You Are More Than What You Do

Have you ever been overwhelmed?

I feel like maybe that question is a little bit rhetorical. Maybe I don’t have to ask it at all.

If you’ve been alive for more than, I don’t know, a minute, you’ve definitely been overwhelmed. Parents on your case about something, tests to study for, homework to do, classes to go to, kids running all around, work, work, work, work, work.

Can we just agree that at some point in our lives we’ve all been overwhelmed? Good. That’s a great starting point.

I’m kind of in an overwhelmed state right now myself. House things piling up. Work is crazy busy. Budget and money things not exactly going the way they should. We just finished a show at the theatre where my kids acted and did stage crew, costumes, and makeup. My wife produced that show and I kind of helped where I could. Other things at the theatre are going on as well. I’m about to take over as President of the Board of Directors next month. I want to write more and start to exercise and all these other things. It’s just a crazy busy season for me and I’m not really seeing the way out right now.

So when I have these seasons, when I reach these points in my life I have a tendency to do one of two things. I either checkout and do nothing (my default) or I go all in and ignore everyone and everything else around me.

In my personal life right now I feel like I’ve kind of gone the checkout route. I don’t want to do anything. I feel apathetic and lazy and like I have no energy.

At work though … at work it’s different. I want to go, go, go. I don’t want to stop for anything or anybody. I’m really in this season where I see everything that doesn’t have to do with me getting work done as a distraction. We’ve got deadlines to hit and things we need to finish. Any extra meetings, no matter how much they seem like they would be good just feel like they are getting in the way of the stuff I know I have to get done.

I feel like the most important thing I can do is get the work done.

Deep inside me (well … not all that deep actually) I know that this is not true. The things that I feel like are distractions are probably the exact things that I need to lean into the most. But right now, whether it’s true or not, I just don’t feel like I have the time to lean into anything other than what I have to get done. I know better and yet I don’t do better, you know?

A good friend of mine named Brian reminded me of something the other day that kind of hit me right between the eyes. We were having a team meeting during which we were just sort of sharing about what the Lord has been doing lately. When it was my turn I just talked about what I mentioned above. I shared that I feel overwhelmed and tired and that I have so much to do; that even the meeting we were in was just a distraction from what I really needed to be doing right now.

Brian reminded the group (but God meant it for me) that the most important things that we can contribute to what God is doing here is not just the things that we can type into a computer. We have so much more to contribute and God has so many other things for us to do that are much more important than that.

In this busy time I don’t really want to believe that’s true. I want to push harder, work more. I have stuff to do, after all. But whether or not I want to believe it doesn’t make it any less true. I am more than what I can type into a computer.

I was blessed to be reminded that I am more than what I do between 9 and 5 on most weekdays. I have more to contribute and in different ways than just sitting at this keyboard and staring at this screen.

And you do too. You are more than what you do. Your identity is not in what you can do but in who you are and, more importantly, whose you are.

We so readily identify with what we do and what contributions we can make that we forget to take the time to just sit in the realization we are loved and cared for by the creator of the universe. That even if we did nothing else for the remainder of our lives we are enough.

We get so busy that we lose sight of why we’re busy in the first place. We have so much to do that we forget to be thankful for the ability to do anything.

Who I am is not what I do. I was reminded of that this week when I needed it the most. Maybe you need that reminder too? You’re not just what you do. You are, in fact, so much more.

April 05, 2019

Pavlov All Over Again

As soon as she hears the stick begin to pound on the stage she begins to cry.

I’ve been amazed lately at our ability as humans to have conditioned responses to external stimuli.

All week I’ve been incorrectly calling this “operant conditioning” but it’s really “classical conditioning” or “Pavlovian conditioning”. Where operant conditioning refers to changes you make to your behavior based on responses you get after a behavior, classical conditioning speaks to the involuntary responses you experience from a behavior that occurred before your response. Perhaps an example:

We just finished up a run of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at our local community theatre. As most of you know, there is a scene during which the lion, Aslan, is killed in place of a boy named Edmund. Edmund has turned traitor and, therefore, his life is forfeit to the White Witch, the self-proclaimed “Queen of Narnia.”

If you know the story then you also probably know that this scene is an allegory to the death of Jesus.

We know this scene is coming without even having to be in the theatre to see it. The way it is depicted, there are sounds from offstage of the creatures in the White Witch’s army that start to swell. Cries and yells and … most dramatically … the pounding of a staff. Loud and impressive, a beat starts to form, like a drummer going before an army.

The interesting part here is that as soon as we start to hear the beat of the staff on the stage, my wife (a wonderful woman, who almost never gets emotional about anything) begins to cry. It’s not even something she can control. She knows the scene where the lion is killed is coming and she cannot hold back her tears. The “Great Cat” is killed and she weeps every time.

All from the beating of a staff on a stage that she doesn’t even see.

It’s Pavlov’s theory proven once again.

We, as humans, are extraordinary creatures who possess extraordinary abilities to experience extraordinary things. Involuntary responses to external stimuli being one of many. We are the children of an extraordinary God.

Don’t be so quick to stop at the idea that this is a psychological formula. I’ve been once again amazed at how we have been knit together. We have been created in such a way to be able to experience an amazing array of emotions, most of which we largely leave untapped. Some of which we can’t even control.

There is so much more depth to each of us than we can even imagine. I encourage you to never stop being amazed by what we can do. Never stop searching for the next layer of who you are. We are a great set of creatures created by the God who hung the stars in space. There’s no end to what we can find out about ourselves and the world around us if we would only take the time to look.

March 29, 2019

A Call for Practice

I write and publish a blog post every week. This, in fact, is one of them. The other big thing that I am doing this year is writing a book.

I’ll be honest (I can do that here, right?), I’ve really struggled with writing this year.

The majority (if not all) of the problem comes down to resistance. Resistance is that thing that you run up against when you find those things that you just know you’re supposed to do. Resistance will want to keep you down. It’s something that you need to fight against. I’ve been super busy with a lot of other projects that I’ve given precedence over writing. I haven’t felt that great for a number of days this year. I’ve been lazy at times. It’s been a real struggle so far.

Due to this resistance, there have been weeks that I didn’t write the post that I ended up posting until the day that it was posted. That’s bad. I also haven’t worked on my book at all. These are telltale signs that I am still an amateur at this writing thing.

It’s not that professionals don’t feel resistance. They just know how to beat it. Amateurs let resistance win.

I want to be a pro. I want to be world-class. My work ethic says otherwise.

The one giant thing separating me from being a pro? Practice.

Being great at anything requires practice. It doesn’t matter how talented you naturally are, you will never be world-class at anything if you don’t practice. Practice breaks the back of resistance.

Practice needs to become a habit.

For me, that means that every day, no matter what, I am writing 250 words or more. It’s not a lot and it shouldn’t take long, but I have to do it.

I have a lot I want to accomplish as a writer, and without the habit of writing every day, without practice, I will never accomplish those things. Creating a daily writing habit is the single most important thing I can do for my writing. Even if I don’t write about anything that makes sense it’s the habit that’s the important thing.

There is a familiarity that comes with practice. Your craft becomes easier. Resistance will never go away completely, but without the habit, without the necessity to sit down and get better every day, we lose whatever momentum we might have had. Our work is like an old-fashioned water pump. At first, you have to pump a lot to get a little water to flow. Once it starts flowing though, you can pump less and get the same amount of water. When you’ve primed the pump of your work (meaning you practice every day) the work happens on a regular schedule and things seem smoother. If you ever stop pumping, the water/work stops flowing.

If I stop writing regularly then when I actually sit down to write something I really need to, I won’t have anything to say. The keys will feel strange under my fingers. I’ll spend half my time trying to figure out how these words are supposed to form themselves.

By creating a habit, by practicing every day, we overcome the main source of resistance against us. We will have an easier time getting started and our work will flow more quickly and easily.

It doesn’t matter what arena you live in, if you want to be the best in the world at what you do, you have to put in the work when no one is looking. That is what a habit of practice will do for you.

March 22, 2019

When Motivation Wanes

Have you ever had one of those weeks where you’re just not feeling it? Motivation has vanished and it’s hard to get anything moving? That was my week this week. I struggled with feeling rested. I struggled to find joy in what I was doing. It was just a hard week.

I also had this blog post deadline looming over my head. I made a promise at the beginning of this year that I would write and publish one blog post a week. It’s not a lot by any stretch. Some people write a blog post a day. Some more than that. But for me and where I am in my life, one a week seemed like it was doable and something I could consistently hit. So what do you do when you run out of motivation to write?

I want to write a book or books. I want to write about Jesus. I want to write about your heart and how central it is to your life. I want to write about living an intentional life. I want to write about passions, and missions, and your purpose.

All the “experts” that I’ve read say that if I want to attract a tribe that I need to stay focused on the main thing or things that I want to write about and never stray from those things. If I want to attract an audience of people that will eventually buy my books or seminars or “whatevers”, then I need to only write about the things that those items will address. That way I attract a crowd of people who want that information.

I love those topics and I truly plan on writing about them more and more as time goes on. But this week I really just have a bunch of questions.

  • What do you do when you just don’t have the motivation to write about a particular thing anymore and you have to post something?

  • What if the thing that I am most jazzed about right this moment is a trailer for the latest Marvel movie? What if I just posted a link to the trailer and called it a day? Would that be enough?

  • What happens when I don’t have anything inspiring or helpful to say?

  • Would it be better just to skip the post I said I was going to write rather than post something that might not be along the same vein as the general topics that I want to cover?

These are the questions running through my head today. If you have any feedback or help, I’d love to hear it!

March 15, 2019

Year Six

I’ve had the pleasure of being on staff at NewSpring Church for 6 years now. It’s easily the best job I’ve ever had. As a web developer, I get to use code to create sites and apps that help people get closer to Jesus and each other. I can’t imagine spending my life in pursuit of a greater calling than seeing Jesus change peoples lives and making Him famous … and I get to do that with code! So much fun!

I just wanted to take a moment this week to share a little of what I’ve learned in my six years in full-time ministry. I’ve learned so many things, but here are just a few things that stick out to me:

Churches aren’t perfect and neither are the people that work for them.

Just because you work for a church does not mean that you are above sinning. I think I used to think that people who worked for churches were somehow perfect. Then I started working at one. If nothing else, I ruined that streak. People who work for churches have the same struggles, cares, and problems as everyone else. We make bad decisions. We do things we shouldn’t do. We’re human and we make mistakes.

The flip side of this is that a lot of people tie your failures to the organization you work for. Over the years I’ve seen people fail inside our organization (whether it was public or not) and I’ve seen people inside and outside our organization take that failure and assume that the whole organization is somehow bad. People and their failures are not the organization but they are tied to the organization. Fair or not, that’s the way it is.

This whole ministry thing is not for the faint of heart.

If it wasn’t enough that we are imperfect creatures trying to serve a perfect God and messing it up all the time, there is also the idea that as Christians we are constantly at war with an enemy we can’t see. Spiritual warfare is real and those of us in ministry are on the front lines.

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

— Ephesians 6:12

Our enemy is real. Prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Put on your armor, my friends.

So many wish they could see what we see.

We may be in a battle, but the rewards of being faithful and diligent in the battle are worth it. This verse has stuck with me from the very first day that I walked into a NewSpring building:

“For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

— Matthew 13:17

What we get to see week in and week out is astounding. Lives changed, sicknesses healed, marriages restored. All because of Jesus. I’ll never be able to forget what the Lord has blessed me to see.

It’s so easy to forget why we do what we do

You’d think that being surrounded by other people that love Jesus and constantly seeing how God is changing peoples lives that it would be easy to remember what the point of all of our work is. But just like any other vocation, it is surprisingly easy for all of your work to become tasks, to forget about the people that you’re doing all of this for, and for your calling to become just another job. It takes hard work to constantly remind yourself of the “why” behind the “what.”

Being in full-time ministry has been the most challenging and growing thing I have ever done. No matter how hard it gets there is never a day that I regret making the decision to follow Jesus on this journey. These six years have flown by. I can’t wait to see what happens next!

March 08, 2019

I Haven’t Even Been Trying

I had a sort of mini-revelation this week. Well, a couple of them actually. The first one is this:

I eat like an 18 year old.

I am not 18 anymore. In fact, I’m way past double that. But that doesn’t stop me from eating like I am. The metabolism that I had back then doesn’t exist anymore. The energy that I was able to manufacture back then also doesn’t exist. I’m tired and achy and overweight. I’ve got to start taking better care of myself and that starts with how I eat. I have said in a previous post that one of my biggest goals for this year is better health and that I would work hard at making sure that I focused on that. I said that I would workout 3 days per week and would eat healthy foods 80% of the time. Honest confession time (and what is actually my second mini-revelation):

I haven’t even been trying.

Not one iota. I still eat the same way I was eating on December 31st. I haven’t really started exercising. I’ve done a little on both fronts but the reality is that I haven’t even begun to be serious about it. That has to change, and that change has to start right now.

This goes the same for all of my goals. I haven’t started paying down any debt. In fact, I’d say that we’re in worse financial shape then we were when we started the year. I haven’t started getting serious about turning my writing into a business or writing my book yet. None of it. I haven’t even been trying.

The revelation that I haven’t been trying hit me really hard. One thing I rail against in my own life is letting life take you where it wants to go and being purposeful and intentional about telling your life where it should go. These past two months I’ve just been on the journey that my life wants me to go on. It’s time I changed that.

So, here’s to making changes. To being convicted about the things that we’re doing wrong. To learning that it’s never to late to start over. To having open and honest dialog about our lives and helping each other get better. It’s because I knew you would be here that I could write this post. It’s because I know you’ll be back that I can continue to write more. Thanks for being here and helping me along my journey.

March 01, 2019