My Strength is found in Him

Parents have the responsibility to give their children strength – strength to get through difficult times, strength to accomplish more than they thought was possible and the strength to carry on everyday. Not only as parents but also as adults, we should inspire those around us. We should  be a source of encouragement, a resource for guidance and a cheerleader for our kids and other young people as they reach beyond their limits and try new things toward personal growth.

Our son turned 18 this weekend, he’s an adult – just ask him! My hope at this point in his life is that he will say that his parents “Were always encouraging me, helping me figure things out and giving me opportunities to grow”. So many people influenced me when I was his age. I turned 18 in February and by October of that same year, I was in recruit firefighter school. The ‘men” I was working with saw things in me that I never did. They encouraged me, they taught me, they gave me advice and they put me in my place when I needed it. I’m sure they didn’t have any idea how they would impact me for the rest of my life and now I’ve taken those lessons and given them to my own son. He has the strength to be confident as he readies himself for what life has in store.

Philippians 4:13 “I can do everything through Him who gives me strength.”

So, where do you get your strength? This passage reminds us to find our strength in God – “Him who gives me strength”. In our fast paced lives we can sometimes forget that. We can do everything through Him because God is our strength; he is with us all day – everyday. Our privilege to be a parent is a gift from God; He has put us in this place at this time. We also have had a great mentor – Jesus Christ. He taught us to have compassion, patience and to be encouraging to those around us.

You can be the source of strength for your kids and those you work with by being a positive role model. When people ask you “Where do you get the strength from?” You can answer quite easily: God gives me the strength. In order to maintain your strength, like in any good workout routine, you need to work at it daily. We’ve all experienced a few days off from the gym; it gets harder to go back the longer you are away. Staying in God’s word or keeping up with bible study and devotions can be hard in our hectic lives; remain strong and stay committed. Much like the men who were there for me and had no idea that they would effect how I raised my son, you may be doing the same for someone else. Don’t worry; your strength is from God.

 

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Who Cares?

What does compassion mean to you? People often believe that it is the ability to feel sorry for others and some believe that it is showing care for others. I’ve talked about showing grace towards others as means of sharing the teachings of Jesus, which to some is being compassionate. I’d suggest that the answer is really all of the above and may include several other aspects that I haven’t touched on. Personally, I find that compassion is best served with part humility and a big component of being genuine about the subject. I’ve had a few people in my life that, after I speak with or see them, who leave me feeling great. They have such a demeanor about them that you can’t help but be warmed by your interaction with them. They are kind, giving and rarely have anything negative to say.

The speaker at commencement last week offered several suggestions about having a successful career and life. One of the tips was to eliminate negative people from your life because they drain the energy out of your life. Compassionate people bring calm, understanding and positive emotions into our lives. They teach us how to look for the good in all things and how to accept the things that we cannot change. Most of us are compassionate about homelessness, poverty, children and the sick. What about the all of the other things in our lives that you can or should care about? There is a great line in the movie “Back to School” starring Rodney Dangerfield when he’s describing a teacher he has; “He seems to care, about what I don’t know”.

What do you care about and are there things that you should be more compassionate about? Our lives go so fast that we can miss opportunities to be more compassionate about more things. Commit to being more positive and strive to be the type of person that when you leave someone, they have a warm feeling inside because you were there.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear Him.” Psalm 103:13

God cares about and has compassion on us in our weaknesses. How many of us would stick with friends or family that constantly failed to meet our needs or respect what we’ve asked of them? We are all weak from the original sin in our lives, yet God is compassionate towards us. Would you be that compassionate with people in your life? As a parent, I am compassionate with mistakes that my kids make, or the challenges that they present or the needs that they have. I’ve often said that the best supervisory training is parenting. God, as our Father, has compassion on us too. We see His compassion most brightly in the form of a Savior sent to redeem us for all eternity.

I do not fear God as the Psalmist did because of God’s compassion towards me and the grace that He gives me through His son Jesus Christ. Jesus intervened on our behalf with God and now we all can live in peace through Him. Just thinking about it gives me that warm feeling inside.

Good Work

I’m in the middle of a re-election campaign for City Council. There are three incumbent candidates and two challengers. We have a pretty benign political landscape in our city of just under 75,000 people. We all run “at-large”, which means we represent the whole city not just districts or precincts. There is nothing of controversy happening and we remain a vibrant, growing,and upscale community. I have no idea why we have challengers, most of the time they just want to run to see how it is. I was given some great advice when I decided to run the first time, “always run like you are ten points behind”. I’m never so self-confident that I would believe that I’m that well liked; besides medium speed is not a pace that you will find me at very often. These campaigns are very hard for me because I hate asking for help, I’m usually the one helping others. This weekend, the ENTIRE family pitched in to get the last details completed before we make the final push into the election. Today, my wife, son and I spent almost five hours driving around town in two cars  maintaining the campaign signs spread throughout the 120 square miles of our city. We relocated signs, fixed those knocked over and reinforced the signs against the wind. We all gave up our Sunday afternoon to do what was right for the campaign. On Saturday, our college senior spent most of the afternoon and several hours of her Saturday night putting the final touches on the graphic designs for the door hangers and a banner. As I write this tonight, ALL of the preparation is done thanks to the teamwork of my family and their support of me. I’m not really into bragging but they reminded me why I am a truly blessed man (not that I needed it). My lesson-learned in all this, don’t wait until it’s all over to thank those that help you along the way. Thanks to my great family!

“…the Lord will reward everyone for whatever good he does…” Ephesians 6:8

In this verse, St. Paul is in the middle of telling the church at Ephesus how masters and slaves should treat each other. What he is saying is that we as human beings, do not get to judge or reward what we think is right or righteous. St. Paul is telling us that since God is faithful and just, caring and compassionate and, the one true judge that we should be more like him. Practice forgiveness, compassion and working hard, just as our Father in Heaven does, are the principles of St. Paul’s message. The Lord, our God will take care of the rewards for hard work. There is no mention of building up “credits” to win God’s favor, no amount of works that needs to be preformed, no amount of money to be tithed; simply living as God would. God became man to show us the way, the truth and then gave us eternal life with him in heaven through His Son our Savior, Jesus Christ. He will reward the good that people do; we don’t need to judge the lives of others. We do however, need to thankful, to God, for the people in our lives who make things better.

Mistakes and Reactions

This weekend we saw some great NFL football games in the playoffs. Four games were played, four teams won and four teams lost. There were mistakes made, no doubt about that. I’m not talking about any game in particular but games are usually won because one team took advantage of someone else’s mistake. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Someone makes a mistake and the office jerk is not only quick to point it out but also then tries to take advantage of it. We all forget that post-it-notes were a result of someone’s mistake. How do you react when someone makes a mistake? I worked in an organization once that someone in HR got a little complacent and let a laptop get stolen with everyone’s personal data on it. The organization went crazy. People were calling for swift action and her head. I sent her an e-mail to tell her that it was just a mistake and tried to encourage her as best I could. I thought that she needed to know that not everyone was melting tar and gathering feathers. She remained employed and has always remembered my compassion. There was nothing that we could do about the data being stolen once it was gone. The organization took steps to help everyone and refocused attention on data security; it was the best we could hope for. People make mistakes all of the time. A baseball player who hits the ball 33% (.300 avg.) of the time is considered a great player. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that kind of productivity goal? So next time someone around you makes a mistake or you do; give them a little smile and let them know that it’s okay. The office jerk will get theirs in all due time.

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as Christ God forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32

We always seem to make one mistake after another; breaking commandments left and right. How can we call ourselves Christians if we can’t live a life without sin? St. Paul would certainly have a thing or two to say about that. His first direction in this one verse as part of a letter to the Ephesians was “Be kind and compassionate to one another”. This is a great place to start. How you handle yourself with others is a good indication if the messages have gone to your core. My guess is that you are compassionate and caring toward others. You do your best to help when you can and pray for help when there is more than you can handle. We forgive and forget a lot more often than we give ourselves credit for. If you held on to every wrong against you, the weight of those emotions would be crushing. We forgive strangers everyday yet we find it hard to forgive those we love. We expect our loved ones to behave better than a stranger and when they don’t, we hesitate to forgive. Jesus Christ taught us to be patient with everyone, even loved ones. His own disciples were less than helpful at times yet He forgave them. God, Our Father in heaven who loves us so deeply, is compassionate with us even when we disappoint Him. All of our sins have been forgiven by Jesus’ death and resurrection, no exceptions. God forgives you for the sins that you have committed and those that you have yet to commit; that’s why we can call ourselves Christians. Go out and demonstrate God’s love through your faith in Jesus Christ, the world needs our kindness, compassion and forgiveness.

Mother’s Day (I know its early)

I debated about doing a piece on Mother’s Day, more so about when to do it than anything else. This is the week leading up to the day that Hallmark made. Before anyone takes offense, I feel the same about Father’s Day and Valentine’s Day. While my wife and I don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day, we do recognize the other two for each other. It always seems that the spouses take these days more seriously than the children do, until at least the time when they are old enough to really know better and shop for themselves. Lisa and I have been blessed with two awesome mothers of our own. They not only like each other but they like their in-law kids too. I’m certain that I speak for both of us when I say; they treat us like their own kids. My mom gained another daughter and Lisa’s mom gained another son – it is better than I ever could have dreamed of. The quote from James reminded me of what a mother is but not only to her kids but also to her spouse as well. I originally planned to use this quote to talk about leaders in an organization and how, if they used these traits, can truly lead and encourage others to follow. As you read this, compare the actions of a good parent to those of a good leader and you will see, they are one in the same. A mother’s wisdom is pure and genuine, honest and full of love. No matter what happens, a child (regardless of age) will always seek a mother’s advice. A mother is peace-loving and considerate. She’s the one who always broke up the fights between brothers and sisters while seeking a solution that worked for everyone. Mothers taught us to share and taught us how to take care of someone who was hurt. A mother is submissive to the needs of the family, full of mercy and kind words (good fruit). Mothers showed us how to sacrifice and put others needs before our own. They deflected blame when we messed up and led the cheering crowd when we did well. Mothers never picked favorites (even though I know I am) and when they held your hand and looked into your eyes, you knew they meant everything they said. Great leaders, like all mothers, know how to do these things too. Mothers have earned a day just for themselves but they deserve it throughout the year, not just in May.

“But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” James 3:17

The irony of this message is that its about Mother’s Day based on the gifts that we have received from our Father in Heaven. This verse is great reminder of how we are to act toward everyone. The wisdom from heaven was given to us through the writings of the bible. As you read/study the bible, you will see in the New Testament that each lesson shows us God’s pure way in the life of His Son, Jesus. Jesus then showed us His peace-making ability, how he was considerate to others – even those that opposed Him, submissive to the law of the land while not compromising the Laws given by the Father, His mercy and goodness through the miracles he performed to soften hardened hearts, impartiality and above all, His sincerity. Jesus did all of these things while teaching non-believers which is unimaginable. He did all of this to show us the way and then, in the ultimate show of mercy, He took our sins onto Himself so that we could have eternal life. Using these principles to live your life in all situations, will please God but most importantly, it will witness to those that do not yet believe.

Punishment

Discipline comes in many forms. For some of us, it is the focus that drives us every day. For others, discipline means teaching moments and for a few, it means punishment. When my son was 8 or 9, I told him that we would spend the summer working on his discipline toward completing his daily chores. At the end of that summer I asked him, having had no further discussion on the topic and in front of a crew at one of our fire stations, what was this the summer of? Without missing a beat, he said that it was “the summer of punishment!” as he raised his hand into the air. I never had the conversation with him about having order nor was he ever disciplined for anything but his take-a-way was the summer of punishment. What do the people who you discipline take away from the experience? If the punishment was punitive, chances are they just took away a little bitterness. Our job as leaders is to be sure that the punishment fits the crime. If they didn’t know how to or were not equipped to do the job, how hard can you really be on them? A friend once told me that we shouldn’t kill an ant with an anvil. It was good advice about compassion.

“As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him…” Psalm 103:13

Discipline takes on two roles – punishment and order. The order that discipline brings is getting out of bed every day 5am to go to the gym for that dreaded spin class or the order that breeds commitment to seeing a job through to the end. Not wanting to repeat myself but the work we do here is pleasing to God, we should have the discipline to do our best – always. On the other side, fear and punishment are not often thought of when we think of our Father in Heaven. We all received punishment for the original sin of Adam and Eve. Child labor is now painful, we have to work the fields for our food and the price of our daily sin is death here on earth. We should fear God! The good news in this passage is that the Lord will have compassion on those of us who fear Him. God loves us and He has proven that by sending His son to die for our sins. We no longer have to fear the punishment of our sins; Jesus Christ did that for us on the cross at Calvary. God wanted His children close to him and while we will not stay in this life for eternity, we will share eternity with our Father in Heaven. A pretty fair punishment if you ask me.