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3 Types of Suffering

When we read the Bible we find people who are suffering. For example, Jesus acknowledges the suffering of the people at Smyrna. For most people in the United States, we use the word suffering to mean unpleasantness and pain, or possibly harm or the threat of harm. Suffering is very subjective. What we call suffering may very well be relief or even pleasure for people in other parts of the world. Things others have learned to live with could be unbearable for us.

The question I want to address today is, “what is the source of suffering?” We are quick to look externally at someone or something being the cause of any difficulty we have. Though not all suffering is equal, the way the word is used for the majority of people reading this article, the causes are very similar. It is my observation that our pain and suffering usually fall into one of three categories.

Self Inflicted
This may be the most common cause of all of our pain and struggle. As I have heard said before, if I kicked the person in the rear that caused me the most problems, I would not be able to sit down for a week. Much of the trouble we find in our lives is a direct result of the choices we make. When we choose to get into debt we cannot handle, we can experience some pain. When we make poor health choices and reap the results of those choices, we can suffer from them. We find the same in relationship choices. Many of the life choices we make have the ability to cause us pain. Much of what we call suffering is self-inflicted. Self-discipline can go a long way to eliminating much of this type of suffering.

Inflicted By Others
Even in what we consider to be a First World country there are still opportunities for others to inflict pain on us. This may come in the form of a crime where we have been harmed by someone else. Other times it may not involve something illegal. It could be an employer that is creating havoc in our life. It may be a relationship we are in where the other party is abusive. There might be laws that make our life more difficult than necessary. Human trafficking is a real problem in America which creates pain for others. Again, what we consider oppression from others may not compare to what people in other parts of the world may experience, but we do have pain inflicted by others in our own lives. Knowing the difference between self-inflicted pain and pain brought by others will give us a better solution. Sometimes simply removing ourselves from the situation will change the pain we are experiencing.

No Control
There are some things that are completely out of our control. There is nothing we could have done to prevent them and we may be limited in what we can do to correct them. Many illnesses would fall into this category. Natural disasters would be something else that we have no control over. The death of a person that is extremely important to our development, such as losing a parent at a young age. These things come into our lives and many times bring great pain and suffering, even devastation. We cannot change these things and we usually cannot avoid them. They are out of our control. The only choice we have is how we’ll respond to the situation. This is critical. Most of us have seen people working through the same issues but their response to those situations is completely different. The attitude does not always change the outcome, but it will always change the outlook.

Pain, difficulty, harm, threats, and suffering will come to all of us. One of the best ways to determine how to respond is to know the source of the trouble. Once we know that, making necessary corrections will be easier and more effective.

Don’t Ignore Warnings

From a very early age, we start to receive warnings. Usually, it is our parents offering a warning first. They are worried we are going to get injured or harmed and their love for us causes them to warn us early and often. Sometimes the warnings are about things that we are just exploring. Don’t stick your finger in the light socket or don’t run around the fireplace. Other times they are trying to keep us from being careless with things like “don’t run with a pencil in your hand”. What parents are trying to do is keep us from consequences. It is not they do not want us to have a pencil or to run, but there is danger and the consequences could be costly. When those consequences don’t materialize, we start to discount the warnings.

This pattern will continue for the rest of our lives. We will hear a warning and then the consequences do not affect us and we start to discount and even ignore warnings. As I read through the Bible, I find lots of warnings. Warnings are not just relegated to the Old Testament. There are plenty in the New Testament and from Jesus Himself. When we do not see the consequences of not heeding the warning, we start to ignore the warnings. Other times they seem ridiculous or they appear to be for someone else. When we do not feel like they apply to us, we will often stop listening. Then when we have consequences, we want to know why no one told us.

There are some things that I know about warnings. Things that we must be aware of so that we do not become tone-deaf to the warnings that are pertinent to us. When we pay attention to warnings, it will encourage others to do the same. With the right attitude, we might be able to help others when warnings apply to them. This should not be our first priority but it does keep us alert to the warnings being expressed. Let me share a few things that I have observed about warnings and our response to them.

Some Are For A Small Percentage Of People
These are the warnings that when we see them we think “Who would do that?”. They seem so ridiculous that it seems impossible that it would apply to anyone. Things like the warning on hemorrhoid medicine that says do not take orally. Or on suppositories that tell you to remove the foil. Or the warning on a hairdryer that tells you not to use it in the shower. When you read these warnings you cannot believe that anyone would do such a thing. Most people would not. These warnings are for an extremely small percentage of the population. But they are there just in case.

You will come across warnings like this all of your life. You will even find some of these in the Bible. These warnings will stump you because you believe that no one would do such a thing. They are there for a small group of people. Be aware of the warnings (and the people) and move on.

Some Are For Other People
Recently we had a hurricane come close to where we live on the coast of North Carolina. Having lived in this area most of my life, it is something to which we have become accustomed. During the recent hurricane, we received two tornado warnings on our phones in the middle of the night. It startled me and I quickly looked at my phone to see what it was about. The warning was for an area that I did not live in, so I went back to sleep. Both times. My wife struggled to go back to sleep. Partially because we had been suddenly awakened by an alarm, but also due to worrying it might eventually affect us. I saw the warning was for someone else and I went back to sleep. The people in its path were in significant danger. We have had a tornado come through our backyard and the destruction can be devastating. However, this warning was not one that affected us at the moment so we could move on.

Some of the warnings we will hear over our lifetime are intended for other people. There may be a time when it would affect us, but at that moment it is not relevant. Imagine if everyone all over the world took cover when there was a tornado warning in northeastern NC. That is completely unnecessary. There are even warnings in the Bible that do not directly apply to your life at this moment. Understand that and just move on.

Some Are For Us
One of the dangers of hearing warnings that are for a small percentage of people or that only apply to others at the moment is that we start to discount every warning and then miss the very ones that are for us. There are some warnings that are directly related to us and our lives. If we are not careful we will become consumed trying to make sure others heed their warning and in doing so miss things that could cause us problems. It takes self-awareness to know where we face danger in our lives.

Do not be arrogant and believe that warnings do not apply to you. Some of them do. It is appropriate to ignore ones that do not apply to you. It is important to pay attention to the ones that do. Ignoring warnings that apply to you could have significant consequences.

My Experience With Missions Travel

One of the things I love to do is travel. It is not as glamorous as some people think it is; flight delays, overnight flights, not to mention missions travel which can be even less glamorous. You are often traveling to a remote or poor location so travel can be long and the transportation methods challenging. Most times you can sneak in a short sightseeing venture but usually, the days are long and there is much to do. It is not as exotic as you may think.

For the last ten years, I have traveled to countries around the world for different mission-focused trips. Many of those have been to teach leadership with EQUIP. I have helped build an orphanage and worked with groups that were supporting orphans or fighting human trafficking. From South America to the Carribean to Europe and Asia, I have had several common experiences that you should be aware of before your next missions trip. It might help you be a little more intentional about what you are doing.

Your Presence Is An Encouragement
Just being there makes a difference. One of the battles people fight in ministry is isolation. In some countries, they are in such a minority, that they constantly feel isolated. The fact that you took the time to come to their location is often a major boost to their morale and outlook on the work they are doing. If you never do anything else but be there, you have already moved the ball forward.

You Appreciate Where You Are Privileged To Serve
It is so easy to take things for granted. We do not have the facilities we want. We want a bigger budget for technology. We would like to hire another staff member. Then you go to a location in another country and they have a church where no one is paid and income is minimal and they are all doing everything they can to reach new people for Christ. Even more so, no one complains. It gives you some perspective on your own situation and helps you appreciate how privileged you are to serve where you do.

The Challenges Are Often Common
You may be thousands of miles from home, but the challenges people face are very common to yours. People are still sick and hurting. There are still those that are lost. They wish they had more money and better facilities as well. They have volunteers who do not show up. Everyone has an opinion which creates tension in the church. The issues people face in leading churches are the same all over the world. There may be some contextual differences, but it helps you appreciate the fact that many of the challenges you face, they are facing as well.

Missions travel is great. I think everyone should take at least one in their lifetime. What you walk away with may have as much impact on you and your organization as it does on the group you visit.

How Kyle Saved The Sale

Recently I was in the market for a new vehicle. It was not urgent, but I was looking. My 2012 Yukon had close to 200,000 miles, and though it was not giving me any problems, I was wanting something newer. Barbara and I were in Virginia on business and I wanted to ride down and look at a Dodge Ram truck. I had previously purchased a vehicle from a dealership in Chesapeake and decided to ride by. On the same road are several other dealerships. While I was driving a Chevrolet truck caught my eye so I decided to pull in and look at it. I had been searching on the internet for vehicles and had priced some through the Costco and Sam’s buying clubs. I had received an email from this dealership and so I pulled it up and asked for this salesman. His name was Kyle. The dealership was Priority Chevrolet.

 

Kyle was very helpful and got the keys to the truck and moved vehicles around to get it out so I could drive it. We took a test drive and then he worked up some numbers. I told him that I would consider it and we left the dealership. Over the next day or two, I was searching the internet for vehicles and I came across the same truck I had driven at the same dealership with a lower advertised price than what I had been offered. I sent an email to the dealership about this. Shortly I received a call from a sales manager and that is where things started downhill. Kyle happened to be off that day, so the sales manager decided to step in. Here are a few things I observed and maybe it will prompt you about some things in your own organization. 

Company Methods Can Have a Negative Impact

The internet pricing showed the pricing of every single incentive and offer was deducted from the MSRP. The problem with this is that 99.9% of people would never qualify for some of those incentives. Second, the “sale” price was in a large font while those incentives were in a smaller font and who could qualify was even smaller. It is what has been called “bait and switch” and has never endeared customers to car dealers. Kyle would later explain this was mandated by Chevrolet, or at least their area rep. I did notice that not all Chevrolet dealerships used the same method, but all of the ones in Tidewater did. This type of pricing just starts the salesman at a place of distrust because one of the first things he has to do is to tell the customer they cannot get it for that price. Selling is about trust. When you start out with people not trusting you, there is a lot of ground to gain that is difficult to make up.

 

 

Disputing When You Are Wrong

When this sales manager called following my email, I explained to him what I had seen on their website. He told me that I did not qualify for all of the incentives. I explained to him that I thought their internet pricing was misleading. He then proceeded to tell me that the qualifications for the incentives were in the same size font as the price was. I cannot express in words exactly how wrong he was. First, that “sale price” was in about a 24 size font. The incentive amounts were in about a 10 font. The qualifications for those incentives were in about a 4 font. It was what is commonly referred to as fine print. This conversation quickly went downhill. I told him that not only was the internet pricing misleading, but he was trying to tell me something that was not even remotely true. He continued trying to tell me the fonts were the same which only made me more frustrated. After about 5 minutes he attempted to change the subject without acknowledging he was in error. Frankly, at this point, I was done.

 

Apologies Go A Long Way

Kyle was off that day but got wind of what had happened and personally reached out to me. He immediately apologized for the conversation experience. He then explained that Chevrolet had mandated the pricing on the internet and that he understood that it started the salesperson at a deficit with the customer. He offered to do anything he could to help make it right. He promised to get another sales manager to review the deal the following day and he would get back with me. He followed through the next day with numbers by phone and text and explanations as to what they meant. Though I was not happy with the dealership, I liked the service I was receiving from the salesman. 

 

 

You Can Make It Right

I liked the truck. I liked the color and features. I was still skeptical about the dealership. Kyle was persistent in answering every question I had and tried to accommodate any requests I had. We went back and forth with numbers over a few days. The price they were offering was as good as I could get anywhere else. After a few days, I told Kyle if he could get to a specific number that I would buy the vehicle. Shortly after that, he responded that they would do that and wanted to know when I could come in. He sent me the deal sheet and I told him when I would go by. I stopped by at the time I said, signed the papers and purchased the truck. It was because of the salesman, not the company.

 

 

Undoubtedly in your business or organization, there will be times that things do not go as planned. Someone makes an error or there is a bad process in place. You as an individual have the ability to keep your credibility even if the others do not. You can salvage a bad situation with a little persistence. If Chevrolet is mandating that type of pricing it creates doubts about the company. The response of a sales manager over something as simple as fonts makes me question the culture at Priority. However, the work and character of Kyle are what sold the truck. You can keep above the fray even when the culture around you doesn’t. Be the person that saves the sale. 

Made in the Shade

Recently Barbara and I were at the beach and as is usually the case, I was looking for shade. We had two beach chairs and our umbrella. I set them up and placed my chair where the angle of the sun against the umbrella allowed me to sit in the shade. My skin type does not fare well in the sun but Barbara enjoys the sun and I enjoy being with her so occasionally I go to the beach with her. When we go, I stay in the shade most of the time. Everyone who knows me has plenty of jokes about me being in the shade.

While I was sitting under the umbrella, I began to think about how we use the phrase “made in the shade”. We say that about people who we believe have it easy or have it “made”. I realized that it is not that easy to stay in the shade. I also realized that most of the people we are talking about probably don’t have it as made as we think they do. So I thought I would share a few things about being in the shade and maybe you will not be envious the next time you see someone you think has it “made in the shade”.

It Is Temporary

The sun is constantly moving which means that shade is constantly changing. The place that is shaded now will not be shaded for long. I understand there may be a few limited places that are always shaded, but for the most part, shade only lasts for a short period of time. Around noon, it is difficult to find shade because the sun is directly overhead and casts very few shadows. For the person who you think has it so easy at the moment, understand that wherever they are in life is only temporary. What looks like “made” at the moment could very well turn into a scorching hot problem soon. The other thing that is valuable to understand is that most people seek shade because they are overheating. You may have missed their moment of exhaustion and only caught them at what you consider a “made” moment. Either way, the current situation is only temporary at best.

You Have To Keep Moving If You Want To Keep It

As I mentioned, because the sun is always moving the shade is always moving. If you see someone in the shade repeatedly, it is probably not because they have been sitting in the same place the entire time. To stay in the shade requires you to be constantly adjusting. I would say this is also true in life. The people who you think always have it “made” do not have it made because they are sitting still. They are constantly moving and adjusting so they can stay there. As a matter of fact, the most effective and successful people are constantly moving and adjusting so they can stay in the place they need to be. You think they have it “made in the shade” when in reality they work smart and adjust well so they stay where they need to be.

It Might Not Be For Everyone

When I am at the beach I stay in the shade almost the entire time. I will get in the water occasionally or play a game for a little while, but most of the time I am under a tent or umbrella. Barbara, on the other hand, spends almost the entire time in the direct sun. She is tanning and loves it. Any time you look on the beach you can find other similar scenarios. Some love the shade while others love the sun. Everyone has a preference. When we start comparing our lives or our state in life with others, we are in danger of not understanding their preferences and needs at the moment. They may just prefer the shade while you prefer the sun. They may like a certain type of job while you enjoy another. The same is true of hobbies, vacations, time off or even when and how they work. Just because you do not enjoy the shade does not mean that those who do are bad and vice-versa. Comparison can be a trap. If you are content with your state in life, that is what matters.

So the next time you see someone that you think has it “made in the shade”, maybe you will think a little differently about it. Be content with your own life and what others do will not be quite as disruptive. 

The Heartbreak of Closing a Business

The business I own has specialized in selling used restaurant equipment for over 30 years. The majority of the equipment comes from closed restaurants, many of which are individually owned. The restaurant business has always had a high failure rate, especially among non-franchised units. Just this week I spent some time with an owner who had closed one location due to financial hardship and was closing the second location that had been open nearly 10 years because of the hardship of the failed location. 

There are multiple reasons why restaurants have such a high failure rate, but it rarely has anything to do with the food. Sometimes it does, but not most of the time. Usually, people get in the restaurant business because they have some talent for cooking or baking. The problems usually arise from some other area such as people or money management or undercapitalization. Every time I see someone closing their business it breaks my heart because I know there are many things that are going on in that person’s mind and life. They are experiencing a wide range of emotions. I want to share with you some of the reasons why it is so tough on them. Hopefully, they will help you relate to someone the next time you see them going through a business closure.

It Is Who They Are

Small business owners spend an enormous amount of hours starting and running a business. It becomes their life. Often it becomes their identity. Not just internally, but it is often how people recognize them in a community. When that business closes, there is a certain loss of identity. They are often struggling to figure out what comes next and wondering what people will think of them now. Almost every business owner who closes a business will go through a period of grief where they are mourning the loss of not just a business, but a major portion of their life. 

They May Have Lost Everything

It is not uncommon for business owners to invest everything they have to start a new business. I recall in the late ’80s when I was first starting out and was working with a customer who was starting a muffin shop in Chapel Hill, NC. This was way before there were so many specialty dessert shops. He invested everything he had to open this business including all of his retirement savings. He spent nearly $500,000 to open this fancy little muffin shop only to see it fail in less than one year. He did not just lose his business, he lost everything including his home and his retirement. Business owners are heavily invested in their operation. If it is not successful, it can be financially devastating. 

They May Spend Years Paying Back

Not only is it possible to lose everything in a business closure, but it is also possible to be liable for the debt that has been incurred which may take years to repay. After closing the business, many business owners take a job just to pay back the money they have borrowed. Just because a business is closed does not mean the owner is finished with their responsibility. 

They Are Embarrassed 

No one likes to fail. You do not start a business to see it close. You start it to be successful. When things do not work out as you planned, there is a certain level of embarrassment. That owner is concerned about what people will think of them. This often takes time to overcome. We all want to succeed and when we don’t, the embarrassment can be overwhelming. 

There is a false assumption that business owners have it made. Rarely is that the case. Usually, any freedom or benefits they have is because they have invested their entire life into that business. The next time you see a business close or fail, have a little sympathy for that owner. They are working through a lot of issues and they could use your support. 

My Experience At Hampton Inn Amelia Island

Recently, Barbara and I had to make a quick trip to the Jacksonville, FL area for business. We were only going to be there one night and had a few hours to spare the following morning. Our grandson Vandin was traveling with us. He has been traveling with us since he was just a few months old and he is a great traveling partner. He can ride forever with no complaining. I had heard some people talk about Amelia Island and thought that maybe a visit to the beach would help him get some energy out.

I try to be a brand loyalist when traveling because I want to know what to expect when I arrive. I will fly Southwest and Delta almost exclusively and try to stay at Hilton branded hotels which include Hampton Inn. I reserved a room at the Hampton Inn near Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island. Their site said it was one block from the beach, the price was reasonable and it looked convenient. What I did not expect was to have one of the best customer service experiences ever. Not just at a hotel, but anywhere. They made me want to come back. Some of the things I am going to mention I have seen at full-service hotels directly on the beach, but I have never experienced something like this at a moderately priced hotel with limited facilities.

They Love Kids
When we checked in, the attendant at the desk told us about breakfast and said they had a “treasure chest” for kids to choose a prize from in the morning. The next morning when we went down to breakfast Vandin saw the treasure chest on the front desk and headed straight there. The manager was on duty and started explaining to Vandin what he could get. The chest contained toys and books; not very expensive items but something to light up kid’s eyes. In the conversation, Vandin mentioned shark teeth and the manager said she had a collection. She proceeded to the back and came out wearing a shark hat, a box of shark teeth and a paper showing what each tooth was. She let him hold the teeth and gave him one of the description papers in case he found some on the beach. She made Vandin’s day.

Full-Service Food
Hampton Inn generally provides a limited hot breakfast. There are options to choose from but the options are usually out. While getting her and Vandin’s breakfast, Barbara walked up and asked Vandin if he wanted sausage. He said bacon but they did not have bacon out that day. The manager said they would get it for her if she would just ask the lady in charge of breakfast. Barbara did not want to be a bother so she did not ask. We all got a plate of food and went to eat. A couple of minutes after we sat down the lady brought out a plate full of fresh bacon. Vandin was happy. We were all happy. Bacon makes everything better. They did not have to do this, but that manager went out of her way to make our stay great.

Beach Gear
This may have been the biggest surprise of all. They asked if we were headed to the beach and if so, they had most anything we would need. They had beach chairs, beach toys, beach towels, and sunscreen. All of it was FREE to use. When we got ready to go to the beach they took us to a closet and gave us some chairs and let Vandin pick out some beach toys. They gave us towels and sunscreen and we were ready. This did not cost us anything and made our 3-hour beach visit so much better. This also made me want to come back to this hotel the next chance I get to visit.

Great customer service will make people come back. It will also make the best advertisers in the world. I have written an entire blog about my experience. I encourage you to go out of your way to make things better for someone else. If you do that, your life will be immeasurably better as well.

Ways To Bring Clarity To Your Prayers

People will often ask if God hears their prayers and if He does, why is He not answering. There are a lot of responses to offer. First, silence is an answer. Whether you are dealing with people or you are talking spiritually, saying nothing says something. Second, some of our requests or prayers may just be so off base that there is no need to answer. There are many verses in the Bible that talk about how God will give us what we ask for but almost always there is some qualifier in the verse or very close by. For example, it says that He hears those prayers that are pleasing to Him. He hears the prayers of those who are living a godly life. James says that sometimes we don’t have because we have not asked while other times we have asked with the wrong motive or asked for the wrong thing.

So then the question becomes more about how our prayers can be more answerable. How can we know they are heard and when should we expect a positive answer? I believe there are some things we can do that will increase the clarity and accuracy of our prayers.

Spend Time In His Word
Jesus said in John 15:7 “But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted!”. First, where are you in relation to Jesus? Second, are His words inside of you? Spending more time reading God’s Word brings greater clarity to truth and His desires for our life. The Word of God is your greatest tool in bringing clarity to your prayers.

Listen When You Pray
When I get down to pray I keep a notepad nearby. For one thing, everything I have forgotten to do in the last 10 years suddenly floods my mind. I write them down so I can continue praying. The main reason though is to write down what I sense in my spirit while I am being quiet. If prayer is an opportunity to commune with God, we need to give Him time to work in us during the process. Just being quiet during your prayer time can often bring clarity to the request you want to make.

Ask
I am a firm believer that you never know until you ask. My wife was just sharing today about how they were stuck in JFK Airport overnight. They had been traveling for a long time and the overnight stay in the airport was unexpected. They ate a meal at a diner and one of their team said these booths would be better than sleeping on the floor. So they asked the manager if they could sleep there. Keep in mind the diner was still open. He said he did not know why not so they closed off that area and the team went to sleep. You never know until you ask. Remember that James said we don’t have at times because we just have not asked. As you practice asking, you will begin to learn more about God and it will clarify your requests and your prayer life.
As you practice asking, you will begin to learn more about God [click to tweet]

Prayer is not a magic potion or something left for only those who have a title. Praying is for all of us and all of us have requests that we need to take to God. Bringing clarity to your prayer life will make praying much easier and more fruitful.

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About Me

I currently serve as Lead Pastor at Open Door Church and I am a certified trainer & coach with the John Maxwell Team. I am also an Associate Trainer with EQUIP training leaders around the world. I currently own two businesses related to the foodservice equipment industry. I am a certified speaker, teacher and coach with the John Maxwell Team. I can offer you workshops, seminars, keynote speaking, and coaching, aiding your personal and professional growth through study and practical application of John’s proven leadership methods. Working together, I will move you and/or your team or organization in the desired direction to reach your goals.