I love doing creative things.

I had a phase where I painted landscapes nonstop. Today, I’m getting pretty serious on the throwing wheel. And I still love to write.

But I’ll tell you what feeds me just as much as my creative projects…

Investing in other peoples’ creative projects.

That’s why I love to be a teacher. I love investing myself in the students. I love pouring into them. Of course, they are a captive audience, but they do not have to take my advice. There is no doubt that pouring into kids has sharpened my own skills.

It’s funny how that works. We know that we are finite creatures with finite time, finite energy, finite resources. We might be tempted to hoard ourselves, protect our time, save our energy for ourselves. We might think that if we save it all for ourselves that our own work will be better.

But I have found that is hardly ever the case. I do not think any creative person can get better without pouring a little into others. I do not think any person of faith can grow their faith without pouring a little into others.

The great truth is that you are a renewable resource. You may be depleted at the end of a day. But you regenerate. And the more you pour yourself into other people, the bigger return you get. It’s amazing! Pour more out, get more back.

Charles Spurgeon knew this. He wasn’t an advocate for keeping you to yourself.

water

What if we dropped what we were doing today?

What if we dropped all of our projects and paid attention to what someone else was doing? Just to pour into them, just to encourage them, just to take joy in what they were doing, without any kind of jealousy or self-awareness or comparison?

It might do us some good.

 

It’s hard to believe that Plus or Minus is just a couple of months away, but it’s true. And while there has been a flurry of activity here in the PlusOrMinus_Revisions1_June9background, I’m really most excited about what is going on up front.

New Faces

It is amazing how something that used to isolate us now connects us with people. I’ve been so enthralled by all of the new connections, all of the people who are eager to share their stories, even if they happened twenty years ago!

New Stories

It also amazes me every time I connect with someone new, how much other people have suffered in order to have children. Believe me, Cheri and I did not write this book because we thought we had it the worst. Far from it. But it is a testament to the human spirit how much people are willing to endure for children who do not yet exist.

New Events

We have also got two pre-release events that are really exciting and those of you in the Kansas City area should definitely come out. First, in a couple of weeks, Saturday December 6, I’ll be here for a local author book fair. I’ll be talking about the writing and publishing process, not to mention giving away Plus or Minus.

Next, we have nailed down a launch event for Plus or Minus in the heart of the city. We are calling it Stories of Redemption and I just cannot wait to see how it will bring people together and give them hope and encouragement. In the end, our redemption does not come from having children, but somewhere else entirely.

That is what is fueling me this week! See you on the other side.



Trigger Warning: This post references topics such as sexual abuse.not_that_kind_of_girl_by_lena_dunham_WEB

Well, we are not exactly Lena Dunham. That would be weird.

A lot has been made of the revelations from Girls star Lena Dunham’s memoir. What may have been intended as a collection of awkward stories from her formative years has now cranked the internet controversy up to eleven. If you have not read the excerpts in question, just google them. The long and short of it is that Dunham, in her own words, compares herself to a child predator as she retells incidents of…erm…close contact with her little sister.

Dozens of writers and commentators have quoted Dunham’s words verbatim, letting her own stories speak for themselves. Thousands of people have tweeted and blogged, often their disgust to Dunham. Dunham has fired back by “rage spiraling” on Twitter and siccing her lawyers on people, threatening defamation lawsuits.

The whole time I took this in, I realized something.

There are a lot of people who consider Dunham’s stories icky at best and predatory at worst. There are some who cannot understand why she would share such things.

But if any of us were in Lena Dunham’s shoes, I think we would have done the same thing. We are not so different from her.

Here’s what I mean.

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We all deal a lot with words.

I thought I had written a lot of words in high school. But then I graduated and went to college, and then to seminary. Seminary was very writing heavy. I thought I had exhausted my energy for words. But then I graduated and started writing a blog, just for fun.

Then I wrote a book, Life After Art, which added up to 35,000 words. I probably wrote another 35,000 words in promotional materials.

And now I’m working on getting Plus or Minus to press. At about 55,000 words, it’s the most intensive collection of words I have ever shared.

I asked one of my high school seniors about their thesis papers, the pinnacle of their high school career. The word count on those is roughly 7,000 words. And to them, that seems insurmountable.

With Plus or Minus, I had to write and then discard 25,000 words. Equal to two-thirds of my first book, had to end up on the cutting room floor. And it has been painful. This weekend has been by far the biggest single cut, perhaps 10,000 words. I loved them all and put my heart into them.

It’s funny how when you are in high school, 7,000 seems like a big number. They spend all year crafting those words. But as I have grown as a person and a writer, I have stopped placing so much value on the number of my words as the worth of my words. We share careless little words all the time. We tweet and post little sentences that float to other peoples’ screen and then disappear. But how many of our words are truly important? How many of them are worthy?

I had to write 75,000 words in order to find 55,000 that I could keep.

In all creative pursuits, we cannot be married to everything we make. We cannot insist that everything we write be read. We have to hold our words lightly. We have to let some fall to the floor.

words

We do this so that the words we share will be truly worthy of being heard.

Ah, the end of another week.

Last week, I skipped this blog entry because of the Halloween holiday, in the hopes that an evening at home would give me some time to refresh and catch up on some reading. Instead, I answered the door for trick-or-treaters and watched Charlie Brown. 

This week has been a blur with work on Plus or Minus behind the scenes. We nailed down a launch event, and I’ll be in a local author fair here in my town, which is pretty exciting.

And so we come to the end of the week and the best things to grace my air space…

In My Blog Reader

This is the season of gratitude, a discipline often discussed, but maybe less understood, which is why I appreciated the words of Kristen at We Are That Family on the life-changing price of gratitude. This season is also the season of busy, a season when our to-do lists and calendars fill up so much that we might actually miss out on the holidays. Hannah Brencher discusses how to be less busy as we prepare for a notoriously busy season.

In general, if there is one persistent hashtag I hate, it is #blessed. It’s just so insipid and trite. But people like to be #blessed, right? Jamie the Very Worst Missionary takes on the meaning of the word blessedProbably the all around best thing I read this week for a culture that usually defines blessing as “getting what I want.”

If there is one word that has become pretty unpopular in much of Christian culture, I might have to pick repentance. Repentance pretty much sounds like the opposite of blessed. Lore Ferguson talks about this in the forgotten remnant of repentance. On a different note, Sammy Adebiyi discusses parenting and why he’s okay when his kids disrespect him (admittedly, I was ready to not like this one at all based on the title, but it’s not what you think.)

Finally, there has been a lot said about Brittany Maynard and most of it is, sadly, pretty predictable. Most of us live in the realm of the predictable and repeat the words and phrases that have already been circulated endlessly. Caleb Wilde brings some fresh thoughts and probably the most useful discussion to this event.

And that’s it for me. See you next week!

What makes a leader? 84c4cc353a9e4eb003711dd7957b854ed4fc0ab9a0ffe939eaa67554a4404ec9

What makes a pastor?

You’d think we would know the answer by now. There are endless books, websites, conferences and resources devoted to the subject. We are obsessed with leadership in the American church.

And yet…

We watch, yet again, the rise and fall of a prominent leader. Sooner or later, another leader will fall. Even in our churches (or maybe especially in our churches), bad behavior is tolerated at the highest levels. Egos are allowed to run wild. Maybe you are experiencing this in your own church. The fact is we have brought this on ourselves. We promote people with huge egos to places of leadership where they do not belong.

I have no doubt that most of our churches are led by humble, godly men and women. But I also have no doubt that the “Christian leadership industry” is trying to sell us something.

They are trying to sell us a new kind of leader. They are trying to sell us the kind of leader we do not need, and convince us that this is the kind of man we need at the helm. The definition of “leader” and “pastor” has radically changed in the American church. Anyone who says the American church at large is interested in creating biblical leaders must be joking.

Don’t believe me?

Think about what our idea of “leadership qualities” is.

Then go to your Bible.

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