Beth Armstrong

Christian wife, mom, & author. Doing life with my eyes fixed on Jesus. I walk, I stumble, I fall. But God is big. And this is what I write about… Thanks for stopping by!

Archive for the tag “solution”

JESUS, WHERE’S WALDO, & PROBLEM SOLVING

About 15 years ago or so, the Kansas City Star used to put Where’s Waldo in the lineup of comic strips in their Sunday edition. Back in the day, we spent lots of Sundays with my folks who took the paper faithfully. I remember Sunday after Sunday, lying on the family room floor, poring over each comic strip with an occasional grin or chuckle. But one of my favorite parts of the funny papers was Where’s Waldo. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s one of those seek-and-find type things. Waldo is a kinda geeky looking guy with a red and white striped shirt, round glasses, wacky brown hair, and a red and white stocking cap. Where's WaldoEach cartoon features Waldo tucked away in some crazy, action-packed scene. And your job is to find him. I usually couldn’t. I’d spend a good 5-10 minutes searching for the guy, but wasn’t very successful. Then my oldest son, who was about 4 or 5 at the time, would come scrunch down beside me, and within 30 seconds would say, “There he is, momma!” I thought it was coincidence at first. But week after week, I’d search high and low, studying the scene with a careful eye, trying to find Waldo. I’d find someone who closely resembled Waldo, but not Waldo. Then like I said, Caleb would swoop in, and find him in a heartbeat without even trying.

Sometimes I think solutions to our problems are like this. We search high and low, in what feels like some crazy, action-packed scene. We look the scene (aka our problem) up one side and down the other and just can’t seem to find the solution. For us it’s sometimes grueling and clouded by seeing the same reality over and over again. Someone else, however, can take a look at the same reality and see the solution quickly. They can come in with a different perspective—one that’s not emotionally charged—and see the solution.

But here’s the thing…we don’t like those people. Even though they can see clearly what we should do, we don’t listen to their advice. We brush away their wisdom. It’s a pride thing in us. We have trouble admitting the fact that we have weaknesses and need help. There are times when we should seek out wisdom, help, advice, or counsel from others, but instead we just insist on trying harder ourselves.

You remember the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead? When He stood at the entrance of the tomb and hollered for Lazarus to come out, scripture records that “the dead man came out, his hands and feet wrapped with strips of linen, and a cloth around his face” (John 11:44a).

Why did Jesus do that? Why didn’t Jesus bring Lazarus out all clean and fresh to put a further exclamation point on this miracle? Why did Jesus have Lazarus come out of the tomb all “mummified” like that?

The very next thing Jesus said to those close by was, “Take off the grave clothes and let him go (John 11:44b).” That’s why. Jesus asked whoever was near the tomb to help Lazarus take off what bound him. You see, Jesus knew we needed each other. Jesus knew the value of others stepping in to help, to unbind us, to be hands-on in setting us free from our problems.

If you can’t find Waldo, you might ask Caleb to help you.

If you can’t find the solution to your problem, however, you just might consider the Jesus method—of asking those nearby to help unbind you.

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WHAT KIND OF LEADER ARE YOU?

Leadership. It’s nothing new. Since the dawn of creation, leaders have arisen and done their “leadership thing”—whatever “thing” that is. And probably since the inception of leadership, leaders have ruminated on different styles, best approaches, worst methods, and everything in between.

I’m sure in your experience you’ve witnessed several leaders or managers that you were impressed with, and an equal if not greater amount that you were less than impressed with.

As I have witnessed leadership in action over the last 10 years. I’ve been around some really great ones and some sub-par ones for sure. Great leadership is impressive to me. It’s inspiring. It’s energizing. But poor leadership drives me absolutely crazy. What I find interesting is that people who brag about how great their leadership is are quite often the ones who are the poorest leaders. Let me get real for a second…If you have to talk about how great you can lead and convince me of it, usually you are covering up the fact that you can’t.

I’ve thought a lot about leadership lately. In some small way, we’re all leaders. We all have some kind of influence over or potential impact on someone else we come into contact with in our day-to-day living. And in reality, very few of us are the great leaders we think we are.

As I’ve encountered and observed leadership lately in a variety of capacities, my random brain has begun developing mental images. Images of big machines as related to different styles of leadership. See if you can draw any parallels to your own style of leadership and/or that of others. Check it out:

  • The Bulldozer — You see a problem and instantly react. You plow through decisions full speed ahead. Your methods aren’t necessarily well thought out or well planned out. You face a challenge and carve a straight path to a solution, leaving fractures of people and teams in the wake of your path. And in the end, everyone knows you’ve been there because of the broken pieces you’ve left at the edges of your trail.
  • The Steamroller — You don’t like bumps in the road. You see them as challenges to your authority. You see a problem and simply want to smooth it over or flatten it out. Unlike the bulldozer, you can turn and navigate your path a little better. But in order for you to act, you’ve got to get heated up first. And when you feel the heat, the steam comes shortly thereafter. In the end, you may have removed the bumps and smoothed things over, but because of your hot-headedness you may have flattened some relationships in the process.
  • The Dump Truck – You’re big and heavy and like to throw your weight around. You’re loud and boisterous. When you see a problem, you back into it (beeping all the way so people are sure to take notice), and pile your own solutions on top of it. You can come at the issue with different angles, which can sometimes be pretty impressive. And once you dump your solutions, it appears as if the problem is fixed. But all you’ve done is cover it up. In the end, the real issues were never properly addressed, and chances are they’ll resurface over time.
  • The Backhoe – You face a challenge and before you act, you assess the situation. You study what exactly needs to be done and where exactly you need to position yourself in order to produce the best result. Once carefully positioned, you methodically and patiently dig to the root of the problem. When the hole is dug and the problem is solved, you refill the hole taking great care to see that there is no residual damage left behind. In the end and over time, because of your well devised planning and execution, it hardly appears that you’ve been involved.

What Kind of Leader Are You?Do any of these seem familiar to you?

In his book Heroic Leadership, Chris Lowney says, “Leaders thrive by understanding who they are and what they value, by becoming aware of unhealthy blind spots or weaknesses that can derail them, and by cultivating the habit of continuous self-reflection and learning.”

What kind of leader are you? If you’re in leadership and you have the courage, ask someone close to you to evaluate your style with regard to the big machines I’ve described. You just might learn something. And in order to be better leaders, don’t we all need to do a little self-reflection…and learning?

EVERY DAY A PURPOSE: 16 Daily Choices to Make

Every once in a while I take notice at what is written on t-shirts, bumper stickers, billboards, or church signs. I sometimes chuckle. Other times I roll my eyes. I’ve certainly been appalled more than a few times. But mostly I’m intrigued.

Every Day A Purpose

“Every Day A Purpose.”

That’s what was written on the back of the t-shirt. I didn’t notice it at first. I noticed her, but not her shirt. She was in a corner at Starbucks either reading or working on her laptop. She was young, casually dressed, and by herself. But when I glanced over at her again, I saw the big white letters on the back of the blue t-shirt. “Every Day A Purpose.” Truthfully, I wanted to see what was on the front of the shirt, but didn’t know how to accomplish that since she was in the corner and her back was towards me. (The nonchalant method of sleuth-stalking was not gonna work this time.)

So I left that day not knowing what her t-shirt was all about. Not knowing who chose this motto. Not knowing what organization or team or church was promoting this idea. I left that day not knowing anything about “Every Day A Purpose.”

I wonder if my curiosity had been satisfied—if I had found out who was choosing to live this way—would the motto have left me. Would it? Would I have dismissed it as only “their” mantra to follow? Would I have blown it off in some critical fashion because I had seen evidence to the contrary? I’m glad I didn’t find out who it belonged to.

I cannot begin to tell you what kind of impact the back of this stranger’s t-shirt has had on me. “Every Day A Purpose.” It has challenged me to do just that: live each day with some purpose in mind. To set about my day intent on doing something, accomplishing something, making a difference, making an impact, etc. No, not solving world hunger issues, or righting the many injustices in the world, but simply living with intentionality.

To live every day with a purpose in mind:

  • To love someone more today than I did yesterday.
  • To find somebody to bless.
  • To let go of a wrong done to me.
  • To make the phone call or send the email that’s been avoided for way too long.
  • To really listen to what’s in someone else’s heart.
  • To be “media-free” for an entire day…or two (yikes!).
  • To pick up that book and read that first chapter.
  • To part with the unwanted (and long neglected) things in my closet so someone else can get some use out of them.
  • To have that chat with God that I don’t want to speak, but He longs to hear.
  • To say “yes” to joining the committee, organization, or group.
  • To admit my sin or weakness to someone and ask for accountability.
  • To compliment someone I might normally criticize.
  • To gracefully move to the solution side of the problem, rather than arrogantly stay on the problem side of the solution.
  • To say “thank you” and genuinely mean it.
  • To help the random stranger in the store or restaurant or parking lot with something they’re struggling with.
  • To pay attention to the world around me and the people who occupy it.

“Every Day A Purpose.”

What’s your purpose today?

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