Passion

While I was at the Army exercise at the beginning of the month, I worked with the same group of people that I have been working with for almost 10 years. We have an intense desire to make sure that the training audience receives the most realistic experience that we can provide. I heard a new phrase this year after a “lively” exchange with an old friend. He said, “We are in violent agreement with each other”. Take a moment and re-read what I wrote – yes we were in agreement. Our discussion brought out our passion for doing a good job. It makes me wonder how many other times I get into violent agreements with people.

As human beings, we need to remain in control of our emotions and maintain awareness of how we react to things. I’m not one who usually “flies off the handle” but when I get to that point, I turn into a freight train. Passion is a good thing to have in life – in love, in commitment or to help others, etc. We must guard that passion when we get emotionally involved in issues; there is a difference between a passionate and an emotional response. Self-control starts with peace, patience, kindness, goodness and gentleness as a result of faithfulness. Peace and patience allow you to remain calm in the face of the issue. Kindness and goodness remind us that someone will be on the receiving end of our self-control (or lack of it) and those interactions should be gentle. People will respect you, you’ll respect yourself and you’ll glorify God with the gifts He has given you.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:22-23, 25

There is nothing like starting a week with a little self-reflection. How do you react to issues,  with passion or emotion? It is good to be reminded that the fruit of the Spirit or the essence of what the Holy Spirit has given us; lives within us. We don’t have to seek these things or learn them; God has given them to us. Jesus lived His life demonstrating them, God inspired the words written in the bible; all we need to do is study and practice them.

It’s okay to be happy (joy) and to get along with others (peace). Be patient and kind with everyone, even those who require a little extra effort. Your demonstration of goodness and gentleness are God pleasing and witness to your faith in the Word of God, above all. These fruits lead to more self-control and less frustration that will circle back to finding love, joy and peace in your life. God is amazing in how He ordered all of these “fruits” to work in support of one another in our lives. “Since we live in the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” is great advice to us for how to live our lives.

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Mother’s Day

I debated about doing a piece on Mother’s Day; 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 days for each other. It always seems that the spouses take these days more seriously than the children do, until at least the time they are old enough to really know better and to 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, 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, they 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 that 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 comfort. 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 my mom’s favorite) 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 but it is based on the gifts that we have received from our Father in Heaven. This verse is a 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, demonstrated His mercy, goodness, impartiality and above all, His sincerity. Use these principles to live your life in all situations, which will please God. And, your Mom too.

Finding Strength

“Why do I even bother?” It seems that I’m asking myself this question alot these days. Why vote? Why speak up? Why do I care? Does my opinion really matter? We all ask ourselves these questions from time to time. I wish I had an answer to why we ask them. It seems to me that we are programmed to care about many of things in this world, even the things that have no direct impact on us. I suppose this is where compassion lives – we care. When we care, it matters to us. Our ability to influence the outcome is another story altogether.But we still care and can get frustrated when we try to help and get no response. We’ll vote in the November elections and if our candidate isn’t elected, we’ll get frustrated and say, “Why bother?”

Imagine for a moment though, no one cared. If it didn’t immediately affect them, they ignored it. People being directly affected by discrimination started civil rights movements but it was people who cared enough to help that made a difference. You can see where change has taken place across the planet and there were always people willing to do something to make that change possible. This door swings both ways – good and evil are accomplished by people willing to take action. The good news is that the good has far out numbered the evil. So what motivates you? Perhaps it’s music or reading or maybe even a special person. Know what helps to motivate you and keep that close so you can use it when doubt creeps in. Staying positive is often easier said than done but you never know when or if you will be someone else’s inspiration.

16 May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, 17 encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word.” 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17

I can’t even begin to imagine if God had given up on us. We were terrible children who won’t or couldn’t obey His simple commands and requests. We grew impatient waiting, we ignored Him and when He did send us a savior, we turned away and then killed Him. But God was patient and knew us better than we knew ourselves. He let His plan unfold and now there are millions of Christians in this world and millions more now have eternal life because of Jesus. We are encouraged because we have faith in the Word of God.

We often hear that we should be looking for the silver lining in everything. Honestly, it is hard to find good in so much of the bad that is going on in this world. God tells us to encourage our hearts and be strengthened in good deed and word. The best place to find these is in the bible. We will never know the real purpose of evil but we know the real promises of God, through Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior. The devil does bad things to get us to turn away from God and our best defense against him is turning toward God. Seek Him in everything and you will find encouragement and strength.

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.

Live in Peace

Every day that goes by I seem to find it harder to simply tolerate the nonsense that I see on TV or hear about on the radio. Being in politics, I struggle to “hold my tongue” when I hear about the crazy things that state and national elected people do. As the old saying goes, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, then say nothing at all”. I remain silent. I’m one of these weird people who often look for the middle ground on issues; I guess this is from my mediation experiences.

Supervisors often have a hard time with the middle. After all, they are the rule maker, which often turns into “my way or the highway”. An important responsibility that all supervisors have is to create peaceful workplace. Your job as the leader is to show people the way to act toward each other and to demonstrate what is expected in the workplace. Peaceful, isn’t saying no confrontation or no discipline. Sometimes, in order to achieve peace you must have a little confrontation. Peace in the workplace opens creativity, which allows people to feel free to experiment with ideas, be willing to collaborate and to share ideas. Peace makes supervising and leading much easier.

Romans 12:18 – “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”

The bible teaches us to live in peace with one another, love your neighbor as yourself. Living this way allows us to reflect God’s love by loving each other. Just as peace makes supervising and leading much easier, it makes social interactions easier too. How better for Christians to show love than by living in peace? This is the message of the verse; “as far as it depends on you”. It all depends on you; how you react to a situation or how you create a situation.

We are taught to “stick up for ourselves” and not be bullied. We’re not taught to avoid conflict simply to live at peace. Conflict can be good and healthy for relationships. We should try to find common ground, work out the differences and keep our focus on the issue not the person. Have the difficult conversation starting by making it safe for everyone, stay focused on the issue and how it makes you feel rather than what you think the other person is saying. This is not a time for assumptions. When we deal with one another in an open manner, we can reach mutual understanding much quicker. By living in harmony, we live by God’s word and show others that as God so loved the world, so can we.

Calm out of Chaos

The old saying is that chaos breads discontent is very appropriate these days. American politics are getting more and more “angry” and people in general seem to tolerate a lot less from each other. Radical outbreaks are occurring all over the globe and terrorism is griping us all in our homelands. What is happening? Chaos has effects on our health, our mental state and how we live our lives. Some people choose to hide in hopes of it going away while others seems to thrive on the uncertainty and a few more like to make matters worse.

Chaos in the workplace is a common occurrence all too often as well. The top employers remain on top because they remember who is on the front lines with their customers; unhappy employees have a direct impact on customer service. Keeping employees happy is not about coddling them or offering Ping-Pong tables in the break room. Creating an engaged workforce can be a result of many different workplace strategies that are not always associated with pay and benefits. Good supervisors offer coaching, provide developmental opportunities and encourage teamwork as a way to create a peaceful work environment. Employees that are encouraged by their work, as Abraham Maslow told us, tend to perform at higher levels that often result in greater satisfaction and customer service excellence.

1 Corinthians 14:33 – “For God is not a God of disorder but of peace…”

God does not want us to live in disorder and chaos. Jesus Christ, was known as the Prince of Peace. Jesus was a great reconciler for us by bringing us to peace with God our Father. Jesus taught us to be humble, loving and forgiving of one another. These are all synonymous with peace.

God does not want us to live in fear but be loving and forgiving toward each other with the knowledge of everlasting life with Him through Jesus Christ. There is no greater display of peace but to promise ever lasting life in heaven with God our Father and His son, Jesus Christ. Now that’s peace! The disorder that we see all around us today is not created by God. Who better to use fear and chaos to turn us all away from God but the devil himself? It is our sinful self to use these events as temptation to turn away and believe in our own power rather than rely on our God of peace. Do not turn away but turn to God in prayer and find calm in His words.

Mercy

The old classic management book: “Sacred Cows Make the Best Hamburgers” contains a chapter on time management or as it is referred to – Sacred Time. I’m reminded that when we work too fast or on too many things at once, that none of them are being done well or on time. The authors suggest three – “10 minute time outs” a day that are just for you. Most people will say that their best ideas come to them in the shower or in the bathroom. Do you know why? They are alone without interruptions – no phone, no e-mail, no people.

By now we all know about the game rooms at Google Inc. and the freedoms that come with working in Silicon Valley. Some companies are even letting their employees take off as much time as they feel they deserve or need, but they have to produce results. We have so many things vying for our attention today that we are becoming a society with zero attention span. If you complain that a movie is too long because it’s two hours, you are already on your way to joining the rank and file. Be merciful to yourself and build in some free time on your calendar. Look at your to do list and see what really needs to be done by you and what can be done by someone else. If you reduce your stress, you will extend not only your attention span but your life span as well.

“Be merciful just as your Father is merciful.” – Luke 6:36

Mercy has a lot of definitions. If we look at our own sin and our inability to follow God’s commands, we deserve the punishment of death. Our Father however, showing mercy and love and tells us, “believe in Me and My Son and you will be set free”. If He can forgive us for all that we do, how can we not show mercy to those around us?

“I forgive you”, three powerful words that are the opening to mercy. Christ taught us about compassion and love but it was the Father that taught us about mercy. God wants to be close to us despite our failings, so He sent Jesus to take all of our sins with Him in death on the cross. He then bought eternal life for us all by rising to heaven to sit with the Father. “God so loved the world…” the ultimate show of mercy. No one asked for your son but Luke suggests we be merciful to each other like our Father is toward us.

Be Patient

I find that as I get older, I am becoming less patient with more things than I ever have in the past. I was never a terribly patient person but there are some things that I am very patient with. I have a huge tolerance for people making genuine mistakes. I believe that its one thing to make a mistake because of inexperience or lack of understanding but it is another thing to make a mistake because of carelessness or the simple lack of caring. If someone is really trying their best but is just not being successful, I have great compassion and empathy for them. A well timed smile and a reassuring “it’s really not a problem, take your time” goes a long way to help the person work through their moment. I’ve been traveling about 10 out of the past 15 weeks (off and on) and I have witnessed A LOT of people who lost their patience.

For me, my impatience seems to be with people trying to “snow” their way through circumstances. I’ve seen reports, presentations and reactions that have lacked balance in their information and been slanted to persuade the listening or reading audience. I’ve witnessed people reacting to reports with their “full bias armor” on with no regard for the truth or what was actually being said. This is where I have no patience. In my mind this is when people are trying to mislead the facts or are simply choosing not to have an open mind. Oftentimes, a blunt example or statement works to break down the bias – at times it doesn’t. How is your patience these days? Are you growing frustrated with things or people in your life but haven’t stopped to ask why? I would suggest knowing your own triggers and then look for them to come up so you can temper your response. Regardless of your place in the situation, we all must make every attempt to remain collected. As it was said – patience is a virtue.

The Lord is…. patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

All I can think of when I read this verse is THANK YOU! If God became impatient at the things that make me impatient; I would have been cast aside years ago. God was impatient in the beginning, sending Adam and Eve out of the Garden because of one mistake. Granted, it was a big one but nonetheless, it was one mistake. As time went on, God decided to start over and flooded the earth saving Noah and his family. Still, mankind couldn’t follow a few simple rules and God grew impatient again. I must point out that God’s actions took hundreds of years; if this timeframe doesn’t speak to His perspective of time, I don’t know what does. God didn’t give up on us after all of this. While He may have been impatient, He continued to love us.

God’s answer to our disobedience was His Son. God sent the world Jesus Christ to do what we couldn’t; keep His commandments. Jesus’ ability to live a perfect life serves as an example for us in our lives – 2000 years later. Jesus took all of our failings, all of our mistakes and all of our sins with Him on the cross. He took them to hell and left them where they belonged. When He rose, He took us with Him to heaven so that we would have eternal life and not perish. God IS patient with you and me. He wants us close Him and we will not perish through our faith in Jesus Christ. Stop worrying about your life and start being thankful for all that God has done for you and remind yourself that God is patient.

Rising Waters

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.

Giving Thanks?

This week the U.S. will celebrate Thanksgiving, a time that Pilgrims were thankful for the help that they received from the Native Americans. The Pilgrims were known for offering a prayer of thanksgiving following a blessing such as the end of a war or a successful harvest. Thanksgiving became an official U.S. holiday in 1863 during the Civil War when President Abraham Lincoln declared a day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens”, to be celebrated on the last Thursday in November. For Americans, this is day for the three F’s – family, feasts, and football. It is also the kickoff to the Christmas shopping season. Each year, the local paper in Stoughton MA prints the list of things that local leaders are thankful for; a nice reminder of the holiday. For many of us, this holiday is an opportunity to reflect on the many blessings in our lives much like President Lincoln had intended. I hope as the year has passed, that you have taken the time to give thanks everyday for the blessings in your life and that you aren’t saving up your thanksgiving for this one day. You should have noticed that I started this post, as I usually do when there is a holiday, “this week in the U.S. we will celebrate…” I do that because I am blessed by having readers all over the world. The power of the Internet is unbelievable but I believe that it wasn’t the Internet that connected us, it was God. Above all, I am thankful for my relationship with God and that He has chosen me to be share His word and be the source of some insight into it so that you too can have a stronger relationship with Him.

“Mercy, Peace and Love be yours in abundance.” Jude 1:2

This chapter actually starts with: 1Jude, a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James, To those who have been called, who are loved by God the Father and kept by Jesus Christ”. Jude 1:1. He offers this message of hope for all of us. Conventional wisdom tells us that Thanksgiving is about being thankful for the blessings that we have received but we rarely acknowledge where they come from. President Lincoln knew whom to thank but as a society, we’ve lost sight of that. I would offer that this simple verse is what God wants for each us – mercy, peace and love. If we have more than this, we are abundantly blessed; most of us are. There is no promise of good health, big homes, great jobs, fine clothes or anything material. God wants us to have peace, know mercy and feel love. We can find all of these things in His word given to us through the bible. We should remember that our needs are small and that God provides what we need, everything else is overabundances given by a society that has forgotten the one who gave it all to us. Celebrate Thanksgiving by giving thanks, remembering who made it all possible and seeking the comfort found in the gifts from God – mercy, peace and love. Happy Thanksgiving!