When You Move from the Wilderness to a Traffic Jam

Yesterday, I was stuck in a nearly 2.5 hour traffic jam on my way home from doing what I love~teaching at the university. I had a few moments of “arrrgh” to “I hate this commute” to a quiet whisper of a reminder that being pinned between hundreds of cars moving like turtles has a purpose.

As I complained and whined to God, I was gently nudged to a memory nearly five years back of wondering when I was ever going to get out of the mess. My days were empty back then and were filled with lots of questions having emerged from a painful wilderness season and hanging on to all the hope I could get.  My life had unravelled and I was on a slow crawl through the desert of healing and restoration. Being confident in God’s call for decades, I found myself straddled between the memory of what once was and the uncertainty of what would be.

Then God showed up with more promises.

He planted one smack on the forehead of my mind.

Forget about what’s happened; don’t keep going over old history. Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new. It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? There it is! I’m making a road through the desert. Isaiah 43:18,19. 

I focused on the question, Don’t you see it? Honestly I said, No, God, I don’t see it! And yet a hint of anticipation took seed in my heart as I began to choose to trust God as he made a road through my desert.

Now sitting in the traffic jam yesterday, I laughed because here I was life brimming with all the “something brand-new” God has been doing for the past several years. I can hardly keep up to tell you the truth. When God gives a promise he delivers. God has brought me out of the wilderness season to a life so full of purpose that my heart is overwhelmed with worship.

What do you do if you find yourself still waiting in the desert? Here’s our cue from Isaiah.

  1. Forget about the past – This doesn’t mean it won’t creep up and bite you or me, it just means that if God is to move us forward, at some point we have to stop going over old history. Whatever the past is, hurt, loss, or pain, work through it, grieve it, get help, recover and ask God to help restore. He is in the business of renovating our hearts!
  2. Be alert and present – When we dwell on the past and and keep whining we aren’t able to be present in the moment. We can’t see what’s ahead if we are sitting in the desert complaining. Yes, complaining! At some point we have to get up and keep putting one step in front of the other trusting Him to leads us through the wilderness.  When we are present and alert we can anticipate, look up, be ready, and watch for what’s around the corner.
  3. Open our eyesThe promise is, I am about to do something brand new, it’s bursting out! Don’t you see it? If we look up and not down and around our circumstances, we will see what God wants us to see. He will give us glimmers of what’s ahead, but only if we keep our eyes open. Our response is to say, Yes, God yes, I can’t see it all the way, but I trust you to see it. If you can’t see it all the way, believe it!
  4. Stay on the road – If God says he will make a road through the desert he means it. Don’t wander off that road in search of escaping the wilderness on your own. God will provide in the rough place and gives exactly what we need for the journey. Follow His lead and He will bring you through.

In my experience, I have found that rarely does a promise happen in an instant.  God’s economy of time and ours aren’t the same. Sometimes it is weeks, months and even years. And yet I believe God gives us a promise ahead of time to infuse hope in our hearts to keep trusting Him and to wait for Him to act.

So get ready, God is about to do something wildly brand new in your life! It’s my story and I’m sticking to it because God is faithful and He always comes through.

 

 

 

When You Leak as a Leader

Hang with me for just a moment while I tell my…

Take-forever-to-get-somewhere-whiny-traffic story.

It took me nearly 3.5 hours to drive 36 miles last week. I was a bit frustrated and out of whack because I couldn’t do anything about it. I sat there dead stopped on the freeway and had no choice but wait for it to clear.

My frustration level ran to an all-time high as I was taking my students to the morning of the Global Leadership Summit by the Willow Creek Association. I had relayed to the students the importance of being on time. And here I was unable to get there until after it started. They graciously understood and we did end up having a great morning.

Although, I have to say that after getting settled I realized how I had let a little episode like a traffic jam completely unravel my sense of peace.

I whined to at least three people from the check-in person to the book table to the coffee station. I was leaking words and phrases that revealed what was going on in my heart.

When I leak it is not good.

About halfway through the morning, the leak continued to drip. I was tapped on the shoulder and there apparently had been a misunderstanding of how many sessions we were allowed to take in as we had received free morning passes. I left my seat determined to make sure we would be allowed to stay.

I would like to tell you that I handled it with grace and the maturity of a leader who has lead for over three decades.

NOT! I completely and aggressively defended my position and demanded that it was their error and not ours and we weren’t leaving.

Sigh…REALLY? Cynthia?

This moved from a slow drip to a gush on an innocent person who was trying to serve us.

As I slid back into my seat a sense of guilt and regret crept over me.

What was going on? What was wrong with me? I don’t respond to people like this!

I realized that my world was incredibly full and I was not handling my emotions and responses well.

This could mean one thing and one thing only. I need to take a step back and re-evaluate.

The month was full of multiple speaking events, teaching class, working my job and some over-the-top stresses that were happening in my personal world. It was time to take a soul check and make some adjustments because my tongue was definitely out of control.

I was not just leaking I was flooding.

Too often we as leaders find ourselves in this place. As a verbal processor I have to work harder at keeping my tongue under control. Some leaders I know are able to exercise much greater restraint for they are reflective introverts, but for those of us who are the opposite and who literally “talk for a living” it can be disastrous if left unchecked.

I decided that I couldn’t push on any further and something needed to change. Here’s how to stop the leak if you find yourself in the same place.

1. Step back and take a breath. When we are busy and stressed we often don’t breath very well physically and our brains need oxygen to be able to function. Go for a walk, leave your desk, and just breathe.

2. Check the calendar and see what you can shift in order to build in some restoration time. For me, if I keep going when I leak then I am going to be a train wreck and take some significant people I care about down with me. Breathe, look at the calendar and make some changes.

3. Make some “restore-me time.” I don’t know about you but when I am under extreme pressure as I have been the past several weeks, I have to get back to refueling. It’s different for everyone. Taking an afternoon and walking with my favorite playlist of music is restorative for me. Working on something creative with my hands that is totally opposite of my day-to-day routine also restores me. Whatever it is for you, take time to not only discover what that looks like but also make it a part of your routine.

4. Disengage from the Internet for a morning, afternoon or a whole day if you can. The constant noise from email, social media and responding can add to the already stressed situation. Take a break and be intentional.

5. Talk to someone. It’s a given for me because I am committed to following Jesus and that means I spend time in prayer talking to God and reading the bible. It is also helpful for me to have someone I can wholly be myself with and lean on them for encouragement and counsel. We aren’t meant to do life alone, and as a leader we don’t get better by isolating ourselves.

I didn’t get it right this week and felt like beating myself up. Instead, I reached out to the staff person I leaked all over before I left the event. She was incredibly gracious and we ended up having a meaningful conversation about leadership. Whew…averted a complete character meltdown. She thanked me for being vulnerable and looked forward to connecting over coffee at a later date.

I am grateful that I can have a do-over and since then, I have made some changes to stop the leak from continuing to spill over.

The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words.          Proverbs 10:19

5 Ways to Kill a Team

Every Tuesday morning I show up at a university campus to teach leadership to international students who mainly come from China and the surrounding region. We have a fascinating time as we merge Eastern thought about leadership with Western ideals.

This semester we are discovering the group dynamics of teams and most of our work is experiential learning in class. My students are hungry to learn how to create effective teams for optimum results and I love watching the interaction. Working as a team with shared ideas is new for some of them. They are used to the idea of autocratic teams instead of teams that are more collaborative.

I’ve noticed one thing that stays the same between our cultures and it is the bottom line. We all want to have an effective successful team to reach common goals. We are learning together some important steps to maximize our effectiveness as teams. And yet, we still fall back on our human nature striving for performance and falling into leading only task driven. And as much as the leadership theories we learn help us, our humanity can get in the way and lead to what I call – The 5 Team Killers.

There are ways we can unintentionally easily kill a team in our efforts to be effective. As a leader, it can become a team blindspot. In my experience with teams I’ve served and lead, this is what I have learned (the hard way) that can cause a team to lose it’s effectiveness.

1. Task First Think Later

As a young leader in my 20’s and 30’s, I thought organizing a team meant putting together a group of people to get the job done.  It was all about TASK! And I was the one as the leader to call the shots.

Partially true?

Maybe.

I had little regard for what others on the team might think about what we were doing TOGETHER.

I soon learned the hard way through some crucial conversations that I wasn’t the only one who had the best ideas on how to get the task done.

In fact, sometimes my ideas weren’t good at all!

Thinking together as a team was a slow learning process for me. As we thought things through together, the team actually improved.

I am not advocating group-think in this instance but rather fostering an open-minded atmosphere where everyone’s thoughts about getting the tasks accomplished lead to the best results.

2. Choose Not to Collaborate

Part of what makes a successful team is leveraging everyone’s strengths on the team. When we choose not to collaborate and don’t make it a priority to understand the strengths of each team member, true collaboration can’t take place. Don’t be afraid to collaborate. No one person has all the skills to lead an effective team and no one person on the team can get the job done well all by themselves.

3. Using People Instead of Relating to People

If you really want to kill a team fast, the best way to kill a team is to not care about your people. People will follow the vision and goals for awhile, but when stress starts to play in, if we as a leader don’t genuinely care for those on our teams, motivation will diminish. We don’t want people to feel they are being used. We want them to not just know we care but that we really care about them beyond what they can do for the team.

4. No parties, No celebrations

Teams need to celebrate successes and especially small goals.

Celebrating as a team creates more motivation to reach the end goal.

We often just celebrate the end with a big splash as we cross the finish line.  I have found that when we celebrate small goals it brings the team together and provides encouragement. Every team will reach an obstacle at some point that can bring discouragement. Celebrating along the way helps to keep everyone moving forward toward the goal.

5. Enforce Accountability

There are many different ideas of how to hold team members to account. I have found that the best way to hold a team accountable is to empower others by working intentionally as a leader to motivate team members.

Lack of motivation can kill accountability.

When a team loses momentum due to lack of motivation, members can slip into the “just doing enough to get by.”

I believe the key to accountability is to keep the team motivated as a whole. When everyone on the team is energized there is less chance of  those on the team falling into the slacker category.

These five team killers aren’t rocket science and yet they bring awareness to highlight what is really important when it comes to functioning as a healthy team.

When my students share how to create a dream team, their passion emerges on how their greatest wish is to help others and leave a lasting imprint in their realm of influence.

As we reflect together in discussion on these and other theories, one common goal surfaces in discussion. We all want to be the very best leader we can be to create a working team that makes a difference!

If everyone is moving forward together then success takes care of itself. Abraham Lincoln.

 

 

 

 

Why Everyone Needs A Tribe

As a writer, I’ve been floundering for a few years. I didn’t know it but I was looking for a tribe.

I was wandering and then realized what I needed…

People who were like-minded and crazy enough to sit down at our computers for long hours writing, in hopes it will influence others.

If I am going to be a serious writer since publishing my first book, I knew I needed a writer tribe. I searched and scoured to find a group that I could identify with. A group whose heart beat the same as mine, crafting words into meaningful sentences, hoping to make a difference. I prayed and waited.

Like clothes in a department store dressing room, I tried a myriad of different tribes to see if they were a good fit.

I tried to force myself with a few and it didn’t work. It was like putting a square peg into a round hole, or squeezing my body into a size that didn’t fit.

They were lovely groups, but weren’t my peeps. I kept looking and asking my writer friends. Mostly, I prayed and asked God to help me find my tribe, one I could feel camaraderie and affinity. I nearly gave up when last year one of my author friends suggested I try her tribe.

I took the plunge and signed up. I even decided to attend the first conference of this newly found tribe and went with no expectations other than just to connect and learn.

I discovered other writers just like me.

Writers confident in our gifts and yet at times insecure.

Broken but not defeated.

Struggling and yet persevering.

Desiring and yet God honoring, Jesus loving writers!

It was like being away from home a long time and finding all the best reasons why you love to come back. It was a belonging moment.

Whatever gift you and I  might have, we need a tribe.

Why? Here are five simple reasons using the word TRIBE of why I believe everyone needs a tribe whether your gift is writing, music, leading, crafting, teaching or?

 TRUST 

We need a group of people that we can trust with our gift and who             experiences it the same way we do. Writers in particular can be quirky because we usually are alone crafting our words, it isn’t a team gift. It is very personal and we need people we can trust along the way.

RESPECT

Everyone needs respect. Having a group of people who share the same gift garners a deeper respect for your own gift and motivates us to be the best we can because it isn’t just about us, there are others who share the same gift. When we neglect or tarnish our gift it impacts others and hurts the tribe.

INSPIRE

Being around other like-minded similar gifted people is incredibly            inspiring. It is motivating and pushes us to work harder and smarter.

BELONG

It’s funny how when you discover your true tribe how at home you will   feel. It becomes a safe place to grow and try out new ideas with people who understand how your gift works.

ENCOURAGE

Everyone needs encouragement to keep going when the going get         tough. Especially when our gifts are first being developed and later when we’ve  experienced both success and failure and still want to give up! We need people to remind us to keep stewarding the gift. It is worth it and it is just that, a gift that has to keep going and growing to make the greatest impact possible.

I am incredibly proud to announce that my new tribe is the Advanced Writers and Speaker Association. They have become my tribe and I feel  the simple trust, respect, inspire, belong and encourage has visited the writers home in my heart. I am learning leaps and rubbing shoulders with these incredible author friends and my hope is that I will rub off on them too! They accept me right where I am at, there is a no compete zone  and man oh man can these women pray!! Like I said, this is home.

Where is your tribe? If you haven’t found yours, keep looking, keep praying, keep waiting. Somewhere out there is a place for you to belong and to grow that brilliant gift God has lavishly entrusted to you.

 

 

 

 

Why Squirrels and Discipline Don’t Go Together

I was sitting next to a new acquaintance at a friend’s wedding rehearsal dinner last week. She was engaging me much like I do with other people asking me loads of questions about how I spend my time and my passions. After about 20-30 minutes taking turns, she turned to me and said,

“You sound awfully busy.”

I thought to myself, “I guess I didn’t think of it that way”. When I reviewed my summer months, I concurred to myself, “Yes, I guess I have been, hugely busy, more than I would like”. Which led me to greater reflection (did I tell you I am a true melancholy?) of how I am spending my time.

Looking over my calendar and events of the past few months I saw a big gaping hole of a word that has actually been nagging me for months.

It’s a word I really don’t like, but have to pay attention to.

It’s the word D.I.S.C.I.P.L.I.N.E.

Because I am a big picture person with an infinity of ideas and vision, the discipline of DISCIPLINE can get lost.

This quote I read recently jars me to the reality of discipline, We must all suffer one of two things: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret or disappointment. (Jim Rohn)

If there is one thing that haunts me in getting to the end of my life is the feeling of the pain of regret and disappointment in what I choose day to day. I realize that I am not very good at self-discipline. Looking back this summer over the crowded spaces in my calendar and then looking ahead, I discovered that discipline has to be a part of the picture. The consequence if it isn’t, I will be living in the excruciating pain of regret not just at the end but now.

As I was chatting with God about this and myself, I had to admit that I totally “suck” at discipline. I am good with short bursts and projects that have a beginning and an end, but am terrible at the long term discipline to keep the momentum moving forward of my passions and purpose. I get distracted, derailed and yes, “oops there’s a squirrel” as the saying goes.

What are my squirrels of distraction?

Other people’s vision, so exciting, how can I help?

Melancholy discontent.

Shopping for stuff I really don’t need.

Wasting time on the internet.

Signing up for too many worthy studies.

Taking on good projects.

Need I continue further? Part of discipline is being disciplined enough to recognize I must make careful choices to focus on exactly what I am supposed to be doing. Helping others is important but if I am spending 90% of my time helping others reach their goals and mine are forgotten, then that becomes a distraction.

September is always a good month to evaluate and right now, my calendar is open on my table and I am doing a much needed review and putting those fun-loving squirrels of distraction in their place. Not that I can’t chase one once in awhile, it’s just that right now, my calendar yard is overwhelmed with them.

Discipline is the ability to focus on purpose. To do the routines everyday that move me forward on the plan that God has destined for me. They usually aren’t exciting, they are mundane, but they are important. They are the collection of small exercises of time that are intentional and that lead to finishing goals.

So what’s needed so my life doesn’t get over run with those squirrely squirrels?  As I’ve pondered this, the word WISDOM is quietly whispering to my heart. The book of Proverbs is full of wisdom and so I am plastering this admonishment on my forehead and anyplace I can get away with.

Teach us (me) to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. Proverbs 90:12

(Picture from (Alamy)  http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/wildlife/11301638/Millions-of-pounds-of-public-money-to-pay-for-grey-squirrel-cull.html)

Does Leadership Matter?

photo
I can’t sleep. It’s way past my bedtime. The phrase leadership matters is haunting me and keeping me up tonight. Bill Hybels at the Global Leadership Summit last week said it over and over again, leadership matters, and I can’t get it out of my head. Leadership matters, in our homes, our jobs, our churches and our communities.

It feels very real to me just now because I just got word this evening that a very dear woman I knew in my distant past, from another season, another church, and another place that I was in leadership a long time ago has just graduated to heaven. A mutual friend of hers let me know that she was moments away from her last breath just two days ago. She shared I could text her and send an encouraging note. I responded right away that I would, but then I thought, How lame is that! I haven’t talked to her for a few years, what should I say?

It feels so fake, so insincere to come in at the 11th hour when someone is dying. What do you say to someone who is about to slip from earth to heaven?

But then I remembered how she had reached out to me a few times on social media to encourage me of how I had impacted her life ever so long ago. And yet she wanted to tell me that my leadership mattered. She didn’t care that we hadn’t talked for eons, it didn’t bother her that we weren’t at the same church anymore or even close friends, she just wanted me to know. It was a sheer act of kindness because she had eternity in view. People mattered to her and it was important. So I told her how much it meant to me the times she had reached out even if we weren’t very connected. I tried to muster up some brave encouraging words in her last moments. I didn’t expect a response, but her husband replied and thanked me for taking the time to send her a note. I cried.

That is what is keeping me up tonight because it scares me to think of the times that I have carelessly behaved or threw out words without regard to how they might impact others.

And yet, this sweet soul was in the background watching my life as a leader and was blessed those many years ago.

I didn’t even realize how much my leadership mattered back then. I was green and inexperienced.

There’s one more thing that’s been haunting me, words from Ephesians that I’ve been trying to commit to memory lately, I urge you: Live a life that is worthy of the calling He has graciously extended to you. Be humble. Be gentle. Be patient. Tolerate one another in an atmosphere thick with love.

These words are words that propel me like my distant friend who has just finished her race to intentionally focus on things in life that truly matter.

To make certain I don’t forget to embed deeper in my soul qualities like humility, gentleness, patience and most of all to love people well.

Because when all is said and done, it really does matter! God says over and over again in His book that it does. I know I don’t get it right all the time, I already messed up today at least three times but it’s the goal I want to keep in front of me, it’s the legacy I choose.

Loving well matters.

Our words matter.

Leadership matters.

Why Your Influence Matters

It’s been a whirlwind few weeks with my nieces wedding (more on that later) and I’ve missed connecting with everyone! Honestly, many times I was scribbling pieces of blog ideas on scrap paper and napkins in sunny California and just couldn’t make it happen. I gave myself permission to take a break.  BUT, I am back in the blog saddle and have so much to share with you over the next months.
This week I want to introduce you to an extraordinary woman and a new friend, Jenni Catron. She’s released a book that resonates with my definition of making a difference~INFLUENCE! She has masterfully written a book CLOUT: DISCOVER AND UNLEASH YOUR GOD-GIVEN INFLUENCE that will encourage you to see your own personal influence as leverage to making a God-imprint in your world. She is a gifted leader and the real deal. When I first picked up her book, I thought, I am going to write her and share a little of my own story. Not expecting a response, she not only wrote back right away, but I was so blessed by her willingness to engage. We’ve since exchanged books and emails and she is the beautifully authentic! Whether you are a seasoned leader, emerging leader or someone who believes in ordinary everyday influence, this book is for you!  I invited her to do an interview and so here she is…drumroll please….photo 2Jenni Catron!
Can you share the clout journey of writing this book and what has brought you to the concept of “clout and leadership?” What was your first “aha” moment with the idea of clout?
I have had a passion for leadership for as long as I can remember.  I believe it’s one of the gifts that God has given me but I’ve been perplexed over the years trying to define and understand how to best steward this gift of leadership.  Over time I’ve grown to believe that leadership begins with influence but the more I studied my own motivations and observed the behaviors of other leaders, the more I discovered that we tend to skip ahead to doing the things that we perceive make us leaders and take for granted the exploration of influence that God has designed us for.
 
About ten years ago I went through what I define as my “crisis of purpose”.   As a confident and driven person I had pursued dreams I had outlined for my life but I had done so without taking a healthy look at how my life up to that point had shaped me and how God had innately gifted me.  It was that season that I stumbled upon this passage from Galatians:
 
“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given.  And then sink yourself into that.  Don’t be impressed with yourself.  Don’t compare yourself with others.  Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.”  Galatians 6:4-5 (The Message)
 
This verse awakened me to the need to understand who I was first as a child of God and then secondly how the gifts, talents, experiences and opportunities that he had given to me could be used to do “my creative best.”
What is the difference between clout and influence? 
I use the words clout and influence interchangeably.  I define Clout as your God-given influence.  It’s the collection of gifts, talents, experiences and opportunities that God has given to you and to no one else.  That collection creates the foundation for your influence – your clout.
How do you use clout to lead well?
When we understand our God-given clout I believe we lead from a healthier and more authentic place.  Rather than trying to be what we perceive we should be or what others want us to be, we lead from a place of confidence in who God has created us to be.  
You talk about 7 Clout Killers in your new book, what are they? Can you share one or two that have been barriers for you and how you have overcome them?
The Clout Killers that I discuss in the book are fear, comparison, jealousy, scarcity, insecurity, pride and control.  I’m sure there are others that can derail us but these were the ones I’ve seen most consistently show up in the life of leaders.  They are the tactics that the enemy tries to distract us and derail us with.
I think fear is the big one for all of us.  In fact I call fear the frontrunner of the clout killers. It’s usually an “I’m not enough” fear that triggers the others. For instance fear that I don’t measure up to others leads to comparison and fear that I’m not good enough triggers insecurity. While all of us wrestle with different clout killers in varying degrees, fear, comparison and insecurity consistently show up for many of us.
What next steps would you offer to a leader who is seeking to leverage greater influence?
I would encourage you to “make the careful exploration” that Galatians 6 talks about.  I believe we must lead ourselves well to lead others better.  When we do the tough work of seeking God for our identity, giftedness and calling and then pray through and discern what might be hindering us or holding us back (the clout killers), we are better equipped to understand our sphere of influence and lead more authentically in that place.    
You are encouraging people to name someone in their world who deserves a “clout award.” Who would that award go to in your life and why?
Oh, there are so many people!  But one that immediately comes to mind was the owner of the ice cream shop that I worked at in high school.  She believed in me more than I believed in myself.  She saw potential and gave me opportunities to explore my talents and gifts and in doing so she equipped me with confidence.  She didn’t need the attention for herself.  She invested me in me to enable me to grow.  
What’s next for Jenni in leadership and how can we come alongside and pray for you? 
I’m in another season of conquering some fears and growing in my faith.  I am in the process of transitioning to the west coast to take a leadership position at Menlo Park Pres.  It’s a wonderful church under the amazing leadership of John and Nancy Ortberg.  But change is challenging and I’m praying that I can learn a new culture, earn influence with a new team and utilize my gifts to help propel the vision of this church forward.  Thank you for your prayers and encouragement!
P.S. I hope you will enjoy this book as much as I do and will discover your own unique CLOUT. Not sure what I was really thinking, but authors are real people, and I know it’s crazy because even though I am an author myself and hope I would do the same when someone writes me, I am blessed by Jenni’s authenticity and encouragement to me personally.

Who Needs Experience to be a Leader?

photoA few years ago I had the privilege of being part of a seminar entitled “Spiritual Leadership” with Henry Blackaby, who wrote the best-selling Bible study Experiencing God. We were gathered as leaders to explore the topic, “What Does a Spiritual Leader Look Like?” Simply stated Blackaby said, Spiritual leaders move people onto God’s agenda.  Read that phrase again and let it sink in. I know I wrote it down at the time and have never forgotten the force of those words.

I might add that nothing is more important than true spiritual leadership. It is even more important than experience or what we think experience should be! Can you hear what I am getting at?

It’s okay to feel like you don’t have enough experience.

God knows,

He made you,

He understands,

He gets it that you need Him more than you need your experience.

Blackaby went on to say that Christian leaders who know God and who know how to lead in a Christian manner will be phenomenally more effective in their world than even the most skilled and qualified leaders who lead without God.

There have been many times throughout the years that I have struggled with my own lack of qualifications, I never had the opportunity to graduate from college or seminary, but God has affirmed me over and over again as I have submitted to him in obedience that He is the one who calls a leader and desires to do extraordinary things through a willing heart.  It has only been the past few years that I have had the opportunity to go back to school. I just recently in 2012 graduated with a Master’s in Leadership. Yahoo! But let me tell you, I felt old going back after nearly 30 years. But it was God’s timing complementing this leadership season in my life and my window that God definitely planned.

As men and women called to lead, we are leading others prayerfully to discover their window of opportunity that God wants them to see. We help them to unlock their God-given dreams and gently pushing them to take a step. Living and operating under true spiritual leadership is essential for our maximum effectiveness.

One of the greatest temptations that we will face as leaders is to lead in our own strength.  How do we stay guarded and alert to this temptation? It is making sure that we make time practice the principle of regularly examining our own hearts and lives.

Holiness is more important than experience. When we focus on God we will move people onto God’s agenda and not our own.

(An excerpt from Cynthia Cavanaugh’s book, Unlocked: 5 Myths Holding Your Influence Captive 2013 New Hope Publishers)

 

New Chapters….Letting Go

Stack-of-binders-150x150I was sitting on the floor in our guest room with a stack of binders. Four to be exact. They were the aftermath of a closet purging of which I emptied 15 binders. Years of teaching, seminars and random musings I’ve collected along the ministry trail. Tackling the first 15 weren’t too hard. The last four I left for another day to come back to because I had to think about it. Actually, to be truthful, I had to let go.

The binders were full of just paper, planning an event that happened almost 10 years ago. Why was I struggling? I came to realize it was more the emotional connection of what was contained in the binders that was difficult to pry my fingers off to put it in the recycle bin.

The binders represented a regional event and conference. It was God-orchestrated in which servant leaders came from all over North America (at their own expense) to engage women to love on their cities and learn how to leverage their influence to make a difference. It was an event to call out women to be world-changers.

I remember receiving calls from other parts of the nation asking how we were we able to get the kind of well-known speakers when our church could only could squeeze in about 700ish pre-firemarshall inspection! What was our secret? My answer was, “I can’t tell you, it is a God-thing.” Really, like God cares about celebrity speakers! It’s our heart and motive, but that’s for another blog post. Geesh!

I don’t have room in this post to tell you the whole history, all I can say it was above and beyond what I could of even imagined as Ephesians 3:20 encourages us, to dream big. I remember a few nights before the conference I was on my face before God. I heard him whisper in my heart to get ready, that he was going to show Himself in a way I hadn’t seen before. I shared with the team, we prepared ourselves and He wasn’t kidding!

The first night, the beginning of summer, the room was hot because the air-conditioner broke moments before the evening started. Nearly 800 glistening women from 147 churches and organizations were squeezed into the room that night hungry for God.

God showed up like He promised.

He revealed himself.

Lives were changed.

My faith increased.

I sat down and wept as I watched God move through the room changing hearts and calling his daughters to rise up! It was a moment I never ever, ever will forget. Of course, I want to save every scrap of planning contained in that binder because it represented more than my heart can convey at this moment. I tear up even now thinking about it!

So the other night as I read through each section,

I thanked God.

I cried.

I praised Him.

And I want to believe there will be other moments like that night.

There has been so much that has happened post-conference years. Some really amazing times and some deeply pain worn paths. To be gut honest, some of the more ugly moments I feel has disqualified me for the future. But then I remember, God defines me not my past. Brokenness is a pre-requisite that gets us ready for the next chapter.

God is doing a work in my heart and as I’ve been on this purging binge throughout my house, I sense He is whispering his wooing words of love to me that there is a change coming. I sense He is saying to lift up my head, pay attention and watch and be ready. Let go, trust Him. A new chapter, a new story and a new beginning that He wants to write on my heart.

It’s funny how God will use something so human, so routine and drudging as purging a closet to speak to my heart. That’s what I love about God, he really, really gets me and He knows how to reach my heart. My job is to listen. I am choosing to listen and not blow this off. I sense it is significant and I need to pay attention. Wait, watch and lean in.

What is God saying to you today? What letting go do you need to do so the new chapter can begin?