Rhythms for Leading Under Pressure

This week I was deeply honored to speak at Compassion International's staff chapel in Colorado Springs, CO. Locally, about 900 people work at their headquarters and attend their twice per month chapel service. But the INCREDIBLE thing is their chapel services are streamed LIVE to their 2400 staff all around the world in Asia, Europe, Africa, and South America.

I was asked to speak in their year-long series called Soul Pursuit: Fully Integrated Living. Specifically, I was asked to speak on "Rhythms for Leading Under Pressure". (Fun topic, right?) I realized as I prepared that I had a lot to say on the subject. Really, most all of my leadership life I've lead under pressure. And I've learned a few things about the critical rhythms required.

HERE is the 35-minute message.

May it provide life for your soul and leadership...


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April L. Diaz

April has been a visionary activist her entire life. She has made it her mission to lead high performing teams and develop leaders in the margins of society while caring for our bodies, mind, and spirit. Secretly, she’s a mix of a total girly girl and a tomboy, and is still crazy about her high school sweetheart, Brian. Together, they co-parent 3 fabulous kiddos and live in Orange County, CA.

Equally Important

This week I got to speak at Sterling College's chapel. Standing in front of hundreds of college students is both terrifying and exhilarating! I got lobbed one of the most famous passages in the Bible, which is the best and worst thing in the world. My prayer as I prepared for this talk - and share this post - is that as we engage God’s timeless words that we would be timely words for us today!


THE GREATEST COMMANDMENT.

34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees with his reply, they met together to question him again. 35 One of them, an expert in religious law, tried to trap him with this question: 36 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?”

37 Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”
— Matthew 22:34-40 (NLT)

If you grew up in the church, you’ve probably heard this passage a 100 times. But  I don’t want to talk about the 1st commandment – Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind.

I want to talk about the 2nd greatest commandment – Love your neighbor as yourself – which Jesus says is as equally as important as the first one.

I think that a lot of times in the Church we make a big deal about the first commandment – LOVE GOD – like it’s #FTW or #fail if we can do this well. And we make a smaller deal about this “equally important” command; and I don’t think we get it right. Jesus said that that 2nd greatest commandment is “love your neighbor as yourself.”

So let's talk about this equally important, 2nd commandment: Love your Neighbor. As Yourself.


#1: LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR.

This was a remarkable idea that Jesus was talking about. The word “remarkable” is defined as: something that is worth paying attention to. And loving your neighbor in the ways Jesus was talking about is REMARKABLE!

In the American church we’ve diluted this idea to being something like loving who’s right next to me, who literally lives next door to me, or is like me. And while that kind of love is important – OBVIOUSLY! – it’s not what Jesus was talking about.

When Jesus said we are to love our neighbor, the next question was “who is my neighbor?” And so Jesus told a story, the parable of the Good Samaritan. Remember that story?

In the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus called his followers to loving your neighbor, which is best defined as someone who is “not like me”. The Good Samaritan was a story about reconciliation and justice. You see the Good Samaritan wasn’t only befriending someone completely unlike himself; he intentionally went out on the dangerous, criminally infested Jericho Road looking to bring about change. So Jesus is telling us that loving our neighbor means RECONCILING gender, racial, ethnic and socioeconomic differences – those who are not like me – AND being an advocate for JUSTICE in the world!

This personally matters so much to me because I am a woman, who married a Hispanic man from an immigrant blue-collar family, who adopted two Ethiopians and birthed a racially-mixed baby. And we spent the last 10 years at a predominantly Asian-American church. Our family intimately knows what it feels like to be on the outside of the dominant white, male American church culture.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned in the past decade, it is that loving our neighbor in the way Jesus defined it has little to do with being in holy huddles. While GOING to church or chapel is a good thing. BEING the church is even better!


Here’s a reality check on how you love your neighbors:

  • Who are my best friends? Are they racially, ethnically, socio-economically, and gender-wise the exact same as me?
  • Where do I spend my time?
  • How do I spend my money? How much of it is spent on those not like me?

If our lives and churches continue to look just like one another, we miss out on the very reconciling and justice work Jesus came to usher in.

The second part of the equally important commandment is…


#2: LOVE YOURSELF.

Here is where the second greatest commandment gets crazy! Jesus says that we are to love those not like us as ourselves. Which means, when you break it down that we can only love our neighbor to the same degree that we love ourselves.

Catch this: Our ability to love God and others is proportionate to our capacity to love ourselves.

Now when I say “love ourselves” I don’t mean in a selfish, narcissistic, posting “selfies” everyday, kind of way. That’s not love. God’s Word tells us that love is patient and kind. It looks out for the interest of others. It doesn’t boast. It isn’t proud or demand its way. Loving ourselves is about seeing ourselves the way God sees us.

So let’s get practical AND honest about how we love ourselves…

  • Listen to your self-talk. Your inner conversations reveal how much you love or hate yourself. Proverbs says “out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks”. Pay attention to what you say to yourself and about yourself.
    • Do you find yourself saying “stupid”, “idiot”, “of course I messed up again”?
    • Do you constantly hear the negative voice of a parent, coach, teacher, or sibling?
    •  … Or do you find yourself giving yourself grace? Treating yourself like you would your favorite person in this world?
    • If you were to describe yourself in 5 words, what would you say?
  • Care for your body. Our physical bodies are an expression of what’s going on in our souls.
    • How are you sleeping? Science repeatedly confirms that we need at least 6-7 hours every night. Do you love yourself by getting enough rest?
    • What about food and drink? Are you filling your body with nutritious, healthy food that will give you good energy? Or are you abusing your body by putting junk into it?
  • Let’s get real about exercise. Are you treating your body like you are invincible or are you caring for it like this is the only body you have been given in this life?
  • Are you resting, playing, and laughing? When we do those things, you remind yourself that you are not God and that God actually has the world in his hands.
Did you know that you are continually setting up brain pathways and hard-wiring habits that will impact the rest of your life? Today I am fighting against unhealthy patterns I established in my younger years that are negatively impacting my life today! The choices you are making now, determine the course of your life.
  • Find a great therapist so you can work through your past. The strongest and healthiest people I know are people who have a therapist on speed dial. I started going to therapy in college and I have been in multiple other seasons of life since then! I think the most important work you can do in your 20s is not getting the best job after you graduate college, but working through your past pains, trauma, and wounds. That work will pay dividends into the rest of your life!
  • Meditate on what God says about you. God’s Word is full of truth that we need to soak our heart, soul, and mind in, because the world does a pretty good job telling us that we aren’t good enough, smart enough, fast enough, or pretty enough. Or maybe that’s just me?!?! God’s Word says that we are transformed by the renewal of our minds. So choose a couple passages of Scripture that will re-train you to love yourself as God loves you.

I’ll be honest: Some of the conversations I have in my head don’t honor the person God created me to be. I don’t care for my body everyday in a way that proves that I love myself. I abuse it with the food, drink, and struggle to rest. I get way too frustrated way too often with my little kiddos. My ceiling to love others – including the people I love most in my life!!! – is intimately connected to how I love myself. My desire to love those not like me is directly correlated to how I’m doing loving myself.

Some of the people I care about say they want to love Jesus with all their heart, soul, and mind, but they cannot because they do not love themselves well. They want to love their neighbors, but they can’t because they haven’t learned to love themselves.

There is a lie we’ve believed that loving yourself is somehow less spiritual than loving God and loving your neighbor. It isn’t. Jesus said it’s equally important.

My prayer for us today is that we will take one step forward toward loving ourselves. Will you call a counselor, cut the caffeine, eat less junk food, confess the negative self-talk, meditate on a portion of Scripture, fill in the blank

SO THAT we can love ourselves more …
SO THAT we can love our neighbor and God with all our heart, soul, and mind.

AMEN.

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April L. Diaz

April has been a visionary activist her entire life. She has made it her mission to lead high performing teams and develop leaders in the margins of society while caring for our bodies, mind, and spirit. Secretly, she’s a mix of a total girly girl and a tomboy, and is still crazy about her high school sweetheart, Brian. Together, they co-parent 3 fabulous kiddos and live in Orange County, CA.

Diaz Year in Review

This year has been an epic year of adventure. I don't think we'll fully appreciate and understand for many years the tectonic plate shifts that took place in our lives this year. In 1 Samuel 7:12, a priest and judge named Samuel, raised an Ebenezer. It says,

"Samuel took a large stone and placed it between the towns of Mizpah and Jeshanah. He named it Ebenezer—”the stone of help”—for he said, “Up to this point the Lord has helped us!” —1 Samuel 7:12, NLT

That stone wasn't magical but it served as a symbol, a reminder for the people. That Ebenezer represented a fresh beginning for God’s people. It also said something important about God: his mercies are everlasting; his covenant is forever.

We've had that kind of year where fresh beginnings were prominent and God's mercies were needed new every morning. Therefore, in a valiant effort to raise an Ebenezer for 2014, here is our year in review.

A YEAR OF TRAVEL.

Our family literally began 2014 on the sugar-sandy beaches of the Dominican Republic with 30+ of the Getz family. Once again, my uber generous Granny and Gramps swept us all away to spend 7-days in Paradise. Paradise was only slightly twarted by the virus of the century when all but 3 of us got massively sick...on the way home. To this day, Addise lovingly refers to that trip and airplanes as "when we all puked so many times". Yes, baby girl. That's what happened.

Three weeks after we got home from Paradise/Puke-fest, Brian and I headed to Hawaii for a week-long work/birthday celebration trip. Rough start to 2014, right?!? After a few days in Kona learning from YWAM global leaders, we took a quick jaunt over to Maui to celebrate Brian's 35th birthday. We stayed in the lap of luxury and enjoyed our first extended time away together since becoming parents. Thanks, Mom, for making it possible!

In April my man and I got to take another trip to New Orleans where I officiated a most spectacular wedding of a southern belle and a South African at a plantation. It was a most beautiful picture of love and reconciliation.

In May we took a quick trip to San Diego to spend a couple days with Brian's sister's family. We finally got to meet her hubby and 2.5 year old kiddo. Super great.

Of course Brian took his annual trip to mecca - aka Comicon - with a 150,000 of his closest friends. How my introverted husband loves this is so beyond me, but I love that he gets his nerd tank filled every July.

In August the Diaz Cinco took a 2-week, 3,000 mile road trip up Pacific Coast Highway (breathtaking views!) to San Francisco, up to Albany, OR, to Seattle, WA, to Vancouver, Canada, back to Albany, back to Monterey, CA. All along the way we spent time with dear friends and a mentor. It was an epic way to decompress from our recent ministry transition and get uninterrupted time with one another. Our kids LOVED the road trip and we soaked in the sights and ate spectacularly at the best spots along the way.

In Brian's words, "all the vacations were pretty great, the rest was pretty much hard." Truth.

A YEAR OF TRANSFORMATION.

This year our one and only girl, Addise, turned 4, then our "baby", Asher turned 2, and our first born, Judah, turned 6. That's just impossible. They are growing in every way beyond our ability to catch it all. Nearly 4 years into being a family, we felt like this year we moved past survival mode and realized "we're gonna make it" ... and enjoy it a bit along the way. Judah and Addise LOVE preschool and we are crazy grateful for their school, teachers, and classmates. We've found quite the little community there as they partner with us in raising our kiddos to become all God created them to be and do in this world.

In March Judah asked Jesus in his heart on Good Friday while driving in our minivan to the park to play with friends. What a reminder that total transformation is still possible in the most ordinary of places. This little boy has simple childlike faith and exudes Jesus' love.

Perhaps one of my most significant transformations this year was completing my first half marathonin L.A. with Team World Vision.What it did for me physically was powerful, but what it taught me about my mental, emotional and spiritual capacities still astounds me. And running with Team World Vision expanded my great love for our brothers and sisters in Malawi. I literally sobbed in the last 250 yards as I ran into the finish line with Brian pushing our three kiddos. (Hey! I'm running again this year and would love your support. $50 provides 1 person clean water for life!)

June 30th marked the end of a decade long journey for us at Newsong. The transition was a painful and intense because of the depth of love we have for the people we've walked through life with. That community became our family and walked with us through the lowest and highest moments of our life. We are forever grateful even in the midst of loss.

The Summer was dubbed the "summer to remember"! And it was all about reconnection, healing, recovery, and recalibration for what's next for our family. I read books and listened to endless talks on transition, leadership, and spiritual formation in mass proportion. It went entirely too fast and was exactly what our family needed.

Asher potty trained himself on a Tuesday afternoon in September. (He's a total third child.) I'm not kidding. Bless him! We are diaper free and pretty much loving it.

Brian got Lasik. Addise and I got glasses. Whatever.

I traveled 17 times in the Fall while Brian valiantly held down the fort keeping 3 kids alive and working his part-time job whenever he could get a spare minute. My greatest joy was the ability to work with remarkable churches and youth workers from all over the country. Brian's greatest joy was me coming home after every trip ... and knowing that one of us is almost always caring for our little ones. I'm also pretty excited that I earned a new airline status to make travel a little easier in 2015.

Seriously, though, it's not the easiest of things to move from a 17-year local church / pastoral vocation into the world of independent contracting. I'm really grateful for the work I've done this year with Slingshot Group, The Youth Cartel, and Fuller Youth Institute - and the myriad of other churches and leaders I was able to serve and (hopefully) strengthen for their mission. It's been really transformative to see great people doing great work in a variety of great ways.

A YEAR OF CHALLENGES.

Change always means loss, but it can also meet a longing. Most definitely leaving a 10-year job that I loved was filled with loss for us but it also opened us to a myriad of opportunities we never would've dreamed of a year ago. The challenge of letting go allowed us to cling more to our God and each other, while opening ourselves to new, undiscovered dreams and longings. We are challenging ourselves daily with living those dreams and taking risks to become all we are meant to be. 2015 will present a new set of challenges, but we are stronger now than we were a year ago and we are ready!

While on vacation in August, Addise and I were in a car accident with our dearest friends, Emily and Erin. Getting rear-ended lead us to massive pain, 30+ chiropractor visits over 3.5 months. It wasn't until mid-December that we really recovered. Chronic pain is no joke. We're grateful for great treatment (yay Dr. Dave!) and healing (yay God!).

Raising three little people challenges us daily. Brian and my conversations are often lamenting, confessing, processing, and questioning how we can raise them better. Going from zero to three kids in 15-months has pushed us heart and soul. We finish our days exhausted and grateful for the grace to be their mom and dad. We desperately depend on new mercies every morning.

In whatever state this Ebenezer-of-a-letter finds you in, we wish you a Merry Christmas and the Happiest of 2015. And when you find yourself in unhappy moments, may the JOY Jesus came to bring meet you there, too.

Here's to all kinds of adventures in 2015!

Much Love...

 photo by emily bell

photo by emily bell