Friday, December 31, 2010

What do you say?

 

When we were young, our parents reminded us to say it.

Today, many people in our culture seem unwilling or unable to say it.

Some people even feel that only genuine wimps or old fogies will say it.

But, true, competent professionals consistently illustrate the relevance of polite behavior by saying both “please” and “thank you.”

 

 

 

A version of this blog post originally appeared on Page 1 in
The Moore-Wilson Sigaling Report—Vol. 4 No. 4 for July/August 1992

 

Copyright © 2010 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Poem for Christmas 2010

Tradition comes alive each Christmas,
With bells, and songs, and words of cheer.
To celebrate our Savior's coming,
And welcome Him, as He draws near.

“How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is given!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessings of His heaven.”

We look upon the Baby Jesus,
But, see the shadow of the cross.
He came to bring us God’s salvation
To redeem us from our sin and loss.

“No ear may his His coming,
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him,
Still the dear Christ enters in.”

With hearts as cold as winter,
We turn toward God’s delight.
The warmth of Jesus’ Presence
Brings joy to us this night.

“O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today.”

Life’s pathways lay before us
With many lows and heights.
We choose to follow Jesus
From darkness into Light.

“We hear the Christmas angels
Their great glad tidings tell.
O come to us, abide with us,
Our Lord Emmanuel”

—Dan Karroll Williamson
adapted from Phillips Brooks’
“O Little Town of Bethlehem”
Copyright © 2010 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, November 22, 2010

Nothing Hidden!
What I Learned from Journal Entries...

"For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing,whether it is good or evil." Ecclesiastes 12:14

In 1989, when I assumed the reins at the loss prevention training department of the insurance company where I ultimately worked for 30 years, I became responsible for a rather large budget. On the second day of my assignment, the morning mail delivered a tall stack of mainframe computer printout that contained my department's budget reconciliation report for the previous month.

As I began to make my way through nearly 70 pages of material, I kept seeing the words "Journal Entry" in the Expense column with various amounts deducted from quite a few specific accounts. I counted them. There were 27 Journal Entries in all. Not knowing what a Journal Entry was, I picked up the telephone and dialed the number for the Accounting Department.

"Hi. This is Dean Wilson calling from the Training Department. I just received my budget reconciliation report for April and I note that I have 27 Journal Entries scattered throughout the pages. Just what is a Journal Entry?"

"You don't have to worry about that," the accountant who answered the phone replied. "A Journal Entry is a device we use in accounting to allocate expenses and balance the books. You don't need to concern yourself about them."

This hardly gave me a satisfactory answer. I decided to total the amounts of the Journal Entries. I was startled to learn they totaled over $7,000. "Wow!" I thought to myself. "That's a lot of money!"

In a short while I went downstairs to my boss' office for a regular weekly meeting. I thought that surely he, as the Senior Vice President of Loss Prevention, would be able to give me a better explanation for the Journal Entries.

"I just reviewed the budget reconciliation report for April and I found 27 Journal Entries totaling over $7,000. I called Accounting, but they couldn't really give me a satisfactory explanation. Just what is a Journal Entry?"

"I don't have any idea," my boss replied. "Let me look at my report and see if I have any. Yep. I have one-two-three-four...seventeen Journal Entries."

With that, he picked up the telephone and dialed the Vice President of Finance.

"Bill," my boss spoke into the phone. "Dean Wilson is in my office and we're reviewing our budget reconciliation reports. We both have a number of Journal Entries totaling a significant amount of money. What the heck is a Journal Entry?"

A rather long silence ensued. I could hear the faint voice of the VP of Finance coming from the telephone.

"Well, that's not a very good explanation," my boss intoned.

More silence as the VP of Finance talked further.

"Well, I'm not happy with that explanation. I think we'll have to talk about this some more later."

As my boss hung up, he turned to me. "Bill says that a Journal Entry is a device they use in accounting to allocate expenses and balance the books. He insists that we don't need to concern ourselves about them."

Somewhat mystified, I went about the many other tasks on my plate. When the calendar pages turned and I received the next month's budget reconciliation report, I begin scanning for Journal Entries. I could not find a single one. I called my boss and reported this phenomenon. He quickly scanned his report and found that he, too, had no Journal Entries.

And, so it was from that day until the very day that I left my job at the insurance company some ten years later. Never again did any of the budget reconciliation reports that I received have any Journal Entries. But, there's more to the story.

Four years later, one of the accountants joined his local volunteer fire department. When his fire chief learned where he worked, the chief asked him if he knew several of us in the loss prevention training department. The chief had met each of us at various times when we had served as instructors at fire training seminars. Knowing that we operated the largest fire protection teaching laboratory in the United States, the chief asked the accountant if he could arrange for the fire department to take a tour of our lab.

Suddenly, we had a new lunch companion. The accountant began to sit at our table in the cafeteria. He was an amiable fellow and soon became a welcomed lunch buddy.

Several months after he began to sit with us at lunch time, he mentioned that the accounting department had special rules for the loss prevention department and for the loss prevention training department.

"Special rules?" I replied.

He went on to explain that the accounting staff had all been instructed that under no circumstances were they to record any Journal Entries against any of the accounts managed by either my boss or me.

"Exactly what is a Journal Entry," I asked our new friend.

"A Journal Entry is a device we use in accounting to allocate expenses and balance the books," he replied.

"Yeah. But, what is it?" I insisted.

"A Journal Entry allows an accountant to make legitimate corrections to the current financial records for mistakes in previous records, especially once the previous records have been closed for a particular accounting period. But, we also use them in another way. Journal Entries allow us to allocate various expenses and spread them across as many accounts as possible, so that no one can easily determine the exact amount of money we're spending on certain items.

"For example, the country club memberships for management and some other perks they receive are expensed as Journal Entries across hundreds of accounts. Since your budget was one of the larger budgets in the company, and since you have so many accounts, your department was an ideal place to put Journal Entries. That's why you had so many. Most managers only get one or two a month, so they never even ask what the Journal Entries are for. I guess all those years of you managing fire protection engineers/inspectors, and your years in the research department, made you skeptical enough that you wouldn't let it go."

Once again, I learned a valuable lesson: "Everything hidden will eventually be revealed." So, don't hide what you're doing. Operate with absolute transparency. Don’t plot, plan, or scheme how to get your ideas adopted by your team members or the members of management. If you try to operate in secrecy, your secrets will always come to light.

On the contrary, when you have come to a decision on how to move forward with some major matter, present your thoughts openly to your team members. After you have presented your ideas in a fully transparent manner, lead your team members in a careful, thoughtful, and respectful analysis.

Don’t withhold any information from them whatsoever. Share openly how you have examined the problem, what alternative solutions you have considered, and how you have arrived at the solution you have chosen. Let your own, personal thought process become fully open and transparent. After all, what do you have to hide? Are you ashamed of how your mind works? Do you have so much self-doubt that you do not trust the scrutiny of others?

Likewise, insist that the members of your team follow your example and fully disclose their own thought processes regarding the matter. Let them share what they have discovered. When you reach a final decision—supervisor and team members together—share that decision in full transparency with management. Tell management how, as a team, you have arrived at your decision. Allow your collective thought process to have full transparency.

At all times maintain strict transparency, particularly when you deal with matters of finance. Do not hide anything from anybody.

As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, maintaining a strict transparency will aid the Holy Spirit in teaching you how to keep your insecurity and arrogance at bay. It will help build trust with your team members and with management. It will force you to focus on major issues and leave the nit-picking details of your department to other team members.

I can summarize in a sentence what I am trying to share as follows: “A supervisor does well who keeps his or her decision-making process fully transparent.”

Copyright © 2010 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.
More info at www.DeanKWilson.com

 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"Whose Idea Was That?"
What I learned as a managing editor...

Each year while I attended college, the student body elected the editor-in-chief of the weekly newspaper. But, the English Department, in order to maintain some consistent level of quality from year to year, appointed the managing editor.

The managing editor had to work as harmoniously as possible with the editor-in-chief and with all the section editors that the editor-in-chief appointed. But ultimately, the managing editor reported to the head of the English Department, Dr. Josephine G. Rickard (known affectionately as "Doc Jo"). I had the privilege of serving as managing editor for two years. It was an amazing learning experience.

One particular section editor sticks in my mind. She was a firebrand of enthusiasm backed up with hard work. I made it my practice to stop by the newspaper office first thing in the morning, during the noon hour, and last thing at night. Seldom did I arrive at the office and find that she was not hard at work. I remember asking her once if she ever went to class.

In spite of her diligence, she exhibited one quality that almost completely nullified her efforts. She seemed to have an overwhelming need to control every aspect of her section's creativity. It's important to note that because she had inherited her sub-editors from a previous section editor, she was working with a staff that she did not select.

As the year wore on, I began to notice that her section editors would often meet somewhere other than the newspaper office. Once, when encountering the sub-editors holding a strategy meeting in the foyer of the Chapel, I asked them why they were meeting there rather than the newspaper office.

"We've found it's better to brainstorm off-site and then take our completed plan back to the office to present to the section editor. That gives us the opportunity to hash out the details and then come with a united front."

"United front?" I queried.

"Yeah. If we come with a united front, she's less likely to completely shoot down our plan."

I walked away from this exchange deciding to make certain I was in the office for the next section meeting to see if I could observe what was sowing an apparent seed of discord. Soon enough, the section gathered to plan a special feature. I sat in the corner, explaining that my presence was part of the evaluation process for which I had responsibility.

Right away I saw the problem. Every time one of the sub-editors began to explain some portion of the proposed feature, the section editor would interrupt with the words, "Whose idea was that?"

Apparently having rowed through this particular sea before, two or more of the sub-editors would answer in unison, "We came up with the idea together."

"Yes," the section editor would respond, "But who came up with the original idea. Whose idea was it?"

The sub-editors would insist that they had arrived at the idea together. Their answer did not seem to satisfy the section editor. But, she would permit them to move ahead with their presentation.

When they finished their explanation of how they would develop the new feature, the editor closed the meeting by saying that she would get back to them the next day. I was aghast. In the newspaper business a section editor doesn't have the luxury of taking even a few hours to make a decision. A section editor must develop a very decisive decision-making process.

Nevertheless, I decided to attend the next day's meeting. When the time came around, the section editor and her sub-editors gathered. Instead of accepting the proposed feature as the sub-editors had created it, the editor came to the meeting with a significantly modified plan.

Again, I was aghast. From my perspective of much more experience in putting together a newspaper than any of those present, I thought the proposal from the sub-editors was brilliant. It had all the creative elements that a section editor should look for in a feature. In contrast, the proposal from the section editor did not have nearly the spark and verve that the original proposal had. Frankly, it was sort of lifeless.

As the meeting ended, I cornered one of the more senior sub-editors and asked to meet with her privately. When we met, I bluntly asked, "Are all your meetings like that? Does the section editor ever accept one of your proposals without changing it dramatically?"

The sub-editor explained that every meeting was just like the one I observed. Each single meeting became two meetings. In the first, the sub-editors would present their proposal. In the second, the section editor would present her modified version.

I asked the sub-editor for a fleshout on the history of the "Whose idea was this?" bantering. She explained that, early in their relationship with the section editor, they learned that no one person should acknowledge ownership of an idea. Any idea coming from a single individual was rejected out-of-hand by the editor.

I thanked the sub-editor for her candor. Next, I asked to meet with the section editor.

In my meeting, I asked the section editor why she was so concerned about who came up with any particular idea. "I'm the editor," she responded. "The section is my responsibility. I don't want anyone else claiming responsibility for something that's my job. I was appointed because of my creativity. I'm the boss of the section and I have the final say."

I then spent over a half-hour trying to reason with the section editor. I talked about teamwork. I explained that she had very competent sub-editors who had served the previous section editor extremely well. They had all the knowledge and skill needed to run the section. All they needed from her was her support and her willingness to trust them to do what they knew how to do.

Sadly, she would have none of it. I next contacted the elected editor-in-chief and asked to meet with her. At our meeting, I laid out what I had observed. She explained that she was very fond of the section editor. After all, she had appointed the section editor and considered her a friend.

I explained that if she allowed this pattern to continue, the section would suffer and, likely, the sub-editors would resign. She had to choose between supporting her friend or making a decision for the good of the newspaper.

I waited to see what would happen. The editor-in-chief decided to take no action. As I had predicted, in just a few weeks, letters of complaint began to arrive about the uselessness of the section of the newspaper. Because I had filed a written report of the incident with "Doc Jo," the English Department was aware of what might happen.

Doc Jo summoned the editor-in-chief and me to a meeting. "I understand you are receiving complaints about a section in your newspaper," Doc Jo began the meeting. "What do you intend to do about it?"

"I'm not sure," the editor-in-chief replied. "I've talked to the section editor about the complaints. She tells me that the complainers just don't have any taste. She says that she knows what's best for the section and that there really is no need to do anything. She claims she has it all under control and asked me to just trust her."

"Did you find that answer satisfactory?" Doc Jo asked.

"I'm not sure. I've read the complaints and those who wrote seem to have some good points. I just don't know what to do."

"Mr. Wilson," Doc Jo turned her attention to me. (She always called me "Mr. Wilson" except one time, just before I graduated, when she spoke to me as, "Dear Dean.") "Do you have any suggestions for the editor-in-chief?"

"Yes," I replied. "Replace the section editor immediately. She does not appear to the have the necessary leadership ability to develop a smoothly operating team. The teamwork is critically necessary for the section and for the entire newspaper."

"Did you hear what Mr. Wilson recommended?" Doc Jo asked the editor-in-chief.

"Yes," the editor replied.

"Then do it!" Doc Jo said, ending the meeting.

In any business situation, a supervisor must integrate with and build a team in order to truly succeed. Any supervisor, willing to learn, can learn how to integrate with and build a team.

The more freedom a supervisor gives his or her team members to be creative, the more dynamic the results. It doesn't matter who comes up with an idea! If the team analyzes and polishes that idea, it becomes the team's idea. Worrying about the ownership of an idea is usually a foolish venture. And, a supervisor who must be the source of every idea is wasting company time.

In virtually every work situation, the most expendable member of the team is the supervisor. Good team members are really hard to come by. Supervisors are a dime a dozen. Whenever a supervisor cannot build an effective team, especially when he or she is given team members who have proven their value and worth through past performance under some other leader, then it's time to replace the supervisor.

As believers in the Lord Jesus Christ we have the most magnificent example of a team leader in the Lord Jesus, Himself. Study carefully the passages in the Gospels that describe His interaction with His team, the disciples. Notice how He related to them. See how He allowed them to grow and develop. After all, He knew that once He returned to the Father, the disciples would have to carry out His work on earth.

As the Apostle Paul urges us in Philippians 2:1-11,

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus..."

I learned many, many valuable lessons from Doc Jo and from the experience I gained during college as the managing editor of the newspaper. But, this particular lesson has served me very well down through the years. It doesn't matter who thought up an idea. Every creative impulse comes from God as a gift to those He loves.

And, it most certainly doesn't matter who gets credit for an idea. If we're working as a team, every success belongs to all of us, just as every failure belongs to all of us. We succeed and fail together.

That's what true leadership is all about. True leadership that consistently honors the example of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Copyright © 2010 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.
More info at www.DeanKWilson.com

 

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

My Dog Taught Me!

I'm not a "dog person." I suppose this stems from two facts. Within a few months of my parents adopting me in the summer of 1947, their beloved collie, Runabell, died. I grew up hearing the story of how my coming into the home diverted attention from Runabell until she died of a broken heart. Of course, I now know how silly that supposition was on the part of my parents. I also realize that this story was their way of honoring their long-term pet and expressing their fondness and affection for Runabell and the joy she brought to them during the fifteen long years of childlessness until I came into their lives.

The second reason I'm not a "dog person" stems from an unprovoked attack by a rabid dog in the early fall of 1952, as I made my way home from Kindergarden. I was rushed to the hospital and there endured the old-fashioned multiple stomach injections of rabies vaccine.

So, I'm not a dog person for good reason. Or, at least it seems like a good reason to me. Nevertheless, I do recognize the deep bond that can occur between someone and his or her pet. Such a person is my dear friend Marcia LaReau. So, with great joy and with her permission, I am pleased to share with you an anecdote that she sent me this morning.

Each day, Ernest, my dog, has a checklist of activities. We try to do them each day—not always in the same order or time and succeed most of the time. The list is:

  • Each morning— trip to the back yard. Ernest is responsible with his bodily functions and Marcia cleans up. Then we play with "Ring" and "Tire" toys for about 10 minutes.
  • Run next to bicycle—about 1.5 - 2 miles. I use words: "Look, look!" to indicate there is a squirrel sighting. "Mush" to go-faster (I think that is a universal word in dog-language). And, "take me home" or "let's go home" when we are almost done.
  • "Time for a 'Bootie?'" ("Bootie" is a rawhide treat in the shape of a boot.) Ernest goes to his room and Marcia delivers his treat.
  • School: Ernest has several toys, each with a name: "Blue," "Star," "Bow-tie," "Frisbee," "Bone," "Squeeky-toy," "Greenie," "Rattle," and "Rope." He's learning each by name along with some verbs. He's also learning how to extract those words from a sentence: So: "Find 'Bone' and put it in the bucket. Find 'Star' and put it in my lap. Hand me 'Squeeky-toy'," and so forth. There are other things, too. We play "Which hand?" I put a treat in one hand and show him both closed hands. He chooses one by nudging it with his nose. If the treat is there, he gets it, if not, he has to try again. We also play hide and seek with his toys, etc., etc.
  • After dark we go out front of the house—no fence—and I have two lacrosse balls that I throw across the cul-de-sac and he chases them and brings them back. We bounce them all over the tarmac and he jumps and chases them. He loves this particular time. The session ends with the best part of his day—the "Popsicle!".
  • "Wanna popsicle?" At that, he runs to the house and waits for me. Once in, he runs to his room and waits patiently. I go to the freezer where I have a set of seven marrow bones. Each one has canned dog food on each end, and cereal or whatever in the middle—all frozen. This is more than just his favorite treat. He only gets it when he is in his room. The idea is so compelling that even if he decides to chase a squirrel, if I say, "Wanna popsicle?" he will come running to me. I believe he is at the point where he will now come every time. It's really a security and safety measure from my point of view. And, I've worked hard to find something that would cause him to give up a squirrel chase.

So that's his routine. I suspect that he has a small smartphone somewhere on which he's tracking my progress each day and checking off his appointments. Perhaps he uses Google-calendar.

So, one day in the yard, he's doing his shtick of not wanting to give me "Ring-toy." I haven't been happy about that. I just wanted him to give it to me so I could throw it and get some of the energy out of him so he's comfortable for the rest of the morning. Yet, he always wants to play "Keep-away" and by having at least two toys, I can usually entice him with the second toy. That way we don't waste time while I try to get him to give me the toy, so I can throw it again. I also didn't like that he wasn't minding me when I said, "Bring Ring. ...give Ring."

This day I saw the look on his face when he was playing "Keep-away." It was so funny. He was engaging me, inviting me to chase him. I realized that I just wanted to get him exercised. But, he wanted to enjoy being with me. I gave chase and everything changed. I got him into the corner of the fence and he darted past with the "Ring." We were thoroughly enjoying each other and laughing, too. After five minutes of "chase," he actually wanted me to catch him and hug him. After a hug, he willingly relinquished the "Ring" on the ground and stepped back. Now it was time to chase "Ring" and exercise.

My life changed. It was now about giving him a good time. It was about enjoying each other. It was about (dare I use the word) being happy in our relationship.

It's been a few weeks since this revelation. Instead of having a good dog, and praising him and being pleased with him because he was minding me—all about control—I now look for ways to give him a good life, that we have fun and quality time together each day. School time should be fun for us both. For the first time, I've started really enjoying him. It dawned on me that some parents actually raise their children this way—wanting each day to be comfortable and filled with good things.

And, so it is with my relationship with our Father and Lord. I realized that they want to enjoy being with me, they want me to enjoy being with them. This whole "relationship" thing is much more than the obedience, and of course, never-ending gratitude. God wants to have an enjoyable time together with me.

This morning, it occurred to me that Jesus has overcome the world. So, I don't have to fear. And, since there is nothing that can change His dominion—"I am convinced that there neither things above, .... shall separate us from the love of Christ," Romans 8:38-39—that nothing need get in the way of an enjoyable relationship. It isn't about what I need, my concerns, etc. Those are taken care of. It's about finding ways to enjoy being with the Lord.

All the "stuff" in my life— health, physical pain, relationship issues— they are like "school-time" with Ernest. It's a time for the Lord to show me His path. He's already solved the problem. We can enjoy being with each other and I can learn how to live in a pleasing way.

This whole idea of enjoying each other—that God wants enjoyment in our relationship—is a huge shift in my understanding. Wow! God wants to enjoy His relationship with me, no less. He likes me! He loves me! And, He wants to spend time together.

As I was riding my bike with Ernest this morning, I realized that in my new relationship with him, I want every interaction to be a good one for him. I want him to always enjoy being with me because it's always a good time of affirmation. This is a huge change in the way I've raised my other four dogs. Then it dawned on me that God is not only "for" me and has only my best good in mind, but that He wants every interaction with Him to be a positive one as well. That makes it really easy to run to Him and "hide" in Him.

This is quite a paradigm shift for me, and I hope it is the path to that "abundant" life that I read about, but feel like I've been missing in terms of my "happiness." When I ask the question, "Where is the abundance of peace, joy, happiness?" I'm beginning to find the answer! So, the journey continues, but it is a much different, much better journey now.

Copyright © 2010 by Marcia LaReau. All Rights Reserved.

 

I hope you enjoyed reading Marcia's anecdote as much as I enjoyed posting it for you. God truly is at work to will and to do of His good pleasure. It's wonderful to see how He moves to intersect with our lives and draw us irresistibly into His marvelous grace.

Incidentally, if you appreciate the "person" you sense in Marcia's anecdote and need help in finding a career, I would urge you to visit her website. Just click here to check out the variety of services Marcia offers at Forward Motion.

Copyright © 2010 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, November 8, 2010

"Welcome to Buffalo!"
What I learned from a new supervisor...

One of the most interesting developmental experiences of my early business life, way back in 1970, occurred when a young insurance engineer from the New York City office received a promotion to district supervising engineer and moved to join our Buffalo Office. As a relatively recent employee, I looked on with anticipation as this newly "knighted" supervisor began the task of coming on board an office that consisted of extremely close employees.

To say that the fourteen members of the Buffalo Office were a tightly knit machine was to somewhat understate how smoothly and effectively this group of fire protection engineers worked together. Several employees had labored side by side for over 20 years. As new employees joined the staff, the older members warmly welcomed them and took great pains to instill the "Buffalo culture" into the newbies. Within the insurance company, the Buffalo Office had a reputation for excellence. It also had the unique position of having within it's boundaries the widest possible variety of industrial and commercial facilities. That made the Buffalo Office a spectacular training ground. Many top officials in the Hartford, Connecticut, main office had begun their careers in the Buffalo Office

Into this well-oiled fire protection engineering machine stepped a brash newcomer from New York City. He came with all the bravado and arrogance that we upstate New Yorkers expected. He was a likeable enough fellow. He had a hearty laugh and a delightful Queens drawl. He seldom got angry and rarely seemed flustered. He also brought with him a wealth of learning experiences that I recognized at the time could serve me well when I eventually received a similar promotion.

(Of course, I viewed the new supervisor's actions through the lens of a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. I knew that Jesus was the most excellent example of a leader. And, while the new supervisor made no claim of belonging to Christ, I simply could not help but compare his performance with what I have observed about Jesus in reading Scripture.)

So, please allow me to narrate some of what I learned by observing all the things the new supervisor did wrong.

As a new supervisor comes into a new workplace, some business school training and certain management books seem to suggest that he or she should “turn the workplace upside down.” Those sources suggest that the new supervisor should quickly discard as much of the employees’s connection to the past as possible.

This may include eliminating rituals or traditions the workplace may have practiced under previous supervisors. It may include discarding key staff members. It may include making all kinds of decisions, major and minor, with absolutely no consideration for how those same decisions may have been made in the past.

To justify this faulty practice, proponents often quote a time-worn cliche, "A supervisor should be able to choose his or her own team members." I could rather easily argue that this cliche has no basis in actual practice. Harvard Business School and The Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania have both conducted significant research over a fifty year span of time that validates the best supervisor can enter a new situation and assimilate himself or herself into an existing team in such a way that the team becomes strengthened. (Click here to read just one such report.)

Obviously, without a detailed knowledge of each individual situation, I cannot determine the true motivation of every new supervisor who has chosen to come in and turn the workplace upside down. But, I can make an educated guess. I think it generally stems from a sense of profound insecurity. The thinking goes something like this: “If I can break all ties with the past, if I can really turn things upside down, then management will not have anything to judge my performance against except those things I have created of my own volition.”

William Shakespeare in The Tempest wrote: “What is past is prologue.” The past has a great deal of influence on the present. In fact, as each person walks along the road of his or her life, every moment in the present has inexorable ties to the past. To try to discard the past, to minimize its value and importance, can only end with a workplace consumed by confusion and torn apart by unrest and discord.

As certain employees push back against the changes the new supervisor makes, he or she will try to manipulate those individuals to leave the organization. The new supervisor will begin to marginalize them, speak against them with members of management, remove them from positions of authority, and generally try to turn others against them. Once a new supervisor starts down the road of breaking a workplace’s connection to the past, he or she has little choice but to do everything possible to justify his or her behavior.

George Santayana wrote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” I would modify this quotation slightly to assert: “Those who refuse to honor the past are condemned to be harmed by it.”

Now I am not suggesting that a new supervisor should never introduce a new idea, a new program, a new policy, a new concept, or a new whatever. Quite to the contrary. Each new supervisor should not see himself or herself as someone who simply maintains what has gone before. Nor should the new supervisor take on the mission of turning the workplace upside down to quickly establish himself or herself as the sole creator of policy and practice.

So, I learned from my experience in the Buffalo Office that new supervisors, in making changes in any situation where they assume leadership, should carefully consider taking the following careful and thoughtful steps:

  1. Make every effort to learn as much about the past as possible. Talk to employees who have been around a long time. Explore the reasons behind why policies, practices, and programs exist. Get to know the underpinnings of the workplace. Find out what makes the employees tick. Find out what bonds them together. What are their traditions? What are their common values? What are their common experiences? Get to know the culture of your new workplace. Find ways to assimilate yourself into the very core of the employees who populate your new workplace. Reach out with a gentle, thoughtful caring. Come along side your employees. Treat them with respect. Value their past.
  2. Make changes very, very slowly and carefully. Don’t change anything, even things that you view as trivial, for at least 12 months. And then, only make changes after carefully exploring those changes openly with your support staff and other members of management. Gauge and anticipate the response of the employees to the changes. In fact, involve as many people as possible in developing the scope and nature of the changes. Norman Shawchuck has long asserted: “People tend to support what they help create.” So don’t be a “Lone Ranger.” Don’t make decisions alone or with just a “Tonto.”
  3. Whenever you do decide to make changes, do so in a way that acknowledges and honors the past. Give gentle and careful verbal assent to the value of the past practice. Provide a fully truthful, completely accurate, forthright, and totally transparent explanation as to why you have decided to make the changes.

Learning how to become an effective supervisor becomes even more important if you are a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Great King sets a very high standard for leadership. His example gives each Christian supervisor a unique insight into how to become an effective leader. So, consider doing the three simple things I have suggested and you will prove the lasting value of your supervisory leadership. You will build harmony in the workplace. You will win support for your ideas. You will also find that the care you exercise in decision-making will sometimes influence you to change your mind about some idea, concept, policy, or program. And, most importantly of all, you will honor the testimony of the Lord Jesus Christ who lives in your heart by the power of the Holy Spirit.

After all, you should want to learn and develop, so that you can better serve God and the business organization or company to which He has called you. Don’t ever think that you alone have all the answers. The fact is you don’t. You can’t. You won’t.

You will best serve when you form a prayerful, thoughtful, careful partnership with the Holy Spirit, the employees whom you oversee, your fellow supervisors with whom you work, and with the management of the company you serve. God will reward you for the gentleness and caring you display when you make a conscious and determined effort to honor the past and smoothly integrate yourself into your new workplace.

As a postscript, if you're wondering what became of the new supervisor, let me share that he continued all through his career to perform with the same "New York City" bravado and arrogance that marked his first months as a new supervisor. Still, he remained quite likeable as a person. Sadly, later in his career, he developed a reputation that caused one colleague to speak of him as follows: "He's the only man I've ever met who burns his bridges before he comes to them." I will give him credit, though. He certainly taught me a lot of valuable lessons. I remain grateful.

Copyright © 2010 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.
More info at www.DeanKWilson.com

 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"I Need You To Trust Me..."

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

"A good investigator has to maintain a healthy skepticism in order to find the truth. But, as an investigator, you must guard yourself against becoming cynical. So, become skeptical, but not cynical."

Those words begin a lecture I gave hundreds of times over the years to new fire protection engineers about to embark on a career as insurance inspectors. The words came from my own lifetime of experience inspecting the facilities of the Fortune 1,000 companies.

When you have responsibilities that demand you must find the truth, you must always begin from a position of skepticism. You simply cannot accept as "truth" anything that you have not personally verified from first sources.

From a practical standpoint that means I cannot accept as "truth" what one person tells me about an event he or she witnessed. That's why investigators always interview as many people as possible. A good investigator weaves together a truthful understanding of an event by correlating information from many interviews. If one person tells me what he or she saw, I must verify that information by putting the person's observation into a larger context.

Similarly, I cannot accept as "truth" what one person tells me some other person did or said. If someone reads a document to me, I must ask to see that document for myself. If someone quotes a portion of a letter or memo to me, I must ask to see the entire letter or memo, so I can put the read portion into the context of the entire document. You see, context is always a key to the truth.

"Do you mean to tell me that you shouldn't trust anyone?"

That's right. If I want to find "truth," I have to verify all information for myself. I must ask questions and seek details to support what I'm being told. Let me give you an example.

To help preserve the properties we insured against damage from fire, we asked the management of each facility to designate someone to make weekly self-inspections of all fire protection equipment. Then, as a part of our periodic insurance inspections, we would ask if the facility was making those self-inspections. Over the course of several thousand inspections, I never had a manager tell me that his or her facility was not making those inspections. Yet, when I asked to see the copies of the weekly inspection reports, I often found significant discrepancies between what the manager thought his or her employees were doing and what those employees were actually doing. And, this is just one item from a list of hundreds of items that go into the effort to preserve a facility against destruction by fire.

So, I wonder. When someone tells you what they saw someone do. Or, when someone tells you something about another person. Or, when someone gives you some information. Do you accept that information without question and make decisions based on that information? Or, do you verify that what you're being told is really the truth? Do you dig in to find the context in which that information resides?

"Surely, there is someone you trust?"

Yes, I trust God and His Word, the Bible. I trust the inner nudging of the Holy Spirit. I trust the gift of discernment that God has chosen to give me with regard to sensing the presence of evil. Apart from those, I trust no one. Does that seem harsh? Perhaps it does. But, I have arrived at this position through a lifetime of experience at working diligently to find the "truth." Finding the truth is hard work. Most people give up before they dig deeply enough to discover the truth. Skeptical persistence pays off, though, when you want to discover truth.

Now, please don't misunderstand. Just because I treat all information skeptically does not mean that I treat the person delivering the information disdainfully. Quite to the contrary. The Bible teaches us that we must do our best to treat all people with respect, kindness, generosity of spirit, gentleness, and God-breathed love. So, even in my quest for the truth when I treat information with skepticism, I still treat the person supplying the information in a manner that honors God.

At the same time, if I discover that the information a particular person has given me has proven false, I am much more careful when receiving information from that person in the future. This is particularly true when I deal with decision-makers. Most leaders have an agenda. In fact, I will state that every leader has an agenda. That agenda could be good, noble, selfless, and worthy. Or, a leader's agenda could be tainted by selfishness, or some other less honorable motivator. In many cases, a decision-maker's agenda can color any information that leader supplies. So, I always carefully verify information that comes from decision-makers.

And, in my effort to maintain a healthy skepticism, I also make a conscious effort to guard myself against becoming cynical. I try to always keep an open mind. If someone gives me information that my verification process discloses is not fully truthful, I don't treat that person with suspicion until he or she has given me untruthful information several times. Only after someone has given me distorted information repeatedly, do I begin to treat what he or she says with suspicion.

In addition to verifying all information by going to first sources, use verbal cues to help you discern the truth. For example, in making inspections at many facilities, I have learned to be hesitant whenever I hear someone say, "You need to trust me..." I have found that people who punctuate their pronouncements by imploring their listeners to trust what they say, often have distorted the truth to fit their own agendas.

I'm certainly not suggesting that you follow my pattern. No. As a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you must make your own judgment on this matter. But, I would urge you to listen carefully to everyone who speaks with you. And, I would most respectfully suggest that you make it a practice to verify what you're told. If someone tells you that a certain person said something that merits action on your part, go to that person and ask them to give you the context. You may find that the information you received was intentionally or unintentionally distorted by the person who first told you.

In the final analysis, measure all information against God's Word. Let your own study of Scripture give you the tools to make sound judgments, particularly about behavior. After all, you can trust God and His Word. Even as Jesus prayed in John 17:17:


"Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth."

Copyright © 2010 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Telling the Truth

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. (The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:25)

We live in a world where truth seems to have less and less value. Maybe it’s just the current season of mid-term election politics, but am I the only one who thinks political commercials mirror our times where the truth seems hard to find?

One mark that sets the truly devoted follower of the Lord Jesus Christ apart from his or her peers is a determination to always tell the truth. In fact, an individual who relies on truth-telling as a way of life will garner much advantage in every way.

If truth-telling has great advantage, how do we apply that to the world of our daily lives? How do we apply truth-telling to our work lives, our home lives, or our civic lives? We can begin by determining to always tell the truth throughout every phase of every process in our daily lives. Please allow me to share an example from my business life.

I have had the privilege to work in the field of fire protection for 45 years. I began as a fire fighter in 1965 and moved on into fire protection engineering in 1969. During the 45 years of my career, I have participated in the design of, or in the review of, several thousand fire protection systems.

The process of providing a fire protection system for a building involves the following steps:

  1. manufacture of the equipment
  2. fire protection system design
  3. approval of the design
  4. installation of the system
  5. acceptance testing of the system
  6. maintenance and periodic testing of the system

In order to apply truth-telling to this process, every person involved along the way must commit to total transparency and complete honesty.

The manufacturer of the equipment must build a product that meets rigorous national standards and obtain listing of that equipment from a nationally recognized testing laboratory, such as Underwriters Laboratories Inc., Factory Mutual Approvals, or other laboratory acceptable to the Authorities Having Jurisdiction. Of course, the product must actually work and provide features that a building owner will need in order to meet the goals and objectives he or she has set for his or her building.

A qualified designer must begin by recording the design in carefully written specifications. Don’t leave anything to chance. Don’t leave any room for misleading interpretation. Don’t leave gaps that may later allow you to coerce an installer into providing something that you did not really include in the specifications. In other words, by means of detail specifications, tell the truth about exactly what design requirements you expect the fire alarm system to meet. Avoid using statements in the specifications that will leave decision-making open ended.

Next, as a designer, use absolute truth-telling as a guiding principle in creating the design drawings that will accompany the specifications. Make certain that the drawings leave no room for guessing on the part of contractors who will submit bids. Give everyone who will read the drawings as much information as possible. Avoid placing “catch-all” notes on the drawing that refer to compliance with the various codes and standards when you have not included a code- or standards-complying design on the drawing. To do so means you are depending on your cleverness rather than on the truth.

As an Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ)—fire chief, fire marshal, building inspector, insurance inspector, corporate engineer—as you review the specifications and design drawings for the purpose of granting preliminary approval, make certain that you adhere to the principle of truth-telling. Do not substitute your own opinions and prejudices for the hard and fast requirements of the appropriate national and jurisdictional codes and standards.

Make certain that every criticism you transmit to the designer has a factual, truthful basis. Facts stated in a truthful way ensure the integrity of your review and, in fact, help build your own reputation for fairness and accuracy. If you don’t know something, say so. Whatever you do, don’t pretend to have knowledge. When you lie about your own level of understanding, you will jeopardize the faithfulness and value of your review.

As an installing contractor preparing to submit a bid on a fire protection installation, base your decisions and your communications on the principle of truth-telling. Don’t say one thing, and then intend to do something else. Make certain you have clearly understood the specifications and design drawings. Develop your bid based on the clarity of the design documents. If you don’t have certain information that you need to make a proper bid, make certain that you promptly and insistently ask for that information. Avoid including catch phrases in your bid that will mislead the owner into thinking you will provide something that you have no intention of providing.

Once you begin your installation, adhere to all proper installation practices. Don’t cut corners. Faithfully fulfill the true and proper intent of the design documents. Follow the installation requirements of the national codes and standards. If you don’t understand those requirements, seek help from a qualified code professional.

And, when you conclude your work, truthfully represent what you’ve done by conducting testing in a codes- and standards-complying manner. Make certain you provide an accurate, written testing report.

As the AHJ, when you witness the system acceptance tests, rely on truth-telling to provide a proper assessment of the work completed. Don’t use the power of your office to force changes simply because you failed to diligently review the initial design. Rather, if you’ve missed something, truthfully report that to the owner and explain why the missing item is needed. And, make certain you provide a written acceptance report.

Once the installing contractor completes the system, the owner needs to execute a periodic testing and maintenance contract to assure the long-term reliability and dependability of the fire protection system. Again, rely on truth-telling as the guiding principle in this transaction.

The principles embodied in this narrative can easily apply to every area of your life. Mark your life—your home life, your work life, your civic life—with the principle of truth-telling. Live and act consistently. The Lord Jesus Christ expects no less of us.

25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body. (The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 4:25)
Copyright © 2010 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Saturday, October 16, 2010

No Condemnation

Has anyone ever condemned you? I mean throughout the course of your life, has anyone ever laid a charge against you and, at the same time, pronounced you guilty without asking you for a defense.

Or, maybe you heard the condemning words and, in turn, offered words that would explain your actions. Perhaps you even acknowledged that the one condemning you had misunderstood your intent. You took the opportunity of the condemnation to offer your apology for the misunderstanding and gave your accuser the assurance that you meant no harm.

Back in the early 1990's, I received an assignment from the senior vice president to whom I reported that gave me rather broad responsibilities with respect to the internal and external communications within a large national insurance company. The senior management of the company had received complaints from clients about poorly worded letters and reports. An analysis of the internal memos also displayed a need for greater clarity and more precision in communicating the intent of any particular subject.

Because I was in charge of training, and because one of my college majors was writing, I was asked to research available courses on business writing. Eventually, we chose an excellent course and delivered it to all employees worldwide.

As a follow up, the senior management of the company gave me an assignment that would normally be considered outside the purview of my regular job tasks. They asked me to review all internal and external communications and serve as a quality control person to assure that employees used the principles of the business writing course. I was also expected to offer suggestions for corrective action that would improve the company's image.

To assure that I would have the appropriate powers to enforce their wishes, senior management added this new assignment to my formal Job Description. Unfortunately, it became clear in time that few people outside of the top executive level of the company fully understood this new assignment.

Six months into the new responsibilities, and after having reviewed many hundreds of memos and letters, I received a copy of a memo from a task group within the company that had been charged with developing a new approach to advertising. Much of the memo read like any rather dry corporate report. But, one paragraph nearly jumped off the page.

In this paragraph, the chairperson of the task group wrote a rather scathing personal attack against the manager in charge of the Communications and Advertising Departments. In a few curt sentences, the chairperson eviscerated the manager. The attack seemed quite out of place and, to make a serious matter worse, mentioned the manager by name.

I immediately telephoned the chairperson and asked to meet with her. When I arrived at the designated conference room, I explained that in the course of my job assignment her memo had come across my desk. I asked her, in a very polite a manner, if she could give me some additional information that would help me understand what had prompted her to write such harsh words about a colleague.

She reacted to my request with anger, stood up, and stormed out of the conference room. She then wrote an unbelievably nasty memo to me. She ranted on and on. She accused me of poking my nose into her business. She accused me of having some arch motive. “How dare I attack her in this way,” she wrote rather peevishly.

Of course, I wrote back. In a calm, but straightforward way, I explained that I was fulfilling the duties of my Job Description. I even quoted the relevant portions of my Job Description. And, I shared that my speaking to her was not an attack. Rather, I was trying to find out what had prompted her to write so harshly about a colleague without first seeking some other method of resolving whatever conflict existed. I had hoped that my careful and gentle response to her vitriolic memo would introduce calm into an escalating emotional situation.

Instead, she fired back yet another memo that used additional inflammatory words and directed her anger and frustration against me, personally. At this point, the senior vice president to whom I reported, and who had received copies of my response memos, lowered the boom. He called her supervisor into his office and, following a review of her written communications, the company terminated the task group chairperson's employment.

No one was more surprised at the senior vice president's action than I was. He later told me that the chairperson's continued attitude of condemnation made him realize that, if she would not listen to my polite and restrained response, she likely shouldn’t remain in the employ of the company. Her attitude of condemnation was simply unacceptable.

Of course, this incident was not the only time I have received condemnation in my life. Like most of you, I have received lots of condemnation from a wide variety of sources. Many times, both before and since this particular incident, my rather straightforward, no-nonsense approach to problem solving has rankled people around me. I have been showered with condemnation virtually every time I have taken a stand on some issue. I've learned that people usually don’t respond well to the person who stands up against carelessness, incompetency, slothfulness, inappropriate behavior, or sin.

Condemnation seems to be a part of life. We have to deal with condemnation from friends and foes alike. We even have to recognize that we stand before God condemned by our sins.

But, in regard to God's condemnation, how magnificent it is to read the words of the Apostle Paul in Romans 8:1 and 2. How glad I am that, from the depths of my soul, I can affirm Paul’s words:

1 Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.

God chose us before the foundation of the earth to belong to Him. And, in due time, sent the Holy Spirit to convince us of our need for a personal relationship with Him through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. As we sensed the convicting power of the Holy Spirit and acknowledged our need of a Savior, God enabled us to receive the free gift of His salvation through Christ’s death on the cross and through the power of His resurrection from the dead.

The penalty we inherited from Adam—the curse of original sin compounded by our own many sins—has been paid. Our sins have been covered by the precious blood of Jesus. We have become a new creation in Him.

Doesn’t it feel good to know we have no condemnation? It surely does!

Copyright © 2010 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Jesus is Lord of All

Nearly 35 years ago I recommended a young man for a job at the insurance company where I worked. He was a very bright, very talented individual who had worked hard to put himself through college and had even attended one year of seminary. Running out of money, he went to work at a local restaurant, part of a large national chain. Soon, his hard work, high intelligence, and winsome way with both customers and staff had resulted in a promotion to manager. As manager he learned one of the great secrets of the hospitality industry: it is extremely hard work.

Now married and with a child on the way, he desperately wanted to find a job that would provide a greater income, more security for his growing family, and require less hours at work to accomplish those goals. He would often quiz me about what I did, asking very thoughtful questions and seeming genuinely interested.

After one such encounter, I invited him to come to my home and spend some time seeing the kind of paperwork involved in the job. He took me up on my offer and came over one Saturday afternoon.

Together, we poured over the detailed engineering reports associated with Highly Protected Risk property insurance. He watched, as I performed the calculations to determine if the facility had a water supply of sufficient capacity to support the automatic sprinkler protection. As he went to leave at the end of our four hours together, he told me he was very excited about what he had observed. I urged him to fill out an application. I told him if he would provide me with the necessary information about his background, I would gladly recommend that the insurance company hire him.

The truth was that he did not meet the minimum requirements for the job. He did not possess an engineering degree from an accredited institution. Nor had he ever had any fire protection or fire fighting experience. Nevertheless, I felt confident that he had the intellectual capacity to learn the intricate details of the job. And, more so, he had the will to do his very best to start down the pathway of a career that could serve him well for the rest of his life.

In due course, he gave me his paperwork and I turned it in with my highest possible recommendation. Within days, based largely on my recommendation—since, at the time, I was in charge of training new hires for more than half of the United States—he was hired.

Shortly after the young man began working, my boss called me into his office. "You took a real chance recommending your friend for a job," he said rather sternly. "I would not have done that. There's just too much of a chance that he wouldn't work out. I wouldn't want that on my record."

I've thought about that conversation many times over the years. I'm pleased to report that my trust in the young man's abilities was not misplaced. He quickly learned every aspect of his new job. Within a relatively few years, he was promoted to supervisor. He eventually rose quite high in that insurance company until the time when the company ceased to exist. Today, he continues to work in the field of fire protection engineering at another company. His children have grown up, gone to college, and become parents themselves. Time and time again, the quality of his workmanship has proven exemplary.

This individual has achieved success through his own determination and commitment to excellence. My only role in his success was recommending him at that starting point in his career. I took a chance, believed in him, and did my best to support him during those early days.

Have I left out any part of the story. Well, in fact, I have. You see this young man was a devout believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. He had abandoned his hopes, dreams, desires, and ambitions and placed them at the foot of the Cross. He had followed with perseverance the pathway laid out before him. He listened closely to the leading of the Holy Spirit and followed the pathway that God created. His devotion to serving Christ, his willingness to trust the totality of his being into the care of the blessed Savior, resulted in a life not left to chance.

This young man allowed Jesus to have the place that He wants to have in every person's life. This young man allowed Jesus to be Lord of all!

In 1973, Bill and Gloria Gaither wrote the words and music to a gospel song that has touched thousands of lives down through the years. The Gaithers titled the song, "Jesus is Lord Of All." It has a haunting melody and a very rich text. One of the most beautiful recordings of this song appears on the vinyl, Satisfied, with a vocal solo by the late Don Doig and an orchestral arrangement by Ronn Huff.

I don't know what inspired the Gaithers to write this song. Perhaps it was the words of the Apostle Paul, as he wrote to the fledgling church in Rome, found in Romans 10:9-13:

9 ...if you confess with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. 11 As the Scripture says, "Anyone who trusts in him will never be put to shame." 12 For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, 13 for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."

No matter what trials may find their way into your life, you can rest in the sure knowledge that Jesus IS Lord of all! I urge you to place your unreserved trust in Him. He loves you with His everlasting love. There is no situation in which He will not act in your best interest. All you have to do is trust in Him and Him alone.

Copyright © 2010 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Jesus is praying for you!

I don't know about you, but when I am walking through the "deep waters" of life, I take great comfort from knowing that people who genuinely care about me are holding me up in prayer. Prayer has the ability to buoy my spirit.

I have also noted that when I have a particular need in my life I am more likely to receive the satisfaction of that need when somebody prays for me. Obviously, God stands ready to give good gifts to His children. It's nice to know that when someone asks God to give me what I need, God stands ready to send the Holy Spirit to provide exactly what I need.

It's even more comforting to know that Jesus, the very Son of God, is praying for me, too.

In that great portion of scripture found in John 17, the portion Bible scholars call "Jesus' High Priestly Prayer," our Savior prays specifically for you and for me. Take note of these words from John 17:20-21:

20 "My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, 21 that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me."

What an amazing gift to us. The very Son of God—the one who died on the cruel cross of Calvary that His blood might cleanse us from our sins and who rose in victory from the grave—is praying for us.

The next time you feel weighted down with care, ask those who love you to pray for you. And, as they do, remember that Jesus is praying for you, too. May the Light of His Presence shine into the dark corners of your life and give you a song of victory in your heart.

The fourth verse of an old gospel song, Wounded for Me, by William G. J. Ovens and Gladys W. Roberts captures the peace that comes from knowing that Jesus cares enough for you and me that He prays for us continually:

Living for me, living for me,
Up in the skies He is living for me;
Daily He’s pleading and praying for me,
All because Jesus is living for me.

I urge you to place your trust fully in the One Who Loves You Most, the blessed Lord Jesus Christ. And, remember that He is praying for you!

Copyright © 2010 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

For I Am Not Ashamed

When an elementary school classmate of mine was caught doing something wrong, he would always respond, "I am so ashamed." The first time teachers or other parents would hear his lament, they would have to turn away and suppress a laugh. As a result of his "cuteness," he successfully got away with a lot of havoc without paying the appropriate penalty.

Shame can play a big role in controlling behavior. In fact, one of the characteristics that marks sociopathic personalities derives from the fact that such individuals feel no shame concerning their behaviors. No question, shame motivates behavior for most sane individuals.

Shame teaches us when to talk and when to remain silent. It trains us how to behave in a mannerly way. Shame helps us understand what kind of words will sound appropriate and which words will offend. In so many ways, shame guides the paths we choose to take in life,

However, when it comes to our personal relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, we have no reason for shame. God sent His Precious Son to die on the cross and pay the penalty for our sins. God raised His Son, Jesus, from the dead so that, by the resurrection, we might also gain entrance to heaven when this life on earth ends. Quite frankly, having received so great a salvation, we need have no shame about Jesus.

The apostle Paul wrote—in the opening chapter of his letter to the church at Rome—these words, found in Romans 1:16:

16 I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.

As we make our way through our daily lives, do we withhold our identification with the Living Christ? Do we shudder in shame when someone mocks Christians, or says something inflammatory about people of faith? Do we maintain two sets of friends: those who believe as we do about Jesus and those who deride Jesus and those who follow Him?

We have no reason to be ashamed of Jesus. In fact, we have every reason to celebrate the reality that He has claimed us as His own.

Many hymns and gospel songs celebrate the delight that a personal relationship with Jesus Christ brings into a believer's life. Those hymns and songs remind us of the peace, joy, mercy, grace, and a host of other daily blessings that Jesus gladly gives to those who follow Him.

The next time you bridle at acknowledging the One who loves you most, remember that every moment He sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty making intercession for you. Enthusiastically, and without even a whisper of shame, acknowledge that Jesus is your Savior. He is your King! He is your Redeemer! He is the Lord of your life!

Copyright © 2010 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Keeping A Straight Path

Do you have a life's verse? What I mean by that question: Have you chosen a particular verse of scripture to use as a sign post in your life?

Growing up in fundamentalist Christianity in the 1950's and 1960's, it was very common for church youth group leaders to encourage the young people to find a verse in the Bible that would keep them pointed in the right direction. I remember treating this request rather cavalierly. I even remember a period of time in my college years when I rather arrogantly quoted
1 Chronicles 26:18 from the King James version of the Bible as my life's verse.

18 At Parbar westward, four at the causeway, and two at Parbar.

Then something quite dramatic happened. During a prayer time with some close friends in the sound and lighting control room of the John and Charles Wesley Memorial Chapel/Auditorium, as we waited in silence before beginning to pray, I had a strong sense of God speaking to the deep recesses of my heart. Through my inner spiritual ears, I felt Him ask me if I was willing to give Him honor in every aspect of my life. Without hesitation I answered, "Yes!"

In thinking about that experience over the next few days, I felt drawn to a very familiar passage of scripture in Proverbs 3:5-6.

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.

Now you may think that a commitment to follow that verse might prove difficult. I would have to respond, however, that through the passage of time, God has always made it easy for me to acknowledge Him as the source of everything good or worthy in me. At the same time, by way of contrast, I have had an equally easy time acknowledging that everything bad or unworthy in me is a product of my own sin, my own disobedience.

Time after time, God has opened up amazing doors of opportunity to me. Every time I have stepped through one of those open doors, I have done so keenly aware that the opportunity had come to me as a gift from God. In every case, when the time came to name the source of my good fortune, I have quickly, and without any hesitation, acknowledged that God is the One who has provided the blessing.

I so very much wish I could tell you that I have always been perfectly obedient to God's leading. Sadly, I have, far too often, failed to bend my will to His. Nevertheless, whenever I have stayed on the straight pathway He has laid out before me, I have always found Him a ready companion. Even in times of significant trials, He has always supported my passage, through the Presence of the blessed Holy Spirit.

So, dear ones, I encourage you to stay on the straight pathway that God stretches out before you. Trust in God with all your heart. Accept the covering of the precious blood of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. In all your ways acknowledge God as the source of all things good. Do so, and you will surely find that God will, indeed, make your pathway straight. He will certainly direct your path. Not just today or tomorrow, but for all the days of your life.

Copyright © 2010 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

More Time Alone With Thee

In our quest to follow the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, we strive to know Him. We do this, principally, by spending time each day reading the Bible, God's Word. By reading and meditating on scripture, we give the Holy Spirit the opportunity to lead us into a deeper knowledge, a more intimate relationship, with the Savior.

If you look in a concordance, or use an on-line Bible search tool, to find the instances of the word "know," you will find many references. To know, to gain knowledge of, has significance all throughout the scriptures.

The Apostle John in his first letter to the early church offered these concluding words in 1 John 5:13-15, 18-20. These verses read as follows:

13 I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. 14 This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. 15 And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him... 18 We know that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him. 19 We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one. 20 We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

In writing to the believers in the early church, John emphasizes that "the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him..." Jesus, himself, has given us understanding, through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, that we may know Him.

I encourage you today to take the time to get to know the Savior. Nothing has greater importance to the person desiring to follow Jesus than to take the opportunity to know Him better.

I'm reminded of a gospel chorus that my youth group used to sing way back in the mid-1960's. Written by Wendell P. Loveless, this simple song had a haunting melody that made it a joy to sing. As a result, the words to the song were very easy to remember. Even all these years later, I still hear those words of prayer:

More time alone with Thee, Lord Jesus.
More time alone with Thee.
More time to know Thyself, Lord Jesus.
Thou hast done all for me.

Deep is Thy love.
Sweet is Thy Peace.
Wondrous Thy grace,
Sufficient for every need.

More time alone with Thee, Lord Jesus.
More time alone with Thee.
Copyright © 2010 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Monday, September 13, 2010

Is Your Faith Being Reported?

Do you ever wonder what people really say about you? I'm not talking about an unhealthy concern for what people say about the way you look or the way you act or the friends you choose or any of a hundred other qualities that mark your life. I'm asking if you ever stop to consider how people view you through the lens of what's really important?

In measuring who you are, I believe it is important to consider your spiritual reputation in the world you inhabit. Do people think of you as a person of faith? Or, do they hold some contrary opinion?

"He talks a good fight," some may say about you. "But when it comes right down to it, I don't see any evidence that he particularly relies on God." Or, "She always talks about God, but I don't see her trusting God to meet her needs." Is that how people view you? What's your spiritual reputation?

The Apostle Paul, in writing to the Christians in Rome, gave testimony that their spiritual reputation had certainly preceded them. In Romans 1:8, Paul writes these words:

8 I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world.

Here, Paul was expressing gratitude that the spiritual reputation of the Christians gathered at Rome had spread throughout the world. Imagine that. At the dawn of Christianity, just a relatively few years after the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Christians in Rome had already become well known as people of faith.

As we walk the pathway of life, we need to examine our own faith reputation. Does our behavior as believers in the Lord Jesus speak well of us? Do we exhibit qualities that come from the leading of the Holy Spirit within us? Have we allowed God to deepen our faith to the point that it becomes evident to the people around us?

Think about your "world," the one in which you spend your time each day. Do people know you as a person of faith? In the deep recesses of your heart and mind, can you hear the Apostle say of you, "I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world?"

Copyright © 2010 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Thursday, September 9, 2010

To Know Him

One of the great joys of my life is getting to know the people I really care about. When I meet individuals who become my friends, I want to learn everything I can about them. I want to know what experiences they had growing up. I want to know what their family life was like. I want to know what trials or difficulties they may have faced in life. I want to know what joys overtook them as they journeyed along the way.

There is virtually no end to my curiousity about the people I consider my friends. But, it's really not curiousity simply because I am nosy guy. Rather, I want to know about the ones I care about because who they are today is a reflection of every experience they have had throughout the course of their lives. The more I know about them, the better able I will be to relate to the real people that they are.

The Apostle Paul seems to have had a similar drive insofar as his relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ was concerned. In Philippians 3:7-11, Paul writes these words:

7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. 8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

These are truly powerful words: "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings..." Paul was driven to know the Lord Jesus Christ in as intimate a way possible. He wanted to fill his mind and heart with the knowledge of Jesus. What did Jesus think? What did Jesus teach? What did Jesus require of those who followed Him? Paul wanted to know all these things, and more.

The pattern of devotion that the Apostle Paul has set calls out to us today. We need to approach our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ in a way that mirrors the passion that Paul expresses.

One thing we can do to get to know our Savior: spend time each day reading the Bible, the Word of God. By reading the Bible, we have the opportunity to learn about God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We can read and learn about His faithfulness, His patience, His commands, His grace, His mercy, and His peace.

In Psalm 16:8-11, King David writes these words:

8 I have set the LORD always before me.
Because he is at my right hand,
I will not be shaken.

9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
my body also will rest secure,

10 because you will not abandon me to the grave,
nor will you let your Holy One see decay.

11 You have made known to me the path of life;
you will fill me with joy in your presence,
with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

God willingly waits to answer the questions we have. He wants us to know Him. He gave us His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, that we might be able to know Him. He gave us the Holy Spirit to dwell within us in order to lead us and guide us into the full knowledge of who He is. He desires to set us on the most profitable pathway of life. Then, He will keep us on that pathway.

I urge you to begin this day to seek to know the Lord Jesus Christ. Read the Bible. Find out about your Savior, so you can follow Him more closely.

Copyright © 2010 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Others

Childhood memories have such an amazing impact on our lives. The things we were taught as children, coupled with the things we experienced as children, set a lifelong pathway before us.

In my own life, hymns and songs of the church have always played an enormously important part. That, of course, means that those hymns and songs did exactly what they were intended to do. They helped me remember key biblical truths.

Every human has the opportunity to choose whether or not he or she will live a life selflessly or selfishly. Said another way, "Who do you put first in your life?"

As a believer in the life-transforming power of the Lord Jesus Christ, I am drawn irresistably into God's grace. As such, I have a desire, deep within my heart, to put Jesus first in my life. So, He has the first place.

But, who comes next in line? Jesus gave instruction when asked the question, "What is the greatest comandment?" We find His answer in Mark 12:28-34, as follows:

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, "Of all the commandments, which is the most important?"

29 "The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' 31 The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." 32 "Well said, teacher," the man replied. "You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. 33 To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices."

34 When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, "You are not far from the kingdom of God." And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

Jesus tells us to love our neighbor with the same passion, same attention, same deliberation that we love ourselves. Quite a tall order, isn't it?

As a youngster, my mother had a record of Tennessee Ernie Ford singing the song, Others. The lyrics of this song paint a picture that explains exactly what it means to love your neighbor as yourself.

After a great deal of research, I have not been able to locate the person who penned the words or wrote the music to this song. But, here are the lyrics as posted on one website:

Lord, help me live from day to day
In such a self-forgetful way
That even when I kneel to pray
My prayer shall be for—Others.

Others, Lord, yes others,
Let this my motto be,
Help me to live for others,
That I may live like Thee.

Help me in all the work I do
To ever be sincere and true
And know that all I’d do for You
Must needs be done for—Others.

Others, Lord, yes others,
Let this my motto be,
Help me to live for others,
That I may live like Thee.

Let “Self” be crucified and slain
And buried deep: and all in vain
May efforts be to rise again,
Unless to live for—Others.

Others, Lord, yes others,
Let this my motto be,
Help me to live for others,
That I may live like Thee.

And when my work on earth is done,
And my new work in Heav’n’s begun,
May I forget the crown I’ve won,
While thinking still of—Others.

Others, Lord, yes others,
Let this my motto be,
Help me to live for others,
That I may live like Thee.

Thanks, Mom. You played that album often. The sound of Ernie Ford's voice singing this song is stamped on the deep recesses of my mind. I only pray that by the power God's unfailing grace, and the enabling of the Holy Spirit, I may continually remember to put others ahead of myself.

Copyright © 2010 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Prayer for a Friend

Has God laid the name of a friend or acquaintance on your heart? A friend or acquaintance who has not yet received the gift of eternal life through the Lord Jesus Christ?

May I suggest that you write that person's name down on a piece of paper and place it inside your wallet. Put it in the same compartment where you keep your paper money.

Everytime you open your wallet to pay with paper money, say a quick, simple prayer for that friend or acquaintance. Ask God to send the Holy Spirit to draw that one irresistably into God's grace.

"But," you respond, "I pay for most bills by credit card."

Okay. Then write the name of your friend or acquaintenance on a credit-card-size piece of paper and place it in your wallet so that when you reach for your credit card you will see the name. Again, every time you see the name, say the quick and simple prayer I suggested above.

God longs to hear such prayers. He longs to work in agreement with His dearly loved children. God cares about the very same people you care about. Just as much as you may want your friend or acquaintance to experience the joy of belonging to God through the life-transforming power of the Lord Jesus Christ, God wants that, too.

If the wallet idea doesn't work for you, then write the name of your friend or acquaintance and tape it to your bathroom mirror. Every time you look in the mirror, say a prayer for that person.

The greatest blessing of heaven will be the fact that we will live for all eternity in God's Presence. But, another really important joy will come from sharing that time with those we love and care about. If you have a friend or acquaintance that you really care about, and that you would enjoy spending eternity sharing the blessings of life everlasting, why not take a very easy step and deliberately and intentionally pray for that one's salvation?

The Apostle Paul wrote to the church at Corinth in 2 Corinthians 6:1-2, as follows:

1 As God's fellow workers we urge you not to receive God's grace in vain. 2 For he says, "In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." I tell you, now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation.

God will truly respond to your continuing, effectual, fervent prayers for those you love.

Copyright © 2010 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.

 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

From Creature to Child

I listen to a lot of people discuss serious topics every day. No, I don’t live or work in a place filled with serious discussions. Rather, I listen to at least one most excellent talk radio program faithfully every day. And, I watch at least a couple of hours of Fox News on television every day. Now you understand. Right? I listen to a lot of people have serious discussions every day.

Almost once each week, I hear someone trying to close out a discussion, sometimes with resignation, make the remark, “Well, after all, we’re all God’s children.”

I always respond, “No. We’re not.”

Following the Lord Jesus Christ often forces one to face certain very inconvenient truths. One of those truths: “We are all creatures created by God. But, we are not all children of God.”

”What?” you say. “You’re nuts! Of course we are all God’s children!”

It’s easy to understand why most people would like to wish this were true. Most of our lives we’ve been conditioned to think the best of people, see the “good” in them, treat them equally and with fairness, allow them to be whoever they choose to be. I’m not certain that’s how God looks at humankind.

Oh, yes. God wants every person to come into a relationship with Him. As the Apostle Peter has written:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

However, the status of moving from creature to child has a very serious and very important condition. As the Apostle John explains in John 1:12-13:

12 Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God.

”Let me see if I get your point,” you may inquire. “To move from ‘creature’ to ‘child,’ a person has to receive ‘Him.’ Is that right?”

You’ve got it. The Lord Jesus Christ is God’s great gift to humankind. God sent His precious Son to die on Calvary’s cruel cross that the shedding of His blood would, once and for all time, pay the penalty for our sin. God raised His Son, Jesus, from the dead to give us the assurance that in death, we, too, will be resurrected to everlasting life.

And, not only that, God sent the Holy Spirit to dwell in the heart of every person who will receive God’s gift of eternal life through His Son. In that “receiving” we acknowledge what God has done for us and, with gratitude, move from a creature to a child.

Once we acknowledge God’s gift, He sets us on a pathway that will lead us to ever-greater obedience to His will and His Word. But, we’re not on that quest alone. Remember? God gave us the Holy Spirit to dwell within us, to lead us, to guide us, to help us along our pathway.

So, when I say, “No.” to the idea that we are all God’s children, I am not being some silly, nasty old man who doesn’t like people very much. Quite to the contrary. I believe we must determine to love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. And, even more, I want to do everything I can to prayerfully, carefully, and respectfully introduce people to the one person who loved them enough to die for them, the Lord Jesus Christ.

No matter what other paths I may temporarily pursue in the course of my life, in the final analysis, nothing else really matters.

Copyright © 2010 by Dean K. Wilson. All Rights Reserved.