Who Really Signs Your Check?

Thank you Mary Southerland for today’s message:

She works with eager hands (Proverbs 31:13, NIV).

I have had many jobs over the years. I started babysitting when I was twelve years old. In high school, I worked in a clothing store, as an aid for my choral director, and as a recruiter for an employment agency. In college, I was a secretary for the president of our social science honors program and often gave tours to visiting dignitaries. Some jobs I liked more than others but working in an insurance office when my husband attended seminary was one of my least favorite jobs. I soon discovered that I was not alone in my lack of enthusiasm as I read the following note posted on the office bulletin board:

“If you don’t believe in the resurrection of the dead, you ought to be here five minutes before quitting time!”

Our attitude about our work will determine the success of our work. Scripture tells us that the Proverbs 31 woman literally “pounced upon” her work with “chosen delight.” Notice the word “chosen.” No job is perfect, and no workplace is always wonderful, but we can learn to choose our inner attitude about our work regardless of the outer circumstances of our workplace. Like this woman, we can learn to train our heart and choose our attitude about our work.

The author of Ecclesiastes writes, “My heart took delight in all my work, and this was the reward for all my labor” (Ecclesiastes 2:10). In other words, joy in work can be found when we look for it. The Proverbs 31 woman chose an attitude that guaranteed success in her work. The right attitude in any workplace is to view our work as an act of worship to God. This woman’s workplace was an altar upon which she laid her best efforts as an offering of praise.

The story is told of three men who were working on a large building project. “What are you doing?” one of the men was asked. “I am mixing mortar,” he responded. The second man said, “I am helping put up this great stone wall.” When the third man was asked, he replied, “I’m building a cathedral to the glory of God.” We need to understand that what gives work eternal value and makes it successful is not the product or service we offer; it is doing the job faithfully to the glory of God. It doesn’t matter if you close a million-dollar deal or do a million loads of laundry. If you do it unto God as part of your life worship of Him, you are a success.

The apostle Paul was a very successful man whose work ethic is made clear in Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Every customer you serve or every child you hug, every toilet you clean or every deal you close can be an act of worship when it is done for the glory of God.

A survey by the Families and Work Institute found that 70 percent of people in the United States often dream about doing something different for a living. Books, consultants, and employment agencies offer to help us land our dream job. However, is finding a different occupation always the solution to job satisfaction, or could the key to successful work be discovering a new approach to the work we already do? Twice in Colossians 3, Paul used the phrase “whatever you do” as a call for wholehearted service to the Lord.

A wholehearted effort is difficult when working for a critical, ungrateful boss. Minimum effort then becomes a response that certainly seems justified under the circumstances. However, when our work is done for Christ and we view Him as our supervisor, we will strive to do our best all of the time. The boss may sign the paycheck, but the Savior issues our reward. Obviously, it’s not wrong to seek work that fits our skills and interests, but it is pointless to move from one job to another without first settling the issue of who it is that we truly are serving in the workplace. Daily work takes on eternal significance when it is done for God.

Have a blessed day!

The Kindness of Intentional Blindness

Thank you  Michele Cushatt for today’s message.


We were hoping for a long, slow dinner out with good friends. Instead, what we got was a mediocre meal and a rude waitress.

From the moment we walked in the door of the tiny cafe, we felt her chill. She didn’t want us standing by the door, nor did she like it when we sat in a couple vacated chairs while we waited for a table. When our table was finally ready, she seemed annoyed by the number of our children. Then, when we asked for an additional glass of water, she let us know she’d already brought enough for everyone. We must’ve misplaced it. Finally, when we discovered we’d been given a regular pizza when we’d asked for gluten-free, she made sure we knew we must’ve ordered it wrong and it was definitely not her fault.

Now, I’d love to tell you my first instinct was one of compassion and grace. Instead, I looked at this snarky young woman—young enough to be one of my own children—and I considered how a good solid smack down might do her a bit of good. She was rude, disrespectful, unkind, and not at all the example I want my youngest three children to see. Customer service was absent, not to mention basic manners and human kindness. Her behavior was unacceptable, and every part of me wanted to tell her so.

Until later that evening, when we processed what had happened and an insight by my friend doused my fire:

“Did you hear what she said when she walked away? ‘I can’t do anything right.’ She must’ve been having a hard day.”

Just that fast, my annoyance turned to empathy. I knew what it felt like to have one of those days, when everything goes wrong and I feel like nothing but a failure. Sometimes it’s easier to erect a hard shell than crumble in a million pieces. Cold indifference feels safer than sadness.
I can’t help but wonder: What would’ve happened if I’d chosen lean in and extend kindness? What would’ve happened if I’d tempered my annoyance with both curiosity and grace? While her behavior was unacceptable, there’s a chance it might also be understandable. Perhaps she’d experienced a difficulty that day I knew nothing about, or even a loss my own heart couldn’t fathom.

Annoyance does nothing to lend comfort.

But kindness speaks calm to a storm.

“Fools show their annoyance at once,” Solomon said. By all accounts, I act like a fool more than not. I’m easily annoyed, especially with those closest to me, the ones living inside the walls of my house. Some days it doesn’t take much for my adolescent children to trigger a reaction. And, in many cases, their behavior deserves parental correction. But what if I responded to insults with kindness? What if my correction of them also included authentic connection? How might my calm demeanor melt the coolness of those around me?

After all, that is precisely what God does for us. When having a hard day, He doesn’t match my rudeness and obstinate  with His. Instead, He offers relationship, allowing His kindness to bring about the correction I so desperately need.

Have a blessed day!

 

Help! My Job is Killing Me!


Thank you Mary Southerland for today’s message.

I recently stopped at a local discount store to pick up a few things. When I went to check out, the cashier looked very familiar. He must have seen the question in my eyes because he smiled and said, “It’s good to see you, Mrs. Southerland.” When I heard his voice, I immediately recognized him as the manager of a local grocery store where I frequently shopped. Before I could say one word, he explained, “I lost my job at the grocery store. Evidently, I needed to change mission fields for a while.” Now that is what I call a heavenly perspective of an earthly job.

God uses our work as one of His tools to mold us into who He wants us to be. Stress comes when we view our job as our main life mission. It isn’t. It is the God-given opportunity to provide the tools we need to accomplish our life mission.

The apostle Paul writes, “Life is worth nothing unless I use it for doing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus – the work of telling others the Good News about God’s mighty kindness and love” (Acts 20:24, LB).

Paul worked as a tentmaker, a church planter, and an author. His purpose never changed, but his work certainly did. Many of us do not need a different job. We just need a different attitude and a new point of view about the job we have.

How do we make that happen?

Start by envisioning Jesus standing in the midst of your work place as your real boss. Then look for the life lessons God provides through your work.

God uses our work to teach us responsibility. Meeting deadlines, completing assigned tasks with excellence, showing respect for co-workers (even the abrasive ones) and working without supervision are all valuable life lessons learned on the job. When we try to cut corners, stress steps in and wreaks havoc in our attitude about work.

God uses people at work to teach us valuable lessons about relationships. Cooperation, fairness, flexibility, humility, and patience are relationship skills of a successful worker. Stress comes when we stray from the guidelines God gives us for godly relationships. Our workplace is not only one of our God-ordained mission fields, but it is also a classroom for learning to love the unlovable and forgive the unforgivable. You may very well be the only sermon your co-workers ever hear.

God uses our work to teach us how to serve. The way we serve God is by serving others. God wants us to grow spiritually at work by becoming a servant to those with whom we work. It is easy to serve the people who sit beside us in a worship service each Sunday, but a real servant serves on the job … every single day. God asks us to accept others unconditionally, encourage other continually, forgive others freely, and help others willingly.

Attitudes never sit still. They constantly move and change.

An attitude is a pattern of thinking and a filter through which we view life.

We can choose to be honest about our attitude at work, and we can choose to change our attitude about work, but most importantly, we can choose to pray for God’s attitude about our work. When we can’t change our attitude, the One who lives in us can. He can give us His attitude. Exchanging our attitude for His always eliminates stress.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

This Isn’t How You Planned It

Is your life going the way you planned it?  Are you living out your dreams?  Or are you on the verge of giving up? Are you working at a job which seems fruitless?  Is your relationship hitting a brick wall?   Do you get a little extra money, and then an unexpected expense saps the money as quickly as you got it?

I’ve been there and some days I’m still there.  Sometimes life is all about moving ahead when the road is long and hard. When you’re exhausted and weary, it’s essential you take charge before you burn out or give up.

Like you, I’ve been there, done that!  I never planned to reconnect with the love of my life 16 years ago. I never planned on leaving my dream job.  I never planned on being diagnosed with MS.  Life happens and the plan changes.

The best skill you can gain in life is the ability to navigate unexpected turns and setbacks life throws your way. NEWS FLASH!!!! Life doesn’t always go the way we plan it. The truth is, it rarely does.  So, let your challenges build character and perseverance to empower you to stay the course and win your race.

Here are some tips from the amazing Valerie Burton on just how to do this:

1. Stop expecting things to be easy.

The quickest way to become discouraged is to expect life to unfold just the way you planned it, with few or no obstacles or opposition. Raise your hand if this is you?  I know I’m not alone here.  Life is so much easier when the expected challenges appear –  you know, the ones you planned for.   Don’t get caught up in feeling sorry for yourself when hard times come.  This is the perfect opportunity to tap into your strengths, character, and faith to courageously face whatever life throws your way.

2. Get some fresh air.

When your inner gremlins get the best of you, and you start traveling down that dark tunnel, it might mean you need a break.  Have you been focusing on your problems, rehashing them over and over in your mind? Remember, focusing on the negative brings us more negative.  Take a walk. Do something different. Get out of your normal environment. It can energize you and redirect your thoughts.

3. Get some perspective.

Fresh air will give you perspective and clear out some of the cobwebs or maybe even blow away the inner gremlins.  The greatest difference comes when we focus on someone else’s life. When you start focusing too much on what’s wrong in your life, force yourself to notice what’s right. STOP and think of three things you’re grateful for. Believe me, you probably can’t stop at three! Now, open your eyes to others’ stories about determination and strength.  Despite what we may think, we are not the first person to face our challenges.  Look for someone who has gone through them with strength and grace? When you realize you are not alone, you will feel the rush of power. In face, you may discover someone who has triumphed through far greater challenges and can be a source of inspiration.

4. Commit to running your race to the best of your ability.

Who knows why you are going through what you are going through? It may not even be worth the energy of attempting to figure it out. What is worth your energy is expanding your character and capacity in the process.  Think about the ways will you become a better person by persevering through this? What growth do you intend to glean through it all?

5. Be an inspiration.

Yes, you can be an inspiration for someone else.  Your story may be just the thing someone else needs to hear to overcome their obstacle.  Every person who has faced a challenge has overcome them with their attitude, determination, and faith. Tackle your challenges in a way your children, friends, family, and coworkers will be inspired by your example. You can give others hope by simply acting with the courage to live and love fully in the face of fear and disappointment.

The first time I was told I was an inspiration, I laughed because the truth is, I never believed I could inspire anyone.  My life was my life full of challenges and obstacles.  Some I have overcome and some inner gremlins I still do battle with.  About 2 years ago, when the diagnosis of MS was “unofficially” given, I made a decision to allow my setbacks to build character and perseverance. Truth was my life’s journey had brought me to where I was today.  The challenges were actually a blessing in disguise.  Do I always understand it? NO!  Do I always like it? NO!

If you are struggling, I challenge you to stop feeling sorry for yourself.  It is time to gain  some perspective which will inspire and empower you.   When you get discouraged, what thought will lift you up?  Share it with us, maybe you can inspire someone else…

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!

 

Overcoming the Troubles of This World

Thank you Erin Odom for today’s message….

God doesn’t promise us a life of health, wealth, and prosperity. To the contrary, Jesus told His disciples that in this world we would have trouble. But He didn’t stop there: He reminded them that He overcame the world.

Several years ago, my family walked through a period of extreme financial frustration. Month after month, we saw our savings dwindle and our bank account diminishing. We felt like we were barely surviving financially, emotionally, and even spiritually at some points.

But it was during that troublesome and turbulent time that God pointed us to Himself and the promise that He has overcome the world—despite the troubles we encounter in it. He also showed us very clearly that He is the Great Provider of all our needs. No, we will not have perfect, trouble-free lives on this earth, but God has promised to provide exactly what we need, when we need it. His provision might not always look like we would imagine or what we would pick out for ourselves, but it’s exactly what He knows is best.

I clearly remember when there seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel. I thought life would never get better. We would never be able to breathe. And we would always barely be making it.

The humility of our season of trouble brought me face-to-face with real need, and real provision. More than anything, our time in the tunnel tuned our hearts to God’s. We failed to acknowledge or appreciate the Lord’s provision when it seemed we were meeting all of our own needs, when we had enough money for excess. But when every penny counted, when our budget never made sense on paper, when we had cents instead of dollars in our bank account at the end of the month, that was when we learned that only God is the provider of all of our needs.

Are you there now, friend? You don’t see a way out. Hope is dim. There is no light. Are you stumbling around in the fog? Is the tunnel still dark?

Romans 8:37 says “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.”

Yes, we will have trouble in this world, but, through Him, we can overcome them.

With the right attitude and perspective, we can look back on a season of troubling times as some of the most faith-building days of our lives.

Have a ThirtyOne-derful day!