Tag Archives: wisdom

On Growing Old(er)

I remember a junior high conversation in which my friends and I calculated how old we would be on January 1, 2000. Back in 1975, that seemed like forever to us 14 year-old eighth graders. And then, seemingly in the blink of an eye, I was 38 years old, celebrating New Years Eve with a house full of friends and neighbors anxiously waiting to see if the lights would go out and the world would stop turning as Y2K approached.

Y2K was 16 years ago, and looking back, it almost seems silly to consider how scared many people were of that fateful turn of the clock from 11:59:59 12/31/1999 to 12:00:00 1/1/2000. Tech companies made millions, if not billions, of dollars helping organizations prepare their computer systems for that fateful moment in time. Doomsday prophecies abounded as many stockpiled water and other staples in preparation for the calamity that was about to befall us all. Alas, and thankfully, the calamity never came. As we moved forward from 12:00:00 on January 1, 2000 it didn’t take long for the revelry to continue and life to go on as normal.

Today is my 55th birthday. As I sit here this morning pondering the past 55 years and thinking about what I would write to commemorate my “double nickels” day, this is the memory that sprang forth first. Isn’t that interesting? Then it hit me: how often do we live life waiting for the next calamity that never really manifests itself? As I’ve grown older I’ve learned that worry and fret over circumstances I cannot control serve only to drain energy and distract me from what is truly important and worthwhile.

img_4892

Micah 6:8 NIV

I don’t have a “favorite” passage of Scripture, but there are several that I try to apply as guiding principles for how I live my life. Micah 6:8 is one of them. My ultimate goal at all times and in all things is to honor God. Even as I typed that line I cringed because I know I often fall short. But as I cringe at my shortcomings, God reminds me of His mercy and grace and I look ahead with renewed vigor. I know God is honored when I do “good” and His “good” is the standard I seek to achieve. As I ponder 55 years on this grand planet today, I am more determined than ever to avoid fret, worry, and other robbers of time and energy as I seek to honor Him with whatever time He wants to give me.

Soli Deo Gloria!

Wisdom or Folly?

“If I only knew then what I know now, I would have approached my life back then so differently.” I bet almost all of us have stated that lament at one time or another, either on looking back at high school, college, or maybe that first job. Ah, wisdom; that wonderful gift from God that opens our eyes to a grander plan than we could ever comprehend on our own. Wisdom helps us realize that life is a much larger picture than even the wisest among us can perceive at any given time, and although we cannot see the entirety of that big picture we know it exists. As we gain in wisdom we begin to look beyond our own well being and seek the well being of others. We begin to realize that the world wasn’t created solely for our benefit, but we were created to serve the world around us. If we seek wisdom we can find it.

“Then I saw that there was more gain in wisdom than in folly, as there is more gain in light than in darkness.” Ecclesiastes 2:13 

Why, then, do some seem to choose to wallow in folly? What is folly, anyway? Merriam-Webster defines folly, “the lack of good sense or judgment; a foolish act or idea; foolish behavior.” Truly, folly is all around us. Now, to be fair, I must confess that I have spent my share of time pursuing folly. I remember making decent grades in high school without having to put in a whole lot of effort. I remember making the Dean’s list my freshman year of college – not the list of students who excelled, but the list of students whose admission was in possible jeopardy because of a lower-than-acceptable GPA. It seems that my studies in “Texas Dance Hall” my freshman year did not support my major at Concordia Lutheran College. I remember the early days of my working career, in which my priorities included occupying my favorite bar stool at the local watering hole. “If I only knew then what I know now…”

Succinctly stated, folly gets us nowhere constructive. Pursuit of folly keeps us in darkness; it is a barrier to success both personally and professionally. Unfortunately, folly often presents itself as the path of least resistance, thus it is relatively easy to follow. But following folly’s path is like starting down that hiking trail that ventures into the woods. At first the path is wide and easy to follow. As we move deeper into the woods the path grows narrower, weeds begin to obstruct the way, and we soon find ourselves standing in the middle of the woods with no clear sense of direction as we wonder how to get out. Having followed folly’s path, we find ourselves worse off than we were upon beginning folly’s journey.

Our country seems to have embraced folly these days. Our national debt climbs at an alarming rate with no effort by our government nor demand by the people to reverse the trend. We seek after short-term pleasure without seeing the big picture of the long-term consequences of those choices. Have we killed the cure for cancer or the next great composer through abortion? As we continue to whittle away at our moral foundation, shouting slurs and insults at one another along the way, are we not sacrificing the long term health and well-being of our nation? As we, in our passivity, hand over increasing amounts of power to our unelected Supreme Court, are we not squandering the freedoms that thousands of men and women fought and died to win and preserve? Folly, indeed. It won’t be long before the path vanishes into the weeds and we find ourselves standing alone in the dark, cold woods wondering how in the heck we got there and where do we go now.

The United States is headed down a dark path, but it is not too late to change course. I choose wisdom. I choose Light. I choose to share the virtues of those things as I shun the foolishness of folly. I don’t want our nation to look back at today from fifty years hence and lament, “If I only knew then what I know now…”

What say you?

Ecc 213

2015 Photo-Some-Days 6.21.2015

A former boss once told me, “Seek first to understand, second to be understood.” In reading my Bible this morning, I came across the Proverb below. I try to live this in all aspects of my life, sometimes more successfully than others. It’s a process.

Slide1

2015 Photo-Some-Days 5.6.2015

“Leave it to the pros.” It wasn’t too long ago that I scoffed at that notion. Why call a pro when I can save a few bucks and repair or install it myself? Case in point: our kitchen faucet bit the dust last weekend. It had been showing the signs – hard to rotate, slow to shut off, and when I nearly pulled the handle off the other day I knew it was time for a replacement. My wife bought a lovely Delta faucet at Lowe’s Sunday afternoon. As I perused the directions and prepared to undertake my project, that voice inside me said, “call a plumber.” I tried to ignore it, but it was quite persistent and even resorted to calling me names. “Dummy, call a plumber.” I finally gave in, and am I glad I did! After just over two hours’ work, including having to grind away a lip of our sink that was partially blocking the hole in the granite countertop, I happily wrote the $247 check to the man that did such a good job. “Leave it to the pros,” indeed!

“Leave it to the pros.” ~ We all say it from time to time, but since I could not find an original source, let’s call it Anonymous.

Kudos to Jim England Plumbing of Keller, TX for a great installation! 5.5.2015

Kudos to Jim England Plumbing of Keller, TX for a great installation! 5.5.2015

Risk Manager in Residence

 

IMG_0833The letter from the Spencer Educational Foundation informed me I had been selected by the Katie School of Insurance & Financial Services at Illinois State University to spend two days with their students as Risk Manager in Residence. I was thrilled! Then, as the reality of this commitment settled into my brain, I was humbled.

My ISU "home" for two days: The State Farm Hall of Business.

My ISU “home” for two days: The State Farm Hall of Business.

I have enjoyed a very fulfilling career, and the opportunity to share some of my experiences and wisdom with my industry’s future was quite an honor. Over two days I was to lecture in three courses, two sessions apiece. Tuesday evening I would deliver a presentation to which all students of the Katie School were invited. I wanted the content to be meaningful to the students, and the Katie School faculty was extremely helpful in sharing information on class size, majors represented, and course content thus far in the term.

I began preparing my material a few weeks before departure. My aspirations were grand: I wanted to teach, encourage and inspire these students. As I began preparing my first course outline, my brain froze. “Who am I to stand before these students,” I began to ask myself. “What if my content is too basic? Or too advanced? What if I’m boring? What if we don’t connect? What if…”

I hate self-doubt. Self-doubt is one of the greatest barriers to success that we place before ourselves. Looking back in hindsight, however, I realize this wasn’t really a case of self-doubt. It was more an acknowledgement of how important this program is to the schools and students who participate. I would tailor a message with content specific to each class I would address. And I would deliver a presentation Tuesday evening that would be informative, entertaining, and inspiring. I prayed to God that He would give me the words to say, and He did.

As I write this, I am sitting in the Central Illinois Regional Airport awaiting my flight home. I’ve received lots of positive feedback from the Katie School. I’m pleased that my offerings were well received and added value. Over my two days at the Katie School, I was given a glimpse into my industry’s future. The students I met were bright, engaging, articulate, and excited for their futures. They asked many insightful questions. They each have much to offer. The future for my industry is very bright, indeed!

As I think back over the last two days, I’m betting that, in many respects, I gained more from this experience than the students did. I leave Illinois State inspired and refreshed. I have a renewed vigor for my career, and I have a new set of young friends to keep me on my toes. I thank God for this experience, and I will continue to seek to honor Him with my work.

If you are a risk management professional, I strongly encourage you to consider volunteering your time and expertise to the Risk Manager in Residence program. Trust me: you will be blessed.

IMG_0806

False Prophets; Then & Now

Then Jeremiah the prophet said to Hananiah the prophet, “Listen now, Hananiah, the LORD has not sent you, and you have made this people trust in a lie. Therefore thus says the LORD, ‘Behold, I am about to remove you from the face of the earth. This year you are going to die, because you have counseled rebellion against the LORD.’ ” So Hananiah the prophet died in the same year in the seventh month. ~ Jeremiah 28:15-17

The notion of false prophets and teachers is nothing new. Such people are tools of the devil, intended to distract God’s people from the truth as revealed in His Word.

Here, a prophet named Hananiah prophesies in the temple that within two years God will break the yoke of the king of Babylon, returning the articles of the temple along with the Judean rulers who had been taken into exile. This, of course, contradicts God’s words through Jeremiah. Jeremiah reminds the crowd that many before him, and Jeremiah himself, have prophesied war, disaster and plague. The one who prophesies peace, as Hananiah has done, “will be recognized as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true” (28:9). Hananiah continues to argue his point, and Jeremiah tells him that the Lord has not sent him, he is persuading the people to believe lies, and that the Lord is about to remove him from the face of the earth. Jeremiah’s prophecy comes true seven months later when the false prophet dies.

In Jeremiah’s time false prophets like Hananiah misled God’s people as they defied the Word of God and instead told the people what they wanted to hear. Sadly, this continues today as many modern-day churches are whittling away at the truth of God’s Word as they bend to the whimsies of human thought and wisdom. Supporters call this “enlightenment”; in reality it is embracing darkness.

God has revealed His eternal truth through His Holy Word – the Bible. His Word is as relevant and true today as it has ever been, and it will remain relevant and true for all eternity. I take great comfort in that fact. It is a beautiful thing to serve the sovereign God, for through Him the work of redemption has been completed. Rather than reject His Word and sit at the feet of modern day false teachers, let us stand firmly upon it as we share the good news of the Gospel with those who are unsaved.

Ponder this: I recently heard a preacher say, “If you tell me you don’t agree with a particular passage of Scripture, I’ll simply tell you ‘you’re wrong, God’s right’ and direct you to reconsider your position.” He was speaking to his congregation, a group of believers, of God’s sovereignty and the eternal truth of His Word. That is what standing on God’s Truth looks like! Society cringes at the phrase “you’re wrong”, but in the context of a human being supplanting God’s word with his own personal opinion it is entirely appropriate. We believers are to hold one another accountable as we seek accountability from one another. Through such accountability offered in the spirit of Christian love, we help one another stay true to God’s Word as the enemy seeks to turn our heads.

My prayer for today: Heavenly Father, You are the one true God, sovereign over all Your creation. I pray that you would keep me focused on Your Word, and that you would bring Christians into my life to hold me accountable for anything I might say or write that is not fully aligned with You. Help me to deal with all I meet with an attitude of Christian love, that You would be glorified through my words and actions. In Jesus’ name, AMEN.

“Everybody’s Got an Angle”

Ah, the wisdom of the great entertainer Bob Wallace, portrayed by Bing Crosby in White Christmas. “Everybody’s got an angle.” Bob speaks this line in the context of discussing people’s motivation for the things they do. And, as I consider his statement, I’ve concluded that he is correct. Everybody, indeed, has an angle.

The immediate connotation of an angle tends to be negative. It implies that people use each other or misrepresent circumstances for their own gain. It implies that people’s motivations aren’t necessarily for good. In Bob Wallace’s case, he was talking about a letter written by Betty Haynes that lured Wallace & Davis to Vermont under a false pretense. Haynes was seeking an audition with Wallace & Davis, and believing they would not likely grant her request, she wrote a letter about her brother, an old army buddy of Wallace & Davis, that opened the door. Wallace understood that Betty Haynes had worked a false pretense (her “angle”) but was OK with it in the context of his world view because the end result was good for all four of them, as well as for General Waverly.

What do you seek, and what are you willing to do to achieve your goals? What is your angle? What motivates you?

Then Solomon said, “You have shown great lovingkindness to Your servant David my father, according as he walked before You in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward You; and You have reserved for him this great lovingkindness, that You have given him a son to sit on his throne, as it is this day. Now, O LORD my God, You have made Your servant king in place of my father David, yet I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. Your servant is in the midst of Your people which You have chosen, a great people who are too many to be numbered or counted. So give Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people to discern between good and evil. For who is able to judge this great people of Yours?” ~ 1 Kings 3:6-9

Before his passing, King David made his son, Solomon, his successor to the throne with God’s blessing. Solomon could have asked God for anything, yet what was his request? His request was that God would give him an understanding heart and wisdom to discern between good and evil, right and wrong. He didn’t ask for fame; he didn’t ask for wealth; he didn’t ask for a long life or even for world peace. His request was simply that God would make him wise so that Solomon could effectively govern the people. What was God’s response to Solomon’s prayer?

God said to him, “Because you have asked this thing and have not asked for yourself long life, nor have asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself discernment to understand justice, behold, I have done according to your words. Behold, I have given you a wise and discerning heart, so that there has been no one like you before you, nor shall one like you arise after you. I have also given you what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there will not be any among the kings like you all your days. If you walk in My ways, keeping My statutes and commandments, as your father David walked, then I will prolong your days.” ~ 1 Kings 3:11-14

This was Solomon’s angle: that he be given wisdom from God so that he could be effective and God pleasing in his role as king. There is nothing negative here. This is a man who knew his place (king over Israel, but subject to the sovereign God) and simply wanted to serve honorably. Solomon prayed from his heart and God knew that; God therefore honored Solomon’s prayer, and then some.

Like most reading this post, I work for a living. I work for and with people whose motives are very honorable, but there are also those whose motives tend towards the selfish and dishonorable. Many in the work place are outstanding mentors to those whom they oversee, but others view colleagues and coworkers as rungs on the ladder of success, to be climbed over for one’s own personal gain. Some will misrepresent facts, as did Betty Haynes, to further their cause. We all know people who fit into both categories. Both types of people have an angle.

Business these days can be very competitive. How does one succeed in a competitive environment in which, for many, the accumulation of money and power is often the “be all, end all” of motivation? I thank God for the example He offers through King Solomon. I pray that God would give me a heart that seeks Him as purely and genuinely as Solomon did. I pray that God would grant me the wisdom to serve Him honorably in all that I do. I pray that He would show me my faults and help me correct them. I pray that God will put honorable people in my path from whom I can learn, while also giving me the opportunity to serve Him by serving others whether as husband, father, boss, or colleague.

Obstacles and circumstances will come, and each presents an opportunity to work an angle. No matter what obstacles or opportunities come my way, I pray that serving God will always be at the forefront of everything I do.

Everybody’s got an angle. What’s yours?

%d bloggers like this: