Unacceptable

Unacceptable – What do you think when you hear that word? Disheartened? Anxious?  Unacceptable. If you’re anything like me – human – you’ve experienced ‘unacceptable’. No matter how much effort I put into an activity, I never get it right the first time; don’t achieve perfection; concede to the do over. It’s tempting to affix the label ‘unacceptable’ to the whole project and just give up. Consider this with me for a moment. Sometimes we pray for God to give us direction, to open the right doors, and to show us his will.  Proverbs 3:5-6 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will direct your path. We want clear direction, not foggy instruction. We want these words in Isaiah 30:21 to apply to the decision making process. “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.” How much easier it would be to hear “This is the way…”

How do you think Joseph and Mary felt about the angel’s message to them back in Matthew 1:18-24? Joseph finds out his fiancé is pregnant! “…before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.”  Totally ‘unacceptable’! But then Joseph realized that even though this wasn’t the way he had it planned, God had a different idea. In verse 24 “Joseph did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.” Unacceptable?

What about Lazarus? Do you remember that Jesus had a good friend, Lazarus who was very sick? You can read the full story in John 11 but here’s a recap. His sisters, Mary and Martha, sent messengers to Jesus with an urgent plea for him to come at once, but verse 6 says “Jesus heard that Lazarus was sick, he remained in the place where he was for two more days.” OK wait a minute! That is totally “unacceptable”. Verse 3 of John 11 says “Lord, look, the one you love is sick” yet Jesus dragged his feet and stayed right where he was until it was too late. John 11:14 Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died.” Can’t you feel the anguish; maybe even anger? Unacceptable! But was it really? The story has a happy ending. Fast forward to verse 43 where Jesus is at the tomb of Lazarus and he shouts “Lazarus, come out! And he who was dead came out.” Unacceptable? John 11:45 assures us that it was not. “Then many of the people, who had come with Mary and had seen the things Jesus did, believed in him.”
How do you think Joseph felt in Genesis 37:23 “When Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the ornate robe he was wearing— and they took him and threw him into the cistern.” That’s crazy. Talk about unacceptable! If you know the story, Joseph lived a roller coaster life of premier successes and cruelest defeats. Unacceptable – until we get to Genesis 39. Verse 3 reveals “the Lord was with him and that the Lord gave him success in everything he did”. And that’s just the beginning. Verse 9 when he was being lured by Potiphar’s wicked wife, Joseph rejects her because he is honorable to his master and true to his God.  “No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” But Joseph’s story doesn’t end there, does it? The life of Joseph didn’t stop at that ‘unacceptable’ act of his brothers selling him into slavery or the deception of his master’s wife. Genesis 45 finally shows us where God’s path was leading all along. Verse 4 shows the restoration of the family. “Joseph said to his brothers, “Come close to me.” When they had done so, he said, “I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you.”

We live with perplexing circumstances, situations that baffle us. We don’t want to hear ‘unacceptable’. We plead with God to make his way known to us. We pray like David prayed in Psalm 19:14 “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.”

Today, let’s look beyond what we fear is unacceptable and give God our best. Our best is never unacceptable to Him. Jeremiah 6:16  This is what the Lord says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.

Ready?  Let’s get out there!

Encourage

OK everybody up! Rise and shine! Good Morning!

Have you ever thought about our English language and wondered why we have so many words that mean the same thing but sometimes aren’t used interchangeably? Have you seen a thesaurus? OK – so maybe I’m the only one who wakes up in the morning wondering about the difference between encouragement and inspiration. What got me started on that? Someone wrote to me yesterday, “I’ve noticed you are an encourager. Does anyone encourage you?” Earlier in the day, I got an invitation to meet two friends who are very dear to me and who have been an inspiration to me. There was a point at work where I had an opportunity to cheer someone on through a frustrating issue. Later a friend sent me an instant message with words that encouraged me. My dear sister-in-law, Jennie, commented on my blog to encourage me; a friend I’ve never met sent me a beautiful message through LinkedIn, and another friend, Lisa, sent me an inspiring note. Does anyone encourage me? What do you think? Yes! Yes! A thousand times yes. Corinthians 13:11 says “Encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.” Am I inspired? Of course!

Dictionary.com says encourage means to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence. Sometimes we don’t feel like encouraging, we are just plain weary, or we’re out of ideas. Have we ever heard of re-cycling? It’s totally legal and highly recommended. It’s OK to recycle a sincere compliment, a random act of kindness, a hug, a smile, a written sentiment – what inspires you? Recycle it for someone else and encourage them. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” Practice …. Philippians 4:9 “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me [Paul], or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.”

Remember what Vince Lombardi said, “Practice doesn’t make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” What can we do to spread encouragement and inspire each other today? Think about it … then act it out. Practice. Hebrews 3:13 “Encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today’….” If we get the inside right, the outside will take care of itself. It doesn’t matter if we encourage or inspire ….as long as we act!

Ready? Let’s get out there while it’s still ‘today’.

Comfort and Joy

Comfort, comfort my people … shortly before I went to bed, I got a text from a friend with a message not unlike many I had received this week. “Without warning two of my friends were laid off indefinitely from their jobs. Please help me pray for them.” I had a sick feeling multiplied by the number of similar requests to pray just in the past week. From my recent prayer journal pages – Please pray: My mom has dementia and I don’t know how much longer I can care for her.  My son’s wife wants a divorce. My husband said Merry Christmas, he’s leaving me and our kids. I suffer from Lyme disease and am unbearably fatigued much of the time. My daughter needs an operation and has no health insurance. My spouse has just been admitted to hospice care. I have debilitating migraines and can’t get out of bed. My work schedule is ruining my chance for family vacation again. My daughter is making extremely poor choices and our family is devastated. My mom passed away and I worry about my dad now.  I have fibromyalgia and this pain is taking my quality of life.

Isaiah 40:1 “Comfort, comfort my people,” says your God.” Do you open an email, read a text, or see a post on Facebook and your heart is broken because your friend is riding out a storm and can do nothing but pray.  I often wonder if David was called a man after God’s own heart because he prayed often and recorded his prayers in the Psalms.  Psalm 102:1 is just one where David’s endurance has dissolved “Hear my prayer, Lord; let my cry for help come to you.”

Do you ever feel that way? Do you ever reach the end of your strength and say, “Lord, do you even see me here? Do you care that I’m exhausted from just too much. This is just too much.”  God used David’s poems, songs, and reflections to comfort, comfort His people.  Psalm 34:18The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”

Sometimes I do things backward. God should be my first choice, not my last resort.  When I woke up this morning I heard the song in my mind “In the morning, when I rise, give me Jesus.”  As soon as I got to my computer the verse that prompted that heart song was easy to find:  Psalm 88:13But I cry to you for help, Lord; in the morning my prayer comes before you.”

In chapter six of Matthew, there are descriptions of how to pray and even some guidelines for the attitude that’s pleasing to God. In Matthew 6:6  we read one option “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”  Does this mean before we can pray we have to find an empty room? Of course not! We are invited, even implored to pray anytime, anyplace, for any reason. We pray for shattered hearts to be healed Psalm 147:3He heals those who have a broken heart. He heals their sorrows.”

We pray for direction when lives have been turned upside down by turmoil; we ask for acceptance when we have to bear the consequences of decisions made outside our control. Our faith takes a beating, doesn’t it? In these times, acknowledge what God tells us in Isaiah 48:17 “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” When every ounce of energy we have left wants to shout, “Really God? Is this really the plan you have for me? How am I supposed to get through this one?” Let’s scan a few statements here in Jeremiah 10 … “No one is like you, Lord; you are great, and your name is mighty in power… God made the earth by his power; he founded the world by his wisdom and stretched out the heavens by his understanding.” This verse is key for today just as is was back then. Jeremiah 10:23 “Lord, I know that people’s lives are not their own; it is not for them to direct their steps.”

We have to go forward, move past the calamity, rise above the chaos, and clear out a lot of torn feelings all cluttering the path to joy. Remember happiness is circumstantial and sometimes our circumstances have no characteristics close to happiness. Joy comes from believing that God’s plan is for our ultimate good. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Before that next cup of coffee, before returning to the TV, before making that phone call, remember Psalm 6:9 “The Lord has heard my cry for mercy; the Lord accepts my prayer.”

Comfort, comfort my People says your God. In the morning when I rise, give me Jesus.

Amy Grant – Breath of Heaven https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdLwZCprtkI

Encouragement – like it or not

The road ahead may seem impossible, might even seem like there is no road ahead, but that’s how life is.

snow photo in woods at cabin

Mysterious, overgrown with complications, messy and often cold … Fear Not!

Deuteronomy 31:6 (MSG) “Be strong. Take courage. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t give them a second thought because God, your God, is striding ahead of you. He’s right there with you. He won’t let you down; he won’t leave you.”

And if that’s not encouraging enough fast foward to Ephesians 3:20-21 where these inspiring words are found “God can do anything, you know—far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” Sometimes it takes a little divine revelation to push the cold snow aside and see the widened path with new perspective. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Sometimes do you feel like giving up, thowing in the towel, sleeping through the next week so you don’t have to add one more thing to your list, participate in one more ‘special’ activity, travel one more mile on ice infused roads? Seriously! Whether you feel like it or not, I’m sendng encouragement for your day. I hope it lights a flame and warms you from the inside out … Galatians 6:9-10 “So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith.”

Scripture taken from the Message Translation at Bible Gateway. http://biblegateway.com

Cherished

Yesterday, two large boxes the size of boots made for Goliath, appeared on my porch. Tim, my husband for those of you who don’t know me personally, thought they must be heavy so he reached down to heft them toward the door but they weighed about as much as air.  Totally mystified, we gathered around the boxes for the unveiling of items that came in such monstrous boxes. Being rather housebound this season, I’ve become somewhat of a master online shopper/box opener so I carefully cut away the packing tape and opened the lid. There laying softly over a tiny package of highlighters was a fully inflated air bag.  Huh! Well, let’s move on to the next box and see what’s inhabiting that one.  This identical box, came from the identical store and I took the identical action: slit the tape, fold back the lid and what did we find? A box of K-cups surrounded by what? Yet another beautifully inflated air bag. Tim and I just scratched our heads in amazement. Same company, same order, same delivery but two separate boxes.

There’s a lesson here, isn’t there? In fact there are a few lessons threaded through this story that go beyond economics and the obvious opportunity for process improvement. When I looked into the boxes and saw one lone item surrounded by a pillow of protection I thought of how God sees us. He doesn’t look at mixed products generically thrown together in one box.  Each of us was created individually with unique characteristics, some visible and others hidden deep inside. Here highlighted from Psalm 139:13-16 in the Message translation describes how God knew every detail of our appearance and what we would become even before we were born.  “[God] shaped me first inside, then out; body and soul, I am marvelously made! You know me inside and out, every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, sculpted from nothing into something. You watched me grow from conception to birth; all the stages of my life were spread out before you, my life all prepared before I’d even lived one day.”

Before those boxes were packed, the products were manufactured, put together on an assembly line, packaged, sorted, shipped to a supplier, and later to the one who placed the precise order. I didn’t know until a few days ago that I was going to order those items, but they were set aside for me much like we are created and set aside for God. Deuteronomy 7:6 “… you are a people set apart as holy to God, your God. God, your God, chose you out of all the people on Earth for himself as a cherished, personal treasure.” Did you get that? We are a ‘cherished treasure’.

I don’t know about you, but there is something rewarding about being a cherished treasure, a protected cherished treasure. Remember that protective air pillow in the box? Shrink-wrapped highlighters aren’t likely to break or be damaged, yet the packager surrounded them in the ultimate bubble wrap. This past year I’ve experienced the ultimate bubble wrap of God’s protection and will forever relate to this verse in Psalm 5:11 “But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that they who love your name may rejoice in you.” Joy is only possible when remembering that God prepares, provides, and protects. Faith is everything.

Last year a sweet friend posted a picture of a love bird, hugging two offspring under her wings. It was a touching illustration of how God prepares, provides, and protects. Psalm 91:4 “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield. I love this verse from Paul and hope you take it to heart. Galatians 6:18 “May what our Master Jesus Christ gives freely be deeply and personally yours, my friends.”

Enjoy one of my favorite tributes to Jesus Christ, the reason for the season.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BARVAg0gl6w

Scripture quotes are from the NIV or Message translation of the Bible from Bible Gateway.  http://biblegateway.com

Leadership vs Followship

I’ve been thinking. Surprising, huh?

I read page after page every day of how to be a leader, how to direct and orchestrate the activities of others, how to turn chaos into creativity and ideas into innovative performance. I don’t read much about how to be a follower. There isn’t as much glamor in saying I’m a follower instead of I’m a leader.  Well, I’m different. I’m a self-admitted follower.  In fact, I’m an expert at followship because I pay attention to leadership.  I’ve never done this here before, but I read a book with a curious title ‘Hacking Leadership’ by Mike Myatt, and think people like me who are expert followers will like to read it too. Being a good follower takes just as much skill and ambition as being a leader. I should know; I’ve been a follower for many years and have a proven track record in Followship.  If you’re interested in what Hacking Leadership has to say, read my book review – then get your copy from Barnes & Noble or at Amazon.

I was introduced to Mike Myatt through reading his articles in Forbes. When I learned of his new book, Hacking Leadership, I was curious to learn how he would write an entire book on the topic of hacking and leadership. From page xi – the Prologue- I was hooked.  He told about a quote hanging in his office that I, myself had read and discarded as defeating. The quote was ‘It is what it is.’ Mike didn’t discard the quote as I did, he took action and reconfigured it to read ‘It is what it is … Until you take action.’ My thought? Let’s see how action works in the life of the man recognized as America’s Top CEO Coach. Mike gives us 11 major categories that begin with “Hacking the” and ends with ‘gap’. Between those words are gaps within gaps that need to be closed to be a successful, trusted, and productive leader.

Without editorializing, here are my favorite quotes from Mike Myatt’s design for Hacking Leadership.

  1. Hacking the Leadership Gap – Leadership is not about power and control, it’s about the betterment of people whom the leader serves. Leadership is improvement, inspiring positive change, and challenging conventional thinking. The purpose of leadership is to unlock the potential of others so they can shine and unlock the potential of countless more.
  2. Hacking the Purpose Gap – The best leaders understand the importance of transforming personal values into a greater sense of purpose. Leadership is pursuit – of excellence, of what if, of what’s next, of change, of value – the pursuit of excellence.
  3. Hacking the Future Gap – To hack the future, you must have clear perspective on the past; must understand how to navigate the present.
  4. Hacking the Mediocrity Gap – Leadership exists to disrupt mediocrity. Stable leaders pay attention to the four pillars of stability: True North – strong convictions and principles / Play how you practice – train, develop, keep learning for a lifetime / Lead with compassion – empathetic / Freedom to Fail – Make it safe for people to fail. Reward for right behavior, not punished for them.
  5. Hacking the Culture Gap – Diversity is finding people who share your vision, but bring a different set of relevant professional and life experiences to the organization. Smart leaders do business based on doing the right things, rather than doing them right; promote based on the character and contribution of the individual.
  6. Hacking the Talent Gap – Well, maybe a little editorializing here. This powerful chapter sold the book to me. – Leaders don’t put people in boxes; they free then from boxes. True leadership is about helping people reach places they didn’t know they could go. Within this major gap ‘Talent Gap’ Mike discusses the closing of these other gaps:  Trust, Loyalty, Talent, Hiring, Definition, Quality, Consensus, Fit, Pressure, Turnover – Buy the book for Chapter 6, everything else is a bonus.
  7. Hacking the Knowledge Gap – Sometimes you must ‘unlearn’, Best leaders constantly seek out and engage those who challenge their thinking. They are curious, inquisitive, with insatiable appetites for learning.
  8. Hacking the Innovation Gap – Big difference between ideas and innovation. Ideas are ethereal. The value is proven when ideas are executed.  Chapter 8 lists the 6 step process to obtaining value from ideas. Have you heard of SMART? Find it in Chapter 8 Hacking the Innovation Gap.
  9. Hacking the Expectation Gap – The author says this is the shortest chapter in the book but the most important. To be a trusted leader, learn to align expectations, commitments, and accountability.
  10. Hacking the Complexity Gap –Productivity has an enemy; it’s complexity. Mike suggests simplifying every process, initiative, and offering. Great companies thrive in the absence of complexity. Simplicity is critical to success.
  11. Hacking the Failure Gap – Failure is the best experiential learning tool available. Mike says, “Show me someone who fears nothing and I’ll show you someone who lacks judgment.”  He goes on to share that failing is the opportunity to grow, develop, stretch and push.

If you’re a leader, or if you’re a follower of a leader, this book is a valuable asset to your library and a resource to learn from throughout the year. Mikes closing statement “I wish you the best of luck on your leadership journey.”

The 12 days of Christmas

OK everybody up! Rise and shine! Good Morning!

It occurred to me that I wrote this a year ago and not much has changed…. well, something has changed.  The temperatures outside are below instead of above average for this time of year. Other things have changed but what do you think. Does this still apply?  We have officially entered the countdown to Christmas. The days leading up to Christmas anyway. Have you felt the pinch on time and stressed over the Christmas list, too many treks to the mall, and a pile of extra dishes from all that baking? If not, you’re in the minority and you’re no doubt one who is saying – I’m not all stressed out and I’m happy this way.  Or maybe you’re not all stressed out because your season of holiday frenzy hasn’t started yet and you’re just getting a late start. Over the next 12 days, let’s think about Christmas and substituting strength for stress. For all the Christmas cheer Santa promises to deliver, that sleigh comes filled with unfulfilled wishes and unmet expectations.  Somehow the meaning of gift has become confused with obligation.  The complaints of Christmas being overrun by commercialism are common. Let’s start with this common complaint because there is a cure for it.  The remedy for commercialism is contentment. It doesn’t mean we can’t want things, but wanting the the point of anxiety and finding no satisfaction in what we already have leads only to deeper discontent. Hebrew 13:5 Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Every monring when we wake up to one day closer to Christmas – let’s practice being content. What are some things you have that bring contentment to your soul and spark joy in your heart? They don’t come from a store and Santa won’t carry it on his sleigh.  The joy comes from within and contentment comes from being thankful for what we have. Abundance doesn’t come in a box; it comes from an attitude of the heart.  Philippians 4:8,9, 11-13: whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9NruxzInhTs   – Get your happy on with Evie Tourquist ‘Come On Ring Those Bells’ – Merry Christmas