The Secret to Rapid Improvement

How would you like to accelerate your progress in an area of weakness? My 23-year-old son, Chris and I discussed this a few days ago. He reminded me of how he stretched himself by being in several lead roles in musicals. “I hated that but it was good for me,” he told me. He is a naturally shy creative who can draw, paint, write articles, write and arrange music, write lyrics and produce music. He rapidly advanced as an actor because he did what he didn’t want to do.

Chris confirms what I just listened to on this podcast hosted by Ray Edwards. He interviewed bestselling author and creativity expert Jeff Goins who is releasing a new book about creativity. Jeff researched leading successful artists such as Michaelangelo who was one of the wealthiest artists of his time during a period when artists were considered paid laborers. Goins revealed a key to rapidly growing in your craft – going public with your process, especially when you’re uncomfortable with this.

Goins discovered that Chris Rock, one of my favorite comedians, would test his jokes on audiences before adding the jokes to his show. Chris would show up at a club with a pad of paper and just start telling jokes to see which ones worked. The jokes that didn’t get any laughs didn’t make the cut. By going public with his creative process, Chris was building his fan base and testing his ideas.

Goins shared his own story of playing in a band and how he rapidly improved as a musician by doing several shows a week. My other son, Alex, has been literally leading worship for 3 hours a day, 5 days a week while he has been in India. I’ve been watching him via Facebook live broadcasts. I asked him why is he always on the keyboard. He responded, “Because I’m the band leader.” That’s 15 to 20 hours of leading and working with other singers and musicians.

These worship sessions have been broadcast live over a Facebook page with opportunities for people to instantly comment. This means that every song that’s off key or pitchy can’t be edited. Awkward transitions are live for everyone around the world to see but the heart and spontaneous singing have been amazingly fresh.

Alex told me that he has noticed an amazing improvement in his singing and playing piano because he has been doing this for many hours. If you want to rapidly advance in an area, then do it for hours at a time and go public with your process. I’m trying to do this right now as I go public with my attempt to do more writing.

I spend hours writing headlines, teasers, and curating hundreds of articles a week. Now I need to carve time out to do my own original writing. Look for more writing in days to come as I go public with my own creative process.

What would you like to improve in?

Why You Should Watch ’13 Reasons Why’

13-reasons-why_0While I was walking towards the edge of Stagg High School, my blond friend, Wanda, breathlessly ran up to me. “We heard you were getting jumped today so I brought Janice and Terry with me.” Janice was a beautiful Hispanic girl who I knew since I was 10-years-old and Terry was a stunning strawberry blond 25-year-old woman who I babysat for.

I was stunned. “Who told you that?” I asked. “It was going around school,” she said. “You’re not going back.”

That was my last day at Stagg High School. I transferred to Lincoln High School until we moved to Hawaii. I was a Freshman in high school. I started my Sophomore year at Waiakea High School hoping for a fresh start from the girls who wanted to fight me. Within a few months I left that school after getting into 3 fights in one day.

I was bullied and this is why I could so relate to Hannah Baker’s ordeal in “13 Reasons Why,” the latest Netflix original and controversial series. My son, Alex, and his best friend, Dominic watched it. The series centers around Hannah who committed suicide after being bullied.

Social media, smartphones and texting didn’t exist when I got bullied. I believe that social media, smartphones and texting have actually amplified bullying to another level that I fortunately never experienced. I remember being grabbed and groped at 12-years-old by boys who thought I would like it. I also remember cussing them out but the objectification, leering, cat calls continued to bombard me.

Although 13 Reasons Why has profanity and some sexually graphic scenes, I highly recommend that parents or anyone who works with youth watch this series. After watching a few episodes, I instantly felt a burden to pray for ministries that I know work with youth such as Reach a Generation, International House of Prayer Kansas City, Every Nation and Victory Tulsa Youth.

This is why you should watch ’13 Reasons Why’ despite the f-bombs and explicit scenes:

Suicide is the second-leading cause of death for teenagers.

Fifty-percent of teenagers have reported being cyber-bullied. If you don’t know what cyber-bullying is, you need to click here.

If you’re over the age of 35, you are really clueless as to the extent of social media usage by teenagers. This series will open your eyes to the wild wild west of social media usage via SnapChat, Instagram as well as group texting.

Bullying is way more prevalent than schools will disclose. The schools job is to cover their behinds by protecting the school instead of the student. Forty-nine percent of students in 4th through 12th grades have reported being bullied. The main character, Hannah, disclosed in a tape that she never felt safe and felt constantly alone. Schools are not safe and everyone needs to take responsibility for this situation.

You really really really don’t know what it feels like to be a teenager in our culture right now. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that things haven’t changed that much. Life is much harder for our teenagers today.

If you don’t have a burden to pray for teenagers, you will have one after you watch this.

Maybe churches would make youth ministry a priority following the footsteps of Reach a Generation, International House of Prayer Kansas City, Every Nation and Victory Tulsa Youth.

I believe “13 Reasons Why” should stir a heart cry in you to intercede and reach out to teenagers like you’ve never had before.

 

One Prayer Most Christians Don’t Say

At 10:30am I finally sit down on my bed, open my Bible and ask God to speak to me from His word. I had a full day of accomplishment. I worked out for an hour and made a new friend at Planet Fitness. I started drafting an e-mail newsletter and had an hour-long conference call with a client about a marketing project. I landed a ghostwriting contract and posted my stories for tomorrow. I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep because of an unsatisfied crave.

Crave is an urgent desire that must be satiated. This could be a good thing if you crave healthy, good-for-your-soul food, music or books. Or a crave can drive you to do things you would never think of doing such as selling yourself for drugs. Either way, God has put in our soul a desire that only He can fulfill.

I dutifully read my assigned readings following the ‘read through your Bible’ in a year plan. And then suddenly, three scriptures kept commanding my attention. I wrote them down. I journaled my thoughts and tried to go to sleep. I couldn’t.

Several scriptures convicted me to the core. I bolted upright and imagined King David in his might and glory penning these words. He was the one who slayed tens of thousands, commanded armies, caused a pagan queen to cross an ocean and a continent because of his renown.

An emperor and heroic commander penned these words that pierced my soul:

With your hand you drove out the nations
    and planted our ancestors;
you crushed the peoples
    and made our ancestors flourish.
It was not by their sword that they won the land,
    nor did their arm bring them victory;
it was your right hand, your arm,
    and the light of your face, for you loved them. (Psalm 44: 2-3)

God’s right hand, His arm and the light of His face brought victory.  David declares:

You are my King and my God,
    who decrees[c] victories for Jacob.
Through you we push back our enemies;
    through your name we trample our foes.
6 I put no trust in my bow,
    my sword does not bring me victory;
but you give us victory over our enemies,
    you put our adversaries to shame.
In God we make our boast all day long,
    and we will praise your name forever.[d] (Psalm 44: 4-8)

David’s source of might was God’s right hand and His arm and the light of His face.  David’s accomplished his mighty exploits because he had an intimate, hand to hand, arm to arm, face to face, touch to touch, breath to breath relationship with God. He was utterly dependent on God.

I was convicted of how much I depend on myself and my own strength, might, connections and smarts to get done what I need to get done. I can get A LOT done WITHOUT God. I was terrified by my own independence.

I repented of depending on my own strength. I laid down my giftedness, my skills, my talents and connections. I asked Him to teach me how to depend on Him. I laid down my sword and trust in myself.

I don’t hear Christians saying this prayer because we don’t like depending on anyone. We celebrate independence and the self-made millionaire who doesn’t need anyone. We don’t want to need anyone or count on someone.

I’m immersed in a world chasing likes and shares as an editor of an online publication and social media manager. We want our video or our post to go viral. We want fame, fortune and popularity and we can deceive ourselves into thinking we will use this for God’s glory.

The chase for likes and shares creates pressure to hype or manipulate information to get people to read your post or share your video. We become a prisoner of our own hype. God’s victory doesn’t depend on my fame, fortune or hype. Winning God’s way comes by relationship alone.

A friend of mine at the International House of Prayer Kansas City told me how he quit writing for several years to get to know God. His relationship with God was more valuable then his journalistic ability.  I tried to imagine myself not doing what I’m good at for several years to seek God. Frankly I don’t see how I could do that because my family financially depends on my writing and business. God knows my situation and He has opened doors to people I would have considered 10 years ago out of my league.

The prayer coursing in my soul is to know how to depend on Him. To know victory by His right hand, right arm and the light of His face. A win that comes from a touch-to-touch, breath-to-breath walk with the living God.  A win that doesn’t come from my own ability to wield the sword or my talent to shoot the bow.  But a win or victorious season from hearing and responding to Him.

 

What Churches Can Learn From the United Airlines Debacle

United Airlines has lost $1.4 billion, been the subject of countless memes and outrage on the social media after a video of a forcible removal of 69-year-old David Dao went viral. United CEO Oscar Munoz initially applauded his staff’s handling of the ‘belligerent’ passenger and then reversed his position to an apology to the passenger after the company lost $250 million.

The airline was overbooked and offered 800 sky miles to passengers who would voluntarily give up their seat for four United Airlines crew members who had to get to Louisville, KY. Dr. Dao considered giving up his seat until he learned that the earliest he could get on another flight would be the next day. He told airline staff that he needed to get back to work. You would have thought the airline staff would have just picked another willing passenger or increased the incentive.

Instead, airline staff called airport security who dragged Dr. Dao off the plane. Dr. Dao’s nose was broken and he was hospitalized after the incident. United CEO initially said Dr. Dao was belligerent and out of control. Really? Would you get belligerent and out of control Mr. Munoz if you were forced to get off the plane when you paid for the ticket and went through the security procedures?

Mr. Munoz and his staff at United Airlines failed to see that their system or policy created their problem. The message sent to customers is: #1 Our employees are more important than you; #2 Your plans, your health condition and commitments don’t matter to us. In fact, you don’t matter to us because we have a policy we need to adhere to. #3 Our policy is a priority, not the customer.

Here are some lessons churches can learn from this crisis that erupted within hours.

Don’t call the person the problem. Demonizing customers as being belligerent when your system created the rebellion is a common tactic for clueless people in authority. Stock prices drop and everyone else can see that your system or structure is wrong but you continue to justify the policy by blaming the customer. I’ve seen this scenario play out over 20 years of being in different churches where attendance spirals.

In one church that I attended, over half of the members left in one year. Some of them left for legitimate reasons such as moving to another city for a better job. But I soon learned why their was a massive exodus. The church was anti-women working outside of the home which mystified me because one of my best girlfriends had a very thriving home-based business.

I was made to feel like their was something wrong with me because I worked outside of the home. In face one of the leaders that I asked for help with a troubled niece told her that I was a bad parent because I worked outside of the home. That piece of advice for a troubled teen just made things worse for us.

The church was hemorrhaging members because of this tactic of saying the member is the problem instead of trying to help them.

Say your sorry. United Airlines CEO Dan Munoz said he was sorry after the company lost $250 million and the social media outrage that sparked disapproval from President Donald Trump, and a host of government officials and high-profile celebrities. The apology is suspect and prevailing public opinion speculates that he apologized after being caught. An aviation lawyer representing Dr. Dao says he wasn’t impressed by the apology. “I thought it was staged,” Thomas Demetrio said at a press conference.

Apparently most people think it was staged as well. If Munoz would have apologized to Dr. Dao in the beginning instead of calling him belligerent, the scenario would have been much different. Munoz chose to protect a broken system instead of reaching out to someone who was broken by it.

If your system created the problem, fix it. Dr. Dao was kicked off because of an industrywide practice of ‘overbooking.’ Common sense dictates you would let Dr. Dao stay on the plane and pick a willing passenger instead of forcing Dr. Dao off the plane. I understand that overbooking system benefits consumers. That message of how overbooking benefits consumers didn’t play into this because of the inhumane application of this practice in Dr. Dao’s situation. United Airlines legastically adhered to this practice instead of executing it with kindness and humanity.

Now that the video of Dr. Dao being dragged off the plane has generated public outrage, the U.S. Department of Transportation is investigating the incident. This incident is forcing the travel industry to re-examine this practice. I hope they listen to their customers and fix it.

The church hemorrhaging members shut down and was absorbed into a larger church which was a smart move. The pastors and I have reconciled since then and we are friends today. I respect them for their honest assessment that the church needed to be absorbed into another thriving ministry. They also apologized to me right after those incidents.

Sometimes you need to tweak your system or shut it down if it is not producing good fruit. Churches can learn so much from the United Airlines fiasco. The bottom line is to treat people with kindness, humility, love and mercy. The system should not dictate how you treat someone but your faith and value of people should be the standard. When your system is flawed, fix it. Don’t blame the people, fix the system.

Other excellent posts I recommend for this issue:

Why United’s PR Disaster Didn’t Fly by Michael Hyatt

United Airlines and the Firestorm of Social Media by Phil Cooke

Why Christians Need to Stop Silly Fights

“What are the benefits of public school,” a person asked on Twitter.

I answered, “You learn how to get along with people who are different from you.”

Instantly without any notice I was ambushed on Twitter by home schoolers who thought I said ‘home-schooling is Satanic.’ I said nothing about home-schooling. I answered a question about public school.

Unfortunately I innocently stepped into the middle of a conversation launched by a blogger pitching his pro-home school post. The Christian blogger had an agenda and he used me to launch his crusade against public school. I quickly bowed out of this accidental argument and called out the blogger’s agenda.

The home-school versus public school is one of those silly fights Christians tend to get into in the name of God. My friend Lee Grady posted an article about how Christians misuse the Bible. One way we pervert the Bible is when we attack each other with scriptures. We think we’re defending God’s honor and the truth when we’re justifying our position at our friend’s expense.

The home-school versus public school is one of the many silly wars we fight. I’ve seen these battles as well:

  • Moms with children who work outside of the home versus moms with children who stay at home
  • Purposefully single versus marrieds
  • Purposefully childless couples versus marrieds with children

And the list goes on and on. I was in a church where the pastor’s wife wanted to debate me about my decision to work outside of the home. My mom just died and I had a baby. I was not in the mood for an open debate about my decision to work.

I respectfully told the pastor’s wife that the decision to work was between me and God and my husband. We believed the job was a financial blessing and my children were being taken care of. “I think you’ve crossed some boundaries here,” I said.

A week later she called crying and repenting for her mistake. I was thankful she responded but my guard was up in that relationship. That was the beginning of the end for me for that church.

While I’m a firm believer in seeking wisdom and counsel from respected, trusted leaders, I believe these issues, among many, are between you and God:

  • Taking birth control
  • Have kids or not have kids
  • Get married or stay single
  • How you date
  • Where you live
  • What you do for a living
  • How you spend your money
  • How you decide to educate your child

Some people can’t afford to send their child to a private Christian school or lose income from a working adult. Instead of judging them for their decision to send their child to a public school, why not pay their way to a private Christian school? Paying for their tuition is a more constructive way of addressing your conviction about private Christian education instead of berating the parent for subjecting their child to the ‘liberal agenda.’

Christians who fight silly wars are at-risk for breaking this scriptural guideline for relationships:

Don’t speak evil against each other, dear brothers and sisters.[a] If you criticize and judge each other, then you are criticizing and judging God’s law. But your job is to obey the law, not to judge whether it applies to you.  God alone, who gave the law, is the Judge. He alone has the power to save or to destroy. So what right do you have to judge your neighbor? James 4:11-12

Who are you to judge your neighbor because….

  • They send their child to a public school
  • They home-school
  • He/she doesn’t want to get married
  • He/she doesn’t want to have children
  • He/she wants to have a big family
  • She has children and doesn’t want to work
  • She has children and wants to work
  • He/she drives an expensive sports car or an older vehicle
  • He/she is a different race, gender or economic class

Who are you to judge?

Instead of judging, let’s love by praying and caring for one another. Let’s fight for another, stand with another and respect each other’s decision. Help an overwhelmed parent. Bring a meal. Take care of their kids. Celebrate life!

Tell me about a silly war you may have accidentally stepped into.

 

5 Dangerous Signs You’re a Control Freak

Control Girls often don’t realize that they’re Control Girls. I sure didn’t.
I spent the first 35 years of my life completely oblivious to my control issues. I knew I was arguing with my husband. I knew there was tension with coworkers. I knew I was frustrated with friends and family members. I just didn’t know these things all stemmed from my unhealthy craving for control.
Recognizing I’m a Control Girl hasn’t solved all of my problems, but it has given me a starting point for change. So I want to invite you to ask yourself the question I should have asked long before age 35: “Am I a Control Girl?”
To help you answer, I’d like to provide five common traits of Control Girls:

1.       You tend to be bothered by other controlling people.

Do you become easily annoyed by that bossy woman who always tries to take over in the committee meeting? Do you get frustrated when someone interrupts you (which, by the way, is a classic control-seeking move)? Does your controlling mother drive you nuts?
I’ve noticed that the women who are most bothered by controlling people are often quite controlling, themselves. They butt heads with the other Control Girls in the room who are all lunging for exactly what they are-control.

2.       You struggle with anger.

Are you likely to respond angrily when someone doesn’t meet your expectations? Do you erupt when someone interrupts your plans? Do you inwardly seethe when someone cuts in or takes whatever you had your eye on?
Anger is common for Control Girls. Our anger flares when we lose the thing we want, which is control. And as a rule, both of these-losing our grip on control and losing our tempers-happen far more frequently than we’d like.

3.       You struggle with anxiety or fear.

Do you tend to worry about safety precautions, germs, or symptoms you’re experiencing? Do you obsess over what family members might be saying about you, or what your boss might be thinking?
What about fear? Do you imagine the worst when your teen is ten minutes late? Do you suspect the worst when your husband doesn’t answer his phone?
Fear and anxiety are common for Control Girls because we constantly have to face things that we’d like to control but can’t, such as the future, unknowns, risks, and the opinions of others.

4.       Others send you subtle hints.

If you’re a Control Girl who doesn’t yet know it, chances are, other people have tried to tell you. Now, they probably haven’t said, “Stop being a Control Girl.” Instead, they tactfully give you subtle cues. Such as when…
  • Your husband says, “Honey, the mechanic couldn’t hear the sound either. The car is fine.”
  • Your adult daughter says, “We’ve been over this, mom. We want our kids in this school district.”
  • Your teenage son says, “Mom, for the tenth time. I’m not coldI don’t want to wear a jacket.”
All of these are cues that the other person would like you to back off and stop trying to control. You might not see it as controlling, but they apparently do.

5.       God seems distant and uncaring to you.

Does God seem like He’s too far away to notice you or hear your prayers? Do you think of God as too indifferent, apathetic or disinterested to concern Himself with things that matter to you?
If you’re suspicious of God’s motives or you question whether He cares, you won’t surrender to Him. It wouldn’t make sense! Only the person who sees God as both sovereign over creation and lovingly involved in the details of everyday life will choose to surrender to Him. The rest, by default, will live like Control Girls, doing the best they can to get control and keep everything on track.
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About Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible

“I control because I care.”
“I just want to be sure of a happy ending.”
“I worry that everything is spinning out of control.”
Many women can identify with statements like these. They have a compulsion to make everything turn out just right and are willing to do anything to make it happen. But this unbalanced pursuit of control makes those around them anxious and defensive. And when they realize control is slipping from their grasp, they lose control of themselves and react in anger or fear.
Shannon Popkin knows this struggle inside and out. Keeping her inner Control Girl hidden is a full-time job. Thankfully, she also knows another very important truth: no woman has to be a Control Girl.
In this encouraging book, Shannon invites seven Control Girls from the Bible into the conversation. She examines each story for the moments in which grasping for control circumvented God’s plans for good, whether it was Eve’s desire to know instead of to trust, Sarah’s inability to wait for God to move, or Rebekah’s controlling hand on her family’s future. Finally, Shannon finds God’s perspective on each of the problems and then reveals how readers’ can have their own happy endings in similar situations.
The author shares from her own struggles and follows each Bible study with questions for personal reflection. In the end, controlling women will find insight into their own experience, peace in the knowledge that God is in control, and relief that they are free.
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  Shannon Popkin is a writer, speaker and Bible teacher who combines her gifts for humor and storytelling with her passion for Jesus. She is a regular contributor for the Revive Our Hearts’ True Woman blog and author of the book Control Girl. Popkin and her husband live the fast-paced life of parenting three teens in Michigan.
Connect with Shannon Popkin and learn more about Control Girl by visiting www.shannonpopkin.com, following her on Facebook (shanpopkin) or following her via Twitter (@ShannonPopkin).

My response to Christians who are boycotting ‘The Shack’ film. 

Crystal Olmos

I was recently contacted by a precious woman from a marketing firm that works for Lionsgate films. She liked my mommy/lifestyle blog and also saw I was a Christ follower. She gave me VIP seats to attend the advance screening of The Shack and also allowed any of my followers to come for free as well!

I was really excited about this opportunity as I read the book years ago and really loved it. Unfortunately, my excitement was put at bay a little once I started seeing articles circulating around about how “anti-Christian” and “blasphemous” the book, and now film, was, in some Christian’s opinions.
Friends, can I just tell you… can I please just tell you… how wrong these people are.

I am a person who takes blaspheme against God and reverence towards Him VERY seriously. I will walk out of a theater with actors who are cursing His…

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