Notice What Others Overlook and You’ll See Opportunities They Don’t.
but you know as well as I do that people are oblivious most of the time.
We walk around in a vacuum, navigating the smallest encounters on autopilot, looking at our phones instead of looking people in the eye and missing the sunset for months.
Not only do we miss opportunities that would bless us, but opportunities that would bless others.
From fleeting opportunities to encourage someone to huge missed opportunities to…
connect with someone,
learn from someone,
even receive help from someone.
When we don’t pay attention, we miss identifying all the disconnected things we encounter in our day, which means we forfeit opportunities to recognize ways we can connect them, leading to new ideas that might solve our problems or inspire us to take a step in a new direction.
Try it. Just for today. Pay attention to as many things as possible – small and large, in your direct line of vision as well as in your peripheral vision. Listen to words and sounds you overhear in the background and stop tuning out direct messages as noise.
If you are a person of faith, pray.
Ask the Holy Spirit to prompt you. Nudge you. Call your attention to whatever He wants you to notice today.
When you are talented in some area and doing a job you are overqualified for, it may seem like you don’t need to work as hard to be half as good as everyone else involved in the job.
put another way,
When you are really good at something and you are working with people whose skills are average or less, it may be tempting to coast.
but what if you didn’t? What if, instead, you did your absolute BEST work?
What if you put forth the kind of effort required when you are in a situation where YOU are the one working with people who have more skills and experience and you are striving to keep up?
In that situation, if you were the person with less talent and YOU worked harder than someone with more talent,
who would be seen as the person with the strongest work ethic?
would you be given more responsibility?
would your pursuit of excellence inspire others to also give their best, leading to increased morale and an elevation of the entire project?
When you are the person with less talent and YOU work harder than the person with more talent, does that make YOU their greatest competition?
Back to the original scenario, if YOU are the person on a team who has the greatest talent, the strongest skillset and the most experience and YOU pursue EXCELLENCE when a lesser effort would still contribute more than…everyone else combined,
would you be seen as the person with the strongest work ethic?
would you confirm to everyone involved that you deserve more responsibility and opportunity?
would the respect others have for you increase? would YOUR pursuit of excellence not only inspire others to give their best but also lead to CONTAGIOUS increase of morale and EXPONENTIAL elevation of the entire project?
Consider: If you are the person with the greatest talent and someone works harder than you, they are your greatest competition.
If you are a person of faith,
~ diligently pray that the Holy Spirit would equip your for the work and then lean on God’s power to accomplish in you what you can’t accomplish on your own.
~ ask God to make you aware of what He wants you to attend to and who He might want you to help and encourage or even mentor.
~ ask God to help you be a strong witness for His love and grace.
Be a #GoodSteward of the talents you’ve been blessed with.
Keep your focus on #AudienceofOne
“Ah, Sovereign LORD,
you have made the heavens and the earth
by your great power and outstretched arm.
Nothing is too hard for you.” Jeremiah 32:17 (NIV)
I’m a fixer.
When I see something that needs fixed I want to fix it, whether it be a crooked picture on the wall or a broken relationship. But some things are beyond my capabilities, especially if the thing that’s broken isn’t seen as broken by people “in charge” of it.
In many cases, the first thing that needs to be changed is a mindset.
That’s a whole lotta vague, isn’t it? As I read back over it, I see application in multiple situations. In each of those situations, someone either doesn’t see or refuses to see that there’s a problem in the first place.
And before anyone even goes there, I know I’m one of those people, so as you read, know that I’m including my own oblivion and denial and not just pointing at someone else’s. I need to consistently ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to me problems I don’t see.
And in those situations where I want to help but the people I want to help don’t think they need any help, I need to pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal to them the problems THEY don’t see. If someone has blocked out all possibility for constructive criticism and/or surrounded themselves with “yes men” and rainbow blowing yea-sayers, there’s no avenue for me to help because there’s no perceived need or even an openness for possible improvement. In those situations, there’s absolutely nothing I can say or do to make someone aware of a problem, much less motivate them to explore and implement change.
And again, I’m including my own oblivion and denial when I say that.
That’s when I need to rely on God. God can do ANYthing, even open a closed mind, dedicated to the self-preservation of being “right.” For a while now, I’ve been asking the sovereign and almighty God who made the heavens and the earth to do some things I know can’t do on my own:
(1) reveal to me that my perception of some problems is incorrect,
(2) bless me with a peace about doing nothing to intercede,
(3) and/or reveal to someone that there are problems and provide me an opportunity to help.
Because standing by and watching is beyond frustrating.
“My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.” Psalm 121:2 (NIV)
Are you at the door to an opportunity but haven’t taken the step through because you don’t have confidence in your ability to succeed?
Make sure the opportunity is within the moral will of God as revealed to us in scripture.
Seek counsel with wise and objective brothers and sisters in Christ who don’t have anything to lose or gain from your decision.
Genuinely ask the Lord to exponentially increase your desire to move forward if the path IS within His will for you. Ask Him to pursue you relentlessly if it IS His will for you.
Genuinely ask Him to lessen and remove your conscious thoughts of this possible path if it ISN’T His will for you. Ask him to re-direct your thoughts to a different course of action if this one ISN’T His will for you.
And then take action.
Don’t wait for Him to say “GO,” take one step after another while diligently and prayerfully watching for Him to say “NO.”
Remember, if you could do it alone, you wouldn’t need His help. Remember where your help comes from.
“[…this is the Word of the Lord…] ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty”
The other day, I listened as someone told my daughter that she needed to find and rely on her “inner strength.”
What exactly does that mean? Determination? Confidence? A recognition of personal identity and worth? Where does inner strength come from? Do “broken” people have it and just can’t find it because it’s buried under layers of pain or fear or hopelessness?
My problem with “inner strength” is that it waxes and wanes, usually parallel to my circumstances. And there’s no rhyme or reason to it. Crisis is just as likely to discourage me as it is to fuel me to action. Criticism is just as likely to fill me with doubt as it is to spark a fire of determination. Rejection is just as likely to send me running as it is to compel me to plant my feet. Inner strength seems to be dependent on how I feel and think about myself at any give time.
Inner strength is shifting sand. I can’t plant my feet in shifting sand.
Thankfully, my daughter already knows all this. We were both gracious, both engaged and fully listening to the well-meaning giver of unsolicited advice, but as the young woman spoke, I prayed. “Lord, should I tell her? Have you prepared her mind and heart to hear?” She paused, raising her eyebrows, looking for a response, seemingly expecting affirmation and agreement.
My daughter and I looked at each other. We both knew what could be shared in that moment.
I said, “As Christians, we believe there’s even more to it than that. The Bible tells us that because we have a relationship with Jesus, we have a helper, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, so we are never alone. God is always with us. Everywhere we go.”
There was a brief pause. She hadn’t expected that response.
She broke the awkward silence by turning back to my daughter again. “That’s good…but sometimes, you’ll feel like God isn’t there…”
She continued a few more minutes, paused again, and looked at me. I had been praying about what to say, if anything.
I said, “It’s true, there are times when it doesn’t seem like God is there. It’s like when you learned to ride a bike. Whoever was teaching you was running behind the bike, holding the seat, and then he let go. You didn’t feel his hand on the bike anymore, but you knew he was still there. When you fell, he was there to pick you up and comfort you and encourage you to try again. He didn’t keep you from falling, but he never left.”
I could tell she had heard me. I didn’t push. I hadn’t stopped her as she explained to my daughter that she needed inner strength for those times when she didn’t “feel” God.
My daughter knows her faith isn’t grounded in her emotions. My daughter and I both know how to practice the presence of God and that sometimes, He is silent. We both understand that the source of our inner strength is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and that whether we “feel” God or not, we can have confidence that He is with us. I knew I had planted a seed and that the young woman would think about the conversation later.
God would not be revealed to her as the ultimate source of inner strength through our effort or will. We just planted a seed. Now, it’s up to the Holy Spirit to soften her heart, open her mind and “draw her to Himself.” (John 6:44)
If you’ve entered into a relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit dwells within you. When you lack confidence in yourself, I pray you are blessed with confidence in Christ. I pray you find your identity in Christ and understand your value through a deep understanding of His unconditional love for you. I pray that regardless of how you may feel on a given day, you will remember, “God is with you, wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).
“[…this is the Word of the Lord…] ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty”
Have you ever been in a situation where the harder you try, the farther away from your goal you seem to get? No matter how focused and determined you are, no matter what you do or say, the distance between what you’re striving for and what’s actually happening just continues to grow.
What begins as a desire to set things “right” can birth a desperation that leaves a knot in the pit of your stomach and a frantic anxiety that drives us to push and try to manipulate circumstances.
One of the most difficult lessons I’ve experienced in this area has been a situation where I was trying to explain something God was teaching and revealing to me and the more I talked (or wrote), the more people misunderstood and rejected what they thought I was saying and my actual message was lost. The more angry they became, the more they dismissed me and distanced themselves and in many cases, the more people cut off our relationship completely, choosing instead to talk about me behind my back and on the internet.
You just want to fix that kind of thing, ya know?
But no matter how hard I tried to explain what I was discovering and feeling, the more I realized I was talking (and typing) to air. I knew I was supposed to share what God was teaching me and I did. Reluctantly and after months of arguing with God, with love and heartache for people I cared about, despite growing awareness of the bridges that were being burned.
But over the last two years, I’ve come to realize that my obedience in sharing my lesson wasn’t to change hearts or minds or even just circumstances. It was to be a witness to Christ’s influence in my life. And it was to plant seeds. God would bring the rain for growth.
and the drought to create thirst.
and the fire to test.
The growing season has not been short or free from pain, for me or for others. But in hindsight, I can see how God has been moving. Slow and steady, softening hearts and opening minds. Teaching lessons that, while different from mine, have and continue to produce the best harvest – hearts drawn closer to Christ. And while it’s heartbreaking to see the pain that’s had to be borne through this season, The Holy Spirit has reminded me that when hearts are closer to Christ, it’s impossible that they remain unchanged. Through the change – the transformation – of the heart, other changes automatically come to fruition. Those circumstances that I desperately tried to change on my own, God has changed and continues to change.
My job was to seek and listen to the Voice of Truth. My job was to be a witness to what God was doing in my heart and mind. My job was to plant seeds, regardless of the consequences. My job was to pray, in faith, trusting that God would work all things for His greater, ultimate good, which is to draw people into intimate, living, dependent relationship with Him.
Not by my might.
Not by my power.
But by His Spirit.
So, whatever your impossible circumstances, pray. Persistently. and wait. His timing is perfect, even when He delays.
“He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24 “Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” Corrie ten Boom
In this dream, my daughter was being stalked. And NOTHING we did could stop the stalker.
If you’ve read my blog before or follow me on facebook, you already know my daughter LOVES people. Genuinely, empathetically, compassionately, passionately loves people. She gets a high from encouraging people that I think actually fuels her. When someone hurts, she hurts. And she prays. She prays for people she loves, she prays for people who are mean to her and she prays for people she doesn’t even know.
She prays because she’s already figured out that most of the time, while she can make things better by loving people, she can’t fix some things. Some things are too big, but she knows God can do ANYthing.
And that’s how the horrible dream started. She befriended someone in pain. And he latched onto her. It wasn’t long before he began telling her she was an inspiration to him. “You are my inspiration” soon led to “You are the only one who understands me.” He gave her gifts. She caught him staring at her often. He began saying things that made her worry that he might hurt himself and she began to feel responsible for his emotional state.
In real life, she shares everything with me, so of course, in my dream, she told me all this. In my dream, I coached her to still be herself and not to hold back from being kind to him, but to never be alone with him, to always be in a group and to always make sure she didn’t treat him differently than she treated anyone else.
Then everything changed. Instantly.
(remember, this is a dream)
In the dream the chronology was all over the place. Her age ranged from 13 to 18, but one thing was a constant. We were desperate. We tried everything we could think of. We started by changing her schedule so she didn’t have classes with him. We took her to a therapist to help her cope and to help her understand how he was trying to manipulate her. We resorted to changing schools, which broke her heart because she had to leave all her friends. We sent her to relatives. She and I moved. The entire family moved. Across town and out of state. Her dream of working as a Disney princess was impossible because he would stalk her at work. He broke into our house. He vandalized our house. Sabotaged her car. Followed her. Restraining orders did nothing. If he was arrested, he started up again as soon as he was released.
NOTHING we did made any difference at all.
And then (don’t forget – this is a dream)
I remembered. God can do anything. We had spent years trying to handle the situation on our own and nothing had worked. So I gave it all up to God. I prayed like a widow (persistently, like in Luke 18:8).
And suddenly, PinkGirl was 13 again. It was like I rewound the dream. None of the horrible, unpreventable things had happened yet.
And in my prayers, God reminded me of an article I read a while back written by an elementary school teacher. I don’t remember the specifics, but she was heartbroken about a school shooting or maybe the Boston Marathon bombing, I don’t remember. She wondered about the childhood of these people who kill. She was burdened. And in working through that burden, she recognized her influence. The power she had to impact young lives and maybe, hopefully, change the trajectory of those lives. She wrote about her teaching philosophy. In her classroom, every single day she was identifying the subtle way some kids were being excluded and isolated and she was not only lovingly, creatively and intentionally putting stop to it, but molding the character of the other students as she taught them to see people. Really SEE people. Compassionately. And in the process, that isolated kid, the one who felt invisible and unloved and unaccepted began to change his opinion of himself and of the people in his life.
So (remember, this is a dream) I went to the administrators of PinkGirl’s (private, Christian) school and told them what was happening with this boy and PinkGirl. I told them about the article. We made a plan. Every. single. middle school teacher began to intentionally speak into this boy’s life. To SEE him. To validate him, encourage him, mentor him. To constantly reinforce that God loves him unconditionally. That Christ loved him so much He died for him. To teach him that even though the people in his life might fail him, God never will. Everyone involved began praying that he would find and accept Christ and that these teachers who interacted with him 7 hours a day, 5 days a week would have a chance to disciple him before he moved on to high school.
As the teachers began to draw him into group activities and the other kids began to really see him too…
I woke up. (At the crack of dawn, way before I needed to, I might add.)
And I remembered these two facebook posts I wrote about my daughter back in February:
I LOVE my daughter’s school and the middle school teachers. She just called me in uncontrollable happy tears to tell me how much she loves me because she just came out of a class where her classmates (PinkGirl included) just “poured their hearts out about everything they were all going through and how we’re all so thankful and blessed that we have Christ in our lives to help us and…” Her next class was Bible and she asked to go to the office to call me and ask me to come up to school so she could hug me. I’m outta here. #ilovemydaughter
Just got back from going to PinkGirl’s school to give her a requested mid-day bear hug. One of the kids involved in that heart-wrenching discussion was sharing really, really hard things and everyone was telling him it would be okay. PinkGirl said: “I can’t promise you everything will be okay. At least not the way we see our life. But it will be okay the way God sees it. I think God is using the things in our lives to mold us into the people we’re going to be. It’s like a blacksmith. Sometimes, a blacksmith has to heat stuff up and hit it really hard with a hammer to mold it into something beautiful. The blacksmith knows what he’s making.”
#ilovemydaughter #seepeople #reachout
And I remembered how my daughter had told me that this boy had later told her she was an inspiration to him. And how he had given her a few small presents. She told me it made her uncomfortable. And I remember how I had coached her to continue being his friend, but to always stay with a group when she was around him. I had explained that she wasn’t equipped to help him, so she shouldn’t give him any advice, but she could be his friend and pray for him.
There was no going back to sleep.
So I went downstairs to curl up on my loveseat with a cup of coffee and my prayer journal.
And I wrote this:
“Lord I HATED that dream. Please help me use whatever I learned from it. I pray Lord, that if we are ever in that situation, that’s exactly how we would respond.”
“I pray for PinkGirl’s friend from school. Can’t remember his name Lord, but you know who he is. Please draw him close to you and let him know You love him.”
Driving PinkGirl to rehearsal later that morning, I asked her about the boy from school, and she reminded me that for some reason, he wouldn’t be returning to her school next year.
So. That’s that, right?
Except that when I went to pick her up, I found out that the boy had come to her theater company asking about auditions.
I had a flash of fear. The dream wasn’t even 12 hours old.
But then I realized. This theater PinkGirl goes to? SEEING kids is what they DO. It’s saturated in their culture. They don’t just help kids develop their talent, they also focus on helping kids develop strong character and confidence. They mentor kids from teeny to teenager. When a kid first comes to them, they start with the assumption that each one wants to please and to be validated. They search for aptitude and potential and try to help kids grow into their strengths and to gain confidence and become self-motivated by providing age and skill appropriate challenges and holding them accountable. Any sign of kids excluding kids isn’t allowed. The more outgoing kids are mentored and taught to be intentionally inclusive and specifically encouraging to the shy and quiet kids. Constructive criticism isn’t shied away from, but shaming criticism and demoralizing sarcasm isn’t tolerated for a fraction of a second. Like the teacher who wrote the article, these kids, if they stay with this company, begin to recognize the power of their words and actions and their ability to influence others through encouragement and inclusion.
This boy is a beginner, so if he does come to PinkGirl’s theater, it’s likely he won’t be in the same productions, at least for a while. But I’m confident that if this boy comes to this theater company, he will be seen. He will be included. By the time he interacts with PinkGirl in that environment, she will not be the only person who inspires him.
Or prays for him.
No matter who you are, there are people in your circle of influence. People you are in a continuing relationship with and people you will interact with today and may never see again. Start with prayer. Ask God to show you who those people are. Ask God to equip you. Because God can do anything.
You can spend years trying to handle a situation on your own or you can give it all up to God. And pray like a widow that He would bless you with wisdom and discernment and patience and stamina and…pray like a widow that He will guide you. Pray that you would have the courage and motivation to be obedient.