Posted in Personal Development, Vision & Goal Setting

Sometimes Less is More

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As a young woman, I didn’t need much sleep. I believed that sleep was a necessary evil that robbed me from living an exciting and productive life. I wanted to do great things for the Lord and I packed my schedule from early in the morning until late at night. I aspired to have an amazing marriage, raise fabulous kids, work full time in meaningful ministry, invest actively in my community, build close friendships, and pursue my education, all at the same time. In addition, I wanted to keep a spotless house, cook delicious dinners every evening, have a healthy body, and keep up with my hobbies. And of course, cultivating a growing relationship with Jesus was the top priority. I was definitely ambitious, and coffee was my constant companion.

At some point, though, my body began to rebel against the break-neck pace, and I became allergic to the caffeine in coffee. I can’t seem to remember which one happened first. What I do remember is the frustration and anger I felt at not being productive. Although I hadn’t successfully juggled everything in my life according to my excellent standards, that didn’t matter. Now there was no chance at blazing a big trail of glory for the Lord. After all, isn’t being busy the same as being productive?

You may be laughing or shaking your head at my belief system. The truth is, I didn’t really think about why I did what I did back then. All I knew is I wanted a life that really mattered. It wasn’t until I had to stop and take a step back at the situation I had created that I realized my crazy way of thinking.

It doesn’t seem that our culture has changed much in thirty years in regard to being busy. I know there are people that embrace the simple lifestyle. And, there are Christ-followers who adhere to practicing regular quiet time, Sabbath, and spiritual retreats. But still, what seems to be the most common compliant when you ask someone how they are doing?

“I’m so busy!” Although they lament the fact, they still wear it as a badge of honor.

I have learned and continue to learn that busy does not equal productive, and it certainly does not equal meaningful. Sometimes less is more. This applies to managing our time well.

A powerful strategic business plan will target three to five strategic initiatives on which to focus. Any more than five will dilute effectiveness. In a similar way, if we are going to live powerfully, we cannot spread ourselves too thin. Narrowing our focus to fewer things will increase our ability for real impact.

As I prepare to begin a doctoral program in January, I have been reminded that I cannot add 20 hours of study per week to an already full plate. I need to approach my education seriously and remove some good things off my plate. I haven’t figured out what that looks like yet. Thankfully (hopefully) I have some time.

There are some questions to ask ourselves as we consider how to spend our time.

  • Am I able to spend time on the things that are truly important to me rather than on just the things that are urgent?
  • If I could only spend time on five areas, what would they be? Remember to include relationships.
  • How much room is in my schedule to accommodate divine interruptions?
  • Does my pace of life center on tasks or people? What can be changed to allow more time to invest in others?
  • If my life were to end today, what regrets would I have?

It’s a constant temptation to pack our schedules with good things. It takes diligence to be prayerfully intentional about how we spend our days. Sometimes less is more. Saying yes to less will yield blessings and empower us to be more fruitful.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matthew 6:19-21).

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matthew 6:33).

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is (Ephesians 5:15-17).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, teach me to number my days that I may gain a heart of wisdom. Help me to be mindful that each day is a gift from you. Help me to be intentional in how I spend each day. Show me Your ways and Your will, so that I may honor You above all things. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Vision & Goal Setting

Take a Different Look at Your Goals

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Did you know that the success rate for New Year’s resolutions is a mere eight per cent? I don’t mean to burst your bubble this soon into the New Year. Really, I want to help.

I know we’re only a week and a half into 2017, but how are you doing on your goals? Perhaps you don’t officially make New Year’s resolutions, but do you have a goal you’re working toward?

I am a hard core goal setter. I regularly evaluate my life and identify an area for change. It’s exhilarating to envision a better future when motivation is at its highest. However, within a short period of time motivation wanes and the goal I was so stoked to accomplish is nothing but an uphill battle. Evidently this feeling is universal. Thankfully it doesn’t have to control us.

Here are some tips to use when you face inner obstacles that threaten your progress.

  1. Don’t be in a hurry. Don’t wish for a quick fix. Remember that lasting positive change takes time. Commit to work toward your goal over the long haul. You are learning a new life style or skill. You are developing an important plan. You may need to adjust your pace for a marathon instead of a 100 yard dash.
  2. Take it one day at a time. One moment at a time if necessary. Even though you set your mind for a marathon, you also must live fully in the present and not get overwhelmed by the future. You can conquer temptation in the now, but the load will seem too heavy when you add potential temptations down the road. You can deal with the stress you face today, but you will get into trouble if you add the stress of tomorrow.
  3. Set smaller goals. Don’t give up on your big goals, but set smaller bite-size goals to focus on and celebrate. If you need to lose 50 pounds, stop and celebrate (sanely) when you lose 10 pounds. Then continue toward the next 10 pounds. If you take 2,000 steps, one step at a time, you will walk a mile.
  4. Change your mindset. Don’t allow a negative perspective trip you up. You are not being “deprived” when you “give something up.” You are not “sacrificing” when everyone else “gets to have fun.” Frame your decisions as positive instead. You are choosing a better path for your well being. You are investing in your future. Declare it out loud until you believe it.
  5. Ask for help. There is power in support and accountability. Find someone you trust and respect to walk with you. Above all, invite the Lord to walk with you. He is already with you, and has the strength you need for success. Knowing you are not alone will encourage you toward the next step.

Take a different look at your goals and experience success. I believe you can do it, and it will be worth it.

May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed (Psalm 20:4).

So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised (Hebrews 10:35-36).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You that Your mercies are new every morning, and that You give me opportunity for change. Help me to honor You with my goals. Empower me to be successful. I trust You to accomplish Your good purposes through me. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Vision & Goal Setting

Set the Record Straight

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As a young girl, the desire to set the record straight was perhaps one of my strongest traits. To me accurate facts and figures were absolute necessities. It was never good enough to give a ball park figure when the precise data was available. If something cost $1.09, one should never say it cost $1.00. I was quick to set the record straight.

Correct grammar, in written and spoken form, was even more important to me. Nobody was safe from my scrutiny. I adored my sixth grade teacher, but every so often she would misspell a word. I would approach her during recess when the other students were gone and point out the misspelled word on the board. She was very gracious, and sometimes she would disagree with me. Then, we would go to the dictionary. I was right every time! I felt so proud, not because I was smarter than the teacher, but because in some small way I had made the world a better place by setting the record straight.

My poor mom, however, was the recipient of treatment that was less than honoring. I was ready to pounce on any misspoken phrase.

“Dad and I, not Dad and me.”

“This time, it’s correct to say Dad and me.”

“Argh…don’t end a sentence with a preposition!”

Needless to say, my mom felt disrespected by me and exasperated at me. “Just let me speak!” she would exclaim.

I really wasn’t trying to be difficult. In my heart, I wanted to help my mom. I was driven to set the record straight.

Today accurate facts and proper grammar are still important to me, but I have learned more appropriate ways of addressing errors. Thankfully I have become more flexible and actually overlook mistakes from time to time.

Overlooking errors can be helpful in our relationships with others, but it is harmful when it comes to errors in our own thinking. We must be swift to set the record straight with negative and self-defeating thoughts that enter our minds.

At the start of every new year, there is a huge push to make a New Year’s resolution for better living. We are encouraged to develop new behaviors that eventually become healthy habits. However, before we can consistently change our actions, it is imperative to address the thoughts behind our actions.

Perhaps there is an inner critic who pummels your sense of worth.

Perhaps there is an inner skeptic who tells you how impossible your goal is and casts gloom on your pursuits.

Perhaps the Enemy unleashes fiery darts of condemnation until you feel ready to give up.

Or perhaps there is something else.

Whatever it is, we must pay attention to the lies that threaten to sabotage our progress, and then set the record straight with the truth.

One serious error in my own thinking comes in the form of believing I am too weak to accomplish what God asks of me. I am too weak; the task is too big. I use Scripture to set the record straight, and allow the Holy Spirit to redirect my attention to the truth.

“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…For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10b).

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you (Romans 8:11).

Where do you get sidetracked in your thinking? What truth can you declare to set the record straight and thrive in your pursuits to grow and change?

I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance (Ephesians 1:16-18).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I want to please You. I desire my life to reflect the image of Christ. As I set goals in this new year, help me identify the errors in my thinking and the lies I believe that stand in opposition to the truth. Help me set the record straight with Your Word, in order to grow in 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 Personal Development, Vision & Goal Setting

Time to Recalibrate

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Then God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done (Genesis 2:3).

For six years you are to sow your fields and harvest the crops, but during the seventh year let the land lie unplowed and unused. Then the poor among your people may get food from it, and the wild animals may eat what is left. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive grove (Exodus 23:10-11).

Then [Jesus] said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27-28).

Dear friends, I am taking the next several weeks off from writing. There is a lot going on in my life that I need to attend to. My youngest son is getting married in a few weeks. My husband and I are also getting ready to sell our home in order to move closer to work.

I love writing. The written word inspires me, and it is a blessing to encourage others with it. It is hard to lay it down, even temporarily. However, in the spirit of the Sabbath, I am taking a break from writing in order to recalibrate.

In our fast paced culture, it is easy to give lip service to the Lord’s instructions to rest. I know that He has established a rhythm of work and rest for my good. However, it so tempting to excuse myself as an exception, and that God will understand why it’s important for me to keep going. Nevertheless, I must not fool myself that I am more than human and am above the Lord’s design.

I appreciate your prayers. It is my hope that I receive fresh vision and direction from the Lord, to continue to love and serve His people.

I invite you to take some time to slow down and recalibrate as well. Open your heart and mind to receive refreshing and renewal from the Lord.

God bless you!

Posted in Servant Leadership, Vision & Goal Setting

Good Leaders Are Not Afraid to Dream

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My husband and I sat together on our love seat, cuddling in the quiet after a long work week. I was still trying to quiet my brain and put away the mental clutter I had brought home with me, when he broke the silence.

“What is your biggest dream?”

His question caught me completely off guard. It should have been an easy one to answer. But my mind scrambled to find something meaningful to say. It felt like my husband had been speaking a foreign language and I had no clue how to respond.

I am an achiever. If you look at any aspect of my life, I probably have goals written down and steps to accomplish those goals. It’s energizing to check off every item as finished on my to do list. I also keep a running list in my mind. Whenever something gets done, it’s rewarding to feel the weight of it lift (for a short time until something else gets added). One of my favorite things is strategic planning, to help figure out where an organization wants to be in three to five years, and then craft action steps for effectively moving that direction.

One of the qualities of a strong leader is vision. A strong leader can take a dream, translate it into vision so that others can see it, and then lead others to take the steps necessary to transform vision into reality. You can’t have vision without being willing to dream.

The requirement for leaders to have vision is challenging for me. You see, I’m not a dreamer by nature. In my younger years I wanted to accomplish goals with perfection. I colored within the lines and worked hard to be noticed for my precision and skill. I sacrificed to get top grades in school and for educators to acknowledge me. I set goals for myself, for my family, and ministry, but they were always goals I knew were reasonably within reach. Dreaming was scary. Dreaming requires imagining the impossible, taking risks, and stepping out in faith, all of which I avoided like the plague.

Nevertheless, the Lord has been stretching me little by little to develop vision. Because dreaming is a precursor to vision, He has also been teaching me to dream. It isn’t as scary as I once thought. Dreaming is opening my mind and heart to imagine what the Lord ultimately wants to do through an organization, a group, my family, or me. It may seem impossible or unlikely given the current circumstances, yet it reflects the Lord’s desires and will. As I continue to spend time with the Lord, the dream becomes solidified into a vision I can share with others.

In Genesis 12, the Lord placed a dream in the mind and heart of His servant, Abram. Although Abram had no children, the Lord called him to leave his homeland and promised that he would be the father of many nations. In Genesis 15, He told Abram to look at the stars in the sky as a visual representation of the dream. In the proceeding chapters, Abram (renamed Abraham) took steps toward accomplishing the vision and trusting the Lord to fulfill His promise. It all started with a dream.

As I have been learning to dream, I have discovered some hindrances to dreaming. One of them is operating in survival mode. It’s hard to imagine possibilities or even think positively when energy is spent to get through the day. Disappointment and discouragement have a way of stripping away faith, and it becomes difficult to see a better tomorrow let alone the preferred future.

Another hindrance to dreaming is operating in achievement mode. We can become so engrossed in accomplishing the next step and reaching the next goal that we forget why we are doing these things in the first place. I was deep in achievement mode when my husband asked me about my biggest dream. We need to keep the vision before ourselves and those we lead. We also need to continue to dream for our organizations, our families, and ourselves, to listen and follow the Lord’s directions, and to be actively engaged in His will.

What are some of your dreams?

What hindrances do you face to dreaming God-size dreams for your life, your family, your job, or other areas?

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4, NIV).

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

Yet [Abraham] did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised (Romans 4:20-21).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for placing me where I am for this season of my life. Help me to see things from Your perspective. Teach me to dream faith-filled dreams for myself, my family, and the various places you have called me. By Your Spirit, may I walk by faith and not by sight, trusting You to complete the work You have started. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Vision & Goal Setting

No Matter What, Focus on Jesus

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At the beginning of this year, I chose one word to direct my course for the following twelve months. I selected the word after a lot of prayer, contemplation, and, to be honest, with great resistance. My word is “dare.” I would prefer “rest” or even “grow.” “Trust” has a lovely, comforting ring to it, too. “Dare” has a quality of boldness and courage that seems to go beyond “trust.” But “dare” it is, so “dare” has directed me since January.

As a leader, I have dared to extend a hand of forgiveness in order to restore broken community relationships. I have dared to address a huge misunderstanding with an influential church organization to build unity. Most recently my Board of Directors and I decided to add a new spring fundraiser to our calendar—a 5K fun run/walk.

Personally, I have dared to allow painful, hidden areas of my childhood to be uncovered and to invite healing.

In each instance, it required stepping beyond my own personal comfort into unknown and scary territory. There were obstacles that threatened to dismantle what I clearly felt the Lord had asked me to pursue. It reminds me of the account of Jesus in Luke 8, when He calmed the storm.

One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” (Luke 8:22-24a).

Jesus issued a directive to his disciples to go to the other side of the lake. There was no doubt in the disciples minds’ what Jesus wanted them to do. Yet, when a severe storm quickly overcame them, they were overwhelmed by the serious circumstances. Their attention on journeying to the other side was diverted to the crisis at hand.

What has the Lord directed you to do?

What things has He placed in your heart to accomplish on the job or in your personal life?

What storms are you facing? Are they taking your attention?

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples (Luke 8:24b-25a).

The disciples knew enough to wake Jesus with cries for help. But their faith had been misplaced on what they saw and experienced in that moment. They woke Him up because they needed another set of hands to bail water and keep the boat afloat. Despite all the miracles they had seen Jesus perform, they assumed they would drown. The circumstances were bigger than Jesus.

Are you settling for less, because of the obstacles you see?

What circumstances in your life seem bigger than Jesus?

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him” (Luke 8:25b).

That day the disciples’ view of Jesus dramatically expanded. He went from being Teacher, Healer, Friend of Sinners, and Miracle Worker, to the Lord of the wind and water.

Who is Jesus Christ to you?

What do the Holy Scriptures say about Him that you have not yet realized or believed?

My quest to be bold and courageous requires me to focus on Jesus. I can’t do what He has asked of me without Him opening opportunities and without the power of His Spirit. When my attention gets diverted by circumstances, I fear that I will drown.

We can fulfill God’s plans for our lives. We can thrive in life and as leaders. No matter what happens, we must focus on Jesus.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2a, NLT).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, help me to always rely on You and to serve with Your strength. Remind me to keep my eyes on Jesus, to focus on Him no matter what. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.