“The Self-Evolved Leader” by McKeown

Book Review: The Self-Evolved Leader by Dave McKeown

Brené Brown. Stephen Covey. Jim Loehr. Cal Newport. Carol Dweck. Simon Sinek. Michael Hyatt. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. Henry Cloud. Whether they have opened your eyes to view vulnerability as courage, motivated you to find your why, or advocated for you to set clear boundaries with others, each of these best-selling authors and speakers has shifted the way leaders think about and approach leadership.

Imagine if there were ONE book where themes of vulnerability, authenticity, mindset, purpose, clarity, communication, and boundaries all came together to paint a complete portrait of an effective and influential twenty-first century leader. Would you be interested?

Enter The Self-Evolved Leader: Elevate Your Focus and Develop Your People in a World That Refuses to Slow Down by Dave McKeown. In this single volume, the principles taught by each of the aforementioned authors has been distilled and synthesized into a coherent and comprehensive model for personal leadership development and team management.

The Self-Evolved Leader is a “How to Lead” manual for managers and directors in charge of teams (size doesn’t matter).

It is a GPS for people on a mission to develop their own leadership abilities whether they are leading a team or aspire to do so. Maybe they are lifelong learners like me and can’t get enough of leadership theory, or maybe they are suddenly thrust into a leadership position and feel unequal to the task ahead of them, or maybe they were never taught healthy leadership principles from their senior staff.

McKeown takes readers through a step-by-step process to discover “their authentic leadership calling, create a vision for a better world, and build the framework and structure needed to chart the course (p. 2).” And the framework and structure are legit.

The Self-Evolved Leader includes an actual  90-day plan to begin implementing what you’ve learned. He literally tells you what to do each day so that by the time you’re done with the 90-days, you will have set in place a roadmap for yourself and your team that you repeat each quarter.

McKeown rejects the industrial era model of teamwork (“a cog in a well-oiled machine”) and instead posits that teams in the twenty-first century function more like cells in organisms.

“The interactions are more amorphous, the nature of work is more prone to change, and the individuals are connected by more than the mere interlinking teeth of a cog or spoke. There’s a stronger degree of interdependence of connection and of symbiosis. Each person is uniquely individual and at the same time part of the whole. Each person is connected by more than the pursuit of a common goal; they are connected by a sense of shared humanity.”  

(p. 37)

The author’s description of a “self-evolved” leader really resonates with me because it’s exactly who I strive to be. This type of person is someone who accepts responsibility for their own growth. They demonstrate vulnerability and regularly practice empathy which strengthens their connection with the team. This leader is clear on boundaries and daily chooses to stay in their own lane. 

Smiling personal health coach sitting in an office and talking to a woman

According to McKeown, when a person adopts the self-evolved leadership approach, they will focus their activities, decisions, and interactions on helping team members achieve their goals and become the best version of themselves.

He lays out three essential elements which increase the self-evolved leader’s impact on the team: (1) creating a shared vision; (2) establishing a “pulse” and a variety of vantage points from which to assess progress; and (3) key disciplines to adopt in order to have long-lasting impact. He does this by not only suggesting what the elements are, but also by detailing HOW to implement each one. It’s like a road map for how to lead your team over the course of the next year. Literally. 

McKeown has identified eleven“key disciplines” (six micro disciplines and five core disciplines) essential for every self-evolved leader. He lays out a 90-day plan to help the reader practice what they are learning and hone their leadership skills. 

The author takes a methodological approach to explaining the five core disciplines. He describes the importance of the discipline, shares the benefits of it, and then answers the question “why is it so hard?” He then offers a proven “how to” strategy to spur you towards growth in that area. 

The Self-Evolved Leader is packed with helpful tips, strategies, and methodologies for implementation based on the latest research and best practices in leadership accepted across sectors. I highly recommend it for anyone currently leading a team and anyone interested in moving into leadership at their organization. 

If you are interested in purchasing this book based on my review, I’d appreciate it if you use my Amazon link: https://amzn.to/2U4Opn9


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Images properly licensed through Envato.

Book Review: “Detours” by Dr. Tony Evans

Book Review: "Detours" by Tony Evans

Detours: The Unpredictable Path to Your Destiny is the first book I’ve read by Dr. Tony Evans, and I experienced two distinct reactions to it: resonance and repulsion. I’m happy to report that the good definitely outweighed the bad, and I learned a few practical tips to help discern God’s hand in my life. 

I think the book was written for people who, like me, have felt as if they’d been called to do something specific and purposeful, waited for YEARS, and have yet to see the vision become reality. (I blogged about that here and here.)

Resonance – What I Loved about Detours 

Detours is an in-depth case study of the life of Joseph (based on Genesis 37-50) packed with impactful insights, practical advice, and encouragement to weary Christ followers to stay the course and finish the race marked out before us.

When your destiny is in God’s hands and you are trusting God with all your heart—in spite of your circumstances, mistakes, detours, and distractions—no one can block what God has for you.” (p. 153)

The premise of Detours revolves around God’s creating each individual human being for a specific purpose—a Kingdom purpose—and our experiencing fulfillment in the arrival of our destiny. He explains how God rarely (if ever) takes a person from the cradle to his or her destiny without a number of different detours along the way.

By the time you’re finished with the book, you’ll be able to answer the following questions:

  • What is a divine detour?
  • Why are detours necessary?
  • How do I know I’m on a detour, and not merely being distracted?
  • How do I know God is with me on this detour?
  • What am I supposed to be doing while I’m waiting for my destiny?
  • How does my past figure into my future?
  • Is there anything I can do to get off this detour and back on the road?
  • How long do I have to wait before I reach my destiny?

Evans posits that while some detours are created to develop certain skills, habits, and disciplines within us so that we can properly handle our destiny, other detours are self-inflicted thanks to poor decisions we’ve made along the way.

 

If God is not ready to deliver you from it, look for Him in it.” (p. 74)

The good news is that God can flip anything the enemy means for evil for our good (cf. Genesis 50:20), and He will fulfill our destiny when the time is right.

Repulsion – What Annoyed Me in Detours 

The author’s casual, conversational writing style reflects a pastor’s heart and is filled with real-life illustrations much like a sermon would be. As someone very familiar with the story of Joseph, I found the detailed retelling (and re-retelling) of the milestones in his life unnecessary; however, someone unfamiliar will certainly benefit from this effort. 

It was not long before I deduced that Detours was doubtlessly a sermon or sermon series developed into a book. The main development tool must have been a Thesaurus, because the repetition in the book became bothersome.

While I can understand repeating key points and phrases when speaking to a live audience—and I am hopeful those who purchase the audiobook will appreciate it—as a reader, I was repulsed reading the same point multiple times within a few paragraphs. I would highlight a profound statement only to have it repeated—almost word-for-word—in the next paragraph, and/or again on the next page! Thank God for Thesaurus.com, huh? Honestly, I got it the first time. The repetition felt like filler. (There were also a couple of non-sentences that bugged me because they made no sense at all.)

And, then there was the unexpected switcheroo in the conclusion where the author—instead of recapping the lessons learned from Joseph’s life as expounded throughout the book—chose Ruby Slippersto insert an incredibly well-known and previously un-mentioned fictional character and story line to illustrate his point. I found the introduction of Dorothy and her companions form the “Wizard of Oz” to be completely out of place and the allegorization of the movie’s cast and plot unnecessary and distracting. (There may have been a moment when I clicked my heels three times to get back to Kansas Joseph…and it worked!) Dr. Evans does, in the end, recap Joseph’s journey and the practical life lessons learned along the way. He challenges us to pay attention to the pattern of promotions in Scripture: From Abraham to Joseph and Moses to Esther, we are reminded that our destiny has a kingdom purpose.

Your destiny and kingdom purpose often involve both a hookup and a hope to people beyond yourself. Look for both as God guides you.” (p. 199)

Detours is the kind of book I wish I had read in my twenties, although I’m not sure my twenty-year-old self would have embraced the truths contained in these pages. I highly recommend the book to anyone who finds himself or herself in a holding pattern or on a “never-ending” detour. You will be encouraged and your hope, refreshed. Pastors, church leaders, mentors, and coaches will benefit from the memorable and easily transferable lessons contained herein. 


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from B&H Publishers (LifeWay) as part of their Book Review Blogger program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

“Abandoned Faith”-McFarland & Jimenez

Abandoned Faith

Abandoned Faith: Why Millennials Are Walking Away and How You Can Lead Them Home by Alex McFarland and Jason Jimenez

Over the past few years, I’ve been heartbroken to observe the turning away from faith by a few of my nieces and nephews. Although they were raised in Christian homes and stem from a strong faith heritage (my father has been a full-time pastor since 1966), they have, for all intents and purposes, rejected God. How does something like this happen? Why would a young man or woman—who was raised by Christian parents and grandparents; who was taught about God from a young age; who “invited Jesus into his/her heart” early in life; who knows how to pray; who has served when asked—turn his or her heart away from God and towards a worldview in total opposition to Him?

The truth is, most parents try to raise their children in the fear of the Lord. Unfortunately, many of these children (now adults) still turn away from Christianity.” (p. 6)

In their timely book, Abandoned Faith: Why Millennials Are Walking Away and How You Can Lead Them Home, Alex McFarland and Jason Jimenez explain what is going on, examine the root causes of this modern phenomenon, and offer valuable advice for parents, grandparents, and other adults who are deeply concerned about the choices their children and grandchildren (and nieces and nephews) are making which will affect their lives both now and eternally. While there is no official definition of the age range of millennials at this time, most demographers place their birth between the early-1980s and the mid-1990s with some extending it through the early 2000s.1

Based on well-documented research about the millennial generation and years of personal experience working with this age group, the authors present an excellent overview of what makes millennials tick, how they view the world, what it is they are seeking, and how to help them become rooted in Christ. Their insights are extremely valuable and relevant; their solutions, doable.

Following the model Jesus set forth in Matthew 7:3-5, the authors challenge their readers to first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” In other words, with compassion and boldness, they encourage their readers to first look at their own spiritual lives before that of their children.

Unfortunately, many of the problems millennials deal with stem from their parents…whatever the case—if we are going to see major turnaround among millennials, they need to see a change first in moms and dads.” (page 9)

One by one, the authors gently peel back the layers of parenting in order to reveal that many Christians are in unspeakable pain because of the decisions their adult children have made. They are paralyzed by fear and doubt as they suffer under waves of regret regarding their parenting blunders. By encouraging the reader to let go of “fear-driven” parenting and focus instead on “faith-driven” parenting, McFarland and Jimenez challenge moms and dads to lean into their unique and influential roles in the lives of their adult children:

You are God’s stewards. You represent Him and have been given the authority and responsibility to serve and to demonstrate His love graciously.” (page 19)

We must remember that as parents, we have a LIFELONG role in shaping our children’s perception of God and what it means to be a Christian—this doesn’t stop when they turn eighteen.

Once we’ve looked within, confessed our sins, and gotten our own lives right with the Lord, we are in a better position to understand what is going on with our children. Out of the seven key reasons for faith abandonment common among millennial Christians, the first reason will probably come as a surprise to some of my readers, but it’s true.

Many millennials (18- to 29-year-olds) who claim to be Christian never had a true conversion to begin with.” (page 27)

“But wait!” you exclaim…

  • “He was active in the youth group!”
  • “She went on missions trips!”
  • “They went to church camp every summer!”
  • “He went to a Christian school!”

Activity does NOT not equal relationship. What they have discovered is that young adults who lack deep, relational roots in the faith will fall away when confronted with questions they are unprepared to answer. Remember the parable of the sower. Not everything that sprouts thrives.

Not everything that sprouts thrives ~ Laura Zielke #abandonedfaith @jasonpjimenez @alexmcfarland Click To Tweet

The book is organized into four key sections:

  1. What Went Wrong?
    Offering both hope and explanation, this section focuses on the roles of society, parents, and the church in the lives of millennials.
    .
  2. Forces Shaping Our Sons and Daughters
    This section paints an excellent picture of who millennials are, what drives them, and how much we need them in our lives and organizations.
    .
  3. Steps to Mend and Move Forward 
    With practical tips for helping to sustain and/or rebuild parent/adult-child relationships, this section will help the parent (or boss) understand how to relate to young adults.
    .
  4. Winning Back Your Millennial Child
    Here’s where the rubber meets the road. Practical tools include a prayer map for your millennial as well as instructions for building a foundation of biblical truth.
  • Appendix: When There Is a Failure to Launch
    This bonus section gives step-by-step instructions to help parents help their millennials move out on their own and enjoy a life of independence. 

Hope for MillennialsWhether or not they have walked away from the faith, if you have millennial children or grandchildren (or maybe they are post-millennial, like mine), you will benefit from reading Abandoned Faith. By the time you finish it, not only will you have a better understanding of millennials in general, you’ll also have a more clear picture of the millennial(s) in your own life. You will have more insight into the ways we, as parents, have exacerbated the problem and how we might contribute to the solution. Abandoned Faith will help you become more transparent with your kids about your own faith journey, struggles, and victories. This type of authenticity strengthens the parent-child bond and could potentially help your child come to (or return to) a fulfilling relationship with Jesus Christ.

McFarland and Jimenez remind us that God has not given up on this generation, and neither should we. The LORD continues to reach out in love to ALL who call on His Name.

I highly recommend Abandoned Faith to anyone in a parental or work relationship with millennials. My hope is that pastors, ministers, young adult workers, grandparents of millennials, and anyone else interested in reaching this generation for the Lord will make an investment in this book and read it from cover to cover. By understanding ways the church has failed this generation, readers will be empowered to change course and make necessary changes before it’s too late.

1 Wikipedia contributors, “Millennials,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Millennials&oldid=773009995(accessed April 1, 2017).


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Tyndale Publishers as part of their Book Review Blogger Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

“Nonprofits Are Messy” by Garry

Nonprofits Are Messy - Joan Garry

Joan Garry. Have you heard of her? I hadn’t until very recently. Stefanie, fellow board member and chair at Triad Ladder of Hope, had shared one of Joan’s blog posts with me. I remember thinking to myself, “This is spot-on! She’s right!” I had to know WHO this woman was! I immediately clicked over to her website, and after browsing a bit, I realized she was offering (at no charge) something I was looking for: wisdom gleaned from years in the trenches of leadership—both corporate and nonprofit.

Y’all know how much I love to learn from others, especially experts in their field, so I “liked” her Facebook page, followed her on Twitter, and soon began receiving tidbits of wisdom that were both enjoyable to read and seemed to hit the mark regarding the ups and downs of volunteer leadership. Every. Single. Time.

Following her closely afforded me a neat opportunity: I was invited to receive a pre-release copy of her new book Joan Garry’s Guide to Nonprofit Leadership: Because Nonprofits Are Messy in exchange for an honest review. Sign me up! 

Nonprofits Are Messy

I’ve just finished reading Joan Garry’s Guide to Nonprofit Leadership: Because Nonprofits Are Messy and my head and heart are full—overflowing with invaluable insights regarding working with volunteers; inspiring ideas to facilitate growth; practical problem-solving skills; and realistic recipes for success at everything from board meetings to annual retreats. But more than that, Nonprofits Are Messy has challenged me to remember WHY I chose to invest my time volunteering with nonprofits in the first place: I have a renewed sense of joy and gratitude for the work I am so privileged to do for my community!

FCPresents features well-regarded author, speaker Joan Garry | The Bucks County HeraldJoan Garry is a compassionate truth teller who holds her wisdom with an open hand. She entered the nonprofit arena after fourteen years in executive positions in corporate entertainment (she was part of the management team who launched MTV back when I was in high school). The decision to leave corporate America and take on a leadership position at a struggling nonprofit (GLAAD) shocked many, but her passion for the cause and her amazing skills were exactly what the organization needed. Not only did she grow the organization’s bottom line from only $360 in its checking account to over $1.5 million in cash reserves and an $8 million budget—which is pretty amazing for someone who had ZERO fundraising experience—she also leveraged her leadership skills to exponentially expand the organization’s influence by effectively managing volunteer corps, leadership teams, and a paid staff of 40 employees. The organization became an internationally-recognized force to be reckoned with!

Joan currently consults with nonprofit leaders coaching them through crisis management, providing executive coaching, and building strong management teams to support the work of the CEO. She also teaches nonprofit media strategy at the University of Pennsylvania, and is a blogger for The Huffington Post.

Wisdom Gleaned from Years of Experience

Now, isn’t she someone you’d love to meet and pick her brain for ideas that might work in your own organization? To get input about a recurring conflict within your Board? To ask her how she found success as an Executive Director of a nonprofit when she’d had NO fundraising experience? To learn if she’d do anything differently? Well, guess what? You can!

Joan Garry’s Guide to Nonprofit Leadership: Because Nonprofits Are Messy is Joan’s gift to the nonprofit leader (current or aspiring). It is written in such a way that you feel like you’re sitting right across the table from her having a conversation about your own organization. She anticipates your questions and answers them with candor and compassion. Offering insights from both her own personal experience and her experience as a nonprofit consultant, she will explain why certain practices work and others fail miserably.

 

Read it with a highlighter at the ready. You’ll be highlighting nuggets like this:

  • “The board you have is the board you build.” (p. 57)
  • “A great strategy conversation should breathe life into the organization.” (p. 71)
  • “Fundraising is about an invitation to join you in the remarkable work you do.” (p. 89)
  • “Don’t ever assume that a person with capacity should give to your cause.” (p. 98)
  • “Leadership is not about making people happy—it’s about making decisions that are in clear alignment with the mission and values of your organization. And a lack of clarity can ignite a crisis.” (p. 163)

Joan’s advice to nonprofit leaders is founded on bedrock principles of integrity, respect, authenticity, transparency, and proactivity—all of which are guaranteed to move your mission forward in the most ethical manner possible. As a supplement to her book, Joan has provided a slew of free downloads on her website (referenced throughout) which will allow the reader to immediately implement many of her recommendations.

Practical, Proven Leadership Techniques

Joan Garry’s Guide to Nonprofit Leadership: Because Nonprofits Are Messy an excellent resource and a “must read” for anyone who intends to step into leadership in ANY nonprofit organization (including churches)! If you’re easily offended, put on your Depends® and read it anyway—seeing life through someone else’s eyes can be beneficial and keep us humble. Joan’s authenticity and compassion shine through her writing. You can tell she lives what she believes. And what she believes is this:

It is a privilege to have a leadership role in a nonprofit. It is a joy to have the opportunity to dedicate your skills, life experience, time, energy, and passion to a cause you care deeply about…the work is tough and often thankless.

And she’s right. Joan Garry’s Guide to Nonprofit Leadership: Because Nonprofits Are Messy is the best “thank you” I’ve received in a long time because it’s filled with tips to make my leadership much more effective. I highly recommend it.

Side note: There are a few typos and formatting issues that I would recommend they fix before reprinting (and I’m positive this book will go into reprint), but none of them are obtrusive.


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

“The Bad Habits of Jesus” by Sweet

Book Review: The Bad Habits of Jesus by Leonard Sweet

The Bad Habits of Jesus: Showing Us the Way to Live Right in a World Gone Wrong

The Bad Habits of JesusBy leveraging his years of teaching the Bible and the input of his students at Tabor University, Leonard Sweet has created an intriguing list of unpopular social habits of the most important man who ever lived. Highlighting Jesus’ proclivity to re-interpret the Law and break away from cultural norms and religious legalism, Sweet shows us how Jesus is more radical than we have been led to believe. He challenges us to take a fresh look at the Messiah as a rebel and savior.

Bad Habits of Jesus

Sweet’s book provides a fantastic reference list of the so-called “bad” habits of Jesus. It’s a great resource for preachers in need of sermon ideas and Bible study leaders in search of a new angle to engage their members—study questions provided at the end of the book offer helpful discussion starters for small groups.

The book itself is well written; however, I think the editing went awry in many places. The mixed analogies boggle the mind. For example, in the chapter presenting Jesus’ habit of taking off by himself without telling anyone He was leaving, Sweet writes,

The soul needs two things as a tree needs water and light: solitude and society. Together they form a barbell that the soul lifts to get strong and healthy.

I’m not exactly sure why a tree’s needs were brought into it, and I don’t see the point in switching the analogy to barbells which are never picked up again. Sweet continues by carefully connecting a number of church billboard-worthy statements:

Solitude is not solo time but soul time with God. Solitude is a relationship word, another name for relationship with the self and with the Source. Solitude is not a time-out from relationships, for relationship is central to solitude. Aloneness is not soulful sophistry but sophistication and maturity of relationship with God.

In my opinion, stringing together a number of “sticky statements” like this actually detracts from the overall message and readability of the book. Sadly, it happens repeatedly throughout the book. Another example follows:

Stories and signs don’t lack truth value; they lock in truth value. Truth for Jesus was timelessness made timely by the time-full. And to live relational truth is dangerous in a world of philosophical truth.

What does that even mean?

These sentences themselves may be well-crafted works of art, but even museums leave ample space between paintings on a wall!

So, although I enjoyed The Bad Habits of Jesus: Showing Us the Way to Live Right in a World Gone Wrong, for the most part, the globs of sticky statements and mixed analogies made my head spin.

Don’t get me wrong: I am not in favor of “dumbing down” theology. But I cannot condone making it more complicated than it needs to be. As Sabrina Fairchild remarks to Linus Larrabee in the movie Sabrina, “Sometimes more isn’t always better, Linus. Sometimes it’s just more.”  The author of this book took a relatively simple subject and muddied up the waters for no good reason.

So, I enjoyed the content, but I did not care for the form in which it was delivered.

Should you decide to read and/or purchase The Bad Habits of Jesus: Showing Us the Way to Live Right in a World Gone Wrong, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it!


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Embrace the Wait and Find Hope Again

Embrace the Wait

Do you think it’s possible to have a personal, deepening relationship with Jesus Christ, be serving Him where you are, have a calling into to full-time ministry, and still lose hope? I do, but I also know how we approach the wait has everything to do with its fruitfulness in our lives. My wait has been so long, I’d almost given up all hope. But then: Epiphany.

>> (TL;DR? Skip to “How to Embrace the Wait”) <<

It all started on December 26, 2015, when a few friends and I gathered for our third annual “Mom’s Night Out.” This has become one of my favorite Christmas (technically, post-Christmas) traditions, and I look forward to it every year. The MNO is a little something that we do for ourselves the day after Christmas towards the end of an inevitably chaotic and stress-filled holiday season that begins with Thanksgiving dinner and ends with New Year’s Day. We leave our children at home with their dads and head out to take in a newly released movie followed by a nice dinner and fellowship.

Montage of JOY movie poster and Joy Mangano

Our choice this year was Joy starring Jennifer Lawrence. Based on a true story, Joy creatively retells the life story of Joy Mangano, an inventor who created the Miracle Mop® and currently holds more than one hundred patents. The movie spotlights various points in Joy’s life which illustrate her penchant for thinking outside the box, creating practical inventions, and facing challenges head-on. Her journey is rife with obstacles—personal and professional—which must be overcome in order for her to fulfill her destiny. In the end, she develops into a very successful businesswoman whose estimated worth is currently $50 million.1 This movie struck a chord with me on a very deep level, and I didn’t realize it until a couple weeks later.

A Personal Epiphany and Soul Stirring

On January 6, 2016 (Epiphany), I had a “moment” with the Lord during the Communion time of our Wednesday night service, and my heart was stirred in a way that it has not been stirred in a very, very, very long time. I was alone that night (hubby was home sick and son was with the youth group).

Lord's Supper Elements

During the solemn, self-reflective moments which precede partaking the Eucharist, I suddenly found myself in tears. The noise of the surrounding environment softened into silence; the activities swirling about me slowed to a crawl; and time seemingly stood still. I remember right where I was sitting, my hunched-over posture, the super-dim lighting, the cup in my left hand, the bread in my right. In the quietness of my heart I despondently cried out to my Heavenly Father, “LORD, I’m going to be forty-nine years old this year. I was called into full-time service when I was nine! Did I imagine it? Was it real? I’ve been waiting for almost forty years!!!”

Then, all of a sudden, there was a sense of His presence. Enveloping. Comforting. Near. Peace-full. Hope-full. Power-full. Real. And I was instantly overwhelmed with the significance of those words: “FORTY YEARS.

Inhale. Exhale. Reflect.

Forty years…that’s a Biblical number. Who else had to wait 40 years? Noah. Sarai. Abram. Joseph. Moses. 

Inhale. Exhale. Reflect.

It’s time. 

Time for what?

I slowly came to the realization that the service was moving forward. People were singing again. The pastor would be preaching soon. What just happened? I would spend the next few days processing through it. Really, the next few months. Probably, the rest of my life.

You see, I have been waiting almost forty years for the fulfillment of a calling I received when I was nine years old at church camp. It’s not that I haven’t been actively following the Lord: I have. Volunteering and leading. Living and learning. Faithing and trusting. Serving and teaching. But my calling into full-time service has technically never been fulfilled.

I’ve savored seasons of anticipation, belief, and hope. I’ve despaired through days of doubt, disbelief, and discouragement. I’ve battled depression and struggled with envy of those who were able to live out their calling while I sat at home day after day designing websites and home-educating our son.

So, when God met me where I was on January 6, 2016, I was unprepared. I had come to worship and commune, for sure. But I was not expecting a moment with the Almighty. One in which He stirred my soul. One in which He breathed life into these dry bones. One in which my ministry heart began to beat again.

Talk about scary!!! Yes, I do mean scary. When you’ve waited as long as I have for a dream to come true, you don’t instantly become euphoric about the possibilities: You become cautious. Really cautious. You’re afraid of going down that path again. The path that looks like it leads to an oasis, but turns out to be a mirage. Again. It’s difficult to find hope once it’s been covered by the sands of time.

So, the question that bubbles up is this: Is it possible to have a personal, deepening relationship with Jesus Christ, be serving Him where you are, have a calling into to full-time ministry, and still lose hope? My answer is: Yes, actually, it is. (Just let that sink in for a moment.)

You Are Not Alone

There are many men and women all over the world—desperate to live out their calling—who have been left on the bench or sent to the sidelines for a variety of man-made reasons including gender bias, prejudice, denominational politics, and/or marital status (just to name a few). These godly servants are all around us, and they are hurting. They are questioning themselves. Doubting their callings. Feeling frustrated with delay after delay.

These women and men LOVE God, and they yearn for the day they can serve Him in the roles to which He called them. They are serving where they can when they can, but their callings remain unfulfilled. And the longer they wait, the harder it becomes to keep hope alive. No surfacey Christian ‘wisdom’ will soothe the heartache of a leader in long-term waiting. And hope wanes thin.

Well-meaning Believers come alongside with advice such as: “Have faith in God. His timing is perfect!” or “You need to pray harder.” or “They don’t know what they’re missing.” It feels cliché. Don’t they realize we already have faith in God? That we know His timing is perfect? That we are hard-praying people? Sure they do, and the wait is making them uncomfortable, too. They don’t know what else to say. And whether or not anyone realizes what they are missing by not hiring us, that’s not the point. This is not about losing faith in God or His abilities.

20150822_185714What I’m alluding to is losing hope in your own calling. Becoming discouraged. More than discouraged: disheartened. I’m referring to what happens when you’ve sought the Lord with all your heart, followed where He led, took the required steps of faith, and in His power accomplished great things, BUT, for whatever reason, you continue to not be hired.

If you’ve been through anything like this, you know that of which I speak (write).

I know for a fact that I am not alone in this experience. When you journey through something like this—a hot, dry Sahara—it’s not long until you begin to doubt whether you ever heard God in the first place.

  • Was I imagining that tug on my heart? 
  • What was I thinking? 
  • Why would God call someone like me?
  • Who do I think I am? 

If you’ve ever packed up your resources and stored them in the attic, refused to unpack them at a new home, or given them away because you just couldn’t look at them anymore, I want you to know that you are not alone.

If you’ve ever reworked your resumé, updated your Linkedin profile and social media presence, purchased a new outfit or suit for an interview, traveled to scout a new home for your family, given your testimony to a committee, answered their probing questions—ALL because you truly sensed the Lord’s leading—only to be bypassed (maybe multiple times)—you need to know: you are not alone.

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to just drop off the planet or quit the faith—and stopped yourself, because you KNOW God IS who He says He is—you need to know that you are not alone.

When the Wait Seems Never-Ending

Super-long waits can, and often do, eat away at our ability to trust and obey. Repeated rejections result in diminished hope, tendencies towards self-preservation, and a forcefield of cynicism. The forcefield goes up; emotions are stuffed deep down inside; books are packed; and we become a little less of who we’re called to be. We isolate ourselves, because the hurt is too deep and the questions too unsettling to discuss with people who will never understand what it means to be called only to wait and wait and wait and wait and wait for the calling to be fulfilled. They don’t get it. They want to be helpful, but there’s only One who can soothe that pain, and that is God alone.

Before we assign the delay to ourselves or “God’s perfect timing,” we must also take into consideration the many factors that play into the hiring process, and sometimes, personal agendas and emotional baggage get in the way. It is entirely possible that the insecurities or biases of committee members preclude you from consideration, or it could be something as simple as your spouse’s looking at someone on the committee the wrong way. It may very well have been God’s will for you to be at that church at that time, but humans got in the way. The truth we must hold onto is this: God is in control. He allowed the decision to go another way—whether it was His will or not—and He will work it out for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. He promised!

The worst thing we can do after an experience like this is navel gaze and pout for more than an hour. (I think an hour of pouting and navel gazing after an unexpected rejection is perfectly normal and probably healthier than stuffing the emotions inside.) The fact is God is still on His throne; He still has a plan for our lives; He will continue to work things out for us so that, eventually, we will be living out our life’s call…just as He promised.

How to Embrace the Wait

We who have been called should use this time to serve in a variety of areas, deepen our spiritual walk with the Lord through the exercise of spiritual disciplines, sharpen our ministry and leadership skills, and learn as much as we can about ourselves and others.

1. Serve Where You Are

We who have been called are responsible to serve HIM whenever and wherever we are— whether on staff at a church/school/college/non-profit or working a full-time secular job with no prospects for a ministry position anytime soon. This means we volunteer to help where we are needed, regardless of whether or not it fits within our specific calling—even if it’s simply helping children register for Sunday School each week or greeting people at the front door with a smile, handshake, and bulletin. By serving in a variety of positions, we can gain new appreciation for volunteers, a different perspective on kingdom work, and hopefully, new skills we can call on later when the time comes. We must trust that God is utilizing that time to carve us into the servant-leaders He needs us to be. It may be a humbling time for us, but we should never don’t doubt that God will use these experiences to teach us more about Himself than He would if we were stuck in a perpetual pity party or only serving where we felt properly equipped. He will teach us what we need to learn, and then we will be released to do and learn something else somewhere else.

Recommended Resources:

Book Cover: Now, Discover Your Strengths: The revolutionary Gallup program that shows you how to develop your unique talents and strengths Book Cover: Living Your Strengths: Discover Your God-Given Talents and Inspire Your Community Book Cover: Book Cover: Living Forward: A Proven Plan to Stop Drifting and Get the Life You Want Book Cover: The Dream Giver

2. Practice Spiritual Disciplines

In order to deepen our spiritual walk with the Lord, we need to continually practice spiritual disciplines. These include prayer, fasting, solitude, Scripture verse memory, meditation, etc. There are many spiritual disciplines, and the best thing to do is work on one at a time. Some disciplines will resonate with you in such a way that you cannot imagine how you did life without them, others you may try and wonder what the big deal is. Cool. That’s great. You found something that doesn’t work for you. move on to the next one. After a few months, you’ll have a few favorite disciplines you can practice in order to keep your relationship with the Lord healthy, vibrant, and growing. This will also help to ward off the blues which lurk around the “why am I still waiting” corner. Our goal in all this is to increase our ability to draw close to the Lord and discern the His voice form all others.

Recommended Resources:

Book Cover: Black Liturgies: Prayers, Poems, and Meditations for Staying Human Book Cover: Celebration of Discipline: The path to Spiritual Growth Book Cover: Sacred Rhythms: Arranging Our Lives for Spiritual Transformation Book Cover: The Table of Inwardness: Nurturing Our Inner Life in Christ Book Cover: How Many Times Do I Have to Tell You?

3. Sharpen Ministry Skills

One of the most important things we can do for ourselves during the long waiting period is to work on our ministry and leadership skills. We should spend time studying the Word as though we were already on staff—this is especially important for those who have been called into the pastorate or a teaching ministry. Preparing a sermon or Bible study lesson with all the passion you would if you were on staff somewhere will not only feed  your soul, it will also keep your skills sharp. A methodical approach to Bible study will keep us grounded in the Word, and we may discover new resources and tools of which we were previously unaware. Streamlined lesson preparation is a huge asset. Think about it this way, the more you practice, the less time it will take to get the sermon or lesson prepared (or the time you spend will be more efficiently used)—your family will thank you. (Lesson and sermon preparation are NOT to take the place of spiritual disciplines.)

Recommended Resources:

Book Cover: The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not Time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal Book Cover: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change Book Cover: Boundaries Updated and Expanded Edition: When to Say Yes, How to Say No To Take Control of Your Life Book Cover: The Best Yes: Making Wise Decisions in the Midst of Endless Demands Book Cover: At Your Best: How to Get Time, Energy, and Priorities Working in Your Favor

4. Broaden Leadership Skills

In addition to ministry skills, development of leadership skills is CRITICAL during this waiting time. More and more churches are being destroyed by great preachers with terrible leadership skills. Although we may not hold leadership positions at church (which is a crying shame), there’s no reason why we cannot volunteer as a leader in another organization. The need for excellent leadership is not limited to the walls of the church or faith-based organization. You could volunteer to be on your HOA board or Neighborhood Watch. In addition to being in a leadership position, you could also hone your skills by reading books on leadership, listening to leadership podcasts, and attending leadership seminars. Don’t let satan fool you into thinking that the only place you can lead is in the church. That’s a lie. 

Recommended Resources:

Book Cover: The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them and People Will Follow You Book Cover: Never Go Back: 10 Things You'll Never Do Again Book Cover: Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box Book Cover: More Than Enchanting: Breaking Through Barriers to Influence Your World ( Book Cover: Leadership, Reinvented: How to Foster Empathy, Servitude, Diversity, and Innovation in the Workplace

5. Learn about Yourself and Others

It’s not narcissistic to try and understand yourself better, it’s necessary. When you learn about your personality type, as well as the personality types of others, you are going to be amazed! This dovetails nicely with developing your leadership skills and enhancing your ministry skills. As our worship minister recently remarked as he peered out over the congregation, “Y’all are weird!” He got a good laugh, and what he said was absolutely true: God’s people are “weird.” We’re an eclectic bunch of sinners saved by grace who enjoy gathering together on a regular basis to learn and help each other grow. No two of us are alike. And the more we, as leaders, understand various personality types and traits, the better able we will be to address  their needs and enforce healthy boundaries as needed. Start with yourself first, then your spouse, and go from there. Take the online quizzes or have the test administered by a professional. We need to know who we are and how people perceive us. We need to use this time to grow, because once God puts us where He needs us, we may not have the time to work on ourselves like we do when we’re in the holding place.

Click here for a brief description and links to a variety of FREE Online Personality Quizzes you can take at no charge to get you started.

Recommended Resources:

Book Cover: Gifts Differing: Understanding Personality Type Book Cover: The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery Book Cover: Mindset - Updated Edition: Changing The Way You think To Fulfil Your Potential Book Cover: Reframe Your Life: Transforming Your Pain into Purpose Book Cover: Trust: Knowing When to Give It, When to Withhold It, How to Earn It, and How to Fix It When It Gets Broken

Conclusion:

When it all comes down, God will use our “delays” for His glory. He will do work in us during this time that will potentially completely transform how we approach ministry and life. The experiences we have along the way will increase our skill sets, nurture empathy, and diversify our sphere of influence. As Paul wrote in Romans 12:1-2:

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you. (The Message)

Feel free to comment and/or share if this has encouraged you to embrace the wait!


Photo credit: Lord’s Supper Elements by Alanscottwalker – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16842185
“Joy” movie release poster – fair use
Joy Mangano courtesy of https://joymangano.com