Monday, March 31, 2014

Top Reads #2: 10 Years

I am out in Arizona on a mission trip and have chosen to highlight the most-read posts from this past calendar year while I am gone. Check out the previously posted blog below.

This year marks a decade since I transitioned into full-time ministry from the high school level. In fact, I have now spent more years as a pastor than I did as a teacher/athletic trainer. While I couldn't possibly do justice to a comprehensive list, there are several things that I have learned in the last ten years:
  • You have to work just as hard to maintain your own spiritual relationship while working in ministry as you do out of it.
  • I was working as a pastor and caring for people on a deeper level long before I ever figured out my calling.
  • Just because I accepted my calling as a pastor doesn't mean I won't miss what I left behind.
  • The biggest focus for athletic trainers is in the prevention of injuries even while we respond to the immediate hurt in front of us. Working in ministry isn't that different. We strive to lead people to Christ and equip them for ministry in hopes of preventing personal catastrophe even as life calls us to step into the midst of tragedy and triumph.
  • Working in the church is the hardest thing I have ever done--no doubt about it.
  • I have to work to intentionally protect my family as they will endure harsher scrutiny in the ministry than anywhere else but perhaps politics.
  • The satisfaction of seeing lives committed to Christ, miraculous healing taking place, relationships restored, and incredible acts of generosity is greater than I could ever have imagined.
  • Even though I have come so far in my own journey with Christ there is still so much more room for growth than I originally envisioned.
  • You have to intentionally create your own rest opportunities in ministry as there are no complete down times. If you don't honor the Sabbath (no matter what day of the week it needs to be) you won't be sustainably effective.
  • No matter how much satisfaction I took out of my former career (and it was a large amount), leading a church is what I was created & called to do. 

I clearly see how God has been preparing me for this journey my entire life. I am thankful that He is patient with me and continues to mold me for what He has in store next. I am also forever grateful for those that have influenced & invested in me over the last ten years. I'm eagerly anticipating what comes next. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Top Reads #1: No Idea

I am out in Arizona on a mission trip and have chosen to highlight the most-read posts from this past calendar year while I am gone. Check out the previously posted blog below.

It was 22 years ago today that Dana & I had our first date and 21 years ago that I proposed to her. She had no idea what she was saying "yes" to when she responded to my question. Honestly, I had no idea what I was really asking her. We just knew that we were in love and wanted to spend the rest of our lives together. We couldn't have predicted:

  • How hard we would have to work to see our relationship grow
  • The joy our three children would bring us 
  • The trials & triumphs that we would have in parenting them
  • The sorrow we would endure as we lost loved ones
  • The comfort we would gain from each other in those moments
  • The completely unexpected events of life (cancer, pregnancies, job loss)
  • The depth of connection and maturity these events would bring us
  • Our level of spiritual growth and focus on God
  • A level of completion that we bring to each other
  • The depth & intensity of our passion for one another
  • That this is the life we would be living right now

I couldn't have foreseen the winding path of our journey together, but I have no regrets. The uncertainty of these travels is that much more satisfactory when I can travel with the love of my life. I don't know what lies ahead anymore than I did 22 years ago, but I do know who I get to travel with on this path. That's all the security I really need.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Going West

We are traveling out west today to Show Low, Arizona with our mission team from Northridge. This is my 11th year of travel and my 16th different trip to intentionally minister to the Apache and Navajo peoples. I remember each team and trip with fondness-both the very good parts of each trip and the difficult portions as well. There are certain shared experiences and traditions that we observe, but I am always struck by the uniqueness of each trip. The blend of personalities always changes, but God also shows me new things about myself out there. While there is great comfort in the familiarity of the environment and the relationships we have built there is a great challenge in the newness we encounter. It wouldn't be fair to rate one year as better than the others, but it certainly seems that each experience builds on those of the past. I'm confident that this year will be another great year of impact and growth challenges.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Family Values

I've been reading stories in the Old Testament of good leaders and those who were far from good. God made certain promises concerning the consequences of decisions and He always fulfills His promises. Evil, self-centered leaders made decisions that benefited them directly, but dishonored God and brought destruction on the people they were leading. In each circumstance, it was the family of the leader who ended up suffering as well. Entire generations of people were wiped out by ruthless enemies or were oppressed and enslaved. These people were paying for the sins of their family leaders.

The decisions that we make as leaders will directly affect our family. We might convince ourselves that our career and family are two separate environments, but there is no way to have 100% clear division between the two. Choosing to act selfishly or unethically will directly impact our home life and the legacy we leave for our children. The poor decisions (often sinful) we make will affect our relationships and the faith & hope of our future generations.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Playing Time

"Do you know what my favorite part of the game is? The opportunity to play."
Mike Singletary, NFL Hall of Fame linebacker

Even if an organization seems to be the perfect fit for someone they won't stay if they don't have a chance to make an impact. Talented players aren't very willing to sit on the sidelines for too long-they want to contribute in a way that makes them feel valuable. A healthy organization won't just identify and recruit talent, but they will find ways to deploy that talent. This builds a stronger team and creates learning & advancement opportunities for team members.

Are we giving people a chance to play? As a leader, are we developing young leaders and giving them opportunities to see what they are capable of doing? As parents, are we letting our children learn to make decisions or do we make all of their choices for them? At some point we have to let people step out and take risks if we want them to grow and to be part of the process.

We all want a seat at the table and a chance to use what we have. If we don't give people an opportunity they won't develop and they'll look for a chance to play somewhere else.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Brand Loyalty

The New York Knicks & LA Lakers met in a game last night with very little implication on the overall NBA season as both teams have underwhelmed this season and fallen far short of expectations. You might expect that a contest between two teams jockeying for draft position wouldn't draw a big crowd. As you can see from this picture however, the event was sold out in spite of two poor teams playing. The best explanation that I can fathom is that people paid to watch out of the power of loyalty. These are two well-developed brands with a strong organizational history and a dedicated fan base. It speaks volumes about the traditions that have been established and the expectations of the fans that this less-than-satisfactory season is an aberration and not the norm. 

Do we have this same brand-loyalty in our life? When we aren't at the top of our game are we able to maintain our relationships through the tough patches? Have we built enough credibility through our past decisions that we can endure a misstep? We should also examine where our loyalties lie. Are we steady examples of steadfastness or do we jump ship the moment circumstances get tough? It's not rational to demand loyalty when we haven't built up the credibility to warrant it. It's just as foolish to change our allegiances and devotions whenever the status quo shifts. 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Always Learning

I have participated in countless meetings and dozens of conferences in my professional career. There is almost always a set agenda heading into these gatherings (especially the conferences) and a desired objective coming out of them. The interesting thing I have discovered over the years is that I will almost always learn something "accidentally" through these meetings. There will almost always be something shared that stimulates my thoughts in a unique way or challenges me with a new perspective. The teachable moment probably wasn't the direct aim of the organizers, but it still ends up being beneficial to me.

It's a fairly solid principle for personal growth and development: be diligent in looking for learning opportunities on a daily basis. Personal interactions, news articles, random comments, blogs, books, and even meetings can teach you something new if you're receptive to the lesson. Take a moment at the end of the day and look back to make sure you didn't miss an important opportunity to grow as a leader.

Monday, March 24, 2014

My Best (Or Not)

There are some days when it seems like I am operating at maximum intensity and capability. These are the days when I feel like I relate well to people, I see how all the details fit into the big picture, my productivity is off-the-charts, and everything gels together. I love these days when all the parts of my life seem to fit cohesively together without any blurred lines or uncomfortable overlap. Unfortunately, this "perfect" type of day doesn't happen very often.

Most days I am able to do certain things well and then find ways to struggle through the other parts with some degree of completion. There are also those days (fortunately they are rare) where it seems that I can't hold a conversation with myself without communication issues. These are the highly frustrating times when it feels like everything I touch becomes exponentially more difficult.

The truth is that no matter what kind of day it is I still need to persevere. I can't quit life because I'm struggling in my communication or having a hard time thinking beyond the tasks of today. As a leader in my calling and in my family, there will be days when I have to battle through with less than my best stuff. While it might exhaust me more than the high-performance days, I'm sure that I will be made better through the struggle than when it all comes easily. I know that's the truth, but sometimes I need the reminder when it all seems to be an extremely difficult journey.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Pick One

Have you ever experienced something that inspired you to change? It might have been a men's group discussion that motivated you, a sermon that pushed you to think deeply, a book that challenges personal habits, or a movie that inspires your thoughts. These are positive influences that can create something new in our lives if we decide to follow through. Unfortunately, my personal experience has been that the excitement of the immediate moment doesn't always carry over into lasting change. Perhaps the lack of transformation can be linked to attempting to do too much at once.

To find more immediate (and permanent) success it might be better to ask this question: What is the one thing-just one-that I can choose to do because of this experience? Do that one thing and measure your progress before adding another level. The step-by-step pace of change might bring more consistent fulfillment and encourage us to stick with the process.

Saturday, March 22, 2014


There is great value in asking questions. It shows our willingness to learn and the humility to understand we don't have all of the answers. It's important to ask other people good questions and then patiently listen to the answers they give. Not only can we gain insight from what they share with us, but we also show our respect for their thoughts and experiences. I also believe in asking myself tough questions. I keep a list of thoughts and personal challenges that take time to work through. I truly believe that this is a process of challenging myself to think and act differently. The process of asking questions is a way of stimulating my thoughts and an impetus for change as I discover the answers.

What questions are you asking? Who are you asking? Acting like we have all the answers won't help us grow and it won't benefit anyone else either.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Not Yet

I've done a lot of reading and thinking today. I've been challenged to process my steps toward the future and to determine the next best steps to get there. I can honestly say that while this has been stimulating (and mostly positive) I still don't have completely concrete answers. I would love to write a blog about the process of thinking and how I was able to turn this into positive action steps. The truth is that I'm not there yet. I am still working my way through things and I am comfortable enough with this part of my growth process to be patient.

Some days can still be called productive even if the only thing that really happened was a slight adjustment. Much like me, it's still a work in progress and I'm very good with that.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Rest Up

Tomorrow is my weekly day off. I look forward to this day even though I actually love what I do (most days.) My passion is fueled by the fact that I'm doing what I have been called to do-it's more than a job to me. In ministry there are multiple projects going on at once, future planning & implementation to work through, people to invest in and develop, personal enrichment opportunities, and the day-to-day demands of caring for people. It wouldn't take much to convince me to work hard seven days a week just to attempt to keep up with the pace of ministry. While that might make me feel better about accomplishing my goals and crossing off tasks, I actually believe that I would be less effective attempting this pattern of work.

I've discovered that this day of rest is absolutely essential for my mental, physical, and spiritual well-being. The down time gives me a chance to break my weekly routine and gain some rest. I don't always spend the day lazing around, but the change of pace helps re-energize & refocus me to jump back in with increased strength. I've discovered that I'm actually able to produce at higher levels by taking a day away instead of powering through an extra day of work.

I guess God knew what He was talking about when He told us to rest.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Needful Things

I have heard since I was a child that I needed to have more faith. While I understand this in principle, it still bears some thought on my part to ask the big question: what do I need faith for?
  • To keep pursuing my calling
  • To trust in my children's salvation
  • Believing that my extended family will follow Christ
  • Vision for ministry here
  • That's God's ways are best even when it seems like my prayers go unanswered
  • That God will make up the difference between my parenting skills and my hopes for our kids
  • God's revealed vision for my calling will take place in His timing and not mine
  • That God is able (and willing) to make the most terrible situation better
  • To keep my confidence in His wisdom when my circumstances don't make sense
  • Regardless of my foolish actions (and reactions) God still sees me as His son
Do you know what you need faith for? It might help to know the details as we ask for an increase in faith.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014


There will be many times in our personal and professional lives when we are unsure of what to do next. We will be in new parenting territory, dealing with unforeseen medical issues, struggling through financial difficulties, preparing for job transitions, and in uncharted relationship waters. The amount of change we are facing may seem overwhelming and we can become desperate as we search for the right answers. We may become overly anxious as we look for the exact right thing to say and do that will make everything better. The truth is that we may not be fully equipped to handle the situation in the "best" manner. Obviously, as a man of faith, I have confidence that God will fill in the gaps of my imperfect nature, but that doesn't negate the need for personal responsibility and action. It's in these uncertain times that I advise people to:

Do the best you can, where you are,
with what you know, and what you have.

This is not a perfect formula for immediate success, but it really is the best that we are able to personally invest at this point. Accept the position that you are in, prayerfully consider the abilities that you have, the sum total of your experiences, and then make the best decision possible under the circumstances. There's no guarantee that it will be the right one, but you can have confidence that you have done the best you can if you follow that simple model. Hopefully we'll learn from this particular experience enough (both the successes and failures) to help us in future circumstances.

Monday, March 17, 2014


I love March Madness. There is a thrill to the national tournament that rivals any other postseason sporting event. Some athletes will step into the spotlight and become part of tournament legend while others will wilt under the pressure of expectations and millions of viewers. There will always be a upset or two as some favored team under-performs and an underdog makes all of the right shots. It's exciting to watch and (almost) impossible to predict with 100% certainty. In fact, I believe the unpredictability is one of the most compelling factors to the NCAA tournament's success. No matter how much the experts believe they are right there will always be some games that defy logic and expectation.

I think this is attractive to us even though our brackets might be affected because the uncertain outcomes don't really have an effect on our lives. Unpredictability is enticing to watch from a distance, but much less pleasant when it directly involves our personal lives. The thrill of the unknown is compelling as long as it doesn't change what we have to deal with ourselves. We'd rather watch it and enjoy a second-hand thrill than have to figure out how to adapt when our own world gets turned upside down. It's the difference in being a thrill-seeker/risk-taker and a voyeur.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Desperate & Waiting

Have you ever been desperate for the answer to a question? Perhaps it was waiting to hear about a contract on a house, a decision on a promotion, determining whether you were accepted into college, or the results of medical tests. Every day that went by without an answer felt endless. You constantly checked your phone and your email to see if the response had been delivered. We fret about the delay in response and cause ourselves stress in the process. The period of waiting can be painful and the answer can sometimes be a relief regardless of the outcome.

Have we felt that same desperation while waiting to hear from God? When have we asked for something that we didn't get an immediate answer for? Have we continued to seek His direction when it seems like nothing is forthcoming or do we give up hope too easily?

An element of desperation in prayer isn't a bad thing for our spiritual health if it encourages us to continue to talk to God about what we're looking for. Waiting for deliverance teaches us patience and increases our reliance on God. This intermediate period can be the time that God needs to shape us to be ready to hear what He needs to tell us. Don't give up too early, but choose to faithfully pray and we might see God do something bigger than we first imagined.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Good Things

What brings you pleasure in life? I'm not just talking about entertainment or a good way to pass the time either, although there's nothing inherently wrong with either of those. I'm thinking about things that feed who we are and make things feel right. For me it can be:

  • Conversations on the front porch with my wife
  • A good afternoon nap after a hard day of work
  • The collaborative efforts of like-minded people accomplishing a physical task
  • Surprising my children with simple things that they enjoy
  • A good cup of coffee over conversation with a friend
  • Praying with someone in need
  • Looking over a yard that you have spent the day working on
  • Finishing a good book that makes you think deeply
  • A really good meal
  • Preparing and sharing a sermon
  • Confidence in knowing where God is leading your family even if the time frame isn't completely known
It's important to know what brings us joy. Not only does this make us more grateful for these moments, it encourages us to make sure we make time for them in our regular routine.

Friday, March 14, 2014

All Together

I really like the house we are living in now, but the yard is bigger than I originally thought. This becomes more evident every time that I mow and especially now that we are raking leaves and pine straw. It seems to be a never ending chore that we have been at for about three weeks now. We decided earlier this week that it would be a family effort on Friday and told our girls that they would be helping. They weren't overjoyed at the prospect, but understood the need to help out.

We had one daughter (and my wife) managing the burn pile while the other two and I raked things up and carted them over to the fire. I got an early start on it and managed to move quite a bit before they joined me. I will admit that there was part of me that just wanted to keep doing it myself. I had a good rhythm and was able to move it more quickly than they could. I realize however, that my solo act doesn't help them at all. It would remove an opportunity for us to do something together. It would eliminate a moment for conversation about important things and isolate us from interaction with each other. It would deny me a chance to let them know how much I appreciate their contribution and for them to see our work ethic. Instead, we were able to look out at a yard that we all worked to improve and see that our combined efforts brought results. It's the way that I feel we're supposed to lead as parents and I'm praying it provided something that lasts beyond the time shared today.

Isn't that the hope of our parenting anyway?

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Give Me a Reason

The expression that I have heard quoted in tough times is, "Everything happens for a reason." I agree 100% with that statement. Unfortunately for us, many times the reason something is happening to us is because we made a stupid choice. We are the ones who didn't think things through, didn't anticipate the results of our decisions, or we took a path regardless of the consequences. There are other times when our lives are affected by the stupid choices of others. We become their collateral damage from self-centered, poor decisions. Even in these circumstances I think we want to believe that there is an underlying reason behind it all. We want to believe that someone more powerful than us is orchestrating things around us and working through our poor decision making and apparently random life events.

I think what we are actually looking for is a spark of hope. We want to know that a good God is able to
work through all of our circumstances and lead us to something better. When we're struggling with things that are completely beyond our control and influence (economy tanking, disastrous diagnosis, unexpected death) we want to know that God is still loving and caring. We want to know that He is working all around us for our betterment. We need to grasp tightly onto the offer of a glimmer of hope when it seems all hope is gone. If we can believe that there is a greater purpose for us we are able to withstand the difficulty of the present and anticipate the future. We are hoping that at some point things will make sense because if that isn't an option we aren't sure we can keep going.

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who 
love Him, who have been called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Regular Romance

I love my wife. That's not new news to anyone who has read this blog or knows us at all. We've been together as a couple for over 22 years now and will hit 20 years of marriage in December. She's still the most attractive woman that I know and I am extremely lucky to be married to her. While we are not a "super-couple" that is impervious to difficulty, we communicate very well with each other and are definitely madly in love. I don't believe we are the model for all marriages, but there is one key factor that continues to help us and is applicable to all couples: the concept of romance.

I don't think that I have to convince my wife that I love her-she knows that I do. I still continue to romance her though (and she does the same for me.) Romance is something that is often relegated to the bedroom, date night, Valentine's Day, and anniversaries. While those are important times it neglects the value of every day wooing. Each day should be a reflection of our desire to let someone know how much you care for them. It can be shown in something as simple as holding hands while watching TV together, an affectionate touch as you pass by, random texts and message, unexpected flowers, a special meal, a foot rub, or (one of our favorites) conversation and coffee on the front porch. Each of these things helps build a solid foundation of trust and love in a couple. It's a daily investment that's worth the effort.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Moving in the Right Direction

I love my Franklin Planner. I was introduced to it by Don Meyer, then coach of the Lipscomb University men's basketball team. He was so hooked on them that he had his players use them as well. It has become a key part of my organizational strategy even as I've increased my technology usage. Part of this is my desire to keep focused on task lists and marching towards goals. Unfortunately, I have many days where my planner is filled out with unfinished objectives. My wife says suggested that I wait until the end of the day to fill it out and then just write in what I did that day. I might have a greater sense of accomplishment this way, but in reality wouldn't be moving forward.

This battle of working fervently and yet feeling like many things are unfinished raises a lot of questions. I can do a lot in one day but I am doing the things they really matter? Am I doing what can only be done today? Do my accomplishments move me forward in a way that helps me grow? There are always going to be things that move me sideways instead of forward, but I need to be focused enough to maximize my forward momentum. I have a vision of my preferred future and I realize that the things I do today will be part of the fulfillment of that vision. If I can't figure out how to leverage each day in the right direction, I'm only creating a lot of energy and movement and never actually going anywhere. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Hitting the Ceiling

We've all got an upper limit on our ability to lead. It might be helpful to think of that limit as the ceiling in a room. In our current situation, as we are presently gifted, we are able to lead to a certain point before we hit the roof. When (if) we realize this there are only a few options in front of us. Like any other moment in our life, we get to decide if our choice will be a positive or negative reaction.

When faced with this limit we can:

  • Commit to personal change to lead at a higher level.
  • Shift to a different role that fits leadership level.
  • Move to an organization that fits current leadership level.
  • Balk at change & create a dam against the leadership current advancing.

Surviving from bouncing off the "ceiling" requires self-awareness, humility, and a willingness to change. I haven't always handled it the right way in my own life, but want to make sure that I don't limit myself or those that I lead with my reticence to change.

Sunday, March 9, 2014


There are some songs that seem to resonate with us more than others. Perhaps it's a better fit with our season of life or with a specific situation. I think that it is often a combination of inspired lyrics and the passionate truth that creates a visceral response within us.

As a pastor, I am often afforded the blessing of seeing the reactions of people during songs. Today I was able to experience this as people responded to a song by Chris Tomlin called, "Sovereign." It simply speaks to God's power to hold all of who we are in His hands and our response of trust. This gives us hope when things have not worked at out as well as we would like. This brings us rest when we know that God can handle all parts of our life. This quiet truth brings us peace when we in a place of unrest. It's a confidence I am grateful to have.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Out of My Way!

I ran a few errands last night and will readily admit that it wasn't an entirely pleasant experience. I stopped at one store to get a copy of my car key made only to find out they didn't have the right equipment. I shopped at one grocery store for a few simple things and was then informed that self-checkout was no longer available (even though it was only 7:45 pm on a Friday night). My last stop was frustrating in many different ways-from too many fellow shoppers to difficulty finding items on my list.

It wasn't an experience that left me feeling joyful especially since very few parts of it worked out like I had anticipated. Didn't these stores know that I had expectations for my experience? Didn't they know that there were things that I needed to get done? Were other shoppers aware that I had scheduled my excursion for the best fit in my schedule? Did anyone understand the importance of me finding all of the things on my list? Perhaps the better question should be inwardly directed: did I understand how self-focused my attitude was?

When you recognize that your displeasure is a result of your sense of entitlement it's a very humbling feeling.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Real Change

Regardless of our age, we all need to change. Depending on your stage of life, it may not be a monumental shift of philosophy or personal habits. There are (seemingly) minor shifts we can work towards that will make us better people. If we (foolishly) believe that we are fine just the way we are, we are really only deceiving ourselves and making things difficult on people around us. If we are considering personal change we need to answer a few questions:

  • Do you really want to change? If this isn't a true personal desire then nothing will every happen.
  • Can you identify what needs to be changed? This requires a level of self-awareness that is difficult for most people to grasp.
  • Who do you trust enough to be part of this process? We need people who care about our future enough to speak the truth in love and hold us accountable.
  • Can you articulate what it is you are working towards? Being able to clearly define the shift we want to make means that we can move forward in a specific direction. Not having this only leads to confusion and frustration.
  • Do we recognize that this is a life-long process? We either continue to grow or we will die.

Change is not an easy process, but the results are worth our efforts if we genuinely want to be a better person.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

One At a Time

Systems are good. They are helpful in making sure that everyone knows their responsibility, the organizational philosophy, and expressing clear expectations. Successful sports teams have systems of coaching and player development that have proven to be beneficial for individuals and organizations. Thriving companies have well-established best practices with proven track records. The key factor in working with a system however, is to remember that each person is different.

When you are expecting a certain system of processing to work with a diverse group of people in the exact same way, you are eliminating the variable of individuality. Every athlete will not respond to the same type of coaching. Each student will not grasp educational concepts when they are only taught in one manner. Children will not respond to messages from their parents in exactly the same way. Employees are not motivated to grow with the same techniques. While the principles behind a system can be valid for everyone, the delivery method has to be crafted to meet individual needs. We can point to large numbers of people that have successfully been impacted and developed, but the most important number in any system is still the number "1". It represents one specific person with their own unique personality, experiences, learning style, and heredity.

Don't devalue the power of "1" when you are leading, training, coaching, or parenting. Keep the important truths in mind, but be adjustable enough to reach out in a specific way that matters to each person. It shows honor to who they are and reveals the depth of your concern for their individuality.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Through the Looking Glass

I believe that all leaders are looking through a piece of glass. It's a visual illustration that reveals that leader's perspective on their personal responsibility to lead. The character of the leader will determine whether it's a window looking to the future for the organization, or if it's a mirror that only reflects their own accomplishments. The window-focused leader will be strive to do what is best for the people they lead. A mirror-consumed leader will be more concerned with making themselves look better.

It's fairly obvious which leader we would rather work for. The bigger question makes us ask what type of leader we are.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

For the Win

"They are playing to play, not playing to win."
I heard this phrase on the radio last night as it was used to describe an under-performing college basketball team. This analyst assessed their level of mediocre success by accurately describing their lack of instinct to work together to see victory. They are a young team that is stuck on playing the game on their schedule so that the can get to the next game. That doesn't describe a team with a winning mentality, but one that is trying to make their way through their season.

This can describe a lot of of us if we're honest. We don't always apply our energies and focus in a way that brings success, but do things that allow us to check an item off our task list and consider it accomplished. There are probably some common areas for all of us to fail:

  • Attending church-even giving our time & money-but never engaging in a life change beyond Sunday morning.
  • Paying special attention to our spouses on an anniversary or birthday, but not doing much more the rest of the year.
  • Letting our children know how much we love them during big life events, but not through the day-to-day affirmation they desperately need.
  • Spending dedicated time in prayer when life's circumstances bring us unexpected turmoil, but not really bothering with it otherwise.
  • Working hard enough at our jobs to keep the paycheck coming, but not in a way that directs people to God's calling on our lives.
  • Contributing to our community in moments of crisis, but not investing on a regular basis in the people we share life with.

Playing to win takes teamwork, a dedicated commitment, and regular sacrifice. It's also the only formula for healthy families, happy marriages, deepening spiritual relationships, and a thriving community. Make sure you're making the commitment to play to win.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Balancing Act

In my own personal struggles with self-esteem (the condition that men don't talk about) I've been at both ends of the confidence spectrum. I've gone through periods in life where I allowed my ego to over-inflate to the extreme detriment of the relationships in my life. My out-of-control pride ruined friendships, damaged working relationships, and alienated people that care for me. I've also endured tough stretches where I felt that I was of no use to anyone at all. It didn't matter how much people encouraged me or tried to reason with me. I simply felt that I wasn't worthy enough to lead a discussion much less lead my family or an organization. Neither one of these perspectives is healthy.

Fluctuating from thinking too highly of myself to thinking too lowly of myself doesn't provide a stable ground for accurate personal assessment and growth. Instead it's best for all of us to find a balance of being aware of our strengths and weaknesses while maturing in humility. We're certainly better company when we can do this and we'll be healthier overall with a more realistic viewpoint of who we are.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Right Thing

Dean Smith is the former head men's basketball coach at the University of North Carolina. He is retired now and is still highly respected throughout the sporting world. He has influenced thousands of people through his coaching and most importantly, through his personal life and character.

The story is told of how he helped to bring about social change in Chapel Hill, North Carolina and the home of the university. Desegregation was still part of the society in North Carolina at the time that he began his coaching career-especially in local restaurants. Dean apparently chose to fight this wrong in a very quiet and respectful way. After church one Sunday he invited a member of his church who happened to be black (and a personal friend) to have lunch with him after services. They dined peacefully at this local establishment and their efforts started the process of rectifying this wrong. Even though Dean was not the head coach at the time, he was respected enough that his quiet stance spoke about what was important.

One of the outstanding things about Dean is that when he was asked about this incident he responded by quietly speaking a powerful truth. He said, "You should never be proud of doing what's right. You should just do what's right." This is not only a testimony to his character, but a poignant reminder for each of us. We can do what is right while looking for the spotlight to shine on us or we can just do what should be done for the betterment of us all. Learn to look for ways to do the right thing just because it's the right thing to do. The rewards will be found in an improved society of like-minded people pursuing a mutually beneficial higher calling.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Never The Same

A group of dedicated guys met at our church today to put playground equipment together for our children's ministries. We were combining a few different pieces and nothing was brand new. It had been part of our previous playground or was donated by generous people. While we were able to get the equipment together we did discover one fundamental truth. Once something has been taken apart it never fits back together in exactly the same way.

Obviously this is true for more than swing-sets. When our choices and other life circumstances break things apart in our lives, we rarely return to our old state. Relationships that have been restored never mirror what they used to be. Places of authority and reputations never snap back to their original position. Our self esteem isn't the same after a difficult personal interaction. Our mind & spirit don't operate on the same plane as they used to after periods of refining.

The good news is that we don't have to look weathered and beaten up like old playground equipment. When our confidence and hope are in God we actually become better than we used to be. God will work through our life situations (and often orchestrate them) to take broken pieces and re-purpose them into something whole and beautiful.