Have you ever had a moment of looking in the mirror and wondering who that person is looking back at you? I think we all have times when the person we see in our mind is not necessarily the physical person that everyone else sees. For me, I want to have the face that shows love and kindness, and if I’m honest, I want a face that shows youthfulness! But the reality is my face shows the years of living, and they weren’t always great years. I hope that my eyes at least show what God has done with those years. I hope my eyes show the love of Jesus me who transformed my inner being.
We’ve all said it: “I can’t right now,” and we usually launch into a litany of reasons as to why we “can’t” do something. I don’t think many of us ever say, “I won’t” do something; however, we frequently mean won’t when we say can’t.
Have you ever been in that place that something just tugs at your heart? It seems no matter where you go something reminds you of that urge. Is there some thing that you strongly believe should be changed or improved and you wish you could be a part of the change? Do you know someone who is passionate about a social injustice or mission area and you have often thought “I could never do that.”
The Bible is full of stories of people who said “I can’t” to God. Jonah was directed by God to deliver a message to Nineveh that could change their lives. Jonah took off in the opposite direction, was swallowed up by a big fish, he prayed, and God sent him back to Nineveh. He didn’t think he had what it took to deliver a dangerous message, and yet God called him to this mission and it was worth it in the end as lives were changed.
When we say “I can’t,” Jesus says, “I will.” The apostles frequently questioned Jesus when he told them to do something. Just look at the way the disciples grumbled when Jesus said to get food for the 4,000 plus followers who sat and listened to Jesus. “Where would we get enough food here in the wilderness for such a huge crowd?” They were done and ready to just leave. Jesus, however, had other plans and fed all who stayed and even had food leftover. We need to trust that if we are willing to say “yes” the Holy Spirit will overcome our fears and great things can happen.
Taking action is one of the most beneficial things we can do for ourselves. When we say yes and shift our focus to the needs of other people, we change ourselves. When we ask others to pray with us to discern the next right step to take, we are uplifted and spiritually nourished. When we trust the call we hear and step forward, God steps forward with us. I believe we are closest to God when we are fulfilling the mission he sets before us–even when that mission or call surprises us.
If you are hanging on to a call, if you have heard from the Lord, or if you are waiting for clarity, I encourage you to seek the prayerful partnership of others for the courage to take the first step. Ask for prayer to overcome your fear and prayer for an open door through which you will walk. And then walk on my friends–walk on in faith and joy.
He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.” Matthew 9
It has been a few years now since I was married. I have grown accustomed to picking which side of the bed I want to sleep on because there is no one on the other side. I have gone through the phase of curling up with a body pillow or laying long-ways across the bed so it doesn’t feel so empty. I have nearly forgotten what it is like to nudge someone in their sleep because they are snoring or to curl up with them when I get cold. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss it at times. It means I have adapted to sleeping alone and I am more comfortable with it today than I was some ten years ago.
I have spoken with many people about the dramatic change in their lives when a spouse dies or they find themselves alone after a divorce. Even those who have never married have that sense of longing for an intimate relationship with someone. So we find ways to fill the hours of our day with work, friends, family, and busy things. But there can be so much more if we look.
I am a firm believer in seeking our mission and living out a life of purpose. I am also aware that for many of us singles, a purpose-filled life doesn’t always eliminate the sense of aloneness we have at the end of the day. It doesn’t replace the sense that we are home alone reading a book or watching TV. More importantly, I also know that living with purpose changes everything and makes my time alone more palatable.
Purposeful living brings a sense of joy and peace and in some cases, a reason for getting out of bed. There is nothing worse than a day of emptiness that leads to a night alone and the anxiety of a gloomy morning. James wrote that in the midst of our troubles we have the opportunity to find joy. (James 1:2) I believe that opportunity comes in the shape of service to others. The psalmist cried out in his distress and emptiness in Psalm 102 and in the midst of his sadness he realized that God is with him. He is never truly alone. No matter what happens, he can find peace in that promise. When we can identify our mission and turn our attention to the needs of others, we can experience God’s love in a profound way. We can change our perspective from the sadness of what we don’t have to one of joy in knowing that we are living for God—even if we are living alone.
Now we can close our eyes at night, comfortable in knowing that God is watching us and that we will waken in the morning with a sense of celebration that God has given us another day to worship and serve him. While the bed may still be empty, I believe our hearts can be full. Even as we grab our extra pillow at night, we can quietly end our day in conversation with God about his reason for our circumstance and ask that the morning bring new purpose and a greater sense of belonging. It is the same conversation we should have every night, regardless of our marital situation. You see, my fellow singles, this relationship is far better than any other relationship for which we could ever wish to have and we are fortunate that we can give all our attention to enriching our relationship with the Lord.
Have you ever had a vision and been overwhelmed by the thought of what it will take to reach your goal? This can happen when we aren’t sure how we will get from where we are to where we want to be. The gap may seem far too wide to overcome, especially if we focus too much on those final steps that will bring our dream to fruition. We may even feel as if we are sitting in the fog, full of ideas and yet uncertain how to implement a plan.
I am a planner. I like to lay out all the necessary steps I will execute to achieve my end-goal. This includes all the things I don’t know how to do or the things that are out of my control. If I look too far ahead I am likely to freeze in place because these things seem too insurmountable to me. For example, I am building a ministry for singles. I believe that God has given me a vision for this ministry; however, I have so many questions about the organizational structure, finances, and who will attend our gatherings that I find myself too overwhelmed to move ahead.
I am overwhelmed first by the vision and mission and secondly by the demands on me as the leader of something I have wanted to do for the last 30 years. Thankfully, I have wonderful spiritual advisors and partners who have counseled me to just start. I have stepped out in faith without worrying about what will happen on the journey and without answers to all of my questions. I am taking one step after another, prayerfully considering each step and in consultation with others who hold me accountable. We are getting closer to launching the ministry and with each day I am gaining more clarity about what to do next.
So what does this mean for you? If the answer to my first question is, “yes, I’m overwhelmed and I don’t know what to do,” I would suggest you write your vision and mission statement. Then consider where you are and where you want to be and write down some of the major milestones you need to accomplish to close the gap. Once you lay out your milestones, start at the first milestone and list the most important things you need to accomplish to reach that milestone. If you are able, go to the next milestone and describe the actions you need to complete for each subsequent milestone. Write them down even if you have no idea how you will complete them. By the time you have written down the milestones you need to achieve you will see that it is much easier to bridge the gap from here to there. Post your plan somewhere as a visual reminder of your first objective and to all that you have accomplished as you move closer and closer to the final result.
Take the first step now. Pray about the others. Trust that God will guide you and as you experience success in those first steps, build confidence that God will get you through the rest.
Be bold. Be fearless. Step forward!
Interrupting our Mission
These past few months I have been working to launch a new single’s ministry in our area. I have been writing about the challenges and the gift of singleness while preparing for a discernment meeting. In the midst of my planning another interest of mine sprung up and I have found myself pulled in two directions—doing what God is calling me to do and doing something I love to do. It is a rewarding and troubling place to walk, this enjoying all the things I have a passion to do.
My question though is: am I blessed with two things that are keeping me very busy or am I letting myself be distracted from my real mission and ministry? Am I hiding my insecurities about my ability to lead this new ministry by taking on something that is draining my time? Energy drainers are those things that we allow to interrupt our progress forward and I fear that this other adventure is indeed doing that.
I have interrupted my writing on this blog to write for another blog. I have spent time studying this other topic rather than the scriptures that will shore up this new ministry. I have found it easy to spend hours doing something that actually has little benefit to God or to my life, while putting his work on pause. As a result I feel an unease in my spirit because I have been disconnected from the spirt that guides me. I flit in-and-out of ministry and then wonder why I am nervous about our launch.
So today I shift the gears back. It is never too late to get back on the road forward. I will continue my other writing, but as a secondary interest to that which God asks of me. I have discovered during the time of diversion that there is a process I need to put in place for my writing—so all is not lost. God always makes something positive out of our journey, if we are willing to ask him to reveal the changes we need to make. So let the change begin!!
Less is More
We live in a society that focuses on having the next best gadget, the newest car, the designer outfit, and all that the ‘rich and famous’ have in their lives. We go into debt to prove that we have successfully attained a certain life-style. Our hearts sink a little when a new cell phone comes out and it isn’t time to upgrade our plan yet. We enter beautiful homes and begin plotting how we can model our house after their home. Or, we look at others and think, “I don’t know why she wears that same outfit day in and day out. What a mess!” We have become the people of envy, greed, judgement, and hollow existence.
We have forgotten that it is living a life of giving and caring that matters far more than a life full of things that may disappear in an instance.
Author and coach, Gary Collins writes that our visions “must be about potential for the future but anchored in the realities of the present.” Our vision is about where we want to go and are best achieved when we are enthusiastic about achieving our goal(s). Having a joyful anticipation about our future will keep us moving forward when we encounter obstacles or stumbling blocks on our journey. We need to be mindful that there will be times when it seems like there is little progress forward. If we are not careful, those are the times our vision might fade.
So you have a vision. You wrote it down. You shared it with another person. You prayed. You asked others to pray. And now you are thinking about implementing your vision. When your vision began to emerge you probably were excited and overjoyed because you could see a purpose for your life. You knew what God was calling you to do. You were overjoyed and anticipating living the dream.
And then you realized that the end goal is farther away than you would like. You can see where you are and where you want to be and it is a huge cavern.
There are times when the anticipation of achieving our goals or living the vision may overwhelm us and we avoid setting smaller, achievable target goals. I’m what StrengthFinders calls an “activator.” I want to get on down the road. I have a ‘let’s get it done” mentality. I don’t do slow. I am frustrated because I have been told by experts that it may take three years or more to successfully achieve my vision. At times I have lost the joy and questioned the vision, only to talk to others and realize that I am not working the plan. I am trying to cut corners and becoming frustrated because I haven’t laid a strong enough foundation to keep the process moving forward. The joy returns when I am willing to step back and do what needs to be done, trusting that with every day I am moving closer to the goal
This is the building the bridge to fill the gap time. This is the time for thinking about short-term goals that you can readily achieve and upon which you can build some success. This is the time to start asking the tough questions about where you are, where you want to be, and how you will get there. It is time to develop an action plan that you will commit to executing. Bridge planning is critical to closing the gap and maintaining your joy while keeping the vision in your sights. You need to start from where you are. If you start building your bridge without laying those first few planks—boring as it may seem—your bridge will collapse and you may begin to think you were wrong about your vision.
Don’t let your lack of planning undermine your joy and take away the anticipation for your future. If you have been fortunate enough to discover your vision, articulate your vision by writing it down and sharing it with someone you trust. You are looking down a long tunnel and it is important that you clarify the image of your vision. No matter how clear our vision seems it will become blurry if you fail to also articulate the steps you will take to get from here to there. Don’ t let a lack of planning steal your joyful anticipation for the future.
“Passion is empowering. You may bludgeon it, suppress it, squash it, or lose sight of it, but it is a given, a constant. Your passion is ready and willing to provide all the stamina and inspiration you need.”
Richard Chang, The Passion Plan as read in Christian Coaching, Gary R. Collns.
 Collins, Gary R. (2009) Christian coaching: helping others turn potential into reality. NAVPRESS: Colorado Springs, CO
Every now and then on our journey forward, we need to set the pause button and evaluate where we are going and what we have accomplished. I found myself in that position recently and decided I needed some time to look back at what I have been doing the past six months and how the process aligns with my long-term goals. What I found is a gap between where I am and where I want to be with no real roadmap to get across the bridge. So I set the pause button and began to look at my vision, my mission, and my plan.
Taking time to evaluate your strategy is a good thing; as long as you don’t totally derail the process. I came close to that. I haven’t written in ages. I still seem to wake up every day with a new title for an article or I am inspired with topics from my morning reading and meditation. I simply didn’t do anything with what I believe God was whispering in my ear. Talking with my spiritual director and coach I was reminded that by not writing I am not doing what God has called me to do—I am being disobedient and willful. And I know where that gets me in the end.
Life may also throw us curve balls as we build our bridge toward our goal. It is natural. Life doesn’t just travel on a smooth road. We have bumps and derailments along the way. And these bumps may cause us to question if we have what it takes or if we are doing the right thing. Rather than stop, I would prefer to think that I can learn from those experiences and use them to strengthen my determination. If every bump causes us to stop what we are doing, we will never lay all the planks to traverse the bridge to accomplishment.
So here I am today. Fingers to the keyboard and recommitted to daily writing, on the blog and on my book. I am still working to fine-tune my process; however, I am going to keep moving forward at the same time. To completely stop looks like a lot like quitting. I would rather implement a course correction while moving forward or at least remaining committed to the process. I am learning—about writing and about myself. These are good things. They indicate progress and I’m all for progress!!
I think many of us are taught as Christians that we need to follow-up our faith with action; however, sometimes we become so action-oriented we forget why we are doing what we are doing. It is easy to find that we have joined one too many ministries or agreed to one too many projects and are overburdened by our commitments. We say “yes” every time someone asks us to participate or we feel guilty when no one says “yes,” so we jump in to fill the gap. We become the “face of the church” because we are everywhere doing everything. It is great to volunteer or to lead ministries, but we need to learn to do it in a prayerful and reasoned way.
I wrote an article a while back about energy-drainers. They are the things we place in our way that stop us from reaching our goals. Saying yes to every ministry opportunity can create obstacles to following the plan God has placed in front of us. I think that God calls us into certain areas—these are the things that we are most passionate about. Laurie Beth Jones (1996) challenges us to identify those things that excite us, anger us, and call us into action. They are the things that, when we pray, we find the Holy Spirit is leading us to commit our time and our energy. All the other things are nice to do, but they may not be the things that relate to the mission God has placed on our heart.
Learning to say “no” when asked to serve in church leadership or to volunteer for the next event may be difficult for some of us. We have all heard the, “pray about it and let me know” line which we often interrupt to mean—“just say yes.” And so we do, because we don’t want to disappoint or appear uncharitable. We must, however, actually take time and pray. We need to ask God to show us if this fits with what we have heard he is asking us to do individually. We need to ask if this is something that will extend or broaden our ministry and not deter us from the path head. Sometimes we need to say, “No” and do it unapologetically.
I found myself in this dilemma and I realized that having said yes to leadership of a ministry, for all the wrong reasons, was draining my energy. I became frustrated that I did not have the insight or ability to lead. I began to spend hours trying to get better at that position while neglecting what I am supposed to be doing—studying and writing. I found myself with massive headaches and a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. I was frustrated because “I” couldn’t make things happen. I had said “yes” even though I knew the right answer was “no.” So I finally said, “I can’t do this. It isn’t what God set on my path.” It was hard. I’m sure it was disappointing and frustrating for others to receive the message, but I know it is the right thing. How do I know? I woke up today for the first time wanting to write and excited to finish my class work. I feel inspired and ready to burst with energy. I know I am where I need to be and doing what I need to be doing.
What have you said yes to that should be a no? What do you need to back out of so that you can focus on your personal mission and vision statements? What obstacles are draining your energy? Are you ready to get back on the path you see for your life and let go of those things that don’t fit? Pray about it and when you see the answer—yes or no—go with it!
“The Lord will always lead you.” Isaiah 58:11
Jones, L.B. (2006) The path: creating your mission statement for work and for life, Hyperion Press, NY, New York