Fearless Faceoff: When Clients Become Hockey Players

I’ll be honest. This week was …ummm…’interesting’…

…some ups and downs, a few unexpected convos, a couple rough patches. The works really. 

Granted, I’m stiff-upper lipping this as vague vulnerability is often wise on these platforms. 

Yet, as I type this at my local Denny’s 10:00 am CT on the first sunny Saturday morning in God knows when, I’m refreshed. 

Why? I don’t know… …correction: I know; hence, why I’m writing this. 

Here’s the thing…and I’ll try to keep this brief. 

While we all work hard, for some, our professions compel us to deal with difficult clients or patients on a regular basis. Given the sage savvy you possess, I don’t need to tell you how to troubleshoot vocational pests who get under your craw.

Still, there are times that just flat-out sting, like when a person with a noble title treats you in an ignoble way – who gives the impression of accepting your apology only to betray it with a vindictive power play.

What do you when an influential figure turns into a hockey player before your eyes? What do you do when a religious leader spearheading a dignified cause threatens or blackmails you? 

For starters…

  1. Don’t take the assault and character breach personally. You are not on trial. You are a peacemaker…a son of God (Matthew 5:9). As a divinely blessed ambassador, listen, acknowledge, and confess as needed. Whatever you do, in your thirst for understanding, do not take offense to the point you react on defense. 
  2. Slow down, take a breath, and give yourself time to pray. Pray silently as you talk, out loud as you declare, and all out once secure in a safe place. In this way, you can receive grace on the go…and later in the slow.
  3. Understand that challenges have a place and a purpose. As the story of Joseph reminds us, what the enemy intends for evil, God can intend it for good. Thus, when colleagues and clients unfairly criticize you with half-baked accusations, consider the character sharpening that can occur in the moment and how it can trigger a domino-effect of resolution.
  4. Forgive the offender. Whether lost or found, remember they are the ones with blinders on and know not what they do, mean or possess for that matter. Regardless of the emotional toll, aim to forgive by day’s end knowing there’s no forgiveness without ‘give’. For when we choose to forgive an offender, we give them a turned cheek, an opposite-spirit response with the Cross at the center. Sure, they may deserve retaliation; you may think you’re worthy of vindication; however, when you put the entire situation in God’s hands, you’re leaving the grudge on the other side and trusting God to deal accordingly. I don’t know about you but if I had to choose between bitterness and a humility aware of God’s ability to reconcile anything, give me the latter every time.

Back to my case, while I could have been more administratively aware, while I could have ensured my understanding wasn’t a ship passing in the night, in the end, I found the victory. 

‘Cause…

…any time you can come to the end of yourself and not only pray your new adversary finds Jesus but for blessings to follow their endeavors, God is clearly being glorified in that moment.

Not to sound like I’m tooting my own horn; hopefully as you know, I take zero credit abiding in freedom that’s already been given.

I guess my point in sharing this is: Although arriving at this point is rarely easy, it can be simple. All you have to do is know what’s right and have a gameplan on how to get there especially when you’re on the clock and in pressure situations. 

In summary (and I’ll let the Word do the talking)…

  1. Do your best to win God’s approval as a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed and who teaches only the true message (2 Timothy 2:15).
  2. Know a false witness will not go unpunished, nor will a liar escape (Proverbs 19:5); vengeance is the Lord’s!
  3. Whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your transgressions. (Mark 11:25)
  4. We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12)
  5. Apply the heart of David who was no stranger to betrayal: “If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.” (Psalm 55:12-14).

In short, abide in endurance and discern with confidence when you face pride and prejudice in the office. After all, you have the mind of Christ and by proxy, everything you need to stand up and stand firm in those moments. You got this!

Selah.

Cover photo creds: City National Insights

A Brewed Awakening

Written 11/6/14; revised 3/13/21

We’ve all been there.

  • The crave for caffeinated fulfillment…
  • The mid-afternoon coffee rush…
  • The anticipation of steeped goodness igniting the day’s doldrums…

When you think about it, it’s pretty amazing how a demitasse of brewed bliss with its steamed satisfaction can affect a day’s course. Unfortunately, as this story will prove, not every pitstop can be so rewarding.

Let’s set the scene: It’s a chilly November afternoon when some colleagues and I decide to mosey down to a local Starbucks to take advantage of a ‘Buy One, Get One Free’ holiday drink special. As we approach the main entrance, we notice the coffeeshop is highly congested with a line extending outside into the brutal cold. Having experienced this location’s awkward floor plan, I guide my group to the store’s second entrance¹ and recalibrate the line as a courtesy for our fellow coffee connoisseurs.

That’s when our move is misinterpreted by an older, alternative version of “mean girls”.   

PshWe were here first,” cried the alpha.
Yeah, we were definitely here before you guys,” said another.
Oh, yeahI know. It’s just the line usually starts back here in the mornings
,” I replied. “I wasn’t…”
Well, it starts right here today! So…move aside.”

At this point, my inner Madea is activated.

These cranks are going to brew the day, I think to myself. Whoever these catty Katie’s are, they’re gonna regret bating this bulldog. A few snarky pelts later and I’m internal inches from summoning Seal Team Six, which on this day, is inspired by this modified scene from Disney’s Brink:

After all, it’s not like I’m the one spewing assumptions accusing a complete stranger as if his character could be so easily appraised. *Sigh*

But it’s at this point when something surreal begins to happen. While my flesh desperately wants to bless these women with a brick, somehow, someway I begin to cool off. Call it the frigid air offsetting my red-hot interior. Call it the still, stunned silence working its charm. Whatever the case, I realize the best foot forward is to…

Suddenly, my inner Taylor Swift starts jiving with the Spirit in the moment…

… knowing though these haters gonna hate, hate, hate and berate, berate, berate, I don’t have to deflate, deflate, deflate. Rather Christ in me, I can shake, shake, shake it off! Shake it off! And from there, perceive the situation for what it’s worth and the people around me for what they’re worth.

Consider the following verses and how they relate to this song:

“…as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” ~ 2 Corinthians 4:18 (ESV)

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” ~ Romans 8:18 (ESV)

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” ~ Romans 8:37 (ESV)

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.” ~ 1 Peter 5:10 (ESV)

While we can’t control the cheats of the world or the biases of our accusers, we can turn the other cheek in faith knowing our dignity, security, and identity are in Christ. Accordingly, we don’t need to prove our intentions through self-seeking agenda when we can rest in the Father’s arms (holiday expresso in hand) knowing He’s our solution and resolution in times of distress.

Think of it this way: If our dependence is aligned, not only can we trust God in confronting our humanity but also in subduing our thirst for revenge. Even when others spit in the mud in our direction, God can still use it to open our eyes to His purposes and perspectives.

Hence, why this post exists: To remind us how the slights of man can lead to sights of God we never thought possible (more on this in a future post).

As for the moral of this story, regardless if Taylor Swift had Matthew 5:39 in mind when she wrote her acclaimed hit, don’t underestimate the value of the left cheek. Especially when you feel your values are violated, keep your heart pure, ears attuned, and hands free. In this way, you can hold onto your coffee and pour out a cup of the life you have inside you simultaneously.

Selah.

Footnotes

  1. Signature of a downtown Starbucks

Cover photos creds: HD Wallpapers

3 Ways to Be In Christ at Work (Part 2)

After discussing two ways we can vocationally abide in Christ in my last post, I want to conclude with one final thought…

…because we are in Christ, we have the mind of Christ and with it, we can see the Cross as an opportunity to go weak into Jesus.

As mentioned in ‘part 1‘, the Cross not only captures total weakness but is a way of life we approach God and minister to others. By daily recognizing our helplessness in light of Christ’s sufficiency, we engage our ‘new creation’ identity (2 Corinthians 5:17) and salvation through surrender (i.e. going weak into Jesus with delight and humility).

Unfortunately, remembering our ‘new creation’ identity in the heat of hustle isn’t always easy. While some may struggle to understand daily dying and rising with Christ, for most of us, the crux comes down to self-effort and independent thinking.

For instance, when we make a mistake at work, the temptation is to fix the problem before we invite God into the situation. Granted, reconciling errors is an important part of any job; however, as marketplace ministers, we must understand there’s a divine order for our faith and reliance to follow.

If our heart is to serve the Lord, then we can know the way to best serve our colleagues and clients is to focus on Jesus as we embrace our weakness. In doing this, we accept the fact we are loved by God as new creations with a purpose beyond perfection. Again, conflicts and miscues come and go but the source of faith is eternal.

As nuanced as certain situations can be, far greater the glory when we discover freedom in embracing weakness – when ‘I can’t do it on my own’ becomes a battle-cry of worship.

Think of it this way: The Cross, as a picture of total weakness, was the plan from the beginning. Accordingly, we can find peace knowing God designed dependence to be a lifeline in our relational pursuit of Him. To the secular world, dependence is weakness, the sign of our frailty, but in God’s eyes, dependence is a highway of intimacy and discovery. 

Practically, this can manifest several ways at work. A classic example involves our response to fear and anxiety. When we encounter gossip, false accusation and/or neglect, our default is often centered in retaliation or withdrawal as opposed to yielding in surrender with praise and petition. Yet, as our faith compels us, anytime we feel overwhelmed, we can see the pain and discomfort as opportunities to press into Jesus.

When we feel angry about subordinates or teammates not committing their all, we commit the frustration to Jesus and the need for immediate resolution. Remember peace is not simply an overflow of wisdom but the way we trust God when we’re struggling to connect, relate, or understand. 

If it helps, consider how Paul relished the thorn. In the same way the thorn became his icon of dependence, so too it can be our symbol of savor for Jesus as we yield and surrender. As for how we do this at work, I submit we follow a similar pathway:

As we depend on God by yielding to the Spirit and acknowledging our helplessness, we can…

  1. Surrender our struggle by receiving grace in place of fear and our entitlement to make sense of our surroundings.
  2. Remember the battles we fight are not against flesh and blood but of principalities of darkness (Ephesians 6:12).
  3. Approach suffering not only as a way we engage God’s Kingdom but as the core to our vocational identity (Hebrews 5:8).
  4. Enter into His courts with praise/gratitude knowing we’re called as faithful stewards and partakers of God’s divine nature (2 Peter 1:4).
  5. Respond to Jesus in weakness through prayer, petition, obedience. 
  6. Walk in humility knowing Christ lives His dependence to the Spirit through us (Isaiah 11:1-5).
  7. Rest in knowing goodness and godliness will mark our work because we have been given the mind of Christ (Psalm 145:7, 2 Peter 1:3, 1 Corinthians 2:16).
  8. Tackle conflicts with confidence knowing it’s not on us to overcome. 
  9. Abide in intimacy through daily dying/rising with Christ (i.e. calibrating to the Cross).
  10. View dependence as a way we trust God for healthy working relationships and perpetuate peace even when we don’t feel it.
  11. Perceive the future with expectancy knowing God will transform our hearts through the renewing of our minds.
  12. Obey with joy knowing as we worship through weakness, our attitudes are shaped in peace by the same power that renews/transforms the minds of Christ we already have.

As Paul declared in Galatians 2:20, we don’t rely in our strength but yield to Christ who lives in us. Therefore, when the work gets tough, when the times get rough, dare to see your inward groans as worship unto Jesus. If suffering is the catalyst to embracing weakness and embracing weakness the key to pressing into God, then it makes sense why we can boast in God’s sufficiency. To live as Kingdom influencers at work, we must remember our success is not about what we accomplish each week but what we gain going weak into Jesus. 

Bottom line: Since we have the mind of Christ, we can experience breakthrough at work by the way we depend on Him. In times of strength, we honor God by acknowledging the good we contribute is because of Him; in times of weakness, we honor God by delighting in what we can’t do apart from Him. After all, when we work with the mind of Christ applied, not only can we taste communion with Jesus in challenging circumstances but embrace weakness as both the way we surrender to the Cross and the way we relate and endure as new creations. 

Selah.

As we approach Thanksgiving, I encourage you, friends, to let your thorn be a boost to Jesus. Don’t just press through at work but press in. Don’t just surrender on the go, but draw near and be still. After all, teachable hearts make preachable moments and you, brothers, are testaments to this truth.

Cover photo creds: Kirkland Baptist Church; videos courtesy of Steve Fry‘s Reset series @ The Gate

In The Name of [G]love

I love to play fantasy football.

Really all fantasy sports: Football, baseball, basketball, even hockey. With all major sports currently coinciding due to COVID-19, no question it’s been a busy month on the hobby-front. Yet, of all the ups and downs (mostly ups), perhaps my favorite moment came last week for one of my baseball teams.

Here’s the stage: After starting the season 7-12-1, my team goes on a heater finishing up the regular season with a league-best 30-16-4 to finish at 37-28-5. Heading into the last week of the regular season, my team’s playoff probability was <5% as I needed two teams ahead of me to go 3-6-1 or worse while I had to go 8-1-1 or better just to qualify for a tiebreaker. Well wouldn’t you know it, that’s exactly what I happened: My team goes 8-1-1, the other teams go 3-6-1, and against all odds, all three teams finish tied at 37-28-5.

Now, for most leagues, tiebreakers are decided by head-to-head matchups during the regular season; to me, this makes sense given the practice considers past performance and is adopted by most major league sports. However, for this league, the Commissioner had set it up in a unique way: Rather than award head-to-head record, the team who finished the final week with the best record would win the tiebreaker and the seeding advantage. A moot point in most circumstances, but a critical one in this case since the tiebreaker decided the last playoff berth.

All things considered, you can image my elation to have clinched a playoff berth having been left for dead at 7.5 games back with two weeks ago.

There was only one problem: I forgot to pay my league entry fee.

This probably deserves an unwind. For custom leagues, a payment deadline is generally enforced by the fantasy network provider. If even one of the managers forgets to pay on time, the league is stripped of its cash status and becomes a free league with no payout.

Initially, I had paid on time; however, that was before another manager missed the deadline costing our league its cash league status. After receiving a refund, I carried about my business assuming this league would be re-classified with no cash prizes. But as I learned following my playoff berth, the managers had decided to handle payments ‘off-grid’ six weeks prior, a memo I missed based on my fantasy app’s messaging settings. Why no one contacted me is beyond me. Perhaps they thought my team was weak and wasn’t a threat. Whatever the reason, my team overachieving into the playoffs was suddenly a legit problem for the managers who had paid and lost the tiebreaker.

As I continued discerning the dilemma, the choice became clear: I needed to own my mistake (even though I knew it wasn’t the only mistake in this situation) and inquire next steps in our next live chat. So that’s what I did. At soonest convenience, I logged in, acknowledged the error, and told the managers I’d happily pay the fee after-the-fact. Unfortunately, this pitch (pun intended) was not unanimously received given the cheap convenience involved. As one manager said, of course I would pay now; after all, I had new skin in the game.

But that’s when I made an easy call: Instead of defending my position, I surrendered my playoff spot to the runner-up manager.

Upon announcing this, the live chat blew up. Apparently, the other managers were prepping for a vote on whether or not I should remain qualified as a playoff team. For some managers, they understood the loop holes involved; for others, they were more concerned about league rules being followed to the bitter end. Yet, once I laid down my team, the other managers were floored. They couldn’t believe after all my hard work, I’d just casually offer my playoff bid to another manager. In response, I explained how it didn’t make sense for me to win a cash prize in a league I didn’t pay an entry fee for. Granted, it would have been nice if someone said something so I could have paid a second time…on time. Alas, that’s not what happened.

What did happen is while I lost a chance to earn $120, I won souls in how I handled the disappointment. For as the chat session continued, the encouraging comments poured in – most applauding my integrity, some even asking me if I would return to the league again. At first, I was like, ‘Calm down. It’s not that big a deal’, but upon second thought, I saw where they were coming from.

‘Cause truth is: Integrity isn’t only realized when a decision is hard, but also when a decision is obvious. Applying Proverbs 11:30 (ESV), while a challenging circumstance can impact integrity, or lack thereof, ultimately how it’s handled is what wins soul. For instance, a basic ethical response can diffuse conflict when it advances corporate virtue ahead of an individual goal. Additionally, it can inspire others to do likewise when selflessly expressed in sincerity. Put another way…

…doing the right thing doesn’t have to be complicated. It’s not contingent on the extraordinary but is often maximized in the ordinary.

Sometimes, we undermine the value of humility when its exercise is plain. Even when there’s a cost, when the path to goodness is clear-cut, we can shrug it off as we walk it in fear of being self-centered.

But that’s why I’m sharing this story – to remind us to embrace the power of practical integrity and cherish the simple ways character can influence. Who knows? By buying that meal, being transparent, or extending grace, you may just win an opportunity to lead someone to Jesus because you were willing to be like him in the first place.

Selah.

Photo creds: ArtsyCanvas.com

3 Ways to Overcome Labeling at Work

Labels.

They can be tough to handle. As one who has endured his fair share, my heart is sensitive to those wrestling with identity, to those struggling in the shadow of slander and prejudice. While some people know the truth of who you are, the fact is many are in the dark to what makes them unique. And if we’re to mature in wisdom and influence within our communal arenas, how we stand firm when assailed by this demographic is worth discussion.

Regardless of what we do or where we’re at, whenever vulnerability strikes, having a game-plan is vital in our quest to be more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). Accordingly, here are three ways we can bust the boxes people put us in and prevent their labels from becoming our tags.

1. Anchor Your Belief

Before we take any action, the best way to deal with backbiting is to resist fear through the Scriptures. While how we respond as follow-through is important, how we react in the moment is just as, if not more, crucial. Here’s a check-down of some verses I quote when I sense typecasting, favoritism, or neglect:

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity or cowardice or fear, but [He has given us a spirit] of power and of love and of sound judgment and personal discipline [abilities that result in a calm, well-balanced mind and self-control].” ~ 1 Timothy 2:7 (AMP)

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.” ~ 1 John 4:18-19 (ESV)

I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” ~ Psalm 34:4 (ESV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” ~ Philippians 4:6 (ESV)

Note how this is merely a shortlist; obviously, you can customize your ‘fear resistant’ prayer guide however you please. Just be advised when you’re on the clock in real-time, our tendency to misread and misjudge what we observe is constantly tested; hence, why it’s important not only to know what you believe but also how to take captive what doesn’t align.

Bottom line: When you suspect attitudinal shifts, be slow to believe what you perceive. Don’t be afraid to resist unnecessary judgments, labels, and deceptions. Even if all you can do initially is defer, defer in faith with the hope of casting all anxieties on the Lord (1 Peter 5:7)

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2. Pray into the Offense

When we suspect people are labeling us, it’s hard not to take offense. Even if we can’t prove a typecast, the temptation to rationalize what we’re sensing is real, sometimes tantalizing. I know for me, when I perceive a relational distancing from colleagues or co-workers, I start to crave reconciliation before it’s necessary. On one level, I feel a surge of self-perseveration desperate to find a reason why; on another, I’m frustrated to have to own anything in the first place. It’s like a winless tug-of-war: I want to be heard, understood, and not given up on, but in case those fears verify, I want to, at least, be the next best thing…to be right. Not exactly a sustainable formula if community is to be a pure pursuit.

For those wondering why the transparency: I have no problem being vulnerable because I know I’m not alone. The fact is in most cases, insecurity fuels our offenses and if we don’t acknowledge and repent of them, they can pollute our view of relationships, identity, place and purpose, etc.

So what then? If people are nice one day and suddenly stop acknowledging our existence the next, we’re supposed to keep our mouth shut and be okay with it? Well, no, I’m not saying we neglect the opportunities to bridge divides. Conversely, I’m saying if grudges or walls emerge, we must first lean on God’s understanding to accurately see the situation. From there, we can take rest knowing we’re proactively sowing peace as opposed to reactively striving for peace. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. Through Him, we can persevere in prayer and thanksgiving that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:1-5).

Bottom line: Seek correction before direction. Let God be the space between your hurts and emotions. Release the want to control, manipulate, and be a victim. All the while, pray into the offense and don’t be overcome by the absence of good. Rather be the good in the voids you sense, real or imagined.

3. Turn the Cheek…and the Tide

For most of us, we’re familiar with Matthew 5:38-40:

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is . But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well.

While the general meaning of this passage is to approach evil in the opposite spirit, the concept of turning the other cheek can still be confusing. Is Jesus suggesting we tolerate the presence of malice, gossip, passive-aggressiveness, even silos in our workplaces? Is he hinting we embrace suffering and survivalism as socially acceptable? Not at all. Au contraire, he’s implying we encourage all people through a double portion of his nature.

For instance, if we encounter a void of good, when people are intentionally forsaking us, don’t respond by doing the same. Why lower your standards and behaviors to a level outside your faith? Instead, know your power source and abide in the current of his grace. In this way, you defuse offense, inspire virtue as a contagious overflow, and preserve what needs to be said in a spirit of love.

Bottom line: In the presence of evil, in the absence good, you can’t turn the tide if you don’t turn the cheek. Don’t live in defeat in a moment’s heat but be true to what is right as you stir others to do the same.

Selah.

Stay tuned next time when I’ll dive back into my ‘Trinity as Structure‘ series to discuss the Trinity’s influence on teamwork. For now, I bid you adieu with an inspiring video from New Hope Church:

Cover photo creds: https://medium.com