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.

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Posted in Faith, Personal Development

Just Be

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I had the joy of attending my daughter-in-law’s baby shower this weekend. A group of her twenty-something year old friends and I celebrated the upcoming arrival of little Macallan Jon, due next month. This was a great setting for people-watching, one of my favorite activities.

My daughter-in-law and the other young women were lovely, each uniquely so. As they interacted I sensed the warmth of long-standing friendships. Also present were ever-so-subtle cues of insecurity. I recognized them right away, because of my close association with insecurity over the years.

Comments demeaning their own physical appearance.
Nervous expressions of self-doubt for not being a good friend.
An overly inflated air of confidence.

I smiled to myself as I remembered all the times I beat myself up for not being good enough in social settings, and I thanked God for walking with me to a place of acceptance. As an older woman with grandkids, I don’t compare myself with others like I used to. (Please know, I still struggle at times, but I’m not brutal to myself like I was as a younger woman.) I’m not trying to confirm my value, because I experience Christ’s deep love for me. Not in a general way — “for God so loved the world” — but in a very specific, personalized way. I know that I know that I know that I am loved and worthwhile. This knowledge helps me to lead and serve others well.

If I could give a gift to a younger generation of women, it would be an awareness on a soul-level of their immeasurable worth, based not on performance but on the grace and devotion of the Lord. I would impart to them some life-giving principles.

  • Your value is not determined by your physical appearance or the size of clothing you wear.
  • Your value is not based on how well you perform at work or how well you manage your household.
  • The harsh words of your spouse, parent, or friend do not diminish your value in any way.
  • You don’t have to prove your worth.
  • You are precious and priceless, loved dearly and fiercely by the Lord. Period.
  • Just be.

My youngest daughter recently self-published her first book entitled Be. The book is a romance. It is neither realistic or practical, and she didn’t intend it as that. I really like some of the lines spoken by Jasper, the main male character. Jasper’s words convey the value and worth of his beloved, Scarlette.

“You are who you are. And that is utterly stunning.”

“Please know this. Darling, you are desperately beautiful. Your shattered heart bleeds beauty. Your soul cries beauty. Your mind radiates beauty. Everything you are explodes beauty.”

“Just be, my darling. Because you are seen. You are enough.”

When I read these words, I imagine that Jasper is symbolic of my Jesus. Can you imagine that with me? You are the beloved of the Lord. You are desperately beautiful to Him. He sees you. You can cease your striving. Through Him, you are enough. Just be.

I cried out, “I am slipping!” but your unfailing love, O Lord, supported me. When doubts filled my mind, your comfort gave me renewed hope and cheer (Psalm 94:18-19 NLT).

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! (1 John 3:1).

Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV).

Prayer:
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your love and acceptance. Open my eyes to see the ways that I try to prove my worth. Let me rest in the knowledge that I am Your beloved and nothing I do will make it more true. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Be by Jordanne M. Babcock is available on amazon.com.

 

Posted in Servant Leadership

Will Somebody Please Listen?

id-100149544The presidential election results were announced less than a week ago. In light of the current outcry, it may disappoint you to know that I avoid talking politics. I understand the power of politics. Policies can have a long-lasting and profound effect on our lives. While I take the responsibility to vote seriously and contact governmental officials regarding important issues, I believe my calling is to serve others in a way that transcends the political arena.

My purpose to love God and others goes beyond a person’s political or religious beliefs. I don’t have to see eye to eye in order to extend a hand of kindness. I may not agree with their viewpoint or lifestyle, but I can treat them with the respect they deserve as someone created in God’s image.

The term “servant leadership” is popular these days, especially within Christian circles. One of the distinguishing features of servant leadership is listening to others. Because their followers matter, they take time to ask questions, seeking to understand before being understood. There are so many divisive issues in our country right now. Some people are angry; others are living in fear. Sadly, I don’t see much listening going on.

It seems like everyone wants to be heard, but nobody knows how to listen. They may hear the words and ideas, but they don’t grasp what’s being said. They don’t put themselves in the other person’s shoes.

I think I have good ideas. I think my beliefs and lifestyle are pleasing to the Lord. I think my worldview is correct. So why should I feel threatened when others don’t agree? As someone who strives to be teachable, I want to understand how they came to their opinions. I want to hear about their journey.

I love public speaking, and I love interacting with others one-to-one, but I don’t shine in group settings. If I’m not in charge of a meeting, I am happy to be quiet. I like to listen to and consider the input of others. I offer my ideas, but if others talk over me I refuse to assert myself. I simply won’t compete to be heard. Decades of experience of not being heard has forged in me the desire to listen to others with my heart.

James 1:19 says that “everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” When we are quick to listen and hear someone’s heart, we will speak and get angry less.

Listen and be a part of the solution. Hear and help others heal.

Would you join me in listening to others? Would you take the time to understand where someone else is coming from and affirm their value as a person?

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:7-9).

Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you (Philippians 4:9).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, fill me with Your Holy Spirit so that I can love and listen well to others. Help me put down my own defenses and reach out to others. Help me to seek to understand rather than to be understood. Use me to be an agent of healing to those around me. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Posted in Faith, Servant Leadership

What to Do When You’re Overlooked and Undervalued

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Overlooked and undervalued.

Have you ever felt like that? I think it’s a common human condition we all experience to some extent or another. As we go about doing good, working hard to make a difference, it is painful to be ignored or slighted by others.

Perhaps you can relate to some of these scenarios.

  • Your life revolves around raising your family. You make sacrifices to be available to take care of your kids. Other people who work outside the home comment that they wish they could just stay at home like you, because then life would be so much easier.
  • You are seldom asked for input in group meetings. Other people speak freely and are listened to. When you finally manage to speak, or are asked to share an idea, you are interrupted before finishing two sentences.
  • Your company implements an idea that you have mentioned to key leaders several times over the last few years. It has finally been adopted and greatly improves performance, but nobody seems to know where the idea originated.
  • You are dedicated to your job. You stay later than anyone else in the company and do things with excellence. You also contribute to a positive work environment. When an opportunity for advancement comes up, someone who is a bit of a rebel with less experience and loyalty than you is selected.
  • People seek you out for advise and comfort when they are struggling. You are a safe and reliable friend. However, once the crisis is over they don’t need you anymore. They prefer to hang out with their other friends who are more popular, influential, or fun. When you are struggling, they aren’t available, and you don’t know where to turn.

What are we to do when, despite our best efforts, we are not acknowledged for our contributions? For most of us, we aren’t looking for public recognition or praise. We don’t want people to create a scene over our own personal greatness. (If you are among the few who do, this blog won’t really help you.) However, we would like to be noticed and appreciated.

As a woman in ministry, I have been overlooked often and treated with awkwardness (often in but not limited to male dominated settings). My preference to listen to others rather than talk contributes to these situations as well. When feeling insignificant, there are some things I focus on that bring me back to confident footing.

My significance comes from the Lord alone. When it comes right down to it, no human being can determine my worth. Regardless of popular opinion, which can be erratic and capricious, I am a child of God fully accepted and dearly loved by my heavenly Father (1 John 3:1). He takes great delight in me and rejoices over me (Zephaniah 3:17). Nobody can snatch me out of His hand (John 10:28), and nothing can separate me from His love (Romans 8:35-39).

The Lord has a plan for me. I am not a cosmic accident. The Lord took special care in forming me and placed me on this earth for this time in history (Psalm 139:13-18). He knows the gifts He has given me (Romans 12:4-5) and has assigned me with a specific purpose in His Body, the Church (1 Corinthians 12:12-27). I am a masterpiece, created to do the good works God planned for me long ago (Ephesians 2:10). Even though my life may not look the way I have imagined, I can trust that I am following God’s plan and fulfilling His purpose.

I will recognize and value others. Because I know the pain of being overlooked and undervalued, I want to be aware of others and not contribute to their pain. I want to help break the cycle. Following the second great command, I will love my neighbors as myself (Mark 12:31). I also know the joy of being accepted and loved by Jesus, and want others to experience Him in life-changing ways. By recognizing and valuing others, it is my hope they discover God’s perfect love in personal ways. Bringing it closer to home, I try to acknowledge and praise each of my staff members for a job well done or for sharing good ideas. I try to express appreciation often to my family.

If you wrestle with feeling overlooked and undervalued, I encourage you to establish your identity in Christ. As you become more secured in Him, you can reach out to be a blessing to others.

Live a life filled with love, following the example of Christ. He loved us and offered himself as a sacrifice for us, a pleasing aroma to God (Ephesians 5:2, NLT).

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another (John 13:34, NIV).

Prayer:

Heavenly Father, I confess that I often feel insignificant. Help me to be secure in who I am in Christ. May I not hold tightly to the opinions of others, but focus on who You say I am. Help me know that I am doing what You have called me to do for this season of my life. Whether or not I am recognized, empower me to shine for You and make a difference in those around me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.