These are words I had voiced in prayer to the Lord, seeking His guidance and strength to be an unashamed witness in whatever storms I may face in this life. I had watched people grasp for answers and alternative treatments while trying to grab a few more days, weeks, or months of life in the face of a terminal diagnosis, and I knew I wanted to live with an eternal focus fixed on Christ and the gain of heaven.
My opportunity came on September 16, 2016, when I heard my doctor tell me I had aggressive cancer. The prayers I had prayed for strength and courage to face life’s uncertainties had bolstered my faith and prepared me to bear witness to God’s goodness as I walked this difficult road. Over these last eight months, my wife Sheila and I have learned three principles that have proven true time and again during my diagnosis and treatment and over the whole course of our lives.
#1: TOTAL OBEDIENCE TO GOD’S WORD IS OUR ASSURANCE OF SALVATION AND THE BEST PREPARATION FOR THE STORMS THAT MAY COME.
I like to say that my doctor called on September 16, but God called on September 17. For years Sheila and I have walked through the MacArthur Daily Bible together. In the face of the news I received the previous day, I was met with these words on September 17 – “The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3). That morning my wife and I settled on three prayer points during my cancer journey:
• That God would be glorified in the process
• That God would lead us to the right treatment
• That I would greatly love and serve my wife through the journey
We shared these points with friends and family as we sought the Lord in each area and surrendered to His will and His lordship over the details.
#2: PATIENT, PRAYING BELIEVERS ARE BLESSED BY GOD WITH STRENGTH FOR THE TRIAL.
Our path to treatment was not smooth, and God’s will is not always the road of least resistance. We came up against many roadblocks, detours, and delays – yet all were sovereignly used of God to answer that second prayer point and lead us to the best treatment option. After coming up short on my initial route for treatment, I began researching proton therapy and, more specifically, the pencil beam approach. I learned that Scripps in San Diego leads the way, but that a center in Knoxville (much closer to home) is one of five in the nation that specializes in the pencil beam therapy.
During my initial interview and marker placement in Knoxville, I was given a much more extensive and effective treatment plan than I had initially received in the early days after my diagnosis. As I spoke with the doctor in Knoxville, I could tell he “wasn’t from around these parts,” so I asked him about his background. As only God could ordain, my physician was in Knoxville for a brief time to help with their caseload – on loan from Scripps in San Diego. All the detours and delays had been part of God’s plan to increase faith, strengthen us for the trial, and put us in the exact spot for treatment – with a doctor on loan from the nation’s top pencil beam treatment facility! In addition to all of that, God moved on the hearts of His people, and my treatment was completely paid for in a way only He could orchestrate.
Though the delays with insurance companies and treatment facilities were frustrating, we could see the hand of God in each step. Keep trusting God as you pray and seek Him in the storms because I’m living proof that He gives strength to those who take Him at His Word.
#3: GOD IS SOVEREIGN, AND HE IS WORKING BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER THE STORM. WATCH FOR HIS HAND!
It’s been said that when you pick up your sword to fight for yourself, God puts His down. Cancer was not the only battle we faced over the past few months. While Sheila and I were in Knoxville for treatment, the town where we live and serve was devastated not once, but twice, by tornados, storms, and straight line winds. It was difficult for us to be so far away from Albany as our community was hurting and in turmoil. On top of that, the “storms” hit even closer to home when my younger daughter’s house was broken into. I couldn’t be right there for her within minutes, and this father felt helpless. I was tempted to pick up my sword to fight, but God kept reminding me, “I don’t need you in Albany. I’ve got Albany.”
In 2 Corinthians, Paul writes, “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (4:17). We are reminded that God controls the severity and duration of our trials, and He sees the end from the beginning. Warren Wiersbe notes, “God has His eye on the clock and His finger on the thermostat.” During this time, the Lord kept our focus outward on others and not merely inward on our own circumstances. A friend contacted us who knew of our hearts’ desire to give generously to others. This person allotted a sum of money for Sheila and me to give away at our discretion so that we could continue to experience the joy of giving, even through a trying season. At every turn, we watched God working in ways we had never imagined.
After all we’ve seen and experienced and learned from the Lord, there is one question that echoes in our minds: Are we more like Jesus today than we were on September 15, 2016 (the day before my diagnosis)? Clearly we have seen evidence of life change and growth in godliness in four areas:
1) We have a deeper intimacy with the Lord.
2) We have a deeper intimacy as a couple in our marriage.
3) We have a greater heart and ministry for the suffering.
4) We have a more keen understanding that every moment of time we have is like a diamond that is slipping through our fingers and can’t be regained. We must live intentionally.
God is true to His Word, He keeps His promises, and He never fails His children. It is our prayer that our testimony will challenge fellow believers to build their lives upon the rock, anchored to the Word of God by the power of God through the Spirit of God.
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of Mine and does not act on them, will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and slammed against that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.” – Matthew 7:24-27
I’m proud to announce my friend Jan Harrison has released her second book, “Becoming a Woman Who Knows God by Name.” This new book is a study of the names of God and why it’s important to know the Lord intimately, by His names and attributes.
Jan’s book covers ten names of God: Elohim, El Shaddai, Jehovah Jireh, Jehovah Rophe, Jehovah Nissi, Jehovah Shalom, Jehovah Roi, El Olam, El Elyon and Adonai.
Jan invites her readers to dig deeper into the meaning of God’s names, examining how each one applies to our relationship with Him. Each chapter corresponds with a biblical character’s story and includes a short study section with summary questions or thoughts and a specific prayer.
One of the passages of the book I think will be especially encouraging to women is the study of Jehovah Jireh and how He has provided everything we need through Christ.
Jan writes, “As long as we are determined to provide for ourselves and self-protect, God can’t provide. Jehovah Jireh isn’t your backup plan, He is your plan.”
“When we finally surrender our dreams and treasures and we trust God to provide, we realize His things are so much better. But first we have to let go. We have to release that stubborn, fearful, human grip on our circumstances and give it all to God.”
Throughout the book, Jan references God’s character and lessons learned not only during heartache and pain but in all seasons of life. She discusses how the Lord met her in some of her darkest personal trials.
Whether you need the Healer Jehovah Rophe, the peace that only Jehovah Shalom offers or the provision of Jehovah Jireh, “Becoming a Woman Who Knows God by Name” is a great reminder of His faithfulness to His people.
“In times of uncertainty, there is absolute certainty when you call on God as Creator (Elohim), Provider (Jehovah Jireh), Healer (Jehovah Rophe), Peace (Jehovah Shalom), Shepherd (Jehovah Roi), and more.”
To purchase “Becoming a Woman Who Knows God by Name” by Jan Harrison, please The Source Bookstore at Sherwood Baptist Church or visit Jan’s website here.
Have you ever gone through a season of physical or emotional pain in which you needed God’s healing grace?
I’d like to share a new book my good friend Edward W. Hellman recently wrote and published: “Healing Grace.” Ed, who is an esteemed orthopedic and spinal surgeon in south Georgia, wrote this book for those who are discouraged from dealing with physical hardships such as chronic pain, emotional distress, cancer and other illnesses.
The first half of the book is a 40-day devotional (with a bonus day!) that uses Scripture to encourage and uplift the reader in hopes of drawing him/her closer to the Father.
“In some ways, each of us is a pastor and the sermons we preach include not only the words we speak but how we live our very lives,” Ed writes.
In the second half of the book, Ed provides 12-part biblical instructions for going through physical hardship. The sections include choosing your foundation wisely, preparing, resting, claiming your inheritance, praising and going forth in the Spirit.
Medical professionals can see up to one hundred patients a day, so Ed witnesses many people suffering.
Ed writes, “My prayer is that in reading this, you will be greatly encouraged and that the encouragement you receive will be a blessing to you but also that it will be so overflowing that it will flow out of you to others, so that they may reap the blessing as well.”
You may purchase “Healing Grace” at The Source Bookstore, located at Sherwood Baptist Church.
Providing proper feedback is a vital component of leading a team. Some leaders may find that sharing feedback is difficult, especially when that feedback is addressing a performance issue or is negative in nature. Some people even have difficulties sharing positive feedback… Maybe it feels unnatural, or it is difficult to encourage someone who is generally underperforming. Most leaders wouldn’t argue the fact that there is value in giving feedback, but may not be sure of the best way to initiate the process. Here are some guidelines to follow when providing feedback:
- First, think about the desired outcome. Are you attempting to warn a team member of inappropriate behavior, or upcoming disciplinary action if performance doesn’t improve? Perhaps you are trying to improve communication among teams or encourage a new leader? In any situation where feedback is provided, it is important to consider the desired outcome so that you can guide the conversation in that direction.
- Communicate clearly. This is extremely important when sharing any information, but especially if it involves a team members job performance, whether positive or negative. There is nothing worse than walking away from a leader or superior feeling confused, or thinking that there is an alternative motivation for what was said… The more clear the message, the more likely it is that you will see the desired result.
- Provide feedback in writing. Often times, communication is easily forgotten if not written down. This is especially important when reviewing performance. Some personality types need time to process and think through feedback before they are able to respond verbally or with action.
- Use a proven system when issuing performance evaluations. It is important to be consistent when sharing feedback and the best way to do that is to use a proven system or template for sharing. A good example would be the “Start, Stop, Continue” method. When using this style of feedback, the leader is prepared in advance with several points communicating what the team member should start doing, stop doing, and continue doing to improve performance. The “continue” part of this kind of evaluation gives the leader the opportunity to encourage and reinforce any positive behaviors displayed by the team member.
How do you provide feedback within your organization?
The Five Dimensions of EQ
During my last post, we began discussing Emotional Intelligence (EI), and how it is measured through Emotional Quotient (EQ). There is an excellent video resource available on this topic through Building Champions, a leadership coaching company founded by Daniel Harkavy, the author of the popular leadership book, “Becoming A Coaching Leader”. You can find the video in which Leadership Coach Bob Noack defines these five dimensions in depth by following this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bx8r4fZxVFo.
There are five dimensions of EQ, and the first three are focused on intrapersonal skills (How a person processes internal emotions and day-to-day events): self-awareness, self-regulation, and motivation. According to Building Champions these three dimensions can be defined as follows:
- Self-Awareness: recognizing and understanding your needs, emotions, strengths, limits, drives, and their effect on others.
- Self-Regulation: the ability to control or redirect compulsive impulses, suspend judgment, think before acting, and maintain standards of honesty and integrity.
- Motivation: a passion to work, improve, act on opportunities, and maintain a persistent pursuit of the vision despite set-backs.
The last two dimensions of EQ are interpersonal, and measure how an individual interacts with others. Those two dimensions are defined according to Building Champions as follows:
- Empathy: understanding the emotions of others and taking interest in their concerns; and anticipating, recognizing, and meeting the needs of others.
- Social Skills: proficiency in managing relationships and networks, listening openly, negotiating, and initiating and managing change.
As you think through these definitions and their implications, it is important to remember that these factors can grow and improve over time. Leadership Coach Dan Foster (Also of Building Champions) outlines some great ways to break bad habits as they relate to EQ and growth in leadership in his blog titled “How to Break Bad Habits” which can be found by following this link: http://www.coachdanfoster.com/2014/06/break-bad-habits-part-1/
Over the past few decades thoughts on leadership have changed drastically. In the past, individuals may have been given leadership roles based on seniority or knowledge of technical skills. However, as a younger generation has been slowly introduced into the workforce, expectations of leaders have changed. While previous generations may have chosen one career to stick with for decades, the newest generation tends to shop around for a career where they feel more fulfilled as an individual.
There have been many changes in our society that have been completely undeniable. Technology and social media have made a huge impact on the way the next generation does business. In fact, you can even get customer service support through Twitter now, which would have been unbelievable even twenty years ago! (Can you imagine trying to explain your service issues to someone in 140 characters or less?)
Along with the changes in technology and the job market, the expectations of leaders in our culture have also changed. For past generations it might have been acceptable for leaders to be more autocratic, allowing no space for individual creativity or innovation. Now it seems that the most effective leaders are people who have mastered the art of thinking of others first, and have learned to leverage the strengths of their team members.
It seems that one of the greatest predictors of success in leadership has become Emotional Intelligence (EI). This is a topic that might sound familiar, but hasn’t always been a focus for leaders in years past. Building Champions, a leadership coaching company founded by Daniel Harkavy, has posted an overview explaining EI and how it is measured, which is known as Emotional Quotient (EQ). You can find that video on their YouTube Channel by following this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bx8r4fZxVFo.
In this video, Leadership Coach Bob Noack defines EI as the capacity to perceive, assess, and manage the emotions of self, and of others. The significance of EQ as mentioned by this video, is that unlike personality tests or IQ, EQ can actually grow and change over time. Throughout this video, Coach Bob discusses the five dimensions that are measured in EQ, and they are as follows:
- Social Skills
As you may have noticed, the first three dimensions of EQ are Intrapersonal, meaning that they relate to how a person processes internal emotions and day-to-day events. The last two are measuring Intrapersonal Skills, which gauge how a leader interacts with others. Next week, I will summarize the five dimensions of EQ here on the blog.
Five Ways God Speaks to Us
When counseling young couples, I explain that in general God speaks to us in five ways, including prayer, the Bible, teaching, worship, and through other believers. The first two ways are typically disciplines that we participate in through one-on-one time with the Lord, while the other three are typically found through attending church and fellowshipping with other believers. This is why I believe regularly attending a local church is so important… Without being around other believers and being under regular teaching of God’s Word, we could potentially be limiting the ways that God communicates with us.
Philippians 4:6, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
1 John 5:14, “This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.”
2. The Bible:
2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
Psalm 150: Praise the Lord!
Praise God in His sanctuary;
Praise Him in His mighty expanse.
Praise Him for His mighty deeds;
Praise Him according to His excellent greatness.
Praise Him with trumpet sound;
Praise Him with harp and lyre.
Praise Him with timbrel and dancing;
Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe.
Praise Him with loud cymbals;
Praise Him with resounding cymbals.
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord.
Praise the Lord!
Philippians 2:9-11, “For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus, every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
5. Through Other Believers:
Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
Proverbs 27:17, “Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another.”
Daily Audio Bible
For the last 15 years, I have made it a discipline to read through the Bible each year. Recently, in addition to my regular Bible reading, I have enjoyed a new, interactive way to listen to the Bible. The Daily Audio Bible is a podcast that was made available by Brian Hardin.
The Daily Audio Bible has been available since January 1, 2006, and has broadcasted a daily Bible reading every day since then, reading through the Bible completely each year. Not only is this daily broadcast available by podcast. It can also be streamed live from dailyaudiobible.com.
As this program has grown in popularity, it has also become a large community for its listeners. With over 64 million downloads to date, listeners can share their struggles and prayer requests on the website, while others offer up prayer and support. Some prayer requests are even featured at the end of the daily broadcast for the entire community to participate in interceding on the behalf of other listeners.
The founder of this community, Brian Hardin has his own blog describing his journey into this ministry, and showcasing other ventures as an author, musician, and artist.
You can find his blog online at BrianHardin.com.
The following are the houses I grew up in they are all in Eden, North Carolina. I wish I had a picture of the first house I ever lived in but it burned to the ground. It was a two bedroom house that my parents had been renting when I was born.
This is a picture of the second house I lived in:
It was on Flint Hill street. You may be able to tell by the picture, but this was not the neighborhood that was envied by others at my school. In fact, being from the Flint Hill area was a running joke with other kids my age. I lived there only as a toddler and don’t have any memories of this house.
This is a picture of the third house I lived in:
The third house I lived in was a two bedroom, log cabin style home. This home was located right above Tacky Branch, and I attended first grade at Lakeside Elementary while living in this house. I could easily walk from here to my grandmother’s house, or to school. Since we lived there the logs have been covered with siding, but I assure you the logs are still underneath the new siding… I’m not trying to go Abe Lincoln on you, but I thought this was a cool house. I have fond memories of eating my mom’s pinto beans in this house… She is one of the best cooks I know.
This is a picture of the fourth house I lived in:
The fourth house I lived in was during my second grade year, and was on Primitive Street. We rented this house from my Uncle “Woody” McBride. He lived only two houses down, and it seemed like our backyard was always full of carnival equipment. This house is where I also started my first construction job. My dad once brought a load of sand into the backyard shortly after I had received a Tonka truck for Christmas. I decided to haul loads of sand around the outside of the house and constructed a one foot path completely encircling our house.
This is a picture of the fifth house I lived in:
I lived in this house throughout the third and fourth grade. It was on Virginia Avenue, and I attended North Spray School while living there. It was while I lived in this house that I discovered my love for football and joined the Shields Knight Arco Oil Company Team. When I was nine years old, our team won the city wide Super Bowl. I continued to play with many of my team mates all the way through high school, and still keep in contact with some of them today.
This is a picture of the sixth house I lived in:
In the early 1970’s my parents bought their first house, and paid a whopping $12,000. It was on Pervie Bolick Street, and was within walking distance of my Junior High and High School. My Uncle “Smoky” moved in with us. He worked with us for decades in the carnival business. When my parents went to work the Carnivals, my sister would stay with our aunt, and I stayed home with Uncle Smoky. I have many fond memories of playing chess with him, and I still have the Bible he gave me for my sixteenth birthday. It is one of my most prized possessions to this day.
This is a picture of the seventh house I lived in:
Sometime around my 9th grade year we moved to our house on Von Ruck Street. I finished out my High School career in this house, and lived there until Sheila and I got married. Years later we ended up buying this house, and it became the first house we owned as a married couple.
My Rite of Passage was a treasured moment. My dad had already shared the experience with my two brothers, so I knew it was something special and valuable for my family. I have to admit, I wasn’t really expecting it because I had already graduated from college and moved back home to start my career.
It started just like any other day, but we had family coming in from out of town, so my dad asked that I make sure to dress nicely. When I arrived at the church to begin my work day, I was surprised to find that several women from my family were there. I was presented with a Bible that had been given to my great, great grandmother on Christmas day in 1955, along with a highlighter.
As I journeyed through different rooms in the church, I was met by my aunt who shared what it meant to be a woman of faith, followed by my grandmother who told me my responsibilities as a woman in our family, and my other grandmother taught me how to leave a legacy. As each woman shared their topic, I highlighted the accompanying verse in the Bible and wrote their name next to the scripture they shared.
I then met with one of my mentors Dee Kelley, who taught me about purity and gave me my promise ring. My last meeting was with my mother who gave me a beautiful ruby necklace. She presented me with Psalm 31:10, “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth more than rubies.” There was a ruby for each woman who invested in my life that day.
After I met with mom we went out for lunch with my family, where my dad had one more surprise up his sleeve. My brothers each received a sword for their Rite of Passage, but my dad presented me with a crown and shared Proverbs 12:4, “A wife of noble character is her husband’s crown…” He told me to place the crown on my bedside table to remind me to pray for the man I would someday marry, and to strive for becoming his crown of honor.
Six years later at my rehearsal dinner, I held up that crown and reminded my dad of the challenge he gave me. I then turned and gave the crown to my husband Mark. I told him that my prayer was always to be a crown to his head. That crown now sits on our bedroom dresser to remind Mark that my heart’s desire is to be the kind of wife that embodies Proverbs 12:4.
Mark and I plan to carry on this tradition with our children. The women who were involved in my Rite of Passage are still key players in my life, and they are people that I can turn to when I need counsel or prayer. It’s important to have friends, but there is nothing like having an older man or woman to challenge and disciple you. I want my children, Penelope and Sawyer, to have relationships and experiences like the ones I have been blessed with through my Right of Passage ceremony.
To read more about my families Rite of passage Ceremony check out the book “Rite of Passage” A Fathers Blessing