Step by step with God

Nice Day for a Ride, by Big Dave Diode (Flickr), Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.
Nice Day for a Ride, by Big Dave Diode (Flickr), Creative Commons license, some rights reserved.

I smiled this morning when I read Jon Acuff’s post, Stop trying to make “perfect decisions. I immediately thought of how I’ve been living the discernment of my perceived call to the diaconate for the last several months: step by step.

I realized early on that there wouldn’t be a golden epiphany, no bright flash from the sky with a booming voice saying, “Michael. Do this!”

Instead, there’s a decision on my part each day to spend time in prayerful conversation with God, to carefully listen and try to feel His response, and then to take a few steps each day in the direction I feel I’m being led. That might continue to lead in the direction I’m now going, or someday it might turn me right or left down some entirely different path.

Now it’s simply, “Step by step with God”.

Jon talks about being brave, and not getting stuck – no “stuck dreams”. He writes, “You can’t wait until you feel brave enough to make a decision. You can’t wait until you have a perfect plan to make a decision. You just have to make one.”

Just one decision, just one step at a time. Sometimes one decision then 3 or 4 steps. The destination might end up different a few months or years down the trail, the trail might get dark and narrow, but you still walk it one step at a time.

As Ferguson Burned

“If you want peace work for justice.”
– Pope Paul VI

I didn’t sleep well last night. As I tried, buildings and cars in a city 20 miles from my own were being burned by the citizens.

The reaction to the announcement that Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson will not be charged in the shooting death of Michael Brown in August filled the airwaves, Twitter, and Facebook through the night last night. In fact – and I believe this is relevant – I’m fairly certain that more friends were posting about this than they did about election day.

How did we get here? Yes, I do believe that decades of ongoing “invisible segregation” from various angles led to a charged situation in reaction to this case. No, I don’t believe that it’s unique to our region, but it is likely amplified here due to the political and social History at play.

I also believe that the media and the 24-hour news cycle continues to play a role in inflaming the situation.

There are injustices to be righted, sure. But I couldn’t sleep because I had seen, in vivid color on the television, how far we had slipped as a society, how much loss of respect for others and for property had evaporated, and how much lack of restraint, self-control, and proper means of justice had been forgotten.

Justice? Justice under the law was announced last night for Officer Wilson. A grand jury of peers, of citizens, met for months, reviewing facts, testimony, and the letter of the law, and they made the decision that there were no charges that could or should be made against the officer.

Justice in our community was turned on its head in the same moment, though. Some with years of pent-up anger at their situations in life, and hatred toward those they perceive as keeping them there, and some who I truly believe are here to professionally incite have now taken over. A decades-old bandage has been removed, and the wound is bleeding profusely.

One tweet that I saw just before bed, in particular, is memorable and disturbs me. It read something like, “Jesus would’ve been at the front of the line of protesters.”

No, on this I beg to disagree.

The Jesus I know would have cared deeply about the situation and the people involved, but I personally believe he would’ve been tending to those injured. He may have been with the family of Michael Brown. He may have been consoling the families who own the businesses that were being destroyed by fire. I don’t think he would’ve been burning down buildings or torching police cars. The only time in Scripture I saw Him angry was in the House of God – the temple, His Father’s house – when it had been turned into a marketplace.

No, the Jesus I know might have asked the protester (remember his friend in the garden?) to “Put your sword back into its sheath” (c.f. Matthew 26:52), and then repaired the ear of the High Priest’s Servant, “…for all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” (Ibid.)

He likely would have been in the neighborhood LONG before this turned to violence in the streets, and would’ve been working to do some of what needs to be done today: Helping youth receive a better education, develop hope, and find a path out of the oppression they’re living in; Helping parents connect with resources to raise families of faith and respect; Dare I say removing some of the layers and levers of government that lead to such imposing economic realities and forceful governance? He would’ve pushed for freedom – true freedom – freedom such as we probably wouldn’t recognize anymore, in our inclination to continue to vote for whomever will legislate taking from another man and giving to us.

There is an organizing principal that has developed through the years in Catholic social teaching, dubbed “Subsidiarity”, in which I strongly believe, and that I think we need to evolve back to (gosh, that constant revolution reminds me of my PoliSci 112 days…) Subsidiarity teaches that matters ought to be handled by the smallest, lowest or least centralized competent authority. This ties back to my observation earlier about elections, but it also ties to Jesus, and faith in general.

Poverty and injustice must be solved first and foremost in hearts, then in familes and homes, on blocks within communities, within parishes and other churches, within neighborhoods. Injustice will never be defeated by a law passed by Congress, or by a state, or even by a county government. The further we have asked the government to solve our injustices, the further we have fallen, and the more polarized we have become.

I truly believe that this is the crux of the moment in History at which we stand: The final defining moment in which we must choose whether we will personally take responsibility for ourselves and our brothers, or whether we’ll delegate that responsibility to the government franchise.

This is a big part of why I feel called to the Diaconate, and I hope and pray that my application and formation process might continue. I believe strongly that I’m being called to place myself at the service of our bishop and his successors to help our pastors take Jesus – the real Jesus, the Jesus planted in our hearts and souls and bodies through the Eucharist – our very Church and parishioners – and lead us into the streets and homes and cities to bring all of our resources to bear to right years of wrongs, and to solve our problems as close to home as we possibly can. I feel that my entire life of experience and upbringing has brought me to this moment where I might be able to be a servant leader in trying to do something to right so many wrongs and help so many who are hurting. I certainly don’t even know all of the answers or all of the stops on that journey yet, but I trust that they’ll manifest themselves when it’s time, and that I’ll lead others, and they’ll lead me in the right ways.

In another related post, another friend commented that the ill-placed “Season’s Greetings” banner in Ferguson really needs to read, “Let there be peace on earth.” Yes, let there be.

Reuters image from Ferguson, November 24, 2014
Reuters image from Ferguson, November 24, 2014

If we want peace, we must work for justice, but not a co-opted political version of justice: Justice, first and foremost under the law, and then in a very deep, real way, justice in the hearts and lives of those held down by the constructs of our own society.

It starts with prayer, and then it moves on to looking for ways that YOU can help.

Focus for the week? Love.

Often on a Monday morning (or over a weekend), I’ll spend some time considering the “Biggest Rock” I want to focus on in my work week – the biggest thing I want to accomplish, or the biggest theme or effort I want to focus on for the week.

This week, with a bunch of tactical “Big Rocks” out of the way for a week or two, I have resolved on a different type of focus for my leadership of my team this week: LOVE.


It does remind me of the moment I moved from the role of consultant to the role of manager, when I realized that my work would (or should) no longer be as much about my own accomplishments than it was about those of my team members. This is a leap for me, as I had taken great pride & joy in my work as a consultant, had handled some major accounts, and received more than my fair share of awards, accolades, and rewards for that work.

As a manager, though, I have to look through an entirely different lens. My whole work life has to stay focused on my team – helping them to see the reward in their work, get better at what they do, and do the very best that they can for our clients and our greater business.

My whole life and upbringing tell me that the best way to do this is to focus, first, on the heart of my relationship with each of them: To love them as individuals and then focus, from that foundation, on what I can do to help and nurture them as the professionals that they are.

Sometimes that means getting down in the trenches and helping with some client work – easing a burden or giving some ideas or an example. Sometimes it’s going to mean jumping onto a call to help present or defend their work with a difficult client. Sometimes it’ll mean enjoying seeing them receive well-deserved praise or rewards for what they’re doing.

The hallmark is my love for each of them as a person – the dignity and worth that they each bring to our team as individuals.

That’s my focus for the week. No big project checkboxes to check off my list this week – just one over-arching goal to get better at my love as a foundation for my relationship with my whole team.

“Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another.” – John Maxwell

North Star: Steady and Consistent

This morning on an early morning flight, I opened the window shade just as we started our descent to land. It was early in the morning, just as the amber glow of dawn was starting to cast a glow across the clouds to the east outside of my plane window.

As we turned to the west, I looked up and could see, clear as day, the North Star – the pole star.

As a youth, I learned of the importance of the north star to navigators of every age. The brightest star in the northern sky, its location in the sky is steady and consistent and gives a reliable point of reference from which to find your way at night.

It caused me to pause and consider whether I was being a “north star” – a steady and consistent leader – for my own team. What could I do better this week to help show each person on my team the way to success (and help ensure they remain happy, growing, and content while on the way there?)

Even if you’re not a manager, you can be a pole star for others in your life through your own example and servant leadership, or for being there to listen or to help share advice when they need it. That’s my Monday Manager challenge for this week – thinking from the position of north star this week, and anchoring my team and helping to show the way, but simultaneously trying to be a stronger light and example for my own family and friends.

Will you join me?

3 Things a New Manager Must Manage


I recently revisited a voice mail that my group’s senior manager had left me, just after my promotion from consultant to consulting manager, congratulating me on the new role and wishing me well.

Listening to the voice mail again brought back a rush of memories – she had left it while I happened to be in-flight to visit one of the offices where many of my employees are based, and I was also about to head to my first sessions of Adobe management training.

One of the things that developed quickly and clearly for me in that narrow window of becoming a new manager was a focus on what I should manage. It was a key part of our management training, but it also became crystal clear in the day-to-day experience of starting to lead my team.

The Order of the Arrow: Centuries of Service

In 1915, at a scout camp near Philadelphia, a young camp director founded an honor society of honor campers and leaders in boy scouting. For years, from that first simple induction on that first night in a scout camp, the program called the Order of the Arrow (OA) grew and expanded.

(From the OA’s website:) “It became an official program experiment in 1922 and was approved as part of the Scouting program in 1934. In 1948 the OA, recognized as the BSA’s national brotherhood of honor campers, became an official part of the Boy Scouts of America. In 1998, the Order of the Arrow became recognized as Scouting’s National Honor Society when it expanded its reach beyond camping to include broader service to Scouting and the community.”

Today, the OA has more than 170,000 active members located in lodges affiliated with over 295 BSA local councils. One interesting hallmark to the Order is that, contrasted against many organizations in which members elect or select new members, in the Order of the Arrow, the members of a scout’s own troop (many non-OA-members, in fact) elect the new members to the Order of the Arrow.

I spent much of my young life growing in leadership and service in the Order of the Arrow. In 1990, I was elected by the members of my troop and served my ‘Ordeal’ (my induction weekend.) My dad and I also drove, with two other members of our troop, to Indiana University to explore a day of the 75th Anniversary “National Order of the Arrow Conference” (NOAC), at which over 7,000 Arrowmen from around the country gathered to learn, network, have fun, and be inspired. I was hooked!

Ad Jesum per Mariam

In the last week, I have received a calling to a new responsibility that honors and humbles me greatly.

Koinonia_LambOur local Catholic parishes have been fostering a retreat-based community of faith called Koinonia for nearly 10 years. I’ve been a part of it since the very first “Trinity Koinonia” retreat weekend in September of 2005, Suzanne and her mom joined me a few retreats later in the series, and my parents and siblings joined a bit later.

The Koinonia retreats and the community that has formed around them have been very important in the faith life of my extended family, but more importantly in the broader community. Hundreds of my fellow parishioners and parishioners of our sister parishes have now taken part in Koinonia and become a part of the community, and I have formed new, deep, friendships as a result of the community.

eCommerce, circa late 2013

I’ve worked in the Internet and digital marketing world since 1997, and my clients and my team’s clients have been almost exclusively retailers for the last 6+ years, but sometimes I don’t get to see it from the “other side.” I just saw it from that side – as a consumer – and I’m pretty impressed!

Yesterday, a friend at work pointed out that a group of people in our Lehi, Utah office are all getting Fitbit activity and sleep trackers and are forming a “league” of sorts to compete a bit on physical and wellness activity.

Learning Marketing at a Radio Station

01260010There’s the old quote and book, “All I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten,” and it’s a bit tempting to say “All I needed to know about marketing, I learned at a radio station.” But that’d be a bit of a stretch. I learned the heart and soul, but there were still some muscles to work out (and keep working out over time as the industry grows, new techniques and technologies are adopted, etc.)

But at the core, yes, just about everything I needed to know about marketing, I learned at a radio station. In the mid-to-late 90’s, I was lucky to score a role at Sinclair Radio St. Louis. At the time, the stations owned 105.7 The Point (St. Louis’ Alternative radio station), 101.1 The River (at the time, a modern adult alternative station), and later, during my time there, 97.1 The Rock (a classic rock station.) I worked in the marketing department during the week, including leading the early years of the stations’ websites and eventually turning into a full-time role focused just on the websites, and on-air on The Point on the weekends.

10 Things I (Re)Learned on a Weekend Campout with my Oldest Son

Camping - before & afterGrowing up, I was extremely involved in boy scouting. I worked on our council camp staff for 9 summers, helped lead or at least worked at many district and council camping events, and had leadership roles in the Order of the Arrow and in Exploring. In all, I had spent nearly a year of my life camping or living at a scout camp in one way, shape, or form.

Those years were full of great learnings that impacted who I am, how I respond to situations, and how I succeed now in life and in work.

But some of them were forgotten, or got rusty or dusty, and some of them just needed to be dusted off a little bit. This weekend, while taking my oldest son on a “Dad ‘n Lad” campout – our first campout together – I ran back into some of those key life learnings. So here, in no particular order, are 10 things that I either learned or re-learned this weekend on my first weekend campout with my son: