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!

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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.

Posted in Personal Development, Servant Leadership, Vision & Goal Setting

How to Expand Your Horizons

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Winters in Eastern Washington can be cold, and some times the snow accumulates in a short amount of time. It was during one of these cold snowy days that my car got stuck. I tried backing up, but all I could do was spin my wheels. In fact, I tried everything I could think of without success. I called my husband to see what I should do; it went to voice mail. So I sat where I was, cold and frustrated. Thankfully, with the assistance of kind strangers, I got moving again and drove home to safety.

It’s no fun being stuck. Even if you’re not really stuck, it’s no fun feeling stuck.

In my case, I definitely felt stuck. The men who came to my rescue showed me I wasn’t really stuck.

Sometimes the problem with being where I am is it is all I can see. I need to expand my horizons and get a better view.

When I drive I need to be aware of what is going on around me. However, I also need to see what is ahead to navigate skillfully. Similarly as a leader, I need to manage things in the present. I also need to have an eye on the horizon in order to successfully adjust the course.

When we expand our horizons, we are open to new ideas that keep us relevant and current.
They don’t have to be new ideas to the whole world—just to our places of service. Small adjustments can yield significant results.

We need to expand our horizons to build healthy relationships with our spouse, family, and friends, and safeguard against boredom and dysfunction.

We need to expand our horizons in our ministries and businesses to continually serve with excellence and avoid the downward spiral of apathy.

There are some practical ways to regularly expand your horizons.

Do not be satisfied with the status quo. Even if you are currently in a good place relationally or in business, don’t settle for where you are. Be thankful, but don’t settle. Look for ways to improve. Always strive for excellence.

Be curious and ask questions. When examining your way of doing things, ask “Why are we doing this?” It’s important to identify the purpose behind the process. Otherwise, you can get so accustomed to “the what” that you lose sight of “the why.” Keep your mind sharp and continue learning.

Observe other places in action. Get outside of your box and see how it’s done elsewhere. Take a field trip in a similar industry and see how they operate. Glean ideas. A word of caution: Don’t adopt an idea just because it works well somewhere else. Make sure it will work for you. Again, that’s where curiosity and questions come into play.

Look to the Lord. He is the source of the wisdom. He understands your organizational culture better than you. He understands your relationships better than you. He desires to direct your steps. Ask Him for the wisdom and creativity you need to lead.
Don’t get stuck in the past or the present. Expand your horizons and imagine the possibilities. Trust the Lord to guide you into the future.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding (Proverbs 9:10).

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).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for calling me to lead. Thanks that You have brought me where I am today. Help me to learn and grow. Show me how to lead where I am, and give me awareness for navigating the future. I trust You to equip me with everything I need to do Your will, as I hear Your voice and follow. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Vision & Goal Setting

Hold Loosely to Your Plans

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Our society is enamored with setting goals. We make resolutions at the beginning of the new year. We believe in coaching for success, assisting people to identify action steps and then holding them accountable to follow through. There is powerful statistical evidence for the power of written goals and plans.

Unfortunately the ability to systematically create a plan gives us the illusion that we are ultimately in control. Our neatly packaged blueprint produces a sense of confidence in our own ability to make things happen. Whether or not we subscribe to making a plan for life or business, we (at least in the Western world) seem compelled by a desire to be in control and order the details of our lives. We like the idea that we are the master of our own destiny. We are controlled by the need to be in control.

If I’m pointing fingers, most of them are to myself. I’ve been around the block so many times with this issue of wanting to be in control. I like to know what’s coming next, to avoid being caught off guard by the unseen. I like the security of seeing ahead. In the past I have been emotionally derailed when something came into my life that was unexpected. It did not fit into my well-crafted plan, and I had trouble adjusting my course.

As Christ-followers, our first commitment is to the Lord Jesus Christ, to faithfully follow His will. It is a daily decision to seek His will and not own will. I’m not saying we should ditch our plans. Plans can be valuable tools in moving forward in God’s kingdom. However, our plans must never become the ruling idols in our lives. We need to hold loosely to our plans.

There are times in life when direction simply is not clear. You may know where you are supposed to go but God says, “Not yet.” And so you wait, and wait…continuing to do what you have been doing until He gives you the signal. Or perhaps, a door of opportunity may open to you that you have no desire to pursue, but the Lord confirms it’s where He wants you. Or, you may feel good about an opportunity and all indications are favorable, and then you get a rejection notice or you find out it wasn’t what you thought it would be.

There are so many different scenarios in which we may find ourselves, some brought about by others’ choices, some brought about by our own choices, others brought about by circumstances outside of our control. Each and every day, but especially during times of uncertainty, we must relinquish our need for control and declare our trust in the Lord. He is our source of strength and hope, the only stability in a changing world. Sometimes, by faith, we just need to take another step and believe Jesus will meet us there.

Proverbs 16:9 NLT
We can make our plans, but the LORD determines our steps.

Proverbs 19:21
Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.

Proverbs 3:5-6
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.

Prayer:
Lord of Life, I offer my life, my dreams, my plans to you anew. Forgive me for the times I falter in my trust of you. Renew my faith in your goodness. Walk with me through times of doubt. Use me to accomplish Your will, whatever it looks like, for Your glory. In Jesus’ name.

Posted in Personal Development, Vision & Goal Setting

Adopt an Abundance Mindset

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The Lord has such a sense of humor. He knows that I prefer comfort to adventure, and that I do not like to set goals that require faith to accomplish. And yet, time and time again, He has placed me in positions that involve both adventure and faith. I keep reminding myself that God really does know what He is doing, but my initial knee jerk reaction is to shake my head and groan, “Oh no, not again!”

Because I am wired for realism (with some skepticism thrown in), I need to adjust my thinking often. I have found that few things are accomplished with a glass half empty mentality. To successfully fulfill what the Lord has asked, I need make sure I have an abundance mindset. The alternative—a scarcity mindset—is certainly more automatic for me, but it has never taken me anywhere but down.

Let’s take a look at these two mindsets.

A scarcity mindset keeps in view what people can do. People are limited, therefore, resources are limited. There’s only one pie, and we are all trying to get a piece of it. With only so much to go around, somebody will inevitably experience lack, and we don’t want it to be us! We might be afraid, doubting that there will be enough for ministry, so we hold tightly to what we have. In addition, if provision isn’t seen or known, it simply isn’t there. It’s up to us to figure things out.

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In Genesis 17, The Lord God changed Abram’s name (meaning exalted father) to Abraham (father of many nations). God told Abraham that the promise of the covenant would be fulfilled through his barren wife, Sarah, and he laughed in disbelief. He and Sarah were already old, way past the age for having children. Besides Abraham already had a son, Ishmael, from another woman. It just made sense that Ishmael would live under the special blessing. The scarcity mindset could not fathom any other way. And yet, the Lord God had a divine surprise. He blessed Sarah with a baby boy when she was 90 years old.

An abundance mindset keeps in view what God can do. God is the One to provide for our work, so there is always enough. We may not be able to see it or know where it is, but it is there. God’s kingdom is a kingdom of surplus not lack. We have the privilege of participating in His provision, and to respond with generosity. Using the pie analogy again (My husband and I have a start up pie business so pie is on my mind), there are many pies to share with plenty more on the way.

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Ephesians 3:20 NLT
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Our God is the God who is and has immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. Think of the largest room you can loaded with money. Our God has access to more. It’s not just about money though. Think of what a healthy relationship with your parents or spouse could look like. Our God can restore in ways that are better and deeper than we can fathom. Think of the biggest problem you face. The Lord who is all knowing, all powerful, and all loving has the wisdom and solution you need. He also has incredible peace to surround you while waiting for an answer. We serve the God of More.

Even more amazing is that the God of More’s power is at work within us. So it’s not about what we can do. It’s about what God wants to do through us.

In what area of your life do you need more? Get a hold of an abundance mindset and see what the God of More will do.

Ephesians 1:19-21
I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, open my eyes to the greatness of Your mighty power. May I see that You are the Lord of extravagant abundance, and that You have more than enough for my life and what You have called me to do. May I view Your call through a mindset of abundance rather than scarcity, and walk with You in complete trust. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Personal Development, Vision & Goal Setting

Questions to Ask Yourself to Set Priorities

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Last weekend I had the privilege of coordinating a local conference for women in ministry called “Refresh.” It was designed to encourage women who invest themselves in serving their churches and communities. The focus was connecting with Jesus and connecting with each other. It was wonderful to see the Lord touch the hearts of women dedicated to service, rejuvenating them to continue their work.

It’s wonderful to attend a retreat, to get away and unplug from demands. But going from retreat to retreat isn’t the answer for staying refreshed. It’s important for men and women alike to practice strategies in order to serve well for the long haul. People in leadership tend to overcommit. We are a part of the 20 per cent that do 80 per cent of the work. Unfortunately, our faithfulness to get tasks done often crowds out space for the things God desires for us. We need to discern between good things and God things, so we can thrive.

Good things are indeed things that are good, but they aren’t God’s best things for you right now in this season of life.

God things are those things that God has asked you to do in this season, and He gives you the grace to accomplish them.

Choosing God things means setting priorities and saying “no” to good things without feeling guilt.

Admittedly it’s not easy to pinpoint God things, especially when we are surrounded by good things vying for our attention. There are seven filters that I find helpful to remove good things from my full plate.

  1. The stress factor. How much stress does this add to your life? You weren’t created for regular doses of stress and drama.
  2. Your passion. How passionate are you about this? Is this something you enjoy and love?
  3. Your strengths. Are you using your God-given strengths, skills, and spiritual gifts?
  4. Health assessment. How healthy are you? How much rest and down time do you require to care well for your body?
  5. Time management. We all have 24 hours in a day. Is it wise to spend time on this?
  6. Input from others. What does your spouse or trusted friend say about this?
  7. A sense of peace. When you pray about it, do you have a sense of peace? Pay attention to any unsettling or anxious feelings.

Be intentional about selecting God things, and thrive in God’s calling on your life.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, I desire for my life to be filled with You. Give me Your wisdom and help me to follow the plans You have for me. May I honor You by choosing God things over good things. In Jesus’ name. Amen.