Leading Happy

Where Leadership and Happiness Collide

Month: May 2016 (page 1 of 4)

Embracing the Mess

embrace mess

Around 3 years ago, I walked into my kitchen and found one of the biggest messes I had ever seen. I mean the cringe-at-the-prospect-of-cleaning-up kind of mess. The call in HAZMAT and maybe the Special Forces kind of mess.

You see, our then, five-year old had been given a creative kit from her Mamaw. Evidently she had a thing for  glitter sand, because it was everywhere. I mean EVERYWHERE! All over the kitchen, on the table, the chairs, the floor. It was on her clothes, in her lap, all up in her hair, and stuck to her face. There wasn’t an inch of glitter-free surface anywhere around her.

Now some of you might be thinking how creative and cute that must have been. Your first reaction would be to grab your phone and snap pics for Instagram. But when I walked in, it was anything but cute to me. You see, I am a bit of a control freak. (Some of you that know me are saying, “Only a bit?”) Anyway, the first thought that entered my mind was, “You have made a complete mess! Don’t you know glitter is almost impossible to clean up?!” What a mess; what a burden; what a nightmare!

As I was about to shout…uh…say… something, God spoke clearly to me: “Don’t you say a word.”

I stood there, shocked, looking at my daughter playing, imagining, creating, enjoying the messiness of my glitter-stained kitchen. When she finally noticed my presence and looked up at me, she said, “Look, Daddy, I’ve made everything beautiful with my colored sand.”

Chocking back my emotion, I softly replied, “Yes, you have.” Then she climbed down out of her chair at the kitchen table, walked over to me and said, “Dance with me, Daddy. Dance with me in my colored sand.” Remember, this stuff was everywhere…EVERYWHERE…including the floor.

So there I was, staring at the glitter disaster with a couple of options. I could have told her what I was thinking, that she had made a huge mess and we had to get it all cleaned up just to eat dinner at the table again (control freak, remember). I could have easily (and possibly rightfully) punished her for making such a mess with her glitter. Or, I could embrace the messiness and dance with her.

And again, God said softly, “Enjoy this moment with her.” So I danced. I danced with my daughter. I embraced the messiness of that glitter-covered kitchen. And that day I learned an invaluable lesson from my five-year-old.  A fun-loving, care-free little girl.

You see, we have the same choice everyday of our lives. We can choose to embrace our frustration and lash out at those things that disrupt our lives. That’s typically how we’re programmed to react, anyway. Or, we can embrace grace and dance in the messiness of life…something that is often learned from the most surprising of people and situations.

Now, a year later, this moment continues to help me embrace my knowledge that I am not whole. What I mean by that is that I have two fabricated hips. Hips made of resin and steal and ceramic. My original hips fell prey to disease, and I had to have them both replaced. But instead of denying the fact that life has become almost overbearingly messy for me, I have learned that losing a part of my body has helped me gain a part of my soul.

Oddly enough, I dance better now with fabricated hips than I did with my original hips. In reality, I am more whole now than I was before.

I dance better through the ups and downs of life with a new understanding and appreciation of the grace of God. It is grace to go through pain and suffering and come out stronger, wiser, and more humble. It is grace when the chaos in our lives causes us to better care for ourselves and others.

I have learned that we can enjoy the reality that messiness is more normal than perfection. Until Jesus Christ returns to fully redeem our lives and this world, we must learn to embrace messiness. We learn that we only see through the glass dimly, but one day we will see clearly. We must embrace each others’ quirks and messy problems, allowing grace to reign, learning to dance through it all.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. 19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; 21 because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. 23 Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. 24 For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance. (Romans 8:18-25, NKJV)

How about you? What’s your story? What deep truths about grace have you learned from the messiness of life? Please share with us. We overcome by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony!

Trusting Your Mentor

customerServiceIconEveryone enjoys having a mentor. Taking their advice is an entirely different story.

We need to address the very real and very difficult issue of taking your mentor’s advice. I say “difficult” because most of us love our mentors, until _____. Until they tell us the top ten percent of truth—a leadership term meaning they discuss with us the ten percent of stuff that does matter rather than the ninety percent of stuff that doesn’t. Until they encourage us to be real and to come down from our visionary insanity. Until they give us truth about our situation we simply don’t want to hear or address. I know this is true because it has happened to me, and I am sure it has happened to many of you.

Before I can give advice, let me share my very real experience. I will never forget eight years ago, sitting in an interview in the boardroom of a large church, feeling ridiculous as I responded to their questions. I had been in ministry since 2001 and had yet to be hired full-time by a church. The last church I had worked for ran around a hundred people on a good day, and the church that was interviewing me ran over a thousand. I honestly have no idea how I even got the interview. After feeling like I bombed my chance at getting hired by this church, I was relieved to find out later they wanted me for the position. Enter Mike Messner.

Mike Messner has been a church consultant in the Assemblies of God for years and currently works with Joyce Myers Ministries. At the time, he was consulting this church and was on the board interviewing me. His questions were tough. I kept saying things like, “I am not sure I know how to answer that question.” I recall drinking too much water and having to leave the interview multiple times for a restroom break. I just knew they were talking about how inadequate I was while I was hiding in the restroom. I was a nervous wreck. But God had plans for my life that continue to amaze me. So after the church hired me, Mike began the process (with another staff pastor) to create a development plan for me. In other words, Mike became my mentor.

Over the next four years, my wife and I developed a close relationship with Mike and his wife. When my wife and I knew it was time to transition in ministry, he helped facilitate the process of getting hired by the church where I work now. Mike has equipped me, trained me, challenged me, pushed me, and especially celebrated me. The bottom line: Mike is very special to me.

That story adds context for the next. One day a few years back, out of the blue, I was contacted by a church that was offering more leadership, better pay and benefits, and a more challenging role, which was intriguing. I immediately called Mike for advice. I was excited and confused all at the same time. I loved the church where I was working, but was too intrigued to let this opportunity pass me by.

And I will never forget what Mike said: “David, I know you and I know your wife and child. Where you are is where you need to be. If you are not careful you will accept a job that feeds into your high-driven, workaholic nature and you can easily ruin your life and your ministry calling.” I was floored. I was upset. I was angry. I was close to removing Mike from my Christmas Card List. I thought that this position had come along because God had prepared me for it. I yearned for a new challenge and this must be it, right?

I did not pursue the new position. I stayed with my current church. But there were many nights after my talk with Mike that I struggled. It felt like I was wrestling with my own mind. It drove me crazy. I would say that it has been one of the hardest decisions my wife and I have ever made. And the only reason I was able to make it was that a mentor got real with me and gave me the truthful advice I did not want to hear. Mike took a risk, and his risk saved my life and marriage (but we can save that part of the story for another post).

UPDATE: This post originally was written in 2013. Since then I have found a new leadership role as the director of an amazing nonprofit. Mike was very much in favor of my transition and provided a great reference. Since I listened to him three years ago, I was able to trust him even more when this transition came around. Trusting a mentor has shaped my career in so many advantageous ways. 

So here is my personal advice about trusting and optimizing your mentor:

  1. Find a mentor that views the world through a different lens than you, but understands who you are.
  2. Find a mentor who will coach you and not simply tell you what to do. There is a huge difference between a consultant and a coach.
  3. Grant your mentor permission to give you the “top ten percent of truth.” If you are not on this level with your mentor, you are not being mentored.
  4. Think through the advice that you may want to reject immediately. Not simply for a few minutes; take a few days or weeks. Process.
  5. Trust your mentor’s knowledge and experience. Trust your mentor’s spiritual gifts. Trust they have your best in mind.

I am sure that many of you have had similar experiences and have gained some fantastic insights through it all. What advice would you add to the list?

Life After College: 20 Things I Wished I’d Known in my 20s


There are a handful of major transitions most people make in life. We all start with the transitions within our adolescent years of school from a certain grade to the next leading up to high school graduation. All the changes college and college life brings (freedom and responsibility all at a whole new level). Finally followed by college graduation, for most one of the major life achievements gained. Later there could possibly be marriage, children, and family life. Of course in all of those years there could be many, many, many vocational changes (statically, people will transition from one job to the next every 18 months).

These transitions go on and on and on, yet, one of the most difficult ones goes back to the transition from college to the life beyond. Many feel that they are ready and fully equipped to tackle life only to have that dreamy bubble burst in their hands only moments after putting away the cap and gown. This often leaves one asking the question, “What now?” or even, “What’s next?” These questions and others are hopefully addressed and even answered with what follows.

Dr. Mark Rutland, former president of ORU and now founder of the National Institute of Christian Leadership, expressed it like this, “You might think you’re smart when you get out of college, but I suggest that the real education is only just the beginning.” In other words, there is much gained by the four to five (dare we say six or seven) years of undergrad learning.  Nevertheless, there are many things that a classroom or laboratory or role-playing exercise simply cannot prepare you. Some things must be experienced first-hand to truly be learned from and understood!

Therefore, to better prepare you for life beyond the college years, here are 20 things I wished someone had told me thus helping me make the transition smoother and more enjoyable.

  1. God designed you to be a steward not an owner. Don’t hold things too tightly. Those who are blessed with abundance have open hands not clinched fists.
  1. Not every hill is worth dying on. Some things seem important in the moment, yet have no lasting value. Step back. Be introspective. Then chose wisely.
  1. Who you are is more important than what you do. A Christ-centered identity is a must. This allows you to do a great many things with joy and excellence.
  1. Leadership is stewardship. It comes and goes. It is temporary. But in all of it we are held accountable. Act wisely and people will follow you anywhere.
  1. You will fail. So allow yourself to fail well. Weakness is a sign you are human, not a failure. Learn from your mistakes and press on. Experience is the greatest teacher of all, since there is no such thing as a wasted experience.
  1. Put all the energy you can into developing your strengths. Stop trying to fix all your weaknesses. Focusing on your strengths will increase your confidence and your drive. “When a leader grows and gets stuff right, everyone wins,” teaches Bill Hybels, founder of the Global Leadership Summit.
  1. Be generous. Serve as often as you can. Give as lavishly as you can. Generosity not only blesses others, but also transforms the lens of which we view all of life. Generosity is one of the greatest attributes that will compel you to turn your attention and resources outward instead of inward.
  1. Building character permeates all areas of your life and wellness. Spend more time developing a solid character, so as you increase, your foundation sustains you through the many transitions (expected and unexpected).
  1. Forgiveness doesn’t always fix the damage caused by our actions. The outward heals quicker than the inward. Learn to have a greater tolerance of others (personalities, ideas, quirks, etc.).
  1. Teams are always better than individuals. We all have strengths that bend us towards individuality, so focus hard on being counter-cultural by adding your strength to a team. Your strengths enhances the team, and the team’s collective strengths counter your weaknesses.
  1. Learning is greater than education. Leaders are learners. Getting an education focuses on making the grade, while learning focuses on being inquisitive, learning for learning sake, and embracing true growth. Combine the two in a healthy balance and you will succeed. Oh, and never stop learning…ever.
  1. Pay off debt as soon as possible. Learn to delay gratification. Always remember your parents worked for years for the top dollar things they own. You will not start out with and you are not entitled to having the best for the get go. Work is required.
  1. Be flexible. More than likely, your plan and your back up plan and your back up to the back up plan won’t quite pan out like you envisioned. Allow setback to open your mind to new possibilities you would not have encountered otherwise.
  1. Laugh often. It’s okay to be serious and focus on success, yet if you can laugh in the face of failure and success, your life will be a whole lot more tolerable and enjoyable. Surround yourself with friends who encourage you to live, love, and laugh.
  1. You make your own place at the table. Some get by with slacking because of whom they know or whom they are related to, but the majority of people do not have such luxury. Work hard to demonstrate why you belong at the table.
  1. Do not despise small beginnings (Zachariah 4:10 NLT). Education doesn’t trump experience, while experience that comes with age is no proof of superiority. Nevertheless, you are not entitled to anything. Entitlement has no benefits. Begin where you can, learn the process, and work in excellence. Those entrusted to the small things eventually gain a voice and place at the table of large things.
  1. Don’t let your platform grow larger than your character. There is nothing wrong with taking life slowly. If you have cracks in your foundation you miss as you hustle blindly towards greater success, time will only tell when the platform comes crashing down.
  1. Success is relative to your situation. As Mark Batterson so aptly defines success, “Do the best you can with what you have where you are.” So don’t let culture define success for you. Stop and ask what success looks like for you in your present situation so you can rightly plan for your preferred future.
  1. Prayer is not an option. It is not a nice platitude. All relationships function on communication. Never stop communicating with your source, Jesus Christ. The benefits of prayer transcends into every segment of life. Prayer takes you beyond the level of your giftedness into the level of God’s supernatural giftedness – where fruit is produced.
  1. Grace, Grace, Grace! Grace is the supernatural ability to accept what is instead of woefully longing for what could be. Grace allows us to set down in the messiness of life and see the beauty of the Lord in the midst of brokenness. Grace is the core ingredient of living out contentment, which leads to a healing of not only the body, but more importantly the soul.

So my prayer for you is a one that is centuries old, found in a small letter written by a pastor to those he led and loved. It is a fitting verse of Scripture to conclude a teaching on living a thriving life through the college years and life beyond college.

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.” 3 John 2 (NKJV)

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