Photo Friday- Old Friends

I officially retired my gym sneakers today.  The soles are coming off the bottom so they are done.  They have been in my gym bag for at least ten years.  They have been reliable and comfortable which is about all you can ask for from a pair of shoes.  I have beat them up pretty good through the years.  They survived countless abuse on the treadmill, the elliptical machine, stepper and other exercise duties.

Kathy has tried to throw them away numerous times.  I have resisted because the shoes are like old friends.  They don’t have the best support or cushioning, yet they are soft, pull on easy and dependable. 

I have to admit that I have a bunch of clothes that are like this.  They don’t look great, but they are worn in, soft to the touch, and always there when I need them.  Kathy has actually ripped shirts off of me when she is over my friendship with a particular shirt that I am fond of.

Do you have friends like this?  Not clothes, but folks who have these characteristics?  

Friends that you have known for a very long time.

Friends that are easy.

Friends where you pick right up where you left off.

Friends that are soft and comfortable.

Friends that don’t care what you look like.

Friends that are always dependable.

Maybe you should let them know how much you appreciate them?  We lose track of time and sooner of later they may come apart like my shoes.  

My shoes provided me with a very long relationship, and it may be crazy, but I will miss them.  I bought a new pair and they have far better cushioning but they are stiff and not nearly as comfortable  Over time I will break them in and I am sure they will be fine.  But I will miss my old friends.  I am grateful for the many years we had together!  

The Always Right

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There is a very damaging phenomena that has overwhelmed our culture and threatens every type of relationship. I’m not sure what the roots are here but the results are clear. What is this phenomena? We have become a society obsessed with being right.

Somewhere along the way we have reached the conclusion that being right is THE most important thing. Social media and the internet have fueled a nasty discourse where you can trash someone and get supported and rewarded with more followers. A healthy dialogue, where you can argue your side, should be a positive thing. But we have digressed to nasty name calling and truly outrageous comments. Reminds me of the childish level of “Your momma wears army boots!”.

In addition to the onslaught on social media the “always right” crowd has invaded business and personal relationships also. Does being right give you the license for character assassination? Can someone make a mistake or do something less than perfect and still be respected for who they are? Is the goal of this life to make sure everyone knows how intelligent or righteous or pure you are? Jesus called these folks “white washed tombs”.

The other side of this is that the need to be right all the time is a pure people repellent. Nobody likes a “know-it-all” or someone that is constantly correcting them or pointing out there faults. Relationships and marriages are nuked every day by folks continually dwelling on faults, relational mistakes and personality quirks to the point of a breakup.

I’m sure in the cases of the internet and social media, the electronic separation provides the “courage” to make stupid and outrageous statements. But I think the basis for this obsession with being right has been around since the beginning of man. Yet the source of this new increased obsession with being right may be a flawed value system, our competitive nature, and on a deeper level- our own selfish pride. Let’s look at each of these.

Value System
Often the “always right” crowd believe that they are either smarter than you or they are simply better than you. Again I think the internet and social media have a role here in providing nearly unlimited information about a subject. The problem is that you can easily find another argument to discredit your beliefs. Beyond the intellectual side, the always right crowd may feel that they are simply better than the other party. They may feel that they care more, give more, feel more, have less faults, think purely, and live an impeccable life. They may have developed a value system that is based on their superiority and their internally applied pursuit of perfection. Even if they are truly better, it does not give them the right to trash others or look down on others views, opinions, faults or shortcomings. Gossip fuels the value system of the always right. Talking someone down lifts up the person who is involved in gossip. The Bible says you need to remove the plank from your own eye before judging the splinter in others. Being right has become their value system and their identity.

Competitive Nature
We are born with a competitive nature. At the earliest age kids will fight for toys and treats. We tend to celebrate competitiveness in our society and some folks personalities are prone to seek out competition and aggression. Having a strong competitive nature exhibits itself in many ways that may not be immediately recognized. The self-induced need to be the best and perform to excess can be a sign of this nature. By seeking to make yourself first you are naturally putting others down. To admit to being wrong goes against the need to put yourself first. I have personally witnessed competitive folks squirm when they are cornered and have to accept that they were wrong.

Pride
Last but not least. Our pride pushes us to build a case that we are right in every circumstance. If someone says or does something that we believe is wrong, we will often respond or react due to our own pride and what others would think about the situation. We are worried more about what others will think about US than about the OTHER person or the situation that you are in. We will actually trash others in the pursuit of being right in order to support how others view us. We are worried that we will look weak or supportive of a bad situation. We are worried that we may lose respect from our family or our circle of friends. We worry more about OUR image than the OTHER person’s image who we have determined is wrong. Being right doesn’t give you a free pass to destroy others EVEN IF YOU ARE RIGHT.

This is a complicated issue but it appears that the need to be right is growing. This need to be right can blind your behavior and result in doing things that are stupid and cruel clouded in a crazy righteous haze. We have forgotten about trusting the Lord to take care of things. We have forgotten about grace. We have forgotten to consider the relationship on the other side. We have forgotten about respect. We have forgotten to love first. All in the insatiable need to protect our image, win an argument, or exert power over someone else.

What you should do is question yourself. Are your motives to be right to help the other person to see a different perspective or are you simply correcting them? Are your motives to help them, not exert your power over them? Do I have their best interest in mind? Is this issue worth the discussion or should I just let it go? Am I presenting this in a positive and loving way? Failing to check yourself may allow emotion to overtake the situation and lead to serious regrets. And ultimately, placing the ultimate value on being right may make you 100% right but 100% alone.

So what do you think? Have we become so self-righteous that we can’t control ourselves with our comments? Is this something you have viewed personally? Click on “Leave a Comment” and let me hear your story!

It’s Not My Fault…

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When my daughter was in elementary school she learned a painful lesson.  She had a friend who forgot their permission slip to go on a class trip to an amusement park. This was the last day that the teacher would accept them.  To help her friend, my daughter signed her mom’s name to the permission slip and the teacher saw her do it.  Obviously the teacher was upset by this and punished my daughter by not allowing her to attend the class trip.

When she got home and told us the story, we were very upset with our daughter, but she was absolutely crushed.  This was her end of the year class trip and now she was not allowed to go.  We realized that we could ask the teacher to let her go and tell her that we would punish her for her actions.  Or we could have blamed the school, the teacher, the rules or anything else other than our daughter.  We could have told them that she was under a lot of stress.  That she was only trying to help.  That the school should have allowed more time.  We could have come up with a million excuses for her action.  But we didn’t do that.

We held her responsible for her actions and she was not allowed to go on the class trip.

Oh, how times have changed.  We live in a new age where no one is responsible for anything.  It’s not my fault.  I have problems.  I am disadvantaged.  I’m not responsible.  I forget things.  I’m distracted.  It’s not important to me.  I don’t care.  You should take care of it for me.  Your taking advantage of me.  Your being mean to me. I need more time.  I’ll do it later.  I’m not smart enough.  I can’t remember very well. I just can’t do it…  

We have created more reasons for not doing the right thing than to actually do the right thing. We coddle both young and old into thinking that there is always a way out.   You can talk and excuse your way out of everything.  We have raised a generation that believes that everything is not their fault and encouraged them to use excuses and negativity as a safety valve when they get caught up in a bad decision.  

While I believe we should be sympathetic and understanding to social barriers and personal situations, I believe its time to return to responsibility.  If you make a poor decision, then you should be held accountable for the decision and the ramifications.  We are raising our children and creating a society that believes that their is no defined right or wrong. How messed up is that?  My daughter grew up in the inventive spelling and participation trophy generation.  We don’t want to hurt their imagination or their feelings.  Suppressing responsibility and delaying the truth.  This results in a rude awakening when the real world kicks in.

We can all make reasonable excuses when bad things happen.  We all have a past, personality characteristics and flaws that we have to overcome.  Some situations are complex with many characters and lots of moving parts. Certainly there are countless opportunities to place blame on others. Yet the true leaders of the world understand that taking responsibility is an essential characteristic of leadership.  Making excuses does not make you strong- it makes you a weak leader.  Your team will not respect you if all you do is deflect and blame others.  Accept your past, your flaws, and your situation and overcome them!  

Stay positive and believe in yourself and you can fight through any situation.  Take the time to think before you act.  Seems simple- but we can be so impulsive and ruled by emotion.  Ask for advice if you are unsure.  Sleep on really tough decisions.  Don’t take unnecessary risks. Your integrity is a priceless jewel- don’t risk it.  And in the end, If you mess up or things go badly, take responsibility for the outcome.  This is not always easy but you will be better for it!

So what do you think? Are we living in an age of no responsibility? Do you think we need to own up to our failures and mistakes? Please let me know by pressing “Leave a Comment” and let me know what you think!

                    

Train or Die!

I have been deeply involved in recruiting in helping to build a construction renovation company.  Anyone that is looking for help knows how difficult the current market is for finding talented help.  There is simply not enough qualified and experienced candidates for the positions that are open.  

In past years, finding new help was rather easy.  There always seemed to be sufficient candidates in the labor market seeking employment opportunities.  Often these positions would be filled by word of mouth referrals or employment ads and we would interview, select the best candidate and then simply get them plugged in.  Today, the labor market is stretched extremely thin.  Rather than finding a great candidate, we are often stuck with settling for what is available.  

The bad news is that, looking forward, I believe this tight labor market will not change.

So what is the best solution to this problem?  Companies need talented folks, often with specialized skills.  If you are able to find experienced candidates, they will likely bust your compensation structure.  Or they may come with serious baggage.  Or they may be someone elses problem that they jettisoned.  What do you do?

I believe that we are moving into an era where training and mentoring will be the most important focus of a successful company.  We must have the programs and a company culture in place to train, prepare and raise up talent from within our organizations.  We cannot rely on simply seeking new help from the traditional labor market.  Most companies have some training protocol for new hires and existing employees.  I believe most of these programs will fall far short in this new normal.  Most organizations will need to shift the entire company culture to place valuable time and resources on training and mentoring to grow, or just even sustain, their businesses.  Here are a few areas of focus:

Written Policies and Procedures

In order to teach you need a textbook or a place to store information.  Additionally, all team members need to be conducting themselves in a organized and cohesive manner to ensure best results.  I used to coach basketball and the players would often get out of the offense and start to freelance.  When this happened, I would call time out and get them to huddle up and tell them this: If you continue to get out of the offense I cannot help you win the game.  You will be on your own.  You may win or you may not.  If you don’t follow the plays I have no way of really analyzing what we need to do to win.  I can’t help you. It will be a free for all and I will become nothing but a spectator.  Same is true without written policies and procedures.  In order to train and mentor you need the approved and best practices documented.  Verbal teaching is great but they will only remember part of the instruction.  They will forget.  Documenting all policies and procedures is a beast.  At a previous employer, I coordinated, wrote and edited a 600 page policies and procedures manual that included all processes of the company.  In order to complete the task, we divided it up by each departments and I edited the content for clarity and continuity and we used the same format for each procedural element.  This is a big job, yet it is absolutely necessary to provide structure for training.

A Complete Shift Of Culture To Training

Training must be constant and be present up and down in the chain of command.  The excuse that you don’t have time to train needs to be abolished completely.  Everyone is a trainer.  All team members must stop and take the time to teach, explain, model and mentor.  This can only be accomplished by reinforcing and believing in the true value and importance of training starting at the top of the organization and then emanating down through all levels of the organization.  Every person must teach and help to lift others up.  Abolish the typical HR training responsibility and spread the responsibility across the entire company.

Model Successful Behaviors

Bring your assistants and new recruits to higher level and sensitive meetings and strategy sessions so they can see how you handle different situations.  I didn’t realize the power of this until later in my career.  My team members would let me know later that they learned a particular technique by watching the way I handled some tough situations.  It may not be the most efficient way by having extra bodies and it may change the dynamics of the room a bit but these situational opportunities are infinitely valuable.  A quick debrief after will also assist in cementing these learned strategies in their memories.

Formal Training Programs

Many companies have training programs that are generic and really lack the proper amount of focus to their particular operations and issues that need to be addressed.  Training should focus on real company issues that are real, reoccurring and causing damage to the company.  Focus on the areas that will bring the greatest results.  Training should not be developed by the training department or HR.  They can help coordinate, but the best training is designed by each department to handle specific issues.  This will provide actual, positive and scalable results.  Developing training is not easy.  Just putting on a video and having a little multiple choice test is not enough.  Training must be precisely targeted.  Training should stretch you.  It should be difficult.  It should make you a little uncomfortable.  Role playing exercises are extremely effective.  Develop scenarios of problems with characters and have them act out ways to respond to the problems.  Leadership training is also extremely valuable.  The most successful businesses are led by accomplished leaders and most folks leadership skills need serious help.

Create A Cohesive Team Environment

The best training companies have strong company cultures where everyone is working together with clear goals and expectations.  A previous employer called me a cheerleader for the company as I understood the importance of this characteristic.  If you have a cohesive unit, they will naturally help and teach each other.  If the goals and expectations are clear, there is no question what the next step in required skills for your career path or any hesitancy in exercising these new skills.  Leaders need to build strong bonds and reward behaviors that help to strengthen the group.  There is no force greater than a team that cares for each other and works together for a common goal.

These are a few of the major items that will help to foster an environment of continual training.  As a life long learner, I have experienced the power in mastering new skills.  I have personally witnessed the power of learning new skills and the associated resulting career advancement.  Additionally, I have been rewarded with gratitude from former team mates who learned specific and valuable skills as I took the time to teach throughout my career.  Don’t let this opportunity go to waste.  You have a captive audience in employing your team.  Take every opportunity to teach and stretch your team so they will grow and mature into tomorrows leaders.  You really have no choice.  Training is no longer an option. The plug and play days are gone.  Move on to the new normal of raising up your leaders from within your organization.  Train or die!  

So what do you think? Have you also experienced this tight labor market? Do you have a success story or solution you would like to share? Please click on “Leave a Comment” and let me know what you think!

Photo Friday- Mountain Wisdom

A couple weeks ago I section hiked 60 miles of the Appalachian Trail starting In North Georgia and ending in North Carolina. The hike was amazing but it was physically challenging. There were many significant climbs that really pushed my body. I was ready for it mentally. I have hiked here before and I am in relatively good shape but the climbs here were especially exhausting.

While climbing out of one of the gaps I passed a guy who was going extremely slow.  Really, really slow.  I thought to myself, “This guy will never make it”.  And I kept heading up the hill.  This was a tough climb near the end of the day so I stopped SEVERAL times before the top.  While stopped and resting, this guy comes around the corner and passes me!  This went on several times.  I would blaze ahead and he would catch me. I realized that this was just like “The Tortoise and the Hare”!

I ended up introducing myself to the Tortoise and we talked a bit about his hike.  His plan was to thru hike to Maine.  We were similar in age but he had some health issues that required that he monitor his heart rate. He had a watch that kept his heart rate as he hiked.  When we both hit the top of the mountain, I was going to camp and bail out early from exhaustion.  He encouraged me to push on and join the group at a camp site about 5 more miles away.  I sucked it up and hiked on.  I pushed ahead and, true to the story, ended up arriving about 30 minutes before the Tortoise.

After contemplating what I saw, I realized the irony. The similarity to the story. The wisdom in going slower.  I am conditioned to attacking the mountain.  Attacking the task. Pushing really hard and getting it over with.  The way of an athlete and an overachiever!  But this method left me spent and exhausted.  I was burning too much energy going too fast.  The Tortoise was right.  So going forward, I began monitoring my breathing to make sure I wasn’t pushing too hard.  This way I had power remaining in my batteries to go longer.  Attacking the mountain was NOT the best strategy.

I slowed my pace on the climbs and this made things much better.  In the end, the time I lost going slower was not really significant.  I was able to see more and keep the pain level contained which made things more enjoyable.  

This lesson really spoke to the way I’m wired.  I have always pushed super hard and this has been both good and bad.  I accomplished a great deal but at a cost.  This internal push has left me with a bad back, bad knees, countless missed opportunities and strained relationships.  If I had to do it all over again I would use more restraint.  Do a little less.  Save myself for the important things instead of wasting myself on the task. 

A great lesson learned on the trail- slow and steady wins the race!  

So what do you think? Do you have a similar story? Press “leave and comment” and tell me what you think!     

Photo Friday- Solitude

Sunrise on Hopkins Prairie- Ocala National Forest

We live in a very noisy world.  We have been conditioned that the constant noise we experience everyday is normal.  That we should just get used to it.  Noise is action and progress.  Noise is part of life.  We have been indoctinated that noise is a good thing.  But is it really?

For me getting away from the noise is a way for me to recover and recharge.  To find a place where there is no road noise or a place where I can really see the stars is magical.  Once you strip away the noise and the choas of everyday life, you have the ability to reattach to the natural world.  Where we came from.  Where we can find the peace and the solitude.

I have been striving to be more intentional about disconnecting and getting away from the noise.  Even a few hours to walk in nature provides the opportunity to unload stress and recharge my batteries. 

I must seek the solitude.  It will not find me.  I have to reach out for it.  

The photo above was taken backpacking the Florida Trail at Hopkins Prairie in the Ocala National Forest.  At sunrise, when this photo was taken, it was COMPLETELY silent.  Seems when you cut out the noise your other senses become energized.  You can really SEE the beauty, SMELL the foliage, FEEL the breeze and RENEW your connection to the natural world.   

Next week I will be spending time alone backpacking on the Appalachian Trail.  Backpacking has been a great way for me to relax and recharge.  Carrying everything on your back has way of making the things you bring simple and essential.  No extra stuff.  No luxuries.  

I am looking forward to dumping the noise and finding the solitude.  Unloading the schedule and responsibilities.  Exploring to seek out the majesty and also finding the hidden beauty.  A time to let my mind wander.  The opportunity to delight in the natural world around us. Regain the balance.  Reconnect.  Recharge.  Refresh!         

Can you identify with this? Do you feel renewed when you find solitude? Click on “Leave a Comment” and let me know your story!

Who Am I?

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If you ask people this rather simple question you are likely to get several answers from each person.  They may provide descriptions such as father, accountant, golfer, husband, believer, friend, etc.  These titles provide some of the identities that make up their being as they see it.  These descriptions are really roles in our lives.  Each of these descriptions are different and unique.  There are also descriptions that may be less role based.  For example, they might say they are compassionate, thoughtful, a leader, a listener, a perfectionist, a servant, etc. These responses would describe the characteristics of who they think they are.

All of this to say- Who Are You?

I believe that much of the value in our roles are based on what WE DO rather than WHAT WE THINK WE ARE.  We tend to tell ourselves that we value roles that we don’t really act out in our everyday lives.  YOU WILL DO WHAT YOU VALUE.  We have a way of filtering out our roles and identities based on the time investment in fulfilling each different role.  

If you value your role as a father, you WILL spend the time that is necessary to fulfill this role.  

If you value your role as an executive, you WILL spend the time that is necessary to fulfill this role.

If you value your role as as a friend, you WILL spend the time that is necessary to fulfill this role.    

If you value your role as a Believer, you WILL spend the time that is necessary to fulfill this role.   

Maybe it’s time to take a hard look at your time and where you allocate your efforts to fulfill a particular role in your life.  By spending a large portion of your time in a particular role, you are placing personal value towards this role and thus you may be minimizing other important roles.  Realize that it is likely that you are choosing certain roles that give YOU the most value.  The roles that feed your ego and make you feel good.  In the midst of this you may be neglecting roles that are vitally important in your life.

I believe that it is a healthy exercise to examine where you are allocating your time and efforts to make sure that they are in balance with your goals and responsibilities.  We have a way of fooling ourselves believing that the role that brings us the most gratification or affirmation is our most important role!  Chances are you may be neglecting some other area of your life. This examination may lead to changes that will help to reduce regrets that will occur when your roles are way out of balance.

Take a quick and honest survey of where you are. You will be happy that you did!

So what do you think? Do we tend to perform the roles that bring us the most affirmation? Do you have an example of this that you can share? Click on “Leave a Comment” and let me know what you think!

It’s the science stupid!

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Unfortunately, it has become quite fashionable to correct others and point to “science” as the basis for your argument and beliefs.  While using the word “science” is a broad characterization, I believe that the true message that is being conveyed is that you are stupid and I am more intelligent because I implicently trust the science.  

There are very few labels in life that are worse than calling someone stupid.

While the scientific method has resulted in great discoveries and has increased our knowledge of the way things work in nature, it is not foolproof and is subject to changing theories and discoveries.  The basis of the scientific method is really observation.  Changing different inputs and then watching and documenting the results to get an understanding of how things work.  And there are other factors to consider that tend to skew things and pollute the sauce and actually make the “science” stupid.

We are human.

One problem with science is that we tend to interject bias into our studies.  We want results to be a certain way to prove or disprove our theories and hypothesis.  I believe that it is really impossible to completely remove all bias due to the human condition.  We have opinions, feelings, emotions, aspirations, ego, shame, empathy and all of these characteristics are part of being a living and breathing human.  

There is art.

The portion of discovery that gets lost is the side opposite of the science.  This is the side that could be termed as art.  Often there is an element of intuition that goes against the math, the chemistry, the facts.  This intuition is difficult to describe and measure yet it is involved in nearly every great discovery.    

There is faith (or luck).

When a doctor finishes a medical procedure he will often end with a comment like, “Now we wait to see if this is successful.”  Even with all the modern medical innovations there is still the knowledge that, in the end, things may work or they may not.  I call this faith.  Others may call it luck.  Regardless of your viewpoint, there is a realization that even with the best data and knowledge, things don’t always end as planned.   

So before you sell out to science and call others stupid for their questioning or apprehension to get on board, consider that your “science” might be flat out wrong.  And by making your comments about their failure to believe the science, you are doing harm to both of you.  You are likely degrading them for their apprehension to go “all in” and you may actually be the “stupid” party to discount these common failures in science in your self-righteous haste! 

No Regrets Monday- Your Life…Work?

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This is a series describing some of the regrets folks have shared during the last days of their lives.  The goal is NOT to add guilt to your life, but to allow you to take a look at where you are and take the opportunity to make changes.  I hope this effort will provide insight into your behavior and your long-term goals.  Blessing on your journey!

One of the crazy characteristics of American’s is that most of us DON’T use our vacation days.  According to a survey by CNBC, only 28% of Americans in 2019 planned to use all of their vacation days that year!  

Are we addicted to work?  Are we afraid that taking all or most of our vacation days would send a message to our boss that we are not fully committed?  Do we dislike being at home?  Do we lack the funds to take a vacation therefore we decide to just work instead?  Do you feel that staying home is a waste of time?  I’m sure that all of these are excuses are used to forego our vacation time.

One of the most common regrets shared by those in their final days is that they wish they hadn’t worked so much!

I am SUPER guilty here.  I can’t remember EVER taking a “staycation”.  I have forfeited so many vacation days unused it is ridiculous.  I really can’t point to a single reason other than the feeling that taking a day off without a trip somewhere was just a waste of time.  Additionally, I remember judging my friends who would literally game the system to max out ALL the time off.  Some would take every last hour that was allowed in the formula.

I think that some of it is cultural.  We pound the work ethic into our children to convince then that this is the only way to get ahead.  But is it really that important in our career?

During the Great Recession, my salary was cut in half along with others in my work group.  Most of the group cut back their hours accordingly.  I was in leadership and sales (seeking work that wasn’t there!) and I felt obligated to continue to work full time for half pay.  Although I was commended for my efforts during these tough times, it really had no long term effect on my standing as an employee.  The folks that surgically cut their hours were not treated differently than I was.  I don’t regret what I did, but it was a real learning experience for me.

So what should you do?  TAKE THE TIME OFF!  Spend time relaxing.  It’s good for you!  Spend time with your family.  Create lasting memories with loved ones EVERY chance you can get.  I would lay out the ground rules early with your employer.  Tell them that you intend to use your vacation days.  They will respect you for it and won’t be surprised when you max out your time off.  EXCEED THE AMOUNTS IF YOU NEED TO!  If you are salaried and you wish additional time off, let them know that you are prepared to forego pay in exchange for vacation time, if necessary.  Don’t abuse the benefit, but TAKE ADVANTAGE of the opportunity that it affords..

PLEASE…Take your time off.  Relax, recharge, create memories.  You will find that it’s good for you, your family AND your employer.  The time off should make you a better employee (and spouse, and parent and friend)!  And more importantly, as you review your choices later in life, this is a formula to avoid a potential painful and very common regret!  

That Baby!

Photo Credit: WDIV Detroit

Seems like we ALL are ready for this year to end! This has been a VERY tough year for many folks. Some have lost loved ones to the virus. Some have lost their jobs or their life savings. I’ve continued to hear stories of severe pain and misery this year. I think we all had big plans for this year and have been left watching the virus hijack our plans.

For many, the most immediate pain of this year resulted from the isolation and separation that was brought on by social distancing and the shutdowns. I have experienced this myself. I miss getting together with family, friends and especially spending time with the ones that we have that are most vulnerable. What a despicable disease to target those that may have the least amount of time remaining to see family and friends! I ache for these folks as they continue to sit in isolation waiting for this virus to finally go away.

This disruption and pain has a way of making us reflect on where we are.  What is important.  What we take for granted.  This feeling of uncertainty typically results in fear.  Fear is a very powerful emotion.  It strikes deep in our being.  Are you afraid of getting sick from the virus?  Are you afraid of what the future looks like for you after this is over?  

Yet, I can assure you that even with all the fear and uncertainty, there is still hope.  Hope in the future.  Hope that things will be made right.  For me, my hope is the little baby in the manger.  That baby! See, I have felt His love.  I have seen that He is faithful.  I have enjoyed the countless blessings that He has lavished on me and my family.  I know that he has plans for me and they are good.  And most of all, I know the end of the story and it is also good!

Do you feel hopeless? Having trouble seeing a way out? Does the virus or your situation leave you in fear of the future? Maybe the problem is that you don’t know the end of the story. You are holding on to this world as if the world is all there is. You see death as the end of the story. Yet, I can tell you that there is so much more. If you are feeling uneasy that is because you were made for eternity. You were made without an end. Death is NOT your final act.

That baby!  That’s the difference.  God’s gift to us.  This is the hope that we all need.  Listen- your story is bigger.  MUCH bigger.  He made a way so that you would have joy and peace.  So you could enjoy yourself and your time here on the earth and live WITHOUT fear.  That baby.  The Christ.  Emmanuel.  God IS with us!

Thank you for your continued support! Blessings to you and yours this holiday season!

Merry Christmas!