Posted in Faith, Vision & Goal Setting

Hold on to God’s Promises

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This weekend I got to spend time with all five of my grandchildren. Ariana and Bianca live with me (and their beautiful mama—my daughter). We changed up our routine and went to a park for some sunshine and fresh air. It was heartwarming to watch them run and skip and jump across the grass, at age five still uninhibited by what others might think.

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Then we had a short visit with sweet baby Emma. She is growing so quickly. A cuddly two and a half month old, she is becoming more alert and is starting to coo. Papa (my husband) even made her laugh.

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We also decided to take a day trip to see our little grandsons, Rhett and Macallan. Rhett, age two, is adjusting to his new brother. He is charming, expressive, and always on the move. Macallan, who arrived less than a month ago, slept peacefully as my husband and I took turns holding him.

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My life is so blessed. I love my kids and grandkids. Being available to my family is one of my ministries.

Several years ago, the Lord spoke to my heart, “There are more children for you to love.” I was pretty certain that didn’t mean I would be having more babies. My four older kids had already left home and my youngest daughter was a teenager. So, my husband and I applied to become foster parents and took all the required classes. Unfortunately our house didn’t pass approval, because our in-ground pool was in disrepair and didn’t have a fence around it. We didn’t have the thousands of dollars to fix it, so our application was denied. That was a confusing time for me, because I was certain the Lord had given me a picture (although fuzzy) that there were more children for me to love. If it wasn’t foster children, what else could it be? Looking back, I have the benefit of knowing that the Lord revealed a long view of my life, while in the moment I could only see things from my limited perspective.

Sometimes the Lord’s vision for our lives and ministries is so compelling it feels like it will be accomplished immediately. However, we need to take the long view, remembering that vision is meant for the future, and the future may be distant. The Lord asks us to take it step by step, day by day, opportunity by opportunity. As we go about life, we hold onto God’s promises.

I think of the story of Joseph, the eleventh son of twelve boys. God showed him dreams of the future, a vision that he would one day be the ruler of his family. In the ignorance and arrogance of youth, he misinterpreted those dreams. He ended up in an Egyptian prison, but he held fast to his faith in God and the dreams he was shown. In the fullness of God’s time, Joseph become the second in command, Pharaoh’s right hand man with responsibilities to manage the nation’s abundant resources during an extended famine.

I also think of Mary, the mother of our Savior. The angel delivered God’s message that she would miraculously give birth to a baby. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:31-33). She raised Jesus, knowing He was on a mission. But his mission unfolded in unexpected ways. Mary kept God’s vision close to her heart, often pondering what it all meant. She endured her son’s horrific crucifixion. It was not until his resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that Mary understood. Even then, she couldn’t have imagined the powerful influence of Jesus Christ two thousand years later.

These two examples of taking the long view are more dramatic than most of us will experience, but they still remind us to serve God and His people faithfully while walking out our call. What has the Lord placed in your heart or given you a vision for your family? Ministry? Organization? Do what you can do with passion and excellence. Trust the Lord to bring the vision to pass, realizing He has revealed the long view to you. Don’t give up in the midst of difficulties and darkness. Detours, challenges, and failures can all be preparation leading to the God-sized picture He has shown you. Hold on to God’s promises, and keep moving forward.

Let us not become weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).

The revelation awaits an appointed time: it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and not delay (Habakkuk 2:2-3).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of vision. While I take the steps that make sense, help me also to trust that You will accomplish Your purposes through me. Encourage me when it seems that my efforts are failing. Remind me that You have shown me the long view, and You are faithful to complete the good work You started. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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Posted in Faith, Vision & Goal Setting

Strong and Courageous

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At the start of each year, I ask the Lord for a Scripture to guide the organization I lead. That Scripture becomes the theme for the year, as we seek to honor the Lord and expand our influence in the community. It is a source of encouragement when we face challenges, as well as a source of inspiration as we see God’s faithfulness in light of His specific Word to us. This year the Lord spoke Joshua 1:9 to my heart.

This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go (NLT).

Joshua was chosen to be the successor to Moses. Can you imagine how he must have felt? Moses was the revered leader of the nation of Israel for over forty years. This was the man who received God’s call to lead from the burning bush. He led a multitude of people out of slavery into freedom. This was the man who spent weeks with God on the mountain, whose face glowed so brightly that he had to cover it in public. Moses performed fabulous miracles, and brought the Chosen People to the border of the Promised Land. Joshua had some very big shoes to fill.

But the Lord promised Joshua that if he diligently followed and relied on Him, the Lord would be with Joshua (See Joshua 1:8). He could set aside fear of the unknown and discouragement of not being good enough. Joshua was commanded to be strong and courageous. His strength and courage were not dependent on his warrior abilities. They came from trust in and obedience to God.

There is another passage that is similar to the encouragement Joshua received. It is found in Deuteronomy 31:6.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you (NIV).

In the first passage, the Lord spoke to Joshua. In this second passage, Moses spoke to all the people. The great leader was now 120 years old and ready to pass the mantle of leadership to Joshua. Moses instructed the vast community to trust the Lord as they crossed over into the Promised Land. It wasn’t going to be easy. They would be stepping into enemy territory, but the Lord had told the Israelites to possess the land.

The ability to overcome the enemy came from the Lord’s presence. He was with His people and would never leave nor forsake them. They weren’t big enough, strong enough, or brave enough in their own strength to fulfill God’ plan. But the Lord was.

In the passage in Joshua, God’s strength and courage are available to the individual. In the Deuteronomy passage, they are available to the faith community.

The command to be strong and courageous is not limited to the Old Testament. The New Testament gives Christ-followers the same encouragement.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand (Ephesians 3:10-13 NIV).

There is a very real spiritual battle going on. Light and darkness. Good and evil. Life and death. Our enemies are not the people we can see. Your fight is not with the annoying person that perpetually rubs you the wrong way. It is not the group that opposes your beliefs and values. No, our true enemies are the unseen spiritual forces of wickedness. We fight the battle by praying, walking in God’s love, and representing His ways. This takes strength and courage, but again our source is Christ and His mighty power. He is already victorious. Our power to stand in the midst of the most troublesome situations is in Him.

What is the Lord calling you to do? Does it seem too big for you? Are you afraid, perhaps terrified? You’re in good company. Our God likes to stretch us beyond our comfort zones, because then we rely on Him.

No matter what 2018 may hold, we can be strong and courageous. We can stand victoriously against the devil’s schemes. We can advance God’s mission. We can thrive in the Lord’s mighty power individually and in the places we lead.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, be my strength when I am weak. Be my courage when I am discouraged. As I trust You and follow Your Word, equip me to answer Your call and do Your will. Remind me that I am never alone. You are with me, providing all I need every moment. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Graphic designed by Jordanne Babcock.

 

Posted in Faith, Vision & Goal Setting

Focus on Today

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Happy New Year! Most of us approach January 1st with hope and expectation. The new year signifies a fresh start and new beginnings. Social media is filled with New Year’s resolutions and advice for goal setting. In the midst of the excitement for striving for greatness, I would like to offer a different perspective. Instead of looking ahead to conquer thirty pounds or set action steps to achieve a goal in the next twelve months, simply focus on today.

This may seem odd coming from someone who believes in goals. After all, I’m pursuing a doctorate degree in Strategic Planning. Sometimes, though, the quest for success can suck the life out of us. We get so fixated on the future that we lose sight of the present. Worry, anxiety, and stress rule our lives rather than the peace of God. If you can relate, this blog post is for you. (I am taking these words to heart, too.)

Here are suggestions to help narrow the focus to today.

View this day as a gift from God. There are no guarantees that you will be alive tomorrow. I’m not being morbid or fatalistic. Our days are numbered. Approach the tasks in front of you as a blessing and a chance to be a blessing to others.

Remember that each day is an opportunity for a fresh start. You do not need to be defined by the shortcomings or failures of the past (or even yesterday). Learn from mistakes, but do not be chained to them. This day is a new day.

Identify one thing you can do today to help you thrive. I know there are dozens of things clamoring for your attention. It is better to do one thing important to your well-being than to get pulled in so many directions that you end up doing nothing. It is also more manageable to make wise choices today instead of thinking long term. You can more easily give up sugar today than give it up for the next twelve months.

Open your heart to God’s presence. Don’t allow yourself to worry about possible outcomes in the future, whether at work, with your family, or in your personal life. Stop going down the road of potential worst case scenarios. Acknowledge the Lord’s goodness and faithfulness. Express your trust in Him to take care of challenges.

When we live today, taking opportunities to honor the Lord and love others, it reduces the pressure caused by straining to achieve goals.

The faithful love of the Lord never ends! His mercies never ceases. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning (Lamentations 3:22-23 NLT).

Look here, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we are going to a certain town and will stay there a year. We will do business there and make a profit.” How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, “If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that” (James 4:13-15 NLT).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for this New Year. Help me to live it one day at a time, making the most of each opportunity to love You and love my neighbors. Remind me that You are always near every moment in the midst of every situation. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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.