Month: March 2014

Being Created In Jesus Likeness Through Challenging People

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One of the most challenging aspects of pastoral ministry is dealing with difficult people. These are people who need help but seem to challenge you at every turn as you try to provide that help.

In my quest to become more like Christ and humble in remaining teachable this morning I ran to the scriptures to find the answers I need to fuel my soul to yield to the challenges God has put into my life by way of difficult people and trials of life. I thank God for the many blessings of yielded vessels He has put in my life that allows me ears and hearts to bounce difficult question off and be rendered an array of insights to glean from. This being a sensitive issue, I had to seek many tried men who have experienced the intricate struggle of loving in-spite of being disrespected and targeted for hatred.

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How should the church respond and minister in these situations? Everyone has to relate to difficult people—and most of us have been difficult people ourselves at one time or another! Therefore, every Christian should know how the gospel guides us in these relationships.

Two passages that guide me in this are 1 Peter 4:8 and Ephesians 3:14-19. In the 1 Peter passage, we are called to “love one another deeply.” The word translated deeply can also mean “constant”. “Keep love constant” would be a good translation. The word describes something that is stretched or extended. The love of the saints keeps stretching, in both depth and endurance. This connects nicely with Ephesians 3 where Paul prays that we would “grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge…” Persevering love grows out of the gospel. You must start here if you are going to find the strength and incentive to go the distance with people.

With these scriptures as guidance, I offer a list of ten ministerial skills that I learned as I discipled one individual who came with many difficult problems.

I will call her “Nancy”. She is in her 40’s and seems to be a sincere believer in Christ. She is in a bad marriage. She is someone who would classically be labeled bipolar or manic-depressive. She has successfully isolated herself from people in her church because once they get to know her, they become overwhelmed by her. Here is the challenge: How do I love Nancy well? What will it look like to be useful to her in her growth in grace? These lessons have taken me many years to learn—and I am still learning with other “Nancys” that God graciously and wisely places in my life. I will speak directly to you, the reader, about the difficult people God calls you to serve. Sometimes I will refer to Nancy in particular and sometimes to difficult people as a whole.

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Lesson 1. Pay Attention to the Heart (Yours and Theirs)

The category of the heart must be kept on the radar at all times.

Yours—God has ordained that this person be in your life. The first pastoral exercise is to pay attention to the common temptations to sin that different kinds of difficult people pose to you. Manipulative “borderline personality”? Angry and oblivious? Addicted and deceitful? Unstable “bipolar”? You may be tempted to overpower, or to appease, or to avoid such people. You will likely move typically in one of these directions or bounce back and forth between them in an effort to get some relief. You end up, if you are not carefully attending to your own heart, sinfully responding to the challenges that the difficult person is bringing into your life. If you do this, how then can you call this person to respond to life in godly ways when you aren’t even responding in godly ways? This, by the way, is true of any relationship.

Theirs—As you get to know difficult people, you begin to see the particular types of suffering that each person has experienced. You begin to see typical ways that the person tends to respond. With people who evidence what may be a more physiological component, keep that in mind as you seek to pastor them well. With someone who is manic-depressive, don’t let behavior on either extreme of the continuum fool you. Don’t get hijacked by the momentary emotional state. With Nancy, many elements were at work at any given moment when I would talk with her: a bad day with her husband, children, person in the church, no sleep, fear of the future… or a good day with her husband, children, person in the church, and lots of sleep. Each person is responding in either a godly or ungodly way to events. What patterns do you see as you get to know them and move towards them? What are their typical ungodly ways of dealing with life and what tends to drive those behaviors? There will be opportunities to help a person see these things. Find simple Scripture passages that will provide guidance during these times, and experience the joys of biblical repentance in the midst of the difficulty.

Lesson 2. Clearly Define Who Sets the Agenda

The common language that is often used here is the language of “boundaries”. I think that can be helpful but it does not go deep enough. Who sets the agenda in any relationship? God does. The only difference is what the agenda will be not who sets it. God sets the agenda in all of our relationships and He does here as well. Recognizing this, reminds you that you—the helper—are also under the gaze of God. The language of “boundaries” typically gives the impression that as the helper, you must set boundaries in order to protect yourself from being taken advantage of. If we think of this in terms of God setting the agenda, the end result will be you loving the person well rather than just protecting yourself.

With Nancy, because God set the agenda, there were times when I made sacrifices that were appropriate. Some of these decisions affected my family and lifestyle: the phone call at home late at night, or the sudden appearance at my house or office. Then there were other times that I told her I could not speak with her at that moment but would be willing to talk to her at some later time that we both agreed would work. There were times though, that I was tempted to agree to speak to her immediately because I did not want her to dislike me, or I was fearful that she would tell someone in the church that I had not cared for her like a good pastor should. Saying no at these times was an expression of godliness and love for Nancy. There were instances that I told her to go home and get some sleep and then call me that afternoon at the office. Grace-driven acceptance of a person does not mean open-ended availability.

It is important that you take the initiative to communicate some guidelines for the relationship and to alert the person that there will be many times when you will not be available. Be clear about when and where you may be contacted. Do this with love and then have godly courage to say no a few times early on when you think the person has moved beyond what is appropriate for the moment. If you are too available, it will likely lead to anger in you, because you assume that the person should respect boundaries like other people do. Don’t make that assumption. Another reason to set limits for people is because otherwise it may be too easy for them to go to you before they cry out to God. You, in effect, could be the very person who is making it too easy for them to avoid dealing directly with and depending upon Christ.

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Lesson 3. Have Biblically Realistic/Optimistic Goals

Here is a place where your theology of the Christian life means everything. The doctrine of sanctification sees the Christian life through the biblical lens of slow, steady, back and forth progress. It’s realistic: change is incremental. It’s also optimistic: there is progress. For me, as I got a handle on the practical pastoral implications of this biblical understanding of the Christian life, it made all the difference in the world.

When Nancy was really depressed, I was thankful that she was still coming to church and seeking help. When she was particularly upbeat and euphoric, I would avoid being duped and then let down when she was depressed again. Without this leveling view of the Christian life, you will be a manic-depressive enabler!

Lesson 4. Redefine Love

If you do not re-define love biblically, you will be very disappointed if you are called to help other people— especially difficult people. A succinct definition of love is found in I John 3:16, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.” That’s it. Love means death. Let me nuance that some. Loving people well is the most inefficient thing you could ever do, but according to Jesus, it is the godliest thing you can ever do. I John 3:16 goes on to say, “And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.” Another way of thinking about this is exchanging the word “servant hood” in place of the word “success.” We are not called to fix people; we are called to serve them. The sooner we lay hold of this biblical priority, the sooner we will not be undone when someone does not “get better” right away or remains in our lives for a long time. Imagine in John 13, when Jesus washes his disciple’s feet—if he thought in terms of success—he would have kicked the bucket over, screamed at the disciples and stomped out. When you look at the characters in the room that night, success would not have been a word that would come to mind. And yet Jesus served. Paul Miller makes this wonderful observation in his book Love Walked Among Us, “Jesus’ tenderness with people suggested to me a new, less “efficient,” way of relating. Love, I realized, is not efficient.”1

It was through the “Nancys” in my life that I realized what it was like to work with people. It’s messy and inefficient and I don’t like that. And yet, it was just where God wanted me. I needed Nancy as much— if not more— than she needed me. I needed her in the sense that I needed to be more like Christ. I needed to see how much I wasn’t like him. I needed to see how desperately selfish I was and that if I did not redefine love along biblical lines, I would continue to be a selfish person who only met with people because I had to.

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Lesson 5. Give the Person Hope

For someone like Nancy, change doesn’t seem to be something that is very visible or tangible. There were times when she was so discouraged that she thought suicide was a possible option. One of the practical ways to help someone like Nancy have hope is by clearly defining some things that can reasonably be accomplished and stating these in simple measurable ways.

Ask the person, “What do you want to see God do in your life over the next week?” You will be amazed how this re-frames the person’s view of the future. This question encourages them to think about the possibilities of being different and of living differently in the coming week. Maybe their circumstances will not change, but maybe they can change instead. The simpler the goals are— the better. Do this within the context of the gospel and Christ’s covenant love for them.

Lesson 6. Call the Person to Serve

Another critical place a difficult person often needs to grow is in the area of loving others. The Bible says that everyone has been given gifts and can encourage, bear burdens, and be used in the lives of other people. As you attend to the heart issues in a person’s life and as you frame the relationship to serve the sanctifying purposes of God, a hopeful call to loving others is only appropriate.

Nancy had a husband and two children whom she could love and serve. She was surrounded by other wives who were struggling in their marriages. It is not good for difficult people to simply “take” from their families and friends. This is destructive behavior that is not pleasing to God and it is driven by a host of attitudes that God will not bless. Calling people to serve others will move them towards people and outside of themselves. It will help them see that they are valuable members of the body of Christ, and are not the only people who struggle.

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Lesson 7. Connect the Person with the Body of Christ

This is important for two reasons. First, it is only within the context of others that difficult people are going to die to themselves. Secondly, it is only within the context of other people that you can adequately help the person. My experience is that difficult people need a host of helpers that are all doing basically the same thing in concert with one another.

I always encouraged Nancy to stay connected. I knew that I was not sufficient for her growth. But that is nothing new, is it? We all need many people around us speaking into and acting in our lives and on our behalf. I would structure contexts for discipleship for her. Thankfully, she would do a lot of this on her own, too. Though sometimes her involvement with others was selfishly motivated, thankfully it was with wise women who knew how to love her well. She was also connected to a small group Bible study where she was surrounded by a group of people who would keep up with her.

Your failure to do this reveals as much about your heart as it does the heart of the difficult person. When people are overly needy, and we do not share the load, it reveals that we may be overly needy of their need of us!

Lesson 8. Work Wisely with Other Helpers

It is inevitable as you work with difficult people that you will be criticized by them. Sometimes they will do this to your face, but most of the time they will do it with others who are reaching out to them. The illustration that I think works here is the illustration of a child. If the child does not get what is wanted from one parent, the child will complain to other parent in an effort to get it. If you are helping a difficult person, chances are you are not the only person in their lives. They are amazingly connected! If you know this from the outset, you can begin to find out who else they depend on. With that information, you can wisely seek appropriate ways to make sure that the various helpers do not get caught between the complaints of the difficult person. When a difficult person complains to you about someone who has not helped them, use this as an opportunity to remind the difficult person that the person they are speaking about does care for them. Encourage the others to do this as well.

There were occasions with Nancy where I would have to remind her of how much God had been good to her by giving her the friends she had. It was also an opportunity to challenge her to learn to love even when she was not getting what she wanted from others.

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Lesson 9. Connect the Person to Christ Himself

What could be more obvious and yet what could be least obvious. People need something and someone more than you. They need Christ. If you are not careful, you may be the one person that keeps them from him if you love yourself more than you love the difficult person. One of the temptations in pastoral ministry is to forget who the Chief Shepherd of the sheep is. A gentle reminder: it is not you. I remember being in the midst of a broader family crisis with Nancy. The weight of it all was coming down on me. Sometime that week a friend called me and sensed the weight in my voice. He spoke gently and lovingly to me when he said, “Tim, remember, you are not the ultimate shepherd of the sheep, Jesus is.” His words cut and healed at the same time. They called me to repent of my people, control, and success idolatries. At the same time, they reminded me that Jesus was more concerned for and able to help this person than 1000 pastors working at once. We need to connect people to Christ to remind them as well as ourselves that we are not the Chief Shepherd of the sheep.

Lesson 10. Remember: We are All Difficult People

Finally, a helpful reminder that is always appropriate to remember as we serve difficult people. From God’s point of view, aren’t we all difficult people? Romans 5:8 sums it up nicely when it says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Verse 10 goes on to say, “For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life.”

Conclusion

These 10 lessons are ministerial ways that I have grown in wisdom within the context of ministerial ministry. Helping difficult people is challenging but if you see it as a extension of the gospel into the everyday lives of God’s people, your path will be clearer and your love more “constant” because it depends less on you and more on the God who calls you to do it. My pastor and other ministers and brother of the faith have made me see my errors in dealing with difficult people by looking at my struggles first. I have great men of God surrounding me and keeping me accountable to Christ and ministry. I am struggling with being faithful to my calling due to the discomfort surrounding serving God in a time when dogma’s and tradition supersede the simplicity of Jesus Christ gospel, but Jesus sat down and had dinner with these same struggles and brought about the New Testament of Righteousness by Faith. Let us work while it is still day.

One Seed of Hope That Linkedin with Someone’s Faith Equaled a New Life

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“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress …” (James 1:27, NIV).

Scripture clearly and repeatedly exhorts Christians to care for the fatherless. And, with 127,000 children waiting for a mother and father in the U.S. foster care system and numerous infants needing loving homes, answering the biblical call to care for orphans is no small task.

In 2007, Ke’onte was just eight years old, News 8’s Gloria Campos featured him as a Wednesday’s Child in hopes of finding a family to adopt him.

Following a failed adoption and disappointment, Gloria did another report on Ke’onte two years later, in hopes the second time would be the charm.

Now 14, Ke’onte returned to WFAA to surprise Gloria Campos, live, during the News 8 at 10 broadcast.

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Having a passion to serve and treat others as you would want to be treated is equal to self respect and having a compassionate heart. Seeds like that grow into viable organisms. Gloria Campos had purposed in her heart to let her difference make a difference in this young man’s life and now he is restored with hope that will help his parents have joy and those of whom he will touch in his school environment as well as community at home.

There are several touching stories like this. Adoption can be risky business for both parties but restoration of discarded human beings as well as animals is the work of a Powerful God. Only He can soothe pain and fill voids and create clean hearts.

Adoption has been gaining attention as a national priority in the United States. More than 150,000 adoptions take place each year, but there are still 127,000 children waiting for adoption in the U.S. foster care system, as well as infants born to birthmothers not ready to parent. In light of Christ’s command to care for orphans, the number of children without loving homes is more than just another social issue; adoption is a Christian concern.

Defined as the permanent, legal transfer of parental rights over a child from biological parents to adoptive parents, adoption is an important social practice that promotes the well-being of children, families and society. Though there are several different categories of adoption, every adoption scenario gives adoptive parents the same rights, responsibilities and joys as biological parents, and gives adopted children the same legal, social and emotional benefits of birth children.

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Adoption positively impacts all those involved with the process. It gives birthmothers the assurance that their children will be raised in stable families, gives adoptive parents the joy of parenting, and gives children the opportunity to join a permanent family and grow up in a loving home. Adoption also promotes the social and economic well-being of our nation because an adopted child is less likely (than the child of a single mother) to grow up in poverty, more likely to obtain an education, and more likely to have an involved father.

Adoption is also connected to important social issues, such as the sanctity of human life and the definition of family. Adoption upholds the sanctity of human life by providing a positive alternative to abortion for birthmothers who feel unable to parent. Adoption contributes positively to family formation by creating the opportunity for children waiting in foster care to have a loving mother and father—replacing what the child has lost.

And yet, the adoption process has been recently burdened by initiatives that ignore its purpose and promote unrelated goals. Anti-life forces rarely mention adoption as a positive alternative to abortion, and same-sex advocates reject mother-father family structures as the model for adoptive families. It is no wonder then that the fundamental purposes of adoption have come under attack and that adoption has become a topic of political controversy.

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Recognizing the importance of adoption and current political threats to the practice, Focus on the Family is passionately committed to not only promoting adoption among churches and families, but also to advocating adoption policies that promote and defend the well-being of children, parents and families.

While orphan care is clearly a biblical mandate for churches and families, adoption is also an important policy concern that impacts other efforts to defend life and family. The option of adoption allows pregnant women who do not think they are ready or able to parent to confidently choose life. Also, adoption provides orphans the filial relationships that God intended for all mankind to have. In other words, it grants children who are waiting for homes the hope of receiving loving families.

Children’s Needs Lost to an Agenda

Along with the sheer challenge of finding loving homes for all children who need them, the current political climate – particularly movements to redefine the family – makes child placement even more difficult. While adoption is meant to provide children with a mother and a father when the original family is broken, unfortunately, the adoption process is now used as an avenue to advance homosexual rights. Efforts to advance rights and protections for homosexuals often place a higher priority on an individual desire to parent, rather than a child’s need for a mother and a father. Today, it is not enough to promote the practice of adoption; we must also defend adoption against initiatives that would distort its purpose.

As evidenced by the fight for adoption rights by same-sex couples, the current movement to protect and promote homosexual rights threatens the adoption arena and children’s best interests. Though they might push for it, homosexual couples—and all couples for that matter—possess no right to adopt. Rather, children have a right to grow up with the love that only a mother and a father can jointly provide. Adoption placements should acknowledge that placing a child in a family structure with a married mother and father is in the child’s best interest. Unfortunately, current anti-discrimination policies and judicial decisions often negate the best interest of children in the name of tolerance and equality.

One conflict has already risen to the surface. The movement to promote individuals with same-sex attraction as a legally protected class threatens the work of adoption agencies that hold moral convictions against same-sex adoption. Certain anti-discrimination laws in the U.S. ultimately mandate that adoption agencies allow same-sex couples to adopt children. These acts stifle the freedom of independent adoption agencies to decide that concern for a child’s best interests requires them to make placements in married mother and father homes rather than with gay or lesbian-identified couples, or cohabiting heterosexual couples. Ultimately, sexual orientation laws that were meant to prevent discrimination actually violate the freedom of adoption agencies that hold religious or moral convictions against certain adoption placements, and deprive a child of either a father or mother. Adoption agencies are forced to decide between closing their doors and violating their deeply held beliefs.

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This has already happened. In 2006, Massachusetts’ anti-discrimination laws pushed Catholic Charities of Boston, one of the nation’s oldest adoption agencies, to leave the adoption business in order to uphold its religious convictions about marriage and family. More recently, an Arizona-based Internet adoption registry was forced to stop providing adoption services to Californians after the company was sued for refusing to provide services to a same-sex couple.

Clearly, laws should be passed protecting the moral and religious rights of adoption agencies, which should be able to help children find the loving homes they need without violating their deeply-held religious convictions about marriage and family

In summary, adoption is an important Christian concern. If we as believers are to fulfill our biblical mandate to care for orphans, we must support initiatives that: encourage adoption; advocate policies that promote the well-being of children, parents, and families; and reject measures that negate the best interest of children, deny God’s design for the family or threaten the moral rights of adoption services.

#banbossy: Leadership Lessons From Successful Women

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Some of today’s most powerful women joined forces to encourage young women to take on leadership roles, saying that being called “bossy” makes girls feel insecure about taking on the same roles as men. Along with Girl Scouts of American and Lifetime, they have created an inspiring PSA to #banbossy

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With women comprising just 4% of corporate CEOs, 14% of executive officers and 20% of America’s government officials, we’re facing a persistent leadership gap at the highest echelons. To move forward, we must first take stock of what is working.

The following eight leadership lessons, synthesized and updated from a keynote given last year, come directly from the women who know what it takes to get to the top.

Stay Determined

The world’s most successful women really want it–and remain determined even in the face of obstacles. They have the skills, and they put the time in. But more importantly, they have the desire to do something great. Beth Brooke, global vice chair of Ernst & Young , was diagnosed with a degenerative hip disease at age 13 and was told by doctors she may never walk again. Before going into surgery she promised herself she would walk—no, she would run—and aspired to become one of the best young athletes the world had seen. Not only did she walk, she went on to play several varsity sports at her high school, earned multiple MVP awards, and later played Division I basketball in college. She made up her mind, and she didn’t quit. She brought that same determination to her career and today ranks among the 100 most powerful women in the world.

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Be Courageous

Women at the top aren’t fearless. They move toward their fear to continually challenge themselves. That takes courage. In 2011, Beth Mooney, CEO of KeyCorp KEY +1.27%, became the first woman ever to lead a top-20 bank in the U.S. Mooney began her career as a secretary at a local Texas bank, making just $10,000 a year, but soon realized she wanted something more. In 1979, she knocked on the door of every big bank in Dallas and asked for a spot in their management training programs. At the Republic Bank of Dallas, she refused to leave the manager’s office until he offered her a job. After waiting for three hours, he finally agreed to give her a chance if she earned an MBA by night.

That was a turning point in her career, one of many, powered by a courageous call to action—to champion herself and what she knew she was capable of. Later, she had the courage to move into roles she’d never done before, to pick up and move across the country, and to stick with it for three decades. If you’re not a little bit scared every day, you’re not learning. And when you’re not learning, you’re done.

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Think Bigger

In order to achieve big success, you have to have big impact. When Michelle Gass, who is now leading 33 countries for Starbucks, started at the coffee chain, she was asked to architect a growth strategy for a just-launched drink called the Frappuccino. Her mantra: “Let’s think of how big this can be.” After countless hours testing ideas, she decided to position it as an escapist treat and added ice cream parlor fixings and new flavors. What began as a two-flavor side item is now a $2 billion platform with tens of thousands of possible combinations. Gass repeated her go-big-or-go-home strategy when she took over Seattle’s Best Coffee. She decided to take the sleepy little-sister brand to new heights by partnering with Burger King, Delta, Subway, convenience stores and supermarkets. In one year, the brand exploded from 3,000 distribution points to over 50,000.

Take Calculated Risks

As CEO of Kraft Foods and now Mondelez International, Irene Rosenfeld is very familiar with this one. A couple years ago she completed a hostile takeover of British candy company Cadbury. Not long after, she surprised the business community again with a plan to split Kraft into two separate companies, a North American foods company and a global snacks company. To move the needle, you have to make a big bets—but never rash—always based on a careful study of the outcomes. You have to know what you have to gain, and if you can afford to take the hit if it doesn’t go your way.

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Remain Disciplined

It takes discipline to achieve and maintain success. You simply can’t do everything, and the world’s most powerful women stay focused on the areas that will have the biggest impact—from both a leadership perspective and a career management perspective. Sheri McCoy, the new CEO of struggling Avon Products, is currently implementing a huge turnaround at the century-old beauty company. Interestingly, when I asked what the biggest challenge would be, she said: “Making sure people stay focused on what’s important and what matters most.” It is very easy to get distracted by new trends, new markets, new projects—but when you extend yourself too far, the quality of your work suffers across the board.

Hire Smart

Over and over again women at the top say their best strategy for success is to hire people who are diverse, passionate and smarter than themselves–and then listen closely to their perspectives. Hala Moddelmog, president of Arby’s Restaurant Group, believes surrounding yourself with people of different backgrounds—including gender, race, geography, socio-economic and personality types—will help round out your conclusions. “You really don’t need another you,” she says. Similarly, staying open to different viewpoints keeps you ahead of the curve. Claire Watts, the CEO of retail and media company QVC, schedules open door times every Tuesday, so that anyone in the company who wants to come talk to her, ask her a question or share something they’ve noticed can do it then.

Manage Your Career

Denise Morrison, the CEO of Campbell’s Soup, knew from a very young age she wanted to eventually run a company, so she asked herself what are the kinds of things I need to do to prepare for that? That might mean management experience, global exposure or revenue responsibility. She always looked at her career as: Where have I been? Where am I now? Where am I going, and what are the right assignments to get there? If her current company would work with her to deliver those assignments, she was all-in. But if it didn’t, she knew she needed to move on. “We apply these skills in business, and yet when it comes to ourselves we rarely apply them,” she said.

Delegate At Work And At Home

The most successful women have learned that they have to have help, and they have to have faith in the people around them—at work and at home. It’s not easy, but it’s critical over the long-term. Katie Taylor, the CEO of hotel brand Four Seasons, admitted to me that she is a bit of control freak, but for the good of her and everyone around her, she tries to delegate. “Sit on your hands, if you have to,” she said. “Get yourself to that place.”

Kissing and Harassing to Demoralize a Society of People

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The NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices raise serious concerns over racial profiling, illegal stops and privacy rights. The Department’s own reports on its stop-and-frisk activity confirm what many people in communities of color across the city have long known: The police are stopping hundreds of thousands of law abiding New Yorkers every year, and the vast majority are black and Latino.

An analysis by the NYCLU revealed that innocent New Yorkers have been subjected to police stops and street interrogations more than 4 million times since 2002, and that black and Latino communities continue to be the overwhelming target of these tactics. Nearly nine out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been completely innocent, according to the NYPD’s own reports.

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Mayor Bill de Blasio closed a divisive chapter in New York City history Thursday when he announced that his administration had reached an agreement with the civil rights lawyers who challenged the Police Department’s abusive and racially discriminatory stop-and-frisk program in federal court.

The agreement clears the way for the Police Department to carry out reforms ordered last summer by Judge Shira Scheindlin of Federal District Court in Manhattan, and thus to repair its damaged relationship with minority communities. The judge ruled that the department’s stop-and- frisk tactics violated the constitutional rights of minority citizens and said that city officials under the former mayor, Michael Bloomberg, had been “deliberately indifferent” to these illegalities.

An analysis by the NYCLU revealed that innocent New Yorkers have been subjected to police stops and street interrogations more than 4 million times since 2002, and that black and Latino communities continue to be the overwhelming target of these tactics. Nearly nine out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been completely innocent, according to the NYPD’s own reports:

In 2012, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 532,911 times
473,644 were totally innocent (89 percent).
284,229 were black (55 percent).
165,140 were Latino (32 percent).
50,366 were white (10 percent).
In 2013, New Yorkers were stopped by the police 191,558 times.
169,252 were totally innocent (88 percent).
104,958 were black (56 percent).
55,191 were Latino (29 percent).
20,877 were white (11 percent).

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Every time a police officer stops a person in NYC, the officer is supposed to fill out a form to record the details of the stop. Officers fill out the forms by hand, and then the forms are entered manually into a database. There are 2 ways the NYPD reports this stop-and-frisk data: a paper report released quarterly and an electronic database released annually.

The paper reports – which the N.Y.C.L.U. releases every three months – include data on stops, arrests, and summonses. The data are broken down by precinct of the stop and race and gender of the person stopped. The paper reports provide a basic snapshot on stop-and-frisk activity by precinct and are available here.

The electronic database includes nearly all of the data recorded by the police officer after a stop. The data include the age of person stopped, if a person was frisked, if there was a weapon or firearm recovered, if physical force was used, and the exact location of the stop within the precinct. Having the electronic database allows researchers to look in greater detail at what happens during a stop.

In response, the city argued that minority residents were stopped more frequently because they committed more crimes. But evidence at trial showed that those being stopped were overwhelmingly innocent, that blacks and Hispanics were stopped in disproportionate numbers and that officers were more likely to use force against minority citizens. Mr. Bloomberg appealed the decision. Mr. de Blasio’s criticism of the policy, and his promise to drop the appeal, helped propel him into office.

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The setting for the announcement from Mr. de Blasio, Police Commissioner William Bratton and the city’s top lawyer, Zachary Carter — a community recreation center in the mainly minority Brownsville section of Brooklyn — powerfully reinforced their message. Brownsville was ground zero for the stop-and-frisk program at its height. A Times analysis in 2010 found that the police had logged nearly 52,000 stops within eight or so blocks over a four-year period. This meant that young people in the area were growing up in the equivalent of a police state where they could be detained on the sidewalk at any time for no reason at all. The fear and distrust that flowed from this undermined confidence in the Police Department, making it all the more difficult for officers to do their jobs.

Mr. Bratton, who has made good community relations a cornerstone of his career, acknowledged as much in his remarks. “We will not break the law to enforce the law,” he said. “That’s my solemn promise to every New Yorker, regardless of where they were born, where they live, or what they look like. Those values aren’t at odds with keeping New Yorkers safe — they are essential to long-term public safety.” Mr. de Blasio spoke movingly of the toll that the program has taken on the social fabric and on minority youth, many of them deeply alienated by tactics that have presumed them criminal until proved otherwise.

The city can now set about taking the corrective steps that Judge Scheindlin ordered. She has selected Peter Zimroth, a respected lawyer and former prosecutor, to serve as a monitor. His responsibilities will include developing new reforms governing Police Department policies and training and discipline on stop-and-frisk. These measures should help to bring police policies fully in line with the Constitution.

So I…pull over to the side of the road, I heard
“Son do you know why I’m stoppin’ you for?”
Cause I’m young and I’m black and my hats real low,
Do I look like a mind reader sir, I don’t know,
Am I under arrest or should I guess some mo’?
“Well you was doin’ fifty-five in a fifty-four.
License and registration and step out of the car
Are you carryin’ a weapon on you I know a lot of you are.”

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Behavioral profiles that rely on an individual’s conduct are far more
accurate than profiles that depend on an individual’s race. When officers take
race into account to develop a criminal profile, they rely on stereotypes about
criminal tendencies of minority groups, rather than objective and rational criteria
for suspicion.

This use of racial stereotypes to detect criminality violates
multiple amendments of the U.S. Constitution. Despite the fact that many strong
arguments against the practice of racial profiling may be derived from the
Constitution, the legal system in the United States has utterly failed to effectively
address the problem of racial profiling. Thus, the legal system perpetuates a
class structure in which society may continue to socially oppress African
Americans
by portraying them as possessing uncontrollable and innate urges
toward criminality. Racial profiling is a denial of equal treatment as well as a
reflection of the historical stigmatization of all African Americans.

The specific analysis of New York’s racial profiling problems detailed above illustrates the
manner in which society ignores the role of this historic stigmatization when
examining racial profiling.

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Many who speak out against the practice of racial profiling link its existence to slavery in this nation. Courts have consistently failed to acknowledge the connection between demonizing African Americans, as a means
of justifying the institution of slavery, and racial profiling practices used by police in contemporary American society. Historical presumptions that developed to maintain the slavery system continue to remain; these presumptions base themselves on the assertion that African Americans are habitual criminals that should be under constant suspicion.

The stigma of criminality attached to African Americans by white society was developed as a means of social control over the enslaved and later emancipated African Americans. By creating an image of blacks that portrays them as prone to irrepressible violence, white society effected the perception of slaves as subhuman. This perception reinforced the belief that the institution of slavery was needed to restrain African Americans. By placing whites in
constant fear of blacks, white citizens would be more willing to accept black subordination to ensure white safety. Abolition of the slavery system proved ineffective in negating centuries of historical, legal, and cultural stripping of African Americans’ humanity. Racial profiling of African Americans has always been and remains to be a part of the nation’s social and legal fabric.

How many Martyr’s are required to just Live?

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‘This Is Going to Ruin My Entire Life’: 18-Year-Old Aspiring Firefighter Charged With Felony for Pocket Knife

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Some of the most important decisions we face in life involve ethical or moral questions. As individuals, we all face life-shaping ethical choices such as: What kind of person do I want to be? What values should I live by? How should I treat others? and What should my priorities in life be? As a society, we also confront fundamental and inescapable moral choices: When, if ever, is war morally justifiable? Should the death penalty be legal? Should all citizens have the same basic rights? When is it legitimate for government to restrict individual liberty? What is a just society?

Law also raises issues of fundamental importance: Does the U.S. Constitution guarantee a right to abortion? Does the death penalty violate the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition of “cruel and unusual punishments”? Should preferential treatment in employment and university admissions decisions be legal? Do bans on gay marriage violate the Constitution’s guarantee of “equal protection of the laws”? Does the CIA’s rough handling (some would say torture) of suspected terrorists constitute a “war crime” under international law?

Because law and morality play such crucial roles in human affairs, it’s important to be able to think critically about them. A branch of philosophy that seeks to clarify moral concepts and answer questions about what is right or wrong, or morally good or bad. Our main focus will be on moral arguments. A moral argument is an argument that includes at least one moral statement. A moral statement is a claim that asserts that something is good or bad, right or wrong, or has some other ethical quality (e.g., being just, admirable, or blameworthy). Moral statements are normative statements, that is, statements that claim that something has or lacks a certain value, or should or should not be done. Not all normative statements are moral statements. If I say, for example, that Paris is a more beautiful city than London, I am not saying anything about the comparative moral qualities of the two cities.

If I say that it’s a shame that the law has propelled to a level that makes “martyrs” of its citizens that is a moral statement and that is what I feel is happening in our society in reference to the laws that are making all our youths become in jeopardy of living a quality life.

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Eighteen year-old Jordan Wiser is training to be a firefighter. He’s a certified emergency vehicle operator who works as a first responder when he’s not attending high school. And, after just spending 13 days in jail, he’s now facing felony charges for weapons possession.

The weapon? A pocketknife. It was in his EMT vest, and he uses it to cut through seatbelts when he’s practicing saving lives.

How did this happen? According to The Huffington Post, administrators at Ashtabula County Technical and Career Campus in Jefferson, Ohio, where Wiser is enrolled, approached the student after someone informed them about videos Wiser had uploaded to YouTube. The videos include reviews of video games and merchandise, demonstrations on home-defense tactics, and an interview with a local police officer. Officials searched Wiser’s car in the school parking lot and found an assortment of items, including a pocketknife, a stun gun, and two Airsoft pellet guns. Wiser said the Airsoft guns were in his trunk because he planned to participate in the sport after school. The stun gun was locked in his glove compartment for self-defense. The pocketknife was inside his EMT medical vest.

For the possession of the pocketknife alone, police arrested and jailed Wiser for 13 days for conveying a weapon onto school grounds—a felony under Ohio law.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time anyone has written about teenagers victimized by weapons ordinances. Last year, Cobb County, Georgia police arrested and charged 17-year-old Cody Chitwood with a felony for bringing weapons into a school zone. The weapons were fishing knives, and they were in his truck, in a tackle box.

At first glance, such weapons ordinances sound sensible. But the criminal law contains the harshest punishments the state metes out, and it should be applied in a proportionate manner. Simply put, it’s absurd to ruin a kid’s life over a pocketknife that he uses to save lives.

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Perhaps additional facts will come to light. But, as it stands, this incident looks like a shameful exercise of prosecutorial discretion—something of which residents of Ashtabula County should take note come November, when the county’s prosecutor, Nicholas Iarocci, is up for re-election. Unless Iarocci’s office is saving some damning revelation for Wiser’s trial, the charges against this young man are unjustified, and should be dropped before they cause him any more suffering.

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The results of any person getting a felony today are equal to becoming a martyr of a new sought designed by the corrupt politicians and socialist of America. From California to New York, Texas to Michigan, a record number of convicted criminals are either being released from cells or serving time in community-based programs as states, under pressure to cut costs, adopt new philosophies on how to handle nonviolent offenders and many inmates incarcerated in the 1970s and ’80s near the end of their terms. In some cases, lawsuits designed to reduce overcrowding are forcing authorities to open prison doors as well.

These days roughly 700,000 ex-cons are hitting US streets each year – a new high, according to Marc Mauer, executive director of the Sentencing Project, a Washington-based advocacy group. While the vast majority of the inmates are nonviolent, some, like Corralez, served sentences for serious crimes and are now winning parole in higher numbers.

The result is an unprecedented test – of authorities’ ability to monitor the newly released prisoners, of social service groups’ capacity to help them forge new lives, of the inmates’ willingness to start over, of communities’ tolerance to let them do so.

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Jason Corralez donned a freshly pressed collared shirt. He had shaved neatly around his salt-and-pepper goatee. He looked like a man about to go on a job interview, which he was. It was a job he desperately wanted, but one question gnawed at him: Would they be willing to hire a convicted murderer?

Mr. Corralez had one advantage as he applied for the position at Trader Joe’s in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles. Both his brother-in-law and nephew worked at the grocery store. But as his wife drove him to the interview, Corralez was worried about that question on the application that asked if he had ever been convicted of a felony. He had written: “Will discuss during interview.”

When he arrived at the store, the manager queried him about his résumé. Corralez went through his work experience, which all happened to be from his time in prison, where he had been since he was 17: upholstery work, yard maintenance, small engine repair, clerical tasks. “I explained my job experience,” he says. “All the courses I took – anger management, morals and values.”

Corralez didn’t leave out why he went to prison, either. “I’m an ex-felon for the offense of second-degree murder,” he told the manager. A former member of The Mob Crew, an East Los Angeles gang, he served 24 years for killing a member of the rival MS-13 gang in a drive-by shooting. “This is the person I was,” he said, “and this is the person I am now.”

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According to Corralez, the manager stepped back, stunned. “Thank you for being honest,” Corralez recalls him saying. As the ex-prisoner walked to the bus stop, he knew what it meant. “I took everything that I had accomplished, everything that I had to do to get a second chance,” he says. “But I could see it in his reaction. It was like the nail in the coffin.”

Corralez’s struggle to transition from prisoner to free member of society is one that thousands of inmates across the country are going through as states trim their prison populations on a scale unseen in American history.

God’s Way or Man’s Way: Comments That Will Shock Today’s Young Women

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President Obama presents Presidential Medals of Freedom

President Barack Obama and feminist Gloria Steinem before Steinem received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2013.

Liberal feminist icon Gloria Steinem turns 80 today. She once said that “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.”

Yet for all her talk about equality and rights, one right she worked diligently to deny millions of both sexes was the right to be born and celebrate birthdays of their own. Once again, in her view, a “woman’s right” trumped the rights of another—in this case, an unborn child.

The fact the Supreme Court is hearing a case today about employers being forced to include abortion-inducing drugs in their health plans—even if it violates an employer’s conscience—is in many respects a testament to the work of Steinem and others. It’s a good example of how the “equal rights” she championed result in stepping on the rights of others.

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The liberal sisterhood railed against a society they said encouraged women to stay at home and raise children. They demanded the marketplace open up more opportunities for women and pay them the same as men. Fine. But what about women who choose differently?

Today’s young women are empowered to choose career, family, and all sorts of combinations of both. But the words of Steinem and other liberal feminists revealed what they believed about American women…

Steinem: “[Housewives] are dependent creatures who are still children…parasites.”

Simone DE Beauvoir: “No woman should be authorized to stay at home and raise her children. Women should not have that choice, precisely because if there is such a choice, too many women will make that one.”

Betty Friedan: “[Housewives] are mindless and thing-hungry…not people. [Housework] is peculiarly suited to the capacities of feeble-minded girls. [It] arrests their development at an infantile level, short of personal identity with an inevitably weak core of self…. [Housewives] are in as much danger as the millions who walked to their own death in the concentration camps. [The] conditions which destroyed the human identity of so many prisoners were not the torture and brutality, but conditions similar to those which destroy the identity of the American housewife.”

Steinem has never been a fan of women who didn’t think like her or buy in to her radical feminist political agenda. “Having someone who looks like us but thinks like them (meaning men) is worse than having no one at all.”
So much for tolerance—and the belief that women are individuals who should be free to think and make choices for themselves.

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The administration says a victory for the companies would prevent women who work for them from making decisions about birth control based on what’s best for their health, not whether they can afford it. The government’s supporters point to research showing that nearly one-third of women would change their contraceptive if cost were not an issue; a very effective means of birth control, the intrauterine device, can cost up to $1,000.

“Women already have an income gap. If these companies prevail, they’ll have a health insurance gap, too,” said Marcia Greenberger, co-president of the National Women’s Law Center.

Keep Hope Alive In-spite of Uncertainty and Frothy Emotional appeal

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Today is a beautiful day because I am fighting the good fight of faith. I am alive and my purpose is to serve God and love mankind no matter how many times life shows up in its various colors I am to stand with the resolve to press onward. I completed a thirteen month house arrest sentence that almost paralyzed my being in September of 2013, only to find out that my fight wasn’t over. Coupled with living arrangement struggles, financially devastated, and labeled with the scarlet letter “F” (Felon) the penal system came after me once again with a hefty offer of 24 years if I took this debacle to trial, but God and prayer changed those twenty four years to His sovereign will being perfected in my life to 100 more days of house arrest and the financial cloud of doom to pay for this is even more heavy to my soul than serving the sentence.

Hit with the death of two major men of God in my life of restoration and the untimely news of an aligning dad whom I haven’t been able to see in 10 years, the daunting task of everyday limited routines due to the now meager resources and mere existence of purpose I fight the looming depression of uncertainty by self talking and determination of will to believe what I can’t see as truth rather than what I do see as defeat.

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Dealing with change or loss is an inevitable part of life. At some point, everyone experiences varying degrees of setbacks. Some of these challenges might be relatively minor (not getting into a class you really wanted to take), while others are disastrous on a much larger scale (hurricanes, tornadoes, terrorist attacks). How we deal with these problems can play a major role in not only the outcome, but also the long-term psychological consequences.

Romans 5:3-5
New International Version (NIV)
3 Not only so, but we[a] also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

On a consumer flight from Portland, Maine, to Boston in the summer of 1987, the pilot heard an unusual noise near the rear of the aircraft. Henry Dempsey turned the controls over to his copilot and went back to check it out. As he reached the tail section, the plane hit an air pocket, and Dempsey was tossed against the rear door. He quickly discovered the source of the mysterious noise. The rear door had not been properly latched prior to takeoff and it fell open. Dempsey was instantly sucked out of the jet.

The copilot, seeing the red light on the control panel that indicated an open door, radioed the nearest airport requesting permission to make an emergency landing. He reported that Dempsey had fallen out of the plane and requested that a helicopter be dispatched to search the area of the ocean.

After the plane had landed, the ground crew found Henry Dempsey holding onto the outdoor ladder of the aircraft. Somehow, he had caught the ladder and managed to hold on for 10 minutes as the plane flew 200mph at an altitude of 4,000 feet. What is more, as the plane made its approach and landed, Dempsey had kept his head from hitting the runway, a mere 12 inches away. According to news reports, it took several airport personnel more than a few minutes to pry the pilot’s fingers from the ladder.

That is a picture of endurance – the ability to hang on when it would have been easier to let go. Many people are blessed with certain attributes, but endurance jumps to the forefront for success in any endeavor. Endurance is the key that keeps us from giving up and letting go.

Endurance “the power of going on in spite of difficulties.” Popular colloquial phrases describe it as: “Keep on keeping on.” “Hang in there.” “Put up with it.” “Stick-to-itiveness.” “Don’t quit.” Its synonyms are determination, perseverance, tenacity, plodding, stamina, and backbone. When endurance is used in the Bible it means “to abide under,” “to bear up courageously,” and “to tarry or wait.”

Henry Dempsey would just say it is holding on for dear life.

The Bible considers endurance a priority. Paul expressed its importance in character development, “And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope. This hope does not disappoint, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us” (Rom. 5:3-5). The writer of Hebrews also knew that perseverance was mandatory in the pursuit of character. “For you need endurance, so that after you have done God’s will, you may receive what was promised” (Heb. 10:36).

The following practical secrets will enable you to develop perseverance.

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I. Accept the unchangeable
Accept those things in life that cannot be changed. William Barclay described endurance as “the courageous acceptance of everything life can do to us and the transmitting of even the worst event into another step on the upward way.” Let’s face it, some events and circumstances are inevitable. Sometimes life is not fair. Injustices creep into every one’s arena. Sometimes, in one way or another, we fall out of unlocked airplane doors.

It helps to remember that God is in charge of our lives. His desire is for us to grow in the likeness of his Son. So whatever enters our life – unfavorable circumstances, tragic events, or irritating people – is for the development of character. Be it good, bad, or indifferent our response to life’s irritants forms our character.

The oyster and its pearl provide a beautiful picture of a positive response to life’s irritants. The pearl is a product of pain. An alien substance – a grain of sand – slips inside the oyster’s shell. On the entry of that foreign irritant, all the resources within the tiny, sensitive oyster rush to the spot and begin to release healing fluids that otherwise would have remained dormant. Eventually the irritant is covered and the wound healed by a pearl. No other gem has so fascinating a history. It is the symbol of stress. The precious, tiny jewel is conceived through irritation, born of adversity. Had there been no wounding, no irritating interruption, there could have been no pearl.

J. B. Phillips understood this as he paraphrased James 1:2-4: “When all kinds of trials crowd into your lives, my brothers, don’t resent them as intruders, but welcome them as friends! Realize that they have come to test your endurance. But let the process go on until that endurance is fully developed, and you will find you have become men (and women) of mature character.”

II. Adjust to the obstacles
A young naval captain was commanding his first battleship. As it pierced through the ocean one night, a light was spotted in the darkened distance coming directly toward the ship.

The commander radioed, “Alter your course ten degrees.”

The reply came shortly, “No, you alter your course ten degrees.”

The undaunted captain angrily sent a message, “Alter your course, I am a destroyer.”

The reply came quickly, “Alter your course, I am a lighthouse.”

Sometimes we have to adjust our way to fit the realities of life. Solomon wrote, “A sensible person sees danger and takes cover, but the inexperienced keep going and are punished” (Prov. 22:3). Some circumstances are unavoidable. Disappointments are certain. Obstacles are sure. Losses will occur. The person with perseverance acknowledges the road blocks and makes adjustments. Thomas Carlyle noted, “The block of granite that was an obstacle in the pathway of the weak becomes a stepping stone in the pathway of the strong.” When the obstacles of life are stacked before us we can adjust by going around, climbing over, or tunneling under.

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Are you allowing intrusions to distort and disfigure your life? Are their circumstances or people in your life that you have been trying to change? Why not transform these obstacles into growth blocks by learning to adjust?

When we adjust to the detours of life God reveals some of his marvelous handiwork off the beaten trail. Don’t think of adjustment as failure, think of it as an education. Hang on, see what God has in store for you around the next bend in the road.

III. Abide with patience
Someone once said, “You can do anything if you have patience. You can carry water in a sieve – if you wait until it freezes.” Unfortunately, most of us aren’t that patient. When we need it, we usually pray, “Lord, give me patience . . . and I want it now.” Or, as Margaret Thatcher, former British Prime Minister, said more eloquently, “I am extraordinarily patient provided I get my own way in the end.”

But one can’t learn patience by listing to a sermon unless the sermon is so long they have to practice it while they listen. Nor can they learn patience by reading a book unless the book is so boring that they have to muster up patience to finish it. The only way to learn patience is by facing this hurly-burly world, taking life as it comes. It is holding on, gritting your teeth, clinching your jaw, riding out the storm.

And that is not easy. Joyce Landorf writes, “God’s waiting room is the most difficult aspect of the Christian experience.”

In the Greek language, the term for patience is often translated “long-suffering.” It’s a compound word. The first part means “long or far.” The second part means “hot, anger, or wrath.” Putting it together we literally have “long-anger.” We have an English expression “short-tempered.” We would not miss the meaning very far if we called patience “long-tempered.” Patience is that ability that keeps us from blowing up when events don’t go our way or losing our cool when others upset us.

Believers are exhorted to display patience. James wrote, “Therefore, brothers, be patient until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth and is patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also must be patient. Strengthen your hearts, because the Lord’s coming is near” (James 5:7-8). James shows how the farmer demonstrates patience. A farmer cannot make it rain or give growth. He must rely on God to act in the most wise and merciful way.

The secret of patience is abiding. We must learn to rest and endure under the load of pain and suffering. We abide under the load of pain and suffering by abiding with a God who is faithful. We must not only learn to abide in Christ but also abide with Christ under the struggles and the pressures in life.

IV. Affirm the presence
As we progress toward a life that resembles Jesus Christ we must always remember that God is with us. Sometimes God is like a teacher instructing us with the construction. Sometimes God is a fellow-worker challenging us to excellence. Sometimes God is a spectator encouraging us to keep on keeping on. Whatever situation we find ourselves, God is always with us.

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I recall the long and grueling basketball practices in high school. The gym was not air-conditioned. We would run forever, it seemed. My legs would throb, my side hurt with a splitting pain, and my chest pounded like it was about to pop out. I wanted to quit. But then something wonderful happened. My body would provide a miraculous gracious replenishing of energy, known as a second wind.

As we run toward a distinctive life of character we will experience a similar feeling. Getting started possesses no problem. We get bogged down as the race continues. A time comes when our personal resources are exhausted. Yet as we endure, God seems to give us a spiritual second wind.

Isaiah described this miracle: “Do you not know? Have you not heard? Yahweh is the everlasting God, the Creator of the whole earth. He never grows faint or weary; there is no limit to His understanding. He gives strength to the weary and strengthens the powerless. Youths may faint and grow weary, and young men stumble and fall, but those who trust in the LORD will renew their strength; they will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not faint” (Isaiah 40:28-31 NIV)

The secret is found in affirming God’s presence. The world says give up, drop out, run away. God says to just trust me, lean on me, and fall into my arms. God is with you to support and sustain you. To give you hope, courage, and strength to continue. He has promised, “‘My presence will go [with you], and I will give you rest'” (Ex. 33:14).

Ignance Paderewski, Poland’s famous concert pianist and prime minister, was giving a series of concerts. A mother, wishing to encourage her young son’s progress at the piano, bought tickets for a performance. When the night arrived, they found their seats near the front of the concert hall and eyed the majestic Steinway waiting on stage. The mother spotted a friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her. Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy eventually made his way through a door marked, “No Admittance.” When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was missing.

Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.” His mother gasped, but before she could retrieve her son, the great piano master appeared on the stage and quickly moved to the keyboard. He whispered to the boy, “Don’t quit – keep playing.” Leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon, his right arm reached around the other side, encircling the child, to add a running obbligato. Together, the old master and young novice held the crowd mesmerized.

In our quest for contagious character, unpolished and incomplete though we may be, it is the Master who surrounds us and whispers in our ear, time and again, “Don’t quit – keep playing.” And as we do, he augments and supplements until a work of amazing beauty is created. What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy. We try our best but the results aren’t exactly graceful flowing music. But with the hand of the Master, our character can truly be beautiful. Our responsibility is to not quit, to keeping playing; his part is to fashion a masterpiece.

Remember God doesn’t call the equipped. He equips the called. And, he’ll always be there to love and to guide you to great things.

Conclusion
Are you close to quitting? Please don’t do it.

Are you tired of trying to live for Christ? Hang in there.

Do you feel like giving up on the Christian life? Roll up your sleeves and get back in there.

Can’t resist temptation? Accept God’s forgiveness and keep on living rightly.

Do you feel that sorrow and disappointment greet your every morning? Hold on. Help is just around the corner.

Endurance prevails. “Blessed is a man who endures trials, because when he passes the test he will receive the crown of life that He has promised to those who love Him” (Jas. 1:12 NIV). Remember you are not a failure until you give up. You are not a flop until you let go.

So don’t quit. Never give up. Keep going. Hold on. God’s rewards await us in the distant future not near the beginning; and we don’t know how many steps it will take to reach the prize. No breaks or time outs exist; we must work every day of our life. It has been said, “Life is like reading a book. It begins to make sense when we near the end.” Endurance maintains the stamina needed to see the end and embrace the prize. So fight another round, rise another time, and, above all, like Henry Dempsey, don’t let go.