I want you to picture a plot of land. It’s tilled, clean, no weeds; as a gardener myself it’s a beautiful sight to behold. There is nothing so exciting and full of expectation as a ‘yet to be planted’ harvest. Imagine what God sees as He looks down at us. However, what God sees is not a perfect, clean, weedless, fertilized, field of soil.
“Then he told them many things in parables, saying: ‘A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.'” Matthew 13:3-8
When God is sowing, He is throwing seed (His word) toward us, wherever we are. We may be on a lonely path, in a time of life where nothing is penetrating into our hearts. We may be in a rocky time of life, and because of the difficulties in life we are unable to maintain growth without the root. Perhaps the seed is sown while we are so focused on the things of this world, that we have no energy to focus on the things of God. Our desire for wealth, fame, position, choke out any desire we have for God. Then, sometimes, the Word is sown on good soil, where it will grow and flourish and produce abundant fruit.
The point being, God is always sowing. He is always calling out to us. He calls when we are not ready, kinda ready, think were ready and when we are actually ready. Any one of us have been every kind of soil at some point in our life. But God, (best words ever) keeps sowing. God never gives up, He never stops calling us, He is faithful in all He does.
“You have searched me, Lord,
and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too lofty for me to attain.” Psalm 139:1-6
God has also called us to be sowers. Christ called each of us who believe to reach out to all those who do not know Him. We are to reach out to ALL those who do not know Him. I have found that we have a tendency to reach out to those who we are most comfortable with. We reach out where we believe there will be the least resistance. We reach out to people like ourselves. “If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that?” Matthew 5:46-47
What I found most inspiring in the parable of the sower; is that God continued to sow! He provided His word to everyone, everywhere no matter their condition, no matter their place in life. He didn’t discriminate in any way. Even knowing that some of the time the seed would not sprout, He continued to sow. God never gives up on us! He generously sends His Spirit to each of us, over and over and over again. He is constantly reaching out to bring us to Him.
Why then, are we stingy with our sowing? Are we worried about making people mad, offending someone, scaring them off, making a bad impression, losing a friend or just plain looking the fool? Everything that keeps us from walking like Jesus did, will fall away. We’ll look back one day and know all the times we stingily kept Christ to ourselves and the silly reasons we did it. We’ll also recognize that in the Kingdom, those reasons just don’t matter. How will we feel knowing that it was more important for us to be comfortable than to share Christ? We pick and chose who we think deserves our time as if we know better than God. We are called to sow not to judge.
We want to pick and chose where we sow the Word, we want to see growth, we want to stand proudly and say, “we did that.” But the truth is that God is the only reason any seed will grow, our job isn’t to identify the perfect place and time to plant, growth isn’t dependent upon us. Our job is to sow, and to sow generously. What happens to those seeds after that is up to Him. We may never see the results of the seeds we plant. We know that God’s word will always accomplish it’s purpose.
“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven,
and do not return to it without watering the earth
and making it bud and flourish,
so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire
and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.” Isaiah 55:10-11
Sow generously, God will take care of the rest.
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We all know the rhyme, Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall, all the kings horses, and all the kings men couldn’t put Humpty together again. The image of something so silly as an egg, sitting on a wall, falling down, and being smashed into an irreparable state, made us laugh as children, who would come up with such a sad silly story, without a happy ending?
Similarly, in Genesis we read a story about how all the people in the world spoke one language and how they came together to build a tower to ‘reach the heavens’ and ‘to make a name for themselves’. Like a silly round bottom egg sitting on a wall, their pride drove them to take actions which ultimately led to their being scattered across the world, unable to be unified as they once were. There was nothing that could bring them back together like that again, irreparably broken they went their separate ways.
“Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved eastward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there.
They said to each other, “Come, let’s make bricks and bake them thoroughly.” They used brick instead of stone, and tar for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”
But the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building. The Lord said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.”
So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city. That is why it was called Babel because there the Lord confused the language of the whole world. From there the Lord scattered them over the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:1-9
God saw that the people, (all as a group), had great pride. Pride that drove them to believe themselves His equal. A pride that will continue to drive the human race to attempt feats that bring us renown, and make us feel godlike. “If as one people speaking the same language, they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them.” Throughout the Old Testament we find stories of the people of God, driven by pride, to take action in direct opposition to Him, serving only to glorify themselves.
Why would Humpty sit on the wall? To have the best view of the military parade passing by, to be seen as clever by attempting the impossible, balancing so precariously on a wall. We don’t know why he did it, we do know that he fell, and his pieces were so completely shattered that no one could repair the damage. Not even the people he sought so hard to impress.
This moment in Genesis, the people were of one mind, one language, working together for a common cause; the cause however was not God’s, it was their own. We as a race, instead of using our unity for good, wanted to use it to glorify ourselves and try to reach the heavens, we wanted to be god’s in our own right. Sound familiar, how many times in our history have we done something we thought was so smart, only to reap the horrible consequences of those actions? From that moment, we were scattered, never again to be so unified in purpose. “So the Lord scattered them from there over all the earth, and they stopped building the city.” No longer able to communicate the people lost interest in their project and went their own separate ways.
What happens next you ask? Well, instead of working together we fought each other; for land, for money, for ‘love’, for every reason you can imagine. The unity we knew, the unity we were created to have, was destroyed by our pride.
God knew what we were capable of accomplishing together, we are, after all, made in His image. We have His capacity for love, compassion, joy, peace, hope, patience and kindness encoded into our very DNA. But pride won over.
Then one day everything changed. He provided a way for us to again be unified. Christ is our universal translator. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit demonstrated that when He came to indwell in the hearts of the Apostles and all those who would believe, we could again be unified in heart and purpose.
“Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them” Acts 2:2-4
From Babel to Pentecost, God did not provide us a way to reunite, doing so would only have led to the same outcome. Our lives being about us. But Christ’s selflessness and sacrifice brought us all together; Jews, Gentiles, men and women, slaves and free people. We are ALL united in Christ. The Holy Spirit speaks in and through all those who believe. God not only gave us the ability to be unified as His Church working together for one purpose, He also gave us the purpose.
“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. ’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matthew 22:37-40
Babel to Pentecost; confusion to clarity, separation from God to unity in Christ. God’s plan reflects His character, He is Sovereign, loving and compassionate. His plans will never fade, fail or falter.
It was man’s choice to give into our pride, it was that pride that led to our confusion at Babel, it was God’s love and compassion that, through Christ’s sacrifice, we were again brought together and given a common purpose.
Yes, we all speak different languages, compounded exponentially by the number of people and cultures and countries that exist in our fragmented world today. But God (two of my FAVORITE words in the Bible) provided us a way, through belief in Christ, to come together. Will we use this blessing to serve His purpose, or our own.
I was driving to work this morning, on the rare occasion that I was not making multiple school drop stops. I was thinking through my day, and planning some upcoming events, praying and asking God for guidance and discernment. I pulled into my office parking lot about an hour earlier than normal and I got out of my car. To my surprise there was someone wrapped up in a sleeping bag lying on the sidewalk, blocking the door.
Complete transparency, I did not react the way I would have liked. My thoughts were uh oh, what now? They could be dangerous, they could be mean, they could yell at me if I disturb them…I could go around to the other door? Wait, I have to run to the store because I need to get flowers for one of my staff for their birthday. Ok God, I’ll go to the store and if they are still there when I get back, I’ll talk to them and see how I can help.
I went to the store, got the card and the flowers and returned to the office…yup they were still there. OK God, I’ll walk around to the other door and put all my stuff in my office, and come back down. If they are still there I’ll talk to them and see how I can help.
I went to my office and put my things down, and plugged in my computer. I grabbed my phone and my keys and walked down the stairs to the door…yup they were still there. OK God, I get it.
Trying to open the door, there was dead weight. I couldn’t tell if it was a man or a woman. I panicked, what if they were hurt, or sick or dead. “Excuse me, are you OK?” I Pushed the door a little more, “are you OK?” A man sat up, and began to apologize for being there.
“I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean to sleep that long, I’m so sorry it was just so cold last night.” He sat up and began to put on his shoes and continued to apologize. I noticed he didn’t have any socks as he put his shoes on. “Really I’m so sorry I’ll move, I was robbed and I have a job but they took my cell phone, I’m so sorry, really, I’ll go.”
I was so wrecked! “Please don’t be sorry, come inside and get warm the building is now open.”
“Really, thank you, my name is Tony.” He reached up his hand to shake mine, I took it.
Tony is down on his luck, he’d had a rough night and was cold. He just wanted to be warm and my response was fear, excuses and procrastination. I took a few minutes to talk with Tony, who was from Tucson and was coming home from California after his job had ended. He told me that each day since he got back things kept getting worse, the culmination was the previous day when he was robbed, loosing his lifeline to his job when his phone was taken. He was sober, articulate, appreciative and polite. After giving him some food, hot coffee and some money. He went on his way, to his job.
I’m not making any claims to the truth or validity of his story, but to mine. I was praying in the car for discernment on what youth curriculum to use, my parent’s upcoming anniversary party and whether to spend money on a new or used drum set for my son.
Tony slept in the cold, on the sidewalk out in the open, and had no socks. My response was not Jesus’, it was the worlds. As I began writing this, a Micah Tyler song came on. He sings:
How can we claim to be God’s hands and feet if we’re too afraid to step out of our own comfort zone? We pray for God to give us opportunities to reach people, to help in tangible ways, then when it happens we come up with every excuse.
God wouldn’t want me to do something dangerous. Didn’t God send Ananias to Saul, the self proclaimed destroyer of Jesus Disciples? (Acts 9:10-19)?
God wouldn’t ask me to jeopardize my standing at work. God was clear that all we do we should work as if for him not men. (Colossians 3:23)
God wanted me to meet Tony, to help him, but more than that to show me…yet again…that His will, His good and perfect will will never fall short of His glory. God loves all people, and not in an out there, for other people to act on, kind of way. Each and every person is precious to Him, so each and every person MUST be precious to us.
Regardless of what they’ve done, NO ONE is unredeemable! We are Jesus to this world, to every person we meet, it doesn’t matter if we like them or not, if they are rich, poor, clean, dirty, sick, healthy, young or old. That is who we are called to be, period!
The wold is full of Tony’s, full of people who need what we have, it’s time we shared with everyone.
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In Matthew 4 we find Jesus being “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” We know that he fasted for forty days and nights, and that the bible clearly states (as I checked this against 5 different versions) that, “He was hungry.” Forty days and forty nights, yea, he’d be hungry. He’d have a hunger inside of him that would literally make him sick, weak, faint and at this moment of weakness what should happen… The tempter came. “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” Remember how hungry He must have been… his reply?
Matthew 4:4 – But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'”.
I don’t know how many times I’ve read this part of scripture, but when I was reading it this weekend something struck me, one word, shall.
Just last night, I was having dinner with my parents at an Italian restaurant and of course there was bread, I love bread. Mom asked me, “would you like a piece of bread?” Of course I’d like a piece of bread, but you know man can not live on bread alone. Yup, that’s what I said. It’s what I’ve heard and I’m sure you’ve heard, lots of people say. “You know what the bible says…man can not live on bread alone.”
WAIT! The scripture says, man SHALL not live by bread alone. BIG DIFFERENCE FRIENDS! I thought to myself when I read this again last night… how did I miss it? So I went searching through every version of the Bible I have in my house, and do you know what I found? They all say the same thing.
King James: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
New International Version: Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.
Revised Standard Version: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.
New Living Translation: People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the Mouth of God.
The Message: It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.
Yes, I am telling you that man can live on bread alone, it’s not healthy, and I don’t recommend it. Bread may feed our bodies but not our souls. Only the word that proceeds from the mouth of God can feed our souls, make us whole, bring freedom, forgiveness and salvation. Bread may keep your body alive but will not give you life.
One of the definitions of the word ‘shall’; expressing an instruction or command, “Man shall not live by bread alone”, Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 8:2-3 where Moses is exhorting the people of Israel to remember how God cared for them in the desert for 40 years stating in verse 3, “So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your father know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”
It’s not about the bread! It’s about living by the word of God. His promises are many and cover ALL our needs. We don’t need to focus on the immediate hungers of the flesh, we need to keep our eyes, hearts and hopes on him. Everything else is just a distraction and will keep us from fully living the life He has planned for us.
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“I could while away the hours conferring with the flowers consulting with the rain, I could dance and be merry life would be a dingle darry…if I only had a brain.” C’mon y’all know the song. Dorothy Gale’s best friend from OZ who guides, protects and consistently places himself in harms way to keep her safe..and constantly claims he knows nothing because his maker did not invest him with a brain. What we come to discover, rather quickly, is our friend the Scarecrow has common sense oozing through every pore of his being. No, he does not have a formal education or as the Wizard himself bestows a diploma; however when the going got tough it was the Scarecrow who had the answers, the plans and the gumption to get Dorothy’s rag tag band of compatriots through the tough times.
Ok Betsy get to the point! Well here goes, I was talking recently with the CEO of a mid-sized company that I work with (yes he has a brain and no he is not a scarecrow). We somehow got into a long discussion about how to break out of the rut so many similar businesses seem to be stuck in (unable to address challenges or move at all). I asked what he’s been doing to encourage staff to innovate and push the limits of current business practices. First he looked at me like I had a third eye then he informed me that he’d hired a business consultant to come and observe, research and provide feedback into what he could do differently to move his business ahead.
Now for the record, this is a very intelligent and successful business man who has worked hard to grow his enterprise into what it is. That being said I wanted to scream “Please Use Your Brain!”. He is overlooking his single most valuable asset to experience incredible innovation and growth… his current employee brain trust. They may not have a formal education or be Bill Gates, Nikola Tesla or Thomas Edison; however they know your business, sometimes better than you do. Why wouldn’t you engage them?
As leaders we are constantly looking for the next big idea, what can we do differently that will catapult us ahead of the competition? So we read books, articles and blog posts on the next big idea, industry trends and we chase unicorns across rainbows only to end up in OZ with no idea how to get back. Do you know where most great new ideas come from? They come from the last place most managers look, your current employees… your employee brain trust. Remember Dorothy’s famous line, “there’s no place like home, there’s no place like home“. She didn’t need to go looking any further than her own back yard to find all the answers.
If you are looking for industry trends, talk to the people who live it every day. If you want customer feedback, talk to the people who talk to your customers. If you want to tap into institutional knowledge and find out what is possible, impossible, too hard, too easy or will have a real impact ask the people who live it every day. Inside of your current organization are your disruptors, game changers, and generally brilliant people. Talk to them, pose the questions to them…you may just be surprised at what you find.
yes change is scary and hard and often expensive however, never as expensive as staying still while everyone else passes you by. Not as scary as watching your hard built dreams unraveling before your eyes cause you didn’t anticipate future trends and certainly not as hard as telling your entire workforce that your business is closing and they are losing their jobs.
Really, what do you have to lose by engaging those who already work for you and have a vested interest in your success? I’ll tell you…nothing, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
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This has been one of those weeks that leaves me thinking about a lot. Now thinking generally is not something I have trouble with, unfortunately I’m one of those people who has a very difficult time turning off my brain…even when I want to.
This week I hosted a luncheon of women leaders who’ve I’ve had the pleasure of knowing and working with. I wanted to give us an opportunity to hear an incredible speaker, enjoy a healthy lunch and forge a deeper understanding of one another. Yes it was quite the women’s power hour and I LOVED it! Hearing their stories of adversity, challenges, struggles, success and set-backs inspired me; however, there was one question that I’m still pondering? What is my purpose and am I happy where I am right now?
I spent a good part of the evening and the next day with those questions still in my head. What IS my purpose and AM I happy where I am right now? My answer at the time was, “Yes I’m happy with where I am right now however, I’m not done yet.” As for my purpose, well that’s a harder one. I have always been an incredibly mission driven person, I want to make the world better. How I have lived that out through the years has morphed; whether its working in education, non-profit organizations of all sizes, employment services or in the media; if I don’t feel like I’m making a difference I am not happy.
Today I attended a panel discussion composed of female leaders from across different industries. They shared their trials, tribulations and successes, what got them there, what lessons they’ve learned and the pitfalls they wished they had avoided. Again the topic came up…live your purpose. I was sitting with a friend of mine who is a source of inspiration, she lives her purpose every day. She knows exactly what impact she wants to make and how she’s going to make it, she has laser focus in her career choices.
Now I am the first to admit that my career path has not be planned. In each of my career moves, I was scared to death that I might not be able to do the job, which is ultimately what inspired me to make the jump, I LOVE a challenge.
The BIG question is, what do I want to do now? Is it time to have a more purposeful direction? Is it time for me to pick a career field and stick to it? Do I finally need to decide what I want to do when I grow up? Answer: NO! Not just no but heck NO!
I’ve had a wonderful roller coaster ride of a career path. In each of my fields I learned new skills, honed my talents and grew exponentially. I grew in ways needed to take my next leap. Not only that, but as I have been promoted, I look to hire people with similar paths. Individuals who have a varied background that bring new perspectives to what we do, challenge the norms and me. I love where I am and what I’ve become both personally and professionally, which wouldn’t have happened without my roller coaster career path. No I’m not done, I have LOTS left to do and I’m not the type of person to confine myself to one box, one purpose or one direction, where’s the fun in that?
My mother and father both worked for the same employer for 35+ years. I’ve seen their ups and downs and I’ll admit there were times that I actually thought, “that will not be me.” Don’t get me wrong they loved what they did, my parents taught me professional & familial responsibility, extremely high work ethic and integrity. All of which are incredibly important but, you don’t need to stay in the same job to exemplify those traits.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is, I don’t have to decide what I want to do when I grow up. Only time, opportunity, bravery and passion will tell. One thing I know for sure, it’s going to be fun and I will make the world better in whatever way i’m able.
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