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.

 

 

HEAR GOD’S UNSPOKEN SPEECH

As leaders, we listen to important words day in and day out. If we’re not careful, though, we can be deaf to the most significant words of all. Let’s learn to tune in.

Creation is constantly pouring forth knowledge about God (Ps. 19:1-2). There’s no lack of words on God’s part; just a lack of hearing on ours.

The other morning, I planned to go outside to be with God. No go. It was pouring rain. I stood in our sunroom looking through the drenched, dreary windows. What a bummer.

I settled into my God chair and turned to Psalm 119—the chapter I’d been reading on vacation. Verses about God’s love drew my attention:

  • “Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord” (Ps. 119:41).
  • “The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love” (Ps. 119:64).
  • “In your steadfast love, give me life” (Ps. 119:88).

God’s theme for the morning became obvious—His love for me. I got up to check on the rain. This time, I was drawn to a stained-glass piece of artwork, its beauty undiminished by the darkness.

“Like My love for you, Lisa. It’s never dampened by circumstances. It’s always vibrant. You just need eyes to see, ears to hear, a heart to receive.”

Even through artwork, God was revealing Himself. He spoke volumes that morning about the “shining sun” of His truth lighting my path, the “ocean” of His love buoying me up, and the “sailboat” of my life, crimson in color, like the blood of Jesus, my Savior and Lord.

Simple, sustaining truths. My sails were filled afresh with His Spirit; positioned to follow His lead for the day.

How to Hear God’s Unspoken Speech

  1. Desire to. If your heart isn’t inclined toward God, ask Him to help you want to hear from Him. He will.
  2. Listen. We’re good at tuning out background noise. But the knowledge of God—spoken forth by creation—can become prominent whenever we quiet ourselves to hear it.
  3. Look around. See your surroundings with God’s eyes. Is He drawing your attention to something specific that conveys a spiritual truth?
  4. Look in the Word. All of God’s communication is rooted in Scripture. As you interact with God, you’ll find confirmation and further inspiration in the Word.
  5. Receive. Whether it’s a single word, a verse, or a heart-filling expression of His love, take in what God has for you.

I had to laugh when I looked up the Hebrew word for “pour” in Psalm 19:2a—“Day after day they pour forth speech.” It means to belch forth, to eagerly utter, to bubble up. The last part of the verse says, “… night after night they reveal knowledge.” “Reveal” in Hebrew means to show or declare.

There’s nothing passive about these words. I picture God bursting through nature to provide the most enlightening show-and-tell we could ever experience. As leaders surrounded by voices all day long, let’s tune into the glorious surround-sound of God’s creation revelation.

 

How do you focus on God’s voice in the midst of many? 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.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

We’re familiar with this slogan regarding real estate, but let’s apply it to our spiritual lives. Specifically, the physical location where we regularly spend time with our heavenly Father. In any season—whether literal or figurative—let’s pay attention to where He wants to meet with us.

Our staff recently enjoyed a paid personal day with God. At the beginning of the day, I felt led to relocate from my indoor “God chair,” to our back deck. Immediately, I was engulfed by the great outdoors. I could see for miles. I felt the warmth of the sun, the gentle breeze. I heard chirping birds, buzzing insects, whirring cars (which I converted to ocean waves in my mind). There was an occasional butterfly, a large dragonfly, and green all around. And then, God drew my attention to one specific object in our neighbor’s yard. I’ll tell you about that next week.

4 Benefits of Relocating our Tent of Meeting

  1. New blessings. The Israelites picked up stakes at God’s initiation, and so should we. When we heed God’s promptings—however seemingly insignificant—we receive God’s fresh blessings.
  2. New view. Let’s admit it. A same old, same old can creep into our times with the Lord. Our Father knows that, and sometimes He’ll use different surroundings to help us see Him more clearly. (If it’s too hot, or rainy outside, try facing your chair toward a window.)
  3. New perspective. Jesus was famous for using parables about nature. It makes sense that He’d use nature to direct our thoughts toward Him in a fresh way.
  4. New direction. A simple change of location in your personal time with God can bring a whole new focus of study in the Word, wisdom to chew on, and guidance for the future.

Psalm 18:19 says, “He brought me out into a broad place.” A broad place—one that is spacious, wide open, full of freedom, and has new possibilities. God is faithful to bring us to good places. Let’s be faithful to follow, even in the simplicity of a new place to meet with Him. Leaders who follow God’s promptings—no matter how seemingly insignificant—receive God’s blessings.

How has a new location enhanced your connection with God? 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.

HOW TO KEEP YOUR HEART SOFT

Just like doctors can become calloused to the physical suffering of their patients, we as leaders can become hardened to the people in our ministry and lives. It can be painful to walk with them through their struggles time and again, and sometimes we wish we didn’t feel so deeply. It’s tempting to harden up a bit.

Recently, a friend and I were both in the throes of navigating through troubling situations with others. We were lamenting about our empathetic hearts, and how painful it is to experience people making unwise choices. We wondered out loud if it would be better to just toughen up so we wouldn’t feel so deeply. But we both knew the answer—God designed us that way, and He wants us to be Christlike in our response to others.

So, whether it’s dealing with difficult relationships in the ministry, repetitive situations with clients, or heart-rending scenarios on the home front—my friend and I committed to have soft, Christlike hearts.

3 Keys to a Christlike Heart

1) See with Jesus’ eyes.

“When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matt. 9:36 ESV).

Jesus didn’t just see the unruly, irritable, and self-centered people; He saw the reason behind it—they weren’t in a relationship with Him. When engaging with people, let’s look beneath the surface. Instead of reacting to their behavior in judgment, let’s respond in honor—seeing them as individuals made in God’s image, designed to be in a close relationship with Him.

2) Feel with Jesus’ heart.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:15 ESV).

From first-hand experience, Jesus understands what it’s like to live in this fallen world. He empathizes with our lack of strength and propensity to sin, and He calls us to Himself. Let’s be like Jesus. When people are messing up around us, let’s have empathy and let’s help them find grace in their time of need.

3) Love like Jesus did.

“There came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, ‘Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.’ And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I will; be clean’” (Luke 5:12-13 ESV).

Jesus didn’t recoil from needy, sick people. He moved toward them and touched them. Let’s embrace the hurting people in our lives. Let’s intentionally accept them, affirm them, and share God’s truth with them.

Leaders encounter challenging people almost daily. To keep from becoming jaded, leaders can press into Jesus, remember His sympathy and love toward them, and extend that love to others.

 

How has God helped you keep your heart soft toward others? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

STAYING GROUNDED WHEN THINGS ARE UP IN THE AIR

Ambiguity and uncertainty are givens for leaders. The vision is still percolating. The project is still being massaged. The employee situation is still unresolved. Not to mention the strained relationship in our personal lives. How can we remain resolute when so much around us is in flux?

Recently, an unresolved relationship in my personal life bled into ministry life. When my attempts to reconcile a previously close friendship were brushed aside, my heart ached. I took my hurting heart to work the next day, and soon noticed a lack of freedom in interacting with others. That made my heart hurt even more! I knew I needed some extra God-time.

The next morning, I talked it through with the Lord. He didn’t give me the key to restoring the relationship. But He gave me Himself. And His love. And His Word. And that was enough. As His love refilled my deflated heart, I felt whole again. Secure. Confident in Him.

5 Steps to Becoming Grounded

Psalm 116:7-9 says, “Return, O my soul, to your rest; for the Lord has dealt bountifully with you. For you have delivered my soul from death, my eyes from tears, my feet from stumbling; I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.”

1) Return. As soon as you feel angst related to an unresolved situation—whether personal or work-related—go to the Lord. Open your heart and open His Word. He’ll meet with you and give you perspective.

2) Rest. The deepest, truest soul rest is found when we’re with the Lord.

3) Remember. As you’re talking with God, reflect on His character. Remember His goodness and faithfulness to you.

4) Entrust. As you’re trusting God in the midst of the unsettled issue, actually entrust it to Him. Hand it over to Him. He’ll deal with it in His time and His way.

5) Walk. With a heart full of love and peace from the Lord, walk on and engage with the people and responsibilities God has entrusted to you.

As leaders—who are human beings—it’s normal to experience dissonance when things are unresolved. It’s how we handle the dissonance that makes the difference. We can take our personal problems to work, and we can take our work problems home. But the best place to take them is to the Lord. That’s where we’ll find rest, peace, and strength to forge ahead.

 

How has God helped you stand firm in the midst of unresolved situations in your life and ministry? Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.

THE ESSENCE OF EXCELLENCE

As leaders, we want to do things with excellence. But what does that truly mean, and what does it take to achieve?

I recently witnessed a display of excellence that brought tears to my eyes. We were having concrete steps installed at our cottage and didn’t know the expertise of the landscapers. I had a cursory knowledge from brochures I’d read, and I said to my husband, Ron, “I want to see two things when these guys show up: a measuring tape and a level!” Ron said, “Yep, and let’s talk to them before they start, to see if they seem experienced.”

When the workers arrived, we greeted them and asked how they determine the first step placement. They aced that question and began rattling off a bunch of particulars: “So we’ll position the first one, make sure it’s level front to back and side to side, with a slight dip for water run-off, tamp it down, and lay the next one so there’s a twelve-inch tread.” Within a minute it was clear they knew what to do; what remained was if they knew how to do it and whether they were good at it.

All doubts were assuaged within the next half hour. The guy driving the excavator slowly swung the first step into position; the worker on the ground adjusted it; signaled for it to be lowered to the ground; placed a level on top; yelled for the excavator operator to tamp it down on one side; used the level again; and repeated the process until it was just right. Same thing for the second step, except that he pulled out a tape measure to make sure the tread was twelve inches. Their skill, attention to detail, and commitment to excellence was beautiful to watch.

3 Simple Steps to Excellence

  1. Learn. Whether it’s running a fundraising event, giving a speech, or acquiring a new facility, everything we do takes learning. Leaders should never stop learning and should always be resourceful—knowing who to talk to, what books to read, and what research to conduct to acquire sufficient knowledge about what they’re doing and how to do it well.
  2. Practice. Knowledge is one thing, experience is another. Practice makes perfect, and while we’re not striving for perfection, we do want to continue to grow in every aspect of our leadership. I’ve found the best growth comes by doing, by taking risks, making mistakes, adjusting, and doing it again and again.
  3. Aim high. When our heart posture is to do everything unto the Lord, there’s a deep desire to do things in the way He would—with wisdom, skill, righteousness, and outstanding quality. We want to reflect the greatness of the Lord for His glory, and for the sake of those impacted by our ministry culture and services.

Excellence is the quality of being outstanding or extremely good, showing distinction or transcendence. Whether we’re designing a new ministry logo or laying a foundation for a new aspect of our ministry, let’s do it with excellence as unto the Lord. When we, as leaders, commit ourselves to excellence in all we do we will increasingly proclaim the excellencies of the Lord.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession,

that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you

out of darkness into his marvelous light.
1 Peter 2:9 (ESV)

 

 

Describe an area in your leadership where God is growing you in excellence. Feel free to share your thoughts in the Comment Section below.