The Need to Lead

When I think of leadership, I think of all the workshops and classes I’ve taken over the course of my life. Most had to do with education, but all leadership lessons are the basically the same until you come upon the teachings of Christ who led like no other. His lessons in leadership are still the same, and they still clash with the world’s view of what makes a good leader. The world’s lessons feed those with a need to lead, and I’ve always had that need. I realize that whether I was trying to fix someone or prove something to myself or others, I felt as though I had to lead.

Getting to the bottom of my heart has been a difficult part of my journey. As I’ve gotten there with God’s help and the help of loving friends, I am surprised by what I find. I should have known that the journey to find self wouldn’t be pleasant. Otherwise, Christ would not tell me I have to die to self before I can follow Him. As difficult as it is, finding self does make it easier to do just that.

I have had to redefine myself several times during my life. Each has left me wanting to know exactly who I am. As I posed that question to someone in frustration this week, I realized God was directing the question to me. He has been waiting for me to decide and was all ears. Soul searching is never easy, and the outcome is much the same as that of finding self. The soul is seldom subtle, and when I go delving into it, I come away shocked by what I find.

The good news is that such searching humbles and causes me to pause long enough for God get in a word or two. While dazed, I hear His still, small voice loudly and clearly saying that I need to remember Who He is and who I am. His model for leadership hasn’t changed. Jesus was not, and still is not, your typical leader. He will not be when He returns. He does not measure up by the standards of this world any more now than He did before. He doesn’t have the need to lead, and He didn’t seek out leadership positions or teach seminars on how to be a successful leader. That bothered the leaders of the day and would bother them even more today. His authority comes from God, and that is His bottom line on leadership.

Jesus has a leadership style all His own, and it is the most effective one ever known. He doesn’t set out to lead; He sets out to love. Love was the impetus behind His leadership, and no matter how confounded the Pharisees or the disciples got, they just couldn’t get around His love. His love let those who hated Him have His life, and Satan thought for sure he had won the war when it came to leadership. Christ’s love brought Him back with even more power than He had before, and the war was won once and for all. There is no way to understand the love that put Jesus on the cross and brought Him back; it can only be accepted with the understanding that it cannot be understood. What a leadership strategy! Love, listen, and let go of the need to lead. The secret to successful leadership is knowing Who’s in charge, and it always will be. God doesn’t need any more leaders. Christ has His authority and will always have it. He needs those who will follow His leader humbly without grumbling. Anything else is unacceptable.

Will the world like it? NO! Will it make me popular? NO!  Will it get me elected to positions of power? NO! Will it help me win friends and influence people? maybe:) Will it connect me to the Source of all Love and true power? Definitely!

I know the world will always have hierarchies, and positions of leadership are necessary when it comes to organizations. God’s design is a body, an organism, and there is no hierarchy when it comes to a body. Whole and working together is what God desires. When it comes to God’s kingdom, there’s only one Sovereign, and the position is already filled. We are asked to follow, not lead.  A simple seminar if I ever heard one:)

The Heart of Encouragement

Encouragement is not giving someone courage; it is seeing into the heart of someone you love and helping them see the courage that is already there. It’s what love does when it joins with truth, and there is nothing stronger in this world. That beautiful combination enables me to do what I don’t believe is possible and help those I love do the same♥

The dictionary defines encouragement as “support that inspires confidence: support of a kind that inspires confidence and a will to continue or develop.” The etymology of the word comes from the Old French “to make or put in” and the Latin “heart.” Encouragement comes when someone truly knows my heart and helps me know it better. When love and truth intersect, a sweet balance causes me to find an inner strength that gives me courage. God’s love and Christ’s truth allow the Holy Spirit to breathe life into my heart.

Courage occurs when my heart comes to life. I am revived and ready to move forward. Christ’s power is in His meekness and humility. It is what I find when I get to the center of my heart, and it “inspires confidence and a will to continue or develop” just as the definition states. For the first time in my journey, I have the confidence to go where God desires without worrying about what others may think. That’s very freeing and allows me to let go of my notions of courage and go with His.

 

 

Loving Lathe

The two-edged sword in Hebrews 4:12 isn’t a weapon designed to kill or maim; it is a loving lathe. As a wooden bowl turned by human hands, my heart is transformed into something beautiful as God applies His Word. The scars and hurts become unique designs as the lathe cuts deeply guided by loving hands that see what I cannot♥

I have a friend who turns wood, and I am amazed each time I see the results of his turning. I thought the process was controlled more by the saw than his hands. I didn’t realize how much effort went into actually turning the wood, which is all about the hands of the one creating the work of art. That struck me and made me think of the powerful words in Hebrews. The turner sees what others cannot. Like the carver, he sees beauty that the rest of us miss. I know the same is true for artists, musicians, writers, cooks, and all who create.

When I remember that God is the ultimate Creator, our relationship becomes clearer in my heart and mind. He made me! I know how I feel when I make something. I love it and just can’t keep myself from looking at it, holding it, reading it, and sharing it with others. What God feels when He sees me as His creation is so much bigger than I can imagine. I did get a small taste of that feeling when Dr. Han put Tyler on my stomach after delivering him. I looked at the tiny, wiggling life laying on me, and my heart changed forever. He was crying, and I touched him and told him how much I loved him. His little eyes couldn’t focus, but he turned to me and stopped crying. He knew my voice and felt my love. I was as close to God as I’ve ever been in my life in that moment. I was only a very small part of the process that went into God’s creating Tyler, but that glimpse humbled and still does each time I recall it.

God applies His loving lathe to cut away all that isn’t what He wants me to be. He knows that hidden in the mess of my heart is a beautiful bowl made unique by the brokenness and scarring. Without that brokenness, the bowl would be a perfect piece, uniform and able to be mass produced. I don’t like those bowls made into matching sets for the table. Imperfections make my heart one of a kind, and God takes them and turns them into His work of art. That changes the way I see myself and my Creator.

God sees hope where I do not. He sees joy where I do not. He sees love where I do not. If I give Him free reign, He applies His loving lathe to my heart. His hands gently guide my heart as the chips come loose and fall to the floor. There is great pain in the process, but the result is well worth the hurt. I have to believe that He is God and knows what He is doing and let go what I cannot see. Only then will I find the joy, hope, peace, and love that His restoration allows. Only then will my heart become the one of a kind work of art it is meant to be. Ephesians 2:10 reminds me that I am God’s workmanship in Christ Jesus, and that amazes me even more than those beautiful wooden bowls do:)

Meant to Be

When I look at my son and his bride to be, I think of the journey they have already had together. The theme of their wedding is “Meant to Be,” and that is exactly how I would describe their love. Love Will Find a Way is another title that would be an appropriate description of a relationship that has weathered storms and come through each stronger and more beautiful than ever. I thank God for the sweet family that fills my spirit and blesses my heart each time I’m with them.

Lillyann told me all about her role in the wedding yesterday. She was very serious about the petals she will distribute as the senior flower girl. She indicated that Mylah would be helping her:) She and Mylah are sure to steal the show and divert all the attention. I told Gina it was the only problem I saw with the wedding. Their little dresses are adorable, and given that they look great in play clothes, I can only imagine how they will look in them. Lillyann is also fascinated by the big cake after seeing a picture of it. Her eyes got very big when she saw it, and she immediately wanted to know when she could have a piece:)

Gina and Tyler haven’t taken the traditional route when it comes to marriage and family, but they have shared a beautiful journey that has brought them to a sweet home in the country, two adorable little girls, and a love I envy each time I’m around them. God has great plans for them, and I thank Him every day for what He’s already given. I have had a beautiful daughter-in-love for several years now, and I don’t plan to ever call Gina my daughter-in-law. It’s great to have a ceremony and papers making their union legal, but it’s much better to know that they share a special love that is meant to be. Gina and I are connected by love, and that’s the way I will always see her.

Love finds a way even in the most non traditional relationships. In fact, I believe it may have a better chance when the journey doesn’t take the traditional route. There is, after all, nothing normal or traditional about love:) That’s what makes it so amazing. When love is meant to be, it will find a way. I so very grateful my son found love, and it lifts my heart to see him love the sweet woman and two adorable little girls God placed in his heart and then in mine. It’s love squared, and it’s wonderful!!

Taking Sides Simply Divides

Jesus never took anyone’s side but God’s. That kept His heart whole and His mind clear. Taking sides breaks the heart, clogs the mind, and frustrates the body of Christ. The singleness of Christ’s allegiance and love is a beautiful example to follow. Unfortunately, even the disciples had trouble doing that. It is human nature to take sides and choose teams.

When I was young, I was always the last one picked for any team. I was small and hated it when we played a game that involved choosing teams. I knew I would be the last or next to last no matter what the game. I always played hard and tried to compensate for my size. It never worked, but I kept trying. The sweetest compliment I ever got was from a student when my intramural class was getting ready to play one afternoon.

Dusty came up to me before homebase and looked at my clothing and shoes. He said, “Mrs. Proctor, you’re not dressed out!” I was always dressed to play and loved being part of the team, but I had a big meeting right after school and wouldn’t have time to change before going. I loved that my students loved for me to play alongside them and looked forward to the games and activities as much as they did. However, I wasn’t prepared for Dusty’s next remark.

He was seriously concerned as he told me adamantly that I was the team’s third best player, and he needed for me to be ready to play. I didn’t smile, but I sure wanted to. I knew Nick must have been second on Dusty’s list! I also knew Nick would have been first on his list with Dusty second:) He inspired me so much that I decided not to worry about the silly meeting and quickly ran to get ready for the game. We often didn’t even keep score during those games designed to build community, but I was so lifted by Dusty’s estimation of me that I played harder than ever before. Funny how the way others view us affects our performance.

I think of Dusty when I think of how Jesus feels about my doing the work God places before me. God chose me and other silly humans to be on His side, and Jesus makes it clear that He needs all of us and sees us in the same way Dusty saw me. He bids me to get ready because He needs me. That is a mystery I don’t suppose I’ll understand until I’m in His presence, but it inspires me to do my best because He believes in me. That truly does affect my performance and attitude in a miraculous way!

The scripture this week is a beautiful reminder that the disciples behaved much like those kids picking teams when I was young. That leaves folks feeling left out or last picked. Jesus, like Dusty, comes to me and to all who serve Him and says just what Dusty said, “I need you, and you’re not dressed out!” He says it seriously, sincerely, and with a look that makes me drop the reasons or excuses I have for not getting out in the field, get ready, and go on that field with new life knowing that He believes in me and knows I can do what He needs for me to do.

The Pharisees take a beating in the Sunday School classes and children’s stories, but Mark reminds us that the disciples weren’t any better. That’s a great lesson for me to remember. It’s easy to point fingers at those who aren’t like me, but it’s not much fun to see myself in those disciples. Jesus knew they needed a reminder that we are all on the same team, and every member of that team is important. It’s a great reminder to me, as well. Here’s what Jesus had to say to a group who were concerned about taking sides.

Mark 9:38-50

The Message Eugene Peterson

 John spoke up, “Teacher, we saw a man using your name to expel demons and we stopped him because he wasn’t in our group.”Jesus wasn’t pleased. “Don’t stop him. No one can use my name to do something good and powerful, and in the next breath cut me down. If he’s not an enemy, he’s an ally. Why, anyone by just giving you a cup of water in my name is on our side. Count on it that God will notice.“On the other hand, if you give one of these simple, childlike believers a hard time, bullying or taking advantage of their simple trust, you’ll soon wish you hadn’t. You’d be better off dropped in the middle of the lake with a millstone around your neck. “If your hand or your foot gets in God’s way, chop it off and throw it away. You’re better off maimed or lame and alive than the proud owner of two hands and two feet, godless in a furnace of eternal fire. And if your eye distracts you from God, pull it out and throw it away. You’re better off one-eyed and alive than exercising your twenty-twenty vision from inside the fire of hell. “Everyone’s going through a refining fire sooner or later, but you’ll be well-preserved, protected from the eternal flames. Be preservatives yourselves. Preserve the peace.”

Jesus sure doesn’t mince words when it comes to dividing His body. Preserve the peace indeed! Taking sides causes the body of Christ to be divided, and Jesus hates that because it hurts God’s work. How I wish we could understand that simple lesson and stop sizing up one another and deciding who’s on God’s team. Now, I don’t think we need to rank the members as Dusty did, but I do know that feeling I am important part of God’s work gives me the courage to take the field.

The work Jesus has for me is much more important than the intramural game we played that afternoon, but the sweet lesson I learned from Dusty helps me remember to get dressed out and be ready for all God has for me to do each day. We are all on the same team and must see everyone as important if God’s work is to be done the way He desires.

Both Sides Now (Sincere apologies to Joni Mitchell:)

Hope and promises of change

Tales of honor in exchange

Advertisements getting strange

Elections are that way

 

But now they only block the sun

They rain and snow on everyone

So many things I wish were done

Elections block the way

 

I’ve looked at them from both sides now

From up and down, and still somehow

In their delusions I recall

I don’t like lies at all

 

But now it’s just another show

They leave us crying as they go

And if you dare, don’t let them know

Don’t give your vote away

 

Seen politics from both sides now

From give and take, and still somehow

In their delusions I recall

They really have no love at all

 

Oh but now old friends are acting strange

They shake their heads, they say I’ve changed

Well something’s lost but something’s gained

In each election day

Seen elections from both sides now

From WIN and LOSE and still somehow

In their delusions I recall

I really don’t like lies at all

 

I’ve looked at lies from both sides now

From up and down and still somehow

It’s in delusions I recall

I really don’t like lies at all

Laws and Locks

Laws and locks are for honest people and do little to deter those determined to break them. If you’ve ever spent one a day in a courtroom, you know it bears no resemblance at all to the dramatic scenes depicted on the big screen. It is a waste of time designed to wear down those who follow the law.

My wallet was stolen from my car two years ago, and I got a taste of the judicial system at work. A former student stole my wallet which had fallen out of my purse and on to my front passenger seat when I stopped by the drug store earlier in the day. I worked in the church office, and two men had come by to talk with the pastor. When I noticed my wallet was missing, I stepped in to tell the pastor it was missing and that I was going to retrace my steps and would be right back. I wanted him to know it was gone, but I didn’t want to accuse anyone without evidence. He understood my message and took note.

I called from the drugstore to let the pastor know my wallet was indeed missing. By the time I returned to the church, I found him waiting for me in the parking lot. What happened prior to his waiting was something I really wish I could have seen. After my call, one of the men drove by the church and waved at him. Well, that was too much for the pastor, so he hopped in his car and took off up the road. It’s a dead end road, so he knew they would have to come back out the way they came in.

He found one of the men at a worksite and pulled his Prius sideways in the drive to block the exit and got out. I would love to have been a squirrel in a nearby tree and watch the action! After the pastor finished talking, the fellow was contrite and decided to throw the other under the bus. He told the pastor where he could find him. The police were notified, and the pastor returned to the church parking lot to await my arrival.

When I heard the story, I couldn’t help but grin even though it was very serious business by the time I got on the scene. All I could think of was the pastor in his Prius blocking the road and confronting the suspect. The policeman was also a former student and had found the culprit and my wallet by the time I heard the story of the dramatic capture. He confessed to the crime and took the police to the places where he had hidden my credit cards and wallet. Unfortunately, the cash had gone to buy pizzas for his friends. I got a call from the policeman saying that the culprit wanted to come by the church and apologize to me. I love that about being an old teacher:) They drove up in the squad car, and I reached in the back seat and gave him a hug and thanked him for telling the truth. I also told him all was forgiven.

I turned my attention to my former student who was wearing the uniform. I asked him what would be the best thing for me to do. He quickly said I needed to press charges to teach him a lesson. So, I filled out the necessary paperwork and began the complicated process. It seemed like an open and shut case to me, so I figured I’d have my things back quickly and not even have to cancel any credit cards. That just goes to show how little I knew about laws or locks:)

I appeared in court as summoned and expected the process to be very simple. He had confessed, apologized, and taken the police to the stolen items. He even cried because he was ashamed he had stolen from me. How hard could it be? Well,  I learned the answer to that very quickly. Delays are the order of the day in a courtroom. Keep putting it off and eventually folks will just lose interest or give up on getting justice. I stayed the course and continued coming for three more appearances. Lawyers got involved; DA’s were called in, and justice was dying a slow, painful death right in front of me. I spent three days sitting and waiting and wondering what in the world was going on.

On the last day, my patience was worn thin. I decided to just quit and walked out of the courtroom. As I was walking down the steps in front of the courthouse, I was telling myself and God that I had tried; that was enough, wasn’t it?  I passed some men sitting on the steps smoking. They starting making disparaging remarks and using profanity. I thought to myself surely they aren’t talking about me. Are they?? Then I noticed the sheriff’s van heading around to the back entrance.  I threw caution to the wind and took off after the big black van. I should add that I know and love the sheriff.  I knew he would hear my plea for help and sympathize with me, and I could use some sympathy.

The sheriff invited me to join him as he went in back entrance of the building, much to the dismay of those with him. He listened patiently to my story and told one of the men with him to take care of me. It’s amazing how those slow wheels began to spin. I found myself in a room being asked what I wanted. I stated that I simply wanted the truth to be told. Either my former student or his lawyer or both of them were going to have lie in front of me. It was their choice. I only wanted the truth, my wallet, my credit cards, and my money returned. They agreed to pass along the information to the defendant and his lawyer.

In a few moments, I was told the defendant had agreed to plead guilty. I could go back to the church and not worry about it anymore. That process took almost a year, and it has been over a year since the guilty plea. I still don’t have my wallet, my cancelled credit cards, or my $34.00, but I did get a lesson worth much more. Laws and locks get in the way of honest folks, but they don’t really bother those determined to break them.

God would say, “Welcome to my world dear:)”