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For the past several years I have decided on a word that would guide me throughout the year. Based on that word I set goals – annually, quarterly, and monthly – and each day I record one or two things I did that day to advance my goals. At the end of each month, each quarter, and the end of the year I reflect on my actions in relationship to my goals. It’s not a public practice (although I’m currently letting the cat out of the bag), but every now and then I find it helpful to talk about it with other leaders. Today is one of those days.

My word for 2016 is refine. There are several questions I use to make decisions about things that will have longer-term effects on my life. The questions are nice to have because often times I have to make important decisions in a short amount of time and from these questions I can easily rule out some opportunities and just as easily say yes to others. (It’s the middle ones that I struggle with – and often that alone is a sign it’s maybe not the right thing.)

In the past two days I have exercised my questions and made decisions that helped me refine my work. Ironically, the work is not in my paid job, but centers around places I volunteer my time and gifts. One was a yes to a new role, which meant leaving another role; one was a decision to simply step away. One decision I knew was coming, another came unexpectedly. Both feel good and align with my goals for this year and the places I want to make an impact.

I share this with you not to brag or build myself up, but as a leadership lesson I am working on. To truly lead, leaders have to have a sense of direction. For many of us, that direction use to come from external sources – employers, community organizations, family expectations. Today we lead in a world that has flattened and become more complex. Many of us know our employers will be only one area where we can make a difference, so we also invest our time and energy in other places. Many of us see our homes and families as places to experiment and reimagine family life and meaning. And many of us know that our world provides opportunities to lead outside of our work and our homes, and we capitalize on those opportunities. But in that, we can become confused, overwhelmed, and stressed. Having focus certainly helps us navigate all the arenas in our life with purpose and meaning.

I don’t have a neat and tidy way of making decisions. But I have developed some habits for making short-term and long-term decisions that allow me to lean into the places most meaningful for me as a leader, as a mom, and as a person of faith.

I’d love to know if you have developed some simple processes or tools that help you. Share them in the comments below and we can all learn from each other.


Safe Containers

I have been working on a book project studying congregations and nonprofits innovating and experimenting. What a great project in these changing times. I love hearing the stories of leaders and congregations/nonprofits leading with faith and hope.

One of our findings was these communities gave a lot of attention to cultivating community and attending relationships. It sounds so simple, and perhaps obvious, but this finding highlights both the importance of relationships in our lives and how we hunger and thirst for such spaces in our lives.

Brene Brown and her work on vulnerability lifts up the importance of not only relationships, but also spaces, or as she calls them safe containers, for us to be our selves. Be it our home spaces, work spaces, or schools, we need safe spaces to discover who we are, our ability to lead, and for us to learn.

I invite you to watch this great video on safe containers and then commit to cultivating some safe container in your life.

Breaking Bread together – in a new way

Sharing a meal together is not a new idea. People do it in their homes, with family and friends, with neighbors. Communities do it as well. In fact, food often brings people together and creates a sense of community.

Yet food can also divide us. One of those divides is for those who can pay, and those you can’t. But what if we could create a business/social service agency that could bring two often separate groups of people together? Someone in Florida has.

A woman in Florida was really thinking outside of the box when she designed this local eating establishment. Pay what you can or volunteer. Really? Too good to be true? And only have a few employees. Rely on volunteers for the rest. Really?

Yes, Mosaics it is about a meal, but it’s also about getting to other people and creating community. The owner says, “Amazing things happen at the table when people start breaking bread together. They start getting to know each other. We are so busy being busy, we don’t even know our neighbors.”

Mosiacs Cafe

When I saw this clip last night I started to wonder, isn’t that the gift we have in the bread and wine offered us all in Holy Communion? What if this meal that centered our worship could be extended to center our community life?

A challenge and an opportunity for reflection!

Waiting for Immanuel.

The Power of Habits

What is you could focus on one thing that would transform the patterns of your leadership? Great question, right?!

This past summer I read the book, The Power of Habits, and got thinking about how the science of habits could help leaders think about their leadership. If working on our habits can help people lose weight, train for marathons, and embed values into a work environment, perhaps they can help leaders think about their leadership.

Charles Duhigg’s “framework for understanding how habits work” offers “a guide to experimenting with how we might change.” The framework has to do with identifying the routine of a habit, experimenting with rewards, isolating cues, and having a plan. Knowing how habits work help us understand more about how to create and/or change habits. And understanding how habits form patterns and how patterns create reality helps the invisible become visible. (For more on For more on the Power of Habits so to Charles Duhigg’s website.) One of Duhigg’s important discoveries is that not all habits are the same. Keystone habits are super habits, habits that when changed loosen other  habits and open up the possibility of new patterns to emerge. What if we could reflect about our keystone habits and the impact they have in our lives and our leadership? And what if working with some basics ideas around habits could allow us to change some of our patterns and/or live into new possibilities?

I have partnered with leadership coach, Dawn Trautman, to create a series of videos and exercises to introduce and apply some of the ideas from The Power of Habits in order to leaders own experiences and situation. If you are interested, we’d love for you to join us. Check out more on

Habits matter and working on our habits can help us live into a new future.


Praying for the World

A Litany for the World

One: Where ignorance, self-love and insensitivity have fractured life in community,

Many: give your light, O God of love.

One: Where injustice and oppression have broken the spirit of peoples,

Many: give your light, O God who frees.

One: Where hunger and poverty, illness and death have made life an unbearable burden,

Many: give your light, O God of grace.

One: Where suspicion and hatred, conflict and fear have challenged your goodness,

Many: give your light, O God of peace.

One: Eternal God, open the eyes of the nations and peoples so that they may walk in the light of love: remove the ignorance and stubbornness of nations and peoples so that they may drink from the fountains of your goodness.

All: Amen.

Copyright © WGRG, Iona Community, Glasgow, G2 3DH, Scotland. Reproduced by permission.;

Today in chapel we prayed for the world, for world leaders, for those in need, for all of us to join together for making God’s world a more just and thriving world.

Join us in praying. Watch the video or read the transcript. #prayerforeveryone #globalgoals


Global Goals


What if… you received a call from someone in the future asking you to make a difference on their behalf – today? What if … you had a friend, or colleague or family members, who lived across the globe and they needed your help? What if … your children asked you to use your resources, your networks, your influence, to change some aspect of the world so their future looked brighter? Would you?

Today marks the first of seven days leaders from around the world are joining together to do two things.

First we are invited to pray as the United Nations gathers for their Sustainable Development Summit (September 25-27).

Second, we are invited to pick one of the 17 goals from the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and act on it.

According to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon,

“These projections on the sustainable development goals are a beacon to the world carrying an historic message from the United Nations — that the nations of the world are committed to ensuring lives of dignity for all people and a healthy planet for future generations. The global goals provide a unique opportunity to end poverty, reduce inequality, build peaceful societies and fix climate change.  All nations and all citizens have a role to play to achieve these global goals.”

Having committed to three Millennium Development goals in 2000, this work extends and expands those goals. And this work doesn’t happen without everyday people, and religious leaders, joining in. And this work starts today!

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon added,

“We hope that the message of the goals will reach everyone on the planet this week.”

Thanks UN leaders for this work. On an ideological level, I’m totally with you. But, honestly, it’s too big for me, too massive for me to make a difference, right?

Wrong. And it all started with a text and a phone call – from me daughter. This mattered to her, so I listened.

Then I went to work and walked around the campus where I teach. And as I did I saw the faces of people from around the world and heard their stories. Stories of struggle and strife. Stories of inequality and poor education. Stories of hope and the desire for leaders who care.

And then these words from Scripture echoed in my head…

“Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?” (Matthew 25:44)

and I was reminded of my call to serve my neighbor, those I can see and those I cannot. These words are both a command and a promise.

And I got to thinking. This work, these global goals need people advocating in Washington AND people packing meals at Feed My Starving Children. Change happens when leaders partner with one another AND educate one woman, one child, one community leader. Communities become sustainable when leaders think about the future, not just the present AND when I commit to sustainable practices in my home.

So today, and in the seven days ahead, will you…

  • spread the word – and tag it so others may also join in. #telleveryone
  • pray for global leaders – those you know and those you don’t. #PrayerforEveryone (and see for resources)
  • and will you commit to one of the 17 goals. (see for more) #globalgoals

How will you use your words today?

i am a person of words. I use words at home. (And usually more words then my family would like!) I rely on words at work. As I teach, write, and engage students words are the primary vehicle. And as I wrestle with the current problems of our world today, where do I go? To words.

Today I saw this video and it challenged me to think about my words. As a realist that wants to lean into a new future I often think my job is to state the problem. But maybe, just maybe, recasting my words in light of the new future I picture might help the world move a bit closer to making it come true.

Curating – what is it and why do it?

Maybe you are like me and are curious about what it means to help others sift through the amazing amount of information available online, but don’t exactly know what you are doing or why. This activity is both an art and has some guidelines. It is called curating. And while I don’t know much about the guidelines for curating, I do know this – curating is part of my role as a teacher of the church moving into the future. Why? Because one of the ways I share what I know about my disciplines is to point people to other quality, provocative resources and thinkers. Yes, some of them people might already know or find on their own, as they are common in my networks, but some they might never find because they are less common or outside their regular network…but reading or seeing them might push up against their regular way of thinking or might help them, and me, come to understand “the” neighbor more fully. As a teacher committed to learning and a Christian trying to live faithful in our time, this matters to me.

I don’t know if you should curate, only you can answer that. But maybe you live in an intersection of various networks that would benefit from your doing so. The following guide might help you think about curating more fully. (Thanks Timothy Siburg for this link, and more importantly your accepting your role as a curator!)