Tuesday, October 25, 2016

5 Things to Do After a Big Event


THRIVE 2016 is now over and what a time it was! I am trying to be a better leader in the area of what to do AFTER an event that I lead.  For most of my years in leadership and ministry, I would scarcely celebrate or focus at all on what just happened and would go bolting head first into the next event at 500 miles an hour. A few years ago I asked myself why. There was an urgency to get things done and get busy on the next thing. BUT, I realized I was doing myself and my team a disservice by racing into the next thing without celebrating the last thing.




This season is particularly challenging because I am leaving in two weeks with members of our team for Africa for 16 days. I feel an urgency to race ahead but I am holding myself back from doing that.

Here are five things I've found it's important to do:

1) Celebrate

I have observed that Pentecostals in particular seem to be not-so-good at this. I think part of it is the admonition that is banged into all of our heads to "give all the glory to God." Do we need to give God all the glory? Yes. We do. At the same time, God's people need to celebrate what He has done. And that includes celebrating what He has done through His people. We need to say, "Yay God!" and "Yay team!" and revel in the amazingness of what just happened. Don't rush the celebration. We were meant to enjoy God. To enjoy leading. To enjoy our team. To enjoy the results.  It's okay to get excited and go a little crazy.

2) Take time to thank people

The larger the event the more time it will take. You won't thank everyone appropriately on the last day of the event or even the day after. Take time to write notes over the week or two following the event. Post on some Facebook walls and give kudos. Text and make phone calls. Nothing outstanding happens without teamwork, so appreciate your team.



3) Rest

In years past, I got up at the crack of dawn the day after and showed up to church or the office the next day at regular time. It's getting harder and harder to do that at the speed I'm running and quite frankly it's a bad idea. So this time I made a change. Aside from two debriefings, I slept most of the time for the next 48 hours.  That was necessary to gear up for the season I'm getting ready to walk through. If you want your leadership to be for the long haul and not a sprint, this is essential.

4) Solicit feedback 

You won't sort through it all right away but start asking for it and prepare to listen and make appropriate changes. People who are afraid of feedback won’t reach their destiny. Can they be successful? Yes. But they will not reach the potential for which they were destined. If you aren't afraid of feedback and you will take it seriously, you are unstoppable. 

5) Know what's normal for this time

Do you feel a little depressed? That's normal.

Do you feel like you want to get away from people for a while? That's normal.

Do you feel a little "snappy" or irritated when people ask you for things before you've had rest? That's normal.

Take care of you, so you can gear up for the next big thing.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

I Will Not Be Surprised if a Bear, A Lion or an Uncircumcised Philistine Show Up At My Office Today!



God knows my name.

And on strategic weeks like this one - the week of the THRIVE Conference,  I feel like every demon in hell knows my name too.

 Every year at this time, things come seemingly out of left field and pelt me until I feel like a wrung out dishrag. Souls are in the balance. The enemy is fighting hard. Last year at THRIVE over 50 women made decisions for Christ, several hundred women were filled with the Holy Spirit and there were too many healings to count. Believe me, satan (I refuse to capitalize the loser's name) is not happy about this. Our team has fasted for 30 days this year just as we did last year.  I am not surprised that the hordes of hell seem to know where to find me. 

Fortunately I have some prayer warriors on speed dial. There is none greater than my Dad.


My Dad and Me
My father is a person who gets up really early every morning and goes into his "prayer room." (When the movie WAR ROOM came out, I told him, "Dad there's a movie that just came out where the lead character is just like you, only she's a woman named Miss Clara...") This past year for Father's Day I got him a little "Armor of God" soldier to go in his prayer room. He loved it. He begins every day 365 days a year with bible study and prayer.  I'm really glad especially on weeks like this one that I know my Dad is diligently praying for me.

Yesterday after his early morning prayer time he sent me this message:


Deanna,

In warfare preparation is 90 % of the battle. We must think like the enemy... where is he going to hit? Where might he attack? How do I prepare for the attack? 


Elisha, David, and Joshua are three examples of the importance of preparation. When David was a lad he killed an attacking bear and lion to protect the flock. Then he heard of a 13 foot tall giant. He must have been thinking,"God helped me kill a bear and lion and he will help me kill the old uncircumcised philistine!" We have to understand new levels new devils! David was anointed three times.. a prophet, a priest, and a king! (1 Samuel 16:13, 2Samuel 2:4,  2 Samuel 5:3)

Elisha was a farmer who gave up all to follow Elijah. He was Elijah's servant. He was fully prepared and received a double portion of Elijah's anointing. Although we find ourselves in a long war, we can get stronger while at the same time, the enemy gets weaker. 1 Thessalonians 1:8 Stand fast in the Lord! We can stand because of His grace Romans 5:2. 1Corinthians 16:13 

Standing in the battle includes watching, being courageous, and being strong. 

Know God has this and YOU! 

Love Dad


 No matter what lands on my doorstep at home or work today , I know God has it and He has me.

God has you too.  I asked my Dad to pray this morning for anyone reading this who may be facing a battle today. He said he would be glad to pray last night and this morning for all of you.

Know that someone cares, and you are covered.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Everybody is Losing Something

Me with our dog, Maddie. We lost her last year.

Pick a person. Any person.

Have their name in mind?

Now, consider what they recently lost. It could be a job, a family member, a pet or a home. They may have experienced a miscarriage.  Perhaps they are staring the empty nest in the face.  Their beloved co-worker may have retired or transferred. The office will never be the same. It could be something as simple as their daily routine being lost. There is the loss of the familiar and comforting rhythm of the day. Perhaps the worst losses are sudden ones.

Everybody is facing a loss of some kind. And it's hard. Life is filled with loss after loss.

I know there are gains.

And yet there are still losses.

You say..."Well, don't focus on the losses...be positive." We need to be positive and at the same time losses still have to be processed. If we don't handle them right we can actually get sick in more ways than one.

Be kind. Everybody out there is losing something and it hurts.


Proceed today with the understanding that the whole world needs hugs and lots of them.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Apparently "It's going to be okay" is code for "You're Not Going to Die" (Unless you do and then there's a response for that as well...)




"It's going to be okay..."

This phrase has been said to all of us.

But what is "okay"?

I've come to believe it means, "You're not going to die."

Other challenging things may take place. Your body or your (emotional) heart may be crushed into a million pieces...BUT...at least you're not going to die.

Except when you die. And then people change directions. "It's okay! He/she still wins because they are with Jesus." And, "They are actually MORE than okay because now they are walking on the streets of gold," etc.

I understand why people say this. For the Christian, it's true. And at the same time, it's hard when people tell you that it's going to be okay and it doesn't feel okay, at least for a while. Maybe a long while.

That is the reality for some people at this very moment. Their pain cannot be explained away by a Hallmark card ("Everything happens for a reason...") or some Christianese. ("God never puts any more on us than we can bear...") Did you know that people actually feel the pain of depression in their body?

What would it be like if, when it's not going to be okay, people would put an arm around you, hold your hand and say, "You're right, this is going to be hard, but I'll be right here with you."

What would it be like to have someone simply hold you through the storm?

What would it be like to have someone tell you the truth no matter how painful it is, and then walk through it with you?


Saturday, October 15, 2016

When Your Problem Doesn't Budge No Matter How Hard You Work


Sometimes we face a situation that doesn't move forward not matter how hard we work. This is frustrating for a leader. (Everything can be solved by working hard, right? lol ) There are some things we can't work out - we just need to walk them out and wait them out.

This week, I came upon this quote about waiting:

"Teach us, O Lord, the disciplines of patience, for to wait is often harder than to work."  ~ Peter Marshall  

It's so true! It's much harder for me to wait than work.  I don't mind work - in fact I love it. I could work all the day long and if all my problems could have been solved by working they would have been solved long ago.

So...regarding the problems that appear stuck in the mud of life,  I have to ask, "What is to be gained in all this?" God must be accomplishing something in me during the wait. It is the Word of God, so I believe it and...for my own sanity I believe it.

Whatever it is that I'm supposed to learn - may I learn it as quickly as possible.

I come into agreement with the psalmist who said, "I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living! Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage. Wait for the Lord!" Psalm 27:13-14

My heart goes out today to anyone reading this who has worked tirelessly on a problem that will not budge. I pray that God does His work quickly, that you learn what you must, and that the problems are opportunities that open marvelous doors. 


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.

 

Monday, May 30, 2016

When You Realize You've Had It All Along


These are my new $3 Walmart sunglasses that I recently purchased on sale. It's the little things, ya know. 

A few days ago I needed to run a quick errand. I hopped in my husband's car instead of mine because of where it was parked in the driveway. Traveling down the road headed toward the sun I reached for the place where I normally grab my sunglasses in my car. I realized my husband had no sunglasses in his car. I squinted and held my hand up, lamenting that the sun was in my eyes most of the way there and back.  I was talking to myself and really didn't care if anyone noticed.

As I returned from my errand and turned the corner onto our street, I touched my head and suddenly realized that my sunglasses had been there the whole time. I had taken a bike ride that morning and when I came inside the house, I  pushed my sunglasses on top of my head and forgot about them.

The point is this. Sometimes we complain about the lack of something and fail to realize, we've had it all along.

"Bless the Lord O my soul, and forget not all His benefits." Psalm 103:2

Have you forgotten your benefits?

It may be your job, your spouse, your church, a friendship, leaders who have invested in you and still are, the roof over your head, or your possessions.

Whatever it is, don't get to the end and realize you had what you complained about a lack of all along. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Women ARE the Thermostat!


Driving along on my journey to preach in Wauchula last week, I came upon this sign. As I often do when traveling and I pass something I want to capture, I stopped to take a photo.

Mothers set the temperature in the home.

We are the thermostat.

Whatever our mood, it impacts the whole household like no other person in the house.

While we set the tone, I believe we are also the person in the home who faces the most circumstances with the potential to affect our mood. No one cares about the state of the home more than we do. So, when everything falls apart or piles up, it impacts us like no one else.  None of my other family members seem to notice or care when this happens. But I personally experience a cloud of depression so real I can almost touch it when things aren't right at home.  It's even worse when I clean up the night before and after I go to bed someone messes it up.  I have found if I don't start playing worship music and begin to pray and seek the Lord for strength, it all goes down hill quick and stays there for quite a while.

Recently I listened to a message about mothers setting the tone (or "starting the fire" as she calls it)  by Pastor Deven Wallace, who is one of our speakers for the upcoming THRIVE Conference. It's one of the most powerful messages I've ever heard. I encourage every woman to listen, and then listen again. 



Tuesday, May 17, 2016

"How Did Your Books Get Published?"

Many people have asked me this question. The answer is...

I didn’t want to get out of bed or brush my teeth.

I was so broken emotionally, it hurt to breathe.

My upper body was in such pain that I rubbed it constantly. As I spoke to people I would cross my hands over my body and knead my shoulders, back, neck and arms over and over again - not caring about how bizarre it must have looked. (No one can ever tell me that emotional injury doesn't manifest in one's body.)

Credit: freedigitalphotos.net
I could have cared less about appearances. If people thought I was a freak, so be it. I was so terribly wounded and quite frankly at a dangerous place. I was close to checking in to a hospital. I really don't know what stopped me.

A visit to a Christian therapist revealed I was suffering from complex trauma, significant loss and complicated grief. 

In the midst of my suffering, I blogged for catharsis. I didn't care about prettying anything up. Quite a number of people read all of the anguish I poured out. Maybe it was like when you drive by a bad car accident...you can't help but look. For better or worse, people read my story, in droves. Women and men. People from every walk of life. Christians, Buddists, Universalists, atheists, agnostics, and  Pentecostals. Doctors, lawyers, professors, pastors, college kids, the unemployed and stay-at-home-moms. The young and old and everyone in between. They not only read --they interacted with me, and encouraged and spoke into my bruised spirit.

I met Laura Dennis online, who became a very close friend. She’s an adoptee, a blogger and well known in both of those communities. She is also founder and CEO of Entourage Publishing.

When I was going through some of the most agonizing moments of my life, Laura said, “I think your 14-post blog series of your personal story should be a book." “No," I sighed. "I’m doing well to just get out of bed. I’m going to therapy to try to move forward, and I am in no shape to do a book.”

I kept saying no, and Laura kept saying, “Please consider it?” Finally I said, “What would I have to do?”

“Nothing but take your story down off of your blog and turn it over to me," she said. 
Ugh.

I didn’t want to do that, because of the comment section. On especially terrible days I would go through and read all the comments. There were hundreds of them on some posts. The comments were overwhelmingly positive and a comfort to my soul. I didn’t want to part with all of this life-giving encouragement that kept me going on many days.

Laura kept prodding.

I finally decided that if I could copy the comments into a document and still have them to read, I could handle taking the story off of the blog.  At a time when my trust level was at an all time low, I trusted Laura. I’m so glad I did.

We gave a two week warning to readers that the story was coming down off of the blog. I will never forget a frantic call that came into our church office from a woman in California who had just started reading it the day it was to come down. She discovered the story that day -- was in the middle of it and was upset that it might be removed before she finished. Reading my bio she saw the name of the church where my husband and I pastor, Googled the phone number and called. I let her know we would be removing  the story from the blog at midnight and she had a few hours to hurry up and finish. She did.

A year later after removing the story from the blog, Worthy To Be Found was released and the same people who loved the story as a blog also seemed to love it as a book. Actually many of them seemed to love it even more because I expounded on it in the book and filled in more details.

I am eternally grateful for saying yes. Entourage Publishing also re-released my former book, Juggle. I had self-published Juggle two years prior and the response to it was excellent, however Laura asked to re-release it to make some improvements and more in line with where I was going with Entourage. It made that book all the better. Subsequently, Restored, the sequel to Worthy to be Found, was released. In March of 2016 my book, Stronger: 30 Powerful Principles for Leaders debuted.

I am now years beyond that difficult time in my life. Jesus, counseling and community have done wonders in mending my broken heart. 

People hunger for transparency. In a world of fakes, phonies and frauds they crave the real thing. I find that the more openly I share, the more people showed up to read and interact.

In addition to my four books with Entourage, I was asked to be a contributing writer for five anthologies. I discover that the more transparent I am, the more opportunities come.

Every writer seems to have a unique path to publishing. 

Mine was an emotional breakdown.

I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, but it's my story.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

"I'm Sorry But I've Got Something Going On..."

"I'm sorry I dropped the ball, but I've got something going on..."

I've heard this excuse too many times to count in leadership. And here's a question I have to anyone who offers this up as a reason for not fulfilling a responsibility...

When don't you have something going on?

There will never be a time when you don't have at least one challenge in your life.

I look at every  person on the leadership team I serve with and I can name something big (and stressful) that each one of them has going on. It could be a financial hardship, a son or daughter getting married, a grandchild on the way, an illness, a church conflict, a marriage issue or a myriad of other things.

Every time I get up to preach I could truthfully say, "Bear with me folks, I have _________________ going on."

But I don't. 

Leaders who desire to produce over the long haul need to come to terms with the reality that they will ALWAYS have something going on. And if you let what's going on stop you, you'll never move forward. Pressing through is essential, to reach what God has for you.

This past week I was having lunch with our Pen Florida Girls Ministries Director, Bonnie Pait. We had a discussion about this and she agreed with me that we will always have something going on while we are fulfilling the call of God on our lives. After our lunch she texted me and said that after our conversation she was still mulling it over and had this thought: "If there was nothing else going on in my life when I did things, then I would be able to do it in my own strength. But going things with multiple things going on requires the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit."

So...will I rely on the grace and power of God and press through or will I offer up excuse after excuse, live in mediocrity and never reach my destiny?

Monday, May 09, 2016

More Than a Village
Spiritual Parenting in Today's World





What a child learns to believe by age thirteen, they will die believing. That's what research by the Barna Research Group shows, about the majority of people. Yesterday I preached a message at our church for Mother's Day about the need for spiritual parenting. If the majority of our kids are making a decision by the age of thirteen, we'd better be about the Father's business. It takes more than just any kind of village or any kind of people to raise children for God. Spiritual  parenting requires Godly moms, dads, grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, and Christian adults in general.

The need is great. Did you know that sixty-four percent of decisions are made for Christ before the age of eighteen and seventy-seven percent are made before the age of twenty-one?(Source: Barna Research Group)

Those statistics should light a fire under us! We must spiritually parenting our own children, and care about reaching as many others as possible.

To spiritually parent requires taking notice of the young people around us. When my husband was a very young teen (and a new Christian) he was the only one in his family attending church. The family who had been giving Larry a ride to church let him know that due to distance,  it required too much gas money to continue doing so. Larry didn't go to church for a while. One day he came home from school and to his shock, Harry Sorbo, a board member of the church, was at his home. Harry told Larry he noticed he had not been at services lately and asked why. Larry told him he didn't have a ride anymore. Harry said, "I'll take care of that right away." From that day forward, Harry saw to it that Larry was in church every time the doors were open.

Harry was not the youth pastor, nor even one of the official youth leaders. He was not Larry's Sunday School teacher. He was simply a man in the church who noticed and cared. Without Harry Sorbo watching out for my husband, I don't know whether he'd be serving God today - or a pastor. Harry wasn't the only significant leader in my husband's life. There were many men and women of God who made investments in his life.

Many times we do nothing because we are waiting for something "official" to take place. A lot of people wait for the pastor to ask them to teach a class, or believe that doing something of significance means helping a larger group of people - not an individual.

The truth is, helping just one person does change the world.

Who are you reaching out to?

 

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