For Those Who Lead: A Training Resource

leadI am really excited to announce a new ministry training resource for busy leaders!

There are a lots of good leadership resources out there. How do we make sense of it all? As a leader of leaders or manager of a team, the prospect of compiling a leadership strategy and resources to train your leaders can feel overwhelming. Who has the time for this? Where do you start?

With the normal demands of time and energy, and the oceans of information and leadership resources, the prospect of wading through all the leadership books and strategies can be overwhelming. What’s needed is a comprehensive yet simple leadership tool to help give direction for leadership development in your team. What is needed is a step-by-step tool where, using the most recent leadership resources available, the research, strategies and organization has been done for you. You need a turn-key approach for leadership training.

I am so excited to announce my newest ebook called: LEAD (Leadership Equipping and Development): A Turn-Key Approach to Leadership Development.

LEAD is a yearlong, (11 sessions) monthly two-hour training tool for leadership teams for busy leaders. Using a coach approach, each two-hour training session includes:

  • A team-building exercise/activities
  • Devotional (with instructions and ideas)
  • Spiritual Formation (A 9-month, on-line resource you can use with your team)
  • A book study (you pick the book from a suggested list)
  • Personal assessments (links and instructions to the many personal awareness such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator; DSIC Classic 2.0 Profile; StrengthsFinder 2.0, etc.)
  • Leadership Videos
  • Complete, details instructions/agenda for each session
  • Sample coaching questions are provided for use in the training sessions; sessions are gender-neutral, and each session can be adapted to fit your context.

 

Coming Soon!

Advent-Cover-small Advent Reflections devotional in paperback! (Also available as an ebook.) It’s just in time for the 2016 Advent Season! A perfect devotional gift for the holiday season.

 

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I’m not perfect

i am not perfect“I’m not perfect, you know.” She squinted her eyes a bit with exasperation in your voice. As if I thought she should be.

Often such a statement has to do with the mistaken belief that the spiritual life is a static state of moral and virtuous personal achievement. Claiming we are not perfect is a way of giving ourselves a break for not measuring up to this perceived standard of moral excellence. Of course, no one ever defines how you know when you’ve arrived. So we live with an elusive goal and a nagging voice that mocks us, “You should be better by now.” (Or… we judge others for not behaving as well as we do.)

Just as insidious is the notion that it’s up to us to get there; that the weight of our formation is on our shoulders. So we do all the right things….read the Bible (in hopes of attaining more information about God and mastering principles); we pray (when we need something), go to church, and faithfully serve…all with the hope of somehow making the Christina life “work.” Too often, unintentionally and unnoticeably, our sincere devotion collapses into meaningless rituals, lifeless duty, and external acts of worship. We love Jesus but our devotion to God has somehow become dry as bones and we are left with empty souls empty and exhausted lives. Perhaps at an unguarded moment, our heart whispers to us, “Is this all there is? There has to be more.” Indeed, there has to be something more redemptive than all our striving.

Perfection has never been the point of the spiritual life.

So what is the Christian life all about? What if it’s about staying focused and alive to what God is doing to keep us in relationship with him? What if it’s not so much about attaining as it is about remaining in a posture of receiving? What if it’s about paying attention and responding to the creative, dynamic, fresh, redemptive activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives? What if being a disciple is more than believing and trusting Jesus from the onset; and it’s a life-long, interactive, and engaging way of living with Jesus himself which allows us to daily live with a very real sense of his nearness, availability and fathomless love? What if being a Christian was never a matter of becoming a religious person but rather living with the awareness of Christ as an ever-present reality in our lives and allowing His presence to shape us? Perhaps that’s the real work of the Christian life.

How does this change our approach our devotion?

What if our devotional reading of the Bible becomes less about mastering a text but allowing the text master us? Perhaps to truly allow the text to come alive and connect with our lives, we need to put aside our agenda and be willing to come to the text with openness, vulnerability, and a sense of wonder. What if Scripture actually becomes holy ground on which to encounter God?

What if prayer becomes more than a venue to offer our requests (although that is part of it) and is just as much about listening, waiting, and responding…with confession, adoration, a simple breath prayer or lament? What if prayer is not only about particular prayers in a particular place but also about an ongoing attitude of prayerfulness all throughout our day?

What if the practice of silence and solitude invites us to make room in our overly-scheduled, distracted, anxious lives where we choose to unplug; not only from the constant stimulation of life, but also from our own addiction to noise, words, and activity to connect with God, in an unhurried, uninterrupted, deeper way? What if silence nurtures transformation by quieting all the other voices that threaten to define us? What if just being with Jesus is transformative?

What if practicing a Sabbath day is not about legalistic duty but about stopping, resting, delighting in God and in living in sync with the rhythms that match how we were created? What if Sabbath interrupts the break-neck speed of our lives and fosters an ability to bring something truer to the world than all of our doing? What if practicing Sabbath dissolves the artificial urgency and driveneness of our days and puts us in touch with something more real than what we are all able to produce on our own?

When the spiritual life is reduced to personal strategies for perfection, it can leave us frustrated and exhausted. At some point, we will realize all of our striving doesn’t satisfy our deepest desire for God. When the spiritual life, however, is about cultivating attentive and ever-increasing responsiveness to a fresh work of grace in our lives, only then do we release our expectations of what we think our lives should look like. Only then can we receive the life Jesus wants to give us. Only then do we embark on the life long journey of turning away from our own plans and strategies and lean into God’s creative, disruptive, mysterious, redemptive ways in our lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Leading From Our Brokenness

brokennessYesterday I chatted with a lady new to our church. She commented that when she was on the leadership team at her previous church, it was difficult to continually “stay strong,” to always “have it all together,” and to always remain upbeat. I have a hunch it was also exhausting.

“I probably lead from a different place,” I responded. “I lead from my own brokenness.” She did not try to hide her shock. I don’t think she had every thought of this before.

As a leader I subscribe to a lot of leadership blogs, newsletters, etc. While most of them are inspiring, challenging and helpful, sometimes it becomes wearying to read about all the pounding success strategies. “5 Things Successful Leaders Do.” “Top Strategies for….” “Critical Elements Every Leader Must…” I have to admit, my life is organized, most often my days are ordered in successful ways and there is something about leading from a place of strength that appeals to me. Yet more times than I like to admit, I am equally fraught with feelings of inadequacy, incompetence and often found wanting among all the leadership gurus.

I am struck with the thought that most often my most authentic ministry comes from my own brokenness. I don’t disregard the skills and talents given me, they serve we well, but in the end I am fully aware that leading from a place of sufficiency often becomes a way of self-protecting (so others don’t see how sacred I really am), leaves my activist ego in tact, and ultimately, denies what is most human about us: our shared brokenness.

If, as leaders, we have to be the ones who “have it all together” we stay in “fix-it” mode and offer wounded souls theological constructs rather than offer the simple gift of presence and a shared vulnerability and imperfection. Someone has said that the most life-giving words you can offer another is “Me too!” I think it’s one of the most holy places to be. Embracing our own brokenness requires humility and a willingness to admit we are still on a journey to our own healing. It requires a dependency to receive something outside of ourselves. This is not the end of our leadership (although it can feel that way)…it is simply a beginning of something even more fruitful, more transformative, more life-giving.

Henri Nouwen summed it up well: “In our own woundedness, we can become sources of life for others.”

The good new is this is not an either/or situation. I can and should flourish in my gifts all the while knowing in God’s kingdom our wounds are just as transformative as our strengths.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Dyings and Risings

daffodilsC.S. Lewis wrote: “Nothing that has not died will be resurrected.”

“For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it (Matthew 16:25).

This statement by Jesus is one of the great paradoxical realities of Kingdom living: that in dying we find new life. It’s not only paradoxical; it’s radical. We don’t usually like the idea of dying. We are pretty committed to keeping everything together. We want God as long as we can still have our successes. We like the idea of being on a journey of faith as long as it doesn’t require, well…too much faith.

We long for the Promised Land as long as we don’t have to leave too much behind. We want to make space for God as long as it doesn’t intrude to radically on our packed schedules and conflicting priorities.

We want God’s will as long as it doesn’t make us look too foolish. We want love as long as it’s not too inconvenient.

The death that Jesus pointed to in Matthew 16 is metaphorical death whereby in dying to ourselves we make way for the part in us that would pray, “Not my will but yours be done.”

“Very truly I tell you, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds” (John 12:24). Nature gives testimony to this same truth: A seed must fall to the ground and die before it can bring forth new life.

This process is important to pay attention to.

We experience all kinds of dyings and risings every day. When something in our life dies, whether it is the death of our youth, the death of our wholeness, the death of our dreams….this presents us with a choice. The same choice faced by the disciples when Christ was resurrected.

We can cling to the old and refuse to receive the new life Jesus offers…but change cannot happen when we grasp for the old, cling to it and won’t let it go.

The second choice is to release the old life. By letting go of the old we open ourselves to the possibility of the new to spring forth.

Life is full of hurts, losses, unfairness, disappointments, shattered dreams, and unreached potential. We grieve these losses in our lives. But, unless we are able to release our cherished idea of what could or should have been, we will never be able to receive the new life, the resurrection out of loss that Jesus offers in their place.

Even in our spiritual journey when God begins to do a new thing in us, old things must pass away. In order to fully experience in his resurrection life in our lives there is much in us that needs to die; false attachments, greed, anger, impatience and stinginess. This dying to self is real and it allows the Spirit to empower us to live new lives of freedom and selfless love.

“As long as we cling to life as we understand it, we cling to a pinched and deadly image of things, an image heavily conditioned by our egos, our social programming, our limited knowledge of the options. But when we are willing to let go of life as we want it to be and allow the larger reality to live in and through us instead, then in our dying we come alive.” Parker Palmer, The Active Life, p. 156

We learn from Jesus that new life can come from death; that we can find meaning in difficult times; that death no longer has the last word… that endings are but embryos of new life…and out of what seems to ruin our lives, our very rescue can begin.

But…Dying is never easy….Dying will take trust. Trust that true life comes only through journeys of death and new life, when we do not grasp onto the old and then allow the new to bless us.

Resurrection… it’s not merely a belief, but a way of living; the only way to really live.

What do you need to let go of in order to receive the life Jesus died to give you?

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Looking for Something New this year?

happy new yearAre you looking for a fresh approach in a devotional for the New Year?

The 9-month Keeping Company With Jesus Journey is a weekly, automated, online resource/spiritual formation tool that includes a reading, reflection questions, and a spiritual practice. Designed to be interactive, it is best done in community and in dialogue with others…so it’s perfect for groups!

The Journey helps us learn to keep company with Jesus in such a way that the abundant life Jesus promised becomes a reality in our lives.

It’s perfect for…

  • Small groups
  • Individuals
  • Leadership teams
  • Discipleship groups
The 9-month online Journey is designed to help you…

  • Stay attentive to Christ’s transforming presence in your life.
  • Experience true change deep in your soul that goes beyond tweaking your behavior.
  • Discover a way of living that is congruent with your deepest longings.
  • Cultivate a life with God, a life that is not lived on the surface of things.
  • Move from a professed faith to a practiced faith

 

We all want authentic, vibrant faith, but it doesn’t happen by chance. This will help.

Cost is $69. Click here for more information and to sign up today

 

 

 

 

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2015 Year in Review

Year in Review 2015Here’s my top 5 most-read blog posts for 2015:

  1. 7 Ways to Breath Life into your Bible Reading

In order the Bible to come alive in our hearts (and, thus, connected to our everyday lives) we are going to have to read it in an alive manner. Seven ideas for a fresh approach to God’s Word.

  1. Looking for Something More? A Resource for the New Year!

Every January we embark on “The Search.” The search for the perfect “devotional” to help us better achieve the spiritual life. This is a plug for my 9-month, weekly, interactive on-line Journey that is based on the idea keeping company with Jesus is transformational. Practices to help us live attentively and responsively to receive the abundant life He offers.

  1. A Cautionary Tale: Losing Your Soul for the Sake of the World

A MUST read for all leaders! Too often we sacrifice our own soul’s well-being helping others, believing the lie that burn-out is a normal consequence of ministry; one leader’s own story (podcast) of coming to realize her soul counts just as much in the Kingdom as anyone else’s.

  1. My “NET” Talk at the Northwest Ministry NetworkAnnual Conference

I had the privilege and honor to speak at the Northwest Ministry Network Annual Conference. It was a “TED Talk” format so I had exactly 5 minutes to speak to 1400+ ministry leaders. The theme was “With Jesus.” (Right up my alley!) This is the transcript from my talk.

  1. Recovering From Injury

Life is full of hurt. Injuries occur even when we are following the rules. The reality is we don’t have to hobble around any more with the tightness and pain. Is this easy? It’s incredibly difficult. Daily we are confronted again and again with the choice of surrendering our pain or retaining it. True freedom and healing from our hurt is available but we must partner with the process.

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7 Ways to Breathe Life into Your Bible Reading

Reading BibleWith Christmas behind us, our thoughts now turn toward the New Year. You are probably like and me and love the idea of new beginnings. January 1 offers us an opportunity to draw a line and start over. We all desire a way to begin again. Typically, we look at all the ways we want to live in a more intentional way. As Christians, hopefully, we take a look at those we know will help us grow in our relationship with Jesus. One of those things is reading the Bible.

Now be honest. Do you at this with dread? We know Scripture reading is foundational but too often we feel a disconnect between the Bible and our real, going-to-work; driving-the-kids-to-football-practice lives. When this happens we read Scripture out of obligation, guilt, or not at all.

And certainly deciding which devotional to read is always a chore if not a bit stressful. With so many to choose from (there are a lot of good ones out there), we stress over, “What if I choose the wrong one?” So we make a decision, yet too often our resolve to stick with it wanes as the year progresses. Worse, it seems no matter what devotional we choose, Scripture still feels “flat” and disconnected from our daily lives.

Perhaps it does doesn’t really matter which devotional we choose as much as our approach to Scripture. What makes our reading transformative has as much to do with the intention, attitude, and manner we bring to the words as it does with the nature and content of those words. Perhaps what we need is a way to open ourselves to how God may be speaking to us in and through any particular text.

Here are seven ideas to breathe life back into your Bible reading:

1. It’s not about “checking off the boxes. Sometimes our “devotion” time feels more like “doing” time…or doing “time!” There is an anxiousness to just “get through it.” The part that is missing so often in our usual reading of the Bible is the pondering; the reflection; the leisurely thinking. Our focus should not be about speed or volume but with depth and receptivity. As we approach God’s Word through this more reflective posture, we find there is so much more there than we thought. This is where these words begin to shape us, and Colossians 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly…” becomes a reality in our lives.

“Be sure to read, not cursorily or hastily, but leisurely, seriously, and with great attention; with proper pauses and intervals, and that you may allow time for the enlightenings of divine grace.” (John Wesley in Savoring God’s Word)

2. Don’t use Bible to try and “fix” something that is not right. People often read the Bible to find some formula that will solve a pressing need of the moment. “In our desire for a packaged, user-friendly, ‘just tell me what to do’ life of faith, we distort the Bible into an owners’ manual for successful living.” (Foster in Life with God, p. 60.) Part of the problem, of course, comes when we no longer need something fixed, we no longer have any reason to encounter Scripture. The Bible is holy ground on which to encounter God not a manipulation tool to get what we want.

 3. Don’t read simply to gather more information. Biblical faithfulness has to be more than just nailing down the meaning of a text. What we are discovering is information alone is not enough to experience transformation. Mindy Caliguire wrote,” It is entirely possible to keep acquiring more and more information about the Bible but be less and less transformed by that knowledge.”

If we approach God’s Word simply to gather more information we may miss what God is saying to us, saying about himself, and His Word will have no meaningful connection to our lives. When we approach the biblical text merely as information that needs to be analyzed, or to prove our presuppositions, we keep Scripture “safe,” at arm’s length and we maintain our false assumption that somehow we are in control of the text. The danger is that it no longer becomes a means by which we listen to God. (Please note: I am not saying there is no place for the in-depth study of scripture. There is. I am addressing our personal devotional engagement with scripture.)

Someone has said, “It’s not about us mastering a text, but allowing the text master us.”

4. Alive words should be read in an alive manner. To truly allow the text to come alive and connect with our lives, we must come to the text with openness and attentiveness.  To truly “hear” will require we put aside our agenda and need to control the text and be willing to listen with a sense of wonder, vulnerability, and curiosity.

This will also require that we suspend our preconceived judgments and surrender ourselves to the text. Do you remember the “Magic Eye” that was popular in the 80’s?  It required us to look differently; to see through to the “picture in the picture”. It required us to bring our whole self to the text with openness, vulnerability, curiosity, and time. It was always exhilarating to “discover” the mysteriously hidden picture that was not obvious to the untrained eye.

5. Don’t assume you know what it means. As soon as we say, “Oh, I know what means,” referring to a particular text, we may miss how God may be speaking to us in a fresh new way. It is critical to approach the Bible as living and active and sharper than a two edged sword (Heb. 4:12,13), not as metaphor but as reality.  These words are not merely words on a page, but words that connect to the core of us.

In other words, because it is living and active, there is always more to discover. We are to experience the mystery of the gospel, not just learn about it. When we approach scripture as the living word of God it invites us to pay attention to how we connect with God in ways we never dreamed possible.

6. Just Showing Up Counts. Too often we feel if there was not an “Ah-ha!” moment in our devotional time, it was wasted time. No true! Again, because God’s Word is alive and active, we can be confident that there is more going on underneath the surface of our lives than what we see or feel. There is a shift taking place undetected in our souls. There is an anchor secretly being forged that will keep us in a time of need. When nothing seems to he happening, always remember…Just being with Jesus is transformative. “I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely” (Ps. 16:8-9, NASB).

7. You have to live it. Having a doctrine pass before our minds is not what the Bible means by knowing the truth. In order to read the Scriptures adequately and accurately, it’s necessary at the same time to live them. The reality is…most of know more Scripture than we are living.

If we read what God has written, think about it, pray through it, but don’t allow it to change us, we are missing a big point. It is simply not enough to learn or study or use Scripture; this leisurely approach I’ve been writing about allows us to assimilate it, taking it into our lives in such a way that it gets metabolized into practices of prayer, acts of obedience, and ways of love.

When we do we find that on page after page Scripture surprises us, draws us into its reality, and pulls us into participation with God on his terms as it becomes the means by which we join God in what He is doing all around us. When we do this, God’s kingdom is made tangible to those around us, where we live, work and play.

Our engagement with Scripture has to make a difference in the way we live. “Jesus didn’t say, “Come and study me.” He said, “Come and follow me.” It is through practicing what we study from the Bible in the laboratory of daily life that transformation happens in our own lives and we become a blessing to others. Bible study is not only important, it is absolutely vital and essential, and neither Alan nor I minimize its place in the daily rhythm of following Jesus. But the point here is that it is only the first step in feasting with the Lord on a daily basis, and just because we’ve studied something from the Bible doesn’t mean the lesson is learned or complete. It has just begun.” – Lance Ford

 

So rather than being information-driven, in devotional reading, it requires unhurried time and an open heart. We will need to practice attentive listening and a willingness to respond to what we hear. The desired attitude is that of the boy Samuel: “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.” (I Samuel 3:10).

 

 

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