Leading Yourself Well

1161714_kids_under_treePhillip Brooks, a 19th century clergyman once said that “Character is made in the small moments of our lives.”

Typically, the real test of character is not in one huge defining moment but is in the daily choices made every day and that includes in the mundane details of life.

In college I read a really impacting book called Spiritual Leadership by J. Oswald Sanders. In it, Sanders asks some really challenging questions when it comes to leadership. They have really made me think and realize that I’ll never lead anyone past how I am leading myself. This could potentially be a scary thought, but more so, it’s really challenging and encourages me to grow.

These questions have spurred me on to have a clearer vision for what it means to produce character in my life. Here they go:

Have you ever broken a bad habit? To lead, we must master our appetites.

Do you keep self-control when things go wrong?

Can you handle criticism?

Can you turn disappointment into a creative new opportunity?

Can you exert discipline without making a power play?

Are you a peacemaker?

Do people trust you with difficult and delicate situations?

Do you depend on praise from others to keep you going?

Can you forgive?

Do you welcome responsibility?

Do you “use” people or cultivate people?

Question for discussion:  Why do you think it’s important to lead yourself well? What struggles have you had in leading others?

Fighting Complacency

If you’ve followed my blog for a little while, you know that I’m going through the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan. The last few chapters I’ve read have dealt with the lukewarm Christian and what God says about Christians who are lukewarm in their faith. I couldn’t believe some of the verses that Francis pointed out. They were convicting to say the least.

They have led me to search my heart deeper and to ask: Do I have lukewarm tendencies? Am I living in mediocrity anywhere or struggling with complacency? Do I sometimes take Jesus’ words half-hearted or even say “I’ll do that another day…”

In my relationship with Christ, just like in any marriage, I have to constantly fight against complacency. It’s so easy after the honeymoon stage, to just settle in and be comfortable. In following Christ, it’s easy to kick back, go on with the day, and lose sight of who He is. And then the relationship turns to legalistic rules and rituals (duty) instead of a wholehearted desire and delight to know and love Christ for who he is.

I don’t think Jeremiah would ever want me to respect and love him out of duty. He would never force me to love him either. So it is with God’s love. He wants me to choose to love him. And to me, this requires battling my laziness and complacent heart that I have at times.

This past weekend, we didn’t stay in our apartment but we went down to my Dad’s (he has a corporate apartment in our complex) and we just enjoyed the setting down there. We watched the Dallas Cowboys, cooked, talked, and had friends over for dinner. It was so relaxing and refreshing. Our relationship felt renewed.

Some things I’ve been doing lately in my relationship with Christ to revitalize it and stir up the passion is listening to podcasts of some really great pastors, praying on my way to work, going through old journal entries, starting a Bible study with some friends, reading blogs, and most of all revisiting God’s word- reading and meditating on it.

I’m so glad that God doesn’t leave us where we’re at. He is so patient and when we truly desire change (and we seek it), he will give it to us in the smallest ways… even if it’s just a different place to spend the night!

Question: What has helped you in times of feeling “stuck”? How are you currently fighting the war of mediocrity?

Rain

I’ve heard it said once that you’re either in a storm, coming out of one, or getting ready to enter one.

Sounds encouraging, right?

Not really.

Over the past few months, my husband I have been in a little season of waiting on God and at times, it has felt like a horrible storm to me. We’ve been seeking answers and praying but everything has seemed silent. And I often tell God, will you just hurry up? Can’t you see that we’re waiting?

We’ve also faced storms of tragedy and different trials that have caused us to question if God is really there and if he really cares. And it’s usually that after we question (or continue to question), we might not get an answer but we sense a peace that He is still near. It’s as if He wants us to seek Him first and not so much an answer.

I always love hearing, reading, or watching an illustration that drives that truth home. I know Rob Bell’s NOOMA videos have been out for a while, but the truths in these videos are timeless. I have always loved the Rain illustration- I think it’s my favorite. It always helps reinforce to me where God is exactly in the storms of life.

Here it is in the 2-minute preview version.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h2qrrUFuxgk]

Can you hear the still, quiet voice saying “I LOVE YOU… We’re gonna make it…”?

Marriage: Built to Last

marriageAt Bluefish, we’ve been finishing up our upcoming marriage DVD driven Bible study series called Marriage: Built to Last. We’ve interviewed 20 real-life stories of couples for the series, shot incredible teaching from Pastor and Author Chip Ingram, and have some great interviews from 2-time MVP Quarterback Kurt Warner and his wife Brenda and financial guru Dave Ramsey and his wife Sharon.

I’ve been connecting our producers to some marriage stories of my friends, assisting in writing the host copy, and editing our Leader’s Guide along with writing an article inside the guide called I Signed up For What? that helps answer some of the tough questions when it comes to leading a group.

I’m so excited about the content and stories in this series. The marriage interviews are so raw and candid and I think every marriage will relate in some way. Chip’s teaching is engaging, relevant, and hope-filled. I was also encouraged to see that I’m not alone in my own struggles to love and respect my husband to the fullest or crazy in striving to have the most abundant, Christ-centered marriage that I can.

Here’s a sneak peak into the sessions:

1. Adjusting to Expectations 2. Learning to Communicate Clearly 3. Breaking Down Walls 4. Resolving Conflict 5. Restoring Sex & Intimacy 6. Striving for a Christ-centered Marriage

Everything is about to go off to the press. When all is said and done, we’ll have over 13,000 Leader’s Guides and over 80,000 workbooks floating around for this series. At this point, we only hope that all the work that’s been put into this series will have an amazing impact on marriages all over the country. And that most of all, couples will really learn what God’s ultimate design is for their marriage.

Archives Page for You

WordPress just announced their new code for Archives so I’ve added a page on my blog above for you to browse through any past content you’d like. Unfortunately they don’t have a categories section yet. I’m sitting at 131 posts over a span of about two years. That basically means that I’ve just now starting blogging consistently.

My confession? I’m naturally lazy at blogging. I don’t mind writing in my personal journal or for magazines, books, or of course anything that’s asked of me at work. I think I’m deadline driven and that’s the issue. But I have to say I’m enjoying it the more I do it. My greatest struggle is wondering what you appreciate content wise. What will speak to you? What will provide depth for you, and not fluff? What will help you grow and get a greater glimpse of God’s love for you?

The answer is probably that I just need to be who I am. Write what I’m passionate about and write about what God is doing in my life. And not try to be another great blogger out there who can boast a ridiculous amount of stats and comments.

So… grab a mug of coffee or tea and enjoy the archives. Comment as you feel led. The best is yet to come my reader friend…

Don’t Be Afraid

FearlessHB_LThe economy, global warming, finances, job losses, health care, swine flu… Behind these issues often comes the word FEAR. A lot of us are living lives in fear and can’t seem to tackle it. I’ve definitely had fears and struggles when it comes to those things.

But God has been showing me more of his love lately and it’s been casting shadows on the fears I’ve had inside. When I go to his word, I’m strengthened because he addresses my very fears (amazing how He knows them all) and gives me such indescribable love and peace.

1 John 4:18 says it beautifully: There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

I love how John says that perfect love drives out fear. If we live lives constantly overwhelmed by fear, we’ll never have the life God wants for us. We’ll never experience the depths of his love. Our goal is to be made perfect in love, and not fear. The way to do this is to cast our cares, worries, and concerns upon Him. To literally throw them on him. And he will take care of our burdens for us.

A few months back, I had the opportunity to meet mega bestselling author and master storyteller, Max Lucado. I absolutely loved meeting him and talking with him for a little bit. He just had this great peace about him. You just wanted to be around him. He barely answered the questions I had for him. He just wanted to know more about me and my family and what I did.

My work was interviewing him for some small group training videos to help leaders across the country. We asked him some questions about fear, keeping in mind he was writing a book called Fearless. Max’s clip has been edited and you can check it out here at SmallGroupExchange.com.

If fear is something you really struggle with, in addition to finding all you will ever need in God’s word, be sure to pre-order Max’s book to get another glimpse on the topic of fear.

Remember the Past

1077990_memoriesThis past weekend, Jeremiah broke out some of his old CD’s he had stashed away. He played a CD that impacted him a lot during some really hard times growing up. He got so excited about it and shared with me a story related to that song. The crazy thing was that some of the same songs he loved, I loved too. Yet we were in two different places. I was in North Carolina and he was in Michigan and we knew nothing about each other.

Listening to the words of those songs brought back so many memories for me. It reminded me of where I’ve come from and where I am today. I was encouraged and actually strengthened by the lyrics just like I was several years ago. I was reminded of some of my frustrations, struggles, dreams, and even that longing to find “the one” some day. I think that’s what I always thought about in college at least.

Remembering the past really is critical for today. In marriage, it’s easy to just live life and forget your history together. To just be comfortable. To lose that spark. And sometimes not “feel” in love. But marriage must be based on truth and not on temporary feelings. After listening to Jeremiah’s CDs, I looked at some of our honeymoon photos and journal entries and reflected back to when we were dating. It made me excited and encouraged by all that we’ve gone through together and to see where we are today.

I’m starting to realize even more that in my relationship to Christ, it’s so important to remember the past to be encouraged today. Walking by faith with someone you’ve never seen can get hard. The fire that was once kindled so brightly can quickly burn out. Mediocrity can creep in. And it’s easy to forget God’s work and to quit on getting to know Him in his word. It’s easy to not let others into your world. All of the latter is something that I fear so much that I’m trying to do everything I can to “stay at it” and to persevere in my faith. But I think I make it much harder than it needs to be. I want my faith in Christ to be more of a delight in a person, and not a mere Christian duty.

Continuing to reflect on the past every once in a while in my marriage and relationship to Christ will hopefully carry me all the way through to finish strong… with few regrets.

Defending Those Who Can’t Help Themselves

The summer before my junior year in college I went to Guatemala with a team of students at Liberty. During the first month all of us stayed at a small orphanage in a town called Llano Verde. Not only did we stay with a few orphans, but we visited several orphanages on the weekends. I remember the pain I felt in my heart for those babies whose parents had abandoned them. It was also difficult to only have one day to play with them and love on them and then say “goodbye”. But I knew I was not only sent there for those babies, but for my own sake. To realize what was at stake and how I could play a part in helping those who cannot help themselves. Even after I had gone away.

As Christ followers, we’re called to help the poor and needy in their distress. This is not an “oh I will do it one day.” But an action that is required of us now- whether it’s to a neighbor in great physical or spiritual need, a young girl or boy who is fatherless, a widow who’s experiencing great loss, or actually going overseas to help orphans and those in poverty. Jesus invited the poor, the broken, the lost, those who smelled, those who lied, those who hated him… all to sit and dine with him. He was never too “good” for anyone and didn’t care where they’d come from. The invitation remains for us today.

Lately, I’ve been realizing all the more that I am really broken. I am no better than the homeless guys I see huddled under the bypass on 75 every morning. God’s grace is the only thing that holds me today.

This 50 second video (from Francis Chan’s blog) reminded me of our responsibility to defend those who cannot help themselves. To visit them in their distress and bring the love of Christ to them. How can you not just want to wrap your arms around them and take them home?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Iz1t88kaadg&feature=player_embedded]

Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. – James 1:27

Monday Wake-up Call

This past Monday, I went to bed consumed by fear, worry, and anxiety. It all started when a few coworkers of mine were briefly talking about the potential Health Care plan and its implications on our insurance and America as a whole. After we talked, my thoughts just began to snowball into thinking about the crazy czar’s that Obama is surrounding himself with (Just check out GlennBeck.com), communism, socialism, a one world economy, end times, the anti-Christ, the rapture, and wondering if a New World Order is coming? I know it sounds crazy. And I’m really not I promise.

Everything just kind of got to me that day. I acted differently around Jeremiah. I laid down with a headache and woke up with one. But on Tuesday, something changed.

I realized I had been a little ignorant of what’s been going in our world. Maybe for a reason because turning on the news can be depressing. But I realized that I was letting all those things affect me so much as if I had never heard about them. As if I had no hope. I was encouraged by a friend to be more aware of what’s going on. To be educated. And most of all- TO WAKE UP! to the crisis that we’re really in as a nation.

So… my goal this month is to be more informed but not to be so affected that I’m not the person I want to be. To worry a little less and trust that whatever the next few years hold for our country, that God is moving at the same time- somehow, some way. Even though evil is clearly and tangibly at work, Good is right there with it. His plan is unfolding and if anything, we’re getting a little bit closer to His return…

So if that’s the case and His return is in fact near, then I need to get back to work and start focusing on eternal things.

Authentic Thoughts

994404_love_letterI’m writing an article for an e-zine that’s due at the end of the month on being authentic so I’ve been trying to gather some thoughts on this topic. It’s actually a topic I’m extremely passionate about, but I still have a lot to learn in what it means to be authentic myself. I’m a little nervous typing very slowly to even flesh it out in this post.

I think for quite a while the church has been a place where far too many people have been afraid to expose their weaknesses, struggles, and sins for fear of embarrassment, criticism, and all out rejection from other believers. Simply because… they’ve experienced it and they want nothing to do with it (I don’t blame them). So the result has been that we continue to live our lives in isolation. We become our own island, thinking this is the best way to keep from being wounded and hurt. So we never get past those struggles. We don’t give ourselves fully to other people and we’re never truly known by anyone.

I think in the past years however that we’re seeing a tiny shift away from this where more people are embracing “authentic community” and are learning to live lives “bare naked” in front of each other where sins are confessed, prayer is genuinely happening, and healing and restoration is taking place (James 5:16). So that ultimately, God is glorified in their lives.

It’s because of the healing that God wants to give us that we’re called to live authentically. I’ve experienced this in my community group at Watermark that consists of young married couples. We’ve been doing life together for over two years now. One day I was challenged and approached by Julia who saw something in my attitude towards my husband. My behavior was wrong and she let me know about it in love. I however, thought I could hide it. It hurt so bad to hear (I had a lot of pride) but it was exactly what I needed. Her authenticity with me helped cover a multitude of other problems.

Through a process, I’m learning that I’ll never become the person God wants me to be by hiding behind my struggles and not bringing them to light. I’ll never know just how “bad” my sin is when it’s not confessed, owned up to and measured with God’s standard. I’ll never be able to move forward or be victorious without acknowledging it and asking for help and accountability from other people.

Well… these are my thoughts for now at least.

How has living in authentic community with others brought freedom in your relationship with Christ and with others?

What do you wish the church understood about the struggles people have? Do you think the church has really missed the mark when it comes to embracing people where they’re at?

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