Equipping Yourself

Leading in Blue Jeans: Dressing for Success in God’s Eyes

by Allison Baltzersen

How we define success and who we are seeking to impress dictates how we dress as a leader.

I recently attended a WLI event in which I was surrounded by other leaders from a variety of professions.  I noticed quickly that they were dressed up.  Like dry-clean-only suits and beige pumps dressed up.  And as I sat there, I began to feel insecure about my wardrobe, my influence, my ability to lead.

You see, I hold an MBA and have managed a San Francisco law firm for the last nine years, growing it from a solo practice to a busy group of attorneys.  I volunteer my time with Lutheran organizations, consulting on marketing teams to improve their online presence.  On paper, I look like a leader. By email, I sound like a leader.  But in person, I don’t look like a leader.  When you meet me, you learn one quirk: I do all of this from my home on the East Coast where I homeschool my daughters, so I’m likely wearing blue jeans, t-shirt and sneakers at my laptop.  I have no one in my home besides children to impress and I feel constricted in clothes I can’t bend in or fear staining.  Since I’ve been telecommuting for years now, my wardrobe has devolved into a capsule wardrobe of faded machine washables.  And for the most part, this doesn’t bother me. That is, until I meet other leaders who dress “the part.”

I clearly perceived these well-dressed women at the WLI event as LEADERS.  Their presence commanded the room.  I looked down at my shoes and wondered if they thought the same of me.  Are they more of a leader than I am simply because of how they are dressed?  Maybe the pumps do matter.  Our society seems to suggest as much.

The motivational speaker Brian Tracy famously said, “Dress for success. Image is very important. People judge you by the way you look on the outside.”  But how we define success and who we are seeking to impress dictates how we dress for it.

1.  Define Your Success

There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. – 1 Corinthians 12:5-6

 I realize now that I felt self-conscious around those other leaders at the WLI event because I failed to recognize that not all leaders need to dress to command a room and not all leaders define success the same way.  We are all leaders, but we have been called to serve in a wide variety of roles and professions (1 Peter 4:10-11).    Each profession defines success differently and dictates wardrobe decorum differently.  A college professor may define success as becoming Dean, or a young lawyer may define success as becoming managing partner.  In the professions of academia and law, success requires dressing up in a way that projects authority to impress others.  And there is plenty of evidence proving it works.

Recent studies in the Journal of Experimental Psychology and Social Psychological have shown that dressing up boosts the wearer’s perceived power, giving them confidence to negotiate more effectively and think more abstractly.

But what if you work in a profession like early childhood education in which a sophisticated wardrobe can actually hinder success?  Stylists warn about dressing up to the point of intimidating others.  Toddlers seek teachers that are approachable, not starched.  So, are preschool teachers unable to effectively lead because they can’t dress up in the same way a lawyer or executive does?  Obviously not.  The “part” they dress for is their classroom, not a boardroom.  So obviously clothing, in itself, does not make a leader.  But we still need to wear something.  How do we know what outfit is best for our leadership style and position?

When we choose clothing, we’re thinking about form and function.  Form being the shape, comfort and capability of the pieces, and function being the intended purpose of the outfit.  We try an outfit on and approve of the form: it looks flattering, slims the waist, lengthens the leg.  But what about that function:  Why do we like the look of the outfit?  Is the intent to impress others?  And if so, who?  Who is our judge?

2.  Identify Your Judge

Do not look on his [Saul’s] appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him.  For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart. – 1 Samuel 16:7

In 1 Samuel, we learn that Saul had a handsome physique and wore royal clothes, which by societal standards should have made him a logical candidate for the position of power.  He was dressed for success.  But God wasn’t looking for those characteristics in the next leader of Israel.  Instead God chose little David, because of his heart, not his wardrobe.  So, when Brian Tracy says people judge you by the way you look on the outside, he’s completely right.  People do.  But people aren’t the judge we should be impressing.  God is, and he’s not looking at our shoes.

Dress in a way that gives you confidence to fully command your role in whatever profession you work.  But be wary of dressing up with the sole intent to impress people around you because, while they may judge you, they don’t control your destiny.  Proverbs 31:30 advises, “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.” Our physical beauty and attractive wardrobe may carry us a distance on this Earth, but they are not the lasting qualities that matter most.  God knows exactly what role we are going to fulfill to his glory, and He knows how high up that professional ladder we will climb.  We can certainly wear pretty clothes that impress our coworkers and boss, but our wardrobe can’t guarantee that next promotion.

My coworkers can’t see me when I work from home, so I dress in clothes that feel comfortable and unrestrictive to me, to both work on my laptop and engage with my young daughters who do see me every day.  Blue jeans and sneakers have become my style, and they have been serving me well in the unique leadership opportunities God has put before me.  I do not need to compare myself to other leaders because they are dressing in their style for their unique leadership opportunities.  How does your unique style serve you as a leader?

3.  Define Your Own Style

Some women prefer wearing pumps, others sandals, and yet others, sneakers.  God doesn’t care which pair you wear.  Define your own style based on what makes you feel comfortable, confident and capable for the tasks before you.  John the Baptist felt most comfortable, confident and capable wearing camel furs during his ministry.  That was his thing.  If you are an executive engaging with other professionals and feel most capable in a suit, wear the suit.  That is your thing.  And, if you are like me and work from home and feel capable to tackle life in blue jeans, wear the jeans.

But as you dress in whatever comfortable, confident, capable outfit you choose, take Ephesians 6:10-18 to heart:

Therefore, put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. – Ephesians 6:10-18

Our Earthly wardrobe will one day be eaten by moths, but the full armor of God will endure eternally and it looks good on everyone.

________________________________________________

Allison Baltzersen serves on the WLI Marketing and Communications work team as the social media and online presence coordinator.

Intentional Influence through Writing

by Peggy Kuethe

Words are transformative.

Recall Genesis 1 when God spoke the universe into existence, and Genesis 3:15 when He spoke the promise of a Redeemer. Recall John 2:1-11, when Jesus spoke the water into wine and 1 Peter 1:3 where He gives us new life in Him. God’s words have immeasurable transformative power.

Language is an intentional gift from God. He also intends for us to use words to communicate with Him and with others.  It is the foundation of our relationships.

You are fashioned in the image of a creative God. He gives you words and language, a mind and a heart and a voice. Along with that comes the desire to connect with others, to establish community, to form social bonds. Perhaps, as you do, you feel compelled to share a message, to communicate from your Spirit-inspired point of view. Sometimes a few words via Twitter or Facebook just aren’t enough. You want more space to express your thoughts, to tell your story. You want … to write a blog or a book or a Bible study!

Our words cannot do such miraculous things as transforming one thing into another thing or to give life where there is none. But they have transformative, intentional power. One of the most exciting ways you can influence others is through the written word made public. Thanks to technological advances and the Internet, publishing has never been easier. If you want to publish, you can.

Perhaps you’ve heard that eight out of ten people say they want to (or “should”) write a book. It sounds so simple. Write it. Publish it. Check that off your bucket list.

On the surface, it really is that simple. Scratch that surface though, and things begin to get a little complicated. Writing can be tedious. Publishing can be difficult. And selling—that’s a real challenge.

Eight out of ten say they want to publish, but how many do it? If just one person gets it done, why not let it be you? After all, the Holy Spirit may be nudging you. Your best friend is encouraging you. The members of your Bible study group are asking you. But where do you begin?

First, you write.

  • Every writer discovers a process and a work style that, well, “works.” An hour first thing every morning. One day a month sequestered with the computer. Midnight the day before a deadline. Something in the middle is more likely. Find what suits you and stick with it.
  • Decide what to write and who you are writing to.
  • Edit. Revise. Repeat. (A few writers get it perfect the first time. Most don’t.) (Don’t even ask me how many false starts I made while writing this short article!)

Second, you publish.

  • Make an informed decision between traditional publishing and self-publishing.
  • Market, promote, and sell. The work you do after you write, regardless which publishing route you choose, is key to getting your message out there, to making it public. (See the second bullet point above.)

I’m writing this on a Monday. Yesterday, one of our communion hymns was “Take My Life, and Let It Be.” The third stanza brought to mind all of you: “Take my voice, and let me sing / Always, only, for my King; / Take my lips, and let them be / Filled with messages from Thee.”

As Christian writers, we have the responsibility—and the joy—of filling our messages with the hope, peace, mercy, comfort, and truth that are Christ’s own Gospel. Let us serve Him with our talents and our words!

Peggy Kuethe is the Senior Editor of Women’s Resources and Children’s Books at Concordia Publishing House. Peggy has worked in the publishing industry since high school (if you count the yearbook and student newspaper, that is). In the years since, she has worked as a newspaper reporter, periodicals editor and writer, marketing copywriter, and book editor.

Being an Assertive Christian Woman

By Ruth Koch

Sometimes it seems like life is uphill all the way.  Someone is rude to you, verbally abusive, takes advantage of you—whatever—and you, being raised as many women are, to ‘make nice,’ just don’t know how to handle the situation.  If you make a big effort to ‘make nice’ with the person who is doing wrong, you will encourage the behavior and participate in their wrongdoing.  You don’t want to be the doormat woman who forfeits the respect of those around her.

And I’ll bet you’ve seen too many women who hold it in and hold it in and then just blow up, raining nasty words and red-hot anger and even hatred that has been fermenting for way too long.  You don’t want to be that woman who behaves aggressively—hurting others and later regretting it.

And, besides, you’re a Christian woman and that is at the very center of your identity.  You want to represent Christ well in all your interactions with others, but you may not be sure just how to balance the whole counsel of God which tells us, for example, to put the needs of others ahead of our own (Philippians 2:3) but also tells us to ‘look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others,’ (Philippians 2:4), affirming that it is appropriate to look to our own interests.  To untangle some of these competing instructions, we need to look at the concept of assertiveness, the healthy antidote to both passive and aggressive behaviors.

And thus we look to the Word, and to Jesus’ life, for the answer to this important life dilemma.  In the gospels, you can observe Jesus’ behaviors, His attitudes, His loving, compassionate interactions and His sometimes direct, fiery interactions as well.  Jesus embodied a higher law, the law of love.  Jesus was beautifully assertive in His interactions with others, discerning what would most effectively accomplish His goal of salvation and service.  The heart of assertive behavior is that it embodies both self respect and respect for others.

Mark 10:17-22 is the story of the rich young man who came to Jesus.  Quite proud of himself and determined not to be vulnerable, the rich young man asked Jesus what he must do to be saved.  Jesus knew his heart, wanted him to know salvation and began where the young man was by telling him that he must obey the commandments.  “No problem!  Been doing that all my life,” the young man answered.  And Jesus looked straight at him with love (v.21)How easy it would have been to dismiss this arrogant young man!  But Jesus loved him and wanted him to be a part of God’s kingdom.  So He looked into the young man’s heart, saw how it was tangled up in riches, and spoke assertively and directly to him: “Sell it all, give it to the poor and follow me.”  Jesus did not compromise His mission to bring salvation to this young man, nor did He mince words and try to make nice.  Too much was at stake!  His loving engagement reinforced His words.

Alas, we are told that the rich young man’s face fell, and “he went away sorrowful, because he was very rich” (v. 22).  Important to note that Jesus was loving, direct, focused on His own mission of redemption and fully engaged with this young man.  All that, however, did not guarantee that the man’s response would be to repent, sell and follow Jesus.  Behaving assertively does not guarantee success, but it greatly increases the likelihood that a genuine and authentic encounter will take place

At its heart, Christian assertiveness is dedicated to the welfare and respect of others as well as honoring a commitment to the mission and ministry set before each Christian.  An assertive Christian is not asserting rights, but is instead choosing behaviors that support, enhance and celebrate that Christian’s call to love and serve God and others, living out respect for self and the person God has created you to be—and respect for the other person as beloved and precious to God.

Christians can wade into messy situations and gather up our courage, knowing we are called to imitate the beautifully, lovingly assertive Christ.

Ruth N. Koch, M.A., NCC is a mental health educator and National Certified Counselor. Trained in both social work and counseling, she specializes in conflict management, grief education, and everyday mental health issues that impact personal and family relations. She is the co-author of Speaking the Truth in Love: How to Be an Assertive Christian, Stephen Ministries, St. Louis, MO. Come to the Gifted to Influence Conference in Milwaukee, WI September 29 – October 1 to hear Ruth’s presentation, “Neither Passive nor Aggressive:  The Assertive Christian Woman.”

Living as a Deployed Digital Missioner

by Connie Denninger—Visual Faith Ministries

Social media tools have become a part of our everyday life. How do we create the time and space for engagement that makes sense with all the things that juggle for our time? Part of the plan is to understand the niche for the story that we have as bearers of the Gospel message. This world is hungry for the hope that we have and social media tools bring us the means to share that Good News. We can use tools that are cost-effective—basically free, reach the world from our living room, and offer places of encouragement and even discipleship.

There is a spot for everyone. There are content creators and curators. Then the cheerleaders like, pin, and share. All three positions are necessary and everyone can hold multiple roles. Perhaps your niche is as educator: women’s ministry or Christian leadership in the workplace. In the amazing versatile role of women, we also serve as wives, sisters, mothers, and grandmothers and that brings more areas of passion and experience. What could we do to leverage the social media choices to bring framework to Christian parenting and impact the Lutheran school parent? What if a staff shared the task to bring the best insights, information, and encouragement to the church and school community that they serve?

So what is a missioner?  A missioner is a person sent by a church into an area to carry on evangelism or educational activities. It is a person strongly in favor of a set of principles and they live on mission. Perhaps it is time to sort that out and write a mission statement. For YOU have been called for “such a time as this” to use the technology of this age, to the end of this age. We don’t necessarily need to be sent by a church, as we have all been given the Great Commission to go and make disciples. What if we chose to use Facebook as a place to bring LIGHT to Social media and tell the story of what faith-life living looks like? There are the event invitations and glimpses of our everyday life. Perhaps we need to tell the story of who came, what happened when we gathered, and what we learned from each other when we were together. What is the AFTER STORY? Perhaps we could use a tool like the VRSLY app that creates a Word and world intersection in a shareable format.

An area of concern is the total amassed time spent on our virtual devices. The upcoming generation would probably state that their phones are their reality. That is also the perspective of a growing segment of adults. Managing the choices becomes the leverage that make sense in both the diversity of the options and the sinkhole possibilities of never ending “rabbit holes.” There also happens to be an app, Moment, that tracks the amount of time spent on our Smartphones. When we know our purpose for engagement, this gives parameters and clues for the best use of our time and energy. Learning about Visual Faith tools and the communities that support these practices has brought a framework for Christian engagement. We can share Good News promise in winsome ways to reach countries and people that we can only imagine impacting. When we couple social media presence with the work of the Holy Spirit and give free rein to His movement in the Kingdom, we are believers living as missionaries. What a blessing to be serving in this place in time, with Kingdom View eyes, in collaborative learning communities that delight in sharing the hope of the Gospel. Time to learn about deployment.

Connie Denninger is a family life educator, blogger, gardener, Kingdom Impact Pinner and Visual Faith Coach.  Connie loves beauty in the sacred space of home and is learning to live life as prayer. She is also an encourager, a mom, mate and Gigi to 4 little boys. Come hear her presentation, “Living As A Deployed Digital Missionary,” at the Gifted to Influence Conference in Milwaukee, WI September 29 – October 1.

Workplace Connections: The Blessings and Challenges of Being a Millennial and Working With One

By Rachel Morton & Rebekah Karolus

Generational studies are all the rage right now. Over the past five years in particular, people have spent a lot of time speculating about the differences between generations and what impact those differences have on social, economic, and religious levels. At the moment, one of the most talked-about generations—in both positive and negative ways—is the millennial generation (our generation). Millennials are defined as anyone born between the year 1980 and 1997 (give or take a year or two depending on the study). Most recently millennials made headline news as they officially surpassed the baby boomers as the largest (by population) living generation in the United States!

You may be asking yourself, “What does this information have to do with the workplace or with ‘workplace connections’?” Well, at some point in your life you will find yourself sitting across the interview table from a millennial. You might be the one hiring or you might be the one hoping to get a job. In either of those situations, it would be helpful to know a little bit about the generation you will be working with in order to create a more positive work environment.

The thought of working with millennials might actually be something that worries you. After all, we’ve all heard the stereotypes about them: they’ve been called the “me, me, me” generation, lazy, entitled, self-obsessed, and even narcissistic. Who would want to work with someone like that? However, they also have been given some positive stereotypes. People have called them open-minded, generous, self-expressive, upbeat, definitely tech-savvy, and passionate about social causes. We promise…they aren’t all as scary as you might think!

So let’s get real. Have you ever wondered if there is any truth behind the stereotypes about millennials? Have these stereotypes positively or negatively affected your desire to ever work with this generation? Do you think these stereotypes affect the millennials’ abilities to work with other generations and vice versa? Have you ever wondered what stereotypes about older generations might be affecting the millennials’ desire to work with them? And at the end of it all, what kind of example are we setting for future generations by letting different stereotypes affect how we all work together?

Regardless of whether or not any of the stereotypes are true, the fact that they exist has already affected the ability of different generations to work together. Each generation already has a pre-conceived idea about the other. In some instances that has helped workplace connections, and in others it has hurt them. Regardless of your generation, we can all benefit from the perspective of different generations in the workplace. Better perspective allows us to more effectively connect with and support one another, creating a healthier work environment. How do we gain this perspective? By talking together.

Rachel Morton is a graduate of Concordia University Wisconsin’s Master of Church Music program, serves as Assistant Worship Director at St. John’s Lutheran Church in West Bend, Wisconsin. She directs all traditional worship services and musical groups, serves as primary organist, collaborates in the writing of school chapel services, and oversees the Women’s Retreat Committee.

Rebekah Karolus is a graduate of Concordia University Wisconsin with a degree in both Theology and Lay Ministry. She currently serves as the Director of the Sr. High Youth Ministry, College Ministry, Young-Adult Ministry, and Women’s Ministry at St. John’s Lutheran Church in West Bend, Wisconsin. 

Come to their presentation, “Workplace Connections: The Challenges and Blessings of Being a Millennial and Working with One” at the Gifted to Influence Conference in Milwaukee, WI September 29 – October 1. There you will gain valuable perspective on generational differences as well as some practical tools that you can use right now within your various vocations to help strengthen your workplace connections.

Conflict – Something Happened, Now What?

by George McAllen

Conflict is a topic that scares many people and as a result of this fear they do their best to avoid it.  Unfortunately, because many avoid conflict, they aren’t very good at it and then spend a significant amount of time thinking about the conflict after it happens.

In my career, I work for Dunkin’ Donuts and Baskin Robbins in our International Division. This means I spend my time providing business owners and company employees with the tools necessary to help them improve their business to sell coffee, donuts and ice cream.  This does not seem like a role where there would be much conflict.  After all, Baskin Robbin’s motto is…We Make People Happy!

Early in my career and volunteer experiences I found myself in difficult conversations when discussing differing points of view.  Sometimes I created the issue and other times I found myself at the receiving end of this conversation.  The conversations were stressful and I dreaded talking to some people because I just knew that it wasn’t going to go well.

A number of years ago, I attended a training session based on the book Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott.  During this session, we discussed the topic of confrontation and moving from being in an adversarial position against the person you are communicating with, to working with the person to improve the outcome.  The changing of the mental image does not come without practice and I have made many mistakes as I have worked to become more comfortable with this style of communication.

As I moved into my current role, I was replaced by “Tom” whom everyone described as nice.  Truly a high compliment!  After a couple of months on the job, I got a chance to have a cup of coffee with Tom and asked him how things were going.  Tom said he was having difficulty with many of the customers he was working with which was making his new assignment more difficult than he imagined it would be.  As we evaluated why Tom was having the challenges he was having, we discovered that he was avoiding having real conversations with his customers and his team.

Tom was a nice guy and everyone, including himself, described him as a nice guy. When I asked him if my former customers described me in the same way, he laughed and said, “no”.   As I showed my feigned disappointment, I stated “I was hurt that I wasn’t thought of in the same way as I feel that I am the nicest guy I know.”  The problem was that Tom was having nice conversations with people but not having the conversations that could improve the person or the situation he was working with. Eventually, the nice conversations stopped and conflict occurred as the relationships became strained.

I have discovered a way to reduce aversion to situations with conflict. Instead of thinking about the anticipated conflict, concentrate on how you are going to help the other person improve through honest dialogue.  Sometimes the conversations can become tense and may not even turn out how you intend, however, if you keep focused on improving the other person, you build the confidence needed to have the conversation that is required.

George McAllan is the International Vice President at Dunkin’ Brands and has a BBA and MBA from Northwood University and a background in business management and marketing. At the Pressure Points Conference on September 29, George will explore the topic of conflict in his presentation, “Conflict – Something Happened, Now What?.” If you are planning to attend this session, take some time to think about your everyday interactions to determine how you can improve your conversations and your relationships.   If you have the time, do not hesitate to read Fierce Conversations by Susan Scott. 

 

Business as a Calling

By Gloria Nelund

If you’ve ever had feelings of insecurity or doubt, times of wondering what your life is about, or questions about what to do next, please know that you are not alone. Life can be challenging, and it is only with a solid foundation in the Word of God that we can find all of the answers we need, and the confidence to take those bold steps forward.

Although a career in finance was far from anything I had ever imagined as a young girl growing up in Ohio, I found myself having a very successful Wall Street career in the investment management industry. Looking back, I can honestly say that the solid foundation I had from my family and my faith gave me the guidance I would need to navigate a career in some of the largest institutions in the world, and, as a woman, to be a leader in the very male-dominated investment management industry.

Early in my career, I adopted three principles: I would work really hard; I would solve problems; and I would help people. Working really hard meant that when I finished an assignment I would look for another one. I was always asking for more to do. (It wasn’t until much later in my career that I realized not everyone does that.) In solving problems, I found that one of my greatest strengths is making processes efficient—finding a better way to do things (or finding a way to do them at all). I also discovered that I found true joy in helping other people be more successful; as a leader that turned out to be a tremendous quality.

Those principles served me well. In 1994, I was promoted to run a $35 billion global asset management firm, and by the time I was 40 (in 2001), I was recruited to be the CEO of a $55 billion private wealth management organization.  I had a career I loved and a wonderful family. That being said, while I lived by a personal commitment to honor God in all I do, I always felt guilty about having a career in business—especially one which I enjoyed and that brought me significant personal rewards. So, in 2005, after a momentous career accomplishment, I retired to finally be able to “serve God.”

After what I call my three-year “wilderness” journey, where I was desperately seeking my purpose, God demonstrated that business was my calling. My job had been my very own mission field. That “freed” me to begin exploring ways to get back in to finance, but, this time, in a way that would also make a positive difference in the world. So, at the end of 2008, I failed retirement. I started an impact investing firm that would create funds that would both deliver market-rate returns, and have positive impact in the world. The years that followed were challenging, although probably not unusual for an entrepreneur, but I had the benefit of knowing, without any doubt, that if I allowed God to lead, He would use my company for His purposes. My job is to stay close enough to Him that I hear and follow His lead. I’m happy to say that here, in 2017, my firm has been an 8-year overnight success, having invested more than $700 million to impact investments that deliver market-rate returns and proof of positive impact in communities around the world.

Gloria Nelund spent 30 years on Wall Street as one of the most successful and visible executives in the international investment management industry. After retiring from Deutsche Bank as CEO of their $50 billion North America Private Wealth Management division, she co-founded TriLinc Global; an investment firm dedicated to launching and managing innovative impact investment funds that will exponentially increase private capital participation to help solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges. Gloria will be presenting at the Pressure Points conference on “Letting God Lead.” She is also the Plenary Speaker for the Gifted to Influence Conference. Both are happening September 29 – October 1 in Milwaukee, WI.

Living a Life of Radical Influence

by Gretchen Jameson

“If you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”  ~ Modern Parable

Well that certainly sets up a particular worldview, doesn’t it? As parables go, this pithy, pointed phrase coined sometime around 2000 (or so a quick Wikipedia search says) provokes a certain sense of ferocious urgency. After all, who wants to be eaten? Applied to women in leadership, it urges us (and in many instances, rightly so) to claim our seat at the table, lean in, and get to work.

That’s not such a bad goal.

But, rather than approach leading from a sort of “Hunger Games,” eat-or-be-eaten philosophy, what if we took a more expansive view of how to gain and how to exert influence?

This September, women from across the work-life spectrum convene in Milwaukee for the 2017 WLI national conference, “Gifted to Influence.” It’s an attractive theme.  As a woman executive, I have certainly come to enjoy opportunities to influence on a wide range of levels. I am grateful for the work and long to see men and women of faith exert influence throughout the workforce.

But:

Influence for the Christ-called leader
is never the goal.

For Christ-called leaders, work in our homes, in our neighborhoods and communities, and most assuredly in our places of enterprise must draw deeply from our fidelity to service, above all else. This is a particularly difficult perspective to achieve. Our nature too often prefers the allure of the ‘dark side’ of influence: manipulation, compulsion, control, prestige, reputation.

Influence that results as stewardship of God’s grace, that results from abiding in relationship with our Father, yields significance, character, and unlimited opportunities to guide and shape and sway. In short, it yields fruit. Fruit we might accurately define as Christian leadership.

Influence, for the Christ-called leader, is an outgrowth of deep abiding. Achieving it calls us to know fully the Giver of our leadership gifts; to study carefully to unique gifts each one of us have uniquely been given; and submission to our Heavenly Father to apply the gifts He gives as they are intended to be used.

And then, only then, will we experience radical influence; influence that stems “from the roots,” from the very core of our connection to our God, who has taken hold of our very lives for His good use.

Gretchen Jameson currently serves as Sr. Vice President for Strategy and University Affairs at Concordia University Wisconsin and Ann Arbor, Mich. Gretchen, her husband, Leon and their two young daughters reside in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She is the Bible study leader at the Gifted to Influence Conference in Milwaukee September 29 – October 1, 2017.

Conquering Nervousness to Unleash your Full Speaking Power

by Sarah Holtan, Ph.D.

Do you like to talk? If so, then you possess the potential to become a dynamic public speaker. It’s true! Yet, you might find that your nerves steal your power.

When we feel threatened, our bodies typically react in one of three ways: flight, freeze, or fight. Many of us experience the flight and/or freeze modes when asked to present publicly. We may find excuses not to present (flight). Or, we may become extremely nervous about the presentation and our carefully-prepared words seem to fall right out of our heads (freeze).

Symptoms of Nervousness

Perhaps you’ve experienced some of the following common physiological symptoms of nervousness: dry mouth, shaky knees, trembling voice, red skin blotches, or excessive sweat. The good news is that most people do not detect your nervousness. The other piece of good news: the worst of the symptoms typically subside after thirty seconds of speaking.

You probably know exactly how your body responds when you speak publicly so take measures to counteract the specific symptoms. For example, if you suffer a dry mouth, suck a mint beforehand as well as bring water. If you get shaky knees, wear pants. If you get a blotchy neck and chest, wear high-neck clothes or a scarf. If you sweat too much, wear black, navy, or white colors. Breathing techniques to slow your heart rate are also recommended.

Strategies to Conquer Your Nerves

Being prepared for the presentation and passionate about the topic are two easy ways to help offset the nerves. Pick a topic that you get naturally jazzed up about. If you’re assigned a topic for which you have little knowledge or enthusiasm, ask the coordinator to adjust the topic. If you’re stuck with it, request to co-present. That will take the pressure off you having to become an expert on the topic.

If you are a novice speaker, you will want to try a progression approach to build skills and confidence. First, try some low-stakes public speaking, such as volunteering to read material during a Bible study, church service, or meeting. Next, find opportunities where there is a moderate amount of psychological risk. Examples include facilitating a meeting, co-presenting, praying aloud at a group event, speaking to a group of much-younger people, or speaking to a very small, informal group. Young people and small groups don’t seem to “threaten” us as much. Now you’re ready for the formal, structured public speaking events. Until you are a more advanced speaker, consider reducing the amount of self-disclosure offered in a speech. Sharing private information (e.g., history of abuse or trauma) can make us feel more vulnerable, which results in higher anxiety levels.

Specific Techniques

Assuming you’ve conquered your nerves enough to focus on your delivery, let’s turn to the most common pieces of advice I offer to beginner speakers.

Verbal Techniques:

  • Let your natural enthusiasm for the topic carry your pitch, tone, and inflection.
  • Speak to the back of the room or the person farthest away to project voice.
  • Breathe normally to regulate your pace; what seems like a long moment to catch your breath is not really very long to an audience member.
  • Minimize “um’s” and other fillers by using pauses judiciously. If you use fillers in everyday conversation, you will use them more in speeches.
  • No reading and no memorization. Use your notes to jog your memory only.

Nonverbal Techniques:

  • Maintain eye contact with each person for 2-3 seconds.
  • Use your hands for natural gestures or rest lightly on the table/podium.
  • Ground the four corners of your feet firmly and hip width apart. Stand or sit up straight to project confidence.
  • Use movement with purpose and to burn excessive energy. Avoid swaying, though.
  • Use a PowerPoint or another visual aid to draw staring eyes away from you. (Warning: Technology will fail you when you need it most, such as on Presentation Day, so be sure to have an old-school back-up plan ready.)
  • Match your wardrobe to the formality of the event and the seriousness of your topic.

Even after you’ve had experience speaking, and mastered the basic verbal and nonverbal delivery techniques, it is natural to feel nervous. You can harness that nervous energy by embracing it. To an audience member, nervous energy just looks like energy.

Think of speech as a gift from God. We have a responsibility to use it for the service of our neighbors.

When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5  NIV)

We may stumble over our words, but the power of God never stumbles.


Come to the WLI National Conference in Milwaukee on September 29 – October 1 to hear Sarah’s presentation—Speaking 101: Delivery that Delivers


Four Ways to Beat Burnout

by Gretchen Huesmann

Tired. Weary. Exhausted.  Sometimes we’re just having a busy day. At other times, we experience seasons of hard work and long hours. Unfortunately, not all labor produces obvious fruit and we can feel like we’re spinning our wheels, a common feeling in ministry. Obviously, if our path is leading to burnout, something has to give.  It’s time to take a step, even if we’re dead on our feet.

1.  Step Back

Sometimes we just need to take a STEP BACK –  a break, a hiatus, or a vacation. How many people really take a day off or a true Sabbath rest? I know I’m guilty of dragging work home with me on a regular basis. Jesus Himself set a better example when He said, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place to get some rest.” (Mark 6:31)

Or perhaps a longer respite is required, such as a sabbatical. This is trickier, but may be necessary for clarity, health, and rejuvenation.  My husband and I have friends who recently embarked on a 6-month sabbatical. This step was not an easy one for them or their workplaces. However, the alternative, to continue the downward spiral toward burnout, was not a welcome option.

2.  Step Aside

At other times, the Lord may be calling us to STEP ASIDE. Could it be that God has something else in mind for us or less in mind for us?  Maybe it’s time for someone else to run the Sunday School or plan VBS. I know a woman who has led the same Bible study group for 30 years! She’s very proud of that. Yet I can’t help but wonder how many potential leaders have missed out from her unwillingness to step aside.

3.  Step Away

Perhaps a bigger step is needed, a STEP AWAY. Any kind of change is daunting, especially a career change. It requires prayerful consideration, conversations with family, and searching God’s Word for direction. It takes courage and clarity and a whole lot of trust. Recently, a friend left his job to start his own construction business, a bold move to be sure, but a God-directed and God-inspired one. He has a new bounce in his step.

4.  Step Up

One last option is to STEP UP.  Is God calling you to press on? To lean into the work, not with your own strength, but with His power?

Paul describes this in Philippians 3:13-14, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ.”  And in Colossians 1:29, “To this end I labor, struggling with all His energy, which so powerfully works in me.”

Noah pressed on to build the ark, despite the dry weather. Moses pressed on with the Egyptians behind and the Red Sea ahead. Jesus stepped up when He prayed, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me, yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

What step do you need to take? Proverbs 4:26a says, “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet.” If exhaustion is leading you on a path toward burnout, carefully, prayerfully consider your next step. Know that our God will lead you.

Gretchen Huesmann loves to connect women with God’s Word through Bible studies, retreats, and blogging.  Since little people are her other joy, she also teaches 4K. Gretchen lives in Jackson, Wisconsin. You can find her blog at www.gretchenhuesmann.com.


For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM and TWITTER.

An Attitude of Gratitude – In Leadership and in Life

by Deb Burma

Today is a new day, and we have all kinds of expectations for it, don’t we? We’d like to think that our tasks will be completed with ease, our relationships will thrive, our health will be optimum, and all will be well. We’d like to envision the day’s contents packaged neatly and tied with a beautiful bow. (Then reality sets in!) As the day unfolds, we may be faced with struggles at work or conflict in relationships, trouble with health, or stress from an overloaded schedule. Our day may end up looking more like a package that’s been dropped in the mud or torn open haphazardly. The contents are spilled and our neat-and-tidy expectations have given way to a mess!

As Christian women seeking to lead and serve well in our homes, our workplaces, our communities, and beyond, we’re called to live a life of gratitude in our daily walk with Christ and with one another, and as we bear witness to the One we serve. How is this even possible in the midst of certain circumstances and especially on those days we might liken to a muddy mess?

By God’s grace, we can instill habits that cultivate an attitude of gratitude—in leadership and in life – on those neat-and-tidy packaged days AND in the midst of every muddy mess:

  1. Look for the Bless(ing) in the Mess

With God’s help, we can choose to see blessings in the midst of the messes in life. He enables us to shift our gaze from difficult or frustrating situations to the One who holds us and guides us through them. Not dismissing them or making light of them, but resting in His promises and receiving His strength to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for [us]” I Thessalonians 5:18.

We cling to the Truth of God’s Word in spite of feelings, fears, and the difficulty of the moment. For example: when we feel that a situation is out of control, we hold fast to the Truth that Jesus has everything under control (Hebrews 2:8).

“Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” Philippians 4:8.

We can ask ourselves: “In today’s situation, what can I give thanks for? What can I think about that is true, pure, lovely…?”

  1. Make a Choice to Rejoice! 

Let’s take a deep breath, then slowly exhale. (Go ahead…) See, God just gave you and me another breath on this new day of life – a simple reason to rejoice! “This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” Psalm 118:24. What will we witness today if we’re watchful? Can we recall the refreshing time spent with a friend, the delicious foods we savor, the kind gesture from a stranger? May we take a closer look at God’s creation and marvel in one detail of it? We would be wise to consider His continual provision of our needs. Above all, we can rejoice in His free gifts of forgiveness and faith: Jesus is Lord and He is risen! We celebrate life in His name!

As Christian women seeking to lead and serve well in every area of life, we’re called to live a life of gratitude. How is this even possible in the midst of certain circumstances and especially on those days we might liken to a muddy mess?

We rejoice, too, as we remember God’s promise to work all things together for good (Romans 8:28). Whether we stare at a pretty package or a muddy mess today, let’s consider how the Lord may be working in and through it:

  • He may lead us to look to our Savior alone for life and peace – to the One who has overcome this messed-up world. (See John 16:33)
  • He may teach us to rest in His strength and not pretend that we can go it alone in times of trouble. (See Psalm 46:1)
  • He may use this to grow and mature our faith in Him. (See James 1:2-4)
  • He may work through us to leave a powerful, lasting influence upon someone, as she witnesses our trust and gratitude, even in the midst of a mess. (See 1 Corinthians 11:1)

Actively express thanks to God through creative expression: start a gratitude journal. Look for blessings, big and little, as a daily exercise in thankfulness, then list them in your journal, adding Scripture, images, and artwork, too. Record God’s provision and all the blessings in your life that come to mind.

  1. Gaze Upward and Outward: Inspire and Influence

In a world filled with naval-gazers, we’re called to look not inward, but upward…then outward. We live in grateful response to the Giver of every good gift (James 1:17), with our gaze upon Him as we follow His lead. Then – by His grace – we get to impact the world for Christ right in the midst of our circumstances, even the muddy, messy ones. Through our influence, we can “…make the most of every opportunity.” Colossians 4:5

In all we say and do, we have the opportunity to inspire others with a message that reveals a life of gratitude in Christ: (1) For who we are, chosen and redeemed in Him. (2) For all we have, received from His hand. (3) For all we are becoming, as we continue to be molded in His image and grow in our life of leadership and service.  We inspire gratitude in others as we live it and express it freely (even in the midst of a haphazardly-opened, muddy-messy package-of-a-day).

We can ask ourselves: “How can I lead with a spirit of gratitude in this situation? What kind of influence may my growing gratitude have on the people God is placing in my life?”

As the Founder and Perfecter of your faith (Hebrews 12:2) continues His good work in you (Philippians 1:6), ask Him to help you see the blessing in the midst of every messy circumstance. Seek His strength, that you can make a choice to rejoice. Fix your eyes on Him, making the most of the next opportunity (and the next…and the next…) to inspire and influence others through your attitude…of gratitude!


 

Deb Burma is a member of Speakers Bureau and a sought-after speaker for women’s conferences, retreats, and leadership workshops. She is the author of Christian-living books, Bible studies, and devotionals, published by CPH. Deb is grateful for Jesus’ redeeming love, for her husband and children, and for the opportunities each new day presents, guided by God’s grace!

Four Prayers that Jesus Loves to Answer “Yes!”

By Dr. Linda Borecki

When circumstances are difficult my usual prayer is for rescue out of the problem!   Whether for myself or for others, I often pray that God would lessen the burden or give help to escape the crisis. Sometimes the answer is “yes.”

But sometimes God allows the difficulty to continue.  What then do I pray?

In the book of Acts, when the disciples were under threat from the authorities, they gathered to confer.  What did their prayer sound like? What did they pray in very difficult circumstances? Luke tells us that together they prayed,

Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.  Stretch out your hand to heal and perform signs and wonders through the name of your holy servant Jesus. (Acts 4:29-30).

Now that is a prayer that God loves to answer, “Yes!”  What are some other prayers that God loves to answer, “Yes”? Prayers and petitions that deepen our trust and relationship with God. For example:

Strength  

When praying for strength, Paul shows us that our strength lies in our weakness. Christ said, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power, is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:8) In response Paul stated, “For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10b) Christ enables his servants to receive His power in all circumstances.

The Lord’s Prayer also reminds me:  we are not feeble souls who whimper “Thy will be done” with a sigh of futile resignation, but as saints confident of God working out his purposes, “Thy will be done!”  I pray with greater confidence when I remember it is “our Father” we are praying to.  We are praying through Christ, who Himself experienced hardship and perils, knows our weakness, and pours strength into us.

Courage

In praying for courage, we get far more than what we ask for – we get God. We get an infusion of en-courage-ment from the Lord of the universe.  Immeasurable energy in contact with measurable need.  “On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.” (Psalm 138:3).

Hope

“I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I hope” (Psalm 130:5).  Biblical hope is anchoring one’s soul in the gift of assurance that God is and that God overflows with love toward each of us. And God is “stretching out His hand” now, working out His purposes even in the midst of chaos or heartache.  We are learning to stay alert to the God who works in unexpected ways.  As P.T. Forsyth says,

In prayer we become more and more sure that He is sure, and knows all things, and hesitates or falters never, and commands all things to His end.  All along Christ is being formed within us as we pray.

Peace – shalom

The Hebrew word shalom is much richer than an absence of anxiety or conflict.  There is a sense of wellness, a mending or healing of something broken now knit together into wholeness.  When you get peace, you get healing – spiritual, emotional, physical, relational.  Prayer lifts us to be more sure of the Gift-giver than the gift, more alert to God’s grace than our need.

Strength, courage, hope, peace – prayers that Jesus loves to answer “Yes!”  Through the name of your holy servant Jesus, Amen; it will be so!


 

Dr. Linda Borecki is part-time faculty at Concordia University, Portland, and music minister at Christ the Vine Lutheran Church, Damascus, Oregon.  Among her favorite prayer mentors are Carla Waterman, Robert Warren, P.T. Forsyth, all the psalmists, and the bold, prayer-loving Martin Luther.

Leadership and Limitations

By Heather Choate Davis

As women we often fall into the trap of viewing the world from the outside in. We see jobs we’re prohibited from, positions we are never seriously considered for, and levels of authority to which we don’t seem to be allowed to rise. We see men of lesser skills or aptitude or work ethic handed opportunities it’s clear we’re far more qualified for.  We see, in other words, limitations. As a result, we feel discouraged—resentful, even—and sometimes that resentment leads us to double down in our determination to break the glass ceilings we still see at the highest levels of leadership in the world and in the church.

But what if we tried viewing the world from the inside out instead? Allowing the Holy Spirit to train us through the Word, prayer, discernment, and wise counsel to see our lives the way God has uniquely molded and made us to live them. Then the question is no longer, “can a woman break those glass ceilings” (of course she can), but rather, should you—you Rachel or Katie or Amanda or Heather—break that glass ceiling? Is this what God is calling you to do in your specific situation? Or are we merely trying to prove a point, or seek what feels very much to us like justice?

If it’s the latter we can’t help but fail, even if we manage to secure the coveted raise or promotion. “Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.” (Psalm 127:1) If it’s the former—if this is how Jesus is calling us to live out our vocations in the world—then no human obstacle (and there will be obstacles), or wiles of the enemy (and there will be plenty of those too), will be able to stop us.

St Paul tells us that we are “to lead the life that the Lord assigned, to which God has called you” (1 Cor. 7:17). Think about that. We are not just to live a life but to lead it. To stand clear-eyed at the helm following the lead of the Living God. Some years that may be in the workplace, others through raising our children or serving the church, or through some seemingly insignificant volunteer job or hobby or passion project that suddenly bursts forth into new fruit that could not come from anyone but us.

So when we think about 21st-century women in leadership, let’s look past the easy snares of gender and limitation, and set our eyes on the path of calling. When we lead the life that the Lord assigned, we only have one boss. And we can rest assured that He always has our best interest—and the world’s—at heart.

Stretched vs. Stressed: What’s the Difference and why does it Matter for Leaders?

by Sarah Holtan, Ph.D.

“How do you do it all?” I’m asked regularly by friends and colleagues. My answer: “I don’t.” I watch their eyes get round and their eyebrows shoot up. They know I’m the solo parent of two young children, a full-time employee, and hold numerous other roles. I explain that I used to try to do it all… yes, I tried to be a SuperMom. I even took multivitamins by that name! But the SuperMom Phenom was a dangerous trap for me. The pressure to maintain control over all the moving parts in my life– or the illusion of control – was utterly exhausting and stressful.

Leaders are prone to high levels of stress. The Bible refers to stress as anxiety, worry, and troubles (Matt. 6:25; Ps. 142:2-3). God wants us to come to Him in prayer with our troubles (2 Sam. 22:7). Prayer is the antidote to anxiety: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Phil. 4:6-7). He wants us to learn to love and trust in Him fully to provide for us (Prov. 3:5-6). Furthermore, our general well-being is at stake. We serve no one well when we are highly stressed because we make poor decisions and/or withdraw from situations and people.

I was in a position of leadership at work and in a low place in my personal life when I realized I couldn’t function well anymore. I was no longer challenged in a positive way; I was just overwhelmed. My adrenaline was pumping almost constantly. After prayerful consideration, and to the shock of many, I requested a demotion at work. It was the hardest and best decision of my professional life.

How did I know I was stressed out and not just stretched? At first, I didn’t. Like most of us, I just tried to “power through” the daily grind of managing work, family, and Everything Else. I told myself it would get better after I adjusted. It didn’t. Looking back, I can see I exhibited some of the signs that are commonly associated with stress:

  • Negative emotions being close to the surface, such as irritability and frustration
  • Resentful attitude
  • Forgetfulness
  • Feelings of being overwhelmed, especially at night and upon waking
  • Sleep disturbances (too much or too little)
  • Over-reliance on over-the-counter medications for headaches and other ailments
  • Lack of self-care, such as exercise
  • Increased escapism activities, such as television

But I’m an overachiever, classic Type A, so I had trouble discerning the difference between the challenges that stretch us – those that are positive, healthy, productive, and growth opportunities – and challenges that stress us, which are those that might debilitate us.

Here are some signs of being stretched:

  • Feeling energized by the new role, task, event, life change, etc., even if scared about it
  • Brain automatically begins visualizing possibilities
  • Able to manage negative emotions reasonably
  • Sense of accomplishment surrounding it

If you are exhibiting signs of stress, what can you do about it? I’d recommend the following:

A.     Pray. Read Scripture, such as Psalm 118:5-9, John 14:27, and Matthew 6:25-34. Trust in the Lord to provide the necessities of life.

B.     Identify the top 1-3 stressor(s) in your life (macro level) or regarding one particular aspect of life (micro level).

1.     Decide if the stressor(s) can be fixed with a technical solution.  For example, I don’t mind cleaning the house. But I do mind the time that it takes to vacuum snack crumbs out of the carpets, scrape silly putty off the fireplace hearth, and pick up two dozen toy trucks and half-finished art projects. My technical solution was to add a household budget line item for a housekeeper.

2.     If a technical solution is not readily apparent, you might need to consider if you have a deeper, philosophical issue.  Maybe it is fear of changing or delegating work to someone else, and thus, losing control.

C.     Ask yourself what could or will happen if you do nothing? What are the short- and long-term consequences? What will you regret?

D.     Consider what you could do for others to help ease their troubles and anxieties (Luke 11:46). Are you creating obstacles for your co-workers or family members? Could you help them overcome their obstacles? Could you serve them in a meaningful way, and thus, experience their tranquility and joy by proxy?

I’m proud to say I’ve shifted away from the SuperMom trappings. But since I’m Type A, I’ll rebrand myself as a TopMom.

Jesus Said So – Trusting When it Doesn’t Make Sense To

By Karen Lippert

Learn how to make sense of nonsensical situations by taking Peter’s lead when he obediently trusted Jesus despite it defying human logic …

One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat. When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink. When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. (Luke 5:1-11)

Jesus knew the physics of sound traveling over the water, so He used Peter’s boat to teach the large crowd that day.  We know that Peter was about done working for the day.  He was washing his nets and probably thinking about going home to get some much needed rest.  After Jesus had finished teaching, He asked Peter to go to deeper water and get his nets dirty.  REALLY?  I think that the equivalent for us would be:  You’ve just finished cooking, eating, and cleaning up your dinner.  You have washed the pots and pans and have loaded the dishwasher.  Then Jesus says to you,  “Make me supper.”  How would you react?

Look at Peter’s answer in v.5.  First of all, Peter calls Jesus, “Master.”  He knew that Jesus was an important person; One Who taught with authority.  (By the way, have you acknowledged Jesus as “Master” of your life today?)  Then he was honest.  They had worked all night and had struck out.  NO FISH.  There isn’t anything much worse than working for hours with no tangible result!  My guess that is Peter only made money when he had fish to sell!

I absolutely LOVE the next part: “but, because YOU say so, I will let down the nets.”  Have you used that line with your kids, “Do it because I said so!”  Well, Peter was acting with childlike obedience in this situation.  HE let down the nets and the result was incredible:  so many fish that two boats began to sink!  Peter then saw Who Jesus really was and starting following Jesus as a full-time disciple. (walking away from a fortune, by the way!)

Is Jesus asking you to do something that doesn’t make sense?  This definitely didn’t make sense to Peter:  a good fisherman didn’t fish in the middle of the day, in deep water.

What is your nonsensical situation?  Do you have to trust Him with a health scare?  Do you have to trust Him in a marriage that isn’t what you dreamt of?  Do you have to trust Him in a job that is stressful and demanding?  Do you have to trust Him with finances that don’t add up?

No matter what situation you might be in, Jesus wants you to respond with trusting obedience.  Keep praying.  Keep reading His Word.  Keep coming to worship.  Keep serving.    He will prove Himself faithful!  He has a good plan for your life!


Karen Lippert is the Director of Women’s Ministry at Divine Redeemer in Hartland, WI.

God is the Writer – You Are His Book

Overcoming Writer’s Anxiety through a study of 2 Corinthians 3:3
by Elise Arndt

Verba volant, scripta manent is a Latin proverb. Literally translated, it means “spoken words fly away, written words remain”.  If that is true, what a motivation for us to write the amazing things God has done.  We are his “letters” written with the pen of His redeeming love in Christ.  We are His “letter”—pages and chapters filled with God’s love and grace.

But, how does one begin writing those marvelous acts of God? What happens when the words in your mind aren’t easily translated onto paper or a computer screen?

My desire to write began in the late 1960’s. At that time our family was living in Papua New Guinea.  As I wrote letters home, words flowed in a free and uninhibited, unprofessional fashion that expressed my heart. They were simple stories of God’s amazing love and provision.  I didn’t think of them as being profound, but friends and family members responded and wanted to hear more. The more they responded the more I wrote.  The more I wrote the more my confidence grew.

When we returned to the United States, I began sharing my stories with anyone who would listen. Eventually groups of women asked me to speak at Bible studies and conferences. Out of necessity outlines developed which later became the framework for future publications.

When asked to write my first publication, I experienced what most writers feel -inadequacy and the fear of rejection. I will never forget my husband’s words to me when the pain of not writing exceeded the pain of writing.

“Take the risk!”

“Don’t live in regret.”

“Your purpose in writing is to leave a legacy. That alone will be your success!”

 

To start writing was difficult.  Nothing I wrote seemed to fit together.  Then I found my style. Although unconventional, it worked.

Since I am not a linear thinker, concepts, and creative ideas would be placed on a page randomly. There was no concern for order, no outline, no sentence structure, punctuation or capitalization – just pure creativity.  Miraculously, a common thread began to emerge with an outline following.

Finally the first draft was written.  It was perfect!  Until I read it the next day.  Not as good as I thought.  Then began the agonizing and seemingly unending process of re-writing

I found that words effectively communicated take time to flow.  This process cannot be hurried. Re-writing causes paragraphs to transition better. Fewer words are used to express adequately the sacred thoughts of the soul.  Those re-writes clarified more effectively what my heart wanted to convey.

As you begin the adventure of writing (be it e-books, blogs, publications,  an actual book through a publishing house, or traditional journaling) keep in mind that the time you spend is never wasted. Although it is a world of emotional highs and lows where discouragement and confidence walk side by side, keep in mind your focus. You are God’s “Living Letter” – a testimony of his love and faithfulness to be shared with future generations.

Be Energized by GEMS

God + Exercise + Meals + Sleep = An energized YOU! Read on for tips from Karen Sue Hinz Murdy on how to apply this recipe to equip yourself with energy for leadership:

As I pondered the words of advice I wanted to write for my eldest son heading off to college twelve hours away from home, I considered the stresses he would encounter at college. What words would truly help him?

As I pondered the words to share with my exhausted friend who was mothering a newborn, I considered the words that would encourage her through this exhilarating, yet exhausting, time.

As I pondered the words to express to women leaders who want to build energy in order to serve in their churches and in their homes, I considered the priorities for their valuable time.

The words I’ve found for all three of these scenarios, and for many others, are real gems!

Everyday include these G.E.M.S.:

G: God time.  Make God-time first and foremost.  Read your Bible.  Be encouraged. Pray. Find strength in God’s promises:

“They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31)

and

“And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:19)

At a very beneficial WLI conference in Milwaukee a few years ago, I heard Ida Mall speak. Although I can’t quote her exact words, the essence of them was, “If it doesn’t have to do with eternity, let it go.”  By having God-time daily, the perspective of eternity helps guide your priorities.

E: Exercise Make exercise a part of every day.  Ideally exercise 30 minutes a day, but something is always better than nothing.  At least, go for a 10 minute walk, preferably outside in the sunshine. Exercise has a plethora of benefits and will help you physically, mentally, cognitively, and spiritually! You can even combine your exercise time with your God-time by listening to your Bible on a phone app and praying while you walk.

M: Meals…good nutrition.  The food you feed your body fuels your body.  To work well, feed your body well.  Make sure to include protein and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables each day.

S: Sleep God designed our bodies to have rest time.  Without it, most people cannot function well. The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7-9 hours of sleep per night for adults.

God so amazingly created our awesome minds and bodies. When these GEMS are included each day, you will have more physical energy to serve in your home and at church. When we plug into the Power Source, we received grace from our loving God and find strength for our days.


Karen Sue Hinz Murdy, Speaker and Certified Exercise Physiologist, loves to encourage and equip people both in their spiritual and physical walk with the Lord. For more information, please check out karensuemurdy.blogspot.com or call 608-346-9866.

 

Three Creative Ways to Outline a Life-Changing Presentation

Outline. When you hear that word, you probably groan and think of English 101 in high school. Just how were you supposed to place those capital letters and Roman numerals? Don’t worry—outlining a life-changing presentation isn’t about perfecting the mechanics of outlining. It’s about organizing your information in a way that helps audience members listen to and remember your words.

Most of us have had the experience of listening to a speaker roam through a topic without seeming to have any particular destination in mind. His words strolled through the subject without purpose. And he wandered on so many side paths that at the end of the speech you were left wondering what he was trying to say.

Well-organized speeches are:

  • Easier to understand. With a clear and logical order, listeners can follow your thoughts.
  • Easier to remember. Clear organization helps audience members identify and recall your key points.
  • More credible. Speakers who offer well-planned speeches are perceived as more authoritative on their subject.

To begin to formulate a creative outline for Bible-based presentation, look at your chosen Scripture and identify the main ideas. Divide the Scripture into sections and title each section. Make sure the title of each section relates to the key point you want to convey.

Next, play around with the titles. Use your creativity to come up with titles your audience will remember.

For instance, imagine you were going to give a presentation on Colossians 3:5-14, where the apostle Paul talks about putting off the old self and putting on the old self. Here are three creative ways you could structure the talk:

  1. Use an analogy. Help your audience envision this passage as an exercise in cleaning out their spiritual closets. Employ the terms closet organizers use:
  • Toss (vv. 5-11) Toss out anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk.
  • Keep (vv. 12-13) Keep compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
  • Donate (v. 14) Give away love.
  1. Use the same word. Start each section title with the same word. This gives a clear and memorable structure to your speech. For instance:
  • Put to death (vv. 5-11) Put to death anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk.
  • Put on the new (vv. 12-13) Put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.
  • Put love over all (v. 14) Put on love—above all–which binds everything together.
  1. Use an acronym. Create titles that begin with a letter of a word that relates to your topic. When I speak on this passage, I use the concept of spiritual STYLE and spell out that word:
  • See the Need for Change
  • Toss Out the Old
  • Yearn for Something More
  • Learn God’s Style
  • Embrace the New

Remember, outlining your speech is not about getting every Roman numeral in the right place—it’s about helping your audience internalize your message. Use your imagination and pray that God will give you a practical and fun way to present your topic.


 

Sharla Fritz is the author of three Bible studies: Soul Spa, Divine Design, Bless These Lips, and a study for teens: Divine Makeover: God Makes You Beautiful. Check out her online course on Christian speaking at Women’s Leadership Institute Academy. Watch for more information about her speaking workshops at the WLI 2017 National Conference.

How to Ripen Your Fruits of the Spirit for Effective Leadership

By Marge Franzen

Have you ever savored a home-grown tomato? Watched it grow in your backyard? That small, hard green tomato grows into an appetizing, ripe fruit because it stays connected to the plant. If the green tomato ever falls off the vine, it never develops.

Jesus uses the picture of the vine and branches for our spiritual life:

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

Just like the tomato automatically grows and ripens if it stays connected to the plant, we will also bear spiritual fruit if we stay connected by faith to the Vine—Jesus.

SPIRITUAL FRUIT

We learn more about the fruit that develops in Galatians 5:16-25. Here the apostle Paul tells us how the Holy Spirit brings transformation. First Paul talks about what develops in our lives when we are disconnected from the Vine, “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21)

Then Paul contrasts that with the fruit that forms when we are connected to Jesus:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

Of course, we could never make such a turn around on our own will power or determination to reform. Verses 24-25 tell us that our past selves have died in Christ and the Spirit connects our dead branch to the life-giving Vine Jesus.

“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:24-25)

We can rejoice that the Spirit is transforming us by grace through faith. And it all starts with God’s love. The truth that we are connected is proof of the love God has for us. As we experience this connection to the Vine Jesus we develop all the varieties of His love; joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

THE FRUIT BASKET

Here’s a quick tour of the fruit basket:

JOY is rejoicing love, joy of the Lord that is independent of the situation. It best presents in joy that celebrates another as the focus of God’s love.

PEACE is reconciling love that values relationship over the details of conflict. Rooted in shalom, it moderates our coming and going. As we are reconciled with God we can bring wholeness to our relationships with others.

PATIENCE is enduring love. The root is literally holding back anger. With patience we combine determination and mercy to moderate our actions, both immediate and long term.

KINDNESS is amiable love. We give value to another by showing interest, listening, remembering details. We see them with God’s loving eyes.

GOODNESS is correcting love, not for the sake of being correct, but to bring about healing change in another’s life. Only by striving for God’s standards can we be sure we’re on the right course.

FAITHFULNESS is reliable love. We find that reliability in large and small things proves our commitment to people. We become trustworthy and true relationship can grow. One way to walk this path is through the faithful use of our Spiritual Gifts.

GENTLENESS is humble love. Rather than insisting on our own ability to be our own god we submit to God’s saving love for us. When His gentleness moves us into the sphere of another person we are more tolerant. We graciously refrain from using force and humbly join another’s journey.

SELF-CONTROL is disciplined love. We turn from the Then of our past habits and enter the Now of Spirit grown restraint and moderation. We are able to serve other people better.

DEVELOPING FRUIT

Reviewing that fruit inventory may leave you disheartened about missing fruit in your life. I encourage you to review it with a friend or two. This gives you each the opportunity to affirm the fruit that is budding, growing, and ripening in each other. You may be surprised at the fruit they see in you.

But don’t ignore the conviction you have about missing fruit. Take time to meet with the Spirit. You may find these steps helpful as He leads you to grow and mature in spiritual fruit.

  • Narrow your focus down to one fruit and go on a long journey with the Holy
  • Spirit and your small circle of friends.
  • Study that fruit in scripture.
  • Make the connection of how it appears and impacts a relationship.
  • Recognize the damage inflicted by the lack of a particular fruit.
  • Don’t try harder in your own strength. But pay attention to what the Holy Spirit is revealing and moving you to be through His connection with you in the means of grace.
  • Follow through and hold each other accountable.
  • Celebrate each sign of growth the Spirit brings.

Click here to download a free booklet to use as a discussion guide and journal.

Now think again of that home-grown tomato and its life cycle. First you notice a little round bud at the base of a fertilized flower. Next you watch that green ball grow larger and larger. Then there’s the gradual ripening from green to mouth-watering red. Finally, that tomato nourishes you with vitamin C and minerals in a delicious taste treat. The Holy Spirit’s work in your life has the same stages as He grows each fruit on Paul’s list. First there’s just a little bud of Spirit-inspired patience or kindness that’s barely noticeable. Growth through contact with God’s Word brings more notice. Ripening can come through our experience as the Holy Spirit walks us through the highs and lows of life and we are encouraged by our faith community. Finally, our fruit fills its purpose – not to nourish us, but to nourish others with a faithful replica of God’s love.

About the Author: Marge Franzen, as Leader for Equipping Ministries at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lisle has lengthy experience in Bible study and adult discipleship. She is excited by a teaching approach that uses history and culture to bring the Word of God alive in people’s lives today. She enjoys finding and developing new teachers and coaching leaders, but the best part of all is watching God directly affect people through His Word. She has found that God delivers on his promise to “equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:21 Marge has a degree in education from Concordia University Chicago, and in theology from Concordia University Wisconsin and is certified as a Lay Minister with the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, but the credential nearest to her heart is Grandma.

For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

Saying “Yes” To Leadership

By Mary Washko Denham

“Will you be on the Parent-Teacher League Board?” “Will you help on the Capital Campaign committee?” “Could you teach a class for Vacation Bible School or Sunday School?” “Would you run for President and/or Secretary-Treasurer of our Lutheran Women’s Missionary League Zone?” “Can you give a tour about Frank Lloyd Wright at the Dana-Thomas House?”

SCARED TO SAY YES?

At some point over the years, I’ve said yes to all of the above. Was I scared to say yes? Better believe it! Because:

  • Whatever I was being asked to do, it was going to take me out of my comfort zone.
  • People might not like the way I do things. I’d be opening myself up to criticism because “we’ve never done it that way before”.
  • People might not like ME.
  • I didn’t think I had the talent to do the job and people would definitely find out I didn’t have the ability. Social scientists term this phenomena “the impostor syndrome”—feeling like a fraud even though others have seen your talents and believe in your skills.
  • I’m not a leader, I’m a follower. I can’t be President or whatever other lofty title you want me to assume because… (come up with any excuse).

SAY YES ANYWAY

But, I said yes anyway! Why?

  • I wanted to get out of my rut, shake things up, and try something new.
  • I wanted to overcome a fear like public speaking.
  • I had FOMO—Fear of Missing Out as social scientists have now termed this social media phenomena.
  • I knew the commitment would end at a certain time whether it was a few months or a couple of years.
  • Sometimes I agreed simply because no one else wanted the job.
  • Ultimately, I said yes because after prayerful consideration, I knew God was asking me to do that task.

HOW COULD I SAY “YES” EVEN IF I WAS SCARED?

First, I realized that although I perceive a leader to be someone who is highly-educated, socially prominent in the community, a risk-taker, wealthy and someone with a fancy-sounding title—no one is born this way! These are all acquired skills achieved through hard work, perseverance, and timing.

I remembered the “ordinary” women in the Bible who took on leadership roles. Lois & Eunice, Elizabeth, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, who raised families. , Priscilla, Lydia and that pesky, perfect Proverbs 31 woman were leaders in the business world. Poker-playing Judge Deborah called Barak’s bluff and went into battle with him. Jael, a nomadic wife, killed Sisera and handed his slain body over to Barak (Judges 4). Beauty pageant contestant Esther, who through her beauty and humble demeanor, became Queen and saved the nation of Israel from extinction (Book of Esther). Different women, different talents, different ways of leading.

I went to the Bible for understanding and strength. Going to God’s Word helped me see His plan. The following verses have been a tremendous source of wisdom and comfort to me when deciding whether to say “Yes”.

  • Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
  • Psalm 37:3: Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.
  • Proverbs 3:5: Trust in the Lord with all your heart.
  • Philippians 4:13: I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.

WHEN NOT TO SAY YES

We don’t have to be afraid to say yes, but we also don’t have to say yes to every leadership position. 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 talks about the body of Christ. This one body has many parts and each part has a specific and necessary function. Some are called to be apostles, some teachers, some healers, some administrators (v. 28). Remembering these verses helps me say NO to all artsy-craftsy, mechanical, and high-tech jobs or anything else where I know someone else has the better ability. Being a part of the body also helps me to remember that sometimes I simply need to give someone else the chance to serve who isn’t already serving.

YES it is okay to say NO! But here’s the kicker—when I say NO, I can’t feel guilty about it. Why? Because it’s not about me. Ultimately, it’s about how best to serve God to spread the Gospel message. If I take on a job I don’t have the talent for, my heart and soul isn’t in it and God’s not getting my best work. Imagine a foot doing a mouth’s work (although my foot ends up in my mouth more often than I like) or an elbow solving a math problem.

I need to let those who have the talent for a particular job LEAD. And while I’m at it, if I’m not leading, I better be following—maybe not blindly, but certainly respectfully (this is where my “foot-in-mouth” comes in sometimes). I can offer constructive criticism, but also remember that sometimes there isn’t a right or wrong—just a different style of leadership. When we work together we can all accomplish great things individually and collectively.

So, the next time you’re asked to “lead” with or without that fancy title, remember to pray, pray, and pray some more (Phil. 4:6). Recall how God put the biblical women listed above exactly where and when He needed them. Remember that God puts us where He needs us for the “good works which He has prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:9). When God’s time is right for us to step up, how can any of us say to God anything but YES?

About the author: Mary Washko Denham is a lifelong resident of Springfield, Illinois and attends Trinity Ev. Lutheran Church. Prior to becoming a “stay-at-home mom” in 1991, Mary worked in special events management and as a college development / fundraising director. Mary has served LWML in various capacities with Trinity’s Women With Mission society, the Springfield Zone and the Central Illinois District. She and husband William (III) have one son, William (IV). She and Bill met when they were both volunteer interpreters at the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, where they both continue to give tours once a month. Mary is also active with Trinity Lutheran Church and School, where she is a volunteer librarian and whatever else God needs her to do.

For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

How to Influence Others Without Saying A Word: A Skill-Building Drama about Mary of Bethany

MARY OF BETHANY: A WOMAN OF INFLUENCE
By Donna J. Streufert

LEADERSHIP IS INFLUENCE. Exemplary leadership is influence worthy of being imitated. Throughout Scripture we can find stunning examples of exemplary leadership. One example in the New Testament reveals a woman who speaks not one word, yet by the power of the Spirit and God’s gift of faith, displays exemplary leadership.

That woman is Mary of Bethany.

PRESENTING MARY’S STORY IN A NEW WAY
One way to access the message of Mary’s example is simply to read the biblical account. Yet God gifts us with our senses so we might absorb the message in a variety of ways. The arts, music, drama, dance, for example, reach our hearts and minds on several levels. WLI offers a resource using dramatic speech, pantomime, enactment to convey the story of Mary’s exemplary Christian leadership.

This dramatic resource presents two short scenes in the New Testament where Jesus is with Mary of Bethany. Other actors in the scenes are the onlookers. They have something to say, too. And they have much to learn. Think of this
presentation as a readers’ theater where a Greek Chorus tells the story with the help of a couple of other characters. The chorus guides the narrative, explains what’s happening, and adds information.

This resource WLI offers might be used as part of the program at a women’s meeting, retreat, or conference, or as a chancel drama for an entire congregation. It is important that the presentation be followed by thoughtful discussion.

The link below will take you to the narrator’s introduction, the dramatic script, and questions to use for group discussion.

LEAD BY INFLUENCE
We have our Lord’s blessing to learn, grow and step out to influence attitudes about women’s service in the church. The main point of this resource is this: Women lead by influence and Jesus approves. Jesus’ seal of approval links action to text and memory. 

Blessings on your commitment to lead others to Christ through exemplary Christian leadership.

Click here for Skill Building Drama about Mary of Bethany

About the author: Donna Streufert is a teacher and writer. Beginning in 1969, she wrote religion curriculum and adult Bible studies for Concordia Publishing House, including four LifeLight studies. Currently, she writes for Creative Communications for the Parish in Fenton, Missouri. In 2003, Donna and her husband Daniel founded the Women’s Leadership Institute at Concordia University Wisconsin, where she taught as an adjunct instructor in education for five years and served on the Board of Regents for twelve years.

For more great articles like the one you just read, explore the EQUIP page of our website. Get inspired to lead by reading through the ENCOURAGE page, then visit one of our campus EVENTS near you. Stay connected by following us on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.