Archive for April, 2012

I am in Montreal having my exit interviews before leaving my company.  There have been the obligatory where do you stand with this project and who are your primary contacts for that activity?  A lot of information given and a few war stories shared.  It is down to the last few hours of employment with the company I have worked for 23 years.  I guess I am getting a little nostalgic.  As I think back over the time I see mostly faces and remember mostly shared experiences – experiences that have shaped me, changed me, helped make me the man I am today.  While many of the experiences were hard and challenging at the time, growth and maturity were most often the result.  And many of the experiences that were so uncomfortable at the time are now the source of laughter and merriment in hindsight.

As I have thought about my last words to the friends I have made and the persons who make up this company I am leaving, I realize I probably won’t be able to effectively communicate all that is on my heart…  lessons learned but not yet common practice…  opportunities that stand right before us but often overlooked or unrealized.  A few thoughts stand out.

We make it harder on each other to be successful sometimes when we really need to see that we are on the same team.

The importance to be more diligent at communication than we often are because poor communication only makes it harder the next time.

The absolute necessity of being able to admit we have made a mistake when we have and to turn around and make things as right as we can.

The need to know and understand our co-workers at a deeper level.  The best sports teams have that special ingredient outsiders often call “chemistry”.  That comes from knowing and valuing those you work with.

Twenty three years of immersing myself in my work has marked me.  I do not want to leave feeling I have not done my share to “pay it forward” for those who have poured into my life.  Today’s few words, and this blog for that matter, are my attempt to do that.

As I spoke with my brother last night the thought hit me that every one of us will have times of exiting.  It may be a job like myself, it may be a group you’ve belonged to for a long time, or certainly the exit of this life for the next.  I am curious, what is the key point or points that you would want to be sure to share if you are given an exit interview before you leave this life?  What one thing have you found to be the most helpful truth in this life that you would want someone to know?  Please comment back to me with your thoughts.

May the Lord make His face shine upon you.

May the road rise up to meet you.

May all your experiences enrich you.

And may your life be full to overflowing.

I wish you all the best today, in Jesus Name.

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We attended a beautiful and fun wedding this weekend.  By the way, May God richly bless your marriage Ryan and Jessica.  Make God first in your marriage and He will make it the most enriching and fulfilling experience you can imagine.

As we left the wedding party I was struck with the thought – “That’s the setting Jesus often joined.”  His first miracle recorded in John 2:1-11 was at a wedding in Cana.  At that wedding the party was obviously pretty big as the wine gave out early in the evening.  Jesus’ mother noticed and pointed it out to Jesus, drawing Him into the host’s dilemma.  To run out of wine would be a big disgrace.  Jesus responded by turning water into wine… between 120 – 180 gallons of it.  Thus ensuring many more wedding invitations in the future.

This isn’t the only party Jesus attends in the three years of His earthly ministry.  In fact as time goes on Jesus shows up in so many party situations that His detractors began deriding Him for being a “friend of sinners”.  We know that on a couple of occasions Jesus taught thousands at a time out in the open fields away from the towns.  In terms of popularity He was an ancient world rock star.  He was as comfortable seated at a friend’s wedding as He was in the pulpit of the synagogue.  Jesus went wherever there were people in need and He offered them life and hope.

Jesus is unique in many ways, but in the context of today’s discussion one aspect strikes me as particularly profound.  Jesus entered so many different life situations and yet He was without sin.  He lived a perfect, sinless life.  This was essential so that when He died on the cross He was able to be the perfect, sinless sacrifice for our sin.  If He had sinned at any time, then His death upon the cross would have been just punishment for His own sin.  As it was, the plan He and the Father had devised was that Jesus would live a life like all of us, but without sin so that He would be able to be our substitute when God’s rightous judgement punished sin.

Jesus did not come for just the righteous.  Nor did He come for just the Jewish people although He came to and for them too.  He did not come for just the poor and needy, although they were definitely on His list.  Jesus did not come just for the rich, affluent, and powerful although it’s obvious that He came for  them.  He was in the midst of every one of these groups in party and dinner settings.  In all cases He shared words of life that spoke to the group and to individuals.  In many cases He also performed miracles which both met real needs and spoke of God’s real and present power.

As I look through the scripture there is only one group that really struggled to like Jesus – the religious leaders.  Jesus never condoned sin, but He always treated sinners with gentleness and compassion… except for religious sin.  In fact the times we see Jesus angry, and yes He got quite angry, was in confronting sin within the religious leadership.  Greed, pride, hypocrisy were all sins that Jesus confronted head on.  Interestingly even many of these rebukes were delivered in private parties in the homes of the religious leaders.  Jesus was just too amazing a person to ignore.

Now some might point to Jesus’s divinity as the reason He did not sin.  While I know that He was fully God, Philippians says He emptied Himself of all the privileges His divinity might give Him and He became fully human.  He was tempted in every way as we are and yet He was without sin.  So as Jesus entered all these situations which held many temptations, He was not immune to their allure.  He did not fall to them though.  Jesus spent time alone with His Father… consistently… intimately… frequently.  This was the source of His power over sin.  And this same source of strength is available to all who call upon Him and rely upon the Lord God.  We’ll talk about this more in a later post.

The children’s song – “Jesus loves me this I know, for the bible tells me so” is absolutely true.  Jesus’ engagement with people in any and all situations shouts that loud and clear.  Was Jesus a Party Animal?  Jesus was (and still is) a lover of people and if that requires entering a raucous wedding party, a gay bar, or a high brow dinner party to share the gospel and save a soul He will.  Since we are His hands and feet today, then we must listen to His voice and follow the prompting of His Holy Spirit in this.  Jesus example was to enter places fraught with darkness and sin, yet He carried light, love, and faithfulness to God as He went.  He touched lives, He spoke life, He gave hope.  He expects us to do the same.

Love you all.  Grace and peace to you in the Name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

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Semantics, the subtle nuances in the meanings of words, has always fascinated me.  I enjoy good puns and having a good grasp of semantics is essential to delivering or catching a good pun.  (I know many family members would question whether the adjective good should be applied to my puns, but humor me here please.)  As a reliability consultant the past 3-1/2 years I have been asked for guidance on all elements of reliability.  For many of these elements I have a deep knowledge and I can answer with total confidence.  These are things I know.  For some elements I have a good knowledge and I can answer with only slight qualifications to the veracity of my statements.  These are things I believe.  Occasionally I have to give my best guess.  These are the things I think to the best of my current knowledge.  I use these three compartments: What I Know, What I Believe, and What I Think not just to help me express work-related information but to guide my actions and define who I am.  I suspect everyone has these compartments even if they don’t take the time to mentally process each statement.  In my opinion the statement “As a man thinks, so he is” is true in the broadest use of the word think.  However in my definition it is what a man believes and knows that more accurately defines who he is.

A person’s worldview is the set of beliefs that determine their understanding of the world and how they interpret future data that they take in.  Fundamentally a worldview can be broken down into a list of value statements that a person holds.  Here are some examples.

  • In my work we have built a Model of what excellent Reliability looks like.  The heart of that model is the 310 value statements which give discrete elements of what equipment reliability is.
  • We are in an election year and the presidential campaigns are busy laying out their candidates value statements (or trying to pin negative value statements upon their opponent).
  • Marriage is established upon certain value statements… we are faithful to one another, we will communicate consistently, I will take out the trash… important things like that.
  • I can think of many examples throughout history when groups of people found it necessary to document their shared beliefs as value statements –
  • the Apostles Creed in the early church,
  • the Magna Carta in England,
  • the Mayflower Compact as the Pilgrims arrived in the New World,
  • our Declaration of Independence.

These are all attempts to capture what a group of persons collectively know and believe.

It is a worthy activity for a person to take the time to assess their own Life to understand what their core beliefs are and where they come from.  Over the past several months I have taken a closer look at this in my life.  I have determined that one of the greatest sources of discontent is when our actions do not align with our core beliefs.  A corollary to that is one of our greatest sources of disconnectedness with others is when our core beliefs are not well founded upon truth.  While I may cover a few of those beliefs, my main goal today is to describe an effective process to define core beliefs.

What are the sources for what you believe?  The most common is experience.  The older we get the larger the repository of experiences that we have had.  I am convinced experience provides us many lessons.  It’s important to remember that even our experiences are interpreted through our existing worldview, but that is the case for all of us.  The important point is to consider our experiences as objectively as we possibly can AND allow the other sources to shed greater light upon our experiences.

The next source is what others we trust and love have experienced.  Being married provides (or at least it should provide) a level of intimacy with another that gives us a very deep experience base.  A little less intimate, but still quite valid are parents, siblings, children, and close friends and other family.  We are not meant to do life alone.  The knowledge and wisdom of family and community are an essential safety net when we are building our core beliefs.  There is a reason that terrorists isolate themselves into cells.  They must do this to stoke the misguided beliefs they hold and to keep truth and rational thinking out.

The next source is the accumulated historical wisdom that has been handed down from great thinkers and doers in history.  For me as a believer in God and a follower of God’s Son, Jesus, I recognize that He has given us a guidebook for life.  I consider the Word of God to be paramount in setting my beliefs.  However I also recognize that the Word of God must be considered within the context of the entire bible.  I know that it has to be accurately interpreted.  (The Holy Spirit helps us with this, but at least for me I sometimes don’t listen as well as I should.)  There are more sources which do not carry the same weight as the scriptures but are nonetheless helpful.  The writings of CS Lewis are a great example in my life.  Another recent example for me was reading the Federalist Papers.  I was fascinated with the thought processes behind the development of the US Constitution.  Also I put some of the schooling and training I have had into this group.

A fourth source, and I put this source a good bit behind the first three mentioned, is the third-party accounts of others.  While there is still value in these, They must be treated with more discernment.  I have three major considerations that I find necessary for third-party accounts.  The first is that I do not know their worldview and whether truth is their standard or not.  The second is the timeliness of the information.  While prompt gathering of evidence is crucial in getting complete and exact data it takes time to get all the information to make a correct assessment of what it really means.  When building an accurate worldview, we cannot base it upon snippets of information.  The third is the accuracy of the communication from the third-party to me… did they effectively verbalize it and did I effectively hear and interpret it.

The last source is all the various means of information sharing that exist today.  The tops in this category are the few periodicals, websites, and a small number of news shows that I have developed confidence in their striving for truth.  Most fall far short of these.  I still occasionally tune in to network news, but I always take what they say with a grain of salt.  Sadly the biases on these programs must be taken into account.  (Even sadder is that many people do not and their worldview is skewed by these biases.) I also look to blogs such as this one and others that I have developed confidence in.  In a way some of these are like third-party accounts mentioned above.

Two other points before I wrap up today’s post.  First every person has a worldview whether they realize it as such or not.  I have mentioned all the primary sources of information where we gather facts to construct our worldview.  Our worldview sets the direction and course of our life, it puts boundaries in our life, and ultimately it determines who we are.  This worldview is the sum of all the value statements that we hold to be true.

Second as a believer, God has given us His Holy Spirit.  In John 16:13 Jesus describes one of the roles of the Holy Spirit, “13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.  We are bombarded by lots of information every day.  Some true but a lot of it not.  We must have help in discerning that which we should hold and that which is proper to discard.  The Holy Spirit desires to help us in this and He will if we but ask and trust.

I believe there is ultimate truth and it rests with God.  Every person sees and experiences only a small slice of life from which to build their worldview.  Consequently we have varying elements of our worldview that are and are not true.  For me it is one of my life goals to know and align with what is true.  I can only do this if I am humble enough to admit that I may not have it right… that what I think and what I believe are not true.  Finally I have to objectively and prayerfully analyze the data I receive each day considering the source and how it relates to what I know.

I want to please God by discerning and living a true, faithful, and honorable life.  Since my worldview defines me, I need to get it right.  Asking God to help me, this I strive to do.  I encourage you as you strive to know what it true too.

God bless you today and always my friend.

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I have a story that has been in the making for a few months that I am finally at liberty to share.  After 23 years with the same company, I have decided to make a job change.  I announced my resignation last week and I will be starting at the beginning of next month.  I wasn’t looking for a new job, but Proverbs 3:5-6 says “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.”  This is what I have tried to do and I will be “starting over” in just a few weeks.  Let’s look at how this works.

For the past 3 – 1/2 years I have travelled all over North America helping our paper mills put reliability in place.  I have been away from home about 70% of the time.  At the end of the year the mills slow way down through the holidays so I get to spend the last two weeks close to home.  I noticed during that time that stress and tension were more the norm than relaxation and peace.  I was really concerned because I recognized that for a marriage of over 26 years, my wonderful wife and I were not communicating very well.  We took a vacation the last week of the year to Orlando that turned into our worst vacation ever.  I can admit it now, I was looking forward to getting back on the road.  I had the first seven weeks of 2012 filled with week-long travel.

One week into the new year, Lisa had an accident where she badly breaks her leg.  The compound, open fracture resulted in a week-long hospital stay, two surgeries, and a 12-week prognosis before she can put any weight on her leg at all.  In fact the doctor was very guarded about how the recovery will go.  Lisa’s leg wasn’t the only thing that was broken at that time though.  Part of the hard shell that was developing over my heart toward my wife was broken.  I am not proud of the fact that I was becoming hardened toward Lisa, but I realize that I was.  And I thank God that He has changed my heart and is continuing to make me a better man and husband.

Obviously I saw that I had to make some changes in my schedule.  I notified the people at the mills that I would have to scale back my on-site support a bit while Lisa was in the recovery mode.  I still travelled, but people I work with were very accommodating.  Instead of 4 & 5 days at a plant I started having more 2 & 3 day weeks.  And we were able to get various family members to stay with Lisa while I was gone since she was immobile.

As I was praying about what to do, I began to wonder if I needed to consider a job change.  I recognized that my heavy travel was at the very least a major contributor to the malaise we experienced at the end of the year.  Having to call upon others to help Lisa while I travelled also brought to light the demands my schedule made upon others.  At this point I think it is important to understand what I was praying and how this worked out.  I was not seeking another job.  I was simply open to whatever God wanted me to do.  While I have often prayed, “Lord, thy will be done.” I usually am looking for a particular answer.  Or perhaps even more accurately, I am not considering certain answers that might come up.  At this time I got serious about being open to anything God wanted me to do.

God works things marvelously.  About two weeks after Lisa broke her leg a good friend asked to have lunch with me to talk about a potential career change for himself.  As we chatted he asked if I would be interested in being a site maintenance and reliability manager.  The position at his plant wasn’t open, but it was a potential.  Working with Jim would be great and because of that I entertained the idea.

A week later I went into the Linked In website which is a career based social networking site that I am on.  When I say I am on, I mean that I visited it once four years ago when it looked like my job was going to end back in 2008.  I have gone to it about a half-dozen times since then.  While I am there I see that my resume info is the same as it was in 2008 so I update it.  Again I am not specifically looking for a job.

The next business day I get an e-mail from a new tissue plant starting up in the area.  Because my conversation with Jim had gotten me thinking about some real positives of working locally, I give them a call back.  We set up an interview and over the course of the next 6 weeks I have three interviews.

Now I need to reiterate that I was not really looking for a job.  I thoroughly enjoy the work I have done.  I have very good working relationships with the people at the mills and I know we have been successful at making tangible progress at the plants.  The calculations at the end of last year indicated that the plants I have worked with on reliability improvement have seen over $30 million per year improvement in the past two years.  I enjoyed my job and we were successful.  If my only consideration was my career, I would be foolish to be looking for a job.

But, I was trying to be obedient to God’s leading.  As I prayed I felt a gentle nudge to keep investigating this opportunity.  The job I am going to is a very good fit for me.  I will be in the role of the people I have been working with at our paper mills over the past 3-1/2 years.  Instead of consulting, I will be in the doing mode.  The work will mean long hours.  Having had similar roles before, I also know it will mean different stresses to what I have experienced during my time in corporate roles.  The decision to leave was by no means an easy decision.

I have shared with you before about how I have experienced God speaking to me.  While this particular decision has many of the same characteristics, it was not exactly the same.  Having only made one job change 23 years ago, I am very out-of-touch with all the expectations and practices.  I do not like negotiating, but I understand that is part of the process.  In the end, I don’t think I did a good job with the negotiating, but it is probably a moot point.  The offer my new company gave me is very fair.  In some ways I am better off than in my old job, in some ways I am not as good.  The result is that the compensation was NOT the deciding factor.  And this is a good thing.  I only negotiated enough to get the package somewhat close to my current package.  I did not want to be chasing money and miss God.

I was looking for an overwhelming peace in the answer.  Interestingly what I had for about a week was calmness, but not the definitive peace I have experienced in the past and I was hoping for at this time.  I scheduled a quick follow-up visit to clarify a few points.  I was not able to give them an answer, but I spent about an hour and a half speaking with the gentleman who would be my counterpart at the sister plant.  It’s funny now because a lot of what we discussed reminded me of the difficult and hard aspects of the job.  He left me with a zero-pressure feeling.  If the job was not for me, then we would all be better off recognizing that now.  As I shook his hand I felt great about his candor and the decision was simply a matter of what the Lord directed me to do.

As I walked out to my car I asked the Father… “So what do you want me to do?  Do I accept the job?”  And the answer was a clear “Yes” and then the peace came.

This morning I begin the wrap up of my old job.  I have two weeks to talk with friends and co-workers at my current company.  I want to leave them with as much good as I can.  For me that first means leaving them with a clear understanding that God loves them and desires to be fully involved in their lives.  He is real.  He is love.  He is our true hope.  Next it will be to share whatever information or encouragement I can to keep the reliability train rolling.  Please join me in praying that these final days will be God-filled, God-directed, and God-blessed.

Thank you for joining me in this journey.  I pray God’s richest blessing upon you today and always.

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Promises, promises, are you a promise maker?
Promises, promises, don’t be a promise breaker.

I have learned that the only way to not be a promise breaker is to never make promises. I would like to say that extenuating circumstances are the reason promises get broken, but at the best that would only be half-true. Whether we intend to or not, when we make promises we put our reputation on the line and make ourselves vulnerable for failing the trust of others. Yet making promises is a part of our lives. I suspect that most persons make between 1 – 10 promises everyday. Some are small… “Come straight in and do you homework.” “I will Mom.” while others are life altering… “Do you Dan take Lisa to be your lawful wedded wife… to cherish… til death do you part?” “I do”. Every time we sign a credit card slip we are promising we are going to pay the credit card company back (plus interest if we don’t pay back immediately.)

To say that our society functions on a foundation of trust comprised of thousands upon thousands of promises is not a stretch. So how are we doing? A building is only as good as its foundation, so how are we doing? An honest assessment has to say we are not doing very well. With divorce at over 50% of marriages, personal and business bankruptcies skyrocketing, and 40% of all children raised with no Dad in the picture we are not doing very well keeping our promises. So if promises are essential and commonplace, but keeping promises is apparently becoming harder – what are we to do?  What are the consequences? Should we be worried? What can be done about it?

My first comment about never making promises was obviously a bit tongue in check. Promises are essential. Every agreement includes within it a promise usually more than one promise. Lawyers exist to “help” interpret promises and see that promises are adhered to. I was raised in the day when a person’s word was his bond. I still live by this belief and I find many people who would like to, but they have been burned by others to whom a promise is superficial chatter and not a binding agreement. Even though I believe a promise is sacred, honesty demands that I admit I have said things that I fully intended to fulfill which have not come to pass. I want to hike around Mt Ranier with my youngest son and I have told him we would, but time is getting on and we have not made the trip. While technically not a promise broken since there is still time, it is definitely not a promise fulfilled.

I saw a political commercial last night which showed a candidate making many promises in the last election and then it showed him breaking those very promises.  It was obvious that the person made promises that they did not keep. If the most powerful people in the world struggle to keep their promises, then what shape are we really in? Well if our hope, trust, and faith are in them, then we are in pretty dismal shape.

Fortunately there is a higher authority that we can and should look to. And His track record on promises is perfect. He never fails to keep His promises. The bible says that it is impossible for God to lie. A broken promise is at its heart a lie. Since God cannot lie, He cannot break a promise. I have found this to be true as have millions of others throughout history. God is a promise maker AND a promise keeper.

God’s first promise to me was “Dan, I will never leave you or forsake you.” And that has been true. God has always shown up. In the most difficult times of my life He has been tangibly present. Sometimes it is through the extended arms of His children. At others it is through a perfectly timed verse. Sometimes it is a gentle peace within my spirit. The point is for 28 years God has kept His promise and I know He always will.  While this promise was whispered to me when He brought me to Himself, this is a promise He offers to each and every one of us if we but put our trust in Him.

Now it is important to mention something God does not promise.  He does not promise a life free from pain, difficulties, challenges.  No, these are a part of life that we will from time to time have to walk through.  But what we can hold on to are specific promises God has given for us at these times.  From Isaiah 43 we see God promising that when floods threaten to overwhelm His people He will be with them.  When fire is upon them, He will cause them to walk through and not be burned.  It does not say we won’t have times that threaten us and cause us pain, but it does say He will carry us through.

Now I have to say I have learned that “carrying through” includes two important considerations.  First, is a relationship with Him.  God will respect our decision to keep Him at arm’s length, but that makes His help less tangible.  It’s not His decision, but ours that makes this so.  (And people often blame Him for this?)  Second, some of His promises have a complete fulfillment in the eternal perspective.  I have a friend whose son was diagnosed with leukemia.  He fought it bravely and experienced a couple of years of remission.  The disease returned and an auto-marrow transplant was determined to be his best option so this is the path they took.  During the window of time immediately after the transplant the patient is extremely susceptible to any illness.  My friend’s son caught something and went downhill until he finally went into a coma.  For 40 days we prayed for Chase.  Our focus was upon Chase getting better and coming out of the coma.  For 30 days I prayed for this, but as time and prayer continued with little change in Chase, I began to realize that God was speaking something different into my spirit than what I was praying.  I began to see God revealing a bigger perspective – an eternal perspective to my prayer for Chase and his family.  The last days of Chase’s life here were more peaceful for Chase and his family because they recognized that God was walking with them in the working out of His will.  Chase’s life and death led to others being reconciled to God and being inspired to live a life of faith.

We are called to let Christ reign in our lives.  As His Holy Spirit resides in us and we cooperate with His transforming work, we become more and more like Him.  We become promise makers.  I started off by saying that the only way I have found not to break a promise is to not make a promise.  A more accurate statement would be to become so surrendered to God that we only make promises He prompts us to make, and become even more surrendered to Him to allow Him to help us keep them.

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I mentioned to a loved one recently that I was so thankful for the conversion of our oldest daughter.  They got this bewildered look and said, “Conversion?  What did she convert to?”  When I said, “To Christianity”.  He said, “But wasn’t she already a Christian?”

If you had asked her for a religious preference she would have put down Christian.  She could have recited some bible verses for you.  She would even tell you that Jesus was God’s Son and that He died for the sins of the world.  But was He Lord of her life, I know she would tell us no, he was not Lord of her life.  And this makes all the difference.

Judas was one of the 12 persons closest to Jesus.  From the hundreds of followers Jesus selected just 12 to become His disciples.  These men were given intimate access to Him for 3 years as He healed, taught, traveled, and preached across Israel.  Judas knew Jesus personally… closely.  Judas was committed to the cause.  He had given Jesus his life.  But, he had not given Jesus his heart.

There is a school of thought that Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was based upon a misguided attempt by Judas to “force Jesus hand” to make Him declare Himself king.  The main thinking is that Judas was simply a greedy manipulator that Jesus selected knowing he would be a willing pawn in satan’s plan to have Him killed.  Either way, Judas chose his own way rather than to put his whole trust in Jesus.  At this crucial point in history his heart guided him to forsake an intimate life with Jesus and the family of God to do his own thing.

Although everyone’s story is unique, our daughter’s conversion has the characteristics that define a heart surrender to Jesus.

  • She had lived her life following her own rules for a long time, long enough to know that it didn’t fulfill her.
  • She recognized that there was something more, a sense of joy and peace that some people possessed that she couldn’t seem to attain.  She could do happiness and laughter, but these were always for the short-term.
  • She recognized that she did some things that broke even her own rules.  And that she broke God’s rules even more.
  • She came to a point of a broken heart.  She wanted to be a better person.
  • She trusted God.  She asked Him to help her.  She surrendered her heart to Him.
  • He entered her life and made her a “new creation”.
  • The transformation on the inside began immediately and it is visible on the outside as well.
  • She had worn a lot of masks and her life contained a good bit of lies and half-truths.  Part of the transformation is that she and God are identifying and discarding these.  This process, which the bible calls sanctification, is a life-long activity.
  • Today she is practicing reconciliation on a consistent basis.
  • She has given up several habits that were either harmful to her and others or were simply not helpful to growing in her new life in Christ.
  • She and her husband are closer than they ever have been as they are growing together.
  • She is devouring the bible and the Holy Spirit is opening her mind to the truth it contains.

I could go on, but the point is established – there is a fundamental difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus.  When you know Jesus, His love captures you and your heart is His.  You can know about Jesus and not experience the life-change that comes from a conversion experience.

On Easter 2000 years ago, Jesus emerged from the grave alive.  He is the living Lord.  No one else has ever died for you and risen.  Since He is alive, He is available to meet and talk with you.  It is His desire to meet with you.  To talk with you.  To help you with your needs.  To show you the right path.  To be your friend first.  But to also be your Lord.

Everyone has gods that they serve.  Some are obviously bad for us.  Others, like religion, promise to help us please God.  Religion is man’s attempt to reach God.  But God came to us.  He wants relationship, not religion.  Religion is like the workaholic father who buys his wife and kids all the stuff they want but does not invest time with them face-to-face.  Stuff and activity on their behalf is not what is needed.  Intimacy… time… relationship is what is important.  Religion can never substitute for relationship.  The best it can do is help give depth IF the relationship with God through Jesus already exists.  The worst it can do is kill people in the name of god.  More on this in another post.

God sent His Son, Jesus to live, die, and live again for you and for me.  Trust Him.  Seek Him.  Give Him your heart and you will KNOW that He is, that He loves you, and that He will live with you from now on.

If you want an intimate life with God speak to Him now.  You can pray this prayer.  You can be specific about where you miss the mark.  And about your needs.  He knows them already, but it helps us when we give them voice and share them with Him.

God, I come to you right now asking for your help.  I have run my life for so long and frankly I have made a mess of things so many times.  I am sorry for the times I have missed the mark.  I am sorry for the times I have sinned against you and others.  Please forgive me.  I turn away from my sin and I turn to you.  I want you in my life.  I want to be a new creation.  Thank you Jesus for hearing my prayer.  Thank you Lord for forgiving my sin.  Thank you Father for guiding my life from this moment on.  I give you my heart.  I accept your Lordship over every area of my life.  I give myself to you.  And it’s in the name of Jesus that I pray.  Amen.

If you prayed that prayer tell someone.  Tell me if you do not have any other believers around.  Just comment back to me.

Scripture to read – 2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 5:1-5, Ephesians 2:1-10

God bless you today and always.

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An hour and a half before sunrise the women found the spices and death dressings they had made for the Body and quietly slipped outside. As they gathered few words were used although silent embraces spoke of the pain and grief each one felt.  The past few days were a blur of confusion.  Just days before He had entered town to such fanfare and adoration – “Hosanna!  Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the highest.”  They had thought that perhaps this was the time He would be proclaimed as king.  The miracles that they had seen with their own eyes… even unto to some of them, was surely a testament to God’s great power that was with Him.  And yet today they were going to dress His body for the final time and His tomb would be sealed… forever.

Someone broke the silent contemplation with a very practical question.  “Who will roll away the stone?”  They had been there as Joseph and Nicodemus hastily prepared His body on the eve of the Sabbath.  The large stone weighing 2 tons or more was rolled down over the opening just before they left.  “Perhaps the guards will help us.” another said.  Word had gotten to His followers that a Roman guard had been posted at the tomb.  There would be four soldiers when they arrived.  They all remembered the centurion who was stationed at the cross when He had died.  He knew He was not a common criminal, but a righteous man.  He showed kindness toward the family.  “Perhaps…”

As they neared the tomb, the ground shook violently for a few moments.  On top of the grief, now they had a new terror seize them.  But as quickly as it came, it subsided.  They picked themselves up and now hurried to the tomb.  When they arrived the guards – seasoned, battle-hardened warriors, were on the ground looking as though they had seen a ghost.  The women’s attention did not remain on the guards, but rather jumped to the tomb.  The stone was gone and the tomb was OPEN.  What has happened?  When they looked inside they could see the clothes and spices used to wrap the Body, but the BODY WAS GONE.

“Do not be afraid.”  They looked and a man dressed in a white robe was sitting inside the tomb.  “You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth who was crucified.  He has risen!  He is not here.  See the place where they laid Him.  Go tell His disciples and Peter.  He is alive…”

Jesus suffered death, but death did not… could not hold Him.  Death was introduced into the world when Adam and Eve first sinned.  And since then life’s end was always death.  But with sinless Jesus and His selfless, loving sacrifice the whole order of things was turned on its head.  Death suddenly gave way to life.  Jesus made a new way.  Jesus is the new way.

Mary Magdalene did not put all these thoughts together at that time, but she knew that hope was rekindled in her heart.  It still fought with the fear and confusion of the strange things she was seeing and hearing, but hope had begun again.  Why Jesus picked Mary as the first to see Him is a mystery.  She was a woman who had suffered much, but who had been touched by the Master’s hand and delivered by His word.  It may have been because she pushed herself past her grief to do what had to be done and she was in a place to see Him.  It probably had to do with the hope that was attempting to rise up in her heart and convince her mind that He really was alive.  I am certain at least part of the reason was because Jesus knew her need and stepped in.  But Mary was the first to see the risen Lord.

As I watch the sky brighten in the east this morning signalling a new day about to begin, I think back to that new day.  Everything changed that day.  Death is no longer the end for those who know Jesus.  The power of sin can is broken as we surrender to the One who died to break sin’s hold over us.  God is real.  God is love.  God cares for us.  And God is a person who can and does relate directly with us if we but take the time to seek Him.

Alleluia, He is risen.  The Lord is risen indeed.  Alleluia!

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We are on vacation at the beach for our youngest son’s spring break.  Last night the clouds rolled in with showers and thunderstorms.  I had intentions of getting up early and watching the sunrise on Good Friday morning, but the weather forecast was calling for rain all day on Friday.  I off-handedly said, “Well I guess there won’t be a sunrise tomorrow.”  My wife, whether knowingly or not said something that this morning seems rather profound.  “Honey, there’s always a sunrise.  It’s just that not everyone sees it.” 

As I reflect upon her statement this morning I realize that her statement is true whether she meant sunrise or Sonrise.  It is sad, but all too true that we often miss the meaningful because we have our eyes, our thoughts, or our attention on the trivial.  As I sat in the sand this morning with grey, scuttling clouds racing by overhead and the merest hints of color in a few scattered openings in the otherwise thick clouds, I thought about the sun that is out there rising behind those clouds.  Other people are in places where they can see it clearly and they know the sun is there.  I have seen the sun rise before and the brightening sky tells me that even though I don’t see him he is still there.  But for some all they can see are the clouds, the rain, and the disruption of their plans.  Sitting in the sand waiting and listening I saw much that I would not have noticed otherwise…

Pelicans, an otherwise odd-looking bird, looking so graceful as they fly up the beach in groups of from 3 – 25 in swooping lines just inches above the crashing surf.

The undulating pattern of the sand dunes covered with sea oats forming both a scenic and protective barrier for the homes and villas behind.

The furthest sawgrass toward the ocean.  Standing at the very edge of the surf, this little tuft gets the abuse of wind, wave, and the occasional beach walker, yet still holds his ground… literally.

The sky itself with a few pink highlights to the east and south while looking foreboding with dark greys and blues to the north and west. 

And then remembering that by this time on Good Friday, Jesus had already been tried and convicted in a mock trial, beaten within the confines of the Jewish council, and was probably on his way to be whipped by the Roman soldiers.  Still ahead the long walk to Calvary carrying His cross until He was no longer able.  The nails hammered through his wrists and feet to affix Him to the cross.  Then the unbearable pain as the cross is raised to the vertical and all the weight of His body rests upon the three nails… 

And His cry after hours of pain and suffering – “My God, My God.  Why have You forsaken Me?” 

God didn’t answer out loud, but His answer resonates today – “Because I love them.”

People say that Valentines Day is the Day of Love.  I disagree.  It is a day of romance and while love is an essential component of true romance, Valentines Day is not the ultimate demonstration of love.  The most amazing demonstration of Love was on the original Good Friday.  Jesus, pure and innocent Jesus, offered up for us.  He loves us more than we can comprehend.  God loves us so much He offered up His Son.  Jesus loves us so much He offered up Himself. 

If you know Him, please join me in worship and adoration of our loving Lord. 

If you don’t already know Him, please consider His offer of love.  He will not force Himself upon you.  But He does desire your response.  He loves you and wants to fill you with His love.  It is the best thing in all the world.

Have a blessed day today.

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Humility is a virtue much esteemed by God.  James 4:6 tells us that : “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”  The problem with humility is that it leaves no room for selfishness, self-centeredness, and pride – traits that are natural and easy.  Humility is an essential virtue for us to live in right relation with God and with our fellow-man.  Jesus summed up the law in two love commandments.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind…Love your neighbor as yourself.”  An inordinate self-love is an obstacle to this all out love for God and others.  Interestingly, as we grow to love God and others more we come to the place where we see ourselves as God sees us.  We develop an appropriate love for ourselves which is not based upon some caricature the world, the flesh, or the devil tries to get us to accept. 

I have a true story that illustrates how the process of humility can be worked out.  I am in my early 50’s now.  A few years ago as I was nearing 50 I took my wife, our then 15-year-old son and a friend of his to Table Rock mountain for a day of hiking.  We set out to summit the mountain about noon.  The sign at the bottom indicated that we needed 5 hours for the hike.  Since it was early spring we could do it, but we would be getting down back to the parking area pretty close to dark.  I told the boys that we might have to hurry at times which to them sounded like fun.  My wife chose not to climb the mountain with us.  Something about the look in my eye when I said we might have to hurry discouraged her participation.

I took my nice digital SLR camera because I enjoy photography.  Up the trail we went.  The boys took me literally as we alternately jogged and walked our way to the top of the mountain.  The view from the top was spectacular and we stayed  close to an hour taking pictures and eating lunch.  When we started back down the boys again slipped into “hurry mode” and began jogging and hiking.  Actually it was more of a run than a jog.  As the boys picked up speed and added distance between us I was forced to run to keep up.  On at least three occasions as I was running, holding my fairly large camera to keep it safe, the thought ran through my head… “I’ve still got it… I can still move great… Dan’s still the man!”  I distinctly remember thinking this as I bounded from the top of one boulder to another boulder to another.  And for each of those three times the verse from the Old Testament would quickly follow in a gentle whisper – “Pride goes before the fall.”  Now I have to admit something here that I have not mentioned in the numerous renditions of this story with my family.  Each of those times I slowed down.  Not because I was truly worried about myself, but because I thought of the possible damage I would do to my camera. 

About halfway down the mountain the boys started to get some separation from me… and that bothered me.  At one point a couple of young girls – about 11 – 13 years old I guessed stepped into the trail in front of me and started walking slowly down the mountain chatting about boys and such.  Did I mentioned how ssslllooowwwllllyyyyyy they were walking?  While I could hear the boys at first the sound of their noisy dash down the mountain grew fainter and fainter.  And I was growing more and more impatient.  Finally my chance came as the trail split around a tree.  As the girls took the left side of the tree I accelerated to pass them on the right side.  I thought I would be polite and say, “Girls, I’m passing on the right”, but all I got out was “Gir…” as my toe hooked a rock and I started into my fall.  You know how people describe a traumatic experience where everything goes into slow motion.  Well the fall was kind of like that.  I realized that I was taking a tumble and there was no way I was going to get my feet under me.  I thought of my camera, I thought of how silly I must look, I thought “why am I running down a mountain?”  

For a moment I was tumbling and suddenly I was stopped in a pile of numbness on the ground.  I remember slowly standing up and feeling the buzz of adrenalin.  My first thought was my camera… did I break it?  I knew that my immediate reaction as I began to fall was to pull it in and protect it with my body.  As I am inspecting my camera the girls had come up.  “Mister are you awright?”  “Mister can we hep you?”  “Are you OK, mister?”  A quick inventory told me my camera was probably okay.  The fact that I was now standing told me that the pain in my leg was probably not a broken bone although it was a huge Charley horse.  The girls pointed out that I had broken something – my nice Costa Del Mar sunglasses that were hanging crookedly across my face.  “Mister can we do anything for ya?”  To which I replied, “Yeah, please call those boys and ask them to come back.” 

As I continued to take an inventory of where I hurt, I heard one of the girls walk over to the edge where the mountain drops steeply down and yell, “Yo, Yo Dogs – The OLD Guy Needs You!”  So if the fall, the broken glasses, and the multiple pains were not bad enough, then the OLD Guy phrase really made an excellent point of the whole Pride is Not My Friend message of the day.  But things were not over.  The boys came, helped me get going and them promptly headed down the mountain at a rapid pass again.  There was no more running down the mountain for me.  Actually there was barely limping down the mountain.

Now I have a running line that I share with people that I once prayed for humility and the next day I met my future wife.  It is a joke that brings a chuckle on most occasions.  Lisa is a bright woman the Lord has used greatly to help mold and shape my life.  On this particular day it appeared that God really wanted to drive the whole Pride is a Bad Thing point home with forcefulness.  As I hobbled up to the car Lisa was in the passenger seat.  I came up to her side and asked if she could drive.   Her chuckle became all out laughter as the boys shared the story with her.  And the story has become one of the family favorites when we get together.  Lisa’s friend in Louisiana always refers to me as “the OLD guy” now, never my real name.  Oh well, I am sure the reminder is a positive thing even if I do come out looking silly.

My father had a heart attack in his early 50″s.  I remember his first words to me as I walking into the hospital CICU room with him connected to various monitors and IV’s.  “Son, I am so glad the Lord will do whatever it takes to get my attention.”  Today, I have to echo that sentiment.  I wish I learned my lessons simply by reading about them, but sometimes it takes more.  Our Father knew that and He provided a lesson in humility for me that continues to resonate to this day.  Thank You Lord for all You have done, even when it hurts!

Have a blessed day and be a blessing!

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In the work I do ownership is a key concept. I help heavy industrial plants become more reliable.  In the majority of plants we see a “renter’s mentality” rather than a sense of ownership in the work being performed.  This is not to disparage people who find themselves in a situation where they must rent a place to live.  I have been both a renter and an owner and I know that my attitude toward the property is different depending upon my position.  The value I have for the property is higher if I own it than just renting it.  We have found this to be true in the workplace as well.  Employees who feel closely engaged with their work, who have a genuine sense that what they do, think, and say matters are better at what they do.  The results from the owner mentality plants is consistently superior to those where the work is just a way to earn money.  This is a truth that applies in all areas of life.

A quick scan of other areas where ownership versus participation makes a difference – marriage, parenting, friendships, our faith.  They are all made richer if we are fully engaged.  In Jeremiah God says “you will seek Me and you will find Me when you seek Me with your whole heart.”  Ownership is a whole heart activity.  The phrase “God has no grandchildren” gave me pause when I first heard it.  I now understand it to mean that God desires and freely offers the intimacy of being His child to anyone who would come to Him.  We cannot simply rely on the faith of others like our parents, but we must own our relationship with Him.

Let me highlight just a few of the components that I have observed about ownership.

1) Ownership takes effort.  I own a home which means I always have a list of things that need to be done.  There are those activities that are maintenance to keep things functioning as they should and there are those which will improve the home.  This is equally true in our work, marriage, and faith.

2) I don’t know everything that needs to be done, nor am I an expert at doing everything that needs to be done, but I am responsible.  Around my house I do as many of the tasks as I can.  In a few cases I can get instructions from owner manuals, from the internet, or from experts and then I do the task.  I repaired a rototiller last spring with help from Google.  However I have an air conditioner that isn’t cooling.  I will call an expert today and get them to come and repair it.  The point here is that as an owner I can’t sit around and wait for someone else to get the work done.  Complaining is not going to solve the situation.  I have to do the work.

3) I am neither the only owner nor am I the most experienced.  My wife and I are co-owners of our home.  There are some things that she has more knowledge and ability on.  Some are my expertise.  Some we have to seek the experience of others.  I can learn from others to be a better owner.  I call my Dad from time to time to get his advice.  He has been an owner for a lot longer than me and he helps me avoid pitfalls.  I also talk to my neighbors and weigh their advice into the ownership decisions I make. 

4) Ownership has rewards.  Since I own my home I can install a swing for my grandson if I wish.  Hearing him chuckle as he swings is a great reward.  Adding landscaping or a garden to rental property is not right since your investment is simply given to the owner of the property.  But in your own home this provides beauty and value to your property and enjoyment to you and your family. 

5) As an owner I have a direct impact upon the “total cost of ownership”.  As a renter I have to pay the negotiated rent – period.  I may have some latitude on utilities, but after I decide where to rent I have no influence on the cost.  As an owner I have some flexibility in my expenses.  Ultimately I have a significant cost to be paid back, but I have options on how I structure this.  I also have discretion on extra expenses that may arise like do I add an extra room, do I remodel a bathroom, etc.

6) Owners value what they own because it is theirs.  Renters do not hold a high value for what they rent because it is not theirs.

I have taken a lot of time spelling out this difference in perspective because I see it in so many areas of life.  Beyond home ownership, I see it in how people treat conservation.  Even with so much encouragement to value the environment many still trash the earth.  I have already mentioned that within the work place we clearly see the positive difference it makes when employees have that sense of ownership.  A marriage cannot be successful without both parties owning the union. 

In our relationship with the Lord, ownership comes in as well.  God is our Creator and Sustainer.  We would not be if it weren’t for His intentional thought toward us.  And we would immediately cease to exist if He pulled His continuing love and kindness away.  However He does not force a relationship upon us.  He gives us good reason to enter in and He draws us with His love, but He gives us the right to choose.  The longer we wait, the longer we live in a renter like relationship with Him.  We can exist in that mode, but we miss out on so much living.  God intended us to own the lives He has given us, to be fully engaged.  Even though He is our Creator and Sustainer, He gives us a life to live on purpose for Him.  We have an owner’s manual (the Bible) and an expert (the Holy Spirit) to ask for guidance, but ultimately God leaves ownership decisions to us. 

If you are not His child, I encourage you to ask Him to help you to know Him.  He loves you and is calling you to a richer, fuller life than you have ever imagined.  If you are His, but life feels more like a rental and you do not value who you are or what you do, then by all means call out to God and ask Him to help you understand what it means to own the life He has given you.  I urge you to read “The Purpose-driven Life” by Rick Warren.  It is an outstanding supplement to the owner’s manual I mentioned before as Rick illustrates 40 key points that help us understand why we are here and how we can own this life we’ve been given.  My oldest daughter is half-way through the Purpose-driven life and you can read about her journey in her blog – growingthroughchrist.wordpress.com. 

Have a blessed day today as you take ownership of the life you’ve been given.

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