lightstock_65127_xsmall_user_2976985Leadership Lesson #5  Lead Up, but Lead Gently

I’ve been working on the Fruit of the Spirit with my kids, and admittedly one of the most challenging for me is Gentleness. It hits me as a gut check for the way in which I speak, and the words that I use to communicate a point. And like so many other indications of growing in Christ-likeness, it must be rooted in humility.  It’s taken me 30+ years to get some healthy clarity on this, but as I’ve grown in emotional intelligence and self-awareness I’ve accepted that I have to grow in this area, because my natural tendencies are too abrasive, revealing the prideful bent of my heart. Not only will that abrasiveness cost me dearly in relationships, but it can seriously weaken my effectiveness as a leader. Specifically, at times when God calls me to “lead up.”

Jon Maxwell explains a leader who leads up as one who is adding value, supporting the leader above them, and setting themselves apart. In roles of strategic communication leadership I’ve had opportunities to lead up. Like all aspects of leadership, this is a stewardship. Not only of the influence, but of the other person’s heart. When given the opportunity to lead up, we can strengthen the heart or damage the heart. If I was damaging too often I need to determine why. So, part of understanding my often abrasive nature was examining its root. Yes, it was pride, but that pride was manifesting itself through an intolerance for perceived incompetency – things that I was too quick to point out in a not so gentle way when the door opened. It took God humbling my heart in a pretty serious way, to reveal my own incompetencies and soften my rough edges. But that allowed me to have the context I needed to approach new opportunities to lead up, in a different way.

See, here’s the thing.  At the end of the day, it really doesn’t matter how strong you are as a leader – the top spot is always, always, difficult. People constantly want more of you, someone (often lots of someones) is always unhappy with you, and you are ultimately responsible for more than anyone else in the organization. The burden of leadership is heavy. In most cases, the leader above me already knows the mistakes they wish they could correct, the gaps that need to be filled, and their personal shortcomings. What they need from me is to come alongside and lighten the load with insight, care, and clarity shared in gentleness. Isn’t that what we would all want from a leader on our team?

When you’re like me however, adopting a spirit of gentleness is almost a complete 180 to your natural wiring. It’s a heavy process of learning and refining, and walking in the Spirit for wisdom. It’s a practice of laying down my pride, and seeking to truly minister to those I’m following. Growing in gentleness is teaching me how to speak truth, while affirming the heart, and building trust. And it’s totally worth it. Speaking and acting in gentleness has fostered better working relationships, healthier culture, and better focus on what really matters – the relationship, not being right. So next time, before you speak up to lead up, remember – gentleness.

Side note:  I would be remiss if I didn’t also acknowledge that being married to one of the most gentle, but effective leaders I know, has helped tremendously. I’ve seen the way people gain influence with him when they are not only correct, but gentle. And I’ve seen him consistently lead up, (and as a result be given more and more influence) and even disarm difficult clients, by carefully and gently guiding them towards the correct course of action. Don’t get me wrong – he can be firm and direct, but he’s able to make and keep good relationships easily because of his approach. He’s way better at gentle leadership than me – grateful I get to learn from him!

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It wasn’t unusual for my sister and I to find ourselves driving together, en route somewhere. We often went places together, having only two years between us and many of the same friends. One particular Saturday, years ago, we found ourselves headed to a friend’s graduation party a few towns over. The car windows were down and the humid summer warmth brought a certain calmness. Kristen’s legs were up on the dashboard. It was the kind of day that was so nice, you hardly felt like talking. We were intrigued by our surroundings, catching glimpses of the shops in Hackettstown, and watching passer-bys on the sidewalks. Kristen seemed a little tired that day. She rubbed her hand over her stubbled legs, took a quick glance in the mirror at her eyebrows in disarray, and looked out the window again.

“Sometimes I think maybe I should try to be more girly,” she said, still glancing out the window, “then, I think… maybe instead, I should be more concerned with my character, and whether I’m a person that’s patient and kind.”

I remember looking over at her, appalled, surprised, and proud, as she continued her gaze out the window. Her words caught me so off guard, and had me thinking so intensely, I believe I only mustered a, “yeah, I think you’re right.” And, we continued down the road.

That moment was a formidable moment for my sister and for me, as well, witnessing her utter candidness. I’ve told her the story several times. “I said that?” she asks me. “Yes, Kristen, you said that.”

The reason I believe I remember this day, and the reason I’m sitting here writing about it, is because it says something about what is important; it speaks about what should have value and significance and priority in our lives. I think that’s the question we ask a lot or, at least, need to be asking. How should I spend my time and energy?

C.S. Lewis put it as clearly as I think I’ll ever understand it in his Principle of First and Second things. He explains that things have different values—some greater than others. And, whenever we reverse the hierarchy, treating a second thing as a first thing, we not only lose the first thing, but the second thing, as well. “Values are related to each other like a chain of rings,” explains Peter Kreeft, “…the attempt to put second things first can never work.”

“If you look for truth,” said Lewis, “you may find comfort in the end; if you look for comfort you will not get either comfort or truth only soft soap and wishful thinking to begin, and in the end, despair.”

Jesus said something similar, in Matthew 6:33: “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” To reverse it can never work. There is an established order, and value, just as 1 is greater than 0. If we make the second things our pursuit, we won’t find those things; and, what’s worse, we won’t find His kingdom or His righteousness. God needs to be our first thing, not money or relationships or a safe neighborhood to live in. God. All else comes from Him.

In the case of my sister, she understood character had greater value than appearance, and as such, needed more attention. It’s a conclusion that’s easy to state once or twice—another thing to live. Yet, the reality of our lives is that we’re constantly making decisions regarding value, whether we realize it or not. Which, is why it’s better to realize it, lest we put a second thing first. We need to make a habit of asking, and adjusting… How do I spend my time? How do I spend my money? What do I think about? What do I care about? “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

lightstock_75205_xsmall_user_2976985Leadership Lesson #4 – Patiently Pursue Progress, Not Perfection

I’ve been wresting with a really frustrating tension – it seems like the more opportunities I have to exert influence and lead, the more aware I become of all the ways in which I still need to grow. Can you relate?

Whether it’s the more practical stuff like time and task management, team communication or meeting structure, or the more people focused matters of organizational culture, conflict resolution or leadership development, I often wish I was make more improvement, and making it faster.

More. Faster. Farther. Sooner. Stronger. Quicker.

Taking a step back to ask “why do I feel this way?” and “where is this pressure really coming from?” has revealed a couple of things:

1. This is the prevailing mantra of today’s American mindset. I feel the push for more/faster in just about every aspect of my life – parenting, home management, personal finances, food/nutrition and fitness, ministry, and leadership. I’ve learned enough about myself to know that it’s partially my wiring, but in a culture that is constantly offering up more information in more places about how we all can do more, faster and better, we’ve become a people whose pressure valve is nearly always up against the breaking point. It’s critical that for me to discern and guard against this cultural influence become a controlling influence.

 

2. I have unrealistic expectations. As easily as I can put unrealistic expectations on others, I can demand them of myself. So I have to reset my thinking to acknowledge that progress, not perfection is the goal. Perfection is unrealistic, both for myself and for any aspect of an organization. Excellence does not require perfection. Excellence requires the patient pursuit of progress that is well-defined, attainable and significantly contributes to the long-term growth of a leader or team. Too many times I believed that those around me and above me expected perfection – expected me to have all the answers. It was scary to say, “I don’t know” or “let’s work on this together” because I thought leaders were supposed to have it all figured out. What I’ve learned is that “I don’t know” breathes truth, life, space and margin into my leadership. It keeps me approachable to my colleagues and patient with myself which replicates across the organization, producing a healthier culture.

3. In the absence of long-range planning and vision, near-term life is frenetic and pressure filled.  There is no shortage of things we can work on. If you don’t know where you headed and how you’re getting there, it can easily feel like you have to work on everything all at once. This is as true for an individual as for a team. What I’ve needed most, and what I’m excited to embrace in a new season of life this fall, is the space and margin to craft out what my own personal vision is and a plan for getting there so that I can make better decisions about what I need to work on and when, and release myself from the pressure to be perfect in all areas all at once.

If you’re feeling the frustration of More. Faster. in your leadership, let me encourage you to think about how you can release yourself and those around you from unrealistic expectations to cultivate safe and humble environments that celebrate patiently pursuing progress towards excellence, not perfection.

17 reasons v2

Reason #1: Jeremy Camp. BAM! Done. (here is his song “Overcome”: link)

Reason # 2: Speaker lineup –  Pastor Eugene Cho, Dr. David Ireland, Rebekah Lyons, Pastor Tim Lucas, Naomi Zacharias, Brad Lomenick and many other speakers. (here are all the speakers)

Reason # 3: The Leadership Track “Leadership Essentials: Becoming a Better Leader”. If leadership, vision, skills and clarity is your thing, this track will inspire you. Our speakers: Brad Lomenick, Will Mancini, Jenni Catron and William Vanderbloemen (see graphic) (you’ll be taking notes on this one!)

Reason #4: Our theme “OVERCOME” based on John 16:33. Here’s a snippet  – “God uses hardships to build character, challenges to create dependence, obstacles to ignite faith and suffering to establish identity.  Read our theme @ www.collydesummit.com

Reason #5: Two of our favorite worship leaders – Aaron Keyes (link) and Jason Yost (link) – leading worship throughout the Summit on both days.

Reason #6:  The Creative Arts Track: “Creative Arts, Media and Social Media”. Our speakers: Dawn Nicole Baldwin, Rich Birch, Stephen Brewster & Justin Wise (see graphic)

Reason #7: Our hosts:  will inspire your hearts – Kristen HamiltonRyan FaisonGian Paul GonzalezChristine Shuey.

Reason # 8: Over 42 Great Organizations under one roof.  A few examples: World Vision, Compassion, Blood:Water, Pillar College, Biblica, Lifesong, Young Christian Leaders and many others (see all our participating organizations here)

Reason #9: FREE Coffee!  One of our favorites!  Land of 1000 Hills Coffee will be served throughout the Collyde Summit. (straight from the farmers of Rwanda to you! –read their amazing story)

Reason #10: Introspection and Encouragement. You’ll realize you are not alone.  Meet and make friends with others just like you.

Reason # 11: The Justice Track  “Justice, Culture, and Redemption”. If the topic of justice moves your heart, then this track is for you. Our speakers: Naomi Zacharias, Andy Lehman, Naomi Overton & Jena Nardella (see graphic).  You don’t want to miss this one!

Reason # 12: Time to rejuvenate your mind AND soul.  

Reason # 13: Worship Track. Calling all Worship Leaders! The track is titled “Worship Experience: Planning, Doing, Becoming”. Our speakers: Jason Yost, Sheri Gould, Matt McCoy(see graphic).  If you are a worship leader or love to sing/write songs, this track is specifically for you.  (You’ll want to take notes!)

Reason # 14: Food-trucks!  Oh yeah! We have some amazing lunch options for you. Come Hungry – Spiritually and Physically!

Reason # 15: This is happening in New Jersey!  When is the last time you went to an event like this in New Jersey?  Register @ www.collydesummit.com while tickets are still available.

Reason # 16: Meet These Guys!  Our Track leaders – Amanda BoleynRich BirchJason Yost Amy Vincent. They are not only amazing individuals but are also experts in areas they are leading. Read more about them at www.collydesummit.com (Follow them on Twitter)

Reason # 17: Last but not the Least: The Holy Spirit. We have been praying for the last 12 months for the Holy Spirit to speak to each one of you. With so much prayer, we expect great things. Our small team works hard to create a great event, but we trust and know that God shows up in unexpected ways and meets each attendee in specific ways. We love hearing stories of life changes, moments of clarity, great conversations and encounters, powerful times of renewal, your walk with Jesus becoming stronger and more than we could ever plan.  As you encounter Him through the words of many speakers, during times of heartfelt worship and whispers of His Spirit, we know He will meet you right where you are.

Welcome to Collyde Summit 2014.

Have you registered yet? don’t wait: Sign-up today.

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I read a blog post a few months back, written by a guy I have great respect for. The post was about learning to listen to God’s voice. “God is always talking,” I remember his words so clearly; words that opened my eyes to the ways God speaks to me in my life. In His word. In silence. In circumstances. In the sunset following a terrible storm.

Metaphors and story seemed to be Jesus’ chief way of communicating to people throughout the New Testament. When I think about it, I’m struck by how far heavenly knowledge needs to stoop to make sense in our minds. Yet, Jesus met us here, using language we could understand. He talked about growing seeds, parent/child relationships, and money—parallels that help us understand what God, and life in the Kingdom, is like.

For the past two years, I’ve been studying Marriage and Family therapy. I’ve heard countless lectures, read book after book, and even observed my professors providing therapy. Though, nothing teaches you quite so much as working as a therapist, which I quickly realized back in May when I started seeing clients. We were taught early on in school, that we all have blind spots in our lives and that pain has a way of blurring our vision. That’s why counseling, by a professional or mentor, is important—it’s enormously valuable to have an outside perspective on situations to increase understanding. Many times in life we find ourselves needing to trust the judgement of a parent or good friend when we fail to see harmful circumstances and decisions clearly.

It occurred to me, knee deep in therapy, that there are times when I need to stop trusting the things clients say. It’s in their best interest that I do. There are times when client’s words don’t match their behaviors, and I need to recognize when they’re not okay—even when they say they are.

He speaks, always.

I saw myself. I heard my words to Jesus, as He prepared to suffer on my behalf, telling Him I was fine; utterly convinced of it. Yet, my life hinged, at that desperate hour, upon Jesus being able to know I was not. He knew the parts of my heart that disdained Him, the parts that would rather live life my way, and He knew what would happened if He listened. That’s what kept Him on the cross. “God shows His great love for us in this way: Christ died for us while we were still sinners.” Romans 5:8.

If Jesus knew then what was good for me, it means He knows it now. It means I can offer up carefully crafted lip service, but He won’t fall for it. He sees the inner workings of my mind and heart and knows what I really need. At my deepest level, I can rest in that. Moment by moment, I need to be grateful for that. I really, really don’t understand most of it. But, thinking of all He did to rescue me then, when I didn’t want it, reminds me He will do the same now.

He is faithful.

 

field

Poetry used to really confuse me. Not that it doesn’t still confuse me at times—I think I’ve just grown in my appreciation for it, and in my tolerance to not understand. I used to be so quick in reading it and even quicker in saying I didn’t get it. One such poem was about a field where nothing happened. I remember studying it in college and wondering why both William Stafford and our class wasted time on it. Nothing happened.

This poem, startlingly so, came back to me recently, and I felt I understood a little more. Mind you, 4 years after the fact. The poem was about ordinariness. It spoke about a field where no blood was shed, no monuments were built, and nothing heroic happened. It was just an unmarked field, with grass and birds. I can’t say with certainty what brought the poem back to mind, but I speculate it happened sometime amid folding laundry, and the questions I ask about who I want to be.

The end of last month, I spent time exploring Boston with some friends. We walked the Freedom Trail, which highlighted milestones along the way, including the cemetery where Paul Revere, John Hancock and the five victims of the Boston Massacre were buried. The divide between what was above ground and what was below felt so real to me at that moment. I felt very aware that I was alive, that I still had breath in my lungs. They were once walking around up here, like us, I kept thinking. We knew a few names on the graves, those who made it into the history books, but most were unknown, with even their name fading from the stone. They lived their lives, worked jobs, paid bills, made decisions—good and bad—and hopefully loved well along the way. Many didn’t go down in the history books as great, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t.

C.S. Lewis spoke a bit on ordinariness:

 “What is more (and I can hardly find words to tell you how important I think this), it is just the people who are ready to submit to the loss of the thrill and settle down to the sober interest, who are then most likely to meet new thrills in some quite different direction… This is, I think, one little part of what Christ meant by saying that a thing will not really live unless it first dies. It is simply no good trying to keep any thrill: that is the very worst thing you can do. Let the thrill go — let it die away — go on through that period of death into the quieter interest and happiness that follow — and you will find you are living in a world of new thrills all the time.”

I think of this, when I think about those faded graves, when I think about myself. So often we seek out moments of excitement and recognition—some moment of having “made it”. Something that tells us we’re worthwhile. Yet, Lewis reminds us there’s a different kind of thrill that will settle upon us when we give up our adrenaline-pumping concept of thrill, which paradoxically, is more fulfilling than any thrill we imagine. We frequently walk around with skewed perceptions of what our lives should look like, what greatness really is—and as a result, find ourselves terribly unsatisfied with the present, plagued by nostalgia for the past and yearnings for the future. The dishes need to be done and taxes need to be filed and the bathroom scrubbed. It’s not very exciting sometimes, at all. But, I think Lewis speaks of something enormously important, in dying to our concept of thrills. For as long as we keep seeking the thrills, the spotlight, the next-thing, we’ll be dissatisfied with the present. And, the present is important because that’s where we find God.

Jesus speaks about the value of small, everyday moments in Luke 16:10, when he told His disciples: “He who is faithful with little, will be faithful with much.” In fact, His whole life and ministry redefined what it means to be great. He said: “whoever desires to be great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26). Which means, for all I know, those faded graves marked unwaveringly obedient people. It means that they could have lived lives of gentleness, kindness, love and joy. They could have been neighbors that brought dinner when a family was sick, or people who offered up their smiles to passers-by. They could have fed the hungry and cared for the widows. They could have been unassuming, but beautiful, just like that field.

(Untitled)
William Stafford

This is the field where the battle did not happen,
where the unknown soldier did not die.
This is the field where grass joined hands,
where no monument stands,
and the only heroic thing is the sky.
Birds fly here without any sound,
unfolding their wings across the open.
No people killed – or were killed – on this ground
hollowed by the neglect of an air so tame
that people celebrate it by forgetting its name.

We’ve all heard it – pick your battles. This classic axiom has been around forever, and for good reason. It serves us well in all of life, but it requires a wisdom and maturity that often comes as a result of learning from choosing the wrong battles at the wrong time. At least, that was the case for me.

Leadership Mistake #3 – Choosing my battles poorly. 

lightstock_76042_xsmall_user_2976985I’m a go-getter. Taking initiative, being enthusiastic about new ideas, and making stuff happen comes easy to me. I say that truly without pride because while it may sound great, there are some inherent weaknesses within the wiring of my personality. When you’re a go-getter your tendency is to go after everything, and usually to go after it right away. Other people like that because they know you’ll get stuff done. They want you on their team. And it feels good to be wanted, right?

But going after everything, especially all at once, comes at a cost. And too often, that cost has been people, relationships, and ultimately leadership effectiveness.

I’ve also been part of leadership in two ministry organizations during periods of significant change. This has given me the opportunity to learn, sometimes the hard way, how important it is to choose wisely what to fight for and when. I’ve reflected a lot on what I would do differently if I could go back. Sometimes the decisions were foolish and unintentionally harmful. Sometimes they were the result of pride and arrogance. In the end, I would fight fewer and different battles.

Here’s the thing – Change is inevitable, and so is conflict. If you’re in leadership, conflict will be a constant. Conflict between staff and constituents, among staff, between your ministry and the external culture, between competing causes, and on and on. The effective leader creates a culture in which members of the organization embrace a commitment to identify and fight for the collective win – together.

If you’re navigating change, and especially if you’re new in your role, it’s critical that you pick the right battle at the right time if you want to build unity, create buy in, and pick up traction on your initiatives. Choosing the wrong battle at the wrong time usually results in unnecessary collateral damage – often through friendly fire.

So how do you know what’s the right battle? This is by no means an exhaustive guide, but here are a couple of questions I’ve learned to ask myself because they’ve helped me slow down and make better choices:

1. Is this the best use of our organization’s resources right now, in light of our short and long-term goals? Sometimes it can seem like there is so much to “fix” that we have to jump in and try to address all the problems at all once. If there are financial or people pressures in the mix, it can feel all the more urgent. But, moving too quickly, or moving on the wrong issues, usually leads to burnout, greater conflict, and shallow gains if any. Keep your eyes on the big picture. Don’t live in the tyranny of the urgent. It’s tempting and distracting to fix that which seems to be right in front of you. Ask yourself – does this help us move the ball down the field, or are we just stopping to paint the sidelines?

 2. Will this idea or initiative create systemic change or just make us look better on the outside? Especially when resources are limited, you can’t afford surface fixes. It’s better to let the surface stuff continue for awhile, and patiently dive into discovering what lies at the heart of the matter. Most of the time, this will be a much longer process than the quick fix. But it’s if you want to win the war, you’ve got to be really strategic about your battles. When you pick the wrong ones, you often lose the strength to successfully win the ones that truly matter.

3. This one is harder to ask and wrestle through – do I really know the hearts and minds of the people involved and potentially impacted well enough, to determine if this is the right battle? If you don’t yet have an accurate, working, deep handle on the culture of your organization, you aren’t ready to initiate battles. Don’t go in blind. Seek counsel from various team members and vet the potential pros and cons, benefits and losses. And if you’re not certain, be willing to wait.

4. Do I have clarity and freedom that God wants me to move in this direction? As gospel-driven leaders, we have an incredible gift. Instead of living in our own sufficiency and wisdom, we can humbly seek the face of God for leading towards or away from a battle we are considering. As gospel-driven leaders, we recognize the stewardship of leadership. The resources we mange, the people we influence, the culture we impact, should humble us to a play of desperate reliance on Spirit led decisions. Because of the blood shed for me by my Savior, I have a relationship with the God that ordered an entire universe! My need of this Savior is so clear in those times when I neglect to seek my God in my leadership. He created me, he gave me this leadership to steward, and it’s all to be for His glory.

He promises to provide what we need. He is faithful to do what He says He will do. Ask Him to help you see the bigger picture, wait patiently for the right timing, and the faith to step out in courage when it’s time to engage.  

relationship

In the last year, God has been answering YES to some of my deepest, far-fetched, soul-wrenching prayers. My mother has been titled “Cancer Free” for the next six months. I obtained a so-called impossible internship. As in, go find a different calling because there isn’t enough room for you! God led my husband to a new job that I know He will use his gifts more in the church walls and out.

And I’m going to be really honest with you.

I’m still wanting more.

Have you found yourself in this place? Please tell me I’m not the only one.

How do we become content? How do we rejoice in the day that is made before us? Can we remain thankful for the good, undeserved gifts from our Heavenly Father without wanting more?

God speaks about this in 2 Samuel.

The guy we want to learn from in this story is Mephibosheth. In chapter 9, we learn that he is Grandson of King Saul, crippled and has a son of his own. However, King David is now in reign and it was common for the King to kill anyone from the former royal family because they were potential rivals to the throne. Does King David do this? No! With compassion, he invites Mephibosheth to his table to eat and gives him land that belonged to his grandfather.

Then, a lot goes down in Jersualem.

I’m not going to go into detail but King David’s life is in danger and he ends up exiled. In comes Ziba, the manager of Mephibosheth’s household. In chapter 16, he lies to King David and slanders Mephibosheth in regards to his whereabouts. King David believes him and in his anger, ends up declaring all of Mephibosheth’s possesions are now in Ziba’s hands. When he confronts Mephibosheth about this, Mephibosheth explains the truth. King David then decides to split the land equally among the two men.

Mephibosheth’s response?

Give him all of it. I am content just to have you safely back again, my lord the king!” [2 Samuel 19:30 NLT]

He lets the very man who betrayed him have what is rightfully his. Why? Because he recognizes that his contentment is anchored in his relationship with the King. And all he needs, he already has.

Discontentment comes when we feel deprived. For myself, when I see what I truly deserve for my sin [Romans 6:23] and compare it to what I have received in Christ [Colossians 2:9-15], all those wants become nothing in comparison to the eternal life awaiting and the love of the Savior I have yet to fully know [1 Cor. 13:12]

 

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and heart may fail but God is the strength of my heart and portion forever. [Psalm 73:25-26]

Leaders Listen, Collyde, LeadershipLast month I started a series about My Top 7 Leadership Mistakes. I covered the second mistake – speaking at the wrong time for the wrong reasons – in my last post and in this post I want to give a glimpse into what I’ve been learning as God has helped me correct this habitual mistake, so I can be more effective in leading and therefore honoring Him.

Leadership  Lesson #2

It sounds like communication 101, but my first realization was that I would have to do a much better job of active listening. Engaging all of my senses to observe and focus on the other person, the environment, and my own communication signals. Listening, and not interrupting, has sometimes meant that when it was my turn to speak, I couldn’t remember that “great point” that first came to mind. Frustrating, right? Yes, but as I’ve processed it’s really come down to two things:

1. I’m relearning this critical part of communicating, so I need to cut myself some slack and keep the real “win” in mind.

The more I intentionally choose the active listening approach, the better I’m getting at both storing key thoughts to recall and staying focused on the other person. In fact, sometimes, when it’s a planned conversation, I try to have a notebook handy to jot down a couple of key points if it’s appropriate to the situation. I’ve found that it’s both a help to me and communicates to the other person that I truly care enough about what they are saying to want to write it down. And if I don’t recall everything I’d wanted to say, it’s okay. The win isn’t about me. That’s the stuff of real leadership – the stuff I want to be about.

2. I don’t need to say everything that comes to my mind. Even when I think it’s “awesome” ! 🙂

Ever heard that phrase, “You don’t have to attend every argument you’re invited to.” Yea, I’m pretty sure that’s the jist of what my parents were trying to tell me throughout my childhood! 🙂  The thing is that I tend to process really fast, and my pattern has been to let those thoughts come out of my mouth as quickly as they come into my brain. Active listening is forcing me to slow down. I have to discern not only what needs to be said in response, but how and when it should be said. This has been hard and imperfect and really, really good. Because  How many times have I thought, “oh, if only I could take it back!” Not because it was the wrong thing. But it was the wrong time. And, if I’d waited, I would’ve said something different, and the other person probably would’ve been more ready to hear it, leading to a healthier outcome for all.

In our fast paced culture, it’s so easy to frenetically race through relationships the same way we rush through our projects, to-do lists, meetings and errands. I’ve decided that if I’m going to be effective, this is an area in which I’ve got to operate counter culturally. I have more to learn, but I’m grateful for God’s grace in showing me how to slow down so I can be a leader marked by the maturity of listening, and speaking, well.

What about you? Are there leadership lessons you’ve learned? What encouragement would you offer to those of us trying to learn to listen well? Leave a comment – we love to hear from you!

salvation

A few weeks ago I woke up with Gods Word on my heart and heard, “On the day of salvation I helped you, on the day of salvation I called you.”

Though this is not a bible verse, 2 Corinthians 6:2 tells us, “For God says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”

As I meditated and prayed on this word and what God was wanting to teach me, I was encouraged again by the truth that Christ bestows eternal life as a free gift and mercifully bore our eternal punishment. Now is the day of salvation– not when you finally get it all together or after some self-improvement but in the midst of your current messy life. His favor over your soul is never lacking.

Even more so, I struggle with not feeling adequate or equipped enough to be his servant. But from the day of my salvation, he called me! (Ephesians 1:5) He called me as a broken, needy, and helpless child. In my own experience, as I come to him daily with a repentant heart and adoration for him, he uses me in His purposes in spite of my flesh– In spite of my distractions, uncertainties and worries.

If you are struggling with whether God is calling you, know that He has. He has called you to love your neighbors, give with a cheerful heart, pray for those who are sick and broken, speak encouraging words over people and gather often as His body.

As a believer we go through seasons where we doubt that God’s love is unconditional. (Romans 8:37-39) We worry that our performance will distance us from His love. On Easter Sunday, our former pastor and friend shared that the list of exceptions we make for why God doesn’t love us is not and will never be true. But that list might reflect how we are struggling to love God in return. Have you ever thought of it this way?

Whether you believe in Christ as your Savior or you haven’t committed to following him yet, I encourage you to think about whether you will take the time to receive his love today. And what does that look like for you to receive the gift of Himself?