Category Archives: Leadership

3 Steps to Get From Here to There

When I was still serving as a children’s pastor, one of the churches I was on staff at had never hosted a summer Vacation Bible School. This is typically a week-long event for elementary age children that is high energy and filled with games, crafts teachings, music, etc. The whole purpose of the week is to help kids know and follow Jesus better. Unfortunately, at that time, the typical week was very focused on the kids already coming to the church. My heart was to create an event that focused more on kids in the community who had never been to church before.


The church staff heard my dream and supported my vision. After six months of planning, the big day hit and I was overwhelmed to see 300 kids attend our first ever night. We did things very differently than a typical church event and it was a huge success. While I acknowledge that it was truly a God-led moment, there were also many things that I needed to do as the leader to see the vision come to pass. Upon reflection, there are three basic steps that will help us as leaders move our vision from here to there…from a dream to a reality.

Vision – throughout the Bible, we see stories of people with amazing vision that God brings to fruition (Daniel, Abraham, and Mary to name a few) and those who lacked vision and ended in defeat (Samson, King Saul and Judas). Without vision, we have no direction, no purpose and nowhere to see our passion manifest. Vision provides the answers to so many questions. Vision keeps us focused on the big picture when the little details seem overwhelming. Vision rallies others when they see our enthusiasm and it matches up with passion of their own. 

My vision was to create an event that would attract kids to attend church and learn about God in a fun and high-energy environment. This was compelling enough to draw support from church staff and volunteers because I was so fired up about it that the excitement became contagious. A vision is not truly compelling until it keeps the leader up at night! What is that dream you have been holding on to that God might be surfacing right now? Write it down and keep it in sight!

Strategy – while it is a blast to dream and reach for the sky, it can quickly become an exercise of frustration if there is not a framework for accomplishment. This is what strategy provides. How many different components does your vision entail? How many people do you need to join the team in order to see success? What are the big rocks you must have in order to make progress towards achievement? Strategy is your game plan, your map, your flow chart. Strategy shows the basic route to get from here to there. Strategy does not require a lot of details, but it definitely requires a sense of direction and needs to get to your vision. And the best strategy is often created within the context of a team instead of one individual attempting to see all of the angles and possibilities. 

My strategy was to split up the Vacation Bible School into as many different areas as possible and give away as much authority as possible to key volunteers. We had snacks and games and teachings and music. Multiple generations of volunteers were serving and one person was even in charge of gathering prizes (for free!!) from local businesses. Meetings were planned, checkpoints of accomplishment were determined and the strategy kept everybody moving the same direction at the same time to the culmination of our vision. What an incredible demonstration of the power of team! Without strategy we would have been a bunch of chickens running around, but with strategy we were a team of cyclists planning to win the Tour de France.

Tactics – here is where the rubber meets the road. All of the dreams and strategies must eventually land in basic, daily tasks. These are the practical steps needed to accomplish the vision. A journey of a thousand miles is completed one step at a time. It might seem counterintuitive, but the dream is actually in the details. Without the details, the dream remains a dream. With the details, the dream becomes a reality that often far exceeds our wildest hopes. 

Checklists might not seem exciting but they prevent us from forgetting key components for our vision. Deadlines are essential and somebody has to be in charge of making copies, right? Practical tactics allowed me to see over 300 kids and almost 100 volunteers come together for a week that truly transformed hundreds of lives. And this event has continued to this day making a difference for hundreds of kids every summer for almost fifteen years.

So, how do we get from here to there? My suggestion is to start backwards. Determine the “there”, otherwise known as your vision. Write it down, let it sink deep into your heart and then, when it’s time to share, your passion will be contagious. Develop a team to help create the framework of strategy and then work out the details that will lead to accomplishment. And write it all down as you go. My greatest blessing is to see something that God had me start years ago continue to this day under the leadership of other people because if the vision is the right one, it will outlast the leader.

~ Mike

Starting Your Day Off Right

Mornings for me are best if I can sit by the beach, drink a cup of coffee and read a good book. Mornings make me smile when I can hug my pillow just a bit longer, keep the lights off or just watch a good movie. While I think we might have things messed up by demanding so much of our mornings, I have learned that my day changes drastically depending upon how it starts. Family and work rarely afford me the luxuries that I wish my mornings were filled with. I truly hope that I am not alone with this struggle! 


So, if starting the day right is so crucial, why do so many of us approach our mornings in a very haphazard way? I admit that I used to do this, but enough years and enough reading has taught me that I must be intentional about my mornings in order to help the rest of my day go much smoother. For good or bad, here are some of my best tips to starting your day off right. 

** A good morning actually starts the day before. I check my alarm each night and match it with known activities. On a work day, this is the same time every morning. On weekends it varies, but I still typically use an alarm to get up and moving. I set out my clothes when the morning starts with work and I have a general sense when I go to bed of when my first meetings or projects are happening in the morning. I’m already ahead of the game through preparation. 

** My morning alarm is honestly my biggest struggle. Whoever invented the snooze button is an evil person. My plan is a single snooze per morning and the goal is to not sleep through the snooze, but to lay quietly and just breathe in the morning. In this area, my plan is much stronger than my reality but I still need to have the goal and get closer to it on a regular basis.

** Plan time for some downtime. Yes, that might seem odd since the day has just begun, but it is amazing what some quiet alone time does for my mornings. Coffee, devotions, journaling or sometimes just scrolling Twitter is still some much needed “me” time to start my day. 

** Know your morning commute and make the most of it. Except for very rare occasions, we all know what the drive to work looks like. Rather than spending that time stressed and made at all of the other stressed and mad drivers, put it to good use. Podcasts are an amazing tool for the traffic drive. In addition, maybe you just need some good music or you can meditate or pray for people. Whatever works for you, let traffic be your partner, not your adversary. 

** Hit the ground running at work. While it is tempting to stand around the coffee pot for thirty minutes, this actually becomes a drain when the end of the day feels rushed and overwhelmed. Have a plan, work the plan and accomplish the plan. This daily process will compel you to get the next day off to an even better start.

What about you? What gets your day off to a great start? I would love to hear some ideas that I might incorporate into my own routine. 

~ Mike

Trust v. Suspicion

If you have ever spent a significant amount of time around a young child, one of the first things you might notice is their wide-eyed love for life. Everything is new, everything is an experience and everything deserves all of their energy. Your next observation might involve the reality that they are willing to trust virtually anything that you say. This is why it is crucial for adults to manage their tongues around children, but that is for another post. 


There is an innate trust built into us that believes our family and friends are for us and that what they say is true and it matters. As we age, this childlike innocence becomes a negative as society begins to ridicule those who are considered gullible or naive or, dare I say it, too trusting! While I am a proponent of wisdom and discernment as a leader, I often recognize that all too often I get pulled into a perspective of suspicion towards others leaders rather than trust. 

Trust builds relationship and gains respect; suspicion builds walls and erodes confidence 

Trust sees errors as an opportunity for growth; suspicion sees errors as intentional failing

Trust looks for the good in others; suspicion assume wrongdoing at all times

Trust is the foundation of a healthy and effective leader; suspicion will undermine your leadership and the team you lead

If the contrast between trust and suspicion is so strong and if these two concepts carry such great weight in the effectiveness of our leadership, what can we do to maintain an atmosphere of trust among our teams? May I offer a few ideas, but I would love to hear yours in the comments below.

The first step is to slow down. When I am overwhelmed, overscheduled or overburdened, I find that my ability to see the good in others is greatly diminished because I am focused on myself. I need to slow down, check my rhythms, clear my desk and remember what truly matters.

Next, what would the world look like if I truly treated others as I want to be treated? This gets quoted by so many people as the golden rule of life, yet so few of us actually operate by this principle. If I don’t want to be seen in a negative light, then I must resist the temptation to view others in a similar manner. It takes intentional effort to believe in others and to see their good, especially in the midst of a failed project or broken communication stream. Be the leader who makes this intentionality important!

 Another idea is to truly value every opportunity as a place for growth. I don’t need to be suspicious of team members because no matter what they are or are not doing, we have a mutually agreed upon learning moment. And if things get to the point where I need to dismiss somebody from my team, I can still see the good in them and realize that they will have a better fit on a different team. 
Finally, it’s not personal! I am amazed at the rash of airplane incidents recently occurring across the country. What happened to our ability to wait patiently, to prefer others, and to realize that when we are treated poorly it is rarely an intentionally personal attack, but is often the result of somebody else’s busyness, distractedness or simple self-absorption? I was recently getting off an airplane and the doors were not even open yet, but the man in the row ahead of me was apparently in a huge hurry and began pushing and pressing people to get out of his way. Thankfully, I was surrounded by people who remembered that it’s not personal. We were able to smile at each other and chuckle at the incredible impatience of this fellow passenger. 

I am being challenged lately to recapture my ability to trust others by default and to reserve my suspicion for rare moments. This is not a call to discard wisdom, experience or even my gut instinct of discernment. Rather, it is a challenge to be the type of person, and leader, who believes in and sees the best in others. Not only wil my stress level drop, but I can be an influence for good in the lives of those around me. As a leader, an atmosphere of trust provides the greatest opportunity for accomplishment in the lives of myself and my team.

What about you? Do you wrestle with the tension between trust and suspicion? What tips would you share to help us all remain on the trust side of the aisle?

~ Mike

When Letting Go is the Best Option

Man, I love comfort and predictability. The people who know me best would describe me as a person who is most peaceful when rhythms are established and followed. I want to wake up at the same time and drink the same cup of coffee. I love it when everything is in its place and accounted for. It can often be as simple as sinking into a comfortable couch and reading a good book.


The problem with my preferences is that real life rarely follows the course of predictability. Change happens, unexpected twists occur, and the status quo rarely stays the status quo. You might have discovered this in your own journey as well. As much as I want to plan my steps, the ground around me seems to be shifting on a regular basis. 

This shifting can take many forms. Maybe you just received a tragic health diagnosis for yourself or somebody that you love. Maybe the house that you were set on buying is no longer available. Maybe your marriage has been shattered and divorce and singleness are now staring you in the face. Maybe the winds of change abound in your place of work and you keep waiting for the dust to settle. Regardless of the circumstance, all too often that which we thought we could count on seems to be suddenly pulled out from underneath us. 

When life forces a new reality, there seems to really only be two options. 

The first option is to hold onto the comfort zone, to fight for the comfy spot on the couch and to refuse to look to the future. While this might seem safer and even more logical, it is in fact highly detrimental and will greatly diminish your growth as both a person and a leader. The past, both good and bad, is in the past and will never come back to the present. We can learn from it, we can cherish the memories, but if we hold tightly to it, we will simply stop living and growing. Consider what a physical body that has decayed and atrophied looks like. We don’t want our lives to reflect this look.

The second option, and the one that I propose is the better option, is to simply let go. When change rears its formidable head, grab your surfboard and enjoy the ride. When I was a kid, I spent quite a bit of time at the beaches of Southern California on my body board riding the waves. The waves never stopped coming. It was up to me to decide if I was going to ride on top, or get pummeled underneath. 

Life moves quickly. Change is imminent whether we like it or not. As leaders, we must learn to embrace change, determine our new reality and continue to grow and develop. Do not let the shifting of life take you out. Instead, cherish the past, enjoy your memories and then forge ahead into the wild blue yonder. 

The Storms of Leadership

Have you ever just wanted to quit? Have you ever felt like the tide was never going to pull back? Have you ever looked around at your circumstances and just wanted to throw in the towel? I know that I have on more occasions that I care to admit. While this might seem to be discouraging, I can actually find great encouragement in the life of Christ and how He handled the storms as they arose.

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In Matthew 8:24 (NIV) we read that “…suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping.” Later, another storm arises and He is seen walking on water. An interesting side note is that Jesus sent His disciples into the boat the night before, knowing there was a pending storm. In Luke 4:30 (ESV), an angry mob brings Jesus to the side of a hill “so that they could throw him down the cliff. But passing through their midst, he went away.”

Storms never shocked Christ, never caused fear and never pulled Him from the mission that God called Him to. Storms are seen by Jesus as not merely part of life, but tools for growth in the lives of those who follow Him.

How else can we explain the impact that Jesus’ handling of storms had on Peter? He is transformed from an arrogant fisherman (John 13:6-8) to a well-intentioned but misunderstanding sword wielder. He then takes his greatest moment to defend Christ and instead denies that they ever knew each other. Could this possibly be the same Peter who preaches on the Day of Pentecost, who challenges the Sanhedrin and who is a “founding father” of the Church? It seems that the combination of witnessing how Christ handled storms with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit provided all that was needed for a powerful leadership transformation.

Storms do not define us, but they allow us to better see God. Leadership requires the ability to trust in God in the midst of storms and to lead others in and through storms to safety. We must experience personal storms before we are able to lead others in them. In my life, it is only through the experience of coming out on the other side of storms that I have seen my faith and confidence in God grow. After all, without any storms in life, why would I need the strength and power of God in my life?

As tempting as it might be to wish for lack of storms, I have come to learn that they are a reality of life and are really the only way to grow and expand leadership capacity.

What do storms do for me practically?

  1. They remind me that life is bigger than me – I need God’s perspective
  2. They remind me that I am not in control – I need God’s power
  3. They remind me that I am not alone – I need God’s presence

Each of these concepts allows me to step back, to rest, and to trust in my God. If He didn’t personally run from storms and taught His disciples likewise, then it only makes sense to follow in His steps and look at storms not as something to escape or avoid, but rather to weather by His grace and with His strength. And as a leader, this then provides me both the credibility and experience to pass this on to those whom I am privileged to influence.

As I move into a new year, these three areas of need are going to be the filter through which I pray, I read, I learn and I lead. As these areas grow personally, I trust that God will expand my influence as a leader and will increase my capacity to lead as well. Will you join me this year as I better embrace storms and look for God’s perspective, power and presence in the midst.

~ Mike

How to Lead to the Brim

When I was nineteen, I was on a missions trip to Venezuela for one month. Through a series of unfortunate events (also known as the sovereignty of God), I was enlisted as the interpreter and translator for about three weeks of our trip. While I had taken four years of Spanish and even passed my AP test in high school, I had never used my Spanish in any meaningful way aside from small conversations around town. Yet, now God was asking me to step up, battle my fear and translate the preaching and teaching of our team leaders across the country. Thankfully, the Holy Spirit was able to overcome my own fears and I was used to help share the Gospel with countless people that summer.

Man, talk about feeling like God asking me to step out in faith and engage in an opportunity that I had no idea what the outcome might be! While it might be simple to say this was the only instance, as I look back across my life, I can see a constant pattern of God asking me to do things that would not seem rational. I said yes to starting my Master’s degree with no money and very little confidence only to graduate two years later. I resigned from a church without a guaranteed job in place only to land at the ministry where I have served for the past four years.

God has spent my lifetime working to grow and expand my faith by asking me to do things that just seem to make no sense.

In a certain way, I feel like I can relate to the servants we learn about in John 2. While participating in a wedding at Cana, the host ran out of wine. This would have been a huge social faux pas and the host was now in a bind. Mary speaks with her son, Jesus, and after a short conversation, He becomes involved in the narrative.

clay-pots

While the story might be familiar, there is an interesting section that seems to apply to leaders. After the servants become engaged with Jesus and are waiting for orders, He simply commands them to “fill the jars with water.” He never says how much or even that they had to use all six jars. However, the servants respond by filling “them up to the brim.” (John 2:6-7)

What does this say about their heart and willingness to follow direction? It seems that they were a group who were not inclined to cut corners. Maybe they anticipated a amazing story? Maybe they just wanted to give their best? Maybe they wanted to give themselves extra work by requiring extra trips to the well (least likely option)?

I have no idea what their motivation was. All I know is that the jars were filled to the brim.

Similar to the many stories in my life where I could not see around the corner, I have at least attempted to give God my best and to trust Him with the outcome. Have I lived this out perfectly? Not at all! For every story where I have confidently “filled my jars to the brim” there are plenty more where I went halfway or maybe walked away from the jars without even trying.

So, what does this I have to do with leadership? There are three main areas that the servants model that I hope will become a regular part of my life.

First, they modeled lives of faith. There was not a questioning of Jesus’ commands in any way. We do not read of hesitation, argument, complaints about the extra work or any other form of negativity or doubt. Instead, there is an instant response to the words of Christ. Wow, do I need to grow in this area! Often, my steps of faith come after many moments of questions, arguments, denials and even justification of following my own path. I am amazed that no matter how many times following my path does not end well, that is still my initial response. Definitely an area for growth in my life.

Second, this lifestyle manifests through acts of obedience. The servants simply obey. Behavior that reveals their trust and is displayed to those at the party that they will obey the One who is providing the direction. When Jesus calls us to have a childlike faith, I often wonder if this is part of what He meant. So often children must simply obey their parents without a sense of understanding. If they have loving parents, as we have a loving Father, this turns out well and they learn to continue on the path of obedience.

Finally, there had to be a sense of anticipation on their part. Whether or not they knew who Jesus was, the interaction between him and his mother set the stage that something was about to happen. Can you not picture the servants peeking out from behind a curtain watching the host take a sip of the water? What must their reaction have been upon his declaration that this was better wine than had previously been served? I don’t know about you, but anticipation that ends in fulfillment cannot help but lead to even greater anticipation for the things of God.

May I encourage you to join my journey of learning how to fill my jars to the brim? While I have been blessed to have a few moments where I got this idea right, I want this to happen more often and to be part of my daily life. Oh, how wonderful life would be if I were to live with a sense of faith, obedience and anticipation every time Jesus would give me direction.

Learning to fill,

Mike

4 Steps to Faking it Well

Okay, it’s confession time. I’m not really good at this, but if I was completely honest, I would tell you that I have been “faking it” for awhile. In case you aren’t sure what this means, I have been going through the motions more lately than living with passion. I must admit that I think I put on a pretty good front, except to those who know me well. I can smile and attend church and serve and work hard with the best of them…but lately, something has been missing. I have been empty – a car with no gas, a flashlight without batteries, a coffee cup without, gasp, coffee!


I hope that I don’t get left hanging on this one, as if I was the only person who goes through the motions. The problem isn’t necessarily the going through the emotions, but more what we do when we realize that this is what we are doing. When the realization comes that we are missing our zest and passion for life, what’s next? I was confronted by this just last week in church by something our teaching pastor shared. I basically realized that there was not much about pursuing God that was firing me up. Devotions, prayer, worship, church itself…nothing. No energy – no excitement – no passion! And if pursuing God has lost passion, it’s just a matter of time before other arenas in my life become affected. 

So, how in the world can I turn this around so that I can fake it well? It’s in the steps that come after the realization that I have been faking it. Let me share my four steps with you now (in case you are wondering…I’m currently on step #2).

Awareness – every great movement must start with an awareness that I am not where I want to be. Until I become aware of my lack of passion, nothing will change. This might come by reading a book that grabs your heart, or by having coffee with a good friend, or by a loving spouse sitting you down to have “the talk”. It could happen in church (as it did for me this time around), or at the beach, or any number of places. Basically, awareness confronts me with a choice…am I content with where I am or do I need to make some changes?

Desire – the only way to fake well is to move to this step. Without a desire for change, we are just people aware that we are living without meaning but unwilling to change anything. Wow, that’s a depressing thought! I must decide that the pain of remaining where I am is less than the pain of moving forward. This is not desire that simply sounds nice…rather, it is desire that compels me to action. Currently, I am wrestling with the frustration of my lack of passion and assessing my daily routine to see where change must happen. Where am I spending more time on Facebook than in prayer? Do I play more rounds of solitaire than reading books on family, marriage and parenting? Am I content to disappear into watching a football on TV, rather than going outside to play catch with my son who is gearing up for a season of flag football? Desire is what will pull me from the doldrums and back into a purposeful and passionate life. 

Discipline – this is where it gets messy. I can talk a good game. I have a lot of plans and dreams and hopes for the future. I am always talking about moving forward and improving. I confess that I do not act upon every one of my ideas.  I have many friends with dreams in the sky who never put a plan in place to accomplish anything. You know who I’m talking about…the guy at every party or gathering who has a million excuses why his ideas never came to fruition, but a lack of discipline is never on his list. Discipline turns off the television. Discipline wakes up early to spend time with God. Discipline eats healthy and exercises with regularity. Discipline prefers others before self. Discipline makes a plan, works the plan and never stops until the plan is finished. 

Habits – welcome to your reward for faking it well! Awareness which leads to desire which leads to discipline ends with a change of habits for the better. Habits are activities that we are able to do without much thinking. Brushing our teeth, putting gas in the car, getting dressed in the morning and clicking a remote control are fairly engrained in the majority of our lives. Habits also lead to passion. Doing what I need to do in order to remain connected with God not only ignites passion in my life, but spreads to the other arenas of my life. Family, work and hobbies all become much more enjoyable when engaged with passion and purpose. Habits keep me on track so that when my emotions are not cooperating I am still living in a way that is intentional. 

One danger of habits is that they can become, well, habitual. We can begin doing things without even remembering why we started in the first place. When this happens, we just might find ourselves going through the motions. Of course, when we find ourselves in this position, we can embrace the gift of awareness and…well, you probably get the idea!

Faking it together, 

Mike

Tension Produces Dreams

I have often wondered if life would truly be better if it was simpler. What if I didn’t have to strive quite so much? What if relationships just happened naturally? Wouldn’t everybody be better off if we removed the struggle and pain and work? I mean don’t most people just live for the weekend so that they can kick off their shoes and relax? 


I think that this idea is actually fairly hollow and will not actually lead us where we want to go. An oft repeated story is told of butterflies that must wrestle with their cocoon in order to strengthen their wings so that they can survive once they are loose. Witnessing the birth of my children not only confirmed that I was grateful to not be in the hospital bed, but helped me to realize that the birth of a dream comes on the other side of great tension. 

Tension provides a sense of gratitude for an accomplished work

Tension makes the thrill of jumping that much bigger

Tension helps me know what is worth fighting for

Tension provides the perspective and momentum necessary to take a risk

I have shared before how it took seven months of unemployment before I landed at the job that I currently hold. Talk about tension! The team that I am privileged to lead is in the middle of a 2-year project to create resources for local churches to better serve families affected by disability. These resources are the result of years of tension – conversations, debates and discussions about the best way to serve the church. 

So, how can you make tension work for you?

1) Keep your eye on the prize, on your vision, on the dream. If tension causes you to walk away from this, then it wasn’t that compelling to begin with. Take this as a great opportunity to revisit the vision and make sure that it is truly large enough to be compelling.

2) Remember that life is a journey and tension is simply one of the steps you must take on your way to success. Tension is a well-oiled bike chain, a rubber band ready to launch, or the nervous feeling you get right before you make a leap of faith. 

3) Although it might be clichè, there is a reason that it works – “what doesn’t break you only makes you stronger”. Tension is necessary for world class athletes to become stronger. And without tension you will never learn just what you can truly handle. 

4) Tension brings you to the feet of Jesus. Tension reminds me constantly that He is God and I am not. I cannot, nor am I meant to, proceed through life on my own strength. Tension keeps me humble which is always the best way to be.

I don’t know what you are walking through this week, but I would imagine it includes some tension. Be encouraged to not run from it, but rather to embrace it, to bring it to God and to anticipate the dreams that will be birthed because of it. 

~ Mike

Their Way Might be Better

I don’t know about you, but I live with an underlying pressure that I am supposed to have all of the answers and always know the right decisions to make. It doesn’t matter if I am at home, work or on the football field. When I was starting out as a young pastor, I believed that asking for help or admitting that I was unsure of what to do next was a certain sign of being a terrible leader. I can remember at times making up answers just to appear right and hoping that I seemed confident enough to thwart any potential questions. 


While I cannot say that the pressure has lessened at all, I can say that I do a better job lately of looking to others for help and answers. Even when I am in a role as leader, or maybe especially so, I look to my team for thoughts, insights, plans and ideas. It is ludicrous to think for even one moment that I might hold all of the answers. Even something as simple as finding my car can become an exercise in my natural desire to know everything. When my wife and I were dating, we attended a UCLA football game. Part of the parking lot at the Rose Bowl is on a golf course and we spent almost two hours walking in circles around the course searching for the car. On several occasions she pointed a different direction, but I confidently ignored her suggestions. When the tow trucks arrived on scene, I started to become genuinely worried and we eventually found the car…in the exact direction that she had suggested quite some time before. 

Through the pain of many decisions, I have come to this conclusion regarding the people in my life: their way might be better! Now, if only I always remembered this in the moment. The majority of my disagreements with my wife happen when I forgot this truth. Errors at work happen largely because I ignore this basic premise. So, let me share three problems with ignoring the premise and three benefits from heeding it.

Ignoring this premise leads to:

** a bottleneck of ideas and action. A leader who feels that he or she must know everything compels all activity to flow through themselves which causes a shut down of progress. 

** a sense of arrogance and entitlement on the part of the leader. What else could somebody feel if they know everything about everything?

** a level of stress and pressure that no person is designed to handle. The leader who knows everything must work very hard to maintain that illusion and increases stress everytime he or she must provide information that does not exist.

On the contrary, learning that their way might be better leads to:

** an empowerment of team members and a true sense of personal value which will naturally lead to greater collaboration and success for the team as a whole.

** an assortment of ideas, perspectives and actions to choose from that will inspire both creativity and innovation.

** a true releasing of others in their areas of strength…which should be an underlying value of all healthy leaders

This is not an easy task for me, nor do I believe that it is easy for you. It is humbling and challenging to admit that we might not have all of the answers. However, leadership is less about being right and more about encouraging and supporting others to accomplish their dreams. I can honestly say that one of my greatest joys happens when people have an “a-ha” moment…and this is impossible if I have to know all of the answers. 

~ Mike

Making an Ishmael

Have you ever had a dream that was moving too slowly? Have you ever had plans that were not turning out? Have you ever found yourself going a direction in life that you never imagined and you “know” it must be the wrong direction?

If you are anything like me, these are the moments that the temptation to cut corners, cheat the system or just take matters into my own hands is the greatest! If I was to be completely transparent, my first marriage was the result of this mindset. I decided that it was taking too long for marriage to happen, so I stopped waiting and moved forward in a reckless manner. It is so very dangerous to not slow down, wait on the Lord and allow His plans to play out.


In the book of Genesis, Abraham is given a promise that he will be the father of nations and that his descendants would be as numerous as the sand on the seashore and the stars in the sky. This was a powerful promise filled with hope and joy and expectation. However, there was one major hitch – Abraham was approaching ninety years old and had no children. So, he took matters into his own hands, slept with the maidservant of his wife, and had a son, Ishmael. You can read the story in chapters 15-20, but the summary is that Ishmael was not the child of God’s promise, that conflict arose between him and Isaac (the intended child of God’s promise), and that conflict not only fractured Abraham’s family, but the descendants of the two boys continue to be at war today.

So, what is it that drives us to make our own “Ishmael” when life doesn’t go the way that we expect? Why am I unable to read about the life of Abraham and avoid the same traps of impatience and control?

Here are three things that I wrestle with when tempted to make an Ishmael:

First, I lack unwavering faith in God. It is so much easier to trust God and follow His plan when things are going my way. However, it is both the storms of life and the adversity of circumstances that reveal just how deeply rooted my faith is. Am I more like Abraham who changed the story, or like Jesus who slept in the middle of the storm? I need to live in such a way that the storms of life drive me to God instead of to my own means of avoiding the storms. 

Second, I am admittedly impatient. I often joke that God is always late in my life. Upon retrospect, I know that His timing is perfect and it is myself who is unable to wait for the right moment. Traffic drives me crazy because I am forced to wait. One person in front of me in line is too many and I even find myself refreshing my Twitter feed manually if I am feeling especially impatient. Please don’t leave me hanging that I am the only one who struggles with this! The problem is how often my impatience short circuits what God has planned for me. 

Third, I like things done my way and struggle to relinquish control. Deep down, I believe that I am right, that my way is the best way, and my timing is impeccable. I rarely say this, but my actions reveal that I like to be in charge. IF the ship is going to sink, I want it to at least sink on my terms! This is not only a poor way to live, but it is exhausting and exasperating. 

In spite of myself, God’s grace overcomes my inability to trust Him with all of my heart, my lack of patience and my control issues. While I spend a great deal of time making my own Ishmaels, God continues to love and bless and encourage me. And as I look at the story of Ishmael, in spite of Abraham’s shortcomings, Ishamael received the blessings and promises of God in his own life. 

So, how about you? Do you find yourself making Ishmaels and, if so, what drives you to this? Regardless of the reason, remember that God knows, God sees and God loves. He can even turn your Ishmael into the greatest blessing of your life. While I would never recommend pursuing the creation of an Ishamael, remember that He is the God of redemption and that your “Isaac” is just a step of faith away. My first marriage (one of my biggest Ishmaels) gave me the gift of my children and for that I am eternally grateful.