“Take one for the Emperor”

I just returned this week from participating in an U.S Army “ROC Drill’ or Rehearsal of Concept” drill with the Nation’s Joint Task Force-Civil Support Command. A ROC drill is where they review deployment, employment and re-deployment maneuvers for an upcoming mission, which in this case is the National Level Exercise “Vibrant Response”. This is a month long (+/-) exercise that tests the military response to a major event on U.S. soil. I wrote extensively about this last year in blogs under “First Alarm” on this site. The best way to exercise the entire Command is to use the worst-case scenario of all worst cases – a nuclear device detonation. Major General Mathis, the Commander of the Joint Task Force, which is comprised of approximately 5500 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen took the idea of “service to others” to whole new level with his phrase “at some point, someone is going to have to take one for the Emperor”. He was referencing the Fukushima nuclear reactor failure in Japan several years ago when someone or many would “have to take one for the Emperor” and despite the danger, go into the radioactive area to obtain the data needed to make critical decisions. Brave men from the Japanese Army entered the lethal area to get the information they needed to start the containment process – they did it at the request of the Emperor. If we had a real-world nuclear detonation in this country, we would be asking our military to do the same. It really made it clear to me that none of us really understand how to serve others when you compare it to acts like “taking one for the Emperor”.

To bring this back into our daily reality, we have public safety personnel risking themselves everyday for our safety not to mention all of the “troops” dedicated to protecting us world-wide. What about the average person? What kind of service to others do we do? Sure, some of us “serve” others in our jobs while some think that “I just work”. I’d suggest that there is no such thing as “just work”, every day we do/can serve others; its all in how we perceive it or our attitude toward it. Each one of us is important in our own way and we should never forget that. Reacting to the “Good Morning” sent your way by the always happy co-worker with a smile instead of a grunt turns your attitude toward serving others simply by returning the positive back to them. We spend a lot more of our day serving others and much of time we don’t realize it.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

There have books written on Jesus’ servant leadership – besides the Bible. Jesus came to us to: teach, lead, and provide an example of how to live but most of all, He came to serve us. He gave Himself for us so that we can all have eternal life with God our Father through Him. His service is even greater than “taking one for the Emperor”. On the last night before Supper, Jesus took the time to wash the feet of His disciples in what many believe to the greatest show of being a servant. The night before He would be turned over to start the process of a long death, Jesus washed feet. Serving His fellow man was important and while the disciples didn’t know what was coming, Jesus did. He knew that continuing His life of service was important to His mission and ironically, it’s a message that still continues to resonate 2000 years later. People remember the little things like washing feet before they talk about ALL of the other things He did. We aren’t much different. People will remember the little things you do for them before they remember the one or two big ones. Go out with the intent to serve others; pick up that piece of parking lot trash instead of stepping over it. When a co-worker looks stressed, help them with something small like a coffee refill or an offer to assist with something small. Sometimes it’s just the timing of a smile that can make all the difference in the world. Please pray for those who work everyday to safe guard us and be comforted by the knowledge that there are people who are willing to “take one for the Emperor” for you.

Father’s Day

Happy Father’s Day! I’ve been hearing that for the past 20 years but haven’t said it since 1986 when my own father passed away. I remember the day when I became a father for the first time and again 5 years later like it was yesterday. It was a little overwhelming to become responsible for another person and 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 of these and I am very proud of my kids; they are awesome people who care deeply for others and are good role models for others. I’ve often said that good supervisors are like good parents; firm when needed, caring when appropriate, there to help, offer advice and but knowing when to let them figure it out on their own. My kids hate that part; when they hear “what do you think you should do” or “what are the options you’ve considered”, they know its their turn. 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 work assignments or in their own future. They should feel safe under your direction while you are seeking to constantly strengthen them.

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 nothing like the feeling of being children of God. We aren’t lucky to have God as our Father; we have God’s grace and His mercy to be lead 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 Lord 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 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!”

Forgive and Forget

“Forgive and forget”. It work great in theory but its hard to practice on a reguar 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 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 no 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 it affects someone on a personal level. When it does, we should acknowledge the effort it took to admit the mistake by responding to them with 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 as part of learning and rapid decision-making; so the mistakes comeback sub-consciously. We have to keep it “in check” and dismiss it 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. He was telling them to leave all of it 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.

Wisdom and Understanding

“He doesn’t have enough common sense to change a nickel!” It was a phrase I heard often from my first Captain. He would use it 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 candidate. Having 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. Not because of the “bad” that will happen to us 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 of our sins – a reconciliation with the Law if you will that 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) we are demonstrating that we truly understand what God was trying to say all along. He is the way, the truth and the life. This message applied during Job’s time here on earth and now, in our time is fear the Lord and shun evil.  Can it be that simple?