Shepherds

This verse is generally perfect when discussing accountability at work or as a bridge to a “take care of your people” writing. Given today’s emotional climate, I’d like to simply focus on shepherding. Looking after the flock is an essential function of leadership, no matter what position we’re talking about. The real issue is how you do it; as a herder you can walk behind them as they walk along the path and keep the strays in line or you can walk in front leading the way knowing that you’ll still have them when you turn around as a Shepherd does. We’re seeing various forms of the shepherd concept of leadership in these trying times, crisis leadership is crucial in getting people to follow. Sheep herders use dogs to chase around the edges to keep the herd moving forward; if you see someone using others to “chase around the edges”, check the leadership style of the one you’re following.

We need leaders who are looking after us and our needs and who aren’t sending others or themselves out to chase the edges. In a time of crisis, we are ALL leaders and can shepherd people toward calm by being reassuring, direct, honest and accountable. As a greater society, we owe each other a little bit of personal accountability – stay home if you are sick and commit to helping those in need. When we return to a state of equilibrium, the world around us will look much different. Everyone will need to work together so that we can all rise up from the new normal. You could be the next shepherd; will you lead from the back or boldly from the front?

Ezekiel 34:12 “As a Shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all places where they were scattered…”

We are God’s sheep and it is great to have a Shepherd that cares about us as much as He does. He gave up His son for our salvation and ever lasting life. God is always present in our lives and will come to our rescue, even when we’ve put distance between us. God’s “rescue” does not mean that we will get what we want, it may mean that we get just enough because the real rescue happened on Easter Sunday. We need to do our best and prevent the need for a rescue in the first place. We should be spending time with God, praying, reading the word and spreading the good news.

Today, more than ever, we need a strong leader. God gave us the perfect one, Jesus. He is patient with us as we make mistakes, He’d hold us accountable as He did with the disciples but, in the end, no matter how many mistakes we make, Jesus will rescue us (usually from ourselves) as the Shepherd does with His flock. On Easter, we were given the grace of God in the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. While you are focusing on being a good Shepherd in your daily life or in your vocation, focus also on being a good sheep (follower). Rejoice that your Father cares so deeply that He will risk a lot to rescue you from all of the places that you can scatter to or from all the trials that this world can throw at you.

With all your heart

Why does work have to be so hard? The hint in this question is the word “work” and, another word for work is labor. The dictionary defines labor as hard physical work. I can’t speak to it with any level of experience but I’m sure that if you ask any mother whether labor was hard work, she can give you a unique perspective on “labor”. Sometimes what we do, day in and day out, isn’t what we’d like to be doing. It’s not that it’s too hard; it simply isn’t satisfying. When we lose our job satisfaction, we loose sight of our purpose and whom we’re serving.

At times, we struggle to remain positive, to work hard and meet the mission or vision that is before us; complacency takes over and the “I don’t care’s” start to fly. Leaders, no matter what they’re faced with, must keep their focus on the mission or the work before them. Are you are a front line leader whose actions will have a direct impact on your customers or are you a support team leader that works to serve those impacting the customers? Complacency is where customer service starts to break down and in some professions; it can become deadly. Think of the nurse who is treating you in the emergency room for a heart attack, do you want the one who doesn’t care? We all have a responsibility to keep complacency out of our workplace.

“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.” Colossians 3:23-24

In the times when we’re locked in a battle against complacency, we can be comforted in knowing that when we do our best work, with all of our heart, it is pleasing to God. God is with us all of the time, even when we don’t feel like he’s there. When times get harder you should be focusing more on your relationship with God, not less.

Our human instinct is to focus everything on the work before us and let the rest of our life take the back seat for a while. Nothing can do more harm than putting God in the back seat! Bring God closer; he will help you through the struggles of work or overcoming complacency. You are serving Him, doing his work as a faithful disciple. God cares about the work that you do and how well you do it. When you are feeling down about work, imagine God smiling at you because He knows what is in your heart. Look to him to get you through, He’ll light the way.

 

Trust in the Lord – COVID-19

COVID-19 is griping the world and it seems as if no one has comfort in anything that is being said or done. All over the world, countries are dealing with the pandemic in very different ways – closing borders, implementing curfews, closing schools, closing restaurants and bars and, cancelling sporting events. It feels like we are all being isolated. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” Proverbs 3:5-6

Our Pastor wrote these words to the congregation this week:

“Many people are full of fear because they feel helpless.  Many are full of fear because of the unknown.  This is a particularly frightening time for us all. Now, more than ever, we need to trust in the Lord with our whole hearts.  God has promised to be with us in such times.  We can count on Him to see us through this present situation.  His Word creates and strengthens faith so keep your Bibles close.  Rely on His strength and let the Lord comfort you.  Pray for those who are already infected, asking the Lord to bring healing and help to those in need.”

I’m not going to give my perspective on the various bible verses this week or try to make an analogy either. It is best to let the God inspired words of St. Paul speak for themselves. Please stay safe and healthy; measure your actions and response to the circumstances near you, not those of other countries or states. Trust in God to see you and our world through the outbreak.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ. If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort.

8 We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about the troubles we experienced in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself. 9 Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. 10 He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us again. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us, 11 as you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-11

Directions

Providing direction to our team members is one of the most difficult aspects of being a leader. We’d like to believe that people would see a need, understand what has to be done to meet that need and then execute it without us ever having to say anything to them about it; that would be utopia! We have to provide clear direction to our team so that they can function within set boundaries and then provide them enough freedom to make decisions within those boundaries without the need to “check in” with us on a constant basis.

Weekly team meetings can help bring everyone together and are a great place to review the boundaries that have been set. Each team member should share what they are working on and what they need help with so that other team members can assist them if necessary. Knowing that your team members need help can also provide you with insight as you look to distribute new workloads or it can inform you of team members who may be struggling. If you have several team members struggling, the problem may be in the way you distribute work or in how you give direction. Take a few minutes to find out the answers before you start pushing your team harder, the trouble spot could be you.

Psalm 19:8 – “The precepts of the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commands of the Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes.”

The direction and commands we have received from the Lord our God are pretty clear, yet we try to interpret them to meet our own needs. Many people argue that the Bible can be vague and has room for interpretation. This, of course, is the work of the devil in our minds. We were conceived in sin and carry that burden with us from birth. We are assured that salvation is found in the life of Christ through the grace of God our Father.

There is an old expression that we are born twice but only die once. We are physically born on earth and then again born into the life of Christ through baptism but we will only die once from life on earth to enjoy eternal life with Christ and God our Father. The bible has provided us with these truths, over and over, in radiant words and images – giving light to our eyes. We are able to see eternal life through that light. Following the commands may be difficult and we will fail at keeping them – original sin is to blame for that. Despite those failings, God has given us His grace and we can be assured of eternal life through Christ – that is crystal clear!

Leap Year

Today, I am taking a little privilege with the “devotion” and turning it into a history lesson. We all experienced the “extra day” this weekend, February 29th. It only comes around every four years and since it’s my birthday, I thought that I’d share these facts about my special day. I’ve posted this history lesson before, four years ago exactly, but I thought it was worth doing again since many more people are reading this today than there were four years ago. The chances of having a birthday on February 29th are 1:1500. 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 before Julius Caesar 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, the year 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.

For those than know me personally, the fact that I’m fourteen tells the rest of the story thus, explaining my sense of humor. Every once in a while, I deviate from the norm but hey, my birthday is only every four years so why not now?