Week three (chicken noodle soup)

I’m cold. The weather took a turn toward the arctic. The average temperature this week was well below freezing. Up before dawn, out before daylight. It’s not easy for an Arizona boy to climb out from under the covers when the room feels more like a refrigerator than a living space.

Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup has become my best friend. My local grocer has a sale; 5 for $5. I enlist a small army of cans and take them home and line them up on the shelf like so many tin soldiers. Every evening the most enthusiastic volunteer gets opened, poured in the pot and boiled to steaming hot. The heat, smell and taste take the edge off the long cold day. The Southwest Airlines ticket home looks more and more inviting.

Week three comes to a close. The employees are getting use to me being around. I know because they are becoming engaging. They run down the events of the day; the good, bad and ugly. Maybe running a business is more like being a pastor after all.

I really enjoy fielding calls from customers. I spent a couple of days this week doing just that. It’s very interesting. Some call and it’s as if they are taking happy pills. Some call with an IRS serious attitude. Some think they dialed 911. No matter, all are expecting to have their need met by me, the voice in charge.

I am beginning to get excited about the business start in Arizona. I am currently building the system and creating work flow documents. So far I have no customers, no vendors and no employees. It’s fairly easy to manage at this point, but it doesn’t have much of a bottom line. This is were prayer comes in. “He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.” (2 Cor. 9:10) We trust that God will supply everything necessary to accomplish the ministry. Please pray for me and my family to have courage and wisdom for the task set before us.

Well, with soup in hand this frigid week comes to a close.

Blessed…

Proverbs 3 contains one of the most quoted verses in wisdom literature:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,

and do not lean on your own understanding.

    In all your ways acknowledge him,

and he will make straight your paths.

(Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)

The proverb begins with the admonition, “don’t forget what you have been taught”.  It goes on instructing the student to let the heart house truth and let it do the work. The psalmists proclaim God is “steadfast love” and “faithfulness” numerous times in the Psalter. Here our teacher is calling us to reflect those beautiful and powerful attributes of God in our daily life.

There is a result in doing this. One who trusts the Lord, not leaning on human understanding, will find “favor” and “success”. (vs. 4)  Most importantly favor in God’s eyes; but also in the eyes of people.

I encourage you to read this proverb today and think about its implications. The first 12 verses are a “mold” for every leader in the business world. (and everyone else) Mold your enterprises around these verses and you will have the most full and abundant career.

But that’s not the end of the proverb. Next comes a most amazing song of praise! Beginning in verse 12 and continuing for 24 verses our teacher dances before the Lord because he wears the gift of wisdom. This wisdom has one source; God. He is overwhelmed by it, overjoyed in it, and delighted to have his days governed through it. The teacher dances because it’s all God and it’s all good.

You have heard me say, “you can never raise above the company you keep.” What a blessing to keep the company of a teacher that dances before the Lord! I am blessed to be married to such a teacher. I’m not saying my wife goes twirling though the house all day, (although when I’m not home I suspect it happens on occasion) but it is a wonderful life spending days with one who seeks and delights in the wisdom of God.

My point: FIND TEACHERS WHO DANCE BEFORE THE LORD!

My wife is a writer and has recently gone back to school to sharpen her writing skills. She was required to submit a personal bio for one of her classes. As is her normal custom, she ran it by me to check for typos and such. I didn’t find any typos, but I did find myself overwhelmed and dancing before the Lord in thanksgiving for a Godly wife.

With her permission I share it with you….

The year is 2013 and slavery still exists.  There are over 27 million men, women, and children bound in shackles, sweatshops, or brothels.  No country or city is innocent.  Child prostitution and sex trafficking exists in our neighborhoods while slave labor merchandise clutter our homes.  

I understand slavery.  I once lived in captivity.  Not every slave wears visible chains or bares the scars of a master’s whip.  But every heart beating on this planet has at one time been a slave to something.  I barely survived a heart in the clutches of habitual sin.  

But now I live free.  Free to enjoy the security of my home, the sweet unity of my 32 year marriage, the beautiful relationship with my two married children, the immeasurable joy of my grandson’s hugs and the sweet anticipation of our second grandson. 

I’m at the stage of life when I face fewer years before me than behind.  Retirement is an option.  I’ve taught children to read and write as well as a bit of history, math and science.  Countless hours have been logged in community service.  Years were spent in ministries serving others as a teacher, mentor, pastor’s wife, and friend.  But I can’t stop now.  

While I rock my grandson, singing love songs into his ear, I wet his sweet cheeks with tears for the young women, children and babes who are raped daily of their innocence and hope.  

Most nights, I dream of traveling the world.  Not to delight in the exotic sights, but to search those desolate places tourist pay to ignore.  My goal is to write passionate stories that inflame my readers to action. 

While my husband networks CEOs to battle drug lords, slave traders, and sex traffickers, I continue to teach and train.  The billions of the walking-dead living like zombies craving a new heartbeat need to hear the truth.  

Those who never see the light of day or feel the warmth of a smile pray for abolitionists who will fight for them.  I am one person but I walk free in the supernatural power of a mighty God. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Life without walls (part three)

The joy of responsibility

I get seasick. I hate that. I dream…My fantasy is me, the captain of a ship, not just any ship, a tall ship, with sails unfurled. Departing the bay into deep seas, I call out commands to the crew. The crew jumps at my every command as if their very life depends on it. My wife by my side, scantily clad, clings to my side with adoring eyes. As the crew cries out dangers… enemy ships, storms, beasts from the deep, my only response is “Aaarrrrrrgh”.

The reality of this situation would be much different. About the time the ship crossed the bay and the sea began to rock the boat and the trade winds began to blow, my wife would be wrapped in a heavy windbreaker, (she gets cold easy), and I would be hanging over the side puking my toenails up. Instead of “Aaarrrrrgh” it would be “Blaaaah”.

Sometimes there is a great chasm between fantasy and reality. Therefore, “Captain Mike” is an oxymoron like “Jumbo Shrimp”.

To use the words “joy” and “responsibility” in the same sentence in our culture seems to be an oxymoron. Our culture views responsibility as a curse not a blessing.  In the work place, workers are striving to do less and be paid more.  However, in the Christian realm, we should view responsibility as a blessing and an indication that our Lord is pleased to use us to bring honor and glory to His name. In other words, we have been awarded responsibility.

In the larger scheme of Christian living, how brightly we shine as the light of the world (Matthew 5:14-16) is a function of our becoming who the Lord has called us to be. If you are a leader it’s not because you are leader material, it’s because you have been ordained. When leaders see that they have been chosen, then and only then will they function in the world as the Lord intended and have the spiritual, life changing influence and power that is rightfully given.

Let’s take a look at Scripture:

12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

14 Do all things without grumbling or disputing, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

(Philippians 2:12-18 ESV)

Paul gives his readers an admonition in verse 12 that has confused many people over the years.  He says, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling”.  Many have interpreted this to mean that we can earn or work for our salvation.  Of course, this is not true.  He has already taught us in Ephesians 2:8-9 that we are saved by grace so that no one could boast about their works that earned them favor with the Lord.  What Paul means in verse 12 is that we are to diligently follow through in our search for being more like Christ in our minds and our behaviors until we are complete in Him.  After all, Paul has already told us in Romans 8:29 that the Father’s will for us is that we be conformed to the image of His Son.  It is our responsibility to pursue that goal.  Paul uses the words “fear and trembling” to indicate the seriousness of our mission.  This is not a reference to literal fear but to careful and cautious concern, a sober approach to the responsibility that it is ours to accomplish the task.

A second concept that we need to focus on is that we need to accept the resources that God provides.  In verse 13, Paul says that it is God who works in us to will and to do for His good pleasure.  We see that there are workers in both verse 12 and 13.  In verse 12, we do the working and in verse 13, it is God who does the work.  This is not at all confusing if we focus on the fact that we are to “work out” – experience, maximize – what God has deposited in us by our salvation in Christ and the in dwelling presence of His Holy Spirit.  If the Lord had not done His work first, there would be nothing for us to work with.

 

We have often heard people say that the Christian life is a matter of “letting go and letting God”, but this is not true.  The Christian life is a divine-human cooperative.  However, that doesn’t mean that our salvation is part God’s work and part ours.  God accomplishes our salvation by grace and grace alone, but then He gives us the opportunity to respond to His grace with faith and obedience. Leaders respond to His direction in their lives through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit.

 

We have been given everything that we need to be leaders that find great joy in responsibility. To make a difference, we will have to be different.  To be different, we have to take seriously our responsibility to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, depending on the Lord who is at work in us to fulfill the task that is ours. The most different thing about us will be our joy!

 

 

Week two (Aha!)

It’s been my experience during the first few days at a new job I find myself wondering, “How in the world did I get here?” It’s kind of like buyers remorse. It’s like walking around in a heavy fog. Then there comes a time when you just connect, with a person, a project, a customer, or something else (like an idea for a new business) and the fog begins to lift. Week two comes to a close and the fog is beginning to lift.

To start, I have more expertise in the fire safety industry than last week. Working with my nephew, who really is a veteran of the industry and quite knowledgeable, I know more of the “mundane” facts involving fire safety. Last week I saw some high tech equipment, this week the common old ordinary fire extinguisher. Fire extinguishers are like wallflowers at the prom, no one sees them. It’s because they’re boring. They just hang there. There are no lights, sounds, no motions of any type. No one even cares about them unless the room’s on fire. How often is the room on fire?

Here’s a cool thought though…Most people just laugh when you try to teach them how to use a fire extinguisher. They say something like, “If this place catches fire I’m not going to worry about putting the fire out, I’m just going to run…what do I need with a fire extinguisher?” The fact is, the most common use of a fire extinguisher is to fight your way out of a burning room when your access to the outside is cut off. Knowing how to use one can save your life.

OK, anyway…I am getting more familiar with products, vendors and even some customers. I am scheduled to attend a major fire safety convention in March and even attend a fire school in April. The plan to bring a new business on-line is in place. However, there remains much to do.

This week was an “Aha!” type week. Ideas are starting to look more like reality.

Life without walls (part two)

“What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” I visit Las Vegas, Nevada on occasion. I see no point in gambling against insurmountable odds. I enjoy quiet country settings more than glitz. So why go? Business takes place there. The primary drivers of the Las Vegas economy are tourism, gaming, and conventions, which in turn feed the retail and restaurant industries. About 20,000 business conventions “happen” in Vegas annually.

The advertising firm R&R Partners, is best known for creating the advertising campaign slogan “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” for the City of Las Vegas. The campaign brought Las Vegas a record-breaking 37.4 million visitors in 2004. Our culture obviously loved the thought of departing the “normal life box” and diving into the “fun and exciting box” Las Vegas offers.

Southwest Airlines offers discount travel called “Wanna Get Away” fares. Don’t get me wrong, I love this airline, but they are taking advantage of our escapism culture as well. A great number of people buy “Wanna Get Away” fares to Las Vegas.

There is nothing wrong with taking vacations. There is nothing wrong with attending business conventions. There is nothing wrong with the proper amount of leisure in life. The problem raises its ugly head when you are attempting is escape responsibility. When you have lost the joy of ordained headship, you are in a state of rebellion. God awarded you the job, you should be rejoicing. Sure it’s hard. Sure it has its moments of stress. However, knowing you are in the place that God has for you, and knowing you are being obedient to the call…well, that’s paradise! Nothing brings greater joy!

Check your attitude. If “I deserve a break” is anywhere in your head, you have big problems. Let’s take a look in Scripture…

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’ ” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

(Genesis 3:1-6 ESV)

This is the story of the fall of mankind into sin. This is the point in the story that is spelled REBELLION. Satan played Eve like a fiddle. How did this happen? It seems that Eve is alone with Satan in the garden. Well, Adam is somewhere close physically, he ate too. But spiritually where is Adam? I think he’s in Vegas. (Or something like that)  Maybe after naming all the animals and getting hitched to Eve he felt he needed a break.

My point is, Eve needed the ordained head of the family to be on duty. Not grudgingly, but rejoicing! What if Adam being on duty cried out, “Hey, get away from my wife!”

Well, you get the picture. Rejoicing in our responsibility as ordained leader is the first step in living life without walls. Rejoicing in our responsibility is rejoicing in Christ.

Take a look at your wife…see how beautiful she is. She wants you to kill spiders, hang curtains, put up shelves and pay the mortgage; REJOICE! Take a look at your kids… they want you to play “I spy”, take them to soccer, put food on the table, buy the latest fashions, and pay for college; REJOICE!

It’s all GOD! It’s all good! REJOICE!

The company you keep…

“You can never rise above the company you keep.”  A great mentor taught me that the people in your sphere of influence are critical. No person is an island. No person shapes their own destiny. It is always a celebrative effort. Make sure you are the most ignorant person in the room often! Be a life long learner.