One Day You’re an Expert

I’ve been experiencing a great deal of change recently, and another big one is right around the corner. In two weeks I’ll be leaving my current employer to become an independent consultant in the healthcare industry. It’s pretty exciting. I guess it could also be scary, but I’m trusting God and I’m ready for this particular change.

Having dinner with a younger colleague last week, and discussing my plans, the more general topic of career progression came up. After I explained my career journey, he had a couple of questions. “So, how does one get to be ‘an expert,’ to arrive in a position where others seek you as a consultant? Any advice to pass along?”

I don’t know that I had too much smart to say. Most of my thoughts on the topic are pretty basic, and my answer was something like this: Do your best at your current job. Keep learning. Pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. Research what others are doing. Go to conferences and meetings. Read. Talk with colleagues. Eventually one day, perhaps after many years, something will happen to cause you to recognize your own knowledge and ability and you’ll realize that you’re an expert. At least that’s what happened to me.

Something similar seems to have happened with my emotional wellbeing. I’ve thought about this kind of career move before, but it seemed too scary, too distant. Now it seems at hand. I’m finding myself to be calm and at peace with this major change. Also as you’d expect, I’m trusting God. It feels good, surprisingly good. It’s surprising enough for me to ask myself, “Wait a minute! Why am I not more worried about this? How and when did I become a calm, peaceful person? When did I get this faith?”

I think the answers are a lot like those involving my career. Do the best you can at following Jesus. Pray. Listen. Talk with others of like mind. Pay attention to your emotions. Have whatever faith you can muster. Read the Bible. Work through your emotions as best you can. Eventually one day, perhaps after many years, something will happen to cause you to recognize your own inner state and you’ll realize that you’re a calm and peaceful person of faith. At least that’s what happened to me.

Praise God.

Peace,

Pete

Change Happens

“Lookin back at my background tryin’ to
figure out how I ever got here.
Some things are still a mystery to me
While others are much to clear.”

Migration – Jimmy Buffet

 

Like I said a few weeks ago, things can happen fast, and change is a constant. But it sure is hard to get used to, isn’t it? I’ve spent the last week or so reflecting on all of the recent (and not so recent) changes in my life, and thinking about how I, myself, have changed. While recognizing that I am certainly the same individual human being as I was in high school, I also feel like a “different person” in many respects. It’s a strange feeling – I’m still me, but a different me.

A casual conversation on this topic with my friend Curt (who is into music), led me to pull out my Jimmy Buffett CD collection, and I’ve been listing to them in the car all week. His music really takes me back. I can remember the various stages of life I was in when each album came out, and the music brings back memories of good times as well as stressful times. I’ve been enjoying his lyrics and melodies for over 40 years.

Can we agree that Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes is clearly the best Jimmy Buffett album?  It has really withstood the test of time for me.  I still love it, every song.  Everything may be different since 1977, but that recording endures, unchanged by time. Maybe it’s that sameness that’s the reason his songs bring up such memories for me, and why music often seems to take people back to the past.

Constancy, stability, sameness. We don’t get that too much in life. Maybe in certain foods – Oreos are pretty much the same as decades ago – but otherwise change is the rule. People, places, organizations, things, jobs, relationships, and technology – everything seems in constant flux. And it’s all speeding up.  What’s a person to do?

“It’s those changes in latitudes,
changes in attitudes nothing remains quite the same.
With all of our running and all of our cunning,
if we couldn’t laugh, we would all go insane.”

Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes – Jimmy Buffett

Jimmy is right. We have to roll with the punches.  It’s good to have the ability to laugh, to be lighthearted, despite and through life’s inevitable changes, but what can allow you to do that? What’s helping me through is placing my trust and confidence in Jesus, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit. God doesn’t change. He doesn’t forget his people or his promises, and his arm is never too short. Facing uncomfortable changes? Seek the Unchanging. I’m nobody special; God will help you too.

Take care,

Pete

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What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 8:31-9 NIV

Things Can Happen Fast – For Better or for Worse

For some reason, perhaps that I don’t share enough, Facebook has been serving up a variety of pictures from one year ago for me to share. (I haven’t shared any.) Each time I see one I think, Was that really a year ago? It seems like just the other day. Wow, a lot’s happened since then. It’s caused me to focus a little more on the passage of time and all of the recent changes I’ve been through. Most are positive.

I discussed this with two of my buddies the other day, and we all had a similar view. Each of us has faced significant and stressful issues in his personal life over the last few years – both within the family and on the job. It’s been a struggle, but each of us has made it through these hard times with a pretty positive outcome. We’ve trusted God and helped each other. (Thank you, guys.)

It’s highly encouraging to look back and see how much progress has happened in many areas of my life. I need to remember this when I face whatever crisis appears next – Things can get better. God has a plan. I’m resolving to live “in the now” more, not fearing horrible future outcomes from current crises, but rather trusting God and doing today’s tasks today. Seems to have worked in the past.

The other reason to live in the now, is that the future is uncertain. Everything may not be better next year. There might not even be a next year. None of us can even count on tomorrow. I was reminded of that a week ago as a colleague at work died suddenly of a cardiac arrest. Aged 47 and having no heart disease, he was literally completely well right up until his heart stopped for no apparent reason. It’s been shocking, sad and sobering for the many who knew him. Fortunately he placed his hope in Jesus, as does his family, and Jesus has overcome death.

The juxtaposition of these recent events, and Easter too, has made me realize how much mental energy I devote to an uncertain future (way too much) and how little I rest in God’s grace (way too little). Time to revisit my priorities. This seems like a good list: Trust God. Live life. Don’t worry. Be happy. Regard each day as a gift. Cherish my family. God, help me do that.

Pete

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I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world.
– Jesus (John 16:33 NLT)

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On the happy side, here’s a nice two-year development.  The Amaryllis I started from seed have done great!

May 2015

Same plant, April 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Concerned About Fake News? Me too. Truth Matters

There’s a lot of concern about “fake news” lately, and rightly so. Accurate news is important to us. We want to know what’s happening and why. How do events affect us? In matters as simple as local highway projects and as complex as the national economy, we seek knowledge and understanding to guide our actions. What’s my best route to the office next week? How should I invest my 401k? Truth matters.

Defining fake news broadly as reporting that is either completely fabricated, intentionally distorted, or unconsciously slanted by internal bias; I see a lot of it. And it’s not going away. The lust for power and money drives our economy and politics. (Not always at the personal level, but at the organizational level for sure.) That’s not going to change either. And every one of us has some sort of unconscious bias. So what we call the “the news” has been, still is, and will continue to be “fake news.” Deal with it.

Deal with it by understanding the situation and carefully searching for truth yourself. Examine multiple sources. Try to acknowledge your own “filters” or biases. Open your mind as best you can; it’s not that easy. Truth can be painful. Be prepared to change your mind, but once you’ve decided what’s true, then act accordingly.

Unfortunately, the more personal the truth, the more painful it is. Most people are looking for a lot more certainty about the economy and their investment portfolio than about their philosophy of life and merits of their lifestyle. They seek truth about the former, while being content with their internal fake news feed on the latter. Hey, I’ve been there.

As with actual media headlines, we can have a lot of internal fake news going on inside…
– It’s just too hard there’s no way I can quit __________.
– It’s not my fault. The problem is __________.
– I can’t do that because __________
– I have a right to live how I please. I’m only hurting myself.
– I’m this way because _________, and you need to accept me the way I am.
– It’s true for me, but not for you. There is no absolute truth.

The fake news sounds good, but the road to wellbeing and wholeness starts with searching for the truth. The truth about life. The truth about yourself. The journey is usually slow, so why not begin now?  Of course, beginning the search requires ending the internal fake news feed.

Truth exists. You can find it. Let me know if I can help.

Pete

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Wisdom Calls for a Hearing

Listen as Wisdom calls out!
Hear as understanding raises her voice!

On the hilltop along the road,
she takes her stand at the crossroads.

By the gates at the entrance to the town,
on the road leading in, she cries aloud,

“I call to you, to all of you!
I raise my voice to all people.

You simple people, use good judgment.
You foolish people, show some understanding.

Listen to me! For I have important things to tell you.
Everything I say is right,

for I speak the truth
and detest every kind of deception.

My advice is wholesome.
There is nothing devious or crooked in it.

My words are plain to anyone with understanding,
clear to those with knowledge.

Choose my instruction rather than silver,
and knowledge rather than pure gold.

For wisdom is far more valuable than rubies.
Nothing you desire can compare with it.

“I, Wisdom, live together with good judgment.
I know where to discover knowledge and discernment.

All who fear the LORD will hate evil.
Therefore, I hate pride and arrogance,
corruption and perverse speech.

Common sense and success belong to me.
Insight and strength are mine.

Because of me, kings reign,
and rulers make just decrees.

Rulers lead with my help,
and nobles make righteous judgments.

“I love all who love me.
Those who search will surely find me.

I have riches and honor,
as well as enduring wealth and justice.

My gifts are better than gold, even the purest gold,
my wages better than sterling silver!

I walk in righteousness,
in paths of justice.

Those who love me inherit wealth.
I will fill their treasuries.

“The LORD formed me from the beginning,
before he created anything else.

I was appointed in ages past,
at the very first, before the earth began.

I was born before the oceans were created,
before the springs bubbled forth their waters.

Before the mountains were formed,
before the hills, I was born—

before he had made the earth and fields
and the first handfuls of soil.

I was there when he established the heavens,
when he drew the horizon on the oceans.

I was there when he set the clouds above,
when he established springs deep in the earth.

I was there when he set the limits of the seas,
so they would not spread beyond their boundaries.

And when he marked off the earth’s foundations,

I was the architect at his side.
I was his constant delight,
rejoicing always in his presence.

And how happy I was with the world he created;
how I rejoiced with the human family!

“And so, my children, listen to me,
for all who follow my ways are joyful.

Listen to my instruction and be wise.
Don’t ignore it.

Joyful are those who listen to me,
watching for me daily at my gates,
waiting for me outside my home!

For whoever finds me finds life
and receives favor from the LORD.

But those who miss me injure themselves.
All who hate me love death.”

Proverbs 8 NLT

Worried? Stressed? “I’m Not in Charge” and Other Comforting Thoughts

I’m worried.

The country’s in trouble and the federal government’s a hot mess. America can’t seem to solve its most pressing problems. State government is no better. Gerrymandering keeps the wrong people in the statehouse making wrong decisions. And don’t even get me started on the county commission, the school board, healthcare leaders, and my church elders. Nobody is doing anything right! I’ve got to do something! It’s all so stressful trying to fix everything!

And then I remember – Actually, I’m not in charge of any of that. Other people have been given that authority, not me. My role is to vote (in the case of politics), to perform my job, and, as appropriate, to make my views known to the various leaders involved. Hopefully they will be interested, but even if not I have done my duty within the proper framework of my role.

Like seemingly everyone else in America, I’ve got some strongly held opinions on the most important issues of the day. People ought to listen! I need to make them listen! They’ve got to hear me! And when they do, they’ll come around – I know it!

But wait – Honestly, I could be wrong about some things. Maybe I’m even directionally correct, but just how practical are all of my ideas? Things may be more complicated than I understand. They often are.  Perhaps the leaders know additional details of which I am unaware, and no one’s asking me anyway. If people aren’t asking, it’s hard to answer. No one likes a busybody, and pressing the matter is irritating.

I get all that, but… THIS IS CRITICAL! I must speak up, take charge, demonstrate, fight back! There’s too much at stake, and the whole situation is going downhill fast. I can see the train wreck coming! This is going to be a disaster!

Hmm… Maybe. Maybe not. I can’t predict the future with certainty. Things often have a way of working themselves out. No guarantee of course, but it’s possible that everything is going to be just fine.

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Do you ever have conversations with yourself like that? (Please don’t let me be the only crazy Type A person here.) If so, try remembering these four things:
1 – I’m not in charge.
2 – I could be wrong.
3 – No one’s asking me.
4 – I can’t predict the future.

More importantly, also remember – there is one who is in charge of all things, who is never wrong, and who does know the future. He makes it okay for us to accept our powerlessness and admit our fallibility. You needn’t earn status with him.   He gives freely and promises us a good future.  Ask him for comfort. You’ll get it.

Take care,

Pete

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Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.

– Jesus (John 14:1-3 NIV)

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.

– Jesus (John 14:27 NIV)

 

The One Human Right

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
– Declaration of Independence 7/4/1776

People have rights! Especially Americans. Our founders got us started with the three mentioned above. Apparently they felt these were universal “human rights” given to us directly from God. Shortly after that sentence, they add in the right to change the government. In subsequent documents and decisions Americans collectively have added many more “civil rights,” that is rights granted by our government and codified in laws and regulations. Unfortunately, and as everyone in America has figured out lately, one man’s civil rights are another man’s civil obligations. Enforcing our ever-increasing canon of civil rights has required a corresponding increase in government scrutiny of and coercive power over our lives as individuals.

It’s pretty obvious that all countries don’t have the same civil rights. In a sense civil rights are elective – we choose them, or not. Not every society chooses the similarly. Crossing a border changes your “rights” as an individual. One doesn’t have the same rights in North Korea as one has in the United States, as too many unfortunate and naive travelers have discovered.

Also “right” seems to be a much over-used word these days. We often use it in casual conversation to justify self-centeredness or a sense of entitlement. Think, “I’ve got a right to ______.” (be angry, treat myself, spend my money on _____ )

It’s got me wondering, perhaps like you, what are our basic, bottom-line rights? Where do we draw the line? What’s our minimum? Do we really need or want all of these civil rights? Are our civil rights also human rights?   Really? Which rights truly come from our Creator and which have we just made up as we go along? Naturally as a follower of Jesus, I’ve searched the Bible and pondered these questions from a Christian perspective.

Honestly I can’t find too much on this. No disrespect intended to our founding fathers, but nowhere in the Bible do I read of God giving human beings the right to life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness. Nor do I see the right to be married, the right to a job, the right to healthcare, the right to privacy, or the right not to be discriminated against. There’s hardly anything on God granting us rights.

On the other hand I do see a great deal of obligation. God is pretty clear on how we should treat him, ourselves, and one another. For example, people shouldn’t steal from or murder others. Those are “human obligations,” but obligations do not create a reciprocal rights. We all have a God-given obligation not to steal, not a God-given right never to experience theft. Beyond the traditional moral code, it’s also very clear that we are to love God, love one another, and even to love our neighbors as ourselves – a tall order indeed.

That’s kind of bad news – not much in the way of rights from God, and lots of obligations that no one keeps, not even us followers of Jesus. We had better get used to tough breaks, oppression, and harm. Be it the United States, North Korea, or somewhere in between, governments are going to do what they do. People will hurt us. Bad things, even evil things, will happen to us. It’s nice if they don’t, but we’ve no right to anything else in this life.

The good news is that I did find one human right, “the right to become children of God” (John 1:12) through the work of Jesus. On the surface, it would seem more a privilege rather than a right, but God doesn’t change his mind or go back on his word. Once you belong to Jesus, there is no condemnation, no rejection, and an acceptance that cannot be lost – period. God himself grants you a life, a freedom and a joy that cannot be taken away by any government or any man.

The only human right you have is the only one you need.

Exercise your right today.

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He came into the very world he created, but the world didn’t recognize him. He came to his own people, and even they rejected him. But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn—not with a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan, but a birth that comes from God.
John 1:10-13 NLT