Posted in Servant Leadership

Being Still: An Important Task for Leaders

Be StillI like to be alone.
I genuinely love people, but my introversion starts screaming pretty early.
I need some quiet, a little time to pause, maybe some rest. Then I’m good to go again.

Leaders, whether introverts or extroverts, need to take time to be still. I’m not talking about what we do after hours or on vacation. Taking time for self-care and leisure is definitely important. However, leading well occasionally requires us to be still, in the midst of responsibilities, demands, and deadlines.

Leaders often go on strategic planning retreats and plot out the organization’s game plan and appropriate steps to get there. Again, this can be a valuable practice, especially if it’s actually followed. But being still is different than the formalized planning get aways.

Being still is informal. It can be scheduled or spontaneous. It’s a posture we must take as often as necessary to keep us fresh, energized, and prepared for the future.

Here are some examples of what that might look like:

  • Sometimes leaders get so consumed reaching toward goals and striving for excellence, we forget why we are doing what we’re doing. Our job becomes nothing more than a way to earn money. We may stop seeing the value of the people we serve. We need to be still to get back in touch with and passionate about our mission. We take time to remember that we are serving the Lord (1 Cor. 10:31), and make heart adjustments.
  • Sometimes leaders face unexpected situations. A staffing problem. A financial shortfall. Negative press. Rocky relationships. A financial blessing. A generous offer we never saw coming. The Lord knows the best way to deal with it all. We need to be still to seek God for His wisdom. We may have experience and education, but don’t rely on those alone. Instead ask the Lord for direction, because He knows the past, present, and future, along with the best decisions to lead to the best outcomes. There are moments I go into my office and close my door. I quiet my heart and mind, because I know the Lord has the best solutions for both the problems and blessings I encounter. “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).
  • Sometimes there are external changes on the horizon that could significantly impact the way we do business. Other times the changes are right on our doorstep. Strategic planning is valuable in moving toward our vision, but it is never set in stone. Leaders periodically need to be still to scan the horizon, and informally assess our organization’s effectiveness. We slow down to listen attentively to others and evaluate their feedback. We cultivate an innovative spirit, and develop flexibility to stay in the game. “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps” (Prov. 16:9).

If you’re anything like me, taking time to be still can feel irresponsible in the midst of great responsibilities and constantly pressing tasks. But it’s not. Being still is actually a part of our job. Leading others requires that we pause in order to learn, grow, and pay attention, so we can invest in a thriving staff and organization. Taking time to be still can help us get there.

Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name (Psalm 86:11).

Prayer:

Lord, thank You, for calling me and equipping me as a leader. Show me when to be busy and when to be still. Teach me to balance my time and organizational priorities. Guide me to make wise decisions, so that my staff and business thrive, and Your work is accomplished well. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

Embracing Diversity

Diversity

Last week I returned to the office after a short vacation. In my absence my staff members had encountered an unpleasant conversation with one of my volunteers. This volunteer has a heart of gold and enjoys helping with building maintenance.

Somehow the discussion turned to where we live. He said, “I really like Yakima. I just don’t like all the illegals here.”

His statement wasn’t meant to hurt anyone. But my office coordinator who is intelligent, brave, and beautiful was wounded by it. She isn’t an “illegal,” but there are people in her life that she loves dearly who are “illegals.” His statement intended to express the frustration he feels about the problem of illegal immigration in our area. His statement also dehumanized an entire group of people he knows nothing about. As Christ followers and servant leaders we must constantly challenge ourselves to see all people as individuals our God loves and suffers with.

This is an area I am sensitive about. Born in the 1960s, half Chinese and half White, I felt there was no place I belonged. The Asians rejected me because I wasn’t “pure.” White people didn’t accept me either, because I was obviously “something other than White.” When my family moved to a multi-cultural neighborhood, I developed friendships with a diverse group of students—Black, Indian (from India), Pakistani, Jewish, and White. For the first time I felt whole, and my heart was full. Sadly we moved a couple years later to a predominantly White city where a person of color would turn heads.

Because of my childhood experience, today I am compelled to speak and act in such a way that demonstrates the beauty of diversity and every single life matters. From the moment of conception until death, all life is sacred and worthy of respect. Nothing can diminish that. Not legal status, ethnicity, skin color, worldview, sexual orientation, political affiliation, lack of education, poverty, addiction, physical and mental health problems, or homelessness. Nothing can take away a person’s intrinsic value.

I have three adorable granddaughters that have Mexican-American heritage. They have dark hair and eyes. I have two delightful grandsons with light hair and light eyes. Each one of them has stolen my heart! (I secretly desire to add some African-American into our mix, but that’s out of my hands.) There is beauty in diversity that delights the Lord, the One who creates such variety in the first place.

However, ethnocentrism interferes with experiencing the beauty of diversity. Ethnocentrism is ever present and it affects the way we look at the world. It is the belief that one’s own ethnicity, heritage, culture, or group is superior to others. One judges others based on one’s own culture as the ideal standard. “My way is the right way.” Left unchecked it leads to prejudice. Subtler forms of ethnocentrism show up as comments about “those people” that elevate ourselves. It divides people into the categories of “us” and “them.” As servant leaders we must avoid ethnocentrism and love all the people following our lead.

In the Book of Revelation, John has a vision of a great crowd surrounding the Lord in worship. “After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a great roar,

‘Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne
and from the Lamb!’”
~Rev. 7:9-10

Every nation, tribe, people, and language worship the Lord! They all put their faith in their Savior. No believer was excluded, regardless of their background. Can we be people that love others and include them? Can we be leaders that speak in terms of “us” and “we.” People don’t have to look, believe, think, or live the same way as us to be included and genuinely cared about. When we appreciate the beauty of diversity, we no longer say with an air of superiority, “those people.” Instead we humbly accept others as ones deeply loved and adored by Jesus. We take time to hear their life stories and experiences. We learn about other countries, cultures, and traditions. As we open our hearts, we will embrace them as “we.”

All the nations you made will come and bow before you, Lord; they will praise your holy name (Psalm 86:9).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, please guard my heart from pride, from thinking that I am better than others. Remind me that I live and stand by grace. Teach me to love all people from every walk of life, as ones loved by You. Help me resist ethnocentrism and prejudice, and be the best servant leader I can be. I want to embrace the beauty of diversity You have created. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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.

Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

What’s the Point?

helping others

We sat in shocked silence. As a ministry team, we have witnessed plenty of brokenness among the people we serve. But on this day, destruction and heartbreak hit home. Each of us grappled with the weight of the ugly news we had just heard. And then someone dared to voice the question.

What’s the point?

It’s an honest question to ask, especially in the midst of despair.

We care about people, and reach out to the hurting.

We share the message of forgiveness and new life through Christ to all. No matter how far a person has fallen to addiction, violence, or other harmful choices, they are never too far from God’s love and a fresh start.

We live as examples of on-going transformation, mentoring and encouraging others toward the beautiful possibilities available to them.

We give generously to meet tangible needs without strings attached.

And, yet what good does our sacrificial lifestyle produce? How many people actually devote their lives to Jesus and break free from the darkness?

Too often the visible results are overwhelmingly disheartening. And our souls cry out, “What’s the point?”

As a Christ-follower, I have devoted myself to pointing others to Jesus. I deeply believe that as long as there is life, there is hope. No matter how terrible it may look in the moment, there is always hope.

My daughter, Jordanne Babcock, penned this response during a moment of sorrow.

“Today I witnessed the destruction and heartbreak that darkness brings to people. And, if I’m being honest, it’s breaking me. I hope to God that I never become apathetic when I encounter darkness. I pray that I always hate the shadows with this same passion. I hope the Light inside me continues to scream NO.”

I scream “NO” as I continue to hope for the Lord to work in people’s hopeless situations.

I scream “NO” as I extend love to people who are considered unlovable.

I scream “NO” as I chose to forgive people who do not deserve it.

And what is the point?

For me, the point is to shine Christ’s light in the darkness no matter what. His light is always greater than the darkness, and darkness will never extinguish it. I will not stop sharing His unfailing love with others, and the enemy will not be victorious.

In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it (John 1:1-5, NLT).

“You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father (Matthew 5:14-16).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, take my broken heart and surround me with Your healing. Take my discouragement and pour out Your hope. Take my weariness and infuse me with faith. Fill me with Your sustaining love, so that I can faithfully shine Your Light for all to see. Help me remember that my life has purpose as I live for You and point others to You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Communication Skills, Servant Leadership

Don’t Expect Too Much!

frustration

“Don’t expect more than they are capable of.”

On a road trip, a new friend verbalized something I had been pondering for several months. While taking her to a speaking engagement in a city a couple hours away, she shared what the Lord had spoken to her heart while praying about a difficult relationship. That simple statement helped her navigate some painful circumstances and experience peace in the midst of it.

That simple statement also shed light on what the Lord had been speaking to my own heart, to extend grace to the challenging relationships in my own life.

It’s good to have high standards for our personal and work relationships. There should be kindness when dealing with conflict. There should be respectful and safe behavior at all times. Abuse of any kind is unacceptable. However, many of my disappointments stem from expecting too much from others.

For example…

There are people in my life that are not detail oriented. Don’t expect more than they are capable of. They can come up with systems to help them become more organized and efficient, but they won’t become detail oriented.

There are people in my life that avoid dealing with emotional issues. Don’t expect more than they are capable of. Some people do not have emotional intelligence. They can learn listening skills and acknowledge the pain of others, but the emotional realm will not be a strong or comfortable area for them.

There are people in my life that seems to live in a completely different universe than I do. Don’t expect more than they are capable of. No matter how much I explain my perspective, it won’t help them to see things my way. A good friend recently shared why she thinks marriage can be so hard. “We only want our own way all the time.” I agree with her, and I believe this applies to all our relationship troubles on some level. My way is the right way. Your way is the right way to you. Different universes.

Acceptance of the way other people are wired or the way they see things allows me to extend grace to them. It helps me feel peace instead of disappointment, while adjusting my expectations.

All relationships are messy. Some more than others. Not expecting too much from others helps us thrive when relationships are less than smooth.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? (Matthew 7:2-3).

Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace (Ephesians 4:2-3).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for the people in my life. Help me to see them through Your eyes rather than my own. Teach me to get rid of the plank in my own eye before insisting on helping others with the speck in theirs. Help me not to expect too much from others. May I approach all my relationships with realistic expectations and grace.

 

Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

It’s Okay to Be Weak

boy-walking-teddy-bear-child-48794

I don’t like feeling weak. It’s discouraging to know that I don’t have the skills, strength, confidence, or health needed to get the job done. I’m the lady who, when nine months pregnant, insisted on rearranging my living room furniture by myself. Don’t tell me that I can’t do something, because it will make me work even harder to prove you wrong. At least that’s the way it was when I was younger. However, for the last ten years or so, around the time I turned 40, I have started taking a more gentle and realistic approach, as the paradoxes of God’s Kingdom make more sense to me.

God blesses those who are poor and realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs (Matthew 5:3).

The greatest among you must be a servant. But those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted (Matthew 23:11-12).

The poor are blessed; the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them. The greatest are servants. The humble are exalted.

Jesus’ teaching are contrary to the way things run in the world.

The Apostle Paul makes a statement that also seems contradictory.

Each time [the Lord] said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Throughout the Bible we see that the Lord called people who doubted their own abilities to accomplish His plans. He used them in miraculous ways. We’re in good company.

There is a saying that describes this principle, “God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called.”

This doesn’t mean that the Lord will only use people who are unqualified for a position. Rather He uses those who rely on Him to go beyond their own natural skills. As the Creator of the universe, He can take what we have, no matter how small, and turn it into so much more. He is not limited when we are weak. Instead the power of Christ works through our weaknesses. His presence and anointing make us strong. He can provide unseen opportunities by making a way where there seems to be no way.

Two times Jesus fed the multitudes. He took the few fish and loaves of bread offered to Him, and provided for the masses.

If you’re like me, the tendency is to resist when encountering weakness and obstacles. I get frustrated with my perceived lack of resources or ability. However, such a response is counter productive. The Lord delights when we respond by surrendering to His will and trusting Him to accomplish it. It may not seem possible. It may not make sense. Yet, we rely on Him to do amazing things.

It’s okay to be weak. Really. It’s then that the Lord reveals His mighty strength through us.

Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power (Ephesians 6:10).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, You are strong and mighty. Nothing is impossible with You. Help me to trust in Your faithfulness, believing that You use foolish and weak things to confound the wise and mighty. I surrender to Your will, and ask that You take my life and use it for Your glory. I offer You my weaknesses. Flow through me with the strength of Your Spirit. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

Seeing God in our Midst

hurricane-earth-satellite-tracking

I wake up with a start. I had wanted to get some extra much-needed sleep after an intense week but something has roused me from slumber. Not something, but someone. Actually someones. I slowly focus on two precious faces, their large brown eyes framed by long lashes, their smiles lighting their up their countenances with eagerness. In that moment I am aware of a choice. I can respond to the inconvenience of being awakened too early on my only day to sleep in. Or I can see God in my midst. What will I do?

I adjust my mind and enjoy the blessing of my five-year-old granddaughters. They crawl in bed and cuddle with me, chatting freely about the things that concern them. Almost as suddenly as it began, I am alone in bed again and the sweet girls are off and running. The sacredness of the moment lingers and gratitude fills my heart.

How often have I missed these opportunities, because I didn’t see God in my midst. Too much of my life has been spent in pursuit of a well-structured, tidy, productive, comfortable life. Anything else has escaped my attention.

It’s all too easy to keep God confined to my mental box. I often allow divine appointments to pass me by. However, I am learning to pause, to look with different eyes in hopes of seeing Him.

I can see God in the face of my grandchildren. That isn’t much of a stretch. I also believe that every person I come across is a divine appointment, whether rich or poor, whether their lives are neatly put together or they are struggling, broken, in chaos. I love seeing God in our midst as I share the Gospel in actions and words. However, there are also times when I am ministering to someone in need, and they say something in conversation that catches my attention. They are unaware, but the Lord uses their words to impart His wisdom or encouragement to me.

Seeing God in the midst of disappointment, traumatic events, and natural disasters is more challenging. But it is possible. There is no situation that we face where He is not present.

God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.
~Psalm 46:1-3, NIV

Several years ago I had a vivid dream. My family and I were climbing on some rock formations near the turbulent ocean. A storm began to rage, and we tried to reach safety in the fortress at the top of the rocks. The rest of my family was secure, but I lagged behind carrying my youngest daughter and knew I wouldn’t make it. A tidal wave formed in front of me, and I cried out in desperation, “Jesus!” Instantly Jesus appeared towering in the wave. He stepped forward and placed us in the fortress, as the wave crashed directly below us. As the scene closed, a large choir declared these words in the background.

Lift up your heads, you gates;
be lifted up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
the Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, you gates;
lift them up, you ancient doors,
that the King of glory may come in.
Who is he, this King of glory?
The Lord Almighty—
he is the King of glory.
~Psalm 24:7–10

The Lord’s presence remained with me for many hours, and the memory of this dream continues to strengthen me in the midst of life’s turbulence.

Our God is the most awesome and all powerful King. He is ever-present in every situation. He is perfect love and delights when we recognize Him. There is nothing more sustaining to our minds and souls than seeing God in our midst.

The Lord is close to all who call on him, yes, to all who call on him in truth (Psalm 145:18).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You that You are always present in my life. Sometimes You are mighty and powerful. Sometimes You speak in a still, small voice. Please help me to see You in the midst of the every day, ordinary situations, and in the midst of circumstances that threaten my well-being. Strengthen me to be still and know that You are God. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.