Posted in Faith, Teamwork

The Gift of Others

“Honey, can you help me find my glasses? I don’t see them anywhere.”

I had been searching for my eyeglasses for 15 minutes, and I decided to enlist the assistance of my husband. One minute later he walked out of our bedroom, grinning from ear to ear and triumphantly holding up my glasses.

“Where we they?” I asked in surprise.

“On the dresser where you usually put them.”

I had checked my dresser three different times and they weren’t there. How could I have missed them?

Although I felt sheepish, I was truly grateful for my husband. He was able to provide perspective that I didn’t have and his perspective solved my problem

As we live and lead, being in community with others is incredibly valuable. For some people this is easier to do than for others. Our independent society esteems the “self made” man and woman. Somehow we feel inferior or deficient if we ask for someone else’s perspective. But there really is nothing like a second pair of eyes. Or to have a trusted person look at a situation from a different frame of reference.

My grammar skills are excellent, and I love to proofread for other writers. Without effort my eyes go straight to the typos on a page. Nevertheless, I always ask at least one other person to read my writing before submitting it. I know what I intended to write, so I see things the way they’re supposed to be rather than what is really there. Someone else can help me by seeing what is actually there and pointing out what I may have overlooked.

At times, like my glasses, I don’t see what is right in front of me. Perhaps I’m too close to a problem. Perhaps I have been involved in an organization for a long time. The more engaged I am in a situation, the less I can see the answers. Other people can generate dynamic ideas and solutions when I feel stuck.

God has given us the gift of others. Don’t do this thing called life alone.

“Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success” (Proverbs 15:22, NLT).

“So don’t wage war without wise guidance; victory depends on having many advisers” (Proverbs 24:6).

Who is in your circle of advisers? Who in your life offers valuable perspective?

Inviting the input of others isn’t a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of strength. And wisdom. Be willing to live and lead in partnership with others.

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You for including me as a member of the Body of Christ. Help me live and lead in community with others, and to reject the notion that I can do it alone. May I be open to the perspective of others and be willing to share my insights with them. As we help one another, be glorified. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Faith

Beware of Fear!

I know Jesus (NO FEAR!)
I know God (NO FEAR!)
I know Jesus, and I have got NO FEAR!
(Duff Rowden)

Years ago my worship leader friend sang this chorus at youth events. It was a fun reminder that as Christ-followers, we have victory over fear. The perfect love of God in our lives drives out all fear (1 John 4:18).

The trouble is that fear comes in many forms and is not always easily identifiable. It can be as overwhelming as a paralyzing panic attack, but it can also be as subtle as low-grade, gnawing worry. Fear is designed as an emotion to protect us from a dangerous or unwanted situation. However, it can become an obstacle to experiencing all that God desires.

I spent much of my life dominated by fear of some kind, although it may not have been apparent outwardly. What people could see was my dependability to meet deadlines and ability to perform well. They couldn’t see that my insides were tied up in knots. My driven personality was fueled by a fierce need to be in control at all times. Somehow I believed that being in control meant that fear was kept away.

It was not until I began to experience increased physical symptoms that I truly investigated the negative effects of fear. Headaches, stomach problems, chronic pain, fatigue, dizziness, and anxiety attacks prompted me to sincere soul searching.

Over time the Lord, in His great mercy, began to show me that fear was actually a key influence for my need to be in control. In spite of my external achievements, fear held me back internally and robbed me from living in God’s abundance.

Fear of rejection. My gift of connecting with others and caring for them was distorted. I became motivated to please people, spending a great deal of time concerned about making a positive impression, doing things to get noticed. It also caused me to guard my heart from the pain of rejection. I served people with one hand while protecting my heart with the other, not allowing them to get close enough to hurt me. Needless to say, this didn’t work well with my relationships at home, church, or on the job.

The remedy. I consciously focus on God’s magnificent love for me. While people matter greatly, intimacy with Jesus comes first. People’s opinions vary, and they will hurt me, usually unintentionally but sometimes on purpose. However, my security and acceptance are rooted in Jesus.

And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39, NLT)

Fear of failure. My gifts of achievement and dependability were tarnished. I strove for perfection in everything, and felt comfortable maintaining the status quo. Taking risks felt too threatening, and it stopped the flow of creativity and innovation. I could picture negative outcomes and was weighed down by them: A plan that doesn’t work; an event nobody attends; finances drying up, a program that falls apart; my marriage unexpectedly ending. It became paralyzing, prohibiting me from enjoying the adventure of learning and growing.

The remedy. I consciously focus on being led by the Spirit of God. His definition of success is different than the world’s, and is based on obedience to Him. According to the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), when we work to glorify God and further His Kingdom, we are successful. As we follow God’s direction, serving Him and others, we please the Lord, which is the ultimate success.

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).

In what ways does fear affect you? Don’t allow fear to hold you back. Experience God’s freedom in answering His call and loving those He has placed in your life.

For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs (Zephaniah 3:17).

Prayer: Heavenly Father, thank you for being my Deliverer. As I seek You, You hear me and deliver me from all my fears. Open my eyes to see the ways fear has held me back. Show me the truth, and empower me to walk in Your freedom. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Faith

Embrace the Chaos

Flexibility is a quality for success in life and leadership. Those who thrive adjust easily to the twists and turns that come their way, even in the midst of challenges.

Where does that leave people like me who love to make a plan and then want to work the plan? What about people like me who value control and try (unsuccessfully) to control the environment and avoid surprises?

Flexibility does not come naturally to me, but I have come a long way. God in His grace has smoothed some of my rough edges that hinder me from going with the flow. I still set goals and develop strategies. I still created check lists and feel a great sense of accomplishment as the items are checked off. But I have learned that organizations are constantly changing. People come and go. Nothing stays the same. New ways need to be implemented to respond to the fluid environment.

Refusing to change means to move toward disorganization or even death. Adjustments must be made in order to navigate situations toward greater health.

Our response to making adjustments to unforeseen situations is critical. We can react negatively with resistance, frustration, or anxiety. Or we can embrace the chaos. We can view it as an adventure that, when handled with faith and wisdom, will lead to better opportunities.

Embracing the chaos has required me to have a different mindset, and to hold to two principles.

I will be content now. I do not have to wait to get “all my ducks in a row” to be happy. My joy is not determined by circumstances. As the Apostle Paul said, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (Philippians 4:11, NLT). I can address a problem at hand, while also focusing on what is working well. By fixing my thoughts and attention on positive things and the blessings of the Lord, my attitude is lifted. My heart and mind are surrounded with God’s peace.

Jesus is present in the chaos. He is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:5). One of the names of God is Yahweh-Shalom (Judges 6:24). According to Strong’s Concordance 7965, Shalom means “completeness, wholeness, health, peace, welfare, safety, soundness, tranquility, prosperity, perfectness, fullness, rest, harmony.” We tend to think of peace as “the absence of agitation or discord,” which is just a small part of it. God’s completeness, health, tranquility, and rest are present when we trust Him. Psalm 46 describes it this way:

God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble. So we will not fear when earthquakes come and the mountains crumble into the sea (v. 1-2). In the midst of chaos, He is there.

As we view the Lord as our source of well-being—and not our circumstances—we face the chaos with courage and view the future with confidence.

Heavenly Father, teach me to place my trust deeply and immovably in You. Walk with me as the Lord of Peace. Help me to be flexible when facing things unexpected or unknown. May I view change as a friend rather than an enemy, as an opportunity to see Your plan more clearly. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

Know Yourself; Be Yourself

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This weekend I had the rare and wonderful opportunity of being with family. In the past, these gatherings created a lot of stress as I tried to navigate the different expectations for each of my roles. So far being a grandma has produced nothing but joy. Sometimes, though, I’m not sure how to be a mom of grown kids with families of their own. It can also feel awkward being a grown daughter of a woman with a strong and confident personality. However, this time our get together felt comfortable. Perhaps it’s one of the perks of getting older. Even though I was mom, mother-in-law, grandma, daughter, sister, and auntie, all at the same time, I felt no performance anxiety. It was freeing to simply be myself, comfortable in my own skin.

The same applies to us as leaders. It is freeing when we are comfortable in our own skin. It should be our goal to lead with authenticity. We must be consistent and known for integrity. Followers trust a genuine leader who is open with them rather than hides behind a title or mask. Director, manager, pastor, coach, parent, spouse, instructor—our hats may change; our face must remain steadfast.

Here are three principles I follow, as I seek to thrive as an authentic leader.

Know yourself. God has created you with a distinctive combination of personality, strengths, spiritual gifts, physical attributes, and preferred ways of connecting with Him. Have you identified these special characteristics? There are many reputable assessments that can assist in the discovery process. Practice self-awareness. As you know yourself better, you can learn to accept yourself, and then delight in how God fashioned you inside and out.

Be yourself. This is really at the heart of authentic leadership. Do not act one way in public and another way in private. Your approach may change depending on the setting, but don’t become a different person. Be the same person with the same ethics whether you are with a major stakeholder, staff member, or family member. Be transparent with your mistakes and weaknesses, as well as your successes and strengths.

Commit to improve yourself. Partner with God to be the best you that you can be. You will never achieve perfection, but you should always be growing. How do your motivations and actions measure with the standards in God’s Word? Be teachable, willing to hear and learn from God and others. The Holy Spirit will empower you in the process of becoming more like Jesus as a servant leader.

“As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the real person” (Proverbs 27:19 NLT).

Lord, help me to be an authentic leader. May I rejoice in who you have designed me to be. May my heart reflect Jesus Christ, and may my actions flow as a blessing to those around me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

Lent–Making Time for More of Jesus

Last Wednesday was the start of the Lenten season. Whether or not you observe the Liturgical Calendar, Lent can be a powerful time of reviving our faith.

I wasn’t raised going to church. From the time I trusted Christ as Savior and Lord in my teen years, my involvement has been with Evangelical-Pentecostal churches. Several years ago, I discovered that I connect deeply with liturgical worship. I enjoy praying with The Book of Common Prayer. I observe Advent and Lent, and introduced them to my congregation.

“What are you giving up for Lent?” That seems to be the question of the day. The focus is on sacrifice. Others focus on adding an element of service or giving. For me, Lent is a season to intentionally make time for more of Jesus. Sometimes it does involve a sacrifice, like fasting a favorite food or activity. This year it involves opening my schedule in order to read one chapter a day of an inspirational book, allowing the Holy Spirit to speak to me through the pages. Whether sacrifice or adding, the goal is the same though—making time for more of Jesus.

We bring who we are, with our strengths and weaknesses, to what we do and how we lead. I cannot separate who I am from my leadership ability. The way to grow as a leader is to grow as a person. The way to grow as a person is to become more like Jesus.

Consider this profound relationship with our God!

My response is to get down on my knees before the Father, this magnificent Father who parcels out all heaven and earth. I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit—not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength—that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:14-19 MSG).

We become more like Jesus as we live full lives, full in the fullness of God through Jesus Christ.

Here is my exhortation: Whether or not you observe Lent, make time for more of Jesus. Make a plan to create more room for Him this season. When you do, I’d love to hear from you.

Posted in Servant Leadership, Teamwork

The Healing Power of Vulnerability

“How do you do it?” my staff member asked. As I turned toward her to give my full attention, she continued. “How do you work full time and get everything done at home? I work part time and struggle to do what I need to do.” Her body tensed at the thought of her heavy load.

With her eyes fixed upon me, I had a decision to make. How would I approach this opportunity?

  • I could give her pointers on effective time management.
  • I could share my strategy for setting priorities.
  • I could instruct her about the importance of cultivating a relationship with Jesus as a powerful way to deal with the stressors of life.

In that split second, however, I sensed the question was really revealing something deeper. The dear woman standing before me was opening up and being vulnerable. The best thing to do would be to share myself, to be vulnerable in return.

Vulnerability requires trust and a willingness to be authentic.

I can trust because I am secure in the Lord and where He has placed me. My desire is to build God’s Kingdom not my own. He is my Protector, so I can safely offer myself to others. Because I know that an effective team is founded on trust, I extend trust to my teammates.

I can be authentic, because I don’t need to make a good impression by acting all put together. “The wise don’t make a show of their knowledge” (Proverbs 12:23). I can share with humility, seeking to be led by the Holy Spirit, aware that I am still in the process of becoming more like Jesus.

I firmly believe that as a leader I have been granted position by the Lord. This gives me great responsibility and holds me to a high standard. This means I must use my position as a means to serve others, encouraging and equipping them to grow and thrive in what God has called them to do.

So how did I respond to the question?

I smiled and admitted, “You probably would be surprised by my home. I really don’t do much there. My husband is a lot of help. He gets home earlier than I do, and cooks most of the meals and takes care of the dishes. And I don’t have children at home who need me much any more. I honestly don’t think I could do this job without my husband’s support and if my kids were younger.”

She nodded and sighed with understanding, relieved and a bit more relaxed.

“The words of the wise bring healing” (Proverbs 12:18). I pray my words have that effect.

Posted in Character, Faith, Vision & Goal Setting

Reality or Truth? It Makes a Difference!

For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with depression. I learned early in childhood to wear a mask so that nobody could detect it. As a teenager I made the decision that depression would not stand in my way. In spite of high scholastic achievement and an outwardly successful life, depression always lingered in the background. When I was alone and not rushing around, it would hit with a vengeance, but I could pull myself together in time for the next performance.

When I gave my life to Jesus Christ, I immersed myself in His Word. I began to memorize the Scriptures and held onto them as Truth. I was taught that God’s Word, not my feelings, was the standard that should rule my conduct and guide my thoughts.

I love God and His Word, but I still have seasons where depression is a prominent factor in my life. Several years ago after a series of blood tests, I discovered I have a physical condition that predisposes me to depression. The diagnosis was freeing. For the first time I understood that depression is not my fault. It’s not because I don’t trust God enough or that I don’t believe His Word. I have a legitimate genetic defect that contributes to it. Depression is a Reality I live with. A fierce determination also rose up within me. Depression will not define my quality of life or my ability to answer God’s call. I will focus on Truth instead of Reality. I may not be able to change Reality. However, Truth trumps Reality every time.

Reality and Truth. At first glance, these two terms may seem similar, but there is a significant difference. Allow me to share my working definitions.

“Reality” is the current state in which I find myself. Reality changes as circumstances change. It is based on facts.

“Truth” is found in God’s Word, as the indisputable principles and promises set forth by God Himself. Truth remains constant, unchanged by circumstances. It is based on faith and hope.

Depression may not be a part of your Reality, but we all encounter challenges.

We operate in survival mode when we focus on Reality. We thrive when we focus on Truth.

The account of the twelve Israelite scouts in Exodus 13 and 14 illustrates the contrast between focusing on Reality and focusing on Truth. For forty days the scouts explored the land God had promised. When they returned, ten scouts focused on Reality. They told the facts. It was indeed a bountiful land with lush produce. BUT the people resided in fortified cities. There were even giants. They concluded that, based on what they saw, it was impossible to take the land. Defeat was surely imminent. Only two scouts focused on Truth. Yes, the people were powerful. However, they could not stand against the power of God. The Lord had promised the Israelites the land and was well able to deliver it into their hands. In the end, these two scouts were the only ones of their generation to cross over into the Promised Land. All the rest died wandering in the wilderness, a tragic result of focusing on Reality.

We must not ignore Reality. We have to deal with the situations at hand. There are battles to fight, relationships to mend, financial adjustments to make, poor job performance to correct, health issues to address. You fill in the blank. But we must not dwell in the realm of Reality.

Instead search the pages of Scripture. What has God spoken about Himself? What has He said about your identity in Christ? What promises has He made about His presence, peace, plans, or provision?

Here’s the Truth. He is the God of hope. He is the God of love. He is the God with unlimited resources and wisdom. He is the God of more-than-enough grace for every situation. That’s where we should dwell.

No matter what challenges we face, when we align our thinking with God’s thinking, we will always overcome. Embrace Truth. Embrace God’s invitation to thrive.

Posted in Character, Faith

How to Love Your Crazy Family–A Book Review

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I love books, and God has a way of speaking to me through them. In every area of life—spiritual growth, marriage, parenting, leadership, coaching—I often find the answers or the inspiration I need in the pages of a book. I just finished reading such a book and heartily recommend it to any woman desiring to thrive as she leads her family. It’s called How to Love Your Crazy Family: 52 Quick Reads for No Ordinary Days by Angela Howard.

Motherhood is a high calling, whether you are a career woman, stay-at-home mom, or somewhere in between. The influence of a mother reaches deeply into the lives of her children. And yet, with all the love and best intentions, marriage and family can feel crazy at times.

Angela Howard has discovered powerful truths that she passes on to the reader in a heart warming and down-to-earth way, offering practical inspiration for navigating every kind of crazy you may encounter with the family you love. It all begins with a relationship with Jesus Christ. If you want to love your crazy family, Christ must first be central in your own life. Angela’s writing style is humorous yet convicting, light-hearted yet challenging. Angela goes beyond the “what” and “how” of day-to-day tasks and relationships, and looks at the “why”—the motivation for your attitudes and actions.

Using vignettes of her own heart and home, Angela invites you to view real life examples up close and personal, along with important lessons learned. Each chapter provides encouraging insights that, when put into practice, will take your parenting, marriage, and life beyond ordinary. Angela emphasizes the power of Jesus to transform lives every day and the beauty of extending grace to those you love. The bonus chapter at the end shares Angela’s story and struggles with Bipolar disorder in her own marriage, offering hope through Christ to those walking through family difficulties.

Wherever you are in the marriage or parenting seasons, you will glean timeless wisdom from the pages of How to Love Your Crazy Family.

Find out how to purchase How to Love Your Crazy Family

Learn more about Angela Howard

 

Posted in Character, Faith, Vision & Goal Setting

How to Thrive in Waiting Mode

Sometimes life doesn’t go as planned. Yesterday I became sick without warning and spent the entire day in bed, most of it sleeping. As I lapsed occasionally out of sleepiness I was reminded how uncomfortable I am being in “waiting mode.” I really like to have answers, to know exactly what is going on and where I am headed.

When seeking direction from the Lord, I know what to do with “yes” and “no” answers. “Yes” means I can move forward with a plan, taking the necessary steps for it to unfold. “No” means I step back and re-evaluate a plan, ponder the options and seek to be clear on God’s direction rather than my own. “Wait” is a different story.

“Wait” means staying put, not moving forward. This can lead to feeling unproductive…
“Wait” means living in the realm of the unknown. This can lead to feeling uncertain and even out of control…
And “wait” means not having the answers when others are looking to you. This can cause feelings of incompetence as a leader.

However, it is possible to thrive in waiting mode.

Live fully in the present.
Jesus instructed us to live fully today. When we are in waiting mode, we may often find our thoughts focused on dreams for the future and formulating the possibilities for getting there. This robs our attention for the here and now. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own” (Matthew 6:34). Effective leaders tend to the tasks at hand, while occasionally scanning the horizon ahead. Be a good steward of the time and opportunities God has given you today. Be a blessing to those around you. Excel at the tasks set before you.

Keep following the last instructions.
What was the last thing God told you to do? He hasn’t changed His mind. After God delivered the people of Israel from Egypt, He personally led their journey to the Promised Land. His presence was visible as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Sometimes they camped at a location a few days; sometimes it was much longer. They were to go about their business in that spot until God said to move. Wherever you are camped right now, be faithful with your business. Build a strong foundation from which to launch when the time is right.

Thank God that He is in control.
I learned something from a good friend who leads a growing non-profit agency. In the midst of waiting for details of the next phase to come together, she always says with great peace and assurance, “This is God’s deal!” In other words, God is in control. We live in the present with our very limited perspectives. Our God sees it all. Thank God that He never sleeps, and is always working out His plans for our good and His glory.

Are you waiting on the outside, and yet running on the inside? Be still and know that He is God (Psalm 46:10).

 

Posted in Communication Skills, Faith

Communication With Grace The Colossians Way

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone” (Colossians 4:6, NIV).

 

Mikki and I worked together at the juvenile department. She was a supervising case worker; I was the front desk receptionist. As the person at the bottom of the command chain, I took orders from everyone, and Mikki seemed to issue them the most. She was impatient and gruff, hardened by years of working with dysfunctional families, along with her own personal disappointments. Throughout her career, she had seen it all. On the other hand, as a young idealistic woman, I approached life with a fresh and hopeful perspective.

It’s sad to say, but the one thing I learned from Mikki was how not to communicate. Many days I would come home from work in tears because of her harsh comments. I would pray, asking God to help me respond with kindness and grace no matter what, that somehow my communication would make a difference.

Today I am grateful for Mikki, because by her negative example she taught me about the importance of leaders communicating with grace.

The verse in Colossians gives us instructions for grace-filled communication.

Let your conversation be always full of grace. In the New Testament, the main word for grace is charis, meaning unmerited favor. Our speech must always reflect value and respect even when it is not deserved or earned. We must grant favor to others with our words. In addition, will others know that we follow Jesus by the way we speak? Our conversations should reference the grace of God through Jesus Christ that is extended to all people.

Seasoned with salt. For thousands of years, salt has played an important role in the preparation and preservation of food. It enhances the flavor, texture, and color causing us to want to eat more. It also makes us thirsty. Whatever the topic, our speech ought to be fresh and inviting. The way we express ourselves must be full of spiritual flavor, causing others to be desirous, hungry, and thirsty to hear and know more.

So that you may know how to answer everyone. Grace-filled communication addresses the needs of others not ourselves. We seek first to understand others and not make assumptions. By identifying and learning about their frame of reference, we can tailor our words and approaches to appropriately meet the occasion.

Years later I ran into Mikki and I hardly recognized her. There was a softness about her that I hadn’t seen before. She shared that shortly after I resigned from the juvenile department, she had given her life to Christ. She couldn’t stop thinking about me. No matter what she had said or how she had treated me, I continued to respond with kindness and respect. Because my conversation was full of grace, she wanted to know more about this Jesus I had talked about.

Wherever we serve, grace-filled communication makes a difference. How can you add more grace to your conversations?