Policies & Procedures

15 years and going strong…I think it’s safe to say I like my job. And I believe my co-workers would say the same thing. They’ve been around for a while too – the newbie has been there about 8 years and others more than 25 years. After being together for that long, we’ve definitely settled into a routine.

We’re in the process of hiring another staff member so as a manager, I felt the need to bring everyone together to hit the refresh button.

Don’t get me wrong…we have a good thing going. In fact, someone who was interviewed commented that our group was “like a family”.  And I would agree.

But that’s where we could also get ourselves in trouble.

When things become so routine, we can easily forget that things we do or don’t do can still impact the group dynamic. And as I prepared for the staff meeting, I quickly realized that the same could be true at home.

Team building – How often do you & your spouse take the time to connect with God? After all, He’s part of the team too and “a cord of three strands is not easily broken.”  (Ecclesiastes 4:12) With the busyness of life, finding time to pray together is honestly a challenge for my husband & I. When I leave for work, he’s asleep. In the evenings, after a 12 hour day and a long commute, I’m pretty useless unless you count catching up on “The Voice”.

When I complained for the 100th time that we needed to figure this out, he finally said, “Bringing it up doesn’t do anything if we aren’t going to follow through” and he was right. We had to think outside the box.  Since it seemed like our mornings & evenings were shot, we decided we would pray together during my break at work.  It may not be the family prayer time we experienced growing up but it’s still an opportunity for us to connect with each other and God.

Common courtesies – I reminded the team at work that a little courtesy can go along way.  At home, we can be guilty of taking things for granted and forget to just say “thank you”.  These 2 simple words are something my husband & I try to consistently express and I truly believe it is one of the keys to a strong marriage.  No matter how big or small the task, from washing the dishes to getting new tires for the car, everyone needs to feel appreciated.

Phone – Most companies have policies about personal calls at work…well, the Abrahams have created a little policy of our own. In a recent heart to heart conversation, I told my husband that I felt like he was always on his phone when we were in the car. Well, you can imagine how surprised  I was when he said he actually felt that way about me.  (It’s funny how 2 adults can remember things very differently). Regardless, the fact was that it was obviously an issue so we made a pledge: no more phone conversations with other people when we are in the car together. Honestly, some days, the car ride is the only chance he & I have to really talk so we have to make the most of it.

Doors – Instead of cubicles at work, we each have our own office with real walls and a real door.  (There was a time that my office shared a door with the bathroom which is a whole other story). Some of us were keeping our doors pretty much closed throughout the day and for good reasons (noise, temperature, etc.).

In spite of the good reasons, a closed-door can still have a not so good effect.  Communication is disrupted and before you know it, you are feeling disconnected.  I didn’t want that for our team so I asked them to give open doors another chance.

How are we closing ourselves off in our marriages? We may have our own “good reasons” like hurt feelings or we’re just tired but it doesn’t change the potential negative impact.  Don’t allow yourselves to disconnect from each other.

Our marriages deserve the kind of attention that we give to other areas of our lives…since we plan to be around for a while, let’s do our part to make it the best it can be.

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Photo credit: Wendy Longo  https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/legalcode

The Gift of Weakness

Have you ever been asked these infamous questions on a job interview?

“What are your strengths?” with the unfortunate follow-up, “What are your weaknesses?”

That’s always a funny question to me because, really, what is someone suppose to say in that moment? “Well, Mr. Pleasehireme, I tend to show up late, I call-in sick a lot and my former co-workers said I have an attitude problem…when do I start?”

Um…how about never?

Nobody wants to be weak. At anything. It’s an ego bruiser and a pride deflater.

Maybe that’s exactly why we have them.

If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you’ve heard the story about Paul and his “thorn in the flesh”. It’s been said that no one really knows exactly what that “thorn” was….there is speculation but that’s it. But what we do know is that it was from the enemy.

Here’s the context: (You’ve probably read this a thousand times but this translation might become your favorite.)

2 Corinthians 12: 7-10 (The Message) Because of the extravagance of those revelations, and so I wouldn’t get a big head, I was given the gift of a handicap to keep me in constant touch with my limitations. Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees. No danger then of walking around high and mighty! At first I didn’t think of it as a gift, and begged God to remove it. Three times I did that, and then he told me, My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become.

Paul is like anyone else regarding a weakness. He doesn’t like it. He doesn’t want it. He asked God to take it away from him. God doesn’t say yes or no. Instead, He acknowledges what Paul says is true – He affirms that Paul does have a weakness. But He still doesn’t remove it.

Can you relate to Paul? I know I can. What’s that thing that you just can’t seem to shake off, no matter how much you pray? You know it’s not from God so you want it gone.

My thing may not be your thing but it’s still a thing that likes to torment me and make me feel…weak. If I didn’t have it, I feel like I would be so much more effective but it’s there and doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere.

Maybe that’s exactly where God wants me.

Paul’s words in this verse are so key – this thorn “tormented” Paul. You can almost picture a little devil on his shoulder, constantly taunting him. Then, Paul turns the tables on him.

Instead of horns on the little guy, he puts a big bow on him. He calls his thorn a gift.

From tormenter to gift – big difference.

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It’s easy to feel defeated by our thorns. I beat myself up all the time because I just can’t understand why I struggle with the same thing time after time. I feel like less of a Christian because of it.

But I also know that because I am in “constant touch with my limitations” as Paul said, I’m also in constant dialogue with God. That’s not a bad place to be.

Am I hoping that one day I won’t have to deal with this anymore? Of course. But until then, I/we can change the impact of our thorns. Instead of letting it get us down, we can recognize all it has to offer.

Big head prevention? Yup. Praying more? Definitely. Getting stronger through Christ? Absolutely.

2 Corinthians 4:7 (NLT) We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure. This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/annie_stru/ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/legalcode

The Best Medicine

We use the word “love” a lot now. Have you noticed?

I love my husband. I love nachos. I love my family. I love coffee. I love my friends. I love naps.

Recently, I walked away from my annual visit to my primary doctor thinking “I love my doctor.”

Exaggeration? Maybe.

First of all, I have literally seen her twice in my entire life: once at my visit last year and the 2nd time…well, at my visit this year.

We don’t hang out. I honestly can’t even pronounce her last name. I don’t know what she likes to do outside of doctor stuff (which I am just assuming by her job).

So why the love?

She listened to me.

She made me feel like I was the only person in the room. Come to think of it, that part was actually true. Maybe this explains it better – she made me feel like I was her most important patient.  Ever.

No rush. No dismissive comments. No checking her phone. It was the active kind of listening where she was completely attentive and genuinely concerned.

I thought about it after I left her office that day. She didn’t do anything spectacular and I was ready to add her to my list of loves.

All from being a really good listener.

I just got off the phone with a friend who has been dealing with a difficult marriage – it’s gone on for years. We’ve talked through it before and they’ve even received professional help but the struggle continues.

I felt completely helpless. In our quick fix world and my let’s-get-it-taken-care-of mind, I wanted to make her pain go away…right away. I asked God to give me something to say to her but I got nothing. So, I did all I could do. I listened and I prayed.

Honestly, it didn’t feel like enough.

The book of Job is usually referred to in terms of how to deal with suffering. But I think we can also learn something about relationships too.  It contains a dialogue between Job and his friends. Then, God enters the conversation.

He addresses Job but he also speaks to Job’s friends. God’s complaint against them: “I am angry with you and your two friends, for you have not spoken accurately about me, as my servant Job has. (‭Job‬ ‭42‬:‭7‬ NLT)

Job’s friends started out good – they came to him, they sat with him, they listened to him.  Then, they started talking. A lot.

In their attempt to “help” Job, they angered God by speaking things about God that were not true. In our attempt to feel like we’re helping people, we might also be guilty of saying more than we should. As much as I wanted to tell my friend “It’s going to be okay – your marriage will be good one day”, I couldn’t because I don’t know that. Only God knows that.

Job told them at one point that “I have heard all this before. What miserable comforters you are! Won’t you ever stop blowing hot air? What makes you keep on talking?” (‭Job‬ ‭16‬:2-3 NLT)

Proverbs 25 refers to “a word fitly spoken” or “a word spoken in right circumstance”. A word can be good word indeed but it may be the wrong time. That makes a difference.

I wanted to fix my friend’s situation but I couldn’t. There’s a time for guidance and a 10-step plan but this wasn’t one of those times. And I didn’t necessarily feel prompted to say anything just for the sake of saying something. It would have been hot air like Job’s friends…words which offered no real encouragement to Job and no glory for God.

Maybe that’s why scripture provides us with these words – Lord, give us ears to hear and may we be quick to listen and slow to speak. 

Sometimes, all people need is to know that they are not alone and that they are heard…really heard.

By the way, let me know if you need a good doctor…I know one.

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Score

I am a football girl.

I was born & raised in the great state of Texas and have watched the Cowboys with my dad since I was a kid. My husband is thankful for that upbringing…it makes Sunday afternoons good for him too.

Then, along came my nephews and now, I’m also a basketball fan. They’ve been playing pretty much since they could walk and have since graduated from their Fisher-Price goal to now playing on their school teams.

Basketball, like any sport, is about scoring. You score (more), you win. In my youngest nephew’s game recently, he didn’t score any points but I think it was his best game yet.

You might wonder how that’s possible…

Well, one thing that I have learned about basketball is that it doesn’t just look at the baskets you have made. A key component is also how many times you have assisted – aka helped someone else make a basket.

My nephew, Caleb, is a great team player but his assists in this particular game were especially meaningful. He passed the ball to a special needs player on the team who then scored his very first basket. The crowd went wild and everyone was cheering.

My nephew is like any other 11-year-old (or 40-year-old for that matter). He wants to score. Scoring is fun. That’s when you hear the applause and cheers from the crowd…for you.

Caleb hadn’t scored yet in the game and this could have been his moment to do that but instead, he went for the assist and let a very special young man have that moment instead.

Later, in the game, the same thing happened again. Another assist from my nephew, another score from the same teammate, giving him a total of 4 points for the night.

Caleb’s team won and maybe he didn’t get to put any points on the board but he still scored pretty big in my opinion.

His selflessness in that game inspired me. I will likely never play basketball (according to my nephews, my form needs a lot of work) but I still have the opportunity to assist.

How often, especially in the body of Christ, do we forget that we are on the same team? It often becomes a competition among people who are actually wearing the same colors on their jersey.

I understand because I’ve been there. After all, who doesn’t want to “succeed”? If we’re going to take the time to do something, we might as well do it big.

But what if we’re not the one making the basket but instead we assist – i.e. the supporting cast member, the person in the background, the one serving, are we okay with that?

It’s definitely a hard pill to swallow, especially for those of us that are driven. But when we alley-oop to another team member, a couple of things can happen: we increase our team’s chance of winning and our opponent has lost one of his greatest tactics – pride.

If you don’t like my church, that’s okay. There are lots of great churches, let’s find one that fits you.

My voice isn’t right for that solo?  How about giving someone else a chance?

If my writing/teaching doesn’t really do anything for you, that’s okay. I can recommend others you might like better.

When we make it about the team and not ourselves, everyone wins.

I was more proud of Caleb in that particular game than other games when he was the high scorer. I have to believe that God feels the same way about us.

Proverbs 29:23 (HCSB) A person’s pride will humble him, but a humble spirit will gain honor.

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The Big Picture

jimmy_jennifer These are my friends, Jimmy & Jennifer. Cute couple, right?

Well, this is Jennifer’s most recent Facebook profile picture. After I made my “like” official on Facebook along with many of her other friends, I read this comment posted by Jimmy:

“I feel like I should have noticed that you had such a unique bow in your hair.”

It was a funny observation by Jimmy.  I honestly hadn’t even noticed it until he pointed it out but I still think it’s a great picture.  The bow isn’t a bad thing; it’s just part of the background.

It isn’t the point of the picture but I definitely see it…now.

Isn’t it funny how that happens?

All it takes is for one person to say something, even about a random bow, and it can change what we see.

Jimmy’s observation was all in fun and Jennifer played right along.  But it got me thinking about those circumstances that go a lot deeper than a hair-bow.

How does my voiced whining, complaining or even just “sharing”  affect someone else’s perception of something…or someone?  How will they take it?

There’s a story in the New Testament about a woman named Herodias. John the Baptist had informed her husband, Herod, that God was not pleased with their current family arrangement. It bothered Herod that John called him out like that but here’s the interesting thing – he still held John in high regard.

Mark 6:20 Herod respected John; and knowing that he was a good and holy man, he protected him. Herod was greatly disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him.

Well, Herodias did not share in that sentiment and was ready to take care of Herod’s offense herself. She worked out a plan and recruited another member of the family, her daughter.

Her daughter was able to manipulate Herod to the point where he promised he would give her anything she asked for. She went to her mother to find out what she should say.

This was the chance Herodias had been waiting for. She wanted the head of John the Baptist. Her daughter conveyed the request, and Herod had to oblige her.

Did you notice how this spread & escalated from person to person to person? It started with Herod, who was disturbed, who then told his wife, who was angry, who told their daughter who was able to help carry out revenge.

When we share something about a situation or someone else, are we telling them because we want them to help us work it out or because we want them to help us carry our offense?

I will admit that I have done both.

I was in a situation once where I had received an email that I honestly wasn’t sure how to take. I was with a close friend at the time and I showed her the email (but not who it was from). She quickly acknowledged my concern and in fact was ready to call that person and GO OFF on them on my behalf. Confession: I liked that! I wanted somebody who would express what I wanted to but knew I shouldn’t. Fun? Yes! Right? No.

In other instances, people have disagreed with my point of view and proceeded to show me another way to look at the situation. Fun? No. Right? Yes.

Scripture encourages the use of wise advisers but our motives are key. Where our heart is will determine how we tell the story and how open we are for potential correction.

The power of our words isn’t just about life or death for us – it could also be speaking life or death into someone else.  What we say affects ourselves and those fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to hear us.

If we look back on our conversations over the past week,  what impact did our words have? Did we bring life to a situation or destruction?

The words are ours so the choice is ours. Let’s help people see life.

The Long Way Around

One day, maybe I’ll get to write a post about a really cool thing I did that would make you & Jesus proud.

Unfortunately, today is not that day.

I had 2 opportunities (TWO!) just this week (and it’s only Tuesday) to do some major flesh conquering and Spirit winning.

That didn’t happen.

(Update: make that 3 opportunities.  Another one literally came up while I was typing this.)

Interesting but slightly disturbing fact: the first opportunity happened when I was about to leave a BIBLE STUDY.  I was still in the parking lot.

That’s not a good sign.

Each situation has been very different but with a common opportunity – how will I respond?

I was given a choice.  It was black & white.  I could respond in the right way or the wrong way.

Eventually, I found myself at the right conclusion (key word: eventually). However, it was my initial response to each scenario that was the problem.

Luke 6:45 (NLT) A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the treasury of an evil heart. What you say flows from what is in your heart.  

My heart ain’t lookin too good right now.

I’d like to give myself credit for coming around.  Let’s just say I took the scenic route. But I also understand, that first response is crucial.

On Sunday, you know…um, post-Bible study…if I had responded differently, my husband & I would have had a better evening.  If my initial response to the second opportunity that came up with a friend had been different, I could have helped put out a fire instead of adding fuel to it.  And the latest blow, well, I could have stopped a pity-party in the making, hosted and attended only by me.

But the truth is – it’s what I felt. So naturally, it’s what came out.

During a particularly dark time in my life, my husband made an observation.  He was surprised at how well I handled the “big” situation we were facing.  He obviously said that because he had seen how I dealt with some little situations and it wasn’t pretty.

The difference: my inclination in the overwhelmingly difficult circumstance was to go straight to God.  In that moment,  my heart was so broken that I didn’t have the energy to formulate a well thought out response.  So, my go-to reaction was to pray.

If only I could remember to do that in the little situations too. They don’t seem like a big deal at the time but I’m sure you’ve noticed, life certainly has a bunch of them.

It’s the dishes never got washed like they were suppose to situation.  It’s the traffic situation.  It’s the that person has way more than 10 items in the express lane situation.

Situation after situation.  Opportunity after opportunity.  Maybe this is why Paul said, “Pray without ceasing”.

Mercifully, in the same verse that convicted me of my blemished heart, Jesus also provided some insight – “A good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart…”.

The definition of treasury is “a place in which stores of wealth are kept”, which begs the question:

 “What kind of deposits am I making in my heart?”

Years ago, back when Oprah had her talk show, I watched an episode about cheating husbands and I found myself getting really mad. Mad at the entire male species.  Now granted, my husband had NOT cheated on me but as a member of the species, he sure felt my wrath when he got home.

That episode of Oprah affected me even though it had nothing to do with me.

Bad deposit.

That sounds like support for “ignorance is bliss” and “Oprah is bad seed” but it’s not.  It just proved to me yet again that what goes in me (what I take to heart) will come out (of my heart).  Good or bad.

My initial reaction still needs work but my turn around time is a lot quicker than it use to be. I believe that’s thanks in part to some good deposits: sermon podcasts, praise & worship music, and wise friends.  It’s all good food for the soul that will help bring about a better heart in me and a better response from me.

And I’m sure it won’t take long for another opportunity to test it.  Maybe I can avoid the scenic route this time.

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Do You Hear What I Hear?

It’s probably a football fan’s worst nightmare.

Case in point: this past Sunday, we attended a Super Bowl party at a friend’s house. For most of us, our teams weren’t in it but we still felt the need to choose a side.

The Seahawks were the team of choice for the majority of this group with a very small contingency cheering on the Patriots (4 to be exact) including one die-hard, all-season-long fan, my 13 year old nephew, Joshua. (We blame his father for this.)

While the other Patriot fans in the room were silently cheering on their team, Joshua actually wore a Tom Brady jersey and was even drinking out of a Patriots mug that he brought from home.

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He was all in.

Of course being all in can sometimes work against you.

In a room of temporary Seattle Seahawks fans, he was completely outnumbered and surrounded. In fact, they didn’t just root for them from their own chairs. They purposely sat around him, cheered & yelled right in his ear. But he wasn’t fazed.

If you saw the game, you know how this ends.  Those Seattle fans who thought this game was theirs for the taking were in for a very unpleasant surprise. In a move that would be called the dumbest play call in Super Bowl history, the Patriots won the game.

Guess who had the last laugh in the room that day?

Now granted, there are worse things in life than being harassed at a Super Bowl party but the visual was something I won’t forget.

One kid with his mind made up surrounded by folks who disagreed & were determined to let their voice be heard.

Sound familiar?

I pictured you…I pictured me with the enemy positioning himself right in our ear determined that he will be heard.

Isn’t that what it feels like? And he’s not wearing his usual red jumpsuit.  He may use society, someone on TV, or an unsuspecting family member…he may even sound like you.

“Your marriage is not going to last.”

 “Your dad was an alcoholic, you will be an alcoholic.”  

“You will never be successful at anything.” 

“Just give up.”

In Isaiah 37, there is a story about the Assyrian army getting ready to attack King Hezekiah and the people of Judah.

The Assyrian chief of staff taunted Hezekiah with these words:
10 “This message is for King Hezekiah of Judah. Don’t let your God, in whom you trust, deceive you with promises that Jerusalem will not be captured by the king of Assyria. 11 You know perfectly well what the kings of Assyria have done wherever they have gone. They have completely destroyed everyone who stood in their way! Why should you be any different? 12 Have the gods of other nations rescued them…?

It’s hard enough when the enemy is talking smack. It’s harder when there’s some truth to that smack.

The Assyrian officer wasn’t lying in regards to the fact of what had happened in their previous battles…maybe they had been victorious against other nations.

But Judah wasn’t just another nation. And their God wasn’t just any god.

We then see that God assured Hezekiah that the city would be safe, “For my own honor and for the sake of my servant David…”.

The next time the enemy comes around and decides he wants to have a conversation with you, stand your ground.  You know Whose side you are on…and you are guaranteed a victory.