“Whatever your task, put yourself into it, as done for the Lord and not for people, since you know that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward; you serve the Lord Christ.”

— Colossians [3:23]–24

 

BELAY AND WORKING FOR THE LORD

In early 2017, I sat at my desk frustrated with the results of my efforts to find quality help in finishing my book and getting my website started, along with my Christian advisory services. It wasn’t that the work being completed was poor in quality; my frustration was that it didn’t have that extra effort. The work given to me was lacking the zeal of commitment. In spite of my willingness to give people the creativity to complete tasks as if they were their own, their work lacked the added value that makes things great.

My goal wasn’t to be good, but to produce the best. While I knew where I was going, I didn’t have the ability to be the best I could be without help. I decided to scrap all my plans and start over. I began by searching the Internet with a stronger focus and looking for Christian-based help. There I found my answer, a Christian-based business called BELAY. They had all the resources I needed to get my website fixed, an assistant to help, and people who desired to be the best.

At first I was skeptical, even stating to my BELAY contacts, Lucy and Meg, “I am used to great performers after working for many years with top companies like Foot Locker and Yankee Candle. Can you achieve this standard?” They didn’t reply with heavy salesperson talk. They replied with a thoughtful plan. A plan that produced in six weeks a world-class website, an assistant that was as strong as I had experienced in my previous jobs, and a direction that gave me hope that I was going to be successful.

“We don’t just work, we work for the Lord.”

What was the difference? My new assistant from BELAY, Kristina, explained it to me one day. “We don’t just work, we work for the Lord.” A simple explanation that spoke volumes. Instead of just getting work done, I noticed a warm assertiveness that insisted on doing things the right way. Polite and firm help that raised our level of performance. I noticed that they understood what I wanted, as a Christian author and advisor, even when it was still vague to me.

As we were approaching the launch date for the new website, I noticed an extra effort. Things I hadn’t thought of got done without my asking. E-mails from Kristina and Erica, the webmaster, would appear at one in the morning and later that day at five in the morning. Things got done. They were working for the Lord Christ.

“Each day I am inspired, because I work with great people…those committed to not just doing the job, but working for our Lord Christ.”

Later, as I was looking for an editor, I applied the same thought, “Find a devoted Christian.” I did, Richard Willett, who edited my manuscript in half the time others had quoted. Changes in my writing were made that improved it without fanfare. The publisher of my book, Jesus and Co., upon receiving the manuscript expressed high satisfaction in the editor’s work.

Each day I am inspired, because I work with great people. My answer was on the Internet, in the form of Jesus and those committed to not just doing the job, but working for our Lord Christ.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

Do we work as if we are working for Jesus?

Why is Jesus the difference in our mindsets?

Are there areas in our work today where we could go from good to great?

 

 

“Be dressed for action and have your lamps lit . . .”

— Luke [12:35]

 

DRESSED FOR ACTION

On 9/11 two planes hit the World Trade Center, causing them to collapse. When they collapsed, thousands of lives were lost and our country was thrown into mourning. It was a great national tragedy. Not only were lives lost in the towers, but the buildings surrounding the Trade Center were crushed. One of the buildings was the Verizon communications center. In that moment Foot Locker lost its ability to communicate with our four thousand stores throughout North America. Immediately we were in a position of mourning for our neighbors and had lost the ability to run our business. 

“Bill was always prepared and dressed for action.”

Bill Johnson, who worked for me and was in charge of our communications network, was ready. I called him by cell phone and asked him what his plans were for recovery. Bill informed me that he had already put his plan in place and by eight the next morning we would have full communications online again. This was classic Bill. He constantly surprised all of us with his ingenuity and thoughtfulness. Regardless of the situation, Bill was always prepared and dressed for action. As he had told me, the next morning our multibillion-dollar business was running normally. 

“Jesus tell us, always be dressed for action and have our lamps lit. We never know what each day will bring.”

Jesus tells us to be prepared for anything. Jesus tell us, always be dressed for action and have our lamps lit. We never know what each day will bring. It could be joy or unique sorrow. But if we are to react well, preparation must be a lifelong commitment. Whether in our business, personal, or spiritual life, this should be how we think, live, and pray. We never know when an important event will occur. Each day is a day of possibility. Each day a sharp turn can occur. Jesus asks us to be prepared.

Two years later, the Northeast was hit with a major electrical outage. With it our corporate headquarters went dark. We had many people stranded in our building who couldn’t go home. We needed power to keep them safe. I called Bill again. He replied, “My guys are reversing the power on the phone system and you can run the building off the battery.” It didn’t surprise me this time that Bill had the answer.

As always he was prepared. 

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

Are we prepared spiritually?

What events have been sharp turns in our lives and were we prepared?

How do we prepare on a daily basis?

 

 

“And seeing a fig tree by the side of the road, he went to it and found nothing at all on it but leaves. Then he said to it, ‘May no fruit ever come from you again!’ And the fig tree withered at once.”

— Matthew [21:19]

 

DO THE FRUITS OF OUR EFFORTS PRODUCE GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE?

I was talking with the business manager of a large automobile dealership and asked him, “How many cars a month does your best salesman sell?” He replied, “Thirty a month, month in and month out.” I was stunned. That was almost one and a half each day he worked. Considering the immense amount of paperwork and government forms that had to be filled out for each car, it was even more impressive. The salesman’s name was Steve, and not only did he sell a lot of cars, but he always achieved very high customer service scores. I queried the business manager about how and why Steve was so consistent. His reply was that Steve’s steady business came almost entirely from past customers’ referrals. He had gotten to a point where he only had to provide good customer service and no longer needed to  make cold calls.

“The fruit of his efforts was a steady stream of loyal customers.”

Steve sent out birthday cards to all his customers. He advocated for them when there was a problem. He would take their cars and get gas for them. He knew everyone by first name. In short, he put his customers first. The fruit of his efforts was a steady stream of loyal customers. His fig tree bore fruit because he cared. Customer first and himself second was the only way to accomplish this amazing feat.

How many times have we felt like a salesperson just wanted to sell something to us to make his or her goals? How many times have we felt cheated because of an extra add-on charge? How many times have our interests been put last? We are left feeling used and just there for people to get our cash. Many of us walk away silently and never do business with that person or company again. The salesperson may have won that day, but lost a future customer and many referrals. For a short-term gain there is a long-term loss. 

“Do we really listen to the customer or are we only interested in the sale?”

In today’s verse Jesus condemns the fig tree because it bore no fruit. It provided only leaves. Its purpose was to produce fruit, but it bore none. Many of us are guilty of this as well. We strive for that big sale. It makes our numbers good and our bosses happy. But silently we ignore the customer and in turn choke off our future. Our withered fruits become our reputation. Do we really listen to the customer or are we only interested in the sale? Would we continue buying something from someone like that, knowing we don’t come first? Jesus knew that good business is great customer service. 

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

Do we listen to our customers or do we push our goals?

How many repeat sales do we get?

How do we show value to our customers?

 

 

“Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

—John [17:17]

 

COLORING OURSELVES WITH TRUTH

I met Bishop Earnest Lyght at Drew University. He was the resident bishop for Drew and was frequently available to the students. When you talked with Bishop Lyght, you could feel his truth. Whatever he said, he meant. When he talked, he talked without agenda. What he believed came from his heart. Not varnished, just a humble recitation of what he believed. He said what he believed with the knowledge that he needed to know more. A conversation with Bishop Lyght was a mutual dialogue. I am sure in silent moments of prayer, he searched his heart and desired only to tell God what was right.

Bishop Lyght was one of the early black bishops of the Methodist Church. He grew up at a time when the Methodist Church was segregated. It wasn’t until 1968 that these separate entities of race were dissolved and black pastors were welcome throughout the church. In spite of this obvious racism, Bishop Lyght continued his ministry with grace and truth. He commonly spoke out for the denied. He worked hard for equal rights of women and the poor. He wrote four books. But when you sat with him, you were with him. He listened and replied. His “thank-you’s” and “good days” were sincere. If something had to be fixed, regardless of the cost, he fixed it. His heart was always centered on the truth.

“Jesus says that our word is the truth.”

Jesus says that our word is the truth. That all we do should be centered on a sanctifying truth. A truth that courses through us to be the only thing we speak and do. In today’s world of fake news,  quick thank-yous that are said as an obligation and sleight of hand, Jesus’s ancient statement still applies. When we meet someone, we should be glad to meet that person. Our thanks in our emails should be sincere. When we tell a story, we should tell the whole story. What comes from us should always be the truth. 

“When we do embody the truth, we set ourselves apart. We create a tapestry of ourselves that reflects the color of truth.”

It is sometimes hard to tell the truth. It can compromise our lives. We worry and fret about the consequences. When we do embody the truth, we set ourselves apart. We create a tapestry of ourselves that reflects the color of truth. We need to be always on guard about where our stories are leading us. Is it to gain favor? Is it to get something? When we say thank you, are we sincere? When we leave out facts, what is our purpose? Each day we struggle to be sincere. Each day we struggle to say what we mean. Each day we desire to be truthful. Some days we accomplish our tasks. Some days we don’t.

I am glad to have met Bishop Lyght. He is, in fact, a beacon of light. He is one of those people we aspire to be. His truth guides us. 

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

What is truth in conversation?

What is truth in action?

How do we feel after we have been sincere?

 

 

“So God created humankind in God’s image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

— Genesis [1:27]

 

IMAGO DEI

George  was raised in a wealthy home and went to Harvard. Instead of studying economics or business, he pursued a path of social advocacy. He eventually graduated with a master’s in Social Work. From there, with his wife, he started an organization called Street Squash, a program that provided inner city youth with access to college. The sport of squash was used to add an advantageous credit for the young people when applying to college, but it was not the primary focus of Street Squash. The students were provided with a place to go after school and study. They had tutors and visited college campuses. The goal was to create access for a segment of our population that needed a head start. George could have been a great investment banker, but chose instead a life of helping.

From his kitchen table George built an organization that has sent thousands of youth to college. And he has helped in the establishment of fourteen other programs throughout the country.   The graduation rate of students from these programs is substantially higher than national statistics. The youth from Street Squash achieve an almost 90 percent graduation rate. Without Street Squash, their chances were 15 percent. George only sees goals. He only sees that the youth are people. He knew that squash gave the students athletic content for their college résumés, and he knew Squash would help him with fund-raising.

“George reflects the Imago Dei, and his life focus is on helping, not labeling.”

Today’s verse comes from the book of Genesis and reflects the earliest statement from God on how humankind is viewed. We are all made in the image of God. Theologians call this Imago Dei. In today’s world of labeling from all corners,  people like George gets lost in the din of noise about racism, liberalism, conservatism, misogyny, and all the other labels we use to describe one another. Our news media encourages labeling because it increases viewership, which in turn increases revenue. All at the expense of the imago Dei. I know George and wish he was better known by others. George reflects the imago Dei, and his life focus is on helping, not labeling.

“There are no differences or labels from one to another when we think of people as images of God.”

In this time of great divide between all the various factions, it is important for us to reflect on what God means with the image of God. There are no differences or labels from one to another when we think of people as images of God. When we label, we diminish the intent of God. The solution to this great divide is turning back to God’s original intent and away from the commercialization of labels.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

How do we see people when we first meet them?

What does the imago Dei look like?

How do we feel when we are labeled?

 

 

“All who saw it began to grumble and said, “He has gone to be the guest of one who is a sinner”

— Luke [19:70]

 

HANGING OUT WITH JESUS

I remember meeting Rudy Rasmus in a private room with a bishop of the United Methodist Church. He was a talker. He had stories that were riveting, about his past, his ministry, and the poor. He is a pastor for a Methodist church in Houston, but prior to that he had run a bordello. He would admit he was a sinner. He’d come to face Jesus and turned his life around. After passing his tests to become a pastor, he was given a church in one of the poorest sections of Houston. The church had nine members. Undaunted he moved forward with this small church. In a move of pure faith and to get more people to come his church, he started paying one dollar to anyone who would show up.

Today, the church Rudy serves is over nine thousand people strong. Thirty percent of the people were previously homeless. And it is one of the most culturally diverse churches in the country. Rudy attributes the success of the church he pastor’s, to the fact that it contains a group of people who embrace the vision of tearing down the walls of classism, racism, and sexism and building bridges to experience Christ. The church feeds the poor. Builds housing for the homeless. All through a nonprofit called the Bread of Life. The church and Rudy have changed the landscape in downtown Houston. Rudy doesn’t usually preach these days; he leaves that up to the other ministers. Instead he greets church attendees at the door and welcomes them. 

“For Jesus and Rudy, there are no class differences, race differences, or gender differences.”

In today’s verse we hear people grumbling that Jesus was going to be a house guest of a sinner. This was a frequent activity of Jesus. He dined with sinners. He stayed at their houses. He spent his time in the Judean marketplace helping all who worked there. Jesus views each person as equal. He even converted women of ill repute. Everyone was worthy of God. For Jesus and Rudy, there are no class differences, race differences, or gender differences. We are all God’s people. Jesus hung out with everyone. 

“We are all God’s people.”

When we see a poor person on the street, do we walk to the other side? Do we judge a person or try to understand their circumstance? It is hard to engage on a sincere basis when we meet someone in a situation different than our own. It is hard to not be wary or judgmental. We all wrestle with the idea of hanging out with those who come from a different social stratum. But we don’t know their journey to this point. Perhaps they were once where we are. Perhaps their circumstance arises from an abusive home situation or poor choices from the past. Perhaps they are grappling with a serious medical ailment. Perhaps they were abandoned by their families. We all have one important thing in common: We are all God’s people.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

How do we approach new people in our lives?

What judgments do we make?

Can we see God in every person?

 

 

“But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.”

– Matthew [5:39]-41

 

PERSPECTIVE

How many of us have been cut off in traffic and replied in anger? Is there a person at work who is constantly irritating us? How often have we started our day and been sidetracked by someone else? These moments test our Christian beliefs. These are the moments in life when Jesus asks us to consider a different response than our natural instincts. In today’s verse Jesus says to reward our offenders. Jesus wants us to show love not hate. In these moments, Jesus wants us to elevate our Christian beliefs. He wants us to have a perspective of being positive and helping the world.

“The moments in life when Jesus asks us to consider a different response than our natural instincts.”

For every negative reaction we get, perhaps we should add a moment of grace to someone else’s life. What if we tried to go to bed every night having done more good than bad that happened to us? What if we went to bed having returned every act of kindness to us with one more to someone else? Today, Jesus is asking us to not engage with retaliation, but with the spirit of God. By doing this we stopping a cycle that can only spin downward.

When we are wronged, there might be an underlying reason that needs our compassion. Perhaps the person who cut us off is late for work or has already had a bad start to his or her day. Perhaps the person who irritates us is in need of affirmation of his or her being. We can never know the real reason for bad behavior, but if we are empathetic we can see the possibilities.

“Jesus wants us to index to the positive and remember all are made in the image of God.”

Jesus is asking us to change our perspective. Jesus wants us to index to the positive and remember all are made in the image of God. Life diverts us from this image. It causes us to move away from our intended purpose. Remembering that we are all made in the image of God changes our perspective. We assign more respect and sympathy to those who are struggling. We become helpers. As Christians, this is perhaps our hardest task. To rise above feeling victimized and slighted. To put on our suit of Christian armor in the face of anger.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

With whom do we need to be more charitable?

Do we see the image of God in people?

How do we find the good in people?

 

 

“Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer everyone.”

– Colossians 4:6

 

THE POWER OF WORDS

At an introductory meeting with a potential business contact to exchange ideas, I was confronted with a request that revealed the true intent of the meeting. After the normal exchange of introductions and pleasantries, I was asked by the other person if he could be my mentor for a fee of two hundred dollars an hour. I recoiled in my mind and wondered why someone would go into sell mode in the first five minutes. It revealed to me the man’s true purpose: not to exchange ideas as he had originally stated, but to harvest money. Because of that one question, I checked out of the meeting, having pleasantly continued just long enough to not offend him.

“When we talk long enough, our words reveal who we are.”

Over time, we learn to discover who is sincere and who isn’t. By listening carefully, we get the clues. It’s in what people ask and their level of interest in us. If it is sincere, the words will be in the form of questions to get to know us. We will know people’s level of interest in us by their use of the word “I” or “me.” Used too often these words indicate self-focus. Do the other person’s words suggest partnership? Is the language appropriate for the meeting? Is the context of his or her comments designed to explore or tell? Are the words gracious or are they demeaning? These are the clues we can derive from the words people use. When we talk long enough, our words reveal who we are.

“The Bible tells us the power words have and calls us to be cautious in what we say and how we say it.”

I was always amazed by Peter Brown, the treasurer of Foot Locker. He would come out of a meeting and tell me exactly what actually just got said. He deciphered this not only by the words that were used, but also by their timing and context. Peter himself was always interested in others. His words were almost always gracious, and people liked and trusted him. He was unfailingly polite and courteous. His words revealed a genuine interest in the other person. Words mattered to Peter, both in what he said and what he heard.

The Bible talks about the power of words and calls us to be cautious in what we say and how we say it. It asks us to be gracious and seasoned with salt. Salt symbolizing integrity and wisdom. People will hear this in our words. Not just in the words we say, but in when we use them. When our hearts are oriented toward being gracious and mutual, our words will flow in the same vein.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

How do we prepare for an important meeting?

Do we think of the other person when we ask questions?

Do we seek our agenda or a mutual agenda?

 

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

– Luke [12:34]

 

WHERE IS OUR TREASURE

Roger is a very successful dentist. Over a thirty-year period, his practice grew to be one of the largest and most respected in his local market, and he has sat on the state board of dentistry. He is a wonderfully protective father and a model husband. Roger’s practice didn’t grow because it was his goal to grow it. It grew because he strived to be the best dentist he was capable of being. As with all things in his life, his focus was on being the best at whatever he was involved in. His intention is always what is right.

“Jesus says that our heart follows our treasure.”

Many times in Roger’s practice he had to take financial losses to advance his professional ability to care for his patients. Each year he went to conferences to learn how to be a better dentist. Each time I went to his office, a new technique or machine was there to better serve my needs. Questions I would raise were always thoughtfully answered in an unhurried manner. I got to witness the professional development of his business over two decades. Many of the other dentists in the area started out strong, but only some, like Roger, grew. Many stayed in place. The trade-off of taking a larger paycheck instead of adding new technology constrained their practice. Over time it diminished their business.

Jesus says that our heart follows our treasure. For a successful business this gets to the root of why they are in business. The simple truth is that a choice must sometimes be made between making more money and being the best at what you do. Many companies, like Yankee Candle, focus on being the best. Yankee Candle has the highest customer likeability of all products sold in America. Like Roger, their focus is on providing the best product. The irony is that being the best costs money at first, but overtime provides long-term financial gains, while the pursuit of money produces a larger amount of money in the short term, a diminished revenue stream over the long term.

“When our treasure is to provide quality service, be responsive and a good follower of Christ, our customers see this in our business.”

Our customers see who we are and where our hearts are, when they are in our businesses. They silently approve or disapprove. When our treasure is to provide quality service, be responsive and a good follower of Christ, our customers see this in our business. When our focus is on money, we distort ourselves. In the short term it may pay off, but our customers see and our community sees. We know when we are following the right treasure, because we are excited about the morning. We enjoy our customers. we want to complete our tasks to the best of our ability. We feel secure.

Eventually, we all have to make this choice of where our real treasure lies.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

What are examples of good customer service?

Why do we work?

Do we wake up every morning excited to go to work?

 

 

“Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.”

– Matthew [4:23]

 

A LIFE-AFFIRMING ELIXIR

We sometimes spend too much time in our inner castles. Many times in my counseling work, I will confront despair. A client will say, “Why don’t they want me?” or “I had a bad week.” When I probe why people feel this way, I often detect that they have spent most of the week by themselves, reflecting or doing self-analysis. It is hard to be alone, and sometimes we are alone even when we are with people. My clients will confess that they didn’t get much done on their “to do” list, which drove them further into themselves, over analyzing and being overly self-critical.

Jesus would sometimes go off to silent places to pray and meditate. Away from everyone. However, he preferred to be among the people. His ministry was dining with other people, walking to distant towns, curing the sick, or helping an individual with insight. It is moments like these moments that remind us most of Jesus. His ministry was an outward expression to others.

“When we walk among people, we receive an elixir.”

When we walk among people, we receive an elixir. An affirmation of ourselves. When we look someone in the eye and ask “How is your day?” we are affirming that person. An inner moment of joy occurs that tells the person he or she is good and worthy. When we ask and then listen, we hear stories about life. We get to know other people. They can share their dreams and worries with us. They are affirmed because we listened. For a moment they have a voice. We gave them a voice. And the sense of our own joy increases also. Our outward interest in other people provides us energy for our own tasks. When we are with others and listen, we receive.

“God wants us among the people, and we are created to interact with one another.”

People like people who like people. I often say this in my sessions. At first it may appear to be self-serving. But if we are sincere about it, we can create a mutual bond. When Jesus walked among humankind, he knew his mission. To heal, and proclaim the good news, but also simply to be with humankind. Our inner castles are good places to rest and pray, but we can only stay for a while. God wants us among the people, and we are created to interact with one another. Through outward expressions we find healing.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

 

PARTING THOUGHTS

Are we sincere when we say good morning?

Do we ask or do we state?

What is the value of questions?