Take one for the team

One of things that I do as a military contractor is to work with the Homeland Response Forces dedicated to protecting U.S. citizens from natural and man-made disasters. It is a natural fit after my 27 years in the fire service. The largest command is the Nation’s Joint Task Force-Civil Support Command, which is comprised of approximately 5500 Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen who take the idea of “service to others” to whole new level. When the nation has been attacked, some of these 5500 service members will be asked to “take one for the team”. When the Fugashima nuclear reactor failed in Japan several years ago as a result of a tsunami, some of their soldiers were asked to “take one for the team” and despite the danger, go into the radioactive area to obtain the data needed to make critical decisions. If we had a nuclear detonation in this country, we would be asking our military to do the same. It really made it clear to me that none of us really understand how to serve others when you compare it to acts of the Japanese Army.

Everyday we have public safety personnel risking themselves for our safety not to mention all of the “troops” dedicated to protecting us worldwide. Your local police officer and firefighter put themselves in harms way for us, oftentimes without concern for the consequences. What about the average person? What kind of service to others do we do? Sure, some of us “serve” others in our jobs while some “just work”. I’d suggest that there is no such thing as “just work”, every day we do/can serve others; its all in how we perceive it or our attitude toward it. Each one of us is important in our own way and we should never forget that. Reacting to the “Good Morning” sent your way by the always happy co-worker with a smile instead of a grunt turns your attitude toward serving others simply by returning the positive back to them. We spend a lot more of our day serving others and much of time we don’t realize it. I’d suggest we do it with a smile and without concern for the consequences.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

There have been books written on Jesus’ servant leadership – besides the Bible. Jesus came to us to: teach, lead, and provide an example of how to live but most of all, He came to serve us. He gave Himself for us so that we can all have eternal life with God our Father. His service is even greater than “taking one for the team”. On the last night before Supper, Jesus took the time to wash the feet of His disciples in what many believe to be the greatest show of being a servant. The night before He would be turned over to start the process of a long death, Jesus washed feet. Serving His fellow man was important and while the disciples didn’t know what was coming, Jesus did.

He knew that continuing His life of service was important to His mission and ironically, it’s a message that still continues to resonate 2000 years later. People remember the little things like washing feet before they talk about ALL of the other things He did. We aren’t much different. People will remember the little things you do for them before they remember the one or two big ones. Go out with the intent to serve others; pick up that piece of parking lot trash instead of stepping over it. When a co-worker looks stressed, help them with something small like a coffee refill or an offer to assist with something small. Sometimes it’s just the timing of a smile that can make all the difference in the world. Please pray for those who work everyday to safe guard us and be comforted by the knowledge that there are people who are willing to “take one for the team” for you.

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Attitude? Who me?

There are a number of things that make us who we are; attitude, education, experiences, families, goals, faith and the list goes on. Last week I talked about suffering and how that affects us too. I love to people watch whenever we go out; it’s a huge source of entertainment. I keep saying that people are strange creatures and the human psyche never fails to amaze me. The way we react to things or the way that we think is always interesting. I started to wonder about myself and if I’m just as crazy as everyone else – the answer is yes. I find that I’m really flexible and diplomatic with a significant segment of the people that I encounter everyday. Then, I become this stubborn, crabby old man on the flip side. I try to be consistent and predictable so people don’t have to guess which “Bill” is showing up. There are so many things that affect my attitude or outlook on the issues in my life. We all juggle a number of roles – spouse, boss, worker, leader, follower, friend, brother or sister, neighbor, etc. Knowing how to respond can be the difference between being the hero or the zero. I often try to be more humble than not and the peacekeeper rather the pot stirrer. I’m constantly searching for the middle of the road. “Fair” comes out of my mouth often. As I prepared to write this, I found myself doing a personal inventory of sorts. I wondered how all of these traits come across when someone watches me. I know I’m just as crazy as the next guy, filled with idiosyncrasies that make us who we are. I would encourage you to take some time to consider your attitude about life and how others perceive you. Do you like what you see? What can you do to change it? What should you keep doing? What do you want to achieve?

5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! 9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11

Wow! No pressure here – your attitude should be same as Jesus’. We often tell our kids that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time and this tall order is no different. In His usual wisdom, God has given us the directions on how to that as well. He gave us a four-step process to keep our attitudes in check.1) Do not consider yourself equal to God or even pretend to understand why He does the things that He does. It is too big to grasp. We must accept that He is doing what is in our best interests and in His own time. 2) Be a servant. Jesus was the ultimate servant and led others through His willingness to serve. He was a lowly carpenter who made things for other people. You can’t underestimate the power of servitude, so serve others with pride. 3) Do not take yourself too seriously. Humility is a strong character trait that is often confused with being shy. Being humble means that you’d be willing to wash the feet of someone else, nothing is too small of a job. You are not better than anyone else. 4) Jesus is your savior. Your salvation is found in Him and not through anything that you can do. You don’t have to worry about never being good enough or never doing enough; God took care of that for you. Jesus was exalted to the highest place after cleansing us from all sin. You can live your life of faith confident in your salvation and life everlasting. If that doesn’t give you a positive attitude, I can’t imagine what will.

Better late than never…

Ten days ago I spent five days on Hilton Head Island, SC with our very dear friends from Boston. We usually see them about two or three times a year and have tried to travel to different spots in the US when we do. This year they bought a “retirement home” on the island. They are about 8-10 years away from actually retiring but the market was right so they plunged. It is all part of their plan and with a little faith; they finally got what they dreamed of. I spent time talking to Scott about goals and dreams while we were there. He was so clear about his vision. We all need a vision for our lives. Most of us live year to year and we don’t think about we want 3-5 years down the road. What will your life look like then? Visioning is difficult especially when we try personal visioning. On the plane returning home, I read an article about Google managers and how they are asked to create a vision for their team or section and then communicate about it regularly. As the business changes, they communicate how those changes impact the vision. Organizations create vision statements, leaders have visions of what they want to accomplish and we should too. Have faith in your abilities to accomplish them; you can do anything you set your mind to.

“He replied, “Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”  Matthew 17:20

Christmas is two days from now! All of our planning for the holiday will finally come together. God gave THE ultimate gift that day, His Son. This day was prophesied throughout the ages. Even John the Baptist talked about “someone who is greater than I”. God set His vision in motion and found that the only way to make it “a reality” was to send us a savior. God’s vision depends on just one thing – our faith in Jesus Christ as our savior. Matthew is encouraging us to keep our faith (even if it is small) and remain strong in our belief. If we can be strong in faith, nothing will be impossible. Whatever your vision of the future looks like, keep your faith in Jesus Christ strong. A future without Christ in it is not a future, it’s the end. Eternal life is hard to put into a vision of our future here on earth but we don’t have eternal life without faith in Jesus – they are mutually exclusive. Enjoy the birthday party today (Christmas), I hope you are spending it with your family or friends or both. Ask God for help in crafting your vision for this life and let your imagination run wild for what eternal life will be like. Merry Christmas!

Confession, work and priorities

I’ve been writing this blog since January of 2012 and have produced a weekly devotion no matter what – vacations, out of town for work, projects, etc. I made it a point to make sure that I had one scheduled to post so that no matter how busy I was or where I was traveling; I would keep my self-imposed deadlines. I failed this week in making my deadline – 4am Arizona time. I’m never up at that hour but my blog is working to keep my commitment to myself and to my witnessing. I wrote a post in February of 2012 called “Who are you working for?” I found the answer to that question this weekend: I’m working for the “man” and that the “man” is me! I was working to finish a project for a client while completing a proposal for another project and I lost control of my weekend. I even worked late into the night on Sunday! So much for remembering the Sabbath and keeping it Holy. Now that I’m done confessing, let’s turn back to the work at hand – sorry pun intended. I was caught up in doing my very best work not only for our current client but also for a future one. My name is on those documents and I want them to be a reflection of the pride that I take in my work. We often hear the phrase “working for the man” when people describe their jobs. I’d like to suggest that you consider yourself working as though you are working for God or Jesus Christ and that God shows through in everything that you do. If you had to go to work everyday for God, I bet you would approach your work much differently than you do today. Change your outlook and do your best, at all times and at the end of the day pause, close your eyes, tilt your head towards heaven and imagine God’s smile and a wink. You’ve done a good job today!

Colossians 3:23-24 “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.”

Do your friends and family ever wonder why you work so hard or have patience for the work you do? The “man” doesn’t care how hard you work, just keep showing up, keep your mouth shut and do your job. Working for the “man” is what many people are destined to do. The “man” in Paul’s letter is the Lord. Feels different now doesn’t it? We are a reflection of the goodness of God and all that Jesus Christ taught us about living our lives. He didn’t say, “go and work just for yourselves and leave the others to suffer”. Jesus taught us to care for each other and give willingly. Many of us do that and while it can be hard at times, we do a good job and are thankful for the opportunity. God’s plan for us includes using us as examples for others to see His goodness. When you smile at or encourage someone at work, you are reflecting God’s goodness. When you continue to work hard when everyone else is taking advantage of the workplace, you are reflecting God’s goodness. When you un-jam the copier after someone else walked away from it, you are reflecting God’s goodness. We can see God’s goodness if we just look for it – its everywhere. It is the Lord you are serving, do it with all of your heart!

Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am grateful and thankful to everyone for your encouragement and support. Since my injury, I have tried to make it a tradition to reach out to people who have come into my life or helped me in some way and say thank you. I am so blessed by everyone in my life that I’d spend all year making calls. So, I found this today and thought of everyone who follows this blog, all my friends, my colleagues, and my family – you are very special to me, thanks.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity.
It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” 
~Melody Beattie

Found in the book “Attitude is Everything”

 

Be Positive

A positive attitude can get you through just about anything. My daughter recently told her class that the most difficult thing that she has had to overcome in her life was her recovery from Gall Bladder surgery. She remembers the pain and feeling sick for days after the operation. She told her classmates what I told her to recite during her recovery, “today will be a great day” and it worked for her. Her recovery moved out of first gear and she was on her way. How do we create positive attitudes when our 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 at work. 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 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 to help us grow. The unexpected check that arrives in mail or the new diagnosis, 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. The bible has been filled with gifts for us to use to “fix” our attitudes. Do you know where to find your next attitude adjustment?