Spiritual Labor

As we look ahead to this weekend and Labor Day here in the US, I thought we’d take a look at a few verses from the Bible about work and what God says about work.  A few of the results caught me by surprise, so as we head into the new month we may take time to dive deeper into a few of them.

Work:
“He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.” Matthew 9:37

“Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Colossians 3:23

“The Lord will send rain at the proper time from his rich treasury in the heavens and will bless all the work you do.” Deuteronomy 28:12

“Work brings profit, but mere talk leads to poverty!” Proverbs 14:23

“I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned.” Ecclesiastes 2:18

“Whatever you do, do well.” Ecclesiastes 9:10a

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” Zechariah 4:10a

“God blesses those who work for peace, for they will be called the children of God.” Matthew 5:9

“Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval.” 2 Timothy 2:15

“When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned.” Romans 4:4

“Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically.” Romans 12:11

“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works.” Hebrews 10:24

God and work:
“But Jesus replied, “My Father is always working, and so am I.”” John 5:17

“On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work.” Genesis 2:2

“Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted.” Psalm 127:1a

“Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” Ecclesiastes 3:11

“When I look at the night sky and see the work of your fingers—the moon and the stars you set in place—what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?” Psalm 8:3-4

“For since the world began, no ear has heard and no eye has seen a God like you, who works for those who wait for him!” Isaiah 64:4

“For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.” Romans 1:16

“God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.” 1 Corinthians 12:6

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” Philippians 1:6

What are your thoughts on (spiritual) work?

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Reality Reflection: Leaving a Legacy

As you know from other blog posts I’ve been thinking a lot about the violent events that have happened over the past few weeks, and of course this week my heart and prayers are with the people of Texas and Louisiana who are dealing with Harvey. Along with these events, around the country people are going back to school. School is supposed to be a safe place, a place that helps prepare you for what your future holds. I know that some get very little from their school experience, and even less from the actual textbook/class studies. While I wish that wasn’t the case, simply put there’s no good way right now of truly designing a program that looks similar to what kids experience now and provides the necessary socialization, all while giving the really necessary customized education platform. However that doesn’t mean that teachers should give up.  I think teachers should have the same goal as everyone else: impact just one person positively every day. I can only name a small handful of my teachers from all my years (k-12 and 4.5 years of college) who had a truly lasting positive effect on my life. Yes, I did learn from my education and have some memories of activities, classes or particular topics that still speak to me today. I can’t say that I really enjoyed my education for the most part or found it as valuable as it could be, but who knows, I’m still young and maybe there are things that will still have a greater impact on my future.

What’s my point in this? These 3 events have me thinking about legacy. What legacy are we leaving with all the anger, hate, and violence? Are we really making a difference? Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s important to stand up when there are injustices, I sign lots of petitions every week and support organizations that help those who aren’t as blessed or healthy as I am. What legacy are we leaving by allowing the hate to stand and continue through the generations? I’m not saying we all have to be willing to give up our lives for everyone, just that there has to be a degree of human respect.

In many past storms there has been a positive legacy left by the countless men, women and organizations who have stepped in during or immediately after the storm. While there are always issues and visible devastation remaining years later, sometimes just knowing that someone is willing to step in and put their life on hold so that your life can begin to be rebuilt can be invaluable. I can remember being so thankful for all the trucks I saw on the roads that had license plates from other states (some very far away) coming in to help get power back into homes after some of the big storms the Northeast had a few years back. Many people may have even had power back at that point, but just seeing their willingness to come and help out with not only the immediate fixing but also the rebuilding was incredibly touching. I pray that those impacted by Harvey will see an equally heartfelt response, and I look forward to hearing stories over the next few weeks and months of how we came together as a nation.

So what about you? Do you have the opportunity to help leave a positive legacy on our world today? Yes, you do because you can donate to Harvey relief, send out a tweet letting them know you’re praying, or even volunteer to go down and help if you’re out of a job. You can also make someone’s day by encouraging them or helping them with their groceries or pay for their coffee. Sometimes it’s the little things that matter. Yes, you could choose to leave a legacy of hate, but why would you?

Healing and Assumptions

The past few weeks we’ve been hearing about many tragedies around the world, something that isn’t really new, but seems to have taken on another level of activity again recently. As humans we struggle to understand how people can be that violent and inconsiderate of human life. As spiritual people we struggle to understand how anyone could kill another person, or could live with the hate that’s being slung around at people regardless of whether they deserve it or not.

I know that until Jesus comes back we will continue to have wars and violence, that’s part of the sin experience. But I believe we can do a lot more to heal our country and world, and it starts with having faith that the people we share this planet with are worth working towards a better future for and are just as human as you or I.

It starts with not believing we’re just defined by our race, religion beliefs, political opinions or social status. Yes, those things do define us, but they should not be our bottom line. Using a very publicized example that means that just because you’re black not everyone is out to get you. You have to take the first step to see yourself as something other than what someone could define you as.

Why? Because many people are capable of treating each other as average/ordinary human beings without a specific label, but some people escalate and force them to profile them that way. For example if a police officer pulls you over and you get all angry and curse at them saying that they pulled you over because you’re black, when the reality is the police officer may have had no idea what race you were, but pulled you over because you had a taillight out or were on your cell phone or you were speeding. If you pull the stereotype card that’s how others will often treat you.

However, we’ve got a choice to begin our lives, our days, and our attitudes in a different way.  We can choose to make fewer assumptions, choose healing and love rather than hate and judgement, and choose to listen and learn before reacting. Unfortunately there will always be people who stereotype others and treat them based on some factor like race or religion that really may have very little to do with who that person is.  But for the many people who don’t see you and me specifically or only as our race or religion, working on treating them better and making fewer assumptions could really go a long way to healing many of the issues in our world.

What kind of legacy do you want to leave for the next generation? One of perpetuated hate or one of healing, growth and opportunities?

Concise Communications

Our conversations about listening this month have really reminded me about the value of being a good communicator. If you’re really a good listener you’ll know how to ask questions that clarify what someone else is talking about, you’ll know how to talk to others in a way that doesn’t offend but still communicates your point, you’ll know how to communicate something in a concise but not too brief fashion and you’ll know when to shut up. Presentations, events and speeches aside, the majority of what we do should be listening and thinking. Why? Because there’s lots of things being said in the world and too many aren’t helpful and only add to the overall noise.

As you can tell I’m a writer, and I love to think and talk about communication. Whenever an issue is brought up by a client about a situation in their life or business one of my first questions is about something communication related, because all too often it’s a lack of communication or a miscommunication that created or exacerbated the issue. Of course communication does largely depend on being able to speak the same language and understand each other, two things that are prevalent challenges in our world, whether you’re a police officer trying to take a report or a parent trying to understand your son/daughter who has autism.

I’ve read many a book or article and heard some speeches that I’ve thought were too short and definitely could have been longer (or I would have enjoyed the story continuing). But I’ve also run into a few books, some articles, and too many speakers that run on and on and I’m exhausted by the time they’ve finished, if I even made it that far. Which is what we’re focusing on today, the value of using fewer rather than more words. That’s not to say that you shouldn’t completely explain the situation or that it’s OK to talk in one and two word sentences (if you can call them that).

We all can work on learning how to communicate in a way that gets our point across, answers the question, is polite to those listening, doesn’t wander or go on many tangents, doesn’t waste precious time, and takes into account the very short attention span of many people. God has given us the ability to speak and communicate with each other, are you respecting and honoring Him with your words?

“A truly wise person uses few words; a person with understanding is even-tempered.” Proverbs 17:27

Reality Reflections: Face Your Life

Today I have an interesting challenge for you, inspired by the words of Colette Baron-Reid: “So many people are realizing that in spite of outer conditions we all have the capacity to choose to face our lives, turn on our light and address the shadows we have cast head on.”

The words that stood out to me when I read this was that we first and foremost have the capacity to choose to face our lives. It’s really a big wake up call to those of us who are unhappy with our lives and haven’t made any decisions about how to move forward. You’ve heard it before: the only person who can really do anything to change how happy you are with your life is you. I may be able to help you be happier or bring you things that make you happier, but you’ve got to choose to be happy about those things and welcome them into your life.

The second thing that stood out to me was the reminder that we have to “address the shadows we have cast head on.” I get it, our shadows (and what causes them) can be scary. It’s not exactly exciting to look at the mess you may be in.  It can be intimidating to talk with our boss, our family or our partner about our unhappiness. You may think that you know the reaction (or rejection) they’ll give you. I wish that everyone had the supportive relationships that I do in their lives. The unfortunate reality is that not everyone has someone in their life that supports them (shame on you if you’re not supportive of the people in your life).

Sometimes we can get through the mountains we face by drilling through, other times we have to take the time to go around, and sometimes we have to take what might be the most challenging route and go over those mountains. But we’ve either got to pick one of those routes or we’ll never get to the other side (it’s very unlikely that the mountain will move for you, although sometimes it does).

As you look ahead to the last few days of this month and what you’re going to do with the last 4 months of the year, I would encourage you to grab the courage and confidence to face those mountains, those challenges, those people, those fears, those things that you’ve let hold you back and choose that you’re going to move forward from this point on.

Space to Be Me

I was reminded again in an email this past week of how important it is to clear out space in your life. I like stuff as much (and maybe more) than the next person, but I also find huge value in freeing yourself from that which no longer pleases, inspires, encourages, fulfills or excites you. And yes, sometimes that can include people.

I think my line on keeping “stuff” starts with having a really good place to put everything and not having storage/organization solutions that frustrate you. For example I’m a big book lover and for the longest time I’ve been frustrated by traditional bookshelves, they’re all twice the depth of my books which leaves so much empty space, and takes up more space than it needs to. I’m looking forward in the near future to installing shelves that I can neatly store all of my books on. Another example would be using shelving spacers or stackers that help you get organized in the kitchen without stacking dishes of different types or sizes directly on top of each other. And I will never store winter clothes again without the use of space-saving bags that allow you to remove the air from them.

To an extent proper storage allows you to have a lot more stuff. It also helps you to give everything a proper place, and when everything has a place it’s not only much easier for you to find, it’s much easier for anyone who needs it to find. It also means you won’t have duplicates or triplicates of everything unless that’s what you want or need.

Do you have proper storage for everything in your home? Do you make time to go through those various storage and organization spaces and get rid of the things that you no longer want or need? It’s not just about having less, it’s about having the space to contribute in your own way to the world, to receive the best that others and the world have to offer, and having a life, people and things in it that make you feel open and comfortable about being yourself.

Will you join me in making room this week?

Listening for Encouragement

Psalm 23 is one of the most recognizable Bible passages. Many people hear it in church, but it’s also often shared at funerals or with those who are going through a challenging time in their lives. In some ways it reminds me of the Serenity Prayer which is used by countless self-help programs and groups. One of the things I love about Psalm 23 is that it brings us through the journey of our lives in just 6 short verses, talking about both high points and low points that we go through.

As I was thinking about this chapter and about our topic of the month I was reminded that sometimes what we need is to hear something as simple as Psalm 23 to find the peace, hope, encouragement, strength and perseverance to make it through another day. It’s not about having all the answers, having tons of money, having lots of friends, being well-known, or not having any issues or challenge or problems in life. That’s not the story of Faith or the Bible, despite what some people may say.

Throughout the Bible we’re reminded that there will be challenges we face and there is no guarantee of a great life on earth. However, we are assured if we’re people of faith that God will go with us through all challenges we face and that we’ve got the hope of heaven to look forward to because Jesus died for our sins and rose again. Earth is a chance for us to learn from the challenges we face, to
explore our individuality, to develop the gifts God has given each of us, to encourage each other, and to pave a better way for the next generation. Perfection isn’t expected or the goal on earth, instead it’s to live a life worthy of the God you believe in.

If you’re going through a challenging time in your life, I encourage you to print out copies of Psalm 23 and maybe even the Serenity Prayer to post in locations around your home, workplace, and car and anywhere else you go frequently. Don’t give up because it seems like the darkness is lasting for so long or the mountain seems too high. Rely on God to bring you through, and don’t forget to ask for help if you need it. After all, Jesus didn’t do His years of ministry on earth alone, He had men who worked closely with Him and women that He taught and trusted too.