Thanks for Reading

Mike —  June 8, 2017 — Leave a comment

You have chosen to read my posts, follow my tweets and Facebook thoughts, or receive an email once in a while from me – and I want to thank you for that. I don’t take that for granted. I know you only have a certain amount of time to read stuff every day and there are thousands of writers churning out content begging for your attention by the minute. Thank you for valuing my words enough to read them. Despite the occasional foray into frivolity, I try to write stuff that matters, and I hope that what you’ve read from me has been helpful.

I want what I write to unlock something inside you and help you realize that more is possible than you’ve dreamed. The potential God has placed inside each one of us is nothing short of a history shaping, culture making, creative spark He hopes to fan into flame in order to restore everything to Himself. He is building an unstoppable Kingdom and you have a unique part to contribute to its momentum.

Having said that, I’m not sure any of the words I’ve written will be more practical and effective in helping you understand the work He has ready for you to do than what I’ve written (and what you’ll write) in PRAY! That’s because my words aren’t the ones that matter when it comes to building the unstoppable church – His are. My words aren’t the ones that carry the weight sufficient to push your potential into a kinetic movement that will rock the shaky foundations of our culture and reveal a solid bedrock upon which you can build real life – His are. And PRAY will help you strengthen your conversation with Him. It will help you make sure the story of your life isn’t missing the most important Voice of all.

Use that link to find it on Amazon, or ask your favorite bookstore to order it for you. Grow your conversation with God & let me know how it goes… This Kingdom is no accident.

When I was in school, I was always good at editing my papers while I wrote them. As we were being taught the essay writing process, there was this strange sequence the teachers kept talking about that involved an outline, a rough draft, and a few revised drafts on the way to the finished product. I was on board for the outline, but always wondered why I would be asked to turn in a rough draft full of typos and mistakes. I hated it. Why would I have left mistakes in a paper I intended to hand in for a grade?

I distinctly remember the first time I had to adjust my writing strategy. Mrs. Washenfelder (who was an awesome English teacher) insisted on seeing the rough draft before the final copy would be due in a couple days. I had no rough draft, so I actually re-wrote the same essay, throwing in a few poorly worded sentences and misused semi-colons and stuff so that I would have a “rough draft” to turn in! (Definitely not what she had in mind, but it worked.)

I don’t know if it’s a gift or a curse, but I’m a natural editor. I spot mistakes and do what I can to fix them. Now, with spell check soaking itself into just about every word crunching app or program, it’s even more simple to catch and correct mistakes as they happen! But what if I edit out mistakes that someone else could learn from? What if I’m so concerned with presenting the finished product that I rob someone else of the pleasure of slogging through the creative process together? What if the fear of revealing my cracks keeps me from offering up what I have and allowing someone else to help me?

Please understand, this isn’t hypothetical and it’s not about grammar anymore. It’s about Life… Relationships… Creating beauty and revealing beauty to people who didn’t notice it before. I know that I have shut people out before because I couldn’t get my inner editor to shut up and listen. I know that I’ve kept people in the dark and missed out on their presence because I didn’t want them to see the mess of my creative process. I’m sorry for those time when I over edited my life.

I came across this great reminder from Bob Goff today:

Don’t worry so much about letting people see your faults before you get them all ironed out. It just may be those very faults through which God reveals Himself most beautifully. He’s crazy good at that! May you see the beauty in you that He sees in you and live and love accordingly.

By the way, if you haven’t read Bob Goff’s book, Love Does yet… Order it now and enjoy the ride! Really… get it. You’ll love it and probably do something awesome because you read it.

Make It Better

Mike —  May 24, 2017 — Leave a comment

The world is not as it should be. Creation groans with the weight of our collective sins as humanity seems determined to be… less than human.

We are not made for this. We are not made for hating and blaming and shaming and strife. We’re not made for keeping each other out and blowing each other up. We’re made in the image of perfect relationship and freedom, of life-giving creativity and love. But we fall so far short of that image. We tangle it all up in our self and bury its beauty so deep in the rubble of our brokenness that the people around us can’t even see who He is.

The world is not as it should be. But there is hope. There is One who works through our brokenness and reveals to us what it truly means to be human – to be His. He renews and restores and confidently clears away the sin so that He can once again shine through us. Look for Him. Let Him work. Show Him to someone else.

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’

~Abraham Kuyper

The world is not as it should be. You have been commissioned to improve it, so…

“Go, make disciples.”

“Be fruitful and multiply.”

I’m going to be meeting with a small group of recently graduated guys and going through Mark Batterson’s new book Play the Man over the next few weeks. I usually prefer to do groups with books that I’ve already read, but it’s timely and I’ve read enough of his other stuff to know what to expect, so… here we go.

I’ll be posting thoughts along the way as well, and you can digitally tag along with our group. Not only that, you can contribute to the discussion, too!

If you’d like to join us and share your own reflections on Play the Man, use the link below to order your copy and check back soon. We’ll get started in about a week, so get your copy before you’ll have to play catch up.

Last year, I decided it was time for a test run…

In journals, papers, essays, articles, & blog posts, I’ve written a lot of words. Sometimes, they’re just goofy thoughts drawn together over a skeleton of a concept. Other times, they’re strong, full-bodied ideas, ready to be released into the world to do some work. I’ve even been paid for some of my words by a couple different magazine publishers. But last year seemed, for some reason, to be the time to begin to push against the walls a little bit into the world of book writing.

So I gathered a bunch of words, asked a lot of questions, made some space for you to add your own words, and published a guided journal to help you deepen the conversation of your life with God. I’m usually pretty patient, but I didn’t want to spend a lot of time hunting for a publisher and trying to convince one to publish the book. I’m also pretty resilient, but the thought of wading through the muck of rejections wasn’t very appealing, either. So I self published the book through a print on demand outfit that makes the book available through all the normal book buying channels. (Available, but not necessarily highly visible… that will have to wait for another post.)

After years of well-meaning friends telling me I should write a book, I did. It’s been out for a few months now and many of those friends have been the first to enjoy the dig through Scripture. I’ve sold a few hundred copies, and the journal seems to be being well-received and useful to those who’ve bought a copy. I could stop here and celebrate it all as a win, but I think there’s more. This is still a test run of sorts for me. I’m learning a lot about what it takes to write and sell a book.

One of the first “lessons” I’ve thought about is “why?”. Why did I write a book? Why did I write it now? Let me explain a bit facetiously… (Hopefully you’ll see quickly that these reasons are written in jest and should be taken with a salt block tied around my neck before I’m thrown into the sea of pride and ego.)

I wrote a book last year because:

  • I had a lot of free time. With four kids and a full time youth ministry, I really didn’t have a lot to do. I’ve thrown in some board meetings for a mission and a management team for a church plant, but it just didn’t seem to be enough. There are just so many hours to fill every day, right?
  • I’m an expert and people need to know what I know. I’ve been studying the Bible and leading student ministries and praying and stuff for a long time. I’m a good learner and thought it would be a good idea to grace you all with what I’ve found out. It’s been my pleasure, really, so don’t worry about studying or wrestling with this idea yourself, just get my book and follow the instructions there, ok?
  • I have a lot of bills to pay. Again, with a household of 4 kids to run, there are some hefty bills to keep up with and writing a book that people would buy seemed like a great way to stay ahead of the curve. Every book gets purchased, right? How else would I easily make a little extra money? Start selling soaps and vitamin patches or stretchy pants or something? Steal my kids’ lunch money? Ask for a raise?
  • I love selling things and wanted something new to sell. I’ve sold cars and food and junk at garage sales. I’ve recommended lots of other people’s books, which is a little bit of salesmanship for someone else’s benefit. But how much more fun to sell my own book? What could be more enjoyable than marketing my own work and annoying everyone I know with smooth insertions of my own book quotes into every conversation?

Ok, the truth is, I wrote a book last year because with all the chaos of life, I was reminded of something I knew a long time ago that I thought maybe other people had forgotten, too. I needed a reminder. I didn’t write PRAY because I have prayer all figured out, but because I needed to re-learn how to ignite the conversation of my life with my Maker. When it’s all said and done, I will make a few bucks from the sales of PRAY, but God has always provided enough anyway. I don’t love being my own personal shill (which may be the biggest part of finding an agent and publisher would be worth the delays).

We are absolutely dependent on God.

If there is any hope of us being the gate crashing church Jesus wants us to be, it is found through the conversation we have with Him running through our life. Deepen your conversation today. You probably don’t need my book. I don’t really need you to buy it. But you and I both need to live in constant communication with our Father. Our words can mingle with His in life changing, earth moving ways! Writing PRAY helped me remember that and to understand how that happens – and I hope it can help you too.

Get yours at the cover link below, or get in touch to talk about a discount bulk order for your whole team.

Disconnected By Busy-ness

Mike —  March 21, 2017 — Leave a comment
  • Planning a lesson
  • Writing a sermon
  • Listening to a podcast
  • Writing a blog post
  • Publishing a book
  • Reading a book
  • Designing graphics
  • Doing taxes
  • Waiting on hold with the IRS
  • Planning a worship time
  • Taking kids to school/track/soccer…
  • Picking up kids from school/track/soccer…
  • Parent/Teacher conferences
  • Helping a new friend find food or shelter
  • Ordering curriculum
  • Evaluating programs
  • Watching Netflix
  • Researching new ideas
  • Fixing broken things (or ideas)

I bet your list is as full as mine. Should we keep going? Any of these things can threaten to quiet your conversation with God or to drown it out completely.

DON’T LET THAT HAPPEN!

Some of these are really good things – things that we should be giving ourselves to. But none of them should get our time and attention at the expense of staying connected with Christ. In fact, if we are so busy (even in good activity) that we lose our connection, we’ll find ourselves spinning our wheels and getting nowhere. Jesus put it like this,

Remain in me and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.

We have to stay connected with Jesus. Be careful to give God priority and keep the conversation of your life with Him going strong.


At the risk of turning this post into a sales pitch, I want to let you know (if you don’t already) that I’ve produced a resource that can help you do exactly that. It’s a guided journal called PRAY that walks you through the Bible to see what a life of conversation with God could look like for you. I’d love to have you check it out and let me know what God does. Your favorite bookstore can order you a copy, you can pick up a copy from me directly if you’re in the area, or you can get it via this handy, dandy portal to Amazon:

I consistently harp on the theme of investing in the next generation. If you’ve read this blog much before, you know this. If you’ve read this blog a lot, you may be tired of hearing it.

Brace yourself.

It’s coming again.

Last night, I got to sit back in the sound booth and watch as this guy led worship and delivered a heart felt, Biblical message to our Middle School and High School students here at WestWay. His name is Shane, and he grew up in this church, in this student ministry, in this room… I’m invested in Shane. He’s a student at Nebraska Christian College now, and he’s doing a residency with us this year. For about 50 minutes last night, he had control of the room and used it to help students think about not just “how” we worship, but “why”, and even more importantly WHO it is that we worship.

There have been all kinds of thoughts swirling through my heart and head since last night. Let me blast you with a few:

  • Sunday School teachers used to need reinforcements when this kid came along… or extended breaks! It’s awesome to see what God has done with the raw talent and extreme amounts of energy that He bundled up in this package called Shane as he has committed to giving God back all of that talent and energy. Don’t ever quit on the kids that don’t conform to the compliant church mouse mold. They’re often the ones He uses to change the world!
  • Students have LOTS of ideas. Some of those ideas are incredible and some of those ideas are just a step short of stupid. Help students filter through their ideas and try some out. Let students experiment to try to find out what God’s wired them for. How else will they find out? Full disclosure: I still have stupid ideas, too, and need partners to help me sort them all out. I hope you do, too because I have a suspicion that the only way forward is going to require stepping into the Sea of Stupid Ideas and watching God part the waters to get us to the other side.
  • Many churches have an age problem. We don’t trust young people to deliver what we think God wants delivered so we just keep letting the Baby Boomers “protect the platform”. And so Gen X has not returned to church after their college hiatus and the Millennials are creating new platforms where their voice will be heard. We have to stop. We have to trust GOD enough to know that He can deliver through 15 year olds in tennis shoes every bit as effectively as He can through 50 year olds in penny loafers or 25 year olds in those really cool flip flops. If students have given themselves to Christ and have His Spirit living in them, they are the church NOW and they have a mandate to make disciples. I sure don’t want to be the one to hinder them from doing so, do you? We have to equip them for the work Christ has prepared for them to do and let them get to work doing it.
  • Students don’t need busywork. Who does? If student leadership means only letting youth do the grunt work in your youth ministry, that is not going to cut it. Invest real energy in students and trust them with real responsibility. Because you’ve equipped them, they’ll be ready.
  • Once upon a time, Shane was the kid bouncing in his seat and I was the cool guy at the front of the room. A little nervous, full of ideas, and experienced enough to be the expert, but young enough to be the cool big brother. Now, I’m just those one kids’ dad, right? Not cool. Not at all. But Shane is. You should see our younger boys hanging on everything he says and does. They want to be like him a lot more than they want to be like me. I’m ok with that. (Some days I’d rather be like Shane than like me, too!) My job is to have helped him when he wanted to be like me, to know that what really mattered is only being like Jesus. Don’t hog the spotlight. Be a mentor and a consistent example for them to emulate, but don’t be the only one.
  • I’ve been here for 11 years as the youth pastor at WestWay. Some of them have been hard. All of them have had some difficulties. There have been moments when I felt like walking away and when open doors had a lot to offer. But God has kept us here and continued to work through our ministry here. Last night was a visible example of the results of that longevity. I can’t say that God wants every pastor to stay at every church for X number of years. But I can say, you will never see this kind of fruit firsthand if you move to a new ministry every 3 years. Youth ministry cycles make it tempting to feel like we’re done when a good class has graduated or when we’ve gone through our best ideas from the last place we worked. And maybe it is time to go… OR maybe it’s time to stop doing ministry off of last year’s calendar and good memories, and ask the Spirit to breathe new life into our imaginations to fuel the new thing He wants to do next.
  • Discipleship is hard. But it’s fruitful. And it’s what we’ve been commanded to do. Last night, I got a great reminder of why it’s so important that that has been my focus. And why it should remain so. Can we just stop for a minute and admit that if we’re not making disciples, we’re not really the church. The younger generations that live among us and with us, are a great place to start. Go, make disciples.

Comment below to share how you’ve seen discipleship happening in the next generation. I don’t have all the answers… What’s working for you? What’s not?

Problems beg to be solved. They often lie there like a beached whale, begging for a solution.

Sometimes, the solution is obvious.

Other times… not so much.

So we start thinking… imagining… tinkering…

We get creative.

Unfortunately, there are days when creative solutions just flat out fail. Here are a few signs that your creative solution is probably going to fail (or already did).

  1. The gathering crowd seems to sense impending doom as they see you begin to implement your strategy.
  2. The solution involves half a ton of dynamite and a consensus of city officials & the highway department.
  3. Police are called in to cordon off a safe zone before you can act.
  4. The problem is still there when you’re done. Doh!
  5. The problem is worse when you’re done. Duh.


(HT to Sheldon Shires for bringing this stunning bit of creative thinking to my attention several years ago.)

Bonus Signs
If either of these phrases could possibly be uttered as a result of the implementation of your tactics:
     “Bits of whale rain across the beach.”
     “Over a quarter mile away, a massive chunk of blubber has flattened the roof of a brand new Cadillac…”

What problems are you seeing right now in need of creative solutions? Can I help? (I promise to leave the explosives out of the equation. Probably.)

Back in Balance

Mike —  March 1, 2017 — Leave a comment

Whoever let me forget how much better I feel when I’ve been running (semi)regularly… Please don’t let me forget again.

It’s not a lot, but I’ve run more miles this first 2 months of 2017 than I have in the past several years. That says a lot more about the last few years than about the last couple months. I didn’t have to choose to stop running. I just took a little time to recover from a particularly long run once… got busy… missed a few too many days because of bad weather… then found that I hadn’t run in way too long. But getting back into the practice of running has helped me get some physical things back in balance. I’ve trimmed a couple pounds, my lungs feel better, I’m sleeping less fitfully, and I generally just feel better. Running helps me clear the clutter in my head and is a time of prayer for me to refocus and remember Who my life is really about. Which brings me to this…

Our spiritual lives can get out of balance through unplanned inactivity, too.

An easy stretch of life lulls us into thinking that we’re doing well. We forget how dependent we really are on God as we get caught up in our own little day to day. We stop noticing God at work around us. Soon, we realize, we haven’t really noticed Him at all lately or given Him much thought… in way too long.

Maybe running isn’t your thing – and that’s fine. This isn’t really about running. It’s about paying attention to your spiritual life – your real life.

How are you doing?

Is it time to get back into the practices of life that help you grow?

Don’t let unplanned inactivity wreck your spiritual life.

Let me offer a few suggestions:

  • Read Scripture. Often. Carve out time and listen to what He says in His Word.
  • Get outside. For some of us, being in contact with creation helps us get in touch with our Creator.
  • Make something. The Spirit He’s placed in us is His creative Spirit. Exercise it. Make something beautiful and new.
  • Read. Check out something from the library. Head to a bookstore. Or start with something off the list below. Just find some good words to make you think…

   

Or maybe you just need some of these:

Why Not?

Mike —  January 24, 2017 — Leave a comment
  • It will be cold.
  • It’s going to be really crowded.
  • Someone is probably going to get hurt… almost for sure.
  • You’re going to freeze… you don’t really need all those fingers and toes, right?
  • There is basically only a thin sheet of plastic between your carcass and a frozen hill of packed ice. That can’t be comfortable.
  • Have you thought about how cold it will be?

There are all kinds of reasons to stay home on a snow day under a blanket on your nice, warm couch.

Don’t listen to reason all the time.

Take them anyway.