Waiting Room

In John 11 we read the story of Lazarus. There are so many takeaways from it, but today what captured my attention was this interaction between Martha and Jesus, in which he tells her she does not have to wait.

She replied, “Yes, I know he will rise with everyone else on resurrection day.”

“Martha,” Jesus said, “You don’t have to wait until then. I am the Resurrection, and I am Life Eternal.”

Waiting. It’s not something I’ve always done well. In fact, one of my “greatest” strengths is Quick to Act. I’m typically the one who immediately jumps at opportunities, who comes to conclusions, who sizes up situations, and acts.

But I put myself in Martha’s shoes for a second, and recall those times I’ve not been able to act quickly. Times I have felt frozen in my steps, not certain of what to do next. It’s excruciating for me, because my desire to want to act quickly is still there, but I can’t unleash it.  There’s such an inward frustration in that space of WANTING to act, yet not following through.

So what holds me back in those moments, when I want to move forward, but choose not to?  Perhaps it’s a perceived knowledge or experience deficit, a lack of initiative, a lack of confidence, or a fear of failure. You have to fill in that blank for yourself, but ultimately it’s a wall of our own making. Martha has knowledge – she says plainly, “I know he will rise.” She has experience of seeing Jesus’s miraculous works, and she has faith in God.  But she is seeing through her own eyes, her own filters of life and of death. Lazarus has been dead for four days, and to her, that clearly means he’s gone forever.

I was speaking to our Leadership Residency students this week, pulling together a couple of themes from this semester’s curriculum.  As part of our TotalSDI assessment results, we discussed how we communicate with others. We see everything and everyone around us through our own filters, and our expectations are based on what we’ve come to expect from ourselves.  It’s a valuable exercise for personal development and conflict resolution to see beyond ourselves, and really seek to connection and relationship with others.

In this intimate interaction, Martha’s expectations are clearly based on her own earthly experiences and filters of life and death.  She has built a wall and it’s blocking her view of the situation as seen through Jesus’s eyes.  And in this moment, Jesus asks Martha to open her eyes, and invites her to understand his perspective.

Here’s what I’m taking away from this. Sometimes waiting is appropriate.  After Jesus was notified of Lazarus’s illness, he chose to wait to return to him. Jesus knew what would happen, and the waiting he initiated was to fulfill a greater purpose. Martha and Mary did not understand that purpose. All they saw was death and and a missed opportunity for healing.

When we discern the need to wait, let’s picture ourselves at the feet of Jesus, telling him about that thing in our life that is overwhelming us and keeping us from moving forward. Let’s reveal the earthly filters we have placed on our problems because he knows all of that anyway! But, let’s expect to hear him tell us when we no longer have to wait. And in that moment, when we see through his eyes, I pray it’s what we need to give us the strength to take our first steps out of the waiting room.

 

 

The Mindset of Work

In businesses, as in churches, revenue is required to keep the doors open and programs funded. Therein lies the rub.  You do not make money by developing leaders – you make money by getting your work done. It’s easy to see why many organizations may build goals or vision around employee engagement and development, but then fail in the long run. Their priorities shift to the bottom line – to the work. 

As an experienced corporate leader, I know teams and organizations benefit when all  encouraged to bring their strengths and gifts to the table.  Leaders who subvert this process do harm to their people and to their bottom line. Choosing to place less emphasis on leadership development results in loss of talent and loss of revenue. Ironically, what may take a year or two to damage can take years to repair. Businesses do not often survive that cycle of repair.

I believe the mindset of work may be the hardest to break.  That “heads down” mentality  is so prevalent in today’s workplace.  We put emphasis on deliverables, which reduces the time we have to develop our people. We structure reward systems around metrics-based performance. We interchangeably use the terms management and leadership, because we think they mean the same thing.  

What are some of the symptoms of a work mindset? Employees stop asking why and simply ask what needs to be done. Managers make promotion and hiring decisions based on work performance.  Businesses reduce emphasis (and budget) on training and development programs. “Flexibility” is the mantra of the day.  We attract and retain people with strong administrative gifts, but we lose leaders, who take vision and strategy with them.

Numbers become the primary measurement of capability and success. Bodies fill seats, instead of people.

Do we expect more from our churches?

I worked over 20 years in a corporate environment.  Like most companies, ours had a vision and value statement built around caring for the people we served, and those we employed.  But I drove to work every day knowing that when push came to shove, it was the bottom line that mattered. It was not ideal but it was simply the fact.

I don’t want to feel that way when I drive to church.  As leaders of churches, how do we confront the work mindset? Here are just a few conversations you may want to have with your leadership.

  1. How does our church measure success?
  2. Do we prioritize things that are immeasurable?
  3. Are we raising up managers? How?
  4. Are we raising up leaders? How?
  5. Do we have a healthy discipleship process?

There is a reason why humans enjoy the concrete. Measuring gives us a way to prove ourselves and differentiate ourselves. Showing up in a “top 10” list certainly makes us feel relevant. And I’m not suggesting we throw away our spreadsheets.  I am suggesting that the risk is that we shift our focus from relationship to religion. We measure and move with the mindset of administration.

We sit in the shallows of salvation, too preoccupied to swim into the deeper water of sanctification and discipleship.

Stacey is a leadership consultant and coach, as well as a certified facilitator for the MBTI and TotalSDI assessments.  Her passion is taking 20+ years of corporate experience into the faith-based community.  As in business, leadership development is critical for the church. Stacey partners with ministry leaders to develop customized individual and team building programs.  She resides in Jacksonville, FL.

 

 

The Grass Might be Greener

I grew up hearing the phrase Bloom Where You Are Planted.  As an Army Brat, I was “planted” in lots of homes, schools, and states. I did not have a say in where I was planted. But I could choose to bloom or wither.  Through this process, I began to understand and appreciate the dynamics of CHANGE and CHOICE.

 

Having been through a few of life’s seasons, the phrase has a deeper meaning.  When I CHOOSE to depend on God to reveal my purpose and when I CHOOSE to look to Him for my nourishment, I can CHOOSE to “bloom” in the darkest and most desolate places.  Isn’t that the beautiful irony of being in Christ instead of being in the World? In Christ, I can connect to a peace that surpasses human understanding. Even when I’m in a dark place, surrounded by weeds, He will guard my heart and mind (Phil 4:7).

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It’s one thing to bloom where you are. But what if you feel in your spirit that God is leading you out of your community into another? If that has happened to you, you may have confided in someone only to be told that The Grass Isn’t Always Greener.  What  might be behind that feedback? Let’s discuss.

Seek Wise Counsel.  As you consider making a change,  speak to those you consider to be wise leaders and mentors.  Don’t make decisions in a vacuum. When God is leading you down a new path, you will receive validation. Look for it. Speak to trusted family members, friends, pastors, and mentors.  But be aware!  The people you trust the most may tell you that the grass isn’t always greener. They may encourage you to bloom where you are planted. You will now need to pray for discernment as you sift through the counsel you’ve received.

Change is scary. When leaders, parents or mentors have watched you grow and become a strong member of the community, it is scary to think that you might leave. Perhaps our first human reaction is to keep things status quo. In our rush to maintain status quo, leaders might discourage instead of encourage change.  The danger is that our brightest blooms might wither on the vine.

Guard your heart.  Part of developing healthy boundaries is the identification of safe and unsafe people in our lives. If you feel like you are being manipulated to any extent with guilt, doubt or fear, make note of it. Keep it in perspective. I believe a sign of a “safe” mentor, parent or leader is their desire to help  identify strengths and purpose and their willingness to release us on a journey toward greener pastures.

Can you Imagine? Disciples have always, and will always, be called out of their comfort zones. We may build walls around churches in our communities, but a healthy church will not use those walls to keep people away from God’s purpose for their lives. Can you imagine what would happen in your community if the walls around churches fell down? If churches worked together as the body of Christ, as envisioned in Ephesians 4? Read it. Think about it.

When God leads you into a season of change, it’s going to be covered by His grace and protection. Bloom wherever you are planted, but don’t be afraid to tear down a fence or two in pursuit of greener grass.

Recommended Readings:

Drs. Cloud and Townsend, including Necessary Endings, Safe People and Boundaries.

 

 

 

Community: Filling in the Blanks

Why do we strive to belong to a community? Take a moment to consider the following fill-in-the-blank worksheet and see how you might best complete these sentences.

community fill in blanks

Do you feel more safe when you’re in community? More accepted?  Maybe you filled some of these blanks with the following words: Community, Family, Friends, My Spouse, My Church. Any others?

We often search for a place to belong; a place or a person that accepts us for who we are.  What, or Who, are you searching for?

Now go back to the handout above and CROSS OUT your answers. I’ll explain more in my video. See you there.

Thank you so much for taking the time to listen to my first video. I would love to hear your feedback, or speak to you directly.  If you’re interested in coaching, let’s get together soon. Simply book a free session with me HERE.

 

Body Building

Is salvation enough? It’s really not a trick question.  Once saved, you have the key to the kingdom. You know where you will be in eternity.  As Christians, we diligently pray and work to spread the gospel, for the purpose of salvation.  With each salvation, we add another person to the body of Christ.  But what part of the body are they?

Two years ago, a dear friend of mine mentored me through a difficult spiritual experience. She encouraged me to seek God’s purpose for my life and to identify my spiritual gifts.  She asked me, “What part of the body are you? Have you prayed for that knowledge?”  That’s where the Holy Spirit really started his work within me.

Scripturally, it’s no secret that with our acceptance of the Holy Spirit, we are the recipients of spiritual gifts. Our gifts from the Holy Spirit, which are irrevocable and that God gives without repentance (Romans 11:29). If we believe that each of us is merely a part of the body of believers, and that each part has it’s own purpose (1 Cor 12:12), we should desire that all the individual parts of God’s body would be brought together here on earth, to serve both our individual purposes, as well as to pursue our calling as a body of believers – as the church.

If you’re still reading this, do you believe in God? If so, you also must believe in the enemy.  The “thief who comes to steal and kill and destroy” (John 10:10).  The enemy who would seek to not only keep us each from finding and fulfilling God’s purpose, but who would love nothing more than to hack apart a body of believers, keeping all parts separate and the body disjointed.

What do we do? We have to first believe. Salvation is ours for the asking, and no one on earth can keep us from it (except ourselves). “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (Matt 7:7). Have you asked?

Back to the question – is salvation enough? Being saved is LIFE.  Knowing God’s purpose for your LIFE is a whole other thing. Sanctification is the process of strengthening our relationship with God, in order to reveal His purpose for our lives.  Just like salvation, sanctification is a deeply personal process – spirit to spirit.  I would argue that you can’t really “see” salvation with physical eyes, but sanctification’s results are tangible.

God’s light shines in each of us, and I feel it is brightest when we are fully utilizing our gifts. “Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions” (Matt 7:20).  Allow your fruit to announce God’s presence in your life.

What’s the down-side to knowing and using your gifts? The enemy knows them too, and wants nothing more than to keep you from fulfilling your purpose. Sometimes, even those closest to you will reject you because of your gifts. Someone you care about may tell you that the gift you have isn’t real, or that it’s not meant for someone of your gender, your background, your race or your age.  And it’s your choice whether you listen to them, or to that deep yearning and knowledge in your spirit. You get to choose.

Chances are, using your spiritual gifts will take you out of your comfort zone. Allowing yourself to build community with people who have different gifts is also uncomfortable. As humans, and as believers, we build walls of protection around those things that are important to us. We build physical walls around our families (our homes), gates around our communities, borders around our countries.  We build walls around good things, like our churches, our schools, our hospitals. We build walls around bad things too, like prisons. Walls are physical, and they’re also emotional. Walls may keep out the bad things in life, but they also keep out good things!

The minute we build walls that keep us from spiritually connecting as a body of Christ, that’s the minute we’ve departed from God’s desire to build his perfectly functioning body on earth. Your church isn’t the body.  It’s one part. And the rest of the body will be found in churches that differ from yours, and in communities that you’ve never stepped foot in.

Salvation is not hindered by gender, ethnicity or experience. Neither are spiritual gifts. God’s gifts to us are perfect and irrevocable.  When we use our gifts for the purpose of building the body of Christ on earth, we will see, and feel,  walls fall around us.  Let it be so!

 

 

 

Peace in Pieces

 

 

If you’ve said The Lord’s Prayer lately, you’ve recommitted yourself to seeking God’s will and bringing His Kingdom to earth, as it is in heaven. Have you taken a few minutes to consider what that might look like? When we, as Christians, set out to build the Kingdom of God here on earth, we encounter conflict. One day, we know we will see all the conflict end. Until then, all the ground we gain for Christ requires a lot of hard work and discomfort. 

puzzle dumpConflict looks like a puzzle that has been dumped out of its box and onto a table. Pieces go everywhere.  What you see is chaos, clutter, and confusion.  More importantly, when  you look at the pile of unattached pieces, you cannot  see the big picture. The task of putting that puzzle together seems insurmountable to some.

So let’s say that the pile of pieces represents the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.  Our insurmountable task is to bring the kingdom of heaven to earth, as stated in Matthew 6:10.  We have to get “up close and personal” with every single puzzle piece, individually examining and categorizing them. We have to start fitting one piece into the next, and into the next, sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing. That’s conflict, and it’s for a greater purpose.

Healthy Conflict” is a term thrown about in leadership training and team-building.  Conflict, done in a healthy way, is positive, and grows relationships and organizations.  Think of the process of putting together a puzzle. It’s challenging to fit the pieces together, but ends up with a rewarding result.    

The good news is that we have clues as to how to fit these pieces together. We have colors, shapes, and patterns. And God has given us clues about coming together too.  See Romans 12:4:

“For as in one body we have many members and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.”

Each of us is a piece of the puzzle. In order to know where we fit in the overall picture, we have to understand God’s purpose for our lives.  You may have taken personality assessments before. I utilize two well-known assessments in my coaching practice (MBTI and TotalSDI).  Taking a spiritual gifts assessment is helpful, as is prayer.  And practicing your gifts within a community of believers will further help you distill your purpose.

Knowing Your Piece

The first step to take is to understand YOU. What are your strengths? Your motivations? Your personality? Your gifts? But if we stop there, we are at best, self-centered. Our natural inclination is to view the world through the filters of our own personality and experience.  We even expect others to act like we do, or think like we do.  We tend to surround ourselves with people that look just like us.  And what happens?  Well, imagine you’re a puzzle piece surrounded by pieces that look like you.  I doubt you’ll be able to create more than just one small section of the puzzle.

When we stay in community with people who do life exactly as we do, we may be comfortable. But we lost perspective of the bigger picture, and are unable to experience the growth we want in our relationships, teams, organizations.  

I believe God wants us to outgrow our comfort zone.

Don’t be misled: No one makes a fool of God. What a person plants, he will harvest. The person who plants selfishness, ignoring the needs of others—ignoring God!—harvests a crop of weeds. All he’ll have to show for his life is weeds! But the one who plants in response to God, letting God’s Spirit do the growth work in him, harvests a crop of real life, eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8 MSG)

What this tells me is that left to our own devices, we tend to orient our lives around the desires of our hearts. And that is what brings about the weeds.  But when we allow God into our hearts, we become aligned more to His will for our lives.

Your Perfect Fit

puzzle fit

Back to the puzzle. Look at your piece. See that lovely protrusion on your left side? Your flat right side? Clearly you’re not looking for someone with a flat right side.  Your fit is someone with an indention on their right side!

You find your perfect fit when you look for, and accept, diversity. This is powerful, and it makes perfect sense.  The person you need to round out your team or your ministry should be different. Enough with the cookie-cutter approach to building leadership teams!

Here’s the crux of Healthy Conflict.  Your section of the puzzle will share enough similarities that you have common ground. In the Kingdom of Heaven, we all believe in Jesus as our Messiah, and know our salvation is based on faith in Christ alone.  That’s our common ground.  And just like that, we keep moving forward, toward completion of the puzzle.

Peace in the Body

In Ephesians 4 we read that God has equipped us, here on earth, for the work of the ministry. And that in order to form the picture of the perfect body of Christ, each part of the body must be joined together “held together by every joint” and that each part must work properly.  And when we find all of the pieces of our body, and we join together properly, we will see more clearly the picture that our puzzle maker has set before us.

Have you ever purchased a puzzle, spent a ton of time putting it together ONLY to find you’re missing a piece? As we build out the Kingdom of Heaven on earth, we have to place our trust in the puzzle maker. God did not leave a single piece out of his puzzle. All of us are accounted for. There’s more than enough room in the puzzle for each of us, and we all play a critical role, designed personally for us, by God.

When conflict is done well, it’s healthy for the organization. No matter your strengths, gifting, and purpose, you have a place in the puzzle. One that will bring you peace, and further the Kingdom.

Do you want to explore your own purpose, or design a team-building exercise for your team? Contact me to get started!

 

One word at a time

If you’re like me, you want God to show you the destination. If I knew my objective, I could get myself there! Of course, that’s not how it works.  He prefers to show us one step at a time. I have accumulated a list of words I’ve heard or seen over the past 2 years. It might not make sense to you, but in hindsight, I clearly see the path from one to the next.  I also am assured that my list of words will continue to grow as I seek Him first.IMG_2113

These past couple of years have been full of change and growth. I just heard a teaching by Lysa Terkeurst about seasons of planting, pruning, growing, producing and harvesting. Pruning may be the most difficult for us to live through, but when God is pruning us is also when He is closest to us.  I have a new appreciation for that!

I’ve come out of a 20 year corporate career with a wealth of leadership and business experience. My favorite parts of my time there were spent developing leaders, building effective and successful teams, and coaching my teams through change and transition.

My faith has deepened too. When we slow down and look to our Father to guide our steps, our journey begins.  What I know is that, as believers, we each have gifts.  When we connect with our gifts, we get a glimpse of God’s purpose for our lives.

So, let me help you on your journey.  I use professional tools as a starting point, to identify your individual personality, motivations, strengths and spiritual gifts.  From there, we can build a personal coaching plan that fits your goals.

God placed each of us, as living stones (1 Peter 2:4),  in this place and time for a reason. We are each a part of the body, each with our own purpose.

“As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.” (Ephesians 4:16)