September 30, 2014 – achievement

This is part 9 of a 12 part series.
For these two weeks I’m sharing my thoughts inspired from the book Real Power by Janet Hagberg. It’s a very unique book, that I like to describe as a truth-speaking Trojan Horse cleverly disguised as a corporate self-help book. It has meant so much to me that I could go on and on.

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Ecclesiates 3:9-13
What do workers gain from their toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet[ no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil—this is the gift of God.

More thoughts to ponder

Stage 3 of Janet Hagberg’s Model of Personal Power: Power By Achievement

Janet Hagberg says “Stage three is the dynamo stage, the success stage.” “They know how the organization works and help make it work better. The threes are in charge. They have the feeling that ‘This is it!'” She says “This is the most externally oriented and externally rewarded of all the stages.” And it “is the most representative of our culture, of what our culture strives for.” It’s what we think of when someone gets that big promotion, with the raise, you’re now “the boss”.

It rewards strong, decisive people, experts and the competitive. Generally you would have figured out that, to get to this place, you might have to play by others rules for a bit, keep certain people on your side, or what they call politics. In this stage people usually operate on what works, and not necessarily what ought to be. It doesn’t necessarily mean going against your conscience, it might mean you’ve learned that getting things accomplished might not happen the way you’d dreamed they would. I remember when Obama first showed up, the news kept talking about “Pragmatism,” It sounded like a new idea when I first heard it. Like it was an unused word in our national vocabulary. They were using it to mean someone who sees what needs to happen, makes some expedient decisions, is willing to comprise a bit, and can get things done.

Now, in my circles in particular, we might feel a little shy about being a position with power. But there’s nothing wrong with being successful in our work, or our lives. Having built your skills up to be someone desirable, is a great feeling. Christ doesn’t call us to a life of being sub-par. The challenge with being here is that it’s easy to become too self-confident, secure, and decide to stop growing. This is a spot where once you think “you’ve made it” you can easily stop questioning things, It’s challenging to question ourselves, especially if we feel secure and confident. “Why should I go any further, I’ve made it!” My synopsis of Hagberg’s thoughts, combined with my own are, “Enjoy it, you’ve gotten to a great spot in your life, just don’t stay there too long, there’s a lot more work to do”

If we read Ecclesiastes this way, we get a little dose of permission. If it’s a gift from God to enjoy the fruits of your labor, then it must be a good thing. We can embrace this idea in one hand, while at the same time holding onto the warnings of God about wealth, greed and self-flattery in the other. Go ahead and enjoy the mountain top, just make sure you continue your hike.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about Stage 4: Power by Reflection and what comes after “succeeding”.

Suggestions for action

Do you feel you’ve found success in your life? It’s okay to be happy. Just keep in touch with God, and try to balance out what to do with it, or how to keep growing.

If you are still aspiring to reach this stage, feel inspired. It’s a good thing to get proficient at something, move up a position, or learn to be the boss. Keep learning new skills, and figuring out how things work.

God does tell us to be as innocent as doves, but as shrewd as serpents. I think this can also mean to operate in a kind, peaceful way, but we’re supposed to be smart, we should understand how the world does things.

September 29, 2014 – association

This is part 8 of a 12 part series.
For these two weeks I’m sharing my thoughts inspired from the book Real Power by Janet Hagberg. It’s a very unique book, that I like to describe as a truth-speaking Trojan Horse cleverly disguised as a corporate self-help book. It has meant so much to me that I could go on and on.

Today’s Bible readings and excerpts

Read Exodus 24:12-13

The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and stay here, and I will give you the tablets of stone with the law and commandments I have written for their instruction.” Then Moses set out with Joshua his aide, and Moses went up on the mountain of God.

Read Joshua 14:6-9

I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh Barnea to explore the land. And I brought him back a report according to my convictions, but my fellow Israelites who went up with me made the hearts of the people melt in fear. I, however, followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly.

More thoughts to ponder

Stage 2 of Janet Hagberg’s Model of Personal Power: Power by Association

Janet Hagberg calls the second stage of power “Power by Association.” She calls this a formative stage in life or career, where one moves from having no power or control to learning more about it by being connected to someone who does.

As a stage in adult life, it’s similar to modeling after our parents when we were kids. We relied on our parents, and were happy to learn from them how to do things. Many powerless people (or people starting out) move forward into this stage through joining a union, or becoming an apprentice. Finding a good manager or supervisor who you can rely on to explain how things work or aligning yourself with a good person in a place above you can reap great rewards. Sometimes this is learning by mimicking, which isn’t a bad thing, since people in this stage, as Janet Hagberg says, “haven’t quite figured out how things work.” She describes it as being in a “learner role.” It can also be a fun position to be in if you enjoy trying to figure things out.

I hadn’t quite realized this before. I knew Joshua had been with Moses as a spy and leader of the army but he had been Moses’ aide since he was “a youth.” He actually went up the mountain with Moses and waited while Moses talked to God. Joshua had been in this position a very long time before he led the army, and eventually took over after Moses died. He must have learned a lot from Moses, and saw what God did first hand.

Although there is a great power derived from aligning with another person or group, there is also a danger of staying in that place. The person you are aligned with will eventually change positions, retire, or just simply move on in life. We need to remember that this “association” is a learning stage and not to stay there too long. I myself can be easily lulled into staying here. I love learning, but don’t really enjoy taking the risks that will get me to the next step. There is a time we need to act on what we’ve learned, which in turn will build our self-confidence. Joshua had that confidence when he stood up and said that God could deliver the promised land to the people against what everyone else was saying at the time.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about Stage 3. Power by Achievement

Suggestions for action

If you are at this stage of your life, have you associated/aligned yourself with those ahead of you, that could help you?

Ask God who might be a good person to help with this. It could be someone you respect at work, or even a friend who seems to have figured things out a little more than you.

Pray for some confidence to try out what you’ve learned.

If you believe you are past this stage, is there someone around that you could reach back and bring forward, or show the ropes? Maybe you haven’t gotten as far as you think if you don’t have the confidence or grace to do that.

September 28, 2014 – powerlessness

This is part 7 of a 12 part series.
For these two weeks I’m sharing my thoughts inspired from the book Real Power by Janet Hagberg. It’s a very unique book, that I like to describe as a truth-speaking Trojan Horse cleverly disguised as a corporate self-help book. It has meant so much to me that I could go on and on.

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Exodus 3:4-4:14

Moses said to the Lord, “Pardon your servant, Lord. I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” The Lord said to him, “Who gave human beings their mouths? Who makes them deaf or mute? Who gives them sight or makes them blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” But Moses said, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well. He is already on his way to meet you, and he will be glad to see you.

More thoughts to ponder

Stage 1 of Janet Hagberg’s Model of Personal Power: Powerlessness 

Janet Hagberg calls the first stage of power “Powerlessness.” She says that adults who stay too long in this stage often feel stuck and don’t know how to move forward even when prodded. “People feel generally confused at this stage…having frequent bouts of low self-esteem coupled with self-doubt.” They also can “feel almost totally dependent on other people or organizations.” This sounds an awful lot like Moses at the beginning of his leadership.

Hagberg says that people in a stage of powerlessness often don’t know what to do next, many times the information to move forward is withheld from them, or seems very mysterious. When organizations are controlling and give people very little information, other than “do exactly this,” people naturally don’t know what else to do, even when given direction. Many of our sytems set up to help the powerless are set up in ways to keep people controlled, to simply manage them but not to empower them.

I had a new insight while reading the account of God’s call on Moses. We tend to think of him primarily as the great leader, but Moses went through many stages of helplessness, especially at the time of his calling. When God calls him out, he’s been hiding from the Egyptians for quite a few years. All throughout this account he keeps telling God, “What if they do not believe me or listen to me? I am slow of speech and tongue.“ He asks, “Pardon your servant, Lord. Please send someone else.” Being a parent, and having two boys, I envision God in the role of exasperated Dad. He is starting to get really angry and frustrated with Moses, I can picture him impatiently looking around a bit, shuffling his feet, when he says approximately, “Okay, fine, just take your brother, he’ll talk for you. Just go and do it already. I just showed you a whole bunch of miracles and you still don’t think I’ll back you up?”

Hearing Moses’ response and God’s willingness to meet him where he is, despite being angry with him, gives me a glimpse into the expanse of God’s grace. I’m not so sure I would have done a better job at accepting God’s call than Moses did. We won’t always have the answers, or even always know what to do next, but God can show us, we often just need to do the next thing that’s in front of us and He’ll reveal more as we go.

Tomorrow we’ll talk about Stage 2. Power by Association

Suggestions for action

Do you fear having to take control or trying to take any sort of control over your life? Is God telling you to move forward despite some obstacles?

Do you not know the next steps to take? Sometimes we need to step forward, without knowing the answers. Ask God to  reveal what you can do next. He often reveals more as we go.

September 27, 2014 – real power

This is part 6 of a 12 part series.
For these two weeks I’m sharing my thoughts inspired from the book Real Power by Janet Hagberg. It’s a very unique book, that I like to describe as a truth-speaking Trojan Horse cleverly disguised as a corporate self-help book. It has meant so much to me that I could go on and on.

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read 2 Corinthians 3:4-6
Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.

More thoughts to ponder

Janet Hagberg’s book, “Real Power” has been giving me an incredible perspective of my past and for my future stages in life, and is helping me to flesh out a map, to move forward in life from a kind of stuck spot to where I see God starting to lead me.

Her basic premise is here: “Personal Power results from combining external power (the capacity for action) with internal power (the capacity for reflection).” Putting these two together is what is unique here. Her book could at first glance be taken as a Self-Help business book. But she’s not just giving somone a map how to “succeed.” It’s really more about how to get past “success” and to the good stuff that’s beyond that, the intangible things that life is really about — how to become a whole person, the person you should keep striving to become. It’s more about continuing, and growing, than “making it.” The extra benefit as Christians is that tapping into this external and internal power doesn’t always have to come from ourselves, but we have power by being aligned with God that’s more than our but allied with our own.

She voices some disdain for our stunted culture’s refusal to grow beyond certain stages, or beyond external power. While she doesn’t condemn what she calls “power by achievement,” she does call out our culture for not reaching past it. It’s just one stage of growth. Quite a bit of this was a revealing to me regarding my own disillusionment about my career, and not fitting into the standard corporate mold. It was liberating to get some acknowledgement that I was tapping into something deeper.

Her later stages call us to use our power to put back in, and bring others along with us as we move through life. So many of the current voices of today are calling for a personal development that focuses on how to get what you want. This is calling us to be what we “should” be.

I will explain each stage over the coming posts, they’re not particularly Biblical descriptions, but I believe she has tapped into some powerful insight that was inspired by God’s Spirit.

Here are the stages we will be exploring during the next few days:

Stage 1. Powerlessness
Stage 2. Power by Association
Stage 3. Power by Achievement
Stage 4. Power by Reflection
The Wall (a stopping point between stages 4 and 5.)
Stage 5. Power by Purpose
Stage 6. Power by Wisdom

Suggestions for action

Ask God to show you what you should be striving for, and what you need to become. Perhaps God is calling you to something higher.

Consider whether you have stopped growing. Do you need some strength to move forward? The good news is this power doesn’t always have to come from ourselves.

See whether you feel content with your level of achievement. Can you can start to look over the horizon to see what God is calling for next?

September 26, 2014 – contentment

This is part 5 of a 12 part series.
For these two weeks I’m sharing my thoughts inspired from the book Real Power by Janet Hagberg. It’s a very unique book, that I like to describe as a truth-speaking Trojan Horse cleverly disguised as a corporate self-help book. It has meant so much to me that I could go on and on.

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Philippians 4:11-13

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

More thoughts to ponder

I’ve often been struck by people who have a certain sense of contentment that I seem to lack. A block or so from my house is an Italian bakery I love to visit. It’s not because the bread is so good — it’s actually pretty normal, and the bakery itself suffers because it’s not on the greatest block. I just enjoy being in the presence of the baker. “Hello my friend,” he says when I walk in, in his thick Italian accent. When I pay him, he holds my hand in both of his when he gives me the change. On the walls there are some pictures of Jesus, and the Pope hangs over his doorway.

One day I noticed that the old Pope was swapped out for the new Pope, so I asked what he thought of him, if he liked the different way he did things — wearing normal clothing and not living in the big Papal apartment. The baker told me about his brother, and his nice new car. He wanted him to borrow it for some special event. He thought it was nice, but he already had a car, and it works just fine. He also has a house — not a big one, but big enough, and enough food for his family — everything he needs. Why should he want to have a fancy car? The bakery is obviously not booming, but it seems to sustain him. Sometimes things are sold out when I get there. Somewhere along his life he was blessed with a bit of God’s peace and an extra satisfaction with his life, and enjoyment in doing what he does. He seems to have learned the secret of “having enough.”

In Philippians, Paul talks about something similar. The writing is brief, but the meaning is deep. He’s been there, in both up and down places, and found that with God they can be happy and he can be content no matter what spot he finds himself in.  This doesn’t necessarily mean being content with the status quo, nor does it mean putting out the fire in your heart if you are striving to accomplish something or reach a goal. This is more about a deeper peace.

Suggestions for action

Ask yourself if you have some of this peace or contentment. Perhaps God has blessed you in this way.

Try sharing some of it with others, or find a way to inspire it. I walk away inspired every time I visit the bakery. The baker has a certain glow about him. I’m sure others feel the same way.

If you aren’t feeling it, pray that God will show you. This might not be a simple thing. It might come after a bit of hardship, or after some disappointment. I find for myself that it comes from spending more time in prayer, and constantly reminding myself to refocus on the things of God, and not the shiny things in front of me.

September 25, 2014 – reward

This is part 4 of a 12 part series.
These next two weeks I’ll be sharing my thoughts inspired from the book Real Power by Janet Hagberg. It’s a very unique book, that I like to describe as a truth-speaking Trojan Horse cleverly disguised as a corporate self-help book. It has meant so much to me that I could go on and on.

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Luke 18:18-29

A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.” “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

More thoughts to ponder

In Janet Hagberg’s book, Real Power she asks some questions regarding your career status. Some of them struck me very deeply, and brought me to some deeper understanding as to why I felt stuck and disillusioned.

She asks “Are symbols important to you, like salary, titles, material possessions, office placement, or number of people you manage?” I was struck that the very things my job was offering me as incentives to move up the ladder, weren’t doing much to entice me. Sure, I would enjoy being rewarded with a higher salary, or some recognition, but a lot of the things they were trying to entice me with were starting to sound more like a punishment — i.e.: More responsibilities, people to manage, more time spent at the office, working weekends, more politics. It all sounded dreadful.

To them, this was what they considered the pinnacle: keep moving up, get some more status, then try to move up the ladder again, and get more. A lot of the managers spent late nights and weekends at work. I heard negative comments coming from them about their spouses and families. It sounded tragic. It didn’t look like they’d “made it” to me. I started to wonder which came first for them. Were they so dedicated to work that they lost their families, or had they lost their families and therefore devoted themselves to their work? They didn’t have any balance, and certainly didn’t seem to want to stop to think about it. They made a lot of money and had powerful jobs, but it didn’t seem to be making them happy.

I had reached a certain level of skill, they were telling me. If I pushed myself a little more, I could move up to the “next level.” But the next levels according to their definition seemed like a terrible place. The problem was they weren’t offering another option, a position with a better life balance. Their rewards seemed shallow to me. I was feeling lucky that God was showing me the emptiness of what our culture calls “success.” Then Hagberg’s book helped me get to a place where I knew I had to find an alternative.

The rich man Jesus was speaking to was in a similar position as my managers. He was different from me, however, since he already had the riches. So, for me,  it was much harder to give up my riches, since they were still potential. One of my managers, that I was close with, was struggling in this position. He didn’t like the long hours, or the pressure to perform, and the politics. But he said he had to “keep up the lifestyle.” He had a wife and a new baby. She expected to live a certain way. He didn’t see any other option. I no longer work there, but I sometimes pray for him to find a way out.

Suggestions for action

Are you currently in a position that our culture rewards, but starting to see it lose its luster? Are you seeking something deeper and more meaningful?  Ask God what he has for you, and if there a way to move forward with integrity into what he has made you to be.

I had to ask the hard questions of what was I doing in the place I was. I am still asking God how to move towards something more rewarding. I saw the flaws in what they were offering, and was happy God showed it to me before I followed them down that path.

Go ahead and ask yourself the hard questions. There is nothing wrong with succeeding or being promoted, or with being given more responsibility. It just might be exactly where God is leading. Just beware the dangers that might come with it, and stay close to God on your path.

September 24, 2014 – conscience

This is part 3 of a 12 part series.
These next two weeks I’ll be sharing my thoughts inspired from the book Real Power by Janet Hagberg. It’s a very unique book, that I like to describe as a truth-speaking Trojan Horse cleverly disguised as a corporate self-help book. It has meant so much to me that I could go on and on.

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Acts 18:9-17

While Gallio was proconsul of Achaia, the Jews of Corinth made a united attack on Paul and brought him to the place of judgment. “This man,” they charged, “is persuading the people to worship God in ways contrary to the law.” Just as Paul was about to speak, Gallio said to them, “If you Jews were making a complaint about some misdemeanor or serious crime, it would be reasonable for me to listen to you. But since it involves questions about words and names and your own law–settle the matter yourselves. I will not be a judge of such things.” So he drove them off. Then the crowd there turned on Sosthenes the synagogue leader and beat him in front of the proconsul; and Gallio showed no concern whatever.

More thoughts to ponder

I was at my cell group one week and a friend was talking about a dilemma at his job at a bank. He was a customer service representative tasked with helping customers with their problems and steering them in the right direction. The dilemma was in being asked to keep the corporate line: meeting budget numbers, not giving too many refunds, and not spending too long with each customer. He was inspired to ask himself the question “What does this person really need? How can I serve them?” instead of asking “What does the corporation want?” — even though he knew this might hurt his own status at the bank. He started to get some flack from his managers about meeting the corporate goals, but on the other hand, he was getting amazing customer feedback, and creating loyal customers — even though he wasn’t exactly doing what they were telling him because he was sticking to the job’s true mission: to serve the customers.

The truth is, he was more in tune with the real function of his job, the “spirit of the law,” than following his bosses “letter of the law.” The mystery of growth out of a place of powerlessness usually involves breaking through the mystery of not knowing how exactly to get there — following the spirit beyond the present letter. Janet Hagberg calls it following the “unwritten rules” of an organization. What my friend demonstrated was a willingness to do what he knew was right, to follow a higher knowledge than what the written rules were. For taking that risk and following his conscience, he was ultimately rewarded with a promotion.

The apostle Paul had a slightly different experience than my friend, but was demonstrating the same strength time and time again. He went with what God was telling him to do, despite going against “the law” and what the Jewish leaders were telling him to do. He was constantly attacked, and put into prison multiple times. He was ultimately rewarded by seeing the followers of Christ grow in number and knew he would receive an eternal reward.

Christ calls us to learn these same leadership skills — even when it is not easily apparent just when we might need to go against the “letter of the law,” or against the trends of the day. We could be rewarded (or imprisoned for risking) in many different ways. The easing of our conscience is sometimes the best reward.

Paul was put in jail for preaching and doing what he understood God wanted to do. They kept telling him you’re not supposed to be doing it that way.

Suggestions for action

Are there things we need to be doing for God that go against what we are being told to do by the powers that dominate us? Do we need to demonstrate some new leadership despite what those above are telling us? Is there a leader or someone in a position ahead of you that has demonstrated this development, someone you could model?

Ask God for the wisdom to discern the spirit of the law, and the strength to step out and demonstrate it.

September 23, 2014 – powerless

This is part 2 of a 12 part series.
These next two weeks I’ll be sharing my thoughts inspired from the book Real Power by Janet Hagberg. It’s a very unique book, that I like to describe as a truth-speaking Trojan Horse cleverly disguised as a corporate self-help book. It has meant so much to me that I could go on and on.

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

Read Acts 9:1-9

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked. “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.

More thoughts to ponder

We have all experienced being powerless and having to rely on someone else for our needs. We learned this as children; our parents had control and we had to ask for everything we needed. College students voluntarily put themselves in this position; they are seeking out knowledge but aren’t in control until they graduate and start acting on their new skills. I had to have some surgery and realized the vulnerable state I was in when I signed some papers and they put me to sleep; after that, I was under their complete control.

Saul was a pretty powerful person, fighting against the early Christians. He was on a warpath when he had his encounter with Jesus. God’s plan was extreme: put Saul in a completely powerless position by temporarily blinding him. He had to be led by the hand just to walk around. Saul had a lot to relearn.

It’s hard to be in such a position, but it is a necessary stage in our lives — one that we may temporarily go in and out of. Sometimes it’s voluntary, other times it’s put upon us by health, unfairness or by an act of God (like Saul’s case). You might be in this stage in an entry-level job and have to do exactly as you are told. This is okay. It’s a normal part of life. What we should know is that being in this state is okay.

But there may come a time when you need to move out of this stage or condition. In that case you will need to ask for help. It might be asking how to do something at your job. It might be overcoming the fear to move out on your own. We just need to be okay with asking for help.

Suggestions for action

If you are in a powerless position, ask God for patience while you are there. It’s okay to ask for help.

Have you made up your mind to move out of that stage? God might be calling you forward. Is there someone you know who knows more than you who could help you move forward?

You might be stuck in a system – a system created to manage you, that doesn’t necessarily empower you, or show you a way out. Pray for help and ask those around you if they know a way out or a way to manage while being there.   

Is there a lesson to be learned by your situation? Make sure you don’t miss a lesson God might be trying to teach you.

If you see someone else in this position looking for help, can you reach out a hand to guide them?

September 22, 2014 — flexible

This is part 1 of a 12 part series.
These next two weeks I’ll be sharing my thoughts inspired from the book Real Power by Janet Hagberg. It’s a very unique book, that I like to describe as a truth-speaking Trojan Horse cleverly disguised as a corporate self-help book. It has meant so much to me that I could go on and on.

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt from it

Read Luke 19:1-10

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but because he was short he could not see over the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.

More thoughts for meditation

The inflexible manager at H&M

I’ll begin with a simple exchange at H&M. I offered to do a clothing return for a family member. All the clerk had to do was credit the money back to the same account. The clerk told me that since I wasn’t the same person, that she couldn’t do it. I showed her my ID, that I had the same last name as the card, and that since she was just crediting the account it shouldn’t be a problem. She said, “Sorry it’s company policy.” I asked to speak to the manager. She said “I am the manager.” Being the smart guy I pretend to be, I walked to another part of the store to try another clerk. That clerk couldn’t do a return on their own, and had to call the manger for help. You know who shows up next.

I was pretty frustrated, that she wouldn’t be flexible. I think we’ve all had experiences with a difficult city worker, or a customer service worker on the phone, where the solution seems quite simple but they seem to be getting some enjoyment out of making it difficult for you. A person in a true position of power wouldn’t behave this way.

I realized later, that she probably deserved my sympathy. This might be the only place in her life where she had some power and so it was her only chance to exercise it. Often people in this stage of development believe that there are only two types of people: those that have power and those that don’t.

Zacchaeus was in a similar state. As a tax collector he was hated. He had probably cheated a lot of people out of their belongings simply because he could. When Jesus came across him, He decided to simply love him. Zacchaeus quickly understood, became a follower and changed his ways.

As Christians we are asked to love and understand in people positions of powerlessness. If they are a person we have to continually deal with, perhaps we can show them a better way by how we react to them, or by loving them despite their unimaginative reactions to their condition.

Suggestions for action

If you come across someone who seems to have a power trip going on, they might be a person experiencing powerlessness. How can you show them some respect? Is there an opening where you could demonstrate a different way?

Show them the power God gives us by acting courteously and giving them some love and understanding that they might not be receiving.

September 21, 2014 — still

Today’s Bible reading and an excerpt

God is our refuge and strength,
a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
though the mountains shake in the heart of the sea;
though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble with its tumult.

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
the holy habitation of the Most High.
God is in the midst of the city; it shall not be moved;
God will help it when the morning dawns.
The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter;
he utters his voice, the earth melts.

The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge.
Come, behold the works of the Lord;
see what desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease to the end of the earth;
he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear;
he burns the shields with fire.
“Be still, and know that I am God!
I am exalted among the nations,
I am exalted in the earth.”
The Lord of hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our refuge. Psalm 46

More thoughts for meditation

You may have heard the line “Be still, and know that I am God!” before. It can fruitfully be used to call our souls to quiet, individual prayer. But its context also implies that God is speaking to the nations, calling people groups out of their fighting and into reconciled, whole relationships.

Can you engage with the Psalm on more than one level? Can it be, for you, a call to practice the experience of God as your refuge? Can it request that you disarm when you relate to your intimates, your friends, the stranger who would be your enemy? Can it inspire you to be a spoke in the wheel in the machine of war?

Suggestions for action

Reread the Psalm, slowly. Listen to the Spirit speaking.

Our Circle of Peacemakers leads us to engage with the Spirit on more than one level. Choose an option from the below, inspired by the Circle of Peacemakers festival Friday night, as the Spirit leads:

  • As Sarah White did at the Festival, read the Psalm aloud as a prayer. Maybe read it over your child, your family, your block, asking the Spirit to be a help and a refuge.
  • As Rachelle Lyndaker Schlabach reminded us, we need a regular experience of God’s care and love to have endurance in our work as the body of Christ. Take five minutes – set an alarm on your phone if you need to – and call to mind the troubles you need a refuge from. Allow yourself to notice God’s reaction. Imagine the loving welcome he gives to the troubled parts of your soul.
  • Prepare to take action as a part of Christ’s body. Like the Circle of Peacemakers on Facebook. Visit or subscribe to their webpage at Block off December 5 for our evening conversation about peacemaking in Palestine with our friends from the MCC who have lived there. One small action might lead to another, and another.
  • Prepare to be the voice of God, by connecting with resources that allow you to say “Be still” to the warring nations. Sign up for the MCC Washinton Office’s Action Alerts, so you can participate in calling the nations to peace. Make plans to go to the Circle of Hope Compassion Teams festival, to connect with others calling for peace in our region. Welcome peace on your block, by listening for the conflicts that will happen this week, and the call of the Spirit to say “Be still.”

Pray: Lord, may I be still, and know you as God. Be my refuge in times of trouble.