W20D4 - Productivity

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law" - Galatians 5:22.

There is no asterisk after this verse stating that leaders are exempt from producing, or allowing the Spirit to produce, the examples of character fruit mentioned in this verse. It does not say, "Leaders are permitted to be impatient, angry, unkind, unpredictable, and undisciplined because they have important work to do and have to get it done by being tough. They can be rude and abrupt and not take other people's feelings into consideration." In other words, leaders are expected to allow God to work in their lives so they can discover ways to lead while being a good example of God's man or woman in their role at work, in ministry, or at home.

LEADERSHIP STEP: As you have done with other Steps, today you will do a self-evaluation. Write each of the examples of fruit in this verse on a sheet in your journal, and then evaluate yourself in each by assigning a number from 1 (missing in action) to 5 (almost always present in my life) for work and home. If you have the courage, have someone else do it also and compare their results to yours. Then pray and allow the Spirit access to your heart to develop that area.

W15D4 - Productivity

"Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me" - John 15:4.

Organizations expect their leaders to be fruitful and productive on behalf of the organization. They are also expected to lead new initiatives that lead to growth within their team, the product line, the services offered, or the mission of the company's purpose. When this doesn't happen, the organization goes into 'maintenance mode' and that is not leadership; that is management. While leaders may have to manage some things, they are paid or chosen to bear fruit as leaders and will be held accountable for that to happen. That is the reason they should delegate management to others so they can concentrate on what leaders are supposed to produce.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Today, why don't you work on developing a personal scorecard for productivity in your organization (or family). Set five areas in which you would like to be productive personally for the remainder of this year. Then define what fruit you would like to bear in each area. Then regularly review these areas for the rest of the year to be accountable not just to maintain but more importantly to grow.

W10D4 - Productivity

"Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress. Watch your life and doctrine closely. Persevere in them . . ." - 1 Timothy 4:15-16.

Leaders are expected to grow and make progress in the work they are doing and leading. This requires them to be diligent and to provide a role model for others to learn from and follow. When the going gets tough, leaders are expected to persevere. And all this is so that a leader can be productive, not just maintaining, but growing and expanding the work area that he or she is assigned (not to mention their own personal and professional growth and development). The key words from this verse are diligent, wholly, progress, watch, and persevere. All those words speak of hard and concentrated work on the task and work team at hand.

LEADERSHIP STEP: How do you measure growth or progress in your organization? How do you measure it personally? While this may be difficult to answer, you must at least try. Choose some metric(s) that will give you a chance to measure the job you are doing or the personal growth you are encountering. Once you choose the metric(s), then you must determine how you will measure them and how often you will do so. The metrics can be financial, or attendance numbers, or customers, or clients, or books read, or reduced costs. Then revisit them from time to time to measure your growth or lack of it.

W5D4 - Productivity

" . . . so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God" - Colossians 1:10.

Leaders are expected to continue growing and developing, both in their ability to bear fruit as defined by their role in their organization and also in their knowledge of their line of work and the practice of leadership. When leaders stop being fruitful, they begin to rely on their history, their title, where they are in the organizational hierarchy, their charisma, or their ability to manipulate and control the system or their followers. This is never a healthy situation, whether in the church or business. It is obvious from today's verse that ongoing growth and fruitfulness are pleasing to God, who is the ultimate Director and Evaluator of a leader's development and work.

LEADERSHIP STEP: Let's examine your fruit today and inspect your 'vine' on which it is produced. Read John 15:1-8 and then assess your fruit, both internally and externally. Are you growing in patience and kindness? Are you being fruitful today in new projects, creativity, and the ability to lead your team or family? Are you growing in the knowledge of who God is and what He wants from you in your leadership role? Are you imparting what you know to others?

Came Across This Poem


    by J. B. Rittenhouse

I bargained with Life for a penny,

And Life would pay no more,

However I begged at evening

When I counted my scanty store.


For Life is just an employer,

He gives you what you ask,

But once you have set the wages,

Why, you must bear the task.


I worked for a menial's hire,

Only to learn, dismayed,

That any wage I had asked of Life,

Life would have willingly paid.

Hummm, I wonder if the same is true if you substitute "the Lord" for the word Life?

Provision Anxiety

I've been writing about different kinds of anxiety this week and how it can hinder your work and creativity.  There is another anxiety that will hinder your ability to create and that is anxiety about money.  How often I have had a good idea only to dismiss it a few minutes later because of provision anxiety -- where would I get the money to do that?  that won't make me any money, will it?  how will I feed my family?  It's just an idea but I tend to immediately start thinking about cash and, when I do, the idea generally flies away as quickly as a bird that had come to nest only to find a "beware of the cat" sign. 

This week I have been reflecting on the cloud that followed Israel in their wilderness wanderings.  This cloud led them by day and by night became a pillar of fire.  I had always thought this cloud was for guidance only.  When it moved, Israel moved and when it stayed, so did Israel.  That is part of what the cloud did.  Yet I never thought that the cloud was also there for protection.  There were millions of people and animals traveling in the scorching heat of the Middle Eastern desert, so the cloud had to protect them from all the elements.

What's more, God sent them manna to eat and water to drink in the desert.  God never had them learn how to exist in the desert by learning desert-survival tactics.  They never made peace with their surroundings. He was able to provide for and protect them in the harshest of conditions and He did it for 40 years. 

Now if God could do that for Israel, what can He do for you and me?  He certainly can't and won't do any less!  So why worry about provision?  God is capable of giving you whatever you need and He knows what you need before you ask.

I did not say that provision wasn't important, for often when I tell people to focus on the idea and not the money, they think I am ignoring their money needs.  I am not.  It's just that I know that provision anxiety can stop anyone in his or her tracks, even a seasoned and creative faith warrior.  You don't have to know who will publish your work or fund your business before you make plans to start and finish either.  You just have to allow the creativity to flow, free from the effects of anxiety.

What could you dream today if provision anxiety didn't butt in?  What plans could you make?  What could you create or begin to create?  I urge you to reflect more on God's ability to provide even in a desert and then apply what you learn to your own situation.  Oops, gotta go.  That idea bird that flew away earlier just came back and this time I want to welcome her along with the creative ideas that she brings. Have a good time creating!

Feel free to respond to these entries on the site where they are posted. 

Perfectionistic Anxiety

Quiz question:  How many ways are there
to receive change for one US dollar bill?

1)  47       2) 293        3) 63        4) 176        5) 117          (answer later)

I have been writing about anxiety and its role in blocking creativity the last few days.  Have you made any progress on identifying where anxiety is hindering you?  Part of my anxiety in creating is that I am a perfectionist.  I want what I do to be good. No, I take that back.  I want what I do to be great.  No, that's not quite right either.  I want what I do to be perfect!  Yes, that's it.  I just don't want the right way; I want the perfect way, the best way in the universe, no the galaxy, no in God's creation.  I think you get the point.

I will wait to start something until I have a reasonable assurance that what I do will be perfect, or I will wait to start until I have a deadline to meet ("It wasn't my fault that it isn't perfect; I didn't have enough time), or I won't ever start at all because I am not sure what the perfect creation would be or how to produce it.

Just this week I have put off writing and doing simple things because I was afraid (no, not shaking in my shoes fear, but just fearful enough) what I would do or write would not be the best.  I put something off until tomorrow just in case there was something I wasn't seeing that would prevent me from doing the perfect thing, whether it be an email, a phone call or the foreword to someone's book. 

Often there is not just one road to a certain destination, there are a few.  Now usually one route is the fastest route and that is one I should always take, correct?  But what if there is a traffic jam on that "quickest" route?  Then the next fastest route becomes the best route to take.  But what if there are toll charges on that second fastest route and I don't have any money for the tolls?  Then I can take the third route because it is still faster then the traffic-snarled first option and cheaper than the second option.  But it's autumn and I want to see the pretty leaves changing colors on the way to my destination and that means I will take the fourth route, which is suddenly better than my other three options.

My point is that perfect is relative.  Sometimes you produce what you can with the time you have and that has to be good enough.  At times, you worked with what you knew at the time and, although less than perfect, you give yourself permission to do "good" work under the conditions.

The answer to the question at the top of the post is number two.  There are 293 ways to make change for a dollar bill.  What's the best way?  It depends on what you need and the available change that someone has to give you in return for your dollar.  I may need four quarters for parking, but someone may only have two quarters and five dimes.  Since there's no one else around to give me change, I don't agonize.  I say, "Give me the two you have.  It's good enough for now."

So is anxiety over the best way to do something got you stuck?  Then you have to talk yourself out of your dilemma by saying, "John, this isn't worth the time you are wasting on it.  Get started and adjust along the way.  You've done this before.  you can do it again."  Or "John, you know you are a perfectionist, so stop sweating the best way in the universe and get started on the best way you know of today."

Don't allow perfectionism to rob you and the world of the joys that your creativity can produce.  Face your fears, your inordinate desire for the perfect whatever, and get started today.  You'll be glad you did and your confidence will grow over time. By the way, anyone got change for a dollar?

More on Anxiety

I am sitting here doing some reading and research for a class project I have due by the end of September.  It is related to my dissertation or D Min project as it is called.  My project will be something that will address what I am calling a theology of productivity and creativity, which will be a program that churches can institute to teach members how to recognize and release their God-given ideas and purpose.

If anyone, including a Christian, is going to creatively produce, he or she must deal with the issue of anxiety, a topic which we began to address yesterday.  I am learning to deal with anxiety that keeps me from expressing my creativity and I see it all the time in many people.  Church people have a new repertoire of excuses that others can't use, excuses like, "I'm praying about it," "God hasn't released me to do that," "It's not God's timing," or "I don't want to get ahead of the Lord."  Some times these expressions may be based in fact, but others times they are a mask for anxiety and fear. 

Yesterday, I quoted from Eric Maisel's book, The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person's Path through Depression.  Let's continue with the excerpt that I began in that last post:

When a creator does this frequently enough and lets his [or her] anxiety about creating stop him [or her] from creating, he [or she] begins to feel like a weak, indecisive person.  It is a very short step to even darker feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness.  The end result of not knowing that he must brave his anxiety is that he ends up completely down on himself. Anxiety bests him and, to make matters worse, he then has to deal with the negative labels he pins on himself.  This classic vicious cycle, where anxiety leads to a battered self-image and a battered self-image makes it harder to brave anxiety, defeats many creators. 

Anxiety can debilitate any creator, even the most strong-willed and self-directing.  A fiercely independent-minded sculptor may mention with a laugh that some friends visited his studio and hated his new work. On the surface, it looks like he's shrugged their comments off.  Three weeks later, he complains of serious blockage.  Doubts about his talent now make him anxious, his anxiety causes him not to sculpt, but the "why" of this is completely unknown to him.  Anxiety has chalked up another victim.

Has anxiety claimed you as a victim?  I don't restrict the effects of anxiety to just the creative arts like writing or painting.  It can hinder your ability to start a business, take a missions trip, teach a class, or go back to school.  You can be so uptight about doing something wrong or doing it poorly that you don't do anything at all and "wait" upon the Lord. 

Anxiety and fear are closely related, if not synonymous, in the creative process.  So dealing with anxiety is like dealing with fear: you must face it to overcome it.  You must admit that you are anxious and identify the reasons why: fear of failure, fear of criticism, ignorance of how to start, not knowing how to finish.  You must not hide behind the Lord and disguise your anxiety as something other than what it is.

I currently have a proposal from my publisher to write a book on top of all the other writing and school work that I am already doing.  My anxiety tells me not to do it; my thinking is that I have done it before and can do it again, with God's help.  So what will I decide?  The ideal would be that someone would step forward and give me a study/writing grant to cover my needs while I create and write.  Whether or not that happens, I have already decided to work on the book while pursuing my studies and continuing my consulting and speaking work.  If I had not been studying anxiety, I'm not sure I would or could have made that decision. 

How does the issue of anxiety apply to your creativity right now?  What has you stuck in a non-productive or non-creative rut?  I urge you to discover what it is and then get going on what you have talked about doing for a short or long time.  Don't let anxiety rob you and the world any longer of the best you that you can be.  If I can help, let me know.


I have been doing a lot of study and reflection on anxiety and the role it plays in procrastination, something I wrote about a few weeks ago.  I was recently reading a book my sister-in-law recommended entitled The Van Gogh Blues: The Creative Person's Path Through Depression.  The author Eric Maisel had this to say about anxiety:

When we perceive a threat, we get queasy, light headed, confused, agitated, fatigued, nervous.  We call these various reactions to a perceived threat by one name: anxiety.  Existence threatens us in a thousand ways and therefore, anxiety is our constant companion. . . . Writing a short story, say, is really only a small threat to our self-esteem since if we do a poor job, we can revise our story or write a better one.  But nature has decided that even these tiny threats must be taken seriously. As soon as we say, "I want to write a short story," waves of anxiety arise to keep us out of harm's way.

The net result is that we do not write the story and do not make any meaning.  Since we are not making meaning, depression strikes. The relationship between anxiety and depression, therefore, is direct and significant.  If existence merely troubled us but didn't rouse so much anxiety in us, if we could hold our painting or composing as hard but not threatening, we would have a far better chance of making meaning and avoiding depression.  If we heard ourselves say, "I don't want to paint because I don't find painting meaningful," we could reply instantly, "The heck with you, insidious thought! I'm off to the studio!" But because the thought is threatening and because Nature hates threats, we are bathed in anxiety and stopped in our tracks. . . .

If you don't write your nonfiction book, which you have every reason to write and which you have been talking about writing for years, it is unlikely that you will call your blockage a phobia and point to anxiety as the culprit. . . . Many of my clients I see complain of procrastination.  Instead of starting off a Sunday turning right into their creative efforts, first they write in their journal, then they read the newspaper, then they have a third cup of coffee, then they head out to the laundromat.  It turns out that they will do almost anything to ward off the anxiety they might feel if they said to themselves, "Time to create!" 

While at work, they tell themselves that they will get to their novel or their symphony as soon as they get home, or after dinner at the latest.  When they get home, they look at the ads that came in that day's mail, make dinner, do the dishes, and watch television until bedtime.  Anxiety steals away their evening.

Sound familiar?  Since I identified anxiety as one of my main creative culprits, I have found it easier to write my school papers, do my research for my dissertation and complete other creative tasks.  I am able to control my self-talk and say, "This is easy for me.  I can do this in no time at all.  It doesn't have to be perfect, but it will be the best I can produce!" 

What about you?  What role is anxiety playing in your lack of productivity and creativity?  What are you prepared to do about it?  More on anxiety later.  You have enough to think about based on what I wrote above. 

School Days

Last Monday, I started my second round of classes at Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary.  This week I am in a Leadership Communication class with Dr. Calvin Troup, who teaches at Duquesne University, my alma mater.  Dr. Troup is the head of the rhetoric department at Duquesne and we have been studying Augustine and a host of other authors in class, which runs from 8 AM to 4:30 through Saturday.  Next week I am in Dr. Dennis Prutow's Old Testament in the New class for another week.

There are eight classes to take for this D Min program and after next week, I will have four completed.  Well, I won't quite be finished with these latest classes, for we have assignments that are due no later than January 31, 2009!  Then we have two more classes next February and two next June.

As you can imagine, these classes have consumed a lot of time for reading, writing and class lectures.  I try to stay focused and take it all one day at a time, although I did have to get up this morning at 4:30 AM to take a call from England.  I do what you can when I can, and can't expect any more from myself than that.

I have submitted a rough proposal for my doctoral project, which will focus on a Theology of Creativity and Productivity for the Local Church.  In other words, I want to inspire churches to challenge their members to reach out to all of society in purpose and then provide a curriculum and program that a church can use to do just that.  I still have to refine the concept, but the school has approved the concept. 

So what are you doing with your days lately?  Are you happy with what you are doing?  What more can you do?  Remember, you have all the time in the world -- twenty-four hours every day.  What sets you apart from everyone else is what you do with those hours.  I hope you use them well.