Tag Archives: dream

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

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5 Ways to Accomplish Your Goals

Most of us have somewhere to go – on a daily basis, we are crazy busy. Wake up, eat, exercise, get ready, journal, get the kids ready, school, work, homework, dinner, activities, bedtime craziness, fall asleep and do it all over again!! Wow, it can be tiring just thinking about how full our days are. But what are we actually doing? Is there any purpose to the routine or is it more survival than thriving? What is the motivation and goal for all of the activities?

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We won’t ever know where we are going or what we are doing unless we have goals to accomplish. We need goals personally, for our family, for work and even for recreation. But it’s one thing to have goals and quite another to accomplish. So, here are five thoughts about how to see the completion of the goals in your life.

1.Write them down – it is very challenging to accomplish goals that are not written down and kept in front of us. It doesn’t really matter how you write them down, but make sure they are kept in a place that is easily accessible and visible. Post-it notes on the mirror, whiteboard at work, notes app on your phone…the possibilities are endless. No matter the style, taking time to write down your goals will put you ahead of the crowd.

2. Make them clear, measurable and memorable – have you ever written down a reminder and been so vague that you couldn’t remember what the reminder was about? Not a good plan for goals. Make sure they are clearly written and you can measure them. Saying you will exercise is a dream…saying you will exercise by running for thirty minutes every morning is a measurable goal. And some added advice…make them memorable. Use rhymes or other word tricks to remember the goals you have.

3. Plan little steps to get there – news flash…you won’t accomplish your goals tomorrow! This might seem unnecessary, but often we become fixated on the goals and become discouraged when they don’t happen soon enough. It might take a thousand steps to see the completion of a goal, but each little step has its place and is important. See the steps, plan the steps and enjoy each step while you are there. Don’t become so fixated on the big goal that you forget to enjoy the moment of the little steps!

4. Start today – so you’ve thought of your goals, written them down and even discovered the many little steps needed along the way. Now just go for it! Don’t wait until tomorrow or next week or next year. Take one step tomorrow and begin moving forward towards your goals. The longer you wait to begin, the easier it will become to discard the goal and go back to a busy but unproductive life. If you are anything like me, you don’t want to actually go there!

5. Don’t give up! This is the area that I struggle the most with. I become distracted or discouraged or disheartened and walk away from goals. Then, months later, I rediscover where I wrote them down and realize that I need to start all over again. There is a much easier way – just don’t give up in the first place. Take little steps and keep moving forward. Will you experience setbacks and forget to move forward at times?!? Absolutely, but when this happens just head back to step #4 and start again.

So, how are you with goals? Do you have some written down? Are you making progress or do you need to discover some little steps to get closer to accomplishment? Wherever you are in the journey, it’s well worth the extra work to write down your goals…as a great leader once said to me, if you aim for nothing, you will hit it every time!

~ Mike

4 Keys to Being a Great Leader

Audacious, I know! I mean really…how can I claim to know the secret to great leadership? What I know personally is more about how to not lead with greatness. Allowing things such as busyness and control and lack of confidence and minimal discipline to waylay the greatest of plans and dreams.

abstract office space

It is far too easy to have our lives begin to look like this desk – cluttered and scattered and non-productive. Instead of remaining here, I have spent years studying other leadership greats…both personally and through books and conferences. There seem to be some common traits of the great leaders, so let me share four of them with you here.

  1. It actually is all about the little things! Great leaders, even if this is not natural, understand that details matter. Details allow for follow through to happen, details provide the momentum for big projects to finish, details show value to the people involved. Consider the leader who knows and acknowledges your birthday versus the leader who forgets your name…which one has greater influence on your life in a positive way?
  2. Great leaders carry a compelling vision with them that nothing can minimize. Often, those around the leader think they must be crazy or delusional or so busy dreaming that nothing good will come of it. Instead, it is this driving vision that compels leaders to greatness because they can envision accomplishing something that nobody else can see…and then they are able to both share the vision and gain buy in with those they lead.
  3. Play and rest are important to great leaders. Rarely does an effective leader not have downtime. I define great leadership as not only influential but sustainable as well. Leaders without margin who have forgotten how to rest and have fun will burn out and greatly tarnish their influence. Leaders who play and sleep and eat well and value quiet time will remain healthy which allows them to lead longer which results in greater legacy.
  4. Relationships are the most valuable investment for great leaders. It must be more about the people in their lives than the task to be accomplished. Leaders who trample followers in order to win eventually are standing on the podium by themselves, if they even made it there. In stark contrast are leaders who are surrounded  by followers that have been loved and valued and appreciated and encouraged every step of the way. These leaders fill arenas and auditoriums and sanctuaries when they die because everybody felt that they were vitally important to the leader.

So, I have two questions for you to consider today:

First, who are the great leaders in your life that you can learn from and what traits do they exemplify that you desire to mimic in your life?

Second, what kind of a leader are you? Do you find yourself consumed with the task, living unhealthily and hurting people around you…or do you value relationships and seek ways to help those around you shine?

potted plant

With a little bit of practice, you can experience growth and health in whatever environment you are privileged to lead in.

Happy leading!

~Mike

Healthy Leadership Starts Small

Leaders often are the biggest dreamers – they see the horizon and then some. They envision a better future and simply can’t wait to get there. The problem is that for leadership to remain sustainable it needs a solid foundation. This happens when we start small, fail forward and slowly learn what works and what doesn’t work in certain situations. Leadership that has only soared with the eagles and climbed the mountaintop might not be reliable when storms come and people are stuck in the valley.

mountain peak

When I was in Bible college, I must admit that I thought I was the greatest thing since sliced bread and that any church would be lucky to have me as a leader. During a time of transition within the children’s ministry, I was allowed to become the leader of a small group of kids who, quite frankly, were unwanted by the key ministry leadership. My “Solid Stones” and I went to the back corner of the building and started a journey that lasts until today. I learned how to lead worship by working with those kids. I learned how to empower kids to lead their own games, teachings and worship and I was taught to be faithful in the little before ever considering the big.

I was so excited to lead this group of children and at the beginning it was truly all about me. However, to this day I still reap the benefits of the many lessons they taught me.

Starting small taught me:

  1. It’s not all about me – no other leaders in the church truly cared what we did, as long as the parents were happy. I had to lay down my agenda and learn how to create an atmosphere where kids could both learn in church and have fun!
  2. I must focus on the details and not get so lost in the dream. No dreams are ever accomplished without taking the baby steps to get there. I learned to take attendance, to pray for kids, to listen to their struggles and to adjust teachings as needed depending upon how they were all doing on a given night.
  3. Leadership is a blast! I still remember starting and ending every Wednesday night class on the playground at the merry-go-round. The goal was to wrap the kids tight around the many poles and then I would spin as fast as possible to their great delight. Having fun together opened the door to many conversations that would not have ever occurred otherwise.
  4. God is not concerned with the glamour, splash, fireworks or show. He is looking for leaders who are faithful with little, who will serve the least of these, and who are willing to work for His Kingdom, regardless of whether or not others notice.

While I would love to say I have lived out this principle of starting small perfectly over the years, I can say at least that it all started in the back room of a church, with a group of unwanted kids, who taught me some of the most valuable lessons of my leadership journey. I am forever grateful to each of them and have even been blessed to see them now as adults on occasion.

Start small, don’t worry about recognition and focus on the next step as you move forward. Your vision won’t change, but I would hate for you to miss the many lessons along the way because you are only looking at the mountaintop.

~ Mike