Yesterday was my hubby’s birthday. His day. His choice of how he wanted to spend it. He decided he wanted to go on a long motorcycle ride together. It was a beautiful Colorado day so it sounded good to me.

It’s amazing how much thinking you can get in on the back of a motorcycle all day. There were no distractions, just the gentle breeze of the warm air as I leaned back and held on. No music was piped into my helmet and there was no way for me to constantly check my cell phone. At first I just took a deep breath and allowed myself to take in the beauty that surrounded me in the canyon as we headed to the hills. But then I found myself recounting the last few months. The ministry and life ups and downs reminded me of the constant curves we were encountering on the road.

May began with a trip to California to join dozens of other friends and co-laborers for the Youth Ministry Executive Council. The event didn’t disappoint. It was filled with great connections and fellowship. It inspired and refreshed me. Then, two days later I found out that a friend that I just shared a meal with there, Rebecca Long, had died in a tragic accident. She was 32 years old. What in the world? I still think about Rebecca a lot, praying for her family almost daily. I can’t even fathom their pain.

Next stop in May was a trip to Daytona Beach, FL to train trainers for the Assemblies of God. After years of talking about partnership and building a strong relational foundation, the dream of training trainers with D2S content to energize and equip exponentially was finally here. It went even better than expected and paved the way for a much needed week of vacation with my hubby. Still reflecting on Rebecca’s death, Rick and I headed out to sea.

June and July brought even more partnership “high’s” as we collaborated with Sonlife on their Muve events in Chicago and Portland and announced a full training partnership that includes multiple levels of cooperation in order to accelerate the vision for 30,000 Gospel Advancing Ministries by 2025. But right on the heels of that, I received news that my aunt has stage 4 bone cancer. Another hairpin curve. Does she know Jesus as her personal Savior? Will God provide a way for her to hear His redeeming message of hope through His Son? Am I to be the messenger that she needs? I find myself praying through these questions, waiting for His Spirit to lead me to answers.

Our own Lead THE Cause University went into its third year this summer with a brand new program, the addition of Core Trainers, and a soft launch to the youth leaders in attendance of the values of Gospel Advancing Ministries. It went great! There were a lot of moving parts, but I can honestly say all of the hard work paid off! Yet, there was one looming black cloud that kept that experience from being picture perfect. One of our hand-picked, solid, in-the-trenches-getting-it-done youth leaders fell morally. When the news came it hit me like a sucker punch to the stomach. The wind still escapes me as I think about it and it eventually leads to a knot in my gut that makes me want to wrench, but then I remember that God is in control of ALL things and He doesn’t need my help.

I just returned from Columbus last week. It was a real blessing to see the folks we trained in May (affectionately known as “YAM’s” – Youth Alive Missionaries), training students to share their faith. Even more fun was experiencing the hunger for evangelism that is was so apparent in the 9,000+ students and youth leaders there. Many of the AG practices are well outside my comfort zone, but I still felt like I was truly among family. Then this morning, right before we left for our ride, I received a disappointing email. Another curve. I’d been working pretty hard on something that didn’t work out. At first it throws me off. But as I climb on the back of the bike and take a deep breath, I realize that this too, is just another curve.

It was a great day and I enjoyed the birthday ride with my hubby. I am so thankful for our strong marriage. Today, my son turns 30 years old! Yes, I have a lot to be thankful for even in the midst of the twists and turns!

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I’m sure you’ve read the Biblical story about Moses taking on too much (Exodus 18:13). I think every leader can relate to his situation at some point in their career. It doesn’t take long for the issues to stack up in a growing ministry/business. Before you know it, you are surrounded “from morning til evening” just like Moses. I too have heard the figurative voice of Jethro in my head saying, “what you are doing is not good” and it has led to an intentional delegation and leadership development strategy.

However, effective delegation is just the beginning of this leadership challenge. As soon as you begin to feel comfortable delegating, you are then faced with another dilemma: in addition to dealing with escalated issues from those you have given authority, you also need to discern how best to spend the remainder of your time.

In his bestselling book, The E-Myth Revisited, Michael Gerber states,

A true business opportunity is the one that an entrepreneur invents to grow him or herself. Not to work in, but to work on.

Mr. Gerber is obviously talking to the entrepreneur, but I truly believe that the opportunity exists for every senior leader in any organization as well. Gerber talks about how we need to wear three different ” hats ” in order to be successful and grow our business: that of technician, entrepreneur, and finally manager. Spend too much time wearing any one hat and it’s a recipe for disaster.

So, with that in mind, how much time should we spend “in” versus “on”?

First, it’s important to identify those activities that fall into each category. I recommend literally making a list. If the result of a task is a product or service that your organization provides for it’s constituents, then you should consider it an “in” activity. Any time spent thinking about what to do (as opposed to how) or building, planning, strategizing, or developing relationships other than your direct staff, can be considered “on” activities.

Chances are your list will surprise you. I know mine did. The “in” activities are typically our sweet spot. They allow us to demonstrate our gifting and work within our strengths. For this reason, those activities are super important. But if you are a business owner, ministry founder, or senior leader, I would encourage you to spend the majority of your time on average working on your “on” activities. Why? Because if you don’t it won’t be long before you will lose sight of the bigger picture and become caught up in what you are doing instead of your long-term vision.

Decide for yourself what ratio of in vs. on works for you. Maybe start with a 60/40 approach and see how it goes. Reevaluate after a month and see if you can push it to 70/30. Spending more time on vs. in is sure to pay off.

Jack is my nephew. He is the 14-year-old son of my youngest brother, Darin. He’ just about as tall as I am and has beautiful red hair. I remember rocking him in the backyard swing of my parent’s mountain home when he was a baby, singing softly to him to settle his crying when nothing else seemed to help. It was then that I knew something was wrong. My brother and his wife did everything they could to figure it out until finally he was diagnosed. Jack is autistic.

Although Jack cannot communicate verbally, it’s easy to tell when something makes him happy. He loves music and dancing and things that light up. Over the years I have enjoyed watching him grow and develop, in spite of the autism. Spending time with him reminds me that life is precious and helps me remember that simple things can bring joy.

Last February my brother made the 3-hour trek from Steamboat Springs to Loveland with Jack and his daughter Alex (then 15) to attend the Dare 2 Share conference. Both of us were uncertain of how Jack would respond to the large event and were concerned that the large event with thousands of teenagers would be too much for him. But, as Jack often does, he surprised us. Not only did he do okay, he seemed to be attentively listening to each and every word – for the entire two days! At to our amazement, he began to worship. Even though he had never even attended church before, Jack read the words on the screen and caught on quick to the melody, singing to the best of his ability. It moved me in ways I will never forget. Darin and I began to wonder if God had drawn Jack to Him. We had no way of knowing for sure.

It’s now a year later and Darin once again brought both teens to the Dare 2 Share conference, this time held in downtown Denver. One year older, Jack once again soaked up everything happening on stage. But then something happened during the prayer meeting finale Saturday night that blew all of us away. As the entire arena of 3,000 went down to their knees to pray to their God, Jack was right there with them. And this young man who can barely utter a please, thank you, or hello, proceeded to pray to His God for his mother and to “ask forgiveness for his memories.” As Darin and Alex overheard him praying they raised their heads and looked up startlingly at each other. Was Jack forming sentences? Was Jack talking with ease to God? Yes!

The next thing I knew Darin was pulling me into the aisle to tell me what was happening. We sat on the stairs and held each other and wept. Jack and the family had been through so much the last few weeks. As I gained some composure I turned my head to look down the aisle at Jack. There he was still head bowed, eyes closed, hands together, praying out loud to the Heavenly Father.

As we closed the prayer time with the song “The Great I Am”, Jack was as passionate as any other worshipper – it was obvious that he and The Great I Am had just had a connection. What an amazing God!

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Maybe you saw the movie. Or maybe you have seen the latest trend about this on Facebook. Whatever the case, this is more than just a cool phrase. It’s a way to express Christ’s love and be blessed at the same time. Yes, paying it forward isn’t just about the person you are blessing at the moment, it’s also about YOU. Let me explain…

Let’s face it, life is busy. It’s a day in and day out journey without a whole lot of “stop and smell the roses” moments. And even if you are lucky enough to get some margin for a pause, how quickly does the brain snap back to your to-do list?

Me? I feel like I could get an award for this lifestyle choice at times. I’m an activator, a doer, a “suck-it-up-and-get-it-done” type gal. Sometimes I even feel guilty if I’m not multi-tasking. I know, sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? I know I need to change. At the depths of my heart I realize that I need to pay attention to what is going on around me and not be so consumed with my own agenda. So when I see examples of others “paying it forward” it jolts me out of my obsession for activity and checkmarks and reminds me that there are people out there waiting for some love.

In early January I had a one day trip scheduled to Springfield, MO for some very important meetings. You remember the crazy weather across the country at that time that was causing all sorts of havoc for air travel. Well, this “quick” trip quickly spiraled out of control and I found myself alone in the small, isolated Springfield airport after Midnight. The hotel shuttle wasn’t running because of the sub-zero temperatures and the only taxi company had just a few cars running. They were grumpy and backlogged and could only promise another 45 minute wait. That’s when I met David. He was on the same flight as me and needed a taxi too. We commiserated and ended up walking the airport (short walk) looking for options together. Nothing. So, we decided to wait. As we were talking an older looking gentleman approached us and asked if we were waiting on a taxi. It seemed like this guy just came out of nowhere. He told us he had a cab coming in just a few minutes and offered to share it with both of us. As we stood and waited together I found out that he was a doctor for at-risk babies. We had an interesting few minutes all sharing about what we did for a living before the taxi showed up. Dr. Jeffrey quickly explained to the taxi driver that I needed to be dropped off first because “I had important work to do.” Apparently he had resonated with my explanation of the ministry I was involved and wanted to take care of me. Wow! When we pulled up to my hotel, Dr. Jeffrey immediately told me to not worry about the fare and to just pray for him and David. What a blessing! Of course I would be honored to pray for both of them. We exchanged cards and I was on my way. In my room that night (morning) I thanked God for these men. It’s been about six weeks since I met them and I am still praying for them consistently.

A major example of living a “pay it forward” life is my husband. He’s the strong, silent type but don’t let that fool you. Underneath that tough guy exterior is a man who is well aware of the hurting around him and he quietly will be looking for ways to bless and serve. Any recognition for these small gestures and he quickly fades into the background. You get the impression that he just wants a subtle acknowledgement and then hopes that others will do the same. For instance, just the other day he noticed a senior eating breakfast all alone at our favorite restaurant. He called our waiter over and told him to get us his bill but not to let him know who was taking care of it. I’ve seen him do this many times, so I wasn’t surprised at all. It’s one of the things I admire about him and, like I said, it provokes me to think about paying more attention to things outside my own “world.” Normally this is handled quietly and there isn’t much hoopla. But not this time. The wait staff, most of which we know by name, were so impressed they kept coming by and commenting about it to Rick. This made him incredibly uncomfortable but it made me think about how this one small act was also affecting all of them. Not only was this man blessed, but the dozen or so staff there that day were blessed and so was I.

If you think about it, do something for someone around you who needs a hand. And if you can, do it when no one is watching.

I first heard about this concept a year or so ago but just recently have given it some major attention. As I headed toward the end of a pretty tumultuous year I was ready to hit the reset button in a big way. It wasn’t that I was filled with regret. It was just that it was a hard year, that’s all. So I wondered about the best way to make a fresh start and I wasn’t too thrilled with the idea of developing a set of “resolutions”.

Then right before the flurry of Christmas activity I read a blog about the One Word concept and it jogged my memory. So I looked a little closer and decided to go for it. You can find out more by going to http://www.getoneword.com. My goal for this blog is to give you a little bit of background as to why I chose the word I chose, not to sell you on the one word concept.

My word for 2014 is… PRAYER.

Now, it may seem like a no-brainer to you but I want you to know it took me a bit to commit to it. The idea is to choose one word that will transform your life and that’s a pretty daunting challenge. I thought about it for a long time and then really asked God to give me the word that would really transform me.

Maybe this word is so appropriate because of the difficult year I’ve had, I’m not sure. It is definitely the right word for me for 2014 though, there’s no doubt in my mind. It’s not that I’ve been struggling with prayer – I absolutely love to pray and find myself uttering little mini-prayers to God all day long. I’ve also began trying to implement something the whole staff at Dare 2 Share is doing – The Daniel Challenge – praying 3x a day on your knees for revival among teens. I would say that prayer is currently a big part of my life.

The one thing that stood out as I was searching for just ONE word was that it needed to be a word that, if I truly focused on it all year long, would make me a different person when I looked back a year from now. From the bottom of my being, I honestly believe that prayer will do this. It’s going to be a great year!

By the way, if you haven’t read The Spiritual Secret about the life and ministry of Hudson Taylor, you should pick it up and put it on your 2014 reading list. It’s well worth the time.

It’s that time of year. The Colorado weather is constantly changing and it’s impossible to keep the outside of the car clean. So I stocked up on that helpful blue liquid that squirts on to the windshield from some secret place under the hood just to be sure that I can push a button and magically be able to see where I’m going. Yep, seeing where I’m going is pretty stinking important.

But sometimes the magic blue liquid just isn’t enough. The two semi-circle openings clear the way for me to see okay, but there comes a point when I just need to completely clean the entire surface in order to get a clearer picture of where I am headed. That’s how life can be at times too. Especially over the holiday season. I have been rushing from one thing to the next, clearing the way for me to just see through.

But now it’s time to clean off the entire pane of glass and gain some perspective. It’s 2014 and I believe that God has some great adventures in store for me. I just need to stop for a minute and clean the windshield.

Good Enough. Does this phrase evoke a strong opinion from you or does it simply state how you live your life? I remember the first time I had to really confront this phrase professionally. My husband and I were living in the Silicon Valley and were both employed by high-tech firms. The organization that employed him had gone through several RIF’s (Reduction In Force) and the CEO brought together the remainder of the global staff for the infamous “all hands” gathering that follows these happenings. His speech began with the usual… the state of the economy and the market… blah, blah, blah. But then he proceeded to declare that the company’s mantra for the future was to be, yep you guessed it, “Good Enough.” My husband was confused and perplexed. Was the CEO asking him and the remaining employees to produce sub-standard work? Or was the leader of this worldwide technology firm trying to justify their additional workload?

That was over 20 years ago. Since then I have had to wrestle with this phrase and the meaning of it many, many times. As a perfectionist, just typing the words make me cringe. Deep down inside my gut tells me that the extra effort it takes to get to perfection is worth every second. But through experience I have seen the devastating results of striving to achieve this standard, especially as a leader. I have pushed hard and expected the same from my team. This expectation has caused resentment and burnout. I have lost quality team members because they felt like they could never live up.

In response, I tried to lighten up a little. But just when I thought I was closing in on mastering my perfectionist tendencies, I was confronted with members of the team who won’t accept “good enough” either! This little phrase raises havoc with their work ethic and their commitment to produce only the best. So I find myself trying to explain something I’m not even sure I’ve fully bought into. Now I know how that CEO felt!
It was time for some serious soul-searching. What exactly did I expect of myself and my team? Here’s what my reflection time revealed:

Quality Does Count – producing excellent work is not only something to strive for, it’s something to be proud of as well. Start every project as if it were your last and ask God to navigate you through the details of what to hold on to and what to let go of as design, develop, and deliver.

Excellence is NOT Perfection – choices, choices, choices. Pushing for perfection could not only kill your people, it can also kill your project. It’s a proven fact that it takes 80% of the effort to product that last 20% to reach this standard. Learn how to recognize excellent work and focus on the major aspects of the project, not the minor details. The ability to recognize the difference will be a major sign of strong leadership. It will help you retain your quality team and will keep your project on deadline.

Just Start Already – don’t over think it. How often have you missed an opportunity because you were waiting to make sure you had all of your “ducks in a row.” Gather as much data as you can, make sure you have a clear vision for the final, and then dig in. You don’t want to waste your time or anyone else’s, but chances are that you really do know what you need to know by just trusting your instinct. Remember the quote from George S. Patton, “A good plan violently executed today is better than the perfect plan next week.”

Be Flexible – almost always the project ends up looking slightly different at the end of the day. The only way to allow creative improvements is to create space within the timeline to evaluate and adapt.

It’s crazy to think that two simple little words can cause so much trouble. But honestly, figuring out what is “good enough” and when and how to address this with your team, is a huge leadership hurdle. If you don’t believe me, check out these wise words from one of the best: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2013/12/no-one-reads-a-comic-because-its-drawn-well.html