Be Mean

be mean

 

….about the vision, that is. 

Wondering what I’m talking about today?

Vision. Tenacity. Determination. The ability to finish the race God called us to.

Whether you are a pastor, a leader, a parent, or an employer, you started with a vision.  We all did.

  • Pastors want to shepherd and disciple a group of people.
  • Parents want to raise God-loving, integrity-filled children.
  • CEO’s want to run purpose-filled, profitable organizations.
  • People want to accomplish their goals.

All of us have a vision of what we want to do and who we’d like to become, yet few of us stick to it over time. Even after short-term success, visions tend to blur, drift, and fade.

  • Pastors get sidetracked with people’s agendas and well-meaning ideas.
  • Parents get lost in demanding daily routines.
  • Organizations drown in red tape.
  • Our goals are forgotten as we address day-to-day minutia. 

Can you relate? I sure can. After 21 years in ministry, I can testify to countless times my vision for a particular ministry or group was threatened to drift away from what God originally tasked me to accomplish. Even as a parent I can feel the pull to get off course and pay more attention to a busy schedule than to the spiritual growth of my kids.

The bottom line is vision fades. We forget why we do what we do. We mean to do something specific, but we drift off course. 

That’s why I think we should be mean! We should mean to do what we do! All of us – in every role we have – should be mean about the vision God has given us. We should be intentional in our leadership! That kind of intentionality requires consistency, commitment, and yes, courage. Trust me, you need a lot of that last one. Being mean about your vision…sticking to it….saying no to some good things in order to say yes to the best things….not pleasing everyone all the time….making some tough calls….well, that’s rubber meets the road kind of stuff. It’s not for the faint-hearted.

But, here’s the payoff: life, passion, growth, success! When we resolutely stick to the vision God has given for our lives, our ministries, and our families, we flourish! And so do the people around us. Accomplishing what we set out to do brings satisfaction, fulfillment, and contentedness. That’s much better than drowning in daily minutia, don’t you agree?

My husband’s next book, Be Mean About The Vision, will help you protect and preserve what really matters. It launches April 19th, but you can pre-order it now. If you’ve ever drifted off-course or if you’d like to prevent it from happening, get this book today.

Don’t wander in random directions. Be mean about your vision. About the vision God has for your ministry and family. About the vision God has for your life. Be intentional. Be resolute.

Be mean about the vision!

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Represent

 

My son’s 5th grade class went on a field trip recently, and his teacher sent a note home asking parents to prepare our kids to behave in appropriate ways while traveling. More specifically, she asked that the kids remember that they represented Paine Intermediate School, as well as Trussville, and their behavior should be respectful and kind. She was asking the kids to live up to the reputation of the city and school they belonged to. 

Hold up. I have three kids who have been on countless field trips to places nearby and far. Permission slips and parent releases have been sent home for signatures, but never – NEVER – has a note been sent home asking for students to remember the school and city they represent and to uphold a good reputation.

As I read the teacher’s note, I was inspired. Maybe even a little patriotic. Yes, I said patriotic. I liked the idea of holding our community in high regard and encouraging our kids to do the same.

If a school teacher can ask students to live up to a good reputation, how much more should we as Christians live a life worthy of our calling? Check out Paul’s challenge to Christians in the book of Ephesians:

“Therefore I, as a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God.” Eph 4:1 NLT

We are God’s representatives here on earth, and we belong to Him. We bear His name. My friends, we have a grand reputation to protect! And look at how Paul says we are to “live a life worthy of our calling”:

“Be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Always keep yourselves united in the Holy Spirit, and bind yourselves together with peace.” Eph 4:2-3

As people watch us, as we represent God, are we humble and gentle? Are we patient and understanding? Are we peaceful? Are we peacemakers?

Moment by moment, decision by decision, we either uphold or diminish God’s reputation. Don’t be intimidated by that….be motivated! 

God chose us to be Christ’s representatives, so let’s live lives worthy of that calling. It’s not about getting our tasks done today. It’s about representing Jesus while we are doing our tasks!

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The 10,000 Foot View

Not long ago I listened as a friend confided some problems she was facing. It seemed as if her whole life was a mess, but it really wasn’t. I was able to see a few key adjustments she could make to reverse course and feel peace again. 

Fast forward to just a few days ago when I faced a problem that frustrated me and felt like withdrawing from those around me.

Why was I able to clearly see the answer for someone else but not for myself?

It’s called the 10,000 foot view! When we rise up above the minutia and details of our lives, we can more easily surmise a solution. It’s “seeing the forest in spite of the trees.” And, more often than not, we have a 10,000 foot view of the problems of other people, but we are too mired in the details to have the same view of our own.

Check out what Paul wrote:

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they are good for us – they help us learn to endure. And endurance develops strength of character in us, and character strengthens our confident expectation of salvation. And this expectation will not disappoint us. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” Romans 5:3-5 NLT

The bottom line is Paul challenged us to have a 10,000 foot view of our own problems. He preached that if Christians rise up above the frustrations and hurt that our problems bring, we will see the bigger picture.

  • We will see how our problems build up endurance (which means the next problem won’t trip us up quite as badly as the last one).
  • We will learn that our ability to endure difficulties builds a strong character (which prevents us from wallowing in self pity and makes us models to follow)
  • We will learn that our strong character makes us confident in our salvation (which brings purpose and peace)

Friends, if we could learn to pause in the midst of our problems to gain the 10,000 foot view, we would benefit immensely. I’m convinced our problems, though just as difficult, wouldn’t cause us to stumble so badly. Just look at Paul. He faced unbelievable circumstances: betrayal, threats, misunderstanding, jail, beatings, loneliness,….the list goes on. His problems were difficult but he wrote often of his joy, his purpose, and his willingness to keep going.

How could we gain a better perspective on our problems? Could we talk to a trusted friend? Could we make a pro/con list? Could we read Scriptures for insight? Could we pray? Could we read a book for help? Could we visit a counselor? 

Your Turn: What steps could you take to “pause” in the midst of a problem and gain a 10,000 foot view for perspective? 

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My Life Preservers

th“When we arrived in Macedonia there was no rest for us. Outside there was conflict from every direction, and inside there was fear. But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus.” 2 Corinthians 7: 5-6 NLT

Have you ever felt like Paul? “Outside there was conflict and inside there was fear”? There are times in life (sometimes those times feel more like seasons) when we face uncertain circumstances or unwelcome conflicts from the outside world which make us fearful of what our future holds. Pay attention, however, to what calmed Paul’s spirit: the arrival of a friend. If you read 2 Corinthians 7, you’ll discover that Titus arrived with a good report on the spiritual well-being of some mutual friends. Although his circumstances had not changed, the encouragement of a trusted friend brought Paul confidence and joy.

Friends, we cannot always change our circumstances. Life will throw us curveballs, and we must deal with them. Yet, if we’ve invested into Godly friendships, the people with whom we surround ourselves can help buoy us! They can help us keep our heads above water.

Are you investing into friendships with other believers? You need it! So do I. God often uses other Christians to motivate us, encourage us, and love us. And, yes, he also uses them to steer us back to the right path when we’ve been knuckleheads.

The next time you deal with conflict on the outside and fear on the inside, confide in a trusted Godly friend. Don’t tread those waters alone. Let your spirit be buoyed by the arrival of a friend!

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Don’t Be A Quitter

Did you know that 2 Corinthians is actually Paul’s 4th letter to that church? Since I’ve been obsessed with Sherlock on PBS, I guess I’ve put on my own detective hat and discovered a bit of Bible trivia. 

Paul spent 18 months ministering in the city of Corinth, a very cosmopolitan city. Both Jews and Greeks lived there influencing one another with their ideas of culture and religion. After Paul left, he learned the Corinthians were struggling with immoral behavior, so he wrote a letter to the church which has since been lost. That was letter #1. The Corinthians wrote a letter in return asking for clarifications on conduct and church rules. Paul responded by writing a letter we know as 1 Corinthians. His next letter (#3) to them was also lost, but his 4th letter is our book of 2 Corinthians. 

In each letter Paul not only encouraged the Christians in Corinth, but he confronted their sin. Time and again, Paul must have been disappointed in their drama and struggles. He taught them, invested into them, and spurred them on….only to travel to another city and learn that the Corinthians were listening to false teachers and struggling with immoral behavior. What’s more is that a few of the Corinthians began to doubt Paul’s authority! I can imagine Paul’s exasperation over their lack of maturity.

If you are a parent, I bet you can relate to Paul. We train our kids to act a certain way, and then we are shocked to see some of their decisions, like running crazily through a friend’s house or making a poor choice at a party. In those moments, we might feel disappointed or even angry. I’m sure Paul felt the same way on some level.

Here’s the kicker: Paul didn’t give up on the Corinthians. He didn’t wash his hands of them when situations grew tiresome. He didn’t stop loving or encouraging or fighting for them. He could have gotten defensive when the Corinthians doubted his authority. He could have become offended when they forgot all that Paul had already done for them. He could have grown tired of their immaturity and chosen to put his attention elsewhere.

He didn’t.

He didn’t give up, give in, walk away, get defensive, or become offended. He kept doing what God told him to do! Even when difficulties – physical AND emotional – made life tough, Paul kept fulfilling the mission God gave him.

Friends, that’s the key to resiliency: KNOW YOUR MISSION. When you know your mission….your purpose….you won’t give up in the hard times! Our ability to recover quickly from difficulties is found in the understanding of our purpose.

What has God asked you to do? Whatever it is, keep doing it. When – not if – life gets tough, when emotions get bruised, remember your calling. Paul did, and God used him to change lives. What could God do through you today?

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The Pep Talk You Need To Hear Today

“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. Through suffering, these bodies of our constantly share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” 2 Corinthians 4: 8-10 NLT

Paul could have been a great coach, I think. These verses sound like a locker room pep talk before a championship game. His words conjure images in my mind of athletes who push themselves to their limits….who sacrifice long hours of training….who suffer injuries, but play through…..oh, to be that kind of Christian! Oh, to be that kind of leader!

Think about your life for a moment. In what areas do you push yourself? My mind wanders to my friend, Jill, and her dedication to physical fitness. In our workouts together, I am always impressed with her ability to perform every move with power. She squats lower, lifts more, and performs more repetitions than I ever can. Well, I take that back. I could do them, but I choose not to. When Jill pushes herself, I often take shortcuts. I often fail to really push myself.

Paul described something of vastly more importance than our exercise routines. He shared that he had been pressed, knocked down, perplexed, hunted down, and that he suffered, but he wasn’t crushed, didn’t quit, didn’t feel abandoned, and he kept going. He pushed himself to be the man God asked him to be.

Sounds like Paul had incredible stamina and endurance. Sounds like Paul had a clear understanding of his purpose and mission. Sounds like Paul knew his goal. Sounds like Paul kept his eyes on the prize.

How can we do that? As Christians or leaders, you and I aren’t often met with physical resistance like Paul. Yet, we encounter situations that make us want to crawl into the fetal position and hide awhile, don’t we? How can we prevent those “pressing” and “perplexing” circumstances from driving us to quit?

My answer is going to sound cliché. You might be craving a 3-step process to overcoming adversity in life or ministry, but I’m not offering one. The key to being a resilient person who doesn’t quit is this:

Stay close to our Father. Take every need to Him. Talk to Him often. Know Him and His ways through Scripture. Discipline your mind to be God-centered. Rely on His strength. And begin to view life as something you tackle….not something that tackles you!

Why should we do these things? Paul answered:

“For our present troubles are quite small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.” 2 Corinthians 4: 17-18 NLT

What could that “immeasurably great glory” be? What “joys” could last forever?

  • The pleasure we’ve brought to God because we’ve obeyed him. 
  • The refinement of our character.
  • The example we’ve lived before others.
  • The people we’ve influenced for God.
  • The mission we’ve accomplished with our lives.
  • The consequences we’ve avoided (and helped others to avoid) because we’ve chosen God over our own desires.
  • The celebrations in Heaven when we’ve chosen to deny ourselves and follow God.

My mind can’t even begin to comprehend the rewards that will be ours in Heaven if we’ve been good stewards of our time, gifts, and ministries here on earth!

Today, friends, push yourselves. Be Paul’s kind of Christian today. In the face of confusion, don’t give up. In the face of trouble, be unbroken. If you get knocked down, get back up again. Not with your strength, but with God’s, for He never abandons you when you are living for Him!

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Free Webinar: How To Build A Healthy Staff Culture

I’ve been married to a pastor for 22 years which means I’ve been a sounding board for all kinds of staffing issues from hiring/firing to getting the most from each team member. Oh sure, we plot and plan together for ministry strategy, events, and the spiritual growth of a church, but accomplishing our plans would be nearly impossible without the help of a talented, healthy ministry team.

If you are a pastor’s wife, you’re a sounding board, too. You’ve probably counseled your hubby through staffing conflicts, frustrations, and challenges. Sometimes you’ve sided with him. Sometimes you’ve played devil’s advocate to help him see another point of view. Those conversations are valuable to our husbands…and to our churches.

Let me share with you a few more valuable conversations that every pastor ought to hear.

My husband, leader of Courage To Lead, a coaching resource for pastors, asked some GREAT leaders this question:

How do you build a Healthy Staff Culture? 

Shawn had insightful conversations with these men, and the info they shared was incredible.

Sam Chand has been coaching pastors for years, and he’s full of wisdom. Sam has mentored Craig Groeschel, Chris Hodges, Brian Houston, and many others. He is the author of Breaking Your Church’s Culture Code.

Larry Osborne pastors North Coast Church in California, speaks at conferences, and coaches senior leaders across the country. He is the author of Sticky Church and Sticky Teams.

William Vanderbloemem runs the premier church staffing company that was just named one of the best places to work in America.

Chris Brown works with Dave Ramsey Solutions and is the host of the True Stewardship Leader Podcast.

Layne Schranz is part of the Lead Team at Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, Al. He is responsible for leading and guiding their 14 campus pastors, and he knows how to build and maintain a healthy staff culture.

These men have insanely practical things to share. If you or your husband are involved in ministry leadership, you absolutely don’t want to miss this. 

Here are the quick details:

Webinar:  Building a Healthy Staff Culture

Date: Wed, Feb. 17

Time: 12 pm CST (1pm EST10am PST).

Time Conflict? Don’t worry! We’re sending out the on-demand replay link to everyone who signs up for this free training.

Click here to reserve your spot! 

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Follow Me

follow meA few friends and I are reading through each of Paul’s letters in the New Testament of the Bible. We read a chapter each day and then share our thoughts in a group email since we all live in different states. In the quiet moments of my mornings, I read, journal, and share with my friends.

The other day, one particular verse grabbed our attention.

“And you should follow my example, just as I follow Christ’s.” (I Cor 11:1 NLT)

Wow. Sometimes I THINK this thought to myself, but I would probably never write it in a letter to a group of people! Paul was BOLD! And, apparently he was confident that his behavior was worthy of following.

I have to say, I find it much easier to model the Christian life when I’m “at work” (away from home, doing ministry, accomplishing a task, etc). When I’m teaching or coaching or engaging other people, I often feel confident to make the same bold claim as Paul. Yet, in my own home with those closest to me, my weaknesses bubble to the top. Maybe Paul could speak so boldly because he had no spouse or children to push his buttons! Maybe he was able to live “on point” because he traveled from place to place and was often alone after the crowds went home.

At least that was his explanation when he wrote in a previous chapter that following Jesus’ example was harder when we have the added demands of family, which he didn’t have.

Nevertheless, having a family has taught me vast amounts about love, sacrifice, forgiveness, selflessness, and compassion – all qualities of our Father in Heaven. When I stumble with my family, I ask forgiveness. When they stumble, I forgive. I am loyal and committed to them. Most importantly, I can see a steady track of spiritual growth since I met Jesus, and I’m using that to help train my family. As long as I’m doing those things, I can not only tell strangers to follow my example, I can tell my family to, as well!

What about you? Are there areas of your life that you can boldly proclaim “follow my example, just as I follow Christ’s?” Celebrate them! Becoming more and more mature as a Christian is something to which we should all aspire. If you are having trouble pinpointing some successes in this area, don’t fret. Just get started! Pick one area of your life and take a few steps of improvement by following Jesus’ example more closely. Remember, the goal is steady growth, not overnight perfection.

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Two (or four) Are Better Than One

We recently moved to Alabama, and let me tell you I’m loving my new home. And my new community. And our new ministry. And being near family for the first time since 1998.

Life is good.

But one thing isn’t.

I’m missing my partners.

For years, I’ve worked out 4-5 times each week with 2 of my neighbors. Meeting in our homes, we used exercise videos or routines we found on Pinterest to facilitate a 30-45 minute workout. The accountability of meeting together kept us all on track (it’s hard to skip a day when 2 people are expecting you to show up). Here in Alabama, I’m on my own in my basement, and I’m missing the camaraderie and inspiration of my 2 partners. I find myself skipping a day or pushing the fast-forward button.

Left to my own devices, I’m slacking.

But, not in the spiritual growth department. 

3 friends and I are reading through various books of the bible together. Some Georgia friends; some Alabama friends. We might not be able to meet face-to-face, but we are meeting! After we read our selected passages each day, we email the group to share our thoughts and prayers. Nothing fancy…just a sentence or two about what we sensed God saying to us.

God is speaking to us about our attitudes, habits, and actions. He is challenging us to become more like Him, and He’s increasing our understanding of Who He is and what His purposes are.

So, while I’m pushing myself to tackle a daily workout, I have 3 friends pushing me to grow in faith. Trust me, I’m pushing them, too! Last week, we studied the book of James, complete with background research and memory verses. Next up, Galatians. We are stretching muscles and getting stronger.

What about you? Are you slacking? Maybe you need the reminder that two are better than one. Find a partner (or 3, like me!) and start growing! 

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The Final Countdown

its-the-final-countdownMay 1, 1999 was a monumental day in my life. It was the day my husband and I moved to Cumming, Ga to start Mountain Lake Church. We had no idea what awaited us, but we rolled our sleeves up and got busy.

We knocked on doors to invite people to a tiny church in a primary school that smelled like pizza and corn.

We joined civic groups and mom’s clubs to meet others.

We wrote curriculum for our children’s ministry.

We developed security procedures for childcare.

We created a guest services team.

We decorated environments.

We wrote sermons.

We shared our vision with everyone we met.

We posted signs all over our community, mailed flyers, and rented a billboard.

We crafted budgets, devised a financial plan, hired team members.

And then….

We watched God work….time after time after time.

We baptized people. Over 2000 of them.

We witnessed people meet Jesus.

Marriages were rescued. Relationships were healed. Sin was overcome. Purpose was discovered.

We were blessed the most incredible team of talented, God-honoring pastors and staff that I’ve ever known.

We were blessed by hundreds of Christians who linked arms with us to accomplish the mission….to help people Belong in healthy relationships with God and others, to Become more like Jesus each day, and to Bless our world.

We were blessed with random notes of encouragement, offers to stay in vacation homes, prayers of spiritual warriors, unwavering support and loyalty, and the trust of thousands of people.

And, we were blessed with the opportunity to expand our ministry to thousands of pastors and ministry teams as we began mentoring others along the way.

I’d be lying if I said it was all unicorns and rainbows. It wasn’t. There were nights both my husband and I cried ourselves to sleep as we suffered a loss, experienced a defeat, felt the sting of betrayal, or bore the burden of the decisions before us. There were days I thought I had no more energy to put the next foot forward. There were moments I wondered how a need would be met. Yet, God allowed us to experience every thrill and each defeat, and we were drawn closer to Him as a result. I know God deeper and more intimately because of our time at Mountain Lake.

Now, the final countdown begins. We have 2 weeks left to pastor MLC before we launch Courage To Lead in an effort to mentor other pastors and ministry leaders. This weekend, MLC is blessing us with a housewarming reception to help us set up a new house. I absolutely cannot wait to hug necks, reminisce with friends, and celebrate all God has done over the last 16 years. Then, the next weekend we introduce the next lead pastor and his family to everyone as we pass the baton of leadership from the Lovejoy’s to…..well, you’ll have to be there to find out! Trust me, you’ll love them.

The final countdown is here. Two weeks to go before my next adventure begins. I’m relishing every bittersweet second. If you have a MLC story, a God-moment, or a memory that stands out, I’d love to hear it! Feel free to email me, leave a comment, or find me at the reception this weekend. I’ll be the one with tears in my eyes and a smile on my lips. Sending BIG love to you, Mountain Lake!

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