Friday, November 25, 2016

Giving Thanks 365 Days A Year

We celebrated the holiday of Thanksgiving yesterday with family and friends most of us praying for the blessings we have received.  We then sat down to a great meal which many of us were fortunate to have.  That meal reminded me of a commitment I made  to be less self serving and more of a servant to others.  That commitment is captured eloquently by the following quote from Nelson Mandela:

"We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination."

Thanksgiving is a not simply a day to give thanks, but to a day in which we should all remind ourselves of the hope we have and should continue to have at a time where for many, things may seem hopeless.  As a Christian I believe that faith without works is dead, in other words our actions speak to how committed we are to our faith.  It is what each of us does each and every day to address the poverty within our communities, the suffering many are enduring from the youngest to the oldest, and the discrimination many are facing because of the color of their skin, their particular gender, and even the uniform they wear that helps eliminate hopelessness.  Living this way each and every day is truly an act of Thanksgiving we should all practice.

Imagine the impact we would have on the world if we committed ourselves to doing more for others than ourselves, to loving unconditionally thus approaching others in a spirit of love instead of condemnation.  The Christ in which I believe did not come to condemn the world but to open a door called grace, unmerited favor, through which anyone could enter into the hope of salvation, new beginnings, and an unquenchable desire to love and care for others.

Our faith and love for others can help move them from hopelessness to hopefulness.  In Colossians Chapter 1, verses 3 to 5, we are reminded that faith and love spring up from hope.  It is in the hopefulness each of us have for a tomorrow that is brighter and better for all, that we can then practice a faith and love that touches the lives of those around us helping them to have hope.  Let’s celebrate Thanksgiving every day as a reminder of all we have to be thankful for and how we can inspire hope in others.  Just a little advice to go.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Blending In Versus Standing Out!

As a child my parents always encouraged me to do my best, to make sure I stood out. Throughout my educational and work experiences I've always strived to stand out and be the best I can be. I have received a lot of accolades throughout my professional career having achieved a number of firsts, particularly during my career with the Rochester Police Department. But standing out produced a temporary moment of satisfaction that quickly faded away.

Today, I work at Haven for Hope serving those experiencing homelessness and have come to realize that the greatest challenge is not to stand out, but to blend in. Working to make our 22 acre campus the best it can be, means blending in with each of the staff that help make it a place of excellence. If that means picking up a mop and cleaning a mess, cleaning the bathrooms, picking up garbage, taking time to speak with a client when you don't have the time, addressing the need of a co-worker who simply needs to be heard or any of the many other critical functions necessary to make Haven for Hope a place of excellence, then that is what I need to do.

No longer do I feel the need to stand out, but instead want to blend in with those who work to make Haven a place of excellence. If you are wondering what changed, it was the realization that I was not following the leadership model of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He was a great leader not because he worked to stand out, but rather because he blended in. He blended in with the crowd wearing the same clothes, eating the same foods, sitting at the same table, and living the same simple lifestyle. He loved each individual in spite of who they were or what their sins were. He chose a team that reflected many of the same challenges of those he seeked to serve. His team reflected the shortcomings of those in the crowd and teaching them made it easy for them to teach others. He saw no need to stand out, not even during his crucifixion where he simply asked God to forgive those who in their ignorance crucified him.

I recently read a Pray Fit devotional that spoke about the leader that blends in with the team. It referenced the sport of baseball as one of the few sports where the leader blends in with his team. The coach wears the same exact uniform as the players, he truly blends in with the team. He sits or stands in the same dug out and leads his team by blending in with them and not trying to stand out from them or to stand up above them. While there is nothing wrong with being outstanding in whatever you do, I would suggest it is better to blend in with those you lead and serve then to stand out. Just a little advice to go!