Don’t Be Afraid to Be a Game Changer: It May Not Be What You Think

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Well, my days of refusing to take on anything that does not directly and positively move me forward in the path I know I’m called to is about to pay off in ways I would have never expected. In fact, if I’m being really honest, it’s almost intimidating. We’ve all heard of “ground floor” opportunities, and we’ve all allowed many of them to pass us by only to look back with regret and say, “if only.” I know I have because of fear and not believing that I actually could do it. However, when I look back on the past decade, I realize that I have been preparing for this exact moment, and I am humbled and shaken and grateful.

Ten years ago I entered into the crazy, fantastical, volatile world of sales, marketing, and advertising. I went through sales jobs because frankly, I despise “sales.” I despise the pitch and the hype and the cliches, and all the trappings of the rat race of trying to keep your head above water in the world of commissions. It took me a long time to learn who I was and why I wasn’t successful. I was sought out for my “sales ability” only to let those people down when I didn’t “produce” to the levels they assumed I was capable of. Sadly, people often mistake “connectors” for “salespeople.” It has only been in the last few years I have come to realize that “sales” is much more than closing deals. In fact, I’m more interested in turning the whole sales model upside down and watching the entire industry explode with success for ALL involved, not just the “closers.” But I digress, that’s for another topic of discussion.

My calling is my mission – the reason I exist – which is “to elevate the lives of others through C.E.I.R.S. Connect. Engage. Inspire. Refer. Succeed.” I am a “master connector,” and this week, after visiting a childhood classmate for the Facebook #GreatSocialMediaSelfieProject, I realized that I have been connecting people with their wants since I was in elementary school. My first “connection” was when this classmate discovered Barry Manilow for the first time, and she became an instant fan. When she told me this, I knew my mom had a Barry Manilow record that she rarely listened to anymore, so I went home and asked my mom if I could give the record to my friend. Mom said yes, and I happily skipped outside and presented the album. Nearly three decades later, my friend has 14 Manilow albums and has seen him in concert more times than I would even consider. I know that may seem trivial to some, but for me, it just upped the ante for me to have even more faith that every connection we make has lasting impact in one way or another. I want to make mine count for the good.

So, what does all this have to do with not being afraid to be a “game changer.” I’m glad you asked. The last 10 years have been my training ground for what I am launching into as the next phase of my career. The two areas I’m launching into will forever positively impact people who are a) seeking to honestly embrace who they are and live and work in who they were designed to be, and b) busy, successful professionals who are seeking to replace unproductive busyness with meaningful, profitable connections.

What do these two things have to do with changing the game you ask? People have been doing this for years haven’t they? Yes. But not me. The game is changing for ME and the people I am intended to impact. The game changer for me starts with a list of “no longers.”

  • I will no longer allow anyone to dictate what my worth is.
  • I will no longer allow anyone to put me in their proverbial box of what my success should look like.
  • I will no longer be enticed by motivational words and empty promises.
  • I will no longer allow anyone to tell me my creativity is not wanted or needed.
  • I will no longer spin my wheels trying to get anyone to understand how I operate.
  • I will no longer take on responsibility that is clearly not mine.
  • I will no longer be intimidated by anyone who thinks they have all the answers.
  • I will no longer assume I know what others are thinking or doing.
  • I will no longer want “something more” for anyone who refuses to want it for themselves.

What are your “no longers?” How will you change your game? Stay tuned…I’ll be revealing my next game changer endeavors soon.

 

 

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HOPE

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HOPE – It’s a word we carelessly say in our every day communication without a second thought. “I hope that works out for you.” “I hope you have a great day!” “I hope my prognosis is good.” “I hope……”

I recently heard Tenth Avenue North’s new song, I Have This Hopeand it resonated with me so much that I felt compelled to send it to a friend who had been on my mind for days. She confirmed that my timing was perfect because she was struggling with so many life issues regarding family and career and loneliness and isolation. She said, “thank you for the text, for the song, and for listening to the Holy Spirit. You reminded me that I am not alone.”

The funny (or perhaps divine) irony of this story is that when I first heard the song, I thought the lyric was saying, “I have resolved in the depth of my soul….” However, the chorus lyrics are as follow:

I have this hope
In the depth of my soul
In the flood or the fire
You’re with me and You won’t let go

Definition and Characteristics

Hope is an interesting word. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary states hope is to desire with expectation of or belief in obtainment or fulfillment. There is a trust – a reliance – an anticipation attached to the desire or expectation.

In the Bible, the Greek and Hebrew terms used for hope also indicate certainty, “a strong and confidant expectation.” Bible.Org has an excellent article on the subject, and while I’m going to summarize it below, I encourage you to read the entire article when you have some time. There are several characteristics of hope to consider.

  1. Hope is dynamic, active, directive, and life sustaining
  2. Hope has results
    • Changes how we see ourselves
    • Changes what we value
    • Affects what we do in life regarding our talents, time, and treasures
  3. Hope has rewards and blessings
    • Gives us joy and peace
    • Gives us protection
    • Gives us strength, courage, and boldness
    • Gives us endurance, comfort, and confidence in the face of death
    • Give us confidence in ministry
  4. Hope, if placed in anything other than the Lord, will leave us ashamed, frustrated, disappointed, and in ruin
  5. God is the source of all real hope – he is called “the God of Hope”
  6. If you are without Christ, you are without God, and without hope. Hope depends on:
    • Knowing the Word of God
    • Knowing and resting in God’s grace
    • A Spirit-filled life

Hope Resolved

So, was I “wrong” when I heard “I have resolved” instead of “I have this hope”  in Tenth Avenue North’s song? I think the two go hand in hand. As a Christian, it is important for us to resolve in the depths of our soul that we have a “dynamic, active, directive, and life sustaining” hope that God Himself promises us we can hold onto for the rest of our earthly days as well as look forward to when we pass from this earth to be in eternity with Him as our Savior.

If you find yourself never having resolved the issue of what you believe, if God exists, if He loves you, and all the myriad of questions you may have regarding spiritual matters, I pray you will reach out to me or find someone you know who is the real deal with a relationship with Christ. Better yet, start praying and ask God to reveal Himself. He promises that anyone who seeks Him with their whole heart WILL find Him. Visit James McDonald’s website for more information on finding and knowing God.

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James 1:27 Christianity

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“Outside input from well-intentioned people is usually based on WHAT to think according to their own social engineering. We need to learn HOW to think, how to exercise our brain, consider other perspectives, ask questions, deep listen, fact check, and learn to trust in truth again” (Cathy O’Brien).
Am I a Sheeple?
 
In my experience, although I am devout to the Christian faith (meaning I believe in one God, one way to the Father, one way to salvation – Jesus Christ, and I believe the Bible is true), I reached a place in my life during my 30s that I needed to know WHY I believed what I did (or didn’t). Was it just because I blindly allowed the adults in my family and churches and schools to tell me WHAT to think and believe, or did I truly believe those things?
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I needed to understand and KNOW it wasn’t just a generational hand-me-down, so I went on a quest to seek the truth by taking a “break” from everything I had known. I put the Bible down, withdrew from church, and stepped away from all the influential voices that could sway me one way or the other. I asked God to speak to me in a very real way without “all that.” I said if He could help people find Him in the remotest parts of the jungle without the Bible and our fancy Western religious institutions, then He could do that for me too.
 
And He did. I needed to clear my mind of all the interpretations and stories and teachings I had grown up with so that I could pick the Bible back up and actually read it with my mind, using my own critical thinking skills and asking the Holy Spirit to teach me along the way. During my “no Bible” hiatus, God was faithful to use music, animals, His creation, and other people to speak new life into me again.
My hiatus allowed me to discover that I did believe the fundamental truths I had been taught, but I also discovered I did not believe in the delivery methods of the message or the dogmatic black/white/no room for gray mentality that permeated my generation as a way to control us and swear our obedient allegiance to the cause.
 
I stepped away from the “church-at-large” (meaning the denominational buildings you see on every corner of our city) and instead went on a journey to discover what it meant to actually BE the church the way the New Testament describes it.
It was also during this “sabbatical” from religion that God brought many people into my life who had a relationship with Him and held to the core theological fundamentals I had come to resolve in my own spirit. But they were not raised in the Deep South with it’s Bible Belt mentality steeped in strong denominational culture. The main difference I experienced with them is what I call true James 1:27 Christianity, which states “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” .
James 1:27 Christianity
  • They fiercely loved people and actually invested in their lives, even at great personal cost.
  • They met people and showed genuine interest in them. The first thing out of their mouth wasn’t, “So, what church do you go to? What do you do for a living?”
  • They knew who they were in Christ and thus lived their lives free of guilt.
  • They did not speak “Christianese.” They simply lived like Christ and spoke very plainly about Him, salvation, and how it was all relevant for our culture today.
  • They did not preach a Gospel rooted in emotionalism, name-it-claim-it, or roses-and-tulips. They simply told the truth – being a Christian is not easy, and it will not solve all your problems.

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James 1:27 isn’t just about orphans and widows. In the context of the chapter, James speaks about steadfastness, seeking godly wisdom, unwavering faith, humbly understanding our own physical mortality, understanding temptation, being doers of the Word, bridling the tongue, and being slow to anger.

Our little community who was seeking something beyond the weekly church programs and social gatherings were given opportunities to interact with and discover God in the mundane tasks of our daily lives. While the lessons were always backed by the Word, there was something about beginning to understand that Jesus came to this earth to walk among us, not be setup on some high pedestal to be worshiped as His end goal. His final command before His ascension wasn’t to “go find ways to worship me,” but rather to “go make disciples” (Matthew 28: 19). I find it interesting that when asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus replied “to love God” (Matthew 22:37), but then further expounded by saying, “and the second is like it, love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:39). Essentially, Jesus’ priority for us above all other priorities is “Love God. Love People. Go Make Disciples.”

The Eye-Opening Return

When I returned to the “church buildings,” I saw everything from a completely different perspective. I visited various churches throughout the city and would sit on the outskirts towards the back as I needed an overall perspective of what I had been a part of for nearly half my life. And what I experienced and saw shocked me. I had been so wrapped up in the “culture” I didn’t even see what outsiders saw.

Don’t get me wrong – I certainly am not saying all of my faithful weekly church-going friends should stop going to church – but what I am saying is maybe some need to be challenged to back up for awhile, do their own soul searching, and return with a fresh perspective too. Below is a list of things I never noticed while I was entrenched as a “weekly attender” (keep in mind that not all churches run according to my experience, and I am in no way insinuating they do – but if you find yourself scratching your own head as you read through this list, well…if the shoe fits….just sayin):
  • Most people I had grown up with from childhood to current day were divorced (including myself) and/or on second, third, and fourth marriages
  • “Three songs and a sermon” was still prevalent with strict adherence to “the time”
  • “Worship” reminded me of my attendance at other music venues throughout the years such as rock concerts, karaoke and/or local musician nights at various nightclubs, coffeehouses, and bars (minus the alcohol, drugs, and profanity). People swayed to the music, eyes closed, hands raised, and all in a very dark sanctuary with nothing but the stage lights pumping with the beat of the drums and the riffs of the electric guitars. The band and lead singers led the crowd through each rise and fall of emotional states.
  • Some of the “ministries,” “Sunday schools,” and/or “small groups” were nothing more than a cliquish social club focused on the next outing, the next study, the next the next the next. Gossip disguised as “prayer requests,” activity disguised as “service,” and Bible studies disguised as “discipleship.”
  • Young women were dressed inappropriately, with no apparent parental leadership to guide or educate them.
  • Most sermons were delivered by very charismatic, motivational personalities forever speaking their Christianese, cliche phrases, which again led the crowd into the various emotional states I referred to in my comments about the worship music.
  • One church I actually got sucked into for about a year before I realized it was teaching false doctrine (at which time I abruptly left). The focus was always on faith and healing and the gifts of the spirit and prophecy and “modern-day prophets” and “a word.” The same frenzied emotional states followed here as well.

Conclusion

In conclusion, are these churches filled with well-intentioned people? Absolutely. Do most even realize that the focus is on the weekly “ritual?” Probably not. In an attempt to be “relevant” and “seeker-friendly” and “accepting of all people,” well-intentioned leaders have fallen “down the rabbit hole” so to speak in a desperate attempt to keep up with the 21st century and all its technology and remarkable paces.

But remember, absolute truth is absolute truth – it never changes regardless of what century we live in or what is going on in the world around us. Sure, it’s ok to repackage truth in a way that a new generation can understand in their own language and culture, but we must be careful we don’t turn the repackaging itself into teaching people WHAT to think (which is according to OUR social engineering). How do we get back to learning how to think? How might we use God’s Word and the various gifts He has given His children to exercise our brains? Are we teaching our children and congregations how to consider other perspectives without compromising truth? Do we encourage questions? Do we listen to others for the purpose of truly hearing them, to understand them, rather than to quickly answer them? Do we check out the facts of a situation before we blindly believe them? Do we even know WHY we believe what we believe, and is it the truth or are their elements of deception woven throughout it?

Jesus told us that if HE was the One setting us free, we would be free indeed (Romans 8:36). Are we trusting in Him to set us free, or are we trusting in our weekly religious activities? These are hard questions, and while the answer at first seems to be easy, when you begin your own journey of really searching your heart, you may find there are some things you have been blindly following most of your life.

 

 

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My BNI Departure

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I’ve been thinking about how my new venture will benefit busy professionals who are looking for measurable success with their networking efforts. It’s no secret that I’ve been a die hard BNI fan for 10 years. There’s a certain camaraderie with BNI folks. We’re like family. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve closed business, we’ve lost business, we’ve celebrated, we’ve mourned.

But it’s also no secret that I formally resigned from BNI in January. Why? Because I’m at a different stage in my career, and my new venture is a better fit for my goals and the goals of my clients. Will I continue to refer people to BNI? Absolutely. Why? Because I know the hearts of the majority of the members. I’m sure I will always be a BNI fan. After all, it is where I learned a lot of my skill set, built meaningful connections, and I will be forever grateful.

I must admit my resignation did not come easy. It was probably the hardest, most heart wrenching decision of my career thus far. Questions plagued me. Who am I without BNI? Will I be able to maintain my credibility without BNI? Will people still seek my advice and direction? And to my delight, the answers became clearer. Who am I? I am a creative, passionate force to be reckoned with. I am a credible business woman because I always have my clients’ best interest at heart, not my pocketbook. And yes, people still look to me for business advice and counsel. The only thing that’s changing is my business address and the name of the group I have chosen to have a vested interest in. However, I will still have my clients best interest at heart meaning if BNI is a better fit for them, I will refer them rather than trying to make money off them. To me, that is the essence of being “sensitive to the feelings and rights of others.”

The attached article (at the end of this post) is my heart when it comes to working with integrity and honor. I pledge to first honor my own MBA Oath, but I also pledge to:

– “Never trample on the rights, dignity and virtue of others.

– Play an honest game that is based on ethical behavior and personal accountability.

– Let my success be based on my own potential and authentic substance.

– Realize that the higher I climb, the more personal responsibility I must assume and the greater my willingness must be to remain open to people’s suggestions, to listen and incorporate others’ ideas and to be ready to take the blame for things that don’t work out rather than shifting it onto others.

– Strive to always be considerate of the people I live and work with, so that when I do make mistakes, they will be understanding.

– Strive to keep my good reputation and dignity intact.

– Be more cooperative than competitive.

– Suggest ways to [find common ground to] collaborate on projects, tasks, activities, chores, events, etc.

– Remember cooperative approaches allow for differences of opinion, changes of mind, compromises and a way to showcase every person’s best talents at the expense of none.”

The article is attached if you’re interested to read more…How to Be Competitive in a Non-Destructive Way.

Happy connecting!

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I Am In Mourning for Lost Auld Lang Syne

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet for auld lang syne (old times sake, or days gone by)….love, love, love this version. As I was listening to this song, it struck me…not only am I in mourning for the shocking personal betrayals I have experienced, I am in mourning for the absence of auld lang syne.

They say 2016 was a turning year in American history (and even our world) and life as we knew it will no longer be. Civil rights battles, terrorism, technology super hacks (among other things)…are our reality now…it is no longer happening “over there” or to “those people.” These things no longer surprise and shock us…it fact, we expect them.

Life has become a game of Russian Roulette. We are not safe in our malls or sports arenas or nightclubs or churches or schools or small towns or quiet neighborhoods. It matters not the venue. People can no longer point a finger to judge a group of people for being “there,” because the “there” might just be where the pointed finger is.

Life has also become a challenge to know and be known. We no longer see each other face to face but through small 3″x5″ screens (sometimes larger if you FaceTime on a laptop). There is a certain fascination with this, however, as entire nations have been brought together in one community via the Internet. Viral challenges seek to bring all of humanity together. Airtime is no longer reserved for the “elite” Hollywood and music icons. A YouTube video of an unknown person from an unknown town can go viral within a matter of minutes and reach millions of viewers and end up on Good morning America or Ellen or The Tonight Show or Oprah or Saturday Night Live. This too reminds me of Russian Roulette in that you never know which antic will make you an instant celebrity overnight.

There is no longer mystery or awe or wonder or shock or surprise. It is slowly being drowned out by all the chaos and the noise and the chatter.

Stop.

Be still…and know that I am God. This verse resonates with me as I mourn for auld lang syne.

Elijah did not find God in the wind, earthquake, or fire…but in the still, small voice. This verse reminds me God wants me to come away to a quiet place to commune with Him.

I will never leave you or forsake you. I am the same yesterday, today, and forever. These verses remind me that no matter how noisy my world gets, no matter who betrays me, no matter how lost I may get in the present state of my life, no matter if I am rejoicing or in mourning, Jesus Christ will never leave me because I am His. And HE IS my Auld Lang Syne, my Ancient of Days. And no matter where I find myself in this life of Russian Roulette, HE knows my destiny and my appointment to meet Him face to face.

This old world can pull the trigger over and over and over again, but I am safe because my security and my peace and my hope and my salvation all lie within Christ, the One who has forgiven all my sins and made me His forever child. HE decides when the final round is fired, and I have nothing to fear because when it is, I will be with Him and will no longer mourn or be in pain or see death.

So during this intermission we call “time,” between “forever past” and “forever future,” I will give and take a cup of kindness yet for auld lang syne.

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A Most Holy Christmas Eve

St Timothy

“Before the service, talk to God; during the service, listen to God; after the service, talk to others.” These words were the first thing I read as I opened the Christmas Eve program at St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church, Signal Mtn. last night. I asked myself, how often do I do that at a church service? What has my focus been?

Today has been very contemplative for me. I read for myself the beliefs, doctrines, and catechism of the Episcopal Church. As I read through each line, I realized that somewhere along the way, I have had preconceived ideas about many “denominational belief systems” in accordance with the teachings of my own Christian background.

Last night as I sat in silence during the service, it struck me that the holiness and awe and wonder of God can often get lost in the modern trappings of today’s church trying so hard to “be relevant.” Don’t misunderstand me – there is a time and place for many different worship styles, but I came to the conclusion last night that perhaps in my search to be relevant and remove God from the proverbial “box,” that perhaps I myself have fallen for some watered-down worship that centers more on me and us, rather than God Himself.

Consider the following verses from the Amplified version. Psalm 47:2, “For the Lord Most High is to be feared [and worshiped with awe-inspired reverence and obedience]; He is a great King over all the earth.” Deuteronomy 7:21, “You shall not dread them, for the Lord your God is in your midst, a great and awesome God.” Psalm 91:1, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will remain secure and rest in the shadow of the Almighty [whose power no enemy can withstand].” II Samuel 22:14, “The Lord thundered from heaven, and the Most High uttered His voice.” Revelation 20:11, “And I saw a great white throne and Him who was seated upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them [for this heaven and earth are passing away].

What struck me as I read these verses was that while God loves us so much, desires a relationship with us, and is not willing that any should perish, He is the Most High God. He commands reverential fear. As we worship, love, and serve Him, we must be careful not to deduce Him to being our pal, buddy, or a dude in the sky. Think about it – if even earth and heaven will eventually flee at His very presence, why do some of us (perhaps unknowingly) presume His human experience among us trumps His holiness, majesty, and power?

What has struck me the most in a few different denominational visits this year is the fact that while some are fighting over the issues of the current state of the world and trying to prove how “right” they are, others remain focused on “loving God, loving people, and making disciples.” The churches that others consider to be “in error” are more concerned with keeping God holy and righteous and One to be honored in all areas of life. They extend the invitation of God’s gift of salvation to all people and have stopped focusing on the self-righteous behavior that many others display these days.

My final takeaway from last night’s service was that I enjoy being in a place where I can be removed from all the pomp and circumstance and distractions of trying to be “relevant.” There are plenty of times and days throughout the week I can be that, but I want more days of silence and solitude and reflection to remember and honor the Most High God and to invite others to do the same.

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Blue Christmas

With the holidays upon us, there are many who suffer the most through these days. They go unnoticed because, well, it may have never been “our” experience. Most of you reading this “probably” grew up in at least a semi-normal situation, complete with family and friends and presents under the Christmas tree. But for some – this was never the case – they are the silent sufferers you interact with every day, but you’d never know it because they are too proud to let anyone in on their pain.

Perhaps they struggle with addiction as a result, or perhaps they are workaholics so they don’t have to face their past. Perhaps they have moved beyond the everyday pain, but they still are pierced every time they hear a Christmas song or see twinkling lights. Do not assume they are the exception because in reality, the “normal childhoods” are the exception. I have learned over the years that we have many many people in our midst who suffer in silence, who are addicted, who have rocky relationships, and who go from job to job simply because there is no one there who really sees them.

There’s really a truth in “Blue Christmas,” and I love the article written last year of an Episcopalian rector who offered a blue Christmas service to reach out to those in his community who struggle the most during the season (see link below).

While I personally love the music and lights and snow and excitement that comes with what I consider to be a beautiful season which celebrates the birth of my Savior, I realize that doesn’t mean my neighbors or friends feel the exact same way. I choose to not expect them to. I choose to allow them to feel the way they feel. I choose to honor their choice in not celebrating. I choose to meet them where they are and just be present (no pun intended).

Allowing someone to be blue without trying to change them and manipulate them into your own joyous plans is perhaps the greatest gift you could give them. Do not lay guilt trips if they choose not to attend your holiday party or church candlelight service – it’s not about you and it’s not a reflection of how they feel about you as a person. When all the holiday buzz has come and gone, reach out to your friend, grab a cup of coffee, and ask them what they’d like to do that brings them joy – then join them in their adventure.

http://www.news-leader.com/story/life/faith/2014/12/19/enjoy-holidays-blue-christmas-service-may/20639381/

 

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