Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

Do What You Believe to Be True

Reflection

What do you believe about God? What do you believe about yourself?

Now before you answer, I’m not asking about the mental beliefs you hold, those automatic responses that you learned in Sunday School or Bible study and can rattle off from memory. I’m asking about the beliefs that you act upon, the ones that guide your life experiences.

That’s a little trickier, isn’t it? It would be nice if our thoughts and behaviors always matched our theology and Biblical identity of ourselves. But we’re not perfect. That’s why we need a Savior. And we need the Savior’s instruction to lovingly point out the inconsistencies in our lives.

For example, we call God our Heavenly Father and sing songs with lyrics like, “You’re a good, good Father. That’s who You are.” However, we may actually view our Heavenly Father like an earthly father who was absent or let us down or even worse. We may fear God or think that He is punishing us when bad things happen. We “know” He is our loving Heavenly Father, yet we find it hard to really trust Him. That’s an inconsistency.

Here’s another example. We believe that we are loved by God as His children. After all, 1 John 3:1 says, “See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” Nevertheless, we may feel unworthy of His love. We see our shortcomings and wonder how God could love us. We “know” we are loved, and yet we constantly feel unlovable. That’s an inconsistency.

And another example…As God’s dearly loved children, we believe that we should honor others above ourselves (Romans 12:10). Yet, it may be a struggle to lift others up, because we’re afraid that we’ll be overlooked or forgotten. After all, how will be get ahead if we don’t look out for number one? That, too, is an inconsistency.

I’m so thankful that the Lord doesn’t just reveal these inconsistency in our lives. He helps us fix them. He want us to thrive in life. We thrive when we do what we believe to be true.

When we are double-minded, we get tossed around by the feelings of the moment. Our perceptions become distorted, and we follow them any way.

“Search me, God, and know my heart… “ (Psalm 139:23a). This has been my prayer throughout my life. The Lord has been faithful to gently reveal my inconsistencies. In recent days I have had to deal with the inconsistency of “knowing” that He is my strength in times of weakness, and allowing my feelings of weakness to hold me back. I find myself feeling too weak and powerless to move forward. I am not brave enough, and I want to hide. Surely, God should find someone else for the job! Then, His sweet Spirit reminds me that I can move forward, because He is strong and powerful. By faith I walk it out.

I declare the truth of who He is, I meditate on that truth, and then I practice that truth.

Take a look in the mirror and ask the Lord to show you what He sees. It takes courage to face our inconsistencies one at a time. It takes even greater courage to change and grow. Thankfully, you are never alone in the task. God’s Spirit is there in the midst of transformation, empowering you to deeply believe the truth and then live accordingly.

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do (James 1:22-25).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, You search me and You know me. You see my heart and my struggles. Thank You for leading me in the way of truth. Help me to not just know what Your Word says, but to deeply believe it, and to live by it. May I reveal Jesus to this world by being authentic in faith and action. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

Always Leave a Place Better Than You Found It

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My grandpa, Fred Stiverson, peacefully passed away June 6, 2017. Last Friday (July 21st) our family gathered together to celebrate his life. Throughout my childhood I affectionately called my grandpa “Gong Gong,” a Cantonese term for grandfather. My Chinese grandfather had passed away when my father was a boy, and “Gong Gong” accepted my name for him as a badge of honor.

I loved my grandpa dearly. He was like a father to me, especially during my tumultuous teen years, providing security and stability that were greatly needed. A man of integrity, his children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, loved ones, and friends knew Fred Stiverson as “a lover, a peacemaker, a problem solver, always looking for the higher ground which would bring the greater peace and good to all involved” (quote from Joyce Berry, my mom). He lived a long, meaningful life of 97 years, and he finished well.

One of the big lessons my grandpa taught his family was to always leave a place better than they found it. I value this principle which was also passed on to me, because it is a hallmark of servant leadership.

Always leave a place better than you found it.

As leaders we must do more than climb up the corporate ladder. We do what we can to make our sphere of influence a better place. We invest in those around us to encourage their personal and professional growth. We share the love of Jesus through actions everywhere we go.

Mother Teresa extended my grandpa’s principle even further by saying, “Let no one ever come to you without leaving better.”

Like my grandpa before me, I want to leave a lasting legacy to my children and grandchildren (and hopefully beyond). I want to be remembered as a person of faith and integrity. At the end of my life, I want to leave this world better than I found it.

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:10).

Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did (1 John 2:6).

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:30-31).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for sacrificing Your Son on my behalf. Help me to get the focus off myself and to live sacrificially for others, sharing Your love and kindness, and following Your example. Empower me by Your Spirit to leave every place I go better than I found it. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

Integrity: It Really Matters

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“Do as I say, not as I do.” Whenever I hear this phrase I cringe inside. Leading by example is one of the top qualities followers desire of their leaders world wide. Yet, it seems to be in short supply among the leaders most visible to us.

“Do as I say, not as I do.” This well known admonition has been used by parents and authority figures for generations. Surprisingly, the origin of this saying is quite noble. Preachers of old acknowledged their personal shortcomings. Despite their desire to follow Jesus in perfect holiness, they knew that as human beings they would never be perfect. Only Jesus Christ was and is perfect. Knowing that they would fail in their aim for perfection, they instructed their congregation to follow the Word of God they zealously preached (“Do as I say”) rather than their imperfect example (“not as I do”).

“Do as I say, not as I do.” Unfortunately the saying has morphed to mean something very different. “Follow my commands as the leader, and do not pay attention to my example.” It illustrates the sometimes wide gap between authority and integrity. In today’s world, though, integrity is the greatest need in leadership. With our families, in ministry, on the job, in public and in private, a leader’s example matters. In every setting, a leader must practice what he or she preaches (or values) every moment of every single day.

You may be thinking, “That sounds like a lot of pressure!” Thankfully the Lord is not only our example of integrity, He also empowers us through His Spirit to live with integrity. He guides us to take steps that honor Him. He asks us to pay attention and be obedient.

What is integrity, this quality that is so foundational to influence? It is doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons in all circumstances whether or not anyone is watching. It involves honesty, trustworthiness, and steadfastness. However, it goes beyond disciplined and predictable behavior, and includes authenticity of the soul.

“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17, NLT).

Integrity is a characteristic that anyone can learn. Nobody is born with it. Nobody is born without it. Integrity is developed over time. A person’s reputation for integrity takes years to establish, while it can be destroyed in a moment. Integrity really matters. It must be nurtured and protected.

Here are some tangible ways to practice and develop integrity.

Be true to your promises. Even if you don’t say “I promise,” be a person of your word. Don’t tell people what you think they want to hear. Matthew 5:37 in the Message version provides a great explanation.

“And don’t say anything you don’t mean. This counsel is embedded deep in our traditions. You only make things worse when you lay down a smoke screen of pious talk, saying, ‘I’ll pray for you,’ and never doing it, or saying, ‘God be with you,’ and not meaning it. You don’t make your words true by embellishing them with religious lace. In making your speech sound more religious, it becomes less true. Just say ‘yes’ and ‘no.’ When you manipulate words to get your own way, you go wrong.”

Tell others when you face delays. Communicate quickly and often with people who are relying on you. Let them know your intentions to follow through on your word, and give them the appropriate information. Even though it feels uncomfortable, don’t avoid, ignore, or hide from them.

Ask for forgiveness when you fall short. Humble people realize they will make mistakes in their pursuit of integrity, and readily acknowledge when it happens. Apologizing to a loved one for your bad attitude, or sharing with your staff about an error you made can help restore integrity.

Extend grace to others. “Treat others the same way you want them to treat you” (Luke 6:31 AMP). How do you want others to treat you when you admit your mistakes? Do you want them to be understanding and forgiving? Then practice being gracious to others.

Being an amazing spouse, parent, or leader goes beyond being able to look good and perform well when others are watching. Unwavering integrity is a key ingredient for powerful influence wherever God has set us.

“To do what is right and just is more acceptable to the Lord than sacrifice” (Proverbs 21:3).

“The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity” (Proverbs 11:3, NIV).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for providing the perfect example of integrity. Your ways are always true and steadfast. I acknowledge that I often desire people to recognize me. I allow their opinions to affect my actions, instead of being directed by Your unconditional love for me. Help me to follow You with integrity whether or not others are watching. You always see me, and I want to live to please You alone. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Three Things My Mom Taught Me

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A few days ago I had my 49th birthday. The Lord has been so good to me. Not that life is easy. In fact, the last few years have been painful because of significant loss and also with intensive emotional healing. I have lifted the lid to my past and acknowledged the dysfunction and brokenness of my childhood, inviting Jesus to heal me. Excruciating and yet liberating.

But it has been tough for my parents too. I understand. Almost every parent, Christ-follower or not, tries their hardest and wants the best for their kids. It’s heart wrenching to find out that despite your best intentions and efforts, it wasn’t enough to protect them from being damaged in some way. However, in celebration of my birthday, I want to reflect on the rich blessings poured out on me. For starters, I give thanks to the Lord for my mom.

My mom was 18 years old when she found out she was pregnant. The doctor recommended she have an abortion. After all she was young and had just started college. Despite the conventional wisdom of the day, she chose life for me. For that reason alone, I am deeply grateful.

My parents got married and wanted a happy family, but it didn’t work out. It was difficult and confusing to navigate divorce as a child. I would have loved to have been raised by two parents on the same team in the same household. Nevertheless, they invested in my life in different ways and taught me some valuable lessons that continue to shape me. Today I want to share with you three things I learned from my mom.

  1. It’s never too late to change. My mom committed her life to Christ at the age of 32. She had done a lot of living before then, marked by broken relationships and poor choices. I have heard her compare herself to the woman at the well in John Chapter 4. And like the woman at the well, my mom was radically changed when she encountered Jesus. The Savior lovingly reached out to her, she took His hand, and I have witnessed her walk out the process of glorious transformation. No matter her age, my mom is committed to growing personally, in her relationship with Christ, and in her relationships with others. In fact, her marriage to my step-dad speaks loudly of her desire to change. After suffering through three divorces, my mom recently celebrated twenty years of marriage to her beloved husband.
  2. Always take the high road. Most of my mom’s career has been focused on public sector and non-profit work. She is an excellent administrator and has great skills in networking and building partnerships. Unfortunately, she has also been viewed negatively by others who felt that she threatened their agendas. My mom has been the recipient of ugly words and treatment. At times, she has endured immense pressure. Regardless of how she is treated, my mom will not stoop to their level. She stands firm in her position, but extends kindness and respect. She is not two-faced; she does not speak negatively about others. My mom relies on the Lord to help her respond with truth, honesty, and integrity. And, no matter what, to love and pray for those who opposed her.
  3. Be brave enough to acknowledge your mistakes. It is hard for most people to admit they are wrong. A sense of fear or shame can be powerful when looking at our failures. We want to hide or bury the mistake, or we respond defensively out of self-protection. Yet, my mom can look at fear or shame, take a deep breath, and muster enough courage to deal with past and present issues—whether small or large. She taught me to be brave enough to acknowledge little mistakes. Rather than lying to cover it up or getting angry at the one who pointed it out, she takes responsibility. Having nothing to prove, she says something like, “Oh, that was me. I did it. Sorry about that!” My mom also taught me to be brave enough to look at the big mistakes. This ability has been a gift to me especially while on my own healing journey the last few years. As I have talked with her about childhood abuse and trauma, she has listened with grace. She does not justify herself. She does not minimize my experiences. Instead, she tries to understand my perspective and see how she contributed to my pain, even though her motivation as a parent was not to hurt me. I have tried modeling this approach with my own adult children. I know I have not parented perfectly. Even though it is scary, I want to be brave enough to acknowledge my mistakes, and see my kids experience the healing they need.

As I embark on a new year and approach the age 50, my goal is to incorporate these lessons into my life more fully. I am so thankful for my mom and the things she taught me. I hope that her example is an inspiration to you, as well. I encourage you to use her lessons as tools to help you thrive in life and in the positions God has called you.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness (Colossians 2:6-7).

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen (2 Peter 3:18).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank you for teaching me and speaking to my heart. Help me to learn from parents, mentors, and others you have placed in my life, and to apply their wisdom. Continue to mold me and make me to be more like You. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

Know Yourself; Be Yourself

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Character, Servant Leadership

What Do Your Actions Say?

Last week I was sick with laryngitis. In addition to a steroid shot, the doctor prescribed lots of honey and lemon, plus no talking until my throat felt better. The time of “forced” silence challenged me to find other ways to communicate apart from speaking. It also gave me pause to ponder what I say with my actions.

I like to consider myself a servant leader, one who uses the influence granted to me in order to serve others and equip them to answer God’s call. I enjoy learning and teaching and speaking about servant leadership. But if you take away all my words, how well do I actually practice it?

There are areas in leadership that require more than saying the correct words. My actions must solidly support them, as well.

Integrity
This is all about having my words and actions match. Am I consistent in character and principles everywhere I go? Do I back down from doing the right thing when I encounter resistance? Do people trust me with confidential information, knowing I won’t share it with others to gain an advantage?

Humility
A secure leader is comfortable in the background, allowing others to take credit for success. How important is it that I am recognized as “the leader”? How readily do I give credit to others and praise them for a job well done? Do I respectfully consider people’s ideas even when they disagree with mine?

Service
A leader is never above service. Am I willing to lend a helping hand, even when it’s not a part of my job description? When I serve others, are there any strings attached? Is my ambition focused on finding better ways to serve others and make them successful?

Love
The foundation of all I do as a leader must be love. Do I genuinely care about the welfare of others working with me? Do I take an interest in their personal lives? How well do I actively listen to others? Do I tend to ask questions to learn more about people, or do I quickly offer advice and anecdotes?

We have been called to love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). To do that requires much more than words.

Take some time to consider, what do your actions say?