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.
Yesterday I told the world I was going to write a book.
Today I’m hoping to give a little perspective.
Six months to a year ago I had a friend call. My friend is prophetic, which means that he hears from the Lord very accurately and will often be used by God to communicate messages to the body of Christ. He was calling with something the Lord had spoken to him about the book I was writing.
He started to talk to me about Mephibosheth from 2 Samuel 9 and how David made a place for the son of Jonathan to be taken care of all of his life. This story is remarkable because David showed kindness to a potential political enemy out of his loyalty to his fallen friend. But it’s even more remarkable because David welcomed Mephibosheth to his table even though as a cripple, he was basically unclean (see Leviticus 21:16-23). David made a place at his table for an outcast.
“God is calling you,” my friend said, “to start a book club for the club-footed ones. He’s calling you to make places at the table for those who sit on the outside and feel like outcasts. It will be a book to empower those who live at the margins and those from the inner city. They need a seat at the table of the church.”
And so here I am, still writing.
But make sure you don’t miss the message. There’s a message for me in what was said, but there’s also a message for you. Maybe you don’t feel like the person who should be leading people to Jesus or starting churches. But God is raising up unlikely people from the margins of society to take the Gospel where it hasn’t gone.
You may feel like a cripple. You may feel like an outcast. You might not come from right education or even the right side of the tracks. But Jesus has mercy on you and invites you to eat at His table. You are invited to the book club for the club-footed ones. You can be used by God in this hour.
Don’t miss the invitation.
I’m not sure there’s a much easier way to say it.
This is something I’ve felt strongly about since at least 2011, but I’ve never had the time or fortitude to start working on until last year. I’m writing about it today because if I don’t I may not finish. I would appreciate you, my dear readers, to ask me about it from time to time.
What’s It About?
Oh you know, the normal stuff I write about: Jesus, the reformation of the church, the Gospel going out to the ends of the Earth. Just little stuff. 🙂
Actually, I’m writing a short (50 pages?) e-book/booklet meant to provoke people into planting house churches.The working title is “Stick Out Your Neck: A Modern-Day Appeal to Dangerous Church Planting.” It’s a manifesto of sorts, detailing why Christians should leave their comfort zones for the messy, dangerous life of planting churches.
Obviously, the plan will be to call Christians to plant house churches in whatever context they find themselves. Most books like this are filled with how-to’s and the experience of the planter. This book will be purely focused on telling people why they should do it. It’s birthed out of a lot of conversations with ordinary believers who don’t think they can do it. I’m hoping to convince them they can.
Why an E-book/booklet?
Back in the day, Christians would write tiny pamphlets that were like tracts and they would hand them out on the streets. They would cover everything from abolishing slavery to giving women the right to vote to why Christians should pursue sanctification. These would be handed out on the streets, not to promote an author or gain a platform, but to promote an idea worth spreading.
Friends, in the past I’ve been tempted by the Christian celebrity circuit. But I’m not interested in gaining a platform or a being a paid speaker. My goal is to spread the idea that the harvest is great but it will mean many, many more laborers entering the harvest. I hope to write just enough about the topic to spread the idea that simple, reproducible churches are within the reach of ordinary believers.
So, I’m writing an E-Book/booklet. My hope is to make the E-book permanently free and produce a few hundred or thousand physical copies cheaply enough to give away. I hope that we can give it away to believers we meet who would never buy a book about house churches. I want to be able to take copies with me to Africa and hand them to the African believers that would never think of doing something like start a church. And I hope that others find it on Amazon/iTunes and that it can be helpful there as well.
Why tell us?
Frankly, it’s because I need to commit to finishing. Ever since I wrote the first chapter, I’ve secretly told myself that I would probably write the manuscript and never publish it. It’s the resistance telling me that what I’m writing will never be noticed. That thought alone will literally sabotage the book. But, since I committed to write publicly every day, I have. There’s something about committing to something in this space that helps me follow through. I’m hoping that this post keeps me accountable to actually following through.
Secondly, if you’re a believer, I could use your prayers. Pray that I have courage to write what I need to write. Pray that I write words that light fires in the heart rather than just inform the mind. Pray that this project remains an act of service and not something that glorifies me in any way. Pray that the book actually gets finished.
Lastly, I hope that some of you, who have come to this site over the years and have found my content helpful, will have some interest in this book when it’s finished. I also hope that when it comes out, not only will you be interested, but you’ll have others you know who need to be challenged in this way. My hope is this book becomes a part of a larger conversation about starting churches among the lost. Maybe you can help.
So…I’m writing a book. There, I said it. Look for more details in 2017.
If you spend too much time listening or reading Seth Godin, he’ll mess you up. Lately, I’ve been reading (re: listening to the audio of) his book “The Icarus Deception.” If you’ve ever thought of yourself as creative (or even better if you’ve not), this book is great for pulling back all the excuses you have about not pushing the boundaries of your creative work. And while I don’t agree with all of it, I highly recommend the book.
Several times throughout the book, Seth hammers away at the idea of writer’s block. According to his research, before the writing of books and novels became a widely accepted and revered profession, there was no such thing as writer’s block. Writer’s block only became “a thing” when writing became a revered art form. When the stakes got high, the fear of writing something wrongly kicked in among writers and ever since, writer’s block has existed.
The other critique he made was this: “There’s no such thing as talker’s block.” Think about it. No one spends two or three days or weeks without talking because there’s nothing to say. But many people, too many people, stop writing because of the fear of committing their words to paper.
The solution, according to Godin, is to write daily and publicly. The point of the exercise is not to overwhelm your audience, but to slowly and persistently learn to stop fearing committing words to a page. And that, dear reader, is why I’m writing today. Today, I’m going to commit to write daily and publicly.
That will mean a few things for you. My writing may be more than you’ve asked for. That’s okay. Don’t unsubscribe, just don’t read every post or feel like you have to. Or, journey along with me. It’s up to you. My posts will be shorter. My motto, at least for a season, will be “less but better.” Also, my content may drift a little bit from what I typically write about on here. I’m trying to decide whether to open another blog of some kind or keep it all here. The jury’s still out. I welcome your feedback. Lastly, there will definitely be less pictures, hyperlinks, and various cool things. These take time and distract from real writing. Those type of posts will happen, just not every day.
Finally, thanks for being part of the journey. This blog is nowhere near as fun without the feedback you provide.
Hustle. To me it’s a word that has always meant to hurry. My dad (ever the sports coach) would always tell me I need to hustle. It meant I needed hurry up and get whatever I wasn’t doing at the moment done.
Lately I’ve seen the word hustle showing up in social media, books, and blogs. The point of all these posts is to help the full time employee (most of us) get over the hump and finally write that book/finish that project/accomplish that dream that we’ve always been wanting to finish. What’s needed, we’re told, is not a new trick, but more hustle.
This type of hustle isn’t always working faster like my dad use to tell me. This hustle is working hard to bust past the opposition that life undoubtedly throws at us. Learn to work a little bit harder, get up a little bit earlier when there are no distractions, watch less TV, and focus on those projects that no one knows about but you. The gospel of hustle is that hard work and focus will accomplish what your current pace could not.
So, lately, as I’ve been looking at my life and thinking about trying to cross off some things the Lord has been asking me to do, I’ve been tempted to take the hustle approach. Some of the productivity approaches of others have made their way into my routine. And as someone who is a son of God, a husband and father, a church planter, a full-time employee, and is trying to write a book* and blog posts, there is a lot to get done. Hustle has a lot of appeal.
The problem with hustle, at least for me, is that its costly. For me hustle causes me to focus on tasks instead of people in my life. The first place that typically shows up is my relationship with God. Hudson Taylor wrote “Do not work so hard for Christ that you have no strength to pray, for prayer requires strength.” So when I’m burning the candle at both ends, inevitably my prayer life suffers.
From there, I become more focused on tasks and marking off lists. I get so preoccupied with “Getting Things Done” that I do it at the expense of the people I try to get things done for. And while I help people in the process, Paul tells me if I can do all things but don’t have love in my heart for them, my works are pretty much useless.
One more problem with hustle: It’s typically presented in a selfish manner. It’s what you need to get done to find your fulfillment. Get your book written. Water that part time gig you’re doing on the side (the side-hustle) ’til it becomes full-time. Find fulfillment in what you can do for you. This makes others’ needs that pop up (at least in my mind) obstacles to my fulfillment.
But Christ told us the way to find our life was to lay it down.
So, I want to propose a different kind of hustle. This hustle is where you put Christ above everything else. We give Him the ability to set the agenda. We practice love where we lay down our life for others. It sets others’ needs above our agendas. It trusts in God’s work that happens when we sleep and because of this, we can rest (Mark 4:26-28). It’s a hustle that relies first on prayer, then on doing what we can, when we can.
It doesn’t necessarily mean you don’t work hard. You may still get up a little earlier and work to stay more organized than you are. Productivity hacks will have their place. They just won’t be the Lord of your life.
You will probably get your pet projects done slower. Things that seem like a priority to almost everyone else may take a back seat. In many ways, people will think that you aren’t working as hard as you can. The hardest part of this kind of hustle is that it will look unproductive to those around you and, truth-be-told, maybe even to you.
But that’s what we’re called to: an upside down kingdom where we look like we’re in last place. It’s the kind of hustle that will be rewarded in the future for putting ourselves last. It’s gold that will last through fires of persecution and hardship, because it’s fueled by love and faith in God, not in loving and trusting ourselves.
It’s a different kind of hustle.
*Yes, if you’ve carefully read this post, you’ve noted I am currently writing a small book/e-book. I hope to have a rough draft by the end of the year and get through editing and packaging the book sometime next year. More on that in a later post.