When Ministry Becomes Your Identity

Saying Goodbye to Full-Time Ministry

Saying Goodbye

What is the hardest thing you have ever had to do? For me, it was stepping away from my position in full-time ministry over 9 years ago. I was the youth and young adults pastor at my church, but there was so much more wrapped up in my church role than just a job title. My entire world revolved around the connection I had with my church, and for a long time, I did not think there was anything for me outside of this comfortable church ecosystem.

But how did this come to be?

As a child, my home life was unstable, but my time at church was filled with encouragement and smiles. I survived four divorces growing up. The constant family crises left me feeling insecure and disappointed. On the other hand, going to church gave me the chance to make a difference in the world. It was where I could be told how incredible I was. One place became an increasing source of pain. The other was a wellspring of security, confidence, and recognition.

Creating a False-Self

In my teenage years, I became a leader in the youth group and got a job at the church café. I would continue working there in college and then full-time after graduating until I was 30 years old. People identified me with my church as much as you would pair Starbucks with coffee or Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls. Except I am not as trendy as coffee or as good at sticking out my tongue and dunking a basketball as Jordan. Everything of significance to me, including my identity, was inside that church bubble. 

It’s a flattering thing to be wanted, but it’s also hypnotic. Serving and working at a church did this for me. I quickly got to a place where I did not want to say no. “What else can I do,” was my attitude. Then one day, I looked up, and I couldn’t say “no” even if I wanted to. 

As I grew in what I thought local church ministry should look like, I was also limited in how I could apply those changes to my current role. I thought being faithful and honoring would open up the opportunity to do things differently down the road. Instead, as I received more responsibility, I was expected to keep doing what I had always done the way I had always done it. And why wouldn’t that be the case? It makes sense that this is the way things would be, but it also helps explain why I had to step away from my job if I genuinely wanted to be the leader God wanted me to be. 

The Harsh Reality of Changing

I needed the space to change, and I could not continue to be faithful to what I was being asked to do as an employee if I knew, ultimately, I would never do things that way if I had a say in it. But this also meant leaving behind the only viable source of income for my family. Without help finding my next place, I would have to work outside of ministry in a position far below my training if I no longer wanted to work at my church.

What started as a process of just wanting to learn a new way of doing ministry became something much more significant for me. I did not realize how wounded and weary I was or how much I gained my identity from my role in full-time ministry. I did not just need to learn some new tips to build on an already strong foundation. How I viewed myself, God, and those around me required a complete overhaul. I needed to believe again. 

In the months after leaving my church job. I began to sell things I could no longer afford. We put a “for sale” sign in our yard. We also sold our luxury car. I am ashamed to say I cried when I parted with my golf clubs. I am not exactly sure what made me tear up after that Craigslist exchange. It could have been I was saying goodbye to the memories I had shared with so many friends while playing golf. It’s possible I was happy for the young guy who was getting a nice Father’s Day present. Maybe it was just my pride. 

The Shiny Tin

Long before I began working on a church staff, I started a process of relating to God, church, and others in an unhealthy way. There were patterns of hurt and shame that went unaddressed. Ultimately though, my desire to succeed and my ability to use accomplishments to cover my weaknesses fueled my cycle of religious performance. I do not blame anyone else for the negative things that took place in my life during this time. I know God was the one in control. Also, if at any point I was willing to let go of my position to more fully pursue healing, my wrong perspectives would not have infected so much of my life. If I did not change then, I would be destined to repeat the same mistakes in the future.

In the book, Where the Red Fern Grows, there is an example that illustrates my situation. The central figure in the story is a young boy who wants to train his dogs for hunting. To teach his pets, he needed to catch a raccoon on his own. Knowing raccoons are curious creatures, he places a piece of shiny tin inside a hole in a log. Then he hammers nails inside the hole with enough room for the raccoon to put its hand into the hole, but not enough to remove it with the piece of tin in his hand. 

The boy continues to check the trap every day until eventually, he finds a raccoon stuck. All the little creature had to do to escape was let go of the tin and pull his hand out. But because he wanted to both escape and keep his prize, he remained trapped until the boy killed him. The next day the boy joyfully explains to his grandfather how he caught his first raccoon. Much to his surprise, the grandfather responds by telling him to never set a trap like that again. It simply wasn’t fair. It was un-sportsman. 

I was a lot like the stuck raccoon. In His goodness, God was allowing me to choose to either hold on to the things I thought I wanted or let go to find the things in Him I really needed. I didn’t need my position, popularity, or special treatment. What I needed most was time away from working in ministry to become a better minister and, honestly, person. I did not like how judgmental and proud I had become. I was frustrated by the fact my fears kept me from being myself. I wanted to be free to pursue the change I knew I needed. 

To let go of that old world would not only mean leaving behind my home, friends, status, identity, church family, and financial security. Making this shift caused me to worry I had brought my family out into a desert with no way out. What I found next was a world much bigger and more welcoming than I could have ever imagined.

You can read what happens next in Believe Again: Finding Faith After Losing Religion. It releases on October 4 on Amazon and Kindle. You can pre-order here

The Messy Truth

The Power of Authenticity and Vulnerability

Today I am going to start something new. Well, in actuality, I guess I am really continuing something old. I want to start posting some Throwback Thursday posts on my blog. These will be posts I have shared in years gone by that you may not have had a chance to read. Our first #throwbackbackthursday talks about messy truths and Instagram. I think this is a fitting way to kick off this collection of posts.

The Instagram Surprise

Instagram, while currently very popular, originally caught many of us by surprise. Who would have thought that an app that distorts your already low-quality cell phone images in an effort to create social media hipster art would become America’s favorite place to view pictures of each other’s kids, pets, and yes, even “selfies?”

At the time of this writing, there are over 200 million active users in the photo-sharing network. After only two years of existence, and without generating any income through ads, Instagram sold for $1 billion. That’s a big deal for an app that limits your pics to a square on your cell phone and was mostly used from its inception by people in skinny jeans and ironic shirts to take pictures of their lattes. 

It’s now common to see people both old and young taking pictures of their food at restaurants, and holding their phones high in the air with the screen facing towards them to make sure they get everyone in for that perfect selfie. I have always enjoyed taking pictures and personally took to the fun photo app, well, instantly.

Not everyone was impressed right away though. One friend of mine refused to get on the Instagram bandwagon at first because “putting a grainy filter and adding torn edges to an already horrible photo doesn’t make it creative or art.” He now regularly posts pics of his kids and food. No “selfies” yet though…. It’s only a matter of time.

The Perfect Selfie

For a long time, I have treated the truth of my experiences, disappointments, and failures like Instagram. I have gone out of my way to give the best presentation I can. This requires that I cut out parts of my story, the panoramic view that includes the pain and doubts, in order to fit it in only what I think people want to see; the perfectly filtered little square that is easy to “like.”

No one wants that surprise pic of them just waking up posted online. We want to keep retaking the photo until we get just the right image. Then we slip that perfect filter on there to give it that nice little extra touch. Everything looks perfect. Our lives appear so wonderful, but we lose something in the process – authenticity.

It’s the same way in life. Just as there are different filters for whatever picture you would like to post online, there are also different layers of the truth you generally share with others. 

For some people, life is just a bowl of cherries. You go from one mountaintop to the other, and I’m so happy that you have that going for you. The rest of us though have to walk through valleys in-between our mountaintops. We don’t need a lesson on how to live life on the peak. We need something that is going to get us through the valley.

Authenticity and Vulnerability

Authenticity and vulnerability are what give that to people, but it comes at a risk. The risk is rejection, and possibly some of your pride. The reward is a strength you never knew you had, and freedom to be exactly who you were made to be – an imperfect child of God that walks in the peace of knowing you are His. This liberates you from the weighty limitation of trying to maintain everyone else’s expectations. This is the battle that I had to overcome before I could start sharing my fish out of church story. I have honestly, never stopped wrestling with it.

It was while with a friend in downtown Baton Rouge when I think I first decided to step past this barrier and share my journey in a vulnerable way. We had our cameras with us and were exploring places to take photographs. As the conversation progressed, he eventually asked me why I left the ministry. I told him it was never my intention to be out of the church world, but I that I was glad things didn’t work out the way I planned.

My Messy Truth

Then, instead of putting a filter on things, and summing it up in a way where we could both end the conversation with, “Praise the Lord!” and a smile, I began to share with him my messy truth. I talked about my doubts, disappointments, and unanswered questions. I didn’t share the promises I was standing on at the time, because I had lost my ability to do anything but kneel a long time ago. 

We talked about how I didn’t know what was next, and how things would end, but that I have never felt more satisfied in my relationship with God, and with who I was becoming in the process. He listened unconditionally. He didn’t give advice about where I had obviously fallen short, or how he would have done it differently to avoid some of my wrong turns. Instead, he offered support. At one point he even said, “I hope you are writing this down. This could be a book!” I had thought about writing my story down for others before, but his encouragement that day is what pushed me over the edge. After this conversation, I began to wonder if what I had experienced could encourage others who were in a valley themselves, or ready for a new way of looking at their religious comfort zone.

There is a place for discretion and even Instagram filters. I am all for that. Sometimes though, I want to know what is going on outside of the square. I want the Imax version of the story. The messy truth can leave the hearer flabbergasted. It may even confront their own lack of authenticity, and cause them to reject you. The messy truth does not say how you want things to be; it just says how they are. It is the unwrapped present, the selfie without the filter or the posing. It leaves things hanging. When you are finished sharing the messy truth there are usually more questions than answers. It’s real, raw, but it is also refreshing when Christ is in the center of it.

Your Opinion Matters

I need your help.

I’ll cut to the chase. Would you mind taking a moment and writing a review for my book Shipwrecked: A Journey to Discover Authentic Faith? With so many self-published books available the only thing that separates the good from the not so good are the reviews. This month my author rank on Amazon has gone from over 500,000 to 80,000. This is for all authors, and is a big jump. I’d like to take advantage of any momentum to help get this book in the hands of people it can help.

It would mean so much if you could take a couple of minutes and write a quick review by clicking this link: Write a Review.

But what if I haven’t read the book? Can I still write a review?

Here are three answers:

  1. Yes, you can always buy the book, and then write a review. Posting a picture or verifying you have read the book in your review is enormous! It is available in paperback and e-reader version to make it easy to get in your hands. Click here to purchase.
  2. Yes, you can write on a review based on being a reader of my blog even though you haven’t read that particular book. Again, this helps legitimize the book for those who do not know me.
  3. Yes, I will send you a free copy if you do not have it in your budget to buy the book and you would like to read it. I do not want money to be an obstacle. Use the contact me form on my blog to request a free copy (include your email address), and I will send you a digital version with no strings attached.

That last one is a big deal because I have never made this book free. I have worked hard on it and believe it is worth purchasing. I also don’t want anyone who wants to read it to not to be able to if they are interested.

You can find out more about the book here.

You can purchase the book here.

You can write a review of the book here.

I would appreciate your help in getting the word out about this short story that is written to help anyone who has experienced or wants to avoid a shipwrecked faith.

The Struggle Is Real

What to do when we doubt?

If you don’t struggle with faith, then you may not have it. Often times, we believe the opposite is true. We doubt because we doubt. But to question our faith, there must be something on the line, or there would be no reason to doubt.

Fishing and Faith

I grew up fishing. Most of the time it was in the muddy waters in between the barrier islands of the Mississippi Gulf Coast and the man-made made beaches that make up the shoreline along Highway 90. Recently, this love of fishing has been rekindled. A friend bought me a fly fishing rod that I have been really enjoying. Fishing is a great way to relax and, also spend quality time with my two girls.

Yesterday I went out to the pond in our nieghborhood and didn’t catch anything. There was no struggle. Nothing pulling on the line. Today was different. I was only out there five minutes when I felt a tug. The tug became a pull, and then the pull became a struggle to bring in the fish.

The Collision of Dirt and the Divine

I think faith is a lot like this. There is back and forth; give and take. At times, the real thing is a struggle. It is messy. It’s a mixture of the temporary things of earth and the eterna things of heavenl. It’s the dirt and the divine colliding. When there is nothing on the line, there is no struggle. But the bigger the fish, the more significant the faith, the messier it can be.

Faith is not a supernatural power reserved for the spiritual elite. It is not cold and clean formulas that spit out what we want when we give what it demands. Neither is it a checklist we can feel good about as long as we complete and shame-ridden if we do not. Our faith is a system of beliefs rooted in the trust of a real-life relationship with God.

The Struggle Is What Makes It Real

God never changes. We can trust that, but our experience with faith will continue to grow and change. We are hoping in the invisible while having to work with the tangible. Blindly ignoring that may get rid of some anxiety, and may cause you to appear more spiritual, but it also isn’t real. There will be a struggle, but that should remind us that our faith is genuine.

What do you think? I would love to hear your thoughts! Make sure to leave a comment on social-media and share this with a friend you tink it would encourage!

Burned Out on Church?

5 Books to Read if You Are Burned Out

Your church should be a place that refreshes you and gives you the opportunity to refresh others as well. Even in the best environments we can get caught up in what we are doing and lose sight of the why behind it. In general, it’s just a good idea to take time to refresh your soul. If you find yourself in this place, or maybe you have given up on church entirely, then here are five books that may encourage you from those who have walked through similar experiences.

Pharisectomy: How to Joyfully Remove Your Inner Pharisee and Other Religiously Transmitted Diseases by Peter Haas

The name gives you a good indicator of what you can expect from this book. It is irreverent, hilarious, and packed with insightful research and biblical clarity on healthy and unhealthy church culture. I was surprised by how much I laughed out loud reading this book. It’s a good thing it keeps you chuckling because the smiling provides an excellent anesthetic for the heart surgery that will take place as you read this book.

The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-Up, and Burnt Out by Brennan Manning

Someone asked me recently what my all-time favorite book was. This is definitely a contender for first place. Rich Mullins credits the message of this book with changing his life, but only after first resisting it. This was the same for me. I came across this book for the first time over 15 years ago, but my religious mindset at the time caused me to reject it. I sometimes wonder if exploring this book then may have saved me a lot of heartache. On the other hand, the lost time has only increased my appreciation for this simple message of grace.

In this book, Brennan artfully confronts the destructive falsehood of manmade religion with brilliant strokes of grace. It is tweetable, readable, and utterly unforgettable. It is packed with stories of brokenness and redemption, including his own. The Ragamuffin Gospel is a balm to any broken heart that desires more of God and less of man-made religion.

Toxic Faith by Stephen Arterburn and Jack Felton

Toxic Faith could be a textbook in a class on how to recover from church burnout. It takes a spiritual and psychological approach to revealing the cause and solution to a toxic faith, as well as church burnout, in a believers life. If you are interested in a Christ-centered and psychological approach to understanding how to get out of a religious rut, then this book is for you. Toxic Faith has given me the language to discuss ministry burnout and how to recover from it more than any other resource.

Soul Survivor: How Thirteen Unlikely Mentors Helped My Faith Survive the Church by Philip Yancey

This book took me completely by surprised and redirected my life in a path of healing and grace but not before helping me confront my own religious pride. Philip Yancey is without a doubt, my favorite Christian author. Scratch that. He is my favorite author. In this book, he discusses how 13 unlikely mentors who, starting with Martin Luther King Jr., helped restore his faith in the church after growing up in a racist fundamentalist church in the South. His access and background as a successful journalist give him a unique approach and delivery on this subject.

A Tale of Three Kings: A Study in Brokenness by Gene Edwards

If you want to serve in ministry leadership in any capacity, then you need to read this book over and over again. It has more one-liners and zingers than just about any other book on this list. It is also the shortest and probably the easiest to read. It is a parable following the stories of David, Saul, and Absalom, that will help you identify healthy leadership and the unhealth that is in your own soul. A healing and enjoyable read.

Bonus – Shipwrecked: A Journey to Discover Authentic Faith by Josh Roberie

I decided to write this book after reading somewhere that there is more truth in fiction than non-fiction. From that idea, I wondered how I could share the emotions that surround the struggle of breaking away from religious pride and finding authentic faith in the humblest of circumstances. I wanted to weave together a journey that was enjoyable to read and also included the gems of truth that have helped me find enjoyable and meaningful Christianity in my own life. In Shipwrecked, I use an allegorical parable of a sinking ship to tell a story, loosely based on my own, of finding healing and hope after experiencing religious exhaustion.

What did I miss? Comment with your favorite book on this topic. I’d love to check it out!

Unfinished Business

3 Ways to Handle Unmet Expectations

Have you ever thought of the perfect comeback except it was too late? Maybe someone put you on the spot and you didn’t think of the right response until the ride home. You left the conversation with unfinished business. Once you realized precisely what you wanted to say the chance to show the world your wit and brilliance had passed you by like someone waiting for a bus that has already come and gone.

It’s taking too long

Lately, I have been working on an outside project that is taking much longer than I expected. Ladders, tools, and pieces of wood are spread out all over the place. It has become a huge inconvenience. Not only that but each item is also a reminder that the project I want to be complete is currently just a mess. Parts of my heart can look this way at times as well.

Unfinished business can leave us with an uncomfortable weightiness. It’s like a cold for the soul. What do we do with this feeling? It can come from the abrupt ending of a hope or dream we wanted to work out. It’s the ache in the soul that arrives when people we love depart too soon. We know this feeling when the plans that we meticulously document in the journal of our heart are surprisingly blotted out by someone else’s intrusive marks.

What exactly are we supposed to do with unfinished business?

1. Honesty – This may be the most difficult thing to do, but we first need to be honest with ourselves. We should ask if this should ever have been our plan or desire to begin with. Was this ever the right relationship or career path or is it just wanted I wanted to work out? Is there a better fit elsewhere?

2. Healing – We need to be careful about continuing our journey on broken feet. Pushing through without pausing to heal may appear to be the best path but often leaves us stranded, vulnerable, and worse off than before. Wounded warriors are immortalized in film but are often the first casualties in the story of life when they do not stop to get the help they need. You will encounter pain in your journey but if every step hurts it may be time to not give up, but rest for the sake of finishing well.

3. Hope – Unfinished business can sometimes just be a reminder of who is the one actually writing our story. When we take the pen out of God’s hand we often settle for a dimmer version of the brighter story he had planned for us. Unfinished business reminds us to trust, have faith, and lean on the Author of our lives. You never know what surprise ending He may have in store for us if we insist on our own narrow expectations.

A missed opportunity, a failed accomplishment, and people who leave our lives too soon can leave us with feelings of despair. These are also opportunities for us to not only be reminded where our trust and comfort should really be but to also witness the miracle of God finishing the dream in a way that is beyond anything we could have ever expected.

Doing too much

Doing less so that you can accomplish more

Have you ever seen someone is “doing too much” or being what we used to call a “try hard”? Maybe they are being inauthentic, trying to impress someone, or overcompensating for some reason. On the basketball court, he is the guy with all the new gear but can’t dribble or shoot. At a party, this may be the person who talks too loud and laughs at his own jokes but no one is really interested. In some ways, we can all be doing too much. It may not be annoying as the person I just described but doing too much can lead to us being less productive overall.

Normally our greatest strengths are also connected to our weaknesses. I have the gift and curse of doing too much. In fact, one of our family values is “hard work.” This is because it is not only a strength of mine but also of Amy. Our parents have a great work ethic and have passed that down to us. It is something we want to pass along to our kids as well. But is there such a thing as doing too much? Are you someone who sometimes has trouble accomplishing everything on your task list?

I didn’t realize how busy I was until the other day when I was on the phone with a friend I listed all the things I was involved in.

1. Training for a half marathon

2. Writing a book

3. Keeping up with a blog (Setting aside time for creative thinking, writing posts, editing posts, creating email marketing campaigns, scheduling social media posts, finding images to support the blog posts, etc.)

4. Working on numerous DIY projects that include finishing a deck, building a pergola, creating a stone pathway, adding a shelf desk in our kitchen, creating a hanging storage system in our garage, etc.

5. Onboarding new employees at ARC

6. For the first time, we were doing two ARC trainings in back to back months followed by the ARC conference

7. Preparing for the ARC conference

8. Reading 5 books at the same time (Leadership Book, Audio Book, Self-help book, funny book, small-group book, and not to mention my daily Bible reading and the book I was reading to Sophie each night)

9 Leading a small group and

10. Preparing a team of 25 for a mission trip to NYC. And I’ll stop here even though some of the most significant challenges we faced as a family are not even listed here.

I wonder what your list would look like?

Here is the thing about doing too much. This list of 10 things is actually not a list of accomplishments but of failures. I know that sounds harsh but I mean failure in three very specific ways.

How Accomplishments Can Become Failures

When we do too much…

  1. ...we don’t do anything to the best of our ability – While doing all of this I was constantly feeling like I was falling short in each specific area because my attention was constantly divided. I couldn’t do one thing without thinking about all the other things that needed to be done. I was exhausted mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually which means I was never able to give my best.
  2. …we fall prey to discouragement – When I would look at my to-do list over the past couple of months I would often get so discouraged that I would not feel like doing anything. If there were only a couple of items on the list I could have been energized to get them accomplished. In my case, the shadow from the mountain of tasks before me often darkened my day before it even began.
  3. …we live by the tyranny of the urgent instead of by the priority of our values – A long list of activities and accomplishments may be impressive to some. My experience has taught me that doing a lot often means not doing what is most important. What is not on the list above is being a husband, dad, child of God, and being a witness of Jesus Christ. When we try to do too much we often end up sacrificing the things that are most important on the altar of accomplishment.

In the past couple of months I have not been blogging; which is one of my favorite things to do. This is because I have been doing too much which is an old habit of mine that is resurfacing. Learning lots of lessons from this and maybe it will give me content for future posts. For today I will wrap up with this thought: The key to doing more is actually doing less. We have to learn to edit the good things in order to be focused on the God things.

Thoughts for reflection:

  1. What are your strengths and weaknesses? What weaknesses are connected to your strengths? How can you manage this?
  2. What are your priorities in life? How can you arrange your to-do list to match your priorities and values as a person?
  3. What good things need to be edited in your life in order to focus on the God things?

Crossing the Line

4 Questions that show you have gone from honest to harsh

How do we know when sharing truth has needlessly moved from bold compassion to insensitive confrontation? We have to be able to honest without being harsh. In my previous post I talked about sharing our opinion without burning bridges. Today I would like to explore how to know when we have crossed that line. Here are four questions to ask that show if we have gone from apologetics to just annoying.

Am I correcting or embracing?

Correcting before disarming undermines our influence. When it becomes about being right instead of using our influence to help others we need to change gears. We don’t want to correct people we want to influence them. If we want to walk with someone to a new destination then we should probably start with an embrace, or at least a handshake, instead of a finger in their face.

Am I invading or inviting?

We need to make sure people actually want to hear what we have to say before we say it. If not, we are just wasting everyone’s time. Getting things off our chest is about us. Doing this sacrifices our leadership collateral. Blowing off some steam online alienates others from the very truth we want to give them.

Am I building walls or bridges?

Walls divide and protect while bridges connect and protect. We shouldn’t live in a world without either. We just need to be wise in how we use them. One way we build walls in a wrong way is by making ultimatums. This forces people to accept everything we say without us seeking to understand the other side. Ultimatums divide but they don’t protect. A bridge allows people to take one step at a time until we are walking side by side.

Am I leading by example?

Sometimes it seems we can actually see people winding up at the beginning of an online post before delivering their fastball of truth. They got it over the plate but it came by so fast that no one could hit it. We should make sure are goal is to influence and not just attack. We must be careful we are not lashing out at those we want to learn from us.

How can we set an example of disarming that is easy to follow? Slow down before we post. Ask ourselves if we have left room for the small but all to often case we are not right. If we can’t walk a statement back if we are wrong then maybe it needs to be rephrased. Considered that there may be more to the story that we haven’t discovered yet. 

Lines in the sand

We need to do what Jesus did and extend truth with grace. He drew a different kind of line in the sand. His lines caused people to put down their stones and change their ways. In the same way we should also kneel down to where people are instead of only expecting them to climb up to our platform of truth.

I hope these two posts help us influence others instead of being isolated from them. Social media can be a great tool. Following these steps may help us use our online platforms to work for us instead of against us.

For more thoughts on this subject check out Chris Hodges’s book The Daniel Dilemma.

 

Pushing Through Your Fears

3 Answers to the Problem of Fear

In my previous post I talked about not failing before you start. Sometimes we have voices that come to embody the fear that keeps us from trying. When we listen to them we fail before we even start. If this sounds like something you have faced then you may want to check out that post.

In this post I wasnt to discuss how to answer the fears that cause us to question taking a step of faith. What do you do when doubt keeps you from doing something different from what you see other people doing? Here are three ways I keep fear from derailing my momentum.

Inspire the prisoners

When dealing with the fears that come with writing in a vulnerable and authentic way a friend of mine encouraged me with this thought, “Wright to the prisoners; not the guards.”

Instead of trying to convince those who may disagree with us look for those in need of inspiration. Don’t be afraid of those guarding old paradigms but also don’t waste your time trying to convince them to give up old ways of thinking. You’d be better off giving hope to the prisoner looking for a way out and watch the magic happen.

Remember why the bird sings

“A bird doesn’t sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song.” This quote is most often attributed to Maya Angelou who also said, “there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.”

Simply put there is a song inside of all of us that must be let out, not because it is an answer or because it will get unanimous approval, but because it is what we were made to give back to the world. It is more of a burden to keep that in then it is to face the fear to let it out.

What were you created to create?

Tell the truth

When I first started blogging over 10 years ago I most often chose to take the position of an expert. I would pontificate in a  sermon-like style telling other what they should do and how they should live. I wasn’t telling the truth. My insecurities caused my to write as if I had all the answers because I was afraid of admitting the areas where I still had doubts. I never got a big response from those posts. Hmmm…. I wonder why?

Eventually I wanted to change that. So every time I sat down to write I challenged myself with one simple but difficult task – tell the truth. Those three words changed how I wrote. When I would begin to hide behind my expertise I would either throw that post out or begin to tell the truth of how I wrestled or was still wrestling with a topic. That changed everything.

These are three answers I give my doubts when they keep me from writing. I love encouraging people to tell their story through writing but that’s not the only way to face your fears. What is something fear is keeping you from trying that you need to step out and do? What answers do you give fear when it causes you to question your calling? I’d like to hear from you!

Don’t fail before you start

Finding Success in the Face of Fear

My failures are not found in a lack of achievement but rather in a lack of trying. This fear of trying is a pattern I can trace throughout my life. Can you say the same? Do you ever wonder what you would be capable of if only you had tried?

Writing is something I hesitated to do for a long time even though in my heart it felt as natural as eating or breathing. When I finally did start sharing my most vulnerable thoughts in a public way there was a great response. I wondered what took me so long.

The answer is simple – fear. I didn’t try because I was afraid of what people would think about me. I imagined voices saying, “Who are you to think you have something to say?” or “What have you accomplished that gives you the right to ask others to read what you write?”

The Voice of Fear

One day in particular sums up the voices that kept me from writing. I was in a meeting with a few other people when I mentioned I wanted to one day write a book. One of the other people immediately made a face like they had just stepped in dog poop and said, “You?! Wight a book?!?” And then laughed uncomfortably.

Similar voices sometimes (almost always) haunt me when I began to work on a book or blog. “You?!? Write a book?!?” Each time these thoughts surface like shark fins in my sea of creativity I have a choice to make. Am I going to listen to the lies, the ghosts of insecurity, or am I going to believe the truth about who God says I am? In other words, am I going to fail to try or at least fail trying?

Become Who You Were Made to Be

You don’t become who you were made to be by waiting for universal approval and unanimous permission. You must discover that something inside of you that wants out for the benefit of others and find the best way to set it free.

For me that’s writing. For you it may be somethings else. Maybe it’s curling in the Winter Olympics or starting a non-profit. The “it” doesn’t matter. Just find “it” and dig up the courage to begin doing “it.”

When we are brave enough to embrace our calling or purpose we will not only bring God the most glory, but also experience a closeness to him we would not know otherwise.

What is your it?

What voices have you been listening to for far too long that you need to be hurdles you hop over instead of dead ends to your journey?

What are you capable of that you’re not even aware of because you have failed to try?

Would you rather be someone who failed to try or at least tried and failed?