7 Critical Questions to Assess Your Team’s Energy


Maybe because I am getting older, I am more aware of my own energy level. In recent years, I have become more guarded in what I give my energy to. It has been easier for me to say “no” to certain things because the energy required is more than I am willing to give.

Are you aware of your own energy level? Of the energy level of your team? Are you wasting energy that isn’t moving your organization forward? Energy is one of the great resources of the team you lead. Do you regularly check the energy level of your team?

It might be time for you to pause, look, and take an energy check-up:

1. Are people on your team eager to communicate with you about their work? A new customer, a new client, a new product, a new sales opportunity? Do you regularly get “interrupted”” with good news?

2. Are your leaders eager for meetings with you or do they dread your meetings? Are they walking into the meetings eager to share news about their people and their work?

3. When you walk around, are people glad to see you coming or do they wonder what they have done wrong?

4. Is there optimism about the future? Is your team talking more about the future or the past? Do they eagerly share ideas about future opportunities and the potential for future growth?

5. Is your team working together formally and informally? There is always more energy when people are working with others. You should hear a “buzz” of conversations as you listen to your team as ideas are generated and problems are solved.

6. Overall, does your team look rested or exhausted? One of the real dangers of the pace of change today is that we are overextending ourselves. More time does not mean more energy. Rest, exercise, and a break from execution can give way to amazing creative energy and new ideas.

7. As a leader of faith, one of the best energy sources is prayer. Is prayer a normal and natural part of the work of your team? Do they individually and collectively pray, asking God to give them insight, wisdom, direction, and favor in the work they do? Do they naturally pray for others on the team?

If your organization’s energy is low, you have some work to do as a leader to refuel your team. A good place to start is in prayer.

“I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory to be strengthened with power in the inner man through His Spirit, and that the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love.” (Eph. 3:16–18 hcsb)

I would value hearing your insights on the energy level of your organization.


Video Interview with Natalie Grant

Recently Natalie Grant visited us at LifeWay for a chapel service, and she brought the house down during worship! I got the pleasure of interviewing her about her newest album Hurricane, which is about finding hope in our times of storms.

In this video hear from Natalie about her new album, motherhood, postpartum depression, faith, and the storms of life. I so enjoyed our chat, and hope it blesses you too!

“We learn more about the character of the God we serve when we’re in the storm than when we’re on the mountain top.” -Natalie Grant

Buy Natalie’s newest album Hurricane HERE.

Connect with Natalie Grant: twitterfacebook • instagramwebsite

Monday Morning Leadership: 7 Truths to Jump Start Your Work Week

Sometimes we need to be reminded that we are wired by our Creator for work—real work. Work that is hard and where real labor is involved. Like sweat and toil (sounds like a preschool mom!). For some it is mental labor, others relationship labor, and others physical labor. Maybe for your work is all three. Whether you are a doctor, a mother, or you pick up garbage—your work matters.


You see most of life is about perspective.
Rodney and I teach couples to work on perspective in their marriages. Eighty percent of what your spouse does is great (faithful, hardworking, good parent, responsible, and caring) but 20 percent will drive you crazy (doesn’t put their plate in the sink, uses your razor, drops the towel on the floor, and leaves the car on empty). Work on the 20 percent for sure, but don’t lose perspective on the 80 percent that is great in the process.

People are always asking me how I am doing. I like to say I am great. I’m not living in ______________ and name several war torn countries where women are being abused and have no freedom. It is all about perspective. I have always liked what Dave Ramsey says when asked how he is doing. He always answers, “Better than I deserve.”

So this Monday morning, work on looking at the 80 percent that is great about your work. Maybe take a moment and write down what you love most about your work. Here are some things to remember that might help get you energized when the alarm goes off on Monday morning:

1. I have a job that pays me a fair wage plus benefits.

2. I have health insurance.

3. I work in a place where I can learn and grow.

4. I work with amazing people who challenge and inspire me.

5. I don’t have to walk to work. I have good transportation that keeps me cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

6. I get to use my gifts, talents, experience, and abilities to make a difference.

7. I can help someone on my team succeed.

8. I have the freedom to share Christ in the workplace or to model Christ in how I work and in how I treat others.

9. I can pray for those I work with as they share needs. I can pray for those in authority over me. I can pray for God to use me.

How do you keep energized in your work? I would love to hear from you.



Voices of Wisdom: September 23, 2014


6 WAys to Build A Better Team and Become a Better Leader – by Todd Adkins
Everyone wants to have a loyal staff, but getting to that point doesn’t happen overnight. In this great post by Todd Adkins, he describes excellent principles to be a better leader and in turn create a more loyal staff.

Thank God for a Messy Church by Tim Challies

If God is in the business of saving sinners, we need to expect that church will be full of sinners—those who are still wandering and those who have only just been found. If our churches reflect God’s heart for the lost, they will be full of people with problems, full of people showing the consequences of a lifetime of wandering. And this means that church may not be a safe and easy place. It may not be a place full of people who have it all together. It may be messy. It should be messy. Thank God if it is messy.

Group Leader Skills: Conversations Between Meetings by Rick Howerton
Fall means it’s a season of new Bible Studies starting up again. If you’re a Bible Study or small group leader, you’ll definitely want to read this post about how important conversations between meetings are. He suggests using email, texting and other face-to-face non-Bible Study gatherings to create community within your small group.

Two Fruits of True Forgiveness by J.D. Greear
Pastor J.D. looks at Psalm 32 as the litmus test to true forgiveness and shares how once we’re truly forgiven, our love for God and our compassion for others begins to grow. He shares the gospel message in this powerful article about how He is drawing us to Himself.

How Grace and Truth Unleash the Contagious Nature of the Gospel – by Eric Mason
Pastor Mason shares a bit of what he learned from his new book Beat God to the Punch: “When you experience Jesus for who He is, you cannot help but run to your circle of influence and engage them with the one who changes everything.”  

Voices of Wisdom: September 16, 2014


Be a Great Leader. A Great – Servant – Leader — by Ron Edmondson
Ron Edmondson shares some helpful insights into how you can be a great servant leader and resist the temptation to be an abusive leader.

Five Questions Leaders Must Ask — by Perry Noble
Perry Noble, Senior Pastor of NewSpring Church, has a few questions he thinks leaders ought to be asking so that they may lead more effectively.

3 Tips on Leading Laterally — by Eric Geiger
I am blessed to work with Eric, and his blog is full of helpful leadership wisdom and advice. Here is a good piece from him on leading laterally.

The Gift of Sabbath — by Larissa Arnault
The Sabbath is a gift from God. Rest is important, and as Larissa shares from Hebrews 4, it is important that we make every effort to rest.

Fatherlessness and the Father Who Never Fails — by Trevin Wax
As Trevin says, and as all of us know, parents are important. Trevin explores the importance of fathers and how a distorted vision of fatherhood can affect the way you view the perfect Father.

10 Tips for Leading a Women’s Bible Study — by Chris Adams
Do you have the opportunity to lead a women’s Bible study? Here are a number of helpful tips from Chris Adams.

The Boy’s Table: Leading Alongside Men

I grew up as the only girl with four brothers. From the very beginning of my life God was teaching me how to be a woman in a room full of men. I’m often asked, “You seem so comfortable being at the leadership table with men. Why?”

Truthfully, across my ministry career, I have been the blessed one. I have served with godly men—leaders and world-changers in the culture. I have been respected, valued, and treated as a valued ministry partner with the men God has allowed me to serve alongside.



That being said, I’d be lying if I said sometimes the reality that I am the only woman at the table doesn’t occur to me, tempting me to question my position, to feel inadequate, insecure and to simply want to hold back. Whether you are in the business world, on church staff, or find yourself on a team with all men, here are a few things I’ve learned:

1. Lay your ego aside.

It’s a myth that in order to sit at the table with men, you have to be extra-competitive, extra-strong, extra-smart, or extra-anything. It’s a myth that you have to win at all costs, prove yourself, exalt yourself, or be better than everyone else at the table. Jesus said to live you must first die. To be first, you must be last. Get over yourself and come to the table as a servant and only then can you lead.

2. You are a woman.

Just because I’m surrounded by men doesn’t mean I am one. You don’t need to lose your femininity to work with men. In fact part of what you offer is your unique perspective as a woman. You have insight and perspective that complements and adds to the overall strength of the leadership table. With that said, it’s probably not a good idea to burst into tears because you didn’t make your projected revenue for the quarter or you missed the deadline on a major project. Accept responsibility but also accept that God created you as a woman and has placed you in a place of leadership. (It is okay to shed tears over spiritual things or matters of the heart!)

3. Respect the men you work with—always.

Make it a rule that you will always give respect and honor to the men you work with not because they are perfect or always right but because you honor them as men God has placed in leadership. The culture is full of men-bashing. I will have no part of it. Do not cut down the men you work with either to their faces or behind their backs. Of course it’s fine to joke around (guys tend to do that), but know the difference between teasing and mocking.

Men need respect. That is true of our husbands, our sons, and it is true of the men we work with. When you show a man respect, you will earn respect in return. This doesn’t mean you won’t disagree. It is the opposite. When you do disagree, with respect, and offer another view or solution, you will be heard.

4. Don’t hold back.

God placed you in your role for a reason. You have something to contribute. If you have something to say, say it. If you have an objection or concern, raise it. If you have an idea, share it. The men you work with need you to be engaged as someone who partners with them for the overall health of the organization or team you lead. Have confidence that comes from the Lord. Be respectful but bold. Men will listen and your contribution may be exactly what is needed.

5. Toughen up. 

Being a leader means debating ideas, hearing objections, arguing (sometimes passionately arguing) for the best in an opportunity to advance or a problem to solve. Don’t take it personally when your ideas get shot down. The goal is not that YOU win but that the organization or team you lead wins. When you make a mistake, own it. Don’t make excuses but learn from it. When you need help, ask for it. A good dose of humility always helps us grow and keeps us in the right position before God.

6. Pray.

Make prayer a priority in your life. I get up at 4:30 most mornings so I can have that quiet personal time with God. I need to reset myself daily to remember what the gospel means. Time in God’s Word and time in prayer, allows me to die daily to me and to then live daily for Him. God will give you the wisdom you need to lead. “Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).

Also pray for the men that you lead with. There is something powerful that happens when you pray for others. God will give you His heart for them and it will show up every time in how you interact with them. The men at your table need you to pray for them.

7. You need a woman friend.

As women we are designed to be in community with other women. I am so thankful that God has given me deep friendships with other women who listen, encourage, pray, support, and also challenge me. They ask me the hard questions and hold me accountable in key areas of my life. There is a deep level of trust that allows for openness. Our lives are full but we need other women in our lives. Make room.

Interview with Ian and Larissa Murphy

photo by Lydia Jane Photography

photo by Lydia Jane Photography

1. In 2012, a video of your story released that went viral on the Internet. Tell us about the response.
We were absolutely blown away by the response. We had no idea what to expect, and neither did the ministry who created the video. Nearly as soon as it was released, our email and blog were exploding with comments as the video gained thousands of views. People from all over the world were viewing and sharing – it was overwhelming.

2. What made you want to write a book about your experience?

It was a story that needed to be told, because God is awesome and He tells a great story. With Ian specifically, God has shown us His ability to heal as well as trust Him when it doesn’t seem like He’s near.

9781433681820_cvr_web3. You titled the book Eight Twenty Eight. What does that mean?
Eight Twenty Eight is threefold for us: Ian’s dad was born on August 28. He died the year before our wedding, before we were even engaged, but he is at the core of our story – for Ian individually and us as a couple. As we were wedding planning, we realized that August 28 fell on a Saturday, which meant it was the perfect day for our wedding. Eight Twenty Eight also references a scripture that has been very meaningful to us, Romans 8:28.

4. Why Romans 8:28?
Throughout Ian’s story, we have needed to rely on the promise that Romans 8:28 gives us – that God is working all things for our good. Even though we don’t see it at the time, we have His word, which never fails. Ian looks to that scripture for hope and assurance of things unseen.

5. If someone has watched the video, why should they read the book?
First and foremost, the book will help readers to better understand what Ian has faced through his accident and fight for recovery. The video was told from Larissa’s perspective, because it needed to be, really. And while the book is primarily from her perspective as well since it is based on memory, our story is dug into much more deeply, allowing glimpses into the good man that Ian is. We think it also is going to encourage people to believe that God is real, He is bigger than us, and He is filled with infinite love.

6. What do you want someone to get out of reading the book?
A life change, by understanding bigger and better things about life and God.

7. Was there anyone in your family or friends who didn’t think getting married was a good idea?
We’re sure there were people who thought that, but not those closest to us. Those that loved us did ask the hard questions, to make sure we weren’t feeling forced because of the attention our story had drawn, but that was out of care, not condemnation or judgment.

8. You write about a board of gratefulness in your house. Tell us about how it came about and what it does for you two?
It actually arose from a book that Larissa read which struck into very deep places in her heart. Gratefulness needed to be in the every day because the every day is so very challenging. The gratefulness board came to mind while sitting around with the Murphy family. Someone had a spare cork board at their house. We had spare fabric. And Ian’s mom had post-it notes. So within a few hours, our wall was ready for our notes. And every guest that came in our home needed to add to our wall.

9. How are you two doing today? What challenges do you have today? What triumphs?
Ian’s challenges are that he wakes up every day and faces sin and a disability. A double whammy! This year, he had a major surgery on his femur to allow him to hopefully walk independently. He is currently in rehab after being non-weight bearing for three months, and is working hard every day. He also sells paintings to pay for his therapy and medical needs. Larissa’s challenges are having energy for all that the day entails, working full-time, being Ian’s wifey, and continuing to be the voice for their story. Our triumphs are Ian’s progress in walking. Becoming new homeowners. That we’re still in love. And most importantly, that we still believe that God is good.

10. What are some of the ways you’ve seen God move in your story?
The fact that Ian is learning to walk again, and making incredible progress, is a huge display to us and those following our story of God’s great power. We receive emails every day from all over the world from people who are in similar situations, or who are hurting, or who simply have given up on believing that God was for them. They receive hope from seeing the work God has done for us, and that is huge.

11. What have you learned about love?
Ian has learned that having someone there to love him makes all the difference, because love is able to lift him up when his life is feeling low. Larissa has learned that love doesn’t give up, when it is dependent on God.

12. What advice would you give young couples preparing for marriage (or experiencing a disability)?
For young couples, Ian says to always keep the other person’s interest at heart. Larissa says to get ready for a crazy ride – highs and lows that are completely worth it. For those facing tragedy – keep on, keeping on; there are much better things after this life.

13. How can we pray for you?
We’re always so encouraged and humbled by this request. Ian will be starting to rehab on his leg, with the hopes of walking independently, and we would love prayers for that. His life will TOTALLY change if he is able to walk!

We also just need to continue to have tenderness toward and enjoyment for one another.

Connect with Ian and Larissa: TwitterFacebookInstagramwww.ianandlarissa.com • Buy Eight Twenty Eight


You can buy Eight Twenty Eight for only $9.99 on LifeWay.com now or you can win your own copy below! Included in the prize back is two copies of Eight Twenty Eight (one for you and one to share with a friend!), One Love Dare or Love Dare for Parents, and the Love Dare Day by Day devotional.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Extraordinary God


Years ago, God opened the door for me to speak at a conference in Europe. Rodney’s prayers and total support helped me say yes to this unique opportunity. But on the plane I was scared, missing my family and wondering what in the world I was doing. Because of the call on our lives to nurture marriages and families, I asked God to use me to impact someone’s marriage.

The week was incredible, and God blessed me so much. Late on the last night, I was getting ready for my flight home. As I did each night, I was capturing the day in my journal: “God, I am not sure how you used me this week to impact someone’s marriage, but …” Then there was a knock at my door. A young missionary wife came in and poured her heart out. She was going to leave her husband and three precious boys. I prayed hard for God to give me His wisdom. I told her God loved her and her family so much that He had sent me around the world to tell her to stay with her husband and her boys. We ended up on our knees, praying together.

Several months later Rodney and a group of men were on a mission trip to northern Africa. As they talked, Rodney mentioned my name. Since Selma is such an unusual name, one of the men said, “Did you say Selma?” He asked Rodney if I had led a retreat in Switzerland. When Rodney said yes, this young man said, “God used your wife to save my marriage.”

Extraordinary! That’s our God. Never settle for less than letting Him work in your life, your marriage, and your family.


In what extraordinary ways has God used you to encourage others in their spiritual journey?

Top Needs of Teenage Girls

Recently I read a post from a young woman that brought me to tears. I know her and to me she is a beautiful, gifted young woman, with amazing gifts. You would never know from the outside, all she has struggled with privately. It began for her in middle school as she struggled with her self-image. Through her teen years she shared of her deep depression, thoughts of suicide, the cutting, and the desperation she felt. As a freshman in college, she is doing much better. She has learned to let go of perfect, is opening up to her Christian friends, and is learning more about how very much God loves her.


I called my adult daughters, Jennifer and Natalie, who have both worked in girl’s ministry. I got their input for this post. Here is our list of the top needs of teen girls.

1. Someone to listen to them. To really listen and understand. A safe place for them to share how they feel and to help them navigate how they feel.

2. Someone to tell them often and regularly that they are remarkably and wonderfully made by God (see Ps. 139:13–14).

3. Someone to call out the gifts God has given them and give them an opportunity to use them. They need to feel confident in who they are and the gifts they have.

4. Permission to make a “B”. A place where letting go of perfect is encouraged and grace is freely given. (I prayed for my oldest daughter, Jennifer, to make a “B” when she was in college. I told her I was praying and why. She got the “B” and we still laugh about it. She was able to let go of perfect.)

5. At least one or two very close friends. (Parents need to have open homes where friends can come over to invest in relationships for their teens. Also, a healthy youth ministry provides an opportunity to build healthy friendships.)

6. Someone that prays for them specifically and they know it.

7. A father or substitute father who will set an example of how a boy should treat a girl.

8. They need to hear, “I’m sorry. Please forgive me.”

9. Adult women who will be real, authentic role models and mentors for them.

10. Need a Bible and a journal. A journal can be a safe place to work out all they are experiencing on the journey through the teen years. God’s Word will give them the foundation for everything.

11. Privacy.

12. Laughter and times just to have fun.

13. They need and want boundaries and responsibilities. It builds security and self-worth.

14. They need Mom to be Mom and not try to be a friend or peer.

15. Their home to be a safe place of security, peace, and acceptance, where they can be loved unconditionally.

16. A home where they see real, authentic faith lived out daily not a faith that is only seen on Sunday.

I want to invest more of my time in mentoring young girls/women. Would you join me in investing in the next generation? Ask a teen girl(s) what they need and share it with us.



Q&A with Erin Davis, author of Connected

Erin, what was your greatest challenge in writing Connected

Erin Davis

Connected is the most vulnerable thing I’ve ever written, and vulnerability always feels risky. I had to fight the temptation to play it safe in the telling of my own story and in the telling of the often gut-wrenching stories of the women we interviewed for the book. I am so glad I didn’t play it safe, but now as the book releases I feel that sense of vulnerability all over again. Letting people see the real us is tough, but I really think our fear of it is a big part of our struggle for meaningful connection.

What is the main thing that you want readers to walk away with from reading Connected?

God wired us for connection. Yes, relationships are messy, often painful, and require much of us but when we sit on the bench, we are operating outside of our God-given design.

What is your favorite Scripture and why?

9781433682582_cvr_webDifferent Scriptures become more meaningful during different seasons, so I’d be hard pressed to pick a favorite, but during the writing of Connected I really pondered Psalm 139:1, “O Lord, you have searched me and know me.”

God knows me. That concept really took on a new meaning as I studied how He made us to connect with Him and others. I think we may need to add a new verse to our favorite children’s song . . . Yes, Jesus loves me, this I know, but He also knows me, this I LOVE!

Why do you think in the modern world loneliness has become, as you put it in your book, “a phenomenon of pandemic proportions”?

I think there are a lot of factors. Some people might think this book is about pointing the finger at technology as the culprit of our loneliness. I do address technology in the book, but we can trace loneliness all the way back to the Garden of Eden (long before iStuff!). I think that connection requires so much of us and we tend to worship comfort, convenience, and easy payoffs. But valuing those things too highly has left us very lonely. I think it’s time the church as a whole takes a fresh look at what God says about knowing Him and knowing others. We need to roll up our sleeves and do the hard work necessary to create true connection. I can say for a fact that doing so is worth it!

Who inspires you most?

I am always inspired by those who quietly and diligently serve without recognition. Whether it’s Sunday school teachers, moms, or pastors’ wives, I want to be more and more like those women who live out Jesus’ teaching. The way we achieve greatness is by serving others extravagantly.

What was your motivation in writing Connected?

Connected was born from a speaking engagement where I basically stood on stage and wept over my own loneliness. I counseled women for hours afterward, many of whom simply said, “I’m lonely too.” Suddenly I was aware of a huge need in my own life and in the lives of many, many women. I knew God’s Word had an answer for that need (because it always does!) and once I figured out all that God had to say on the subject of loneliness I couldn’t wait to shout it from the rooftops in the hopes that other women would be set free from the pain of loneliness.

How has your personal struggle with loneliness enabled you to minister to others?

I’ve really been shocked to learn how many women wrestle with loneliness. I can come from a place of experience and say, “I’ve been lonely most of my life.” But I can also now come from a place of hope because I’m not lonely anymore. God’s Word really is a deep well on this issue. I simply want to encourage women to run to God’s Word for hope and truth.


Is there anything you are currently reading? What authors or books would you recommend?

I am in the years of life where my reading list is mostly books like The Very Hungry Caterpillar  and If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. So for moms I highly recommend The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd Jones. It has really made the gospel come alive for me and my three little guys.

What is one valuable lesson God has taught you while writing this book?

I tend to shrink back from letting others know me. It’s scary to me because it requires me to take off my mask and let others see my imperfections. God really showed me it is a gift to have people in our lives who see the good, the bad, and the ugly and to let us see the same in them. It’s still a real challenge for me to choose connection over approval, but it’s a theme I can no longer ignore in God’s Word. By God’s grace, I am choosing to be seen and to connect more often.

Why is this book important to today’s audience?

I think the most important reason why this book matters to the church is summed up in 1 John 1:3, “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”

We can have fellowship with each other because we first have a relationship with Christ. He is the table we all gather around. He is the cord that connects us.

True, deep connection is the unique gift of Christ’s followers. The world craves connection with God but because they do not know Him, they have no idea how to connect with each other.

We need to be connected to each other because the world is watching. God’s design is that they would be compelled by the connection they see among us, but sadly I often fear that instead they are repelled because we aren’t connecting as God intended us to.

It’s not just about getting more friends or deeper friendships, it’s about putting the God who knows us and invites us to know Him on display to a hurting world.

How can our team pray for you?

Please pray for me to live what I write. It’s very easy as a Bible teacher to push others toward a level of faith and service that I am not actually living out. I want to walk my talk, but it requires me to stay diligently connected to the vine.

Also, it has been a tough season for our family. Two of our sons have bad kidneys. Our youngest, Judah just endured major surgery to repair function to his kidney. Our oldest, Eli has lost all function in one kidney. Pray for their little bodies and for God’s glory in the midst of it all.