An Extra Day in Our Lives

Today, I am taking a little privilege with the “devotion” and turning it into a history lesson. February 29th only comes around every four years and since this is my usual day to post, I thought it was appropriate; besides today is also my birthday. I posted most of this history four years ago but it was worth doing again since many more people are reading this blog today than there were four years ago. The chances of having a birthday on February 29th are 1:1500; please indulge me.

The leap year’s extra day is necessary because of our Solar System. One earth year does not take an exact number of whole days; it takes 365.2422 days, plus or minus. It wasn’t until Julius Caesar came to power that changes were made. People observed a 355-day calendar – with an extra 22-day month every two years. This was not a solution to the celestial problem since feast days began sliding into different seasons. So Caesar ordered his astronomer, Sosigenes, to simplify things. Sosigenes opted for the 365-day year with an extra day every four years to scoop up the extra hours. This is how the 29th day in February was born. It was then fine-tuned by Pope Gregory XIII. Check this out:

Every fourth year is a leap year, as a rule of thumb. But that’s not the end of the story. A year that is divisible by 100, but not by 400, is not. So 2000 was a leap year, as was 1600. But 1700, 1800 and 1900 were not leap years. “It seems a bit arbitrary,” says Ian Stewart, emeritus professor of mathematics at Warwick University. But there’s a good reason behind it. “The year is 365 days and a quarter long – but not exactly. If it was exactly, then you could say it was every four years. But it is very slightly less.” The answer arrived at by Pope Gregory XIII and his astronomers when they introduced the Gregorian calendar in 1582, was to lose three leap days every 400 years. The math has hung together ever since. It will need to be rethought in about 10,000 years’ time, Stewart warns. But by then mankind might have come up with a new system.

Why is February 29, not February 31, a leap year day? All the other months have 30 or 31 days, but February suffered because of the ego of Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus. Under Julius Caesar, February had 30 days, but when Caesar Augustus was emperor he was upset that his month – August – had only 29 days.  Compare this to the month named after his predecessor Julius (July) which had 31. “He pinched a couple of days for August to make it the same as July. And it was poor old February that lost out,” says Prof Stewart.

So today, I find myself traveling again but this year I have my wonderful wife by my side. We’re headed to California to enjoy the weather and do a little work. We are trying to do the impossible – work together. I couldn’t think of a better birthday gift.

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Wrestling an Alligator

My work has been getting busier the past few months and I seem to find myself on an airplane much more often these days than I think I even planned. I say that my calendar is more like an alligator and that I’m constantly wrestling with it. An alligator’s strength is in its tail and its ability to fling itself around to avoid a predator. I still haven’t figured out where the tail of this thing is but I’m already planned out through May. The things that are designed to make us more productive – cell phones, emails, text messages and calendars are actually slowing us down. We are too busy worrying about today that we seldom worry about tomorrow.

Time management techniques are vitally important for everyone, no matter your position, to achieve success. A recent study has shown that it takes the average worker 25 minutes to recover from an interruption caused by e-mail. Think of the number of e-mails that you get during the work day that you stopped working to address immediately. How much time does that add up to? If you save just 10 minutes every hour of your day, you will add 80 minutes of productivity back to your work day; that kind of productivity gets noticed. Invest in learning good techniques to manage your time like preparing for the next workday and limiting interruptions; you’ll be surprised how good you’ll feel about your work.

Matthew 6:34 – “Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself…”

Jeremiah 29:11 says “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord…” God is continuously at work in your life. He is executing a plan right now! We have all been bombarded with so much self help information and pressure to maintain a work-life balance that we don’t let God in to do His work in our lives. We have to remember that it’s God’s plan and His timeline.

We shouldn’t be so worried about tomorrow that we forget what is important. Right now is a good time to focus on today and the gifts you possess to have a great day. So, don’t worry about tomorrow; let God do that, he can handle it. Give praise to God for each day and be patient – His plan for you will be revealed on His timeline. In the mean time, take care of today because tomorrow is taking care of it self.

Ask for What You Need

Unfortunately, there are times in our work lives that we will be supervised by someone who doesn’t do a good job of showing how much they care about us or worse, they literally just don’t care. The first type of person is far easier to work for than the later and honestly, the ones who don’t know how to show it are most prevalent in the workplace these days. As the Baby Boomers are leaving the workplace and Gen Xer’s are now supervising people, today’s workplace can become a little frustrating. This type of working environment puts the responsibility on us if we want to make “work” a little more enjoyable. We’ll need to create a little window of opportunity to tell our boss what we want to accomplish, how they can help or what we think we will need to be successful.

The higher up the “ladder” a supervisor goes, the less they pay attention to the things that their people need and we need to remind them that we’re here. Author John Maxwell describes 360º leadership in his book with the same title; we can use this as a tool to help us achieve goals that we have set for ourselves. Being forward with our own supervisor is not something that feels natural but when we are dealing with our own future and needs, sometimes we need to push a little. If you are a leader, don’t forget to take care of your own needs, just as the cobbler’s kids have no shoes. God put you in this place and at this time for a reason, ask questions and seek opportunities for personal and professional growth.

Luke 11:9 – “So I say to you: ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

We are taught here to ask the Lord for what we need. We need to learn to put our trust in God so that He can deliver us what we need. The real truth of the matter is that what God delivers is not always what we want or plan for but what we need. Sometimes God gives us pain or suffering for our growth, other times he gives us joy and peace. Despite our belief in our own greatness, God knows what we need.

Another thing that frustrates us is that God will not do it on our timeline but on His. Today, with the microwave we cook faster, with the DVR we get television on our schedule and the Internet gives us information in an instant. This verse reminds us to ask, seek and knock on the doors that God provides. Behind some doors are scary opportunities in which we feel alone in our thoughts and in our decision. God promised not to leave you. He gave us His only Son in order to keep you close and we should never forget that. Pray and have patience, He will open the door for you.

 

Consistent to a Fault

I will keep mentioning the presidential campaign season in the United States every few weeks only because it brings out the worst in people. The candidates get ruder or more deceitful as the process grinds on. People in America start to believe the things that are being said with more passion as their favorite candidate rises in the polls. It isn’t a pretty reflection of us as an American people but it does highlight one of the most important aspects of freedom – the democratic process of free speech. The problem with the campaigns and free speech is that people can say and do pretty much anything they want during an election.

When a candidate goes around in February telling everyone they believe in topic or position now, usually because it will get votes, but have a voting record of supporting a different position; they are usually labeled a “flip-flopper”. Often times, being inconsistent like that is a bad thing. No one likes it when their boss is inconsistent or applies the rules in a haphazard manner. Kids don’t like it when their parents say something is okay one day and then it’s not the next. We really don’t like it when our friends are like that. We want to be able to count on them – always. If they are inconsistent with their loyalty or follow through on doing what they said they’d do, we get very frustrated. As a leader, I often said that I would be consistent to a fault. I would treat the worst employee the same as the best employee. I would hear their frustration from time to time but being predictable made people comfortable and that allowed me to help them achieve what they wanted to; they could count on me. Take a moment to examine yourself and your actions to see if you are consistent and reliable. If you find yourself saying, “I am but…” then you’ve got work to do. As human beings, we need a certain level of consistency to feel safe and assured. It’s in the wild that things are never consistent and the animals are living in fear of the next predator; is that how you want people to feel around you?

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Hebrews 13:8

Like a good friend, Jesus is consistent in our lives. He never changed His perspective no matter what group He was speaking to or who was challenging Him. He treated the Pharisees the same as He did those that came to hear Him teach. He taught love and compassion everywhere He went. Jesus was the same, everyday, no matter what. I imagine myself getting frustrated by the people “always wanting something from me” if I could do what Jesus did. I could see myself wanting to lay low for just a few days before getting back out on the road. But I’m not Jesus – thankfully.

Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior; the Son of God, was the same every day. His consistency teaches us today about how to live good Christian lives. We should be generous with those in need and provide help to those in trouble. We are not to judge others based on our own beliefs or understanding. Jesus also teaches us to rely on Him in all we do. Jesus is consistent in His care of our needs. He is consistent with His distribution of salvation. Jesus does not say, “I don’t want to take the sins of that one but I will for this one”. He took everyone’s sin away so that we all can live eternal lives with God regardless of what they are – no but’s or exceptions.

A New Attitude

A positive attitude can get you through just about anything. It seems like every time I turn around, someone is being diagnosed with an illness or cancer. I’m getting older so this must obviously be the next chapter of life. When it’s not us getting the news, our typical response is often, “glad it’s not me”. But what happens when it is you? Your attitude can drive a significant portion of your treatment and recovery. I had a dear friend who, when diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, told her doctor that they better the surgery scheduled soon because she had a trip planned in less than six months.

The oncologist sheepishly told her that perhaps she would need to reschedule the trip. She wouldn’t hear of it, had the surgery, the radiation and went on her trip that year and every year afterward for almost 10 years. How do we create positive attitudes when work is just getting us down? We are in control of our attitude; we just have to want to be positive. It is easy to focus on the inconsiderate co-workers, the boss who won’t let up, the long commute or whatever is affecting your attitude. Turn it around. What can you learn from these circumstances? If you are a leader or manager, you must ensure that you are not the cause of distress for others. Today, workers need specialized attention, not a one for all fix. The bottom line is, your attitude is yours – own it.

“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider; God has made the one as well as the other…” Ecclesiastes 7:14

It is important for us to remember that God made both the good and the bad times. Why? We might not ever find out but we are reminded throughout the bible that God has a plan for us. He never promised a smooth path or guaranteed happiness along the way. He puts obstacles in our path and he opens doors; both to help us grow. The unexpected check that arrives in the mail or the car accident on the way to work, we can grow from both experiences.

How we deal with them is our choice. We can turn away and blame God or we can search harder for an understanding to His plan. Sometimes the plan reveals itself right a way, sometimes it’s year and sometimes we will never know. This is why this verse is such sage advice; consider that God has made both the good and the bad. We make our attitudes by choosing to be happy or sad. We choose how to react to life’s events but we aren’t alone. The bible has been filled with suggestions for us to use to “fix” our attitudes. Do you know where to find your next attitude adjustment?