The Homeless Veteran: Guest Post by Bobby Hegedish

Engaging with homeless people I encounter has become a joy and a passion for me.  My friend Bobby Hegedish has discovered a similar calling. I think you will love his story of a homeless veteran. Orlando (although a city like Cleveland where I call home) has a much different vibe than most of the cities I have been to. Ethnic, cultural and economical diversity paint the town colors that make it known as “The City Beautiful.” I don’t usually find myself walking the streets of downtown Orlando past 11:00 PM. However, walking the streets recently to where my parked car was located gave me a sense of being small. Surrounded by skyscrapers and people, from wanderers to third-shift workers, I had a sense of being invisible. But in a moment of discrete observation and contemplation, the city around me became like a scene from a good documentary. What happened next would have made a great scene in such a film. Muttered words I could barely understand came from a man passing by on my right, head to the ground and papers in hand. From when I was a child, I have had a particular burden for those who had less and the homeless. Regardless of how they got there, it was their reality. Yet in small suburban Cleveland growing up, there weren’t many people with those situations to interact with. “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matthew 25:40) Stopping in my tracks, I turned to the man in a split-second decision to attempt a conversation with him. I’ve tried many ways of serving the poor throughout the past several years: giving money or food, taking them out to eat, giving rides, and even a place to stay. These have been exercises as well as tests of faith for me. However, it is so easy to dismiss and project critical, judgmental thoughts onto folks like this man, who I found out was named David. These initial heart-level responses are inherent: external circumstances which trigger pre-disposed responses. Call it “flight Read more

Write the Vision: Guest Post by Stacey Thacker

  “And the Lord answered me: ‘Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.’” (Habakkuk 2:2) A couple of years ago I found a kindred heart on the pages of God’s Word. His name was Habakkuk. He has a tiny three-chapter book in the Old Testament with his name on it. Maybe I liked him immediately because he wrestled with God. Or perhaps it was because of something God told Habakkuk to do, even though he was feeling fresh out of amazing like me. “What did God tell Habakkuk to do? He told the prophet to pick up the chisel and write the vision on a tablet. God also told him how to do it. The phrase “keep it simple.” Now consider that God had to tell farmer-turned-prophet Habakkuk to keep his message simple. He didn’t have a hashtag, images purchased from iStock, or even colored pens to make his message extra special. He didn’t have a Journaling Bible or a You-Tube video. He had a simple message written on tablets of stone, and God said, “Hey, Habakkuk, just write what you saw. Nothing less. Nothing more.” When God speaks we don’t need to dress it up or make it fancy. His Word, his vision, his instructions are enough. God told Habakkuk to write it down. And he did. I know what you may be thinking: “But I’m not a writer. I failed writing in college. I avoid writing grocery lists. This doesn’t apply to me.” Before you move on, though, let me just put this out there for you to consider: Habakkuk was a farmer. Peter was a fisherman. David was a shepherd. Matthew was a tax collector. James was a carpenter. I am a mom. Write the vision on people's hearts. You don’t have to identify as a writer to write down faith-affirming words inspired by God. You simply have to be willing. And whether anyone sees your words or you tuck them away in a journal like I did for years, your words matter because your soul matters. Writing is indeed clarifying soul work. And isn’t that what we need Read more

Our Loving Bitmojis--Just in Time for Valentine's

We would know we love each other if we never said the words because of the little things we do daily to demonstrate Read more

Lingering in the Word of God Brings Transformation

This is the third post from my word for the year—linger. What does a true follower of Jesus look like and live like? I ask that question often, especially as I read—and linger--in the Word God. Today I was in Romans 12—which is abounding with words that unveil the beautiful, character-growing transformation that God has promised to do in our lives. A Living Sacrifice The chapter is brimming with instructions to encourage us to surrender to God’s labor of love in our lives. So we will take a brief look at just verses 1-2, and hopefully continue through the chapter in later posts. And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2, NLT) Paul is addressing you and me as well as the believers in Rome: brothers and sisters—all of us! What he wants to say to us is so vital and essential that he pleads with us. Because of all God has done for us, he reasons, we must give our bodies to God. This giving of ourselves is no small matter—we are to give ourselves as a living and holy sacrifice. A living sacrifice? Clearly something different than the sacrifices of animals. What does it mean to be a living sacrifice? (Here’s a hint: We will find out what that looks like as we encounter the verses that follow in the rest of the chapter.) And a holy sacrifice? Me? You? Holy? Only because we have been made holy by the sacrifice of Jesus. And acceptable to God? Again, only because we have been bought by Jesus’ death on the cross. How does our Father receive our very personal sacrifices? As worship. Perhaps this giving of our living selves is Read more

Hidden Figures - the work and worth of women at Tim Fall

  For years I have been an advocate for the staff women in our ministry, seeking greater opportunities for them to use their gifts. In more recent years my friend and acquaintance circle has expanded to embrace many women of color. So it's no surprise that I loved Hidden Figures. It is a beautiful story of overcoming prejudice and discrimination to accomplish great things.  And I am grateful that Tim Fall invited me to write a personal reflection on the movie. I hope this "review" will get you up and on your way to see it.. Here's a taste, then head on over to Tim's blog, Just One Train Wreck After Another, to keep reading.   My stomach knotted. Already? Would there be trouble even in the opening scene? Three young black women on their way to work at NASA in the early 1960s stalled on the side of a country road. As the “mechanical one” worked to fix the problem, a police officer pulled up behind them. Cheerfulness turned to confrontation. My whole body tensed as I remembered such encounters in books I had read, in movies I had seen, in stories my friends had related. Gratefully “working at NASA” rescued them and the officer escorted them to their jobs. I attended the showing of Hidden Figures with the global leaders of Cru. It’s become tradition at the annual Executive Team retreat to take a break and attend a current significant movie. I asked why Hidden Figures was chosen, though there were other important films available in the same theater.... Keep reading: https://timfall.wordpress.com/2017/01/23/hidden-figures-the-work-and-worth-of-women/ What about you?  What emotions did this stir? c2017 Judy Read more

Jesus on Leading

Mentor for Life: Interview with Natasha Robinson

I first met Natasha Robinson at a Synergy Women’s Network conference. We have connected through Redbud Writer’s Guild and MissioAlliance. And a few times in between. As long as I don’t think about her years as a Marine Corps officer, I don’t get intimidated by all the gifts God has given her. I’m so pleased to introduce you to her just released book, Mentor for Life: Finding Purpose through Intentional Discipleship. She took some time to answer a few questions that will whet your appetite for this inspiring and practical book.

Natasha-Mentor for Life 

Natasha, when we first met you were talking about writing a book—but not this one. How did Mentor for Life come about?

Natasha: The process for Mentor for Life came about quite organically. I was leading a mentoring ministry in my local congregation, and it was the type of ministry I wanted to be a part of my whole adult life. I was growing in my faith, meeting new people, having interesting conversations and reading thoughtful, kingdom-focused books.

The ministry was important to me so I would frequently talk about it, and I wrote about it on my blog and in some leadership articles for Christianity Today. When I shared what our group was doing and how I was watching God change people’s lives through mentoring as intentional discipleship, I started hearing people say, “I want to be a part of something like that” or “I wish there was a ministry like that are my church.”

I was often asked for a resource or my curriculum. I realized this was a need in the church and people were sincerely asking for help, so I sat down to write this book.  

How did mentoring become a priority in your life?

Natasha: Mentoring has had in invaluable impact on my life. I grew up in a small town in South Carolina, a community of people who understood the African proverb, “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” I always had mentors in my formative years–coaches, teachers, community servants, pastors.

Everyone was collectively speaking into my life. The lessons I learned from these mentors taught me discipline and helped me confirm my identity, which later guided me to the United States Naval Academy.

The Naval Academy’s mission is to make leaders who are committed to making a career in the naval service. The institution cares about the moral, mental and physical development of their midshipmen (students), and mentoring is naturally built into the leadership structure of the school.

From the time you walk on campus, you’re being mentored and groomed as you advance so you are able to mentor others. My time at the academy was integral to my professional development and the honing of my leadership skills.

Regarding my spiritual life, I was raised in a church but really didn’t start walking with the Lord in a personal relationship until I was in college. At that time, I was discipled and mentored by a woman who shaped me. Many spiritual influencers built me up and helped me become who I am today.

Mentoring has become a passion of mine, because of the impact it’s had on my life, but also because of the transformation I’ve seen in other people. I believe mentoring is my service to God and to His church.

How do you imagine the book will be used in both individual and group settings?

Natasha: I love to read—I love books. In some ways, I see myself being shaped and formed through the books I read. So I pray that this book will be transformative for those who read it.

Mentor for Life is not a book to rush through. It is a book to ponder. I have included questions, opportunities for personal reflection, and exercises at the end of each chapter. I encourage the reader to complete those, and I pray that, as they go through the book, they are thinking not only about starting a mentoring small group or ministry, but they are also asking themselves, “How can I be more intentional in how I live?”

So I pray that Mentor for Life is spiritually transformative for every reader. It’s my hope that they will share and model what they learn with others. Mentor for Life is a leadership book, so it was written to lay a solid foundation for those who want to start a mentoring group or ministry. Reading this book will be a good first step for a small group ministry or leadership team, and they can follow up the reading by accessing the leadership training resource and videos to accompany this book.

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You will enjoy this video of Natasha talking about the uniqueness of her book.

You can order Mentor for Life from Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

 

Natasha Sistrunk RobinsonNatasha Sistrunk Robinson is the author of Mentor for Life: Finding Purpose through Intentional Discipleship and the visionary founder of the nonprofit, Leadership LINKS, Inc. She is a graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary Charlotte (cum laude, M.A. Christian Leadership) and the U.S. Naval Academy. A former Marine Corps officer, Natasha serves as a Bible teacher, writer, anti-human trafficking advocate, and champion for education. She has over 15 years of leadership and mentoring experience in the military, government, church, seminary, and nonprofit sectors. She is a sought after leadership consultant, mentoring coach, and speaker. Connect via her official website www.NatashaSRobinson.com, blog www.asistasjourney.com, Twitter @asistasjourney, or www.facebook.com/NatashaSistrunkRobinson. 

Special Bonus: Those who complete an early order of “Mentor for Life” can go to Natasha’s official website and enter their confirmation at http://www.natashasrobinson.com/books/ to receive a six lesson leadership training resource and accompanying videos to equip their team to “Mentor for Life.”




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Words of My Life 9: Perseverance

In ongoing celebration of my Jubilee year of 50 years in ministry and 70 years of life, I am sharing some of the words of my life.

Copy of Words of my life PERSEVERENCE FB 940 x 788Perseverance n: steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state,especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement.

This is definitely not a word I would choose as a key word of my life.  Nor would you, I imagine.

Yet surely it is important to character growth and development.

Over the years of my life and ministry, the major arenas for persevering have been three:  dating/marriage, parenting and career/ministry. Lesser challenges have come in health  and finances, though those can be significant for many. There are certainly others, such as racism and persecution.

I will share an example from each of these three major opportunities I have had to persevere—and the amazing gifts that have come from them.

Dating/Marriage

When God called me to serve him in ministry, my fiancé did not sense the same call.  In the end, I sadly broke my engagement and went happily into my writing and editing ministry career.  I loved it.

But I did want to get married, and secretly harbored an expectation of God:  “I gave up a husband for You, Lord, so don’t You owe me one?”

But year after year passed, and no husband.  I became absorbed in my ministry and began to think I might never marry. Over time, I was at peace with that possibility.

Then I met Steve Douglass.  We became friends and began to spend time together.  A remarkable young man—and I allowed myself to fall in love. His parents’ unhappy marriage, however, made him very cautious.  Years passed.

Several times I had this conversation with God:  “Either let us get married (my plan and a good one) or let us break up, but I won’t stay in this uncertainty, this not being in control of my life.”

His response was the same every time:  “Judy, I love you.  I have a great plan for your life.  This is where you need to be—to learn that you aren’t in control and that My way is better.”

It was five years of waiting, but he was worth waiting for.

Parenting 

Every parent must have stories of persevering through situations with their children.  I could tell quite a few stories, but one transcends all others.

When our two daughters were 10 and 12, God sent us a 9-year-old boy who had grown up in difficult circumstances.  The county had removed him from his mother and we provided a foster home for him, and later adopted him.

The early days of adjustment were challenging, but just the forerunner of what I have called a very long journey through the wilderness.

You can read about that journey here and here.  It involved some of the more difficult choices and consequences of teen years and beyond.

It was a long perseverance.

But what a gift he has been.  I have been driven into the arms of my loving Father. I have learned to really pray. I have grasped the reality of unconditional love—there are no conditions.  And oh how I have learned to live out and give out the grace and mercy God has extended to me over and over.

Career/Ministry 

My career has been in 50 years of ministry.  My primary early efforts were in writing and editing, and those continue to be major arenas for me.

I have always had significant opportunities to use my gifts, grow in responsibilities and develop as a leader.  Yes, there were some ups and downs, but I always felt I could do anything God called me to do.

Yet I observed that was not true for all of the women I knew in ministry.  Reading, conversations, observations, study in God’s Word, prayer—and I grew in my conviction that God was eager to see His daughters develop, use their gifts and contribute significantly to building His Kingdom.

It’s been a 40-year perseverance.  A major turning point for the women in our ministry was the Global Women’s Leadership Forum in 2004.  Some 450 staff women from 95 countries gathered for a week of leadership development.  You can read more about the GWLF here and here.

We gave them first steps in personal development and leadership skills and sent them home to start fires of opportunity for the women in their nations.

And they did.

Now, 10 years later, we are finally seeing the results of that effort.  All across the globe, the women of our staff are working out of their strengths, leading in substantial ways throughout the ministry and contributing to fruitful and expanding winning, building and sending for Christ.

These are just glimpses of some my persevering efforts in God’s journey for me.  My natural instincts would be to opt out of these challenges.  But when I see the person God has grown me into—and the role persevering has played—I would not trade any of it.

Though I do wish I would learn a little more quickly. 

What about you?  Where have you had to persevere?

C2014 Judy Douglass

 




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A Lifetime Impact: A Lesson in Integrity by Kim O’Brien

Today I received an email from Kim, who used to work in Steve’s office decades ago.  She wrote to tell an important lesson she learned from my husband.  It made me proud, so I am sharing it with you.

integrity in compass

As a young, new staff with Cru working as financial administrator for Dr. Bill Bright’s office, I often felt overwhelmed and under-qualified to do the job.  I hadn’t been a business or accounting major in college. I had studied in the school of Health Related Professions and earned my bachelor of science in Speech Pathology and Audiology.

Nonetheless, I worked hard to manage the finances well and to keep close tabs on the spending.  This was not a small task considering the enormous vision of our leaders and the thousands of dollars it sometimes took to operate specific accounts.

One morning as I sat at my desk poring over the monthly financial report and operating expenses for Dr. Bright’s office, Steve Douglass approached my office with a nickel or perhaps a dime in hand.  Either way, it was not much, yet the impact of what he said to me was priceless. 

Steve was the Executive VP for Cru at the time, a man who worked tirelessly and faithfully for the ministry of Cru.  Most men in his position, who give so much to their work, would most likely never think twice about occasionally taking something from the office for their personal us–such as an envelope or some paper. 

However, not Steve. 

That day with nickel in hand Steve was making sure he paid for what he used.  I don’t remember if it was an envelope or even a copy he had made, but it doesn’t really matter.  The point is he went out of his way to pay for something that had been for his personal use. 

His integrity spoke volumes to me about the type of man who gave leadership to the ministry of Cru!  In my 24 years on staff I’ve never forgotten that day and the impact it had on me. It bolstered my confidence in the organization of which I was a part and challenged me to live my life with the same integrity.

Thank you Cru, and thank you Steve Douglass for leaving a lasting impression on me and helping to shape me into the person I am today!

What about you?  Who has influenced you by a small act of integrity?

Kim O'BrienKim and her husband, Matt, have worked with Cru since 1990 – in Orlando (FL), Colorado Springs (CO), Twin Falls (ID), Portland (OR), and Boise (ID). Since 2007, they have given leadership to the Cru ministry at Boise State University (BSU). In addition to their ministry at Boise State University, they give leadership to a team of volunteers who invest in high school students at two local high schools in the Treasure Valley. They have three children Kendal (20), Phil (18) and Andrew (15). 




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Jesus on Leading: It’s the People!

Beginning with an earlier post about Authentic Leadership, or Taking our Cues on Leading from Jesus, I am doing a series of posts about some of the heart qualities of leadership that Jesus exhibited and exhorted us to.  Today’s post is about priorities and people.

people in different lines of work

Leaders have many responsibilities and many priorities.   Keeping them all on target and in order is a constant challenge.

A few of those priorities:

Focusing on the mission. Remembering the reason you are in business or ministry (or whatever you are leading).  It’s your responsibility to keep the team on track.  And those team members will make it happen.

Keeping the bottom line in sight.  You must equip and motivate your team members to take wise risks—to be frugal and bold at the same time.  To pursue creative solutions and alternatives that take you forward without putting you in the red.

Watching the market, the competition, the trends.  You must be aware and alert of what is happening in the world and in your world.  Your staff will be your eyes and ears and provide you with information and insight.

Connecting with your customers or target audience.  Understanding the people you are trying to reach:  What are their needs, hopes, desires, fears, motivations.  Then bringing your product to them in ways that connect and engage and captivate.  Your researchers, sales people, customer service agents are all key players.

Stewarding resources.   So many resources to gather, manage, employ.  Securing, investing, earning funds.  Research and development.  Training and deployment.  Product management, strategic planning, marketing,  Whatever resources you use in your work, you need to secure them and protect them and expand them and utilize them well.  You are grateful when your staff do all this well.

Clearly, the key element in each of these priorities is the people on your team.  They dream the dream with you.  They take care of the finances.  They discern the times and connect them to your mission.  They relate to your customer, your audience and personalize your message.  They help you steward all your resources

They are a resource.  Your people are your #1 resource.

Yet how often do we observe the following:

Office politics pushing capable people out.

Blind commitment to policy that prevents looking for creative alternatives.

Expecting people to work so much that family relationships are jeopardized.

Keeping a person in a job that doesn’t fit him when he has great gifts to offer in another arena.

Discrimination plays into promotion and opportunity consideration.

Requiring dishonesty to make a bigger profit.

All of the above priorities become more important than the people who make them happen.

Once again, I quote Jesus:  Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)

Though Scripture doesn’t quote Jesus as saying, “It’s the people,” the way Jesus lived and interacted and taught spoke loudly.

Even as He preached repentance and salvation and the Kingdom of God, He loved people, He took time for them, He fed them, He healed them, He forgave them, He broke the rules to meet a need, He hung out with the poor, the sinner, the “unclean.”

Jesus went about His mission speaking truth in love, extending value, mercy and hope to people, letting grace guide his actions and his words.

For Jesus it was all about the people.

What about you?  When do priorities displace people?

C2014 Judy Douglass

Related posts:

Jesus on Leading: Serving: Lead Servant

Jesus on Leading: Wise Steward




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Jesus on Leading: Inward, not Upward-Guest Post by Gina Butz

Beginning with an earlier post about Authentic Leadership, or Taking our Cues on Leading from Jesus, I am doing a series of posts about some of the heart qualities of leadership that Jesus exhibited and exhorted us to.  Today’s post is from Gina Butz, who has several years of experience as a LEAF (Leadership Evaluation and Formation) coach. .

leader serving his teammate

We cannot lead people to a place we do not know.

The world tells us that, to be leaders, we must gain experience, strengthen our skills, expand our influence, perform well. Leadership is about power, success, reputation.

Then I look at Jesus, and everything seems backward. The first will be last. The meek will inherit. Blessed are the poor in spirit. The king is a servant. We die to gain.

When I look at Jesus, I make this conclusion: Leadership is not a journey upward, but a journey inward.

In my early years on staff, I moved easily into leadership roles. They came naturally. God made me a high energy, high capacity, high performance person and that served me well.

Until it didn’t. Until I was exhausted trying to keep up this image of someone who was doing the work, making it happen, leading by example. Outwardly, I looked like I had it together. Inwardly, I was desperate for another way to live.

God used a week of intensive leadership coaching to give me a vision for that new way. It wasn’t what I expected. Instead of showing me how to maximize my time, how to produce more and keep up my performance, He showed me how the very things I was relying on to save me were the prison that kept me from relying on Him.

He called me to words like rest, freedom, authenticity, childlikeness, beloved, vulnerable, undone. It all seemed pretty backward to me. How will these things help me move up in the world.

They don’t move me up. They move me closer.

To be Christ-like leaders, we must be willing to go inward with Him, to let His light shine on our depravity, to let Him free us from our idols, to lead us to see our deep need and grow in dependence on Him, to rest in the place where we are defined by His love alone.

It is easy, in leadership, to believe we must become bigger, stronger, more powerful. In reality, we must become smaller, more dependent, more in touch with our humanity. This is the backward kingdom Jesus proclaimed. We must become like Him, who in coming to us set the example in becoming smaller, dependent, human.

His leadership was backward; not upward but inward. It came from a true and deep connection and dependence on the Father who loved Him. It was this kind of leadership that changed the world.

What about you? Where are you learning that it is inward, not upward? 

Gina and her husband, Erik, have served with Cru for more than 15 years, 13 of which were spent overseas. They recently returned to the U.S. with their two kids, and serve now with Global Leadership. Gina enjoys writing, speaking, and coaching other women, particularly in issues surrounding transition and living wholeheartedly.  You will love her blog, The View from Here.  Friend her on Facebook and follow her on Twitter @ginabrennabutz.




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