Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

Following the Wind

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Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved windmills. My heart would soar at the sight of a scene from Holland with a charming windmill surrounded by tulips. Today I am still delighted by windmills, including the looming white giants that dot hillsides and other landscapes where wind is present. Regardless of the type, when I’m around windmills I have feelings of awe, wonder, and peace.

Windmills come in many shapes and sizes, but the purpose is the same: To be moved by the wind to generate power in order to accomplish a task. The task may be to produce electricity, saw wood, pump water, or, as in the case of my beloved Dutch windmills, grind grain. The common factor, though, is wind.

windmills

I want to be a windmill. I want my life to be powered and moved by the wind. Before you raise an eyebrow at my statement, it’s important to know that wind is a symbol of the Holy Spirit.

At the time of creation, the Holy Spirit hovered like wind over the face of the waters (Genesis 1:2). On the Day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit came as “a rushing, mighty wind,” breathing life into the Church (Acts 2:2). In an earlier scene, Nicodemus asked Jesus what He meant by being born again, and Jesus explained.

The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit (John 3:8).

There are two important characteristics of wind—direction and speed. The windmill is affected by both. The windmill sets neither the direction or speed of the wind, but rather is responsive to it.

My heart longs to be responsive to the wind of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is life-giving and produces spiritual growth. He seals our relationship with the Father through Jesus Christ. He can be grieved by wrong choices. He is unstoppable and dynamic like a hurricane, yet gentle and refreshing like a cool summer’s breeze.

I want to follow the Holy Spirit’s lead for my life. May I never set my own course and make decisions based on my human intellect alone. I want also to follow His timing. May I never rush ahead because of eagerness or impatience. And ultimately what tasks will be accomplished? To glorify the Lord on this earth and to do His will.

Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives (Galatians 5:25, NLT).

Following in every part of our lives is a lofty but wonderful pursuit. We thrive as we allow ourselves to be carried along by the Holy Spirit. It certainly isn’t easy or natural. It takes mindfulness to say “yes” to the Lord and reject the tendency of our human nature. We must evaluate ourselves often by asking, “Am I surrendered to the flow of the Spirit or am I fighting against Him?”

I want to be a windmill yielded fully to the Wind. What about you?

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for sending the Holy Spirit to guide my life. Help me remember that He dwells in me and empowers me to live for You. Let me be aware of the Spirit’s presence. May I have a willing heart to follow His direction and timing for my life. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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Posted in Faith

You Have What It Takes!

You can do it! Really! What has the Lord has called you to do? What ever it is, you can do it!

This weekend churches all around the globe celebrated the glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ. We remember the miracle, the mystery, the incredible power that infused life into His lifeless body. The Man who was beaten and tortured for us, who suffered and died on our behalf, rose again. He is risen!

Ponder the awesome move of the Holy Spirit that breathed life into Christ’s body, and restored Him to perfect health. Imagine the force it required to move the massive stone from the tomb. Envision the light shining from the angels who made the announcement to the women.

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words. Luke 24:1-8

The story doesn’t end here. The amazing life of the Spirit is in us. He is in you and in me.

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

So, I ask you again. What has the Lord called you to do? He had more than enough power to raise Jesus from the dead. He lives in you and has more than enough power to strengthen you to live for Him and do His will. You have what it takes!

Keep the miracle of the Resurrection and the power of the Holy Spirit in full view, as you follow God’s call. He is risen indeed!

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.

Posted in Vision & Goal Setting

The Power of the Plan

The Timekeeper has unleashed a sinister plot, speeding up time at an increasing rate. In league with Tick Tock, they will bring about the end of the world. The Organization of Super Spies comes to the rescue and stops the villains before it’s too late.

This weekend I watched “Spy Kids: All the Time in the World.” I’m not sure who selected this silly, cheesy movie on Netflix, but it had a winsome message: Don’t waste time on meaningless pursuits. Time is a gift to be cherished with the ones you love.

The older I get, it certainly seems that time is speeding up. Now that my kids are grown and I have the great joy of being a grandma, it is much easier for me to realize when “The Big Lie” rears its ugly head. “The Big Lie” says something like this: I’ll keep this frantic pace for just a little awhile. One day (hopefully soon) it will slow down and I’ll focus on the important areas of my life. I have all the time in the world.

The truth is…life isn’t going to slow down tomorrow or next week or next month without making an intentional plan to do so. Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may gain a heart of wisdom” (NIV). We don’t have all the time in the world. In order to fulfill what God has intended for us, we must manage well the time we’ve been given.

Life is too short to live without a plan.

I highly recommend creating a Life Plan. A Life Plan goes beyond setting goals. It approaches life from a holistic perspective, because every decision you make either adds or subtracts value to every part of your existence. You identify what is most important to you in life and then make steps toward investing in those areas.

There are many excellent online resources to assist in life planning. A life or leadership coach can walk you through the process, helping you discover your ideal future and preferred way to get there. Develop your own structure and style. Regardless of the systems and methods, making a plan is absolutely vital to intentional living.

Powerful Life Plans include the following steps:

Envision your ideal future. What do you want your life to look like in 20 years? What kind of legacy do you want to leave? What do you want people to say about you when you’re gone.

Identify the most important areas of your life. There are many areas that could demand your attention: Spiritual life, marriage, family, career, education, health, recreation, finances, ministry/service, social stewardship, personal development, pace of life, etc. However, you must narrow your focus. Select no more than eight categories and then prioritize them.

Identify supporting goals. For each life category, what preliminary goals will move you toward your ideal future? What objectives are you committed to accomplishing in partnership with the Lord? What action steps will lead you to these goals?

Schedule your priorities. If it’s important to you, put it on your calendar. Make sure all your action steps are included. My devotional time and observing a regular Sabbath are top priorities to me. Therefore, these actions are scheduled first.

Revisit your Life Plan often. Look at it regularly to remind yourself of your priorities and evaluate your progress. It is a living document and should be revised as necessary, based on God-given wisdom and foresight.

We don’t have all the time in the world. But by living intentional, proactive, Spirit-led lives, we can make the most of the time we have.

Posted in Character, Faith, Servant Leadership

Exhausted or Empowered Leader? Part Three

The last two weeks, we have focused on healthy approaches to our leadership relationships. By making three simple adjustments, we can go from exhausted to empowered leadership.

The third concept that liberated me as a leader is “Caring” versus “Carrying.”

This is really another variation of taking proper responsibility. However, it provides a powerful picture. I believe the Lord showed it to me as an illustration while I was on a journey of healing, and I use it often with people who take ownership of others’ choices.

God has called us to care about others. He asks us to reach out in empathy, and serve with compassion. It is a good thing to minister with our hearts. Jesus’ ministry was marked by compassion. He had compassion on the people because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and He taught them. He had compassion on them and healed them. He had compassion on them and provided miraculous fish and bread. Our Lord cared deeply about people, and we follow His example. Caring is good. It is what we were made to do. However, we were not made to carry people. It is God’s job to carry, not ours. When we are carrying, it gets too heavy. We get weighed down by this person’s bad choice, that person’s failure, this person’s poor attitude, that person’s family crisis. We become frustrated, angry, bitter, resentful, and eventually cannot move.

Rosemarie Kowalski tells a story which Joanna Weaver adapted in her book, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. It’s about a man who willingly receives an assignment from the Lord to pull three stones in a wagon up the hill. As his journey progresses, in an attempt to help others, he adds more and more to his wagon–other people’s rocks, pebbles, and stones–until the weight is too heavy to bear. He can go no further.

“Let others shoulder their own belongings,” God said gently. “I know you were trying to help, but when you are weighed down with all these cares, you cannot do what I have asked of you.”

The man jumped to his feet, suddenly realizing the freedom God was offering. “You mean I only have to take the three stones after all?” he asked.

“That is what I asked you to do.” God smiled. “My yoke is easy and my burden is light. I will never ask you to carry more than you can bear.”

We often carry others because we care. But Jesus hasn’t asked us to carry them. Thankfully we can go to Jesus. He will unsaddle us from the weight of carrying. Then we will be free to care again.

A simple adjustment in perspective makes such a powerful difference!

Do you struggle with carrying others?

If so, identify some people you are carrying.

In what ways will your relationships change when you care about them rather than carry them?

To recap the last three weeks:

  • A goal is solely under your control; a desire is not. Goals for self; desires for others.
  • You are responsible to others, not for others.
  • God has asked you to care about others, not carry them.

May our Lord Jesus Christ fill you with His wisdom and knowledge to approach your relationships in healthy ways. May you walk in the power of the Holy Spirit and lead others from a sincere heart of love.

Joanna Weaver, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World (Colorado Springs, Waterbrook Press, 2002) 48-51.

Posted in Character, Faith, Servant Leadership

Exhausted or Empowered Leader? Part Two

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Last week we started a discussion on making some simple adjustments in our approach  to those we lead.

During my tenure at a medical pregnancy network, first as a volunteer and then as the director, I learned some valuable concepts that I apply to my life and leadership settings. By making a shift in my thinking, I am able to view my leadership influence in a new way. When I am actively engaged in this way of thinking, I am able to go from being an exhausted leader to an empowered leader.

The second concept that liberated me as a leader is understanding the difference between being “responsible to others” versus being “responsible for others.”

Dr. Henry Cloud and John Townsend have written several books about healthy boundaries. In a nutshell: We are responsible for our own choices. We are not responsible for other people’s choices. In terms of natural consequences, I know that   A + B = C. However, I may still think to myself, “If I had only been more convincing, Mary would not have done “A” and then she wouldn’t be in this mess. In reality though, Mary’s poor choice rests entirely on her. She is completely responsible for her decisions. Her decision may sadden or inconvenience me, but I don’t own responsibility for it.

We are only responsible for others when they are entirely dependent on us for survival. Very few people fall into that category. Newborn babies, severely disabled people, and elderly people unable to function need our attention for survival. If we fail to care for them, or provide others for the task, they will die. For everyone else, though, we are responsible to them.

Here are the important distinctions:

When I am responsible for others, I have unhealthy boundaries.
My job is to carry, protect, and rescue them. I personalize their feelings. I focus on ME, and am more concerned about finding solutions and right performance than listening. I expect them (although I may never say it out loud) to live up to my expectations and goals. As a result I feel anxious, even fearful, and exhausted. The weight of others’ choices is on me.

When I am responsible to others, I have healthy boundaries.
My job is to empathize and encourage, to speak the truth in love and challenge them to make good decisions. I focus on THEM. I am concerned about listening to them and really hearing them, showing unconditional love. I am a helper-guide or coach, trusting God and letting go of the outcome. As a result I feel relaxed, confident, and empowered.

I have a long history of believing I was responsible for others. I carried responsibility for others into my family and ministry relationships. When things were difficult, I lamented that I hadn’t prayed harder, taught the Bible better, or loved the people more. The reverse was also true. When my children achieved great things, it was an indication of my success. When people of our church experienced breakthroughs in their relationship with God, it showed off our ministry abilities. The pressure of being responsible for so many people was enormous, and I suffered under the weight of it. God, in His mercy, began to teach me about healthy boundaries. Ten years ago, while training at the pregnancy center, I learned the difference between “being responsible to others vs. being responsible for others.” The Holy Spirit opened my eyes to the many ways I had taken the responsibility for the choices of others, whether good or bad. By understanding this simple idea of being responsible to others, I began to experience freedom.

Next week we will take a look at the concept: “Caring” versus “Carrying.”

Do you struggle with taking responsibility for others?

If so, identify some people you have taken responsibility for.

In what ways will your relationships change when you are responsible to them instead of responsible for them?

Ask the Lord for wisdom to relate with people in healthy ways.

Posted in Character, Faith, Servant Leadership

Exhausted or Empowered Leader? Part One

As servant leaders, we care deeply about those we lead. In fact, the feature that sets servant leadership apart is the capacity to place the needs of followers first, even above the organization. As a result, we invest emotionally in these relationships. This is a good thing. Unfortunately, when our focus is misplaced, this capacity to care has a downside. We may find ourselves frustrated and burned out by those we lead.

During my tenure at a medical pregnancy network, first as a volunteer and then as the director, I learned some valuable concepts that I apply to my life and leadership settings. By making a shift in my thinking, I am able to view my leadership influence in a new way. When I am actively engaged in this way of thinking, I am able to avoid being an exhausted leader and lead as an empowered one.

The first concept that liberated me as a leader is understanding the difference between goals and desires.

Goals
According to Dr. Larry Crabb, “A goal is an objective that is under my control.” For example, suppose my goal is to lose ten pounds. My wonderful husband can make a delicious caramel cheesecake (my favorite dessert), and he can set it right in front of me with a fork and napkin. But does he control my choice? As tempting as his efforts may be, the answer is “No.” My goal to lose ten pounds is dependent on my own personal resolve and choices.

Desires
On the other hand, a desire is “an objective that I may legitimately and fervently want, but cannot reach through my efforts alone.” We can see this played out often in our families and churches. For example, among my own congregation there are people who struggle with addiction. They come to Christ and experience the forgiveness of sins, which is wonderful. But somehow many of them remain bound by addictive behavior. I may desperately want these dearly loved people to be free from the chains of addiction. I can fast and pray for them. I can provide Scriptural tools to help them transform their thinking patterns. I can even provide a safe, accepting environment for them to stay. Will that be enough? No. The decision to be sober is ultimately up to them.

God has called us into a partnership to reach out to the world with His love. However, it requires a positive response from others to become transformed disciples of Christ. That’s part of the mystery of free will–God giving all human beings the choice to accept Christ, to worship Him, to honor Him with their lives.

We will encounter a great deal of discouragement and burn out if we set unrealistic goals for the people we lead. We aren’t big enough to make people choose God’s will for their lives. God is big enough, but He never violates their choices. Set appropriate goals for yourself, ones that are completely within your control. Identify appropriate desires for others. Then direct your prayers accordingly. Goals for self; desires for others.

Next week we will take a look at the concept: “Responsible to others” versus “responsible for others.”

Do you struggle with setting inappropriate goals?

If so, identify some people for whom you have set unrealistic goals.

Reframe those goals in terms of desires. What effect will that have on your relationships?

Ask the Lord for wisdom in setting goals and desires.