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DISCOVER, EQUIP, AND PURSUE YOUR PURPOSE

Archive for the tag “God”

Waves of Change

There’s a different flavor to this entry – much more personally vulnerable than usual, but hopefully helpful to those facing a similar situation.

Alteration, modification, variation, transformation, adjustment, amendment. I like all of these words better than plain old “change”. More syllables somehow gives a sense of fluidity and even feels gentler verbalizing than the abrupt and harsh “change”.

I am facing unwanted, fast change in my life. I don’t mind things ebbing and flowing over the natural course of time. I don’t mind a surprise now and again. But massive, out-of-the-blue change – the kind that knocks you on your rear end and the breath out of your lungs? Or how about the baited change – when you expect one thing and get the other. Of those I’m not much of a fan.

You can utter all the platitudes, repeat all the affirmations, read all the quotes, get patted on the back by friends, and try to pick yourself up. And, most times, in your head you know that things will eventually smooth out and you’ll get back on track again.

Then there are those times when forced change can spin you into the Kubler-Ross Five Stages of Grief. (Here’s a quick list so you don’t have to search: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.) I think there should be another step squeezed in there somewhere: being frozen.

For more than a few months now I have been going through a tough time spurred by a rising river of unwanted, uncontrollable change. I was expecting some change, but it came in greater number, speed, and force than I had prepared for. It spilled out of the river banks and wiped away the sandbags I had stacked around certain areas of my life. Nothing was protected. All I could do was stand there and watch it pour over me and around me and watch it carry everything in every area my life away with it. There has been nothing that hasn’t been affected. I haven’t really talked about it with anyone at any length and prayer bounces off the ceiling. Writer’s block has taken full root (this entry is one of maybe three things I’ve written in months). I put up a barricade by freezing myself from feeling anything or reacting to anything, relegating myself to a sort of half-life:  there physically but not emotionally.

Then last week, something sort of happened.  I continued to be deluged by unexpected blows and watching myself not responding. Maybe it was a “last straw” type of thing but when I received one certain piece of news I sunk down into the chair I was sitting in and thought to myself, “But I don’t want to be an empty shell person.” When you stop fighting all the changes, but not in a let’s-figure-this-out-and-move-on kind of way, then you allow the changes to beat you up and toss you emotionally and spiritually into nothingness. I’ve seen people like that. They’ve resigned themselves to victim status and accept whatever is thrown their way, thinking it is what they deserve, too worn out to hope for anything more. Their lights go out. And they never recover. I said, out loud, “I don’t want to be like that. I want to recover. I don’t want other people to face that, I want to help them recover before it’s too late.” And a little spark was lit. 

It wasn’t a blinding revelation, there was no instant transformation.  I still feel very deflated.  But there is a spark.  A lot of tears have blurred my eyes as I’ve written this entry. I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen from here. I don’t know if Burn Bright will change (or even continue) as a blog or business. I don’t know where I’ll be living or working or worshipping or people I’ll hang out with, or activities I’ll participate in this coming year. But rather than roll up in a frozen ball and be tossed in the waves as the changes continue, I’m going to try to thaw, stretch out, bodysurf, and ride them to whatever shore they are taking me. 

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There’s Nothing Wrong with New Year’s Resolutions

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with making New Year’s Resolutions.  A resolution is simply a firm decision, a determination to change something.  Nothing wrong with that… but don’t leave it at that.  Doing two simple things will take it out of the realm of mere intention:

  1. Tie your resolution to the purpose God has for your life. Fitting it into the big picture gives it a meaning and value that will take it beyond just the heady rush of the first week of the new year.
  2. Write down the resolution in the form of an actual goal.  Use the SMART acronym to get it on paper and in your heart and mind.

goals

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with making New Year’s Resolutions, but without a form to them, an actual reason and an actual plan, what’s the point? Be intentional. Burn bright.

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When That “Someone Else” Is You

The definition of “better” includes being more pleasing, acceptable, or of greater quality, usefulness, or suitability than something else.  While it’s a good thing to be acceptable, useful and suitable – the trouble comes in trying to be better than something else.  And, let’s face it, we’re typically trying to be better than someone else.

It’s a great concept in the world of business and sports, but when we attempt to surpass someone/something else with regard to pursuing our purpose in life, we wind up making judgment calls about that person.  And what happens when that someone else is ourselves?  Is there something wrong with trying to be better than ourselves?  My debatable answer is… yes, there is a problem.

Do you realize that God does not call us to be a “better” person? I’ve searched scripture (and the internet) and can’t find it anywhere.  However, there are plenty of times when he calls us to be a different person… a new person.  (2 Corinthians 5:17 and Ephesians 4:22-24 are just two.)

I like how CS Lewis put it:

“God became man to turn creatures into sons: not simply to produce better men of the old kind but to produce a new kind of man. It is not like teaching a horse to jump better and better but like turning a horse into a winged creature. Of course, once it has got its wings, it will soar over fences which could never have been jumped and thus beat the natural horse at its own game…”

When we try be more pleasing, acceptable, or of greater quality, usefulness, or suitability than what we were in the past, we are taking on a responsibility that God has not given us: judging ourselves (both in the past and now).  In 1 Corinthians 4 the Apostle Paul denounces this.

Looking back on who I was ten years ago, I don’t know if I can claim to be a better person now, but I can confidently state I am a different person. Why should I attempt to prove myself against a long-irrelevant standard or compete against/surpass a past version of myself?  I am not who I was – I have acquired new ways of thinking and doing things.  My direction has changed – the activities I am involved in are not the same. My current decisions are made for what I am pursuing now, not then.

Each of us has a unique purpose and an inimitable way to pursue it.  This quest is not a struggle to transcend ourselves, but an invitation to build upon what God has given us to do – where we are and as who we are now without comparative references.

self compete

Getting Out of Your Own Way – Part 6 of 6

In order to fully pursue the purpose God has placed on our lives, we are looking at how to avoid self-defeating behaviors. Each week for six weeks we’re looking at one of the following:

To get out of you own way, you need to remember…

1. …your identity
2. …what you are doing
3. …your purpose
4. …the people
5. …to be strategic
6. …the outcome

For the final week:

REMEMBER THE OUTCOME

“My purpose is all about me.”   Well, it is and it isn’t. It is about your passion and your talents and what you are doing in your life. But  in the end it’s about how all of those things put together influence and impact the world you live in. Often we find ourselves working towards only what will bring us attention, respect, etc. – getting people to see and to respond to us in the way we manipulate want them to.

Ultimately, our goal in finding God’s design for our life must be focused on accomplishing something worthwhile for Him. And God’s basic thing is relationship. That is the ultimate outcome that we shoot for. And that is where it is “all about me” – as in “Him and me.”

He stated that the greatest commandment is “to love the Lord Your God” and the second “love your neighbor.” When we lose that basic understanding, we are defeated before we even begin. The greatest design we plan, the greatest service we provide, the greatest product we develop, the greatest sale we make, the greatest goal we achieve – it means nothing. The use of God’s gifts to simply achieve greatness or self-satisfaction will bring neither.

When you are stuck and unable to move forward in your purpose, take a moment to ask: ” How is my relationship with God?”  When that is settled, you can face the challenges, side issues, and feelings of defeat with a sense of hope that everything will come together eventually and that everything does not need to be figured out perfectly. When you realize that neither the weight of the world nor the accomplishment of your purpose in life is completely  on your shoulders, it will be easier to get unfrozen and move on.

One of my favorite musical artist, Sarah Groves, succinctly writes about  the sense of things not being quite right in her song How Is It Between Us.  Link below.

http://youtu.be/e5zkOfSJSn4

Getting Out of Your Own Way – Part 5 of 6

In order to fully pursue the purpose God has placed on our lives, we are looking at how to avoid self-defeating behaviors.  Each week for six weeks we’re looking at one of the following:

To get out of you own way, you need to remember…

1. …your identity
2. …what you are doing 
3. …your purpose 

4. …the people 

5. …to be strategic 
6. …the outcome

This week:

REMEMBER TO BE STRATEGIC

Let’s look at two areas where you need to be intentional:

  1. Time
  2. Opportunity
TIME

It’s easy to get stuck and unable to move forward in your purpose when you don’t have a plan to reach that purpose.  When your approach is to work on it when you have a chunk of time or when a prospect presents itself or when the spirit moves you, you are dead in the water before you even begin. No matter what your purpose is, you need a PLAN.  Yes, that means goals and objectives.  Yes, that means a to-do list.  Yes, it means tracking your progress.

You have been given a talent.  It’s your obligation to share it with the world. There’s no need put it on the back burner of your life.  Have a plan, work on it a little bit each day.  If you don’t, you ARE sabotaging yourself.

strategy quote

OPPORTUNITY

I have a friend who always seemed to be in the right place at the right time.  She has met celebrated people and had incredible offers fall into her lap.  However she never learned how to be strategic with these opportunities.  She assumed this run of good fortune was how her life would always be.  Rather than realizing that these events were stepping stones to create a path to her success, she thought that they were success in themselves.   She didn’t realize she needed to develop relationships and connections with and through these events.  I’m sure you know what happened next.  The well dried up.  Opportunities stopped presenting themselves.  Because she had depended on them to keep her moving forward, she had no plan for what to do next.  She sabotaged herself because she only thought about and reacted to things as they came along and didn’t think about developing them for the future.  Had she been strategic she would not be where she is now:  hoping that “God has something out there somewhere… eventually.”

You cannot depend on one source to provide everything you need – not one person, not one organization, not one opportunity – no matter how wonderful or permanent it may seem.   It’s important to network – both with people and in ideas.   When an opportunity comes along or a new relationship presents itself, look beyond the immediate/obvious benefits.

You can read my previous post on Being Intentional and Networking by clicking here.

Next week:  REMEMBERING THE OUTCOME

Getting Out of Your Own Way – Part 1

In order to fully pursue the purpose God has placed on our lives, we are looking at how to avoid self-defeating behaviors.  Each week for six weeks we’re looking at one of the following:

To get out of you own way, you need to remember…
1. …your identity
2. …what you are doing
3. …your purpose
4. …the people
5. …to be strategic
6. …the outcome

This week:

REMEMBER YOUR IDENTITY

Your identity, your value, is neither dependent on the things you do nor on the opinions of other people.  The list of titles you hold or the roles you play do not validate who you are.  Being CEO, or manager, or movie star, or salesperson, or writer, or parent, or spouse is not the measure of your life.   Your finished “To Do” list does not give you meaning.  If you receive position, power, wealth, security, etc. from a person, then a person can take it away.  If you receive it from an event or activity, it will last only as long as that event or activity is deemed important or remembered by others.

Ecclesiastes 2:11

Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.

You are significant because God loves you. He called and you responded.  You cannot earn it by what you do, so you cannot lose it by what you do (or don’t do).  God gives it freely to you and will not take it away.  Mistakes, delays, failures, successes, accomplishments, advances – they do not affect His view of you or His heart for you.  Nothing can change God’s passion for you.

 Romans 8:38-39

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

As you pursue your purpose, you will face many challenges and roadblocks.  Don’t allow them to undermine who you think you are or who you think God is.  It is important to remember that these difficulties have nothing to do with who you are but are about what you are trying to do… which is next week’s topic.

Next week:  REMEMBER WHAT YOU ARE DOING

Getting Out of Your Own Way – Introduction

On Burn Bright’s Facebook and Twitter accounts, I recently asked readers to complete the following sentence: “The biggest obstacle keeping me from truly pursuing my purpose is __________.”

The overwhelming response boiled down to just one word: MYSELF. Whether exhibited as procrastination, lack of focus, perfectionism, or fear (of change, of failure, etc.), this self-defeating behavior is a challenge everyone faces. We undermine ourselves and become paralyzed, unable to move forward.

Can we get unstuck? Yes, we can. And we must. How do we get unstuck? In order to break past our block, we have to change the way we think. Easy to say, hard to do? Yes, but as writer/speaker Denise Vaughan says,

“Moving forward, even if I’m scared, is a better feeling than being stuck – or regressing.”

From my own experiences of self-sabotage (and there have been a few), I have discovered that there are six things to consider, specifically related to pursuing your purpose, that will help you get out of your own way.

It’s a big subject, so over the next six weeks I’ll focus on one step per week, digging into detail about what each one means and how to correct the way we think about it. So bookmark this blog and come back and join the conversation.

To get out of you own way, you need to remember…
1. …your identity
2. …what you are doing
3. …your purpose
4. …the people
5. …to be strategic
6. …the outcome

Next week: REMEMBER YOUR IDENTITY

Self sabotage is when we say we want something and then go about making sure it doesn’t happen.
Alyce P Cornyn-Selby

My “Aha” Moment from “Legally Blonde”

GROWTH

lb2

Reese Witherspoon as
Elle Woods

In the movie comedy Legally Blonde, the character of Elle Woods was originally on the road to a career in fashion merchandising.  There was nothing wrong with her dream.  It’s what she wanted, it’s what she was good at, and she had the complete support of her fawning sorority sisters, jetsetter family, and old-money fiancé.  But when her fiancé, an aspiring lawyer heading to Harvard Law School, breaks up with her, Elle wants to win him back.  Much to everyone’s surprise, she is able to pass the Law School Admissions Test and is accepted at Harvard.  It is here her worldview is shaken.  She does not fit in with the culture and is considered a joke by people at every turn.  People think she is dumb, especially her ex-fiancé.

Rather than retreat, Elle takes the opinion on as a challenge and raises the bar (no pun intended) for herself.  Applying herself in her new culture, she discovers she actually understands and enjoys the law.  Applying her social skills from her old culture, she builds a support base of quirky friends around her. She begins a new journey. Eventually it is a combination of old and new skills and abilities that bring her success and a new life.  But not, of course, without the mandatory make-it-or-break-it moment along the way.  At one point Elle decides that it is more than she can handle.  She decides to give up, crying “No more trying to be something that I’m just… I’m just not.”   Her friend’s response:

What if you’re trying to be somebody you are?”

Those are brilliant words.  That was a personal “aha” moment for me.

We tend to think that our past, our present, and our future are at war with each other, and that the only way into the next one is to make a violent break with the previous one.  While there is certainly old luggage that we don’t want to carry with us that often takes ruthlessness to let go of, to totally thrash all we have ever known is usually a mistake.

When you are in the process of discovering your purpose in life, you take into account the passions you have, the talents God has given you, and the dreams you hold.  Those passions and talents and dreams didn’t just drop into your heart yesterday.  They have been building and interweaving your whole life.  Your experiences, both good and bad, have influenced them and helped direct their growth.  As you move towards your purpose, things begin to adjust.  One of your passions cools down.  You discover a different outlet for your talent.  You discover a hidden talent. The journey to your dream slows wa-a-a-y down or perhaps picks up what feels like too much speed.  This can be disconcerting, it can be hard.  It can cause you to question yourself.  It may feel like you’re trying to be something you are not.  But,

What if you’re trying to be somebody you are?”

Proverbs 25:2 tells us that God takes pleasure in concealing things and we have the privilege of discovering them.  And the verse that follows talks about the endless depth and width of our heart.

We need to recognize that there is so much more to and for us, and we need to go after it and find it.

  • Rather than look at your past as an enemy, why not use it as a resource?  Start looking through all the dirt and find the gold.
  • Rather than being in such a rush to leave the present to get into the future, why not make the most if it?  Start looking at everything you have going for you now and see what other possible applications there might be.
  • Rather than stubbornly holding onto what you insist your future must be, loosen your grip and expand your horizons.

You can be more than anybody thinks, expects, or wants you to be.  You can surprise everyone, including – just like Elle Woods did – yourself.

EXCELLENCE

“Excellence means when a man or woman asks of himself more than others do.” (Jose Ortega y Gasset)

PURPOSE

“There comes a special moment in everyone’s life, a moment for which that person was born. That special opportunity, when he seizes it, will fulfill his mission – a mission for which he is uniquely qualified. In that moment, he finds greatness. It is his finest hour.”  (Sir Winston Churchill)

What I Learned from My Mistake (It’s Not What You Think)

GROWTH

I made a mistake this week that has stayed with me, but not for the reason you may think.

I was singing with a quartet at a public venue.  One of the songs we do is an a capella rendition of Oh Come Emmanuel which is quite beautiful and haunting.  In the middle I have a couple of solo soprano notes, the last of which is the note everyone else keys off of for the next part of the tune. I sang that second note wrong.  In the split second (which was to me an eternity of self-flagellation) my three colleagues took a beat and then recovered as only seasoned veterans are able. Very few in the audience realized what had happened.  I felt like crying – first for missing a note I had never missed before, and second for the complete grace that was shown me by my friends.  When our set was done I apologized to them and each was completely kind and forgiving.  Yes, I had made a mistake.  And we recovered together. That did two things for me.  One, it made me want to keep singing with them.  If they had degraded me, I would have had a hard time continuing with the group.  Two, when I started to keep hold of the humiliation I felt, I had to ask myself, “What would I say to someone else who made a mistake?”  I would also be kind and forgiving and encouraging – so I had to do that for myself. Since I was already thinking of the application for this in pursuing my life’s purpose,  a Sunday morning sermon on Making Mistakes  made my ears perk up.  The pastor used a variation on a certain phrase several times – about how when you create an atmosphere that fears making mistakes, you kill creativity and risk taking. I recalled several times when I was on the job and made mistakes that were somewhat more serious than a missed musical note and impacted more than just a few people.eraser

The times I was berated and the mistake was held over my head, I was terrified to try again.   When the mistake was acknowledged, discussed, and released, I would willingly try again, and sometimes even come up with a better way to approach it. To me there is an emphasis in my musical experience, the sermon, and my work experience.  That emphasis is on relationship.  When those in a relationship have a culture of forgiveness and acceptance and camaraderie, the mistake – even though it may be great – becomes easier to overcome and creates a connection, a bond if you will, as you work together to overcome it and prevent it from happening again.   And when you live and work in that kind of environment, it will rub off in how you treat yourself when you make a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes – so expect them along the way as you pursue your purpose.  But do something for me:  If someone else makes one, be kind and gracious  and intentional in helping the person recover.  Change the atmosphere for someone.  When you do make one, ask yourself, “How would I respond to someone else who did this?”  Be kind and gracious and intentional in helping yourself recover.  Change the atmosphere you have created for yourself.

EXCELLENCE

“Don’t be afraid to take God-led risks, eliminating regrets. There is enough life in you to do all you desire… everything is gain, including the hard times.” (Jevon Bolden)

PURPOSE

make it happen

Can You Fake Courage?

GROWTH

An easy way to develop yourself is to read how other people develop themselves.  My friend over at the blog Neeserisms, always has thoughtful insights about her life’s journey.  A current entry is all about how to Encourage Yourself.  Click on the link to enjoy her wisdom.

EXCELLENCE

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”
Anais Nin

A client (let’s call him Sam*) and I had a really good discussion about courage.  If there is one thing I could bestow upon people who are pursuing their purpose, it would be COURAGE.  Merriam Webster defines it as “mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear, or difficulty.”   It goes beyond faith, it goes beyond belief, it goes beyond hope.  I completely agree with C.S. Lewis’ assessment:

 “Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.”

There have been times when I have met the meaning of the word full on, refusing to back down and advancing forward in glory.  Other times I do not.  Other times I isolate myself or run away.  Sam felt the same way.  We agreed that we could both probably withstand most of the onslaughts if we gave it half a shot.  But we don’t.  Sometimes we feel too weary, but mostly we just become fearful.

Then Sam brought up something very interesting – those times when it looks like we are being courageous, when we convince ourselves and others we are being courageous – but it’s absolutely not true.   Sometimes what appears to be moving out into something new and adventurous, is really just a way of avoiding something we need to deal with.

I thought I knew a little bit about this.  A couple of years ago, people told me I was courageous when I left my job.  I wasn’t.  It was just the last of the options available. I have absolutely no regrets about leaving – it was necessary for my mental and physical health – but it wasn’t courage.

But Sam had a different twist to it.  Sam gave up on his business after years of hard work. It was a big dream for him – something he’d been building towards for years.  Things were going really well and they were about to expand to the next level, but within just days of making their planned expansion, one of his partners dropped out.  Sam was devastated.  He had other partners who still wanted to go forward, but Sam’s pride and ego were demolished.  He could shake neither the humiliation nor the fear of losing control again.  When he made a comeback, everybody thought it was so brave of him to start again, so courageous to try it a different way.   But he says now that wasn’t true.  He was actually running from that humiliation and fear – trying to distance himself from it, protecting himself from being hurt again and trying to prove to others he could do it without help.  He told me now he wishes he had had true courage – the resourcefulness to have picked up the broken pieces and forged ahead through the pride and ego, to blaze through the humiliation and fear.  He wishes he would have stayed the course and taken his business to where he really thought it could go.  But he had given up and used doing something different and easier as an excuse.  The result was that he lost a sense of himself along the way, forgotten what his passion was, lost a sense of his purpose, lost a big chunk of his dream.

Sam’s story challenged me.  I wonder how many people have convinced themselves they are being courageous by doing something different but it’s really just an excuse to give up.  I think it can be a super fine line that moves around with the circumstances.

I’d like to hear from you about what you think (or what you’ve experienced).  How do you make the hard call?  When can you tell that you’ve crossed it?

*Story used with permission.  Name has been changed.

PURPOSE

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