Organizational Health Will Bring Intelligence

“The key ingredient for improvement and success is not knowledge or resources. The key ingredient is the health of the organizational environment.”[i]

Bryan Houser, was called to consult with a small non-profit organization named Helping Hands. Helping Hands was organized to assist people of all cultures, ages, and income levels in their region. However, it seemed they were only reaching one segment of the population and very few of those. The organization had hired and dismissed three leaders in the last six years. The board of directors for Helping Hands decided to call Bryan Houser when one board member had heard of Bryan’s experience with a similar organization.

Bryan had requested and studied the history and financial records for Helping Hands prior to his first meeting with the board of directors. In the first meeting Bryan listened as various board members recanted their version of the Helping Hands story. Some painted a wonderful portrait of the early days of the organization, only to have fallen in the last three to four years. While others focused on the recent troubled years of the organization.

According to board members, six years ago, they had hired Ron Settles, who came highly recommended with a doctorate degree and a successful track record. Well, actually, he had only been with one company but it was a success in its field of business. “Ron brought great leadership skills,” said one board member. A couple other board members nodded, but several grimaced, as if to say, “not really.” Twenty-two months into his time with Helping Hands, the company not only was not making progress, it had actually lost revenue and clientele – greater losses than the organization had ever experienced. The board dismissed Ron Settles from his duties and began the search for a new president to run the organization.

Three months later Larry ToDegrees was hired to fill the position. Larry had two Master’s degrees, in Business Management. The board members recanted how Mr. ToDegrees was very well educated, he was not a people person. “He very seldom came out of his office and was somewhat difficult to work with.” The organization continued its downhill roll. Larry ToDegrees was dismissed within ten months of his hire date.

The third man hired to run the organization was Billy Noseright. This candidate came with both education and experience. Mr. Noseright had a Master’s degree in Business and had been with five companies, similar in concept to Helping Hands. As president of Helping Hands, Billy Noseright attempted to install similar practices he had employed in some of his previous positions. The major difference was this was a non-profit organization that operated mainly with volunteers and a slim budget. “Mr. Noseright just did not know as much as he thought – at least about non-profits.” Quipped one of the board members.

Bryan Houser listened as various board members passionately spoke, sometimes on top of each other, about the organization. After forty-five minutes of conversation the chairman of the board looked to Bryan and said, “Well, you’ve heard quite a bit.” To which Bryan nodded once then tilted his head right to left in a slight upward fashion. “Yes, I have.” He stated.

“What are your first impressions, or your thoughts at this point?” Queried the chairman.

Bryan sat quietly for ten very long seconds with his eyes focused on the pad in front of him on which he had been taking notes. Raising his head slowly, Bryan panned the room making eye contact with each man individually before moving on to the next. Fixing his gaze momentarily on the chairman, Bryan stated, “I’ve studied your history before today, and I’ve talked to people in your community. What I have learned studying those materials and what you have shared today,” his gaze now begins to pan the room again. He continued, “I do not believe yours is a leadership issue so much as an organizational health issue. Could the reason your last three choices of leaders have not been successful be because you have not lined up the leader’s strengths with the health of the organization?”

Several of the men in the room looked perplexed. The chairman asked, “I’m not sure we understand.” Several men in the room nodded in agreement.

Bryan attempted to explain, “It sounds like you pride yourself on getting well educated men, some with successful experience, some not. Those requisites are fine, but if they do not line up with the health inside your organization, it is not likely to improve the health of the organization. Copying practices from one organization to another rarely works well. Helping Hands has seen declining trends for nearly ten years. You need not focus so much on education in a leader as you do someone with compassionate people skills and the desire to get in the trenches with your volunteers to rebuild a healthy organization.”

Most organizations, churches included, focus on intelligence rather than health of the organization. – A healthy organization will inevitably gain intelligence over time.

People in a healthy organization learn from one another. Healthy organizations learn to identify critical issues and recover quickly from mistakes. Healthy organizations cycle through issues and situations and rally around solutions much faster than their dysfunctional counterparts.[ii]

For more information on Organizational Health for your church or other organization, contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.

[i] Patrick Lencioni, The Advantage, 2012,

[ii] Adapted from The Advantage, Patrick Lencioni, 2012

Organizational Health Alignment

Within three months of accepting the pastor position of Living Hope church, Gerald called for outside help from his local denomination office. Upon accepting the call to pastor Living Hope, Gerald knew this church had been in decline for nearly twenty years. Seven of these years brought steep decline and the last three years the church was barely hanging on. I give Gerald credit for realizing, being a newcomer, from the outside, this was a task greater than he could accomplish on his own.

The first year for Gerald and Living Hope appeared to be a good year. The decline stopped, the church actually added five people. Though this was a small number, it was a victory against the long-term decline. Gerald and Robert, the denominational leader, had put together a team of five people to work through a process assisting the church to stave off decline and turn around into a growing, healthy body of believers. The team met monthly and formulated strategic plans for the perceived needs of this ailing congregation.

The team developed strategic plans for various aspects of ministry and operations of the church based on the findings of their study. At the end of the first year the team even put together a booklet to distribute to church members and held a meeting with the church body to describe the process they had undertaken and the plans developed.

The second year was established as the year of praying, training, and equipping the congregation in what it would take to implement the strategic plans. Pastor Gerald saw progress and was encouraged by some of the recommendations of the people of his congregation. Training sessions set on regular scheduled days were well attended – Sunday nights and Wednesday evenings. However, the Saturday training events were not well attended. Gerald dismissed it as the culture in which we live and proceeded with training and equipping as designed. While he did have a couple of pressurized meetings with one older couple in the church, Gerald believed overall the church was adapting nicely.

Just about the time Gerald was entering his third year with Living Hope, something happened. Things began to unravel. Gerald could not understand it. After all everything seemed to be going fine. Everyone, well almost everyone, was on board with the changes they were about to implement. The church had been working on these for two years now. Why all of a sudden were people balking? Not only balking, Gerald had just met with two men of the church where one of the men threatened Gerald with his job.

Gerald telephoned Robert requesting a meeting. The two men met for lunch at a nice restaurant with a quieter atmosphere than most. Gerald laid out the whole story to Robert all the way to the threat of losing his job. “I do not understand it.” Gerald stated, almost with a question mark at the end of his statement. They’re not following all of a sudden. What did I do wrong?

Robert, knowing the answer to his question asked, “How long have you been here?

“Three years. I’m starting my third year.” Replied Gerald.

“You have hit the third year wall.” Robert acknowledged. “The third year is your year of implementation. While you have been able to make small changes in these first two years, you are now attempting to change the culture of your church. People will go along with talk about changing the culture. But when making the change affects me personally, then I have a different resolve. Many pastors run into the third year wall, and many leave.

In the ensuing conversation, Robert encouraged Gerald to stay the course, while examining possible reasons for his congregation “digging in their heels.” One statement Robert made that stuck with Gerald was, “Your vision for the church and your administrative operations, along with your strategic plans for change, must be aligned within the current culture in order to build the desired culture.” Gerald asked for clarification.

Robert proceeded, “Aligning with the current culture inside the church will not produce results. It is a culture of status quo and comfort. However, aligning your strategies within the current culture will allow you to develop the desired culture. It is a slow process. Changing a culture requires three to five years. But you have to be willing to stay and work through that third year wall.”

The third year was certainly a tough year for Gerald. Now entering his sixth year with Living Hope church, Gerald can look back at the wisdom in the advice he received in that lunch conversation with Robert. In the most recent eighteen months the church has seen seventeen additions to the church and it is evident the culture of the church is changing, albeit slow, but definite.

For a church to achieve organizational health the pastor’s vision, administrative operations, and the overall strategic plan must be aligned together within the current culture to build the desired culture of the church. A key phrase in the previous statement is, “must be aligned together within the current culture,” not, must be aligned with the culture.

For more information on organizational health of a church contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.

 

Tackling the Critical That Does Not Seem Urgent

When Jim Edwards came to serve as pastor of Community Church he had visions of growing a great church. He planned to visit 10 households each week, eventually leading the church in doing similar. Rev. Jim had plans of training and encouraging his congregation in serving the community, especially the apartment complex and the 200 and 400 home neighborhoods surrounding the church. This was a dream job for Jim. He and wife Janie felt blessed for being called to serve at Community Church.

Sitting at his desk in the church office six months after arriving at Community Church, Pastor Jim realizes he is teaching and preaching right on target with his plans. However, he has not been able to make it into more than 3 homes any given week. He ponders, “What happened? How come I cannot make time to visit in homes?” Jim thought he would have time visiting in homes about 2 nights each week and on Saturdays. What happened to his nights? Then it hit him.

Rev. Jim began recounting his evening schedule. Monday nights he meets with the Finance team and the Personnel committee. Meeting with the finance team one Monday evening streamlining the financial structure of the church and the following Monday meeting with the Personnel committee working to update and re-write the church’s job descriptions and policy manual. Every Monday with the Personnel or the Finance Committee.

Tuesday evenings for Pastor Jim are spent with a special team assigned to update the by-laws of the church which have not been updated since the church’s founding in 1985. Wednesday nights Rev. Jim is right in the middle of the high energy student ministry, doing what he enjoys, interacting with others, equipping them with the truths of scripture.

By the time Thursday evening rolls around, Jim is ready for a break. Those tedious, meetings working on updating policies, by-laws, and financial strategies, this is not what Jim had looked forward to when signing on to lead Community Church. It is not what he signed on for, but Rev. Jim is one pastor who understands the need for addressing the critical issues of the church to bring about healthy organizational structure, realizing a healthy organizational structure produces a vibrant organization.

You see, the reason Rev. Jim is helping to streamline the finance structure of the church is that one year before Jim arrived the former treasurer had embezzled $150,000. Streamlining the structure of finances in the church is critical for clarity and better oversight.

One of Rev. Jim’s mentors taught Jim that a church’s by-laws are the only legal document any church has to rely on and churches (and other organizations) should review their by-laws regularly and keep them updated. Community Church’s by-laws, being over 30 years old, are very outdated and somewhat antiquated by legal standards. Recently, another church on the other side of town was taken to court on a moral issue and lost the case because their by-laws, last updated in 1997, failed to protect the church from today’s immorality . Updating the by-laws is critical, though it may not seem urgent.

Jim is not fond of the administrative aspect of pastoring a church. Yet he knows all three of these committee workings undertaken since he arrived at Community Church are critical to the ministry and the future of the church though they might not seem urgent. Hence the reason the former pastor did not review and update these documents and sectors of the church.

Jim has led the church to undertake these critical issues without diminishing the quality of ministry he had envisioned when arriving at Community. Jim may not be getting out weeknights but he is visiting in homes on Saturday mornings. He first began with one other Deacon. Now there are three teams of Deacons and the Pastor visiting in an average of 10 homes every Saturday.

As a Transitional Pastor and Church Health Strategist, I spend much of my time assisting churches in organizational health issues and practices. One of the practices I’ve found in healthy organizations (churches) is leaders who understand the importance of slowing down to deal with issues that are critical but do not seem urgent. The ministry need not be put on hold while addressing these critical issues, but you may need to re-organize and prioritize schedules.

For more information on this and other organizational health issues for effective ministry contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.

The adrenaline bias – O.H. takes time. Leaders must slow down and deal with issues that are critical but do not seem urgent. – Patrick Lenconi, The Advantage

 

Complementary Personalities All Around You

Moses was a leader chosen by God. In the book of Exodus we read of his experience leading, mainly leading the Israelite nation from captivity on a forty year journey in the wilderness before they would enter the Promised Land. A leader chosen by God to lead His people, yet a leader who needed development. Though God gave Moses this monumental task, God did not give him every facet of expert leadership ability. Instead God placed around Moses others with complementary personalities and leadership skills. Moses had Aaron and Mariam and later Joshua and others.

Exodus chapter eighteen tells us of one lesson in leadership for Moses from an unlikely source.

Moses’ father-in-law Jethro, along with Moses’ wife and sons, came to him in the wilderness where he was camped at the mountain of God. He sent word to Moses, “I, your father-in-law Jethro, am coming to you with your wife and her two sons.”

The next day Moses sat down to judge the people, and they stood around Moses from morning until evening. 14  When Moses’ father-in-law saw everything he was doing for them he asked, “What is this thing you’re doing for the people? Why are you alone sitting as judge, while all the people stand around you from morning until evening?” 15  Moses replied to his father-in-law, “Because the people come to me to inquire of God. 16  Whenever they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I make a decision between one man and another. I teach them God’s statutes and laws.”

“What you’re doing is not good,” Moses’ father-in-law said to him. “You will certainly wear out both yourself and these people who are with you, because the task is too heavy for you. You can’t do it alone. Now listen to me; I will give you some advice, and God be with you. You be the one to represent the people before God and bring their cases to Him. Instruct them about the statutes and laws, and teach them the way to live and what they must do. But you should select from all the people able men, God-fearing, trustworthy, and hating bribes. Place them over the people as commanders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. They should judge the people at all times. Then they can bring you every important case but judge every minor case themselves. In this way you will lighten your load, and they will bear it with you. If you do this, and God so directs you, you will be able to endure, and also all these people will be able to go home satisfied.” Exodus 18:5-6, 13-23 (HCSB)

Moses had the daunting task of leading God’s people, yet God did not give Moses all the ability, skill, and gifts needed to be the sole person responsible for leadership and administration. Neither did God extend the day for Moses to have enough time to solely take on the task. Moses needed to share the responsibility of leadership and trust God that all would be okay. Moses’ greatest need was not necessarily skill, but the need to recognize effective deployment of leadership and implementation of God’s plans. Moses was attempting to manage people and all their predicaments instead of leading the Israelite nation.

The same is true for you and me today. Whether you are pastor, teacher of a Sunday School class, a leader of any ministry group or organization outside the church, God has placed around you complementary personalities with complementary gifts and skills. Do not try to be Superman or the Lone Ranger because that is not who God created you to be.

 

Who’s Packing Your Parachute?

In the daily hustle and bustle of life and the challenges confronting us, we sometimes miss “the important.” We may fail to say hello, please, or thank you, congratulate someone, give a compliment, or just do something nice for no reason.

Charles Plumb, a US Naval Academy graduate, was a jet pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy territory. He was captured and spent 6 years in a communist Vietnamese prison. He survived the ordeal and now speaks throughout the land on lessons learned from that experience.

One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, “You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!”

“How in the world did you know that?” asked Plumb. “I packed your parachute,” the man replied. Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude. The man pumped his hand and said, “I guess it worked!”

Plumb assured him, “It sure did. If your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.” Plumb couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about that man. Plumb says, “I kept wondering what he might have looked like in a Navy uniform: A white hat, a bib in the back, and bell bottom trousers. I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said good morning, how are you or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot, and he was just a sailor.” Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent on a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn’t know.

Now, Plumb asks his audience, “Who’s packing your parachute?”

Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day. Plumb also points out that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his plane was shot down over enemy territory – he needed his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritual parachute. He called on all these supports before reaching safety. His experience reminds us all to prepare ourselves to weather whatever storms lie ahead.

Be certain to take time to realize and recognize Who’s packing your parachute as you fly through this week’s life experiences. Don’t pass an opportunity to say a kind word, share a smile, do something nice for someone without expecting anything in return.

Showing Vulnerability as a Leader

Marcy nods and begins, “As staff members and other leaders in the church ministries we need to be watching the road ahead in order to make needed adjustments before it’s too late. If we’re in the middle of Vacation Bible School and we know there is a big storm coming our way, we need to make adjustments, move inside. Likewise, if we have an event planned, yet our registration is low, we need to make adjustments. Too often I think when we see something like that we just back off, start cutting corners.”

Greg inquisitively interrupts Marcy and asks, “What do you mean? What kind of corner cutting takes place?”

Susan picks up the conversation, “We start cutting our food order.” Marcy jumps right back in, “And we cut the staffing for nursery. Things like that, always cutting back…”

Roger, with a quizzical look jumps in. “What’s wrong with that? I think that’s good. That’s being frugal. It’s good stewardship.”

“Is it?” questions Marcy. Then she expounds on her thoughts. “The first thing we do is start cutting back, when we should be praying. And before we pray asking God to bring us more people, we need to pray asking God’s forgiveness. Asking Him to show us where we have fallen or more likely where we have jumped ahead of Him, trying to do it our way. I just think we don’t give God the opportunity to work in maybe the final hours to produce that miracle.” Marcy pauses looking at Greg then over to Susan, hesitant to look at the others in the room, perhaps in fear that she may have offended them.

To her surprise Joe speaks first. “That’s pretty hard hitting Marcy. But you are exactly right. We say we love God and He has the power to do wonderful things even miracles, yet we do not give Him the opportunity. I’m guilty Marcy. Thank you for showing me that, or allowing God to speak through you to show me.”

Andy is chomping at the bit to get in the conversation. “Wow, Marcy, you are right. As you were speaking the Holy Spirit convicted me of doing that very thing two weeks ago when I cancelled the youth trip for this coming Saturday because of lack of participation. I didn’t give God a chance to work in any of those kids lives.” Silence pervades as conviction takes hold of hearts in the room.

After about fifteen seconds Greg states, “I think this would be a good time to stop and pray. I’ll lead…” Pastor Tim interrupts, “No, Greg I appreciate that, but I’ll lead in the prayer. I have allowed this to happen on my watch as Pastor. I am responsible…”Marcy tries to interrupt wanting to take the burden off Tim, but he refuses to yield the floor. Holding out his hand as to stop traffic, he says, “No Marcy, God convicted me too just then. He used you to convict us and we need to repent and ask for His guidance. Let’s pray.”

As everyone bows Pastor Tim and Andy both slip out of their chair and bow on their knees. Before Pastor Tim begins his prayer Joe joins them on his knees as well. Tim’s prayer:

“God Almighty, You are so powerful and righteous. We are so fallible and feeble. You have made known to us this hour of one of our acts of unrighteousness. Forgive us Lord as we look to you now with humble hearts and teary eyes. We have tried to do something in our own power thinking it would please you. On more than one occasion we have run ahead of you. Help us each one to learn from this today, to trust you more fully in everything. Not to cut until you say to cut. Not to back off until you say to back off. But instead to seek you and trust you that in all things you have the power to overcome what we see as stopping points. When in reality they may very well be your proving points. Forgive me for as Your leader, Your undershepherd, I have…”

Tim continues in his prayer. When He finishes and says Amen, he is ready to rise from his knees, but immediately from across the room Andy’s voice begins praying aloud. When Andy finishes, Joe voices a similar prayer of repentance and asking for guidance. The prayer then moves around the table. Every person in the room voices a similar prayer.

Greg closes the prayer time thanking God for His wonderful work in the moment. As the prayer time ends, some are weeping. Pastor Tim steps over to Marcy gives her a hug and thanks her for her obedience in sharing with the group. Then unexpectedly, he makes his way around the room hugging everyone individually, thanking them and asking for their forgiveness.

We all have areas of vulnerability. Successful leaders understand that vulnerability is a strength, not a weakness as some would assume. Many leaders want to hide their vulnerabilities, living behind a facade. Researcher and author Brene Brown says, “Vulnerability is actually the courage to show up and be seen.” She goes on to say, “Vulnerability is the absolute heartbeat of innovation and creativity. There can be zero innovation without vulnerability.”[i] Great and successful leaders understand that revealing their vulnerabilities can bring out the strengths and creative genius in others. Revealing vulnerabilities as a leader also demonstrates you are human and will allow team members not to try to live above their own abilities and vulnerabilities. However, team members will be encouraged to reach to their potential skill and abilities.

If allowing Himself to be arrested, severely beaten, and hung on a cross isn’t demonstrating vulnerability, then our dictionaries have the wrong definition. God Himself through Jesus Christ demonstrated the ultimate vulnerability so you and I can have life eternal. Learn and practice vulnerability in your leadership circles.

This article is an excerpt from Turnaround Journey, chapter nine. Learn more and purchase your copy at soncare.net.

[i] From article at Forbes.com, The Best Leaders are Vulnerable, July 18, 2013

All That Extra Time in December

Another Christmas has come and gone. Perhaps your December, like many of your friends and neighbors, has been busy again this year. For the last few weeks we’ve been hearing those famous words, “Tis the season…” People attach different words to the end of that phrase now-a-days. I remember when it was, “Tis the season to be jolly.”

Perhaps one of the appropriate terms today would be, “Tis the season to make our lives busier.” It is true. We speak all year of how busy we are, and that we cannot fit another activity into our busy schedules.

Yet, in December, some way Americans find fifteen more hours to shop, fourteen hours at social functions (work parties, church socials, etc.), four hours at Christmas pageants, plays, and cantatas, four hours baking, sixteen hours more with family and close friends, and six hours wrapping presents, decorating the tree and house. That is 59 hours!

Aren’t you glad December has 59 more hours than the other months so you can accomplish all these extras? Think of what we could accomplish if we each had 59 more hours the other eleven months?

We couldn’t use the time the same in the other months as we do in December, though. For one, the gross national consumer debt would skyrocket. All the sales might help the economy, but it sure wouldn’t help our personal pocketbooks and checking accounts. And what would we do with Christmas trees all year long? Take one down at the end of each month and put up a new one? Stockholders in electric companies would certainly be pleased.

Spending the extra time with family and close friends would be a plus. I wonder though, how many of our family members might say, “Enough is enough. Go home!”

Perhaps we could take part of the extra time each month and simply relax. Sit down and enjoy God’s wonderful creation and the wonderful life and opportunities He has given us that month. That would be nice wouldn’t it?

Think of the extra ministry (serving others) we could accomplish with 59 more hours every month. Man, could we get some things done for God then!

Let’s face it most everything listed in the previous four paragraphs is about as likely to happen as Donald Duck coming to life. It is not going to happen. If we had more time we would only find more ways to spend it in the busyness of our hectic lives. The truth is we are not going to get more time in any given month. Nor do we have 59 extra hours in December.

We must treasure the time we have. Life is but a vapor and we must be good stewards of the time we have and make the most for God. As for the month of December, we do find the time to do all these extras – 59 hours of time carved out to take part in the events and activities that are important to us and the things we want to be involved in.

Have you ever said, “If I only had more time I would…” You have the same amount of time in December as the other months. You accomplish those extras because you want to. If you can carve out the time in December, why not the other eleven months? Place God first in your life and make every month December. What can we accomplish? What can you accomplish? God only Knows!

What to Treasure?

December is a busy month and for most it is a fun month. For some the joy of the season becomes overshadowed by sickness and loss. December is a month filled with shopping, visiting with friends and family; a month with parties and get togethers; a month of giving and receiving.

And it all began to commemorate and celebrate the greatest gift of all – the gift of eternal life through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, God’s only Son.

If Jesus had not left His throne and all the splendor of heaven to be born of a virgin, Mary, you and I would not know the victory and peace of having life in heaven after this life on earth is finished. Nor would we enjoy many of the blessings and wonderful memories we share today.

December is a month full of memories. What memories do you have of Christmas? Each one of us in December whether intentionally or not spend time reminiscing of Christmases past. And that is okay. God gives us memories to encourage and bring a smile to our face.

Think for a moment of one or more of your favorite Christmas memories. Does your memory include a gift or a person?

Even if your thoughts were of a gift, my guess is you also thought of who gave that gift. You see though some of our memories are of gifts or things received, I believe memories are predicated on relationships. The things that you treasure, the memories you recall, are based on relationships.

In your memories of Christmases past, do you have memories of Jesus and what God has done in your life? Not thoughts of your depiction of the manger scene – but of God in your life?

Look with me at Luke chapter 2 verse 19. But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. (HCSB)

What was Mary treasuring? What was her treasure based on? 

I believe Mary was treasuring what the shepherds told her and Joseph about the angel’s visit and the proclamation of the angel that this was the Christ-child, the Messiah.

More importantly than the story being told, I believe Mary was treasuring every thought that she was so blessed to be in the presence of the long awaited Messiah. Mary understood that she was truly in the presence of God.

I believe she was treasuring every word of how the angel came upon the shepherds in the field and she was trying to absorb, soak in every word spoken by the angel about this night and the son she was blessed to give birth to.

There is no doubt in my mind that Mary was also placing these treasured moments in her memory bank right along with the visit she received from the Angel less than a year prior to this special night.

Mary was building a chest full of treasures, wonderful God-filled memories of which nothing can compare.

God is gifting you today with blessings of treasures. Your treasures today may come from being with family and friends. Your treasures may include a quiet few moments sitting and enjoying the lighted Christmas tree. For Mary it was in the visit from the shepherds whom she had never met. Where is God blessing you today? Where is He giving you treasures of blessing?

Don’t pass them up or overlook them with the worries and concerns of the day. Listen, observe, and believe in the treasures of the day. The greatest treasure of all is the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ – who’s Birthday we celebrate today.

All is well, All is Well – Go and tell.
Angels and men rejoice
Lift up your voice and sing.
Christ has come – Go and tell!

 My prayer for you today is a very Merry Christmas to you and your family!

The Cares of This World Will Grow Strangely Dim

Helen Howarth Lemmel was born in England but came to the United States at age 12, eventually settling in Wisconsin with her parents. Helen had a reputation of being a brilliant singer. She studied private voice for four years in Germany. In the early 1900’s she regularly traveled giving concerts in many churches.

She married a European who was quite wealthy. She taught voice at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago before teaching in Los Angeles. During her lifetime of 98 years she composed over 500 hymns and poems and even authored a children’s book.

It was during the middle years of her life that things changed dramatically and she was dealt a couple of big blows to her faith. Helen became blind and her husband abandoned her. Life became a struggle for her and would have challenged anyone’s faith.

In 1918 a missionary friend gave her a pamphlet that was titled “Focused.” Inside it contained some very impacting words for her – “So then, turn your eyes upon Him, look full in His face and you will find that things of earth will acquire a strange new dimness.”  These words had a great impact on her.

Helen recalled later, “I stood still and singing in my soul and spirit was the chorus, with not one conscious moment of putting word to word to make rhyme, or note to note to make melody. The verses were written the same week, after the usual manner of composition, but nonetheless dictated by the Holy Spirit.”

That song was “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.”  The chorus is “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.  Look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

Helen suffered with blindness and a husband leaving her. Through it all she turned her eyes to Jesus knowing that only He would not fail her or leave her in any situation or circumstance.

The Christmas season does not come without its challenges. For some this is a lonely and depressing time of year. If you find yourself to be in one of these scenarios why not turn to the one for whom we celebrate the Christmas season. As Helen Lemmel found out, even in blindness, the light of day is beautiful and blessed if you will only “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus”.

My prayer for you is that God will make Himself known to you in a special way this Christmas season. Turn Your eyes upon Jesus and see that He will make the things of this world grow strangely dim.

God bless and Merry Christmas.

Are You Jesus?

A few years ago a group of salesmen went to a regional sales convention in Chicago. They had assured their families that they would be home in plenty of time for Friday’s dinner.

In their rush, with tickets and briefcases, one of the salesmen inadvertently kicked over a table which held a display of baskets of apples. Apples flew everywhere. Without stopping or looking back, they all managed to reach the plane in time for their nearly missed boarding. All but one. He paused, took a deep breath, got in touch with his feelings, and experienced a twinge of compassion for the girl whose apple stand had been overturned.

He told his buddies to go on without him, waved goodbye, told one of them to call his wife when they arrived at their home destination and explain his taking a later flight. Then he returned to the terminal where the apples were all over the terminal floor. He was glad he did.

The 16 year old girl was totally blind! She was softly crying, tears running down her cheeks in frustration, and at the same time helplessly groping for her spilled produce as the crowd swirled about her, no one stopping, and no one to care for her plight. The salesman knelt on the floor with her, gathered up the apples, put them into the baskets, and helped her set the display up once more. As he did this, he noticed that many of them had become battered and bruised; these he set aside in another basket. When he finished, he pulled out his wallet and said to the girl, “Here, please take this $20 for the damage we did. Are you okay?”

She nodded through the tears. He continued on with, “I hope we didn’t spoil your day too badly.”
As the salesman started to walk away, the bewildered blind girl called out to him, “Mister…” He paused and turned to look back into those blind eyes. She continued, “Are you Jesus?”
He stopped in mid-stride, and he wondered. Then he slowly made his way to catch the later flight with that question burning and bouncing about in his soul: “Are you Jesus?”

Do people mistake you for Jesus?
That’s our destiny, is it not? To be so much like Jesus that people cannot tell the difference as we live and interact with a world that is blind to His love, life, and grace.

If we claim to know Him, we should live, walk and act as He would. Knowing Him is more than simply quoting Scripture and going to church. It’s actually living the Word as life unfolds day to day. You are the apple of His eye even though we, too, have been bruised by a fall. He stopped what He was doing and picked you and me up on a hill called Calvary and paid in full for our damaged fruit. Let us live like we are worth the price He paid.

In the the hurried, busyness of Christmas, will people see Jesus in your actions? Think about it.