Sleepless Nights

The trials of sleepless nights are our opportunity for renewed closeness and transformation with Jesus.

Can't SleepThe wee hours of the night can be difficult when we are troubled.  The loss of a love one, physical pain along with the other disappointments of our lives are multiplied at night; when the activities of the day are over and all we have are  time and our thoughts.  Alone with the reality of our situation, the relief of sleep is elusive as we toss and turn in agony.

Job’s description of his sleepless nights reminds us how difficult these times can be: “I, too, have been assigned months of futility, long and weary nights of misery. Lying in bed, I think, ‘When will it be morning?’  But the night drags on, and I toss till dawn.”   Job 7:3-4

The trials of sleepless nights are our opportunity for renewed closeness and transformation with Jesus.  “Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.  Instead, be very glad—for these trials make you partners with Christ in his suffering, so that you will have the wonderful joy of seeing his glory when it is revealed to all the world.”   1st Peter 4:12-13

Sleepless NightsSo when we are ensnared in a sleepiness night of pain and suffering, we can take comfort in knowing that Jesus is with us. Suffering may last for the night; but there is joy in the morning.

 

 

What Can We Learn When We Are “Breaking Bad”

During our own life’s journey, at one time or another we have “broken bad”; this has proven to be especially true when our intent was noble.

Breaking Bad3

OK!! I will admit.  I have spent the last few weeks consumed with the final episodes of “Breaking Bad”.   Spoiler Alert!!! For the few people left on the planet who have not seen the finale I won’t give away the juicy details; but I say this…  Watch it and watch it soon!!!!  The producers, writers and actors are excellent at tying up loose ends and bringing a real feeling of closure to the saga.

For those who have never seen it, Breaking Bad is a show about a terminally ill science teacher who is concerned about providing for his family after he is gone.  The noble cause of helping his family   “breaks bad” when the teacher turns to illegally producing the drug “meth” in as scheme that generates lots of cash while turning a good man into depths of evil.

During our own life’s journey, at one time or another we have “broken bad”; this has proven to be especially true when our intent was noble.   We can see the noble intent “breaking bad” in the Old Testament story of Judah and Tamar in Genesis chapter 38: 1-30.

Judah and Tamar

The Story:  Judah is the fourth son of Jacob and his first wife Leah.  By all accounts Judah is a good guy, in the story of Joseph and his brothers.  He is the one that convinces his siblings not to kill Joseph. (Genesis 37: 26) Also, when the bothers go to Egypt for food Judah is the brother that spoke on his brothers behalf. (Genesis 44:16-34).   Judah leaves his brothers and childhood home and settles some distance away to a town called Adullam.  He marries and has three sons.   His first son Er married Tamar a Cananite.  However, Er was evil and God punished him with death.  By custom Judah’s second son, Onan was expected to take care of his dead brother’s wife and give Tamar a son to carry on Er’s name.   But Onan refused; and he was also punished with death by God for his failure to obey.  Now the duty to take care of Tamar and to carry on the family name fell on Judah’s youngest son Shelah.  At the time of Onan’s death, Shelah was far too young for these responsibilities.  Therefore, Judah told Tamar to return to her father and when his son, Shelah becomes of age he would see to it that he marries her then.

Breaking Bad: Judah & Shelah

Fearful that Shelah would also die, Judah broke bad and reneged on his promise to provide his last living son to Tamar when he became of age.  Frustrated by this turn in events, Tamar broke bad, assumed the identity of a prostitute and tricked Judah into getting her pregnant.   When Judah heard that Tamar was pregnant he demanded that her widowed daughter-in-law be punished.  But Tamar showed Judah the items he had given to her as a pledge, proving that he was the father of the child.

Why Do We Break Bad

Our sinful nature as human makes us apt to breaking bad in ways big and small.  Our sinful breaking bad nature is relative to our relationship with God.  Looking closely at the situation with Judah and Shelah we can learn three valuable lessons for how we can break bad:

1. We break bad because we are not obedient 

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 6:22-23   God has given us free will to follow His commands and teachings.  Judah’s sons Er and Onan exercised their free will and right by choosing not to obey and found themselves cut-off from God’s grace, mercy and protection.  When we consistently fail to obey God it may not cause our immediate death; but it will make our lives more difficult.  Additionally,  n just time, like Er and Onan disobedience will cause our death (often) before our “appointed” time; causing headache and opportunities for the ones we leave behind to “break bad”.

However, all is not lost, God is willing and ready to reedmen the worst of the worst.  ‘If you are unfaithful to me, I will scatter you among the nations.  But if you return to me and obey my commands and live by them, then even if you are exiled to the ends of the earth, I will bring you back to the place I have chosen for my name to be honored.’ Nehemiah 1:8-9

2. We break bad because of lack of trust in God

Judah did not trust God to protect his remaining son Shelah from the early death experienced by his brothers; and Tamar did not trust God to provide for her without a husband.  God has demonstrated time and time again that He is trustworthy. ‘Those who know your name trust in you” Psalm 9:10.   Trust in God and He will supply our every need.

3. We break bad because of our fears

Both Judah and Shelah broke bad out of fear.  Fear can cripple us because of the rejection, anger, and jealously it can cause.  However, God can neutralize fear.  “Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you.  I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.” Isaiah 41:10. 

3. We break bad because we think we can handle it all alone

Tamar’s breaking bad plan, to have a son by assuming the identity of a prostitute may have worked; but what was the cost?  God must be involved from start to finish for our plans to truly succeed.  The wall of Jerusalem was completed in a miraculous fifty-two days; because Nehemiah built it with God involved every step of the way.   Look how Nehemiah asked for the Lord’s help while contemplating going to the king to ask permission to leave his service to build the wall. “O Lord, please hear my prayer! Listen to the prayers of those of us who delight in honoring you. Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.” Nehemiah 1:10-11

We are powerless to do things right in the long run alone.  God wants to help us.  He wants to guide us so that our plans turn out victorious; and not just for the moment.  But for eternity!

God’s will always triumph despite our Breaking Bad

Despite the breaking bad sinful nature of the conception, Tamar ended up with the son she desired.  In fact, God blessed her twice providing her twin sons, Perez and Zerah. However God’s real blessing was when Perez became the head of a family that included Boaz.  Boaz is the man who set the Godly standard for how a man should treat a woman and David Israel’s greatest king Ruth 4: 16-22  . The hope for all of us, is that we don’t have to be perfect people to be used and blessed by God in a mighty way; for even when we are breaking bad….God is breaking good for us!

 

A Six Pack of Smart Job Search Strategies

6 pack of popI am pleased to share a six pack of Smart Job Search Strategies that are making a difference in the lives of the unemployed.

1. Be Clear and Focused   

Smart job searchers are clear and focused about the job that they want.   Read What Color Is Your Parachute? 2014  by Richard N. Bolles to explore what you really want to do in your next job.

2. Network, Network, and Then Network Some More  

80% of all jobs are acquired via networking.  If you are not networking…then you are not working. If you are a regular follower of the blog you know the value I place in networking. I have written a ton about networking, I recommend the following posts:

Fortune Favors the Prepared Networker,

How To Network With LinkedIn,

How to use LinkedIn to Build A Great Network

And to really master the art of networking read Never Eat Alone by my friend Keith Ferrazzi

3. Become A Thought Leader

Here is a theory that has proven true: Employers hire people because of their demonstrated expertise in solving problems. Here is another theory that has proven true: As a professional you have expertise in your field.  Thought leadership is the practice of sharing your expertise with the world. Sharing will get you notice and getting notice will get you a job. An effective thought leadership campaign paired with networking and a consistent social media presence has become the formula for my most successful job search clients.  I highly recommend the book Becoming THE Expert by John W. Hayes.  While the book is written from the viewpoint of an entrepreneur, the smart job searcher can adopt many of the tactics for the job search.

4. Master LinkedIn 

LinkedIn has changed the game for recruiting and networking. The smart job searcher embraces LinkedIn for the job search and beyond.  As a LinkedIn Ninja I have blogged extensively about the tool.  Here are some of my best blogs on the subject.

5 Reasons Why You Can’t Do LinkedIn Halfway

Learn How to Unleash the Power of LinkedIn

The Hidden Power of the LinkedIn Recommendation

 7 Steps To A Great LinkedIn Profile

How to use LinkedIn to Build A Great Network

5. Find Resourceful Ways to Generate Cash    

The economic insecurity of unemployment is a major driver of the choices we make in the job search. 3 Financial Tips for the Unemployed is a great post from Yahoo Finance providing useful guidance on how to handle your reduced resources. 5 Practical Ways to Make Money While Unemployed is a post I wrote last year highlighting some of the best ways to earn a few bucks while searching for a new job.

6.  Work on the Thing Called You 

An unexpected by product of being unemployed is the time that we have on our hands. Smart job searchers use this time to embark on a mission of personal improvement designed to strengthen themselves for the work ahead and beyond.  In his post How to Turn Unemployment into an Opportunity Job search expert Jim Hu provides some great tips for what Steven Covey calls “Sharpening the Saw”.

Bonus Strategy: Keep The Faith While Finding Work

First, it’s important to understand that God has ordained work for mankind. Work is described in the Bible as beneficial in that it provides for our needs (Proverbs 14:23; Ecclesiastes 2:24, 3:13, 5:18-19) and gives us the resources to share with others in need (Ephesians 4:28). Paul reminded the believers in Thessalonica that anyone who was not willing to work should not eat (2 Thessalonians 3:10) and that he himself worked at tent making so as not to be a burden on anyone (Acts 18:3; 2 Corinthians 11:9). So, loss of employment should not be an excuse for laziness, and all due diligence should be exercised to find other employment as quickly as possible (Proverbs 6:9-11).

Second it is important to understand that your unemployment is not a punishment from God.  Hard times suffering are part of the human condition we all must endure them and while it may not seem logical suffering if we allow it will bring us closer to God.

The faith community is committed to helping the unemployed I urge you to explore resources available in your community.  Readers of my post know of my passion for incorporating faith in all parts of our lives.  God must be the leader in all we do so I am pleased to offer this post:

Get God in Charge of Your Job Search as a template for conducting a job search.

The Bottom Line: Talk a Gulp From Our Six Pack 

Big GulpIn the grips of a Great Recession featuring a government shutdown and continuing corporate layoffs finding a job is more difficult than ever.  While there is no magic bullet to finding a job, I am convinced that finding work is possible if you are willing to be flexible in a number of things including salary, job tile and location.  The strategies presented in this post have proven to be very successful for a lot of people.  I am looking forward to discovering how they have worked for you.

 

Living my best life with Alzheimer’s

While the possibility of developing Alzheimer’s is about me; really, it is not about me. It is about spreading the word to others and working to find a cure. So I plan to use my voice, this blog space and other media to inform, educate and raise funds for a cure. As I seek to potentially live my best life with Alzheimer’s.

Alzheimer's List

I don’t have Alzheimer’s but my mother has it; my grandmother had it.  Therefore, I am thinking that I may have a good chance of getting it. I write this not as a morbid fact; but rather as a factor that I must consider.  Similar to all the factors an aging man must consider like writing a will, obtaining life insurance and designating my final resting place.

So, while I don’t yet have Alzheimer’s, I think it would be fair to consider how I should live my best life in light of my family’s history.

Alzheimer’s is a disease that attacks the brain.   I have seen firsthand, the decline in the mental ability that transformed a highly intelligent, independent and functional woman into a dependent shrill; mounting a daily all-out struggle, using all her sizable intelligence, grit, and faculties to retain a sense of herself.  And it is in that daily struggle that my respect, adoration and love for my mother has grown each day.

So, it in her struggle, that I must consider how to live my best life with Alzheimer’s.    Here are some principals of that life I have developed:

1. I will put my total trust in God’s will

“My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (Psalm 73:26)

As mental ability declines, people with Alzheimer’s become almost completely dependent on others.  Clearly, I will have to depend on others, if I have Alzheimer’s.   However; God is who I will depend on.

2. I will accept the suffering but not with an attitude of defeat  

Then he died, an old man who had lived a long, full life.” (Job 42:17) 

Despite his time of suffering, Job was restored by God and lived a fruitful life. I am under no allusions about the final outcome of my life; if I develop Alzheimer’s. However, I will not accept that God will allow the disease to defeat me.  Instead, whenever that may be, He will allow me to die like Job after a “full life”.

3. I will learn the 10 warning signs of Alzheimer’s and will tell others.

“But my life is worth nothing to me unless I use it for finishing the work assigned me by the Lord Jesus-the work of telling others the Good News about the wonderful grace of God.” (Acts 20:24)

End Alzheimer'sWhile the possibility of developing Alzheimer’s is about me; really, it is not about me.  It is about spreading the word to others and working to find a cure.  So I plan to use my voice, this blog space and other media to inform, educate and raise funds for a cure. As I seek to potentially live my best life with Alzheimer’s.

 

Marben Bland is a successful entrepreneur who brings his faith to his business life. Read more of his post on faith, business and life at www.marbenbland.com 

A Faith That Welcomes Everyone

Last week I wrote an entry entitled, ‘What is Your Temperature?’ and posted it on Facebook. The overwhelming response can be summed up in a single comment: “I don’t “do religion” because you people are so self-righteous and so unaccepting of those “who are not like you. “

A Faith Obsessed with Excluding, Condemnation and Rules

This comment exposes a fact about “religion” recently acknowledge by Pope Francis that “religion” and by extension people of faith have become obsess with exclusion, condemnation and rules governing how we should respond to “people who are not like us” thereby overlooking the true meaning of God’s command that we love one another. Simply put, that means: be inclusive servants of all, demonstrating a faith that welcomes everyone.

Luke 7:36-50 gives the account of Jesus having dinner hosted by a self-righteous man named Simon, and his friends. Before Jesus could sit down to eat, a woman who was perceived by all to be sinful, emerged from the crowd and washed His feet with expensive perfume. Overwhelmed with emotions this sinful woman cried —her tears, falling on Jesus feet, while she dried them, using her hair.

Seeing what had taken place the self-righteous Simon thought, “If this man were a prophet he would know what kind of woman was touching him. She is a sinner. ”

Jesus knew what was on Simon’s mind and told this story:

“A man loaned money to two people—500 pieces of silver to one and 50 pieces to the other. But neither of them could repay him, so he kindly forgave them both, canceling their debts. Who do you suppose loved him more after that?”

Simon answered, “I suppose the one for whom he canceled the larger debt.”

“That’s right,” Jesus said. Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, “Look at this woman kneeling here. When I entered your home, you didn’t offer me water to wash the dust from my feet; but she has washed them with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You didn’t greet me with a kiss; but from the time I first came in, she has not stopped kissing my feet. You neglected the courtesy of olive oil to anoint my head; but she has anointed my feet with rare perfume.

“I tell you, her sins—and they are many—have been forgiven, for she has shown me much love. But a person who is forgiven little shows only little love.” Then Jesus said to the woman, “Your sins are forgiven.”

Being a Simon Christian – Having a Faith That Is Restrictive

I don’t know about you; but I have been a Simon Christian – so self-righteous in my beliefs that I fail to understand that all of God’s children, regardless of:

  • Where they come from,
  • What they look like,
  • Who they love,
  • Or how they have sinned

have the same opportunity to be forgiven by His grace and saved by His son Jesus.

When we act like Simon Christians it is no wonder why people are turned off by God’s message of salvation and love for all. Why? Because we the people who are preaching these truths – are not living up to them!

Why is that? It’s because we are so obsessed with exclusion, condemnation and creating a system of rules that judge and determine how we should act toward “people who are not like us.”

Having a Faith that Welcomes All

If we are to live the Christianity demonstrated by Jesus – Christians who believe that Jesus’ instruction was to love one another – instead of Simon Christians, then we must practice a “balanced faith” with the scale tilted toward making a commitment to show mercy to each other; while leaving the justice part of the scale to be determined by God. The Christian author Julie Ackerman Link observes that “God’s perfect balance of justice and mercy,” was best “demonstrated by Jesus’ death on the cross where He satisfies God’s need for justice and our need for mercy.”

When we show more mercy than justice – just as Jesus did with the sinful woman – then we are living our lives as God intended and we create a faith that welcomes everyone.