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Category: Self Leadership (page 1 of 6)

Messy is not sin

messy “Messy is not sin.” This is the quote from 40 Days of Decrease, my devotion for Lent.

The sentence keeps rolling around in my head today. I like clean lines. I like smooth emotions. I like life to not be messy – because messy hurts. Messy is a bit like pruning (or a destruction derby, depending on the day).

The question is – do I love the people around me enough to let them be messy?

In order to be better at letting people be messy, we have to be better at crucial conversations and creative problem solving. People are important. The growth we get from working through issues is worth the mess.

We all have different ways of dealing with stress – fight, flight or freeze. On my best days, I freeze. Most of the time, I flee – fast. On rare occasion, I have been known to step in front of the teenage freight train (I have several of them) and actually fight – because that is what the child needed.

While there are healthy ways to approach each of these tendencies, each approach has a downside. Freezing can miss critical moments. Fleeing might squash people’s emotions instead of helping them work through it. Fighting without boundaries can squash people and debilitate them. Embracing messy gives us the freedom to work through things slowly enough that freezing means listening, fleeing means regrouping to approach a situation with grace and wisdom, and fighting means having a critical conversation about what really matters.

I am very tempted right now to go back and make this a nice linear blog post that explains my conclusions – but messy is not sin, and messy can be helpful – so I will leave you with this:

What is messy about your life that you need to embrace?

Dance freely

DanceWho do you dance for?

Fear. Will others approve? Will they misinterpret? What would make me okay? It hits us in so many areas of life – parenting, job performance, social situations…the list is long.

The cure? To dance before the Audience of One. I don’t know where this phrase started, but it means that God is the One you focus on for acclaim.

Who is in your audience today?

Who is in your head that you reflect on as you navigate life?

The girl in the picture above is a street performer. She dances in order to get the attention of others because if she has their attention, then maybe they will give her coins. She needs her audience. She has to modify her behavior to keep their attention.

If we are dependent on the audience of many, we can become pulled in so many directions we lose our identity. There is an inner strength that comes from dancing before the One who defines our purpose and sustains our strength.

Who do you dance for?

Sitting in Transition

transitionI put out a frantic text to my cohort. “I can see my life shrinking. Soon it won’t be bigger than my couch.”

This was a critical moment in my recent transitions. We all reach that point – some of you aren’t as dramatic as I was. I knew I was in trouble because I couldn’t see past the end of my nose. I wanted to curl up in bed and never talk to anyone again…ever…unless they had chocolate, then I might say something rude so they’d drop the chocolate and run. 🙂

My grown up brain knew I was in trouble, so I reached out to friends. “Tell me what life is like after the kids move out. Paint a picture for me that brings hope.”

This particular wall was brought to you by my second child moving out to start her own life and live with friends. I was proud of her, and terrified for me. You see, I have 4 kids. We managed the oldest going off to school, moving her residence to CA and then getting married with only two meltdowns. But this is different. My younger three children have always been like dominoes. Where one goes, the others quickly follow. Within a year we will have all college students and above (my youngest will be in Running Start). The future is here!

This is the time I planned for! Since I was 16 I’ve planned for this day. I decided very young that the best years of a woman’s life are 45 or 50 to 70. I saw it coming and every decision I made was with this time-frame in mind. Yet, here I sat, facing a blank wall of the future.  (For those of you who know me, I’ve been “in transition” for about 8 years…but that’s another post.)

Thank God for friends! My girlfriends (cohort) didn’t wallow with me, instead, they prayed. Within a week, I had a plan for transition. I don’t have a clear vision of the future, but I do know that I need to be firmly in transition before the future will show itself. So, here is my plan for transition:

The first step in transition is knowing what you are letting go of, and letting go of it. As a pastor, I found the best way to help a family start the transition involved with the death of a loved one was to have them go through photos, remember together the past. So, I started. I went to the basement and dug through all the boxes, bins and files of childhood I’d saved for my kids – then I sorted it all into bins: one for each child, one for Wes and myself, and one for genealogy (my mother-in-law’s hobby that I’m saving for my children). Then, I went through the pictures, and kept those that might mean something to the kids some day. This phase will be done soon.

The next step in transition is redefining who you are without what you lost. Don’t panic. I know I’m not losing my kids, but I am losing:

  • Social buffers
  • Reasons to interact with others (soccer anyone?)
  • Distraction/Excuses
  • People who force me to choose to be happy/look on the bright side
  • People who force me to create a schedule

So, as I redefine who I am, I am going through the rest of the house and systematically culling (which means to gather from many resources and to “reduce a population (of animals) by selective slaughter”, both of which are appropriate here…, well, not killing animals, but getting rid of the excess stuff) – everything that we don’t have a use for needs to go away. So far I’ve discovered that I have three (almost) identical sets of artists pencils. Every time I go on vacation, I buy a new set. Can you imagine how much space I will have?

The third step in transition comes all on its own. New Direction. This comes out of walking through the first two steps. It isn’t something you can force – yet I find myself reaching…maybe I can do more work here…maybe I should volunteer to help there…what about…?? The trick is to sit. Let the process do its work, and wait for God to show up.

I’ve watched friends go through this phase – and the turn comes suddenly. Within a few days or a week, what was becomes old, and there is a new future on the horizon. So now is the time to settle everything so that it won’t be on my todo list when the new future arrives.

Are you in transition? What is your game plan?

Pivot Leadership by Angela Craig

PIVOT LEADERSHIP Cover Display Mockup My friend Angela has written a book, and you will find it an excellent companion as you prepare to organize your life again this Fall.

We all look for times of renewal and fresh start. For many of us, Fall is the perfect time to refresh and renew.

Angela’s book is your leadership refresher in a box.

“Pivot” works on two levels, first when you hit a wall, don’t stare at the wall, pivot. Next, real change doesn’t come through huge leaps and bounds, but through small, pivotal steps.

Pivot Leadership works as a primer to help you review your leadership and your life to discover ways around the walls, and the small steps you need to find your next step.

In this book you’ll find chapters on the life of the leader, leading in team, and your vision for the future. Every chapter has excellent action steps to help you review and apply each principle.

Need more information? Check out the trailer:

Reality Check

rejectionSometimes God is kind to us and gives us a serious reality check. Today was one of those days.

I came out of the restroom, and saw a beautiful woman with perfect hair standing there. Next to her, I felt dowdy. It is not uncommon for me to blurt what is on my mind, and this was no exception.

I looked at her beautiful red hair and announced “I am having a bad hair day.”

She looked at me oddly, then announced in return “Yesterday I shaved my head bald… you see, I’m having cancer treatments.”

This woman gave me such a gift today. Her wig was gorgeous. I compared myself to her – and failed to see what was really going on. She could have given me a superficial answer and walked away, but instead she opened up and told me the truth.

When I shared this story with my youngest daughter, she quoted her youth pastor. “Pastor Shaun says that we often compare our worst to other people’s best.”

Are you comparing yourselves to others?

You might be missing an opportunity to minister – and you might not be seeing reality.

What is God trying to show you today?

What box do you fit in?

11741263_sYesterday I talked about self-identity. I’m thinking through this for a reason.

I highly suspect that:

  1. Just as we tend to change careers every 7 years, we also tend to need to redefine our boxes (which means teens aren’t the only ones working on self-identity).
  2. When we are solely defined by what others think of us, that impedes this process.
  3. Men have an easier time of finding their box than women.

This last one deserves some explanation.

Men tend to lead in hierarchies. They think in boxes. In fact, when you move up the hierarchy, you just move your box up. When they leave work, they move to a different hierarchy, and switch hats to dad, or coach, or etc.

Women tend to lead in more of a web. We see the connectedness of things. We self-define through the lens of multiple relationships at a time. Therefore, we don’t have just one box at a time. Neither do we wear one hat at a time.

It is not unusual to plan dinner, create a check list for next week, and council a teen while working on an extensive spreadsheet for next year’s budget. Everything runs into each other, so it is a lot harder to define our ‘place.’

I’ve been talking with friends lately about the lack of women in leadership. I hear from some friends that men would love to have more women in leadership, but when they look for them, they aren’t there.

Where are all the women? They are sitting in 3 boxes, wearing 6 hats, hoping someone will notice the skill set they are so fantastically demonstrating – if anyone could see the whole picture at once. But, when they use their skill set to marshal the entire PTA to raise funds for kids’ field trips, people see the soccer mom or school volunteer. When they navigate medical terminology and negotiate home health care contracts for their family members, they see a dutiful daughter.

I highly suspect that because women self-define several things at once, it appears they don’t have the space to fill an open slot. There is a business adage of this: if you want something done, ask a busy person.

What are we missing?

What would you add to help further this conversation?


“For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

What makes you okay?

11458138_sMany of us feel okay by setting a standard and meeting that standard. What do you use to make yourself feel okay?

Some people define themselves by

  • Family relationships
  • Knowing and obeying all the rules
  • Our mistakes and failures

In John 8 Jesus and the Pharisees face off about how we define ourselves.

Jesus suggests that we be defined by our relationship with God. Not by our failures, our lack of resources, our rules for life, who our family is, what they did or didn’t do, or our connections.

What do you define yourself by?

The woman caught in adultery not only defined herself, but was defined by the society she was in.

Are you defined by those who know you?

Jesus looked at the woman and told her she had a choice. She could repeat her behavior and end up in the same place, or she could chart a new course.

Jesus challenged the Pharisees that their relationship with God should shape how they thought of others.

Every day, you find yourself at the feet of Jesus.

Will you shout your okay-ness like the Pharisees?

Will you continue the life that got you to today?

Will you let Jesus redefine you as the person you were created to be?

What to do in a freakout

fearTonight, I get to share with the Calvary Christian Assembly women for the fifth week. We’ve been looking at the process of change (knowing what you are letting go of and letting go of it, redefining who you are without what you lost, and new direction) alongside Elijah’s life.

Tonight we hit 1 Kings 19 – which is perhaps the one scripture I return to more often than most.

Elijah was a superhero. He stood up to all the prophets of Baal and the prophetesses of Asherah, and he systematically dismantled the idol worship of a nation, refocusing hearts on God.

And then he fell apart.

If you are going to step out in faith, there will be that eventual moment when you realize that you are walking on air. The same thing happened to Peter when he stepped out of the boat. Solid step, solid step, what am I doing??? Freakout, sink – glug, glug, glug.

You and I might face different freakouts. Maybe the bills just hit like a wave, or the emotions of those we love send us in a tale spin, or we want to step out, but hit a wall of desperation, doom and despair.

Elijah shows us a very tangible process to deal with freakouts:

  1. Be honest. Don’t try to put on your best face with God. Be honest. If He can’t handle your honest emotions, then you haven’t seen Him as God yet –  just another person to please.

2. Take care of your body. The first thing God did was to send an angel to fix the physical part of the freakout. When you are depleted, your body chemicals respond, and amplify your situation. Sleep, eat right foods, exercise and drink water.

  1. Expect God to show up. Elijah ran from his situation, but he ran to the Mountain of God. He demanded that God show up. He hollered at God, asked real questions of God, was honest with God and expected God to show up.

No matter where you are at today, God is real and rewards those who earnestly seek Him (Hebrews 11). If you are in a freakout, even if you are sinking fast, focus your eyes on where you last saw God and expect Him to show up. He will.

I can’t do ministry – I have kids

21168240_sA few things have converged to bring this post about:

  1. I’ve heard an increased chatter on bivocational pastors – pastors who have a full time job, and a church.
  2. A friend and I had a discussion on how it is assumed that women with children don’t have the time or energy to do anything that remotely relates to leadership and sacrifice.
  3. I found myself buying into #2 for my personal circumstances, thinking that I can only do ministry (except the occasional teaching gig) if I work part time, or if I work in a church. Then my wonderful husband pointed out that we know someone (male) who has four small children and is planting a church while working full time at a secular job.

So, I start at the beginning – can women have a family, a job, and a ministry?

First, the emotional: If I put everything I have into doing what God has called me to, will I be looked at as a bad mom? Some women have been told that they can’t work full time because women who have kids will somehow let their kids down if they work full time. Who wants to be the “bad mom”?

This is baffling to me, and truthfully, I think it is a modern phenomenon coupled with a power-focused leadership style. After all, throughout history women have carried far heavier loads than we do today – while raising hoards of children,  not just our average 2.5 (or less).

So, as is my habit, I looked for a biblical example. I don’t have to look far – Deborah. Ah! Did you always picture Deborah and older, childless woman, sitting under her tree holding court? I know that is what the flannel graphs showed. However, Judges 5:7 says:

Villagers in Israel would not fight;
    they held back until I, Deborah, arose,
    until I arose, a mother in Israel.

I don’t think this language was figurative. It says that Deborah arose, a mother IN Israel, not a mother TO Israel. So, how does this whole story look different if you envision Deborah with a passel of kids – maybe toddler to teen tagging along? Do you think that if God could use Deborah with her whole family in tow, He might be able to use those of us who are similarly sleep deprived and hormonally challenged? Do you think He can provide the patience, wisdom and support that this lifestyle would need?

Then I look for more modern models:

One of my favorite missionaries is Rosalind Goforth. She was a missionary in China, and had hundreds of women through her house on a regular basis – and for much of that time, she had small children. She found a way to make it work – she fulfilled God’s call and loved her kids at the same time.

Women in areas where the gospel cannot be publicly proclaimed have full time ministries while leading full time lives outside of the ministry. Throughout the world, women pastor house churches while carrying on very full lives (this might be where one pastor got the idea that women “will never pastor a congregation over 75”).

There are some that believe that women can do any ministry except leadership over men. They believe that the story of Deborah exists because “no man” was willing to take the spot. I think there are male callings in the bible that show God using men whether they liked it or not, so “answering the call” isn’t always a prerequisite to being used by God. It is mighty arrogant to say that God needs a contingency plan.

Either way, the Western World is now post-Christian. (If you live in the bible belt of the US, it might not feel like it yet.) Obviously there aren’t enough people who will put their lives on the line for the gospel. Whether you are male or female, if God has called you, you should go – even if it means carrying along your whole household.

So, what do you think?

 

What to do with all that stress

lots of people

All day long I’ve been thinking about God and money. After all, if I’m submitted to Him, then He provides for what I need.  Yet, at certain times of year (like when school starts) the need seems to out way the income.

If I’m not careful, I can let this stress distract me and ruin my effectiveness as a minister, parent and worker.

If we are honest, we all face this type of stress from time to time – it might be money, it might be time, or even emotional or physical energy.

What do you do when the stress of life hits like a tsunami? 

I have a couple of ordinary responses:

  1. I worry. I’m good at this. I can figure and fret a lot.
  2. I squirm. Early in our marriage, every time the stress got too high, we moved. This was because my natural response to stress is flight – I try to find a way out. In the first 8 years of marriage, we moved 16 times. I finally stopped that (rather destructive) behavior, but still occasionally find myself perusing the want ads – not because I don’t love my job, but because I’m looking for greener grass.

Today, I heard God’s voice. “Settle down.”

Jesus faced a crowd of 5000 men and their families. The disciples felt the stress of the situation. If you have kids, you know that fever pitch when everyone is hungry about 45 minutes before dinner. Imagine 5000 people and their families all who have reached that point. The stress was big. The disciples needed a way out. Jesus said “Settle down.”

Have the people sit down. Start with what you have, and we will go from there. 

This is the answer to the stressful situations that we find ourselves in.

  1. Settle down. Calm yourself and get your eyes fixed on Jesus – He is up to something.
  2. Assess what you have. Under stress, we just look for a way out or a quick fix. Instead, look at Jesus and see what He has already given you.
  3. Wait for provision. It always comes. When we reach that fever pitch, we feel like there is no way out – death and doom are imminent. We forget that we are in the hand of the Almighty. The One who provided food on the spot, from just a bit of fish and bread, for 5,000 men and their families.

How would the situation you are in right now change if you fixed your eyes on Jesus and worked with what you have? How would your stress level change as you are waiting for provision?

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