Wednesday, September 10, 2014

What If You're Just Not Good Enough?

It’s a question no one likes to face. But perhaps we all have at some point in our lives.

What if you’re just not good enough?

What I mean by that is, what if you simply don’t have the skills, the knowledge, the talent, or the acumen to do what it is that you are really passionate about?

To clarify, I’m not talking about those things that you feel God has “called” you to do. As far as I’m concerned, if God calls you to do something, you do it. Whether you’re terrible at it or not. That’s an obedience issue.

No, I’m talking about something different. I’m talking about that one thing that you’re passionate about. That one thing you want to do more than anything else in the world. (Yes, sometimes “calling” and “desire” intersect, and it's a beautiful thing when they do. But that's not what I'm referring to here.) What if you are simply not good enough to do what you love to do?

I wrestle with this question a lot. As most of you know, I’ve been passionate about making music for over 20 years now. I’ve recorded four albums in my life and a handful of singles. One could say I’m “successful” at music solely by the amount I’ve been able to create. But let’s be honest. I’m not topping any charts. No, let’s be even more honest. I’m not even ON any charts. Sometimes it seems I can't even give my music away. Does that mean I stink at it? I honestly don’t know. Maybe my music doesn’t sell because my friends don’t see me as a musician. Maybe they see it as my hobby and who wants to pour money into someone else’s hobby? Maybe I’m not on the radio airwaves because I don’t have the right “connections”, don’t grease the right palms or have a famous uncle to promote me. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because I’m not as good at it as I’d like to think I am.

Maybe my passion and my talent aren’t equal.

What do you do then?

And how do you comfort someone who has a desire to do something with their life when they just don’t have it? You’ve known that person. You know the girl in church who thinks she can sing but she honestly can’t carry a tune in a bucket. Or the boss who loves being the boss but is a terrible people manager. The wannabe dancer with clumsy feet and no coordination. The young man who dreams of being a professional athlete but just doesn’t have the physicality. You know him. You know her. How do you encourage those people?

True, success is about more than being on charts, getting a hit single or a record deal. I know that. I'm not simply talking about worldly success, I'm talking about affirmation. I'm talking about the ability to do what you really love and make a life out of it. Not having to tuck it away to an occasional weekend because your "real job" has to pay the bills. I have a lot of musician friends in this same position, by the way. Those who would love to make a living at it but just haven't been able to.

Is it supposed to be enough to say you've "stayed true" to your passion regardless of your ability to make a living at it?

Let me be clear: I’m not writing this looking for people to respond and say, “Tim, you’re a great songwriter.” That’s not what I’m looking for here. I’ve already come to terms with the possibility that I may not be very good at this. And I’m okay with that. To some extent. But what I wrestle with is why the passion doesn’t subside when it becomes evident that the ability to fulfill it isn’t there.

Have you ever wrestled with this? Is there something you have always wanted to do or be but you just don’t have it? How do you deal with it?

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Church: Remember When...

Remember when pastors weren't celebrities with book deals and viral videos but rather, humble teachers with worn, dog-eared, marked-up bibles and tired, red eyes from late night prayer emergencies? Remember when they knew every member of the congregation; knew their struggles and their joys and walked through both with them?
I wonder where my church is today.

Remember when worship leaders held a hymnal in one hand, led the congregation with the other, while bellowing out powerful, soulful hymns with imperfect voices? They wore polyester suits instead of trendy clothes. They weren't rock stars with light shows, singing pop choruses ad nauseum, but took seriously the words of the hymns and the responsibility of ushering the congregation into the presence of worship?
I wonder where my church is today.

Remember when the Church didn't cowtow to "societal norms" but knew where the lines were drawn on cultural issues, sometimes even drew the lines themselves, saying "this one belongs to us?" Remember when church leaders wept and prayed for the morality of our country in honest fear that we would become a nation that celebrates depravity instead of running away from it?
I wonder where my church is today.

Remember when you sat in the pew and listened to teaching that dug so deep in the fertile soil of the Scripture that you found the roots? Remember when you would leave the service wrestling with where your heart is and where it should be? Remember when sermons weren't glossy, "feel-good" platitudes  but rather soul-searching challenges?
I wonder where my church is today.

Remember when people stayed after church service to talk, potluck, share their life-happenings? Remember when it wasn't a mad dash to beat the lunch crowd at the restaurant but rather a casual stroll so we all could gather and break bread together? 
I wonder where my church is today.

Remember when we believed the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God, to be the true, historical account of God's plan, not merely suggestions and fables to teach a moral lesson? 
I wonder where my church is today.

Remember when church leaders would gather around a sinner, lay hands on him or her, lift that soul up in prayer and commit to walking through the restoration together? Remember when we weren't afraid to call sin sin, and didn't believe that culture has changed on issues so God should change too?

I wonder where my church is today.

Friday, February 14, 2014

What Sochi Can Teach Us About the Rest of the World

This week, thousands of westerners—athletes and media—have converged on Sochi, Russia for the Winter Games. And while they lug their expensive camera gear or don their sponsor-laden apparel and compete for gold, silver and bronze medallions, they are not happy. Perhaps you have seen their tweets, status updates and Instagram pics of the horrible conditions they’re forced to endure while spending their time in the Russian city.

Now don’t get me wrong, some of the conditions are, at best, embarrassing. And our athletes deserve better. While they represent our country on the grandest global sports stage, they shouldn’t have to worry about cold showers, group bathrooms without privacy, and insect-laden, half-finished hotel rooms. Russia was obviously not prepared to host the biggest modern day winter sporting event.

But perhaps we need to put things into perspective too.  While these conditions are obviously not up to par, they are, for the most part, certainly not “appalling.”

In my travels for Compassion International, I have seen families who live in 6x6 shacks made of scrap wood or tin. They sleep on filthy mattresses or on dirt floors, bathe in rivers and gather their drinking water from those same waterways. Their bathrooms are holes in the ground and many often have open sewage running just outside their doorways. That, my friends, is appalling.
Almost 2.5 billion people in this world live on less than $2 per day. That’s billion with a “b.” Just try feeding your family on that meager income. Over 780-million people live without access to clean water. That’s two and a half times the population of the United States that doesn’t have access to healthy water at all. None of them will get to leave these conditions in two weeks and return to homes with faucets that pump out hot, clean water on demand. They do not get to leave these truly appalling conditions for warm, safe, comfortable homes with private bathrooms at the end of the month. Tomorrow looks as bleak as today. And today is as bleak as yesterday.

I’m not comparing Sochi to villages in Uganda or the slums of Guatemala, Indonesia or Haiti. There is no comparison. Unfinished hotel rooms do not compare to the slum villages of the poorest of the poor. Unfinished bathrooms in the athlete’s dorms are still tiled, with porcelain toilets.

Nor am I saying that these athletes and media don’t have legitimate complaints. But let’s try to keep things in perspective, shall we? And use this opportunity to learn something. Perhaps Sochi is an opportunity to teach us all the difference between first-world problems and third-world realities. There’s a difference between those things we believe we are entitled to and those things that should be available for every human being.