The Pride of Life

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever.

1 John 2:15-17

Crickets. That’s what everyone heard after the latest idea from the founder. While the board had been—well—on board with previous ideas, this one seemed to fall a bit outside the nonprofit’s mission. And yet, there was that one time previously when it seemed odd and then it worked. So the unanimous votes of yeas became the chorus of approval to move forward.

The idea…it worked. The nonprofit grew, became more influential in the community, and helped thousands. And the founder not only proved faith to move mountains but became a desired speaker and decisionmaker for significant movements in the community. You could even say the founder’s name was synonymous with the nonprofit. So, what’s the problem?

“The pride of life,” John writes, is something to avoid. Pride can be sneaky. It seems like such a great thing to have pride in one’s life. Especially for a founder, to produce their own name recognition and tie all they do back to the nonprofit. That can be a good thing. The issue, as we see in 1 John, is when the pride of life becomes the focal point rather than the will of God and the pride of life is illuminating through the nonprofit.

It’s a phenomenon called Founder’s Syndrome when the leader seems to be taking the organization to the next level but gets wrapped up in the love of the organization. They care passionately, and don’t see that there’s a cliff in front of them because they are experiencing such great impact. They are unwilling to let others lead or have an opinion. And soon external audiences start to see the organization as the leader and vice versa.

What becomes dangerous about this situation is when it’s time for the founder to move on, and everyone knows the organization will die soon thereafter. Founder’s syndrome may creep in slowly, when someone isn’t confident to raise a hand, when the founder has to the only one to communicate internally or externally, when there’s no decision made without checking in with the founder. It’s their vision, after all. And…we rationalize.

In 1 John, we find that the love of the world and all it brings can be the downfall. Keeping God’s will in the center—the original vision of the organization—helps to keep the organization healthy, and its founder(s) out of loving the attention, the organization, or themselves more than the organization. When a founder who can’t take a vacation because projects will crumble, the protection of a reputation can break up an organization which wanted to do the will of God in the first place.

If you’re organization does not have founder’s syndrome, that’s great! I know of several great organizations that continued after the founder(s) retired, even within the last 10 years. Most of the time, it’s because they had a succession plan in place that allowed for the growth of future leaders and a laser-focus on the mission. Continue to avoid the pride of life, stay the course, and keep the focus on the will of God.

What organizations do you know that successfully navigated around founder’s syndrome? Share it on Facebook @HopelesslyHopefulBooks. https://www.facebook.com/HopelesslyHopefulBooks

Pre-order Hopelessly Hopeful During Separation, a 28-day devotional for people who are separated from their spouse because of marital struggles, before September 28, 2021. A pre-order helps make the book more visible on September 28. Thanks!!

Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash

© 2021, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.molliebond.org.

P.S. Save the date on September 28, 2021 at 7 pm PT for a zoom book launch party! More details to come in the upcoming weeks.

Wake Up

Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you.

Revelation 3:2-3

“Yes, we’ll do that, someday.” Someday can be such a terrible word. It can sometimes reveal a need for things to be perfect before being launched. “Someday” can also be a tagging out; getting out of the game. It can show a lack of energy and motivation for the mission.

It happens to the best of us. That lag during the lull when maintaining isn’t fun. The honeymoon phase of a new project, program, or nonprofit has worn off. It comes time to face the challenges that were unforeseen, to work out the kinks, and keep pushing forward even though the finish line isn’t quite in view yet.

While I most recently wrote about the imperative for nonprofit leaders to get good sleep each night (Prioritizing Sleep), this verse talks about when people get sleepy about achieving a mission. When you notice that your team needs to wake up, take heed of this verse:

  • Strengthen what remains. Review what has worked well thus far, and put your shoulder behind that, pushing that forward and leaving the weaknesses behind.
  • Find your unfinished deeds. What roadblock made you cast aside a task or project? Is now the time to pick that back up so that you can reach your mission?
  • Remember. It’s keeping the focus on why you started this thing that will help you complete it. Stay committed
  • Repent. Perhaps it hasn’t gone quite as you expected and predicted. Is there a time to just say, “I’m sorry I can’t get us there?” Perhaps that is the moment when a new partner will bring their fresh perspective to the challenge.
  • Wake up. While good, this thing won’t last. Don’t get caught being content in the mire.

Whatever God has put before you, maintain a level of curiosity, interest, energy, and commitment to the calling. Go forth with gusto. And, perhaps, someday, you’ll sleep better too, knowing you’ve done your best.

Which option do you take when you are feeling sleepy about reaching your mission? Share it on Facebook @HopelesslyHopefulBooks. https://www.facebook.com/HopelesslyHopefulBooks

Pre-order Hopelessly Hopeful During Separation, a 28-day devotional for people who are separated from their spouse because of marital struggles, before September 28, 2021. A pre-order helps make the book more visible on September 28. Thanks!!

Photo by Laurisa Deacon on Unsplash

© 2021, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.molliebond.org.

How to Get Excited About Your Work Again

The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm. The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”

Matthew 8:25-27

Do you remember the first time you were driving and said something like, “That kid’s not old enough to drive”? On the other hand, do you remember what it was like to be that first-time driver (who might have heard many people honking at them)? Those moments later in life show growth, maturity, and probably just plain agitation at a younger generation. What fascinates me is what takes us from the first moment of excitement that becomes the drag of duty. What makes the inspirational become drudgery? What causes us to forsake our first love?

I have a theory that we tend have circular movement. There are seasons, rotations, and “sweet spots” we come back to again and again.

All good things–all things that matter–are circular. For example, I found a notebook from when I was about 12 years old. I hadn’t looked at it forever, so I forgot what it was. It ended up being a summary or a lesson of Bible passages that I was reading daily. I used to (and still) read the Bible all the way through, sometimes in a year, one passage at a time. For me, it’s the habit that counts.

And that habit has come back around in a full circle.

In addition, what I found so fascinating about the notebook is that it’s exactly what I do in these blogs. Read a passage, reflect on it, and then write about it. Writing, or journaling, helps to evaluate experience, and John Maxwell states that evaluated experience is more valuable than just experience. Writing also helps keep the lesson more ingrained and therefore more lived out than if I just heard or read it and did nothing about it (see James 1:23).

A page from a notebook of Bible lessons from circa 1995

The older I get, and the more I reflect, the more I see myself living out what I was as a child. Yet, I’m not always thrilled about finding a pen and writing what I’m learning. It’s not always what gets me going in the morning. What I forget are the excitement and inspiration. I’ve been hardened by the years of expectations, of “been there, done that,” and of judging others who are just beginning.

Do you remember that initial spark of something grand? It’s like when the disciples saw Jesus calm the waves. They were like, “Did you see that? This guy is legit!” And they didn’t even see the big miracles yet—the ones that would blow their minds. I suppose the disciples had their moments of “ho-hums,” especially after Jesus was no longer on the planet. That’s why there’s so much encouragement in the New Testament; Because initial sparks can die down and keeping the flame alive takes work. Sometimes a wintery season of stillness is okay if the spring blooming is on the way.

If you are feeling like you’re in the drag of duty and going through the motions, try some of these possibilities:

  • Write down what sparked it all. What did you feel then, and what have you learned since then?
  • Review what you had journaled during those first days of excitement or talk to someone who had been core to the beginning.
  • Give yourself grace if you are in a season of growth or pausing. What is that thing that you are looking forward to, and how can you take one step toward that today?
  • Let Jesus know how you are feeling and ask for a bit of direction.
  • Remember the days when you couldn’t wait to get out of bed to tackle the day. You’ll remember how Jesus had just calmed the sea, but it took your breath away.
  • Discover the habits that came from those beginning moments, how you’ve come to depend on Jesus for the minor miracles while you seek out the major miracles.

If you are a nonprofit leader, or volunteer, or a community member (I think that covers us all!), there will be moments of boredom. But, with Jesus, you will find the motivation to keep going just like in the early days.

What do you do to get excited about work again? Share it on Facebook @HopelesslyHopefulBooks. https://www.facebook.com/HopelesslyHopefulBooks

Pre-order Hopelessly Hopeful During Separation, a 28-day devotional for people who are separated from their spouse because of marital struggles, before September 28, 2021. A pre-order helps make the book more visible on September 28. Thanks!!

Photos by Mollie Bond

© 2021, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.molliebond.org.

The Life of a Leader

They brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord. After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty. Then he gave a loaf of bread, a cake of dates and a cake of raisins to each person in the whole crowd of Israelites, both men and women. And all the people went to their homes.

2 Samuel 6:17-19

It’s time for a celebration! Since last September, I’ve been working with Ambassadors International to publish a 28-day devotional for people who are separated from their spouse due to marital strife. Good news! Hopelessly Hopeful During Separation is now available for pre-sale. The more pre-orders, the more visible the book becomes once released, the more people who might be helped while separated…your support in that effort is much appreciated. If you only have five minutes and no desire to purchase the book, you can always help in other ways. See this post to find out more. And then, come celebrate with me!

David, as the leader, created space for celebration. Both the temple and the dream of the temple were incomplete. And yet, David paused to rejoice in the middle of the project because the people reached a major milestone.

After the sacrifice, after the work, and during the celebration, David blessed the people. Then he gave them gifts and sent them home.

This is the life of a leader.

As you guide people in the project or program, take time to celebrate. Give your staff, volunteers, board, clients, whoever is with you on the journey what they will recognize as a blessing. And send them home. One of the best gifts I’ve received is free time. Not that you can give time as a gift but giving people the unexpected free moment that they can use without responsibility or obligation is quite a treat. Dare I say it?…send your employees home early. Let them work four 10-hour days and then have Fridays off during slow seasons. Our culture may cry, “Rebellious,” I know. So, if those voices are too loud, find another way to bless your people, the people around you.

To lead well:

  • Sacrifice and work hard with others
  • Pause and celebrate with others
  • Bless others

What will you celebrate with your team today? Share how you will celebrate on Facebook @HopelesslyHopefulBooks. https://www.facebook.com/HopelesslyHopefulBooks

Photo by MUNMUN SINGH on Unsplash

© 2021, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.molliebond.org.

How to be the Smartest Person in the Room

Caption: Photo by Timothy Dykes on Unsplash

When Mordecai learned of all that had been done, he tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and ashes and went out into the city, wailing loudly and bitterly….When Esther’s maids and eunuchs came and told her about Mordecai, she was in great distress. She sent clothes for him to put on instead of his sackcloth, but he would not accept them. Then Esther summoned Hathach, one of the kings’ eunuchs assigned to attend her, and ordered him to find out what was troubling Mordecai and why.

Esther 4:1, 4-5

Being the new person on the team is hard and uncomfortable. You don’t know the “norms” and what is acceptable. You want to appear to be smart and successful, so you may choose to cover embarrassing characteristics or history.

I’m experiencing that again as I join a new team. I was listening to a webinar from Dr. Ivan Misner, who said, “If you’re ‘always’ the most successful person in a room – you’re hanging out in the wrong rooms!” That convinced me I am in the “right” room with this new team. Even in my short time on the team, I’ve already said embarrassing things that had people laugh nervously. I’ve already tried to cover up, when instead I needed a new perspective and a new tactic on how to discover the “norms” of this team.

This desire to cover up what could be embarrassing or unwanted is seen in the book of Esther. When Queen Esther’s cousin, Mordecai, heard that everyone from his religious background was to die as part of a genocide, he put on quite a show. Esther heard about it and sent him clothes. She wanted to hide what she thought was wrong.

And then when Mordecai refused, Esther did something very wise. She asked a question. Instead of continuing to push Mordecai to cover up, she upped her curiosity.

To deploy this wisdom and become the smartest and most successful person in the room, do these things:

  • Get into rooms and circles where you are not the most successful or smartest.
  • Resist the initial desire to cover up or ignore the undesirable. Be honest in who you are and what you bring to the group.
  • Most importantly, ask questions.

Here is the challenge that I pass along to you: Spend a full day asking questions only. It’s harder than it may seem, but the growth and understanding will be infinitely more valuable than proving you are the most successful and smartest in the room.

And after you’ve spent a day asking questions, come back and tell me how it went on Facebook @HopelesslyHopefulBooks.

© 2020, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.molliebond.org

How to Start a Nonprofit PART 1

Photo by Danielle MacInnes on Unsplash

So we fasted and petitioned our God about this, and he answered our prayer.

Ezra 8:23

As a nonprofit professor, many people ask about starting a new nonprofit. The passion they have for creating an organization that produces change has many steps. The eighth chapter of Ezra lays out a blueprint for the basic first few steps.

  • Ezra had a team of like-minded individuals (8:1-14). If you are looking at people standing next to you and find that they have the same passion, walk the journey together. On the other hand, if you are passionate about a particular cause and it feels like you are doing it all alone, it’s because you are. The best nonprofits I’ve seen start with people who were already walking the same road and decided to do it together. In modern nonprofits, these are the members of the founding board.
  • Ezra had the authorities approve the plan (7:13-26). Even though this happens first in the previous chapter, it’s important to make sure that you have thought about the ripples and impact on the community. Being in touch with local leaders as well as understanding the filing process is important. (And please contact an attorney for questions about filing, I’m not an expert on the law!) For Ezra to have approval on the plan means he had to first have a plan. As my friend @Christine Soule says frequently, “Be stubborn about the mission, be flexible about the plan.”
  • Ezra paused and reflected on the mission (8:15). Worship required Levites once they arrived in Jerusalem. Ezra paused for three days and during that time, he found this key in being ready to tackle the work to fulfill the mission. Keeping the mission the focus of what you and your team will do is critical in the beginning stages—and for the lifetime of the nonprofit. What I find interesting is that this pause to reflect happened while the Jews were already on the road. In other words, they were already on a journey and stopped to double-check they were equipped for the mission. Many nonprofits plan and never do the service, or serve without a plan. Make sure you “start the journey” by serving your target population of clients or members right away and have a path of success for them already laid out in part.
  • Ezra hired specialists (8:16-20). When the gap in expertise was evident, Ezra found people who could help. They were already into the journey—already on a mission—when the need became evident. Be careful about hiring too early, but make sure you are aware of the weaknesses of the team.

Many more steps make up the journey, and not all of them were in chapter 8 of Ezra. However, the keys to building the right team, collecting community support, and building a plan kickstarted the journey. Of course, there are moments to pray throughout all these steps.

When have you reflected on your mission, as a nonprofit leader or as an individual? What was the key takeaway from that experience? Tell me on Facebook @HopelesslyHopefulBooks.

© 2020, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.molliebond.org.

Older hand and a younger hand holding a rose

Remember Timeless Truths

Hear this, you elders; listen, all who live in the land. Has anything like this ever happened in your days or in the days of your forefathers? Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation.

Joel 1:2-3

One of my favorite memories is talking to my grandma about what she remembers as a child. For example, she’ll tell the story of the flood when she lived along the river. Or she’ll tell the story about the table that was the last purchase her father made before he died in his 40’s. Or she’ll giggle about the story of her first driving lesson on the expressway in the city. She may not have been laughing that day, but it is certainly a funny story now. Through these stories, I’ve learned not to worry about possessions, how to value family relationships, and laugh about the stressful moments. Her storytelling reveals lessons that are timeless.

The book of Joel in the Bible shows a leader who included the context of the day and related it to God’s work in the middle of that context (see Maxwell Leadership Bible). God gave Joel a purpose to describe what he saw and tell how God was going to use the terrible to bring forth the miraculous—and encouraged the people to tell their children and their children’s children for generations to come. Those stories of what was happening in the moment became timeless truths.

Jesus might have done the same. In the Bible, he talks about a current event and highlight God’s fingerprints. He’ll use a story to reveal the timeless truth. Pastor Kevin of Magnolia Lutheran Church mentioned in a sermon that in Matthew 22:1-14, that it is possible (according to some scholars) Jesus referenced a real situation when sharing the parable of the wedding feast. It is possible Herod’s son was getting married, and those that didn’t show lost their lives (see Matthew 22:1-3). Jesus turns the story in an unexpected direction when he uses that launching pad to show what grace may do in that context. Jesus uses a story to reveal a timeless truth.

Photo by Jake Thacker on Unsplash

What stories do you share that reveal a timeless truth? What is happening now that you’ll want to tell future generations?

© 2020, Mollie Bond

What is Your Purpose?

Author note: A special thank you and shout out to Dr. Joseph Castleberry of Northwest University for allowing me to base this blog on his thoughts about determination. Photo by Michael Heuser on Unsplash 

I was recently in a meeting where Dr. Joe Castleberry, president of Northwest University, explained that determination in the Bible is knowing and understanding the purpose, then planning and following through with persistence. It is certainly a bit of wisdom I want to noodle on, and I hope you do as well.

I remember many plans I’ve made that lacked purpose—the passion that motivates a person into action. I also remember many of those plans dying away. I remember the underwhelming desire to persist. Perhaps you have a few plans that have fallen away without the underlying purpose.

As I restarted this blog, I realized that I needed a purpose. A plan. A motivator to persist. Then I read 2 Corinthians 3:5, which says, “Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.”

The renewed purpose of this blog is to help you get closer to Jesus. To be comforted by him, refreshed by him, purposed by him. God must come first. If you are encouraged to spend more time in the word or thinking about or praying to God, then I have done my job. The blog is not proof of my competency (which comes from God anyway), or hot pursuit of persistence (which can’t occur without the purpose anyway).

I will also state that this is where I’ll give updates on other things going on that may draw you closer to God. One of those is an upcoming devotional for people separated by their spouse by me and being published by Ambassador International. As I work with the publisher to narrow down a launch date, I’ll release it via this blog and on social media channels. There will be fun giveaways, special opportunities, and much more to announce in due time.

In the end, it is all about determination to show God off. Albert Tate said, “The battleship is designed to fulfill the mission of the banner it flies.” I am designed–purposed, even–to fulfill the mission of encouraging people to come closer to God.

The battleship is designed to fulfill the mission of the banner it flies. --Albert Tate

What is your purpose? Are you in the planning or persistent stage? Leave your thought below.

© 2020, Mollie Bond

The Rebel

Author notes: Strolling through a shopping mall (masked, of course) two weeks ago, I saw the Christmas section. Already. It was the end of September. It reminded me of a short fictional story I wrote and thought I would share with you, based on John 7:32-49. Enjoy!

Photo by Jakayla Toney on Unsplash
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He stood up. Oh no, I thought, this is going to be a disaster.

A Christmas Eve service is my favorite moment during the Christmas season. It’s the one time that it feels like Christ’s birth is recognized before I am once again covered in consumerism. The feeling is like being wrapped with a hastily bought pre-made bow meant to rouse the receiver to believing a greater value of a re-gift. In other words, the season, apart from the Christmas Eve service, feels like smoke-and-mirrors to me: a bad white elephant gift.

So when the man stood up in the middle of the calm, candle-lit serenade of “Silent Night,” I feared the Christmas magic of a treasured memory would vaporize into another smoke-and-mirrors illusion.

He was the rebel. We all knew it. My small group leader whispered to me earlier that he was from the south side. Someone else asked during last week’s prayer session that we pray for him because she thought he was possessed. I can’t blame them in that assumption. After all, he was socially uncouth, loud, and almost heretical in the claims he randomly declared “truths.” I had not verbalized my own concerns—that he was here to stay in our small congregation, showing up each week with a new odd question that would take too long to answer during Sunday School, veering us from the carefully crafted lesson plan.

When I saw him at the Christmas Eve service, I guided my family to the other side of the sanctuary. No one was going to destroy this one moment. I deserved a holy night.

He stood up. And loudly, over the sound of the piano, bright as the candle that was dripping wax on my cardboard protector, yelled, “I am the light of the world!”

The piano stopped. We all looked at the far corner. We looked at his face that wasn’t anything like the others around us. We looked at his unkempt manners, at his rebellion. We looked. And we stared.

He stood up, interrupted our Christmas Eve service, and now commanded that we acknowledge him as the light of the world. How dare he.

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This fictional scene draws parallel to John 7:32-49. The Scripture tells us Jesus was at the Feast of Tabernacles. Each year, around October, the Jewish community gathered to watch the priest pour water on the altar, while the people chanted a prayer for God to send rains for the winter harvest. On the last day—“the greatest day”—the people walked around the temple seven times (like Jericho). It is this day that “Jesus stood and said in a loud voice ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him’” (John 7:37-38). It would be similar to someone standing up in the middle of “Silent Night” at a Christmas Eve service and proclaim themselves as the light of the world. Which, in fact, Jesus did in John 8:12. He declared himself as light of the world.

Meanwhile, “the Pharisees heard the crowd whispering such things about him” (John 7:32) and were determining how to kick Jesus out of their club. Their conspiracies and overheard mumblings occurs before and after the feast.

And all the while, I wonder, how would I respond to such a rebel? If someone were to go against my traditions that were part of my religious routines, would I lay down those habits and follow his example, or would I shush him and ask him to sit? Am I a Pharisee or a Follower? When have I stood up?

I follow a rebel. Do you?

© 2020, Mollie Bond

Broken Road

Author’s Note: This blog, originally posted in September of 2020, reflects on the pandemic.

The highways are deserted, no travelers are on the roads.

Isaiah 33:8a

One of my favorite wines is called “Ten Mile Broken Road.” It’s a nice red blend. I’ve sipped it these past few months, looking out the patio window at the bridge.

The bridge is empty. Generally, the bridge has plenty of traffic. But, as the pandemic gained traction and the executive order to stay at home began, the bridge emptied. The sounds of airplanes were less frequent. The toot of a boat asking the bridge to raise became an anomaly.

Isaiah reminds us that this is not the first time that a road was empty. God often had to bring justice on a people that produced an empty route, a deserted highway, a broken road.

It is also an opportunity to assess where you are going. Perhaps not physically, but also in your personal and professional life. What values do you hold? How do they show up in your daily life? What broken roads or relationships need repair?

Let’s come out of the pandemic stronger and excited to hit the road.

Do you feel stronger since the pandemic began? Share with me on Facebook @HopelesslyHopefulBooks. https://www.facebook.com/HopelesslyHopefulBooks

Photo by Zane Lee on Unsplash

© 2020, Mollie Bond. All rights reserved. Originally published at www.molliebond.org.