The Seventh Day

Woman Resting In Hammock

“ . . . on the seventh day he rested from all his work.” — Genesis, 2:2.

In case any of you over-achiever types need a reminder, God rested on the seventh day. And He’s God! We . . . are not. How many days has it been since you rested?

Leaving work only to start on your 47-item to-do list at home does not count. Laundry, grocery shopping, changing the oil in the car, running the kids . . . these things are not resting. They may be a necessary part of your life, but resting they are not. Granted, resting looks different for different people. For some, it is settling in with a good book. For others rest and renewal comes from a walk through the woods, an afternoon spent with family and friends, losing yourself in a hobby, time spent in reflection, or actually taking a nap!

In her book Thrive Arianna Huffington noted that what we highlight in someone’s eulogy is very different than what we as a society define as success. It’s no wonder that burnout is reaching epic proportions. Too many people are giving up those things that are most meaningful, restful and renewing to them, to reach higher and work harder on the road to some modern version of success. Maybe the best antidote to burnout is a seventh day.

In actuality, a “seventh day” doesn’t have to be a whole day . . . and you certainly don’t have to wait a week to benefit from it! A ten-minute walk outside can do wonders for your sense of energy and peace of mind. Close your eyes and savor a piece of dark chocolate. Stop to enjoy a sunset. Turn off the computer, the phone, the TV and take a few moments to connect . . . to rest.

Don’t think you have time? (After all, a leader’s work is never done, right?) Let’s take a moment to consider the return on investment for a seventh day. Better decisions, more creativity, increased patience, and the simple fact that you get to enjoy life more . . . hmmm . . . seems like a worthwhile investment to me! Yes, I know, when you are in the midst of the tempest it is sometimes difficult a) to recognize how much you need a seventh day, and b) to find a way to work it into the rush and whirl of your life. But hey, you’re a leader . . . you can figure this one out!

As Ms. Huffington notes, maybe a first step is to start each day by asking yourself not what you have to do that day, but rather what kind of life do you want to live. Sort of shakes up the priorities a bit, huh? And I’d be willing to bet, in the life you want to live, you’ll find the time for a seventh day.

Faith in the Right Timing

As a person of faith, and a leader in a faith-based organization, I am a big believer in God’s perfect timing. There have been so many examples in my career when I may have been thinking about a particular decision for a long time . . . so what prompted me to act at what turned out to be an opportune moment? I have no answer except to say that something inside me indicated it was the right time to move. Some would probably call that intutition. I like William Wordsworth’s perspective that “Faith is a passionate intuition.”

Please don’t hear me say that I think faith somehow absolves a leader from having to plan and strategize and stress, and at times agonize over decisions. Sorry gang, that’s part of the bargain. (I think God will provide, but I also think He expects us to do our part!) At the same time, I believe there is some degree of comfort in recognizing, as leaders, it’s not about us. Our job is to serve as caretakers of the organization entrusted to us, to leave it better than we found it . . . which means you can’t always go with the safe bet or the most popular option.

Recognizing the right timing requires a degree of wisdom that starts with knowledge, but also requires listening, observation, reflection, questioning, and ultimately, a willingness to go with your gut/intuition/inner-nudging and take the leap. Because here’s the deal, God’s perfect timing usually doesn’t come labeled as such. It take faith.

In our measuring, quantifying, metrics-based world, something as nebulous as “faith that you’ll know when the time is right” may seem like a hard sell. Except for the fact that, it is not an either/or proposition. Faith that you’ll know when the time is right to act does not mean you don’t do your homework, it does not mean that the data is irrevelant, and it doesn’t mean that you’re running off on some lark. You do your homework so you will be prepared when the time comes. Or maybe you are nudged to look at different data, or look at the data differently, than others might. You approach the situation with a different lens or perspective.

And then you are patient. Yes, I know patience a fruit of the Spirit . . . it’s a virtue . . . and frankly — at least for me — it is the toughest part of the whole equation. But I have learned the hard way that even the “perfect” solution, when implemented at the wrong time (which usually means my impatient timing) will fall flat. The solution? Take a deep breath and have faith. If you listen to your gut, you’ll know when the time is right.

Stepping Out on Faith


“When you get to the end of all the light you know and it’s time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: either you will be given something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly.” ― Edward Teller

As much as people like to think that leadership is about vision and strategy and building a solid culture and high-performing teams — which, of course are all part of it — there seems to be far less focus on the role that faith plays in effective leadership. While some use the term more generically, as in “I have faith (confidence) in my team to make the best decision”, I believe for many leaders faith from a spiritual sense is also a key driver in their success.

For me, these two types of faith are intertwined. Faith in my people comes from experiencing first-hand their commitment to our clearly articulated values and operating practices (SMAC me), which are built on a foundation of faith. While having confidence in my team is important, I don’t think that is the kind of faith that Edward Teller was referring to in the quote above. Rather I think he is talking about the nudges, the feeling in your gut (divine guidance), the tug on your conscience that compels you to make a decision, even when you don’t know exactly how that decision will play out.

In my experience, you often have to “step into the darkness” before a door will open, or a path will be made clear. For leaders who like to be in control of a situation (that’s not just me, right?!?) making a decision to take a leap into the unknown can cause more than a few sleepless nights. I absolutely believe that when I seek His guidance, God will provide. I also believe He expects us to do our part — which to me means planning, considering scenarios and financial implications, etc. Unfortunately, it’s a bit trickier to figure out when you have reached the threshold of “doing your part.” Because sometimes (okay many times) stepping out in faith involves a fairly healthy level of risk. It is one thing to take that type of risk for yourself, but leaders often have to take such risks on behalf of their board, their staff, and all who turn to them for care — which is an even heavier responsibility.

So how do you know if the tug on your conscience really means you are being called to step out in faith? While I make absolutely no claim of being an expert, in my experience when there is something that you really don’t want to do, and you have done everything you can to rationalize a different course of action, and your gut still won’t quiet down, it’s time to step out in faith. Some of my most “visionary” decisions really weren’t so much about MY vision as the confidence that there was a plan, which would become clear if I would just move forward along the path.

Is it time for you to take that step?

Divine Guidance by Way of the Gut

Sun rays

As the leader of a faith-based organization who feels called to do this work (which I do), I believe I have a responsibility, in the midst of the fast pace and increasing noise that has become our version of  “normal,” to pause long enough to listen for Divine guidance.

Actually, that sounds a bit loftier than it feels. You see, I believe God talks to me through my gut . . . and those pauses I take, they tend to be at 2:00 a.m. when I really should be sleeping, or in the shower at 5:30 a.m. when I am trying to wake up from not sleeping.  I realize that my gut may have been trying to talk to me during regular business hours, but that still small voice is not going to try to outshout the crisis du jour . . . it simply waits until I am quiet enough to listen.

And I can tell you from years of experience, trying to bargain with “your gut” is a wasted effort. It is embarrassing to admit how many times over the years my gut was telling me one thing, but logic and the popular opinion of people I respected pointed in a different (usually easier) direction. Every time I tried to rationalize away what my gut was telling me, I have regretted it. Every. Time.

On the flip side, there are those times when I implore God to give me guidance RIGHT NOW. That doesn’t usually work so well either. This will come as no surprise to those who know me, but patience really isn’t my strong suit. I like to plan the work and work the plan. I’m not sure who originally said, “We plan and God laughs”, but I’m fairly certain I have kept Him amused for some time now.

And yet, I find when we as an organization make decisions from the foundation of our faith-based values, striving to truly live out the Golden Rule in our daily work, we reach and often far exceed our goals. The path to get there may be filled with side roads and detours (which, by the way, have the best scenery!), and it may be in His time, not our time, but when you have the faith to stay the course amazing things happen.

I know this is true. You’d think that would make it easy. In my experience . . . not so much. But then maybe it’s not supposed to be easy. Maybe the struggle is part of the journey designed to test our resolve and remind us that we don’t have all the answers . . . but that they will be there if we simply ask, seek, knock . . . and then listen to our gut.


The Thing About Talents . . .

old Bible of 19 centuries. . . I’m not talking about skills here, I’m talking about the ancient monetary unit referenced in the Bible — that thing that various servants either multiplied or held on to tightly for fear of losing it. Now I will never profess to be a master theologian, however I take my responsibility as the steward of a faith-based human service organization very seriously, and do my best to ensure my organization honors the teachings of what I believe to be, hands down, the best leadership book ever written.

As I interpret the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25: 14 – 30), we are expected to multiply that which we are given. Many people know the portion of the scripture that says “Well done, good and faithful servant,” however they tend to leave off the remainder of that verse which says “You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your Master.” (Matthew 24:21)

Now, I absolutely believe God will provide if we’re following his will; however, as indicated in this scripture, I also believe he expects us to do our part. What, exactly does that mean? As far as I’m concerned, that means if we are holding ourselves out as a faith-based organization, we ought to be doing it better than anyone else. We need to be tracking outcomes. We need to have a quality improvement plan (that we actually implement, not just create to check a box!). We need a corporate compliance plan. We need financial metrics. Not because some external body says we have to, but because it’s a stewardship responsibility.

Yes, I know, budgets are tight, staffing is thin, and you’d rather focus your energies on serving more people and not on doing paper work. The problem is, I just don’t buy that argument.  How do you know if you’re having the greatest possible impact if you have no measures of success? (And numbers served isn’t enough. Serving a lot of people who don’t get better really doesn’t achieve your mission, does it?) Absolutely, the scale of your quality assurance efforts should match the size of your organization. The dashboard of a $200,000 organization is going to look much different that of a $20 million organization, but there is real truth in the adage “that which gets measured gets done.”

I thought we measured a lot of things (which in fact we do), however at our most recent EAGLE Accreditation visit, we were challenged to stretch our thinking. EAGLE is the only comprehensive accreditation program for faith-based human service organizations (, and the team leader for our review observed that while we have a comprehensive quality improvement program, which includes lots of measures, we weren’t measuring what difference it makes that we’re a faith-based organization.  That would seem like an obvious thing to measure, huh?!?

I absolutely believe that our kids get better faster and our staff retention is higher because we are a faith-based organization, but in fact I have nothing more than anecdotal stories to validate that belief. Now it is true that the impact of being faith-based is a harder thing to measure than, say, unit costs, but I’ve also never accepted “hard” as a reason not to do something.

As we (and by we, I mean our Director of Operations) began to search for a way to measure the impact of faith, we came across the Daily Spiritual Experiences Scale, ( ) which is highly validated and we determined would be a good fit for our needs. We have done the baseline measure for our staff, and plan to roll it out for kids and families in the near future.  Given that our staff retention numbers far exceed the industry averages, as do our baseline staff scores on the DSES, I think my theory related to staff will prove to be correct, however truth be told it is really too early to know for sure.  And if the numbers don’t turn out the way I expect them to? Well then, we’ll have an opportunity to learn . . . and improve . . . and find new ways to multiply our talents to the honor of our mission and Him who calls us to be good and faithful servants.

What are you doing with your talents?