Sunday, May 20, 2018

A Positive Outlook In A Negative World

It is hard to start this positive message without first mentioning the negativity we find through every form of media. We live in a dark world focused on negative politics, school shootings, racial divisions and well you get where I am coming from. But while we cannot neglect the negative realities of today, we can be intentional about celebrating the positive, and it doesn’t have to be a miracle or out of the ordinary occurrence.

Today, I’m in Waxahachie, Texas a small bustling city where the folks are just like you and me. I’m sitting at a Starbucks having a breakfast sandwich and a caramel macchiato while observing the entire place. My attention is drawn to two employees who perhaps do not realize how much they stand out. The first of these is Devon who is loud and boisterous but intentional about making sure every customer he encounters gets a positive greeting and knows he or she matters. He is a no nonsense employee who makes no exceptions when it comes to treating people with grace and excellence. Most impressive is his willingness to jump ahead and catch the order right at the cashier’s area even before it is recorded ensuring that regardless of the crowd, people are served in a timely fashion. Devon is any employers dream of the perfect employee unless of course you are working at the Library and demand quiet. Then there is Kayla who did not have to be identified as the person in charge as, like a true leader, she clearly was the person at the helm. Navigating from training an employee at the window to ensuring supplies were re-stocked, she flowed back and forth with the elegance of a butterfly floating gently through a strong breeze. Her calm spirit during an extremely hectic time frame, kept everyone else calm and focused on their respective areas. Customers were addressed quickly and with great care and concern. Whether they were out of bananas or out of croissants, they made sure all left with a smile on their face. Devon and Kayla are examples of what makes us all great; two youngsters who know how to work hard, take their respective positions seriously, and treat customers with the utmost respect and care. Watching them reminded me how awesome we can be if we simply take the time to care for others and just keep smiling through it all. Way to go Devon, Kayla and Starbucks! Way to go Waxahachie, Texas! Just a little advice to go!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Praying for Eric!

There are a lot of people called Eric in the world, but today I met an Eric who I’ll never forget. He was outside a Men’s store located at an outdoor shopping area. It was freezing and he was sleeping out by the door. I was home sick all day and my wife talked me into going out for a bite to eat when I saw him outside the store. Approximately 30 minutes later as I walked back to my vehicle, I observed him there and felt a sense of compassion that moved me to make sure he was alright. He had a runny nose, smelled of alcohol, and his pants were undone. He was slow to respond but eventually was able to stand up. I offered him the opportunity to go into a nearby restaurant to get something warm to eat and he took me up on the offer. I ordered him some food and a drink and helped him eat. With every bite he seemed to become more conscious of his surroundings and stronger. He ate the food so quickly that it was obvious he had not eaten in quite some time. I spoke to him about Haven for Hope the homeless shelter where I work and offered to take him there but he declined. I’ve learned that for some, the sense of hopelessness overwhelms their thinking and willingness to receive help. 

After he ate, I helped him to the restroom and then helped him try to secure his trousers so they wouldn’t fall off again. I asked him to let me help him and his response was that he could take care of himself and that he had my back. Imagine that, he had my back. This was heartbreaking to say the least and while I repeatedly asked him to let me take him somewhere warm, he refused. I gave him a little cash for his next meal, shook his hand, and watched him walk away. Eric was about 6 feet tall, in his late 20’s or early 30’s, had one hand in a cast, and was neatly dresssed. He had a full head of black hair with a little grey and a mustache and goatee also with a little grey. He had big strong hands that looked rough, as if he had worked hard at some point. He was someone’s handsome baby boy once upon a time, someone worthy of being loved.  

I returned to my vehicle where my wife had been waiting since I first approached Eric.  I told her what happened and then drove towards where I last saw Eric. He was walking away from the plaza, somewhat stumbling but seemingly aware of his surroundings and the direction in which he was heading. I prayed for God’s mercy for Eric, for the pain he has and still endures. My heart hurt for Eric, wondering how in a country of plenty we could have so many Erics who are hurting and in need of care. I thanked God for his grace and mercy over my life as I could easily have been Eric were it not for Godly people who stood in the gap for me. I believe in the power of prayer and believe that if all who read this come together with me in prayer for Eric, God will respond and heal Eric of his sickness and restore him to a place where he can be a blessing to others. Miracles do happen and I believe Eric’s miracle is just about to take place. Thank you and God Bless! 

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Do You Want To Be Lied To?

Do you want to be lied to, or would you prefer to know the truth? That question might illicit an immediate and obvious response, tell me the truth. But I recently listened to a speaker who reminded me that often people really don’t want to hear the truth. Think about the funerals you’ve been to. Rarely do we hear a eulogy where someone states that the person who has passed was a self seeking lying user who took advantage of his family, friends and anyone else he came in contact with. While that might be the truth about the invidual, the person or persons giving the eulogy will find a way to say something positive in spite of the truth.

While I can’t control what people say, I can control the truth by doing my best to be the kind of person whose values speak clearly about the person I am. I am reminded of an exercise in the book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People authored by Steven Covey; a book I recommend you read. Now if you have read the book and are like me, you probably skipped right over the exercise he asks you to do on page 96 (first edition) because you wanted to finish reading the book. But I have since gone back and done the exercise which asks you to imagine you are at a funeral and the person in the casket is you. There are four people who are giving the eulogy, a family member, a friend, a co-worker, and someone from your church. The exercise asks you to write down what would you like them to say about you, that is true. What you write will help you understand the values that truly define who you are as a person. Are they the things that you should value, the things that come naturally or the things that come from an intentional decision to be a certain type of individual? Clearly the exercise requires you be honest with yourself.

This exercise helped me to define five key values that identify who I am and who I fight to be each and every day, despite the natural desires that may contradict them. They are my values and each person has to fine their own, but typically they will center around some of the same key areas. Some may have more than five and others less, but what matters is that you figure out those values and ensure that they guide you through you daily living experiences; experiences that may challenge you to behave in a way that contradicts who you have decided to be.

The following biblical scriptures might be a good starting point to help define your values and who you really want to be:
Galations Chapter 5:22-23
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

Do you really want to be lied to, or do you prefer the truth? Make the truth a pleasant one by being the person you truly want to be, a person whose values reflect a love and care for humanity that is beyond question. Just a little advice to go! 

Sunday, October 8, 2017

What Do You Really Want?

Listening to a series of teachings on the subject of what do you really want which has inspired me to write about the subject.  There is a biblical teaching on the subject of what we really want in James 4:1-3.  James, the brother of Jesus, teaches that we often don't have what we want because we do not ask God.  He goes on to say that when we ask God, we don't receive because we ask with the wrong motives, we are focused on our own pleasures, pleasures that do not really address our true needs.

When I consider what James is saying, I think about how we identify what we really want and the reality is that often, we do not go into a long process of thinking about it.  Think about the answer to the question, what do you really want?  What we often neglect to say is, I want what I want.  Yes, the reality is what want what we want at that very moment.  We get upset at work because the decision did not go our way, we get upset at home because our partner did not want what we want, we get upset with our kids because they do not want to do what we want them to do, and so forth.  But have we ever considered the other side of the coin, how often when we get what we want and end up regretting it.  Think about how many times you, like I, have had this thought "If I could go back and do it again knowing what I know now, things would be so different".  Yes, if we could go back knowing that what we wanted then is not what we really should have wanted, things would be different.  Thus the need to carefully assess what it is really truly want, what drives the desires of our heart, and how we determine what we really should want.  Sounds a bit confusing perhaps, but think about it and consider what it is you really want.  As you think about it, keep the following questions in mind:

  • Is what I want today, going to get in the way of what I want for the future?
  • Is getting my way going to get in the way of what I want for the future? 
  • Is getting what I want followed by the reality that I also want it now?  
  • Is what I want now helping me with what I will want later? 
  • Is there a time where I didn't get what I wanted then, that I can be grateful for? 
  • Is what I want now only going to satisfy a temporary pleasure?
  • is what I want now based on a thoughtful consideration of how it impacts where I want to be later? 

More to follow on the next piece, just a little advice to go!

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Not the Same Mistake Again!

Why do we sometimes find ourselves repeating the same mistakes over and over again? We have all heard folks talk about how experience makes you all the wiser for the next time you encounter a similar problem, but still we find ourselves committing the same mistakes. The fact is that experience only helps us if we take the time to analyze our experience and walk through what went wrong. That process has to be approached with a sincere willingness to recognize when we are the problem, when it was our poor judgment that led to the mistake versus blaming someone else. It is always easier  to look for someone else to blame for our problems rather than take responsibility for our own deficits.  Recognizing this truth is the first step towards an honest evaluation of our past mistakes.

Why start with you, with a self examination? Simple, when looking at repeated mistakes look for the common denominator.  You are clearly going to be the first common denominator that needs scrutiny.  What did you do or fail to do that may have led to the problem? It takes humility and sincerity to concede the mistakes you may have made. Fixing those is the first critical step you must take before you can address any other contributing factors.  We should all remember the Bible story that reminds us to take out the plank from our own eyes before dealing with the spec in our neighbor’s eye. If you keep making the same mistakes at work, dating the same losers, having the same arguments with your spouse, etc. start by addressing your actions and how you can improve those. Get advice from someone your trust who is succeeding in the areas you are struggling, they can provide insights that can help you do better. Please remember the humility piece, don’t ask for the truth if you can’t handle the truth.

Once you’ve identified the challenges, then do something about them. Be intentional on making change happen in your life so you don’t repeat the same mistakes. Focus on your emotional maturity, recognizing your weaknesses and how to keep them in check. Then use the strengths you possess to help you compensate for your challenges. Understand that you can avoid repeating the same mistakes by planning to do better and being intentional about it. Just a little advice to go!

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Battling the Giants in Your Life!

We all have or will at some point in our lives find ourselves facing a challenge that appears impossible, an unsurmountable “Giant” of a problem.  There is the biblical story of David and Goliath that often reminds me that given the right approach, we can overcome the giants we may face.  The biblical story of David and Goliath, found in 1 Samuel 17, provides a lesson on how to approach and defeat the giants in our lives.  Here are a few strategies I’ve learned from how David defeated Goliath:

1. David did not confront the problem using a conventional approach.  He first put on the traditional battle gear and then quickly discarded it because he recognized that using a conventional approach was not going to work.
2. David focused on his strengths, not his weaknesses.  Rather than look at the giant and conclude that he could never defeat him, he considered his areas of strength and chose to approach the problem from a strong point.  He picked up five stones and his sling shot, recognizing that his expertise in this area would give him the distinct advantage of striking from a distance.
3. David did not overestimate his skills, he was realistic and level headed.  He didn’t pick up one stone assuming he was going to dispose of his problem in one attempt, he picked up five stones.  He was ready to take five shots, five approaches to overcoming the challenge he faced.  He demonstrated humility and recognized that eating this elephant might take more than one bite.
4. David did not get discouraged or dismayed by the size of the problem, Goliath was one big giant of a warrior.  Instead, he trusted his faith in God and the gifts that God has given him.  His emotional intelligence was critical as he displayed self-awareness by recognizing what he could achieve, self-regulation by controlling his fears, and motivation by focusing on the goal and the importance of the victory.  
5. Finally, David used the victory to his advantage.  His ability to take down the giant, to overcome this insurmountable task, enabled him to lead others confidently into battle. He recognized that this victory provided momentum to win the greater battle and quickly moved on to the next challenge.

There are many lessons to be learned from David’s strategy for defeating Goliath.  He would go on to become the King of Israel and win many more battles because he was faithful to God, remembered to think out of the box, focused on his strengths instead of his weaknesses, believed that victory was possible, and used the victories of the past to motivate others to take on new challenges.  You too can defeat the Goliath’s in your life, it simply takes faith in God and the wisdom of a shepherd boy called David.  Just a little advice to go!  

Sunday, June 25, 2017

A Message to Politicians, Cut The Crap!

Sounds a bit harsh but I remember several people in my life telling me to cut the crap and get with it. As a youngster my wresting coach would tell us to cut the crap and get with the work out. As a student several of my instructors advised me to cut the crap and work to my potential. Today, I think it is time we told our political leaders to cut the crap.

Our politicians need to understand that their role is to represent the best interest of the people they serve both within the boundaries of their political constituency as well as the rest of the citizens living within our country. Our political leaders also have to consider the realities of those who while not citizens of this country, are hear both legally and illegally. I’m not condoning criminal behavior, but I am also not naive to the fact that many of those who are here illegally, the majority, are here because we have employed them and taken advantage of their willingness to work for much less than the average citizen. Lets not be hypocrites.

The problems we face as a country are complex and require a great deal of sincerity and a commitment to do what ever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think (do) such things (Philippians 4:8). Yes we have so many politicians who proclaim they are trying to keep this country a Christian country but then turn around and neglect the biblical teachings that are the foundation of our Christian faith.

 Politicians need to understand that serving their constituents means serving in the best interest of all and not aligning themselves with the lobbyists and special interest groups. We have a country that is in need of true health care reform, reform that focuses on doing what is right so all of our citizens can have affordable health care. The same is true when it comes to job creation, tax reformation, and many other critical decisions. We should all be committed to changes that benefit our children, family members, friends, seniors, and neighbors. Politicians should act based on doing what is true, what is right, what is pure, what is lovely, what is admirable, what is excellent, and what is praiseworthy! That might not get them re-elected but it will make them worthy of the calling that God has bestowed upon them.  Perhaps then, we can sincerely proclaim that we are the greatest country in the world and reflect it in our actions, actions that speak far louder than our words. Just a little advice to go!