Early this morning, the sun just starting to laser light beams across the mountains to the east. The house was quiet and I was listening to one of my new favorite songs. Again, clarity about your value, and mine, came to me. Take a couple of minutes and listen…
But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine. -Isaiah 43:1. NIV.
If you are reading this right now, know one thing: your Heavenly Father owns you twice, once when he created you, again when he bought you back. Don’t ever tell yourself or listen to others tell you that you are not worthy, inferior, not good enough, that you have gone too far, done too much, that you have no value.
He chose you before you chose Him. Even if you never accept Him, He’s paid for you. You are so valuable, not because of what you’ve done, but because of the price He willingly paid for you. A price paid in blood. Lift up your head, throw your shoulders back, and embrace the freedom purchased by the one Who loves you most!
We spend tremendous energy trying to determine fairness. Everything from ensuring that your siblings got exactly the same sized piece of cake to adults worrying about who got a longer lunch break. As leaders, we are admonished to treat all of our employees fairly. Often that means sinking our treatment down to the lowest level that could be considered exactly and mathematically equal… the same in every respect. In so doing, we treat our valuable colleagues to a cookie cutter type of leadership that may only fit one out of ten of them!
“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” -George Orwell, Animal Farm.
How does that quote resonate with you? Starts well, but turns a little cynical? Maybe it has nothing to do with what I’m trying to express. Maybe I’m sharing that we are more effective as leaders, and maybe as parents, if we don’t push for exacting equality in how we treat our staff members or our children. Does that make you nervous?
Did you know that some angels have more face time with God the Father than others? Try this text on for size:
“See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.
Matthew 18:10, NIV.
Hmmm. Always. Maybe you think I’m reading too much into this text. Could be. Before you jump to that conclusion, check the context of this verse. It reeks of, not uniform, but unique treatment of those who need things from us.
I have messages to two groups of you this morning:
If you are a leader [or a parent], those who depend on you deserve more than equal treatment. They need equal consideration of their needs. This frees us to spend twice as much time affirming a young and struggling colleague or investing extra energy to refocus an experienced but disillusioned one.
If you are a young person, whether you are eight, or eighteen, or maybe even 23, you are still forming your view of the world. Maybe God has a central place in your life already. Maybe you are still struggling to find that place. Either way, when your angel… or your prayer goes to the Father, they go to the head of the line! You, in particular, are oh, so precious in His eyes.
Even if you don’t have a place for Him in your life right now, know that you have a place in your heavenly Father’s heart, on His agenda, in His day. He wants to make the connection of a lifetime with you while your life is still beginning. If your relationship with Him is puzzling, unclear, or seemingly nonexistent, know that you totally have an inside track with Him. You are on His mind and in His sight every day, not because He is watching to catch your every mistake, but because He is your biggest Fan!
If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy! Have you ever heard that statement? I picture a frazzled and furious housewife, screaming and swinging, causing kids and Dad alike to run for cover! I brought this up last week while teasing one of my hardworking, spirited, but, uh, certainly even-tempered colleagues. During the conversation, I did have to admit that this was so not true in my house. My girls are blessed with a Mom who keeps evil feelings in check and while teaching, playing, working with them, models love in an untiring and self-sacrificing way.
Nevertheless, it is certainly true that Mom’s spirit and attitude set the tone for the day. When Mom is in good spirits, kids respond in kind and Dad, too. When Mom obviously missed her happy pill [NO! not suggesting a pharmaceutical solution, just an expression!], the kids wonder what’s wrong. This is especially true when Mom and Dad are at each other’s throats. Kids act out, feel insecure, get unexplained illnesses, and eventually kick the dog. Moms, and leaders, set the tone for those around them.
But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. Matthew 14:24-29 NIV
This is a popular story used to teach various things. Let’s look for something completely different. The disciples are straining at the oars, fearing for their lives. When they finally recognize that Jesus is the One they see, they notice that He is calmly walking on the waves, seemingly oblivious to the danger.
Calm is catching. It’s contagious. It’s confidence-building. Peter, one of the more radical disciples, becomes so confident that he asks Jesus if he can join Him walking on the waves! Jesus agrees and Peter jumps out of the boat!
A few weeks back, one of my staff came to me and said, “Bob, are you mad at me?” I had said something very unintentional the day before, maybe with a tone she wasn’t used to. Several days ago, another said,”Is everything okay? You seem awfully quiet, more serious than usual.” I don’t know about you, but my staff pick up things from me. They are always watching, listening. Especially in challenging times, they watch to see how I react to stress, how I am affected by what’s happening around me.
Last week we talked about values and how leaders communicate them in everything they do and say. Today, this is something more intangible, less objective. My question for today- My tone, my body language, my vibe- do they communicate fear or confidence? Calm or unrest? Jesus exhibited such peace and confidence that it inspired Peter to leap from a perfectly good boat! Take special note that the storm was still raging when Peter jumped!
Will my staff be more likely to act with initiative, serve with caring, think outside of the boat, due to my influence? What vibe do I export? What infection will they catch from me? Fear, uncertainty, distraction, unrest, negativity? Or calm confidence, sure focus, joyful affirmation?
shared in the workplace. 9/16/13.
Do you recognize the Shema? No, it is not a golden-garbed wise one from the mountains of Nepal. No, it is not the skin some people use to wipe down cars after washing. That’s a chamois.
The Shema is the most important prayer in the Jewish faith. It is used daily as an expression of faith and devotion. It is probably one of the first learned by Jewish children. It speaks of priority, what’s most important. It goes like this-
Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heartand with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9. NIV
Jesus quoted the Shema in answer to a trick question from religious leaders of the day. A question about values.
One of their religion scholars spoke for them, posing a question they hoped would show him up: “Teacher, which command in God’s Law is the most important?”
Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.’ This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ These two commands are pegs; everything in God’s Law and the Prophets hangs from them.” Matthew 22:35-40 The Message
I have a book entitled Get Everyone in Your Boat Rowing in the Same Direction. It states that a key leadership function is deciding “What’s important around here” and communicating that. Deciding what’s important around here is a critical function for our CEO. She can’t delegate it. However, as a leader here, I am bound to join her in communicating “what’s important around here”. There is no way I can avoid making that decision for my department and for my circles of influence.
Fact: Values are always being demonstrated. Whether we are conscious of that fact or not, they are being taught. Shared by every word and action. What are my top one or two values? Integrity? Profit? Reflecting God’s love? Excellent Service? Quality? Uniting against a common enemy? Have I made a conscious choice? If I asked my staff what my values were, would they name different ones based on my actions?
Whether at work, school, or home, I have a responsibility to lead based on my values. Let them be pleasing to my Father in heaven.
Matthew 14 contains larger than life, dramatic stories of Jesus’ ministry. The miraculous feeding of more than 5000 people, starting with just a sack lunch. Wave walking across the Sea of Galilee in the middle of a storm and inviting Peter to join him. Pretty big stuff, right?
Tucked into the last several verses of the chapter, almost as an afterthought, is an additional ministry experience that most of us would probably skim right over and ignore.
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him 36 and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed. Matthew 14:32-26 NIV.
As dramatic as the whole wave walking thing was, it only affected 12 men. When Jesus got out of the boat, the entire region turned out, bringing all their sick with them. How many were healed? Dozens? Hundreds? By what power? The power of just a touch. Just a brief connection with Jesus.
How do I affect those around me. The ones with whom I come in contact every day. In my department or walking the halls of the hospital. What healing do I bring? Is a momentary contact with me one that uplifts those around me or pulls them down?
Touching the hem of Jesus’ cloak- this is something beyond the reach of our coworkers, our friends, our family. Jesus, the One who brings worlds into existence with a word, chooses to use our hands, our mouths, yours…. and mine, to touch those around us with healing, with encouragement, with forgiveness, with grace. Will you choose to act and to speak for Him? I pray that I will be a faithful, though imperfect, mimic, using His own power to imitate Him one day at a time.
Jodie Foster and Chow Yun-Fat starred in a movie entitled Anna and the King. In it, a young Englishwoman contracts with the King of Siam (now Thailand) to teach English to his many children and wives. She finds herself immersed in a culture and religion very different from her own. Struggling to find a balance between accepting and challenging practices she finds immoral, she speaks out for those she feels are being mistreated.
Thousands of years earlier, another young lady was also surrounded by a culture and religion completely different from her own. This is the biblical story of Esther who became queen after being drafted into the king’s harem. Palace intrigue resulted in her people being set up for legally sanctioned genocide. The fact that she had kept her Jewish heritage a secret added to the drama. She felt powerless and frightened.
Her cousin, her guardian since she was a young girl, sent her a message of challenge including these words:
And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this? Esther 3:14 NIV.
Facing certain death if her uninvited visit to the king was not accepted, she, her retinue, her family, and the entire Jewish community fasted and prayed for three days. She entered the king’s throne room and was enthusiastically received by the king! After inviting the king to several banquets in his honor, she finally begged the king for the lives of her people.
Both of these stories caused change, resulting in improved human and civil rights. Both featured a person with very limited, very carefully delineated authority. Both chose to act and to speak in the face of great personal risk.
Each one of us face challenges, situations where people around us are hurting and need help. This is certainly true in healthcare as hospitals across the country reel from the impact of drastic cuts in reimbursement. In my own hospital, our struggle to manage expenses has resulted in the loss of work family members.
I speak especially to coworkers and to fellow leaders today. There are two take away elements to these stories that could apply to you and to me. First, are you willing to speak, to act, to lead in a way that protects and cares for those lost work family members? Second, when you wish you were working and leading in a calm and unruffled place, remember that you may very well be called to a challenging experience “for such a time as this”.
Many years ago, a CEO gathered his leadership team for a strategic meeting. They sat around a large table, sharing a meal. He knew his company was facing a crisis, a truly whitewater crisis. He began by starting conversations to measure the commitment of his leaders; commitment to the organization, commitment to him. He could feel the tension mount. He could see the fear written on many faces. He began to speak, speaking strong words of encouragement, reminding them of what they had learned together, charting a strong course, painting a picture showing a bright future.
And this is what he said:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going.”
Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” -John 14, NIV.
Jesus was talking to His core leadership team. He was casting a vision for the future through troubled and dangerous waters. He reminded them of what made His kingdom different, what key principles would make them successful.
We are a leadership team not unlike Jesus’ Twelve. We face a whitewater challenge. We face an uncertain future. But what makes our organization different? What can make us successful in a different way from others around us? I believe it is our mission.
If you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the mission.
Is this statement true for me?
Do I lead in a way that clearly reflects the mission of my organization? Do I challenge those around me to do the same?
- A few thousand dollars on the wrong side of a troubled financial statement?
- Something in the way of meeting an arbitrary standard?
- An impediment to perceived success?
Typical scene. You owe a friend five bucks for lunch. You promise, “I’ll pay you back Friday!” They quip,”Don’t worry, I know where you live!”
It sure sounds like a stalker statement doesn’t it? Like some criminal element attempting to terrorize a juror to influence their vote. Isn’t there a movie like that? Did you know that these words are in the Bible as well? Hmmm. Doesn’t sound likely does it?
I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Revelation 2:13 NIV first part
That’s not exactly confidence building is it? Let me try an off the cuff paraphrase: “I know you are living in hell, buddy!” That doesn’t found like positive reinforcement to me. Fortunately the context and the next sentence clear things up.
I know where you live—where Satan has his throne. Yet you remain true to my name. Revelation 2:13 NIV
This is Jesus speaking to those in one of the early churches. They lived in an evil, perversion-focused city. Jesus says,” I know where you are. I know you have great challenges and temptations all around you. I pay attention to you. I am watching you. You are mine and I care about you. It makes me feel so joyful to see you staying true to me in the midst of all the evil around you.”
Do you ever feel alone, isolated, trying to do right, but feeling like you are just bucking the tide? This message is for you too! “I’ve got my eye on you,” Jesus says. “I see you struggling and you are not alone! You are mine. I’ve got you and I won’t let you go except by your choice. Don’t think that no one notices your hard times. I notice and I care. I know just how much you can handle with My help.”
No matter whether you fill out one of those address change/mail forwarding cards or not, Jesus knows where you are. He sees your bullying coworker, your fractured marriage, your wayward child, your temptation to … you fill in the blank. He keeps track of you even if you don’t care about Him.
Rest easy today, knowing that Someone always knows where you are!
The man was bewildered. As a member of an elite branch of his country’s defense forces, his frequent away from home time gave him time to think. Married to his childhood sweetheart, he had been overjoyed when she became large with child just a year after their marriage. Coming from generations of men known for their fighting skills, he had hoped for a son, someone to train and groom to join the family legacy of bearing arms.
While certainly joyous at the birth of his firstborn, his bewilderment grew as not only his first, but all successive children were beautiful little girls! His family grew until he was outnumbered six to one in the household! His lovely wife and five screaming, giggling, chirping, cooing, cuddling little girls! What to do? How could he relate to them? Who would carry on the family name, the family reputation and tradition?
The unorthodox view from his back yard the next spring was evidence to the fact that he had figured some things out. His wife shook her head as she watched their ten year old stick fighting vigorously with her dad back and forth across the grass. As the girls grew, numerous hiking and camping trips returned the girls, now ranging from toddler to preteen, sunburned, sporting a few scratches and bruises, and smiling from ear to ear!
The girls, trim, toned, and tanned, turned into beautiful, confident young ladies. Taught not only fighting skills, but smatterings of business and law at their father’s feet, they grew wise and independent, scaring off the more easily intimidated of their would be suitors. They took over more and more of the household duties as their mother, suffering from consumption, became weaker. When she finally drifted into sleep for the final time, the daughters clung to their father, wondering what would become of them.
When he left on his next mission, the girls were greifstricken, fearful of being alone. Speaking words of encouragement, reminding them of their training, he gently tore himself from their grasp. With each succeeding mission, the girls gained confidence and realized that they could indeed run the household together, managing the large garden, handling the livestock, even negotiating for fieldwork with local hired help.
One sun-filled day became dark as they watched a military courier bring his galloping horse to a stop in front of the house. They knew. The occasional words filtered through their sorrow,”regrets to inform you”, “grateful nation”, “great valor”, and they felt all alone again.
Before the week was out, the trusted friend their father had assigned to handle his estate paid a visit. The girls listened to his halting words, horrified to learn that the law did not allow female descendants to hold property. Their farm would revert to the community. How could this be? Weren’t they capable of managing their property? The absence of a male heir, was that their fault? What was to become of them? Their grief soon turned to rage and they pushed their way into the presence of the tribal leader, demanding to be heard.
Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives.” So Moses brought their case before the Lord, and the Lord said to him, “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them. “Say to the Israelites, ‘If a man dies and leaves no son, give his inheritance to his daughter. Numbers 27:4-8 NIV.
And so the law was changed in a male-dominated middle eastern culture hundreds of years before Christ. My Bible relates story after story of strong and capable women blessed by God. While it teaches roles for a man and a woman in a relationship, those roles are centered around a man loving and sacrificing to the death for a woman, even as Christ sacrificed Himself for us.
As a laboratory director, my working life is filled with committed, professional women. My home is centered around a lovely wife and two beautiful daughters. God has placed a high value on you since the beginning. May my words and actions do no less.
Note: While my imagination shared the story, the key facts are a matter of historical record, mentioned in three different books of the Bible.