Prison Time

“and had him thrown into prison, where the king’s prisoners were confined. So Joseph was there in prison. But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him. He granted him favor with the prison warden. The warden put all the prisoners who were in the prison under Joseph’s authority, and he was responsible for everything that was done there.”‭‭Genesis‬ ‭39:20-22‬ ‭CSB‬‬

Well, that sounds fun. I’m sure this was exactly what Josph prayed for, and he went in rejoicing that his prayers once again had been heard. SMH

To this point in his life, it’s hard to imagine that Joseph could have had a clue what his life’s purpose was. Regardless what his spiritual gifts assessment revealed or what an elder suggested was his calling, how in the world do you explain his life experiences to date. Yet constantly scripture reads, “The Lord was with him.”

These verses were in my @youversion devotion today addressing the topic of drudgery. Here are a few lines from the devotional thoughts:

What we call drudgery God calls humble and helpful service to others. Patient and steady toil, honoring God right where he put you, in some ways is just as worshipful as singing hymns in church. If you can do it without complaining, all the better.

“Right where he put you.” That’s a challenge. We allow ourselves to see only prison bars (been there, done that). We may even go so far as to break out of jail and basically snub God by saying, under our breath of course, “You Screwed Up…AGAIN!” That view is a flashing neon sign we have stopped thinking more about others and God than ourselves. Joseph’s prison season was quite short compared to his future season of purpose. He didn’t know that at the time, though. He had to trust God was with him and had actually put him there.

If your facing “prison time,” consider these questions:

  • What’s this season for?
  • What’s your trust level in God’s presence and purpose? 
  • How can you honor God in the next 24 hours right where he put you?

The Gift of Balance-Series Introduction (Part 1)

(This is the first post in a series on the subject of balance.  It being the holidays, we thought titling this series the gift of balance seemed appropriate.  By “we,” I’m referring to the series contributors.  Joining me in this series are Mark Stanifer and Tonya Waechter. Side note: for regular readers of this blog, these posts will be longer than usual. We three coaches are used to listening more than talking, so we have a lot to say.)

In getting to know Mark and Tonya over the last few weeks and months, I realized that we all have a similar concern about balance in our lives and helping others achieve it also. So it wasn’t hard to twist their arms to join me for a series on the topic. By way of introducing the series, we will share a little about ourselves, but also look at what drives us to be passionate about this subject and where we’ve found it most challenging in our lives. At the end of each post in this series, you will also find suggested readings and resources on that post’s topic. Mark is going to get us started by answering this first question:

Give us a bio and include your balance journey.

Mark: I grew up in a lower-middle-class, conservative Christian family in southern Michigan. My parents were very involved in their kid’s lives, putting their own needs aside for their kids. After marrying my high school sweetheart, we moved to Columbus where I began what became a twenty-year career in corporate America. Early on in my adult life, I was pretty confident that work and non-work balance was important to me and an important equation that I would have to solve. As our family grew (three kids now ages 17, 15, 13,), I realized balance is nuanced and fluid; it’s not a static, rigid concept. There are seasons where things are askew or you may be focused on one area more than another. What I always retained was that my relationships-wife, kids, God-were the things that I valued. As I navigated the career life, I found that career progression encroached in my home life and balance became really difficult-to the point that I walked away after twenty years to chart a new course. That was the moment I acknowledged publicly and through my actions that life was out of balance and I had to hit reset. I realized I needed a fairly drastic change in order to get back the balance that I wanted and had lost. Now I’m on this big adventure of what does post-corporate America look like. I enjoy coaching clients on this idea of balance in their lives; I’m jazzed about helping people know where they want to go in life and put together a plan to get there. It’s something I’ve learned-and I’ve learned a bunch.

Tonya: I’m also a Michigander. Go Blue! That’s where my husband and I met and married. My family experience was different; I grew up in a single-mother home. After marriage, we went into ministry, starting in campus ministry. We learned very quickly after moving into church staff world that we were going to have to protect our family life. So my story of balance comes from working under workaholics, pastors who had moral failures and were abusive to staff and family. My husband and I had to sit down and say, “What’s right here?” Those times helped us set the balance that God wanted for our marriage and family and to stand strong. Now having been married for 25 years and working as a therapist for 22 years while homeschooling our children, I never worked full time; taking care of the kids came first. So sometimes that meant I couldn’t do some of the things I felt passionate about doing. So seasons was also something I followed like, “Now is a season I’m raising my boys.” My time is beginning to shift since my youngest is about to finish high school, so I’m going to have more time to do those things that I want to do. My husband is now in the corporate world, but we still follow the choice to always talk about job opportunities he has and make decisions together. We’ve gotten push back at times, people telling us we’re crazy, but God has always blessed us. Living in California now for 16 years, we haven’t always chosen to have the income we could have had, but we feel blessed and haven’t paid any penalty for our choices.

John: As I listen to you both, I hear interesting intersections in our stories. I grew up in a pastor’s home; my dad passed away at the age of 40. As a twelve-year-old kid, I can’t say that my dad was a workaholic, but I can’t say that I think he had balance in his life. So that certainly influenced my view of balance as a pastor, as an adult, to not repeat the same history. Being single, achieving balance looks different but is still important. Balance can get out of whack for all of us in any area. I have worked through a couple of seasons where I realized, more from an emotional state, that I was out of balance. Similar to you, Mark, I chose to walk away from staff positions in order to reset. I didn’t have a “next” lined up. So Tonya, I got those same, “What are you doing?” comments. The balance for me wasn’t being concerned about what any one person thought more than what I understood the Holy Spirit was telling me. That doesn’t mean I have it all together, but when I feel like I’m out of balance I step back and let Him speak into what’s going on.

What makes you passionate about the subject of balance?

Tonya: The Oxford dictionary says that balance is an even distribution of weight enabling someone to remain upright and steady. That definition helps us see the importance of keeping things flowing along and not feeling discombobulated and confusing. My passion is founded in my leaving my therapy practice a few months ago to pursue coaching. In my therapy practice, so many pastors were referred to me who had hit the wall. They were dealing with losing their spouses or depression or addiction; so I was desperate to help them be preventative. Coaching pastors is my passion, to help them remain upright and steady. Living for that audience of one, like you said John, is our first priority. Balance helps us stay steady even when the world is unsteady.

Mark: This may sound cliche, but I think it’s in the time of difficulty where we are tested to choose the things that we value. When tragedy happens, when promotions are on the table, we are asked in those situations to reaffirm those things that are important to us. In those times, having clarity on what is important makes it easier to make the hard decision or to get through the season, and to realize the season will reset or that it can be made to shift back once it is over. These times give us the opportunity to prove what is important to us.

I’ve always taken a longer-run view of balance, driven home by working with workaholics lacking a longer view. I decided that’s not what I want. Who gets to their death bed and says, “I regret I didn’t have more conference calls. I didn’t travel more to meetings around the country”? Nobody says that. There is this pressure that organizations put on their people to go the extra mile. I always wanted to maintain this longer view, to not wake up one day and my kids are gone and I don’t know my wife and I’ve missed it. There are more important things to me than a career or an organization’s profit. In the church context, if we don’t exercise our opportunity to say “no” then it doesn’t give others the opportunity to others to step up and say “yes.” So in the church and the business context, I saw how things could be different. So I decided to take this longer view to keep me from having regrets in the end.

Tonya: To piggyback off of that, this summer I just spent three months with my father back in Michigan as he was losing his battle with cancer. It reinforced for me the principle of understanding who we are is not what we do. Unfortunately, he never came to that. He passed without that peace. He struggled to be important by what he did, with the “do.” That was hard to watch, but it determined in me even more so to know who I am. When I introduce myself to others, I say, “I am the daughter of the Most High God”-not to be super spiritual, but to know who I am.

John: Feeding off of your thoughts, two things come to my mind that I’m sure people have heard me say or observed me do. One is, “Relax. God’s in charge here. It’ll be okay.” The other is I share a similar passion to what you were talking about, Mark, in helping people say no. Modeling that is huge. Helping people see the freedom that comes from saying no creates the reaction, “Wow. I didn’t know this kind of living existed.” It’s sitting back and saying, “God is first. I’m not.” 

(Part 2 will post tomorrow, where you’ll find our suggested resources on the subject of balance.)

 

5 Leadership Lessons from 5 Worship Leading Stints

Over the last 20 years, I’ve been given the opportunity to lead worship for five different stints on three church staffs. Might sound confusing, so let me explain. For one stint I was actually hired to be the worship leader; I was there for four years. Three of the other four stints came while I was on staff serving a different role, but there was a vacancy for a period of time when I put on the worship leader hat also. That leaves one more, which I really didn’t want to do but God told me to say yes. Not the first time. News flash: He’s always right.

I recently finished stint number five. In reflective mode, I’ve taken a look at these stints to remember what I learned, how I grew, and what God showed me. To bottom line it, here are the five leadership lessons these stints taught me.

Lesson #1-Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

It’s possible you have a talent that everyone validates but God has other purposes for you outside that talent. It’s possible putting all your energy on the obvious talent stunts the hidden talent that only God can nurture when you say yes to him and no to the obvious. It’s possible that the best avenue for you to understand this is to give the obvious a shot and find that there is more.

Lesson #2-If you’re the best person for the job, step up.

It’s possible the very reason you are where you are is God put you there to fill a hole that only you can fill. It’s possible that God put you there to help you see what he’s capable of helping you achieve when you make it less about you. It’s possible that unless you step up, everyone will miss God’s best.

Lesson #3-Because you can, sometimes you should.

It’s possible the best way to healing is to do something you have no desire to do. It’s possible that following the accomplishment of a very hard thing your next thing should be an easy thing. It’s possible the only way another person can get unstuck is for you to offer your hand.

Lesson #4-Leading transition is like crossing a bridge-you’re just helping people cross from one side of the river to the other side.

It’s possible not everyone wants to cross over. It’s possible you’re the last one to cross. It’s possible that the only way to finish the job is to keep your eyes on the other side.

Lesson #5-Some leadership seasons are more for you, but you won’t know why until they’re finished.

It’s possible that the only time you can be refilled is when you are willing to be completely emptied. It’s possible that why doesn’t matter. It’s possible that at the end of the season you can walk away fuller than when you entered.

(Photo credit: Randy Tosch)

What’s God Missing?

Seasons. Life has them. That includes nature. That also includes humans.

God doesn’t have seasons. He is constant, the same yesterday, today, forever. So when we go through a season that doesn’t include him or creates distance between us, what does that mean for him?

What brings us into such a season? 

  • It may be a season where time management is a challenge, and one of the things that suffers is our alone time with God. 
  • It may be a season where you are transitioning into a new job, a new city, a new family dynamic, and it hasn’t dawned on you to figure out where your time with God fits into the new. 
  • It may be a season where you are simply dry, and time alone with God feels even more dry. 

Whatever brought on this season, all you know is that you miss your time with God. You know what you miss, and you’re trying to recapture it. To recapture it, maybe even enter a season yet to be experienced, what if you answered this question: What is God missing?

If you’re missing whatever you used to get out of the relationship, what is he missing that he used to get out of it? Is he missing…

  • …the opportunity to embrace you?
  • …the chance to guide you?
  • …the time to refresh you?
  • …the avenue to encourage you?
  • …the method to challenge you?
  • …the space for you to worship?
  • …the channel to inspire you?

One thing I’ve experienced is the truth to the promise God made that if we seek him we will find him. Give seeking him a shot by asking him this question. I’m guessing he can’t wait to tell you what he’s been missing.

What is God Calling Me to Become?

In making decisions currently, I have not asked where I am to be or what I am to do, but what it is that God is calling me to become. (p. 103, The Critical Journey: Stages in the Life of Faith)

Today’s blog and the following one will be based on thoughts from this book I’m finishing:

This quote resonated with me because it’s a question I’ve wandered in and out of over the past decade. It seems, as we go through stages/seasons of life, this would be a great question to keep in front of us. It’s very possible that the answer will change as we journey and grow.

So here is what I wrote in my journal on March 8 to answer the question, What is God Calling Me to Become:

  • A lover of all people
  • A helper to the wanderer
  • A friend to my colleagues
  • A present dweller
  • A faster forgiver
  • A questioner rather than a teller
  • A relaxed worker
  • A Spirit listener
  • A dependent child
  • A contented kingdom dweller

What is God Calling You to Become?

3 Gifts from Uncertainty

Life is seasonal. Solomon wrote about this in Ecclesiastes. 

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up; a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away; a time to tear, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; a time to love, and a time to hate; a time for war, and a time for peace.”

‭‭Ecclesiastes‬ ‭3:1-8‬ ‭ESV‬‬

For a balanced view of life, we have to expect positive seasons and negative seasons. Well, one could look at life that way. But just like we have a choice in seeing the good of spring, summer, fall and winter, we can choose to see the good in all the seasons Solomon listed as well. You might even call what you see gifts of those seasons.

For example, we go through seasons of certainty and uncertainty. Seasons of certainty may contain the gifts of a steady paycheck, all the household appliances keep doing their job, that TV show keeps getting renewed by the network, or your bank buys other banks rather than being bought.

So what about seasons of uncertainty? Do they have gifts? Sure they do. That is, if you choose to see them. Here are three you could choose to see:

Gift #1: Uncertainty breaks down self reliance

  • There is great freedom when we realize the following truths: “I don’t have to have all the answers.” “I don’t need to control everything.”  “I can’t do it all.”

Gift #2: Uncertainty renews the value of others

  • There is great encouragement when we remember the following truths: “We need each other.” “We get more done together.” “We is stronger than I.”

Gift#3: Uncertainty corrects your awe

  • There is great alignment when we submit to the following truths: “Awe in me is exhausting.” “Awe in human kind is deceiving.” “Awe in the Creator is natural.”

These are great gifts. They are yours for the choosing. Uncertainty says, “You’re welcome!”

4 Running/Life Seasonal Questions

I’ve lived in Florida for 30 years, but I’ve only been a runner 9 of those years.  In the fall of 2007, I graduated from an occasional jogger to an intentional runner.  When the summer of 2008 came around, I encountered for the first time what it means to have to change gears because of the rise in humidity and heat.

A friend (occasional runner) brought this up today-how he’s challenged to run over a mile right now, having trouble breathing, etc.  Breaking News: Running in December is not the same as running in July!  After that conversation, it crossed my mind how the adjustments runners must make based on seasons is very applicable to seasons of life in general.  

  • Season of raising a young family
  • Season of transition (job changing, moving, retiring, empty nesting)
  • Season of busyness (school starting/ending, holidays, kid’s recreational activities)
  • Season of recovery (from surgery, from loss, from the other seasons)

With that in mind, here are some questions from a runner’s perspective that might help you get through your season of life. 

1.  How long might this season be?

This might sound trivial, possibly unnecessary. Think about it though. A woman knows roughly how long her pregnancy will be.  We all know how long winter lasts.  That knowledge, in some sense, gets us through that period of time.  So, to the best of your knowledge, determine how long your season might be.  Do some research on empty nesters.  Read about how long to expect your family to acclimate to a new city.  Step one, know the length of your season.

2.  What adjustments do you need on make?

One adjustment I’ve made in the past for the summer is to move indoors, train on the treadmill.  Another is to change my weekly routine-how many days I run and how long each run will be.  And every year it may look different.  Your adjustments might be changing your bedtime or when the alarm goes off.  Maybe using social media more or less.  Your whole routine of life may need assessing.  Not a problem.  If you’ll embrace it, you may find some exciting changes that you’ll wish you’d made long ago.

3.  What should your pace be?

Summer running pace is much slower.  You find that out the easy way or the hard way.  Making adjustments can also be easy or hard.  So pace yourself.  Don’t put too much pressure on finding your new norm too quickly.  Be gracious to yourself.  It’s a new season.  

4.  What are your short term goals?

Summer is not racing season.  Much like baseball players in the winter or football players in the spring, you should set some short term goals that keep you in shape for the “show.”  If survival is all you can manage, then shoot for it.  Most likely, you can do more than survive.  You might actually consider hiring a life coach to walk you through this season.  If you are pretty good at goal setting, then determine what you hope to achieve by the end of this season.

God brought you to this season.  You don’t have to dehydrate, heatstroke, or find yourself on the side of the road asking yourself how did you get there.  Stop right now and make yourself answer these questions.  This season will pass.  Get the most out of it.  Determine the length, make adjustments, set your pace, and reach for your goals.