Thursday, April 14, 2016

What Communicators Can Learn From Donald Trump
(You Can Learn Something from Everyone!)



“What is the fascination with Donald Trump?  I don’t get it.  I’m stumped about what people – especially Christians, see in him, and why so many are following him.”

I see a variation of this statement on Facebook at least once a day.   

Donald Trump isn’t my candidate.  My choice has already dropped out. This post isn't about my choice for president, for quite frankly I'm undecided Many say it's going to come down to the lesser of two evils, come November 8. I don't believe that. I believe what we will eventually be faced with is the evil of two lessers. But I digress...

The goal of this post is to not to promote anyone. I want to share my thoughts on the fascination factor as well as give those who preach, as well as anyone who communicates publicly -- something to think about.  I'm a firm believer, we can learn something from every person and every conversation. The lessons from Trump are rich, pun intended.

There are two reasons many people have chosen Donald Trump as their candidate. There are others I'm sure, but these are the two main ones that I see.

The first reason has nothing to do with communication.  Marc Nuttle, former advisor to President Reagan, reports that 85% of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track, and 81% of Americans believe the government is corrupt. Corrupt is a strong word. This means the majority of Americans don’t just believe the government is inefficient or disorganized. They believe the government is absolutely corrupt.   

Nuttle brings the point forward that when you pick up an apple out of a barrel of apples and it's rotten, do you choose more from that barrel? Probably not. You’ll select a whole new barrel to get your apple from. Because if one is spoiled there are probably more to follow. And you don't want to take a chance. People want to avoid the barrel with the spoiled apples. So they go to the one candidate who is not only outside of the establishment, but scares the establishment out of their minds. If a candidate frightens the establishment, that is a confirmation to many, “This is our man!”  

Now, many believe the American people are simply going from one barrel of rotten apples to another, if they choose Trump. But others aren’t convinced.  Have you ever heard the saying, “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t?” It simply means there is less apprehension when you already know what you’re dealing with even if what you are currently dealing with is horrible. The American people know what they have when it comes to the current establishment and according to statistics, most are sick of it.  (Last night, out of curiosity, I looked up the latest Rasmussen poll and it appears at this moment, only 27% of Americans polled believe the United States is headed in the right direction.)
 
Second, and here's where communication comes in -- Trump speaks from the heart. Many people point out – it’s a bad heart. That may or may not be true.  I truly don't know - I'm not his judge. Never-the-less, what I can see is that he speaks extemporaneously, not in polished sound bytes. People underestimate the huge value of that. Sorry, the YUGE value of that. People respond to heart-speaking, as I call it, for good or bad.

Years ago in pastoring I was perplexed when my husband or I would deliver a message or vision cast and somebody in the congregation would come up to us afterwards and say, “I really want you to share your heart…” or “I’m looking forward to pastor sharing his/her heart…” or “I think the church really longs for you to share your heart…” and I’d think, “What do you think we just did???”

Being an established leader now versus a rising one, I realize what the people meant by that. They were saying, “When are we going to hear you share unscripted? When are you going to step away from the pulpit, get away from your notes, look into our eyes and speak into our hearts?”



Everything changed years ago when I read Andy Stanley’s book, Communicating for Change: Seven Keys to Irresistible Communication. I recommend it to anyone who preaches, or for anyone whose vocation is communication. It was the most helpful resource I've ever read on the subject and I continue to read it now and then as a refresher.

I started heart-speaking and it made all the difference.  Let there be no misunderstanding -- I don’t wing it. I study and prepare notes, however when it comes to the time to actually deliver, I either don’t use them, or I use them only as a touch point. A touch-point for me is when I come back to the pulpit to quickly touch base – read the scripture and glance to see what my next point is before I step away again, look into the people’s eyes and say what’s in my heart.  And if I'm presenting a vision casting I never use any notes - at all. I've found more than ever in those moments, it's important to maintain eye contact the entire time.  

I’ve noticed that much greater response comes at the conclusion when I speak 20 minutes from my heart than 40 minutes of sharing a scripted presentation.  (Yes, I know that is also largely a result of prayer! But I have seen the results with prayer, and both methods of communication. Prayer along with heart-speaking wins every time.) The exception for me would be when I'm asked to present a workshop or seminar where 50 minutes to an hour of speaking is requested and there are a lot of statistics/details that need to be covered. In that case, I utilize notes more. Even so I try as much as possible to step away from them as much as possible.

We also see through Trump's example that the pre-requisite for people to follow you isn't an uncomplicated, perfect life on display.  Prettying things up isn't necessary to relate to people in fact, it can actually be a detriment. 

How does this translate to preaching?

 If I am introduced and begin a message by saying: "Good evening everyone. I'm  Deanna and I'm honored to speak to you tonight. Before I begin my message I want you to know, I've written four books that are out on sale in the lobbyI share many principles of success in these books and you might want to pick them up, not only for you but for a friend. Tonight we've got a special sale going on if you purchase the entire collection. Be sure to make your way to the product table after this session. I'd love to sign your book for you. Alright, let's open our bibles to Matthew 6:25..."  

Nobody gives a rip. Well, I mean, if one of my best friends were there they might respondBut few people in the audience would care about what I just said.  Why should they?

However...

If I am introduced and begin a message by looking directly into the people's eyes and saying, "Good evening everyone. My name is Deanna. There was a time when I had so much overwhelming anxiety in my life, I bit my nails   until they bled every day. I had so much fear I would toss and turn until three or four in the morning. I never imagined myself being free of any of this!   And then one day, Jesus did a work in my life. He can do it in yours too! Maybe you can relate to this. Right now, you are wondering if you can ever be free. God sent me here with a message for you tonight, my friend.  You can be free. If you have your Bible, turn with me to Matthew 6:25..." 


Everyone is tuned in. Not only that, some won't even wait until after service to friend request me on Facebook. They will say, "From the first few sentences of your message, I felt like I had known you forever..."  

People have little time and attention span for those they sense are full of pretense. And they want to know, "What's in this for me?" When you share transparently from the passion deep within about something that affects their life - they move close to you.

Communicators can learn from Trump that a flowery speech and a perfect life isn't a must - but transparency is, as well as talking about the issues that matter most to peopleTo say Trump is crass in some of his debates, press conferences or interviews is an understatement. And, to everyone's amazement, the more uncivilized he is the more people eat up what he says. When someone who heart-speaks about important issues  but does so in an uncouth manner gains millions of followers, what could we accomplish through heart-speaking in an integral, loving way? 

 
Many people can’t understand why Donald Trump has won the hearts of many in the Christian community when he has a prideful, unrepentant, and angry heart. The answer is, they are clearly willing to take a chance on a bad heart as opposed to a heart they have never heard. 



Photo Credits:
Trump sketch: freedigitalphotos.net
Deanna Shrodes photo: Rachael Ann Rice Photography

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

5 Steps to Take When It Doesn't Get Any Better



Reality check: some things don’t get better. That doesn’t mean nothing gets better, but it means some situations won’t. There are adversities in life that are managed – not cured. For instance, you may have diabetes and while it may not be cured it can be managed. There are also relationships that may not experience the improvement desired, but you can navigate them with God's help.

I am a person who lives in the supernatural as well as the natural, and know that God does the impossible. And at the same time, as many miracles as I’ve seen (and there have been a lot) there have been just as many times that what I or others prayed for didn’t happen.

What do you do at that point when something you live with daily is clearly not improving and you need help, STAT? 

Realize YOU Can Get Better Even if This Doesn’t 

Just because one aspect of your life isn’t going well, doesn’t mean everything in your life has to be the same way. The challenge you face may be a big area of your life, but it’s still not your entire life. So first, remember that the totality of your life is greater than this obstacle. Although you can’t change other people and there are situations you don’t have control of, there is one person you can change and that is YOU. So with God’s help and empowerment, change yourself for the better in whatever way you can.  

Develop a Support System 

Whatever you are walking through – don’t walk through it alone. You don’t have to and you weren’t designed to. If you believe you have to go it alone – you’ve believed a lie. Find people you can trust who will be there to listen, to give wisdom and to uphold you in prayer not just during the particularly difficult times but on a regular basis. God never intended any of us to bear the trials of life alone. 

Practice Self-Care 

Dealing with situations that don’t get better – or get worse, is hard work. It drains your energy like nothing else. And while we need to practice good self-care as a general rule, being faithful to do it in the midst of  long-term stress is particularly critical for overall well-being. Whatever you need to do to physically and emotionally invest in yourself – do that. For me this may be taking 15 minutes to do nothing but deeply breathe – to dabbing on essential oils or taking a bath and using my favorite scrubs, to getting the occasional massage. 

Practice Solitude 

Strength for the journey usually isn’t acquired in an atmosphere of noise. When circumstances are at their roughest, I try to get to a quiet place as quickly as possible and recharge. Some of that is because I’m an introvert who requires alone time to replenish. But I believe there is value in this for extroverts too. You don’t build a reservoir of strength in a cacophonous environment. 

Keep Growing In Your Walk With God 

As I’ve already mentioned, handling things that don’t get better is draining. I don’t know how people cope when they don’t have a relationship with God. I talk to God in my head about these issues, sometimes all day long. And He speaks back, giving me wisdom to not only survive but thrive. In times like this more than ever – I need Him. I see that as time goes on, challenges can sometimes worsen and I need to not only maintain my walk with Him but grow to a deeper level where there is a deeper well to draw from.

Pastor Steven Furtick says that we don’t get to choose whether we will be shaken. We only get to choose what we stand on. Without exception the foundation of my relationship in Christ helps me stand in times when things don’t get any better and for a time, may further decline. 

My prayers are with everyone reading this today, as you face whatever trial is bearing down on you. You are not alone.





Photo by Deanna Doss Shrodes

Monday, November 23, 2015

5 Ways to Avoid Posting Things You'll Regret on Social Media



Popping off online with a sarcastic quip when I’m unhappy about something  is one of my biggest temptations. I know I’m not alone in this because I see a lot of people do it, even leaders. The times I engage in this are extremely rare to non-existent however I am sorely tempted many times. I know it's important to have this under control. If I'm going to be effective, there's no question I have to be extremely careful with what I post. My boss and I were talking about leadership one day and he made the remark that the higher we go in leadership the less freedom we have. I couldn't agree more.

Let's say as a pastor, I had a terrible experience in a Sunday morning service where everything went wrong. The sound. The media. Evvvvvverything.  It is tempting for me to go online right afterwards and post, "Why couldn't the rapture have come at exactly 10:45?"  or, "Some Sunday mornings require Xanax." Yeah, I have totally posted stuff like that before. And I know it’s not good. So I try my best to avoid it. Sometimes this requires a Hershey bar. With almonds. And a latte. 

Just because I have a legitimate reason to be upset at times doesn’t mean it’s wise or appropriate to post about it. Usually deep regret follows but it’s too late. Darn screen shotting.

My assistant Erika tells me there are times she is upset and realizes she must avoid all social media until the moment passes. I believe this is wisdom. 

Here are five tried and true ways to avoid media post regret. In addition to avoiding social media until the moment passes, before you post: 


Phone a friend 

Some things I want to rant about on social media are appropriate for a private conversation with a friend but not for public consumption. A friend knows my heart and isn’t going to judge because of what I've said while venting . However, scores of people on social media who don’t know my heart at all would judge. And rightfully so.  Although it doesn’t help to be judged it helps greatly to hear the wisdom of a Godly friend. And most of the time that’s what I receive after I’ve vented, which is valuable.

Breathe Deeply 

Take deep breaths and slowly exhale through your mouth. You can do this anytime - anywhere. The other day I was troubled about something and unfortunately at the time I was in a public setting. I inconspicuously took some deep breaths, exhaled and employed some positive self-talk. "This is small in the grand scheme of things..." I told myself. "In a few weeks this won't even matter..." I thought. "Let it go..." I said to myself. It worked.

Take a Stretch

When something stresses me, I usually feel it in my body. My neck and shoulders become tense and achy.  Rather than pop off with a sarcastic post, I stand up, and stretch my hands up as high as I can and back down again. I tilt my neck from side to side and gently rub the back of it with my hands.  Sometimes I add a dab of essential oil, my favorite being, “Past Tense” by DoTerra.    

Take a walk 

A walk sometimes brings a perspective shift for me. At other times, my feelings about the situation don’t change but I feel more relaxed after I’ve walked it out. Either way, the tempting moment to post something snarky has passed -- and that's what matters. Any time you avoid snark, be proud of yourself. It's part of developing the fruit of the spirit in your life.

Journal it Out

Journaling accomplishes many purposes and for this issue, it provides another outlet for the emotions at hand. It’s a safe and proper place to release whatever is inside. Many times I journal such things as prayers. 

Depending on the severity of whatever has me down, I may do all of these things on the same day. And that’s alright. It’s much preferable to posting something I will later regret. God is so faithful to help me in moments of weakness. He will help you, too.



Photo Credit: freedigitalphotos.net

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

God Told Me I'm Supposed to Be Your Best Friend

Recently I taught a workshop for pastor’s wives and I asked the question, “How many of you have had someone in the church approach you and say, “God told me we’re supposed to be best friends...?"Laughter immediately erupted and lots of heads were nodding and hands raised. 

I went on to say that this pressure comes in various forms – not always the same verbiage – and can be anything from…

“God told me we’re supposed to be best friends…”  to

“I really want to know you more and get closer to you...”  to

“God laid you on my heart and said we're supposed to be close friends...”

Sometimes it comes in the form of someone relentlessly asking for private coffee/lunch times for the purpose of pursuing those things. (Note: there's a difference between spending time such as this for mentoring, discipleship, etc. and developing a close friendship.)

I asked the pastor’s wives gathered in that class if they had experienced anyone actually leaving the church because they didn’t get what they wanted in the way of a close personal friendship with them. As I looked around, most every head was nodding or there was a hand raised.

Years ago there was another female pastor/pastor’s wife who contacted me and told me we had a whole lot in common and they felt we were supposed to be good friends.  I was kind of freaked out by it because of my experience as a pastor’s wife in being pressured at times in the church by those who wanted to be my "best friend."  I never responded to  this person’s repeated attempts to get to know me. Then one day I came across an article online and it was as if I had written it myself. I couldn’t believe how much the author sounded like me. I was even thinking for a moment that it might have been one of my writings that I simply forgot I had submitted for publication. Intrigued by this, I kept reading and at the end of the article noticed that it was this same person who had been contacting me for quite some time. It was then that I realized that this gal and I truly eat out of the same box of Cheerios. I contacted her and said, “I think you might be right. Let's get to know each other a bit more...” We ended up becoming really good friends. What began as an online friendship blossomed into meeting in person and writing together and teaching at some of the same conferences. But, my point is -- I initially resisted all of her attempts to get to know her due to my experiences as a pastor's wife, with people pressuring to “be my best friend” and getting upset when that didn't happen. 

I don’t have the answer to this issue, as far as ways to get it to stop. I don’t believe it will. I believe pastoral leaders will always face pressure like this to some degree. But I do have advice for church people who want to act in wisdom. 

This is for those of you out there who are ready to grow up and be mature in Christ. I say this to people who want to be a church member your pastor or pastor's wife has trust in and feels at ease around. Because you see, when a leader feels someone pressuring them for something they are not comfortable with, they tend to be on guard more around that person. They trust them with less. And even the normal level they go to with trusted church members, they will probably not go to with a person who pressures and feel they need to have a greater formality and boundaries with that person.

Those who are wise will place no expectation of close friendship on the pastor or pastors’ wife. They are your leader first and foremost, not your pal or friend.  They have been called by God and placed there not to be your buddy but to serve as your spiritual leader. 

Whether any relationship develops aside from pastor/congregant  is determined largely by the comfort zone of the pastor or pastor's spouse and the leading of the Lord in their life. There are different levels of relationship, as well.  I may have coffee or go shopping but there is a vast difference in that and sharing intimate details about home or situations in the church. There have always been those who inquire, and pressure me to go to that level, over the years and share personal things about my marriage or things behind the scenes in the church.   

Sometimes people get angry when they cannot have that depth of closeness and they become negative, or leave the church– which is unfortunate.  While is wisdom for a church member to guard against pressuring their pastor or spouse in this way, it’s a wise leader that doesn’t give in to pressure simply to keep someone happy. 

Anything formed out of pressure will one day implode.


 

Photo Credit: Freedigitalphotos.net

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

When Relationships Break and You Desperately Want to Be Whole Again


Have your hopes been dashed into pieces when you tried to make a relationship work and the other person didn’t respond as you wished?

Have you asked someone to forgive you, but  he or she didn’t respond as you desired?

Have you prayed for healing in a relationship, but your prayers haven’t been answered?   

I understand these overwhelming disappointments all too well, as one of the most important relationships in my life was lost. 

I am offering insights from the journey of that devastating experience to help not only those who have faced similar circumstances, but … 

Restored brings a message of hope to everyone that you can be restored, even when a relationship isn’t. 

YOU can be restored, even if the other person doesn’t respond as you wished.
YOU can be restored, even if your spouse leaves you.
YOU can be restored, even if your parent rejects you.
YOU can be restored, even if a friend betrays you.
YOU can be restored, even if you lose the job you love.
YOU can be restored no matter what!

And it doesn’t always involve the cooperation of another. 

Restored brings forward the important truth that no matter what another person chooses to do, we as individuals can be restored, if we put ourselves in position to be. 

Restored isn’t merely my experience of restoration, but rather a spiritual template and a purposeful guide designed to help readers journey through their own restoration process.

Within the pages of this uplifting and insightful story, you will find healing if you will pursue it with your whole heart.  

Available on Amazon Kindle and Paperback, November 2. 

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

When You Shouldn't Invite A Leader to Lunch


If you're going to discuss something that's stressful in the least, don't invite a leader out for a meal to do it.  Even if it's not stressful to you...if you have any inkling -- any feeling at all that the conversation will be such for them, don't ask to meet over a meal. Call them to discuss it, or set a meeting at their office.

Over the years, I've had people invite me to join them for a meal to tell me that they are resigning, stepping down from a ministry, leaving the church, or to pitch a project to me they are doubtful I will support. Perhaps they want to press me for a position or a decision on something they already know I'm not too keen on. If I sense that any of these things are the case, I try to get them to set a meeting that doesn't include mealtimes.

It’s a proven fact that stress affects our digestive system.  

When these types of conversations happen over a meal, I feel pain sometimes as my food is digesting. Meals are meant to be shared in an atmosphere of peace and when it's not so, our health can be affected. 

Maybe people believe sharing a meal together will set an atmosphere to pave the way to my heart. Or if they are asking for something I'm probably not going to say yes to, translation: give them what they want, they believe food will be a good runway to launch their request. Reality is, if they are telling me something I'm not going to be happy about, a soup and salad -- or even chocolate -- aren't going to help the situation. And if they are asking me to do something they sense I'm not comfortable with, I’m going to go the direction God speaks to my heart to go in -- even if I'm in the middle of taking a bite of cake. This is because I live on principle, not by feelings. If I don't believe God wants me to do something, even triple chocolate cake is not going to change anything.

I used to try to finish my meal during one of these stressful times, but I've learned the better option is to take better care of myself. When these occasions come, I leave it sitting there, untouched. And, I wait to eat again when I'm in a peaceful space.

I wondered if I was alone in dealing with this so one day I asked my assistant if she noticed that people invite leaders out to meals to talk about things that will be unpleasant. She remarked that it is common. Her exact words were, “It happens all the time!”  Okay, so I'm not crazy. 

I used to feel utterly trapped when people did this to me, but then I found myself asking why. Why was I the one who was feeling anxiety? Was it because I cared more about the other person's feelings that I continue with the meal? Could it be because at times, they were paying for the meal and I didn't want to seem ungrateful or disappoint?  

So often we damage our health for fear of what others will think, say or do.

Seeking peace comes in different forms and this is one, for me. 

Photo credit: freedigitalphotos.net
 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

For All The People Who Doubt That God Is In the Details...




The finances of our home have something in common with how I lead PF Women. If we don't have the money, we don't do it. Larry and I only have two things on credit -- our home, and our car. Aside from that we don't have any debt that isn't paid off at the end of each month. And, we're tithers who give generously on top of that. We have always been faithful in our giving, and have grown wiser with finances as our marriage has progressed.We are grateful to God for His provision and blessing. So, with these things established:

I wanted to do a project in our yard. It wouldn't be a do-it-yourself project but one that we'd have to hire out. It would include a lot of things that are meaningful to me including multiple larger (more mature) dark pink crepe myrtle trees, rose bushes, hydrangeas, and a lot more. Plans were drawn up and we received an estimate. It would take at least six months to save up for the project. My favorite thing would be the area that would be created in our back yard that would include the crepe myrtle trees which have lots of meaning for me. 

Larry wasn't particularly enthused about any of this but he went along with it because it was important to me. In May, the saving began. I hoped to have all funds needed by the end of October and would not start the project until every penny of it was in savings.

 I let Chris, the landscaper, know the goal was to schedule the work to be done at the end of October. However, during the summer I developed a much stronger desire to get the project done. I knew we would never put any of it on credit, but I considered other possibilities. What could I cut back on, to make getting there quicker a reality? I knew Larry wouldn't want to personally sacrifice anything to make it happen faster because he didn't really care about it like I did.

The idea came to me that I could give up Dunkin Donuts lattes (latte light's with no sugar added, to be exact) until the project was over.   I drink them on the road more than anywhere, partly to stay awake and partly because I like them. Needless to say, I'm on the road a lot and I drink a lot of coffee. It was in the middle of the PF Women Couch Tour that I decided to start going without them entirely and save the money. I said nothing to anyone but Larry. And, he didn't speak to anyone about it.

 A few days later I headed to my next speaking engagement minus my usual latte and much to my surprise when I finished ministering at the church there was a Dunkin Donuts gift card for me tucked inside an envelope. Not only that but - this started happening often! And, although it was remarkable, I never told anyone but Larry, until my season of giving up spending my own money on lattes was over.

 The reason I kept it to myself was because I felt to tell anyone about what I was giving up or that people were suddenly blessing me with Dunkin Donuts gift cards might be perceived as a subtle or a not-so-subtle hint that I wanted to receive even more. I felt it would be dropping it into people's minds that I could use more cards, or they might even want to give something toward my project. If that were to happen naturally it would be one thing, but for me to have anything to do with putting the idea in their minds, I have issue with. I consider it manipulative, actually. So I refrain from anything like this. I believe it's wisdom to keep these things to oneself and let the Lord take care of it.
 
I continued to be surprised all summer. Despite my secret, it seemed the rest of the world had been clued in by God that this director runs on Dunkin. I ministered at Bellview Church on the Hill one Saturday and drove home. I got settled in my room for bed and opened my Bible to read it before sleep. An envelope fell out that had been tucked inside. When I finished preaching that morning I had placed the Bible on the front row and I realized someone must have tucked it inside during that time when I wasn't paying attention. There was a kind note from one of the leaders of the church and a Dunkin Donuts gift card.

Yes, I know this is a first-world issue but... I never ended up having to give up any lattes because I had more than enough gift cards for the next few months to cover them.  Not only that but we had the funds for the project in five months, not six. 

I called Chris and told him I wanted to get started right away. He said it would be several weeks as he was completely booked. However, he did come by and mark the yard and kill the grass in certain spots to create a new bed in the back yard where the trees would be.

 A week later on Wednesday evening, our sweet dog Maddie tragically and unexpectedly died. She passed away at midnight and we tearfully finished burying her in the yard by 4 am. Thankfully, we knew exactly where we should dig the grave since Chris had clearly marked the yard as to where all the trees and plants were going in. The next day, Chris called to say time had unexpectedly opened up for him and he was sending a crew the next morning to do the work. Within 24 hours of Maddie's death, the project was completed in our yard including the beautiful trees, rosebushes and hydrangeas that now overlook her grave. In a matter of a day a memorial was erected. A project my husband once cared nothing about is now incredibly special and valued -- not just to me, but to him.
 
God is a good God who gives good gifts to His children. He cares about every   detail of our lives. And now...photos of our project.

I am not showing the actual finished product here, but the plans. The reason is, none of this is flowering yet, so none of the beautiful colors can be seen yet, but come spring our yard will bloom like crazy! I would like to show here how it's actually going to look once things are blooming. Note that the crepe myrtles will not be white, but dark pink. Click any photo to enlarge.


Back yard with crepe myrtles that will be dark pink

Our new front yard!

Walkway in front yard
 
Left of driveway

 And there is our new latest home project with tons of sentimental value, and a and thanks to our right-on-time God.

p.s. Please do not send me any Dunkin Donuts gift cards. I can pay for my own coffee and will probably start purchasing and giving others some cards now that the project is done. :)