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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4 Steps To Understanding The Bible

It happened again. Someone asked for a bible study recommendation, and I was scrambling to recall the name of any number of great books I’ve read. Beth Moore, Lisa TerKeurst, Henry Blackaby, Max Lucado, Kay Arthur, John MacArthur….all great writers and lovers of God….all from whom I’ve learned.

But, sometimes I don’t want to recommend a book.

Sometimes I want to recommend THE book.

The Bible is what all bible studies are based upon (hence the name. read: sarcasm), yet we often rely more on books written about the Bible than on the Bible itself. I’ll be the first to agree that all of us benefit from someone explaining the deeper truths of Scripture, helping us apply those truths to our attitudes and decisions, and providing us with action steps. Yet, if we don’t learn for ourselves how to read our Bibles, we will stunt our own spiritual growth, not to mention miss out on special personal moments with our Heavenly Father.

So, how do we do it? Here are 4 easy steps:

  1. Make a Plan: Make a plan for what you will read. Choose a particular book of the Bible. Or select a topic that interests you using an online search engine to discover bible verses about your topic (or go old-school with an actual concordance).
  2. Get Context: Who wrote the book? Why was it written? When was it written? Who was the audience? What was the environment/setting? A Life Application Study Bible not only provides this kind of info for each book of the bible, it also provides footnotes explaining the verses.
  3. Highlight Key Verses: As you read, take notes. Highlight important passages. Underline verses that speak to you personally.
  4. Summarize: After you’ve finished reading, write a few summary statements to explain what you’ve noticed in the book/passages. What is the bottom line? What does God want you to know? What can you learn about God’s ways or purposes?

Here is a quick peek at my own Bible notes after reading the book of Hosea (yes, I write ALL in my Bible):

bible

There you have it. An easy, 4-step process to dissecting Scriptures for yourself. To be sure, it takes more effort than sleepily reading with one eye still closed after the alarm sounds each morning. And it takes more effort than grabbing a book of the Christian bookstore shelf. Yet, if we choose to make the effort, our spiritual growth will soar! God will be faithful to use His Word to make us wise, deepen our love, and prevent us from stumbling.

Who doesn’t want that? Who doesn’t need that?

Maybe today you need a fresh encounter with God. He’s waiting for you…..right there in black and white. 

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Words That Resonate

thHave you ever read something that so resonated with you that you were forced to pause and wonder at the words?  Maybe it was a magazine article that highlighted parenting tips.  Maybe it was a blog post that challenged your perspective on life.  Or, maybe it was just one of those popular quotes on Pinterest.

I’ve often had that experience.  Some of my most meaningful moments with the Lord have been when His words have leaped off pages of the Bible and grabbed my attention, giving me new understanding of Who He is.  Yet, the Bible isn’t the only book God uses in my life.  Walking down Memory Lane, I can think of several books that God has used to benefit me.  Let me share a few:

1.  When I first became of follower of Jesus, I was eager not only to learn about God, but to learn how to be in relationship with Him.  When I found Experiencing God, by Henry Blackaby, I knew I had struck gold.  This interactive workbook helped me understand God’s ways and His purposes.  I began to more clearly see God at work around me and feel much more connected to Him.  My husband and I literally surrendered to God’s call of full-time ministry as we read Experiencing God, and I still choose to read through it each year.

2.  A few years ago, a friend tweeted about favorite book of hers being sold online for $1.  Now, I’m a sucker for a good deal, so I was lured in. Tortured for Christ, by Richard Wumbrand, has become one of my favorites, too.  This true life story of a pastor in Romania who was imprisoned because of his faith in God is shocking and heart-wrenching. I couldn’t relate to the pain and loss this man endured, but I cried nonetheless.  More importantly, God used it to challenge my own faith.  Did I believe as much as this pastor did?  Could I firmly stand for my Savior as this saint did?  Is my faith as pure and focused as his? I thank God for this man and his testimony.  God certainly used it to correct a few selfish attitudes I had.

3.  Love and Respect by Dr. Emerson Eggerich came along for me at a time when my husband and I were bickering often as we failed to understand the other’s point of view.  God used Eggerich’s words to soften my heart and develop some healthy communication skills.  As parents of three kids and leaders of a thriving church, we couldn’t afford to let our marriage take a backseat to the busyness of life.  Love and Respect taught me invaluable truths about my husband and marriage.

4.  I didn’t just read the next one.  I lived it.  My husband wrote The Measure of Our Success about the highs and lows he and I faced in church planting and all the lessons along the way.  Shawn would write, I would edit, and we both relived the memories.  Out of our journey came an impassioned plea to other pastors and ministry leaders to redefine what success in ministry really is.  This book calls all of us back to the “main thing”–the call to love people and make disciples–and to measure our success the way God does. As a ministry leader, that’s a challenge I need…..daily.

5.  No reading list would be complete without a little mind-candy.  The Circle Trilogy, (Black, Red, and White) by Ted Dekker is my all-time favorite Christian fiction set.  The books are incredibly well written and full of suspense, action, love, and mystery, yet that’s not all.  The story parallels our own relationship with God and drives the reader to wonder at the love God has for people.  As I read the words in White I found myself tearing up at the thought of His great love for me…..as I read a fiction book!! Call me crazy, I don’t care.  This book set pricked my heart and caused me to fall in love with Jesus a little bit more.  Any book that can accomplish that is on my bookshelf, for sure.

So, there you have it.  Some of my favorite books.  I’d love to hear from you! Which books has God used in your life, in your marriage, or in your ministry? Let’s share!

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Leading And Loving It

mockup_standing_BookPageMy friends, Lori Wilhite and Brandi Wilson, recently published their first book for pastors’ wives and women in ministry appropriately titled, Leading and Loving It, and I, for one, am so very thankful they did.

Life in ministry – and in the public eye – brings its challenges.  Those of us in leadership certainly benefit some insight on how to respond to criticism, deal with isolation, and handle the expectations of others.  Yet, life in ministry – and in the public eye – also brings its perks.  Those of us in leadership have front row seats to all that God is doing in our churches and to the lives He is changing.  In their book, Lori and Brandi inspire us all to relish those perks even while battling the challenges of being “out in front.”

I’m honored to call both Lori and Brandi my friends, and I can truthfully say that who they present themselves to be in public is exactly who they are in private – fun-loving, encouraging, compassionate girls who genuinely want others in ministry to enjoy the ride as much as they do.

So, if you want some insight into finishing well in ministry leadership, check out Leading and Loving It.  It’s on my nightstand right now!

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On My Kids’ Bookshelf

A few weeks ago, my husband and I celebrated Easter with our Ministry Team at Mountain Lake Church.  The weekend before Easter (since the weekend of Easter would be FAR too busy) we enjoyed a beautiful lunch after our worship services, a glow-in-the-dark Easter egg hunt (yes, we believe in Jesus and still hunt eggs), and several games for the kiddos. The adults, of course, had a great time, too.  A buffet of ham, mac and cheese, green beans, bread, and a strawberry and spinach salad kept us busy.  Did I mention a table of desserts that would put pounds on your hips by just looking at it?  It was great to connect in an unhurried way with the people we love and partner with.

But, my favorite part was a gift my husband gave to each of the kids of our Team.  The Story of God and All Of Us, the bible in novel form based on The Bible mini-series.  If you are looking for a good book for your young reader, I highly recommend this one.  Using common language in story form, The Story of God and All Of Us is a page-turner.  My kids have been reading it each night, and I hear them talking about the stories they’ve read.  One night, I crawled in bed with my youngest two kids and read the book to them, getting caught up in the narrative and reading far longer than I intended.  They kids didn’t mind….they were thrilled to stay up later.

So, that’s what’s on my kids’ bookshelf.  Hope my recommendation helps some of you.  And, for you more advanced readers, it comes in an adult version, too!  Happy reading!

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Help Fill My Bookshelf

Do you like to read? Fiction? Non-fiction? Books on marriage or relationships? Books on leadership or ministry life?

I’m looking to restock my bookshelf with some page-turners and helpful resources, and I’d love your suggestions!

So, if you’ve read a book that has rocked your world, I want to hear about it. The sky’s the limit….I’m open to anything. Let me hear what mind-candy you’re reading, what leadership guru’s are pouring into your life, or what book is challenging you spiritually.

My latest reads? Here you go:

Mind-candy: The Hunger Games trilogy, Suzanne Collins

Marriage: Heart to Heart About Men, Nancy Groom

Next up for me is UnChristian, by David Kinnaman (it’s been patiently waiting on my nightstand for several months).

And, on May 1st, my hubby’s book will be released, The Measure of our Success, An Impassioned Plea to Pastors. (shameless plug, really, since I’ve already read it) If you serve in ministry leadership, this is a must-read.

Ok, your turn. WHAT ARE YOU READING?

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On My Nightstand…..

My favorite church is currently in a teaching series called VOWS, and since we’re discussing all-things-marriage, I decided to read a book that go along with it.  Heart To Heart About Men is an oldie, but goodie.  God is using it to:

* make adjustments in the way I respond to my husband

* admit sins I didn’t recognize

* and, draw me closer to Himself.

I don’t know about you, but there are times that I’m not motivated to be the best wife I can be.  My selfish motives get in the way, or I wrongly interpret the intentions of my hubby.  Even if I’ve been offended, however, God still wants me to respond in honor and grace.

The author, Nancy Groom, has a wonderful way of paralleling the marriage relationship to our Heavenly relationship, which motivates me to change the way I act and respond to my hubby.

Want to know one of my favorite challenges from the book?  Here you go:

“Are we willing to listen to God’s voice so that what we speak comes only from what He is whispering in our ear?”

Geez Louise, that’s hard. (Yes, I say geez louise from time to time.)  I’ll admit I have a quick tongue.  Not with everyone, mind you.  Just with those that I love the most.  Quick to defend my actions or feelings.  Quick to respond before I think.  Quick to say the first thoughts that come to mind.  Yep, I’m quick-tongued.  And, that’s not a good thing.  Quick wit, yes.  Quick tongue, not so much.

Do you bear the same burden of a tongue that leaps into action before you’ve even had time to think?  I want to learn to listen to what God is whispering in my ear and speak only what He tells me to.  Who knows? I might just save myself needless arguments, hurt feelings, and damage to my hubby…..whom I love endlessly.

What about you?  Would you challenge yourself today to listen to what God is whispering in your ear and speak only His words? I’m going to.

Healing Your Marriage When Trust Has Been Broken

Is it possible?  Can a marriage that has been broken by betrayal actually be restored?  Can a couple divided be reunited?  Can adultery really be forgiven?  Can trust be rebuilt?

The short answer is yes.  But, the short answer might take quite a while.  Months.  Even years.  Trust is difficult to earn when adultery has ripped a couple in two, but it IS possible.

My friend, Cindy Beall, knows.  She’s lived it.  She has the scars, but she also has a renewed marriage….a renewed love…..and even a renewed understanding of confession and forgiveness.

Cindy’s book, Healing Your Marriage When Trust Has Been Broken, is a heart-wrenching, gut-level honest look at the lowest point in her marriage: the adulterous affairs (yes, that means more than one) of her husband, who just happened to be a pastor.

In the book, Cindy shares the intimate details of her reactions, private thoughts, inner struggles, anger, depression, and fears as she walked through the process of allowing God to heal her marriage.  Even more compelling is the portrayal of her husband’s willingness to earn trust.

Twice in the past week, God has allowed me to counsel ladies who have recently found themselves in the same situation as Cindy.  Their worlds have crumbled down around them as their husbands confessed to affairs.  I am so thankful that I had resources I could offer them:

1. A Christian marriage counselor right here on Mountain Lake Church’s campus.

2. Cindy’s book.

When a person’s entire life falls apart with one conversation, they need help to process the emotions and relationship minefield that surround them.  Counseling just might save the relationship.  And, hey, counseling isn’t just for the problem areas of our lives.  Regular “tune-ups” can heighten the value of all of our relationships.

If you find yourself in the same boat as my friends, click the link above and check out Cindy’s book.  The insight God gave her is priceless.  Allow her pain to help you heal.  And, find a Christian counselor.  Don’t try to navigate your pain alone.

Thanks, Cindy, for sharing your story with the world.  May God use it to heal many, many marriages for His glory.

Book Club: So Long Insecurity

The Pastor’s wives at Mountain Lake are no slouchers.  They serve our church and community.  They give of their time and resources.  They pastor the people of our church with their love and counsel.  And, they are incredible friends, wives, and mothers.  But, you know what?  They couldn’t successfully do any of that without filling their own tanks first.  That’s one reason I challenge our group to read through various books together each year.  We stretch our faith and sharpen our skills as we soak up devotional thoughts, leadership lessons, and best of all, as we share our journey with each other. 

Last week, we kicked off our latest book selection, So Long Insecurity by Beth Moore.  I sent an email to my PW’s with my thoughts for the first chapter, and since insecurity is something every person deals with at some point, I thought I’d share them with my blog friends, too. 

In the first chapter, Beth writes, “Are we honestly going to insist on drawing our security from people – men or women – who are oblivious to the inordinate amount of weight we give to their estimation of us?  Seriously?  Maybe others in our lives are not so clueless.  Maybe they revel in the power they hold over us.  Either way, are we just going to live our lives hurt and offended?  They thought is exhausting.  The reality is ultimately debilitating.”

I don’t know about you, but I have always tended to be a people-pleaser.  I come from a family of people-pleasers.  So, I give a lot of weight to what others think about me.  After all, I want to make them happy; to have them like me.  I clearly recognized this many years ago when I experienced a permanent fracture in a friendship.  I played no part in the demise of the relationship.  The break wasn’t due to an offense committed by either of us.  The other person simply didn’t like me.  End of story.  But, the fact that someone didn’t like me did a doozy on me!  Everything within me wanted to do something – anything – to make this person like me.  To gain their approval.  To win their friendship. I was giving such weight to their estimation of me that without their approval I felt defeated.  Thankfully, God broke through the haze clouding my thinking.  I knew in my head that winning the approval of men and women should never be my goal, but God helped that nugget of Truth sink into my heart.  And, let me tell you, there is freedom in releasing my people-pleasing grip on life!

I’ll be honest enough to say that I still want people to like me and that I still innately enjoy making people happy, but I’ve learned (am learning) that my value doesn’t lie in their estimation of me (or my house, or my skills, or my life, or my way of doing things, or my personality, or my….anything!).  I certainly don’t thumb my nose at others’ opinions, though.  Constructive criticism and wise advice can be invaluable to a successful life.  But, allowing those opinions affect how I feel about myself is off-limits for me now. 

What about you?  Do you sometimes struggle with the “pleasing disease”?  If so, let the words of Paul motivate you to change the way you think:

Galatians 1:10 “Obviously, I’m not trying to be a people pleaser!  No, I am trying to please God.  If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ’s servant.”

SharpenHer Bookshelf

Yesterday, I asked what books you had on your night stand, and thanks to your comments, I now have some great suggestions for future purchases.  I love a good book – fiction and non-fiction.  So, what’s sitting on MY nightstand?  Here you go:

Say Yes To God, by Kay Warren  This is an inspiring book to challenge your view of total surrender to God.  Whether you need to surrender parts of your character or your total world view, Kay will encourage you to seek God’s ways instead of your own.

So Long Insecurity, by Beth Moore  I’m reading through Beth’s book with the Pastor’s wives on my Team.  We typically read a chapter each week and share our thoughts with each other via email.  It’s a great method for staying connected with each other while growing in faith.  We actually kick this one off on April 4th.

God’s Armor Bearer, by Terry Nance  One of my PW’s loaned this one to me.  I haven’t tackled it, yet, but it looks intriguing.  Definitely on my to-read list.

And, on my Kindle App for my iPhone:

Immanuel’s Veins, by Ted Dekker  This one is fiction.  I always have a little mind-candy ready to go.  I love Dekker’s symbolism and story-telling.  If you like mystery, sci-fi, action, and romance, you’ll like Dekker.  Oh, and he always has a Christian theme in his books.  He weaves a masterful parallel of the Christian faith in all of his books. 

Ok, so that’s my nightstand…..or the SharpenHer bookshelf.  If you’ve read any of these, I’d love your thoughts.  Drop me a line!  Have a wonderful Wednesday!