Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

It’s Okay to Be Uncomfortable

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wor·ry
ˈwərē/
verb  1. give way to anxiety or unease; allow one’s mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles.

Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? (Matthew 12:25).

Jesus Christ posed an interesting question to his disciples, to challenge their thinking. Worry is so common to human beings that for some people it seems as natural a response as breathing, yet the Master pointed them to a higher way. The obvious answer, although none of them dared to speak up, was “Nobody, Lord. Nobody can add a single hour to their life by worrying.”

Here we are 2000 years later, and how would we answer? I personally would be like the disciples and not say a word. I would try to quietly back out of the room to avoid further conversation. I know the facts. Worry has probably stolen hours from my life. However, my thoughts and actions speak much louder than any words I might produce. Allowing my mind to dwell on difficulty or troubles contributes nothing positive. But when I worry I somehow convince myself that it gives me some control over the situation.

May I just be honest with you? I don’t like feeling that things are outside of my control, because it is uncomfortable. I don’t like being uncomfortable, because it is, at the very least, unsettling, and at the most, terrifying. Some of it is my personality, some of it is the experiences of my past. Regardless of the reasons for why I am the way I am, safety and predictability are what I desire. I know some of you can relate.

The trouble is being a follower of Jesus requires faith. Faith is the opposite of worry. Being a good leader also requires faith. Again, in case you missed it the first time, faith is the opposite of worry.

faith
fāTH/
noun  1. complete trust or confidence in someone or something.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see (Hebrews 11:1).

Faith means that we have complete trust and confidence in the Lord. It also means we may feel uncomfortable humanly speaking.

I know some leaders that thrive when they embark on an adventure of faith. It is thrilling for them to be in a position to see God work beyond their own abilities. I am like the other leaders that are learning to thrive in the midst of an adventure that requires faith. My flesh still yearns to walk in the territory of the known, but the Lord shows Himself strong on my behalf. I don’t have to love walking by faith and not by sight. However, I do need to learn that it’s okay to be uncomfortable.
Last weekend the non-profit organization I lead had a 5K fundraising event. Last year my Board and I felt that the Lord was directing us to have such an event. Last year was an experiment and it went well for our first run. This year it was hard to get the momentum going. We increased our advertising, but registration was slow. For weeks I struggled with worry. I still believed we were following the Lord’s direction, but the anxiety mounted. I resisted imagining the worst, but the thoughts persisted.

This 5K is going to be a flop.
Nobody is going to sign up.
The weather will be terrible. Nobody will show up to help or participate.
Nobody will give to underwrite our expenses.
We will lose money.
All our donors will quit giving to us and give to another organization.
After 32 years of serving the community, we will close our doors.

I acted brave around my Board and staff, but I was miserable inside. Then the Lord in His sweet mercy broke through the internal clamor, and I heard Him speak gently to my heart.

Will you be okay with being uncomfortable? Will you trust Me, no matter what happens?

I again surrendered my desire to be in control, and God’s peace surrounded my heart and mind.

I am called to do my best; the outcome belongs to the Lord.

The organization I lead is ultimately led by Him.

Success looks differently to me than to the Lord.

He will provide what my organization needs, using resources I may not see at the time.

I can rest in assurance that the Lord will accomplish His plans through me for His greater purposes.

By the way, my resolve to trust the Lord was tested when there were only 13 people registered two weeks before the 5K. I held fast to faith in the Lord and chose to be okay with being uncomfortable. I experienced peace during the uncertainty, and the event came together wonderfully in the last few days.

As long as we live on this earth, there will be a battle between worry and faith. We can learn to trust the Lord no matter what happens. Victory comes when we decide it’s okay to be uncomfortable.

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).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You that Your plans are greater than I can see. Help me to trust You when things don’t go according to my plans. Teach me to banish worry and choose to have faith in You. Accomplish your purposes for my family and ministry through me. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

When Life Takes a Left Turn (Revisited)

My life with my youngest daughter has been an uncharted adventure. Born with a serious case of spina bifida, she has definitely had her share of challenges. We have learned over the last 18 years to face unexpected events with flexibility and grace, trusting the Lord to steer us toward His will. My daughter is currently in the middle of another concerning health issue. As we prepare to take her to the hospital for an extended stay, I dusted off this article from nearly two years ago. It is as relevant now as when I wrote it. May it encourage you, as it has me.

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The car was packed and ready to go. I had one more stop to make before heading out of town to a leadership retreat, a gathering I had eagerly anticipated for weeks.

The night before, my daughter had gotten a splinter in her arm. It was a random mishap. She was on her way to worship rehearsal. While maneuvering her wheelchair across the threshold of the church entrance, her arm merely brushed up against the door post. I was able to remove an inch of the splinter before it broke off under the surface of her skin. I scheduled an appointment with our doctor to remove the rest. Once that was taken care of, I would be on my way as planned.

That’s when my plan took a left turn. The doctor’s assistant tried hard to cover concern with an air of professionalism. After examining the depth of the splinter, she declared, “I’m not comfortable conducting this procedure. The splinter is embedded in her muscle and will need to be cut out. Your daughter needs to go to the hospital.”

Leadership is an extension of our lives. Every day there are numerous possibilities for our well thought out plans to take a left turn. One moment we are heading in a certain direction. The next we find ourselves in circumstances leading somewhere we hadn’t planned on going. Left turns require special attention; our responses to them sets the tone for what happens next.

As conflicting emotions whirled inside me, I was acutely aware of my response choices, and that my daughter, family, and medical staff would be influenced by my choice. How would I respond? What kind of influence would I exert?

I could assign blame. It was my daughter’s fault for being careless. Or the person responsible for building maintenance. Or the medical personnel for being incompetent. I could wallow in self-pity. This happens every time I plan something. How unfair! I am just a helpless victim! Will I ever get to enjoy anything? I could lash out in anger. If I’m not happy, nobody else is going to be happy! Someone do something to fix this, and do it now!

Instead I chose to rejoice.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:4-5, NIV). In the midst of this left turn experience, God was near. His Spirit rose up within me, giving me courage, strength, and joy.

No matter what happens, I am not a victim. Through Jesus, I will always be victorious. While events may not unfold as I would like, my God is in control. He is never taken by surprise. I trust that He loves me dearly and is actively at work on my behalf and for His glory. What about you?

My daughter looked at me with anxious eyes, and said, “I’m really sorry, Mom. I know you were looking forward to going.”

I returned her gaze and replied, “You are so much more important than this retreat. If Jesus wants me to go, I will get there. Let’s walk this out together with Him.”

As we drove to the hospital, we burst into laughter, struck by the absurdity of the situation. We expressed our trust in our loving Father to work His plan through this unexpected event.

The x-ray machine at the hospital could not detect the splinter. Finally the staff located it by ultrasound. After three attempts they removed the culprit–a piece of wood about the size of a toothpick. Six hours after embarking on what was supposed to be a simple task, I delivered my daughter home, her arm mended with super glue and Steri-strips, and her heart touched by God’s loving presence. I eventually left for the retreat, four and a half hours behind schedule, my heart overflowing with gratitude and peace.

The way we respond to the left turns in life is crucial. It sets the stage for how well we lead our families and followers. We bring who are–strengths, weaknesses, and all–to our leadership environments. As leaders we must always remember we follow God’s lead.

Are you following God’s lead? Are you walking with Him? You can trust Him to work out the details when life takes a left turn. Rejoice! The Lord is near!

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And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28, NIV).

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, I acknowledge my dependence on You. I struggle when the unexpected enters my life. In the midst of the ups and downs and the twists and turns, help me to place my trust in You. Help me lead with confidence as I remember that You are always with me and directing my course. You have the mercy and grace I need to walk this out. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Faith

Don’t Miss the Next Surprise

I really did not see it coming. It simply took me by surprise.

I had recently been ordained as a minister and was investing my time in church work and developing a leadership coaching/consulting business, when I received the email. It was a prayer request for two pregnancy centers in the area whose executive directors had resigned. “Let’s be praying for God to raise up strong, godly, life-focused directors to take those positions.” The words jumped off the screen and I felt compelled to apply to the pregnancy center in the community 45 minutes away.

“Wait a minute!” I argued with myself. “How can you possibly be the right one for the position?”

It was a valid question. I have a heart for pregnancy center ministry and served as a volunteer for many years. I worked for three years managing two pregnancy center offices in the area, but I had resigned there to focus more attention on church ministry. I continued to volunteer; however, I felt my days of pregnancy center vocation were over. In addition, over a period of months, I had become increasingly aware of God’s call to minister in the marketplace and was exploring ways to do so. And then…the email prayer request invaded my life.

I wrestled with the idea of applying for the job for two days. Finally I contacted my former boss, CEO of the local pregnancy center network. “I really feel like I’m supposed to apply for this position. Do you think I’m well-suited for it?”

Her reply: “Are you kidding? You are totally qualified!”

So I made a phone call and spoke with the exiting director. I submitted an application, had multiple conversations and three interviews, and prayed earnestly for the Lord to make His will clear throughout the process. The door of opportunity continued to open, and I was offered the job.

Today I know that I’m exactly where I belong. Yes, I have a 45-minute commute and put in long days. Yes, there are challenges and changes that need to be made. But I love what I do, and I love the people I work with.

What would have happened if I had ignored God’s prompting? What if I had dismissed His leading, because it didn’t fit my idea of His will for my life? I would have missed this divine surprise.

This blessed experience makes me wonder. How often do we miss divine surprises, because they arrive in boxes of unexpected shapes and sizes? How often do we bypass an open door, because we don’t like what we see inside or we’re afraid of the unknown? How often do we try to pry a closed door open, because that one suits our preferences?

No matter how thoroughly we plan, God’s plans are always the best.

You may not see it coming, but don’t miss the next divine surprise. Be open and flexible to God’s leading. Be willing to take a step of faith.

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.