Posted in Faith, Vision & Goal Setting

Focus on Today

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

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

Here are suggestions to help narrow the focus to today.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prayer:

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

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Posted in Vision & Goal Setting

Take a Different Look at Your Goals

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Did you know that the success rate for New Year’s resolutions is a mere eight per cent? I don’t mean to burst your bubble this soon into the New Year. Really, I want to help.

I know we’re only a week and a half into 2017, but how are you doing on your goals? Perhaps you don’t officially make New Year’s resolutions, but do you have a goal you’re working toward?

I am a hard core goal setter. I regularly evaluate my life and identify an area for change. It’s exhilarating to envision a better future when motivation is at its highest. However, within a short period of time motivation wanes and the goal I was so stoked to accomplish is nothing but an uphill battle. Evidently this feeling is universal. Thankfully it doesn’t have to control us.

Here are some tips to use when you face inner obstacles that threaten your progress.

  1. Don’t be in a hurry. Don’t wish for a quick fix. Remember that lasting positive change takes time. Commit to work toward your goal over the long haul. You are learning a new life style or skill. You are developing an important plan. You may need to adjust your pace for a marathon instead of a 100 yard dash.
  2. Take it one day at a time. One moment at a time if necessary. Even though you set your mind for a marathon, you also must live fully in the present and not get overwhelmed by the future. You can conquer temptation in the now, but the load will seem too heavy when you add potential temptations down the road. You can deal with the stress you face today, but you will get into trouble if you add the stress of tomorrow.
  3. Set smaller goals. Don’t give up on your big goals, but set smaller bite-size goals to focus on and celebrate. If you need to lose 50 pounds, stop and celebrate (sanely) when you lose 10 pounds. Then continue toward the next 10 pounds. If you take 2,000 steps, one step at a time, you will walk a mile.
  4. Change your mindset. Don’t allow a negative perspective trip you up. You are not being “deprived” when you “give something up.” You are not “sacrificing” when everyone else “gets to have fun.” Frame your decisions as positive instead. You are choosing a better path for your well being. You are investing in your future. Declare it out loud until you believe it.
  5. Ask for help. There is power in support and accountability. Find someone you trust and respect to walk with you. Above all, invite the Lord to walk with you. He is already with you, and has the strength you need for success. Knowing you are not alone will encourage you toward the next step.

Take a different look at your goals and experience success. I believe you can do it, and it will be worth it.

May he grant your heart’s desires and make all your plans succeed (Psalm 20:4).

So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised (Hebrews 10:35-36).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You that Your mercies are new every morning, and that You give me opportunity for change. Help me to honor You with my goals. Empower me to be successful. I trust You to accomplish Your good purposes through me. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Vision & Goal Setting

Set the Record Straight

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As a young girl, the desire to set the record straight was perhaps one of my strongest traits. To me accurate facts and figures were absolute necessities. It was never good enough to give a ball park figure when the precise data was available. If something cost $1.09, one should never say it cost $1.00. I was quick to set the record straight.

Correct grammar, in written and spoken form, was even more important to me. Nobody was safe from my scrutiny. I adored my sixth grade teacher, but every so often she would misspell a word. I would approach her during recess when the other students were gone and point out the misspelled word on the board. She was very gracious, and sometimes she would disagree with me. Then, we would go to the dictionary. I was right every time! I felt so proud, not because I was smarter than the teacher, but because in some small way I had made the world a better place by setting the record straight.

My poor mom, however, was the recipient of treatment that was less than honoring. I was ready to pounce on any misspoken phrase.

“Dad and I, not Dad and me.”

“This time, it’s correct to say Dad and me.”

“Argh…don’t end a sentence with a preposition!”

Needless to say, my mom felt disrespected by me and exasperated at me. “Just let me speak!” she would exclaim.

I really wasn’t trying to be difficult. In my heart, I wanted to help my mom. I was driven to set the record straight.

Today accurate facts and proper grammar are still important to me, but I have learned more appropriate ways of addressing errors. Thankfully I have become more flexible and actually overlook mistakes from time to time.

Overlooking errors can be helpful in our relationships with others, but it is harmful when it comes to errors in our own thinking. We must be swift to set the record straight with negative and self-defeating thoughts that enter our minds.

At the start of every new year, there is a huge push to make a New Year’s resolution for better living. We are encouraged to develop new behaviors that eventually become healthy habits. However, before we can consistently change our actions, it is imperative to address the thoughts behind our actions.

Perhaps there is an inner critic who pummels your sense of worth.

Perhaps there is an inner skeptic who tells you how impossible your goal is and casts gloom on your pursuits.

Perhaps the Enemy unleashes fiery darts of condemnation until you feel ready to give up.

Or perhaps there is something else.

Whatever it is, we must pay attention to the lies that threaten to sabotage our progress, and then set the record straight with the truth.

One serious error in my own thinking comes in the form of believing I am too weak to accomplish what God asks of me. I am too weak; the task is too big. I use Scripture to set the record straight, and allow the Holy Spirit to redirect my attention to the truth.

“My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me…For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Corinthians 12:9, 10b).

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you (Romans 8:11).

Where do you get sidetracked in your thinking? What truth can you declare to set the record straight and thrive in your pursuits to grow and change?

I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called—his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance (Ephesians 1:16-18).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I want to please You. I desire my life to reflect the image of Christ. As I set goals in this new year, help me identify the errors in my thinking and the lies I believe that stand in opposition to the truth. Help me set the record straight with Your Word, in order to grow in You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Watch Out for the Enemy!

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Do you ever feel overwhelmed by God’s call on your life? In the midst of saying “yes” to Him and following His lead, do you struggle with walking it out on a day-to-day basis? I certainly do. In each area of my life, whether with my family or leading in ministry, I can find myself struggling, doing my best to hold my head above the rising water.

While giving my all to serve Jesus, sometimes I forget about the very real spiritual battle raging behind the scenes. When it gets tough, I pray. I remind myself that God is in control and that His Spirit dwells powerfully within me. But I lose sight that there is an enemy out there, and he is doing his best to thwart God’s children.

Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8, NLT).

The reminder came to light in dramatic fashion the last couple weeks.

As the Executive Director of a non-profit organization, one of my primary responsibilities is to fundraise. Our biggest fundraiser of the year is held the beginning of November. It is a tremendous opportunity to raise both money and awareness for our ministry. There is a lot riding on the success of this event. There is also a lot of pressure leading up to it, starting in August and culminating on event day. I have come to expect it.

During this time period I enlist additional prayer, I schedule specific times for fasting and invite others to join me, and I surround myself with Scripture focused on the greatness of our Lord. However, I was not quite ready for things to unfold the way they did.

One week and counting before the big event…

  • The doctor diagnosed my disabled daughter’s foot ulcer as infected to the bone and suggested amputation as a possibility.
  • I contacted the hospital familiar with my daughter’s condition. I made the three-and-a-half hour trip there and back to transport her for admission and extended stay.
  • After conducting some tests, the experts concluded that my daughter’s bone was not infected. She would be released once they decided on the proper treatment plan. They assured me they would find transportation for the trip home.
  • A dear member of our former congregation passed away. The family requested that we officiate the service.
  • Despite our request for confirmation of attendance, nearly one hundred people contacted us after the deadline. This caused additional work for seating assignments.
  • Some of these people called to complain about their seating location.
  • The caterer was unwilling to accommodate our request for additional guests.
  • Our copy machine malfunctioned and needed to be repaired.

The day of the big event…

  • I received a phone call that one of my staff members fell and cracked her head.
  • The convention center had not set up the tables and chairs according to specification.
  • The audio-visual equipment was not prepared for our camera man to provide a live feed for the event. The sound system technician was not present for our musician’s sound check.
  • Several people called to cancel their reservations due to a death in the family, sickness, and other unforeseen issues.
  • The hospital informed me that they were unable to provide transportation for my daughter to return home. She was ready for discharge and I needed to make arrangements.

The news from the hospital was the final straw. I wanted to quit, to announce to all the volunteers helping with set up that I was done. They would simply have to find someone else to lead. Why did the Lord place me in this position anyway? Didn’t He know that I can’t handle this kind of pressure?

Instead I cried out to the Lord for a sense of hope, to be carried by His strong arms. If He called me (and I know He did), He would need to equip me. Then, I spent some time in worship.

Every high thing must come down, every stronghold shall be broken. You wear the Victor’s crown. You overcome, You overcome!
(Victor’s Crown (c) 2013, Israel Houghton, Darlene Zschech, Kari Jobe)

As I listened to the bridge of this song, my spirit lifted. I realized that the last several days were more than a series of unfortunate events. I was in the middle of spiritual warfare!

I wiped my tears with firm resolve, fiercely determined to be the leader God called me to be. The darkness would not overcome me, because I serve the Overcomer!

Not everything bad that happens is directly from the hand of our unseen enemy. However, the devil and his demons use bad things to distract and discourage us. One of his tactics is to get us to take our eyes off Jesus and place them on the circumstances and on our own inability to deal with them. Watch out for the enemy! Then arm yourself with the truth that Jesus is victorious!

By the way, the fundraiser was incredibly successful. Much excitement was generated for our cause, and we raised more money than we have for many years. Yes, victory! Praise the Lord!

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:10-11, NIV).

You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, I confess that I forget there is a spiritual battle going on. Thank you for reminding me that the enemy is defeated and that, through You, I am victorious. Strengthen me to live for You and to lead where You have called me. May I not be discouraged by circumstances, but rather learn to trust You in the midst of the circumstances. You always overcome! In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development, Vision & Goal Setting

Life Lessons from Disc Golf

This weekend I played disc golf for the first time. Two of my sons have played it for years and have collected quite an assortment of discs designed for specific throws and distances. They have invited me many times to join them, but I have declined for one reason or another. This weekend, however, I had no excuses and I was willing to give it a try.

I enjoyed disc golf so much I agreed to play again with one of my sons early on Sunday morning before church service when others refused. After two times, I am definitely a fan. Please don’t think that I love the game because I am a natural at it. To the contrary, my performance was dismal. I scored way over par. I also looked comical as the lone matronly figure among athletic young men.

To me disc golf is fun, because it is an activity with simple, clear rules. It is done in a pleasant outdoor setting, and it provides a positive challenge. While walking the course with my son in the beautiful sunshine and refreshing breeze, I realized I could apply some life principles to my new interest of disc golf.

Find a mentor. Mentors pass on what they know. They offer perspective on what is good and how to improve. Before this weekend, I knew nothing about disc golf. After just two times of play, I have learned a little about technique and strategy. While I might have been able to figure it out on my own (highly doubtful in my case), I gleaned from the experience of others. I was able to put their suggestions into practice.

Set realistic goals. When first starting out, set short term goals that can be accomplished easily. It is encouraging to meet a goal quickly, and it builds motivation to pursue long range goals. My long range goal is to be able to score par. However, it currently takes me several throws to get my disc close enough to the basket to putt. Instead of focusing on the basket, I set a goal of getting the disc to an intermediate location (the trees at the half way mark). Once I made it there, my next goal was the basket. This method eliminated discouragement and frustration.

Celebrate progress. When achieving a goal, take time to savor the moment and reflect on what got you there. Don’t rush off to the next achievement. Score keeping is a handy tool for reflection. After each basket I thought about how many throws it took, what each throw was like, and then looked over the course that I completed before advancing to the next pole hole.

Avoid comparisons. Looking at the ability of others is a sure way to lose incentive. While we may be in a position of competition, true progress must be measured in terms of our own personal growth. My son, Jason, has sheer power and can drive his disc close to the basket. My son, Joseph, demonstrates grace as he releases his disc to glide effortless through the air to its destination. If I compared myself to them, this fumbling, clumsy beginner would have quit within the first five minutes of the game. Instead I work on improving my own technique, striving to drive the disc a little farther and developing greater control.

Enjoy the learning process. It is important to resist the tyranny of perfectionism. The desire to be perfect creates an inability to be flexible and teachable. Rather than laughing at and learning from mistakes, it cripples us from growing and moving forward. As a young woman and avid tennis player, I used to get so enraged at myself for poorly executed strategy that I would throw my racquet in a fit of rage. Decades later, my response to disc golf was pleasantly remarkable. I made plenty of errors. At times it seemed like my mind and body were disconnected. My mind would think one thing and my body would do it entirely different. Nevertheless, I made adjustments, was willing to experiment with drives and approaches, and had a lot of fun.

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Of the principles mentioned above, which ones do you need to adopt to help you thrive in life and leadership?

Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.
Wisdom is supreme; therefore get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding (Proverbs 4:6-7, NIV).

As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend (Proverbs 27:17, NLT).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, be the center of my life today. Teach me how to grow in wisdom and abilities. so that I may thrive in my vocation and relationships. Help me keep my focus on You, the author and finisher of faith, and to glorify You in all things. In Jesus’ name.

Posted in Vision & Goal Setting

The Tyranny of Should

There is something I really enjoy about getting older. I have a much clearer sense of who God has created me to be, and I feel less pressure to be someone I am not. Even with this greater understanding of freedom, there are times I still live under the heavy weight of man-made expectations. I call this the Tyranny of Should.

Our society paints a picture of a successful woman. She has a full time career. Her children are well-behaved, and thrive at school and in the extra-curricular she actively supports. Her marriage is fulfilling with lots of romance and spice. She is a good cook and keeps an organized and spotless home. She exercises regularly to maintain her attractive figure. In the church, the successful woman looks a little different. She may not work full time, but she is actively involved in church ministry and is supportive of her husband. She spends hours in prayer and Bible study, and opens her home in hospitality.

There are equally demanding expectations on men. It’s overwhelming! What’s a person to do?

It’s important to periodically take stock of what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. I ask the following questions.

What has God called me to do?
God’s calling will change throughout the seasons of our lives. I devoted years investing in my kids and being the primary support person for my pastor-husband. I loved it (for the most part) and knew that God had called me to do it. As my kids grew and needed me less, a new direction became more defined. I have been called to minister in the marketplace, and I have a pastor’s heart.

God’s calling guides my activities. The things I do must relate to His calling. I need to let the distractions go (as good as they may be).

What are my priorities?
We all have 24 hours in a day. I cannot do everything. My time must be spent on what is important to me. In order to see my priorities clearly, I write a list and rank them in order. The top five items are where I spend the majority of my time. Even though I may like other things, I must keep focus.

Because my time is limited, I also adjust my expectations for how much time I spend on my priorities. My top priority has always been cultivating my relationship with Jesus. When I had five young children at home, my devotional time looked much different than it does today. I longed for long hours of silence to listen and pray, but that wasn’t realistic. Now my house is quiet and I don’t long for silence anymore. On the other hand, with my current schedule, I only have 20 minutes a day to exercise. I know it’s not optimal, but it’s what I can do.

Resist the Tyranny of Should. Pursue what God has called you to do, and do what you can do with confidence.

Posted in Servant Leadership, Vision & Goal Setting

A Different Approach to Goals

It’s that time of year again! Every January we’re reminded to take advantage of the new year and to make better choices than we did last year. Now is the time to lose weight, start exercising, conquer that bad habit, heal those broken relationships, dream big, set goals…

I have nothing against getting fired up for a better life. I’m a believer in making positive changes, and an even stronger believer that it takes strategic planning to get there. However, reaching my goals is not really a problem for me. God has blessed me. I’ve been able to set many significant goals in my personal life and as a leader, and through God’s grace I have achieved them.

I emphasize through God’s grace, because I am often my own worst enemy when it comes to achievement. I am driven. I don’t relax when there is unfinished business. My mind is constantly on the move, and I am given to anxiety. I act as if I am in control and the success of everything I am a part of depends on me.

Yes, I need to be responsible. No, the world doesn’t rest on my shoulders.

This approach to goals sabotages my energy and health. Years of living this way have taken a toll. Now when the stress is too great for too long, my body shuts down, I cannot function, and I have no choice but to stay in bed. I wish for a different approach for you, before you reach this point. And I wish for a different approach for me, to truly place Jesus in the driver’s seat of my life.

As I have prayed and pondered about this, I have sensed the Lord showing me what this different approach looks like.

Live fully in this day. Didn’t Jesus say not to worry about tomorrow, because today has enough worries of its own? (Matthew 6:34) Stress builds when we add tomorrow’s projects and next week’s deadlines to today’s plate. It also distracts us from the things at hand. When we approach this day (with its interruptions and unseen twists and turns) as a blessed adventure, we are in the flow of God’s grace, and not working against it.

Love the person in front of me. Loving our neighbor as ourselves means we pay attention to the person in front of us. They are not here to make our lives better and simply a means to achieve our own agendas. That person is more important than any goal looming over us. That person is someone whom Jesus loves deeply. We must care about their needs, and look for ways to be a blessing. After all, it is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35).

Look for Jesus in this moment. There is a story in which a young man asks Jesus why He doesn’t do great miracles anymore, like He did in the Bible. During their conversation, the young man is blessed with a bottle of water when he is thirsty and a reward for finding and returning a wallet. However, he overlooks these blessings, thinking they just happened or are coincidences. Jesus then tells him, “How do you expect to see me in the big things, if you miss me in the little things?” Jesus is actively working in our lives. Let’s keep our eyes open to the little things with hearts of thanksgiving.

In this month of new beginnings, I invite you to join me in discovering a different approach to goals. May we be directed by the Holy Spirit and walk in God’s grace each day.