4 Steps to Extraordinary Success

Do you want Success in 2017?

Do you want to create a successful dream team? Do you want to  be successful in your venture, business or idea? success doesn't happen by accident. Success comes from intention, attention and hard work. So many people work to decode the success of others. Being a student of others is a great idea. But, there are some fundamental principles that if we all put them into practice will be the difference between success and failure! 

Here are 4 principles that will guide you to success in 2017.

1. Build A United Team! Nothing replaces a good team who stand together through all seasons of life and career. Build a team of people who you can trust. You need to trust their opinions, their dedication to each other, their ability to make decisions and their own personal values. When that sort of trust exists, you can stand united through the hardest season of success, failure and growth. Unity is an unstoppable force in leadership and development. 

2. Create Clarity Through Vision. Make sure your vision, mission and values are relatable, repeatable and retainable. Be sure your vision is clear to anyone who hears it, sees it or experiences it. From the top to the bottom of the organization everyone needs to see you vision with great clarity. This will ensure the people around you all speak the same language. When that happens, there is almost nothing that can get in your way on the journey to success. 

3. Over-communicate Vision. Vision leak happens. Be sure you're always sharing and multiplying your vision to everyone in your organization. Never assume that once you've shared vision it has been retained by everyone. Just because it is easy for you to remember, doesn't mean it will be the same for everyone. Just when you're getting tired of sharing vision, everyone else is beginning to retain and take ownership of the vision. 

4. Reinforce Vision. Be sure your actions, decisions and processes are filtered through your vision, mission and values. Never waiver on this one! Build your system, policy and procedures around your vision, mission and values. Be sure that your idea, business or organization find it's structure and stability forge on this foundation. Be relentless in enforcing adhesion to the vision. This will ensure that you have created a culture that multiplies as your group grows. 

I guarantee if you can do this.... you will find success in your journey! It takes hard work, diligence and attention to details. But, in time you will find that these four principles are the key to success in your idea, business or organization. 

Just Because I'm Hopeful, Doesn't Mean My Kids Won't Struggle!

I have often believed that being a parent of kids who are different races, different nationalities and from different cultures would help my kids to find the world as a place of equality. Or, at least to believe it is possible since they grew up in a home where that ideal was modeled.

We have worked hard, though are kids are still young, to show our kids what it means to love people, honor people and respect people no matter what they look like, sound like or believe. We believe that everything begins in love and respect.

But, quite honestly, we have often had to ask ourselves a question that I know we will not be able to answer. Will our kids face a true identity crisis in a mixed race, adoptive and colorful family?

The news has recently been filled with the story of Rachel Dolezal. She is an influential woman who was born White, but has chosen to live a life under the identity of being Black. She has come under much ridicule because of her choice to identify herself in another race. Which, honestly I find mind numbing since we celebrate individuals who choose to identify under a different sex. But, that is sensational nature of our American culture.

The interesting thing to me is that she has white parents, but adopted siblings who are black. She comes from a family who likely modeled some version or vision of a world built on equality and love. Her story particularly hit me this week when I heard that she has a brother adopted from Haiti. The make up of her family is much like mine in many ways.

I have often asked the question in regards to my girls, who are both adopted and black. Will they identify with being Black? Will they be able to integrate into a black community when they leave my home one day? Will they see themselves as Black or White by heritage? Will they look to marry someone who is White, Black or another race. Am I able to raise them with a healthy perspective on race and the cultural issues that plague our nation?

Maybe because I am White, I have not asked many of the same questions in regards to my White children. I can only assume it is because I am White, and I certainly understand being White. I ignorantly assume I will be able to answer all of the questions I just shared in regards to my White children in context to being White.

However, the story of Rachel Dolezal has caused me to consider more deeply that I should be asking, with the same weight, those very questions of all five of my children. After all, Rachel was raised White, by a White family. But she had Black, adopted siblings. What in her upbringing caused her to re-identify herself in another race and color? What gave her such internal passion and drive that she shocked her family with her decisions? I have listened to the interviews; even her Black, adopted siblings are unsure what has happened.

It has made me ask many questions these past few days. I have assumed too long, and am honest enough to admit, that in classifying race issues in my own home, that some but not all of my kids will struggle with identity. But, I am realizing, all of my kids will face these same struggles.

I believe that mixed race families and families who adopt outside of their own race need to start a healthy dialog. I believe we need to reconsider some deep issues. I am not saying we reconsider multi-racial, cross-racial or transracial adoption as an option. (I use all of those terms because terminology in the adoption world is shifting as we speak.) But, I am saying we need to consider best practices, resources and conversation for the betterment of our children. I am saying that we cannot live in ignorance. I am saying that we must be honest, open and learn from each other.

I am thankful for friends of all races, color and cultures. I am doing my best to learn from them. I am willing to be vulnerable in the process. Being a writer, influencer and speaker on the subject of adoption does not make me an expert.

I realize, even in our best efforts we cannot wipe this stigma of race and identity from the culture. Struggling with identity is part of the human process. This struggle becomes unhealthy when we struggle alone.

What are your thoughts on this issue? 

Why Some Pastors Don't Fit

So, I heard the story recently of a pastor who had "resigned" or was let go from his job by the elders of the large southern Church where he had only been pastoring a very short while. The reason he was given was "it just isn't a good fit". Truthfully, this was probably right. But, not because he wasn't great for the job. This pastor has a heart for reaching people, he is passionate for Jesus and he is loving and accepting of ALL people. He's the kind of guy who would rather sit with complete strangers just talking life, than to sit in his office of one of the biggest churches in town.

The church chose to hire him because they believed that they wanted a change; they wanted to be stretched to a new season of putting the Gospel into action. He shared his stories of doing life and ministry with the homeless, the addicts, the outcasts and the scorned. He and his wife shared stories in the process of being hired of opening their home to the least likely and the broken down. He has often described himself as the pied piper of the messiest people on earth. Why would he paint such a picture? Because, when you live this out, it can be uncomfortable. The leaders proclaimed a desire for this very thing. They believed they wanted to see this kind of faith and grace in action. Then they discovered that He truly meant every word of what he had said to them. 

Often you can find this guy out on the streets hugging Prostitutes and inviting them and the local Drug Dealers to church. Or, he might be hanging out at the local Tattoo Shop and comparing artwork. He doesn't look like your average Pastor. He traded in his suit and tie for H&M T-Shirts and trendy Jeans. He doesn't sound like the average pastor; he's a bit raw and truly unfiltered. His family consists of him, his wife and beautiful children, who include two gorgeous black girls who they adopted. So, his family stands out as "different" in the Bible Belt South because they are mixed in race; Black and White children. It is not the normal family for Southern culture, which is still very much divided.

This pastor was actually good for the job. Not because he is the most educated or most successful person, because he is not. He wasn't qualified because he has an impressive resume, that's far from the truth. I think it is because he is relatable, raw, authentic, loving, passionate, REAL, and in a short amount of time he had made some ripples in the community. The locals seemed to take notice that maybe there was something different about this Church and about this Pastor. He was building a place where people who have been shunned by Christians in the past were being welcomed and loved. It was to be a place where everyone is welcome, nobody is perfect (especially the pastor!), but where they believed anything is possible. 

But, as it often turns out, he wasn't a good fit for those church people. They were made uncomfortable by the actions and results. They loved the idea of the change, but really it was too much. They wanted to remain the same and focus on reaching people like themselves. They seem to have forgotten there is an entire world full of hurting and broken people. Maybe they were afraid of appearance, reputations being tarnished by the outcasts or just afraid of losing their place and preferences. They didn't want their demographic to change. They didn't want to be made to feel uncomfortable in their own church building. They didn't want to open their doors to anyone who looked, acted, smelled, dressed, or lived a "lifestyle" different than them. So, it was time for him to go. It was "not a good fit". 

Don't you know the Church sign outside the door actually has a clause of conditional love and acceptance? Yep... You can't see it, but it's there. And, sadly many churches have the same message written in an invisible marker on the mantle of their churches.

We say we love Jesus, we say follow Jesus, and we say we want to be like Jesus. But, so many are stuck in their religious preferences that they wouldn't know Jesus if he was standing right next to them. And, actually, he wouldn't be standing right next to them. He wouldn't be hanging out in the fancy church office. He would be out impacting lives. He would be the "white" boy hanging out on the front porches of the "Hood". He would be hanging out in the Tattoo Parlors. He would be handing out food and water to the Homeless. Hugging the Prostitutes and having coffee with LGBTQ people who love Jesus. But, sometimes we forget all of that. Why? Because, as A.W. Tower says "Daily we recreate God in our image." It's far more convenient if Jesus likes what we like and loves who we love. And, in that reality we find a departure from the Gospel and the hope and love of Jesus. 

Can we, me and you, stop pretending that we are better than everyone else because we call ourselves Christians? We're not better. Christ loved and died for each and every "whosever" the same way. He loves and died for me and you just the same. But, far too often, all of us are guilty of this very reality; me, you and everyone who has found themselves set into a religious circle of some sort. We have boundaries that often we do not even realize. 

It's time we quit memorizing the things Jesus said and did, and begin to follow Him. It's time we quit studying in small groups, hanging out in big buildings with grand services and suffering through a checklist of moral duties to please Jesus. It is time for us to start living like Jesus, loving like Jesus and GOING like Jesus.... going to a world who desperately needs HOPE!

I feel more at home with the "Outcasts" than I do with the "First Church of Got It All Togethers". Because in the end I'm one one of the Outcasts. I love Jesus, but I'm pretty broken.

And, the pastor I am talking about..... It's ME.....

This season has changed my life. It has reawakened a deep desire in me to make an impact and change in the way the world sees, discovers and understands the HOPE and LOVE of Jesus.... The church is changing in more ways than we could have ever imagined. The church most of us have known our entire lives is going through a paradigm shift in the way people encounter, relate and engage.

God set a vision for an Uncommon Church in my heart years ago.... and now I see more clearly the purpose and point of that vision in my life. I have no idea what the future holds. As it stands, because of this very story, most churches are unsure and even afraid of me, assuming I will only stay a short while. The working world doesn't know where to put a former pastor. For more than four months I have been searching, hoping and trying. And, around every corner I find a world who does not know how to assess or value the skills and experience of a pastor. It has placed my family into a hard season, and there is no particular end in sight. But, we choose not to loose hope or anticipation for what is ahead. 

For now, I will take the chance to steward what is right in front of me.... I will love the people God places in my path. I will lead those lost in the dark without hope to a place of love in the real Jesus I know. And, until the day God opens another door for me to lead... The church I serve is the world in which I live each day!