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my journey

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for the past two years i have had the wonderful privilege of serving with the most incredible leader and friend. as she plans to retire, after 28+ years in ministry, i thought i would share just 10 of the leadership lessons she has taught me.  (there are countless more.) when i think back to how greatly impacted i was in such a short time, i am convinced it was because i saw these lessons consistently and humbly lived out in the best, worst, mundane, and craziest ministry moments.

  • sabbath – i received one of the greatest gifts i have ever been given in ministry through her leadership – the gift of sabbath. i blogged more about it here. because she so understands the need for spiritual leaders to be in close relationship and communication with our Savior, Jesus Christ, she challenged us to make sure we made it a priority.
    – lesson to unpack: i am never too busy, too important, too spiritual or too prepared to stop it all and just sit at my Savior’s feet. i must intentionally schedule sabbath as one of the most important parts of my ministry calendar.
  • Jesus talk > church talk – i simply can’t talk “church” for hours, but sometimes we ministry leaders can get caught up in the church “nuts and bolts” and save few words for the Cornerstone Himself – Jesus. jan modeled the opposite. of the many conversations we had, i remember Jesus being central over the “hows” and “whats” of church work. so convicting, so refreshing.
    – lesson to unpack: what i know about church work isn’t near as important as what i know about Jesus. do people leave my conversations hearing only about the details of ministry or the reason for ministry Himself?
  • truth in love – jan never just told me what i wanted to hear. her words were direct, truthful, fair, and anchored in love, even though i didn’t like everything i heard. her honest conversations stretched me and made me more effective.
    – lesson to unpack: i tend to go on and on and am afraid of hurting someone’s feelings and then it becomes a big mess – just like this sentence.  direct and honest conversation can be a great gift to someone.  i can so learn from that.
  • redeeming difficulties – i saw it first hand at a lunch one day. several of us were sharing frustration after frustration with a certain issue we were faced with that week.  one by one, with each grumble we laid on the table, i watched her pick up our negative words and point us to positive solutions. “what can you learn from this?” she would ask. or, “how can you use this to better educate in the future?” even though i totally saw what she was doing, i still allowed myself to become carnal and complaint-centered. she never wavered. she provided a safe place to vent, but would not allow us to remain there.  there was better ahead and she was constantly pushing us to see it.
    – lesson to unpack – am i looking for ways to learn and redeem bad experiences or do i become content to wallow in wasteful conversation?
  • work smart – “work smarter not harder.”  that’s how she challenged me to attack the load of ministry in front of me. what freedom it gave me to plan, prioritize, and focus on eternal things.  she gave me a fresh perspective of seeing that it wasn’t the hours behind a desk, but the fruit of my ministry that showed its growth and worth.
    – lesson to unpack – am i more concerned about the quantity of hours or intentionally seeking quality, eternally-focus ministry opportunities? 
  • selfless service – i was so blown away that in the same conversation where she shared her retirement news, she also volunteered to be a sunday school investor in the new church year.  after so many years of full-time ministry everyone would understand the need for a break and a chance to sit and receive.
    – lesson to unpack: is the root of what i do an act of love and service for my Savior or do i allow it to become a job?  if i am serving from the true Source it is a lifestyle and becomes second nature.
  • learning never stops – i knew this lesson in my head. i’ve heard it in many leadership workshops and i am sure i underlined it in some leadership book. still i was shocked when she was excited to attend creative teacher training the preschool minister and i were leading. i said “really, what can i teach you?”  her response, “i know the old way, i want to learn the current, most effective way to lead the kids in my sunday school class this fall.”
    – lesson to unpack: never believe the lie that i have arrived. i will never know it all. i need to constantly be looking for chances to challenge myself to grow, even from younger leaders.
  • it’s not personal – the pleaser in me (even after many years in ministry) would still often personalize the challenges that come with ministry.  she told me many times, “stop personalizing this.”  she taught (and i am still desperately trying to catch) me to step back and try to look at the matter with personal feelings aside.
    – lesson to unpack: as she would say “get over it” it is not all about me.  i need to learn to quit looking at each challenge through my personal lens.  there is always a bigger picture.
  • joy in serving – i would be lying if i said i wasn’t a bit weary in my transition to this new staff position.  what an encouragement to be led by someone with almost twice the years in the trenches, but also twice the joy.  no matter how tough things got, she addressed them with a smile and true joy in the work God had given her.  that authentic example still inspires me to realize what a gift it is to serve in full-time ministry.
    – lesson to unpack: don’t let the situations i am facing dictate the joy in which i work through them.  my service is not a sacrifice, it is an honor to give my all for the One who sacrificed so much for me. so, suit up in the armor and serve with joy.
  • wrapped in prayer – i can’t recall ever leaving a hard conversation or meeting with her without her asking to pray with/over me. she humbly acknowledged Who was really in control and consistently petitioned His wisdom, comfort, direction, discernment, and peace.
    – lesson to unpack: prayer can be the most important part of any conversation/meeting. make time for it.
i would not trade anything for the past two years under jan jones’ leadership.  she has a rich legacy of modeling Christ-centered leadership and pointing people to what matters most – Jesus.  i know because that’s what she did (and still does) for me.

such a great group of gals i have the joy of serving alongside at dawson.

it is old news that us southerners experienced some eventful snow days recently.  wanting to fully experience these rare snowy moments, i rushed out the other evening to take pictures as the snow began to fall.

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i live right beside my church in the sweet “mayberryesque” town of homewood.  so as the much talked about snow (not ice, that’s what we usually get.) began to fall, i couldn’t wait to get outside and experience it.  there may have been snowmen and snowball fights, but my first priority was to take some pictures. i crossed the street to the church and quickly snapped a picture of the front of our sanctuary.  when looking at it later i thought, hey that’s not half bad.  i mean i don’t need to quit my day job, but i thought i captured the whole scene quite nicely. (even if it was taken with my phone.)

photo 2

 

then later that evening i saw a picture that my friend and coworker, andy cartee, had taken and shared on our church’s facebook page. same night, same building, and same snow, but i was blown away by how much more beautiful his picture was.  i kept saying to myself, “danielle, you should have stepped back to really see the whole picture.”  how did i miss those incredible snow-covered oaks? while my close up was just a glimpse of what surrounded me, andy captured the bigger, more beautiful picture. his is boldly framed with glorious oaks. (i sound like my mother as i go on and on about trees.)

i know these are simple snow pictures, but i keep thinking about how i all too often approach life, ministry, and God’s story like i did my photograph.  i zoom in and fixate on one or two issues. depending on what i perceive in my small frame, i can feel complacent, worried, prideful, scared, angry, or sad. when focused on my tiny view, i can miss an opportunity to see the greater picture.  i miss the oaks.

since that snowy night last week, these are the lessons i have been continually repeating to myself:

when the lens of life’s journey captures moments that don’t seem fair or make sense… step back.  what is unfocused to me, my great God sees clearly.

instead of allowing ministry challenges/successes to frame the way i serve… step back.  maybe it is time to broaden my view and remember God holds the landscape in His hands.

when things don’t go my way…step back.  i am constantly in need of the humble reminder that God is the main subject of the story, not me.

because i didn’t step back, my picture is void of the oaks. may that not be the case for my life.

“they will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.” isaiah 61:3

comment on this post for a chance to win a free copy of “the storm inside.” the book releases tuesday, february 11.  i’ll draw a winner from my blog on the same day. 

cover

if ministry leaders are honest, i believe we would admit that we are some of the best at pretending the storms of life don’t wreak havoc on our hearts and minds.  through ministry expectations and packed serving schedules we can become quite skilled at stuffing the storms in our lives without addressing their real sources.  or maybe it is just me? either way, i am so grateful for the opportunity to preview shelia walsh’s new book the storm inside.

i was immediately captivated by the introduction of the storm inside.  sheila shares about a “beautiful exchange” that took place during a speaking event to women in ministry.  after sharing about how she had been guilty of hiding her darkest feelings behind the veil of ministry, she invited the ministry leaders to write down on a card a burden they no longer wanted to carry.  through what happened that day and her experience of speaking to women all over the globe, she has brought these burdens under the banner of the following ten feelings.  maybe one, two, or many of the words  below represent burdens you also carry.

heartache, disappointment, fear, bitterness, unforgiveness, anger, regret, abandonment, shame, insecurity

with each chapter of the storm inside, shelia, through the truth of scripture, takes us on an honest, self-examining journey of these ten feelings.  she is transparent about her own struggles, grounds her words on scripture, and provides you with personal actions steps at the end of each chapter.  i highly recommend this book to any woman and i would love to hear how God speaks to you through these pages.StormInPic_C1

here are just a couple of my take away quotes from the storm inside. (i had a hard time choosing just five, so you will have to read the book to hear all the other amazing truths.)

  • “The greatest defense against the storm of lies that the enemy would use to drain every moment of joy from your life is to surround yourself with the truth of God’s Word.” – Sheila Walsh “The Storm Inside”
  • “We must replace the lies we have believed for the truth of who God says we are.” – Sheila Walsh “The Storm Inside”
  • “When we drag the weight of unforgiveness to the cross and, by the grace and mercy of God, leave it there, then the enemy is at a loss.” – Sheila Walsh “The Storm Inside”
  • “Our own ‘Esther moments’ will come, when the Lord will ask us to step out of what seems to be a place of insignificance and instead stand with courage for the King and His Kingdom.” – Sheila Walsh “The Storm Inside”
  • “A woman of faith holds fast to the truth, even when nothing seems to make sense to her, knowing there her faith stands (and rests) on the finished work of Christ.” – Sheila Walsh “The Storm Inside”

want to take these truths further? click the image below to sign-up to participate in the free webcasts with sheila and special guests.  (past webcasts are also available.)

webcast

don’t forget, simply comment on this post for a chance to win a free copy of “the storm inside.” a winner will be drawn tuesday, february 11.

john330a week ago today i had the honor of sharing in the closing general session of group’s 2013 kidmin conference.  our theme for the day was “celebrate Jesus” and i was about to burst with excitement to share what i know God placed on my heart.  we looked at john the baptist in the first chapter of john.  wow, did he ever get celebrating Jesus.  john the baptist truly knew who he wasn’t (“i am not the Messiah.” verse 20), knew it wasn’t about him (“i am the ‘voice’ calling in the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord.” verse 23) and he knew the true worth of the One he was privilege to serve. (“the straps of whose sandal i am not worthy to unite.” verse 27)

through looking closely at john the baptist’s example, God showed me how we can so easily make ministry about us when we are simply the lamp stand for the Light of the world – Jesus.  i was convicted about how the praise of man and innocent encouragement can quickly lead me to try to steal some of His glory!  i have great strides to make in making it all about Him. “He must increase, i must decrease.” john 3:30.

as i continued to study the book of john, i looked for who Jesus was in each chapter. so i set out to memorize a truth of Jesus (and literally just a tiny glimpse of all He is) for each of the 21 chapters.  how could i talk about celebrating Jesus without actually doing so? i know i haven’t begun to grasp it all, but boy how i needed those truths.  see it turns out that i had some unexpected, additional responsibilities placed on me at the conference. i would be lying to say at moments i didn’t have the tendency to be overwhelmed.  what a great gift from Jesus to be able to get away, alone with Him, and recite each of these 21 truths.  see, i thought they were only for my talk on monday morning, but the Jesus in each verse seems to be who sustained me throughout the entire weekend.  here is what i kept saying over and over to myself and also how i ended my talk on celebrating Jesus.

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– in chapter one Jesus is the Word becoming flesh and dwelling among us. 
– in chapter two He is the mighty man of miracles.
– in chapter three Jesus is Savior and the only way to be born again.  
– in chapter four Jesus is the Living Water.
– in chapter five He is Healer and equal to God.
– in chapter six Jesus is the Bread of Life.  
– in chapter seven Jesus is the Christ.
– in chapter eight Jesus is the Light of the world.
– in chapter nine He makes the blind see.
– in chapter ten Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
– in chapter eleven He is the Resurrection and the Life. 
– in chapter twelve He is the Son of Man lifted up.
– in chapter thirteen He is the humble servant. 
– in chapter fourteen Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
– in chapter fifteen He is the True Vine.
– in chapter sixteen He is Overcomer.
– in chapter seventeen Jesus prays for us.
– in chapter eighteen He is called Jesus of Nazareth and King of the Jews.
– in chapter nineteen Jesus, our Savior, was crucified for us. 
– in chapter twenty Jesus is ALIVE!!!!
– in chapter twenty-one Jesus appears to His disciples, tells Peter to feed His sheep, and we learn that Jesus did so many other things that the world could not hold the volumes of books it would take to record them!  

i have loved my time in john (and have much more time ahead there), but God did something with the truths in those scriptures that not only carried me throughout the conference but encourage and hold me accountable each day as i go forward. i am thankful that even a small glimpse of Jesus shows us that He is enough. He can be our all and all.  He is able and He is worthy to be celebrated!!! what do you need to be reminded about Jesus today?

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i have been blessed, challenged, encouraged, and stretched in many ways in my new ministry position. i am grateful to serve alongside a supervisor/friend that gets ministry and me! she gently guides, patiently listens (bless her heart), thoughtfully instructs, holds me accountable, and personally prays for and with me!  i am a recipient of her many gifts of leadership and am grateful. then, she took it to the next level with the gift of sabbath. 

i am not surprising anyone in service when i say how emotionally exhausting and spiritually depleting ministry can be.  maybe she saw that on our faces as we sat in an ed staff meeting on the edge of summer with to-do lists a mile long.  my idea of help would have been an effective way to get more done or at least three more paid assistants. 😉  i was so wrong. instead of talking new methods, more people, and longer hours, we were challenged with the ironic response of rest! we were taught from and gifted with a copy of 24/6 written by matthew sleuth, md.  that would have been plenty, but then we were handed an accountability card that required action on our part. for the three months of summer, busy months in kidmin, we were to pick one work day a month for a personal sabbath.  we were instructed to not schedule anything on that day except for time with Jesus.  no meetings, no “work”, no email, and no office time until late in the afternoon.  best. gift. ever.

my days of sabbath have challenged me to slow down, sit, and just be with Jesus instead of constantly “doing” for Him.  i experienced extended quiet andphoto 2 prayer times.  i literally stopped and smelled the flowers (hydrangeas, my favorite).  sermon downloads were listened to and Bible study times were unhurried.  i knew i appreciated this time, but not until my last scheduled sabbath was interrupted by unforeseeable circumstances did i know how greatly these  days ministered to me. my three month challenged will now be extended to year round so that i can truly be the Christ-centered leader i am called to be.

i don’t know where this blog post finds you. if you are in ministry i can only imagine how weary, stretched, or worn you may be. maybe, just maybe, it is time to stop doing and begin stopping. the thing your heart may need most is not more trying, but sweet sabbath rest.

*i would love to hear about your personal sabbath experiences. 



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