I missed a call

I missed a call from one of my grandchildren this morning.  I was working and couldn’t take the call.  I was disappointed.  I enjoy connecting with them.  In our case, all our grandchildren are very far away.  We only get to actually be with them maybe once a year.  So, to miss a call is a big thing for me.

As part of my devotional time with God this morning I read,

MATTHEW 7:9-11 9″Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? 10Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? 11If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!”

These verses talk, among other things, about God’s relationship with his children.  He gives good gifts to his children because he cares them.  I can tell by these words that he values his relationship with his children.  I value my relationship with my grandchildren.  So, I was disappointed to miss the call.  I wonder if God is disappointed when we don’t take the time to call out to him?  My bet is that he is so much more disappointed than I am when his children don’t reach out to him.

Have you called out to him today?  He values his relationship with you.  Take a second and call out to him.  He’ll appreciate it…and you will too.16864590_10208241084120624_4024477391247759834_n

EXTENDED FAMILY

In the last few years God has blessed us with seven grandchildren.  All of them unfortunately live very far from us, so we only get to see each about once a year.  Being completlely open , that is very hard. We so wish we could be with them more often and really get to invest in the lives of the next generation.

I think the thing about being a grandparent that has been surprising to me is the immediate love I have for those children.  I can certainly understand it for my own children, they came from us.  But I was surprised how quickly those grandchildren became so special to me. It is one of the incredible life joys that God gives us.  I just want to give glory to God for allowing me to have

Psalm 103:17 (HCSB) But from eternity to eternity the LORD’s faithful love is toward those who fear Him, and His righteousness toward the grandchildren

He’s just not that into you.

Not into you.

When I was in the U.S. Army, I had a boss once that attended the same church I did.  Although, I couldn’t read his mind, his negative demeanor (similar to the picture to the left) while at church seemed to indicate that he really didn’t want to be there.  He had recently remarried and his new wife was a very pleasant redhead who was a serious Christ-follower.   I was a leader in that church. I always got the distinct feeling that my boss didn’t like that very much. His comments to me about anything that had to do with church were always harsh and antagonistic.  He told me once that he attended the church to be with his wife.

When it came time for my evaluation, he was not quite as positive as my previous bosses had been. I was always a hard charger and took the initiative in my work.  I accomplished the goals set for my work and did them well.  In this case it didn’t matter. This guy just didn’t like me. He just wasn’t that into me. Many years later, I still think it’s because of my faith.  I believe I got to experience first hand a mild form of what Jesus said, Matthew 24:9b (NLT) You will be hated all over the world because you are my followers.

There are times in life when people just won’t like you.  There are a myriad of reasons why people just won’t like you. So, what do you do when someone doesn’t like you?

  1. Love them anyway. Jesus said, “Love your enemy.”  Respond in love to them even when they don’t reciprocate or are actually hateful toward you.  Go out of your way to help them. The Bible says that will enfuritate them.  Especially go out of your way to help them when you’re in a place where you have to work with someone as a superior or as part of your team. Do your part to go over and above the call of duty. Others will see you’re trying. The aggressor will be the one to look bad. Truth will win out. Oh, in a blinding flash of the obvious, if it is your boss, it won’t help to get in a power struggle with him/her.  Let it go.
  2. Work to make sure that their criticisms are truly unfounded.
  3. If the criticisms are founded, maybe you need to use this relationship as a catalyst to change where you need to change.
  4. Lastly, Suck it up and drive on. Accept it.  They’re just not that into you. Your self worth is not based on whether they like you or not. Your self worth should be based on knowing that God loves you very much.

You’re not going to win every popularity contest. That’s ok. Please the One that matters most.

Can you think of any other good responses when you’re faced with someone who just doesn’t like you?

Don’t Freak Out!

Don't Freak

Some times life is just hard, so don’t freak out, just work through it.  I’m 57 years old now.  I guess one thing that I’ve seen over and over and over; “Stuff Happens.”  Things happen in life that are completely unexpected. None of us are perfect and we live with imperfect people in an imperfect world.

I had a grandson born nine months ago with a metabolic disorder that unless he gets a liver transplant he will have to regulate his protein intake his whole life because his body cannot process them.  (Check out this blog post). Stuff happens. No one saw it coming, but now his parents just have to work through it.

One thing I was taught during my Army career is that a plan is a plan until the battle starts.  Once it starts, you don’t know what is going to happen.  Life is the same way. You may have financial plans in place, but then the market crashes; stuff happens.  You may have a career plan and then you get a boss who for whatever reason doesn’t like you. Stuff happens. You may have family plans. You know how many children you are going to have and how you’re going to raise them.  Then you find out that you’re infertile. The list and go on and on.

The important thing is not that stuff happens. The important thing is how you handle it; how you adjust your plan in the battle of life. I once commanded an Artillery Battery. We were out on a training exercise and several of our vehicles got stuck in the mud up to their axels. (Check out this blog post). Stuff happens. Now we could have just freaked out and not done anything but lament. But, what we did is methodically work our way out of the mess. That’s what we have to do in life. Don’t freak out. Formulate a plan and just work your way through it.

One thing that really doesn’t solve anything is whining. Yes it may identify the problem, but in the long run it won’t solve the problem. In fact it will probably do a good job of making you ineffective. Your whining will probably lower your morale and heighten the feeling that this problem is insurmountable.  So, quit you’re bellyaching and get busy.

Actor Ashton Kutcher was asked what he missed about growing up and living in the Midwest (Iowa).  He said, “I miss being around people that don’t complain. I’m in the drama business, and there are a lot of dramatic people that seem to be not very happy with where they are.” When you hit a snag, don’t complain.  Simply take time to reassess and then start trying to work you way out of the problem.

Ultimately the way to make it through the difficulty is putting your faith in someone that can pull you out of the mud.  Jesus said, John 16:33 (NIV)  “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  Put your faith in the overcomer and he’ll help you get through life when stuff happens.

Don’t argue with crazy people

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I once had a guy come into my office. He was pretty negative and he was very combative in his conversation. I did my best to keep my temper, because it certainly seemed like he was trying to goad me into an argument. Our relationship had normally been very cordial and as far as I understood we had a good bond.  I did know he did not like the military very much.  On this occasion he spewed an assortment of anti-military rhetoric. It was really over the top.  Although he seemed to be trying to provoke me, I didn’t bite.

After his visit, I spoke with a counselor trying to understand what had happened and to formulate an appropriate response. I felt I needed to have a crucial conversation with him to clear the air and reestablish appropriate boundaries in our relationship. I mentioned to the counselor that I knew that in the past this individual had suffered from some type of mental illness. When the counselor heard that, he said, “Don’t argue with crazy people.”  It was good advice.  This was not a battle that I needed to fight. It was fruitless to do so. I just needed to let it go.

I have another friend who argues for any perceived slight; everything is a fight. He badgers waiters and waitresses, medical professionals, lawyers or anyone who in any way has not met his own personal standards.  It is all about him.  Needless to say, he doesn’t have many friends. He’s had several failed marriages. People avoid him like the plague.  He can’t let anything go.

When it comes to life, I have learned that you have to choose your battles wisely. Everything isn’t worth a fight. Some things you just have to let go. That is hard for me. I’m very competitive.  It’s hard to let a challenge just pass me by. But, everything is not worth a fight.   This has been a lifetime learning process for me. Earlier in life, like my friend, I’d battle for everything. I’m sure people must have tired of my constant combativeness.

In the long run, what is important in life is people. They are made in the image of God. He loves people. When I battled for everything, it didn’t foster good relationships and didn’t get accomplished what I wanted to get accomplished. It didn’t value others because it became all about me. I probably could have gotten a lot more done by treating people with love and respect.  I think that’s what Jesus was getting at when he said, Matthew 7:12 (Phillips) “Treat other people exactly as you would like to be treated by them – this is the essence of all true religion.”

Don’t argue with crazy people. Let it go!

Leadership Lesson: Your family is the priority no matter what you do.

ImageI have the tendency to be a workaholic. The truth be known, I like to work. I like to accomplish things. I like to get things done. I’m willing to devote the time needed to get something done right and produce excellent results.  I’ve been this way my whole life. So, when I was in the Army as a young man, I would arrive to work early and leave for home late. That meant there were many days when my young children might not see me because I was out of the house before they were up and I returned after they went to bed. Needless to say, that was not very good for our home life. It’s difficult to invest in and influence your children, when you’re not there.

I had a boss once, Fred Stubbs, who was a very wise man.  He was a great family man. He had a wonderful wife, Ilene, and two beautiful teenage daughters, Bethany and Penny. One evening while I was working late, he surprised me and stopped by my office.  He asked me about work. I told him what was happening and what I was working on. Then as he was getting ready to leave he said to me, “John, the Army will be here in 20 years and you’re likely not to be in the Army, but what you do now will determine if your wife and children are with you or not.” Kaboom!! I got the message.  I began a process of change where I put my family first and my work second.

The results of me purposely putting family considerations before my work have been pretty significant. I am retired from the Army and my wife is still with me. We celebrated our thirty-first wedding anniversary two weeks ago.  My children grew up knowing that I loved them.  I got to enjoy putting them to bed most nights; reading to them and saying their prayers with them. Although our children are grown and out of the house, our family remains close. I’ve been truly blessed. As an aside, Fred and Ilene Stubbs recently celebrated their fifty-second wedding anniversary.

How about you? Remember in 20 years, you probably won’t be with the company you’re with now. You may make a lot of money working late, but will your family still be with you? It’s your decision.

I can’t open anything!

Some thoughts on married life from my sorta newlywed daughter, Carolyn.

Lawfully Wedded Life

When I first got married, one of my close friends asked me if there was a moment I could point to when the reality of being married really set in. What was the answer, you ask? “When I realized that I cannot open a single jar or bottle in the entire apartment without help!”

And at that point, that was the number one thing I had noticed. It’s no wonder women always have to ask their husbands to open things, it’s because THEY close them to the point that it is impossible for any woman to get the dang thing open!

And, while that is still a true statement for me in our marriage (seriously, can’t open anything without help), I would say that there have been a few other things that marriage points out that I did not notice as a single woman.

Definitely Not a Servant

First off…

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One of the most difficult times of our lives.

My daughter-in-law, Lindsey, is writing a blog (here) about her son’s life and his genetic disorder called Citrullinemia. She is currently writing about his first few days of life. I wanted to add my perspective as a grandparent for the record.

My wife, Susan, and I were thrilled when our grandson, Caleb, was born.  We had plans to visit Louisiana a month later so we could meet him. We so enjoyed getting to see his pictures and talk with our son, John, on the day of his birth.  We didn’t know it but we were entering probably one of the most emotionally difficult periods of our lives. Things changed quickly when I got a call from John that Caleb was being transferred to an NICU about 60 miles away because he wasn’t acting right.  He was not eating and was lethargic. We were concerned and began to ask friends, family and our prayer team at Bay Community Church to pray for Caleb and his parents.  We were so glad Lindsey’s parents were there supporting them.

I can’t convey the sense of helplessness to have your son and his wife have their first child and things were taking a turn for the worst and we couldn’t do anything to help. So, we maintained contact receiving frequent updates via text and phone.  Most of the updates weren’t very encouraging. We got a call from my son after they had been in the NICU for a couple of days saying that Caleb was being transferred via helicopter to New Orleans Children’s Hospital.  His body had too much ammonia and he had to get dialysis immediately or he might not make it.  That NICU didn’t have the capability to do it.  That was pretty shocking news.

The transfer was on Monday night. I made reservations for John and Lindsey at a hotel near the hospital so they’d at least have a place to stay when they arrived in the middle of the night.  They were driving while Caleb was flying.  We talked with them while they were driving.  In the morning I talked with John and he said that they had arrived safely during the night. They used the room only to shower and spent the rest of the time at the hospital.  He said it was a hard night, but at that time they still didn’t know what the prognosis was.

I had a friend that had recently graduated from a seminary in New Orleans. I called him and asked him if he knew any pastors there that might be able to go to the hospital and visit John and Lindsey.  He said one of his professors was also a pastor and he’d give him a call.  God’s people are so good. The professor had an early class but went to see them right after.  He spoke with them and prayed with them.

Around 10:30 a.m. I text him and asked how he was. His reply to me was, “terrified!”  That put me into action. I thought to myself, “if my son is in a foxhole terrified, I’m jumping in there with him and we can be terrified together.” (I’m retired Army and he’s currently in the Army) I got online and bought an airline ticket from Miami to New Orleans.  I made ground transportation and hotel arrangements.  I also arranged for my wife to join me the next day.  I had great support from our congregation who urged me to go and took care of covering my preaching responsibilities for our church service on Sunday.  Susan arranged to leave her work the next day.

I didn’t tell John I was coming because I didn’t want him to be concerned about me in anyway.  He needed to focus on being a dad in a crisis.  When I arrived in New Orleans, I spoke with John and then I drove the rental car to the hospital.  He came down to the car to meet me. I guess the thing that struck me was how calm his demeanor was and how well he was handling the whole situation.

I came to find out that the reason he was terrified is that the main physician working on Caleb had told him that Caleb might not make it. She wasn’t sure he would pull though. That is hard for any parent to hear. I will tell you that being a grandparent in that situation is double hard.  You hurt for your child.  No one wants their children to go through such difficulties. But, you also hurt for your grandchild.  It’s amazing the automatic love connection you have with your grandchild.

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I remember walking into his room. I saw Lindsey near the bed and little Caleb with all kinds of wires, monitors and hooked up to a ventilator. I kept on thinking how difficult that had to be for these young parents. I was glad to be there with them.  I couldn’t do much for them. They were the parents and I was a bystander. But, I could just be there for them.  I went over to Caleb and rubbed his little body and prayed for him.

It was a blessing to see them be there with their son. Lindsey would read Bible stories to him. Of course, he was not conscious, but she knew he was listening.  I know God was pleased at this loving mother.

Psalm 71:18 (NLT) Now that I am old and gray, do not abandon me, O God. Let me proclaim your power to this new generation, your mighty miracles to all who come after me.

Leadership Lessons: Mission First, People Always

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528th USAAG

When I was in the U.S. Army, I deployed to Turkey in 1982. I was assigned to the 528th United States Army Artillery Group.  The commander of the unit had a saying that I’ve found helpful in my life since that deployment about 30 years ago.  He regularly said that one of the organizations chief values was, “Mission first, people always.” You’ve got to accomplish the mission or you’ve got to reach certain goals and standards. But, if you don’t care for the people, you’re not going to be able to accomplish the mission because it is through the people that the mission is accomplished. So, you’ve got to care about your people.

I’ve worked for people that did not have that philosophy of leadership. They were the type of people who would just chew people up and out. They lead by intimidation. It was all about accomplishing their goals. Subordinates had to be forced to do what they wanted done, no matter the cost. Those kinds of people weren’t enjoyable to work for. I remember one in particular that I was actually afraid of. I did everything to avoid that person because I knew he didn’t care about me as a person. He would readily sacrifice me to do what he wanted to get done.

After I left that assignment in Turkey, I thought I had applied the lesson of Mission First, People Always. But, I learned later I hadn’t done so. I was a whole lot more career driven than I was willing to admit. My unspoken mission was to be a success in my career. I share this to my shame and I believe I’ve now changed. But, we lived in Guatemala for a time. My wife and I started talking about maybe adopting a child there.  After I thought about it, I said that I believed it might hurt my career having a child that was so different from us. So, we didn’t adopt.  I grieve my attitude back then. But, clearly it was more about the mission (my career), than about people (a little child whom we could have helped greatly). My wife later graciously and lovingly confronted me on that attitude, which helped me in the process of change.

Career is important. You’ve got to make money in order to live. But, it is not and should not be more important that people. That’s what I love about Jesus. He loved people. He put them above his wants and desires. It was about people…always. I think that’s what John, the Beloved Apostle, who experienced the love of Jesus first hand meant when he said, John 3:16 (AMP) For God so greatly loved and dearly prized the world (that’s people; you and I) that He [even] gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, so that whoever believes in (trusts in, clings to, relies on) Him shall not perish (come to destruction, be lost) but have eternal (everlasting) life.

God always loves people; he puts them first by giving up his son for them. That’s a great example of how we should be.