We attended a candlelight service on Christmas Eve. It had been a long time since we had done that and my whole family enjoyed it. I was particularly moved by one of the readings that I wanted to share. I have no analogy to add and no wisdom to share; I thought that I would let the word of God stand alone and reach everyone in its own way. Please have a safe New Year’s Eve and may God bless your 2014.
God’s Love and Ours
“7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 13We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” 1John 4:7-16
Ten days ago I spent five days on Hilton Head Island, SC with our very dear friends from Boston. We usually see them about two or three times a year and have tried to travel to different spots in the US when we do. This year they bought a “retirement home” on the island. They are about 8-10 years away from actually retiring but the market was right so they plunged. It is all part of their plan and with a little faith; they finally got what they dreamed of. I spent time talking to Scott about goals and dreams while we were there. He was so clear about his vision. We all need a vision for our lives. Most of us live year to year and we don’t think about we want 3-5 years down the road. What will your life look like then? Visioning is difficult especially when we try personal visioning. On the plane returning home, I read an article about Google managers and how they are asked to create a vision for their team or section and then communicate about it regularly. As the business changes, they communicate how those changes impact the vision. Organizations create vision statements, leaders have visions of what they want to accomplish and we should too. Have faith in your abilities to accomplish them; you can do anything you set your mind to.
“He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Matthew 17:20
Christmas is two days from now! All of our planning for the holiday will finally come together. God gave THE ultimate gift that day, His Son. This day was prophesied throughout the ages. Even John the Baptist talked about “someone who is greater than I”. God set His vision in motion and found that the only way to make it “a reality” was to send us a savior. God’s vision depends on just one thing – our faith in Jesus Christ as our savior. Matthew is encouraging us to keep our faith (even if it is small) and remain strong in our belief. If we can be strong in faith, nothing will be impossible. Whatever your vision of the future looks like, keep your faith in Jesus Christ strong. A future without Christ in it is not a future, it’s the end. Eternal life is hard to put into a vision of our future here on earth but we don’t have eternal life without faith in Jesus – they are mutually exclusive. Enjoy the birthday party today (Christmas), I hope you are spending it with your family or friends or both. Ask God for help in crafting your vision for this life and let your imagination run wild for what eternal life will be like. Merry Christmas!
My friend Kevin called me last week and he never calls, so as soon as I saw his number I knew it couldn’t be good. I met Kevin about 15 years ago when I accepted the fire chief position in Stoughton, MA. The night I met Kevin he was giving me a hard time about something funny. Little did he know that I was going to be his mother’s new boss. Fran became a huge help to me as I tried to fit into the community. She was always there with advice about who to lookout for and who to know. She cared deeply about “her men” on the fire department and she wanted to make sure that they were going to be taken care of. Fran really protected and guided me like a second mother. She was part of my son’s first birthday party and I became part of her family becoming friends with Kevin, attending his sister’s wedding, sharing in the family’s ups and the downs and learning all of the stories. Fran took me to Nantucket the day before I moved away because I never made it to her “favorite place”; we kept the tradition of throwing a penny in the bay as we left to ensure our return.
She always referred to herself as Mum and when I moved to Arizona I became her Sunny. Fran was old enough to retire when I was out there but she loved the Town; so much so she never took sick days. I remember her asking for a few days off once but she didn’t share where she was headed. When she came back on Wednesday I asked her how her trip was and told me that she had a little surgery. Surprised by her answer, I pressed and she told me “I had a little breast cancer and some lymph nodes removed”. She talked about the whole things though she just had a tooth pulled! The surgery was Monday and this was Wednesday. She told the doctor and me that she was too busy to be sick. Years later she was diagnosed with colon cancer in March. She told the doctor that she had a standing trip to Nantucket each September and that she was not cancelling her reservations. He suggested otherwise and performed a procedure quickly as she directed. She made the trip that year and each year for the next ten years. Fran was not only an inspiration but also an amazing woman. Kevin and his family lost their mother, I lost my Mum but heaven gained another angel this week.
6But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 1 Timothy 6:6-7
Fran was very content with everything she had and everything she did. She spoke honestly and that was hard for some. Fran never wanted more than she was entitled to and worked even into her 80’s. People had to earn her respect but once they had it, she would fight for them. She cared about others and was always giving of herself. This verse from Timothy reminds me about the story of the DASH whose premise is: what have you done with the time represented by the dash between the year you were born and the year you die. We bring nothing into this world and we take nothing out; it’s what we do with our time that counts. God has given us the tools to do great things, we just need to slow down and learn the keys to using them. The directions are in the bible verses and Jesus lived as an example for us but God also gives us examples like Fran in our lives today. Slow down to see them and be content with the things in your life; it ends suddenly. We will never know the impact we will have on others and we all have a DASH; fill it with contentment, love, kindness and worship to God who made it all possible.
Being the “responsible one” is generally difficult for everyone. If you are the boss then you are always responsible for everything that happens in your area. If you are a parent, you too are responsible are everything that happens around your house. We all have responsibilities to something or someone and these responsibilities usually weigh us down. My sixteen year old son is learning that without being responsible, or in his case accountable to someone that freedom isn’t free. He is also finding that 2 weeks between paychecks is like an eternity; hence the “free” freedom. There are days when we don’t feel like being in charge or always being responsible, it’s natural. As a leader, you are always leading your people. You don’t get to say “I’m not feeling it today” or give away your responsibilities; we just can’t do it. No matter what you do or what position you hold; people count on you. Think about the people that you count on every day, in every setting or circumstance. You are one of those people to someone else. We are all responsible to each other; the key is how accountable we are. There’s an old saying that one “oh no!” wipes out ten “atta boys”. Go out and make this a great week for yourself and those that you are responsible to and those that you are responsible for and see how contagious a little responsibility can be.
“For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver,
the LORD is our king; it is he who will save us.” Isaiah 33:22
Today’s verse is from the Old Testament, a time before Jesus Christ. Think about how the world was during that period and all of the chaos that consumed everyone. I imagine it to be a very scary time to live in between the wars, slavery, punishments, Kings and Rulers not to mention God was not very happy with His people. No one was taking responsibility for themselves or their actions. Isaiah was trying to tell the people who was really in charge of their lives. No one but the Lord was responsible for all of these things; not a single King was in control, the Lord was. Yet still, we didn’t listen and we continued to ignore our responsibilities. True to His word, we see how the Lord is our Judge, our lawgiver, our King and He saved us through His Son Jesus Christ. It was God who took responsibility for our salvation and sent His Son to us. It was Jesus who took the responsibility to live a perfect life, to teach us how to live and He even accepted the responsibility of paying for our sins. God gave us the laws but Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection took away our failures to follow them (sin) and granted each of us eternal life through faith in Him. Talk about accepting responsibility for something? We can count on Him to be with us in our journey here on earth; He’ll never say “I’m not felling it today”.
Thanksgiving was last week and I had another devotion on thankfulness in my heart to share. As leaders we are in the position to influence the lives of those that work for us, those we work with and occasionally, those who we work for, especially if you are in middle management. We are so busy trying to juggle all of our priorities that sometimes we forget to say “thank you”. We lead people only because they choose to follow us. If they are following us because they have to, well, we are just managing them. True leaders are influencing people’s lives each day by what they say and do. If the people who work for you are truly following, they will alter their perceptions, attitudes, knowledge and behaviors all because of you. Maybe you never realized it but you have a lot of power over your employees. For some people, that power goes right to their heads. Last week I suggested that you pick someone who makes your life just a little easier and say thank you to them. I’d like to suggest that you say thanks to the team that follows you. Tell them about the great work they do and how it impacts your business, then tell your coworkers how great it is to work with them and what they do to support you and then thank your boss for what he or she does for you personally and how you’ve grown from your experience working for them. Even if your boss is horrible, you are still learning something. Don’t let this Thanksgiving time slip away without thanking those that make your workdays a little more bearable. As a leader, it’s important for your people to know that you notice and that you care.
8Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done. 9Sing to him, sing praise to him; tell of all his wonderful acts.1 Chronicles 16:8-9
We are taught that when we pray, we should give thanks to God for all that he’s done for us. Even if you are struggling right now, God is with you making you stronger. We often pray when we are worried or if we need something but how often do we pray just to give thanks? We see people accepting awards or scoring points in a sporting event point to the heavens as if to say “thanks to you God”. We don’t have to wait until we win an award or score a touchdown; everyday is reason to celebrate. Today’s verse reminds us to tell others what God has done for us: “tell of all his wonderful acts.” The greatest thing that God has done for us is to send us a savior, someone to intercede on our behalf with God so that our sins are forgiven. Jesus Christ taught us how to live, how to treat each other and how to be saved from ourselves. He is a great leader and deserves our thanks. Today, tell God how thankful you are for everything in your life and ask for the courage to spread to the word.