Can you touch your toes?

flexible yogaFlexibility

Can you touch your toes without bending your knees? Try any yoga moves lately? These questions hopefully got you thinking about your physical flexibility, or lack of as the case may be.

Physical flexibility represents a struggle for me. My muscles constantly feel tight and resistant to movement even though I’m in shape (can run a 5k & bike 12 miles) and not what I would consider a weakling (can life 10 pounds weights 100 times in a few minutes).

While I make a point to stretch often, I fail doing so consistently enough to keep inflexibility at bay. And this lack of physical flexibility serves as a reminder of the importance of flexibility – and a regular habit of stretching – not just physically but mentally as well.

The Benefits of Flexibility

What experts tout as the benefits of physical flexibility correlate well with the advantages of mental flexibility. In fact, when flexibility exists as a character trait – those elements that define you and shape your reputation – the same benefits seen with physical flexibility become visible in other areas of life too. Those benefits include:

  1. Reduced Risk of Injury. A flexible person has broad shoulders. Rather than harboring offenses, he releases them by giving the benefit of the doubt and refusing to take them personally.
  2. Improved Posture. Flexibility allows for confidence to stand strong amidst life’s struggles. This confidence reduces the strain that poor posture – lack of confidence – places on the system as a whole.
  3. Reduced Pain. Low back pain can immobilize a person, and flexibility goes a long way in reducing the pain. Flexibility as a character trait reduces the long-term impact of hurt and keeps a person from being frozen by it.
  4. Brings Life. Physical flexibility increases blood flow resulting in greater range of motion, less joint pain and reduced joint inflammation. Likewise, mental flexibility gives a person greater courage, less fear and increased stamina.
  5. Better Overall Health & Vitality. A flexible person lives a fuller life as he exudes positivity and energy. In fact, others are drawn to a flexible person because of his alacrity, making flexibility an impactive and even contagious trait.

Identifying Flexibility

Flexible quoteWhat does flexibility look like in a person? While the benefits listen above serve to create motivation for the individual, they are not always easy to pinpoint tangibly. So, how can others pinpoint that flexibility exists and see its benefit?

When a person’s character involves flexibility, she becomes known for her servant’s heart, consistency & reliability, encouragement, broad shoulders, and abundance of grace. A flexible person draws people to himself, and people leave his presence feeling inspired.

A flexible person becomes so by stretching, by be willing to get outside comfort zones and extend into areas that at first feel unnatural. But with increased flexibility comes tremendous benefits, both to the individual becoming flexible and to every person she comes into contact with. Flexibility serves to amplify an already solid character.

DISCUSSION: What other benefits do you see with flexibility? What other ways is it identified in someone? What specific ways are there for increasing flexibility as a character trait?

The Top of the Trees

For 20 years, depression defined my existence. Hopelessness. Worthlessness. Thinking life was pointless. I even convinced myself I was unable to believe in God. I felt broken and discarded. Definitely a life lived in the “valley of the shadow of death.” I wavered between feeling like a dead person walking and wishing for death.

One familiar Scripture, Psalm 23, spoke to me at different times during my valley walk. Assigning this Psalm only to funerals limits it, because oh does it reach well beyond the grave. If these word were true, then maybe I could make it through the valley. Maybe life existed beyond depression.

sf_lordShepherd_02

In “Created to Be God’s Friend,” Henry Blackaby says,

“Faith is based on what you know about God.”

What I knew at the time were almost cliché scripture, like Psalm 23, but I hoped they were true. I hoped that what Psalm 23 said about His leading and His presence were real and could dispel the darkness. I hoped “goodness and mercy” were following me, and I hoped my path led to God’s table.

In Chapter 5 of “The Fire of Delayed Answers,” Bob Sorge talks about what happens “When the Lights Go Out.” He talks about being in the valley, under the trees. Picture a dark place with no light breaking through the trees. Difficult to stay on the path when the surrounding darkness seems strangely inviting.

In that darkness, thoughts and feelings lure you from the path and into the waiting arms of evil that wants to destroy you. But the path, though you probably fail to realize it, leads out of the valley and above the trees toward the waiting mountain top.

Staying on the Path

What kept me on the path lies with what kept me alive. You see, I felt consumed by the darkness. Yet even though I failed to realize it at the time, God led me through. He will do the same for you. Simply take one foot and put it in front of the other.

What does this mean practically? Let’s look at Sorge’s advice followed by my perspective looking back on the journey through the valley.

  1. Immerse yourself in God’s Word – Even when comprehension evades you.
  2. Give yourself to prayer until God speaks – Even when you feel deaf.
  3. Give yourself to righteousness and gracious compassion – Even though you don’t deserve it.
  4. Stay focused on God alone – Even when feelings try to lead you off the path.
  5. Know that God sometimes speaks through others – Even when you feel all alone.

As I walked through this valley that consumed most of the first half of my life, I became very familiar with the underside of the trees. But then one day I suddenly realized that the tops of the trees weren’t as far away. Then the trees started appearing below me with the undersides no longer visible. Sorge describes the journey this way:

“Slowly the believer begins to ascend, but the climb is so gradual that the believer is not aware of any change.”

This valley walk shaped me into the person I am today. Along the journey, I tried a lot of different methods for quickly getting out of the valley only to discover there is no quick way out. The only way out of the valley is by walking through it all the while focusing on God and following the path laid out before me.

Even in depression and discouragement, even for 20 long years, a God-focus leads out and up. Feelings don’t matter. Thoughts don’t matter. Simply putting one focused foot in front of the other takes you out of the valley. In fact, it’s truly the only way out, the only way to see the top of the trees.

Welcome to the book club discussion of The Fire of Delayed Answers by Bob Sorge. Each blogger in the group is reading and then sharing on what inspires, encourages, or challenges them. We’ll be taking 2 weeks per chapter. Our co-facilitators are Jason and Sarah – other active participants include Dusty, Glynn, Joell, TC and Rick.  If you know of others, please leave a link for their post in the comments.

5 Minutes for Faith

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For today’s post, take a trip to 5 Minutes for Faith, where I am beginning my time as a monthly contributor on this site.

My post today is titled “What’s Your Secret?” and encourages a focus on God-awareness over what the world calls “self-awareness.”

Looking forward to chatting with you at 5 Minutes for Faith today and then next week back here on Struggle to Victory, where we will be discussing Chapter 5 of Bob Sorge’s book, The Fire of Delayed Answers, on Tuesday & looking at the topic of flexibility on Thursday with the post “Can you touch your toes?”

5 Ways to Make Distractions Positive

distraction-cartoonThoughts About Distractions

Distractions often get a bad rap for stealing focus and decreasing productivity. At least, in my mind they existed only as plagues to avoid. Until recently. While I still believe distractions can negatively impact, I also now see they can be powerful tools for managing stress and increasing productivity.

As a very focused (and sometimes intense) person, I viewed distractions as always evil. I needed to stay on task, cross every item off my “to do” list and not let anyone or anything keep me from accomplishing my tasks. Even worse, I imposed this “no distractions” approach on my two boys as well. As you might guess, this led to some struggles. (On the positive side, continually pushing away distractions led to my being able to read and write with the television on and people talking.)

What I have learned through my inner debate over distractions is that sometimes we need to be distracted. Sometimes, we need to let our focus on work and accomplishing go and to live in the moment with the ones we love. And sometimes, focus itself provides much-needed distractions from relationship stress.

5 Ways to Make Distractions PositiveDistractions

As with most areas of life, distractions must exist in a balanced state in order to have positive impact. Too many distractions, and little gets accomplished. On the other hand, constantly staying focused often leads to higher stress levels not only within an individual but within relationships as well.

Follow these tips for turning distractions into positive forces:

  1. Allow your kids to distract you. Never forget that you only have them for a season, and that season goes by so very quickly. In just six years, both my boys will graduate and move out. I don’t want to miss a minute of their lives. When they want to talk, I stop what I’m doing and listen. The posts I want to write and the books I want to read will wait. If they won’t for some reason, they’re worth giving up for the moments I get to spend with my kids.
  2. Make sure electronics don’t take over your family. My kids, like most their age, want to listen to music, text friends and play games on their various electronic devices. I like my devices too (though for slightly different reasons), but electronics don’t eat dinner with us or entertain us constantly in the car. In fact, the license plate game still serves as a favorite and everyone still looks forward to eating dinner together as a family.
  3. Distract yourself when emotions get out of control. When I get a bad report from school about my son’s behavior or when I’m just in a grumpy mood, writing a blog post or reading a book serve as great distractions and help keep me from nagging my boys and husband. When an idea just isn’t flowing right, going for a run provides ample distraction to get my creativity back on track instead of allowing frustration to send me into a tailspin, ruining my (and usually my family’s) day.
  4. Apply balance to your distractions. Too much mindless television leads to a host of unhealthy issues, but some mindless television can help you relax, which then allows you to refocus. Flipping between fiction and non-fiction books keeps me grounded in reality balanced with escape from it at the same time. Whenever possible, deliberately decide the type and amount of distracts impacting your life.
  5. Get distracted alone and with others. While personality and temperament impact needs, learning to allow for individual and group distractions creates stability. Family games and movie nights provide great ways to escape together while reading allows for alone time. Variety seems to help varying personalities in a family find their unique source of energy for staying focused.

Certainly, the ways to allow distractions to live as a positive force equal the ways they can exist as negative ones. The key, as with so many areas of life, involves intentionality and deliberateness.

DISCUSSION: If you allow distractions to dictate your day, what changes can you make to decrease them? On the other hand, if constant focus drives you, how can distractions possibly help your relationships?

Curing Spiritual Vertigo

VERTIGOSpiritual Vertigo feels like a rut, like being stuck in the muck and mire of a pit. Feelings dictate actions, and truth becomes muffled. When you have spiritual vertigo, you feel like you’ve hit a wall and don’t know which way is up.

Curing Spiritual Vertigo

Regardless of the reasons for Spiritual Vertigo, the cures that truly work remain the same. Consider these tried and true approaches for restoring balance when Spiritual Vertigo hits and even for preventing its onset in the first place.

  1. Go back to the basics. Are you praying daily? What about scripture reading? My pastor says that in 30 years of ministry, the one commonality among those who succumb to spiritual decline is neglecting these basics.
  2. Repent where necessary. Losing focus on God always means I placed other people, events or feelings (other gods) above Him. When this happens, ask God to make you aware of areas requiring repentance, and then ask Him to forgive you and help you move forward with renewed focused & refreshed energy.
  3. 220px-Circle_change_1Be still & be quiet. Often, the busyness of life leaves us feeling like our heads are spinning. We barely have time to breathe let alone stop and assess our spiritual health. While taking time for quietness and stillness may seem counterintuitive when your “to do” list rivals Santa’s naughty & nice list, doing so almost always clears the fog and helps reset priorities. (For the many who struggle with being still and quiet, check out this series on The Discipline of Silence.)
  4. Connect. Being a shy introvert, the last activity I feel like participating in when any area of my life is unbalanced, especially my spiritual life, is connecting with others. I realize extroverts are slightly different in this way, but I do see a protective barrier socially even with my outgoing friends when they suffer from Spiritual Vertigo. I’m always amazed how much more stable I feel after genuine connection. For this reason, I know it’s important to push past pushing others away and to obey the scriptural mandate to “bear one another’s burdens” (Galatians 6:2) which requires that we actually share them.
  5. Consider a change-up. My son has pointed out a “change-up” pitch in baseball several times to me because I struggle understanding what it is. Fortunately, I do understand the importance of a mental change-up when spiritual vertigo hits. For that reason, I regularly employ regular change-up habits to attempt to prevent ruts in my spiritual life. Those include reading a new author, changing my prayer location, trying a new activity and exploring a new hobby. Learning about another’s interests or unique skill and simply finding some way to take in new information or old information in a new way can provide the needed change-up to cure Spiritual Vertigo. My brain seems to get revived when I do something that creates new pathways or clears ones filled in by neglect. (I think there’s even research that supports this!)

Refuse to Give Up

Everyone experiences some degree of spiritual vertigo at some point in their lives. Regardless of what works to restore balance for you – and it may differ each time – one approach that works for everyone is not giving up.

Keep trying approaches until something works. Eventually, you’ll find what you need to hit your reset button. When you do, not only will the spinning life disappear, but you’ll likely discover renewed spiritual health like none you’ve ever known before. Just like our immune systems becomes stronger by successfully fighting illnesses, so too do our spirits when we push through spiritual vertigo. Just read the Biblical story of David for proof of this.

DISCUSSION: What cures have you found for spiritual vertigo?

Note: This post and the post Spiritual Vertigo were inspired by the post Kilter by Bill Grandi at The Cycleguy’s Spin.

Instruction & Training

training & instructionWhen I worked in Business Services at a local community college, I helped companies set up customized training programs for employees. During that time, I also witnessed the shift from instruction to training in many traditional college classrooms as well. Community colleges as a whole began to understand the value of instruction plus training rather than just instruction alone.

Instruction involves knowledge imparted with the onus on the person teaching. Those receiving instruction choose either activity or passivity, but instruction takes place regardless.

Training also involves instruction but holds the added element of the acquiring knowledge, skills and competencies as a result. Training requires active participation by both instructor and student.

Training also involves assessing needs and customizing learning. While all individuals may receive the same information, training allows for individuals to receive information in a way unique to how they learn.

 

Needs AssessmentNeeds assessment

As a parent, I learned the valuable difference between training and instructing when we adopted our youngest son. Up to that point our biological son received a lot of instruction, but his comfortable life failed to involve the practical application that training brings.

Our youngest son, on the other hand, lived through a rather brutal training program called “survival.” But a huge void existed in the area of instruction in character.

Seeing the contrast between our two boys taught me the value of training based on individual needs.

Bob Sorge gets at this idea to in The Fire of Delayed Answers:

“We need more than instruction – we need training. And training means pain. [God] gives us the pain of His merciful intention to preserve our souls to the coming of the Lord Jesus.” (Chapter 4)

Our oldest had instruction but not pain. He lived a comfortable life as an only child, going to church regularly and learning right from wrong. But he knew little of pain, and as a result struggles today with change but does so with consistently solid character.

Our youngest had pain but not instruction. He lived life not knowing where his next meal would come from or where he would sleep at night. He knew discomfort, but he had little instruction to help that training shape him positively. Today, he adapts well to change but struggles with consistently solid character.

customized  trainingCustomized Training

While both our boys need training and instruction to teach them to not allow circumstances dictate behavior and attitude, they need that training customized based on their unique needs. Both receive instruction on living according to God’s Word, but our oldest needs more hands-on training through struggle while our youngest needs more instruction on handling struggles with Godly character instead of merely surviving them.

Sorge emphasizes the importance of training by saying:

“Instructing and teaching our kids will never be sufficient. We need to find ways to train our kids and to allow God to train them as well.” (Chapter 4)

We mistakenly protected our oldest too much at times, not to the extreme as David did with Solomon, but enough to handicap his ability to handle change well. Fortunately, we learned our lesson, made the necessary adjustments, and he now receives more Godly training.

Sorge expresses that lesson by saying,

“God fashions caves for His choice sons; wise parents would do well to permit their children cave experiences within God’s purposes as well, rather than asserting the instinctive tendency to try to steer them clear of pain.” (Chapter 4)

For our oldest, we encourage challenging situations by letting him make more of his own choices. For our youngest, we use his many cave experiences (Sorge’s terminology) to instruct him on living with Godly character. For both, we instruct along the way but allow God to provide the training opportunities.

The long-term success of an individual life lies with submitting to God’s training program, which allows for applying instruction received to real-life situations. God’s training through brokenness, while incredibly challenging, produces true faith because

“God wants us to see that our faith should not waiver whether we feel good in ourselves or whether we feel completely undone.” (Sorge, Chapter 4)

Truly, a consistent faith that honors God above all lies at the heart of God’s training program. Actually, that type of faith IS God’s heart for us.

DISCUSSION: What value do you see in God’s training program?

Welcome to the book club discussion of The Fire of Delayed Answers by Bob Sorge. Each blogger in the group is reading and then sharing on what inspires, encourages, or challenges them. We’ll be taking 2 weeks per chapter. Our co-facilitators are Jason and Sarah – other active participants include Dusty, Glynn, Joell, TC and Rick. If you know of others, please leave a link for their post in the comments.

Spiritual Vertigo

VERTIGO

Running into walls. Immobilized flat on the floor, room spinning like a tilt-a-whirl.

Vertigo – way beyond mere dizziness – often strikes suddenly and without warning. You go to sleep fine only to find your face flat against the wall when you try to walk after getting out of bed in the morning.

Causes for vertigo range from inner ear infections and sinus problems to Mal de Debarquement Syndrome (a real gem of an experience) and Eustachian tube dysfunction. Yep, had them each lead to vertigo more than once over the past 10 years.

Along with the carnival atmosphere in my head comes a general feeling of nausea along with the sense that my body and the room are at odds and at the same time united as one. Difficult to concentrate for sure when even a slight movement can be dizzying.

Since vertigo visits me at least yearly and usually 2-3 times a year, I know some tricks for speeding it along its way. Sinus spray, extra chiropractor visits and allergy medication all encourage an early departure. And never does vertigo leave soon enough.

Spiritual vertigo also disrupts my life from time to time. When this happens, I work to eliminate the cause and to basically hit my reset button. Unlike physical vertigo though, which often hits quite unexpectedly, a lot can be done to prevent spiritual vertigo from ever happening in the first place.

vertigo quote

Spiritual vertigo feels like a rut, like being stuck in the muck and mire of a pit. Feelings dictate actions, and truth becomes muffled. When you have spiritual vertigo, you feel like you’ve hit a wall and don’t know which way is up. Symptoms also include…

  1. A sort of scripture reading dyslexia where words fail to have meaning.
  2. An inability to focus, especially in churc
  3. Difficulty listening to any pastor or Sunday school teacher let alone to a friend wanting to talk about Jesus.
  4. A desire for instant and material gratification increases
  5. Telling others about worries, fears and problem instead of going to God with them.
  6. Guilt for not doing enough in any area of life.
  7. General apathy for life.

Spiritual vertigo usually hits me when I…

  1. Let down my guard.
  2. Get too busy and fail to consistently apply the basics (prayer, Bible study, fellowship & praise).
  3. Let others negatively impact my attitude.
  4. Forget to steer clear of comparisons.
  5. Let circumstances dictate the existence of peace and joy.
  6. Let another person shake my faith.
  7. Get overwhelmed with life.

Whether my own fault or the result of a fallen world (usually a combination of both), God allows spiritual vertigo to motivate me toward change. Perhaps He wants me to accept a new level of leadership or confront a wayward friend. Or maybe He simply wants me to remember my dependence on Him as I realize my utter helplessness in a world spinning out of control.

Coming soon… The Cure for Spiritual Vertigo.

DISCUSSION: Please share any experiences with vertigo, physical or spiritual in the comments.

5 Ways to Show Appreciation

Appreciation Word Art

October is Minister Appreciation Month. Designating a month to show appreciate to church leadership is a great idea, but it is unfortunate if that’s the only time appreciation is shown. It’s sort of like telling your spouse you love them only on Valentine’s Day.

And really, showing appreciation extends well beyond leadership. Everyone likes to be appreciated. If you say you don’t need it, you’re wrong. Receiving appreciation fuels a fire that helps people continue through tough times and to be ever better in good.

Since October is Minister Appreciation month, let’s use the ministers in my church as a framework for discussing ways to show appreciation to anyone at anytime.

How to Show Appreciation

Showing appreciation effectively involves connecting with who a person is and how that person unique impacts your life. This list provides ways of thinking about appreciation that will hopefully trigger ideas for showing appreciation regularly.

1. Make a personal connection.

“Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him.” ~ Booker T. Washington

Our Minister of Music also teaches choir at our Middle and High Schools. He’s a gifted vocal instructor for sure. Recently, he invited my oldest son to start playing keyboards on our church’s worship team. My son, a shy introvert, felt quite nervous and scared at first. But our worship leader helped him feel comfortable by giving him the level of responsibility that stretched him just a bit. And each time he plays, my son gets stretched a bit more. Slowly, our Minister of Music is increasing my son’s confidence. The patience he’s showing my son and the confidence he’s helping him gain means a tremendous amount to me, and I truly appreciate what he’s doing with and for my son.

Appreciate people for the ways they impact the areas that are most important to you.

2. Consider what you admire.

“I would rather be able to appreciate things I cannot have than to have things I am not able to appreciate.” ~ Elbert Hubbard

Often, what I admire in others involves a skill, talent or ability that I simple don’t possess. Take working with kids under the age of 10. I’ve tried it, and I just am not very good at it. The PreSchool Director at our church is gifted at working with kids. She shows seemingly unending patience with anything from discipline problems to toilet training to disputes among the kids. I truly admire not only her patience with them but her ability to get them to focus and actually learn too. She amazes me.

Appreciate people for what they can do so well that you cannot.

3. Acknowledge what inspires you.

“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” ~ Voltaire

Some people simply inspire for having a servant’s heart. Our Missions Pastor is such a person. She always has a great attitude and is welcoming to anyone and everyone who walks through the doors of our church. She inspires me to be nicer and kinder and to have a better attitude toward serving.

Appreciate people for how they inspire you to be a better person.

4. Notice potential.

“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being.” ~ Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe

Our Youth Pastor holds tremendous leadership potential. He has grown so much over the past 5 years, and it’s exciting to see him becoming what God called him to be. Each time he preaches, he improves. Each time he organizes an event, it’s better than the last. He’s constantly learning and growing and improving. I appreciate his willingness to always be learning & growing.

Appreciate people for what you see them becoming.

5. Go with the obvious.

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

There’s so much to appreciate about our Senior Pastor.  He’s funny & compassionate. He’s known as a “grace pastor.” On a personal level, he takes the time to acknowledge when I do something and to help me see areas where I need to grow. He loves His kids and his family. His continually sparks something in me to want to shine brighter.

Appreciate people for the obvious differences they make in your life.

Regular Appreciation

“At the very least, do the very best… pray for them.” ~ Pastor Steve Miller

Appreciation should happen regularly, not just when a month or day comes up declaring a focus on appreciating someone. Scripture tells us part of our duty as Christians involves encouraging one another, and appreciation certainly does that. Take time this month to encourage & appreciate your ministers, but don’t stop there. Look for ways to regularly appreciate all the people in your life.

“Encourage each other and build each other up.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:11

DISCUSSION: What suggestions do you have for showing appreciation for others?

Teaching. Learning. Leading. Following.

Everyone teaches. Everyone learns. Everyone leads. Everyone follows. These exist as passive or active realities in every person’s life. These truths confront me daily, and I must choose whether they live in a positive or negative way.

You get to make the same choice. Everyone makes this choice, some deliberately and intentionally, others by letting life happen to them and allowing negative habits and influences to shape their existence.

Several sources combined to stir my thoughts on this topic.

sf_GoMakeDisciples_0010_Group 1Are you just a spectator in The Great Commission?

My view of The Great Commission expanded recently as I changed from just seeing it as a whole to better understanding each individual part. The inescapable aspect of it that seems to be gripping me more and more involves teaching.

“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

In my observations of the church, we are pretty good at the making and baptizing (or at least focusing there). But, sometimes, the “teach” part seems neglected. Well, I guess more so teaching to be disciples. We’re also pretty good at teaching to serve, an important part of being a disciple.

But what troubles me, and what my mind struggles putting into words, I find expressed well by the discovery of Bill Hybels (founder of the Willow Creek Church movement) when he surveyed his own members. Here’s what Hybels discovered:

“Heavy involvement in church programs did not translate into spiritual growth and maturity.”

In the article “What Non-Christians Really Think of Us,” the late Charles Colson discussed the following:

“What the Church needs to do is to make disciples, to grow people in the faith, not be spectators. We must teach them what Christians believe and how to live out these doctrines in all of life. Like Hybels, church leaders need to examine whether they are making disciples and encouraging holy living.”

On a personal level, this translate into looking into my own role as a teacher and a leader. At the same time, I must examine my own learning as well as following.

Before we begin discussing these thoughts, consider the perspectives the following resources provide.

schoolChristian Faith at Work – Is Everyone Gifted to Be a Teacher?

The post “Is Everyone Gifted to Be a Teacher?” by Chris Patton at Christian Faith at Work begins a series addressing the idea that every person’s calling involves being a teacher. While not everyone holds a formal teaching position and not everyone may be described as a “gifted” teacher, every Christian should teach others. Read the series to find out more. It’s well worth your time.

The Leadership Mandate – Book Recommendationdansblack_3D1-890x1087

My friend Dan Black from Dan Black on Leadership recently published a book titled, The Leadership Mandate. While reading it, two main thoughts immediately came to mind.

First, the book provides a terrific exploration of the basic elements of leadership. The elements Dan discusses must exist in order for someone to be an effective leader. What I liked the most about the elements he lists and discusses is that the first one involves leading yourself since an effective leader must lead himself successfully.

Second, my boys need to read this book. Because Dan simplifies the essential elements of leadership so well, The Leadership Mandate is a great resource for new leaders wanting specific action items that will help develop them as leaders.  (My 14-year-old did in fact read the book & found some helpful tips he plans to immediately apply.)

(Note: When you purchase  The Leadership Mandate now through October 7th, you will receive some terrific bonuses – 6 of them actually! Check out Dan Black on Leadership for more details on these bonuses!)

Time for Discussion

Do we have any business being teachers if we are not also students?

And, what effectiveness can we have as godly leaders if we are not also godly followers?

Is every Christian called to teach?

How does learning to lead yourself successfully fit into The Great Commission, if at all?

Lastly, how can the church improve at teaching disciples?

God as Savior, Friend, Daddy & Husband

For the first 28 years of my life, any desire for obedience to God stemmed from the idea of “should.” I should go to church. I should tithe. I should read my Bible and pray daily.

Unfortunately, “should” fails to stand up well under the desires and emotions of the flesh. “Want” provides a much stronger motivation than “should.”

Around age 28, the idea of a personal relationship with Jesus blossomed in my thinking. I already believed He died for my sins, but I never realized He wanted friendship with me too. My friendship with Jesus fulfilled a long-held, deep need inside of me for a loyal and encouraging friend who refused to give up on me even on my ugliest of days.

About 7 years after this paradigm shift, the realization of still more came into my awareness. Not only did God send His Son to die for my sins and save me from eternity in a fiery pit, and not only did Jesus desire a best friendship with me, God also wanted to fill the daddy void in my life.

While I never doubted that my earthly father loved me, I felt like he loved me because he “should.” His lack of involvement in my life left a void – a hole in my little-girl heart – that impacted me more than I realized for many years. One day about 6 years ago, God filled that void. I crawled into His lap and let Him father me in a way I had needed for so long. He became my Abba Father.

Savior. Best Friend. Daddy. Desperate needs fulfilled by one Holy God.

four words

But there’s still more…

“And it shall be, in that day,” says the Lord, “that you will call Me ‘my Husband,’ and no longer call Me ‘my Master.’” (Hosea 2:16)

The idea of calling God “my Husband” seemed quite strange at first. But as I experienced the unconditional love and acceptance, the encouragement and devotion of my earthly husband, I began to understand that this most precious earthly relationship provides a glimpse of the relationship God desires with me.

This relationship with my husband comes only after 20 years of trials and struggles, hurts and offenses. It comes through humbleness, forgiveness, courage and faith. Only because of wilderness times and times of seeming barrenness of hope can my marriage now flourish.

This same wilderness experience also taught me about God’s work in my life to draw me closer to Him as well as to increased intimacy (a word we’ve really misconstrued) with Him. Bob Sorge in The Fire of Delayed Answers says it this way…

“God doesn’t impose the wilderness on us; instead, He puts a desire within us for His higher purpose, and so He allures us into the wilderness. We weren’t asking for the wilderness; we were asking for more of Christ. But God knew the wilderness would be the place where we’d gain more of Christ.” (Chapter 3)

Because of my earthly view of intimacy and my warped vision of what marriage “should” look like, getting to the idea of God has my husband fails to come easily. Yet, the recent growth of abundance in my own marriage after a long period in the wilderness opens the door to yet another paradigm shift, yet another dimension of the complete person of God.

“During the season of dryness and confinement, the Lord transforms our relationship with Him from Master/servant relationship to that of a Husband/wife relationship. God intends the prison to awaken deep bridal affections for the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Sorge, Chapter 3)

Because I experienced Jesus as Savior, I could then see Him as my Best Friend. As my Best Friend, the idea of Him also fulfilling the role of Daddy became possible in my thinking. And now, because these aspects of who He is exist as foundational realities that drive my faith, the shift of thinking to Him as Husband has begun.

And in this change in my thinking about God, I wonder if finally the impetus behind my obedience will now permanently move from fear and “should” to one of love and a desire to please Him.

DISCUSSION: How has your view of God changed over your lifetime? What do you think about the idea of a Husband/wife relationship between believers and God?

Welcome to the book club discussion of The Fire of Delayed Answers by Bob Sorge. Each blogger in the group is reading and then sharing on what inspires, encourages, or challenges them. We’ll be taking 2 weeks per chapter. Our co-facilitators are Jason and Sarah – other active participants include Dusty, Glynn, Joell, TC and Rick. If you know of others, please leave a link for their post in the comments.