Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

Loving and Leading with Grace

the-21-rules-of-this-housesource: choosinghomeschoolcurriculum.com

This is a picture of the rules posted on our fridge during my child raising years. “The 21 Rules of this House” was the centerpiece of our home. I added a few extra rules for good measure, along with a consequence chart for offenses.

I was a stickler for rules when my kids were young. I had an intense desire for order, believing that there should be a place for everything and everything should be in its place. Schedules were created to follow strictly without exception. Someone could drop by our home at any time of the day or night and find a clean and well organized house with angelic children (in my dreams). If I had my way our home would have resembled a private boarding school rather than a loving safe haven.

Through the school of hard knocks (a nice way of saying that I often felt like I was going crazy), I have come to the understanding that, while rules and high expectations are important, loving and leading others well require continual grace.

For some reason, the Babcock kids had difficulties with Rules 12, 14, and 18; however, Rules 13 and 20 rarely were problems. Looking back, I wish I had given more grace.

The Ten Commandments are the cornerstone to a godly society. Why are they so difficult to follow? Adultery and murder are not tempting to me, but keeping the Lord at the highest place in my consciousness and actions, as well as guarding against envy are constant struggles.

The Apostle Paul described the human conflict in the book of Romans.

For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing (Romans 7:18-19).

We wrestle with knowing that God’s law is holy and good, and actually following it. The only remedy for our inability to perfectly master the law is grace.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

Grace is undeserved favor. Even though we cannot possibly be good enough to achieve perfection, the Lord extends kindness to us. He desires His best for our lives. Love for us is His motivation.

As recipients of God’s abundant grace, we are instructed to practice grace with others.

In preparation for my granddaughters’ visit this summer, I decided to post a new list of rules on the fridge. You will notice that 21 rules have been pared down to six, and the rules are more general. There is no consequence chart, either. Time out is the only consequence, followed by hugs and affirming conversation.Our Family Rules

For me, our new list of rules represents life lived with grace.

What does practicing grace look like to you at home? With those you lead? In your circle of friends?

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for the grace You have poured out on me. As the Shepherd of my Soul, You gently lead me in Your ways and re-direct me when I go astray. Teach me to love and be kind to all people in every circumstance. May my life honor You and be a blessing to others. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

My Guidelines for Gossip

Gossip

When I was 11 years old, I met a girl named Lisa. She was my age, and she lived in my neighborhood. At first we got along famously. After a few weeks though, I started getting annoyed at some of her mannerisms. She talked too loudly, and I became increasingly critical of my new friend. I never brought Lisa’s irritations up to her. I was too polite for that, and I really didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

A funny thing happened. Because I was Lisa’s friend, my friends became her friends. They showed interest in her. To my chagrin, they invited her to spend time with us. Surely my friends didn’t see Lisa for who she really was. Somehow they weren’t aware of her annoying habits. If they were, they wouldn’t want to hang around her quite so much. It was my duty to shed some light on the situation, so I told them some of Lisa’s secrets. Not all of them, of course. Just enough to paint an accurate picture.

Incredibly, rather than heeding my warning, my friends told Lisa what I had said. Two days later, Lisa’s mother pounded on my front door. When I saw her standing there, I’m not sure which was louder, the pounding of my heart or the fists of Lisa’s mother on the door. She loomed large in the doorway like a mama bear ready to defend her cub. I gasped for air and mustered a smile, as I opened the door.

“How dare you!” Lisa’s mother exploded. “How dare you gossip about my daughter! You’re supposed to be Lisa’s friend. She trusted you, but you broke her heart. You are not allowed to spend time with Lisa ever again, you two-faced little gossip!”

My entire body shook with fear as I shut the door. I wished that my mom was home. She was either at work or attending a class as was typical in those days. I longed for the comfort of having her near, but I would have also been ashamed for her to find out about my incorrigible behavior. Perhaps it was for the best that she was away. I could keep the incident to myself.

Lisa’s mother made a lasting impression. Eventually I apologized to Lisa and her mother. Lisa’s mother expressed appreciation for my gesture. Lisa and I were never friends again, but I became more aware of the powerful effect of my words.

I wish I could say I completely learned my lesson from that event. Unfortunately the tendency to gossip runs strong in human nature. We have a hunger to know about others which is hard to satisfy. Nevertheless, in order to thrive in our relationships we must guard our words when we talk about others.

For over 30 years, I have served in ministry that requires confidentiality. Throughout this time, I have developed a guideline for gossip. Here it is.

DO NOT GOSSIP!

All joking aside, we know that gossip is harmful. Many Scripture verses instruct us to avoid gossip.

A gossip betrays a confidence,
but a trustworthy person keeps a secret (Proverbs 11:13).

A perverse person stirs up conflict,
and a gossip separates close friends (Proverbs 16:28).

Whoever would foster love covers over an offense,
but whoever repeats the matter separates close friends (Proverbs 17:9).

They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy (Romans 1:29-32).

Gossip is serious and dangerous business.

For some reason we don’t really know what gossip is. Gossip is sharing about other people’s behavior or personal lives, often excluding information that is either known or unknown. It is tattling or idle talk about their private affairs.

Or if we do know what gossip is, it’s easy to start an innocent discussion about someone that quickly degenerates into gossip. Here are three questions I ask myself to identify gossip and then to stop gossip immediately.

  1. Would I say this directly to the person? This is a time to be brutally honest. Have I already spoken to the person? Would I say the same words with the same tone of voice and body language to the person’s face? If not, then I am gossiping.
  2. Does this build others up? (Ephesians 4:29) How does this benefit others hearing the information? What positive effect does this have on the person that is the subject of conversation? It is not a prayer request if I talk about a situation and give specific details, even if I end up praying for the person. Sorry, it is gossip.
  3. What is motivating me to talk about this person? Do I care 100% about him or her? If something else is at play, like elevating myself or subtly discrediting another, my motives are impure. I have fallen into gossip.

When I realize that I have been involved in gossip, I ask the Lord for forgiveness and apologize to others when appropriate. I determine to be more careful and loving with my words.

May the words of our mouths and the meditations of our hearts be pleasing to the Lord. As leaders, we must safeguard the health of our families, friendships, and ministries by doing everything in our power to avoid gossip.

The tongue has the power of life and death,
and those who love it will eat its fruit (Proverbs 18:21).

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless (James 1:26).

Set a guard over my mouth, Lord;
keep watch over the door of my lips (Psalm 141:3).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, You created the heavens and the earth by speaking words of life. Help me to remember that the words I speak have the power to build up or tear down. Empower me to avoid gossip and follow Your example by speaking life into situations. May my words be a source of encouragement and healing. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

Integrity: It Really Matters

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“Do as I say, not as I do.” Whenever I hear this phrase I cringe inside. Leading by example is one of the top qualities followers desire of their leaders world wide. Yet, it seems to be in short supply among the leaders most visible to us.

“Do as I say, not as I do.” This well known admonition has been used by parents and authority figures for generations. Surprisingly, the origin of this saying is quite noble. Preachers of old acknowledged their personal shortcomings. Despite their desire to follow Jesus in perfect holiness, they knew that as human beings they would never be perfect. Only Jesus Christ was and is perfect. Knowing that they would fail in their aim for perfection, they instructed their congregation to follow the Word of God they zealously preached (“Do as I say”) rather than their imperfect example (“not as I do”).

“Do as I say, not as I do.” Unfortunately the saying has morphed to mean something very different. “Follow my commands as the leader, and do not pay attention to my example.” It illustrates the sometimes wide gap between authority and integrity. In today’s world, though, integrity is the greatest need in leadership. With our families, in ministry, on the job, in public and in private, a leader’s example matters. In every setting, a leader must practice what he or she preaches (or values) every moment of every single day.

You may be thinking, “That sounds like a lot of pressure!” Thankfully the Lord is not only our example of integrity, He also empowers us through His Spirit to live with integrity. He guides us to take steps that honor Him. He asks us to pay attention and be obedient.

What is integrity, this quality that is so foundational to influence? It is doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons in all circumstances whether or not anyone is watching. It involves honesty, trustworthiness, and steadfastness. However, it goes beyond disciplined and predictable behavior, and includes authenticity of the soul.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17, NLT).

Integrity is a characteristic that anyone can learn. Nobody is born with it. Nobody is born without it. Integrity is developed over time. A person’s reputation for integrity takes years to establish, while it can be destroyed in a moment. Integrity really matters. It must be nurtured and protected.

Here are some tangible ways to practice and develop integrity.

Be true to your promises. Even if you don’t say “I promise,” be a person of your word. Don’t tell people what you think they want to hear. Matthew 5:37 in the Message version provides a great explanation.

“And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.”

Tell others when you face delays. Communicate quickly and often with people who are relying on you. Let them know your intentions to follow through on your word, and give them the appropriate information. Even though it feels uncomfortable, don’t avoid, ignore, or hide from them.

Ask for forgiveness when you fall short. Humble people realize they will make mistakes in their pursuit of integrity, and readily acknowledge when it happens. Apologizing to a loved one for your bad attitude, or sharing with your staff about an error you made can help restore integrity.

Extend grace to others. “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31 AMP). How do you want others to treat you when you admit your mistakes? Do you want them to be understanding and forgiving? Then practice being gracious to others.

Being an amazing spouse, parent, or leader goes beyond being able to look good and perform well when others are watching. Unwavering integrity is a key ingredient for powerful influence wherever God has set us.

“To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:3).

“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity” (Proverbs 11:3, NIV).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for providing the perfect example of integrity. Your ways are always true and steadfast. I acknowledge that I often desire people to recognize me. I allow their opinions to affect my actions, instead of being directed by Your unconditional love for me. Help me to follow You with integrity whether or not others are watching. You always see me, and I want to live to please You alone. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

Following the Way of Peace

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The other day I overheard one of my volunteers talking about me. “Who wouldn’t get along with Joddi-Jay? Everyone likes her.” I smiled to myself with gratitude that I enjoy good relationships with my paid and volunteer staff members. I also smiled, because while I love people and work hard to foster positive connections, the reality is not everyone likes me. As hard as I try, there are still people who don’t get along with me, and it is deeply painful when my attempts for unity fall short. For some reason I believe that everyone should just get along and play together nicely.

We all know that’s not the way it works in the real world. People don’t always see eye to eye, whether it be with families, churches, or other organizations. So what are we supposed to do?

“If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:18).

“Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

The Lord expects His followers to pursue the way of peace. We are to practice kindness and humility, encourage others, promote understanding, and work toward reconciliation. We are to take the high road, even when it feels self-sacrificial or lonely. We live to please the Lord by being peacemakers.

However, the bottom line is this: You can only control your own actions. You cannot control the actions of others.

Despite your best efforts to live at peace with everyone, not everyone will choose the way of peace. They may continue to be angry and divisive. They may be deceptive and try to sabotage your work. Or, it may not be quite so dramatic. They may decide to cut off the relationship with no further communication. And then what?

One of my friends leads a large pregnancy center ministry in another state. A meeting that was intended to build collaboration among various life-affirming organizations in the area quickly turned nasty. My friend became the target, as one by one the other leaders railed against her. I asked her what she did. Her reply: “I simply sat and listened to what they had to say. And I prayed. Within two years, every one of them was gone — either fired or moved on — and others who truly wanted to work together took their place.”

My friend followed the way of peace and trusted the Lord to work on her behalf.

When your best efforts to live peacefully are rejected by others, there are two things to do.

Keep your eyes on the Lord. As hard as it may be, don’t allow other’s responses to distract you from what He has called you to do. Don’t carry the weight of their choices. Focus on the mission He has placed before you. Trust Him to work mightily in spite of and in the midst of any opposition you face.

Keep an open heart. Forgive, and keep forgiving. This doesn’t mean minimizing or excusing their behaviors. Instead release all your hurts to the Lord. Don’t speak negatively about others, but rather pray for the Lord to work in their lives. Assume the best and not the worst. Believe that, no matter what it looks like, change is possible.

“Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for being the God of Peace. Help me to follow Your example and be a peacemaker. When others oppose me, empower me to stand strong and continue serving You. By Your Spirit, may my responses be gracious, kind, and loving. May I thrive in the midst of difficult circumstances. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

It’s Okay to Be Uncomfortable

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wor·ry
ˈwərē/
verb  1. give way to anxiety or unease; allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? (Matthew 12:25).

Jesus Christ posed an interesting question to his disciples, to challenge their thinking. Worry is so common to human beings that for some people it seems as natural a response as breathing, yet the Master pointed them to a higher way. The obvious answer, although none of them dared to speak up, was “Nobody, Lord. Nobody can add a single hour to their life by worrying.”

Here we are 2000 years later, and how would we answer? I personally would be like the disciples and not say a word. I would try to quietly back out of the room to avoid further conversation. I know the facts. Worry has probably stolen hours from my life. However, my thoughts and actions speak much louder than any words I might produce. Allowing my mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles contributes nothing positive. But when I worry I somehow convince myself that it gives me some control over the situation.

May I just be honest with you? I don’t like feeling that things are outside of my control, because it is uncomfortable. I don’t like being uncomfortable, because it is, at the very least, unsettling, and at the most, terrifying. Some of it is my personality, some of it is the experiences of my past. Regardless of the reasons for why I am the way I am, safety and predictability are what I desire. I know some of you can relate.

The trouble is being a follower of Jesus requires faith. Faith is the opposite of worry. Being a good leader also requires faith. Again, in case you missed it the first time, faith is the opposite of worry.

faith
fāTH/
noun  1. complete trust or confidence in someone or something.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).

Faith means that we have complete trust and confidence in the Lord. It also means we may feel uncomfortable humanly speaking.

I know some leaders that thrive when they embark on an adventure of faith. It is thrilling for them to be in a position to see God work beyond their own abilities. I am like the other leaders that are learning to thrive in the midst of an adventure that requires faith. My flesh still yearns to walk in the territory of the known, but the Lord shows Himself strong on my behalf. I don’t have to love walking by faith and not by sight. However, I do need to learn that it’s okay to be uncomfortable.
Last weekend the non-profit organization I lead had a 5K fundraising event. Last year my Board and I felt that the Lord was directing us to have such an event. Last year was an experiment and it went well for our first run. This year it was hard to get the momentum going. We increased our advertising, but registration was slow. For weeks I struggled with worry. I still believed we were following the Lord’s direction, but the anxiety mounted. I resisted imagining the worst, but the thoughts persisted.

This 5K is going to be a flop.
Nobody is going to sign up.
The weather will be terrible. Nobody will show up to help or participate.
Nobody will give to underwrite our expenses.
We will lose money.
All our donors will quit giving to us and give to another organization.
After 32 years of serving the community, we will close our doors.

I acted brave around my Board and staff, but I was miserable inside. Then the Lord in His sweet mercy broke through the internal clamor, and I heard Him speak gently to my heart.

Will you be okay with being uncomfortable? Will you trust Me, no matter what happens?

I again surrendered my desire to be in control, and God’s peace surrounded my heart and mind.

I am called to do my best; the outcome belongs to the Lord.

The organization I lead is ultimately led by Him.

Success looks differently to me than to the Lord.

He will provide what my organization needs, using resources I may not see at the time.

I can rest in assurance that the Lord will accomplish His plans through me for His greater purposes.

By the way, my resolve to trust the Lord was tested when there were only 13 people registered two weeks before the 5K. I held fast to faith in the Lord and chose to be okay with being uncomfortable. I experienced peace during the uncertainty, and the event came together wonderfully in the last few days.

As long as we live on this earth, there will be a battle between worry and faith. We can learn to trust the Lord no matter what happens. Victory comes when we decide it’s okay to be uncomfortable.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take (Proverbs 3:5-6 NLT).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You that Your plans are greater than I can see. Help me to trust You when things don’t go according to my plans. Teach me to banish worry and choose to have faith in You. Accomplish your purposes for my family and ministry through me. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Faith, Servant Leadership

Love…No Matter What

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On my flight to Chicago last week, I sat next to a young woman and her boyfriend. We introduced ourselves and exchanged some social niceties. Then she turned toward her boyfriend and the two of them engaged in conversation, while I began to read a book. Within a few minutes the couple’s discussion became quite robust. The noise in the cabin drowned out their words, but their body language spoke loudly. I prayed under my breath for the Lord to help them, and wondered if I should intervened.

The young man’s arms made exaggerated gestured. The young woman wiped tears from her cheeks and her body quaked as she tried to stifle her cries. I could hold back no longer.

“Is everything okay?” I asked. “I can’t hear what you’re talking about, but you’re clearly involved in an intense discussion.”

They looked at me in surprise, sheepish expressions on their faces. The young man explained.

“We just spent the weekend with some really good friends. We’re from Chicago and are very liberal. Our friends are very conservative. We had some arguments with them. Now my girlfriend and I are talking about what happened. It’s really hard.”

Now it was my turn to be surprised. I had imagined several scenarios, but I hadn’t imagined this.

My heart went out to them. A dear friendship was threatened by differences in political ideology. Sadly in our nation, this is becoming increasingly common. Belief in a cause or the adherence to a particular faith takes precedence over decency, even when those closest to us are involved. This great divide can be excruciating.

Too many people are choosing their beliefs over kindness, respect, and love. This shouldn’t be, especially for Christ followers.

We can believe wholeheartedly in the teachings of Jesus and still treat unbelievers with kindness. Cruel and rude words must have no place in our lives.

We can adhere to moral standards and still respect those with whom we don’t see eye to eye. Caring for them does not equal moral compromise.

Followers of Jesus are called to love people. Period. In fact, Jesus instructed us to love our enemies, those who stand in opposition to our beliefs or wish for our demise. Lest we forget what love looks like, take a stroll through 1 Corinthians 13 or Matthew 5 where our Lord teaches us to turn the other cheek, give your shirt to someone demanding your coat, and bless those who curse you.

Think about the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). A man looked beyond religious and racial differences, and treated an injured human being with compassion. He tended to the victim’s wounds, brought him to an inn, paid for his room and board, and offered to provide for other expenses if needed. The Samaritan was a neighbor to one who was culturally an enemy. Shouldn’t we do the same? It may not be as dramatic as saving someone’s life but we can certainly treat others with decency and respect.

And what about those who are closest to us? If love transcends political affiliation and religious beliefs (and it does) and if every human being is priceless because they are created in God’s image (and they are), how much more should we love our family and friends without strings attached? Differences must not be divisive. We can take a stand for our beliefs and do what we know to be right without rejecting others for thinking differently. We can hold tightly to our faith and convictions, while still holding tightly to our loved ones.

I have recently adopted a phrase from my granddaughters’ story book:

“I love you, because I love you.”

I try to say and show that often.

As I got ready to exit the plane, I offered encouragement to the young woman and her boyfriend. “Don’t let go of your friendship. Listen to what your friends say. Try to understand where they are coming from. Make it a learning opportunity. And hopefully they will do the same.”

Will we do the same? Let’s approach our relationships with grace, committed to extend kindness, respect, and love no matter what. Let’s love them simply because we love them. After all, isn’t that what our Heavenly Father does with us?

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other (1 John 4:9-11).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me when I struggle and do not honor You with my choices. Thank You for walking with me, as I live imperfectly and try to figure things out. Help me to treat others with the same grace You give me. Teach me how to balance my zeal for You and Your ways with loving others who believe differently than myself. Empower me to love others unconditionally. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development, Servant Leadership

My Things Aren’t Really My Things

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My things. When I think about it, I am grateful for all that I have.

My husband, my family, my friends, my job…Most of my “things” aren’t objects at all, but rather people who are incredibly dear to me. Now think about all the “things” in your life, and fill in the blank.

My __________.

If you’re like me, you can come up with a pretty long list.

Perhaps, too, if you’re like me, you take great responsibility for your things.

In no way do I wish to minimize the importance of good stewardship. God’s Word speaks about investing in our relationships and doing everything as though we are working for the Lord and not people. Striving to reach goals with excellence is a noble pursuit. However, at the end of the day I must remember that my things aren’t really my things. All of my things belong to the Lord.

Remember that list you compiled in your mind? Try adding the words “belong(s) to the Lord.”

  • My spouse belongs to the Lord.
  • My family belongs to the Lord.
  • My friends belong to the Lord.
  • My job belongs to the Lord.

I’m going to add a few more.

  • My house belongs to the Lord.
  • My health belongs to the Lord.
  • My life belongs to the Lord.

This change in perspective is both powerful and freeing. I can hold onto things quite tightly. My desire to be responsible quickly morphs into taking ownership, when in reality only Jesus Christ is King. I must do my best to be faithful and to love others with His love, but when all is said and done, the results (or lack of perceived results) rest squarely on His shoulders.

When I realize that the Lord is Master and I am His servant, life becomes easier and I can thrive in adversity or when things don’t go my way.

Since stepping into leadership of a pregnancy center, I have strategically tried to reach women facing unplanned pregnancy and vulnerable to making a choice for abortion. Last year we were privileged to serve 220 abortion vulnerable women who chose to continue their pregnancies. This year, even though we have not changed anything in our approach, we have seen more women who are not considering abortion than I would like. They are uninsured, need free services, and want to go to a life-affirming clinic, but they don’t fall into the category of our preferred client. However, as a ministry of availability we don’t have a say in who comes through our doors. When I think of the pregnancy center as my “baby,” I get stressed out that we aren’t on target to reach as many abortion vulnerable women as last year. However, when I think of Life Choices as belonging to the Lord, I see each person as a divine appointment regardless of their circumstances. It’s an opportunity to talk about the miracle of life and share God’s love in word and action.

I have thought of other things in my life as my “baby” as well. This blog is one of them. Since facing a traumatic event six weeks ago, I have found it difficult to communicate. When I speak, my words gets jumbled. I think one thing and something entirely different, even opposite, comes out of my mouth. Writing, which is something I love, can feel excruciating. Words that used to flow quickly at the keyboard now eek out at a snail’s pace. The weight of producing a blog post every week added to my inability to write. When I thought of this as my blog, I was smothered by responsibility and irritated by writer’s block. When it dawned on me that this blog belongs to the Lord, I felt released from the pressure. I can write when inspired. I don’t have to be bound to a schedule and can enjoy the creative process again.

The same applies to my relationships, even the closest ones. I can love them like Jesus, and provide a grace-filled environment, but in the end their choices are their choices. As much as their decisions may hurt my heart, they will answer to the Lord, not to me.

What about you? What things are you holding onto as your things? Remember that everything in your life really belongs to the Lord. Enjoy the freedom of knowing that the outcome ultimately belongs to Him.

Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything (Hebrews 3:3-4).

For in him [Christ] all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:16-17).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You that I live and move and have my being in You. I am grateful for the many blessings in my life. I acknowledge that they come from Your hand and not my own. Help me to remember that I am called to be a faithful manager. I am not the Owner; I am not in charge of the outcome. Help me to grow in trust and thrive in the midst of every challenge I face. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

Living by the Platinum Rule

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The Golden Rule—Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

I was not raised in a Christian home, but it was one of the first lessons I remember. It was reinforced almost everywhere I went, a maxim to not be selfish and to think about others. The Golden Rule was taught by Jesus Christ (Matthew 7:12). It is taught in various forms around the world and by different faiths. It is a universal truth that if you want to get along with people, you need to be mindful of how you treat them.

It is a beautiful spiritual principle. Nevertheless, I have found myself frustrated by the results especially in my close relationships. In marriage, treating my husband the way I would like to be treated is not often appreciated. Cleaning the kitchen even though I am exhausted or asking a philosophical question to spark conversation does not connect with him. Over the years I have learned that our images of the ideal partner pretty much live in different universes.

The same goes for my children. Doing something for them that I enjoy does not guarantee that it is meaningful for them. The Golden Rule does not produce the desired results in my other relationships and on the job either. Of course, it does promote kindness and courtesy which are important in every setting. However, just because I love something doesn’t mean they will love it too.

The Golden Rule is a great foundation. There is another rule that goes beyond and focuses on the uniqueness of each person with whom we are in relationship.

The Platinum Rule—Do unto others as they want you to do unto them.

About 20 years ago I felt confused about my marriage. I was pouring myself into our relationship, being the best wife I could possibly be, but it didn’t seem to do any good. After a time of seeking the Lord for wisdom, I felt prompted to read Genesis 2:18.

The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him.”

I immediately defended myself. What do you mean, Lord? You know how hard I’m trying!

As soon as the words left my mouth, I could see it. Yes, I was trying hard. But I was being a helper suitable for myself. Ouch!

I began to ask questions about what my husband thought was meaningful. (What a novel idea!) Together we learned about different love languages, learning styles, and personality types. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to relationships.

Later I discovered this principle of honoring others actually had a name.

I love the Platinum Rule. It opened up a new way of relating with others at home and in the workplace. Rather than doing something nice because I think it’s nice, I take the time to learn how to really connect. It is the basis of servant leadership. If I want to invest well in the development of others, I need to understand how to best instruct, correct, and express appreciation for them. Instead of seeing others with my own limited lens, I get to explore and discover. As a result, relationships become more enriched and significant.

Do some of your relationships seem stagnant? Do you sense a lack of connection with others? Perhaps practicing the Platinum Rule will give you the boost you need.

There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work (1 Corinthians 12:4-6).

Though I am free and belong to no one, I have made myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people(I) so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings (1 Corinthians 9:19-23).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, help me to love others the way You love. Rather than expect others to fit into my mold, help me to value their differences. Teach me to connect in ways that are meaningful to them. Empower me to first do to others as I would have them do to me, and then go beyond to do to others as they want me to do to them. In all these things may I honor You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Advent/Christmas, Servant Leadership, Vision & Goal Setting

Telescopic Vision and the Wise Men

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When we think of the Christmas story, some important characters come to mind. First and foremost is the Christ Child with His mother Mary and Joseph. There are the angels and shepherds. Almost every nativity scene includes the magi, wise men from the East who travel to find the Holy Babe in order to worship Him. Historically the wise men arrived at His residence some time between His dedication at the temple (eight days old) and before He turned two years of age. It is entirely possible that Jesus Christ was walking and talking when the wise men presented Him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Even though the wise men aren’t technically a part of the birth of Christ, their dedication to find and worship Him is remembered and celebrated. January 6th is designated as Epiphany—the Day of the Wise Men—and marks the end of the Christmas holiday.

The magi were men of vision. Men of great learning, by studying the stars they had discovered that the King of the Jews was born. They made it their mission to seek Him. During the same time, Israel was in upheaval because of the census. Everyone was required to go to their birthplace to register. The typical person wasn’t concerned with looking at the sky and pondering the meaning of the arrival of a new star. Their focus was to deal with the inconvenience of Caesar’s decree and to get through the day.

Rev. Ken Williamson describes the contrast in approaches as telescopic vision versus microscopic vision.

Like the wise men of old, telescopic vision looks beyond the here and now. It focuses on the possibilities and recognizes God’s presence in the future as it unfolds. It is full of faith and hope, relying on the Lord to lead the way.

Microscopic vision looks at the infinitesimal details of the current situation and gets weighed down. It is realistic and practical, but is also easily distracted by the stressors of the present.

It would be ideal to combine the best of both visions. Unfortunately, we tend to favor one approach over the other. There is definitely a time and place to tend to the affairs of today, but we must guard against operating in survival mode. However, in order to thrive as leaders, we must develop the habit of telescopic vision.

We gaze at the horizon, trusting in God’s goodness and unlimited resources. We walk forward faithfully, confident in God’s incredible plans, and invite others to join us.

Tradition says that after the wise men worshiped Jesus Christ, they returned to their homes and shared the good news of His birth. They continued to practice telescopic vision and looked forward to salvation. Eventually they were baptized by the Apostle Thomas.

Be encouraged by the wise men’s pursuit of Jesus Christ this Christmas season. With eyes of faith, pursue God’s love and will for you, your family, and other places of influence.

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route (Matthew 2:1-2, 9-12).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for the example of the wise men. Thank You for their vision to find and worship Jesus. Thank You for their obedience to not go back to Herod and return to their home by another way. Help me to follow You with telescopic vision, being full of hope and trust as You lead the way. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Advent/Christmas, Servant Leadership

The High Road of Humility

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Have you seen the commercial for the Microsoft tablet featuring one of the executive producers for Marvel films? This woman makes incredible pictures enjoyed by people all around the world, and she is passionate about it. Her secret to success? She says she works hard—14 hours a day, seven days a week, and she has kept that schedule for decades. She jokes that her only super-power is lack of sleep.

It’s funny. Every time I see the ad, it does not make me want to run out and buy a Surface. Instead, I find myself yearning for her super-power. Just think how much I could accomplish if I didn’t require much sleep. Instead of taking the time to pamper my weak composition with the rest I desperately need, I could blaze a trail of glory for the Kingdom of God. I imagine all the people who could be reached, all the lives that would be touched by the presence of Jesus and transformed by His Spirit. I want to do great things for the Lord, and if I just had more hours I could do even more.

All the dreaming about possibilities quite honestly makes me exhausted.

Didn’t Jesus say, “If you want to be great in God’s kingdom, learn to be the servant of all”? (Actually it was a song paraphrasing Matthew 20:26.)

Doesn’t Jesus care more about my heart attitude than my faulty measurement of productivity? Blazing a trail of glory as I burn the midnight oil doesn’t impress Him. He examines the motivations of my soul.

The Scriptures encourage us to follow Jesus Christ’s example and walk in humility.

You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

Though he was God,
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.

Instead, he gave up his divine privileges;
he took the humble position of a slave
and was born as a human being (Philippians 2:5-7).

In fact, that is the crux of the Christmas story. The Son of God willingly left the splendor and perfection of heaven, and humbled Himself to be clothed in human flesh. He chose the high road of humility as the way to bring the gift of salvation to the world.

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Rather than appearing as a fully developed man, he came as a tiny baby, helpless and dependent on his parents for survival. He was not born to royalty; He chose a poor family. The Savior’s arrival was heralded by angels, yet he was housed in a stable and had an animal’s feeding trough for a bed.

That, my friend, is humility. None of it accidental; all of it planned.

But Jesus went even further.

When he appeared in human form,

he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross (Philippians 2:8).

From the beginning, the Messiah’s mission was to die for us. He laid down His life in shame and agony to pave the way for us to enjoy a relationship with our Heavenly Father and to look forward to a heavenly home. All of this was accomplished because He chose the high road of humility.

More than the super-power of lack of sleep, I desperately need the super-power of humility. In order to truly touch others with God’s love, I must learn to chose over and over again the high road of humility.

Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,

that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue declare that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I acknowledge that I want to do great things for You. Sometimes I think I need to be great in order to do great things. Teach me what it means to humble myself in obedience to You. Help me to remember that following Christ’s example of humility is the most powerful way I can make a difference in this world. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.