Posted in Faith, Personal Development, Servant Leadership

My Things Aren’t Really My Things

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My things. When I think about it, I am grateful for all that I have.

My husband, my family, my friends, my job…Most of my “things” aren’t objects at all, but rather people who are incredibly dear to me. Now think about all the “things” in your life, and fill in the blank.

My __________.

If you’re like me, you can come up with a pretty long list.

Perhaps, too, if you’re like me, you take great responsibility for your things.

In no way do I wish to minimize the importance of good stewardship. God’s Word speaks about investing in our relationships and doing everything as though we are working for the Lord and not people. Striving to reach goals with excellence is a noble pursuit. However, at the end of the day I must remember that my things aren’t really my things. All of my things belong to the Lord.

Remember that list you compiled in your mind? Try adding the words “belong(s) to the Lord.”

  • My spouse belongs to the Lord.
  • My family belongs to the Lord.
  • My friends belong to the Lord.
  • My job belongs to the Lord.

I’m going to add a few more.

  • My house belongs to the Lord.
  • My health belongs to the Lord.
  • My life belongs to the Lord.

This change in perspective is both powerful and freeing. I can hold onto things quite tightly. My desire to be responsible quickly morphs into taking ownership, when in reality only Jesus Christ is King. I must do my best to be faithful and to love others with His love, but when all is said and done, the results (or lack of perceived results) rest squarely on His shoulders.

When I realize that the Lord is Master and I am His servant, life becomes easier and I can thrive in adversity or when things don’t go my way.

Since stepping into leadership of a pregnancy center, I have strategically tried to reach women facing unplanned pregnancy and vulnerable to making a choice for abortion. Last year we were privileged to serve 220 abortion vulnerable women who chose to continue their pregnancies. This year, even though we have not changed anything in our approach, we have seen more women who are not considering abortion than I would like. They are uninsured, need free services, and want to go to a life-affirming clinic, but they don’t fall into the category of our preferred client. However, as a ministry of availability we don’t have a say in who comes through our doors. When I think of the pregnancy center as my “baby,” I get stressed out that we aren’t on target to reach as many abortion vulnerable women as last year. However, when I think of Life Choices as belonging to the Lord, I see each person as a divine appointment regardless of their circumstances. It’s an opportunity to talk about the miracle of life and share God’s love in word and action.

I have thought of other things in my life as my “baby” as well. This blog is one of them. Since facing a traumatic event six weeks ago, I have found it difficult to communicate. When I speak, my words gets jumbled. I think one thing and something entirely different, even opposite, comes out of my mouth. Writing, which is something I love, can feel excruciating. Words that used to flow quickly at the keyboard now eek out at a snail’s pace. The weight of producing a blog post every week added to my inability to write. When I thought of this as my blog, I was smothered by responsibility and irritated by writer’s block. When it dawned on me that this blog belongs to the Lord, I felt released from the pressure. I can write when inspired. I don’t have to be bound to a schedule and can enjoy the creative process again.

The same applies to my relationships, even the closest ones. I can love them like Jesus, and provide a grace-filled environment, but in the end their choices are their choices. As much as their decisions may hurt my heart, they will answer to the Lord, not to me.

What about you? What things are you holding onto as your things? Remember that everything in your life really belongs to the Lord. Enjoy the freedom of knowing that the outcome ultimately belongs to Him.

Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything (Hebrews 3:3-4).

For in him [Christ] all things were created; things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together (Colossians 1:16-17).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You that I live and move and have my being in You. I am grateful for the many blessings in my life. I acknowledge that they come from Your hand and not my own. Help me to remember that I am called to be a faithful manager. I am not the Owner; I am not in charge of the outcome. Help me to grow in trust and thrive in the midst of every challenge I face. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Don’t Take Life for Granted

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Have you ever faced your own mortality? Have you gazed upon the nearness of death? Have you suddenly been awakened to the preciousness of life?

This happened to me a week ago when I stood before one of the masked men that invaded my home and ordered me by gunpoint to get on the ground. As he moved to my back, still aiming his gun to my head, I wondered, “Is this the way my life will end?” Within moments, my life was spared. The Lord used my husband to bravely rescue me and protect our family from harm.

As I marvel with gratitude at God’s deliverance, I am also struck with a profound realization that I have been given a gift. Along with this gift comes a huge responsibility. It is a responsibility to be a good steward of the days God gives me, whether it be many or few. Life is too precious to take granted.

We don’t have to experience a tragedy in order to examine our priorities. Hopefully we can take the time before a crisis to stop and make adjustments.

I am not sure what the healing process will look like for me in the days and weeks ahead, but I am trusting the Lord to help me thrive following this trauma. While on this journey with Jesus, here is what I will focus on:

Always say “yes” to the Lord. I want to live in willing obedience. Whatever He says, I will do. Wherever He leads, I will follow. His Word directs my steps and lights my way. I step out in faith as He empowers me.

Tell the ones I love that I love them often. I cherish my family and friends, and will frequently express my care for them. I want them to have fond memories of my devotion. I will do my part to deal with conflict and resolve unpleasant issues so that they do not infect relationships.

Spend my time on the things that are important. Saying “yes” to the Lord and investing in relationships are priorities to me. Proper self-care is essential for my healing too. My calendar must reflect my priorities. I must order my schedule accordingly.

Don’t take life for granted. What is the Lord speaking to your heart about priorities? What adjustments will you make to reflect what is really important?

Not to us, O LORD, not to us, But to Your name give glory Because of Your lovingkindness, because of Your truth (Psalm 115:1).

Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of life. Help me to steward my time well and to place Your will at the center. Show me how to order my priorities, and grant me courage to make the necessary changes. I want to live a life of purpose on purpose, glorifying You. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Faith

The Gift of Sabbath

Our culture prizes productivity. People bemoan how tired and busy they are, but they do not stop to evaluate how to live differently. Everyone is caught in this rat race and there is nothing they can do about it. The value of activity and busy-ness has infiltrated the Church. Although Christians may have different Biblical interpretations about Sabbath, most of us would agree that Sabbath is important. However, it is all too easy to give lip service. Yes, we know it is a good thing. However, we are under grace not under the Law. We don’t have to observe Sabbath.

When we approach Sabbath from a legalistic bent, I believe we miss the point. Jesus Christ taught that “the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath” (Mark 2:27 NIV). The Sabbath was created to meet the needs of people to rest and worship. In order to thrive in life and in God’s calling as leaders, it is crucial to invest in our own well being by regularly setting aside time to honor God and enjoy His blessings.

Up until a few years ago, I did not really understand the importance of soul-care. Over time I have learned the power of Sabbath in renewing my soul. If you are still pondering the merits of Sabbath, here are some things to consider.

The Sabbath is a gift from God. During the week of creation in Genesis 1 and 2, God modeled the Sabbath for His children. We were made to work hard for six days, and then cease from work on the seventh day. The day we set aside to rejuvenate is not as important as the rejuvenation itself. Our Creator knows that our bodies need rest. It seems counter-intuitive, but the most productive people are not the ones who burn the candle at both ends, continually pushing themselves beyond their limits. Research shows that the most productive people nap when they are tired, get eight hours of restful sleep at night, and are in tune with the needs of their bodies. Sabbath is a gift, not a restriction. When we enter into a rhythm of rest we function according to God’s design.

The Sabbath emphasizes simplicity. We cannot do everything. In order to incorporate the gift of Sabbath in our lives, we must listen carefully to the Lord about how to arrange our time. There are certainly many good things in which we could be involved. However, we must only say “yes” to the things that are best. That means letting go of things that are good to build margin in our schedules. Life becomes simpler when we guard regular times for rest, relaxation, refreshing activities, and worship. Last year my husband issued a challenge to our congregation. He gave a blank monthly calendar to each family and instructed them to select one day each week on which no work, appointments, or other non-restful activities were scheduled. This exercise helped families to simplify their lives by deciding and focusing on what is really important.

The Sabbath reveals our trust in God. When we take the bold step of incorporating Sabbath in our lives, we affirm that God’s ways are best. We demonstrate that we really believe that He is in control. We can take time to rest and refresh with confidence that the Lord will give us the time and strength we need to accomplish His will. We stop making excuses. We cease our striving to “make things happen,” and learn to lean on Jesus. We discover the joy, peace, and beauty of His presence as we observe Sabbath as an act of worship.

Do yourself a favor…don’t wait until you encounter burnout or health issues that force you to slow down. Do what is necessary to include Sabbath as a life style, and reap the astounding benefits.

 

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 Servant Leadership

On Leadership and Love

Should leaders love the people they lead? Conventional wisdom says, “NO! Leaders should maintain professional distance and focus on the business at hand. Success of the organization and personal advancement should be the primary concerns.” Thankfully, there is another approach. Servant leadership has been gaining credence since it was introduced by Robert Greenleaf in the 1970s, especially in the church and non-profit sectors. Today many for-profit organizations, such as those listed in the “100 Best Companies to Work For,” support the servant leadership philosophy.

Love for others is what sets servant leadership apart from other leadership approaches. In fact, servant leadership involves more than engaging in the correct set of behaviors. It requires authentic character and genuine care for your followers. As Christians we are called to practice a higher type of leadership, modeled after the ministry of Jesus and marked by love.

What does this type of love look like?

  • Having a heart to serve others.
  • Putting others’ best interests above your own.
  • Caring about the welfare of the people working with you, and taking an interest in their personal lives.
  • Promoting kindness, respect, and honesty in the workplace.
  • Recognizing when others are feeling down without being told.
  • Having courage to speak into other people’s lives, even when it is difficult.
  • Investing in the holistic development of your followers.

Not to be mistaken with a warm, emotional feeling, servant leadership love is a moral love described by Bruce Winston as “Doing the right thing at the right time for the right reasons.” It can be expressed as the Platinum Rule: Do to others as they would like you to do them. In 1 Corinthians 13 the Apostle Paul discussed the supremacy of love over the greatest possible exploits. No matter what amazing leadership feats we may accomplish, without love we are nothing and we gain nothing. One of the most popular verses in the Bible, John 3:16, portrays love. “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…” Simply put…Love gives.

However, servant leadership is more about “being” and less about “doing.” At its best, servant leadership flows from the heart devoted to God. It is founded on a strong identity as being a child of the King. Servant leaders value what God values, and place priority on what God places priority–PEOPLE! Servant leaders view themselves as servants first rather than leaders first. They are servants and stewards rather than leaders and owners. They recognize leadership as a gift from God through which they can effectively serve others. Empowering followers and inspiring vision are expressed through love.

Contrary to conventional wisdom, servant leadership is not for the weak of heart. Rather, it takes great courage and conviction to take the posture of a servant and to love those entrusted to your care.

Leadership is influence; the foundation of influence must be love.

“Fortune: 100 Best Companies to Work For.” CNN Money. com
http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/best-companies/

Bruce Winston, Be a Leader For God’s Sake. (Virginia Beach, VA: School of Leadership Studies, 2002).