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 Character, Servant Leadership

Embracing Diversity

Diversity

Last week I returned to the office after a short vacation. In my absence my staff members had encountered an unpleasant conversation with one of my volunteers. This volunteer has a heart of gold and enjoys helping with building maintenance.

Somehow the discussion turned to where we live. He said, “I really like Yakima. I just don’t like all the illegals here.”

His statement wasn’t meant to hurt anyone. But my office coordinator who is intelligent, brave, and beautiful was wounded by it. She isn’t an “illegal,” but there are people in her life that she loves dearly who are “illegals.” His statement intended to express the frustration he feels about the problem of illegal immigration in our area. His statement also dehumanized an entire group of people he knows nothing about. As Christ followers and servant leaders we must constantly challenge ourselves to see all people as individuals our God loves and suffers with.

This is an area I am sensitive about. Born in the 1960s, half Chinese and half White, I felt there was no place I belonged. The Asians rejected me because I wasn’t “pure.” White people didn’t accept me either, because I was obviously “something other than White.” When my family moved to a multi-cultural neighborhood, I developed friendships with a diverse group of students—Black, Indian (from India), Pakistani, Jewish, and White. For the first time I felt whole, and my heart was full. Sadly we moved a couple years later to a predominantly White city where a person of color would turn heads.

Because of my childhood experience, today I am compelled to speak and act in such a way that demonstrates the beauty of diversity and every single life matters. From the moment of conception until death, all life is sacred and worthy of respect. Nothing can diminish that. Not legal status, ethnicity, skin color, worldview, sexual orientation, political affiliation, lack of education, poverty, addiction, physical and mental health problems, or homelessness. Nothing can take away a person’s intrinsic value.

I have three adorable granddaughters that have Mexican-American heritage. They have dark hair and eyes. I have two delightful grandsons with light hair and light eyes. Each one of them has stolen my heart! (I secretly desire to add some African-American into our mix, but that’s out of my hands.) There is beauty in diversity that delights the Lord, the One who creates such variety in the first place.

However, ethnocentrism interferes with experiencing the beauty of diversity. Ethnocentrism is ever present and it affects the way we look at the world. It is the belief that one’s own ethnicity, heritage, culture, or group is superior to others. One judges others based on one’s own culture as the ideal standard. “My way is the right way.” Left unchecked it leads to prejudice. Subtler forms of ethnocentrism show up as comments about “those people” that elevate ourselves. It divides people into the categories of “us” and “them.” As servant leaders we must avoid ethnocentrism and love all the people following our lead.

In the Book of Revelation, John has a vision of a great crowd surrounding the Lord in worship. “After this I saw a vast crowd, too great to count, from every nation and tribe and people and language, standing in front of the throne and before the Lamb. They were clothed in white robes and held palm branches in their hands. And they were shouting with a great roar,

‘Salvation comes from our God who sits on the throne
and from the Lamb!’”
~Rev. 7:9-10

Every nation, tribe, people, and language worship the Lord! They all put their faith in their Savior. No believer was excluded, regardless of their background. Can we be people that love others and include them? Can we be leaders that speak in terms of “us” and “we.” People don’t have to look, believe, think, or live the same way as us to be included and genuinely cared about. When we appreciate the beauty of diversity, we no longer say with an air of superiority, “those people.” Instead we humbly accept others as ones deeply loved and adored by Jesus. We take time to hear their life stories and experiences. We learn about other countries, cultures, and traditions. As we open our hearts, we will embrace them as “we.”

All the nations you made will come and bow before you, Lord; they will praise your holy name (Psalm 86:9).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, please guard my heart from pride, from thinking that I am better than others. Remind me that I live and stand by grace. Teach me to love all people from every walk of life, as ones loved by You. Help me resist ethnocentrism and prejudice, and be the best servant leader I can be. I want to embrace the beauty of diversity You have created. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Character, Faith

Taking off the Mask of Pride

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Pride can take many forms. As a long-time Christian, I like to think that I’m free from it. Just when I feel pretty comfortable about my relationship with Jesus, He reveals a hidden area of pride. The Lord recently unmasked some pride in my life at a doctor’s appointment. I have been dealing with some health issues for many years, all my life really. When he mentioned that I will probably need to be on medication for the rest of my life, tears filled my eyes. I didn’t like hearing that news, and I told him so. Ever so wisely and I believe he was led by the Holy Spirit (My doctor is a Christian), he asked me to explain. I told him I know the Lord uses medication to bring healing, and I would completely support my husband or kids or friends taking medication to support their health. But I don’t want to be that person…the one needing to take the medication. Gently my doctor inquired, “Do you think that might be a form of pride?” Immediately I sensed the Lord’s conviction, and I said, “You have definitely given me something to pray and think about.”

I went home and prayed about it. Sure enough…the Lord shined His gracious light into my soul. I want to be the one person in my circle of family and friends to be untouched by physical or mental pain. I want to be free from the need of any medical or emotional assistance. Why? Because I want to be the person lending encouragement and support without requiring anything in return. Because I want to be available to minister from a place of strength to those that are hurting. Suddenly I saw it clearly. Beneath the noble looking veneer lay spiritual pride. My desire centered on being adequate in my self rather than dependent on Jesus.

Spiritual pride is deceptive and sneaky. It disguises itself in many forms, and it can take prayerful discernment to recognize it. Here are just a few ways it shows up.

Being ungrateful. Pride blinds people to their blessings. What we have is not good enough, and we complain about it. When asked how he was doing, my former pastor would always answer, “Better than I deserve.” He was keenly aware of God’s grace. In reality, because of our sinful, fallen natures we deserve nothing good, and yet the Lord blesses us far more than we deserve. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever” (Ps. 107:1).

Wanting recognition. Pride causes people to seek attention from others with a desire to please them. If our efforts are not noticed, we feel rejected or resentful. As Christians we are to do everything as to the Lord and not to men. If you serve others, God notices. That’s all the recognition we need. “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people. Remember that the Lord will give you an inheritance as your reward, and that the Master you are serving is Christ” (Col. 3:23-24).

Acting defensive. People that struggle with pride are unteachable. We are not receptive to learning from others, and do not listen well. We do not readily admit to making mistakes, and often will blame others. “Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning” (Pro.9:9). Pride is also highly critical of other’s shortcomings, quick to notice and point out other’s faults, while deflecting or making allowances for own own. The Scriptures in Gal. 5:22-23 describes the fruit of the Spirit that should characterize our lives. Our approach to others should be loving, patient, kind, and gentle.

Seeking independence. This is one I struggle with most. It manifests in two thoughts: “Don’t be a burden” and “Do it perfectly.” God created human beings for relationship with Himself and each other. His Word instructs us about the vitality found in community. Somehow though we still buy in to the “self-made man or woman.” As we try to be self-sufficient, pride isolates us. Not wanting to burden others (or the Lord) with our problems cuts us off from the life-giving source we need. Spirit-filled community is highlighted throughout The Book of Acts. Then there is “Do it perfectly.” That belief is a slave driver. Perfectionism torments us to strive to be perfect, which is absolutely impossible. Perhaps, then, we will be pleased with ourselves and worthy before the Lord. Pride tells us our value is determined by our works and we are capable of achieving it ourselves. It ignores the grace of God He so lovingly gives and upon which He builds His Kingdom. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast” (Eph. 2:8-9).

So I have surrendered this area of pride to the Lord. I am taking my medicine every day and thanking the Lord for it. I believe that He is ultimately my healer, but I am not the one in charge of how that looks. He is.

“…The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you:
to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God” (Mic. 6:8, NLT).

Friends, I issue you a personal challenge. Ask the Lord to reveal an area of your life where you allow pride to affect your thinking or actions. Refuse pride access and open your heart to His humility and grace.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I come before You, knowing that I am prone to pride. Forgive me for the times I am ungrateful and seek personal recognition. Forgive me when I am critical of others and for the desire to be sufficient and perfect in myself. Open my eyes by the Holy Spirit when I open the door to pride. Teach me to walk in humility, love, and complete dependence on you. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Two Reasons to be a Forgiving Person

release butterfliesToday I am writing about a loved one. Before we get started, don’t try to guess who it is. And if you are reading this, don’t assume it is you. The truth is this dear one is no longer alive, so it’s highly unlikely he or she will be paying attention to my blog. The sweet wonderful lady (now I’ve gone and given a little of it away) had a lovely heart and endeared many people to her. But she had a very scary habit of holding grudges. If someone offended her, especially the people closest to her, she would cut off all communication. She refused to forgive and she refused to try to work things out. If you hurt her, you were stonewalled, sometimes for life. It was hard for me to understand how someone so gracious, generous, and kind could also be so hard and unforgiving.

Today I am also writing about a subject that affects us all. Forgiveness. It’s human nature to hold grudges. It’s an instinct to protect and preserve ourselves from further harm. Isn’t it fascinating that we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt when it comes to our own motives and intentions? However, when someone else does the same thing to us, we react with doubt and suspicion. The Lord, in his perfect wisdom, knows that relationships are messy and he asks us to forgive.

Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God. For the Scriptures say, “I will take revenge; I will pay them back,” says the Lord (Romans 12:19).

The Lord, in his perfect wisdom, also has our best interests in mind. Here are two of many reasons we should pursue forgiveness, even when it is difficul

It is healing for us.

Unforgiveness is like pouring poison into a cup and then drinking it yourself, hoping to get back at the person who hurt you. Does this analogy sounds ridiculous to you? It does to me. However, it is what happens when we refuse to forgive. We get stuck in the past. Bitterness takes root and makes us toxic. However, when we forgive, we open the door to God’s forgiveness in our own lives. We realize we ourselves deserve no forgiveness, but the Lord extends his grace to us liberally. When we extend the Lord’s gracious forgiveness to those that have harmed us, we loosen the chains that grip our souls.

We take the high road of hope.

When we refuse to forgive, we pass a condemning sentence. In our minds, the offenders will never change and the damage they created can never be undone. That can be the case apart from the intervention of the Lord. But, take a moment and think of your own past. Has the Lord delivered you from bad habits or unhealthy ways of relating? Are you the same person as you were five, ten, or twenty years ago? God has been patient and views you through the lens of who he created you to be. He sees you with the lens of possibility and potential, that transformation he has planned. Don’t take the low road of judgment. Take the high road of hope. As long as there is life, there is hope. Hope for a change of heart. Hope for a change of lifestyle. Hope for a change in perception.

A word of caution…forgiveness does not mean subjecting yourself to on-going abuse. Yes, God can do great things in the heart of the offender, but you aren’t required to be close friends. Sincerely wish them well, and continue to pray for their transformation. Take the high road of hope and freedom.

Then Peter came to him and asked, “Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?”

“No, not seven times,” Jesus replied, “but seventy times seven! (Matt. 18:21-22).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me and forgiving. In the midst of painful and difficult relationships, help me to walk in forgiveness. Remind me that you have poured out abundant grace on me, and empower me to extend grace on my offenders. Give me the assurance that You protect my heart and keep me safe from harm. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

 

Posted in Faith

Location Really Matters

compass

If you talk to a real estate agent, they will tell you about the importance of location. “Location, location, location,” they will say. A house can be beautiful, but if it’s in a bad neighborhood, it will be difficult to sell. An office building can be appealing, but it will be overlooked if it’s in the wrong part of town. Our location as Christians is vital to our faith, as well.

The Bible speaks of two different locations for believers.

First, Christ is in you. When we trust Christ as Savior and Lord, His Spirit dwells within us individually. This would seem impossible if the Scriptures didn’t say so.

“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4, NIV).

“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you” (Romans 8:11).

We are more than followers that are helped by Christ. He literally lives in us, empowering us by the same Holy Spirit present in the Resurrection. He dwells in us and is with us every moment. We have more than enough power to live for Him and accomplish the plans He has set before us.

Do you realize that Christ is in you? What difference does it make to know that He makes His home in you?

Equally important, you are in Christ. This provides an image of the greatness of Christ and the Church.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

“Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:2-3).

Sometimes I limit the power of God in my mind by the way I view my own humanity. I know the Holy Spirit dwells in me, but I also know myself—my weaknesses and idiosyncrasies. However, I also know there is something so much greater than myself. I am part of the fullness in Christ and share in the glory of His body. I am blessed to participate in beauty, diversity, and corporate strength.

Do you realize that you are in Christ? What difference does it make to know that you are at home in Him?

Location really matters. Christ is in you. You are in Christ. Let the truth of both locations sink into your mind and heart, and set you free.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You that Christ is in me, and I am in Christ. Open my eyes to truly understand what that means. Let me believe the truth of Your Word. Empower me by Your Spirit to thrive in life, in my relationships, and as a leader. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Vision & Goal Setting

Hold on to God’s Promises

long road

This weekend I got to spend time with all five of my grandchildren. Ariana and Bianca live with me (and their beautiful mama—my daughter). We changed up our routine and went to a park for some sunshine and fresh air. It was heartwarming to watch them run and skip and jump across the grass, at age five still uninhibited by what others might think.

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Then we had a short visit with sweet baby Emma. She is growing so quickly. A cuddly two and a half month old, she is becoming more alert and is starting to coo. Papa (my husband) even made her laugh.

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We also decided to take a day trip to see our little grandsons, Rhett and Macallan. Rhett, age two, is adjusting to his new brother. He is charming, expressive, and always on the move. Macallan, who arrived less than a month ago, slept peacefully as my husband and I took turns holding him.

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My life is so blessed. I love my kids and grandkids. Being available to my family is one of my ministries.

Several years ago, the Lord spoke to my heart, “There are more children for you to love.” I was pretty certain that didn’t mean I would be having more babies. My four older kids had already left home and my youngest daughter was a teenager. So, my husband and I applied to become foster parents and took all the required classes. Unfortunately our house didn’t pass approval, because our in-ground pool was in disrepair and didn’t have a fence around it. We didn’t have the thousands of dollars to fix it, so our application was denied. That was a confusing time for me, because I was certain the Lord had given me a picture (although fuzzy) that there were more children for me to love. If it wasn’t foster children, what else could it be? Looking back, I have the benefit of knowing that the Lord revealed a long view of my life, while in the moment I could only see things from my limited perspective.

Sometimes the Lord’s vision for our lives and ministries is so compelling it feels like it will be accomplished immediately. However, we need to take the long view, remembering that vision is meant for the future, and the future may be distant. The Lord asks us to take it step by step, day by day, opportunity by opportunity. As we go about life, we hold onto God’s promises.

I think of the story of Joseph, the eleventh son of twelve boys. God showed him dreams of the future, a vision that he would one day be the ruler of his family. In the ignorance and arrogance of youth, he misinterpreted those dreams. He ended up in an Egyptian prison, but he held fast to his faith in God and the dreams he was shown. In the fullness of God’s time, Joseph become the second in command, Pharaoh’s right hand man with responsibilities to manage the nation’s abundant resources during an extended famine.

I also think of Mary, the mother of our Savior. The angel delivered God’s message that she would miraculously give birth to a baby. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end” (Luke 1:31-33). She raised Jesus, knowing He was on a mission. But his mission unfolded in unexpected ways. Mary kept God’s vision close to her heart, often pondering what it all meant. She endured her son’s horrific crucifixion. It was not until his resurrection and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit that Mary understood. Even then, she couldn’t have imagined the powerful influence of Jesus Christ two thousand years later.

These two examples of taking the long view are more dramatic than most of us will experience, but they still remind us to serve God and His people faithfully while walking out our call. What has the Lord placed in your heart or given you a vision for your family? Ministry? Organization? Do what you can do with passion and excellence. Trust the Lord to bring the vision to pass, realizing He has revealed the long view to you. Don’t give up in the midst of difficulties and darkness. Detours, challenges, and failures can all be preparation leading to the God-sized picture He has shown you. Hold on to God’s promises, and keep moving forward.

Let us not become weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up (Galatians 6:9).

The revelation awaits an appointed time: it speaks of the end and will not prove false. Though it linger, wait for it; it will certainly come and not delay (Habakkuk 2:2-3).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, thank You for the gift of vision. While I take the steps that make sense, help me also to trust that You will accomplish Your purposes through me. Encourage me when it seems that my efforts are failing. Remind me that You have shown me the long view, and You are faithful to complete the good work You started. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Posted in Faith, Personal Development

What Does Waiting Look Like?

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I can be an impatient person, especially when I see in my mind the pieces needed to make a plan work, and then…for some reason…it takes time…for the pieces…to come together. More time than I want it to take. Waiting can put a huge strain on the fruit of the Spirit in my life. For example, we really need a nurse manager for the pregnancy center I direct. Last October I thought I had found the right person, someone that could move our mission forward with efficiency and expand the services we offer to our community. It seemed like a perfect fit. And at the last minute, the details fell apart. Now in February, there is still no nurse manager. I am waiting.

It’s not for lack of trying. We have posted the job everywhere we can think. It’s not for lack of praying. Hundreds of people have been praying for the Lord to bring His person to our ministry. And still…we wait. In the meantime, the Lord has graciously provided the medical staff coverage we need each week. Even at the last minute, when someone in charge mistakenly thought there was coverage and there really wasn’t. (Yes, it was my fault!) So I’m not complaining, but I just dislike waiting.

God’s Word talks a lot about waiting, though.

Wait patiently for the LORD. Be brave and courageous. Yes, wait patiently for the LORD (Psalm 27:14).

I wait for the LORD, my whole being waits, and in his word I put my hope (Psalm 130:5).

But they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint (Isaiah 40:31).

There are still more than 150 references to go. What the verses above have in common is the word “wait” means “to expect, hope, or be eager.” They also mention waiting “for the Lord.”

It isn’t passive. It isn’t sitting around, grumbling and complaining. It also isn’t allowing anxiety and fear to dominate. It is attending to the tasks at hand, while having an active expectation for what the Lord will do.

While I am waiting, I need to remember that this ministry is God’s ministry. I set aside my desire for control and trust the Lord to have His way with the organization that is dear to His heart. But then it gets even closer to home. My life is God’s life. When things take longer than I think they should, whether on an organizational level or in my personal/family life, I need to remember that it isn’t a reflection of me. Do I really trust that the Lord knows what is best for me? Do I really believe that He orchestrates the details of my life to build His Kingdom? Even more importantly, am I really convinced in the depths of my being that He loves me?

When I can answer “yes” to these questions, I wait in active expectation for the Lord. If I can’t answer “yes,” I need the Holy Spirit to reveal what I am believing and why, and to help me believe the truth. Then I can wait in a way that truly honors Him.

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, You know the situations I face that require waiting for You. May I be convinced of Your deep love for me. Teach me to trust in Your goodness and perfect timing. I believe. Please help my unbelief. Let me serve You faithfully with hopeful expectation for what You will do. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.