5 Steps to Amazing

Ever watched an evening of TV and wondered if you could get those two hours back? I have. It happens more often than I'd like to admit.

Things passively enter our lives all the time. Some of them are great. But a lot of the stuff that comes across our path just doesn't do much for us.

Wanna make your summer count?  Here are five steps to see it happen.

Watch something great.  
Don't just default to what's being targeted to you by someone else. Instead, watch what you'd like to see. Something that can add to your life, not take from it. List out 3-5 films, vids, plays, or whatever might inspire you, teach you a part of history, or just make you laugh. Who else might like it? Watch it with them and then be sure to talk about it.

Interact with the best.  
List out the top three people you'd like to meet in your city. Then treat them to coffee or offer to swing by their office. When you sit down with them ask the question, "What do you love about what you do?" It's easier than you think to get 30 minutes with them as long as you show a little persistence and some flexibility on your part. 

See somewhere new. 
Think through some places within a 500 mile radius that you'd like to see.  Sure, we'd all like to sip coffee at the base of the Swiss Alps and take a gander at the real Mona Lisa. But I'll bet there are some sweet spots that aren't all that far away. Make a list, grab a friend, and hit the road. 

Educate yourself.  
Is there a skill to acquire that's not a part of your everyday routine? A hobby to take on? A language to learn? There's more info available than ever these days for the casual or not-so-casual learner. 

Read a book or two.  Or three.  
What 3-5 books do you want to read over the next three months?  Reading a book forces the brain to slow down and take things in. A lot of times I'll get an idea completely off-subject while spending time in a good book-- just because my mind is getting exercise. They're like energy bars for creativity, without the funky aftertaste. Don't just let books sit there, read them... and take a few notes while you're at it.


Leading From Your Core

When I was 19, a doctor told me I had the flexibility of an old man. That was part puzzling, part hilarious. Over the years, I've watched the rehab community develop in their approach to what it means to strengthen your core. Some thinking has even moved from working your abs to actually considering your core to be more of your back and hamstrings than anything.  

In leadership, we like to lead from a core place of comfort and what we know. Dan Allender challenged my thinking about our true core strength.

"Core strength is like the hub of our strength, and it is far deeper than our stomach muscles. Therefore, core strength isn’t gained by doing a few or a thousand crunches; instead it grows to the degree we work at creating disequilibrium while we exercise. A set of push-ups now includes holding a small ball in one’s hand while going down, and while coming back up rolling the ball to the other hand.  Disequilibrium requires more core strength in order to return the body to balance. The first set of push-ups to build core strength feels like one is balancing on a rocking deck of a wave-swept boat. It feels uncomfortable and awkward. But in time the rhythm of disequilibrium intensifies our capacity to find a new sense of balance and strength. Our attempt to not feel off guard actually leads to greater self-absorption and the foolish conviction that we can control the world. True core strength is willing to feel helpless and disturbed, and it results in a self-disciplined and passionate life rather than in a controlling life that fears what may surprisingly arise.”  

So, are we willing to allow things to enter our daily calendar that cause disequilibrium? Are we willing to be caught off guard? Are we at a place where we can take things on that might feel uncomfortable and awkward, so that we might find greater strength? 


3 Questions Culture Shapers Ask

Culture can mean a lot of things when we look at it from an organizational standpoint. Here’s what it’s not. It’s not a mission statement on the wall. It’s not a bunch of declarations. It’s not policy. It’s also not ping pong tables at the office or trust falls on the team retreat. Culture is the outgrowth of consistent behavior. So, a culture shaper (or a culture shaping team) is one who lives out, over time, the things that they value. If it’s faith, you’ll see it. If it’s methods, you’ll feel it. If it’s donuts, you’ll smell it.

Want to be a culture shaper? 

Here are three good questions to ask:

1. When a person steps out of their daily responsibilities and considers the larger organization of which they're a part... what do they experience, feel, and sense is important? It’s a shorter list than you’d think.

2. From a personal stewardship standpoint, what can you uniquely bring to others (family, friends, team) that they can only get from you? It’s probably a mix of a few things. Bring that unique contribution to the planning table, the prayer time, the outreach, the staff meeting.

3. If you were to take the temperature of the current culture that’s been set, are there things that need to change? Are there parts of your plan burning hotter than others, that shouldn’t? Have you cooled off on an area of emphasis that should receive more focus? What can you do to help make a shift in the new direction? Think baby steps. 

Great people are involved with our organization in lots of different capacities. We have people who volunteer a few hours a week, people who work overtime, and everything in between. No matter their capacity of service with us, we want them to reflect back on their time with us as a chance to do the greatest work of their life. Even more, we want them to look around inside our region and see people with great faith who are growing in their leadership and concerned with building God’s kingdom, not our own. 


Gospel Humanity Collision

The guy in the white, skinny jeans was staring at my wife from the concert stage. He bounced in rhythm behind his electric guitar and gave his best “smoky eye” looks her way as she stood next to me on the front row. She thought it was funny. Not me. I thought he looked weird and uncomfortable.
The lead singer sounded better than ever. However, she tugged on her dress, spilled water on her piano, and led the crowd in a few awkward moments between songs. Well into our thirties and on the front row, that night we saw humanity in a super star. We’d long admired her songwriting skill and silky clean voice. We assumed her life was just as silky and clean, with very few mess-ups. Seeing her perform live that night, we didn’t get that feeling.
Humanity is a funny thing. When we pull people off of our stages and screens, we realize we hold a lot of basic things in common—breathing, being hungry, and experiencing pain. This levels the playing field. We have days where we feel on top of the world, and we have (more) days where we just feel the grind. We feel tired. We find out a friend is hurting. A relationship gets fractured. We procrastinate about a difficult decision. I have more days when I’m just trying to walk next to Jesus and it’s all I can do to breathe in and out and put one foot in front of the other.
Being human puts us on an equal playing field with the people on the platforms. That’s good news. But, there are also some really beautiful things associated with the gospel that level the playing field for spiritual influence as well. That’s even better news.
After Jesus rose from the dead and before he went back to be with the Father, he stood on a hill and shared something with his disciples that changed everything for the rest of us. He said, “Go.” He told them to rise and live a life of mission. My life would look differently today had it not been for a collision with the grace of the gospel. It’s not always pretty for me, and it wasn’t always pretty for the disciples, who got much needed help when the Spirit showed up. The gospel has a way of causing a ruckus and moving forward, and we get to play a part in the advancing story.
Not only is the superstar on stage just as human as we are, but so is the spiritual giant who always says the right thing and has all the best stories. We are all equally desperate for God’s grace, and equally capable of greatness. Not the kind of greatness that makes the Huffington Post  but the kind that shouts a giant shout in the halls of eternity.
In other words, each of us can have the most profound impact possible. You and I can have the most significant conversation ever possible: a conversation where the gospel message moves across the line and takes root in a person’s life, transferring their heart from darkness to light. The greatest conversation of all time can be had by any of us, and there’s no need for a guitar or super-tight jeans, which is really good news for me.

This is an excerpt from my article originally titled "Gospel-Humanity Collision" featured on GCDiscipleship.com

Photo Credit


Mission is Verbal, Too.

Living missionally isn’t recognized by spell check but it sure is talked about a lot in our carved out, Christian part of the world. We make missional living out to mean so many things that I wonder if it’s lost it’s meaning. One thing we easily forget in all of our missional talk is the importance of the gospel moving out, verbally, from one person to another. Of course, there are times when a person discovers the gospel on their own. And God is the only one who can change a heart. But most often another person is the medium for the message -expressed through language- in the context of love and trust. When the gospel is shared in the context of a relationship where love has been expressed and trust has been earned (at least in some form) big things can happen. Sometimes love can be expressed and trust can be built rather quickly, as fast as a few minutes on some occasions. Sometimes it takes longer. Somewhere along the way, however, the actual information has to be presented. The gospel message has to come across the wire and be heard by the person on the other end.
I’m part of an organization that talks a lot about going. We like to say that “go” is in our DNA and flavors most of our tactical moves. We work mainly with students who are 18-24, and it’s a privilege to engage a person in that window of time when they are so full of passion but still wondering if they are buying the God (or non-god) that’s been sold to them. Sold to them by their parents, taught to them by a pastor, or shared by their grandma on their social feed. Whatever goods on faith they’ve been sold, they’re finally on their own and deciding for themselves what they really believe.
These young people are walking around their campuses with their backpacks full of academia, but life just doesn’t make sense apart from Jesus. Without Christ, they’re in a bad space even if they don’t realize it. Come to think of it, so is my neighbor who leaves their trash can at the curb too long, my kid’s coach who yells too much, and the young person working behind the counter at the grocery store with the tattoo that I can’t read. Apart from Jesus Christ, life is coming off its tracks. They’re in a bad space. We’re in a bad space. And here’s something I wish I thought about the night of that concert with my wife…the same is true for that skinny-jeaned, bouncing guitar guy with wandering eyes.
A heart without Jesus is a dark heart. Darkness is darkness. A dark heart is a sick heart, and a lonely heart. Without Jesus life just doesn’t make sense.

This is an excerpt from my article originally titled "Gospel-Humanity Collision" featured on GCDiscipleship.com

Photo Credit


World Changers

I like thinking about the future, and I love the idea of being part of a leadership engine for the body of Christ. After all, sometime soon, a creative young leader will make something that will change everything for the rest of us. Do you remember what life was like before seeing a hashtag in the corner of your TV? I have a feeling that right now that future leader isn’t coming up through the ranks of youth group fame. Maybe they are. However, I think it’s equally likely that the future spiritual leader is rushing around their campus dropping f-bombs when they meet with their professors. Or it’s the young lady who last week slept with her boyfriend and can’t imagine anything greater. The student organizer who is motivated by self-promotion. Or, the inebriated fraternity guy who is out for revenge. What if, before they changed the world, that young person’s life collided with the grace of the gospel and everything changed for them?
I think that would affect a lot of people. After all, there are certain things that are already reaching the world:  technology, the arts, and media to name just a few. I wonder what would happen if a few of the top leaders in these parts of our culture were Spirit-led leaders with a foundation in Christ and a vision for making disciples? And what might happen if they didn’t use their platform to shout through a megaphone, but instead used it to generate meaningful conversation and intrigue about Jesus Christ? I think we’d see a serious ripple effect of life- change and kingdom expansion. Maybe even one that could change the whole world.
This is an excerpt from my article originally titled "Gospel-Humanity Collision" featured on GCDiscipleship.com


"Write every day, line by line, page by page, hour by hour. Do this despite fear. For above all else, beyond imagination and skill, what the world asks of you is courage, courage to risk rejection, ridicule and failure. As you follow the quest for stories told with meaning and beauty, study thoughtfully but write boldly. Then, like the hero of the fable, your dance will dazzle the world."

-Robert McKee, a leading voice in storytelling


Sculpture, Story, Brand.

LAX – Bradley International Terminal from DIGITAL KITCHEN on Vimeo.

I don't find myself in LAX much.  But, this is fascinating.  It gives people- hustling from one place to the next- an experience at the intersection of sculpture, story, and brand.  Pick it up at :50 for the best of it. 


Coca-Cola Small World Machines - Bringing India & Pakistan Together from Coke Pakistan on Vimeo.

"I think a lot of the strife would go away if you took away the barbed wire in the middle of the two countries."  Look who's helping remove the barbed wire through technology.  


Tell me what I don't want to hear.

Getting constructive feedback makes me wanna scream like there's a live deer waking up in my backseat. I hate getting feedback because it reminds me that I'm not the hero. It reminds me that I don't do things the way people see fit, and that I don't always represent the way I'd hoped.  But more than I hate feedback, I don't hate growing. In fact, I love growth. It beefs up our souls. And often it's that feedback that leads us to a growth spurt. 

The best kind of feedback is the kind we get in real-time. Great teams do this. They keep short accounts and really value listening to each other. Every now and then, in addition to that real-time input as we collaborate with others, we have a chance to pause and get a more comprehensive view of where we are as people. 

So, are you inviting people to give you feedback? 

If so, that tells us a few things:
1. You're willing to listen.
2. You value other people and how they experience you.
3. You have a certain amount of courage- after all, they might tell you something really ugly.
4. You want to grow more than you want to be applauded. 


Sundance.  Story telling mecca for the independent film maker.  It also boasts that it's "the first word in culture every year".  This is a photo I snapped of director Jim Rash (also of tv's "Community") answering questions after showing his film, The Way, Way Back.  One writer said it has been the recipient of "the biggest wet sloppy audience kiss at Sundance".  Funny Heartwarming.  Awkward.  Did I mention funny?  

One of more fascinating parts of Sundance was hearing the directors share the "whys" for making their movie and then answering questions about it from the audience.  In Jim Rash's case, he also played a supporting role as an actor in the film. 


Two friends who trained together and then both set personal records in the 3M half-marathon.  Couldn't be prouder.


 A kite rises against the wind.  Not with it.  

-Winston Churchill