I Have to Confront my Boss!

That’s what Sean angrily said. [Names have been changed.] When I asked him about the problem, he muttered something about a continual misunderstanding, but he wouldn’t, or couldn’t, pinpoint the primary issue.

Over coffee, his black and mine with cream and sugar, I asked Sean to think about it. “Is the boss being irrational, mean-spirited, or offensive? Or are you reacting to something else?”

“I just don’t like him, but I haven’t really figured out why. I guess I do need to think about it.”

Sean was a man of few words but with good work ethics. With his permission, I made an appointment with Jack.

“Oh, Sean’s one of the best workers I have. Never late, hardly ever a complaint about his work. He just appears to be sullen a lot, but it beats me why. I wonder if he’s got family problems. Got any ideas?”

“Jack, I would like you to confront Sean because ….”

“Oh, no! Like I said, he’s a good worker, and I don’t want to lose him. Let’s just let it be.”

I took a deep breath and asked for a cup of coffee – with cream and sugar. “Jack, may I discuss the concept of healthy confrontation with you? I only need about ten minutes.”

“Take fifteen, and get on with it.” Jack got his own coffee – black. I was beginning to understand the situation, and was glad I brought my notes with me.

Confrontation can be either friendly, abrasive, or explosive. Confrontation is presenting ideas which at times are opposing or unknown to the listener. It is bringing themes, ideas, plans together for comparison and discussion. But people often take a defensive posture and turn confrontation into angry disagreement, resulting in antagonistic action or sullen withdrawal. It can devolve into explosive verbal – and sometimes physical – altercation.

Therefore, I suggested a true confrontation: “bringing two opposing parties face-to-face” in a non-threatening environment in order to resolve or prevent conflict. The purpose of confrontation is to help people, not hurt them. Many psychologists and counselors have their own list of steps, but I’ll simplify it.

Be firm and bold. (2 Cor. 13:1) Address the problem, don’t attack the person. Take witnesses if needed. Start with a compliment.

Be accurate and honest. (Matthew 5:37) Communicate your feelings assertively, not aggressively.  Express them without blaming.

Listen without interrupting. Ask for feedback if needed to assure a clear understanding of the issue. Don’t review the situation as a competition where one has to win and one has to lose.

Affirm all you can that is good. (2 Cor. 7:4) Remember, when only one person’s needs are satisfied, the issue is not resolved. Work toward a solution where both parties can have most of their needs met.

Know the facts. (2 Cor. 11:22-27) Listen first, talk second. And, hopefully, the authority figure should listen first. You should listen to what the other person is saying before presenting your own position. They might say something that changes your mind.

Focus on the issue, not your position. Accept the fact that individual opinions may change, so be observant. Work to develop areas of common ground.

And remember, not all “issues” are part of the problem. Many will dissipate when others are resolved. Know when to let something go. If you can’t come to an agreement, agree to disagree. When the relationship is established, little issues fall by the wayside.

Be gentle after being firm. (2 Cor. 7:8-15) It’s easy for people to get entrenched in their positions and for tempers to flare, voices to rise, and body language to become defensive. Build on mutual respect and understanding. And don’t be afraid of humor or laughing. Scripture says laughing often helps as much as medicine does. Be willing to forgive. Without forgiveness, resolving conflict is impossible.

Jack and Sean agreed to a meeting in the back corner of a coffee shop. I encouraged Sean to “pry yourself out of your shell” and tell the boss about his primary concerns. I also asked Jack to listen without interrupting, and to try not to speak so abruptly.

When analytical Sean began to realize how much Jack valued him, his demeanor picked up. And businessman Jack was amazed to discover Sean’s in-depth knowledge of the company. (The company benefited when Sean got a promotion.)

Confrontation is necessary and beneficial if conducted properly. A willingness to confront, a healthy understanding, and a good cup of coffee go a long way.

Think about it, and work on it.

Is the Majority Always Right?

That’s a serious question and needs to be answered. But it’s also a dangerous question, because a conniving leader could undermine our social order. Remember, our society consists not only of various levels of government. It includes families, social clubs, churches, and businesses; and to a large extent, our society is based on the “majority rule” principle. That’s what local and national elections are all about.

Before we proceed, please understand I am not advocating a rejection of elections, majority-rule in Congress, congregational government in local churches, and so forth. In any scenario, the first result could be the rise of a dictator, and that is abhorrent. But also understand this: even with majority rule in place, we can still have a dictator, anarchy, or chaos when we elect people who have no fear or reverence for God into office. (Think that one through.)

How can that be? I’m glad you asked. Let’s look at a couple of stories in the Bible. We’ll start with Exodus 32:1-6. Moses was on the mountain getting the rules for living (Ten Commandments) from God. But the majority of the people wanted a god they could see, so they chose a common god of the middle east: a young bull (“golden calf”) to worship. Even Aaron the high priest – Moses’ brother – cooperated with them. But the majority was wrong. In this case, majority-rule was disastrous.

Look at Numbers 13. The Israelites had left Egypt, spent two years hearing from God and getting their society established. They were at the border of the Promised Land, and “home” was in sight. God – who created the world and all that is in it, so He has the right to do what He wants – told Moses to send twelve men across the river to get information.

All 12 gave a good report about the weather, the fertility of the soil (they even brought back figs, pomegranates, and a huge cluster of grapes), the availability of forests for lumber, etc. But 10 of them (83.4 percent) said they should not go into the land, while Joshua and Caleb (16.6 percent) gave the correct report.

The masses agreed with the majority, and God issued judgment: all those over the age of twenty at that time would never enter the Promised Land. All except for Joshua and Caleb, because they agreed with God. The ungodly majority ruled, and they reaped disaster.

However, Proverbs 11:14 says, “Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers.” So what should we do?

We must have wise leadership; but we – the people – must be knowledgeable enough to 1) know who is wise, 2) be courageous enough to elect them, and 3) be wise enough to follow them. How do we gain that wisdom?

Proverbs 9:10 says “The fear and reverence of the Lord is the foundation of all wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.” That is beautifully self-explanatory.

Proverbs 11:10a says, “When the righteous [Godly people] do well, the city [society] rejoices [prospers].” Proverbs 29:2 says, “When the righteous [Godly people] are in authority, the people [society] rejoice; but when the wicked [ungodly people] are in power, the people groan [suffer].”

We have seen a lot of that in our nation’s history.

Therefore, since the “majority-rule” concept often gets us into trouble, we should be looking in a different direction. Where should we be looking? Some of you readers may get bothered with me, but the answer is found in the Bible. We should be looking for wise people to lead us.

One man exclaimed, “I am not looking for a Christian to lead me; I want a good politician!” His friend standing nearby mockingly said, “Isn’t ‘good politician’ an oxymoron?” I laughed and said, “I know some good politicians. They are people of high integrity and who cannot be swayed by money, sex, fame, or power. Most of them are Godly folk who pray about their own life, and about pending decisions. But I also know some non-Christian politicians of high integrity.”

We need to understand that the majority is not always right. Therefore, like Joshua and Caleb, we should not be swayed by the opinion of the masses; rather we should study Scripture, pray about decisions, and base our lives on what is right in God’s sight – even if we must stand alone.

But remember: God will be standing with us.

Keep this with you, and read it several times before you vote.

Lessons from the Flock: Joy

I could hardly believe my eyes!

Normally when I walk out the back door of the house, the four hens come running to me. They think I’ll have a treat for them, and they are usually correct. So, they run to me, stand as tall as they can, and sometimes jump as they try to get goodies out of my hands. One time I put my open hand down to their level. When they saw the wheat kernels in the palm of my hand, they rushed forward. As they began eating it, I found out what it feels like to be hen-pecked. (No, it didn’t hurt at all.) By the way, chickens have a 300-degree field of vision without turning their heads.

But today as I walked out the back door, I was quieter than usual; and the birds, who were out of sight, didn’t hear me. I stood there for a minute with no visible activity in the yard. I then began to hum a song. No words; I just softly hummed.

Pandemonium erupted in the back yard!

I don’t know how to accurately spell what I heard, so I won’t try. But these birds exploded from behind the 10 x 12 barn! They came half-running and half-flying as fast as I have ever seen a chicken move. With wings spread straight out like a hawk on the attack, the little head making more noise than seemingly possible, the four birds came racing to see what their benefactor had for them.

It amazes me to see the joy the birds express when they know I am near. When they either see or hear me, they stop everything they might be doing and come running. If they even see me through the kitchen window they come running. (In addition to seeing all the colors that humans do, chickens also see ultraviolet – but that’s another story.)

Stop and think about it: theses chickens joyfully interact with me, their loving benefactor. How many Christians do you know who joyfully interact with our loving Benefactor – Almighty God?

Okay, you might say that we cannot see God. Well, most the time our chickens cannot see me either because I am out of sight. But they LOOK for me. Are we “looking” for God?

The birds love me because of what I do for them. On a much higher level, do we love God for what He does for us? We don’t have to look far to see His blessings. In fact, if we don’t see them, we are blind because God’s blessings are so abundant and prevalent.

Sadly, some Christians are oblivious to what God has done for them. But on the other hand, many Christians do see the blessings – but still are not joyful. Why not? Let’s look at two definitions.

One definition of Joyfulness is: the emotion evoked by well-being, success, good fortune, or by the prospect of possessing what one desires. (Actually, that is the definition of happiness which deals with circumstances; but the modern world , including Christians, confuses joy with happiness.)

A definition and application that is more appropriate is: the spontaneous enthusiasm I experience when I am in fellowship with the Lord (Psalm 16:11). If God never did anything else for me, I would be satisfied because 1) my relationship with Him is intact, 2) my eternal future is secure, and 3) I have everything I need to fulfill God’s will for my life.

So, let’s look back at the chickens. Are they joyful or happy? They are a little of both: they get their treats, but they also walk with me as I traipse around the yard. The birds really enjoy being with me.

Dear reader, are you enjoying your relationship with God, your Supreme Benefactor, or are you worried, mired in the “mud” of everyday life? Do you invest time observing and enjoying the blessings God has heaped upon you, or are you immersed in some level of self-pity because things don’t go your way?

If we are purposely doing something – thought, word, or deed – that is contrary to Biblical principles, we will not have the Joy of the Lord. Could that apply to you?

So “Run to the Lord” with your whole heart. Be satisfied with what He gives you. Even while experiencing financial or material loss, God still blesses us. First Timothy 6:6 says, “Godliness with contentment is great gain.”

So, look for God; He is watching you.

Man Evolved From What?

I always enjoy discussions with my friends who are scientists and/or who believe in one of the various concepts of physical evolution. Here is an over-simplified summary of those beliefs. I may displease folk on both sides of the issue, but please read to the end.

There was nothing in space – there was no space, either. Then a magical thing called a Big Bang occurred over 15 billion years ago: stuff was created out of nothing – out of nowhere. Stuff can be called energy, gas, dust, atoms, electrons, muons, or anything you choose to call it. But it is the stuff from which the entire cosmos congealed. Oh yes, space also appeared simultaneously in which to house all the stuff.

After several billion years of gas and energy swirling around in space, gravity appeared so that the energetic gas and dust could coagulate and form huge rocks. We refer to these rocks as planets. But most of these gas balls didn’t form rocks; instead, they remained gas and dust and continued to attract more gas and dust. Eventually some of them became so large, pressure and friction caused them to ignite and become burning gas balls. We call these huge fire balls stars. And these stars, which were formed from gas and dust, began spewing transformed gas and dust back into space. This transformed material might be referred to as various forms of radiation. A small portion of that radiation is called light.

After 10 billion years, a rock we call “earth” began forming. It was hot. The hot rock began releasing hydrogen and oxygen, and those gases combined to form a liquid. We call it water.

Oh yes: all this was developing without any design, designer, or choreographer.

The water that resulted from the rocks began dissolving those rocks and created a mineral-rich liquid. And after a while, carbon joined the soup.  So now we have a thick viscous liquid made of mineral-rich water – all made from dissolved rock – which congealed from gas and dust – which came from the Big Bang – which produced itself out of absolutely nothing. Very intriguing.

Then, approximately 3.8 billion years ago, the viscous liquid was struck by some form of a life-generating jolt to create a life-form: vegetation. It wasn’t lightning, because that kind of jolt kills life. So there you have it: life evolved from dissolved rocks. Then this mineral-rich water continued to spawn other forms of vegetation.

And even more fascinating, after several billion years, some forms of vegetation decided to think for itself, and became air-breathing, self-locomotive life-forms. But they needed RNA and DNA. They say RNA (ribonucleic acid) was created before DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) appeared. Fascinating, because RNA needs DNA to exist, while DNA needs RNA to exist. But some people tell us that RNA happened all by itself. Hmmmmmmm.

During the next six million years, animals evolved, and some became a type of human. Even more interesting, some of these semi-human-type animals developed the concept of a god, and began creating things to worship. Some bowed down to rocks, some bowed to trees, and some bowed to the lights in the sky. However – amazingly – some demanded that others bow to them. (How in the world did ego or pride evolve?)

So here it is: gas, dust, and space created itself out of nothing; gravity developed so that the gas and dust could congeal in space; some balls of gas and dust formed rocks; some balls formed stars; stars spewed gas back into space; rocks created water; water dissolved rocks to form a viscous liquid; this liquid formed vegetation; some vegetation turned into animals; some animals became humanoid; and humanoids decided to worship stuff, worship lights in the sky, and worship each other.

Modern man calls that science; some call it evolution; and I call it improbable, humanistic science-fiction, which is actually void of true science.

Why? Because both Biblically and scientifically, it is an impossible, non-scientific belief which is religious in nature. Modern man doesn’t believe in miracles, yet the “evolutionary steps” are impossibilities equivalent to a series of miracles.

I am neither questioning the age of the universe, nor questioning evolution within individual species; but life cannot evolve from rocks no matter how many billions or trillions of years we add to the cosmic calendar. That is speculation originally developed by people who were trying to figure out how everything got here, but could not accept the simple statement: “And God said….”

But to remain scientifically-oriented, we must include God doing the creating because accepting the impossible without a cause is absolutely anti-scientific. However He did it, God created inorganic matter, and He created life – two different concepts.

The Bible says: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Someday we’ll will learn how He did it.

Traits of Talented Employees

Are you looking for a job? Or maybe you have a job, but would like to improve your present situation? Well, I’ve got good news for you: here are ideas you can use to improve your lot in life. This will be easy because there are no gimmicks to figure out, no research to conduct, and nothing to buy. You merely need to know yourself. 

I’m talking about your character, integrity, reputation, your persona: what and who you are.

Every business needs people with particular skill-sets, therefore, many employers train people to fill technical positions. But to reduce overhead and protect their investment in the trainees, they try to hire people with good personal qualities. So you must make a good first impression.

First impressions never get a second chance, so make it count. Here are four things employers will notice right away.

  • Physical Appearance: be clean and well-groomed. The potential hiring company sets the tone for how one should dress, so you would not dress like a plumber when applying to be a salesman, and vice versa. Don’t be sloppy.
  • Communication Skills. Employers want to hire people who can communicate well in speaking and writing. Poor communication leads to negative issues within the company and with clients. Expressing yourself well, both verbally and in writing, plus understanding what others say, is mandatory. Intelligence is a strong foundation for success.
  • Attitude is Everything. This requires a favorable personality. People, both employees and customers, are drawn to positive thinkers with a sense of humor. A confident but intelligent employee is also more willing to take calculated risks or accept challenges that a timid person would avoid. Customers or clients will be impressed by a confident representative and feel like conducting business with his company.

Generally, people don’t like being around those who are pessimistic, negative or just plain unhappy. Positive and happy attitudes are contagious, and joyful people get more work done.

Optimistic people make better team members and create a more productive work environment. However, nobody likes someone who boasts or brags about their accomplishments, so don’t overdo the confidence. It becomes self-centeredness.

  • Energy and Enthusiasm. When energetic and enthusiastic people come to work, they generate a working environment that helps both themselves and their co-workers come up with new ideas. Also, employees who come to work fresh and energetic everyday are going to produce more than others who think negatively. Kick grumbling and complaining out of your life. (Make sure you eat well and get enough sleep.)

After you make your case and get that job, you need to prove to the employer that he/she made a good decision in hiring you. Here are the four follow-up steps.

  • Reliability is Powerful. Reliable employees – those who follow instructions and complete the tasks, those who show up on time and work productively – build companies. Managers don’t have to worry about these employees, and can use their own time addressing the company’s difficulties. Add self-motivation and self-discipline, and these reliable employees rise above adversity and setbacks, and rise above mediocre workers. They become the next generation of CEOs and company presidents.
  • When the employer encounters an overtly honest employee, he places greater trust in that person. That trust turns into more authority in the business which eventually results in greater influence and promotion.
  • Team Player. Although each individual employee must be able to do his job well, he must, also, be able to work in a team for the betterment of the company. Teamwork requires well-developed social skills, which include the ability to listen to the other members with an open mind. “Lone Rangers” normally do not progress very far up the corporate ladder.
  • Be Creative. Businesses of every kind need people to create new products and develop more efficient ways of doing current work. The general population gets bored with same-o-same-o routine. This is why the auto industry puts out new cars every year. So excel in your job, be thinking of ways to do it better and more efficiently, but also think of new ideas for the company.

There are many more ideas I could share, but that’s all I have time for today. And that should give you an idea of what it takes to get a job or a promotion.  Share this with those who need a nudge in the right direction; and enjoy the day.

Optimist, Pessimist, or…?

“Hey, dad; I learned something new at school today.” I was happy and wanted to share this new bit of wisdom with my dad. I was twelve years old, in 7th grade, and feeling big.

“Okay, I am sitting down. Enlighten me with this earth-shaking news.” We both laughed.

“An optimist looks one way before crossing a one-way street; but the pessimist looks both ways.” I was proud of myself because I remembered every word of it.

But dad sat there for a few seconds, then popped my bubble when he said, “Maybe the guy who looked both ways before crossing a one-way street wasn’t a pessimist. Maybe he was a realist.”

I felt badly because I didn’t impress dad the way I was hoping to; but in his wisdom, dad broadened my outlook on life – again – for which I am thankful. Dad always did his best to help me view life with a deeper, more complete understanding. He was a great dad, and a wise man.

By the way, pessimist comes from “pessimisme” which means “worst”, and could have originally meant “bottom-most”. But optimist comes from “optimisme” which means “the good” with an alternate meaning of “seeing the greatest good”.

Well, I learned something else today about optimists and pessimists. Since dad graduated to heaven 10 years ago, I can’t tell him about it. But I can tell you folk. (I can imagine dad in heaven saying, “Okay; enlighten your readers with this earth-shaking news.”)

This axiom was possibly stated by Winston Churchill. “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

If you read it again and ponder on it, you’ll see the inherent wisdom. Optimism is the reason some people accomplish so much amid ongoing hardship, while others achieve so little even with no resistance. Yes, I know: you might say the poor achiever may not be a pessimist, but a lazy or a non-motivated person. You have a point there, so that would be two more reasons some people accomplish so little.

The story is told of a rancher taking his twin nephews to the barn. Jerry was a pessimist and his twin, Jack, was an optimist. When the uncle opened the first door, he said, “Jerry, I am giving you a horse.” Jerry looked at the horse standing there, saddled and ready to ride, but said, “Oh no!” then sat down – dejected.

“What’s the matter?” His uncle asked. The boy said, “If you give me a horse, I’ll have to clean out the stall!”

The uncle shrugged his shoulders and motioned for Jack to open the second door. Upon opening it, all Jack saw was a pile of horse manure. “Oh Boy!” shouted Jack, and he grabbed a shovel and started digging a pathway to go inside.

His uncle asked, “Jack, what are you doing?” The optimistic twin shouted, “With this much horse manure, there’s just GOT to be a horse in there somewhere!”

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am not putting down pessimists, for they help optimists through life. When people like me see the opportunities in the difficulties, the pessimists point out the potential land-mines which we need to avoid. And, of course, we optimists help the others to realize that some of those potential mines are not armed, and work should proceed. If we purposely work together without deriding each other, both pessimist and optimist can be a productive team.  

But I think Dad’s idea of the realist presents a balanced viewpoint. One definition says “a realist looks at things as they are and deals with them in a practical manner.”

Thinking I was either an optimist or realist, I took an online quiz to see what that shrewd computer program thinks I am. The computer surprised me with: “You are a gentle pragmatist.” Thank you, intelligent computer.

A definition of a pragmatist is: “One who has a reasonable and logical way of doing things, or practical way of handling problems; a realist.”

We need both optimists and pessimists; but both should be realistic about life, for that’s where the rubber meets the road. We shouldn’t ignore the difficulties in life, but neither should we see them as stumbling blocks.

Whether you are an optimist or pessimist, be a team player – a realist – and your organization will be blessed. Ecclesiastes 9:10a instructs us, “Whatever work you do, do your best.”

How’s Your Drag Set?

In the late 1990s, Carol and I were visiting her mother and step-dad in Pagosa Springs, Colorado where they owned a cabin on Pagosa Lake. Charles and I had become life-long friends and we enjoy fishing together. (My mother-in-law has since graduated to heaven, and the cabin was sold.)

“You want to go fishing out on the lake?” Charles asked.

“Sure, I suppose so; but we always catch our limit of Rainbow trout from your dock. Why fish from a boat?”

Charles’ neighbor, Frank, had a trolling boat and took Charles fishing in it somewhat often. The limit from the boat was still the same, but Charles said they catch bigger ones out on the water.

Within the hour, the boat was ready, we had our poles, tackle-boxes, bait, nets, and Coca Cola, and we headed out for an adventure.

Frank told me, “Throw your line out in back of us.” I had a new pole called an “Ugly Stick” with a Shakespeare reel, and the yellow and green Rooster Lure flew about 100 feet. Frank’s next order was, “Now, just hold the pole perpendicular to the direction of your line and wait for the trout to visit you. When he hits, don’t point the pole in the trout’s direction; keep it pointed 90 degrees from him. Just reel him in steadily and let the flexing pole do the work.”

We were trolling slowly, and within three minutes I felt a tremendous yank and my pole doubled over. But just as quickly, it popped back straight.

Frank had fished Pagosa Lake for many years and caught his limit every time. He said, “I know what’s out here, and the way your pole bent over, that was a 20-incher. Reel in your line.” When I found the end of the line, the lure was gone.

“That critter broke your line.” Frank exclaimed. “How’s your drag set?”

I asked, “What’s drag?”

Perplexed, Frank asked, “You’ve fished northern New Mexico for ten years, and you don’t know what drag is?”

“No, but I always catch fish.”

Frank and Charles started laughing. No they weren’t mocking me; they just thought it was funny that a man in his 50s could fish for years and never know what drag was. I began laughing, too, and handed my Ugly Stick with a Shakespeare reel to Frank.

The drag is actually an apparatus made from a pair of friction plates inside the reel. The tension has to be set to release quickly to keep the line from snapping when the big ones yank on it. Then as we reel the critter in and the fish puts up too much of a squabble, the friction is overcome, allowing the reel to rotate backwards just enough to keep the line from breaking.

Frank explained drag, and showed me how to set it. He then set it for the trout we were after and said, “You’ll need to adjust it for stream-fishing back home.”

We proceeded to fish for an hour, and each of us and several friends caught our limit of three Rainbow trout. The two 17-inchers I caught put up a fuss and took a minute or two to bring in. And yes, the drag function worked properly. But an 18-incher put up a fight! Taking almost three minutes to reel it in, I was grateful that Frank set the tension for me. Back at the cabin, Carol cooked the big one like a salmon, and it was GOOD! The left-overs were made into trout-fish sandwiches which tasted much better than tuna-fish.

By the way, the little ones – eight to thirteen inchers – don’t pull hard enough to break the line, and I have never reset the drag.

Reminiscing on that recently reminded me of everyday life. Do you find that the pressures of life are too much, and you feel like snapping? Do you feel like giving up? How’s your emotional drag set?

Don’t trust your own wisdom, for you’ll be disappointed.  And don’t give up because help is just a prayer away. So trust in the Lord with your entire life. In everything you do, acknowledge the Lord, and He will guide you (Pro. 3:5-6). You are secure in God’s hands because He will help you set your emotional drag.

The Art of Marriage

And God said, “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make him a helpmate” (Genesis 2:18).

Years ago, that perplexed me because, since God is all-knowing, He KNEW that man would need a helper, a friend, a companion. So, why the comment? I think it was because God wanted Adam to know that he (Adam) needed a companion. God allowed Adam to explore the world (the Garden), look at and name the animals, prepare his own meals, etc. – all the while with no other human to talk to. Being alone is no fun, and trying to talk to critters goes only so far.

Making another man for Adam would still leave Adam incomplete, and could never fulfill God’s plan on earth. So God made a woman for Adam, and harmony pervaded the Garden. God and Adam communed every evening, Adam and Eve communed every day, and relationships were complete in all directions.

I know the jokes and stories about Adam’s problems starting when Eve arrived on the scene, but Romans 5:14 explicitly informs us that Adam caused the problem. A major consequence was “broken and disjointed communications” that has plagued mankind – therefore, marriage – ever since. How can we restore marriage to God’s design?

My wife, Carol, says, “Marriage is made in heaven, but it comes in a kit that must be put together on earth.” Louis and Leah Houston said, “Our 58-year marriage is based on several factors. We started out as friends, and it developed into love. We share the same basic faith. We highly respect each other, and are always ready to help each other. And we discuss major decisions because a dual-perspective gives greater depth perception.” These are excellent pointers on how to develop wholesome, proper communications; and, therefore, how to develop a wholesome marriage. Louis and Leah understood the art of marriage, and were married more than 61 years before he passed away.

Watching portions of the Olympics, I was amazed at the skill exhibited by the figure-skaters. Their performance was a beautiful expression of the art of skating. Yes, several fell, but they got up and finished the presentation. How could they execute their art with such masterful technique and style? They studied and practiced, studied and practiced, studied and practiced. Falling did not deter them – they kept at it. That’s the method we use in mastering any art form — including the art of marriage.

Marriage is fundamentally based on observation and communication and is an art that must be learned. One concept found in Stephen Covey’s book (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) is Key #5 which says, “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” That’s a Biblical principle that instructs us to put others first. When we place the needs/desires of our spouse above our own desires, heaven can reign in the home.

Another concept in a book written by Ken Boges & Ron Braund (Understanding How Others Misunderstand) is that people think and see differently. Therefore, in order to respond to others in a loving way, “We need some basic facts about [their] perception, motivation, needs, and values.” Observation and communication are the keys.

Dr. Paul Linzey wrote a dynamo of a book called, WisdomBuilt Biblical Principles of Marriage. On page 37 he says, “There are several things a couple can do to achieve a good marriage.” He includes: 1) Pray together, and ask God to bring unity into the IMG_8740relationship; 2) Work at promoting unity, and don’t do anything that hinders unity; 3) Control the tongue, words can heal or kill a marriage; 4) Honor your agreements, unity is based on trust; 5) Be kind to each other, little kindness throughout the day are worth more than one big one at the end of the day; 6) Take time to stop and think about each other’s positive qualities, strengths, and talents, and let your spouse know that you appreciate him or her; and 7) Spend time together. These seven things are more than mere suggestions for a strong marriage. They are mandatory as we consider the art of marriage. And tell your spouse several times a day that you love him or her.

WisdomBuilt Biblical Principles of Marriage is one of the best books on marriage today, and I heartily recommend the book for both married couples and for those considering marriage. Find more about Paul at paullinzey.com.

My wife and I have been married for 54 years now, and we don’t have all the bugs worked out – we never will in this human life. We’ve fallen several times, but we helped each other get back up. Because we individually have placed God as our highest priority and each other second, we experience joy, unity, love, and beauty in our marriage. We’re following God’s instructions as we continue to develop our marriage.

Resolving Conflict

That conversation sure deteriorated fast. They were long-time friends and met for coffee periodically. (No, these guys were not Gene Linzey and Louis Houston.)

It started out as a pleasant discussion about world events, but one of them hit the other’s hot button and verbal conflict ensued. After a few minutes of heated frustration, one man got up and left – letting those around him know what he thought about the world.

But why did he insult himself and berate the others by reacting that way?

Insult himself? Yes! He thought he was showing his manliness by vociferously giving his opinions, but he actually revealed his immaturity by responding like a kid throwing a temper-tantrum.

Every day we encounter conflict in some form or other: conflicts of personality, schedule, ideology, theology, politics, and the list goes on.

But speaking of Louis Houston – Louis was an author, co-writer, and a friend before he graduated to heaven. He and I got together every week that I was in town. I drank his coffee, we shared ideas – sometimes repeatedly – and we enjoyed each other’s company. Every now-and-then, we touched on a political topic about which we didn’t agree. What did we do?

I didn’t get angry and storm out of his house. Louis didn’t raise his voice to “give me a piece of his mind.” Those reactions would be disgusting. In fact, in the seven years we knew each other, Louis and I never said a harsh or negative word to each other. Instead, Louis and I discussed what we felt free to talk about; otherwise we took a sip of coffee and went on to another topic. The fact is, true friendship is hard to come by, and we didn’t let anything or anyone come between us.

In the business world, consultants are paid to help people learn how to resolve conflict. But there’s a flaw in it: trying not to be “religious”, many companies try to produce behavior modification without changing the cause of the behavior. That’s similar to trying to teach a cat not to meow. Therefore, at the end of the conference, most, if not all, of the attendees are the same going out as they were going in.

In 2005 I attended a conference presented by a business called Character First®. Based in Oklahoma City, they taught that behavior does not permanently change unless the character changes. They are correct. (Character First® has since been bought by Strata Leadership®.)

They taught that outward behavior is a manifestation of internal character; therefore changes in character produce behavioral changes. And positive changes in character produce maturity, an increase of integrity, and a greater joy in life.

When our character – the real “us” – changes, we mature and experience a reduction in personal conflict. Why? We stop being self-centered. We learn to accept others for who they are. We learn that we are not responsible to make the other person see things our way or become more like us.

We realize that ideological, theological, and political differences will always exist; but we don’t need to turn them into conflict.

(Note: Conflict is sometimes forced upon us, and that is another story.)

So, what happens if we disagree? Jesus said in John 13:35, “Men shall know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Jesus didn’t say that we had to agree with each other on every topic. But we need to learn to understand each other, and give people the freedom to think for themselves. We are not God, and should not try to force people into our image.

Facing conflict in business, government, and church in a mature manner enables those organizations to prosper. If we have a problem with a local church or business, we should not berate it; rather we should peacefully go where we can freely worship or do business.

The Braum’s Company, with dairies in Tuttle and Shattuck, Oklahoma, is product- and family-oriented. They don’t want their drivers to be away from their families overnight, and they want their product to be fresh. So their restaurants are located within a 1-day round-trip distance from where the milk, ice cream, bread, etc. are produced and packaged. When more distant towns wanted a Braum’s restaurant, the company faced a conflict of interest. What did they do?

They resolved their predicament by remaining true to their ideals: the quality of family life and product freshness outweighed financial gain. Case closed.

That is how we should resolve conflict. We must remain true to Scriptural ideals and morals. And when our ideas disagree with someone else? Don’t generate conflict over it. Maintain your integrity and friendship, if possible, as you increase your love for God and understanding of others.

Our primary methods of conflict resolution are:

  1. Live in such a way that we do not generate conflict.
  2.  Understand that we do not have to control others.
  3.  Do not accept other people’s problems as our own.
  4.  Allow others the same freedom of thought as we desire for ourselves.

Of course, that is only a start, but you get the point. Have a pleasant week.

The Plestiodon

What do you think a plestiodon is? It sounds like it might be a giant dinosaur, and perhaps it’s the topic of the latest archeological find hidden deep in central Africa. Or maybe this giant skeleton was uncovered in a dinosaur graveyard in the hills of Morrison, Cripple Creek, or Cañon City – all in Colorado.

But, you don’t know what a plestiodon is? Neither did I until I looked it up.

It’s not a giant lizard or a dinosaur, and it’s not the focal point of archeology. It’s a little lizard with a bright blue tail. They are also called skinks, which derives from “Scinc” in the Scincidae family.

I saw this lizard one hot summer day when it crawled into the garage to cool off. The problem developed when it crawled onto one of the glue traps I use to reduce the spider, cricket, and beetle populations of the world.

I placed a few drops of WD-40® around its entrapped form. Then, using a twig, I gently lifted its body to allow the oil to dissolve the glue under it, and in a few minutes it was free. But its bright blue tail didn’t make it, and was left wiggling on the glue trap. I placed the reptile in the grass beside the garage. But before it waddled away, it turned and, not moving, looked directly at me for almost a minute. Maybe it was thanking me for saving its life? I don’t know … maybe.

When God designed this critter, He gave it a bright blue tail which can be released in danger. The blue attracts predators; and when they grab it for breakfast, the lizard sheds it and runs for cover. When the tail grows back, it is shorter, and is usually the same color as the rest of the body – but sometimes pink.

08-19-14bThis episode in the garage reminded me of another reptilian visit in New Mexico back in 1993. When it tried to hide, it reminded me that many people think they can hide from God, and I wrote a poem about it.

THE LIZARD

A young lizard came into my shop today;

Left to himself, I thought he’d go away.

But he just stood there looking at me,

Hoping beyond hope that him, I wouldn’t see.

 

Earlier that day it had been quite warm,

And to open the door would be the norm.

Then the rain began, and I love the sound.

It was then I saw my friend on the ground.

 

I looked in my shop, but no food was in sight

To give to my friend. But I understood his plight:

It was storming outside and he had discovered

A place of refuge. He knew he’d be covered.

 

I tried to catch him and take him outside,

But he was too smart and from me he did hide.

“You can’t catch me – you can’t reach under there!”

It was then that I heard my unspoken prayer.

 

“Lord, am I attempting to hide from You?”

And of course, He answered as if on cue:

“My kids seem to think since they can’t see Me

That I can’t see them; and think they are free.

 

“I want you to know that I see you today –

At work, at home, at church, and at play.

Go tell My Church that I see them, too.

But oh, how I desire to be in their view!

 

“If they keep withdrawing themselves from Me,

Whatever they think, they’ll never be free.

Like the lizard, if they don’t want to die,

They must trust in Me; and escape, not to try.”

 

I searched again to find my small friend.

Then I saw him – heading around the bend!

Using wisdom and stealth, I aimed him outside

Using my right foot as a peculiar guide.

 

“Lord, unlike this lizard, let me never hide;

Abiding in You may I always confide.

Self-sufficient, I never want to be,

But always believing, and trusting in Thee.

Believe it or not, that episode has stayed with me all these years, and has reminded me to07-29-15b.jpg always be transparent to God and to others. I will never hide my faith in Jesus, and I will never hide who I am in Christ. I want to safely rest in the palm of His hands.

As a Christian, my prayer is summarized in Psalm 19:14 – “Let my words and thoughts be acceptable to you, Lord.”

I pray that the church at large will also live by that Psalm.