What Is Courage?

When I think of courage I often think of war heroes charging the banks of Normandy who died before their feet even reached dry ground.  I think of the soldiers raising the flag on Iwo Jima.  I think of muscle-bound athletes, boundary shattering geniuses, visionary missionaries, and brave teachers in movies like Freedom Writers.

Those people are incredibly brave and courageous, and I am greatly inspired by their examples, but they do not completely define courage.

Recently God has been bringing parts of my past to light and helping me to find more freedom.  I wrote about one aspect of this in my March 12 post What to Do with Your Past.

Discovering a place in my life that needs more freedom can actually be scary for me.

Not long ago an unexpected event brought old experiences to light, old experiences I had not thought about in quite a while; years maybe.  The unexpected surfacing of those experiences from deep within my psyche was not only surprising but also disturbing and disorienting.

I was feeling a lot of fear.

I thought I had dealt with those experiences, prayed over them, and received healing for them.  I thought they were archived never to be seen except in highlight reels and then only if absolutely necessary.

I was only partly right.  I had done all I had known to do, but there was more work to do.

I had two options as I saw it:

  1. Go around the issues and stuff my reaction.
  2. Go through the issues and trust God to make me stronger through it.

In the past I might have chosen Option 1, but I have slowly been learning that better things lie through an issue than around an issue.  In fact, if you go around the issue you will probably find yourself running up against the same issue again and essentially running in circles.

My choice really had to do with how I decided to react to my fear.

Earlier this year Michael Hyatt wrote a blog post entitled Courage Is Not the Absence of Fear.  As I thought about his post and walked through this experience I came up with my own definition for courage.  This definition is probably not original with me, but here it is just the same:

Courage is perseverance in the face of fear.

You and I do not have to charge a bunker or break a record or leap off a mountain in a glide suit in order to demonstrate courage.  All we have to do is take the next step in the right direction in spite of our fear.

By the way, I decided to walk through my issues despite my fear, and the freedom I found on the other side was breathtaking.  God came through!  (Who is surprised here?)

Where in your life do you need to persevere in the face of your fear?

Why You Shouldn’t Read This Blog

I get tired of headlines that say, “How a One-Legged Man Won the 100 Meter Dash and So Can You,” and other such ridiculous stories.  Usually they end up trying to sell you something.  The title should be more like “Why You Should Let Me Sell You Something You Don’t Need.”

So in the interest of truth in advertising, I decided I would tell you why you shouldn’t read this blog.

  1. Because I have it all together.  Definitely not.  I am as broken as the next guy.
  2. Because you need a quick fix.  There is no such thing as a quick fix.  As one person from copyblogger said, “Shortcuts are always the longest.”
  3. Because I am the best at what I do.  No, you can probably find quite a few people who are better at this than I am.
  4. Because your mother told you to.  Um, yeah, this is not a good reason, unless your mother is a personal friend of mine.  In that case, maybe.

On the other hand, here are some reasons why I would hope you and others would read this blog.

  1. You need encouragement.  We live in a very negative world.  The media always seems to be looking for the next shooting or scandal.  I want to be a place where you can find something positive to chew on.
  2. You want to become a better worship leader and musician.  I want you to avoid pitfalls that I have conveniently found for you.  I am also passionate about worship, worship leadership, and music, and I will give you everything I’ve got in the hopes of helping you get a step ahead.
  3. You are a new leader.  This blog is definitely for you.  I remember stepping into my first full time worship leadership job and discovering over time how green I was.  I needed some place to go to get my questions answered.  Fortunately God provided a friend or two on staff to support me.  If I don’t have the answer I will find it, because I want you to have the support I would have wanted.
  4. You need to be reminded that God is faithful.  He is.  I can promise you that, and I will continue to remind you.  I know this by experience.
  5. You need to know that good things can come out of failure.  As Seth Godin says, failure and being a failure are two different things.  God uses our failures and mistakes to help us grow.  I know.  Going through a divorce was the most difficult thing in my life, but it probably has been the best growth experience I have ever had.

So now you know.

And I hope you stick around and invite your friends to read this blog for all the right reasons.

What Do Andy Stanley, Marketing, and Good Marriages Have in Common?

If you’re thinking that Andy Stanley did a marketing campaign about a marriage series, perhaps he did, but that is not the link.

Better yet, perhaps Andy Stanley used a marketing scheme when he was pursuing marriage and looking for a partner.

Nope.  Creative thinking, though.  I’d love to read THAT story.

No, Andy Stanley, marketing and marriage share one thing:

Generosity.

Huh?

That’s right.

Michael Hyatt, in his blog post 3 Characteristics of the New Marketing, said:

The new marketing is fueled by generosity. As we were looking over the menu (at The Southern in Nashville), the server brought us free BBQ Shrimp and Oyster Southern appetizers. This was totally unexpected—and wonderfully delicious.

In today’s environment, the way to create wow experiences is to define your customers’ expectations then exceed them. This is exactly what our server did. As it turns out, “It is more blessed to give that to receive” is a brilliant marketing strategy.

Websites like Copyblogger talk all the time about how good content + generosity = successful marketing, which is completely the opposite of old/traditional marketing (think car salesman hard selling you on a lemon).  In the post A 7-Step Guide to Mind Control: How to Quit Begging and Make People Want to Help You, Jonathan Morrow says:

This isn’t about “You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours.” It’s about generosity so overwhelming they can’t say no.

In a top message series at Northpoint Community Church Andy Stanley, the lead pastor, spoke about Staying in Love, and in the fourth installment, Multiple Choice Marriage, Andy points out one of the key choices we have to make.  Couples often have to make this choice daily or even multiple times per day.

We must choose whether or not to be generous with our partner.

When your partner forgets to do something, you can go negative or positive.  Option 1 is to assume that your partner is incompetent and, worse yet, does not care about you or the marriage.  Option 2 is to assume that your partner may have had a bad day and completely lost track of what he or she needed to do.

Be generous with your partner.  Over . . and over . . and over . . again, like Jesus was with you and me.

Give grace, because you are going to need it soon enough.

How can you be more generous in your relationships?

What Leaders Can Learn from NASCAR

Coaches carefully instruct athletes on how to pace themselves.

Long distance runners have to judge exactly how far they can push their bodies while still keeping a reserve for the final sprint.  Bicyclers in the Tour de France have to hold just enough in reserve to explode into the lead at the right moment.

A different sort of pacing is learning to draft.  No, not beer.  Cars.  NASCAR.  Being able to patiently cruise on someone else’s bumper until just the right moment requires skill and finesse.

Leaders can learn how to draft from NASCAR.

Athletes and NASCAR drivers are highly skilled in pacing themselves, but leaders are not.  In fact, many leaders actively fight against you when you try to pace yourself.

“Hey, Jim, thanks for taking the call on your day off.  Look, I really need that document for my meeting in 10 minutes; can you email it to me?  Oh, yeah, and . . . and . . .”  Pastors and, admit it, you and I have all done this at some point.  Some of us still do it.  A lot.  In the name of ministry.  In the name of “winning another soul to Christ.”

The last time I checked Jesus let Martha sit at his feet, and he commended her for it.  The last time I checked Jesus waited in Jerusalem until there was no doubt that Lazarus was dead and gone before leaving to visit Mary and Martha.  He was never in a hurry, even in seemingly life-and-death situations.

You only have one body, one life, and one family; treat them well.  Pace yourself.

If you are having a hard time knowing how to pace yourself, here are a few points to consider.  These four things help me to clear my mind of distractions so that I can recognize when to sprint and when to just draft.  None of these are original with me.

  1. Review your priorities.  Know what is most important: God, you, your family, your job, ministry, in that order.  Set your face towards God, then make certain you are staying healthy.  Your family deserves your attention next, now that you are refreshed and have something to give them.  Your job is critical because it has to do with providing for your family.  Finally you can think about ministry.
  2. Draw firm boundaries.  What days do you have off?  How many hours are you going to work per week?  If you regularly work over 60 hours you need to reconsider your work schedule.  Be clear about those two areas with your leaders and let them know you are not available in your off-work times.  Period.  Communicate immediately when these boundaries are crossed.  If someone consistently pushes you past your boundaries, it is time to communicate more clearly or to ask God for a new job.
  3. Practice patience.  Review my blog from last week, A Leader’s Most Important Trait, to understand the role patience needs to play in our lives.  99% of life is not an emergency, yet we push people as if every project has to be done yesterday.  Remember the cliché, “Just because it is your emergency does not make it my emergency?”  It’s true.
  4. Remember it’s just a job.  At the end of the day your family, your relationship with God and your personal health are more important than your job, even if you have a job in ministry.  As Andy Stanley said so well in the book Choosing to Cheat, it is Jesus’ job to take care of the church, not ours.  Our first ministry is to our family.

Pacing yourself in ministry, much like drafting in NASCAR, is hard work, but it is the only way to guard against burnout.  To dig deeper, listen to Michael Hyatt’s podcast, Is Work-Life Balance Really Possible?

How are you going to pace yourself this week?

Embracing Change

Several days a week I work in masonry with my father’s company, Fran Overholt, Inc.  This week as I was laying block, another mason on the job commented that he preferred to do things the way he was taught rather than to change.  Evidently at one point another mason had tried to show him a faster way to do something, but he refused to do it; the way he knew was preferable to change, even if the change would have made him more productive.

Several years ago I was the worship leader at a church that had two styles of worship – traditional and contemporary – and it had been that way for about 15 years.  The leadership decided we should do an experiment and lead one style of worship during our five week purpose series.  Needless to say, many people from both styles struggled with the decision.  Leading worship during those five weeks, and particularly during the first three, was more difficult than any other I had ever experienced in worship leadership up to that time.  Knowing that people in the congregation were angry and possibly even resentful towards me and the leadership over the song I was leading at that moment was brutal.

Prior to that experiment I had always said I liked change.  I liked to do new things and experiment.  I still do.  But I have made one small change to my statement.  No longer do I simply say I like change; I now realize that I like change only when I initiate the change.  Ever think about that?  Some people do like change regardless of it’s source, but I would wager that the majority of people only like the change they initiate.

When I made that realization, suddenly I had a lot more compassion and understanding for the older members of our congregation who were struggling with all of the changes.  Suddenly I found that I was often just like them, struggling with the change that someone else initiated without my consent.

I like to think that I interact with the older generations in a completely different way than I had before that change, and I like to think that I am much more honest with myself.  Yesterday I talked about learning to know yourself; well, this was a big step on that path for me, and it keeps me thoughtful when I am proposing changes.

Proverbs 3:13 (ESV) states, “Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, .  .”  Wisdom and understanding do not come to us naturally or by some bestowment from God.  We have to seek wisdom and understanding.  “Blessed is the one who finds . . ., and the one who gets . . .”  We must choose to accept and learn from change, to remain teachable.  God made Solomon the wisest man who ever lived, but only after he requested wisdom and understanding to lead Israel (2 Chronicles 1:7-12).

To dig deeper, read this post by Michael Hyatt: The Primary Difference Between The Wise And The Foolish.

How about you?  How do you respond to change?  How do you remain teachable?

Trello: One of My Favorite Productivity Tools

Trello is a collaboration tool that organizes your projects into boards.  In one glance, Trello tells you what is being worked on, who’s working on what, and where something is in a process.”

My brother, Matthew R. Overholt, recently introduced me to this tool and I have been using it ever since.  He and I are using Trello to manage a software development project. He loads updates of the software to the related card and I download it for testing.  I can upload drafts of my information and record my research for him to work through as he has time.  We find it immensely helpful.   I like Trello so much that I have started migrating some of my To Do lists there as well.

In the past I have tried many things to manage my To Do lists.  First, I did not have one.  OK, that failed miserably.  Somewhere along the way I decided to keep my list on my Palm (remember those things).  Not good.  The Palm platform did not offer enough flexibility and things would sit on there and I would end up ignoring it.  Next I tried an Excel spreadsheet.  At first I thought this would be the solution.  I could create lots of lists on different pages and notate what I was doing or had done or had to be done.  Being a bit of a perfectionist, however, I would get caught up keeping the list up to date and not actually doing anything.

After that I went to using yellow legal pads.  Why yellow?  Beats me.  I just seem to be able to read them better.  This way I could make a new one every week, cross things out as I go, and make notes at meetings.  These legal pads were my most successful method by far.  I still find that writing things down longhand is very good for me, even therapeutic (Check out my blog Ink for more of my thoughts on this.).

After quite a while I began experimenting with Evernote.  Thanks to Michael Hyatt I have really gotten into this flexible platform of keeping notes.  While I am driving on the road I can speak notes to myself, sing a new lyric idea, record a few new lines to a poem, or any number of things, and the information is immediately synced with the web and my computer.  I can do no better than Michael Hyatt in describing the use of this tool, so check out his blogs on Evernote.  For me, however, I like to be able to use bullets and other formatting tools when dealing with To Do lists, and these things do not sync well from computer to iPhone, which frustrated me immensely.

Enter Trello.com.  First of all, the Trello app is spectacular and perfectly mirrors what you do on your computer, which is vital for me.

Here is a brief description: A “Board” has a set of lists on it, defaulting to “To Do,” “Doing,” and “Done.”  You can add as many Lists as you want and rename them as well.  On one Board I have added a List called “Resources” where I am keeping information that I access regularly.  On each List you can place as many “Cards” as you wish.  Each Card is a task within the List.  For my church job I have a “Choose March Pianists” Card.  On that Card I have placed a checklist for the four Sundays in the month waiting to be checked off.  A handy progress bar indicates how far I am towards completing the checklist.  On the Card I can add notes on my activity as I go (02/10 – Emailed X pianist about playing on March 4), and I can upload attachments easily to the Card as needed.  I can also label Cards with colors to indicate urgency, and much more.

The only downside I have found up to now is that I cannot go in and add an update to an individual entry on the card, which is probably my perfectionism working overtime!  I imagine this is because the notes on the card are a record of progress, particularly in working with others, since this is primarily a collaboration tool.

I am just beginning to use this tool, but I highly recommend it.  I can easily move cards from list to list, manage the information, and not have 20 lists on my desk.

Do you use Trello.com?  If you do, what are your favorite features? If not, what do you use to manage your projects and To Do lists?

ridiculous church

Do you ever go through the motions spiritually at church?  The fact is we probably all do at some time.  We’re human, so that is not so much of a surprise.  The problem is what we do when we realize what we are doing.

We can a) keep the facade up so that everyone thinks we’re spiritual, or b) confess that sin (yes, that is what it is) to God and try again.  I have to do go through this cycle almost daily, and probably every Sunday.  I’ve been going to church since I was a kid, so I KNOW how to go through the motions.  I found a link to this Youtube video on Michael Hyatt’s site.  See if it rings true at all . . . . .