Giving Thanks?

This week the U.S. will celebrate Thanksgiving, a time that Pilgrims were thankful for the help that they received from the Native Americans. The Pilgrims were known for offering a prayer of thanksgiving following a blessing such as the end of a war or a successful harvest. Thanksgiving became an official U.S. holiday in 1863 during the Civil War when President Abraham Lincoln declared a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”, to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. For Americans, this is day for the three F’s – family, feasts, and football. It is also the kickoff to the Christmas shopping season. Each year, the local paper in Stoughton MA prints the list of things that local leaders are thankful for; a nice reminder of the holiday. For many of us, this holiday is an opportunity to reflect on the many blessings in our lives much like President Lincoln had intended. I hope as the year has passed, that you have taken the time to give thanks everyday for the blessings in your life and that you aren’t saving up your thanksgiving for this one day. You should have noticed that I started this post, as I usually do when there is a holiday, “this week in the U.S. we will celebrate…” I do that because I am blessed by having readers all over the world. The power of the Internet is unbelievable but I believe that it wasn’t the Internet that connected us, it was God. Above all, I am thankful for my relationship with God and that He has chosen me to be share His word and be the source of some insight into it so that you too can have a stronger relationship with Him.

“Mercy, Peace and Love be yours in abundance.” Jude 1:2

This chapter actually starts with: 1Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ”. Jude 1:1. He offers this message of hope for all of us. Conventional wisdom tells us that Thanksgiving is about being thankful for the blessings that we have received but we rarely acknowledge where they come from. President Lincoln knew whom to thank but as a society, we’ve lost sight of that. I would offer that this simple verse is what God wants for each us – mercy, peace and love. If we have more than this, we are abundantly blessed; most of us are. There is no promise of good health, big homes, great jobs, fine clothes or anything material. God wants us to have peace, know mercy and feel love. We can find all of these things in His word given to us through the bible. We should remember that our needs are small and that God provides what we need, everything else is overabundances given by a society that has forgotten the one who gave it all to us. Celebrate Thanksgiving by giving thanks, remembering who made it all possible and seeking the comfort found in the gifts from God – mercy, peace and love. Happy Thanksgiving!

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Pass it on

Today, I’m teaching a weeklong college class for the first time in a very long time. I’m nervous about being rusty and connecting with the students. They are all career firefighters who are taking this class as part of their preparation for a state certification test on Friday. One day, these students will be supervising other firefighters. They will be making decisions that will undoubtedly have life or death consequences. No pressure! I’ve been teaching these supervisory classes for the better part of 20 years but as my consulting work has shifted to organizational matters, my time in the classroom has dropped dramatically. To quote Austin Powers, “Will I find my mojo?” There are so many variables in the classroom these days. Fewer power point slides, more interaction, more technology and more videos. I’m confident that I will be ready and things will go fine, I’m passionate about the subject and about teaching our future fire service leaders. I started my career in 1982 and was taught by a great man who was also passionate. My first Captain was a commanding man, a former Marine, who was very authoritarian yet compassionate. He wanted to make sure that we knew our jobs and could do them well. My first training officer passed along everything he knew and encouraged constant learning. He yelled at you when you deserved it and praised you when you earned it. He always left us knowing what was important. We need more of those people today, ones that aren’t afraid to share their knowledge. Those that aren’t worried that sharing what they know will make you smarter than they are. We all need to pass on what we know, we will be making an impact all around us.

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:3

Here is another example of a single verse that tells the story of the Bible – Christ died for our sins. Paul was teaching the people of Corinth through his letters. There were no lecture halls, no handouts, no power point slides or videos, just Paul’s letters. He never stopped teaching. He wrote to the Thessalonians, the Philippians and the Romans too. He never lost his mojo or passion for teaching God’s promises and word to everyone he could reach. Obviously, St. Paul’s mentor was a little more influential than a salty old Marine but he understood that keeping the knowledge and wisdom that was bestowed upon him was not an option. He could have kept it to himself and had people coming to him but God was with him and he understood that his role in this life was to share the good news. God uses us in many different ways to do the same. We need to pass on what is the first importance: Christ died for our sins. Make an impact in all that you do: teaching, witnessing, living Godly lives, helping others or sharing the Good news. We can all make a difference if we remember that we are doing God’s work and not our own.

Courageous and Strong

The U.S. celebrates Veteran’s Day on November 11th each year. This is an ever increasingly important holiday for us as we attempt to give thanks to those that have served our nation to protect its freedom. When these Veteran’s Day ceremonies are held, we always remember our World War II veterans but they are decreasing in numbers each year. For some reason this year at a local event I started to think about the war this country had to achieve its freedom, the revolutionary war. Today, we talk about celebrating those that have protected our freedoms in the 20th and 21st centuries. How about the courage of the men and women who fought to establish our FREEDOM? The British Army was the largest and most feared in the entire world at the time; we did not back down. The ragged US Army fought to ensure that we were free. The war of 1812 was another assault on freedom. It is not discussed in detail however it was a proud victory from our past. Our Veteran’s deserve so much more than we give them. I’ve heard people argue, “They volunteered for it and knew what they were getting”. I hardly buy the volunteer argument,  these heroes stepped up when many others did not to protect our freedoms. Many of the service members that I’ve worked with spent a career serving our country, which doesn’t sound like a volunteer. The person who volunteers at the food bank is not the same as the one who leaves behind a family to fight global terrorism or protect our freedom. We owe our Veteran’s much more than our thanks but I know, they’d appreciate hearing it.

“Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong.” 1 Corinthians 16:13

If nothing says Veteran’s Day like “be men of courage” I don’t know what does. If you close your eyes, you can almost hear a commanding officer speak these words before combat. St. Paul is not talking to Roman soldiers or our military today; he was talking to the people of Corinth. They were, as we are today, in a battle for eternal life. St. Paul was warning them and us today, to be on guard and to stand firm in our faith. Everyday, God’s will and His Christian people are under attack. The devil is trying to take back the souls won by Jesus’ death on Calvary by polluting the fabric of our society. False prophets and false teachings are everywhere. It isn’t often we hear about the saving grace of God and eternal life that can only be found in faith through Jesus Christ is our savior. St. Paul encourages us to be courageous despite these challenges. Confidently speak of God’s grace and mercy to all. Stay connected to God’s word and study the teachings of Jesus to remain strong in faith and to have the confidence to be strong.

Old verse New

I have one of those mental blocks that no matter how many times I tell myself, I still mix them up and Hebrews being in the New Testament is one of them. I wrote in this week’s devotion that Hebrew’s verse 10:24 was in the Old Testament. Despite proof reading it, twice, I still hit the publish button.

I guess my mind just can’t accept that God continued to work through others to get His Word out to the Hebrews after Jesus’ death and resurrection. Good thing that my heart knows and God knows what is on my heart.

Have a blessed day!

Orbits

I’ve said for a long time that most people function in orbits when it comes to their attitude, motivation, drive or simple ability to get along. If the peak of our performance where to be at the top, our attitude can be found somewhere in an oval shaped orbit. Sometimes we are very close, while other times we are far away. When we are far away from our peak, things get a little troubling. We are crabby or we don’t feel like doing anything. Our motivation and drive are really hard to find. When we love what we’re doing, we are in close orbit and when we loathe what we do, we are farther out. Sometimes our orbit even grows in size pushing us father away and sometimes it shrinks and we are always close. No matter what your position in life is: supervisor, employee, executive, line staff, mom, dad, brother or sister; you have to know what keeps you going or what makes you peak? Lisa finds her peak at the gym. It’s what gets her up at 4am, everyday. Some people find it in their work because it gives them satisfaction while others find it in their friends. The important thing, is to know what does it for you. It’s when people lose their focus or their drive that trouble begins. Find your focus and ask yourself where you are in your personal orbit, and then get close to the peak. Smiles and satisfaction await you.

“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” Hebrews 10:24

Some people live near their focus point all of the time. These are the people that ALWAYS have a smile and kind word. They are the ones who can inspire. Do you have people in your life that inspire you and do you inspire others? It’s harder to know if you inspire others but I would guess that everyone does and they simply don’t realize it. Our human nature is to be social; we were not intended to be solitary creatures, God gave Eve to Adam to keep him company. This Old Testament verse asks us how can we help each other live Godly lives of love and goodness? It is meant to be a question whose answer lies in being social. If you accept the orbits concept, you will know when you are at your peak, which is when you should be helping those around you. When you are in deep orbit, you should seek those who will bring you back through positive encouragement, love and good deeds. When people are in deep orbit, they can become lost and that is when the devil steps in to lead them astray. If you are losing sight of your center point, surround yourself with those that can spur you on toward love. The bible is a place of inspiration and is filled with God’s love. If you are at your center point, share your joy with others and become a source of positive influence.