Be Obedient

If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land. Isaiah 1:19

As a busy mom of two little girls, rarely do I have the time to sit still and study like I used to before I had a family. These days, I find that my prayer and study time happens whenever I have down time {hey, its not ideal but I find what works best for me}. Because I’m not able to devote as much dedicated time as I would like, I prayed and asked GOD to allow my heart and mind to be open and available to Him for those moments when He wants to download information into my spirit.

Recently as my family and I were traveling and I gazed out of the window having a private conversation with GOD, I heard the Lord say, if ye be willing and obedient ye shall eat the good of the land. Immediately my mind took me back to my childhood at the dinner table with my family in South Baltimore as my grandfather led us in family prayer. Reciting this scripture is our family custom.

I asked GOD, what’s the meaning of this? What are you trying to tell me?

 As I closed my eyes and asked GOD to help me understand what He was trying to show me, the revelation began to unfold that this scripture meant more for me than just a scripture to recite at the dinner table. It was as if GOD was telling me, Towanda, if you are willing and obedient (committed to following me without reservation), you shall eat (take part, consume, indulge in) the good of the land (every opportunity I have to give you in the place where I have given you dominion).

Wow! It was as if the scales began to fall from my eyes as the last few months began to replay in my mind. My family and I have experienced the blessings of GOD in ways that overwhelm us with gratefulness because we were willing and obedient to follow GOD’s leading. Being willing to trust GOD and be obedient in moving at His command has positioned us to experience His favor in ways that far exceed what we could have imagined.

 There are times when fear and uncertainty have a way of paralyzing me from making tough decisions. However, I’m learning to do it afraid and launch out in full belief that my steps are ordered by GOD. I’m living this truth today. 

If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land.

With Excellence,
Towanda

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New Year, New Chapter

Happy New Year!

2016 is here and my prayer is that your new year is off to a great start. Like so many others, I’ve written down a list of things I’d like to accomplish this year. I view my list not in terms of resolutions but in terms of ways I’d like to grow in different areas of my life. Because I’m passionate about leadership development and helping others to grow in their leadership capacity, this New Year presents me with the opportunity to expand my circle of influence.

What I know for sure is this; a light that is hidden is not being used to its fullest potential. Why not shine for the entire world to see and not just a small area? With GOD’s help, I plan to shine. I plan to launch out into the marketplace and offer my leadership and administrative consulting services to those ministries that desire to operate in the spirit of kingdom excellence. Yep, that’s the first word in my new chapter – Shine.

What does your new chapter look like? What does 2016 hold in store for you? In what ways will you be intentional in doing something different? Maybe it’s investing in your personal leadership development through reading materials, online events, conferences, etc? Maybe it’s mentoring someone in your church or organization who could glean from your wisdom. Maybe it’s really making your family a priority by investing more time with them and being fully present with them. Maybe it’s stepping outside of your comfort zone and fulfilling a God-inspired passion. The possibilities of what your new chapter looks like are endless.

Here’s my encouragement to you – no one has the power to stop you but you. Use the month of January to recalibrate so that you can seek God for the clarity you need to move forward. Put to paper all that GOD has deposited in your spirit for this next chapter of your life and be bold and courageous in executing the vision.

Before I close, I want to share with you what’s on my reading list for 2016. Did you really think I’d end my first post of the year without encouraging you with my favorite hashtag? Say it with me – #LeadersRead.

Here’s my list to start. This will grow throughout the year:

::FerVent – Priscilla Shirer
::Followship 101 – Bryan W. Horne
::Radical – David Platt
::#struggles – Craig Groeschel
::Executive Presence – Sylvia Ann Hewlett
::Leadership Building Blocks – Dawn McCoy
::H3 Leadership: Be Humble, Stay Hungry, Always Hustle – Brad Lomenick
::Live, Love, Lead – Brian Houston
::The Four Dimensions of Leadership – Jenni Catron
:: (Un)Qualified – How GOD Uses Broken People to Do Big Things – Steven Furtick {Coming March 2016}
:: The Most Excellent Way to Lead – Perry Noble {Coming March 2016}
:: Intentional Living – John Maxwell
:: Tribes – Seth Godin

Now, what’s on your list? I’d like to know.

I’m looking forward to this new year of new experiences and pray you are too. Be on the lookout for new things coming from Kingdom Excellence Consulting. 

Now, let’s get to it starting with Chapter 1.

With Excellence,
Towanda

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Twitter – @tcinspires
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Leadership Reflections from the Papal Visit to America

I’m not Catholic. However, I’ve always been fascinated by the way Catholics admire and respect their leader. My earliest recollection of watching Catholics speak well of their leader began with Pope John Paul II. I must admit that when the process of selecting the new Pope occurred I was glued to the TV along with millions around the world waiting anxiously for the results from the Papal Conclave and the sign of the white smoke that a new Pope had been selected. I was captivated.

Again, I’m not Catholic but the structure and organization of the Catholic church has always intrigued me. The Papal Visit to America comes at a time when there are several moral and social issues that plague our nation and our world, but the presence of Pope Francis on American soil has caused men and women of all walks of society to stop and listen to his words of inspiration for a better world today and for future generations.

As I was drawn to broadcast reports and several articles written about Pope Francis’ visit to America, I began to observe him through the lens of leadership. Here are a few of my observations.

::Leaders are approachable.

There have been several images of both Catholics and non-Catholics alike who rearranged their schedules to catch a glimpse of Pope Francis. Many knew that it would be impossible to get close to him; however there were others {amidst very tight security} who managed to get a handshake, a hug and even a selfie. And then there’s 5 year old Sofia Cruz. This little girl was determined to get a message to Pope Francis – by any means necessary. She found her way through security barriers and onto the streets of Washington, DC carrying a message and a yellow tshirt. What stands out most to me is that although the security detail tried to prevent her from getting close to the Pope, he saw her, and called her to him. It reminded me of the scripture – “suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not for of such is the Kingdom of heaven.” {Matt 19:14} The Pope has repeatedly echoed his desire to serve others and his gracious act of refusing no one reminds me that leadership is a privilege.

::Leaders are humble

Through all of the media coverage, I observed the geniune humility of a person who recognized the weight of his responsibility to the people he serves. I observed a man not moved by title or position but one moved by love and compassion for others. I observed a man who makes himself of no reputation {I mean the Pope carries his own bags and has no need of even one adjutant. How about that? I’ll leave that alone now}. He repeatedly makes the decision to serve rather than be served.  My point? As a leader he demonstrates to me that true humility is not about about what you do, its about who you are. His one request of the school children he visited in Brooklyn was simply, please pray for me. I may not agree with the doctrine of Catholicism but I will agree that EVERY leader should seek prayer from those they serve rather than praise.

::Leaders speak the truth in love

Its was a history making event to have Pope Francis address a joint session of Congress. Elected officials with diverse backgrounds and equally diverse opinions assembled themselves to hear the words of a man more interested in the common good of others and less about political affiliations. He touched on sensitive issues that plague our world and appealed to the core of our humanity by reminding Congress of the Golden Rule – “do unto others as you have them do unto you.” You see, as a leader and person of influence, we must always take a stand for what is right – regardless of how unpopular it may be. Many did not agree with what he had to say, but everyone respected him for how he said it.

Again, I’m not Catholic. I’m a proud follower and servant of Jesus Christ. The Pope is not perfect, neither am I. The Pope has personal struggles and so do I. But when I see great leadership principles demonstrated I pay attention. I look for opportunities to grow. You should too.

Contined prayers for Pope Francis and my brothers and sisters of the Catholic church.

With Excellence,
Towanda

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The Core Truth

We all have a lot on our plate. I’ll admit that sometimes my life is overwhelming and instead of stepping up to the plate and “leading”, I’d rather retreat and let someone else step in to manage it all. It’s in those times of stress and anxiety that I have to remind myself of this core truth – GOD is working in me giving me the desire and the power to do what pleases Him (Philippians 2:13 NLT).

YES, GOD is working in me. {I really could stop right there}.

The truth is this, as we submit ourselves in service to the Kingdom of GOD, we MUST remember that at the core {the center of it all} it is GOD who is working in us. Yes there are times we will experience anxiety, frustration, fear and insecurity that will cause us to doubt whether or not we’re effective in our leadership positions. There are times when we’d rather not lean in and rely on the ministry of the Holy Spirit and the power offered to us to overcome leadership challenges, but we must ALWAYS remember that at the core – GOD is working in us and has placed within and around us the resources we need to accomplish His good pleasure.

The desire we have for service to GOD’s Kingdom is a desire HE gave us. No matter what’s happening around us that may cause us to question the reason we continue to serve, we must remember who we belong to and what He requires of us.

My encouragement to you is this – remember the core truth – GOD is at work in you. He has equipped you to accomplish every good work in your service to the Kingdom. During those moments of intense pressure, discouragement, stress and uncertainty, your leadership is STILL necessary. What you have to offer is vital to the Kingdom. Keep doing what you’re doing for His glory.

GOD knows everything we’ll encounter in our leadership journey. We’re not perfect and He doesn’t expect us to be. He simply wants us to remember the core truth.

With Excellence,
Towanda

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Slow Down and Live

We’re busy. We always have something going on; something to do or somewhere to be. We are constantly bombarded with responsibilities at home, on the job or at the church. We often find there are more things on our To Do list than the day will allow. At times we sacrifice family, rest/relaxation, and physical activity in order to keep pace with the busy lives we lead.

I recall growing up as a kid in the church, a very wise deacon would encourage those gathered for worship to “slow down and live”. As I child I could not fully appreciate what he was saying, however, as an adult these wise words resonate with me as I become aware of my influence on others to lead with excellence.

My family and I recently enjoyed our first real vacation together. Not the “staycation” that we’d become accustomed to for fear of being too far away and disconnected from other responsibilities, but a REAL vacation where we physically vacated our normal position and temporarily repositioned ourselves in a different environment.

Here are a few things my vacation taught me:

:: It’s ok to be disconnected from our everyday responsibilities. Let it go. Be intentional about taking time to get away, rest, regroup and come back refreshed and focused. Oftentimes failure to take the proper time away renders one ineffective and unproductive. Disconnect from electronic devices {a discipline I’m still working on} that rob and distract you of precious time with the ones you love. You are NOT a servant to your devices; they are a servant to you. Regain control.

:: Be fully present. I have two small children. The rapid pace at which they are growing frightens me because it’s happening so fast. My vacation reinforced the importance of slowing down and paying attention to these precious gifts. I purposed to relax, laugh and pay attention as my five year old chased sea gulls and watched with curiosity as my 9 month old discovered sand for the first time. We’ll never have another “first” beach experience and it was important to be fully present and take it all in. Taking time away demonstrates to the ones you love that they matter and demonstrates to those you serve that you know how to prioritize.

:: Vacations support proper physical and mental health. As busy professionals, we often unconsciously neglect our health in order to take care of our daily responsibilities. I recently saw a Facebook post that said “it’s not selfish to take care of yourself – its wisdom”. Upon my return to reality, I could appreciate the benefits I received from my vacation in the form of more energy, a fresh perspective and a new attitude. Stress kills. Relaxation preserves. 

There will always be an email to address, a phone call to return, a project to complete. But there is only one YOU to do it. Stop and focus on what really matters.

There are a few weeks left before this summer season ends. Here’s my advice to you – Slow down and live.

With Excellence,
Towanda

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GROW Your Leadership, GROW Your Effectiveness

I recently completed a 6 week course in the T.D. Jakes Emerging Leaders Institute. The information presented was not only eye opening for me but further confirmed my desire to train and develop others in the area of leadership excellence.

The financial investment to participate was significant for me (I have a toddler and an infant – those kiddos are expensive). I wrestled as to whether or not I could afford to participate. I very quickly realized there was NO WAY I could afford to miss this opportunity to grow in my leadership ability and effectively serve others.

Allow me to take a moment to ask, how important is your leadership development to you? What steps are you willing to take to invest in your development – financial or otherwise? Here’s a horrible mindset that needs to be DESTROYEDalways looking for ways to get what you need for free. Let’s admit it; we all know someone like this and at some point in our lives may have even ascribed to this lazy mindset. However, when it comes to your leadership development, this mindset is not the way to go. The bottom line – as a leader you must be willing to make an investment in your personal development no matter the cost. It will have a profound impact on your leadership effectiveness.

In John Maxwell’s book – The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, the first law of leadership is the Law of the Lid; your leadership ability is the lid that determines your level of effectiveness.

No one wants to follow a parked car. No one wants to follow someone who is stuck in a traditional mindset while living in a society where change is constant.

Coaches/Mentors – those you serve need for you to consistently find ways to grow and develop your leadership influence. As you grow you challenge those within your realm of influence to grow as well. Your growth will enable you to not only be effective at what you do but will also establish you as a credible resource. 

Pastors/Church Leaders – look for opportunities to get outside of your comfortable circle and sharpen your leadership skills. It’s very important to understand that your church/ministry cannot grow beyond the “lid” of the organization. Your leadership lid will determine how far your organization goes and GROWS.

Leaders, remain teachable. Be intentional about expanding your influence. Make a commitment to investment in learning opportunities that will help you serve others in the spirit of excellence.

GROW Your Leadership, GROW Your Effectiveness

With Excellence,

Towanda

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Protect Your Name

“Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold.” Proverbs 22:1 (NLT)

Having a good name or good reputation should be something every one takes seriously – especially those who serve in ministry. As servant leaders we have a responsibility to ensure our personal affairs are in order. Over the past 12 – 18 months (or longer), we’ve seen countless reports of security breaches at various nationwide retailers. For some of us, our personal information or the information of someone we know may have been comprised. Even in the church there are many who have fallen victim to poor decision-making in the area of financial responsibility or have fallen victim to identity theft.

As we strive to lead others in the spirit of excellence in service to our GOD, let us be sure to do our due diligence in practicing financial responsibility.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind:

::Check your credit report. The top 3 credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, & TransUnion) track your financial activity. You should check often to ensure the information they have on file is accurate. These agencies keep a record of everything good, bad and ugly. Even the accounts that we think are inactive still appear on the report. Know what’s on your report. Visit www.annualcreditreport.com for more information on how you can secure a copy of your credit report.
Note: For residents of the State of Maryland, you are entitled to one free credit report annually. For those reading outside of the State of Maryland, be sure to find out what the laws are in your state regarding complimentary access to your credit report.

::Know your credit score. Equally as important as checking your credit report is knowing your credit score. Being armed with this very important information provides you leverage in negotiating a loan for a new home or new car. If your credit score is below average, take the necessary steps to correct it.

::Pay your bills on time. GOD requires us to be responsible in repaying the creditors. When signing the application for credit, your signature confirms your acceptance of the terms and conditions of the agreement; one of which is to pay back anything borrowed on time. Yes, there are times when it may become difficult to be timely with your payment and we’ve all been there. In these instances talk to the creditors. Do not avoid them. More often than not, most creditors are willing to work with you and make arrangements that fit your financial situation.

Encourage your family, friends and members of your local assembly to be vigilant when it comes to protecting their name. Let’s be responsible in how we handle our finances. Your reputation depends on it.

With Excellence,
Towanda

Disclaimer: This post is in no way intended to serve as credit advice but is intended for informational purposes only. For more information on ways to clean up your credit report, visit, http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0058-credit-repair-how-help-yourself

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