Last week I mentioned the exercise that I participated in. Each year that we do one of these, a theme emerges that can be funny or simply defines our overall emotions but it is always what keeps us going through the long days. This year’s theme was “words mean something”. In life and death situations, words really do mean something; even the order in which they are said. “Cut the red wire. Before doing so, cut the white one” This is a simple example of timing. A friend of mine is working on program in response to the question “what is the value of a firefighter?” The context of the program is based on the premise suggested by NPR, that firefighters are sometimes too expensive to keep around. Others will see that statement and try to answer the “value” part by showing how important they are to a community. Words mean something. Misunderstandings and miscommunications are all around us at home and at work. People reply with “that’s not what I meant!” but the hurt feelings are already there, so it really doesn’t matter what they meant to say. I’m seeing younger people today who have a hard time verbally expressing themselves. Their sentences are short and void of emotion, if it can’t be said in a text or e-mail, they just aren’t saying it. How are we to supposed to deal with them? When we speak with them we can ask them to repeat back to us what they “think” we said. We can ask them how they want to be communicated with. One thing is for sure; we must choose our words carefully knowing that each one has the possibility of meaning more than one thing to a new generation of young people. This generation may have a slightly different dictionary version than we do. We must be flexible and patient, our role is to continue to lead them.
“because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.” 1 Thessalonians 1:5
The bible is such a great book but it too can be filled opportunities for misinterpretation. Look at the various churches that claim to offer insight into God’s word and then proceed to tell you how to live your life. The gospel did come to us with great power; we can impact people’s lives by following the words given to us. We are not the judges of other people’s lives, the bible tells us that. The Holy Spirit is present in our lives but so is the devil, and they are constantly fighting for our attention. It is the deep conviction that we have in our faith that keeps the devil in check. Our words mean something; they are the light into our heart. Do you openly profess your love and belief in Jesus Christ? When given the chance to gossip about someone, do you jump on it? Do you lie about things in your life or take advantage of your boss who isn’t paying attention? These are all windows into your heart. The bible is more than just words; it is the WORD of God, given to us through the Holy Spirit who inspired its writers. The words and stories are told in such a way to bring meaning to each word. These words mean something. At the end of the day, we must watch our words and our actions because as they say, actions speak louder than words. The bible is our guide. No matter what we’ve done or said, we are forgiven by the grace of God and Jesus taking our sins onto Himself so we may have eternal life. Now that is plain and simple no matter how you say it.
I’ve spent the last three weeks serving the US Army during an exercise they call, Vibrant Response 13-2. I blogged extensively about it last summer but I had a different role this year and didn’t have enough spare time to put them together. The exercise was featured on Fox News this past Wednesday and can be seen at http://video.foxnews.com/v/2601500125001/disaster-training-for-emergency-responders/?playlist_id=938973798001 . I usually serve as the Deputy Area Commander assisting someone else but this year I was privileged to be the Area Commander overseeing the various Incident Commanders with military units assigned to them. I was essentially the director of resources and the collection point of all of the data that came in from the field. I then was tasked with providing it, along with feedback, to the various State and Federal agencies that needed it. I had the information that everyone wanted. We did a good job and kept track of mission completion and work times so that everyone could tell the difference between the perceived truth and the actual truth (ground truth). We worked an average of 13-14 hours a day for 21 straight days (270+ hours) to serve our country and the dedicated soldiers of the US Army. We knew what was expected of us before we left home and that a lot of people would depend on us, especially our customer, to be accurate in both our data collection and it’s interpretation. Our desire to serve was more important than the working conditions or hours. As I look back over the past three weeks and the thousands of soldiers that we directed or influenced, I can’t help but see a strong volunteer military filled with people who have chosen to serve rather than to be served. It was an honor to be part of their education and to work along side them to ensure that our Homeland Response Forces are ready if we should need them. There are great men and women who are serving or who have served our great nation in the military and we should not just remember them on Veterans Day but every day if we get the chance.
“Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” John 12:26
In the past few weeks I’ve seen a lot of servant leadership and it always reminds me of Jesus Christ. Jesus was THE servant leader. He knew what was in store for Him but He served us anyway. He healed the sick, fed the hungry, performed miracle after miracle and always did it with our best interests in mind. He was often called Teacher and He served in that role as well. Jesus was determined to reach as many lost souls as He could before His Father would call Him home. Servant leadership means that we give up control of the effort so that others can learn and grow. We serve those that we are trying to lead so that they may become stronger; we are ones making sacrifices for the betterment of others. Jesus’ sacrifice was beyond compare but we are all better off because of it. We are free from sin because the servant leader put us before Himself. We all make sacrifices in our lives but some do it in hopes of getting something in return. Jesus made a sacrifice not to get something in return but to share something with all of us – eternal life. The bonus for Him is that He gets to share that with us. Go out and serve others not because you need something but because you have something wonderful to share, a message of hope and salvation.
I was trying to determine if there was a difference between frustration and anger. The dictionary uses almost the exact same words in each definition but exchanges dissatisfaction with displeasure. My point is, some people will say that they are not angry just frustrated however, it’s not a big difference. In leadership positions, we have to guard against showing either of them to our workforce. The leader needs to remain calm and continue moving forward. This week, I had a conversation with a pilot from a major air carrier who told me that just last week on approach into an airport at 2am, the entire cockpit went dark, including the instruments. After the initial shock, they went into a holding pattern; he remained calm and went through the checklist to restore power to the instruments. I’m sure he suffered both anger and frustration. Once they were confident that problem was resolved, he landed without incident. In fact, he shared with me that he didn’t even tell the flight attendants until after they landed. Staying calm in an emergency is what saves lives. When we are calm we think clearer, and can process information faster than if we start getting angry. The same can be said in our daily lives. We make better decisions when we remain calm; in fact, we are much nicer to each other when we are calm. Everyone will have moments when they get really angry. I’ll bet the people around you know it when you do. Hopefully the moment comes and goes and you haven’t done too much damage to the relationships around you. What do we about those who are always angry? They are miserable to be around and almost instantly effect our outlook. Have you thought about your own actions lately? Which side of “angry” are you on? Bobby Farrin wrote the popular 80’s hit, “Don’t worry, be happy”. It’s good advice.
24Do not make friends with a hot-tempered man, do not associate with one easily angered, 25or you may learn his ways and get yourself ensnared. Proverbs 22:24-25
A couple of weeks ago I said something about “you are what you eat.” This week it’s also about the company you keep. Have you ever noticed that you enjoy a movie much more in the theater, laughing with everyone than you do when you see it again at home? People adapt to their surroundings constantly. If we work in a pleasant atmosphere, our general disposition is good. If we dislike where we are, it shows too. The same can be said about the friends you keep or the associates you make. We are being warned in these verses that if we make friends with short-tempered people, we too will become short-tempered. Jesus was never angry; He displayed calm in the face of grave challenges. When the Pharisees tried to trick him into breaking the law, he remained calm and worked through their deceit. When the devil tempted Him, he remained calm and used the bible as His defense. These are examples of life and death situations where calm was better than anger. Jesus never showed His frustration with those that failed to believe in Him, He continued to be compassionate. Don’t let the anger take over; give it up to God in prayer. Choose your friends and associates carefully and if you have no choice but to be around them, ask God for peace and understanding in their lives and calm in yours. One of the final words Jesus spoke to us at the last supper was “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you.” Stay calm, you have the Peace of Jesus Christ with you all day, every day.
Reliability. I’ll bet that when you hear that word, the first thing that will pop into your mind is a product of some sort. It is either a car or an appliance that we generally associate with the word reliability. What about people, do we consider them reliable? We might use dependable but reliable? People will let us down and are flawed from conception; I’ve even heard others quip that “you can depend on people to let you down.” The difference is very subtle; being reliable means that you will be able to get the same result over and over and dependable means worthy of reliance or trust. How reliable are you? Do people seek you out for help or advice? If you are in a leadership position, you need to be both reliable and dependable. Being reliable takes a toll on your time management. You will find that when people seek you out for help, you spend a lot of time with them and your own “work” takes second place yet still needs to get done. When people seek you out, you are actually functioning as a coach for them. Good coaching can turn into mentorship, which is a great professional development tool for both parties not mention a huge source of personal satisfaction. Whom do you rely on? Do you have someone reliable in your work life? We are sometimes too proud to ask for someone to help us or give us advice. Finding someone who is reliable enough to be a coach is rare; be sure they are willing to help at this level. If you are fortunate enough to be someone whom people consider reliable, consider sharing your gift with them at this higher level.
“And everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be saved.” Acts 2:21
It’s ironic that when I hear the words reliable and dependable, I don’t immediately think of the Triune God. As I reflect on it, I have to assume that it’s because I never have to think twice about God’s reliability and just writing that, makes me smile. There are millions of people in this world that don’t see it that way. They will base their assessment of God’s reliability on the number of answered prayers they receive, the quality of their life or the types of works they perform – trying to gain God’s favor, so that He’ll be more reliable and dependable. Our LORD and Savior is Jesus Christ, He intervened on our behalf to gain God’s favor. “Everyone who calls on the name of the LORD will be Saved” (Acts 2:21) means eternal life for everyone calling, no strings attached. God is reliable and dependable. He keeps His promises to his people; we just have a hard time seeing them because His time and our time are not the same. God always listens and comforts us; we simply don’t always recognize it. It’s the unexpected coffee that a co-worker brings you when need it or the refund check that arrives the week that your rent is due. Turning your life over to God and trusting in Him means that you never have to think twice about whether He’s reliable; He did send His one and only Son to suffer for us so that we can share eternal life Him. It certainly sounds like He’s in it for the long haul, how about you?