Holy Interupptions


When I was in the 1st or 2nd grade I heard the mother of my friend tell all of us in her Sunday school class that prayer was simply talking to God. She went on to tell us that each morning while getting ready in the bathroom, she would talk to God. So of course, I imagined a women putting on her makeup, brushing her hair, and having a two-way conversation with God. Great right?

Few weeks later, I’m spending the night with my friend, whose mother was our Sunday school teacher. Early that morning, I hear her in the bathroom so I sneak down the hall to give a listen. Guess what I heard. A woman talking to herself. She was praying, but my little 8-year-old heart was so disappointed to think that God didn’t talk to her every morning so I could hear too!

Now I’m much older, and I’ve learned that prayer is indeed something we do much more for our own hearts than it is something we do to inform God of exactly what we need.

But what is my challenge now? Now it’s learning to see prayer as something I do continually and not something that serves as a distraction to my already full day. 1 Thessalonians, chapter 5, Paul says two words in the midst of a short letter. He says we should, “Pray Continually.” What does this even mean? The only thing I do continually is breathe. Should prayer be as constant as breathing? Well the answer is yes…and no, but really yes.

Prayer should serve as continual interruption. It sits as a line of communication that is always open, always ready for us to engage with our Heavenly Father in a way that keeps us with him. Abiding with him. In his presence. I like that word, interruption. There’s some baggage there, let’s unpack it.

Last year I spent a long weekend with some Trappist Monks in the mountains of Georgia. Strange sentence, right? Let’s just say that I was in a place of my life that both allowed the margin to do such a thing and the curiosity to meet some very new and different friends.

In my time there I tried my best to observe the 7 set-in-stone prayer times throughout the day. I’d arise at 4:30am, then head back to bed while they ate breakfast, then come back at 7am for morning mass. We’d meet again for mid-day prayers at 12:15pm, gather for prayers before dinner at 5:20pm and finally compline, the last prayers of the day at 7:30pm.

In my few days with the monks I learned that prayer served as not the interruption to their lives, but as the life itself. The tasks of the day, the meals, the sleep (albeit very small quantities of it) served as the distractions to their real ambition. Prayer.

Sure, I could have walked away concerned with my own shallowness and lack of time or awareness to pray 7 times a day. Instead, I walked away with a great appreciation for the act of stopping. Our brothers and sister in Christ have called this the Divine Office, or the Daily Office for centuries. That moment when we stop, we listen, we engage, we read his Word aloud, we write what He impresses on our hearts, and we pray.

If we don’t make this Daily Office, this stop, happen; then God has a way of forcing us to. Almost 10 years ago I sat at the foot of my newborn daughters hospital bed praying for her health. It did not look good, things had been terrible. Easily the worst day of my life was watching my 5-day-old daughter stop breathing. I sat in that uncomfortable hospital rocker and prayed. I repeated the words to the song, “Mighty is the Power of the Cross.” Over and over the words to this song played in my heart.

In that moment, in that hospital room I watched my daughter struggle to make it in the world. I prayed myself to a point, where my prayers begin to change. The prayer of what the power of the cross meant for the physical well being of my daughter, began to be prayers of thankfulness for what the Cross meant to myself. Those prayers for my daughter begin to be prayers to God for what he had already done.

The interruption in my life changed me. My daughter she would recover, it would be a miracle that just a few days later we would walk out with that kid. Yes, God moved in her body, he healed her symptoms, and we are thankful. But this Father… I’m thankful for the interruption. Today I dare you to let yourself be interrupted. Learn to see the moments where you can stop, listen, and engage with a Father God that has pursued you even when you didn’t deserve it.

Praying Continually. He wants you with him always. It is my prayer that you let God interrupt you enough to remind you that he wants to know you, He wants you abiding with Him, He wants to see you changed through your knowledge of Him.

Community That Matters

Orange Conference 2016


I prefer being with people that get what I get. I love being with leaders that lead in ways I want to lead. I need to hear from people doing what I’m doing in more effective ways. I want to listen to the stories of others making a difference, and making that difference in every imaginable context.

I’m a big believer in community that affects positive change in my life, and I can think of few opportunities where you could immerse yourself in a community of leaders that develops the kind of hope found at The Orange Conference in Atlanta, GA.

This Thursday, October 8th registration will open; and registration will not be cheaper than it will be on October 8. Register that day and save $80 off regular pricing and get Insider First Access to Breakouts! This offer only comes along once a year!

How to Lead a Team to Excellence

...and how not to lead a team to excellence.

Orange Excellence

Growing up, I loved a movie that involved two ridiculously dumb teenagers, Bill and Ted, which traversed the entire story of time in a time machine they found outside of a Circle-K. Every time they’d see something they liked, they’d look at each other and say “Excellent!” While their version of excellence was dripping with surfer and valley attitude, my own version of excellent has often left others wondering what I meant.

While I’d love to travel back in time like Bill and Ted, I cannot. Instead I’m one that has had to learn from my mistakes. One mistake I’ve often made as a leader is how I went about leading others on my team toward excellence. I would move too fast, not explain the steps toward excellence, and generally expect those on my teams to read my mind and do what I was thinking. My experience has taught me one very important truth. There is a better way to lead a team toward excellence.

The first step toward excellence is to communicate clearly what excellence is for your team. Every team is unique, every church is distinct, and every individual is different. Spend time defining what you’re looking for and how what you’re doing now will look different when it’s done with excellence. This step is worth spending weeks, and maybe even months, in developing the answer. Considering where your organization’s leadership has been before, where they are at now, and how they are growing in the future can help you begin to communicate clearly to your team where you need, and expect, to see excellence happen.

The next step into leading a team toward excellence is to connect your team to where you see excellence currently. What you dream for your team is probably happening on some level in other places, and it could even be within your own organization.

A few ideas here include:

  • Identify that person on your team who is an A+ volunteer recruiter and let them share their strategies in a team meeting. This will bring attention to what she does in a vocal way; and set up the rest of the team for the expectations you have of them.
  • Find another team doing what you believe you can do with your team, and make that connection happen. Take that other church staff out to lunch, on your dime, and make the connections a tangible thing. Make time to Skype in that leader from across the county and introduce their strategy of excellence to your team in a quick way.
  • Assign those on your team who need to be better, to connect with leaders and organizations that they themselves respect and see if you can get what they respect about others to rub off on their own methods and strategies.

There is excellence all around us, and as a leader it becomes your burden to connect your own team with what is out there to learn from. This may be one of the most important long-term steps you take as a leader of a team, helping everyone develop relationships that challenge the way we do things in our organizations.

The last step to truly establishing a team of excellence is to set a realistic path toward excellence. Many leaders live in their world of visions, dreams, and big plans; and skip over the more obvious questions their team is asking.

For example:

  • “What do I do now?”
  • “How does what I’ve heard and seen help me prepare for next weekend?”
  • “Could this ever happen here?”
  • “Does what I see and hear have a place in my organization?”

Not taking the time to answer the “What now?” questions for your team will leave them disillusioned and unsure of what you will be holding them accountable to. Great leaders make sure they keep themselves tethered to the “what’s realistic” part of leadership as well. Your church, your team, and your ideas won’t always play nice; and as the leader it becomes your important job to help everyone manage each other in a respectful way.

A leader of excellence takes the time to help their team see what excellence can look like for them. A leader who wants excellence in their team will go to great lengths to find and connect others to those they should be most invested in, their own team. A great leader works to break down the vision into steps that are doable, realistic, and yet challenging at the same time. The leader of an excellent team helps everyone see where their current work is helping them achieve excellence and where their current work isn’t.

It’s not a job for the fainthearted, but it is the job of a leader seeking excellence in how they engage others in the story of God’s Son, Jesus. You could travel all through time and still wouldn’t find a more important story to tell. It’s excellent!

“The lie of narcissism is that we can control a world that is spinning out of orbit by narrowing the field of ambiguity into a simplistic perspective. We choose this perspective—a path of rigidity and dogmatism that limits options and lets us deny complexity in the world. We do this even though complexity is inevitable, and no leader will succeed if she closes herself off from it. Only by letting go of dogmatism and embracing complexity can a leader open her mind to a greater capacity for creativity, leading to success.”

Dan B. Allender

Orange Books

Summer Reading List

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Orange Books has put together a reading list just for you.

Whether you are in children’s ministry, a lead pastor, a volunteer, or stumbled upon this page by accident, they have a book for you.

Leaders, like writers, read. So they asked leaders three questions about books:

What books do you recommend to leaders in your area of ministry? 
What books are you asking your team to read? 
What’s on your own reading list?

The Summer Reading List is the result. Organized around eight topics, and comprised of both religious and secular books, it’s actually multiple lists in one. In fact, it could form your reading plan for the entire year. You may wish to read (or re-read) several books related to your area of ministry, or you may want to “cherry pick” across topics, but they think there’s at least one book per topic you’ll find enriching or challenging.

Click HERE to get your copy of the List. By signing up, you’ll receive not only the List itself, but eight special offers (one per week beginning July 12) on select Orange Books. Watch your inbox for details each week.

Give your ministry the gift of a better you. Reflect, rethink, and renew this summer with Orange Books.