Is Work a Blessing or a Curse?

Full body isolated portrait of young business man

Is work a curse or a blessing?

I have heard that question all my life. And the various opinions associated with the answers. Even for those who have careers in ministry…is it a blessing or a curse?

During such discussions, some who answer “blessing” have even told me that ministry is not work, since it is a blessing. I completely agree that ministry is a blessing, but isn’t it also work? If I can’t call it work, then I’m in trouble with 2 Thessalonians 3:10 and other passages. (And I need a real job :) ) Even though it is a blessing to serve, ministry can be hard too. I don’t know of a pastor who wouldn’t agree that the work of ministry is difficult and messy; even as rewarding as it can be to help others.

Now back to the original question.

Is the work a blessing or a curse?

Many people answer that question as to whether or not they like their job, but the question isn’t whether or not you enjoy your work, but simply is work a curse or a blessing?

As I read Genesis 3, after the fall of man, work appears to be cursed. Consider this: “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat of it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground…” (Genesis 3:18-19) Sounds cursed.

At the same time,the ability to work and the income, production and opportunities it provides is a blessing. In a day when many are looking for work, I’m very thankful to have a job. There are those during this economy who have learned how much of a blessing any job is, just to be able to eat and provide for shelter.

God created work and I actually enjoy it. Ministry is my work…my job. God has called me to the vocational work of ministry and when I am doing the will of God I have an inner peace I can’t get any other way, so I love my work. Sounds like a blessing.

So, I’m thinking it could be a little of both.

I don’t think work is bad. Maybe the curse isn’t work, but on the enjoyment of the work we do. Somedays work is hard. Many days. Sometimes achieving the blessings from work come with sweat and labor. One of the reasons we often dread Mondays, for example, is because of the curse upon work, but, if we were honest, most of us are glad we have a job to go to on Mondays.

It shouldn’t surprise us that something God created as a blessing falls under a curse. Other areas of our life became more difficult at the fall of man, didn’t they? God created marriage. Marriage is wonderful. God created marriage before the fall, but would anyone who is married say that a great marriage never happens without a lot of hard “work”?

Here’s a final thought. If work is a blessing that falls under a curse, then it seems to me that even when our work is hard, the goal should still be to enjoy it. It’s a blessing.

We are blessed to work. Even if its subject to a curse.

What do you think?

Helping Complainers Complain Better

complaint

It surprises me how many well-meaning, even nice people don’t know how to offer a complaint. One that actually gets heard. The Bible says “do everything without arguing or complaining”, but I don’t believe that means we aren’t to ever voice our opinions. There are times when letting someone know what you don’t agree with or how you were mistreated is warranted. If I owned a business, and you were unhappy with your service, I would want to know. As a pastor, I realize you see things I don’t see. If there are issues of concern we want to know it. If you saw a glitch in our preschool security, please come tell me quickly. But, knowing how to offer a complaint (or an opinion), even when it is good information, can make sure your input isn’t quickly dismissed.

I wrote THIS POST recently on how to offer a criticism that actually gets heard.

Then I heard from a pastor who is undergoing change in his church. Needed change. But, along the way, he’s receiving a lot of complaints. Lots. And, they aren’t being delivered in very nice ways. They hurt. There are weeks he feels he is doing nothing right even though the church has grown, new families are being added, and overall the attitude of the church has improved. Complaints, mostly the way they are presented, are shadowing out the good he is doing in his own mind. (I don’t completely understand it but for some reason the filter of civility is often lost when speaking to pastors.) I tried to coach him through this, reminding him of truths he already knew…God is in charge…change is hard…some people are mean :). But, I’d love to address his church sometime. Especially the complainers…and help them see how they could offer their opinions (even if they are merited) in a way that is more beneficial for everyone. Right now it’s not working.

But, it’s not just pastors. I was standing in a checkout line recently. Apparently this customer who frequents this store nearly everyday (his words) was unhappy. He didn’t know how to complain. Not in a way that he will ever be taken seriously. And, in my observation, he may have had a valid issue, but it was quickly dismissed and he was labeled a jerk by store staff.

I watch it in restaurants when the waitress is chewed out by the customer. It’s sad. We may have a valid complaint, but we many times don’t know how to complain.

That’s what this post is about. Complaining. In case you need to complain. (Make sure you do first. Is it rooted in selfishness or rightness?) Honestly, I think we’ve become very selfish as a society and should work to complain less, but that’s another post I guess. For this post, let us assume people are still complaining. This post is: Helping complainers complain better.

So…as much as possible…

Use the sandwich approach.

Basically, in between two pieces of praise, insert the meat of the complaint. You might even put a little sweet jelly on it if needed. (I didn’t invent the process. I’m just expanding upon it.)

Praise – What do you like about the person? What are they doing right? Focus on the positive as much as possible. People listen better to people they think actually care for them as a person.

Complaint – As much as possible, make it constructive criticism rather than a complaint. Be honest. (Don’t embellish.) Be professional. Be kind. (You can offer disappointment and still make someone think you like them.) Be clear. Be quick. Be helpful. Use “I” statements more than “You” statements. Stick to the point.

Praise – Thank them for listening. Bonus points for encouraging them in some way. Complaints can be hard to hear. Soften the blow by ending with kindness.

Of course, doing this may require you to think before you speak. It may even mean writing out your complaint first and reading over it several times. At times, after this step, you may see your feelings have changed and you don’t wish to offer a complaint. (The “sleep on it” approach is never a bad system.)

I’m not saying your complaint will always be heard doing it this way and I’m certainly not saying it means you’ll get what you want. I am saying it gives you a better shot at being heard and you’ll offer your complaint without as much injury to the party receiving it.

This is a serious post, written in a lighthearted way. Honestly, it appears to be a problem in society these days. In the end, I believe it’s a heart issue. For all of us. We’ve lost the art of how to talk to people…how to offer a serious criticism when needed. In the process, we injure people. Thumper’s mom was right…(My mom too)…”If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.”

A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.” Proverbs 15:1

What do you think?

The Cosby Show – Revisited

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I am a Bill Cosby fan, so when I was asked if I’d allow a guest post in honor of his birthday this week, how could I refuse? (This is NOT a sponsored post.)

The Cosby Show – revisited

The 1980s was a much different time in American culture than the current era, a period in which a television show featuring a middle-class African-American family was a revelation and something never seen before. The Cosby Show was a landmark TV comedy even without considering race — but with race in mind, it was a groundbreaking one. As star Bill Cosby turns 76 this week, let’s take a look at how The Cosby Show helped make the entertainment world ready for Will Smith, Oprah Winfrey, and many more African-American TV stars whose shows didn’t revolve around the projects or even make a big deal of their families being a part of mainstream America.

Humble Beginnings

Inspired by his standup comedy show triumph Bill Cosby: Himself, the star and network NBC created a show focused on the family life of the Cosby-like Dr. Cliff Huxtable. In fact, many of the jokes from the first season of the show are taken word-for-word from Himself. It was natural for the new sitcom to feature an upper-middle-class African-American family, since that is what Cosby himself had and talked about during that comedy special. (In fact, Cosby’s TV family and real family both had four girls and one boy, the boy being the middle child.) NBC, however, didn’t have high hopes for the series, especially since it would go head-to-head on Thursday nights with the hugely popular Magnum, P.I. on CBS. They needn’t have worried, however; Cosby soon pulled ahead of Magnum in the ratings, prompting Bill Cosby himself to rub it in by wearing a Magnum ball cap on an episode of his own show.

Gentle Humor

Bill Cosby is known for being socially active and even somewhat harsh in his criticism of all races when it comes to racism and hypocrisy. Cliff Huxtable, on the other hand, was always an avuncular presence, wearing sweaters and college sweatshirts and dispensing funny fatherly advice to his kids. Also, Clair Huxtable kept her husband in line with sharp wisecracks as well as warm understanding. The show was sometimes criticized for not consistently taking on racial issues such as poverty and crime, but Cosby retorted that this was not demanded of shows featuring Caucasians although many people of that race also live in such conditions. To its fans, The Cosby Show was just a funny and heartwarming TV program.

A Trend-Setting Star

It’s fair to say that without The Cosby Show, which ran from 1984 to 1992, shows like The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, starring clean rapper Will Smith, or That’s So Raven, starring Cosby regular Raven-Symone, would have had a harder time getting off the ground. But Cosby — and Cosby — showed that African American characters can be people first and then, if the time is right, symbols later.

As of his 76th birthday this week, Bill Cosby has created some of the most indelible entertainments of the late 20th Century, from I Spy in the 1960s, Fat Albert in the ’70s, and The Cosby Show in the ’80s and ’90s. And he hasn’t stopped making people laugh: he still does standup comedy on tour all throughout the year, and those shows consistently sell out from Las Vegas to New York to Miami. His books still sell briskly. He is still an icon of humor among all races, a breakthrough for those entertainers who followed.

Author Bio: Spencer Blohm is a television and movie blogger for DirectTV who covers everything from previews and new releases to classic films and shows from the ‘70s and ‘80s. He’s been a huge Cosby fan since he was a child. He lives and works in Chicago.

Happy Birthday Bill!

What’s your favorite work of Bill Cosby?

7 Things Forgiveness IS NOT…

(I’m on vacation this coming week, and so for the next couple weeks I’m posting again some of my most read posts, but also ones I think are actually helpful. These are my “favorite top posts”. Some posts had more hits, but they simply do well in the search engines. I’m actually proud of these. :) None of these were posted this year. All are older than that. Thanks for reading my blog. Feel free to share these on Twitter, and Google Plus to get them circulated. I won’t be doing much of that while I’m gone.)

We get confused about what forgiveness is and what it isn’t. Maybe we don’t really know sometimes.

Forgiveness is not an option for the believer. We are to forgive others as we have been forgiven. For most of us (all of us if we will admit it), that’s a whole lot of forgiveness. Understanding forgiveness doesn’t make it easier to forgive, but it does make it more meaningful…perhaps even tolerable…but I believe understanding the process could make us more likely to offer the forgiveness we are commanded to give.

With that in mind, in two posts, I want to share what forgiveness is and what it isn’t.

Here are 7 things forgiveness IS NOT:

Forgetting - When you forgive someone your memory isn’t suddenly wiped clean of the offense. I know God could do that, but it seems that would be the easy way. I suspect God wants forgiveness to be more intentional than that.

Regaining automatic trust - You don’t immediately trust the person who injured you when you forgive them. That wouldn’t even be logical. Trust is earned, and they must earn trust again.

Removal of consequences – Even though you forgive someone, they may still have consequences to face because of their actions.

Ignoring the offense – You don’t have to pretend nothing happened when you forgive. The reality is an offense was made. Acting like it never occurred only builds resentment and anger.

Instant emotional healing – Emotions heal with time. Some pain runs deep and takes longer to heal.

Restoring the same relationship – The relationship may be closer than before or not, but most likely it will never be the same.

A leverage of powerGranting forgiveness does not give a person power over the person being forgiven. That would violate the entire principle and purpose of forgiveness.

Here is the companion post….7 Things that Forgiveness Is… Just a note before you get there: This post may have seemed easy, even freeing, but the next one may be more difficult.

What would you add to my list of things forgiveness is NOT?

Ways to Stop Gossip (Repost)

(I’m on vacation this coming week, and so for the next couple weeks I’m posting again some of my most read posts, but also ones I think are actually helpful. These are my “favorite top posts”. Some posts had more hits, but they simply do well in the search engines. I’m actually proud of these. :) None of these were posted this year. All are older than that. Thanks for reading my blog. Feel free to share these on Twitter, and Google Plus to get them circulated. I won’t be doing much of that while I’m gone.)

In my job, I hear far more junk than I care to hear. The larger our church gets, the more mess we encounter among the people to whom we minister. We have designed our church to reach hurting people, so we are simply reaching our target audience, but some days it is more difficult than others to hear such sad stories.

One part of the drama of messiness that always frustrates me is how gossip begins about other people’s problems. As if dealing with the consequences of sin is not enough, many times some of the hardest repercussion is the gossip that occurs about the people involved and the situation that occurred. I have been the victim of unfair gossip and I know the pain it can cause. I have never found gossip to be helpful to the people involved or to the Kingdom of God. I have literally become a hater of gossip because I have seen it destroy so many people! Gossip hurts innocent people who are caught in the middle, it exaggerates the situation, and it keeps the one who did wrong loaded with guilt and frustration, and from experiencing the fullness of God’s grace. (Consider these passages: Proverbs 11:13, Proverbs 16:28, Proverbs 20:19, Proverbs 26:20, Romans 1:29, 2 Corinthians 12:20, 1 Timothy 5:13 … the Bible talks a great deal about this…)

With that in mind, I’m listing 7 suggestions for how to stop, or at least slow, the spread of gossip. Will you consider each and take them personal? If the shoe fits will you wear it. Together, perhaps we can help stop the deadly spread of this harmful virus!

Here are 7 ways to stop gossip:

  • Don’t repeat something you don’t know is true firsthand…secondhand knowledge is not enough to justify repeating. You will get something wrong and it will hurt others.
  • Don’t repeat unless its helpful to do so and you have a vested interest in the situation, the people involved, and permission to share…doing so in the name of a prayer request is not a good excuse…
  • Don’t “confess” other people’s sins. Even if the wrong included you and you feel the need to confess, share your story, but not someone else’s.
  • If you must tell, and have passed the test on the first three suggestions, tell only what happened and not your commentary or “I think this is probably what happened” or why you think it happened…
  • Choose to pray for others every time you are tempted to tell their story…instead of telling their story…
  • When someone tells you something you don’t need to know, don’t allow curiosity to be your guide…follow your heart. Stop the person and tell them you don’t want to know! Remember, if they will spread gossip about others they will spread it about you!
  • Keep the circle of confession limited to the people involved or to no more than needed for accountability purposes. The wider the circle and the more the story is repeated the more likely things will turn into gossip.

If my tone seems intent it’s because I am. I have little patience for gossips. My desire is to see people who live in holy and healthy community together. Gossip is a betrayer of this becoming reality.

Have you seen people injured by the spread of gossip? Have you been a victim?

Please chime into the discussion to help make my case here!! What else would you add?

12 Random Pieces of Life I Love

Grandmother with grandson having fun at home - whispering secret

Sometimes it’s the little things.

A lazy Sunday afternoon nap after a great morning at church.

Picking raspberries in Michigan and “testing” them along the way.

Inside jokes with friends.

A song that brings back a nearly forgotten memory.

Sitting on a porch swing listening to a gentle rain.

Laughing as a puppy plays.

Discovering a “hidden gem” of a restaurant when not even looking.

Wrestling with a two year old boy.

Sharing a smile with someone you love.

Waking up at Grandma’s to the smell of fresh coffee and breakfast.

A small child whispering in your ear.

Saturday mornings with no agenda.

That’s 12 of mine. Add one, two or twelve of yours.

Take time today to reflect on the moments that make memories.

And don’t forget…

Sometimes it’s the little things.

10 Remembrances on Memorial Day

American Heroes II

Today we remember.

Your sacrifice.
Your pride of duty.
Your love of freedom.
Your strength.
Your family’s commitment.
Your courage.
Your patriotism.
Your honor.
Your contribution.
Your legacy.

Happy Memorial Day!

Thank you!

(Memorial Day has rightly expanded focus in recent years to honor all troops, past and present. In days of extreme, continual sacrifice of our military we can never say thank you enough. A special thank you to veterans John R. Edmondson, Sr. (Air Force), John R. Edmondson, Jr. (Navy) and Dr. J F Burney (Army) Father, brother and father-in-law to me. All of you soldiers, and your families, have made and are making us proud.)

Anyone you especially remember on a day like today?

How to Follow My Blog After Google Reader

If you haven’t heard, Google Reader is going away. Quickly. It was announced a couple months ago, but it ends July 1, 2013. I was bummed, because I use Google Reader to follow most of the blogs I follow.

Many people follow this blog through Google Reader.

What to do?

Well, short answer…it’s easy. Case solved.

Sign up to have this blog emailed. Do that at the top right of my home page HERE. Just enter your email address and follow the instructions.

Sign up for Feedly. Do that HERE.

Feedly is a quick, couple minute transfer of your Google Reader blogs to follow them on Feedly. And, it’s free. I actually enjoy the layout better than I did Google Reader. My friend Michael Hyatt, whom you can trust much more than me on things like this, shares 7 reasons he’s using Feedly to replace Google Reader HERE.

Don’t miss the content you’ve relied upon. Act today.

Make Sure Your Marketing Matches Your Market

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A friend and I went to a Reds game recently. It was a cold night for baseball. It had been raining for several days and thankfully stopped in time for the game. But, it made for a very chilly night.

It didn’t stop the stadium vendors from doing their job though. The only problem…I’m not sure their marketing matched their market.

Especially one guy.

It was almost funny. It was obvious he had a routine. A common cheer. A pitch.

“Ice cold beer….BRRRR….Ice cold beer….BRRRR…”.

It was his trademark. He would shake his head everytime he said “BRRR“…

He was good at it too. Convicting. He had the routine well rehearsed.

I got colder listening to him. Every time he did his cheer, I pulled my jacket a little tighter around my neck. I’m getting colder now, just thinking about his performance.

Now, here’s the problem. I wasn’t in the beer market anyway, but his marketing approach probably wouldn’t have motivated me if I was. I didn’t need anything to make me colder than I already was that night. I needed something to make me warmer. If it had been 90 humid degrees in the shade, he would have had a winning approach with beer drinkers. This would have been your best salesperson of the night.

But, as it appeared, he wasn’t selling much that night. Almost nothing. He even seemed discouraged. (Although now I may be reading into this because it fits the illustration.) Either way…sales were certainly down.

I wondered if it were more than the weather…if in fact part of the reason was his cheer.

Anything “BRRR…ice cold…” doesn’t grab my attention as much when I’m already cold.

I don’t know what the warm beer cheer is, but that would almost seem to have been a better one this night. :) Maybe even a cheer for hot chocolate.

It reminded me though of how we “market” sometimes…even in the church.

Sometimes our marketing doesn’t match our market

Okay, I’ll get pushback that the church shouldn’t market. (I love hearing from those guys.) Call it what you want, but we have a message we are trying to tell. We hopefully think about how we tell it. If you don’t then you can ignore this post and I will catch you next time. Marketing is the process of packaging a story in a way that others become interested in it. I think we attempt that every week.

Jesus seemed to share His message in a way the audience He was speaking to could more easily understand. That’s why He used parables. It seems to be why He used a lot of farming illustrations. (They were plentiful in His audience.)

I wonder if we, as a church, need to get better at telling our story…marketing our message.

So, with that in mind, here’s my advice:

Make sure your marketing matches your market.

Make sure your story-telling matches your audience.

To do that, ask yourself:

Who are the people you are trying to reach?

Who are the people with whom you want to share your message?

Who are the people needing to know what you know?

Who are the people needing to believe what you believe?

What do they think like? What are they interested in? What motivates them? What inspires them?

What do they need most? What are their greatest fears? With what do they struggle most?

How can you tell the story in a way that they hear and are motivated to respond?

Again…

Does your “marketing” match your market?