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Leave It Better Than You Found It

Nov 10, 2017

PROGRAM D-7965

Leave it better than you found it—that’s a Boy Scout slogan. I’ve never been a Boy Scout, but I’m sure I could benefit from making that a personal goal—to leave everything better than I found it.

I’ve examined how we can leave our jobs better than we found them, leave our relationships and environments better than we found them, and leave our churches better than we found them.

I want to tell you about my friend, Cynthia, who definitely left a situation at her work so much better than she found it. Some years ago, she worked in a department where one coworker made it very clear that she and Cynthia could never be friends because Cynthia was African-American. It’s hard to believe that someone would actually say that, but this person said those very words to Cynthia.

Thankfully, Cynthia was able to get beyond her hurt feelings and respond appropriately to this situation. She prayed about it, and got the idea to start what she called “Project Love.” She didn’t announce to her coworkers that she was starting “Project Love,” she just decided to do it. Besides being kind and considerate on a daily basis, she decided to invite each person in her department to have lunch with her as her guest. Once a week she would deliver a written lunch invitation to a coworker, including this woman who said they could never be friends.

Who can refuse such an invitation? So, the two of them went to lunch. As a result, they began to get to know each other and this woman saw how wrong her attitude had been. She realized what a good friend Cynthia could be, and before long they became friends. Now this woman openly and proudly claims Cynthia as a friend and, though they no longer work together, they still keep in touch.

Cynthia left that place and that relationship so much better than she found them. She could have responded with anger and bitterness, but she chose to respond in love. That’s the power that we have as believers because we have the Holy Spirit within us to enable us to do what otherwise we would find impossible to do.

I hope you’ll remember this simple slogan: Leave it better than you found it. It’s one sure way to show God’s love to others.

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Leave It Better Than You Found It

Nov 7, 2017

PROGRAM D-7962

Leave it better than you found it! That’s what Boy Scouts are taught to do. What a good idea! I’m taking a look at how we, as Christians, can leave things better than we found them. One such thing is our jobs: When we leave our jobs, do we leave them better than when we were hired? Another area of our lives I want to encourage you to consider is this:

We should leave our relationships better than we found them.

Relationships are the sandpaper of life, are they not? We all need to live in relationship with others, and yet getting along with the people in our lives can be the toughest assignment we have. How can we leave our relationships better than we found them?

Let’s start with what we call The Golden Rule which Jesus gave us when he said, “Treat other people exactly as you would like to be treated by them—this is the essence of all true religion” (Matthew 7:12, J.B. Phillips New Testament). Jesus says that we should take the initiative to improve the relationships of our lives, not wait on the other person to do it. Has someone treated you unkindly lately? If so, are you willing to put this Golden Rule into practice and respond to them the way you wish they would respond to you? If you do, you will definitely improve that relationship.

Here’s another relationship principle from the Bible that will definitely leave a relationship better than we found it, and it comes from Philippians 2:3-4:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.

Putting others first is a sure winner when it comes to improving relationships. I remember when I read that passage, I just shook my head because I couldn’t figure how in the world I could ever live up to it. Value others above myself? That doesn’t come naturally for me. How about you?

I began to pray and ask God to show me how to put this into practice. God showed me that it begins with an attitude of the heart. An older New International Version says to “consider others better than yourself,” to think of others in that way. I find that if I change my thought life—if I remind myself that truly, others are just as important as I am, and that what they’re doing is just as important as what I’m doing—then I can start to genuinely look to their interests and not just my own.

If we practiced these two principles in our relationships, there is no doubt we’d see great improvement, and we’d leave them better than we found them!

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Leave It Better Than You Found It

Nov 6, 2017

PROGRAM D-7961

There’s a slogan from the Boy Scouts that I like a lot: Leave it better than you found it. It’s certainly good for Boy Scouts, but don’t you think that Christians should have that same kind of attitude? I’d like to share my thoughts on the kinds of things we should leave better than we found them.

We should leave our jobs better than we found them.

I’m not suggesting we literally leave our jobs but rather, because we are doing our job, things should be better where we work. Our presence in that job should be a positive thing such that, if we did leave the job, it would be better than we found it.

Another way to put this is to ask ourselves, “If everyone in my organization worked like I do, would the organization be better off?” Consider these questions:

  • If everyone worked as hard as you do—put in the same number of hours truly working—would productivity go up or down?
  • If everyone arrived at work the same time you do, would everyone be on time or late?
  • If everyone were as creative as you are—finding new and better ways to do things—would there be new initiatives and new ideas happening, or not?
  • If everyone were as willing to go the extra mile as you are, would there be more people exceeding requirements, or fewer?
  • If everyone were as positive and upbeat as you are, would there be a better morale where you work, or worse?
  • If everyone were as neat and tidy as you are and cleaned up after themselves like you do, would the work environment be nicer or messier?
  • If everyone talked about others in the organization the way you do, would there be lots of positive affirmation going around, or lots of gossip?

 

You get the idea. Paul wrote to the Corinthians that “if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment” (1 Corinthians 11:31). It’s just smart to check up on ourselves—to judge ourselves—and avoid coming under judgment by others. So ask yourself if you are leaving your job better than you found it!

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Fran and Jesus on the Job – Difficult Manager – Part II

Nov 4, 2017

PROGRAM W-1700 – Part II

Fran is in the midst of an appraisal by her manager, Marilyn, where she has been shocked to find out that her manager has given her a very poor appraisal rating. It seems Marilyn is using this opportunity to get back at Fran for her refusal to use deceptive figures in a proposal to a key prospect. Marilyn had insisted that Fran put untruthful figures in and, when Fran refused, the account was assigned to another person. As a result, they lost the business, and that didn’t make Marilyn look good with her management.

In spite of Fran’s outstanding sales record and good results, Marilyn has chosen to put her on notice, citing insubordination as the reason. This means Fran could lose her job in three months. With Jesus beside her to keep her calm, Fran expressed her non-concurrence with Marilyn’s appraisal, and her desire to talk about it with Ed, the Vice President of Human Resources.

This has made Marilyn furious with Fran—again—and Jesus has helped her put some pieces of the puzzle together. As she listens to Marilyn’s tirade and watches her lose control, Fran realizes that Marilyn is frightened: If Fran does go to Ed, it will be obvious that Marilyn has no right to do this to Fran and she’ll be in trouble again.

The facade of being in charge and having it all-together has fallen off Marilyn like a coat. Fran had always seen her as competent and in-control, but now it’s almost like the scales have dropped from her eyes and she sees a different woman. Suddenly Fran can feel nothing but pity for Marilyn. “Lord,” she says to Jesus, “look at her. She’s pitiful.”

Jesus agrees.

Fran asks, “Well, Lord, how do I respond to her now? Do I keep insisting on my right to talk with Ed? I feel so sorry for her.”

Jesus smiles. “You feel sorry for her. Isn’t that interesting, Fran? A few minutes ago, you were frightened and it appeared that Marilyn was a huge problem in your life. Now you feel sorry for her.”

Fran sees the humor and smiles inwardly. “Well, you know, Lord, that’s because you allow me to see people through your eyes. If you weren’t here beside me, I wouldn’t feel sorry for Marilyn.”

“Yes, Fran, you’re looking through my eyes now and you see Marilyn to be what she is: A very insecure and frightened woman. All that intimidation she’s been using on you is just her way of covering up,” Jesus says to Fran.

It seems like all at once Fran knows what she should do. She turns to Marilyn, and says, “Marilyn, maybe it’s not really necessary for me to talk to Ed at this time. If you’ll just tell me exactly what I have to do to improve my performance and put that in writing for me, I’ll do everything I can honestly do to improve. I believe another appraisal will be due in three months, and hopefully by then you will be able to change it. That could solve the whole issue, couldn’t it?”

Fran thinks, “I didn’t intend to say that, Lord. Where did that come from?”

“From me. You prayed for wisdom, so I put that idea in your mind. That’s an answer to prayer, Fran.”

Fran looks at Marilyn, who has rather quietly sat down and seems much calmer, almost sheepish.

“Fran,” she says, “I, uh, I’m sure, uh… Well, yeah I think that’s a possibility. We could possibly pull your appraisal up in three months. Do you still want to talk to Ed?” Marilyn asks very hesitatingly.

“No,” Fran replies, “as long as I have in writing exactly what I’m supposed to do, and as long as it’s something I can realistically achieve, I’m willing to give it a three-month trial before talking to Ed.”

Marilyn is obviously relieved and looks at Fran in bewilderment. “You mean, you aren’t going to do anything at this time, is that right?”

“Correct, Marilyn, I would prefer to work this out between us if possible. I don’t like confrontations like this, and since I know I’ll work hard and do the best job I can, I think I should have a good shot at dramatically improving that appraisal, don’t you? Provided, of course, we don’t run into anymore ‘Drexel’ experiences.” Fran looks to see how Marilyn responds to her reference to Drexel. She wants to make certain Marilyn understands that she is still unwilling to compromise her integrity, even to keep her job.

“Well,” Marilyn replies, “that’s one of those unfortunate happenings, Fran. Hopefully it won’t happen again.”

“Then we’ll have another appraisal in three months, is that right?” Fran asks.

“I have the flexibility of scheduling it sooner if I like, but at least in three months, yes,” Marilyn answers. “If I covered all your questions, I guess that’s all we need to talk about now.” Marilyn looks at Fran with what could almost be described as a smile.

As Fran and Jesus leave her office, the atmosphere is totally different. Fran says to Jesus, “Sounded like Marilyn just heaved a big sigh of relief, Lord. Did you hear that?”

“Yes,” Jesus answers, “I think Marilyn realizes you could have hung a noose around her neck today but you chose not to.”

Jesus is right. Fran could have gotten her vengeance so easily, but she’s let Marilyn off the hook. Marilyn has been nothing but a thorn in her flesh, and she could have had her in lots of trouble; instead, she chose to show mercy.

“I could never have done that without you, Lord,” she says.

“Fran, do you remember the passage in Matthew 16 that you read this morning about taking up your daily cross and following me?” Jesus asks.

“Now that you bring that up, I have to tell you that I’m not sure I know what it means to take up a cross daily and follow you. I mean, who would voluntarily want to take up some hardship or sorrow? Guess I don’t understand what you mean, Lord,” Fran replies.

“What you’ve just done, Fran, is what it means. Your own natural will has today been placed at a crossroad with what I wanted you to do. You chose to do it my way, Fran, instead of doing it your way. You were willing to let Marilyn off the hook, not knowing what the outcome would be. You faced a cross today and decided you would take it up. That’s what it means, Fran,” Jesus answers.

“You mean, that was my daily cross?” Fran asks rather puzzled.

“Anytime you relinquish your will and choose mine, you’ve taken your cross to follow me. That’s what discipleship is.” Jesus smiles at her.

“Jesus, if I’d been on my own, I would have kept pushing her and insisted on talking with Ed. But now I see that by backing off, I’ve saved Marilyn’s neck and her whole attitude changed toward me—right in front of my eyes. Your way was a lot better than mine.”

“Well, Fran,” Jesus replies with a grin, “I always lead you in paths that are good for you. You know that my plans for you are good ones, not plans to harm you, Fran.”

“Thank you, Jesus. Thank you for being so patient with me and leading me step by step, day by day. I can’t imagine facing this unfair, unjust world without you by my side. But then, nobody could understand cruel treatment better than you.” Fran’s heart is stirred again to realize how much she loves Jesus for what he has done for her.

“By the way,” Jesus says, “did you realize that Marilyn read 1 Corinthians 13 today—the chapter that describes what real love is like?”

“She did?” Fran replies. “I didn’t see a Bible on her desk? I don’t think she’s ever read the Bible, Lord.”

“No, not in the Bible. She read it in you, Fran. You are the Living Edition of God’s Word. Now you can wait and see what will happen because you chose to be merciful. Well done, good and faithful servant.”

Tears come to Fran’s eyes. Just to know that the Lord is pleased with her is all she needs to know. “You know, Lord,” Fran says, “even if I’d been fired on the spot, I could make it just hearing you say those words to me. I guess I don’t really need Marilyn’s good appraisal. All I need is yours.”

So, Fran has had another incredible lesson from Jesus on how to deal with difficult situations. In the process, she’s been a witness to a woman who desperately needs to know Jesus. Who knows what will come from all this?!

Could it be that you are facing some very unfair situation on your job or elsewhere? Please be aware that none of these things happen to us by accident. God is allowing them in our lives for various reasons.

One of the reasons is to teach you how to trust Jesus, how to step out in faith and do what he wants you to do, even when it looks dangerous and illogical. You can see how Fran’s faith and trust have grown, and how she is learning to turn to Jesus more and more. As we exercise faith, it builds more faith into us.

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Fran and Jesus on the Job – Difficult Manager – Part I

Oct 28, 2017

PROGRAM W-1699 – Part I

Fran is a fictitious young widow with two children and a job in marketing. The premise of my stories about Fran is that Jesus accompanies Fran to work, sits right beside her, and gives her encouragement and biblical reminders throughout her day. Thus, I call these stories, “Fran & Jesus on the Job.”

The good news is that when we are born from above, Jesus does indeed go with us every day to our workplace. But sometimes we forget that, don’t we? This story of Fran is intended to help us all practice the presence of Jesus who is with us all day, every day, and to learn more and more how to be constantly aware of the power and help he has for us in any situation.

Today, as Fran arrives at work with Jesus at her side, she’s a little nervous because it’s the day for her appraisal with her manager, Marilyn. She says to Jesus, “I’ll be glad when this is over. I hate appraisals. But I hope it goes well because the better the appraisal, the more raise I get. I could use a nice raise.”

Jesus replies, “Fran, I’ll go right into that appraisal with you, so take a deep breath and know that whatever happens, I’m in this with you.”

“Thanks, Lord!” She smiles at Jesus’ words of encouragement. He really helps her to keep her perspective. After all, she works for Jesus not for Marilyn, and as long as he is pleased with her work, she has the approval that is important.

“You know, Lord, my track record is good this year. I was second highest in sales volume in the whole office, and my account retention record is the best. And, I got that big order from John Warton last week; nobody’s been able to break that account before. So, I think I’m in good shape.”

“Do you think Marilyn will have anything to say about the Drexel account, Fran?” Jesus asks.

The Drexel account is the one Fran had to give up because she refused to submit deceptive figures in her proposal. Marilyn gave it to Tom, a young salesman, who blew the whole thing and lost the business.

“Who knows, Lord, but with my good record, I don’t see how she can refuse to give me a good rating on my appraisal. After all, I didn’t lose that account; Tom did! Well, it’s about time to go.” Fran starts to rush out.

“Why don’t you have a quiet moment of prayer before you go in there? Do you have time?” Jesus asks.

Fran smiles, as she shuts her office door. “Of course I do, Lord! I can’t afford not to take time for prayer, can I?” She sits down and prays quietly, “Dear Father, give me your strength, your perspective, your calmness, and your wisdom as I go into this appraisal. I ask you to put the right words in my mouth. I pray for a favorable appraisal, if that is your will. Thanks for giving me Jesus to be right here beside me during this. That helps a lot. I pray this in his name. Amen.”

Together, they head toward Marilyn’s office for the appraisal.

“Come on in, Fran,” Marilyn says in a rather rigid voice, as she closes the door behind her. “I’ve already completed your appraisal. What I’d like you to do is look it over and then we’ll discuss it.” She hands Fran the appraisal form.

Fran’s eyes begin to focus on the appraisal and slowly she realizes she has been given a very poor rating. Marilyn has given her the grade of “Does not meet the requirements of the job,” which means that Fran will be put on notice. By being put on notice, she is given three months to improve and, if not, she will be fired. She gulps hard and looks at Jesus.

“Lord, do you see this? Can you believe it? There’s no way she can justify this poor rating. It means I get no raise and I may get fired. Lord!”

“Yes, Fran, I see it.” Jesus responds. “The important thing now is to stay calm. Remember, you prayed about your words, so be very careful what you say. Measure your words carefully,” Jesus says.

With her heart beating like crazy, Fran looks up at Marilyn. “I guess you can see that this appraisal is very shocking to me. I really don’t understand how you can honestly appraise my work as not meeting the requirements. Here are my sales figures. As you know, I’m second in the whole office in volume and first in customer retention. I just don’t understand,” Fran says to Marilyn, as she hands her the sales figures.

“Listen, Fran, numbers don’t tell the whole story. You demonstrated a total unwillingness to obey orders. You were insubordinate, and as a result we lost the Drexel business. I could fire you for that, Fran, but I’m giving you a break. You have three months to shape up and decide if you’re a team player or not. Otherwise, you’ll be looking for another job.”

Fran can’t believe her ears. “Jesus,” she says, “are you going to let her get by with this? You know how unfair this is! After all, I was doing what you told me to do—I was doing the right thing, and now I’m about to lose my job. Jesus, where are you?”

“I’m right here, Fran; I haven’t moved an inch,” he says comfortingly to her. “Have I ever failed you?” he asks Fran. “Have I ever left you or forsaken you?”

“No,” Fran replies, “but this is different. I’m really in trouble. What do I do?”

“I thought you’d never ask,” says Jesus, and he quietly begins to put into her mind what she should now say to Marilyn.

Fran can feel a quiet calm come over her. What’s that verse—the peace which “passes understanding”? That’s what it is—unreasonable peace.

The words she had prayed for begin to form in her mind, and Fran turns to Marilyn and says, “Well, Marilyn, I think the procedures give me the right to voice my objection to this appraisal, isn’t that right? I think I’d like to exercise that right. I believe I’m supposed to put it in writing and submit it to Ed Butler, the Vice President of Human Resources, so I’ll do that.”

Fran didn’t raise her voice or show any vindictiveness. She knows the right move to make is to tell Marilyn she intends to follow the company procedure for appeal of an appraisal. Even though she tries to be very gentle, she looks at Marilyn and realizes she is very angry.

As Marilyn’s face gets redder and redder, she gets up and stands over Fran intimidatingly. “You can do whatever you like, but it won’t get you anywhere. I’ve reviewed all this with Ed and he’s in total agreement with what I’ve done. Insubordination is an offense for which any employee can be fired. You’ll find it in the personnel handbook, if you don’t believe me.”

“Oh, I believe you, Marilyn,” Fran replies, “but I don’t feel I’ve been insubordinate and I’d like to follow the procedures for expressing my non-concurrence.”

All of a sudden Fran feels very fearful. What am I saying? she thinks. I’m in trouble and I’m making Marilyn very angry. “Jesus, this is escalating and I don’t know what to do. I’ve never seen Marilyn so out of control and hateful. Jesus!” Fran feels a sudden panic attack as she turns to Jesus for help.

Jesus whispers in her ear, “Please remember that Marilyn is angry because you did the right thing. You were a light shining in her darkness, and she didn’t like it. Don’t take it personally. I’m going to get you through this, Fran, I promise.”

Just hearing his voice reassures Fran, and the peace that passes understanding sweeps over her again. But somehow, the more peaceful she feels, the more upset and out of control Marilyn seems to be.

After pacing in front of Fran for what seemed like an eternity, Marilyn turns and says, “There’s a place on page three of the appraisal for your comments, if you insist on getting yourself in further trouble. After you write them, return the appraisal to me. I’ll take it to Ed.”

“Marilyn,” Fran says, “if I remember correctly, I believe the procedures indicate I’m to take it directly to Ed’s office, and then an interview will be scheduled, isn’t that right?” Again, the calmness of her voice amazes Fran.

But when she sees how angry this makes Marilyn, she says to Jesus, “Oops, I think I said the wrong thing. Guess I shouldn’t have brought that up, huh Lord?”

“No,” Jesus responds, “it’s okay, Fran. Marilyn is uncomfortable because she knows you could get her in a bunch of trouble if you go talk to Ed.”

“Get her in trouble? Why, of course,” Fran replies. Suddenly it’s all so clear to Fran. Marilyn is bluffing about Ed, trying to frighten Fran. She never dreamed Fran would think of talking to Ed. This is simply her way of getting back at Fran.

“You know, Lord, I just hadn’t stopped to put it all together. I heard that Marilyn’s manager was very upset with her for turning the Drexel account over to Tom at the last minute. He blamed her for losing that business. So, she’s just looking to get even with me, I think.”

“Right,” says Jesus, “but you know, you now have the advantage over Marilyn. She knows that if you escalate the issue, she’ll be in further trouble.”

Fran turns her attention back to Marilyn, who is staring at her with a look of fear and hatred. Beginning with some words of profanity, she says to Fran, “If you think you can get me in trouble, you’re wrong, Fran. My job is secure; they’ll believe what I tell them, not what you write on that form or say to Ed.”

For the first time, Fran sees that Marilyn is an insecure, desperate woman.

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Are You Satisfied with Your Job?

Oct 27, 2017

PROGRAM D-7955

How do you know when it’s time to change jobs? We’re looking at ten checkpoints that can help us make an objective assessment of our job satisfaction level, so that we make the right decision about changing jobs or not.

Checkpoint #9: Do you feel totally exhausted at the end of a typical day, or just reasonably tired?

Feeling tired from a good day’s work is not a bad thing. We were created by God to work, and the feelings of accomplishment that come from putting in a full, hard workday are often very satisfying. I know on days when I have that feeling of accomplishing a lot, even though my mind and body may feel a bit weary, I go home with lots of satisfaction in what I did.

However, if total exhaustion is typical for you most every workday, you need to do some reassessment. It’s difficult to like a job that saps all your strength and energy.

Checkpoint #10: Even though there may be some repetitive or boring parts about your job, for the most part, are you stimulated and challenged by the work that you do?

You’ll never find a job that doesn’t have some boring aspects to it. Don’t let those things blind you to the things about the job that you really do like.

Finding a job that interests you, work that makes a positive contribution, work that is valued—those are all key aspects in job satisfaction. Some expect too much of a job, and then when one thing is missing, they fail to appreciate the good things they do have.

There you have it: Ten checkpoints to determine your level of job satisfaction. After you’ve considered these, the most important check point is to pray about your job. Seek God’s guidance as to what his plan is for you. Is God using you at your workplace as a light in a dark world? That could be all the job satisfaction you need to determine that you’re in the right place. On the other hand, it could be a well-paying job that looks good on paper, but one that is bringing much grief and trouble into your life. God may be leading you out of that kind of situation.

The good news is that God cares about your job and your job satisfaction; however, he wants you to look at it through Forever Eyes—from an eternal perspective—and make choices based on what is important not just for now, but also for eternity.

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