Words matter. I’ve been saying that a lot lately as I find myself talking to various groups in my many “jobs”. I’m finding that I need to listen more carefully and speak more specifically. I don’t ever want to find myself excusing something I said because of a “Clinton technicality”. He based his whole answer about the Monica Lewinski affair on the word – relations. I won’t go any further except to say that he wasn’t lying when he described his affair by saying “he didn’t have relations with her”. Splitting hairs, I agree. Words matter 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 is important before you start to speak. Who are you speaking with and on what subject is very important I helping you make good word choices. If you are speaking with someone as a supervisor and 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” is a common complaint of teens with their parents. Take the time necessary to gather your thoughts and 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 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 are just 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 want to hear from you and by building your relationship with Him, you will know all of the good that you have to offer.
The other day I received a daily inspirational e-mail that shared this quote from the book “Wisdom of Wolves”: “Don’t get so busy making a living that you don’t know what you are living for.” Ironically, it came into my inbox while we were in Las Vegas for a few days of vacation. I was trying to take a few “days off” from the many hats that I wear but found myself checking e-mails and on few occasions, replying to some. I became busy making a living again and was sucked into working, even on “vacation”. Companies and their employees are always trying to find that work/life balance where everyone can have their cake and eat it too. As a matter of fact, the last thing I did before shutting down my computer on Tuesday was write a statement of the Vision of a fire district we are working with that said “We recognize the importance of balancing individual, family, and organizational growth and needs.” It was important to this client that they stated this as a value of the organization. How important is it in your life? What are you living for? It is easy to forget that in the end, you can’t take it with you. I realized during this trip that it wasn’t important where I was and what we were doing; but whom I was doing it with – my wife. We have been together for 29 years this month (married 27yrs) and have an awesome family much of it while I was busy making a living. I didn’t need to drive 400 miles from home to enjoy her company; I just needed to take the time to be with her. It took a life-altering event four years ago to change my perspective on who was really in control and what was truly important in my life. Don’t seek a work/life balance; take time to make it.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;” Proverbs 3:5
Trust is a hard thing to build but an easy thing to loose. God has shown us that we can trust in Him. He has kept all of His promises and even proven His love for us through the sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus Christ. However, Satan is always at work and keeps planting seeds of doubt in minds. We question God’s love when things go bad, when tragedy strikes or we don’t get what we asked for. Satan has us questioning God’s trustworthiness. Our human nature makes it easy for us to doubt God’s word because we expect Him to do things our way, according to our plan or at least the way we want things to go. We should know by now that God will reveal His plan on His own timeline. We can strengthen our trust in God by reading the words He gave to us through the Bible, through regular worship and prayer, through good fellowship with other believers but most importantly; by having a relationship with Him. Spend time with God, it doesn’t matter where or when just lean on Him and “trust in the Lord with all your heart.”
I recently wrote a couple of chapters for a human resource management textbook; one of which was on teamwork. According to Merriam-Webster’s on-line dictionary, a group is defined as “a number of individuals assembled together or having some unifying relationship” and a team is defined as “a number of persons associated together in work or activity”. As I researched about what more specifically defines a team versus a group, I found an interesting quote. According to Sharon Feltham, “Calling a collection of people a team and rallying them to the cause does not make them a team. A team is a small number of people with complementary skills who are committed to: a common purpose, a set of performance goals and a common approach, for which they hold themselves mutually accountable”. A group however, contains people with complementary skills and abilities who are committed to a leader’s goal. “A group supports the leader’s goals and the leader-dominated approach to goal attainment. Leadership is predominantly held by one person rather than the shared, fluid leadership of a team.” What this tells us is that in a group, the dominant viewpoint is represented; in a team, multiple, diverse viewpoints are represented. Decisions in a group are made by voting or implied agreement; decisions on a team are typically made by consensus. What I found through all of this is that people tend to use these terms interchangeably. Next time you join a work “team” make sure you understand who’s goals you are working to achieve.
“Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me.” John 15:4
Remain in Jesus as He remains in you. Our faith in Jesus Christ gives us the strength to move through our lives here on earth. God loves us and has charted a course in our lives but we cannot do it alone! As the branch, we cannot bear fruit on our own; we must remain in the vine that is Jesus. It sounds simple but the fact is that we need help to remain in the Word of God and strengthen our faith and understanding of the salvation given to us through God’s grace. The vine – Jesus, instructed us to worship with each other and to grow in our faith. He suggested that we form groups focused on a dominant viewpoint and not a team and its multiple viewpoints. We gather in a group to worship God, hear His word and receive the forgiveness of our sins through Christ our Lord and Savior. At times, we will support another branch when they need it and that branch will support us when we need it. No matter the situation, we must remain in the vine.
Leading by example is sometimes easier said than done. My son just got his learner’s permit for driving. To help him learn about what is happening on road around the car, we have him sit in the front seat. He’ll start in parking lots, and then move to residential streets before getting on to the streets with other cars. As we drive around, I have already found myself saying “don’t do what I’ve done or what I do – do as I say”. I’ve already failed in my “lead by example” and we haven’t really started! The whole experience reminds me of watching someone get promoted into a leadership position that now has to change everything they are in order to get the job done. We’ve all seen the guy who comes in late to meetings and is not prepared, get promoted, and suddenly expects people to “tow the line” when he is put in charge. How are you in your day-to-day actions? We all falter but are you more disruptive than you are helpful at work? As leaders we have the responsibility to watch everything we do, we will never really know the impact of our actions for some time. This is where being significant is more important than being successful.
“He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.” Mark 4:26-27.
Spread the word! I’ve often heard that said but these verses from Mark really add new meaning. We scatter seed every day in our lives as Christians. We come into contact with people and can affect them simply through verbal and non-verbal communication. Our attitude tells about what lies deep within us but our actions tell the rest of the story. We can scatter seeds that flourish or we can scatter seeds that result in weeds but make no mistake, we are always scattering seeds. No matter what we do or say, the seeds that we scatter will grow. Jesus has told us to spread the word. God has given us the instructions, through His word in the bible, to “go and make disciples of all men”. The message is clear, scatter the seeds and they will sprout and grow. We won’t know how but we can be assured that they will. Following Easter and the good news of salvation, we should have no trouble scattering the seeds of eternal life.
Yesterday, we celebrated Easter with Easter baskets, Easter egg hunts and Sunrise services. It is a wonderful time of the year! Spring is just getting started (for most of us anyway), the year is rising from the dormant winter much like Christ rose on the third day. A couple of weeks ago I was having coffee with a friend of mine when he started to talk about religion and his faith in God and our savior Jesus Christ. We talked about the various denominations out there and how people are searching for the “right church to belong to” as if it mattered whether you were a Catholic or a Lutheran. We both agreed that it wasn’t the denomination that was important but that they all had underlying belief in Jesus Christ as our savior. He then said something that really hit the nail on the head – “the importance bible of the bible can be summed up in two verses John 1:1 and John 3:16”.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16
When you read these two verses, you realize that he was right. Take away the differences between denominations, the doctrinal teachings and the “special rules” of each “church” and it all boils down to “the Word was with God and the Word was God.” God gave us His divine Word through the writings of the bible. He ensured that the messages He wanted sent were done so through the pages of the bible. As sinners, we continued to follow our own hearts and minds doing what we believed to be right. Knowing that we were not capable of doing what was in our own best interest, God intervened again. He sent His one and only Son to us. Not to just help us but to save us. God’s word tells us “that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life”. An eternal life that we will share with God our Father, Jesus His Son and all of the other believers. As my friend said, “what else is more important?” Knowing that you will have eternal life for your faith in Jesus Christ is the greatest gift at this time of restoration. Go out today, this Easter Monday, and every day remembering that you are saved not by your own doing or your own works but by the grace of God.