Leadership 101: “Lose the snooze button”

This morning… oh this morning…
It started out with an alarm I hit the snooze on (multiple times), by accident of course, followed by my 6 year old grabbing my face saying,“GET UP DAD!! We are going to be LATE for school!!!”
One look at the clock and I realized she’s right, I’ve way over-slept and so begins my hurried morning.

I wish I could say my attitude, tone of voice and general disposition were… less then snappy…
But over the next 30 minutes, picture me in a tornado of exhausted preparation.

I raced down the stairs to help my wife make lunches, make smoothies,
change our daughter’s clothes,change that diaper that is peeling paint off the walls…
((pause for a reflective cup of coffee))
…wait… ain’t nobody got time for that!

The kitchen is a wreck but who cares… We. Are. LATE!!!
At this time I realize I’m not ready myself, so in a mad dash through my room,
I grab my sweat pants and hoodie and I’m out the door lookin’ like Rocky IV.
A quick hug and kiss from my wife, who by the way has an, “I told you to get up” look on her face,
and we’re out the door.
The conversation on the way to school goes as follows:

“Ava did you make your bed and brush your teeth?”
“No dad.”
“Ava, why not?!?! Why do I have to keep telling you these things?!?!”
“But dad, you didn’t make your bed or brush your teeth???”

End scene.
The final score:
Being late to school and silenced by your 6 1/2 yr old  =  1
Daddy’s demonstration of leadership and self-discipline  =  0

It’s interesting to note that Ava didn’t remind me of what I’ve been telling her.
Truth is, she never does.
It’s always a reference back to what she saw me do… or not do 😦

I realize more and more, there are 2 lessons I’m teaching my daughter’s:
1.  What daddy says
2.  What daddy does

I’m learning the 2nd one is having the most impact.

The reality is we have a lot to say. We talk a lot and we know a lot.
We love to “preach” don’t we?
However, our greatest sermon will never be with our words but with our walk.

This morning was NOT one of my finer moments.
But one thing I am learning and in some ways, it’s the silver lining of these moments.
The power in saying, “Daddy was wrong, forgive me.”
Not over explaining or trying to justify my reasons and lack of self-discipline, but merely owning it.
It diffuses the moment and an even greater lesson can be learned.

Leadership is not a lifestyle of perfection or knowing more then the people you lead.
If we are to be successful in our leadership, at work or at home, we must be lead first.

I’ll do you a favor and spare you the endless “one liners” on leadership.
Instead, here’s some encouragement. God’s not done with us yet.

You may be leading a whole team of people at a corporate job, or at a church, or maybe just an army of children,
dead-set on making sure you never sleep again… (true story) …but know this, God is still at work on YOU.

On the days I wake up early and let God’s word speak to me first, before all the demands of the day come at me,
I find all these other things are “added unto me.” (Matthew 6:33)
All my weakness and strengths are aligned, not in who I am, but in Who is at work in me.
My desires to know Him more, be a good husband and father, grow as a worship leader & songwriter,
are focused and put in their proper place.

God knows I need Him. He knows what the day holds and also knows that what comes out of my mouth,
will not be as impactful as what flows from my life lived out in front of others.

So, If you find yourself having a day like I did, don’t excuse it, own it!
Making mistakes and asking for forgiveness isn’t a sign of weakness, but one of great strength.

A great line I remember from the movie “Captain America” comes to mind.
Dr. Abraham Erskine says to Steve Rogers (Captain ‘merica), when explaining what the serum will do to him after they inject it:

“The serum (or leadership) amplifies everything that is inside. So, good becomes great.
Bad becomes worse. This is why you were chosen.
Because a strong man, who has known power all his life, will lose respect for that power.
But a WEAK man… a weak man, knows the value of strength and knows compassion.”

Steve is chosen as a leader, not because of his perfection but because of what’s inside him.
Self-control and self-discipline don’t happen on their own.
Try all we want to fix ourselves, but we’ll keep on falling short.

God’s not done with us, no matter how high of a leader we are, we need His strength as our source.

So, as we seek Him first, may our walks grow ever-louder than our words.
…oh, and maybe loose the snooze button.

I Will Stand By You

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My family and I have been serving the last 6 years with an organization called Lighthouse Family Fetreat.
LFR serves children with cancer and their families at a seaside retreat to help them to laugh, restore family relationships and ultimately find hope in God.

One of the reasons this happens is because of families that give up a week of their year to serve and volunteer.
When I’m there serving, for me it has become a very real picture of what I believe Heaven will look like!
People being the church, showing unconditional love, serving, eating, playing & laughing together.
Pure joy!

I’m honored to serve in the host role, leading worship, leading morning and night devotions and helping creat the atmosphere for the week… which for me means being as big a goof ball as possible to help kids laugh and see their faces light up!  I started out in children’s ministry when I was 18 and so I’m right at home singing and dancing and just having a blast with the families.

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We celebrate the life God has given us, and thank Him for every GOOD thing.
We sing and dance and play nearly the entire day… napping a good bit after lunch.
We do our best to help mom and dad re-connect.
We give our all to help that sibling that’s been lost in the shadows to rediscover their dreams again!
There’s no room for rockstar attitudes AND the last and least are FIRST in line!

Being a dad has it’s humbling moments.  There’s something about holding a dirty diaper that just doesn’t ring “rock star!”
I guess I’m constantly reminded of how quickly things can get “messy.”
Honestly, I feel a bit in over my head with our season of life.
Work, travel, home, our ever-increasingly busy schedule with the kids… did I mention we’re pregnant?!
With all of this, I can’t imagine if one of them had cancer.
The pain and fear I’d be experiencing on top of everything else.
The overwhelming amount of help my family would immediately need.

At some point, we all will walk through difficult times and sooner or later will need help.
However, we were never meant to go through it alone and in these times of life, when I jump into the “mess” with someone, I realize I’m as much in line with His will as I’ll ever be.
Just read the first few verses of most of Paul’s letters, they are all filled with love and encouragement to lift each other up, pray for each other and to not give up!

My daughter said it best recently, as we were once again bringing luggage up and down the stairs after serving at Lighthouse, she said, “these times are hard dad, but it’s sure worth it.”

I laughed because of how cute this was to me and how she believed we are all in this together and she’s doing her part.
And.. she’s right… the real joy and satisfaction in life isn’t a life void of hardship,
it’s found in giving our lives away, and in the end it will be worth it.

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So I wrote this song “I Will Stand By You” inspired by my experiences there.
I had just gotten back from a retreat and wanted to capture, in a fun way, what the heart is of Lighthouse.
It’s a song about the self-sacrificing love on display at LFR day after day that is changing lives.
The chorus in some ways is kind of the mission statement of the volunteers at Lighthouse.
Families reaching out a hand to other families they’ve just met, carrying their burdens and helping them know they aren’t alone… altogether being the love of Jesus, not just singing about it.

“I will walk with you through desert lands, I will lift you from the sinking sand
When you have no strength, just hold my hand,
I will stand, I will stand by you”

It’s of course easier said then done.

I met a 9 yr old girl name Niki Reyes over a year ago, and I won’t ever forget her.
She glowed. Like seemed to actually glow. Her joy was so outwardly it made her face radiate.
She spoke of God and her faith in Jesus in a way that made Him so real.
I hear me say, I believe in Jesus and trust in Jesus… God is REAL.
But the way Niki talked about her was different and with a confidence that was infectious.
I remember serving her strawberries at breakfast and her telling me how she saw angels and talked to God in her hospital room recently. I said “Wow, that’s awesome, what did you talk about!?”
She said, “The angels don’t say much, but God told me the blood I needed would be enough.”
The week ended and shortly after I discovered Niki was much sicker then I realized.
Doctors wanted her on hospice care as they had done all they could for her, but her family didn’t want to give up yet.
We always pray and hope for healing and miracles, but also know that He sometimes ultimately heals them and takes them home.
We made a youtube video for Niki to encourage her and kept praying for her, but in March of this past year,
I got the phone call that our beautiful little flower Niki, had gone home to be with Jesus.

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(This is me with Niki in the middle and her sister)

We were heartbroken.
Niki gave us a gift we weren’t expecting, of a deeper faith in Jesus and a vision of what the joy of the Lord really looks like.
I’ll never forget Niki Reyes.

I’ll be honest, in the areas of life like this, I want to run.
I want to hide from the broken things in this world and live in a reality that is less painful.
But instead of running from the heartbrake that comes with serving children with cancer…
Our resolve continues to grow stronger, by the grace of God, to run towards these families.
To help them laugh again.
Help them dream again.
And to help them find hope in God.

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(helping a dad reconnect with his daughter by giving them a special date night and private evening together)

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(Common Grounds for the parents to reconnect and share their story)

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(volunteers offering a spa afternoon for the moms)

We remember, that it won’t be like this forever.
This is not the end of the story.
In the end cancer… and death… does not win.
Jesus has the final say.
He alone stands victorious over all that is broken in this world.
It’s the reason we can sing and dance and play and laugh and dream… even when we don’t understand…
because we know He carry’s our hope and our eternity is secure!!!

My prayer is this song will be an encouragement to us, and a motivation towards helping others discover what being the “hands and feet” of Jesus is really all about.

For more info on LFR visit: www.LighthouseFamilyRetreat.org
*They are currently accepting family partners applications as well as donations to help make the retreats possible

To hear the song visit iTunes or click the link:  “I Will Stand By You”
*If you would like a FREE chord chart –  message me on here, or on my FB page and I’ll email you one.

Galatians 6:2  “Carry each other’s burdens”
1 Thessalonians 5:11  “Therefor encourage each other and build each other up”
Matthew 25  (whenever you did it to them, you did it to me)
Colossians 3:23-24 “Whatever you do, work heartily, as unto the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.”

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“I Will Stand By You”
LYRICS:

Verse 1:
Everybody gets week
When our broken hearts send us to our knees
And everyone of us grieves
And needs a helping hand back up on our feet
To just believe

Chorus:
I will walk with you through desert lands
I will lift you from the sinking sand
When you have no strength, just hold my hand
I will stand, I will stand by you
I will stand, I will stand by you

Verse 2:
When it’s hard to just breathe
From doing all you can just to make ends meet
When you’re lost in life’s give and take, yep
I will be there to help you find your way
Yeah, we’ll find our way

(Chorus)

Bridge:
We were meant to walk this
Broken world together
In the days of pain and
In the stormy weather
knowing this is not how
It will be forever
I’ll stand by you

Saving Dr. Seuss Day

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Disclaimor:
So I started my blog back up again (thanks to numerous friends gentle nudging)
primarily as a way to journal what God is doing in the life of my family and my ministry with singing, songwriting and worship leading.
However, over the next month I’ll be sharing stories I had previously posted on my FB page.

I will never forget this day below… so I’ll start with it:  (March 2013)

Today was Dr. Seuss day at Ava’s school, so we dressed Ava up in a cute little outfit… duh!
However it was more of a hip, anthropology, kid-fashion outfit, not so much the zany, tacky “Seuss-esque” fashion that the other kids did to the MAX, which I discovered as I dropped Ava off.

Ava didn’t complain, but was immediately bombarded by the other kids with questions of what she was dressed as.
She looked at her outfit, smiled slightly & just looked at me confused.
Again, no fits or whining, I just knew she was not sure how to feel & I instantly felt a HORRIBLE sadness that I can’t really describe.

It was as if the moment reached into my childhood or something… I knew how she felt & my heart broke for her.
So… I bolted home, ransacked her room for anything that could “save the day” for her, all the while feeling her embarrassment from afar.
10 minutes later & I’m back at school with my arms FULL of princess “stuff.”
Ava didn’t see me but I made eyes with her teacher, who realized what I had done, and she called Ava to the hallway.
As Ava walked out to the hallway, she turned the corner & their I stood, arms overflowing with outfits and a big smile!
I wasn’t prepared for that moment… for as soon as she saw me, she BURST into tears… And so did I.
I told her we needed a do-over & how sorry I was… She just hugged me tight for a long time & cried.

We put ALL of the clothes on, made an outfit up and I went to town on her hair.
After all… this was Dr. Seuss Day… you only get one of these in your life if you are lucky.
The teacher redid her class picture and Ava insisted I be in it with her (more tears).
I gave her one last hug followed by I love you and I’ll see you after school and I left.

On my way home, I called Anisa and told her what happened, choking back tears.
Ava had told me what the other kids were asking and how she was embarrassed.
She didn’t want me to leave and her joy was so overwhelming she couldn’t stop crying.
I’ll never forget it.

I thanked God as I left, that I was in her world & had not let that moment slip by cause I wasn’t paying attention or was too busy to notice.
Being my daughter’s “hero” is going to be a lifelong journey of moments like today.
It will look different as she grows, but will always require my attention & presence in those moments, to notice what is happening or else I could miss out on the greatest joy I have right now… as simply being her dad.
Today I showed her how much I love her & that I’m paying attention.
My prayer is, that it is another seed sown into her heart for days that are to come, when the stakes are a lot higher then epic-failing on Dr. Seuss day in kindergarten.

Thanks for reading this LONG story! I just had to share it & hope you hear the gentle nudge from my lesson learned today.
As Andy Stanley said recently…
“Don’t trade what’s unique to you for something someone else can do!”
Today I’m content with being Ava’s dad.

You’re worth more than GOLD!

My daughter and I have a fun thing we do, where we set up the iphone and video ourselves singing a popular song,
accompanied by our own made up motions.
Then I post it on youtube and countdown the years before she wants me to delete these videos 😉
(just kidding… I hope not!)

I’ll be honest, trying to come up with fun/creative things to do can be challenging.
However, this is super easy and any dad can do it! Plus you’ll be REAL glad you did later, I promise.

This latest installment is to the song “Gold” by Britt Nicole.
This song has an excellent message to kids of all ages and we love it.
Lines like “Whatever you’ve been told, you’re worth more then gold” are the kind of thoughts I want filling my girls ears and hearts.

This past summer we had a blast singing and dancing to it at  Lighthouse Family Retreat
Some sweet moments watching children with cancer perform this song at the retreat talent show, tears for days!

So we hope you enjoy it and PLEASE, turn it up and dance along with us!

CASE

PS:  If you’ve made home videos like this or have other fun ideas for things to do with your kids, please feel free to share or email me on here, thanks!

“Forever With You”

When you’re a kid growing up, you think you have forever.
Forever to do whatever you want cause you’ll never get old.
And It feels you’ll have to wait forever to do everything you want to do.
Remember how it seemed Christmas and your birthday would NEVER get here!!!

Sometimes we are even tempted to think we have forever to do all the things we want to, so we push things off until later.

This thinking can tend to carry on strait through your 20’s.
Your 20’s are a deceptive season, leaving you always needing to be just one year older… to drink, to graduate, to get your insurance lower, to get married, to graduate again, get a real job, get a real house… have a kid…
And suddenly… you’re 30!!! 

For me, I think I paused a moment at 25… got married… then resumed warp-speed to 30.
And I’m not sure why, but at 30, for some reason, I suddenly started counting time backwards.

It went from “I got time to do that” to “How much time do I have left to do that?”
I was too old for the olympics, and I’m a decade + older then all the stars playing in the pros!!! What?!?!
Then we had our first child and I started timing out how old I’d be when she’s 10, 15, 20…

Then I blinked twice and now I’m 35.  35 young and loving it!
But still… 35. My teens, 20’s and half my 30’s are spent.
Years I once thought I’d never see… are now behind me and time has slipped by like sand through my finger tips.

I’ve heard it said, “Time is an illusion.” (Einstein maybe?)
Steven Curtis Chapman says it brilliantly in one of his songs,
“Where has the time gone? Was it here just long enough to draw these lines on my face?”

But I will say, the older I get, the clearer it becomes that we aren’t here for long.
So while time may be an illusion and be a wrinkle revealer,
it’s important we remember that time is also…. a GIFT.

In a recent trip to Nashville, I was inspired to write a song about all this as I drove home.
It’s a beautiful drive back to ATL through the mountains and I usually spend the time reflecting on what I learned and even questioning what I’m doing and what’s most important in life.

But this time around, all I could think about was how much I missed my family.
We had just crossed the finish line of the bulk share of traveling and finishing up the new record
and I couldn’t escape some thoughts.
Thoughts of how I don’t want to trade our time together for the busy life I was experiencing currently.
There are times I can get caught up in a dream to chase, but all the while, my family IS the dream!
I knew what I was experiencing was a small, not the norm, season…
but it was an overwhelming sense of gratefulness to God for my girls
and a new clarity on what will matter most in the end!

So with all these thoughts I started singing some ideas into the phone and before I got home the song was done.
It was too late to add to the record, but we believed in the message so much so, that we did this acoustic version to get it out for now.
The song is a journey…
It’s written from the perspective of 3 seasons we will experience in life.
1. A current realization of how time is flying by and how much you cherish your spouse.
2. The stage of life with kids and the wonder it brings that won’t last long so make the most of it.
3. A perspective of a person’s third act of life, so to speak, realizing “these moments won’t pass by again.”
Kind of a prediction of what that time will be like, when it’s just us again
and how grateful we’ll be, that we lasted and didn’t wait forever to start really living.

I wanted my wife to hear my heart loud and clear with this song.
So when I got home I ran right inside, sat her down and sang it to her!

I wanted her to know that she is far more important to me then “making it” in music,
and as far as I’m concerned I have made it!
Our family is the dream come true and in the end, “nothing could be better, then spending my forever with you!”

She cried pretty good while I sang it, so that was enough feedback for me 😉

I heard it said the days are long and the years are fast, and I’m finding that is so true!
I really believe this side of Heaven nothing could be better
then loving the people God has put in your life with ALL you have.

Being present… in the moment… giving your loved ones your full attention
and saying loudly and often how much you love them, cause in the end, you’ll sure be glad you did.

So anyway 😉
I hope it encourages all of us to remember the gift that time really is and that’s it’s not to be waisted.

Lyrics

Verse 1
These days I’m seeing life – a little differently

The years are slipping by – like sand through my finger tips
It’s more then I ever dreamed and sometimes i can’t believe
that time is a gift we get so I don’t wanna miss…

CHORUS 1
Looking in your eyes – cherishing our time

I know nothing could be better – Then spending my forever
Making memories – And living out our dreams
I know nothing could be better – Then spending my forever with you

Verse 2
Each moment with our kids – Doing things We never did
The laughter in our halls – Aint Nothing could replace
Dont blink your eyes too fast – cause we’ll wonder where they went
So let’s take a journey that we never will forget 

CHORUS 2
Looking in their eyes – hearing every cry
we know nothing could be better – Then spending our forever
Making memories – And living out our dreams
I know nothing could be better – Then spending my forever with you

LAST VERSE/BRIDGE
These days I’m living life – a little differently
I realize these moments won’t pass by again
treasure each hug and kiss, a little quicker to forgive
cause i know that in the end, i’ll sure be glad i did… sure glad i did

CHORUS 3:
When I’m Looking in your eyes – cherishing this time
I know nothing could be better – Then spending our forever
Making memories – And living out our dreams
I know nothing could be better
Then spending my forever…

Looking in your eyes, So grateful you are mine
I know nothing could be better – and i don’t want to wait forever
to make our memories, it’s more then I had dreamed
I know nothing could be better,
then spending my forever with you

Stone Mountain with Ava

My Little Girl… for a while

I’ll never forget when I heard the doctor tell us “It’s a GIRL!!!” 

Something in me melted to pieces that day.
And yes, I cried… a lot.
She had ALL of me… with just the sound of her heartbeat!
How was this even possible?!?  I’m still in awe of it.

That was 7 yrs ago and one thing I’ve learned quickly, nothing stays the same for very long.
It was just a moment ago, she took her first steps, and just a moment ago she said “I wuv woo” for the fist time, squeezing my neck SO hard.
Just a moment ago, I was waking up to her coloring rainbows on EVERYTHING, my laptop included, and only wearing princess dresses around the house.
Just a moment ago she wouldn’t let her “baby doll” out of her site… now she forgets it often, in place of her Jesus storybook bible, which she can READ BY HERSELF!!! What?!

And as each season of “moments” draws to a close, it gives way to whole new ones, and I realize how quickly that moment passed and am left wishing I could revisit it and pay closer attention.

The reality is that she really is the “Rainbow that’s on everything” as I say in this song.
A constant reminder of God’s grace and the new reality of a world much brighter to me then 7 years ago.
However, while we’re in these early years, there are so many things I want both my girls to know.

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I want them to know how beautiful they are inside and out.
To know they are a treasure to me, priceless and loved beyond measure!
Sadly, I also know days of insecurity are coming and when those voices of negativity surface,
and their hearts gets hurt and moments of doubt arise,
I want it to come up against a resounding wall of truth that was placed in there first!

A beautifully painted canvas in their heart and mind, of who they really are,
to us her parents and ultimately who they really are in Jesus!!!

So one day last year, I was reflecting on all this and wanted to capture it in a song.
But as I thought about it, it quickly became more then just my little girls.
I thought of how many dad’s out there need to be reminded about their little girls.
Reminded of how delicate her little heart is and how massively important it is to be present there early on.

My hope is this song in particular will encourage us dad’s to…
Pause more often.
However or whenever this needs to happen is up to you.
If you are like me… you’ll know when… but maybe take the pic and instagram it later, or even better,
save that moment for yourself. (guilty as charged)
Remember it all only last “for a while” so don’t trade it for something else you won’t care about later.
Seize the fleeting moments we have with them while they are dancing around in princess dresses,
extatic that they can do a cartwheel
And most importantly… they think you are the strongest man in the world!!!!
To realize these are the days, when we are the only “man” in their life,
given a place in their heart first, before any other shows up!

So dad’s, while you can, let’s aim to make the most of it!

Thanks for reading & Listening.
Now get to dancing…

*Please feel free to share this song and blog with whomever, there are share buttons etc to help.
Tweet or post on FB however you like, that’s what it’s here for!! – Thx

NOTE:  I’ll try to work on a little boy song… however, this will be easier to do if our 3rd child is a boy 😉