Posts Tagged ‘vision’

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.


PRAY FOR THE CHURCHsmIt was the question that stopped me in my tracks. Not because I didn’t know the answer, but because I sort of thought the person asking would think I was making it up as I go. It happened at my interview. I had started as the interim pastor. My intention was to come in, stay a few months and help the church keep going while they found their permanent pastor. Then I would put them in that pastor’s capable hands and back out on the road I would go. My job wasn’t to change things or impose my vision, it was to prepare them to receive the next person’s vision and run with it. But something happened. We both (the congregation and I) began to realize that I was the next person. Frankly I was very happy.

From there the question was how to proceed. The congregation already knew me, so how would the interview process go? How could we get everyone on board? While some would say I was just continuing on, the role had actually changed pretty substantially. All of the sudden my vision mattered. All of the sudden the question became “How would I lead this 150 year old church into the next phase of its life?” We decided to have a night where the congregation could ask me their questions. And that’s when I got the question:

What’s Your Vision for This Church?

My answer was the same as it is on this blog, well, okay not exactly. This space is more arts and creativity focused, but the principle remains the same. My vision is to help other people find and use their talents to live out their vision. I know to some “my vision is to help you live your vision” sounds a lot like a cop out. Here’s why it’s not:

If it’s just my vision, then it’s all my idea, and you will only get as excited about it as I can make you. The idea, the continuing ideas needed to implement it and motivating you to bring the idea to fruition, all of that depends on me. You might be saying, “That’s leadership.” and to a degree you would be right, but I see something better.

If it’s your vision, then it’s your idea. You’re already passionate about it and there is an excitement, maybe even a desperation to bring it to reality. Now I can come along side you and help you and find the people that can help you. I can look at all the gifts of the church and work with you, encourage you and build you up. Imagine a church where people were living their dreams, seeing the great things in their hearts and minds happening. If that’s not a contagious church, I don’t know what is. That’s why it’s a big part of my vision.

About now, some of you are seeing the problem. There is a name, two names actually, missing from this post. I did that intentionally to bring us to this point. Those names, of course, are God and Jesus. If it’s my vision, it all depends on me. That load is too heavy for me to bear alone. If it’s your vision then I can help you bear the load and work with you to make it happen. But what if it’s God’s vision? What if you were seeking God and He laid something on your heart? What if God’s vision becomes your vision? Now all of the sudden the Spirit of God is giving the passion. Now the Spirit of God is your encourager. Now the Spirit of God is your provider and now when you come to the end of yourself and your abilities, you can watch in awe as the Creator of the Universe comes in and does something amazing to bring His vision, the one He laid on your heart, to fruition. Now it doesn’t all depend on me, and it doesn’t all depend on you and me. Now it all depends on the One on whom it ACTUALLY all depends, God.

Now imagine that that was happening in the lives of believer after believer after believer. As people are coming together to live out God sized dreams in the church, the neighborhood, the nation, maybe even the world. Can you imagine what a church like that could do? Neither can I but I love to try.

That’s my vision for the church. What’s your vision?

1Vision is a tricky thing. There is nothing quite like having a vision for something. The goal looks beautiful but it looks far off and you feel short on resources and before long a beautiful vision beignets feel like an impossible dream. Don’t you believe it. If God laid it on your heart, he will help you to get where He wants you to be.

One reason people fail to see their visions materialize is because they dwell in the land of “if only.” You know, “I could do it, if only I had _____” or I could accomplish my goal if only ___.” Here’s a lesson we can learn from Moses. God calls Him from the burning bush and calls him to a mission. Other than getting on board, Moses begins to make excuses. What if they won’d listen? What if they don’t believe me? God stops him and says what’s in your hand? He’s holding his shepherd’s staff, basically a wooden stick. God tells him to throw it down and it becomes a snake. God took something natural and took it into the supernatural. I think God’s point here that he is totally limitless and can do anything. That all we have to do is trust God with whatever is in our hands and He will do the rest.

Next time you feel discouraged about the length of space between you and your dream, don’t focus on what you don’t have, look instead at what is in your hand. Take what you have, be faithful with it and rust God with everything else.

Next, many of us try to do the vision alone. This is very rarely how it gets done. No instead those of us who have a vision, have a responsibility to help others to see what we see and help them to come on board to help us to make the vision a reality. Most of us need a team. You might think, like Moses, what if they don’t believe me? What if they won’t follow me? Those who don’t get it will not necessarily be your team The best things to do is to find the people who resonate with your vision and move forward with them. They’re out there and the reality you will create together is worth the effort.

So share your vision with others and ask the question…
Do you see what I see?

It’s the first step toward taking visions into reality.

The other day I watched a video of my all-time favorite band. No it wasn’t one of their produced, polished videos. No, they were playing a high school assembly. They weren’t stars yet. They were just beginning. Don’t get me wrong, they were really pretty good, they had even recorded an album, but it was nothing compared to what they are now after 40 years of touring and induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It led me to wonder… Did they know? Back then, playing for next to nothing, could they envision the arenas, the world tours, the rock star life they eventually got to live. I’m thinking yes.

There’s the story I’ve shared here before about Walt Disney’s widow at the opening of Walt Disney World. A well meaning supporter said, “If only Walt could have seen this.” Her response was priceless and perfectly in keeping with my theme today. She said, “He could see it, that’s why it’s here.”

We all start somewhere. There is an inciting incident, a dream, a vision something that starts us on the long and arduous journey to success. That vision is what sustains us in all those times when the distance between the dream and the goal seems painfully long. The Bible says, “Do not despise humble beginnings.” If that’s where you are today, rejoice. Remember the dream, remember why you do what you do and press on.

It’s been almost two decades since I got a vision for the arts in ministry. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, where I feel led to be and yet I get to speak all over the country and people read this blog all over the world. I’m so much further than I was when I started and it felt for all the world like I was the only one with this dream. I can’t wait to see what happens next. Be faithful because God is faithful.

The band I referenced at the beginning of this post is Rush. They’re not a Christian band but this line from their song Mission, is exactly what I am talking about. “A spirit with a vision is a dream With a mission.” (Check the rest of the lyrics below, if there was ever a song I wished I had written, it’s this one!) Let your God-given vision drive your mission. Humble beginnings become origin stories. They inspire the ones who come after to keep pushing the dream forward.

He who began a good work in you will carry it through to completion in the day of Christ Jesus.

settinggoalsYesterday we talked about your vision for the coming year. Now we need to look at goals. These are the steps to take to get to your vision. Think of it as breaking your vision down into manageable steps. Think back to the “simple math of success” post from a few weeks ago. For example, if you want to write a 320 page novel this year, writing a page a day will get you there with 45 days for edits. If you want to build a body of work for a portfolio, figure out how many pieces you need, divide that by 365 and you will see how many days you have to complete each piece, etc. Basically we are taking large things and breaking them into smaller things and then checking off those smaller things until we reach our goals.

Once you know where you want to go, and what you need to do to get there, the next step is to do something. Here are a few things you need to know:

1. You will not always meet your goal. There will be times when life happens and you miss your goal. This is not fatal, but how you react to not making your goal might be. If you set a goal to write a novel in a year and it takes you a year and a half, you have still written a novel. If on the other hand you have to miss two days in a row of writing and you give up, you have nothing. Keep going. The only thing fatal to a vision is quitting.

2. Set realistic goals. I know, I hate that word realistic too, but sometimes you just have to be realistic. If you are a young single person with minimal responsibilities, you can go for broke. If on the other hand you are a young mom with 2.5 kids, your working time is going to be impaired. This does not reveal a lack of commitment. It’s simply a reality of life. Do what you can with what you have, which brings us to my next point.

3. Don’t focus on what you don’t have. Phrased positively, focus on what you do have. In other words, very rarely do we have everything we need to accomplish a goal when we start working toward it. As a matter of fact if you do have everything you need to accomplish your goal when you start, I might be tempted to say your goal is not aggressive enough. Start with what you do have and keep moving forward.

4. Do not compare. There is always a real temptation to measure yourself by someone else. Avoid that. It may be okay to admire someone, even go to them for pointers, but for the most part, the people we admire are further down the road than we are. To try to be them is usually a fool’s errand. Instead, bring the best you have to your own work each day and be the best you, you can be.

5. Be as prolific as you can. There is no substitute for hard work. The more you do, the better you become. Practice, practice, practice. That being said, do not neglect the other important things of your life. The creative life is supposed to be a balanced life, sometimes it’s a balancing act, but an unbalanced life will damage your creativity.

6. Share your work. Nothing is more maddening to me than creatives who hide their work until it reaches some level of perfection. Usually this level is unattainable, especially when you bring number four into the mix. Your creation is your gift to the world, but a gift ungiven is not a gift. At some point, you have to let the world see what you have done.

7. Have a thick skin. Rest assured, there was someone who thought Michelangelo’s, DaVinci’s, Rembrandt’s, Van Gogh’s (fill in your favorite creative’s name here)’s work was pure crap (can I say that here?). Not everyone will like your stuff. With critics, you have two choices, learn from them if they have something of value to offer, or ignore them. Art is subjective. Some people will hate it and many will have no problem telling you they hate it. Glean what you can and move on.

I was going to share my goals for the year here, but I decided not to. I don’t want you to emulate my goals. Some people say I am very prolific, sometimes I think I’m crazy. I want you to create healthy, attainable goals that will stretch you, but not break you, not make you quit. Instead I will confess something. I didn’t make all my goals this year. I got really close, but a couple things just took longer than I imagined. In some cases, my life changed and goals changed with it. Here’s what I will say though. This has been among the best years of my life and probably my most successful. Want to know how I did it?

I trusted God and I kept going.

You can do that too.

As we come upon a new year, it’s a great time to check yourself. Where are you headed? What do you want to accomplish? Most importantly, where is God leading? Most of this deals with vision. Scripture reminds us that without vision, the people perish and while that may sound extreme and taken a bit out of context, this much you can be sure of, without vision, a million things will take up your often very limited time, many of which will take you off task. If it’s your desire to get somewhere, it’s always a good idea to know where you’re headed.

An old philosopher once said “A journey of a thousand miles, starts with a single step.” That philosopher was at least partially wrong. A journey of a thousand miles starts by knowing where you’re headed. So how do you know where you’re headed?

1. Pray. If we’re in this with God, then it sort of makes sense that He should be consulted. Sometimes you’ll get these bolt from the blue ideas, but more than likely it will just be a gentle nudge.
2. Think about your passions and experiences. What is important to you? What makes you think, “Someone should do something about that?” What excites you? Now take those things and put them up against this question, “What can I do about it?” The place where you passion and your skill set meet, is usually the sweet spot for finding your vision.
3. Turn your vision into a mission. Once you have the goal, you’re ready to start taking those all important first steps. Feel the gentle nudge and start to move toward living the vision and fulfilling the mission.

At this point you may be feeling some pushback. “Yes, but I feel like have a million ideas every day. How do I choose?” Welcome to the world of being a creative. The thing is, once you have a vision and a mission, that becomes the filter for all your ideas. Will this idea move me closer to fulfilling my mission? Is this idea a distraction or a step? If it will move you closer, have at it. If not, write it down, put it aside and keep moving forward.

Having a clear vision, will help you eliminate distractions, stay on task and accomplish your goals.

What’s your vision? Start thinking about it, so you’re ready to launch into an amazing 2016.

There’s an old story about the opening of Walt Disney World in Orlando. Walt had died not many years before and his widow was attending the opening. A well meaning on-looker said to Mrs Disney, “Oh if only Walt could have seen this.” Mrs. Disney quickly replied, “He could see it, that’s why it’s here.” I don’t know if the story is true or not, but there is a great truth in the story and it’s applicable to all creatives, especially those who use their creative gifts to serve the Lord.

Every creation starts with a vision. Before the world can see it, one person has to see it in the corners of his mind. At that point there is a choice, he or she can let the vision pass or he or she can begin the hard work of making the invisible (to everyone else) visible. To take a vision to reality is hard and daunting at times, but consider this, you may be the only person in all of humanity who can see what you see. That dream,that vision has the potential to bless and do great good, but only if you will do what it takes to make it real. Compound this for those of us, living a life of faith in God. Those dreams and visions in your mind, may well originate in the mind of One far greater. Those dreams and visions are not just pipe dreams, they are a calling. God has planted something wonderful, beautiful and important in you. Will you do what it takes to bring it to life?

You might think, “…but what I am thinking of is too big for me.” Good! “But I don’t know where to begin…” Pray and take the first step. “But I don’t have everything that I need…” God does! “But I don’t have what it takes…” Again, God does! “But I’m not good enough…” Ah, there’s the rub. When it all comes down to it, I believe that way of thinking kills more visions than any other. We think we’re insufficient. We might even be right but here’s what I’ve learned: God has a strange knack of empowering the insufficient. He uses the foolish things to confound the wise, remember. His grace is sufficient for us. “He who began a good work in you will carry it through to completion in the day of Christ Jesus.” Remember. God is not so much about success (for us) as He is about faithfulness. So give your best to what He has planted in your heart and watch Him bring it to fruition.

Let’s join with God in making the invisible visible. Let’s offer ourselves to making dreams and visions into realities. Let’s honor God with our gifts, laying our insufficiencies on the altar to the One who is all-sufficient.

To God be the glory. Let’s do the work!

acornZechariah 4:10 says, “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” In this case, we are hearing about the rebuilding of Jerusalem, but I think there are a lot of small and very humble beginnings in our lives and service to God and they can be disheartening and frustrating. Don’t let that happen. There’s very little in the Kingdom of God that is actually small, no matter how it may appear to us.

This ministry for example is nowhere near what I anticipated it being. I wanted to start a creative arts ministry team at my local church. It was going to be called A.M.O.K. Arts Ministry Outreach for the Kingdom. We were going to create productions and exhibitions where believing creatives would work side by side with unbelieving creatives, building relationships and hopefully sharing faith (and salvation) as a result. Those productions and exhibitions were then going to be used to share God’s message with the audiences that came to see them. It was a beautiful vision, one that is still very near and dear to my heart. It “failed.” I could never get a strong enough core group to make a go of it.

In the mean time, I was getting all of these ideas for ways to use art to teach Gospel lessons to youth and I was using them to teach my youth group. I wanted so much more for A.M.O.K. and while I loved my youth and my youth ministry, I was feeling like a failure. Providentially, at this time I was also learning how to build websites at my day job. I decided to share all these ideas I was getting on the web. People began to contact me and I started to do workshops at their invitation.

Then a little later, I planted a church. I had grand ideas that this would be the church “run A.M.O.K.” That I would build my original vision into this church. Once again, it “failed” but I began to paint every Sunday with my messages and began to really see the power of giving people a visual to go with the message. I knew I was on to something when we had visitors and I heard my congregation sharing messages I preached months and even years before by looking at the paintings on the walls.

Eventually that church closed, but God was still at work. I was beginning to get more and more invitations to come to churches and preach using art. By the end of this year, the fourth year of intentional work at this ministry, I will have ministered in over 150 churches (Lord willing). It’s been a fantastic experience and it just seems to keep growing. God has built this ministry into what I believe He really wanted it to be and I look forward to seeing where He goes from here. Make no mistake about it though, this ministry exists because of things that I saw as failures.

It’s hard not to despise humble beginnings, especially when your dream is so much bigger than your reality. Persevere and make each step in faithfulness and you will see God work. It might not end up looking exactly like what you envisioned, but God is good.

“He who began a good work in you will carry it through to completion in the day of Christ Jesus.” He starts it. He finishes it. We get to be faithful and go along for the ride.

Prepare to be amazed.

One of the Facebook groups I am a part of had the members set their guiding word for the year as a way of looking at our goals. My word for the year is:


You might be thinking no surprises there, but it’s more than it appears to be. You see as I look at my goals this is what they all involve.

My goals for this year include:

To do more creative coaching. I would like to have at least five “clients” this year. Contact me if you’re interested.

To finish the two books I have in progress. One entitled The Creative Church Manifesto and the other doesn’t have a title yet but it’s about helping individuals and businesses to build their creativity.

To rework and enhance my Creative Church Workshop and to offer it at least five times this year.

To create a teaching resource for church creative arts groups and begin beta testing with my own group and at least two other groups. I consider this second element to be vital. It’s pretty easy to teach your own material but to create that material so others can teach it is the “rub.”

To build a new website, combining all my web presences into one.

To create several marketable resources for building creativity, including a day-long workshop for individuals, students and/or businesses.

I am also working on a brand new presentation for churches called Evangelism is Love and I have set a speaking goal of at least 50 engagements this year.

That’s a full plate and as you can see, every one of these goals will require creativity. Now as with most goals, these are things I desire to complete. As I move forward in prayer, some goals will be tabled and new things I haven’t thought of yet will replace them, but this is what I am aiming for, trusting God to motivate, change and redirect as needed.

Creativity is my word for this year. What is yours?

So much is happening. We’re celebrating the birth of our Savior with all the hustle and bustle that comes with it. Then comes New Years eve and then a brand new year. I think those two things comeclose together by divine design. You see a lot of theologians believe it is unlikely that Jesus was actually born on December 25. Whether it is the date or not, it can’t be an accident that the celebration of the birth of Christ comes at the end of the year. That way as we remember the greatest gift humanity has ever received we also look at a new beginning, a new year.

As we remember the birth of Jesus, let us remember the new beginning of a new year. Just as He came to be a gift for us all, He invested gifts in us all, gifts given so that we might be a gift. How will you use your gift to celebrate the gift of Jesus and be a gift to the people in your life? What are your goals for the coming year? What is your vision? Where is God leading you in this new year? How will you follow Him into 2013?

Post your goals in the comments…