GO WITH YOUR GUT?

It happens all the time in leadership. You have to make a critical decision in the next hour or the next day. Either way, there’s pressure to decide quickly. So how do you do that?

It’s tempting to go with your gut—to do what feels right in the core of your being. We’ve all done it. But is the core of our being always lined up with God’s wisdom?

Recently, a late-breaking opportunity/assignment came across my desk. I was asked to present material for a training video that would be used nationally. Opportunity-wise, I could help the national group. Assignment-wise, it would take time I didn’t have. Gut-wise, it was out of my comfort zone and I didn’t relish the added pressure.

I spoke with a colleague about it. Her first words were, “Seems like a distraction to me.” She knew my busy schedule and the importance of my current tasks.

I said, “Let’s pray about it,” and we did. As we prayed, my gut became more aligned with God’s heart. I began to see things from the national group’s perspective, and could see why they’d want leaders from the field to participate. More and more, it seemed like something I should say yes to. After we prayed, my colleague said, “The word ‘availability’ came to mind during our prayer.”

Ugh. That was the confirmation I needed. I essentially dropped everything, pressed through the weirdness of doing a sample videotaping—knowing it was what God wanted me to do—and sent it off to the videographer.

Had I gone with my gut, I would’ve bowed out gracefully. But had I gone with my gut, I would’ve missed God’s intention for me.

How to Go with the Spirit

  1. Acknowledge your gut. God already knows your instinctive feelings about the situation, but it’s helpful to express them to Him. Doing so will help you discern any influence from your flesh, and God will begin to align you with His Spirit.
  2. Find a trusted associate. You won’t always have time to include someone else in the discernment, but when you’re able to—it will be invaluable. You’ll gain their objectivity and their participation in prayer.
  3. Ask God for perspective. Be as open-minded as possible, and sincerely ask God for His wisdom. He wants to lead you, He wants you to hear His voice, and He will speak as you listen.
  4. Allow yourself to adjust. If what you’ve heard from God is different from your initial inclination, He’ll help you shift your emotions and make the necessary changes.
  5. Confidently obey. When you’ve made your decision according to God’s Word and Spirit, you are good to go. Press forward and be assured that God is with you as you carry it out.

In the fast-paced world of leadership, it’s tempting to make gut decisions on the fly, hoping for the best. But leaders who take time to press into God and go with the Spirit’s leading—and not just their gut—have a far better track record of making sound decisions.

 

Think of a time your gut said one thing and God said another. Feel free to share your scenario in the Comment Section below.

HOW TO HAVE UNSPEAKABLE JOY

In the rush and rigors of leadership, it’s important to have regular encounters with God that cause our souls to soar. While these moments can’t be manufactured, we can position ourselves to experience inexpressible times of joy with God that characterize our lives.

A few years ago, I had one of these moments with a treasured friend. We’d been on a meaningful spiritual retreat together, and afterwards debriefed over generous slices of chocolate cake with peanut butter icing. In between delectable mouthfuls, she said, “I love you, Lisa Hosler!” It was unplanned by her, unexpected by me—and swelled both of our hearts. It became the capstone of our time together.

4 Elements of Memorable Encounters with God

  1. Togetherness. If you aren’t consciously spending time with God, you’re unlikely to experience the joy of His presence. Make time and take time to be alone with your Father.
  2. Communication. Interaction with God can happen in many ways—praying out loud, praying silently, journaling, etc. Most of all, remember to listen.
  3. Feasting. Think about it—food is often part of the equation when friends gather for fellowship. Even better than chocolate cake, the food of God’s Word is “sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb” (Psalm 19:10b ESV). Devour it and savor it.
  4. Intimacy. As you fellowship with God, express your love to Him and receive the outpourings of His love toward you. Some will resemble Niagara Falls; others will be like a droplet of rain. Either way, God’s affirmations are supernaturally replenishing.

This morning as I sat outside to be with God, I noticed the mist across the fields and the way it dimmed the distant trees. The birds were quieter than usual. Everything seemed hushed, muted. I had a big day ahead of me, and its components started to clamor in my mind.

Just then I sensed the Lord saying, “I’m right here with you, Lisa, enjoying the morning.” A simple declaration of His presence with me, His desire to be with me. And a subtle reminder to “enjoy” before embracing the responsibilities of the day.

It’s easy to become frustrated in the fray of leadership. But leaders who commune with God have an uncontainable wellspring of joy deep within their souls.

Although you haven’t seen Jesus, you still love Him.

Although you don’t yet see Him, you do believe in Him

and celebrate with a joy that is glorious and beyond words.

1 Peter 1:8 (VOICE)

 

In the Comment Section below, share about a simple experience of inexpressible joy as you spent time with the Lord.

“SHEPHERD CARE” FOR SHEPHERDS

Good leaders are good shepherds. They genuinely and actively care for the people they lead. They shepherd well because they’re Shepherded well.

If you’ve read my blogs recently, you know God led me out of my “God chair” and into the great outdoors. He’s used the open surroundings to open my spirit to His in a fresh way.

Last week, God added another element to my time outside. On that particular morning, my brain fog was pretty dense. I sensed God saying, “You could exercise out here, Lisa.” (Let me back up and say that in the months leading up to my dad’s death last year, exercise got squeezed out of my schedule. It’s never found its way back in. But I’ve wanted it to, and I’ve asked God for help.)

“You could exercise out here, Lisa.” Hmmm… could anyone see me? I glanced to the left—nothing but our warehouse roof. I glanced to the right—no windows on that side of our neighbor’s house. And our back deck faces a soybean field.

I was good to go and did my usual 20-minute routine. Afterwards, I felt more awake, more alert, and had a great time engaging with God and His Word. Every morning since then, I’ve followed my Shepherd’s prompting to exercise, and I’m a third of the way into the 21 days it takes to form a healthy habit. Best of all, I’m acutely aware of God’s TLC in my life.

How to Let God Shepherd You

  1. Own your sheephood. Proud, independent leaders aren’t prone to run to their Shepherd. Accept your human frailty and embrace your need for regular time with God.
  2. Ask for His care. Express your needs to God. Tell Him when you’re feeling thirsty, tired, or frustrated. He wants to hear your heart.
  3. Listen for His voice. God is always speaking. As we read last week in Psalm 19:2, creation “pours forth speech” about God, and so does His Word and His Spirit. We just need to quiet ourselves before Him to hear.
  4. Obey His promptings. As your Shepherd, God knows the nuances of what you need and when you need it. You’re a unique sheep, and He has specific ways of caring for you. When you sense Him leading you into something new, step into it.
  5. Stay close. God’s mercies are new every morning, and so is His care for us. When we’re eye to eye with God, we’re well within His reach as He ministers fresh love, truth, and direction.

Look how intentionally and gently God nurtures us in Isaiah 40:11:

He will feed His fold like a shepherd;
He will gather together His lambs—the weak and the wobbly ones—into His arms.
He will carry them close to His bosom,
and tenderly lead like a shepherd the mother of her lambs.

If this doesn’t characterize your relationship with God, review the steps above and ask God to scoop you up into His arms. It’s what you need, and it’s what your followers need to be true of you. Good leaders shepherd well because they’re Shepherded well.

 

How is God uniquely caring for you in this season? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

 

 

EXPERIENCE GOD OUTSIDE THE BOX

Good leaders have a steady relationship their heavenly Father, which brings peace and stability to the organization they lead. But a consistent walk with God doesn’t have to take on routine-like qualities. He’s a master at keeping things fresh.

At the beginning of a workday set aside to be with God, He led me to our back deck. Initially, it was sensory overload—with all the outdoor sights and sounds. But soon, my soul quieted down, and I was able to focus on things one by one. The cabbage moth in the field, the sun warming my shoulders, the airplane’s trail across the sky.

I started writing in my journal, noting each unique thing.

I kept being drawn to the highest branches of our neighbor’s evergreen tree, where sparrows were gathering. First one, then two, soon four. I went inside to get my camera, but by the time I returned they were gone.

More observing, more note-taking, more soul-stilling.

Off in the distance, a larger bird perched atop another evergreen tree. I reached for my camera and he flew. Hmmm… I thought. I guess photography isn’t part of this experience.

 Eventually, I found myself taking in the whole of the evergreen tree. I noticed its stature, its stability, its symmetry, its strength, its beauty. I thought about its ever green branches—even in Pennsylvania’s freezing cold winters. Scriptures filled my mind; tears filled my eyes.

Father, I’ve felt frazzled lately with an overly full schedule at work and at home. I want to be like an evergreen tree. Anchored in You. Planted. Rooted. Grounded.

I spent the rest of the day immersed in Scriptures about roots, trees, and streams of water. By the end, my soul was at rest and I had a new scriptural focus.

7 Steps to Experiencing God Outside

  1. Get out. Plan a block of time, an hour if possible, to be alone with God outdoors.
  2. Just be. Breathe. Let your soul slow down.
  3. Get a sense of your surroundings. What do you hear, see, feel, smell?
  4. Tune in. Take notice of what God is drawing your attention to. What’s stirring your heart? Your emotions?
  5. Stay tuned in to that particular thing, and begin talking with God about it. Ponder related Scriptures. Let God speak to your heart.
  6. Hold onto what God is saying to you, even when you go back inside and resume your activities. Meditate on verses. Continue to chew on God’s truth until it becomes a part of you.
  7. You won’t recreate that experience, but follow God’s lead in meeting with Him outside the box of what’s typical for you.

A word that could never describe God is “boring.” More like unsearchable and inscrutable. These words, from Romans 11:33, point to the endless discovery of knowing Him. Leaders who desire to know God in His fullness do well to step outside the box to meet with Him. Favorite chairs, treasured Scriptures, and cherished worship songs are great. But God is still greater. Let’s step outside with Him!

 

What is one of your favorite ways to meet with God outside the box? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

“LOOK AT ME”

Remember riding a merry-go-round as a kid and watching your surroundings turn into one big blur? I used to focus really hard on a nearby tree and try to hold it in my gaze, only to have it swoosh away. Leadership can be like that. The plethora of projects can be head-spinning and ADHD-inducing, unless we regain our focus.

My husband and I have a 3-month-old puppy with a severe case of ADHD. Within one minute, she’ll chase a ball, notice her water dish, stop abruptly to lap up some water, lunge at our ankles for a quick nip, twirl around to attack the rug, and inadvertently bump into her ball, which scares her silly and sets off a cacophony of barks.

Our only hope at directing her behavior is to get her to look us in the eye. We say, “Look at me,” as we hold a treat near our eyes, and then reward her when she does. It’s not easy and it takes lots of repetition, but when she locks eyes with us, she’s all ours. She’ll sit, lie down, get back up, and stand on command. It’s an amazing—albeit short-lived, for now—transformation.

3 Benefits of Looking at Jesus

  1. Better view. Jesus is exalted. Reigning. Sovereign. Full of peace, goodness, and love for you. As you lift your eyes off your projects and onto Him, you’ll be freshly awed by the grandeur of His heart and character.
  2. Truer perspective. As you feast on Jesus and His Word, you’ll see your projects from His point of view and glean His wisdom for working on them.
  3. Greater direction. Instead of flitting from project to project, when you fix your eyes on Jesus, you’ll sense His priorities and guidance.

Hebrews 12:2 says, “Looking to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith.” The Greek word for “looking to” is aphoreό, which means “to look away from all else” (Bible Hub Interlinear Greek). So when Jesus says to us, “Look at Me,” He’s saying, “Stop looking at all your projects and gaze on Me for a while. I’m the initiator, sustainer, and perfecter of everything that concerns you.” Leaders who develop a regular habit of looking to Jesus will experience His presence, His peace, and His productivity.

 

What’s your workday like when you don’t look to Jesus vs. when you do? Feel free to share your experience in the Comment Section below.

 

HOW TO HAVE EYES THAT SEE

God gifts leaders with vision, administrative ability, and people skills. But one of His greatest gifts is the ability to see with spiritual eyes. Let’s learn how to strengthen this ability.

Source: Google Images

My husband, Ron, and I stood on a pier overlooking a shallow body of water. To my surprise, a whole group of carp swam right up to us. “Oh my word,” I said to Ron. “Can you believe that?!” He said, “What? What do you mean? What are you looking at?” I pointed to the water and said, “Can’t you see them, they’re right there!” He said, “See what? All I see is the water!” Suddenly, I realized I could see into the water because of my sunglasses. I gave them to Ron and his mouth dropped open when he saw the school of carp.

Years ago at the ministry, we needed a speaker to do sexual integrity presentations in public schools. I’d done them for years, but the ministry had grown and I no longer had time. Over a period of weeks, we prayed God would provide a gifted communicator who could take the message to the next level. We spread the word to youth leaders, but no one came forward. We continued praying, and one day over lunch we were discussing our need for a speaker. As I described the type of person we needed, our events assistant threw her arms in the air and said, “That’s me! That’s totally me! I did theater all through college, and I’m passionate about purity. I’d love to do that!” Suddenly our eyes were opened, and we realized she would be perfect for the position. And she was. She’d been there all along, but only through prayer and discussion did God make it clear.

5 Ways to Sharpen Your Spiritual Vision

  1. Close your eyes and pray. You don’t have to close your eyes, but there’s something about shutting out the earthly realm and tuning into God’s realm that helps us see what He’s seeing. Talk with God about your situation.
  2. Ask God for wisdom. God’s wisdom is multifaceted, and His thoughts and ways are greater than ours. Ask with a willingness to lay aside your opinions and perspectives, and reach for His.
  3. Look for signposts in the Word. God desires to light the pathway for us, and He’ll often do that with specific Scripture passages and verses.
  4. Keep your spiritual antennae up. Nothing spooky here; just pay attention to how the Spirit may be leading through conversations and circumstances during your season of discernment.
  5. Discuss what you’re sensing. It’s best to have two or three others joining you in a time of discernment, and to gather periodically for prayer and discussion. God often gives each person a piece of the puzzle and then fits it all together.

God has 20/20 vision, and He wants to share it with us. In Jeremiah 33:3, He says, “Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know.” As a leader, if you want to sharpen your spiritual vision, call out to Him in prayer, spend time in the Word, and invite others to join you.

 

How has God sharpened your spiritual vision? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

STRESS: A SOOTHING SOLUTION

Stress is a given for leaders—especially during peak times of busyness. But it shouldn’t characterize our days, even busy ones. God has a cure.

That’s a tongue in cheek photo! But it’s true to what happened at our headquarters recently. We had a couple of stressful days leading up to our biggest fundraiser of the year—an outdoor event with a forecast of soaking rain and chilly temps. So our development assistant sent this email around the office:

As Lois said in her email, stressed spelled backwards is “DESSERTS.” We all rushed to the kitchen to devour chocolate cake that afternoon!

But as delicious as cake is, God has an even more satisfying and sustaining stress-buster for us. A good friend of mine, a leader of a non-profit ministry, describes it this way: “In the days leading up to our big events, I began noticing a pattern of frustration and stress among my staffers. Everyone had lots to do, and things weren’t going smoothly. So we changed the atmosphere. We began playing worship music in every administrative office. Now, God’s truths are filling our minds instead of stress, and event preparation is much more efficient and enjoyable.”

4 Keys to Finding Stress-Relief through Worship Music

  1. Choose well. Tune into the status of your soul, and ask God to direct you to the music He has for you. Find a long-playing YouTube worship segment on your computer.
  2. Set the volume. You know your work-style, and whether you like quiet background music or something a little louder. Make sure it’s loud enough to hear, while keeping your co-workers in mind.
  3. Tune in. Every so often, you may find yourself drawn to a particular song—whether it’s the melody or the words. When that happens, take time to stop what you’re doing, turn up the volume, and allow God to speak to your heart.
  4. Respond. God may prompt you to sing along, to watch the YouTube video for awhile, or to turn to a Scripture passage. Pausing to actively engage with God—in the midst of your workday—is a wise and worthwhile practice.

When I experience stress, it’s as though my mind is tuned into a static-filled channel on a radio. Instead of peaceful, flowing thoughts, I hear mind chatter—those niggling, negative thoughts about what someone just said, or the myriad of papers strewn about my desk, or the mountainous project just ahead. When we tune into God through worship, though, our minds are soothed with timeless truths about the greatness and goodness of our Abba Father.

May the words that come out of my mouth and the musings of my heart
meet with Your gracious approval,
O Eternal, my Rock, O Eternal, my Redeemer.

Psalm 19:14 (VOICE)

 

I will bless the Lord at all times;
his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

Psalm 34:1 (ESV)

 

How do you incorporate worship music into your work days, and what impact does it have? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

HOW TO CULTIVATE SEEDS

Some of the most ordinary things in life are actually extraordinary when we take time to ponder them. So let’s think about seeds—both physical and spiritual. And then let’s do something with them.

Last week I planted marigold and sunflower seeds in a container of peat pellets. I was pretty amazed when just a few days later they broke through the soil and even had tiny leaves. Their skinny stems were white from being sequestered under a clear plastic dome. When I took off the dome and placed the container on a window sill, they seemed to turn green right before my eyes. Every few hours, I could see noticeable growth.

Fun Facts About Seeds

Smallest seed. A tropical rainforest orchid seed is 1/300th of an inch long.

Largest seed. A palm tree seed is 12” long and can weigh up to 40 pounds.

Fastest vegetable seed. Broccoli, cauliflower and kale seeds germinate in one day.

Slowest vegetable seed. Asparagus seeds germinate in 21-30 days.

Oldest mature seed to germinate. A 2,000-year-old Judean date palm seed, discovered in Herod the Great’s palace in Israel, was planted and germinated in 2005.

As fascinating as physical seeds are, spiritual seeds are even more phenomenal. They’re actually supernatural, because they are literally the Word of God (Lk. 8:17). As such, they’re timeless—far older than the Judean date palm seed. But they’re very much alive and active (Heb. 4:12). Through the Spirit, seeds of God’s truth can transform people’s lives from eternal death to eternal life. We are born again by the imperishable seed of the Word of God (1 Pet. 1:23).

4 Keys to Cultivating Spiritual Seeds

  1. Receive them. As leaders, we need a steady diet of the seeds of God’s Word. If the Bible seems dry to you these days, remember that seeds look that way until they’re planted in moist soil. Ask God to soften your heart, then read the Word and He’ll germinate truth in your life.
  2. Gather them. As seeds of truth come to fruition in your own life, keep track of them. Meditate on them. Have them “at the ready” to share with others. An awesome thing about seeds of the Word is that when we give them away, we still have them. And there’s a never-ending supply in the Bible.
  3. Plant them. Scripture tells us to sow seeds freely and generously. Look for God-given opportunities to share seeds of the gospel and truth with people—believers and non-believers alike.
  4. Water them. Without water, seeds will die. They’ll also die from overwatering. Be sensitive to God’s Spirit as you speak the Word in season and out of season, exhorting people gently and respectfully.

By God’s design, physical seeds grow when planted and cared for. By God’s design, spiritual seeds grow and spring forth into eternal life. As we know from the parable of the sower (Lk. 8:4-15), when growth doesn’t happen, the issue isn’t the seed, it’s the soil.

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:6, “My job was to plant the seed, and Apollos was called to water it. Any growth comes from God.” As leaders and believers, our job—and our incredible privilege—is to plant seeds of the gospel and truth in people’s hearts. Let’s be generous seed sowers.

 

What’s God saying to you about planting seeds of truth? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

 

“COULD YOU NOT TARRY ONE HOUR?”

This is the famous question Jesus asked Peter, James, and John, after they fell asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Could you not tarry one hour?” Jesus could rightfully ask this of us, His twenty-first century disciples. As busy leaders, we often push aside prayer when we’re pressed for time. But just like the disciples, we stand to lose an intimate connection with Jesus and an enlightened perspective.

From the film: The Passion of the Christ

Recently, I was tempted to cancel our monthly intercessors meeting. I’d done it before when attendance was low, and this time it only suited three of us. Plus it was a jam-packed week. Surely we could all use the extra time!

But God reminded me of the supreme value of being with Him and the superior height of His thoughts, and I held the meeting. And God held our gaze. And fueled our prayers. And gave His perspective. We ended up receiving direction in an area that had been blocked for months. Most of all, our hearts were lifted by spending time with the Lord.

7 Keys for Tarrying With God in Prayer

  1. Value it. You won’t do much that you don’t value, so check your heart. What weight do you give to praying with ministry comrades? Your calendar will tell the story. If your corporate prayer time is scant, ask God to restore your passion for discussing ministry issues with Him.
  1. Schedule it. Impromptu, urgent prayer meetings are great, but they shouldn’t replace regular times of seeking God. Plan monthly meetings to pray with your key staffers about core priorities and initiatives.
  1. Commit to it. Even if your schedule is nuts and your attendance is lean, have the prayer meeting. Jesus says, where two or three are gathered, He is in your midst. God will be glorified, and you won’t be disappointed.
  1. Enter in. The first priority of prayer is to connect with God. Start with worship and maybe a few Scriptures. Express your love for God, your appreciation of His faithfulness, and Your reliance on His sovereign leading.
  1. Be Spirit-Led. You’ll likely have a list of critical issues to bring before the Lord. But let Him lead the time. Instead of praying for each item, you may sense He wants you to pray for just one or two. He knows what’s pertinent and where He’s about to move.
  1. Listen. As you pray with your team, listen for themes, listen for momentum, listen for direction. Jot down any verses and impressions you receive.
  1. Obey. Obedience might mean keeping track of what you’ve sensed, since God may have more to say on the matter. Or obedience might mean taking a step God confirmed in prayer.

The Greek word for tarry is grégoréo, and it means to be vigilant, responsible. A leader who is vigilant and responsible in prayer is vigilant and responsible in life.

 

In the Comment Section below, share about the value of regular prayer meetings within your ministry.

A FRESH WAY TO ANCHOR YOUR SOUL

As leaders, our days are filled with conversations. Our spoken word count probably far exceeds the norm. And we can often take that verbosity right into our time with God. But sometimes, less is more.

This year, God’s been slowing down my intake of His Word, and also the words I speak to Him. I’m not with Him less; just in a more focused way. I’ve been in Ephesians 1 for the past three months. Occasionally, I read through the whole book, but I mainly hang out in Ephesians 1:1-14. I’m still marveling at the usage of the word “blessed” in Ephesians 1:3, which I shared in a previous blog.

Not long ago, a friend introduced me to Bible Journaling. It’s simply writing and illustrating meaningful verses, prayers, and phrases as you spend time with God. Below are two prayers I wrote during a retreat, after our group experienced a deep time of worship together. I expressed appreciation to God in the first prayer. And in the second, I asked Him to visit us again.

   

5 Benefits of Bible Journaling

  1. It slows you down. As leaders who are learning to abide, we still tend to function at a high rate of speed. Taking the time to hone in on one verse, phrase, or word—and illustrate it—will help you downshift.
  1. It takes you deep. If you’ve ever snorkeled, you’ve experienced the chaotic above-water world disappearing and a serene under-water world emerging. The same is true for this type of meditation. You’ll encounter deeper dimensions of God’s presence and perspective.
  1. It focuses your mind. As your eyes are looking at the words and your hand is illustrating them, more of your senses are involved. It’s a powerful way to ponder the meaning of God’s Word.
  1. It anchors your soul. A friend once told me she felt like a hummingbird, flitting from one Scripture to another and never feeling grounded. Bible journaling can steady you, enabling your spiritual roots to go deeper into God’s love and truth.
  1. It’s a ready reminder. Simply referring to an illustrated page in your journal or Bible will bring back a flood of memories of that significant time with your Father.

With the daily challenges we navigate as leaders, it’s easy to be lax in our relationship with God. We can stay in a single gear with Him and inadvertently drift off the road into a lifeless routine. The best way to get out of a spiritual rut is to take a risk and try something new. As our Life Source, God has endless avenues for us to connect with Him.

What type of Christ-focused meditation has been meaningful to you? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.