Today we celebrate freedom in the United States. We like freedom. Freedom is great! Many have given their lives to protect our freedom for which I am grateful. I did a quick search on books about freedom, and there is a library of them:

There are books about financial freedom, emotional freedom, freedom in health and wealth, freedom from attitudes, habits and self-destructive behaviors. Freedom in relationships. Freedom from addictions. Freedom from guilt, shame, blaming. Freedom to forgive. Freedom to pursue our dreams. Freedom.

We value it personally. I value freedom. That is why I never really liked religion. It was a bunch of do’s and dont’s. A list of rules I had to follow. Far from giving me freedom, it felt like a moral straight jacket.

I have experienced something surprisingly different with Jesus. Would it surprise you that Jesus came to announce liberty and freedom, to open the prison to all who are bound? Does it blow your mind that Jesus came not to judge and condemn, but to announce grace and the Lord’s favor towards us? Give them roses instead of ashes, messages of joy instead of doom, a thankful heart instead of a faint spirit? Not just freedom, but comfort to those who mourn, care for their needs and heal the broken?  (Read it here). That was all a surprise to me! And this is exactly what so many in our world need right now. The families of the victims of the Pulse shooting in Orlando need it. The families of victims in Istanbul Turkey airport bombing need it. The families of the 14 drowned kids in Karelia, Russia need it. The veterans with PTSD and their families need it. Girls sold into human trafficking and sex slavery desperately need it. People all over the world need freedom, comfort, care and healing.

We all need it because we are all human and suffer frailty, brokenness and loss. We all need it because we thought life would have been kinder to us; that we would be further down the road and a little better by now. More loving and less petty. More kind and less resentful. Kinder to ourselves and others and little critical and harsh. More grace and less guilt. More feelings of competency and adequacy and less feelings of shame and not being enough.

We need all that. We need freedom. I need freedom. I need Jesus.

One of the greatest military commanders and kings of all time was a man named David. He needed freedom and everything that comes with it. He exclaimed,

“I run the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.”

“I will walk at liberty, for I seek your precepts.”

David, like you and me often found himself imprisoned by his selfish ways. He learned that true freedom is not found in doing what I want, when I want it; true freedom comes by yielding to God’s way.

Happy 4th of July everyone. Freedom!

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7 Ways Being a Wandering Photographer Helped Shape Me into a Leader, Part Two

This is the second half of a guest post by Mick Haupt. He is a photographer and graphic designer, and has worked with Cru for 25 years. Mick is a foodie, a cyclist, and family man with two uncontrollable boys. Check out Mick’s blog.

In 7 Ways Being a Wandering Photographer Helped Shape Me Into a Leader, Part One, Mick shared four lessons he has learned about leadership as a photographer. This week, he shares three final lessons with us, along with another sample of his awesome photography. Enjoy!

5. You learn to make decisions quickly. Sometimes this is as simple as where to stand for capturing the best shot. You need to evaluate and make a choice. Sometimes it is more complex like where to go and not to go for your own safety when traveling in foreign lands. Frequently there is no luxury of time, it’s just “take in the options” and choose. I wanted to catch the sunset on Eileen Donan Castle in Scotland, but it meant not crossing the bridge to the Isle of Skye. A hard decision, but I turned back and captured one of my most memorable images. A leader continually weighs the options and makes decision that bring success to the team.  


6. You learn that you’re not really in control.  A strange thing happens in photography, clouds and people keep getting in the way. One person asked me how I always capture images without people. I answered, “I wait.” Many times I’ve waited a while, because you can’t just go telling tourists where NOT to stand. I’m not that patient, but this has developed humility and restraint in me. Oh, I have flung my hands in the air in frustration, but I’ve also learned to endure not being in control of the environment. A leader develops composure and poise to persist while managing scenarios that can’t be entirely controlled.

7. You learn to enjoy small victories and happy accidents. Have you heard that term “a happy accident”? The Urban Dictionary defines it this way, “when something unexpectedly good comes from what would otherwise be considered a mishap.” Not every cloud has a silver lining, but sometimes a great outcome arises from the ashes of disaster. A small victory could be getting one great shot out of 100, or the light being perfect on someone’s face just as someone else moved their head. Rejoice when the perfect moment happens, even if they don’t happen often. A leader finds joy in little successes and shares that joy with her team.

A photographer is an observer by nature, but they are also a learner. The environment’s we find ourself in are constantly changing…people move and light shifts by the minute. So success is predicated on evaluating and adjusting moment by moment. A leader learns from their environment. They are constantly taking in and making informed decisions based on what they see. Perhaps you can now see how the challenges that face a photographer can develop a leader. I’m grateful for how every challenging and majestic experience has helped shape me. And maybe, just maybe, I have transcended the stereotype of the flighty, disorganized creative.

mick haupt

Thanks Mick for sharing your insights on leadership! You can follow his blog, Wandering 40 Days.


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7 Ways Being a Wandering Photographer Helped Shape Me into a Leader, Part One

This is part 1 of a Guest Post by Mick Haupt. He has amazing insights into leadership and being human that apply to all of us. Mick Haupt is a photographer and graphic designer, and has worked with Cru for 25 years. Mick is a foodie, a cyclist, and family man with two uncontrollable boys. You can read more from Mick on his blog: Wandering 40 Days.


Artists sometimes get a bad rap. Flighty, flaky, disheveled, disorganized, in-their-own-world, temperamental, opinionated, and prickly could be words to describe the creative nearest to you. Do you know one? Those aren’t the words to describe a leader, wouldn’t you agree?

In today’s world where you need to be on top of things in order to earn respect, an artist needs to be organized and sensible. They need to transcend the typecast of a creative, and somehow learn things that make them worthy of following. As a self-proclaimed wanderer (which to me encapsulates being an explorer, photographer, and philosopher) here are a few ways that I’ve grown into being a leader.

1.  I may wander but I still need a plan and a road map to get there. Wandering is a beautiful thing, but by definition it means moving from place to place with no fixed plan. Wandering allows you to find the hidden gems and off-the-beaten-path jewels…a major pay-off. But to be successful in finding the images that move people’s emotions, I need to research and plan. Ultimately, I need to know how to get there. Putting in the time to create a good exoskeleton of a trip still allows the space for spontaneous. A leader embraces the tension between execution and improvisation that allows a plan to succeed.

2.  I’ve learned to be OK with uncertainty. On many a trip through Europe, there are days when I don’t know where I will be sleeping the next night. I’m not super big on that kind of uncertainty, but it comes with the territory. Once I’ve nailed down a spot, I usually relax and start exploring. Looking back, I never had a sleepless night shivering in the cold. Everything turned out just fine. I’ve had to grow in being OK with uncertainty. A leader needs to confidently live in the tension of uncertain resolutions and organizational direction.

3. You may make a plan but still need to be flexible. Too many times to count has my planned itinerary been altered for some reason or another. It’s great to have an agenda on what you want to see and in what order. But hold that loosely. Having a flexible attitude that rolls with it when you are thrown a curve ball can make the difference between a bad and a great day. A leader has the capacity to flex and change direction when obstacles appear.

4. It forces you to be adaptable in a wide variety of circumstances. I thought I would be staying in a guest house, but ended up staying at the house of a co-worker in urban Uganda. Quite the difference I’ll have you know. Especially when using the latrine. Being a traveling photographer has landed me in a huge variety of situations, some not very pleasant. The ability to make the most of every situation, smile and be gracious endears you to the people you find yourself among. A leader’s ability to be graciously adaptable in every circumstance raises the level of follower’s respect.

mick haupt


Join us again for Part Two of 7 Ways Being a Wandering Photographer Helped Shape Me into a Leader. You will learn from lessons 5-7 and see another sample of Mick’s awesome photography. Don’t forget to check out his blog.

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Looking in the Rear View Mirror and Asking “How Long?”

When you buckle into your vehicle, you check the rear view mirror; as you drive, you naturally glance up regularly to see what’s coming behind you. I was not aware how much I depended on my mirror until it fell off, and I was without it for several days. The rear view mirror is essential for safe driving. It keeps drivers up to date with what’s happening behind them. Context, one of Gallup’s StrengthsFinder 34 talent themes is very similar to looking in the rear view mirror. People with strong Context have a unique ability to understand the link between where they have come from and where they are going.

Gallup explains Context further, “Perspective and background are important for people with strong Context talents. They look back to understand the present. From the past, they can discern blueprints for direction. And, counter intuitively, they become wiser about the future because they can see its seeds sown in the past.”

I have Context and Learner in my top five StrengthsFinder talents. I love to learn about history, not to look at the past, but to learn from it in order to change the future. To take your own assessment, go to Gallup StrengthsFinder official site.

I recently subscribed to THIS DAY IN HISTORY. Each day I receive an email of what happened on that particular day in history. Two significant events, separated by 82 years happened today in history that made me pause to ask,

“Have we learned anything from our past?”

abraham-lincoln-148527_640The first event happened in 1865. Abraham Lincoln, the 16th President of the United States died from an assassin’s bullet. Lincoln was president during the Civil War, fighting to end slavery.

He changed history when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation. With one stroke of his pen, he declared all slaves to be free men.


The second significant event that caught my eye happened in 1jackie-robinson-1172118_1280947. Up until that year, baseball was segregated.



On April 15, 1947, Jackie Robinson broke a 50 year color barrier and became the first African American player in Major League Baseball. Despite his great success, Jackie Robinson faced tremendous racial discrimination throughout his Hall of Fame career.

1865. 1947. 2016.

Another 69 years have passed, and looking into the rear view mirror at events in our country and around the world, we have not traveled very far toward oneness, equality and diversity. There is still much racial tension, and the issue of slavery has added on the current horrors of human and sex trafficking.

I echo what Martin Luther King, Jr. cried, How Long?

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Hammerin’ Hank

hank aaron

On this day in 1974, Hank Aaron of the Atlanta Braves hits his 715th career home run, breaking Babe Ruth’s legendary record of 714 homers. Here is my childhood baseball card of Baseball Hall of Fame player and my favorite player of all time.

Some fast facts about Hank Aaron:

Born February 5, 1934 in Mobile, Alabama to Herbert and Estella Aaron.

Nicknamed “Hammerin’ Hank.”, Hank Aaron played in 25 All-Star games.He was the winner of three Gold Glove awards.The Atlanta Braves and the Milwaukee Brewers have both retired his jersey number, 44.

Baseball Timeline:

1951 –
Begins playing for the Negro American League’s Indianapolis Clowns.

1954-1965 – Plays for the Milwaukee Braves.

April 13, 1954 – Makes his Major League Baseball debut with the Milwaukee Braves.

April 23, 1954 – Hits his first Major League home run when the Braves play the St. Louis Cardinals.

1957 – The Milwaukee Braves win the World Series. Aaron is named National League MVP.

1966 – The Milwaukee Braves become the Atlanta Braves.

1966-1974 – Plays for the Atlanta Braves.

April 8, 1974 – Breaks Babe Ruth’s record with his 715th home run during a home game.

1974 -1976 – Plays for the Milwaukee Brewers.

July 20, 1976 – Hits his final home run (755).

October 3, 1976 – Plays his final game.

1976-1989 – Becomes director of player development for the Atlanta Braves.

August 1, 1982 – Is inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Hank Aaron and Racism

Here is what Great Black Heroes has to add regarding Hank Aaron.
Breaking Ruth’s record was not simply a sports milestone, it was a societal milestone. The racial animosity that he faced in the form of death threats were symptomatic of the way that millions of Blacks had lived for years under Jim Crow laws in the south where just ten years before, anything a Black person did that might offend a white person could end in a death sentence. For Aaron, with the pressure burdening him like a yoke upon his neck, to break the record in front of a worldwide audience, the moment became a symbol of moving beyond the past. As Dodgers play-by-play broadcasters stated:
“What a marvelous moment for baseball; what a marvelous moment for Atlanta and the state of Georgia; what a marvelous moment for the country and the world. A black man is getting a standing ovation in the Deep South for breaking a record of an all-time baseball idol. And it is a great moment for all of us, and particularly for Henry Aaron.”

Who was your favorite baseball player of all time?

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