facing our fears

fear What do you fear?

I don’t know about you, but fear has become much more prevalent topic these days than I would like. Terrorism, prejudice-based killings, violent home break-ins, unstable economies, future leader elections, terminal diseases… all invade our media channels and sometimes our personal lives.

My daughter’s university has had two bomb scares in the last few weeks. How can I help her deal with the unavoidable worry and concern that accompanies her days and haunts her nights?

How can I admit my fears but not let them control me?

I know that there are basic common sense choices I can implement – stay away from obvious dangerous surroundings, set up safety precautions, save money and invest wisely, make informed decisions, and proactively protect my health.

However, those actions will never completely protect me from the evil, brokenness, and pain of this world.

That reality causes fear. But fear, rather than control me, can offer an opportunity for reflection, a chance to consider the worst case scenario… what if I am going to die tomorrow? Am I ready?

Am I at peace with my present? 

Am I living each day to the fullest? Or would I have regrets if it were to all end tomorrow? Do I let petty issues make me angry, frustrated, discouraged? Do I have unresolved conflict with someone I love? Have I followed my dreams, given my all, lived by my priorities? Have I spoken my appreciation? Have I hugged and laughed and cried?

Am I at peace with my future? 

Do I know where I will go when I die? Am I certain or doubtful?  Am I still trying to earn my way to heaven? Does the thought of life’s end give me hope or dread? Do I avoid thinking about that topic altogether? Am I at peace with God?

peace-heart

If I don’t have peace with both my present and my future, what do I need to change? What do I need to do differently with my life?

Once I have it, no person, place, or philosophy can rob me of that peace.

How do you get past your fears? How do you find peace?


Here’s a good article about Peace of Mind in an Unstable World.

facing future challenges

googleAlmost two years ago, my organization made a major shift to Google for our email client and file and calendar sharing. It has been a painful headache for some and an immense joy for others. I fall more towards the joy side, although it has been a steep learning curve for me too.

I am a learner, and I love systems that help me interact with others – even globally – while getting work done, so Google has won me over. I think Google has figured out some key principles that can make a big difference for the future. Here are a few of them:

  • Power has shifted from the organization to the client/consumer, and expectations are higher than ever. We can’t offer a sub-par product, at least not for long. Bad reviews trump clever marketing. Today, great products win. 
  • Most organizations today set up to minimize risk, not maximize freedom and speed. We tend to hoard information and restrict decision-making power. We need to move and change faster. We need to let go and empower.
  • We need more “Smart Creatives” – people who combine technical knowledge, business expertise, and creativity. They can do amazing things and have big impact. We need to recruit these people and provide an environment for them to thrive.
  • Smart Creatives like authenticity, small teams, plans that offer freedom and fluidity, involvement in decision-making, LOTS of communication, crazy goals, prototypes, and freedom to fail.

Communication is as important as decision-making,
and like decision-making,
it is something that most leaders think they are good at.

They are mostly wrong.

These principles challenge me when I think about my work and how I view the ideas and opinions of the coming generations… even my children.

If you want to think more about these ideas, you will enjoy the following SlideShare presentation. It is the basis for my content above.


What do you think are key principles for leaders and organizations as we move towards the future?

finding your voice

find your voice

“Cover bands don’t change the world –
you need to find your unique voice if you want to thrive.”
~ Accidental Creative

I am part of an exciting process at work that is looking for ways to help leaders find their voice and make a significant contribution through their lives. This is one of my heart passions and a fitting application for my 2014 word – fulfill. I believe that we are each created with incredible value, opportunity and responsibility to make a positive contribution in our world.

We can only do this if we are at peace with who we are – not constantly comparing with others or imitating someone else – and when we courageously speak out and step up for what we believe.

“Learn what taps your talents and fuels your passion
– that rises out of a great need in the world that you feel drawn by conscience to meet – therein lies your voice, your calling, your soul’s code.”
~ Steven Covey

Finding your voice is about more than mere words. Steven Covey explains that Voice is the overlapping of the four parts of our nature: our body, mind, heart, and spirit.

Accidental Creative put together a great list of questions to help each person discover their Voice. I’ve changed them just a bit. I’ve been thinking about these:

1. What kinds of situations “fire you up” or make you “pound the table”? What evokes compassionate anger in you or makes you want to intervene to correct a wrong?

2. What makes you cry?

3. What have you mastered? What can you do well, without effort, without thinking? What skills and abilities would you like to use more?

4. What gives you hope? What vision do you have for your future and the future of others?

5. As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up? What did you dream of doing?

6. If you had all the time and money in the world – no limitations – what would you do?

7. What do you love doing? What makes you come alive? What makes you excited and motivated? 

8. Where can you start today? What platform do you already have? 

9.  What need can you serve? What change would you like to see in the world?

10. If you had one day left, how would you spend it?

You are important. You are needed. Your contribution is valuable. Find your voice… and then help someone else find theirs!

What have you been created to do? What is your Voice?

____________

Great resources!

Steven Covey’s post on Four Steps to Finding your Voice

Accidental Creative’s post on Ten Questions that will Help You Find Your Voice

a Father’s Day reflection

Celebrating Father’s Day is kind of a “mixed bag” for me.

I had a good dad growing up… can’t say a great dad… but a good dad. Unlike many others, he was physically present in our home – a powerful presence. He was an Air Force helicopter pilot: authoritative, argumentative, and alcoholic. We drilled the states’ capitals at dinner, stood at attention for room inspections, and felt guilty if he found us watching TV during the day instead of pulling weeds in the yard.

I have a strong work ethic, a tendency to criticize, and a strong character because of my Dad. I am thankful that he also gave me a desire for physical fitness, a love for travel and the outdoors, an appreciation for classical music, and the ability to believe in myself. He often said, “If you want it done right, you have to do it yourself.” When I asked his opinion regarding a few key life decisions, he said, “I wouldn’t ever do that, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t.”

My Dad did not build many deep relationships – contributing to my parents’ divorce after 25 years. He has rarely shared dreams, concerns, or any deep emotions with others. I don’t believe he understands a personal faith with God, and I think that causes him fear about dying. His health is deteriorating, compounded by the effects of a life-long alcohol addiction.

When Father’s Day comes along, I choose to honor him for all the good he brought into my life… and I choose to forgive him for the non-existent affection and communication that I longed for in our relationship. I thank him for loving me and supporting me in his own way, and I release him from the unmet wishes that he be sober, neat, and without favoritism.

I am very grateful for the ability to build on my past – but not be enslaved to it. My husband and I leaned heavily on the hope that we would create a different kind of home and family than I grew up in… including the good, but adding new elements of our own choosing as well. I know some of you had much more difficult experiences with your fathers… or never really knew them. Others had great Dads. Our families are part of us… but they are no excuse for poor habits or choices… or lack of forgiveness – there is always hope because of a perfect heavenly Father who can help us move forward and create a better future.

So, Happy Father’s Day, Dad. I love you as you are. I am praying for you. 

What was your Dad like? How do you celebrate Father’s Day?

a place to belong, a place to become

We are finishing 17+ years of ministry in Mexico; we are sorting through our stuff, passing the baton… and my husband has been putting up (very) old pictures on Facebook. Some of those years of ministry were amazing – incredible growth, excitement, impact. As I reflected on that time, I realized we were living out our values. Those values are still relevant today as we move forward…

Faith: We all trusted God for big things and took steps of faith. We moved our family – with four young children – to a different country and started something new where there was nothing. We led an international team; many of them had also left their comfort zone and moved from their homes. Students took steps of faith to begin a relationship with God even when they faced family and friends’ rejection. Staff and students shared their faith boldly with others, took on new responsibilities, asked God to take charge of their future.

Where is God asking me to take a step of faith?

Development – Growth:  We committed to growing in community and building others to be all they could be. We prayed for our teammates and disciples, and created and followed through with semester plans for basic teaching, experiences, retreats, summer projects, etc. to provide an environment for growth. We worked in teams and shared leadership often. We moved out of the way and let others lead. We invited in teams from other places. We learned from them; they learned from us.

What am I doing to develop personally and those around me?

Effectiveness – Fruitfulness: We cared about results. Effectiveness meant fruit of changed lives – for eternity. We evaluated our goals and progress regularly – individually and organizationally. We asked for feedback from others and willingly changed the format of the meetings, tried crazy ideas, invented new materials. Sometimes we did something different to compensate for a weakness, sometimes to adjust for incredible growth. We did not settle for status quo.

Have I done an honest evaluation lately? Do I need to make some changes for greater effectiveness?

Unity: Our work on campus had incredible unity in purpose and personal relationships. Different cultures, backgrounds, fields of study, ages came to learn and grow together. Our early theme was ” a place to belong, a place to become“. Our teams of staff and students worked hard, side by side to create amazing skits, parties, outreaches, and conferences for a vision and passion bigger than themselves. Students sacrificed their time and money for each other. New people were welcome and deep, authentic, caring, long-lasting friendships came from studying the Word, praying, …and eating and playing together!  

What am I doing to build unity with my team or my organization?  

Integrity: Along with all the fun, there were also tough times. We confronted lying, bribery, immorality, interpersonal conflicts, suicide attempts – temptations and spiritual battles of all kinds. We did not ignore, hide, or excuse any behavior that might be a seed of division between people and God. We taught that God cares about every part of us; we cannot have sin in one area without it affecting the rest of us. We tried to live that example also.

Is there an area of my life that lacks integrity?

How would you respond to those questions? How do you make where you work or minister a place to belong and a place to become?

(**If you were involved in the ministry, please share with us what you remember!)

what I am learning from a yard sale

We are moving after almost 20 years in the same place.  My home has been a haven for four children and countless visitors and long-term guests. For many years, it was also an office for the national campus ministry and a home-schooling headquarters. The back patio was “party-central” for hundreds of fiestas and cook-outs.  We served to up to 50 people for Thanksgiving dinners, and snacks, meals and desserts to 1000’s more.

We have been so blessed in this home.  We have laughed and cried and fought and forgiven. We have studied, played, worked, and prayed. We have grown in understanding God’s grace and truth… there are so many memories!

… And we have accumulated A LOT of stuff!

Our yard sale is a big one… almost everything will go. All the children are growing up and moving on with their lives.  We no longer hold an important position in the ministry here, and it is time for a change… well, lots of changes.

I am learning in the process.

First, stuff is just that – stuff. I can really let go of almost anything.  Some things “sting” a little to let go; with others it is so fun to watch them bring joy and provision to someone else.  We will keep a few special things for each child and some personal items… but most everything else will go. We don’t need nearly so much stuff, especially in this new stage of life.  A good friend reminded me again that God has provided so perfectly through the years – that will not change – He will provide in our new place as well.

Second, change is good.  It is refreshing to go through a “cleansing” like this and be reminded of what is most important. I don’t ever want to get too comfortable where I am; I want always to take challenging faith steps that cause me to depend on God. I want to continually learn and grow. I don’t ever want to depend on things, or a certain lifestyle, or even people; letting them go, trusting only in God for my needs, is good for me. I don’t want others to depend on me either; I want them to depend on God. Change is good for them too.

Third, it is OK to grieve what is past and what is lost. Investing and building into people for eternity is why we were here. Looking back at the transformed lives is satisfying and encouraging, but those special people are also what is hardest to leave. I will greatly miss dear friends – some I will probably never see again. That is painful, and there will be many tearful goodbyes. I have finished the “full-house” stage of life – it was a blast while it lasted, and I will miss it, but it is time for others to fulfill that role. I get to take the pictures with me… and the memories have engraved themselves on my heart forever.

The future is full of hope! The future is unknown and uncertain; it will certainly differ from the past.  But I can face the future with peace because I know that God’s loving-kindness is new every morning (Lam 3:22-23), and He has good plans for me. (Jer. 29:11). When I look back on all that God has done before – His provision, His care, His direction – I have no doubt that He will be intimately involved in my future. So… take it all away! I am ready for something new!

How about you? Do you have too much stuff? Does it hold you back? 

How do you handle change? I’d love to hear from you!

use the past to build your future

Facebook and Twitter are full of “new beginnings” this month… everyone with thoughts of leaving behind the last year and starting fresh.  I love the idea of new starts, but I have been thinking about the fact that it is also important to build on the past – not just wipe it away and forget about it.

The past year is important for building the future.

  • the past shows me where I need to grow

It is a humbling experience to review the past year and recognize where I messed up or where someone pointed out that I needed to grow. I remember work reviews that indicated my leadership weaknesses. I remember apologizing to my co-workers because my stress level made me critical and grumpy. I remember comments on my MA papers that indicated writing methods I didn’t know or challenged me to “step it up” and take more risk. There will be many opportunities for me to grow this next year. I wrote about an idea for recording some of these areas now so I can look back at the end of the year and see the difference!

  • the past reminds me that I am not in control

There were so many things that happened last year that I would not have done that way IF I was in control. I would not have had so many dear people die, or struggle with cancer, or get hurt by mean comments, or struggle to pay bills, or … But I couldn’t stop that pain, and I couldn’t make other good things happen that I wanted. God is God, and I am not. The past reminds me of that truth for today and the future.

  • the past teaches that I can make choices every day

I get to decide HOW I will handle what happens each day. Will I greet adversity with faith or fear? Will I treat people with love or with judgement? Will I spend time in reflection or be too busy for that? Will I waste my time, or will I invest in my health, energy, experience and resources to help others? I didn’t always make the best choices last year; I know that, but I made some good choices. And I get to make new choices today and in the days to come.

  • the past confirms that God is present and He is good

No matter what I look back on, I see that God redeemed, restored, renewed or refreshed – even during very difficult situations. I enjoyed wonderful times with family, incredible memories, great friends, laughter, goals reached… and I prayed anguished prayers and cried over tragedies and pain. He was always there, He was always involved, and He always brought some good out of the circumstances. My past experiences tell me that He will also be there and act that way in this year ahead.

We often say, “Reality is our friend”. The past is part of our reality; the past is our friend. You might want to take time to reflect on your past year in these next days, learn from its lessons… and build on that past for an even greater future!

I’d love to hear… What has the past year taught you?

how to transition well?

Change happens. We (my husband and I) just finalized a National Team transition. It has been a long process, and we have learned a few things along the way…

Plan the transition.  (I realize this isn’t always possible, especially if the transition is due to a crisis, but when you can…) A good transition is well thought through. We prayed and asked others to pray with us. We organized the process with an educated guess as to how long the steps would take, and stuck to the plan. We announced the coming transition with anticipation. We involved others in the process. All of this made it easier for us to move peacefully towards the future; ensured that the new leader entered his position with less stress, and helped to avoid confusion for others during the transition.

Consider the loss.  Every change – even those for the good – creates loss. Transitions shake stability, change relationships, and adjust structures and job descriptions. Others in the organization wonder how the change will affect them – and don’t like the answer. A good leader will validate this reality, take time to grieve their own losses, and coach his/her people through the process. We communicated early and regularly with everyone we thought of who could be affected by the changes. We met with mentors to process our own thoughts and emotions. We had meetings with those who work with us to ask how they were doing with the changes and what were their concerns. This personal side of the transition is often overlooked, but it is a crucial element of a successful transition.

Pass the baton.  It is important to pass information and relationships to the new leader. In the past, we have entered “blind” into new positions – no information, no alliances, and no training. We were left scrambling to understand, to “catch on”, to figure it out ourselves. We wanted something different this time, so we worked hard to be organized and invested time so that we could train well, pass files, answer questions, and connect new relationships. We clearly defined the timeline for change of authority and responsibility. We invited the new leaders to our home to process their personal concerns and questions. At the office, we talked through the general vision, the people, the finances, and the day-to-day details. We presented the new leaders to our partners. Our plan allows us to personally “coach” during the next months, but the new leaders have successfully begun to lead with clarity and confidence.

Let Go! We experienced pressure to stay longer in the position and pressure to extend our transition timeline because others hadn’t prepared well. Sometimes we were the ones “holding on” when we saw things happening that we didn’t like, and we wanted to maintain control and influence. God told me clearly… “Don’t do it!  This is not all about you.” Others will only grow and take leadership if I move out-of-the-way! We just finished our national conference, and for the first time in many years, we had no responsibilities for the event. You know what? It was a great conference! It is humbling to admit that we are not needed, but it is also an exciting indication of a hopeful future.

End well. Make sure the ending is not an escape from unresolved conflict. Say good-bye well. Express appreciation to those who partnered with you. Take time to evaluate. We worked with some wonderful people. We were part of some great accomplishments. We also experienced a lot of painful criticism and conflict, and we had to leave many of our dreams and plans unfinished. It has been good to process though all of this – forgive others and ourselves – and be able to trust God with the future!

I know I have a lot more to learn about transitions. I would love to hear from you and learn from your experiences. What do you think are the elements of a good transition?