Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #13

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Dear Son,
Don’t wait for someone to tell you what to do…find it.

I did not discover this secret to success in a business class or book. I discovered it in a funeral home.

I had the privilege to work and live in a funeral home the summer after graduating from college. I mowed the grass, greeted people and moved a few dead bodies (that may sound cold, but so were the bodies). I had low expectations for the job. I was just killing time until I found my career. I was wrong. I had much to learn, and the funeral home was a great place to do it.

I did what I was told  – nothing more – nothing less.
“Cut the grass.” I cut the grass then waited.
“Blow off the sidewalks.” I blew them spotless then sat down and waited.
“Help me move this body.” I moved the body, washed my hands, then waited.
I was dong my job and feeling good about myself.

After a couple weeks, the funeral director came to me and said, “You are wearing me out.” I was shocked. I was a college graduate and was doing everything they asked, how could there be a problem. He continued, “I am tired of having to find stuff for you to do all day. You need to look around…walk around…there is stuff that needs to be done everywhere.”

It was like a light bulb turned on in my head. In all my years of working in restaurants and going to school, no one shared this amazing wisdom with me. I put it into practice, and it has given me great advantages over those that sit around and wait to be told what to do.

Do what you are told to do with excellence – plus look around and find things that need to be done. You will be noticed, appreciated and rewarded with greater opportunities.

One side note: when you find something to do, make sure to let them know and get approval before you do it.

“Take a lesson from the ant, you who love leisure and ease.
Observe how it works, and dare to be just as wise. 
It has no boss, no one laying down the law or telling it what to do,
Yet it gathers its food through summer and takes what it needs from the harvest.”
Proverbs 6:6-8 (The Voice)

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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #12

seek truth speak truth

Dear Son,
Seek truth. Speak truth. Love, Dad

In a world filled with lies and spin, the value of truth is ever increasing. David described our society well when he wrote, “You love evil more than good and lies more than truth.”(Psalms 52:3)

Your mother and I have made truth a high priority in our home. We also placed you in a classical, Christian school with the mission of teaching you to seek God’s truth. As you grow older, it will be up to you to put this into practice.

Jesus said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Truth leads to freedom. Lies and spin lead to a lack of trust, confusion, complications, fear and bondage.

Seek truth about God, yourself and others.  

Truth about God is found in the Bible and in the world around us. Read the Bible and pray the Holy Spirit will guide you into all truth.

Examine yourself. Self-deception is an easy trap. As St. Augustine wrote in Confessions, “Man’s love of truth is such that when he loves something that is not the truth, he pretends to himself that what he loves is the truth, and because he hates to be wrong, he will not allow himself to be convinced that he is deceiving himself. So he hates the real truth for the sake of what he takes to his heart in its place.”

Seek truth about others. Do not form an opinion about others to quickly. Do not automatically believe the word of others without proper investigation and consideration. Things are not always as they seem.

Speak truth.

God has a very high opinion of speaking truth and a very low opinion of lying. Proverbs 12:19 reads, “Truthful words stand the test of time, but lies are soon exposed.” Proverbs 6 is a list of seven things God hates and two of them are speaking lies.

Speaking truth is practical and leads to success. I have seen many lives destroyed through the lies they have told. As Sir Walter Scott wrote, “O, what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” Make a practice of speaking truth. It may not seem to be the easiest choice at the moment, but truth wins in the end.

In a world suffocating in lies, truth will breathe life and freedom. Be a leader who seeks truth and speaks truth.

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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #11

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Dear Son,
In all you do (even if it seems small or stupid), give it your all, as if you are doing it for God, not people.
Love, Dad

As you continue through school and launch out into the workplace, you will question the task and responsibilities you are given.  At times, you will feel that it is a waste of time or beneath you. You must have the proper perspective and patience.

Perspective changes everything. In order to have a proper perspective, we must understand who our boss actually is. Colossians 3:23 sheds light, “Work willingly at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.”  When we understand God is our boss, it gives dignity and elevates any task.

In life, we tend to categorize activities as either spiritual or human. We imagine that going to church or on a mission trip is spiritual but doing homework or mowing grass is just human activity. When we understand all we do is for God, nothing should be viewed as small or stupid.

You will also need patience. When you are new, you will have to prove yourself. Trust is built over time. In my own career and as I manage those in my care, I find the words of Jesus to be true, “If you’re faithful in small-scale matters, you’ll be faithful with far bigger responsibilities.” Luke 16:10

Do not let your current task or responsibilities suffer while you are waiting for the big, important stuff. Meet each task with willingness, energy and creativity. It will be noticed and rewarded.

Many times we think we are ready, but there are so many lessons to learn and endurance to build. God has great things ahead of you, but you must prepare yourself for that day. I love God’s response to Jeremiah when he felt like God was not moving fast enough, “If you have raced with men on foot and they have worn you out, how can you compete with horses?” Jeremiah 12:5

Pray that God gives you the perspective and patience to become the man of God you are intended to be.

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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #10

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Dear Son,
Ask God for wisdom and courage every morning.
Love, Dad

Your mother and I have given time and effort to provide education and example to prepare you as you journey into life.  But I am left with concern because I know how unprepared we can be for the things that we face each day. Such an array of confusing choices and difficult decision.

Our only true hope is to trust in God our good shepherd. He must provide the wisdom. We can never gather enough information. We can rarely read intentions. We can’t foresee the unintended consequences. We must ask and allow God to fill in the gaps.

“If you don’t have all the wisdom needed for this journey, then all you have to do is ask God for it; and God will grant all that you need. He gives lavishly and never scolds you for asking.” James 1:5

Wisdom alone is not enough.  You will also need God to give you the courage to do what you are to do. It is one thing to know…it is another thing to do. Many of my regrets revolve around the times I had the wisdom but not the courage to act.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Be sure to make this a prayer every morning and a priority every day.

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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #9

ask note

Dear Son,
If you don’t know…ask.
Love, Dad

Asking questions is a very important skill that will lead to success or at least survival.

When I was in college, I spent a summer working and living in a funeral home. I learned many lessons about work, life and death. One day I learned the importance of asking questions.

The funeral director asked me to cut down some dead trees along the edge of the property. He said they had planted some new trees and wanted the dead ones removed.  It seemed like a simple task and I was ready to do some “manly” work. I found some tools and headed out.
lumberjack-tree
As I approached the tree line, I encountered a dilemma.  The trees were lined up two-by-two. One new tree and one dead tree side by side. I was not sure which tree to remove. I made a decision not to go back and bother anyone with such an ignorant, non-manly questions. I was a 21-year-old man and surely I could tell the difference. So I decided to cut down the smaller, feeble trees that had no leaves. I proceeded to cut down the 20 sad-looking trees in record time.

I made my way back to the funeral home as a heroic lumberjack ready to receive accolades and another assignment.

“That was quick, let’s go take a look” said the funeral director as we walked outside.  Then he stopped in his tracks and stood silently as his face turned pale. “What did you do with all of my new trees?” he said after what seemed an eternity. “You cut down the wrong trees. What were you thinking?” I did not have an answer accept to ask for forgiveness.  I ended the day embarrassed but thankful that I did not loose my job and learned a valuable lesson.

Throughout life, I have missed many great things and made many mistakes by not asking.  But I have also opened many doors by asking. Learn to ask.

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”   Jesus in Luke 11:9

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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #8

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Dear Son,
Read Proverbs once a year. Read one chapter a day each day of the month. Start on April Fools Day.
Love, Dad

The book of Proverbs is the greatest collection of wisdom on earth. It is a collection of wisdom by Solomon, son of King David.  God gifted Solomon with wisdom above all others.

Wisdom is the art of living well. Skillfully handling what life brings you. Not acting a fool in a world filled with lunacy and traps.

The book of Proverbs is full of real life. It addresses the things in life that can be so attractive yet so dangerous: money, fame, power, wild women, wine, beer, laziness, and lying. The words of Solomon help us learn to live with justice, loyalty, love, leadership, health, prosperity, and peace. In Proverbs, we learn to live a life honoring to God.

The book of Proverbs has 31 chapters and is broken down perfectly for daily reading over a period of a month.  I suggest starting with April Fools Day…because it is so ironic. It will also make it easy to remember each year. It has not escaped me that there are only 30 days in April and there are 31 chapters in Proverbs.  I am sure you can figure out how to handle this dilemma. Whatever you do, do not miss chapter 31 especially as you search for the woman you will spend the rest of your life with. It has paid off for me.

“If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” James 1:5

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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #7

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Dear Son,
You never have a 2nd chance to make a 1st impression.
Love, Dad

In your life, you will meet many people. Meeting people and groups for the 1st time is a great opportunity accompanied by both anticipation and anxiety. If handled well, more opportunities will come into your life. If handled poorly, opportunities will shrink and complications will increase.

Here is a little list to help you navigate these 1st encounters:

  • Pray – Ask God to be with you and guide you. Ask God to give you the wisdom and power to fulfill your purpose. The story of Daniel in the Bible serves as an excellent example.
  • Prepare – Do a little research about the person or group you are meeting. Know their interest, passions, and accomplishments. You do not have to throw these facts around in the meeting (you might sound like a creeper). But it will be a useful filter to understand and communicate clearly.
  • Arrive on time. If you are running late, let them know before you arrive.
  • Shake hands firmly and make eye contact. Your handshake should not be confused with a dead fish or the Incredible Hulk.
  • Focus – Pay attention to the person and the subject at hand. Do not appear board and do not be distracted by digital devices. IMPORTANT: Never stare down at your cell phone while they are speaking to you.
  • Follow Up – After the meeting; send a hand written note (for important meetings), email or text letting them know you appreciated the time together.

If you happen to make a bad 1st impression, do not give up all hope. Do not cower in embarrassment. Do not ignore them at all future encounters. If appropriate, simply apologize and move forward. If an apology is overkill and it was just an awkward situation, treat the 2nd meeting as if it was your 1st.

“So be careful how you live. Don’t live like fools, but like those who are wise. Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days. Don’t act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do.” Ephesians 5:15-17

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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #6

dearson6Dear Son,
You only have about 4 seconds to notice her new haircut.
Love, Dad

Words are important and timing is everything.

There are certain moments in life requiring special attention and loving care. Sometimes we put too much importance on the big days: Birthday, Anniversary, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day.  These days are important, but they are not the only special moments to remember and make memorable.

Haircut Day is one of these often-ignored days. If handled correctly, it will bring joy to your loved one…and you. If ignored or handled irresponsibly, consequences may follow.

Special Note: This is not based on personal experience, but from my observation of less observant men…with less forgiving wives.

Wise ways to handle Haircut Day:

  • Upon first sight of the freshly cut or colored hair, comment bout how amazing she looks.
  • You don’t need to go on about it too much…unless it is crazy awesome.
  • Timing is the key…within 4 seconds.
  • Very important, do not let someone beat you to the compliment.

Unwise ways to handle Haircut Day:

  • Don’t ignore it. This can cut deep on so many levels.
  • Don’t say, “You look so much better.” She will worry about how she has looked for her whole life up to that moment.  She will also worry about ever achieving that level of beauty again…ever.
  • Don’t say, “Don’t worry, it will grow back.”
  • Don’t say, “Wow, you are brave.”

Haircut Day is just one example of the many moments when words are important and timing is everything. Do not hold back words of love, kindness and affirmation. They are like water to a relationship. You can use them to grow something amazing, or you can cut them off leading to dehydration.

Be alert and affirming.

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Dear Son, Words of Wisdom #5

Dear Son 5Dear Son,
Read the Bible. God’s Word will be a constant source of guidance, comfort, and strength.
Love, Dad

Nothing has made a greater impact in my life than reading the Bible. Your mother and I have made the Bible a high priority in our home and in your education. We do this because we can’t imagine what your life would be without it.

Over the next few years, you will think more about God’s will and direction for your life than you will for the rest of your life. Go to God and the Bible as a source of guidance in these times of great opportunity. I can remember being dropped off at Liberty University full of hopes, fears, and questions. I turned to the Bible in those days of growth and decision, and it made all the difference. As David said in the Psalms 119, “Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.”

Sometimes life will be dark. Times of questions and disappointment. I can remember when mom was in the hospital for a few weeks. I was not sure what was going to happen as time and answers slipped away. In the Bible, I found a God who comforts and heals. I found much comfort in reading Isaiah 41:13, “I am the Lord your God who takes you by your hand and says, Do not fear, I will help you.”

As a leader, you will become painfully aware of your weakness, but you are not alone. Our strength and wits will fail us, but God will never fail us. Turn to the stories of the great leaders in the Bible: Moses, Joseph, David, Daniel, Nehemiah, Jesus and Paul to discover how God gives them strength and comes along their sides to fight their battles and make things right. Also read the Psalms for a behind the scenes look as David finds strength through fear, attack, sickness, victory and defeat.

As you journey through life, remember to turn to God and the Bible to find guidance, comfort and strength. You will not be disappointed.

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