Posted in Character, Faith

It’s Time to Take Inventory

But don’t just listen to God’s Word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. James 1:22 NLT

It is so easy to be fooled when it comes to practicing God’s Word. As Christians, and especially leaders, we know what God’s Word says and we readily give answers to situations when they arise. We know God’s standards and are quick to instruct others in the way things should be. Knowing what ought to be done and diligently following God’s Word (and our own Bible-based advice) are two different things altogether. Leaders must regularly take inventory of their lives to avoid falling into the trap of deception.

Here are some questions I often ask myself:

  • Am I motivated by the love of Christ in thoughts, speech, and actions?
  • Do I show kindness, patience, and grace to others, especially to those within my own home?
  • Am I willing to share my faith with others?
  • Does my lifestyle reflect Christ well?
  • Do I spend time with the Lord daily in His Word and prayer, not as a strict ritual but as a means to commune with Him?
  • Is there unforgiveness or bitterness in my heart?
  • Are there areas where I feel that I can’t or won’t obey the Lord?
  • Do I reach out to the hurting and those in need?
  • Have I built margin in my schedule, intentionally creating opportunities for rest and renewal?

My husband and I are currently enjoying a summer sabbatical. We are intentionally spending time in God’s presence, to grow in relationship with Him. We are seeking God’s will for ministry at the church to which He has called us. In the midst of this season of blessing, I have taken inventory of my own life and have discovered a problem. I am not fully relaxed. I still have much on my mind. Although I am not involved in planning and conducting worship services, I have too much on my plate. There are things that I really love doing, and they take my attention.

I have sensed the Lord challenge my heart to take a break from blogging for the remainder of my sabbatical, among other things. I admit, this is difficult for me. I am passionate about communicating to others through the written word. Writing also nourishes my mind and heart. Nevertheless, I am committed to listen to God’s leading. I have experienced the blessings of obedience over and over again. I may not like it or understand it, but following God’s written (and spoken) Word is always best.

So with that…I look forward to connecting with you again in a few short weeks. In the meantime if you haven’t done so in a while, it’s time to take inventory.

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Posted in Character, Faith

Be the Leader God Has Called You to Be

I spent an amazing Saturday at “She Leads: Her Voice,” a conference to empower women to lead where they are and release them to become who God designed. I was blessed to be included in the line up of speakers. However, at the end of the day, I felt that I had received so much more than I had contributed.

The Lord took 12 Ted-Talk-style messages, delivered by 12 women with diverse personalities, styles, and experiences (who did not confer ahead of time), and wove them into a tapestry with one common thread—being the leader God has called you to be.

I wish you had been there with me, to soak in the passion for Jesus and authenticity of heart for yourself. In an effort to give you a taste of the rich wisdom imparted through this event, I pass along some nuggets of truth.

  • Authentic leadership requires the willingness to be vulnerable, keeping an open heart during difficulties instead of numbing.
  • Only go where the Lord leads you, and then move forward with courage.
  • Separate seeking affirmation for what we are doing from seeking affirmation for who we are.
  • Stewardship involves more than money. It encompasses everything that we are and have. And, it all belongs to God.
  • Learn to manage God’s call to avoid burn out.
  • It’s never too late to be who you might have been. It’s time to take your future back.
  • Learn to trust Jesus with your broken places. Hiding from brokenness creates a destructive emotional cycle.
  • God is concerned with the condition of your heart rather than how you look on the outside.
  • Make it your goal to reflect Jesus, not your expectations of who you should, could, or ought to be.
  • God’s goodness is seen through creation and His plans. The core of His goodness is seen through Jesus. When things are difficult and there are no answers, Jesus is enough.
  • When God calls you to lead, don’t limit His plans by your preconceived notions of what that looks like.
  • “You’re not doing it wrong.” There’s no “right way” to lead. There’s no “right way” to do you.

Be encouraged to lead where God has placed you, using the strengths and passion He has given 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 Vision & Goal Setting

Six Questions to Ask About Your Goals

Welcome to March! The third month of 2014 has officially begun. Remember those goals you set at the beginning of the year? How is it going? With two months behind you, this is a great time to pause and reflect on your progress. Gain more clarity and momentum for achieving your goals by answering some important questions.

Are my goals written?
If your answer is “no,” write them down. Whenever I go to the grocery store, even for a couple items, I need a shopping list. I admit, sometimes I lose it before I get there. Whenever this happens, I get distracted by all the bargains. I wander down the aisles, trying to remember what I came for. I end up wasting money, because I buy things I don’t need (after all, it was all on sale), or I waste time because I have to go back for the things I forgot. In a similar way, without written goals it is easy to get distracted. It may even cost you time and money before you get back on track.

Writing down your goals does a number of things.

  • It helps you remember them.
  • It reinforces your commitment to them.
  • It makes you accountable.
  • It gives you focus.

How often should I revisit my goals?
Having a written plan is important, but the power lies in keeping the plan continually before you. Some people begin each day by reviewing their goals. Others review their goals once a week. Decide the frequency that works best for you.

Only a small percentage of businesses that invest in the strategic planning process actually accomplish them. By far, the biggest reason is that, once created, the plan simply sits on the shelf. They continue doing business as usual without referring to their well designed plan.

Next, take a look at each of your goals and re-evaluate them with these questions.

Is this a goal I believe God wants me to pursue?
This really is the bottom line. Does the goal honor the Lord? Does the goal align with the teachings in God’s Word? Would this goal be approved by trusted, mature believers? If you answer “no” to any of these questions, you have a goal that is not worth pursuing. If the Lord has indeed put the goal in your heart, He will help you accomplish it.

Is this a goal I am committed to?
It’s important to be honest with yourself. Goals are successfully accomplished through commitment. If you aren’t willing to persevere during challenges, your commitment level is low. In this case, it is better to change your goal to a good idea and focus on something else to which you will commit.

What obstacles am I facing in achieving my goal?
You’re committed to the goal, but you’re still having difficulty. Step back and objectively look at the situation. Identify the obstacles and problems. You may need to enlist support from a coach to ask questions to prompt discovery and learning.

What adjustments do I need to make?
In light of the obstacles, you may need to tweak your plan. You may need to change your time line. You may need to change your approach or take a detour. Ask God for His wisdom. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT).

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.:
If you can’t fly, then run.
If you can’t run, they walk.
If you can’t walk, them crawl.
But whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.

Every choice you make is either bringing you closer to or farther away from achieving your goals. Choose wisely, and keep moving forward.

Posted in Faith, Vision & Goal Setting

The Most Important Step of Effective Goal Setting

I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions. I am all for making healthy and positive changes, but the statistics support my aversion. With a dismal 8 % success rate,1 I have personally committed to begin a new approach either before the year ends or well after the year has begun.

The biggest reason I avoid the New Year as a start date for change is this: New Year’s resolutions are seldom true resolutions based on the conviction and motivation necessary for success. They are typically good ideas based on what we think should happen. Rarely do they reflect a steadfast resolve to achieve something better, but rather are more like wishful thinking.

Nevertheless, January seems to be the prime time for leaders to set goals and engage in strategic planning. Regardless of the date on the calendar, it is crucial to consider your level of buy-in. Is this another good idea or passing fad, or are you deeply committed to doing what it takes to accomplish it over the long haul?

For the Christ-follower, the most important step of effective goal setting is to identify goals that are God-ideas instead of just good ideas. Make sure that your goals align with God’s direction. Books, seminars, and leadership blogs provide excellent tips and ideas. However, they may not necessarily work for you given your context and culture. They may not represent God’s mind for you and your organization during this particular season.

I realize there are volumes written about how to understand God’s will. Even with myriads of advice, it is still a topic that seems mysterious. After all, can we REALLY know His will? How can we distinguish God-ideas from good ideas? Admittedly, seeking God’s will is a faith venture, and I would never pretend to have the definitive answers. However, there are some simple steps that guide the process. I highly recommend keeping notes of your discoveries for easy reference.

  1. Ask the Lord for wisdom. James 1:5 says, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (NIV).
  2. Pay attention to inspirational thoughts during prayer. Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd. Because we belong to Him, we can recognize His voice (John 10:1-16).
  3. Be open to guidance from the Word of God. God speaks through His Word. “Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path” (Psalm 119:105, NIV).
  4. Enlist input from respected, mature believers. Benefit from the wisdom and insight of others. “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 15:22, NIV).
  5. Pray for clear direction. Ask the Lord to open doors of opportunity and to close doors that are not potential areas of focus (Revelation 3:8).

Spend time pondering Proverbs 3:5-6, as you seek God-ideas for your plans and goals.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take (NLT).

When you trust in the Lord and seek His will, He will show you which path to take. He will reveal His goals to you, those God-ideas that are worth pursuing.

 

1. Dan Diamond, “Just 8 % of People Achieve Their New Year’s Resolutions. Here’s How They Do It,” Forbes.com. January 1, 2013, http://www.forbes.com/sites/dandiamond/2013/01/01/just-8-of-people-achieve-their-new-years-resolutions-heres-how-they-did-it/2/

Posted in Character, Faith

The Power of Perspective

It was early 1997. I was thirty-five weeks into my pregnancy with my youngest child when I learned she had spina bifida. The two weeks that followed were a whirlwind of activity, as I was referred to one doctor after another in order to get an accurate prognosis. During one such appointment, I sat in front of a specialist. He offered no hope. Instead his voice droned on and on with sterile facts of the hardship that lay ahead for us, while I tried to grasp the meaning of his words. “Your baby has a very severe birth defect. She will have no use of her legs…She has a brain malformation…”

In the midst of life-shattering news, the Holy Spirit reminded me of Philippians 4:6-9–

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. And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. NLT

I immersed myself in God’s Word. I focused on His promises of healing. I contacted several prayer chains, enlisting the prayer support of thousands around the globe. I was confident that God was at work on my little daughter’s behalf, and I was surrounded by His peace.

Jordanne was born on the seventh of April, a beautiful baby girl with dark wavy hair, an adorable little face, and a hole in her back. Even though I had not witnessed “a miracle,” I continued to trust the Lord with a grateful heart. As the weeks and months progressed, I discovered joy in hidden places and learned how to live with a new kind of normal.

You see, my friend, perspective will make or break you. God’s Word affirms that a person in crisis who prays with thanksgiving and maintains a positive perspective through Philippians-thinking will be blessed with peace. Focusing attention on things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and worthy of praise instead of the problem produces peace. Peace comes, because the God of peace is with you. Social science research supports the truth of maintaining a positive perspective, as well. Active faith has been shown to be an important coping resource for people facing difficult circumstances.

So what happens when life takes an unexpected turn? What do you do when you are actively pursuing God’s plan for your life and then you are blindsided by obstacles? Whether it is a child with a disability, leadership challenge, business setback, financial shortage, relational disappointment, or health problem, you end up in a completely different place than you intended. Seek the God of peace, and He will be with you. Ask Him to help you develop a Philippians-thinking perspective.

I’m not a proponent of pie-in-the-sky platitudes. You don’t have to pretend. The Book of Psalms serves as a powerful model of honest, raw heart cry to The Lord. By all means, bring your hurts, disappointments, and fears to Him. Run to Jesus when it is hard. But also expect Him to move in ways you simply cannot imagine. View your situation as a way through which The Lord will reveal Himself to you, to unfold His new and creative solutions. Trust Him for the courage you need to take the next step. And, be on the look out for the hidden blessings along the way.

My daughter, Jordanne, is physically limited and uses a wheelchair for mobility, but I have discovered so much about God and life because of her. I would never have chosen this destination. Nevertheless, I thank God for it, and He is with me.

Posted in Servant Leadership

Leadership Lessons of a Grad Student

Last week I submitted the culminating project for my Masters in Leadership program at Regent University. When I enrolled in the first courses two and a half years ago, little could I imagine how the Lord would transform my thinking and expand my horizons. What began as an opportunity to develop skills as a leader in church and non-profit settings became a platform to discover God’s mission for my life and how He fashioned me to be a leader in my family and vocation.

I’ve always been a school girl, one who loves the pursuit of knowledge in an academic environment. However, very early in this journey the information traveled from my intellect to my soul, awakening me to a whole-hearted approach to leadership. The Lord often opened my understanding to concepts beyond the scope of the curriculum. He was my Teacher, revealing to me what I needed, in order to become the leader He desires me to be.

As I reflect on the lessons I have learned as a grad student, the following ones rise to the top of the list.

Be a servant leader. God has granted me leadership so that I can influence others and help build His Kingdom. The best way to accomplish this is through serving. Jesus Christ was the perfect Servant Leader. He willingly laid down His title and walked in humility to meet people’s needs (Philippians 2:3-8). To settle an argument among the disciples about who was the greatest, Jesus taught that the one who is greatest should be like the one who is youngest and that the one who rules should be like the one who serves (Luke 22:24-30). Leadership is not about exerting authority and dominating. Rather it is about utilizing a position to equip others to succeed, and working together to achieve God’s vision for the organization in which He has placed me.

Focus on the heart. While it is important to learn leadership skills, it is less about behavior and more about the heart. It is less about doing the right things and more about being authentic and having integrity. Proverbs 4:23 instructs, “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it” (NIV). As a leader, it is absolutely imperative that I walk daily with Jesus, allowing His Spirit of grace to transform me. If I am distant in my relationship with Him, it will infect my ability to lead. It is by keeping company with Jesus that I can love as He loves and serve as He serves.

Develop your strengths. For decades I looked at other leaders that I admired, and lamented that I was not like them. I wished that I were charismatic and more inspiring, or that it were easy for me to think creatively or dream about the future, or that I were flexible and could adapt comfortably to new situations. I spent a lot of energy on skills that simply did not come naturally. It is important for a leadership team to be well-balanced with a good representation of diverse skills. However, as an individual I can delight in how God wired me, develop my strengths, and offer them as an integral part of the team.

Embrace change. As a creature of comfort and a creature of habit, I have been good friends with the status quo. However, maintaining the status quo will bring death to any organization. Creativity and innovation are vital to combat entropy (the natural state of decline). Some organizations require drastic innovation just to stay on top of the market, but for other organizations, innovation does not need to be sudden or radical. It can be as simple as finding ways to improve existing systems or to more relevantly connect with followers.

Coach more, teach less. I gravitate toward teaching and mentoring, presenting important information and walking with others to impart my experiences. Unfortunately, these approaches do not usually facilitate follower buy-in. How often have I invested time providing usefully advice and tools that are not adopted by the hearers? While teaching is necessary when there are knowledge gaps, the coach approach has revolutionized my leadership style. It unlocks self-discovery and assists the person being coached to be solution-oriented and action-oriented, committed to implementing action steps to move him forward. Coaching works, because the person being coached is highly invested in his own development.

What are some important lessons you have learned on your leadership journey?