Courage

Courage is a pretty powerful word. Not everyone has it to the same degree; some people don’t even have it. I think it takes courage to jump out of an airplane or ride a looping roller coaster – I won’t do either. Some people say that firefighters have courage to go into burning building or enter hazardous conditions – I would do both. I suppose that all of this means that we are each held back by different things. We are held back by fear, in most cases, a fear of the unknown. A new job, a new city and a new friend, a new challenge or facing those things that we already know we fear; they are scary. Many of us would like to quit our jobs and live a life much different than we do today. So why don’t we?

Fear. Sometimes fear can stop us from taking chances at work. For example, we don’t speak up when we have an idea that could change things or that might be innovative. We’re afraid to look foolish. I would suggest that fear of the unknown is probably the top reason why people don’t take chances. They simply don’t know how things will turn out so they keep it safe and do what is comfortable. When you stop and think about all of the chances that some pretty famous people took, our lives would be much different without people like Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison and Henry Ford. They faced fears and took chances. Two weeks ago I asked, “what would you do if you knew that you couldn’t fail?” Would your life be different? I challenge everyone this week to do or try one thing that pushes your comfort level, just a little. Nothing drastic, just push out a little and see what happens.

“…Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today. Exodus 14:13

Moses made this comment to the Israelites as he was trying to reassure them when they were afraid and pushing forward. This advice, even from the Old Testament, works today. Do not be afraid and put your trust in God. This world is so very different today when compared to 10 or 20 years ago let alone thousands of years ago. Today, we have so many things to be afraid of: ISIS, disease, Brexit, trade wars, global uncertainty, identity theft, computer hacking and Washington Politicians.

There are days when I wonder how we even function on a daily basis. Stand firm in your faith! God will bring you deliverance and peace when you share your fears with Him. Stay in His word to learn all of the promises that He has made to you. God tells us over and over how He will protect us. Do not be afraid. Reach out your hands and feel God’s presence in your life and go forward knowing that He is with you. Our fears are made up in our minds, and we should be confident that we aren’t alone. God is with you today and everyday so stand tall and take a chance on Him to bring you the deliverance you need from your fears.

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Pride and Selfishness

Look what I did! I am so awesome! Have you heard or said these words? I once saw a plaque that read, “I know I’m not perfect but I’m so close that it scares me”. We often hear people expressing their confidence in very strong ways. What about the people who lack that type of self-confidence? Is there something wrong with them? Who wouldn’t be proud of what they’ve done? I would suggest that it may not be the lack of confidence or no pride in their accomplishments but it may be that they are simply too humble to talk about themselves. Humility is a God given talent and should be practiced but in today’s world it is seen as a sign of weakness. The opposite of humility is boasting and those type of people are even harder to deal with. We all know someone who is always right and identifies how others have “screwed up” without ever considering their own role in the situation. They make everyone around them miserable because they have done no wrong.

Related to this is the widening of the income gap. “I’ve got mine, too bad about yours”. I often hear people complain about school taxes because they don’t have any kids in the system so why should they pay school property taxes. “I got my kids through school with the help of others but I shouldn’t take my turn”. This selfish mentality is driving our world apart; we’ve forgotten about caring for each other. We need to keep watch over each other; we’re all we’ve got. I’ve got a picture frame on my dresser that says, “It won’t matter what my bank balance was, the size house I lived in, or the type of car that I drove but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.” If you can change “life of a child” and make it “the life of another human being” we get a little closer to God’s will. Go make a difference.

8What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my LORD, for whose sake I have lost all things. 9…not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith.  Philippians 3:8-9

Paul had everything in his life that he could want. He was considered a great man and was feared by many until he came face to face with Jesus Christ. Paul gave up everything (even his name) to follow Jesus. He was a righteous man under the law as a Pharisee; he told others what to do and people obeyed him. Jesus showed him the way to everlasting life and he spent years in prison writing and telling of the good news. He’d lost everything and yet was grateful for his faith in Jesus Christ.

He realized that he was nothing without his faith in Jesus and the righteousness that comes from God. Paul was humble, steadfast in his faith, shared the good news whenever he could, encouraged others with his letters and remained focused on what God wanted him to do. The power, the social status, the envy and the confidence that he had before, he considered a loss now that he has the knowledge of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. Everything that we have is lost too, if we don’t have the same faith in our savior Jesus Christ. Share the good news about having eternal life through faith in Him and all that God has done for you. You will make a difference in the life of another human being.

Mistakes

I need to be careful about how I frame the two thoughts for this week, so I’m going to state them separately so that they are not combined. Thought #1 – we all make mistakes and Thought #2 – I celebrated my 32nd wedding anniversary this past week. DO NOT combine those thoughts. It was not a mistake to be married or married for this long! Lisa and I are very proud of the fact that we still like each other after all these years. What’s the secret? Is the first thing younger couples ask or those who never made it this far. (This is where the mistakes part comes in) We all make mistakes, but it is how we deal with them that makes the difference. We’ve made mistakes along the way but we learned from them and we moved on. We don’t keep bringing them up over and over.

Marriage is hard and it isn’t perfect, that’s why learning to deal with mistakes is important. One key to “dealing” with a mistake is to acknowledge it – “yeah, I really screwed that up”. Once you accept that you actually made the mistake, the rest is easy. I’ve been promising people that I work with two things – 1) I will make mistakes and 2) I will NOT repeat them. The not repeating part, that’s the learning. We all need to stop and look at our mistakes, figure out why it happened, what can be done to prevent it again and get over it through an apology. How do you keep a marriage together for 32 years? The answer is simple: love, faith, understanding, respect, a lot of mistakes and a wife who will forgive them.

“If the Lord delights in a man’s way, He makes his steps firm: though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with His hand.” Psalm 37:23-24

The old question, “what would you do if you knew that you couldn’t fail?” seems appropriate here. If you would never fail, is there anything that you wouldn’t try? A post on mistakes can be filled with stories about people and their huge mistakes. Here are a few famous “mistakes”: post-it notes, Velcro, microwave ovens, potato chips, x-rays, penicillin, silly putty and the slinky. These were all the result of someone making a mistake.

God has taught us to be truthful and repentant – admit the mistake and don’t repeat it. God knows what is in our hearts and He will not let us fall. The Psalm tells us that even though we may stumble, God will be by our side and not let us fall. Stumbling can surely be embarrassing but it doesn’t hurt like falling does. God is with us all day, every day holding out His hand to keep us from falling. God’s plan is revealed very slowly to us but we can be assured that He is with us. Our job is to be with Him. Daily devotion, prayer and thanksgiving keeps God close. We were never intended to navigate this life without God’s presence and help. Don’t hesitate to reach for His hand.

Influence

There’s an old saying that warns us all about the company that we keep. We see the impact that people have on each other a lot in the fire service with fire crews. Each crew is usually made up of a leader, a driver and two firefighters. You can take four separate people, put them together and they will eventually become one central personality. The hope of every fire chief is that they will become a personality that is closer to the leader’s than anyone else’s. This same concept is what creates cliques and coffee clutches, as we get older. It seems that every social group develops its own personality that draws people toward it or pushed them away. How is the company that you keep?

“When he gets around his college buddies, my husband turns into a different person”. “My wife has such a positive attitude after she hangs out with the ladies group”. What do you adapt to when you hang around with the various groups of people in your life. Many of us were told when we were kids that “so and so was a bad influence”; our parents were probably right. Give a thought to the movies you watch, the songs you listen to, the things you read and, the company you keep. These things all influence how you act, what you say and what you believe. One of the main principles in Change Management is providing a vision for the workforce. The key concept of visioning is part of influencing thoughts and beliefs by keeping the distractions down and focusing on the positives. Stay focused on the good things in your life and the people who make them that way. By avoiding the negative thoughts and people, you will become the central personality for others. We need more positive influences in our lives!

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” Colossians 2:8

Just as others influence how we act, we are also influenced in what we believe by the company we keep. For years, studies have shown that college students fall away from their religious beliefs in large numbers. Many experience the freedoms of college and choose to explore “life” while others are simply influenced to go in a different direction. We have to be on guard to make sure the same doesn’t happen to us as adults.

Too many people believe the lie that they are in control and that a higher power may exist but won’t acknowledge that it is God. Humans are unable to comprehend the power of God and won’t submit to the idea that they are not controlling everything in their lives. “I don’t need God to do_____” or “The myth of God is just a crutch for the weak minded” are phrases that these people use. Hearing this over and over can start to influence even the strong willed. St. Paul warns us to “see to it that no one takes us captive”. This life is short when you compare it to eternal life. The feeling of belonging or the friends that influence you are not important if it means losing your focus on Christ. Stay Strong!

Criticism

Constructive criticism. Just the name makes me think “what an oxy moron”; what can be constructive about criticism? Having given out my fair share of it, I’m sure that it was an oxy moron to the person receiving it. I had always believed that it should be given as gift and received as one too. It takes courage to tell someone how they might improve or try something differently. It was when I started studying the concept of employee coaching that it really made sense. In coaching, the supervisor is not criticizing the employee but they are offering constructive observations about behaviors, seeking to understand the goals of the employee and attempting to align those goals with those of the organization. Effective employee coaching can go along way toward building up an employee, not criticizing them.

What does the word “praise” mean to you when you hear it? For many, it’s only something you do at church. Our society has become so negative that all we seem to hear is criticism and negativity. We should be throwing around a little more praise for people and the things they do. Think about the last time you told a server at a restaurant that they did a good job. You may have tipped well, but saying something will make it mean much more. I’m not suggesting that you walk around all day telling everyone “good job” but more often than not, they never really know unless someone says something. The next time the chance presents itself; tell someone how much you appreciated their work or advice. Not only will you make someone’s day but also you will be surprised how good you will feel about yourself.

“Give thanks to the Lord, call on His name; make known among the nations what He has done.” 1 Chronicles 16:8

I often reflect on a verse from Paul in one of his letters to the Corinthians that essentially says – we cannot understand the wisdom or the timelines of God. We don’t understand why things happen and we become frustrated when our prayers are not answered right a way. A couple of weeks ago I wrote about bad things happening to good people and how we simply cannot understand His ways. I also suggested that we seek to understand why these things happen.

We should not criticize what is happening but give praise and thanks for all that He has done. The person who is sick has been given another day to experience; the person who is financially struggling is being prepared for something greater or perhaps being drawn to God. We need to give more thanks and praise. In prayer, God can handle our requests and our questioning of His wisdom but He can also handle our moments of praise and thanksgiving. Our praise should not remain silent in prayers but they should be shared with the “nations”. Spread the good news about what God has done, He deserves it.

Crisis

The Chinese word for crisis has two symbols grouped together that mean “a time of opportunity” and “a time for danger”. I’ve used this symbol when I teach Change Management to illustrate that change can sometimes be viewed by employees as a time of crisis. We all loose something during “change”, sometimes its as significant as losing a job, while other times it may be less dramatic or it may simply be a feeling of loss that disturbs people the most. Whatever the case, as people, we all deal with loss in a variety of ways. During a time of change, we will go through the 5 stages of grieving: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. Many times these stages result in significant resistance to change.

The status quo is very comfortable for us – we get used to what we do and how we do it. Good managers will recognize that people will grieve their losses (perceived or real) and take steps to help their staff move through the grieving process. Managing change is an art and a science; change leaders must understand that and work through the issues. Major change requires patience. Change management requires constant communication and reassurance and should never result in ultimatums that people simply accept the change or leave. Employees must also recognize that change is both an opportunity and a dangerous time. It’s dangerous for them as they navigate the grieving process and overcome their resistance. It is a time for opportunity because they can show that they are a team player and may even become a change agent.

1 Corinthians 14:33 – “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace…”

God does not want us to live in disorder and chaos but He does want us to grow. Growth only comes with change. In the beginning, God kept forcing changes on us, He challenged everything that people knew and believed. He gave us opportunity after opportunity to change our hearts and minds. Finally, God sent us His son, Jesus Christ, known as the Prince of Peace. Jesus was a great reconciler for us; bringing us to peace with God our Father.

There are some that still are not willing to change from doing things their way and failing to believe in God and His son; they continue to do what they think is best based on earthly desires. Talk about resistance! There is no need to grieve; we have been given everlasting life with God through our faith in Jesus Christ. This is cause for celebration and not a moment of crisis. There is noting but opportunity in this good news. Continue to share your faith, keep up your devotions and listen to God as he speaks to you; He is speaking to you through the change agents in your life. The change agent maybe you, are you ready?

Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day! This is that day that usually marks the end of summer for most of the United States, except in Arizona. We will continue to have summer weather for at least the next 45 days. The forecasted high for today is 103 and will be dropping to 101 by Friday. We are celebrating the holiday weekend never the less, which explains my late post. For us, this extra day is all about rest – the first time in years that we don’t have some extra work to do around the house. While it’s easy to complain about the extra work around the house, the holiday does represent a celebration of us, the workers of the world. We are given the opportunity to use our talents, skills and abilities to make a difference for someone. In exchange, we are paid for our work. Granted, some are paid more than others, but we are able to provide for ourselves.

Each of us has special talents that we can use to make a difference for someone. Restaurant staffs make a difference for their customers, accountants provide a service and piece of mind to their clients, the grocery clerk who bags our purchase and so on; everyone makes a difference. If you think your labor is a waste, stop and consider who you make a difference for. We all have our specific jobs at this time and for a reason that we simply don’t understand. So what, you ask? Enjoy your time and consider how you make a difference in everything you do. The word LABOR means that it is supposed to be hard but it doesn’t mean that it is without a purpose. Enjoy the holiday and look forward to the changing seasons that are coming.

“Moreover, when God gives a man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work- this is a gift of God.” Ecclesiastes 5:19

I’m reminded of the old expression “a gift from God” with this verse. Our human nature is to think that we’ve done all the things that we do. “It was me who…” is how we start our sentences when describing an accomplishment. We often think of ourselves when it’s something great, but we blame God when its something less desirable. Why did God give me this disease? Why did God let me get fired from my job? We forget that God gives us ALL things; the good and the bad. He put the right people in our lives so that we meet the manager who was looking for a new employee and we landed that awesome new job.

God gives us what we can handle – not too little and not too much. God also wants us to be happy with what He has given us. He doesn’t want us being envious of the new car that our neighbor just got or be angry when we are passed over for promotion. He wants us to accept what we have (be content) and be happy. Everything, good and bad, is a gift from God and that is something to be thankful for. We are supposed to learn from the bad and model God’s grace for others. We are supposed to share the good with others too, God loves a cheerful giver but it’s not always money we need to give. God has blessed each of with talents and those should be shared too. Work should be less about labor and more about celebrating the gift of opportunity from God.

The Good of Suffering

Why are all the good people suffering? It seems that too often we hear about someone who has lived very honorably getting sick while someone who has been a rotten person lives on. It’s frustrating because life might actually appear to punish the good. We never hear about “that guy” getting cancer or the evil person at work being involved in a horrible accident. It’s always good people. We aren’t asking for it to happen to bad people but we notice that they seem to never have these problems. In response to this question of, Why?; I have two immediate thoughts: 1) God needs good people to spread His word through their actions and trials and 2), I don’t know any rotten people well enough to know if they are sick. I digress, so I started to dwell on my first thought. Good people who get sick always become a source of inspiration for others in some way.

This past weekend the State of Arizona and United States of America lost Senator John McCain to cancer. I’ve had the honor to meet with Senator McCain on a number of occasions and found that his courage to do what was right always exceeded his obligation to his party. I’ve known several people who have had serious illnesses and they were inspiring to me as they fought through the challenges; they did the inspiring. So the answer to the question is not why but what are we to learn from this? Are you supposed to be a stronger supporter? Are you supposed to learn about the strength of prayer or how to trust in God? We are all God’s children and He gives us only what we can handle, so what are we going to do with the opportunity that God has presented? Rotten people might not seem to have these problems but if they are truly rotten to the core, then they have eternal problems to deal with.

“All whom the Father gives me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never drive away.” John 6:37

God sent us all to Jesus – period. If Jesus won’t drive us way, what does? Many will answer that it’s sin but God took care of that on the cross at Calvary. Sin will not separate us from God’s love. I’ll suggest that the devil is the one who drives us away from our Savior Jesus Christ. He tempts us all of the time and disease is just one of his tools to turn us away from God. Many times people ask “why did God do this to her?” “Why does God let this happen?” It isn’t God. It’s the devil’s powerful way to make us doubt God’s love in our lives. The devil wants us to turn away from God and will stop at nothing to do it. Jesus will NOT drive us away!

God can use the pain of disease or injury to show us His love, strength and compassion. God inspires good people to do great things as a result of these bad events. The anniversary of the September 11thattacks is coming up and people often ask, Where was God that day? He was saving thousands of people to do great things and he was inspiring others to be strong in the face of tragedy. Have you ever spoken to someone who was there that day? They tell great stories about the people they lost or they tell of how they found strength in the following years to carry on. They became the inspiration for someone else. This week, make a conscious effort to be inspired by someone or to inspire someone; show the devil your love for God and that you belong to Him.

What will we be?

A couple of weeks ago our son moved into his new apartment – living without a roommate for the first time. An exciting time for anyone but especially a young man. We worried dearly about him a couple of years ago when he decided to work full time and go to school on-line. He is successful and confident and is gaining experience that will benefit him well into the future. He is also living the Millennial dream and will embarking on a 20-day road trip for his job – touring the Western United States promoting the DutchBros coffee brand. It’s an exciting and scary path that he’s choosing. People who have lost jobs or received a medical diagnosis face the same anxieties; just different questions. In order to help each other, sometimes we just need to recognize that others are in need.

Even when we are in need, simply helping others may bring clarity to our own problems. It is so easy to focus on ourselves that we start to fall into self-pity and then, depression starts to creep into our lives. Once we let it in, it’s very hard to get rid of it. The key is to keep it out. We don’t know what will happen with the problems in our lives or how long they will be with us. Instead of worrying about the problem, we should be searching for the message or lesson that is contained in them. We don’t know what will come of them, but we do know that everything happens for a reason and that it is all part of a bigger plan; we just don’t know what it is.

“Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” 1 John 3:2

God has a plan. We hear it over and over in the bible. We also hear people say it often and this verse reminds us of it – “what we will be has not been made known”. God is in control, ordering things in our lives to help us. He is not directing or creating single paths; we do have free will to choose. The key is recognizing what is part of the plan and what is the work of the devil. Our world is so complicated, and we are left with anxiety about the “right” path to choose – “what we will be has not yet been made known.”

We have little patience because this world moves at such a fast pace, but God does not. We become impatient and look for quick fixes (provided by the devil) and then the trouble starts. Slow down. “We are children of God”. Celebrate that! God has His stamp on your heart, mind and soul. Would He let you down? Stop searching for quick fixes and answers to questions that do not exist. Instead, look for God in all things and for the lesson he has presented to you. He loves His children and does not give us more than we can bear. Rejoice in the fact that God is giving you a path to walk through, He is preparing you for something better and wants you to be strong enough to enjoy it.

A Noble Task

It has been a while since I’ve written about leadership or being a leader. I have found myself “all over the board” by writing on various topics – for good or bad. Last week I had an encounter with someone who questioned my trustworthiness; I was accused of not being forthcoming with information. In my life’s various roles, I am entrusted with very confidential information that I cannot always disclose. Other times, I have to “play my cards close to the vest” until I know who I’m dealing with. I am often a very trusting individual and have had that trust taken advantage of, so I tend to be cautious. When you are in a leadership position, the stakes are often much higher when it comes to establishing and maintaining trust.

In this encounter, I chose to share a little extra information with this person and this individual became confused by my openness. “Why would you share that if you were concerned about confidentiality?” He asked. I explained that sometimes you have to show trust to earn trust. It was a leadership principle that I learned early in my career. Whether you are leading people or organizations, trust will never follow you if people believe you and they will not trust you unless you trust them. The subject of leadership has been written about for decades and there are a number of personal characteristics that impact a leader’s effectiveness; trustworthiness is just one characteristic. No matter what role you serve at work or at home, you are leading someone – formally or not. Keep in mind that you are either being a positive or negative example for others because someone is always watching what you do and say.

 “Here is a trustworthy saying: whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.” 1 Timothy 3:1

It takes a lot of courage to step into a leadership role. The whole debate about “are leaders born or are they created” fails to recognize the courage component. If someone steps into a leadership position without a little fear, they are stepping on thin ice. I’ve said before that leading is a privilege and an honor that we should not take lightly. People are putting their faith in that person and in some professions, their lives. Leading is more than telling others what to do or having a rank/title. Leaders are accepting the faith that others are placing in them. It is a noble task.

Timothy is describing those who wish to lead the church and is reminding them that it isn’t about the power and prestige that comes with it but the honor and responsibility that does. Jesus knew His role as the leader of the disciples. He knew what God was asking of Him and gladly accepted His fate. He charged us to be “fishers of men” by teaching us how to live better lives, be examples for others to follow but most importantly, to rely on God for the wisdom and strength to carry out our daily lives. Leadership is a noble task and it is not to be taken lightly. People are putting faith in you. Rely on God for your wisdom and strength and you will always have their faith.