Dear Mom, Thank You!

“The mother, more than any other, affects the moral and spiritual part of the children’s character. She is their constant companion and teacher in formative years. The child is ever imitating and assimilating the mother’s nature. It is only in after life that men gaze backward and behold how a mother’s hand and heart of love molded their young lives and shaped their destiny.” – E.W. Caswell

 

Windmill Cookies cropped

Dear Mom,  I just want to say thank you.  Thank you for the Windmill cookies I’m eating in this picture.  You bought them because they were my favorite.  They might be the reason I’m still a fan of almonds.

Thank you for pulling us in the yellow car Dad’s boss built for us.  Lu and I loved that car and it was way more fun when we didn’t have to pretend it was moving.

Thank you for taking us to Mr. Quick.  When we were little, it was all the rage. I remember that the hamburgers only cost 39 cents, but every time we went there it felt special.

Thank you for the walks you and I used to take to the Post Office when I was in kindergarten.  It was just the two of us.  I don’t remember any specific conversation that we had, but when I think of those walks I smile.

Thank you for finding a good church, and then making us go.  I wasn’t very happy about it then.  It seemed like I was the only kid in school who didn’t watch Happy Days or The Six Million Dollar Man every Sunday night.  Today I am very grateful though.  My time in church as a boy has added so much value to my life. Value that just wouldn’t be there if we had not gone.  Value that I just couldn’t have gotten from the Fonze.

Thank you driving the foolishness out of my childish heart.  Getting spanked was never fun.  Your correction let me know that the spankings came because I called them.  Today I am very grateful.

Thank you for taking my fundraising candy bars to work.  Because of you, I outsold the class & had more than enough money to take the field trip.

Thank you for buying me my first quality guitar.  I knew it cost a lot and even though I had spoken to you about it, I didn’t hold out hope of getting it because I knew how tight money was.  I remember you waking me up when you got home from work on my birthday and handing me the money.  I was turning 14.  I kept that guitar for years.  I only sold it to finance a repair to my first house.  I still love playing today.  Thank you for this.

Thank you for being proud of my drawings and creations.  I have always tended toward being artistic.  You hung on to the cowboy charcoal drawing for a long time.  You may still have some of my Jr. High woodworking or pottery projects even today.  Thank you for encouraging my creativity and showing me that it had value.

Thank you for all the rides.  Even when I was going to St. Ambrose, you would drive me to school.  I really appreciate all your help – helping me move forward with my life.

Thank you for not giving up.  You stayed.  You fought. You struggled. You prevailed.  We all made it to adulthood and we are all doing Okay.  So much of the reason we are okay is because of you!  Even today, you continue to help us every chance you get.  You are our hero! I think I can safely speak for all of my brothers & sisters when I say that we love you very much, and that we are all so thankful for you!  Mom…Thank you!

Happy Mother’s Day!

 

 

 

Dealing with Loss

Dealing with Loss.

Bar none, the worst loss I have ever felt was the divorce of my parents.  Not only was the divorce extremely painful, but the absence of my dad only compounded the suffering.  It changed me deep inside and it took a long time for me to come back from that loss.

Over the years since then, I’ve had several people who I’ve known and loved pass away. It’s not something that we can get used to.  It always hurts.  It’s sad to think that, if the Lord tarries His coming, at the end of every one of our relationships, this time bomb is waiting to go off.

Hope for the believer.

The Bible says in 1 Thes 4:13 “But I would not have you ignorant, brothers, concerning those who are asleep, that you be not grieved, even as others who have no hope.”  Our hope is that when our loved one departs, it’s not over.  We will have a reunion again when it’s or turn to pass. 

Jet

My buddy Jet.

The thing that got me thinking about this was the sudden loss of our dog Jet.  Our dogs are inside dogs and they play a prominent part of our everyday life.  I think that’s why it’s bothered me so much.  There were so many things that he would do every day that he’s no longer doing.  He was a sudden loss, and it feels a little like he was ripped out of our hands.  Piper, our female, is getting pretty old and we were more prepared to say good be to her.  In our mind there was supposed to be an order. First her, then him.

For me, it brought death, heartache & time (lack of and not knowing) to the forefront.  I began to think of all the things that happened the day Jet died.  I had no idea that all those things we did together that day were “Lasts”.  The last time we’d play in the yard, the last time I would feed him his chalupa treat.  The last time I would give him his favorite toy.  The last time he would walk along side me and casually lean against my leg.

While I know we will almost never see loss coming, Jet’s loss has made me want to take stock of the things that are important to me.  I want to intentionally appreciate, be present, and fully live the moments with the ones I love.

Stages of Grief.

According to the book “On Grief and Grieving”, by Elisabeth Kublen-Ross, there are five stages of grieving.  They are:

1. Denial.

2. Anger.

3. Depression.

4. Bargaining.

5. Acceptance.

Calling them stages sort of gives the impression that they are steps to a platform, and that once you have completed one, you will be on to the next, until you finally arrive at acceptance and all is well.  The truth is that the process is not linear.  For me, each of these stages seem to just wash over me in no apparent order.  One minute I would be mentally trying to work it out, trying to bend it so that it wasn’t true, while the next minute I would just be sad.

Here are some things that really helped me.

  • Taking time to feel it and grieve.  My tendency when bad stuff happens is to try to make sure everyone has what they need.  When death occurs, loved ones are not going to be okay.  They are emotionally suffering.  If you’re like me, I spent the first day and a half just making sure everyone else was okay.  It wasn’t until I went to work the following Monday that Jet’s loss started to really hit me.  That afternoon, I went home stood in the kitchen with my wife and we just waded into our pain.  We took the time to talk about the things that made us sad, give room for open tears and not try to bottle up the grief.
  • Taking opportunities for sadness and using them as triggers to focus on and express gratitude.  For the next several days, I would have waves of sadness wash up against me.  I would be reminded of some awesome thing that he did, and would begin to miss him.  I would take each of these trigger moments and I would stop and just thank God for allowing us to have the time we had together.  I expressed how grateful I was to have had such a remarkable dog.  He could have ended up with someone else who wouldn’t have appreciated his awesomeness and would have just chained him to a dog house some where.  That didn’t happen and because of it, I was grateful.
  • Lean on God. I prayed specifically for the Lord to help us move through the grief.  God really does care for us.  I am totally convinced of this truth.  Because of this, it seems inconceivable that my Heavenly Father wouldn’t care how this loss has hurt me and my family. 2 Corinthians 1:3 says  Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort.  He IS the God of all comfort.
  • Talk about it. Find and share with a trusted friend. I have a friend who is a man of like precious faith as me.  He reminded me of scripture in Deuteronomy and Proverbs that really helped my faith.  He reminded me that God made promises concerning  our animals.  I found this a real help and comfort.

The Bible is absolutely silent concerning the subject of our pets in Heaven.  Where the Bible is silent, we need to be silent too.  We can’t form any doctrine where there isn’t any verse to back it up.  The one thing required for something to be scriptural is scripture.

That being said, I found an article in Christianity Today regarding this question that I thought was well stated.  The full article can be found here.  In this article, Karen Swallow-Prior makes the following statement.

“When we choose to take into our household creatures that share with us the breath of life and bestow them with names, perhaps we enter into a kind of covenantal relationship with them too. To echo C. S. Lewis in The Great Divorce, perhaps when we name animals, they “become themselves” and our salvation “flows over into them.”
She goes on to say “As foretold in Isaiah, animals will be there. “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat … and a little child will lead them” (11:6). Perhaps God will honor my acts of naming the animals by bringing Gracie, Kasey, Myrtle, Peter, Oscar, and so many more there, too.”

What’s the take-away?

My encouragement to you is simply this.  Moving forward, try to pace your life so that you have more time to draw the value out of the everyday moments we all spend together.  Relationships can end so suddenly, and then those moments become so precious.

Great books I’ve read in the last year.

While I have always enjoyed reading, I haven’t always been a big reader.  Reading was always something I did when I had to.  The first book I can remember reading on my own, without anyone making me, was called “King of the Wind”.  It was a book about a horse named Sham, and his mute stable boy named Agba.  I don’t remember much of the story because I read it in third grade, but I remember really liking it.

I became a serious reader when I became a Christian.  I made it a point to read my Bible every night before I would go to sleep.  I also developed a strong appetite for teaching books by Christian authors like Kenneth E. Hagin & Kenneth Copeland.  I read all I could get my hands on.

After several years, I became exposed to other famous authors and famous non fiction books, such as Dale Carnegie’s How to win friends and influence people, and John Maxwell’s 21 irrefutable laws of Leadership.  I try to flip through these every year or two to keep fresh on their content.  With few exceptions, I stick mainly to non-fiction.

This year I put forth serious effort to read more, good quality books.  The one’s I talk about here came highly recommended. I would have to say, while I liked some more than others, they were all good and I would recommend all of them to anyone who’s goal is personal growth.  So, without further ado, here’s my list.

The Art of Work – A proven path to discover what you were meant to do.  By Jeff Goins.  Published by Thomas Nelson.

In The Art of Work,  Jeff breaks the book into three main parts, Preparation, Action & Completion.  He examines our purpose, and our journey toward fulfill our calling.  He examines how we look at vocation, career & calling, ultimately leading to the truth “Meaningful work is available to anyone who dares to find it”.

 

 

Launch – Jeff Walker.  Published by Morgan James.     Jeff Walker outlines his secret formula for marketing online.  Jeff started with humble beginnings as a stay at home dad with an interest in the stock market.  His first online business started with a subscription newsletter about the stock market and grew from there.

Jeff points out that there are a lot of online marketers out there, teaching a lot of stuff, but we need to pay attention to the successful ones.  What’s important isn’t necessarily what they are teaching, it’s what they are doing.  The successful ones are usually using Jeff’s formula. Launch outlines how almost anyone can start an online business.

 

Platform – Get noticed in a noisy world. By Michael Hyatt.  Published by Thomas Nelson.

Michael is the former CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers.  He points out that while there were some tremendous book ideas submitted for publishing over the years, many were refused because no one had ever heard of the author.  Michael outlines why we need a platform and offers step by step guidance in building your own, including building your home base, expanding your reach and handling social media.

 

 

The One Thing, The surprisingly simple truth behind extraordinary results.  By Gary Keller. (Published by Bard Press).
Gary is the Chairman of the board and co-founder of Keller Williams Realty, the largest real estate company in the world.  The One Thing focuses on success and productivity by addressing three major points.
A. The lies we’ve been told about productivity and work, and how they have misled and derailed our success.
B. The simple truth about real productivity.
C. Getting extraordinary results and unlocking your possibilities.
It’s a great book that even comes with a “Do not disturb, I’m working on my one thing” door hanger bound into the back of the book.

 

Living Forward –  a proven plan to stop drifting and get the life you want.  Michael Hyatt & Daniel Harkavy.  (Published by Baker Books).
This book focuses on our desire for a life of meaning and significance, joy and satisfaction.  Michael & Daniel break down life planning into three main parts.  First, understanding the need, second, understanding the mission, and finally, making it happen.  This book is very interactive, and asks you to take a minimum of one full day to stop, and give real real, intentional thought to your life.

They first ask you to write your own eulogy, with a sharp focus on how you want to be remembered.  The authors encourage you to break your life into categories, and then establish a vision in each.  Living Forward helps you to identify and write down the goals for each category, and establish a plan to accomplish them, while continuing to grow in each.  Both Daniel & Michael are Christians and they acknowledge that our plans will change as we come to know and more fully understand God’s direction for our lives.  They have a built in review schedule for you to tweak, update, or fully revise your life plan.  I highly recommend this book.

 

Essentialism – Greg Mckeown.  (Published by Crown Business).    Greg starts off telling the story of Dieter Rams, a lead designer for Braun.  Deiter designed by a principle which in German is stated – Weniger aber besser. The English translation is “Less, but better”.  I now have this statement on the wall in my office at work.

It was Deiter that we can thank for taking the home stereo from being the Oak, or walnut monolith of the past, that took up a large portion of the living room, to being the sleek, streamlined component based stereo that fit in far less space.  Less, but better.  Essentialism is not about getting more done in less time. It’s about getting only the right things done.  Peter Drucker said “There is surely nothing quite so useless as doing with great efficiency what should not be done at all.”  There are a lot of people who are very busy but not productive.

Essentialism examines the discipline of finding the essential, and eliminating what is not.  It asks and answers the question:  How can we discern the trivial many, from the vital few.

 

The Traveler’s Gift – Seven decisions that determine personal success.  By Andy Andrews.  (Published by Thomas Nelson).
The Traveler’s Gift is a fictional story of a man named David Ponder.  David is a 46 year old man struggling with his life.  On the way home from being fired from his job, David is in a car accident.  His last words before losing consciousness are “God, Why Me?”

David awakens in another time, and in the course of his journey through time, he meets seven people.  Each person gives David a scroll with a message on it.  These messages are nuggets of wisdom that ultimately change David’s life.

 

Decisive, How to make better choices in life and work. By Chip and Dan Heath.  (Published by Crown Business).
I found this book very insightful.  It helped me recognize areas in my decision making that were not very helpful.  The Heath Brothers examine decision making by highlighting the four villains of decision making.  There is good advice and guidance for the person struggling with choices.

They discuss everything from our tendency to only collect research that supports our already held beliefs or desires, to our tendency to only look at our problems through a remarkably narrow frame of vision.

 

Love Does – Discover a secretly incredible life in an ordinary world.   By Bob Goff.  (Published by Thomas Nelson).
Bob is the founder and CEO of Restore International.  A nonprofit organization fighting injustices against children. He also shares leadership in a law firm in Washington state called Goff & Dewalt, which practices in Washington and California.  He also serves as Honorary Consul to the Republic of Uganda.

This book is full of remarkable and interesting stories from Bob’s own life.  Each chapter declares a topic, Bob gives a short sentence about his personal belief, and then tells a story about it.

This book challenges the Christian to move away from the heavy weight of being religious, and just start loving, serving and helping people.

 

Take the Stairs – Seven steps to achieving true success.  By Rory Vaden.  (Published by Pedigree Publishing).

This book examines productivity, procrastination and self discipline.  Rory outlines seven strategies for helping us to live a more disciplined life.

He points out that many people don’t take the stairs because they are too busy looking for the escalator.  Rory points out that there really is no escalator, and that, once you kill the idea that there is an escalator (an easy way), you’ll realize that the fastest way to get what you want is to actually do the work, and make your goals a reality.

 

There you have it.  These were all worth my time to read, and I find myself using nuggets from each of them in my everyday life.

What books have you read that you would recommend?  Please share in the comments.

Until next time,

Art

Don’t be afraid of the test

There’s a company called the Automotive Testing & Development Service (ATDS) – (howstuffworks.com).  They specialize in putting cars & trucks to the test.  Their goal is to try to put a lifetime amount of wear and use on an automobile in a short time, to see when failures will occur.

They test engines by putting cars on static dynamometer and running them at 120 mph for months to determine the lifespan of the engine. They’ll also take a car to the track & run it 24/7 for more than a month.

Their purpose is to provide product data to the car manufacturers so that they can make better engineering choices and build more durable, safer cars.  To do that, the cars and trucks have to be tested to see where the failure points are.  To measure how much they can take.  It’s important to understand that test are designed to take these cars to their absolute limit.

A Lot of Christians seem to think that the purpose for tests and trials is to break them.  They imagine God on high, watching their failure.  When they fail, they imagine Him shaking His head in disappointment as if to say “I knew it”.

Others believe that it’s not God testing us but they don’t really know what part He plays in it.  They believe that He’s with them in their trouble.  While they may wish for a miracle, all they might actually expect from Him is that He will comfort them and hold their hand while they spin down the drain.

Does God test us?  The answer is yes. But before we get too far, let’s draw a distinction between test and tempt.  In the King James Version of the Bible, the words test and tempt are sometimes used interchangeably but their meanings are different.

The Hebrew word for Tempt used in Gen 22:1 where scripture says God tempted Abraham, literally means “To Test”.  The meaning borne out in the definition says “to attempt, assay, prove, tempt, try”.  The word “prove” stands out to me.  It gives the idea of testing in order to measure.  To find out where the failure point is.

In contrast, James 1:13 says “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man”.  While the word used for tempt here is very similar, it also carries the meaning of “To entice”.

We can see how it happens in the next verse.  He is drawn away by his own lust (literally means Longing).  The existence of the longing/lust is not wrong.  It wouldn’t be a temptation if you didn’t have a desire for it.  Even Jesus was tempted. That tells us that temptation is, in and of itself, not sin. The problems come in when we YIELD to the temptation.

I also want to point out that God knows your heart.  He already knows what you can stand and what you can’t.  1 Corinthians 10:13 says “There is no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that you are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that you may be able to bear it.” NKJV.   This verse is both a comfort and a challenge.  God knows my failure point, and he will not allow me to be tempted above what I can bear.  If he did, then when I’m judged, I could literally say “I couldn’t help it”.  But that can not be said because God will never allow a temptation to come that you can’t escape.  The grace is there for each of us to do the right thing EVERY TIME.

This tells me a few things:

  • First – God loves us dearly, and He is always watching out for us to make sure that we’re not facing anything bigger than we can deal with.  He is our rear guard.
  • Second – On any given day, if I find myself looking a temptation in the eye, it’s because God has given me the grace gifts and the wisdom to pass this test.  If it shows up at all, it’s because God let it through, and that tells me that I have been equip with what it takes to pass this test.
  • Third – This tells me that the failure point isn’t set in stone, it can be moved.  You are probably not falling into sin as easily as you used to in certain areas.  This means that, at least in some areas, you have matured and grown strong.  You can and should be growing in all areas.  That means that we should be standing longer, operating with greater measure of faith, and getting greater results without failing.  It also means that we should be constantly raising the bar on ourselves.

Passing tests means greater use.  Once we’ve proven ourselves, God knows that He can give us more and we won’t cave, fall down, lock ourselves in the bedroom and cry “why, God why”.

Passing tests means proving that you are faithful.  You can be counted on.  God likes that.  God uses that.

Passing tests also means that greater tests will come.  Some days you just look at the test you’re facing in your situation and say “You’re a big boy, aren’t you?”, but then it just rises up in your heart “I can do all things through Christ, which strengthens me!”.

If you’re like me, you like things that are easy.  Tests are not easy, but tests carry with them the hope of promotion.  If we can keep that in mind, it will not only change the way we see trouble, but it will change the way we respond to it.

In 1 Tim 3:10, Paul writes concerning the office of a Deacon.  “Let these also first be proved; then let them use the office of a deacon, being found blameless”.  He points out that they need to be proven first…Then.  The Then comes once the results of the proving come in, and the man is found blameless.  This is always how it works with God. This is how He deals with everyone.  God’s desire is always to promote us.  When God proves us and allows the tests and trials, His intent is always to promote.   It is ALWAYS GOD’S WILL to promote you, but you’ve first got to be proven – and pass.

Next time you look at that co-worker you struggle to get along with, just imagine the word “TEST” tattooed across their forehead. It will help you keep perspective so you can know how to respond.

It’s one thing to know, it’s entirely another thing to do.  The book of James tells us that the ones that only hear are deceived.  It’s the doers that are blessed in their deeds.  So let me encourage you – Look at the things you’ve been failing in.  Where have you been falling down? God’s promise to us is that there is promotion on the other side of the test.

Are you going to pass?

What Business teaches us about reputation

Sometimes all I can do is shrug and shake my head when I watch people being rude and selfish.  They are unafraid to be offensive to others because they don’t care what anyone thinks.  “Me First” seems to be their motto and they operate under the false notion that there is no downside to behaving this way.

How long do you think a company would last acting that way?  Companies work long and hard, spending millions of dollars, all to build the best reputation possible.  Why?  Because people do business with people they know, like and trust.  Businesses work diligently to build the perception of likability and trustworthiness.  Businesses with good reputations can attract higher caliber employees, as well as more loyal customers. My Sales & Marketing teacher called it corporate Goodwill.

Robert Eccles, Scott Newquist and Roland Schatz published an article in the Harvard Business Review called Reputation and it’s Risks, where they stated that “In an economy where 70% to 80% of market value comes from hard-to-assess intangible assets such as brand equity, intellectual capital, and goodwill, organizations are especially vulnerable to anything that damages their reputations”.

70 to 80% of market value comes from the perception of goodwill associated with a company brand?  That’s a remarkable truth.  What is one of the first things you think of when you think about Toyota and Honda? If I spent some time, I might remember the first time I saw a little Toyota.  It was the mid 70’s and it was about the size of a cereal box, but it’s not the first thing that comes to mind. Instead, the first thing that comes to mind is reliability.

Ford, GM & Chrysler have had a tough time convincing the public that their cars are as reliable, even though they have mostly closed the quality gap between the Japanese car companies since about 2001*.  Their problem comes from the way they used to handle quality problems.  If a quality issue raised its head, they would just fix it on recall.  The problem with this solution is that even though they did ultimately fix it, they first allowed it to get in front of the customer.

A couple of years ago my daughter was looking to replace the laptop we bought her for graduation.  She had been saving for this and didn’t want just any laptop, she wanted a fast laptop.

I had been watching for deals and found one online.  We bought it through a company called Woot in Texas but it was shipping refurbished from Hewlett Packard, somewhere in New England.  When this laptop arrived, it looked like it had been dragged behind a car.  No joke.  It was severely scratched and dented.  I started it up and it seemed to work find, but it had been abused.  So I called Hewlett Packard customer service.

Aside from the poor cosmetic condition that the computer housing was in, it also had a core I5 processor but was advertised as a core I7, which was the main reason we bought it.  Once the customer service guy heard that, he wouldn’t speak to me about it anymore.  He said that the company in Texas had falsely advertised it and it was their responsibility to correct this problem. I brought up the condition two more times, but he would not talk to me about it at all.  He had found his “out” and all he would say was that I needed to contact the company in Texas because they falsely advertised the processor.

To make a long story short, Woot.com made quick work of the return and refund.  Because of their excellent customer service, I still check Woot daily and have bought from them on several occasions.  In contrast, I have not since, nor do I plan to buy another Hewlett Packard product.  There are too many options that have better customer service.

I said all that to say this. Even on a personal level, whether or not you realize it, you’re selling.  You’re selling yourself.  We all do it.  We do it in the way we dress, the teams we root for and the causes we support.  We’re trying to fit in somewhere because on some level, we all realize that we NEED others.  We need love, help and acceptance.  While some people may try on the surface to convince us that they don’t care what we think, if you watch them long enough, you’ll see the truth.

It helps me to keep in mind, when building and influencing my own reputation, how companies think.  I can easily find guidelines for my personal life from observing them because I want the same things.

  • I want people to know, like and trust me.
  • I want all their experiences with me to be positive and memorable.
  • I want everyone to walk away from every interaction with me feeling like it was a Win-Win, that neither of us won at the other’s expense.
  • I want my words to rock solid and unshakable.  I want people to be able to count on what I say every time without fear.  I often ask myself the question How many lies do I have to tell to be a liar?

Unfortunately, I can also remember times when my actions didn’t line up with any of this.  In hindsight I can see times when my weak character actually worked against these aspirations.  The Bible says in Ecclesiastes 10:1 that an act of foolishness can destroy a good and well built reputation.

I want you to have a better understanding of how connected our reputation is to the quality of our life.  We should do our all to build the best reputation we possibly can.

I don’t want people to look at me and see a fool. I want people to see Christ in me, and be drawn closer to God because of His love in me. I want a reputation for walking in love, standing in faith, Living in honor, integrity, humility and faithfulness.  These are things that we run the risk of losing if we don’t act intentionally.  The world will not help us to be this way.  We’ve got to look to God and His word.  The Bible says in Romans 12 that we transform when we renew our minds with His word, and we prove His will.
*Reputation and its Risks.  Robert G. Eccles, Scott C. Newquist and Roland Schatz. Harvard Business Review. Feb 2007.

Do you need a good reputation?

It would seem that reputation is not a big consideration for most people these days. Still, the only way to avoid actually having one is to remain a stranger. As soon as any of us begins interacting with others, we begin revealing details about ourselves that will influence how others see us, interact with us and ultimately trust us.

Reputation is a long term concept that we build with each interaction. Unless you’re famous and have the media to contend with, there are really only two areas that influence your reputation. The first is personal experience. Your actual interactions and contact with people. The second is by communication, either word of mouth or social media. This is mainly what is being said about you. I read a great quote the other day by Michael Enzi, where he said “When you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu”. This is an unfortunate fact of life. People talk. I remember my dad saying, “If people will talk about other people to you, they will talk about you to other people”.

 

Abraham Lincoln said “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” We can’t completely control our reputation because it is based totally on the perception of us held by others. Each person we have anything to do with is likely to have a somewhat different perception of us and they may not line up with who we actually are.

I’ve shared this before, but, a long time ago there was a man in our church who commented that he had never known a Mills that had ever had anything. While I wasn’t the Mills that gave him that impression, I was a Mills that had been saddled with that reputation.

I decided that I would not allow his sentence on my last name define or limit me. I decided to live a life that would make his words false. The thing to consider when people think negatively about you is, are they people who’s opinion will hold you back or hinder your progress? In my case, this man’s opinion didn’t matter to me, but might have affected some of my relatives.

There are many benefits to having a good reputation. When you have a good reputation:

  1. People will prefer interacting with you.
  2. People will give you favor.
  3. People will be more willing to forgive.
  4. People will give you the benefit of the doubt in times of trouble.
  5. People will be more willing to help you.
  6. People will value you.

I think it’s vitally important for each of us to be intentional about our reputation. While we can’t control our reputation, we should care and we should be using all the tools we have available to influence what others think and say about us. We do this by taking a hard look at who we really are. It’s important here to judge yourself by your outcomes and not your intentions. What you intended to do but didn’t, is still not doing.

We need to take some time to look at what’s important to us. What are our core values? We then need to establish a strategy of consistently acting in line with our core values. Benjamin Franklin said “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one bad one to lose it.”

We need to build into our lives practices that help us live consistently, in order to make sure the reputation matches the real.

What steps can you take this week to begin building the reputation you really want? Please join the conversation by leaving a comment.

If this has been helpful to you, please share it. I appreciate your help in spreading the message.

Your buddy

Art

ProForm – What are the Proverbs for?

The book of Proverbs was written to a son.  The Proverbs are geared toward the instruction of men, young men in particular.

This week’s video looks at three things we as young men need to do regarding wisdom.

 

Know – Perceive – Receive.

My prayer is that you found this helpful.  I want to challenge you to recognize, perceive and receive wisdom this week.  I pray that the Lord open your eyes to it and make it readily apparent to you as you live each day.

If this helped you, please like and share this post.

 

Getting past a big mistake

Jacob had twelve sons.  Two of his sons, Simeon and Levi, were full brothers, meaning they had the same mother.  Their full sister, Dinah, went out into the local city to see all the local girls.  If she was anything like the some of the girls I know, she wanted to see what they were wearing.  While she was out surveying the fashions and styles of the region, One of the princes of the land saw her and was smitten.  She was “taken” by the prince of the country.  His name was Shechem.  The scripture gives the inference that she might have been raped by him.  The sons of Jacob heard about it and blew a gasket.  So they made a deceitful deal with Shechem’s father.  They said the prince could marry Dinah, and that Jacob’s sons would be open to inter-marry the locals.  The locals wanted this for economic reasons.  The only hitch was that all the local men in their city would need to be circumcised.  The men of the city agreed because Jacob had wealth and they wanted access to it.  Three days after the mass circumcision, while all the men were painfully incapacitated and unable to move, Simeon and Levi went in, killed every single man, and spoiled the city.  You can read it in Gen 34.

When Jacob found out about it he said (Gen 34:30)  “You have troubled me, to make me stink among those living in the land, among the Canaanites, and among the Perizzites. And I being few in number, and they gathering against me, they will strike me, and I and my house shall be wasted”. But Simeon and Levi were unrepentant.  They said “Should he treat our sister like a harlot?”

I think the Lord’s response in chapter 35 illustrates how serious this became.  The Lord immediately told Jacob to move to Bethel and build an altar to God there. The Bible says that as Jacob moved his family, the terror of God came on the cities all around them so that the men of the cities didn’t pursue them as they went.

I’m not trying to minimize what happened to the Dinah, but any action to be taken should have come from Jacob.  It was not the place of Simeon or Levi to decide how this situation should have been handled.  The entire family was affected by the result. They were all put in jeopardy.

That brings us to Gen 49:1, where Jacob is calling his sons to his bedside to bless them, here he begins to tell them of their future.  When he gets to Simeon and Levi, he declares “Instruments of cruelty are in their habitations.  O my soul, come not into their secret; unto their assembly, my spirit, be not united: for in their anger they slew a man and in their self-will they dug down a wall.  Cursed be their anger, for it was fierce; and their wrath, for it was cruel: I will divide them in Jacob, and scatter them in Israel”.

In the very first post I wrote on this blog, I wrote about the beginning of honor.  You can read the post here.  The point of that post is that to truly honor your mom, dad and family, you must first determine to not cause them shame.  It seems that the older we get, the greater the cost becomes to remain a fool.  A teen boy can can get himself into so much trouble that the consequences could last for years.  I can think of at least three occasions where my stupid actions brought the police to our house.  Remembering my days as a young man, when I think back on the times I got into real trouble, it seemed like each time, things just “suddenly” went wrong.  While my friends and I were always goofing off and pushing the boundaries, each time we got into real trouble, it seemed like a “suddenly”.  We just suddenly knew that we had gone too far.

Unfortunately, these “suddenly” episodes didn’t have a “suddenly” resolution.  We couldn’t get out of trouble as quickly as we got into it.  The consequences in my case were hard, but could have been so much worse and took quite a long time to get through.  In some cases, it took years to pay the price for being stupid.  Some people will pay for the rest of their lives for mistakes made when they were young.  Some are no longer with us because their consequences were immediate and final.

My brother and I were talking about these things the other day and the thing that kept coming up in my heart was that God can turn things around.  These things don’t have to become a life sentence.  Even with Simeon and Levi, later we see Balak trying to get Balaam to curse Israel, but all he can do is bless them.  This includes Simeon and Levi.  Balaam says I can’t curse what God has blessed.  Later we find that Simeon received his inheritance out of the inheritance of Judah, because Judah’s inheritance was too great for just him.  We also see that the Lord made Himself the inheritance of Levi and commanded the other tribes to give Levi cities in each of their inheritances.

The point I’m making is that, the mistake they made was a big deal.  It cost the family and the Lord had to step in and give Jacob specific direction to deal with it, but it wasn’t the end.  They still had a future filled with hope.

There are a couple of points here worth noticing.

First – What the sons of Jacob did cost them down the road.  We can see from Jacob’s declaration over them that they were scattered in Jacob.

Second – It wasn’t over for them just because they blew it.  While what they did cost them, they were still blessed, and they still received a part in the inheritance, and the promises God made them.

Third – Almighty God cared enough to get involved.  He led and protected Jacob while He brought him to a safe place.  This included Simeon and Levi.

Sometimes people can get themselves into messes so bad, that it takes all the faith they have to get out of it.  This is the reason God gives us standards to live by.  It’s when people harden themselves against God that they get into trouble.  We know from the story of Job that God puts a hedge of protection around His people.  The problem is that when we harden our heart against obeying God, we take ourselves out from under His protection.

The first piece of advice I would give you is this – Don’t disobey.  It’s through obedience that things go the best possible way they CAN go. The second piece of advice is – I’ve you’ve messed up, repent!  Repent means turn around.  Stop going down that path.  If you will humble yourself before God and turn away from your rebellion and hardness, His grace will begin to flow into your situation.  His grace includes His power, His favor, His equipping, and His calling.  God will get involved in your situation and lead you.  Then, keep doing what you know to do.  Don’t stray from the path you know, and keep the switch of faith turned on. Don’t stop believing.  When it comes to trouble – If you follow Him, submit to Him, allow Him to lead you, and obey every time, the promise is that “a thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come nigh you.  Only with your eyes will you behold the reward of the wicked” (Ps 91:7-8).

 

 

Where to start when it comes to Honor.

New Year’s Eve 2009, my family and I were on our way home from my wife’s parents’ house.  We had spent the evening eating junk food & playing games but everyone was getting pretty tired so we decided to go home.  It was right about midnight (I remember because of the fireworks) when a small Mazda coming toward us spun out of control. It hit the big pickup truck in front of us, turning the truck in the road about 120 degrees & then tail whipped right into the front of our car.  It hit us so hard that it slapped the front of our car clear off into the ditch. The Mazda was wrecked in both the front and the rear.

We were all okay, escaping with just a little seat belt rash and some muscle stress from the accident, but our car was totaled.  The 19 year old young man driving the Mazda was okay too.  He kept apologizing and it became pretty clear that he was under the influence of alcohol.

A lot happened that night.  The Highway Patrol & the Fire Department showed up, made sure everyone was okay & took our information. Then I realized that the young man’s father had also arrived. He made sure his son was okay and was now talking to the state trooper. The father had a weary look on his face.  It seemed by his actions that he was very embarrassed by his son’s behavior that night.  When he was also informed that his son had refused towing service because “his dad had a guy” the father sighed and his head just dropped into his hand.  He was ashamed.  I remember thinking as I watched it “This is the exact opposite of honor”.  Accidents sometimes can’t be avoided, but that night there were some very bad choices made that led up to this one.

Proverbs 17:2 says “A servant who does wisely will have rule over a son causing shame, and will have his part in the heritage among brothers” (BBE).

It’s so important to understand that the first part of honoring your mother and father is to NOT cause shame.  I know there are plenty of times when I was a fool and embarrassed my parents.  I am personally responsible for many of the gray hairs on their heads.  It took me a long time to understand what it really means to honor them. I wish that someone would have helped me understand honor and why it’s important when I was a much younger man.  I will share more about honor in upcoming posts but the simplest way to define it for me is “to heavily value”. As we grow up we sometimes forget that we’re still sons & daughters and that what we do directly reflects on how we were raised.  God holds us strictly accountable to honor our Father and Mother (Ex. 20:12).  We do that with our life, by being quality people, and it doesn’t end when our parents are gone. We honor them for the rest of OUR lives.

I would love to hear your thoughts on honoring your parents. Please add your comments.

Your Word, Your Reputation.

I used to have a Jeep truck that developed an electrical problem.  While I would be driving down the road, it would just suddenly die.  The tach needle would fall to zero and I would be coasting.  Many times it would fire back up just as suddenly as it stopped, and I would complete my trip.  A few times I spent some time at the side of the road before I could get it to start again.  I took it to a mechanic who replaced a part.  I drove it home with no problems but the very next day it did it again.

I called the mechanic, who told me that he was just guessing because he couldn’t get it to fail while he had it.  It was an intermittent problem.  It was an unpredictable and random fault.  I finally found the problem on my own.  It took me a few difficult weeks.  It was a part that cost $12.50.

The real issue here was that my truck had become seriously unreliable.  I couldn’t count on it to get me anywhere without possible failure.  Had I had a better choice at the time, I probably would have replaced the truck and moved on.  It cost me time and money to track and finally solve that problem.  What I remember most about the whole experience was the dread I felt each time it failed, and the tremendous relief I felt when I finally solved it.

We as people can be just as unreliable.  Unlike in Bible times, we don’t seem to take our word too seriously anymore.  This is sad because when a person’s word is not good, whether they realize it or not, that person is destroying everyone’s trust in them.

Proverbs 25:19 says “Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint.”

Like my old truck, we all may have people in our lives that, while we may like them quite a bit, we know that we can’t fully trust them to keep their word.  They are unfaithful. How do you know they are unfaithful?  You counted on them once & they left you twisting in the breeze.  Maybe more than once.  Sometimes they will be there for you, but sometimes they just don’t show up.  The truth is though, that when someone is put to the test and lets you down more than once, you tend to hold back on trusting them.  No matter how much you like them, deep down you know you can’t rely on them.

Their intentions may be honorable, but they are not consistent in keeping their word.  Because of this, if you’re like me, when I need help, I go out of my way to work around these people.  I would rather not use them at all.

It also speaks to value.  If you value someone, you keep your word to them.  If you care about someone else, you will demonstrate your care by being there when you said you would, or not doing what you said you wouldn’t do.  When we care for others, we make our word stand up – every time.

A foot can still be used when it’s sprained, but you will suffer for it.  An unfaithful person can still be trusted, but at least some of the time, you’re going to suffer for it. The problem is that you never know when they will flake out on you.

Where do you stand?  Is your word good?  This week, take some time to think about it.  Decide to make your word so true that people can trust in you every time and be safe.

Love you guys.  Don’t forget to share this if it’s been helpful to you.

You’re buddy,

Art