Written or Spoken Words

I don’t know about you but yearn for the days when “news outlets” reported the actual facts and left the opinion pieces to the editors. I spend hours a day looking at multiple sources to simply understand what the issue really is and what the facts are. It is certainly frustrating. I reminds me of a conversation that I had with our son who often said, “Technically Dad, this is correct”. I never operated in a world of “technicality” so I was quick to reminded him that if he has to start a sentence that way, it probably 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 also suggest that verbal communication is the key to a properly 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. The pandemic has certainly created distance between us as humans. 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. 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.

Perfect Gifts

Humans 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 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 are complaining about not 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 was okay to leave dirty dishes yesterday and again today, don’t be surprised that the same dirty dishes will be there on the third day. 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. Who is our good and perfect gift, the one who gives us eternal life and freedom from all of our sins. 

Constant Stars

We have all heard about rising stars and shining stars in organizations, but have you heard about the constant stars? Those are the 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 they bring you a Starbucks when you’re not 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 are. I work with other military contractors that are like this. While we are an intense bunch, there are a couple of guys that every time I see them, 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-rendering, hope-crushing word of divine judgment: Because of all her sins, Jerusalem would fall. The only hope that 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 directly, 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.

A Refuge in Times of Trouble

I frequently write about God’s plan because people are constantly saying, “everything happens for a reason”. 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 pessimism.

I am generally not a negative person, but I 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 calendar year of 2020 was completely devoid of work. I’d been through times before, but this was the longest period I’d experienced without any work. I told myself to focus on letting God’s plan unfold and be patient (not an easy task). The quiet allowed me to focus on slowing down and taking stock of what is truly important. I’m writing this devotion at the end of ten days working for Army North during a training exercise. Enough to keep me going at the start of 2021. “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 verse 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 during this exercise who shared the sudden passing of a mutual acquaintance. My friend, a man of faith, was down about this loss – he had forgotten where to turn in his time of trouble.

“What a loss!” he proclaimed. “We were talking about getting together since we are both retired” my friend lamented. I reminded him that his loss was only temporary and that the great memories of our 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 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.”

Mentor vs Coach

Mentoring and coaching are often used interchangeably. There have been a number of articles written about companies choosing not to perform annual performance appraisals and replacing them with regular “check-in sessions” – basically coaching. Mentoring programs are often viewed by the workforce as special grooming for those fortunate enough to have been chosen to move up the career ladder; an unfortunate take a way. By definition, mentoring is a relationship in which a person with greater experience and wisdom guides another person to develop both personally and professionally. The key feature here is that the mentee wants to be guided – they ask for this type of personal attention. 

Most employees expect help from their leadership in the form of guidance, inspiration, encouragement, advancement, discipline and approval for a job well done. If they don’t get these, frustration sets in and for the Millennials and Gen Z, this means finding a new job. Employees can be coached even without a formal system. If supervisors aren’t proactively providing guidance, the employee can ask questions of their supervisor to extract some help. “What do I need to do to improve in [fill in the blank]? I’d like to start working on more complex projects; do you have anything coming up that might allow me to do that? Personally, I’ve been blessed to have great coaches and confidants throughout my career(s). Don’t wait for it to happen, go out and make it happen. Find a mentor, a coach or a confidant in your life and you will see that there is strength in numbers.

“I instruct you in the way of wisdom and lead you along straight paths. When you walk, your steps will not be hampered; when you run, you will not stumble.” Proverbs 4:11-12

Can you even imagine what it would be like to physically speak to Jesus everyday and ask for His advice? You don’t need to imagine because, you can! Your prayers are heard by the Triune God, which means Jesus hears them too. While you don’t hear Him respond back, you will get an answer. God sent us His Son to bring us closer to Him. Now that’s what I call a mentor! He provided His word to us through the scriptures and Jesus gave us examples of how to live our lives; someone to guide us both personally and professionally. 

This verse tells us that God will lead us along straight paths, not stumbling and without impede. Another example of God’s promise to be with us. We stumble in sin; we forget to nurture our relationship with God and yet He keeps His promises. Our faith in Jesus is all that He needs to keep us along the straight paths. We don’t deserve that kind of dedication, but God’s love is so great that we can’t imagine how He can forgive us. Sin is always present but more importantly, so is God’s love. Let Him guide you.

The Knock You Hear…

The knock you hear may just be opportunity at the door. Opportunity comes in many forms and at all times, sometimes we recognize it and sometimes we don’t. We often say in our house that it isn’t always what you know but who you know; the people you meet in your life’s journey. I have experienced this on more than one occasion. For example, as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago, the work I perform with the military is a result of my meeting Todd within months of my retirement. “Military contractor” was not something that I even knew was available for me as I faced an uncertain future following my injury. 

My life as an elected official (another unforeseen opportunity) has opened my life to meeting people from all over our Valley. I’ve learned about development, land investment, real estate “deal making”, water resources and public transit because people believed in and mentored me. This has always been the case in my life, and I learned long ago to always be “that someone” for others. I am in the unique position of being able to help people across a wide spectrum of industries now – politically, real estate development, local government management, military command, and assisting those in need. I have always given more than I asked for (at least I think that was the case) and I still have great joy doing so. Sometimes, we are the one knocking to help others and sometimes we are the one who needs to open the door. Are you ready for either circumstance? 

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” – Revelation 3:20

Whose plan is leading your life. Is it God’s or one that you have been working on? Christians often talk about “opportunity knocking” as being God’s hand at work in their lives. When a Christian waits for the knock and believes that it never comes, they start to doubt their faith. Why won’t God answer my prayer? God does answer; we just sometimes don’t realize it. We doubt ourselves and don’t take advantage of the opportunity or we don’t trust God to bring us through the challenge we face. 

Today’s verse tells us that God is here, standing at the door knocking. Do you hear His voice and answer the door? God promises that He will come in; all you have to do is open the door to Him. What does that mean? Open your heart, your mind and your soul to God. Believe His word, His promises and most importantly, believe in His Son Jesus Christ. Letting God take over “your” life is hard and scary – you think that you’ll have no control. This is not what God wants for you. He gave us mental reasoning and a road map in the bible for our lives; He wants fellowship with all of us. Open the door to let Him in and He will eat with you. Open yourself to Him, read His word, follow His commands, but most importantly; rest in knowing your sins are forgiven because you are with Him through Jesus Christ.

Martin Luther King Jr

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day. I have to admit that I never really understood what he did and what was happening at that time in our history until I started attending presentations about his life. One of the local senior groups hosts a wonderful tribute to a great man. I have come to understand more than the civil rights fight that he undertook. The fight for civil rights is still not over as we witnessed this past summer during the unrest that followed the killing of George Floyd and so many others. Dr. King wouldn’t accept the status quo; he wouldn’t back down against great pressure nor would he compromise his beliefs. He spoke all around the world to, what is reported as, millions of people with a simple message – we are all one people. 

Violence even tried to take over our government as people used it to solve their differences or solve their conflicts. Martin Luther King Jr. fought against violence and took a stand to resolve the differences in a non-violent way though not everyone supported that strategy. His speeches were moving and his understanding of the issues was extraordinary yet many agree his work remains unfinished. He used his talents to change the world. Most of us will never reach the stature of Dr. King but we can have a huge impact on the world around us. Each of us has God given talents that we can use to impact those in our lives. Sometimes people are in our lives for a brief moment, like in line at the grocery store and others are people we’ve known for years but we have the opportunity to model the same beliefs that Dr. King did, good Christian values. 

“For in Him you have been enriched in every way – in all your speaking and in all your knowledge…” 1 Corinthians 1:5

I written before a friend who felt he had done things in his life and that he didn’t feel “right with God yet and as long as I’m not right with Him, I can’t be right with anyone”. I used this obvious opportunity to remind him about our savior, Christ Jesus. I reminded him that he was already “right with God” because of what Jesus did for us Easter weekend.  

1 Corinthians 1:7-9 goes on to say 7Therefore you do not lack any spiritual gifts as you eagerly wait for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed. 8 He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.” We lack nothing; there is nothing we can do or must do to be “right with God”. He knew our weaknesses long before we did and sent us a savior so we could enjoy eternal life with Him. God decided we were worth it long before we could do anything to prove it to Him. So, what does this have to do with Martin Luther King Jr? If we lack nothing, stand up and speak out about the issues that matter. Have the courage to speak when someone doubts their faith, be courageous in fighting for those who can’t fight for themselves, in a non-violent way. Martin Luther King Jr said these two inspiring things that require courage, the kind of courage that God has given you: “The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people” AND “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”.

Nowhere to Turn

What a week! There are hundreds of adjectives that could follow in describing a week like this in America. There are also several emotions that emerge from the events we saw this week. People have said, “I feel lost and have nowhere to turn!” Many times they are just frustrated by what is happening at that moment and things aren’t as bad as they think. There are times however, when things are truly bad. Is this one of those times? Honestly, I don’t know. I was introduced to the military contracting world by a man named Todd who helped me make connections with people that would change the course of my life. I’ll never forget the Saturday phone call we had when he described the turmoil in his life. His ex-wife had burned down his house, his older sons were doubtful of their mother’s involvement which was creating conflict and his truck was broken into and some of his belongings were stolen. As we talked, he kept referring to the strength of Job and all of his troubles. Neither Job nor my friend lost faith. 

During my career in the fire service, I saw people’s lives changed in the blink of an eye. This week, our faith in political leaders changed, our confidence in “freedom” was shaken and our future became that much more uncertain. However, it’s not just this week that causes people to fear the future; daily struggles still exist for many people – medical conditions, financial issues, workplace stresses and relationships. It is how we deal with these problems that is key to our happiness. Unfortunately, some people turn to substance abuse to escape, while others turn to friends or family for help. Healthy choices have long-term effects. The others only ease the pain temporarily and then pile on more problems for later. If you are struggling or know someone who is, seek long-term answers because your problems are, in the grand scheme of things, short-term. 

20 “Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. 21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:20-21

When I first started planning this devotional, I was looking only at verse 21. It is easy to write about listening to the voice that says, “This is the way”. However, it is important to remember that God also brings adversity and affliction. It sounds crazy to think that God brings these bad things to us but we must remember, “Everything happens for a reason”. Sometimes they build strength for what is yet to come, other times they provide you wisdom to advise someone else later in life. In some cases, God is using you as an example of faith for others to see – a living witness. 

We are reminded that no matter what ‘bad thing” is happening to us, “your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Much like you must open the door when opportunity knocks, you must be ready to hear God’s voice. He won’t necessarily speak directly to you or send an Angel in your dreams, but wouldn’t that be awesome! God uses all of us in different ways to send His messages. It was my new friend, who was experiencing far worse things than I was, that was sending me the message that my future was going to be okay. The day we spoke was transformational for me. Looking back, I know that it was God telling me that, “This was the way”. Keep listening!

Happy New Year???

My mind was all over the place in preparation for writing the first post of the new year. I went back and looked at old posts to see what I’ve written about – optimism, goal setting, new beginnings and the like. It just didn’t feel right for 2021. We all agree that this year HAS to be better than 2020 but if anything taught us to be pessimistic, it was 2020. No matter what corner we turned, another twist came. I normally would have said “another shoe would drop” but it seemed to be raining shoes last year.  There is no reason to believe that we shouldn’t be filled with hope as we start this new year but 2020 was like an anchor.

So, let’s start 2021 with a reminder that we are free! We celebrated the birth of a Savior in the last 10 days and right now is the time to celebrate the birth of our freedom through faith. We should toss the shackles of 2020, break the chains of pessimism and celebrate the things we have right in front of us; we are no longer bound by our sins. While many of us will make (and break) New Year’s resolutions to improve something in our lives; start this new year knowing that you are free from sin. What do you mean, you ask? This is all best explained in St Paul’s letter to the Galatians. The verses prior to these explain the meaning of and importance of God’s Laws.

23 “Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. 24 So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. 25 Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.

26So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, 27 for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. 28There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:23-29

Knowing this, you can be confident in yourself as you boldly go into 2021 and all that it will offer. Be sure to celebrate all the small victories, accomplishments and the good days. You are not being punished for your sins, you are being protected by God’s love, grace and mercy; your sins are forgiven! Have a Happy New Year!

Happy Holidays?

I hope that you enjoyed a safe and very Merry Christmas holiday weekend. Some enjoyed the extended weekend while others returned to work on Saturday and continued their labors. If you are like me, you NEEDED the joy that Christmas brings at this time of the year. In a few days we will close the book on the year 2020 and not a minute too soon! Unfortunately, the first day of 2021 will not feel any different than today – we are still in the midst of a pandemic after all.

Let’s celebrate anyway and remember the good news of our lifetime – the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. This particular reading of the bible at Christmas time always moves me and I enjoy sharing it. I have no analogy to add and no wisdom to share; I thought that I would let the word of God stand alone and reach everyone in its own way. Please have a safe New Year’s Eve and may God bless your 2021.

God’s Love and Ours 

7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us. 

13We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” 1John 4:7-16