20 Life-Changing Acts of Courage

courage

One single act of courage can change a life…often many lives.

No doubt, if you live a “normal” life there will be decisions you have to make that take courage. You will often have to walk by faith, be willing to risk everything, and trust God for the results, which often seem slow to arrive.

Sometimes doing the right thing is not the easiest thing to do. Most of the time, it takes courage to follow your heart, conviction, or God’s calling on your life.

But, when we act with courage into the places where God leads, it always brings greater rewards than we could imagine.

I reflected recently on some random examples that I have seen people make over the last few years…some of them from within my own family…that took courage, but the results were huge. At the time, some of them may or may not have seemed to be that “big of a deal”…and some of them were obvious risks, but in the process of completing them, the courage required can be equally huge.

20 Random Life-Changing Acts of Courage

  1. Leaving the job you hate (or love) so you can start the dream you’ve hidden.
  2. Taking the first step towards your God-given dream when everyone else is saying it can’t be done.
  3. Confronting the unspoken conflicts in a marriage.
  4. Offering forgiveness even when undeserved.
  5. Trusting God with money you don’t have.
  6. Beginning a Christian ministry in a predominately Muslim country.
  7. Letting go of the employee who is holding back the team, yet refuses to improve.
  8. Attempting again something you’ve failed at so many times.
  9. Planting a church…or trying to change an existing one.
  10. Ending the friendship that always drags you down.
  11. Trusting one more time the one who has hurt you so much.
  12. Moving the family for a new “opportunity” when the outcome is unclear.
  13. Speaking truth in love when it’s politically unpopular.
  14. Releasing the right to get even, even at the expense of your pride.
  15. Surrendering your will to God’s will.
  16. Putting other’s agenda ahead of your own.
  17. Standing up for someone everyone else is rejecting.
  18. Reaching out to a stranger, because you felt “led” to do so.
  19. Admit your struggle, sin, or failure to someone…even though you are afraid of the consequences.
  20. Ask for help even though you’re embarrassed to do so.

As I stated, those are random examples and your examples will be different from mine. Granted, some of these “appear” harder than others…requiring more courage. I never know when I write a post like this which chord I will strike and with whom. I have learned, however, that context makes life relative. Your act of courage can be “equal” to mine if God is calling you to an unknown reality. Moving forward into uncertainty requires a courage you don’t always have initially. Choosing whether or not to move forward and mustering the needed courage, is often what separates the ones who achieve great things from those who remain disappointed with their progress in life.

Here’s a voice of encouragement to you today…if you know you need to move forward…but you are afraid…I understand. I’m praying you’ll find the courage to trust God with the outcome and do what you know to do next.

What is something you have had to do that took a great deal of courage?

Facing Fear at the Crossroads of Influence

Jenni Catron

This is a guest post from my friend Jenni Catron. Jenni serves as the Executive Director of Cross Point Church in Nashville, TN, where she leads the staff and oversees the ministry of five campuses. Jenni and I have had the privilege of brainstorming together. She has a great leadership mind. She loves a fabulous cup of tea, great books, learning the game of tennis and hanging out with her husband and border collie. Jenni’s passion is to lead well and to inspire, equip and encourage others to do the same. Recently Jenni announced on her blog a new adventure in ministry. Read about it HERE. Jenni blogs at www.jennicatron.com. Excerpts of this post are from her new book CLOUT:Discover and Unleash Your God-Given Influence

Facing Fear at the Crossroads of Influence

Alex had the makings of a star staff member. He was passionate about his job. He had inspired vision for where he wanted to lead people. He was eager to step in and provide leadership to a group that had been floundering for some time. As his leader, I was so excited for him and the possibilities of growth ahead. The first year was challenging, but he kept his chin up and pushed through difficult growing pains. But soon I began to notice signs of discouragement in his eyes. Something had changed, but I couldn’t pinpoint it. I saw fear instead of excitement and optimism. Where I still saw obvious potential, he saw roadblocks.

Over the next six months the situation deteriorated. I couldn’t make sense of why things were spiraling south so quickly. Gradually as I kept engaging him in conversation, he shared that he was terrified of being a failure. He feared that he wasn’t capable of doing the job that he had been hired to do. His fear that others would see him as a failure caused him to try to cover it up rather than share that he was struggling. Because he wouldn’t confront the fear with truth, many of those he influenced eventually lost trust in him.
As leaders, we often confront our greatest fear at the crossroads of influence. We face our greatest fear at the threshold of our greatest opportunity to make an impact. Not to confront this fear would be to deny who we are created to be. We’d be sabotaging the very calling and purpose we are designed for.

Fear impacts our influence in several ways:

Fear Hides
We often try to hide from our fear by ignoring that it’s there. Rather than acknowledge it and replace it with truth, we allow ourselves to live with the darkness it creates. We don’t want to acknowledge we fear failure, so we cover it up with pride and the drive to perform.

Fear Isolates
In the isolation of our minds, fear can be tormenting. The truth found in 2 Timothy 1:7 is an important reminder: “God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (nkjv).
We fear not having enough, so we are scarce with praise and stingy with our resources, which continues to close us off from developing relationships with others.

We fear that others won’t love or accept us for who we are. Our imperfections feed our insecurity, so we remain distanced and walled off from others.

Fear Paralyzes
Fear can also paralyze us from moving forward. We fear chaos, so our constant need for control causes us to slow things down while we try to get a handle on it. Our need for control can become paralyzing and is extraordinarily dangerous to our leadership and influence. If we’re unable to get some sense of control, we may give up altogether.

God equips us with plans to use us. Yet I believe that many of us miss opportunities to cultivate our influence because we choose the wrong route at the crossroads of influence. We turn around and run back when faith requires a leap that we’re too afraid to take.
Economist and political adviser John Kenneth Galbraith once said, “All of the great leaders have had one characteristic in common: it was the willingness to confront unequivocally the major anxiety of their people in their time.”1

To influence others you have to help move them to new realities and possibilities. You can’t take them where you haven’t led yourself. You must be willing to confront your fears and lead others through theirs.

Fear finds us at the edge of the cliff: the moment when we must make a decision. When you find yourself there, do you give in to fear or step out in faith? Fear turns tail and runs. Faith takes the leap. Faith sees beyond the fear and recognizes that you were uniquely designed and created for this moment!

1. John Kenneth Galbraith quoted from his Age of Uncertainty (1977), in Bill Clinton: The Inside Story by Robert E. Levin (New York: S.P.I. Books, 1993), 246.

Confusing Critical Thinking with Negativity

iStock_000011397209XSmall

I love development within an organization. It challenges and inspires me to attempt to make things better. I previously wrote about three activities every organization and everyone in the organization must do to be healthy; growth, maintenance and development. (Read that post HERE.) Each of us tend to specialize or prefer one of those activities and mine is development. Development, by the way, is often the one neglected by organizations and/or leaders. We tend to push growth and then we attempt to maintain the growth. Over time, however, growth stalls unless things are developed (made better).

Development involves asking questions, thinking how things can be made better and desiring consistent improvement.  The problem for developers is that we get push back from those that prefer growth or maintenance. (Or those who operate out of fear or insecurity. I wrote about that HERE.)

As I see it, we often confuse critical thinking with negativity. I realize some people don’t know how to think critically without being negative, and some people can never celebrate the moment, but because of that, we often think of the word criticism and automatically take it personal. We develop turf wars over our areas. Fear keeps us from being open to critique. Critical thinking, however, when used correctly, is an effort to think towards making things better for the good of the organization and everyone on the team, not attacking a particular person or program.

Whenever people reject evaluation, I’m always tempted to ask:

  • What are you afraid of people finding out if they question your decisions?
  • What fear is causing you to avoid critical thinking?
  • If you want improvement, how will it come if you don’t critique/evaluate?

Don’t be afraid to think critically about your area or allow others on your team to help you do so. Your best days may be still to come, but you won’t realize them unless you think critically about the opportunities before you. Welcome them…even when they appear difficult or uncomfortable.

What do you think about when you hear the words critical thinking?

5 Options for Dealing with Emotional Pain

Man alone

What do you do with pain? You’ve been injured. It wasn’t fatal, but it hurt. In this post, I’m talking about emotional pain. The fact is emotional pain often hurts more than physical pain. It certainly can last longer. All of us have experienced emotional pain. Some more than others.

What do you do with emotional pain?

You have options. Here are 5:

Rehearse – You can keep reminding yourself how much it hurt. You can go over and over again in your mind the people to blame. You can live the hurt repeatedly in your mind. The longer you do the longer it seems to hurt.

Repress – You can pretend it doesn’t hurt. With the right performance you can even convince people you’re okay…even yourself…for a while. But, deep inside, when the fake smile goes away and the pretend laugh goes away, it still hurts.

Resent – You can build a grudge. You can increase your anger towards others. But the depth of the grudge will be directly proportional to the depth of the pain and the time of recovery.

Repeat – You can hurt others because you were hurt. Get even at your next opportunity. Take out your hurts on another. But the emotional pain remains. It does.

Release – You can let go, admit it stinks, ask God to begin to restore your heart and allow you to begin again. Emotional healing is almost always a process that takes time. It may require outside help. It won’t be easy, but it begins with the intentionality to release the pain and move forward.

Choices…choices.

Which will you choose? 

Obviously this is a simplistic approach to a very complex issue. But the principles are true. If you have serious emotional injury, get help. Don’t struggle alone. See your physician. See a counselor. Talk to a minister. (As a word of counsel, if it is serious emotional issues most ministers aren’t equipped to counsel through this. But, most can refer you to someone trained to help you.)

10 Suggestions for Healthy Grieving

troubled young woman

Part of my work is helping people grieve. Or at least learn how to grieve. It’s not one of my favorite parts, because it always stems from the reasons why they need to grieve. It means hurt. Brokenness. Pain. Disappointment. That never feels good.

Yet the fact remains…part of living in a fallen world…is living among the thorns. We must learn to grieve because there will always be reasons to do so.

As much as we need to know how to grieve, however, I continually meet people who either don’t know how or refuse to allow themselves to grieve. I’ve even met well-meaning believer who believe they shouldn’t. The Scripture is clear. We do grieve. We simply don’t grieve like the rest of the world.

So, here are 10 suggestions for healthy grieving:

Don’t deny the pain – It hurts. Admit it. Be honest with yourself with others and especially with God. If it’s anger…tell it. If it’s profound sadness…say it. You’ve got to grieve at some point to move forward, and you’ll grieve sooner and better if you’re honest about the need.

Learn to pray – Grieving can draw you close to the heart of God. See that as one blessing in the midst of pain. The Scripture is clear…draw close to God and He will draw close to you. He is close to the broken hearted. Use this difficult time to build a bond with God that you’ll never regret having.

Remain active – You may not feel like being around people, but if you’re normally a very social person, discipline yourself in this area. Granted, some people were never very social, even before their grief. We shouldn’t expect much more from them in grief, but even for them, community matters. Don’t shelter yourself from others.

Stay healthy – Eat well and exercise. Sleep as regularly as you can. Stick to a schedule. You’ll need the strength to carry you through this time.

Help others - There is a special blessing that comes from serving others that can help you recover from your own pain. Serve at a soup kitchen. Deliver toys to needy children. Find a way to give back and you’ll invest in the health of your own heart.

Journal your thoughts and feelings – One day you’ll be glad you did. You’ll see the process God has taken you through and the healing He has allowed you to experience. You’ll need these reminders again some day.

Give it time – Grieving doesn’t complete itself in a day…or a week…or even a year. The depth of the pain always is relative to the time of a sense of recovery. And, some pain never leaves us. We simply learn to adapt to it. We learn to find contentment and even joy in the midst of sorrow and loss.

Share your story – You help others when you allow others to see you share and understand their pain. When you hide your story, you deny others of the privilege of healing through your experience.

Get help when needed – Don’t suffer alone. There are times all of us can use professional help. Don’t be ashamed to seek it.

Remember hope – If you are a follower of God…the best days are still to come. Even in your darkest days, remember, one day…every tear shall be wiped from your eyes.

You can get up, recover and move forward again even stronger than you were before, but please don’t fail to grieve. It’s necessary. Vital. Healthy. Natural. Even Biblical. (1 Thessalonians 4)

Praying for you who need to grieve.

What suggestions do you have for healthy grieving?

Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4)

Fear Devotional, Part 5

Fear

“I am God, the God of your father,” he said. “Do not be afraid to go down to Egypt, for I will make you into a great nation there. Genesis 46:3 NIV

Jacob was obedient to God because he shifted from fear to faith.

If you recall the story, Jacob would have to leave for Egypt, a foreign land, in search of food and to see his son Joseph again, whom he thought was dead. It could have meant death for him and his remaining sons too. And, he was old. Past the prime risk-taking years. He had faced so many trials and disappointments in life…many he brought on himself…but at the end of his life, Jacob was willing to face his fears and walk by faith again.

In fact, he had a history of times he moved from fear to faith.

All of us will have fear. Fear began with the fall of mankind and, since we still live in a fallen world, we are still subject to fear. We shouldn’t be surprised when we are afraid when facing something that seems beyond our abilities or when the outcome of the situation is unknown. That’s natural in a fallen world.

To counter our nature we must do something spiritual. We must place our faith in something…really SOMEONE…who has the power and ability to accomplish what appears to be the impossible…the unnatural. That someone, of course, is the Creator God. The controller of nature. When we place our trust in God, He takes our inabilities and turns them into His abilities. Then, working all things towards an ultimate good, He works through our situations and circumstances to bring about His final plan. Our job in all this is to be obedient…in spite of our fears…by placing our complete faith in Him.

What is that fear that has you stagnant right now?

Perhaps you need to move from fear to faith!

Do something which may seem unnatural, depending on your circumstances. Turn your fear into a complete and total trust in God. Then watch Him do His miracle work and transform your situation into a glorious tribute to His power and strength.

Let me give you an easy 4 steps to begin this process:

1)Admit your fear

2)Renew your faith

3)Obey completely

4)Repeat steps 1 through 4

Again. And again. And again.

Fear Devotional, Part 4

Scared Afraid Man Wrapped in Red Fear Tape

He was afraid and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” Genesis 28:17

There is something about fear and faith working together that intrigues me. It seems, at least in my life, that the times of greatest fear are the times God is calling me to display the greatest faith. I wonder (really I know) God does this so the attention and glory will not be on me, but on Him who can do all things. Somehow, if I was able to easily accomplish what God asked me to do, or even to endure, it wouldn’t make God seem that special; even that important.

Of course, God is special. His glory created the Heavens and the earth. He really doesn’t “need” me for anything. He chooses to use me simply to display His glory and honor. To do this, He must do through me things I couldn’t do apart from Him. So, He calls me to God-sized tasks that require an increase in faith beyond what I have ever experienced previously. It may be to move in some new area of my life or to simply remain patiently as I wait for Him to move again, but both require faith. Each new challenge grows my faith to another level.

What is God calling you to do today that is bigger than you; that in order to accomplish it will require an even greater display of faith than you have ever displayed before?

  • Is it to end a relationship you know is not God-honoring?
  • Is it to begin a new chapter in your career life?
  • Is it to step out in faith into some ministry opportunity?
  • Is it to forgive the person who hurt you the most?
  • Is it to simply trust Him with your finances, your family or your future?

Once you know God is calling you to something and you become afraid, the question then is what are you going to do about it? Will you reside in fear or surrender by faith to God’s plan for your life?

As Henry Blackaby says, “What you do next reveals what you believe about God!”

That choice, my friend, is yours!

Fear Devotional, Part 3

Fear

Sarah was afraid, so she lied and said, “I did not laugh.” But he said, “Yes, you did laugh.” Genesis 18:15 NIV

Sarah couldn’t believe God’s plan for her life was to have a child. So she laughed at His plan.

She was too old. It had been so long. Could God do this? Would God even use someone like her for such a plan?

It was probably scary to simply trust by faith…she had been disappointed many times…she didn’t want to hurt again…so she laughed.

Sarah’s probably not alone in her fear. Was she?

I’ve had those kinds of fears. Many times.

Chances are you have also. You know God is calling you to do something, but the thought of actually obeying God in the matter freaks you out…scares you to death. You know what it’s like to fail. You don’t feel you have what it takes. Could God do this? Would He do it with you?

Walk by faith…or laugh at the plan? Trust or run. Face fears or fold to them. Those are your options.

But know this…

Faith believes something that you cannot see.

The unseen or unknown is scary, so fear is a natural reaction to God’s plan for your life. God calls us to the unknown. God is always calling us to the unknown. His ways are not our ways. His plans are usually larger than we have imagined. God calls us to walk by faith, facing something we cannot see, and that in turn brings fear into our hearts.

So, what’s the fear that will require faith for you to accomplish?

Perhaps there is a better question:

If you are obedient, what kind of glory will God receive through your faith in Him?

Don’t laugh at what you sense God is calling you to do (or at least not for long). God calls people to tasks beyond our ability or understanding everyday! Maybe this is your day!

Walk closer to faith than fear. I’m praying for you.

Fear Devotional, Part 2

Fear

He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.”

Genesis 3:10 NIV

Fear, apart from the holy fear of God, entered the world at the fall of man. Prior to the sin of Adam and Eve they had no fear. They didn’t fear for their safety. The didn’t fear how they would provide for their family. They didn’t fear the ills of health. Cancer wasn’t a fear.

They trusted God because of their deep, intimate relationship with their creator. After sin entered the world, sin came. Destruction arrived. Chaos. Disappointment. Uncertainty. As a result, fear was ushered in also.

The fact that you are afraid, therefore, should be no surprise. If you are facing something unknown, or something you know is bigger than you, you can expect fear. It’s a very natural human reaction.

So, think for a moment… of what are you afraid?

That’s okay to admit….really…it’s even understandable. We live in a scary, mixed up world and fear is the result of the times in which we live.

I want to encourage you, however, to live counter-cultural. (That’s the way believers are to live anyway.)

Be brave! Stand strong!

First, admit you are scared! It may be the necessary step to finding the faith you need to be obedient to God’s call on your life.

Then surrender. Quit. Give up. Tell God you’re done trying. You’re finished hiding in your fears. Your public confession today is fear. Real, honest fear.

Then trust again. Renew your faith. Take a fresh and deep breath in the reality that God is on His throne. He hasn’t moved. He’s in control. And you can trust Him.

For today, live fearless. Not in your strength. If you’re like me you stink at that consistently. Live fearless in the reality that He is God. And everything is going according to His will.

For bonus points and encouragement, read Psalm 121.

Be honest, what’s your biggest fear these days?