Friday, September 12, 2014

Why Every Leader Has to Deal with Bears and Lions



Leaders have to face various obstacles along the way to our destiny in order to prepare us for the greatest things we will do.

I Samuel 17 is about David facing Goliath and in verses 34-37 it talks about him killing the lion and bear in preparation to face his giant, Goliath.

David had a great destiny before him in not only becoming the greatest worship leader/psalmist who ever lived, but also a king and a man after God’s own heart.

David wasn’t sadistic, and he certainly wasn’t killing just to kill. The lion and bear were coming in to steal a lamb from his father’s flock. He had to protect the flock. And so he destroyed the lion and the bear.

When I went first into the ministry, I never realized how much I would deal with bears and lions. I just expected to love people. And I imagined, they would just love me back. I was quite surprised that much of my work would involve warfare. Not only did I get tired, but sometimes I thought I wouldn't survive the struggle.

In verse 37 David said, “The Lord who saved me from the claws of the lion and the bear will save me from this Philistine!”   Without God he couldn’t have done it and I’m sure he might have had a few moments of fear before the deliverance of the Lord was complete in the matter.

In retrospect I realize that the defeat of the wild animals became the opportunity that David needed to be prepared for his ultimate destiny. Had he not gained confidence, courage and faith through defeating those animals he would have never been ready to face his giant. If he quit, he would have ultimately missed the plan of God and would never have been able to become king.

As daunting as they can be, lions and bears are necessary to prepare us for the next level.

God will give us strength to defeat them.

Leader, be encouraged! The battle you are facing now is training you for a greater destiny that you can even imagine! Press on.


 

 Photo Credit: freedigitalphotos.net

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

5 Reasons to Stop Rehashing a Setback

People's failures teach us as much if not more than their successes.

One of my greatest failures happened because I refused to use one of my greatest strengths.



Resilience: My Personal Uzi

I've always been resilient.
Had to be.

It's a story bigger than one blog post.
The crux of it is, I learned pretty early in life that I could be resilient or die.

My former boss used to joke that while other employees were complaining about something that happened, I had already formulated a 10-point strategy to come back from whatever took place and was passionately trying to sell everyone on it.



Why Some Leaders Don't Move Forward

A lot of leaders stay down too long after a hit. Staying immobilized for too long impedes a comeback.

If something bad happens in the course of my job, I usually blow off steam for no longer than a few hours. Then, I pray about it and work hard on quickly creating and announcing a new plan -- that day. The goal is move forward rapidly, to make whatever just happened obsolete as quickly as possible. 

I do this over, and over, and over.
Usually with success.

But one time I did not take my own advice.
At all.

In fact, it was like I lost my leadership-mind for a while.

"The Tragedy" aka, when Deanna lost her ever livin' mind

Years ago, Larry and I made a hire at the church that proved to be devastating.
We thought we had done due diligence.
But, we missed the mark.
No leader gets it right every time.


It wasn't just devastating to the church, and to our leadership team, but to us personally.


My marriage and family were strong at the time. But both were greatly impacted by an intense level of stress that we had never known to that point and haven't experienced since. I don't think I've ever seen my husband so negatively affected, by anything in our 27 year marriage. The staffer harmed him in a way that is every pastor's nightmare. It is only by the grace of God and the support of our leadership (who were also hurt), that we made it through.

I blamed the ex-employee over and over again for what happened.

But I blamed me too.

"Why, why, why did I make that hire?" I asked myself over and over again.

I called myself names over it, I was so angry.

I thought I should have known better than to trust someone so completely who ended up affecting everyone around us in such a painful way.

Of course Larry had a part in it too, as we jointly made the decision.

But my husband respects my wisdom, and with just a few words of caution from my mouth, I don't believe he would have never made that hire.

So I blamed me more than anybody.

Every day my emotions played ping pong between blaming the ex-staffer and blaming myself.

Once the former staffer was gone, devastation in her wake only slightly less than Chernobyl, I talked about it daily to Larry and those in our close circle of ministry friends.

Non-stop.

Maybe this was because the aftermath caused most everything in my world to change. My work load, our personal finances, our lifestyle and yes I know this is a first-world problem, our friendships.

Something as simple as being able to buy a cup of Starbucks was affected. I wondered if this was the first of the seven year Tribulation.

So everywhere I turned, we faced losses because of this poor business decision I made.
And that didn't go away overnight -- in fact, it got much worse before it got better.

I consider myself a generous person but quite honestly the sacrifices required of me in that season weren't made willingly but grudgingly and even angrily. Just keepin' it real. To this day, my best friend doesn't even use the ex-employee's name and simply refers to the whole thing as, "the tragedy."

Well, nothing really changed about all of this for a long time.

Because I didn't change.

I pretty much complained every time I needed to do everything from a bunch of jobs that didn't used to be on my plate to not being able to take vacation. First world problems? Yep. Nevertheless it was my world...our world, and everything that we knew.



The Day the Tide Turned...

Nothing improved until one of my best friends who also happens to be a professional coach, gave me the wake up call that I needed.

Mid-conversation as I was complaining once again, my friend said, "Deanna, you handle this situation like no other you have ever handled as a leader. And, can I just  invite you to stop it?  I don't ever want to hear her name again!! Yes, it stinks. Yes, life is different now. But what you're doing isn't working. All I want to hear out of your mouth from here on is your plan to turn this around, by the grace of God. I know God will give you a strategy. He always does. But you're not getting that strategy. Because you're so busy complaining and blaming to hear anything God is saying! Please, I implore you to stop it,  GET UP, listen to God, and move forward."

That day was a turning point.

And that day with my friend's timely word, I got back on course.

5 Things I Learned 

1) God never wastes a hurt. 

Opportunities are most often disguised as obstacles. How can your present problem catapult you into greatness? How can you take your lemons and not only make lemonade but maybe even start an entire lemon revolution?

Prayerfully think...how can you use your present circumstance as an opportunity for the biggest comeback ever? There is a God-strategy to advance beyond your wildest dreams. Tune in and hear it.

2)  It does no good to rehash the failures of the past. 

You can't change the past but you can change the present and future.

Take all your energy in doing that and don't allow any of your strength to be sapped by rehearsing what went wrong.

How can you take what's happening and make it work for you?

3) Blaming never moves anyone or anything forward. 

A good leader knows that even in the worst of circumstances and even when deserved, blaming just takes valuable strength away -- sapping the energy you need to pull things forward. Blaming also impedes the forgiveness process.  God doesn't require us to trust people but he does require us to forgive them. Coming to a place of forgiveness in the wake of "the tragedy" wasn't possible until I committed to stop blaming.

Why don't we want to stop blaming? Because sometimes it's deserved.

If someone abuses you, steals from you, betrays you, etc. you think, "They are guilty! They deserve the blame." Truth be told, maybe they are to blame. But until you stop blaming them, YOU can't move forward. 

4) Good leaders respond, and don't react. 

Reactions are a knee jerk reaction to whatever is happening and are usually poor quality. Rather than continually reacting to the problem, good leaders respond with strategy.

5) Good leaders know that failure is not final. 

There's always a way to move ahead.
Always.

But first we've got to stop rehashing the tragedy and get busy with God-strategy to advance.




Photo Credits: freedigitalphotos.net

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

3 Choices Happy Women Make




1) Happy women have standards and keep them. Not only does it show that they aren't desperate but they spare themselves a tragic choice by having lowered them. 

2) Happy women reject the lie that finding "the perfect man" will make them happy. Please stop with the Facebook posts about how this new man who is your soul mate has met your every need. I write this not to man bash. I love men, especially the one I'm married to. Although there are great guys on the planet, they don't exist to fulfill our every need. Only God can do that. There are so many lessons we can learn from Eve, and one is that and one is that even with the "perfect man" a woman is still not satisfied.  Men are a blessing in our lives but whenever we become dependent upon them for our happiness we are in for a fall.

3) Happy women realize that a bad mood or attitude is not going to change anything for the better. Happy women don't try to bring change through negative emotions expressed or unexpressed.  Women who are whole, healthy and successful in life don't get there by whining. Those who live fulfilling lives step up and become the catalyst for change.




Photo credit: freedigitalphotos.com

Monday, September 08, 2014

I'm Not Lonely Anymore




Have you ever been surrounded by lots of people, yet felt like the loneliest person in the world? 

Me too.

I've heard lots of people say they have, including many ministers. 

The issue isn't whether we're surrounded by people, it's about a heart-connection.
Kindred spirits. 
Understanding on a deeper level. 

We do need community -- and God has created us that way. But it's not community that I'm thinking about today. 

I used to feel an ache as a woman in ministry because although I was surrounded by  people, few if any knew the weight of that which I carried.  The issue wasn't whether I could find someone to go out for coffee with. There were those who gave invitations, but sometimes I didn't feel the level of trust or understanding to share with them. 

What God showed me was that I needed to reframe the issue of loneliness.  

I saw loneliness as a bad thing. 
A horrible thing. 
Something that needed to be fixed. 

And I thought people were the only solution. 
I discovered God would meet this need, but not always how I thought He would. 

My loneliness improved when I carved out more quiet time with God. Was that what He wanted all along? Was my lonely ache a call to a deeper walk?



Through reframing loneliness God took me on a new journey. I started reading books about developing greater intimacy with the Lord. One of those books I read at the time was Falling in Love with Jesus: Abandoning Yourself to the Greatest Romance of Your Life, by Dee Brestin and Kathy Troccoli. Other books that had great impact on me are Secrets of the Secret Place by Bob Sorge and Come Away My Beloved, by Frances J. Roberts. Through the years I have added books to my collection that have spoken to me in this regard. One of my most recent favorites is Jesus Calling by Sarah Young. 

Are books the key to a deeper walk with God? I'm not saying they're the key. I'm simply mentioning that the encouragement I've received from these has led me into greater revelation that helped me get closer to God and feel less lonely.

I've discovered that no matter how many times I've connected with people over coffee to bare our souls, I always come up empty unless I first share my heart with the Lord.

Now, rarely if ever do I share things with other people that I haven't first had a deep conversation with the Lord about. 

There is still a need in my life to connect with others, however I know this is not the source of my strength. It's the icing on the cake. My lonely ache is a call to come away with the One who loves me more than anyone.

If you are a person who is feeling that lonely ache, I pray today that you can find some quiet moments with Jesus and abandon yourself to what is truly the greatest connection any of us will ever have with anyone. 
 

Photo Credits: Larry & Deanna Shrodes

Friday, September 05, 2014

Are You Getting Rough Around the Edges?


Jordan took this photo when I was a little rough around the edges
A few weeks ago I woke up and was so irritable I was banging stuff around on the counter top in the bathroom while I was getting ready for the day. Even the dogs were steering clear.

Yep, I have days like that. Just keepin' it real.
I am not a Pentecostal Mother Teresa.

My husband asked me what was wrong and I confessed that I was angry at the lack of solitude to recharge. I couldn't remember the last time aside from reading my Bible or praying that I had  any quiet time to refresh.

The previous day we had a few hours off and instead of standing up for my need for solitude, I followed Larry's suggestion to spend some time with friends. This wasn't his fault. I never spoke up and just went along with his suggestion without ever bringing up how I was feeling.

He couldn't fix what was wrong because he didn't even know what was wrong. 

 Extroverts vs. Introverts

A lot has been circulating the internet recently about the differences between introverts and extroverts. It's been long overdue. Most people don't have an understanding of what it really means to be one or the other.

Larry is an extrovert, and I'm an introvert.

Most people assume I'm an extrovert and even go so far as to correct me when I tell them I'm an introvert. It's kind of exasperating. I had no idea so many people were an expert on my life. I've not only taken countless assessments that confirm this but my Dad who raised me will tell anyone who asks that this is the case. And, my husband and kids will attest to the same.

People often mistakenly believe I'm an extrovert because I'm a networker. Always have been. I incessantly  reach out to people in the course of my work. A born leader, I also emerge as the natural leader of most teams I serve on, and speak in front of groups of people with ease.  A lot of people think only extroverts have these capabilities but the truth is the difference between in introvert/extrovert isn't whether you are shy or outgoing -- it's all about how you recharge.

I've always known the importance of reaching out to others, to be effective in my work.
But -- it takes every ounce of energy I have to do it.

Even though I'm a wordsmith, I can't even describe how depleted I feel after I've been with people for a few hours. After church, I have a kind of emotional sensor that goes off on the inside of me, pleading with me to get to solitude before a crash. And I love church, and I love people!

After some time alone, I am good to go again.

My husband, on the other hand, is energized by being with people.
The more alone-time he has, the more depleted he feels.
He has to get around people and interact to feel refreshed.

The day I broke two cardinal healthy relationship rules...

Without even discussing the matter weeks ago of what we would do with a few hours off, I just said yes to his request to spend some time with others.  The next morning, I woke up so rough around the edges. Larry started hiding the knives.

He asked me why I was so irritable for once he assumed it was not 'female problems' and when I told him he said, "Why didn't you speak up? We didn't have to spend time with anyone. We could have just stayed home."

The two rules I broke:

1) I assumed instead of asking.  (I assumed he would be mad if we didn't go out with friends. I was wrong.)
2) I stuffed instead of expressing.  (Rather than speak up on my behalf, I had stuffed my feelings down.)

What did I learn?

I discovered how unproductive and even harmful assuming and stuffing can be to a relationship. So, when Labor Day weekend rolled around, I handled things differently. I told my family that despite the fact that all five of us had off from work on Monday, I wasn't doing a thing. There would be no barbecue with friends or even going to the movies. The plan was to be in my pajamas all day long and not see the outside of the house.  They could do what they wanted to do without me but I would not be participating in a group activity.

It was amazing.
Nobody got angry. 
There was no push back.

This announcement was respected, and I was able to recharge.

What's the point here? 

Speak up.
Let people close to you know what you need.
Don't assume.
Don't stuff.

If you're rough around the edges, examine what needs to change so you don't have to be, anymore.



Photo Credit: Jordan Shrodes

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Guess What Day It Is?


Yep, it's Wednesday. Hump day. Mid-week. Comes every week, and for me it's a church day.

Contrary to what a lot of church members may believe, their pastor or pastor's wife doesn't usually feel like coming to church on a Wednesday night. We are not super human. We are just like anyone else in that we have worked all day, and we are absolutely exhausted. In addition to work we have family needs to meet and so much else going on in our personal world. Our flesh says, "Go home, take a bath, get your PJ's on, and put your feet up..."

My flesh never tells me to go to church. Never.

Thankfully I tell my flesh who's boss most of the time.

It never fails, I am so blessed for gathering with my church family for this mid-week boost.

My body may be bone-tired when I walk in those doors, but soon my spirit is so lifted!



I crave the worship, the prayer, the Word, the fellowship.

I always leave uplifted and glad I made the effort to be there with my church family.

Even leaders have to make a determination to say no to the flesh and yes to the spirit!

It's that day again, and I'm so glad it is...

 

Photo credit: Deanna Doss Shrodes

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

5 Ways to Increase the Joy in Your Life




1) Choose joy.

Yes, this is something you determine!  Choosing joy doesn't mean you ignore tragedy, trauma or challenges. It's about making a decision to choose joy despite obstacles.

Choosing joy even in the midst of struggle is important because the Bible says, "the joy of the Lord is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:10) Especially in the throes of problems, we need strength more than ever. Making a decision to choose joy even in trials brings us greater strength which in turn helps us with issues we face.

That's easier said than done..." you think.

I agree.

And I'm not naive.

I say this from the perspective of one who has overcome what therapists term, "complex trauma, significant loss and complicated grief."

Yes, choosing joy is possible, even when going through all that.

2) Be thankful.


 1 Thessalonians 16-18 says,  "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus."

We aren't expected to give thanks for a bad circumstance or tragedy but we continue to choose joy and be thankful in the midst of it. There's a big difference between giving thanks for something and giving thanks in the midst of it.

I don't have to be happy that a tragedy occurs but I can choose joy knowing that God is not the author of evil, and He is with me through any difficulty in life I might encounter. 



3) Find joy in everyday things.

What we find joy, besides in God Himself, varies from person to person. Some of the items on my joy list are a quiet day at home, taking a bath, a bicycle ride, or reading. Discover every day low cost or no-cost things to do that bring you joy.  Then do them!

4) Be Generous.

Giving brings so much joy. I am honestly hard pressed to think of even one stingy person I know who is happy or joyful. On the contrary I can instantly think of many happy generous people.

5) Ask for help.

There are seasons it is more difficult to choose joy than others. We are not without help and hope! Ask God and trust Him to help you. Psalm 28:7 says, "The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy."




 Photo Credits: Deanna Doss Shrodes