Word for the Year: GRACE

My words-of-the-year have taken on an interesting picture when I look back over them. In 2011 and 2012, my word was HOPE. Romans 15:13 was the corresponding verse: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (NIV). During this time I needed hope like I’ve never needed it before.

In 2013, it was AUTHENTICITY. “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” James 3:17. I determined to be authentic, honest, and sincere in all my interactions with others and in my internal dialogue.

In 2014, my words were FREEDOM and FORGIVE. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery” Galatians 5:1.  And in Luke 23:34, “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”  If Jesus could forgive the very people who were torturing and killing Him, and even making sport of the situation, then how can I not forgive those who have hurt me? The most interesting revelation of the year? When I FORGAVE others, I was set FREE!

This year, my word is GRACE. “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved…For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” Ephesians 2:1-10. We were rescued from our sin and ourselves–not for ourselves, but for Him–so we could LIVE and BE the message of how He saves and that He does so with love beyond our comprehension, with undeserved pardon (mercy) and unmerited favor (grace). We were saved to be vessels of His grace to others…and that is what my word for this year entails. I am called to be and reveal His grace to others who need it.

In 2011/2012 I desperately needed hope…. In 2015, God has worked so much in my life that I am excited about being a vessel of His grace (and hope and kindness and love, etc.)  to others.  This is what being a Christian is all about: finding what we need in God and then showing others how to do the same.  We are the prism through which His light shines….  It’s a beautiful thing, and so many people need His light in their lives!

Do you have a word for the year? If you do, please share it here.  It’s interesting to see how that word continually crops up in your life throughout the year, and how, by the end of the year, it has changed you.

His grace to you, today and always,

mary

Characteristics of a Great Leader: She is Innovative

A great leader is innovative—not rigid. Some rules must be followed, such as those set forth by the head of the organization or governing body, but many rules are meant to be bent, broken, or broadened.  A great leader does not keep doing the same thing over and over again simply because that’s the way it’s always been done. Instead, she takes calculated risks, making sure the research is reliable and counting the cost.  A great leader is willing to try new things based on solid feedback, facts, and due diligence. She assesses processes, procedures, and policies frequently, looking for gaps or cracks in quality and service, and she works to devise better ways to get the job done.   And when something doesn’t work, she admits it, learns from it, and moves on.

Have you known a great leader who modeled innovation well? Thank him or her for the impact this had on your life.

Are you a leader who is struggling? Or do you merely want to improve your leadership skills? Contact me [marycomm(at sign)gmail.com].  I can help.

Make today count!
mary

  Copyright Mary Comm 2014. All rights reserved.

The Kindness and Gentleness of God in the Worst Circumstances

A bruised reed he will not break,

and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.

In faithfulness he will bring forth justice…. Isaiah 42:3

 

This verse is one of my all-time favorites! Many times in my life I have been in a place where I was bruised and broken (metaphorically speaking). I felt used up, worn down, and burned out. In those dark and difficult days, this verse always brought me comfort. It communicated to me that God saw my situation, He saw my hurts and my struggles, my fears and my feelings of hopelessness. But beyond that, it told me that He cared so much for me at those times, especially, that He would be kind to me and gentle with me. As close as I was to breaking at times, I could count on Him not to not allow me to be completely broken. As burned out as I was, I knew He would not allow the remaining embers of my life or spirit to be snuffed out.

 

God sees what you’re going through today. He sees all your hurts and fears and worries and disappointments…and He cares about you in the midst of them! Turn to Him in trust and let Him strengthen you, heal you, guide you, and tend to your heart. And trust the outcomes of your situation to Him. He is faithful, and He loves you so!

Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you;

he will never let the righteous be shaken. Psalm 55:22 (NIV)

Press into Him today; rest in His kindness.  Give Him your cares . . . He cares for you.

mary

 Copyright Mary Comm 2014. All rights reserved.

3 Simple Behaviors That Can Change The World

Our world is in dire need of being changed.   People seem to be losing hope—and getting angrier—like never before in our lifetime. So what can you and I do to make things better? We can start with these three simple actions:

 

  1. Listening Well: You’ve probably heard the old saying, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Well, listening is the simplest form of caring. When you show genuine interest in someone it’s amazing how much that shapes his or her view of the kind of person you are.   Everyone is in such a hurry these days that when you take the time to genuinely ask someone how they are or what’s going on in their life, and then you listen to their response, you stand out in their memory as a truly caring person. Try it!

 

  1. Offering Genuine Appreciation: Two words that people never get tired of hearing are THANK YOU. And those words are even more powerful when they are followed with words describing exactly what you’re thankful for. In our rush these days, we don’t always take the time to utter those two simple words of appreciation. No one likes to feel taken for granted.   Say it often; and always mean it. You will likely make someone’s day (which will make you feel better as well).

 

  1. Showing Respect: Some would say that respect has all but become extinct in our culture. Social media has added to this problem, enabling people to speak their minds with little or no consequences. But here’s the thing: we don’t have to agree with one another on everything, or anything, really. If we could only learn to disagree with respect, how our world would be transformed! Respect is simply regarding another with dignity and honor without condition. Every human being bears the image of God. If for no other reason they deserve a measure of respect.

 

You may not be able to change the entire planet with these simple acts, but like ripples in a pond, if we all adopted them, how much kinder our world would become. You can’t change everyone, but you can do your part. And there’s no better time than the present!

 

Make today count!
mary

 

Challenge: Add these three actions to your day every day for a week and observe if you see a difference in your life or in someone else’s. (Feel free to share your experiences here.)

 

Copyright Mary Comm 2014. All rights reserved.

10 Rules For Living a Successful Life or For Running a Successful Business

  1. Sincerely care about others—your family, friends, strangers, your staff, customers, and peers. Show each one respect. Honor them. As far as it depends on you, get along with everyone.

 

  1. Do the right thing. Period. Be a person of integrity in every detail—even when no one is looking.

 

  1. Live with passion and courage. (Be brave!) Do at least one thing every day that stretches you or pushes you to be bold or to go beyond what is comfortable. Engage in things that make your pulse quicken. Find something to laugh about or cry over or work to change for the better. Make every day count.

 

  1. B R E A T H E . . . . Don’t sweat the small stuff OR the big stuff. No matter what, today is just 24 hours on the calendar. Tomorrow is 24 fresh, new hours. Find humor where you can; take the stress in stride. Do your best today and start over again tomorrow.

 

  1. Give back. Take time out every week—or every day—for those who are less fortunate than yourself. Be grateful for what you have. Be generous with your time, your resources, your smiles, and your kind words.

 

  1. Always take the high road, regardless of the choices other people make. Other people will respond with criticism, contempt, hatred, scorn, sharp words, or condescending tones, etc., but as a follower of Christ, you are called to answer with love, kindness, concern, encouragement, or at the very least, silence! The old adage is true: if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. But given that God has redeemed your life, forgiven your sins, and placed His Spirit within you, shouldn’t you go the extra mile to do or say the right thing? You’ve been blessed; pass it on.

 

  1. Really SEE people.  See beyond their words, their clothing, and their façade. See past the minutia. Look at what lies behind their words, attitudes, and actions. People’s lives are really difficult these days. Offer kindness and compassion when you can, even in the face of less than stellar attitudes. Celebrate with those for whom life is going well; be empathetic toward those for whom life is hard today.

 

  1. Be humble. Treat everyone the same regardless of what they may or may not be able to do for you. Treat them with respect, kindness, and graciousness. What you give out will come back to you.

 

  1. Don’t seek revenge. Recognize and accept that what goes around comes around, naturally. You don’t have to help it along. (Doing so only makes you seem small.)

 

  1. Remember, in the long run, good always wins. Don’t be overcome by unkind, selfish, hurtful, or evil people. There will always be evil in the world. Choose good every time and let the chips fall where they may. Tremendous good can come from even terrible circumstances. Look for the good and you will find it (Romans 8:28).

Live today well!
mary

[Adapted from Romans 12:9-19]

Copyright Mary Comm 2014. All rights reserved.

The Art of Being Still – Exodus 14:14

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Stop whatever you’re doing right now.

Stop thinking about what is troubling you.

Read today’s Scripture:

“The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.”

Have you ever heard this before, that the LORD will fight for you? Take a moment to let the truth of this verse sink in. The God above all other gods; the Creator of the Universe–who merely spoke all things into being–loves you enough that He promises in His Word to fight for you. If that’s not a WOW moment, I don’t know what is!

There’s only one catch: you need to be still. Sometimes we get in the way of what God wants to do on our behalf; the solution is to be still and let Him have His way. It’s not an easy thing to do in our do-it-yourself culture, but sometimes, it’s the best way to get what’s best for us.

Let God fight for you today, and if He tells you to be still and stay out of the way, do it. You may be amazed by how He fights for you!

Make today count!
mary

 

Copyright Mary Comm 2014. All rights reserved.

How to Overcome Destructive Thoughts

Overcoming destructive thoughts—i.e. taking every thought captive—is not as daunting an endeavor as one might think. The ‘every’ here is not literally every thought—it’s only the thoughts that run contrary or in opposition to God’s Truth. For example, if you experience a setback in your business or ministry, the voice inside your head may say something like, “Well, I did it again. I failed. I blew it. I will never get these things right.” Notice the voice sounds like your own and even communicates in first person. This voice uses “I”, not “you.” Using “I” reinforces the immediate acceptance of the thoughts.

However the truth is that you are not a failure. You may have missed the mark this time, but doing so does not diminish who God says you are. And who does God say you are? You are a child of God, dearly loved, chosen for His purposes before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:3-5; 1 Peter 2:9). He loves you with an unfathomable, unconditional love based on the shed blood and redemption of Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:4a).

For the Believer, failure is merely discovering one way not to do something! It’s merely an opportunity to learn and grow.  It’s a step on the pathway, a part of the journey God takes us on as we become more like His Son Jesus.  But the enemy of God (namely satan) does not want you to focus on your identity in Christ. He wants you to focus on the failure, but not just this failure; he wants you to focus on this failure heaped on top of all the failures you’ve ever experienced.  He wants to beat you up, drag you down, discourage you, distract you, and derail you.

When these thoughts come into your head, ask yourself, would God speak to me this way? If the answer is no, single that thought out and then rout it out! Such deceptive, discouraging, disparaging, and demeaning thoughts have no place in the heart or mind of the Child of God.

To sum it up: Be aware of the presence of a negative thought or response. Identify the negative statement and determine whose voice it is. Refute it based on your identity in Christ*, and repent of ever agreeing with the enemy on this issue in the past. Then declare that those thoughts are in full subjection to Jesus your King.   Finally, praise God for His Truth, His Power, and His Provision in giving you freedom from the enemy’s lies.   This is one way to demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and … take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). Rinse and repeat as necessary. 😉

Stand firm upon God’s Truth that says, “The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds” (2 Corinthians 10:4). This simple process is your weapon; wield it with strength and confidence as a Child of God and with the boldness of the Lion of Judah! Unlike weapons of this world, the more you use this one, the sharper its blade becomes! The more you practice this demolition process, the more it will become natural to you.

If you are struggling with thoughts of defeat, failure, or discouragement, I can help.  Email me at christianlifeandleadership(at sign)gmail.com.

Blessings on the journey!
mary

*Who God Says I am:

  • Chosen by God: 1 Thessalonians 1:4-5
  • Dearly loved: Colossians 3:12
  • Forgiven: Psalm 103:12
  • His treasured possession: Deuteronomy 7:6
  • His joy and delight: Isaiah 65:18; 62:4 (“Hephzibah” means, “My delight is in her”)
  • One whose name is engraved on His hands: Isaiah 49:15
  • One over whom He dances wildly and with thanksgiving: Zephaniah 3:17
  • One so precious that He treasures my tears: Psalm 56:8

Copyright Mary Comm 2014. All rights reserved.

A Great MINISTRY Leader . . . .

A few years ago I was the Executive Director of a national Christian ministry. While most of my ministry colleagues welcomed me with open arms, others greeted me with suspicion, assumptions, and unfounded accusations.  Their guard was immediately raised.  They approached me with anything but a warm handshake and a welcoming smile.  Did they feel threatened? Did they simply not like that someone else had come to town with the same or similar agenda? Were they fearful? (If so, what were they fearful of?)  Whether they did or not, I felt that they viewed me as competition.  While I came into the community with hopes of friendship, I was met instead with an ugliness that leads to my next definition of great leadership.

A great ministry leader does not compete with others in Christian organizations. Instead, a great ministry leader acknowledges the efforts of others in the community who are also working to accomplish the same or similar goals—even if they do things differently or come from a different philosophical foundation or background. S/he does not treat them with disdain; s/he does not gossip about them; s/he does not verbally admonish them or attempt to undermine their work. Instead, s/he is inclusive. S/he welcomes them, encourages them, and offers to help them in any way s/he is able. In fact, s/he is even kind and loving toward other agencies that offer opposing viewpoints or services.

In fact, we are even called to love those who operate non-Christian or anti-Christian organizations!  It wasn’t with anger, hatred, scorn or disdain that Jesus drew people to Himself; it was through Love.  We don’t have to love what they’re doing; we don’t have to love their agenda.  But we are called to love them!  We are called to love one another—especially those in the world, those caught in sin. A great ministry leader will consider how s/he and his/her organization can be Christ to other ministries, businesses, groups, and organizations, being instruments of peace, love, and hope instead of drawing battle lines.

If we, in the Body of Christ, cannot be loving toward one another, how in the world is the world going to see Christ in us?

Simply stated, it won’t.

Whatever your ministry position today–whether leader, follower, participant, or observer–strive to love others with the same love you have received from Christ.  We don’t have to do it perfectly, but we are certainly held accountable for how hard we try — in the Spirit and Grace of Jesus Christ.

As Jesus did, go and do likewise.

In His love and grace,

Mary

Copyright Mary Comm 2014. All rights reserved.

Question:  Have you ever reached out (in love) to a non-Christian or anti-Christian organization? What was your experience?

How to Know God’s Will for Your Life

Discovering God’s will can truly be one of the most frustrating aspects of the Christian life. As with all things, there are no easy answers or quick solutions. But what I am offering here are some simple steps to get you started. Please leave feedback, ask questions, or share your own experiences in discovering God’s will for your life. The steps below are really about getting the conversation started, not about being THE definitive solution.

Knowing God’s will for your life involves:

Relationship: Relationship with God is essential to every aspect of the Christian life. My son lives in Colorado; I live in Oklahoma. If I hope to enjoy the benefits of close relationship with him, I must make the effort to keep in touch with him.  Prayer and spending time in God’s Word are the avenues to staying close to God.  Prayer is simply talking with Him.  Reading and studying His Word is how we get to know Him–who He is, what’s important to Him, and how to live our lives for Him in Spirit and in Truth.  First and foremost, cherish your relationship with Him; talk to Him; involve Him in every aspect of your life. Then look and listen for His voice. It often comes in the smallest details of your day—but it does come.

Obedience: When I was a kid, if I disobeyed my mom and dad, they didn’t even have to know about it in order for it to affect our relationship. God does know everything you do, even everything you contemplate. Temptation is not disobedience (nor is it sin), but when we do what we know we aren’t supposed to, it impacts our relationship with Him. Walk in humble, respectful obedience to God and He will shower you with His favor!

Submission: This is $10 word that simply means: Not my will, but Yours, O God. When you are praying for God to reveal His will in your life, be prepared to really hear it—even if it is something you may not want to hear. The first time I sensed that God was calling me to be a public speaker, I wanted to run for the hills! But as I submitted to His will, I found that the thing I feared and dreaded was transformed into something that made me feel alive like nothing else I have ever done! His way is best. Submit to Him in all things and His best will become your blessing.

Repentance: This is another $10 word—and one that seems to have gone the way of the dinosaur in our culture!—but it is one that is imperative to our relationship with God. When we sin (which is an archery term for missing the mark), God sees, He understands, and He even sympathizes with our weaknesses…. However, He is a righteous God—in Him there is no darkness, shifting shadow, or sin—and anything that is tainted by sin cannot be allowed in His presence. God made a way for all our sin to be covered; the sacrifice of Jesus’ life and spilled blood on the cross atoned for (paid the penalty for) all our sin. Even so, we are required to repent (turn from) our sin. It’s as simple as recognizing how we’ve missed the mark, turning from it (choosing to do that thing no more), and displaying sorrow or regret to God for our behavior. Again, it’s much like, when you were a kid, getting caught with your hand in the cookie jar before dinner. You drop the cookie back in the jar. Close the lid. Tell your mom how sorry you are for breaking her rules. Then you receive her love and adoration for choosing the right thing. When we turn from our sin in sorrow and out of love for God, He rewards us with close relationship and in turn, we are better able to discern His will for our lives.

Meditation: Meditation is a word borrowed from some in the New Age, but it does not belong to them! Meditation, as a Christian, is about filling your mind (versus emptying it in New Age meditation) with God’s Word or with His attributes. It is about laser focusing on Who He is. And whenever we do so, two things happen: (1) we recognize how BIG and AWESOME He is, and (2) we realize how safe we are in His hand…. When you’re worried about the future, that’s the very best place to land! As you meditate, LISTEN for His voice…. He is always speaking to us; but most of the time the noise of the world and the busyness of our lives drown out His voice. Listen with your heart, not just your mind, and be willing to hear whatever He speaks. (NOTE: He will NEVER speak something to you that is contrary to His Word, the Holy Bible!)

Praise & Worship: Some people will tell you that God wants you to be happy, and that He is willing to forgo His laws in order to make that happen.   Umm, that could not be further from the truth! The truth is that God’s way is the Best Way, the Only Way to achieve fulfillment, peace, purpose, and the promises He has spoken over you. His way is the only way to experience true and lasting joy (versus temporary, hollow happiness). One of the most significant ways we enter into His presence and into His joy is through praising and worshiping Him—full on; no holds barred; without hesitation or reservation—praise Him; worship Him from a grateful, humble, and obedient heart…. Nothing opens the floodgates of His love into your life like this!

Adjusting Your Expectations: Finally, stop waiting for God to drop a sign down in front of your face with a fishing hook and line through it! God rarely gives us that definitive, booming voice or burning bush experience. When He does, it’s awesome! But we need to be ready to hear the still, soft whisper of His voice in our heart or in the minutest details of our day. He is always with you, always working, and always speaking—through nature, through the voice of others, through our circumstances, and through the Bible, His inspired Word. Listen for Him in the still, small moments and continue to do the next thing in faith and trust that He’s got you, and He’s got this.

God does have plans and purposes for your life, and He wants you to experience those plans and purposes fully (Jeremiah 29:11-14). That means He will lead you, guide you, and order your steps every step of the way. He may not (and probably won’t) show you the entire journey all in one fell swoop, but He also will not leave you nor forsake you as you follow Him. The key to it all is keeping your relationship with Him close, making it a priority in your life every day. As you do so, following Him will become as natural as breathing. His Spirit will guide your thoughts, your heart, and your desires in accordance with His will. It is a daily walk—a faith walk. Have faith in His desire and ability to fulfill His promises to you. There are no shortcuts. But it is a journey that will fill your life with wonder, awe, adventure, and hope as you walk it with Him.

Here’s to your joy and success in following Him!
Mary

Copyright Mary Comm 2014. All rights reserved.

Question:  How have you heard God’s voice or discovered His will for your life?

You Were Made For More . . . .

You were made for more.

You were not made to live in despair or darkness. You were not made to live a defeated life, without hope or purpose.

You were made to know the God who created you and chose you and made every part of your being to be filled with His love and purpose.

You were made to rise above the circumstances of your life, to love and forgive and bless others regardless or even because of your suffering.

You were made for so much more.

 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27

…the joy of the Lord is your strength. Nehemiah 8:10b

 For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.  Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you.  You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.  I will be found by you, declares the Lord…. Jeremiah 29:11-14a.

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

[All Scriptures: English Standard Version]

Copyright Mary Comm 2014. All rights reserved.