Alternative Facts

We are hearing about “false news” and “alternative facts” a lot these days in the United States. I almost can’t take it anymore! I delayed posting this until the big stories died down but I’m sure that they really ever will. These discussions remind me of one that I had with my son who frequently said, “Technically Dad, this is correct”. Being a Baby Boomer, I quickly reminded him that if he has to start a sentence with “technically” that it wasn’t going to go over well with me. Granted, I’ve written before that “words have meaning” and choosing the right words are important but to hang on to the technical meaning is taking it too literally.

Words can convey power, sympathy, love and compassion. I’d suggest that verbal communication is the key to a functioning society. We could do everything in writing but we’d never hear the emotion of the speaker. Have you heard someone tell you that they sensed “tone” in your email? ALL CAPS now means screaming and text messages have replaced a phone call, which at one point replaced letter writing. We still handwrite thank you notes in our house – old school, I know. How we communicate says a lot about our care for others. Taking the time to stop and look someone in the eye to say thank you or taking the time to speak to someone in person so that you can share the moment together is becoming a thing of the past. We might not always be able to see one another but hearing a familiar voice is the next best thing. Words have meaning and I’d like to add so does how you convey them.

4My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, 5 so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” 1 Corinthians 2:4-5

St. Paul had little chance to see people in person. Persecuted and imprisoned, Paul found himself writing letters to churches all over the region. He didn’t write fancy letters or tell stories, he wrote about God’s plan and desires for His kingdom. Paul was determined to share the power of the Holy Spirit who was working through him as the messenger. Are you a messenger of the Holy Spirit? God uses us in many different ways to be a messenger of His word. Faith, words, actions, character, abilities, trials and triumphs all come from God. We don’t have to be wise or learned to share the power of the Holy Spirit.

We can’t see God’s work in our lives because we rest on human wisdom. We cannot comprehend the power of the Holy Spirit and its work in all that we do. Just as we cannot imagine the lengths that the devil will go to in an attempt to get us to turn away from God. Our disappointment at not getting that promotion or another health issue or the allure of a bigger chance if we just turn ever so slightly away from God might make it feel better. Paul is encouraging us to let our faith rest on God’s power and not our own. We are not strong enough but with God, everything is possible. You don’t need fancy words or wisdom, you just need to rely on God.

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Shifting Shadows

We are funny creatures by nature. We thrive when we have our routines; doing the same things, the same way, everyday, while simultaneously complaining about the “rut” we’re in. As employees, we will complain about “not knowing where the boss is coming from” at any given time. The bosses inconsistency kills our work routine and our morale. Employees become disenfranchised when workplace discipline is handled differently depending on who is involved or what special circumstances are being considered. You know things are bad when employees begin complaining about there not being enough discipline or issues related to how it is being handled.

As much as employees want a flexible workplace, they also want consistency in how it is managed. Parenting is no different, our kids want to know the rules and then have them evenly applied. If it’s okay to leave dirty dishes yesterday and today, don’t be surprised that the same dirty dish will be there tomorrow. Consistency is the key to setting expectations and avoiding the “do as I say, not as I do” life. Friends, family, coworkers and subordinates will always appreciate knowing where you stand no matter what the circumstance.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” James 1:17

This verse tells us that God is at work in our lives everyday – all day. Our problem is that we don’t view all of God’s “gifts” as good and perfect. We have no trouble celebrating the $5 lottery win or when the police officer decides to give us a warning instead of the ticket we deserve. Do we view the “hardships” the same way?

We have a hard time seeing the good in a “new diagnosis” or yet another surgery. We don’t stop to think that these “gifts” may be for someone else that we are going to be an example for. Despite our desire to know everything and understand what God’s plan is, we simply do not contain the capacity to. The abilities of the “Father of the heavenly lights” and what He seeks to give us is beyond our comprehension. While we think we could love everyone on earth, we could never pull it off but our Father does. The greatest part about His love is that it is available for everyone; consistently and not changing “like shifting shadows.” God’s love and guidance is with us always, day and night; He simply asks for our faith in Him and His son, our savior, Jesus Christ. Our good and perfect gift who gives us eternal life and freedom from all of our sins.

Constant Star

We all have heard about the rising stars or a shining star in an organization but what about the constant stars? Those people, that every day, shine in all that they do. These are the people who jump in to help others at work, have a smile even if it’s snowing in Florida or bring you a Starbucks when you weren’t expecting it. These people are just great to be around! They don’t want the spotlight or ask for attention; in fact, they are the ones usually shining the spotlight onto others. We tend to overlook those who shine consistently, but like the sun, we know when they aren’t around. Now ask yourself, what do you do for these people? Do you find yourself going to them just because YOU need a pick me up?

It’s hard to imagine what keeps these people positive all of the time, but they do it. I had a peer once in my career who worked for another agency who was like this. We used to see each other for meetings once a month or sometimes more frequently but after every time I saw him, I always found myself saying what a great guy he is. I would try to be more like him and still try today. Despite my best efforts and intent, I’m just not the “smile when its snowing guy”. I do however; make sure that if I have people like this in my life, that I let them know how much I enjoy their company and focus time on them. We all need positive people our lives and should seek them out regularly, not to improve our own disposition, but to be a mutual benefit to each other.

Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around him. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the LORD. When I saw it, I fell facedown, and I heard the voice of one speaking. Ezekiel 1:28

For the first seven years of his ministry, Ezekiel faithfully relayed to his fellow Jews the stern, heart-rending, hope-crushing word of divine judgment: Because of all her sins, Jerusalem would fall. The only hope the prophet was authorized to extend to his listeners was that of living at peace with themselves and with God during their exile.

Once news was received that Jerusalem had fallen, Ezekiel’s message turned to the Lord’s consoling word of hope for his people—they would experience revival, restoration and a glorious future as the redeemed and perfected kingdom of God in the world. Ezekiel had become the constant star in people’s lives. He was there for everyone. Some may argue that it was easy; God was speaking to him directly. God speaks to us every day too. We just need to listen. It’s the phone call that comes in the middle of an argument to stop you from saying something hurtful or the unexpected check that comes in the mail when your bills are late. God is with us all day, every day; we just need to learn to listen for Him. Send your worries to God, pray daily, give thanks for what you have and be assured that your sins are forgiven. Then, stop and listen for God.

Trust in Him

I often write about God’s plan because I find people saying, “everything happens for a reason” all to often. I believe that we all take for granted the guiding hand at work in our lives. So many bad things seem to happen that we rarely stop to celebrate the good things. It is as if we expect the good things to happen so we concentrate on the bad things. I know that by nature, I am more of a pessimist than an optimist. Looking back, I find no obvious cause for this perspective except my training to prevent firefighter injuries and fatalities. As I moved up the ranks, I found that being in command of incidents in which people’s lives were at risk makes you look at things much more cautiously. I think that is what turned into my pessimistic outlook.

I am not a negative person (at least I think) but I also don’t seek to find the bright side of things either. In any case, I have seen first hand, God’s hand in my life. As a self-employed business owner who relies on larger consulting firms for work, the last quarter of 2016 was devoid of work. I’d been through times like this before but this was the longest period I’d ever experienced. I told myself to focus on letting God’s plan unfold and be patient (not an easy task). Work earlier in the year kept me so busy that true priorities started to slip. In late December, the phone started ringing again – it was the military contracting office. I’m writing this devotion on the airplane returning from Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio TX. I spent a week there at Army North HQ planning for a project in South Carolina in February. At the airport this morning, received another request for a trip to Washington State. “God cares for those who trust in Him.”

“The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him,” Nahum 1:7

It is ironic that this was written by someone in the Old Testament, which is filled with stories about people not trusting God. We all know that it was so bad that God had to take matters in His own hands and send His Son to bring salvation. I look at this single act of love as what allows us to turn to God as “a refuge in times of trouble”. No matter what I’ve done, God loves me! I saw an old friend who retired last year while I was in San Antonio. He had suddenly lost a close friend in the days preceding my arrival. A man of faith, my friend was down on his loss – he had forgotten where to turn in his time of trouble.

“What a loss!” he proclaimed. “We were going to enjoy so much time together now that we were both retired” my friend lamented. I reminded him that his loss was only temporary and that the great memories of his friend would return. We don’t know what God has planned for us or why the things happen as they do but we can be assured that they are part of God’s plan for our lives. Remember, sometimes we are the teacher and other times we are the student. You won’t know which role you are in until time has passed. The key is to trust in God and remember that, “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in Him.”