Monday, September 12, 2016

Leaders: These Two Things Matter a Lot!


1) People are the way they are for a reason.
2) People are where they are for a reason.

These are two principles you can count on.

Some people may disagree with me and say, "But what about grace and mercy? Doesn't that have an affect on the way people are or where they are?" I've taken that into account with these two principles. 

Regarding #1............

Watch others closely and you will discover why people are the way they are. Particularly if you observe their passion, you will find out. For instance, I'm really passionate about leadership health. Anyone who talks to me for more than about five minutes about leadership will find that out. Dig deeper and you'll discover that my parents were/are both leaders in the church whose marriage crumbled in dysfunction. That affected me in a big way and now leadership health is something I'm relentless about. I want leaders to be healthy personally, behind closed doors so that they can have a God-honoring family and make the biggest impact on the world.

Observe people and you'll see...there's an underlying reason why they are the way they are.

Regarding #2............

People are where they are for a reason.  Because of the amazing grace and mercy of God, we don't always get what we deserve for the choices we have made. There are times we don't bear the full ramifications for what we do. However - what we repeatedly choose to do matters. Daily habits matter. (Everything from punctuality to reliability to using wisdom with our finances.) Small daily decisions make a big impact.
 
If you have made wrong choices, no matter how far you have veered off from God's plan the moment you make the right choice, He starts orchestrating things on your behalf to bring you to where you are supposed to be.

However -- it is undeniable that daily choices matter. What we choose to repeatedly do or not do has an effect on where we end up. 

Keeping these two principles in mind, we would all do well to ask ourselves what we are repeatedly doing.

The opportunities that will come our way in life and responsibility and trust we are given is greatly determined by what we repeat.


Thursday, September 08, 2016

What Do You Think You Don't Need?




Before we left for our recent vacation I was perusing Amazon, purchasing a few books to put on to my Kindle. I came across a book that lots of friends had recommended and my immediate thought was, "that's not for me." For some reason I was convinced that all the advice this author gives couldn't possibly apply to me in my current season.

 It's a good thing I had second thoughts and bought the book anyway. Here's something to think about. Whatever it is that you think you don't need in many cases is EXACTLY what you need. Whatever you think couldn't possibly apply to you is EXACTLY what applies to you many times. Whatever you think you don't need to talk about is EXACTLY what you need to talk about.

Whatever it is that you are resisting so hard...it's probably long overdue for you to do something about.

 

Monday, August 22, 2016

Are You Open or Closed? (Your Future Depends On It!)

"I'm about to say something..." my assistant Erika said apprehensively, as if to warn me of something I didn't want to hear. What followed was something she thought I needed to hear for my own good. She was right, but I would have been fine with her telling me long before this conversation we had last week.

"You could have already told me that! Why didn't you speak up sooner?" I said.

She was relieved.


After letting her know I was grateful for the input and was going to change things, I became concerned that maybe there was a deeper issue. I thought maybe Erika thought she couldn't tell me the things I need to hear. So I brought it up again later saying, "Did you not think you could tell me that?" She said she did feel that she could tell me things like this without a problem, but she appreciated the conversation.

Andy Stanley says that leaders who don’t listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say. I believe that's true.

An important point to make is that it isn't wise to listen to just anyone. Wrong voices lead to wrong choices. It is prudent to choose well and then listen to those who surround us. If we are wise we will listen not only the people who lead us or those with authority -- but those who work with us and for us.

Erika and I have had some deep conversations about what various people's lives would look like if they were truly open to hearing what about them needs to change. What would a person's potential be if they were willing to hear about any weakness or blind spot without offense? What could their future look like if they stripped themselves of insecurity and pride and allowed someone to speak into their life and then made a change?

I made some significant changes last week due to Erika and another leader in my inner circle speaking into my life. I'm better for it today. My only hope is that next time they tell me sooner so I can listen sooner! What about you?

 

Monday, August 15, 2016

Talent Is Never Enough


Yep, this is me. :)
When I was in Bible College music students were required to do juries where we would perform for two or three music professors and receive a grade. I love playing and singing and have done it since I was four years old. But I but dreaded juries. The reason for my disdain was my lack of skill with music theory.  Theory doesn't come naturally to me, but playing by ear is something as natural to me as breathing. Although I've taken lessons over the course of my life, the majority of what I know was learned by ear and watching other musicians and gleaning from them. My earliest experience with learning to play the piano consisted of listening to 33 records of groups like the Happy Goodman Family. Soon I could go up and down the keyboard with ease, but not by looking at a piece of music. This isn't exactly the skill set needed to do a music jury in college. 

I will never forget what happened to me during one of those dreaded juries. I came into the room and played for three professors and realized I was woefully inadequate for the task assigned, although I gave it my best. Moments later, Professor Betty Palma asked me to play something that I would do for church. I did so and was in my sweet spot. But, I knew it wasn't what they were looking for. 

At the end of the song, Professor Palma said to me, "Deanna, you're going to do well in church music. And here's why. You have the skill set to play, particularly in a Pentecostal church service. You are a very talented by ear player.  But more than that -- you never fail to be where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be there, and on time. You are always properly dressed for the occasion. And, you give your all to whatever you do. You are not the greatest at music theory or classical styles, but all of these other things will make up for what you don't have and you will succeed."

She was right.

I know a plethora of talented people but they aren't going where they want to go with that talent. 

It could be any number of things...

They are rarely if ever on time.

They make a lot of excuses.

They don't realize there is a proper time and place for everything. (i.e. what to wear for the occasion)

They don't understand authority.

They are not teachable.

They are not a team player.

They don't respect the culture of the place where they work/minister.

They lack common sense.

They lack  manners.

They don't give their best to every endeavor.

You might be really talented, but talent is not enough. 

What, if anything is holding you back?  (Hint: It's probably not someone else.)  


Monday, August 08, 2016

Leading From a Deep Well


My assistant Erika was talking to me one day and said:

"I've learned something about you. You lead from a very deep well." 

Her comment gave me pause for thought and  I recognized  a few things I do on a regular basis regarding this that might help someone.

Stay Thirsty

Effective leaders have a thirst for knowledge, wisdom, and improvement. Not a day goes by when I'm not pursuing these three things. It comes in the form of books, podcasts, classes and personal conversation. It's not by happenstance, but by a relentless pursuit. Each day I receive various insights that fill me, however my favorite times are those when I receive so much that it's like a Big Gulp. Those times would be occasions like spending a few hours or a day with a trusted mentor, or attending a leadership conference.

Resist the Urge to Rest in What You Know and What You Do

A leader can become so knowledgeable on a subject they think they know everything there is to know about it. Particularly when you are experiencing extraordinary success in an area, you can start to think it's alright to settle down right where you're at and rest on your laurels. Even if you become the greatest in the world at something, there's still something to learn. (There's a reason Tiger Woods practices as much as he does.)

Last week I was in the Louisville airport and stopped by one of the stores on the way to the gate. There was a book on leadership on one of the shelves, and I spontaneously bought it and read it on the flight home. There are entire shelves of books on leadership in my home and two offices. There are many more than most people would ever think necessary. But many more books  will join those in the future. I'm not settled in what I know about leadership or about anything. There's so much more to explore.  

When I read books I make it a habit to underline, write in the margins and compile lists of takeaways I want to put into practice. One time a very sincere Christian man said something to me at church that I never forgot. "Pastor Deanna," he said, "My wife loves self-improvement books. She has so many of these Christian self-improvement books by all the popular authors, we don't even have a place to put them all. She devours them and can't wait to go out and buy more. But for all those books that she has read over all the many years of our marriage, I can't say that I've ever seen a change in her related to any one of those books. Is that normal?" This man's question caused me to think critically, not about his wife, but about myself!  I sincerely asked myself if I was a woman addicted to reading Christian self-improvement or leadership books - but never applied any of the knowledge from them. Information without application brings no transformation. Reading books doesn't accomplish anything unless you follow up with steps of action.

Drink From the Right Places

Multiple people have offered to provide me with resources, coach or mentor me. But everyone who makes that offer doesn't exemplify who or what I want to follow. I'm not looking to end up where they're at, so receiving from their well isn't the best idea. There are a plethora of resources and people to receive from. Make sure what you're filling up on is going to lead you to where you want to end up. Take advice from people who have actually accomplished what you're trying to do. There are an awful lot of people trying to take people to places they've never been. 

There are only so many people you can realistically be in a relationship with. Choose carefully to end up with a deep well that contains exactly what you want it to be full of to pour out to those around you. 




 Photo credit: freedigitalphotos.net

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

Five Thoughts I Have at 50

These aren't my only thoughts of course, but a few random ones I had yesterday while on a flight and took time to jot down.

1) I'm really glad I made it to this point. Some people despise growing older but these days my prevailing thought is, "I've made it to this point!!!" From a young age, I had a sense that time was running out.  Even as a child I felt an urgency that there was a small window of time to make a difference in the world. On my Grandma's porch, she had a sign that said, "Only one life twill soon be past. Only what's done for Christ will last." I try to live every year like it's my last. I make a big deal over my goals (I call them 'Investments') every year. If some people knew they had a year to live, they would quit their job, take all their money and travel the world and relax. Not me. I'll be working hard on many things until the day I go to heaven, whenever that is.

2) I've stopped having anxiety over how long I'm going to be here. I used to be so worried about it.  I would get heart palpitations or break out in a sweat thinking about it.  Then one day my dad said to me, "You will be here as long as God wants you here" and backed it up with a scripture. That was it. I stopped worrying. 

3) The longer I live the more I realize there is that I don't know and the more I try to keep an open mind. Not to a crazy point where I am believing that O.J. is innocent  or that wrestling is real. But yes, an open mind.

4) Compassion grows the older I get. And I have discovered "compassion fatigue" is a real thing. But God is more real.

5) Bitterness, unforgiveness, jealousy, and all those type of things have no place in the life of a Christian, and they will kill the productiveness of someone trying to do things for God. I need ALL my energy to get done what God has asked me to do. Those sins can sap my strength more than anything. They are so heavy. It really is okay to LET GO and let God decide the outcome. You know what I find out, the more I live life? When I let go, and the other person never makes things right - it seems they eventually go through things that are unexpected and sad. And because I surrendered to God on the matter and prayed for the person -- I find myself actually feeling sorry for them. It surprises me when I begin to feel love and compassion. Try it, I think you'll see I'm right.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

When The Walls Speak To You

 

Dustin moved out on Sunday night.

I always expected I would break down and sob when this happened.
Instead, I was too preoccupied with the tasks at hand, to have a meltdown.
I'm sure Dustin was grateful.

Since there was only a day to get the room ready for Lexi and Brody to move in, I had to get busy.

Everyone knows how much I adore Dustin. Not that I don't adore all my kids, for I do! However, everyone remarks about how much Dustin and I are alike and it's true. 

We are both INFJ's.
Musicians.
Poets.
Preachers.
Writers.

We both crave quiet spaces and places.
Being away from noise.
Out in the woods.
Books.
We are hard working people. (Neither of us can stand laziness.)

We both go to the wall for what we believe.
We'd die for it.

We're both deeply introspective introverts.
We interact with people when we need to in order to lead.

Because we can't help but lead.
It's in our blood.
In our bones.

We came out of the womb a few decades apart,  ready to change the world.

The list goes on and on of the similarities.

I'll miss him so much on a daily basis, coming in the door and feeling his fuzzy cheek as he brushes mine with a kiss while he's heading for the fridge to get a drink at the end of the day. But it's not like he's gone. He just moved into a staff apartment right down the road. (And, he answered my phone call even quicker than he normally does, when I called yesterday. So I take this as a good sign. I think he'll come home sometimes, especially when he really wants chicken casserole.)

While I was cleaning his room in preparation for Lexi and Brody to arrive, I couldn't help but read what was on the walls while I wiped them down.

A prolific writer, he chose to put favorite quotes or  important reminders - scriptural and otherwise - to himself on the walls.



I could see where he had times of inspiration and just pulled out a marker and wrote something to encourage himself. I love that.

He truly is a man after God's own heart.



I've read the walls countless times before but it was different this time, reading them after he was gone. I was reminded again of what an amazing young man he is.

I'm so proud of him, and I know the best is yet to come, for him...for Lexi and the children and for all of us.


What an incredible man occupied this room.

He left a legacy for those coming after him.

 

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

The Value of Group Norms

“Avoid meetings, if you can…they are a waste of time.” 

I’ve heard some prominent leaders say this. Some people are part of the school of thought that meetings have little value, failing to produce anything significant. My experience with meetings is that they are a key factor of success over my years of leadership. My pattern as a leader has always been to clearly establish a purpose for meetings and make sure initiatives are developed before we adjourn. Then, I inspect what I expect over the coming weeks and months.

When I became leader of the current team I serve with, it became clear we would need some new guidelines to have successful meetings and make the reaching of our goals a reality.   I was thankful when Joy Conley, one of our team members, shared the idea of  "Group Norms" with us. Group Norms are the four rules of every meeting that Joy utilizes in her teacher meetings at the public school where she serves a teacher trainer. We tried Group Norms and have never looked back. The norms provide excellent boundaries for every meeting that serve to keep us on track for success.

At the beginning of each and every meeting, the first item on the agenda is to remind everyone of the group norms. I ask Joy to take care of this and she does a great job. New members are educated about our norms from their first meeting, and veteran leaders receive a reminder.

The following are our Group Norms, and why each one is valuable.

No cell phones

Ever attended a meeting where everyone is tapping away at their phones while people are talking, texting and surfing? What about people who step out to take phone calls? These interruptions really affect the team focus – not to mention it’s disrespectful. We have a no cell phone rule during the meeting.  I believe it’s important wherever I am to be “all there.”  Cell phones have made it so much harder to do this, but good leaders are relentless in minimizing distractions to maximize productivity. I've observed some leaders (who do not serve on my team) who insist on keeping their phones on and taking calls during meetings - as if to give the impression that they are too important or in demand to let the call go to voicemail. Quite frankly that is a load of prideful hogwash. Leaders need to show the way by example, so I make sure my phone is on silent and tucked away during the meeting. I can't expect my team to do this if I don't.

Leading one of our team meetings
No hogs/no logs

Ever been in a meeting where one or two team members hog the entire conversation? Or a meeting where other team members sit there like bumps on a log looking like they wish they didn’t have to be there? Either extreme is annoying. That’s why we have a rule – no one hogging the conversation. We are careful that no one goes in a direction that is irrelevant to the pre-set agenda, and also watchful that no member is sitting there, uninvolved.  Everyone on the team needs to be fully engaged in the dialogue at hand. Each teammate's voice is valuable and we want it to be heard.

No one attending the meeting except team members

Ever been in a meeting where somebody who is not on the team drops in and affects things in some negative way? Yup. Us too. So, we’re not going to have that happen anymore. As much as we love the folks in our lives who aren't member of our team, we do not welcome them into our meeting. Serving on a team is a an honor, therefore, attending the meeting is not a privilege given to anyone but members. It’s not appropriate for those who aren't on the team to drop by and particularly for them to hijack the meeting in some way.  This rule applies to anyone not officially on our team, with the only exception being if I have invited a guest speaker to address us in the meeting on some topic. 

There are those on our team who are coming from across the state, making a three to five hour trip to get to the meeting. Prior to me becoming director, there were times leaders would have someone who wasn't on the team who traveled with them. Some may have been unable to drive for medical reasons, or they just wanted company on the trip. Sometimes those who accompanied a team member on a trip would be in our meetings and give their opinion on our items of business. This was not always a positive thing. When I became the director, I immediately put a stop to that and let everyone know if spouse or friend accompanied them to the meeting, they would need to find a Starbucks, a mall or another place to spend time during our meeting. This may seem unnecessary or even unkind, however once you have had the experience of a person attending your meeting who is not actually on the team take the meeting in an undesired direction, you will realize the value of this group norm. 

Our winning team
 No sidebar conversations

Ever been in a meeting where a few team members are in their own world having sidebar conversations, even about the topic at hand? Not only does it cause unnecessary noise in the room, it’s also distracting and disrespectful. Our guideline is that instead of sidebar conversations we expect our team members to wait their turn and share their idea or thought with the entire group. And, if the sidebar is about something  unrelated to the agenda, we expect them to wait until after the meeting to talk about it. 

The value of guidelines

"Do adults really need guidelines like this?" you may wonder. It depends on how successful you want to be. Getting off topic is a common problem in meetings and if the leader doesn't step up to gently steer things back on course, meetings can end up being a waste of time. 

We love our Group Norms. None of our team members appear to dislike them and many remark that they have utilized them for other groups that they lead. Try Group Norms with your team…you may find yourself accomplishing a whole lot more.


Monday, June 27, 2016

The Number One Thing That Has Helped My Marriage

Twenty-nine years ago today. We were just babies. Seriously, Larry was a teen. 

This is not a cliche.

Not a pat answer.

Not just something I feel I have to say just because I'm a Christian.

Or a minister, or a pastor's wife myself.

It's my life experience.

And it's reality.

So take it for what it's worth from a person who is celebrating 29 years of marriage, today.

This is the number one thing that has helped me more than anything in my marriage.

It's prayer.

Specifically, joining with someone else in fervent - warfare prayer.

It's important to pray with your spouse but I also believe it's important for a woman to have a Godly female friend who understands what is at stake, to stand in the gap with you and intercede. 

Matthew 18:19 says:  

"Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.

There is power in agreement.

The enemy wants so badly to destroy our marriages. I've learned -- if you're going to stay together for a lifetime and particularly if you're going to leave a legacy, it's going to require some warfare. Because we're two human beings...two sinners saved by grace, walking this out every single day. There are days, staying together is war.  And I've never heard of anyone winning a war alone.

Sometimes you have to call in the reinforcements.

This is my friend Joanne.


Joanne MacDurmon Greer.

We've been friends for 31 years -- longer than I've been married.
She is my best friend from bible college, and my maid of honor.



The victories that have been won in my marriage couldn't have been realized without her.

She is my comrade, my fellow soldier in doing warfare over my life and family -- and hers too. We stand in prayer for each other, every day...for everything concerning marriage, motherhood, ministry and more.

Joanne, giving a toast at our wedding
So many times Joanne has reminded me, "Deanna, we don't even have to ask God's will in this matter because we KNOW how He feels about marriage and what He wants to do!"

Joanne has reminded me so many times that we can pray fervently knowing the will of God because it's clear He wants to bless our marriages. We don't have to wonder what God wants. We can pray confidently and boldly and know we are in His will.

Joanne and me, a few decade into friendship
There have been times Larry and I come to an impasse in our marriage. Sometimes it's Larry who needs to change on an issue. Sometimes it's me who needs to change. More times than not it's both of us who need to change. Whatever the case - what we are facing at the time seems insurmountable. When those times come, Joanne typically says, "Alright Deanna, this is one for God'."

When Joanne says it's one for God, she's saying that it's not going to be by our might or our power -- but only by the grace and power of God that things are going to change. And she always follows that up by saying, "And fortunately we serve a God of miracles!" So many things that were "one for God" have been accomplished in grand fashion by God, in my marriage. And when that happens, it's the best thing ever. Joanne and I just exclaim, "Look at God!!!" over and over again and thank Him for His goodness. God has done so many miracles in my marriage and there have been countless causes for celebration. And there will be many more! Because I'm in this for life. 
You can find a gal pal or a group of them who will sit around and commiserate about marriage. You can talk about how tough things are, bash men  OR you can find you somebody who knows how to go to war. The latter is much preferable. The first option brings no relief except the momentary instant gratification of spilling out to your girlfriend(s) about whatever is bothering you. The latter option actually has the power to bring change.

What do you want? A few seconds of relief? Or change? Take your pick.

Bashing and complaining brings no change. Intercession causes things to shift.

I know what I want.

Thanks Joanne, for trading high heels for combat boots on many days and fighting for Larry and me, that we can leave a God-honoring legacy.

Now all you ladies who are reading this...go find somebody who will go to war with you, on behalf of your marriage. It will help you and it is worth it.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

9 Ways You're Blessed and Probably Have No Idea

 
A cup of coffee I had on a date with Larry that was one of the greatest blessings I've ever had, as dates & coffee go. Although it's not what this post is about, coffee IS one of the countless blessings in life I am thankful for. :)


I saw this passage yesterday in the Message Bible, and it put a zinger in my heart.
Matthew 5:1-12

"When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble. " Matthew 5:1-12

I don't even know where to begin with the depth of what this passage spoke to me.  These twelve verses are percolating within me, giving me so much to consider and a plethora of encouragement.  Maybe they will speak to you too. 

Read them over and over again.

Even in the midst of the unexpected --challenges and disappointments  -- we are blessed people.

Help me God, to look for the blessing in everything. 

You are blessing me, through every circumstance I face.