Insert Flaw Here

imageToday, I learned that it’s okay to admit you got a bad perm.

I had been hiding this dirty little secret as much as I could for the past few weeks, save for the scathing Yelp review I wrote about my insanely, awful experience. (Which you can read here: http://m.yelp.com/biz/tgf-hair-salon-austin-16?skip_bridge=true )

I have put my hair up into a tight, twisted bun so many times in the past month, I thought my hair would never stay down. This morning while getting ready, I couldn’t fathom another day up in a top bun, but as I began to gather the mass of frizz atop my head, it hit me: in my shame, I had chosen to hide myself away from the world, rather than embrace every part of who I am, hair included.

Most of you who know me know I’ve spent the better part of two years actively working on learning how to love myself, and up until just recently, I felt I had become fairly successful at it. I feel like a better, more confident version of myself, and I am even an extremely proud owner of the bikini I’ve tried to spend all summer in.

However, it became very real to me today that even with the motivating self-talks, the bikinis, and the new-found freedom, when push came to shove, I unconsciously had shifted back into the comfortable, reclusive place I have spent so much of my life. I was undoubtedly disgusted with myself, not only for the fro that I had sitting on top of my head, but for the way I had treated myself. Instead of embracing who I am, I had opted for picking and choosing what I thought people would like about me, and in my opinion, it certainly wasn’t going to be my hair.

It took 6 people (seriously!) telling me that they liked my hair today before I realized I had grossly overreacted to the unfortunate perm incident. In my mind, I believed strongly that no one, not even my own mother, would like what I looked like, and if they said they did, they were lying. I quickly realized that I had done this to myself time and time again while growing up, and not just with my hair. It hit me that I had inspected myself in extreme detail and found every singular flaw about myself and hated myself for them, because I felt other people would do it.

I’m sure you could look in the mirror and find many things you don’t love about yourself, and if you’re anything like me, I’m sure you already have. What makes those things particularly unappealing?

Because everyone else has perfect (insert flaw here)?

Maybe because the girl/guy on the cover of the magazine doesn’t have that flaw?

What about that you read in an article that the only way to find a girlfriend/boyfriend is by fixing it or covering it up in 3 easy steps?

That’s insane, right? We’ve taken the beautifully unique things about ourselves and forced ourselves into thinking they’re flaws, not characterizations. If everyone in the world had a perfect nose, evenly spaced eyes, a perfectly shaped jaw, and full lips, do you think we’d really be able to tell the difference between one another? Absolutely not.

Today, I’m celebrating my chemically-induced curls, along with my thin lips, bad skin, and misaligned jaws. What are you celebrating about yourself?

Echo 2013 – Breakout Session 1

Song Leader or Worship Shepherd?

Jon Abel

Worship shepherd is MUCH different than song leader
His church deserves people who are invested in his will

The way he has built the church is by gifts given to them who invest in others
If you’re a leader in your church, God has called you to shepherd
1. The first person you need to lead is yourself
     Christ is the model
     Shows us what self leadership is all about
     We are not rockstars, we are servants
     It’s more about evangelism, less about singing songs
     You have to start with yourself
     You have to take care of things that only you can take care of first
     Intimacy between you and Christ is your lifeblood
     When we get over ourselves and realize we’re broken… The freedom from that is a blessing to your ministry
2. If we’re abiding in Christ, all the nervous material things go away
     Know that your gift can only bring glory to God
     Get your people’s gifts stirring in their heart to help glorify Christ
3. How do you feed the sheep as worship leaders?
     How serious do you take the time you minister to your worship team?
     24-28 hours per year that you get to lead worship
     Be responsible with the songs you choose
     Doxology and Theology – book
     Instrument in 1 hand, Bible in the other
     Be in the Word, know the Word
     Be saturated
     Come up with creative ways to share scripture in your worship environments
     Encourage them by the word of God to experience time with God
Abide in Christ, seek Him first
Magnify Jesus Christ
YOU are not the focus, it’s not a concert, we’re part of the choir
Shepherd your congregation
Have an outline, not a script
Makes it fresh every time
Take the pressure off of performing perfectly
If it’s not real in your heart, it doesn’t mean anything to anyone else
Lead out of your intimacy with Christ
Put your worship team in your community/small group
Disciple your team
Personal relationships matter
Connect people who naturally do life together
Geographical more than interest-focused

Burning Out

I have avoided blogging for quite some time.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not great at blogging, nor was I great at keeping a diary when I was younger, but I have intentionally refrained from blogging, tweeting and facebooking about church.

I burned out.

It started last May, when after dropping out of school to pursue church-work I approached my supervisor to discuss my employment situation. I was part time (15-20 hours, depending on the time of the year), and was solely responsible for the majority of communication at the largest Lutheran church in Austin, Texas. At that time, I was on fire for ministry, and I had a deep seeded passion to communicate the Gospel in the most creative ways possible. As it happened, budget season had rolled around, and my supervisor was in favor of transitioning me to full-time (with the understanding I would still work towards a degree).

After the last of the important budget meetings, I asked my supervisor what the decision was. I was told, “we couldn’t make room in the budget for you this time around. While we all agreed we would be sad to see you go, we understand if you can’t stay.” The conversation was much longer, of course, but the gist was “no.”

I was numb for quite a few months. In retrospect I can see where I was developing a bitterness in response to the hurt I felt from the rejection, but I still felt deep inside that I was where I was supposed to be, and doing what I was supposed to do.

I found quite a bit of comfort at the Echo Conference. There’s something therapeutic about being surrounded by people with similar thoughts and ideas about the Church. Even more, the Conclave Sessions were a fantastic experience that provided invaluable amounts of encouragement and ideas to bring back to my church. During the first night of Conclave, Gary Molander told his story of burning out, and I sat there in silent shock as I realized what he was talking about was eerily similar to where I was emotionally and spiritually. That night I pushed down my feelings and pretended I wasn’t feeling hurt or resentment, and allowed myself to take in the rest of my week (the last day of Conclave and the entirety of Echo).

By the end of the conferences, I was excited. I had ideas pouring out of me, and I even stayed up until the wee hours of the night working on different concepts to take back to my church. Upon presenting the ideas to my supervisor, I was told “this is great, Lauren, but remember you only work 20 hours!” That’s when everything inside of me broke. I began to feel under-appreciated, unmotivated, and inadequate to perform my job duties. I was lucky to have a mentor who poured into me during this period of time and was supportive of whatever decision I intended to make.

I carried around my resignation letter for 2 weeks in my purse, hoping there would be some magical moment telling me to stay, but it never came. I cried the entire time I sat in my supervisor’s office as he tried to comprehend what I was doing. The next two weeks were filled with coworkers consoling me and telling me not to leave. Most blamed other staff members, and others expected I’d change my mind before I left. I posted my job description knowing that half of what I did wasn’t on it, and knowing even then that no one with the talent necessary would take the job knowing it was part-time.

The entire month following my last day, I worked hard trying to find a new position. It’s hard to put yourself out there when you’re emotionally dead and your self-confidence was thrown out the window months prior. I did odd-jobs here and there, but nothing that replaced my previous position.

I hated graphic design, I hated communication, but mainly I hated myself. I had allowed myself to succumb to feeling inadequate for so long that I no longer knew what I wanted to do with my life. I questioned God’s intentions with everything, and I didn’t trust that I was going to be taken care of, because I didn’t feel I deserved to be taken care of. I felt guilty for losing the passion that had moved me just months before, and I thought God wouldn’t love me as much because I wasn’t as passionate as I once was for Him. There was a place in my heart that was dead, and as much as I tried to revive it, I couldn’t.

One month after leaving my church, they called me back and offered a full-time position. I should have been ecstatic, over-the-moon with happiness, but I wasn’t. I took the job because it felt like the right thing to do, and it was financially responsible, but there was still a part of me that was dead. I was still hurting.

How do you cure a complete burnout?

1. TALK. I cannot be more serious than I am right now. You need someone in your life that you can talk to. This person should (for obvious reasons) be unbiased in the situation. Finding a counselor or a mentor with your best interests at heart would be the best option, but you have to talk out your feelings. Bottling things inside doesn’t do anything but add pressure which leads to an explosion later.

2. Pray. Duh. Jesus knows what’s up.

3. Temporarily re-direct your focus (AKA the “hobby”). This one was actually pretty difficult for me. When people ask what I like to do for fun, I tell them “graphic design in my spare time”, because my spare time is usually spent on side projects (freelance). I know I’m young, but it was difficult for me to intentionally set aside time to do things other than work, or think about work. Luckily, I have a fantastic support group that I live with who also happen to LOVE to paint canvases. Therapy for my creative soul.

4. Assess your situation often. One of the most important things I did upon returning was to stop and look at where I was. Stress causes us to become focused solely on the task at hand. Good for productivity, bad for mental and emotional health. I take short, frequent mental breaks to assess myself and my workload. If adjustment is needed, I take care of it. Becoming overwhelmed is a sure sign you’re not assessing your situation and evaluating your workload.

5. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. Multiple blogs, books, and tweets have been written about the art of setting boundaries.  I, myself, am no master of setting reasonable boundaries. I’m an unmarried college-age student with a demanding full-time job. I’m hardwired to stay up until 3am for no good reason, what else am I supposed to do with my time? Plus, thinking that “no” in church-work limits Jesus is crazy. It’s crazy. Jesus is bigger than your ability to design a business card specifically for the “Frail Ol’ Church Ladies” group. What needs to get done WILL get done, even if you’re not the one to do it.

It gets easier, but even now I’m not sure if burnout is totally reversible. Know your limits, and know there are people who love and support you no matter what.

Echo Conference Notes for Scott Williams

You can access a downloadable version of these notes here.

Scott Williams previously served as a key leader and Campus Pastor for LifeChurch.tv. Currently he serves at PeoplesChurch.tv, one of the fastest growing multi-ethnic churches in America. He is the Chief Solutions Officer for Nxt Level Solutions, a consulting company he founded to help businesses, non-profits and ministries move from where they are to where they want to be. Nxt Level Solutions has worked with some of the largest churches, non-profits and fortune 100 companies in the United States. Scott is a storyteller, strategist, and a respected thought leader. He is an avid blogger at BigIsTheNewSmall.com, and has been featured in the Top 15 Leadership Experts to Follow on Twitter. He is the author ofChurch Diversity: Sunday The Most Segregated Day Of The Week. Scott is married, a father of two, and lives in Oklahoma City, OK.

Echo Conference | Keynote 4 | Scott Williams

At the end of the day, every single one of us is a storyteller

If you look at the architecture of this building, it tells a story

Unity through Diversity

Galatians 3:28

                Live the Great Commandment

Matthew 22:37-29 “Love the Lord your God will all your heart” “Love your neighbor as yourself”

Helps to win our neighbors who are far from God

Story of the Samaritan woman at the well, outside of Jesus’ race

How many of you would say that because of your ministry, your life is different?

Why don’t you do everything you can to tell the people in the town?

RESULT: People will believe because you told others

Marketing and reaching people is no longer about what you’re selling, it’s about the story you’re telling

Everyone has a story/testimony

Churches and prisons are the most segregated places in America

93% of churches in America are segregated

Sunday morning is one of the most segregated days of the week

Talking about race is uncomfortable

3 things we’re not supposed to talk about: race, religion, politics

We MUST be willing to talk about race

Acts 15 is first church-wide conflict

Why diversity matters:

Matters to God

God has called us to be stewards of this mystery

Every other industry besides the church has figured diversity out

If it matters to the bottom line, it matters to corporate America

Coca-Cola one of the top diversified companies

As Christ-followers we must be open to change

As Christ-followers we’re all creatives, because we’re connected to the Creator

Diversity matters to Coca-cola, they’re selling soda water, we’re selling LIVING water

It’s not a black church, it’s not a white church, it’s God’s church

I have a heart for [diversity], will you help me?

Where is your heart as it relates to diversity?

Cell phone test: if your contacts look like you, you need to change

Until you begin to have dialogue about race, you’ll never understand how to best represent the King

                Do the Great Commission

Matthew 28:19

As you are going about your business, make disciples of all nations, do it now, do it all the time

We’ve omitted the ‘all nations’

How can we expect to take the Gospel all around the world if we can’t take the Gospel down the street?

The local church is the hope of the world, and the future rests primarily in the hands of its leaders

We must be willing to do something about it

If you don’t like church diversity, you’re not going to like heaven

Church diversity isn’t just about the color of the skin

It’s about the wages of sin

The wages of sin for those who don’t know Jesus who don’t look like us is death

God has called everyone to do something about diversity

It’s time for a little heaven on earth

Echo Conference Notes for Blaine Hogan

You can access the downloadable file here.

As an actor, author of the recent book, UNTITLED: Thoughts on the Creative Process, and creative director at Willow Creek Community Church, Blaine is a maker of things. He lives with his wife, Margaret, and their daughter, Ruby, just outside of Chicago.

Echo Conference | Session 6 | Blaine Hogan

“You Are Not a Tool: An Artist’s Guide for Staying Human”

Utility is greater than art.

We have started to feel like a machine, because we’ve been working this way for so long

Sometimes it seems we would rather be tools than be humans

How do we live in the midst of these tensions and questions?

It’s not about creating better art; it’s about creating a better human

If being an artist is regaining our interiority, how do we do this?

Relax & Breathe

We don’t believe God is in this place, or help us make this world

We just feel we have to do it ourselves

How many of us sit in our offices and sing “I’m sure if I sit here, God will give me an idea”?

The Bible is ripe with “Relax and Breathe” ideas

If the artist doesn’t lead in relaxing and breathing, who will?

Embrace the Obstacles

“What would people say if I went on SNL wearing a red suit?” – P.Diddy

“If I had never had this obstacle, I wouldn’t have had this great idea”

We fight, we whine, we complain, because our idea’s better in our opinion.

Do we see obstacles as mysteries to be solved or battles to be won?

From the Inside Out

What is God doing in me? How does he want to use that to speak to the community?

I see my art as a confession.

“You can’t take anyone farther than you have gone yourself”

Every week you’re inviting your congregation to the deepest, darkest places of themselves

Unless you lead, I don’t know if you have any business speaking the Gospel

You Must Need it More Than They Do

“Our communities need (THIS)”, rather than connecting it with ourselves

I need the Gospel more than they do

Whatever it is you put your hand to day in and day out; you need more than they do

Name it first, before you point it out somewhere else

“You have to know the final climactic scene first” Donald Miller

If we’re going to try to make things that function more as art than utility, we must ask ourselves, “What is this really doing?”

The product is not the art. The art is the process

The work that we make will inherently be better if we choose to be better humans