Communication is a true art. Books have been written about how to do it better. How many times have you had a fight with someone only to find out “that’s not what I meant”? We all need to keep communications open with the people that we interact on a regular basis. For men, we can go months without speaking to a good friend, pick up the phone and call, and then carry on like no time has past. Unfortunately for us, we try this same approach with many of our other relationships and we fail miserably. Leaders are best served when they engage in what some call “touching base” and others call “checking in”.
The world around us is changing constantly and people need to know what is going on around them. If they are worried about the latest rumor, they won’t focus on their job and then you’ll be forced into communicating with them under unpleasant circumstances. The old saying “you can’t treat people like mushrooms” is true; keeping them in the dark and feeding them crap just won’t work. People need light and encouragement from their leaders. When we engage people in sharing the facts, regardless of how the circumstances may “look”, they will appreciate knowing that they are truly part of the team.
“The people walking in the darkness have seen a great light: on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” Isaiah 9:2
Living in the shadow of death without hope of eternal life is unimaginable to me. The sad truth however, is that there are people living in those shadows. They walk in darkness and despair without hope because they don’t know about the light of Christ. The problems of their lives become overwhelming and they sink further into the darkness. This time of year is especially troubling for some; they need to know that people care.
Witnessing to people is one of the hardest things that we can do because we feel so exposed by the possibility of being rejected. Sometimes we’re not confident in our knowledge of bible verses or we simply don’t want to be pushy. It takes courage to overcome these fears. Ask God for help. Maybe this blog post is that help. You don’t need to go around quoting the bible or offering street corner sermons. Simply reminding people that there are options and that no matter what they’ve done, God loves them. If nothing else, share your story and talk about how your life is filled with the light of God. We have seen a great light! Now, go and share it!
I hate writing the phrase “politician” when I describe myself. Even though I hold a political office, I have never considered myself a politician – I’m a public servant. So, when we talk about people telling the truth, no one ever thinks about a politician being anywhere near even the top two-thirds of any list. I think that I’m pretty truthful and I know that I am fiercely loyal as a friend and co-worker. I’m also devastated when people break that trust with me. Unfortunately it happens, especially in politics. True friends on the other hand, will always tell you the truth and rarely let you down.
I’m the logical answer guy that you can call when you need help with a problem. I’ll always listen to the issue but I’m a little more direct and emphasize logic over emotion – just what all men do! So, when a man has troubles that he is looking to share with a male friend, it is often a hard conversation for both of the friends. Its not that men are incapable, its just that we aren’t really wired that way, so emotional conversations are hard for us. True friends will always give you the hard truth, whether you want to hear it or not. We know what needs to be said and often we just say it regardless of the emotional fallout. This is why men and women fight so often in a relationship – logic vs. emotion. There is no answer to this problem but if you’re aware of it, maybe you can defuse a fight before it starts. In the end, men always appreciate honesty and friendship that they find in each other – no matter how painfully honest it can be.
“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Proverbs 27:6
There are a number of sayings about friends but the one that hits close to this verse is “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”. False promises, false prophets, wolves in sheep’s clothing, and justifying sin are all around us these days. CS Lewis wrote a book titled “The Screwtape Letters” based on the fictional exchange of letters between two of the devils workmen – one was Uncle Screwtape. It is a fascinating point of view to look at our lives from the devil’s perspective (what can be perceived anyway).
The devil works all around us, each and every day, trying to get us to quit on God. He tempts us with perceived power, daily riches bought through sin, inattention to our relationship with God or simply getting in the way of us being with God. These are the kisses noted in Proverbs. These kisses are the distractions or the seduction of this life that we can easily get caught in. Sure, being good is hard and God doesn’t make our lives easier (for our own good) so a relationship with Him causes pain and offers joy (wounds). Our enemy (the devil) makes it all seem so simple that it can be easy to let God slide a little farther from your heart. Don’t be fooled! Like any friendship, it takes work but a relationship with God has eternal implications – eternal life with Him through our faith in Jesus Christ. It’s the kind of relationship that you can only have with a true friend.
True friends will always tell you the truth. Our daughter knows that if she needs the clear facts about a subject to call me. If she needs someone to listen and be a good friend, she calls my wife. Not that I’m not a good listener, it’s just that I’m a little more direct and emphasize logic over emotion – just what all men do! So when a man has troubles that he is looking for another man to confide in, it is often a hard conversation for both of the friends. Its not that men are incapable, its just that we aren’t really wired that way, so emotional conversations are hard for us. Six years ago I was faced with the somewhat unexpected end of my fire service career. It wasn’t a planned retirement but my injury and subsequent surgery forced it on me. I had hoped to remain in a position that could use my mental abilities more than my physical ones.
I called a very good friend of mine and asked him to help me figure out what I was going to do for the rest of life. He offered a few suggestions that were not very appealing and he suggested that I teach fire services classes and share what I had learned in my 27 years on the job. My reply to his suggestion was that “I didn’t want to be that old retired guy who was hanging around just to teach”. As only a good friend could say, my very good friend said “I hate to break it to you, but that is what you are – a retired guy.” I was floored by his brutally honest answer. After the sting cooled, I realized that he was absolutely correct. I stopped worrying, began praying and started planning. Now six years later, I can easily say that I’ve never worried about being that old retired guy and I’ve worked hard to create a whole new path for my “second career’, mostly by letting God work His plan. I will always be grateful for my friend’s honesty and candor.
“Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” Proverbs 27:6
I hope that it’s obvious how this verse hit me after reading it. There are a number of sayings about friends but the one that hits close to this verse is “keep your friends close and your enemies closer”. False promises, false prophets, wolves in sheep’s clothing, and justifying sin are all around us these days. CS Lewis wrote a book titled “The Screwtape Letters” based on the fictional exchange of letters between two of the devils workmen – one was Uncle Screwtape. It is a fascinating point of view to look at our lives from the devil’s perspective (what can be perceived anyway).
The devil works all around us, each and every day, trying to get us to quit on God. He tempts us with perceived power, daily riches bought through sin, inattention to our relationship with God or simply getting in the way of us being with God. These are the kisses noted in Proverbs. These kisses are the distractions or the seduction of this life that we can easily get caught in. Sure, being good is hard and God doesn’t make our lives easier (for our own good) so a relationship with Him causes us both pain and offers joy (wounds). Our enemy (the devil) makes it all seem so simple that it can be easy to let God slide a little farther from your heart. Don’t be fooled! Like any friendship, it takes work but a relationship with God has eternal implications – eternal life with Him through our faith in Jesus Christ. It’s the kind of relationship that you can only have with a true friend.
Are you there for the people in your life? Your friends and family should be able to count on you when they are struggling. An important part of being a friend or being part of a family is knowing that you can count on each other. This week we received a message from a couple who are good friends telling us it has been too long since we last saw each other and suggested a few dates on the calendar to get together. It’s great having friends that you can count on to keep you grounded; like standing next to you in rushing waters.
Leadership at work includes providing direction, vision and support for your organization’s mission. Your employees should be able to count on you to be there for them when they are struggling. Leaders should want to help their people navigate through their challenges (waters) and when things get worse, you can stand by them so that they are not swept away.
“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you, and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you…” Isaiah 43:2.
You can feel confident that God will be with you through thick and thin. This is another promise that God has made; to be with us in all that we do and that nothing will sweep us away – we have eternal life through Him. 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.
If we develop trust and establish a relationship with our family, friends or the people we lead, they will have faith in us to believe that we will take care of them. We too then, need to develop our relationship with God and continue to learn about His promises. 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.
I’m writing this on Saturday October 26, 2013; did you know that today is Make a Difference Day? I started my day today with a public appearance to kick off our City’s Make a Difference Day events. We had about 100 volunteers who were tackling about ten projects around the city. We had three Boy Scouts that were each leading teams as they worked toward their Eagle Scout Designation – the highest level of achievement in Scouting. We had a group from a local college, several high school groups, church groups and various community minded residents. So what is this day all about? According to Makeadifferenceday.com; “For more than 20 years, USA WEEKEND Magazine and Points of Light have joined together to sponsor Make A Difference Day, the largest national day of community service. Millions of volunteers around the world unite in a common mission to improve the lives of others.” As the day progressed, it got me thinking about why should we make a difference just one day a year? We all make a difference to someone, each and every day. Sometimes we know when we do and other times we don’t. We all do our jobs faithfully, day in and day out. We don’t really expect people to notice what we’re doing. Many times you will hear public safety folks say, “We were just doing our jobs”. In reality, they were making a difference. Today, as you read this, I challenge you to make a difference for someone. Go out of your way to help someone. A few years ago this was called “random acts of kindness”. I’m not saying hold open a door; I’m challenging you to put someone else’s needs before your own. You’ll never know what impact you might have on someone’s life.
“If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!”
Make a difference, today and everyday, was what Jesus was trying to teach His disciples. However, Ecclesiastes was written in the Old Testament. On the surface it sounds like we are being told to make sure that we have friends so they can help us up. If it was that simple, we wouldn’t have half the troubles we have today. What about the man who has no one to help him up? Who will help? God’s commandments teach us to love one another (among other things) and care for each other. This means everyone, not just our friends. God took His love for us and sent us a “friend” that will always help us up, His Son, Jesus Christ. No matter what is happening in your life, you are never alone. God is with you. When you feel distant, God is with you, just hold out your hand and open your heart. When you feel cold and alone, close your eyes and feel God’s warmth surround you. You are forgiven for everything you’ve done. Jesus, your friend, has helped you up when you’ve fallen. He sacrificed everything so that we could have eternal life. God is never angry with us, His love is eternal because our sin has been taken away. Now that is someone who made a difference!