How Do They Get So Much Accomplished?

Aside from trying to answer my children on why I have more hair on my chest that I do on top of my head, one of the questions people ask me the most is, “How do you manage to do all that you do?”

While I’m always honored that my conduct is worth asking about, the question has a few inherent flaws. One of those is assuming that I’m faithful to all the things I need to get done. For every one thing someone sees, there are dozens more that need attention. And I carry that reverently, as everything worth doing has a person on the other side of it.

But with regard to the question itself, we need to make sure we break it down more accurately.

Reading It Right

Don’t confuse productivity with capacity and support.

It’s dangerous to compare ourselves to others. But analyzing peoples methods can often be thought-provoking, informative and convicting. So it’s worth investigating when you’re able to rub shoulders with someone whom you admire.

How Much Can You Carry?

It’s important to recognize that some people are born with a higher natural capacity to produce things than others. They have certain gifts and natural dispositions that lend to high output lifestyles. My senior pastor, Kirk Gilchrist, has a natural gift of leadership. I try and emulate it as best I can, but what I have to work for, he has naturally.

You can work toward having a greater natural capacity but, ultimately, capacity has to do with how you’re put together.

The greatest thing you can do to increase your capacity is allow yourself to be stretched. And this isn’t exactly a warm-fuzzy process. It will test the limits of your patience, stamina, stress thresholds, memory and relationships. This doesn’t mean you take on fifty things, just the next thing. This means that you’ll operate within your own natural capacity, not someone else’s, and then look to the next step that makes you uncomfortable, not the next thirty steps.

Who’s On Their Team?

Very often, we see what’s attributed to one person when in reality it was created by many people.

Most people who produce a lot have amazing support systems in place. Movies are great examples of this. The main actor or director usually gets the red carpet treatment. But sit through the credits of the next film you enjoy, and really think through all the faces that go with each of those names.

These key supporters allow producers to offer more than what they’re able to do on their own. This is a quality of leadership, and should not be confused with someone’s natural ability to create or carry something. One of the only reasons I’m able to appear to do all that I do is because of those who’ve partnered with me. Accordingly, it’s become of one of my personal goals to shower them with as much praise and recognition as I can. They deserve it, and so much more.

Be a Voracious Learner

The best that we can do is glean from people’s habits and try to apply them to ourselves where possible.

What time people get up and go to sleep, how they treat their bodies and what feed their spirits, what they’re reading, how often they take breaks, interact with others, deal with stress, they lead their teams, take criticism, delegate, craft, adhere to timelines and engage in the creative process are all examples of things we can learn regardless of our natural capacities or current support structures.

Forget productivity.

Monitor your capacity and honor your supporters.

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Guitars For Glory: Guatemala Documentary Short

Guitars For Glory Documentary: San Cristobal Verapaz, Guatemala from Sprig Music on Vimeo.

•••

Giving stuff away is amazing. Way better than getting something yourself. (It’s almost like Jesus knew what he was talking about).

Jennifer and I had the honor of representing Guitars For Glory during our recent trip to Guatemala last month. This meant surprising three people with brand new guitars. We made sure the cameras were rolling, and managed to produce something we’re all proud of. (Thank you, Sprig Music).

Sure, who wouldn’t like a free guitar?

But what the documentary doesn’t show is all the back-story behind the recipients. Like how Rudy’s father abandoned his family for the US, and Rudy was left to be provider for his four siblings and mother; today, he’s a pillar in his family and his church. Or Roger, who’s given himself fully to educating children, and makes in one year what I make in three weeks. Then there’s Willy, who’s always wanted to lead people in worship on guitar, but knew it’d be impossible, seeing as how it’d take him and his entire family over a decade to save up enough combined money to buy one.

The stories are real. The tears are real. Because the people are real.

And that’s the power we have as being part of the world’s wealthiest people.

Please watch the video. Then thoughtfully consider three things:

1.) Giving to Guitars For Glory so they can continue to spread the message of hope in Jesus through music.

2.) Sponsor a child with Inn Ministries, our hosting organization in Guatemala. I can’t say enough about these people. They’re the real deal, and you’re having a daily impact on children when you give toward their education.

3.) Let me know what you think—about all this. I’d love to hear.

You were born to rock. So get to it.

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Are You Blessed? Or Are You Grateful?

“This new car is such a blessing.”

“Finally closed on the house. Feeling blessed.”

“Just got back from a mission trip. Realizing how blessed we are here in this country.”

On the surface, the phrase seems harmless. Faithful even. Why wouldn’t I want to give God the glory for everything I have? Isn’t that the right thing to do?

No.

Read Scott Dannemiller’s [convicting] full story here. Then let me know what you think. What you perceive is a blessing may actually be the burden that you need to steward on behalf of others.

God is not for the underdog, he’s for the faithful.

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Building Memories

This week, we’re hosting Douglas Gresham and Meg Sutherland at Sprig Studios. Doug is a long-time friend, and famed adopted-son of C.S. Lewis; and he’s also Meg’s Executive Producer for a potential record deal we’re working on.

Needless to say, the whole experience has been nostalgic and inspiring. Meg’s music is filled with the “divine melancholy” that Tolkien was famous for capturing; and spending any time with Doug’s larger-than-life persona is always a treat. His stories are captivating, and to hear him reminisce of growing up with Jack is nothing short of spellbinding.

But in the midst of the revelry, I’m deeply aware of the new memories we’re forming together—stories, I hope, that my children will tell of with great fondness.

Seek to live your life today in such a way that your great grandchildren will whisper about your happenings with wonder. Honor those around you, and build a legacy with the integrity of consistent action.

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Pictures from my Instagram feed:

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Guatemala Tour 2014 Rewards

inn ministries infographic

Jennifer and I are hitting Guatemala for the next ten days, and we’re so excited to go back to a people and a ministry that deeply touched our hearts. Not only will we be able to re-connect with the four children that we sponsor, but we’ll be ministering before some incredible and diverse audiences. Even since Inn Ministries published this infographic, we’ve been notified that another school has invited us to come speak.

•••

Connect

A few fun ways to engage with us on this trip:

• Get constant visuals via our Instagram feeds (Christopher’s / Jennifer’s).

• Stay tuned here for long-form updates.

Invest $5, $15 or $25 to Inn Ministries.

Sponsor a child for $30/mos.

•••

Rewards

Giving should be fun. So let’s have some!

Shout Out Pics: For those of you who chose to invest into the Inn, Jennifer and I’ll post a customized picture just for you that will hit Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and on our blogs. Mine will probably be whacky; Jennifer’s will be thoughtful. Mine will be random; Jennifer’s will be intentional.

Us and Your Child: If you chose to sponsor a child, Jennifer and I will post a picture of us with your sponsor child. This also applies to anyone who already sponsors a child through the Inn. Again, leave a comment and give us your child’s name. This is a beautiful way to connect with your kids through us—we’ll be your eyes, but you’re still the heart.

Thanks for for being an integral part of changing culture with us.

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How I Use (And Don’t Use) Social Media

Before social media became a thing, we had email chat rooms, brought to you by America Online. I still remember my dad using a “street address and mail box” analogy to help me understand what a URL and @ symbol were, all to the static-laden interlude between hitting “connect” and hearing the famous words of one of my wife’s favorite movies.

(Bet that voice actor wishes he had taken the royalty option instead of the studio fee).

Where I once felt the rush of talking to an AOL user in a chat room, I now freely post text and images of my life before the better part of 2 billion people.

What happened?

Like everything, technology moves forward, which means feasibility, accessibility and integration does too. In short, things just get easier and more interesting.

After a few years of playing with all of the connectivity apps out there, here are the ones I use daily and why.

Instagram

Instagram is my go-to social media app for me. It’s what I like. Promoting family, adventure, music, life. It encapsulates the essence of a picture being worth a thousand words, and shamelessly ignores the trappings that have made Facebook the mess it is today.

Since 65% of humans are visual learners, its a seamless way to capitalize on our natural predisposition. I can scroll through dozens of images in a minute, learning what my friends or favorite retailers are doing, leave a comment if I want, or just double-tap the image (“like”) to let them know I was here.

Posting a picture a day has become a habit I love, because it forces me to look at my day with extreme visual appreciation. It’s helped me be intentional with valuing my contexts, and therefore, it’s made me a more appreciative person. And it’s brought me closer to considering other people’s joys and heartaches. It’s the closest thing I can handle to having God’s timeless and instant access to all of humanity.

Twitter

Twitter used to be my go-to platform (which now auto-populates from my Instagram posts, accounting for 90% of my Twitter activity). Twitter was especially attractive to me as I tired of Facebook’s decay to non-user commercialism and the irrational commentary from people who felt everyone should read their obscure opinions (which added little value to society). Twitter has, in large part, salvaged that, though it’s recent popularity in commenting on TV drama and pop culture is wearing on me (thus why I follow so few people).

The limitation to 140 characters means intelligent humans must be thoughtful about anything we say, and likewise limits the praising or ranting abilities of anyone commenting back. This makes for short, cunning dialog that doesn’t require much time. And even if someone says something unintelligent, they can’t say it for very long.

Facebook

The only thing I use Facebook for anymore is posting links to what you’re reading right now. If I didn’t get thousands of click-throughs every week because of it, I wouldn’t bother. But enough people still faithfully use Facebook to make meaningful connections that I recognize the value of publicizing my work there.

Facebook was a great idea, but between the maintenance it required (friend request management, comments, private messages, and the incessant app-blocking if you don’t want your page to look like a billboard for FarmVille), as well as the presumed familiarity if you’re a public figure, turned me off to the site’s time-sucking irrationality. I once had a Facebook follower get mad at me because I failed to write him when his wife died suddenly. I was genuinely grieved for this poor man, but astonished that Facebook had elevated presumptive intimacy to such extraordinary levels.

Everything Else

While there are plenty of other cool apps out there, most either seem like repeats (Google+ repeating Facebook) or irrelevant (LinkedIn, since I don’t need any more work, and don’t want to be linked anymore than I already am). The only other platform I tend to spend a lot of time cultivating is this one right here: my blog. I’ve made it a point to always respond to every comment.

In the end, my advice is to find one or two platforms that inspire you to be a better person without enticing you to disengage from the world around you, trading reality for life-lived-from-a-screen. Social media is a powerful tool, and it’s uses are only in their infancy, but tools should never trump people.

Live life with your eyes open, looking straight ahead, knowing that the most valuable connections are made with the people right in from of you.

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Make Sure You’re Liked By Who Matters Most

“I like you.”

Those three words sent chills down my 5th grade spine. It made me do crazy things, like circle “yes” on a ruled sheet of notebook paper that read, “Do you like me back?” and pass it through the hands of four friends to a blushing girl.

Being liked is powerful stuff. It makes politicians bend their convictions, and actors turn their heads.

But not being liked is just as powerful. In fact, the desire to be liked by those who don’t like you can be one of life’s most dangerous motivators. The more we try and appease the myriad of voices that sing our praise or ridicule, the more we tend to abandon our primary purposes. We become un-true to ourselves.

When All Eyes Are On You

As a pastor, I have the honor of wading into the arena of theology, and engaging—whether I want to or not—with everyone else’s personal pet doctrines. As a business man, I never run my businesses the way everyone else thinks I should, from employee to patron. And as an artist, I never communicate “it” quite the way everyone else would like me to.

No matter what arena you’re in, if you stand for something, someone’s bound not to like you. And if you have any ounce of humanity, you’ll at least think about how to get them to like you. I know I do.

Being liked isn’t bad; but trying to be liked by everyone is.

Because it’s impossible.

The transient nature of the human opinion is decidedly insecure. I believe it could be one of the sandy foundations Jesus talked about in Matthew 7:26-27:

But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand. When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”

Who Matters Most?

If being liked is an unavoidable goal of the heart—which anyone who says it isn’t, doesn’t have a heart—make sure you’re liked by the people who matter most.

I want my wife to like me. I want to know what she thinks. Her opinion matters a great deal. A thousand people can tell me I did a good job, but if she disagrees, then I did a poor job; similarly, the masses can say I was terrible, but her one word of affirmation can silence them all.

I want my kids to like me. Not loathe me. It doesn’t mean I don’t make the hard call, but it means that when I do, I do it lovingly. Part of my legacy is making sure their memories of me have integrity—that when they think back on me, they realize I was trying to model as much of the heavenly Father as I could.

I want to know what my closest friends think, my advisors, my pastors. I covet the “likes” of the wisest people around me. In a world where “like” is a cheap button-click away, I want the hard-won, deeply fought for, dig-deep kind of like that you can’t get from a screen, but you can only get from a look in the eye.

And most of all, I want my God to like me. I want my conduct to so much reflect his, that he notices himself in me.

Like of Love

The danger is that as we cater more to the opinions of people we have no relationship with, we actually suppress the value of the people who we do have relationship with. The very ones we claim we like are the ones we’re conveying deep disinterest toward.

In the end, being liked is merely the precursor to a far more innate emotional need: being loved. And being loved is more powerful than being liked, because real love is not as conditional on what we do, but more, who we are.

Make sure you’re liked by the ones you love the most. Everyone else can afford to be upset.

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Staying In Baghdad

Iraq isn’t in the news much anymore. At least, not the way it was in the 90s. But neither is Green Day.

So what’s current in Baghdad?

Last month alone, 1,013 people in Iraq – 795 civilians, 122 soldiers and 96 policemen – died as a result of violence.

The community of faith has certainly taken a hit too:

There were once 135,000 Jews in Iraq; only six remain. And Iraq’s Christians have fled by the hundreds of thousands in recent years. Out of 1.5 million in 2003, only around 200,000 remain. This is particularly tragic, because both the Jewish and Christian communities in Iraq are ancient and indigenous. They are neither post-colonial nor the result of Western missionary activity.

In a nation where acting like Christ comes with inherently severe consequences, you’ll be inspired by the story of a man referred to as The Vicar of Baghdad. Sound like a movie title? It should. Reverend Canon Andrew White—an Anglican priest from Great Britain, firmly planted in Iraq’s capital—does enough heart-string pulling to merit an Oscar. Only he’s not acting.

Apparently, he didn’t get the memo regarding “bunker mentality.”

Read the full story here.

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How To Survive the End of the World

What response do have when you read the words the second coming?

Or how about Armageddon?

Too spiritual?

Try:

The end of the world.

Or:

The zombie apocalypse.

Too Hollywood. I hear ya.

How about:

World financial crisis.

Global destabilization.

Famine. Drought. Insurrection.

Regardless of what you call it, if “it” was tomorrow, what’s your game plan? What’s your survival strategy?

Fortunately, I just happened to receive this lovely, well-designed email in my inbox the other day:

Bunker Survival Email

Clicking on it took me to a ten-minute video describing the end of civilization (which, I’ll have you know, is perpetually occurring in ten-months from whenever you read this).

Now, for the Christian, it’s right to think about death and the age to come. We’re taught to prepare for it, and instructed to tell as many people as possible that there is an inevitable appointment approaching from which no one can escape.

But if you were truthful when you started reading my opening salvo of questions (or when you got to minute three of any intense video forecasting the greatest crisis to ever hit the world in ten-months), you probably thought something much more basic:

Run away.

Hoard things.

Build a bunker.

Invest in gold bullion.

Learn how to knit mittens from the Amish family down the street.

Shoot off invaders with your .50-caliber. Unless they’re Amish. They’re pacifists and pose no immediate danger.

Listen, I’m not trying to upset those of you who are survivalists. I’m an Eagle Scout, and I love knowing that I’m equipped to take care of my family in a crisis. There’s no problem with being prepared and using your head. Train yourself and know what to do in emergencies.

But there is a problem with abandoning Jesus’ lifestyle if you’re a Christian.

I’m surprised at how often people who, at first, seem like kind, reasonable Christians suddenly transform into crazed extremists who are so irrational that they’d exchange their birthright for a bowl of soup. Or an extra MRE.

The truth is, the world has survived without guns; the Gospel is still alive and well in France. The world has even survived without three square meals a day; I’ll introduce you to personal friends who eat once a week in Africa and Latin America. And contrary to what the radio ads tell you, gold is not the best hedge against economic collapse; knowing a trade skill is.

Guns are useful, food is important, and being fiscally responsible is key. No one ever said they weren’t. But they’re all secondary to the Christ-like model Jesus demonstrated for us.

I want you to keep this little piece of trivia in mind:

Jesus left the safest, most secure location in all the universe to enter the most dangerous, putrid cesspool of humanity with no intention of survival.

Jesus’ end game was resurrection, so dying was mandatory.

If your emergency plan doesn’t include laying your life down as one of your primary action items, you might need to rethink a few things. I don’t mean the “I’m going to stand up and die for what I believe in” kind of laying your life down, I mean the “I’m going to give everything away that I own and love the worst people I can possibly find until I have nothing left to give” kind.

Jesus said that people who worry about what they’re going to eat, what they’re going to drink and what they’re going to wear are pagans, and that Christians who gravitated in that direction are of “little faith.” If you’re thinking more about surviving than giving, you might want to take an accurate faith assessment and read this.

People of great faith don’t build bunkers, they wade into the cesspool of humanity looking for someone to die for because resurrection is the only sure bet.

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UPDATE: 2014.02.06 2:50 AM

I smiled as I read this morning’s YouVersion (iOS) verse of the day, which sums up my link to Jesus’ quote above nicely. I love when things come together:

And don’t be concerned about what to eat and what to drink. Don’t worry about such things. These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers all over the world, but your Father already knows your needs. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and he will give you everything you need.

• Luke 12:29-31 NLT

Seek the kingdom first; everything else worth having will come afterward.

Inspired To Learn

What we’ve already learned positions us for what we’re about to learn.

And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

• 2 Corinthians 3:18

Come further up, come further in!

• C.S. Lewis

Learn something today that your future self will thank you for tomorrow.

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Making Time for Creating

Tonight, my dear friend Wayne Thomas Batson arrives at our home for a three day writing weekend that we call a Writer’s Bootcamp. We’ve been conducting these annually for the past nine years. Usually, we write, talk, write, eat, drink, write, use the bathroom (separately), talk, write, and then pass out, only to awake the next morning and do it all over again, with the goal of pounding out as many words as is inhumanly possible.

One thing that I’ve learned about the creation process is that it requires me to be intentional. When I was younger, making things just seemed to “happen.” I had loads of free time, and proximity to all sorts of amazing tools. And loads of free time.

(Did I mention free time?)

Today, as creative a soul as I am, producing tangible art—whether books, records or designs—only happens when I make time for them.

Here are three tips that’ve helped me:

Book It

Appointments are typically for people, not for “making things.” While people got premium space on my calendar apps—complete with descriptions, reminders and a courtesy text message if I’m running late—projects normally didn’t. Somehow I treated it as a second class activity.

If we really want to be intentional about creating, we need to treat time frames for our creative disciplines like appointments with people. Schedule the time on your calendar, write a description about what you want to accomplish in that time frame, and set up alerts if you’re late (treating them like text messages that say “You’re late! Get in here for your meeting!”).

Guard It

Merely setting planned time aside for your creative activities, whether professional or pastime, isn’t enough. I would never entertain ducking out of an intense marriage counseling session to help someone with the office printer. But I’m OK with stopping a design session to help someone tape up a box?

No.

All those those people and their tasks are important, just not right now.

Once you’ve scheduled time, keep yourself accountable to it by telling any interruptions to your creative appointment, “I’m sorry, but I’m in a meeting.” Most everything can wait.

Guarding these times includes turning OFF your mobile phone and restricting browser usage (if you need it open at all) to pertinent tasks only. TV, music (if it’s a distraction) and company can also be things that breach your guard.

End On a Cliffhanger

One of the biggest mistakes I made early on in my novel writing career was ending my day’s work when I’d finished a section that had a natural finale.

Big mistake.

Don’t end when it seems right, end when it seems wrong. Call it a day right in the middle of your favorite scene. Favorite color choice. Favorite chorus. Call the session when you’re truly inspired. This not only means that you’ll resume your progress sooner, but ensures that you’ll start back up with zeal. You’ll be eager instead of reticent.

What are some things you do to schedule, guard and inspire your creative disciplines?

Happy creating,

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The Christian Response to the Grammys

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It’s really important to me that someone, somewhere is actually publishing sound thought in contrast to otherwise unsound behavior. No, I’m not talking about Hollywood’s behavior during last night’s Grammys in which 33 couples were married in a makeshift chapel, the majority of them homosexual. I’m talking about the responses that many Christians are having toward it.

My issue?

Their criticisms don’t sound much like Jesus’ example.

Get Your Head In The Game

First, three thoughts to set this up:

1.) I can’t expect the unsaved to operate as if they’re saved. Unrighteous people do not naturally produce righteousness. So it’s pointless to get upset with Hollywood’s sense (or lack thereof) of morality. Asking them to behave morally is similar to insisting that a lion eat only salad mix. You only prevail in irritating the lion and embarrassing yourself. And possibly getting eaten.

Sinners sin, and they do so quite well. I know I would if it’s all I knew.

2.) Whatever respect I had for the awards society—which, I should add, was next to nothing—has now exhausted itself. Any ounce of class has been cast aside, proving that making political statements is more important than music. Though, I would argue, it stopped being about music a long time ago. As someone once quoted on my couch while watching A White Christmas for the first time, “Imagine that: an era where being famous meant you had to be talented.”

3.) I’m grieved for the children that are now being conditioned to believe that what they saw last night is real life. They’ll end up in my office when their lives falls apart in 10 years. Or sooner. Whatever it is that people who can’t stay married for more than 12 months promote as “marriage” probably shouldn’t be treated with a lot of legitimacy.

Becoming God

Now, if you’ll allow me to elaborate, and maybe get a little crazy before I bring it home:

The Grammy’s tasteless promotion of gay marriage (it was tasteless even for the straight marriages!) only proves that relativism is advancing. Redefine marriage from anything other than what the Bible defines it as, and—well—it can quite literally be anything other than what the Bible defines it as. Same sex people. Multiple people. Animals. People and animals. Have fun making your own rules.

The end game of the relativist approach to life always ends in the relativist being paramount to everything—God included.

• B. Peryer

Simply put, humanity, left to its own devices, wants to be God. Or god.

What’s incredible is that God agrees with them. And he’s one step ahead, as always. Jesus offers the opportunity to become “little Christs” (Greek: Christians), and in a very real sense—actually, in true reality—we receive his divine nature, his God-self. What’s fascinating is that the very thing the unsaved want—to be God—is the very thing Christians have. They just might not be ready for what true God-hood is. Where the world thinks being god is looking for control and appeasement of self, God thinks being God is sacrificial love and endless service in the promotion of others above self.

Interesting in that, apart from Christ, humanity destroys itself and everything around it, all in the name of advancement. Yet, God isn’t afraid of us becoming God-like, he just knows that without himself being in the center of that transformation, it’s irrelevant.

Bring On The Dinner Parties

So what’s the response to Hollywood? The same as it was for Jesus: go to a dinner party.

Later, Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners.

• Matthew 9:10 NLT

Matthew was a tax collector. Which means he was rich. And probably a manipulative tyrant. Which also means the other “disreputable sinners” were friends of his who he bought with his money. Read: prostitutes, drunks, politicians, pimps and at least a hit man or two.

And don’t think I’m being so dramatic. Remember, it’s the religious church-attenders’ response that proves just how bad of company Jesus was spending his time with:

But when the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with such scum?”

• Matthew 9:11 NLT

If you’re looking at your TV thinking, “What awful scum they are,” then you might want to think about snipping the “Pharisee” badge off your blazer.

The Christian response to the Grammys is the same as it’s always been: live such a lifestyle that the unquenchable, insatiable and undeniable love of God makes any other pursuit look trivial in comparison to knowing Jesus.

If all we’re doing is promoting principles—no matter how righteous or true—then we’ll probably always miss impacting people.

Until we’re willing to dine with delinquents we’ll only dabble with divinity.

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