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?

Conflict Can Help You Win

5 Reasons You Should Not Avoid Conflict

Are you able to find the win in moments of conflict? In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team we learn conflict is needed for a team to be healthy. As I read this book I wondered how this same principle could be applied in other areas as well.

Where there is no conflict there is dysfunction. This seems counterintuitive, but a closer looks revels something important about disagreements. Conflict requires trust and vulnerability. When relationships don’t trust they don’t feel the security to share their true feelings. Absence of trust is the first dysfunction of a team.

This team building lesson caused me to also think about how grace makes room for healthy conflict in our spiritual lives and family.

Family

Fear of conflict is the second dysfunction of a team. When kids are afraid to bring the truth of what they are dealing with to their parents then they are forced to face these issues on their own. Giving them grace for their mistakes guarantees that you are helping them co-pilot difficult situations. When we don’t have grace for our spouse then issues may fester under the surface because the other person is afraid to bring them up for discussion.

Ministry

When there is an atmosphere of grace in a ministry then the conflict sin creates can be dealt with instead of hidden. Grace doesn’t mean we cover up sin. It means there is permission to deal with the root instead of just the symptoms. When there is grace people can trust the truth your share. When there is no grace there is no door for people to open up to let truth into their life. I believe this leads to avoidance of accountability which is another one of the dysfunctions of a team.

Team

Conflict on a team is destructive when it is motivated by ego, self-interest, and position grabbing. That is toxic. On the other hand, team members that always say yes and never disagree appear to be in agreement but don’t have buy-in. Unanimous buy-in is more important than universal agreement. As long as someone’s opinion is heard then that person can still give buy-in even if the final decision is different from their own. This avoids a lack of commitment, another dysfunction of a team.

The final dysfunction of a team is an inattention to results. Universal agreement without processing through disagreements can mean that apathetic team members are offering platitudes that will lead to passive aggressive actions later. Allowing conflict on the front end avoids even more messy conflict on the back-end. It also gives your most passionate people an avenue to get involved in the process even if they are wrong.

Permission to disagree and for mistakes requires that we extend grace so people can better receive our truth. Conflict, something we sometimes avoid, can be the most efficient way to create buy-in and solve problems.

What do you think about conflict? How have you seen it work? When does it not work? Have you read The Five Dysfunctions of a Team? Would love to hear your thoughts!

You can get The Five Dysfunctions of a Team be clicking below. It is a short leadership parable that is interesting and insightful. I think you will enjoy it!

 

Reignite Your Dream

A Biblical Approach to Unfulfilled Dreams

Have you ever tasted the bitterness of an unfulfilled dream? What should we do when we start with a dream but find ourselves left with disappointment? There is a biblical approach to unfulfilled dreams that will reignite things that we thought were long extinguished.

God gave Joseph big dreams. They fit him like a child walking around in her parent’s shoes. Fulfilling these dreams seemed too big for him and meant for someone else. Sharing his dream did not bring about affirmation or praise. Instead, he suffered rejection and persecution.

This is his brothers’ response to hearing Joseph’s dreams:

““Here comes the dreamer!” they said. “Come on, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns. We can tell our father, ‘A wild animal has eaten him.’ Then we’ll see what becomes of his dreams!”” Genesis‬ ‭37:19-20‬ ‭

The thing they thought would stop the dream is the very thing that brought it to pass. No person can stop what God is doing. Our job is not to bring God’s dream about in our timing. It is to guard our heart as He brings it about in His timing.

This doesn’t mean what Joseph experienced next wasn’t painful. It was. This doesn’t mean that guarding his heart brought immediate reward. It didn’t. In fact when Joseph was offered a quick fix to his heartbreak doing the right thing did not make things better. It made them worse.

“Potiphar was furious when he heard his wife’s story about how Joseph had treated her. So he took Joseph and threw him into the prison where the king’s prisoners were held, and there he remained.” Genesis 39:19-20 

Instead of giving in to despair after another betrayal Joseph does something that changes everything. When his dreams weren’t coming true he focused on the dreams of others. This turned out to be the key that would unlock his dreams.

“While they were in prison, Pharaoh’s cup-bearer and baker each had a dream one night, and each dream had its own meaning. When Joseph saw them the next morning, he noticed that they both looked upset. “Why do you look so worried today?” he asked them.” Genesis 40:5-7

Joseph did not overlook these two people or allow his own hurt to excuse himself from getting involved. He didn’t blame others for his pain but instead did his best to bring healing to the pain of others. If we want to reignite our own dreams then we should become a spark for someone else’s.

Without helping the cup-bearer with his dream Joseph never gets the chance to help Pharaoh with his. Without being sold as a slave Joseph never gets brought to Egypt to liberate not only his family but the known world from hunger. Without guarding his heart Joseph misses the opportunity to be lifted up as a result of bending down to help someone else.

3 Keys to reigniting our dreams

Remember that no person can stop your dream. The very thing you think may stop your dream may be the thing that accelerates it into motion.

Guard your heart above all else. Don’t allow feeling sorry for yourself excuse taking the easy way out.

Focusing on other people’s dreams reignites and refines the dreams in our own heart.

Joseph was elevated because he found a way to focus on others when he could have focused on himself. A God-given dream is never about you getting promoted but about you being the best position to do the most for others and bring glory to Him in the process.

 

Pursuit Over Perfection

Refresh Your Goals and Your Soul

How are your New Year’s Resolutions going so far? According to the book, FINISH, 92% of New Year Resolutions fail. Jon Acuff says that you have a better chance of getting into Julliard than you do completing your New Year’s Resolution. So if your goals are already derailed, then you are probably not alone.

I can relate.

Falling Short

At the beginning of the year I was determined to exercise at least 30 minutes a day for the first 7 days of the New Year. The only problem was that we went out of town that first week. After traveling all day I kept my exhausted family from sleeping once we arrived at the hotel on the first night so that I could work out. Yet, the next day I missed my goal. The second week of the year I go sick and missed another day. Determined not to be sick the next day I actually worked out in the freezing weather and made my condition even worse.

Perfection is a brutal taskmaster. Seeking perfection is also why many people never find the ability to Finish. Jon Acuff explores this idea in detail in his book, FINISH.

What Causes People to Quit

He opens the book by discussing an online course called, 30 Days of Hustle. A study was done to look at what caused people to finish this course or not. He found out that trying harder and grinding more was not the solution. In fact, the day after people missed an exercise for the first time was the day that most people quit. In other words, the moment people realize that can’t achieve perfection they quit.

The Problem of Perfection

This is an extremely helpful thought for those trying to achieve goals, but it also caused me to think about our spiritual lives as well. I used to try and maintain a perfect Christian existence. I didn’t allow myself or anyone else to make mistakes. This caused me to be constantly discouraged and those around me were on pins and needles afraid to make mistakes as well. I thought permitting myself and others to make mistakes would be licensing compromise. In actuality, it would have only been allowing people to be human.

I do not believe God wants us to live that way.

The Solution of Pursuit.

This is why I have learned to champion pursuit over perfection. This is not only good for your New Year’s Resolution but for your soul as well. God modeled how He wanted us to live by pursuing us first (Romans 5:8). God could have demanded that we serve Him, but instead allows us to choose to respond to a love relationship with Him. 

We never need God more than when we make a mistake. The lie of perfection will cause us to hide from what we need most in a moment of weakness. Feelings of “I’m not good enough” or “I am a failure” sound pious but they really aren’t. They just put the attention on ourselves instead of God.

Pursuit over Perfection

There is not only a freedom that comes from choosing pursuit over perfection, but also the ability to finish what you start. When your faith becomes about rules, regulations, and perfection not only are you missing the point, but you will also become discouraged by your own extra standards.

For more thoughts on overcoming perfection on your quest to finish your goals check out Jon Acuff’s new book, FINISH:

Navigating Difficult Seasons

The surprising path to fulfillment

Sometimes the path out of your place of ordinary and into your place of extraordinary is through a place of discomfort. And by sometimes I mean every time.

In Ezekiel 20:10 God says that He lead His people out of Egypt, a place where they were in bondage to slavery. But what he says next is telling. He doesn’t say he lead them straight to the Promised Land, the place where they would ultimately enter into their rest and blessing. He says He led them first into the wilderness, a place of testing and discomfort.

Yes, God leads us to seasons in the wilderness. Jesus was even lead into the wilderness before His public ministry began. There is a place of discomfort between drudgery and destiny that we have to embrace in order to reach our place of fulfillment.

Why difficult seasons are necessary

In order for things to get better they first have to change. The discomfort of changing is the space in between Egypt and the Promised Land. It is possible to get comfortable with a negative situation. We can almost identify with it to the point that even though we are complaining about it we will do little to change it or even allow others to help us change. We get comfortable in Egypt.

What really keeps us from fulfillment

It is the space in-between Egypt and the Promised Land that keeps us from entering into God’s best from us, not the circumstances of Egypt. It is in this space that God sets us apart and speaks to us things we need to maintain what we receive in the Promised Land.

The question is, Do we have the courage to step out into the space in-between our ordinary and extraordinary?

Are You Experiencing God’s Goodness?

3 Reminders of the Goodness of God

God desires to do good things for us, but what do we do when we feel like we are not experiencing this in our lives? Does God withhold His goodness in certain circumstances?

Absurd Goodness

In our family we try to help our kids feel confident being themselves and comfortable being with us. This has some awesome advantages and sometimes funny disadvantages. Our 6-year-old tells us nearly everything that happens when we are not around her because she doesn’t have a fear of us overreacting to bad news. The flip side of this is that she also gets a little too familiar with us and starts to bark out orders.

When she was younger she once told us that, “If you don’t buy me that toy, then I am not going to let you buy me things anymore!” Wow, what a threat! We laughed at the absurdity of her perspective that not allowing us to do good things for her would be a punishment for us instead of her.

Just as I had to shift my daughter’s perspective on her relationship with me as her father in that moment, I believe God has to sometimes shift our perspective of Him as our Heavenly Father.

Hebrews 11:6 – “And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.

We know faith is required to come to God. But did you also know that this faith must also lead to you believing that God is good and wants to do good things for you? Here are three reminders of the goodness of God:

God wants to do good things for you.

Sophie thought she was punishing me by saying she wasn’t going to allow me to buy her things anymore. And while that is a very silly way of looking at things, I hope that I would trust in the goodness of God in this way. We need to trust that even when things are not going the way we expect, we are still experiencing His favor. Sometimes the goodness of God comes in a blessing, a delay, and even in a redirection.

Honoring God leads to good things for you.

The first prerequisite for coming to God is faith. Faith requires that we honor a God we cannot see over circumstances that we can see. We cannot earn God’s forgiveness. We receive this through faith. But there is more to this new life than just forgiveness. We open the door to that more by putting God first in principle and action.

God is not overlooking you.

God does not miss the fact that we suffer injustice. He is ultimately in control and will make things right. Pain in this life is not a sign of the absence of God, but rather humanity’s need for God. If we only honor God when we experience good things would that really be faith? I don’t think trust could be defined that way in any relationship.

God wants us to be comfortable being ourselves. He wants us to be able to come to him in our strength and weakness. He is the source of that strength and Healer of our brokenness. There is no safer place, but we cannot enjoy this if we don’t remember that we must come to God in faith, believe He is good, and trust that He wants to do good things for us.

If accepting God’s grace, mercy, and goodness towards you has been difficult, then here is a book that may help you in that area. I know it helped me ton.

Everyone Has a Story

How Empathy Can Make Your World Bigger

I recently had an encounter with a tree that taught me a lot about empathy and influence. You can read about it my post “Lessons From A Tree.”

Shortly after this incident I was reminded of how far I still have to go when it comes to taking my eyes off myself and showing care and attention to others.

Friend of the year award

A friend of ours at work went home early on Friday because she wasn’t feeling well. On Monday she was back in the office and when I came home that day Amy asked me how she was doing. I didn’t know… because I didn’t ask.

I could have kicked myself! Way to show empathy Josh! I guess I am not getting that friend of the year award I had my eyes on.

I was so worried about my own day that I forgot to spread some love, care, and empathy in my friends life.

Everyone has a story

Truett Cathy said that “everyone person has a story if only we bother to read it.” You can learn more about this principle in the book, It’s My Pleasure, by Dee Ann Turner.

Learning other people’s stories in small ways doesn’t just make their lives better it makes our lives bigger as well. Listening to someone’s day or difficulty is an investment in relationship that has a 100 fold return. The best way to do this is to ask questions.

3 Questions That Uncover People’s Stories:

How are you doing?

This is so basic that it is almost not even worth mentioning but it is something I forgot to ask a friend at work that sites right next to me everyday. When there is a change in someone’s routine or schedule don’t just assume they are ok. They probably are, but checking in on them when they are absent lets them know you care.

How can I make you look like a rock star?

Jon Acuff talks about this in his book Do Over. When he goes to speaking events he always asks, “A week after the event, what can I have done that makes you look like a rock star to the people who matter at your job?”  He says we should ask our coworkers, clients, and others the same question if we want to win at relationships. “What can I do to make you look like a rock star to the people that matter most to you?”

What can I do to make that easier for you?

When someone is expressing a concern or complaining it is easy to get negative with them but that never helps anyone. The better thing to do is to invest in the relationship by asking, “What can I do to make that easier for you?” You not only turn a negative into a positive but also add value to the relationship.

 

Jon Acuff says that when we take time to know someone’s story we “make 2-D people 3-D.” What if this is the key to getting along with the difficult people in your life? What if you just need to make a 2-D person 3-D in order to have more influence with them? Asking questions, and reading people’s story, doesn’t just make your world bigger it makes our world better.

What stories are right in front of you that have yet to read? How can you take a step to make a 2-D person in your life a 3-D person with a story?

Here are a couple of books that have helped me grow in empathy and making others bigger:

Lead Like Jesus

How to Lead Like Jesus

Jesus said that his purpose is to give a rich and satisfying life (John 10:10). There use to be a part of me that was full of false religion that would skim over a verse like that. I believed that it wasn’t godly to have a rich and satisfying life. I thought you had to be poor to be pious and to suffer to be spiritual. In reality the opposite is true. God desires to give us good things and is leading us to a more abundant life.

But how do we lead others in this same way? In John 10 Jesus gives us a few ways we can do this. I want take some of these principles and look at them in light of modern ministry leadership.

 

Make a personal investment.

To lead like a good shepherd we must be willing to sacrifice ourselves for our sheep and not sacrifice our sheep for ourselves (John 10:11). Leadership is about rising in position to take more responsibility and not climbing the ranks so that you can push the work off on others. Too many leaders are seeking a higher position because they want less work and more credit. This is not the model Jesus gave us.

 

Be proactive in decision making.

A good shepherd does not run when he sees a wolf coming (John 10:12). A good ministry leader is proactive and not reactive. Waiting until there is a mess to clean up and then overreacting to prevent future messes instead of solving the real issue is not a sign of good leadership. A good ministry leader is uses prepares and/or avoids possible threats to the team by giving direction before there is a problem.

 

Confront internal issues even when it is uncomfortable.

A hired hand runs away from conflict (John 10:13). Good ministry leaders don’t avoid conflict. They walk through them with wisdom and grace. Having an environment of correction is not fun for anyone. Its discouraging and you people eventually give up. At the same time, not being willing to confront attitudes and conflict in the team will allow those that cannot self govern to run your team culture. As a leader you always get a combination of two things: What you enforce and what you allow (Dr. Henry Cloud).

 

Make relationship the priority and not just projects.

A good shepherd knows his sheep (John 10:14-15). A good ministry leader leads not just with position but also with relationship. Ministry is a business of people. When you put the project ahead of the people the project is designed to reach you are failing to lead like a good shepherd. People are the priority. Put relationship first and then those relationships will make your mission their first priority.

 

Create a culture that echoes your values.

The sheep know the voice of a good shepherd (John 10:16). Your culture echoes your voice when you are not around. What is yours saying? A good ministry leaders creates a culture that reinforces the values they want echoed even when they are not there. They model this in not just want they say but in their behavior and in what they celebrate and reward.

 

Leadership can be messy. It comes at a price of personal sacrifice. We have to be willing to build relationship but also to look ahead for future threats to our team and correct internal turmoil. It can be easy at times to avoid these things but doing so will not create the culture we want to echo throughout the organization.

What did I miss? How do you think ministry leaders can lead more like Jesus?

 

For more thoughts like these check out The Way of the Shepherd: 7 Ancient Secrets to Managing Productive People.

 

Interruptions

The Most Important Ministry Lesson

In this post I want to share the most important lesson I have lever earned in ministry. I first became a leader in ministry when I started a small group at 15 years old. Two years later as a High School Senior I was speaking in high schools and on retreat. My freshmen year at LSU I started a student ministry and eventually was on a team that united all of the campus ministries together for an annual outreach event.

After graduating from college I went on to work on our youth staff where I had the opportunity to see thousands of young people come to Christ and be discipled. Now at ARC I have the pleasure of working with pastors to start new church across the country.

Although I learned a lot in the past 20 years, my most important lesson in ministry did not come while in any of these ministry roles. It wasn’t until I spent a season working outside of full-time vocational ministry before coming to ARC that I learned my most important ministry lesson.

No Time for Interruptions

While on staff in youth ministry we had an internship that eventually grew to over 100 students in the program each year. Many times after their classes some of these students would come up and hang out in our office space. As a task oriented person, this began to be bother me a little as it kept me from finishing my work. I loved those students, but also felt compelled to give my best to the projects I was working on that I knew would help our ministry reach more people. The students lounging in my office and asking me personal questions took time away from these important items. The result? After their classes I would shut the door to my office so that I would not be interrupted. Cold hearted I know!

Years later I would find myself at a different church and no longer working in ministry. Amy and I decided to take a course called L.I.F.E. for Marriage. The class teacher was old enough to be my grandfather and began the class right on time by closing the door and making a bold announcement.

“If you are late to this class, do not come through that door…”

I braced for impact as a I knew he was about to rail on us about the importance of being on time.

He continued, “Make sure you come through the door on the other side so that you can get some coffee before taking a seat. And remember that if you are late, you are not an interruption. I have learned that if you see people as interruptions, then soon you won’t have any interruptions, because you won’t have any people left to interrupt you!”

Boom! That was not what I was expecting. I began to tear up. A little because I was caught off guard by this unsuspected grace that was being extended, but also because of the healing power that comes with being valued.

I bet you can guess this, but I was never once late to this class. In fact, I don’t know that I have ever shown up early so consistently to something before in my life.

Learning My Lesson

When I look back on my ministry life my greatest regret is not something I didn’t do or an opportunity I was overlooked for. I regret not valuing people the way I was valued that day.

This lead me to realize that the biggest lesson that I needed to learn in ministry is that people are the priority.

Roy Stockstill said that his greatest lesson in ministry was that “people are not the enemy.” I love that and it was the beginning of what God would eventually show me is my ministry goal, “Make people the priority while pointing them to Jesus.”

In the Masterpiece, The Way of the Shepherd: 7 Ancient Secrets to Managing Productive People, Leman and Pentak waste no time in telling leaders that “Your people are your greatest asset.” When we treat people this way we are modeling Jesus who, as demonstrated us in Philippians 2, left the comforts of heaven to comfort us. He valued us, and made us the priority.

People are not the enemy. People are not interruptions. People are our greatest competitive advantage. My goal is to make people the priority while pointing them to Jesus.

What is your greatest lesson from life or ministry? I’d love to hear about it! Add a comment of send me a message.

Scrapes

Yesterday both my daughters scraped their knees. In the morning our youngest fell while running down a sidewalk. Later that afternoon my oldest daughter scraped her knee on the playground. Knee scrapes are not rare in any home with young children. In our home they are not only commonplace but also a source of great joy – band-aids.

In my kids’ minds band-aids have a mystical healing property that goes beyond just their ability to cover wounds. The idea of a band-aid can stop tears right in their tracks and begin to turn the deepest frown back into a smile. Sometimes Gracie will point to places on her body to place the band-aid other than where the cut is because she just enjoys having this decorative sticker on her.

After our new band-aid routine this morning my oldest daughter (who has a flare for the dramatic) asked me, “Daddy, do you ever wonder how I can keep walking even with all these bobos?”

“No,” I said in my most interested but not really interested tone I could manage.

She replied, “I’ve just learned how to walk with with all my hurts.”

I paused.

“Sometimes, I can even run with them.”

Then she went back to watching youtube videos of people making slime on her iPad.

I didn’t move on so quickly. I felt the Holy Spirit pause me and begin to speak.

“Josh, have you learned to walk with your hurts, and sometimes even run with them?”

Is there anything more unhealthy than someone who has taught themselves how to build a life around avoiding their pain and even mask it with accomplishments?

Later that morning I begin to think about scrapes and band-aids and a healthy soul. Had I began to celebrate the things that mask the hurts, the band-aids, over the healing that is needed for the wounds of my heart? Are there areas of my soul that have been hurt that I have just learned to walk with? Even though sometimes I can run, despite the pain, excel in certain ways, have I overlooked the real healing that needs to take place?

We may live in a time where we celebrate band-aids but I want to be someone who celebrates healing and health. Band-aids are known for their illustration as a quick fix. One side may have a Disney princess, but the other side is a mess. I don’t like messes. I like Disney magic and perfection but that is not real life.

Faith, hope, and love are not for perfect people. Perfect people don’t need those things because they have fairy Godmothers, talking pets, and magic crickets. Faith, hope, and love are for those who may have learned to walk and even run wounded but want to be healed and healthy. They are for those that aren’t afraid to take off the cover up off and allow God to do the necessary work of touching our mess and doing only what He can do. It is for those who want to live an authentic Christian experience.

Let me ask you the same questions I felt God was challenging me with, “Have you learned to walk with your hurts, and sometimes even run with them?”

If this post has encouraged you, then I’d love to hear from you, and please share it. Thanks!