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Back from Guam: Why Doors Can Be Dangerous Things

As I’ve said elsewhere, “It is a dangerous business going out your front door.” (J. R. R. Tolkien) My journey to Guam was no different. What I found was more doors. And doors are always uncontrollable things.

Especially when God opens them.

First the boring travel news. Thanks to a chronic cold that I’ve been unable to shake, I didn’t get any sleep the night before I left. Twenty-four hours and three sleepless flights later, I arrived in Guam having been awake for the last 48 hours. (I did watch four movies that I otherwise never would have watched. And, for the record, Avatar is way over-rated.)

My theory is that God was just making it easy for me to adjust to the new time by being able to go to sleep quickly. It took a day or two, but my internal clock did adjust to the 14-hour time difference.

Though I must confess it was strange to be in tomorrow while my family was still in today — or was it yesterday?

My first full day in Guam, I connected with Frank and Lynda Hester — a wonderful, God-ordained match to complete the Equip Leadership team in Guam. Their decades of Coast Guard instruction experience combined with current church leadership efforts brought a terrific perspective to the instruction. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them and hear of their own walk of faith into the unknown. Seems to be happening a lot these days. Or maybe I’m just noticing it more now.

We visited St. Paul’s church which hosted the Equip event on the night of their very busy Fall Festival. One thing is sure, kids are kids no matter where you go.

We got to meet Bishops John and Eva Pineda, professional faith walkers with a deep-rooted Kingdom legacy in Guam and beyond.

L-R: Myself, Bishop John Pineda, Lynda and Frank Hester

 

Bishop Eva Pineda -- a ball of energy for Christ -- teaching children the Gospel.

We met so many awesome people and began what promise to be many rewarding Kingdom friendships including with Pastors Paul and Albert and others. Pastor Lenny and Mario Josef looked out for us the whole time. Mario gave us a bonus tour of the island. We ate a lot of excellent food — I’m told that eating good food is normal on Guam.

The leadership training exceeded all expectations. At dinner the night before — another excellent dinner with more excellent new friends — it looked as if there might be 100 in attendance. By the time things began Friday, we had more than 220 in attendance for training. The next day went continued well as we really dived into  leadership specifics. Spent a session with pastors and church representatives from around the island and concluded with an encouraging Q & A with the small group leaders of St. Paul’s Church.

Empty seats inthe gym before the conference. They filled up fast.

A great start, but only a start. I’m already making plans to extend my ministry reach to Guam churches and schools next trip. We plan now to expand as doors have opened to other countries around the Pacific Rim as God leads to support Christian schools and other ministries there.  And my wife will be going next time so that we can continue to approach His work as a family as much as possible.

We need support to do it. Click here to make a tax-deductible donation through the Center for Cultural Leadership. Just click on the “Donate” button at the bottom of that page. If you can drop me a quick e-mial to let me know for record-keeping, that would be great. If not, God will work it out.

If you would have told me a year ago that I would be planning to spend a good chunk of time over the next many years on the other side of the world building God’s Kingdom, I would have politely smiled and concluded the conversation as quickly as possible. But it’s like Mark Batterson says in The Circle Maker: Praying Circles Around Your Biggest Dreams and Greatest Fears, “You can’t never always sometimes tell.”

God’s like that. I wonder where He might be calling you. If you’ll let him. One thing is sure, if you keep your hand open, you never know where you might end up.

It seems to me that we often reject the good that God offers us because, at the moment, we expected some other good. ~ C.S. Lewis
Where do you sense God tugging at your heart to step out of your comfort zone? Have you had a missions experiences overseas? Share your story or thoughts with a comment. 
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When God Takes You through a Life Tunnel

Life’s a lot like a road trip.

It’s got straight stretches of road on which everything seems pretty normal. You can set the cruise and almost forget you’re driving. It’s got other places that come at you fast, curve in and out, and dip up and down leaving you gripping the wheel with two sets of white knuckles. It has bridges that require faith but reward you with breathtaking views as you cross them.

And then there are the tunnels.

photo: sektorkind

On a recent road trip through the mountains of Virginia, my wife and I entered one such tunnel that took us deep under a mountain. As we cruised along, trying not to get dizzy in the dark as the walls rushed past or to think about the thousands of tons of rock hovering above us, she shared that she loves tunnels.

What’s So Great about Tunnels?

After a raised eyebrow from me, she explained that she really just loved not knowing what she would find on the other side.

I had to admit she had a point. Sometimes it can be sunny on one side and snowing on the other. Sometimes clear roads on one and congested traffic at the other end. Green trees on one and barren brown on the other. One thing is certain: you just can’t know with certainty what’s at the end of the tunnel when you’re still going through the tunnel.

But you can’t stop. Well, you could. But it’s dangerous – both for you and all those around you. And there are no U-turns in tunnels. I have yet to see one with optional turnarounds for those who chicken out halfway through. Once you’re in, the only option is to keep moving forward and trust that the road will eventually emerge one the other side.

Why We Need Life-Tunnels

Life has tunnels, too. Often God takes us through them for the same reasons road builders make them – to get us to someplace faster than we otherwise could have gone. That doesn’t mean we like them. But God uses adversity as a catalyst for greater growth. When we’re in those life-tunnels, we can feel as if we’re in the dark. We can sense the weight of everything that is riding on the outcome. They can test our faith as we wait to see what’s next.

We find ourselves in one of those tunnels now as I shift career gears and head into ministry full-speed. Our pending move to Atlanta is exciting and full of possibilities — yet also unknown and completely unpredictable. Sometimes I want to slam on the brakes, flick on the hazards, and dash for the nearest emergency exit. Knowing my luck, I’d trip on the way and get squashed beneath an 18-wheeler.

Maybe you recognize some of these life-tunnels God takes us through:

  • Early childhood parenting. Man, can it get dark and dizzying at times through those days!
  • Our college years. The uncertainty of what to do next can paralyze us.
  • The first six months of marriage. Right about then we realize why everyone warned that the honeymoon would –a t some point – be over.
  • A prolonged illness with an unclear diagnosis. My baby sister is living that right now as doctors shrug and try to look as if they know what they’re doing.
  • A blended family trying to get up on it’s feet and make something new out of what had been previously broken.

You can likely think of more. Life tunnels are seasons in which we know change is coming, but we can’t really see the end. Not yet.

Why Courage Is Needed

Truth be told, sometimes we want it all to come to a complete stop. Or make a U-turn. But it ain’t happening. Not without a lot of people getting hurt in a traffic pile-up scene worthy of a Jerry Bruckheimer movie.

Tunnels require courage. At the recent Catalyst Atlanta event, I heard Bryan Stevenson say that he did not pray for our comfort or convenience, but for our courage. I don’t know about you, but I could use that prayer.

Sometimes the most courageous thing we can do in life when God takes us through tunnels is to just keep moving. To those outside the tunnel, it doesn’t sound like much to simply stay the course. But the rest of us get it.

Pressing through the fear, pushing through the darkness and uncertainty is the only — and quickest — way out. It’s also the safest. Most wouldn’t think so. But most aren’t driving – or walking – by faith in the One who created the mountain, designed the tunnel, and empowered you to make the trip.

Guess it’s a good thing we are, huh?

What life-tunnels has God brought you through and what wisdom have you learned from them? Share your story with a comment to help us all walk – or drive – with more abundant faith today.

Catalyst Atlanta 2012: A Hot Date for Learning

When was the last time you went on a hot date that was all about learning together?

Thanks to the generosity of some Atlanta friends, both my wife and I were both able to attend the Catalyst Leadership Conference in Atlanta. Those unfamiliar with the conference can explore its history here. Brad Lomenick and the Catalyst team did a phenomenal job with an event that was both entertaining and intensely enlightening.

Our favorite part of Catalyst 2012? An unannounced and nonchalant appearance by Michael W. Smith to lead worship.

Trust me. That's Smitty on the keyboard beneath the giant K at Catalyst 2012.

Add to that an earth-harp. 

A marriage proposal. The Dan Deacon app (you have to see this one).

Connecting with other leaders and bloggers. Sharing Starbucks coffee across the street at Krogers. And cheap chinese food for lunch.

Most unexpected? A surprise appearance by Justin Bieber’s mother.

Oh, and the speakers were excellent. We went to Atlanta praying for God to give us some affirmation about our decision to relocate there ASAP to better position ourselves for ministry. I still think some of my Atlanta friends tipped off Andy Stanley about our faith walk because his opening talk seemed targeted directly at us.

Some of the Andy Stanley’s most memorable lines.

“Info and insight alone do not a leader make.”

Leadership is made by how we respond to:

  • Unexpected opportunity
  • Unavoidable adversity
  • Unquestionable calling

“When you tell your story, you’ll tell about a period of time when you had to wrestle [one of those three things] to the ground.”

“This needs to be a story worth telling!”

“The greatest thing you may do as a leader may not be what you do but who watches you do what you do.”

“It’s better to make a difference than to make a point.”

There was much more, of course, at Catalyst 2012 Atlanta that I hope to share in the coming weeks. But the best part was sharing it with my wife and hearing stuff that made us both laugh at how it seemed exactly what we needed.

Talk about a hot date! Learning AND loving!! Who could ask for anything more? Well, she did mention something about going to  Hawaii, but I don’t really recall what that was all about.

Have you had a hot date like we had at Catalyst 2012 in Atlanta where the two of you learned together? Share your story with a comment here so we can all grow. 

Is What You Are Attempting for God Too Big to Fail?

If what you are attempting for God failed, would anyone notice?

photo: saruwine

A few years ago, much political hay was made about the massive bailouts of financial institutions and various members of the auto industry. The argument then was that they were too big to fail. Whether or not we agree with those decisions, that thinking has left me wondering, what am I doing for God that is too big to fail?

Regular readers know of our journey away from the perception of safety and security as a Christian school leader to expand on God’s call to write, speak, and create resources to help Christians think, live, and lead with abundant faith.

It’s ironic, really, that God would call us to extreme steps of faith in order to help others live faith with faith beyond their imagination. But the reality of our situation is this:

If God doesn’t come through, we’re screwed.

Pardon the blunt vernacular. I’ll understand if you unsubscribe now. But that’s real life. And real life requires, not just prefers, real faith.

But God doesn’t call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn’t come through. ~ Francis Chan Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God

In a post not long ago, I asked the question, what if God wants me to fail? It’s possible that He might be planning to get greater glory from my failure than from my success. I wonder if Peter asked the same thing as he flung one leg over the side of that heaving boat on the turbulent sea and felt the chilly water first splash his toes. Or if it flashed through his mind as lightning ripped across the roiling Gallilean sky.

In that post, I concluded that we had to be OK with whatever result God chose — because He’s God. He can do that. Or not. His call. I should should quit trying to do His job.

After much reflection and counsel, however, I think we should add two more thoughts when facing this fear about doing something for God that’s too big to fail.

Two Key Thoughts

  1. It’s none of my business. “Known to God from eternity are all His works.” His plan, whatever it is, is His plan and not my own. It’s known only by Him. In case you hadn’t noticed, God functions on a need-to-know basis. And we usually don’t need to know. In fact, He often gets more glory when we obey without fully knowing what He’s up to. His decretive will — what He has chosen to happen — will happen for His glory. My worrying about it is really a subtle attempt to take some of God’s authority as my own. No wonder it’s such a crushing burden!
  2. My Father delights to give me every good gift. Though I may not know God’s decretive will, He has made one thing sure: He will supply all my needs according to His riches in Christ Jesus. My Father loves me and gave His own Son for me. He has promised that if I seek first His Kingom, He’ll take care of the rest. As any decent father would:

If a son asks for bread  from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him! (Luke 11: 10-13)

So why am I not — usually — concerned about whether what I am attempting for God is too big to fail?

Because it’s not my problem. It’s my Father’s problem. And He is too big to fail.

I trust Him more than I trust myself.

And isn’t that what walking by faith is all about?

What are you doing that will fail if God doesn’t come through? How has He come through for you in the past? Leave a comment to share your story so we can all grow.

See Why Location Matters: Choose Your Position of Influence

Location. Location. Location.

Anyone familiar with the retail or real estate industry knows that mantra well. Location matters both with brick-and-mortar and cyberspace endeavors. Perhaps a story from our recent family trip to Harper’s Ferry will help illustrate why we have decided to choose our position of influence for Christ by moving to Atlanta.

We recently visited Antietam, Maryland, on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of that bloodiest of battles. But few recall the Southern victory at Harper’s Ferry a few days before that made Antietam such a pivotal moment in the conflict.

Although the North controlled Harper’s Ferry, Lee dispatched his army in three parts to surround it in a daring move led by General Stonewall Jackson. As I stood on grassy knoll of Bolivar Heights,  I understood clearly why Union forces finally surrendered there. In short, the South took all the high ground around them.

The view from Maryland Heights looking down onto historic Harper's Ferry.

First, the South claimed the highest vantage point overlooking Harper’s Ferry – the looming cliffs of Maryland Heights. From there, the domino effect began as Northern positions began to fall. The South could then fire on the next lowest point: Louden Heights to the east. Once they positioned artillery there, they overlooked the still lower point of Bolivar Heights to the south of the town. It was only a matter of time once the high ground was taken for the influence of the Southern guns to be felt everywhere.

Their strategic position cancelled out the other Northern advantages of superior firepower and numbers.

Location matters.

In my case, I’ve been praying fervently for wisdom as to where we should position our family for maximum Kingdom impact. Most readers have followed our prayerful walk of faith away from a safe and secure career in Christian education. God has called me to do what I have been doing successfully for the last fifteen years but on a broader platform. As we have been launched into what is essentially the full-time ministry of connecting real life with real faith, location matters. Where we live will dramatically affect our ability to influence the nation and the world for Christ.

My friend Hugh Hewitt devoted an entire chapter to this topic in In, But Not Of Revised & Updated: A Guide to Christian Ambition and the Desire to Influence the World.  He encouraged young people to choose one of the big three cities and go to at least one of them to open doors of opportunity and learn lessons available nowhere else. His advice focused on New York City (business), Washington, DC (politics), and Los Angeles (culture).  But a new option has emerged for those focused on connecting faith and life.

Atlanta.

After much fervent prayer and wise counsel, we have decided to leave Cleveland, Ohio, our home for our entire lives, and move to Atlanta, Georgia. Our reasons sound a lot like the Harper’s Ferry example. We choose to position ourselves for maximum influence for the Kingdom of God, given the calling God has given me to write, speak, and create resources to help Christians think, live and lead, with abundant faith.

Three reasons for the move:

  1. Location.
  2. Location.
  3. Location.

A bustling ministry and travel hub, Atlanta is the Maryland Heights from which we can more effectively carry out our small role in fulfilling the Great Commission.

What about you?

You too should choose your position of influence. But your vision will be unique to you. Maybe it will require a major move — especially if you’re just emerging from college. Maybe it will mean settling down. It might will involve a move out of your social comfort zone — an equally scary thought for most of us — to engage your local community. Maybe your homeowner’s association, child’s PTA group, church life-group, a local non-profit, or any of the thousands of other opportunities out there will draw your gaze. Whatever it is, we should each be intentional and choose to position yourself for maximum influence for Christ.

Of course, choosing one direction means we must leave other options behind. I confess I won’t miss the Cleveland winters all that much. I can still complain about the Browns from anywhere. And I’ll be back fairly often to visit family, friends, and ministries in Cleveland. But as C.S. Lewis so famously said:

There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.

That’s certainly true for eternity. And it’s true in this life when we are seeking first the Kingdom of God.

Then all these things will be added unto you. (Matt. 6:33)

It’s your call.

Choose to intentionally seek positions of influence for Christ. Pray diligently. Seek wise counsel. Then humbly commit your way to the Lord and get busy. You may want to consult my 5 Key Resources to Help You Discover Your Life Strengths first. But recall that in order for the Apostle Paul to dramatically influence Rome and all the known world, he had to actually go to Rome in the face of impossible obstacles and intense persecution.

So don’t expect it to be easy. Faith hurts.

Seth Godin once told me, “First, be loud.” In the Battle at Harper’s Ferry, the North had more troops, better artillery, and the advantage of being there first. But it was the South who spoke loudest once they had gained the high ground. At Antietam a few days later, the North took the high ground at key locations to alter the course of the war and our nation.

Location. Location. Location.

By God’s grace, our new location in Atlanta will position us for maximum influence for Christ to millions think, live, and lead, with abundant faith.

Prayers always welcome.

Where do you need to get intentional and choose your best location for effective influence? Leave a comment with a friendly click here.

5 Key Resources to Help You Discover Your Life Strengths

As most regular readers know, I’ve been on a journey — call it a quest – to discover my life strengths for the last five years. I’ve made quite a bit of progress, I think. The journey has caused my to take some pretty dramatic steps of faith into the unknown.

But I haven’t stepped completely into the unknown, thanks to five key resources that helped me discover my life strengths. On a recent stay with friends, I shared some of these resources with their sons. It reminded me that I have been sharing this list often of late and others might be helped by my sharing it here.

“First, know thyself.” Aristotle’s words ring more true today than ever when the wide array of options before us in Western culture can be paralyzing. For many years, I stood transfixed by the plethora of dishes at life’s buffet. Sure, I occasionally nibbled at leftovers on others’ plates while promising myself that someday I too would step up. Someday.

Uncertain of my own strengths, I waited, afraid I’d mess it up if I tried to figure out the direction my life should take. Maybe you can relate. Eventually I realized that I’m going to die whether I ever figure it out or not — so I’d best get busy.

The 5 resources I share below helped me to discover this as my life calling:

To write, speak, and create resources to help Christians think, live, and lead with abundant faith.

I just wish I had discovered them earlier in life. If you know any teens or twenty-somethings, do them a favor. Pass on this list.

My top 5 resources to help you discover your life strengths

  1. In, But Not Of Revised & Updated: A Guide to Christian Ambition and the Desire to Influence the World by Hugh Hewitt. No, I’m not just listing this one because I wrote the Forward, Study Guide, and Group Leader’s Guide. I did those things because it is that good. Loaded with proven practical advice, my friend Hugh’s book started me thinking in a very intentional manner about how to use my gifts to get and use influence for Christ.
  2. Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton. Although not the most scientifically reliable tool out there, it is a great starting point to help you identify your strength themes. After reading the first 80 pages or so, take the on-line assessment to identify your areas of natural giftedness. Mine were ideation, intellection, input, responsibility, and belief. Out of that came my preliminary purpose of creatively questioning, connecting, and communicating in the context of my beliefs.
  3. The Truth About You: Your Secret to Success also by Marcus Buckingham. Especially targeting the twenty-something demographic, Buckingham included a DVD and exercises for drilling down into your strength themes. I found when I did the work of drilling down, I quickly identified both my strengths — those things I did well which energize me — and my weaknesses — those things that sucked the life out of me no matter how good I was at them.
  4. StandOut: The Groundbreaking New Strengths Assessment from the Leader of the Strengths Revolution I know. Again with the Marcus Buckingham! But his British accent is so cool! Sorry, can’t help it. He’s done some outstanding work. This latest one gets far more scientific in its results – and it is uncannily accurate in assessing what role you play when part of a team. The on-line assessment solidified much of what I had uncovered already, but gave me even clearer vocabulary with which I could talk about my contribution. By the way, I am what Stand Out describes as “The Hub at the Center.” Provider and Connector led the way on my results with Pioneer not far behind. In short, I am a catalyst who gets things moving and cares deeply about making everyone around me better.
  5. Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will My most recent entry onto the list is from Kevin DeYoung. It is the straightforward antidote to that life direction paralysis that keeps so many of us standing still. His practical yet theologically sound advice speaks candidly to young and old alike but is especially targeted toward the young adult demographic.

I know I’ve left a lot of resources off the list, including a lot of books by John Maxwell that have dramatically influenced my life: Thinking for a Change: 11 Ways Highly Successful People Approach Life and Work, The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You, and  Put Your Dream to the Test: 10 Questions to Help You See It and Seize It.

Start with these five as a gift pack for any young person in your life — or for yourself. It’s never too late to discover who you were made to be and begin to walk in that direction by faith.

What other resources have you discovered have discovered to help you find your life direction? Share your suggestions with a comment here so we can all grow.

How to Know When It’s Time to Go

I’m privileged to have a guest post appear today on the blog of church planter and leader Ron Edmondsen. I admire his leadership insights and recommend following his blog for a steady dose of wisdom. The advice I share there comes from my six months of intensive wrestling with the question:

How do I know that it’s time to step away from a good calling to pursue what I believe could be great one?

Click here to read the post: 5 Questions to Discern a Life Change 

For the intriguing back-story of my faith journey, click here to read: I Will Take the Ring: Why I’m Leaving Rivendell

Subscribe for my free e-book! Subscribe via e-mail to the right for regular helps to live real life with faith AND get my latest e-book now nearly complete. Finding the Curve: The Secret to Explosive Personal Growth will be absolutely free to all e-mail subscribers.

I Will Take the Ring: Why I’m Leaving Rivendell

“I will take it. I will take the ring.”

So said the fabled hobbit Frodo of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy after sensing the irresistible calling to attempt what seemed impossible to all.

With those fateful words, he began a new chapter in his journey – a quest that defied logic, surpassed all imaginations, and grew a faith in him he never knew he had.

And it all started with leaving the safety of the elvish haven of Rivendell.

It is a dangerous business going out your front door. ~ J. R. R. Tolkien

Today, I announce what God has been inwardly calling me to do for some time.

Today, I proclaim with as much faith as a I can muster: “I will take it, God. I will take your call and follow wherever it may lead.”

Today, I share why I am leaving Rivendell.

Why I Must Go

It has been my privilege to serve as part of a noble Kingdom quest these last dozen years as part of the stellar team at Cornerstone Christian Academy. It has been a rewarding experience beyond what words can express. I have formed friendships and bonds that I pray will transcend these earthly days. I’ve grown exponentially — because that’s what people do at Cornerstone. 

Hopefully, along the way, I’ve been able to help others grow in their faith journey, as well. But God has called me to step out by faith in a new direction.

I don’t want to leave Rivendell. Not really.

But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. ~ (Gandalf) The Lord of the Rings

Cornerstone is truly an enchanting place where life-transforming discipleship takes place for God’s Kingdom. If you’re a parent anywhere near Cleveland, Ohio, you should click here to get the number for the school and beg them to let you enroll your children.

I am leaving what most would perceive as a safe, comfortable position as the principal of a blessed and successful Christian school, a ministry doing truly amazing work to make disciples who make disciples for Christ.

At Cornerstone, it has been my privilege to have a key hand in guiding curriculum and discipleship development that intentionally cultivates a Biblical world and life view — connecting real life with real faith.

Cornerstone’s synergistic partnership with my friend Hugh Hewitt on  In, But Not Of Revised & Updated: A Guide to Christian Ambition and the Desire to Influence the World is just one example of how we have been intentional about equipping students to thrive while finding and following God’s unique call for their lives.

It was my privilege both to develop the study guide for that book based on years of teaching the content at Cornerstone and to write the Forward for it. 

A Word to the Critics

Now, I know how people are. If someone leaves anywhere — a church, a community position, their seat in the theater — we immediately make assumptions about their reasons for doing so.  And because silence speaks, as I wrote here, we inevitably fill in the blanks with our own fears and insecurities. 

So let me be clear: the school I am leaving has nothing to do with my decision to go. Well, maybe a little, but in a different way than you might suspect.

Because it truly is a dynamic place where authentic Kingdom growth happens everyday — the Rivendell of ministries — my decision was an excruciating one. It would have been much easier if the ministry I had poured my life into for the last dozen years was ineffective and failing. It’s not. It’s growing and thriving under superb leadership.

God’s Irresistable Calling

My decision is all about the irresistible call to better steward my God-given gifts of writing, thinking, speaking, and leading change to help people grow by connecting real life with real faith. That’s it. There’s nothing else to the story.

After much counsel and prayerful reflection, I decided to step up and amid the noisy commotion of a fallen world, answer simply, “I’ll take it.”

You can read more about the story of my internal journey here as God wrecked my comfortable plans with His call.

I confess it seems strange that God would choose me, poor hobbit that I am, to step out into a big world threatened by such deep and encroaching darkness. But it is His world. And I am His. So I must answer His call.

I have chosen to step out of my comfort zone to serve God’s work on a broader scale – to build and then speak from a wider platform that expands the borders of the Kingdom of heaven here on earth.

The Road Goes On and Ever On

We have chosen to get out of the good and comfortable land and obey God’s call – not really knowing where the journey will take us. We’ve got the general purpose clear but the specific path is, at this point, unknown. What roads we will take, where we will stop along the way, who we will meet, what we will eat — I think our Lord said He had all that covered. So we will not fear.

I say we, of course, because my amazing wife (her name is Faith for a reason) and six children are part of the fellowship on this journey — quest — thing. We’ve included our children in this because we believe they need to see the mighty hand of God at work as we answer His call by faith — with nothing wavering.

An Invitation to Join the Fellowship

I consider this calling to write, think, and speak of real life and real faith faith as a sacred quest. My prayer is that it not dwindle to just two, as Frodo’s did, but that it grow and continually expand as many more join who believe in the transforming power of Biblical ideas applied to real life. I invite you to join our community. Be part of the fellowship of this calling.

I know we’ll see splendid vistas we never dreamed existed back in the Shire. I know there’ll be dark days when the walls of Mordor loom before us. Perhaps some grotesque creatures will emerge to test our faith. But along the way, I hope we’ll become friends. Recall that the one who grew the most through Frodo’s quest was not Frodo, but Sam — the friend who came along to support.

Already God has opened doors for the vision to move forward. I blog about faith and culture at Patheos, the leading Internet destination for religious thought that reaches millions each month. I’ve been invited to write and think as a scholar with the Center for Cultural Leadership, an opportunity that requires God to raise support for His calling on my life. I’ve partnered with John Maxwell’s Equip Leadership team to train leaders in Guam.

Several e-books are in the works — well, let’s just say there’s never shortage of ideas. And I am always open to connecting with other Kingdom opportunities to create further synergy for Christ.

Join the Journey

But only if it will draw you closer to your own faith in God. If you sense the Spirit urging you to come along, come. I look forward to connecting with you on the journey. If I can help you in any way, please don’t hesitate to let me know. 

Here’s how you can be part this fellowship:

  1.  Pray. If you do nothing else, it will be enough. “Prayer is the hand that moves the hand of God,” said E.M. Bounds.  Pray that God will be glorified beyond what we can ask or imagine. Pray big prayers. We are. Both for us and the school where God is at work.
  2. Subscribe. It will be easy to pass over this request — but it is huge! Subscribe to this blog for practical helps to live real life with real faith and to my Patheos blog on faith and cultural issues. From a human standpoint, the greatest enemy of effective influence is obscurity. Good stuff just gets crowded out by our noisy culture. If you will commit to helping spread what I write, it will help immensely. It’ll only take your entering your e-mail address in the upper right of this page and then a click or two each day to share. You can start sharing now by passing along this post with some of the social media buttons below.
  3. Speaking. I love to teach. Check out my speaking page which will be growing in the coming days. If you think I might be a good fit at your church, school, retreat, special event, or international conference — or know someone who might have an opening — drop me a note through that page.
  4. Money. Yes, Kingdom work requires kingdom resources. I’m not concerned about it, because I’m confident of God’s calling on my life. It’s my privilege to offer you the opportunity to turn earthly treasure into heavenly gain in two ways in particular:
  • Support my mission to train leaders with John Maxwell’s Equip Leadership team in Guam. Click here to find out more. Your one-time or regular support will help equip leaders on the other side of the world. Talk about impact!
  • Support my calling to write, think, and speak as a scholar with the Center for Cultural Leadership. Through this on-going partnership, I will have the freedom to follow the Spirit’s lead in using my gifts while partnering with other like-minded thinkers and writers connecting real life with real faith. And you’re support will be tax-deductible. For now, if you think God may be positioning you to be blessed by supporting the calling in this way, just drop me an e-mail with CCL in the subject line. We’ll talk.

Look for my new e-book Finding the Curve: The Secret to Explosive Personal Growth in the coming weeks.  I’ll be giving it away free — yes, free — to all e-mail subscribers.

See. It pays to subscribe. Just put your e-mail in the box in the upper right.

Update: Tune in to The Word 101.5 FM in Pittsburgh, Friday, August 17, at 5:10 PM. I’ll be rejoining John and Kathy during their excellent afternoon drive show to talk about this faith journey and “How To Know When It’s Time to Go.” (Additional media connections welcome.)

By the way, I’ll still be around at the school for a season and will be doing all I can to ensure an effective transition takes place.

If you have any questions or comments that are not of a personal nature, leave a comment with click here . Otherwise send an e-mail directly to me at Bill@BillintheBlank.com.

New Guest Post at Godly Writers

My guest post is up at Godly Writers today asking this question:

Deadly Writing Mistakes: Do You Make This One?

I’m betting we all do — and not just as writers. See what it is and how to avoid it by clicking here now.

If you’re stopping by today for the first time, don’t forget to subscribe in the upper right for practical posts to help you grow by connecting real life with real faith.

Oh, and I’m giving away five free copies of Jeff Goins new book Wrecked: When a Broken World Slams into your Comfortable Life to new subscribers who join the Bill in the Blank community by midnight this Saturday!

Just in case you’re tempted by free stuff.

Enjoy!

Why Paul Ryan as VP? You Win with an Energized Base

A little leadership snack for the weekend.

Romney made a good pick in Paul Ryan. My reasons here at Patheos.

I’m on a Mission from God — to Guam!

I’m going to Guam. Find out why with a click here.

How to Say No: You Too Can Have This Superpower

No.

There. You just said it. It wasn’t that hard, was it?

So why is it so much more difficult to say “no” to others when they ask for more help than you know you can safely give? It’s almost as if you need a magical cape to conjure up the elusive superpower to say “No!”

photo: hillary h

Of course, the thing about capes is their tendency to get caught in jet engines — think Syndrome in The Incredibles. So let’s not go there.

But what can you do to better manage the many requests for assistance from well-meaning people who see you as someone who is good at getting things done?

Say no. You can do it. Really you can.

Here are a few key steps I’ve learned to develop the superpower to say “No.”

  1. Believe that you are in charge of you. It’s not “if only you believe,” but it all starts there. In that space between their request and your answer lies a place where you do have a choice — no matter what you tell yourself. Even if you find you can’t change the specific instance of the request, perhaps you can back up and change the reason the request is being made in the first place.
  2. Know that you’re responsible for you. We like to play the victim far too often by acting as if we just can’t help but say “yes.” But often the reason we give for complying has more to do with our own fear of confronting or disappointing and less with reality.
  3. Get clear on your priorities. One reason we struggle to say no to so many good things is that we haven’t yet discovered what the best things for us might be. Because we’re not sure where we’re going, any old train will do to get there. Instead, take time to live intentionally by developing a life plan.
  4. Fear God more than people. Ed Welch has written a tremendous book on this topic entitled When People Are Big and God is Small: Overcoming Peer Pressure, Codependency, and the Fear of Man (Resources for Changing Lives). If we see our responsibility to be pleasing to our Creator as the main thing, our fears about disappointing the people He made seem to shrink rather quickly.
  5. Get over yourself. Guess what? If you dropped dead tomorrow, life would go on. We’d miss you, of course, but 90% of the stuff you do would get done by someone else. Don’t think it all rests on your shoulders. Sorry. It doesn’t. Instead, focus on the 10% that can only be done by you.

Do you struggle to say no? What steps have you taken to harness this superpower that seems so elusive to so many of us? Leave comment with a click here to share the growth. 

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