Give Thanks

I returned home this weekend from another weeklong travel extravaganza. This year has given me periods of intensive travel followed by long periods of inactivity. My return home marks the 22nd week that I will have traveled this year, 9 out of the last 14 weeks. I’m thankful that for many of these trips I was able to travel with my wife, who works part-time for me. We have a great partnership both at home and in the business. My trip this week was with a longtime friend who I’ve partnered with to provide consulting services for the past five years. I am very thankful for the opportunity that I have, to work with a great professional who is also a dear friend.

Thanksgiving is this week in the U.S. and if I tried to tell you everything or everyone that I was thankful for, you’d be reading this for hours. When my wife and I spend time traveling together or just hanging out together in our empty nest, we appreciate how grateful we are for the huge blessings in our lives. We’re also grateful for what we’ve been able to accomplish under, at times, stressful circumstances. We never let things set us back; we keep talking about how the hard times have built character in us. Once again, we sit amazed by the work of God in our lives – even when we didn’t know it. Take time this week to reflect on all that you have to be thankful for and look at how God has moved your life even when you faced struggles, He was there. Thank Him for His work and then thank someone in your life that makes things just a little bit better. Happy Thanksgiving!

15 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful… 17 And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” Colossians 3:15,17

In our house Thanksgiving Day is the start of the Christmas season. We start listening to classic Christmas music, decorating the house finds it way onto the calendar, preparation for baking begins, Christmas card lists are printed and the peace of the season is in the air. The year will end soon and we will all start thinking about how thankful we are for the many things in year past as we look forward to what the new year will bring. No matter what has happened in your life let God’s peace, given to us through His son Jesus Christ, be with you and comfort you.

It’s hard to think about telling God “thanks” for sending us a savior who had to die before we’d figure it out. God knew what it would take to save us and all He asks is that “whatever we do, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and to give thanks to God through Him.” A simple “thanks”. Sometimes through all of the mess in our lives, the frantic pace that we live and the set backs we have, we still have a lot to be thankful for. Our faith in Jesus Christ and God’s grace has guaranteed us eternal life; free from all these worldly problems. Even when you struggle, be thankful. God has a place for you in heaven, which is something to be thankful for!

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No where to Turn

We often hear people say, “I have no where to turn!” Many times they are just frustrated by what is happening at that moment and things aren’t as bad as they think. There are times however, when things are truly bad. I met someone almost 10 years ago who I mentioned a couple of weeks ago. He was helping me make connections that would alter my life in big ways as a military contractor. As we started to become true friends, I heard about the turmoil in his life. His ex-wife had burned down his house, his older sons were doubtful of their mother’s involvement which was creating conflict and his truck was broken into and some of his belongings were stolen. Yet, he found time to help me. As we talked, he kept referring to the strength of Job and all of his troubles. Neither Job nor my friend lost faith.

In the grand scheme of things, I have a very good life. We are constantly waiting for the proverbial “other shoe to drop” but we never seem to let minor set backs slow us down. I have seen people’s lives changed in the blink of an eye and never really thought beyond my role as a rescuer as to what would come of their emergency once we left. As I get older, I see people who struggle every day with medical conditions, financial issues, workplace stresses and relationships. I’m sure age has nothing to do with it; maturity does. It is how we deal with these problems that is key to our happiness. Unfortunately, some turn to substance abuse to escape, while others turn to friends or family for help. Healthy choices have long-term effects. The others only ease the pain temporarily and then pile on more problems for later. If you are struggling or know someone who is, seek long-term answers because your problems are, in the grand scheme of things, short-term.

20 “Although the Lord gives you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, your teachers will be hidden no more; with your own eyes you will see them. 21 Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Isaiah 30:20-21

When I first started planning this devotional, I was looking only at verse 21. It is easy to write about listening to the voice that says, “This is the way”. However, it is important to remember that God also brings adversity and affliction. It sounds crazy to think that God brings these bad things to us but we must remember, “Everything happens for a reason”. Sometimes they build strength for what is yet to come, other times they provide you wisdom to advise someone else later in life. In some cases, God is using you as an example of faith for others to see – a living witness.

We are reminded that no matter what ‘bad thing” is happening to us, “your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Much like when you must open the door when opportunity knocks, you must be ready to hear God’s voice. He won’t necessarily speak directly to you or send an Angel in your dreams, but wouldn’t that be awesome! God uses all of us in different ways to send His messages. It was my new friend, who was experiencing far worse things than I was, that was sending me the message that it was going to be okay. The day we spoke was transformational for me. Looking back, I know that it was God telling me that, “This was the way”. Keep listening!

It’s never easy

This week, I found myself saying, “why does this have to be so hard?” I read a great article two weeks ago titled “Why Simple Rules Produce Better Decisions” by Valeria Maltoni. In the article she explains the beliefs found in a book by Donald Sull and Kathleen Eisenhardt –  “Simple Rules: How to Thrive in a Complex World”. The authors believe that we should use small sets of simple rules — “shortcut strategies that save time and effort by focusing our attention and simplifying the way we process information.” Simple rules work because they allow for flexibility, they produce better decisions because they make decision-making fast and easy and, they allow for activities to be synchronized on the fly; doing what is inherently right for the greater purpose.

But I wasn’t trapped in rules of overly complex situations; I was being challenged on matters that should have been quite simple. The other side of things being hard is when we get bad news. Another week has gone by with someone I know (I used to work with him) being diagnosed with cancer. This young man with a young family will have to go through a great deal to just have a chance to survive. I’m not the only one who has this happening all around him; my guess is that everyone knows someone dealing with a hardship. We can’t over simplify these challenges and we can’t write new rules for how they are applied; we are not in control. Today’s verse reminds us that the road to the kingdom of God is not easy. We need to remember that the destination however, is paradise.

“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God.” Acts 14:22

I wish I knew why we had to go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God. Jesus took our sins upon Himself and suffered for them so that we may be blameless in God’s eyes. We are assured of that in the bible. So why do we have to suffer in this life? I’d like to think, because no one really knows, that we need to appreciate all that God has done for us. If you look back over time, the human race has not been very good at following the Commands of God. He gave us 10 simple rules to follow and the human race found ways around them or through them.

I often use the phrase made famous by Ronald Reagan, “Trust but Verify”. Is this what God is doing with us? Is God trusting us to do what He commands and have Jesus as our one and only savior but at the same time, is He verifying our faith in Jesus? Where do we turn when things get bad, who do we rely on and how do we react in these times of hardships? There is only one simple answer; we must turn to God when we are faced with hardships. He will be with us all the way. He has never promised a smooth ride or a simple life; hardship builds character and demonstrates our faith in God. Maybe this is why we need to be grounded in the troubles of this life. The road will be rough but it leads us to paradise – eternal life with God.

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.