A New Adventure: An “Exodus”

With men of Exodus and some members of my new team at the Exodus 90 Conference in August.

This week, the news was shared at Adobe that I’m leaving my role there. After 15 years, I’m grateful for the learning & growth, friendships & opportunities, personal & professional success, and amazing friendships.

Last December, I was in the Lehi, Utah office and enjoying breakfast with a long-time friend & coworker. We shared similar hopes to work five or ten more years then “retire” and spend more time with family & other interests.

So what could pull me away more quickly? An Exodus, you might say.

A Rosary on the Road, and a Proposal

In May, I drove to Fort Wayne, Indiana, at the request of the leadership team of Exodus 90. I was spending a day with them in a “focus group” on better support for parishes & parish leaders.

Driving the loop around Indianapolis, I was praying a rosary and had a random prompt hit my heart. I heard, “You’re going to be a leader in Exodus.

Unsure what it meant, I held that in my heart until the next day, after the meetings, when their CEO James Baxter asked if he could talk about something. Over the next few minutes, he floated the idea that perhaps I might join their team to lead their operations. I could help him lead their team to a broader scale and impact.

That kicked off a conversation over the course of several months. We continued discussing whether it was the right mutual fit and whether it made sense for both of us.

It also kicked off a lot of prayer and discernment for Suzanne and me, and for our boys as we included them in the discussion.

A Bit About Exodus

Exodus 90 is a ministry – a movement – devoted to setting men free from attachment to the things of the world and forming them into men for others.

Exodus has a vision to be the formation house for a million men around the world.

I’m excited to be joining as the new Head of Operations, to help lead a new chapter of growth and innovation.

I believe that more men need Exodus, and this is a unique opportunity to bring my experience and background to this mission. It’s also an opportunity to better integrate my identity as a Catholic deacon, husband, and father with my professional experience.

There’s a lot of room for Exodus to grow and to help more men, and I’m grateful and excited to be on mission to free and to form men for others.

Consolation from the Blessed Mother

This has definitely taken discernment, courage, and trust. To be honest, you don’t leave a role like mine at Adobe for a role in a church-related ministry and make any more money. I’m pretty sure my “retirement” timeline just moved from 5-10 years to 10-15 years. But for the mission, it’s worth it.

There’s also a lot of risk in a small team getting a model right and making the impact they want to have.

At the end of the discernment journey, though, I came to know this was the right step. But giving notice to my leader at Adobe wasn’t easy. I hadn’t left an employer in over 15 years!

However, after walking through my decision (and my notice) with my manager last week, I turned to the other side of desk and glanced at my personal computer.

Just arriving was an invitation to the conference call for the weekly rosary of the Exodus leadership team.

From the start of the journey into Team Exodus to the start of the journey out of Adobe, Our Lady had sent me signs. That was a deep and wonderful consolation.

Next Steps on the Journey

I am floored by the notes from friends & coworkers, along with requests for one-on-one meetings to say ‘goodbye’. The next eight or so working days are going to be a deeply emotional time of farewells.

I’m left quite simply with a deep sense of gratitude for the 15 years at Adobe, and now for this new opportunity with Exodus.

I also have a renewed appreciation and gratitude for Suzanne and the boys. Their support of my career journey and this decision in particular have edified my understanding of their love and support, and also of my responsibility to them.

Thank you for your continued prayers & support on the journey.

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Today’s Press Release from Exodus 90:

Deacon Michael Halbrook speaks to Exodus Parish Guides during the 2022 Exodus 90 Conference in Indianapolis this past August.

Tech Executive Joins Leadership of Exodus 90

Former Adobe Director tapped to lead operations of fast growing men’s movement

Fort Wayne, IN, October 12, 2022The worldwide spiritual men’s movement, Exodus 90, is set to welcome a new addition to their leadership team this month. Former Adobe executive Deacon Michael Halbrook, of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, will start his new role as Head of Operations on October 24.

Halbrook’s first experience with the popular men’s formation program was in 2016 during the organization’s infancy, and then again in 2021. He went on to become one of the first Exodus Parish Guides – volunteers trained to help Exodus men lead their parishes through the Exodus 90 spiritual exercise.

“Exodus changed my life and helped me become a better man,” states Halbrook. “I’ve seen it not just within myself, but with so many other men who’ve taken on the 90-day journey as well. 

“Joining this team and helping it grow and impact more men around the world was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up.”

Prior to joining the team at Exodus 90, Halbrook served as Director of Technical Account Management at Adobe – capping 15 years in various roles, including Chief of Staff for the consulting business. In those roles, Halbrook led various teams, day-to-day business operations, communications, special projects, change management, and more.

“It has been a great grace to have Deacon Michael bring his management experience to our small team,” adds James Baxter, co-founder and CEO of Exodus. “The Lord’s timing – as we always know – is perfect for this moment in the life of our young mission.”

Exodus 90 has grown rapidly in just the past seven years – with more than 60,000 men worldwide taking on the ninety-day spiritual program. It has now been translated in five different languages, with more in the works for 2023.

Halbrook got his start in leadership at radio stations in the St. Louis market – serving as on-air talent and online director before founding and selling a dotcom business in 2000, and leading digital media and analytics for customers including AT&T and Anheuser-Busch.

He lives in Granite City, IL with his wife of 18 years and their four sons. His diaconal ministry at St. Elizabeth Parish includes serving his pastor as director of faith formation and liturgy.

Men everywhere are encouraged to find or start a local Exodus 90 fraternity in preparation for Easter by January 9, 2023.

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For more information on Exodus 90 and a complete press kit, visit https://exodus90.com/media/.

Since 2013, Exodus 90 has evolved into a powerful 90-day spiritual exercise that reaches across the globe to impact fraternities in more than 65 countries, freeing over 60,000 bishops, priests, and laymen from enslavement. Through a regimen of daily prayer, asceticism, and fraternity, Exodus 90 summons men back to the foundations of their faith, stripping them of worldly addictions and reinvigorating their devotion to Christ.

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I Can’t Imagine

Prayers for Matt & Melissa Graves & family

As I read the devastatingly sad news from Orlando of Lane Graves, the 2-year-old boy who was pulled into the lagoon by an alligator and drowned, I’m overcome by intense fatherly sadness, but struck by a single line of the story:

“Demings said he and a Catholic priest relayed the news of the discovery to the boy’s parents, Matt and Melissa Graves, who were on vacation with their son and 4-year-old daughter from Elkhorn, Nebraska.”

This is the second time since entering diaconate formation that my heart was drawn to the fact that a member of the clergy was there to deliver the news and be with the family in that moment. The last time this came up in a story, Suzanne and I talked about it at great length. She was drawn to the sadness of the story itself, and I was drawn to the presence of the sacred minister.

I can’t imagine the pain and sadness that Matt and Melissa Graves are feeling right now, but I join with countless others in prayer for them and for their family. I also can’t yet imagine what it might be like to be there with them and for them, but I’m curious what I will learn as my formation journey continues to prepare me to be of service to God’s people in different ways, that may include moments like this in my lifetime.

Without a doubt, in times like this, I can see the wisdom of the Church in balancing formation between its four core elements: spiritual, human, pastoral, and academic. Surely, all four dimensions are called upon deeply and put to their test in a moment like this.

Prayers for the Graves family.

The Prodigal Son & the Father’s Mercy

Last weekend, the Gospel at Mass (assuming you weren’t hearing the readings for Year A for the RCIA Scrutinies in your parish) was the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

Yesterday morning before work, I was enjoying a cup of coffee at the neighborhood coffee shop and knocking out a ton of email while overhearing the conversation of some other men about James’s words on faith and works. The conversation took its usual turns towards justification and then reconciliation.

I smiled and remembered the Gospel reading when one of the men started talking about how his children are of his blood – regardless how far they run, or what they do in life, it doesn’t change the fact that they are his children, and he sees being God’s child, born into the family of God through Baptism, as the same, eternal, blood relationship.

Imagine my surprise also, then, when the reading last night at evening prayer was James 2:14, 17, 18: “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone may say,’You have faith and I have works.’ Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.”

Now it’s dangerous territory to mix these two stories – the Prodigal Son and the Faith/Works discussion, but something about them came together in my mind the last few days, as they came together in the discussion the men were having at the coffee shop yesterday.

The Son Who Runs…

I’ve been considering whether to share the images I’m about to share, but they’ve been stuck in my mind as I have been thinking about the Prodigal Son and the conversation I heard yesterday. Our oldest son Thomas was mad at me on the morning of Valentine’s Day for disciplining him when he was retaliating against one of his brothers for something that they had been doing. As a result, he drew us this “Valentine” and gave it to us at breakfast…

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First, I have to acknowledge some readers’ shock and horror at this. But I also have to remind you that the Halbrook house is a perfectly normal house of human beings with ups and downs, goods and bads, just like every other home and family. We have our moments, just like every family.

Thankfully, the storm of emotion passed quickly through our house that morning, and by afternoon all were reconciled, Thomas wasn’t packing for a foster home, and we were having a wonderful time as a family again.

The Merciful Father

But I remember the point that the other man made over coffee yesterday morning… regardless how far his children might run, they are still his children.

We still want the best for our children, we’ll still pray for them and their return to right relationships. We still want them “under our roof” (or at least in a place of safety).

We’ll still welcome them home and back into our loving arms.

The Need for Return

Looking at this from the point of view of the son, though (and this is where the Prodigal and Faith & Works start to mingle in my mind), the father can’t welcome him home unless he returns home.

I left the coffee shop yesterday morning pondering whether God would trump our free will and pull us back into His saving grace even if we wanted to stay separated. God is the all-merciful Father of all. But would that be true mercy? Or would that be something else? There’s something in the fact that God’s grace, mixed with our free will and conscious choice to exercise that grace, impels right action.

The prodigal returns home.
The good son shows his faith through works.
All is right and well.

But mixed in that swirling set of readings and conversations the last few days, I’m still pondering… isn’t James onto something?

God moves first.
God loves, and God shares his grace.
The Father is merciful and waits at the edge of the homestead with open arms.

But don’t we have to act too?
The grace inspires works.
The son runs home before it’s too late.