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Faith Leadership

4 Steps for Catching — and Keeping — Vision

September 18, 2018

I recently talked with a friend about how we will be those seventy-year-olds still auditing classes. We share this common desire to consume new information. While some people can’t wait to be done with the classroom, I love it. The work load, not so much. But the discussing and engaging with ideas that interest me, I hope I can do that my whole life.

So what am I in the middle of learning?

Well, I’m trying to listen to some new voices about how to launch a concept. It’s not that natural to me. I used to say I’m not “wired” that way, but now I think that was a copout because it seems hard and uncomfortable. So instead I’m trying to learn from people who know a lot about how to get an idea off the ground and moving.

I can’t tell you much about how to do that just yet, since I’m freshly in the space. But I can tell you what they all say, which is this:

Catch the vision and know where you’re going. Because where you look is where you’ll head.

It sounds easy enough and like something we’ve all heard. But if I were to ask you what your vision is for the dream you want to launch, how easily could you tell me? Would you stammer through words that perpetually circle the point without ever landing on it? Or could you clearly, succinctly, and confidently articulate what it is?

Asking myself that question has challenged me to clarify. Because even though we can learn techniques of how to get somewhere, if we don’t know where we’re going then it’s not that helpful. The how doesn’t get us far if we haven’t settled the where. But once we do, how becomes crucial.

So in an effort to move myself somewhere intentional, I’m giving it my best shot to implement this advice.

And if you’re there too, here’s what catching and keeping vision practically looks like for me these days:

1. Get specific.

A few weeks ago I pulled out my large white sticky notes and jotted down words on vision, mission, and values. I asked myself pointed questions. Where do I hope to be in the next few months or years? What is most important about how I get there? What compels me to do the hard, hidden stuff today?

Getting specific has been important in catching vision. I’m leaning in to hear what God is whispering about where he is leading and what he is doing. This has helped me not only know where I’m going, but to see and believe for it. And ultimately, knowing what and where always informs and inspires how.

2. Rehearse the vision. 

I’m reminding myself consistently of why I am doing certain things, especially the ones that are stretching, overwhelming, or totally mundane.

When David boldly said, “I’m remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of God” (Ps 27:13), he didn’t necessarily know all the how-tos of it. But he knew where he was heading — to taste God as good — so his present decisions were fueled by his future vision. He was reminding himself of the greater vision in the middle of his surrounding challenges.

3. Align decisions.

Our present decisions make all the difference to where we find ourselves down the road. They determine where we go and what we harvest. This always matters for that. Today is always connected to what comes. So we build momentum through our small and purposeful choices right now.

Because of that, I’m considering how my present decisions help me partner with God in future dreams. The main questions I am asking are: What’s the fruit of this choice in coming seasons? Does this choice lead me off course or keep me on it? What actions best align with the larger vision?

4. Pray by faith (not sight).

In the New Testament the people of faith are encouraged to fix their eyes (2 Cor 4:18; Heb 12:2) and in the psalms it is repeatedly sung about the lifting our heads and eyes (Ps 3:3, 24:9, 121:1). Both hit on the point that we are to raise and keep our eyes set beyond what we see. Then, from there, we declare, prophesy, and trust that God will do more than we currently see.

So I’m believing that God is working in wild, unimaginable ways. I’m not constricting the vision with expectations about how it must come to be, but with expectancy that God is faithful and he will move.

So what’s your vision? How can you catch and keep it so that what you do now propels you towards what God has ahead?

Faith Leadership

How I Got to Work and Wrote My Book

September 6, 2018

Brené Brown shares a powerful story in her book, Braving the Wilderness, about when she decided to write herself a permission slip much like the ones she was signing for her school-aged daughter at the time. She was about to tape an episode with Oprah and was a bundle of emotions (I’d be too). Instead of allowing the stress, pressure, and anxiety to tell her who she was or how’d she do, she wrote herself permission to have fun and enjoy it as it would be.

She granted herself the opportunity to belong in her moment, and to live it both fully and boldly.

After years of letting my book proposal sit on the shelf, God’s whisper spoke life into my dream again. Not only did he remind me of what he had planted in me years ago, but he did something else too.

He invited me to pursue my dream to be a writer, no matter what those official voices had spoken. Ultimately, what I heard after years of letting that book proposal sit was this:

Go write the book.

It was a total shift for me. Instead of waiting for an outside voice to allow me the space to pursue this dream, God was the one asking me to release what was in me.

I approached the dream completely differently. This was about stewardship and giving away what God had put in me. So I changed my source of permission from external voices to God’s internal whisper. I traded my concern for what others around me were saying for what God was stirring in me.

And then I got to work — because the book wasn’t going to write itself.

To date it is probably my most calculated pursuit of a dream yet. I literally counted out the number of days I had to write it, which was about 90. I researched the word count of a typical non-fiction book. Using my snazzy mathematics degree from college, I figured out that I needed to write 500 to 600 words a day for 3 months.

Then you know what I did? I showed up, day by day and word by word.

That’s the key in all of this, no matter what dream you’re wanting to pursue. Passion is important and clarity is necessary, but ultimately you and I have to decide we’re no longer willing not to show up. One day has to be the first day — of many days — that we do the thing. It’s the day we choose that all the reasons we usually give for why we’re quitting whatever we sought to accomplish don’t count this time. They don’t carry the weight to sway or distract us.

We do the mundane and purposeful rhythms, every day for countless days, and through the ordinary something extraordinary takes place.

So last May I decided that all the reasons I usually give myself weren’t going to work this time. Then I wrote the book. I edited it and had others read it, and now I’m pitching it.

What feels amazing about where I am on this journey is that I’m not seeking the validation from publishers to write, as I previously was anxious to receive. I wrote the book. I am a writer.

Now I’m looking for the best place to entrust this offering, which demands I keep working though the path isn’t clear and there are plenty of obstacles along the way. Even still, I’m choosing to show up.

What I hope you hear in this story is this — don’t give others the power to keep you from running hard after what God has put in you. If you know God is calling you to do something, do it. Launch forward by his leading and in response to what he has done in you.

So how do we live this out? We show up each day, steward well what is before us, and allow what flows from us to reflect God’s deposit in us. We partner with the dreams God has placed in us, one decision at a time.

This all means that if you dream of writing a book, write the first chapter. If you want to buy a house, save the first thousand dollars. If you want to grow community, sign yourself up for an activity that puts you around new people. Stop waiting for a perfect time or some heavenly sign to pursue what dreams God already has placed in you. Simply take the first step.

Also, write out that permission slip. I’m not even kidding. Grant yourself the permission to be right now the person who you hope to be when you ultimately step into that dream.

So what’s the dream you need to show up for today? And what kind of permission do you need to grant yourself? I’d love to hear below!

Faith Leadership

Why Consistency is the Key to Breakthrough

July 3, 2018

For the last week I’ve had a thought running through my head. I’m not sure when it started, but from the minute I heard it I knew it was something I wanted to hold onto.

Because the whisper I heard was this,

Consistency is the means for breakthrough.

It struck me because of how challenging I find some days in this season. I can easily get overwhelmed by meeting the necessary demands of my day – things like keeping my kids fed, napped, and bathed – that so many other tasks get set to the side. Some of that is true and natural to my current season. But I am also recognizing that there are areas in my life that mandate my consistency for God’s breakthrough.

Sometimes God works suddenly and out of nowhere moves on our behalf, causing everything to change in an instance. It’s as quick and unexpected as a clap of thunder in the middle of a hot summer afternoon. There’s no warning to it and it totally jolts us by its entrance.

Those breakthroughs are certainly exciting, but they are also rare.

Most of the time God moves through our participation in the everyday and ordinary of life, where we actively engage with and remain consistent in what matters for the long-term.

Why is consistency so central to breakthrough? Because innate to it is partnership, the act of joining with God who is with us. To show up and continue doing so means we are committing ourselves as partners in the breakthrough. There’s something so beautiful in that. It’s not solely about God doing what he wants in us, but us joining with him in what he’s already up to.

As I see it, consistency is one way we say a loud, firm yes and amen to the promises of God in our lives. Just as God is an active God who is moving on our behalf, those promises are active too, being worked out as we keep moving forward. And so they require our activity in order to ignite their transformation — from promise extended to breakthrough experienced.

Tucked into the need of consistency for breakthrough is the question of whether we are willing to move, dig, and progress little-by-little because we have caught hold of the vision beyond how we feel or what we see.

When we have grasped the larger why, we become inspired in the mundane to keep showing up. The vision promotes and enables our consistency in the small and ordinary choices.

Ultimately the most compelling why is the one that is far greater than our individual lives or limits. They encompass the impossible of Heaven crashing down and working in our realms, unfolding a story of God’s move among his people. When we are anchored to a story bigger than us, we are propelled by a why greater than us. And that, I believe, is the most effective way to build consistency. God invites us to catch a vision of him moving in, through, and around us beyond any one of our lives alone.

These are the thoughts currently at the forefront of my mind. Not because I have mastered their execution but because I am discovering that there is an undeniable correlation between consistency and breakthrough. Commitment moves God. So does perseverance and doing the hidden work of sowing seeds far below the surface.

I am becoming convinced that to be prophetic people means to see and believe for what God will do in the years and seasons ahead by way of showing up in the small, ordinary, and consistent choices of today. When we catch the vision of what God will do, we find ourselves with no choice but to put action and momentum behind it. It’s the natural, innate response.

Because if we’re really confident that what he has promised he will do, we will choose to partner with him in it for all the days required until we taste and see.

So can we hold faith by being consistent in what matters even when we may feel like giving up, sitting down, or walking away? Are we so purposed, determined, and willing to see breakthrough that we will keep going today and tomorrow and for as many days ahead even if no one sees or we wonder how it ever could be?

Showing up consistently reflects deep partnership with God and confidence that in due time he will move. And yet, even if he doesn’t, we still play our part because partnership with him in greater depths and realities is the ultimate breakthrough we could possibly uncover.

Leadership

What I Learned About Hunger

September 10, 2013

Two weeks ago, I had an unexpected moment of real culture shock flying home to America. I was somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean when I began watching a news report about obesity in America. The minute I heard the stories and statistics, I promise you, my mouth dropped. Because if there is one thing you rarely find in Africa, it is people overeating to the point that they’re tipping scales into the 500’s.

In fact, if there is one kind of person you can be sure to meet in the bush of Africa, it is the hungry.

In Pemba, where Mark and I were for the summer, there were moments that the requests for sips of water or food from our bags were overwhelming. But the truth is: so many are hungry. And thirsty. So we spent time daily doing what we are created to do – we offered water and food, and met needs among the poor just as Jesus taught us to do.

All summer long, I made friends and sat with them and learned their stories. And I kept thinking, hunger looks like something.

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Hunger is an interesting word we throw around in our church communities. We sing songs and study scriptures and pray words about the hunger we feel and the hopeful promise we carry that we will be filled.

I often find that the physical teaches us about what something looks like in the spiritual. And so all summer long my eyes were open for God to teach me through the hungry what it means to hunger in spirit. And here’s what I learned it looks like…

Hunger looks like Rosa, a mama I watched stand in the food line for hours waiting her chance to eat a bowl piled full of rice and beans. The wait was long – hours long – but to Rosa, it was worth it. I watched Rosa finally get her food, sit on a bench, and gobble it down in moments. And then I watched her get back in line and start waiting all over again, all because she was still hungry. Rosa taught me that hunger often looks like choosing to wait – and wait again – in order to receive the filling. 

Hunger also looks like the kids in the bush running over to me with their pieces of cooked rat. They wanted to share with everyone they could find because to them, having something means sharing it. They didn’t see the rat as some grotesque food like we may view it. They had eyes to see food, provision, filling. And they were so excited for it. They taught me that hunger looks like remaining grateful for what I have in my hands as the provision for my need.

I learned that same weekend that hunger often looks a lot like a licked-clean tuna can. I watched a young boy hold this same tin can for hours, surveying and licking clean every ounce of food within it. Why? Because hunger looks like prizing each crumb and tiny piece of food.

Honestly, I could tell you countless stories about what hunger looks like because my eyes saw it everywhere I went.

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Ever since this summer, I have asked myself how hungry I really am apart from the songs and words and declarations I proclaim.

Am I hungry enough to choose to walk out the waiting season of today because of the promised filling ahead? Am I hungry enough to be grateful for what I have in my hand, not judging it as too-little or not-enough or where-is-more? Am I hungry enough to prize each crumb I am given, celebrating and being thankful for what I have, not begrudging what I don’t?

What I know to be true is that hunger isn’t some theoretical idea in the physical or the spiritual. It’s real. And it looks likes something.

Among the hungry, you will never find crumbs lingering on the ground, being marked as unwanted or second-rate. And you will never find a feast more celebrated than one set before the eyes of the hungry. Those decidedly satisfied and uninterested in feasting may very well come to the table unimpressed, uninterested, and even underwhelmed. But the hungry – they will show up with one intention – to feast and be filled.

Within the Kingdom, it will always be the most hungry who will be the most filled. All we are to do is become and stay hungry for the food at His table that has been set before us today. Provision is not meant to be scrutinized, picked apart, or begrudgingly partaken. It is to be celebrated and feasted upon in wild thankfulness.

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Wherever you are today and whatever you are navigating, don’t forget to hunger for Him. Because out of those guttural cries deep within us, which roar in moments of hunger, come some of the most breathtaking surges of strength and grace. Hunger is the ground where exchanges are made between Heaven and earth, creating and protecting the space that allows for His hand at work in our today. When we hunger, Heaven responds and fills that deep longing within us…only to stir up more hunger.

May we stay so desperately hungry for God that our hearts belt out those songs of gratefulness again over all that is within our hands, over our present wait that promises the filling, and over our prized provision before us today.

Live Here. Love Now.

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