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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Perfection paralysis and taking action

by Nelson Roth
When I was in grade school, I stuttered.  There were certain words that got locked in my head and were hard to get out.  Stuttering was a real problem for me and was often humiliating.  When I was eight years old, having a conversation was a fearful, anxiety-filled experience.  I would think and re-think about how to say something so that my words would come out right; and often, I would avoid saying anything at all.

To speak clearly, I had to get over the fear of making mistakes and being made fun of.  I actually improved my speech by making mistakes, quickly recovering, and continuing the conversation; and eventually, I overcame my stuttering.  I came to see that being concerned about what others were thinking kept me from doing what I needed to do.

Because I stuttered, there was a time when I convinced myself that it was best not to speak unless I could correctly pronounce all the syllables of those words.  I became afraid of making a mistake and set a standard for myself of perfectionism.

Carried over into life now, I can challenge myself when it's time for action.  I ask myself, "Am I going to let my fear of a mistake keep me from taking action?"  I've got to be honest and ask, "Am I going to let a desire for everything to be perfect paralyze me?"

My childhood experience of stuttering makes me think of the potentially paralyzing behavior of inaction when it's time to implement an initiative.  Now, when you are not sure about 'when' or 'what' action steps to implement; staying put until you are certain is the best decision.  

However, when you have clarity about where you are going; and, if a good plan is in place to get's time for action!

How about you?  Is there something for you to be taking action on?  Is the fear of making a mistake holding you back?  Is perfection keeping you from achieving your goal?  Is trying to figure out all the details or making sure everything is perfectly in place keeping you from action?

What could you do now?
What do you want to do now?
What will you do now?

Feel free to leave a comment below.
For more information about coaching - Relevant Ministry Coaching

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A “Mary Heart”

by Pam Roth
Can you believe it? We’re just five days away from Christmas Day!  So, you know what that means?  You have limited time to complete all of your shopping, wrapping, decorating, baking and cooking.  That statement either stresses you out or brings a sense of relief. If you’re feeling relief, then I hope that’s a good thing and not just a feeling of, “Whew, this is almost over.”

Hopefully, you’re relieved because you have a plan, and you’re working that plan.  Hopefully, you’re not allowing the world’s view of Christmas to drive your decisions. Hopefully, you’re focused on what Christmas really means, and you’re accomplishing all that needs to be done to enjoy your time with family and friends.  Plus, let’s hope you’re not stressing over what you cannot do this year physically or financially; but that you’re resting in what you are able to do.

The other night, we had guests at our home, and the account of Christ’s birth was read aloud.  As I listened, I began thinking about the scene at the birth of Christ.  What was the weather like the night Jesus was born?  Was it mild and humid, or was it cold and damp?  What did the stable look like?  What were Joseph and Mary thoughts as they watched their newborn son lying in a manger?

And then, my mind went to one of my favorite verses in the Christmas story, Luke 2:19: “But Mary treasured up all of these things and pondered them in her heart.”  I cherish that verse.  Whenever I read it, it reminds me of all the things I love.  It brings back memories of the first time I saw each of our children and grandchildren - that overwhelming feeling that you’re looking at a miracle.    

Christmas truly is a reminder of God’s miracles: the miracle of birth (specifically God’s son) and the miracle of life (eternal life with the Lord).  It’s no wonder Mary felt such an awesome responsibility to be the mother of Jesus.  She had delivered our Savior and was looking into the face of God.

So, what do you treasure this time of year?  Is it spending time with family and friends?  Do you like listening to Christmas music, going to church services or the Messiah?  Is sitting by a fire with a cup of hot chocolate and a good book something you enjoy? Do you treasure the smells of Christmas: fresh evergreens, cookies baking, and a ham or turkey in the oven?

What are you pondering?  Are you like Mary?  You have so much to be rejoicing over; yet there are so many responsibilities to think about.  Are you concerned about your future?  Are you pondering the loss of a loved one or perhaps a broken relationship?

Like Mary, Christmas brings with it a time for us to reflect on all that we have – the things we treasure; it also provides for us a time to ponder the important decisions we need to make.  We may only have five days left until Christmas Day; but we have a lifetime to have a
“Mary heart.”

How to have a “Mary heart”

  • Treasure your relationship with the Lord
  • Treasure your family
  • Treasure time with those you love
  • Ponder the path you are on
  • Ponder your purpose
  • Ponder your future

Feel free to leave a comment below.
For more information about coaching - Relevant Ministry Coaching

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

What is your strategy for taking action?

by Nelson Roth
For the last year or so, I have been running three or four miles on a regular basis to stay healthy and to keep in shape.  Each time I head out, I set my iPod for music to motivate me.  With a Nike+ chip in my shoe, my iPod also works like a coach giving me times and distances with the push of a button.  I haven’t run like I am now since high school and something I’ve really become aware of is the importance of having a strategy.  Webster tells us that the word strategy has a military origin and it “refers to the action designed to achieve a particular goal.”

In my running, for example, I’m realizing that the challenge is as much mental as it is physical.  So, I’ve begun to implement a mental strategy.  I’ve learned that the first half mile is when I need to have a mental strategy the most – telling myself, “I can do this and I will be glad I pushed through forty minutes from now.”

What action steps are on your agenda for today?   Do you have a strategy to insure that you will finish?

In these blog articles, my wife and I have been sharing a tool that we use in our coaching called The Nehemiah Response Model.  It is a biblical transition process for revitalization and moving forward.  The model captures the ten responses of Nehemiah and will help you, your church, or your organization to get from where you are to where you want to go.  Action is the fifth response and actions brings us to the Implementation Stage of the NRM.

If you were following along with the book of Nehemiah, we would be looking at chapter three.  The response processes of the Incubation Stage have already taken place and the plan has come together.  Nehemiah and the workers are finally ready to implement the plan; they take action.  Like the runner in a race, we learn that Nehemiah had a strategy for all of the action and work to be going on for the rebuilding of the wall in Jerusalem.

Nehemiah puts the plan into action using three strategies.

  1. Teamwork.  The people worked together in specific groups.  In chapter three, twenty-eight times, we see the phrase, “next to them/him.”  There are forty-four groups of people mentioned and they are positioned strategically in a total of forty-two places to do the work and carry out the plan.
  2. Prioritizing.  There were a number of gates around the wall that were in need of repair and systematically, each are mentioned in a counter clockwise order beginning and ending at the Sheep Gate.  The Sheep Gate speaks not only of what’s first, but who’s first.  The Sheep Gate provided access for the sheep pasturing in the northern hills outside of Jerusalem to come into the city.  From this gate it was a short distance to the Temple where they were offered as sacrifices.  Interestingly, it was through this same gate that Jesus Christ entered during Passion Week which ended with the Cross and His sacrifice.
  3. Inside-Out.  They began the work where they were.  Reading the chapter reveals that they took action beginning at their own house.  There was a lot to do.  Instead of being overwhelmed they began where they were and proceeded out from there.
Which of these three action strategies would be a helpful for you today?  What challenges stand in the way of such action being possible?  What can you do to overcome the obstacles that are blocking you from moving forward?

I'd be interested in action strategies that you have found helpful. Feel free to leave a comment.

For more information about coaching - Relevant Ministry Coaching

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The tenacious fire ant and teamwork

by Pam Roth
If you live in the South, you are familiar with fire ants.  If you don’t, you may know very little about these small creatures that do a lot of damage to a yard and bring a “world of hurt” to the unsuspecting person who steps on their ant mound.

It’s interesting that this insect is called an ant since the fire ant is actually from the same family as a wasp.  Getting the picture, now?  Here’s an interesting fact about fire ants…one female fire ant can produce 2,000 eggs in one day.  Now, that’s a lot of ants.  So as you can imagine, a fire ant mound could be quite large with a half million ants living in one colony.

Another important thing to know about fire ants…they are ferocious.  Let’s say someone is walking along and without noticing their ant mound ends up standing on it for even a few seconds.  Once the nest is messed with, it stirs up the ants and they begin crawling on the person’s foot and up their leg.  As soon as the person realizes that something is on them and they begin to move or should I say, “jump, run, and scream,” the fire ants send out a signal to “attack.”  And attack they do.  They will sting repeatedly until the person has gotten the last ant off of their body.  Do you feel ants crawling on you?  Eek!

Well, this is exactly what happened to my husband when he was out working in the yard one day.  Little did he know that he was standing on a red fire ant mound until it was too late.  The next thing I know, the back door swings open and he’s calling out, “Honey, do you have any meat tenderizer?”   Crossing the room to the door, I said, “What? Meat tenderizer? Why do you need meat tenderizer?”  And then he told me, “I’ve been stung by red fire ants and I just heard someone say the other day, ‘If you ever get stung by fire ants, use meat tenderizer to put out the sting,’ so do you have any in the pantry?”

If we were all more like fire ants – not vicious of course, what action steps would we need to take to accomplish our plan?  Can you imagine how much teamwork goes into that single, malicious attack from fire ants?

  • What would happen if you, like one of those fire ants, understood the purpose of a goal you and your team were attacking; and you took action to move in the same direction as the rest of your team – at work, church, or in your family?
  • What might be some benefits to working as a team?
  • How much could you and your team accomplish, if everyone stayed with the plan until the mission was finished?

Let me encourage you to take action and be as tenacious as a fire ant
and hang on until you have accomplished your goal.  It’s easy to become weary as you work hard to move forward…but don’t give up.  Get focused, find someone to encourage you along the way, and “hang out” with other people who are positive and moving in the same direction.  Go ahead...get fired up and take ACTION!

Feel free to leave a comment below.
For more information about coaching - Relevant Ministry Coaching

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Be ready for opposition

by Nelson Roth
You’re ready to move forward, to take action and implement the plan; but something rises up to the contrary.  You know that God is leading; but opposition to the plan, like voices questioning you are saying, “What you are about to do is too big or it’s so different it can’t be done.  What are you thinking?”  Then quickly, fear sets in, faith vanishes and you begin to believe the opposing voices.  

Those voices can be our own thoughts or the voices of people as in Nehemiah’s case.  Nehemiah’s faith was impressive when he encountered the opposition of mocking and ridicule at the outset of the rebuilding of the wall around Jerusalem.  As a leader, you too can count on opposition at the start of something new.  God’s leading and blessing does not necessarily mean there will be no opposition to plans for moving forward into the future.

In verse 19 of chapter two, Nehemiah experienced opposition that was openly visible and verbal.  His opposers mocked and ridiculed him; attempting to poke holes in the God given plan.  The negativity could have created fear and crushed the vision for the future to become a reality.

Notice how Nehemiah responded in verse 20.  He did not engage in conversation with his opposers over their mocking and ridicule, instead:
  • He honored God, saying “we will be successful and God will be the reason for success.”
  • Then he stated his role as a servant and declared his intentions to get started.
  • And, he was not alone in his actions of faith. He says, “God will give us success … we His servants will start rebuilding.”

Nehemiah kept his focus in the right place and on the right things when opposition could have brought fear and halted action.  What’s this about fear? - is the title of chapter four in my book Nehemiah Response.  The following is from pages 58-59 telling about a time when my wife and I were in a similar situation of opposing odds stirring inner fears about the plan for the future.

Six days after Katrina, Pam and I found ourselves in line with thousands of other people to receive the basic essentials of life: water, ice, and MREs (meals ready to eat). It was at that moment that all that had happened in the preceding days became reality. This really happened; it’s not a dream. I’m standing in a distribution line with my wife.

That day in particular, while in the distribution line, it hit me with a punch that seemed as hard as Katrina herself, and the waves of fear rippled through my mind. It wasn’t the National Guard standing armed and at their posts—their presence was actually reassuring. It was an eerie feeling, almost like being in the middle of a dream, but it wasn’t a dream. Previously, I had felt a numbness which kept me from accepting the situation, but on this day, it became a reality.

Fear is something that will keep you from taking action. Fear is something that can prevent any further progress. We come to realize that there’s a big task ahead of us, and we can be overwhelmed by it all. The thing that could have kept Nehemiah from moving out from where he was, was expressed as fear. He had never been where he was before, and he was afraid. He was standing at the threshold of a lot of things to tackle, and maybe his emotions were numb to some things, but he felt fear.
What are you afraid of today?  What are some of the fears we can have when we’re ready to launch out on a new venture? How about self-doubt, uncertainty, a lack of confidence, just to name a few fears. You’ll have to discover what causes fear in you. But know this for sure: you’ll have to overcome your fears to move forward.
Don’t let fear have power over you.  Be ready for opposition and move forward into the future.  God knows the other side of where you are now, and he loves you! “…perfect love drives out fear” (1 John 4:18).

Feel free to leave a comment below.
For more information about coaching - Relevant Ministry Coaching

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Afraid? Of what?

by Pam Roth
Back in the 70’s, my husband worked as a youth director.  During that time, a group of students performed, For This Cause, a powerful play about martyred missionaries John and Betty Stamm.  The Stamm’s were missionaries in 1934 in communist China.  During that period of Chinese history, it was not uncommon for bandits to come into towns to kidnap people for a ransom or to vandalize and then murder their victims.  To these bandits, foreigners were seen as wealthy so this young, American missionary couple became one of their prey.  

As I think about fear and faith, my heart resonates with a poem from that play many years ago.  Although the poem, by E.H. Hamilton, was not written about the Stamm’s merciless murder, it was written about another martyred missionary, Jack Vinsen.  As you read the words to this poem, consider what the “bandit” is that may be holding you captive.

Afraid? Of what?
To feel the spirit's glad release?
To pass from pain to perfect peace,
The strife and strain of life to cease?
Afraid? Of that?

Afraid? Of what?
Afraid to see the Savior's face,
To hear His welcome, and to trace,
The glory gleam from wounds of grace,
Afraid? Of that?

Afraid? Of what?
A flash - a crash - a pierced heart;
Brief darkness - Light - O Heaven's art!
A wound of His a counterpart!
Afraid? Of that?

Afraid? Of what?
To enter into Heaven's rest,
And yet to serve the Master blessed?
From service good to service best?
Afraid? Of that?

Afraid? Of what?
To do by death what life could not -
Baptize with blood a stony plot,
Till souls shall blossom from the spot?
Afraid? Of that?

You may not be a missionary overseas like the Stamms; however, you recognize the importance of living a life of faith.  How would you answer the following questions?

  • What requires faith in your life right now?
  • What is keeping you from stepping out and living a life of faith?
  • Who could help you in your discovery process?
Feel free to leave a comment below.
For more information about coaching - Relevant Ministry Coaching

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Getting beyond our fears

by Nelson Roth
My wife, Pam, and I will be celebrating 45 years of marriage this February.  Over that time, there have been several middle of the night events when strange noises have frightened us.  We’ve become a pretty good team over the years and are able to work through these times without losing much sleep.  One incident; however, stands out.  It was when a loud ‘thud’ brought us both up out of a sound sleep.  Imagining the worse, we were so scared we couldn’t move or speak.  Well, long story short, as it turned out the ‘thud’ was harmless icicles falling off the main roof onto the porch roof.  The noise was so startling in the moment; but it turned out so insignificant.  At the time, our minds thought the worse and the fear that came over us was paralyzing.  We learned from this event, a number of years ago, that fear keeps us from action.  

If you are following our articles about the stages of The Nehemiah Response Model™ for transitioning – to get from where you are to a preferred future – we’re currently writing about the end of the Incubation Stage.  It comes just before moving forward into the Implementation Stage.  The important response at this point is faith.  In the Incubation Stage, after a plan has come together for something in your life or in your organization – you are at a critical point because fear can keep you from taking action and implementing your plan.  Here’s where a dose of faith comes in.  Faith is the next important response!

In the story of Nehemiah, we find him moving ahead when fear could have paralyzed him.  In chapter 2, verse 2 Nehemiah said, “I was very much afraid;” however, because of his confidence in God and the plan that had been revealed to him, he made a faith response!

Are you facing challenges to moving forward because of fear?  What is fear doing to you?  If you were not afraid, what would you do?

Our fears can be very real and challenging.  Here are three steps to take to help overcome fear:
  1. Realize that fear is the enemy of your faith.  The two cannot co-exist.  In Luke 8:25, the disciples were afraid because of the storm and Jesus who was in the boat with them said to them, “Where is your faith?”  II Timothy 1:7 reads, “For God hath not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”
  2. Identify the object of your fear, things like the fear of failure or the fear of what others might be thinking.  Fear has an object.  What are you afraid of and why?  In Matthew 14:29, “Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.”  Then the next verse says, “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out.”
  3. Focus on the truth about the situation and know that faith has an object as well.  Place your faith in God who can help you get beyond your fears.  When Jesus taught the disciples to have enough faith to move mountains in Mark 11:22 he says, “Have faith in God.”  I John 4:18 “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear.”
"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalm 27:1)   What have been the effects of fear on your faith?  Like the icicles – it’s interesting that the things we often fear are so insignificant.

  • If you had faith and overcame fear, what would things look like?
  • What are some possible next steps to getting there?
  • Who can come alongside you to help?
  • What do you sense God is wanting you to do?
Feel free to leave a comment below.
For more information about coaching -Relevant Ministry Coaching

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

By faith

by Pam Roth
Hebrews chapter eleven is often referred to as the “faith chapter.”  The chapter starts off with a definition of what faith is – “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  And then, the author provides us with a listing of men and women who followed God “by faith.”  Men and women who stepped out by obedience to follow after the will of God even though they did not know what God might be leading them to do.  In Hebrews 11:13, we read that “all of these people were still living by faith when they died.”  What a powerful testimony!

Have you ever stopped to think about how it must have been for the people mentioned in the Bible?  Do you think it was easier or harder to live by faith then compared to now?  Have you ever heard someone say, “You don’t see God working like you did then…it was just a different time in history.”

It may be a different time in history, but I believe that God is still working in miraculous ways and He is still seeking those who will follow Him on a faith journey.  I am blessed to be living among a modern day illustration of God leading couples that are stepping out by faith and leaving behind people, places, and things that they have come to know and love to serve Him.

Over the past three years, I have seen two couples “by faith” leave thriving church ministries to join us in a faith walk with Relevant Ministry.  Independently, both of these couples – Jeff and Angie Hegstrom and Brad and Teresa Houchin – heard the call of God to serve Him on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi.  God has given all of us an unbelievable opportunity to serve those that are without hope.  Through the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, God swung open the doors to minister to people right where they are; and that’s who God is calling Relevant Ministry to serve.  We are called to come alongside weary pastors and leaders of churches and ministries to help with a spiritual rebuilding and to reach out to those that make up the church in their time of need.

By faith, these couples walked away from the home they had raised their children in, the jobs that had provided for their families, and the relationships they had developed over years.  By faith, they have raised monthly support for their livelihood.  Through the gifts of generous donors, they are able to serve in a ministry with a vision to train future leaders, help build healthy ministries, and to serve the communities along the Gulf Coast.  By faith, we trust God for provision to meet every ministry need.

  • What would you do if God called you today to leave behind all of your cherished possessions and follow Him?  
  • Like the men and women in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, what steps would you need to take right now to prepare you to take a leap of faith?  
  • How would you answer a call to move away from friends, family, and a secure job to serve in an unfamiliar area of the country or world?  
  • God is still calling…are you ready to step out by faith and serve Him in whatever capacity that He may be inviting you to join Him?

Share with us your “faith journey.”

*All three couples with Relevant Ministry are supported monthly by faithful contributors.  If you are one of our faithful contributors, we would like to extend special thanks for believing in the vision and mission of Relevant Ministry.  If you are just becoming acquainted with the ministry, we appreciate your prayers.

Feel free to leave a comment below.

For more information about coaching - Relevant Ministry Coaching