When Your Face Lights Up

“You have to find what sparks a light in you so that you in your own way can illuminate the world.”

Oprah Winfrey

Work has been pretty intense lately. I’m in the process of helping my department finish out the fiscal year. In addition, this is also the time for annual performance reviews. On top of that, we are concentrating on building our staff to address the growing workload.

I’m pretty serious about my business, and sometimes the stress and seriousness of my job is worn on my face. In other words, my eyes can show the fatigue I’m experiencing in my leadership role, and my mouth shows a frown more frequently than a smile.

Last week, I had the opportunity to do something different. I traveled to Grove City College to participate in their annual career fair. At the career fair, I met so many bright students who are preparing to leave their mark on this world. I was able to share with passion and enthusiasm about the benefits of working for my company.

I also had the opportunity to connect with engineering teaching staff. We discussed ways to help students be better prepared to enter the working world. These conversations included the possibility of sponsoring a senior design project and the possibility of teaching as an adjunct professor.

I came back home exhausted from the travel, but I also came back exhilarated by the experience and the conversations with students, business leaders and recruiters, and college teaching staff.

On Friday afternoon, I was sharing my experiences at Grove City College with a co-worker when she stopped me. She said, “You are smiling! You are so happy! When you started sharing about your experiences and future opportunities your face lit up!”

Her words left a mark on me.

Too often, we go about life failing to find and follow the things that really light us up. We operate under a sense of duty or even under a sense of desperation. We miss out on living life to the fullest, and we miss out doing the things that make us smile and make us happy.

Work is a four lettered word, but it doesn’t have to be a four letter word in a bad sense. Our work is an opportunity to live out our passion, to bring glory to God, and to impact the world.

I have heard it said (and I’ve even said it myself) that work isn’t called fun for a reason – it’s called work. I think we may be missing the mark when we fall into the trap of repeating this and believing this perspective.

Our work should bring us joy. It should be something that brings us a sense of satisfaction and a sense of purpose.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.

Colossians 3:23-24

When we re-position our perspective on work, we will rediscover our passion and purpose for our jobs. When we work for the Lord, we find passion and pu-rpose that matters.

What happens when our job is challenging? What happens when we are discouraged with our job? Mel Lawrenz provides some excellent insight:

“Do you have a difficult and discouraging job? Many do. Genesis 3:17-19 tells us that our work sometimes is not like tending a nice garden, but working the difficult, stubborn fields full of thorns. If you feel sometimes as though you slog through your job just to put bread on the table, know this: there is dignity in accomplishing just that.”

Mel Lawrenz, Work in the Bible—Thoughts for Labor Day Weekend

Sometimes a difficult and discouraging job can also be an indication that we need a change. It may be time to find a new job all together, or it may be time to find something else to add to your work. In either case, I think it’s healthy to take time to learn more about what lights you up.

This is where I would recommend experimenting with different types of work. I’d also recommend talking to those around you – they will tell you things about yourself you never realized. They will be able to see your face light up when you land on the right thing.

As you head into this new week, I want to encourage you to consider your current job. Does it light you up? If so, great! Keep at it!

If your job doesn’t light you up. Begin to ask why. Begin the process of figuring out what does light you up. Once you’ve figured that out then take the next step to make it happen. In my case, I’m beginning the process of writing a syllabus or two for courses I may teach as an adjunct professor.

Figure out what lights you up, and take steps to make it happen.

Imagine a world where more people were working in their areas of passion. Imagine a world where people did work that brought light to their faces. We would have more people finding happiness. We would see an impact on the world – a world illuminated.

Sunday Night Stretch

For the past few months, I have been sending out a weekly email called the Sunday Night Stretch. I typically send the email out on Sunday night (although I may have sent one out on Monday one week).

These emails provide an encouraging message and more personal update from me. The emails have sparked more exchange between my readers and me.

If you’d like to get on the list to receive these weekly Sunday Night Stretch emails, you simply need to fill out the form below. I’d love to connect with you on a deeper level.

I’ll be sending out a new Sunday Night Stretch email tonight. Sign up now, so you don’t miss another one of these weekly messages.

Identity Identified

Spiritual identity means we are not what we do or what people say about us. And we are not what we have. We are the beloved daughters and sons of God.

Henri Nouwen

Who are you?

Last week, I was on a call with a couple of other colleagues from Mexico and the United States. We get together virtually once a month to encourage each other and to help each other navigate the leadership gantlet we all find ourselves in as leaders in our company.

During the call, one of the leaders confessed she was so consumed by her work that she had absolutely no life outside of work. She shared she was somewhat jealous of me, because of the active life I lead outside of my job. She has been an employee of the company for 25 years, and her work has become her identity.

What do you do?

It’s not uncommon for men to ask this question whenever they run into someone they don’t really know. What do you do?

Maybe you’re a doctor, a lawyer, a police officer, a preacher, an engineer, a businessman, an entrepreneur, a manager, or something else.

Who are you?

Here’s my initial answer to this question. I’m a husband, a father, a son, an uncle, a brother, an engineer, a manager, a leader, a writer, a speaker, a philanthropist, a Toastmaster, a Rotarian, a Pennsylvanian, an American, a friend. This list could go on.

Who are you really?

What would happen if these things were taken away from me? How would I define myself?

When we define ourselves by our activities, our careers, our titles, our positions, our geographical homes, etc. we limit ourselves. This is not who we really are. We are more!

Recently, I saw Overcomer, the latest movie from the Kendrick Brothers. The movie encouraged me to look at my identity from a better angle. In the movie, one of the characters is encouraged to read Ephesians 1 and 2 to see who we really are through Christ.

Here’s what I discovered (or rediscovered) as a result of this exercise:

  • I am God’s holy person.
  • I am faithful in Christ Jesus.
  • I am God’s son – His child.
  • I am blessed.
  • I am chosen.
  • I am blameless in God’s sight.
  • I am loved.
  • I am redeemed.
  • I am forgiven.
  • I am saved.
  • I am marked with God’s seal.
  • I am included.
  • I am remembered.
  • I am called.
  • I am God’s handiwork.
  • I am a citizen of God’s Kingdom.

This is my identity!

When your identity is found in Christ, your identity never changes. You are always a child of God.

Tim Tebow

Let me ask you again. Who are you? How do you identify yourself? What defines you? Better yet, who defines you?

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10

The Last Time I Cried

There is a sacredness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness, but of power. They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief, of deep contrition, and of unspeakable love.

Washington Irving

Many of those close to me know I like to play the “Hot Seat Game” with people. The game works best when there is a small group of people has some type of relationship with each other, and it’s important for there to be a commitment to confidentiality when a small group decides to play the “Hot Seat Game.”

In the game, an individual is put on the “Hot Seat.” The rules of the game permit anyone else to ask absolutely any question of the person in the Hot Seat. And the rules of the game also permit the person in the Hot Seat to please the fifth (or not answer) any question.

Typically, the “Hot Seat Game” starts with pretty basic questions: What’s your favorite color? Where were you born? How many pets have you had in your life?

From there the “Hot Seat Game” gets a little deeper: What are your biggest weaknesses? If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be? Have you ever done anything illegal?

Finally, the “Hot Seat Game” can go right to the jugular: How is your spiritual life right now? How is your marriage? What is your biggest personal struggle with sin? And here is my favorite: When was the last time you cried and why?

I have witnessed grown men break down in tears as they have answered this last question. They’ve told stories of losing loved ones, of dealing with divorce, of missed opportunities with children.

I’m not a big crier. I just don’t cry all that often. I cried when I lost my grandparents. I shed tears when I we had to put our family dog to sleep. And I’ve admittedly shed a couple of tears at the end of a television show or a meaningful movie – like It’s A Wonderful Life.

I think lots of men are afraid to shed tears or they simply don’t know how to let down their guards – to expose their hearts.

As I reflect back on times when I have cried, I realize the tears actually brought relief. They gave expression to the grief, the stress, the pain, the sorrow, the joy, the thrill, the euphoria that I was experiencing at the time.

When was the last time I cried?

Friday night.

Yep. It was just a couple days ago when I had a small river of tears flowing down my left cheek.

The past few weeks have been an extremely busy, stressful, and exhausting time in my life. I have been battling a variety of challenging situations at work, and Leanne and I have been working together through a couple of tough transitions at home (don’t worry…our marriage is rock solid).

When I made it to Friday night, I suppose I was a bit more fragile than I realized. Leanne and I went to see the new Kendrick Brothers movie, Overcomer. The movie tells the story of a basketball/cross-country coach and a cross-country runner who are both struggling with their identities. Leanne and I both agree that the movie was fairly predictable, but we also agree that we would see it again (and again). The messages in the movie were pretty powerful.

At any rate, towards the end of the movie, tears started flowing down my left cheek. In a way, it was a sacred moment. The emotion evoked by the movie provided a place to release some of the other emotion from the past few weeks that had been bottled up inside me – emotion unexplained in words.

Crying is cleansing. There’s a reason for tears, happiness or sadness.

Dionne Warwick

Crying is cleansing. I like that. Life can be so challenging, so diverse, so amazing and so difficult at the same time. Our tears help to wash and polish our lives. They bring definition and meaning to things we simply cannot express in any other way.

So here’s my question for you:

When was the last time you cried and why?

Figure it out for yourself. Write it down. Ponder this experience. Reflect. Then feel free to leave a comment if you are willing to share.

You have collected all my tears in your bottle. You have recorded each one in your book.

Psalm 56:8 (NLT)

I Would Walk 500…

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

Aristotle

In April of 2018, I started a streak.

I decided to walk at least 10,000 steps that day. 12,721 steps.

The next day, I decided to walk at least 10,000 steps again. 12,806 steps.

Then, I did it again for three days in a row. 13,515 steps.

The streak continues, and today I hit a significant milestone – 500 DAYS IN A ROW! (I have 14,460 steps as I type this, and I’m getting ready to go on a walk with Leanne.)

That’s right. For the past 500 days, I have walked at least 10,000 steps every day.

Some of those steps have taken place on a treadmill. Some of happened in airports throughout terminals and even around baggage claim carousels. I’ve walked in my basement. I’ve walked in Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Florida, Pennsylvania, and Guatemala. I’ve walked in rain, snow, sunshine, moonlight, and complete darkness. I’ve walked inside and outside. I’ve walked in extreme heat and extreme cold.

I’ve kept the streak alive one step at a time.

Walking every day has given me the opportunity to think, to listen, to enjoy God’ creation, to talk to other people (in person or on the phone), to learn, and to find money (I’ve probably found over $20 during these walks).

The Proclaimers recorded a song that is fitting for today – I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles):

But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walks a thousand miles
To fall down at your door

Charles S. Reid & Craig M. Reid – I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – The Proclaimers

https://youtu.be/tbNlMtqrYS0

500 days of walking is just the beginning. I don’t know how long the streak will last, but I know it has been a great benefit for my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. I will walk 500 more!

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

Hebrews 12:11

What habit do you need to start today? What habit do you need to quit today? And what habit do you need to do again tomorrow?

Both Sides of the Story

The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand.
We listen to reply.

Stephen R. Covey

I’ve recently been on a Phil Collins kick. Collins got his start with the band Genesis as their drummer and eventual lead vocalist. Invisible Touch is one of my favorite Genesis albums. He eventually became a solo artist, and his musical work is diverse and amazing (in my opinion). He was especially popular during my junior high and high school years, but I believe his music is still relevant 25-30 years later. (He is still touring if you want to hear some fantastic live music!)

As I was listening to the Phil Collins artist channel on Spotify this week, I heard the song for which I titled this post – Both Sides of the Story.

In the song, Collins uses story telling and song writing to remind listeners that everyone has a story:

Find yourself in the gutter in a lonely part of town
Where death waits in the darkness with a weapon to cut some stranger down
Sleeping with an empty bottle, he’s a sad and an empty hearted man
All he needs is a job, and a little respect, so he can get out while he can

We always need to hear both sides of the story
Both sides of the story

Phillip David Charles Collins (Both Sides of the Story)

I don’t think I’m alone when I say there seems to be a growing chasm between people in our country (and perhaps the world). Without getting political, you can see it in U.S. politics where view points seem so polarized, and there seems little effort on anyone’s part to get to understand why someone else would have a contrary viewpoint. We see it when it comes to perspectives on race, economy, guns, drugs, sexual identity, poverty, etc.

People have a strong viewpoint on many of these issues, and they are often not afraid to state their viewpoint – especially on social media where there is an increase in boldness and a decrease in respect. While having these strong viewpoints, people generally are unwilling to listen to the other side of the story.

When the lights are all on, the world is watching now
People looking for truth, we must not fail them now
Be sure, before we close our eyes
Don’t walk away from here
‘Til you see both sides

Phillip David Charles Collins (Both Sides of the Story)

Our news media doesn’t help from what I can find. News networks like CNN and FOXNews build stories around their viewpoints. They widen the chasm by telling only one side of the story. Despite what they proclaim, they don’t really provide a “fair and balanced” look into the “news.”

Before I let you believe this is the problem of others, let me confess that I need to do a better job getting both sides of the story. I’m quick to shutdown others who don’t share my perspective or to those who simply seem to be adding to the noise and the chasm. I need to listen to both sides of the story too!

My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

James 1:19-20

Imagine a world where people listened to the other side of the story. Imagine a world where people approached things with a desire to understand. Imagine a world where disagreements were handled with respect and empathy.

Listening to the other side of the story takes time, humility, closed mouths, and open ears, hearts, and minds.

As we head into a new week, I want to challenge you to stretch yourself. Find ways to respectfully engage with others who are different than you – with people who are coming from a different perspective – with people who have another side to the story. Take time to listen. Work hard to understand. Without compromising your beliefs, find common ground and commit to keep listening and engaging to both sides of the story.

What steps can you take this week to hear the other side of the story?

Godspeed

The other day while I was driving with my wife, I noticed a sign that said “Godspeed” on it along with two other greetings. The sign marked the exit out of a specific township and entry into the adjacent township. For some reason, the word stood out to me.

What in the world is “Godspeed“?

Godspeed is not a word you hear or read every day.

My initial guess would be incredibly fast, God-like speed – like millions of miles an hour. Like a fast rocket ship or a really fast motorcycle or something way faster than I can imagine.

I’m guessing that’s not what the sign meant. I don’t think they were telling me to go really, really fast as I drove out of their community.

So what could it mean when they wrote “Godspeed” on their sign?

I looked it up (naturally). The word “Godspeed” comes from old English, and it is a blessing or a wishing of success along ones journey. In other words, the sign was wishing travelers like me success as we journey beyond the boundaries of the township. (To see what Miriam-Webster has to say about Godspeed, click here.)

Wow! That’s pretty nice!

Today marks the return of our daughter, Hannah, to college for her final year at Messiah College. Leanne and I dropped her off this afternoon for the start of cross-country camp and the beginning of her academic year.

It was a bit sad and a bit exciting all at the same time. We are sad that Hannah’s transition from “childhood” or irresponsible youth is rapidly coming to a close. We are sad that she will be missing from our house for the school year and most likely beyond. But we are also excited. We are excited about the “empty nest” we find ourselves in now that both kids are away at college. We are also excited for the journey that lies ahead of Hannah as she finishes college and launches into her career and into her future.

As we said goodbye to Hannah this afternoon, I didn’t wish her “Godspeed” – although I think that would have been appropriate. I did wish her success and blessings on her year ahead. I hope and pray she will have a fabulous year – academically, socially, athletically, and spiritually.

You and I are also on a journey. We are getting ready to head into a new week that is sure to bring lots of adventures, some challenges, and hopefully plenty of success.

As you head into a new week, I wish you Godspeed.

May God go with you and grant you success on your journey!

Passing The Torch

“I don’t need a successor, only willing hands to accept the torch for a new generation.” Billy Graham

For the longest time, I felt like the young guy waiting in the wings for the chance to lead, the chance to be the “smart one”, the chance to be the champion.

I’m not saying I’m old by any stretch of the means. In fact, I still feel quite young in many respects; however, I’m beginning to realize that I am the one who is now in the leadership role. I’m the one who is somehow recognized as the “smart one” who must weigh in on all bigger decisions. I’m the champion for many who are now in my care.

In other words, the torch has definitely been passed to me. It’s my turn to run the race. It’s my turn to carry the burden. It’s my turn to bridge the gap between my predecessors and my successors.

This opportunity to carry the torch comes with excitement and trepidation, confidence and fear, joy and a fair amount of stress.

I want to do my best while I’m running my leg of this relay race of life. I want to move ahead in a way that leaves my team, my family, my followers in a much better place than before I took the torch.

This week, I had the blessing of driving out to Grove City College to deposit my son, Isaac, for his second year. He drove his own car out this year. This will make it easier for him to come home at break time and will give him a little more freedom to get away from campus when necessary.

For much of our drive from eastern Pennsylvania to western Pennsylvania, I took the lead. My car set the pace. I decided the direction. With two hours to go on our trip, Isaac took the lead. He navigated our path and set the speed for much of the remainder of our trip.

As Isaac’s car passed my car, I realized I was passing the torch to him. I was once a student at Grove City College. Now, my son is the one making the memories and leaving his mark on this beautiful campus. Over the past two years, I have begun to see places where my children are outpacing me. They are beginning to take the torch, and they are carrying it forward for their leg of the race.

As parents, we have the distinct honor and responsibility of passing the torch to our children. We set the pace for much of their early years. We would be doing a disservice to our children and to the future if we didn’t look for opportunities to pass the torch we have carried so long.

Passing the torch is an important aspect of life. I’m currently carrying a torch at my job, but I’m constantly looking for those who will take the torch from me and run the next leg of the race.

Who passed you the torch? Who will take the torch from you? What are you doing to prepare for the torch exchange?

I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4:7

Count Your Blessings

On the way home from work tonight, I talked to my brother. He is going through a rather challenging time. I won’t get into details here, but towards the end of the conversation he commented how he and his wife were seeing the Holy Spirit in their lives in the midst of their challenges. He said he particularly saw this in the people God had put in their lives.

As we talked, we were reminded of the song our Mom often sang at home as we were children growing up – Count Your Blessings (by Johnson Oatman, Jr.,). It goes like this:

  1. When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed,
    When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
    Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
    And it will surprise you what the Lord has done.
    • Refrain:
      Count your blessings, name them one by one,
      Count your blessings, see what God has done!
      Count your blessings, name them one by one,

      Count your many blessings, see what God has done.
  2. Are you ever burdened with a load of care?
    Does the cross seem heavy you are called to bear?
    Count your many blessings, every doubt will fly,
    And you will keep singing as the days go by.
  3. When you look at others with their lands and gold,
    Think that Christ has promised you His wealth untold;
    Count your many blessings—money cannot buy
    Your reward in heaven, nor your home on high.
  4. So, amid the conflict whether great or small,
    Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
    Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
    Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.

In the midst of our darkness hours, our deepest discouragements, and our crushing challenges, we can discover renewed hope and purpose when we take time to count our blessings.

I don’t know what challenges you are facing, but I’m sure there are blessings in your life worth counting.

For me it starts with a wonderful, loving wife, a fantastic family, my health, my job, my church family, my friends. And this is just the beginning. God has blessed me in ways that far outshine my challenges.

How have you been blessed? Take time to count some of your blessings today.

Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us. None can compare with you; were I to speak and tell of your deeds, they would be too many to declare. Psalm 40:5

Win The Heart (Book Review)

As a leader in my company and the head of my department, I believe I have the responsibility to create and influence our culture. I want to build and be part of an organization that makes the world a better place, that grows and attracts talent, and that provides a place where people are proud to work.

When I was asked to participate in the book launch of Mark Miller‘s new book, Win the Heart: How to Create a Culture of Full Engagement, I had no hesitation in saying yes. Miller, who also wrote Talent Magnet, Chess Not Checkers, and Leaders Made Here, is a leader at Chick-Fil-A. Having seen the culture that Chick-Fil-A promotes first hand (both my kids have worked for Chick-Fil-A at one time or another), I’ve seen how culture is an important focus for this organization.

In Win he Heart, Miller tells the story of CEO Blake Brown as he sets out on a journey to discover the secrets of a fully engaged culture. Miller uses story telling to teach four main truths:

C – Connection – If you want people to CARE about your organization, you have to make sure they are connected to the organization, the mission, and the team.

A – Affirmation – If you want people to CARE about your organization, you have to affirm your team members through your words and your actions.

R – Responsibility – If you want people to CARE about your organization, you have to make sure they have responsibility and are empowered to make decisions and take actions that will move the organization forward.

E – Environment – If you want people to CARE about your organization, you have to create the right environment making sure team members have the right setting to get things done and to draw them into the organization.

Win the Heart is all about helping people CARE about the organization and about moving their hearts into a deeper level of engagement.

This book was rather simple. Sometimes simple is exactly what we need to inspire us, to motivate us, and to push us forward to lead our organizations to the next level.

[Note: I was given a free copy of Win the Heart in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to endorse this book. I believe leaders are readers, and there is definitely value in this book to help you grow as a leader.]
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