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Visions of the Coming Days 
by R. Loren Sanford

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R. Loren Sanford, within his sober reflection, reveals the heart of the Father and the hope of glory for the body of Christ. With clarity and piercing biblical insight, he helps believers understand what is to come, and he gives practical advice on how to prepare spiritually--for the events that will unfold and for their role in all of it. Foreword by John Paul Jackson   


 

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When God Makes It Snow

By Dan Reiland

Who would have ever thought it would snow on January 20th in "Hotlanta" Georgia?! That was the farthest thing from our minds. And who would think that the media would play up the "snow and ice storm" to a level so far beyond reality that people would clearly stay home? But that's what happened.

Virtually every news station on TV broadcasted a message to hundreds of thousands of viewers saying: "Stay home, unless you must go out, because it won't be safe."

After months of preparation, multiplied millions of dollars to build a new campus, and countless hours of prayer, we were ready for the Grand Opening of 12Stone Church. It was the Saturday before Grand Opening and we were fired up!! Then after agonizing all afternoon and early evening, the weather and media won. We made a decision to pull the plug. We postponed the Grand Opening! In a matter of two hours, hundreds of phone calls were made, emails went out, and we added our name to the list of hundreds of churches who also "surrendered" and posted their cancellation on TV.

Profound disappointment barely captures the emotion of that evening. We met for our Saturday night prayer time as always, but I will confess that while God remained God, and the prayers were mature, the atmosphere was something less than a party.

The theological underpinnings of this article are not based on whether or not God made it snow that weekend, or any relationship between the weather, God and our Grand Opening. You are free to come to your own conclusions about that.

This article is about how a leader handles disappointment or discouragement. (Repeated or continued disappointment transitions to discouragement.)

For several hours I was just mad. Kind of like a kid who was looking forward to a party and it got canceled. Not overly mature, but it did pass fairly quickly. Then I was disappointed for maybe a day at the most. Perhaps a greater leader would not have felt these emotions, but I did. My point isn't as much about examining the actual emotions as it is acknowledging that how a leader handles those emotions, especially in circumstances such as these, really matters.

Leaders deal daily with challenging situations. Emotions will come into play. It's not healthy to deny or "stuff" emotions nor is it wise to let them control you. Over-reacting is equally as bad as under-reacting. A leader who is cool and aloof in an emotionally high-voltage situation seems detached and disconnected. A leader who "blows a fuse" every time something difficult comes into play erodes trust and pushes people away.

I never saw the movie "Anger Management" (2003 - Columbia Pictures) with Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson. Hey, I think Jack is cool, too, but something about Nicholson and Sandler in the same movie is scary. However, if there were ever a sequel titled "Disappointment Management," I might drop the $10 to see it! Until then, here are some reflections on the reality of disappointment for all of us who lead. The truth is, if you lead, you will be disappointed. How well you rise above that matters.

  • Who is serving who?

God reminded me that He is not here to serve me, but I am here to serve Him. While I talked to Him about the "fact" (smile) that we were doing His work for His Kingdom. He seemed unmoved. It almost appeared like He was still in control and we weren't. Imagine that. "But God, all our plans, all the money, all the time, all the work, and we have people flying in (Like He didn't know), and on I went... His response was "Stay faithful, keep serving, I know what I'm doing." I wanted to say "Are you sure?" But I knew better.

Be honest, haven't you ever felt that way as a leader? Haven't you been disappointed in someone or some circumstance? Have you ever said: "God, do you know what you are doing?" "Do you see what's going on down here?" David experienced very similar emotions. You can connect with his experiences through many of the Psalms. It's easy to look at others and think they should handle things better, but when you are the leader on the front line of battle and things are not going well, you know what its like when human emotion kicks in.

In all difficulties, and through all circumstances, God is aware and in control. We are to serve Him and not the reverse. He loves us and adds His power and favor to our endeavors, but He does so as He pleases. God isn't a whimsical God who is just messing with us. He's God. His love, grace and mercy are unimaginable and at the same time, fully accessible. It's when we as leaders forget this truth, that our emotions run out of control and we lead with less effectiveness.

  • Learn from God's creative expression.

One of our staff members made a great observation. They commented on how quiet and still it is when it snows. I thought about that and it's true. There is a definite calm - a peaceful stillness in the air. It's fresh, crisp and clean. It's like a blanket of peace. Psalm 46:10-11 says:
"Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress." Psalm 46:10-11
It was almost as if the Lord was saying, "Be at peace - I've got this." The truth of God is found even in nature itself - part of His creation.

The fact is, while we postponed our Grand Opening, God was happy with the day. Nothing took Him by surprise. Gaining God's perspective is a strong way to conquer disappointment and/or discouragement. You might be, for example, disappointed and eventually discouraged about your church attendance. But God may be thrilled with the growth that is happening in the lives of the people who are attending. You might be disappointed in one of your leaders, but God reminds you of His grace and mercy and you see that person differently. And often, in fact nearly always, your disappointment changes to a sense of encouragement and fulfillment in the realization that life transformation is taking place.

  • Good leaders rebound quickly.

My daughter traveled from Indiana to Georgia to attend our Grand Opening. She made the arrangements, got a plane ticket, left her college studies for the weekend and never experienced what she came for. She was very disappointed. Equally noticeable was that my disappointment influenced her. Leaders should be real and honest about their feelings, but we must also balance that with our responsibility to lead. Leaders must be honest, but there are things we deal with in private and things we deal with in public. When it's time to lead the people, we rise up, get over it, and lead. The fact that my daughter would go back to school the next day snapped me back into leader mode Saturday night. I realized that I needed to influence her toward the positive elements of the circumstance and the hope next Sunday. Which eventually became known as our Grander Opening!

A good leader will always find the humor and will lead with hope. We laughed and made jokes about allowing anyone to preach that next morning, people could park wherever they wanted, and finally a Sunday that we'd have no offering taken!! The lightness made us all begin to see the possibilities rather than feel the disappointment. We had more time to invite first-time guests, we had newspaper and TV reporters come out that week on their own giving us advertising we couldn't buy on our own. We had more time to tighten up our use of new technology, we had more time to organize ushers, greeters, parking teams and children's teams. We discovered that many people attended on the 27th - who could not have come on the original date of January 20th.

I found myself surprisingly and quickly "over it" and really excited about the coming Sunday and a Grander Opening. And, as you can guess, that affected the people around me, causing their enthusiasm to grow, as well. Leaders rebound quickly - first internally, then influencing others.
So, let me tell you great news... God blessed us with an amazing morning - truly a Grander Opening, a great connect with a huge crowd, and on a personal note - my daughter got to come back, so she did experience the Grand Opening after all.