Dancing Priest: How a Book Was Born

dancing priest

This is a guest post by Glynn Young. Glynn authored a book that I can literally say is going to be one of my all time favorites, and I just read it last month. And, it’s fiction. Dancing Priest is captivating, challenging and, I believe, potentially life-giving for some in the church who want to reach a current culture. Glynn lives in suburban St. Louis, where he works as the social media team leader for a Fortune 500 company. He’s married with two grown sons and two grandsons. He’s also a deacon at Central Presbyterian Church.

I asked Glynn to share how a book that impressed me came to be. Here’s his story.

It was 2002. I was flying to San Francisco and listening to an in-flight music program featuring a tenor with a beautiful voice – Mario Frangoulis. He sang one song, “Luna Rosa,” in Italian, which I don’t speak. I knew the title meant “Red Moon.” As I listened, an image formed – a priest dancing on a beach.

When I arrived at my downtown hotel, I found the CD at a local bookstore. It became my drive music – if I was in my car, I was listening to Mario Frangoulis.

One night not long after, I laid in bed, thinking about that priest. I realized he was Episcopal or Anglican. He was part of a tour group that included a young American woman. The possibility of romance was in the air.

For the next three years, I created the story in my head. I plotted the scenes. I moved the priest to Edinburgh and put him on a racing bike. I gave him a name – Michael. I gave the young woman a name – Sarah. I added characters. I decided my priest was originally from England, the only child of his parents’ second marriages.

I developed a conflict – a young couple in love, Michael preparing to enter the Anglican priesthood and Sarah mildly hostile to anything connected to faith. Michael is the central character, but Sarah’s lack of faith is the story’s pivot.

For three years, the story grew and developed in my head. I never thought of it becoming a book. And I didn’t say anything about it, even to my wife.

The catalyst was Hurricane Katrina. Most of my side of our family lives in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. I spent a harrowing week tracking down family members and finding a way to get my elderly mother and aunt out of the city.

Something about that experience convinced me I didn’t want to lose the story in my head. I began to type.

The story poured out, some 250,000 words (enough for three average novels). When it stopped pouring, I knew it needed serious editing and rewriting. What works in your head at 11:30 at night while you’re falling asleep often won’t work as well in daylight on a computer screen.

The rewriting and editing continued until 2008. My wife convinced me to try to market the manuscript. I sent out queries to agents and editors. I developed elaborate editorial packages (designed as requirements to discourage would-be writers). I talked with editors and agents at a writer’s conference.

I almost gave up any hope of publication when an agent told me it was not marketable unless it had a vampire or werewolf in the story. And he was serious. (This was when the Twilight novels were taking off.)

I continued to write and edit. The story grew.

In 2010, a small publisher here in the St. Louis area told me he’d heard I had a manuscript, and he’d like to read it. I said no. He kept coming back at me for six months, and I finally let him take a look. He told me it was an incredible story of what coming to faith is about and he wanted to publish it. I said no. It sounds crazy, but I wasn’t ready.

He kept after me for a year. And then one day he said, “Are you going to let me publish it or not?” I surprised us both, and said yes.

Dancing Priest was born in late 2011. The sequel, A Light Shining, came a year later.

The Blindness of Ministry

Day planner & pen

Recently I came across a journal entry from January, 2005. I talked about some of the goals I had for the year and my progress and lack thereof towards meeting them. I shared some current frustrations I was having in ministry. I then asked God to help me be more disciplined.

Then I read the last sentence of that day’s journal. I wrote, “God, at 41, some days it feels that I’m not accomplishing anything.”

Wow!

Looking back at my life now, I’m sure it was a one day “pity party” (Yes, even pastors have those), because that was during a season when eleven core families were meeting regularly in our living room, preparing to launch a church. That would be our second plant, and this one would go on to be one of the fastest growing churches in the country and is still accomplishing more now than we ever dreamed possible.

I don’t share that to bring attention to myself. And, it’s not so much that a church needs to grow at that pace. God may use you in completely different ways than He has used me. It may be with one person, a thousand people, or millions. God has a unique plan for every person’s life. I share it because it points to an important principle in ministry that’s true for all of us.

We seldom see the good God is doing through us as we are doing it.

That keeps us humble.
That keeps us in prayer.
That keeps us desperate for His hand to be upon us.

Are you in the middle of a stressful season of ministry or life? Are you wondering if any of your efforts are making a difference?

If so, and if you are being obedient to God’s will as much as you know how, then stand firm.

Don’t give up! Stay tuned!

God is up to things you can’t even imagine.

God is using you Mighty Warrior! (Judges 6:12)

And, I’m praying He allows you to see some fruit from your labor as you continue to trust Him.

3 Words to Encourage Fallen Pastors

man praying

In the past few years, as a pastor and through my blog, I have had the occasion to minister to some very broken people. Many of those have been pastors or ministers who once had thriving work they were doing for God, but, whether by a personal failure or through circumstances beyond their control, they are no longer serving.

It breaks my heart.

One resource I saw recently showed that 1,500 pastors leave the ministry each month in America. Startling.

I want to help some of those think through a process of restoration. I don’t mean to oversimplify a very difficult situation, but often if people can think in terms of a process they can more easily plan their steps. That’s my goal in this post.

Here are three words of encouragement to a fallen pastor or minister:

Recover – Seek forgiveness. Offer forgiveness where needed. Make things right as much as you can with people you have injured. Now is the time to do the right thing. What you do in this step will often determine the degree to which you can be restored.

Also in this step, most important is that you recover in your relationship with God. Ultimately, He is the One you are seeking to please. You can’t earn His love or re-earn His love, but if fellowship has been broken, confess your sins to the One who is faithful to cleanse. Fall on your knees in surrender once again.

Rebuild – Get counseling. This is usually paid counseling and it will be worth the investment. There are ministries that offer this, and there are those who will fund this, but just as you wouldn’t look for free medical help from a medical doctor, don’t neglect this step even if it isn’t free. It’s necessary in almost every case where disruption in ministry has occurred at a level where you had to resign.

Also important, find a few men (or women if you’re female) who you can trust and who can build into your life, hold you accountable and help you find focus again. Give them freedom to walk with you daily and speak into your life for the months to come, even after you return to ministry.

Rebirth – Accept grace. Launch again. It may or may not be into a ministry such as you left, but if God called you to follow Him with your life, I don’t see examples in Scripture of Him releasing that call. I see where you can reject Him and refuse to follow, but His grasp on you is firm until the end. I don’t agree with those who would say you’re forever barred from serving anywhere. (I’m sure those legalist will struggle with this post.) Where’s the grace in that? It’s certainly not amazing grace.

Don’t rush it. Make sure you are healthy enough. Follow the steps above first, but at some point you’ll need to turn from where you were and start again. There is still much unfinished Kingdom business to be done.

Be helpful to those who may need this post.

What else would you advise?

A Dozen Things I Learned Last Year

two elementary school students looking at globe

I strive to be a continual learner. I learned a few things last year.

Here are 12 of them:

Small things matter most in making change.

Shower gel, shampoo and conditioner in one. Who knew? Changed my gym shower life. (Apparently my wife and boys did but they never let me in on the fun!)

A conference room table can also be used as an ironing board.

Certain neckties interfere with our television broadcasts. (This year we are looking to upgrade our system.) For now, it is a good excuse not to wear a tie, right?

Some people aren’t upset with you. They are upset with their life…or others…and you just happen to be in the way of expressing their frustration and discontent.

Transitioning to a new city happens faster when you’re intentional. And one way to do that is to learn all the hamburger joints. Another is to intentionally network with people…especially people who will connect you to other people.

Resistance to change is relative. Everyone struggles with it at some level. It’s just a matter of how we react to it and how it impacts us that determines our response.

Having done both, I have to say, church planting, in many ways, is easier than church revitalization…and more difficult in other ways. But both are needed.

Losing a beloved pet as an adult may be harder even than as a child.

Lexington, KY is one of the friendliest cities we’ve ever experienced. It would make a great, inexpensive, family weekend vacation spot.

Trust doesn’t come with position or title. It comes with time and experience. Yet gaining trust may be one of the most important aspects of being an effective leader.

People transfer emotional baggage and injury to other people and other situations, who had nothing to do with creating the emotional pain. It is unfair to the innocent recipients, but very true.

What did you learn last year?

12 Challenges for the New Year

Challenge Defined

Here are 12 challenges for the new year:

Quit trying to be someone else – God made you to be you and He didn’t make a mistake.

Quit trying to carry all your burdens – God designed you (and me) to be insufficient without Him and to have a relational need for others.

Start embracing today – You can keep hoping your life away, but when you learn the secret of contentment today can become a great day, in spite of the challenges it holds.

Let the past go – As much as we can learn from history, we shouldn’t be bound by it.

Accept God’s grace – It’s always more than we deserve. You can’t earn it. It’s amazing grace. But, denying or refusing it ignores the beauty of it.

Live free of grudges and bitterness – The lack of forgiveness is a hidden destroyer of joy, peace and happiness.

Remember other people exist – Don’t be selfish or always command your way.

Admit mistakes readily – Sincere humility is an attractive quality.

Give generously – Giving opens the heart to contentment. And, there are many needs around us.

Protect your heart – “Above all else” the Bible says. Where your heart is there your treasure will be also.

Take a new risk – The adrenaline will fuel you for future success.

Think and act eternally whenever possible – It will build the most lasting rewards.

Would you add a challenge for a new year?

Which of the above do you most need to embrace?

Three Steps to Setting Achievable Goals

calendar, blue target

In my previous post, I talked about resolutions in a light-hearted manner. Many say they don’t make them, because they don’t work. The news media doesn’t help. Every year I see the same reports telling us how many people don’t keep the resolutions they make. No encouragement there. So, I shared some broad resolutions that are more life directions than actual resolutions. (Read that post HERE.)

I know this, however, seldom do we hit a target we haven’t yet identified or located. So, if you want to improve in certain areas of your life, you need some new direction to get you there. You’ll have to make some changes in what you are currently doing.

Call them goals if you want. That seems to be a more popular word these days, but decide a few areas in which you want to see improvement, then put some goals in place to help you get there. Making positive lifestyle changes isn’t easy, but it really does start with that simple of a process.

To help you get started, here are…

Three guidelines I use for choosing achievable goals:

Quantifiable – Make sure you can make the goal measurable. Don’t say you want to lose weight. Decide how many pounds you want to lose. Don’t say you want to read more. Say you want to read one book a month…something like that. You want to read your Bible more? Then set a goal to read one chapter per day. Not…save more money…but save $50 per pay period…etc.

Reasonable – Set a goal you can actually attain. Otherwise you’ll give up easily. If saving $50 per pay period is completely unreasonable, then decide the reasonable number. It probably should be some stretch to make it worth celebrating later (which is a key component in goal setting), but make sure you can do it. Losing 10 pounds per week is going to be tough…perhaps even unhealthy…but two pounds per week…pretty much anyone can do that with a little discipline.

Motivated – Pick goals you are passionate enough about to put the energy and discipline in it to achieve success. Do you REALLY want to lose weight? Do you TRULY want to do better with your finances? Is reading your Bible ABSOLUTELY a goal worth pursuing? Your degree of motivation will likely determine how committed to achieving the goal you remain.

If you think through setting quantifiable, reasonable and motivated goals, and then you consistently practice them for a month, or two, or better yet three…you’ll be we’ll on your way to successfully completing them. And, the satisfaction from that will be worth celebrating.

If you are really serious about this process and want more, read THIS POST on writing a Life Plan.

Do you set goals (or resolutions) for the new year?

20,000 Days and Counting: An Interview and Giveaway with Robert D. Smith

20,000 days

This is an interview with Robert D. Smith. Robert is the author of 20,000 Days and Counting and a consultant to numerous best-selling authors, speakers, and entertainers. For over 30 years, he has managed the career of New York Times best-selling author and in-demand speaker Andy Andrews. He recently took the time to answer some questions about his debut book and the concept of getting the most you possibly can out of any 24-hour period. The book was released today, and you can learn more about it HERE.

Early on in 20,000 Days and Counting, you introduce the concept of measuring our lives by days instead of years. Can you explain how and why you started doing this?

I started several years ago when I put my birth date into a countdown clock widget on my computer just to see what would happen. It worked the way I thought it might—it showed how many days had passed since the day I was born. And I was astounded. The number was just under 20,000.

Seeing the sheer magnitude of the amount of days you have spent on this planet is truly powerful. It can be a game-changing experience for your perspective on the ways you spend your time.

As people, we almost always overestimate what we can do in the next year, but dramatically underestimate what we can in the next 24 hours. When you become aware of each day, it’s amazing what you can achieve. If this has gotten curious as to how many days you have been alive, I set up a simple calculator here that will show you.

So if we’re in the habit of underestimating what we can do in the next 24 hours, how do we start taking better advantage of the time available to us each and every day?

Something most of us struggle with is waiting for motivation to hit us. We’re waiting to start the next big project until an epiphany suddenly appears.

The reality, though, is that motivation is a myth. Everyone always says they need a little motivation to be more productive when it’s actually the opposite that’s true—increase your productivity, then the motivation will follow.

So how can we start working without any motivation?

Ah, see starting is the hard part. My secret for getting started is focusing on the results. I always think back to a high school teacher of mine who would always say that simply starting a research paper meant you were half finished. You can be halfway to the finish line…just by starting! I love that concept!

I always feel more excited, more pumped up, more motivated after the work has begun. Once you get past that initial nervousness and hesitation of actually starting, you can really get going.

There was a major figure in psychology, William James, who had this same sort of idea as well. He believed that we don’t sing because we’re happy; we’re happy because we sing.

What made you want to base your book, 20,000 Days and Counting, around this concept of counting your days and making the most of each one?

The whole thing started like I mentioned earlier, when I found the countdown widget that told me how many days I had been alive. I wrote an e-mail about the concept of counting my days to over 40 of my closest friends. To my astonishment, every single one of them wrote a lengthy reply full of amazing insights.

About two years later, I began writing out some of these concepts in more detail and was encouraged by some friends to publish a book. Despite my best efforts to say no (I’ve been a behind-the-scenes guy my whole life), I eventually caved.

You talk a lot about living each day as if it’s your last in the book. How do we overcome what has kind of become a cliché and actually apply that to our lives?

Living each day as if it’s your last is a concept that is thought of in the wrong way 99% of the time. Most of us here that phrase and start thinking about all the “bucket list” things we would try to cram into one day. But it’s not about the specific actions you would take; it’s about having a specific mindset that creates a sense of urgency and importance in you every hour, every day.

We have a tremendous ability as human beings to only get serious about life once we know it’s about to end. What “living each day as if it’s your last” is really about is creating that sort of intense urgency well before you near the end of your life.

To create that, you need three things—a sense of your purpose, a sense of awareness that your life will be short, and a sense of gratefulness for the life you have been given. And I aimed to give people those three things with 20,000 Days and Counting.

Thanks for sharing Robert!

To help launch the new book, I’m giving away 4 autographed copies of 20,000 Days and Counting.

Want a copy? All you have to do is:

1. Share this post on Twitter or Facebook
2. Comment on this post. Any comment will suffice, but you might share one thing you have an “urgent sense” about in your life right now. It can be anything. A change. A dream. A relationship. Anything.
3. Make sure I have a valid email address.

I’ll give it a few days, see how the comments are going, and choose four (4) random winners.

If It Worked…I Resolve…

resolve

I don’t make resolutions. They say they don’t work anyway. No one keeps them. So, I guess I won’t. I mean, why try something others say you can’t do? In fact, I read a news report that said a third of all resolutions are broken by the end of January. So, with those odds, better comply with the news. It’s what everyone does. Right?

But, if I did…if I did make resolutions…I’d make some worth keeping. I might even call them goals…or benchmarks…just to feel better about them.

But if I chose to defy the odds…or the popular culture of debunking resolutions…it might go something like this…

I resolve…

To pray more than worry, so I can trust more than doubt.

To choose the healthier food choices when available, and keep unhealthy snacking to a minimum.

To allow my time spent reading to compete against…maybe even win…with my time spent watching television…since I often say “there’s nothing worth watching” anyway.

To value rest and exercise as a vital part of my day, since I know how both impact my productivity and overall attitude.

To keep a close reign on my tongue, saying only those things which bring value to people and make life better for them.

To speak the truth in love, but never be ashamed of the Gospel.

To forgive easily, knowing that a grudge causes me as much harm…or more…as the person I am forgiving.

To use any influence God should give me for His glory and not for my own.

To seek wisdom from those who seek progress, more than from those who only seek to complain.

To speak words of affirmation and encouragement to those God intersects with my life, knowing the value such words have had in my life…often at just the right time.

To enjoy the abundant life, knowing that He who began a good work will be faithful to complete it.

To guard my heart above all things…for it is the wellspring of my life.

What would you resolve…if you actually resolved…and if these things actually worked?

In my next post, I’ll share three steps to set goals you can actually achieve.

Communicating with Men Tips (Repost)

(Reposting the most read posts of the year.)

I hear from both sides continually. Between the two sexes, communication appears to be the biggest struggle. It’s a constant work in progress in my own marriage. The differences in men and women make communication difficult. (I also posted 5 Tips When Communicating with Men.)

My counseling background and years of experience working with couples has given me insight into some of the barriers men and women face when communicating. I realize not all men are alike, but there are some generalities that can perhaps help a woman better understand a man and improve communication.

Here are 5 tips to communicating with a man:

We meant what we said…not what you heard – Thats true 99% of the time. (Statistically verifiable :) ) Men are usually more literal, and frankly simple-minded, so we aren’t usually talking in a code language. Not that women would be… :) Try to hear only what was said without attaching extra thoughts triggered by emotions. Ask if his statement had a deeper meaning before making assumptions. Most likely he meant only…nothing more…than what was said. (I can’t tell you how many classic examples of marriage problems I’ve seen develop with just this one tip.)

We don’t often like to give details – If we said where we were going, who we had a discussion with or what we had for lunch, that’s usually enough for us. We may not like going into detail beyond those simple facts. I understand you may need and even deserve more information, especially when a man hasn’t proven trustworthy, but know its often out of our realm of comfort to provide it. When it’s not a matter of trust, the less you pump for details the more likely we’ll be to share facts, and even occasionally, details.

Our range of emotions are limited – Most men don’t feel as deeply or multi-faceted as a woman feels about an issue. It’s not that we don’t care. It’s just that we are wired differently. If you ask us how we feel, “happy” or “sad” may be as descriptive as we can get. Because of this, men tend to communicate more factually and less emotionally.

When you may tend to cry we may tend to get angry – I get criticized for this point sometimes, but I wrote a post about this issue HERE. There is never an excuse to misuse anger and abuse of any kind should not be tolerated, but anger in itself is not a sin. The Bible says “in your anger do not sin”, but it seems to assume we will have moments of anger. The same things that cause most girl’s emotions to produce tears, often cause a man to develop testosterone-producing anger. A godly man learns to handle that anger responsibly, but it doesn’t eliminate the response. When an issue riles a man emotionally, it helps if you understand his emotions may be normal and you may even be able to help him channel his response to that emotion. Cheryl does that for me continually.

Sometimes we have a hard time communicating what’s on our heart…often we never do – This is sad and we may even know it. The more you make us feel we’ll be respected regardless of the situation or the emotions we display, the more likely you’ll see our true emotions. You can actually help us with this one!

Please understand. I’m not making excuses for men. The basic premise of all of these is to remember that men and women are different. You can read my thoughts about mutual submission in a marriage HERE and HERE. I’m simply trying to help you communicate with a man.

Men, what did I miss?

Wives, any tips on how we could better understand you? I’ve learned a few and could share them, but thought it may come better from you :) .

Do you care to hear my women’s version…even realizing I’m not one?

7 Ways to Help Children Cope with FEAR

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Tragedy is all around us. It’s on the news every night. We talk about it at the dinner tables. Our children are not immune in an information age. Violence even happens in school. Childhood can be a scary time of life naturally, but especially these days. How does a parent or teacher address this fear?

Here are 7 suggestions:

Don’t assume – Don’t assume just because your child doesn’t mention what happened that they don’t know or care. Fear is a normal reaction, especially for a child. Watch for unusual behavior. Be aware of mood changes or extreme sadness. Make sure they know it’s okay to talk about it and that there is no shame or disappointment from you when they are fearful. Maybe tell them of a time you were afraid…even a recent time.

Limit exposure – You’re curious, so the television may be on news stations. What are they covering right now? Remember they process information different from how you do. They may not appear to be watching, but they probably are more than you think. Fill their minds with things to encourage them not perpetuate the fear. This is a time to turn off the television and simply play with your kids. They’ll get no better assurance.

Ask questions – You may think they are afraid of one thing, but it is something completely different. Many times children, especially young children, are simply confused or have misinformation. You can better address the fear if you know its roots.

Assure them – Let them know they are safe. Don’t lie to them, but remember the chances of the same thing happening to them is rare…very rare. Remind them you’d do anything to protect them. You may need to help them process for weeks to come. Don’t rush them to “get over it”. Pray for and with them often.

Live normal – As much as possible, live a normal weekly schedule. Their routine is part of their “security blanket.” Don’t allow their fear to cripple them or the family for long. In spite of our fears, we have to move forward.

Be calm – Especially during this stressful time, don’t let your children see you in panic. Watch what you say in front of them. Parents shouldn’t fight in front of kids anytime, but especially during a time of uncertainty like this. Renew your faith. They get their faith through you.

Give them Scripture – They need something they can cling to as permanent and dependable. What better place than the Word that will never fade? Recite Psalm 56:3 to them. If they are old enough, write it down somewhere they can see it often. Memorize some verses of strength and share with them often.

What else would you share with parents?