Tag: humility

Four Tips for Young Leaders

Young leaders live with tension. We have the pulse of the community around us, but sometimes lack the wisdom of life experience. We can see with fresh eyes the unhealthy patterns in an organization, but sometimes we focus on change that’s not the highest priority. We can have a vision for hope for the future, but that can come across as a slam to the success of the past.

It’s not easy being labeled a young leader. As I look back at the opportunities afforded to me, I have many instances that I would label “handle that differently.”

Perhaps you have felt the same way. God has placed you in a role in the marketplace, church, or school. The people around you see your desire to lead and change a community for the better. On one hand, people love your insight and ingenuity; on the other hand, you may feel that people have put you in the box stamped young.

Last week, I was sitting with my mentor, Mike. We were discussing the tensions of young leadership. He gave me four practical tips in that conversation that I thought would be important to share with you:

1. Ask good questions

One of the frustrations people have of young leaders is that they have an answer for everything. Many of us have a lot to say, but the question is, are people ready for it? When we begin by asking good questions, it helps us create a bridge of understanding. It can also lead to better responding to the feedback that we desire to give. Asking good questions slows us down and communicates that we want to listen. Wait to talk.

2. Wait to talk.

Have you been in a meeting when the same person responds first to every question? That can be off-putting and the constant talking can render a voice ignored. I confess that at times I have failed here. Why should we wait? Because it gives other people a chance to respond. Another person might give the same insight, which would allow you the opportunity to agree with them. Instead of speaking, take a moment to write your thoughts down. And be patient.

3. Compliment specifically.

In talking with older leaders, I often hear how they feel young leaders critique more than affirm. One way to lose influence is to be the person that points out more problems than solutions. When something goes well, compliment specifically with an email, text, or note pointing it out. It tells people you are listening, watching, and observing.

4. Say YES as much as you can.

Many leadership books talk about the importance of saying “NO” to things that don’t fit the vision of the organization. At times, we need to narrow our focus.  As young leaders, a “YES” can be an opportunity to build a bridge. A lot of times when we say “NO” it has less to do with vision and more to do with convenience. That’s not always a bad thing, but if you become the person who constantly says “NO” then people might stop asking you. Look at ways you can support the people around you. That’s what saying “YES” can do.

Whether you’re a young leader or not, I hope these tips help you in your role. What other tips might you offer to young leaders? Share them in the comment section below.

Photo produced by Štefan Štefančík

Reads of the Week | 12/19/2015

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Start your weekend with these five articles in the Reads of the Week.

Where Can You Turn When You Lack Purpose in Life? by Jeff Martin

We can suffer from restlessness and wondering our purpose. Martin does a phenomonally helps us to radically simplify our lives through God’s perspective.

The Light of the World by Bryan Marvel

Our homes and streets are filled with lights during Christmas. Marvel calls us to stop and remember the meaning behind the lights.

Advent Anxiety by Chuck DeGroat

“Anxiety is the enemy of Advent.” DeGroat provides us with a timely article for the week leading up to Christmas.

‘O Holy Night’: A Call to Fall to Your Knees by Emma Green

The Atlantic has featured the 12 Days of Christmas Songs. Green gives an insightful background to O Holy Night with a reference to Sufjan Stevens version.

How Beautiful Things are Built from Destruction by Melissa Camara Wilkins

Wilkins helps a have a fuller picture of beauty in the midst of ashes. We can see the reality of the disaster, but we can look to the next chapter.

What were your reads of the week? Share the links in the comment section below.

Photo credit by Aleksi Tappura.

When You’re Tempted to Compare this Christmas

A week from today we celebrate Christmas Eve. Until then, many of us will experience a whirlwind of activities. Wrap the presents. Many of us still have to buy the gifts. Attend whatever party or function left in the schedule. Travel to our Christmas destination. Perhaps, clean the house and cook a meal.

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In the midst of all the exhaustion, we will hear about our friend’s Christmas celebrations. Then you might see the pictures of the perfectly wrapped present under the tree or the neatly set table for dinner. One friend may get the Lexus with the bow on top. We will face the temptation to compare:
They create the greatest traditions for their family.
Why won’t my kids sit and smile during the pictures?
Their decorations far exceed my own.
They got invited to this party and I did not
Look at the gifts they gave their family.

Luke 1:39-45 depicts Mary and Elizabeth sharing their news of expecting children. It seems like one of the least talked about Christmas stories. Both women have a radical visitation from God. Elizabeth old years will have a son John, who will prepare the way for Jesus. Mary will have Jesus, the Savior of the world.

I think I have tended to focus on the fact, that John leaped in Elizabeth’s womb when Mary arrives (vs. 41). We consider the miracle and the celebration of each of their birth announcement. Leon Morris in his Luke Commentary makes this observation:

We should not miss the absence of all jealousy in Elizabeth’s attitude to Mary. The older woman, who had received a blessing from the Lord, might well have tried to guard her position jealously. But in genuine humility, she recognized the greater blessing God had given Mary (pg. 83).

In the midst of Elizabeth’s joy for her own child, she did not miss the coming of Jesus through Mary. She could have asserted her own position with God. Rather, through God’s presence, she could see that Immanuel was to come through Mary.

Through the next week, we will face the temptation to compare, envy, and think jealous thoughts. What would happen if we began to take the attitude of Elizabeth? We would then rejoice in other’s rejoicing. Even more so, you and I could see Christ at work in other people.

Contentment and gratitude oppose comparison because they remind us of the grace God has given us. In this season, the Good News of the Gospel communicates to us how Christ has given far more than we could ever deserve by coming to earth. Through His death and resurrection, we have received life.

Let’s consider Elizabeth in this season; recognizing how Christ blesses us and others. How will you guard against comparison this Christmas? How can you see Christ in others this Christmas?

Photo credit by Chelsea Francis.

2015 in Review

Have you reviewed 2015? You might have had a challenging year, and you want to turn the page towards 2016. You might have deemed this past year as one of the best. Most of us probably would label this year somewhere in the middle.

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I took time to review 2015. Taking time to reflect on the past helps us identify themes. We can begin to see patterns within our relationships, work, goals, and attitudes. As I looked back, I saw points where God was at work in me. Through certain situations and relationships, He brought me to areas where I needed to grow.

Here’s my review from 2015:

1. Humility.

Robyn and I practice choosing a word for the year. I chose humility. It came out of the realization of some pride in my life. This characteristic moves us from seeing ourselves and on to seeing God at work and noticing other people. I can tend to see through my own view. Humility challenged me to have another’s perspective. We can start by asking, “God, what you are doing in me? What are you doing in others?”

Humility is not just thinking of yourself less, but recognizing God and people. It’s the realization that we don’t have all the answers. Along the way, we experience grace from God because we find we need it.

2. Power Down the Defenses.

I saw a little the ugliness of my need to be right in 2015. You can be right for all the wrong reason. You can even win an argument but lose the relationship. Powering up our defenses causes us to miss out. We miss the opportunity to understand and the chance to hear feedback. Along the way, I found some things aren’t worth fighting.

Not every piece of criticism is a personal attack. Releasing our need to defend ourselves frees us. The Gospel moves us from seeing our value from people pleasing or rightness. We can begin to see our value coming from Jesus Christ in us.

3. Consistency and Faithfulness Matters.

Never underestimate the power of showing up. I found out this year over and over, how much it mattered for people when you show. It’s not just about saying, but following through. On top of that, people feel supported when you stay longer and help clean up. Every time take the opportunity to be consistent, we build trust in the people around us.

4. Hold the Jokes.

A few friends and my wife invited me not to use self-deprecating humor. Joking about yourself can become a defense mechanism. If I put myself down first, then others can’t do it. Perhaps at times, we try to connect with people with our flaws, yet it comes across awkwardly. Rather than pointing to ourselves, we can open the conversation for others. Instead of humoring ourselves, we can have a better discussion about growing.

You may want to take time to reflect on 2015. Consider the lessons you learned and where you have grown. Perhaps in reflection of the last year, you’ll find where you can grow for the next year.

What would you review from 2015? Share in the comment section below.

Photo by Joshua Jackson.

Into the Wilderness

When have you gone into the wilderness? I moved to Missouri in the middle of winter. The Midwestern brown fields had turned into a few feet of snow. Not the ideal first couple weeks. More than the weather, it took longer than I expected to adjust to a new community. I began to wrestle with God’s presence in my life; did I miss Him on this decision or did He, in fact, put me in this awkward place. Describing Missouri as a wilderness, fit in more ways than one for me.

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Finding yourself in the wilderness causes you to have more questions than answers. Doubt swirls like a Midwestern tornado. Has God hidden from me? Will anyone who understands come along side of me? How do I leave this place?

Monotony tires our spiritual lives. Attending church requires effort. Engaging Scripture lacks illumination from the Holy Spirit. Prayer seems transactional rather than relationally connecting with God. We even fear to share about the wilderness to those closest to us in community.

The wilderness brought space in my life for new experiences. I began to reconnect with family and made new friends. The search for God caused me to find Him differently. Eugene Peterson in Leap Over the Wall talks about the wilderness:

I readily acknowledge that this circumstantial wilderness is a terrible, frightening, and dangerous place; but I also believe that’s a place of beauty. There are things to be seen, heard, and experienced in this wilderness that can be seen, heard, and experienced nowhere else. When we find ourselves in the wilderness, we do well to be frightened we also do well to be alert, opened-eyed. In the wilderness we’re plunged into an awareness of danger and death; at the very same moment we’re plunged, if we let ourselves be, into an awareness of the great mystery of God and the extraordinary preciousness of life (pg. 74)

I’ll never forget one of the extraordinary moments in the wilderness. Bill, a boss from college, came to Missouri for a conference. He called me and asked to meet for lunch. In theses seasons, you’re a little more attuned to God bringing the right people into your life. We talked about the difficulty and beauty of my time in Missouri. He began to share his story about the ups and downs. He related t me in such a way not just to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but see God’s presence in the moment.

The wilderness invites us to listen more intently especially to those who have gone through a similar season. This place causes questions for us because we need a new perspective on ourselves, others, and God. Our hearts grow in grace, humility, compassion, and joy. We lean less on having perfect circumstances or control to rediscover the promises of God.

You might find yourself in the wilderness. Embrace the questions. Listen well. Perhaps, this season might invite to experience God in different ways.

How has your life changed by going into the wilderness? Share in the comment section below.

Photo credit by Ahmed Radwan.

Articles of the Week

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Here are five articles from this past week that challenged, encouraged, and provided perspective for me.

Poppo’s Boys  by Jordan Ritter Conn

Conn shares the fascinating chapter of NBA champion coach Gregg Popovich. Prior to joining the San Antonio Spurs, he coached a small college basketball team.

What Get’s People to Want What’s Right? by Mandy Smith

Smith calls into question using “should” as a motivation especially in the church. She invites people to move away from guilt and towards love in our hearts for others.

Steadied by Faith After a Humbling Loss by David Gregory

The former moderator of Meet the Press talks about his painful departure. Gregory goes on to give insight on how his faith journey has impacted him.

The Luxury of Silence by John Biguenet

In this world full of noise, silence has come at a premium. Biguenet details the lengths people will take to experience silence.

Why You Need a Mentor by John Sowers

Sowers speaks the importance of finding mentors who encourage and tell the truth in your life. The right mentor will help you frame the circumstances of life and find your voice.

What articles challenged, encouraged or gave you perspective this week? Go ahead and share them in the comment section below.

Photo credit to Alex Wigan from Life of Pix.

A Prayer for a Transformed Heart

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Search my heart – Lord, you see every motivation and attitude in my heart.
The pride that causes me to rely on myself rather than asking for help.
The arrogance that places myself ahead of others.
The bitterness and resentment I hold against those who hurt me.
The anxiety that keeps from me from experiencing the life as You intended.

If I’m truly honest, I don’t always see my own heart as I ought.
I confess to You my blindness and unresponsiveness to my hardened heart.
Forgive me for focusing on everyone else’s issues and neglecting to see my own.

Your grace transforms our hearts.
A heart of stone becomes a heart of flesh in Your presence.
It’s not just a surface touch up or behavior modification, You invite us to experience change from the inside out.
Because our hearts are the wellspring of our lives and out of the abundance of our hearts our mouths speak.

Lord, I ask You to search my heart.
Exchange the pride for humility so that I may rightly see You, others, and myself.
Move me from arrogance to compassion towards others.
Heal the bitterness and resentment in me, so that I can forgive those who have hurt me.
Replace my anxiety with trust in the One, who feeds the sparrows.

Photo by Dave Meier from Picography.

The Surprising Presence of Immanuel – An Advent Reflection

Today’s church-wide Advent reading came from Luke 1:46-55. Mary’s prayer (the Magnificat) responds to the shocking news of the coming of the Savior. Luke captures the surprising arrival of Immanuel; this Savior comes in the context of humility and mercy. A vast different arrival than what the religious contemporaries of that time imagined. He comes as a child in a manger as opposed to a gaudy coronation of a kingdom.

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Mary’s story mirrors our stories. Immanuel makes His presence known to us in ways that we could never imagine or expect. In many ways Mary’s surprise is our surprise; It’s a miracle that God comes to earth in the first place. Lowly shepherds celebrate His birth. Immanuel is born in minuscule Bethlehem and not the grandeur of Jerusalem or Rome. Luke highlights the humility of Mary, because the people who recognize God’s appearing know who He is and who they are.

Advent invites us to reflect on when Immanuel has appeared in our lives. I was reminded of the past year.  There were times when God surprisingly graced me with His goodness and opportunities I never deserved. Yet, I recognized Him the most during the seasons of difficulties and challenges. The humility God gave Mary is still something He is teaching me.

He appears in the midst of our darkness and disappointments. Often, we notice Him in the quiet and the ordinary. In looking back, He answers our prayers by mercifully redirecting us or even by saying no. We see Him in the minute details of smiles and tears. Even on a day full of snow, the never to be repeated flakes speak of Him.

Luke and Mary teach us about the heart that notices His surprising presence. It’s in this context of humility and mercy; His grace given to us allows us to recognize Him.

Let this Advent remind us the surprising arrival of Immanuel in the Gospels and also how He still surprises us with His presence in our lives.

How have you experienced the surprising presence of Immanuel?

Photo credit to Jessie Schnall, you can see more of her work at Portraits by Jessie.

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