Archives For Emotional intelligence

Some years back, I had a particularly difficult parishioner.   Let’s call him Jack. Jack was gruff, opinionated, and sometimes caustic. I wasgrouchy transparent often afraid around him, and defensive. It didn’t take long to realize that he reminded me of another gruff, opinionated and sometimes caustic person in my life—my grandfather. Although small in stature—like this parishioner—my grandfather was a scary figure for me as a child. He was like the hard man in the parable of the talents who reaped where he did not sow. One of his famous sayings was, “You want something to cry about? I’ll give you something to cry about!” That threat was followed by the appearance of a belt. Not exactly comforting for a little kid. Needless to say, Jack never pulled out a belt, or threatened me, but I often felt small and young around him. Surprisingly, I found a way to be grateful for him.

At some point, I realized that I perceived Jack through an emotional filter of fear and defensiveness. Once it occurred to me that I was projecting my grandfather on to him I was able to get some emotional distance from him and put him into proper perspective. I was able to see and feel that I was no longer a child, that he did not intend to hurt me, and the fear that I was feeling was left over from childhood. It didn’t belong to this time and place.

I began to thank God for the difficulties he presented to me. This wasn’t easy. Or natural. But it did help. Click To Tweet

As I began to pray for him, I also cut myself some slack. I found I could approach him with greater confidence and openness. As our relationship shifted onto healthier terrain, I saw that some of his comments to me were helpful, and some of his insights were right on.

Then another insight surfaced.   Jack had been trying to communicate a whole slew of things to me that I missed entirely. I was so caught up in my own stuff that I didn’t realize he was putting out subtle cries for help. His marriage was on rocky ground, his health was deteriorating, and spiritually, he needed me to be available, not closed down.

Giving thanks for Jack allowed me to go from being defensive to present, from shut down to available.

When you come to a relationship with tainted attitudes—toward yourself or others—it’s hard to listen with an open heart or mind.   This won’t empower you as a leader. And it won’t empower your people to trust or follow you.

Who are you not present and available for? Give thanks for the difficult people in your life. Then, identify what’s in the way of being fully present. Take the time to resolve it, so that you can bring your full humanity, and your full spiritual powers, to bear.

In the meantime, please join me January 4 and 11 for my Mastering Conflict Online Workshop.



What words come to mind when you think of conflict? I recently asked a flower_on_the_streetgroup of a dozen church leaders. Answers ranged from anxiety, avoidance, and scared, to trying to keep the peace.

We are facing conflict in many ways in our world right now—national, political, ethnic, denominational, and familial. These conflicts heighten the tension in our churches. That can lead to some pretty bad situations.

Jesus offers some processes for dealing with conflict so that it doesn’t turn destructive. The Gospels say things like turn the other cheek, take another person with you when you have to call someone out, or forgive so that you can be forgiven.

But what if you can’t?

I want to introduce you to a process of self-regulation that will increase your capacity to follow Jesus’ counsel. In the world of emotional intelligence, self-regulation is the ability to master your emotions, responses and behaviors.   In other words, with increased ability to self-regulate, you can turn the other cheek instead of hitting back. You can have a calm conversation instead of stomping off and slamming doors. You can forgive instead of seething.

Self-regulation doesn’t make conflict go away. But it does give you the ability to avoid making things worse by turning your destructive reactions into productive responses. Click To Tweet

First, let’s take a look at what actually happens in a conflict situation: Conflict > Automatic Thought > Destructive Behavior.

An automatic thought is an unconscious assessment of what is happening. Automatic thoughts lead to generally destructive behavior. For instance, let’s say someone challenges me.   And that my automatic thought is, “He’s trying to make me look stupid!” In that case, I’m likely to get defensive and self-righteous. I’m going to want to prove my point instead of really listen to what he’s saying. The more I try to prove my point, the more I shut down any conversation. And the more likely he is to think, “#$%* She doesn’t even listen.” That will set up some destructive responses from him. See where this is going?

Instead of going down that path, here’s an emotional intelligence tool that will help you stay calm. In this acronym, each letter stands for an action to increase your self-regulation.

C: Calm yourself. For most of us this means pausing and praying. Or even simply breathing. Breathing gives us a chance to move out of fight or flight, and back into cognitive processes. In other words, it gives us a chance to access wisdom instead of simply reacting.

A: Assess your Automatic Thought. Tune in to your automatic thought. Bring it from the subconscious to the conscious realm. When you become aware of what you’re thinking, you’re on the road to choosing a new thought.

L: Listen to what was actually said instead of how you automatically interpreted it. Discover a new way of making sense of their comments. Listen both with your heart and your head.

M: Make a new response. Now that you have calmed yourself, assessed and listened, intentionally choose to make a new response. Think a new thought. Respond in a new way.

Conflict is a fact of life. At its best, it helps us clarify our values, articulate our needs, and arrive at new insights. At its worst, it tears us apart.

As stewards of the Gospel dream of the Kingdom of God, we owe it to ourselves to increase the love in the world, and not the anxiety; to increase the Kingdom and not conflict. That means we need to master ourselves. To practice self-regulation.

Ready to learn more about how to stay CALM? Join me for my upcoming Mastering Conflict workshop!

It’s on everyone’s minds. It’s all over the news. Millions of women took to the streets to make their voices heard. Should churches join in the political talk or religion and politicsnot?

I say yes. The Bible is intensely political. Every prophet risks their skin by talking truth to power. Every king weighs obedience to God against other concerns. Every temple, shrine, and altar has political ramifications.   The same with every war, skirmish, and battle. Even the Sermon on the Mount is political. Love your enemies? Do good to those who hate you? Who do you think Jesus is talking about? Religion and politics have always been deeply intertwined. Jesus’ own life is an example of that.

This co-mingling didn’t end with the biblical era. The church, at its best, and its worst, has always been political. We’re at our worst when we imagine Christ is aligned with one political party or another. Or when we cut deals. Or when we trade faith for power. We’re at our best, however, when like MLK, we strive for the soul of the whole nation.

How to talk politics though, without causing further pain and discontent?   Here are some suggestions to get you started.

1. Start with ground rules that insure careful listening and mutual respect.

2. Don’t assume they voted for their candidate for the exact reason you didn’t. In other words, don’t assume the worst in them and the best in yourself.

3. Plan to listen deeply for the personal stories behind the political passion.

4. Assume they’re not 100% wrong and you are not 100% right.

5. Assume God loves you all.

Once these are in place, look for biblical principles that you agree on. Look for how the biblical principles might get played out in a particular policy.  Ask, What are the ethical ramifications of such policies? When we discuss things at this level, we are talking politics in a way that edifies and builds us up, rather than divides and tears us down.

To get beyond knee-jerk reactions means listening deeply. To the Bible, to the Spirit, to one another, to journalists, and to the politicians who present these options.

This is far from easy. It requires us to be well-schooled in both our faith and in the issues at hand. It means digging into the Bible, our personal beliefs, and the guiding principles behind legislation and policy. You gotta to listen to more than sound bites to do that.

It’s worthwhile though. I believe engaging in these kinds of conversations keeps the church honest. It helps us determine if we are living out the love we profess.  It helps us be clear if we are living out our baptismal vows of using our God-given power to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. It helps us get straight on if we are furthering the Kingdom.

In the midst of our discussions, let’s not forget to pray. For ourselves.  For our country.  For one another. And for our leaders.  President Trump needs our prayers, and our love.  Really.  At the same time, he needs our accountability and engagement. His success, and our success as a country—whether you voted for him or not—depend on that. We can only hold him and other leaders accountable, appropriately, if we are spiritually grounded, well-informed, and speaking from love.

Want to get in on the whole discussion?  Click here to check out this recent conversation with Discipleship Ministries’ Scott Hughes and I.



As we start the new year, I want to share with you 7 counter-intuitive resolutions for 2017. Plus 2 bonus resolutions. If you are a growing church, pay close 2017attention. Even if you are not growing, but you want to begin to grow, you can participate in this game as well. Don’t worry about doing all of them. Even taking on 3-4 of them will make a profound difference for you and the life of the church.

  1. LOVE YOURSELF. It’s true that we love our neighbors as ourselves. Want to be a better neighbor? Start by refusing to judge or berate yourself.   Then practice unconditional self-respect, self-love, and self-acceptance. Let that kind of love radiate out to those around you. TIP: Start by smiling at yourself in the mirror.
  1. PRAY THE NEXT PRAYER. It’s easy to get stuck with a basic prayer like, “God be with us.”  Or “God bless us.”  Or “God help us.” The truth is God is always, always, always with us. There is no place we can go where God is not. Likewise, since God is love, God is always blessing us. And God is always there to help us. So trust these basic realities, and begin to pray the next prayer. What do you want to co-create with God? What do you envision for the coming year? Pray that prayer. TIP: Start by thanking God for always being there, always blessing, and always helping.
  1. ENVISION THE FUTURE. Develop a vision that expands assumptions about what is possible. Then plan something beyond your ability to accomplish. Stretching yourself will allow the Spirit of God to work in new ways among you.   With God in the picture, even stale realities can be transformed.  TIP: Envision what the Kingdom might look like in your corner of the world. Ask how you can contribute to making that a reality.
  1. GOSPEL LESSON. Read the Gospels out loud together as a group. At least a chapter at a time. Allow the originality of Jesus’ message to speak to you again. Let the big picture emerge. Listen for what is new, empowering, unexpected. TIP: Sit in silence for 3 minutes and absorb what you’ve heard before anyone speaks.
  1. START FRESH. Clean out a cluttered closet or classroom. Take down old banners or decorations. Paint the bathrooms and the sanctuary. Let go of a ministry or project that no longer bears fruit. Update your website. Delete your old phone message. Create space for new ideas, new people, new projects. TIP: If it’s stained, unused, unclaimed, or out of date, it’s time to let it go!
  1. PRACTICE HEAVEN. Make friends with someone you are afraid of, or someone who angers you. Don’t try to fix or change them. Instead, find the best in them as they are right now. This will be good practice for heaven. TIP: Start by silently sending them love. Even if you don’t feel it.
  1. DISBELIEVE. Let go of stubbornly held beliefs that only serve to keep you stuck. For instance: We can’t grow in this neighborhood. Children aren’t attracted to this church. We don’t have enough money to pay our tithes. I’m not good enough. Things are only going to get worse. Bottom line: Don’t live into negative self-fulfilling prophesies. Instead, create positive ones. Either way, they’ll come true. Might as well choose a future you’ll love! TIP: Start by looking at where you are stuck. Find the disempowering belief at the base of it. Write it down and turn it over to God. Then create anew.

Here are two bonus counter-intuitive resolutions to make 2017 a positive year to remember:

  1. GET THE BACKSTORY. People’s theologies, politics and life choices make a heck of a lot more sense when we know the backstory. Why they think the way they do. Why they feel the way they do. Why they do what they do. Share your stories with each other. Practice listening with your head and your heart. TIP: Lay aside questions and debate. Don’t plan any response. See them as a child of God.
  1. DON’T CATER TO FEAR. Before, during and after the presidential election, people’s fears crystallized. Anger and attack have become the go-to responses. It creates an us v. them mentality. Don’t cater to fear. Instead, let the Gospel of love and courage, faith and self-sacrifice, action and empowerment be your guide. TIP: Ask, if God is for us then who can be against us? Remember, we are all “us.”

Resolutions are a way of setting your intentions. Intentions are powerful corollaries to faith and prayer. They allow us to co-create with God. All good things are waiting for us this year, but we must be open vessels to receive them. Set your intentions for the year, and then take actions consistent with these intentions to watch your words come to life!

Not sure what to do first or how to take action? Email me at and ask me your questions. I’m here to help!


As Christians, we’re called to love everyone. It’s certainly not easy—as family dynamics, church politics and presidential elections make clear—but with soulful kidsintentionality it can be done. Kudos to you if you’re grooving on that wavelength!

Yes, we’re called to love everyone. But don’t worry if you don’t like everyone. Like and love are not the same thing. In fact, liking everyone, especially at church, is usually a bad sign. I’d go so far as to say that if you like everyone at your church, it’s an indication that your church may be in decline.

As I see it, if you like everyone at church, you probably have one of four situations going on.

A.  You’re not paying attention.

B.  You’ve recently been unexpectedly snatched from the jaws of death. All of life is joyous and nobody, I mean nobody, could rain on your parade.

C.  You’re not telling the truth. You are caring and kind to people, but deep down inside certain people bother you. A lot.

D.  Everyone at your church is just like you. With few exceptions, fellow church goers look, sound, think, believe, process, dress and talk in a way that is pleasing to you. What’s not to like?

If you chose A, wake up! Life is passing you by. The good and the bad. Widen your circle.

If you chose B, enjoy it while it lasts. This too shall pass, my friend.

If you chose C, breathe a sigh of relief. Being bothered by others is a good sign. It means that there is a certain amount of diversity at your church. Perhaps it’s generational, or theological or political or cultural. Or maybe it’s simply that they lead with the head and you lead with the heart. Or they like to jump into things and talk incessantly while you like to take your time and keep your own counsel. Diversity can be annoying in the short-term, but it’s vital for long-term sustainability. You need those differences, even if you don’t like them. Healthy DNA, robust ecosystems, and strong economies all depend upon diversity.

If you chose D, sit down; we need to talk. While this might seem incredibly positive, it’s not. Liking everyone brings a curious trouble. Too much harmony isn’t actually desirable. It means there is not enough diversity in your church. More specifically, it probably means there’s a lack of daring, risk-taking, adventurous, visionary, overly-emotional or off-the-wall people at your church.   Instead–the qualities of stability, dependability, and predictability probably rule the day. The truth is, you need all of the above in your church.  And you need to develop greater emotional intelligence to deal with them.

While liking-everyone-harmony keeps the annoyance factor at bay, it also means that you’re missing out on new ways of thinking, sensing, and understanding. In this day and age, when the world around is constantly changing, we need the ability to be nimble. Otherwise, we’ll never try new things. The healthiest churches have a variety of personalities and preferences. When guided by a strong Kingdom-oriented vision with lots of buy-in, different personalities and preferences working together can unleash tremendous momentum for good.

Jesus’ own circle of followers included people who didn’t like each other: the quiet and the headstrong; those who stepped out of the boat and those whose faith was smaller than a mustard seed; fishermen and scholars, tax collectors and the heavily-taxed, siblings in competition, Pharisees and Zealots. Because of the varied gifts they brought to the table, the movement survived. I imagine they grew to love each other in time, but I doubt they all liked each other.

Can you imagine if all Jesus’ disciples were clones of Peter? Or Martha? Or Mary? Or Bartholomew? Jesus knew the value of diversity, and practiced it. What about you?

Okay, let’s say you realize you need more diversity. You’re open to it. You get that your church can’t survive without it. You’re even ready to have people in church you don’t necessarily like. But you can’t seem to get there. You have invited people and they don’t come. You have extended a welcome but no one has taken you up on it. No worries.

Here are some ways to begin to connect with people you may not like. And to get comfortable with people who are different from you. It all starts with meeting people you might normally avoid.  Here’s how:

1.  When you’re out and about, observe who you avoid, judge, or steer clear of. These are the very people to go towards. Not because they need you necessarily, but because you need them. If you think “Tsk, tsk!” when seeing them, open your mouth and say hello.

2.  Notice someone who has an outrageous hair style, an unexpected mode of transportation, an unusual job, an unfamiliar accent, a different skin color, or a surprising fashion sense. Make eye contact. Smile. Say hello. Strike up a conversation.

3.  Visit a store you don’t normally shop in. Or dine in a restaurant you don’t normally eat in.  While you’re there, speak to someone you wouldn’t normally talk to. Even if it’s just about the weather.

4.  When you’re ready to go deeper, ask people what they love about their lives.  Ask them where they find beauty in the world.  Ask them if they would pray for you.

At first, you might not like any of these people. As you get to know them more, they might really rub you the wrong way. Perfect. It means they have something you need—a new way of looking at the world, a different style of communication, a distinctive way of processing information, or a unique way of understanding God.

Now that you’ve gone out of your way to meet new and different people, look for those same kind of stretch-your-boundaries-folks at church.    See if you can identify people there that you wouldn’t normally talk to. People you suspect would upset you. Go out of your way to meet them and get to know them.

Finally, pay attention to your differences and see what you can learn from them.  Discover the ways your personalities and preferences complement each other, instead of duplicate each other.  You might just learn to love them. Even if you don’t like them. As you find ways to do Kingdom work together, you’ll discover the curious strength of partnering with people you may not even like.