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.

Are You Quick to Forgive — Like God?

You know you should. Forgive, that is. You know you should do it. And quick. You even know you should ask God to forgive you. Like, now.

Yet somehow sinful pride so often holds us back, making our lives even more of a complicated mess.

photo: seantoyer

My son models this call of being quick to forgive and to ask for forgiveness — for any perceived offense. Sometimes he’s too zealous in his request, even asking others to forgive him for thoughts he had about them but never shared with them. Awkward. But good.

I’d rather he be too quick to forgive and request forgiveness than become hardened to sin like most of the rest of us.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, just as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph. 4:32 NKJV)

We are called by God to imitate his lead on this forgiveness thing. As we look at His example, what do we see that might give us a plan for being quick to forgive?

  • God is eager to forgive. First, the facts: “The Lord is merciful and gracious, Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy.” (Ps. 103:8 NKJV) It’s as if it’s overflowing out of Him. So often we visualize God as a grudge-holding manipulator whose happy to finally have us at a disadvantage when we stumble — can you say “Projecting!” That’s what we do. But not God. In truth, He is always poised to pounce at the slightest opening to forgive all who ask. Is that the ready-and-waiting condition of your heart today?
  • God forgives quickly. “If we confess our sins…he will forgive our sins….” (1 John 1:9 NKJV) There’s no time-delay with God. There’s no committee to review the request. There’s no standing in line. No weighing of the leverage He has over us. Forgiveness is instant — like that powdered stuff they call coffee in a jar — only without the stirring. We ask. It’s gone. I wonder if we give it out as quickly as it’s given to us.
  • God takes offenses seriously but holds them loosely. As the just Judge of all men, He doesn’t look the other way or pretend it didn’t happen. He confronted Peter in a powerful way for his cowardly denial. Once forgiven though, Jesus never mentioned it again. We would do everyone around us a tremendous service if we would do take the same approach with those who wrong us.
  • We must be quick to ask. Instead of rationalizing away our failures in defense of our foolish pride, let’s treat them with the urgency they deserve. We wouldn’t hang around with radioactive waste arguing about just how radioactive it might be. Well, most of us wouldn’t. Why dilly-dally while a far more pernicious but equally invisible evil eats away at our soul? Note the priority Jesus places on it:

Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.   (Matt. 5:23-24 NKJV)

Not even worship comes before our urgent need to forgive and seek forgiveness. Maybe it’s time we started un-complicating our lives by being like God — at least when it comes to forgiveness.

The rest of the mess might take us all a little time.

Do you find it easier to forgive those who offend you? What other truths have you found helpful to to ask for forgiveness before sin erodes our soul? Leave a comment here to share the growth.

What If God Wants Me to Fail?

It’s one of those thoughts we all have even though we’re pretty sure we shouldn’t. When we step out of the boat, it’s not that we believe God can’t answer our prayers. But what if, for reasons known only to Him, he chooses not to. What if God wants me to fail?

Job boldly put it out there: “Though he slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15)  I really don’t want to die. I don’t want to fail. Yet the Bible is full of faithful believers called to suffer: Job, Paul, Peter, Stephen — and countless millions of martyrs throughout history.

Now that I’m out of the boat, what if He chooses to let me drown for His greater glory? Will I be OK with that?

Would you?

There Is No Faith without the Risk of Failure

As most readers know, we’ve recently stepped out of the boat and into the unknown as we seek to build a life of ministry helping people grow by connecting real life with real faith.

It’s scary stuff. I start out pretty boldly each morning. But usually by lunch time, I’m feeling that anxious war within. And the one question that continues to nag at our souls as we pray for God to be glorified is this: I know He can but that doesn’t mean He will. After all, what makes me any better than all those other more faithful ones who perished in His service.

Now before some of you accuse me of being morose or depressed, we should also acknowledge the bountiful promises of God:

  • My God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.   (Phil. 4:19)
  • Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.   (Matthew 6:31-33)
  • Whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. (Matthew 11:24)

Both messages come from Scripture. God is good. Always. And sometimes he chooses to let us fail. So we’re left to reconcile these two as best we can. We pray boldly while we prepare our hearts for His sovereign answers.

A Few Tips to Keep Our Focus

Here are a few steps I’ve found while on this faith journey. Maybe they can be of help to you:

  • Seek God’s Glory Alone. It’s only when we truly desire His best that we can truly say, “He gives and takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”  When we reach that place of humility before Him, one is truly just as acceptable as the other. I’m not saying I have arrived, just that we should all be trying to get there.
  • Ask in Faith without Doubting. Why? We’re told to do it. ”Let him ask in faith, with no doubting.” (James 1:6)  The asking is our task. The answering is God’s. All too often we assume his role in the process then wonder why we feel overwhelmed. We forget too quickly that it is God’s glory on the line — not ours — when His people are in need.
  • Pray Big Prayers. My friend P. Andrew Sandlin keeps reminding me of this need, though I confess I struggle to understand all it means. I know it means to go boldly before the throne of grace and “claim the crown, through Christ, my own.” But it also means my prayers must be about the Big Kingdom picture and not just about my petty needs.
  • Train Yourself to Surrender. Paul warns us that we’ll get a good workout becoming godly. He wasn’t kidding. Often it’s laying down our own pride that takes the most diligent effort. Start by making it a morning habit to crucify yourself, take up your cross, and follow.
  • Ever Be Willing to Answer “Yes.” What if He does chooses to let you fail, will you still trust Him? That is the question He wants answered. Do you trust Him enough to lay your future on the altar and lift the knife in obedience to Him? What if he doesn’t provide a substitute? When the temptation comes to draw back in fear — for that is what it is — will you hold to who He is or flee to who you think you are?

I wonder sometimes if Abraham told Sara about God’s call to sacrifice Isaac — the future of their family. If he did, how did she handle it? I tend to think he kept it to himself. I understand why. It’s hard to let God strip us of who we think we are. But it’s only through the testing that we become as gold. The fires of faith make us jewels fit for the King. There is no other way to be found worthy of the high calling that is in Christ Jesus.

Maybe you’re trying to do too much. Stand down. And watch God step up — or not. It’s His glory. It’s His world. It’s His call.

And we must be OK with that.

Lest that stark reality tempt you to lose heart:

The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. (2 Chron. 16:9 NKJV)

God is constantly on the prowl for the chance to show His power on behalf of those who are willing to answer simply: “Yes.”

No matter what.

Do you ever struggle with the fear of following Christ into the unknown? What thoughts do you have about this tension that comes from surrendering yourself completely to the outcome of God’s choosing? Share your story or comment here to help us all grow.

photo by: The 5th Ape

Teen Parenting Help: Guest Post from Shannon Milholland

Today I am privileged to feature a guest post at Patheos by my friend Shannon Milholland. She’s an awesome writer, speaker, and author of Jesus & My Orange Juice. If you don’t follow her yet, you should.

Click here to read: Don’t Go Wireless with Your Teens

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.

You Too Can Choose to Live by Faith. Let Me Help.

I do some of my best thinking when I’m cutting the grass. I don’t know why. There’s something about taking the John Deere for a few turns around a few acres of green stuff that helps me put my thoughts into neat rows.

Tonight was no exception. As I rounded one corner near the rear of the turf course, I looked towards our house and saw it glowing, framed by the golden sun dipping low on the horizon behind it.

It wasn’t long ago that same house glowed for a different reason. It had a shine to it somewhere within my soul.

Not because it’s a grand palace. It’s not. Oh, it’s a great house. Surrounded by a “prettyish sort of wilderness” and some pretty cool gardens that I’ve nearly killed myself to plant. We love living here. I truly appreciate it.  

But it’s just a house.

My house had come to represent comfort, security, and confidence. But that was before God stirred my heart to truly live by faith. It began with — well, a feeling;

It started out as a feeling

Which then grew into a hope

Which then turned into a quiet thought

 Which then turned into a quiet word

And then that word grew louder and louder

‘Til it was a battle cry (lyrics from “The Call” by Regina Spektor)

In my case, the feeling turned into a book proposal on what it truly means to live each moment of life with real faith. Which then turned into an unshakeable desire to enter the story myself, to find out what would happen if I chose to live by what I believed to be true instead of by what I saw around me. And then that call grew louder and louder to put my confidence where it belonged instead of in stuff that won’t survive this century.

God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear…. (Ps. 46:1-2)

Sounds like a battle cry to me. Now I have to rewrite the book proposal with my own story currently in progress.

God is my confidence. And fear is a choice.

I can choose to fear or not to fear. If I believe the truth claim (God is our refuge), I will act as if that claim is true. If I don’t believe it – deep in my soul — I will not act as if it is true. It’s that simple.

Occasionally in life, we get rare moments when we can recognize significant shifts in our own thinking. I had one  about six months ago when I chose to get out of the boat and follow God’s call to use my strengths no matter the cost.

I think I’ve had another one tonight as I cut the grass – a clarifying vision of my calling.

In short, I want to help you choose to live by faith. I want to teach you how to do it, equip you to act on it, and encourage you to keep moving forward on this exhilarating faith journey. (Come to think of it, I might want to cut this post out and put it in a scrapbook.) Most importantly, I want to lead the way by my own example.

I choose to put my confidence in God, to live by faith no matter if I have a house that glows in the fading sunlight or not. But I don’t want to go alone.  I’ll take the ring, but I’d prefer a fellowship. I’d much rather encourage others to come along on this walk of faith. Starting with you. 

It’s time to change the world. It’s time to live by faith. Houses may get left behind. Shadow callings might be abandoned. No doubt we’ll face more than a few fears along the way.

Anyone else shaking yet? Just checking. I’m hoping I’m not the only one.

What does it mean to you to walk by faith? Do you act on what you say you believe? Go ahead. Leave whatever comment God is nudging you to share with a click here.

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photo by: AdamKR

Do You Teach Your Kids to Do Hard Things?

When I came home tonight, my kids excitedly shared what they’d been up to all day – designing and then practicing on a ninja exercise course! 

They shared their breathless story of how difficult it had been both to think up and then execute the tough assignment. Apparently, they all took turns repeatedly crossing from swing-to-swing over gaping crocodiles, scaling the slippery pole of certain death, and plunging down the scary slide with reckless abandon!

Again and again. It also explained where all the spaghetti went at dinner.

It reminded me how important it is to teach kids to do hard things.

We parents tend to foolishly think that our job is to make life easy for our kids. Or make it safe. I suppose it is if we want them to learn that life is easy. But is it?

For anything worth having, one must pay the price.  ~ John Burroughs

I suppose that’s partly why we chose to read The Lord of the Rings as our story for family reading time. I’ve blogged about why you should read to your kids and how we have found ways to read to them and enjoy it. One of the reasons we chose to tackle the 1,000 page LOTR by Tolkien with six kids between the ages of 4 and 11 was to teach them — and us — to do hard things.

Instead of running from the challenge, we tackled it head on.

I recall my teacher and mentor from my high school years reminding me often that the brain is a muscle. It will grow if you exercise it. I told my first students the same thing on the first day of school so mnay years ago. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that all four of our older kids are now tackling tougher reads all on their own.

And judging from the creative workout they’re getting on the playground, our strategy for cultivating greatness seems to be working.

Do you agree that we should teach children to tackle the tough stuff? What ways have you found to teach your kids to do hard things? Share a comment with a click here to share the growth.


How to Read to Your Children and Enjoy It

Yes, it is possible. You can read to your children and enjoy it — all of you. My post on Why You Should Read to Your Children gave a few reasons for making it part of your family routine. But that doesn’t mean it’s always been easy for us to float away on imagination bubbles.

At first we failed miserably. I thought the children — ranging in ages from 2-9 at the time — would sit like angels and listen to me regale them with classic tales from C.S. Lewis. They did. For about five minutes.

Somewhere in the never-ending back story at the beginning of Prince Caspian, they faded out one-by one. Soon the family-bonding time turned into a frustrated fit of anger from — well, me. And it was “off to bed!”

I even used our regular family meeting table (a square one that seats all eight of us) as the reading spot so we could all be gathered around facing one another. A couple of children did actually stay focused. Not surprisingly, they were the ones who naturally gravitated toward words.  The others? Well, let’s just say they were polite — but easily distracted.

I am happy to say, we’ve learned a few tricks to improve our family reading time. It’s no longer something we dread. In fact, the children moan if we miss it! And that’s in spite of the fact that we are reading through the unabridged version of — The Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien.

That’s right — the whole thing.

A Few Key Steps

Here are a few key steps for reading to your children so you all enjoy it:

  • Choose a time. Children crave consistency. Let’s face it, we all do. If we don’t schedule it into our weekly routine, it probably won’t get done. Make it predictable so it doesn’t conflict with other priorities. For us, every Tuesday night for 30-40 minutes is our family reading time. Important reminder: Always leave them wanting more, not wishing you had ended twenty minutes ago.
  • Choose a place. We moved reading to the children from our family meeting table to the family room around the fireplace. Nothing like a fire to spark imagination in the winter. Everyone can still be more or less in a circle but each is free to relax a bit.
  • Choose an activity. I know this seems counterintuitive to have them doing something while we read, but our breakthrough came when I decided to seek synergy in the reading time. We purchased a sketch book and colored pencils for each child. We gave them their own “creative tub” in which to keep them. It’s only for family reading time. While Dad reads, each child must first sit silently for a few minutes. Once the imagination wheels start to turn, they are free to create whatever their minds conjure up. It doesn’t have to connect with the story. Their hands stay busy while their minds stay active. And both activities together grow their imaginations.
  • Choose a story. Don’t start with an encyclopedia or even cool gardening books if that’s your thing. Everyone loves stories. Choose stories that will interest them. But be sure to be a parent, as well. Pick tales that will put meat on the bones of their soul. That doesn’t mean you can’t toss in short, fun readings from time to time. In fact, you may want to have each of the children take a turn offering a short story or book to give them more buy-in into the process.
  • Choose a voice. Make it a fun time for all of you by doing your best to find unique voices for each character. Believe me, it’s hard to keep track of them all in LOTR – but still fun. (Gimli still makes my throat tickle a bit too much, but Gandalf is a fun one.) Remember, you are training their imaginations by modeling how to read. No pressure.

I’ll post later on why we chose Lord of the Rings. You should  choose what works for your family. I’d suggest making a “short list” of books you think might work and then discussing them with your children. Try to reach a consensus – and maybe a compromise — to get things rolling with their support. If your children are much younger, of course, any Dr. Seuss or similar tale will do the job.

How do you read to your children? What tips and trick do you use — or did your parents use with you — to create lasting family memories? Share a comment with a click here.

photo by: h.koppdelaney

My Review of The Odd Life of Timothy Green

My review of The Odd Life of Timothy Green is up at Patheos. 

Take some tissues. But note my caution about taking the kids.


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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.


5 Reasons Why You Should Read
to Your Children

How did you learn to drive a car? From suddenly picking up a manual, skimming it and then hopping in for a test drive? Maybe some of you did, in fact, do that.

That dent in the garage door is till there isn’t it? 

If you’re like most of us, you observed your parent’s driving habits for many years, perhaps without even realizing it. You wondered how they made the turn signal come on while slowing down the car at the same time. You saw what you could see and concluded that driving wasn’t so difficult after all. It’s the same way with reading to your children.

photo: nlnnet

Study after study has simply reinforced what common sense tells us — we do what we see done.

Do as I say…

I recall my uncle once trying to teach me how to make the bowling ball hook when I threw it. You know, in that cool way that pro bowlers magically do. He told me how to place my fingertips just so to make it curve just like the pros. He told me just how to release it at the right time. I thought I had it — until I watched him do it. He didn’t do it at all like he was telling me to do it.

When I asked him why he didn’t do it the way he was telling me to do it, he laughed and said, “Do as I say, not as I do.”

I don’t bowl now.  I’m not blaming it on him, of course. But I never did figure out how to make it hook  like he did. Bowling just isn’t as much fun when the pins don’t fall down.

Because reading is such a gateway to personal and spiritual growth, our children face a significant challenge in life if they’re not avid readers. Sure, they can still grow through other means. But it’s kind of like trying to play golf at Pebble Beach without a driver. You can till get around the course, but it’ll take you quite a few more shots. And you’ve got no chance of winning.

And isn’t reading rather important for people of faith who depend on the written Word for life direction?

Here are 5 reasons you should read to your children on a regular basis:

  1.  Children do as you do not as you say. We may not like it, but it’s true. Just telling them to read won’t mean anything unless they see and hear you do it.
  2. Children need to hear how to do it. Often children are afraid to fail — like all of us. They don’t pick up a book because they know they can’t do it perfectly. When they actually hear you reading — complete with imperfections — they realize that it’s OK to stumble at times.
  3. Children perceive priorities. If you take the time to read with them, you send a clear message that they are important to you. Note the synergy (Habit 6) at work here as you are both spending time as a family and educating them.
  4. Reading together opens doors. Some of the best discussions we’ve had as a family came as we talked about characters in a story we were reading. Stories give us hypothetical — and safe — ways to discuss the stuff of life.
  5. Reading is an interactive experience. Unlike television, reading forces interaction between parents and children. It prompts questions from your children, a habit you definitely want to encourage as they get older.

Not that it’s always easy. My next post will share a few tips and trick for HOW we do it. After failing miserably many times, we’ve actually figured out a method that has our children upset when we have to miss our scheduled time of reading.

What are some other reasons you can think of for reading to your children? Did your parents read with you? Leave a comment to share the growth.

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