BREAD

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Consider for a moment a meal without bread. This is what we have to deal with in a Gluten-free home. No bread sticks, no pretzels, no real pasta (we have to use the fake, g-free stuff), and no fluffy white crusty loaves. It is a staple for most families – from sandwiches to meals. Even in Pakistan, there is a yummy flat bread that we made called “roti” or the fluffier equivalent is “naan” at every meal. For breakfast, we had “paratha” which is a fried flat bread that you eat with honey and cream. It’s absolutely delicious.

When my husband found out that he had a severe gluten allergy, it was tough – not only on him but also on the rest of us. It made him sad to see garlic bread he couldn’t have. Also, at restaurants, they throw that fresh out of the oven bread in front of you and we all have to sadly ask them to take it away. It’s a stretch to compare this to what the Israelites had to deal with in the desert when they were wandering about for 40 years, but I know that when God promised that he would feed them he came through.

There aren’t that many things we need in reality. Living without bread took some time, but we have all become accustomed to it. It’s funny how once things are taken away, we realize that maybe weren’t even that good for us (i.e. the white Wonder Bread). When the Israelites were hungry, God Almighty fed them. He didn’t skimp on them either, he gave them bread from Heaven called “Manna.” If you look up what Manna means in the dictionary, it states it’s something from Heaven. In Hebrew, the Israelites were literally saying “what is it?” (Exodus 16:15). What’s interesting to me is that they knew that it was something special and supernatural. It covered the ground like a white dust. When it got hot in the day, it melted away. When you put it in your mouth, it was like a wafer with honey. God fed his people in a miraculous way and he gave specific instructions – gather only enough for the day (or it will putrefy and get worms). Of course, there’s at least one who doesn’t follow directions and they found out what God said was true.

When Jesus came, he made a HUGE claim. He said to the people “Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst (John 6:35).” The Jews at the time of Christ must have noticed that he was making a divine claim to basically say that He was the bread that comes down from heaven. Furthermore, when I was studying the book of John in Bible Study Fellowship (BSF), when Jesus was tempted in the desert, he stated that man does not live by bread alone (Matthew 4:4 and Deuteronomy 8:3) but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.  When you realize that Jesus is the Word of God and also the bread, the connection is truly amazing.

Bread is a physical thing. It nourishes our body and gives us something even in place of a whole meal. When we rely on the Word of God to sustain us, we are counting on the claim that Christ made that He is the one who feeds us with his body and word. It is something I have been thinking about, as I study God’s word.

If you don’t read God’s word on a regular basis or have never read God’s word, this is a new day! Try it out and see how He feeds you and sustains you daily. He will make things fresh and new in your life – relationships, issues, how you look at work and other people. It is amazing how the promises of God come through in the way that he has had His word written through the power of the Holy Spirit, within 66 books by 40 authors over 1500 years. Yet, there is a constant throughout it – God is the One who sustains your life.

It’s amazing and it’s a new year. If you are not in a Bible Study, ask me about BSF and how it has helped to nourish and grow me in my Christian walk. Get to know Christ and how much He loves you… I pray this for you today. Amen.

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Lottery – A Perspective on Decision Making

Delaware lottery

The Lottery was the big topic on Thursday morning and I was doing Corporate Training for a business here in OKC. The participants were even talking about it as I walked in the door. The payout of 1.2 Billion dollars was just inconceivable to me and it reminded me of this decision making example. On the way to training, I was listening to a Christian radio station. It really irritated me that they were ALSO talking about the lottery in the morning. For some reason, I continued to listen and they did something very interesting: They interviewed “regular Joe’s” on the street about what they would do if they won the Lottery. Their answers were pretty much the expected: buy a new car, a new house, etc. One man even said that he would buy a yacht. When the interviewer asked why, he answered “why not?!”

Then they interviewed HOMELESS people. They went out and asked what they would do if they won. The answers got me really choked up! One man said that he would first feed as many people as he could – like a big party for all who were on the street. Then he said he would donate money to some of the organizations that were out there feeding other people like him. He would of course, buy a home and get himself off the street so he could help others get homes to do the same.

The next man said that he would instantly help some of his friends who were living on the streets. He said that most of his money would be donated to the churches that were down in that area who had helped him personally. When the interviewer asked him if he would buy a yacht, he said “What? Why would I do that? A yacht never helped nobody.”

I wanted to talk about this because problem solving and how we make decisions are not done in a vacuum. There are outside influences that shape each and every decision we make. For example, I had everything taken away from me when we moved to the United States – not because my parents were mean, but only because we were moving across continents and could only bring 6 suitcases with us! It was quite terrible for a girl of 10.  Today, I still have a problem letting go of stuff. The only thing that saves me is JESUS telling us to not store things on earth but to store up treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:19-20).

19“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 20“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal…

In addition,  I am blessed by the knowledge that all things come to me from God and that I need to give them away. Giving gifts is something that I DO love, so I will accumulate and then one day, go to the Veterans Administration or Cancer Center and give them 20 new crocheted hats or jewelry or pajamas and socks or something like that.

There are reasons deeper than the workplace (or church or soccer team) that can come into play. I think we have to be mindful of that when we see others having control issues or when they hold on to a project or concept and even get angry when you suggest any type of change! It doesn’t always have to revolve around you – they may not be angry or upset at you, but at what that decision may represent for them (letting go of control, insecurity in their personality, or even abuse in the past).

I think  there’s a great lesson to be learned in all this – when you make decisions, you can either choose to look at them as they impact you OR you can choose to look out first and see how they impact others.

LeadHERship

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What’s the deal with women in power? As a young, driven woman who was just starting out her career,  I made many mistakes and let power get to my head. Some mistakes were small and others could have impacted or even curtailed my career, like the error of not following chain of command in a traditional organization like Campbell Soup Company. Fortunately for me, I had a kind and generous mentor named Chuck Hatz who was able to step in and guide me through management pitfalls.

As I look back on that experience, I realize that not many are blessed to have another give them advice on how to maneuver or even advance on the corporate ladder. In fact, I realized slowly that the ones who were the least helpful in my career path were WOMEN. Before I heap accusations on those women who did not mentor me or even lend a kind word of encouragement, I need to look at my own actions as a manager as well.

When I joined the management ranks, I was a supervisor. I worked mainly with two men, so things were good. When the opportunity to rise higher into a manager’s position, however, the battle lines were drawn and I quickly found out that I didn’t have many friends. In fact, most of my competition were women of equal rank. It was cut throat. I found out after I got the position mainly due to my education, that a woman closest to me had said something personal and derogatory about me to the VP. He thought it to be unprofessional (especially in Human Resources), so he did not even consider her for the position. Her desire to hurt me ended up getting her booted out.

This woman was a colleague. She was someone I had lunch with on a regular basis, so it didn’t rest easy with me. It was around this time that I had been looking at Japanese management traditions of Kaizen (collaborative management) and found that before making any big decision or doing problem solving, they went to their peers individually and got input. I thought that to be a huge waste of time! Why do that when I knew what needed to be done and go do it?

This very thing turned out to be the key in why women were not getting the larger promotions and why there seemed to be a general lack of trust among us. No one wanted to consult with another. All of us were very competitive and sabotaging the other’s efforts. In an attempt to be noticed by Executive management (=men), we were setting each other up for failure and being petty. What an eye-opener for me.

As an HR manager, I knew I could personally do something to change this. Using collaboration and not competition as my incentive, I set about asking the other female management their input on ideas and projects. I was immediately met with distrust, criticism and even sarcasm – what, is this job too difficult for you, that you need to ask for help?

Fortunately, not all of my peers were like this. I found a lifelong friend in Christine who was kind and helpful to me. In addition, I had women in my department who were caring and driven to help others. We formed a small but close-knit team. The easy collaboration in HR training began to be evident as we shared leadership roles. There was a desire to help one another and to share our strengths as a team.Other women began to look to this team as an outreach and support within the organization. Several women began to gain promotions and opportunities to excel, including me.

I share all this to make a point. Until women begin to set aside the competitive nature of business and our own prejudices against other women (she’s not career-minded her clothes are not right, etc), we are not going to be looked at as serious contenders for executive level positions. Women do not have to set aside our feminine qualities of being able to talk to one another, to empathize, to nurture relationships in order to get ahead. We don’t have to be so driven that we get a calloused edge that doesn’t take others into account. In a culture that feeds the “me, me, me” ego, climbing the corporate ladder means stepping on other women’s heads in order to see our own star rise.

As a Christian, this is made even more clear to me by Jesus Christ’s teachings, especially when he said “So the last shall be first, and the first last ” Matthew 20:16. That doesn’t leave much room for corporate ambition, does it? What one doesn’t realize right away is the blessing you get from helping others and putting your desires off for a minute or two. Getting promotions was nice (I won’t lie!) but it wasn’t nice to not have a peer to peer network of women you could trust. Getting recognition was nice, but I didn’t realize that it meant that I took it from others and gave no one else credit. When we started sharing and helping one another, we began to celebrate each other’s contributions and victories. Our enthusiasm, relationships and strength multiplied.

Bill Gates said that “As we look ahead to the next century, LEADERS will be those who EMPOWER others.” So what steps can we take today to help those around us? This Forbes article gives a great list of strengths women have that naturally lend themselves to helping others. In addition, I have a few to add that can apply to both men and women:

  1. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Look for opportunities to help fill the gap.

  2. Ask for the worst assignment. Your colleagues will thank you (& think you’re nuts!) and your bosses will appreciate you.

  3. Be willing to help not only at work, but outside work. When you see your co-worker as a mom, wife, daughter, or in a different role, you will gain respect and learn to set aside any prejudice you may have formed against them.

  4. Pray for them and for yourself to be placed in situations where you have to serve others.

We need to build each other up – both men and women. When you break others down, you get torn down right beside them. There is collateral damage. The true hallmark of a leader is when you help to develop others’ skills and strengthen them. Along the way, your own skills will be strengthened, built and sharpened.

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17