Irrational fears about my (in)ability to perform my job at a high level have hung around my neck for many years. I’ve tried to determine why, but with little success. Even when people tell me that I’m doing a good job on a particular project I can’t seem to find any peace in that because there’s a part of me that doesn’t believe it. Something will happen – a detail overlooked, a deadline in jeopardy – and the old familiar panic starts to creep in yet again.
I’ve been reading a book in which the author talks about Jonathan, the son of King Saul. In 1 Samuel 14, he entreats his armor bearer to join him on a crazy plan to attack a large group of Philistine soldiers, just the two of them. The author of this book commends Jonathan for trusting in God and taking a huge leap into the unknown, encouraging others to find similar ways to boldly step out in faith in their lives.
I haven’t been especially bold in my life, and I wonder if it’s because my fear of the known is actually greater than any fear of the unknown. Fear of those details and deadlines, fear of errors in formulas and forgotten tasks, fear of stumbling through an explanation without conveying confidence or expertise. I worship a God whose perfect love is supposed to cast out all fear, who longs for me to do everything He has equipped me to do through His strength; and yet there are too many mornings where I start the day feeling alone and helpless. I tell myself it’s because I’m not doing something I’m passionate about, but should that really matter? Joseph couldn’t have been too excited about being a slave and a prisoner, but that didn’t prevent him from being given authority over others because he performed his duties so well.
I’m think I’m ready for some unknown, because the known keeps robbing me of joy.
Anyone else finding it hard to stay on top of everything important in your life? In addition to trying (not hard enough) to promote a book and write a blog, we have a side business selling antiques and collectibles. Despite my fervent desires, these things do not happen by themselves. The time required to make any of these successful comes after working a full-time job and being a husband and father, which encompasses meeting the needs of my family and such glamorous duties as grocery shopping and doing the dishes. On top of that, the first time I wrote this paragraph I completely failed to mention the importance of spiritual growth through prayer, study and service. How can anyone find adequate time for some of these things, much less all of them, especially now that The Defenders is out on Netflix?
I don’t want to bore anyone with a post about having a finite number of non-sleeping hours in a week and having to be wise in our choices of how to use them, so I’ll just ask the question – how do you do it? How do you make time for what’s important in your life?
I set aside time each morning for writing. I put in on my calendar because I lack the discipline to follow through consistently. But putting something on the calendar doesn’t automatically make ideas flow. As often as I have an idea but lack the will to write I experience the opposite problem – a desire to write without any clear idea of what to say.
I’m certain that I’m not alone in feeling this way. I’d be very interested in how others overcome this. When you’re feeling moved to create, but you lack a specific vision, what do you do? Do you create something, even if you don’t feel much inspiration behind it, because it’s better to use those creativity muscles? Or does it feel contrived to try and force creativity?
I’d love to hear how others approach this.
[Jesus said,] “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that. But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect.”
Matthew 5:43-48 NLT
The dehumanizing of people is a cancer in our culture. It permeates attitudes and ideas across the political and social spectrum. People are lumped into categories and viewed with contempt through a narrow lens that diminishes them as individuals; when we do this we fail to realize that we are also diminishing ourselves.
Even as we pray for healing, strength and unity in response to the terrible spectacle of this past weekend, we must also pray for those enslaved to poisonous ideologies. The corrupting power of sin can’t be broken by laws, programs, rallies or coercion. Sick minds and sick hearts need healing. Sick people need a Savior.
Hard to believe that my presentation to Job Seekers Network was less than two weeks ago. It feels longer than that, perhaps because I’m already working on my next presentation, which is about 5 weeks away. The focus of that message is the power of storytelling, something I am constantly refining in my own life as I try to explain to people why I wrote a book and what the book is about.
What are some tips on journaling?
The best advice I can offer is simply to make it a priority and stick with it. The primary reason I have kept journals in the past is to process my emotions, experiences and questions in a safe place. Those pages are mine and mine alone, although I chose to incorporate a lot of journal content into my book. I journal when I need to, not just for the sake of doing it, although someone who aspires to write for a living probably ought to need to more often!
Because the journal is for your benefit, and should be for your eyes only, it’s important not to self-censor. If you’re mad at someone, get it out of your system. If you’re scared and confused about a turn of events, describe why and see if any insights emerge that can help you push through it. Lack of honesty in your journal is the same as writing a work of fiction.
I like keeping a paper journal, as opposed to using my computer. It’s easier to carry around, and there’s an emotional satisfaction in seeing the effort that went into the transference of ideas from mind to paper; I suppose it’s an act of therapy. The downside to paper is that I have terrible handwriting, and if I don’t keep my pencil sharpened it gets harder to read the longer I write. Also, there are times when I feel like my hand can’t write fast enough to keep up with the flurry of thoughts in my head.
Re-reading journals from past years has helped me remember who I was and what I experienced during those times. I can see patterns of growth I might have otherwise denied or forgotten. But that wouldn’t be possible if I wasn’t willing to be really honest with myself, so if you’re going to start keeping a journal please don’t ever be afraid to be your most authentic self. If you can’t do it there, where can you?
After my presentation last Monday, the Director of Job Seekers Network asked people to raise their hands if they had been working on (or sitting on) a writing project of their own. Quite a few hands went up, which helps explain why most of the questions I received related to writing. It makes me wonder how many books and other writing projects never see the light of day because people give up on them.
How did inviting God into your workplace impact the people around you?
God’s transformational work in me was a gradual thing, spread out over many years, so I doubt anyone would say they perceived any real difference in the way I conducted myself from day to day (although if any of my former colleagues reading this feel otherwise I would love to hear their perspective!).
I think I can best answer this question by sharing a story. One of my supervisors came into my office one day, terribly upset as the result of a recent, unexpected tragedy. While she sat in a chair alternately talking and sobbing, I knelt on the floor in front of her, just listening and holding her hands as needed. I’m probably exaggerating but I feel like we talked for at least 30-45 minutes. Afterwards I wasn’t worried about the cramps in my legs or the impact on my day; I felt honored to have been entrusted with her grieving, and I don’t think the person I was a couple of years earlier would have been.
Walking with God in my workplace opened my eyes and ears to the real needs of the people around me. I initially cried out to God because I was so wrapped up in my own pain and sorrow; He made it possible for me to care about and enter into the pain and sorrow of others, which made me a much more effective leader and person.
After my presentation to Job Seekers Network on Monday morning I got to do a short Q&A session. Most of the questions were about my experiences writing & publishing. As noted in my last post I want to share those questions and some brief answers to them.
How did you write a book while working full time? Did you use your blog to develop ideas & content?
I’ve been an early riser for years, so writing in the early morning before starting work has become my primary habit. After a full day of work I just don’t have the mental (and sometimes the physical) energy to be creative and thoughtful. I like being the only one up when it’s quiet and dark in the morning and my mind feels fresh.
What’s important is finding a time that works and making it part of your routine. For a while I was able to grab some additional writing time on Sunday evenings after dropping Parker off at church for youth group; rather than go home and drive back to church an hour later I’d go down the street to Starbucks and write. Recently I’ve tried to get more disciplined about writing by blocking time on my calendar, but I never felt the need to do that while working on the book.
I’ve never blogged consistently enough to mine that as a source of content. However, a lot of what I wrote in my book came directly from, or was written in response to, my journals. I haven’t always consistently kept a journal, but being able to go back and re-read what I wrote about my experiences, feelings and thoughts during different seasons of life was invaluable in organizing my story in Leadership In Doubt. I am such a strong proponent of keeping a journal that I’m writing a short e-book on that very topic, and will share some of the content through this blog in the weeks ahead.