Beyond You

Once a year I take a vacation day from work, spend a couple hundred dollars and trek across Atlanta in the early morning traffic for two hours.  It is so that I can attend Leadercast, a motivational event that focuses on leaders worth following.  We all need that.  The world needs it.  And I like seeing all of the good that can come from our human potential – the creative, the imaginative, the kind, the funny, the brave.  It’s worth a day of my time and a couple hundred bucks.  If you get a chance to attend the yearly event live or at one of the 800 simulcasts that are broadcast over 25 countries, I highly recommend it.  Take a day – fill your cup!

Every one of us are leaders.  It is not a position reserved for the rich and powerful.  The individual leader in each of us is a far more powerful influence on this planet.  We are parents, friends, mentors, teachers, students, givers, and encouragers.  And at the core, it is not about the leader, but about those we are leading.

Here are some of the highlights from this year’s theme Beyond You.  Do something that will last beyond yourself!

Andy Stanley, Communicator:
A good leader empowers those around them as well as those coming along behind.

Regardless of who gets the credit, we should leave the next generation stronger and more focused as a result of our leadership.

 The value of a life is always measured by how much was given away.  Funerals don’t celebrate accumulation.  They celebrate generosity and selflessness.

 If your leadership is not all about you, then it will live beyond you.

Dr. Henry Cloud, Psychologist:
The brain is always determining if someone is for or against them.  Trust comes when people feel you are connected to them and you understand them.  Influence is a result of that trust.

 Create spaces for people’s lives – birthday parties, time together, celebrations.  Don’t be too busy.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Laureate & Human Rights Activist:
You are you because of others.  We are made for each other and for human connectedness.  We are dependent on others.

 If we have loved well while we were alive, our love will go on for generations.

 Good leaders are servants.  They are not caught up in the trappings of power. 

Simon Sinek, Author:
The one characteristic needed to lead is courage. 

Leadership is a responsibility not a rank.  Take responsibility for your actions at the time you do them, not when you get caught.

You can also read some of my highlights from last year’s conference at Simply Do.

Be beyond you.  Be a leader worth following!

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The hospital bill

Twice in my lifetime the doctors have been wrong.  Don’t misunderstand me, I believe in doctors and have a great respect for their intelligence, training and sacrifice.  I thank God for them every time I have to go under the knife.  But it’s just that I also know God is the ultimate Healer and He has the final word.

It was my 37th birthday as I sat in the doctor’s office and heard those words: “You will never be able to run again.”  The cartilage in my knee was gone.  I sat there in silence. Running has always been a big part of my life; it is where I draw my confidence; it is my time alone with God and my thoughts.  And it had always been a lifetime goal of mine to run a marathon.  But more than the doctors words, I also knew from where my strength came, from God alone, and I decided I would not give up that easily.  After two months of pain-staking physical therapy followed by some very careful training, I ran across the finish line of the Chicago Marathon – before my next birthday.

The other time the doctors were wrong it was a more personal one.  I was a few months away from my wedding day when I had an emergency surgery.  I heard the doctor’s words once again: “You will probably never be able to have children.”  I understood the complications of my situation, resulting from a life-threatening appendectomy years earlier.  But I also knew that God, the Creator of all life, could give me a child if he chose to.  When that time came later on to start a family, the doctors words seemed to come true.  I decided I would try another surgery in hopes of increasing the odds.  I began the process of finding a doctor and pleading my case for surgery, but I soon faced another obstacle.  The insurance would not pay for the surgery, as it was considered infertility surgery and therefore was “optional”.  Again I sat in silence.  Looking down at the sheet of paper with the estimated costs for the doctors, surgery and hospital, I wondered how we would be able to pay for it on our own, or if we should even try.  We were still newly married and did not have much money saved.  This would take all of our savings plus a little more.  Even so, I decided it was worth the try and I could not imagine anything more that I would rather spend my money on.

As the day came, the one-hour simple surgical procedure turned into a five-hour operation.  The anesthesia alone was more than my body could handle and I threw up all the way home from the hospital.  I laid in bed sick for days.  The doctor had said my best (and only) chance of getting pregnant would be in the first six months after surgery.  Well, six months came and went with no news.  But I also noticed during this time that I never received the bill from the hospital for the surgery or the anesthesia.  It did not show up as a claim on my insurance either.  No co-pay or deductible was ever paid, and I never received a second bill in the mail or a phone call.  It seemed to disappear.  And, about a year later I delivered a healthy baby boy.  He truly was a gift.

God is the giver of all good things.  James 1:17

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Sea Glass

I wouldn’t have seen it this morning if I had not ventured out for a run.  I would have missed a lot of things.  The sun was shining bright and warm, calling me outside, but I had lots to do today.  I need to do some cleaning and catch up on emails, I thought.  Sounds silly now.  Life can pass us by while we’re busy doing stuff, and not just in a big way but in the small simple ways.  Following my new year’s promise to myself, I had decided that I will try to enjoy and experience life with every possible minute this year, and to do the most good with all those “lost opportunities” that come across my way.

What if….

What if we each took this one year and tried to make the very best of it, no matter what.  One year of our lives, given to the very best we can do.  To resolve to smile and laugh more, even during those stiff business meetings or tough times; to resolve not to spread hate no matter what the principal may be; and to resolve to help our fellow human beings more.  It really wouldn’t take that much effort.  It might even make things easier.  And it would change the world.

So I stopped what I was doing this morning, none of which will matter for very long anyway, and I went down to the beach for a run.  The tide was high after the storm and the only part of the sand not covered by water was still too soft for running, so I settled into a walk instead.  As I slowed down my pace, I began to look at the sea shells beneath my feet and caught the glimpse of something glistening, sticking out above the sand.  I reached down to pick it up and could not believe what I held in my hand.  It was a piece of milky white frosted glass, perfectly polished and smoothed around its edges from the friction and waves of the sea.  My first sea glass find!  I have always enjoyed reading about these elusive treasures from the sea, studying their colors and origins, and following the stories of those who collect them.  But as much as I have searched, I have never found any genuine shards of my own.  I wondered what far-off shore or boat this had come from.  It was a small treasure indeed!  And I would have missed it if I had not taken the chance to venture out on this day.

sea glass

“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” – Marianne Williamson

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A Beautiful Masterpiece

To see myself as beautiful as God sees me.” 

It’s a little twist on words, isn’t it?  I like to say this short prayer as part of my morning daily prayers.  I have tried for years to obtain beauty, never quite meeting mine or others expectations.  And then it occurred to me.  God sees His children as beautiful; He created us in His Image; and God saw all that He had made and it was very good.  We are a masterpiece, God’s Masterpiece!  If I could only retrain my thinking to see myself as God sees me ~ with tender, loving, compassionate, caring thoughts, with no harm ~ wow, what a difference that would make!

Quite simply said… negative thoughts do not come from God.  So where are we getting negative thoughts from?  God’s thoughts are only precious toward us, filled with blessings of the spiritual kind.  So the next time you are wishing for a beauty makeover,  think on this:

To see myself as beautiful as God sees me.”
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus.
  Ephesians 2:10

unbeauty                 masterpiece
beauty?                                          Beautiful

Which road to take?

With the unimaginable tragedy that happened this week with Oklahoma’s 200 mph tornado, I found that I could not direct my written thoughts to anything else.  By comparison, everything else is trivial.  What a year this has been so far.  We, as a nation, started off the year with recent memories from the Sandy Hook school shooting in December, then the Boston Marathon Bombings and West Texas factory tragedies soon followed.  Next, we hear of the miraculous rescue of 3 child kidnapping victims in Cleveland after they lived 10 years in captivity, and now 24 people have lost their lives in the 1.3 mile wide E-F5 tornado in Moore, Oklahoma.  Many were young children, hundreds more injured, and schools and homes were demolished by this monster tornado.  It would be easy to be despaired at this point, and to start down that long road of questioning Why?  There is no satisfying answer for that word.  We live in a world that experiences unfathomable tragedy every day; yet we also live in a world that experiences heroic goodness every day too.  The dark times would rather have us give up, to tell us it is hopeless.  But instead, we can all choose another way, which is to Act.  Here are some ways we can start doing that right now.

Start each day with prayer.  It may not change our circumstances, but whatever the day brings, it is very comforting to know that you’ve already talked to God about it in the morning, and He is walking with you.
I am not much of a morning person, so sometimes my earnest prayers do not start until I am already on my way to work or have just arrived in the office, but that’s ok.  I make sure I set aside a few minutes before my day starts.  Five minutes at the beginning of the day can sometimes save me hours later on.

Don’t just talk, Act.  We can each do something that will make the world better.  It will be like a domino effect of goodness that washes over everything when we are all motivated toward a common goal of helping each other.  Some people may choose to donate to the Red Cross, others open up their churches, or send food and supplies.  We only need to step outside of ourselves occasionally and look up and out.
Every few months, I spend a couple of hours helping women who are recovering from drug and alcohol abuse to learn basic life skills – how to interview for a job, putting together a resume, and using a computer.  These women are just trying to survive.  They are not complaining about being too busy or getting stuck in traffic.  They just want to own a car.  It is humbling for me at the least, and I always leave there having learned more from them.

Remember the big picture.  I recently finished reading a book from a local author and physician, called “A Mis-Match Made in Heaven” by Mike & Ann Litrel.  I highly recommend it, full of humor and stories about health and the human spirit.  Dr. Litrel says it best: “As we journey together, we face many difficulties that are inherent in biological life.  Yet when we understand that our path begins and ends with God, we will see that our struggles are simply signposts along the road.  In the end, helping us find our way back Home.”

If the light that is in you is not darkness, then your whole body is full of light, just as the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.  (Luke 11:35)

May we all choose that road which leads us back Home…
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