I’m Not The Man I Want To Be… But, I’m Not Done.

In my last post I shared some really personal things. If you missed it you can find it HERE. Many people thanked me for my openness, honesty and vulnerability. That was my goal. One of the most powerful lies that the enemy tells us is that we are the only one that struggles with the things we struggle with. He goes on to tell us that there must be something wrong with us because we are the only ones. As I said, this is a lie. Seldom does any of us struggle with anything that many others are not also struggling with. That’s why I share. So that others can know that they are not all alone.

It’s true, I’m not the man that I want to be. But, I’m not done.

God’s still working on me. You see, God’s word promises that He will continue to work on us until we are complete. Philippians 1:6 says, “I am sure of this, that He who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Certainly, I will not reach completion until I go on to be with Jesus, but this verse promises me that God is not done working on me. So, while I’m not the man I want to be today, I know that tomorrow I will be a little closer.

God’s got a plan for me. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you…” I don’t know about the rest of you, but I take a lot of comfort in knowing that God has a plan for me. For me, when I make plans, all sorts of things come up. There are just so many things that I can see until they come up. These things catch me by surprise. BUT, with God’s plan none of these things are a surprise to Him. He knows that they are coming and has a plan for every one of those obstacles. Not only can He see them and has a plan for them, He has a plan to use them to grow me.

He’s got a plan for you, and He’s not done working that plan. This message isn’t just for me. You see these verses that I’ve shared apply as much to you as to me. God has a plan for your life. He has begun a good work in you and will see it through to completion. The difficulties you have encountered along the way were not a surprise to Him. He saw them coming and has a plan for those as well. Please understand me, He would not have chosen those painful things, but our world is broken. Because of this, bad things happen. Still we can trust that God wants to lead us through those dark times and use them to grow us.

There is an old saying in the gym, “no pain no gain”. Sadly the same is often true in life. Many times it is through the pain in our lives that we experience personal growth. I don’t say this to discount the pain that these times bring. Sometimes life just hurts. BUT, if we can stay focused on the growth that is coming, it might make the pain a little easier to bear. If we can remember that God has a plan, even in the midst of our pain, it might help us to persevere.

I’m not the man I want to be. That’s true, I am not the man I want to be. But, that’s ok. I closer than I once was, and I know that with each day I have the potential to move closer to the man I want to be. Not because of my own ability or my own work, but because of the work that God is doing in me.

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I’m Not The Man I Want To Be…and I’m Sorry.

You ever look in the mirror and don’t like the person looking back at you? I’m not talking about the physical. That’s part of it, but I’m talking much deeper than that. Deep down within the shell that protects us from the outside world. Underneath the mask the keeps others from seeing what we are really feeling…and hiding, inside. Behind the walls and barriers that keep people from seeing what we are truly dealing with.

Ever look at yourself, past all that junk and not like the person you are.

I do.

I am not the man I want to be.

Somewhere along the way I picked up some anger issues. I don’t break things or hit people. I’m not that guy. But I am prone to lash out verbally about stupid things. I do sometimes treat people that I am genuinely fond of with less love and respect than they deserve. Some days I can just feel it inside me, burning like the coals left over from a bonfire. Lying there beneath the surface, just waiting for the right fuel to bring it to a blazing inferno once again. To all I’ve done this to, I’m sorry.

The ones closest to me, the ones I love the most…they get the worst of it.

Somehow I forgot how to trust. Or maybe I never knew. My life is a constant, internal translation of what people are saying and what my mind convinces me they are really thinking. Seldom can I take people at face value and believe that what they say, is what they mean. Always there is the feeling, buried deep inside, that there is some ulterior motive. I know that the people around me can’t all be thinking things that are in direct opposition to what they are telling me. I know that every person around me can’t possibly have a hidden agenda where I am concerned. I know these things, but sometimes my heart is not so sure.

I eat too much. This is no secret. Anyone who looks at me knows this. Anyone who has eaten more than just a meal or two with me has witnessed it. I don’t mean to. I sometimes don’t even realize it’s happening…until it already has. I know that I’m slowly killing myself. In fact, I’m not even sure it’s happening all that slowly anymore. I feel the weight…of my weight. As I lie in bed I can FEEL the extra pounds making it difficult for me to breath, or at least more difficult than it should be. Sometimes I wake myself up, lying on my back and realize that I had stopped breathing. Some would call it sleep apnea and try to console me with the fact that many people have it. Still I know that if I lost the 100 or more extra pounds that I have, it would quite likely go away.

Sometimes I feel unloved. Yep, I know, it’s silly. Of course people love me. In fact, there may even be a great many people that love me. Sometimes I still don’t feel it. Even as I write this I am convinced that most people won’t bother reading it. Truth is most people really won’t care enough about me to take the time to read it. At least not all the way to the end. Some may read it out of pure curiosity. They may even tell themselves that they are reading it because they do care about me. They probably tell themselves the same thing when they slow down to look at a care accident, driven more by morbid curiosity than by concern.

I struggle with pornography. Yeah, I bet you didn’t see that one coming. The good news is most people that start out to read this post, will not make it this far. Truth is I have struggled with it most of my life. Just like a drug addict I have felt the shame that comes with it. Just like a drug addict I have found myself thinking about it during difficult times, and even using it as a means of coping. I know that it is not a good way of coping and is even harmful. Still, just like an addict, in those moments it didn’t seem to matter. I know that it has hurt my marriage and, likely many other relationships and I’m sorry. Mostly, I’m sorry to my wife.

Sure, I have set up routines and safeguards to keep myself away from it, but there in the back of my mind is always the question, “have I really beaten it?”

I’m proud.  Not the good kind of pride like what I experience when I watch my son perform in the band. Not the good kind of pride I feel when I see one of my kids do good things for people around them. I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the kind of pride that they Bible tells us God hates. I’m talking about the ugly kinda pride that makes it hard for me to take direction or criticism, even when it’s constructive. Sadly this often gets coupled with the anger issues I mentioned before. I know this leads to me hurting the people around me. From coworkers, to friends, to my wife and kids, I know that my pride has caused me to lash out in anger when you were truly just trying to help. Again, I’m sorry.

I make promises and commitments that I’m never going to keep. Oh, not on purpose. In fact, when I make them I am completely committed to keeping them. Then life happens. I forget I had another thing planned. I commit to more than I have to time to do. Sometimes I just get tired and run out of the energy to do the thing I said I would do. I don’t mean to, it just happens. At the same time, all too often, I’m not taking the steps to prevent it from happening.

I have issues with follow-through. This is really the source of the last thing I mentioned. I say I’ll do something and then simply forget. I’ve told my son that he needs to set up systems in his life to help him remember the things that he often forgets. Ironically, I often don’t use these very same systems myself. Technology has made it easier than ever and I’m a total nerd when it comes to these kinds of things. Still, I fail.

My faith is not what I wish it was… and I’m the pastor. Jesus said that with faith the size of a mustard seed (that’s a really small seed) than you could tell a mountain to move and it would move. Most days my faith couldn’t push over a mole hill, much less a mountain. Other days I feel like my faith is on fire. Maybe the truth is that, on those days, I just use faith as an excuse to do, or not do, what it is I really wanted to do anyway.

I make bad financial decisions. I know, I’m not the only one. Still, I have made some colossally bad ones. If I told you the amount of debt we once had you would probably faint. I know how to do it right, but I just don’t.

I’m not as confident as I appear. Yes, I really do believe that there isn’t much I can’t learn to do. My lack of confidence is more in the area of what others think of me. I know that I have said many times that I’m not worried about what other people think of me. Yeah, that’s just not true. I worry about it a lot. I often walk away from a conversation and will spend hours replaying it my mind. Thinking of the things that I could have said or done differently. On the outside I may be acting like I am THE MAN, but on the inside I often wonder if anyone would miss me if I were gone. No, I’m not suicidal, but sometimes I do wonder if I were to die tonight how many, or few, people would attend my funeral.

I talk too much. I know this one is not a shock to anyone. The Bible says we should be quick to listen and slow to speak. While I like to think I’m a good listener, most of the time I am way to quick to speak. I do feel that I have something to offer. I do feel that my thoughts and opinions carry some value. But, that doesn’t mean that I have to constantly offer them up. If I’ve done that to you, and I probably have, I’m sorry.

I’m not the man I want to me. When I look in the mirror I want to see a man that does not struggle with these things. I want to be able to look myself in the eyes and not see the pain that these struggles cause me, or worse, the pain the they cause those around me. I am not the man I want to be. When you look at me, you may not see these things. Chances are most people will never see this pain in my eyes. This is partly because of the barriers that I put up to keep people from seeing in. However, I’m not totally to blame. It is also true that most people will never care enough to look past the barriers and safeguards to see the pain that’s hidden underneath. Fewer still are those that, upon seeing the pain, will reach out to try to do anything about it.

Why do I share this? Honestly, I don’t know. It’s not to gain pity. It’s not to get attention. Between angry outbursts and jokes, I get plenty of attention. It’s not to guilt the people around me into asking me how I’m feeling. No, it’s not any of that.

I share because as I laid in bed tonight these were the things I was thinking about. Not just casual consideration of these topics, but deep, obsessive examination of them. Going over them time and time again in my head, when I know I should be sleeping, but simply…can’t.

I share because maybe there are other people out three that can identify with them. Maybe someone will read this post, or parts of it, and be encouraged. Maybe my struggles can help someone else realize that they are not the only one.

I share this as an insight into who I really am. Not just for the people reading these words, but for the one that is writing them as well.

I share because I feel the intense need to apologize. The things I’ve listed above have left many victims in their path. To all of them I say, I’m sorry. But, more specifically, I say I’m sorry to my family. They have suffered the most from these. I’m sorry to the many coworkers who I’m  spoken overly harsh to, gotten overly defensive, or just been a downright  jerk to. As the saying goes, “It’s not you, it’s me.” (Ok, it may have been you a couple times.)

To anyone who has suffered because of these things I say, I am not the man I want to be and… I’m sorry.

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My Nervous Breakdown and Where I Am Now

It’s crazy how time passes. Three years ago I published a post on my blog title, “My Nervous Breakdown, or At Least Almost.” You can read that original post HERE. Since then I have not had another episode as mad as that one. I’d love to say that I haven’t struggled with anxiety at all, but that would not be true. However, I have learned a lot about anxiety, God, and myself since then. So, what have I learned?

Anxiety is real. For people who do not, or have not struggled with anxiety it is very hard to understand what it’s like. From the outside looking in you might find yourself looking for the THING that is causing the anxiety or fear. The truth is there often times isn’t any thing. We know that. We understand that there is nothing to be afraid of. We understand that we shouldn’t be feeling the anxiety that we are feeling. Trust me, it is as frustrating to us as it is to you.

Anxiety may never go away. After that first night three years ago, I woke up different. I had fear when I had seldom felt fear before that. There were things that scared me tha had never scared me before. For a time I was convinced that I would never be the man that I was before that night. Since then I have gotten a lot better. I don’t have the same level of anxiety that I had in the weeks right after that night. But, it’s still there. I still have moments that I have to remove myself from, due to irrational fear.
God is faithful. In the midst of my most difficult moments, God was there. In the times after that, when I needed strength and peace, God was there. For me my anxiety was worse when I went to bed. Many nights I would lay in bed, feeling the anxiety coming on and I would pray, “Lord, give me peace, give me strength.” He was there for me.
God is able. All to often we look at ourselves, at our own opinions about our abilities and use that to judge God. We think that because we are incapable that God must be too. As I laid in the bed, praying that simple prayer, over and over again, I was unable to handle my anxiety by myself. BUT, God was able.
Night after night I laid there, feeling fear creeping up on me. Feeling the tightening in my chest, and in my throat. Feeling as if I couldn’t catch my breath. Contemplating whether to Kim or to just push through it myself. Then, night after night God gave me the strength I needed to push through. Night after night God gave me the peace that allowed me to sleep.
God is good. In the midst of the storms of life it can be easy to feel that God is not good. At the least, we can forget that He IS good. As I look back now, I realize that even in those dark moments, God was still good.
I am ok. As I’ve often told people, there was a time after my first major run in with anxiety that I worried that I would never be “normal” again. I feared that the person I was before was gone forever. Since then what I’ve learned is that I am ok. Have I been changed by the experience? Sure. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. Either way, what I do know is that whoever I have become, I am ok.
I’m going to be ok. As I look back on that night and on the many days and nights since then one thing I am certain of is that I am going to be ok. Having made it through a night of uncontrollable fear, and a number of fear filled nights since, I’ve become convinced that even in my most difficult moments I’m going to be ok.
I am stronger than I think. Before all this started I thought I was strong. I was convinced that I could do and endure anything. Looking back on the past three years I’ve learned that I’m even stronger than I thought I was. The truth is you never really know how strong you are until you are tested. Who is stronger, the person who has never had to do something difficult or the one who has faced hard times and come through them? I thought I was strong before, and I was. Now I know that am even stronger than I thought I was.
You are too. My journey has been MY journey. It is intensely personal. The specifics of it are specific to me. However, my experience is not unique. Through my experience I learned that I am much stronger than I thought. It also taught me that YOU are stronger than you think you are. You may not feel it right now, but trust me, you are stronger than you think you are and you will come through the difficult times.

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Leadership Requires Growth

For many people, leadership is about a position. They think that leading is about having the right title or position. They don’t think they can lead people until they have reached such a position. Sadly, once they’ve reached such a position, they often think that their quest for leadership ends. They see attaining the “right position” as evidence of their leadership and they see no need to grow. They don’t understand that leadership requires growth.

Leadership can happen from any position. As a staff level employee you have the potential to lead those at your level. For many, even at a staff level, there are people that work under you. Obviously you can lead them. You can even lead those who are above you in the organization. Regardless of your position, or who you are leading, the one thing that is true of every leader is that you must continue to grow in order to lead.

As a leader in the church there are many opportunities for such growth. A quick search on Amazon for “church leadership” brings up over 16,000 hits. Mentorship, education, online communities, and conferences are a few other such opportunities. Conferences vary widely in focus. There are more church leadership conferences than any one person could ever keep up with or hope to attend.

With so many conferences you might wonder if another conference was really needed. Despite that, last year a new conference was introduced. I’ve been to a bunch of conferences. Some for church and some for a position I once held in a local hospital. This  new conference is different from any other church leadership conference I have attended. This is the ReThink Leadership Conference.

So, how is the ReThink Leadership Conference different?

Well, for one, this conference is aimed specifically at senior leaders. It’s intended for and limited to senior pastors and campus pastors. This is not to say that other’s in the church have less need for growth. Rather it is an acknowledgement of the unique challenges faced by the top leaders in a given church. This conference is focused specifically on those challenges.

How is it different from others?

Better connection: There are certainly other conferences aimed at senior leaders. What makes this one different? The ReThink Leadership conference is limited in total number. Instead of hundreds and hundreds, or maybe even thousands of leaders sitting in row after row of chairs, those in attendance are seated around tables. This allows you to connect with a few other people in a real way. At last years conference they actually assigned seats so that each leader would find themselves sitting with a group of people they probably didn’t know. This was a great opportunity to connect with other leaders.

More intimate feel: By limiting total registration to just a few hundred, then they were able to guarantee that breakouts had a more intimate feel. I’ve been to conferences where hundreds of people were in a given breakout. In that case the chance of getting my specific question answered is greatly decreased. By intentionally keeping Rethink Leadership Conference smaller, they allow for much smaller numbers in each breakout, thus allowing much greater connection with each speaker.

Top line speakers: This is certainly not the only conference to offer top line, Christians speakers, but the list is worth noting. Names like: Jon Acuff, Bob Goff, Carey Nieuwhof, Jud Wilhite, and more. Having attended last year’s ReThink Leadership Conference I can honestly say that the speakers make it at least worth checking out.

A conference for your whole team: Wait, I thought you said that this conference was only for senior leaders. It is. But, ReThink happens at the same time, and in conjunction with the Orange Conference. Orange is a conference for all people that minister to families within your church.  With a variety of tracks there is something there for pretty much every leader in your church. It also happens just a short distance from the venue that is housing the ReThink Leadership Conference. So, it’s a great opportunity for your whole team to grow as leaders and to grow closer together.

Bottom line: I’m a bottom line kinda guy. So, here’s the bottom line. If you are a leader, or aspire to be one, then you must continue to seek personal growth as a person and as a leader. If you are a senior pastor or campus pastor the ReThink Leadership Conference is a great opportunity for such growth.

Registration is open now and for a few more days you can save a few bucks with the early bird special. I’ve already got my ticket and I hope to see you there. Check out rethinkleadership.com for a full list of speakers, for hotel information, for information about the venue, for full pricing information and much more.

Again, I hope to see you there.

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New Look, New Direction

It’s funny how life happens sometimes. You really never know where you are going to end up, or what God is going to call you to do. If you have been reading this blog for very long, then you know that is has been mostly children’s ministry focused with a smattering of miscellaneous other stuff along the way.

Well, now it’s taking a new direction.

You see, somewhere along the way, God decided that it would be a good idea for me to start a church. I know, crazy. Right. Hey, it wasn’t my idea. I’m just trying to be obedient to what God is telling me to do. Trust me I was quite content to do children’s ministry the rest of my life. But, God had other plans.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited about the new direction my life and ministry are taking. At the same time, it’s scary. I had attained a certain level of comfort in children’s ministry, but when it comes to church planting I know almost nothing… Ok, I know nothing.

Still, this is what God has called me to do.

So, with a change of direction for my life and ministry, I felt that my blog needed a new look and a new direction. Moving forward my blog will feature a wide range of posts. Most of them will be on leadership or church planting, but it may also include some children’s ministry stuff, youth ministry stuff, parenting and so much more.

I hope that you enjoy this new direction.

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