Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Don’t Let Fear Hold You Back

Mixed race businesswoman jumping over gap between cliffs

When you think of change what comes to your mind? For most people, change has a negative connotation. As a young woman I was passionately in love with Jesus. He rescued me from a life of misery and destruction, and opened my eyes to see true meaning in Him. The Lord changed my life dramatically and I couldn’t wait to share His amazing love with others. Change was a great thing, and I wanted nothing more than to become more like Jesus.

Then I would look at older believers, especially those middle age and above. They seemed so set in their ways and quite comfortable to stay there. I was bewildered to see pillars of the faith settle for a predictable and safe relationship with God. They were good people. They were there every time the church doors were open. They financially supported their church, as well as other ministries. They sang the old hymns declaring that Jesus grows sweeter as the days go by. However to an outsider looking in, they seemed satisfied with the status quo.

I confess that, as a youngster, I judged many of the old timers harshly. Today as someone approaching 50, a follower of Jesus for 35 years, married for 30 years, and new to the empty nest season, I have a much greater understanding of where those dear folks were coming from.

I can only speak for myself here (although I think it can apply to others’ experiences). It’s not that I’m satisfied with the status quo. I have found ways of doing things, through trial and error, that work for me. I have developed good habits and efficient systems. If it’s not broken, don’t fix it. Plus, I don’t have as much energy as I used to. I try to choose my battles wisely. If it’s not a non-negotiable, should I really address it?

There can be a fine line between contentment and complacency. I am committed to change. Whether personally or on the job, I believe it is important to continually improve and grow. I try to keep an open heart to the Lord, willing for the Holy Spirit to reveal attitudes and actions He desires to transform. If you work with me for very long, you will quickly notice that I like to look for more productive ways to do things, to streamline operations, or to serve people better.

At the same time, I battle with initiating change. It is painful to examine issues of the soul. When it comes to leading, I know that people generally resist change. Any successful change effort requires lots of time, patience, and on-going communication. I don’t want to wade into the unknown and look like a poor leader if it fails.

My husband and I just returned from celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary. We traveled to Victoria, British Columbia, for a three day get away. We agreed before hand that this would be an adventure and that we would try new things. The idea sounded good until it was time to actually practice it. I became acutely aware of three types of fear that are obstacles to change and doing new things.

Fear of failure. We booked tickets with a passenger ferry from Seattle. Without a car, we would see the sites of the city on foot. We charted out the places of interest. While boarding the vessel and fighting off the initial feelings of motion sickness I started to dread our new approach. What if I get too tired walking? What if I can’t walk to the places my husband wanted to go? I hate being wimpy, and he is much stronger than I. I certainly don’t want to disappoint him. I don’t want to be the reason we’re stuck in our hotel our entire stay. The desire to succeed can be paralyzing.

Fear of the unknown. Our first evening we had dinner at an upscale restaurant. My husband and I both noticed that escargot was listed as an appetizer. Many times over the years (when not at a restaurant) we had commented that we had never eaten escargot but wanted to try it. Now here was our chance. And we both hesitated. Would it look noticeably like a snail in its shell? Could we get past that? What would it taste like? What if it was chewy and slimy and we couldn’t finish it? That would be embarrassing. When we step into the unknown we face our assumptions, many of which may be wrong.

Fear of being discovered. The afternoon high tea was one of our last activities in Victoria. We eagerly made reservations. As we walked into the beautiful historic mansion, I was struck with anxiety. I may carry myself with confidence, but I am not well versed in the proper etiquette for a British tea ceremony. What am I doing here? I am so out of place! Everyone will see that I am an impostor. Amid the dainty china and petite sandwiches and pastries, people would see the “real” me.

What is the Lord asking you to change? Is fear holding you back?

Be assured that if Jesus asks you to step out and do something differently, He is faithful to walk with you. Our Lord specializes in the transformation process and making things new. His perfect love is greater than any fear.

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland (Isaiah 43:19, NIV).

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love (1 John 4:18).
Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for your calling me as your child. Thank you for loving me and changing me from the inside out. Help me to walk in the confidence based on who I am in Christ. May I resist fear and step out in trust, as I follow You and do Your will. Don’t let fear hold me back. I believe that absolutely nothing is impossible for You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Advertisements
Posted in Character, Faith, Servant Leadership

Do You Struggle with the Messiah Complex?

What do David Koresh, Jung Myung Seok, Claire Bennet, and Batman have in common? At first glance this group may seem to be quite diverse. However, underneath their differences lies a solidly imbedded Messiah Complex.

A person with the Messiah Complex believes that he is the savior of a group, event, time period, or in radical cases, the world. In some instances, he may not claim to be the savior, but his followers may treat him as such.

The Messiah Complex has many forms. It may rear its ugly head through someone like Adolf Hitler. Fortunately, most of the time it is not so extreme. It is usually much more subtle. If not careful, even the best servant leaders can be fooled by its delusions.

During my experience as a leader, at home and in the workplace, I have caught myself entertaining (and acting on) some of these thoughts.

My gifts are extraordinary and rare.

If something is going to get done, I have to do it.

Nobody else understands the situation better than I do.

I know God is in control, but He needs me to do the work.

I’m the only one with the power to fix this problem.

The result of my thoughts and actions has been frustration, overwhelming stress, anxiety, and exhaustion. Frustration and stress from working too many hours without rest and not sharing the load with others. Anxiety and exhaustion from carrying too much weight on my shoulders and enduring too many sleepless nights. This is clearly not the Lord’s will for those He loves and has called to partner with Him as leaders.

I’m not advocating giving up the pursuit of excellence or resigning responsibility. However, there is something wrong when we believe that success of a mission rests solely and squarely on us.

What about you? Do you recognize any of these symptoms? Could it be that you too struggle with elements of the Messiah Complex?

We thrive in life and leadership when we walk in humility, realizing everything we are and accomplish come from God. Jesus Christ is clearly the only Messiah.

For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you (Romans 12:3, NIV).

There is great assurance in realizing that we are part of the magnificent Body of Christ. Jesus Christ is the Head.

He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy (Colossians 1:17-18).

We can be free from carrying the weight of responsibility, knowing that the outcome is ultimately up to the Lord.

Cast all of your cares on Him, because He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

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

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You for calling me to lead, and for the grace and humility to fulfill Your call. Reveal to me when I place too much trust in myself. Help me to rely on You, trusting You as the One True Savior. In Jesus’ name.

Posted in Personal Development

Keep Learning No Matter What

“You can’t teach an old dog new tricks.” This phrase is generally used as an excuse for being too old to learn a new skill or habit. It may be true for a dog, but it doesn’t have to be true for us. In fact, no matter how old or educated we might be, we should always seek to learn and grow. How sad it is to be around others who are so set in their ways that they refuse to listen to new or different ideas. It isn’t just “the old folks” with this kind of attitude. There are plenty of “young ones” that fit in the closed mindset category, too.

People that thrive in life and as leaders are poised to learn. Learning leads to creativity and the ability to innovate. Being stagnant is draining to relationships. Maintaining the status quo is damaging to business. Growth and vitality come from the willingness and ability to change as needed.

Twenty-five years in non-profit ministry has shown me there isn’t just one right way of doing things. God’s Word remains the same, but there are a varieties of ways to express it. Just when a system is perfected, it’s time to tweak it to address a situation that arises. Thirty years of marriage has taught me that I need to find new ways to connect with my husband to keep our relationship solid. Resting on our laurels will take us to a dangerous place. We can’t just pat ourselves on the back because we’ve gained so much experience. We need to keep moving forward.

Transformation is produced from the consistent, on-going application of knowledge, whether it comes directly from the untarnished truths of God’s Word or from wise principles spoken by others.

We don’t have to go to school in order to learn. I enjoy academics and I love reading. However, I have found people to be the greatest resources for learning and transformation.

Mentors are older than I am or have walked where I want to go. They are farther along the road of life and can share their experiences. I recently had the opportunity to meet a former Executive Director of the organization I currently lead. She resigned 10 years ago. Things have changed remarkably since she was at the helm. However, I listened intently to her stories of how God met financial needs in the midst of difficult times. She inspired me, and showed me a dimension of faith I hadn’t seen before.

Reverse mentors are younger than I am and don’t have the breadth of experience that I have. However, they possess specific skills that I lack (i.e. social media savvy), or they have a particular perspective I want to understand. So they mentor me in an area I want to grow. The majority of people my organization serves are between the ages of 15 – 29. It’s important to connect with our clients. By engaging in conversations with young adults, I learn about their mindset, beliefs, and values. The knowledge helps me serve our clientele better.

Learning from others is enhanced when I glean from people that are different from me. Rather than surrounding myself only with people that agree with my beliefs or point of view, I welcome alternate opinions and ideas. Differences don’t need to create tension or alarm. Instead I try to look for principles that are beneficial. At the very least I come away with deeper understanding of somebody who is incredibly valued and loved by our heavenly Father, whether or not they know Him. As a committed follower of Christ, I took two classes in Eastern religion and philosophy for my undergraduate degree. I enjoyed robust conversations about a worldview quite different than my own. As a result, I emerged better equipped to be a Christian and live out my faith than before.

No matter your age or how much experience you have, remain teachable. Be open to the Lord and expect Him to use many kinds of teachers.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction (Proverbs 1:7).

The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom.
Though it cost all you have, get understanding (Proverbs 4:5-6).

Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still;
teach the righteous and they will add to their learning (Proverbs 9:9).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You for the gifts of wisdom and knowledge. Help me never feel that I have arrived, but rather seek to learn, improve, and grow. May my ears be open to Your instruction as you use many people along life’s way. May I be transformed more and more into the likeness of Jesus Christ. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

How to Stop Worry In Its Track

My husband was late. Thirty minutes had passed since his typical arrival, and I hadn’t heard a word from him. His cell phone went straight to voice mail and he hadn’t responded to my texts. I tried to busy myself and not worry about him. My hands were active, but my mind was racing with possible tragic scenarios.

Perhaps he was in an accident.
Or maybe he had a heart attack and nobody was around.
Or he was involved with a younger woman.
Or he had been mugged and shot.

I settled on the health issue and dismissed the other situations. Before my husband walked through the door, I had imagined myself as a widow with no place to live and no place to go. When he arrived, he was greeted by an emotional wreck. I had allowed worry to run roughshod through my mind and it had taken control.

Worry—(noun) the act of tormenting oneself with or suffering from disturbing thoughts.

Worry starts out subtly and, if left unchecked, can grow into enormous proportions. There is nothing about worry that is positive. It is problem oriented, focuses on the negative, presumes worse case scenarios, and is without hope. The root of worry is a lack of trust in God and His goodness, or what He has promised in His Word.

Some people seem to think that worry simply can’t be helped. “It’s a normal part of life and everyone does it.” Contrary to the opinion of these habitual worriers, we can ward off worry. It does not have to rob us of peace and health. We can thrive, even as we face difficult situations.

The following are steps that I recommend to stop worry in its tracks.

Be aware of your worries. Before you can stop worry, you need to recognize when you are worrying. Some people wear a rubber band on their wrist and snap it every time they realize they are entertaining anxious thoughts. Some people make tally marks in a journal or electronic device. It may surprise you how often you worry. In addition, take note of the things you worry about. What are the areas that cause the greatest amount of worry?

Turn worries into prayers. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” As soon as you recognize that you are worrying, refocus your attention on the Lord.

Declare Scripture over your problems. God’s Word is powerful and transforms our thinking. Find promises that address your situation and speak them out loud when worry rears its ugly head. Choose to believe what the Lord says rather than entertaining worry.

Learn to relax. Prolonged worrying can have significant effect on health. It impairs the immune system and can cause symptoms such as dizziness, nausea, headaches, fatigue, rapid heart rate, muscle tension, inability to concentrate, and more. Practice deep breathing techniques and meditate on God’s Word to relieve tension. Find activities that help you unwind.

Don’t allow worry to steal from you. By retraining your thought patterns, you can turn your concerns over to the Lord before they grow into worry and anxiety.

In what areas of your life are you prone to worry? What steps can you take today to stop worry in its tracks and walk in God’s peace and calm assurance?

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me. Teach me to cast all my anxieties on You because You care for me. Help me to trust You in all things, to be still and know that You are God. In Jesus’ name.

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 Faith, Servant Leadership

The Best Leadership Book Ever

I recently attended a conference for women in leadership. I had expected to hear a speaker share principles of servant leadership, along with tips for developing my skills. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by an inductive Bible study format, as we gleaned leadership insights from the Word of God individually and in small and whole group settings. We were inspired, encouraged, and challenged to be better leaders by the Holy Spirit as we searched the Scriptures.

As leaders, our top priority is to be committed followers of Jesus. While we work with our team and tend to the tasks at hand, it is important to keep our hearts open to the Lord. His Word is powerful and will direct our steps.

The Word of God is the best standard for life and leadership. “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16, NLT). I personally examine my behavior, attitudes, and motives with God’s Word. For example, Philippians 4:8 lists the types of thoughts on which I should dwell. How well am I fixing my thoughts on those things? 2 Peter 1:5-7 instructs me on how to grow in faith. I want to be productive and useful in my knowledge of Jesus Christ. Which qualities do I need to add? Galatians 5:19-23 describes the deeds of the sinful nature and the fruit of the Spirit. Which fruit do I demonstrate most in my life? Which ones need to mature? And let’s not forget 1 Corinthians 13, the “love” chapter. I want my life to measure up to this beautiful depiction of Christ’s love.

Jesus Christ is the best example of leadership. There are many great men and women we can look to as effective leaders, but only Jesus is perfect. His teaching and example dispelled the leadership model of the day and established God’s way of leading. “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:22-25). Jesus turned the definition of leadership upside down. The greatest leaders are, in effect, the greatest servants. Like Jesus, they are patient and grace-filled toward their followers. They find teachable moments to correct them in private. They are kind and have others’ best interests in mind.

Spend time with God and His Word. The Bible is the best leadership book ever. It will equip you to thrive in the job to which God has called you.

Lord, teach me Your ways through Your Word that I may walk in Your truth. Help me grow as a leader who loves and serves others, faithfully pointing the way to You in all that I say and do. 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?