It Takes Courage to Go Down the Path of Challenge

The Question is, Can You Find Your Hidden Courage?

Life is full of challenges. Nobody ever said that life would be easy. If they did…they were lying.

Life’s challenges are the things that build character. They are the things that help us to become who we were meant to be.

Anything worth doing is a challenge.

As Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem to be crucified, He knew what was waiting for Him there. Even so, He kept pushing forward. You want to talk about courage when facing a challenge.

On the way He encountered several people more focused on their worldly situations, rather than focusing on Him and His eternal message.

Luke 9:51-62

We need to have our focus in the right place.

If we’re honest, just like Jesus we’re all on a path to our death. Accepting this is a challenge and it takes courage.

“If you live each day as if it were your last, someday you’ll be right.” (Steve Jobs

One of the best ways to summon our courage is to put others ahead of ourselves.

Think about how courageous a mother is when her children are in danger. Or how a husband will put himself at risk to save the love of his life. This kind of love gives us courage we didn’t even know we had.

Jesus showed this kind of courage when He went to the cross to be killed in our place.

Courage is out there. It’s up to us to incorporate it into our daily lives.

Whatever the challenges are that you’re facing, large or small, you have what it takes to confront them. You have the courage you need…now find it and use it.

Take on life’s challenges with courage and confidence.

What’s Needed for a Good Construction Contractor is Simple

I Said It Was Simple…I Didn’t Say it Was Easy

Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve written about the difficulty in finding good, qualified construction contractors and how this problem is amplified after a disaster such as a hurricane, tornado, flooding, etc.

Finding a good construction contractor is a huge problem and has been around for a long time. I’ve thought about this off and on for years and recently has been one of those “on times”.

Why is this a problem and what do we do about it?

As I’ve been thinking about it, I’ve concluded, that even though it’s a big problem, the solution is simple…but hard.

The key to this solution is…

Treat others the way you would want to be treated.

Granted, different people have different ways they want to be treated, because each of us is different. Add to that, the long-term acceptance of “this is just the way it is” and it becomes more difficult than ever to solve the problem.

To clarify how we should treat others, we should use God as a measuring stick. Do your work with all your heart, as if you are working for God, not for men. Colossians 3:23

Working as if for God is the opposite of how the world operates.

As I was speaking with a customer just last night, they were telling me how they had been trying to find someone to do their project for years.

They had contacted several contractors who said they would come by and look at the project and never did.

They met with some who did show up only to never be heard from again.

With one contractor they got as far as getting a price but then they could never get him to come do the work.

Equally as bad is when a contractor does agree to do the work, but the customer never knows if or when they’re going to show up and then the  job drags out and out and out.

This is an unacceptable way to treat God or anyone else.

The first and most important thing a good construction contractor needs is…COMMUNICATION.

Communication is more than just talking. It includes:

  • Listening to find out what the customer wants.  
  • Clearly explaining the work to be done, what it’s going to cost and when it will be done.
  • Transparency and honesty. Letting the customer know what to expect and when.
  • Willingness to be vulnerable. If you can’t be there when you said you would…let them know.

I plan to unpack what’s needed from a good construction contractor more over the next few weeks.

Not Everyone Likes Being the Center of Attention, While Some Do

Every One of Us is Different and We Need to Shine Where We’re Meant to

Watching kids perform…or not, gives us some insight into who we are as adults.

Last week was Vacation Bible School at our church. Sunday the kids had a program during our morning worship. It’s always fun to watch kids perform (or not 😊).

Some were very animated doing the actions to the extreme as they sang the songs. Others sang without doing the hand and body movements. Some did the movement without singing the words. And then there were a few who just stood there like mannequins.

They looked as though they wanted to be anywhere but there.

I could identify with them. Performing in front of people was never something that I looked forward to doing.

Looking back, I’m glad I did things that were outside my comfort zone. It helped to grow and become more of who God intends me to be.

As adults we still struggle with doing things outside our comfort zone. What if this thing fails? What if no one likes it? What if I’m not any good at it?

Just like the kids performing…we have a choice.

This doesn’t mean that everything is for everybody. We all have different skills and abilities.

It’s up to us to figure out what they are and use them.

We are supposed to be good stewards of what we’ve been given. 1 Peter 4

During fellowship time after church, some of us were talking about how some of the kids didn’t fully participate. Some in the discussion were there during the week and said they participated then. They were perplexed why they didn’t on Sunday.

As I’ve thought about this since, I wondered if anyone bothered to ask those kids why. There could have been any number of reasons, but without asking, we’ll never know.

This also gets magnified as we grow into adulthood.

We don’t want to bother them. We don’t have time. We’re so busy we don’t even think about it. Maybe it’s none of my business.

I’ll never know if I don’t ask.

God made us who we are. It’s up to us to figure it out who that is and use it to make the world a better place.

If you’d like to see the performance, you can watch it here.

What Does it Take to be a Good Construction Contractor?

In a Nutshell, the Problem is…There is No Clear Answer to the Question

Last week I wrote about what’s missing when rebuilding after a disaster. It turns out that it’s the same thing that’s missing in everyday construction.

There’s simply a lack of good construction contractors.

So, what does it mean to be a “good construction contractor”?

As I was searching for ideas and answers to this question, I found very little and I mean, VERY LITTLE about it. Apparently, either nobody knows what it takes, or everyone assumes everybody already knows.

In my web search I found one article that spoke to it and one that kind of spoke to it.

The one that kind of spoke to it listed the following…

Signs of a good contractor –

  • Clean record, within reason
  • Responsive and punctual
  • Listens to your ideas
  • All hired work is accompanied with written contracts
  • Provides written estimates

Are you kidding me? Doesn’t this go without saying. And what about a clean record, within reason. This is a little concerning.

Signs of a bad contractor –

  • Licensing abnormalities
  • Habitually late or doesn’t return calls
  • Avoids permits, zoning and building codes
  • Speaks poorly of clients and associates
  • Many lawsuits against them

These are definitely signs of a bad contractor.

The better of the two articles spoke about construction workers, not contractors. It listed 12 skills, several of which would also fit for a good contractor. Those were…

  • Skills specific to “actual construction” – Need to know the things required to do the job they’ve been hired to do.
  • Problem-solving skills – Every construction job has unexpected problems that pop up. It’s important to be able to find solutions to keep production moving forward.
  • Reading and analytical skills – Contractors need to be able to read blueprints and scopes of work and understand them.
  • Listening skills – Talking is easy, but listening is critical to comprehending what the customer wants and what they don’t.
  • Communication skills – Being able to communicate both verbally and in writing are important to successful construction projects.
  • Decision making skills – The problem-solving skills will be no good if no decision gets made. It doesn’t mean that every decision is going to be the right one, but no decision is definitely the wrong one.
  • Organizational skills – This is one of the most important (and often most lacking). Time spent looking for missing tools, materials, papers, etc. leads to an unfocused project and cost time and money.
  • Technological skills – This is a newer skill that is becoming more and more important. The day of the fax is about gone. Computers, tablets and smart phones are how information is being shared…and it’s only going to increase.
  • Skill of working well with others – We need to remember that we’re all trying to accomplish the same thing. Working together as a team rather than fighting and not getting along is not productive or healthy.

This list is a good starting point, but it’s the lack of information on this topic that’s so concerning. It’s no wonder there is such a huge divide between construction customers and contractors.

A “good construction contractor” seems to be a rare and undefined treasure.

I’m going to continue digging to uncover what it takes to be a “GOOD CONSTRUCTION CONTRACTOR”.

If you have any thoughts about what you think a good construction contractor is, share your thoughts in the comments below.

Do You Hear That? It’s the Sound of Being Called to Serve

It’s Up to You to Open Your Ears and Listen Carefully So You Do the Right Thing

How many Christians does it take to screw in a light bulb?

That’s a good question, but first…

Once again, this week we were blessed with a message from a guest speaker. Thanks to Sara Pines for her willingness to share God’s message in the absence of Pastor Lee!

Most of us are familiar with the story of Mary and Martha found in Luke 10:38-42.

In this passage Martha and Mary welcome Jesus and his disciples into their home. Martha is working hard preparing a meal and setting the table, trying to get everything ready. As she’s working, she gets frustrated with Mary, who is sitting in the other room listening to Jesus while Martha is working.

In her frustration Martha goes to Jesus and says, “Lord, doesn’t it bother you that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her to come and help me!”

Jesus replies, “Martha, Martha! You’re worried and upset about so many things, but only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen what is best, and it will not be taken away from her.”

I used to struggle some with this Scripture.  

It seemed to me that Martha’s work to serve Jesus was the more important task. The problem is that Martha had made this decision from her own worldly perspective. She had neglected to open her ears to what Jesus wanted her to do.

This is not to say that what she was doing was wrong or right…It is about partnering with God and getting His input.

Serving isn’t the same as slavery. Slavery is forced. Serving is voluntary.

Serving doesn’t have to be something monumental. It can be as simple as showing kindness by opening a door or simply smiling at people we meet.

Having the heart of a servant includes:

  • Using Jesus as our role model
  • Choosing to be last, not first
  • Showing God’s love by loving others
  • Considering other’s needs before your own
  • Using your God given gifts to serve God

Serving others lights up the world around us. In Matthew 5:14-16, we are told to be the light of the world.

“A city built on top of a hill cannot be hidden, and no one lights a lamp and puts it under a clay pot. Instead, it is placed on a lampstand, where it can give light to everyone in the house. 

Make your light shine, so others will see the good you do and will praise your Father in heaven.”

Back to the question, how many Christians does it take to screw in a light bulb?

None…As Christians we are the light of the world.

Listen carefully to God and find out how you can serve Him best and light up the world around you.

What’s One Thing Missing from Disaster Response?

More Important, What Do We Do Once We Find It?

It’s tornado season here in the mid-west. A few weeks ago, a tornado went through Andover doing a significant amount of damage.

I’ve been involved in disaster response through the United Methodist Church for several years. A couple of the bigger ones I experienced were the Greensburg and Joplin tornados.

Greensburg, Kansas

Unless you’re directly affected or involved, people forget about it once the initial excitement of a disaster wears off.

The recovery and rebuilding after the disaster happens, is a slow and painful process.

I was reminded of this on a much smaller scale with the recent situation of my truck being totaled in an accident that was out of my control. Working with the insurance, determining what I should do, then the process of replacing the truck, has been going on for weeks and will continue for a few more before I’m back in a truck.

These two separate instances reminded me of a problem with rebuilding after large scale disasters and a blog post written by Andy Andrews regarding his personal disaster experience with Hurricane Ivan.

They lived in three different rental houses during the two years following the storm and this was more fortunate than most. The destruction caused by large storms can affect hundreds of miles and thousands of buildings.

In his post he refers to this experience to be like living in a third world country.

Few are wise to the fact that after the initial “clean-up” was completed and homeowners turned to the task of rebuilding, the competition for construction crews began. Oh, there are plenty of construction companies. But in this situation, it is tougher than one might suspect to secure competent, honest, crews who will continue to actually work on your house until it’s completed. Then, there’s the question of “fair price”.

After a hurricane, there is a scent of money in the air and even the companies who agree to work for somewhere close to normal wage rates, usually sign contracts to rebuild or repair twenty, sometimes thirty or more homes at a time.

Individual homeowners are rarely clued into this gambit, however, never knowing they are merely a “ball” to be kept in the air by a skillful juggler. Best-case scenario for a hurricane victim needing extensive home repair? If a partial crew is working on your house one day out of ten, consider yourself fortunate and keep your mouth shut.  Seriously.

Remember, the lure of more and easier money is everywhere and there are any number of homeowners willing to offer your construction crew two or three times the dollar amount you are already NOT getting from your insurance company.

After Hurricane Ivan, there were thousands of homes and businesses in desperate need of rebuild or repair. Thousands. And even with the flood of labor that came in from out of state, there were less than two hundred small and large construction companies working in the area…and not nearly all of them were legitimate.

…when we were in that situation, why do you think it took us more than two years to get back in our house?

Finding legitimate, qualified building contractors in a normal situation is hard enough.

This is a big problem and it needs to be addressed.

I’m going to look into this more over the next few weeks to see if we can figure out a solution to this problem.

Where Are You Being Lead…and Are You Sure It’s the Right Place?

Sometimes We’re So Confident, Only to Find Out We Missed the Mark

This past Sunday we were blessed to have Rev. Bill Brazil filling the pulpit while Pastor Lee is on vacation.

His sermon was based on the book, The Other Wise Man, by Henry van Dyke. This story is an addition to and expansion of the account of the Biblical Magi. It tells about a “fourth” wise man named Artaban. Like the other Magi, he sees signs in the heavens proclaiming that a King had been born among the Jews.

Like them, he sets out to see the newborn ruler, carrying treasures to give as gifts to the child – a sapphire, a ruby, and a pearl. However, on his way he finds a man lying in the road, near death.

Artaban felt sorry for him, but he didn’t have time to stay and help…he was in the middle of the most important task of his life. How could he just turn his back on taking his gifts to the Messiah?

But then, how could he leave this man alone to die?

Artaban decides to stay and covers the man with his robe. After several hours the man regained consciousness. Artaban gave him the last of his bread and wine and goes to meet his friends.

Because he had stopped to help the man, he missed the caravan. He found a note left by his friends. They had waited as long as they could and told him he should follow.

He couldn’t cross the desert with only a horse, he was forced to use his sapphire in order to buy camels and supplies necessary for the trip.

He commenced his journey but arrives in Bethlehem too late, the child and His parents had fled to Egypt. The streets were deserted due to Herod’s soldiers looking for and killing baby boys.

As Artaban was walking through the streets he heard a baby crying. He introduced himself to the mother and as they were talking there was a commotion outside.

It was soldiers taking babies from their mothers and killing them. As a captain approached the house Artaban held out the ruby. He said, “I’m waiting to give this jewel to the prudent captain who will go on his way and leave this house alone.”

He saved the life of the child at the price of another of his treasures.

He then travels to Egypt and to many other countries, searching for Jesus. For years he travels around, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and healing the sick.

After 33 years, Artaban, still trying to find Jesus, arrives in Jerusalem. He is getting old, but still desperate to find the King.

It so happens that it was Passover and the city was full of visitors. Artaban asked someone where everyone was going. “We are going to an execution on Golgotha. One of these men is call Jesus of Nazareth. He claims to be the son of God, but Pilate has sent Him to the cross.

Could it be that I might ransom the King with my last treasure?

As Artaban headed toward Calvary, he saw a group of soldiers dragging a young woman. She was able to break away and threw herself at his feet asking for help.

She had been sold into slavery to pay off her dead father’s debt.

Once again Artaban was conflicted. Twice before he had spent the gift consecrated to the King. He just had one jewel left. What was he going to do?

He spent the pearl, to ransom the young woman.

Then the sky grew dark, the ground began to shake and buildings began to fall. As he hid by a wall a tile fell from the roof and hit him in the head. His quest to give tribute to the King was over and he had failed.

As he lay there a still small voice came to him like music. “Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me.” (Matthew 25:40)

As he lay there dying a calm radiance of wonder and joy lit his face. His journey had ended. His treasures were accepted.

“The Other Wise Man” found his King.

So often we have a plan. We’re sure it’s the right plan. We’ve prayed and asked God. The problem is that sometimes what we think is God’s voice is really just our own.

Don’t get so caught up in doing the right thing that you miss out on the joy of doing the right thing.

How Do We Stop Being Sucked into the Center of the Vortex?

By Knowing That We’re in One and Not Letting it Happen

Life is like a giant whirlpool spinning around at a high rate of speed. It’s constantly working to pull us down, with little hope of ever getting out.

This sounds a little “gloom and doom” doesn’t it?

That is not my intention. Actually, my intention is just the opposite.

You can control where you are in your vortex.

A vortex is a place or situation seen as drawing into its center all that surrounds it and therefore being inescapable or destructive. Sound familiar?

A big part of the problem with this whirlpool we call life, is not even being aware we’re in it. We get started in the slow-moving shallows of our daily routines. We gradually begin moving faster and faster, getting closer and closer to the center.  Then one day we’re so dizzy we can’t see straight. We look up and realize…we’re about to be sucked under.

So…how do we prevent this from happening?

In our mastermind this past week, part of the discussion involved the short sightedness of people…especially those of us who are self-employed. Too often we get so busy in our daily actions we neglect to look around and see where we are.

Or, in our search to be better, we get caught up in the hot new things (app, program, training, etc.) and lose sight of where we want to go and what we want to do.

To have a clear vision of where we’re going, we need to periodically step back out of the fast-moving whirlwind and take a look from above. This view gives us clarity of what’s going on.

Imagine how God sees things as He looks on from Heaven.

It’s a big picture view. We’re so close to what we’re doing that that’s all we see. We don’t see the big picture. We need to get with God and take a look from His location.

This is part of what I use by daily journaling time for. This intentional stepping away from the daily high-speed vortex allows me to see how close I’m getting to the black hole of no return.

It’s less about the content of the journal and more about intentionally stopping and looking up.

Whatever works for you, I highly recommend that you find some type of intentional process for checking to see how close you are to being sucked into the vortex before it’s too late.

No Matter the Circumstances We Need to Give Everything to God

It’s More Than Our Ability That God Uses to Mend Broken Lives…It’s Our Faithfulness

We’ve all experienced loss in our lives…some big and some small. The question is, in those times, how do we respond? Where is our focus? Is it on the loss or is it on God?

Most of the time we think we got everything under control and then…SURPRISE, the unexpected happens.

We’ve all been blindsided by an unforeseen accident, a startling medical diagnosis, an unfaithful spouse or a sudden death of a family member. These are a part of life.

The important thing is how we handle them.

This isn’t to say that it’s easy, because it’s not. We’ve all been given the abilities for just such a time as this. But ability alone isn’t enough. We need to remember where those abilities come from and when using them, align their use with God’s plans.

In Acts 16:16-34 we get both good and bad examples of how to deal with life circumstances. It starts out with Paul and Silas being followed around by a slave girl who had a spirit in her that gave her the power to tell the future. By doing this she made a lot of money for her owners. As she followed them, she kept yelling, “These men are servants of God!

They are telling you how to be saved.”

After several days, Paul got upset that he turned and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ, I order you to leave this girl alone!” At once the evil spirit left her.

When the girl’s owners realized they had lost all chances for making more money, they grabbed Paul and Silas and dragged them into court. They were beaten and put in jail. The jailer was told to guard them carefully.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing praises to God, while the other prisoners listened. Suddenly a strong earthquake shook the jail and the doors opened, and the chains fell from all the prisoners.

When the jailer saw that the doors were open, he thought that the prisoners had escaped. He pulled out his sword and was about to kill himself, but Paul stopped him. He told him that none of the prisoners had escaped.

When the jailer realized what had happened, he began shaking all over as he knelt down in front of Paul and Silas and asked, “What must I do to be saved?” They replied…

“Have faith in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved! This is also true for everyone.”

The slave’s master’s focus was on money. The jailer’s focus was on his job. Paul and Silas’s focus was on God. We can see how the different responses turned out.

This isn’t to say that if our focus is on God that everything is always going to turn out how we want.

I don’t think Paul and Silas wanted to be beaten and thrown in jail. I do think their focus on God is the thing that helped them through the ordeal.

It would be easy to say that the earthquake was just a coincidence that worked in their favor. Regardless, it didn’t change who Paul and Silas were. It did however change the lives (both on earth and eternal) of many of those around them.

Too often we overlook God at work in our lives especially in the little things.

Granted an earthquake isn’t little, but God works through both the big and the little.

It’s up to you where you put your focus. Whether or not you will use your abilities to mend broken lives and help build His kingdom here on earth.

Trials Will Help You Develop Your Character…If You Will Just Let Them

It Comes Down to Using Challenges as Stepping-Stones, Not Obstacles

I’ve written about my truck situation a couple of times over the past few weeks. About how when life happens, it’s up to us to deal with the unplanned chaos.

It’s been almost a month since the truck was wrecked. I went through the process of figuring out whether to fix it or replace it. Once I got securely standing on that “stepping-stone” the next was what to replace it with?

I never dreamt that the space between the first stone and second would be so wide.

In the beginning I felt like we had a good start. We found a couple of trucks that I thought were just what I wanted. We reached out and then never heard back.

The space between the stones got wider.

I thought I knew what I wanted…I just wanted a newer version of what I had. Then as we searched more and the discussions continued, I was coming more and more confused about what I wanted and/or needed.

The whole need vs. want question became more and more unclear. What did I need…what did I want?

Then the question of how much I was willing to spend became a bigger part of the question. Originally, I thought I would spend the insurance check plus what I had saved for truck repair or replacement. But, is this going to be the best plan or should I consider borrowing a little and getting a better, newer truck with less miles that will serve me better and longer?

That next stone just continues to get further and further away.

I know that God has my back in this process, but I also have a part in it. It’s up to me to figure out the answers to some of these questions.

Being without a truck makes it hard to do construction work…pulling trailers, moving materials, etc. I think the biggest issue though is just the looming unresolved distraction of the unknown.

Okay…even though it’s a long scary jump to that next stone I have to make some decisions and jump or I will be stuck on this stone. It’s time to put together a list of options in order of priority and get serious about making some decisions.

If I do my part, God will see to it that I make it to that next stepping-stone.

And, I will be better for it.