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Have you ever taken out a necklace only to find it is tangled into knots? That usually happens because you just chuck the jewelry into the box at the end of the night and them quickly rummage through to find what you want the next morning.

What do you do when you have to deal with tangles? I know you don’t expect the tangle to just miraculously vanish. If you are like me you start at one end and unravel one knot at a time (a little baby powder helps!). Eventually the necklace is a smooth chain again, and it’s ready to do its job and shine.

The brain is the same way. We tend to chuck­­ thoughts into our brains and expect new thoughts to come out untangled and pure when we need them. In reality, it takes a little work to make sure the brain is ready to shine.

Repeated behaviors and thoughts become hardwired into our brains, allowing us to coast through some tasks while hardly thinking about them at all. The downside is that negative thought patterns can become hardwired too. But don’t worry – you can change the wiring in your brain!

Scientists have come to realize that each of us is the architect of our brains. God created us as incredibly complex beings, but He didn’t set our plans in stone. So with a little work, you can actually begin to change thoughts and behaviors that are holding you back, causing you stress, or hurting your relationships.

Neuroplasticity

Let’s take a quick look at the science behind re-wiring our brains. Neuroplasticity is the formal name. This refers your brain’s ability to reorganize itself throughout your life. This happens due to environmental stimuli, your behavior and that of others around you, your thoughts, and your emotions. What’s really amazing is that the brain can rewire itself both physically and functionally!

Our son, Graham, suffered severe brain damage due to spinal meningitis. We were told he would exist in an almost vegetative state without the ability to speak, see, hear, or walk. But through God’s grace and His amazing design, that was not the case. Graham’s brain was able to rewire around those damaged areas and today he is able to not only speak, he raps! He actually serves on the security team at our church!

If his brain can rewire to give him back basic functions lost to illness, imagine what your brain can do if you work to change your thoughts!

Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. once said, “A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions.” Your brain is capable of more than you can imagine, all you have to do is visualize it. Because when you visualize a new process, you materialize that process in your life.

Dr. Michael Merzenich, explains in his book, Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life, “Whatever the circumstances of a child’s early life, and whatever the history and current state of that child, every human has the built-in power to improve, to change for the better, to significantly restore and often to recover. Tomorrow, that person you see in the mirror can be a stronger, more capable, livelier, more powerfully centered, and still-growing person.”

So how do you make these changes? Well the first thing is to actually get up and move. It may seem counterproductive, when your thought process is what you want to change, but movement actually helps. According to Christopher Bergman, moderate to vigorous physical activity is one of the most effective ways to stimulate neurogenesis.

Changing Your Thoughts

One way you can rewire your brain is to use motivation. In other words, you are moving toward a specific goal. First you need to define your goal in positive terms. Make sure every step is moving toward something, not away from it.

So if your goal is to change your thoughts about your body while losing weight, your goals would be to eat healthy, become more physically active, and to actively think positive thoughts about yourself. Compliment yourself in some way. Once you’ve come up with your plan, write it down, and remember that everything should be positive. The language you use can absolutely affect your results.

You are changing your thoughts by saying what you do want, instead of what you don’t want. The goal is to edit negative words out of your vocabulary and your thoughts. Focus on what you want to happen not what you want to avoid. Be POSITIVE. Never focus on what you don’t want, because if you do then that is what you will create instead!

Remember that your energy flows where your attention goes. 

Marisa Peer, a psychologist and bestselling author, says, “If you haven’t got what you want, it is because you are not communicating correctly with your mind … the brain does what it thinks you want so you have to be very careful when telling your brain what you want.” Don’t be afraid to empower yourself! Think and use phrases such as: “I want to do it,”  “I’m choose this,”  “I’m going to succeed at this,” and “I love doing this.” Put yourself in a position of positive control.

If you believe that you can do something, you will!

Let me repeat that. If you believe that you can do something, you will! There have been times in my life when I didn’t do something I really wanted to just because I thought I couldn’t. Not believing can lead to regret! Just embracing this one attribute can change your life in unimaginable ways. You need to visualize the change you want, and make sure you use your senses as our senses trigger activity within the brain. Remember – only dwell upon the END result.

You might:

  • See your hands wrapping around the steering wheel of your new car while you smell that new car smell.
  • Picture how your new dress will look, and how great you will feel after you’ve lost the weight you want to lose.
  • Imagine what it will feel like to walk down the aisle holding your groom’s hand as everyone applauds your happy day.
  • Visualize what work will be like after you get that big promotion and imagine the satisfaction you will feel.

Make sure you’re detailed and precise in what you visualize. When you talk about what you want, make sure you use descriptive and powerful words. Engage your senses with sensory words, which are more powerful because they engage more areas of your brain.

If you use words describing taste or texture, the parts of your brain that would process those senses actually become active. This idea is often used by athletes because it is so effective. Imagining your positive outcome will help guarantee your success!

I want to stress again that whatever you put in your mind is what it believes and reproduces. So be positive, be powerful, and be an instrument of your own change. So what changes are you going to make to the wiring in your brain? I know you can do this! All you have to do is want it.

It’s the positive FEELING that helps create the change. So how bad do you WANT change? 

 

 

Christopher Bergland, “How Do Neuroplasticity and Neurogenesis Rewire Your Brain?” Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-athletes-way/201702/how-do-neuroplasticity-and-neurogenesis-rewire-your-brain

Dr. Michael Merzenich, Soft-Wired: How the New Science of Brain Plasticity Can Change Your Life

I want to tell you something today. Something I think you need to hear. You need to rest. You need to take time to renew yourself. Yes, I know you are busy and have a lot of stuff to do. You have people depending on you and people to lead, but you can’t do any of that if you burn out.

The concept of renewing is not something I’ve made up, it is a mandate from God, and it appears as an important aspect of life and leadership throughout Scripture. Jesus consistently modeled the need for rest and renewal to His disciples. We MUST make renewal a cornerstone of our lives if we want to thrive!

Busy Gets In The Way

Women today (and men too) carry enormous loads at home and in the workplace. You have deadlines, dinners, activities to get the kids to, church commitments, hobbies, and family obligations. Your skills toolbox is full. You are equipped to move forward. But without renewing your energy you will be too limited to accomplish everything you need to do.

Endless obligations take a toll on every woman in every walk of life. According to Kelley Holland, women now make up half of the workforce in the United States, but those working moms still take on the bulk of household chores. The Institute for Employment Studies shares that a growing modern workplace trend in our culture is “engendering a long hours culture where ‘being present’ is valued as a sign of commitment to work.”

This is a dangerous trend! Other countries recognize the importance of rest, especially when it comes to productivity and efficiency, and they build the concept into their workplace cultures. We seem to have gone the opposite direction, demanding that each of us are always “on,” always connected to work, and always splitting our focus between our work life and our home life.

Looking At The Whole

If you are anything like me, stressed, tired, and rushed have become daily parts of your life. When we add their extra load of family and household responsibilities to our professional work-week, it’s easy to understand why so many experience debilitating burnout. Although we, as women, have tremendous new opportunities, many of the same old challenges remain. We are totally exhausted, have too much to do, and have too little time.

Here is what you need to understand: you are Body, Mind, and Spirit. All of the different areas of your life and your work will come to a grinding halt if you don’t discover your key to sustainable renewable energy. It’s no wonder you fall into bed totally spent every night. I’ve been there, friend. In fact, I still struggle with renewing.

The Missing Ingredient

So here is the question you need to ask yourself today: What is my missing ingredient?

In order to figure out your key to renewal, you need to start by rethinking the concept of balance between your personal/home schedules and your professional work. You might assume that you are out of balance and that is the cause of your energy issues. Conventional wisdom may say home time is restorative and work time is draining, but things aren’t black and white. The wrong kind of home time can be a total energy siphon. Think of endless diapers, screaming teenagers, empty refrigerators, piles of laundry, or a needy husband. Every day you experience a teeter-totter of energy ups and downs in every part of your life. Balance is tough to define.

There Is No Secret Formula!

As busy women, we all share a notion in the back of our minds that some woman, somewhere, has the secret formula to handling everything in her world efficiently and effortlessly. We look around and think we’ve failed to crack the code to a perfect, balanced, stress-free life. Relax—there is no secret formula! There is no perfect balance in human planning. But we do all know other women who take vacations, have a happy family, and are glowing with health—so how do they do it?

Steps To Finding Your Missing Ingredient

Step 1. Let go of the idea that you can reach a constant state of total control. Only God can initiate perfect balance. Start your journey to renewal by giving Him your schedule. Commit your home time and your work time to Him. He can expand and balance what you will never be able to stabilize.

Step 2. Replace your current vision with a new plan of managing your own energy flow inside the framework of what is important to you—at that moment. You need to reframe your challenge to replace an unsolvable problem (sustaining a work/life balance) with a big payoff—never running your energy batteries on empty. If you let yourself hit rock bottom, that’s when you’re most vulnerable, most likely to make mistakes, and you lose your joy. Energy plays a huge role in your success!

Step 3. Focus on your relationship with God. It may seem counterintuitive to take time you don’t have and spend it on spiritual formation, but I’ve seen it work over and over again. When you put God first, you suddenly have more clarity, more energy, more focus, and more peace. Stress decreases, you want to focus on staying healthy, your mind clears, and your spirit is filled with joy.

Boundless energy and true RENEWING is available to you as you allow your body, mind, and spirit to be transformed!

 


Love is a fruit in season at all times,
and within reach of every hand. 

~ Mother Teresa

 

Connecting is about garnering the “support and gifting” of the humans around you. We need to connect, because no one does anything alone! Just think about it for a moment. As each of us move forward in our lives, as we work to achieve our goals, there a always others who contribute in some way. It’s like when you see a turtle on a fence post, you just know it didn’t get that high by itself. It needed help!

We Are Created For Relationship

We are created by God to live in relationship, both with Him and with others. Your relationships are formed and maintained when you make and maintain loving connections with others.

Connectivity itself is a range of activities that focus on creating and sustaining connections with others. That sounds really technical, but it can be boiled down to focusing on others as you communicate with them. This might happen through active listing, empathy, compassion, shared activities, through your leadership, or through reaching out to the other person.

None Of Us Operates Alone!

Sound familiar? None of us operates alone. You need that connection with others if you want to live your life to the fullest. The act of connecting links you to others. What you need are specific actions you can take to ensure connectivity happens. An attitude of servant leadership is the first thing you need to enhance and improve your ability to connect with others in a constructive, purposeful, and meaningful way.

Authentically connecting with others has numerous benefits. Technology has led to a new problem in connecting with others in an authentic way. Self-focus, a pattern of behavior encouraged by excessive time on social media, is associated with anxiety and depression. Instead of deriving pleasure from your experience—say, your trip to Paris—your device becomes your main source of pleasure. Unwittingly, it makes you less connected and more narcissistic, and with that comes a roller coaster of emotional highs and lows caused by obsessive attention-seeking.

The Benefits Of Community

God created us to be in community with others. We are a community of believers. Part of the family of God. We are created as His children to be in relationship with Him and with those around us. You hear that a lot here because it is vital for each of us to be in relationship with others. It’s actually more important than you might realize. Studies show that loneliness increases an individual’s risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, cognitive problems, and other health issues.

Humans were created to need intimate bonds, someone to confide in, and we need to feel like we belong. God created us to need the support of others, and He created us to be able to support others. Strong relationships not only make us happier, they make us mentally stronger.

Forming Connections

One way to form strong connections is through servant leadership. When you purposefully become a servant leader, the focus of your life shifts to the development of altruism, emotional healing, wisdom, support, and stewardship. This foundation facilitates empowerment and capability development, leading to a sense of community and an alignment of goals within your family, your close friend circles, in your workplace, and even in your new relationships.

Life isn’t an individualistic pursuit! You are participating in an interactive process involving hands-on action, and you must make an effort to include all participants. Communicating, listening, integrating viewpoints, taking action, and building trust are all critical to your success and your personal growth.

Be A Good Listener

If you don’t already possess it, or even if you think you do, I want to challenge you to actively work on your ability to be a good listener. Be sensitive toward others and give and take criticism graciously. Solid people-skills will take you farther toward growth and success than any other leadership trait! Or as President Theodore Roosevelt put it, “The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”

Become A Servant Leader!

Jesus recognized the need to view personal development in a different light when He chose the role of a servant. He also demonstrated a foundation for equality in His actions, choosing to wash the feet of His followers. He demonstrated the importance of serving others and the equality in the roles they shared (John 13:12-15).

When you live as Jesus did, you can’t expect that you’ll receive reward or recognition. If you want to influence the behavior of others, and create a network of positive connectivity, you have to abandon that mindset! This is the lesson Jesus taught through His actions and through His relationships.

So are you ready to accept your role as a servant leader to meet the needs of those around you? If you are, you will connect with others more deeply that you could have imagined! Start with this personal affirmation: What I make happen for others, God will make happen for me!

I want to tell you something I think you need to hear today: You have unlimited potential! God wants to do amazing things in your life! You have a mission, set by Him, that will help you grow in ways you never thought possible. YOUR LIFE MATTERS.

God has a purpose for everyone. “But I have raised you up for this very purpose, that I might show you my power and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth” (Ex. 9:16).

You are gifted and called. “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out” (Prov. 20:5).

You are needed. “Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Phil. 2:12–3).

Sometimes the idea that we have a mission, a specific calling from God, can be overwhelming. Sometimes it is the fuel that fires the imagination and gives us the willpower we need to keep moving forward. The difference between the two is understanding and embracing your mission.

Your mission, your calling, is bigger than you. I get it. That can be scary. But this is what I know about you if you are a Christian who wants to activate God’s call in your life: You are ready to work hard to see your calling from God become reality. You aren’t alone!

Staying on Mission is your pathway to find meaning in all of your experiences.

Staying on mission keeps us energized so we can reach our destination. However, unless we have taken the initiative to stop and clarify what our mission is for ourselves, we can miss out on our greatest source of power. If you aren’t clear about your mission, I would encourage you to start the journey of discovery today. Spend time in prayer, ask for the Holy Spirit’s guidance, look at the skills, talents, and passions God has instilled in you. Once you understand your mission, it’s time to move forward!

To accomplish your mission, you must take hold of the responsibilities of personal development and the disciplines of spiritual formation. Spiritual formation, developing and growing your relationship with God is vital to succeeding in your mission. That relationship will give you the faith, strength, and determination you need to succeed!

Faith is central to everything you do in life. When you take on challenges, you wrestle with a degree of uncertainty, and you risk failure. You risk losing. You risk getting hurt. However, fail or succeed, by doing risky things you expand your vision of what is possible, and your faith grows as you lean on God during each challenge. Every effort builds your character and equips you with the skills, the confidence, and the essential attributes needed to navigate the obstacles you face.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t like failure. I know I learn from it. I know it helps me grow and stretch and learn new things. But I still don’t like it. That dislike drives me to work harder, be stronger, and it pushes me to lean on God because I know I can’t do it alone.

When you think of strength, do you catalog your weaknesses and the areas you excel? Want to know a secret? None of us is strong on our own. Thankfully, God created us that way, and He also gives us what we need to make us strong. He places people in our lives to help us when we are in need. He gives us the power of the Holy Spirit to fuel our forward movement. And He himself promises to always be there when we are in need. That, my friend, is true strength, and that is what you need as you complete your mission!

Your determination helps you press forward in spite of resistance or obstacles. That determination helps you develop confidence in your mission. A lack of confidence often stems from the overwhelming anxiety that your voice isn’t adequate or acceptable for others. When that happens, remember to “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (1 Peter5:7).

Our brains are miraculous, wonderful constructions. They are intricate and complex, and if we are not careful they can steer us off course. I talked last week about self-fulfilling prophecy. What you think can become your reality. This means you can become so focused on yourself and your anxiety over how others will perceive you that you fail to move forward with your own mission.

Dr. William James wrote, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes. The great use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.” To realize that the only things we know will last forever are the eternal human beings we interact with every day gives us the perspective to remember our mission to serve others is the greatest purpose we can accept.

In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote: “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong—that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith” (Rom. 1:11–12). You, my friend, are the inheritor of Paul’s message to the Romans. Just as you have inherited the command of Christ: to spread the gospel and lead others into the kingdom of heaven.

Today I want to reaffirm Paul’s message. I want to encourage you with my faith. I know you have a mission. I know it is important and that you alone can complete it! I want to encourage you to have the faith, strength, and determination to press on. So do it right now, friend. Commit to your dream, your mission, today!

Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts. (Prov. 4:23, GNT)

Your Thoughts Matter!

Did you know your beliefs unconsciously direct you in your moment-by-moment choices and actions? What you believe drives your viewpoint and your mindset in every situation. That means your beliefs actually become self-fulfilling prophecies in your life.

Self-fulfilling prophecies have been called the “Pygmalion effect,” a term derived from a play that later became the Broadway musical My Fair Lady. This fictional story shows how self-perception, who we think we are, is a prime basis for how we will experience life. We behave according to who we believe we should be.

So what do we do when we face a difficult situation and can see no positive side to the issue? There is no way you or I can predict the challenges we will face in our lives, and usually our priorities will change as we go on. But just as we shape our lives with our thoughts, our reactions to those challenges can alter the outcome. If your thoughts are holding you back, or negatively affecting your relationship with someone else, then it’s time to reframe.

When you reframe, you change your perspective on how you experience events, ideas, concepts, or emotions so you can find the most valuable positive alternative for the purpose of moving ahead, adapting, and implementing solutions for achieving goals. Being able to choose to see a different perspective is essential to problem solving, decision making, and new learning.

Your thoughts are things, and they become your reality. If you want to change your life, you first have to change your reality. We each have the ability to choose our thoughts and think things on purpose. In other words, you don’t have to think about whatever falls into your mind. As Proverbs 23:7 (AMP) says, “As [a person] thinks in his heart, so is he.” You could also say it like this: Where the mind goes, your life will follow.

Reframing Your Thoughts

Whatever situation you may be facing, if you are ready to reframe then start with this affirmation:

As I turn my thinking around, I break free in a new direction toward the solution.

Understanding how the brain works can help you grow in every area of your life. Quantum physics has proven that the observation process itself changes the properties of the atoms being studied. Since our brains contain billions of neurons made of subatomic components, it makes sense that this principle would also hold true for human particles. In other words, observing your thinking, your calling, and your internal self-talk, will have a profound effect on your development.

Thinking is actually a complex chemical process inside the cells of your brain called neurons. The neurons transmit information by firing electrical impulses through synapses. As you learn to think in new ways the connections between the neurons become stronger and the synapses are reinforced. “Cells that fire together, wire together.”

Your every thought is an electrochemical reaction. Each thought stimulates chemicals in magnificently complex electromagnetic waves that would sound like the most exquisite symphony if you could hear them. The brain, the magnificent control center God created, is said to be the most complex organic structure in the universe. Reframing, reworking those chemical reactions and rewiring the connections, changes your perspective to find a more positive alternative that will help you move ahead, adapt, and implement solutions for achieving goals. Choosing a different perspective is essential to problem-solving, decision-making, and learning.

By reframing, you can summon all your cognitive, intellectual, and emotional resources to create positive change because you believe that positive change is possible. No one can know the story inside your thoughts, but even if your thoughts are negative today you can switch your toxic thinking to positive power thoughts!

Start by reading through the following questions, thinking about how they apply to your life today, meditating on the impact of your answers, and praying for God to show you where you need change. Don’t rehash yesterday-ask these questions with future solutions in mind.

  1. When you are confronted with challenges, how do you focus on a solution?
  2. Are you acting on faith or fear?
  3. What obstacles do you see in your way?
  4. What steps could you take immediately that would make the greatest difference in your current situation?
  5. How do your thoughts make your life more stressful, or less stressful?
  6. What changes need to take place in your thinking?
  7. Your focused attention is your mindset. How can you make your mindset a positive, creative force?
  8. What do you participate in that is toxic to your mindset?
  9. What is the first change you would like to make to be fully satisfied with your life?
  10. For you to be truly happy, what would you have to change?

 

To find the answers to the obstacles you are facing in your life, you must be willing to change your thinking and turn your mindset inside out. By reframing, you can summon all your cognitive, intellectual, and emotional resources to create positive change because you believe that positive change is possible. To move forward, you can increase your power to reframe every part of your life on the positive pathway toward your solution.

Forgiveness is one of the greatest lessons that Jesus taught. In fact, He lived and died for our forgiveness and so we could learn the importance of forgiving. When someone hurts us in some way, intentionally or unintentionally, the act causes pain, frustration, and even anger to take root in our lives. Those feelings can take over if we are not careful, spreading to other relationships and even affecting how we function on a daily basis. Jesus wanted each of His followers to know that opening the door to negative emotions would ultimately interfere with their relationship with Him!

So What Is Forgiveness?

In order to understand why forgiveness is so important we must first understand what forgiveness is. Forgiveness means you’ve acknowledged the hurt or injustice you’ve faced and you are ready to let it go. According to Psychology Today, “Most psychologists recommend mustering up genuine compassion for those who have wronged us and moving on from the past, instead of allowing bitterness and anger toward others to eat away at us.” Forgiveness is not something you are doing for someone else, you are forgiving for your own peace of mind and for your relationship with Jesus. When you hold on to the hurt and anger, you are essentially punishing yourself for what someone else did!

How Can I Forgive Like Jesus?

Forgiving another person is one of the hardest decisions we can make. Forgiving ourselves sometimes seems impossible. And what about forgiving God when we feel we’ve been treated unfairly? In a world with so much pain and wrong-doing, is it possible to forgive for real?

Jesus, as He was telling His disciples how to pray, said:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matt. 6:9-15)

We Have to Learn to Let It Go.

The Greek word apoluo means “to let loose from.” It gives the impression of pushing away something that is undesirable. That is what forgiveness does. It pushes away those undesireable emotions, opening us to a true relationship with God and with those around us. Unforgiveness is the opposite. It is holding toxic emotions close. No one can do anything of significance in life (in relationships, in business, in your family, in ministry) until they stop running from yesterday. We have to stop thinking about “the way it should have been” and we need to quit asking ourselves, “why did this happen to me?” If you don’t let it go, unforgiveness can:

  • Allow anger and cynicism to color every relationship and new experience you have.
  • Prevent you from enjoying what is happening right now.
  • Lead to depression and anxiety.

if we want to move forward. Forgiveness is the key!

But WHY Should I Forgive?

Forgiveness isn’t for other people, it is for yourself. Forgiveness is God’s way of blessing you. What does it mean to forgive? Here’s how Jesus explained it in Matthew 18:21-22: “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” Forgiveness is not a one-time thing. It is ongoing. Jesus freely forgave us of all of our sins, dying on the cross so we could have freedom for eternity. He tells us we are to follow His example and make forgiveness central in our lives.

Letting go, forgiving, can lead to:

  • Healthier relationships
  • Improved mental health
  • Less anxiety, stress and hostility
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fewer symptoms of depression
  • A stronger immune system
  • Improved heart health
  • Improved self-esteem

 

How Does Forgiveness Work in Me?

Forgiveness does three things in your life:

  • Forgiveness allows God to forgive me for what I have done.
  • When God forgives me, I can forgive others.
  • Forgiveness sets me free from the pain and disappointment of yesterday!

 

GOD wants to BLESS you, and He cannot do that if you are NOT releasing the hurts of the past.

This isn’t about others. Forgiveness is all about YOU. It is God’s method for you to clean out yesterday, so you can be clean and powerful for today! It’s never too late to begin again!

As we celebrated Father’s Day this past weekend, I thought a lot about my father and the lessons I learned from him as I was growing. My dad was a warm, affirming father. He supported my call to ministry, and I feel incredibly blessed to have learned my leadership basics by watching how he lived his life.

He gave his all to his God, his family, and his ministry. He loved his work so much that he worked full time as pastor until his eightieth birthday! In his retirement, as pastor emeritus, he continued to go to work every day to serve the church he loved so much. His personal mission to build that church continued to give him boundless energy and enthusiasm until he went to heaven at age eighty-six.

All of us have role models and mentors we learn from. Some are formal relationships, some are friendships, some of us are blessed to grow alongside amazing, God-ordained leaders. Dad was a great leader, and I want to share with you a few of the lessons I learned by watching him. Lessons I still live by today.

Never limit God’s influence in your life and ministry.

We do this. We do this all the time. We get a picture in our head of how things are supposed to be, and that is what we work toward. What you and I need to understand is that when we live only according to our vision we limit God’s influence in our life.

God’s plans for us have no limits. He sees potential where we see only walls. When we let God have his way, we end up in places we never could have dreamed because they are outside of our realm of experience. When we moved to Florida, we had a specific image of what our ministry would look like. And we struggled. We cried, we begged God to help us, we despaired of every making any headway. Then we had an epiphany. Where we saw insurmountable problems God saw unlimited potential.

As soon as we stopped doing things our way, and started doing things God’s way, the blessings started pouring in. Our ministry started growing and kept growing. Twenty years ago we never could have envisioned where we are now. That is what happens when you get out of God’s way and let Him influence your life.

Expect and embrace change.

I get it, change is scary. Most of us like to find our comfortable routine and stick with it. But when you are following the path God lays out, it seldom travels in a straight line. My dad dealt with change like he dealt with every other obstacle in life. He prayed, asked for guidance, and then accepted God’s will.

You see, Dad knew that change happens. Change is what keeps us on our toes. It keeps us fresh and flexible. If we acknowledge that change is going to happen, and then ask for God’s guidance when we face change, it takes the uncertainty and discomfort out of the situation. Then we are able to accept change for what it is, a continuation of God’s blessings in our life!

Plan for the future, don’t just live for today.

While we don’t want to limit God’s influence in our lives, and we have to be ready for unanticipated changes, that doesn’t mean we just sit and wait for life to happen. We need to prayerfully plan for the future. I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage, “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” I have found that to be so incredibly true through the years.

I can remember Dad planning for the future. He always had a long-term plan. He prayed for guidance, and he listened to others who had a stake. He planned carefully, but he was never set in stone. He built adaptability into his plans. This is what we all must do. Make your plans. Set you goals. But always remember to ask for God’s influence to guide every step, and always be ready for change!

Build a community.

I’ve said it before, and I think this lesson bears repeating. We are not made to travel this journey alone. You need to surround yourself with people who will support you, who love you, who want the best for you, and who love God as fiercely as you do.

Dad dearly loved people. He respected and honored them because he knew that each is a child of God, wonderfully made and wonderfully loved. His heart for people brought others into community with him. When their church burnt after they had just finished expanding, that community came together to salvage what they could even as the fire was still being put out. They gathered together and created something even greater. All because of community.

Don’t underestimate the importance of others walking beside you in your life. I don’t doubt that you are capable of doing things alone, but you don’t have to do it that way. I want to challenge you to build a community and then soak in the joy that comes from knowing those people are ready to step in and help, or hold you, or cheer you up on a rough day. Relationships are God’s greatest gift to us. And I am so thankful that I learned that lesson early on by watching my Dad.

Never, ever, ever give up!

My father’s last words before he passed were, “Never, ever, ever give up!” That was his last advice to his children, and I will always take those words to heart. I want to pass those words on to you today. God made you. God placed you where you are for a purpose. You will face hardships. You will deal with scary, unpredictable changes that you haven’t planned for. But never give up!

My father enriched my life in so many ways. I will always cherish the love and support, the guidance, the correction, and the advice he gave me. Even more though, I will hold close the lessons I learned by watching him embrace the life God gave him. I hope these lessons will enrich your life as they have mine!

My granddaughter Israel (Izzy) just recently graduated from kindergarten. When I watched my kids hit milestones, it gave me a feeling that is hard to describe. Joy, happiness, wonder, and thankfulness all tied together to form an emotion that grabbed me by the throat. Now I get the pleasure of doing the same with my grandkids, and I have to say it is a different experience. All of those emotions are still there, but it seems richer somehow. I feel this sense of honor and gratitude at the legacy God is creating out of my life. I see the continuation of the legacy built by my mother and my grandmother and her grandmother before her.

Izzy is more than just my granddaughter. She is a glorious, wonderful creation of God. She is a leader, an innovator, and she already has such a heart for the Lord. There is power and intelligence in that girl that fills my heart to overflowing. As she graduated from kindergarten, I was reminded that God has wrought a miracle in her. She is going to change lives. She is going to lead in her own way. She is going to step out in faith and do things I never could. The generations of women who came before her opened doors that she will stride through without thought. And she will open doors for those who come after her.

Here is my prayer today for Izzy and all of the little girls who are going to lead their generation. “Peace I leave with you, Izzy; my peace I give to you, my girl; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage.” (John 14:27) I pray the words Jesus gave us. I pray His courage and peace down on her every day. I pray the same for my daughters-in-love as they lead people to Jesus through love, compassion, and some truly powerful biblical preaching.

Here’s my point, we NEVER stop graduating into new seasons.

I received my Doctorate of Ministry two years ago. I then published a book to help coach leaders as they grown in leadership. In my life I have had seasons of daughter, wife, motherhood, ministry, leadership, coach, supporter, encourager, and so many more. God granted me what I needed to succeed and even thrive in each season. Some of those seasons overlap, some are still going on. The lesson I have learned is to NEVER doubt that God has an amazing future planned for each of us!

I want to encourage you today to embrace those seasons that are coming in your life. Look for new opportunities for leadership and growth. Don’t be afraid to step out in faith! Here are some ways you can prepare for your graduation and the new season that follows.

Find affirmations that you can embrace to your heart.

Look for a Bible verse that speaks to you and put your name in there (like the one I pray for Izzy). Here are a few you might consider, but don’t let these limit you!

For I know the plans I have for you (____),” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. (Jer. 29:11)

We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God—those whom he has called according to his plan. This is true because he already knew his people and had already appointed them (_________) to have the same form as the image of his Son. Therefore, his Son is the firstborn among many children. (Rom. 8:28–29, GW)

Be careful how you think (_________); your life is shaped by your thoughts. (Prov. 4:23, GNT)

My thoughts will be clear; I (_______) will speak words of wisdom. (Ps. 49:3, GNT)

I (_________) can do all things through him who strengthens me. (Phil. 4:13, ESV)

(________) Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God. Then, because you (_________) belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel. (Phil. 4:6–7, CEV)

Create a mission statement and goals for your life.

In the business world, if a company doesn’t have a mission statement they likely aren’t moving forward. The same can happen in our lives. Your mission statement should be short, a few sentences usually, and you need to write it down. The goal is for this mission statement to help you understand how you can be intentional about what you are creating in your life and why you are doing it.

Goals are also important. Set as many goals as you want, or just set one. The point is to create forward momentum! Don’t overwhelm yourself though. My recommendation is to set one, big yearly goal. Break that down into 12 smaller monthly goals. And then work from that point. You should be making progress every month, if not every week!

Spend time with God.

Spiritual disciplines should be an important part of your life. Are you spending time with God on a regular basis? If you don’t put God first, how can He guide you through important decisions and help you reach your goals? Most importantly, a closer relationship with Him will enrich your lives in ways you can’t begin to imagine.

There are many ways you can incorporate the spiritual disciplines. Here are some you might consider:

Set aside a time for prayer every day.

Incorporate regular Bible study into your routine.

Make your daily walk a praise and worship walk.

Practice silence and solitude on a regular basis.

Set a goal to become more active in your church community.

However you do it, I can guarantee that making the spiritual disciplines a part of your everyday life will change the way you think, the way you feel, and how you approach challenges and opportunities in your life.

My prayer for you today is the prayer I pray for my Izzy. “Peace I leave with you, my friend; my peace I give to you; I do not give it to you as the world does. Do not let your hearts be distressed or lacking in courage.” (John 14:27) Step out in faith today! Get ready for your graduation to the next season!

I want to talk to you for a minute about how important teamwork is in our lives. We live in a society where the person on top is considered the “winner.” Unfortunately, that attitude is not biblical, and it doesn’t reflect what actually happens to create that “winner.”

When I read about leadership (all of us are leaders in some area of our lives), most books and articles narrowly focus on the leader as an individual, neglecting the role of teams, collaboration, and partnership. This individual focus may or may not serve as an effective approach within business organizations (none of us is an island), but I think it is particularly ill-suited in the context of church leadership and in our daily lives—where teamwork is essential

Your Teams

What kind of teams do you have in your life? A team can be any collection of people who have come together for some common reason (even just two!). Your family is a team. You may have a work group, small group, book club, or parents group that functions as a team. How do the people in those teams work together? Does the leader (you or another) work alone? I hope not!

When teams are functioning well, they are generally working together. The idea behind collaboration is that people with different views come together, putting aside their own self-interests, and attempt to solve a problem or achieve a goal.

The key to successful collaboration is clear, open, and effective communication. This is true in any area of your life. Teamwork is the act of working together toward one purpose. You can’t do that without effective communication! Imagine doing even a simple task as a group without the ability to communicate in some way. You cannot coordinate if you are not communicating.

History of Teamwork

Teamwork has a long history with strong scriptural roots. Ephesians 4:4-6 states: “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” In Romans 12: 3-5 we read, “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”

There are five principles of teamwork in these two passages that can be applied to your life. The team must understand the goal, the strength of the team is in its members, the team should must work together in unity, team leaders must remain humble, and when a team is strong it is hard to destroy (Brooks 2009, 5-7). When teamwork becomes a regular part of your life, it brings strength and endurance with it!

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” Helen Keller

For many of us, our teamwork takes place in the form of servant leadership. Servant leadership builds any team through mutual service to one another. The basic concept behind servant leadership, based on Jesus’s leadership and command (Mark 10:42-44), is that a leader is meant to serve and not to rule.

So why am I bringing up teamwork now? Because I want to encourage you! You are not alone. You are surrounded by people who either already are (or who could be) your teammates as you go through life. Join together with them. Find your common purposes. Depend on one another. Communicate about your goals and your needs. Support one another emotionally, physically, and mentally. You will be amazed at the difference it makes on your stress levels when you know you have a teammate there ready to stand up with you!

“Get out of bed Robyn! For heaven’s sake, why are you still in that bed? This is the third time I’ve called you, and it’s the last time. If you don’t get up, I’m coming in there to get you up myself!” 

I was exhausted, and the last thing I wanted to do was get up early and go, so in my whiny voice I answered, “Mom, why won’t you just leave me alone? I don’t want to go!” 

As the sleep fell away from my consciousness, I struggled to sit up and pull myself out of bed. This time, I shouted down the hall so she could hear me, “Hey Mom here’s a question. Why do I have to go church again?”

Before I could get to my feet, my little, five-foot Norwegian mom bounded into my room, laughing, and roared at me, “Because you’re the pastor! That’s why! Now get ready!” Mom was visiting us in Miami, and I was late for church.

 

Moms never stop being moms.

You can be 50 years old and your mother will still ask if you are eating right, are you getting enough sleep, and she will still tell you what to do when you are in the same place together. God bless Mom!

We need the voice of a mother in our lives. Mothers nurture us, guide us, coddle us when we need it, correct us when we veer off the right path, and become a steadying force in our lives. When I remember my childhood, I remember my mom as ever steady, always ready with a solution to every situation, and that constant support made me feel solid and strong inside. I never doubted my call in life because she instilled in me to listen for God’s voice and believe it. When I had doubts as a new mother she offered advice when I asked and told me I was created to be a mother. When my little Graham fell sick as a baby she insisted I rush him to the hospital, ultimately saving his life. My feisty, tiny, Norwegian mom is and has always been my rock.

My mom faced a major health scare at the end of last year, and I was afraid we were going to lose her. Her body became paralyzed, and she was unable to do anything for herself, but her spirit remained strong. When my niece, who was unable to come to the hospital, did a video call and sang a hymn to Mom, tears ran down her face and she worshiped even when she couldn’t move. I will never forget that moment of seeing my rock, my mom, completely still for the first time in my life, but still worshiping Jesus with all of her heart.

This weekend is Mother’s Day.

We will have special services honoring mothers across the country. Greeting cards will fly off of the shelf, stores have displays of jewelry and “mom” gifts, and florists are doing a booming business. A day set aside to honor the women who gave us life and guided us has largely turned into a commercial holiday.

I want to challenge you to truly honor your mom this weekend. Hug her or call her up. Tell her that you appreciate and value her contributions to your life. Tell her how her example has guided you and helped you become the person you are. Make an effort to show her how much she means to you. Flowers and cards and treats are good too, but don’t miss out on the opportunity to give honor where honor is due.

Your “mother” may or may not have been your biological mother. She may have been a grandmother who raised you, or teacher who spoke into your life each day, or a woman who loved and mentored you when you really needed that mother’s voice. But on this weekend, and as often as you can throughout the year, take the time to honor that woman and the impact she has had on your life.

Thank you, Jesus, for all of the amazing mothers in this world, and for those women who are willing to step in and mother when there is a gap. Thank you for my mother, who helped shape me into a woman of God, a leader, a mother, and prepared me for a solid marriage. Thank you for lessons learned, kissed boo boos, sage advice, and the warmth and love in a mother’s smile. Thank you, Lord, for creating mothers to share Your love with us all!