Posted in Communication Skills, Faith

It’s Time to Look at the Elephant!

The Board of Directors sat quietly in the conference room, as the CEO reported on the monthly statistics and financials. Each of the six members were half listening, preoccupied with their own thoughts. For the past several months the numbers were down; finances were declining. With this downward trend, perhaps it was time to look for a new CEO, one with the skills and leadership strengths better suited for the position at this particular season.

The thoughts of considering a replacement loomed heavy in the room, as it had in the last three meetings. Even the CEO, behind her cheerful exterior, entertained the need for a change in leadership, but no one dared to vocalize it.

But we really like her.
She is so optimistic and hopeful.
She has such a passion for this non-profit work and has poured her heart and soul into it.

The group concluded their business, avoiding the awkward and painful topic.

Maybe things will look better next month.

It can happen to us in relationships and our places of business. An elephant—an uncomfortable issue that needs to be addressed—visits us. The elephant is enormous and obvious, taking up attention and resources. Yet, no one wants to acknowledge him.

Doesn’t anyone else see this elephant?
Maybe if I ignore him long enough, he will go away.
I’ll wait for someone else to bring it up first.
I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

So we continue to avoid the elephant. It takes increasing amounts of energy to ignore him. He grows and grows, and starts to smell, but we continue to pretend he does not exist.

In order to thrive in life and as a leader, we must look at the elephant and begin to dialogue.

We must…

be willing to be the one to break the silence.
have the courage to engage in difficult conversations.
ask questions to promote the sharing of ideas.
be open to others’ ideas.
speak the truth in love.

Think about the different areas of your life. Is there an elephant that needs to be looked at? What prevents you from doing so?

If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone (James 1:5-6a, NLT).

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” (Joshua 1:9).

Heavenly Father, I acknowledge the elephant in (name where it is). I need Your help to deal with this situation. Thank You for the wisdom that comes from You, for the courage to look at this situation for what it is, and for the grace to walk this out with others. In Jesus’ name.

Posted in Character, Faith

Let Go of the Need to Know

Have you ever tried to manipulate God to do what you want? I know, this is a hard thing to admit. After all, as Christians we are supposed to be followers of Christ. We sing songs about surrender and ask Him to be the Ruler of our lives.

I will speak for myself, although you probably can relate. Despite my noble intentions, I try to tell the Lord the best way to do His job, and (this sounds terrible) I even get upset when He doesn’t listen. I am guilty of this sin of control, allowing my human nature to be in charge and dictating the terms of my service to the Master of the Universe. In spite of my penchant to lead the way, the King of Kings is so patient with me.

Last week He lovingly reminded me through devotional readings, songs on the radio, and gentle whispers of His Spirit that He really does know best. I can trust Him to work every situation for my good and His glory. Yet, I still wrestle between resting in the knowledge of God’s sovereignty and jumping in to run the show. Sometimes more than others.

As leaders it is our task to set direction and plan the course. We keep one eye on the road to ensure safe arrival to our destination. We also must have strategic foresight. We keep the other eye on the horizon in order to be aware of changes that will affect our environment in the future. And we encourage and inspire others to follow. It’s our job to know!

In the midst of all this responsibility, we end up relying on our own abilities and not on the power of God.

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

Letting the Lord lead is more important than the need to know.

This weekend I had the great joy of witnessing my youngest child graduate from high school. For me part of the celebration was reflecting on God’s faithfulness in raising her. Born with a serious disability, the path to adulthood has looked very different than my other kids’. Physical limitations and unpredictable medical challenges have dotted the landscape of our lives together. There have been countless times when her life has taken an unexpected turn and we have made the adjustments necessary in the moment. In the presence of God’s grace with us in each of these moments, I have learned two basic precepts.

I really don’t need to know.

The Book of Job describes the lengthy struggle of a righteous man to know God’s reasoning behind his personal suffering and loss. I identify with his quest to understand. I like the security of knowing what’s next. I like the peace of knowing why something is happening. However, when there are no answers available, I need to come to the same conclusion as Job.

Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know (Job 42:3, NIV).

My heavenly Father has the best plans.

Being convinced of this truth makes the first statement possible. I really don’t need to know, because my heavenly Father has the best plans. His plans for me are motivated by perfect love.

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1a).

And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him (1 John 4:16).

Friends, no matter what inexplicable difficulty or hardship you may be facing, find courage in your heavenly Father’s love for you. It’s time to let go of the need to know.

Heavenly Father, thank You that I can call You Abba—Daddy. Help me to trust You deeply like a child, knowing that You love me perfectly. You never leave or forsake me. You are always near. Help me to love and lead others well. When things simply don’t make sense, help me to let go of the need to know. In Jesus’ name.

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 Faith, Vision & Goal Setting

Out with the Old, In with the New

There is a sense of excitement as the old year winds down and we say hello to a new year. I realize there isn’t much difference between December 31st and January 1st. One day seems pretty much the same as the next. But having a distinct marker where one year ends and a new year begins can be powerful in our journey of faith.

Out with the Old

I love traditions. They create a sense of belonging to something bigger than ourselves and forge strong ties with a beloved heritage. But holding on to the past can also hold us back.

The Apostle Paul stated his philosophy.

But I press on to possess that perfection for which Christ Jesus first possessed me. No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us (Philippians 3:12b-14, NLT).

The past Paul referred to was good—notable heritage and achievements, things any Israelite would be proud of. Some of it was bad too—the zealous persecution of the Church.

Growth can be thwarted when we hold onto the old-bad. We are chained to our past mistakes and doubt we can break free. The consequences of the past cast doubt that we can ever change.

It can also be thwarted when we hold onto the old-good. “We’ve always done it this way! It works! Why should we change?”

In the final days of 2014, what do you need to let go? Whether it is old-bad or old-good, invite Jesus to show you what you should release.

In with the New

Our Lord specializes in new beginnings.

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

The Lord gives us new life.

…Anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

And He transforms us to make us more like Jesus.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect (Romans 12:2).

What joy and hope there is in knowing God is at work in you!

As we count down to 2015, what new thing does the Lord want to do in your life?

Posted in Character, Faith, Servant Leadership

Change Takes Time

I try hard not to make “honey-do” lists for my husband, Jonathan. I really want to tackle projects by myself, and I don’t want to add more to his already full-plate, but there are times I can’t do it by myself. Sometimes I need extra muscle or another pair of hands, and I call Jonathan to the rescue.

“Honey, will you please help me with something? It shouldn’t take very long.”

After 29 years of marriage, Jonathan realizes that “not very long” to me translates to “much, much too long” for him. He has quite a history with me and has recently started telling me, “I’m happy to help you, but your project will take much longer than you think.”

His gracious yet matter-of-fact statement continues to surprise me, because it seems like my job should be accomplished fairly quickly. After all, I can see all the steps in my mind, along with the beautiful finished results. Inevitably though, my fast projects become much longer and drawn out than I had imagined, because the “doing” of the steps takes so much longer than the “seeing.”

I find this concept to be true of the personal transformation process, as well. We know that we want to be more like Jesus, to reflect His image in our thoughts, words, and actions. We may even imagine what we will look like when we arrive at this beautiful place of sanctification. Nevertheless, sometimes we get so frustrated and disheartened by how long it’s taking. We need to remember that change takes time. It’s important to be patient with the process.

Be patient with yourself. God is at work in your life. You are saved because of His grace, His unearned blessing extended to you. You keep your right standing with God through Jesus Christ, again by His grace. You’re not who you want to be, but you’re not who you were. God is not a harsh taskmaster, but rather has graciously invited you to partake of His nature and life.

Ephesians 2:7-8 in the Message translation says this:

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish!

God continues to shower us with grace and kindness. In the midst of the sometimes messy, three-steps-forward-two-steps-back transformation process, His grace covers us. Yes, our progress might be disappointing. Don’t despair. Ask for forgiveness, get back up, and keep moving forward in God’s grace.

Be patient with others. Sometimes it’s easier to see the faults of others. Their mistakes and shortcomings glare more brightly than yours. As Jesus said, you notice the speck in their eye and miss the log in your own. It’s hard when people show great promise of change. You hope for the best, and then they let you down again. They fail yet another time. Or you pray and pray and pray for someone, only to glimpse the slightest improvement. Will they ever get it right?

Don’t forget the grace of God when it comes to others. You are a recipient of God’s generous grace. He has extended many chances to you, multiple opportunities to “get it right.” God is love. He “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres” (1 Corinthians 13:7, NIV). Extend His generous grace to others whether or not they “deserve” it.

Change takes time. Bring God’s grace along for the journey. Be patient with yourself and others.

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns (Philippians 1:6 NLT).

Posted in Faith, Vision & Goal Setting

Do You Need a Fresh Start?

The business plan you lead has bumped into obstacles. Funding is running out and profits are low.

Your marriage is on the rocks. It feels like you are strangers living in the same house, and you wonder how long this can last.

You have been promoted to an area requiring increased public relations. You know that you are an introvert and wonder how you can succeed.

When you look at situations, all you can see are the negative aspects. You worry that you’re becoming cynical.

Perhaps you can relate to one of these scenarios. Perhaps you cannot. But, do you ever feel stuck, that where you are is not where you want to be? You would change if you could, but you lack the expertise, personality, talent, or wisdom to move forward. Do you ever find yourself in a place as a result of a long, disappointing, even hurtful, line of decisions? The past and present seem hopeless. Can you really cut ties and make a better future?

There is hope.

No matter where you find yourself today, a fresh start is ALWAYS possible.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV)

The prophet Jeremiah wrote these words during the destruction of Jerusalem. God had allowed Babylon to conquer His people. Because of their on-going disobedience they were exiled from their homeland. And yet, in the midst of devastation and hopelessness, God reminded them of His steadfast love and mercy.

Every day is a brand new day when God’s mercy is present.

We are not stuck where we are, being someone we don’t want to be. In Christ we are new creatures in the process of becoming new. What we achieve is not determined by our level of intelligence or talent. What we become is not defined by our personality or set of leadership strengths. Where we end up is not decided by where we have been.

Whatever God has called you to be and do, His Holy Spirit will equip you. He is the Author and Master of your transformation.

God took Moses, who was timid and reluctant to answer His call, and transformed him into the greatest, most powerful leader of Israel.

God took Ruth, who was a foreigner and idol worshiper, and transformed her into a devoted God-follower included in the lineage of the Messiah.

God took Peter, who denied Jesus Christ three times in His hearing, and transformed him into an empowered apostle responsible for leading thousands of people to faith in Jesus Christ.

God took Paul, who was a zealous persecutor of the Church, and transformed him into an anointed leader and author of the majority of the New Testament.

God can give you creativity to think outside the box and address the obstacles in your business.

God can provide you courage to build love, respect, intimacy, and passion in your marriage.

God can develop you into an extroverted introvert, so that you are comfortable speaking and interacting with others.

God can help you cultivate a heart of gratitude and notice the blessings in life.

God can take you where you are and move you to where He wants you.

It’s time for a fresh start!

Posted in Character, Faith, Vision & Goal Setting

Re-write the Messages in Your Mind

What messages are in your mind? You and I aren’t often aware of the messages we entertain, but these stories in our head play a crucial role in our ability to fulfill God’s call on our lives. They will either sabotage or strengthen us. In order to move forward successfully, it is important to intentionally take control of the messages that play over and over again, and then re-write them.

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life” (Proverbs 4:23 NLT).

In this verse, “heart” does not refer to the physical organ that drives the blood throughout the body. Rather it is used metaphorically to describe the center of our being that drives our decisions. At times, the Hebrew word is translated as “mind,” revealing that heart and mind are closely associated. Scripture teaches that our thoughts affect who we become. Romans 12:2 instructs: “Let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.”

It is necessary to change the messages in our mind when they interfere with God’s plans for us.

Early this year my leadership roles expanded. I began to feel a lot of anxiety. Even though I was placed in a position that matched my skills and strengths, nagging thoughts persisted. “I’m not capable. I don’t have what it takes.” The mental message took on a life of its own. Pretty soon I could visualize my complete failure. I could do nothing right. Everyone was either disappointed or angry at me. I was asked to step down and someone else took my place. I was rejected and felt utterly humiliated.

It took a few weeks before I realized what was happening. Once I identified the harmful message, I took those negative thoughts captive and began to declare the truth. “Wait a minute…God opened the door to this opportunity and others have confidence in my abilities. As I rely on the Lord, He will give me the wisdom and strength I need for a job well done.” During my devotional time I read a verse that resonated with me. I personalized it, memorized it, wrote it down, and declared it whenever anxious thoughts arose.

God has equipped me with all I need for doing his will. He produces in me, through the power of Jesus Christ, every good thing that pleases him. (Hebrews 13:21)

Michael Hyatt (2013) provides five steps for changing the negative messages in our mind. I have adapted it to include a Biblical perspective, although the steps on their own are quite effective. Because God’s Word is the truth by which we live, it is powerful to re-write the messages according to God’s truth.

  1. Recognize the message in your mind. When are you most aware of this message?
  2. Jot down the message. This step is important, so you can actually see the message you have been believing.
  3. Evaluate whether the message is empowering. Does it agree with what God’s Word says?
  4. Write down a different message. Base your message on God’s Word, what He says about Himself and/or about you.
  5. Start telling yourself the new message. Keep it handy, so you can access it as often as you need.

Don’t allow negative messages to hinder what God has called you to do. You can accomplish what He has planned. Be intentional about dwelling on God’s messages about you.