The “Insignificant” Days of Your Destiny

           The Beginning Book Cover 2 A lifelong relationship begins with a “hello”.  A business begins with the very first customer.  A mighty oak tree begins with a small acorn.  Writing a book begins with the first word.  A concert pianist begins with “Chopsticks”. Losing pounds begins with the first day of the diet.  A dynasty begins with one man and one woman.

            “Do not despise the day of small beginnings for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin” (Zech. 4:10).

            God rarely begins a person on the highway to his or her destiny in a big way.  Not that He can’t, but there is much to be learned on the road from small to big. And depending on what our dreams and destinies are, lessons will vary. 

            For example, how to manage people is a big lesson for anyone wanting to own their own business. Businesses rarely begin with more than a handful of employees so that owners learn how to hire wisely, manage workers with the right balance of respect and authority, and handle personnel problems.  Imagine trying to learn all of that with dozens of employees. Or a military service member – he or she begins as the lowest-ranked soldier or officer and grows into more responsibility through promotion.  To begin as an admiral or general would probably not work. Many other examples come to mind. Talents for writing or music or art must be developed; one begins small, writing for a school paper, performing in a music recital, or painting a school mural.

            “Do not despise the day of small beginnings.”

            We often want to start big and then get frustrated when we can’t.  Or, we get tired of working, practicing, doing and re-doing and so we quit, thinking the dream will never happen.  But here’s a principle: the bigger the destiny, the long the prep time.  Oak trees take decades to become full grown.  Masters take decades to perfect their crafts.  Multi-million dollar companies take many years to become that profitable.

The fact is that to appreciate the value of “small beginnings,” we have to realize that all of life is about “becoming.”

            We make the mistake of asking children what they want to “be” when they grow up.  Rather we should be asking them what they want to “become.”  Small distinction but the message is huge: “becoming” takes time and work.  Fortunately, the Bible contains many examples of “becoming” from small beginnings.

            David, for example, spent years by himself learning to shepherd sheep and fight the lions and bears.  After that, he spent 16 years hiding in caves from Saul who wanted to kill him.  What did he learn from all that trauma?  Warfare, leadership and honor. And what did he become?  A mighty warrior and a king. 

            Joseph was sold as a slave to a rich Egyptian (not fair), during which time he rose to favor for his ability to organize the entire estate and business, causing both to grow and prosper.  And what did Joseph learn?  He mastered the Egyptian language, culture, customs, and upper class etiquette as well as how to manage an estate, its staff and businesses.  God was training him to become an administrator.

            But then Joseph went to jail, accused of something he didn’t do (also not fair.) But while there, Joseph exhibited his talent for management and so the chief jailor put him in charge of all of the prisoners and prison affairs.

            But why prison?

            In prison, Joseph had become one of the “lower class,” the prisoners, and so he learned about their ways of thinking, their culture and customs.  He learned how it felt to be them.

            Needless to say, it was quite the coincidence that he’d need to know all of that as Joseph became Egypt’s second in command to Pharaoh.

            Esther is another example – my favorite.  Esther was among the young women “kidnapped” and put into the Babylonian king’s harem so that he could, he hoped, find his next queen.  But before Esther could even hope to become queen, she first had to spend a year in the king’s harem – not, generally speaking, the first pick for a virtuous young Jewish girl.  But in the midst of the beauty treatments, Esther learned the Babylonian language, culture and, I’m certain, a great deal about how to navigate the politics of a royal court and its country.  And as we later find out, she needed that intel to become the one to save her people from annihilation. 

            What do David, Joseph and Esther have in common?

            While they suffered much in the circumstances they were thrust into, each one still made the best of the situation by doing the best they could.  They exhibited humility, excellence and honor despite their long periods of hardship.  And here’s the endgame: each of them was promoted to royalty.

            They did not despise their days of small beginnings.

             Don’t be discouraged at the small beginnings of your dream or destiny. It can seem overwhelming when you envision how far you have to go so, as Michael Hyatt says, “Just do the next thing in front of you.” Then trust the Lord to grow the dream.  Remember: “the Lord rejoices to see the work begin.”

            Your work.

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No Seed, No Harvest.

    Empty FieldOne of the most important principles of success in life is that of “seed”. To make the point, I’d like to share a picture the Lord once gave me. 

     In the pic, I saw a man standing in a field that had been plowed and had rows of fertile black soil.  The man was looking at the field and it was clear that he was waiting for growth to appear.  However, the problem was that no seeds had been planted.  The man was waiting for something to occur which would never happen. 

A field that has not been planted with seed cannot yield a crop.

     I asked the Lord what the scene meant and He showed me that the man represented many people who are waiting for a harvest in some area but have planted no seed.  He emphasized that “seed” doesn’t just mean money as we often hear it referred to by people encouraging others to “sow seed” for a “financial harvest;” rather there are many other kinds of seed in the spiritual realm exactly as there are in the physical realm.  And when we sow seed in a particular area, we reap a harvest in that same area.   This is a fact that has its source in the principle that God established at the creation of the earth when He decreed that plants, trees, and flowers would “multiply after their own kind.”  This means that maple tree seeds reproduce as maple trees, watermelon seeds reproduce as watermelon, and sunflower seeds reproduce as sunflowers.  In other words, grape seeds don’t produce lima beans nor do acorns produce daffodils.

     In the spiritual realm, then, this means that if we’d like a “harvest” in a particular area, it would be a good idea to plant seed in that area.  And this principle applies to everyone, not just Christians. While I refer to “sowing and reaping” as a “biblical” principle, it works whether a person is a Christian or not. Every day you can find examples of people who are not Christians and yet, because they’ve sowed good seed in a particular area, they’re reaping a good harvest. In the same way, many Christians are still waiting for their harvests to come in because they haven’t planted any seed. Listen, Christian or not, if I want watermelons to grow in my garden, I need to get out there and plant watermelon seeds.

     I once heard a story about a lady who had grasped this principle in her quest to have a baby.  The woman had had many years of infertility, had been to many doctors, and had begun to lose hope that her prayers would ever be answered regarding having a child.  Then she learned about sowing seed in a specific area and so began to hold baby showers for, as she said, “every pregnant woman in my church.”   As a result, she did become pregnant – twice – and now has two beautiful children. The principle is clear: giving in any particular area – whether money, material resources, or actions of a particular kind – is one type of seed.  So, if we’re seeking salvation for a loved one, for example, we can sow seed by witnessing to others about Christ.

     Another type of seed is preparation: get ready for the harvest you’re asking for.  If you’re praying to get married, begin planning for a marriage: read books on developing a great marriage and begin putting aside items you’ll use once married.  If you’re praying for a job, make sure you’re ready for it when it comes.  Have child care lined up if necessary or get your work wardrobe in order, or whatever your preparation may require. Realize that a farmer doesn’t wait until after the harvest comes in to build the storehouses nor does a pregnant lady wait till the baby comes to buy diapers.  (That would be most unwise . . .) 

     Finally, a third type of seed is prayer: pray for others who are seeking the kind of harvest you are.  If you’re asking for healing, pray for others to be healed; if you’re asking for a promotion or an opportunity, pray for someone else who needs those things.  If you’re praying for – well, you get the idea.

     Seed is all around us and it is well within our power to plant some.  Just look around and see what it is that you can give, do, pray, or prepare for as you seek to sow seed.  And then don’t quit; realize that some seeds take longer than others to produce. Oak trees, for example, take a good deal longer than leaf lettuce.  So while you’re waiting, just keep watering your seed by praying for a harvest – a good harvest – just as you would keep watering and nurturing real seeds.  Don’t keep standing in an empty field any longer; plant the seeds of your dreams and do it today!

     Remember – it’s a biblical principle.  It can’t not work.

Destiny Nation

Flag and Fireworks     For 240 years, the United States of America has embraced its destiny, as Ronald Reagan liked to say, as a “shining city on a hill”. Proof is Lady Liberty as she’s welcomed untold millions to find refuge and freedom and, in short, a home.  Thus the United States has been nicknamed the “Great Melting Pot” as generations from countries worldwide have assimilated to become proud Americans. 

     Nor has Uncle Sam been idle, leading the fight for liberty and freedom around the world. Everywhere on earth, on every continent, America’s influence and generosity can be seen and felt.  From being the Cavalry in World Wars I and II to promoting the principles of democracy to peoples who have never been told that all men are born free, America has led the charge in the battle for good in the very real face of oppression and evil.  Country after country, people after people have the United States to thank for rescue in times of war, political unrest, famine, natural disasters and financial crisis.

That’s the legacy of the United States of America.

     However, despite all of that, America’s greatest destiny has been – and continues to be – the privilege of bringing the life-changing news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ to virtually every nation on earth. Dedicated and brave American missionaries, for the sake of that Gospel, have faced persecution, imprisonment and even death from the worst of dictatorial and communist countries.  America has sown its blood, sweat and tears into the soil of nations around the globe to proclaim the good news of true freedom in Jesus Christ – and what could ever be a more noble legacy than that?

     Many say that America’s best days are behind her. However, that’s been said before.  Imagine a war in which citizens slaughtered one another in one bloody battle after another.  Surely the Civil War was the end of our nation.  Or the stock market crash of 1929 which led to a decade in which fully one-quarter of Americans were unemployed. Add to that the great Dust Bowl in which nothing would grow and it certainly looked like the end of America.  Or World War I – the most massive war in the history of the world; surely that was the end of the whole world.  Or WWII in which the Nazis reigned in Europe and the U.S. was attacked on its own shores for the first time in its history.  There was no doubt then that the Apocalypse had come . . . Et cetera.

     Certainly the United States has problems and they are broadcast far and wide for all the world to see. But the only difference between the crises of today and those of all the decades past is cable news.  Without a doubt crisis was happening; we just didn’t know about most of it.

     Is it the end of the United States? I don’t believe so.  The United States still has a great destiny to fulfill: the continued spread of the Gospel worldwide.  And until the day comes that America quits doing that, our nation will continue in order to fulfill that destiny.  No other nation on earth has even come close to sacrificing what Americans have sacrificed in order to achieve that priceless goal for mankind. 

     God has not forgotten America because, despite all of the bad press, Americans like us have not forgotten God. The United States has sown its time, its people, its strength, its money, and its resources into saving and blessing other nations and so we will, according to the Word of God, “reap what we have sown”.  We have sown salvation, blessing, freedom and hope into the peoples of the world, and so we have a long future of blessing to look forward to as one the greatest nations history has ever known.

     So on this Independence Day, I hope you’ll join me in declaring the great destiny of the United States of America:

     “ONE nation under GOD with liberty and justice for all.”

     Happy Birthday, America – and may you have many, many more to come.

It’s Time to Cast Your Net.

Casting NetsLynn had failed over and over. Not once or twice but multiple times she’d pitched her business idea to investors and each time was rejected. To say she was disappointed is hardly an exaggeration. All Lynn had ever wanted to do was to open her own business so she took business courses, researched different opportunities, and developed a business plan.  

Lynn believed!

But no one else did. Finally, after several years of trying to secure funding and failing, Lynn quit.  She was heartbroken.  It was the death of a life-long dream. Until one day when, out of the blue, the Lord said to her,

 “Now go out where it is deeper and cast your nets.”

“Who? Me?” Lynn responded, somewhat bewildered.

“Yes, you,” said the Lord.

“But Lord,” answered Lynn, “I’ve worked for many years searching for investors and failing. But, if you say so, I’ll try again.”

So Lynn set out once more to find investors for her company except that this time, she sought bigger, more lucrative investors. After all, the Lord had instructed her to fish in deeper waters.

The next day, Lynn got a “bite” from an investor saying he was definitely interested in Lynn’s company and suggested even more money than Lynn had sought. Not only that, but two other investors had heard about Lynn’s business and were interested in investing as well.  In the end, Lynn ended up with two investors and her business – Chinese restaurant trucks (just like ice cream trucks except with egg rolls, General Tao and chopsticks) was a huge success!

So okay, yes – this is the same situation in which Jesus directed Peter to “’go out where it is deeper and let down your nets and you will catch many fish.’”

Peter, at first though, isn’t so sure. He responds, “’Master, we worked hard all night and didn’t catch a thing.’”  Then he adds, “’but at Your word, we’ll try again.’”  The story ends with Peter’s nets so full they began to tear (Luke 5:4-6).

What’s it all mean?

First, the Lord tells Peter to “’let down your nets’”. Note that God didn’t just drop the fish from the sky (although I hear that’s been known to happen).  Rather Pete had to work for it.  The take-away here is that God loves to co-labor with us; He doesn’t want to do “it” alone (whatever “it” is) nor does He want us to have to do it alone. He wants to have partners.

Moreover, sometimes the Lord may tell us to go “deeper”. While “going deeper” can have many applications, in the sense of fulfilling a vision or destiny, it means to seek larger territory, more impactful opportunity – to go big!  At the same time, going deeper, seeking bigger things, might be a bit scarier and require more faith.  However, the risk of “going deeper” did pay off for Peter.

Then there’s the timing. Apparently, in Peter’s day, nighttime was the accepted time to fish (idk) but Jesus instructed him to fish at a time that others might’ve questioned – even ridiculed.  Often God will instruct us to do something in the off-season or during a time that just seems wrong.  However, He’s in touch with all of the logistics of a situation and we are not.

Finally, notice that Jesus says to Peter, “’Now go out . . .’” When God says “now,” it’s best to move.  Considering that God often saves the “now”s until we don’t expect them, it never hurts to be prepared. (The virgins and their lamps come to mind . . .)

So – even if you’ve been through a long season of “try and fail, try and fail,” it may be that that season is about to end. After all, fishermen are supposed to be successful at fishing and you are supposed to be successful at whatever you’re called to be – or God wouldn’t have called you to be that, would He?

So get ready to cast your nets. Get ready to go deeper.

Life Lessons Worth Remembering.

Charlie Brown
Lessons by Omer B. Washington

I’ve learned- that you can do something in an instant that will give you heartache for life.

I’ve learned- that it’s taking me a long time to become the person I want to be.

I’ve learned- that you should always leave loved ones with loving words. It may be the last time you see them.

I’ve learned- that you can keep going long after you can’t.

I’ve learned- that you cannot make someone love you. All you can do is be someone who can be loved. The rest is up to them.

I’ve learned- that no matter how much I care, some people just don’t care back.

I’ve learned- that it takes years to build trust and only a few minutes to destroy it.

I’ve learned – that no matter how good a friend is, they’re going to hurt you every once in a while and you must forgive them for that.

I’ve learned- that it’s not what you have in your life but who you have in your life that counts.

I’ve learned- that you should never ruin an apology with an excuse.

I’ve learned- that you can get by on charm for about fifteen minutes. After that, you’d better know something.

I’ve learned- that we are responsible for what we do, no matter how we feel.

I’ve learned- that either you control your attitude or it controls you.

I’ve learned- that heroes are the people who do what has to be done when it needs to be done, regardless of the consequences.

I’ve learned- that money is a lousy way of keeping score.

I’ve learned- that my best friend and I can do anything or nothing and have the best time.

I’ve learned- that sometimes the people you expect to kick you when you’re down will be the ones to help you get back up.

I’ve learned- that sometimes when I’m angry I have the right to be angry, but that doesn’t give me the right to be cruel.

I’ve learned- that true friendship continues to grow, even over the longest distance. Same goes for true love.

I’ve learned- that just because someone doesn’t love you the way you want them to doesn’t mean they don’t love you with all they have.

I’ve learned- that maturity has more to do with what types of experiences you’ve had and what you’ve learned from them and less to do with how many birthdays you’ve celebrated.

I’ve learned- that you should never tell a child their dreams are unlikely or ridiculous. Few things are more humiliating or tragic if believed.

I’ve learned- that your family won’t always be there for you. It may seem funny, but people you aren’t related to can take care of you and love you and teach you to trust people again. Families aren’t biological.

I’ve learned- that it isn’t always enough to be forgiven by others. Sometimes you have to learn to forgive yourself.

I’ve learned- that no matter how bad your heart is broken the world doesn’t stop for your grief.

I’ve learned- that our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are, but we are responsible for who we become.

I’ve learned- that just because two people argue, it doesn’t mean they don’t love each other. And just because they don’t argue doesn’t mean they do.

I’ve learned- that we don’t have to change friends if we understand that friends change.

I’ve learned- that you shouldn’t be so eager to find out a secret. It could change your life forever.

I’ve learned- that two people can look at the exact same thing and see something totally different.

I’ve learned- that no matter how you try to protect your children, they will eventually get hurt and you will hurt in the process.

I’ve learned- that credentials on the wall do not make you a decent human being.

I’ve learned- that it’s hard to determine where to draw the line between being nice and not hurting people’s feelings, and standing up for what you believe.

I’ve learned- that people will forget what you said, and people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.

By Omer B. Washington

“Do Not Fear the Work.”

          FearHave you ever felt that your dream is too big?  The task feels so monumental, the job so impossible that you begin to wonder if the one thing God got wrong in all eternity was calling you to do it?

            King Solomon certainly wondered.

            Back story: King David had always wanted to build a temple for the Lord, but God told David that he would not be the one to build it; rather his son Solomon would build it.  Not surprisingly, Solomon was somewhat intimidated by the importance and scope of the task.

            It is at this point that David tells Solomon:

“’Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the Lord God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work is finished’” (I Chron 28:20).

            Sometimes I’m overwhelmed with what the Lord has called me to write – a book series – and I feel I’m in way over my head.  There are times I feel lost in a maze, not knowing which direction to turn or what comes next.  The research, the jigsaw puzzle that it is, the writing, the rewriting and sometimes, when the Lord decides to change things up, the starting all over.  I’m sharing this because my experience with this process is not unusual when the Lord gives us an assignment. 

           For example, when I wrote the first book, it seemed to flow right out of the pen. I’d finish writing a scene or chapter and then go, “Where did that come from??”  It wasn’t me.

           Enter book #2 – not so much. 

           Before I even started, the Lord said to me, “I gave you the first book. Now you’re going to have to seek me for the second.”

           “Okay,” (I naively replied), “how hard can that be?”

           Well – writing the next one has been a totally different experience.  Sometimes I just stare at the page, waiting for something, anything.  That’s when Left Behind co-author Jerry Jenkins’ advice kicks in: “There is no such thing as ‘writer’s block”.  Now sit your fanny in the chair and pick up the pen.”  I’m paraphrasing (but not much).

           Some time I’ll discuss the process of writing this series because, despite all that, it’s been such a God-thing that I can’t possibly convey it in a few words. However, suffice it to say that, in the past few years, the Lord has prompted me to do things which I had no idea would ever be part of a storyline, much less a series of books. I didn’t even know why I was doing the things at the time.

           For example, a few years ago, the Lord directed me to get in the car and drive to New England. Why?  Didn’t have a clue.  So I rounded up a friend and drove.  On the way (another principle entirely), we were directed to go to Salem and Plymouth and pray for the nation.  Odd, right?  No kidding.  But then, two years later, the Lord began to show me that that trip was a prophetic action that would become part of the series’ plot.

           A couple of takeaways: first, you may not have a clue what you’re doing – you only know that you have to do it. It’s kind of like salmon fighting their way upstream because well, just because. They don’t know why either.

           Second, you know that no matter how hard the work is, you can’t quit because – then what would you do? You were born for this and nothing else.

           Third, it’s only when the task seems impossible (or really is) that we depend completely on God.  Why?  Because seeking God is hard – the praying, the waiting, the trying and then trying again . . . You know.

           Jesus said we would do greater exploits than He did. He just neglected to mention how overwhelming that would feel at times.

           I know you’re called to “impossible” things. Maybe it’s raising children that make your life a challenge every single day – their needs or their rebellion or even their heartbreaking rejection.  Maybe you’re running a business, but it’s been one obstacle, setback or failure after another.  Maybe school is a real struggle.  It could be anything that, at times, leaves you feeling depleted, discouraged and totally inept. Maybe you’ve reached a point, as I did in the middle of fighting through the first year of the Common Core high school English modules, when you simply say, “God, you’ve got the wrong girl.”  I was so done. 

           In those moments, it’s good to remember Joshua, charged by the Lord to go into the Promised Land and clean it out – even after the spies came back saying, “’We saw the Nephilim there’ (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim)” (Num 13:33). (The Nephilim were the giants born from the unions of the naughty angels and the daughters of men.)

           We know Joshua was shaken (who wouldn’t be?), but it was then that the Lord said to Joshua, “’Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go’” (Jos 1:9).

           That scripture always re-sets my perspective. If Joshua had the courage and the faith to battle the legendary Nephilim and win, then I can certainly manage to buckle down, pick up the pen, and do the thing that God has called me to do.  And so can we all.

           “Do not fear the work.”

Does Your Dream Need A “Do-Over”?

            Do-over-button Have you ever had days when the “same ol’, same ol’” feels like it’s just sucking the life right out of you? Have you ever felt like you’ve “missed it” somehow – destroyed the destiny you might’ve had by making a wrong choice, a huge error, or even just wasting time? 

            Have you ever looked up to the sky and asked, “Why am I even here?”

            We’ve all been there. But the fact is, it’s never too late to discover your destiny or to make course corrections and get back on track to it.  How?  Because our God is a God of “do-overs”!

            Look at Moses who got a do-over after killing a man (his fault).  Look at Joseph who got a do-over after spending 22 years in prison (not his fault).  Whether you’re ten or eighty, God has a destiny for you.  And it’s a good destiny – one that will give your years life and your life purpose.  It will get you out of bed and excited to get moving every morning.  And it will allow you to know that you’re making a real difference in the world which, essentially, adds up to “eternal purpose”.

            I’m reminded of a young woman who had moved to a new town and had no job or money or husband (he’d died); all she had was an old woman to take care of and no food to feed her.

            Eventually, the woman got a job harvesting in the fields, barely making any money, and really just living off of what she was able to pick from the fields and take home.  And she did this day in and day out, day in and day out, day in and . . . you get the idea; you’ve been there.

            By now, you realize I mean Ruth.  But did you ever wonder what she was thinking during those long, hot hours in the fields?

            How did I get here? Did I make the wrong choice?  What will happen if I can’t work anymore?  Why won’t anyone talk to me?  Where would I be if I’d stayed in Moab?  Will I die here . . . ?

            Long story short: Ruth had no idea that she had an incredible destiny, that someday she’d marry a rich man and eventually be counted as the great-great grandmother of King David!  Nor did Joseph, rotting away in prison, ever dream that he’d be in charge of all of Egypt.  Nor did Moses, a murderer and fugitive, in his wildest dreams, ever imagine that one day he’d be the deliverer of the entire nation of Israel.

            It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, didn’t do or tried to do and failed – God has a plan for your life, a purpose, a destiny – and it’s a good one.  And only you can fulfill it.  No one else in all the earth has the combination of talent, ability, mindset, personality and life experience that you have. You, and only you, can fulfill the purpose for which God planted you on this planet.

            Think about that.

“The Light is Green Until It’s Red.”

Green LightHave you ever wanted to follow a dream so you asked God about it – and then waited? And waited. And waited.  There was no angel Gabriel appearing with a message in the dead of night.  God didn’t give you a prophetic word – even though you hit 7.5 prophetic meetings (you know you did).  And then there was the fleece: you said something like, “Okay, God, if the sun rises tomorrow, I’ll know You’re saying ‘yes,’ and if it doesn’t, it’s a ‘no’.  Got it.”  And then the sun didn’t rise so you kept asking because that wasn’t what you wanted to hear.

Ever been there?

Jesus told a parable about a rich man who had three servants to whom he announced that he would be going away for an extended period of time. But before leaving, the master gave each of the servants talents ($) to invest, saying that when he came back, he would expect to see a return on his investment.  Then he gave a different number of talents to each servant according to his abilities.  But it’s not the number of talents that’s important; the way the servants invested them is the point.

The key thing in this parable is that the master distributed the talents – and then left. The servants weren’t able to call him on his cell or message him or email him to ask what they should do.  The master gave them the freedom to do whatever they thought was best with their talents – as long as the results benefited his kingdom.  So what did they do?  The best they knew how to do.

Except for one of them.

When the master returned, he was pleased to find that two of the servants had invested their talents and produced a return. But the third had not; he’d simply hidden his talent and then handed it back.  The master, not pleased, asked him why.  The man’s response?  “I was afraid.”  Unfortunately for him, that was not an acceptable excuse to the master.

Want a message from God?  He’d much rather have you try and fail than never to try at all.

As Pastor Andrew put it, “The light is green until it’s red.”

In other words, go.

The fact is that God wants us to move forward and if we’re headed in the wrong direction, He’ll throw up the road block or close a door (or something). Recently, I had an interesting experience to prove that very point.

Last week, I decided I wanted to take a reputable on-line writing course but it was a little pricey. S0 – should I or shouldn’t I?  I checked in with the Lord (in case He had any thoughts on the matter) but really didn’t hear anything and registration was about to close.  So I made an executive decision: believing the course to be a benefit, I registered and paid for it.  By the next morning, however, I still hadn’t received any links to the course or even a receipt for payment, so I emailed the folks in charge and asked about it.  Someone emailed back, saying that they had no record of my registration or payment.

Red light.

Though they invited me to re-register, I took the hint from the Lord and decided that now was evidently not the time. I believe I probably will take the course at some point but, in the meantime, I keep moving.  As Pastor Paul Wagner used to say, “God can’t steer a parked car.”

“But,” you argue, “what if I try and fail?” You probably will.  Everybody does (it builds character).  But then you get back up and try again. 

Over the years, I’ve seen people move forward and follow their dreams – regardless of failure. My family once moved to another state after my father retired from the military because he’d had a job offer.  However, it didn’t work out and we moved back to NY.  No harm, no foul.  I tried a business one time and discovered it really wasn’t what I thought it would be and while I lost some money in the process, it was an “acceptable loss.”

The “acceptable loss” principle is huge when making a big decision and can often make clear whether you should move forward with a dream or not.

An “acceptable loss” is simply an assessment of what, if anything, you can afford to lose if a situation doesn’t work out. For example, if you invest money in a dream, is it an amount you can afford to lose if it doesn’t happen?  If not, then don’t do it.  If you take a new job, are its requirements something you can deliver?  If not, red light.  I once turned down a job because I found out that it would require evenings and weekends (as well as days) and with a baby and a toddler at home, I decided that their well-being was not an acceptable risk.

Red light.

What college should you go to? Any one you want – if you can afford it.  Don’t risk going to a college where you’ll rack up 100K in debt for a major that won’t allow you to make enough to pay that debt.  Not an acceptable risk.

Should you marry a particular person? Not without considering Biblical principles such as being equally yoked and seeking wise counsel.  And if you consider marriage an “acceptable risk” (meaning divorce is an option), then that’s a red light.  A really bright one. Continue reading “The Light is Green Until It’s Red.”

Get the Job Interview – Guaranteed!

Flower BasketIn the war for a job in competition with dozens of other people, how do you even get an interview – which is the key to “selling” yourself?  The answer?  You have to set yourself apart and stand out big from the rest of the job-hunting pack.

Recently we discussed how crucial it is to have an impeccable resume but the truth is, an impressive resume itself won’t guarantee you an interview; it just reduces your chances of being immediately eliminated. But don’t despair because there is a way to get yourself and your name, not only noticed, but remembered.

Back in the day when I worked in advertising developing campaigns and doing promotions, copywriting, etc., we all understood one thing: “Presentation is everything.” Anyone will buy anything as long as that thing is presented the right way. For example, say someone gives you a beautiful piece of jewelry and they present it in a plain white box and simply hand it to you. Okay – that’s nice. But what if they placed that same piece of jewelry into an elegant velvet jewelry box and wrapped that jewelry box in satiny white paper and tied it all up with a gold satin bow? Better, right? Same piece of jewelry but different message. The message the fancy packaging conveys is, “I cared enough to invest time in making this special because I care about you.” That’s what employers are looking for: someone who cares enough to strive for excellence. And your packaging will communicate that.

Choc-Basket-2Not too long ago, Hallmark hit on a winning ad campaign to sell their very expensive cards. Remember the tag, “When you care enough to send the very best”? They’ve been using that slogan for years because it works. In the same way, you can use the “usual” packaging for your resume – maybe a nice envelope that matches your resume paper or – you can stand out, show you car.

Some years ago, I wanted a job as assistant promotions’ director for our local ABC affiliate television station. So I did the resume thing with my signature paper, an elegant, pale gold parchment, but I wanted something more, something that showed the creativity I knew they were looking for in this position. And I knew that if I waited to get the interview to tell them how creative I am, I might never get the chance. As we writers always say, “Show, don’t tell.” So I found a big white box and filled it with fun things like nice chocolates (separately wrapped pieces, btw) and a few other things, including my resume and cover letter. But I also included a couple of helium-filled balloons (thus the bigger box) and lots of shiny confetti so that when the director opened the box, the balloons would pop out. I got the interview but I also got a vivid description of how long it took the director to get the confetti out of her rug. (Lesson: maybe don’t use confetti.) 

An additional plus for you when sending a presentation package is the benefit of walking into the interview with confidence.

There are lots of ways to make a creative presentation and granted, it’s going to be different for various industries. For jobs that are more conservative than creative, I would stick with a nice flower arrangement or a coffee/tea basket (always include both beverages). Featured prominently, of course, in the midst of any of it, would be your resume and cover letter. Protect those, if necessary, by putting them into a plastic cover or an appropriately-sized cardboard or metal tube (check any craft store).

A while back, I applied for a radio job for which I’d need both a resume and audition tapes and, as always, I suspected the competition might be stiff. So, in order to at least get my foot in the door, I sent a coffee/tea basket with some goodies and my application items. I got that interview as well, along with some comments about how much everyone enjoyed the goodies. Even the receptionist who answered my call recognized my name from the basket and thanked me for sending it. In the end, I didn’t get that job – I wasn’t the best qualified – but at least I got the opportunity to pitch my game. And I met some very nice people.

An additional plus for you when sending a presentation package (besides getting the interview) is the benefit of walking into the interview with confidence. You’ve already set yourself apart from other applicants in the employer’s eyes so you already have an advantage. And you’ll all know it.

Creative ideas are limitless and don’t have to cost a lot of money. If not a present box, a basket or a flower arrangement, consider sending a nice box of chocolates or one of those fresh fruit arrangements that looks like a flower arrangement. (They’ll remember that.) Whatever you do, keep it tasteful and make sure that what it conveys is your ability and desire to go that extra mile to get things done; make certain it shows that you care. 

Oh, and post-script – do not forget the “thank you” note after the interview. It doesn’t have to be mushy – just a “thanks for the opportunity; I enjoyed meeting you” message.  However, if you’re one of those people whose motto is: “I don’t do thank you notes,” it’s your call.  Just remember that the ones who do write them will be the ones who get remembered.

I’ll end with this word of encouragement: I have never used a presentation package and not gotten an interview. After all, if you were the employer, wouldn’t you, at the very least, want to check out the person who just sent you a big box of chocolates? 

You know you would.

 

 

Yankee Perspective Tales

         Fried BrowniesOne of my dreams is, eventually, to retire on some beach in North Carolina.  However, as I have discovered, when any Yankee travels south of the Mason-Dixon, there are some rules you really should know. Unfortunately, I don’t find out about them until, well, too late.

          For example, RULE #48:  Evidently, in the south, it’s considered polite conversation to ask about one’s mama.  As in, “How’s your mama?”  Now this wouldn’t sound so odd if the mama in question belonged to a friend or even to an acquaintance.  But no – this applies to any mama belonging to anyone you meet.

          So okay, not my thing exactly but, hey, I’m open-minded – go ahead – ask.  But no again.  Apparently it’s considered rude to opt out of this particular social norm.  Kind of on-par with appearing in public without clothes.  Only worse.

          Don’t get me wrong: I love the south.  Their trees get leaves before time for them to fall off. 

Then there’s RULE #1: “Fry everything!” 

         Their fried chicken is amazing.  So is their fried okra (what is that, btw?), fried waffles, and fried brownies. Plus, all their men drive trucks.  (That’s a rule, right?).  What’s not to like?  Still, there are just some things I don’t quite get . . .

          Last month, for instance, my sister and I went to a bank near Raleigh to close out our father’s estate account.  So we get there, meet with the gal behind the desk, and start to do business.  Five minutes in Rhonda, my sister, says to the woman behind the desk,

         “So, Kim, how much are the birdhouses?”

          Me: What birdhouses?? Who’s Kim??

         “Oh, honey,” says the woman (Kim?), “they’re ten dollars apiece. Would y’all like one?”

         Me: No . . .

         “Sure,” says Rhonda.

          Meanwhile, I’m frantically trying to remember Southern grammar rules: “Y’all” is singular, right? And “all y’all” is plural? Yeah, yeah – that’s it!  So I’m not buying a birdhouse? 

         Eventually, Rhonda and I left the bank – I with my paperwork and she with her birdhouse (and probably Kim’s number). So I said to her, “I didn’t know you and Kim knew each other.”

         “We don’t.”

         “Did you ask about her mama?” (Me trying to be funny.)

          (Annoyed look.)  “I told a friend at work that in New York, you don’t ask about people’s mamas.  She wanted to know what was wrong with all y’all.”

         What I’m thinking: We don’t want to go to stalker jail?

         What I said: “Well, bless her heart!”  (RULE #2 – “You can get away with saying anything about anybody, as long as you bless ‘em afterward.”)

         Then there’s RULE # 6: “Mess with their sweet tea at your own peril.” What follows is a true story – every word.

         One day, while visiting the fine city of Raleigh, my sis and I round up our respective kids and take the whole litter to a McD’s. As we’re deciding what to order, she says (in very serious tones), “Now make sure you ask for sweet tea, not iced tea.”

         ME: Seriously? But okay . . .

        So we’re standing in line to order, people in front of us, people behind us, kids swirling all around us and the lady behind the counter points at me. “Next!”

        “Uhm – seventeen cheese burgers, four with no pickles, three with pickles but only ketchup, one with no bun but cheese, and the rest with whatever. Oh, and six sodas and an iced tea.”

         The room froze. All sound stopped. Everyone – no lie – in front of me, behind me, and at the counter all stopped talking, turned to me and stared.  And they weren’t smiling.  It felt exactly like I was in one of those E.F. Hutton commercials.

        “Uhm,” I stuttered, “sweet tea?”

        The room went back to normal.

        ME: Do I have 666 or something stamped on my forehead? Had I committed a felony of some kind?

         Later, as I came to understand, I had apparently outed myself as one of those obnoxious Yankees who wander into Confederate territory and refuse to assimilate. Not that that was my intention. I had just forgotten the rules.

         Yankee Rule #1: “Do NOT venture past the M-D without the dang rule book.”

DRIVE YOUR VISION.