Book Review: The Most Excellent Way to Lead by Perry Noble

Noble

In my bookcase, the last thing I probably need is another leadership book. However, when I was choosing books that I wanted to review, I couldn’t resist choosing this leadership book by Perry Noble. The book centers around the idea of leadership being based on 1 Corinthians 13. Noble makes the case that every attribute of love talked about in 1 Corinthians 13 can be applied to leadership. Some of the attributes of love talked about in 1 Corinthians 13 include patience, not delighting in evil, kindness, rejoicing in the truth, etc. At the end of each chapter, Noble gives brief summary points and questions to ask yourself and the team you serve with.

I still consider myself an emerging leader. Therefore, any time I have the opportunity to further evaluate my leadership, I try to take advantage of that moment. This book gave me the opportunity to see where I am as a leader in comparison to 1 Corinthians 13. Through reading this book, I’ve had a chance to take a hard look at my leadership to see what I’m doing well in and what I need to improve on. One thing that I love about looking at leadership from the 1 Corinthians 13 angle is that it’s not so much about being nice. Being nice does not equal operating in love. One attribute talked about is rejoicing in the truth. The truth is not always going to be “nice.” Yet, if I love the people I serve, I will be honest with them and tell them the truth. If you’re a leader (positional or simply by influence), I want to encourage you to pick up this book and use it as a way to evaluate where you are as a leader. I promise that you’ll grow tremendously in your leadership as you study it from the perspective of 1 Corinthians 13. Without love, our leadership is worthless. Let’s tap into worthy leadership!

Disclaimer: Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complementary copy of this book.

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Book Review: Honestly by Daniel Fusco

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Today I want to review the book “Honestly: Getting Real About Jesus And Our Messy Lives” by Daniel Fusco. This book centers around the overall thesis that our lives are messy, yet Jesus wants to be involved in the midst of our mess. The book focuses on selected verses in the book of Ephesians to emphasize the points made. “Honestly” is broke down into 4 sections: acknowledgment, resolution, pursuance, and psalm. Acknowledgement focuses on being upfront and honest about the mess in our lives. Resolution brings Jesus to the forefront of our mess with Him as the solution. In the resolution section, we are also reminded of how amazing it is that Jesus entered this messy world and continues to walk with us today through the Holy Spirit. Pursuance focuses on walking through the mess of our lives with the presence of Jesus Christ being with us. The section on pursuance also challenges us to deepen our personal relationship with Jesus Christ through prayer. Lastly, the section on psalm celebrates God’s love for us in spite of our messy lives.

As someone going through a rather stormy season of my life, this book encouraged me to be honest about what’s going on. We live in a society where the norm is to fake it until we make it. It is encouraging to know that we do not have to fake the storm we’re in. I enjoyed the fact that the author used the scriptures from Ephesians to verify and support his points. I personally would have loved for him to go from chapter to chapter, but nevertheless, he used scripture as the means of encouraging us. I would recommend this book to anyone going through a messy time in their lives (whether it is beyond their control or not). I would also encourage everyone to read this book in a small group context or with other people. One of the best ways to get through the storms of our lives is through the power of community. Go out and get this book. Invite Jesus into the midst of your mess and watch God do a work in and through you!

Disclaimer: Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complementary copy of this book.

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The Pain Of Growth

I promise y’all that I will get back to the “what I’ve learned” series in just a moment. In the meantime, I want to share my thoughts on the pain of growth. As we all know, most of the lessons we learn in life do not happen in happy and joyful moments. These lessons we learn mostly happen in the painful moments of life. When we go to the doctor or the dentist, the moments we experience may be painful, but they are helping us in the long term be better. Some results we’ll see instantly, while others may take a while. Isn’t this life?

However, there is one huge pain of growth that I’ve struggled with that I want to share with you all. That pain is not being able to go back in the past to correct and redo the events that took place. Life is all about making mistakes and learning from them. The way life is set up, we cannot rewind the tape and live in the moment again. Whatever mistake we made is the mistake we made. There is no way for us to go back in time and have a do-over. Because of that reality, we must have the mental focus and toughness to learn from whatever mistake that was made and continue to press forward. If I’m honest though, I hate that reality because I wonder how different things would be if I could go back to that moment and do it different.

I want to encourage all of us to have a mindset to move forward in life. We must accept the reality that the past is the past, now is now and tomorrow is tomorrow. While we cannot redo the events of yesterday, we can be determined to let today and tomorrow be different than yesterday. Please don’t rob yourself of the joy that life brings because of a mistake that you made yesterday. Yes the mistake was painful, but what it also produced in you is an awareness of how to be a better person as a result of what took place. Use the mistake that was made as something that can encourage others. Your mistakes don’t disqualify you for the greatness. The only thing that disqualifies you is living in the past. Keep your head up, learn from your mistakes and tackle today knowing that all things will work together as you continue loving Jesus. Walk in your purpose and calling. And if anyone wants to hold you hostage because of your past mistakes, give them a pink slip and tell them “you are the weakest link…..goodbye!”

moving forward

The Item At My House

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At my house, I have this item that I use before I leave for the day. This item has me smiling at times when I’d rather frown. I also use this item answering “fine” to the question of how I’m doing when I’d rather tell the truth and say “not so well today.” Wouldn’t it be easier if I just told the truth and showed it in my facial expressions? This item says “no.” I have my days when I want to forget the item and just go on with my day. The work that it takes to have it causes me to just want to go one day without it to see how the day goes. Yet, when I think about the fact that most people have this item as well, it makes it easier for me to have it. You see, most of us do things based on what others are doing. I don’t want to be different or stand out, so I just choose to have this item like everyone else. I’d rather fit in and be seen as “cool” than to stand out and be different.

But at the end of the day, I’m paying a price for having this item. I’m losing the chance at being vulnerable. I’m losing the chance at having a support system of people who truly care for me. Is it worth losing these things to keep the item? I’m not sure, but I’m tired of having it and ready to leave it at home. I would hope that everyone reading this fable will be as determined as I am to leave this item at home .Having it with me every day is costing me too much. I’m missing opportunities to be a blessing and encouragement to someone else. I’m also missing opportunities to realize that most of us are struggling daily with internal and external battles. Therefore, if I share my true story and leave the mask at home, I have a golden opportunity to be blessed and be a blessing to someone else.

Have you figured out what this item is? If so, let’s vow to leave it at home before we leave for the day. I’m in the struggle with you. Stay encouraged!

What I’ve Learned As A Husband

My wife and I

Tomorrow, April 11, 2016, represents the 2nd anniversary of my marriage to the beautiful Lashunna Yancey. My life has drastically changed for the better since saying “I do” in the sanctuary of the Elon First Baptist Church at around 12:10pm April 11, 2014. As with any marriage, we’ve been through the typical “first 3-5 years” drama that most couples go through. However, by God’s grace, our marriage is getting stronger and stronger each day. God has been so faithful to us. Today I want to share four lessons I’ve learned since becoming a husband. I pray these lessons bless and encourage you.

  1. Being a husband is a joy and a responsibility. I’ve said many many times that marriage has required me to mature in various ways. One way is in the avenue of responsibility. To be responsible for something means to put it in your care. God has blessed me with the responsibility to be a husband and lead my family. This responsibility is nothing to be played with. Every decision I make doesn’t just affect me, but also affects my wife. With our society looking for leadership especially male leadership, my role as a husband is critical in terms of the growth of my family. While being a husband is a responsibility, it is also one of the joys of my life. To be able to come home each and every day to a woman that loves me so much makes life a little less stressful. The joy I feel daily in spite of the struggles resonates in the gratitude I have that God has entrusted me with such a huge responsibility. Brothers, please do not go into marriage thinking lightly of your role. Your role is much bigger than being the head of your home; being a husband means showing the sacrificial love that Christ showed the church, which is the next lesson I want to talk about.
  2. My love for my wife should be the love Christ showed the church. Again, the love that Christ showed the church is sacrificial. In other words, Christ was willing to give up his rights so that His church could have life and life more abundantly. As a husband, I must have a sacrificial attitude that is willing to do whatever it takes to make sure that my wife and family are loved and cherished to the utmost. There will be times in the journey where you’ll have to do something that you really don’t want to do, but you know that it is best for the relationship. One of the vows we make is to love our wives through sickness and health. What happens when your wife is sick, needs to go to the emergency room but you want to watch that football game? You ideally want to watch the game, but the well-being of your wife supersedes any recreational activity going on. When I said “I do” to my wife 2 years ago, I took on a lifestyle that will give whatever it takes to make sure my wife is loved at the level that Christ loved the church. If you’re a man considering marriage, please evaluate if you have the sacrificial mindset to go into the journey of marriage.
  3. I am creating a legacy to be passed on to the next generation. This is a point that I think a lot of people miss, but we must remember that EVERYONE is watching us. There are children who are pondering marriage watching me to see how I treat my wife and family. What they see from me can determine if they want to get married in the future or not. One of the reasons why some people are hesitant to get married is because of what they saw in their parents’ marriage. Everything that I do in my marriage, whether good or bad, sends a message to everyone watching me. This reality makes me evaluate my every move especially in my behavior towards my wife and family. Future generations are hanging in the balance based on how we do in our marriages today.
  4. It’s about progress over perfectionism. I want to be very honest with you all: I still struggle daily with the idea of feeling “worthy” to be a husband. I’m not sure if this is part of something deeper or an acknowledgment of the huge weight being a husband carries. Every day I’m learning that with anything it’s not about everything going perfect, but about making daily progress. Some of the mistakes I made in the first year of marriage I’m not making as often now. This will continually be the process as the years go on. Therefore, when I make mistakes (not if I make mistakes), it is counterproductive for me to be hard on myself. The best thing for me to do is be honest about my mistake and make adjustments not to make the same mistake again. Like anything in life, you’re not going to master marriage overnight. There are couples who’ve been married for 20+ years and will tell you that they’re still learning the ins and outs of marriage. If you can go from 20 arguments a month to 10, that’s progress! For every bit of progress made, celebrate it!

 

I share these lessons not from a position of being an expert, but as one continuing to learn every day the keys to maintaining a God-honoring marriage. I am grateful each day for the life of my wife Lashunna Yancey. She has been and continues to be a huge blessing to me and our family. My life has improved tremendously. I’ve made a ton of mistakes and bad decisions since we’ve been married, but through it all she continues to love me and push me to be the best person I can be. I pray that year 3 will be even better than the first two years have been. Lashunna, I love you and I thank God for you each day that I’m alive!

The Power of Encouragement and Validation

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I know we’re in a blog series on what I’ve learned in different areas of life, but reading an article by Michael Hyatt on the gift of validation (available in sources) really spoke to my heart. In the article, Hyatt has a video that shows the power of validation. It’s about 16 minutes long but worth the time. In the video, everyone comes to the guy for “validation” and he mentions something great about each person that comes to him. As a result, the person leaves happy and feeling better about themselves. Later on he encounters someone who he tries to give validation to but doesn’t smile. The fact that the person doesn’t smile discourages him and he stops smiling. Later on he finds out that the reason the person wouldn’t smile is because of something that took place in childhood. The story ends with her smiling and thanking the man for saying what he said about her. What this video shows is the power of speaking affirming and encouraging words to each. Today I want to highlight some principles as it relates to the power of encouragement and validation.

  1. Everyone seeks validation. Two of the needs talked about in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is esteem and love/belong. In other words, people want to feel good about themselves and belong. One way that both of these needs are met are through the vehicle of encouragement and validation. Why do you think there are people who are willing to stay in an unhealthy situation with an unhealthy person? Part of the reason is because they feel validated in someway by the person, even though that person is hurting them. What would happen if we were encouraged and validated by the right person? We would then have an environment of wholeness and health. All of us in this world want to be accepted and approved by others. There is nothing wrong with that as long as it is healthy and doesn’t cause us to harm ourselves. Again, the key is getting that encouragement and validation from the right group of people.
  2. The right words spoken can be the difference between a person giving up or pressing forward. When you’re having a tough time in life, the last thing you need is a person being unnecessarily critical towards you. To be clear, I’m not saying that constructive advice (or criticism as most call it) isn’t necessary. The truth still has to be spoken. However, when a person is having a difficult time in their life, the best thing to do is help them move forward. Proverbs 18:21 makes it clear that life and death is in the power of the tongue. Many look at that verse in the context of prosperity, but think about what happens when you say “you’re a nobody and won’t be anything in life” vs “you can make it out of this.” A person who’s had a rough time in life will be more encouraged by the 2nd statement than the first. I just firmly believe that when people are going through a rough patch in their life (which we all will), the right words have to be spoken.
  3. While we must be honest with each other, too many times we focus on what’s wrong with us vs what’s right with us. In other words, instead of always focusing on our weaknesses, we should focus equally on our strengths. I like what Dan Rockwell of Leadership Freak just tweeted. He said “There’s an inner accuser inside everyone’s head that tells them they’re a loser. Show some kindness. Tell them what they’re doing right.” I love this because he is so on point with this. To be transparent, in this season of life I’m in, I’ve experienced some failure. As a result, sometimes I’m focused more on what I’m doing wrong than what I’m doing right. I’m pretty sure athletes in sports have to deal with this mentally as well. When a person is struggling especially in a season of failure and difficulty, talk to them about their strengths. Let them be built up on their strengths and help them move forward. We live in a world that wants to remind us daily what our flaws are. And again I stress that there’s nothing wrong with being honest about our weaknesses, but psychologically it would benefit us to work on our weaknesses yet focus on what we’re good at. I don’t care what you’ve done in your past and where you’ve slipped up: you have some amazing strengths. Focus on that and keep pressing forward.
  4. A lot of people grew up in homes where validation wasn’t given. Lastly, I want to talk about one of the roots to why some people seek validation and encouragement in the wrong place. Unfortunately, there are many people who were raised in homes where the adults didn’t show love and affection. In those households, there was so much focus on achievement and getting things done that there wasn’t time to show the necessary love and affection needed. Some kids grew up in homes where the parents had their own struggles and instead of maintaining focus on loving the child, they were caught up in their own issues. When kids are not encouraged and validated at home, it sets them up to look for love and acceptance in situations that could hurt them long-term. I have read and heard over the years that this is a primary reason why some girls get pregnant early in life. Some believe that having a child will give them a sense of validation. While motherhood is one of the greatest joys of life, it also comes with huge responsibilities. To be clear, I’m not putting the whole issue on the ladies because men should have enough respect for themselves and the lady to either wait or if they go forth be committed to helping take care of the child. I firmly believe those of us who work with youth and are parents have to do a good job speaking words of encouragement and validation to our children. Stop telling the child what they can’t do or what they’re not good at. Find the strengths of the child and develop them. Help them cultivate the talents they have. So what your child doesn’t do well in math? You don’t keep reminding them that they struggle with it, but instead find their strengths and work with them on the math. My heart seriously goes out to children who have not been raised in affirming homes. In reality, the road for them may be more difficult, but I believe if they surround themselves with positive adults, they will be able to beat the odds.

The bottom line of this post is that we all need encouragement and validation. I challenge all of us to speak words of life and encouragement to everyone around us. Our world is a place of negativity already, so we should do whatever we can to speak positive words to one another. Life is tough and all of us are trying to survive and take care of our responsibilities. One positive word can be the spark someone needs to continue forward with what God has placed inside of them. But in reality, many of us have trouble encouraging others because we’re in need of encouragement ourselves. If you’re that person I’m talking to, I encourage you to take a moment and evaluate your circle. Your circle should have people who are honest with you yet be able to speak words of life to you. As they say, hurt people hurt people BUT I say encouraged people can encourage people!

Sources

http://www.researchhistory.org/2012/06/16/maslows-hierarchy-of-needs/

http://michaelhyatt.com/the-gift-of-validation.html

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cbk980jV7Ao (video on validation that I mentioned)