“I will bring beauty into the world today.” I penned these words five times while sitting in a big comfy chair in the corner of my room in the historic Capitol Hotel of Little Rock. Those eight little words were sincere, but little did I know how they would play out through my gifts. They were just part of my morning journaling as I rushed to finish up. I certainly didn’t expect to touch anyone’s life that day with beauty, but I did. Intentions are powerful. Here’s what happened…
I was attending a retreat of pastors. We were working to identify missions for our congregations that resonated with our deepest passions. The hope being that both we and our congregations would thrive from the effort. I was a bit of an odd duck in the process. This was our third of three retreats and I had just left my congregation. So, I was in limbo. I was floating between calls with no church to envision a project for. And, that was okay. In fact, it was perfect. Sometimes you just need to be in a wandering mode to discover what’s next.
Listening for a call
A friend of mine refers to this wandering as, “Honoring the space between no longer and not yet.” I have been fully in that space for a good month or more. For those of you who don’t know, I left my position as a pastor in a small church in Walnut Ridge, Arkansas because my wife was called to another congregation in northwest Arkansas. Try as I might, I couldn’t secure a new position before we needed to move.
However, I full on felt God leading me to trust and go. “Trust and go”…really? That’s easier said than done. I don’t know about you, but I like assurances. I like plans. And, I really like knowing exactly where my feet will land when I jump. But God was saying, “Nope. Just go. Leap. I’ve got you.”
Fortunately, I now know my next position. I will start soon, but for weeks I’ve been in a place of seeking clarity. I’ve been in a semi-controlled free fall. The control part has been having a coach and working my way through a book called The Artist’s Way, A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity, by Julia Cameron. This book is awesome if you feel blocked in creativity or just want to get in touch with your deepest passions, desires, and dreams. I can’t recommend the book enough for getting clear on your priorities. Not only will it help you get getting clarity, but you will also discover how you block yourself.
Facing Obstacles aka Getting Punched in the Face
For me the book has been critical. I have allowed issues to hinder me on being the audaciously creative man God made me to be. Specifically, a health crisis several years ago knocked me to my knees. Pair this with criticism I internalized, and my creative spirit was down for the count like a knocked out boxer. Fortunately, I’m recognizing and actively recovering from these blows.
You see, obstacles are inevitable when following a call. Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.” When you follow a call you step into the ring. Sometimes the opponent is yourself. You have old scripts and habits that trip you up. Sometimes you opposition comes from the people around you. Oftentimes, the people closest to you can be the most threatened and obstructing.
Time to trust…it’s hard
For me, now the hard work begins. God is clearly calling me to once again “Trust and go” but specifically, the call is, “Put yourself out there.” What does that mean? For me this call means: Write, risk, post videos, perform, create, and create audaciously as I once did pre-health crisis, but at a higher level. Frankly, I”m scared. I don’t want to get punched in the face again, but I hear the call. I must hear it and so should you.
We are all called to put ourselves out there. Jesus declared as much saying,
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”Matthew 5:12-16
Did you just hear what he said, “You are a light of the world.” Don’t hide that light. Put yourself out there. Does that sound scary to you? Good, because that means you are going to have to exercise faith and step beyond your comfort zone. Let me offer a few steps though to help you.
First, Identify your god-given gifts.
Your passions are your light. You need to know your passions because they are how you glorify God. Did you catch that in what Jesus said? You are to let your light shine so that when others see your good works they will glorify your Father who is in heaven.
For me, I love putting beauty out into the world. Also, I love sharing with people the lessons I learn as I strive to honor God in my life. These passions glorify God. Beauty and teaching, that’s might artistry, my light. What’s yours?
If you are uncertain about what your light is:
- Consider the concerns of your heart
- Explore your passions
- Examine your skills and experiences
These are each gifts from God. They are your light. If you still struggle to identify your passions check out y blog post Day 1 Tapping Into Your Passion from the my Five Day Purpose Challenge.
Lean into your gifts. Lean into your god-given skills. If God blessed you with being a parent, love your kids exceptionally. Are you blessed with athletic ability? Then run like the wind. Do you have business acumen? Be a stellar boss. If you are a musician, hone your craft and grab any stage time you can get. If you love the beauty and wonder of God’s creation, start a garden. You don’t have land? Then, get a few pots or find a community garden. Whatever the case may be start with what you can and trust for the rest to unfold.
Second, declare your intention to let your light shine.
You don’t have to do this publicly. In fact, in some cases going pubic with your declaration may be a mistake especially if you are newly exploring a passion. A harsh word of criticism when you start out can quench your lamp faster than a fire hose.
Nevertheless, consciously committing to shining your light is important. So in prayer and or with a supportive friend declare as specifically as possible how you want to let your light shine. I actually write intentions everyday. Many of them I will write repeatedly, five or more times, to cement them in my heart and mind.
Third, resist your inner critic.
This practice was something I picked up from Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist Way, A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. She notes that as you start declaring affirmations, inevitably your inner critic will pounce. “Who are you to (insert passion here)? You are too young, too old, too late. You are not smart enough, not talented enough. You’ve blown it in the past. You don’t have the right education, credentials, or position. You don’t have enough time, money, experience etc.” Your inner critic has a bottomless bag of discouragement to draw from.
But, you have something more powerful. You have the spirt of the living God in your life. The word of God promises you that you have been given a spirit of power, and love, and self-control. Consequently, when you hear that inner critic, you don’t have to listen. You can rebuke it with deeper truth.
When that voice says, “Too old.”.., say, “Pipe down. My years of experience are a gift not a hurdle. I’m right on time.” When that voice says, “Not enough money”, say, “The world is full of money, I just have to find the person who cares.” God will provide a way, when God has filled you heart with a will. You just have to lean into the call and that starts with nothing more than a committed intention.
God’s handiwork abounds
Something powerful happens when you voice your heart desires. I don’t fully understand the dynamics, but something shifts and opportunities spontaneously crop up. As a parent you might declare, “Today I will love my children unconditionally.” Then watch out, your child will likely do something hard to forgive, which gives you the opportunity to love her with God’s big love. If you are an athlete you may declare, “God I will strive to honor you in how I play with the full strength of my mind and body.” Then watch out! Something in a game will happen calling you to model integrity, or grit, or teamwork. These synchronicities are God’s handiwork.
That kind of synchronicity happened for me after I wrote, “I will bring beauty into the world today.” I will tell you how in just a moment, but first let me be clear on this third step because I slopped into it without telling you.
Fourth, watch for opportunities and follow your intuition.
You might not even realize in the moment that God is giving you an opportunity. Take for example, my declaration of “I will bring beauty into the world today.” During a break on my pastor’s retreat, I noticed a baby grand piano in the corner of a sitting area on the second floor. I decided play it for a while.
As I walked over to the piano, apprehension crawled all over me. I wondered, “Is it okay for anyone to play this piano?” And self-consciously, I wondered “Who am I too be playing on this thing? I’m a beginner.” My critic was subtly trying to block me. But, I pushed on.
For those of you who don’t know I just started playing piano in the last couple of years. One day I felt called to play and I have been learning by composing ever since. I actually still only know how to play my own compositions, but I absolutely love tickling those ivories. So nervously I surveyed the room to make sure no one was around. The coast was clear, so I slid on to the bench and began to play.
And then something unexpected happened…
I played my second composition called, “Sunlight Breeze“. The piece is a quiet and soothing melody. While I was playing a woman entered and parked herself in a big wing back chair. She looked out of place. I had seen lots of young professionals in business suits floating through or gathering in break out sessions. But, she was something different, a fifty-something year old woman casually dressed and by herself.
I immediately felt self-conscious and wondered if I should quit. Nevertheless, I pushed on to the end of the piece. When I finished, I glanced over and saw her head was back and eyes closed. I tried to slip out quietly. However, the moment the piano lid clicked shut, she opened her eyes and said, “Please don’t quit, that was beautiful.” Her words melted my heart. I couldn’t believe a stranger was moved by my playing and touched by something I had written. “Thank you, you’ve made my day by telling me that.” I replied. I gave her the background on Sunlit Breeze, and emphasized again how much it meant to me that she enjoyed it.
But wait there’s more…
I was ready to walk out, but she urged me to keep playing. She was having a bad day and my playing was soothing to her. “I’m going down to get something to drink and come back up. I hope you will keep playing,” she told me. I was torn between flattered, and “Oh no! Now what do I play?” I felt like such an imposter, but I played.
I dug into my tiny bag of compositions and played, “Come Bring Me Home”, the first piece I wrote. True to her word, she returned minutes later with a cup of hot tea. She nestled back into her spot. With eyes closed and peace on her face, she blissed out in the wingback chair while I played. I truly only know a couple of pieces, but I have odds and ends of compositions in the works. So, I just improvised to the best of my ability until it felt right to stop.
Eventually, perhaps fifteen minutes or so later, I quit and quietly closed the piano. She opened her eyes, smiled, and applauded. I thanked her so much for listening. She thanked me again for playing. I can’t describe the rush I experienced knowing I did something beautiful and it touched someone’s heart. You just never know when and how God will use you but if you follow the nudges around your passions he will.
A simple request…
Please put yourself out there. Let your light shine. You might be scared. You may question if what you have to offer is valuable. But trust and go. God will meet you in the leap and beauty will happen.
Just to recap, here’s what to do:
- Identify your god-given passions.
- Declare your intention to let your light shine.
- Resist your inner critic
- Watch for opportunities and follow your intuition.
When you do, I would love to hear about it. Sharing the story is one way you give God the glory.
PS: I highly recommend Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity. I am on week four of twelve weeks and am already experiencing transformative growth. I have recognized old blocks and am starting to dismantle those. My creativity is flowing more freely. If you dive into the process I would love to connect and hear about your exper
If you decide to check it out, let me Click here to order a copy.