Parable:

Not that long ago, in a city near you, Pastor Jake Brown was in a car wreck. Before medics could save him, Jake died.

To his surprise, Jake woke up in a beautiful meadow covered in green grass, with fruit trees of every kind as far as the eye could see. The ripe, juicy fruit covered the ground. There were apples, oranges, pears and figs. Any fruit Jake could imagine was there.

Walking around the charming forest, Jake discovered that the meadow was full of people from around the world. Every size, race and religion were well represented. Seeing all the people, Jake thought “This must be Heaven. After all, it truly is a land of beauty and abundance.” Although, Jake noticed something very odd. Thinking to himself, “if this was Heaven why does everyone look so sad and grumpy?” Then, Jake observed that all the people in the meadow had no elbows. “How peculiar” he thought. Then, he saw that no one could pick up the fruit to eat it. “No wonder they are so grumpy. I’d be grumpy too!”

Walking up to one of the men in the meadow, Jake asked, “Excuse me sir, is this Heaven?” “Hell!” the man grouched. “Well there’s no reason to swear at me, it was just a question.” Jake said in bewilderment. “No!, this is not Heaven, this is Hell!” the man snapped. “How awful,” Jake thought. “Hell is spending eternity wanting and craving something you cannot have.”

At that very moment, a blinding white light flashed. In the blink of an eye, Jake was swept away to another meadow. This meadow was lush and green with trees full of all kinds of fruit. Fruit covered the ground, just like the last meadow. Looking around Jake noticed that there was a big difference. Everyone in this meadow was exceedingly happy and joyful.

All were singing and worshipping as they walked through the tall green grass. “This must be Heaven!” Jake exclaimed. With that, another blinding light flashed, and Jake heard a woman’s voice… “Pastor Brown, Pastor Brown, are you with us?”

Suddenly, Jake was surrounded by noise and commotion and flashing lights above him. Blinded by the lights, Jake realized that he was on a gurney in a hospital rolling down the hallway. Nurses, Doctors and Paramedics were rushing him to emergency surgery.

Waking up in a hospital bed the next day, Jake wondered if the meadow was just a dream? A few weeks later, Jake was telling his best friend Barney about what had happened in the meadows.

Jake asked, “if one was Hell, the other must certainly be heaven, right?” Curiously, Barney answered, “So in this Heaven, all the people must have elbows, right?” to Barney’s dismay, Jake answered “The people were all the same, except for their overflowing joy. No one had elbows in Heaven either.” Barney blurted out, “How can that be? Everyone had to be hungry too?!”  “That’s just it Barney.” Jake replied, “No one seemed hungry in Heaven at all. Everyone was picking up the fruit and feeding each other.”

The Moral of the Story….

TRUST – A Reason to Believe

When we are surrounded by people we trust, people who are looking out for our needs and not their own. we are blessed to flourish and grow without fear, doubt and want; bringing God’s Joy, Peace and Love to All.

Based on the Allegory of the Long Spoons, attributed to Rabbi Haim of Romshishok, as well as other sources.

Devotion

Love with COMMITMENT

“Never let go of loyalty and faithfulness. Tie them around your neck; write them on your heart. If you do this, both God and people will be pleased with you.”

Proverbs 3:3-4

Would your friends, family and loved ones describe you as Devoted? How would you define Devotion in others? Is it only about love, friendship and relationships? Can we be Devoted to someone we have never met?

According to the dictionary, Devotion is all about being loyal, faithful, true, staunch, steadfast, constant, committed, and dedicated. We can add to this the emotionally driven Devotion of someone who is loving, affectionate, caring, attentive, warm and passionate. So, technically, a Devoted person is loving with commitment. Makes me think of the “Boy Scouts” pledge. All that’s missing is being joyful. Can we be Devoted without Joy?

In my research, it surprised me to find that a root word for Devotion is vow. Makes perfect sense. After all, aren’t our marriage vows all about love and commitment -Devotion? Hopefully with a little bit of Joy sprinkled on top! Sadly, it seems, commitment has been eliminated from the practice of our marriage vows, leaving only a contract that can be broken at the first sign of trouble. Recently celebrating our forty-fourth wedding anniversary, my bride would probably tell you there were plenty of troubled times that tested our marriage and our commitment. It was only our Devotion to each other, and to God, that carried us through the storms.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

Proverbs 4:23

When we decided to get married, it was important to both of us to not follow the burgeoning divorce trends that have dominated our world today. With that in mind, we decided to make our marriage vows a covenant with God. The covenant made us both accountable to God, positioning Him as the ultimate arbitrator for all our impasses. When our Devotion to each other would wain in the sight of trouble, our Devotion to God would give us strength to persevere. He always showed us a clear path forward.

So, it seems to me that Devotion has another characteristic: Accountability. Not so much being held accountable, as just knowing that someone is watching.

Throughout my career, it has been my joy and my honor to work with some very Devoted people. These experiences have bolstered my belief that Devotion to a cause, idea, or group of people is a cornerstone of all success in business, organizations or relationships. Without Devotion, it is simply too easy to bail out and move on to something new.

“Never let loyalty and kindness leave you! Tie them around your neck as a reminder. Write them deep within your heart. Then you will find favor with both God and people, and you will earn a good reputation.”

Proverbs 3:3-4

In one of my first roles working for a Fortune 500 Company, it was my pleasure to work with two of these leaders in a small division that had recently been acquired by a Global company with annual revenues of $40-$50 Billion. These two leaders were the entrepreneurial team that built the company that had been acquired. Formerly the CEO and COO of their own company, they were now Executive Vice Presidents of the division that was created out of their former company. Like most successful acquisitions, the parent company had worked hard to keep the management team together, along with most of the employees.

While now a small division in a huge company, the day to day operations were still very independent of the home office. The separation from the corporate offices of over two thousand miles seemed to strengthen the entrepreneurial spirit. Instead of dissolving it as many believed might happen; the strength and resolve of these two leaders kept the division intact and growing as a mostly independent entity. Well, at least in the beginning.

When faced with an insurmountable force growing up, my father would always say “Where does an Elephant sit? Anywhere he wants to”, he would chuckle. After years of contemplation, my Dad’s comment always served to remind me of the sheer power of size, making me cautious of Elephants and Gorillas in my path. Well, it wasn’t long before the corporate elephant came to sit on our little division.

Complaining about difficulties in communication, and the maverick operations of the division and its leaders, Corporate had decided to shut down the operation and move the business to the corporate headquarters where it would be simpler to manage (control). Truth be known, it was more about the power of adding forty plus jobs to the Senior VP’s direct reports at corporate, giving her more power and clout amongst her peers. Sadly, elephants can be people; with a lot of reports as well.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Matthew 6:21

All of us were shocked and confused, especially our two leaders. After all, we were not only meeting milestones, we were blowing them away at every step. As entrepreneurs oft times do, our leaders looked at the irrational decision of corporate as a huge mistake. It was. However, the bigger the elephant, the more times it seems to sit down in its own dung heap.

Our two leaders had already “cashed in” when selling the business. Both could have sat by and watched headquarters shut down the division. Both had been paid well for their parts of the company and the move would free them to pursue other interests. Not these two. Instead, their devotion to the people that helped them build the company, fueled their passion to fight back and stop the demise of the business they had all built together.

“In all things I have shown you that by working hard in this way we must help the weak and remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

Acts 20:35

A call was made to corporate that resulted in a one-shot attempt to make our case to the powers that be. The next few weeks taught me so much about leadership, business and Devotion, that it probably warrants an article, or possibly even a book, of its own. The only word that describes the two leaders is Devotion. Clearly driven by their love and commitment for a group of employees that had worked together as a team, elbow to elbow to build the company. Quietly, everyone watched in clear anxiousness  as the management team worked sequestered in a conference room day after day until the corporate heads showed up to render their decision. A decision that, quite frankly, had probably already been made.

Prior to the day of decision, the time in the conference room (9-5 every day for weeks) was spent analyzing, arguing, dreaming and planning. One PowerPoint after another, spreadsheets stacked to the ceiling exposing every miniscule aspect of past, present and projected business. Each night the team would go home, say hi to their family, eat dinner, and then jump right back into planning for the discussion the next day. Looking back, it always reminds me of what it must have been like to be in the “War Room” with Patton or Churchill. Our leader’s passion and Devotion drove all of us to deliver our absolute best.

Well, we won. Not a timid victory, but a victory that is still talked about today. This little group of entrepreneurs took on the $40 Billion Elephant. Standing under the looming shadow of that huge pachyderm’s posterior we shouted…

“You Can’t Sit Here!”

An unexpected result from the weeks in the conference room was the unshakable unity and resolve of the management team. Armed with all the knowledge and understanding forged in the planning sessions, our team had the facts and were overflowing with passion full of Devotion to push back any doubts or argument. This victory was realized not through strength or power.

It was won only by sheer Devotion. Devotion of the leaders and the Devotion of the people working with them.

Loyalty to a fault? Well, maybe in the eyes of an Elephant.

“God blesses us, not for ourselves, …

 …He blesses us so that we may bless others”.

Always Love! Love God, Love People!

VICTORY

“There Is No Victory Without A Battle!

“With God, There Is No Victory Without Surrender!

So many times, it seems we are tangled in struggle. Fearful we will never see the light of day. Victory is a fleeting hope, fading with every confrontation. Have you been there? Caught in a relentless battle that drains every part of your will to win? A battle leaving you mired in a puddle of doubt and uncertainty. Somehow, we persevere. As Christians we know it’s when we have nothing left, God is all we need.

When we are vulnerable, that’s when God is strong!

Scripture tells us that with God, all the problems and barriers thrown in our path, will fortify us and make us stronger, strengthening our faith. All the while, God works to build our character preparing us for the challenges and tough times. Walking in faith and experiencing God’s favor builds our trust in God, our surrender and obedience builds His trust in us.

There is no growth without friction!

The next time you are overwhelmed with trouble, or hard times, be thankful, and know that with God, you are getting better, stronger!

Think of how our bodies were created to deal with stress and injury. Getting off the couch, you grab a shovel, and head to the backyard for some Gardening. Typically, what is the first thing that happens? Blisters!

Just saying the word brings pain. You work hard all day long to provide some food or beauty, and what’s the result? Your hands and knees are covered in those bubbles just under your skin. If one pops, you know the pain that follows. In addition to the blisters, the muscles throughout your body feel like you just played a game of Football, and you were the Football!

Why?

You’ve changed your routine and started using your hands and body for physical labor. Your body is simply protecting you from doing major damage. While the painful blisters and muscles slow you down for healing, your body is recreating itself to endure your new activities in the Garden. God never promised there wouldn’t be pain. Instead, God designed our bodies to become what we need them to be going forward, to handle the task at hand. The circumstances of our lives are no different. Sure, there are times when we feel like we can’t take one more step; that there is no clear path to a good ending. Like the blisters, sometimes the pain is unbearable.

In my career there were so many times that it felt as if everything in my life was working against me. Trouble and strife at work would be followed by nights full of family discord and friction. Day after day, night after night, a kick in the teeth followed by a punch in the stomach. The conflicts would wear on me until it seemed there was no way to climb out of the muck and mire. In prayer, God always led me to hang on. Not with immediate answers to prayer. The seas never parted, nor did angels herald my deliverance. Instead, it always felt like God simply had his arm around me saying; it’s going to be okay. The same way my dad would comfort me after losing a ball game. No promise of victory, no excuses for what happened. Just a simple hug full of comfort.

That was all it took to not give up. Slowly, God changed my life with one small victory after another. God would go to work knocking down barriers and changing hearts while lighting my path. The successes were so small sometimes, they were hard to see. It was only when looking back at the steps of my life that God’s guidance and protection became crystal clear.

Through it all, it was those events, the tough ones. The unbearable times when it was the hardest to hold on. Those were the seasons that always seemed to create the best parts of my life. It was within all the strife and conflict; my biggest blessings were born. 

Several years ago, it was God’s plan for me to experience Brain surgery and the extensive recovery that follows.

After a God filled trip to the Emergency room of the Mayo Clinic Hospital and a miraculous surgery to remove a brain bleed, it was time to learn to use my hands and walk again. So off to a rehabilitation/therapy clinic. It was my first time to be transported from one medical facility to another by ambulance. The trip helped me realize just how much the surgery had altered my ability to function normally. Simple tasks like walking or using my hands were now an ordeal that needed focus and concentration. At times, the most intense focus couldn’t move a hand or a leg.

Sitting in the bed that would be my new home for the next few weeks, my thoughts were flooded with questions and concerns. Would my life ever be normal again? Were walkers, wheelchairs and scooters going to be my new mode of transportation? How would my wife cope with an invalid? Scary is too small of a word to describe my anxiety.

Then, the door to my room swung wide open. In walked this kind but authoritative nurse. Turned out, she wasn’t a nurse at all. Announcing that she was the lead therapist on my case she asked, “What brings you here?” Scurrying around the room, she proceeded to organize everything in my room to make it more efficient for me.

After listening to a brief recap of my story. She walked up to the side of my bed, looking me in the eyes and taking my hand, she said, “My name is Betty, and don’t you worry about a thing. It’s my job to make sure you walk out of here as if you never went through surgery. And, you should know, I’m pretty good at my job.”

It felt like the weight of the world had been lifted off me, allowing me to roll over and sleep like a baby.

Even with all my experience staying in Hotels and Hospitals through the years it was always a little weird sleeping in a strange bed. Especially in a hospital. After all my time in the hospital, it was getting easier to get some real sleep. Still, nervously waking up as the sun was peeking through the shades, thoughts of my first day in rehab filled my head.

The door to my room flew open and in with a flood of sunlight walked Betty. “Good Morning! Are you ready to get out of here yet? We’ve got a busy day planned for you!”

In wonder, my first question was, “How long do you think it’ll take to re-train the muscles in my Hands and Legs? “Ha!” she exclaimed with a big grin. “Sugar, rehabilitation has nuttin’ to do with muscles, ‘cept maybe the muscle between your ears.”

Rehab is all about faith. Faith in your ability to walk, not faith in your muscles.” She went on to explain. “When you sit down, do you think about your butt? Do you focus on how your leg muscles are bending your knees?” Almost preaching now she continued, “Do you even wonder if the chair will hold you? Heck no! You just sit down.”

“That’s how you will walk out of this place.” Oozing confidence she continued. “When you walk through that door, you’re gonna be thinking about hugging your bride and kids, not your next step! Now, let’s get this party started!”

With my new understanding of the power of faith in things unknown and unseen, it was only a few weeks later we were saying our goodbyes while walking out the door to hug my wife and kids.

While that experience was horrific at so many levels, it taught me that it is the friction in life that strengthens our faith. Every time we have a victory, small or large, we are emboldened to take a step of faith again. Each time we step in faith, our belief grows. Our Faith is strengthened, and we trust that God will cover and protect us. God uses our faith and trust to show us that He loves us, and He will always be there. Like sitting in a chair, eventually our faith becomes complete, unquestioning trust in God, and His promises. Like the blisters, God gives us what we need to persevere.

God knows your pain. Like any loving Father, He would do anything to eliminate your agony. Your body uses pain to slow you down while building your new body. In the same way, God will slow you down with the pain and frustrations of life. Not to hurt or punish you. God uses our pain to make us stronger, more resilient. God created us to become stronger and more resistant through tough times. Always remember that we are conquerors and that when God is in it, there is no limit. Have faith in God; listening for his Still, Quiet voice for direction, and Persevere!

“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” -James 1:4

There is no victory without first fighting a battle. With God, there is no victory without surrender. Surrendering all to God, giving Him your complete and unconditional trust. It is in our complete surrender that we find God’s Grace and Courage.

…Courage, Purified like Silver in the Fires of Surrender & Humility

…Courage, Strengthened Like Steel in the Furnace of Struggle

…Courage, Polished Through the Friction of Strife, Like a Pearl

ENCOURAGEMENT

“Be Nice to People On the Way Up!

You Might see Them On the Way Back Down…”

As a high school dropout who never went back to school, my life has been abundantly blessed in so many ways, even without a “sheepskin” hanging on my wall. My many blessings included numerous Mentors who believed in me and shared with me things that weren’t taught in school.

“Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing.”

1 Thessalonians 5:11

At the ripe old age of nineteen, my life was not like my friends who were still struggling with school, girls and part-time jobs. Instead, due to the trust of my first mentor, Jack, my life was exploding with opportunity and prosperity. Personally, God had blessed me with the love of my life, who would become my bride of over 40 years.

Working in a warehouse job after dropping out of school, except for meeting my soon to be bride, my prospects seemed bleak. Until Jack.

Jack was a classic ‘50-‘60’s era salesman that had worked hard and smart all of his life in the record (music) business. You know, what people call “vinyl” today. When we first met; Jack was the national sales manager for a fledgling distribution company working to disrupt the industry. In the early 1970’s this little company had the foresight to implement computer-based stock control for automated re-ordering of inventory. Cleary their vision was genius. Think Amazon level controls in the 1970’s! Well, their business exploded, with Jack at the helm of the sales force.

In those days, Jack was always out walking around in the warehouse. It seemed when he wasn’t traveling, he was in the warehouse. Not the front office. That’s how we got to know each other. He always impressed me with the genuine interest that he showed in the people working “in the back”. Jack seemed to take a liking to me when he learned about my love of music.

It really shocked him one day when our conversation turned to my appreciation of classic musicals. Especially “The Music Man”, Jack’s favorite. Telling Jack how the movie had inspired me to play trombone, Jack exclaimed, “That record paid for my first convertible!” From that point forward, we were buddies. An event, and friendship, that would wonderfully bless my life.

One day Jack called me into his office. Thinking the worst, my mind went through a detailed recall for anything that might jeopardize my job. Nothing came to mind.

Jack always had a good poker face, however, this time there was a crack of a smile coming through as he said, Do you like working here?”

Well, that didn’t help my anxiety. “Yes”, I said, with a quiver in my voice. He continued, “We have done an extensive evaluation of you.”

My lips must have been trembling as well, but that crooked smile on his face had me puzzled. Could he really enjoy firing someone this much?

Jack went on to say, “With your work ethic, and obvious love for music, we believe you would make an excellent sales representative for our company.”

His smile was now ear to ear as he went on to say “We have an opening in our Western territory and would like to offer you the position. “

The feelings that exploded inside of me were intense. Doing everything possible not to cry. Jack’s belief and trust were one of the kindest things anyone has ever done for me.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed;”

2 Corinthians 9:8

Just think, while most of my friends were still going to school; this high school dropout, at the age of nineteen, would have a company car, expense account and a salary. No more punching a time clock! Above all, was this wonderful feeling of being trusted! Trusted to represent a multi-million-dollar company and trusted to get the job done. Not only by the mucky-mucks high up in the company, but, more importantly, trusted by Jack.

My relationship with Jack quickly morphed from casual friend to Mentor-Protégé. Jack took me under his wing teaching me the core of my business knowledge. Simple things like what to eat for breakfast, and how to eat with customers. Complex things like how to read a spreadsheet. Through his patience and kindness, Jack taught me things no one else could. Today, most of my business knowledge is traceable to, and started with Jack.

One of the many lessons that Jack taught me paved the way for so many great relationships as a Mentor, and as a Protégé. One day, as we were calling on a giant discount retailer, Jack led me to walk right past the office and all the way back to the warehouse at the very end of the building.

On our way Jack said, “Always remember, get to know the people in the back, as well as, if not better than, the people in the front office. From time to time you’ll need their help. And, in my experience, they’ll rarely let you down.”

Looking back, that simple statement, guided the steps of my career. From that day forward most of my time was spent in the back warehouse instead of the front office of my customers. Oft times it made me think of Jack. Albeit, Jack probably would have told me to focus on the task and quit daydreaming.

One day, several years after working with Jack, God and my career led me to a small technology company in Minneapolis while my wife and kids stayed on the east coast to finish out the school year. The company had a phenomenal plan for self-education on their products. With my family so far away, there was ample time at night to work on the training. As a result, I spent night after night, alone in the office, “schooling” myself.

One night, a recruit named Bruce showed up. Looking like a direct descendant of Paul Bunyan, this burly guy from the woods of Northern Minnesota had no clue about computers – nor technology. He just needed a job to provide for a growing family of his own.

My first reaction to Bruce was to ignore him. Maybe he’d just go away, taking his many hunting stories with him. However, Jack’s “people in the back” lesson kept gnawing at me like one of Bruce’s bear stories. After a while the two of us began nightly meetings. Our goal? Teach Bruce enough to pass the employment test and as much as we could about computers and technology.

We both passed the test and went our separate ways. For me, my career with the company blossomed. It seemed that almost instantly, my wife and family had joined me in our new house, and the company had moved me into management roles. With all that was happening, Bruce was not on my radar screen. Other than an occasional lunchroom encounter, our paths rarely crossed.

As the years went by, the company promoted me to the position as a Regional Sales Manager with an inside sales team of ten to twelve reps. Working to hit our sales quota every month kept me focused on my territory on the East Coast. Bruce worked in the West, so we rarely saw each other. While we both went to work in Minneapolis, we now worked in different time zones.

One day, my boss asked me to change territories. It seems the West Coast was in turmoil and sales were plummeting.  At the core of the turmoil? You guessed it. Bruce. My number one job. Get rid of Bruce! In talking with everyone from the President of the company, to the sales reps on the floor, they were all saying the same thing: Get rid of Bruce!

From the stories that the team was telling me, Bruce was intimidating everyone in the company. Everyone except me. He always treated me with exceptional respect. Those days working late together in the beginning, set an early relationship based in trust. It was that trust that led me to talk with Bruce and not just let him go.

There we sat, eyeball to eyeball. My goal was to understand what was going on with Bruce; knowing that he was better than what people were telling me. Starting our meeting and asking Bruce to envision my hand around his neck and me holding him over a deep abyss. He looked at me with unexpected terror in his eyes.

Then, looking Bruce square in the eyes asking…

“Do you want me to let go?”
“Everyone in this building wants me to let go of you.”
“What do You want me to do, Bruce?”

He responded with stories of mistreatment and verbal abuse. Then almost begging, he told me how much he needed the job.

Building on our bond of trust, together we worked out a plan for him to stay. He was to build a territory in the Canadian territories that had never bought a single product from the company. In my experience, when people are put on a performance plan, they usually take the time to find a new job. Or, occasionally, they hunker down and get back on track. That’s what Bruce did. Within a year, that territory was consistently in the running for the number one territory in the region. Kudos to Bruce for persevering. By that time, most had forgotten the chaos. Funny what success can do to bad memories.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another…”

John 13:34

Bruce is just one of the many blessings during my corporate life resulting from Mentor/Protégé relationships. Christ teaches us to Love One Another; front office, warehouse or street corner. No matter if you are on your way up, or going down, leading with Love will always make the ride smoother. When you focus on helping others succeed, you can’t help but to succeed as well.

God blesses us, not for ourselves,…

…He blesses us so that we may bless others”.

Always Love! ─ Love God, Love People!

Reprinted with permission of God’s Good News Gazette

© God’s Good News Gazette 2019 – www.godsgoodnewsgazette.com

TRUTH & CONSEQUENCES

Isn’t being Truthful ultimately showing absolute respect for those you touch, for those you Love and interact with? Being Truthful can often be a daunting and difficult task.

So many times, we’re pulled towards the easy road of deceit and dishonesty. All the while convincing ourselves that a “Little White Lie” is the best thing to do. By not telling the truth, we are somehow being kind or saving others pain.

Sure, blurting out the Truth in certain situations can hurt. Is it wise to walk into a room and tell your spouse, “Wow, you’re really putting on weight!”? Is it the Truth? Does it hurt? Hurting is not born in Love. God is Love: All that we do not in Love, is not of God.

However, being dishonest when your spouse asks if they are putting on weight can bring its own hurt. Sometimes the question is a plea for help. Your answer is important in response to a request for Loving, Truthful advice. Do you hide behind the “White Lie” or, do you help?

Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”

Ephesians 4:29

When Jesus said that we should “Love your neighbor as yourself.” – Mark 12:31, wasn’t He telling us to put the needs of others above our needs, and to treat others as we want to be treated? Is honesty important to you? Do you want people to lie to you? Even small lies?

For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.”

Romans 14:17

Hope is the beginning of Faith as Giving is a root of LoveTruth is at the Core of Righteousness. Dishonesty, on the other hand, is at the core of all Sin. From the Garden to today, deceit has been used to hurt and destroy loved ones, relationships, nations and cultures.

So many times, dishonesty feels like it can be beneficial. It’s not. We are being deceived into believing that hiding Truth, out of Love, will increase happiness, wealth and relieve the stress of the world.

It is at those times, when the temptation to deceive is strong; cloaked in benevolence, and what seems to be the easy path, we must turn to God for guidance. Shunning what feels to be the rational thinking and logic rattling in our brains, instead, we must listen to our Heart. It is there that we will hear that still, quiet voice of God. His voice will lead us to Truth and Love – guiding us toward the Kingdom of God.

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”  

John 14:16

Throughout my life in various companies and corporations, my Christian walk always led me to be honest – telling the Truth, even when it was extremely uncomfortable. The understanding that Truth is an act of Love, and, therefore, was from God, always seemed to be God’s guidance for my life: Except when it might hurt someone without any clear Blessing or benefit. Hurting is not of Love.

Through the years, God Blessed my candor and honesty. Oft times not immediately, usually years or decades later. Late in my career, my trustworthiness seemed to open doors to deep relationships with people that typically didn’t trust anyone. Those simple sacrifices of the immediate comfort of a white lie, planted seeds that only God could see at the time.

While there are so many examples of God’s Blessings and favor in my career, one that always comes to mind was when representing a technology company back in the eighties. The management team decided to hide a technology flaw from a new partner it was my honor to be managing at the time. A severe flaw in a new product we were negotiating.

As it turned out, my company had “bet the farm” on this new technology. If their new partner, a $40 Billion, Fortune 500 Company, found out, most thought they would cancel all launch plans for the product, and probably the partnership. If that happened, my company believed they would go out of business. So, the decision was made to hide the flaw. To their credit, the management team had already developed the plan to fix the problem and were going to provide it to our new partner at no charge.

Unfortunately, the fix would take six months to create and implement in the field. This move would cause untold problems for our partner and more importantly, their customers. There were no plans to resolve those problems nor compensate the end customer.

After a day full of meetings where the management team emphatically pleaded their case with me, including the threat of termination and extreme retaliation, my heart and head were deep in a battle. The drive home usually took around thirty minutes. On this day, it seemed to take days. All the time knowing the “right” thing to do, my mind was filled with the multitude of consequences. How would my family fair? Where would my next job come from? What about all those people at our company?

Aside from the management team, no one knew what was going on, nor had a part in the decision. Still, my decision could put them all out of work. The anxiety was intense. Taking it to God He reminded me… “You already know what to do.”

There was such peace in that understanding. The knowledge that my decision to be honest with our partner, was what God wanted me to do brought such comfort. Was there fear and doubt? Sure. All the while knowing that truth was an act of Love, helped me to keep my fear in check.

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear…”

1 John 4:18

That night, calling my contact at our partner to explain, taught me so much about Truth, and how God Blesses those who sacrifice comfort for righteousness. My contact was calm and understanding. It felt unnatural for a business call of this type. Usually these kinds of calls were filled with angst, yelling and threats. Instead, together, we mapped out a plan to work through the issue. No one lost their jobs; contracts were not cancelled, and the partnership remained intact. The launch was simply trimmed back to allow for the fix to be implemented.

As for me, my trust in our management team was obliterated. There was no way for me to stay with a team that would even consider that kind of an action. With God’s guidance and patience, it was clear it was a time for change. Within six months God led me to a new company that was undoubtedly the best move of my career.

Two to three years after that phone call, my contact agreed to a million-dollar contract with my new company, simply because of me – he trusted me. That contract led to a business that eventually grew to over $500 million in revenues for his company. God’s Blessings couldn’t have been more obvious: Truth in and of itself is its own reward, and honesty will certainly bless your life and career. In my experience, honesty also leads to tangible blessings for all that honor the practice of Truth.

Always Love! ─ Love God, Love People!

Reprinted with permission of God’s Good News Gazette

© God’s Good News Gazette 2019 – www.godsgoodnewsgazette.com

My Testimony June 21, 2019

Mark McCuen Testimony, Celebrate Recovery June 21, 2019

Adding my testimony from our Celebrate Recovery meeting on June 21, 2019. God has blessed me richly throughout my life, covering and protecting me from the beginning.

It was such a pleasure to offer my testimony in hopes that it will bless others that are struggling. As an added blessing, this was my bride’s and my 44th wedding anniversary. Check it out!

The Key…

Let Go of the Rope!”

Aren’t we all looking for that Key? The Key that unlocks all the mysteries of life, that opens the door to an unrestricted life? One, simple understanding that lifts the burden of obligation? Ah, to never have to balance a check book again. That perfect marriage to that perfect person. Complete acceptance in any social situation. Never wondering how I am going to do that, how do I fit in, or, what do “They” think?

Getting the key is oft times a monumental step, albeit daunting. Dad giving you the keys to the family car, the bank giving you the key to your first house. Your boss giving you a key to your first private office-or getting the key to your first business. Handing the keys to your car to your sixteen-year-old. Daunting indeed!

As Christians, because we are saved, comfortable in our eternal home, we often believe we have things completely figured out. Still, we need to balance check books, relationships with friends and loved ones can be difficult, and most of us can still fall victim to peer pressure. Knowing that we are a continual work in progress, Christians strive to be better every day. However, life can be tough. It seems we apply all we learn in Church, yet the world continues to punch us in the face.

Like most of you, my life has been full of problems, pressure, and conflict. For decades; through it all, God has been working with me, lighting my path. Teaching me to come closer to him and farther away from the stuff of the World. Looking back, through the turmoil, God has shown me a simple understanding that has helped tremendously in my life, eliminating a host of hardships.

Do you remember playing “Tug-O-War” as kids? Maybe you still play. It’s been a while for me, but it was one of my favorite games. A ruckus team sport that was usually played over a muddy pit. Initially we believed that the game was winnable only through brute strength. As our team got better, we realized it was more of a “head” game. Turns out that “Tug-O-War” was all about strategy and how to take the best advantage of the strength available. Our strategies always included “Psyching” out our opponents before the match. Mainly so that they would start the game doubting their abilities. However, my favorite move was what we called the “fake out”. That glorious move when all at once, our team would give some slack in the rope to the other team. Instantly, thinking they “had” us, the other team would often let up at the first sign of a relaxing in the rope. With a shout, our team would pull back with everything we had. “Hooking” them like a fish on the line. We won more matches with that move than any other.

You might be wondering what does “tug-o-war” have to do with a key to life’s problems? Think of it as a simple analogy of our walk with God. We start life thinking that our “Brute Strength” will get us through everything in life. Then, when we accept Christ as our savior and learn more about God’s grace. We learn that when things go wrong, we need to submit all to Christ. Do we submit? Completely?

Whether we are pulling on the rope; asking God for what WE believe WE need. Or, those times when we truly give it all to God, praying, “Your Will, Not Mine”. Still, aren’t we usually still holding tightly to the rope; fully ready to yank back when WE believe it’s needed. Isn’t “The Key” to let go of the rope? Truly give all our troubles and life to God!

In my experience, it’s all about trust. Trusting God to take us by the hand, so that when we let go of the rope, we don’t fall. The more we trust God, the more we see Him do in our lives. The more we see Him do in our lives, the more we trust Him.

Throughout my life, when letting go of the rope and letting God have it, He has never let me down. When we weren’t sure where the next dollar was coming from, where would we live, how would we find food to eat? Giving it all to God, He always had our backs. Without fail. We weren’t dripping in money, gold, and diamonds, but He always provided.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Matthew 6:33

Dropping out of High School, it seemed my life was never going to match my dreams. Scared and frustrated, my fear led me to give it all to God, asking for guidance and help. Looking back, it was that single event — dropping out of school — that led me to meet the love of my life, my bride for over 40 years now. Unquestionably, through some very tough times, God provided and ordered our steps into a wonderful and blessed life together. Recently, when giving up alcohol and pain pills. God led me to my knees, fearing the loss everything. Again, giving it all to God and begging for His help. He not only grabbed my hand taking me out of my addictions, but from that day forward, all desire for alcohol and thought of using opiates are gone. Wiped out entirely. That is the God Factor for me. When you give it completely to Him, fear, doubt, and anxiety go away. Completely. Like it never existed.

Planning things on my own, not giving it to God, always seemed to lead me into chaos. Sure, my thoughts and prayers were with God, always asking for help; but giving in to my plans and my understanding, not His will. Things might have worked, and sometimes even got better, but it was never without strife and disorder. Looking back, it was me holding on to the rope that created the chaos while working to control the outcome.

Letting go of the rope continues to be a battle for me. It’s ALL about trust and faith. Believing that God will grab my hand, place me on His solid Rock, and see me through. He has always been there for me.

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.

Hebrews 10:23

The Key?…

“Let Go and Let God!
God’s Got This & Grace Got You!”

I’d Be Dead

Growing up, My Sister, Brother and I were so Blessed to have a wonderful mother that believed in each one of us deeply, giving us all so much strength. She always wanted us to live our lives to the fullest; and would never miss an opportunity to tell us that we could do and be anything we wanted.

mom

A little over a decade ago, my Mom was dying. She had fought the good fight and showed us all, what it meant to always work to be a better person.

Her last battles started with lung cancer some fifteen years before she passed. Then after beating the Cancer in her lungs, it creeped into her brain causing a tumor and subsequent brain surgery. Like the trooper she always was; she fought back, and gained five more years with her beloved Grandkids, and the family she was so dedicated to.

Now, on her death bed, she was succumbing to another bout with brain cancer. Knowing her fate, she held my hand and said “Mark, please promise me that you’ll lose all the weight and take care of yourself.” “Your family loves you, and needs you.”

m2mThat was so much like her. Here she was dying… and her main concern was about me, my health and my future! I miss that lady every day.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:
The old has gone, the new is here!.” -Luke 11:36

So, the end of the story is that I promised her I would lose the weight. No doubt, if I hadn’t, I’d be dead. Turns out that was just the beginning of my personal reformation. All glory to God as he was “Ordering” my steps even through the loss of my wonderful Mom.

Life Is Very Short

With all the hate, violence and vitriol going around. I was moved to re-post this from a while ago…

Life Is Very Short…

All my Adult life I have worked to follow the teachings of Jesus, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, and yes John & Paul.

All taught one simple lesson, love,… one another.

Imagine that? (Pun Intended).

It’s not always easy, but it is always the right thing.

For all of you out there fighting with friends and loved ones over the current political environment, please head the words of these lifelong friends that were unable to resolve their differences before time ran out.

Life Is Short