A New Thing

I like baseball, especially the Kansas City Royals, and it is almost opening day.  A couple of years ago we went to a game and I sat next to a family visiting from Australia. None of them had ever been to a baseball game before. Their friends at the other end of the row had prepared them with some basic information about the sport before the game but, like many things, it’s hard to understand it until you see it. 

I really enjoyed listening to the woman as she figured out why each player was doing what he was doing. She was fascinated with everything – from how many extra balls the umpire keeps in his bag to the men who “ran when it wasn’t their turn” (stolen bases).  Sometimes she and her husband would talk through something until they figured it out and sometimes she would ask a question. She asked me about the hand claps and various chants fans would do. She did not understand the point of the seventh inning stretch. She just sat with her mouth open during the hot dog races but she LOVED the wave.  I love going to baseball games but because I’ve been to so many, I miss some of the little details.

As a leader, I think I’m like this with a lot of things. I just assume everyone understands the little details, but I learned a few things from my seat-neighbor at the ballpark that easily relates whatever ministry or group we’re part of:

  1. Don’t assume every leader understands the finer points.
  2. Invest the time in sharing the details with someone. It will help them learn and you’ll have fun watching them as they begin to understand and put into practice what they’re learning.
  3. There are different ways to share what you know – sometimes you let them figure it out on their own, sometimes you answer their questions, and sometimes you have to give them a few facts up front. The key to leadership development is knowing when is the right time for each method. 

The other important life-lesson I learned is we should never get so settled in anything that we can’t enjoy the wave. 

See Me

When my daughter was little and she wanted to show off her monkey-bar skills she would call out, “See me, mama! See me!” She wanted me to watch – to know I appreciated what she was doing.

In Genesis, we meet a woman named Hagar. She was poor and pregnant – feeling scared, useless and alone. But God knew her past and knew right where she was. She realized he was a God who saw her, even when she was trying to hide. She called God El Roi – “the God who sees” (Genesis 16:13). This is the only time in scripture where this name for God is used.

As we keep reading in Genesis, we find Hagar two years later. She and her son, Ishmael, have been banished and Ishmael is dying from thirst. Hagar is weeping over her inability to help him. Suddenly God speaks to her through an angel who says, “What is the matter, Hagar? Do not be afraid; God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. Lift the boy up and take him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation”(Genesis 21:17-18). Then God opened Hagar’s eyes, and she saw just what they needed right then – a well full of water. It seems Hagar had forgotten the name she called out to God years before. She forgot that her God is El Roi.

During her life, my mom was diagnosed with cancer three times. Every time we sat at a table across from a doctor and heard the word “cancer” followed by options, treatments, and prognoses. The last time we sat at that table, the doctor said there were very few options and we probably only had a few months left with her. After the doctor left, my mom said, “Well, what do we know?” Our first response was, “We know cancer sucks.” My mom responded, “Yes, it does. But we also know that God has always been faithful to us, and he will be faithful this time, too.”  She remembered that her God is El Roi.

Mom lived four years beyond that last meeting around the doctor’s table. We were so grateful for all of that time, but there were many times during those years when I sat with my mom and wondered, “Does God even know we’re here? Does he have any idea?” How often in the midst of our fear, loneliness, pain or confusion do we cry out, “See me, God! See me!”? He saw Hagar and was faithful to her and her son. He saw my family in that doctor’s office and he understood our circumstances. He knows where we are and will meet us there to provide exactly what we need. He is El Roi – the God who sees.

Index Cards

It all started with index cards.  My daughter walked into my room at 9:00 pm and said she had to have index cards for school the next day. I can’t describe what happened next any other way than this: I lost my mind. I berated her for 20 minutes about her lack of responsibility in waiting until this late the night before to ask. I made sure she understood how this request was affecting my life, my plans, my deadlines. Clearly, this request was outrageous and life-disrupting. For the first time I can remember, my child ran from me in tears.

I live in a large suburb. In the time it took me to drive my daughter to tears, I could have driven to at least five different locations to get the item she needed and it would have cost me about $1.50.

This wasn’t about index cards. This was about the pace of my life being out of control.

I’d forgotten that it was up to me to decide what kind of rhythm I wanted for my family. I had made a decision somewhere along the way to live at an exhausting, time-consuming, attitude-wrecking, family-changing pace. I was saying “yes” to everything because I believed that was what was expected of me and somehow convinced myself it was good for us. It was the urgent overtaking the important every single day.

I thought I needed some balance in my life. I wanted things to be even and steady and to work easily within my plan. But what I was missing was less about balance and more about a healthy rhythm. When I let old, bad habits about spending, activities, and my own self-care take over or when I let others dictate my time, everything became urgent and out of control. The rhythm I was living in was actually someone else’s. 

I’d been doing it for so long that it wasn’t going to be easy to change, but it was going to be so much harder not to.

I knew where I needed to start. I needed time to think and pray. I needed to talk to God about how he had created me and the decisions I’d been making. I needed wise counsel from someone who knew me well.

During this time, a friend pointed me to Galatians 5:22-25:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. (ESV)

I was out of step. Its’ pretty clear from these verses what kind of rhythm God wants for me. The desire to excel, be better and grow is not always a bad thing. But it becomes harmful when I get caught up in gauging myself and everyone else by some ridiculous standard set by Pinterest, Instagram, or that spot deep inside of me that thinks your rhythm must be better than mine. The pressure to live my life like it was a competitive sport didn’t come from God.

Galatians 5:16 in The Message version says: Live freely, animated and motivated by God’s Spirit.

That is the rhythm I want!

Every day there are dozens of meaningful opportunities laid out before you – opportunities in your home, community, church, school and work. Saying “yes” to them all usually means forcing your family rhythm to fit into them. But now may be the time to shift your thinking. It may be time to talk to God about your own personal rhythm and then take gutsy steps to live in it.

Making this shift creates white space. It gives you time to take the scenic route to school, room to be the ride for the friend whose car is in the shop; and space to sit with someone who needs to chat. It gives permission to turn buying index cards at 9:00 pm into an adventure instead of an attitude adjustment. Most importantly, it gives direction and purpose to your steps. It just may bring you freedom to decide what the important things are for you and your family for today, tomorrow, and the days after that.

You see, it’s hardly ever about the index cards.

Something to Consider

Haggai is a little book of prophecy near the end of the Old Testament. It’s less than two pages, but God packs a great lesson into this little book.

Read Haggai 1:1-11. The Israelites had been in captivity (again) and God delivered them from their captors (again). The people were thankful for deliverance and started rebuilding the temple. They built the foundation and the altar and then they stopped. They had time and plenty of materials but they left God’s temple sitting unfinished. They started strong but got distracted.

Read Haggai 1:2-4 again:  “These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.”  Then the word of the Lord came by the hand of Haggai the prophet, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins?”

I’m sure if we asked the Israelites they would say God was the most important thing to them, but their actions didn’t support it. The people didn’t say they would never build the temple just that they had other things they wanted to do first. What they were doing wasn’t bad, they just weren’t doing things in the right order.

Have you ever done good things in the wrong order? In Haggai 1:6, God pointed out what their out-of-order priorities were doing to them: “You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes.”

They worked but never accomplished much. They didn’t have enough food or drink to fill them. They had clothes, but not enough to keep them warm. They earned money but wasted it.

Jump forward to Haggai 1:9-11 and read how God explains why their work isn’t accomplishing much. God needed to get their attention. Because of God’s great love for the Israelites, he doesn’t leave them in the mess their priorities created. He tells them how to fix it.

Read Haggai 1:7-8. What were God’s instructions? God told the people to go finish his house but he tells them to do something first. He says: “Consider your ways.” 

As a mom, have you ever said to your child, “Sit there and think about what you’ve done!”? (If you haven’t yet, you will one day!) God is telling the Israelites, consider your ways. Think about your choices. Examine your heart. THEN, after you have done that, go finish what you started.

The best way to check your priorities is to consider these three things: Where do I spend my time?  Where do I spend my money?  What do I protect? 

Write down your answers. You don’t have to share them with anyone, just consider them for yourself.

Go back to Haggai – Why did God want the Israelites to build the temple in the first place?  The answer is in verse 8 which says, “that I may take pleasure in it and that I may be glorified.” Isn’t this why we were each created in the first place? If some of the things on our list of priorities above do not bring God pleasure and glory, we need to consider our ways and ask, “Why am I doing what I’m doing?”

It is easy to get busy with all the details of planning a life. But we must consider our foundation and think about why we are doing what we are doing.  Before you plan one more thing, consider your ways – personally and for those you lead. 

Good Works

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:10 

God has plans and purposes for us, works he has long planned for us to do.  He already knows what the year holds.  But are we willing to dedicate our time to God and resolve to do life and leadership in his name, no matter what comes along? Let’s look closely at this verse:

Workmanship: We are God’s workmanship. He made us.  He put thought and effort into us. Take a moment and write down how it makes you feel, knowing you are God’s workmanship.  

Good works: According to Ephesians 2:10, why were we made?

My answer was, “To do good works.” But why?  It’s not to justify ourselves.  Read these verses and make note of what good works don’t do for us: Ephesians 2:8-9, Romans 11:6, 2 Timothy 1:9

These all make it clear we aren’t justified or forgiven because of anything we do.  So, why were we created to do good works? 

Read these verses and write what each says about the result of good works: Matthew 5:16, Romans 12:1, Colossians 1:10. Summarize all of these in a sentence:

My good works____________________________________________________________

Prepared in Advance: As we go through our lives, God lays opportunities before us to do good. It is not coincidence when we see someone struggling with something with which we can help.  It is not luck or fate.  It is God.  If we see someone in trouble and there is a way for us to help, God expects us to do it. God makes sure we see the lonely mom and then expects us to befriend her.  He makes sure we see the financial need and expects us to make a sacrifice. When God shows us a work to be done, we can be sure he has prepared it for us in advance and has the expectation that we will complete it.

Think back over the past week.  How many times did you see the opportunity for a good work but didn’t complete it? 

Did you say: “I don’t have extra time…money…energy right now”?  I have even heard myself say, “I’m too busy in the ministry to which God has called me to worry about something else right now.”  I’m not asking you to think back over opportunities missed so you’ll feel guilty but rather to help open our eyes to the chances God gives us to do what we were created to do. 

The Petition

My son Cameron is an interesting and entertaining person and almost everyone who knows him has some sort of “Cam story.” When he was ten, he attended a public elementary school and, at the time, they were adding on to the back of the school. The construction equipment was sitting on the playground so their recesses were very limited until construction was finished. The year prior, the basketball goals were taken down for a short time and Cameron (unbeknownst to his parents) led a petition drive to have them put back up. It worked!

And a year later, they had beautiful basketball goals that they can’t get to because of the construction.  Their afternoon recess was only about 8 minutes long and took place in the front of the school so they couldn’t have balls to play with and they didn’t have room to race (the two main things he liked to do at recess).  They did have jump ropes to play with at first but because some of the children used the jump ropes inappropriately, they lost that privilege.

Cameron considered another petition drive but knew it wouldn’t work because there is nothing the school administration could do about the rain slowing down construction. After weeks of this shortened and uninspiring recess time, a parent called to tell me what Cameron did in the face of these playground obstacles. He formed a prayer group that prayed for the first few minutes of the short afternoon recess. When he got home from school that day, I asked him what they prayed for and he gave me the look ten year-old boys give their moms following what they believe to be a stupid question and responded, “Well, we are praying for playground equipment, of course.” 

Cameron looked at the obstacles, assessed his options, and started with prayer. It’s funny because he was only ten but taught a great leadership lesson.


On vacation several years ago, we went snorkeling.  We rode on a boat out over the reef and the guide gave excellent instructions, set our boundaries and sent us out.  It took a minute to get used to the feeling of breathing evenly through my mouth and keeping my face in the water.  While I was snorkeling, every now and then I would see someone else go by or see the hull of the boat when I got close enough but most of the time it felt like it was just me and the fish.   My youngest son was afraid at first but our patient guide talked him through it.  When he was finally brave enough to get in the water, I tried to keep an eye on him.  It was hard to keep my face in the water, my snorkel out of the water and still see his yellow flippers.  When I came up for a break at one point, the guide yelled out to me, “Hey, mama, you let me watch him.  I can see him better from here then you can from there.  My most important job right now is to watch that young snorkeler.  Don’t worry. I’ve got him covered.”  I was able to relax and enjoy the beauty of what was before me.  (At least until I saw that little shark.)

As our children get older and they venture out more on their own, we have to remind ourselves that we give instructions, set boundaries, and talk them through their fears but at some point we have to relax and know that God has a better view of them.  They matter even more to him then they do to us, so he’s got them covered.