Up close with a praying mantis

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This is the first, and so far only, time I have caught a praying mantis in the wild on camera. It’s also only the third time in my life that I have seen one outside of a zoo or county fair exhibit. I’ve never discovered one on my own.

This last time my daughters spotted it as I picked them up from school. A handful of students shrieked with joy as I laid down in front of the mantis to take shots.

I commanded the children to leave it alone to go on his merry way, and they did. Shot with Hipstamatic on iPhone 4.

When Ducks Stop Traffic

20130607-102738.jpgThis morning I came on an intersection congested with traffic. Cars weren’t moving and people were honking their horns. As the traffic began to clear, I saw that there were a couple of ducks walking casually through the middle of the intersection. The ducks cleared the intersection at their own very-slow pace and the street returned to being free-flowing as cars whizzed by. I learned something in my observation:

Don’t assume that honking your horn at a duck will get the duck to feel the same sense of urgency that you have.

At least the people in the front didn’t turn the ducks into road kill.

#Fiction Highlight on Backspaces

I reread a quote from Ray Bradbury, “You must write every single day of your life… You must lurk in libraries and climb the stacks like ladders to sniff books like perfumes and wear books like hats upon your crazy heads… may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love, remake a world.”

I’m trying to do just that. Thanks Dani Salvadori, curator of #fiction on Backspaces, for the highlight of my micro-story. Is that a new niche? Micro-stories? I believe so.

Genuine Leadership

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Genuine Leadership

 

It’s easy to be a leadership junkie and get caught up in all of the facets of leadership to grow your team and your ministry. How many books have you read about leadership? How many audio messages have you listened to? How many conferences have you attended? You can be totally equipped to lead the masses. However, if you lead children and lead the leaders who lead the children, then it is vital that your leadership should be genuine. Children need leaders who are genuinely imperfect and real to pattern their lives after. Your leaders deserve the same type of leadership.

 

Relational leadership is probably your style, and if it isn’t, it should be how you lead. Collaboration and teamwork must be at the top of your values list. If you want your people, young and old, to take this journey with you and accomplish the mission, you must be real with people. You work too closely to people frequently enough that most of them can discern where you are with them. Here’s your checklist to provide leadership that keeps you real and benefits the team you’re leading and the children you minister to.

 

  • Acknowledge your limitations.
  • Be accountable.
  • Humble yourself.
  • Stay visible.

 

Acknowledge your limitations.

This is not a knock on faith. Yes, you can do all things in Christ Jesus, but you know what you are not good at. Stop kidding yourself. Furthermore, don’t waste the majority of your time trying to improve on your weaknesses. Work with people who are strong in these areas. It requires that you share your authority to empower these people to make things happen in areas you cannot. What about me? Administration is my weakness. I’m not good at it. I even despise it most of the time. It’s not a cop out to be lazy. There are administrative duties that I cannot, should not, and will not entrust someone else to do for me. That’s when I ask for help. What’s your weak area? Have you partnered with someone who is gifted in the area you are not?

 

Be accountable

This is the least popular of points, and it is also the least practiced. You must have people in your life who can tell you like it is. These are the straight shooters. Do you really want to surround yourself with people who will nod their heads and agree with every single decision and direction you take? You must be accountable at least one other leader who can and will question your decisions and your attitudes towards these decisions.

 

Humble yourself.

You cannot be accountable without being humble. You are a leader because you have a measure of confidence and ambition to go along with your gift. Yet, you still need to humble yourself to stay grounded. Isn’t it better to humble yourself rather than allowing a person or a situation humble you? True humility says, “I don’t know it all: not even close.” Being humble means being flexible enough to be teachable. My favorite team sport is basketball. The best basketball players of all time only made 50% of their shots. Only Jesus can make them all.

 

Stay visible

Leading people is not easy. If it were, more people would lead. Stay visible. Be approachable. Be there for people. Be there for people as much as you can. This requires a lot of effort, but be close enough, frequently enough, so your team can see your faults as well as your strengths. Your team will see that you are a “real” person. The children will see that you are a “real” person.

 

Show your team and the children that you are much more than a leader who preaches, emails, FaceBooks, and Tweets leadership sayings. Anyone can quote or re-post a John Maxwell principle. Your leaders and your children are more than willing to join in the journey with you when they make that interpersonal connection with the “real” you. These connections promote unity and synergy. Moving forward with great momentum is an awesome thing. Keep it real and lead for real.

An Excerpt from Violen

This story is currently sold on Blurb as an eBook and printed book. 

K! Magazine Feature

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I was featured by K! Magazine, and publication for those who minister to kids. My first feature in a print magazine, which I also shared here on Backspaces http://backspac.es/r/MdJcKpFeFy/swish

This shot was set up by a 3-year old boy. I was patrolling the hallway and strolled into the vicinity of this restroom in our children’s ministry (I work as a children’s pastor) when a couple of Early Childhood leaders asked for my assistance. All I needed to hear from one of them was, “You need to see this,” which alerted me to break out the iPhone out of my pocket. I came upon the scene inside the boys restroom and was excited to capture what had happened. So here’s the (enhanced with drama) story… Little Joel (3 years old) had been in the zone playing hoops in the classroom until he had the sudden revelation that had to go… badly. He did the pee-pee dance to prove his sincerity and urgency. The teacher was so convinced that she personally escorted him to the restroom with his basketball in hand. However, Joel had nowhere to place his orange sphere that made him so happy just minutes ago. But inside this tiled, dimly lit, and cold place called the boys restroom, there happened to be the perfect place to hold his prized object. Swish! Score!

I get a kick out of being featured for mobile photography. It truly is a passion that I “stumbled” into and am excited that viewers like some of the images that I share. Thanks again to K! Magazine for the feature on their Instagram page (A physical-paper page!) This is a great resource for anyone involved in children’s ministry, which you can check out at kidzmatter.com

Telling Stories on Backspaces


Backspaces is an awesome app that lets its users tell stories with pictures and words. All on mobile of course (iOS and Android devices, I think.) Users also can share on the web, and I am on backspac.es/joe_montoya ::  Simple concept. Excellent execution. Well done creators of Backspaces.

Appreciating You Teachers

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week here in the U.S. As a parent, I am thankful to all you dedicated teachers who invest into young people’s lives. I have 3 children: one out of school and two still in. Having great teachers makes a huge difference.

As a former school teacher, I remember tying shoes, breaking up fights, getting sneezed on, putting on bandaids, and grading all those papers.

Teachers, keep in mind your influence extends way beyond your campus and reaches generation after generation. Thank you. 20130507-102256.jpg
(Flowers for Mrs. Ketchum)

First Post!

First post!

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I have had stories in my head for 25 years: mostly stories for young people. Hey! I was one of those young people 25 years ago. I finally started writing draft a story in 1999. Years prior to that, I put ideas down in thinking maps. If I remember correctly, I finished the first draft in one night. Here I am 14 years later, on a mission to revive this dream and actually share stories with others. It is obvious that I need help along the way because I’ve never published anything before. I submitted a draft of my first story to a publisher a few years ago, and it came back. Discouraged but not crushed I asked a few artists to help illustrate the story and put my words into images, but the timing wasn’t right until now. I have been really with family and work, but this dream won’t die, no matter what I do. This time I’m going to see it through. Here it is. My plan is to use this site as my creative launch pad. Hope you enjoy the journey with me. Cheers!