An Unexpected Gift

It had been a beautiful day.  The planning meetings were over.  Tomorrow a team of us would be working with about a dozen faith based ministries on developing strong and effective boards.  Now it was time for a walk along the river in the city I was visiting.  It was great to get some exercise.  The walk included treasured time on the phone with my wife, ending in prayer together.

After a couple of miles there was a coffee shop with some good ice tea.  As I entered, I noticed a man making his bed on the side of the curb.  I realized after walking into the coffee shop that he was trying to get my attention.  When I looked out the window, he was looking down, shaking his head while tending to his curbside bed. The unspoken message was, “Another person just walked by me without noticing me.”

Instead of ordering one ice tea, I ordered two, plus a sandwich.  I put it together in a little gift bag along with a $5 bill.  Once out of the coffee shop, I went straight over to him.  We looked each other in the eyes and I asked him if he would be willing to receive this little gift bag from me.

He said, “Yes.”

He went on to tell me his name and he asked if he could pray a blessing.  He humbly held his hands together with his palms facing up.  I wish I could remember the prayer word for word, but it went something like this:  “Dear God, I know you are busy, but could you take time to bless this servant who has brought me this gift.  May this gift nourish me physically and spiritually.  Strengthen your servant so that he can help other people who are in a tough place like me.”  

After he prayed, I asked if I could pray too.  He said, “Yes.”  So I prayed, “Dear Jesus, please bless Anthony tonight.  Take care of him.  Keep him safe and protect him from evil.  Give him what he needs.  Let him know just how much You love him. In Jesus name, Amen.”

As I walked away, I realized that I was the recipient of an unexpected gift of God’s grace.  Anthony gave me what he had, a humble and beautiful blessing.  He interceded for me.  He reminded me that God’s grace is everywhere.

There is a story recounted in the Bible where a poor and disabled person is asking the apostle Peter for money.  Peter responds by saying, “I don’t have the money you need, but I will give you what I have.”  With that, this poor person was healed of his physical disabilities.

Anthony reminds me of Peter.  He gave me what he had.  He gave me a spiritual blessing.  He gave me encouragement.  His gift was beautiful and abundant in so many ways.

“Dear Jesus, thank you for Anthony and the gift he gave me.  Your grace is everywhere.  I am so grateful.  In Jesus name, Amen.”

 

Pray Now

Some people close to me, but separated by miles, were really hurting and upset.  I wanted to be with them, but that was not possible.  I did the one thing I could do, I found another person of faith, and we prayed.  We prayed specifically for the details of this crisis.  We prayed for God’s peace to sweep in and help settle things.  We prayed for perspective.  We prayed for His intervention to overtake the pitfalls of human efforts.  We prayed in faith, trusting in God and our relationship with Him.  We believed and acted with the knowledge that He would hear and answer our prayers.

Within the hour, God’s peace began to completely transform the crisis.  His intervention overcame the pitfalls of human effort.  It was beautiful.  I wept tears of gratitude and my sense of awe in God increased.

These are two things I am learning:

  1. There is no power in the intent to pray.
  2. The power released through prayer with God is only released when we pray.

A few years ago I took up a challenge to, whenever appropriate, pray for people when they ask for prayer.  I also made a decision to try to avoid the phrase, “I will pray for you” when the power of prayer and God’s interaction with our prayers could happen in that moment.

I choose to PRAY NOW.  There’s a reason why Paul encourages us to pray constantly.  The transforming power of God works through prayer.  Our awareness of God at work in things that matter to us becomes more obvious.  The results and outcomes of any situation are improved through prayer.  God’s will, and being aligned with His will, increases through prayer.

The next time you get caught grinding away on something in your own strength, stop the moment you become aware of your own grind, and pray.  Bring God into the center of the situation as soon as possible.

At first, it might feel awkward, but stay with it.  You will see God’s transforming work become more evident to you simply by taking time to PRAY NOW.

Consistency

Consistency is the key to growth and change.

Typically when I hear people talk about the changes needed in their reality I hear about the big moves and the quest for rapid answers.  However, when quick solutions show up there must be a commitment to the disciplines required to sustain the improving direction or any gains will not be sustained and may be incrementally lost.

“I lost 30 pounds in 90 days!”  Sounds like a success story, but without the commitment to consistency in changes to diet and exercise the story turns into “I’ve lost the same 30 pounds at least five times in my life” or “I’ve gained back all the weight I lost and then some.”

Consistency is critical to sustain healthy growth and change in life.

In an organization, two or three decisions that are executed with consistency can begin to really change the trajectory and capacity of the organization and its effectiveness in the world.  Consider this example:

We are going to pay our bills when they are due.  This organization had been strapped with bad cash flow for a variety of reasons.  One of their bad habits was that when cash got tight they stretched out timelines for paying their bills.  In essence, they were using their suppliers and vendors as a line of credit by not paying bills when they were due.  As a result, suppliers and vendors were getting weary of doing business with this well-liked organization.

The commitment was made to pay all bills when they were due.  The organization rethought cash flow, suppliers and vendors were paid promptly.  As a result, people now seek out doing business with this organization.

Here is the point.  The organization made a commitment to consistent pursuit and execution of the decision to pay its bills on time.  This has resulted in better relationships, better cash flow and stronger mission fulfillment.

Consistency of execution is the key.

Consider one decision that you or your organization could pursue with consistency that, if persisted in, would bring about lasting change for the better.  Be patient, be realistic, and above all, BE CONSISTENT.

 

 

Love is Stronger than…

Culture thinks of strength in terms of great acts of might or domination.  Media is filled with images reflecting these ideas.  We describe some children as “strong willed”.  Strength is used to describe a young person who is an outstanding athlete. An individual who is intellegent or expresses conviction or opinion is refered to as having a “strong mind.”

The bible talks about a greater and more effective strength.  In a word…LOVE.

One of the bible writers, Paul, says that even if he knew all of God’s plans, even if he could literally move mountains through the power of his faith, even if he had all knowledge, it would all come up empty and weak compared to love.  (I Corinthians 13)

I need to learn to lead my life from a position of love.  Any physical, intellectual or emotional strength applied to this world will only have lasting effectiveness for good if coming from a place of love.

As a husband, my wife must know that all of my care and concern for her flows from a strong love. As a father, all the rules and structure, correction and discipline will come up empty if they are not rooted and expressed in love.

As a leader, any difference I hope to contribute to this world will only be accomplished from a place of love.  From the board room to the front line deliverables of the organization, the primary conduit for long term gains is love.

Love is often portrayed as weak.  Yet there is nothing more powerful than love in overcoming rage, fear, betrayal or honest mistakes.  Love can open up a hardened and wounded spirit.  I see it happen all the time.

I have come to know two things about this incredible love:

  • Love doesn’t naturally happen in ourselves.
  • The source of love comes from God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

God’s Holy Spirit comes along side us to help us live from a place of love.

If you want to live a strong and effective life, live a life filled with love.  Bring love to every relationship and organization in your life.  There is nothing stronger than God’s love.

 

For Better Results – Go Together

One of the most comon mistakes of leaders at all levels of experience is the decision to “go it alone” on a particular issue or challenge.

We often expect this of younger leaders, simply based on the combination of enthusiasm and limited experience.  We tend to be surprised when experienced leaders go it alone, because they know better, and yet, there seems to come a point where experience creates a vulnerability of independent confidence that is not helpful.

The reality is that we are designed to tackle life together, not alone.  The human spirit is not designed to go solo.  We were made in the image of God, and He sought fellowship with us from the very beginning.

Consider a few benefits of going together:

  • Expanded Thinking:  The best ideas are usually discovered and improved by working together.
  • Good Energy:  There is a healthy energy that is released when we tackle the issues of life together.
  • Sharing the Burden:  Every journey has seasons of burden.  There is nothing more difficult in leadership than the sense of being alone.  There is something awesome about knowing that a group of people share the load together.
  • Minimize Pitfalls:  Good counsel, while not a guarantee, is likely to reduce the number of mistakes along the way.
  • Others to Share it With:  At the end of the day, we are built for others to share in the wins and losses of any particular day.

I remember finding myself working on a collaborative project with a highly qualified team of people.  At one point in our journey, as an experienced leader, I made the mistake of striking out on my own.  My intent was to “move the ball down the field” at a faster pace.  My mistake was quickly brought to my attention.  I had to circle back to the team and ask for forgiveness and committ to working together to accommplish the necessary goals to overcome the challenges in front of us.

It is much better to go through life together.