Posted in Faith, Personal Development

You Are So Much More…

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I’m not particularly fond of fish. In fact, as a little girl I had a bizarre nightmare about fish that fueled a fish phobia that lasted into adulthood. Thankfully I have outgrown this childhood fear of fish and in more recent years have begun to take an interest (albeit slight) in them.

Last weekend some friends took my family and me to Wizard Falls Fish Hatchery in Camp Sherman, Oregon. I have been to a few fish hatcheries before, but never really paid much attention. This time I was particularly struck by how many fish there were. Thousands of fingerlings swam around in cement pools, cared for by the staff until they were old enough to transfer to the lake. At the lake, we threw tiny pellets of fish food into the water and watched with amusement at their antics, as they raced to be first for the morsels.

At some point, my focus changed from seeing all the fish, and I began to pay closer attention to the individual fish. Although they were all rainbow trout, I noticed they were various sizes. One had a chunk taken out of his tail. Another had a big white scar on his back. Some fish preferred to swim closely in a school, while a few seemed to be loners. My friend mentioned that the fish in the lake were survivors. Somehow they had avoided being prey for the birds and other native wild life. As I studied each fish, I began to imagine what he would say to me when I asked about his story.

Have you ever felt insignificant, like a fish lost among thousands of other fish? Maybe you don’t relate to this analogy, but please indulge me here. Or perhaps do you wonder if you really matter, as one person on this planet with over seven billion inhabitants? Be assured, you matter to the Lord much more than you think.

 

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Psalm 139:13-18 is often used to defend the sanctity of human life, and rightly so. However, we should also apply it to the precious care the Lord takes for each of us individually.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.
How precious to me are your thoughts, God!
How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them,
they would outnumber the grains of sand—
when I awake, I am still with you.

Look at the attention our God gave to creating you.

  • The images of “knitting” and “weaving” convey artistry with attention to detail. There are no haphazard accidents here. The Creator has a specific plan in mind.
  • You are fearfully and wonderfully made. Your frame fashioned in the secret place is so much more than your physical body. It includes your personality, temperament, abilities, and talents.
  • The Lord ordained each day of your life. He knows the number of your days. He also established you with a purpose and a calling to fulfill.
  • God’s thoughts are vast, and they are about you! If you were “to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand.” You are always on His mind since before you were conceived. His thoughts toward you are good and loving, filled with the potential for which He designed you.

That’s just the start. Is your God-given splendor beginning to sink in?

I have a challenge for you. Take some time today and reflect on the many ways you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Don’t be modest. Write an honest inventory with as many things that come to mind, but at least five things. Then, like the psalmist, praise God for the amazing ways He has created you.

You are so much more than you realize. As you worship the Lord, He will strengthen you to be all that He designed you to be.

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory (Ephesians 1:12-13).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for giving me life and breath. Thank You for creating me with loving care. Help me to acknowledge all the wonderful ways You have made me. Help me to be so much more than I imagine. Use me to fulfill Your plans and purposes. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Posted in Servant Leadership, Vision & Goal Setting

Good Leaders Are Not Afraid to Dream

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My husband and I sat together on our love seat, cuddling in the quiet after a long work week. I was still trying to quiet my brain and put away the mental clutter I had brought home with me, when he broke the silence.

“What is your biggest dream?”

His question caught me completely off guard. It should have been an easy one to answer. But my mind scrambled to find something meaningful to say. It felt like my husband had been speaking a foreign language and I had no clue how to respond.

I am an achiever. If you look at any aspect of my life, I probably have goals written down and steps to accomplish those goals. It’s energizing to check off every item as finished on my to do list. I also keep a running list in my mind. Whenever something gets done, it’s rewarding to feel the weight of it lift (for a short time until something else gets added). One of my favorite things is strategic planning, to help figure out where an organization wants to be in three to five years, and then craft action steps for effectively moving that direction.

One of the qualities of a strong leader is vision. A strong leader can take a dream, translate it into vision so that others can see it, and then lead others to take the steps necessary to transform vision into reality. You can’t have vision without being willing to dream.

The requirement for leaders to have vision is challenging for me. You see, I’m not a dreamer by nature. In my younger years I wanted to accomplish goals with perfection. I colored within the lines and worked hard to be noticed for my precision and skill. I sacrificed to get top grades in school and for educators to acknowledge me. I set goals for myself, for my family, and ministry, but they were always goals I knew were reasonably within reach. Dreaming was scary. Dreaming requires imagining the impossible, taking risks, and stepping out in faith, all of which I avoided like the plague.

Nevertheless, the Lord has been stretching me little by little to develop vision. Because dreaming is a precursor to vision, He has also been teaching me to dream. It isn’t as scary as I once thought. Dreaming is opening my mind and heart to imagine what the Lord ultimately wants to do through an organization, a group, my family, or me. It may seem impossible or unlikely given the current circumstances, yet it reflects the Lord’s desires and will. As I continue to spend time with the Lord, the dream becomes solidified into a vision I can share with others.

In Genesis 12, the Lord placed a dream in the mind and heart of His servant, Abram. Although Abram had no children, the Lord called him to leave his homeland and promised that he would be the father of many nations. In Genesis 15, He told Abram to look at the stars in the sky as a visual representation of the dream. In the proceeding chapters, Abram (renamed Abraham) took steps toward accomplishing the vision and trusting the Lord to fulfill His promise. It all started with a dream.

As I have been learning to dream, I have discovered some hindrances to dreaming. One of them is operating in survival mode. It’s hard to imagine possibilities or even think positively when energy is spent to get through the day. Disappointment and discouragement have a way of stripping away faith, and it becomes difficult to see a better tomorrow let alone the preferred future.

Another hindrance to dreaming is operating in achievement mode. We can become so engrossed in accomplishing the next step and reaching the next goal that we forget why we are doing these things in the first place. I was deep in achievement mode when my husband asked me about my biggest dream. We need to keep the vision before ourselves and those we lead. We also need to continue to dream for our organizations, our families, and ourselves, to listen and follow the Lord’s directions, and to be actively engaged in His will.

What are some of your dreams?

What hindrances do you face to dreaming God-size dreams for your life, your family, your job, or other areas?

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4, NIV).

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

Yet [Abraham] did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised (Romans 4:20-21).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for placing me where I am for this season of my life. Help me to see things from Your perspective. Teach me to dream faith-filled dreams for myself, my family, and the various places you have called me. By Your Spirit, may I walk by faith and not by sight, trusting You to complete the work You have started. 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?

Posted in Character, Faith, Servant Leadership

Don’t Take Yourself So Seriously!

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Leadership is serious business. Leaders are given weighty responsibility that others simply do not carry. There can be incredible pressure to perform, inspire, succeed, expand…I have learned many important lessons while on this leadership journey. Some came from the school of hard knocks; others from well-respected mentors. One of the most important lessons is: Don’t take yourself so seriously!

I heard these words often as a young woman trying to make a mark on this world. I would agonize over missed answers rather than rejoice in scoring an A on an exam. I would replay minor mistakes of a performance over and over again in my head. I stressed out about small details of projects that were less than perfect. I was ambitious, tightly strung, kind to others, but a brutal task master to myself. Thankfully I discovered God’s grace along the way. As I result, I experience much less internal stress and enjoy leading others.

“Don’t take yourself so seriously!” is a great maxim, but what does it really look like? For me, it includes the following statements I try to live by.

This is God’s deal. I heard this one regularly from a former boss and current friend, a risk-taking visionary who boldly invites others to join the mission. The idea is I am responsible to pray and plan, and then execute the plan to the best of my ability. However, there will always be variables outside of my control. But I believe that God is in control. I am called to do my part and release the outcome to God.

“No” does not mean failure. It is disappointing to face a closed door to a promising opportunity, or to hear that somebody else has been selected for a contract. Disappointing…but it doesn’t have to be devastating. It simply means this is not the right timing or that there is a better plan. The Lord sees every detail–past, present, and future. I trust Him, as He lovingly weaves them all together to achieve His purposes.

Keep a sense of humor. It’s okay to laugh at myself. No, really. I am an imperfect human being after all. Despite every determined, right motivated effort, I still make mistakes. And the older I get, the more silly mistakes I seem to make. There is freedom in humbly admitting I am wrong, instead of trying to maintain a polished image. There is even greater freedom in finding the humor, and then laughing about it. In every situation, the joy of the Lord is my strength.

The Westminster Catechism states, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.” My number one aim is to honor the Lord. When life and leadership are all about Him, I take Him seriously, and not myself.