Life Lived in Focus

The new year is fast approaching. Somehow it seems like I blinked and it is 2015. In February Cami and I will celebrate our 10th anniversary. WOW! Just 2 months ago we welcomed our 4th child, Kaylee Albritton. Even more WOW! We are now a family of 6. Life is busy to say the least. I am sure the same is true of your life as well. Whether you are single, a single parent, newly weds, a growing family, or empty nesters, I am quite sure you find plenty of ways to keep yourself busy.

With so much going on, our brains primary goal is to simply, to take our everyday tasks and send them into auto pilot. This is why as you drive to work everyday or pick up the kids from school, there are times you cannot remember a certain stretch of the road. You know the feeling, when you are waiting to go through the light and turn in and think, I don’t remember passing ________. And it kind of scares you. You think, did I fall asleep? No, your brain was just on auto pilot simplifying our everyday processes.


In his book The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg talks about an experiment where rats were placed in a maze and their brain activity was measured as they made their way through. The first time or two, their brains were running at near maximum capacity. All of their senses were clicking, but the more they ran the maze, the more their brains and senses disengaged from the process.

Our brains ability and capacity to transition tasks to routines, allows us to do more. So while routines are good, stay in a routine long enough and it becomes a rut. And ruts can be difficult to get out of. Especially in ministry. If you have gone to church any length of time you know exactly what I am talking about.

As a leader it is important to avoid getting stuck in ruts. People don’t want to follow some one who is stuck and going no where. One of the ways I try to avoid getting too bogged down in routine is by developing new focus areas as I move into the new year. These areas could use a little more attention both in my personal life and my leadership roles. So here is what I do. You don’t have to do it exactly like this but find a method that works for you.

  1. Define FOCUS AREAS. I would recommend keeping this list pretty short. such as 2 to 3 areas at a time. They can be simple or complex. However, the more complex, the fewer you should tackle at once. In the past, I have focused on prayer, on developing a specific ministry program, church structure, spiritual disciplines, intentional time with family etc. If you struggle with finding them, ask the question, “what are the routines I have turned into ruts?”
  2. Determine a SPECIFIC LENGTH OF TIME. This does not have to be a year long process. Maybe there are four things you want to focus on building and you need 3 months for each. Be specific and write it down. Maybe it is getting out of debt and you know it will be a 3 or 4 year process. You are not tied down to a calendar.
  3. Clarify the WHY. Why are you doing this? Why this focus? Why now? Bring clarity to the process. Have a reason you are choosing to focus on this area of your life.
  4. Define the WIN. Begin with the end in mind. At the end of this specific time period, what will it look like if you have accomplished your goal? This should be short, with one sentence defining what it will look like.
  5. Determine your ACTION STEPS. You have to move. There has to be some muscle behind the mind. Ideas, thoughts and concepts need to be surrounded with action or they are going to ever happen. So what are 2 or 3 action steps you need to take to start moving? Write them down. As you get moving you will add more to the list but just get started. Make them simple. Something you can do right away. Just get started.

All of this is for the purpose of bringing clarity and purpose to our life and leadership. So often we have big ideas, dreams and goals that are never realized. Why? Many times this is simply because we never take the time to clarify what it is we want to do or how we are going to do it. So saturate this process in prayer. Evaluate, Define, Dream, Focus. May God bless your life, family and ministry as we move into 2015 and beyond!

This is a series of blogs for Shiloh Road Leaders (staff, shepherds, deacons, and ministry leaders) to help you prepare and plan your ministry as we move forward into the new year and beyond. If you lead a team, get together as a team to work through these exercises. If you are over several ministries, encourage those ministries you oversee to make this a priority.

The Ever So Popular Brain Vomit…

So here is how my typical week goes. Sunday I preach so Monday I am brain dead. On Mondays I typically stick to meetings and administration. Tasks I need to get done, but don’t require a lot of critical thinking. Tuesday, my brain turns back on, somewhat anyway. So I typically spend a large portion of Tuesday locked away in my office studying, praying, meditating and listening.


So when I go home on a Tuesday my head is so full of information, ideas and stories, and just like a good steak, the ideas need some time to marinate. On Wednesday, I usually start my day with prayer, a blank sheet of paper and a pen. Then I vomit…

Now, I do not actually vomit every Wednesday morning. It’s a metaphor. Okay, so I know its not the prettiest picture in the world, but I think it communicates a point. I call it a brain vomit (other people do too). My head is full of ideas, illustrations, thoughts, stories, commentaries and I need to get all the important stuff out there.

So how does a brain vomit work. Like I said, I sit down at my desk, with my door shut. I take a blank sheet of paper, I turn on the timer of my iPhone for 15 minutes and I go. I write down every single thought that comes to my mind, every story, phrase, verse, etc. that comes to my mind. There is NO filter, I just write it down, even if it doesn’t make sense.

So why is this so important? Far too often our ideas never make it out of the realm of imagination. We have a thought, it escapes us and we really aren’t sure if we can get it back. For me this exercise helps me get everything floating around in my head out on paper. Sometimes thoughts form little streams, other times they never develop, other times they don’t come out in the sermon but in other areas.

Not only do I do this basically on a weekly basis writing sermons, I also do it sporadically with my ministry. So after spending some time looking back at ministry in 2014 and defining your ministry as we move forward, now its time to dream.

Take out a sheet of paper. Set a timer for 15 minutes. Answer this question… Remember, no filter, don’t let money, resources, space stop you. Just write it all down. Think in terms of ministry structure, impact, reach, needs, etc. Write it all down! Ready, set, GO!

Question:  As your ministry moves forward into the future, what would you like to see happen in your ministry in 2015 and beyond.

This is a series of blogs for Shiloh Road Leaders (staff, shepherds, deacons, and ministry leaders) to help you prepare and plan your ministry as we move forward into the new year and beyond. If you lead a team, get together as a team to work through these exercises. If you are over several ministries, encourage those ministries you oversee to make this a priority.


Today is my 8th anniversary.  Cami & I met for the first time in June of 2004.  We had a rather awkward first meal together with a family of six, and another single guy at a Chinese buffet.  I can at least say it was memorable.  She was planning on moving to Cleburne to work for a friend (the dad in the family of 6) and handle his accounting.


I had been the Youth & Family Minister at Central for a little over a year and had yet to meet anyone in Cleburne I really connected with.  I was discouraged and thinking I needed to find a job at a bigger church with a singles program.  We walked away from lunch that day thinking we would never go out, friends sure, but dating never.  The next time I saw her was July 28th when she was beginning her new job, I remember the date because it was my birthday.

The next week her boss and his wife were heading out of town, she was going to house & baby sit while they were away.  Her boss gave her my number; she got board and gave me a call.  We talked a little and I even went over one evening to hang out with her and the kids.  Later that week we talked on the phone several times, one night for three hours.  The next week, she was getting settled into her house and I decided I wanted to go out on a date.

I had just bought a house and our secretary at the time gave me, as she called it, “a house wetting present.”  A 10 week old black lab puppy I named Kramer.  Knowing no girl in their right mind could resist a puppy, I used Kramer to my advantage.  I called Cami and asked if I could swing by and show her Kramer.  Also, the day before my sister had offered me 2 tickets to see the Rangers and Yankees, second row behind the Rangers dugout.

If you know me, you know I love baseball, especially Rangers baseball.  I said yes and I knew exactly who I was asking, Cami.  After all, I had always told my parents, I will know the girl for me when I ask her what she wants to do and she says, go watch baseball and eat a steak.  So I went to her house, armed with a 10 week old puppy and a pair of tickets to the Rangers game.  It was can’t miss!

So I show up, and trying to get up the nerve to ask her out, and just before I made my move, she says, “My brother-in-law is in town performing in an opera and I wanted to know if you wanted to go with me?”  I said sure and she tells me it is the same night as the game.  Oh man, I had to make a choice.  So that night I went home and called my sister to tell her I could not go to the game, I was going to the opera.  Haha  When we hung up the phone she called my dad and said, “I don’t know who he is going to the OPERA with but Gary is going to marry her.”

Now, I love baseball, but I could not tell you what happened between the Rangers and Yankees that night, but I can tell you I went on my first date with my future wife.  We did eat steak that night but no baseball, and I don’t regret it.  The past eight years have been amazing.

We have 3 amazing kids, Gracie who turns 6 this month, Ryan who is 4 and Caleb is 3 months.  We love life, love ministry (most of the time, haha), love our family and church family.  Best of all, I am married to my best friend, a beautiful woman and an amazing mother.  I love you so much Cami and I am so thankful for the past 8 years and look forward to many more to come.


Let’s face it as youth ministers we only work 3 months out of the year (wink, wink, wink).  In youth ministry it can be very difficult to follow any kind of consistent diet, but this is especially true during the summer.

I have always used the summer as an excuse to get away from eating healthy, falling into bad habits and gaining weight.  It is impossible to stay in shape during the summer for a youth ministry, right?  Wrong, it is nothing more than an excuse.  I am great at making excuses, but not so great at honoring promises I have made to myself.  I decided this summer would be different.  This summer I am not going to make excuses and I am going to honor myself by sticking with my goals.

This is making me plan and prepare ahead of schedule.  This week we are at Arlington Work Camp.  Typically this is a week I would just say I can’t stay on track.  I will have donuts at church, burgers or pizza for lunch, there is no way to avoid it.  This week I am not giving in to the excuses.  I have stuck to my diet all week so far.  I have gotten up early and fixed my breakfast, I have taken my lunch box with Shakeology, lunch and an afternoon snack.  Cami has helped out by cooking a healthy dinner.  I have even given our interns a heads up and asked them to help keep me accountable.

I am in week 5 of the Insanity workout, which is a Recovery week.  It just so happen to fall on a perfect week.  I have switched out the Cardio Recovery program with P90X One On One “Fountain of Youth.”  It is a Yoga workout and I am finding it great at the end of a long work day.  So far I am down 16 pounds and I want to keep moving in the right direction.  This summer is about me not making excuses.  I can’t control what others are doing but I can control what I do.  When I get tired and hungry I want junk food.  When I eat junk food I have less energy, I am more irritable and moody.  When I am tired it is more important than ever to eat right and exercise.  You can follow my health and fitness journey this summer at


This week I am going through all of my goals for 2012.

As I said in my last post I have made a lot of effort going through these goals and determining the obstacles I will face as well as the benefits of accomplishing these goals.  I am always hearing people say they won’t make any new year’s resolutions and to be honest I have spent most of my life in that crowd.  But whatever you want to call them, resolutions or goals, they are important because they help us to stay focused on a specific issue or moving in the right direction.  All of us, no matter how focused we are can lose sight of where they are heading.

This goal is the one I am most excited about.  So much so I preached on this at Westhill this past weekend.  You can access it on my Sermon Page, “The Art of Brick Making.”  This is a difficult goal for me on several levels.  First, is the most obvious and I acknowledge it in my obstacles below.  “I am really busy.”  Newsflash, so is everybody else, I am not the only one and that is the point; we are all so busy the thing that most often gets neglected is our family.  The second reason this is difficult for me, a huge part of my job is helping and strengthening other families.  So here is another one of my goals for 2012… Focus on my own family!  That does not mean neglect others, but it does mean my family takes precedent.

We have done really good as a family with these at times in the past and have also lost focus over time.  So this is our family focus for 2012.

  • Goals:
    • Memorize a weekly family memory verse.
    • Bible story time each night before the kids go to bed.
    • Pray with Cami daily before bed.
    • Date Night with Cami every other week.
    • Game night with the family one night a week.
  • Reasons:
    • I want to be very intentional this year with the amount of time I spend with my family.
    • I want to teach my children to love Jesus with all their heart.
    • I want to be a better spiritual leader in my home.
  • Obstacles:
    • Work schedule can be overwhelming.
    • Being lazy is easier but this is too important.

Have you set any goals for your family in 2012?


Around 55% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions.  What is ironic is the 10 most popular resolutions never really change.  Most likely because we are not real good at keeping the resolutions we simply make in haste with no thought and planning.

I have never been real big on New Year’s resolutions, but this year I have decided to approach them differently.  I can thank Michael Hyatt for a couple of blogs which really changed my thinking. The fist was “How to Make New Year’s Resolutions Stick” and the second was “5 Steps to Developing More Disciple”.  So this year I have made 6 resolutions and actually written them down.  I have also come up with the reasons why I want to accomplish these goals, the obstacles I will face in achieving them and the new habits I must develop if there will be change.

So over the course of this week I will share with you my six New Year’s resolutions and all the ins and outs of each resolution.  The second reason I want to put them on my blog is for accountability purposes.  In the Making Resolutions Stick article Hyatt suggest you go public with your goals, so here they are.

I will weigh 215 lbs by May 1st.  I am beginning at 255lbs.

  • Long Range:
    • I have 4 months to work really hard and reach my goal.
    • I want to run the Cow Town 10K in February with Brian. (Saturday, February 25, 2012 – 7AM).
      • Weekly Goals:
        • Make a menu each week
        • Go shopping weekly
        • Record Meals daily
        • Record daily stats
        • Don’t miss a workout
  • Reasons:
    • I want to have more energy to spend quality time with my kids and my wife.
    • I want to be healthy, feel good and look good.
    • I want to be a good example to my children.
    • I want to be ready to climb the mountain in August.
  • Obstacles:
    • I like to eat out a lot and I don’t like to say no to foods I really want.
    • It is very hard to get up at 5 AM each morning.
    • My schedule gets very difficult, especially in the summer.
  • New Habits:
    • Eat 5 to 6 meals a day.
    • Plan ahead.
    • Don’t skip a workout for any reason.
    • Share meals with Cami at restaurants.
    • Drink only water, milk or juice in 2012.  No tea!

These resolutions will be in no particular order and I will post 1 a day for the next six days.  Cami and I are doing P90X together.  Tomorrow I will share my resolutions for my family in 2012 with you.  I hope 2012 is an amazing year for you and I can’t wait to see the new ways our Father will bless us in 2012.


Are you a great leader?  What is it that separates the great leaders from ordinary leaders?  Jim Collins says there are 3 specific traits he has found in great leaders.

At Catalyst, Jim Collins stated there are three consistent traits seen in all great leaders.  Fanatic discipline, Collins defines as the discipline to not deviate from the plan.  Second, empirical creativity, which is creativity based on the concrete knowledge you have access to.  Third, productive paranoia, always asking “what if” questions, this is the leader who is prepared for anything or at least has tried to think through lots of scenarios.  For the purpose of this blog I will focus on the first trait, fanatic discipline.  This is new material for Collins’ new book, “Great by Choice“.

Collins told this story to illustrate what fanatic discipline looks like.  On October 19, 1911, two teams of adventures headed out in a race to be the first person to reach the South Pole.  Roald Amundsen and Robert Falcon Scott led their teams in a journey that would ultimately cost Scott’s team their lives.  Amundsen began with a plan; each day his team would travel 15 to 20 miles, regardless of the weather.  The first day of the journey the weather was great, but just as the team had planned they did not go over the 20 mile mark, even though they could have easily done more.

Scott’s team began the first day and traveled an incredible 40 plus miles.  However, the next day they did not move at all.  Everyday depended on their circumstances.  If the weather was good and they felt good, they would put in 20, 30 or 40 miles.  If the weather was bad or they were extremely worn out from the previous day, they would stay in their tents, sometimes for multiple days.

Amundsen’s team continued day after day to move 15 to 20 miles.  With only approximately 45 to 50 miles remaining in the journey, Amundsen got an incredible day to travel, but just like every previous day Amundsen advanced only 17 miles and set up camp.  It amazes me, because when most of us see the finish line we want to press and press to get there.  After all Amundsen had no way of knowing where Scott’s team was.

With fanatic discipline, Amundsen reached the South Pole on December 14, 1911 Amundsen’s team reached the South Pole, 35 days before Scott’s team would.  A 700 plus mile journey.  On January 17, 1912, Scott’s team reached the South Pole only to find Amundsen’s team had reached the Pole first.  On their return Scott, along with his team died of starvation and frost bite, a mere 11 miles from their supply outpost.

Out of this story come many lessons, but there were two Collins really brought to life.

  1. Slow and steady always wins.
  2. You will not succeed without a plan.

I am finding these two principles to be so true in my own life; in my fitness journey, in our finances, in my ministry.  Collins refers to it as the 20 mile march, it is the need to develop a plan and not deviate from it.  For me in ministry this is hard because I am a big picture person.  I come up with the ideas but I really have to work hard to make sure the big ideas happen.  Most of the time it is not just one big idea, it is multiple ideas and I want all of them to happen at once and to happen right now.

I came to the realization this past year when I found myself in the midst of about 5 major projects I had taken on.  All of them great and all of them important but I could not give the time I needed to all the projects at once.  After getting all of them going and feeling completely over whelmed I decided to put three of them on hold temporarily and really focused on 2 of them.  I am developing a plan for them and working through these two with all of my attention.  I am getting very close in the two projects I have been focusing on to bringing someone along side of me to mentor and train to take over and maintain.  As I am in the process of passing them off I am ready to go back to another one of my three remaining projects.

This is why a “Life Plan” has become so important to me, as well as weekly planning.  It is helping me to focus on where I am going, and helping to keep things in perspective, because it is so easy for us to allow things to slip out of perspective.  Develop your 20 mile march and don’t deviate from it.


Organization has never come easy for me.  I can always get organized, but staying organized is not as easy.  Over the past year I focused on organization.  I have learned a lot in the process, the most important lesson being organization is still difficult, and it takes work.   Here are some of the things I have learned.

  1. PLAN – Organization takes planning.  Each Sunday I try to sit down and plan out my week.  This idea came from Michael Hyatt’sCreating Your Personal Life Plan” which I would highly recommend to everyone and the best part is it is free when you subscribe to his blog.  I use a weekly planner (cannot remember who I got it from) I modified to work for me.  (If you would like the Illustrator file let me know)  When I plan out my week, I have found I am far more productive.  It is funny, I use to just walk into the office and work on what came to mind.  I was fine with this and I always had freedom.  Since I started planning I get really irritated when people mess up my schedule.
  2. FILE – Find a system that works for you and stick with it.  I know it sounds simple, but far too many people jump from one trend to another.  I have found Evernote works incredibly well for me.  After experimenting with it for several months I even upgraded to the Premium version (around $50) a year.  It is web based; which means I can access everything I have from my PC, iPad and iPhone.  The premium version will allow me to upload any file type.
  3. SCHEDULE – It is imperative to keep one master calendar somewhere.  It does not matter; hand written or electronic, but you need a master calendar.  I use Microsoft Outlook because I like the color coding options.  This has been so important for me trying to balance, ministry, family and school.  It is so easy if you are not careful to overbook or double book yourself.
  4. REST – I know it sounds funny when talking about organization, but if I do not plan for rest, it will not happen.  I must find time to rest and refresh myself.  It is a Sabbath.  There is a great tendency in our culture today to produce, produce, produce and never take a break.  Sabbath reminds me I am not defined by what I produce.  When all I do is work I limit the quality of what I produce as well as my creativity.  Someone in ministry once told me, “I never take a day off because Satan doesn’t take a day off.”  At first I thought, that is great, it is what I should do.  As I spent more time in ministry it occurred to me Satan is not who I am trying to model my life after.  Jesus is and He observed Sabbath.

This past week at Catalyst I was reminded of  the progress I have made in this area of my life over the past year by a statement made by Jim Collins, author of Good to Great.  Collins said one of the distinguishing traits of a great leader is “Fanatic Discipline.”  Fanatic discipline is the discipline to not deviate from the plan no matter what the situation.  He defined it as the “20 Mile March,” which I will go into great detail on later this week.