Category Archives: Personal Life

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. 

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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