Thursday, February 27, 2014

People are mean. Let’s social media murderize them!

If you’re not from around here – meaning Northeast Ohio or NEO for short – you may be unaware of the latest regional brouhaha.
 
It seems a local “communications professional” – Kelly Blazek – who provides a job bank service, has been sending nastygrams to some of the people who sought to connect with her.
 
You can read all about it on Cleveland.com (click here), or merely search on “Kelly Blazek” in Google or Bing, or on Twitter search for #kellyblazek.
 
The story has been picked up all around the country and has set tongues wagging, particularly among those of us who label ourselves as “professional communicators,” among other things.
 
Sadly and ironically, if you read the Tweets or comments forums attached to the various articles, there’s very little professionalism being exhibited.
 
And so here I go wading into the fray with my two cents…
 
The blazing Blazek/Mekota meltdown
 
I’ve met Blazek and receive her job bank emails. She’s worked hard to develop a good and helpful service.
 
And, while she’s pleasant enough in person, you can get a sense of her less tolerant side by reading the notes that top every job list she sends out. Here’s a snippet from a recent email:
“[A] plea regarding LinkedIn. PLEASE DON’T. If we haven't met personally and also worked together, it's not appropriate to ask to connect. I can't possibly vouch for the thousands of strangers who subscribe to my goofy gift, and won't accept wishful requests to go shopping through my connections (sounds ugly, but that’s what it is). Thanks.”
 
“Feel free to forward this e-mail to communications, marketing, media, creative and fundraising job hunters. They can subscribe by sending a request to join at ClevelandJobBank-subscribe@yahoogroups.com WHICH MUST BE ACCOMPANIED BY a brief statement (less than 200 characters) about the industry/job title they seek. Only qualified individuals within our industry receive the Job Bank. Requests which include no background, degree and or qualification statement will be declined. Please do not send a resume when requesting membership.”
When you’re providing a free service and getting hit with multiple requests for help every day, it’s reasonable to establish rules and insist people follow them. It’s also reasonable to ignore those who don’t follow your rules.
 
Basically you say a polite no or say nothing.
 
So far so good.
 
But apparently when Blazek received requests that were out of line, she felt the need to educate the senders.
 
And boy did she school them!
 
While most who received these blazing Blazek rejections shrugged their shoulders and soldiered on, one person – Diana Mekota (@PettieBettie) – decided she was going to do something.
 
She was mad as hell and she wasn’t going to take it anymore, by golly!
 
Mekota posted images of Blazek’s tactless emails on multiple social media sites, whipping her online audience into a frenzied Blazek backlash.
 
While Blazek has a few defenders, it seems the majority have sided with Mekota and are doing so with a vengeance.
 
Frankly, I think just about everyone’s been a loser in this debacle.
 
Snark can be deadly
 
The Blazek/Mekota affair will certainly become a case study used for years to come to teach the dos and don’ts of social media.
 
But I’m not sure, based on a cursory reading of the plethora of postings and comments that right lessons will be learned.
 
It seems that in our brave new social media fueled culture, anonymously damning people you don’t like is perfectly acceptable. More than one commenter has as much as said so.
 
Figuratively speaking, murder by Tweet of the disliked is now acceptable.
 
I disagree.
 
Here’s where I come out on this:
What Blazek was doing was wrong. Blazek’s emails were brilliantly awful and totally uncalled for.  They were mean, nasty, arrogant, and, well, you get the drift. Someone needed to tell her this. Firmly. Face to face. One on one. And you can’t tell me that no one in her professional circles was aware of what she was doing. I’m sure there were a few who knew and chose to remain silent. Shame on them.
 
How Mekota reacted was wrong. While many are admiring Mekota for “standing up” to Blazek, publiclyshaming and damaging another is generally wrong and unprofessional. I doubt that in a work setting Mekota would appreciate being called out in a staff meeting by her boss for making some kind of blunder. And if Mekota outed her boss in social media for doing so, well, she’d be fired in a New York microsecond.
 
Those blasting Blazek are wrong. It’s stunning that the majority of those berating Blazek have no sense of irony for doing to Blazek what they claim she’s done to Mekota and others. Sadly, the idea of “two wrongs don’t make a right” seems to have been lost. And even though unaffected by anything Blazek has done they feel entitled to sound off their outrage in often vile terms. Many are claiming to be “communications professionals” as they do so. Really?
Tragically, anonymity in online forums breeds contemptible behavior. I guess this shouldn’t be surprising given the fallen and sinful nature of mankind. Still, it’s sad and a little depressing. I guess this is what happens when teaching the “Golden Rule” is booted from classrooms.
 
Sigh.
 
Doing the same yields the same: Be different! Be nice!
 
The bottom-line here is that when confronted by meanness, being mean back only yields a lot more meanness.
 
Nothing gets better and a lot of people get hurt.
 
I wonder how those blasting Blazek would feel if because of this she was driven into homelessness, depression, a heart attack, suicide, or some other awful end? Would that be viewed as a just and good outcome? If you think so then I do not want to be your friend or colleague.
 
So what’s the right response to meanness?
 
I don’t know about you, but I learned a few principles in kindergarten and Sunday school that, frankly, apply in adulthood.
 
Here they are.:
1. Ignore it. On the playground, kids learn that when someone’s being a meany, the best way to deflate their negativity is simply to walk away and ignore them. The same is true in life.
 
2. Understand it. If a friend is having a bad day and snaps at you, you usually know to ask them if something’s wrong. Bad days can push us to be less than patient with others. If someone you really don’t know snaps at you, consider they may be having an off day (or an off life) and extend them some slack, at least until you learn differently.
 
3. Face it. Walking away doesn’t always work and is occasionally not feasible. When you’re working with someone day in and day out and they’re being a relentless cad, odds are you’re going to have to confront them.
A. First, talk to them privately, one on one, about your concerns. Be sure you’re heard but also be careful to listen and give them a chance to open up. Work toward a friendly solution.
 
Apparently Mekota did try to do this via email with Blazek. Perhaps picking up the phone would have been a better approach.
 
If this doesn’t work or the behavior continues, then…
 
B. Second, talk to them in the presence of a trusted, neutral friend or colleague or two. Again, be heard and listen and seek a resolution.
 
Perhaps Mekota could have reached out to the person who referred her to Blazek for advice, even asking if there were others she could approach with her concerns who could mediate between her and Blazek.
 
If this doesn’t work or the behavior continues, then…
 
C. Third, go up the line to a broader audience, but carefully. In the workplace, this probably means involving your immediate supervisor and/or HR.
 
For Mekota, perhaps she could have approached someone at the Cleveland chapter of IABC or even at the national IABC office since Blazek had been given an IABC award. Perhaps there was another professional organization Blazek is connected to that could have been approached. Often, when others are being brought into the picture, a recalcitrant or stubborn offender will begin to pay attention.
4. Forgive it. Forgiving is easier when the one perceived to be the offender acknowledges their wrongdoing. But this won’t always happen. Still, for your own sanity and sense of professionalism, the right response is forgiveness and not revenge. When there is acknowledgement of a fault and an apology is offered, then accept it graciously and work to build a bridge and make a new friend. And call others off of the shaming as well.
If no reconciliation can be reached, possibly, but only in very serious and rare situations is the right response to go public with a social media driven shamefest. For example, if someone is at risk of being physically harmed, a group of people is about to be financially hoodwinked, and so forth, then perhaps going public is a reasonable solution. But in virtually all non-life-threatening instances, public is probably not a good way to go. You’ll seriously tarnish your reputation while trying to destroy theirs.
 
You’re occasionally offensive and not everyone likes you either
 
Kelly Blazek was being rude. No matter how annoying, frustrating, or painful her rudeness was, it really boils down to a matter of bad manners. She did not deserve to be so brutally and publicly pilloried by social media meanies.
 
It would really be nice if someone could mediate between Blazek and Mekota (and others who feel they were slighted by Blazek) bringing them together for a friendly and healing discussion. Given the vitriol exhibited so far, I’m not sure this could ever happen.
 
In business or any part of life on this planet, we’re going to meet people we just don’t like and who rub us the wrong way. And our feelings are going to get hurt, many times.
 
The flip side of this is not everyone will like us and, even when we don’t mean to, we will offend others. It happens.

The solution is to first, try to get along, then, failing that, move along.
 
As Paul the Apostle said, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” (Romans 12:17, NIV).
 
If it’s not possible? Then maybe the advice Jesus gave his disciples is apropos, in a metaphorical application: “If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them” (Luke 9:5, NIV).
 
But no matter what, it’s always best to not crucify people in social media, but rather to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44).
 
In fact, in one New Testament incident, two disciples wanted to call down fire (the biblical equivalent of a social media thrashing) on an unwelcoming village. Jesus said no and then they moved along (Luke 9:51-56, NIV).
  
As one of the few wise and more positive commenters stated in one of the forums:
“Everyone who lives and breathes and communicates online; everyone of us has skeletons of bad behavior, fatal faux pas, arrogant attitudes, and the like stuffed in our burgeoning digital closets. Everyone one of us is only one leaked email, one inappropriate Tweet, one rash blog post, one angry Reddit rant, one hidden microphone, one unnoticed phone camera away from being the next pilloried professional to be vilified at the hands of social media snarks. After all, the offense is in the eye of the beholder.”
 
“It’s time to come down from our high horses, log-off the forums, shut our pie holes, apply the balm of the ‘Golden Rule,’ and get back to work behaving like the professionals we all claim to be.”
“Civility and charity are much more attractive than snark and scourging.”
Amen.

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(Added 3/2/14): Another sane perspective on the issue: “Women behaving badly in LinkedIn exchange” (click here to read).

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Have you ever been on the receiving end of a social media storm? If so, how did you deal with it? What advice would you offer to Blazek or Mekota? How do you feel about anonymous commenting online? Share in the comments!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

I’ll see you in hell. Not!

H – E – Double Hockey Sticks. Hell.

The place we want to send all of our enemies while avoiding it ourselves. And for many, a place imagined to be one giant endless debauched party. Woot!

Which is, of course, better than being bored in a heaven.

Right? Wrong!

As absurd as it is to curse someone by telling them, “I’ll see you in hell!” it is equally absurd to imagine heaven as nothing but a bunch of silk-robed cloud-riding harp-strummers.

Sadly, for many, their views of heaven and hell are as wrongly skewed as their view of God. Or even Satan. What should be viewed with awe, respect, and fear has been made pretty and puny through trivialization and petty humor.
 
So, how does one reset and enlarge their understanding of heaven and hell?

Well, you could read some of the many recent books on hell, such as Erasing Hell by Francis Chan. And then a few from the many available on heaven, such as Heaven by Randy Alcorn.

Or, how about a basic primer that references these two books and many more while covering both heaven and hell?
 
While not exactly a Heaven and Hell For Dummies*” Christopher D. Hudson** has come close with his new book Heaven & Hell: Are They Real? recently released by Thomas Nelson***.

Divided conveniently into two sections the book addresses 61 intriguing questions people ask about heaven and hell. Many of the questions were apparently suggested by readers of Hudson’s blog and followers of his Facebook page and Twitter account.

Get a clue about heaven for heaven’s sake!

On the heaven side of things, you’ll learn about what happens right after you die, what life will be like in heaven, what your resurrected body will be like, and who you might see way up yonder.

Probably one of the biggest misconceptions of heaven is that it will be boring. Clearly those who believe this haven’t really paid attention to what the Bible actually says about the place.

Hudson quotes Hank Hanegraff, known as “The Bible Answer Man,” who explains “..heaven will be a place of continuous learning, growth, and development.” Hudson adds, “our activities will include work and relationships that are enjoyable and fulfilling.”

Speaking of enjoyable, another area covered addresses whether or not there will be sex in heaven. While we will be busy, sex won’t be the activity. Unlike some religions that promise 20 virgins per guy, our focus will be somewhere else once we are face-to-face with our Creator God.

To address the sex issue, Hudson leans on C.S. Lewis who reminds us that “heaven is more than earth,” that our earthly relationships will be “subsumed…with deeper intimacy unspoiled by sin,” and the issue is “not that sex is taken away, but taken up into something even greater.” In other words, “where we fear fasting, there is really feasting.”

The bottom line is that our life in heaven is going to be far above and beyond anything we can fully imagine with our tiny little creature minds.

Hell no you don’t want to go to there!

On the flip side, many pooh-pooh a fiery hell making it out to be the more interesting-than-heaven after-death alternative; a kind of party-central.

Not. Even. Close.

And as far as seeing anyone there, if that’s possible you won’t know them or even care.

You and they will be in wretched everlasting agony.

The book touches on the fact that hell is indeed a real place, that getting a ticket to hell is your choice, that once confronted with the reality of hell you’ll resist and be tossed in, and how God’s sending people to hell is entirely just.

Probably the biggest issue for some is the struggle to understand how a loving God can condemn people to hell, aka eternal damnation. Those who raise this question often have a limited understanding of who and how holy God really is.

To them Satan is a pipsqueak, God is a glorified Santa, heaven’s a myth, and hell is a fantasy.

They’ll often object to the consequence of sin that is hell by claiming it’s not fair to receive endless punishment for a few sinfully delicious indiscretions. But on the other hand, they have no trouble claiming that a life of trivial good deeds and smug niceness should win them an eternity in paradise.

Really?

The reality is, as Hudson points out, that hell is just and you will lose everything if you end up there. “There are no friendships and no relationships. There is no love or joy or anything that will make you smile.”

And unlike some who believe that annihilation and non-existence follows death, there are chapters that address the eternal nature of our souls and the persistence of punishment in hell for those who choose to reject God.

You don’t just stop being when you die.

In fact, Hudson reminds us of Jesus’ own words regarding the awfulness of hell where, “the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched, [and] everyone will be salted with fire.”

Jesus repeated emphatic warnings to avoid hell and the terrors it holds. The only after-death party will be the big one in heaven.

You’ve got to serve somebody

Hudson winds the book down by stating, “Hell is not a consequence for a specific sin or the list of sins we may commit over a lifetime. It is the eternal punishment and inevitable destination for those who have rejected God and his plan for salvation.”

Being good doesn’t earn merits for getting into heaven. There is only one way, and that is to accept, believe in, and follow Jesus who said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12, NIV).

As Hudson concludes, “By following Jesus, we travel a well-lit path that leads to heaven, a place where we will experience life to the fullest in the presence of God himself.”

There is no other path. No other way. No other light.

You may not believe in God and heaven or hell and Satan now. But you will one day. And then, it will be too late.
 
It’s your choice. Which will it be? Heaven or hell?

Choose wisely. You will spend eternity in one or the other.

The good, the odd, and the missing

This is a book that can be read from front to back, but also is designed to work as a reference of sorts. Using the table of contents, you can easily look up and read the parts you are specifically curious about.

Being an entry-level text on the topics of heaven and hell, this would be a great book for a new Christian or a serious seeker. It’s accessible and biblically grounded providing a good overview.

This would be an okay book for a group study but is better suited for individual use. If used in a group, it would be best to tackle it a subsection at a time. There are five subsections on heaven and six on hell, making for a decent 11 week small group study.

Each chapter ends with only a single one or two sentence question for further thought or as discussion generators if used in a group.

Included in the book are a couple of info-graphics and a smattering of art reproductions. Some of these are etchings which are fairly dense visually and barely hold up printed in black on the lightweight pages. And, oddly, not a single illustration is referenced in the text leaving the reader to ascertain their significance.

The book is primarily comprised of quotes, both short and extensive, from a variety of sources, all well footnoted.

Sadly, there is no bibliography, index, or list of suggested readings. To go deeper, you’ll need to take the time to look up the books and sources referenced in the footnotes. However, there is an appendix that lists Bible verses by topic.

Overall, the book will probably not definitively answer every question you may have about heaven or hell, but it is adequate for getting a good grasp on the essentials from a solidly Christian and biblical point of view.

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***Disclosure #1 (to comply with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255): I selected this book to review and received it free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

**Disclosure #2: After receiving the book and doing a little research, I realized that Chris, the author, was the project editor for Inside the Mysteries of the Bible: New Perspectives on Ancient Truths (American Bible Society), to which I was a contributor. ‘Tis a small world.

*Disclosure #3: Not that it’s important, but I used to be a project editor with Wiley Publishing in the awkwardly named Consumer Dummies division. I shepherded the development of titles such as Seasonal Affective Disorder For Dummies,The Book of Revelation For Dummies, and U.S. Military History For Dummies (all excellent titles). I also unsuccessfully lobbied for the development of Heaven and Hell For Dummies, a title I still believe they should pursue.

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What do you think heaven will be like? What do you think hell will be like? How have you come to these perceptions of heaven and/or hell? Share your thoughts on heaven and hell in the comments!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Hey, Bro! Be My Valentine?

This is a revised version of an article I originally wrote for a church men’s group newsletter around 1997 or 1998. For any female readers, this post is not for you! This area is temporarily a godly guys-only clubhouse.
Love is a many splendored thing. It makes the world go round. It’s in the air. It’s all we need. It was the name of a boat and TV show. And in February, it’s a red, pink, and white buy-it-at-the-store thing.

February is the love month and the 14th is a day all husbands and boyfriends better have something mooshy and sincere planned for the woman in their life.

The consequences for not? Well, we don’t even want to go there.

In grade school we exchanged valentines with our classmates. The girls would giggle and gawk to see which boy gave the more expressive cards to which girl.

Us guys would just stuff all the cards blushingly into a paper bag and not look at them until we got home alone in our rooms. And then we would never later admit that we looked at them at all.

In fact, as boys, our role dictated we view the whole sordid hubbub of Valentine’s Day with disdain and annoyance.

And, as guys, the only affection we displayed toward each other was the loving punch carefully aimed at the tenderest part of our best friend’s upper arm.

We were guys. We were tough. True love hurt.

Secretly, though, we examined every card carefully, looking to detect even the slightest hint that one of the cuter girls might find us of interest. But the only card we cared about was the one from that girl whose name we could not speak without a stutter.

We also looked for clues to determine if any of the popular boys considered us an ally.

If someone in the class had failed to give us a card, our little man’s heart was broken. For about ten minutes. Then we went out to play.

That was then. This is now. We’re big guys. We’re still tough. And true love still flummoxes us.

Especially when it revolves around other guys.

Love is a critical element of our Christian walk.

In the NIV, some variation of the word is used in some 696 or so verses. Of faith, hope, and love, Paul declares love as the greatest attribute for Christians to possess. Jesus declared that the greatest law was, "‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ … And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’"

Further, He commanded that we love one another—brother to brother—just as He loved His disciples. He gave the world the mark by which to measure the genuineness of our faith: "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another" (John 13:34-35). If love is the badge of a Christian, it must be seen.

That we are called to love as Christians is pretty easy to accept. And it’s a bit easier to express love toward wives and children. But it’s when love moves beyond these boundaries of immediate family that we guys often begin to get a little squooshy in the knees and brain-fogged over what to do with it. Yet, God "has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother" (1 John 4:21).

We need to love our Christian brothers, just as we need to be loved by them. The benefits of love are many:
  • Love unifies: "And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity" (Colossians 3:14).
  • Love is tangible: "Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth" (1 John 3: 18).
  • Love is redemptive: "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8).
  • Love refreshes: "Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints" (Philemon 1:7).
  • Love shields: "But since we belong to the day, let us be self-controlled, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet" (1 Thessalonians 5:8).
And of course: "Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails" (1 Corinthians 13:4-8).

So, now what?

Well, without application, truth is impotent. Without expression, love is useless. At a minimum, no Christian man who is part of a body of believers should ever go indefinitely without hearing the words "I love you" spoken with sincerity and offered with a hug from another Christian brother. None should feel unloved.

Beyond this, we merely need ask, "What would Jesus do?" Look at how He related to His disciples: He sought them out, trusted them, encouraged them, taught them, listened to them, spent time with them, reprimanded them, forgave them, believed in them, challenged them, stood by them, gave Himself to them.

1 Peter 1:22 states, "Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply, from the heart." The Greek word used here is philadelphia, which means fraternal affection, brotherly love in the sense of kindness, or love of the brethren.

Why not express some brotherly love by sending a note of encouragement, making a phone call, helping a buddy with a task, doing lunch, or just hanging out with one of the guys? In fact, pick a "guy of the month" to lavish love on.

Ask the Holy Spirit to speak new ideas into your heart and mind for helping your love find tangible expression.

In the meantime, "Yo, dude! Yeah, you! Git over here an’ lemme give ya a hug. I love ya, ya big lug!"

But no punching!

Love is manly, but it really doesn’t always have to hurt!

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As a guy, are there other Christian men in your life that you know love you? That know you love them? How has the love of your brothers in the Lord been an encouragement to you? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

God's "Weekly Will News": A parable

Hobart had a tough week. Just like so many weeks. But he survived and made it to the weekend. The family would watch a movie together tonight as they did nearly every Friday night.

Saturday was filled with chores and errands. Sunday, there was church and a quiet afternoon to look forward to.

At church, the sermon topic was on God’s will. Hobart, as most other Christians did, truly wanted to know what God’s will was for his life. His specific life. What did God really expect of Hobart?

Hobart had wondered about this most of his life.

As the preacher went through the points of the sermon, Hobart thought, “I really wish God would send me a newsletter in the mail every week laying out His will for my life. Just put it in writing! That would be sweet.”

After church, the family went out for a nice lunch at the nearby buffet, as did many from their church.

At home, the kids did homework, played video games, and texted with their friends. Hobart read the paper and nodded off in his chair watching the game. His wife stretched out on the couch and napped along with him.

It was a typical, restful Sunday.

In the morning, as he did every weekday, Hobart was up early to get dressed and ready for work. The kids scurried to gather all they needed for school. His wife had a nice, simple breakfast ready for everyone. They prayed together, ate quickly, and were off for the day.

At work, when he walked into his office, Hobart noticed a brightly colored envelope on top of his inbox that hadn’t been there when he left Friday evening. His office had been locked all weekend and no one was in the mailroom, so he thought it very odd that he had a new piece of mail waiting for him.

All that was on the envelope was his name above the company address, a cancelled stamp, and where there should have been a return address, it read, “Weekly Will News.” Hobart had never heard of such a news source.

He opened the envelope and pulled out what appeared to be a typical newsletter. It was only one sheet of paper and there was printing on only one side. The design of the newsletter and the lettering were very well done. It looked impressive.

The heading echoed the return address. The main headline was “Weekly Will News,” and directly below that the line read “Specifically For Hobart.”

“This is very odd,” thought Hobart. And then a chill ran down his spine as he recalled how yesterday during the sermon he had silently wished for a newsletter from God!

“Oh my!” he said out loud as he scanned the page.

Laid out very elegantly were seven Bible verses, one for each day of the week, beginning with today, Monday. There was also a “bonus” verse at the bottom of the page.

 “That’s all? That’s it?” Hobart said out loud quietly. “Just Bible verses? What kind of help is this? How does this show me God’s will for my life? This must be some kind of joke.”

He folded the page and put it back in the envelope and started to toss it in the trash. But, for a reason he couldn’t discern, he instead put it in his briefcase.

With that, he put the newsletter out of his mind, turning his attention to the day’s business.

===

Later that day, Monday, as Hobart presented in a meeting with colleagues, he felt really satisfied with himself as others seemed impressed with what he was sharing. He was certain what he had to say was more insightful than what anyone else could share.

A few hours after the meeting, as he was mentally reliving the presentation, he suddenly realized he had misspoken on one point.

“Oh no!” he said to himself as his face reddened with embarrassment, realizing that it was at this point he thought he’d detected a little snickering in the room.

He had felt so confident and proud about his presentation that he’d failed to review it carefully one last time before the meeting and he missed his error. That afternoon when he went for coffee in the break room, a couple of his colleagues gently teased him about the mistake. Outwardly he laughed along with them, but inside he felt humiliated.

===
 
On Tuesday, after work, when he got home, his wife let him know that she and the kids would really like to go out for pizza. She had had a really busy day and didn’t feel like cooking dinner. The kids had been slaving over their homework since getting home from school and could use a break.

“What?” exclaimed Hobart. “I’m tired, too! I don’t want to go out! I just got home! Can’t you just throw together some leftovers?” With that, he and his wife were in the middle of an argument. After a few minutes, because he was too tired to keep arguing, he grudgingly said, “Fine! Get everyone in the car and let’s go!”

Needless to say, it was a strained dinner and everyone was in a bad mood all the way up until bedtime.

===

The next morning, Wednesday, Hobart was still stewing about the night before. He left for work in a huff. Once there, he discovered someone had brought donuts to share. He loved these kind of donuts, but he and his wife had made an agreement to avoid sweets for the month as part of their effort to eat more healthily. Still, the donuts were tempting and she would never know. He took two and headed back to his office with donuts and coffee in hand.
 
===
 
On Thursday, as Hobart and his wife chatted after supper, she confessed that she had given in and had a slice of pie at lunch one day when she was out with a friend. She asked how he was doing avoiding sweets. Hobart lied and then smugly implied she was weak. His wife was stunned and hurt and left the room in tears. Hobart thought to himself, “Serves her right for making me go out on Tuesday night when I didn’t want to.”
 
===
 
Finally, it was Friday. As did most, Hobart looked forward to Friday so work could be set aside and the weekend enjoyed. The day was uneventful and even a little quiet. Around the middle of the afternoon as he was getting coffee, he noticed a couple of desks seemed to have been cleared off. He wasn’t sure who had been at those desks, but knew they had been in use the day before.

“That’s odd,” he thought as he went about his work, knocking out a few tasks and getting things organized for the next week.

About an hour before he would normally leave, he received a call from his supervisor who asked him to step into his office. When Hobart arrived, a person from HR was also waiting there. His heart sank and he didn’t hear much of what his supervisor said to him beyond, “I’m sorry, Hobart, but due to slow sales your position is being eliminated effective immediately…”

He and his wife spent the evening in a silent stupor, not sure what to do next.

===

On Saturday morning Hobart awoke angry. He had worked at that company for nearly 10 years and now he was really ticked off at how they were just tossing him aside. He regretted that he had not given his supervisor and the HR person a piece of his mind. All day he stormed around the house venting about losing his job and worrying about how they were going to pay their bills.

The mood of the house was generally dark as everyone got caught up in Hobart’s anger and worry.

When they were at the grocery store, the clerk gave Hobart too much change. He noticed but pocketed it telling himself he deserved it since he’d just lost his job.

===
 
The next morning, Sunday, everyone was still blue as they got ready for church. At the last minute Hobart took the bright envelope containing the newsletter from his briefcase and placed it in the inside pocket of his sport coat. He was thinking he’d show it to the pastor or someone.

The sermon was a continuation of the previous week’s theme on discerning and following God’s will. The thrust of the sermon was to point out simply that most of what people needed to know was in the Bible.

“In other words,” said the pastor as he summed up, “the better you know and do God’s Word, the easier it will be to know and do His will.”

A light bulb went off in Hobart’s head as he reached for the envelope. He pulled out the sheet of paper and read the verses that were listed below the heading “Weekly Will News, Specifically For Hobart.”

As he read each one, he thought back to each day’s events and gasped.   
  • Monday: Romans 12:3 - "For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you."
  • Tuesday: John 15:13 - "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."
  •  Wednesday: 1 Corinthians 10:13 - "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it."
  •  Thursday: Ephesians 5:28 - "In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. "
  •  Friday: Jeremiah 29:11 - "'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
  •  Saturday: Psalm 37:8 - "Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil."
  •  Sunday: Psalm 46:10 - "Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
  •  Bonus verse: James 1:5 – “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”

His eyes filled with tears as he finished reading.

“What’s that?” his wife asked quietly as they stood for the benediction.

He looked at her with a heart full of love and regret and whispered, “Something we need to talk about when we get home. Please forgive me for being such a jerk this week. I’m so sorry.”

“Of course I forgive you,” she said and squeezed his hand.

As they walked out of church, she held onto his arm as they leaned against each other. The kids sensed there had been a positive turn of events and followed silently.

That afternoon, Hobart shared with his family all that had happened through the week, and how the newsletter had provided a verse for each day. They were stunned.

They never discovered the source of the newsletter and Hobart never received another one.

But from that Sunday forward, Hobart read his Bible every day and then worked hard to apply what he’d read. Each person in the family did the same thing.

Life went on for the family. After several months Hobart found a new job and did okay. There were challenges from time to time – good days and bad days – but they got through them.

Hobart kept the one issue of “Weekly Will News” folded up in his wallet and pulled it out from time to time. Each time he read it, he shook his head in wonder as his heart filled with gratitude.

Hobart knew he was living within God’s will for his life and that’s all he needed.


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Do you struggle with discerning God's will? Do you read the Bible daily? Have you had an interesting experience as God revealed His will to you? Share in the comments!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Illusion (#PoetryMonday*)

The wind gusts scatter
leaves loose from the trees
that are birds instead
flung into the magical air
to alight on different trees
and mingle with others there
both birds and leaves.



















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 It's PoMo! To learn about PoMo, click here and then scroll down. 
A short, new poem. Have you ever watched the wind blow a few leaves from a tree only to realize they were actually birds? Or notice a small flock of birds that were actually leaves? Perhaps what you witnessed was an act of magic; a transformation; a sleight of Nature's hand.  

This poem is included in this collection: