5 Obstacles Between You and the Work You Love

Many of us know what we love to do but do something else with our time.  Why?  What obstacles are standing between us and what we love?

horse and jockey jumping gate

Recently my blogging has waned, and part of that change was planned.  I have much on my plate and I decided not long ago that writing three times a week is unreasonable for my stage in life.

The part that was not planned is not blogging at all.

I have always enjoyed writing, but particularly so in the past two years.  I have enjoyed connecting with people through ideas I share, but writing has also stretched my mind and helped me to process my own heart issues.

Recently, though, I have found myself not writing at all, and I have begun wondering why that is the case.  What obstacles have been keeping me from writing, which I love?

Here are the obstacles I found.  Some of these obstacles are not within my control, but some are.  Perhaps you can relate.

  1. Life Chaos.  Some life events are beyond our control.  Three times this summer I have had the boys by myself for a week at a time.  I love my boys and I want this special, focused time as a family, but managing a full time job and having the boys with me 24/7 ups the chaos in my life.
  2. Exhaustion.  I have been very tired this summer.  Some of this is due to obstacle number 1, but much of this is due to the fact that I am a night owl with morning responsibilities.  I can change the second one.
  3. Changing Priorities.  Sometimes being drawn away from things we love signals a change in our priorities, as it has with me.  This summer I have not been as diligent at protecting time for me, thus my writing and other things have suffered.  Priorities can also change for good reasons, such as the fact that I have not written as much in order to focus on other projects and relationships.
  4. Difficulty.  Doing what you love can be hard.  Now that I have been writing steadily for two years I have to work a little harder at finding fresh topics.  I am very human; I like easy things, not hard ones.  I tend to think what I love should be easy, which is rarely the case.  We value the things we earn more than the things we take.
  5. Laziness.  I will admit it.  I like to do nothing.  At all.  Sometimes this takes the form of much needed and healthy spiritual retreat time.  Other times, however, I want to do nothing because it means I can, well, do nothing.

Those are my obstacles.  What are yours?

Is God Enough for You?

When life hits us hard we question everything, including ourselves.

  • Why did you let this happen, God?
  • If you are good, why am I going through so much pain?
  • Why didn’t I get out when I could?
  • Why did I say that?

What we are really asking, though, is this:

God, are you enough for me?

When your marriage gets difficult, when your work situation takes an unexpected turn, or when your children disrespect you, is God enough for you?  When a friend speaks badly about you behind your back, or when someone takes advantage of you, is God enough for you?

Much of my life I unwittingly placed my value in what others thought of me.  When they spoke or thought poorly of me, I was devastated.  When they questioned my integrity, I was crushed.

I was feeling beat up because I was viewing myself through the eyes of others rather than through the eyes of God.

I still find myself slipping into that same trap from time to time, but when I am able to see myself as God sees me, I have strong, enduring peace.

God knows you and me more intimately than any one person will ever be able to know us. He made us.  Psalm 139:13 says God knits us together in our mother’s womb.

He knows why you are hurting better than you do, and he knows how to heal you better than any self-help book or counselor.  (Counselors are invaluable, by the way; I am not knocking them.  You need a counselor who is a believer, though, for you to really find healing.)

God is enough for me and for you, and he will always be enough.

Where in your life do you need to remember that God is enough for you?

The Benefit of Writing Psalms as a Devotional Practice

From time to time I have written on various devotional techniques, and today I want to share one that has become a favorite of mine: psalm writing.

notebook and pencil

Why Write Psalms

A psalm is simply a sacred song or hymn, particularly modeled after the psalms of David.  While many psalms are laments, and sometime I will write one of those, many psalms are pure adoration and praise.

I find my attitude and spiritual perspective improve greatly when I spend concentrated time praising God. Praising God means focusing completely on who God is and what he has done. During this time I do not confess my sins, thank God for personal blessings, or ask him to answer my requests. This time is devoted to recognizing God for who he is and what he has done.

I can begin writing a psalm of praise in a spiritual dull and ambivalent mood, and by the time I am done my spirit has been lifted, encouraged, and strengthened simply because I have been reminding myself who God is. This is why God told his people to always be talking about God and his works; we are encouraged through who he is.

How to Write a Psalm

Begin by choosing an attribute of God, and then start writing down the ways God shows himself in your life as that attribute.

That’s all.

This is not a time to be grammatically perfect, but to be perfect in spirit.

An Example

Here is a psalm of praise I wrote earlier this month. On this particular day I decided to focus on God as my Provider. Here is what I wrote, with only one name edited out for privacy.

God, you are my Provider
on my left hand and on my right;
in difficulty and ease
you fill my heart and life with good things.
I will meditate on all your wondrous deeds.

When I was depressed and overwhelmed
by my guilt and shame
you sent encouraging angels
and friends to comfort me.
When I was struggling under poisonous stares,
you were my shelter,
my umbrella in the rain of accusations.
When I needed nothing material
you were the satisfaction of my heart
and the source of all my good.
When I was desperate and without hope
you became my hope and assurance.
You showed me a way when I could not see
and gave me a hope I did not know.
I was rejected, and you welcomed me
and said, “I was rejected, too.”
I was distraught, and you encouraged me,
for you wrestled with God at Gethsemane.
I was poor and you made me rich;
your people brought me money out of their abundance
and paid my bills.
I was tired from weeping and despair,
and you revived my spirit.

All my life you have been my good;
and nothing good have you withheld.
Your grace and mercy are greater than I know
and more integral than I can express.
You are the blood in my veins and the breath in my mouth,
O God, my Strength and my Provider.

What attribute of God would be most beneficial for you to meditate on?

How to See Blocked Out Dates When Scheduling in Planning Center Services

Our church uses Planning Center Services to schedule volunteers and plan worship services.  Under Services volunteers can actually block out dates that they will be gone so that schedulers do not waste time by scheduling people for dates when they will be gone.

Planning Center Services

Recently I found myself scheduling people for dates they had blocked out. Needless to say, I was frustrated. My volunteers were doing what I asked them to do by blocking out the dates they are gone, but I was not seeing that information when I added them to a service. Not seeing this information also added lots of time to my scheduling because I had to fix the mistakes as people informed me they would be gone.

I fired off a quick email to Planning Center Services tech support and I received a prompt reply. Their answer was simple and direct and I learned something I have not known since I began using Planning Center.

In order to demonstrate what I learned, let’s add someone to a service.

I want to add a Presenter for Announcements on July 21, so let’s go to the service flow page for that date and open up the “Presenter” positions category on the left of the screen. There I find “1 person needed” under “Announcements.”

Planning Center Services - Service Flow - "1 person needed"

When I click on the “1 person needed” window, this is what I see:

Planning Center Services - Select People for Announcements Window - no blocked out dates

In reality four of those people are unavailable, but I will not be able to see that information until I fix a small issue.

In order to see who is unavailable, I need to click “cancel” on this window and return to the main service flow page. When I get there I need to click on the Service Time in the upper left hand corner:

Planning Center Services - Service Flow - Service Times

After clicking on the Service Time I see this window:

Planning Center Services - Editing Time Window - unchecked Assigned People Categories

You can see the red oval around the unchecked boxes. In order for me to see the blocked out dates when I schedule someone their category of service needs to be checked here.

Planning Center Services - Editing Time Window - checked Assigned People Categories

Now that the categories are checked off, I am going to return to the service flow page and click on the “1 person needed” window under “Announcements” to see if I see anything different:

Planning Center Services - Select People for Announcements - blocked out datesNow I can clearly see that four of the people have blocked out July 21 on their calendar and I will be able to avoid scheduling them.

Thanks to Planning Center Services’ prompt tech support I am up and running smoothly again.

When you create a Service Time, Rehearsal Time, or Other Time, make certain you have checked the boxes for the relevant “Assigned People Categories” to make certain you can see their blocked out dates while scheduling.

Making the Most of My Time

I finally completed a task I began weeks ago.

For a while I had been feeling like I was running from one end of the week to the other. I started seeing warning signs in my life:

  • Emotionally down
  • Overly tired
  • Taking comments personally
  • Overwhelmed at work and at home

There are more, but you get the gist. Lots of red flags.

I imagine you, like me, have multiple things and people deserving your attention:

  • God
  • Family
  • Work
  • Spouse or Significant Other
  • Personal Time
  • Side Work
  • Household Chores

Because we have so many things and people needing and desiring our attention for perfectly good reasons, we have to be diligent in prioritizing them. No one thing or person can have all of your time, but all of those things and people must have some of your time. If we do not plan out our lives we will end up burnt out; not only that, but no one will get the attention they need and some may get lost in the shuffle.

Here is how I tackled my life. You can begin with your home life or your work life. I began with work.

  1. I took my job description and wrote a shorthand, bullet-point version. I could see the details if I looked at the original job description; I just needed a reminder.
  2. I assigned each grouping a letter so that I can categorize every task and meeting according to the objectives they address. This way I can also show my boss that I am making space for every objective on my job description.
  3. I looked for overlap and for broader categories in order to simplify my focus even more.
  4. I created a 7-day calendar in Excel and marked out the exact number of hours I needed to work on average. I have multiple rehearsals and Sunday services to contend with, so work and home can bleed together very easily. Clear delineation of time spent where is essential.
  5. I blocked out all of my recurring meetings and rehearsals and labelled them with letters according to their focus.
  6. I assigned groups of tasks to particular days.
  7. Next I tackled my home priorities. I have seven, ranging from time with God to time for myself. Some things need more attention, and I am dialing back other areas.
  8. I blocked out my set home appointments in order of my priorities.
  9. I scheduled time in for all of the primary people in my life.
  10. I listed the tasks that I need to accomplish in certain time blocks.
  11. I color-coded my master schedule according to work and home. I created a master work schedule showing only my work hours, tasks, and meetings, and a master home schedule showing only home priorities, tasks, and appointments.

I am just beginning to implement this plan, but I already feel more clear-headed. Granted this all took time – probably 5-6 hours – but the end result is worth it. I feel content knowing I am paying attention to the people and things that most deserve my attention.

Practical Considerations

One of the practical sides of this change is that I will only be posting once a week.  At this point in my life I want to be writing but I cannot keep my relationship and family commitments effectively while trying to write three times a week.  I have been feeling very stressed by my personal goal of writing that much.

Perhaps sometime in the future I will write more again.  For now I hope that you will continue on the ride with me.  I will continue to share thoughts related to Worship, Leadership, and Life, as I have in the past.  I am no sage or Yoda, but I enjoy writing in the hope that you find my experiences instructive.

How are you organizing your life and prioritizing your time?

Are You a Needy Person?

Most of us know at least one person who is “needy.” Needy people

  • Take more than they give
  • Base their self-image on the opinions of others
  • Take advantage of friendships
  • Do not have appropriate emotional and personal boundaries

Truly needy people often cannot recognize their own behavior for what it is.

Every one of us, however, is a “needy” person spiritually.  

Spiritually we all

  • Are completely reliant on Christ for salvation
  • Are completely dependent on Christ to provide for us
  • Are lost without Christ’s guidance throughout life
  • Are ultimately unfulfilled and defeated without Christ

I consistently have to remind myself that I need God. Recently a new worship song on the scene has been helping me to remember that I need Christ every day.

All the People Said Amen

Lord, I Need You, recorded on All the People Said Amen by Matt Maher and written by Christy Nockels, Daniel Carson, Jesse Reeves, Kristian Stanfill, and Matt Maher, is reminiscent of the classic hymn I Need Thee Every Hour (a favorite of mine), yet remains completely original, borrowing only a few lines from the hymn.

Here are the lyrics:

Lord, I come, I confess
bowing here I find my rest.
Without You I fall apart;
You’re the one that guides my heart.

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You,
ev’ry hour I need You.
My one defense, my righteousness,
Oh, God, how I need You.

Where sin runs deep, Your grace is more;
where grace is found is where You are.
Where You are, Lord, I am free;
holiness is Christ in me.

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You,
ev’ry hour I need You.
My one defense, my righteousness,
Oh, God, how I need You.

So teach my song to rise to You
when temptation comes my way;
when I cannot stand I’ll fall on You.
Jesus, You’re my hope and stay.

Lord, I need You, oh, I need You,
ev’ry hour I need You.
My one defense, my righteousness,
Oh, God, how I need You.

You can buy the recording here.

In recent weeks this song has given me a lot of encouragement.  The words, “My one defense, my righteousness,” and “Jesus, you’re my hope and stay,” have been a rallying cry for me.

A few items are of particular interest to me as a musician, worship leader, and composer:

  1. The melody remains low for the first verse , the first chorus, and half of the second verse. The melody rises on the lyrics “Where you are,” highlighting the distance between us and Christ and how Christ lifts us up.
  2. The bridge, with the lyrics “So teach my song,” beautifully paints a picture of how we stumble through temptation and difficulty. The meter throughout the song is 4/4, but here the meter alternates between 3/4 and 4/4, giving the music a halting cadence.
  3. “Where grace is found is where you are” is terrible grammar, but the lyrics perfectly communicate that Christ is the source of all grace. If you experience grace, you are experiencing God.
  4. The melody spans a 12th, making the song difficult to place vocally and sing, but I am certain this song will be sung by many congregations in spite of that because of the incredible composition that it is.

This song is a beautiful reminder of our need for Christ.

What songs remind you of your need for Christ?

Refueling Your Artist’s Soul

Do you know what fuels you? I am an introvert, which means for me that quiet, time alone, and forms of art are some of the best ways for me to refuel.

I love movies and I enjoy reading books, but looking at fabulous art is one of the best ways for me to juice up the artistic batteries.

The art of Makoto Fujimura, introduced to me by a colleague, inspires me greatly. Take a moment to browse through his website. One of the world’s foremost contemporary artists and a member of the National Council on the Arts from 2003-2009, Fujimura employs an ancient form of painting called Nihonga in unique, contemporary ways.

I was especially inspired by the connection between art and his faith in his 400th year commemorative illumination of the Four Holy Gospels.

Makoto Fujimura - Four Holy Gospels

Makoto Fujimura – Four Holy Gospels

When I lived in Rochester, NY, one of my favorite artist outings was a trip to International Art Acquisitions, Inc., a fine art gallery in the Pittsford suburb.

Joan Miro

Joan Miro

How do you refuel?  Share some examples below.