Posted in Servant Leadership

Being Still: An Important Task for Leaders

Be StillI like to be alone.
I genuinely love people, but my introversion starts screaming pretty early.
I need some quiet, a little time to pause, maybe some rest. Then I’m good to go again.

Leaders, whether introverts or extroverts, need to take time to be still. I’m not talking about what we do after hours or on vacation. Taking time for self-care and leisure is definitely important. However, leading well occasionally requires us to be still, in the midst of responsibilities, demands, and deadlines.

Leaders often go on strategic planning retreats and plot out the organization’s game plan and appropriate steps to get there. Again, this can be a valuable practice, especially if it’s actually followed. But being still is different than the formalized planning get aways.

Being still is informal. It can be scheduled or spontaneous. It’s a posture we must take as often as necessary to keep us fresh, energized, and prepared for the future.

Here are some examples of what that might look like:

  • Sometimes leaders get so consumed reaching toward goals and striving for excellence, we forget why we are doing what we’re doing. Our job becomes nothing more than a way to earn money. We may stop seeing the value of the people we serve. We need to be still to get back in touch with and passionate about our mission. We take time to remember that we are serving the Lord (1 Cor. 10:31), and make heart adjustments.
  • Sometimes leaders face unexpected situations. A staffing problem. A financial shortfall. Negative press. Rocky relationships. A financial blessing. A generous offer we never saw coming. The Lord knows the best way to deal with it all. We need to be still to seek God for His wisdom. We may have experience and education, but don’t rely on those alone. Instead ask the Lord for direction, because He knows the past, present, and future, along with the best decisions to lead to the best outcomes. There are moments I go into my office and close my door. I quiet my heart and mind, because I know the Lord has the best solutions for both the problems and blessings I encounter. “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).
  • Sometimes there are external changes on the horizon that could significantly impact the way we do business. Other times the changes are right on our doorstep. Strategic planning is valuable in moving toward our vision, but it is never set in stone. Leaders periodically need to be still to scan the horizon, and informally assess our organization’s effectiveness. We slow down to listen attentively to others and evaluate their feedback. We cultivate an innovative spirit, and develop flexibility to stay in the game. “In their hearts humans plan their course, but the LORD establishes their steps” (Prov. 16:9).

If you’re anything like me, taking time to be still can feel irresponsible in the midst of great responsibilities and constantly pressing tasks. But it’s not. Being still is actually a part of our job. Leading others requires that we pause in order to learn, grow, and pay attention, so we can invest in a thriving staff and organization. Taking time to be still can help us get there.

Teach me your way, Lord, that I may rely on your faithfulness; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name (Psalm 86:11).

Prayer:

Lord, thank You, for calling me and equipping me as a leader. Show me when to be busy and when to be still. Teach me to balance my time and organizational priorities. Guide me to make wise decisions, so that my staff and business thrive, and Your work is accomplished well. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

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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.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Stop, Drop, and Roll: A Simple Strategy for Facing Life’s Challenges

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Two flat tires.

It all started as a fun family excursion on Memorial Day. We had piled into two vehicles to travel to the top of a remote hill in order to shoot some targets. For several minutes it was man against wilderness, as we battled steep, jagged inclines to get to our destination. Now, here we sat—six adults and a baby—in the middle of nowhere—and our Subaru had not one, but two flat tires.

In that moment, each one of us (besides my sweet grandson) was faced with a decision. How would we respond to this unfortunate turn of events? What was supposed to be an enjoyable bonding activity had quickly turned into a disaster.

I confess that my past is riddled with reactions of anger or mild (and sometimes not so mild) hysteria. Just ask my kids. They all have memories of their mother’s outbursts of tears and prolong ranting. I really like predictability, stability, and security. When that is disrupted…Watch out!

Thankfully over time the Lord in His abundant grace has taught me to practice a simple strategy when facing life’s unexpected twists and turns. It’s called “Stop, Drop, and Roll.” No, this isn’t a lesson on what to do if your clothing catches on fire. But, in the same way, our immediate response is critical to the outcome.

Stop.
Don’t do anything. Take a deep breath. The ability to think before you act is a marker of maturity. It requires creating a momentary pause to ensure that you don’t cause more damage by a rash response. “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Drop.
It’s time to be humble and acknowledge your need for God. Fall to your knees (literally or figuratively) and pray. In my line of work, even with all my training and experience, I often encounter situations that are beyond my ability to address. I send up a silent prayer and ask for God’s wisdom, and He gives me what I need. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up (James 4:10).

Roll.
Let go of your need to be in control. Be flexible and roll with the punches. Remind yourself (as often as needed) that God is in charge. Creative and hopeful solutions come when you are open to functioning outside of your preconceived ideas. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Don’t allow circumstances to overwhelm you. Practicing the “Stop, Drop, and Roll” strategy will empower you to face unexpected situations as a victor rather than a victim. And that, my friend, is a topic for another time…

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your goodness. I confess that I get upset when situations don’t go my way. Help me to walk with You by faith, believing that You are working all things together for my good and Your glory. Teach me to “Stop, Drop, and Roll” when I encounter the fiery trials of life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Posted in Servant Leadership, Vision & Goal Setting

A Different Approach to Goals

It’s that time of year again! Every January we’re reminded to take advantage of the new year and to make better choices than we did last year. Now is the time to lose weight, start exercising, conquer that bad habit, heal those broken relationships, dream big, set goals…

I have nothing against getting fired up for a better life. I’m a believer in making positive changes, and an even stronger believer that it takes strategic planning to get there. However, reaching my goals is not really a problem for me. God has blessed me. I’ve been able to set many significant goals in my personal life and as a leader, and through God’s grace I have achieved them.

I emphasize through God’s grace, because I am often my own worst enemy when it comes to achievement. I am driven. I don’t relax when there is unfinished business. My mind is constantly on the move, and I am given to anxiety. I act as if I am in control and the success of everything I am a part of depends on me.

Yes, I need to be responsible. No, the world doesn’t rest on my shoulders.

This approach to goals sabotages my energy and health. Years of living this way have taken a toll. Now when the stress is too great for too long, my body shuts down, I cannot function, and I have no choice but to stay in bed. I wish for a different approach for you, before you reach this point. And I wish for a different approach for me, to truly place Jesus in the driver’s seat of my life.

As I have prayed and pondered about this, I have sensed the Lord showing me what this different approach looks like.

Live fully in this day. Didn’t Jesus say not to worry about tomorrow, because today has enough worries of its own? (Matthew 6:34) Stress builds when we add tomorrow’s projects and next week’s deadlines to today’s plate. It also distracts us from the things at hand. When we approach this day (with its interruptions and unseen twists and turns) as a blessed adventure, we are in the flow of God’s grace, and not working against it.

Love the person in front of me. Loving our neighbor as ourselves means we pay attention to the person in front of us. They are not here to make our lives better and simply a means to achieve our own agendas. That person is more important than any goal looming over us. That person is someone whom Jesus loves deeply. We must care about their needs, and look for ways to be a blessing. After all, it is more blessed to give than to receive. (Acts 20:35).

Look for Jesus in this moment. There is a story in which a young man asks Jesus why He doesn’t do great miracles anymore, like He did in the Bible. During their conversation, the young man is blessed with a bottle of water when he is thirsty and a reward for finding and returning a wallet. However, he overlooks these blessings, thinking they just happened or are coincidences. Jesus then tells him, “How do you expect to see me in the big things, if you miss me in the little things?” Jesus is actively working in our lives. Let’s keep our eyes open to the little things with hearts of thanksgiving.

In this month of new beginnings, I invite you to join me in discovering a different approach to goals. May we be directed by the Holy Spirit and walk in God’s grace each day.

Posted in Teamwork, Vision & Goal Setting

The Benefits of Seeking Advice

My husband and I pray regularly for God to open and close doors in our lives. We ask Him to open the doors He desires us to pursue, and to close the doors we should avoid. Imagine my surprise and delight when I received a job offer for a position for which I had not even applied. I was flattered to be sought out. It seemed to be a good fit in terms of skill and experience and had a great potential for advancement. I could only see the advantages, and there were lots of them. However, I also felt a sense of uneasiness that I could not pinpoint.

As I shared about the opportunity with those closest to me, they expressed support. My uneasiness increased. Only one friend shared reservations which led me to seek the opinion of a trusted authority outside my immediate circle. He asked me questions and pointed out the difficulties with accepting the position. I was shocked at my inability to see the things so readily apparent to him, and I felt grateful for his insights.

As nice as it is to be an independent thinker, there are times when I am simply shortsighted. I need the perspective of others to develop a fuller understanding of the issues at hand.

God’s Word says it like this…

The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice (Proverbs 12:15 ESV).

It is harsh to be called a fool. I certainly don’t want to be one. However if I believe that I do not need the input of others and that I can figure things out all by myself, that’s exactly what I am. A wise person listens to advice from trusted advisers.

And again…

Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed (Proverbs 15:22 ESV).

I may be gifted at strategic thinking and skilled at developing plans, but my insight alone is limited. Multiple ideas from various angles come from well-rounded teams. Plans succeed with many godly, wise advisers.

What are other benefits of seeking advice?

Objectivity. It is hard to see clearly when we are deeply invested in the situation. Emotions can cloud judgment. Effective advisers stand back to help us see the things we miss.

Feedback. We are not the best gauge of our progress. Advisers instruct us, pointing out areas needing correction. We learn from others as we listen to them.

Encouragement. Even with a good plan, sometimes it is difficult to move it forward. Advisers see where we are and exhort us to keep going. They remind us that there is value in what we desire to achieve.

As a young woman, I thought it was a sign of wisdom and strength to make decisions on my own. Now I firmly believe the opposite is true. Seeking advice is a sign of great wisdom and strength.

Are there areas in your life and leadership where advice would be beneficial? Who do you consider to be your wise, trustworthy advisers?

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.