Drive Like Jesus Would

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Our driving can say a lot. We probably don’t want to admit it but how we drive to work can speak to our view of the world, our fellow citizens, and even our coworkers.

It might even have a big impact on the day we – and those around us – might experience.

On the one hand, you turn on your blinker to change lanes and people speed up to block your way. People get distracted while waiting for the light and delay advancing while long lines of cars are backed up behind them. People pull out in front of you, even though there is no one behind you, forcing you to slow down and follow their lead. They’re competitive. Aggressive. Impatient.

It’s frustrating and maddening.

On the other hand, people let you in and slow down to accommodate you. People switch lanes to get out of the way for someone who is clearly in a hurry. Wave at you when you let them in. They don’t ride on your back bumper and stay a respectful distance behind. They’re cooperative. Considerate. Patient.

It’s surprising and uplifting.

One of my favorite commentators, David Brooks, had something to say about this in a recent opinion article about driving habits and what it means for our culture. It’s worth reading.

David Brooks noted, “The people who have the most influence on society are actually normal folks, through the normal, everyday gestures: being kind in public places, attentive to the elderly.”

As Brooks goes on to note, driving is precisely the sort of everyday activity through which people mold the everyday culture.

We obsess a lot about the bad and disappointing behavior of leaders, celebrities, and sports heroes. But in the long haul, it’s ordinary people like us that have the most influence.

And, we could choose to have an impact over the next 20 days just with our driving. Here’s some things to keep in mind. Continue reading

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Putting Humility to Work

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The atmosphere of our workplaces can be very competitive and success-oriented. It’s emphasis on achievement, recognition, and position makes us vulnerable to self-absorption, self-assertion, and self-exaltation.

Focus on self is an addiction in our society. No greater preoccupation threatens the light of Christ shining through his disciples. Fourteen hundred years ago, St. Benedict developed a 12-step program to help his monks grow in humility and foster greater love and devotion to God.

“Should you ask me, ‘What is the first thing in a virtuous life?’ I should reply, the first, second, and the third thing therein – nay, all is humility.” St. Augustine1

Humility is a hallmark of Christianity. Humility is the antidote for our self-centered pride and sets us free from its hold. God’s incarnation was the ultimate in self-sacrificing humility. As coworkers in Christ, our call is to be of the same mind in all things. And, all things includes the workplace.

A SCHOOL OF HUMILITY

The workplace, with its emphasis on power, control, and advancement, seems to work against humility’s development. It is much easier to keep our faith life at the door. Wishing to live a life of humble integrity in the workplace takes courage, grace, and is not without personal risk. But God’s truth is clear.

“For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Luke 14:11

Each day we are presented with opportunities to grow in this virtue, participating in God’s school of humility; consciously choosing to cooperate with these opportunities, allows God to work. Using St. Benedict’s 12 steps as a guide, here are a few areas where humility should abound, updated for the workplace. Continue reading

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Our Father’s Christmas Gift

Fray_Juan_Bautista_Maino_-_Adoration_of_the_Shepherds_-_WGA13869 copy“God is not a monologue; God is a dialogue. And the harmony between the Father and Son is complete, so full of life, that it forms a third in the communion.  The Spirit is the spark of love that always jumps from the Father to the Son and from the Son to the Father.

This is God’s great Christmas gift to you.  This gift contains an order of trust. Continue reading

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Hope Matures in the Face of Reality

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As a young Christian, I was filled with idealism that was fueled by a fair dose of naiveté. It didn’t help that for many years I worked in the advertising industry where we thought very highly of our opinions and expertise. Looking back I’m amazed, and humbled, by our own arrogance. (Of course, all things are possible for those who don’t have to do them.) That all changed when I found myself on the client side in a very tough industry – trucking. Continue reading

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Looking Towards the Heroes

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It’s been a week since the mass murders in Las Vegas. Since that time, many stories have been told not only about the victims but also about the heroes who ran into danger, not just the first responders and police, but ordinary citizens. Here, from a Christian perspective, lies a fresh answer to the question, “Where is God in the light of this evil.” Continue reading

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Restoring Dignity: One Person at a Time

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God wants all to find the dignity of being useful and to experience the satisfying experience of working together. It just doesn’t always work that way. If you’re poor, an ex-con, recovering alcoholic or drug addict, homeless, or a returning soldier, the way back can be longer and more arduous, but not if you’re fortunate enough to meet Coleman Moore.

Coleman is a short man in his sixties. He has been many things – a real estate developer, a student in a seminary, a pastor, a church planter – today he’s a furniture builder restoring lives of the less fortunate. It started when his wife asked Coleman to build a headboard for their bed. Posting it on Craigslist, orders began rolling in for beds, nightstands, desks, and entertainment centers. Coleman had to hire additional staff.

Then one Sunday morning, he heard a speaker talk about the need to provide jobs for people in the inner city. Coleman felt the Lord give him a phrase that would sum up what has become his mission – Building lives through building furniture.

THE OPPORTUNITY TO SUCCEED

Custom Cottage is the name of the business in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His mission shapes practical ways in which the business operates to provide his workers – unskilled, ex-cons, recovering addicts, and the like – with the opportunity to succeed.

One is a flexible schedule. Each builder has keys and can work any time they like – 24/7. Another is pay structure. Each is paid a minimum wage and then by piece on top of that. They can make $15-$20 an hour. Some do, and those who don’t are offered further training. Workers gather each day for lunch and a time of swapping stories and praying for each other’s needs.

Coleman also set up his business so he rarely fires anyone. There are only two reasons he would consider letting someone go. First, if after getting trained they show no aptitude for furniture making. Second, if they don’t show up, occupying a place for someone more willing to work. No one gets fired for drinking on the job, cussing out the boss, messing up orders, or getting tossed in jail for a couple of nights.

“For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light – for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord.” Ephesians 5:8

A recent study showed that if all the faith-based, charitable services were eliminated, it would cost our government well over a trillion dollars to replicate. This wouldn’t even include people like Coleman Moore. God is restoring all things. He’s doing it one individual at a time. It’s that personal.

THE GLORY OF LOVE

God’s glory is not flashy or built on celebrity. God’s glory is the glory of love. God revealed his love in all its glory when he gave his life for us. We can see it when we look at his pierced hands and open side. The resurrected Lord carries his wounds as signs of his love for us.

Coleman Moore is finding his true identity and reaching the fullness of his life by spending himself in love.

“Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” John 12:24

If the grain of wheat doesn’t die it remains a single grain. Without sacrifice, there is no real community of love and support. If Coleman remained only concerned for himself, he’d remain a lonely grain. But his willingness to sacrifice brought new life and hope to these men who had very little; and it gave them a shared community of work.

DYING TO LIVE

Jesus himself was that grain of wheat. He was speaking of himself when speaking these words. He wants us to not worry about ourselves, but, rather, to step into his death. He doesn’t want us to worry about our way, but with trust pick up his way. We die his death to live his life.

“As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” Colossians 3:12,14

As Christians, we now live his risen life. It is a resurrection that has already taken place. We are a new creation and God’s holiness is something we’ve already been given. We carry it around deep within us. All we need is to let it radiate through us. We can live a risen life today.

Father, let me walk in your risen life today. Let me find my true identity and the fullness of life by spending my life in love. In the moments of today, grant me the grace to be who you called me to be, and do what you call me to do. Let all these moments together create a holy day.

NOTE: This is one of twenty scripts for Snapshot Podcasts.  To hear all twenty, click here.

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When Your Career Falls Apart

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Earlier this month the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics published an article that several said was timely and helpful.  It contains elements I’ve blogged about before.  Feel free to share with anyone who might find it encouraging.

I was enjoying an exhilarating and fulfilling career at a large advertising agency. Accolades, advancement, fun work, great people, and star-status at the agency—I couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Then, it all fell apart. The next three years would prove very different.

The account that had been the driver of this exciting experience had a new CEO. In addition, our primary contact, who had led the growth of the account from $3 million to $34 million, retired. The new CEO asked our CEO, our president, and myself to lunch. What I didn’t know was that I was to be the “main course”.

The client’s CEO accused us of plagiarism because a similar visual technique had been used in another client’s commercial. The client CEO felt the technique was proprietary to them. While it had been used inadvertently, it gave him an opportunity to call for a change in leadership at my expense. My superiors had anticipated he was going to ask for greater involvement from me, when it was exactly the opposite.

After the meeting, as we sat together in the car, I told the president and CEO, “You need to do what must be done. There’s too much at stake. I will be fine.”

Life Changes

Things quickly and radically changed for me. Because I had been fully invested in the account as it grew, it limited my ability to be assigned to other accounts. My experience was more suited to durable goods accounts or business-to-business. These tended to have smaller advertising budgets, unlike the packaged goods accounts that dominated our agency’s business. As a result, the only accounts I was now assigned to were small ones with limited activity and visibility. I had a lot of free time.

Before, I was driving the growth and success of this large account, getting things done, and overseeing the work of 40 people. Now, I was in a position of having things done to me, with limited control and influence.

Justice Is for Others

The best piece of advice I received at the time was that justice is not something we seek for ourselves, but for others. It is this perspective that I took forward.

Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the Twelve [apostles], went off to the chief priests in order to betray and hand him over to them. (Mark 14:10, Amplified Bible) 

Henri Nouwen points out in Bread and Wine: Readings for Lent and Easter that the key word often translated as “betrayed” is actually the Greek word meaning “handed over.”

Nouwen goes on to say,

…this drama of being handed over divides the life of Jesus radically in two. The first part of Jesus’ life is filled with activity. Jesus takes all sorts of initiatives. He speaks; he preaches; he heals; he travels. But immediately after Jesus is handed over, he becomes the one to whom things are being done. He’s being arrested; he’s being led to the high priest; he’s being taken before Pilate; he’s being crowned with thorns; he’s being nailed on a cross. Things are being done to him over which he has no control. That is the meaning of passion—being the recipient of other people’s initiatives.

Handing Things Over

Jesus’ response illustrates his great love for his Father and complete trust in him. He let himself be handed over.

It helps me understand the call of Christ to “hand things over” and put my hope in God’s care and faithfulness. Rather than trying to control the outcome, or fight for my own justice, the focus is on surrendering and submitting to God’s will in the circumstance, allowing him to make the most of it.

Over time, things became more challenging. At the Monday morning management meetings as we went around the room to give updates, I didn’t have any accomplishments or much of anything to report. As a result, I often felt like I was a green, fluorescent, pulsating, orb in the midst of my peers, obvious for my non-contribution and my salary’s drain on the bottom line.

I prayed about whether I should look for a new job, but always felt I should persevere. Here are some perspectives that helped me:

  • I serve the Lord in my job, no matter what is happening.
  • Any way I make myself useful to others is a service to him.
  • He said I should take up my cross and follow him. This is an opportunity for that.
  • He will use this time of testing and trial to strengthen and form me.
  • God knows my situation and is here with me. God is always good and he is always enough for any situation.

Refined in Adversity

After three years, I was indeed laid off in a business downturn. This began the final chapter of my business career. But I was better prepared for what was to come in the ups and downs of the economy and business.

In hindsight, I can see how God bore much fruit from that situation in who I am and what I do today. I have no regrets or bitterness. In fact, it was a wonderful turning point in my life. My relationship with him is much more intimate today. Humility and trust grow in difficulties. I am more teachable and adaptable to circumstances I am not able to control.

This incident didn’t define my life, but it was an important experience God used to refine me. We learn a lot about ourselves in adversity.

You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised (Hebrews 10:36)

I’m well aware how much the way I responded to the accusation from our client runs counter to our culture’s philosophy. When difficulty, misunderstanding, resistance, and animosities come my way, it helps me to be reminded not to seek my own justice. Similar opportunities abound for all of us in small ways and big ways. We don’t have to look far. When they come, I now know that my call is to be like Jesus, allowing myself to be handed over.

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