Veteran’s Day

The U.S. celebrates Veteran’s Day on November 11th each year. This is an ever increasingly important holiday for us as we attempt to give thanks to those that have served our nation to protect our freedom. When these ceremonies are held, we always remember our World War II veterans but they are decreasing in numbers each year. For some reason this year, at a local event, I started to think about the war this country had for our early freedom, the revolutionary war. Today, we talk about celebrating those that have protected our freedoms in the 20th and 21stcenturies. How about the courage of the men and women who fought to establish FREEDOM?

The British Army was the largest and most feared in the entire world at the time; we did not back down. We fought to ensure that we were free. The war of 1812 was another assault on our freedom. It is not discussed in detail however it was a proud victory from our past. Our Veteran’s deserve so much more than we give them. I’ve heard people argue, “They volunteered for it and knew what they were getting”. I hardly buy the volunteer argument, these heroes stepped up when many others did not, to protect our freedoms. Many of the service members that I’ve worked with have spent a career serving our country, which doesn’t sound like a volunteer. The person who volunteers at the food bank is not the same as the one who leaves behind a family to fight global terrorism. We owe our Veteran’s our freedoms and our thanks.

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13

If nothing says Veteran’s Day like “be men of courage” I don’t know what does. If you close your eyes, you can almost hear a commanding officer speak these words before combat. St. Paul is not talking to Roman soldiers or our military today; he was talking to the people of Corinth. They were, as we are today, in a battle for eternal life. St. Paul was warning them and us today, to be on guard and to stand firm in our faith. Everyday, God’s will and His Christian people are under attack.

The devil is trying to take back the souls won by Jesus’ death on Calvary by polluting the fabric of our society. False prophets and false teachings are everywhere. It isn’t often we hear about the saving grace of God and eternal life that can only be found in faith through Jesus Christ is our savior. St. Paul encourages us to be courageous despite these challenges. Confidently speak of God’s grace and mercy to all. Stay connected to God’s word and study the teachings of Jesus to remain strong in faith and to have the confidence to be strong.

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Purpose

I’ve written before that I believe most people function in “orbits” when it comes to their attitude, motivation, drive or simple ability to get along. If the peak of our performance were to be the center, our attitude can be found somewhere in an oval shaped orbit. Sometimes we are very close, while other times we are far away. When we are far away from our peak, things get a little troubling. We are crabby or we don’t feel like doing anything. Our motivation and drive are really hard to find. When we love what we’re doing, we are in close orbit and when we loathe what we do, we are farther out. Sometimes our orbit even grows in size and we are pushed to an even farther away.

No matter what your position in life is: supervisor, employee, executive, line staff, mom. dad, brother or sister; you have to know what keeps you going, what makes you peak? Lisa finds her center point every day at the gym. It’s what gets her up at 4am, everyday. Some people find it in their work because it gives them satisfaction while others find it in their friends. The important thing is to know what “does it” for you. It’s when people lose their focus or their drive that trouble begins. Find your focus and ask yourself where you are in your personal orbit, and then get close to the peak. Smiles and satisfaction await you.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and gooddeeds.” Hebrews 10:24

Some people live near their focus point all of the time. These are the people that ALWAYS have a smile and kind word. They are the ones who can inspire. Do you have people in your life that inspire you and do you inspire others? It’s harder to know if you inspire others but I would guess that everyone does and they simply don’t realize it. Our human nature is to be social; we were not intended to be solitary creatures, God gave Eve to Adam to keep him company.

This verse asks us how we can help each other live Godly lives of love and goodness. It is meant to be a question whose answer lies in being social. If you accept the orbits concept, you will know when you are at your peak, which is when you should be helping those around you. When you are in deep orbit, you should seek those who will bring you back through positive encouragement, love and good deeds. When people are in deep orbit, they can become lost and that is when the devil steps in to lead them astray. If you are losing sight of your center point, surround yourself with those that can spur you on toward love. The bible should be a place of inspiration and is filled with examples of God’s love. If you are at your center point, share your joy with others and become a source of positive influence.

Leadership Lessons

Leadership can be a number of different things to different people. Some seek leadership while others simply provide it. Leadership can be hard to define too. The United States Army defines leadership as “influencing people by providing purpose, direction, and motivation, while operating to accomplish the mission and improve the organization.” I agree whole-heartedly with this definition, being a leader is about being able to influence people. Some will view the idea of “influence others” as a negative thing but in this definition, the goal is to get people to do things that they didn’t know that they could do.

Leaders need to work with every employee to help them achieve their highest potential. When employees feel supported at work, they tend to work harder and as a result, the organization becomes stronger. There are “leaders” who believe that they are leading because their people check with them on all decisions. They think that they are supporting their people because they answer their phone calls. In these cases, they are simply holding their employees back by not letting them make decisions, think critically and be independent. How are they supposed to learn if they never get a chance to make a decision?

If you are a leader, look out for your people and care for them. This doesn’t mean do their work or become protective over them. It means that you care about their future, their growth and work-related wellbeing. Leading is like teaching a child to ride a bike. You give them the lessons, you guide them by holding the seat and running along side them and then you let go. If they fall, you help them back up and reassure them before doing it again. When they ride on their own, you celebrate what they’ve done.

“For He will command His angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways…” Psalm 91:11

This Psalm sounds like it is describing a great leader doesn’t it? God will guard you in everything: how great would that be? The interesting thing with this verse is that it doesn’t say “He will command His angels to do things for you” which is what most people want out of God. Most people want Him to provide for everything they desire and to protect them from everything bad. And when God doesn’t do all of that, they start to turn away.

C.S. Lewis, in his book “The Screwtape Letters”, describes what a letter between two demons might sound like and how simple it is to turn us against God. We are quick to turn on Him and begin relying on ourselves, which is really our sinful nature at work.

“He will command His angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways”. God is with you every day in everything you do. He is there to guard you and protect you, not from things on earth but to protect you for all eternity. God’s worry isn’t about this life; it’s about your eternal life. Re-read the Army definition of a leader and then apply it to what God does for you. His mission is to have us join Him in heaven and the organization is all of mankind. He wants to influence us so we can influence others. Be assured that God is there to guard you. He will not test or forsake you but has promised to love and care for you. Sounds like a great leader.

Encouragement

No matter how strong or independent we might think that we are, we all need encouragement. When we have kids, we encourage them all of the time; whether they are walking for the first time or going through potty training. We start our lives with so much encouragement only to watch it fade away into cynicism. After encouraging comes guiding and directing, which is followed by a little criticism before we simply stop doing anything. “They’re adults, they will have to figure it out” is how we justify doing nothing. Sure, as adult children they may push back and resist and we (as parents) will eventually just stop. This attitude also takes over at work with us. We rarely encourage co-workers or hear encouragement from others. I would suggest that our human soul needs it, otherwise we become so cynical that we can seem negative.

Sports teams are full of encouraging moments on the bench. Watch a team score a touchdown or a player hit a homerun and you will see encouragement at its peak. Supervisors have a responsibility to encourage their people along the way. Not every hit is a homerun but sometimes the only thing driving people to try harder is just a little encouragement. For me, I’d been working about 12 years before I heard someone say, “great job”. Perhaps it was the first time I actually did something right 😉 but I was on a pretty successful career path. Supervisors at that time simply didn’t acknowledge good work. We need to change that. I often use restaurant servers as examples because I watch them as they work and they work hard! Tell them what a nice job they did for you. An extra tip says one thing but taking the time to tell them how they did will mean the world. Then, take that concept and start spreading to multiple aspects of your life, watch people’s reaction and sit back and smile.

“The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” Deuteronomy 31:8

Have you ever had one of those crazy experiences or maybe even a horrible string of days at work and then, when it was over, wonder how you made it through it all? Where do you find your strength and inspiration? Some of us can be motivated or inspired by other people while others are motivated by greed and winning.

If you are reading this blog, my guess is that the latter doesn’t do much for you. Sure, people can be motivating and we can be inspired by the strength or wisdom of someone but, behind it all is the Lord Himself. He goes before you to light paths and order things so that those people are in your life. They may be put there years before He needs to use them, but He knows that you’ll need them. Stop and think about all of the really horrible things that have happened in your life and then think about the places, people and circumstances that kept you going. At the time they seemed random but if you carefully look back, you will see God at work. He promised to never leave you so do not be afraid or discouraged; God right there with you – every step of the way.

Courage

Courage is a pretty powerful word. Not everyone has it to the same degree; some people don’t even have it. I think it takes courage to jump out of an airplane or ride a looping roller coaster – I won’t do either. Some people say that firefighters have courage to go into burning building or enter hazardous conditions – I would do both. I suppose that all of this means that we are each held back by different things. We are held back by fear, in most cases, a fear of the unknown. A new job, a new city and a new friend, a new challenge or facing those things that we already know we fear; they are scary. Many of us would like to quit our jobs and live a life much different than we do today. So why don’t we?

Fear. Sometimes fear can stop us from taking chances at work. For example, we don’t speak up when we have an idea that could change things or that might be innovative. We’re afraid to look foolish. I would suggest that fear of the unknown is probably the top reason why people don’t take chances. They simply don’t know how things will turn out so they keep it safe and do what is comfortable. When you stop and think about all of the chances that some pretty famous people took, our lives would be much different without people like Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. They faced fears and took chances. Two weeks ago I asked, “what would you do if you knew that you couldn’t fail?” Would your life be different? I challenge everyone this week to do or try one thing that pushes your comfort level, just a little. Nothing drastic, just push out a little and see what happens.

“…Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. Exodus 14:13

Moses made this comment to the Israelites as he was trying to reassure them when they were afraid and pushing forward. This advice, even from the Old Testament, works today. Do not be afraid and put your trust in God. This world is so very different today when compared to 10 or 20 years ago let alone thousands of years ago. Today, we have so many things to be afraid of: ISIS, disease, Brexit, trade wars, global uncertainty, identity theft, computer hacking and Washington Politicians.

There are days when I wonder how we even function on a daily basis. Stand firm in your faith! God will bring you deliverance and peace when you share your fears with Him. Stay in His word to learn all of the promises that He has made to you. God tells us over and over how He will protect us. Do not be afraid. Reach out your hands and feel God’s presence in your life and go forward knowing that He is with you. Our fears are made up in our minds, and we should be confident that we aren’t alone. God is with you today and everyday so stand tall and take a chance on Him to bring you the deliverance you need from your fears.

Pride and Selfishness

Look what I did! I am so awesome! Have you heard or said these words? I once saw a plaque that read, “I know I’m not perfect but I’m so close that it scares me”. We often hear people expressing their confidence in very strong ways. What about the people who lack that type of self-confidence? Is there something wrong with them? Who wouldn’t be proud of what they’ve done? I would suggest that it may not be the lack of confidence or no pride in their accomplishments but it may be that they are simply too humble to talk about themselves. Humility is a God given talent and should be practiced but in today’s world it is seen as a sign of weakness. The opposite of humility is boasting and those type of people are even harder to deal with. We all know someone who is always right and identifies how others have “screwed up” without ever considering their own role in the situation. They make everyone around them miserable because they have done no wrong.

Related to this is the widening of the income gap. “I’ve got mine, too bad about yours”. I often hear people complain about school taxes because they don’t have any kids in the system so why should they pay school property taxes. “I got my kids through school with the help of others but I shouldn’t take my turn”. This selfish mentality is driving our world apart; we’ve forgotten about caring for each other. We need to keep watch over each other; we’re all we’ve got. I’ve got a picture frame on my dresser that says, “It won’t matter what my bank balance was, the size house I lived in, or the type of car that I drove but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.” If you can change “life of a child” and make it “the life of another human being” we get a little closer to God’s will. Go make a difference.

8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my LORD, for whose sake I have lost all things. 9…not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.  Philippians 3:8-9

Paul had everything in his life that he could want. He was considered a great man and was feared by many until he came face to face with Jesus Christ. Paul gave up everything (even his name) to follow Jesus. He was a righteous man under the law as a Pharisee; he told others what to do and people obeyed him. Jesus showed him the way to everlasting life and he spent years in prison writing and telling of the good news. He’d lost everything and yet was grateful for his faith in Jesus Christ.

He realized that he was nothing without his faith in Jesus and the righteousness that comes from God. Paul was humble, steadfast in his faith, shared the good news whenever he could, encouraged others with his letters and remained focused on what God wanted him to do. The power, the social status, the envy and the confidence that he had before, he considered a loss now that he has the knowledge of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Everything that we have is lost too, if we don’t have the same faith in our savior Jesus Christ. Share the good news about having eternal life through faith in Him and all that God has done for you. You will make a difference in the life of another human being.

Mistakes

I need to be careful about how I frame the two thoughts for this week, so I’m going to state them separately so that they are not combined. Thought #1 – we all make mistakes and Thought #2 – I celebrated my 32nd wedding anniversary this past week. DO NOT combine those thoughts. It was not a mistake to be married or married for this long! Lisa and I are very proud of the fact that we still like each other after all these years. What’s the secret? Is the first thing younger couples ask or those who never made it this far. (This is where the mistakes part comes in) We all make mistakes, but it is how we deal with them that makes the difference. We’ve made mistakes along the way but we learned from them and we moved on. We don’t keep bringing them up over and over.

Marriage is hard and it isn’t perfect, that’s why learning to deal with mistakes is important. One key to “dealing” with a mistake is to acknowledge it – “yeah, I really screwed that up”. Once you accept that you actually made the mistake, the rest is easy. I’ve been promising people that I work with two things – 1) I will make mistakes and 2) I will NOT repeat them. The not repeating part, that’s the learning. We all need to stop and look at our mistakes, figure out why it happened, what can be done to prevent it again and get over it through an apology. How do you keep a marriage together for 32 years? The answer is simple: love, faith, understanding, respect, a lot of mistakes and a wife who will forgive them.

“If the Lord delights in a man’s way, He makes his steps firm: though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” Psalm 37:23-24

The old question, “what would you do if you knew that you couldn’t fail?” seems appropriate here. If you would never fail, is there anything that you wouldn’t try? A post on mistakes can be filled with stories about people and their huge mistakes. Here are a few famous “mistakes”: post-it notes, Velcro, microwave ovens, potato chips, x-rays, penicillin, silly putty and the slinky. These were all the result of someone making a mistake.

God has taught us to be truthful and repentant – admit the mistake and don’t repeat it. God knows what is in our hearts and He will not let us fall. The Psalm tells us that even though we may stumble, God will be by our side and not let us fall. Stumbling can surely be embarrassing but it doesn’t hurt like falling does. God is with us all day, every day holding out His hand to keep us from falling. God’s plan is revealed very slowly to us but we can be assured that He is with us. Our job is to be with Him. Daily devotion, prayer and thanksgiving keeps God close. We were never intended to navigate this life without God’s presence and help. Don’t hesitate to reach for His hand.

Influence

There’s an old saying that warns us all about the company that we keep. We see the impact that people have on each other a lot in the fire service with fire crews. Each crew is usually made up of a leader, a driver and two firefighters. You can take four separate people, put them together and they will eventually become one central personality. The hope of every fire chief is that they will become a personality that is closer to the leader’s than anyone else’s. This same concept is what creates cliques and coffee clutches, as we get older. It seems that every social group develops its own personality that draws people toward it or pushed them away. How is the company that you keep?

“When he gets around his college buddies, my husband turns into a different person”. “My wife has such a positive attitude after she hangs out with the ladies group”. What do you adapt to when you hang around with the various groups of people in your life. Many of us were told when we were kids that “so and so was a bad influence”; our parents were probably right. Give a thought to the movies you watch, the songs you listen to, the things you read and, the company you keep. These things all influence how you act, what you say and what you believe. One of the main principles in Change Management is providing a vision for the workforce. The key concept of visioning is part of influencing thoughts and beliefs by keeping the distractions down and focusing on the positives. Stay focused on the good things in your life and the people who make them that way. By avoiding the negative thoughts and people, you will become the central personality for others. We need more positive influences in our lives!

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” Colossians 2:8

Just as others influence how we act, we are also influenced in what we believe by the company we keep. For years, studies have shown that college students fall away from their religious beliefs in large numbers. Many experience the freedoms of college and choose to explore “life” while others are simply influenced to go in a different direction. We have to be on guard to make sure the same doesn’t happen to us as adults.

Too many people believe the lie that they are in control and that a higher power may exist but won’t acknowledge that it is God. Humans are unable to comprehend the power of God and won’t submit to the idea that they are not controlling everything in their lives. “I don’t need God to do_____” or “The myth of God is just a crutch for the weak minded” are phrases that these people use. Hearing this over and over can start to influence even the strong willed. St. Paul warns us to “see to it that no one takes us captive”. This life is short when you compare it to eternal life. The feeling of belonging or the friends that influence you are not important if it means losing your focus on Christ. Stay Strong!

Criticism

Constructive criticism. Just the name makes me think “what an oxy moron”; what can be constructive about criticism? Having given out my fair share of it, I’m sure that it was an oxy moron to the person receiving it. I had always believed that it should be given as gift and received as one too. It takes courage to tell someone how they might improve or try something differently. It was when I started studying the concept of employee coaching that it really made sense. In coaching, the supervisor is not criticizing the employee but they are offering constructive observations about behaviors, seeking to understand the goals of the employee and attempting to align those goals with those of the organization. Effective employee coaching can go along way toward building up an employee, not criticizing them.

What does the word “praise” mean to you when you hear it? For many, it’s only something you do at church. Our society has become so negative that all we seem to hear is criticism and negativity. We should be throwing around a little more praise for people and the things they do. Think about the last time you told a server at a restaurant that they did a good job. You may have tipped well, but saying something will make it mean much more. I’m not suggesting that you walk around all day telling everyone “good job” but more often than not, they never really know unless someone says something. The next time the chance presents itself; tell someone how much you appreciated their work or advice. Not only will you make someone’s day but also you will be surprised how good you will feel about yourself.

“Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done.” 1 Chronicles 16:8

I often reflect on a verse from Paul in one of his letters to the Corinthians that essentially says – we cannot understand the wisdom or the timelines of God. We don’t understand why things happen and we become frustrated when our prayers are not answered right a way. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about bad things happening to good people and how we simply cannot understand His ways. I also suggested that we seek to understand why these things happen.

We should not criticize what is happening but give praise and thanks for all that He has done. The person who is sick has been given another day to experience; the person who is financially struggling is being prepared for something greater or perhaps being drawn to God. We need to give more thanks and praise. In prayer, God can handle our requests and our questioning of His wisdom but He can also handle our moments of praise and thanksgiving. Our praise should not remain silent in prayers but they should be shared with the “nations”. Spread the good news about what God has done, He deserves it.

Crisis

The Chinese word for crisis has two symbols grouped together that mean “a time of opportunity” and “a time for danger”. I’ve used this symbol when I teach Change Management to illustrate that change can sometimes be viewed by employees as a time of crisis. We all loose something during “change”, sometimes its as significant as losing a job, while other times it may be less dramatic or it may simply be a feeling of loss that disturbs people the most. Whatever the case, as people, we all deal with loss in a variety of ways. During a time of change, we will go through the 5 stages of grieving: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Many times these stages result in significant resistance to change.

The status quo is very comfortable for us – we get used to what we do and how we do it. Good managers will recognize that people will grieve their losses (perceived or real) and take steps to help their staff move through the grieving process. Managing change is an art and a science; change leaders must understand that and work through the issues. Major change requires patience. Change management requires constant communication and reassurance and should never result in ultimatums that people simply accept the change or leave. Employees must also recognize that change is both an opportunity and a dangerous time. It’s dangerous for them as they navigate the grieving process and overcome their resistance. It is a time for opportunity because they can show that they are a team player and may even become a change agent.

1 Corinthians 14:33 – “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace…”

God does not want us to live in disorder and chaos but He does want us to grow. Growth only comes with change. In the beginning, God kept forcing changes on us, He challenged everything that people knew and believed. He gave us opportunity after opportunity to change our hearts and minds. Finally, God sent us His son, Jesus Christ, known as the Prince of Peace. Jesus was a great reconciler for us; bringing us to peace with God our Father.

There are some that still are not willing to change from doing things their way and failing to believe in God and His son; they continue to do what they think is best based on earthly desires. Talk about resistance! There is no need to grieve; we have been given everlasting life with God through our faith in Jesus Christ. This is cause for celebration and not a moment of crisis. There is noting but opportunity in this good news. Continue to share your faith, keep up your devotions and listen to God as he speaks to you; He is speaking to you through the change agents in your life. The change agent maybe you, are you ready?