headed out

On Sunday afternoon, a team of 10 of us leave for a short-term missions trip. We are traveling to Central America, Nicaragua and Guatemala to be specific, to work at a couple of orphanages. We have a great team in place and we are stoked about the trip.

Although I will attempt a post or two from there, I am guessing there won’t be much new until we return. I have post-dated a couple of things that will show up every few days. Upon our return, you can expect a few pics and some video. And probably some passion that always follows trips like this.

We appreciate your prayers!

nascar and Jesus

I am not a nascar fan. Nothing against the sport at all, I just have a hard time staying interested in a bunch of guys making all left turns. Today, I saw just the beginning of the a race up in New Hampshire. Just before the Star Spangled Banner was sung, they had a local pastor pray the invocation over the race. This is the second time I have seen this happen this year so I don’t know if it is a regular feature or not. Here’s what jumped out at me: the guy prayed and then concluded by saying, “in the name of Jesus, amen”. I couldn’t help it, I got a little excited to hear that. I guess that I am a little amazed that they, whoever ‘they” are still allow that to happen. It is nearly impossible to find a public event of that magnitude where people are allowed to pray openly, over the public address system, in the name of Jesus Christ. I say, “good for nascar!”

I am also wondering what bigger statements are being made here. Is it because nascar is more of a southern sport, the whole “Bible-belt” thing? It is because some, not all, nascar fans are good ole’ boys who still respect God and country? Is it because everyone realizes that one of these drivers could easily die at any point in the race? Are those who would normally decry such a blatant display of political incorrectness intimidated? Or do they just figure that this is nothing but a bunch of rednecks who don’t know any better and who aren’t intelligent enough to vote anyway?

I also wonder why the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL wouldn’t be caught dead doing such a thing. Recall after 9/11 that Major League Baseball did allow prayer before the first few games. God Bless America was sung at most stadiums the rest of the season. But Jesus was not the focal point that He is at these races. And now it seems that MLB isn’t nearly as interested in God as they used to be.

If nascar can do it, why can’t we do it at schools and civic events? Now, I am no activist, and I am not encouraging anyone to stir the pot. But I am wondering if we have just assumed that Jesus is off limits in most settings when maybe He isn’t.

Good for nascar. Gentlemen, start your engines!


I visited someone in jail yesterday. I don’t like going to those kinds of places but it is a necessary part of my responsibility. Every time I go to places like that, I come away with strange emotions.

There is a heavy oppression that is obvious and it is easy to get weighed down by it. There is a lot of fear and I actually reminded myself that I did not have to stay if I did not want to, I could just walk out at any time. I was angry at a world where so much evil happens so often and so many people get hurt. I also felt a little hopeless and helpless as I only assumed the desperate condition of the lives I was observing. I felt a little guilty when it was time to leave and I knew that I was headed back to my safe neighborhood and home.

I found it especially troubling that the vast majority of people visiting the jail were females, most of whom had babies or small children with them. I was only assuming that the inmates were the fathers of these babies. What a sad reality, that innocent kids are suffering the results of their parent’s poor decisions. Knowing what I do about the propensity toward repetitive and learned behavior, we can assume that, without serious intervention, these babies will follow their fathers to jail.

I am not especially fond of the verse where God says, Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering. Hebrews 13:3 (NIV) I do care about these people and don’t mind reaching out to them but I can’t quite grasp that level of compassion and empathy. I don’t know that I will ever be able to feel what those prisoners must feel.

I am humbly glad that I’m free.


A mentor once told (actually he told me several times), “the key to everything is preparation. You’ve got to be ready for whatever comes. Prepare, prepare, prepare.” This came at a crucial point in my life and ministry. This guy believed highly in me and felt like some good opportunities would come my way. He did not want me to miss a chance to do something big because I was not ready. I have appreciated his words and have tried to keep them in front of me.

Preparation comes easier to some than others. Depending on your personality and leadership style, you may enjoy prep or hate it. Because of some characteristics I posses and because of some particular limitations, I find that solid prep time is necessary for me if I am hoping to succeed. This is true in most areas of my life.

I think the things that work against preparation can sometimes be good things. I am aware of some really bright people who are able to carry out their responsibilities fairly well, even when they just “wing it.” I have seen some speakers who do a fabulous job based on their charisma and excellent memory. They did not put a lot of time into the message or lesson but were able to hold the interest of the crowd to whom they were speaking. I am not saying that this is a bad thing, but it certainly wouldn’t work for me. I also know some people who relied too much on their natural giftedness and neglected their preparation time. The results were not good.

What are you preparing for? Are you setting yourself up for success at the next level? Remember that the level of your commitment to get ready today dictates your level of success tomorrow.

Prepare. Until you get there, you will never know the opportunities that will be available to you.

sharpen the axe

Ecclesiastes 10:10 If the ax is dull and its edge unsharpened, more strength is needed but skill will bring success. (NIV)

Dullness is a bane of every leader who wishes to remain effective. Hard work, stress and long hours can cause an otherwise sharp leader to become blunt and ineffective. The responsibilities that we carry are sometimes mind-numbing and if we are not careful, we can slowly get lulled to sleep. Nothing good comes from a leader who is asleep at the wheel.

We have to be good at the things which keep us sharp. This is different for each individual. The obvious considerations are rest, prayer and a personal development plan. Possibly the things that sharpen us the most are not so apparent.

An ax is sharpened on a grinding wheel. Note that when the metal of the ax is placed on the wheel, sparks fly. This is heavy-duty friction at work. The wheel is abrasive and harsh. There isn’t much mercy being shown here. If the ax has feelings, they are definitely being hurt. The lesson is, sometimes the most abrasive experiences result in the sharpest edge.

Take note of your interactions today. if someone was less than kind to you, if you heard that others are saying negative things, if some abrasive person is grinding away on your feelings – be encouraged. You are being sharpened.

Now, be aware that you can’t stay on the wheel. Days and weeks of being ground down will reduce you to metal shavings. What you need is variety. Some time on the wheel, some time at work, some time at play.

You have a big job ahead of you. There are some trees to be chopped down. There are some stumps to be removed. A sharp ax will make it all much easier. (my apologies to the tree-huggers for the analogy)

Take time to sharpen yourself. Life and leadership will be easier if you do.

mistaken for a younger man!

I had some fun last Tuesday in a meeting with several young pastors who were discussing issues pertinent to our ministry culture. We talked for 4 hours about change and relevance and authenticity. We spoke passionately about how older leaders need to respect younger leaders and how desperate we are for dialogue about issues that matter to today’s young leader. It was awesome.

Not until the end of the meeting did anyone bother to bring up the topic of the age of the participants who were there. This meeting was designed for pastors who are under the age of 40. I really wasn’t aware of that detail or else I would have exempted myself. Believe it or not, I am a couple of days over 40. The guy organizing the meeting thought I was much younger.

It was hilarious. We went around the room and it was discovered that I was at least 10 years older than the other guys there. They were shocked. I was pleased that I fit in. I think one of the more beneficial things that happened was that they saw that an older guy can actually be on the same page, can have their best interests at heart. There is at least one antediluvian (old dude) who is not completely out of touch. I am not sure that, had they know my age before we began, they would have accepted my input. As it was, they seemed to embrace much of what I was saying.

It kind of stinks to be one of the old guys. But it is good to be able to break down some stereotypes. The group plans to continue to meet. I think I am invited to keep participating. They probably just need a father figure to compensate for their insecurities. Either that or they need a laugh as I doze off during the meetings.

I’ll bet they will start carding guys in the future…

13 mistakes of leaders

The rigors of leadership can leave one worn down and sometimes a bit vulnerable. I have compiled a list of common mistakes that may show up from time to time. These usually appear when we are burned out and are in need of some time off. Unchecked, these mistakes can cause some real damage. If you have seen any of these appear on a regular basis, or if the quotes could belong to you, you may need more than a vacation.

1. Lack of trust in others: “people will burn you, keep your distance, avoid the pain.” Every leader gets taken advantage of from time to time. We have to avoid becoming cynical and hard hearted. If you can’t work with and trust people, you can’t be a leader.
2. Inability to delegate: “if you want something done, you have to do it yourself.” In the short-term, it takes longer to train someone how to do a job or complete a project. In the long-run, training others and delegating tasks is vital to survival. Hand something off!
3. Prepare too little: “who has time to prepare? I’m too busy doing the work to spend time preparing.” This is a trap that catches chronically busy leaders. If you are too busy to plan ahead and approach your responsibility from a fully prepared position, you need to back off of something. (Maybe try delegating something!)
4. Shortcutting the processes: “I don’t need to work hard, there is an easier way.” Some things simply require blood sweat and tears. A shortcut will have negative results. Don’t get lazy with your leadership. Admittedly, we can usually work smarter, not harder, but there is no substitute for diligence.
5. Eliminating constructive critics: “Either you are for me or against me, it you don’t agree with me, hit the road.” Because someone disagrees with you or your approach does not necessarily mean that they are your enemy. Learn how to hear criticism and determine whether it will help you or harm you.
6. Limiting input from the young: “These kids know nothing. They should just keep their mouths closed and let those with more experience get things done.” This is a sure sign of a stagnant leader. It is true that wisdom comes with age but young people bring innovation and energy that is rare among the more mature.
7. Limiting impact of the older: “These old guys are washed up, they don’t know how things operate today, they need to step aside and let someone younger take over.” Seasoned people bring things to the table that are irreplaceable. Don’t be so focused on relevance to our culture that you bypass some time-tested ideas.
8. Too much time listening to critics. “I can’t get beyond the things they said. They have destroyed my confidence, my future is ruined because of them.” Although critics may prove to be our best friend, we cannot allow an out-of-balance criticism to side track us. When someone nails you with a harsh and destructive criticism (sometimes hard to sift through), shake it off and keep moving forward. It is usually a good practice to run the criticism by someone else to help determine whether or not it is valid.
9. Ignoring sound advice: “Don’t tell me what to do, I know what I am doing. I can handle this on my own.” This is stubbornness and pride personified. A leader taking this approach is insecure and should get ready for a failure. Find good sources of advice and listen.
10. Resting on laurels: “I have accomplished enough, my past speaks for itself. I can coast from here.” The past is gone and few people remember what you have accomplished. The victories of yesterday mean little today and even less tomorrow. When you approach the future while gazing in your rearview mirror, you are looking the wrong direction – backwards! And that is the direction you will go.
11. Gearing down without a replacement plan: “I am too busy to train my replacement. There is no one that I can train to do my job upon my departure.” This is a serious mistake that lots of leaders make. Great damage is done in organizations because they have to start from scratch when a key leader departs. Confident leaders set their organizations up for success. Look around you. I know you wear large shoes – but who could fill them once you move on?
12. Too little accountability: “I answer to no one, I am my own boss. What I do is my business and on one else’s.” A sure recipe for disaster! It doesn’t matter how much authority you have or how many people answer to you, you need accountability. The higher you climb, the farther the fall. Go ahead and establish relationships that keep you answerable. You’ll be much more secure that way.
13. Professional distance: “I can’t get too close to those who follow me. I can’t let them see that I am human. Never let them see you sweat!” While there is such a thing as too much personal information from leaders, a certain level of leadership transparency is necessary and beneficial. We must arrive at balance. If your followers do not see you as human, chances are, they see you as a machine – or an animal! Lighten up and be real.

There is a reason you are a leader. You are not afraid of self improvement and development. Maybe this simple list can help sharpen us a little today.