Are You a Good Manager?

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Admit it. Nobody likes a bad manager.

When things are poorly managed, everybody suffers. Things become disorganized. People get confused. Information gets lost. Productivity wanes. All in all, poor management can lead to mass chaos.

Good managers place priority in taking good care of the people or tasks assigned to them. They model service. They are selfless. They set a standard of excellence for others to follow.

In reality, we’re all managers. God has entrusted to our care numerous things of which He expects us to be good stewards. A literal translation of the word steward is manager. Whether it’s money, time, relationships, talents, or even God’s green earth, we’re called to be responsible managers.

So how are you managing the things God has placed in your care?

Keep these things in mind when it comes to managing your God-given responsibilities:

  1. God is in charge. Psalm 24:1 (NIV) reminds us, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.” And in the Book of James we learn, “Every generous act and every perfect gift is from above” (1:17, HCSB). As humans who are often on mission for fame, possessions, and power, we must humble ourselves daily, acknowledging God as our Creator and Sustainer. As we trust in His provision, God will give us all we need.
  2. Honesty is the best policy. Manipulation and deceit are Satan’s tactics when trying to lure us off the path of being good managers. Don’t let Satan win. We’re reminded in 1 Corinthians 4:2 (ESV), “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.” Always be honest and trustworthy.
  3. We need each other. When we each use our God-given gifts, everyone benefits. We learn in 1 Corinthians 12:6-7 (MSG), “Each person is given something to do that shows who God is: Everyone gets in on it, everyone benefits. All kinds of things are handed out by the Spirit, and to all kinds of people! The variety is wonderful.” As we strive to be good managers, we must work together and appreciate the different abilities, gifts, and skills that each person brings to the mix.

If you allow it, the ability to be a good manager is attainable. It won’t always be easy. It won’t always be fun. But in the end, our responsibility to God remains. Choose to be a good manager. As you make stewardship a priority, you’ll glorify God and set a great standard for those around you to go and do the same.

Want to help kids understand how to be good managers? Discover how Meet Penny Nickels can be a simple and effective tool to start the conversation early! Learn more at pennynickelsbooks.com

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Don’t Let Comparison Steal Your Joy

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Comparison is the thief of joy. ~ Theodore Roosevelt

This quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt is one that can resonate well with us all. As humans, we’re always comparing ourselves to each other. We choose someone else’s standard of living or success, and we attempt to hold ourselves accountable to it rather than focus on our uniqueness or distinct individual characteristics given to us by our Creator. We are made in our God’s image, and He gave us a standard in and through Christ, so ultimately His likeness should be our goal. We should strive to be Christlike, not copycat versions of each other.

If you stop and think about the lack of joy you may be experiencing in your life, likely you’ll be able to attribute it to comparison. You might be unhappy about your physical appearance because you’re comparing it to someone else’s standard of size, shape, weight, athleticism, etc. You might be unhappy about your career because you’re comparing yours to the standard of professional success you witness all around you. Or maybe you can’t find joy in your relationships because you’re comparing them to everyone else’s. Many people are quick to blame the media–TV, magazines, Hollywood, Facebook, Instagram, the Internet, and the list could go on. But, in the end, we get to decide our standards. We get to choose joy or misery. It’s easy to point the blame elsewhere, but we can only blame ourselves for not choosing to live the unique calling that our Creator God so beautifully and wonderfully made us to live (see Pslam 139:13).

So, are you unhappy? Do you struggle with finding joy and rejoicing with others? Are you always comparing your life’s successes or failures with someone else’s?

If the answer is yes, maybe it’s time to do a spiritual inventory within your own heart. Here are some suggestions to reflect upon:

1. Talk to God about His unique purpose or calling for you. God wants to guide you. He wants you to seek His direction. Ask God where and how He wants to use you, and then open your eyes to where He’s leading you.

2. Spend some time reading, meditating, and memorizing God’s Word. We seem to forget, but God gives us the answers to life’s greatest questions within Scripture. Sure, the Bible may not always be clear or make sense to the complex human mind, but there’s a great consistency throughout the entire message of the Bible. Don’t just chew on a few tidbits–really dive deep into Scripture and wrestle with it. Just be ready for God to wow you.

3. Redirect your worship to God Himself and away from others or the things of this world. There are distractions at every turn, but stay focused on the Lord. Don’t let the Enemy cleverly and cunningly win your full attention and keep you from being able to live a life of worship to God. Offer God the glory for what He’s doing in your life. Embrace an attitude of gratitude daily.

4. Find ways to serve and encourage others. The greatest joy is often found in investing our energies into serving and encouraging those around us. Use your words to uplift, not criticize. Celebrate others’ victories and successes rather than allowing yourself to be jealous or envious. As you lift up others, you’ll also find encouragement for yourself.

5. Stop comparing yourself to others. Just be the very best version of you. At best, you will only be a poor imitation of someone else, but you can be the greatest you that has ever lived.

Why Changing It Up Is A Must

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Change is hard, especially if you’re a creature of habit. No one can argue that life can be much more comfortable when we keep our environments familiar, stable, and within our control. But sometimes, change is necessary–even if it requires us to get uncomfortable. Changing up our routines, patterns, and ways of living can be for our good.

The past few months in my life have introduced a series of changes that have caused me to reflect on the value of change. In the midst of these recent changes, I’ve learned a few valuable lessons:

1. God is in control. Though we may think we’re in control of decision-making, God always has the final word. It may take some time to see God’s hand working in the midst of a difficult change, but if your perspective and heart are both in the right place, you’ll eventually see that God was walking with you all along the way.

2. There’s always room for improvement. The older we get, the easier it is to get cozy in a familiar setting or environment, especially a career. But when opportunities appear to put a new skill or talent to use in a different way, be open to giving it a shot. You might quickly realize it was the best decision you ever made. You might struggle in the early stages yet eventually discover that perseverance pays off. You might even find it wasn’t the best move, but in the end you can at least say you tried. Ultimately, give yourself some room to grow and make yourself better.

3. Wisdom comes from experience. Want wisdom? Get out there and live! The wisest people are those who experience new things and new places. Travel when you can. Interact with new people. Explore new environments. You’ll not only better appreciate your own upbringing and culture, but you’ll have a better perspective of how others think, feel, and react to life’s circumstances. Ultimately, don’t live your life in a box.

The late great actress Lucille Ball was credited with the quote, “I’d rather regret the things I’ve done than regret the things I haven’t done.” And while there could be arguments for or against this saying, there’s wisdom in these words when it comes to change. Allow yourself to get uncomfortable enough to experience something that could change your life for the better. Change may hurt a little, but with a positive perspective, you’ll become wiser and better as you let go and allow God to lead you on the journey.

Do you have a story or testimony of how changing something up in your life made you better? I’d love to hear it. Comment below.

When Things Don’t Go As Planned

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As busy individuals, we all can appreciate the value of planning. We make plans every day, whether it’s what we’re going to wear, what we’ll eat for lunch, or how we’ll get from point A to point B. In fact, we’re so accustomed to making plans that we often don’t know how to respond or react when things don’t turn out the way we planned.

When Mary was approached by the angel Gabriel and told that she had been chosen to be the mother of Christ, it’s hard to comprehend how she must have felt. Likely, Mary had her own plan for the course of her life, but God had a greater plan. God’s plan wasn’t what we might see as convenient, comfortable, nor comprehensible. His plan wasn’t on human terms nor timing. On the contrary, His plan was perfect.

“And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be according to your word’” (Luke 1:38, ESV).

The Lord had been promised. And now, the Lord was proclaimed to Mary. As shocking as it must have been for Mary, she chose to trust the Lord’s plan. And God worked in and through Mary to fulfill His great promise.

Consider your own life. As Christ has been proclaimed as the one who “offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins” (Hebrews 10:12), have you embraced Him as your Savior? As you’ve witnessed God’s hand working in the midst of your own life, have you—like Mary—given Him your complete trust in His greater plan for your life? Whatever your own plans may be, always trust God’s perfect plan.

Do You Have Trouble Being Still?

 

479345205Waiting. Late Gen X’ers and Millennials have never really had to do much of it. In fact, we cringe at the thought of it. Thanks to fast food retailers, express trains, HOV lanes, and supermarket “10 items or less” checkout stations (just to name a few), we’ve gradually lost any and all tolerance for waiting.

I’ll be the first to confess that I have a low tolerance for waiting. (If you want proof, just ride to work with me one morning and see how well I handle traffic jams.) Recently, as I grumbled to myself about having to sit still for a few extra minutes, I had a revelation. I realized that I get easily frustrated when someone doesn’t answer my call, text, or email promptly. I never want to wait in line at theme parks. I start to steam when that friend (whom I love) says they’ll be there at 6:00 pm but doesn’t show up until 6:10pm. I often don’t even have the patience to wait on the elevator to move two floors (ridiculous, I know).

While processing all of these instances, I realized that I have a serious problem. Is it really such an inconvenience to my schedule to have to be patient for just a few tiny moments of my day? Of course, the answer is no. But there’s a greater lesson to be found here: Waiting is a part of life. No matter how advanced technology may become or how many more choices we’re offered in this life, we’re always going to be required to wait on something or someone.

Whether it be in the work environment, relationships, or leisure, waiting is never comfortable or pleasant. But we could all testify to the fact that waiting has proven profitable at times. We must remember that the big thing God has waiting for us just beyond the horizon is only found through seasons of being still and patiently trusting a greater plan.

Scripture is full of great examples of how waiting proves valuable in the end. Psalm 46:10 provides probably the best advice ever for waiting: “Be still, and know that I am God.” In other words, breathe in, breathe out, and simply trust the one who knows us best and what’s best for us–our Creator.

Consider your own life. Do you have a low tolerance for waiting? Do you feel entitled to have everything “your way, right away”? Do you need to take time to be still, trusting in the Lord’s perfect plan and timing over your own?

3 Positive Ways to Respond to Criticism

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Critics aren’t hard to find. Almost anywhere–at anytime–you’ll find someone willing to give their two cents about how something should’ve been done. Sometimes, criticism can be good. Other times, it can be both unnecessary and damaging to one’s reputation. In the end, it’s what you do with criticism that really matters. So whether you take criticism well or you cringe at the very thought of it, the best thing you can do in response is to be armored up and ready to take the hit.

Here are three positive ways to respond when the critical canons start firing.

1. TURN THE OTHER CHEEK

Not only is it biblical (see Matthew 5:38), but it shows humility (not to be confused with weakness). In a culture where fighting back and getting revenge is elevated, sometimes it’s just appropriate to turn the other cheek. The worst you can do is hurt your pride a little.

2. SPONGE IT

While our human instincts often tell us to let criticism flow in one ear and out the other, a wiser strategy might be to let the criticism soak in. Often when we take some time to process a critic’s comments, motives, and intentions, we’ll learn some valuable lessons about ourselves and the critic’s point of view. Taking some time to sponge criticism might also save you some embarrassment from flying off the handle in defense or saying something hurtful that you didn’t really mean.

3. MEET AND GREET

Criticism can be easily misread, misconstrued, mismanaged behind the barrier of a letter, an email, or phone call. To really understand a critic’s point of view, get together to talk about it in person. You’ll be able to better interpret the person’s feelings and point of concern when you can discuss the criticism face to face. When a critic sees your willingness to discuss the issue at hand, sometimes his or her viewpoint will better align with your own.

Whatever you do, avoid responding impulsively to criticism. Push pause, take it in, and respond with humility, sincerity, and wisdom. As you respond positively to critics, you’ll be set for success to make the best of any situation.

He has a right to criticize, who has a heart to help.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

What lessons have you learned from responding to criticism? Comment below.

7 Ways to Nurture Creativity

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A colleague of mine recently asked me to chime in on a poll question for a magazine article, “What do you do to nurture creativity?” To be honest, in that moment when she posed this question, I was experiencing what I would call a “creative dry season.” But just when I needed it most, her question sparked in me the momentum to pull myself out of the creative slump and recharge my focus. I had allowed a heavy workload, a never-ending to-do list, and everyday life to steal my creative passion without even realizing it. And while I contemplated how I would respond to my colleague’s question, I was challenged to put back into practice some of the methods on my list of answers. Since that day, I’ve been refreshed and inspired to make sure I’m keep my creative juices flowing daily.

How about you? Have you allowed someone or something to steal away your creative identity?

If so, maybe it’s time for a creative reset. Here are 7 ways I nurture creativity daily as a writer, editor, and dreamer.

1. Wading the Web–I make a point daily to read and visit blogs, digital magazines, and websites that relate to writing or my work with Millennials, young adults, and daily spiritual encouragement.
2. Strategic Social Media–I follow specific Twitter or Instagram accounts that offer quotes, inspirational thoughts, or tidbits of encouragement.
3. Magazines Matter–I read and look at print magazines. Sometimes, picking up a print magazine nurtures some hands-on, tangible creative inspiration for my work.
4. Pinterest Play–I dabble on Pinterest. Yes, even as man, I am regularly inspired creatively by pins that relate to my particular tastes, interests, and visual appeal. It’s amazing how a few swipes through my Pinterest feed can refuel my creative passions.
5. Paraphrase Perspective–Probably one of the most interesting places I nurture creativity is in having my morning devotional time in God’s Word from The Message. Granted, I don’t do my deep Bible study from The Message, but I’ve found that soaking in Scripture from the paraphrased perspective can really get me thinking creatively as I reflect on the original context of the Bible and various ways it is received or understood in today’s context.
6. Wrestle with Writing–I try to write something every day. I don’t always make it happen, but when I devote time to writing something…even a sentence or two…toward a blog, a book idea, and so forth, I find my creativity challenged and fulfilled.
7. Music Mantra–I listen to music. There’s something about a melody…a lyric…a story in song that can nurture creative inspiration for me. One of my favorite new tools to expand my musical interests has been Spotify’s “Browse” feature, which offers tops lists, genres & moods, and new releases. I’ve found some great new music by listening to some of Spotify’s pre-crafted stations throughout the day.
What would you add to the list based on your own interests, skills, and passions?
Maybe we can all help inspire each other along the way.