There is no such thing as ‘The Ideal Leader’, but there are leaders with ideals! Ideals guide our lives like rudders direct ships. The captain chooses which way to turn the rudder (which ideals to live by) and then that rudder (ideal) steers the ship in the set direction. Our ideals are the rudders in our lives. We choose our values, then our values steer us.

While there is no such thing as ‘The Ideal Leader’, there are leaders with ideals. Socrates lived for his ideal of wisdom. The founder of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, lived for his ideal of “justification by faith alone”. Gandhi lived for his ideal of freedom. Martin Luther King lived for his ideal of justice. President Reagan lived for his ideal of a restored America. Billy Graham lives for his ideal of salvation in Jesus for every person in the world.

“The great men and women of history were not great because of what they earned and owned, but rather for what they gave their lives to accomplish.” – Dr. John Maxwell

So, what ideals are you living for? Perhaps when you hear the word ‘ideal’ you’re tempted to blow it off as pie-in-the-sky, ivory tower, only for dreamers kind of non-sense. You’ve heard the label ‘idealist’ thrown around as a criticism against someone and you’ve concluded that ideals just aren’t practical. “There’s the ideal” you say, “and then there’s the real.”

We all have to deal with the gap between what’s real and what’s ideal; with what is and the way we wish things were. Ideals, for some, feel more like wishful thinking.

A practical way for you and I to think about ‘ideals’ is to see them in their solid form, as when water freezes and turns to ice. Ideals (liquid concepts) harden into solid substances the way water turns from liquid to ice. Ideals in liquid form are concepts. But in solid form they become our expectations. For us, the ideal becomes what’s real.

Let me explain. When I was growing up, my mom taught me to hang up my clothes in my closet in a certain way…the hanger was hung in a specific direction. When I got married, my wife hung my clothes in my closet one day in the exact opposite way my mom had showed me. When I mentioned it to her (NOT the ideal thing to do:), she said, “Well, then, you can just do it yourself!”

What happened here? The way my mother showed me how to hang clothes in my closet had morphed into a solid expectation for me. I came to see the way my mom hung clothes as ‘the ideal’. Without realizing it, I had made my mom’s method ‘ my ideal’ and it had solidified into a solid expectation. The ideal (Brad, here’s how you can hang your clothes in your closet) became my expectation (Here’s how clothes SHOULD be hung in a closet).


I’ve matured since then, and now understand that not all ideals are equally important. I choose my family over my career. I try to choose what’s right over what’s wrong. I value what’s true instead of what’s false. I prefer to honor people rather than dishonor them. I decide to be better not bitter. These are just a few of my ideals. What are some of yours?

 “Far away there in the sunshine are my highest aspirations. I may not reach them, but I can look up and see their beauty, believe in them, and try to follow where they lead.” ― Louisa May Alcott



What do we mean when we talk about ‘personal growth’? You hear those words all the time: Personal Growth. Each of us has heard how we need to grow, to improve, to become better than we are; indeed, become more than we are right now. But where do we begin? And for that matter, what are all of the motivational speakers, authors and gurus talking about when they tell us we need to keep growing? I’ll break it down for you (with help from Blaine Lee).


1. SKILLS – What You Can Do In the Present

“When you encounter a new situation, you’ve got a certain skill set…the skills you have enable you to do the job. Your skills are the things you can do right now in the present.” – Dr. Blaine Lee

We’re referring to things like LEADERSHIP SKILLS, the ability to energize and mobilize a group of people around a common vision, goal or purpose. TECHNICAL SKILLS refer to the ability to perform and complete a specific task; and PEOPLE SKILLS include the ability to connect with and relate to others in pleasing ways. Personal growth usually means becoming proficient in performing a function or task.

2. CAPACITY – What You Can Do In The Future 

“In addition to the skills you have, you have a capacity to develop and acquire new talents and gifts. Your capacity has to do with the skills you will have in the future.” – Blaine Lee

What’s your potential? How far can you go? How high can you soar? Your potential refers to your capacity. Personal growth means expanding our capacity to learn and acquire new talents and abilities. Stretching, like a rubber band, to reach new goals increases capacity.

3. HISTORY – What You Have Done In The Past

“You have a history. Your history is a record of where you have been and what you have done. You have dealt with people in certain ways, ways that have resulted in various outcomes with them in the past.” – Dr. Blaine Lee

Much personal growth focuses on helping us move forward in our emotional and relational lives. We’re encouraged to move beyond the pain from our past. Personal growth usually means addressing issues such as regret, guilt, shame, and bitterness, and dealing with them in the present. Thankfully, most “growth” experts will tell us that our history does not have to determine our destiny! We CAN get past our past!

4. CHARACTER – What You Are 

“In addition to our history, we also have character. Character is what you are. You have an internal set of beliefs, motivations, desires and principles that are manifested by your behavior. Together they comprise your character.” – Dr. Blaine Lee

Your character is a combination of your heart, your habits, and your hang-ups. If you want to see what you’re really made of…look at your character. Pay attention to things like your inner desires, your true motives, your hidden prejudices, and your assumptions.

Carl Rogers has stated, “That which is most personal is most general.” These four areas, The Core Four Of Personal Growth, are general. They are general because they are universal; meaning they apply to every human being. Every person has skills of some kind. Every person has potential. Every person has a past. And every person has character…or should I say…IS a character:)  It is for that reason that they are also personal.

‘Personal growth’ usually refers to one of these four areas in our lives.


Carry Your Own Weight Every person carries the weight of their world upon their shoulders. Each person you meet, carries a silent but important set of burdens invisible to others.  Growing as a person often comes as the result of learning “to carry” certain things in life. For example,  you’ll grow when you learn to…

CARRY YOUR OWN WEIGHT…This is an issue of self-awareness (Perception), self-evaluation (Reflection) and self-leadership (Motivation).

Reflection, the ability to reflect back on past experiences, is one of God’s greatest gifts to mankind.  Through reflection we learn, we grow wise, we mature.  To sit down and intentionally remember something you’ve experienced in order to learn from it is one of the surest ways of prompting personal growth.  Reflection is cousin to meditation.  Fixing something in your mind and dwelling on it for some time in order to analyze it and learn from it is one way we learn to carry our own weight as independent adults. How did I handle that situation at work?  Could I have handled it differently?  Better?  What will I do differently next time? What grade would I give myself as a husband/wife, mother/father, daughter/son, sister/brother?

As you reflect, you expand your “field of sight” enhancing your awareness and points of reference. You see further, deeper, clearer. Connecting with past events gives continuity to yourself, putting together the pieces of the puzzle that lead to your wholeness. As you grow your awareness of yourself, you can lead yourself better.  As John Maxwell says, “You can’t grow yourself if you don’t know yourself.”

CARRY THE BALL FOR YOUR TEAM…This is an issue of responsibility (What am I willing to do?), capacity (What am I able to do?) and contribution (What difference will I make?)

Brian Tracy encourages ambitious knowledge workers to go to their bosses and ask to be given more and greater responsibility.  He encourages up-and-coming stars to position themselves as the “Go to Guy or Gal”.  Their willingness to “take the ball and run with it” will impress their bosses and earn them a reputation of being dependable and able to make things happen. This continual stretching for more and more responsibility in turn stretches their capacity, their ability to handle stuff. Of course all of this enables them to contribute and really make a difference.  It’s a decision you make as a member of the team.  Even if no one else goes with me…I’m going to take the ball and head for the end zone!

CARRY YOUR CROSS…This is an issue of spiritual submission (What great cause or person will I surrender my life to?), self-sacrifice (What will I give up to get there?) and single-mindedness (What one thing will I focus on?).

24 Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul?” – Matthew 16:24-26 (ESV)

Are you willing to carry your cross?  By the way, what cross do you bear? What great cause, mission, service, are you giving your life for?  Make sure that the work you do, the things you give your attention, affection and time to are worthy things.

Remember, the greatest burden in life is having none to carry!



Russell Crowe as Noah
Russell Crowe as Noah

But Noah (Russell Crowe) found grace in the eyes of the Lord.  Can we start there?  With God’s grace?  Can we begin a review of this movie applying Jesus’ prayer from the cross, “Father, forgive them. For they know not what they do.”?


I saw the movie ‘Noah’ last night.  I was impressed by the breadth and scale of the director’s vision.  Of course, it was of “Biblical Proportions”:)

For example, nature’s full glory and fury rise in the form of fortress-like walls and waves of water.  “Death by water” Noah’s character quips during one scene in the movie.  The landscapes were breathtaking, reminding me of “Scottish”‘ green pastures and high mountain cliffs.  The wardrobe choices were “cool”.  I expected robes.  They wore pants:) My friend said, “It’s kind of ‘Lord of the Rings'”.  I said, “Yeah, it’s like Pirates of the Caribbean meets Lord of the Rings!”.  We laughed.  Me a little more as I recalled Johnny Depp’s make up and costume as Captain Jack Sparrow.


But then, the movie got weird, and I was reminded that what I was watching wasn’t really God’s story as told in The Bible, but a different story; one being brought to life by Oscar Winning actors and actresses accompanied by enchanting music scores. Entertaining, yes!  But then there’s those nagging…what do we call them…facts.  Thank you, Columbo!

“Director Darren Aronofsky called his movie “the least biblical film ever made,” The Telegraph reported. He also claimed his leading character, Noah, was the “first environmentalist,” something that suggests the movie storyline doesn’t exactly follow the Bible’s.”

Because there are so many factual discrepancies in the movie itself (Both my friend and I agreed the storyline veered off into a manufactured direction) perhaps the best question is, “In what ways does the movie agree with the Biblical story in Genesis?”.  Honestly, only a few.

For instance, they did keep the main character’s name the same:)  God is involved (He’s called ‘The Creator’ in this movie), though His name is never actually spoken once. Then again, neither is God’s name mentioned in the Book of Esther in the Bible, but you certainly know He’s present in the story!  Not a big deal.  But then there was that bit about how God’s character is portrayed: as merciless and unfeeling.

I noticed that God’s motives for why He initiates the flood are misrepresented. For example, in the Bible God sends the flood because of the depth and incorrigibility of mankind’s sin.  Specifically implied in the Biblical story is that violence (Murder, Torture, Inhumane Treatment of People, Child Sacrifice and Cannibalism) and sexual immorality (Rape, Adultery, Homosexuality and Fornication) are the primary impetus for God’s wrath.

In the movie, however, God is seen as destroying people because they refuse to care for the earth or happen to be a meat-eater.  As a matter of fact, my friend said, “I felt more offended as a meat-eater than a Christian. It was like an assault on my diet!”


Viewing the movie prompted me to consider that each of us “lives within a story”. What we see when we look at the world of people and objects around us depends to a great degree on what we think and believe within us.  In other words, what I find when I look at the world is what I’ve told myself is there to see.  This becomes my story; my own personal version of reality.

Telling myself “the true story” not just “my story” is vital to faith.  Just because God first relayed the facts of creation through a book and not on an ipad does not call into question it’s reliability. The Bible may tell us “the old, old story” but it remains historically accurate, poignant and timely for 21st century conditions today.  Objective reality does exist even if I refuse to acknowledge it.  The sun will “rise and shine” whether I choose to look at it or not!


In the late 1980’s, Bono used to say at U2 concerts, “God is good. He gave us Hollywood.”  Hmm, did he?  Well, I think it’s more like God gave us stories and we built Babel with it; our own monument to ourselves.  God invented it, we just branded it.  We shaped it into our own image.

Keep in mind that ‘Noah’ is hollywood.  It’s CGI, green screens and props. It is art, after all, not archeology.  It isn’t science, nor is this movie the work of serious Theologians. It’s cleverly written and creatively imagined but in the end, it’s just a movie; flooded (pun intended:) with fake sets, cool stunts and handsome people convincingly pretending to be somebody they’re not:) Fun to experience; just don’t build your theology on it!