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There’s Something I’d Like to Say

Confessing The Weeds in My Leadership

The Parable of the Weeds

“He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field, but while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the master of the house came and said to him, ‘Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ So the servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No, lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest, and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, “Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘”

– Matthew 13:24-30 (ESV)

Soul Gardening

We have all experienced the wheat as well as the weeds of leadership. We have either lived through someone else’s wheat and weeds or guided others through our own garden mixed with both the good and the bad. I’ve always thought the master allowing the weeds to continue to grow with the wheat until the harvest was interesting. Why does God allow the bad of spiritual leaders to grow with the good? Why not pull all the weeds out now? 

Too often, we expect our spiritual leaders to be perfect. This is unrealistic and unfair. Once we find there are weeds in the lives of those that lead us, it can be easy to write off all people in authority. After experiencing hurt, some people’s initial reaction is to stop going to church or label Christians as hypocrites. It doesn’t have to be this way. All of life comes with both wheat and weeds. It’s possible to experience both the good and the bad of a church culture or ministry leader and remain thankful and honoring. 

At the same time, any leader who is not honest about and repents of his or her own imperfections is not being the best reflections of Christ they can be. We all need to attend the garden of our soul. The harvest will come, and God will ask us to give an account of the weeds in our leadership.

There’s something I’d like to say about my own weeds.

There was a time in my life when my words and behaviors towards people resulted in spiritual abuse. I was a Pharisee, legalist, and avoider of grace. This did not just negatively impact my own life but also those around me. In my role as a church leader, I caused hurt and pain in the lives of others. My weeds got in the way of the good I was attempting to accomplish for the Kingdom of God. 

Some in a similar situation may blame the culture they are in, the feeling of having no other choice but to do as they are told or even being a victim of abuse themselves. While these are genuine contributing circumstances for me and many others, I feel I must focus on my responsibility over factors that were in someone else’s control.

“It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll.  

I am the master of my fate:

 I am the captain of my soul.”

-Invictus, by Nelson Mandela

At any point, during this time in my life, I could have taken responsibility for myself. Eventually, I did. This doesn’t wipe away my part in using people’s desire to please God to achieve my goals and validate my need for approval. It has, though, allowed for redemption to step into my story. I can now see God’s hand working in each of my past experiences to help me point people in a better direction. It has also helped me own the good in my past in a way I can always be grateful for while also learning from my “weeds.”

Seeking Forgiveness

Once I first decided to make an intentional change in my life and approach to ministry, I went to specific people I felt I owed an apology and asked them to forgive me. I also listened as they shared how my approach to being a church leader negatively impacted them. 

Eventually, I felt God say I didn’t need to track down each person involved in situations I regretted. This would be to put their healing in my hands instead of His. So I asked for and received His forgiveness, and prayed for anyone I have ever hurt to find the courage to begin the process of healing with God’s help.

A couple of years later, after I had a better perspective of my own involvement in these behaviors and ministry methods, I began blogging about my transformation and growth in how I related to God, church, and others. This opened the door to many more conversations with those in search of healing.

I now feel it is time to combine both of the previous steps I have taken in the past – to be public and specific. The goal is not to wallow in the past, but to help those presently struggling in similar situations and those specifically impacted in this way in the past.

With that said, I would like to offer my heartfelt and sincere apology to anyone I have ever hurt in my role as a spiritual leader. I am sorry for the things I have done and said that have caused pain in your life. I was wrong, and I am asking for your forgiveness. 

I am sorry I…

…was not careful with my words and said things that were extreme, mean, rude, and painful to others.

…felt it was my job to put people in their place instead of using my role as a leader to lift people out of the place they were in.

…was hypocritical in what I asked of others while making excuses as to why I was not required to do the same things.

… didn’t listen, because I assumed I already knew the whole story. Often, I gave ultimatums when I should have offered mercy. 

…used the scriptures to belittle, cut down, and categorize outsiders in a way that took away from their humanity and value as a person.

…judged people’s motives, thoughts, and intentions (as if I could know these things), instead of assuming the best and speaking to God’s best for them.

…marked people as rebellious and cut them off from relationship when they did not submit whole-heartedly, not only to God but to the customs of our group.

…flippantly questioned people’s salvation and sincerity in their commitment to God when they didn’t live up to my man-made standards or unrealistic expectations.

…created an environment of correction and outward performance in my ministry instead of encouragement and inward transformation. I made it hard, if not impossible, to be vulnerable, honest, and real. I gave no place for grace.

… allowed submission to authority to mutate into something other than what God intended. Instead of being a life-giving principle that brought safety and security in trusting God and the spiritual leadership He places over us, it became a gateway to control, fear, and intimidation. 

……thought it was my responsibility as a spiritual leader to be involved in every decision of the lives of those in my ministry (who they should date, where they should work, and even how they should spend their money and free time). In doing this, I replaced the voice of the Holy Spirit in people’s lives, and developed dependents on me instead of disciples of Christ. 

These things all feel so foreign to me now. I don’t think I am anything close to this person I don’t want to remember.

Why Apologize?

There will be those reading this who do not need an apology from me but are maybe waiting on one from someone else. Would you accept this apology on their behalf? Not for their benefit, but for yours. Whether it is a parent, pastor, church leader, or another person in a leadership role in your life, I believe if they could see things through God’s perspective, they would ask for your forgiveness.

Others may misunderstand why this needs to be said. Why bring this up if it was so long ago, and you are no longer this way? First of all, it is never too late to apologize, because time isn’t a substitute for, “I’m sorry.” If you’ve been through this, then you get why this is important. 

Secondly, owning my mistakes may encourage growth in someone else by helping them respond better to their shortcomings. Taking responsibility for our “weeds” (the bad in our leadership) is how we separate from them and shed new light on our “wheat” (the good that has taken place through our ministry). Denying our failures is how they get repeated.

Thirdly, I see these same behaviors in zealous young leaders too often. I believe their intentions are good, but I want to help them see there is another way, as I am sure they eventually will, as soon as possible. 

Moving Forward

Finally, unhealthy leadership can exist even in healthy churches and organizations. There can be great people doing amazing things in the same place where dysfunction is also present. Jesus talked about this in the Parable of the Weeds (I shared this at the beginning of the blog). This teaching shows us how to respond to unhealth in leadership. To take Jesus’s approach is to live in an uncomfortable tension between the wheat and the weeds in all of our lives. Healing from negative experiences in a church is never an excuse to attack others. Don’t try to pull up others’ weeds prematurely, even though it can be difficult to live with them.

In the same way, being a spiritual leader is not an excuse to turn a blind eye to your own faults, even though it is embarrassing to deal with them. Healing, as well as a lasting legacy, won’t take place if we continue to ignore the problem. If you are willing, let’s move forward together in forgiveness and restoration.

Further reading on this topic:

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The Case for the Wilderness

3 Prayers for the Desert 

Have you ever been in a dry season spiritually? Can you remember the last time you walked through what seemed to be a wilderness? Maybe you are in a similar situation now. If so, you are not alone.

Does God Lead Us To The Desert?

God lead the nation of Israel into the wilderness immediately after delivering them from Egypt. The desert was used to transform them from captives to conquerors.

The Spirit also led Jesus into the wilderness immediately after his baptism before his public ministry began. 

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”

Matthew 4:1 ESV

Then there is this verse in Hosea.

“But then I will win her back once again. I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her there.”

– Hosea 2:14 NLT

Here we see God not only leads into the wilderness, but there is also the reward of Intimacy with Him there.

We should be careful not to ask God to take us out of somewhere He has led us into for His purposes. The wilderness seasons of life can cause us to feel alone and overlooked. These are not times when God had forgotten us but are when He has isolated from other things so we can focus on him.

The wilderness can be painful. We just want the desert to end. Here are three things I have learned to pray while in a spiritually dry season.

3 Prayers for the Desert

Ask God to show you what He would like you to learn

…instead of praying for Him to get you out of your circumstances.

I used to pray, “God, get me out!” When things got tough. Now, I know when I want to do this, it is always an alert God is up to something. Sometimes, the lesson is finding peace in waiting or redefining what success looks like. Other times God puts new tools in my hands I didn’t know I needed. It takes time to learn them before I can begin to see the benefits they can bring. 

Ask God to draw you closer to Him and make you more like Him

…instead of praying for things to God back to the way they were.

It can appear there is not much good we can take from some seasons of life. Thank God those are so few. But even in the darkest times, we can take away some good. That is because, in everything, God is always bringing us closer to Him and making us more like Him. We need to be open to the process. 

Ask God to prepare you for what he wants to give

…instead of asking why He has taken so much away.

Before God can provide us with what He wants us to have, we must be willing to make room by letting go of what we already have. The wilderness is the perfect place for this to happen.

The discomfort of the wilderness is mostly from detoxing even though we may feel like it is from a lack of something want. The desert causes us to lean on God in areas we have we have substituted with other things. The side effects of not having those things meet our needs on a surface level will soon be replaced by the satisfaction of allowing God to do a deeper work in us.

An Oasis in Every Desert

When life gets rough, we can still have some of the most tender moments with God. The intimacy that results from the wilderness is one of the main reasons we can always leave those seasons with gratitude.

There are other results from God leading us into the wilderness that can be found in Hosea as well.

“I will return her vineyards to her and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope. She will give herself to me there, as she did long ago when she was young, when I freed her from her captivity in Egypt.”

Hosea 2:15 NLT

The wilderness is not about God sending harm our way to purify us or make us better. He is not the author of bad news but He can turn our bad news into good news when we put our trust in Him. The wilderness is a season where God intentionally allows our lives to be stripped down in a way that may make us uncomfortable at the moment, but if we press through with our eyes on Him, He will bring us through a transformation we can be thankful for as a result. 

What are some lessons you have learned from the wilderness? What tips would you give a friend is you knew they were about to enter a desert season?

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Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself

The Case for Enjoying Life

I used to think exhaustion and spirituality went hand-in-hand. I bragged about not taking time off to rest. I felt I always had to be doing something if I was truly committed to the cause. I now know finding time to relax, and having fun outside of religious activities are not things that should cause me to feel guilty.

The truth is, you don’t have to be hard on yourself to be a deeply spiritual person.

Reading through Ecclesiastes recently reminded me how much God wants us to enjoy life. Religious obligation doesn’t want you to know that. If the enemy can convince God’s most devoted servants that pleasure is sin and rest is a weakness, then zealous believers may give up after experiencing exhaustion, depression, and frustration.

5 Keys to Enjoying Life from Ecclesiastes


Don’t be too good

It seems the key to lasting happiness is balance; not religious extremes. Enjoy life but also don’t be foolish. Remember, we will give an account to God.

“So don’t be too good or too wise! Why destroy yourself? On the other hand, don’t be too wicked either. Don’t be a fool! Why die before your time? Pay attention to these instructions, for anyone who fears God will avoid both extremes.”

Ecclesiastes 7:16-18 NLT

Enjoy what you have

It’s also not useful to always be dreaming about what you could have or wishing for what you don’t have. Appreciate what God has given you.

“Enjoy what you have rather than desiring what you don’t have. Just dreaming about nice things is meaningless—like chasing the wind.”

Ecclesiastes 6:9 NLT

Have a party

Do you know anyone who could use a splash of cologne? Then send them this verse! I love that God doesn’t always want me on a diet, counting calories, and making my own clothes. He’s ok with me getting in line at the buffet every now and then and finding something nice to wear. Life was meant to be enjoyed!

“So go ahead. Eat your food with joy, and drink your wine with a happy heart, for God approves of this! Wear fine clothes, with a splash of cologne!”

Ecclesiastes 9:7-8 NLT

Most of my youth was wasted on being out of balance. I was much too hard on myself because I thought that was required to be holy and pleasing to God. In college, I avoiding many “fun” activities that were not sinful but would take away from doing “spiritual” things. Looking back, I wish I would have taken more of that time instead of being so serious.

Find balance

Again, balance is the key. Not going to either extreme is the answer to an enjoyable, meaningful Christianity.

“Young people, it’s wonderful to be young! Enjoy every minute of it. Do everything you want to do; take it all in. But remember that you must give an account to God for everything you do.”

Ecclesiastes 11:9 NLT

Learn to rest

This is where I am now. I love to learn. I can also develop anxiety from my continual pursuit of knowledge. God doesn’t want His children to be worn out. He wants us to enjoy life and remember we will give an account to him for every secret thing, whether good or bad. This is something I need to remember.

“But, my child, let me give you some further advice: Be careful, for writing books is endless, and much study wears you out.”

Ecclesiastes 12:12 NLT

What do you think? Did any of this strike a nerve with you? Agree or disagree, I’d like to hear from you!

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LIVING IN THE MIDDLE

Finding passion and purpose in the process.

by Elizabeth Demarest

A Smelly Mob

Hundreds of teenagers crowded the wooden altar. The mob smelled like typical teens in the 90’s – a blend of cheap cologne, Country Apple body spray, and the occasional stick of Teen Spirit deodorant.

I didn’t even care. I was wrecked, and I was ready. The presence of God poured over me like a waterfall, and all I could muster through hot and salty tears was a resounding, “YES.”

The next morning, my sixteen-year-old self was ready to seize the day. I was on mission – God gave me a Word, and I fully expected that to come with the authority, permission, and resources of my new title – CALLED. In the coming weeks, months, and even years however, I learned much too quickly, too painfully, that the fulfillment of that call was far from immediate.

The Furnace of His Process

I’m a visionary, a planner, so I blazed forward in the assumption that I could help God make my purpose transpire. I assumed my passion and fervor for Jesus were meant to unfold God’s plan for my life, and although I was radically wrong, the grace of God led me on a journey to placing that drive and ardor into the furnace of His process. Here I am, two decades later, waking up with willingness and embracing that four-letter word we all know and love: TIME.

Truth be told, anything significant requires time. Time can be painful. It can cost us something, if not everything (2 Samuel 24:34). It takes a heart of surrender to wait and to be content in the waiting. God reminds us in Genesis 8:22 that “there is no shortcut from seed time to harvest” (Genesis 8:22). Our time in the middle, from birth to death, from call to completion – every season in between contributes to our growth and God’s perfect plan for us (Isaiah 25:1).

[In the middle] of everything be always giving thanks, for this is God’s perfect plan for you in Christ Jesus. Never restrain or put out the fire of the Holy Spirit. And don’t be one who scorns prophecies.

1 Thessalonians 5:18-20a

We can easily scorn the prophecies of God by living in frustration and despair rather than walking in faith and trust. Many times, I’ve been so focused on the future that I didn’t even get to experience and enjoy the present. I’ve had to intentionally choose to let God orchestrate events and unfold promises in His timing so that I don’t “restrain or put out the fire of the Holy Spirit.”

Content in the Middle

And let’s get real – the culture we live in does not promote the lifestyle of being content in the middle. I recently saw a quote that read, “Don’t let the Internet rush you. No one is posting their failures.” Our culture does not celebrate the middle; it does not endorse the beauty of the process. Society loves to highlight the mountaintop in all of its Photo-shopped glory, and it’s hard not to cringe with discouragement when picture-perfect montages mock our unanswered prayers.

God is fully aware of how destructive comparison is and calls us to “examine [our] own work, and then [we] will have reason for boasting in regard to [ourselves] alone, and not in regard to another” (Galatians 6:4). Albeit, social media may make that difficult, but it’s why we have to cling to the truth of the Word rather than the lies of comparison.

Don’t Hurry God

If I could go back and change anything, it would be my posture while I was waiting. I’ve spent many seasons longing for God to hurry up with my destiny. How naïve of me to think that the God who loves me so much would skip the process of which my calling depends so much on. God was always more interested, and still is, in the development of my character, my walk with Him, and the internal work that no one sees. In fact, I am writing from a place where many of my inner victories are tucked away in the secret place. Man can’t see them, but God knows every intricate detail of my process. I am not forgotten or hidden from His sight.

Finding Purpose and Passion in the Middle

Have you grown impatient while waiting for the promise? Take heart, for it is not in God’s nature to break a promise. It is not in His nature to withhold good from His children (Psalm 84:11). Learn to hand your feelings over to God in exchange for His truth – that He is good, His timing is perfect, and His promises never fail.

It’s in that exchange where you will learn to live passionately in the middle, to live on purpose in the middle.

It may just be the most significant thing you ever do.

Elizabeth Demarest lives in the Dallas area and is a member of 
Gateway church, serving alongside side her husband Aley and their three children

Elizabeth Demarest grew up in the Amazon Rainforest as a third-generation missionary. Her mission now is to speak life and healing and purity to young women, including those whose trust has been violated. She addresses her induction into this involuntary sisterhood in her book, Amazon Girl: Dare to Dream. Also, in her second book, Kissing Toads: A Christian Girl’s Guide to Dating and Falling in Love, Elizabeth gives practical tips on how to date well, encouraging girls to choose purity–against the cultural norm –believing that every girl can have their fairytale. Find out more at elizabethdemarest.com.

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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!

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Acres of Hope

Finding Hope in the Midst of Heartache

by Amy Roberie

It’s August 2012, and it seems as if my worst fears have materialized. Homeless. Jobless. Sickness. Loneliness. Loss. Heartbreak. All of these words are accurate descriptions of my new life. We made a major change and left our ministry positions, and all that went along with them. In many ways we were on “top of our game.” This decision would be one that few people in the world we left behind understood and many on the outside couldn’t identify with.

A Valley of Heartache

Homeless – We lived with my parents and leased our house to tenants so that we could keep paying our mortgage.

Jobless – We planned to move and go immediately into another ministry role in a new city. After wise counsel, we decided to spend a season outside of vocational ministry to detox, rest, process, and heal. We made this decision a few months after our transition. By this time, we had spent our savings. This meant moving in with my parents and Josh just taking whatever job he could to bring some money in. This season turned into two years, and I spent those two years at home, something I had not done up to this point in our married life. 

Sickness – During this same time, my Dad was diagnosed with cancer and died less than six months later. I held his right hand, my Mom held his left, and my Aunt Cathleen talked of Jesus as he took his last breath on earth. 

Loneliness – Every relationship we had revolved around one place and one group of people. It felt like I moved to a remote, foreign country that was separated from civilization by oceans and 15+ hour plane rides. There was no internet or phone service in this new country. In reality, I was down the street. My address changed, but I was in the same city with the same phone number just fewer texts and calls.

Loss – I think in one way or another, we lost everything. At best everything changed, but mostly there was loss. Loss of friends and relationships. Loss of home. Loss of security. Loss of position. Loss of identity. 

My heart was broken in this season in what felt like every way. No area of life was spared. It was in the midst of this heartbreak that Lamentations 3 became my daily anthem. It both reflected my current heart ache and loss and also shined a glimmer of light on what seemed like an endless night.

“The thought of my suffering and homelessness
    is bitter beyond words.
 I will never forget this awful time,
    as I grieve over my loss.
 Yet I still dare to hope
    when I remember this:
The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
    His mercies never cease.

 Great is his faithfulness;
    his mercies begin afresh each morning.
I say to myself, “The Lord is my inheritance;
    therefore, I will hope in him!”

Lamentations 3:19-24 NLT

Dare to Hope

Yet I still dare to hope….” I sat at the kitchen counter of my Mom’s house with Daniel Tiger playing in the background keeping 19-month-old Sophie entertained and wept. Hot tears streamed down my face as I read it again and again. Suffering and homelessness, bitterness, grief and loss, every word summed up my current state. “Yet I still dare to hope when I remember this.

My tears were still flowing, but a warmth began to fill my heart. God was still faithful. Even when I’ve lost everything, He is faithful. I decided that morning that the Lord would indeed by my inheritance and that I would hope in him. Even if my situation did not change, I had an eternal inheritance in the Lord and nothing and no person could change that. Everyone and everything could go wrong and let me down, but God is faithful, and because He is faithful, I can place my hope in him. 

Before this, hope was foreign to me. There were two common words in the “Christian Language” that I was somehow not literate in – hope and grace. This was the beginning of my journey with hope. Hope means – to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence; to believe, desire, or trust.

My hope in God and God alone meant my desire was Him. My confidence was in Him. My trust was in Him. I didn’t need a home or a job or people or any circumstance to change. I only needed Him. In fact, I learned that my heartache had become the catalyst for me discovering hope and ultimately discovering God and His nature in a whole new way. As Hosea puts it, my trouble became my gateway to experiencing hope.

“But then I will win her back once again.
    I will lead her into the desert
    and speak tenderly to her there.
I will return her vineyards to her
    and transform the Valley of Trouble into a gateway of hope.

Hosea 2:14-15

The Message paraphrase says, “I will turn heartbreak valley into acres of hope.” Today, I pray that whatever you are facing that the very heartbreak that should otherwise destroy you will become a gateway for you to walk into a spacious and wide-open acres of hope. 

Amy works at ARC, helping pastors start new churches across the country. Her heart is for women to find their true identity in Christ and become all that God intends for them.
You can follow her on Instagram at @amyroberie.
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Do What You Love

Burning the candle at both ends

I used to think my heart was the enemy. I thought to listen to my heart’s desires was tantamount to sin. I felt if I was suffering or doing something hard, then I must be pleasing God. Enjoying things or doing something that came easy was equal to not trusting God. Because of this mindset, I put my strengths aside and always focused on growing my weaknesses. I didn’t take time to enjoy life. I always felt there was something more that I could be doing.

Man, I was so wrong.

If you are only doing the things you love to do, then you are making a mistake. At the same time, if you are just doing things that you do not enjoy, then you are also making a mistake. It’s like I heard Pastor Chris recently say, “If you are burning the candles at both ends then you are not as bright as you think you area!”

Ministry Burn Out

On my first day on campus at LSU in the fall of 2000 the school newspaper read, LSU Ranked #1 Party School. I made it my mission to change that. I would pray, preach, and proselytize until we were off that list.

I became so devoted to my mission that I decided to avoid attending sporting events or joining a rec league team at school. I didn’t pursue any social or extracurricular activities. If it didn’t have to do with church or ministry, then I didn’t want to have anything to do with it.

The result was burnt out and exhaustion. I did see some great things happen in ministry on our campus, but they were not sustainable. I hadn’t learned to do the things I love along with doing the things that needed to be done.

Where is your trust?

Time would go by, and even after college, I had a hard time learning to do what I love. This all lead to me making a massive change in my life to rediscover my faith. Before that, I wore the title workaholic like a badge of honor. I didn’t know it was only showing my wounds to the world. To me, taking a day off or having a hobby that was unspiritual was a sign of weakness. I didn’t realize by not knowing how to rest I was just putting my trust in my own strength instead of God’s.

Enjoying God

We shouldn’t be lead by our feelings, but we also should not be avoiding the enjoyable things of life because we think it is more spiritual. I love it when my kids enjoy the things I provide for them. I imagine God is much the same. When we do what we love we are experiencing the love God has for us.

What do you think? Do you feel like most people are too lazy or are there too many burning the candle at both ends and consider its spiritual when in actuality it’s not? Let me know in the comments.

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Do Less

It seems it is always popular to post and talk about doing more in the New Year. I think this is a big mistake. Doing less is the key to achieving more.

Start With Less

I’m not setting a bunch of goals for myself this year. Instead, I am only setting one goal. I asked myself, if at the end of the year if I could only accomplish one thing, what would it be? I would start with less goals to accomplish the things that really matter.

Some goals we set for ourselves are about getting into healthy habits and well-balanced routines. These are things we are always going to need to focus on. I have things I would like to accomplish in those areas as well. I just don’t want to focus on those things to the point that I don’t achieve my “one thing.” Our “one thing” is the goal we would rather see completed more than anything else.

Busy Doing Nothing

Sometimes we can get anxious about moving towards the things that mean the most to us. The higher stakes can make the fear of failure or rejection seem more real. This leads us to begin doing things that keep us busy, but don’t necessarily accomplish our goal. It gives us a false sense of accomplishment. We are doing good things, just not the “one thing” we need to be doing.

This is the equivalent to a college student cleaning his or her room the night before a big test. Cleaning your room is good, but it’s not going to help you ace that test.

What Is Your One Thing?

If you could only accomplish one thing this year, what would it be? I know there are a lot of good things you can do. Hopefully, you will do those as well. But what is the one dream, ambition, or goal you have been meaning to start or finish? What is the one thing you don’t want to see the year ending without having accomplished?

For me, it is publishing the book I have been working on for years. I believe in my book, and know it is going to be a huge help to many. My “one thing” is to publish this book. It’s scary. I am afraid things may not work out as I see them. Sometimes, I feel stuck. I have decided though, that I am going to keep taking steps each day until I see my “one thing” become a reality.

So, what do you think? Is doing less the best way to acheive more? Agree or disagree? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear what your “one thing” is or a good book recommendation on this topic.

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Benefits of Critics

4 Reasons to Listen to Your Critics

Many people say to ignore your critics. Don’t listen to them they say. Once during a wedding prayer of blessing, I actually prayed that the bride and groom would, “shake the haters off.” For some odd reason, people haven’t rushed to ask me to pray for them at their weddings after that.

I don’t know that this advice is always good. Sometimes I think we say “ignore your critics,” as a way to insulate ourselves from some tough things we don’t want to hear. This can lead us to even mistakenly identify people who are trying to help as people who are hurting us because they are sharing difficult truths with us.

But what do we do about the actual critics – the people who we can’t make happy no matter how hard we try? Is there anyone like that in your life? What do we do when folks keep getting drunk on the “haterade” or seem to always pull into work in their Navi-hater.

There are secret benefits of having critics, fault-finders, and unwelcomed commentators snickering behind you. All the greats had them. I don’t think you can stand for something worthy without having someone stand against you. If you turn to scripture instead of cultural expectations in your response to critics, you can tap into the benefits of those that seem to love to hate.

4 Benefits of Critics

Listen

Our friends are often hesitant to share things they know we may not want to hear. This is because they want us to like them. They keep our feelings in mind. Critics don’t care if you like them. They are not interested in our emotions. In some small way, this can be a good thing if we pause to ask ourselves if there is a grain of truth in what is being said.

We may not always agree, but we can always listen. Listening is a way we can show that we value people even when we may not agree with what they are saying.

Learn

Critics can broaden your appeal when we learn from their perspective. Maybe their attitude is wrong. Perhaps they have an agenda. But maybe we can also learn how to better reach someone with their outlook on things next time before they even become a critic.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?” We should be looking to win people over and not just win arguments. We can’t do this if we do not slow down and learn from those that are different than us.

Lean-in

Suffering through some unfair criticism can cause us to lean into what matters most. It can hurt when we hear someone doesn’t like our idea, perspective, or well-intended actions. This can also give us the opportunity to evaluate if we are living for the approval of God or others.

We don’t always get to respond to our critics. At times we have to turn the situation over to God. In these moments, we are able to draw closer to Him and reflect the grace and mercy we have received from Him.

Don’t Linger

While we can learn from critics, and at times should even listen to them to build future bridges, we shouldn’t linger there. Some criticism offers a lesson in letting go and moving on when things are outside of our control.

We shouldn’t allow criticism to be a focus. If we are always concerned about avoiding critics or responding to them, then there is no time to just be who God made us to be. Doing the right thing at times will be criticized. It’s not always fair, but most of the time it is best to keep loving and moving forward.

Give them what they lack

I used to be an extremely critical person. No one or nothing was good enough for me. I realized along the way that my high standards were keeping me from enjoying the people God gave me in my life. Since then, I have started offering more grace to people. I have noticed though, that the last person we are willing to give grace to is the judgmental among us.

Why give mercy to someone who doesn’t show it to anyone else? Because that is apparently what they are in most need of because they don’t have any to spare. Give grace to your critics and over time their cup may eventually overflow and begin to refresh others as well.

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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!