Can I See Blue Skies Even When It’s Cloudy? With James Barnett [Episode 219]

Blue Skies Cloudy James Barnett

GIVEAWAY ALERT: You can win the book Blue Skies by this week’s podcast guest. Keep reading to find out how!

What if you started living with excited anticipation of what God is up to next? Would you live differently? What if no matter what life threw at you, you saw it all through a lens of hope, optimism, and trust in God?

Well today, author James Barnett reveals how you can move from a life of worry and fear to a life full of anticipation of what God is doing. He’ll give you three little words that will shift your perspective and help you see beyond your circumstances.

As we talk about his book, Blue Skies: How to Live in Extraordinary Expectation of What’s Around the Corner, James will renew your sense of hope and wonder. You’ll learn how to “look again” to find real meaning and excitement in whatever God has planned for you.

James says, “Even on the cloudiest days, there are always blue skies and sunshine to be found. You just need to know where to look.”

So, 4:13ers, it’s time to look up! Blue skies are in your future.

Meet James

James Barnett is president of DaySpring, the world’s largest Christian social expression company – a subsidiary of Hallmark. Under his leadership, DaySpring has grown significantly, now distributing more than 200 million products annually. James lives in the great state of Arkansas with his beautiful wife, Marilyn. They have three adult children and—the best part—five wonderful grandchildren.

[Listen to the podcast using the player above, or read the transcript below. Then check out the links below for more helpful resources.]

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Episode Transcript

4:13 Podcast: Can I See Blue Skies Even When It's Cloudy? With James Barnett [Episode 219]

James Barnett: When I began to stop asking the "why" question and asking, "What are you doing?" it got my focus off of myself and off of me and my circumstances in a way, and said, "Okay, God, you've got a plan, and it's not mine."

Jennifer Rothschild: What if you lived with excitement over what God is up to next? Would you live differently? What if no matter what life threw at you, you saw it all through the lens of hope, optimism, and even trust in God? Well, today author James Barnett will reveal his secret to move you from a life of worry and fear to a life full of anticipation for what God is doing. He's going to give you three little words that can make a huge difference on how you see your life. So look up, 4:13ers, blue skies are in your future.

K.C. Wright: Welcome to the 4:13 Podcast, where practical encouragement and biblical wisdom set you up to live the "I Can" life, because you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you.

Now, would you welcome your host, my soul sister --

Jennifer Rothschild: (Singing) Soul sister.

K.C. Wright: -- my buddy, Jennifer Rothschild.

Jennifer Rothschild: Hey, our people. Jennifer Rothschild here, just to help you be and do more than you feel capable of as you live the "I Can" life of Philippians 4:13. And today's conversation is all about blue skies.

K.C. Wright: I love blue skies.

Jennifer Rothschild: (Singing) Blue skies smiling at me.

K.C. Wright: (Singing) Oh, yeah.

Jennifer Rothschild: (Singing) Nothing but blue skies do I see. Something like that. That's about all I know.

K.C. Wright: I love it that you just belt it out in song.

Jennifer Rothschild: Uh-huh.

K.C. Wright: That sparks some joy in my ear.

Jennifer Rothschild: That does spark some joy, Marie Kondo. We are sparking joy in the closet.

Seriously though, we are talking today with James Barnett. And this is a really good conversation because it's all about perspective. And I remember my daddy used to tell this story, K.C. My daddy was a pastor, if y'all don't know him. He went to heaven several years ago. But my dad always had preacher stories, right?

K.C. Wright: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: Okay. Well, this was one of them that for years as a little girl, I believed he really knew this person because he made it into a real person. But it was about this guy who was in the hospital. And he was in a double room, you know, shared a room with somebody. And he was on the one side that was furthest from the door, and then this other gentleman, who happened to be very grouchy, was near the door. And there was, of course, the curtain that separated them. So the grouchy guy near the door was always complaining about everything. The one on the opposite side of the room, he was always trying to encourage him. And so one of the ways he did it is he would describe what he could see out of this window and how it was a pretty day. And he would describe the birds flying, he would describe the sun shining. He would describe how the trees were blown by the wind and, you know, just would always give him this great perspective out the window.

So this gentleman, he finally passed away. And when he did, grouchy roommate guy says to the orderly, "Hey, please move me over to that side of the room." Got him over to that side of the room, the guy got settled in his bed, and so he's like -- he was in a lot of pain, so it took him a little while to finally get mobile enough to turn toward the wall where the window was. And when he did, he realized there was not a window there.

K.C. Wright: What?

Jennifer Rothschild: There had never been a window there. It was all about this guy's perspective.

K.C. Wright: Wow.

Jennifer Rothschild: And so he chose to create this beautiful perspective, when he was looking at just a dingy white wall. It was about his perspective, and he saw beyond it.

So I think that's a great picture of what James is talking about today, having the ability to see beyond your circumstances, see the (singing) blue skies. You know, (singing) having sunshine on a cloudy day.

K.C. Wright: Yeah. Being a Positive Pete instead of a Negative Nancy.

Jennifer Rothschild: A to the men.

K.C. Wright: No offense to the Nancys listening right now.

Jennifer Rothschild: No, no. And I have known some grouchy Petes. But that is the point, having that kind of perspective.

K.C. Wright: Right.

Jennifer Rothschild: Don't just be an Eeyore, be a Tigger.

K.C. Wright: Oh, yes. Come on.

Jennifer Rothschild: So I think this is going to be a great conversation and you need to meet our new friend, James Barnett.

K.C. Wright: James Barnett is president of DaySpring, the world's largest Christian social expression company, which is part of Hallmark. Under his leadership, DaySpring has grown significantly, now distributing more than 200 million products annually. James lives in the great state of Arkansas with his beautiful wife, Marilyn. They have three adult children, and the best part, five wonderful grandchildren.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

K.C. Wright: Now, pull up a chair. There's room at the table for you. Lean in to this great conversation. Here's Jennifer and James.

Jennifer Rothschild: All right. James, in your book, "Blue Skies," you write this: "Even on the cloudiest days, there's always blue skies and sunshine to be found, you just need to know where to look." I love that quote. But I also know somebody listening right now, their sky may be very dark. So tell us what you mean by that.

James Barnett: Well, you know, I've lived long enough that I've had plenty of problems in life, and plenty of challenges and plenty of clouds. And, you know, it is -- if that person's listening right now, I empathize. I know that it's hard, it's tough, it's challenging. What I'm not saying in this book is life is always easy. It's not. It's a challenge. But God is always at work. And I've always said, even in the clouds, when you fly, you pop out of those clouds, there's always blue skies and sunshine. God is always there. He's always available, he's always working. And I've just discovered through the years, when I stop, look, and listen -- you know, something I learned in grade school. When I take that time to stop, look, and listen, I can see God, I can hear God, and understand that he is at work, and I focus on what he's up to, that helps me get the right perspective.

Jennifer Rothschild: Well, it's interesting you just said that word "perspective," because learning to shift perspectives is a key theme that you write about in "Blue Skies." So here's one perspective shift I'd like your opinion on. What does it mean to stop asking, "Why God?" and instead shift to, "What God?"

James Barnett: Oh, what a great question. I wrestled with that in my 30s especially. I was a young man that was the youngest of seven and was in a hurry to grow up. And became a believer at a young age, but I was -- probably like many believers, I was -- you know, my prayer life was much more focused on me and it was, "Hey, God, I'm doing this and I'm doing that. I want to do good things for you, Lord, but would you bless this? Would you bless that?" And when he did, I would be all excited. I'd think, Man, God, you're amazing. And then when things didn't work out the way that I thought they would, I would be disappointed and I would say, "Hey, God, what's going on? I don't understand. Why does this happen? Why does that happen?"

And it was at a conference that I went to that really -- in my early 30s, that my wife and I went to, it just woke me up to a different set of questions of -- it started with, "Are you driven or are you called?" And I was trying to wrestle with what does it mean to be called by God? And that took me to these questions about -- you know, my prayer life was much more focused on me. And when I began to stop asking the "why" question and asking, "What are you doing?" it got my focus off of myself and off of me and my circumstances in a way and said, "Okay, God, you've got a plan, and it's not mine." So, Lord, I've got a lot on my calendar today, but you can move anything and help me to stop, look, and listen, and then to obey.

And that really changed my perspective. Did it change my circumstances? No, it didn't. What it did is it changed how I viewed those through a different lens that let me see, oh, it's really God's plan and I participate with him. And that just was such a big shift for me, and it just -- it freed me up and it let me live a little bit more of that excited anticipation of what God is up to next, versus just, okay, God, my circumstances dictate my mood and my spirit.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. And it's interesting you said it didn't necessarily change your situation, but it did change your perspective. And a lot of us need to hear that, because we honestly think, well, if my situation would change, then I'd be happy. But what you're describing is something far greater. When your perspective changes, it can change how you feel about that situation.

And I love the distinction between being driven and called. And a lot of us, I think, James, can find ourselves in that machine, for lack of a better word. When you're that driven, you feel caught up in the machine, and suddenly the calling may be obscured. So I'm curious, in your life -- you did say the outcome was you were happier. But I am curious the difference between being driven and called. How has the difference between those shown up in your life in a practical way?

James Barnett: Well, again, we're -- a lot of us are busy, right? We're driven to achieve. And I'm a high achiever and always wanted to win, you know, that thing maybe. I was the youngest of seven, and had older brothers, and I was competing a lot and getting beat up a lot and losing a lot, and I wanted to win.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah.

James Barnett: And so that really took me to that place of just -- I was busy, I had activity, but I was not stopping and looking about this calling. And this conference I went to, that was the theme of the weekend, was, "Are you driven or are you called?" When I first started the weekend, I thought, yeah, I'm called. Yeah, I'm called by God, I want to do the right things. But by the end of the weekend, I was really asking, now, what does calling really mean? And Romans 8:28 is one place that talks about that, is, "All things work together for good to those that love the Lord and are called according to his purpose." And that verse -- and then it goes on, "To whom God calls, he conforms to the image of God," and then he commissions us for work.

And I began to really think about what does that look like in my life. And I was busy, but I didn't really know what -- you know, I wasn't really thinking about what God was up to and pursuing his calling. You know, we're called to know God and glorify him for others. So many people think their job is their calling or their activities, and I think that's really what I call an assignment. It's our assignment. But the calling is to love God and glorify him forever, to look at his plan and then to join him in that work. And so that was really a multi-year process for me. I didn't just arrive after that conference. I began to look at that.

And that really sets up the third part of my book, was the issue of the adventure of what does it mean to really see God's calling.

Jennifer Rothschild: That's such a good word for us. And speaking of your book, in "Blue Skies" you share a story about first recognizing the power of prayer. I think you were just a little guy, like four years old.

James Barnett: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: So how does prayer continue to shape your life, especially as you differentiate the difference between drive and calling?

James Barnett: Well, again, I think that prayer is our strategy, it should be our strategy. It's not something that is a list of, God, could you help me get this done for my glory or for me. Prayer is really spending time communing with God and understanding what he's up to. It's really just a conversation with God. It's not -- you know, I'm a pretty simple guy, I keep it pretty simple. But I think being able to talk to the Creator of the world, and that he cares about me and he cares about you and he wants a relationship with me, that really gave me perspective that I just didn't have before. I didn't understand what it meant to have that personal relationship and that the King of the universe knows me, and knew me before the foundations of the earth, and yet he's called me for a time and a season for work to do, and to have work and have assignments during this season. And so that's really been that journey. And prayer is the main thing that we're called to do. Jesus taught us to pray. You know, so many times I hear, "Does prayer even matter? Has God just got this all worked out?"

Jennifer Rothschild: Right. Yeah.

James Barnett: Well, you know what? Yes, God's got it all worked out. But also God -- you know, Jesus taught us to pray. He prayed. And John 17 is -- I love that section where he prayed for himself, and for then for his disciples, and then for us today.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. Yeah.

James Barnett: And this issue of really seeking God to -- even he came and said, "I came to only do the will of the Father." That just blows me away. Multiple times in the Book of John, you see that, that Jesus said, "I only came to do the work of the Father." Even he was praying and seeking to do the work of just his Father, and that's what I believe our assignment is too.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, because we can get caught up in doing the work of our job or our own will. And if Jesus himself declared that that was his purpose and mission, and if Jesus himself prayed, how much more do we need to? And I think what happens, James, when we do that, is it does kind of right size us, you know, because we feel like we're driving our own life and we're the ones in control. And let's be honest, a lot of us struggle with letting go of control. And you cover that theme in your book. So can you tell us about what you call the facade of control and how we can get free from it.

James Barnett: Well, that's a great line. In my book, I use, again, road trips to our national parks to sort of make the story entertaining of what it means to know God and to see God at work. And this issue of one of the -- what I call look-agains, is we think that we're in control. And the reality is it's just the facade of control, that God has got a plan, and he's working his plan, and he -- nowhere in Scripture did God join man or woman to do anything. God would call Moses or Noah or Daniel or Ruth or Esther. He called them for a specific job.

And this thing that's the issue is God's got the plan, and our job is to participate in his plan. And so he's the one in control, not us. And so I think so many times we strive for that control. We want to be -- we want to predict the future, right? We want to be able to control things. And again, that's not what Scripture tells us, and that we were -- we're made to participate in God's story. So that has really helped me. Again, that's that perspective. And even that morning prayer that I started praying about 20, 25 years ago of really helping me every morning before I even get out of bed, it helps me get perspective.

Jennifer Rothschild: Is there a certain prayer that you pray each morning?

James Barnett: There is. There's a little prayer that I pray, and it's in the book. And it goes like this. And again, this is one of those times in the early 2000s when I was trying to be in control of a situation and it just fell apart. And I was saying, "Okay, God, what is going on here?" And I just started praying this simple prayer even before I got out of bed. And it goes like this. It says, "God, you have a plan today, and it's not mine. I've got a lot on my calendar, but, Lord, you can move anything you want. Help me to watch and listen and then obey."

Jennifer Rothschild: That's good. Watch, listen, and obey. It's like you said, stop and listen.

James Barnett: And then I get around -- that's right, I get around for my day, and then I get my coffee, and then I spend time in my devotion. But it sets my mind and it sets my perspective on today. You know, if you only pray one thing, "God, you have a plan today, and it's not mine. It's your plan." And that sets my perspective in a place, then, that I can say, "Okay, Lord, I'm open." I'm looking out. I'm not looking down, I'm looking out. And I'm looking for that expectation where God is going to work, because God works through ordinary people to do extraordinary things. And that's -- only when we're available and we're watching do we see that happen.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah. You're right. And we can miss it when we just go through the blur of our day.

You mentioned just a few minutes ago too, James, about visiting America's national parks. And so I want people to get the book, of course, but I still would love you just to tease us here with sharing, what is the biggest lesson you learned through those adventures?

James Barnett: I think the biggest lesson I learned was that God is an infinite God of creativity. You know, in the first verse of the Bible, "In the beginning, God created." And I remember after three or four of these trips -- we spent 15 summers spending two weeks every summer going to as many national parks. We've been to most of them.

Jennifer Rothschild: Wow.

James Barnett: And I didn't get all of them in the book, but I got most of them in there, many of those trips. But the thing that I began to see after multiple trips was there was not one national park that was the same. God's creativity just goes on and on and on. And the aha experience, what I called the wow moments, the -- just that, you know, God is such a God of creativity, and it's the mountains, the streams, the rivers, the sites, the chasms, you know, the caves. All the things that God has created when he spoke the world into existence, and just the awe of seeing God when getting out into nature. And I encourage people to visit national parks or state parks or get outside, because the adventure of life -- God is an amazing God. And, you know, that's -- in my book there, some of my childhood memories were a few trips we took. And I wanted to do it with my family because God -- you see God in just new, amazing ways that you just can't see by just staying in one place.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, he is so much bigger than us. And you're right, if we allow our perspective to stay small or if we allow ourselves just to be confined, then you're right, we miss out on the vastness and the bigness and the beauty of God, the blue skies --

James Barnett: Yes.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- the spiritual blue skies all around us.

James, this is really good. Your book is really -- it does serve like a tour guide, like a companion on this -- as a fellow traveler, and I love that. But this is going to be our last question. Your subtitle to your book, "Blue Skies" is, "How to Live in Extraordinary Expectation of What is Around the Corner." I love that subtitle. So tell us how we do that. In a very practical way, how can we live with that extraordinary expectation?

James Barnett: Well, I find that it takes -- take some time, I would say, to start with, that we take time to stop, look, and listen. And that's something that we all learned, I'm sure, in grade school, that, you know, "Hey, we got to stop, James. You got to look, you got to listen, and be safe," those kind of things. But I find when I take time to pause -- that Scripture in Psalm 46:10, I believe, "Be still and know that I am God." When I can stop, it helps me get that perspective, and what I call stop and ask the right questions. I've got to stop and ask that -- "What are you up to, God?" not the "why" questions. Do I ask why? Yes, I still ask, "Why, God?" But I don't spend time there as much anymore. I spend my time, okay, Lord, you use circumstances to shape me and to mold me into your character and your ways, and so, Lord, help me to be looking out -- and what? -- and stopping.

And then that issue of looking. We got to look -- there's so much in front of us. The amount of things that we see today in the news and around us is -- there's a lot of stuff. So how do we see with the eyes of our heart? Ephesians 1:17, you know, it says we need to see -- Paul prays, "See with the eyes of our heart," because those are spiritual eyes. And that takes discernment.

And then to listen to the right voices. Man, we hear so much today. And so much news and fake news and different stories, and how do we discern that? And again, if we aren't, you know, listening with those spiritual ears and really understanding who God is and making that happen. So that would be my encouragement that -- you know, is it easy? No? Are there clouds? Yes. But there's always blue skies and sunshine. God is working his plan, but take time to stop, look, and listen.

And then there's this one catch: obey. When God speaks, obey. I had a wise mentor that one time told me, he said, "James, delayed obedience is disobedience." And I can watch and listen, I can have a lot of knowledge, but am I going to follow through and say, Okay, God, I will obey. I will do that. And so that's a critical thing. So that's what I would want to leave the listeners. There's hope.

And this is a book that is -- I believe it's a want-to book, not an ought-to book. I want to inspire you. I want to encourage you that you can do this. You can live that -- yes, most of life is ordinary. Most of life is on the side of the mountain, I call it. Not on the top of the mountain or the valley, it's on that side. But as you live your daily life, you can start seeing God if you stop, look, and listen.

K.C. Wright: Three little words: stop, look, and listen. And then he added the biggie: obey.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, obey, right? We all need to pause, be still, get perspective, and then ask the right question, "What are you up to, God?" Not, "Why, God?" but instead, "What are you up to?" And then we follow his voice, we do what he says.

K.C. Wright: Because he's up to something. God is working even when we can't see it. He is always up to something good. He's a good, good God, and he loves you.

And I'll tell you something good. You can win a free copy of James' book right now. It's called "Blue Skies: How to Live in Extraordinary Expectation of What's Around the Corner. Go to Jennifer's Instagram right now to be registered to win. She simply at @jennrothschild. Or you can go straight to the show notes right now, because we can have a link for you right there to win the book. The show notes are simply

And, of course, friends, we will have a transcript of this entire conversation at the show notes as usual. So you may want to review this because James gave some great Scriptures during this conversation.

Jennifer Rothschild: Yeah, he sure did. And his book will really give you a lot of practical encouragement and biblical wisdom. And that, my friends, is what we are all about here at the 4:13.

So our dear people, as James said, listen to the right voices, live with expectation, open your spiritual eyes and ears. You can, because you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. I can.

K.C. Wright: I can.

Jennifer Rothschild: And --

K.C. Wright: You can.

Jennifer Rothschild: -- you can.

K.C., are you an Eeyore or a Tigger? I know the answer.

K.C. Wright: Oh, poo.


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