Jul 212016
 

Leadership and GraceGrace? Sounds like weakness, right?

The factory owner had many employees. He spent a lot of time on the factory floor checking, encouraging, advising. They were very important to him. One day his assistant informed him that one of the assembly line operators didn’t show up for work. Bill was normally a hard worker… but he had heard rumors that the man had a drinking problem. He wondered, concerned.

Shocking his assistant, he rose from his desk, pulled off his tie, tossed his suit jacket onto his chair, rolled up the sleeves of his perfectly pressed dress shirt, and trotted to his car.

He drove to Bill’s house, knocking on the door, no response. Slowly driving up and down each street in the neighborhood, he searched carefully. Finally, he saw someone hunched over, sitting on the curb at a street corner a couple of blocks away. It looked like Bill, but he wasn’t sure. Pulling the car to a stop close to the corner, he got out and sat down next to Bill. His clothes were a mess. He had vomited in the gutter and reeked of it and the alcohol that caused it.

Bill looked up, recognized his boss, and groaned in shame. “Let’s get you home,” he heard. Then he felt strong arms lifting him up, walking him to his car, getting him safely belted in. The owner walked him into his house, got him into the shower, dug around for clean clothes, brewed a pot of coffee.

The next day, the owner saw Bill on the factory floor, on time, working harder than anyone in his section. “Funny,” he thought to himself,”I’m more pleased about Bill’s performance today than any of the other employees!”

Read the real version in Matthew 18:12-14.

Grace in the workplace? But we have policies and procedures, human resources guidelines, discipline, termination. Yes. Yes we do. And they have their place.

With this short story, Jesus attempts to teach his disciples about the high value He places on each person. He teaches that the more someone falls, the more we care for them. He shows them that EVERYONE is worth dying for. He gives them yet one more glimpse of a kingdom unlike anything they’ve ever imagined. Grace? Yes. Seeing through the faults. Seeing the intrinsic value of another person. Someone worth helping.

I have been blessed by seeing colleagues blossoming and succeeding at work in ways no one thought possible. Because of grace. Yes, it’s a dirty job sometimes. Yes, they fall again sometimes. Yes, they don’t always show appreciation. And yes, living and leading through expressing grace still has its own reward.

My failures, my shortcomings, remind me every day of my need for grace. Grace extended from colleagues, from my family, from my Jesus. How can I not do likewise?

This is Part 2 of a four part series.  Part 1 is Leadership and Humility- Contradiction in Terms?

Mar 272016
 

good newsAnother sleepless night. My excuse? The neighbor’s very small dog with a very piercing bark. Incessant, all night long. Good news? Not so much. The disciples excuse? Their Savior crucified and buried. Their futures questionable. My solution? I’m up writing. Their solution? Mary, the one who had been forgiven much,  went back to the tomb. Why, I don’t know. Maybe searching for connection with the One Who knew and loved her best?

Finding Jesus missing, a series of sprints take place with Mary telling the disciples, John and Peter coming to look. Would no news have been good news? Did they think that the Jewish leaders or the Romans had done away with the body to discredit them?

Mary, grief-stricken, asks the gardener where the body has been taken so that she can retrieve it. Only when she hears Jesus say her name, does she realize that she is speaking to her Savior. Talk about Good News! She races back to the disciples, again, this time with a different story.

I was reading this account in John 20 with my kids class at church. We talked about good news. One student said, “That’s not good news! That’s freaky, good news!

While the sun is threatening to spill over the eastern edge of my valley, am I just calmly thinking of Jesus’ resurrection as good news, okay news, traditional news, old news, news I’ve head before that I’ve built resistance to?

Or, am I amazed and awestruck yet again that the Jesus story is real. That with His resurrection, He made good on His promises. That the God/man who dove headfirst into this hell of sin to save us proved that love conquers all, proved that His equality statement, God = Love, is true, proved that He had and has power over death. That our truly superhero, Captain Universe, is not only alive, but is working for us right now! He stands before the Father, and the rest of the universe and says,”My life and death walk proves my right to move my redeemed ones to SAVED status not because of what they’ve done, but because my name, and my blood, covers them.

Now that’s not good news..

That’s Freaky Good News!!

Oct 032015
 

[embedplusvideo height=”142″ width=”200″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/1jFxZvJ” standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/n-0SZYTVZks?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=n-0SZYTVZks&width=200&height=142&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep3190″ /] Lots of strong feelings this week in the wake of Thursday’s mass shooting less than a day’s drive north from where I’m sitting this morning. What a hard thing for families and friends to have their loved ones forcibly taken from them by evil. I can think of lots of words being used  in connection with this disaster- unfair, evil, justice, sickness, heartbreak, vengeance, grace,…..wait. What? Grace?

I ran into this song on the radio last night. Listened to it over and over. Shared it with some loved ones.

It’s nothing less than scandalous,

This Love that took our place.

Just call it what it is,

Call it grace. -Unspoken, Call It Grace

Yes. even for this troubled young man, even to his dying breath, the gift of salvation powered by grace, powered by completely undeserved action, could have been his.

It IS mine, every day that I choose to open my heart door to Jesus. Even on days that I fumble at the door knob and get in the way of the door swinging freely. It can be yours, today and every day, even if you can’t figure it out or even know what it means. It is yours for the wanting.

But where sin increased, grace increased all the more,   Romans 5:20 NIV.

The strange and shocking difference between our world and Jesus’ kingdom is centered in how we place value and worthiness on people.

“Although my memory’s fading, I remember two things very clearly: I am a great sinner and Christ is a great Savior.”
― John Newton, Amazing Grace

Today, as I wait for the sun to rise, I stand in shock and awe at the scandalous, reckless grace gift that saves me. And I am amazed at the secret of grace that I keep forgetting- when I value the people around me with grace in mind, I am copying Jesus and, just like he planned, can become just a little more like Him each day. Not because of me, but because of Him.

Feb 212015
 
[embedplusvideo height=”128″ width=”224″ editlink=”http://bit.ly/1AfRekp” standard=”http://www.youtube.com/v/spEtfw3LAXY?fs=1″ vars=”ytid=spEtfw3LAXY&width=224&height=128&start=&stop=&rs=w&hd=0&autoplay=0&react=1&chapters=&notes=” id=”ep2503″ /]

Have you ever messed up and thought, “How am I ever going to get out of this mess? How do I get this turned around?  I know I have. I’m not going to be talking about my mess today, but someone else’s mess.

A friend comes to you and says, “I’ve really blew it. I borrowed your mower without asking and just backed over it with my truck.” You’re thinking, “That was a BRAND NEW MOWER! I just gassed it up. I just started it once. It’s not even dirty yet!”

I hear second hand that an employee has been very critical of me behind my back. I call her into my office and ask for an explanation. She breaks down crying and said that a decision I made had upset her and she had just started to be openly critical about everything.

Coming in from working in the yard, you surprise your son taking cash from your wallet on the dresser. He desperately tries to cover up.

Made a mess of my whole life
Burned every bridge I crossed
Am I too far gone? Which way is home?
How did I get so lost?

I’m looking for a good place to turn around
And get off this road that I’m headed down
I’ve gotta find some peace of mind
Lord, send a sign somehow
I just need a good place to turn around. –Point of Grace

What environment do I create for people around me who have made mistakes? An environment of criticism, judgement, punishment, and separation? Or do I recognize the wrong deed, accept the apology, lavish forgiveness, and cultivate a renewed relationship?

Do I create a good place for others to turn around? I know Jesus does. Each time, every time. I count on it. Can others count on me for a safe place to turn around? Can I forgive and forget the past and allow others to start over? Making messes, burning bridges, lost… all of us, sooner or later, just need a good place to turn around.

 

Nov 012014
 

whale and graceJonah and the whale. Such a dramatic story! Most of us have heard the story since we were children. The big takeaway message in the book of Jonah is a shocking surprise.

Let’s pick up the story post-whale. Jonah is finally following God’s instruction to go preach His word to the city of Nineveh, a city known as a hot bed of evil. “Forty days and this city’s going down!” Jonah preached. He anticipated fire from heaven, or some other dramatic end to evil and evildoers. In his self-righteousness, he preached with vigor and passion!

Wow, what an uplifting message! So full of hope, grace,  and promise! NOT! And yet, somehow, God spoke to the people of Nineveh and they turned to Him en mass. Even the king proclaimed,

“Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence.” Jonah 3:8 NIV.

In spite of the message and the messenger, the entire city changed their focus, reaching out for something they had never experienced.

“Then God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he had compassion….   Jonah 3:10 NIV.

 “I knew you were going to do this!” Jonah complained to God. “That’s why I tried to get out of this gig in the first place! You are so full of grace and compassion! I told them they were going to die and You saved them. I’m so embarrassed. Just kill me now!”

Jonah stalked out of the city and found a bench to sit on so he could watch the city- just in case it still burst into flame. The sun burned down on him and he started to get very uncomfortable.  Suddenly, a God-powered vine grew up next to him and over his head, giving him refreshing and cooling shade! Jonah sighed. He was very happy about the vine.

Okay, you can’t tell me that God doesn’t have a sense of humor. First thing the next morning, He sent a worm to cut the vine and it quickly withered. A hot wind blew up and the sun beat mercilessly on his head and he started to feel light-headed. “Go ahead and kill me now,” he said to God once again.

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the plant?”

“It is,” he said. “And I’m so angry I wish I were dead.”

 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this plant, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight.  And should I not have concern for the great city of Nineveh, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left—     Jonah 4:9-11 NIV.

Over and over again, God teaches us. We ALL have sinned and come far short of his perfect plan for our lives. And yet, that fact fades into the background when overshadowed by His forgiveness and grace. Weak and wounded, faulty and fearful, He’ll take all comers, banishing all our history, mending our mangled lives, lifting us back up close to Him where He can patiently reshape us to look like Him. One crazy kind of love. Just sayin….

shared by Bob MacLafferty, devotional, Ukiah Valley Medical Center leadership, 9/29/2014.

Jul 192014
 

The Right BloodThe patient in the ICU lay dying, the offending unit of blood pulled from his IV too late. His body was tearing itself apart fighting an unseen enemy.*

The wrong blood…. is death.

Another patient. In the ER for just minutes, his heart  rapidly pumping his blood onto the floor through a huge gaping wound. Fast acting physicians, rushing nurses, racing laboratorians, all worked together to provide the blood that saved a life that night.

The right blood…. is life.

When Moses stretched his hand over the river, a river worshiped by the Egyptians, a river full of fish worshiped by the Egyptians, the river turned to blood. All of the fish turned belly up. The river no longer a source of life to the fertile countryside.

The wrong blood…. is death.

Some days later, Moses instructed the Israelis to kill a lamb and spread its blood above the door and on the door jambs signifying that they were God-followers. Later that night, when the death plague passed over them, they were spared.

The right blood…. is life.

Good or evil. Right or wrong. Helpful or hurtful. Life or death. As leaders, employees, parents, friends, we make choices every day. We have conversations. Will they uplift or tear down? We post on Facebook. Will it be positive and supporting or negative and destructive? We interact with children and youth around us. Will we affirm, value and safeguard or criticize, discard, and endanger?

And what about Jesus? Do I choose to minimize and trivialize His work for me? Choosing a path that leads far from Him? Or do I choose to accept His grace gift of salvation? Horribly expensive grace. Grace bought through His suicide on the cross. Grace shown when He acted out His choice of death over losing me.

it was not with silver or gold that you were redeemed, but with the precious blood of Christ. 1 Peter 1:18,19 NIV excerpt.

My hope is build on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.

Jesus’ blood…. is my life.

What right choices will you make today?

*Note that laboratory and nursing professionals across this country go to extraordinary lengths and use tiers of redundant safety mechanisms to ensure that patients receive safe blood every day, every time.

excerpted from Sunrise service sermon Ukiah 6/21/14

Aug 312013
 

Matthew 14 contains larger than life, dramatic stories of Jesus’ ministry. The miraculous feeding of more than 5000 people, starting with just a sack lunch. Wave walking across the Sea of Galilee in the middle of a storm and inviting Peter to join him. Pretty big stuff, right?

Tucked into the last several verses of the chapter, almost as an afterthought, is an additional ministry experience that most of us would probably skim right over and ignore.

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.  Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret.  And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him 36 and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed. Matthew 14:32-26 NIV.

As dramatic as the whole wave walking thing was, it only affected 12 men. When Jesus got out of the boat, the entire region turned out, bringing all their sick with them. How many were healed? Dozens? Hundreds? By what power? The power of just a touch. Just a brief connection with Jesus.

How do I affect those around me. The ones with whom I come in contact every day. In my department or walking the halls of the hospital. What healing do I bring? Is a momentary contact with me one that uplifts those around me or pulls them down?

Touching the hem of Jesus’ cloak- this is something beyond the reach of our coworkers, our friends, our family.  Jesus, the One who brings worlds into existence with a word, chooses to use our hands, our mouths, yours…. and mine, to touch those around us with healing, with encouragement, with forgiveness, with grace. Will you choose to act and to speak for Him? I pray that I will be a faithful, though imperfect, mimic, using His own power to imitate Him one day at a time.

Jun 042010
 

The woman was obviously a sinner. I mean, you could see the guilt spread all over her face. The elders pushed her into the center of the church foyer and in plain sight of the whole congregation asked the pastor to administer church discipline.  Everybody knew she had a bad reputation. Everyone had heard the stories.

She stood there. Skirt ripped. Blouse torn. Head hanging in shame. Shaking with fear.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.  When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.  At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  -John 8

“If any of you is without sin”. You mean visible, grossly immoral, socially unacceptable sin, right? The kind of sin that is so obvious in others? The kind of sin I would never partake in. “If any of you is without sin,” feel free to judge, condemn, punish, said the Son of God. The perfect Son. The holy Son. The without sin Son.

“No one, sir,” she said.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared.

And in a moment, she experiences the wonder of God’s grace gift. No condemnation, no judgment. Grace. Couldn’t earn it. Didn’t deserve it.

She stands there. Grace covered. Face filled with joy. Limbs stilled in peaceful calm.

“Go now and leave your life of sin.”

And in a moment, the Son gives her permission and power to leave it all with Him. Her past. Her reputation. Her shame. Her sin. All! Free to move forward into a new life with Him.

Jesus paid it all,
All to Him I owe;
Sin had left a crimson stain,
He washed it white as snow.

Father, give me permission and power to leave it all with You. My past. My reputation. My shame. My sin. Let me share no condemnation, no judgment, but only love with those around me.

to share 6/5/10

May 292010
 

He was a wealthy man in a wealthy city. However, instead of being popular, he was looked down on by his neighbors and fellow citizens. Not just because he was vertically challenged, but because of his occupation. He was an executive, leading a large group of finance professionals contracted with the federal government to collect revenue. Their income was based on revenue collected and so they assessed excessive amounts and even held back some of the funds collected for their own use. They were totally excluded socially and were viewed with loathing. Facebook accounts with zero friends.

From time to time, he felt uneasy about their business practices. He had heard about a religion teacher who was sharing a fresh view of God and was intrigued, especially since one of his colleagues had gone to work for this teacher. Hearing that he was making an appearance in town,  the man left his office, feeling drawn to see for himself.

The teacher was popular and had a large following, so much so that it was impossible to see him. In desperation, the man predicted the route the crowd was taking and climbed a tree, hoping to get a glimpse of him and hear his teaching. Moments later, the surging crowd paused. Startled, the man looked down to find the teacher staring up into the tree just a few feet away!  Jesus said,

“Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Luke 19

And Zacchaeus, amid the harsh stares and cruel comments of the crowd, confessed publicly what his heart had been leading him to do for some time:

“Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”

And Jesus’ reply tells us more about His Father:

“Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. 10For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.”

In a few short moments, Jesus blew right through social prejudice by declaring His  wish for a close friendship with Zacchaeus.  By simply being in Jesus’ presence, Zacchaeus responded with honest confession. Jesus, ever inclusive, not exclusive, told everyone that Zacchaeus was already a part of His family, not because of any good actions on his part, but because of an invitation he responded to. An invitation that stands open to me and to you. That’s grace, people. Just like Zacchaeus, we can’t earn it, don’t deserve it. Can’t you hear Jesus saying to the critical crowd, “People, don’t you get it? My being here- the whole point is to reconnect you to Me and to My Father, your Father! My wanting you back doesn’t depend on what you’ve done, who you’ve been, how far you’ve wandered. You are as close as a “Yes”.

Zacchaeus said “Yes” to Jesus and in that instant was affirmed as part of the family. And in that same instant, the Spirit started freely working to change him from the inside out, not to make him more deserving of God’s love, but just he wanted to look more like the One Who loved him first. Grace.

shared 5/29/10.

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