Forced. The word itself can bring to mind some pretty negative mental images. As a kid my little brother really wasn’t very “little.” He was big and he was strong. We were only two years apart and although we are super close now as adults, as kids we were on a mission to kill each other. A vivid memory of mine is locking myself in the upstairs bathroom in order to avoid getting my tail kicked by this guy. Not that I was taunting him at all, of course!

Whether or not my brother was justifiably provoked could certainly be debated, but either way, I still felt forced to spend hours in this small little room, screaming through a locked door.

The bottom line is that no one likes to be coerced into doing something that they don’t want to do.

But sometimes the pressure has a purpose. A friend lovingly confronts your sin and you’re swept into the midst of an intervention. Your spouse grasps your hand as you head into that needed surgical procedure you’ve been putting off forever. Yes, sometimes being forced is exactly what you need.

I’ve had many moments like this in life and in hindsight I’ve always been thankful. However, a recent incident brought more pressure than I can remember ever feeling, and it came from an unusual source – the Holy Spirit.

A true and safe leader is likely one who has no desire to lead, but is forced into a position of leadership by the inward pressure of the Holy Spirit and by the press of the external situation.”

A.W. Tozer

So, here I sit. Now just three months in to a leadership role I absolutely did not want. It has been the biggest professional challenge I have ever faced – times ten! There are moments when I have called out to God, exclaiming that He must be crazy. But then I remember His distinct, undeniable call and I surrender. I vow to Him that I am here – ready and willing, even if not able. He has carried me through every difficult decision and has filled me up when I have felt more than empty. I have never felt closer to Him than I am now. And for that I am thankful.

If you are a close friend or colleague, you know that I just returned from Israel a few weeks ago. Being invited to attend the GYI Summit was an amazing privilege. So much so that I kept the invitation pretty quiet until just a few weeks before we were scheduled to leave. What made this trip so special was so much more than the fact that I was going to walk where Jesus walked (although that is amazing!). It was the fact that this phenomenal gathering was bringing together up to 200 ministry leaders from over 50 countries around the world – all of whom are focused on mobilizing youth to make disciples who make disciples.

GYI Summit group shot

Any nerves I had about traveling to the middle east quickly subsided as I met one brother or sister after another. I can honestly say that I have never in my life felt more welcomed or more loved. I did know a few folks… my friends from Dare 2 Share training partner, Sonlife, who were responsible for extending the invite to me in the first place. However, the overwhelming love from others from different cultures and ministries made such a strong early impression on me. It was a clear indicator that I was about to forge friendships for life in just a few short days.

I wish I could unpack every story exchanged, every smile shared, and every special conversation for you. But even if I did, I doubt you would be able to really grasp the sense of Holy Spirit fellowship that was taking place. Within less than 48 hours after I arrived, I was sending up a prayer of gratefulness to God for allowing me to experience His Church in this way, and in THIS place!

I continue to reflect on those conversations and have loved keeping in touch with my new friends. God is also paving the way for some significant Kingdom-advancing opportunities for us to work together to mobilize teenagers to make disciples. Your prayers toward that end would be very much appreciated.

P.S. A special thank you to all of the staff who worked so hard to pull this event together. May God bless them immensely for their vision to see a global movement among teens accelerated.

It’s Thanksgiving. I’ve been so busy that this year seems to have slipped away without me even noticing. Don’t get me wrong, I love the activity. And I am thankful for the work that I get to do. I believe it matters and I am thrilled to play a small part. My only regret is that I can’t seem to find the discipline to really enjoy all that life offers. No matter how hard I try, I get so easily swept away, moving from one project to the next, fueled by the adrenaline of accomplishment.

So today, in this quiet moment that I somehow found in the midst of preparation for the biggest family gathering of the year, I’m counting my blessings. Literally.

– I’m thankful for a God who sent His Son to save me. I’m thankful to serve and worship Him.
– I’m thankful for this country. No matter what your politics, Americans still live better than the majority of the world.
– I’m thankful for my family. My son and hubby bless me every single day. Whether I’m home or away, they pray for me and support me without ever asking for something in return. My parents, and my brothers and their families bring joy to my life in so many ways. They tolerate my lack of involvement in the normal “girl stuff” and my special sis-in-law, Lynda is always taking up the slack. Mom & Dad would sacrifice a limb if they thought it would help me out. I’m so blessed!
– I’m thankful for my friends. It’s not a giant circle but it is full of some extra, extra special people. They listen and provide advice and encouragement when I need it most. More importantly, they pray for me. Wow!
– I’m thankful for the family at Dare 2 Share. Some amazing friendships have grown out of the last 20 years, enriching my life in remarkable ways. And what a huge privilege it is to serve the Kingdom with great people!

Yes, I have a lot to be thankful for every day! How about you?

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!

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!

20140302-152546.jpg

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.