Sunday, August 4, 2013

Knowing yourself

I have spent some time in recent posts on being honest with yourself about strengths and weaknesses as part of character.  Being honest with yourself and really knowing yourself aren't quite the same thing. Knowing yourself is key in accomplishing the purposes you were created for. 

If you know yourself, then you can head off big mistakes. When you know your own weaknesses and strengths you are better able to appraise a situation and make better decisions about the tasks you are facing. If you know that you aren't great at handling details then you will know in advance that you need to enlist a detail-oriented person to help you accomplish a task full of little pieces. Acknowledging the weakness enables you to recognize and avoid potential pitfalls to achieve a greater chance of success.

Knowing yourself enables you to protect yourself and others. I know that when I have been  in situations full of sensory stimulation and social interaction then I am going to reach a point of overload. When that happens I am more likely to become irritable and it becomes difficult for me to think clearly in situations that require my attention. I just don't have enough emotional energy left. I have learned to recognize when I am reaching my limits and to plan some quiet times for recharging. This puts me in a better frame of mind to handle the necessary intricacies of personal interactions and decision-making and protects others from the negative effects of my weakness. 

Knowing yourself enables you to make better choices and have a more effective impact. When you see your own strengths and weaknesses clearly, when you know what motivates you or triggers a meltdown, you can make choices that maximize your ability to accomplish God's purpose for your life. You will be able to put supports around your weaknesses- people to help you, guidelines to protect you- and make way for your strengths in a way that enables maximimum impact and effectiveness. It isn't a lack of faith to acknowledge and protect weakness. It is a recognition that God built us with weaknesses so that we would recognize our need for Him and His wisdom, and our need for others. We are designed for interconnection, with God and with people. 

Know yourself and maximize your God-given potential. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

How to Navigate Transition

Transition is a necessary part of moving forward in the purposes of God for your life. You must transition from the comfortable and familiar to the unfamiliar. In the beginning you began to imagine that life could be different. Now you begin to see it changing. How do you handle it?

Accept the mess. It’s just a fact of life. Times of transition are messy. Have you ever had your kitchen remodeled or even simply painted a room? Everything has to be moved out of order to make room for the new. We have to accept the temporary mess in order to enjoy the finished result.  The worst part is you may have to make the mess yourself in order to accomplish the transition! Don’t avoid disorder. It is a necessary part of creating a new order.

Keep your eyes on the goal. As you accept the mess as part of the process, it becomes easier to focus on the goal rather than the disorientation of disorganization. As you accept the discomfort of the disorder it becomes easier to envision the time when order is restored and you can appreciate the magnificent change that has happened in your life. Envision that new order as you journey through the transition. This is what you have worked toward. You are almost there!

Grace is available. One of the wisest statements I have ever heard was this, “God doesn't give us the grace to anticipate. He gives us the grace to go through it.” There is no grace for worry. Worry about the expected mess of transition might prevent you from moving forward in the purpose that you were created for. Do you really want to miss it?! Once you accept the mess and look toward the goal you will find that grace is available in abundance to walk the path of transition. The grace of God doesn't necessarily make the time of transition easier, but it makes the transition bearable so that the discomfort doesn't distract you from the desired end. Doesn't that make it worth the stress?

Hang in there, Friend! You are going to make it! Transition means you have almost arrived at what was once a dream. Don't give up now!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Semper Gumby

Let’s face it. Every single one of us thinks that we know the best way to do… everything! As we move into positions of leadership and responsibility we are going to find ourselves making more and more plans. The only problem is that the more responsibility we have the more the completion of our plans depends on other people! We have to learn to hold our plans loosely and bend when necessary.

Work with what you have not with what you don’t have. Now that you are the person in the captain’s chair you get to “boldly go where no one has gone before”, right? Only if your crew is prepared and willing to go with you. Accomplishing your plan requires the support and gifting of others. If they aren't ready, then it’s time for you to adjust, not whip them into shape. The people under your care are a much more valuable resource than you can ever know. Work toward helping them be ready to” boldly go” and eventually you will.

Be humble enough to accept someone else’s suggestion. You've thought it through, prayed about it and decided on what you believe is the best way to accomplish the task. You have made the plan and then…someone else makes a suggestion on how to do it differently. Deep down inside you know that their way is better, but you are finding it hard to actually say the words.  What’s most important? Doing things your way or accomplishing the task? Come on! Swallow your pride! You can do it!

Semper Gumby. Old folks like me remember Gumby from our childhood. I actually had a Gumby doll. Gumby was very flexible. You could bend him into all kinds of positions and he didn't break. I don’t know where the phrase originated, but the first time I heard someone say “Semper Gumby” I knew exactly what it meant:  Always be willing to bend. You can call it Murphy’s Law if you want, but things will usually not turn out exactly as planned. If you and I can accept that truth as we begin to put our plans into place we will be much more ready to bend when necessary. “Blessed are the flexible for they will not be bent out of shape!”

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Are YOU willing?

When the opportunity you've been hoping for arrives will you be ready and recognize it? "The secret to knowing the will of God is being willing to do whatever He says." I remember reading that years ago and it has stuck with me ever since. 

Sometimes life leads us down unexpected paths. We have been getting ourselves ready for new adventures, but if we aren't ready to accept that adventure in an unexpected package we may miss it. 

The truth is sometimes to accept that unexpected package we have to let go of something familiar and treasured. Learning to hold all things loosely is a necessary skill, but not an easy one. 

Today is one of those letting-go-in-order-to-receive days for me. I know that what lies ahead is exciting, glorious, even hoped for. But it means leaving behind people and a place that I have learned to love.

 I always knew my time there would be temporary, but temporary can mean years and years invested mean it can become difficult to leave.  Honestly, I wasn't willing to leave until I remembered that in order to really know what God is saying I have to be willing to do whatever He says. 

The most encouraging words I've heard in the past few letting-go days also came from an unexpected source. "God calls and you have to say 'yes'." That truly sums it up best. 

So, off I go outside my comfortable "box". Want to come along?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Character is Key

If you are in a time of transition, what is the one thing you most need to focus on? What area of your life will help you trough this transition more than anything else? Is it skill or organization? Planning and resources?  Nope. It's character.  Character is the area to focus on if you want to successfully navigate transition. 

Character is solid.  Character is the bedrock you build your life on. It is the one thing that comes with you in every situation. It is the part of you that causes others to find you trustworthy and reliable.  Your situation may change, but string character remains stable. 

Character is not unemotional, but not driven by emotion. Character is driven by truth. In the midst of difficult and trying situations a person of strong character does not allow emotion to direct their decisions. Especially in times of transition,  emotions can be very strong. A person of character steps back and does their best to evaluate the situation based on objective truth rather than feeling. This can be tremendously difficult, but once you are on the other side of the upheaval you will reap the fruit of it. 

Character uses words carefully. Mean what you say, say what you mean. Pressure can cause us to give a quick answer when we may need time to effectively evaluate a situation. Character doesn't make empty promises or threats. Think before you speak and then say only what is helpful for the person you are speaking to.  Do what you say you will do. Can you be counted on?

Character doesn't just happen. It takes effort and will take even more effort during a time of transition. If you make character your focus you will make it through successfully and be even stronger on the other side.  

Saturday, June 8, 2013

How to Be the Real Thing, Part 3: Honest with God

Are you really honest with God or do you tell Him what you think He wants to hear? That is a danger that many people fall into. They pray what they think they should pray instead of telling God how they really feel. If you want to be genuine and authentic, then honesty with God is absolutely essential.

Tell Him the truth. He already knows anyway. Why do we think we need to "butter God up" by telling Him what we think He wants to hear from us? I mean, really. He is God! Who do we think we are fooling? Our piously worded prayers when we are angry or dying inside lack authenticity and we know it. God does too. So why try to sound more spiritual and holy by the words we choose when we talk to God? The most holy and spiritual thing you and I can do is to tell God how we really feel. When we do that we acknowledge  that He really does know us and that He really is the God who sees.

He can handle how you really feel. In Psalm 142 David says "I pour out my complaint before Him. I declare my trouble before Him." (v. 2) David demonstrates that God doesn't only want to hear the good stuff from us. He wants it ALL. So whether you are up or down, you can tell God all about it. I mean ALL about it. Don't fix it up and make it sound pretty for God. He can handle the down and dirty and when you are honest with Him about it, you are giving Him permission to really help you with your feelings and your situation.

Being honest with God will make you more able to be honest with yourself and others. This is what happens when we are honest with God. In the process of being honest with Him, we have to be honest with ourselves and when we are honest with ourselves, we will be more honest with others. To be genuine and authentic, "the Real Thing" in all our relationships and in the place of influence we are stepping into, we have to be honest in every area of our lives. If we start by being honest with God, the rest will most definitely follow.

Monday, May 27, 2013

How to be the Real Thing, Part 2: Honest With Others

Complete and absolute honesty is the key to being the ”real thing”, We can never be truly effective or successful until we are real. It’s something we are all working on. Last time we talked about being honest with yourself. Here are a few more thoughts to help you in the process. In order to be genuine we must also be honest with others.

Always tell the truth as graciously as possible. We have all heard the phrase “a little white lie”. The implication is that a “white lie” is an acceptable lie, even a necessary one to spare someone’s feelings. But a lie is a lie is a lie. It’s never really okay.

I tend to be very aware of other people’s feelings and try really hard, sometimes too hard, to avoid hurting them. There was a particular time when I answered someone’s question in a way that was meant to spare the person’s feelings, yet I left the conversation feeling uneasy. In talking it out with my husband, he pointed out that I was feeling uneasy because I had lied. I had never thought of it that way and the revelation shocked me! It’s been very important to me to tell the truth and equally important not to hurt people’s feelings, but at that moment I realized that sometimes the two can fight for supremacy. In those cases the truth must win. It can be delivered in a gracious and loving way, but in order for us to be authentic we must tell the truth!

If you can't do it, say so. As we step out into new territory we are going to be asked to take on new responsibilities. It’s going to feel really good to be sought after and offered new opportunities. It is going to be tempting to say “yes” to every offer and every opportunity. In order to remain genuine you and I need to honestly evaluate each opportunity based on our actual abilities, schedule, etc. It can be really hard to say “no”. We can’t be concerned about the other person’s reaction. We need to be most concerned with being honest about our God-given capabilities and circumstances. It’s necessary in our quest to be the “real thing”.

People-pleasing causes dishonesty. This is a huge area of potential downfall for most of us, whether we realize it or not. We are often unaware when our responses are motivated by people-pleasing. We all want to be loved, appreciated, and affirmed. We want people to notice our good work, our strong character, our ability to face challenges. We will tend to tell the best about ourselves and leave out the faults. We will tend to say “yes” to people because we don’t want to make them upset with us.

In order to grow in being the “real thing”, authentic and genuine, we need to evaluate how much we are motivated by people-pleasing. The only way to overcome it is to begin to recognize it. When you get right down to the core there is really only One worth pleasing. He is more easily pleased than we think, and is most pleased when we are truthful since He is the Truth.

Don’t hesitate to be truthful with others. Be as gracious as you can. Make your goal to be authentic and genuine rather than to please people. Make your goal to please God instead. You will find it much more satisfying!