Pot Pies and Clogged Pipes

My sweet mother-in-law is hosting all of us for Thanksgiving tomorrow. We got a harried phone call tonight that relayed to us that we may not have a Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. Well, we may have one, but it will be somewhat of a mess as the sink is not working after they put a pot pie in the drain. Not sure if the pot pie did it or if it may have been something more sinister. Bottom line was that it did not bode well and not much thanks was being given over the state of the impending family dinner.

During the call, it was evident that all sorts of things had already been tried. It was out of their hands and possibly into the hands of a plumber who may or may not show up.  When my mother-in-law asked towards the end of the call for us to pray, I felt that maybe we should go ahead and pray immediately. Some people may think that is ridiculous! That God has other more important things going on in the world than to contend with clogged pipes at the Earnest home, but I beg to differ. God is our Father and for pipe problems, I always went to my own dad. God is interested in the details of our lives. He Himself knows every hair on our head (Psalm 139). He says to bring all things to him.

My “Paul” was named Cindy. When I became a Christian, she helped me to understand our relationship with God and also how He cares about us as His children. We were at Hancock fabrics and I was to sew some curtains for her dining room. We had two lovely Waverly fabrics to choose from and neither of us could decide. So, she said “let’s pray.” Right there at Hancocks. Right in front of the fabric. She had already grabbed my hands and closed her eyes when I interrupted her with a laugh. “I don’t think God is going to drop everything and help us make a fabric decision! He has other things going on, like famine in Africa and peace in the Middle East.” Undeterred, she shined a benevolent smile on me and said “Mona, if you cannot trust God with the little things in your life, how will you trust Him with the big things?”

I am not often left speechless… I immediately bowed my head and we prayed fervently for the Elass family curtains. Turns out that He did help Cindy choose the most beautiful fabric. The curtains were perfect – just as the important lesson I learned about my perfect Father’s most perfect character. If we don’t trust Him in the little, we will not turn to Him in the big.

So tonight, I was reminded of the lesson I learned eight years ago at Hancocks and thus we prayed fervently for the sink. Right after my mother-in-law and I prayed, the plumber showed up. About an hour later, the sink was fixed and dinner is on again.

I thank God for all the things He  provides, including opportunities to daily strengthen our faith in Him as the loving Father who provides plumbers and curtains.

Lord, we thank you for the blessings you provide daily and for the people you place in our lives. We thank you for the blessings of today and those you will pour on us tomorrow. In all things, with prayer and thanksgiving, we turn to you. Amen.

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Elusive Happiness

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In the Undergraduate Business class I am teaching this week, as well as in a training seminar on Stress & Time Management last Thursday, the theme of “Happiness in the Workplace” kept coming up. There are so many things out there that are telling us as individuals to be HAPPY – in the 80’s, the song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” sparked a whole marketing array of T-shirts with smiley faces that reminded us to be happy. Pharrell Williams’ song is so HAPPY that I cannot listen to it without wanting to dance! 🙂
The more I ponder this, the more I think that much of that has spilled into the workplace. Leaders and Managers somehow believe that they are solely responsible for the “Happiness” state of their employees and that there should be a general feeling of well-being at the workplace. Employers are also convinced that if their company is not making them happy, maybe they should leave.

Where did this idea come from and is it something that can be achieved?

There are many companies out there that state they love their employees and put them first. I think this is not a bad place to start. Disney is simply amazing in this category of employee well-being! They even have a book called “Inside the Magic Kingdom” and it shares some of the things that they tell their employees to do in order to help make the customers happy. One of the most interesting parts of this book is where they explain to their employees that the whole park is a stage and they are simply characters playing a part. So, if you are a Disney Street Sweeper, you are playing the part of the Street Sweeper and you must do that well!

I have a friend who took her family to Disney World a few years ago. I got so tickled from the story she told me when they got back. While at Epcot Center in France, her elderly mother-in-law asked the Princess Belle from Beauty and the Beast “Where are you from?”  She dutifully answered “I grew up in  a small village in France.” Then, the grandmother said, “you are so very beautiful, is your family here now?” She gave the answers from Beauty & the Beast, about how her father, Maurice was an inventor and he was sent to prison for no reason at all; how she loves to read books and how she ended up at a large estate (the Beast’s) – the grandma never caught onto the fake movie answers… she simply believed it!

I think there might be something to that approach Disney takes. Belle cannot have a bad day (well, she can, but she has an important job to do). If you have your employees, especially those in Customer Service take on a role, they may see things a bit differently. For example, every time I go to teach or train, life is not always rainbows, roses and sunshine! I have had to go into some very tense situations at work. You cannot just bring your own junk to the party. You have to address what is going on and cope with today’s issues.  So, I play the role that I was hired to play that day- as a trainer, teacher and motivator. I have to deal with what I am supposed to be doing that day. Jesus had a saying for that…

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own ~Matthew 6:34

Think about this… if you could just deal with what’s in front of you (instead of going on a flight of fancy for all the other things that you need to get done that week), I think your attitude might be a bit different. A friend once told me that she heard someone ask “What if tomorrow, you would only get the things that you were thankful for today?” Yikes! Did I thank God for my health, my home, my marriage, children, my job, shoes (yes, lots of them!), food, bank account, car…? What if we take just a moment out to think of all the things we should be HAPPY about and not dwell on the negative? Glass half-full is not just a philosophy, but is a commitment to CHOOSE one thought over another. It is known as Cognitive Behavior Therapy in the Psychological world. In the Bible, it’s known as 2 Cor 10:5

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ ~ 2 Corinthians 10:5 [emphasis added]

When will we learn that our thoughts and negative thinking can multiply and poison not only our minds, but of others around us? How about weeding out that negative thought in the mind as it sprouts forward, not allowing it to grow and take over the flower bed? If you do take those thoughts captive, not only will you find happiness, but also JOY – that is a more permanent state of the fleeting happiness we see daily. JOY comes from a deeper place, a calm and restful place that says “It is well with my soul.”

 

 

Why is there Suffering?

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What a question~ especially with the Paris Attacks on Friday. My husband and I were on a plane back from Florida and the RZIM conference that I mentioned in my post a few weeks ago. I love being on an airplane – not because of the joy of the ride, but it’s mainly because the person next to me is a captive audience the moment they buckle up their seat belt. I wait for that little click and it’s my cue to be on. So, I do what I normally do in any HR interview… I ask them questions about themselves. People love talking about themselves and frankly, I love to listen to them talk. You find out the most amazing things and then there are those things you would’ve rather not known. The same is true for any HR interview – it’s that little question at the end “So, is there anything else you would like to tell us about yourself?”

On an airplane, things are not that formal. I usually start off with “are you going somewhere or coming back home?” I can also gauge how open or closed that person is to talking when they pop their pesky little earbuds back into their ears. But that does not stop me. I am kind of persistent (ask my husband! Ha!). I ask other things like – do you have a dog waiting for you or family?

So, on this flight from Atlanta (connected from Florida) to OKC, I got the middle (which I love!) and Stephen got the aisle (which he loves). This young man got the window. He was in good spirits about it and thanked me for not being 6’5″ and 350 pounds. It was a good start. I asked him the usual stuff and found out that he was an Engineer for NASA… not joke. I was sitting next to a Rocket Scientist. We talked for almost an hour (it was an hour & a half flight) about Engineering (our son, Jacob is in his first semester at OC in Engineering) and how wonderful it was for him to do Thermonuclear Engineering for Space Craft.

About 50 minutes into this conversation, I prayed in my heart “Lord Jesus, I want to share about you, but how do I bring you into Thermodynamics at NASA?” I’m not sure how, but I asked him something along the lines of “you’ve told me about how awesome your job is, but what about your personal life. Where do you find your HOPE?” He paused for a second and said “in people.” The minute he said that, he made a face. I smiled and said “Wow! For a smart guy, that’s not the best, most secure place to put your hope.” He then said that he wasn’t sure if he bought into the “religion stuff.” I think I surprised him by telling him that Jesus didn’t like the religious people of his day either. In fact, he called them “Hypocrites.” Jesus doesn’t want rule-followers. He wants a relationship based on LOVE.

 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness. ~Matthew 23:27-28

In fact, in the Matthew passage above, there were 7 woes to the Pharisees (see Matthew 23:13-39). He was surprised to hear me say that. In fact, he told me that no one had ever told him that before. The next thing out of his mouth was the question above “If God is so good, WHY IS THERE SUFFERING?” Having come straight from the RZIM four day conference, I felt prepared to answer that. One of the things a speaker (cannot remember who) said was that when RZIM teaches apologetics (defending the Christian Faith) was to look for the question that was underlying the main question. What the young man really was asking is “Why am I suffering?

Because God doesn’t waste anything, I was able to answer the question based on my scientific education (Bachelors of Science in Microbiology, Minor in Chemistry… don’t even ask me). I said “To answer that question, let’s take a look at what you do for NASA. You calculate and design systems that deal with the impact of heat within a vessel. Even in a perfect laboratory setting, you will have breakdown of matter and heat will escape, right? Well, how is this world any different? The Lord created all things and He deemed them as being “good.” When sin entered the garden, it brought degradation and a breakdown of the perfect system. This world is broken. That’s why your experiments should work out in theory, but when you put them into the physical world, they break down. Man is not a perfect entity. Man is broken. We have to be saved from something outside of us. We cannot be the HOPE. Only Christ can. He was the only one who was perfect and sinless.

In your experiments, you have a standard, right? You even told me that you do validation of data for other vendors who contract with NASA. Where did that standard come from? What if the vendors told you that they would use their own data to tell you if their work was okay, instead of using your standards. Would that work?” He said “No way, that wouldn’t even work!” “So, in the same way, we Christians look outside of the world to find the standards for everything – if we create our own basis for ethics and morality, what is real and what is truth, it will not be a consistent measure. Just as one vendor would tell you one thing, the other will make his data fit his own measure as well.”

I also thought it was a good time to ask the other question. So I asked him point blank “Are you suffering?” He immediately got tears in his eyes and looked away. He told me that his dad died suddenly while he was in his Master’s program. He said that he was not even done with grieving yet and that he chose to ignore it, but it wasn’t going away. He could not come to terms with it. I told him about Jesus, the suffering servant. The only one who could know what this young man was going through. I told him about the Loving Father God, who gave up his son and who knows this young man by name. In fact, I told him that God knows every hair on your head.

He said that he wanted to know more and that Christianity seemed like a set of rules and not as a relationship. At this point, Stephen popped in and asked him if he liked to read. He said that he would be on another 1.5 hour flight after this one. He handed him Ravi Zacharias’s book “Can Man Live without God?” He promised to read it. Before we landed, the three of us held hands and prayed for this sweet young man who was hurt and seeking truth. It was such a joy to be a part of what God is doing all around us. I also have to add a note here: God will use you in a way that is best fitted to you! He will give you the words to share through His Holy Spirit – do not worry. He is the author and perfecter of our faith.

fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. ~Hebrews 12:2

Next time you fly, why don’t you ask for a middle seat? You never know which one of His children God will place beside you.

MY Dad’s Chair

To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. ~Rev 3:21
King Henry VIII

When I was around 12 years old, my dad invited all of us to come and visit him in his new office in Rancho Cordova, CA. He had just received a major promotion with GTE and bragged to us about having his own executive assistant. None of this means much to a young child, but still, I was excited to see where my dad drove to daily. My mom, two sisters and I drove up to see my dad and his new office. I wasn’t too impressed until he came out to the lobby to meet us and began to show us around his office. Everyone knew him as “the Manager” & “head honcho” so I saw very quickly that he was an important man!

He led us all the way up to his office, which was located in a corner with two full walls of windows. He had an impressive mahogany desk and an equally impressive huge leather chair. Both were quite imposing and spoke to his status in the organization. My dad gleefully got in his chair and from behind his desk, looked at his three girls standing in his office. It was a bit daunting and awkward for me to picture my very own dad as someone really important… Who knew?

He must have sensed this in me because he looked right at me and patted his leg to come and sit in his lap. I didn’t need any further invitation. I quickly ran around his desk and jumped into his lap. He let me mess with the phone buttons, open and close drawers, etc. it was a neat feeling to be so close to a man so revered by others and so loved by me.

I am studying revelation in Bible Study Fellowship right now and in last week’s lesson, we covered the verse (on top) from Revelation 3:21. I am still pondering it after so many days. I knew the other verses in the  Bible that say we are co-heirs and that we may approach the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16) and things like that, but I did NOT know that Jesus actually invites us to sit with him on his throne!

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. ~ Hebrews 4:16

Can you even imagine that?

My first thought was “why?” Why would the Lord of the Universe invite me to sit on the throne from where he rules? Ridiculous! That doesn’t even sound right. In the Muslim mindset, God is way up there and you are not even fit to be around him. He is the Master and you are the servant. In fact, God is not present with you in Paradise. He rules above it. He wouldn’t demean himself and come hang out with the humans. Never.

Never… Unless you understand who Jesus is and what He has done for us. He is the one who came down to be with us, not us trying to reach God or the heavens. This is the thing you will not find in any religion. In fact, Jesus is not interested in religion but is completely interested in a relationship. He calls us to trust Him as the Good Shepherd who will lay his life down for his sheep. He is the widow who will turn her house upside down to find the lost coin. He is the merchant who will sell all he has to find the Pearl of great price. He is not interested in a checklist of rules, but is more interested in the condition of your heart.

He is the loving Father who calls us “little ones” and tells us to bring our burdens to him. He is the sweet and loving Father who will one day pat his lap and tell you to come and sit with Him, the King of Kings and Lord of lords, on His throne. Not as a slave or servant, but as His beloved child, created in His image. There, He will wipe away every tear from your eyes.

What a beautiful picture of love and redemption. What a beautiful Savior. Amen.


Unity out of Diversity~ God’s Way

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Last week, I talked about how diversity is looked at here in the United States. I think in order to understand the Unity piece of it, we need to go to the beginning. The VERY beginning, namely, Genesis. My husband and I were guests at the Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM) Founder’s Weekend Conference the past four days and author, apologist Amy Orr-Ewing spoke on the very topic. She stated that when God put forth the heavens and the earth in Genesis, He worked in pairs. He made the Heavens & the Earth, Darkness & Light, Day & Night, Land & Sea, the greater light to govern the day & the lesser light to govern the night, and finally, male & female (see Genesis 1). There is a natural pairing that God does, yet He makes them complementary. Just as the sun lights the day, the moon offers a gentle light at night. Even though they are different, they work together as one.

If you have a significant other, you can further see the diverse nature of man and woman in a relationship. When married, these differences can either make the marriage or break it. So diverse are we in our gender. Take for instance, the difference between my husband and I when it comes to packing for a trip. We used to take one suitcase when we were newlyweds (how stupid can you get?). Now, after 22 years of marriage, we take our own. It’s just better that way. It takes me at least a day or two to pack and even then I don’t feel like I bring enough stuff. I am constantly saying “Oh, I wish I would’ve packed XYZ.” There’s nothing like that for him. It takes him under one hour to pack and he’s good. We have a different way of looking at just about everything – from relationships, to child-rearing, communication, work, weather, and of course, maps & following directions.

Yet, there is something special about the way we work together. It is truly wonderful. One of the greatest blessings is when we end up with the same thoughts on things of importance. We tend to have the same values on religion (God has helped us in an amazing way), family (we had to learn more about each other here), and also how to use logical thought for problem solving. These are things add meaning to our marriage and help us to become one. The most important thing in our marriage, however, was to stop focusing on each other and instead to focus on God.

I think that is also the secret to understanding diversity – whether it’s in marriage or at work. If you focus on what God has designed and look at people for what gifts God has given them, you gain a fresh perspective that is tinged with excitement. I love asking people about what spiritual gifts they have. If you are a believer in Christ, the Holy Spirit has given YOU a gift. If you don’t know what it is, there are many spiritual gifts inventories you can take (try this one here)!

There is diversity in the way that God has made us and He did that because He can – what a glorious creativity! As we walked through the airport, I marveled at all the different types of people I walked past just in the terminal. So many features, skin color, backgrounds… it’s not boring to people-watch. Christ unites us, while the world tries to divide. The world wants to divide into categories: rich, poor, slave, master, Jew or Gentile.

There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

Yet, when He looks at us and calls us, He tells us to keep the unity of the Spirit. One body, One Spirit, One Hope, One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism, One God and the Father of all. This is true unity and only through that unity, do we keep the bond of PEACE. That bond of peace only comes through the Holy Spirit and the Prince of Peace, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. Ephesians 4:3-6