Make a difference

I’m writing this on Saturday October 26, 2013; did you know that today is Make a Difference Day? I started my day today with a public appearance to kick off our City’s Make a Difference Day events. We had about 100 volunteers who were tackling about ten projects around the city. We had three Boy Scouts that were each leading teams as they worked toward their Eagle Scout Designation – the highest level of achievement in Scouting. We had a group from a local college, several high school groups, church groups and various community minded residents. So what is this day all about? According to Makeadifferenceday.com; “For more than 20 years, USA WEEKEND Magazine and Points of Light have joined together to sponsor Make A Difference Day, the largest national day of community service. Millions of volunteers around the world unite in a common mission to improve the lives of others.” As the day progressed, it got me thinking about why should we make a difference just one day a year? We all make a difference to someone, each and every day. Sometimes we know when we do and other times we don’t. We all do our jobs faithfully, day in and day out. We don’t really expect people to notice what we’re doing. Many times you will hear public safety folks say, “We were just doing our jobs”. In reality, they were making a difference. Today, as you read this, I challenge you to make a difference for someone. Go out of your way to help someone. A few years ago this was called “random acts of kindness”. I’m not saying hold open a door; I’m challenging you to put someone else’s needs before your own. You’ll never know what impact you might have on someone’s life.

“If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”
Ecclesiastes 4:10

Make a difference, today and everyday, was what Jesus was trying to teach His disciples. However, Ecclesiastes was written in the Old Testament. On the surface it sounds like we are being told to make sure that we have friends so they can help us up. If it was that simple, we wouldn’t have half the troubles we have today. What about the man who has no one to help him up? Who will help? God’s commandments teach us to love one another (among other things) and care for each other. This means everyone, not just our friends. God took His love for us and sent us a “friend” that will always help us up, His Son, Jesus Christ. No matter what is happening in your life, you are never alone. God is with you. When you feel distant, God is with you, just hold out your hand and open your heart. When you feel cold and alone, close your eyes and feel God’s warmth surround you. You are forgiven for everything you’ve done. Jesus, your friend, has helped you up when you’ve fallen. He sacrificed everything so that we could have eternal life. God is never angry with us, His love is eternal because our sin has been taken away. Now that is someone who made a difference!

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Leadership Traits

I have recently had several conversations about leadership vs. management. My daughter told me a story about a “manager” in another department that refuses to let his student worker “unplug from her position” in the call center three minutes early so she can catch the noon shuttle back to campus. He told her to bring her things for class and take the 12:20 shuttle. She offered to come in early so they still would get their 4 hours of work from her but he refused. This is a college worker, working on campus, who is trying to make it all work and has someone as a supervisor who is only capable of being a manager. A leader would have helped her and worked out a solution. There have been books written to describe leadership, so I’m not going to do it in a short blog post. The verse for today talks about: “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training”; all good signs of a leader. Taking the time to ensure that your people understand their job is a management function. Taking the time to build their skills and knowledge so that they can grow/advance is leadership. Rebuking, which is the expression of disapproval or criticism is a management skill of correcting unwanted behavior. Leaders that have courage, will not only help others correct mistakes, they take the time to coach their staff toward improvement and will allow mistakes to serve as learning points and not disciplinary moments. Managers will spend time correcting every little thing that people do, sometimes we use the phrase “micro-manage” to describe these people. We have all worked for someone who wants things done a certain way and within a certain time period. A real micro-manager takes their “certain way” and makes changes to everything we’ve done. A leader will correct someone by showing more effective processes, they will explain what and why certain things are important but most of all, they will acknowledge when they too are wrong. Training employees is critical for the overall organization’s success. Teaching is about learning new skills and training is about taking what you know and making it better. Leaders view training as an opportunity to let people experiment and get comfortable with concepts and processes. The signs of a good leader can be found in these traits, modeled by the greatest leader there will ever be.

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.  2 Timothy 3:16-17

This is one of those verses that sum up the bible – “All Scripture is God-breathed”. It’s amazing to think that these are the words of God given to us through His writers. If you look back through the scriptures, you will see Jesus use teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in all that He did. Whether he was addressing large crowds, small groups, His disciples, His mother or the Pharisees, He was working toward righteousness. The men referred to in these verses are us. We should use these traits to become equipped for every good work. No one will manage us, there is no one to “make” us do it; Jesus (our leader) has given us examples to follow. As sinners, it is easy to fall away from the teachings, no one really knows when we fall and there is no one to discipline us. Our coach and our leader, who is there all of time, is God. He is the one who inspired the scripture and sent His Son to be our savior. We need to embrace the One whom we call “teacher”; He is the one that makes it all right in our Father’s eyes.

Confession, work and priorities

I’ve been writing this blog since January of 2012 and have produced a weekly devotion no matter what – vacations, out of town for work, projects, etc. I made it a point to make sure that I had one scheduled to post so that no matter how busy I was or where I was traveling; I would keep my self-imposed deadlines. I failed this week in making my deadline – 4am Arizona time. I’m never up at that hour but my blog is working to keep my commitment to myself and to my witnessing. I wrote a post in February of 2012 called “Who are you working for?” I found the answer to that question this weekend: I’m working for the “man” and that the “man” is me! I was working to finish a project for a client while completing a proposal for another project and I lost control of my weekend. I even worked late into the night on Sunday! So much for remembering the Sabbath and keeping it Holy. Now that I’m done confessing, let’s turn back to the work at hand – sorry pun intended. I was caught up in doing my very best work not only for our current client but also for a future one. My name is on those documents and I want them to be a reflection of the pride that I take in my work. We often hear the phrase “working for the man” when people describe their jobs. I’d like to suggest that you consider yourself working as though you are working for God or Jesus Christ and that God shows through in everything that you do. If you had to go to work everyday for God, I bet you would approach your work much differently than you do today. Change your outlook and do your best, at all times and at the end of the day pause, close your eyes, tilt your head towards heaven and imagine God’s smile and a wink. You’ve done a good job today!

Colossians 3:23-24 “What ever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men… It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

Do your friends and family ever wonder why you work so hard or have patience for the work you do? The “man” doesn’t care how hard you work, just keep showing up, keep your mouth shut and do your job. Working for the “man” is what many people are destined to do. The “man” in Paul’s letter is the Lord. Feels different now doesn’t it? We are a reflection of the goodness of God and all that Jesus Christ taught us about living our lives. He didn’t say, “go and work just for yourselves and leave the others to suffer”. Jesus taught us to care for each other and give willingly. Many of us do that and while it can be hard at times, we do a good job and are thankful for the opportunity. God’s plan for us includes using us as examples for others to see His goodness. When you smile at or encourage someone at work, you are reflecting God’s goodness. When you continue to work hard when everyone else is taking advantage of the workplace, you are reflecting God’s goodness. When you un-jam the copier after someone else walked away from it, you are reflecting God’s goodness. We can see God’s goodness if we just look for it – its everywhere. It is the Lord you are serving, do it with all of your heart!

Wise and Faithful Servant

One of the many hats that I wear in my life of service, is that of local elected official – yes, a politician. It makes me cringe when I say it or write it; politician is now a horrible way to describe your self. I am a public servant, doing the work of and for the people of our community. We are responsible for making policy, providing direction, setting budgets and guiding the development of the community. We have an awesome staff who understands what our community needs and what vision we have set for it. Our citizen satisfaction is high and most people you run into will say that they love our community. It is safe, clean and stands out among the other cities in our region. I know it sounds like utopia but it is, without exaggeration and all true. We have been able to achieve all of this because of our ability, as a city council, to work together toward one vision and with one purpose – do what is right for the whole city and not selected developments or special interests. The thing about local politicians is that they can’t stop working with each other when they disagree, they can’t pick ideological agendas to push onto the community and they must put the community first. Our positions require us to be wise when we zone properties or approve developments. We must lead in all situations by providing direction the city staff on what we expect for our residents. We don’t have the option to “shut-down” your local government because we can’t get along; we must always shine despite what is happening around us. Dare I say? We must be wise.

“Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever.” Daniel 12:3

“Wise” is defined as “having or showing experience, knowledge, and good judgment”. Many of us are wise in a number of things, some in sports while others in gardening and others in general information. The TV character Cliff Clavin from Cheers thought he was wise in general information but we know how that turned out. The bible is instructing us here to be wise about the teachings of God. In the Old Testament, the people were subjected to the Laws and were constantly proving to God that they were incapable of following them. They relied on their own interpretations and followed their own desires. They were not wise. Those that followed the Laws, believed in God and openly shared their faith lead many to righteousness. The bible teaches that they will shine forever. We can use this verse to be reminded that we too, will shine, when we are wise to the teachings of Jesus Christ. God’s Son, whom He sent to save us because we were not wise, has given us the examples we need to be wise. While we are no longer under the Laws, Jesus taught us how to live righteously through parables, He lead by example and demonstrated His power through miracles so that we might be wise. God inspired the writing of the bible for us to build our faith, grow our knowledge and confidence so that we can lead others to righteousness. God wants us to join Him in heaven so we can shine like the stars for ever and ever. Go and be a wise and faithful servant.