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Dear John

Breaking up is never easy. But I’ve made the difficult decision to stop blogging. Before you get offended or start trying to talk me out of it, please hear me out. And I’ve made some other decisions that will affect some of you, but I also have some new options available for those who are truly interested.

When Traditional Wisdom Doesn’t Work

First of all, there’s a lot of pressure to be a blogger if you’re a writer. For one thing, it’s like a showcase for your writing to prospective editors. It demonstrates quality and the ability to maintain a habit of writing, perhaps even a schedule. It’s also supposed to help you build an audience. Last fall, I took some classes to learn how to be a better blogger. I quit my personal blog and started a ministry blog in January. The stuff I learned really does work. In the first weeks of this blog my stats have skyrocketed, so it’s not that the blog isn’t working.

One of my creative colleagues recently commented that I have a huge advantage over the other bloggers because I have a product (books) and many of them don’t. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately. You see, the focus of blogging tends to be on gaining an audience. If you accrue an audience, maybe you can land a book deal. That’s the traditional logic. But I’ve never been successful at getting my blog readers interested in my books. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I have inadvertently created two audiences: a blog audience and a book audience.

I’ve been working to gather new readers on my blog, but they are not interested in my books or anything else, they just want me to keep feeding them blog content on a regular basis. On the other hand, I have people who read my books and search me out on the Internet, but they land on www.ChristyBower.com instead of my blog. Unfortunately, I have neglected that site, leaving it as a static page for the past year. It doesn’t make sense that I’m trying to woo readers who aren’t interested in my books and ignoring those who already enjoy my books and want to read more. By following traditional wisdom, I’ve been doing it all backwards!

A New, Improved Website

So, from here on out, I’m going to focus my love and attention on my readers at www.ChristyBower.com. As part of my renewed commitment to that site, I just redesigned it from the ground, up. Every page was deleted and rebuilt in a new style, with fresh, new content. So please check it out. Although that site is not set up as a blog, I’m going to post a new article on the front page at least once a month—much like my blog posts, but less often.

The Grape Vine

Then, for those of you who want more, I have set up an email newsletter called The Grape Vine. It will give me the opportunity to share on a more personal level with those who genuinely care about my ministry. I’ll send out The Grape Vine once a month, or whenever I have breaking news, and it will contain an article on spiritual growth, an insider’s look at my writing projects in progress, and any upcoming events or prayer requests. This will also give you the ability to respond to my emails directly and privately, unlike public comments on a blog.

You can sign up for The Grape Vine here.

Facebook

The other big announcement that will affect some of you is that I’m going to phase out my use of Facebook and close my page by June 1 (if not sooner). I have always been frustrated with Facebook but it was another one of those things that traditional wisdom said an author should do to cultivate a following. I don’t see how that will ever happen.

I liken Facebook to a football stadium full of closed doors. You know there are people behind those doors, but you can’t communicate with them. I cannot go out and connect with Facebook users, they have to come to me (a professional page works different from a personal profile). And then, the only ones who might see my content and get interested in my page are those who are friends of my followers.

Facebook is like talking to a wall (literally). I cannot interact with you unless you interact with me (unlike your personal profile) so there is no way I will ever get to know you. Out of 65 followers I can count on one hand the number of users who interact with me. I’m calling it quits so I can focus my time on a more effective means of communication.

But remember, if you are disappointed that I will not be on Facebook, you can sign up for my email list and stay in touch that way—I’m actually offering you a deeper and more meaningful way to connect with me. Or, you can join me on Twitter.

Twitter

If you’re not on Twitter, you’re missing out. And that’s from a person who used to make fun of Twitter users as “Tweety Birds.” If Facebook is a stadium full of closed doors, Twitter is a stadium-sized food court with people milling around. You can jump into any conversation, with anyone, at any time. You don’t need to get permission and you aren’t limited to a friend-of-a-friend, so to speak. It’s two-way communication; there is no wall.

I have built friendships with people all around the globe because of Twitter (and I only started last October). I have asked questions that I really needed to know and had users pop up with the answer right away. If they don’t know, they will pass on the question and someone else will respond. It’s a generous community, really. And since I’m typically up until 2am (maybe even 3 or 4am), I often communicate in real time with people on the other side of the globe.

If you really want to get to know me, follow me on Twitter. My user name is @christybower.

The End Result

Something’s got to give. I’ve been knocking myself out producing three blog posts a week. That takes a lot of time. And I feel like I need to be spending that time producing books and other time-consuming projects. If you hop on over to www.ChristyBower.com you’ll see my first mention of a couple of those projects, including a Bible study series and new eCourses. Breaking up is difficult, but this is all for the better, I promise. It opens up a new way for us to relate on The Grape Vine and it frees my time for the projects that matter most. As always, I’d love to hear from you.

Photo purchased to support artists. © iStockphoto.com / Aleksandar Petrovic

VIDEO: How to Write Your Personal Vision Statement

This is adapted from my free eBook, Mapping Your Future: Discovering God’s Unique Purpose for Your Life.

How to Write Your Personal Vision Statement

Vision is the ability to see the future God desires for you, in clear, concrete terms that you can put into action. But I’m not going to send you out into the woods alone for some sort of vision quest. Nor am I going to induce a trance-like state and hope that you will be taken up into the heavens for an apocalyptic vision like Ezekiel or John.

When I talk about creating a vision statement, I’m talking about a concise, concrete action plan that will encourage, motivate, and guide your steps toward achieving God’s purpose for your life. A vision statement, like a GPS, provides direction.

Assess Your Findings

By this point you may already sense your purpose and what you should do, but let’s review your personal map and develop an action plan. Go back through your workbook and gather your findings into the next few pages for easy reference (see workbook).

Brainstorm about What God Might Be Leading You to Do

Pray about what God might be leading you to do. Then tackle these questions to spur your thoughts.

  • If you knew that you could not fail, what would you do, in your lifetime, for the glory of God?
  • What do you feel God is calling you to accomplish in the next five years for his glory?

God has used a variety of influences to create a passion in you to accomplish his purpose through your life. Your personal vision statement answers the question: What do you feel God is calling you to accomplish in the next five years for his glory? A vision statement will need to be reviewed and adjusted every few years as God nudges you toward new ministry challenges. But now, at this point in your life, what do you think God wants you to do?

Commit to Your Vision Statement

Many of you will not finish this step because writing a vision statement means you have to do something about it.

Spend time refining your vision statement into one sentence that reflects your passion for what God wants to do through you in the next five years. Use the space below to write several drafts and then write your final draft on the next page—COMMIT TO IT!

Are These Deterrents Keeping You from Fulfilling Your Passion and Purpose in Life?

We have a fascination with superheroes because underneath a seemingly ordinary person lies an extraordinary person capable of truly amazing things. We all want to believe–and we wish everyone knew–that there is more to us than meets the eye. We get stuck in the ordinary, but we long to show the world our true greatness.

We may start out believing in the impossible, aiming to fulfill the super-sized plans we have for our lives. But somewhere along the line, life happens. We get distracted, disappointed, or discouraged. When that happens, we fail to achieve (or at least strive for) our true greatness. It’s not enough to know our passion and purpose in life; we have to overcome great obstacles to achieve it–like a superhero. So what’s holding you back?

Discouragement

Perhaps, at some point, you shared your passion, expecting support from important people in your life only to find that they were less than encouraging. People who do not share your passion will often pick it apart with reasons like “it won’t work.” Others may say “that’s impossible” or that “you’re not being realistic.” When combined with our own self-doubts, this lack of validation can be paralyzing.

If you know you have a passion for something, suppressing it can be painful and depressing. Regardless of the lack of support from others, if you have prayed and are certain of God’s purpose for your life, then you can move forward in faith.

Disappointment

Maybe you tried pursuing your passion once and things didn’t work out as you had hoped. We mistakenly assume that if something didn’t work, we have failed. Rather, we just learned something that will help us as we move forward.

Disappointment can cause us to give up on pursuing our passion. Don’t give up; give it to God. And then try again.

Distraction

Perhaps you know what your passion is, but you have gotten sidetracked for any number of reasons. Whatever the “excuse,” the reason is simply that you haven’t made pursuing your passion a number one priority.

Do whatever you need to do:

  • Release outside commitments (these typically reflect the passions of others, not yours).
  • Set boundaries with family and friends.
  • Turn off the television and unplug your Internet.

Please share in the comments what things have been keeping you from fulfilling your passion and purpose in life. What do you think you can do to overcome those things?

Photo © iStockphoto.com / Karen Mower

VIDEO: God’s Signpost – Your Target or Passion

This is adapted from my free eBook, Mapping Your Future: Discovering God’s Unique Purpose for Your Life.

Target

Your target might be described as your passion; your heart’s desire; your burden; your calling; your dream; or your personal vision. Regardless of the choice of words, your target is your desire to make a difference in a specific way.

If you don’t know what your passion is, you are like a ship adrift at sea, blown by the changing winds of the passions of others. People will urge you—by their enthusiasm or by pressure—to follow their dreams. Wouldn’t you rather pursue your own dreams?

It’s time to define your own God-given passion in life. In marketing, the marketer defines a target audience for a product or service. God designed a target for your service.

You may have a spiritual gift of teaching, but your passion will determine the target for your teaching. Do you have a passion for children? Or youth? Or adults? Or seniors? Or maybe you have a passion for one-on-one discipleship. Or maybe you use your gift of teaching through writing or other creative arts. Your passion may be an activity, group, cause, or person.

Defining your passion is important to understanding God’s direction for your life.

Identify Your Passion

I began this workbook by helping you write a biblical purpose statement. Your passion, once clearly defined, will support and fulfill your biblical purpose in some way. To help you define your passion, consider these questions (see workbook).

You’ve identified a number of things related to your passion. Now let’s get to the heart of the matter.

In what area would you like to make a difference?

What would you do if you had the time, freedom, money, etc.?

Complete the following statement: I have a passion for/to…

VIDEO: Discover Your Direction at God’s Signpost of Training

This is an excerpt from my free eBook, Mapping Your Future: Discovering God’s Unique Purpose for Your Life.

Training

God uniquely tailored a training program for your life to prepare you for the purpose he has for you. Training includes your education, experience, skills, expertise, majors, degrees, and other specialized training. Your combination of experiences differs from any other. God will use these things in your future, so they are important clues to the direction God has planned for you. While these might seem like the mundane aspects of life, remember: God placed these experiences in your life and God doesn’t make mistakes.

People pursue additional training for two reasons:

  1. They have a natural talent or “bent” toward something and want to learn more.
  2. They seek training to fill a gap in knowledge in an area that they lack talent.

Keep this in mind when evaluating your training and experience. Look for areas in which you enjoyed the training and experience. This will point toward your target or passion, which we will discuss in the next section.

How to Create a Treasure Map That Your Heart Will Follow

Arrrr, Matey. Look what crawled out of the bunk. It’s me and I’m feeling piratey today. I’ve got me treasure under the bunk, but I’m looking for where to put it. Where be yer hiding place? Where be yer treasure? Today’s pirate lesson: where be yer treasure, thar be yer heart.

“Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where they can be eaten by moths and get rusty, and where thieves break in and steal. Store your treasures in heaven, where they will never become moth-eaten or rusty and where they will be safe from thieves. Wherever your treasure is, there your heart and thoughts will also be” (Matthew 6:19-21, NLT).

Follow the Money

X marks the spot on a treasure map. The quickest way to discover what someone cares about is to look at how that person spends his or her money. Money spent on clothes? She cares about how she looks. Money spent on entertainment? He cares about personal leisure. How you spend your money demonstrates what you care about.

If you’re like me and you’ve made some mistakes, you might be ready to change. Here are three steps to creating a treasure map that your heart will follow to things of eternal significance.

Step 1: Stop Wasting Your Money on Temporary Things

You can buy all kinds of things to satisfy your needs and desires in various ways, but they won’t last. They will get broken, fall apart, or rust. They could get stolen and they would certainly get destroyed in a fire. And yet we continue to pour our money into such trivial things hoping that they will bring us happiness. What a waste!

Step 2: Move the Money and Your Heart Will Follow

Put the X on a new spot and put your money there. I guarantee that your heart will follow. If you want to have a heart for missions, start giving to missions. Soon you will perk up with interest every time someone mentions missions. If you’re supporting a missionary in Egypt, you’ll perk up every time Egypt makes the news. Likewise, if you want to have a heart for God’s church, start giving to the church. If you want to have a heart for the poor, children, orphans, youth, or the elderly, give to support those groups and your heart will go out to them even more.

Step 3: Invest in Things with Eternal Value

So, how do you store your treasures in heaven? As they say, “you can’t take it with you, but you can send it on ahead.” You store your treasures in heaven by using your money now to further the kingdom of God. If you spend your money on things with eternal value, you will have treasure in heaven. That’s a retirement investment that I’ll put my money in!

The choice is yours: will you spend your money on things that will perish or on things that will last for all eternity? Where be yer treasure, maties?

Ye scurvy dogs, I’ll be swabbing the decks with yer head if you don’t leave a decent comment. Well, maybe not, but it sounded piratey.

Photo purchased to support artists. © iStockphoto.com / Jeremiah Tolbert

Tuesday Testimonies: Has God Blessed Your Socks Off?

God has blessed my socks off this week! I’m running out of socks here.

Occasionally even a writer runs out of words but let me try: flabbergasted, befuddled, dumbfounded, flummoxed. That’s how I felt this week when I found out that my book, Devotion Explosion, is now in its fourth printing. God is at work here. He’s using Devotion Explosion in an ever-increasing number of lives…changing lives, drawing people closer to Him. Now that’s a God-sighting!

How Has God Blessed Your Socks Off This Week?

Now it’s your turn to share. Leave a comment with your testimony so others can praise God with you! We all benefit by hearing how God is at work in the lives of others. Tell us how God blessed your socks off this week!

Photo purchased to support artists. © iStockphoto.com / PeskyMonkey

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