One year ago I was nearing the end of writing a book. I had invested 500 hours into it, and I was about to scrap the whole thing.
I took out a loan for $12,000 to self-publish. I was afraid of the debt.
I was weary after months of writing in the dark hours of the early morning.
I suffered from self-doubt. "It isn't really that good. No one will read it."
I felt naked with the choice to be transparent in my story-telling.
I had writer's block near the end. I couldn't find an effective conclusion.
It was like standing at the end of a dock on a lake. Should I jump in? The water is so cold. I was about to hit "delete" on the whole project. But first, I went for a walk. And the words on this note card came to me.
With these words, I was possessed. I had to keep going. This line became my prayer for the remainder of the process: "Lord, I'll just keep writing and trust that you will give the words."
So I jumped. Writing became an exercise of faith. To leap without knowing where I'd land. To walk without being certain of the path.
Today, I'm approaching 5,000 copies distributed. For a little self-published book, all expectations have been exceeded.
Every week, I hear from strangers around the country. Loved & Sent is being used in small groups and book clubs. For leadership development, new member classes, and sermon series. See a list of churches and organizations here.
The book has been used to raise thousands of dollars for causes. An immigrant and refugee agency. An urban after-school ministry. Christian Camps.
A pastor in Wisconsin wrote me, “I gave gave the book to a truck driver that kept coming to me with questions. I encouraged him to read it. After the chapter on grace, he asked me about baptism. He was baptized last Saturday night.”
What's your dock? Is it time to leap? Why aren't you jumping?
"Progress always involves risk; you can't steal second base and keep your foot on first."
"Any simpleton can follow the narrow path in the light; faith's rare wisdom enables us to march on in the dark with infallible accuracy, since she places her hand in that of her great Guide." - Charles Haddon Spurgeon.
Major props to these people for their love and encouragement.
"The road may be foggy, but trust there is a road."
I've been on numerous boards and committees that have engaged in the strategic planning process. I have enjoyed the analysis and assessment, collaboration and discussion. Personally and professionally, planning is a good thing.
But I have found one problem:
The best things in my life have been unplanned.
The woman I married.
The city I reside in.
The job I have.
The house I live in.
Did you give something up for Lent? Why? Why not?
I find it amusing when people give up things that are entirely trivial. Chocolate. Soda. Snacks. Coffee . . . Now, wait. Caffeine might be more than trivial.
You don't have to give up anything for Lent. There's no biblical command to fast. But if you do, make sure it's significant, and make sure it's for good reason. Below are four reasons to fast.
Is it worth all the work?
How much difference does it make?
He's discouraged as his church continues to decline.
She's frustrated by the people she helped; they returned her generosity with resentment.
He poured his heart out for a friend in need and it seemed to make no difference.
What do you do when you want to quit?
The older I get, the more I’m tempted. Tempted to be:
I have to admit, the more I mature, the harder it is for me to worship. To trust. To pray.
Today I have more control over my life than I’ve ever had. I have more financial security. More independence. More freedom to make my own decisions and choices. But with more control comes more temptation. The temptation of power and pride. The temptation that I can do it on my own. The temptation that I don’t really need God.
The older I get, I sense God calling me to be younger.
Here's my audacious goal: By the end of this post, you will be younger.
There is a beginning and an end for everyone.
May I be faithful in the span between.
Not successful or spectacular.
Not popular or wealthy.
There is not enough time to meet all of the demands.
You wonder if this is what burnout is.
We think that the answer to being overwhelmed is better productivity. Find the best "life-hack" blog. But there's a secret weapon that very few are talking about. Instead of being more productive, be less.
Instead of adding things, subtract some.
There's a spiritual discipline formed around this philosophy. Fasting. And it's not just about food. Here are four "fasts" to use when life is overwhelming.
My 10-year-old daughter surprised me with a simple question. We were driving to church when she asked why we celebrate Easter year after year. It wasn't a rebellious question, rather a curious one. "It's the same story every year. If we know it already, why do we do it again and again?"
It seems a simple and practical inquiry. Why keep doing something if we seem to "get it already?" In our school systems, after you master one lesson, you move on to the next. This could be applied to Christmas as well. Or for that matter, weekly worship.
Why do we keep gathering around the same old story again and again? I've heard:
What is the baseline of knowledge for a Christian? Martin Luther referred to three components as "the minimum of knowledge required of a Christian" (Large Catechism). Just as a craftsman knows the fundamentals of his craft, every Christian ought to know:
The Ten Commandments
The Lord's Prayer
And not simply to recite them, but practice and grow in them. Meditate, pray, live, explore their implications, institute them in daily life.
The Creed ("I believe") states who God is and what he does.
The Ten Commandments are God's intended picture of what it means to live a human life.
The Lord's Prayer is how we are to relate and communicate with the living God through all of life's challenges.
Two factors of modern society make these three baseline components evermore important.
1.) We live in a complex society. Therefore simplicity provides a focus that cuts through the overwhelming volumes of information that exist.
2.) We live in an increasingly post-Christian society. So the basic tenets of Christianity take on greater significance. When "everyone went to church," the creed was less provocative. As fewer people speak the creed, it grows more profound.
Luther recommended weekly examinations on these three components. Tell me how that goes in your home. Even if you don't quiz yourself or your family, his point was to never believe that you've mastered the basics. The basics are a depth to be mined for a lfietime. A well with no bottom.
We are always living with what we believe (creed), how to live (commandments), and how to call on God through the trials of life (Lord's Prayer).
Luther noted, "These have been the heritage of Christendom from ancient times . . . so that all who wish to be Christians in fact as well as in name, both young and old, may be well trained in them."
At my church, we begin a series on the Ten Commandments on April 19th. "Set Free to Live Free."
This is Holy Week. Each day, a reflection from an "old dead guy" - a church father. For Tuesday, here is Augustine (354-430AD).
You carry the cross of Christ on your forehead. The mark stamped on you teaches you what you should profess. He was hanging on the cross, which you carry on your forehead. Do not delight in the sign of the wood but in the sign of the one hanging on it.
When he was hanging on the cross, he was looking around at the people raving against him, putting up with their insults and praying for his enemies. While they were killing him, the doctor was curing the sick with his blood.
He said, "Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing." These words were not futile or without effect. Later, thousands of those people believed in the one they murdered, so that they learned how to suffer for him who had suffered for them and at their hands.
Brothers and sisters, we should understand this from the sign, from this stamp that Christians receive when they are baptized. From this, we should understand why we are Christians.