Posts Tagged ‘priorities’


I am a blessed man. I have many titles in my life, artist, pastor, minister, speaker, teacher, but there are three that carry a more primary importance, husband, father and grandfather. These three titles are primary. It’s really easy to let the first five overshadow the last three and I have been guilty of this many, many times. That is a huge mistake. Those last three titles represent my primary ministry. My marriage to my wife is of huge importance, and that relationship colors all the rest. My effectiveness in all other area if that one relationship is not doing well. God has also blessed me with two great sons. Again my marriage is of primary importance in these relationships. This was of utmost importance in their childhood, but even now as they are grown, their mother and I still have much to model for them. And then there is the great blessing of my grandson, David John, who always puts a smile on my face.

One of the main things I have to model is how the ministry effects my relationships. Show them through my actions, that the ministry is more important than them and I will tarnish their opinion of the church and the God I serve. It’s a tight rope, balancing act and one that we who minister all have to navigate, because here’s the thing: I think we all want to serve well. We want to honor God with our lives and do the very best we can for the people we serve. There is a very real temptation at times to push our primary relationships to the back burner thinking I’ll make it up to them later. This is usually not the case because later keeps getting later. Any career can cause this to happen, but those of us in ministry have to be especially careful, because how we handle our priorities has a great chance to reflect on our God.

By the way that is our primary relationship. If we learn to keep God in first place, all the rest will fall into place. Please remember God and ministry are not the same thing. Our relationship with God is different from what we do ostensibly for Him. Keep Him first and your loved ones second and after that, let everything else fall into it’s natural position. In our relational lives priorities are tremendously important.

Please learn this from me. I learned it the hard way.

God bless, and happy Father’s day to all the dads and spiritual fathers out there.


So here I sit. It’s been three or four days since my last post, a post where I proclaimed a turning point in my thought process and a direction I intend to wholeheartedly pursue. And I’m stuck. Now I’ll be the first one to admit, I have really been busy and this week will continue to be pretty intensely busy, but that’s not the biggest struggle. The biggest struggle has been a lack of focus and to some degree vision. Have you been there?

The problem is not a shortage of ideas. No the ideas are coming very quickly, the problem is taking those ideas and making them tangible. Taking the visions to reality. I see things in my mind, but I can’t quite figure out how to make them real. In some cases, I struggle with the “wouldn’t it be cools.” You know like “Wouldn’t it be cool if I animated it?”, or “Maybe it would be cool if I made this into a multimedia presentation.” The idea gets bigger and bigger, but it remains just that an idea. Lots of cool dreams, but nothing gets done.

What I need is to focus. How about you? I need to get an idea and run with it. I need to start putting things on paper. I need to look at the things that I am doing and decide which things are truly productive, and which things are just “time vampires.” You know, those things that suck up my valuable time. I need to resist the urge to go to social media and put my nose to the grindstone. I need to do what I can get done today and if a project hits a stuck point, I need to quickly decide if this is something to power through, look for help or shelve it for something I can accomplish and finish while I search for what’s missing in the stuck project. I need to say things like, “Did I really need to enter into one more creation a day challenge or would my time have been better spent making my own dreams reality.

To be clear, it’s not like I’m getting nothing done. I am working hard for my church, I’m writing sermons, preaching revivals, working on a master’s class, and trying to get my speaking schedule full not to mention being a husband, father and grandfather, and that is the other thing we all need to remember. Frustration with not getting our dream projects done is not the same as doing nothing. Sometimes we need to stop and smell the roses, realize things are being accomplished and know that it’s okay. Sometimes the biggest enemy of vision and focus is that self-defeating feeling that you can never do enough, or the need to do one more thing.

Focus.


So last night I had a dream. I had done three stained glass pieces (a medium I’ve never used). They were abstract (a genre I’ve rarely worked in). Somehow I had an agent (something else I’ve never had) who got my work seen by a wealthy collector, who wanted to buy all three pieces. I was flabbergasted, especially when the collector told me the only reason he left the agent in the door was because my pieces were so good. He then showed me his collection pointing out all the expensive and exotic materials he financed the artists to purchase for use in their work. I don’t know that that’s how it works with collectors but remember it was a DREAM.

The collector then went on to make me an offer. He would either buy or sell as many pieces as I could make, at rates that would make me a very wealthy man. He would also finance all the materials, so I could use nothing but the best. I told him I was pretty inexperienced in that medium. He said it didn’t matter. So here’s the recap. A world class collector loved my work. He was willing to pay premium prices for my work while securing the world’s best materials for me to work in. Can I tell you, this would be the fulfillment of pretty much all I had ever dreamed of throughout most of my life? This would be everything I ever wanted for most of my life, but before I agreed to his terms I had a question:

Could I still preach?

I woke just after I asked the question, and my head was just spinning. I couldn’t help but realize this dream revealed a major change that has happened in me. There’s nothing wrong with making art for a living, and I really do hope my best pieces are still ahead of me, but thank you Jesus, for changing my priorities and  giving me a better dream.

 


Don’t worry this has nothing to do with assisted suicide and dying on one’s own terms. No today I am talking about the things we allow, or should allow, to die in our churches and ministry. There is a great equalizer in our lives. It’s called time. The richest person in the world and the poorest have the 24 hour day in common. No one gets more and no one gets less. To give time to one thing is to take that precious time from something else and this is urgent for churches to understand.

You see, virtually no one can give the church 24 hours a day. It’s an impossibility. Needless to say we want more than one hour a week, and a tithe of time would be ideal, but that’s basically two and a half hours a day and we rarely get that from any but the most dedicated. The reality is people have a limited time to give to the church, so we who lead churches, need to do our best to help them invest their time wisely. For example, I once heard a mega-church pastor say if a person only has an hour a week to give the church, in addition to worship, the last thing he would do is have them use that hour sit in a meeting, and for the most part, unless that person has a true leadership gift, I would agree. T   here’s something of even greater concern however.

It’s when churches have too many things, especially programs, on life-support. Think about it. There’s great lamentation over “x’ program that once had half the congregation involved and now no one supports it. It’s a fight for the leadership team to get someone to lead it, and when they finally do, no one attends, leaving the leader who was arm twisted into taking it on feeling like a failure, like they’re wasting their time or both. There’s a name for that kind of program. It’s called “DEAD.” Oh at one time it was great, and many people were excited about it and passionate about it and we have fond memories of it, but it’s time has passed. Here’s the rule. If no one has the passion to lead something it is better to let it die with dignity so that something else can grow. No sense pushing and prodding people to help it to linger, rather it’s time to help people to find what meets the spiritual needs of people today.

Now I can almost feel the pushback on this one even as I punch the keys. “What if it’s something important like Bible Study, or Sunday School or even Worship?” you might be thinking. No I’m not suggesting we jettison things of spiritual importance, but I am suggesting you look at the way you’re doing those things. The Bible doesn’t change, but methods can change and frankly, they must. This is where prayerful creativity comes into play. “That’s the way we have always done it…” is not a God-given mandate to keep doing things the way you have always done them. Look for the passionate ones and empower them to lead, whether that be to resurrect something or birth something new. Either of those is fine, the only thing that’s not okay is to let dead things keep taking up space and time.

Assignment: Is there anything in your church that is dead? Is it “resurrect-able” or could the energy and resources it takes be used to birth something new?


I want to start off by saying, for the umpteenth time, I love what I do. Being a pastor is great, arts ministry is great, and as a whole all of my other creating pursuits are a real blast too. Lately I’ve been creating some new graphics. like this guy…

it’s mainly just for fun and to improve my skills. I enjoy that too. I’m writing a novel, that I really feel is coming together nicely for a first effort. I feel led to this stuff, well maybe not the just for fun art, but everything else. Lately, though I have been wondering, “What am I doing?”

Here’s my struggle, I see so many things going on in our world and it’s hard. I’m especially having a hard time with the things that are happening within the church as I see a great many teachings being perpetrated on the church from within. This is happening largely as people try to mold the Scriptures to fit the culture. That’s not how it works. We don’t change the Scripture, the Scripture is supposed to change us. I see all this stuff happening and I wonder am I doing enough about this stuff. Am I taking enough of a stand? I know I am going out and sharing the Gospel. I know I am building up my congregation, or at least I am putting forth my best efforts, but when it comes to he forces that come against the church and the culture, am I fighting? Am I supposed to be fighting? Is drawing silly pictures a waste of time, or is there a way that it can all come together to speak God’s truth in love to the culture and to the church?

My creative brothers and sisters, we have been entrusted with taking the unchanging message of the Gospel to the world. To find new and exciting ways to communicate that unchanging message is our calling and changing that message is heresy. Let’s be faithful to God’s truth and take that good news to the world. Jesus saves and He is Lord. Our job is to point people to Him. He can and will handle the rest.


After such a busy time, you might wonder “What’s next?” Well Thursday is November 1, and my hope is to begin the next challenge NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. My dream for a long time has been to write a novel or a screenplay that can be made into a movie. At this point I am going to try to do the challenge and see if it can help me to “eat this elephant” of a project one bite at a time. However, I’m also realistic enough to know that my life is very busy. I will be preaching a brand new series at a church in West Virginia the first week of the month, and I also have a lot of work at church this time of year. My relationship with God is priority one, family is a close second and just behind that is my ministry. My goals and dreams come somewhere behind that. So if I can be faithful to all three of my top priorities, I will finish my novel in the time frame allotted. If I can’t, the side projects have to be the first thing to go.

Goals and dreams are a wonderful thing, but we need to keep them fluid enough to make sure the priorities remain the priorities. As Christian creatives, God has got to be “running the show.” If He makes the opportunities for me to finish my goals, I will finish them. If He decides to fill my life with other, more important things, I have to trust that He will allow me to get everything done in it’s time. His primary demand on my life is faithfulness. That’s what He looks for in all of us. This means I need to make efficient use of the time allotted to me. I need to eliminate the “time vampires” that suck up the time I could be using to accomplish what God has given. I also need to be certain to take care of myself by doing things like exercise, resting and devotions.

James reminds us that: “13 Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”

Set your goals, but let God move them as He sees fit. Faithfulness is priority one.


It’s just small stuff but it’s aggravating. For example, I am writing this post on a computer that’s on it’s last legs. No big problems just a fading laptop battery. I’ll just plug it is… Oh wait, when I plug it in, the little indicator light doesn’t come on. Check the power strip. Nope, that’s okay. Check the wire.. You have got to be kidding me. Somehow I pinched the wire in something and wrecked my power cord. Well there’s $80 and two hours of my life I’ll never get back. Then there was the other day making my way home after a nice week of ministry. I had left my host’s home at 4:30 a.m., drove 350 miles to my office, did six hours of office work before finally coming home. I was eager to get off the road when my low tire indicator light came on. When I could finally get of the interstate, the tires looked fine but by then I was paranoid, so I stopped pretty often to check them. Were it on a cold morning, I would have expected the air in the tires to have contracted and not been worried, but that was not the case.

I’d like to tell you I remained calm through all of this, but to be honest I just kept thinking “I don’t have time for this.” It’s amazing how quick it can happen over very minor things. We get discouraged and start to wonder “Why me?” and “Why now?” It’s embarrassing to admit this, but maybe you go through the same things. Please tell me I’m not the only one. God demonstrates His faithfulness all the time, but let one little thing go wrong and I am ready to start complaining and sometimes even panicking. How about you?

My friend, God is faithful in the big and small things. None of this guarantees perfect days, but we can’t really see God’s faithfulness if we never go through anything. Yesterday my friend Larry, who’s really been going through it health wise recently, told something his doctor said to him. He said “Smooth seas don’t make good sailors.” I think that’s a very valid point. So next time you’re going through something you don;t want. even if it’s just a little aggravation, look to the Lord, remember His faithfulness, and start to look for the ways God can make this work to His glory. He is faithful andHe is good all the time.