Work, Work, Work

Why does work have to be so hard? The key in this question is the work and another word for work is labor. The dictionary defines labor as hard physical work. I can’t speak to it with any level of experience but I’m sure if you ask any mother if labor was hard work, she can give you a unique perspective on “labor”. Sometimes what we do, day in and day out, isn’t what we’d like to be doing. It’s not that it’s too hard; it simply isn’t satisfying. When we lose our satisfaction with our job, we loose sight of our purpose and whom we’re serving.

At times, we struggle to remain positive, to work hard and meet the mission or vision that is before us; complacency takes over and the “I don’t care’s” start to fly. Everyone in the workplace, no matter their position or what they are faced with, must keep their focus on the mission or the work before them. Are you are a front line employee whose actions will have a direct impact on your customers or are you a support team leader that works to serve those impacting the customers? Complacency is the start of the breakdown in customer service and in some professions; it can become deadly. Think of the nurse who is treating you in the emergency room for a heart attack, do you want the one who doesn’t care? We all have a responsibility to keep complacency out of our workplace.

Colossians 3:23-24 “What ever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men… It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

In the times that we’re locked in a battle against complacency, we can be comforted in knowing that when we do our best work, with all of our heart, it is pleasing to God. God is with us all of time, even when we don’t feel like he’s there. When times get harder you should be focusing more on your relationship with God, not less.

Our human instinct is to focus everything on the work before us and let the rest of our life take the back seat for a while. Nothing can do more harm than putting God in the back seat! Bring God closer; he will help you through the struggles of work or overcoming complacency. You are serving Him, doing his work as a faithful disciple. God cares about the work that you do and how well you do it. When you are feeling down about work, imagine God smiling at you because He knows what is in your heart. Look to him to get you through, He’ll light the way.

Eighteen year old wisdom

Our son decided to get a tattoo for his 18th birthday. When he made the announcement months earlier about his intention, I think he expected a huge negative reaction from us. This was his opportunity to rebel against us – a rite of passage for all boys. But we didn’t object. We simply asked him to honor a few requests: nothing objectionable, something meaningful – now and in the future, in a location that won’t be embarrassing for him, at a reputable shop and to speak with a couple of my friends that are very experienced with tattoos. He complied and was ready to go a month after his birthday; we still didn’t object. He designed his own symbol that represents – be positive and keep moving forward, period! Two bent lines and a dot in the center (the period). When he looked up similar symbols he found that it is almost identical to the Viking symbol for “create your own destiny”. It was very meaningful to him and he had the two lines and a dot placed on the underside of his left wrist (covered by his watch). He told us that he was surprised that we didn’t say no. We had no reason to object.

The verse today describes how most of us feel on a regular basis – hard pressed. Since the start of the New Year, I’ve focused on the opportunities that come with a new beginning. I learned from or was reminded by “a kid” that I need to be positive and look forward in all things. He’s obviously much smarter than I ever give him credit for. So ask yourself, are you looking forward to what is possible or are you looking behind at what could have been? As they say, “out of the mouths of babes”, came great advice from someone who is choosing to see the rest of his life with great optimism. Maybe we should all do the same.

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed” 2 Corinthians 4:8

My guess is that this verse describes most of our lives – hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted and struck down. We are however, not crushed, not in despair, not abandoned and not destroyed and we have God to thank for that. Life can be hard and challenging but God is working with us to help us navigate the troubles in our lives. I can’t help but wonder if I let all of the negative things that happen in my life to gain the advantage, how miserable I would be. I can’t tell you why I wasn’t upset that our son wanted to get a tattoo and those that know me; a tattoo isn’t exactly in keeping with my “old man” persona. It wasn’t the worst thing that he could have done.

God is in control of our lives and He has a plan for us. While we can’t create our own destiny, we do have the ability to influence the things that affect that plan. We can choose to ignore God’s plan or we can choose to follow it. Our son’s tattoo is really a symbol of what God’s wants for us – stay positive and keep moving forward. We will not be destroyed by this life or by the sin of our lives. God sent us a savior to make sure that we would be close to Him; forgiven for all sin and innocent in His eyes. This is enough reason to keep moving forward and to stay positive.

Stay Strong

There’s an old saying that warns all of us about the company that we keep. We see the impact that people have on each other a lot in the fire service with fire crews. Each crew is usually made up of a leader, a driver and two firefighters. You can take four separate people, put them together and they will eventually become one central personality. The hope of every fire chief is that they will become a personality that is closer to the leader’s than anyone else’s. This same concept is what creates cliques and coffee clutches, as we get older. It seems that every social group develops its own personality that draws people toward it or pushes them away. How is the company that you keep? “When he gets around his college buddies, my husband turns into a different person”. “My wife has such a positive attitude after she hangs out with the ladies group”. What do you adapt to when you hang around with the various groups of people in your life. Many of us were told when we were kids that “so and so was a bad influence”; our parents were probably right. Give a thought to the movies you watch, the songs you listen to, the things your read and, the company you keep. These things all influence how you act, what you say and what you believe. One of the main principles in Change Management is providing a vision for the workforce. The concept of vision is in part, influencing thought and beliefs by keeping the distractions down and focusing on the positives. Stay focused on the good things in your life and the people who make them that way. By avoiding the negative thoughts and people, you will become the central personality for others. We need more positive influences in our lives!

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.” Colossians 2:8

Just as we influence others by how we act, we are are influenced in what we believe by the company we keep. Recent studies show that college students fall away from their religious beliefs in large numbers. Many experience the freedoms of college and choose to explore while others are simply influenced to go in a “different direction”. We have to be on guard to make sure the same doesn’t happen to us as adults. Too many people believe the lie that they are in control and that a higher power may exist but won’t acknowledge that it is God. Humans are unable to comprehend the power of God and won’t submit to the idea that they are not controlling everything in their lives. “I don’t need God to do_____” or “The myth of God is just a crutch for the weak minded” are phrases that these people use. Hearing this over and over can start to influence even the strong willed. St. Paul warns us to “see to it that no one takes us captive”. This life is short when you compare it to eternal life. The feeling of belonging or the friends that influence you are not worth it if it means losing your focus on Christ. Stay Strong!

The Woman and the Fork

There was a young woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. So as she was getting her things ‘in order,’ she contacted
 her Pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. 

She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. 

Everything was in order and the Pastor was preparing to leave when the young woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.

‘There’s one more thing,’ she said excitedly.. 

’What’s that?’ came the Pastor’s reply? 

’This is very important,’ the young woman continued. ‘I want to be buried with a fork in my
 Right hand.’ 

The Pastor stood looking at the young woman, not knowing quite what to say. 

That surprises you, doesn’t it?’ the young woman asked. 

’Well, to be honest, I’m puzzled by the request,’ said the Pastor. 

The young woman explained. ‘My grandmother once told me this story, and from that time on I have always tried to pass along its message to those I love and those who are in need of encouragement. In all my years of attending socials and dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, ‘Keep your fork.’ It was my favorite part
, because I knew that something better was coming…like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance!’

So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder ‘What’s with the fork?’ Then I want you to tell them: ‘Keep your fork, the best is yet to come.’ 

The Pastor’s eyes welled up with tears of joy as he hugged the young woman good-bye. He knew this would be one of the last times he would see her before her death. But he also knew that the young woman had a better grasp of heaven than he did. She had a better grasp of what heaven would be like than many people twice her age, with twice as much experience and knowledge. She KNEW that something better was coming.

At the funeral people were walking by the young woman’s casket and they saw the cloak she was wearing and the fork placed in her right hand. Over and over, the Pastor heard the question, ‘What’s with the fork?’ And over and over he smiled. 

During his message, the Pastor told the people of the conversation he had with the young woman shortly before she died. He also told them about
 the fork and about what it symbolized to her. He told the people how he could not stop thinking about the fork and told them that they probably would not be able to stop thinking about it either. 

He was right. So the next time you reach down for your fork let it remind you, ever so gently, that the best is yet to come.

Positive Attitudes

A lot can be said about having a positive attitude. There is a woman I know that when she was diagnosed with breast cancer, she had a biopsy and “some lymph nodes removed” on Monday and came to work on Wednesday. She told me that she had too much to do. Several years later, she was diagnosed with colon cancer in March that year. She told her doctor to schedule the procedure right away because she has an annual trip she takes in September and wasn’t going to miss it. The doctor tried to temper her optimism but she told him that she’d been making that trip for over 20 years and wasn’t going to miss it. She made the trip that year and is still with us today more than five years later. I’m not suggesting that you can will away your troubles but having a positive attitude can certainly make a big difference in how it affects your day to day personality. When Lisa and I used to golf together (yes, used to), she was always saying something positive to me following a bad shot. If I hit my ball into the sand, she’d say, “at least it didn’t go into the water”. If I hit it into the water she’d say, “at least it isn’t in the sand”. I failed to see at that time that she was displaying the best positive attitude possible; we were together enjoying the beautiful weather. Zig Ziglar once said “you cant get much done in life if you only work on the days when you feel good.” Face each day with the right mindset and you’ll enjoy the best life has to offer.

“And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” – Romans 10:15

The difficulty here is knowing whether you were sent or not. We are commanded to “go and make disciples of all men and nations”. I’d suggest that this single verse tells us that we are sent. Bringing good news can come in many forms, passing out water to the homeless on hot days, distributing flyers about upcoming church events, witnessing to the lost and having a positive outlook on life are just a few forms. The good news of being positive can simply be found in the contagiousness of a positive attitude. People can look to you as the example of positive thinking and modeling the way of the Lord, so that when they finally come to realize where your strength is from, you will have the courage to profess your faith openly. When people ask about it, you can tell them you have no fear or worry because of our savior Jesus Christ. Choosing to live with Jesus is reason enough to be positive.