Be happy in your work

Happy Labor Day! Okay, I’m trying to be positive in the grips of a pandemic on what should be a weekend filled with barbeques and gatherings. Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer but here in Arizona we’re under an Excessive Heat Warning with temperatures over 110 degrees for something like the 40th time this year. It looks like we’ve got another 60 days before we cool off into the 90’s. In our house we celebrated the holiday weekend with some extra work in the yard – trimming trees. While it’s easy to complain about work these days, this holiday does represent a celebration of us, the workers of the world. We use our talents, skills and abilities to make a difference for other people. In exchange, we are paid for our work. Granted, some are paid more than others, but we are able to provide for ourselves.

Our talents often feel like they go unrecognized and if you think your labor is a waste, stop and consider who you make a difference for. Restaurant staffs feed their customers, accountants provide a service and peace of mind to their clients, the grocery clerk who bags our purchase and so on; everyone makes a difference. We all have our jobs at this particular time 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’re responsible for 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 someone else or God when it’s 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.

Riches

What does being rich mean to you? For some, it means having money to do anything and everything that they wish. To others, it means having enough to be satisfied or content. And yet to others, it means having a life of blessings and little worry despite having little money. Many people focus on making money because as the old adage says “money can’t buy everything but it sure makes everything better”. When we focus on getting rich or making money we often forget the other things of importance in our lives. People who put so much emphasis on their careers, in order to provide “financial stability”, will often miss out on the important things in life. We have all heard people say “I’m working hard to provide a future for my family”.

These people rarely have time for the present day family that they are working so hard for. I’ve never heard anyone say, “I’m glad my parents weren’t around when I was a kid so I could have this great inheritance check now that they’re dead”. Everything in our lives is about balance. The right amount of money, the right amount of time and the right attitude generally always pay off. The right amount of exercise and the right amount of rest keep us healthy in the long run. What do riches really do for us? Sure, not having to worry about paying bills would be great but what kind of life do we have working or worrying about work constantly. Monetarily “rich people” often don’t seem happy. Watch a young family with few “riches” and you will see hugs, laughter, smiles and they will find fun in the little things. You don’t need money to be rich; you need the right perspective on life and a little faith in your future.

4Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. 5Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone…” Proverbs 23:4-5

These are the words of wisdom that turn our attention to what should be the most important thing in our lives – God. He warns us often throughout the bible not to be misled by the things of this world. St. Paul writes in his letters about how this world will lead us toward destruction. Jesus taught us to focus on the words and promises of God and showed us how the men of this world were leading us astray.

If we focus on riches and riches only, they can be gone in a glance; leaving us with nothing. If we focus on God and His word, we are never alone and always content. The same Proverb in verse 12 tells us, “Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.” Jesus often said to keep focused on God and place our faith in Him alone. God is on our side and He will provide us with what we need and will never give us more than we can bear. His plan is in motion for our lives, we need to have the wisdom to allow it to unfold and keep our attention where it belongs, on God.

What is Enough?

By definition, greed is the intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power or food. When you Google the word “greed”, you will find 111 million results. Say what you want about Wikipedia, I love their definition – “Greed is an inordinate or insatiable longing for unneeded excess… greed is an inordinate desire to acquire or possess more than one needs.” The phrase “more than one needs” really struck me on this subject. It makes me think about living a life of contentment. One of my brothers and one of my sisters were talking about him being a minimalist – he really doesn’t want a lot of things for his house. I’d say that he is content with what he has. As the wealth gap in the United States continues to grow, I know that it is hard not to want a little more than we have at this moment.

By definition, a minimalist is someone who’s lifestyle is centered on less. When you Google the word “minimalist”, you will find 299 million results. I was immediately overjoyed by that number but as I researched a little father, I found that minimalism is also a form of art or an Art Movement. So much for an advanced degree! In any case, my point is that contentment should always outweigh greed and minimalism should be greater than excess. There is no “one answer fits all” solution to this subject. Each of us are faced with circumstances that drive our ability to be content. Someone with no food is content with what someone else might leave behind. I’m simply suggesting that you examine your own situation and determine “what is enough”. The opposite of selfish is selfless and we could use a little more of that these days.

“Then He said to them, ‘Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.’ ” Luke 12:15

Jesus is reminding us that greed is not just about money. Think about the things that people want more of – better event tickets, a bigger TV, a better car, a bigger house, newer furniture, etc. It is very hard today to avoid being “greedy” about something. Times were different during Jesus’ ministry on Earth and people had very little and wanted more, so one could argue that greed was greater “back then”. Today, we have more and greed is just as great today, we just want more of the things that we do have. When we start to focus on gaining more we stop focusing on the things that are important, like our relationship with God.

This world is being overtaken by greed and care only for oneself and we seem to be losing sight of our ability to demonstrate God’s love to each other. When we start focusing on ourselves, we stop caring for others. We stop living our lives as Jesus taught us to and we start to please the devil as we turn away from God’s teachings. “Watch out!” was Jesus’ warning to us. He didn’t sugarcoat it. If we aren’t careful, we will fall away. Start sharing your abundance of blessings with others (spiritually and otherwise) and who knows, maybe the world will become a better place.

Why Worry?

Worry can consume a great deal of time in someone’s life. As children if we did something bad, our mothers warned us to “wait until your father comes home” and then we spent hours worrying. Somehow we are comfortable worrying. I created phrase in our house a while back when I said, “let’s worry about worrying, when there is something to worry about”. We were falling into the trap of worry before we even had a problem. We learned after my surgery that there is a plan for our lives; we simply needed to let it reveal itself to us. We want to be in control of everything and when we can’t adjust the circumstances around us, we start to worry. We do it so often that worrying has become second nature to us. We worry about things at work, we worry about things at home, in the stock market, in pro sports, on our drive to work and we worry about ourselves. I would challenge you to stop worrying and start living your life.

I’m not suggesting that you become reckless but start to look around at all of the great things in your life and look at how they are connected. These are not random events that just happened because the timing was right; they are connected events that if you look hard enough, you’ll see the plan before your eyes. Let circumstances unfold without your intervention or delay your action just long enough to see the real “whole story”. If you are a supervisor or leader, you should be working to keep your staff from worrying. Keep them in the loop on issues and be honest. It’s hard for an employee to worry about something when they know the facts. Ask employees what they worry about, you might be surprised by the answers you get. Worry is wasted energy and emotions so don’t fall into the trap. You control your reaction – worry or action, the choice is yours.

25Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? 26Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?” Luke 12:25-26

Luke answers my question – worrying will not add to your life, so why do it? As believers, we know three things about our lives: 1) God has a plan for us 2) Our time here on earth has already been determined and 3) Our trust is in God. We are however, logical thinkers by design. God gave us free will to live our lives. I’ll argue then, that if you believe God has a plan for you and that you trust in Him, what do you have to worry about?

If we cannot add a single hour to our own lives, then what is the point? Is worry the creation of Satan to breakdown our trust in God? I don’t know the answer but I know that far too many people turn away from God because they get lost in worrying and find ways to satisfy that emotion which in turn reveals more worry, etc. There is only one that can weave that sort of confusion in our lives. Let God take that worry from you, He likes to hear what is troubling His children. God will be there for you no matter what you are worried about, give Him your troubles. Let God work in your life and you’ll be amazed at the great things that he will reveal. Put your trust in God and less on your own ability and He will be there for you.

Riches

What does being rich mean to you? For some, it means having money to anything and everything that they wish. To others, it means having enough to be satisfied or content. And to yet others, it means having a life of blessings and little worry despite having little money. Many people focus on making money because the old adage says “money can’t buy everything but it sure makes everything better”. When we focus on getting rich or making money we often forget the other things of importance in our lives. People who focus on their careers so much in order to provide “financial stability” often miss out on the important things. Have you heard people say “I’m working so hard to provide a future for my family”?

These people rarely have time for the present day family that they are working so hard for. I’ve never heard anyone say, “I’m glad my parents weren’t around when I was a kid so I could have this great inheritance check now that they’re dead”. Everything in our lives is about balance. The right amount of money, the right amount of time and the right attitude generally always pay off. The right amount of exercise and the right amount of rest keep us healthy in the long run. What do riches really do for us? Sure, not having to worry about paying bills would be great but what kind of life do they have working or worrying about work constantly. Monetarily “rich people” often don’t seem happy. Watch a young family with few “riches” and you will see hugs, laughter, smiles and they will find fun in the little things. You don’t need money to be rich; you need the right perspective on life and a little faith in your future.

4Do not wear yourself out to get rich; have the wisdom to show restraint. 5Cast but a glance at riches, and they are gone…” Proverbs 23:4-5

These are the words of wisdom that turn our attention to the most important thing in our lives – God. He warns us often throughout the bible not to be misled by the things of this world. St. Paul writes in his letters about how this world will lead us toward destruction. Jesus taught us to focus on the words and promises of God and showed us how the men of this world were leading us astray.

If we focus on riches only, they can be gone in a glance; leaving us with nothing. If we focus on God and His word, we are never alone and always content. The same Proverb in verse 12 tells us,” Apply your heart to instruction and your ears to words of knowledge.” Jesus often said to keep focused on God and place our faith in Him alone. God is on our side and He will provide us with what we need and will never give us more than we can bear. His plan is in motion for our lives, we need to have the wisdom to allow it to unfold and keep our attention where it belongs, on God.

Your DASH

My friend Kevin called me last week and he never calls, so as soon as I saw his number I knew it couldn’t be good. I met Kevin about 15 years ago when I accepted the fire chief position in Stoughton, MA. The night I met Kevin he was giving me a hard time about something funny. Little did he know that I was going to be his mother’s new boss. Fran became a huge help to me as I tried to fit into the community. She was always there with advice about who to lookout for and who to know. She cared deeply about “her men” on the fire department and she wanted to make sure that they were going to be taken care of. Fran really protected and guided me like a second mother. She was part of my son’s first birthday party and I became part of her family becoming friends with Kevin, attending his sister’s wedding, sharing in the family’s ups and the downs and learning all of the stories. Fran took me to Nantucket the day before I moved away because I never made it to her “favorite place”; we kept the tradition of throwing a penny in the bay as we left to ensure our return.

She always referred to herself as Mum and when I moved to Arizona I became her Sunny. Fran was old enough to retire when I was out there but she loved the Town; so much so she never took sick days. I remember her asking for a few days off once but she didn’t share where she was headed. When she came back on Wednesday I asked her how her trip was and told me that she had a little surgery. Surprised by her answer, I pressed and she told me “I had a little breast cancer and some lymph nodes removed”. She talked about the whole things though she just had a tooth pulled! The surgery was Monday and this was Wednesday. She told the doctor and me that she was too busy to be sick. Years later she was diagnosed with colon cancer in March. She told the doctor that she had a standing trip to Nantucket each September and that she was not cancelling her reservations. He suggested otherwise and performed a procedure quickly as she directed. She made the trip that year and each year for the next ten years. Fran was not only an inspiration but also an amazing woman. Kevin and his family lost their mother, I lost my Mum but heaven gained another angel this week.

6But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.  1 Timothy 6:6-7

Fran was very content with everything she had and everything she did. She spoke honestly and that was hard for some. Fran never wanted more than she was entitled to and worked even into her 80’s. People had to earn her respect but once they had it, she would fight for them. She cared about others and was always giving of herself. This verse from Timothy reminds me about the story of the DASH whose premise is: what have you done with the time represented by the dash between the year you were born and the year you die. We bring nothing into this world and we take nothing out; it’s what we do with our time that counts. God has given us the tools to do great things, we just need to slow down and learn the keys to using them. The directions are in the bible verses and Jesus lived as an example for us but God also gives us examples like Fran in our lives today. Slow down to see them and be content with the things in your life; it ends suddenly. We will never know the impact we will have on others and we all have a DASH; fill it with contentment, love, kindness and worship to God who made it all possible.