Don’t Give Up

There is a book by Kent Keith titled “Anyway, The Paradoxical Commandments” which lays out 10 paradoxical commandments of life. My favorite is # 10 which states “Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway”. Throughout my life as a leader, I have learned that no good deed will go unpunished. I have gone out of my way for someone to only have them do something that has caused me more aggravation later. I can’t tell you how many nights I was up late working on a “group” research project because one of my classmates failed to complete their part of a project. This kind of thing happens all of the time to people. They do their best and give others the benefit of the doubt only to later regret it. Leaders must continue to give their best despite what might happen.

I’ve seen organizational leaders lose faith in their people because they’ve been “kicked in the teeth” and now think that everyone in the organization is just a bunch of “winey babies”. They have no trust in anyone, they no longer involve the employees in decision-making and they have created a hostile work environment for their employees and themselves. Leaders must stand tall and continue to do what is right, at the right time and for everyone they lead because it’s their responsibility. Sure, leaders will “get kicked in the teeth” but that’s why it’s lonely at the top. People don’t always understand our roles but we know that we will make a difference and that is why we “give the world our best anyway”.

9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Galatians 6:9-10

This verse had a couple of options for things to talk about – doing good and not giving up. While I focused the first part on doing good, I’d like to add the “not giving up” part here. It is tiring always doing good, our sinful nature says “when will someone do good for me?” We seem to be able to justify shortcuts and doing the minimum in our minds. We go around doing things for others, for little recognition I might add, and all we ask in return is a little good coming our way; that’s not too much to ask. The end of verse 8 gives us the answer “the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”

The “good” coming to you will come from the Holy Spirit. We are encouraged to “do good to all people” but “especially those who belong to the family of believers”. There are no options to be good only to those that are good to us or who won’t make our lives harder. Whether you are a leader, a follower or a loner, do not become weary of always doing good. No one said it was easy to be a disciple of Jesus Christ but the rewards are eternal. Go and do good – Anyway.

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Communication

“What is that supposed to mean!” Have you ever said those words? Often times we rush through our conversations that we skip a few key words and change the meaning of everything that we are trying to say. Text messaging has made this problem even worse. We see young people who have a hard time expressing themselves. Their sentences are short and void of emotion, if it can’t be said in a text or e-mail, they just aren’t saying it. How are we to supposed to deal with them?

One idea is that when we speak to our younger friends or co-workers and the communication is critical, we can ask them to repeat back to us what they think we said. We can also ask them how they want to be communicated with. One thing is for sure; we must choose our words carefully knowing that each one has the possibility of meaning more than one thing to a new generation of young people who may have a slightly different dictionary version than we do. We must be flexible and patient, our role is to continue to lead them.

“because our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.” 1 Thessalonians 1:5

The bible is such a great book but it too can be filled opportunities for misinterpretation. Look at the various churches that claim to offer insight into God’s word and then proceed to tell you how to live your life. The gospel did come to us with great power; we can impact people’s lives by following the words given to us. We are not the judges of other people’s lives, the bible tells us that. The Holy Spirit is present in our lives but so is the devil, they are constantly fighting for our attention.

It is the deep conviction that we have in our faith that keeps the devil in check. Our words mean something; they are the light into our heart. Do you openly profess your love and belief in Jesus Christ? When given the chance to gossip about someone, do you jump on it? These are all windows into your heart. The bible is more than just words; it is the WORD of God, given to us through the Holy Spirit who inspired its writers. The words and stories are told in such a way to bring meaning to each word. These words mean something. At the end of the day, we must watch our words and our actions because as they say, actions speak louder than words. The bible is our guide. No matter what we’ve done or said, we are forgiven by the grace of God and Jesus taking our sins onto Himself so we may have eternal life. Now that is plain and simple no matter how you say it.

Where Do I find Help?

Mentoring and coaching are often used interchangeably. There have been plenty of articles written recently about companies choosing not to perform annual employee performance appraisals and replacing them with regular “check-in sessions” – basically coaching. The workforce can view “mentoring” as special grooming for those fortunate enough to have been chosen to move up the career ladder. 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, this means finding a new job. Employees can be coached even without a formal system. If supervisors don’t do it themselves, the employee can ask questions of their supervisor to extract 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? I have 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 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! God 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 He 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.

Challenges

I have used this verse before to describe friendship and to define leadership. This verse speaks to me on so many levels that when I read it again a couple of weeks ago, I was compelled to write about it again. For months, the world has been very tumultuous. We’ve seen terrorist attacks, police shootings, police being ambushed, and horrific violence across the globe. It makes you wonder about the end-times. And, while all of this is going on, most people just go about their business as if it doesn’t matter as long as it isn’t happening in their community. There are others however, that become frightened by what is happening on a global perspective.

In our lives, we are constantly fighting a war against ourselves. We are worried about our jobs, the economy, the bills that are piling up and the latest news from our doctor. Worry sets in and we slowly start to panic – war has been declared. Pastor Greg Brown wrote a great book titled “The Seven laws of Breakthrough” in which he describes a journey that we take moving through our lives. At each level, we achieve strength and confidence just before we breakthrough the ceiling to the next level. He points out that when we breakthrough, we are once again on the floor. It is a great relief to know that we are not alone; we will not be challenged beyond what God knows we can handle. While we might think that we can’t possibly take any more and we feel like the waters are rising quickly, we should also feel the comfort and peace in knowing that He will be with us. Its easy to write – don’t worry about things, but when you know that you are not alone, it should make it a little easier to.

“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.” Isaiah 43:1b-2

We have all heard people say or we have said it ourselves “God has a plan for you”. Some believe that the circumstances in their lives are merely chance happenings and that God doesn’t get into those details of your life or worse yet, that there isn’t a God at all. God does have a plan but it’s being revealed on His timeline not ours. A day or a year in God’s eye is not the same as an earthly one. Many of you will agree that “this life” is complicated and filled with all kinds of problems and trials. Can this really be part of God’s plan? It sure can be! God will only give us what we can handle and He wants us to grow in our faith and in our lives.

We cannot grow if we are not challenged; this is when breakthroughs occur. We all learned to crawl before we walked and mastered that before we started to run. These too were challenges and like the events of today; they exist for specific reasons. God, our Father, wants us to grow and like any parent who helps their baby take those first steps, He is there with us holding our hands for balance. As things get harder and the waters turn into rivers, He will be there so you are not swept away. God’s grace and love are with you everyday, sometimes you need to simply stop and realize it. Don’t rely on God only when you pass through the river, get to know Him and see what happens when you are only passing through the waters. Thank Him for His care and presence in your life.

The Butterfly Effect

When I prepare to write these devotionals, I often seek a number of resources to provide inspiration for this part of it. The second half that follows the scripture verse, usually just flows as if I’m being guided to write. I’m not bold enough to suggest that I have some sort of connection with the Holy Spirit but I believe that God is guiding me in this journey of writing and that He is using me to share the good news. I also believe that God uses each one us to share His news and to teach about salvation. We all just do it differently. When just one of us believes in everlasting life and we share that faith or belief with just one other person, we are starting to spread the word; all it takes is one person.

In 1963 Dr. Edward Lorenz proposed a theory called the Butterfly Effect. He suggested that a butterfly on one side of the world flapping its wings would move molecules of air that moved other molecules and the ripple of moving air molecules could create a hurricane on the other side of the planet. For almost thirty years this theory hung around the scientific community until it was proven in the mid-1990’s to be accurate. The Law of Sensitive Dependence Upon Initial Conditions is the official scientific law of the Butterfly Effect. One person can have an effect on others, who have an effect on others yet and so on. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is a great example of the Butterfly Effect as he continues to inspire today and his beliefs about racial equality are still being developed. One person can make a difference. We just need to start flapping our wings.

“The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:8

We have no way of knowing when it will strike us or when the opportunity is right, but we can be sure that God will give us the opportunity to tell His story. We will have strength that we never knew we had or we will have the time to do something for someone else when we seem to hardly ever have time for ourselves. God does work in mysterious ways. The Holy Spirit is with us, God is working His plan and Jesus is our guide and salvation; yet they are one. It is a true test of faith to simply believe that three are one.

We don’t know where the wind will blow, how hard it will be or where it will go. We simply have to believe that it is present and moving. Imagine if every time the wind blew, it was God surrounding you with His warmth and strength. We are born of the Spirit, baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and free from sin through Jesus Christ who said in John 14:6, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” We can reach millions of people by just telling one person about our faith in God and how we are saved through Jesus Christ. We can put the Butterfly Effect to work every day in our lives by demonstrating good Christian characteristics and taking a chance when the time is right to tell about our faith. All it takes is one person telling one other person and we begin moving mountains.

Move on

“I’ll never forgive them for what they did to me!” Have you ever uttered these words? They say trust is hard to build and easy to lose. We have all experienced that. How easily all of our good work, extra hours and overtime are erased when we make one mistake. Years of trust are wiped out – in both directions. We no longer trust those that lead and they have weakened trust in us. When does the erosion stop? We must have some faith and hope that our leaders will return to a sensible state and we move forward. We followed them for a reason or we wouldn’t care what they thought of us. If we are simply following them because they sign our paycheck, then our relationship is not affected when we disappoint them. However, being thankful for our job and working at our best is something we do for our families, or ourselves not for the leaderless boss. Take your “oops” and turn it into a learning experience. Find your mentor, confidant or peer who will help you learn. Sometimes these experiences are gifts from others, wrapped in ugly paper – yes, but a gift nonetheless. In all situations that go bad, we share the blame; so make the make the most of it.

“And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you for your sins.” Mark 11:25

Forgiving someone is one of the hardest things we will do in our lives. It’s easy to do when the circumstances are minor, like not being able to go the movies. It is a little harder when someone we care about humiliates us, talks badly of us or commits a “wrong” in some way that affects us. We hear about family members forgiving a murderer or thief and most of us wonder, “How can they do that?” Our Father has forgiven us for the things that we do or when we steal time from Him. He knew we needed help in learning about forgiveness, so he sent His Son to us not only as a Savior for our sins but to give us an example to follow. Jesus showed us how to forgive; we just need to be reminded. Forgive and move on; life on earth is too short to carry around the weight of unforgiven issues.

The right path

I’ve spent the past few weeks talking to friends about, “what does living really mean?” It seems that everywhere we turn, there is someone dying young or getting very sick just after retiring. I good friend said that no where but in America do people save their whole lives, work until they are too old to enjoy their savings and skip the best parts of life while they are capable of enjoying it. There is a TV commercial that starts with the phrase “when did leaving work on time become a bad thing?”

Despite all of our desires, we can’t chart our own course through life. My life was planned out through age 59 – a secure career, a strong financial plan, a pension when I retired and good health. At age 44 my career was over and my financial future was uncertain. Injured in freak accident at work, I would have major surgery and have to find employment with a mild disability and put two kids through college. I was NOT in control of anything. Once I put my faith in God, people started entering my life and new connections were being formed. Soon, I was working in a new field and expanding my view of “work”. Like a tree growing and spreading its roots, soon my life was filled with great opportunities, great people and options. I was not directing my steps and I’ve stopped planning everything. This brings me back to the opening of paragraph; we can’t plan for everything so perhaps we should be taking advantage of the things that are right in front of us.

Jeremiah 10:23 “I know, O Lord, that a man’s life is not his own, it is not for a man to direct his steps.”

I biggest thing that I learned from my life being turned upside down was that I was not in control. I often write about God’s plan and I have personally experienced it. This life is God’s will; the beginning and the end are decided by Him. “It is not for man to direct his steps” is today’s verse that God reminds us that He is ordering the events of our lives and not us.

The moment when we start thinking that we are in control, is when we start to get lost. Our lives are not our own because we are here to serve each other and give all of the glory to God for His work in and through us. Focus on serving the Lord and do His will by letting Him direct your steps. Lead others by providing a good example of how to care for each other. Be the “middle man” and care for everyone around you; it’s a test of your faith and I assure you that it isn’t hard to do.

Why me?

I don’t think that I’ve shared a whole bunch of personal stuff on this blog since I started three years ago so this week will be another first. Last week was emotional in many ways. As I mentioned, my mother was scheduled for surgery to repair a broken bone near her replacement hip. The good news is that she didn’t have the surgery since the hip replacement was still functioning, the bone was “just” cracked near the parts. She was sent to a rehabilitation hospital for physical therapy to improve her strength and ability to walk. It was a stressful week to say the least. She is very anxious to get back to her normal routine but these frequent changes are causing her additional challenges with her memory. She has dementia and stress makes it much worse.

Being in the hospital with her was a trigger for me as well. To be brief, I’ve never really talked the things that I’ve done or seen in my career with anyone; I learned to keep it compartmentalized and locked away. Seeing my mother lying in the hospital suddenly brought out a number of tragic and disturbing mental images for me. I could see faces of people that I’d worked on, I was recalling traumatic incidents that I responded to and I was beginning to recall horrors of my career. I now know firsthand about what triggers PTSD memories and quite honestly, I didn’t like it. I closed up the doors to those places in my mind and pushed on. So, a week after her fall, a non-surgery event, the move to a rehabilitation facility, a mental near-miss for me and renewed dementia concerns, we all keep asking ourselves, “why is the happening?” We never really understand why bad things happen to us and honestly, there are some people who seem to have huge share of the “bad things” happening to them. I believe the verses this week answer this question.

2Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” James 1:2-4

God does not give us more than we can handle. He asks us to turn to Him for strength and guidance. As humans we often turn to inward needs or we turn to an escape. We usually only turn to God as a last resort, a kind of “I’ve done all that I could think of, it’s your turn” moment. In the long run, God is building us up, He’s making us stronger because He knows that the devil will be working hard to turn us away form God.

These troubles in our lives are small compared to the love that God has for us. If we turn from Him during these difficult times, what will we do when it really counts? God is giving us the ability to face down anything that the devil throws at us. This weeks verses tell their own story, the problem and the answer are simply contained in two verses. Stand up to your troubles, stop worrying about the “why” and know that God is in control.

What is true?

In our family, we have a new (old) favorite show – Cougar Town. Its been on a couple of networks over the past few years but it ran through seven seasons. It’s a cross between Seinfeld and Friends. Anyway, we recently saw an episode in which one of the main characters would proclaim “FACT” when she stated something, whether or not it was true. The moral was obviously just because saying something is a fact doesn’t mean that it is. It seems today that we often have a hard time telling the difference between what is true and what isn’t. “If it’s on the Internet, it has to be true” has become a new common phrase. The irony is that some people believe it! What do we know to be true anymore? It seems like every time you turn on the TV or open a news magazine, there is something just so amazing that you can’t believe it is happening in this day and age.

My mother will be having surgery this week for a broken hip. She’d kill me if I mentioned her age so I’ll just say that she is in her “advanced years”. I have faith that the doctors are capable and that the hospital staff is competent, at least that is what I hope for. I’ve not met the doctors nor the hospital staff; we are left with hoping that they are good enough to care for her. It makes you wonder about the other things in life that you have to simply have hope for. We will be traveling often this fall and leaving our 18 year old high school senior home alone for a few days. We have to have faith that he will do the right things and hope that we are right. At this point it looks like most of what we do in our lives is dependent upon faith and hope. We take the chance that the mechanic isn’t fixing things that aren’t broken, that the financial advisor knows what she’s doing or that the doctors are capable. Come to think of it, faith and hope rule our days. It sure makes me wonder what I actually know.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” Hebrews 11:1

This verse can summarize our belief in God; being certain of what we do not see. No one alive today has seen God or Jesus. No one has seen the works of Jesus or His disciples to retell it first hand. Humans often have to be sure of what we hope for. We hope that God is real; we hope that the passages of the bible are factual and we hope that our faith is real. What if you stop there with just having hope? Much like Thomas who doubted Jesus when He returned, do you need proof? Our faith, as suggested in this verse is based on being sure of what we hope for AND being certain of what we do not see. In John 3:8 it is written that we don’t see the wind but we hear it; we don’t know where it comes from but yet we know it’s there. This is how our faith in God works, we can’t see Him but we should KNOW that He is there. If you need proof, look at the kindness of people or the compassion that people have for one another, these same traits are found in the teachings of Jesus; our savior and our proof of things that we do not see. The world is not filled with bad people. It’s filled with good people following the teachings of someone they have never met but who have the faith and certainty that God has put His mark on their hearts.

If You Can

It was a big weekend in our house; we celebrated two college graduations. Our daughter graduated with her BA in Communication with a minor in Marketing and I graduated with a Masters in Public Administration. It makes you wonder what you can really accomplish if you put your mind to it. Yes, there is always a little hard work to add in the mix but you have to want it in order to achieve it. At this point in my life, I wasn’t sure how I could get it done. I was working here and there; I’ve been on City Council and working through those challenges, and then try to meet the demands of a Graduate program. A good friend of mine asked me how I managed to juggle all of the balls at once. Honestly, I’m not sure but I know a few things helped tremendously. I have an awesome family that is understanding and patient. My wife and son in particular, suffered most during these past 18 months. They missed me simply being present in the family. I was constantly working on homework or writing papers while they picked up the slack around the house. My son missed out on our quality time together – the whole point of my working from home. My friends were supportive and always encouraging. So how did I manage to juggle all of the balls? I didn’t, it was a team effort! If everything is possible, what would you do? Is there something holding you back from going after a dream or the next step in your career or life? I found myself talking about enrolling in a Masters Program for months before I finally did it. Eventually, I just took my fears straight on and jumped in. Having the confidence that I was protected by my faith is what I believe allowed me to leap. There are no boundaries in your life if you have the right people in corner; starting with a strong faith in God’s power.

“’If you can?’” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.” Mark 9:23

I love imagining Jesus speaking to me directly when I read verses like this. We’re just sitting outside on the patio on a sunny afternoon with perfect temperatures. I, of course, say something that gets His attention and He replies, “If you can?” As if to say, “why wouldn’t you?” or “Why do you doubt yourself?” He then begins to reassure me about all of things I’ve done so far and how God has been at work all of these years preparing me for this moment. “If you can?” He says again. “Why can’t you? Give me one good reason why you can’t”, He dares me. Of course, I have no good reason other than being afraid. He then gently reminds me, “Everything is possible if you believe in the power, the grace and love of God.” I learned over the years that God puts a team of people in our life to prepare us for just a time as this. I never imagined going to school at this point in my life but I’ve been preparing for it for years and I just didn’t know it. With God, everything is possible. Don’t let anything or anyone stand n your way.