How to Cure Burn-out

Not a week goes by that I don’t hear this, or some form of this, said by a friend in distress: “Dave, I’m just burned out. I dread what I’m doing.  I have a lot of anger and I don’t know where it comes from.  I’m tired, I have no energy, and it’s hard just getting out of bed every day.”

If that describes you, or someone you’re trying to do life with, more than likely, you’re dealing with a person who’s burnt.

The number one culprit behind the feeling of burn-out is the loss of hope. Without hope in your job, in your marriage, in your relationship with God or other people, energy is simply drained out of your life.  But where there is hope, optimism, vitality, and anticipation for better days, seem to arise almost magically and effortlessly.

I finished the current series, “Messy Like Me,” yesterday by talking about the sixth type person you meet on the way to heaven: those who have skill, talent, training, ability, have a ton to offer their career, their families, and their churches, but they are burned out. We talked about the process of losing hope.  It starts with comparison and envy, and ends with anger.  We also talked about how you can have hope in increasing amounts.  Listen to the talk and ask yourself this question, “Am I burned out because I’ve engaged in comparison, I’ve become bitter over what I don’t have, and envious of those who seem to be doing better than me though they are not as smart as me or trying nearly as hard as me?”

Sit down with your team and go through the process of having hope and ask yourself that question.  Do I live every day with the mindset of worship and gratitude and thankfulness to God for my life, and the privilege to do what I do?  Do I stand in awe of God’s promises and His faithfulness to allow me to join Him where He is working?  These are vital questions and they need to be addressed before you can turn things around.

If You Can’t Afford It, You Don’t Deserve It

This week we talked about one of the most difficult people to help; and that’s the bored.  It’s been my firm conviction boredom has caused more destruction in the lives of good people than most of the vices we can mention, period.

We hear things like, “You deserve a break today.”  “You deserve a new car.” “You deserve a new house.”  “You deserve a trip.” And as a result, college debt, car debt, and other forms of consumer debt are holding untold hundreds of thousands of people in bondage all because when they were bored, with nothing better to do, they decided to reward themselves with something that would give them a temporary emotional high.

So how do you help the bored? What if you are just really bored.  You’ve been there and done that.  You understand Solomon when he said that everything is meaningless as chasing after the wind. Have you owned up to the fact that things can enhance your life but they can’t bring meaning to your life? It takes people.  And when you’re engaged in the lives of people, your life takes on a whole other color and texture.  And your motivation can go off the charts.

So in this week’s talk we talked about the road to bondage: how we go from freedom to courage, to success, abundance, consumption, assumption, and back to entitlement. We also talked about how to break free from the most devastating virus known to man: and it’s hardening of the attitude.

Control, Certainty, Clarity, and None of the Above

This past weekend at The Gathering was an important moment. It was one of those moments, as a speaker, where you absolutely know that you’ve heard from God, and have something really important to say.

I know, I know.  A lot of people think that, few people will say that, and anyone who dares, we always dismiss as being self-centered or self-righteous.  But this time, listen.  There are three things that God has told me to tell you, you can’t have.  I know.  I can’t have them either: control, certainty, and clarity.

I think that’s good news.  And that’s a bold statement, but it’s true. God is never going to give you control.  Yes, you do have control of your choices, but you don’t have control over what’s going to happen to you each and every day.  Some days in your life, maybe many days in your life you’re going to wake up into a new normal not of your own making.  Maybe it’s cancer, unemployment, divorce, even death.  These will be moments when you realize that God will never give you the one thing you want more than anything else in the world: control.  You’re never going to have true certainty.  You’re not certain of what’s going to happen today, but God is.  You’re never going to have clarity.  If I marry this person, can I clearly see the end of our marriage from the beginning? No.

Here’s what you can have.  You can have the comfort that comes from the growing confidence in the content of God’s promises.  Those promises are found in the Scriptures.  So this weekend as we talked about the bothered, the worried, and the anxious, we talked about the difference between a martyr, an exhausted fixer, and a resentful victim.  We talked about the comfort that comes from a growing confidence in God’s promises.  The truth is, you cannot control what happens to you.  You alone, though, control how you respond.  Will you worry and fret? Or will you find comfort in the content of God’s promises and grow a confident faith?  As the Swedish proverb says, “Worry often gives a small thing a big shadow.”

Betrayed, Bitter, or Better

Wow.  What a response to my talk today in our series, “Messy Like Me!”  I should have known that people would really resonate with the topic of betrayal.  Because, let’s face it.  All of us have had the bitter pill shoved down our throat.

One of my close buddies said to me on the way out today, “Dave, I’ve been listening to you for 12 years.  And this is hands-down, the best!”  Well, I appreciate my brother’s affirmation.  I’ll take all I can get.  I’m just as insecure as the next guy.  But I also know that the content has something to do with it.  Betrayal is something we experience and, let’s face it, almost none of us navigate very well. 

So today we talked about three different kinds of betrayal that you suffer.  We talked about the betrayal of friendship, covenants, and confidences. We talked about the power of betrayal in our lives if we deal with it negatively.  It can truly devastate your life.  But maybe the most important thing I said today was this: none of us have the power to choose or control what happens to us.  Let that soak in.  It’s not just a throw-away statement.  You literally have no control over the things that happen to you.

If life weren’t for the broken, messy people, you’d have a little more control, but even then you’re not in control of the circumstances.  But here’s the most important thing: you’re always in control of your responses.  I wrote a whole book about it called, “The Power to Prevail.”  It is the power to prevail: to choose, in the quitting moments, to make the right choice.  We talked about what some of those choices are.

But one of the most important takeaways today is the fact that each one of us are called to relate to the betrayed.  Not only are we betrayed, and sometimes, let’s face it the betrayer, we need to reach out.  And we need to know the three things that the betrayed need: things like protection, perspective, and reconnection to purpose.

Why not comment here on my web site? Let me know how this talk really resonates with you.  You know that the media for this is stored on web site.  But it also can be delivered to you automatically on iTunes.

What Do You Do After Dumb?

It’s one thing to suffer at the hands of those who are careless and reckless.  It’s another thing to bear self-inflicted wounds.  What do you do when you’re surrounded with people who are suffering or going through difficult times as a result of their own behaviors?  How do you extend grace to them?  Where does the gospel make sense when you are extending it to people who are abusing it?

There are so many things we don’t talk about in church; especially about the things that have to do with our own misbehavior.  How does God deal with us when we are not just dumb, but downright defiant? What do the Scriptures teach us?  Is there hope for people like us who know better, but don’t do better?

Yesterday we talked about God’s love and the difference between His faithful love and cheap grace.  The fact that God does treat people differently, he doesn’t love us all the same; there is a difference between His covenant love and His offered love.   Find out the difference and make application in your life, your family and the life of your church.  Use it to stimulate conversation.  Let me know if you think I am off base, or if you think I am right on target.

Look at All the Broken People

We started a brand new series this week entitled, “Messy Like Me (the 6 people you meet on the way to heaven).”

We started with the first person we meet.  As a matter of fact, it may be you.  And the truth is, it is all of us at one time or another: the broken. We talked about the three kinds of brokenness, and how we get there for each one.

We also talked about what we tend to do when we’re confronted with broken people.  The truth is, the American church has a reputation for shunning broken people; or at least ignoring them and acting as though it’s not true.  As I’ve often said, the greatest sin we commit each Sunday morning in the church in America is underestimating the pain hiding behind the smiles of the people we see and sit beside.

We talked about the difference between condemning with judgment and confronting with love and compassion.  Do you know the difference?  What does it look like in your life, in your church, in your family, in your place of business?

We also talked about what God does when the broken turn to Him in contrition and confession.  We talked about the difference between mercy and grace, what God’s love does, and the simple and single fact put there for those who come to God and bring their brokenness.  They learn this truth; that behind all things that break us is the hand of the loving Father to shape us.

I closed the service yesterday with this prayer, and I hope it will be yours as well.

“I will bring my brokenness to God in confession and contrition, trusting that by His grace He will forge in me the character and qualities that will allow me to be the confident and compassionate person He can bless with abundance and responsibility.”


40 Years in Reflecting

Paula and I celebrated our 40th Wedding Anniversary this past weekend.  It’s been a great time of reflecting on the decisions that we’ve made in the past and how they’ve borne fruit to create our present.

Yesterday at The Gathering I shared with our whole Gathering family the three biggest regrets I have looking back over the last forty years.  I know they’re forgiven.  I’ve been given grace.  But maybe articulating them will help you avoid some of the pitfalls I didn’t.

But mostly, I talked about the five things that I definitely don’t regret doing.  How many of us made a decision forty years ago that today we’re thrilled we made?  For me, this is one of them.  As you listen to this talk, think about the things you are doing today to make your family, your marriage stronger, more fruitful, more joyful so that when you reflect on your 20th, 30th, 40th, 50th, or beyond, you’ll be able to smile and rejoice in the goodness of God and the assurance that if we do life God’s way, everyone wins.

Only You Can Fly Your Flag

Yesterday we concluded the series “Moo Out Loud: How to Stand up and be Heard Above the Herd.”  We talked about the five practices of those who understand how important it is to develop their own brand.

With the changes in the way we do life, knowing who you are, why you’re here, and what you want is more important than ever before.  Because if you don’t, someone else will define it for you and live your life for you.  Having a life of your very own is something for which you’re going to have to fight.  So just floating through life and hoping someone will give you a job that will guarantee the good life is no longer an option.  I think we all know that by now.

So today we finished by highlighting practice number 5, flying your own flag.  This simply means that you are the person responsible for your reputation for how people see you.  The truth of the matter is, that we’ve gotten so used to fixating on our flaws that we’ve forgotten to focus on our strengths and abilities God has given us, and on why we’re here.

So yesterday, we talked about why people still believe the lie that they’re not creative.  There are four reasons.  Go through each one and ask yourself if you’ve ever believed these.  We talked about what flying your flag means, what it communicates.  And then lastly we asked the four flag questions.  Look at your own reputation, how you carry yourself, how you live, how you occupy your space, and if the questions of force, love, agreement, and good are all clearly answered in the way you do life.

Finally Finding Your Own Voice

It’s been amazing, the feedback I’ve gotten over the new series “Moo Out Loud.”  My hunch was right.  Everyone wants to be heard, wants to make a difference, wants to believe that they can add something to the redemptive drama of life that God is writing.

So what we’ve done in this series is talk about the five practices of building your own personal brand.  Free your mind, take your stand, fix your focus, and this week we talked about finding your own voice.

Have you ever noticed that no two voices are alike?  We now know that our voice has a voice print much like our finger print.  Yet how many of us hate the sound of our own voice? This is because voice diminishes where there is fear, shame, and innuendo.  Do you have any voices in your head telling you you’re not worthy, you’re not smart enough, trained enough, qualified enough?

We talked about the six conditions under which your voice emerges.  As you listen to this message, ask yourself this question: “Of these six, which have been most meaningful in my life as I’ve developed my own voice, as I’ve found a way to give a voice to the vision of the mission God has given me on this planet?”  And if you respond by saying, “I really don’t have a mission,” then go back and listen to the other talks and find the help you need to get serious about your one and only life.

Do You Fixate or Focus?

I started yesterday’s talk by confessing an incident that happened in the Target parking lot on Saturday afternoon.  I had briefly stopped to let my wife out of the truck to get into her vehicle, and the person behind me kept honking for me to move.  So obnoxious did they become, that I thought maybe they were sick.  So I got out, being the nice guy that I am, and asked them if they were ok, and if I could help.

That incident reminded me that we live in a culture where people are in a hurry to get to someplace.  They’re not really sure where it is,  and what they’re going to do when they get there.  We are a world fixated on speed, fixated on noise and clutter, fixated on more and more and more.  And yet the one thing we need more than anything else is the ability to focus.

In our series, “Moo Out Loud,” there are five practices for developing your own personal brand, for building a platform from which you can be heard.  And the third practice is to fix your focus, which means you become an expert in some field that you focus on, that you drill down into, that becomes your one thing that you know better than anyone else.

So as you listen to the talk, look for the difference between broken focus, and fixed focus.  Ask yourself this question: Is my focus broken?  Are we really fixating on the petty things around us, responding to noises and to the urgent things, or are we really focusing on the things that truly matter?

It Might as Well Be You

If God is going to bless someone, it might as well be you.  If He’s going to pour out favor on some business or endeavor, it might as well be yours.  If God is going to show up in a big way for some family, it might as well be yours.

That’s what we learned this past weekend as we continued our series, “Moo Out Loud.”  Not only do we have a standing, a calling, but we have a ministry.  And for our ministries to move forward and find God’s favor, they have to have a mission; a big, important, significant, lifelong foundation and platform from which we can take our stand.

We talked today about the four responses to culture.  We talked about what a meaningful mission is not, but also the benefits of having a mission and knowing if that mission is worthy of your best efforts.

Several people came by this weekend on the way out and said, “Because of this series, I’m no longer invisible.”  That’s like music to my heart.  The worst thing you can be is invisible.  We’ve all been tired, discouraged or depressed, and even despondent.  But no one has to be invisible.  God made you for a purpose.  He has you here for something significant that you can do.  You have a ministry, but your ministry needs a mission.  If you listen to today’s talk, you’ll find out how to make that happen.


Free Your Mind, and the Rest Will Follow

We continue this week in our series “Moo Out Loud” to try and figure out how we can stand up and be heard above the noise of the herd.  So today we dealt with the first of our five practices, and that is, to free our mind.

From the moment you were born, people have attacked the brilliance of your mind.  Yes, that’s true.  That’s not an overstatement.  We’re afraid of people who think.  For what reason, I don’t know.  Maybe it’s because they won’t agree with us and conform and get in line, and do what the power-brokers and gatekeepers want them to do. But there is one striking fact. When God created us in his image, He trusted us enough to give us a brain: the ability to think, to ponder, to consider, to choose.  And what do we do in return for the favor? We allow crazy people to bring it into bondage.

So as you listen to the talk today, talk with your family, or your small group about the three different ways we allow our minds to be in bondage.  Do any of those show up in your family or your workplace? How much money are these limiting beliefs causing you?  How much true success is eluding you because you’re trapped in one of these prisons?

Also walk through the three declarations that we talked about yesterday.  Consider each one carefully.  What do they mean to you? And I challenge you this week, to say them.  You’ll probably be embarrassed to say them out loud unless you’re in your car or your house alone.  But say them in your heart and spirit.  Say them as an act of gratitude and worship to the God who thought you were important enough to be on this planet, at this moment.

How to Free Your Inner Rock Star

Every person I’ve met has one thing in common: they want to be heard.  By that I mean they want their voice, their lives, their insights to matter.

As we launch into a brand new year, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about how to take your stand and develop your own personal brand.  This may seem unspiritual, but Jesus said that we are the light of the world and we are salt to our culture.  At the very least, it means that our lives matter, that we have a message to offer, that we have things to do, we have thoughts to think, art to create, businesses to bootstrap.  That all requires the courage to lift your head and moo out loud.

So as we begin the series, Moo Out Loud: How to be heard above the herd, we started out by introducing the four fears and the five practices.

If you’re going to free your inner rock star, your inner creativity, the original that God created you to be, you’re going to have to understand the five practices it requires.  They are in order:  free your mind, take your stand, fix your focus, find your voice, and fly your flag.  We’ll think through each one of them in the weeks ahead, but today’s talk is a great overview.  Do you know what the four fears are that we all face and how to face them? They’re the fears that will dog you in the new year and cause you to cast aside your new hopes and bold resolutions.

Listen to this talk and then let me know your perspective on mooing out loud.

Reflections on Five Years at The Gathering

This past weekend was the fifth anniversary of The Gathering Nashville.  It’s hard to believe that five years have already gone by.  Without overstating the fact, they’ve certainly been five of the greatest years of my life in ministry.  Not only has my family flourished, but my faith and my passion to be a pastor has been reborn.

When I committed my life to be a pastor almost 40 years ago, I had no idea what I was doing, really.  But it’s been a great adventure, incredibly rewarding, and I truly believe that my best days are ahead.  Why? Because of what I’ve experienced over the last five years.

It’s hard to believe, since we’ve been in Nashville since 1989 (over 20 years), 16 years of that time has been spent in rented facilities.  I’ve learned something.  That is that the church doesn’t need buildings, brick and mortar, and a lot of creature comforts in order to be real, dynamic, and growing.  In fact, buildings can be a downright liability.

Just take a listen to my talk this weekend about the one fundamental fact that I think changes everything for the American church.  That is, we have to retain the belief that what we do matters, that we are indeed out to change the world.  We’re not maintaining some religious civility.  We’re introducing into the culture the only hope that we’ll ever have.  And that’s Jesus.  We talked about what’s gone wrong with the American church, where we are as a growing church here in Nashville.  And we also talked about our three U’s: our urgency, our uniqueness, and our unity.

Let me know what you think.  Do you believe that the future of the American church is bleak in light of the fact that 42 million Christians have left the church, or bright, in that so many new churches are beginning?

A Non-Happy Joy

This is the season to be jolly.  At least that’s what the song says. But the angels announced “it’s a time for great joy to all people.”

The question is, “Are you really joyful?” The truth is, most of us focus more on happiness than we do on joy. And yet joy is more powerful and to be valued more than mere happiness.  Don’t get me wrong.  Happiness is a good thing, but happiness is not joy.  As a matter of fact, you can be filled with joy, and not be happy.  You can be crying, you can be mourning, grieving, sad, struggling, even suffering, and still have joy.

So today as we ended our Polyester Jesus series, we said that real Jesus give joy. I gave five contrasts between happiness and joy.  We talked about the theology of joy.  If joy only comes from God and can’t be mustered up by circumstances or the environment, what are the three important theological ideas the Scriptures teach about joy? 

And then we talked about messy joy. That really is where the rubber meets the road, isn’t it? Can you have a non-happy joy?  And the answer of course is, yes. Joy is made for messy times, and messy people in less than perfect circumstances.  It’s that enduring quality that God gives each of us who reach out and take it.

If your life is in turmoil, and you live in fear, doubt and dread, then what you need is not happiness; it’s joy.  Because unlike happiness, joy is not atmospheric.