Listen Carefully

During these times of uncertainty, it is easy to jump to conclusions about things that we really don’t understand. The unrest that has seized the United States is multi-faceted and we need to understand as many perspectives on these issues that we can. It’s easy to make conclusions based on the soundbites of our favorite news outlet or twitter account holder. We forget that many “ordinary” people have a very keen perspective of what’s happening that we may not. The old expression “you can’t see the forest through the trees” has a lot of validity the further removed you are from the problem. Personally, I have led a life of privilege, so it is important that I work harder to understand the issues. As James reminds us, “be quick to listen”; you might be surprised by what you hear. God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason.

The deeper down you dig, the less polish you’ll find on the things you hear or the statements that are made. All leaders need to listen to what is being said, not how it is being said and what side actions are taking place. Don’t focus on the actions but focus on the root issue. We’ve all been locked up for weeks (emotionally and physically) and what we’ve seen the past four days is not surprising to those of us that work in the Homeland Response field. These are desperate actions to what are perceived or actually desperate circumstances. Unless you are a person of color, you cannot begin to understand why this is happening unless you start listening – carefully.

Search for the facts, they may not be stated in a way that you’re used to hearing them. Be slow to speak, let the speaker get everything out before you begin to say anything. These conversations are usually the time when we simply justify why something is happening or why we can’t change. Resist the urge to become angry in the face of criticism; remember there can be more than one right answer to many problems, keep your emotions in check. When people exchange their thoughts, they are exchanging gifts, accept it with grace and they’ll do it again – the dialog now begins. If you don’t accept the gift well, you’ll never get a second chance. Many people today haven’t had their “gift” accepted very well and are lashing out.

James 1:19 “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…”

As brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to heed these words as well. Listen to the words contained in the bible; be slow to speak about why that isn’t realistic or how it’s impossible to follow the example of Jesus Christ. How often do you actually hear the Word, is it only in worship? The Word is a guide for us to learn and apply but it’s hard to do when you only hear it once a week. As you listen to the Word, let the meaning sink in. Look for what is being said beyond the words. Jesus often used parables as examples and honestly, they can be confusing too. Be patient and meditate on the Word of God, it will come to you.

Be slow to become angry or frustrated when you read the bible as you compare your life to what you are reading. Remember, God gave us the Law in the Old Testament and salvation in the New Testament. Don’t feel guilty about how you lead your life, Christ died for all of our sins – past, present and future. No day will go by without sin in your life. Some people think that that acting in a Christ-like manner just won’t work because they have too many “problems” in their lives or have done too many “bad” things for God to forgive. Nonsense! God sent His son to save the world and not condemn it. If no day can pass without sin, we would all be condemned if it wasn’t for God’s grace in our lives. Those with faith in Jesus Christ are saved.

Give it your all

I often wonder when opportunity will stop knocking. The idea that one door opens when another one closes has proven itself in my life, time and again. I tell myself that as I get older, it is natural to wonder when it those doors won’t open. I’ve been presented with three opportunities in the past three weeks; who knows if any of them will become a reality. It just reminds me that my work is still being recognized even if I didn’t think so. I’ve never done anything halfway in my life and now as a consultant, it is hard to tell if anyone notices since I work so infrequently. They say that hard work pays off and I have no reason to start doubting the phrase now.

I spent the better part of the past three weeks working with an old friend who I haven’t worked with in years. Our days were long, and the routine dragged on as each day passed. He took notes, payed attention to the details that I had stopped looking at a few years ago, he listened, he engaged in conversation and asked questions. He was preparing himself to understand and work in an environment that was foreign to him; he knew the importance of being committed to the project. In contrast, all of us have worked with someone who only wanted to learn half the job or just enough to get by. These people are always interested in the next promotion without putting in the effort to truly understand the position they are in. Where has commitment gone? As a whole, the world seems to be suffering from a “failure to commit”. Doing something only half way gets you exactly that, half the reward.

“Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37

The moment I read this verse, I knew that I had to write about giving it your all, not doing things half way, and especially when worshiping God. I had no good idea how to tell the story of giving 100% until these two things happened these past weeks. I started to think about what does giving less that 100% to God look like and then I realized the example was me! Sin keeps me from giving God all my heart, all my soul and all my mind. No matter how hard I try, something always gets in the way.

Sometimes, I’m too tired or simply lazy to break out the bible and start reading my daily devotion. I’m too busy to stop and pray or give thanks, besides God knows – right? God knew our struggles would be greater than we could handle so he put a plan in motion to save us from ourselves – He sent us Jesus. He is the one who told us to give our all to God. He knew that He would have to intervene on our behalf and take sin away from us. Jesus left us so many great examples and stories while taking all of the sin out of our lives. God knew that we would not be perfect and he doesn’t expect it, but we can show Him our love by diving in a little deeper, spending a little more time and showing what the love of Jesus means in our lives. Give it your all!

Having Confidence

Father’s Day was yesterday; I hope that every one of the “dads” enjoyed it. Men have a funny way of expressing this day to each other, especially if you compare it to how women express Mother’s Day to each other. Men will simply nod and smile to each other if it comes up and if we don’t mention it, well, that’s okay too. When it comes to celebrating the day, we’re okay with simplicity. No brunches or special events. A good, or should I say smart, man will treat Mother’s Day much differently. Men are providers, we are “fixers”, we will just do our thing and keep moving. A father’s role is different and so is his reaction to any celebration. Few men seek accolades and often don’t know how to respond to someone who offers them. I notice that women love the attention of a restaurant staff lead birthday song but watch a man and he’ll slowly slide under the table. We’re just funny that way I guess. This isn’t about the differences between men and women; it’s more about how we react to things. The “fixer” in us wants to perfectly plan a course for our lives and then follow it to the letter. When things don’t go according to plan, we lose hope and get frustrated. As men, we view our role as being there for everyone else but when we are the ones that need fixing, we throw our arms up and scream: “why do I bother!” The simple answer is that we bother because we are, by nature, fixers. Next time you feel like things aren’t going as planned or when you don’t have control over the direction (whether you are male or female), just remember, it always eventually works out.

“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” Philippians 1:6

Being confident in all things is often known as being arrogant or cocky. No one likes someone who is arrogant; they are hard to be around. Having confidence on the other hand, is being sure of your self. The words, being and having, change the value of the word confidence. “Confidence” is more valuable to others when you have it rather than being it. Overall, I have confidence in my decisions and understanding of municipal government, which allows me to speak with authority. What is giving St. Paul this confidence? Why is he “being” confident? Verse 5 says “because of your [Philippians] partnership in the gospel from the first day until now,” St. Paul is being confident that they have found favor in God’s eyes. He is expressing his confidence (having confidence) that God will not abandon them and will carry them forward until the coming of Christ Jesus. St. Paul isn’t “being”, he is “having” confidence in the Word of God. How do we obtain that level of confidence? Being in God’s Word and accepting that salvation is found in Jesus Christ. Reading the bible gives us an understanding of the plan that men try so hard to control. God is THE “fixer”, He not only orders things in this life, He fixed our relationship with Him for all eternity. He sent us a savior to fix our inability not to sin. Do you have the confidence to go through life knowing that God is at work in it? I do.

Give it your all

I had a conversation with my 16 year old son this weekend about his grades in school. He is a really good kid and we are very proud of him. He excels at anything he puts his mind to and there in lies our problem. What 16 year old likes school? We discussed that our high expectations about his grades are simply because we know he is smart. When pressed, he admitted to not really caring this year. The worst grade he is getting is a “C” so we’re lucky there but I like to make my point. He knows that this lasi-faire attitude won’t fly next school year. Ironically, I also heard this weekend from someone whom I had helped prepare for an upcoming promotional process. When he initially asked, he told me that a number of people encouraged him to test because he’d been on the job long enough so he figured “sure, why not”. Based on the sound of his voice, I could tell that he wasn’t really committed to it. When I spent a few hours with him, I knew he hadn’t mentally committed to the promotion and he seemed barely prepared for the rigors of the process. I offered a few tips to get ready, discussed confidence and competence and, wished him well. When he contacted me via e-mail, I have to admit that I wasn’t surprised that he didn’t score high enough to make the list. This grown man and this young man (boy) had in one thing in common – a failure to commit. Neither of them committed to doing the work needed to be successful. They both figured that if they put in some time that they would be okay. Doing something only half way gets you exactly that, half the reward.

“Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37

The moment I read this verse, I knew that I had to write about giving it your all, not doing things half way, especially worshiping God. I had no good idea how to tell the story of giving 100% until these two things happened this weekend. I started to think about what does giving less that 100% to God look like and then I realized the example was me! Sin keeps me from giving God all my heart, all my soul and all my mind. I didn’t mean to be, but I was lucky to be a “C” student. No matter how hard I try, work or school demands get in the way. Sometimes, I’m too tired or simply lazy to break out the bible and start reading my daily devotion. I’m too busy to stop and pray or give thanks, besides God knows. These are the same reasons why my son’s grades are weak or why my friend didn’t pass the test. God knew our struggles would be greater than we could handle so he put a plan in motion to save us from ourselves – He sent us Jesus. He is the one who told us to give our all to God. He knew that He would have to intervene on our behalf and take sin away from us. Jesus left us so many great examples and stories but He took all of the sin out of our lives. God knows that we will not be perfect and he doesn’t expect it, but we can show Him our love by diving in a little deeper, spending a little more time and showing what the love of Jesus means in our lives. Give it your all!