And some were made to be followers

Maybe it’s the occupation I’m in or possibly the fact that I’m an incurable information junkie, but does it seem to you that we are overrun by media for managers, books, seminars and multi-day programs for leadership training. Conferences and seminars beckon aspiring leaders. Success Ideas Teamwork Plans Signpost Showing Business Plans And OrganizationLast week my copy of Inc Magazine came and here’s what took up the whole cover. “Become a better leader in just two days.” Not impossible, but doubtful. Through books and blogs, volumes are written on the topic of leadership.  There is no lack of training for leaders.  But what about training for followers? Is there a demand for training in how to be a better follower?  We could call it followship!

Many years ago, and I say that because it was early in my working career, I had trouble with the concept of following. Not that I wouldn’t follow, thought I was too good to follow, or allowed obstacles to prevent me from following. When I entered the workforce of the serious career minded, it was with the  mindset to aspire, advance, achieve, then retire. Advancement meant stepping up to the plate, with each plate moving me higher on the ladder. It took about 2 years for me to recognize my gift was to be a follower, not a leader; the word ‘Manager’ would never be inscribed on my nameplate and my name would never show up on an org chart. Manager of others does not describe me, but manager of myself does. God wired me to be a leader of my own thoughts and actions –  I aspire to advance and achieve my calling, followship.

I once went to talk to a trusted manager about my role on the team. I didn’t have the experience or the technical knowledge of the other members of my team. This was at a time when layoffs were occurring, and for whatever reason, I wasn’t laid off but was ‘traded’ to another area of the organization. I knew nothing – literally – and didn’t see how I would fit into my new role.  He said to me “Anderson, you need to go home tonight and read Romans 12.”  I was surprised and pleased at the same time.  I read this first, Romans 12: 4-6 “We are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around….. we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.”

That made sense.  I would never be like the others on my team, but I could use my strengths to fill a role that was uniquely mine.  I kept on reading.  Romans 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  Pray through it, be patient, and be faithful. I had the easy part while God took care of the tough stuff.

I still read a lot on leadership.  I wish there were just as many resources available for followers as there are for leaders. How would the marketing look for a seminar for followers?  Become a better follower in just two days doesn’t have the audacious drive and stir the same emotion as ‘Become a better leader’ does.  Where are the books and blogs that reveal the significance of filling the role of an expert follower?  When I say 80% of my job is making my boss and my team look good, I say it with conviction.  When I say, “I want to help you,” that statement is authentic.

In my past I have been called a servant leader, the eternal cheerleader, and sunshine.  I have never been called boss or manager.  My constant prayer is that I continually have on my heart, only to be what God wants me to be every moment of every day. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-28 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will in Christ Jesus.

This Is Where I Leave You

Yesterday I noticed a commercial on TV for a new movie. My breath caught when I heard the title, This Is Where I Leave You. Forest road. Landscape.How often over the past few weeks have I thought about the void of an empty room, the hollow feeling trailing a wave, the finality of a closed door.  Have you ever spent time with someone you love, seizing every moment before their journey takes them one direction while yours takes you another? Have you known the words were coming but didn’t want to hear them, “This is where I leave you”?

If you’re breathing, you know the empty feeling of saying good bye, or avoiding the good bye altogether and using the softer, see ya later. I recently talked to a friend whose youngest child went off to college leaving her with nobody to drop off or pick up at school, no sporting events claiming every weekday evening, and a pretty lonely dinner table. There will be holidays and long weekends, but this season has brought new colors to the landscape – not the colors she is ready for.

Last year when my grandson joined the Marines we said good bye to him as he left for 13 weeks of Basic Training. He insisted on no tears and we all bravely complied … up until he said, this is where I leave you.  There are too many events in our life where the only option demands we take a deep breath and say good bye. Our whirlwind lives occur in such a blur that looking back we see a variation of what was. We take snatches of remembrances drawn from experiences as a way to soothe our aching hearts in moments when we feel loss. Life happens when we aren’t looking and we call it memory.

Change is inevitable, isn’t it? Just when we feel comfortable, when we seem to be on the right track, at the time we’re most confident and we’ve achieved consistency in our routines, then something changes. I used to dread change, in fact I was afraid of change. Routine was comfort, it meant stability. It didn’t mean loss or saying good-by. God impressed upon me the futility of dwelling on fear of change. The obvious results are shared in Lamentations 3:19 “Just thinking of my troubles and my lonely wandering makes me miserable.” I realized that life is filled with ups and downs, good and bad, gain and, as much as I dreaded it, many good-byes. I could choose to be miserable or I could choose to believe what God said in
1 Samuel 12:22 “The Lord has chosen you to be his own people. He will always take care of you so that everyone will know how great he is.”

Someone who had been through many distressing circumstances helped me learn to accept change. She taught me to recognize that change is neither good nor bad, it’s only different. I’m a little slow on the uptake and I didn’t embrace her wisdom right away, but gradually I learned that change didn’t mean loss, change didn’t always mean saying good-by. Life is a contact sport and sometimes we get beat up pretty bad, but there is no value in regurgitating the past and stumbling through defeat and more trouble. What can we do?
Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

New perspectives don’t magically materialize, nor do problems evaporate. There will always be changes we disagree with, our tender hearts will be broken by the dreaded good-by, we will lose parts of us we know we can’t live without, but in these times we must trust in the God that is bigger than all our terrifying problems and wider than the hollow left vacant by loss.  In Romans 1:11 Paul explains a remedy for fear. “I want to see you and share with you the same blessings that God’s Spirit has given me. Then you will grow stronger in your faith.” Recently I heard that in the Bible, we are commanded 365 times to “Fear not”. That’s a command, not a suggestion. We know from scripture, 2 Timothy 1:7 “God did not give us a Spirit of fear but of power and love and self-control.” God didn’t give us a fear of failing, or fear of change, or fear of loss. The Psalmist says in Psalm 32:10 “Many are the woes of the wicked, but the Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the one who trusts in him.” And in Isaiah 12:2 I trust you to save me, Lord God, and I won’t be afraid. My power and my strength come from you, and you have saved me.”

Be courageous. Focus on what you have, not on what you’ve lost. Capitalize on what you can do, not on what you cannot.

So this is where I leave you.

2 Corinthians 13:11 Good-by, my friends. Do better and pay attention to what I have said. Try to get along and live peacefully with each other. Now I pray that God, who gives love and peace, will be with you.

Treat yourself to joy every day!

Need you now by Plumb

Spare Parts

How do you feel about spare parts?  Have you ever bought a cabinet that comes in a million pieces or a model car you assemble and seal with that high octane glue? Does IKEA appeal to you because of the price or because you’re passionate about building a masterpiece for your home out of parts you dump from a box? Have you ever finished your project and there on the floor was a spare part? ‘Huh. I wonder where this part belongs.”  Did the box contain too many, were the directions wrong, or did I follow them wrong? Was that piece critical, or will the item work just as well without it? At that point deliberation is running tracks, speculating what happens now? Take it apart and start over? Quickly scoop up the part with the packing material and throw it in the trash? Examine the instructions and contemplate the outcome of applying a Band-Aid, but without total rework?

I think this describes real life on Planet Earth sometimes. There is no lack of moving parts. From the moment we open our eyes to a new day till the time we close them to sleep at night, we are dealing with components, some that fit, others that don’t. Do you ever feel like that? Lost in a menagerie of irregular parts that don’t seem to fit anywhere? God assures us that he has a use for all those parts.  The Message translation says it best Psalm 139:13-14 “You shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—Body and soul, I am marvelously made! What a creation! You know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.

When I think of those verses in Psalm 139 it’s like God sorting through a million piece jig saw puzzle, seeing the design, imagining the purpose of each part with all the odd shapes, prongs, and layers of colors – then with His miraculous touch makes a person, like you and like me, unique in our appearance, our gifts, our personalities, our interests; unlike anyone else. Yet, God values every irregular, out of order, messed up part.spare parts 1 Romans 12 is encouraging for spare part people because it affirms that we each are born for purpose; not a purpose but for purpose. Look at a few highlights of Romans 12:4-8 “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function…We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. Prophesying in accordance with your faith; serving; teaching; giving; encouragement; compassionate; leadership.”

Look at the puzzle with pieces missing. Pretty sad, isn’t it? Unless all the pieces are there, the body is incomplete and not as beautiful, and certainly not as useful.

Spare parts? God doesn’t make parts that are meaningless and without value. Every person was handcrafted by the Master; every part created with purpose. Remember Joseph, the adored young son whose brothers sold him to slave traders? They considered Joseph a spare part, not needed. They gathered him up like packing material and threw him away in a ditch – just like trash. A few verses later in Genesis 37:28, they sold him to the Midianites “When the merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekelsof silver.” Many years pass, but in Genesis chapter 45, Joseph, spare part, Joseph, reveals the complete picture designed in God’s mind before Joseph was born. Ready for the happy ending? Genesis 45:4-7 ““I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! Do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you….to preserve and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”

How do you feel about spare parts? If you feel like a spare part, irregular and without purpose, remember that everything created by God fits precisely into his plan. Emotions are fickle unless brought under control of the Master Designer where they are exposed to the truth as Isaiah 40 writes. “God sits on his throne above the circle of the earth…Look up to the skies. God calls all the stars by name. Because he is strong and powerful, not one of them is missing. Surely you know. God lives forever, He created all the world. He gives strength to those who are tired and more power to those who are weak. The people who trust the Lord will become strong. They will rise up as an eagle in the sky; they will run and not need rest; they will walk and not become tired.”

spare parts 2Now that we have that settled, the world is waiting for you – all of you – Ready? Let’s get out there!

Amy Grant, sings Jesus, Take All of me (Just As I Am)

It’s Sunday!

OK everybody up! Rise and shine! Good Morning ♪♫•*¨ To You – It’s Sunday ! Don’t we all look forward to Sunday? It’s a day with benefits. Even if we’re up before dawn, the hour we wake up and plant our feet on the floor is later than the usual Monday thru Friday O:dark:hundred. Sundays can be STRESSFUL! There I said it; even emphasized it. We are rushed! Get the kids up, coax breakfast into them, wet their hair down, dress them in something worship worthy, make sure their socks match and they aren’t wearing muddy tennis shoes. Moms scurry from room to room picking up, putting down, fixing this, taking care of that, prepping dinner, and wishing for the room fairy to come clean up this mess.  Where is dad? Out in the car blowing the horn anxiously awaiting his family who are again going to be late for church. Well hmmmm…where are the benefits?

We have to dig a little bit, but benefits are all over Sunday if we look for them. Relax. Seriously.  First, relax. Repeat this thought until it takes root in your heart.  This is the day that the Lord has made we will rejoice and be glad in it. OK you can sing it to yourself for the full effect. With that circulating in your thoughts, we’re ready to seek the benefits of today with a new attitude and enlivened spirit.  How many of these are true for you?  Here’s what I’ve discovered when I take inventory.  The days have gotten cold, but my home is warm.  My car takes me every place I want to go.  There is food in my cabinet to fill me physically and promises of God in scripture to fill me spiritually.  I have a church I love where the music and messages are encouraging and nurture my soul for the week ahead.  I have friends who care about me and when they greet me with a smile, I know it’s genuine. I have the love of my family even though most of us are separated by miles that prevent personal visits.  But we have the benefits of telephones, the Internet, and Skype to bring the world closer. Sunday provides the added benefit of a few free moments to visit – even when in-person is impossible.

Sunday benefits? A few of them are, but most are benefits we have every day. Tomorrow will be here before we know it and as the drama unfolds, how much better to face the day firmly grounded in the benefits of God’s promises and provisions.  Isaiah 58:11 “The Lord will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame.”  I don’t know about you, but I need all the strength available to me.

Let me leave you with the best way to part company: Grace and peace to you from God our Father.  Peace and grace to all who love our Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul of the Bible was an encourager. I want to follow his lead and be an encourager too. If you’re reading this, I have prayed peace for your heart and hope for your spirit today.   God bless you with His best.

I didn’t get that

God has a purpose for youOn August 31, 2013 my life changed forever. I made a choice then that continues today – I will not let this discourage me, will not allow depression to touch me, and will trust God in the dark for what he promised in the light. My body was down-trodden but my spirit remains up-lifted. In a heartbeat I went from healthy breadwinner to invalid with no income. I may have been caught by surprised, but nothing catches God by surprise. My position and role in all of this is to remain steadfast and not lose faith in the one who created me for a purpose and the one who continues to work everything out according to his plan. I’m one small piece of the puzzle in God’s grand design, but I know what happens when one tiny piece in a  million gets lost. I’m still here, not lost, working on whatever purpose God has in store for me. Better, not bitter.

On September 30, 2013 I first published this because well-meaning friends were convinced that I had to be depressed or discouraged.  No – not for one moment was I then, or am I now, either of those things.

Yesterday, I got an email from a friend that said “Stay strong and positive.  Not sure why I said that to the most positive person around.” Earlier in the day another friend approached me with a hug and kind compliment, “I’ve noticed you haven’t sounded angry or bitter.” Both comments caught me off guard. How could I be angry or bitter? How can I be anything but positive? Let me try to explain. From the moment I realized what happened I started thanking God for all the things that didn’t happen – and I know I was one breath from death.  I didn’t get that.

I had been riding a bike with my 9 year old granddaughter and her 10 year old friend. I think I’m on the millionth prayer ‘Thank you, God that this didn’t happen to them.’ They were 20 feet ahead of me and spared any injury.  I still can’t stop thanking God that nothing happened to those sweet little girls and that he protected them from harm.  Mark 10:16 “He took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” He also protected them.  I get that.

How can I be angry or bitter? Why would I be depressed when I review what I didn’t get? My scalp was torn away from my skull and required 14 staples to put it back in place. I didn’t get a concussion and my skull didn’t crack. (There are advantages to being hard headed, I guess.) My eyes wouldn’t close but I didn’t lose my sight. God miraculously spared my vision. I didn’t go blind.

When I looked up to see the horse moving forward, I moved to the left as quickly as I could. All my ribs on the right side front and back were crushed. My heart, just a couple inches away, was not touched. My heart could have been smashed, but I didn’t get that.

My shoulder blade cracked and while it’s the most painful area on my body, it wasn’t shattered beyond repair. It will always wing out now because that’s how it healed. I’ll forever wear that badge. It will be a constant reminder of God’s protection and blessing on my life.

I was wearing a backpack and every item inside was crushed, bent, or broken. My metal business card case, metal encased notepad, and metal enforced wallet were bent beyond further use, and my glasses inside a hard case were totally crushed. My spinal cord was unaffected – not even bruised.  I could have been left with a damaged spinal cord, unable to walk – but I didn’t get that.

The sandals I was wearing rubbed blisters on my ankles, but my ankles didn’t get broken or sprained. Think of it. I could have gotten broken legs, crushed knees, broken pelvis … I didn’t get any of that.

When my ribs got crushed, my right lung was punctured and collapsed. God orchestrated the team of workers who showed up to save my life. What are the chances that the med station on Mackinaw Island would have a chest tube? How often would a medic be called upon to insert a chest tube, not from the bottom of the lung, which is the normal method, but from the top, down? God sent an ER doctor to the island that day and while talking on the phone to a doctor at the trauma center in Petoskey, inserted the chest tube that would inflate my lung and save my life.  Miracles happened on August 31st. I get that.

Ephesians 3:17-20 “Let Christ dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,”

How can I be angry or bitter? There is no other attitude to have besides positive.  Recovery is slow and I feel bad about not being able to work till the end of the contract I had at my job.  I’m not sure how that factors in to God’s plan, but I know that every detail of life paints a tapestry designed by Him.  I’m easily exhausted, but am not bed ridden.  When I use this little netbook for writing, it has to be at a certain position due to the pain in my right side, and it’s difficult to write, but I can write and type . . . just in short periods.

Philippians 2:13-16 “It is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, “children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.” Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.”

All prayers gladly accepted. They work.  I get that.

Comparison is the Opposite of Contentment

OK everybody up! Rise and shine! Good Morning

Sometimes I struggle. Does that ever happen to you? Struggle? If we put our list of struggles side by side there’s a good chance there would be no matches, but we would all have something on our lists.011214_2029_OneWord1.png I have a lifelong infatuation with the word ‘why’; not so much the academic, ‘Why does that formula work when this one doesn’t?’ but the practical, ‘Why did this happen when it’s not at all what I expected.’  We’ve all been there, navigating the speculative ‘What happens now?’

You know, Gideon went through that same litany of defeat when nothing seemed to be going the way he envisioned. For one thing, did you know that Gideon’s reputation was not ‘mighty warrior’, but was instead ‘weakest member of the weakest tribe’? This was serious for a warrior who was in charge of leading soldiers in battle. Do you think Gideon had ‘why’ on his mind? In Judges 6:12 & 13 “The angel of God appeared to him and said, “God is with you, O mighty warrior!”   “Gideon replied, “With me, my master? If God is with us, why has all this happened to us? Where are all the miracle-wonders our parents and grandparents told us about, telling us?”

Docile, frightened Gideon was carrying the burden of a nation and because he destroyed the altars of the false god, Baal, his life was in danger. I’m thinking Gideon asked ‘why’. The story continues in Judges 6 with Gideon confronting the Angel of the Lord with this argument, “The fact is, God has nothing to do with us—he has turned us over to Midian.” It sounds like Gideon was struggling with ‘Why did this happen?’ Is this a lot like our struggles today? Do we concentrate so intently on activities we can’t do to the detriment of those we can? Do we so obsessively crave what we have lost, we disregard what we still have?

Sometimes we need a little reminder that comparison is the enemy of contentment. We need to take stock of what we have now and begin a new inventory to build on. It’s true that many individuals have lost much of their past inventory and rebuilding from what they have now is devastating. The truth is though, what’s gone is the past, what remains might be crumbs but they are the morsels to start rebuilding. Focus on what we have, not on what was lost. Unsure? Of course we are unsure, so was Gideon. Remember he had just shown his skepticism when he reminded God that it seemed like He had turned his back on Gideon’s people. So let’s continue Judges 6:14 “God faced him directly: “Go in this strength that is yours. I have sent you, haven’t I? The victory over Midian is already yours.” Can you just hear Gideon? Ha! “You’re kidding right? Me, my master? I’m going to save Israel?  I’ve got nothing – no strength, no power. Look at me. My clan is the weakest in Manasseh and I’m the runt of the litter.” Gideon was focusing on what he didn’t have’; what he couldn’t do, but God had a plan that far exceeding any that Gideon could imagine. Verse 16 “God said to him, “I’ll be with you. Believe me, you’ll defeat Midian as one man.”

The story of Gideon doesn’t end there. He did go on to defeat the enemy. We can go on to defeat the enemy too. The enemy that gets inside our minds, and worms its way to our heart and makes us feel like we have nothing – absolutely nothing. But when we listen to God he says “My child, “I’ll be with you. Believe me ….”

Here’s the path to overcoming the enemy of defeat. Don’t worry. It changes nothing.  Remember God is by your side. Ask Him to be your guide and protector. Start reminding yourself of what is good, lovely, honorable, and brings you joy. Did you start an inventory of what you can do? Do you have a ‘thankful’ list? There is no such thing as perfect. Perfect is just a word, it’s not a state of being. So let’s not expect perfect but let’s expect to be so persuasive in our thoughts that our hearts and attitudes catch up. What we think eventually gets to our emotions. We choose.  Better or bitter.  Sunny or cloudy.  Peace or conflict. Joy ….. choose joy.  It’s the better deal.

And I choose this

Shattered – The Inside Story

I’ve always been fascinated by kaleidoscopes. When I was a little girl my grandma had one in the toy box. I still remember it was made out of a cardboard tube with a tin top and hazy plastic bottom.  Not much to look at, but out of all the toys in the box, it was my favorite. Back then, I didn’t know how a kaleidoscope worked; I just knew that it did.

There’s an exciting event in Grand Rapids that’s coming up in September. It’s ArtPrize and last year even though I was in the early stages of recovering from a near fatal accident, I begged my husband to take me. A couple years ago at ArtPrize I saw a life-size kaleidoscope.  You know what?  I was still just as fascinated with it as I was 50 years ago.  I loved turning toward the moon, twisting the cylinder while multiple colors in crystal shapes were illuminated by the moonlight.  I had the opportunity to talk to the artist about his quest to find the perfect ingredients to craft his object for ArtPrize. Did you know the makeup of a kaleidoscope is from very basic materials? A tube, a few mirrors, some glass and plastic – nothing remarkable. Nothing remarkable. Does this sound familiar?  That’s me. That’s us. Don’t we feel like that sometimes?

We feel a little like that tube, all shiny on the outside, but pretty hollow on the inside. Sometimes we’re shattered by the circumstances we’re living with and are exhausted in trying to figure out how to get through the maze. Inside the tube, it’s dark. The remnants of shattered glass are everywhere. There are mirrors, but in this position they reflect nothing.  Let’s work on that. We are like a kaleidoscope in the making. All the ingredients are there; now we need the Master builder to perform His work in us. Jesus said in John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

Like the kaleidoscope our lives are a potpourri of events, decisions, activities, and situations.  Some of them are exciting, others are bursting with happiness, we love those times and grasp them firmly in our memories.  Then there are broken dreams, shattered opportunities and we want to forget they ever happened.  Did you know God uses all of that – the good and the sorrowful – to make our lives beautiful and significant? The key is in our positioning.  We have to get into the place where the Light of the World enters the dark, hollow tube and reflects off the mirrors of our hearts.  All those fragmented pieces of glass, those times when we feel shattered, point them to the light and turn the filter while they fall into a beautiful design. The colors change and illuminate in patterns, each one unique, each one beautiful. Your life is unique and beautiful. All those broken toys, all those shattered plans, give them all to Jesus. He is the Light of the World and will make your life beautiful.

The kaleidoscope – unremarkable.  But when the position is just right, the light comes in, reflects off the mirrors, and the shards of glass illuminate with unique beauty.  I agree with David.  Psalm 40:8
I desire to do your will, my God; your law is within my heart.

The sun is rising on a new day.  Yesterday in one of his many life enhancing truisms, our pastor quoted Colossians 3:17  “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  Today I’m thankful for hope through the good and bad, the ups and downs of how life happens. I’m thankful for light in a dark world. Now hand me that Kaleidoscope!

There’s a hand stretched out – take it. We can trust our God. He knows what he’s doing.  Remember the kaleidoscope. LET’S GET OUT THERE!