When Arrows are Flying…

Have you ever felt that you were under attack? That the arrows are coming straight for you from all sides, and as you duck and jive to avoid being struck, you can’t help but think that at some point an arrow will find its mark? I have, and it can be overwhelming – until I’m reminded that, even as the arrows fly, I am not fighting this battle alone.

“Cast your burden upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken.”

Psalm 55:22

David wrote this Psalm as he was under attack by Saul, a close acquaintance and trusted friend. David was in fear for his life even as he was disappointed in the betrayal he felt. In the first fifteen verses of this psalm, David writes of the attack and his disappointment in who it was leading the charge:

“But it is you, a man my equal, my companion and my familiar friend…” (Psalm 55:13)

One of my favorite movies is “My Cousin Vinny”. Joe Pesci plays a New York lawyer seeking to win his first case. His girlfriend, played by Marisa Tomei, anxiously awaits that day, for Vinny has promised to marry her after that first win. Vinny’s cousin and his cousin’s best friend have been wrongfully charged with murder in Alabama. Vinny is defending them, and as the pressures of discovery and trial preparations mount, his girlfriend confronts him with the reality of her ticking biological clock. This is about all Vinny can take, and he asks in total frustration, “How much more can we pile on??”

I can relate to Vinny at times, can you?

Of course, David and Vinny are completely different people – one is real and the other fictional. They are under totally different forms of attack. And while it may be difficult to relate to the attack on David, I’m betting that pretty much all of us have experienced pressure similar to that which was piled onto Vinny Gambini’s shoulders.

Sometimes in my work role I am a deliverer of bad news. One-off bad news events are typically easy to manage through. But when “the hits just keep on coming” as I’m prone to say in times such as these, I am tempted to worry about tarnished credibility. I am tempted to worry about discussions taking place in which I am not a participant. Sometimes the arrows come from unexpected places – “out of left field” – and the pain of the news is coupled with disappointment in its source. I sometimes feel alone as the arrows come my way; my mood and demeanor are impacted and people see that. This is where my faith comes in. This is when I feel the reality of God’s sustenance.

Here is what Vinny doesn’t know, but David knew, as do I: I know that I have an Advocate; I know I have a Sustainer. I know that God is right here with me. Even as I work through some challenging issues right now, I can see past the tough times at hand and be reassured that God is in this with me. I am not in this alone. He is here, protecting my flanks from the incoming arrows and equipping me to do what I need to do as I honor my chief objective to always glorify Him. Indeed, I trust Him completely.

What battles are you facing right now? Do you know that God cares? I assure you, He does. Cast your burdens upon Him and He will sustain you, just as He has sustained me time and time again. If you have questions, please reach out. I am available and willing.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Off to RIMS!

After many years of business travel, I still very much enjoy it. As I type this, I am several miles above the earth winging my way to Boston for the annual Risk and Insurance Management Society (RIMS) national conference. RIMS offers risk management professionals a golden opportunity to learn, network, and meet with colleagues and business partners as we eat well and drink well in some of America’s finest cities. As I fly today, I’m looking forward to all of this, but I am also keenly aware that I have a ministry. As I enjoy the comaraderie and festivities that is RIMS I pray that my actions and my words honor my God.

“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Psalm 51:10

David wrote these words after confessing his sins around his adultery with Bathsheba and subsequent murder of her husband. Trusting God to forgive him, he asked God to cleanse his heart and renew his spirit, seeking to start fresh serving his God and his Lord. Growing up in the Lutheran church, we sang this as part of our response to receiving words of absolution after publicly confessing our sins. It is a statement of faith that allows us to stop looking back and look ahead to better and brighter days to come, thanks to the forgiveness we know through the grace and mercy of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

I hear the question now, “What in the world does this have to do with RIMS?” Well, to be fully transparent I must admit that I tend to get caught up in the festivities. I enjoy them. I hate to miss a good time. The fine food and good wine flow, sometimes to excess, and I like to be right in the middle of it all. It’s fun! But, as I grow older and more mature in my faith, my desire to honor and please God with my words and actions grows stronger. In the past I know I’ve said and done things that dishonor and displease Him. When that happens my witness is tarnished. I don’t want to offer a tarnished witness.

So, with this verse on my mind, off I go. The past is the past and I know I am forgiven for prior sins. As I look ahead to Boston, I am excited to arrive. I fully intend to make the most of RIMS 2019 as I enjoy the meetings, fellowship, relationships, food and, yes, the wine that goes along with it. My prayer is that God gives me the self-awareness and the presence to know when to say when, always remembering that I serve Him, first and foremost.

To my risk management and insurance friends & colleagues, I wish you safe travels to Boston and I look forward to catching up. Have a great conference!

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

When in Trouble…

The Psalms offer so much, from cries of despair and repentance to promises of comfort and deliverance. I recently wrote about God’s provision of strength and courage during trying times. Today, God offers rescue:

“Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honor Me.”

Psalm 50:15

Our home was one of many flooded by the federal government in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. We evacuated by boat as the flood waters rose. Kind volunteers with bass boats along with the US Coast Guard helped us and our neighbors safely escape the rising flood. We were dropped off at the entrance to our neighborhood on Memorial Drive. The transportation we were told would be waiting to take us to shelter was nowhere to be seen. Upon asking a police officer sitting in his parked cruiser about that, he replied, “you are on your own.”

I was angry and frustrated. There we stood, rain falling, my wife, my son and I with four wet dogs and a crated cat. We had nowhere to go and no way to get there. I honestly didn’t know what to do. At that moment, a black Cadillac Escalade pulled alongside us. The driver got out of the vehicle and said, “you look like you need a ride. Where can I take you?” I protested, hesitant to load our wet animals into his beautiful SUV. He told me trucks can be cleaned, “get in and we’ll sort this out together.” After about three hours, a change in vehicle (more kind strangers with a jacked-up Dodge pickup truck) and a few phone calls, we were safe and warm at the home of a coworker. Now we could assess our situation and make our plan.

God rescued us that afternoon. He sent that man and his daughter in the black Cadillac to pluck us off the street and escort us to safety. It’s that simple. As sure as my heart beats and my fingers tap this keyboard, I know without a doubt that the events of that Monday afternoon were the work of our loving and rescuing God.

But it doesn’t end with His rescue. There is a tradeoff here. “I shall rescue you and you will honor Me.” My gosh, how will I do that? As I ponder this, I think back to the words of the kind volunteer in the black Cadillac Escalade:

“Get in and we’ll sort this out together.”

Of course, that’s not Scripture, but his words remind me that God is walking with me through this life. He doesn’t leave me to sort this out on my own. God is interested, He has a plan for my life, and when I seek His will through Scripture and prayer, He guides my footsteps. He shows me my strengths and my weaknesses. He helps me sort this out. I started this blog, workisministry.com, as one way of honoring Him. This was His idea, conveyed to me in a moment of prayerful contemplation (See About workiministry.com). I can honor Him by seeking opportunities to serve others. I can honor Him with my words, my attitude, and my conduct. I can honor Him by striving to be salt and light to the world around me. There are plethora of ways I can honor my Lord.

You know, we all need to be rescued. Our greatest need for rescue comes from the condemnation we deserve as the consequence for our sins. Paul writes, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23). Here is the good news: God has already executed our rescue from sin. Just this past weekend, we celebrated the greatest Sacrifice in history as Jesus gave His life on the cross on Good Friday. Then, Sunday morning, we celebrated the greatest Victory in history as He rose from the dead on the third day, just as He said He would. Indeed, our greatest need for rescue has already been met. All we have to do is believe.

God cares about what happens in your daily life. He cares about what’s happening at work, at home, wherever you might be and whatever situation you may encounter. Sometimes it may seem that He is nowhere to be found, but He is there. Sometimes it may seem that He doesn’t hear our prayers for rescue, but He does. What He promises here, in this succinct little verse, is to hear us when we call and to rescue us from our trouble. Seek Him. Call upon Him. Know that He is God. His ways are not our ways. The rescue may take longer than you’d like and it may come in a way that you did not envision – perhaps in the form of a kind stranger in a black Cadillac – but it will come. It will come.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Be Still…

3:05 AM and I’m wide awake. Any of us who work in corporate America experience times like this – times when the whirlwind is fierce, activity abounds and time is demanded, even more time than we seem to have. So, in the wee hours of the morning before the sun comes up, my mind is racing as I lay in bed. I’m thinking of two emails in particular that need to be addressed. I get up, make a pot of coffee and carry my work laptop up to my office. But, before I power it up I open my Bible for my morning reading and this is what God gave me:

“Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the nations, and I will be exalted in the earth.”

Psalm 46:10

Talk about an injection of healthy perspective! God reminded me this morning that He is the One of utmost importance. And as I read my Bible I kept coming back to this verse. “Be still…”

People often quote the first part of this verse and forget the second. As I ponder those words I’m reminded that God is why I’m here. This creation is His, my life is His, my work is His… No matter what the whirlwind may bring my way, I will rest in calm knowing that God is right here with me.

So – that is what I have to offer this morning. I know this is short and (hopefully) sweet, but I couldn’t start my work without sharing this. No matter how busy I am, I must always take time to be still, go to God’s Word, ponder what He has to say and give the whirlwind up in prayer. Having done that, I am best equipped to take on all this day is going to bring. Christian business man/woman, if you’re not taking time each day to “be still and know that He is God” you’re missing out on a beautiful relationship.

Now – time to take on that whirlwind!

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Calm in the Whirlwind

I read this passage in a late February morning devotional. I was busy; hence, I was struggling to manage my time and maintain my priorities. I struggled with this throughout the month of March. I fell behind in my Bible reading plan, my prayer life lapsed, and I let weeks pass without posting a blog. As I read this passage, it brought me great comfort and I saved the image to share with you when I had ample time to offer my thoughts:

One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek: That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to meditate in His temple. For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His sacred tent and set me high upon a rock.

Psalm 27:4-5

My work environment is fast-paced and I generally enjoy that. But there are times when the volume and the pace combine to reach an almost overwhelming crescendo – one in which my morning devotional time is diverted to early email cleanup and weekend R&R is replaced by quiet hours in the office catching up on work. When I allow this to happen, I become distracted from that which is truly most important: my relationship with God.

Why does David seek to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of his life, to behold His beauty and to meditate in His temple? Because it is grounding. You see, I yearn for His presence. Being in the presence of God resets my compass. When I am dialed in to my morning routine of Scripture reading, prayer and writing, my life takes on an element of calm, even as life’s whirlwind swirls around me. Do you see God’s action here?

“He will keep me safe…”

“He will shelter me…”

“He will set me high upon a rock.”

The peace and calm that come from spending time in worship, Bible study and prayer is God’s doing, not mine. And in that calm I am best equipped to handle everything that comes my way at home, at work, in life. Indeed, everybody wins.

On a recent lunchtime walk, I gave myself a rather stern lecture. I knew I was not managing my time according to my priorities. I reminded myself that my time is a gift from God. I own it, but He has first dibs. While I am dedicated to my work and other responsibilities, I cannot allow those to rob me of my time with my Lord. As I walked, I asked God to give me the strength, wisdom and means to realign my time with my priorities. And, as usual, God answered my prayer.

Thanks to two contractors having scheduled work at my house today (April Fools Day of all days) I took a day off – well, except for a conference call this morning and answering a few emails… Between offering instructions and answering questions, I used today to catch up on my Bible reading plan, update my prayer journal, and draft a few posts for my blog.

It’s been a good day.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Communication

Have you ever said something, only to wish you could immediately recall the words that just escaped your lips? I sure have. Lots of times. Over the course of my life I’ve listened as several pastors prayed this verse as their sermon opening. I’ve adopted it as my morning prayer:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.

Psalm 19:14 NASB

As a witness for Christ in my workplace, I believe that my communications with coworkers, vendors, and customers is a key element of my witness. Indeed, I can “walk the walk” with every instant message (IM), text and email I send. Here are a few communication tips I seek to apply each day:

  • Listen. Communication does not occur if we don’t place a priority on listening to one another. I learned this wise saying at a Stephen Covey seminar: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Active listening demonstrates respect for the person with whom you are communicating while efficiently leading all parties to the most favorable outcome. One of the most meaningful compliments I’ve received in my career was the person who said, “You took the time to hear me out. Thank you.”
  • Use the Right Communication Tool. I appreciate the efficiencies offered by instant messaging, text messaging and email, and I use these tools daily. But we have all experienced occasions in which over-reliance on the written word led to misinterpretation of the message, personal misunderstanding, and even personal offense. The efficiency of these tools is lost if we seek to apply them to every communication scenario, every day, every time. While technology is grand and must be embraced, the most effective and efficient means of communication may often be a phone call or *gasp* a face-to-face conversation. I apply a two-exchange max rule to IM and text communications – if we have to go beyond that I will call you. It drives some of my younger coworkers nuts – but it works.
  • Avoid Profanity. Profanity is unprofessional, ugly and demeaning. It has no place in the workplace, and no place in my personal life either. I do not subscribe to the notion that a few strategically placed cuss words help drive the point home. Some refer to habitual profanity as “gutter mouth” or “potty mouth”. Considering some of the stuff that flows through gutters and gets flushed down toilets, I prefer to stay above that. Clean speech is elevated speech.
  • Grammar, Grammar, Grammar. A pet peeve of mine is the email rife with misspellings and poor grammar. I sometimes lament that professional writing skills seem to have diminished in importance for many. Several years ago, I became so frustrated with the poor quality of a third party provider’s written communications (many of which would be seen by my management team) I made them put the employees servicing my account through a professional writing course as a condition of retaining our business. For me, these things are a matter of corporate and personal pride. Although these are often “quick” communications, they bear my name, and that means something to me.
  • Remember Whom You Ultimately Serve. Seeking to abide by the above guidelines has served me well thus far in my career. But even more important than pleasing those with whom I work is honoring my Creator by my words and the quality of my work. If I approach my communications with this at front-of-mind, the rest actually comes rather naturally.

I am a firm believer in the notion of a “walking witness” – witness via action. I know that the words I choose and the manner in which I convey them are indicators of what really makes me tick. And maybe, just maybe, somebody will take notice and ask me about that. I hope that then that happens, I will discern the opportunity to talk about the One most important to me. In the meantime, I will pray my morning prayer and do the very best I can. For, you see, my work is my ministry.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: You Version Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

Trust Amid the Storm

My family and I were directly impacted by Hurricane Harvey. More accurately, we were impacted afterward when the US Army Corps of Engineers opened the flood gates of the Barker Reservoir sending a deluge of flood waters into my neighborhood and many, many others in the City of Houston. For thousands of Houstonians, the impact of Harvey began as the storm itself moved from our area.

“But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness; My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.”

Psalm 13:5 NASB

The days, weeks, and even months after we evacuated our home are somewhat of a blur, but I remember them vividly. I know that sounds like an oxymoron, but the statement is accurate. Evacuating with no advance warning, we had to make quick decisions about what we took with us, heeding the instructions of the boat pilots to take as little as possible. We didn’t have time to worry about where we would go or what we would do; we just knew we had to leave.

You know what? As I look back on what I call our “Harvey Story”, my heart fills with gratitude. For through everything, from evacuation to fostering pets, from accepting vehicles on loan to a fully furnished home to live in as we cleaned ours out, from dealing with the federal government for a low-interest loan to managing through repairs (which still aren’t fully completed), we experienced God’s provision. God worked through the volunteers who helped us evacuate and later clean out our home. He worked through so many who donated cash, gift cards, cars and even a house. He honored the prayers of many friends as He offered clarity to my sometimes rather dazed mind. Indeed, amidst the tumult of the storm, God never left us. He was always there, and more importantly, He was directing everything.

As David wrote this psalm, and many others, his life was in turmoil. He sometimes felt that God had forgotten him, leaving him on his own to deal with his thoughts and circumstances (Ps 13:1-3). But, while God sometimes allowed David to experience trials and tribulations, He never left Him. And through it all, David was reminded of that which is truly important: “…my heart rejoices in Your salvation.”

I wish I could tell you that my attitude throughout the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey was always positive. I wish I could tell you that I consistently maintained my disciplines of study, worship and prayer. I wish I could tell you that I never worried, never doubted, never feared. I wish I could, but I cannot. But here is what I can tell you. I can tell you that through my lows, through my lack of discipline, through my worries, my doubts and my fears, God was always faithful. He met every single need we had as the need presented itself. God directly intervened in our lives to see us through the disaster.

Now we are faced with a sizable loan that must be repaid. I drive part time for Uber and Lyft to help make the payments. I’m sometimes tempted to worry about our financial future. Then, in the quiet of the morning, God gives me His Word. He offers this reminder that, no matter what, my eternity is sealed. My salvation is sure, thanks to His grace and mercy through His Son, Jesus. And, with that reality and His blessing, I can face anything.

What storms are you facing today? Is there turmoil in your life that you’re struggling to manage through? Do you wonder where the next paycheck will come from? Is work stressful and overwhelming? Take a moment today and read Psalm 13. It’s short, but packed with meaning. Let God remind you of that which is supremely important. And know that He hasn’t forgotten you, nor has He abandoned you. He is there. He loves you. He cares. He will see you through.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image Credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

The Peace of the Evening

I don’t know about you, but I often have those evenings in which my body is so physically tired I can barely keep my eyes open as I sit on the couch trying to concentrate on the TV. I finally give in and announce to my wife, “I’m going to bed,” only to lie down and have my mind begin racing over the events of the day and the work of the day to come. As my  mind races, it shifts to thoughts of financial security, the welfare of my kids, did I feed the dogs, are the doors locked… Oh, be quiet already! I just want to sleep! Have you experienced evenings like this?

“In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.”

Psalm 4:8 NASB

I remember the very first time I read this Psalm. I was a freshman at Concordia Austin in the fall of 1980. A group of us were talking at an evening chapel service about all of the studying we had to do, the difficulties of learning Latin, and various other stresses that college students face. A classmate opened his Bible and read this psalm to us, and it was as if the door opened wide and the light shined bright.

King David wrote this psalm. If you’ve done much study on David, you know he had a lot going on in his life. He was king of Israel. He was a sinner, and he knew it. He committed adultery with Bathsheba, then arranged for her husband’s death to try and hide his sin. He had rivals seeking to take his life. David, as imperfect as he was, knew that he could take solace and comfort in the arms of his Lord. That is what this psalm is all about. And it applies as much to us today as it did to David when he first wrote it under the inspiration of God Himself.

I recently wrote about the quiet of the morning, and how my morning time in Scripture with God is my favorite time of the day. Evening has the potential to also be a time of quiet; a time to settle down, to calm the mind, and to meditate and pray over the events of life. David writes earlier in this psalm, “Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still.” (Ps 8:4b) Do you take time each evening for a closing moment with God? I confess – I don’t. And I’m reminded as I re-read this psalm how important it is to do just that. You see, my problem is I wait until I have physically exhausted myself before going to bed but I do nothing to prepare my mind for sleep. It’s almost as if my mind is saying, “what about me? I’m not tired yet!”

This week I’m going to try something new. I’m going to try taking a few moments after I’ve hit the sack to read this psalm again, meditate on God’s message, and dedicate the night’s sleep to Him. I believe that there can be peace in the evening, the source of which is in God’s Word.

Soli DEO Gloria!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019

In the Quiet of the Morning

Those who know me well know that morning is my favorite time of day. I enjoy the quiet of the house when I rise before the sun. Even the dogs don’t stir as I make my way to the kitchen to pour that first cup of coffee that hits the spot oh, so well. Cup of joe in hand I head upstairs to our home office to start my day.

“In the morning, O Lord, You will hear my voice; In the morning I will order my prayer to You and eagerly watch.”

Psalms 5:3 NASB

As that first cup of coffee helps bring my senses to life I peruse my favorite social media sites. I visit LinkedIn searching for interesting articles, work anniversaries and career moves. My goal is to read at least one good business-related article each morning and I often email the article to myself for sharing with coworkers later. Next I check Facebook and Twitter to see what my friends outside of work are up to, send birthday greetings and seek people and situations in need of prayer support. Social media can be a two-edged sword. For me it is more blessing than curse, as my social media feeds are heavily filtered to weed out political rants, false information, and potentially harmful content.

With first cup of coffee consumed and second in hand, it is time begin the most important work of my morning quiet time. This is my time to engage my Lord in relationship. I began using the YouVersion Bible App several years ago for guiding my morning Bible study. I also use the app to create the Scripture images I post to this site and share on social media. This year I am embarking on my third reading plan to cover the entire Bible through the course of the year. Having read through the Bible entirely I can state with no doubt or reservation that the Bible is the true Word of God. No question. Every book is about Jesus. All of them. All books of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, are intertwined. They work together to inform us of our situation in sin and God’s redemptive work in our behalf through His Son, Jesus Christ. I often refer to the Bible as “the Treasure of God’s Word”. As I read and study His Word, He speaks to me and our relationship is strengthened.

Following my reading, I record in my journal at least one verse that impacted me that morning. Often that verse will inspire a post here, as this Psalm did when I read it Saturday morning. This is my third year to journal in The Christian Planner. This veteran-owned business has produced the Planner for three or four years now and I find it to be an excellent tool to help me keep focused.

With journal in hand, I next go to God in prayer. I thank Him for His amazing grace and for my faith, family, and vocation. I lift up friends in need and ask God to guide my thoughts, words and actions throughout the day. Closing with the Lord’s prayer, I am ready to take on the day.

I with I could tell you that I follow this plan every morning without fail; of course, I don’t. When I miss my morning quiet time, I really miss it. Based on my experience, when I take time each morning to commune with God, I am dressed for success. Through my time with Him, I am equipped to be the best husband, father, coworker, employee and manager I can be. My morning quiet time with God truly is the foundation on which my day is built.

Do you seek God each day? I promise, it is the most worthwhile investment of time you can make. For me, rising early and beginning my day with Him works best. For others it may be during lunch or just before bedtime. God wants to be in relationship with you, and He doesn’t care about time of day. God never sleeps, and He is waiting.

Here’s to a happy Monday and a great work week.

Soli DEO Glora!

Image credit: YouVersion Bible App

(c) workisministry.com 2019