All posts by Cindi Noble

God Is Watching.

gods-eye-nasa
“God’s Eye In the Sky” (NASA photo)

   Click.    The backdoor lock sprang and imperceptibly, the doorknob turned. Flashlight off, the intruder paused, listening for the piercing scream of an alarm and hearing none, nudged the door open a tiny crack. In slow motion, he peered around the edge of the door and then crept forward, a stealthy shadow, into the house.

   “Jesus is watching.”

   The man froze in mid-step, bulging eyes straining to distinguish the source of the soft, croaky voice floating from the thick darkness.

   “Jesus is watching.”

   The burglar drew in a sharp breath and then sighed in relief.

   It’s just a bird! A stupid, freakin’ bird!

   The man clicked on his flashlight and aimed it in the direction of the voice.

“Birdie,” he whispered, “it’s hunting season.”

    His light beam danced around the room and then stopped, catching the reflection of a pair of red, glowing eyes and a set of very white bared fangs.

   The voice croaked again. “Meet Jesus.”

   God is always watching. Whether that thought brings any comfort or not is another story entirely. But it should. The knowledge that when things go from wrong to very wrong, from a  small mishap or a disappointed expectation to a long-term heartache or a sudden tragedy, God is not unaware.

   “‘I have seen the anguish of my people in Egypt and have heard their cries [and] I have come down to deliver them . . . for I know their sorrows’” (Acts 7:34, LB; Exodus 3:7, NKJV).

   If you remember, the Israelites suffered as slaves under the cruel oppression of the Egyptians for 400 long years. And in all that time, God was silent.

   But God was watching.

   God witnessed every whipping, every beating, every deprivation, every shameful violation, and every degrading humiliation wrought upon the Israelites by their slave masters. God heard every mournful, wailing prayer, every desperate, sobbing plea for help, and every heart-splintering scream for deliverance as His children begged to be freed from the vicious brutality of the Egyptians. He also listened as the Israelites shouted at, bargained with, cussed out, and  even forsook Him for other gods because of His silence. For silent God was – for centuries.

   But why?

   God does nothing arbitrarily. God had a plan for the birth of a new nation, a people of His own to proclaim His name throughout the whole world. But before that could happen, that  people would be required to suffer slavery for 400 years at the hands of the most powerful gods known to man at that time. Nevertheless, throughout all of those  excruciating years, God never missed a single moment of the suffering of His people; He saw it all – the shredded flesh, the indelible scars, and the tears as numerous as the grains of sand upon the earth.

   Perhaps, in the midst of the pursuit of the destiny that you were 1000% certain God had called you to, things have gone terribly, terribly wrong. Maybe you struggle to find the strength to make it through just one more day. Or perhaps circumstances in life – your hopes and dreams – have simply not happened the way you had hoped they would happen and every day you feel that you’re sinking deeper and deeper into the dark and formless void of hopelessness and nothingness.

   Maybe you’ve ceased to dream at all.

   That’s how the Israelites felt. And my guess is that’s precisely how Moses felt after squandering  his identity as an exalted Egyptian prince and ending up instead a forgotten fugitive on the backside of the desert with nothing to his name except the rags on his back and a crooked staff in his hand.

   Even so, God never relinquished His watch over the Israelites or over Moses; night after night, year after year, decade after decade, He never failed to see. And in the end, God delivered His people in a way far more miraculous than they could ever have  imagined and, in doing so, proved Himself to be the God above every other god on earth.

   If you’re in that place, that desert where dreams die and destiny is destroyed, then hold to the truth that, in order to rise from the ashes, we must first walk through the fire. And should you find yourself in the flames, don’t lose sight of one thing: It’s all part of the plan. Nothing can happen or is happening that God does not see.

   Our God is the god of the Resurrection – and He’s watching you.

Money Just Appears – But How?

Cash 4

   How would you like for money to just show up in your bank account from time to time – and for no apparent reason? Have I ever mentioned that that’s happened to me several times? No lie.

   The first time it happened was perhaps fifteen years ago. It all began when I balanced my checkbook and ended up showing $700 dollars more than I should have had. Now you wouldn’t know this but I love running numbers and balancing checkbooks and accounting – especially when I’m in the black. And since it’s not every day (or even ever) that I find an extra $700 in my bank account, I went over the statement and checkbook again – and again. I figured I must’ve either forgotten to write in a deposit or I’d made a math mistake somewhere along the way. However, I found no errors in the statement or in the checkbook. And I was still showing an extra $700 which, by the way, hadn’t been there the prior month. So I did the next thing it made sense to do: I went back further – months – and checked and re-checked those bank statements and check registers. Still nothing. No errors whatsoever.

   At this point, I have to confess, I was completely baffled. How does any extra money – much less hundreds of dollars – just show up into a bank account, leaving absolutely no trace as to how it got there? I didn’t have a clue. But I was positive the bank would be able to find the error. Because certainly there had to be one. However, when I got to the bank, the conversation went something like this:

   BANK GUY: “So you found a mistake in your bank statement?”

   ME: “Well, there is a mistake – I just haven’t found it.”

   “What?”

   “I’m showing an extra $700 in my account and I have no idea why.”

   “Seven hundred dollars?”

   “Correct.”

   “You must’ve forgotten to write in a deposit.”

   “No, checked that. Which is why I’m here.”

   “Well, let’s go over it. I’ve pulled your bank statements for the past several months.”

   Minutes tick by. Radio silence. Finally the bank guy looks up and says, “I can’t find any errors.” He shrugged. “I have no idea where the money came from. Just write it into your checkbook. It’s yours.”

   I was not unhappy about that. As to where it came from, I simply chalked it up to the only reasonable explanation: God did it. How else would an extra $700 just be there? It’s not even as though a mysterious deposit appeared; it was just there – and no one can explain why or how.

   Fast forward a few years later and it happened again. This time my account was suddenly showing an additional $300. But I didn’t assume it was God this time; I did figure that I had made an accounting error so I re-examined my statements and checkbook registers for missing deposits and/or math errors. But again – I found nothing. This time, I didn’t bother going to bank. I was beginning to understand that sometimes God provides in miraculous ways.

   Nevertheless, I’d never heard of money just mysteriously appearing in bank accounts until I encountered a couple who’d had many financial miracles in their time and who explained that we can, if we are faithful in our tithing and giving to the Lord, “call” money into our accounts. Now I didn’t know that and had certainly never done it, but I have been a tither and giver for a long time. (I don’t normally mention that because I’m not looking for a pat on the back about it.) Still, it did shed some light as to why God would put money into my account.

As my father used to say, “You can’t out-give God.”

   Evidently not.

   My father and mother had been exceptional givers in all the time I’d known them; my sister and I had grown up watching them give, even in their early years of marriage when, being in the military, dad made close to nothing. At one point, dad brought home $400 a month as an Air Force NCO, and yet every Sunday for as long as I can remember, I’d see mom drop a ten or twenty dollar bill into the offering plate at church.

   I know now how much that cost them.

   Dad always used to tell a story to illustrate God’s faithfulness to provide. One time, back when credit-debit cards didn’t exist and everyone carried cash, dad described how the day came when he and mom were literally down to a nickel between them – no cash, no savings and no food or gas. But that very day, dad’s paycheck arrived in the mail. And it was always that way. As the old saying goes, “God is not often early, but He’s never late.”

   As the years passed and my parents’ income grew, so did their giving. They gave, not only to their church, but to several ministries and charitable organizations. Later, when I found out how much they gave every month, I was stunned. For example, they sent $500 a month to a little old nun who ran a ministry all by herself and depended on people’s giving as her sole support. Even after mom died and dad retired, he still continued sending that money. I used to wonder how he could afford to do that – being retired and all, but after he died, I found out. In retirement, he was earning over $60,000 a year. While it’s not millions, it’s a lot more than many make in retirement and so dad had no worries about money.

   You can’t out-give God.

   As for me, two months ago, I noticed that I again seemed to have several hundred dollars more in my account than I should have had. Thinking initially that some checks I’d written for bills simply hadn’t cleared yet, I took some cash from my account and used that until all my checks and debit purchases had paid out. After a week, I checked my bank statement and everything had cleared. But still – there was over $600 more in the account than I should have had. So I re-did the math. Still, zero mistakes. None. However, since this particular amount of cash was too big to risk writing in without verification, I decided to take it to the bank and have them double-check it. (Different bank, by the way.)

   ME: “I have an extra $630 in my checking account that shouldn’t be there and I can’t account for it. I’ve double-checked the whole thing: statements, checkbook – I found no mistakes.”

   BANK LADY: “You have no idea how it got there?”

   ME: “Well, I do have some idea, but you’re going to think I’m crazy.” (deep breath) “God put it there.”

   BL: “God?”

   ME: “Yeah. He’s done it before. Two other times.”

   BL: “I see.”

   I don’t think she did see.

   BL: “Don’t worry,” she said, “I’ll find the error.”

   ME: “Great!”

   Ten minutes tick by. Fifteen. Twenty.

   BL: “Well, I can’t find an error, but I’ll send all of your paperwork to my supervisor. She’s really good at this – she will find the error.” She smiled – sort of. “I’ll call you tomorrow.”

   ME: (chuckling): “Okay, you let me know.”

   Two days later, Bank Lady called. “We went back a few months to when your account was not showing a surplus balance and rechecked all of the statements after that.” (pause) “We, uhm, can’t find any trace of how that surplus got there – it’s just there. You have an extra $632 in your account.”

   God did it – again.

   Chasing a dream takes money – no matter what that dream is. I tell this story to make the point that the best thing you can do to make certain that you have the money to finance your plans is to finance God’s plans. Someday I’ll share how God supernaturally provided my house after I’d given the house money I’d saved to a church-building fund. In the big scheme of things, it was only a tiny bit of money but it was all I had. As I said to God back then, “If you help me to get my house, I’ll help you to get yours.”

   But that’s a story for another time.

   Need cash to fulfill your destiny? Begin to give. It can be scary sometimes, especially when God asks you to give big – even all you have. Of course, you can always say “no”. But I don’t recommend it.

  

 

“Yes” – The Magic Word.

Cleaning Fairy 3   Ever had a day where you feel as if all you do is say “no” – and that may or may not be followed by an exclamation point? I have. Picture a high school classroom. (Of course what I’m saying may or may not be what I’m thinking . . .)

   “No, you can’t do the test with your book open.” Wrong book anyway.

   “No, you can’t go to the nurse for your mosquito bite.” Or your achy pinky or your split ends.

   “No, you can’t text your essay.” And please don’t hand-write it!

   “No, I won’t friend you on Facebook.” (:/)

   “No, you can’t go to the bathroom again.” Two year olds don’t go that much.

   “No, you can’t do your test with a partner.” As if it would ever get done. 

   “No, I will not tell your boyfriend he’s a jerk for breaking up with you.” He was a jerk before he broke up with you.

   “No, there will not be an extension on your homework.” Nope.

   “No, I have not graded the essay you finished ten minutes ago.” You hand-wrote it. So next week. Maybe.

   “No, I do not believe you have to keep kicking your chair in order to focus.” Or playing with that infernal fidget-spinner thing or tearing up little pieces of paper . . .

   “No, I do not want to know who your mother is dating.” I really, really don’t.

   Sigh.

   How about at home? Ever say “no” there?

   “Hello? No – thank you. I do not want to contribute to a fund to save endangered stink bugs.”

   “No, I don’t really recommend that you rely on the Cleaning Fairy to get that room cleaned.”

   “No, you can’t use the car to take your six friends to the party at Johnny’s house. In fact, nix the party at Johnny’s house.”

   “No, you can’t skip your shower today.”

   “Hello? No, I don’t care to contribute to a ‘Block the Highway’ protest on Interstate 81.” (pause) “I know I’m mean.”

   “No, I really don’t feel like petting a teenage mountain lion at the zoo today.”

   Sigh.

   Some days when I find myself stamping “no” onto every request that comes my way, I end up feeling like the wicked Witch of the West. Not a sweet feeling. So – a few days ago, I decided to “yes” as many requests as possible . . .

   “Yes! I’ll donate to save the poor endangered stink bug! Do you take Monopoly money?”

   “Yeah, skip the shower. Once a week is fine.”

   “Of course you can do the test with a partner. Maybe they’ll let you do that on your Regents exams, too.”

   “Certainly you can go to the bathroom again. And get a drink. And go to your locker. Say hello to the nurse for me. And of course I’ll be happy to repeat everything you miss while you’re gone.”

   “Need an extension on your homework? Just let me know when you think you might get to it.”

   “Try not to kick the table too loudly.”

   “Why not wait for the Cleaning Fairy to do your room? It doesn’t smell that bad.”

   “Really?? Mom is dating him??”

   When my little experiment was finished, I actually felt better, more positive, more like a really good person. I actually felt like – well, the ice cream man or the accountant who finds you the big tax refund or the Home and Careers teacher who lets you bake cupcakes all day. It felt great! I could even identify with the happy change in old Ebenezer after his little date with the Nativity ghosts. And the best part was hearing people say “thank you” instead of “I’ll just die and it’ll all be your fault if I don’t get to … go on Spring Break with 62 of my best friends” or “borrow your brand new shiny IPhone because I shattered mine” or “copy my research paper off Wikipedia!!” 

   So my recommendation is that you try it – have a “yes” day! Say “yes” to as many requests as you possibly can in one 24-hour period. You’ll make untold numbers of people happy, you’ll feel better about your contribution to society, and who knows? You may even go down in history as a really memorable person! How great is that?

   Disclaimer: We do not recommend, nor will we be liable for, any consequence technically deemed a Class A felony as a result of any “yes” statements made during the said 24-hour period. This includes signing any contracts or co-signing any loans, as well as filing for any marriage licenses and/or divorce papers. In addition, it is not recommended that anyone agree to any dares, including but not limited to clothing, beverages, road trips or the random provoking of grizzly bears, law enforcement officers or women on diets. Other than that, enjoy your “yes” day.

   It could be life-changing.

 

 

Tantrums, Meltdowns and Nuclear Options

Stress concept - angry man with exploding head

   My homework policy is posted, in giant letters, right up at the front of my classroom: “Just Do It.”  I like it. It’s succinct and to the point: no excuses, no procrastinating, no blowing it off – just get it done.

   Nevertheless, sometimes we have a problem getting it done – whatever “it” is. Just because we reach adult status does not mean we never have the temptation to dodge the boring, the hard or the seemingly pointless. There are all kinds of things in life that we would prefer to put off, avoid or skip entirely. Nevertheless, we can’t. Those things are not optional; they’re mandatory “must-do’s”, meaning there will be consequences if we don’t do them. And they won’t be good.

   I remember in graduate school, I had to do a final thesis paper on the influence that writing has on students’ reading. The problem was, I wanted to do that paper about as much as I wanted to spend a week cleaning outhouses. However, that mattered not. So I took a stab at it. And then another. And another. Then I raged and then I cried and then I took numerous naps. It’s not that I couldn’t do the paper; I just didn’t want to. I simply did not want to have to spend weeks wading through countless boring articles trying to find which would best prove the point, and then spend another couple of weeks writing it all up. I knew there was a connection between writing and reading. My professors knew there was a connection. So why did I have to prove it?

   That was my first excuse.

   My second excuse was that it was hard. (It really wasn’t.) My third excuse was that nobody really cared anyway. I know I barely cared. But when I couldn’t think of any more excuses, I realized there was one truth which I was ignoring entirely to my own peril: without the dumb paper, I wouldn’t graduate.

   Sometimes we simply don’t want to do that thing we have to do and what’s more – no one can make us!

   Except us.

   Sometimes we just need to push through the frustration, the tears, the rage, the pain. Still, beginning can be the hardest part of doing anything – even if it’s something we really want or need to do. But why is beginning the most difficult part?

   Reason #1: It might take some time before I see any results. The fact is, it’s hard to get up and running, doing the difficult thing and persevering when we may not see results for some time. Dieting comes to mind; many folks put off losing those pounds because it will probably be at least a few weeks before the scale tips in the right direction. Where’s the fast-track to that?? The unwelcome truth is that it takes time to do some things: earning the promotion, building the business, getting the degree, or writing the book. Building credit? Toning or buffing up? How about training those kidlets? (Ever wonder whether you’re going to survive that little endeavor?) How about building – or rebuilding – that relationship? You know what they say . . . “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”

   Where would we be today if Rome – the first democratic republic in history – had never been built?

Reason #2: It’s too much work! Usually the things we want to avoid are not easy things. They might well be quick but not easy. Ever have to apologize for that thing you wish you’d never said or done? Shouldn’t take that long, but . . . Or what about the “E” word: “exercise”? Twenty minutes a day isn’t a lifetime but lifting those weights or running a mile can feel that way. Passing that course? How about cleaning the house or revamping the landscape or de-cluttering the attic, garage and/or basement? Work all. Rebuilding trust in a relationship might involve all kinds of hoops to jump through – high ones. Climbing the corporate ladder? That takes toil and endurance. Or how about this: writing the book perhaps wasn’t hard but the editing, the revision, and then rewriting the revision? And let’s not forget the querying, the platform building, and the promotion. There’s work.

   My son summed it all up rather nicely with a little sign that says, “Do what’s right, not what’s easy.”

Reason #3: I might fail. Maybe. But those who never even try have already failed. There’s failing in disgrace: never attempting that thing or quitting when it gets hard, and there’s failing with honor: you gave it your best.

   Your dream: Could it take a long time? Will it be hard? Might you fail?. Probably. Yes. Maybe. But the longer it takes and the harder it is and the more risk of failure, then the bigger the payoff, the reward, the satisfaction. But regardless of any other thing you gain, perhaps the biggest bonus to you will be a brand new confidence that you can, that you do have what it takes and that, from now on, there’s nothing you can’t do. That alone makes it all worthwhile.

   So just do it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Operation Plan B

Car Crash 6 cropped

   There is no Plan B.

   Ever seen that t-shirt? Here’s what I’d like to know – why isn’t there a Plan B? Back-up plans make it less intimidating to go after Plan A.

   There is one question I always consider when deciding whether or not to take a risk: “What’s the worst-case scenario?” What can I potentially lose, break, or damage – and can I afford to lose, break or damage that thing? What will chasing that dream cost me if it tanks? Will I lose a little money? some money? all my money? How much can I afford to lose? Same with time – how much lost is too much? (No matter what else it costs, pursuing a vision will always require time.) Will the time, effort or money I put into that dream cost anything in terms of relationships with family, friends or colleagues? Is there a risk to reputation? Health? And if any of these risks materialize, what then?

   What’s the worst-case scenario? And is there a fix?

Plan B is all about the fix. What will you do if the worst happens? That’s your Plan B.

   Now if you’re thinking that having a Plan B is for sissies, let me ask you this: Do you have car insurance? Life insurance? Home owners’ insurance? Medical insurance? Aren’t those all Plan B’s? If you get into a car accident (and that’s not Plan A) who will pay? Who gets sued? Not you – if you’re insured. Here’s another: some folks make a pre-nup before the vows in case the marriage goes, well, less favorably than hoped. Plan B. Or this Plan A: vacation on the Riviera. But if money’s tight, it’s Plan B: Peoria (Illinois, not Africa).  

   Face it – we all have Plan B’s.

   In Jane Austin’s Northanger Abbey, the not-so-nice Isabella becomes engaged to James Moreland – and stays engaged to him until she’s certain of an engagement to Captain Frederick Tilney who has way more cash. James, poor chap, is her Plan B; if she can’t find someone worth more, she’ll settle for James.  (I won’t tell you how that turns out.)

   I’m certainly not suggesting that your Plan B be a “settle” proposition but rather a plan in place to give you the courage to go after Plan A – to fulfill your dream and, ultimately, your destiny. Buy that beach house (to write in, of course) – just make sure you have flood insurance. House on the Pacific coast? Flood and earthquake insurance. Debating a college education? Go after that degree – what’s the worst that can happen? It’ll take longer than you thought? Time’s going to pass anyway; will you have anything to show for it? How about money – will your dream cost more than you thought? Maybe. But are you satisfied with your current wage?  Or what happens if you open that business and – worst-case scenario – it’s an epic fail? What then? It depends. Define “failure”. Does that mean that you have to debrief, regroup, remarket, and then take another crack at it? Or does it mean that you go bankrupt and lose everything? If, given the competition and the market, ruin is a possibility then perhaps the acceptable risk is too much. And if that happens, perhaps there is no fix.

   Maybe there is no Plan B.

   If there’s no possible Plan B for a worst-case scenario, then perhaps the better part of wisdom is to move on from that Plan A.

   What if there are no foreseeable catastrophic consequences should you experience a dream fail? For example, what if you write that book and then no one’s lining up to publish it? I can’t guarantee it’ll be published but I can guarantee what will happen if you don’t write it: for the rest of your life you’ll regret not giving it a shot.

   What if?

   That’s another essential question: What if I don’t activate Plan A? Will I be able to live with myself or will I regret it for the rest of my life? Regret is a bankruptcy of the soul for which there is no Plan B.

   So – formulate your Plan A, prepare your Plan B and – launch.

   The world is waiting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Myth of Perfection

Diamond    I once saw a cartoon of a skeleton woman wearing a dress and high heels; she was seated next to a sign saying “Waiting for Mr. Right”. Evidently, she’d been waiting a long time and Mr. R. never showed.

   Or did he?

   Was she so preoccupied with finding Mr. Perfect that she missed Mr. Right?

   What if things or people or situations don’t come packaged the way we think they should? Would Beauty have missed the beauty in the Beast? Would Prince Charming have passed on the cinder girl?

Would Mr. Darcy have bucked the social hierarchy to marry Elizabeth?

   What about situations other than marriage? What if our kids aren’t the children featured in the Hallmark movies? Have you ever looked up to the sky and said, “God, whatever made You think that I’m equipped to handle this child? I’m just not that good.” Or maybe you’ve said, “Why can’t I have parents like he has?”

   Sometimes we have to mine deep inside of a person to find the diamond. But before we start feeling too put out by having to do all the work, let’s remember that we, too, are jewels-in-the-rough and that if we sparkle at all, it’s because someone’s been willing to put the time and energy into drilling through our rock-hard places.

   So – what about the neighbor, the roommate, the employee, the co-worker, the student – even the boss or pastor who’s not perfect? Ditch them and find one who is? (Good luck with that.) What about the situation or opportunity or job that’s not perfect? Keep walking?

   I’ve known a fair number of people over the years who’ve passed on a job offer because it wasn’t the perfect job – it didn’t have the work load or salary or hours or perks that they thought they deserved. In their views, starting at the bottom – or even the middle – just wouldn’t do.  Give them the top job with a big salary and lots of autonomy – or give them nothing. They would wait until someone came along who really appreciated their value and was willing to give them what they believed they were due. 

   Some of them are still waiting.

   Perhaps it’s not the perfect job for your qualifications and experience. Ask yourself: can it be? Given some hard work and time, does it have potential for growth, development, advancement, promotion? If not, can it be the stepping stone for the experience needed to reach that riper plum?

   “Perfection,” per se, is not always perfectly packaged.

   “Don’t judge a book by its cover” is a classic for a reason: we’ve all been tempted to do it. Haven’t we all been attracted to that thing sporting lots of shiny tinsel and frosting only to find that what was inside the package fell far short of the promised hype? And I don’t mean book covers only.

   If we check any antique store or yard sale or even grandma’s attic and dig around in the corners, behind the tables, and underneath the cobwebs, we’re bound to find some precious treasure – priceless even. It may have to be dusted off and it might even need to new part or two, but it’s the real thing; it’s the forgotten diamond just waiting to be mined.

   We need to be willing to search places no one else is willing to search. We need to ignore outward appearances and be willing to dig down to the heart of a matter, a person, a situation, a seeming opportunity. We can’t simply wait until perfection finds us because – it won’t.

   Jewels don’t just mine themselves – whether in people or situations. The gold, the diamonds, the emeralds, the pearls – they’ll be forever buried.

   Except for you.

 

 

 

 

To Walk Alone

Policeman with BB Team

   What is leadership? In a nutshell, it’s the ability and the willingness to walk alone – whether anyone goes with you or not. Leadership is courageous; it’s the will to go where others fear to go – regardless of the consequences. Leadership is visionary; it’s the ability to perceive or imagine a trail that no one else yet sees or even believes in. Leadership is honorable; it’s the determination to stand for what’s right in the midst of temptation, compromise, and corruption.

   True leadership is rare.

   Alas, however, not everyone who possesses the persuasive ability to attract followers uses those skills for noble purposes. Many times over the years I’ve had to pull aside a strong-willed, classroom trouble-maker and inform him that he has leadership skills – which means he has a choice. Either he can use his leadership abilities to lead others down the wrong path or he can influence them to do right.

   One who has leadership skills and yet is afraid of his followers is dangerous. He or she will always do whatever is necessary to please those followers without regard for whether what pleases them is right or wrong.

   True leaders, on the other hand, don’t worry about whether or not they have followers; real leaders naturally attract followers.

What real leaders are truly concerned about is their own faithfulness to their followers even when that faithfulness is not popular with – yes, those followers.

   Are you a parent? Have you ever had to say “no” when everything inside of you wants to say “yes”? Have you ever had to deny yourself or watch your own behavior for the sake of your children? Then you’re a leader.

   Are you an employer? Have you ever had to roll up your sleeves and set the example of hard work and commitment to your employees hoping that they’ll one day make that same commitment to your business? Have you ever had to sacrifice yourself in terms of hours, energy and even pay so that they’ll benefit? Then you’re a leader.

   Are you an employee? Have you ever had to take a stand among your colleagues and co-workers for what you won’t do: gossip around the microwave, “borrow” office supplies, fudge a timesheet or expense voucher? Then you’re a leader.

   Are you a teacher? Have you ever had to require students to do the hard work that they just don’t want to do? Memorizing math facts when the calculator is just “easier”, rewriting a paper even though it’s not necessarily fun, studying for a test rather than simply cheating on it? Then you’re a leader.

   Are you a student? Have you ever had to stand up to a bully for your own sake or that of another when everyone else just stands by and cheers on Goliath? Have you ever taken a stand to behave in a classroom when others think it’s funny to disrupt the class? Then you’re a leader.

   If your decisions are not guided by fear of what others think, then you’re a leader.

   If your sole concern is not what’s best for you but what’s best for everyone, then you’re a leader.

   If you’ve ever had to look into the wind to cast a vision for the sake of the greater good – regardless of what’s visible to the greater masses, then you’re a leader.

   If you’ve ever had to walk alone for the sake of what’s right, then you’re a leader – even if no one’s ever told you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Feeling Alone On the Shelf?

Teddy in Window II

   Moses – 40, Abraham – 25, Jacob – 20, Joseph – 13, Hannah – 19, David – 20, Elizabeth – 40, Jesus – 30.

   What do these numbers represent? Years. Each of these people did years – decades, even – of seat time before God deemed that they were prepared enough to launch into their destinies.

   How long have you been sitting on the shelf of your dreams, collecting dust and wondering why it’s just not happening? Maybe you haven’t even made it to the shelf yet because you don’t have any idea what your purpose is or why you were even born.

   Moses wondered that as he spent 40 years on the backside of the desert after fleeing Egypt, heartbroken that he’d “blown” his destiny. David wondered that after being anointed king at ten years old and then hiding in caves for sixteen years, running for his life from King Saul. Abraham wondered that after God had promised him a son but 25 years later after both he and Sarah had become too old to have children, it still had not happened. Joseph wondered that after he was sold into slavery at seventeen and then sent to prison, forgotten, until he was 30. Rebekah waited 20 years to have Jacob, Hannah waited nineteen years to have Samuel, and Elizabeth waited 40 years to have John the Baptist.

   The Son of God waited for 30 years before He was released into ministry.

   The truth is that it’s all about the prep time.

   You doubt?

   What we, from human perspectives, have trouble comprehending is that the knowledge, wisdom and skills we gain here on earth won’t be used simply for the 80 or so years we’re assigned to Planet Rock, but rather we’ll be applying that prep for all eternity.

   Some say that we won’t work after we die because work was meant to be a punishment. However, Adam and Eve worked before the Fall, caring for the plants and animals in Eden. Granted, they enjoyed working there but that’s a different point. The significant thing is that they worked. God had prepped them for a job by giving them dominion over all creation and they kept busy exercising that. That their work was enjoyable and fulfilling is the nature of “work” in paradise. Work didn’t become a grind until sin entered the world. God also worked when He created creation. How do we know? Because we’re told that He rested on the seventh day.

   Through the centuries, there’s been all manner of speculation regarding precisely what we’ll be doing when we get to heaven. Of course, that depends. Remember, however, that before we take permanent residence in heaven, Christ will rule as King here on earth for a thousand years. During that time there will be a government – so there will be people serving in governmental positions. You may recall Jesus promising His servants that they would rule over cities based on their faithfulness on earth. The Bible also says that during that time, there will be no war and that people will turn their weapons into ploughshares. The need for farm tools would imply that there will be seed planted and crops harvested during those 1000 years. Otherwise, we’d be beating our swords into golf clubs and basketball hoops. Not that we won’t be doing those things. If you coach now, you’ll probably be doing it then.

   What else?

   Will people need to go to school? I would think there’ll be all kinds of schools: reading, writing, math, certainly, for those who haven’t had the opportunity to gain that knowledge yet – and make no mistake – millions in the world today have not had the chance to get even basic education. In addition, there’ll be thousands of Bible teachers all over the world instructing people in every nation in both the elementary and the deep things of God. And there’ll be pastors and worship leaders, too. I imagine as well that there’ll be instructors for many of our current subjects: languages; writing and music and art and cinema and dance; contracting and construction; businesses of all kinds; media and entertainment and sports – you name it. The difference will be that all of those industries will operate in honesty, integrity, and faithfulness to the Lord.

   Here’s what we probably won’t have: medical personnel and hospitals because there won’t be any sickness or disease; law enforcement and prison guards because there won’t be any crime; military services because there won’t be any war or threats of; and social justice and social service agencies because there won’t be any people in need, being abused or being discriminated against.

   But fear not – there will be plenty to do in that millennium.

   What about when we actually get to heaven? Will there be any work to do there? I don’t know exactly, but from the accounts of people who’ve visited there, no one’s idle. Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash have been spotted leading worship – just proof that we continue to do in heaven what we’ve been gifted and prepped to do here on earth. Who knows? Maybe there are other planets on which we’ll minister with our giftings as well. (Disclaimer: the Bible does not say that. I’m just using my God-given imagination.) Remember: it’s never too late to develop our giftings, no matter how old we might be. Case in point – my dad graduated with his Master’s degree at the age of 75.

   So – take that class, get that degree, open that business, write that book. And don’t be discouraged thinking that you’re too old or that the “prep time” is taking too long. You’ll be off that shelf and using what you’ve learned before you know it.

   Forever.

 

 

 

 

Where There’s Grace, There’s Fire.

Candle Flower FREE

   There was a time in my life when I went to confession, having been told by the good nuns (and they were good), that I would receive “grace” for going and that the more I went to confession, the more grace I would get. That was all fine and good – except that I didn’t really have any idea what grace was.

   For the most part, I reasoned that grace was synonymous with mercy. Makes sense, right? I mean, you confess your sins and you have to receive mercy in order to be forgiven. The only problem was, I couldn’t understand how you could get “more” mercy; either you had it or you didn’t have it; either your sins were forgiven – or they weren’t. How could they be more forgiven or less forgiven?

   ???

   Now while I didn’t lose a lot of sleep over the issue, it was certainly a mystery. But I filed it away in the back of my mind and figured that some far off day when I finally got to heaven, some angel or saint would no doubt explain it to me. (It would, I thought, probably be Apostle Paul since he was always declaring “grace and peace” to someone or other.) However, that day came sooner than I thought – and not from Paul. One day as I was sitting in church mostly listening, I heard a woman begin to teach on the difference between grace and mercy. My ears perked up.

   Simply put, mercy is defined as not getting what we do deserve – for example, punishment for sin, while grace is defined as getting what we do not deserve –  in this case, the power and ability to accomplish whatever it is we need to do.

   I took a moment and thought about that. Suddenly it all began to make sense: Mercy and grace are not the same thing. Mercy is the forgiveness of sin, and grace is the power to overcome sin.

   Still, grace is so much more. Grace is the power of God to accomplish and achieve the extraordinary, the supernatural, even the impossible things we are called to do in order to fulfill our destinies.

Grace is not just some vague, wimpy, “nice” little Christian concept. Grace is the fire-power of God.

   Think about that.

   The fact is that grace, like faith, is an actual substance, a “thing” which we can receive from God in order to accomplish whatever it is He has called us to do. And although it’s probably an insufficient analogy, I like to think of grace as a tool without which we can’t get the job done. Can we split wood without an axe or saw? Can we drive without a vehicle? Can we communicate without language?      

   Can we fulfill our destinies without the fire of God’s grace empowering our lives?

   Possibly, but not well. But that’s all right because God says, “‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness’” (Romans 12:9).

   Have you ever been so frustrated trying to achieve your calling, your destiny, that you just can’t seem to do what you feel you’ve been called to do? Have you even doubted that calling?

   Have you ever just wanted to quit?

   There’s fire for that.

 

 

 

What’s the End Game?

Ship with Man FREE

   Why do we do what we do? What is our “why” for the pursuit of whatever visions and dreams we have? Why are we pursuing that education or career or business or book deal or art show or ministry or—fill in the blank?

   What’s the end game?

   Why are we spending our time—our days, our weeks, our years, our entire lives—pursuing that goal? Because spending them we are.

   Is our motivation self-fulfillment? Are we chasing the dream to satisfy our creative selves or simply because we love to do that “thing” —whatever it is? Or is it to escape the grind of working in some job that we hate just to pay the bills? It could be a combination of any of those—and worthy causes all. But then we have to ask ourselves what it is about that particular goal that is so attractive. And how long will it keep us entertained?  

   Is it money we’re pursuing? If so, why? Here’s a news flash: money, as an end, is not a horrible thing— although some might automatically default there. It truly depends on why we’re pursuing it. Is it to pay those bills or to save for retirement or college or to leave to our children? Or is it for a bigger home, a longer vacation, designer clothes? Is it to do the Bill and Belinda Gates thing: give vast amounts of it away? Is it to fund feeding programs for hungry people or to dig wells in bone-dry Africa or to help others struggling with medical bills or with no hope of ever going to college or trade school? Is it to provide jobs for the so many who would love to have one but don’t? Or is it just because we’re “supposed to”?

   Why are we tracking the cash?

   Is our goal to become well-known, respected—even famous? Not necessarily evil either. Again, it depends. Is it so that we can “be the boss”? Is it so that we’re invited to join the country club or some other highly-visible organization? Is it to become known in our communities or states or the nation or even the world simply for the sake or being known? Is it so that everyone—outside of Cheers—will know our name? Or is it so that we’ll have a platform of some kind in order to bring recognition or money to a problem that needs to be confronted or to a worthy cause that needs funding?

   Why are we big-fame hunting?

   Perhaps our motivation is to find meaning in life. Are we spending our lives doing whatever it is we’re doing so that we’ll finally feel “happy”? If so, what does that look like? Will we find it when we hit the pinnacle of our careers and achieve industry fame? Is it the Nobel Peace prize or the prize for literature or science or medicine? Or is it a particular number registered in the savings account? What number? Is it a killing on the stock market and if so, how much of a killing? Is it being able to buy anything our hearts desire without the blinking of an eye? Is it molding the clay day after day or fingers to the keyboard into old age? Is it starting a tiny business and seeing it grow from one employee to 50? to 100? to 1000? Is it touring world-wide and playing in concert venues to thousands, every CD going platinum? Is it getting married or having children or grandchildren? Is it becoming a mayor or governor or senator or even President of the United States?

   Is it possible for any of those things to bring happiness in and of themselves?

   No.

   If the answer is no, does that mean that any of those things are bad things?

   Again—no.

   Fulfillment in life, purpose and destiny happens only one way: by seeking God first and then by pursuing the destiny that He has for you. It is then and only then that whatever we do, whatever we amass, whatever we achieve will bear fruit for all eternity and not simply for the five minutes that we take up space on this planet.

   Does that sound like a sermon? Maybe. But I prefer to think of it as truth.

   Why do we do what we do?