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Archive for the category “What Happens After Church”

A Tool For The Job

My dad told me a long time ago that the people that fix things are the ones with the right tools.  We admire the people that we call “mechanically inclined”, but don’t recognize the importance of the proper tools they use.  It is false to think that just because you put the proper tool in someone’s hand the job will get done.  However,  without the proper tool it is hard for even the most mechanically inclined people to complete their mission.  What we find is that the people who fix things also take pride in the tools that they have for each problem they may face.

I was in a quandary.  The distance of the golf hole was 180 yards.  It was an in between distance I thought from the clubs I normally used.  In the bag however was a 4 wood that I rarely swung.  “Why not try that club?”, I thought.  Amazingly the ball went beautifully toward the green landing a few feet short and rolling right up on the green!

As I put the club back in the bag I said out loud “that was just the right tool for the job!”  My retired friend who was playing with me that day agreed.  I don’t play golf very much but I have to admit that I have too many clubs in the bag.  Some of these are specialty clubs that you may need in a particular situation.  The problem is that I don’t practice with these clubs enough and when that situation comes up I’m liable to miss-hit the ball with it.  The other problem is digging the right club out of the bag at just the right time.  The third problem is that carrying all of the situational clubs can make for one heavy bag.  After hearing how heavy my bag was a former neighbor told me that I should pick out only the clubs I use the best and take the other ones out of the bag.  Years ago I played golf with another guy whose idea struck me as very funny.  Instead of using all of his clubs in his bag he was hitting every shot with his 3-wood.  It seems that he liked that particular club and used it to excess.  Somewhere there has to be a middle ground to these two approaches.

My dad had a tool box and tried to keep his tools organized.  He had his wrenches all tied together so he could find the right one in a moments notice.  I too have a tool box but I hate to admit the number of times a particular job comes up and I can’t find the right tool.  It isn’t because I don’t have the tool.  It is more a case of not needing it and when I do having a hard time finding it.  This comes about when the tool is used and it doesn’t get back in it’s proper place.  It’s a simple exercise that often gets missed.  Having your tools ready for the next use is as important as using the tool you need in the present.  It reminds me of how some companies treat their customers.  Instead of a long term relationship they are only concerned with what they can sell them right now.  To relieve this problem companies now put their customers in their data base so that they have a history of their visits on their books.   Having a long term approach always keeps customers in the pipeline.  Treating customers the right way brings them back.  Putting your tools in the proper place insures they are there when you need them the next time.

I was searching for essential tools for the toolbox.  One website gave me twelve.  In no particular order here they are:

A Claw Hammer-Can be used for demolition jobs and pounding in nails.  The claw can pull misguided nails out and also straighten it’s path.

Flathead Screwdriver-Enough Flathead screws still exist to need one and it can also be improvised for other jobs such as prying or scraping

Phillips Screwdriver-Invented in 1936 by Henry F. Phillips, the Phillips Head Screw has basically replaced Flat Head Screws

A Tape Measure-Remember the old saying “measure twice and cut once.”  A tape measure is an essential tool.

A Crescent Wrench– The beauty of this wrench is that it is adjustable to handle many different jobs

A Socket Wrench– Using the ratcheting technique without having to re-grip is great when working on big projects

Vice Grip Locking Pliers -When you need an extra hand these can lock something into place.  They are a very versatile tool that can be used as a pipe wrench, pliers, wire cutters, a ratchet, or a clamp

Needle Nose Pliers-An essential electrician tool it allows you to hold small items in place

Cordless Drill and Bits-How nice it is to drill holes without cords or the old fashioned non-electric drill.  Reversing the direction makes taking screws out so easy.

Crosscut Saw-For all of your tree trimming needs

Level-Essential to most projects to make sure the finished work is in a straight line

Utility Knife-Every project seems to provide things to cut and scrape

Isn’t it ironic that these twelve basic tools was also the same number that Jesus chose to be his Disciples?  He chose the original twelve to spread the Gospel throughout the earth.  In the same way he wants to use us for his purposes in our day.  There are never too many clubs in God’s bag.  He is able to take whoever is willing and use that person in a special way to reach others!  Sometimes we wrongly feel that our gift is not special.  God looks at the gifts he has bestowed on us as very special!  He specifically made us all for his special purposes.  When he needs that special gift does he find us where we should be?  Sadly too many are not ready when the master calls.  We find ourselves out of the box, lost, or feeling unneeded.  His or her tools provide comfort for the carpenter.  Like going to the toolbox to find the perfect tool for the job, God looks for us to  meet his purpose too!  Preparing for a job to get done he is confident that we can be successful through him.   When he reaches for an extension of his hand he wants to be able to count on us.  Will he find a willing heart when the master craftsman needs to use us in showing his glory to a dying world?

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Sweet Surrender For 2016!

This is the time of year when many will set goals.  The list might include losing weight, making investments, getting promoted, eating better and the list goes on.  A close friend asked me about my goals for this year the other day.  “I just want to be closer to God”, I told him.  I want to only write what the Holy Spirit puts on my heart.  I want him to be the motor behind the writing and me just the vessel he works through.  The only way that this can happen is a complete surrender.  I want God to have say in every part of my life.

Image result for 2016 goals sign

If you are like me it’s far easier to sputter the words than to actually put it into practice.  If we are honest with ourselves there are things that we may not have given to God.  We might think that God wouldn’t be interested in this little detail in our lives.  Sometimes we think that God is only interested in the big problems that we have.  That is the big lie the devil uses to keep us from total fellowship with God.  He is interested in every detail of your and my life!

Image result for waving the white surrender flag

So what does it mean to surrender to God?  Well the number one thing we have to do is confess any sins that are in our lives and turn away from them.  God cannot have fellowship with you or I if there is sin in the way.  It cuts off the connection to his power.  It’s like cutting the connecting cord of the light from the power switch.  The other thing we need to do is spend quality time in praying and reading the word.  It is something we need to make a part of our lives more than anything.  There is power in the verse “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added onto you” Matthew 6:33.

When we get into that mode of taking quality time to pray God will honor that.  He has sent his Holy Spirit to comfort us and give us wisdom.  Most of all the Holy Spirit wants to fellowship with us and live through us!  Benny Hinn made a parallel in his book “Good Morning Holy Spirit.”  Now I’ve never been on a sailboat but I can still relate to this.  In order for the sails to work to full force there can’t be any holes or tears.  Before sailing those need to be mended.  Now the Holy Spirit is like the wind.  Those mended sails will catch that wind and the boat will move forward!  That is how it is with us and God!  God will move in our lives when we surrender, use quality time to talk to him daily , read his word and think about what he is saying to us in it.

Image result for sailing

So what does it mean to surrender?  If someone has a gun on us the common thing to do is to lift our hands.  We are saying that we surrender to the power that they have.  We are also saying that we are not going to fight against that power.  This is a forced surrender.  We really don’t want to surrender but for our own good we do.  This is not how God wants us to surrender.  He wants us to surrender like those sails that are waiting for the wind to direct them and move the boat. For our own good we need to surrender to his power even though God will never force us.  It needs to be a volunteer effort as we see how insignificant we are without him.  When we surrender to him with a clean heart and spend quality time in fellowship great things start happening in our lives!

A former pastor of mine used to conclude his sermons many times with this phrase “Go with God and he will go with you!”  It’s a simple phrase but so true.  I suppose the opposite is true also.  Don’t go with God and he won’t go with you.  Now that doesn’t mean that he doesn’t love us.  The Holy Spirit works both as a comforter to the saved and to convict the lost of their sins.  So when we get into that fellowship he literally goes with us instead of chasing us.

Image result for praying man photo

Now what am I talking about by the phrase “quality time?”  I’m reminded of something from another story where David Wilkerson felt in his spirit to sell his TV and use that time to pray.  He would usually spend a couple of hours a day watching and justified it by staying up on current interests.  Giving the Lord a fleece of having to sell the TV within a half an hour or it wasn’t God’s will the TV sold in 29 minutes!  It was in one of those prayer sessions that he was in instead of watching his TV that Wilkerson saw a picture in Life Magazine.  Now he was praying but every time he opened his eyes that magazine was in view.  Finally he asked the Lord if he was supposed to look at it?  When he opened it he saw 8 desperate Gang led kids who had murdered a crippled boy just for kicks.  Wilkerson’s heart broke and through a series of unusual events he was used by God to start a very successful ministry for the lost teenagers in New York City!  It all started when he surrendered his TV time to God!

Image result for fireworks display

I realize that this is not the usual entertaining story that you usually read on here, but it might be the most important message I have written.  I say that because if you read this or any of the stories and tell me it was good and that is the end of it, the message would have failed.  We see so many things in this world that entertains us.  After awhile we look for everything to have entertainment value.  It’s like a fireworks display.  After the fireworks which were gorgeous we are left with a bunch of ugly smoke.  It won’t be easy (at least at first) but if we will make a commitment to God this year to put him first in everything and spend quality time with him we will not lack anything that we need!  We will feel victory in our lives no matter the circumstances!

The song we sometimes sing “More of you” is technically wrong.  God cannot give us more of him unless we have less of us in there.  The goal is all of him and none of me.  I don’t know what will be created on this website in the year ahead.  Whatever is written I pray that it will stir your heart and life and penetrate deep into your soul.  I pray that you will not be the same because of the messages you read.  I know that I won’t be.  As the Spirit helps me write a story I invariably re-read it and it speaks to me!  I’m the one who gets the most out of the messages and stories that God gives me to share!  I urge you to put God first this new year.  Don’t only say it but spend the time doing it.  Remember that how we spend our precious time that we are given is how we prioritize things.  Remember the verse in Galatians 2:20 that says “I have been crucified with Christ, it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me.  And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loves me and gave himself for me.”

You have now read what is on my heart going forward this year.  The choice is now up to you.  Did the message penetrate your heart?  Dear God, I pray that all who read this will take a new look at their lives and surrender all to you!  I thank you for this message and as I sit here with tears in my eyes I realize that you are speaking to me through this!  I pray that my readers will surrender all of their lives to you so that you can use them for your glory throughout the year!

In Jesus’ lovely name

Amen

Surrender

By Lewis Hamilton from the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

It’s not just a one-time thing
or even by the week
It’s more than a daily time
his Spirit I must seek

There’s a battle against the flesh,
no time to drop my guard
Instead of going easier
my battle’s getting hard

A weekly or a daily time
is not enough to win it
I must surrender all the time,
sometimes minute by minute

When decision time is on me
I need an open mind
The Spirit will tell me what to do,
and I’ll do it in God’s time

It’s a choice I have to make,
my spirit I must render,
every minute of every day
to him I must surrender.

 

 

Teach me to do your will,
for you are my God, may
your good Spirit lead me
on level ground.

Psalm 143:10

 

Disconnected Messages

We have a satellite dish and 99.9% of the time everything works fine.  When a storm is brewing though the picture may start to break up.  At first the picture breaks up for a second and comes back whole.  As the storm draws nearer the pattern is repeated every few seconds.  Suddenly the whole program and sound is gone and just the wording on the screen remains.  The message states “searching for satellite signal.”

Satellite

I was reminded of this disconnecting problem because recently I was talking to a friend that had a similar experience within her church.  No, the church satellite system didn’t lose connection during a storm.  It was a disconnecting problem far more serious.  She was fairly new to this church but a message that she heard from the pulpit touched her heart.  It was a message of making people feel welcome!  It was about how everyone in the church should make every effort to make new people and old alike feel right at home.  It was about how that we are one body and how everyone adds to that body.  Everyone should feel comfortable doing their part and each of us should be appreciated.  It was a fantastic message and made my friend more comfortable in deciding to venture out of her comfort zone to a Bible Study the church was promoting.  Her friend and her were supposed to meet there but something came up and her friend couldn’t make it.  When she arrived she didn’t really know anybody, but she did recognize the face of one of the leaders of the church.  She sat at that table and small talk was exchanged.  Then out of the blue this leader turned to her and announced that they were expecting someone else to come, that she probably had other people coming too,  and the whole table got up and went to another table leaving my friend sitting there all by herself.  She had to shake her head in disbelief wondering what happened to that wonderful message that was given just a couple of days before?

Sadly maybe I can answer that question from something that happened to me a few times.  You see we were regulars at this church and we came in just before the service was about to start.  The only seats that we could see from the back that were available were on the left side about five or six rows up.  Getting comfortable in our seats we noticed right in front of us was a young couple sitting very close together whispering to each other.  At first it seemed like a normal thing, but when church started the closeness and whispering continued.  When we would get up and sing they had their arms around each other sharing the same book.  When we sat down to hear the message it was the same closeness and constant whispering.  Of course I’m thinking “Are they here to worship God or each other?”  Naturally I’m leaving the service wondering, what the pastor had talked about?  The next week we were in our seats ready for the beginning of the service and the same two people sit right in front of us!  It was the same thing all over again.  I don’t know if these people realized what a distraction they were and I felt like I should tell them.  However, I thought better of it.  What should I do?  Should I tap them on the shoulder and ask them to quit worshiping each other because it was disturbing my worship of God?

You may laugh but I think it would be laughter at thinking about things that interrupted your thoughts as you were hearing a sermon.  I wonder what might have been the reason for the strange disconnect of the sermon and the church leader?  How can a message so plain and simple be so disconnected in real life?  In no way do I know what was happening in her head, but maybe it went something like this:  “Pastor Jackson has a nice suit on.  I like that one far better than the one he wore last week.  Those colors..What was he thinking?  He’s talking about appreciating people, I wish someone would appreciate what I am doing.  Coordinating that Bible Study on Tuesday night is getting to be a headache.  Hmm I’ll have to call Sister Smith and Sister Johnson to help make calls.  I wonder where Dave Martin is today?  He and his family are always here.  Oh my, Mrs Turner is wearing that strange hat.  Doesn’t she realize it has been outdated for years?  I’ve got to help with that church picnic this Saturday.  I hope the weather holds up.  The 10-day forecast is predicting that it might rain.  Wow, Pastor Jackson is really preaching about unity and making people feel like they belong.   It sure would be nice if these people would be willing to lend a helping hand once in awhile!  They say that 10% of the people in a church do 90% of the work.  I think in this church it is more like 5%!  If more people made the effort to do things it would be so much better! What time is it?  Usually he preaches until noon but he is really getting carried away!  I told Karen and Beth that I would meet them at the restaurant at 12:30!  Oh finally, his final point, the final prayer, amen and amen.  Pastor Jackson, your sermon was really inspiring!  I appreciate you telling us what we really needed to hear!”

congregation

The disconnect problem is a common one.  It is prevalent with teachers, coaches, bosses, counselors, doctors, and pastors among others.  Each of these fine people take hours and days preparing their messages only to find that their words have been disconnected in a good percentage of hearts and minds.  Somewhere between when the message begins and the actual real life action the message is lost.  It may be in the execution of the plan or it may be that the plan was never crystallized into our thinking.  Sometimes the plan goes against how we want to live so we reject it.  I’m reminded of the doctor who told his patient he needed to quit smoking and drinking and to change his diet.  “So what are you doing?” a friend wondered.  “I’m switching doctors”, was his reply.

I wish I had a sure fire way to keep people more focused!  I see companies trying to do it with medication or energy drinks.  Like any problem it is necessary to admit that the problem exists.  It may be just a willingness to improve that will help the situation.  Be honest with yourself and with others.  There will always be distractions we can let hinder us.  There will always be storm clouds if we choose to see them.   Focus instead on the message being sent your way! Vision in your mind what actions you will take to accomplish the execution of the message given! Proverbs 29:18 states that “Without a vision, the people perish.”  I think the same can be said for our messages.  Without a vision our messages are lost!  Taking that thought in reverse when we hear the message and vision ourselves  executing what the message has us accomplishing, the message takes on life!  It is no longer just words as we actually take the steps needed to make it reality!  Sometimes in life storms come through and we lose our focus.  In the case of my satellite dish if the storm causes us to lose the picture we don’t knock down the dish.  We have  faith to know that the problem will be solved once the storm fades.  When I look at my blank screen I know that if I stay the course and have a vision for what will happen the picture eventually returns just as clear as it ever was!

The Proving Of My Faith

by Lewis Hamilton
From the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

It’s easy to praise the Lord
when I’m on a mountain high
or I’m soaring in the air
up where the eagles fly

It’s easy to praise him
when life is going fight
and it doesn’t seem the devil
is putting up a fight

But what will I do when troubles come
and I’m not feeling the power?
Will I cling to my faith in him
when I’m in my trying hour?

When I reach my lowest depth
will I take time to pray
or will I lose my grip on faith
and let it slip away?

Unproven faith is not faith at all,
this truth of faith I’ve found
The proving of my faith comes only
when I’m on my lowest ground.

Therefore, among God’s churches we
boast about your perseverance and
faith in all the persecutions and trials
you are enduring.

II Thessalonians 1:4

Too Busy

by Lewis Hamilton
From the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

The Lord seemed so far away
on that cold and lonely day
My telephone wasn’t ringing
so I began to pray

Lord, where are you
in my time of pain?
It’s like I’ve been cut off
from fellowship again

You used to call so often
I long to hear your voice
But now my phone’s not ringing
I guess you made that choice

I thought, why don’t you love me?
Then I began to look
Soon I found the problem,
my phone was off the hook.

“You expected much, but see, it turned out
to be little. What you brought home, I blew away.
Why?” declares the Lord almighty. “Because my house,
which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with
his own house.”

Haggai 1:9

Representing Christianity

They say the customer is always right.  In reality the customer is often wrong.  Yet somebody way back made a policy for his business that tried to follow this principle.  The principle really breaks down like this.  No matter how far off base or totally wrong the customer is, they are always right.  Why is such an absurd statement treated like gold?  Well in business they determined that it is better to agree with the customer instead of ruffling feathers.  It is better to leave the customer with a favorable impression of your company even if you have to bow to their demands.

I got in trouble one time because of the customer always being right.  As I mentioned before I worked in a famous department store selling clothing for men.  One day I was working the floor alone.  I don’t know if it was thought to be a slow day or what, but here I was an 18 year old kid working the whole department by myself.  As it turned out the place got extremely busy.  Customers were lined up at my register and I was helping one after another.  There was a lady that was interested in buying a suit.  She wanted my help immediately or someone to assist her in finding the right suit.  Since I was the only one there and obviously the policy was to tend to the paying customers first, I couldn’t.  I smiled and told her that unfortunately I couldn’t help her right now.  As I was helping my long line of paying customers this lady apparently ran upstairs to the store managers to offer her complaint of not being helped.  The lady was right.  She deserved to be assisted in her effort to buy a suit.  Why did management only have one person on the floor? The answer to that question didn’t matter and was never answered.  The customer blamed me for not helping her.  In this case an 18 year old kid making close to minimum wage and doing the best that he could took the full hit for the customers dissatisfaction, because as we all know the customer is always right.

Telemarketing can be very annoying as you know.  The call usually goes something like this.  You pick up the phone “Hello”.  There is silence for a few seconds then someone comes on the line.  Mr. Hamilton, yes…and then the sales pitch begins.  My name is so and so from blah blah blah, and on and on they go.  I think the person takes a deep breath and doesn’t breath again until they have at least got through most of their talk.  I know it is a thankless job and most people hang up on them I would imagine.  I realize too that they are playing a numbers game.  They figure if they call so many people one person will say yes to whatever they are selling.  Yet to me this kind of marketing does not leave a favorable impression of their company.

I’ve been considering buying some business cards for this site.  I’m thinking it would be easier to give someone my card instead of always writing down the website.  The first place I checked was a place I could order them online.  I thought their prices seemed very reasonable, but I thought I would try a local place or two where I could meet someone in person.  The first place I visited a middle aged man helped me and he represented his company well.  He basically told me that he could not compete with the online business in price but wished me well.  I visited one more place and a guy in his twenties helped me.  He seemed to have the attitude that I couldn’t get a better deal than what his company offered.  I honestly told him that the prices he was quoting were not in the ball park with the online prices.  He responded by giving me the amount of business cards that his company sold every month.  To be honest that fact did not make any difference to me.  I was interested in a quality product at a price savings!  I didn’t care what everyone else was doing.  If he would have said “I can’t touch their prices, but if you want a quality product and don’t want to go through the internet to order I can help you,” I think I would have left with a better feeling about his company.  In fact I don’t really like the inconvenience of going through the internet.  If he could have made me a competitive offer even if it was a bit more along with his personal service, I probably would have been interested.  Instead I left feeling like i was talked down to.

This past weekend we had to have our car serviced.  Since we were told it might take an hour and a half we decided to walk over to a Burger King close by.  I have to say that this particular Burger King made me smile!  Their employees were very friendly and helpful.  I know it helped that the place wasn’t very busy when we came in.  The girl that rang us up actually stopped back a couple of times to see how we liked our food.  Along with other things we ordered one of their new shakes.  The manager was very friendly and actually sold me on getting the larger size!  It was a pleasant experience to feel that they really cared in a business where so many times it is very impersonal.  Often I’ve found when ordering fast food people are running around trying to fill my order without giving much thought to treating me like a unique person.  This experience was different and it caught my attention and made a very favorable impression of them and Burger King for hiring them!!

I see commercials all of the time promoting  large companies that are in our town.  Millions of dollars are spent for advertising to give their place of business a favorable name.  Yet, you and I have had experiences where one employee of that large multimillion dollar company has either made the company better or worse in our eyes.  My Burger King experience  was brought about by the people who worked in one location that day.  It had nothing to do with the millions of dollars they put out for advertising.  The extra time those employees took  made me feel special and important.  My experience with the second business card company made me feel small.  The salesperson made me feel like I didn’t know what I was talking about and that  he knew it all.  Maybe it was just me but that perception from five minutes in his store left me with a bad taste in my mouth.  It doesn’t matter if his company throws a million dollars into advertising to get me to come back, I won’t.  My experiences and yours are far more powerful than any advertisement.  When we think of doing business with a company, we think about how we were treated by that company in the past.  That one person represented their company in a good or bad way and makes  or breaks how we think about their company.

There are times when I have had a legitimate complaint about a company and the representative knew it.  Yet, they are trained in the felt, found, feel theory.  Their canned statement goes like this.  You know I felt the same way, until I found this and now I feel this way.  In theory it sounds like it should solve every problem.  It also sounds like they are agreeing with you.  After all the customer is always right so agree.  However I’ve found that people can be so fake saying the line that they are trained to say that it comes across as totally fake.  When they say “I know how you feel”, are they saying it with feeling or is it just words?  Do you really believe they know how you feel?  Then there is always the word “but”, as in I know how you feel, but this is company policy.  Somewhere back there the customer is always right has been replaced by the felt, found, feel statement.  It comes down to caring  not just words.  If I feel that someone really cares and are not just sputtering words, I am apt to start or keep a business relationship with their company.  If not I will look somewhere else and recommend that my friends and family go elsewhere too.

As Christians we are representatives for our Lord Jesus Christ.  As his representative I want to shine the best light on who I am representing.  This is not a case of “the customer is always right.”   Many times the people that are looking at how we live are not right.  They realize that there is something missing in their life and are looking for answers.  They are looking for people who are not fake and who walk the talk. They are looking for someone who cares about them and truly loves them.  I may be the only Christian somebody comes into contact with.  With that in mind I can either make Christianity an attractive way to live or I can turn people off.  I am only one person but as we’ve seen one person does make a difference.  The person examining me may be at the turning point of their life.  How I represent may either make or break their decision to accept Jesus.  Do I make them feel small or important?  Do I show that I truly love them and want to give them what I have or does the words I say have no feelings?  It’s very critical that I represent Christianity well because the stakes for my examiners are very high.  They are much higher than what fast food restaurant they will eat at or what business card they will buy.

I’m The Only Jesus They Will See

by Lewis Hamilton
from the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

They will not read the Bible
they’ll go through life their way,
turning off all the preachers
and what they have to say

They will not go to church,
it’s all fake anyhow
Just out to get their money
there’s bills to pay right now

So how then can we reach them
and see a change of heart?
How can they get total freedom
to make a brand new start?

The responsibility is mine,
it’s entirely up to me
Lord help me shed your light today

for I’m the only Jesus they will see.

Join with others in following my
example, brothers, and take note of
those who live according to the
pattern we gave you.

Philippians 3:17

Outside These Doors

by Lewis Hamilton
from the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

There’s such a disagreement today
choosing church and denomination
We are all of one body
so here’s a revelation

What happens here on Sunday
is really just the start
We must seek to worship him,
loving him with all our hearts

We must be in prayer
every single day,
being a witness in what we do
and doing it God’s way

Each day we need to recommit
to serve him every minute,
then he will lift us with his hand
and there will be no limit

To what he can do through us
as we yield and he takes charge
The answer is a simple one,
we’re making it much too large

We’re in love too much with services
Which group worships God more?
The true test of the church, my friend
is what happens outside these doors.
In the same way, faith by
itself, if it is not accompanied
by action, is dead.

James 2:17

Undercover Boss Uncovers Needs

Leo Durocher, the famous baseball manager told a story in his book about Phil Wrigley, longtime owner of the Chicago Cubs. Mr. Wrigley would like to go into the upper deck and watch the games from there. In Leos first year as manager that was not a problem. Crowds were small and the seats were rarely taken. In his second year however, added interest in the Cubs was gained. Invariably the usher would come around and ask Mr. Wrigley for his ticket. Leo concludes that if it were him he would have lit up a cigar even though he didn’t care for cigars, just to blow out the smoke. Then he would say to the usher “it’s okay son, I own the place, keep up the good work.” Mr. Wrigley was never like that. He would get up and apologize to the usher and head to a less populated area.

To their credit bosses on the reality show Undercover Bosses never give away their cover although I’m sure sometimes it is very tempting. The show is about owners, presidents, or CEO’s of companies disguising themselves and passing themselves off as new people in the company. The camera crew is explained in various ways from two people competing for one position to doing some kind of a special documentary of a new person on the job. They try to get natural reactions and hope that the presence of the camera does not interfere with what people truly think.

Chad Hallock was raised by a single parent in Anaheim, California. He and his brothers knew that they needed to start at a young age helping with finances. Chad was working in a window covering business when he lost his job. He and his brother along with 3 other friends started Budget Blinds on $5,000 each. Today it is the largest window covering company in North America! They have over 800 Franchises all over the United States. Chad decided to be the focal point on an Undercover Boss episode so that he could get a better awareness of how their businesses are being ran with the hope of helping franchisees increase their profits! He went under cover as Tom Robbins with the story that a reality show called Second Chances would be filming him as part of a plan for a failed business person to get financial backing for a new company.

Chads first visit was to a franchisee named Keith in Morris Illinois. Keith had been in the business for 10 years and described to Chad how he started. “Someone had come over to his house to install blinds and he really liked what they were doing and the new business prospects.” He added that “the next thing he knew he was flying out to corporate headquarters and meeting Chad and his brother.” He described the brother as more flexible, more laid back. He described Chad as a rigid guy who was defensive. Chad is heard denying the charges to the camera but explained that he does take the business seriously. It was comical watching Chad as Keith thought he was talking to a new person about someone else.

Keith took Chad (Tom) on a sales call. It was obvious that the couple had no idea what they wanted but knew they needed something. Keith started pumping them with questions. “Did you want to control light? Did you want the room to feel hot or cold? Did you want casual or formal? Were you interested in white or off white?” There was this big book he had the customers thumbing through. “Take your time, we have all day”, he mentioned. Chad was saying to the camera “This is taking way too long. For two rooms this should be done in an hour. “Keith is not taking control of the situation. Keith has been in this business for ten years. Sometimes less choices is better. He needs to go in and analyze the situation and lead the customers into what would be best for the room!” Keith made the comment “Tom just sat there because he probably had never done anything like that before.”

Chad (Tom) met a franchisee named Maris in Chicago. Maris wondered what his experience was and Chad said that he was in the Iron Art business until the economy downturn hit. Maris took him on a installation appointment. Maris was very good in what she did but she found Tom (Chad) clumsy. He had a hard time drilling the holes and dropped the screw. She concluded that he was too quiet and she thought this was Toms first time working with a drill and screws. She didn’t think he was qualified to be a future Budget Blinds Franchise Owner. Chad was impressed with Maris! He called her a real go getter and liked her initiative of doing mailings to increase her business!

Later Maris shared with Chad her view that local advertising would be helpful to her business. Keith had also made the same plea but Chad had dismissed it as someone not knowing what they were talking about. When Maris made the same statement it got Chad thinking that maybe they had a point.

Typically on the show the boss learns of the personal lives of their company workers. In this case after the appointment Maris was telling Tom (Chad) that she had two sons. One of her sons, Tyler,  who was 12, had a football injury. He had suffered two stingers in one season and was dealing with neurological damage. She was trying to get help for him but was finding it extremely difficult. Hearing the frustration in her voice, I could see that Chad was deeply effected.

Chad (Tom) met Pam who worked in the factory where the blinds are made in Middleton Wisconsin. Pam thought that Tom was cute but later admitted that he was like a bull in a china cabinet working this job. They worked as a team putting together individual blinds so that they could be painted. Chads comments about the job to the camera was how monotonous it was. When he asked Pam how she liked her job she said “don’t ask”. Chad found out that there was no employee recognition. Pam brought up the fact that they used to have a company picnic but it was cancelled.

Chad met a man named Dennis on his last stop in Kansas. Dennis did over 600 installs a year and Chad was interested in finding out what he was doing to make the company profitable! Dennis was an installer who was very impressive with his politeness and his attention to details on the job. His personality and kindness showed through the camera! Dennis cleaned the windows before they were done as an extra bonus! He mentioned that “he does more than he needs to, but that is what brings customers back!”

Chad left with Dennis...later Dennis broke down and so did I!

Chad left with Dennis…later Dennis broke down and so did I!

After their appointment Chad (Tom) and Dennis went to a local bar for a beer. Chad asked Dennis about his family. Dennis had 5 kids and one who they lost. When Chad questioned him Dennis said that his son was murdered and he found out by a phone call. They told him where it happened and Dennis found his son dead on the street. Once again you could tell that Chad was deeply moved.

The show concludes with the franchise owners and employees invited to corporate headquarters. I think they were given the story that they needed to be there to give their opinion of Tom and his future potential in a new business. Individually as they are sitting there Chad (Tom) comes into the room. Now he looks completely different. Instead of the casual appearance they saw before he is in a nice suit. He speaks with each one before the next is called in. After realizing that the bumbling new employee was actually the CEO of the company there is a lot of apprehension as to what they said on the job.

Chad talked to each one about the business end of what they were doing. To Keith he mentioned how he was the stiff, rigid, defensive guy. But when he got serious he talked about a local advertising fund that both he and Maris had recommended. After hearing the same complaint twice he reversed his opinion. He also mentioned how Keith needed to direct customers instead of being laid back and letting them decide things for themselves. He was going to send his brother to oversee his training since Keith liked his brother so well! Since the local advertising was a big issue with Maris, Chad mentioned to her that he was going to put $25,000 into a fund for that purpose. Pam was commended for her attention to quality control. She was very focused on putting out a good product! Chad told Dennis that of all of the people he worked with he enjoyed working with him the most. He was commended on his professionalism and the great job he was doing!

The most memorable and touching part of the show is when at corporate headquarters Chad talks about the personal lives of the people he met. He found time in his period with them to find out their stories. He gave Keith money to put his two kids through college. He gave Pam money to go on her annual Mexico vacation that she needs each year as a getaway from the job. The awards that brought tears to my eyes and Chads too were for Maris and Dennis. Maris was awarded $30,000 for expenses related to her son Tylers injury and rehabilitation. Maris, who you can tell is a very strong person and personality, broke down with gratitude! Dennis was awarded $40,000 to build an addition on to his house for gatherings of family that helps Dennis deal with his tragedy. The tears are flowing with Dennis and myself as Dennis says between sobs that “It’s the nicest thing anyone ever did for me.”

Usually in experiences when people are giving they are the biggest beneficiaries.
Chads comments proved this true again. His mission was originally to go out and help his company employees become better at what they do. He accomplished that mission with flying colors. He also found what his people thought about the company and how they could best be productive in the future. He was able to share the wealth of the company to meet personal needs within the company! I’m sure that he felt much more attached to the company and the franchisees after this experience! His final ending statement about the effect of this adventure on his thinking was this line:”I learned that the franchisees need to be heard. I have to be more patient, debate less and listen more.” In other words be more humble and more caring! Now that is a concept for us all to strive for!

I’m thinking of a new reality show. Maybe we could call it Outside These Doors. It would be a show similar to Undercover Boss where a representative of the church goes to a business in which a church member is working. It wouldn’t be the pastor because they would be too recognizable. It might be a random person that reports back to the pastor. Maybe the random person would be searching for the meaning of life. We could have our camera crew just like the undercover boss show. It would be interesting to see how the church operates outside of the church. How many people would lead a stranger in the sinners prayer? How many members actually take their relationship with God outside of the church and into their everyday lives? What would the attitudes of the members be like at work? I know that some people would star because of their love for God and their compassion for others! Some may make us wonder where they are hiding their light. Would this new show end up on the Christian Channel or the Comedy Channel? Or would it be canceled by CBS because the reality is more than we would want to see?

The Church is Fast Asleep

by Lewis Hamilton
from the book “The Gardener and My Garden” c1997

The alarm clock is ringing
There’s appointments we must keep
But it’s snug here, we’re comfortable
and the church is still asleep

There’s people out there dying
It’s time they should be fed
Where is the church to help them?
Oh we are still in bed

Will someone please shake us up?
Throw water in our face
Tell us it’s time to arise
and get back in the race

Revive us Lord, we’re dying
and causing you to weep
The fields are ripe for harvest
but the church is fast asleep.

The night is nearly over, the
day is almost here. So let us
put aside the deeds of darkness
and put on the armor of light.

Romans 13:12

Making the Effort to Care

When it’s obvious you don’t care

People don’t care what you know, they want to know that you care!  That saying was brought to mind recently when I passed a V.I.P a couple of weeks ago.  As our eyes made contact I said  “Hey” with a smile and he said “How’s it going?”  It was a cold day in Michigan and I had not been in the building long.  “I am freezing”, I offered.  “That’s good” was his reply.  That little exchange got me asking the question again Does anyone really care?

Changing the Script

What messed the whole thing up is I didn’t stay with the script.  If I had said the standard “fine” that was written on my Q-Card everything would have run smoothly.  He stuck to his script, why didn’t I stick to mine?  The answer of course was that I actually thought someone cared.  By his response I saw that running into me was an inconvenience that interrupted his thought process.

Ways of avoiding confrontations and what we are saying

There are ways to avoid these confrontations that people use.  Avoid eye contact when you’re passing someone, mess with your cell phone or just look the other way. What you are telling the person is “you are not important and don’t bother me”.  Or you could move your lips without your voice into a hi form.  This is saying “you’re important enough to acknowledge but not important enough to make an audible sound”.  Then there is the typical “How is it going?” which usually means, I don’t really care so just say fine.

The results of not caring enough

The sad part is that I have been guilty of the same type of thing.  A persons name is very important to them!  So many times I have been guilty of completely forgetting someone’s name. It can happen when I know their name but happen to run into them unexpectedly and can’t pull their name up.  That situation is somewhat excusable.  The one that isn’t is when I have been introduced to someone and never bothered to know their name.  Worse yet is if they start calling me by name and I don’t know theirs.  If you are like me at that point you are making every effort to find out their name!

Caring takes effort

The best way to show you care in those passing moments is by using the name of the person you’re passing.  “Hi Frank, How are you?”, with a smile and then actually listening to his response.  Of course you have to know that his name is Frank and it helps to know a little about him.  That is where the effort of caring comes in.  If you really do care you will show it with preparation.  Just as you would prepare for a test because you care how you do, preparing for caring is just as important!  Preparation is the state of  having made ready beforehand.  It’s like practicing your free throws before you are confronted with the situation in the big game.  Or it’s like studying for the big test before the big test.  Anticipating the questions and the answers before they come up.  We take a lot of time preparing for these type of things and yet making the effort to care is usually disregarded.

Programming your mind

Don’t make the mistake of saying “I can never remember names”, or “I am not good at remembering names”.  In those statements you are programming your mind to not make the effort because it will fail anyway.  Your mind is like a giant computer.  We’ve all filled it with worthless information and trivia.  Now use it in a positive way to show you care, instead of just mouthing the words!

The First Introduction

A key moment in remembering names is when we are first introduced to someone.  How many times do they walk out and we are saying, “Now what was his name again?’  The fact is we were not paying attention.  We had our minds on something else or what we were going to say.  We didn’t think of their name or associate it with anything.  Instead  concentrate on the name and the face.  When they leave, if at all possible, write their names down.  Make a list of that person’s name, what they look like and something about them.  Keep a little book of names and information about them.  It has been proven that by writing things down you are more apt to remember.

Preparing for the name test

Prepare yourself for names of people you may come into contact with.  Check your little book,  review your names and put a face to them.  Very rarely do you hear someone say “the name is familiar but I didn’t recognize the face”. Review what you wrote earlier about their job, where they live etc.  The more you dwell on the caring effort the more you will remember!

Something to think about

How does all of this talk about remembering names and caring relate to our christian walk?  Well the fact is that if the church is not reaching out and helping people around it, it is failing.  It is past the time for “feel good” services.  Is caring an inconvenience that interrupts our plans and ideas? When the church asks the world, “how’s it going?”, it needs to be prepared for the reality of the answer, stop and listen with interest, and make the effort to care.

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