Freaky Friday

The only thing ordinary about this particular Friday was that I showed up to work with my phone at 4% charged.  Life with teenagers means that a charger is never in the same outlet twice.  Car charger mysteriously gone also??

Upon arriving at work, I did have enough charge left to receive one call.  A concerned Cintas sales rep who had recently fitted my work team with uniforms was the first to call with the bad news.  He asked if I was aware that one of my trucks was in an accident on I-64.

My father and I rushed to the scene to find this.

shuttle truck 1

Our driver, Jeff, had already been taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital with non-life threatening injuries.  Jeff is a dependable, honest, Christian brother who has given over 17 years of devoted service to my family’s business.  My first thoughts were simply of amazement and thanks to God that his injuries weren’t more severe.

It took only a couple of hours to clean up the scattered furniture and appliances that he was hauling, and load the pieces onto other trucks.  As the last of my workers drove away with their loads of mangled merchandise, I remained behind to gather my thoughts.

I knew a logistical nightmare awaited me.  People were waiting for me to give them some sort of plan of action to deal with a truckload of severely damaged furniture and a day’s worth of deliveries that needed to be re-scheduled.  Maybe I could have have clearer thoughts on the roadside with emergency workers, rather than buried in the chaos of a retail business.

But the thoughts of logistics quckly faded, replaced by waves of emotions.  A realization that a very good man that I had spent thousands of days working beside, had nearly lost his life.  I was suddenly grateful for a newfound appreciation and respect I’d found for Jeff in recent months.  And I eventually came around to my own failures in relationships with other co-workers as I wandered aimlessly around the accident site.

A few years back, Jeff had serious heart problems that required surgery.  Upon returning to work, his level of production diminished somewhat due to loss of strength and endurance, along with breathing problems.  But he continued to show up and do his job to the best of his ability.  I valued him…….or so I thought.

This past summer, Jeff had his personal tools stolen from the back of a delivery truck in our parking lot overnight.  When he inquired about the possibility of having the business replace his tools, I told him that I couldn’t take responsibility for what was left on our trucks.  And I could tell that he wasn’t happy with my response.

But…….I did share the story with my older and wiser father, let him know that I’d probably hurt Jeff’s feelings.  My dad didn’t say much at the time.  But after giving it some thought, he left to find some new tools.  Before the end of the day, Jeff had a new tool box, filled with more tools and better tools than he had before.

At the end of the day, when I said, “Dad picked you up some new tools”, his simple, sincere answer said so much:

“Yeah, that really meant a lot to me.”

appreciation 2

I did value him (but only as far as my narrow heart and mind allowed), but it was worthless because I failed to show it.

I already said that Jeff showed up and gave his best every day.  Since that day, the amazing thing is that his “best” is now at a much higher level than it was before.  As my respect and admiration for him grows, I find myself searching harder for opportunities for him to use his many strengths, rather than being frustrated by a particular weakness.

appreciation 3

Jeff and I talk more than we used to.  Talk a lot about how everybody has strengths and weaknesses.  Those conversations usually provide a good chance to reinforce my appreciation for the things Jeff does well.  And perhaps more importantly, it gives me chance to work on my biggest weakness……finding ways to reveal to co-workers that they are valued as a person first….appreciated.

Because I always get it backwards.  “Do your job well (all the time)…..then I will respect you.  I won’t ride your tail when you screw up.  But I won’t be your cheerleader either.  I’m too busy making sure I’m outworking everybody else and holding things together.  Forgive me if I don’t have time for chit-chat or group hugs.  Just show up and do your damn job.” (I don’t really say this, but I’m guilty of living it).

appreciation 4

But good leaders do find time to be cheerleaders.  They need to lead with compassion.  Every person that you work for, work beside, or that works for you…….is a person.  Every person that works beside you has their own personal struggles that you may not be aware of or be able to understand.

Wandering on the side of the road that day, looking at the wreckage, I was reminded that our family business is made up of people that really are like family.  And I realized that I have treated some in that family differently based on performance.

Performance levels will always be different.  Love for family should not be.

I’m thankful today that Jeff is recovering.  I’m thankful for the guiding presence of my earthly father.

And I’m thankful for “quiet times” on the roadside where I can see the guilt of my selfishness and impatience with others, and the need to replace these things with the God-honoring qualities of love and compassion.

How You Gonna React?

96 flashback

Even boring, mild-mannered people have sudden bursts of emotion, excitement, and outward joy at times.  A celebration of a championship for their favorite sports team or a last second victory (in a single meaningless game?).  Tears of joy for the birth of a child or a baptism.  When something great happens, why hold back?  Enjoy the moment.

But what about when little things go wrong?

How do we react?

My pastor and friend delivered some solid life advice in sermon that has really stuck with me for these situations.  I believe the sermon subject was relationships.  He simply said this:

“Under-react.”

I don’t recall the biblical context or application that was applied, so I’m forced to provide my own from Colossians 3.

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Since that day, I’ve paid careful attention to what triggers so many conflicts (my own and others).

In almost every situation where senseless or unnecessary conflict arises, there is a common denominator:

One of the involved parties overreacts to the actions of another.

Thirteen hours in a car with mom, dad, and four kids on a family trip……..what causes every conflict?  An overreaction!  Sure little brother shouldn’t have farted for the 28th time.  Conflict arose when big sister acted like her eyes were bleeding and threatened to kill him.

You get the picture.  Person A does something they shouldn’t.  Person B reacts as if this justifies whatever bad reaction they unleash.

I understand that conflict isn’t always bad and sometimes becomes necessary.

But I think it’s important to think before we speak or act.

Plan ahead.  Know what’s important.  Know what’s worth fighting for.

When anger rises, ask the right questions, “is this worth getting mad over, worth fighting about?”  “Am I about to do something that I’m gonna feel terrible about and have to apologize for later?”  “What does my reaction teach my kids or anyone else that’s around?”

James 13 “Bear with each other….”

Be reminded of what’s really important.  In the grand scheme of things (especially for Christians honestly seeking biblical and eternal perspectives), most things we get worked up about simply aren’t worth getting worked up about.

I wish:

I’d spoken a little more harshly.

I’d been a little less patient.

I’d never put myself in the other person’s shoes.

I’d make more exceptions when it comes to following God’s commands.  But…….

I’d gotten angrier.  Reacted like it was a bigger deal than it really was.

No, of course we don’t say these things.

So why do we continue to get fired up and overreact to things that don’t really amount to a hill of beans?

James 1:19-20

19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

Kevin Ward, Jr., a 20 year-old race car driver died in a tragic accident last night after he was struck by Tony Stewart’s car.  I’m not a racing expert or even a fan, and I’m not going to speculate on who was at fault.  But I am certain of this.  Two men found themselves in a situation where their anger rose.  Neither man “under-reacted”.  If only one had done so, a tragic death could have been prevented.

When something great happens…….don’t be afraid to act like something great happened. Share the moment with others.
When the anger, impatience, and irritation begin to stir……..walk away, count to 10 (or to 1000), pray. THINK.
UNDER-REACT.

 

Image Is Everything?

dad macy shark 2013

Kids need their parents’ approval.  They need encouragement.  Security.

But they don’t need to grow up watching their parents live as if the approval of the world is of great importance.

Galatians 1:10

New International Version (NIV)

10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.

 

So how do we raise kids who are secure enough to walk around in public with their pants unzipped and leave home each day without looking in the mirror?

Maybe the first step is to commit to redefining “image”.  What do others think of me vs. what do others think of my God.  Sure, we can dress in Iron Maiden and Metallica shirts just to avoid the cookie cutter church guy image (but that qualifies as image management that should be avoided).  And when we do something nutty in public, and our kids say, “Dad!  What are people going to think?”, we can fire off that we don’t really care what people think.  We say we don’t care what people think, but do our actions really portray a life that revolves around pleasing God or trying to impress man.

Ultimately, parents need to consistently model for their children, a life of obedience to God.  Not a life where anything less than perfection is considered failure, but a life that displays daily choices and actions that paint a picture of surrender.  Peace comes from God’s love and living to please Him.  Choose daily to love others (not just the easy-to-love folks), serve others, give up our own selfish desires, and seek the character of Christ.

Just a few simple suggestions or at least some things to think about before our kids freak out because they can’t find a boyfriend or girlfriend at age 15 or post a selfie on Instagram that gets 100 likes (or whatever Instagram pics get?)  And why should anybody listen to me?  Because I have two boys (14 & 8) that have never combed their hair.  That pretty much qualifies me as an expert in leading children down the path of “I’m not real worried about what anybody thinks of my appearance”.

1)  Don’t complain about doing a good deed and not receiving praise or recognition.  You might be doing it for the wrong reasons.

2)  Do look for opportunities to praise and encourage others.  Pride fools us into thinking we are deserving of gratitude and recognition.   We can’t demand these things but we must give them to others.

3)  Serve others.  Put others before yourself.

4)  Don’t obsess over appearance (your own or your childrens’).  Avoid phrases like, “you’re not going out of the house like that”.  If their tail is clean and proplerly covered and their teeth are brushed, they are ready to face the world.  God doesn’t judge us by our neatly combed hair or having clothes that match.  Kill the “what will people think” mentality, early and often.

5)  Don’t play the fairness card.  Don’t even talk about it.  “If I do ___ , I deserve ___ . ”  “I’ve done twice as much work as my brother so I DESERVE _____ .”   Another part of the battle with pride.  Kids need to learn to do the right thing without reward.  Life’s not fair so suck it up, and all that great stuff our kids hate to hear.

6)  Love unconditionally, just as God loves us.  Appearance and performance can’t be viewed by children as a measuring stick of our love for them.  We love who they are and not how they look or what they accomplish.

7)  Don’t use overkill with the word “pretty”.  Beauty is on the inside.  Make sure your kids know it.

8)  Always be mindful of making choices based on the management of your image.  Am I trying to impress man?

The only “what will people think” that matters is “what will people think of my Lord because of the way I live my life”?  Can I influence them to follow who I follow?  Am I maintaining an image that influences others in some way that helps them find their identity as a servant of Christ?

You don’t have to like my hair or clothes, but on my worst days, I can’t do anything to turn someone away from my Savior.

 

 

 

I’m Not a Freaking Idiot

we're not babies

Napoleon Dynamite gets offended when his grandma tells him that’s she sending a relative over to look after him and his 32 year-old brother while she is away.

I find myself getting irritated in much the same manner, getting fired up because I’m fooled into believing that I’m entitled to be treated or spoken to in a certain manner.

“Nobody talks to me the way!  Who do you think you are?”

When I was younger, I found myself in constant conflict, especially in the workplace because I thought somebody was insulting me, trying to push me around, or talking down to me.  Those conflicts have mostly disappeared over time because of two main reasons:

1) Consistent improvement in the basic ability to do the right thing.  One tends to get pretty defensive when one is challenged about something that you knowingly did wrong or failed to do at all.  It becomes much easier to stand your ground without becoming confrontational (and to let insults and challenges roll off your back) as you progress toward being a person who does what they’re supposed to do as well as doing exactly what you say you will do.

2) Learning (slowly) to recognize the times when my own pride leads me to react in ways that simply aren’t righteous or healthy in relationships.

Proverbs 14:3   A fool’s mouth lashes out with pride, but the lips of the wise protect them.

“I’m not an idiot.  I deserve a little respect.”

Respect is earned, not commanded……over time.  Obeying God’s commands consistently over time and serving others instead of self accomplishes this……over time, as long as we avoid the mentality of “hey, look at me” and “don’t they know what I have done, don’t they know who I am”.   I will concede that it does sometimes become necessary when dealing with our own children to paint them a little picture of sacrifices that are made for them in order to help them discover the concept of respect and gratitude.  But in general terms, if you are doing the things that earn respect, it shouldn’t be necessary to demand that someone show you respect.

Proverbs 13:10  Where there is strife, there is pride, but wisdom is found in those who take advice.

So as pride diminishes, so does strife, conflict.  But pride never quietly fades away.  We must always be aware of its presence, aware of the times when it falsely guides our thoughts, actions and reactions:
“Karrick, I’m going out the door, don’t fall back asleep and make Kal late for school.”  And PRIDE answers in my head, “yeah, I know, I’m not a freaking idiot.  I’ve been doing this for a while you know.  I deserve to be treated like a responsible adult here!”  But TRUTH says 1) I need to get my tail out of bed  2) I failed to earn respect because I have a history of fouling up little matters like this.
What about coaching basketball games, engaging in conflict with referees?  Not because of bad calls, that comes with the territory.   I say it often, but it’s a poor excuse for poor behavior, “I don’t mind bad officiating, I just can’t stand it when they’re jerks about it.”  Translation= they challenged me or took actions that tried to show me who was in control.  PRIDE on my part answered “I’m not looking for a fight, but I’m not taking a step back either”.  And……even though I tell my players to take care of the things that they control and the things that are important, I fail in that very area.  PRIDE tells me to keep taking steps forward.  Conflict escalates.  The things that are truly important in a basketball game, in life…….are pushed aside.  Derailed by pride.  Losing sight of things that are truly important: people, relationships, the direction of my influence, and my representation of my faith and my Savior.
It’s a dangerous thing to be distracted in life in instances where we allow ourselves to be controlled by feelings of “what we deserve”.  I’m certain that I don’t want to dig and fight too hard in this life for what I truly deserve.

Daddy, How Can You Be a Christian AND a Democrat?

“Daddy, how can you be a Christian and be a Democrat?”
Honest question. Thirty days later I still don’t have the answer.
I’ve read a lot of bible verses about subjects like “work” and
“looking after orphans and widows”.
I even came across this one:
“You shall not murder.” Exodus 20:13
So now, I have arrived at this conclusion:
I don’t have THE answer. I have AN answer.
Biblical truths form my belief system.
These beliefs determine my attitudes and my actions.
But it’s been awhile since I had a chat with anyone on the supreme court about abortion.
And I’m still waiting for my opportunity to weigh in on a national level
on matters like welfare and healthcare reform.
For Christians, political parties cannot define who we are.
I assume many Christians fall into a similar category; one party consistently
supports or promotes positions that are exactly
“what is wrong with our country”.
But truthfully, picking a side in politics simply dictates how we might vote.
It doesn’t dictate how we live.
My approach to political discussions resembles the exchanges I have with
someone who has a favorite sports team that I despise.
I dislike everything about the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Louisville Cardinals.
And I don’t know why or how anyone arrives at the point of being fans, but some fine
people and dear friends are devoted fans of these teams.
Our different views provide opportunities for colorful discussion, but
it can never affect our relationships.
If the guy sitting next to me in a pew (hypothetical yes, because I sit alone….
bad singing and all) happens to run for sheriff or mayor as a Democrat in Smalltown, USA
then I can’t really label him as a baby killer and assume that he will fight to the
death for anything and everything that the Democratic party stands for on
a national level.

boss hog

He could be a 4th generation Democrat that believes in the same biblical truths as me.

Perhaps his interpretation of taking care of widows and orphans differs slightly from my own.

It’s not, and cannot be made to be a huge issue.

What is the huge issue?

I believe it is this:  that Christians should be very careful how they
speak and interact with others when it comes to political differences.

It matters not if someone is Republican or Democrat.

It matters only if they are a believer or an unbeliever.

Christians must have an awareness of refusing to water down or compromise biblical truths.

But as we engage with others in interactions of a political nature we must also be

aware of the dangers of our actions and words ensuring

that unbelievers will remain unbelievers.

Live what you believe…….absolutely.

And know that political debate, while it can stimulate intelligent and entertaining discussion,

is not an effective ministry tool.  It is a good way to identify with those who believe as you do.

It may not be the best way to change the beliefs of those who do not.

And it may not be the best way to spend your time and energy.

Maybe I Am a Role Model?

barkley role model
Nobody wants to follow a loser
(unless you’re a loyal Bengals fan).
Acquiring followers requires success,
credibility, winning.
Most of us don’t seek to rule the world
(or even the entire tri-state area if you follow Phineas & Ferb)
or seek 1,000 Facebook friends or Twitter followers.
And we might buy into the old Charles Barkley
“I am not a role model” line.
But like it or not we all influence the people
each day that our life touches.
Pretty serious business when we call ourselves Christians.
Ultimately we aren’t looking for “followers”, but trying to
live in a way that will lead others to follow the One that
we follow.
I’ve never been so wowed by someone’s biblical
knowledge that I was motivated to make
major changes in my life.
But I have certainly been influenced by those
who lean on the understanding of God’s word and
His promises, especially when they hold close to these
things in life’s most difficult times.
Do we live like winners or losers?
The Bible was not written to simply be studied.
Possession of knowledge by itself has no real value.
The Holy Bible was written to change us….constantly.
change obama style(If we could change him, that would be nice also), but seriously………
Success?  Certainly not financial or in ways of the world.  Success (being a winner) shines brightest in our relationships.  Do our relationships cause others to look favorably on our faith…..our Lord?  Sure relationships are tough because
we can’t correctly do anything that we simply do not
understand (insert husband, wife, or boss joke here).
We must constantly seek understanding daily from
God’s word that changes our hearts……
and changes our lives.
When we struggle with relationships,
we may not necessarily struggle with God,
but solutions are certainly found in HIS living word.
Credibility or our ability to influence those around us in a
positive way, comes not simply from knowledge, even
Biblical knowledge.  It comes from living powefuly for God
in our relationships as evidenced by unconditional love,
sacrificial love, and extending to others the same grace that is given to us.
People can’t see our minds, our hearts, or our intentions.  But they form opinions of our faith based on our words, our actions, our reactions, and the times we fail to take the necessary action.
Winner or loser?
Direction of your influence?
Figure out where it’s going and use God’s word each
day to begin to steer it in the right direction.
If someone seeks faith-related answers from you, will
your life dictate that you will have credibility in your answers?

Just Shock Me- Do Something Right

DSC00215Expectations of others?
We all have discussions about it.
The frustration of other people letting us down.
Disappointing us with their actions or lack of action.
I once passed on this geniunely moronic strategy to my wife,
“I just have low expectations of everyone, and that way people never let me down or disappoint me”. 
True but crazy I guess.
We have people in our lives that we have to be able to depend on to do the right thing.
 And there are people whose actions or directions we have a degree of responsibility for -children, supervised co-workers, athletes that we may coach,etc.
(wouldn’t dare touch on the subject of spouse here).
In those cases, it’s vitally important to clearly state our expectations.
The wrong approach, the wrong perspective will constantly pound away at us
by manipulating one big thing that poisons our days,
‘Our level of irritation”. 
If I need someone to do something a certain way, then I better lay it out clearly.
Beyond that, it takes a good look in the old mirror.
What can I do to prevent poor outcomes?
How can I protect against my own bad reactions and responses?
How can I prevent allowing my moods to be at the mercies of others’ actions?
A good start is to raise our own standards,
our expectations of ourselves,
to never give others a reason to lower their opinions and expectations of us. 
We all have some person in our lives that we never want to disappoint, never let down.
Not because of fear of punishment or consequences,
but simply because of a level of respect and admiration that is earned over time.
Wouldn’t it be great to become “that person”?
Show me a person who not only knows God’s word, but obeys it and lives it.
Selfless, merciful, kind, hard-working, honest, patient, forgiving.
Able to tame their tongue and their keyboard.
A person of integrity, character- seemingly always doing what is right (by God’s standard) regardless of personal cost.
That’s the person I need to be like…..Christ-like. 
Change in others starts with change in me.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.
Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Change our faulty perspectives to match those of our Lord.
Pray, read, pray, listen……submit.
I bet if we work toward becoming that person that others don’t want to disappoint,
then we don’t find ourselves quite so disappointed in others.
Honest assessment of self tends to leave us with a new way of looking at others.
Yes, it does become necessary to adjust our expectations of others sometimes.
But I walk only in my own smelly shoes.
I better keep them walking in the right direction.
Someone might actually be following me or just watching me as I stumble.
Identifying and being affected by the stumbles of others is just a distraction from keeping myself on the path that God calls me to.
Seek a desire to please God, to not let Him down, to seek Him and His word.
His expectations of me.
Wow, that’s like an all day, everyday thing.
A closer look in the mirror.
No distractions.