Tag Archives: Resources

The Aftermath of Life’s Unexpected Transitions

Ishmael son of Nethaniah and the ten men who were with him got up and struck down Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, with the sword, killing the one whom the king of Babylon had appointed as governor over the land.
Jeremiah 41:2 (NIV)

A year or two ago our daughter shared with us the news that the company she works for had been sold. The news caught Madison and her fellow employees by surprise. In her initial shock, she naturally wondered what this would mean for her, her employment, and ultimately her career.

In my own career I’ve had the experience of working with multiple companies who have been acquired. So, I talked Madison through what she would likely experience. “Nothing is going to change” is usually the initial mantra, followed by transitional leadership in the executive and upper management ranks. I’ve also noticed that the first year after an acquisition there is usually a natural exodus of employees looking for, and finding, other employment before they can be laid off or experience the changes they fear are coming. Cultural changes are often the first things to be noticed on the front-lines. Significant changes in structure and operations often start, if they start, about 12-18 months after the sale.

I talked through my observations with Madison and discussed her options. It was another one of those forks in life’s road that I wrote about on Friday, when one asks “Should I stay or should I go?”

In today’s chapter of Jeremiah, we read about a very different kind of transition. The chapter continues to tell of the aftermath of Babylon’s hostile takeover of the nation of Judah and the destruction of Jerusalem. Just as there is a pattern I’ve observed in what happens after a business acquisition, there was also a similar pattern to how ancient empires handled the aftermath of their successful siege victories. The King of Babylon and his army take the best and brightest captive back to Babylon to celebrate victory He leaves behind a governor and small military contingent to manage the mostly old, poor, and destitute citizens who are left in the area.

In all of the destruction, chaos, and transition there remains among those Judean citizens left a heady mixture of fear, anxiety, rage, and opportunism. A distant member of the royal line of Judah takes out a vendetta against the new governor appointed by the Babylonians. He arranges dinner with the new Governor, and then assassinates the Governor and his guard, taking the rest of the household captive.

An army officer and his men form a posse and chase after the assassin and his men. They rescue the captives, but the assassin and most of his crew escape. Realizing that they could easily be held accountable by the King of Babylon for allowing the governor’s assassination, the army officer and his men make plans to flee to Egypt. Talk about a whole lot of chaos.

This morning I’m thinking about transitions that I’ve experienced along my life journey that were out of my control. Transitions in family circumstances, unexpected tragedies and death, transitions in church leadership, transitions of companies for whom I worked, and transitions in organizations with whom I was involved. Transitions are a natural part of life. When they come suddenly and unexpectedly they create a certain disorientation among those effected. With the disorientation there can be all sorts of chaos and crazy-making. It’s that disorientation and subsequent chaos Jeremiah chronicles in today’s chapter.

Personally, I’ve learned that managing these times of unexpected transition requires drawing on faith and spiritual resources I’ve built up along my journey. First, I draw upon my faith that I can trust God amidst my present circumstances. God has led me thus far, and there’s no reason to stop trusting that God will continue to lead me because of an unexpected curve in the road. Second, I have confidence in what I’ve been promised. God is not going to leave me or forsake me. I can cast all my anxieties and fears on God and trust God’s plan for my life journey. Third, I have good companions who will walk with me, listen to me, encourage me, and remind me of what I know to be true even when I’m tempted to forget.

I can’t always control life’s transitions, but I can develop the spiritual and relational reserves necessary to handle the transitions when they come.

Driven to Distraction

They sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner.
Nehemiah 6:4 (NRSV)

For the last couple of years our local gathering of Jesus’ followers have been encouraged to pray about and choose a word that will be a theme for their year. My word for this year is “focus.”

Focus has been an interesting theme as I celebrate my half-century in this life journey, as an empty nest offers increased margins of time and resources, and as I am meditating on the reality of being on the downhill side of this life journey. I am ever and increasingly mindful that while my margins may have expanded in the micro sense, in the macro sense I am working with slowly depleting resources of time and energy.

We’re now almost half-way through the year and I’ve been spending some moments meditating on how my focus is going.  I have to confess that it’s not good. As I think about how I need and desire to focus my time, energy, and resources I find that life serves up a never-ending stream of distractions. I am so easily distracted in a million different ways. Between social media, technology, entertainment, television, games and events there is an endless supply of good and fascinating things on which I can focus my time and attention.

In today’s chapter, Nehemiah is desperately trying to focus on the project he’s been called to complete. He wants to get the wall rebuilt and the gates in place. He’s close to having the job done. Now, he is repeatedly harassed by critics and enemies who want to meet with him. He’s attacked with slander and gossip which requires him to address the lies and rumors. His life is threatened and he’s urged to sequester himself in the temple to be safe. Distractions. Distractions. Distractions.

Nehemiah’s response to these distractions was consistent. First, he took everything to God. He prayed for the work on which he needed to focus, and asked for God’s strength. He handed his troubles and enemies over to God and relegated justice to higher authority. And, he stayed focused on the work.

At the end of today’s chapter:

So the wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month Elul, in fifty-two days. And when all our enemies heard of it, all the nations around us were afraid and fell greatly in their own esteem; for they perceived that this work had been accomplished with the help of our God.

Today, I’m thinking again about my focus. The great thing about having a theme or a goal is that it becomes a point of reference. I may get off course or distracted, but simply having “focus” as my word of the year keeps calling me back from distraction. I can’t do anything about what’s past, but I have a new day, a clean day in front of me. And, on June 21 in Iowa, it’s a long day.

Time to focus.

Social Media, Rights, and Responsibility

Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.
2 Timothy 2:23-24 (NIV)

Just yesterday morning my daughter was sitting in my office and we were discussing how much life has changed in the past ten years. We were musing on how life has changed simply in our circumstances, but I also marvel at how social media and technology have changed the landscape of our daily lives.

Like everyone else, I have my own thoughts and opinions about all sorts of topics. I am also a huge proponent in every American’s first amendment right to free speech. In ten years I’ve published over 3,300 posts on this blog sharing my thoughts on all sorts of topics. In many ways social media is like the soap box that sat on the town square back in the day. Anyone and everyone was welcome to stand up and have their say to any who wanted to listen. Hear, hear. That’s freedom. God bless America.

However, I am increasingly aware that instead of one soap box sitting in a corner of the public square, today everyone has their own soap box within easy reach. Whereas I once had to make a point of going to the town square if I wanted to listen to what others had to say, today I can’t look at my phone without being barraged.

I find that as I read posts on Facebook and Twitter, as I read comments to blog posts and on-line news articles, I am struck at the vehemence, the snarkiness, the disrespect, and lack of meaningful discourse that takes place in this most public arena. The color of Christmas cups blows up into national debate. Jabs and insults are hurled non-stop from behind the disguise of pseudonyms and avatars. So much time, energy, and emotion gets wasted on things of such little consequence.

That’s the thing we once taught our children about rights: rights come with responsibilities. Because I have a right to my opinion and my say in the public square of social media doesn’t mean that it is beneficial for me, or anyone else, that I entangle myself in the endless petty conflicts, arguments, debates, and  that erupt ceaselessly in my feed.

Three times in today’s chapter, the wise mentor Paul gives first century advice to his protegé Timothy which rings with 21st century relevance:

  •  Keep reminding God’s people of these things. Warn them before God against quarreling about words; it is of no value, and only ruins those who listen.
  • Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly.
  • Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.

This morning I am mulling over the fact that I am more and more willing to have meaningful, face-to-face discourse and debate with respectful individuals who share very different opinions than my own. I am less and less willing, however, to waste my time and energy entering the ceaseless petty quarrels in the arena of social media.

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Giving Myself…to What?

Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.
1 Timothy 4:15 (NIV)

There are only so many hours in a day, and there are only so many days allotted to us in our life journey. Each day we give ourselves away. We invest our time, our energy, our thoughts, and our resources towards different pursuits without giving much thought to it. To what am I giving myself?

I was struck this morning by Paul’s admonition to Timothy to “give himself wholly” to use of his spiritual gifts and his work among the Jesus followers in Ephesus. The goal, Paul told him, was his progress.

This morning I find myself thinking about the natural relationship between what I give myself to and what is being produced in my life. Where am I making progress? What is the evidence of that progress? Am I progressing in ways that are at all worthwhile?

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Featured image: kevandotorg via Flickr

God and His Resources

paul before felix

At the same time he hoped that money would be given him by Paul, and for that reason he used to send for him very often and converse with him. After two years had passed, Felix was succeeded by Porcius Festus; and since he wanted to grant the Jews a favor, Felix left Paul in prison. Acts 24: 26-27 (NRSV)

Over two years Paul was imprisoned by Governor Felix. Over two years he lived under house arrest. No crowds got to hear Paul speak. Paul did not get to journey from town to town speaking to and encouraging fellow believers. For over two years Paul basically had an audience of one Roman Governor and his wife who would occasionally send for him to have a conversation.

I’ve learned along life’s road that God’s ways are not always our ways. We tend to look at Paul’s imprisonment and think what a waste to have Paul languishing under house arrest when there were so many other things he could have been doing with his time and talents. I wonder if Paul thought that too, or if he was content knowing that he was right where he was supposed to be and doing what he was supposed to do.

Sometimes we have to trust that God knows what He is doing with the use of His resources.

Sometimes I Need a Lecture from Doc

PhysiciaOnce again there was a battle between the Philistines and Israel. David went down with his men to fight against the Philistines, and he became exhausted. 2 Samuel 21:15 (NIV)

I had my annual physical earlier this month. My doctor has been my family’s physician since I was about 10 years old and Doc was a young man fresh out of medical school. The first time I saw him was when a large sliver from my the wooden skateboard, which I had received for my birthday, lodged deep in my thigh and required a little surgical extrication and a lecture about being careful with my toys. That was almost 40 years ago. Now he’s lecturing me about fiber, cholesterol and prostate health.

One of the things I love about Doc is his blunt and honest way of giving it to you straight. He doesn’t mince words, though he may add a little colorful verbiage. Once when were discussing a minor procedure I needed done he simply said. “Get ready. It’s gonna hurt like hell.” It did. Two years ago I wrenched my knee in a waterskiing accident at the lake. He stormed into the examining room after reading my chart. His first words were an exclamation spoken so loud the the people the waiting room had to have heard it: “WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?! WATERSKIING?! AT YOUR AGE?!

Thanks, Doc. Nice to see you, too.

He was half-joking with me, but only half. The truth is, every season of the journey comes with its own threats and opportunities. I can’t do some of the things I could do physically ten years ago. At the same time, experience and maturity afford me the opportunity to do some things better than I ever have before. C’est la vie. I might as well embrace it because I can’t change it.

One of the things I appreciate about the story of David is that we get to follow his story from a young boy to an old man. Unlike many biblical stories in which a life span can be reduced to a sentence or two, we have two entire books and part of a third that are dedicated to his biography. We started with the young shepherd boy slaying Goliath with his sling. In today’s chapter, David discovers that he can’t wield the sword like he once could. His men, speaking like predecessors of my family doctor, gave King David their own “WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?!” lecture. He’d reached that age. It was time for him to hang up his sword.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the threat of early retirement. On the surface it may seem contradictory with today’s post about about not trying to overdo things once you reach a certain age. As with so many things in this life journey, truth is found at the point of tension between the two extremes. I’m discovering that wisdom lies in channeling your available resources in the most constructive, efficient and effective ways. Where you best channel them changes at different waypoints on your life journey.

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Relational Investment Choices

Friends talk
(Photo credit: Ruud Raats)

Do not speak to fools,
    for they will scorn your prudent words.
Proverbs 23:9 (NLT)

I have a retirement account and a person who manages my investments in that account. Each month I check the account to see how it is performing. I need my administrator to make wise investment choices for me. If it is invested well and I get a good return on my investment, the compounding interest will give me even bigger yields and provide for my future retirement.

As I get older I find that I look at relationships much like I do financial investments. The days roll by and I realize that I have limited time on this Earth. I want to invest my time, energy, and resources in relationships that are life giving and produce good results for both me and the other person in the relationship. My financial advisor would steer me away from foolish stock or mutual fund choices that would not be in my best interest. In the same way, I find myself evaluating the veritable plethora of choices before me regarding those with whom I spend my time and relational energy. 

I have no time for fools. That’s like throwing money into the stock of a company headed into bankruptcy. I find myself wanting to invest in a diverse portfolio of relationships with my limited means. Some relationships are sure things and safe investments. Investing in my wife and kids and family are no brainers and I need to invest heavily in those. Wise friends are like well performing funds which are solid, dependable and offer a good return on investment. I need to direct a good chunk of my relational investment in those. I also want to find those relationship investments which are diamonds in the rough. Like penny stocks, it may not seem like there’s much there, but a little investment could pay off substantially for both parties and bring great reward.

If you study Jesus relationship choices you’ll find that He made very clear and even harsh decisions about whom He would invest time, energy and resources. He rejected some who wanted to follow Him. He said “I have no time for you.” He chose three among his closest followers to pour a greater investment of Himself into, and in doing this He created hard feelings among the twelve. In his final three years of life on this Earth Jesus made conscious choices, as the eldest son of his earthly family, to pull investment out of his earthly family and pour it into a diverse portfolio of risky relationships. His twelve closest followers can be described as risky penny stocks at best, but Jesus saw the future yield His investment in them would produce.

This morning I’m asking myself these questions:

  • In whom am I investing my time, energy and resources (emotional, relational, and spiritual as well as financial)?
  • What foolish relational investments have I made which are draining my resources and leaving me with a personal deficit? From whom do I need to pull my relational investment away?
  • Who would it be wise for me to put more relational investment into? How can I make that happen?
  • Have I fallen into the trap of spreading my relational resources so thin across so many relationships that I can’t possibly manage it all well? Is it time for me to adjust my relational portfolio, make some tough choices and bring it into a manageable level?

[An index of all Tom’s chapter-a-day posts covering every book and chapter]