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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Does gratefulness show itself in your life?

It's Thanksgiving week. I just left a meeting and everyone had that same blank stare on their face. You know the one, the one that says that you have already checked out of work this week and that your mind is everywhere but focused on work. There's turkey and ham to cook, not to mention all the special requests that go with them. There's planning the Black Friday shopping excursion. Many of us wait till the weekend after Thanksgiving to officially hang our Christmas decorations, and so much more. Yep, everyone in this meeting had checked out for the week already. And in the midst of all the idle small talk prior to and following the meeting all that could be heard was the hectic schedules, the tension over the holiday meal when families come together, and where to put everyone. Those that were traveling were trying to figure out when to leave, how soon they can come back, and why they can't seem to just relax.

Wow, it can become so easy to get caught up in all this that we forget that thanksgiving was designed to be just that, a day of thanksgiving. I purposely took some time out this morning to list the things in my life that I am thankful for and what a list it turned into:

I have a God who loved me enough to send His Son to die for me.
I have an incredible wife.
3 great daughters.
We have our health.
Awesome friends and a great church family.
We have the home of our dreams in a wonderful historic neighborhood.
Great jobs with open possibilities.
Food (an abundance of food) on our table.
Clothes (nice clothes) to wear.
Good cars to get us where we need to be.
The ability to do things that other people will never be able to do in other parts of the world.

Well, you get the idea, the list just got longer and longer and I became more and more embarrassed over the whining and complaining I had almost given into. I discovered that if I cannot take time out to express my thankfulness this day (and really it should be every day) then this day is not worth celebrating.

How about you? I know it is a hectic week and life throws stressers into the holidays like no other time. But I challenge you to refocus your perceptions this week and make a list of your own of all the things you have to be thankful for. No mater what is going on in your life I bet you find the list is much longer than you originally thought.

Just something to think about.

Lead Strong this Thanksgiving week,
Shawn

Friday, November 14, 2008

Are you trying to drive using only the rearview mirror?

I know you've never tried this, but have you ever tried to drive your car by only looking in the rear view mirror? (Don't worry honey, I only do this when you're asleep in the car.) It is not only difficult, it is impossible. While you can see everything behind you and everywhere you've been, you cannot see what's right in front of you or what's coming your way down the road.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of people live their lives in just this way. They are so focused on the past; its pains as well as its victories, that they can't seem to navigate the present and therefore have no hope of a successful future. They continue to look back... oh, the good old days. Or, they can't seem to get over the hurts inflicted on them in the past. But little do they realize that by their continual focus on past hurts they continue to open those same wounds each time they look back.

It's not a new problem by any means, in fact it is very much a part of human nature for many people. Remember Lot's wife in Genesis 19? Sodom and Gomorrah were being destroyed and all she could focus on was what she was losing instead of what lied ahead... and she did it, she looked back... Well, you know the rest of the story, she became a pillar of salt. (Gen. 19:26, NIV). Lot's wife was trying to move forward by looking in the rear view mirror. Now, there's more to the story, but you get the idea.

What about you? Are you trying to move forward by keeping your eyes in the rear view mirror? Maybe you are a split vision kind of person, looking to the future with one eye but always looking to the past with the other (which by the way is just as counterproductive). That rear view mirror is important and the lessons we learn from our past should help us through the present and on into the future. But by comparison, the rear view mirror is tiny in contrast the the front windshield (hmmm, interesting how they designed it that way, huh?). Could it be that God has designed our lives the same way? The window to the past is very small in comparison to the huge view God presents us with as we move through the present into the future. And even if the present and future are a little foggy right now, they are still the only things that hold any potential for success. We can never relive the past, good or bad, no matter what we do.

Use that rear view mirror for what is was designed for, but don't keeping looking at it as you try to move forward. The view in front of you is incredible and the opportunities that await you are beyond imagination. But you can't look back and look forward simultaneously. I challenge you to look forward. It doesn't even have to make sense or be clear, it is still a better view than the one in the rear view mirror.

Just think about it...

Lead Strong,
Shawn

Monday, November 10, 2008

Looking at the Election Through Eyes of Faith

I normally do not copy and paste entire articles but a friend and former colleague wrote a great piece for the Amarillo Globe-News and I thought I would pass it along. Have a great Monday.

Lead Strong,Shawn...

Election observations from the faith/belief/ethics perspective:

First, while truth is the first casualty in any election, this one wasn't as distorted as most. The 1800 election pitting Thomas Jefferson against John Adams - both heroes of American history - is my favorite for negativity and distortion. Despite our romanticized remembrance of the founding fathers, our current politicians are more likely to play fair and tell the truth than our heroes of old.

Second, this year's election did have the most biased media coverage, at least in modern history. The Pew Research Center (a highly credible organization) found 36 percent of the national media reports on Barack Obama were positive, 35 percent neutral and 29 percent negative. By contrast, 57 percent of national news reports on John McCain were negative, 29 percent neutral and 14 percent positive.I doubt the bias was intentional.

Still, you may have sensed as I did that national journalists couldn't quite fathom why anyone wouldn't support Obama. Indeed, Pew found 70 percent of Americans perceived the national media as favoring Obama. Even Democrats rated the coverage biased in favor of Obama, and "Saturday Night Live" parodied the absurdly positive coverage. (For context, in 2004 Pew found 50 percent of Americans perceived media bias favoring John Kerry.)

Third, religious and gender prejudice is alive and well in America. Obama is not Muslim, and even if he was, by constitutional guarantee, his religious affiliation does not determine his fit for office. That the accusations - though false - reinforced many votes against him speaks loudly of lingering religious discrimination in America.

In light of this, I wonder if, as a Mormon, Mitt Romney had a chance of being elected. As a Jew, was Joe Lieberman disadvantaged?We apparently are willing to accept religious apathy and demonstrated indifference from our candidates but not deviance from our poorly defined sense of "mainstream" Christianity.Similarly, women are still significantly disadvantaged. No male candidate had to waste time fending off comments regarding hair, wardrobe or glasses. That the media - purportedly an "enlightened" group - found Hillary Clinton's pantsuits and Sarah Palin's wardrobe worth reporting, speaks volumes as to where we are on gender.

Finally, I was distressed by McCain campaign stops that brought forth hateful catcalls from attendees, but I was equally impressed that McCain - even in the face of "boos" from his own supporters - rightly asserted that Obama is a good man and not worthy of the slanderous accusations.We need more of that. We need our leaders to step forward and return civility to public discourse. At the end of the day, both McCain and Obama are decent men. Both are flawed, with positions that trouble many. Regardless, they are decent men pursuing what they believe to be the best interests of the country.May God bless and heal them both.

James Hallmark is provost/vice president for academic affairs at West Texas A&M University.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Thoughts on Election Day

Did you vote? I am not even as concerned with who you voted for as much as I am that you voted. Sure, I have my preference based on my ideals and values and so do you. But, do you know what? Regardless of whoever you voted for each of our ideals and values are valid. If you've done your homework, researched the candidates and the issues and made an informed conscious decision then you have done your civic duty.

Now, with that said let me share with you a thought from scripture that might shed light on our approach to election day, but more importantly, the days after. Psalm 122: 6-9 says, "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem (insert the USA): 'May those who love you (our country) be secure. May there be peace within your walls (our country) and security within your citadels.' For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, 'Peace be within you (the US).' For the sake of the house of the Lord our God, I will seek your prosperity (the prosperity and future security of our country)."

I was taught to pray scripture, especially the Psalms. And in so doing to personalize them. What a better prayer for our country. Pray for peace for the United States. May all who live within this great country be secure, and let there be peace. Not only for my sake or even those who agree with me politically, but for the sake of others, pray for peace. For the sake of God, seek peace and the prosperity of those within our country.

I don't know who you voted for and in reality, by this evening when we go to bed we will all know who our next leader is. What I do know is that, regardless of who is elected, I can pray for him, but more so I can continue to pray for peace in our country and prosperity, not just for my sake and means, but for the sake of others and ultimately for God.

Another interesting thought to consider this election day was found in the Men of Integrity Daily Guide to Bible and Prayer. Ray Pritchard, in referring to Proverbs 20:24, "A man's steps are directed by the Lord. How then can anyone understand his own way?" says that the word man in the first sentence speaks of a mighty warrior under the control of a commanding officer. But the word anyone in the second sentence refers to ordinary working men. If a mighty warrior is at the discretion of a commanding officer, in this case the Lord, then how much more ordinary men?

Mighty warriors: Obama, McCain, Petreaus, Powell, Buffett... you insert the name. They appear to be so confident and strong but actually it is the Lord who stands behind them and directs their paths. They are mighty warriors in our day at the Lords will and discretion. Pritchard offers as proof that within 10 years or less (many less) their names will be mostly forgotten and other mighty warriors will have risen to take their place as the Lord wills. Mighty warriors come and go but God remains forever.

Now, if that pertains to the mighty warrior or man mentioned in the first sentence, what does that mean for the rest of us ordinary people, the anyone Solomon talks about? If mighty warriors cannot direct their own steps how can the rest of us? The truth is, we can't. I can vote my conscience, but I cannot control then outcome of the election. The only thing I can do is trust that the Lord is standing behind the mighty warrior who will be elected and He will stand behind me as well. But what I can do is to follows the Psalmist advice and pray for my country.

So, did you vote? Did you vote your conscience? Do you trust God? If so, then trust that God is standing behind the person who will take office in January. Pray for that person, his VP and cabinet, and the senators and congressman who will guide our country. Not just for your sake and own interest, but for the sake of those who may not agree with your ideals and values.

Remember, whatever the outcome today, God is still in control. For His sake, pray for peace in our country, a peace the will unite us, despite our differences.

Lead Strong...

Shawn