Chickening IN: From Fear to Courageous Faith, with JJ Gutierrez

Chickening IN: From Fear to Courageous Faith, with JJ Gutierrez

Sometimes a single word or phrase has the power to change the course of our lives, and “Chickening IN” is that word for JJ Gutierrez. This little twist on a familiar phrase launched JJ into a transformational journey from fear to faith. Her book, Chickening IN: From Fear to Courageous Faith, 8 Pillars of Transformation, is a practical guide to defeating fear and doubt. I spoke with JJ in February, but her message is especially needed today.

JJ says, “We all have fear. But some of us have a lifestyle of fear.”

Chickening IN represents a lifestyle shift. It’s the transformation that takes place when we face our fear and confront it with the truth. In JJ’s case, a simple comment from her daughter was the catalyst for life-changing action. And it gave her a word to share, to help bring this lifestyle change to us. During our conversation, JJ shared her own story of “chickening in”, the eight pillars of transformation, the ways fear lies to us, and examples of how people in the Bible experienced and overcame fear.

As she walked her own journey out of a lifestyle of fear, JJ developed the eight pillars of transformation. These are practical steps to overcome fear.

The 8 Pillars of Transformation

  • Facing Fear
  • Stepping-up to the Plate of your Life
  • Taking Calculated Risks
  • Traveling Unknown Roads
  • Embracing your Uniqueness 
  • Pursuing your Dreams
  • Doing it Afraid
  • Faith the Difference Maker 

In her new book, Chickening IN: From Fear to Courageous Faith, 8 Pillars of Transformation, JJ goes through all of the pillars. In our interview, she went into depth with the first—facing fear.

Internal Conversations with Fear

There is such a thing as healthy fear. That’s the fear that keeps us from touching a hot stove or running out into the highway. Fear’s rightful role is to alert us to real danger. However, fear can also become a lifestyle, where the conversations in our minds make unlikely worst case outcomes seem like certainties. Fear lies. Fear exaggerates the negative possibilities and undervalues the positive. In the interview, JJ goes over the different types of lies fear tells us.

Your fear knows exactly what buttons to push.

JJ Gutierrez

JJ says the voice of fear seems to know just what buttons to push to send us into a spiral. “It knows exactly what to tell you, and it’s very personal.” It can be subtle, nudging us to “small” lies, or step back when we really want to step up, or plunging us into worry and worst-case scenarios. That’s when we get wrapped up in fearful thoughts and “what ifs” that make the frightening things seem inevitable. Once we’re caught up in the spiral, it’s hard to see what to do or which way to turn. But there is a way to change the conversation.

Learning How to Change the Conversation

The key to changing the conversation with fear is inviting God into the conversation. ” Instead of having a conversation with fear,” JJ says, “we want to turn that conversation to having a conversation with God. And that is the key. That’s the key differentiator.” Allow God to speak truth to the fear, because most of the fear that holds us back is built on lies.

JJ gave the example of three friends. One has a negative impact on you. Another has a positive impact on you. And another has a neutral impact, or no real impact either way. As we bring our fear to God, it goes from being negative to being neutralized. That time with God, conversing with Him, grows our faith, and that impacts us on the positive side. That shift, JJ says, can cause us to move forward “So that we can make decisions that will lead us to start overcoming that fear.”

Faith is being able to say, “God, I am terrified.”

JJ Gutierrez

Overcoming fear is a process. One step follows another, with small, sometimes imperceptible forward movement. That first step of faith, saying “God, I’m terrified,” invites Him into the conversation. As He speaks truth, we are able to take those practical steps we need to take.

How many times have you “chickened out”? Chickening IN is an invitation to a lifestyle of courage and faith.


JJ Gutierrez, Courage Challenger and Mentor –
Get the book (affiliate link): Chickening IN: From Fear to Courageous Faith, 8 Pillars of Transformation
Find JJ on Instagram and Facebook

The Power of Lament

The Power of Lament

All last month we talked about calling and purpose. But what happens when things don’t go as planned? What happens when you get bad news? When everything falls apart?

The Bible gives us plenty of examples; an incredibly powerful way to deal with suffering, called a lament. Lament is a powerful form of worship. It’s both an expression of grief or anguish, and a cry of hope. 

I was at a conference several years ago during a particularly difficult time. I was holding on to the promises of God, but I didn’t see anything happening. I was rooming with a good friend, and she had stepped out for a bit. While she was gone I had it out with God. I started praying, and came to a point where I was letting out all of my sadness and frustration. My friend walked in while I was yelling/praying and she turned right back around and left. I asked her later why she left. She said, “I’ve never heard anyone talk to God like that!” We joked about having a bolt of lightning strike at a prayer like that, but I figured, God knows what I’m thinking anyway. He knows my doubts, my fears – He already knows I’m dealing with all this stuff, so why not say it? Why not put it out there and ask Him about it?

“My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” You know who said that? Jesus, on the cross. He was quoting David, Psalm 22 – which says “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?” (Psalm 22:1, NIV)

So there it is. If it’s good for Jesus, (and David) I suppose it’s good for me, too. More than one third of the Psalms are laments.  And then of course there’s Job, and an entire book called Lamentations. Habakkuk. And more.

So why am I talking about lament on this podcast? I’m supposed to be encouraging. Find your voice, tell your story, change the world and all that. But the truth is we get stuck sometimes. The voice gets stuck at the back of the throat. There’s no strength to push this dream on anymore. The world is too big to change, and the burdens too heavy to carry. But take heart. You weren’t meant to carry these things alone. 

This is why I go to lament during those really hard times. It’s such a reminder that I’m not alone. The greatest thing to me about lament is God hears our cries. And He does not condemn us for it.

Grief is a part of life. And it’s a journey that takes time. There is power in naming what has been lost. Lament gives us a place to name our losses. To put words to our pain. Or groaning, or wailing  – it’s all there.

As a culture, we’re uncomfortable with suffering. We mean well. But our attempts to alleviate suffering with platitudes can ring shallow, even hurtful. There are times when there truly is nothing to say, except perhaps – I’m here. You are not alone.  And that’s what God does. He is with us, and He’s not going to offer up a quote he saw on instagram, he’s not going to change the subject or walk away. Even when he’s silent – he’s still there.

“The time when there is nothing at all in your soul except a cry for help may be just that time when God can’t give it: you are like the drowning man who can’t be helped because he clutches and grabs. Perhaps your own reiterated cries deafen you to the voice you hoped to hear.”

– C.S. Lewis

“Every lament is a prayer; a statement of faith” and “You might think lament is the opposite of praise. It isn’t. Instead, lament is a path to praise as we are led through our brokenness and disappointment. The space between brokenness and God’s mercy is where this song is sung. Think of lament as the transition between pain and promise. It is the path from heartbreak to hope.”

– Mark Vroegop
Think of lament as the transition between pain and promise - quote from Mark Vroegop

A Pattern for Lament:

  • Addressing God
  • Review of God’s faithfulness in the past. 
  • Complaint 
  • Confession of sin or of innocence
  • Request 
  • Expression of trust/praise

Lament is not a denial of faith. It is not a sign of weak faith. Rather, it is a way of reaching out  to God. In actually signals we trust God with our deepest questions and our most painful and raw emotions. It is a form of worship. And when someone near us is suffering, we can come and sit beside them. We can join them in the lament. Mourn with those who mourn (Romans 12:15).  It is an act of love.


A Grief Observed by C.S. Lewis
Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament by Mark Vroegop
This Too Shall Last – a new podcast and book by KJ Ramsey

Disclosure: Links may be affiliate links, which means I get a small percentage of any purchase you make at no extra cost to you. Thank you.

You may also like:  Hard Stories: Writing for Yourself
Living for the Audience of One

Living for the Audience of One

What does it mean to live for an audience of one? Part two of my look at The Call by Os Guinness.

In “Episode 31 – What does it mean to be called?” we looked at the first part of Os Guinness’ book, The Call: Finding and Fulfilling God’s Purpose For Your Life. The main point is there is not calling without a caller, and that caller is God. It follows naturally that if the One who calls us is God, then we should live in a way that honors Him above all else.

“A life lived listening to the decisive call of God is a life lived before one audience that trumps all others—the Audience of One.”

Os Guinness, The Call

Have you ever been in a conversation and added a comment that seemed innocent at the time, but later you felt convicted about it? I’ve done it more than a few times. I’ll drop a little comment in, and later think, “Why did I say that?” Maybe I felt insecure in that moment and needed to let the others know that I’m special, too.

And what about defending ourselves? Especially when we feel we’ve been unjustly accused or insulted. There’s a need to save face, to defend ourselves, and maybe even to belittle the other person. It’s easy enough on social media. I can find a source somewhere to back up my side of the story, and it often provides an added swipe or two at the opposition. Right or wrong, the flavor and intensity of my response may indicate my focus has shifted away from the Caller.

Audience of One

One danger in today’s world is that we are so connected and easily distracted. And at the same time we are more anonymous than ever. No longer tied to each other in physical community, our personal relationships are often based on what we choose to show to others, not what they see of us in real time, in real life. This can be a great temptation, as we can do or see whatever we want because we can’t be seen or held accountable. Who’s watching? Who will know? The message today seems we can do whatever we want.

Remember Joseph in the bible? His brothers sold him and he became a slave in Egypt. Then, God gave him favor and he was promoted until he was in charge of Potiphar’s household. Joseph was handsome, and Potiphor’s wife made advances. This was a woman used to getting whatever she wanted, yet Joseph refused. But what did he say? Listen to his words.

“No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?”

Joseph, Genesis 39:9

Joseph is responsible for Potiphar’s household. He’s been trusted with everything. But he says “How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” Joseph’s audience is God. He lives for God. He carries his responsibilities in a way that honors God. He respects Potiphar, but he understands if he does what this woman wants, it’s God he must answer to.

And what happens? The woman lies; she falsely accuses Joseph and Potiphar throws him in prison. That’s in Genesis 39, if you want to read it. But you can see Joseph’s mindset. He knew who his audience was. The audience of One.

Conceit and Pride

One of the refreshing things about The Call is that Guinness addresses the distortions and dangers of calling. The reverse side of calling, he says, is conceit. Truth can be distorted, and the most effective lie begins with a sliver of truth.

The closeness between calling and conceit is easy to see. After all, to be called is to hear God whisper three things to you in a hundred intimate ways—“You are chosen; you are gifted; you are special.” Let those three things sink in for longer than the first precious moments and you will inevitably hear another voice, honeyed and smooth: “Yes, you really are chosen . . . gifted . . . special.”

Os Guinness, The Call

If we let that second, subversive whisper take hold, we elevate and deceive ourselves. Above others, and even above God, the very One who calls us. This conceit isn’t limited to individuals. Groups and even nations can follow this distorted, malicious whisper. It is the very nobility of calling, Guinness says that makes us vulnerable to pride: “The twisting of our highest aspirations will be twice as evil as the twisting of our lowest.”

The twisting of our highest aspirations will be twice as evil as the twisting of our lowest. - Os Guinness, The Call

Again, we who are called are vulnerable to pride even as we claim the audience of one. Why? Because the audience of one is not God, but ourselves! It is possible to think so highly of ourselves that we look down on others so that we do not care what they think. If the Audience of One is us, we’re in a dangerous place.

The Remedy

What is the remedy for pride? It is grace. When we understand, through grace – that we are called only because of God’s grace. It is not something we’ve earned or purchased for ourselves. We are unable to call ourselves. God does it, It is by his grace alone. When we understand that – not only in the head but also in the heart – then we know enough to be on guard.

When our focus is on the crowd, the Caller’s face gets hard to see. His voice can be drowned out in the melee. Not only when we get caught up in disagreements, but also when we perform. How much time and energy do we spend churning out memes and polls and quotes and questions, merely out of fear our social feed will fall into oblivion? Who is this performance for? We can look to Jesus for the answer– he went off by himself and called his disciples to come away from the crowds for times of rest and quiet instruction. In our busy lives, are we too important to step away for awhile and meet with the one who calls us? To seek His face and wonder at His majesty? To let Him teach us how to be what He has called us to be?

Action Steps

  1. Read Matthew 6:1-4. Why does Jesus require that our good deeds be done in secret? 
  2. Let’s take time each day to offer our callings back to God. If we allow Him time and space to examine our heart’s motives, we’ll be less vulnerable to the subtle changes that lead us off course. 

Did you get Part One? What Does it Mean to be Called?

Thrive Without Striving – Interview with Matt Ham

Thrive Without Striving – Interview with Matt Ham

Matt Ham left a 10 year career in insurance sales to start YouPrint, a faith and personal development organization, and its nonprofit initiative called the Life Center. In this interview, Matt offers perspective on how we can thrive without striving.

“Unfortunately we place our own understanding and expectations on how things should work out and it never works out that way. One of the greatest mistakes that we make is limiting God by our own understanding.”

YouPrint is positioned as executive coaching, mentoring, community, and discipleship between Sundays. The philanthropic side of The Life Center is about removing obstacles, with the message “God loves you and he cares about you and he desires genuine relationship with you. And He created you for such a time as this. And we’re here to walk with you.”

“The Life Center is actually going to be a campus style facility where it will literally be a launch pad for entrepreneurial kingdom minded endeavors. It’s a vision from the Lord that we are faithfully following out.”

The Desires of Your Heart

God gives to you from His Spirit, and your heart is where those desires dwell. “It’s like seeds of his genius that he planted in your heart. And you feel them or perceive them through your desires…He says, I will give you the desires of your heart in exchange for your will. You give me your will. And I will give you the desires of your heart. That’s it. That’s the offer. That’s the offer of faith. Delight yourself in the Lord. What does that mean? That means surrender your will. Yield to him. Trust in him. Abide in him. You know, it’s all throughout scripture. Who did this the best? Jesus.”

“What are you busy with doing in your life? Are you busy with protecting and building your own reputation, or are you more concerned and busy with living underneath the reputation of God and his provision and his literal desires to give you the desires of your heart so that you can change the world for his glory? That’s why we do what we do.”

Matt Ham

Investing in People

“People are the best investment that you can make. Period. Investing in people is the best investment that you can make.” Just as Jesus encountered each person in a different way, so must we. What are the gifts God has placed inside that person? Can we see the potential and not just the circumstance?

“The church is the body of believers. That is not confined to Sundays. It’s not confined to buildings.” That includes entrepreneurism. God has called people into business and into all kinds of roles in society. “We need a people who are infused into those cultures and become literally evangelists in those pockets…God will clarify the call as you yield and surrender to him…The process of discipleship is to get people to that place because that is the most effective way to spread the kingdom.”

But How?

Matt says we come to that place of knowing who we really are, and fulfilling our purpose starts with a posture of rest. “It starts with stillness. We’re not very good at that. ‘Come to me, all you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.’ The offer of Jesus first is rest.”

  • Get to a place of rest and stillness.
  • Magnify and elevate the glory of God. Learn to praise Him.
  • Take a posture of thankfulness.
  • Then be quiet and meditate and listen back to what he’s saying. You hear that and see that through his word, the Bible.

“The life that God has created you to live is literally waiting on the other side of your capacity to be ready, be at rest, yield and surrender your will and listen to where the spirit leads and follow that. And that is what is anointed and blessed.”

Matt Ham

Connect with Matt:

What Does it Mean to be Called?

What Does it Mean to be Called?

Today on the show, I want to give you a small taste of Os Guinness’ book, The Call

While many other books will give you tactics and tools to discover your calling, or to focus your vision, and so on – I want to start with The Call because it gives us a foundation, which I think most of us understand is absolutely essential before you build anything that’s going to last.

I’m definitely not going to cover everything the author has packed in here, so I recommend you get the book and read it for yourself. 

The Call is not a recipe book. By that I mean it’s not a plan-you-life by following these 5 or ten or twelve steps to whatever book. Rather, it is an invitation to examine calling, what calling is and what it is not, and the dangers of the distortions of calling. 

What is Calling?

A quick trip to the dictionary offers these definitions:

  1. the act of a person or thing that calls.
  2. a call or summons
  3. a strong impulse or inclination
  4. a convocation (like a meeting)

The origin of our word for the vocal meaning of “calling” has its origins in the Old English “hildecalla” which means “battle cry.”  Calling also shares roots with the Latin word for “glory” – ”gloria” – and this is where the vocational meaning of calling, the one associated with purpose and meaning comes from. 

The idea of calling and vocation is important to us because it affects our personal identity, humanness, and significance. 

The main idea for The Call is that there is no calling without a Caller. As Guinness says, “If there is no Caller, there are no callings—only work.”

Here is how the Guinness defines Calling: 

“Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion and dynamism lived out as a response to his summons and service.”

Os Guinness, The Call

We are called by someone, to someone, and for someone. And that someone–the One who calls us– is Christ. This is our primary calling.

That which we see as a vocational or occupational calling – those things we do in response to the primary call, are the secondary callings.

Calling, when it is seen as a response to God‘s call, requires us to stand up as in the image of God not only in the exceptional moments when people are watching, but also in the quiet, the mundane, and in the hidden places of our lives. We are called not only into an occupation, but to life itself. And that life transcends our own frame of reference, and reaches beyond our understanding. 

“God’s call is God’s word to each of us, powerful, precious, and deeply personal.” he goes on to say “Our calling is the sphere of our responsibility. But we are not responsible to our calling. We are responsible to God, and our calling is where we exercise that responsibility.”

Os Guinness, The Call

My interpretation of Guinness’ point is this – that our primary calling is to follow Christ. Our secondary calling is the way in which we exercise the responsibility He gives us to act and  influence within the sphere of our responsibility. Every part of that secondary calling is saturated with the primary calling. The two are intertwined. If I pursue my secondary calling in a way that is inconsistent with the primary calling, then I have missed the point. 

Distortions of Calling

Guinness points out two distortions to calling, The “Catholic Distortion” so named for the time when it first gained traction – this distortion elevates the spiritual over the secular. Think about the sacred life of monks versus the mundane lives of those outside the church.

Then there is the “Protestant distortion” which elevates secular over spiritual so that work becomes the thing we serve. Consider the term “full-time Christian service” – is someone who practices their calling outside of what we consider ministry work, or work within the church or a para church organization then not practicing their primary calling? Not at all! But our language gives away what we truly believe. 

Then there is the term “vocational calling” which – remember our definitions – means “calling calling.” So what we mean by “vocational calling” is actually “occupation” or work, and before we know it we’ve separated that area of our lives from our primary calling.

Consider these distortions as evident in the myriad of personality tests, gifts inventories and so on. Think about such tests you may have encountered in the workplace or as part of a self improvement program. The results can be useful to find what our natural tendencies are, but they are largely too broad and don’t really consider specific individual gifts. 

Now think about such a test you might encounter at church. These tend to focus on spiritual gifts, and ignore natural gifts. Often, it seems these tests are geared toward filling up volunteer positions within the church, separating them from life outside the church. 

Other gifts assessments combine the two, but, in Guinness’ words, “they divorce the discovery of giftedness from the worship and listening that is essential to calling”

God's Call

Four Key Distinctions

If we are not careful, the two great distortions take hold. The key, according to Guinness, is to balance giftedness with stewardship. How do we do that? Guinness offers four distinctions – four areas where we must carefully watch the way in which we view calling.

First, we should remember the distinction between individual or particular calling and general or corporate calling. If I elevate my personal calling and giftedness about that of the community, then it’s a sign I have gotten my secondary and primary callings mixed up. 

Then there is the distinction between a special calling and original or ordinary calling. By this the author means we are all called, but there may also be a specific, supernatural and direct calling from God. Everyone has an original or ordinary call. Not everyone has a special call. The ordinary calling is not a “lesser” calling.  

And we can inordinately elevate either the special call or the ordinary call. In one case, everything is treated as supernatural and nothing as ordinary. Not to say we don’t live with a sense of awe and wonder. But there is a real danger if we think we need a special call before we can do anything, because if we wait and ignore the ordinary call, then our gifts and talents remain unused. 

Think about social media and the many opportunities we have for comparing ourselves with others. It’s so easy to fall into the comparison trap and to believe that whatever calling or gifts we have are somehow inferior—or superior. Either of these is destructive. 

The third distinction is between something being central to our calling and something being peripheral. Importantly, we must remember calling is central to the whole of our lives. So it is not only what we do and who we are; it also includes our relationships, and a fallen world.

Guinness says: 

If there had been no Fall, all our work would have naturally and fully expressed who we are and exercised the gifts we have been given. But after the Fall this is not so. Work is now partly creative and partly cursed. Thus to find work that perfectly fits our callings is not a right, but a blessing.

Os Guinness, The Call

I wanted to highlight this because it’s easy to fall into the platitudes and the tactics and the pathways that we pass around on social media. It’s easy to find ourselves in these echo chambers where everybody’s “crushing it” and we can chase after gurus and get caught up in the next big thing. It’s like binge dieting for our minds, consuming content out of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), and it’s not healthy. 

It is possible to nail it – to know your calling and pursue it with excellence, and still not see it come to fruition yourself. I’ll refer to Hebrews 11. We love the first part where the dead are raised and blessings flow, but what about the last verses of that chapter? The ones that come after “There were others who…” and “By the same faith…”  I’ll let you look that up.

Finally, there is the distinction between the clarity of calling and the mystery of calling. As Guinness writes, “What may be clear to us in our twenties may be far more mysterious in our fifties because God’s complete designs for us are never fully understood, let alone fulfilled, in this life.”

I’m on the older end of this one. And I know if I had known at the start what I know now, I may have been too frightened to take the first step. But I’m glad I did. 


Set aside some time over the next few days to sit alone and present yourself and your gifts, your talents and your tendencies to God. 

There’s a song that says “Here’s my heart, Lord–speak what is true.” It makes a wonderful prayer.

Somewhere in that quiet place and in that surrender, may the God who created you speak truth about who you are and who He created you to be. 

Let’s hear from you

What are some books you’ve read about calling and purpose? What stuck with you or helped you–and why? Record a short voice memo one minute or less-and let us know. Email the audio to – we might play it on a future episode. Or, you can write your answer in a simple email message.  Either way, I’d love to hear YOUR recommendations.

Part Two – Ep. 33 – Living for the Audience of One

022: Tami Romani – Brand Voice Strategist

022: Tami Romani – Brand Voice Strategist

People will judge you almost immediately by what comes across in the sound of your voice. Voice brand strategist Tami Romani shares tips to improve your voice.

In this show we are literally talking about finding your voice. Chances are you’ve heard Tami Romani’s voice in commercials or perhaps on an audio book. Now Tami shares her experience with us in her role as a brand voice strategist and business communication consultant.

UPDATE: At the time of this recording, the show was called The Your Voice Podcast. Since this recording, Kay has rebranded to Life and Mission.

How to Improve Your Voice

[00:03:57] Vocal pet peeves

[00:08:02] The physicality of your voice. Tami shared some practical exercises you can do today to improve your voice.

  • Awareness is the first step, so you’ll need to listen to a recording of yourself speaking. Which of the vocal pet peeves are you guilty of?
  • Breathing – Take a normal breath and exhale on an “awwww” sound for as long as you can go. At what point does your voice fail? The average sentence is 10-12 seconds long. Do you have enough breath to get through a sentence?
quote-people don't do what they feel called to do because they don't like their voice.

[00:14:38] Tami explains why it’s not just professional speakers and business people who need to develop their voice. Everybody can benefit. And if you are in business, vocal training is a must: “There’s not there’s not a head of a company anywhere who hasn’t had some kind of vocal training to make them sound more confident and have a better presence.”

[00:21:03] There’s always room to improve. If you don’t like your voice, there are things you can do to change it. Learning to breathe correctly will correct most mistakes – and Tami has a resource you can download from her site to help you with that.

[00:23:03] Some of our vocal problems come from our discomfort with silence. We feel like we need to fill every part of our speech with sound, but silence can be a strength. “There’s power in a blank pause. It makes people perk up and lean in to what you’re about to say.”

Tami says there's power in a blank pause.

[00:26:14] We do a breathing exercise. All of us. You too.

[00:27:30] Tips for avoiding gasps, mouth clicks, smacking, and other vocal no-nos.

[00:32:57] Recent studies show how important our voices are to perception. People will judge you almost immediately by what comes across in the sound of your voice. If you have a message to communicate, it may be more believable through voice-only communication avenues – like a podcast! Why? Apparently the voice is not as good at pretending.


Get Tami’s free guide to breathing better.