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Celebrating 8 Years on this Blog!

This week I’m celebrating 8 years blogging at LeadRight.me!
198 Posts
122 WordPress Followers
35 Email Subscribers
To commemorate this personal accomplishment, I’m sharing 8 of my most popular posts below! Let me know which ones are YOUR favorites. (simply ‘click’ on each picture title)
Keeping the faith in the country music industryMary Sarah
The incredible legacy one person can leave behind when they leave us early
Jutila
Suggestions for those dark seasons of life
darkness
God is active even if you don’t feel Him
working

How to keep circumstances from taking our joy awayjoy

Putting healthier focus on all that you are balancing pause

 

A simple approach to personal Soul Care practice

How to genuinely express gratitude to your teamsappreciation

Thanks SO MUCH for stopping by!

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Happy Father’s Day, God!

Because you know HIS NAME…he will protect you, save you, and be your place of refuge and safety.

Because he holds fast to me in love, I will deliver him; I will protect him, because he knows my name.  Psalm 91:14

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For some, this concept (promise) can be difficult to fully understand. Some of us have been blessed with great father figures. Yet, others not so much. As humans, the difficulty is separating our experiences with earthly fathers from what we know and will continue to discover about our Heavenly Father.

Even those who have wonderful fathers (biological, step, foster, etc.) must not closely compare them to the father figure we have in God. Why? Because this can limit our expectations of God in heaven. Even the best earthly fathers cannot compare to the love, grace, gifts, and protection our God in heaven offers.

Conversely, some have not had the greatest example of a father in their life. Maybe you’ve even had multiple poor experiences. I’m truly sorry, but please work hard to give God a fair chance to demonstrate that he really is different. Don’t allow your bad earthly experiences to limit God’s influence in your life. No matter the depth of pain and hurt, take a step of faith. Become vulnerable and allow him to be the father you never had…and even MORE!

Take a minute to listen to this incredible song by Rend Collective. Sing the words of this chorus to your Heavenly Father today. And go ahead, wish him a very Happy Father’s Day.

Is there anything in this song that is hard for you to believe about God? Or is there something in it that you already know to be true and lean into daily for encouragement?

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Interview with Mary Sarah on Living Your Faith as a Country Music Artist

Recently, Mary Sarah (widely known from The Voice and KidZBop) graciously agreed to Mary Sarah 6have coffee with me while I was passing through Nashville on family business. If you are a person of faith or if you love country music, you WILL WANT to read this interview.
Now, before she entered the coffee shop I was honestly concerned that I might become a bit star-struck. But when she arrived none of that was an issue. And mostly due to her demeanor. Mary Sarah is a born and raised, down home Southern girl. That popular Southern hospitality shines through loudly in this young lady, greeting me with a hug and a smile.
Starting up our visit was so easy. In fact, after spending just over an hour getting to know her I left feeling like I had just gained a new friend.
The interview answers that follow below come directly from the heart of someone who follows Jesus and has been in the music and performing industry for roughly 12 years…and she’s still just 23 years old!

[Brent]: What would you say is the single most challenging part for young country music artists to stay strong in their faith?

 

[Mary Sarah]: “It’s the ones who don’t give up who make it. There are so many no’s. You simply can’t let people in the industry crush your dreams and stop you from doing what you truly love. It comes back to not finding your identity in what others think…your identity is in the Lord.”Mary Sarah 5

[Brent]: Looking back, if you could give 12 year old Mary Sarah any advice for the years ahead of her, what would it be?  (I think she enjoyed pondering this question)

[Mary Sarah]: “Remember to never forget where your ‘true’ joy comes from. It comes from the Lord.”
[Brent]: How do we practically do that?
[Mary Sarah]: “Pursue the giver of joy. Take the time and sit in silence with God. Don’t fear the silence.”

She told me one of her all-time favorite verses is Psalm 46:10, Be still, and know that I am God.” She emphasized the word ‘know.’ When we know something there isn’t any question about it. When we know that God really is all he says he is we can rest in that hope. 

“Never forget where your ‘true’ joy comes from.” If I’m being honest and not careful, my joy can be found in the number of followers and comments I get online. Or in how happy I can make others around me. And especially around the positions/accomplishments I’ve accumulated in my life. How about you? Mary Sarah’s first answer didn’t include the word ‘true,’ but she quickly added it. She clarified that true joy can only be rooted in Jesus. Joy in anything else is just a counterfeit hope. 

Then she said these word about the giver of joy. “Don’t fear the silence.” This is proof that us older adults (I’m not OLD, just older) can definitely learn spiritual truths from some who are younger. I’m not sure about you, but I do occasionally fear the silence when I’m sitting with God in prayer. Why? Honestly, because I might not really want to hear what loving challenge or new direction he might be calling me into. Fearing the silence, however, leads to avoidance. And avoiding time with him actually hinders our relationship with him. 

 

[Brent]: What is one of the most helpful pieces of life advice (outside of family) anyone has ever offered to you?
[Mary Sarah]: “I’d say that would probably have come from working with Ray Price – At age 16 he shared these encouraging words with me and my parents. ‘Know your audience, tailor your show to them. Give them their own personal show. Also, don’t be too sexy. Know who you are (in person and online) and don’t use your body to advance your career.’ I still reflect on those words today.”
After getting to know Mary Sarah, I can honestly say she is the same person off stage as when she’s performing. The young lady I met with was the same person we all watched on cheered for on The Voice. 
Mary Sarah 1
[Brent]: Do you have any personal boundaries in place for accountability with so much available to you?
[Mary Sarah]: “Alcoholism…it has been passed down through my family. I’ve had to develop a mindset that re-enforces the fact that I really don’t need to do whatever everyone else is doing around me. Also, I never drink heavy at all before a show. I have a job to do and that responsibility to my audience is taken seriously.”
Mary Sarah 2
[Brent]: What does Mary Sarah’s personal quiet time generally look like?
[Mary Sarah]: “Quiet time with Jesus every day is a necessity for me. Waking up and realizing that God loves me and that I have value in that day is something I try to focus on each day before my feet hit the floor. Also, Prayer is a natural lifestyle for me. It reminds me that I’m not alone and keeps me grounded. My most favorite thing is to sit in quiet in the morning, just my Bible, coffee, and Jesus. We  make time because the Lord makes time for us.”
[Brent]: How do you continue to cultivate your relationship with Jesus with all the music venues and travel on your calendar?
[Mary Sarah]: “Well, it’s definitely harder on the road. I look at flying as an excuse to shut myself off from the world. I also actively journal, which has really become a precious conversation with the Lord. Surrounding myself with others for loving accountability is critical for me. But this is on me. I’m responsible to ask for this.”
I want to wrap up this post by highlighting a pivotal moment in Mary Sarah’s life. Just a few months ago she posted on Instagram that she was going off-line for a few days. And she did! She got out of town to a beach somewhere with her Mom for about a week. There was no work, no writing music, no social media engagement. In essence, she took an extended Sabbath rest. She got quite authentic and told me that she felt a nudge in her spirit. A tugging on her heart to get away and reflect on her personal life, career, and walk with Jesus. And this proved to be beneficial. She returned to life as usual with a renewed vision and clarity for the direction her life needed to head. I love that she practices what she said earlier, that we make time for God because he makes time for us.

 

Her beautiful vocals and ability are found to be similar to that of Loretta Lynn and Patsy Cline. Mary Sarah’s music can be streamed on Spotify, and the best ways to keep up with her online is by following her on Instagram and Twitter. I highly recommend you give her a follow.

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3 Things Every Believer Must Practice Regularly

Great pastors and authors like Richard Foster and Dallas Willard have taught about the subject of Spiritual Disciplines for years. Now, there isn’t a complete list like the Ten Commandments in the Bible that groups all of the disciplines together for us (although that might have been handy). The Bible doesn’t even refer to them as Spiritual Disciplines. Yet, these are spiritual practices Christ followers can observe so that they are able to grow and mature in their faith and their understanding of God.

3 things

While disciplines like solitude, fasting, and tithing are among well over a dozen others, below are three spiritual practices I believe to be absolutely critical if a believer wants to experience life fulfillment, have joy, and grow closer to Jesus.

Bible Intake |  The Bible holds all that we need to know about God’s character and his heart toward us. If we never read the Scriptures and only pray and spend time with other believers, all we will have is a highly personalized philosophy of God. Very little truth or foundation.

But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matthew 4:4) And of course we know that all scripture is inspired/breathed by God. It’s not an option. We were created for God’s word to fuel us, to give us life.

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Psalm 119:105) God’s word guides our choices and directs us on our life journey. He’s our GPS! And here’s the great thing. We you and I take a wrong turn in life, he simply says, ‘re-routing.’

“Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.” (Psalm 119:18) A couple of those ‘wondrous things’ would be learning about God’s will for us and making new discoveries of his character and personality.

Prayer | When we take time to pray we are making an investment in our relationship with God. I’ve often said that prayer is like taking God to coffee. You hopefully enjoy each other’s company, learn something new about each other, and openly share what’s on your hearts.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6) God already knows what you want and need. So why pray? Because God actually wants us coming to him, talking to him, and acknowledging the relationship. God is not a deadbeat dad who is disconnected and merely sends a child support check in the mail each month.

When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.” (Psalm 34:17) God both hears and acts. He’s accessible 24/7. And he works on our behalf.

Community with other believers | We were not created to do life alone, nor to thrive or struggle on our own. Not only do we see the importance of community in the Creation story back in Genesis, but it was also fully lived out by Jesus with his disciples.

And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25)  Believers should lovingly encourage each other to do good for others and to love in ways like Jesus did.

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:2) Walking 100 yards with a 500 pound weight on your back is MUCH EASIER if you have a large number of like-minded friends near you to help carry it.

So, would YOU add anything to my list? Have you experienced these three things in your own life?

And possibly more important, do you struggle with one of these more that others?

 

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A Tribute to Craig Jutila

The urgent prayer request by Venture Christian Church was unexpected. The tragic news that followed not long after left all of us in shock and disbelief.

Craig Jutila met Jesus and their son, Blake, in heaven on December 26th. Initial reports suggested it was a snowboarding accident, but later Mary shared that the autopsy report found a sudden heart attack was the cause of his passing.

My wife, Cailey, and I share a special friendship with Craig and Mary. It all started when Mary agreed to have coffee with Cailey while Craig was speaking at a CPC event in Orlando about 8 years ago. It was almost an instant friendship. Their relationship led to Cailey and I volunteering to support Craig’s speaking and EmpoweredLiving for the next 5 Orange Conferences in Atlanta.

 

 

 

 

Craig initially coached and mentored us in our KidMin and FamMin roles. Both of them poured into us, professionally and relationally. Craig took extra time out of his schedule to guide me in preparing my notes for 3 sessions at a conference in Kentucky 3 years ago.

Craig was the life of the party. And if there wasn’t a party, that changed when he arrived. His personality…MAGNETIC! And as a couple, Craig and Mary are the most humble, generous, trusting people you could ever meet.

And I mean ‘trusting!’

I helped Craig with broadening his Twitter and blog platform for a couple of years. My involvement required me having access to his Twitter account. I remember vividly our phone call when I was just starting this partnership. Craig very nervously said, “You know, I’m trusting you with my career right now. You literally have the power to destroy me with one wrong post!”  Then we laughed.

Did I mention generous? They had us stay with them back in August after illness prevented us from flying back to WA from a leadership training we were in town for in Compton. And yes, we always volunteered to support them at Orange Conferences. But they would manage to take us out to eat, buy coffee, and give us warm ‘Thank You’ cards with various gift cards enclosed. They really just loved blessing others.

And while I’m on the topic of the Jutilas blessing others, they wrote a book together. It’s titled, ‘From Hectic To Healthy: The Journey To A Balanced Life.’ 

hectic

This is one of the most authentic, open, and painful books on marriage and ministry you will ever read. For that reason I encourage you to do just that. Please read it! Carey Nieuwhof also recorded a powerful interview with Craig on the topic of ‘When leadership ruins your family: How to live and lead differently.’ If you’ve never had the privilege to hear Craig speak, this would be a wonderful way to experience his heart.

Craig’s passing has caused me to reflect on my own life. He was an incredible, loving husband and father. He was a faith-filled, obedient child of God. He took what the Lord gave him and ran with it. And if you knew Craig, he probably ran with a lot of ideas/callings before God actually released him to (alluding to Craig’s self-disclosed ADHD behavior). His energy and creativity were contagious.

Craig was at the height of his personal life and ministry calling (in my opinion). Why? Because the platform and range of influence God had given him was constantly growing and changing. I have tried to model my public speaking style more after his creative energy than anyone else over the years. Now he’s telling stories and entertaining all of heaven. What a sight this must be!

Lastly, to Mary, Cameron, Alec, and Karimy I offer this prayer.

May you be blessed by the tangible feeling of Jesus’ loving arms wrapped tightly around you in this time of heartache. Lord, bless this beautiful family’s season of mourning with support, quiet time, joyful memories, laughter, comfort and strength. Amen!

 

 

 

 

In Loving Memory

How Do You Define ‘Worship’?

Worship is not a church service. It’s not a spiritual song. Not a moment in prayer.

Worship is a condition of the HEART. It’s a constant mindset of GRATITUDE toward our creator and savior, Jesus.

silenced

And in my own personal experience, the some of the most POWERFUL seasons of worship have been the seasons filled with challenge, pain, and loss of clear direction. It’s in those seasons, when we’re able to STAY CONNECTED to the Father…remembering ALL the ways he has been faithful and provided…that re-directs our attention away from our own circumstances and onto the countless blessings that we so easily overlook.

I’m going to refuse to let my ‘Thank You’ be silenced today. I’d invite you to join me!

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3 Things to Avoid When God Begins to Speak

The other night, I sat down to have what I assumed was going to be 20-30 minutes of prayer and reading in one of my devotionals.

Then, God showed up and decided to join me!  What a novel concept.

I read one random page in my devotional book containing one particular scripture verse.  Next, I felt prompted to check out the verse of the day in YouVersion.  This was a different passage, but same theme.  Huh?

I then decided I would pop my earbuds in and experience some worship music.  You want to know something?  The bridge of the song I chose relayed the exact same message as those two scripture passages!  What the heck?  You know God’s trying to get your attention when he puts the same thing in front of you 3 different times.

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When God takes you down this sort of path, it goes without saying that it would be wise to pay attention more than usual.  I would suggest, however, 3 things to avoid when he starts speaking this clearly.

  1. Avoid DISTRACTIONS – Remain in that moment as long as possible.  But sometimes God catches us just as we are on our way out the door to work or an important engagement.  In these times, it is critical that we come back to this moment and word with God as early as possible to allow him to continue speaking.
  2. Avoid HURRY – Don’t jump to conclusions trying to quickly decipher what is being said.  The things of God are often quite large and can take time for us to truly gain a grasp on the specifics of what he is either telling us or asking of us.  Be patient.  Meditate calmly on his voice.
  3. Avoid PRIVACY – Shortly after you’ve had a bit of time to process what you are experiencing with God, go ahead and share it with 1-3 people.  These should be individuals who you know love Jesus and who honestly care about you and your future.  Ask them for their thoughts on what God might be saying.  Then, look for a common theme.

What have your experiences been when God starts communicating in such a bold way that your mind and heart are simply taken captive?  I’d love for you to leave a comment below.

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