 2015, those of us who were opening our homes for churches to meet in began to realize our church network was struggling. A number of us were trying to reach out and evangelize more, but the churches still needed people to care and help those who were struggling.
Enter the shepherds. These are people with a heart and gifting to care for the body without title, privilege, or hierarchy. We finally initiated this idea towards the end of 2016 but it’s already paid tremendous dividends.
My Commitment to Blog Daily
Part of my commitment to read more books landed me in the book “The Icarus Deception.” Now Seth Godin is not a Christian by any stretch of the imagination, but I could sense the Lord challenging me when I read the phrase “There’s no such thing as talker’s block.” And thus, (mostly) daily blogging was born. Can I just say I appreciate the support each of you has shown along the way? I know a lot of you have subscribed since that point or gave comments of encouragement along the way. It’s meant a lot.
My Daughter Graduating High School
For those of you who don’t know, in 2014, I became a dad to wonderful 17 year old. Andrienne had met us through our outreach to the neighborhood several years prior, confessed Christ, and become part of our church. When things at home needed to change, she moved into our attic and became part of the family.
2016 was a big transition for her because she graduated high school! This is and was a huge deal. We had worked for hours and hours to make sure we hit this goal. I’m so proud of her for this accomplishment and there are plenty more ahead.
My Progress on My Book
So, I had hoped to finish the book by the end of this year. That didn’t happen. But I did make progress. I went from one chapter to three and a half. I also took a big step and committed to it openly and publicly, so I need to get it done. If only to stop this guy:
My Over Commitment
Okay, now we’re to some of the not so good parts of 2016. I was seriously over committed in 2016. I was doing so much, that eventually the shepherd that is part of my house church looked at me and told me I was doing too much. And we felt this in 2016. I have a huge list of “to do’s” from 2016 that are on my white board in my office. Many of them are still left unfinished. So the need ahead is to find ways to get those finished without taking on extra. Also, I need to make sure I spend more time nurturing my family, as sometimes they miss out due my over commitment.
Changes at Work
This wasn’t a bad thing, but it was tough on me. I was a commercial loan officer, but in October I got tapped to be part of a project management team at the Credit Union I work at. This took me from a challenging, rewarding, and fun job that I was finally starting to excel at and threw me into a new position that I had never done before. Project management is different than lending, let’s just say that! This next year and a half (the duration of this job) is going to be a big change for me. Keep me in your prayers as I figure out how to manage projects.
That was 2016! Thanks for listening. This was helpful for me as I processed out the changes that took place this year and what they mean for next year.
How about you? What’s one thing that changed in 2016 that has implications for next year for you? I’d love to hear.
This blog has gone through its fair stages of evolution. It’s currently in the midst of another one (see my post about daily blogging here).
One of those stages that I went through early on was a wrestling match over whether this blog should be about me and my life or about various thoughts/teachings/messages I felt like were important to share. I would spend whole posts agonizing about whether this blog should be about me or the ministry I felt like I was called to.
These days, with the advent of Facebook/Twitter/Instagram/Snapwhatever, that sturggle has been so much easier. This blog has largely taken on the role of me teaching about where the Lord has brought us or processing something He’s been speaking.
In an effort to let you know that Travis isn’t all work and there is some fun and games that go on from time to time, I thought I’d give you a glimpse into something our family did for the Christmas season last year and invite you to join us as we try it again this year.
About this time last year, on a whim, I grabbed a Transformer that was laying on the floor and sat it on a shelf. Then, because it was sitting looking kind of depressed, I snapped a photo of it and told the kids it was “Transformer on the Shelf.” It was kind of a riff on “Elf on the Shelf,” a goofy tradition I always thought was a little creepy. I posted the picture to Facebook as well. It took off in ways I don’t think my wife or I could have expected and the kids had a ton of fun. You can see last year’s photo archive here.
So we’re trying it again this year, but instead of Transformer on the Shelf, we’re doing “Turtles on the Shelf.” If you’re curious, you can follow along every morning here.
(P.S. This blog won’t be consumed by Turtles on the Shelf for all of December. I just thought you might want to know that following Jesus can be fun sometimes, too.)