What’s Shaping You?

Have you ever stopped to think about all of the people that have helped you in your life? There are teachers who helped mold your mind or shaped your learning, the people that have shaped your worldview and there are strangers that have helped in ways that you don’t even know about. If we were to list them all, it would be too long to comprehend. We all have had people that played a significant role in shaping a part of our lives. Some of them have given us great advice or simply were there to listen and others created a pathway for us to follow behind them. The latter did what is referred to as “the heavy lifting”. Both the advisor and the trailblazer are significant to us in our development.

I’ve taught ethics classes at the community college and in the past and I’m reminded about how our lives, values and morals are shaped. It is a constant process, for most of us anyway. People are shaping and teaching us constantly; some are reinforcing our beliefs while others are changing our worldview. This verse got me thinking about whom I’ve relied on in my life to help make me who I am today. Lisa and I realized last weekend that we met 34 years ago in January, which by the way, neither one of us can remember the specific date. Besides being unable to comprehend being together that long, we both know how much we have influenced each other. I also know that there are about a dozen people who were there for me as I traversed my career; some reminding me to slow down and others pushing me on because they saw something that I hadn’t. I realized that I’ve had little to do with who I am and that others had done the heavy lifting. Some took chances on me, others pulled me up into opportunities while people like Lisa were there adjusting to be everything else I needed. Give thanks for those people in your lives and then let them know how much you appreciate all that they’ve done.

37Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”  John 4:37-38

This verse is Jesus speaking to his disciples after he met the Samaritan woman at the water well. Jesus is the sower, He did the hard work for us and we will reap the reward; eternal life through Him. Jesus also is speaking of those before Him, the prophets and those doing the work that God commanded, allowing us to all reap the benefits of their labor. So, is the sowing all done now that we have God’s word and salvation through Jesus? I don’t believe so.

“One sows and another reaps’ is true”. As disciples we still have a harvest to tend to as is said in John 4:35 “…look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” We are the ones that have reaped the goodness of the harvest but we also have some sowing to do. Let’s get out there and sow the good news of Jesus Christ. I bet some of you are saying, “Are you kidding? You want me to go and preach to others?” I’m suggesting that you be a witness of God’s love and grace. He has blessed each of us with specific talents or gifts to sow the fields. Some can sing, some can write, some have strong arms and backs but all have love and the belief that we can make a difference. God is with you and He has already given you what you need to be the person that changes lives. Look around your life and see what He has done for you and then look for ways to pass it on to others. The fields are ripe!

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Where do you turn?

Where do you turn in times of trouble? For most people, it’s a good friend or a relative. Someone who’s shared your tears and joys over the years. These are usually the same people who you turn to when you have exciting news or something great to share. For many of us, these people become our best friends. When you work in a field like the fire service, this is what forms “the brotherhood”. People turn to each other for support and they become almost closer with each other than they do with their families. Highly threatening team activities or in-extremist teams (FF, police, military, bomb squads, etc) rely on their team mates to keep them alive. For those not in life/death situations, we find these people in our lives.

At work, these special people become either mentors or confidants. A mentor is someone who helps you excel and grow in your career by providing advice, opportunities and guidance. A confidant is someone who you can share things with but they don’t provide a direct source of career growth. If you are lucky, you will find someone who can be both. Sometimes we just need someone to tell us the bold truth and other times we need someone to be sympathetic to our emotions; rational or not. My daughter will call and ask for “reality check dad” when she needs to know what mom will never tell her. I’m lucky that I get to be both a confidant and a mentor to her; I can read her pretty well and know when to hold the bold truth until she’s ready. We all need these people in our lives. My wife has a huge cheering section of friends and a few close friends that she can talk to about everything else. I guess my point is to make sure that you have these types of people in your life and don’t forget that they are there. Life is so busy that we often forget that we don’t have to carry all of the burdens alone.

“You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in their distress, a shelter from the storm and a shade from the heat.” Isaiah 25:4

I’ve often said “now that I say this out loud …” We need to say things to others to make sure that we really feel that way. We also have a need to get our feelings out in the open. The challenge is getting them filtered before we say something hurtful. We all know people who are in various stages of suffrage. Cancer seems to strike every family we know, financial stress is still present and family pressures will always be present. If you are raising kids, have siblings or are dealing with aging parents, suffrage is always going. We all find different ways of dealing with it – some healthy and some not so healthy. Last week we talked about our ability to go to God freely and with confidence. This week we see why.

God is all of things in this verse – a refuge for the poor and the needy, a shelter in the storm and a shade in the heat. When things go bad in our lives, God is there for us. It is human nature to ask “why me?” but the truth is that God is there with us in these times of trouble. He’s there when things are good too! God will not abandon any of us, no matter what you’ve done. We are given the promise from God to have eternal life with Him through our faith in Jesus Christ. There is no “reality check dad” with our Father in heaven. He knows what is on our hearts and in our minds and Jesus is sitting right next to Him saying, “all is forgiven”. I’d like to think that God inspires the advice that we get from our mentors and confidants. If we feel alone, this verse reminds us that God is always there; while St. Paul reminded us to go freely and with confidence to seek God for help.

Where do you get your directions?

I was saying to a very good friend of mine yesterday, “If it all went as I had planned…” My concern was on how my plan did not turn out as desired. Forget the fact that I am not in control. Sticking with the theme of a new year and new beginnings, I wanted to end with the idea of- where do you turn for directions? My experience has been that we have the tendency to be either the advice seeker or the advice giver on a regular basis. Sure, the observation is obvious but if you are a regular seeker you should be asking yourself who are you getting direction from? If you are a regular giver, you should have someone that you can turn to as a seeker. How reliable are these people, how good is their advice, what is it based on and what is their rate of success? We need to be careful about who we get direction or advise from. Sometimes we find that those who give unsolicited advice are probably the ones who really should be seeking advice from others. At work, a good place to get advice about work related issues is from a mentor or in most cases a trusted confidant. These people have the experience and education to offer sound advise on a number of issues. A mentor is a very formal role that is mutually agreed to by both people with the understanding that there are specific outcomes desired. These are not casual relationships, as we often believe them to be. A mentor has a responsibility to their mentee. In the trusted confidant role, the relationship is very informal and this is where most of us seek advice or guidance at work. Sometimes, it’s our supervisor and other times it’s a senior or more experienced coworker. Regardless of the position, know who you are getting direction from. Sometimes, simply changing who is influencing your life can make all the difference.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” Proverbs 3:5

I’ve mentioned God’s plan for our lives many times before. God is the only one who knows the plans for our lives. He knows our first and last days and He orders all circumstances in between. So I laughed at myself when I started to say: “If it all went as I planned”, as if I had control over the outcome. I stopped myself and remembered if God wanted it that way, He would have seen it through. So, I’m back to being taught about patience. Besides, I’m too busy to worry about it; God knows what I need to do to slow down. He’s teaching me and in a way I guess, He’s mentoring me in what is best in my life. I learned a long time ago to lean on God and to trust Him; I just keeping forgetting and He keeps gently reminding me. God will put special people in your life to teach, mentor or advise you but we must be on guard because the devil will too. So, how do we know the difference? Your understanding of God’s word will see through the devil’s work. If you are comfortable in the bible and your heart is filled with God’s goodness, grace and understanding, you will know the difference. When you don’t know where to turn, get your directions from God. He loves His children and will provide the guidance necessary if we slow down and listen to Him.

Pass it on

Today, I’m teaching a weeklong college class for the first time in a very long time. I’m nervous about being rusty and connecting with the students. They are all career firefighters who are taking this class as part of their preparation for a state certification test on Friday. One day, these students will be supervising other firefighters. They will be making decisions that will undoubtedly have life or death consequences. No pressure! I’ve been teaching these supervisory classes for the better part of 20 years but as my consulting work has shifted to organizational matters, my time in the classroom has dropped dramatically. To quote Austin Powers, “Will I find my mojo?” There are so many variables in the classroom these days. Fewer power point slides, more interaction, more technology and more videos. I’m confident that I will be ready and things will go fine, I’m passionate about the subject and about teaching our future fire service leaders. I started my career in 1982 and was taught by a great man who was also passionate. My first Captain was a commanding man, a former Marine, who was very authoritarian yet compassionate. He wanted to make sure that we knew our jobs and could do them well. My first training officer passed along everything he knew and encouraged constant learning. He yelled at you when you deserved it and praised you when you earned it. He always left us knowing what was important. We need more of those people today, ones that aren’t afraid to share their knowledge. Those that aren’t worried that sharing what they know will make you smarter than they are. We all need to pass on what we know, we will be making an impact all around us.

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures.” 1 Corinthians 15:3

Here is another example of a single verse that tells the story of the Bible – Christ died for our sins. Paul was teaching the people of Corinth through his letters. There were no lecture halls, no handouts, no power point slides or videos, just Paul’s letters. He never stopped teaching. He wrote to the Thessalonians, the Philippians and the Romans too. He never lost his mojo or passion for teaching God’s promises and word to everyone he could reach. Obviously, St. Paul’s mentor was a little more influential than a salty old Marine but he understood that keeping the knowledge and wisdom that was bestowed upon him was not an option. He could have kept it to himself and had people coming to him but God was with him and he understood that his role in this life was to share the good news. God uses us in many different ways to do the same. We need to pass on what is the first importance: Christ died for our sins. Make an impact in all that you do: teaching, witnessing, living Godly lives, helping others or sharing the Good news. We can all make a difference if we remember that we are doing God’s work and not our own.

Sowing and Reaping

Have you ever stopped to think about all of the people that have helped you in your life? There are teachers who helped mold your mind or shaped your learning, there people that you’ve met who have shaped your worldview and there are strangers that have helped in ways that you don’t even know about. If we were to list them all, it would be too long to comprehend. We all have had people put in our lives that played a significant role in shaping a part of our lives. Some of them have given us great advice or simply been there to listen and others created a pathway for us to follow behind them. The latter did what is referred to as “the heavy lifting”. Both the advisor and the trailblazer are significant to us in our development. I taught an ethics class for the fire academy this past week and I was reminded about how our lives, values and morals are shaped. It is a constant process, for most of us anyway. People are shaping and teaching us constantly; some are reinforcing our beliefs while others are changing our worldview. The whole dialog got me thinking about whom I’ve relied on in my life to help make me who I am today. Lisa and I realized this weekend that we met 30 years ago in January, which by the way, neither one of us can remember the specific date. Besides being unable to comprehend being together that long, we both know how much we have influenced each other. I’m not getting mushy here. I also know that there are about a dozen people who were there for me as I traversed my career; some reminding me to slow down and others pushing me on because they saw something that I hadn’t. I know that I have had little to do with who I am and that others had done the heavy lifting. Some took chances on me, others pulled me up into opportunities while people like Lisa were there adjusting to be everything else I needed. Give thanks for those people in your lives and then let them know how much you appreciate all that they’ve done.

37Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”  John 4:37-38

This verse is Jesus speaking to his disciples after he met the Samaritan woman at the water well. Jesus is the sower, He did the hard work for us but we will reap the reward; eternal life through Him. Jesus also is speaking of those before Him, the prophets and those doing the work that God commanded, allowing us to all reap the benefits of their labor. So, is the sowing all done now that we have God’s word and salvation through Jesus? I don’t believe so. “One sows and another reaps’ is true”. As disciples we still have a harvest to tend to as is said in John 4:35 “…look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.” We are the ones that have reaped the goodness of the harvest but we also have some sowing to do. Let’s get out there and sow the good news of Jesus Christ. I bet some of you are saying, “Are you kidding? You want me to go and preach to others?” I’m suggesting that you be a witness of God’s love and grace. He has blessed each of us with specific talents or gifts to sow the fields. Some can sing, some can write, some have strong arms and backs but all have love and the belief that we can make a difference. God is with you and He has already given you what you need to be the person that changes lives. Look around your life and see what He has done for you and then look for ways to pass it on to others. The fields are ripe!