Worry won’t add to your life

Worry can consume a great deal of time in someone’s life. As children, some of our mothers warned us to, “wait until your father comes home” and then we’d spend hours worrying. Yet as adults somehow, we are comfortable worrying. I created phrase in our house a long time ago when I said, “let’s worry about worrying, when there is something to worry about”. We had fallen into the trap of “worry” before we even had a problem. As a family, we learned after my surgery that there is a plan for our lives; we simply needed to let it reveal itself to us. Humans want to be in control of everything and when we can’t adjust the circumstances around us, we start to worry. We do it so often that worrying has become second nature to us. We worry about things at work, we worry about things at home, in the stock market, in pro sports, on our drive to work and we worry about ourselves. I would challenge you to stop worrying and start living your life. 

I’m not suggesting that you become reckless but start to look around at all of the great things in your life and look at how they are connected. These are not random events that just happened because the timing was right; they are connected events that if you look hard enough, you’ll see the plan before your eyes. Let circumstances unfold without your intervention or delay your action just long enough to see the real “whole story”. If you are a supervisor or leader, you should be working to keep your staff from worrying. Keep them in the loop on issues and be honest. It’s hard for an employee to worry about something when they know the facts. Ask employees what they worry about, you might be surprised by the answers you get. Worry is wasted energy and emotions so don’t fall into the trap. You control your reaction – worry or action, the choice is yours. 

25Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 26Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”  Luke 12:25-26

Luke answers my question – worrying will not add to your life, so why do it? As believers, we know three things about our lives: 1) God has a plan for us 2) Our time here on earth has already been determined and 3) Our trust is in God. We are, however, logical thinkers by design. God gave us free will to live our lives. I’ll argue then, that if you believe God has a plan for you and that you trust in Him, what do you have to worry about? 

If we cannot add a single hour to our own lives, then what is the point? Is worry the creation of Satan to break down our trust in God? I don’t know the answer but I know that far too many people turn away from God because they get lost in worrying and find ways to satisfy that emotion which in turn reveals more worry, etc. There is only one that can weave that sort of confusion in our lives. Let God take that worry from you, He likes to hear what is troubling His children. God will be there for you no matter what you are worried about, give Him your troubles. Let God work in your life and you’ll be amazed at the great things that he will reveal. Put your trust in God and less on your own ability and He will be there for you.

Temptation

They say, “temptation is everywhere”; I have to believe it. Every day we see so many new or “must have” things that it’s amazing we all aren’t financially and morally bankrupt. (I know that’s arguable but go with it.) There is an old leadership saying: “don’t ask your people to do things that you wouldn’t do yourself”.  It doesn’t mean that if you can do it yourself, you should. It’s about having people do things that are dangerous, improper, illegal that you wouldn’t do yourself but you’d be willing to sacrifice them to do it. It sounds horrible (and it is) but it happens. It is usually in a very subtle way when a supervisor “suggests” an edge over the competition but then doesn’t provide specific direction on how to do it. They then will give specifics about the “reward” for such a victory. All of us at some point have been tempted to “get” someone at work to simply “show them” who we are. Most of the time we don’t act on these feelings but when we do, we usually don’t feel good about ourselves afterward.  

Temptation at home can be strong too. We are tempted to buy something we really can’t afford and when we do buy it, we get buyers remorse. We end up paying it off after a few months (or years) on the credit card and swear to never do it again. The consequences are minor so we don’t worry about doing it again when temptation comes knocking. We will keep answering those temptations until we have a significant event that changes our behavior which, is often way late. The financial ruin, job loss or broken relationship that follows not only rocks our faith but the outlook we will carry for the rest of our lives. I’d like to say don’t act on them but as I started, “temptation is everywhere”. The key is recognizing the temptation and turning to truth about what is proper and what you can actually afford.

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;” James 1:13

Wouldn’t it be nice to never be tempted by evil? It must be one of the “perks” of being God! Now that we’ve established that we are not God, we have to look at who is tempting us. Sometimes it’s just the “old Adam” in us; the human nature that “justifies” our actions to do something small or with minor consequences. There are times when it is the devil that is tempting us. The “original sin” we all have came from the devil and he is working every day to turn us away from God. He plants small doubts, jealousy, envy and want in our heads. We can easily “justify” doing anything – “I’m owed”, “no one will notice”, “everyone else is doing it”, or “I need this” are a few examples. 

Every time we justify a temptation to ourselves, act on it and then feel remorseful, we’re simply allowing the devil to win another round. Sometimes, we blame God for not being “strong enough” to block these temptations or our actions and there are some that will blame God for constantly testing us and turn away. This is not God’s work; it is the devil at work! Stay strong in your faith, remain connected to God’s word, pray daily with thanksgiving and ask for God’s help. The “right answer” is within you; you simply must look beyond the devil’s rationale for the truth.

Parenting

I’ve often said that good supervisors are like good parents; firm when needed, caring when appropriate, there to help and offer advice and but they know when to let the “kids” figure things out on their own. My kids used to hate that part; when they would ask me for advice about something and I’d say, “what do you think you should do” or “what are the options you’ve considered”. Above all, a good parent loves their children and makes them feel safe under all types of circumstances. The same can be said for a good supervisor, you should love your people but in a different way. They should not fear the workplace or the atmosphere there, they should not feel unappreciated or like they have no say in the current direction or their own future. They should feel safe under your direction while you are seeking to constantly strengthen them.

I remember the day when I became a father, for the first time and again 5 years later, like it was just yesterday. It was a little overwhelming to become entirely responsible for another person and shape how they would turn out. How would my actions permanently impact their lives? There were things that I wanted for them like an annual family vacation and things that I didn’t want them to experience like loneliness. I’ve been blessed to achieve both, and I am very proud of my kids; they are awesome people who care deeply for others and are good role models for others. 

14because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.”  Romans 8:14-15

We are all “sons” of God; male or female it doesn’t matter. I’d like to think that my kids feel lucky to have me as their father, but it does not compare to the feeling of being children of God. We aren’t “lucky” to have God as our Father; we have God’s grace and mercy to be led by the Spirit of God in our lives. Our free will allows us to accept it or deny it but the Spirit is always with us, waiting for us to accept God and our Savior Jesus Christ. No matter what we do or say, the Spirit is always present. Just as a parent is always there for their children, our Father is always there for us. 

We are no longer slaves to the fear of guilt or the wrath of God; we are free because of our love and belief in Jesus Christ and the triune God. No matter what we’ve done, God forgives all of us. Our Father in heaven sent Jesus to save us from the world we know and from ourselves. The devil wants us to believe that no matter what we do, there is no pleasing God so we might as well enjoy ourselves here on earth. Cry out to our Father and stay strong in your faith knowing that you are forgiven and safe in His care. Your Father in heaven loves you. Like a good parent, He is always there; just call on Him “Abba, Father!”

We are Free

Yesterday was July 4th and in the U.S. we celebrate our country’s independence as the Fourth of July Holiday. I have traveled to Washington DC many times for work, and you can see signs of our founding fathers everywhere along with the power of our government on what seems like every corner. It wasn’t until I’d seen just about everything else before I visited the Jefferson Memorial. Not for any other reason than, I was too lazy to “go all the way over there” on the other side of the pond. I remember very vividly seeing the monuments one night and the Jefferson Memorial didn’t look that far away after visiting the MLK Memorial. I was wrong but that’s another story. When you see the quotes from great leaders like Washington, Lincoln, Roosevelt and MLK you are inspired as an American. 

The interesting thing about all that history however is, we have no idea what they really went through to get us to the point of “One Nation Under God”. Not too far from the Lincoln Memorial are the Vietnam Memorial Wall, the Korean War and the World War II Memorials. These four memorials each represent some of the “actions” that have kept our country free since July 4, 1776. Again, these memorials tell of men and women who sacrificed it all for us to be free in circumstances that are unimaginable to most of us. This Fourth of July is not just a celebration of our country’s birth but is a celebration of those that have fought, here and abroad, for us to remain free. Some did it with words and pens, others with swords and rifles, but they all did it for their love of their Country; their actions meant millions of others would be free. 

“Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.” 1John 3:18

When I first saw this verse I was ready to write about love and honesty but with the July 4th Holiday upon us, this seemed more appropriate. We “love” a lot of things in our lives – dessert, a TV show, a movie, our clothes/shoes, our cars, food and even our electronic devices. Some people “love” things so much that they post about them on Facebook, Twitter or Insta-Gram. None of these are what God had in mind when he inspired the writers of the bible. We can tell people we love them, we can write them poems or letters or in today’s case we can tweet it but how do we show it? People will say that they love their fellow man when they write a check to a charity and others by volunteering. It’s important to remember, sharing God’s love isn’t about works. 

It’s not about how many checks you write or how many hours you volunteer at the homeless shelter or how many doors you knock on to share the word. We have God’s love because we believe and His love isn’t dependent upon anything we do. We are instructed with this verse to love with actions and in truth. The old phrase “actions speak louder than words” is best applied here. Don’t go around professing your love for God but cheating every chance you get. Don’t write or say: “You’ll be in my prayers” but then never pray. All of us, as God’s children, have been given the gift of God’s love; not only was it written for us in the bible, but it’s shown everyday by His actions in our lives. Let’s celebrate ALL of our freedoms this week: as a nation we enjoy certain freedoms and as a sinner, we are free from eternal punishment through our faith in Jesus Christ. We have these freedoms today because of courageous acts by many; we should never forget them.

Forget What is Behind

“Forgive and forget”. It works great in theory but it’s hard to practice on a regular basis. We always seem to be quick to forgive but never quite get to the forget part. Men famously complain that their wives never forget “that one time when we were dating” – years ago. Men are just as bad, so I’m not celebrating here. Saying “I made a mistake” is one of the hardest things people can say to each other. It shows great humility and is a demonstration of the respect that the person has for the relationship. There are several versions of “I made a mistake”: I was wrong; I shouldn’t have done/said that; I didn’t mean to or that’s not what I meant and the newest version – just kidding. I don’t quite get that one. Despite all of these versions, what we don’t often hear is a good old fashioned – “I’m sorry”.

Sometimes mistakes have consequences; one of which is at a personal level for the one who admits it. When they do, we should acknowledge the effort it took to admit the mistake by responding to them with the affirmation that it’s “okay” or “I forgive you”. Our human nature makes forgetting about it hard; this mistake or hurt always seems to resurface when the same person is involved in a new but similar situation. Our brains are programmed to “recall” events and how we reacted to them is part of how we learn and is how we process rapid decision-making; so the mistakes comeback sub-consciously. We have to keep our emotions “in check” and dismiss them from our reaction (unless it’s a duplicate event). Ultimately, give everyone a little grace and your forgiveness.

“Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:14-15

St. Paul was telling the Philippians to leave the past behind them, forget their old ways, old habits, old beliefs and old understandings. His advice to us today is the same, look toward the future and to what you can do today to live a better life. No matter what you’ve done, leave it in the past. At the time Paul wrote these letters, the people of the world were leading pretty brutal lives. They raped, pillaged and murdered each other. It was an “every man for himself” world. They watched human slaughter for entertainment in places like the Coliseum in Rome. St. Paul was telling them to leave all of it in the past and focus on the future prize promised by God – eternal life through Jesus Christ. 

I have no idea how many people read this each week but I will bet that no one has lived a life today like those who lived in the First Century. No matter what you you’ve done, look toward the future you have through Christ. God wanted you saved, that’s why He sent Jesus to die for our sins – then and now. You are forgiven! As it is written in Acts 10:43 “…Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” There are no other versions or ways to say it; you are forgiven. Now start living and looking toward to the future with Jesus Christ.

Common Sense isn’t so Common

“He doesn’t have enough common sense to change a nickel!” was a phrase I heard often from my first Captain. He would use that to describe just about anyone who couldn’t quite “get it”. I don’t know if he ever used it to describe me but I’m sure, at times, I lacked “a little change” myself. Merriam Webster’s defines wisdom as “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise.” The challenge we have in our roles as spouses, siblings, parents and leaders is that we don’t or can’t teach wisdom. In education, we refer to “teaching wisdom” as teaching critical thinking. It is difficult to teach someone how to “think”. We usually associate wisdom with experience and maturity. Critical thinking is skillful and responsible thinking in which you study the problem from all angles, and then exercise your best judgment to draw conclusions. 

Teaching critical thinking consists of three basic concepts: 1) Reflecting on the issue or question; to stop and think, avoiding snap judgments, accepting the first idea that comes to mind or automatically accepting whatever is presented. 2) Gently asking questions such as “How do you know”, “What are the reasons?” and “Is that a good source of information?” which establishes the reasons for a point of view or seeks the reasons for others’ views. 3) Being aware of alternative possibilities, conclusions, explanations, sources of evidence, or points of view. Merriam Webster’s defines understanding as “the power of abstract thought; the capacity to apprehend general relations of particulars”. We must have wisdom before we have understanding. As leaders, we tend to deal with teaching people what to do (knowledge) and ask if they understand it. We should be focusing on their depth of understanding through critical thinking.

“And he said to man, ‘The fear of the LORD—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.’ ” Job 28:28 

A lot can be said of Job. When I hear his name, I immediately think – strength. He certainly stayed faithful to God and despite what happened to him, he knew that God was with him. If anyone can tell us about what God meant, I believe Job to be an excellent teacher. Having the fear of the Lord is something that is wise for an individual to do. It certainly stands today; we should all have fear of the Lord our God.

We shouldn’t fear God because of the “bad” that will happen but because He is our Father and we should live to His glory. Besides, not living to honor God will surely keep you from eternal life. God sent us His Son to take away all our sins – a reconciliation with the Law if you will. This reconciliation, however, does not give us a “free pass” but gives us eternal life by our faith in Him. It is wise to fear God. Job also tells us that if we shun evil (follow in the way of the Lord) that we truly understand what God was trying to say all along. He is the way, the truth and the life. Fear the Lord and shun evil, can it be that simple?

Suffering

How could God let this happen? Why are these things happening, is this the end of days? We often hear people asking these types of questions or when people begin to question the existence of God. It’s these thoughts and when tragedies strike, that they become a great source of inspiration for the devil to create doubt in our minds: “Would a loving God allow such a thing to happen? How could a righteous God let innocent children suffer so?” We cannot explain it, nor can we begin to comprehend God’s plan and what meaning all this chaos has in our lives yet alone the lives of those that suffered such great losses. We aren’t supposed too either.

God is always present! I’ve written several times before that we don’t always know why things happen or what purpose God is trying to fulfill. Sometimes we feel like we are suffering when things are going wrong at work or if we are having troubles at home. Other times our suffering is the form of a medical diagnosis. For others yet, personal suffering is constant no matter if its good or bad. How we deal with these challenges is what builds our character. No one can help us through our suffering, no matter how close they are to us. St. Paul’s letter to the Romans speaks to us in our time of great suffering. 

“…we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.” Romans 5:3-5 

I’m sure that there is one of you reading this right now that is suffering to some degree, and you cannot see the value of perseverance or character right now – but you will. You will see the hope as people come to your aid to help in ways you didn’t imagine. You will become stronger in your ability to survive, and you will become an inspiration to someone else – maybe to someone you know or perhaps, someone you haven’t met yet. Someone will tell your story and you will hear the story of others.

You will be stronger because of what has happened to you, your character will be strong, and you will learn to persevere. We look upon our “suffering” as horrible but as the end-times actually approach, we all will need perseverance, character and hope to stand up to the devil and the destruction he will bring before Jesus descends to earth to bring us all home.  This is not the time to doubt God’s plan or His love for you. It’s time to renew your hope in Him because the work of the devil that surrounds us must be defeated once and for all when Jesus returns to call us home.

Are you listening?

There is an old saying that God gave us two ears and one mouth so that we might listen twice as much as we speak. This reminds me of people who interrupt others because they have the answer before someone even finishes asking the question. Even if the first speaker was 100% correct in their statement, there are some that simply want to disagree because, so it would seem, that is what we do these days – disagree with each other simply for the sake of disagreeing. We appear to have lost all objectivity. 

Smart phones and digital/virtual assistants are dumbing us down. We are losing our ability to listen – really listen. We need to take the time to look people in the eye and listen to what they are saying. Don’t focus on what you’re going to say next or make assumptions about what they are trying to say or jump to the end because you think faster than they do. Listen, smile, pay attention and really hear what they are saying. I just read an article about Emotional Intelligence, which Oxford Dictionary defines as: “the capacity to be aware of, control, and express one’s emotions, and to handle interpersonal relationships judiciously and empathetically.” The title of the article is, “Emotional Intelligence begins with Self-Awareness”. The key to handling interpersonal relationships is listening. A relationship cannot exist without a sender (speaker) and a receiver (listener) otherwise any conversation is just a lecture. Try to listen more than you speak this week and see if you gain any new perspectives.

“Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear.” Isaiah 65:24

God’s people just didn’t get it when Isaiah was writing this. In fact, many today still don’t get it. God was saying, “I know what they will need before they ask and I will always listen.” This is one of His great promises – speak to me and I will listen. It’s important to note, He didn’t say “I will fix it” or “I will answer you right away” but He say, I WILL listen. 

It’s often hard for us to separate listening from answering. God’s time frame is different than ours. God wants to hear from His children, He knows what is on our hearts but He wants to hear what is on your mind. Tell Him what you are thinking in prayer. God will meet your basic needs; that’s Him answering before we call. He wants to hear ALL of our worries, concerns, appreciations, thanks and our needs. He will order things in our lives according to His will, not ours. If you think He isn’t answering, perhaps you are not being patient enough or you simply don’t see the answers/solutions present in your life. God hears it all, it’s usually us who fail recognize His work.

Live by the Spirit

I have been blessed to work with the same group of people for more than 10 years during these military exercises that I do. I have learned much more about myself and how to work across multiple levels of an organization than perhaps I’ve been able to share. This is the first year that we haven’t worked together so I’m a little nostalgic. I vividly recall a “lively” exchange with one of these old friends as we shared our passions when he said, “We are in violent agreement with each other”. Take a moment and re-read what I wrote – yes we were in agreement. Our discussion brought out our passion for doing a good job. It makes me wonder how many other times I get into violent agreements with people since I am such a passionate personate person.

As human beings, we need to remain in control of our emotions and maintain awareness of how we react to things. I’m not one who usually “flies off the handle” but when I get to that point, I turn into a freight train. Passion is a good thing to have in life – in love, in commitment or to help others, etc. We must guard that passion when we get emotionally involved in issues; there is a difference between a passionate and an emotional response. Self-control starts with peace, patience, kindness, goodness and gentleness as a result of faithfulness. Peace and patience allow you to remain calm in the face of the issue. Kindness and goodness remind us that someone will be on the receiving end of our self-control (or lack of it) and those interactions should be gentle. People will respect you, you’ll respect yourself and you’ll glorify God with the gifts He has given you.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22-23, 25

There is nothing like starting a week with a little self-reflection. Have you been reacting with passion or emotion? It is good to be reminded that the fruit of the Spirit or the essence of what the Holy Spirit has given us; lives within us. We don’t have to seek these things or learn them; God has given them to us. Jesus lived His life demonstrating them, God inspired the words written in the bible; all we need to do is study and practice them. 

It’s okay to be happy (joy) and to get along with others (peace). Be patient and kind with everyone, even those who require a little extra effort. Your demonstration of goodness and gentleness are God pleasing and witness to your faith in the Word of God, above all. These fruits lead to more self-control and less frustration that will circle back to finding love, joy and peace in your life. God is amazing in how He ordered all of these “fruits” to work in support of one another in our lives. “Since we live in the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” is great advice to us for how to live our lives, especially these days! 

Watch What You Say

Words matter. I make this statement all too often and using the exact verbiage is critical during the military exercises that I participate in. While words matter, so does listening to those words. As I get older (and crabbier) I’m finding that I need to listen more carefully and speak less frequently but more specifically. I don’t ever want to find myself excusing something I said because of a grammatical technicality. Words matter especially when you are dealing with people. Each one of us has a different interpretation of various words and each word can elicit a different emotion for different people. Knowing your audience or the receiver is important before you start to speak. 

Understanding the subject matter and the person that you are speaking to, are critical to helping you make good word choices. If you are speaking with someone as their supervisor and you need to give direction or take corrective action, your word choice is critical to express the seriousness of your intent. The tone and inflection of your voice are also important to the delivery of your intended message. “You sounded mad when you said that” was a common complaint of our teenage kids. Take the time necessary to gather your thoughts and choose the words that convey your message before you speak. If you find that you are frequently having misunderstandings with people or that you are explaining yourself in greater detail more often, re-think your word choice and how you deliver your message. The people receiving your message don’t know what you are “trying” to say, they only know what you’ve said.

“A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.” Luke 6:45

People that you see on a regular basis always seem to know when you are having a bad day or when you’re not at the top of your game. They also know when you are playing to the crowd, which is not a completely honest way of dealing with people. The good stored in your heart is a gift from God. Truthfulness, compassion and caring are things that we learned from the actions and teachings of Jesus. 

Some people can “play to the crowd” very well and say one thing in public but say another behind closed doors. God is always watching and knows what is on your heart. Sooner or later the truth or the “real person” is revealed. Keep your heart stored up with good by being surrounded with the good of this world. Maintain fellowship with other Christians; regularly attend worship so you are reminded of the forgiveness won by Jesus; devote time to regular bible reading and most importantly, pray. God wants to hear from you and by building your relationship with Him, you will know all of the good that you have to offer.