Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

LIVING IN THE STORM

Posted: May 12, 2012 in Emotions, Life!, Work, Worry
Tags: , , ,

I haven’t written a blog post in some time so I decided to pick up the pen (actually laptop) again. The truth is, I have not had a clear enough head to put any thoughts together in an organized fashion, and that is a good description of my whole life right now.

In September of last year, I left the job I had and loved for 14 years.  I am fully convinced I was following God in this and I am still convinced today. What I seemed to forget is that following God will sometimes put you right in the middle of a storm!  Look at this passage from Matthew 14: Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and cross to the other side of the lake, while he sent the people home. After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray… Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.  Do you get the picture here?  The disciples were doing exactly what Jesus had instructed them to do and it put them right in the middle of the storm.

I thought about just listing the frustrating events that have been my life over the past 7½ months since I moved back to Mississippi but every time I would start to write them, I would hear a little kid voice in the back of my head saying, “I think I hear the whambulance.”  Just so you know, for some time now I have been working on a manuscript for a new book titled: AM I CRAZY OR WHAT?  I suppose after the disclosure that I hear kid voices in my head one might conclude that I am giving away the ending of the book. But I digress.

While sitting alone in my blue Lazyboy, I got the idea to write down a list of the areas of my life that have been wounded, some dramatically, since last September. Then I wrote down another list of the fears I have in each one of those areas, fears of what might go wrong, fears of more pain. And then, finally, I wrote down a third list of what I really hope for in those areas in the future.

And it hit me: my list of fears on the one hand and my list of hopes on the other represent two different visions for my future coming out of what has been the most painful and challenging rip in that imaginary protective membrane surrounding my life that I have lived in for the past 14 years. There are two very different destinations for which I can set my internal compass at this point. I mean, I can’t stay where I am. That’s one of the realities of pain. It always drives us somewhere. The question for me is … where will I wind up?

Actually, I think that’s the question that faces every one of us when we suffer in this life. What are we going to do with the pain of divorce or injustice or physical infirmity; the death of a dream, a betrayal, the death of a loved one or any other loss. How are we going to grieve? How are we going to react to loss? (And the word “grief” is simply a way of describing our reaction to a loss).

Beginning with my next post, I am going to look at the topic of grief.  Please feel free to send me an email if you have a story of grief recovery or if you have a question about the grief process.

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You can’t do business without communicating. That means to get ahead you’ve got to continually work on your communication skills. It has been estimated that 75% of the problems at work are related to poor communication — with customers, clients and co-workers. Poor communication is also the most frequently mentioned problem in marriage counseling.

To Effectively Communicate, We Must Give Up Three Things:

I. Give up our assumptions. We get into trouble when we start assuming we understand the meaning of what people say to us. The truth is everything you hear goes through filters. Your filters are determined by your past experiences, your unique personality and your temperament. You may not be hearing what they are actually saying. Therefore, it is smart (and safe!) to ask for clarification. There are six possible messages every time you speak:

A. What you meant to say versus what you actually said

B. What they heard versus what they think they heard

C. What they say about something versus what you think they said about it. Proverbs 18:13 says, “It’s foolish to answer before listening.”

II. Give up our accusations. You will never get your point across by being cross! Anger and sarcasm only make people defensive… and that destroys communication. Here are four most common forms of accusation:

A. Exaggerating: making sweeping generalities. Statements like “You always” and “You never” are always untrue, and never helpful.

B. Labeling: derogatory name calling. Labeling, even when it’s true, never changes anyone. It only reinforces a negative behavior.

C. Playing Historian: bringing up past failures, mistakes, and broken promises.

D. Asking Negative Loaded Questions: ones that can’t really be answered, like, “Can’t you do anything right?” Ephesians 4:29 says, “Use only helpful words, the kind that build others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

III. Give up our apprehensions. Fear prevents honest communication. It causes us to conceal our true feelings, and fail to confront the real issues. The two most common apprehensions are: the fear of failure and of rejection. But when you face your fear and risk being honest — real communication can happen. Freedom is the result of openness. No matter what price we pay for relational freedom, it is worth the price. Ephesians 4:25 “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another.”

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Rethinking Your Job

Posted: September 29, 2011 in Uncategorized, Work
Tags: ,

Chances are you have used or at the very least heard someone use the phrase, “Thank God it’s Friday.”  In most cases the understood meaning behind this statement is, “Thank God it’s not Monday – Thursday.” On Friday, you are just one day away from the weekend when you are free from the prison you call your job!

82% of the people in a recently survey said they hated their job.  That’s unbelievable!  Another study done by the Princeton Research and Marketing Corporation of Princeton, New Jersey said that between fifty and eighty percent of all Americans are in the wrong career because it doesn’t match their gifts and abilities.

A major problem with this is that job frustration affects every other area of life. When you don’t like your work, it takes a toll on your family life.  It makes it very tempting to come home and snap at your family.

It is my opinion that God never intended it to be this way.  Ecclesiastes 5:18 “Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor.”  The Bible says it is good and proper to find satisfaction in your job. 

Let me just cut to the chase.  Is it possible to come to the end of the day and wonder where all the time went? Is it really possible to find “satisfaction” in your job?  Well, here’s a biblical plan to work on.

1. Reframe your thinking about who you really work for.

Colossians 3:23 “Whatever you do work at it with all your heart as working for the Lord not for men.”  Circle “working for the Lord not for men.”  He’s saying that no matter where you work or what you do you can do it for the Lord.  Don’t think that the Lord’s work is only done on church property.  You can flip burgers for the Lord.  You can wash cars for the Lord.  Whatever you do it says don’t do it as if you’re doing it for your human boss, do it as if you’re doing it for the Lord. 

2. Re-pattern your work model.

You work with the same attitude as Jesus did.  Mark 10:45 “The Son of man did not come to be served but to serve.”  Jesus had a servant’s attitude. A servant attitude is becoming excited about making your boss successful.  It is about getting excited about making the people around you successful. 

You work like Jesus and you work for the God.  If you do those two things you can expect the third thing.

3.  Expect a reward from God.

A person working for the Lord and working like the Lord, no matter what he or she does, can expect to be rewarded by the Lord.  It is very frustrating to feel like your boss never notices. That’s not the issue.  The issue is does God notice and he’s taking notes.  Colossians 3:24 “Remember that the Lord will reward you [circle that] for Christ is the real master you serve.”

So as a Christian with the right attitude, I gain not only a paycheck but I gain eternal rewards.  I get paid twice in my work.  I get rewards physically — my paycheck.  But I also get the eternal nest egg, the ultimate pension plan, and treasure in heaven.

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4.  BE CAREFUL WHEN SELECTING YOUR FRIENDS

 This is very important.  Self image is heavily influenced by relationships so you need to select your relationships very carefully.  The company you keep has a dramatic effect on your self esteem and on your confidence. 

 1 Corinthians 15:33 “Bad company corrupts good character.” Parents tell their kids that all the time.  If you want to soar with the eagles, you can’t run with the turkeys.  You’ve got to select your friends wisely. They have a big influence on your life. 

 Charlie Brown is the world’s greatest loser.  It is very clear why he’s such a loser.  Lucy!  Lucy is always telling Charlie Brown what is wrong with him, why his idea is dumb.  In one cartoon she said, “You, Charlie Brown, are a foul ball in the line drive of life.  You stand in the shadow of your own goal post.  You are a miscue.  You are three putts on the eighteenth green.  You are a seven-ten split in the tenth frame. You’re a missed free throw, a called third strike.  You are a dropped rod and reel in the lake of life.  Do you understand me, Charlie Brown?  Have I made myself clear?”  With friends like Lucy, who needs enemies?

The Lucys in your life will damage your self- image with their insults and their put downs. This may sound negative but it would seem there are some people who see as their mission in life to put you down.  You can’t insulate yourself from these people but you can limit your exposure to them.  Choose the right friends.

5.  HAVE A PROPER FOCUS

If you want to be confident, you need to find a cause greater than being self-centered.  A worthy goal will give you a reason to get out of bed in the morning.  Make something of your life.

Matthew 16:25-26 “For anyone who keeps his life for himself shall lose it.  And anyone who loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be if a person gains the whole world, yet forfeits his own soul?”  Jesus is talking.  He’s saying we discover ourselves when we give ourselves away. 

Self confidence is definitely not self-centeredness.  There’s a difference.  Self centeredness leads to insecurity.  You need to be self confident without being self centered.  How do you do that?  You give your life away to a great cause, a great purpose.   

Invest your life.  Don’t waste it, don’t spend it.  Invest your life in a cause that is greater than yourself. 

6.  DEVELOP A DEEP TRUST IN GOD

 Jeremiah 17:7-8 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and has made the Lord his hope and confdence.  He is like a tree planted along a river bank with roots reaching deep into the water, not bothered by the heat, nor worried by long months of drought it stays green and goes on producing fruit.” 

Life is difficult.  It’s tough.  This passage happens to mention two kinds of difficulties.  Heat and drought.  Heat, I think, are the sudden crises of life.  Heat comes on suddenly.  The accident.  The cancer.  The death.  Somebody walks out of your life.  The earthquake.  How do you handle it when the heat is on in your life?

Then there is drought.  Long periods of time when you must go without something you feel you need.  You’re out of work.  You’re out of income.  You’re out of energy.  You’re doing without.  How do you handle those kinds of things?   

Notice three words:  trust, hope, confidence.  He says “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord and has made the Lord his hope and confidence.”  He’s talking about a relationship with God.  When you trust in God, you’re having a relationship to God.  The result is you won’t be bothered by these things.

 This guy is like a tree and he keeps on blooming even in the middle of heat and in the middle of drought and the reason he is not bothered is that his roots go down into the Lord.  He has faith in God. 

 What is the source of your confidence?  Perhaps you are trusting in your career.  You’ve got it made, you’re on the fast track, things are going great.  When you’re hot, you’re hot!  But when you’re not, you’re not. 

To have unshakable confidence, you must put your confidence in something that can never, ever be taken from you.  And there’s only one thing that can never be taken from you, your relationship sith God through Jesus.  It can never be taken.

That’s how you grow in confidence.

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A third way you can create a significant life is…

3. Look for eternal significance in all you do.
Three brick-workers were asked what they were doing. One said, “I’m laying bricks.” Another said, “I’m making $17.50 an hour.” The third said, “I’m building a cathedral for the glory of God.” All three were doing the same job, yet all three had a different perspective about it.

The key to significance–to living a satisfying life without regrets–is in recognizing the eternal value of the little things you do.

Steve May, a pastor to whom I give much credit to for this series, punctuated this truth. He said a young widow told him “It was about a year after her husband, Tim, had passed away. She and her family were having Thanksgiving Dinner and everyone was saying what they were thankful for. Her 8-year-old son said ‘I’m thankful for the days that Dad went outside and played catch with me.’ The woman said, ‘Tim’s office was at the house. Whenever a client missed an appointment, he would take Michael outside to play catch. He did it to defuse his anger over the client missing a session; he had no idea he was creating a memory that would last a lifetime.’ Then she said, ‘If he had realized how significant it was, I’m sure he would have done it more often.'”

Every day matters, even the mundane, are filled with eternal significance. It may seem to us that we’re just killing time, but we could be strengthening the bond of a relationship. It may appear just small talk to us, but we could be saying something that will change someone’s life forever. We may think we’re just laying bricks, but we could be building a cathedral for the glory of God. Look for meaning in the little things.

We see this principle in the life of Christ again and again. He would be having a meal with a friend and turn it into a life-changing experience. He would be walking along the road with his disciples and see a tree, and teach his disciples a lesson in faith.

Do you want to create a life without regrets? Remember this: There are no throw-away moments. Every day matters. Look for the eternal significance in your work, your words, your relationships, and your actions.

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We are all going to end up there eventually if we live long enough.  We are all going to come to a place where we look back at the life we’ve lived and have one of two reactions: satisfaction or regret.  I am writing this week about how to avoid the latter of the two reactions.  Today we look at the second action we should take:

2. Focus on being a contributor rather than just a consumer.
Goal setting books and seminars nearly always encourage people to make a wish-list of things they want. They say things like “State it in the positive like you have already received it.” Such as, “I earn $100,000 a year; I own a new Mercedes; I live in a 5000 square foot home.”

The main problem with this kind of goal setting (aside from the fact that it is ridiculous) is that you are focusing on you and the things you want. There is a big difference between having things and living a life of significance.

Try a different approach. Instead of setting a goal for how much money you will get, set a goal for how much money you will give. Or, instead of setting a goal for a certain promotion, set a goal for what you could do to make yourself more valuable as an employee. The difference is more than just a matter of semantics; it’s a matter of focus.

There are people who spend their entire lives working jobs they despise because it offers security–it enables them to gather a stockpile of stuff. Take my word for it: stuff isn’t worth it. Things don’t make your life significant. The significance you have in life is determined by what you do…what you give…not what you get. The Bible says… “Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.” (Proverbs 11:4)

What is Solomon saying? He’s reminding us that what you do is more important than what you have. Significance comes not from your acquisitions but your accomplishments. Think about what you want to accomplish–what you want to do with your life. Choose to do something you love.

The Beatles had a song back in the old day (my youth) that had as its hook line, “I don’t care too much for money, money can’t buy me love.”   Listen, there are a lot of things that money can’t buy; a life of significance being one of them.  Therefore, instead of pursuing money, pursue a career that you love. Loving your job is far more important than being able to afford a bigger house or a nicer car.

The principle here is simple: To live a life of significance, do what you love. Success, rewards, money, promotions–they may or not happen. Do what you love and your life will have impact.

I believe with all my heart that if you are committed to doing God’s will in your life, God will give you a dream of what you can accomplish, and he will give you the ability to do it–if your focus is on accomplishing something good, rather than accumulating things. The Bible says… “The desire of the righteous ends only in good.” (Proverbs 11:23)

If you’re committed to doing God’s will, he will give you a dream of what you can accomplish in life.

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I ended yesterday’s blog writing that I would pick up today with a look at the causes of a mid-life crisis.  As I began thinking about the causes I realized that it could be summed up in one word: EMPTINESS;  Or at least a sense of emptiness.  It is that gnawing feeling that there is something out there better than what I have experienced to this point in my life. 

Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon, who, despite his reputation for being the wisest man to ever live, had what seems to be a mid-life crisis; see if Solomon’s pattern doesn’t sound familiar. Like most people, Solomon wanted certain things out of life: happiness, love, success, and meaning. And like many young adults, his search for truth and meaning directed his attention to the study of philosophy.

He read the great writers of the day and contemplated the great historical ideologies. He pitted one world view against the other and dissected them all. He studied the prevailing explanations for the purpose of life, and when he had thoroughly examined all the textbooks and theories and arguments of the day, he concluded…  “So I hated life, because what is done under the sun was grievous to me, for all is vanity and a striving after wind.” Eccle. 2:17

He’s not saying that philosophy has no value, but the wisest man in the world (which is how the Bible describes Solomon) took philosophy as far as it can be taken and concluded that he will never find ultimate soul satisfaction in the pages of a book or in another man’s opinion of the meaning of life. “It’s like chasing the wind,” he says.

He crossed philosophy off his list and turned his attention to self-indulgence and self-gratification. Ecclesiastes 2 reveals how Solomon pulled all the stops in pleasure seeking. He drank only the best wine, he built gardens and parks and ponds in order to surround himself with beauty and splendor; he hired the best musicians in the world to perform for him at his request; he assembled harems of beautiful young women so that he could live out his sexual fantasies. He sums it up by saying… “I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure…yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 2:10

He tried philosophy, he tried pleasure, and next, he tried possessions. He built mansions for himself–one took 13 years to build that had precious stones in the foundation walls. He accumulated large herds and planted the forests and vineyards. He collected art and treasures from all over the world. In spite of all he was able to accumulate, he came to the conclusion that it is all meaningless.

Next, he poured himself into his work. It wasn’t long before he realized that this too was meaningless. He said, So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety?  Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless.” Ecclesiastes 2:22-23 (NLT)

For the next ten chapters of this book, Solomon discusses his search of happiness, love, success, and meaning–yet that gnawing sense of something missing would not go away.

I began by summing up the cause of mid-life crisis with one world, emptiness.  Let me end with a one word cure for mid-life crisis:  CONTENTMENT.  Take a little while each day to stop looking over in the neighbor’s yard at how much greener his or her grass is and enjoy your own.  Besides, the greenest spot in my yard is over the septic tank and drain field!  What does that tell you?

In the end, Solomon experienced the ultimate benefit of a mid-life quest. His search for “something more” took him down several dead end paths, and he finally realized what was missing. In Ecclesiastes 12:13 the wisest man in the world came to this conclusion: Fear God, keep his commandments; this is the whole duty of man.

The most important discovery you can make, at mid-life or any time of life, is that the meaning of life can be found in a relationship with God–fearing him and keeping his commandments.

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