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.
"How are you?" they ask. "Busy," I reply.
You say it too. "My schedule is crazy!" "I'm super busy." "I've got too much to do."
In his book, The Contemplative Pastor, Eugene Peterson gives two reasons why pastors become busy. I believe they apply to all people. I reread Peterson's book annually, and these two statements continue to convict me. They are my yearly "check-up," and help me to refocus my time and energy.
"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.
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.
Have I been playing it safe?
Am I too comfortable?
Have I taken appropriate risk?
At the beginning of a new year, I wonder if I'm too risk averse. Faith has NEVER been a safe proposition. By its very nature, faith involves uncertainty. And uncertainty requires risk.
If there's nothing to risk, it's not faith.
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.
This is a message for fake Christians. Which, by the way, includes you . . . and me.
We put on a face. Pretend to be someone who is not truly us. Conceal what's real in order to appear attractive.
As a Christian, do you ever feel pressure to be someone you're not?
I write this as I prepare for a daunting task: confirmation camp. Three days of 7th and 8th graders at a summer camp. Swim time and campfires. Juvenile flirting and smelly boys who have yet to apply deodorant with any consistency. Somewhere in the middle of all this, my team of leaders must impart our deepest held beliefs and convictions.
Impacting the lives of young people is a great responsibility. I don't take it lightly, and I tremble a little every time.
Am I effective?
Am I making a difference?
Is there more I could do to connect with these kids?
Whenever I freak out over a big challenge, I refer back to a quote by Charles Haddon Spurgeon:
“The Christian should work as if all depended upon him, and pray as if it all depended upon God.”
On Sunday, I watched Lebron James complete his decimation of the Golden State Warriors. He was a terror during the last three games in particular. Whatever your opinion of James, he was ferocious.
41 points in both games five and six.
A triple double in game seven.
Never has a teams come back from being down 3-1 in the NBA Finals.
And all that against a Warriors team that had the best regular season record in NBA history.
Sports writer Bill Simmons has a term for this: the Alpha Dog. Michael Jordan had it. Larry Bird had it. Lebron has it. At the right time, in the biggest moments, they simply take over. Go for the kill. Slay the opponent. The Alpha Dog asserts dominance.