Do You Exhaust Your Team as a Leader?

Do you give your team energy or do you drain them of energy? Is your team glad to see you coming or do they dread times with you? Are you tuned in to the energy cues from your people or are you so busy focused on your agenda, your message, and your own voice that you are missing something vital to every organization’s success – energy!

Do You EXHAUST Your Team as a Leader

Energy is the force that moves something forward.  We know most about energy from the sciences such as physics but there is a social science force of energy at work in your organization.

I remember the day my core leadership team asked me to stop sending emails on Sunday.  I had developed a habit of jump-starting my workweek on Sunday afternoon. I was feeling great about it but I didn’t realize the negative impact it was having on my leaders. You see, I am at the empty nest stage of life and most of my leaders still have young children at home. Sundays were family days and when I sent the emails, they felt I was saying to them “get to work.” I was so glad they told me. I made a few adjustments: I still jump-started my week on Sunday evening, but didn’t send my leaders emails until early Monday morning.

Are you energizing your people or do you drain them? Here are five examples of each to help you decide.

The Energizing Leadership Types

1.  Proactive Leader
Proactive leaders stay are calm during a crisis, seek to find a solution, and to learn from the challenge. They try to teach and learn through the process so their organizations are stronger and healthier. Their first reaction is:  “We have an organizational problem and I own the problem. How can I help?” This is also the leader who invites others to speak into their leadership.  They seek first to understand.

2.  Emotionally Intelligent Leader
This is the leader who is self-aware of the power of emotion, aware of their own emotions, and seeks to approach situations consistently.  They understand they need to get the emotion under control to lead effectively.  They have set a course for strategic success and they don’t react to challenges by unsettling their people, nor do they dwell on problems.

3.  Clear Leader
This is the leader who often and with consistency reminds their organization of the “why” of the organization. They clearly state the mission and vision (a compelling image of success) to their people. Everyone in the organization knows why they do the work they do. Everyone feels a part of the team and knows the work they do contributes to the success of the mission. The force of the organization’s energy is all going in one direction.

4.  Responsible Leader
This is a leader who believes in their mission, vision, strategy and people. They believe that their people come to work everyday wanting to be successful in the work they do. When a problem happens, they lead the way to find the solution, owning responsibility for the overall success and health of their team. They see the problem as first an organizational problem, and seek to find the solution as a way to learn, teach, and help develop the organization to be stronger.

5.  People-Oriented Leader
This is the leader who is actively engaging with others on the team asking questions and listening to solutions. They are aware of culture (how work is done) and are strategically creating a culture of people engagement. They know ultimately, their organizations success is centered on the people. They find ways to get feedback as a regular part of their leadership. Whether formally (surveys) or informally through walking around, they want and value hearing from their leaders and their team.

The Exhausting Leadership Types

1.  Reactionary Leader
Leaders, who are quick to anger, look for the person to blame when there is a problem, and takes conflict or criticism personally. Their first reaction is:  “Someone is responsible, someone is to blame.” When the reactionary leader hears criticism, they are usually ready to attack, are defensive, and see the criticism as someone being disloyal.

2.  Emotional Leader
This is the leader who uses emotions to lead and people never know what leader they will get or why. One day the leader is angry, then happy, and then frustrated, then encouraging. One day things are going great and the next day the sky is falling. People pull back because they are always uncertain. Way too much energy is used trying to figure out the emotional state of the leader!

3.  Confused Leader
This is the leader who changes leadership direction or message based on the last book or article read, the last person they talked to, or the last problem they faced. They change directions often and keep their teams unsure of which direction to go or how to define success. Energy is wasted as people try to figure it out on their own.

4.  Blaming Leader
If there is a problem, it is someone’s fault and this leader is quick to place the blame on someone else. This leader may blame their boss, a direct report, or someone else on the team. They think the problem would be solved if that person were removed.  This will cause people and teams to become risk averse and personal energy will be wasted by fear and lack of trust.

5.  One-Way Leader
This is the leader who is great at giving passionate speeches, using the force of their leadership personality to communicate and to drive their organization. They are one-way communicators. They dominate team meetings and individual conversations. These leaders have a lot to say but don’t take the time to listen.

As faith-centered leaders, leading faith centered organizations; ultimately the core of all energy is spiritual energy.

“Let us run with endurance the race that lies before us keeping our eyes on Jesus, the source and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that lay before Him endured a cross and despised the shame and has sat down at the right hand of God’s throne.” Hebrews 12:1b-2

Are you an exhausting leader or an energizing leader? Why don’t you be bold and ask your people? Let me know what you learn. I would love to hear from you.





Your Personal Marriage Planning Retreat

The get-away that can make all the difference

Rodney and I will be married 39 years this July.  While our marriage and our journey together has not been perfect, it has been healthy, forward focused, purposeful, and fulfilling.  We have a healthy marriage today as we turn sixty, as empty nesters, as grandparents of three, and as a couple still energized by ministry and the opportunities before us.  Rodney is still my very best friend and we love doing life, family, and ministry together.  One of the keys for us was a marriage get-away retreat we started over two decades ago.

Earlier in our marriage as life, work, family, and opportunities began to fill up our calendars, we found ourselves exhausted and spinning. These were all good things but we felt controlled by our calendars rather than refreshed and focused. We decided to try a different approach than just trying to get everything in that was coming our way. So we started doing personal marriage planning retreats, and here are some tips below to help you plan your own:

Your Personal Marriage Planning Retreat

Get a time on the calendar now!

We started by getting a time on the calendar for just the two of us to get away. We wanted two nights and three days. We wanted enough time to unwind, refresh, and to plan. The best time for us ended up being early fall because this became the time to review the year and make decisions about the coming year(s).

Bring planning tools!

We brought calendars and planning tools to the retreat. Digital tools are good today but when we started our retreat, it was printed calendars that went out for five years plus a copy of the current calendar we were using. Whatever tools are best for the two of you, bring them. You will review the past year, plan in more detail the coming year, and also mark critical decisions for the next five years.

Start with evaluation.

What is your marriage purpose and are you in agreement about that purpose? Make sure you write this down and keep it in front of you during the entire retreat. You will need to focus on this often as you make decisions for the future.

For Rodney and I, we feel our purpose is to help people find life in Jesus, to teach biblical truth, and to build up the body of Christ through the church. We have felt a specific calling from God to point couples to God’s plan and design for marriage.

We started the first night and first morning just talking and sharing, but no planning. How are we doing? How is our relationship? Are we still on purpose in our marriage? How are we doing spiritually, in our physical relationship, how are we connecting emotionally? Are we experiencing marriage in the way God designed?

Genesis 2:24-25 became the foundation verse for this assessment:
“This is why a man leaves his father and mother and bonds with his wife, and they become one flesh.  Both the man and his wife were naked, yet felt no shame.”

One, unified, experiencing intimacy and openness as a couple spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

This part of the retreat requires open and honest dialogue with the purpose of making the changes needed to make sure your marriage is healthy, vital, growing. Ensuring that your marriage is ultimately a reflection of the gospel to your children first and then to everyone else in your life.

Rodney and I love the mountains, hiking and biking. This first night and morning are usually spent walking and talking often stopping by beautiful creeks and streams. We also spend time in prayer together reaffirming before God and each other our desire to live our lives and our marriage in such a way to bring God glory and to bring others into faith in Jesus.

A one-year review.

The high level evaluation then leads into a one-year review. Your calendar is a great way to test your purpose and your priorities. This is a “how are we doing this year” assessment. Are we making sure we have time together as a couple? Is our family time a priority? How are we carrying out our purpose through extended family, church, ministry, and work?  Are we good at saying “no”? Do we have healthy boundaries in place?  Saying “no” with grace but with resolve is essential to the health of your relationship.

Five year planning.

Next, we would look at the next five years of our marriage. Rodney and I would literally put up large sheets of paper on the walls of our cabin or hotel room. We would tape up five large sheets, put the year on each sheet, then add our ages, our children’s ages, our parent’s ages, and any other key event that would happen in that year. These became critical issues to consider as we planned our year. If we had specific goals, we would write those in to the five-year plans. I remember a few we added over the years:  write a book, do a marriage conference in Europe, celebrate Rodney’s Mom’s 80th birthday, do family Christmas overseas, start a bible study in our home for our neighborhood. This time is more the dreaming, high level planning. This can really be fun as you pray and seek God’s direction for your future. Putting these down will help you calendar them and make these dreams become a reality. No, you won’t do all of them but you will do most.

Next year planning.

Next, we would review plans for the coming year.  Rodney and I are often asked to speak, lead conferences or retreats, or to partner with others in ministry.  Several years ago, when life was a little out of control with so many opportunities but not enough time, we made the decision we would not give an answer to a request until after we had our retreat. That way we could pray and plan together, making sure we were making the right decision for the right reason. So many good things can come to you but good does not mean it is the right decision for you or the right time. We had to learn to say no with grace. Looking at our purpose, looking at the big picture of life, and looking specifically at our calendar priorities, gave us the ability to make wise decisions for our family.

There is no perfect formula to make life calm and predictable. Plans shouldn’t control our lives but they are guides for our lives. As people of faith, we want to always be open to God’s leading and the direction of His Spirit in our daily lives. We set our course with intentional purpose but also with total surrender to God. When the interruptions of life come (and they most certainly will), we see them a little differently when we have prayed and sought God’s direction. But it is equally important that we don’t let the press of good things crowd out God’s purposes in our lives.

For more than twenty years we have done these marriage getaway retreats, and we are getting ready to plan our next one. These retreats have kept our intimacy with God as well as each other. We live our lives and our marriage looking forward to God’s work, and these retreats have helped us realize all that He has done and will do in the future.

“As for the seed that fell among thorns, these are the ones who, when they have heard, go on their way and are choked with worries, riches, and pleasures of life, and produce no mature fruit.  But the seed in the good ground – these are the ones who, having heard the word with an honest and good heart, hold on to it and by enduring, bear fruit.”  Luke 8:14-15

What are you doing to keep your marriage healthy, growing, and purposeful?





6 Common Career Mistakes that Will Ruin Your Life by Dan Miller

danaboutusI’m excited to have a guest post by Dan Miller today about some common career mistakes. Dan is the author of the widely acclaimed 48 Days To The Work You Love and No More Mondays. He writes regularly for many popular magazines and web portals, including,, In Touch, AARP and Success magazines and the Zig Ziglar newsletter. He has been a guest on CBS’ ‘The Early Show,’ MSNBC’s ‘Hardball with Chris Mathews,’ 700 Club’s Living The Life and Fox Business News with Dave Ramsey Show… to hit some highlights. He hosts a weekly podcast that is consistently ranked #1 under Careers on iTunes. Dan is also a frequent speaker and guest on popular radio programs like Moody Broadcasting, Crown Financial, Janet Parshall’s America, American Family Radio, and Prime Time Chicago.

“Teach a youth about the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

This verse has been distorted in two critical ways: 1) To justify cramming spiritual principles onto impressionable children to make certain their theology matches that of their parents; and 2) To force a child to move up academically and socioeconomically from the parents.

A truer reading of the original text might be: “Train up a child in the way that he is bent . . .” The challenge of parenting is to discover how God has uniquely gifted children and how the parent can help each child excel in that area.

9781433685934_cvr_webIt’s high time we recognize that it’s okay for children to make less money than their parents. There will be times when the son of a surgeon will be most gifted as a truck driver or carpenter or musician or missionary. That’s okay! Better than okay, in fact.

Well-intentioned parents, teachers, pastors, and others in positions of influence can easily misdirect an impressionable child if external opportunities are the only criteria for career selection. For example, here are six misguided criteria for choosing a career:

Mistake #1: Choose a career based on demand.
With entire industries becoming obsolete in four to five years, we cannot possibly predict the jobs of the future. Every diploma has a built-in expiration date, we just don’t like to be up front about that.

Mistake #2: Choose a career out of guilt.
Some jobs are perceived as more godly, humanitarian, socially noble, or environmentally responsible careers. While honorable, using these as external criteria can misdirect a person from doing what is a proper “fit.”

Mistake #3: Choose a career that promises job security.
Security is a slippery concept in today’s work environment. Little security is found in any company or job. The only security is in understanding yourself—that will provide a compass for navigating the inevitable changes.

Mistake #4: Choose a career for position, status, and power.
This is likely to be an elusive path, leading to rapid burnout.

Mistake #5: Choose a career that promises the greatest income.
This mistake is similar to #4. If you start by looking for the money, it will likely stay forever just outside your grasp.

Mistake #6: Choose a career based on a job opening.
Advertisements in online job bulletins are probably the worst of all influences. Random job openings cannot match your uniqueness or a proper alignment of your calling.

A better way to build a career
The power of confidence in career choice does not begin by looking to outward opportunities and external factors. It comes from looking inward for the alignment of personal characteristics.

For anyone searching for the best career track, start with these questions instead of the factors listed above:

  • What was I born to do?
  • What would be my greatest contribution to others?
  • What do I really love to do (and when I’m doing it, time just flies by)?
  • What are the recurring themes that I find myself drawn to?
  • How do I want to be remembered?

Parents, guidance counselors, and life coaches, I realize these questions may not seem as practical as the mistakes I listed above. But when we fail to understand ourselves, when we are not true to our unique God-given characteristics, we lose the power of authenticity, creativity, imagination, and innovation. Our lives become performance-based, setting the stage for compromise in all other areas of our lives.

Even as we focus on the work aspect of our lives, be very aware that getting a job is only one tool for creating a meaningful life.

Read more of Dan’s insight on careers in his book 48 Days to the Work You Love.

Lead From the Heart, Love Your People

I have been blessed to work with leaders who genuinely care about me. They have cared enough to push me out of my comfort zone, challenge me to grow, and to ask me to take on leadership roles that I felt unqualified to do. But they were also there for me, coaching me, encouraging me, and often provided a safety net for me as I chartered new waters. Those same leaders were also there for me when my mom was dying of breast cancer, when my daughters went off to college and when they got married. They have prayed for my children on the mission field overseas and they have celebrated with me the blessing of grandchildren (even enduring pictures!). I am a leader who has been loved.

Lead from the Heart

Does it matter that you love your people?  Does it matter that you lead from your heart?  I believe it will be the single most significant thing you do as a leader.  In fact, I believe you have no equity to lead unless you love your people.  Leading from the heart is required of all spiritual leaders.  No matter the place of leadership (in the home, on a team, a ministry area, pastor, or a large organization), at the heart of leadership is the gospel and the heart of the gospel is love.

What does it look like to lead from the heart?

You think more highly of others than you do yourself.
You give others on your team the spotlight, the opportunity to win, and the credit for the win. You make sure others know the gifted men and women that serve with you.

Care enough to speak the truth in love.
Leading from the heart does not mean you never do the hard thing.  In fact, because you do love people, you must do the hard thing but you do it from the heart.

Once there was an individual on who simply couldn’t get settled with the changes taking place on our team. His restlessness was having a negative impact on others. I knew I had to address this with him because were at a crossroads. I asked him to pray with me about which direction we would go. After a week of prayer, he came back fully committed to the direction we were going and has made a great contribution to the organization. Love requires the truth but that truth must be spoken from the heart, even when it is hard to do.

Pray specifically for those you are developing as future leaders.
There are men and women under your leadership that God has trusted you to steward their growth and development. Make a commitment to pray for them and to equip them.

You are willing to step back to let others step up.
I believe one of the mistakes of leaders is not being intentional about to hand off their leadership to the next in line. You should identify key individuals that you pull up beside you to coaching, develop, and provide opportunities for their growth. And at some point, you need to step back and let them step up. Let them take on more leadership so they are seen and heard.

You challenge others to grow, to stretch, and to reach their full potential.
When you love the people on your team, you won’t let them settle for mediocrity or complacency. But instead, you equip them and encourage them to do the best that they can.

You call out the gifts in others.
As a leader, you will often see the potential, talents and the gifts in others that they don’t see in themselves. That was so true of me. I never imagined I could do the things that others saw in me. I am so grateful that others called those gifts out in me and gave me an opportunity to use them. Give that gift of encouragement and insight to those you lead.

Get personal with those you lead.
Be vulnerable and share stories of your life. Being open with your life provides the space for those you lead to do the same. Then take the time to hear their stories of faith, family, and work. Ask them about their family. If you are able to, ask them how you can pray for them. You can’t separate out work and life. The people you lead bring both to the table, and it’s important for you to know both.

Ask God to give you a love for your people and He will. Ask Him to let you see them the way He sees them as His beloved sons or daughters. You may get a glimpse into their potential and be the person that God uses to help them reach their full potential in Christ.

Have you been impacted by a leader who has lead from the heart? I would love to hear your story.

“If I speak human or angelic languages but do not have love, I am a sounding gong or a clanging cymbal.  If I have the gift of prophecy and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so that I can move mountains but do not have love.  I am nothing.”  1 Corinthians 13:1-2



Voices of Wisdom: March 17, 2015


Leading with an Imperfect Life - Michelle Cushatt
In this Propel Women article Michelle writes: “There is certainly a place for integrity in leadership. And some situations require stepping back for a time while God heals and restores. But leadership isn’t about appearances of perfection; it’s allowing God to use imperfection for impact and His perfect glory.”

Lead for the Future, Not from the Past – by Chuck Lawless
“Too many leaders, though, face present-tense challenges while living more in yesterday than today. Below is a list of characteristics of church leaders I’ve known who show this tendency. Using this list, consider if you might be “leading from the past tense.”

In Christ – What You Did Is Not Who You Are! – by Perry Noble
In this beautifully written post by Perry,  he reminds us: “Do not let the enemy steal your joy by constantly reminding you of your past…and, when he does just simply take a step back and remind him of his future!”

What Is Your Exit Plan? – Tim Challies
An interesting take on social media and posting photos of our children. What’s the exit plan around how/when/why you post photos. Tim brings up interesting questions for us to consider.

7 Suggestions for the First 7 Years of Marriage – by Ron Edmonson
“The way a marriage starts helps to protect the long-term health of the marriage. I believe the attention we place on new marriages in our churches is critically important.”

Connecting with Your Spouse Amidst a Busy Life

Let’s face it: family life today is flat out busy.  Everyone has packed schedules and often you will find yourselves moving at a fast speed but not connecting with your spouse at all.  A few weeks of that may be okay, but it can also be setting up dangerous patterns that can cause couples to disconnect, lose intimacy, and even lose each other in the rush of the urgent.

Here are three quick ways each day that can keep you connected through the rush of normal life.  These will not be sufficient for the long term. As a couple you still need longer connection times through date nights, overnight get-aways, and longer retreat times. But for the normal, day-to-day rush, here are three connection times that can make the difference.


1.  The Intentional Good-Bye
Before you rush out of the house and away from each other in the morning, stop and spend five minutes connecting. For some of us, that will be hugging, looking eye to eye, smiling, a good-bye kiss, and extra long hug, a promised text message or phone call later. It is the perfect time to say, “How can I pray for you today?”  This one question can keep you focused on your spouse, their lives, and their needs even when you are apart. Don’t let the rush of mornings keep you from making a few minutes of connection a priority.

2.  The Loving Hello
When you come back together at the end of the day, take five minutes to reconnect. Food can wait. The children will survive (even if they are puling at you). Be intentional to stop, hold each other, make eye contact, ask how the day went, and check in on the prayer request made that morning, ask how you can help each other unwind for the evening. Maybe, you can give your spouse thirty minutes of alone time. Maybe just listening will be enough so you understand that mood they seem to be in is not about you but about a hard day or a difficult person.  Take a few minutes to connect, to touch, and to see.

3.  The All-Important Goodnight
Nighttime is when you are the most exhausted and the most vulnerable.  It is a time to really pay attention in your marriage (and with your kids!). Usually, you are simply too tired to have any defenses up so you are more open. This can be the very best time to pray together so your hearts are open and honest before God. Prayer helps you give life over to God and the stuff of life over to God. He will give peace, perspective, redemption, grace, and strength. Prayer also helps us place the burdens of life off our shoulders and give them to God. Jesus said it best:

“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”  Matthew 11:28

Many couples go to bed at different times and may even work different shifts.  Whatever your routine, make sure you connect before sleep.  There needs to be time to hold each other, share from the heart, and just remind each other of your love and commitment.  Make sure you save a few minutes every night to see beyond roles and see each other.  Two people that God brought together to become one, sharing life together as one.

If you start with these three intentional five-minute times each day, you will find you want more time together!  For some of you, this may not be an issue and you have figured out a way to have an hour or more together each day.  For most couples my husband and I minister to, it is more challenging.

God designed marriage.  It was His idea and His gift to us.  I pray your marriage is healthy and growing.  Be intentional and make sure the two of you stay connected to each other and to God.

Comment and let me know of other key ways you stay connected in your marriage given the challenges of time. I’d love to hear your ideas!



Do You Need a Leadership Pause?

There are many times in life when it’s necessary to take a pause. The pace of life today has most of us running at a pretty hard pace and a pause is the last thing on our mind.

For the past several months I took a pause. It started when the executive leader that I work with Dr. Thom Rainer, President/CEO of LifeWay asked our executive team to think about 10 years from now and build a strategy for a strong, viable, and successful future. That one question really sent me into a leadership pause. I began to ask the hard questions about success and what was sustainable and what was at risk. The pause lead to several months of strategy workouts and concluded in major changes for our organization including leadership changes. The strategic reset meant my position was no longer needed. Another executive leadership role emerged and I was asked to take it. My leadership pause has me in a new place as Executive V.P. of Organizational Development and I believe it is the right place for me.

It is our job as leaders to lead with a view of the future.  We make decisions everyday that have implications for the future. We have a responsibility to hand off the organizations we lead healthy and strong. My COO would often say “I care more about tomorrow than today” and this kept us from making shortsighted decisions.

Do You Need a Leadership Pause

How do you know if you need to take a leadership pause?  Leadership pauses need to happen in our life as leaders for many different reasons:

Strategic Planning
Sometimes we need to stop and assess the strategy of our companies in light of the future. Are we headed in the right direction? Do we really know “why” we’re doing what we’re doing?  The “why” is critical and every leader needs to have clarity because the organization depends on having that answer to drive the organization forward in that strategic mission.

Sometimes we need a leadership pause just because we are exhausted and we need rest. We may find ourselves too engaged in daily operational details to really give overall strategic leadership.  We are reacting too much and not being proactive. I recently coached a leader who was spending leadership energy and time to negative comments on a meeting. I often call these things “ankle biters”.  It is things that irritate and nibble at you but if you bend over to deal with them you will lose focus on leading your organization forward.

To Vision Cast
Sometimes we need a leadership pause because the forces of change and the challenges your organization faces causes you to lose confidence and hope.  It is critical that you do the hard look at the future and have a compelling vision with a strategy for success.  If you lose hope, there is no way you can lead.  This isn’t a false hope, that isn’t sustainable. It must be real, authentic, and deep within. A Brazilian leader and friend once told me hope is “a fire in the belly.”

We Are Off-balance
Finally, and most importantly, you may need a leadership pause because you have forgotten who God is and the power of the gospel.  I do believe our greatest risk as leaders of people is to take our eyes off Christ and put them on anything else.  Not the market, not ourselves, not the challenges or circumstances, and not on other leaders.  As spiritual leaders, we see our work and our life through a different lens than the world. It is our faith in God, it is the compelling truth of Jesus and the gospel, that causes us to step up and step in to lead with confidence and hope.

Therefore, my dear brothers,be

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ! Therefore, my dear brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the Lord’s work, knowing that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:57-58 HCSB

Do you need a leadership pause?  I would love to hear how you pause in your own life and leadership.



The Gift of a Song


There’s nothing like a Christmas song on the radio to get me in the mood for the holidays. As soon as the season kicks in, I begin listening to a playlist of my favorite Christmas songs. I love all styles of Christmas music from Charlie Brown’s Christmas to the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir, and all the Christmas hymns we sing at church. I wait with anticipation each year for our very own LifeWay Christmas program. Mike Harland never disappoints! Christmas and music simply go together.

There was music during that first Christmas, too. The angels sang a praise chorus: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors” (Luke 2:14). And Mary had a praise song of her own: “My soul proclaims the greatness of The Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (Luke 1:46–55).

In the middle of the amazing story of Christ’s miraculous birth, God provides a special gift to Mary. This young virgin girl is visited by the angel Gabriel, who tells her not to be afraid for she has found favor with God and will give birth to a son—Jesus, the “Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:30–38). Immediately after the encounter with Gabriel, Scripture tells us Mary hurried to Elizabeth’s house. I imagine it was a quick rush. Who would believe this? What does this mean? Who do I tell? Scripture doesn’t tell us all the questions Mary had but I’m sure she had a few.

Elizabeth, an older woman of deep faith, was pregnant with a miracle baby, too. Scripture says Mary stayed with her about three months before returning home. Three months to talk about God, babies, pregnancy, and I’m sure they talked about Joseph and Zechariah! A young girl needed an older woman of strong faith to support and guide her.

We don’t know all that happened in those three months together, but Scripture does give us insight into how the first day started that I believe set the tone for the months ahead. Elizabeth met Mary with a “loud cry,” saying, “You are the most blessed of women, and your child will be blessed!” (Luke 1:42). Elizabeth gave a powerful blessing to Mary and this blessing caused Mary to give praise. Mary’s song of praise rang out that first Christmas and prepared her heart for the birth of Christ.

This Christmas, be ready to give the gift of a song. The pain of loss seems a little harder during the holidays. Loneliness is magnified. Depression is greater. Ask God to open your eyes to see and be ready to give a blessing wrapped in strong faith that makes the heart sing.

“For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on His shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isa. 9:6)

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Merry Christmas,

*This article originally appeared in the Life Lines magazine.

Voices of Wisdom: December 2, 2014

5 Steps for Leading Change
Jenni Catron
Helpful thoughts from Jenni Catron about how leaders can affect true change in their business, church, or organization.

Would We Have Tozer, Wesley, or Luther if Twitter Were Around?Eric Geiger
Social media is great. It’s vital to business and is a great way to connect with friends and business partners. However, social media isn’t always helpful. My friend and colleague Eric Geiger reflects on the potential negatives of social media.

The Gift of MemoryBeth Moore
Beth is a great writer, isn’t she? I really enjoyed this post from my friend Beth about the gift and power of memory.

7 Suggestions to Have the Best Christmas EverRon Edmondson
The Christmas season has arrived! I love this time of year because it’s full of fun, family, and friends. Ron Edmondson shares seven ways to make it the best Christmas ever.

Evangelism: It’s Too ComplicatedTrillia Newbell
A couple of weeks ago, Trillia Newbell wrote a guest post for Ed Stetzer. This is a great post on the complications of evangelism and how we can simplify it.

The Power of Being Thankful


The speed of life and work keeps us moving forward to the next thing: a child graduating, a new grandchild, a new budget year, a new business disruption, a new initiative to launch, or new problem to solve. A future focused view is required for a healthy life, family, and organization.

BUT it is good in life and work to stop and remember. The pause is good to give us perspective on where we are going and to remind us of the blessings of God. The past four years, our team has seen some amazing results with continued year over year growth. Our fiscal year ends September 30, and four years ago we made the decision to use our November division meeting to stop and remember. The stories of God’s hand of blessing, favor, intervention, redemption, and rescue cause us to be thankful. It has been an essential reminder of God’s work in and through us.

When my daughters were young and they would argue with each other, I made them go to their rooms and not come out until they could name ten reasons why they were thankful for their sister. They didn’t like the punishment but it always turned them back into best friends (which they still are today!).

I challenge you to stop and make a list of the things you are thankful for. Stop and remember the hand of God in your life and work this past year. Lead your team and your family to do the same. Getting a fresh perspective can make all the difference.

A few things I am thankful for this year:

  • The honor of leading the B&H Publishing team—an amazing team of gifted and committed employees that are the best in the industry
  • The blessing of serving on the Executive Leadership Team of LifeWay
  • My church and my pastor
  • Two new grandchildren, Abby and Caleb
  • A summer day spent with my eighty-nine-year-old Dad
  • The joy of seeing my daughters as Moms
  • Riding bikes with Rodney
  • Doing a marriage event with our church in Brussels, Belgium
  • A new love for the people of India, and the pastor and people of Baptist Hyderabad, India.
  • Skyping with my grandson, Josiah, in Bangkok, Thailand—reading books together, singing songs, and just sharing life together

“Indeed, everything is for your benefit, so that grace, extended through more and more people, may cause thanksgiving to increase to God’s glory.” (2 Cor. 4:15 HCSB)

What are you thankful for this year?