Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

Remember God’s Patience

traffic jam

My Grandpa Stiverson taught me how to drive. He was an excellent teacher and passed on his love for defensive and safe driving. One of the lessons I still remember is what to do when I am the first car at the stop light waiting for it to turn green. Count to three slowly and look both directions before proceeding. His advice has saved me from numerous accidents. I consider myself a careful driver. But some people would consider me an annoyance. Yes, I am the one trying to drive close to the speed limit. I am the one who switches lanes slowly, because I want to be certain it is clear. I am the one who causes people in a hurry to stumble by evoking various degrees of road rage. For that I am truly sorry.

I am bothered when someone, even a stranger, responds in anger. I try hard to avoid offending anyone, even in slight ways. I also know, try as hard as I can, it is unavoidable. A few days I did it again. My cautious driving triggered another driver’s anger. I cringed as he honked and gestured impatiently, and raced into the traffic. I asked the Lord to help him get to his destination safely, and then I thank the Lord for His great patience toward me.

It takes quite a lot for me to get rattled by someone else’s driving. I don’t mind following a slow poke. But I get triggered in other areas of life. At times I can be so critical of others’ behavior or performance. My thoughts can become brutally judgmental until the Holy Spirit nudges me. Most people would never know the extent of my negative thoughts, because I have learned to cover them over with right actions and words. Nevertheless, the Lord sees it all. He is so patient with me and doesn’t condemn me, yet He challenges me to allow His transformation in my hidden inner places.

Sometimes I compare myself to others. As a dedicated Christ-follower, my outward life looks pretty good. Before I start patting myself on the back, I have to remember that comparison to others is a flawed measurement system. First, I can only see the outward appearance; the Lord sees the deepest motivations. Second, the correct comparison is with the Lord Himself. How do I compare with His holy perfection? I fall dreadfully short.

That is where the Lord’s divine patience comes in. He extends grace—undeserved favor—on me. His grace covers over my many imperfections, allowing me to be in relationship with Him, the One true, perfect God. When I stumble, He continues to patiently administer grace, cleansing me and encouraging me to allow His Spirit to change me.

In which areas do you get impatient with others? Remember God’s patience with you. As we live with, love, and lead others, let’s strive for excellence while demonstrating patience and grace.

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. ~Psalm 103:8

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. ~2 Peter 3:9

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your wonderful patience and grace. Through the sacrifice of Jesus and the empowering of the Spirit, You have given me so much more than I deserve. Help me to be patient with others and extend grace to them. Teach me to hold high standards, and also treat others with kindness and patience. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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Posted in Character, Faith

When Our Best Isn’t Enough

chess

It can be hard to give our very best to do something we believe the Lord has called us to do, and have our efforts fall short. Sometimes our best simply isn’t enough. We don’t meet our organizational goals. Troubled relationships are not mended. Our exemplary work isn’t recognized. Living for Jesus doesn’t mean that we will always win or succeed. In the midst of disappointment or heartache, we can be grateful for the chance to shine for Him. Regardless of the outcome, we can rest assured that the Lord is pleased. I shared the following as a post in 2012 on Facebook as a note.

“It wasn’t supposed to end this way.” My aunt’s face was somber. As our eyes met, her disappointment coursed through me. She had driven an hour to watch me compete in the annual Klamath County Potato Festival. “You were, by far, the best contestant here. You had the best stage presence and the best talent. You were the best. You should have won.”

I thanked my aunt and gave her a hug. A stream of supporters cut through the auditorium. I pasted on the sincerest smile I could muster and listened to their condolences, “Sorry you didn’t win. It wasn’t supposed to end this way.”

It was the fall of 1984. Months earlier I had seen the announcement for the Potato Festival. It was a local competition, designed to honor the potato farmers in our region and recognize their important contributions. Every participant was given a $50 savings bond. The winner was awarded a $1,000 scholarship to the college of her choice, plus served as the Potato Festival Queen for the year at various community functions. Throughout high school I had imagined participating in the Miss Klamath County pageant and beyond, but I was not eligible because I was a Canadian citizen. The Potato Festival would be my opportunity.

I was thrilled to be chosen out of a group of girls to represent Henley High School, but I had a greater purpose in mind–to represent Jesus Christ and be His ambassador throughout all the Potato Festival festivities. “Lord, I don’t care if I win. Help me to show You to everyone around me.” I prayed that prayer often, and would immediately be filled with a renewed sense of purpose. The Potato Festival contestants, chaperones, and committee were my mission field. Wherever we went, I determined to show God’s love to others. I cheered on the girls, encouraged and expressed appreciation to the chaperones, and shared my faith in Christ every chance I got.

“Jesus loves you.”
“May I share with you how Christ has changed my life.”
“How may I pray for you today?”

The competition spanned two weeks, with a parade, multiple interviews, and two performances. The first performance showcased the girls’ poise on stage and their ability to answer a question on the spot. My question was about church discipline, and I excitedly and confidently shared what the Book of Matthew said on the subject. On the night of the second performance, the auditorium was charged with electricity. Two of the girls were crying backstage. Stage fright had gotten the best of them. I prayed with them and helped to calm their nerves.

The Master of Ceremony introduced me, and I glided onto the stage. As I sang, the Holy Spirit carried me along. “Go ahead, drive the nails in My hands. Laugh at Me where you stand…Go ahead, and say I’m dead and gone. But you will see that you were wrong.”

I captured the attention of my audience. “I’ll rise again. Ain’t no power on earth can tie Me down. I’ll rise again. Death can’t keep Me in the ground.”

The notes lilted through the air, and God’s love reached out to the people. As I scanned the crowd, some were contemplative, others had tears streaming down their faces. I finished the last syllable. A pause of silence. Then applause and cheers erupted. The message had been delivered and received by many.

During the finale, the runners up were announced and then the Potato Festival Queen. My name was called as the First Runner Up. Several gasps came from the crowd, followed by loud whispers. The audience had followed me for two weeks. They had watched me come in first in “poise,” first in “the interview,” and first in “talent.” They knew I had been selected by the chaperones as the one who best exemplified Potato Festival qualities. What the audience did not observe was my struggle to sell raffle tickets. The fourth category of the competition was ticket sales, and I had done poorly, coming in second to last place. When all the points were tallied, my wins were not enough to off set the fourth category. I had come in second place.

I lay in bed that night–after I had finished putting away the chairs, thanked the straggling crowd for their support, and congratulated the Potato Festival Queen a final time. I reflected on the Potato Festival with tears of disappointment and exhaustion. I had given everything and still had not emerged the winner. The loss overwhelmed me. The parting words of my supporters bombarded me. “It wasn’t supposed to end like this.”

And then I remembered all the opportunities to care for people and to share God’s love with them. I had tried to encourage everybody and had gotten to pray with some. I had done my very best to be Christ’s ambassador, making a positive impression, and many lives had been impacted. It wasn’t supposed to end like this? I settled my head into the pillow, wiped away the tears, and grinned. “Thank you, Lord. This is exactly the way it was supposed to end.”

The Lord makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him; though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand (Psalm 37:23-24, NIV).

Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus (Philippians 3:12-14, NIV).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, You know that I can be competitive and driven. You know how hard I work to do my best, and how hard it is when things don’t go the way I want. Help me to remember that when trying my best isn’t enough, I have done what is more important–to live for You and to shine Your light in this world. No matter what the results, encourage my heart with Your loving presence. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Faith

Growing in Gratitude

Thank You

Sometimes things don’t go according to plan. I had several activities in mind for this Thanksgiving weekend. My daughter and I figured out a cooking schedule for all our dishes. Family from the Seattle area arrived Wednesday night. We were ready for a fun, food-filled celebration. Then, later that night, one of the granddaughters got sick. My daughter was up with her every hour. Some time during the night, my grandson also got sick. There was lots of laundry on Thanksgiving Day for the soiled bedding and towels. We still managed to prepare and enjoy our meal. Everyone was in good spirits, and it seemed like the worst was over. However, on Friday afternoon some of us started to feel sick. My son, daughter-in-law, and grandson went home for their second Thanksgiving celebration. By the evening both our households were miserable.

This isn’t the first time illness has visited a holiday celebration, and it probably won’t be the last. There have been many Christmases, Easters, and Mother’s Days when one or more family members got sick, requiring adjustments to my expectations. Each time I am faced with a decision—Will I practice gratitude? Or will I practice self-pity?

I have lots of experience practicing self-pity. During my child-rearing years, feeling sorry for myself came easily. “Why is this happening to me?” “Bad things always happen on special days.” “It’s so unfair!” My mopey attitude would take an unfavorable situation and make it worse.

Many years ago I felt convicted by a passage of Scripture.

Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people (Philippians 2:14-15, NLT).

I have never liked arguing, but I can be really good at complaining. If I don’t guard my thoughts and attitudes, complaining can flow like water. Complaining spreads negativity and affects the people around me. Additionally, complaining damages my example as a Christ-follower. The light of Christ in me does not shine as brightly. I certainly don’t want that!

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done (Philippians 4:6).

Giving thanks is the opposite of complaining. (It is also a remedy to worrying.) I want to grow in gratitude. This Thanksgiving was a perfect opportunity to practice it. I was concerned that my family members felt terrible, and I did my best to help care for them. But, I wasn’t discouraged. I was out of commission for two and a half days. In the midst of my discomfort, I thanked the Lord for His continual presence with me and I prayed for healing of my family. I felt thankful that we had a long weekend to recover. I appreciated the kindness of a friend who went to the store to buy Gatorade when none of the adult in our home were able.

Every time we encounter circumstances that are less than what we would like, it is an opportunity to practice gratitude. When are you tempted to complain? How can you turn complaints into words of thanksgiving? Take the challenge to avoid complaining and practice gratitude.

Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, You are good and perfect, always loving and faithful. When times are tough at home, in the workplace, or other places in my life, help me to focus on your blessings and develop an attitude of gratitude. Help me to shine as a bright light of Christ through my attitude, words, and actions. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

Posted in Character, Faith

Living in The Middle Lands

Desert Land

The other day my granddaughters were dawdling at breakfast. As incentive I set the timer for ten minutes to see if they could finish eating before the time was up. They both finished with five minutes to spare, and the three of us watched the remaining seconds count down. It seemed like the longest five minutes ever!

I’m not a very patient person, especially when it comes to reaching goals. If I can see the steps needed to head in a direction, I want to speed through (with excellence) all the steps to the end and enjoy the fruits of my labor. We all know that life isn’t neat and tidy like that, but I like the idea. And, waiting doesn’t come easily for me.

We live in an awkward time in God’s kingdom. Jesus Christ has already finished the work of redemption. He won the victory against the enemy, defeating sin and death. The kingdom of God has already come. However, it will not be perfected until the coming of the new heavens and earth. It’s the age of Already But Not Yet. I call it The Middle Lands.

We live in The Middle Lands. Not just as we wait for the fulfillment of God’s kingdom, but also as we wait for the fulfillment of our own goals and desires. Most of our lives are spent in various regions of The Middle Lands.

~Waiting for a loved one to trust Christ as Savior.
~Waiting to find that special someone with whom to spend the rest of your life.
~Waiting for the Lord to provide His healing touch for you or someone close to you, preferably this side of heaven.
~Waiting for strained relationships to be restored.
~Waiting for your organization’s strategic plan to gain momentum and succeed.
~Waiting to get well established in a meaningful career.
~Waiting to see the promises the Lord has spoken to your heart come to pass.
~Waiting for the prayers that you have sown with tears to be answered.

How can we thrive as we wait in The Middle Lands, during a tension-filled time between times?

Be real about where you are. I love the honesty of the Psalms, especially the ones penned by David. He didn’t pretend that his circumstances were great when they were not. He stated that he was fleeing from his enemies. He admitted that he felt downcast. But he didn’t stay in a mopey, negative state. He acknowledged the Lord’s faithful presence in the midst of his difficulties.

Cultivate an attitude of hope. Our trust must not be in our own abilities to perform or achieve. We place our trust in the Lord who is the Source of hope. We build a solid foundation of hope, as we humbly yield our own wills to God and meditate on His lovingkindness toward us. We remember the promises He has fulfilled in our own lives and throughout history, and believe that His timing is best.

Keep an eternal perspective. We choose to believe that what God says about Himself is true. We allow His truth to be expressed through our lives. Though our suffering and troubles may be long lasting, they are momentary in light of eternity. Our existence on this earth is temporary, designed to develop immovable trust in the Lord. One day we will be with Him forever, and there will be no more pain, sickness, sorrow, and death.

As Christ followers filled with His Spirit, we can experience joy, peace, comfort, and the wonder of God’s presence while waiting in The Middle Lands.

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. ~Romans 15:13

For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. ~2 Corinthians 4:17

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, help me to trust You in the good times and the bad. I want to keep my eyes on You every day and in every situation. Remind me that the best is yet to come at the culmination of Your Kingdom. I hold onto hope, believing in Your lovingkindness. Empower me to thrive as I wait in The Middle Lands. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

Do What You Believe to Be True

Reflection

What do you believe about God? What do you believe about yourself?

Now before you answer, I’m not asking about the mental beliefs you hold, those automatic responses that you learned in Sunday School or Bible study and can rattle off from memory. I’m asking about the beliefs that you act upon, the ones that guide your life experiences.

That’s a little trickier, isn’t it? It would be nice if our thoughts and behaviors always matched our theology and Biblical identity of ourselves. But we’re not perfect. That’s why we need a Savior. And we need the Savior’s instruction to lovingly point out the inconsistencies in our lives.

For example, we call God our Heavenly Father and sing songs with lyrics like, “You’re a good, good Father. That’s who You are.” However, we may actually view our Heavenly Father like an earthly father who was absent or let us down or even worse. We may fear God or think that He is punishing us when bad things happen. We “know” He is our loving Heavenly Father, yet we find it hard to really trust Him. That’s an inconsistency.

Here’s another example. We believe that we are loved by God as His children. After all, 1 John 3:1 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” Nevertheless, we may feel unworthy of His love. We see our shortcomings and wonder how God could love us. We “know” we are loved, and yet we constantly feel unlovable. That’s an inconsistency.

And another example…As God’s dearly loved children, we believe that we should honor others above ourselves (Romans 12:10). Yet, it may be a struggle to lift others up, because we’re afraid that we’ll be overlooked or forgotten. After all, how will be get ahead if we don’t look out for number one? That, too, is an inconsistency.

I’m so thankful that the Lord doesn’t just reveal these inconsistency in our lives. He helps us fix them. He want us to thrive in life. We thrive when we do what we believe to be true.

When we are double-minded, we get tossed around by the feelings of the moment. Our perceptions become distorted, and we follow them any way.

“Search me, God, and know my heart… “ (Psalm 139:23a). This has been my prayer throughout my life. The Lord has been faithful to gently reveal my inconsistencies. In recent days I have had to deal with the inconsistency of “knowing” that He is my strength in times of weakness, and allowing my feelings of weakness to hold me back. I find myself feeling too weak and powerless to move forward. I am not brave enough, and I want to hide. Surely, God should find someone else for the job! Then, His sweet Spirit reminds me that I can move forward, because He is strong and powerful. By faith I walk it out.

I declare the truth of who He is, I meditate on that truth, and then I practice that truth.

Take a look in the mirror and ask the Lord to show you what He sees. It takes courage to face our inconsistencies one at a time. It takes even greater courage to change and grow. Thankfully, you are never alone in the task. God’s Spirit is there in the midst of transformation, empowering you to deeply believe the truth and then live accordingly.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do (James 1:22-25).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, You search me and You know me. You see my heart and my struggles. Thank You for leading me in the way of truth. Help me to not just know what Your Word says, but to deeply believe it, and to live by it. May I reveal Jesus to this world by being authentic in faith and action. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

Always Leave a Place Better Than You Found It

FullSizeRender 21

My grandpa, Fred Stiverson, peacefully passed away June 6, 2017. Last Friday (July 21st) our family gathered together to celebrate his life. Throughout my childhood I affectionately called my grandpa “Gong Gong,” a Cantonese term for grandfather. My Chinese grandfather had passed away when my father was a boy, and “Gong Gong” accepted my name for him as a badge of honor.

I loved my grandpa dearly. He was like a father to me, especially during my tumultuous teen years, providing security and stability that were greatly needed. A man of integrity, his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, loved ones, and friends knew Fred Stiverson as “a lover, a peacemaker, a problem solver, always looking for the higher ground which would bring the greater peace and good to all involved” (quote from Joyce Berry, my mom). He lived a long, meaningful life of 97 years, and he finished well.

One of the big lessons my grandpa taught his family was to always leave a place better than they found it. I value this principle which was also passed on to me, because it is a hallmark of servant leadership.

Always leave a place better than you found it.

As leaders we must do more than climb up the corporate ladder. We do what we can to make our sphere of influence a better place. We invest in those around us to encourage their personal and professional growth. We share the love of Jesus through actions everywhere we go.

Mother Teresa extended my grandpa’s principle even further by saying, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better.”

Like my grandpa before me, I want to leave a lasting legacy to my children and grandchildren (and hopefully beyond). I want to be remembered as a person of faith and integrity. At the end of my life, I want to leave this world better than I found it.

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).

Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did (1 John 2:6).

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for sacrificing Your Son on my behalf. Help me to get the focus off myself and to live sacrificially for others, sharing Your love and kindness, and following Your example. Empower me by Your Spirit to leave every place I go better than I found it. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Faith

Be a Victor Not a Victim

winner

Take a look at these words: victim and victor. They are similar in spelling, but so very different in meaning. The word victim originates from the Latin word victima, meaning “sacrificial animal.” It was first recorded in 1490-1500. The word victor also originates from Latin, but from an earlier time in the 1300s. It is derived from vincere, meaning “to conquer” (dictionary.com). The two words represent a difference as vast as night and day.

A victim is pictured as helpless, like a lamb led to slaughter. A victor is pictured as a seasoned warrior who wins after fiercely fighting a battle. Which one do you relate to more?

I am not a victim. Yes, terrible things have happened to me. Yes, traumatic events have affected me. However, they do not define me. By the grace of God, I refuse to allow them to rule the way I live. I am a victor!

You do not have to be a victim either. Your parents may not have been there for you growing up. People may have abused and harmed you in the past. You may have experienced hurt and disappointment that you should never have faced. But don’t get stuck there. Don’t look back at others and blame them for where you are today. Even if your offenders aren’t ready to acknowledge the pain they caused you or to participate in the work of reconciliation, don’t allow them to keep you from moving forward.

You do not have to be like an injured animal, constantly licking your wounds of regret. Neither should you be an ostrich, avoiding and ignoring the difficult areas of life. Nor should you be like a hyena, laughing and pretending that all is well. (I know…I’m taking these analogies way too far!) Instead take an honest look at the things that should not have been and invite the Lord to heal you. Accept responsibility for the unhealthy choices you have made as a result of brokenness and trust the Lord to restore you. Surrender yourself to the Lord, relying on His Spirit to empower you to thrive.

Your identity is based on what the Lord says about you as His dearly loved child, not what others say. You can live and lead with confidence, knowing that the same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in you (Romans 8:11). He gives you the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:55).

Our early Church leaders faced great persecution, and yet they lived as victors rather than victims. Their faith-filled perspective inspires us today.

Our great power is from God, not ourselves. We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked does, but we are not destroyed. Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies (2 Corinthians 4:7b-10).

…In all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).

Don’t settle for living as a victim. Stand firm in the victory that is yours through Jesus Christ. You are a victor!

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You that You take the ashes of my life and make them beautiful. I praise You that no matter what I have faced in the past or face right now, You work all things together for my good, because I love You and am called according to Your purposes. Help me to have faith in You above my circumstances. Help me to live as a victor instead of a victim. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.