Tag Archives: family

My Biggest Critics

I have crazy dreams! I hope that you do as well. I want to write books, and have a blog that people follow. I want my words and experiences and very life to encourage others to reach for and accomplish their dreams. I want to look back on my life and believe that I made a difference in the lives of others…first for my family and then for those who I am fortunate enough to know and influence.

I don’t know what your dreams are, but I wonder if we might share the same critics. I wrestle daily with fear and doubt – the voices within me that remind me I have nothing of value to share. I have no experiences that might encourage others. I have no words that could inspire or exhort others to accomplish their crazy dreams!

I am often my worst enemy at stepping out, trying something new, daring to dream. In the same moment that I am enjoying a dream, the voices in my head are letting me know why the dream will never actually happen!

I can talk myself out of just about anything…and it’s exasperating and frustrating.

Fear – what if I fail? What if I’m not perfect? What if nobody cares? My fear voice looks at the reactions of others and convinces me that nobody will listen much less respond to my attempts at encouragement. Fear paralyzes me in a place of frustrating inactivity. Fear pops the balloon of my dream and turns it into a piece of latex trash.

What’s interesting is I have countless stories of helping others overcome their own fear of accomplishment. Yet, I very rarely remember this on my own. I drag my feet in order to ensure that fear is not correct. If I never jump, I can’t crash, right? The problem is that if I never jump, I will never learn just how far I can soar…and that’s just downright depressing.

Doubt – who am I? What do I have to share? What difference can I make? My doubt voice typically speaks more to myself as a person. This voice challenges my very identity and attacks the presumption that I, as a person, have anything of value to offer others. Doubt doesn’t even let me get to the point of jumping. Instead, my dreams are shattered well before they ever have true definition.

Doubt focuses on my flaws, my mistakes, my shortcomings, and my failures. It reminds me that these completely invalidate anything positive I might try to drum up about myself. If people only knew what a complete train wreck I was on the inside, they would run from any advice, encouragement, or inspiration I share.

These critics are brutal. They are devastating. They are intensely personal. Unfortunately, they are winning more lately than they ever should. Why?

Because I am choosing to listen to them. Success and progress are predicated upon my listening to voices that speak truth in my life. I can only make a difference if I step out and take a chance. I become a self-fulfilling prophecy when I listen to my critics of fear and doubt.

What’s the solution? Look to my past for stories of success and value. Connect with my circle of family and friends who know me, warts and all, and believe that I have stories worth sharing. Remember who God made me and daily pursue my relationship with Him so that my identity remains grounded. Jump! I have to take a chance – call a friend, write a blog, launch a website, or provide a listening ear to somebody.

If our voices match, then join me in ignoring fear and doubt and giving into hopes and dreams. If we never try, we are guaranteed to come up short. But if we choose to jump…who knows just how far we can soar?


Leadership in the Home

I find it interesting how many people do not consider the home to be a place where leadership exists. For many, leadership seems too organizational or formal or political to make sense within the confines of home sweet home. If I am completely honest, leadership at work or church is must simpler than at home. The power of genetics and the many connected emotions make home leadership much more tricky to navigate during a typical day. However, this does not relieve me of the mandate to lead my home well. 1 Timothy 3:4-5 says that a potential church leader must “manage his own household well…for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?

1 Samuel shares a heartbreaking story about the high priest, Eli. While he was faithfully leading the nation of Israel, the Bible states that “the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord.” What a brutal revelation of poor leadership within the home. I would hate for this to ever be said of my children. Because of this, I need to lead in such a way that my children know God, that they see me pursue God and that when they are adults, they could never say that they were not exposed to life with God.

Leadership in my home must start with my marriage. This is not some dominating control issue. Rather, I am responsible for setting the tone of my household and it begins with how I treat my wife. Do I love her well? Do I truly cherish and honor and provide for and protect her? Do I look for practical ways to serve her daily or am I about my needs and agenda? Your best way to determine this would be to ask her. My hope and prayer is that she feels cared for and loved better by me than by anybody else in her life. If not, then my leadership is sorely lacking. Epheisans tells me to “love my wife as Christ loved the church.” This is a tall order since Christ sacrificed and gave His life for the church. It’s quite a standard to aim for, but by the grace of God I am hopefully getting closer to leading her well. 

As my children are able to see how I treat my wife, it extends my leadership influence to parenting. My girls should see in me the ideal way they want to be treated by men, both now with friends and someday in the future (many many many years in the future lol) in marriage. My boys should have a role model for how to provide for, how to protect and how to lead their future homes in a godly manner. While there is a certain amount of pressure here, it is more of a privilege that God has blessed me with to shape the future through the lives of my children. Do they see their dad pursuing Christ and running hard after God? How do I speak of and treat others? Complete transparency will tell you that I have a ways to go with my own humanity to provide a great role model, but I hope that they are able to see progress in my life. 

Another aspect of leadership , specifically with my children, is to work hard to not think for them, but rather to challenge them with the idea of “what would be better?” They must decide that pursuing Christ is important to them and then must figure out how to best do that in their individual lives. I can teach and train and model, but ultimately they have to take the ball and make a run for it. If I make all of their decisions and tell them exactly how to do things, then where does their ownership happen? A far more effective manner, and one that I am still figuring out, is to let them pursue Christ and live out their faith on their own and then be there to answer questions and redirect when needed. 

The spiritual, emotional and relational health of my home is ultimately on my shoulders to establish. I can accomplish this through a bunch of rules and regulations, or I can pursue Christ on my own and then allow His Spirit to guide me in how to best lead my home. I want my home to be filled with the presence of God. I want for there to be joy and laughter and peace and good memories. I am accountable to lead according to the end in mind and must ensure my actions line up with my values.

How about you? What does leadership look like in your home? What role do you have in shaping the atmosphere of your home and how are you allowing God to lead you in this way? I would love to get some comments here as I have a lot of learning to do in this area.

~ Mike

Three Little Words This Christmas

Christmas is such a wonderful time – the opportunity to see family, to celebrate the holiday and to enjoy musicals, parades, movies and an ever-present cup of hot cocoa. However, far too often we are sucked in by the hustle and bustle and find ourselves running from one activity to the next without the opportunity to truly enjoy any of the experiences.

Crazy singing Christmas House

This year, may I encourage you to employ three little words with great regularity? “No, thank you” can be so empowering, so freeing, so liberating for you and your family this month. You don’t need to stand in every retail line for that one item that will most likely be broken or lost by January. You don’t need to attend every version of the living Nativity, nor does every street filled with Christmas lights need to be seen.

It is really not crucial to say yes to every opportunity presented to you in celebrating Christmas. Saying “no, thank you” allows you to drink cocoa with your kids – to sit on the couch and watch Charlie Brown and his Christmas tree. It allows for story time and Christmas dreams and family game night.

The pressure is enormous and I completely understand. However, I believe that practicing “no, thank you” more than “yes, absolutely” will provide for a much better family Christmas experience. Relationships and memories that last will happen better in the moments of serenity than in the craziness of retail shopping.

Have a merry Christmas season and no, thank you, I am not able to attend your seasonal party!

~ Mike

Three Big Blessings of Family

So, it’s Thanksgiving week and the rules are that all blogs must have to do with gratitude, right? While I am deeply grateful for my family…both intermediate and extended, I thought I should focus more on why I am grateful than the fact that I am grateful.


Over five years ago, I was blessed to see God restore my brokenness and all me to remarry. However, I can see that family is a blessing regardless of what it might look like. Single parents (which I was for a while), original marriage, blended family, extended family, or whatever the circumstance…I believe that family provides at least three major blessings.

  1. Family has seen you at your worst and they still love you. I didn’t promise they always like you, but regardless of morning breath, bad attitude, stress and general grumpiness, family members are there for you when it counts. Love isn’t about emotions or wants or selfishness…a major part of love is a commitment to faithfulness.
  2. Family helps to form your identity and image. While this might be a bad thing in some circumstances, family is a powerful influence on the identity of people. Family helps us to discover what really matters (at least within our family) whether it is money, looks, integrity or fun. The core of who many of us are can be seen through searching the stories of our childhood and learning about our parents. Much of our personalities is formed through the interactions of family.
  3. Family provides foundational values that will remain with us for a lifetime. For myself, commitment, honor, love, God, loyalty and fun are some of the major values that my parents gave to me, both through teaching and living. They modeled a life that is balanced, that is founded upon faith and is about making the world a better place before we leave. I strive daily to live up to the values they adhered to…but most often, I discover they are already engrained within me; I just need to act upon them.

sunrise fall trees

I have no idea what your family looks like or if you approach Thanksgiving with expectation or dread. However, I do know that family is important and is an integral part of who we are. Be encouraged to see the blessings, to see the positive, to find things to celebrate this year. Life is nowhere near perfect -and that includes family! But we often see what we choose we want to see.

Happy Thanksgiving!



4 Reasons to Have Fun Every Day!

I don’t know about you, but the world seems to be far too serious. We spend the day grumpy in traffic, grumpy at work, grumpy with our families and grumpy with ourselves. I can tell you that in all my trips to Disneyland with my kids, we never took a photo with Grumpy. Mickey, Goofy, Buzz Lightyear and the rest?? Absolutely! But not with Grumpy…

disney kids

There is great value in having fun! This is a high priority in our home as evidenced by a quick sampling of life with our craziness – we take great pride in our silly faces and enjoyment of the camera!
goofy 1      goofy 3     goofy 2

So, what does fun and laughter do for each of us?

  1. Laughter brings people together – I think it’s really hard to not get along with people that you laugh with. Funny faces, laughing together, telling jokes and just living life in a different way can bond people together…both family and friends.
  2. Laughter gives us a break from the problems of life. We all have storms and plenty of reasons for stress and worry. Laughter helps us to remember that the sun will come out tomorrow and that life is too short to sweat the small stuff.
  3. Laughter is physically healthy. Multiple studies have shown that people who laugh are healthier because there are multiple processes triggered in the body that lead to better health. I’m not a doctor so I can’t provide specifics here, but just go with this one…isn’t a chance for more health better than the alternative?
  4. Laughter reminds me to not take myself so seriously. I can get too wrapped up in self-importance and image if I am honest. My humanity wants to worry about what others think, what others say and how I am perceived. Laughter, especially at myself, grounds me and allows me to live humbly and enjoy life, rather than working so hard to impress other people.

I’m sure there are many more reasons to laugh, but at the end of the day, isn’t it better when you laugh? Be encouraged to slow down a bit, crack a joke and don’t take yourself so seriously. What are some of the other benefits of laughter you have found?

~ Mike

The Necessity of P.E.A.C.E.

I don’t know about you, but it seems far too easy to stress, to worry, to be busy and to finish each day not completely sure what I accomplished but feeling exhausted and worn out. Then, there are the times that my brokenness is revealed and I am angry, irritated, short-tempered or other not so nice emotions.

busy train station

Humanity unchecked seems to embrace the hectic and stressful lifestyle. This can’t be healthy, definitely isn’t ideal, and I couldn’t even describe life like this as fun! So, how in the world should we deal with this propensity to worry?

We all could use a little more peace in our lives – both internally and externally. Maybe less noise, more open calendar space, and even some time to enjoy nature and rediscover who we are.

reading on a couch

So, here are my elements to have PEACE in my life.

PRAY – First, I need to Pray. This involves every aspect of my faith – personal prayer, Bible study, devotions and meditation, engage in church, etc. Without faith, there seems to be a lack of purpose in life. This causes us to join the rat race, battle for every crumb, and lack eternal perspective.

EXPERIENCE GRACE – My life is a wreck, if I am honest. I am mean to people, talk lots of smack on the freeway, have sinful thoughts and in no way am close to perfection. Thankfully, I have a God, family members, and close friends who know all of my flaws but extend grace into my life regardless. I need to experience this grace and I have learned that best happens by extending grace to others. This is typically challenging for me, but I hope I am better at it today than I was yesterday.

ACTIVATE LOVE – So many people talk about love. Love is often minimized to feelings, emotions, or just carnal lust. This completely cheapens the true definition of love. Love activated compels me to look out for others, prefer them, serve them and generally find ways to help others around me get ahead. I need to learn where they want to be and see what I might contribute to their journey. It seems very counterintuitive to advance my own dreams, but that is what true love is all about.

CELEBRATE OTHERS – Jealousy is a complete thief when it comes to peace. If my energy is spent on being envious of others, then I will never be at peace. I will be stressed about the promotion of others, their well-being, and their good fortune. Peace comes as I intentionally choose to celebrate the life of those around me. Whether this is a co-worker, a family member or even somebody I might not know well, everybody knows that a good celebration is a great recipe to experience peace.

EMBRACE LIFE – We all spend far too much time with broken dreams, “what ifs”, and ponderings about what might have been. While I am not a proponent of a lifestyle that has no concern for the future, I do believe more peace will come on the other side of living life to the full. Take a risk, have some fun, laugh more often and live a life that has more adventure than regret. Enjoy family and health and blessing and friends – focus on what you have more than what you might lack and peace will soon enter the scene.

This is not a fool-proof formula and I cannot say that I live each day in perfect peace. However, I have learned that these different components all contribute differently to the daily peace that I so desperately desire.  Hopefully, at least one of them will help you to experience peace on a more regular basis.

~ Mike

Why Family Must Be #1!

It is simply amazing to me how many people choose career, sports, money, popularity, image, you name it over their family! There is an interesting dynamic where we typically bend over backwards to please those outside of our home…and take for granted the very people who are committed to us regardless of where life takes us.

family - easter 2015

For myself, I have to admit that this used to be a struggle. I often placed my family to the side in the name of ministry and busyness. I wanted to feel important to people I worked with, people I led and people I knew within my community. This intense desire to be liked led to unhealthy choices that most often left my family with the sloppy seconds of my life.

Thankfully, God has given me a second chance and I understand now why my family must remain second only to God Himself. I can write all the books I want, influence all the people I want and preach as many sermons as I want, but if I neglect the true ministry of my family, then the rest is wasted. I must lead and pastor my home before I ever consider leading outside of my home.

Why is this so important? Three things I have learned along the way:

First, God commands me to live this way. If I am truly a Christ-follower and my daily intent is to bring glory to God, then it is only reasonable that I must act according to His Word. 1 Timothy 3:1-5 ends with “…If anyone does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?” This is a profound statement that is ignored by far too many leaders in the Church.

Second, when all the dust settles, family is truly all we have. I have had the privilege to pastor at multiple churches and while I was on staff, many people would call me friend and were interested in my life. However, upon leaving staff, very few remained connected. My family has stayed by my side regardless of where I serve. I do not fault any people, as I have not stayed engaged in their lives either, for the most part. The truth is that blood is thicker than water and we need to live our lives accordingly.

Third, life just makes more sense when my priorities are in line. God, family, everything else. A bad day at work is “fixed” by a kiss from my wife and a game of cards with my daughter. A rough commute with an over-abundance of traffic is forgotten after bouncing around on the trampoline with my kids. Date night with my wife (which should ABSOLUTELY be a priority for every marriage) just keeps the spark alive and provides space for laughter and connectedness. If work or ministry or busyness become the priority, it places great strain at home and absolutely nothing seems right.

I wish that I could say I have this perfectly figured out, but I would not be telling the truth. I do know, however, that what I say is true and is worthy to strive for. Family is important, family is my calling, family is made up of those who love me regardless of my failures and shortcomings. How could I give the priority to anybody else?

~ Mike


Take Time to Eat Donuts

If you are anything like me, it is all too easy to fill up the calendar and to live a life of busyness and distraction. Smartphones chirp all day long and we have bought into the lie that everything is urgent and important. However, if everything is urgent, then actually nothing is urgent, right?

One of my greatest disciplines is the ability to say no, to not jump at every opportunity and to spend quality time with the people who truly matter. Work and church and ministry are all important and I am blessed to be in several places where my influence matters. However, if that is my focus and family comes in last place, then where am I really?

cass donuts        donuts


Several months ago, I was heading to softball with one of my girls and we decided that donuts sounded better than cereal! So, we stopped and laughed and told stories and ate donuts. I don’t remember if her team won that day, but I do remember eating donuts together.

Eating Donuts Reminds Me To:

  • Slow down and enjoy the little things
  • Take time with my kids ‘cuz they are growing up fast
  • Enjoy family because family matters
  • Focus on the important things of life and forget the rest
  • Say no to the unimportant so I have time for “yes”

So, how are you doing?

Are you saying “no” in order to say “yes” to what truly matters?            Where does family rank in your priorities?

Maybe it’s time to slow down, look around and eat some donuts…

What Pain Teaches Us If We Listen!

Pain definitely makes an impression in our lives. It often causes loneliness, suffering, isolation and just plain soreness. It might be physical, emotional, relational or spiritual, but one thing I have learned over the years is that pain is pain. The key is not necessarily the pain itself, but more what we do when we encounter pain.

We can choose to run and hide, to ignore the pain or to learn from it and grow.

rain cryingWhen I was little, I was helping my mom with dinner and ran out to the pantry to get some food for her. Our door to the garage at that time had an automatic closing mechanism and in my absentmindedness, the door closed on my fingers while I was reaching for the can of food.

Needless to say, this resulted in instant pain. I became paralyzed, in a sense, and never used my other hand to just open the door. I stood there in pain, yelling for my mom and wondering how to get free. Eventually, she arrived trying to figure out what took so long and then discovered what had happened.

While I survived without even a broken bone, looking back I can learn some things about pain that hopefully will assist in my journey as an adult.

1) Pain might be the result of my own carelessness. There was no reason for me to leave my hand in the door jamb, but I did. That resulted in my pain. I could not blame anybody or anything else. In a society that is so quick to blame others for our problems, perhaps we should slow down, reflect on situations and determine what we did to encounter the pain.

2) Pain causes us to panic and not think straight. It would have been a simple fix to open the door with my other hand and not have stood there screaming and crying. However, pain often shuts down our common sense faculties and causes us to make interesting choices. If I know this, I need to again slow down during times of pain and reflect on my choices even more.

3) Pain tells us something is wrong. Pain is our bodies natural defense system. When we hurt, it is become something is out of order. This might be a broken bone or a broken spirit, but pain is sending the same signal. Don’t ignore the pain in your life, but assess it, get input from others and look for the source.

4) Pain is a catalyst for growth. I can tell you that I never left my fingers in the way of that door again. I learned from my pain. I have encountered many other sources of pain in my life, but hopefully I learn from most and don’t return to the scene of the crime. Pain motivates changes, it messes up comfort zones and it causes us to see the world differently and respond accordingly.

I don’t know what pain you are facing today, but know that if handled well, it could become a turning point in your life. Whether divorce or physical pain; unemployment or wayward children; don’t let pain rule your life, but instead learn and grow in the midst of the storm.


5 Steps to Persistent Prayer for Your Children

True leadership begins in the home. If you are anything like me, you hope, think, plan and desire to pray more for your children. You see their struggles, their pain, their dreams and understand that without God…
However, life often happens. Busyness takes control and day by day we forget to pray for our kids. While it is good to pray in times of crisis, there is something about proactively praying blessing and grace and protection over our kids’ lives.
prayer nature
Photo courtesy of Leland Francisco
Luke 18:1-8 reveals a story that Christ shared regarding a persistent widow. She battled daily for justice and was finally granted relief from the judge simply because of her persistence. Oh, that I could pray for my children with such fervor.
While I am no expert here, I am growing and am working on a process to pray. This 5-step process is not foolproof, but provides a framework to begin more intentional prayer.
1) Envision their future – what do I want the future to look like for my children? Jobs, ministry, family, etc. Pray specifically over these.
2) Examine their present – pray for their friends, teachers and other people of influence in their lives. Know their likes and dislikes and pray accordingly.
3) Encourage their dreams – I need to carve out time on a regular basis to learn about the dreams of my children. I cannot rely solely on what I dream for them.
4) Embrace their fears – do not dismiss or avoid these. Fear is real and prayer is the antidote to fear. While God might not always answer immediately, there is peace in knowing He listens.
5) Encircle their heart – I pray daily for God to guard the hearts and minds of my children. To protect them from evil around them; not in a sheltered manner, but with wisdom and discernment.
How about you? Is leading your children through prayer a struggle? How do you make this a regular part of your daily routine?