Check Yourself

There are a number of things that make us who we are; attitude, education, experiences, families, goals, faith and the list goes on. Last week I talked about suffering and how that affects us too. I love to people watch whenever we go out; it’s a huge source of entertainment. I keep saying that people are strange creatures and the human psyche never fails to amaze me. The way we react to things or the way that we think is always interesting. I started to wonder about myself and if I’m just as crazy as everyone else – the answer is yes. I find that I’m really flexible and diplomatic with a significant segment of the people that I encounter everyday. Then, I become this stubborn, crabby old man on the flip side. I try to be consistent and predictable so people don’t have to guess which “Bill” is showing up. There are so many things that affect my attitude or outlook on the issues in my life.

We all juggle a number of roles – spouse, boss, worker, leader, follower, friend, brother or sister, neighbor, etc. Knowing how to respond can be the difference between being the hero or the zero. I often try to be more humble than not and the peacekeeper rather the pot stirrer. I’m constantly searching for the middle of the road. “Fair” comes out of my mouth often. As I prepared to write this, I found myself doing a personal inventory of sorts. I wondered how all of these traits come across when someone watches me. I know I’m just as crazy as the next guy, filled with idiosyncrasies that make us who we are. I would encourage you to take some time to consider your attitude about life and how others perceive you. Do you like what you see? What can you do to change it? What should you keep doing? What do you want to achieve?

5Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: 6Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross! 9Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is LORD, to the glory of God the Father.  Philippians 2:5-11

Wow! No pressure here – your attitude should be same as Jesus’. We have often told our kids that the best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time and this tall order is no different. In His usual wisdom, God has given us the directions on how to that as well. He gave us a four-step process to keep our attitudes in check.1) Do not consider yourself equal to God or even pretend to understand why He does the things that He does. It is too big to grasp. We must accept that He is doing what is in our best interests and in His own time. 2) Be a servant. Jesus was the ultimate servant and led others through His willingness to serve. He was a lowly carpenter who made things for other people. You can’t underestimate the power of servitude, so serve others with pride.

3) Do not take yourself too seriously. Humility is a strong character trait that is often confused with being shy. Being humble means that you’d be willing to wash the feet of someone else, nothing is too small of a job. You are not better than anyone else. 4) Jesus is your savior. Your salvation is found in Him and not through anything that you can do. You don’t have to worry about never being good enough or never doing enough; God took care of that for you. Jesus was exalted to the highest place after cleansing us from all sin. You can live your life of faith confident in your salvation and life everlasting. If that doesn’t give you a positive attitude, I can’t imagine what will.

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Wisdom, what wisdom?

I’ve been searching for an answer to the question – “Where did all the wisdom go?” I can’t seem to find it anywhere and I’m afraid that it’s left our planet! Synonyms for wisdom include: understanding, insight, astuteness and prudence. Our country and our states used to be lead by people who seemed to have a great deal of wisdom. As an elected local government leader, I can see wisdom at work first hand. Local government is closest to the people and it deals with the problems and needs that people experience daily. Few people in our city are affected by decisions of the U.S. Dept. of Education but change the boundaries of where kids will go to school and you will see people cram into meeting rooms.

So back to wisdom, what happened? Our elected leaders seem to have forgotten who and what they are supposed to do. Look carefully at what they say or what they don’t and you will see decisions based more on ideology and party than on doing what is best for the people. Few are looking down the road at what the unintended consequences might be of making a decision. Even the average person has started to lose their wisdom. We hang on to the few sound bites we hear and believe them to be fact. Fake news is springing up all around us because we want to believe everything that we read. I’d suggest that wisdom has been lost by our desire for instant information no matter the source. In the old days, something became news when it corroborated by a second source. I guess the point of my first ever “rant” is that we all need to be protecting our own wisdom by expanding our sources and looking at the bigger picture.

“By wisdom a house is built, and through understanding it is established; 4 through knowledge its rooms are filled with rare and beautiful treasures.” Proverbs 24:3-4

What a great way to describe our journey with God. We start to build our relationship with God by having the wisdom to answer His call and establishing the structure to hear His word. We move into the next phase of our relationship by taking God’s word and applying it to our lives. We attend church services, listen to the bible verses being read and say the prayers and creeds to profess our faith. We begin to understand what He wants us to do; we follow His teachings and go about our daily lives.

We think this obedience is what God wants us to do and it is here at the intersection of obedience and understanding where most people coast though their journey. At this point the house is built and the relationship is been established, but God is telling us that something is still missing. Imagine your house – a structure (wisdom), it’s occupied (understanding) but without love (knowledge) its not really ever filled. Seek to fill your relationship with God with the knowledge of His word through regular devotional reading, bible study and the active application of that knowledge in your life. Fill your life with His rare and beautiful treasures.

That time of the year

They say that this is the time of year that people are open to a suggestion to attend church. People are often searching for the meaning in their lives at this time of year. I’d imagine that it has something to do with another year going by or people talking about family but maybe, just maybe people are realizing that this time of year is about Jesus. For those that don’t know God, this can be a confusing time. For those that are questioning God’s role in this crazy world, this can be a time of turmoil in their hearts. For those that are lost, this can be a time of opportunity. So what time is it for you?

We should consider our own place in life as it relates to our faith in Jesus Christ and to God our Father. We are often reminded in the bible that Jesus knew what people were thinking and He often responded to them without a question ever being spoken. God knows what we are thinking too. We need to have a conversation with Him about our fears and our joys. God will bring peace. This is the time of year when we really need to remember that Jesus was, by God’s grace, a gift of peace to the world. We now have the opportunity to share in eternal life with our faith in Jesus Christ. That is something to start celebrating.

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and His understanding no one can fathom.” Isaiah 40:28

They also say that this is the time of year that results in more stress related illnesses than any other time. Can you imagine hearing complaints and requests from 100 people? If that isn’t a recipe for stress I don’t know what is. Take these 100 people and multiply them by millions or billions and that is the workload of God our Father. The amazing thing is that He isn’t fazed by it in the least.

“The Creator of the ends of the earth” has more power than we can imagine, even in our wildest dreams. God is pleased when we call out to Him for help, seek His guidance or simply to say thank you. He has the patience to work with us because He loves us and wants to be close to us. “He will not grow tired or weary”. We were made in His image and He wants us to be just like Him – not tired or weary but strong and full of love. Send your cares, fears, worries, concerns, anger and thanks to Him because “His understanding no one can fathom”. We have no ability to understand how He can do it and why He wants it but we can be assured that His love for us is greater than we can imagine too. Take care of yourself with good food, good love, good sleep, good times, good prayer and the greatness of God.

A New Attitude

A positive attitude can get you through just about anything. It seems like every time I turn around, someone is being diagnosed with an illness or cancer. I’m getting older so this must obviously be the next chapter of life. When it’s not us getting the news, our typical response is often, “glad it’s not me”. But what happens when it is you? Your attitude can drive a significant portion of your treatment and recovery. I had a dear friend who, when diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer, told her doctor that they better the surgery scheduled soon because she had a trip planned in less than six months.

The oncologist sheepishly told her that perhaps she would need to reschedule the trip. She wouldn’t hear of it, had the surgery, the radiation and went on her trip that year and every year afterward for almost 10 years. How do we create positive attitudes when work is just getting us down? We are in control of our attitude; we just have to want to be positive. It is easy to focus on the inconsiderate co-workers, the boss who won’t let up, the long commute or whatever is affecting your attitude. Turn it around. What can you learn from these circumstances? If you are a leader or manager, you must ensure that you are not the cause of distress for others. Today, workers need specialized attention, not a one for all fix. The bottom line is, your attitude is yours – own it.

“When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider; God has made the one as well as the other…” Ecclesiastes 7:14

It is important for us to remember that God made both the good and the bad times. Why? We might not ever find out but we are reminded throughout the bible that God has a plan for us. He never promised a smooth path or guaranteed happiness along the way. He puts obstacles in our path and he opens doors; both to help us grow. The unexpected check that arrives in the mail or the car accident on the way to work, we can grow from both experiences.

How we deal with them is our choice. We can turn away and blame God or we can search harder for an understanding to His plan. Sometimes the plan reveals itself right a way, sometimes it’s year and sometimes we will never know. This is why this verse is such sage advice; consider that God has made both the good and the bad. We make our attitudes by choosing to be happy or sad. We choose how to react to life’s events but we aren’t alone. The bible has been filled with suggestions for us to use to “fix” our attitudes. Do you know where to find your next attitude adjustment?

Showers of Blessings

Delegation can be a leader’s best asset or worst nightmare. Often times, leaders believe that once a project or program is delegated to someone, they no longer have responsibility for it. Nothing could be farther from the truth! A leader can only delegate the work and the accolades but they retain all of the oversight and blame for their delegate. “I gave this to ‘so and so’” doesn’t relieve a leader of their responsibility to properly assist the delegate in being successful. Poor delegation is often the cause of workplace frustration. The employee feels “micro-managed” or the leader believes that they “should have just done it themselves”.

Motivation and follow up are the keys to successful delegation. Of course, delegating the right project to the right person is the lock that those keys match. Being willing to work with and teach others is an important part of being a good delegator. You may have your way of doing something but remember; there is more than one right way to get something done. Learning takes time and patience. What motivates you may not motivate someone else, so ask them how they want the project to proceed; regardless of which side of the delegation you are working on. People will make a mistake, that is how they learn; the key is in how we respond to those mistakes. The leader should be able to catch it early enough to make corrections and the delegate should be open to adjusting their course to achieve success. When the project succeeds, the delegate gets all the credit; this is simple leadership. The project can only fail if the leader does not take an active role in the process or does not provide adequate guidance and this is why the leader takes all the blame. Shower the delegate with support and encouragement and you will not have to worry about the project failing.

Ezekiel 34:26 – “I will bless them and the places surrounding my hill. I will send down showers in season, there will be showers of blessing.”

God has blessed us with showers from above. He created everything that we can see and those things that we can not. How blessed are we to see a sunrise or sunset? The majestic colors that are created and the shades of light that are cast are unmatched. The showers of blessing that rain down on us each second of every day can not be counted. The human body is an incredible creation that can fight off sickness, repair injuries and respond to the environment around it.

Unfortunately, we are condemned to death because of sin. The good news however, is that we have eternal life through God’s Grace. He sent us a Savior in Jesus who took our place on the cross, a delegate of sorts, to take our sins away forever. Jesus did this so that we could enjoy the accolades that God intended for His children. No because we deserved it but because He loves us; only as a Father can. God blesses us here on earth but the real blessing is that we have Christ in our lives today and will have eternal life because of it.

Wisdom and Understanding

“He doesn’t have enough common sense to change a nickel!” It was a phrase I heard often from my first Captain. He would use it to describe just about anyone who couldn’t quite “get it”. I don’t know if he ever used it to describe me but I’m sure, at times, I lacked “a little change” myself. Merriam Webster’s defines wisdom as “the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise.” The challenge we have in our roles as spouses, siblings, parents and leaders is that we don’t or can’t teach wisdom. In education, we refer to “teaching wisdom” as teaching critical thinking. It is difficult to teach someone how to “think”. We usually associate wisdom with experience and maturity. Critical thinking is skillful and responsible thinking in which you study the problem from all angles, and then exercise your best judgment to draw conclusions. Teaching critical thinking consists of three basic concepts: 1) Reflecting on the issue or question; to stop and think, avoiding snap judgments, accepting the first idea that comes to mind or automatically accepting whatever is presented. 2) Gently asking questions such as “How do you know”, “What are the reasons?” and “Is that a good source of information?” which establishes the reasons for a point of view or seeks the reasons for others’ views. 3) Being aware of alternative possibilities, conclusions, explanations, sources of evidence, or points of view. Merriam Webster’s defines understanding as “the power of abstract thought; the capacity to apprehend general relations of particulars”. We must have wisdom before we have understanding. As leaders, we tend to deal with teaching people what to do (knowledge) and ask if they understand it. We should be focusing on their depth of understanding through critical thinking.

“And he said to man, ‘The fear of the LORD—that is wisdom, and to shun evil is understanding.’ ” Job 28:28

A lot can be said of Job. When I hear his name, I immediately think – strength. He certainly stayed faithful to God and despite what happened to him, he knew that God was with him. If anyone can tell us about what God meant, I believe Job to be an excellent candidate. Having fear of the Lord is something that is wise for an individual to do. It certainly stands today; we should all have fear of the Lord our God. Not because of the “bad” that will happen to us but because He is our Father and we should live to His glory. Besides, not living to honor God will surely keep you from eternal life. God sent us His Son to take away all of our sins – a reconciliation with the Law if you will that does not give us a “free pass” but gives us eternal life by our faith in Him. It is wise to fear God. Job also tells us that if we shun evil (follow in the way of the Lord) we are demonstrating that we truly understand what God was trying to say all along. He is the way, the truth and the life. This message applied during Job’s time here on earth and now, in our time is fear the Lord and shun evil.  Can it be that simple?